Ready-made food saves time

A new job makes dinnertime hell. Whether the position is a new mom or a new manager, the increased hours, additional responsibilities and changed venue equal less time and energy to create the evening meal. In short, dinner is the last straw. You crave 967–1111 or better still a live-in cook. At times like these, when there is no time, some ‘ready food’ is the answer. Fish and shellfish are the original convenience foods. They can be ready faster than a prepared frozen meal. Likewise, other ingredients such as pre-washed greens, basmati rice or couscous and ready made dressings make short work of dinner preparation. Once recipes and ingredients are on hand, you can have this menu ready in less than half an hour. Just long enough to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine. Here’s to the new job!

Salmon en papillote
En papillote is a fancy French term for cooking in parchment. Cooking in parchment paper does several things: it ensures a moist product inside, reduces clean up, and allows advance preparation producing individual parcels. Simply refrigerate the parcels ready to pop into the oven for a quick 15 minute bake.
Fish is the original convenience food; you can make this recipe with salmon, trout or any favourite boneless, skinless fish fillet. Although this recipe is for one portion, it can be increased to six simply by increasing the number of fillets and the size of the paper – large enough to accommodate all the fish in a single layer. Remember to increase all other ingredients by a factor of six too.
1 piece of parchment paper about 15 x 12 inches
1 6 oz (175 g) boneless skinless fillet salmon, trout or halibut
1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice or white wine
sprinkle of sea salt and fresh black pepper
1 tsp (5 mL) dried tarragon
2 slices fresh lemon or orange
Preheat oven to 450˚F (230˚C). Cut a piece of parchment paper the required size. Centre the fish on the parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice.  Sprinkle fish with salt, pepper and tarragon and arrange the lemon slices on top of the fish. Bring the opposite sides of the paper together and fold over and crease then fold over again. Tuck the ends under neatly and place parcel in an oven proof dish large enough to accommodate the parcel(s) in a single layer.
Basmati Rice
Another quick fix, basmati rice is an ideal complement to fish of any sort. Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold water then allow to soak in water about five minutes before following these instructions:
1 cup (250 mL) basmati rice, well rinsed and covered in cold water
1 cup (250 mL) water
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
In a saucepan bring water, butter, bay leaf, salt and pepper to boil. Drain rice and stir in. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer five minutes. Turn heat off and allow rice to stand while everything else finishes. Fluff with fork and discard bay leaf before serving. Serve rice with the fish and a wedge of lemon or two.

Spinach, Orange and Almond Salad, Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
The combination of tart spinach and citrus is the ideal accompaniment to fish. Once the vinaigrette is prepared, you will have sufficient quantity for a number of future salads. If you prefer, substitute a favourite commercial vinaigrette.
4–6 cups(1 L–1.5L) pre-washed spinach
2 seedless oranges, peel and pith cut away, sliced thinly in circles
1/2 red pepper thinly sliced
1/4 cup (50 mL) toasted almonds
Honey Mustard Vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) fresh black pepper
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (125 ml) cider vinegar
2 tbsp (25 mL) liquid honey
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
In a large bowl, mix together spinach, oranges, red pepper and almonds. Set aside. In blender combine garlic, salt and pepper. Turn on blender to chop. Stop; pour in oil, vinegar, honey and mustard. Turn on high to blend well. Pour into 2 cup (500 mL) jar; refrigerate for up to three weeks.

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