Back in the fall, a friend of mine posted this article on my Facebook page. The crux of it is that “easy cooking” is for the most part a myth, and that most recipes and cookbooks marketed as quick, foolproof and effortless aren’t actually any of those things.
That’s not to say that there is no such thing as a true 30-minute—or even 15-minute—family meal—but that these are often too basic to be “recipes” worthy of publication in any notable food magazine or cookbook: “Real ‘easy’ cooking, if that’s what you’re after, is far too simple to sustain a magazine and cookbook industry.” No one would be very impressed by a cookbook in which all the recipes started with “one jar of marinara sauce”. Would they?
So when Rose Reisman’s new book Rush Hour Meals hit my mailbox a couple of weeks ago, I was keen to find out whether it would live up to its title. The preface to the book promises that “with the recipes in this book and a little bit of planning, you can get delicious, nutritious meals on the table in 30 minutes or less any day of the week…“.
To put this claim to the test, I chose what seemed like one of the more ambitious recipes in the book: Beef Kofta with Tahini Sauce. The recipe calls for ground beef to be mixed with a mixture of minced onion, garlic, spices, fresh herbs, breadcrumbs and eggs, moulded onto skewers, grilled and baked into a sort-of meatball on a stick, and then served with a homemade tahini sauce (and maybe some diced vegetables and warmed bread, if you read the recipe’s headnote). All of which is meant to happen in 30 minutes—15 minutes for prep and 15 minutes for cooking.
Seems a little lofty, even for an experienced home cook, but I was willing to give it a try. I set the microwave timer to 15 minutes and got to work in earnest.
When the “beep beep beep” sounded at the end of the advertised prep time, I still had my hands deep in a bowl of raw meat. I had yet to form the meat mixture into “ovals,” or prepare the tahini sauce, let alone dice vegetables and warm up bread.
Now, maybe I’m just slow—but really any recipe that involves chopping two kinds of fresh herbs (it took me a few minutes just to locate the darn things in my refrigerator), forming meat into balls, and mixing up a homemade dipping sauce, among several other steps, seems a little elaborate for a Wednesday.
And besides, even if I could accomplish the meatballs and sauce in the 30 minutes promised, what about tossing a salad, roasting a veggie and defrosting some pita? At my pace, that’s easily another 15 minutes right there.
I should say that while these kofta took a little extra time to prepare, they were good. Really good. I didn’t serve them with the Tahini Sauce from the book, but rather with a yogurt-garlic concoction that I had in the fridge, leftover from a weekend salad. And with a really wonderful Quinoa Tabbouleh that I often make using this Ina Garten recipe. Plus some warm pita, spread with butter and sprinkled with za’atar. Forget “rush hour”. This is the kind of stuff I would serve to my favourite weekend dinner guests.
Some of the other “Rush Hour” recipes seem less involved and perhaps a little more Monday-worthy. The Pizza Mac and Cheese Pie calls for a jar of tomato sauce; the Rolled Sole with Pesto and Feta uses store-bought pesto, and there’s a whole chapter on making breakfast for dinner. (“Millennials” are really into eating breakfast for dinner, says Rose.) These all sound a bit more modest; something I might realistically be able to whip up during a 23-minute episode of Paw Patrol. I will save the Beef Kofta for a Saturday.
The publisher has generously agreed to let me share with you the recipe for Beef Kofta with Tahini Sauce, so I’ve reproduced it below. One modification that I found to be a bit of a time-saver—instead of grilling the kofta and then transferring them to a sheet pan, I seared both sides in a hot cast iron pan drizzled with some avocado oil, and then transferred the whole thing to the oven to finish cooking. No sense in dirtying an extra pan if you don’t need to.
Also, you could speed things up by doing some prep work in advance: form the meatballs, stir up the sauce and chop some vegetables.
AND: I have teamed up with a group of great bloggers to give away a copy of Rush Hour Meals to one of our readers. Check out the reviews by Heather at The Tasty Gardener, Cara at Words to Eat By, Anna at Hidden Ponies, Erin at How to Eat, Regina at LeelaLicious, Caroline at Do It All Working Mom, Laureen at Art and the Kitchen, Katrina at Kitchen Trials and Jo-Anna at A Pretty Life in the Suburbs.
To enter the giveaway, follow the instructions below. Good luck!
Note that Whitecap Books, the publishers of Rush Hour Meals, provided me with a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.
- 1½ lb (750 g) lean ground beef, lamb or chicken
- ½ cup (125 mL) minced onion
- ½ tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup (125 mL) unseasoned dry breadcrumbs
- 3 Tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup (60 mL) chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Salt and pepper [I used 1 tsp sea salt and a few grinds of pepper]
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) reduced-fat mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) reduced-fat sour cream
- 2 tsp (10 mL) reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tsp (5 mL) tahini paste
- ½ cup (125 mL) diced seeded tomatoes
- ½ cup (125 mL) diced English cucumber (unpeeled) (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Soak eight 6-inch wooden skewers in water or set aside 8 metal skewers (optional). Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with vegetable oil.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onion, garlic, cinnamon, eggs, breadcrumbs, mint, cilantro, and salt and pepper (use your hands to make sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed).
- Divide the mixture into 8 equal portions and form into oval shapes. If using skewers, slide 1 portion lengthwise onto each skewer.
- Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the koftas on each side for 2 minutes, until browned all over.
- Transfer the browned kofta to a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or just until they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the tahini sauce: Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, sesame oil, soy sauce and tahini paste. (If too thick, add a little water to reach the desired consistency.)
- Make the garnish: In a bowl, combine the tomatoes and cucumber.
- Serve koftas with the tahini sauce and garnish. If using naan bread, grill for 2 minutes per side, until lightly toasted, then cut into triangles and serve alongside koftas.
The giveaway is open to all legal residents of Canada who have reached the age of majority at the time of the contest in the province or territory in which they reside. No purchase necessary to enter. The giveaway will run from Wednesday June 15, 2016 at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time to Wednesday June 22, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. eastern standard time. The winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter and contacted via email, and will have 48 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond a new winner will be chosen. The chosen winner must correctly answer a skill-testing mathematical question. The winner’s name will be displayed on Rafflecopter. Entrants email addresses are collected for the purpose of administering the giveaway only and will never be given out to any third party