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Chef Set Meals: Hamburger Helper for Grownups

Thanks to Local in Season, I discovered a great timesaver for lazy cooks like me: Chef Set Meals. Ana Sortun, the chef at acclaimed Cambridge restaurant Oleanna, created these to be healthy, quick meal starters.

Mmm… quinoa with crushed pistachio and za’atar spice…

They’re based on her philosophy that Middle Eastern foods use spices to make a meal flavorful, rather than fat or salt. (She elaborates on this in her book, Spice.) Each box has a whole grain pack (like couscous, quinoa, or barley), an aromatic pack (like za’atar spices, oregano, or spearmint), and a garnish pack (like chopped nuts or dried herbs). You finish it off by adding vegetables and protein (like meat, beans, or cheese). It’s super easy, and it kind of teaches you about cooking. For instance, instructions for the couscous tell you to make the broth and couscous separately and then place the couscous on top of the broth rather than stirring it in, which did make it less squishy and more delicious. And the spice mixtures make very simple meals (just quinoa, beans, and peas, in one case) delicious.

Each two-serving meal is designed to be 500 calories per serving and take just 20 minutes to make. Vegetarian instructions, though not printed on the box, are available online. Yeah, I’m going to have at least one of these in my cupboard at all times, for “emergencies.”

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