There are just some nights when you don’t feel like pulling out a recipe and going through all the steps. These are the nights where I whip up some sort of protein (chicken, fish, steak, etc) and an easy side of vegetables or quinoa or something along those lines. When I do this, I like to use one of my go-to marinades to add flavor to whatever I am cooking. These are marinades that require ingredients I usually have on hand and infuse flavor in a short time. I just used one of them last week for some salmon.
For the salmon, I used a soy sauce and brown sugar marinade. I had two medium-sized pieces of salmon so I used 1/4 cup of soy, 1/4 brown sugar and about a half a teaspoon of garlic powder. You can adjust it based on how much fish you have, but a one-to-one ratio of soy to brown sugar is a good bet. I mixed it up in some tupperware (a plastic bag would work as well), put the fish in flesh side down and let it sit in the fridge for an hour. Then I popped it on the grill. Easy peasy. I love using this marinade on the grill. The brown sugar caramelizes a bit and the top of the salmon gets a tasty crust on it. The flavor of the soy and the brown sugar really penetrated in to the fish. It was quite good.
Another one of my favorites is one I learned from my mom. One of her go-to marinades is extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. It is a great quick way to infused flavor in to chicken breasts or thighs. I will toss the chicken in a big storage bag, pour in enough olive oil to coat (1/4 to 1/2 cup usually), squeeze in half a lemon (or a couple squirts of the kind that comes prepackaged), shake in a teaspoon or so of oregano along with salt and pepper and toss it in the fridge. Let it sit for a bit (I usually like to have it in there for an hour) and then cook it however you want. This is also a great way to marinade veggies. I’ve used this with asparagus and eggplant before with good success. As I type this, I think I would like to try this out on tilapia as well.
The last marinade I’m sharing is pesto. Just straight up pesto, mixed with whatever protein you want. This summer I made both pesto shrimp and pesto chicken using this marinade. I grow my own basil , so I usually whip up homemade pesto (a handful of basil, some olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper. No need for pine nuts or walnuts, unless you have them on hand). Mix it up until it gets the consistency you want. It shouldn’t be too liquidy, but you can add olive oil as you like), but you could just as easily use a jar of the store-bought kind. Rub the pesto on and let it sit in the fridge for a bit and then cook it up. I like pair this with pasta.
The last little bonus tip I’ll share is how to make your own spice rubs. These are especially great for steaks, but you could easily use these on chicken and pork as well. For steaks, I like to take a tablespoon of rosemary and a tablespoon of salt and grind it all together with a mortar and pestle. Using a mortar and pestle isn’t a necessity of course, but it’s a great way to break open the spices and get all the flavor. But of course you could just mix the spice and salt together without grinding and apply it to the meat. You could use this same method to make a chili-spiced rub for chicken or even a Chinese Five Spice mix on pork. No need to buy fancy spice rubs when you can easily make your own. Just experiment with what you have and with what sounds good to you.
UPDATE: Someone asked me to breakout the recipes so here you go.
Easy Marinade Recipes
Soy Sauce and Brown Sugar (Best with salmon)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
— Place all the ingredients above in a plastic container or bag along with the salmon (or whatever you are using). Leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Oregano
1/2 cup olive oil (doesn’t need to be extra virgin)
Juice from half a lemon (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
— Place all the ingredients above in a plastic container or bag along with the protein. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour, more if you have the time.
1 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 glove of garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
Handful of walnuts or pine nuts if desired
— Blend all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Consistency should be somewhat of a paste, but the key is for it not to be too liquidy. Coat protein in pesto and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.