Ahh, spring. The arrival of warmer temps and garden planting and blooming breaths, well, new hope into the air. There is just something magical about the arrival of green grass, leaves on the trees and fresh from the garden fruits and vegetables that brighten up anyone’s day.
With more and more of us spending more time working from home, the last thing a lot of us feel like doing at the end of the day is cooking. But with spring in the air and hopefully some new-found spring in our steps as COVID restrictions relax and we start looking toward summer beach time and bathing suits, cooking at home might be just what the doctor (should) order to help us all feel good.
While ordering your favorite take out is a seemingly less hassle way of getting dinner on the table, there are proven rewards to spending some time in the kitchen that far outweigh another night of pizza or Chinese takeout. To help myself and other at-home cooks find an easy and delicious way to prepare meals, I have created a variety of one-pan wonder dishes that work for solo diners to multiple family member meals.
Taking advantage of seasonal fresh produce, including asparagus, green beans, cilantro, spinach, and broccolini, among others, light and tasty dishes are just a pan and bowl away. In addition to one of my favorite one pan wonder Asian Fish & Vegetables bowl recipes below, you can easily put together a Tuna Niçoise Salad, using mixed greens topped with Albacore tuna, steamed green beans, hard-boiled egg, a couple steamed baby red potatoes (prick with a fork and put in microwave for about 2-3 mins) and some olives with a light vinaigrette in a matter of minutes. Playing off the popular Poke Bowl theme, try some mixed greens, sticky rice (Annie Chun’s in the Asian aisle is ready to go in 1 minute), slightly seared fresh tuna, pickled ginger (same Asian aisle), cilantro, sliced baby carrots, cucumber and sweet peppers with some Coconut Aminos (back to the Asian aisle!) drizzled over the top.
Want some added incentive? Cooking at home is also better for your waistline. A study conducted at Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has shown that people who frequently cook at home eat healthier diets and tend to consume fewer calories on average. In fact, home cooks tend to eat less even when they’re eating out. Julia A. Wolfson, the lead author of the study, noted that eating less is a side effect of home cooking, even when people aren’t trying to lose weight. “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all,” she says.
To help you down the feel-good cooking at eating path, the following Asian-influenced one-pan wonder recipe can be used and adapted for a variety of proteins and vegetables. Give it a go and see how simple, savory eating can be!
One Pan Wonder: Asian Fish & Vegetables
Servings: 2 (can be halved if dining solo or doubled or tripled for larger meals)
½ C Coconut Aminos or Low Sodium Soy Sauce*
¼ C brown sugar
2 Tb rice wine vinegar
1 T fresh ginger, finely grated
8-10 oz fresh salmon, tuna, sea bass cut into two portions or 8-10 oz large shrimp, peeled
1-2 Tb coconut oil or canola oil (coconut is better for overall health)
1 medium bunch asparagus, ends trimmed or bag of green beans (pre-cooked for 3 minutes) or one bunch broccolini
Small bag fresh spinach
1 container Annie Chun’s Sticky Rice or Brown Rice (you can also make your own but this is quick and easy and the best sticky rice I have found)
8-10 oz fresh salmon, tuna, sea bass or large shrimp, peeled
*Note: Coconut Aminos have a sweeter and more silky texture and much less sodium content; they are also gluten free if sensitive). Most grocery stores sell this in the Asian food aisle.
Pre-cook green beans if using or trim asparagus or broccolini ends and slicd larger pieces in half
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
On a large plate or shallow baking dish, combine Aminos/Soy Sauce, brown sugar, grated ginger and rice wine vinegar
Place fish skin side up in sauce
Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 1T oil
Add in vegetable of choice and stir with spoon to cover with oil
Add fish, skin side down (do not marinate the skin)
Cook vegetables until softened and slightly browned; remove to plate and put in heated oven
Cook fish until just before desired level of doneness; Salmon and Sea Bass take about 3-4 minutes per side for medium thickness and medium rare to medium; tuna should stay pretty rare and takes about 1-2 minutes per side just until browned; fish 2-3 minutes, max
Remove fish to cutting board (it still cooks once removed from pan). If using tuna, let it rest for a couple minutes before slicing.
Add another Tb oil and then add and stir spinach until just cooked; remove to heated oven plate
Heat sticky rice in microwave (takes 1 minute)
Add marinade sauce to pan and reduce to a slightly thickened texture, remove from heat
In a shallow dinner bowl or medium plate:
Place spinach in center
Top with rice
Top with fish
Top with vegetables
Divide and pour sauce over each plate