5 Questions

Update! Merguez Burgers and A Giveaway from Caroline Wright

By • May 15, 2013 • 63 Comments

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We're sitting down with our favorite writers and cooks to talk about their upcoming cookbooks, their best food memories, and just about anything else.

Today, we talk to Caroline Wright, who is about to save dinnertime with a book full of Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute meals you'll actually want to make -- including Merguez Burgers that we'll be grilling all summer. We're also giving away five copies of her book!

Caroline Book

Caroline Wright is an idealist and a realist all at once: she fell in love with cooking in France, loves to eat, and dreams of merry dinner parties full of friends, stories, and wine. She's also busy. So she began developing flavorful, satisfying recipes that could be made cheaply, in a short amount of time. In her new book, Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals, Caroline shares meals that take little effort but will still excite the people around your table, and keep them coming back for more.

You've already seen some of these meals in Caroline's column, but today she's sharing a little more, talking to us about what she loves to cook for her family and for a crowd. She's even sharing a recipe for Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing, which we can't wait to grill this summer. And we're giving away five copies of her book so that you can start cooking more -- in less time.

You studied at La Varenne in Paris and recall hosting many a dinner party while living there. Is there one meal in particular that stands out as a formative one in your relationship with food and cooking?
My awareness of cooking and technique really materialized during culinary school in Burgundy. My time in Paris during college, however, was most important in becoming aware of markets and food as a part of a full and joyful way of life, which perhaps was more informative for my philosophy now than any one particular meal. We ate well, surrounded by friends, and our meals were delicious and simple. This provided the tone for my relationship with food.

What do you like to cook when you have a little more than 20 minutes?
I love to cook simple, daily meals in an interesting way, but I also love to roll up my sleeves and cook long and slow and really dig into my own world for a while. I also love to cook for a ton of people, things like braised goat piled on paper plates, as long as I can sit at the table with everyone and enjoy the conversation and wine. Braised meats are my jam.

More: Choose the right wine to pair with your braised meat -- be it goat, beef, or lamb.

You now have a young son. How do you manage feeding him too while you cook meals for you and your husband?
My son, while seemingly in the process of developing a gusto for food, is still quite young and toothless at eight months, so he’s mostly eating purées. Truthfully, his introduction to food has been simple and fairly effortless so far -- I just blend a bit of whatever vegetables my husband and I are eating with some water and freeze them in ice cube trays. When I’ve felt a bit more ambitious, I’ve dressed some purées with different mild flavors, like butternut squash with cinnamon and orange, or parsnips with sage, just to feel like I’m doing something. 

If you could throw a dinner party for six, whom would you invite, and what would you talk about?
This feels like a fun game for clever dinner party conversation, where I’m meant to ask “Living or dead?” and come up with a cast of characters that include Gertrude Stein. Truthfully, though, the happiest dinners that fill me as a person and cook are those spent with my best friends in Brooklyn. They are the most generous and loving people to have at my table -- we talk, joke, and eat all at the same time. Dinners are loud; the food is good. In a dream scenario, I would spend days making a delicious porky broth for ramen. I’d have everyone put together their own bowls just before we sit down and pass around homemade pickles and seasonal veggies to dunk in our noodles. We’d probably talk about how we’d spent our weeks since we last saw each other, nothing special, mixed with what we’re learning from our days in New York. It would be cold outside and warm inside and just the best night we could remember in weeks.

What's your favorite recipe in the new book?
That’s a hard one to answer, but I love the Merguez Burgers in the cookbook. They are a recipe I make at the first cookout of every year, and are requested by my husband and friends frequently. They are mixed up with ground lamb and all of my favorite spices, including a big dollop of harissa paste, and then they’re topped with a simple cucumber dressing and served on chewy rolls. Basically, they’re what I want to be eating this very minute.

Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing

Serves 4

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pound ground lamb
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon harissa paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3 sliced Kirby cucumbers
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

We're giving away five copies of Caroline's new book! To enter, tell us in the comments: What are your favorite weeknight dinners that come together in a flash? We'll pick our winners on Friday, May 17 at 3 PM EST.

Recipe excerpted from Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals
Copyright 2013 by Caroline Wright
Used by permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. New York
All Rights Reserved

Tags: 5 questions, Caroline Wright, 20 dollar 20 minute meals, cookbooks

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Comments (63)


almost 2 years ago jamesv.harris

When I'm home a lone I love to make a fried egg, bacon, and cheese sandwich. A good hot sauce is always a must and whatever veggies we have around kitchen are occasionally thrown in.


almost 2 years ago Elisa B

I made Jamie Oliver's Jubilee Chicken recently (hurried along by a rotisserie chicken from the market) last weekend. It came together very quickly and had lots of bright, summery flavours. I sometimes add sliced radishes or bell peppers.


almost 2 years ago drlbennett

Stir fries are a staple for me


almost 2 years ago mikansan

fish en papillote


almost 2 years ago Ida Yu

Any sort of pasta dish - my favorite is pasta with roasted broccoli and chicken, dressed with a lemon/basil/garlic vinaigrette topped with a fried egg. It's SO satisfying. And of course frittatas with toast are hard to beat for simplicity and deliciousness.


almost 2 years ago Monica C

Organic greens (baby arugula, baby spinach, red cabbage, etc) with avocado, Norwegian sardines, gourmet croutons, and a mix of sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, sesame sticks. Drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.


almost 2 years ago spoon

a fried egg with avocado on the side, and a bottle of sriracha to hand.


almost 2 years ago creamtea

Meatballs in sour-cherry sauce with rice.


almost 2 years ago ktchnninja

I make a pasta dish from things I always have on hand -- kielbasa, diced tomatoes, greens, and a little sprinkling of cheese (usually parm). When I haven't had time to shop or to research recipes, that's the go-to in our house!


almost 2 years ago Noel Poirier McCormick

My favorite quick dinner is couscous with olives, sundried tomatoes, sauteed onions and italian chicken sausage. I'll throw some fresh herbs in at the end if I have any on hand or some salad dressing. It's done in under 10 minutes.


almost 2 years ago Linda S.

Pasta with shrimp, onions, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.


almost 2 years ago Brett

My favorite meal in a flash is sausage and egg burritos. I adapted it from the scrambled egg recipe in the Cooks Illustrated cookbook.


almost 2 years ago AmandaN

The Cold Noodles with Peanut or Sesame sauce recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything. Done in the time it takes to boil the pasta. Love!


almost 2 years ago IanM...amp

Tomato and sweet corn, mushroom garlic and mature cheddar topped brioche croute served with a seared steak and truffled au poir sauce, wild garlic and chard salad.


almost 2 years ago MyNameOnFood

Spaghetti Carbonara! Ruth Reichl's recipe to be super specific.


almost 2 years ago KaffeeAndKuchen

Anything with pasta. Tons of veggies, tossed with pasta and maybe some kind of local sausage.
Talk about comfort food fast!


almost 2 years ago Margaret Ochs

I like to make thai green curry soup - takes all the left over fresh veg I have in the fridge, some shrimp, coconut milk and green curry paste, and presto! yummy dinner.


almost 2 years ago raheela

pasta with whatever is in the pantry or fridge. we come up with some interesting combinations with meats and vegetables.


almost 2 years ago tsazaj

I slice sweet potatoes into rounds and pop them in hot oven. While they cook, I make two eggs over easy/sunny side up. Simple and tasty.


almost 2 years ago frogg983

Rice and beans!


almost 2 years ago frogger097

For weeknight dinners my go to would be a crockpot stew with lots if veggies - so easy to make and so delicious for days too!


almost 2 years ago Rosiebud63

everything but the kitchensink salad! free for alls with interesting topping combos


almost 2 years ago Joline

My quick go to dinner is tossing tons of fresh veggies in a bowl with some spinach and making a delicious salad. Never gets boring and tastes different each time depending on the veggies I have. Love toasting up some nuts to toss on top to add some extra crunch.


almost 2 years ago skb

In a FLASH? An "open omelet" made entirely in the microwave. Throw chopped broccoli, mushrooms, baby spinach, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes in for about 2 minutes. Scramble 2 eggs. Pull the steaming veg out, pour the egg into the bottom of the bowl, re=microwave for 2-3 minutes till the eggs are done. It's actually quite excellet, healthy, and takes about 5 minutes.


almost 2 years ago Jill Jones

Although truly boring, it's always a hit with the kids: spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce. Perhaps I need this cookbook more than I realize. Ha!!


almost 2 years ago danielle miller



almost 2 years ago Kenneth Miller

Spaghetti Carbomara.


almost 2 years ago Jennifer Ehlers

Chicken or steak thrown on the Foreman grill with wilted veggies like spinach and roasted potatoes.


almost 2 years ago jilloc

Everything on the grill - steak tips, asparagus, and a plain pizza crust. Then we pile up the crust. Fast, delicious and very little clean up.


almost 2 years ago jenniferb

Chicken with mustard cream sauce- it can be paired with anything, greens, pasta, asparagus and my favorite shaved Brussel sprouts,


almost 2 years ago Lily,Sheng

Potato salad for us: boil potatoes, carrots, and eggs, dice them up and add mayo, salt to taste, and secret ingredient: chicken bullion powder. So humble, so yummy!


almost 2 years ago LLStone

Frittatas w/ whatever I have!


almost 2 years ago mongoosenamedt

roast salmon with capers-chop, roast, forget, eat


almost 2 years ago Alison Lopez



almost 2 years ago Miss Hangrypants

All kinds of leftover veggie pizza!


almost 2 years ago Kendra A.

Grilled whatever-is-fresh from the Farmers' Market: squash, eggplant, asparagus, line-caught fish! Followed by a bowl of strawberries.


almost 2 years ago Carole K

Baked salmon with stone ground French mustard, pan seared asparagus, and a quick quinoa salad -tomatoes, feta, cucumbers, chick peas with a lemony vinaigrette dressing. 30 mins, max.


almost 2 years ago Allison Wiseman

Homemade pasta with anything! I've been making it so long that I can have it prepped in about 8 minutes and prepare everything else while its resting. Then a few passes through the pasta roller and 4 minutes later a fresh meal. YUM!


almost 2 years ago Bobobielio

Vegetable rice pilaf, toaster-oven roasted asparagus, and sauted chicken paillards with white wine, tarragon cream sauce. I can concentrate on the chicken while the other two items are taking care of themselves.


almost 2 years ago JenHan

I love crock pot meals. Just put all the ingredients together in the morning and it's done when I get home from work.


almost 2 years ago kleahey

Stuffed sweet potatoes: easy as pie, healthy, and delicious. Just pile on any veggies you have on hand, a bit of cheese, and a poached egg.


almost 2 years ago shabtastic

toaster oven baked salmon + pasta + steamed asparagus. add plenty of fresh lemon and ground pepper. fast, easy, and delicious!


almost 2 years ago Cindy M

I love this orzo, spinach, feta and pine nuts thing I make. It has become my go-to easy dinner :-)


almost 2 years ago Matilda Luk

Broccoli pasta with anchovies, garlic and red pepper flakes. Shower with grated romano and/or parmesan!


almost 2 years ago Sarah D

Chicken adobo over rice! It's so easy and fast!


almost 2 years ago unagisuki

Soba -- whether eaten in a traditional cold preparation, or in fusion-y salads -- is a spring/summer favorite.


almost 2 years ago CheapBeets

Lately it's been poached salmon and sugar snap peas. 5 minutes of cooking time once the water is roiling.


almost 2 years ago sexyLAMBCHOPx

sexyLAMBCHOPx is a trusted home cook.

Salads with a protein, such as chicken or turkey sausage. Comes together quickly and I create a great dressing to make it pop.


almost 2 years ago Cbmcleod

Omelets are always a good standby! Add a salad and dinner is ready in a flash.


almost 2 years ago theworldsaplate

Japanese curry. For the most part, the ingredients just need to sit in boiling water.


almost 2 years ago fshort

I make spicy turkey sausage and tons of veggies ----super fast and super good


almost 2 years ago lindabw



almost 2 years ago SuzannahJane

Frittata! Every week, sometimes with ham and cheese (from the deli) and sometimes veggies. With a salad and or roasted potatoes:)


almost 2 years ago tanialicious

Ramen Noodles or Stir Fry with rice and veggies! But it get's old when you eat it almost every week...


almost 2 years ago lindabw

I have no week night dinners that come in a flash except salads. I'm in need of lots of recipes to help me eat right and love it.


almost 2 years ago saraarwen

I usually throw together a quick pasta when I need dinner in a hurry, but I'd love to have some more inspiration!


almost 2 years ago ladywild

Grilled fish and vegetables like tomatoes or zucchini. We usually put some feta on the veggies.


almost 2 years ago lmikkel

We love a salad with greens from our garden with a poached egg on top.


almost 2 years ago Dr ROK

My favorite quick veggie is steamed asparagus dusted with Cajun seasoning. Pair it with a nice grilled steak seasoned with Montreal seasoning.


almost 2 years ago Qi

Cumin Dusted Shrimp with Ginger Rice and Peas is a fifteen minute meal that never disappoints. My two year old loves it & it is a simple, flavorful meal for my husband and I too.


almost 2 years ago Cheazza

I often "roast" chicken drumsticks and thighs with various flavors. Most recently, lemon, thyme and bacon!


almost 2 years ago ?????????

It should be taste!!!


almost 2 years ago Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

Sounds like a perfect spring/summer meal!