Savoring a weeknight meal made in less than 30 minutes with a glass of wine may sound like a miracle to most people, but Sam Gugino, author of Cooking to Beat the Clock - Delicious Inspired Meals in 15 Minutes has the solution. He offers flavorful dinner recipes and tips for hasty cooks and suggests everyday wines to pair with anything from shrimp to pasta.
It doesn't need to be a special occasion anymore to savor a homemade dinner and a glass of wine. Enjoying a glass of wine on an ordinary Wednesday night with a plate of pasta can be just as quick and easy as popping open a can of soda or beer and having a pizza delivered. And with all the affordable wines in grocery stores these days, it's easy to pick up a bottle when shopping for your dinner ingredients.
There's nothing to be afraid of when choosing wine with weeknight meals. The general rule of thumb is to drink what you like with the foods that you like. If that means enjoying a glass of red wine with chicken fajitas or a glass or white wine with beef stir fry, go for it. My recipes focus on fresh, natural flavors and ingredients and are straightforward enough to appeal to both beginner and gourmet cooks. Try the following for easy weeknight dinners with these great wine pairings (click links for recipes):
- Shrimp Scampi and Basmati Rice with Chardonnay
- Pasta with Rapid Ratatouille Sauce with Chianti, Sangiovese or Sauvignon Blanc
- Southwestern Flank Steak with Warm Potato and Black Bean Salad with Zinfandel, Syrah or Shiraz
- Curried Chicken with Apples & Sweet Potatoes with Riesling
- Turkey Tacos with Red Pepper Salsa with Chardonnay or Beaujolais
Sam Gugino's Quick Tips for Fast, Fabulous Weeknight Meals:
- Start a Shopping Strategy -- Depending on your family size and storage space, shop once a month for dry storage or freezer items, two or three times a month for refrigerated items like Parmesan cheese and eggs, and twice a week for most perishable foods.
- Stock the Pantry -- A well-stocked pantry is the key to flavor and function in the kitchen. From capers and beans to canned tomatoes, cheeses, olive oil and flavored vinegars, keeping the refrigerator, freezer and cupboard stocked will ensure that you not only have great flavors and textures on hand - but will allow you to substitute ingredients and prevent any last-minute trips to the super market.
- Stock the Wine Pantry, Too -- Make it easy on yourself and keep several affordable bottles of both red and white wines in stock. It's easy to create a pantry of wine - and you don't need a fancy cellar to do it. Simply find a spot away from heat and light, perhaps in a kitchen cabinet, to keep your favorites on hand. Keep these bottles under $15. Good versatile wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Syrah.
- Scout Out the Supermarket -- Supermarkets are good about offering options to help people get in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes or less. Ask your local butcher for meat that's packaged in a marinade. Purchase prepackaged salads and chopped up vegetables. Keeping tips like these in mind will save you time.
- Reheat and Recork -- Go ahead and cook a little extra. Food not eaten will do fine in the refrigerator until the next day. Similarly, an opened bottle of wine is not a spoiled bottle. Recork the bottle and just like food, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-5 days. Just reheat Monday night's meal later in the week, uncork that bottle of wine, and you've got yourself another great meal in minutes.
- Use Wine in Your Sauce and To Sip -- The great thing about wine is that if you have leftovers from the night before - you can use it for sipping as well as an ingredient in your sauce.
- Make Use of the Microwave -- It's not just for defrosting and heating. Most American homes have a microwave and it is one of our greatest time-savers. The microwave does an excellent job at cooking many foods such as vegetables or rice.
- Trust Your Taste -- Forget the myth that you need to be an expert on wine in order to enjoy it with your meal. There's no need to waste too much time when you can just go with what you like - red or white. Just let your taste buds be your guide.
- There's No Need to Get Fancy -- If you're cooking to beat the clock, do not waste your time trying to track down a fancy wine glass. Any wine compliments a meal whether it's served in a stemmed wine glass or even a tumbler.
- Chill Out and Have Fun -- Of all things, follow the tips above to allow yourself enough time to actually enjoy your meal with a glass of wine. Although you may be cooking to beat the clock, you don't need to eat to beat the clock.
Besides contributing to wineanswers.com, Sam Gugino is the author of Cooking to Beat the Clock - Delicious Inspired Meals in 15 Minutes and an award-winning and critically acclaimed journalist and author on the subject of food and wine. A former restaurateur, Gugino has served as the restaurant critic at the Philadelphia Daily News and the food editor at the San Jose Mercury News. Sam frequently appears on television and radio food shows, and he currently writes the "Tastes" column for Wine Spectator magazine. You can ask Sam additional questions by going to his web site, www.samcooks.com.