By Joanne Camas
In our house, weeknight dinners are a speedy affair. That said, we do spend at least half an hour cooking each evening. I was surprised to find a Five-Minute Food feature on the Daily Telegraph website. Five minutes?!
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The recipe I stumbled on is for Chicken with Garlic Cream Cheese Sauce, and they say you can also make a good curry and a variety of fish dishes in just a handful of minutes.
But are such speedy recipes keepers? I asked Kemp Minifie, senior editor of Gourmet Live, who is constantly dreaming up and researching recipes.
Do you think five-minute recipes can be good?
A steak with good sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper is a wonderful thing, as is a flattened skinless boneless chicken breast quickly sautéed and seasoned with lemon juice and capers. So yes, some five-minute recipes can be good, but the very nature of such a short time implies you are limited on the number of ingredients. To get more variety--which, after a week or so, you will really want and need--you have to enlist the help of packaged foods, which brings with it its own potential problems, such as what are all those unpronounceable ingredients listed, and do I want them in my body.
How do you factor in cooking time when you're developing recipes?
That's the big dead elephant lying in the middle of the living room. If you were to start timing yourself from the moment you enter your kitchen and rummage around for the ingredients, you'd find a recipe would take you a lot longer than the time given. Also, people who consider themselves experienced cooks can do something much faster than a novice. Something as simple as a less-than-razor-sharp knife can really slow you down.
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The biggest battles within the food department and editorial department at the late Gourmet magazine had to do with the recipe times. We in the food department took into account that we were experienced and faster, and therefore we padded the times to account for that. But someone else, reading over the recipe on paper, would do a guesstimate and most likely shorten the time.
Times in recipes are like a catch-22. You want to be helpful to the reader and be realistic, but if you are too literal, the times will likely be longer than the 5-, 10-, 15-minute recipes that people are looking for. You also want to alert the reader to the weekend project recipes: Yes, they take hours, if not days, but you will be rewarded with a masterpiece to show off.
Do you think it's important to take time to cook?
If people focused less on hurrying through a recipe and more on the enjoyment of the delicious aromas they are generating in the kitchen, I think more people would be converted to the pleasures of cooking. I enjoy my meals because it's my private time when I'm cooking in the kitchen. I've got the radio on my favorite station (NPR), I've got a glass of wine, and I'm slicing, dicing, sautéeing, and roasting with contentment.
Do you have a favorite fast recipe?
Yes! Spaghetti with Greens and Garlic.
I get the pasta pot of well-salted water going first.
While the water is coming to a boil, I finely chop a head, at least, of garlic. I slowly cook the garlic with some red pepper flakes in enough oil for the garlic to move around freely, stirring occasionally until it is pale golden, then remove it from the heat.
I start cooking the spaghetti (1/2 lb), and after 3 to 4 minutes, I add 2 bunches of kale that I've chopped.
When the pasta is ready, I scoop it with tongs into a serving bowl, then top it with the crispy golden garlic and oil, adding more fresh oil if needed.
Serve with toasted crumbs, if you have them, and grated Parmigiano.
Epicurious has thousands of Quick and Easy recipes, of course -- you can search for one based on the ingredients you have on hand or by the type of cuisine you prefer. How long do you spend making dinner during the week? Do you think five minutes is doable?
More from Epicurious.com:
• Seasonal Ingredient Map
• The Best Fall Recipes
• Healthy Snack Taste Test
• Back-to-School Recipes and Tips
SUPPER CLUB PICK
My after-school snack was a sacred ritual. I sat on the carpet in my parents' bedroom at a low table, the television turned to "I Dream of Jeannie," and ate a peanut butter and honey sandwich cut into neat squares. I wasn't fussy about crusts. I just loved the sticky pairing of creamy peanut butter with syrupy golden sweetness drizzled from a honey bear in diagonals across the soft white bread. Nothing else--save for maybe apples and peanut butter in a pinch--could have made for as sweet an