I always feel a proud sense of accomplishment when I prepare an inviting evening  meal in less than 30 minutes.

A tasty weeknight dinner with fresh ingredients and loads of vibrant flavors.

I get a little smug.

Happy-smug. Here are three to make you feel happy-smug, too.


1. Let’s start with the easiest of all, a delicious fresh asparagus soup made in minutes. The garnish is prepared basil pesto, and the flavors make the soup sing.

Some crusty artisan-style bread quick-heated in the oven, some good butter and a glass of wine.  Maybe some cheese and fruit for dessert. Delicious.


Easy Asparagus Soup
Yield: 4 servings
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed
1/2 baking potato, such as Russet, peeled, diced
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: basil pesto, store-bought or homemade
1. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and potato; cook 1 minute. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Puree in batches in blender or food processor. Season to taste.
2. Ladle into bowls and spoon on about a teaspoon of pesto in the middle of each serving.

(See the time-saving tricks in this short video!)

2. Fresh tarragon tastes completely different from dried. Its hint of licorice pairs beautifully with salmon and just a little goes a long way in this simple recipe.


Round out the meal with some green beans or asparagus, plus some boiled fingerling potatoes. The recipe is from “Fine Cooking Roasting” created by the editors of Fine Cooking magazine (Taunton Press, $14.95).


Roasted Salmon with Mustard and Tarragon
Yield: 6 servings
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse whole-grained mustard
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
6 (6-ounce) center-cut, skin-on salmon fillets, preferably wild
Kosher salt
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, mustard, lime juice, and tarragon. Arrange the salmon skin side down on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with salt. Spread the mayonnaise mixture evenly over each fillet (there may be a little left over).
3. Roast the salmon until just cooked through, 10 to 14 minutes. Using a spatula, lift the fillets off the baking sheet, leaving the skin behind, and transfer to plates.

Use a coarse, whole-grain mustard for this dish.


3. These Brussels sprouts that are so good, they turn haters to lovers!

The recipe is from Marcus Samuelsson’s new award-winning book, “Marcus Off Duty” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35).


Pair it with some roast chicken, either home-cooked or a store-bought rotisserie bird. And to make the dish come together more quickly, you can buy shaved Brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s.


Hot Brussels Sprouts Slaw
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced in food processor or mandoline, divided use
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, coarsely grated, squeezed dry in clean kitchen towel
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Pour bacon fat into a small bowl.
2. Turn heat under skillet up to high and add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons bacon fat. When butter stops sizzling, add half of the Brussels sprouts. Cook, stirring often, until softened – with some of the sprouts browned and others still bright green – about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and scrape out into a bowl. Cook the rest of the Brussels sprouts in the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons bacon fat. Return the first batch of sprouts to skillet; add apples, vinegar, ginger, and thyme. Cook, stirring, until apples are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Pile slaw onto platter, scatter bacon on top and serve.
Source: “Marcus Off Duty – The Recipes I Cook at Home” by Marcus Samuelsson with Roy Finamore (Houghton Mifflin, $35)