It's fun to serve multicourse, use-every-pot-you-own meals once in a while, but let's face it—who likes all that washing up? If you'd rather spend time chatting around the table than scrubbing dirty pots and pans, try these recipes designed for a single skillet. You'll also find that adapting meals to one pot is an easy way to shift toward using vegetables, grains, and legumes as the main event, with meats relegated to a supporting role— a healthier balance and a lighter, more sophisticated approach. With streamlined preparation and blue-chip ingredients, your dinner will be the centerpiece of a satisfying, stress-free evening.

Smart Skillet Techniques

  • Always heat your pan and coat it lightly with oil before adding food to ensure that foods begin cooking immediately once they hit the pan—otherwise ingredients will absorb the excess oil while the pan climbs to the proper temperature. A preheated pan also allows meats to sear, enhancing flavor and sealing in juices.
  • Don't use nonstick cookware for high-heat cooking.
  • Cook in batches instead of crowding the pan. Overfilling the skillet creates steam and prevents foods from browning.
  • When brown bits accumulate on the bottom of your skillet, deglaze with wine or water and loosen bits with a wooden spoon, generally after the food is removed. When cooking with meat, pour off any grease before deglazing.

—C.S.R.

Mediterranean-Style Cod
Serves 4 / A healthy dose of Mediterranean ingredients— olives, tomatoes, garlic, and red peppers—enhances cod's flavor profile significantly. Steaming fish in wine infuses it with flavor and keeps it moist. Ingredient tip: Refrigerate zested lemons in plastic wrap for later use. Serving tip: Top with crumbled feta cheese.

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, chopped (about 11/2 cups)
12 ounces cherry tomatoes (about 21/2 cups)
3/4 cup Kalamata olives (about 3 ounces), rinsed and finely chopped
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup dry white wine
4 6-ounce cod fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 lemon, zest removed in thin strips, for garnish

1. Place finely grated lemon zest in a small bowl; stir in black pepper.

2. In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté, stirring, for 1 minute or until golden. Add bell pepper; sauté 3 minutes. Add tomatoes; sauté until most have burst, 8—10 minutes. Stir in olives and beans. Pour wine carefully into skillet, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Boil until slightly reduced, 8—10 minutes.

3. Season cod with salt. Press lemon zest—black pepper mixture on top of each fillet. Lay cod on vegetables in a single layer. Sprinkle with oregano. Cover tightly, reduce heat, and steam until cod is cooked through and opaque, about 10—12 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with strips of lemon zest.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 331 calories
% fat calories: 20
Fat: 7g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 73mg
Protein: 36g
Carbohydrate: 24g
Fiber: 7g
Sodium: 597mg

Triple Soy Stir-Fry
Serves 4—6 / Break out your wok! Tofu, edamame, and soy sauce create an easy, fragrant stir-fry. Prep tip: Quick-thaw edamame in a strainer under cool running water for three minutes. Ingredient tip: Look for toasted sesame seeds in the Asian foods section, or gently toast raw seeds in an oven until golden brown. Serving tip: Great on its own or over brown rice.

1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 teaspoons garlic oil, divided
1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu, squeezed dry and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed
11/2 cups frozen, shelled edamame, slightly thawed
1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1-2 scallions, sliced diagonally

1. Whisk cornstarch, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon garlic oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add half of the tofu and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 5—7 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Repeat with remaining tofu, adding oil if needed.

3. Add 1 teaspoon oil, onion, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add bell pepper and snap peas. Stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender, 4—5 minutes.

4. Return tofu to wok. Add edamame and soy-honey mixture. Allow sauce to boil, stirring, 1 minute or until edamame are tender. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and scallions.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 231 calories
% fat calories: 35
Fat: 9g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 16g
Carbohydrate: 23g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 522mg

Bok Choy and Mussels in Coconut-Lime Broth
Serves 4 / A light coconut broth bathes plump mussels, creamy potatoes, and crisp-tender bok choy in this aromatic, Asian-inspired meal. Prep tip: A mussel's beard, or byssus thread, is the fiber that protrudes from the shell. Your market's fishmonger can remove them for you. Ingredient tip: Look for frozen fish stock at your natural market; it's sold in tubs, usually near the fish counter. Defrost before using.

3/4 pound fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup fish stock (fumet)
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup water
Juice of 2 limes
2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 pound baby bok choy (about 3), bases trimmed, quartered
2-3 pounds mussels, scrubbed and bearded (discard open or cracked mussels)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1. Place potatoes in a deep 12-inch skillet and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 8—10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Wipe skillet dry.

2. Add sesame oil to skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring, until shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes. (Add 1 teaspoon water, if necessary, to prevent sticking.) Add fish stock, coconut milk, water, lime juice, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add bok choy. Cook, covered, 4 minutes.

3. Add mussels and cook, covered, until mussels open and bok choy is tender, about 5 minutes longer. (Discard mussels that don't open.) Divide mussels, bok choy, and potatoes among serving bowls. Ladle on coconut broth and garnish with cilantro.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 382 calories
% fat calories: 30
Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 64mg
Protein: 32g
Carbohydrate: 34g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 875mg

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts
Serves 6 / A comforting, vegetable-studded dish. Ingredient tip: If you can't find baby vegetables, regular ones will do; just cut into 2-inch pieces. Prep tips: If baby carrots are thicker than your pinky, halve them lengthwise. When making risotto, aim for consistent, medium-low heat. Use high-quality Parmesan cheese and freshly toasted pine nuts for best flavor.

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces mixed baby squash (green and yellow pattypan squash, baby zucchini), halved lengthwise
12 ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch lengths
4 ounces baby carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons water
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup minced shallots (about 2)
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/8 teaspoon saffron powder
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
2 lemons, cut into sixths

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a deep, wide skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add squash, asparagus, and carrots. Sauté 3 minutes, tossing occasionally. Reduce heat, add water, and simmer, covered, 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. (Pattypan squash may need an extra 1—2 minutes.) Remove with a slotted spoon. Dry skillet.

2. Meanwhile, microwave broth in a medium bowl until hot, 6—8 minutes. Remove and cover.

3. Heat butter and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in original pan over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, 3—5 minutes. Stir in rice until coated. Add wine, increase heat, and boil for 2 minutes or until absorbed. Reduce heat to medium-low; add saffron and 1 cup hot broth. Stir and simmer gently until broth is nearly absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth (1 cup at a time), stirring after each addition, for about 20 minutes total.

4. While rice is still moist and a bit of liquid remains, stir in vegetables until heated through. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle each serving with pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 372 calories
% fat calories: 34
Fat: 14g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 3mg
Protein: 9g
Carbohydrate: 52g
Fiber: 2g
Sodium: 328mg

Sweet and Spicy Garbanzo Skillet
Serves 4—6 / Peppers add heat while apples, fennel, and currants lend sweetness to this quick vegetarian entrée. A dollop of plain yogurt on top cools the palate. Ingredient tip: Fennel is a bulb vegetable with dill-like fronds. Many people confuse it with anise, which is a member of the parsley family.

2 teaspoons garlic oil
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, fronds reserved and chopped
1 cup diced green apple, such as Granny Smith
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup currants
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1. In a large skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add fennel, apple, garlic, jalapeño, and salt. Sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add cumin and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes (with juices), pepper, and garbanzos. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes.

2. Add currants and red pepper flakes. Simmer 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add basil and brown rice. Toss until rice is heated through and most liquid has been absorbed. Garnish with yogurt and chopped fennel fronds.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 328 calories
% fat calories: 14
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 2mg
Protein: 11g
Carbohydrate: 60g
Fiber: 10g
Sodium: 534mg


Cheryl Sternman Rule writes about food and nutrition from San Jose, California. She wouldn't trade her trusty 12-inch stainless-steel skillet for anything.