Sunday Strategist: Week of June 3
Here, another week’s worth of fast, healthy, and tasty menus. It’s not the love of cooking that deters so many of us from the kitchen each night; it’s actually deciding what to cook from the millions of options bombarding us from so many different places. Here, we’ve done the planning for you. Not just menus, but healthy menus that are fast – on the table in less than 45 minutes.
The PlanMonday: Manhattan-Glazed Chicken with Dijon, Thyme, and Pine Nut Broccoli, and mixed green salad with Easy Herb VinaigretteTuesday: Blackened Tilapia Baja TacosWednesday: Pork Tenderloin Salad with Grilled Nectarines and Butter-Pecan Mashed Sweet PotatoesThursday: Linguine with Spinach-Herb PestoFriday: Creamy Tarragon Chicken Salad and Lemony Snap Peas
If you have an herb garden, you’re in luck this week! Even if you don’t, you can get just about any variety in bunches or in small, individual packages. When we use fresh herbs in recipes, they’re more than a garnish and often the star of many dishes from salad dressings to sauces.
All of the recipes this week are featured in a new special edition that will be on the newsstands throughout the summer: Fast & Fresh 30-Minute Meals! (Many take even less time -- some as little as 15 or 20 minutes.) Tucked in the back is a bonus chapter of 44 superfast recipes for wonderfully quick green, vegetable, and grain side dishes to round out any weeknight menu without much fuss.
Get a jumpstart on the week by making the Easy Herb Vinaigrette (p. 28) ahead of time. There will be enough dressing so having a salad with dinner is effortless any night.
Monday: Today is Meatless Monday, but if you can wait a few days, I had to lead off with Manhattan-Glazed Chicken (p. 39), the recipe on the cover for a number of reasons. It’s incredibly easy, tastes outstanding, and it's a recipe you’ll come back to again and again. The simple glaze is a combination of orange marmalade and cherry fruit spread with a little kick from a tablespoon of bourbon, hence the reference to the Manhattan cocktail. But it’s subtle. You might have to buy the two fruit preserves, but then you have them on hand and can make this at a moment’s notice without a trip to the store. Serve with Dijon, Thyme, and Pine Nut Broccoli (p. 90). This easy veggie side banishes boring steamed broccoli with fresh thyme and a lemony-mustard dressing, a tart contrast to the sweet glaze on the chicken. Serve with mixed salad greens; add some sliced radishes—you’ll love their crisp, peppery sharpness. Toss with the Easy Herb Vinaigrette you have in the fridge.
Tuesday: Blackened Tilapia Baja Tacos (p. 49) is my nod to taco Tuesday. After an unsatisfied craving for a fish taco on Cinco de Mayo a month ago, these went on the menu board immediately! Here, we ditched the fried fish you get in most restaurants or taco trucks and loaded on the onion relish to make up for some crunch. Shrimp would be a good sub for the fish. And the rock hard avocado you bought a over the weekend should be ripe by now.
Wednesday: Pork tenderloin goes into my shopping cart every week along with boneless chicken breasts. It’s lean, quick cooking, and versatile like chicken so it always makes its way into one of my weeknight meals. If you like to use your grill as much as I do in the summer, it will do double duty in Pork Tenderloin Salad with Grilled Nectarines (p. 16) cooking the pork and the nectarines. The pork is brushed with a maple-balsamic glaze that has a hint of fresh tarragon—smoky and delicious! While the pork is resting, nectarine halves get a smearing of maple syrup that also gives them a tasty caramelized surface. I love the fact that fuzz-free nectarines don’t need peeling, and their flesh is a little firmer than peaches, which makes them especially suitable for grilling. Even though you only need a couple teaspoons of fresh tarragon, it lends earthy notes to the dish. And you’ll use the rest later in the week. Butter-Pecan Mashed Sweet Potatoes (p. 91) is an optional side dish and compliments the sweet maple flavor on the pork and nectarines.
Thursday: Basil is a fragrant superstar of the classic pesto, but other herbs (oregano and thyme) in smaller amounts deepen the overall taste in our Linguine with Spinach-Herb Pesto (p. 68) without turning it into a flavor battle. The base is fresh spinach, which helps the pesto keep its vibrant green color longer. Prewashed bagged spinach speeds up prep time even more. Oregano has a bold, gutsy bite but you don’t use much. I didn’t have it in my garden so I swapped it out for fresh mint, which adds a clean, bright note to any pesto. I always have pine nuts on hand so I used them in place of almonds called for in the recipe but any nut will do. If you have any pesto leftover, top off an omelet with a tablespoon for breakfast one morning.
Friday: In the roster of recipe shortcuts, supermarket rotisserie chicken scores high on our list. Pick up the classic or plain flavor because the stronger seasonings will unbalance the fresh herb in today’s Creamy Tarragon Chicken Salad (p. 31). A combination of yogurt and mayonnaise updates this riff on your mother’s chicken salad. Here’s where you use that fresh tarragon you bought for Wednesday’s pork and nectarine recipe. Serve a scoop over any fresh salad greens you have in the crisper and serve with whole-grain crackers. Complete the menu with Lemony Snap Peas (p. 87)—a superfast side that makes the most of the peas’ natural sweetness. Cook for a blink and add a splash of citrusy dressing. If you have some of the creamy chicken salad leftover, it’s great for sandwiches over the weekend and an easy, lower-sodium filling alternative to deli meats.
What is your favorite fresh herb? Inspired to try new ones? Check out 11 Herbs Every Cook Should Use and learn key uses and tips for keeping them fresh. And you may discover life beyond parsley.