I got the galley for J.M. Hirsch's High Flavor, Low Labor cookbook about a month ago. And I have been cooking from it since. That is significant for many reasons:  I get a ton of cookbooks to review and usually end up cooking maybe one recipe from each, if at all. And for me to go back to a book repeatedly is very rare. Another one, I go back to again and again is Jaden Hair's Steamy Kitchen. Anyway, the reason this book has been a favorite is that the author is true to his title: the flavors in his recipes are simple superb and they dont require an arm and a leg and 76 hours to cook the recipes. 

The recipes, my fav one is pasted here, are all easy yet very inventive like turkey, leek and gouda white pizza, curried haddock with coconut milk, doro wat chicken and some glorious smoky spicy grilled corn. 

This is a must have book! The publishers of the book have generously given me three copies to give away. To win, leave a comment there about what your best weeknight cooking trick is!  Winners will be chosen using a random number generator and will be announced Sept 1st 2010.  

My fav recipe – chicken tenders with a ZING!

Photo of chicken for my website was taken by the amazing Sala Kannan.  

North African grilled Chicken

Adapted from J.M. Hirsch's High Flavor, Low Labor ( Random House, 2010 ) 

After searching the spice cabinet for dinner inspiration one day, I tossed a bunch of seasonings in a bowl with some olive oil, dredged some chicken through it, then threw it on the grill. it was so good my son and i ate the entire pound of chicken.

Too bad I hadn’t been smart enough to write down what I did. It took me about twelve attempts to re?create just the right blend of seasonings, the combination of which is reminiscent of North African cooking. Lesson learned—I no longer experiment without taking notes.


This chicken also can be cooked under the broiler. Arrange the meat on a baking sheet, then broil it on the center rack for about 5 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through.


1?2 tablespoon ground cumin

1?2 tablespoon ground coriander

1?2 tablespoon turmeric

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon mustard powder

1?2 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

11?2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders


In a large, dry skillet over medium heat, combine the cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, paprika, mustard powder, and salt. Toast the seasonings, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until aromatic.


Transfer the spices to a plate to cool. Once they have cooled, transfer the mixture to a zip?close plastic bag. Add the olive oil, seal the bag, and gently shake and knead the seasonings until they are well blended with the oil. Add the chicken, close the bag, and shake until well coated.


Coat the grill grate with oil or cooking spray. Heat the grill on high.

Grill the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until the meat reaches 165°F on an instant?read thermometer.


??How long? 30 minutes ??How much? 4 servings


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  1. I like to make ahead meals and then freeze them.

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  2. Those sound so delicious that I’m going to make them for dinner tomorrow!

    My favorite weeknight fast meal is lamb burgers seasoned with ground cumin and coriander. Grill or broil, stuff in pita with a chopped tomato & cucumber relish, chopped cilantro and some plain yogurt. As easy as hamburgers, but less pedestrian.

  3. My quick, go-to recipes are steamed fish fillet with ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and scallions; or stir- fried tofu with shitake mushrooms, oyster sauce and sesame oil.

  4. Quick, easy and delicious is toasted bread, fresh ricotta, sliced heirloom tomato, dusting of salt topped with a drizzle of olive oil. Summer.

  5. My weeknight trick to cut all the veggies that are needed for any simple curry. The next day morning, all you have to do is – a basic tadka and let the vegetables cook completely. :).

    The book title sounds interesting Monica. I would love to win one.


  6. Mostly when i make something I make them in triple portion and freeze them so the work is for once and when you don’t have time to make something you still have home made food in your freezer than buying food from outside. Or if there is nothing available i still like to have home made food than take outs or buyingfrom the local deli so i make some fast pasta dishes.

  7. A simple linguine dish with sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes in extra virgin olive oil, topped with toasted breadcrumbs. Served with Parmigiano Reggiano.

  8. I like to take a day every month or so to just wash, chop, dice, slice, grate, blanch, and whatever else to a variety of veggies, then keep them in the freezer. That way, when it comes time for dinner, all I need to do is pull out however much I need and half of the work is already done. 🙂 I also freeze cubes of tomato juice, chicken stock, and tomato puree for soup and sauce making. It’s a great time-saver.

  9. My best weeknight cooking tip is to get my boys involved! My twelve-year-old is especially helpful in the kitchen and is becoming very resourceful. And my most proud moment recently was when my 11-year-old came in while I was rolling out some dough. My husband said I was rolling out tortillas but my son knew right away that it wasn’t tortillas but Naan! We have great fun cooking together and they are learning about other foods and cultures. It’s a great way to spend an evening together.

  10. That looks amazing! My best weeknight cooking tip is to plan ahead – keep a list of every dinner possibility you have. That way if you have a day where you just don’t feel like cooking what you had planned, you know what some easy plan B dinners are without having to resort to takeout.

  11. My best weeknight cooking trick is to not plan my meals on a weeknight. Friday night and/or Saturday morning I poll everyone in the house about what kinds of things they would like to eat this week and I make up a menu accordingly and than do up the grocery list and my husband and I go shopping Saturday morning for everything to make up the menu (plus whatever basics need to be replenished). When we get back we put everything away together and I post the Menu for the week on the fridge. This way we just choose which meal we are making and take out whatever we need to thaw in the morning and voila no stress. Everyone in our house is expected to cook so usually the menu choices are reflected by what people like to cook with the only rule being one person can’t always make the same item. I also keep a log of menus and grocery lists so that if we are stuck for ideas we can see what we had at the same time last year or what we had two months ago. I save the grocery lists and menus with the date of the shopping expedition and they are all available on our home network for anyone to look at any time. It really makes it easier for me to plan instead of shopping every single day and deciding what to have. I do pay attention to what’s in season and we do experiment as well. I know way to wordy but I would love to win that cookbook 😉

  12. My best weeknight meal is a seasoned chicken burger freshly made by my local grocer that I simply ‘fry’ with a bit of butter in a skillet. Instead of mayo and other condiments found on a burger I use a homemade veggie cream cheese that I buy at my local farmer’s market every Saturday. It is made with fresh cheese,sliced carrots and scallions. The burger is then topped with two other farmer’s market goodies tomatoes and bibb lettuce. I also have a side order of fries using sliced russet potatoes,salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil and baked in the oven.

  13. One of my tricks for a simple weekday meal is to prepare something on the weekend that can then be reworked into a different, simple recipe during the week. Left over veggie korma can be made into a wrap using a Roti or Naan and the chutneys I made and froze. I also use my pressure cooker to speed things along.

  14. I am so not an efficient weekday chef!

    My best weeknight cooking tip is to prepare part of the meal beforehand (like cook the meat for a dish on Sunday night). I especially like using my slow cooker to make up a pot of soup, and throw an extra breast of chicken in there for the week’s meals. Really a time-saver!

  15. I love to make pasta with a little olive oil, garlic, anchovies, and white wine. Quick and tasty!

  16. My weekday trick is to cook something in excess and use the leftover to whip up something new altogether..like left over chicken roast would go into a sandwich shredded with some lettuce and cheese, or a wrap with spin

  17. I’m a big fan of batch cooking certain things, like beans, chicken, etc. and using it in various ways throughout the week. Which works, until the husband gets hungry and munches at the “leftovers”. LOL!

  18. At the moment (and for the next two weeks or so) it’s living with the parents and getting mom to do all the cooking!

    But typically I make a meat dish or two on the weekend and reheat, toss with veggies.

  19. I have two favorite weeknight meals… If I plan ahead, I make dal in our crockpot in the morning, then make rice and a vegetable when I get home. If I want something really quick, I confess, it’s frozen pizza with lots of extra veggies on top.

  20. i like to prep my food (cut veg, relocate ingredients to a convenient spot etc.) a night or two ahead after the little one is in bed but before i do the last of the dinner dishes it saves me time and dish washing later.

  21. Monica
    I was so proud of my former food writing teacher when your name was mentioned by Victoria von Biel during the Pitch to Publish session at the International Food Blogger Conference this week in Seattle. I agree with you about Jaden’s book. Steamy Kitchen is one of those books I return to even though it isn’t an exclusively gluten-free cookbook. My tip is also about weekly menu planning and saving those menus and shopping lists. Without a plan and a stocked refrigerator, my hectic life with gluten-free teens would be unmanageable. It helps to find cookbooks like Jaden’s that inspire and add to my repertoire. I would love to get my hands on High Flavor, Low Labor. It sounds like my kind of book.

  22. I always make a big pot of rice to get me through the week. I freeze both rice and pasta in meal sized portions, so I can just grab and go for lunch or dinner. I can mix either w a veggie stir fry or deli chicken for a quick dinner.

    I also make my own peanut sauce and keep a jar in the fridge for unexpected company. It can be served hot or cold, and is a real crowd pleaser. Plus, in this recession, when I need to feed 5 or 6 people on a budget, you can’t beat a big pot of Asian noodles and some fiery peanut sauce (I make mine on the spicy side)topped with cilantro and diced green onions and crushed peanuts. Sometimes I throw in frozen green peas for color and texture. It looks and tastes like you put in a lot of effort, but only takes a few minutes to prepare.

  23. Don’t be afraid to use the microwave to help things along. For instance, I will microwave a sweet potato for 4 minutes and then finish it in a hot oven. A tip for corn is to skillet steam: bring a couple inches of water to a boil, add husked ears, cover and cook 3-4 minutes. You don’t have to wait 20 mins for a large pot to come to a boil, and use less water.

  24. Slow cookers are a MUST for weeknights! I love cooking spare ribs and chicken legs marinated in herbs and spices. Not only is the meat tender, moist and delicious, but your house will smell wonderful too. My favorite crockpot dish is balti chicken. The cinnamon and garam masala scents linger for hours after its cooked. Simply heavenly!

  25. This giveaway is now closed — Winners are Amy Brown, Dawn and LaToya. If you could kindly send me your address, you will get a copy of this fantastic book!

  26. Fire up the grill. Nothing is easier than grilling anything and everything. Cleanup is pretty simple too.

  27. Darn. I didn’t see that that books had already been awarded. : ( But I can’t wait to try that chicken recipe. Yum.

  28. My weeknight tip is to menu plan. You can’t cook anything, even a quick meal, if there isn’t anything to cook.

  29. My recent favorite trick is freezing meatballs spiced with Indian spices. They have made this whole week fabulous. Day 1 — put them in a onion-tomato curry
    Day 2– in Pasta

    Day 3– in sandwich and so on

  30. My trick is to make Muhammara. I use it for anything from pizza, dip, sauce for grilled meat, and sandwich spread.

  31. My favorite weekend trick is marinating and cooking low and slow!

    Hope I can get my hands on that book!

  32. I am going to have to try this one for a little punch. The twist of chicken tenders sounds great.

  33. My tip that I do is keep it simple and fast during the week days. I prepare meals that I am super familiar with and takes little to no time to have supper on the table. Then, on the weekends I try new recipes and do a menu that is more labor intensive and fun.

    Thanks for the awesome opportunity to enter my name.

  34. Wonderful work. The above pic is very nice. I like your thought.

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