04/02/2013 10:49 am ET Updated Aug 12, 2015

6 Quickie Meal Secrets From Busy People Around The World

By Lynn Andriani

Steal these go-to dinner staples from cooks in other countries and watch how fast supper's on the table.

  • Israel: Don't Toss That Stale Pita
    Jonathan Lovekin © 2012
    While the famous Italian panzanella -- a salad made from day-old crusty bread -- must sit for a half hour or more so the bread can soften up, Israeli cooks have a faster version, say Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, coauthors of Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The trick is to use leftover pita, flatbread or naan, which is much thinner. Soak torn pieces of the pita in buttermilk while you chop tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. Toss everything into a bowl, drizzle it with oil, and you've got a fresh, filling and frugal dinner. Get the recipe: Na'ama's Fattoush
  • Burma: Go Light On The Meat For A Speedier Meal
    Richard Jung
    While Western main courses often focus on meat and add a vegetable as a side dish, Eastern entrees tend to combine the two. Naomi Duguid, author of Burma: Rivers of Flavor, has found that members of the Shan ethnic group are especially adept at the pairing. When you cook this way, you wind up using less meat, which means dinner comes together quickly, such as in this combination of bitter broccoli rabe and slightly sweet pork tenderloin (just a quarter pound for 4 servings), which is ready in about 20 minutes. Get the recipe: Broccoli Rabe with a Hint of Pork
  • Brazil: Use Basic Ingredients For Non-Boring Rice
    We've come to rely on white rice, but the trusty side can taste awfully bland. Brazilians prefer their rice to have a flavor of its own, so they sauté the uncooked grains first in some oil with garlic, onion and a bay leaf. It's a small step that won't take long but will add a delicious depth to your basic grilled chicken, salad and rice dinner. Get the recipe: Simple Pilaf, Brazilian-Style
  • Thailand: Marinate If You Must, But Not For Long
    Marcus Nilsson
    Although the overnight marinade can be a lifesaver, it does require planning. Not so with chicken satay, the popular Thai skewered chicken dish. It turns out that marinating the meat (boneless thighs cut into chunks works best) in the traditional peanut dressing for as little as five minutes is all you need. In fact, if it sits for more than an hour, it can become mushy. Just cook the meat slowly (at least 10 minutes on the grill or under the broiler) so the sauce has time to caramelize. Get the recipe: Spicy Peanut Paint
  • France: Let The Fridge Do The Work
    Soggy white bread may be the nemesis of many a ham-and-cheese sandwich, but as Julia Child and Jacques Pepin demonstrate in this classic video, there's a way to make a sandwich ahead of time and actually have it taste better than if you ate it right away. Pan bagnat, built on sturdy baguette, lets red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil work their magic on fennel, red peppers, hard-boiled egg, tuna, black olives, capers and plum tomato. Take Julia and Jacques' advice and wrap the parcel tightly in plastic and weight it with a heavy pot so the ingredients have no choice but to intermingle. Get the recipe: Pan Bagnat
  • Peru: Keep An Emergency Stash Of Cooked Grains
    Michael Natkin
    Long a staple grain in the Andes, quinoa, with its nutty flavor and high nutritional value, has become very popular in the U.S. If you're in the habit of serving it alongside chicken or fish as a healthy side, make a double batch next time and refrigerate half, says Michael Natkin, author of Herbivoracious. When it's time for your next dinner, mix the cooked quinoa with spices and eggs. Form the dough into balls, flatten it into pancakes and brown each one in a skillet until golden-brown. With simply prepared vegetables, the cakes make a wholesome 20-minute meal. Get the recipe: Quinoa Cakes

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  • Thai: Sweet And Salty Noodles Done Light
    Ann Stratton
    Pad Thai is one of the tastiest noodle dishes in Asian cooking, but most renditions are also swimming in oil, which means the typical takeout box will contain 1,140 calories and 7 grams of saturated fat. Make it yourself so you can pile on the vegetables and use fewer rice noodles. This recipe offers other tweaks to lighten the dish. Get the recipe: Pad Thai
  • Mexican: The Dairy-Free, Fresh-Tasting Taco
    While Mexican restaurants in the United States often serve enchiladas covered in melted cheese and then topped with a dollop of sour cream, tacos are a much lighter -- and authentically Mexican -- dish. This sautéed shrimp version is especially healthful, punched up with fresh tomatoes and lime juice. Get the recipe: Chipotle Shrimp Tacos
  • French: Delicious Fish That Isn't Battered And Fried
    Christopher Baker
    The French may be known for their masterful ways with butter and cream, but they've also figured out one of the tastiest ways to prepare salmon, letting a light and savory broth do most of the work. This oven-poaching method is impossible to screw up. Get the recipe: Poached Salmon Fillets
  • Indian: A Filling Vegetarian Stew
    Photo: John Kernick
    Indian cuisine is known for its vegetarian-friendly options, and this curried soup is a terrific example, brimming with lentils, chickpeas and Swiss chard. Lots of curry powder lends deep flavor without adding extra calories or fat. Plain Greek yogurt, thinned with some water and drizzled on top, is a cool counterpoint to the spice. Get the recipe: Curried Red Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup
  • Japanese: A Superfood Soup
    Sang An
    In this twist on classic chicken noodle soup, miso, chard and buckwheat noodles stand in for bouillon, peas and pasta. Leeks and scallions add cancer-fighting phytochemicals to the magnesium- and folate-rich dish. And since miso and edamame have a lot of protein, you can even omit the chicken and still have a nutritious soup. Get the recipe: Miso Noodle Soup
  • Italian: Guilt-Free Comfort Food
    Anna Williams
    Pasta gets all the glory in Italian cuisine, but white beans -- aka cannellini -- are the unsung heroes: creamy, filling and good for you. This soup, reminiscent of the well-known pasta e fagioli, skips pasta but is no less satisfying, thanks to croutons made with whole wheat bread and roasted garlic. Get the recipe: White Bean and Rosemary Soup with Roasted Garlic Croutons
  • Asian: The Egg Roll Alternative
    Spring rolls can be a healthy substitute for the deep-fried egg versions, since they're often stuffed with raw vegetables and lean protein and don't require a dip in hot oil. Plus, the rice paper wrapper is gluten-free. (And while they're technically not a dinner, we could eat a whole plateful.) A simple trick to prevent tearing: Use a piece of lettuce as the first layer. Get the recipe: Crispy Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls