Joni Woolf: Thinking up quick meals

Published 11:52 am Saturday, June 9, 2018

These days, I’m waiting for the fresh vegetables to arrive at area markets (and some did today; others are not far behind). So, while I’m waiting, and not wanting to stock up on too many things, especially in the refrigerator where I hope to have corn, peas, okra, etc., I’m searching the pantry shelves for what I might put together. Yesterday I saw a yellow rice package on the shelf, and a can of black beans, and thought about how pretty they were together — strong colors yet mild, easy tastes. So, I went to the Internet and asked “What’s a recipe for yellow rice and black beans?” And, of course, the Internet answered me. Several recipes popped up, all sounding good, but I decided to invent my own, using the information I had found as a guide. I came up with a colorful dish that could be served on soft flour tortillas, and I had everything on hand. I’ll call it, simply, Yellow Rice and Black Beans.

Yellow Rice and Black Beans, Enhanced
1 8 oz. package yellow rice, cooked
1 15 oz. can black beans drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. (or smaller size) can yellow corn kernels
2 Roma tomatoes, diced (or local tomatoes when they come in)
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 teaspoon cumin
Several fresh basil leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
8-inch flour tortillas
Option: Top with salsa and/or sour cream
Cook rice according to package directions. Mix all other ingredients into the warm rice, and serve immediately. Can be heated to a warmer temperature before adding tomatoes and basil.
Note: Meat may be added. I have a left-over grilled pork chop that tonight I am slicing thinly, and adding to yesterday’s vegetarian dish. I expect it to be even better than yesterday.

Now here’s a quick salad-type dinner, with salmon fillets added for a full meal. I do love fresh beets, and this is just one more recipe that uses them to full advantage. This recipe serves 4, but can be cut in half, or smaller.

Salmon and Beets with Yogurt Sauce over Watercress
1 ¼ pounds beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch wedges
½ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 6-ounce, skinless salmon fillets
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 bunch watercress, thick stems removed (if unable to find watercress, arugula may be used)
Set a steamer basket over 1 inch of boiling water in a medium saucepan. Steam beets until tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together yogurt, dill, lemon zest and juice, oil and poppy seeds in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Season salmon with coriander and salt and pepper. Broil on a rimmed baking sheet until just opaque throughout, 5 to 6 minutes (also may be cooked on a grill, but don’t overcook). Serve salmon, beets and watercress, topped with yogurt sauce. A perfect meal for those watching their weight.

Though I have eaten beets throughout my life, it has only been in later years that I started buying fresh ones. They are easy to prepare, economical per serving, and delicious with almost any meal. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is in the winter, in a roasted vegetable dinner. But they are good in every season
There are dozens of ways to prepare our favorite foods. Just watch your newspapers, magazines, new cookbooks like the Fresh Tastes from a Well-Seasoned Kitchen that we’ve featured here, and you’ll find the perfect recipe for the day you’re in a hurry — or have all the time in the world. Cooking for friends and family is a joy; cooking for one person is a necessity that can be fun if it is viewed as an adventure instead of a chore. So, lighten up and enjoy the journey.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at