It's daylight savings week, and while we're thrilled not to wake up in the pitch black, it's more than a little disorienting to find yourself out on the street in front of your office building at 5:45 PM, the sky dark as midnight and you absolutely starving for dinner. Like cannot-wait-more than-20-minutes starving for dinner.
It's fairly fortunate that many of our favorite meals can be thrown together in less than half an hour. Keep your pantry stocked and your cutting board handy, and you won't have to order takeout.
Many of our pastas can be made in just the amount of time it takes the water to boil and the penne to become al dente. Stirfry -- whether of pasta, rice, or chicken -- comes together in the blink of an eye. Seafood, from scallops to flounder, cooks through in minutes. And don't overlook ramped-up salads, sandwiches and other no-cook dishes; not turning on the stove or oven is a great way to save time. And when worse comes to worst (aka it's 9:30 PM and there's nary a stick of linguine in the pantry), make breakfast for dinner: eggs, pancakes and cereal can usually solve a quarter-lifer's dinner woes.
**Best Quick Dinners**
1. Sardine Linguine with Sundried Tomatoes and Black Olives.
Don't let the fishy scent deter you: Sardines are healthful, tasty and available to you at the opening of a can. Just boil some water and you're in.
2. Vegetarian Pad Thai.
Pad Thai is all in the prep, and even that's pretty damn streamlined. Make this meal in far less time than it takes to call for takeout -- especially if you do some of the mincing and dicing in the morning or the night before.
3. Seared Radicchio Salad.
This is a light main course, but don't be dismayed. As long as you stop on the way home to buy a chunk of good bread, you'll fill up easily by dunking said bread in the salad's delicious warm dressing.
4. Chicken and Leek Stirfry with Snowpeas.
When you slice chicken breasts super thin, they cook almost instantaneously. Add garlic and ginger, snow peas and leeks, soy sauce and sesame oil, and you've got a fast-cooking meal fit for a stirfry queen. If you've made rice in advance, simply warm it to serve on the side.
5. Coconut Curry Mussels.
Like shrimp (see below), mussels cook up in almost no time. Our super flavored curry-coconut broth makes these mussels a meal you might want to eat every night.
6. Grits with Southwestern Shrimp.
Grits (and polenta) almost seem as though they were invented to save time. Phoebe created this dish to be quick enough to cook at a friend's house for a potluck, and it translates brilliantly to at-home weeknight dining.
7. Ginger Scallion Noodles.
The preparation of these Momofuku-inspired noodles is easy to streamline for a quick dinner. You start the water boiling at the same time that you grate the ginger and chop the scallions; then you let the sauce rest while you make whatever toppings you've chosen. Save time to brush your teeth -- this sauce is strong!
8. Shrimp and Tomato Orzo.
Again with the shrimp! Seafood, especially shellfish, cooks up so quickly it makes another appearance on this list. Our Greek-inspired seafood and pasta dish tastes much heartier than you'd expect from its nearly nonexistent prep and cooking time.
9. Avocado Quesadillas.
Mash an avocado and flavor it with lemon and salt; grate some cheese. Fill a tortilla, fold, cook, and voilà: dinner is made. (Nearly all our grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas make for rapid, satisfying meals.)
10. Stewed Greens with White Beans.
Tuscan peasant fare is not only filling and healthful, it's also a really quick dinner. To improve your start-to-finish time, use spinach or chard instead of kale -- they're quicker cooking greens.
11. Sweet and Sour Tofu.
A reader first turned us on to this tofu, and readers since have found it makes getting vegetarian weeknight dinners oh so much easier. Did we mention it's a carnivore converter?