Gourmet Meals in Minutes

I’m trying to decide what to make for the week and I’m in my usual bouncing around cookbooks I’m comfortable with. One of these is the CIA’s Gourmet Meals in Minutes. It occurred to me that I ought to share a little about this book with you because of how much I enjoy using it in my own kitchen. Gourmet Meals is an easy recommendation; it is a great cookbook whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned cook–I know I’ve sung its praises to many of your already. Some basic reasons this is a good buy:

  • The photos in the cookbook itself are an inspiration to get cooking (hopefully some of the pictures from our table will inspire you, too). When I was just starting out in the kitchen, I had no sense of “that sounds good” from reading a list of ingredients or a recipe. But “that looks good” is a much easier thing to master. Tom gifted me the book a couple of years ago and the pictures were a big reason he chose it for me, knowing how visual I am in my approach.
  • Everything can be made very quickly. They’re not kidding when they say “in Minutes.” 
  • I don’t think I’ve made a single thing from this cookbook that wasn’t a pleasant surprise when it arrived at the table. Even when I’ve doubted things in the process of cooking they always turn out better than expected.

A few downsides:

  • The book is presented in some ways as a party cookbook, so many of the recipes make a LOT. This can be a challenge when cooking for one or two, but I’ve found it an advantage in the past year as we intentionally plan for leftovers with all of our meals (we don’t actually buy any food specifically for lunch).
  • Again, an up and a down… the book tends to use canned ingredients in many cases for the sake of time. But, it’s easy to sub in fresh things (like I did with the Thai soup below, using fresh Enokis instead of canned).
  • When they say “gourmet,” they mean a huge variety from around the world. The diversity in this cookbook is a great thing, but if you don’t regularly branch out in the kitchen you may have to give your spice collection a boost and invest in some more “international” staples, if you will, in order to make some of the recipes. 

How much I’ve used this cookbook is the best evidence I can give in its favor. See below for what I think is a complete list with (an incomplete sampling of) photos from my kitchen. I can easily say that I credit this book with giving me confidence in the kitchen. I can be a little Amelia Bedelia sometimes, and this was the first cookbook that helped me make things that were approachable, quick, and pretty (!) at the table. I’m sure Tom is thankful I’ve gone beyond my rotation of macaroni & cheese, frozen ravioli, chili (from cans), lasagna, grilled cheese, cholé, Santa Fe chicken salad, Mexican pizzas, enchiladas, and taco salad… that’s a lot of cheese. 

Last week I made Thai Hot & Sour Soup with Enoki Mushrooms and Shrimp:


Here are a few other pictures that I hunted down in my photo library… Asparagus with Shiitakes, Bowtie Pasta, and Spring Peas:

Asparagus with shiitakes, farfalle, and spring peas

Risotto with Scallops Shrimp and Asparagus (I love that this page is sticky and flecked with food, I’ve made this a few times!):

Risotto with shrimp and asparagus

Fennel and Chorizo Strudels (why were the photos so terrible from this one?):

Fennel and chorizo streudels

Belgian Endive, another not-so-fabulous photo (this one gave me a major oil burn on my foot. Lesson: don’t wear Mary Janes while frying),

Belgian Endive

Baked Goat Cheese with Mesclun, Pears, and Toasted Almonds:

Baked goat cheese with accompaniments

Soba Noodle Salad:

Soba noodle salad

Hlelem–a Tunisian Vegetable and Bean Soup:


Not pictured: Satay of Beef with Peanut Sauce, Reuben Sandwich, Grilled Steak Salad with Horseradish Dressing, Roasted Beet Salad, Seared Scallops with Fiery Fruit Salsa and Coconut Rice with Ginger, Spicy Vegetable Sauté, Goat Cheese and Red Onion Quesadillas, Capellini with Grilled Vegetables, and Cream of Mushroom Soup.


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3 comments on “Gourmet Meals in Minutes”

  1. Tom 24 March, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    I am always surprised by the quality of the recipes from this book when you make them. Sometimes when you tell me what you’re planning I am (hopefully not obviously) dubious but these recipes are always delicious; in fact, looking through your list I can’t think of one that I didn’t like. I guess my only complaint about it might be the expense of acquiring its random ingredients (that miso will last forever, right?) but it can be good to just bite the bullet and spend on ingredient diversity since it makes eating so much more interesting.

  2. Martha 24 March, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Actually it’s pretty obvious, but I let it slide.

  3. Linda 24 March, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I liked the bow tie pasta with snow peas a lot.

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