Genius Recipes

9 Genius Shortcuts for Speedier Weeknight Dinners

March  2, 2016

Genius Recipes aren't always about quick and easy, lightweight, 2-ingredient cooking hacks. Sometimes, when it's worth it, they take the slow boat (see: oven-roasted vodka sauce, no-knead pizza, broccoli cooked forever). I'd also like to point out that there are 25 ingredients in this hamburger, and it's 100% genius.

But we all have those sapped nights after work when we need a leg up, and Genius Recipes can be really great for those, too. Below are 9 of my favorite shortcuts to weeknight dinner successreal deal polenta that cooks in 15 minutes, pasta sauce that's actually just Greek yogurt, extra-crispy grilled cheese that cooks faster without burning thanks to mayonnaise, herb pastes to keep in your freezer for fried rice or mix with hot water for near-instant soup.

Now tell me yours.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Natasha Price
    Natasha Price
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin
  • Asha Loupy
    Asha Loupy
  • Niknud
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Natasha P. March 23, 2016
I like to cook rice the night before and make fried rice. The cold rice makes for a less sticky, more authentic restaurant-style dish and it only takes 30 minutes to put together!
LeBec F. March 7, 2016
Before I retired, when I was an overcommitted business owner, on nights when I came home hungry enough to throw a tantrum, I would quickly boil up some frozen Chinese dumplings (made by a few local restaurants and sold by the bag of 50) and then stir fry them with some snow peas, red pepper and carrots, and frozen edamame ,with a sauce I kept on hand:
- tamari
-rice wine vinegar
-Madras curry powder
-cornstarch. dissolved in liquid above
Simplicity indeed: protein,starch, veggies,in a tart, deep, spicy glaze!
Asha L. March 2, 2016
Great post! I like cooking up a big batch of grains on Sunday (farro, black rice, etc) to keep on hand for easy weeknight salads, stir-fries and hearty addition to quick soups.
Kristen M. March 2, 2016
I agree—weeks with a big pot of grains or beans in the fridge are always better.
Niknud March 2, 2016
Sometimes I feel like Kristen is my spirit animal. In a completely non-creepy way, natch. Israeli couscous is my go-to dinner on the table in 15 minutes. Cook it up with some broth, add in a can of drained beans, lemon juice, olive oil and whatever bits and bobs I have laying around the crisper (last night it was tapenade, feta, cherry tomatoes, parsley, red onion). And I can feel virtuous and healthy without breaking the 20 minute mark on the kitchen timer. Bonus.
Kristen M. March 2, 2016
I am deeply honored to be your spirit animal, Niknud. Sometimes I feel like you are mine, too.