Five meals, five minutes, five ingredients or less (and, of course, five GREAT food recipes!)

So you get home and need to get dinner on the table. NOW! Yeah, well, I so know that pain.

So I've come up with five really fast, really easy, really satisfying meals. But not just any meals (I mean, come on, you ARE, after all, on the Almost Vegetarian blog, m'dear). These are also five healthy meals. After all, fast should not cost you your health.

Five fast and fabulous meals in five minutes or less
The theme for these meals is pasta. After all, could anything be faster and easier? I also stuck with items you probably have on hand. After all, it's pointless to have fast and easy meals if you have to spend three days hunting down ingredients.

Feel free to use as much pasta as you like (I'm envisioning two people for the other ingredients, so increase or decrease as needed).

Five by five
As soon as you get in the door, put on a pot of salted water to boil. Then get rid of your briefcase, iPod, PDA, whatever; change into your jeans; put on some music, a movie, or the evening news; and pop back into the kitchen for a quick cook.
Food recipe: Pasta fast and furious
Angel hair pasta
5 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and minced (chopped fine)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
A large pinch of chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons pine nuts

Pop your sauté pan on the stove (really, an old fry pan will do) and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil or butter and the garlic. Toss (or stir) periodically.

When the garlic is just turning golden, add the pine nuts and lower the heat to low. Put your pasta into your pot of boiling water.

When the garlic and the pine nuts are a nice golden brown, add the chili flakes, stir, and turn off the heat.

Drain your pasta, put it into a large serving bowl, and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil (or butter) and the garlic mixture. Serve. Or eat it all yourself. Whatever you prefer!

Food recipe: Cheese, please, pasta
Spaghettini
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced (chopped fine)
1/2 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggaino cheese
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or butter
1 tablespoon capers (if you don't like capers, sliced mushrooms would do nicely)

Put your sauté pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil or butter and the garlic. Toss (or stir) periodically.

When the garlic is just turning golden, add the capers and lower the heat to low. Put your pasta into your pot of boiling water.

When your pasta is ready, drain it, put it into a large serving bowl, and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil (or butter), the garlic, and the capers. Top with the grated Parmegiano-Reggaino, toss, and serve.

Food recipe: Red, red ragu
Spaghetti
cherry tomatoes (a handful per person)
Pitted olives (I'm partial to the black Kalamata olives, but green olives work nicely, too)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmegiano-Reggaino cheese

Put your sauté pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium-low. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil, the tomatoes, and the olives. Flatten some of the tomatoes to make make a sauce and stir periodically. Cook for 4 minutes.

Drain your pasta and put it into a large serving bowl. Add the tomato and olive mixture and top with the cheese. Toss and serve.

Food recipe: Red, white, and green
Farfalle (or shells or penne or whatever pasta is around)
1 bunch arugula, kale, spinach, or any other greens you like, chopped finely
Cherry tomatoes (handful per person should do nicely)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic

Put your sauté pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and the greens and tomatoes. Feel free to flatten a few of the tomatoes if the greens are too dry (they are starting to burn or taking more than, say, 5 minutes to wilt). Stir periodically.

Put your pasta into your pot of boiling water.

When the greens are starting to wilt (get soft) add the garlic. When the garlic turns golden brown, turn off the heat.

Drain your pasta, put it into a large serving bowl, and toss with your greens, and serve.

Food recipe: Pasta with a kick
Linguine
1/4 cup olive oil
10 anchovy fillets
large pinch chili flakes
leaves from one bunch of thyme
lemon zest from one lemon

Place your sauté pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and anchovies. As the anchovies melt into the oil (2 - 3 minutes), add the thyme, lemon zest, and chili flakes and lower the heat.

Put your pasta into your pot of boiling water.

Drain your pasta, put it into a large serving bowl, and toss with the anchovy mixture.
Serving tips
I keep bags of salad around and good bread (right now, it is an olive bread) in the freezer in case I don't have time to hit the market on the way home.

Sure, bagged salad is not the best (is it just me, or does that stuff go bad faster than what you get at the farmer's market?). And frozen bread is never the tastiest, but, hey, it's amazing how yummy it is when you are starved and in a rush.

I keep balsamic vinegar in the house and dress the salad with that (super fast). And I tend to cut the bread into diagonal slices, and brush it with a minced roasted garlic / sea salt / olive oil mixture. I put the slices on a cookie sheet, pop them into the oven, and toast it until the bread is golden brown and crisp. I do this as I am cooking the pasta - it takes all of 3 minutes!

It's also not a bad idea to make extra. Leftover pasta, when mixed with a wee bit of olive oil and left over roast veg (asparagus, red peppers, and so on), tends to reheat nicely and taste wonderful. And that's even faster than the recipes, above.

And fast is always good. At least in the kitchen.