Five minute vegetarian dinner

Fast (five minutes), healthy (look at those vegetables), flexible (don't have one vegetable, then use another), delicious (the husband asks for this at least two or three times a month), and insanely easy (perfect for after work).

And, best of all, it can be made from stuff you already have in the house.

Fast vegetarian meals - I am too good, really.

Preserved lemons
First, let me introduce you to preserved lemons. A Moroccan staple, these are just lemons that have been preserved in lemon juice or oil or a combination of both, with some salt and maybe a bay leaf (depending on the recipe).

Now, these are easy to make (I'll put a recipe for them below, under my recipe), but they are even easier to buy. Certainly you can get them in any nice grocery story (when I say nice, read expensive), but I get mine at the farmer's market, so you might want to look there. And, hey, support your local farmer and all.

Five minute vegetarian dinner
Now, I've got the recipe coming up in a second, but I wanted to let you know that you can substitute. Like crazy. So you don't have preserved lemons in the house? Go ahead and swipe from fresh lemons from your neighbors tree and use those. Only don't tell them it was my idea. No asparagus? Use spinach. Or mushrooms. Or thin strips of green pepper. Or parsley or mint or kale or whatever you have around.

Love garlic? Use tons (we do). Hate it? Skip it. Doh. It is that easy.

Vegetarian recipe for the world's best lemon pasta
Okay, anything lemon and I am so there. But you probably already guessed that. So even if the husband didn't like this, I'd make it a few times a month. Lucky for him, he does like it. Almost more than me.
Preserved lemons, chopped coarsely
garlic, sliced
olive oil
bunch of thin (thin cooks fast) stalks of asparagus, washed and cut into bite-size pieces (I quarter my stalks)

If you want to eat right away, then the moment you walk in, before you kiss the kids, trip over the cat, or squeeze the husband, put a pot of water on the burner. Turn it on. Throw in a good sprinkle of salt.

Kiss the kids, trip over the cat, and squeeze the husband. Just be sure to make it back to the kitchen by the time the water boils.

Dump the pasta into the pot. We like angel hair, but I'll use whatever is around (if you do use angle hair, however, start your vegetable first because this stuff cooks in what feels like seconds.)

Grab a saute pan. Pout in some oil (I use extra virgin olive oil which I never call EVOO because I am not a lazy communicator, thank you Rachael Ray) and your garlic and asparagus. Be bold; turn the heat up, almost to high.

When the pasta is done and the asparagus is as tender as you like (we go for al dente for both), add a ladle-full of pasta water to the lemon mixture, then drain the pasta and dump it into the saute pan. Toss the pasta until it is thoroughly mixed with the lemon mixture.

Add salt and pepper. We like sea salt for the crunch, but anything is fine.
If you not avoiding dairy, then a generous handful of grated Parmesan Reggiano mixed in is a joy. But if you are avoiding dairy, then a nice handful of pine nuts added to your lemon mix halfway through cooking adds a similarly nice decadent touch.

Serve. Accept praise. And diamonds. And anything else nice that comes your way.

Vegetarian recipe for preserved lemons
This recipe for preserved Meyer lemons, from the wonderful Epicurious, is adapted from cookbook author Paula Wolfert.
2 1/2 to 3 lb Meyer lemons (10 to 12)
2/3 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut lemons into 8 wedges each and discard seeds. Toss with salt in a bowl and pack into jar.

Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. Add enough juice to cover lemons and cover jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil and chill.

Preserved lemons keep, chilled, up to 1 year.

These lemons are also divine in a, hic, in a martini. Bottoms up, m'dear.