February 14th, 2008
I admit it. I hate to cook. I eat out of boxes and cans and to-go containers more than I should, even though I prefer a healthy, homemade meal 10 to 1. That’s why I was excited when Ann Martin Rolke sent me a copy of her book, Hands-Off Cooking: Low Supervision, High-Flavor Meals for Busy People, which clearly was written for lazy and/or no-time-in-the-kitchen sorts like me. Yummy, healthy recipes (Tandoorish Chicken! Fridge Cleaning Frittata! Nutty Pumpkin Lasagna!) that I can’t burn if I have to dash off to my computer and get down one more sentence? What could be better!
As an extra treat, Ann answered a few questions for the blog. Read, drool, buy.
A. I was actually approached by an agent who I had spoken to previously about ghostwriting a book with a chef. She used to be a cookbook editor and thought this idea hadn’t been really explored yet in a cookbook.
Q. What 5 to 10 staple ingredients should busy self-employed people always have on hand in their cabinets and fridge so they can easily whip up dinner in 15 minutes or less?
A. Canned tomatoes, canned beans, rice, skinless chicken or fish, garlic.
Q. Any unexpected kitchen equipment hands-off cooks need to stock their cabinets with?
A. I don’t know if it’s unexpected, but a heavy-duty pot is a must for braising and soups (like Le Creuset) and I use my 9 x 13-inch casserole several times a week. I do think an oven thermometer and kitchen timer with multiple settings (so you can time more than one thing at once) are great to make sure everything goes well!
Q. What’s your favorite “I’m on a crunch deadline and need to burn the midnight oil” dinner or late-night snack recipe?
A. Baked pita chips and hummus.
A. Indian food lately — something easy like my Aloo Cholay from the book or some naan that I buy frozen and reheat, smeared with some simple yellow split peas cooked with spices until they’re like refried beans. So comforting!
Q. How much cash do you think busy working women stand to save by making hands-off recipes instead of ordering take-out or buying a to-go meal at the local market?
A. Well, depending on where you grocery shop, you can really eat well for not much money. We don’t eat meat every night, for example, and that keeps the costs down and the vegetable intake up! So say you normally would spend $7 to 10 a person for to-go (not fast food); you can easily feed four people for $10 and make a great lasagna, soup, or vegetarian curry.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
A. The whole idea of this book was to make cooking flavorful, healthy meals less time-consuming and more accessible. We’re all so used to eating lots of different ethnic cuisines and constantly trying to balance health with convenience. So I really tried to make my recipes easy to put together but full of flavor, color, and texture, so that they’re really satisfying.