Shit! What’s for Dinner?

Don’t Have Much Time to Cook? Here Are 3 Suggestions

Soy-marinated flank steak with cherry tomatoes, fast chicken parm, and unstuffed cabbage for the win

Photo: 4kodiak via iStock/Getty Images Plus

Paying more attention to how we feed ourselves is one of the good things that can come out of the pandemic. But it’s inevitable that some days you haven’t planned and the day sneaks up on you, which leads to the “Shit! What’s for dinner?” response. So we’ve decided to name our suggestions accordingly, where we’ll offer a few selections of what to cook every week, whether it’s a spin on one of my favorites, something seasonal, something super fast and delicious, or a weeknight project worth the time.

This week’s come from How to Cook Everything Fast and hit a couple of notes: the end-of-season cherry tomatoes at the farmers market; the nostalgia of an Italian American classic (but fast); and an Eastern European favorite without meat and all the work that cabbage rolls can entail. Read on for more. And if you have requests for future columns, let me know in the comments.

Soy Marinated Flank Steak and Cherry Tomatoes

Soy sauce is a classic marinade for steak; its savoriness also pairs wonderfully with sweet cherry tomatoes. The just-burst tomatoes and an extra drizzle of the marinade provide all the sauce the steak needs.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-inch fresh ginger
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • Pepper
  • 1½ pounds flank steak
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions

Instructions

  1. Turn the broiler to high; put the rack 4 inches from the heat. Peel 3 garlic cloves and 1 inch ginger; mince them together.
  2. Put the garlic and ginger in a large dish or freezer bag; add ⅓ cup soy sauce and a sprinkle of pepper. Add the steak and tomatoes and toss to coat; let them marinate for 5 minutes.
  3. Put a large skillet over high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade, letting any liquid drop off, and pat dry with a paper towel. Cut the steak in half if necessary to fit into the skillet.
  4. When the skillet is very hot, add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and swirl it around. Add the steak and cook, turning it once, until browned on both sides but still a bit pinker inside than you like it, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
  5. Remove the tomatoes from the marinade and put them on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, shaking the pan occasionally until they’re charred in spots and starting to burst, 4 to 6 minutes.
  6. Pour the marinade into a small saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let boil gently for 5 minutes. In the meantime, trim and chop the scallions.
  7. When the steak is done, transfer it to a cutting board. When the tomatoes are lightly charred, put them on a platter or divide them among 4 plates. Pour any accumulated juices into the simmering marinade.
  8. Slice the steak and drizzle it and the tomatoes with some of the marinade. Garnish with the scallions and serve.

Fastest Chicken Parm

This take on the classic couldn’t be easier. Instead of dredging and panfrying, just stack the ingredients in two stages on a baking sheet, and broil. Done this way, the tomatoes get lightly roasted and the bread crumbs stay nice and crunchy.

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium ripe tomatoes
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 2 ounces parmesan cheese (½ cup grated)
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 cup bread crumbs

Instructions

  1. Turn the broiler to high; put the rack 6 inches from the heat. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and spread it around. Put the baking sheet in the broiler.
  2. Core and slice tomatoes. Cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally to make 2 thin cutlets for each breast. Press down on each with the heel of your hand to flatten.
  3. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the broiler. Put the chicken cutlets on the sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with the tomatoes, and broil on one side only until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, rotating the pan if necessary for even cooking, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Grate the mozzarella and parmesan. Strip 16 to 20 basil leaves from the stem. Combine the bread crumbs, mozzarella, and parmesan in a small bowl.
  5. When the chicken is cooked through, remove the baking sheet from the broiler. Lay the basil leaves on top of the tomatoes, sprinkle with the bread crumb and cheese mixture, and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.
  6. Return to the broiler and cook until the bread crumbs and cheese are browned and bubbly, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Unstuffed Cabbage

The most onerous part of making stuffed cabbage is actually stuffing and rolling the cabbage, which requires blanching the leaves to make them pliable. When you use cabbage leaves as a base instead of a wrapper, all that work becomes unnecessary.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head savoy or green cabbage
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock or water
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Core the cabbage; peel away 8–12 large outer leaves. Refrigerate the remaining cabbage for another use. If your cabbage leaves have thick stems, cut out the spines.
  2. Line the bottom of a large skillet with the cabbage leaves. Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves; put them in a medium bowl.
  3. Add 1 cup couscous, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to the bowl. Stir to combine.
  4. Spread the couscous mixture over the top of the cabbage; add 1 cup stock or water and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cabbage and couscous are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Chop about ¼ cup parsley.
  7. When the cabbage and couscous are tender, taste and adjust the seasoning. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, garnish with parsley, and serve.

Has published 30 books, including How to Cook Everything and VB6: The Case for Part-Time Veganism. Newsletter at markbittman.com.

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