Wednesday, April 30, 2008

20 Minute Meal

The weekends are at times a toss up as to whether we will eat at home or go out. I try to have something in the freezer or fridge that we can cook at the last minute if we decide to just stay home. Sunday night was the perfect example of this; we had spent our morning on our bicycle rides, followed by brunch and some errands. By the time we got home we were getting hungry but were not feeling up to going out for dinner so a quick meal was in order. However considering we both burned over 2,000 calories during our workout we also needed to eat something that packed enough nutrients to help us recover.

Thanks to a visit last Fall with another
Trader Joe's junkie we discovered their marinated fish in the freezer section. Trader Joe's has Ahi Tuna or Mahi Mahi marinated in oil, garlic, lemon, cilantro, red chili flake and black pepper. The marinade is very flavorful and to highlight it the best thing to do it serve it with a boiled grain and steamed vegetable. The beauty is that you can broil or pan-fry the fish and even frozen is doesn't take more than about 15 minutes.

I had defrosted the marinated Ahi Tuna steaks in the fridge for whatever night we decided to eat in. I decided to pan-fry them since the day is still warm and the oven being on will only heat up the house. I look around the cupboards for some quinoa grain, which is one of my new favorites; it is quick cooking (about 10 minutes) and high in protein, plus its mild, nutty flavor goes well with the marinade of this fish. Unfortunately, I seem to have run out and that is a bummer because I just went to buy all my bulks goods about a week ago so I am going to have to make an extra trip or go without for a while.

My next option is another Trader Joe's product - Harvest Grain Blend; this is a blend of couscous, orzo pasta, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa that will also fit the bill of being quick and not a distraction to the marinade. My next option would have been plain pasta or even rice but my goal is to find the quickest option that has more of a nutrient kick. Following the instructions on the package, I boil some chicken broth (I happen to have a container open in the fridge and would rather use it before it goes bad). When it boils, I add a pat of butter and the Harvest Grain Blend, lower the heat, cover and set the timer for 10 minutes.

I have broccoli that I will steam so I set that up in the pan with water and turn the burner heat to medium. I have a tendency to forget to turn on my vegetables until everything else is about to be ready. This causes delay in eating and cold food that I hate so I find it is better to turn the vegetables on earlier, cook them at a lower temperature, and monitor them closely. If they happen to be ready a few minutes beforehand it is easy enough to drain and set them aside while you finish everything else.

Finally, I turn on the burner under my skillet and wait for the pan to heat up. Since I am cooking Ahi Tuna - which is typically served seared and raw in the middle - I have decided to not follow the instructions on time; it indicates 5-6 minutes of cooking time per side. I feel that the fish would be overcooked with so much cooking time so I decide to reduce it to a total of six minutes or three minutes per side.

When the pan is smoking a bit, I add the tuna steaks and pour on the marinade as well. Not the best idea really as the oil sputters and spatters all over my stovetop but I like the flavor of it and putting a lid over everything would ruin the browning I am striving for. I stir the Harvest Grain Blend because it has a tendency to stick and burn; the timer shows that I have a bet less than six minutes for it to cook. My broccoli is just starting to steam so everything should come together at the right time.

At about three minutes, I flip each steak - making sure I get the side in a bit of marinade for flavor. I stir the grain blend again and there is very little liquid left so I turn it off (it is a bit early but by to letting it sit there while the fish cooks and the broccoli steams it will finish cooking and not get overdone). With a bit over a minute left, the broccoli is done so I turn off the heat under the skillet with the fish and drain the water from the broccoli steamer. I then serve up our dinner that may only take 20 minutes to cook but we are so hungry it probably won't take more than five minutes to eat...

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