The word busy takes on extra meaning when you ask the contemporary Jewish woman about her day

The word “busy” takes on extra meaning when you ask the contemporary Jewish woman about her day. “Busy” is a daily planner packed with deadlines and meetings and hardly enough time to get to the market. “Busy” is a to-do list that is yards long without the mention of meals.

At the end of a long day, making something that tastes good is half the challenge — the food has to be nutritious as well. Our lifestyles have changed, and so have our eating habits, with lighter fare that emphasizes fresh vegetables, grains, fish and poultry.

Happily, there are many tempting, quick-cooking recipes that make the most of easy-to-find ingredients. With a little planning, dinner can be put together easily and become the highlight of your family’s day.

To minimize time in the kitchen without sacrificing quality or taste, start by keeping the pantry, refrigerator and freezer full of basics such as seasonings, vegetables, pasta, dried beans, and store-bought or homemade stocks. Labor-saving equipment such as a food processor or stick blender cuts down on food prep time.

I try to create one-dish dinners where almost everything can be cooked together. Quick soups, stews and pasta dishes work very well in this model.

The following meal ideas never skimp on quality or taste and demand little time

Creamy Chicken Soup With Chicken and Chard

Serves 8

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup each bottled red and yellow roasted pepper strips, drained

1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

9 cups chicken stock (canned is fine)

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 bunch chard, leaves cut into 1⁄4-inch ribbons

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes

1 cup small pasta shapes such as tubetti or small shells, cooked

salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pot. Add the onion, garlic, roasted peppers and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook over high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add 8 cups stock, 2 cans chickpeas, chard and chicken. Simmer about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor or blender, purée remaining can of chickpeas with remaining cup of stock. Stir into soup with pasta and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste

Roasted Sea Bass With Potatoes and Leeks

Serves 4

4 Tbs. butter

3 leeks, white part only, sliced

1⁄4 lb. mushrooms, sliced

salt and pepper

2 Tbs. chopped parsley

1 tsp. fresh tarragon or 1⁄2 tsp. dried

11⁄2 lbs. small red potatoes, thinly sliced

1 cup vegetable stock

11⁄2 lbs. sea bass

chopped parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large skillet, heat 3 Tbs. butter. Cook leeks until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and stir in parsley and tarragon.

Grease a baking dish. Layer one third of the potatoes in the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread half of the leek mixture over potatoes. Add another third of the potatoes and spread remaining leek mixture over them. Top with remaining potatoes. Pour in the stock around the edges and dot with 1 Tbs. butter. Bake 25 minutes.

Blot fish with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on top of potatoes and bake about 10 minutes. Serve immediately, spooning pan juices over fish.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Gabi Moskowitz. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].