5 Make-Ahead Mixes to Rescue Your Busy Weekday Dinners

5 Make-Ahead Mixes to Rescue Your Busy Weekday Dinners

When I have a little time on a Sunday and I know I’m going to have a particularly busy week coming up, I start thinking about a few little make-ahead projects that help to move dinner along more quickly or turn a basic dish into something a little more special.

With just a small amount of advance preparation, I’ve found that reaching for few little jars can be fairly miraculous when I’m pressed for time. I’ve offered a lot of ideas for staples like Nutty Homemade Granola Chutney, Chow-Chow, pickled onions etc. before, but here are a five condiments I’m using as go-to resources right now.

  1. Nutty Salad Sprinkle

This is one of Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s cool tricks. A pinch turns your ordinary soup or salad into something fancy in less than 10 seconds. I also like it as a sprinkle on fried eggs, grain bowls and bean stews. I usually double or triple the recipe and store it in a jar for last-minute seed garnishes. Also makes a nice gift!

Simply toast all the ingredients on medium heat in a skillet for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. The sesame seeds should begin to take on a light-brown tone. At that point, transfer your seed blend to a plate to cool completely and store the mix in an airtight container.

  • 1.5 Tablespoons flaked almonds
  • 1.5 Tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon large-flake salt, like kosher or Maldon
  • 1/4 teaspoon olive oil
  1. Panko-Sesame Breading Blend

Another of Chef Ottolenghi’s inspirations! This makes an easy, tasty breading for schnitzel-thin strips of green tomatoes, zucchini, hard squash, fish, chicken or pork.

Just blend an egg with a little water for an egg wash, dip the strips in the egg and then give them a dip in flour before you press them in the panko-seed blend. Fry the strips in an oiled pan for 3-5 minutes per side or until toasted on the outside and cooked throughout. You can also use regular breadcrumbs if you can’t get your hands on panko breadcrumbs.

  • 80 grams (5/8 cup) panko or regular breadcrumbs
  • 60 grams (about 7 Tablespoons) white sesame seeds
  • 25 grams (about 3 Tablespoons) black sesame seeds
  • 40 grams (about 4 tablespoons) sunflower seeds
  • 1.5 Tablespoons crushed coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  1. Compound Butter

The name somehow sounds complicated, but compound butter is just butter with tasty stuff in it.

It’s great on steamed/grilled vegetables and grilled meats, or slather it on slices of bread to kick-start your next savory sandwich.

  1. Roasted Cumin-Coriandar Spice Mix

Since these two spices go together in so many cuisines, I like to toast them for deeper flavor, grind them together and keep a constant supply of this mix on hand for blending into baba ganoush and hummus, combining with lime juice and chopped garlic with a splash of olive oil for delicious beef skewer marinade and using with lemon juice and garlic for a fish or chicken marinade. This combo is excellent in (or on!) a savory bread and constantly used in Indian curries as well.

Just remember to measure out twice as much coriander as cumin (2:1 ratio). Then gently toast the seeds in a skillet until they begin to take on a slightly darker color and smell toasty. At that point, grind them up and store the blend in a tightly lidded jar. I use an old coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. Usually 2 tablespoons of coriander seed to 1 tablespoon of cumin seed makes enough for a week or so, but you might double or triple it if you’re planning on making spiced meatballs or curries.

  1. Zippy Mustard Dressing

Why buy dressing? It’s cheaper, fresher and really so easy to just make your own. And it keeps well, too. Add a little honey if you like it sweeter. The mustard will help to keep the dressing emulsified, but if it separates, just shake it up before you use it.

And why stop there? You can make dried herb blends to sprinkle on your morning eggs or in bean soups. Seasoned chili oil/infused herb oils and herb-infused vinegars make great partners for vegetables, hummus/bean dips and salads. You probably have a few tricks of your own.

I’ve given you five ideas off the top of my head, so if you have a special make-ahead trick, give me a hint in the comments!

Happy Making! Miss Ginsu

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