Beet fritters with smoked salmon from A Man, A Pan, A Plan.
Beet fritters with smoked salmon from A Man, A Pan, A Plan. (Photo: Courtesy Rodale)

The Best Cookbooks for Busy Adventurers

You can do better than frozen meals

Beet fritters with smoked salmon from A Man, A Pan, A Plan.

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The solution for time-starved foodies isn’t to resort to takeout three nights a week or meal delivery kits that come with way too much packaging waste. It’s to find cookbooks written for the way you cook: still dripping with sweat from your after-work trail run, one eye on the clock, one eye on your email, and both hands chopping at warp speed. Here are six cookbooks with recipes that will get you from hangry to satisfied in less than an hour.

For True Newbies

Dinner in Minutes: Memorable Meals for Busy Cooks, by Linda Gassenheimer ($10, Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

The first few pages of most recipe books are skippable. Don’t do that here. Gassenheimer, who writes the nationally syndicated Dinner in Minutes newspaper column, lays out tips for efficient cooking that are perfect for the inexperienced or timid, and each recipe will see you whipping up an entire meal in 45 minutes, including sides. But beware: The book was published in 1999, and some of the recipes preach a low-fat, high-carb diet, so it’s best to add a few pats of butter to just about everything. Some recipes, however, like the poached salmon with parsley sauce or the steak au poivre with leek vinaigrette and roasted garlic potatoes, are perfect as written.

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For Party Planners

(Courtesy Rodale)

A Man, a Pan, a Plan, by Paul Kita ($16, Rodale)

With 100 quick recipes that run the gamut from vegan to paleo, this cookbook by Paul Kita, the James Beard Award–winning writer and food and nutrition editor for Men’s Health, is the perfect dinner party companion no matter which picky friends you have coming over. Your vegetarian friends will love the grilled cauliflower steaks with tahini and herb sauce.

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For Harried Vegetarians

(Courtesy Roost Books)

Simple Green Suppers, by Susie Middleton ($17, Roost Books)

This flexible collection of recipes makes it easier than ever to go vegetarian, thanks to a range of flavorful and diverse meals, plus tips for adapting them to whatever you have on hand. The book is divided into a few key categories—veggies with noodles, grains, beans, toast, tortillas, eggs, and broth—which will help newly minted vegetarians learn the ropes. Try the roasted Brussels sprouts with crispy shiitake mushrooms and green rice or the roasted butternut squash and black bean quesadillas.

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For Overscheduled Cavepeople

(Courtesy Ulysses Press)

Cast Iron Paleo: 101 One-Pan Recipes for Quick and Delicious Meals Plus Hassle-Free Cleanup, by Pamela Ellgen ($11, Ulysses Press)

Paleo basics, like grass-fed steaks and wilted greens, are easy. Getting creative can be tough. This book effortlessly navigates the coconut flour, ghee, and tapioca starch needed to create meals such as blueberry pancakes and plantain, bacon, and fennel hash that taste almost as good as their full-gluten counterparts. Make sure to read the recipe from start to finish before choosing it for a hurried weeknight, however. While all the dishes are one-pan, some involve a fair amount of prep.

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For the Last-Minute Chef

(Courtesy Sonoma Press)

Instant Pot Obsession: The Ultimate Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook for Cooking Everything Fast, by Janet A. Zimmerman ($11, Sonoma Press)

This book was written for devotees of the Instant Pot, an electronic pressure cooker with a cult following, but you could adjust the recipes to work on a traditional stovetop model. Plus, with diverse meals like steamed cod with ginger and snow peas or Italian chickpea stew with pesto, the book feels more in touch with our modern tastes than anything you’ll find among the pressure cooker recipes from your grandma’s generation.

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For Tiny Kitchens

(Courtesy Knopf)

Smitten Kitchen Every Day, by Deb Perelman ($21, Knopf)

If you need a recipe for a pocket-sized kitchen, trust a New York City chef like Deb Perelman. Her second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, hit shelves last month and focuses on dishes that are memorable for their flavor, not their effort. As a testament to Perelman’s attention to detail, the book has a lay-flat binding, meaning it wont’t snap shut mid-recipe. The crispy egg tacos with singed greens and tomato and the giant bean bake have already made it into our regular dinner rotation.

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Lead Photo: Courtesy Rodale

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