When I was an editor at Cookie, we ran a page called Default Dinners. It was devoted to meals we fell back on again and again that could be made in minutes and usually with the help of some storebought product that one of the editors would swear tasted fresher than homemade. The genius of these kinds of meals, I find, is that they call for doing something slightly more ambitious than pressing the “start” button on a microwave — whether it is assembling or quick sauteeing — so even though most of the heavy lifting is taken care of for you, you get to play out your yummy mummy fantasy and pretend you’re serving a mostly home-cooked dinner. (I have a theory that this is the real reason Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade empire is as successful as it is.) My pick for the page was chicken or vegetable curry made with Maya Kaimal’s Simmer Sauces, which I had just discovered. And it wasn’t a phase — almost three years later, I still think of Whole Foods as “The Place That Sells Maya’s Simmer Sauce.” I always pick up at least one or two when I’m there.
But strolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s the other day, I found something that might give Maya a run for her money. Have you guys seen the pre-packed organic beef patties they now sell? We don’t usually buy pre-packed or pre-seasoned patties (I find they are either too packed or too seasoned), but I loved the fact that they were organic. We threw them in the cart along with a package of organic American cheese (still trying to wrap my head around that one — isn’t the very definition of American Cheese that it is processed?) and I found myself dreaming of cheeseburgers until the moment we all inhaled them the next night for a superfast family dinner. A 60-second tomato salad (with mozzarella, basil and olive oil) a big delicious dollop of special sauce, and dinner was served.
(OK fine, so I did go to the trouble of roasting the potatoes. But you don’t have to.)