I like to cook a meal where the main dish has very little prep time and everything else can be prepped and cooked in the time it takes the main to cook. A convoluted sentence, but this is what I mean.
I found frozen swordfish steaks on sale at Wegman's. They were already portioned and individually frozen with vacuum seal plastic--perfect for defrosting! (or sous-vide cooking, but that's a different blog) All they required was a little seasoning and then we slapped them on the grill.
While they cooked, I boiled water for couscous. It's one of my favorite starch side dishes; for the taste, versatility, ease and cost, how could you not love it? We buy couscous both in bulk and in boxes with seasoning packets. Boil water with seasoning, stir in couscous, turn off heat, cover and you're done. Some people skip even that step and put the uncooked couscous in a serving bowl, pour boiling water (like from the kettle) and cover with plastic wrap until it's time to serve. It's hard to see where it could be easier. I like to throw in a few craisins for a little tart/chewy interest.
While my water was boiling, I sauteed crushed red pepper and minced garlic in a pan, then added fresh snow peas. They need only a little saute until the color becomes vivid but the crunch of the peas remains. For a little extra excitement, I halved tiny thai eggplant (they're a speckled green and literally the size of eggs, but perfectly round) and popped them on the grill next to the swordfish.
Both grill items were ready at the same time--and by then I was sitting with my feet up drinking a beer. Darling Husband brought in the fish and the eggplant. While the swordfish rested, I further cut the eggplant into wedges and tossed them in with the snow peas.
Healthy, economical and quick. Who says you can't have all three? It's a challenge (you usually can do two of the three) but it can be done. We could have done it even cheaper with a lower cost fish, but the principle remains the same. Epicurious has jumped on the NPR bandwagon of budget family meals (or is it the other way around?) and I like it when people try to make it healthy as well as convenient. NPR encouraged reader submission of recipes and some seemed to totally ignore the price portion of the recipe, not even guessing at the totals for their ingredients and just showing off their recipe. Others seemed to assume that if they had it in their freezer or pantry to begin with, it shouldn't count towards the total (since they didn't pay for it that day to be prepared). Mostly vegetarian items, too...
And on a completely unrelated note, I found Israli couscous at Wegman's and am looking forward to trying it. It's a large, pearly, tapioca looking couscous that requires more cooking than the normal but is supposedly very tasty. It's often mentioned as a substitute for fregula, the enigmatic Sardinian pasta. Will have to try soon!