I’m a big fan of Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals cookbooks. I own four of them. In case anyone is unfamiliar with these (or the accompanying TV show on the Food Network), the premise (not surprisingly) is that each meal can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Ideal for busy people, coming home late after a long day’s work….
The problem is that it is a rare and remarkable day upon which I manage to cook a Rachael Ray recipe in less than 30 minutes. They’re good recipes, creative and interesting. But 30-Minute Meals? Not so much.
For instance. Tonight. Eggplant Subs a la Norma, page 57 of her 2007 cookbook Just in Time. This consists of toasted sub rolls topped with grilled eggplant, raw tomato sauce and crumbled ricotta salata cheese. I started this recipe at 7:30 p.m., and it wasn’t until 8:26 p.m. that I was finally assembling my sub from the prepared components. Was it delicious? Absolutely! Was it worth the time I spent preparing it? Yes, because there’s enough filling for 6 subs,* which works out to 9.3 minutes per meal (though only if you’re cooking for yourself). But it took 56 minutes.**
(In case anyone is curious, I rounded out the meal with Greek salad and finished with sliced strawberries tossed with a bit of sugar. I suppose that a salad containing tomatoes and feta cheese is an odd choice to accompany an entree that contains tomatoes and a very similar white crumbly cheese. But Greek salad ingredients happened to be what I had on hand.)
* Another thing about Rachael Ray’s cookbooks: most of the recipes are purported to serve 4 (and the one I cooked tonight is no exception), but that’s only true if the 4 you’re serving are all linebackers. I’ve occasionally gotten 8 servings out of a Rachael Ray recipe.
** Technically, I started cooking dinner at 7:15, and it took 1 hour and 11 minutes, but I decided it wasn’t fair to count the time I spent preparing the charcoal grill (and sweeping spilled charcoal dust off the rear walkway), since Rachael Ray probably used a gas grill.