Here's a secret: Sometimes the easiest way to cook something also happens to be the best. Certain ingredients just hit it off when combined--give them a quick stir, a flash of heat, a sprinkle of herbs, and... perfect. No amount of fussing can improve the outcome.

We've created hundreds of effortless recipes in the Gourmet test kitchens based on this simple principle. They've become part of our own personal repertoires, the ones we turn to again and again when feeding ourselves, our families, our friends. Judging from reader raves, they're your favorites, too.

We are delighted to gather 81 of our most memorable simple dishes together for the first time in this special edition of Gourmet Quick Kitchen. It's a collection of some of our best-loved, down-to-earth recipes--dishes for those of us who take pleasure in cooking but also want to eat at a reasonable hour on busy weeknights or host a dinner party without committing to a day at the stove. We've got timesaving strategies (most recipes take only 30 minutes or less!), make-ahead shortcuts, test-kitchen tips and techniques, plus plenty of satisfying vegetarian meals, kid-friendly favorites, light and healthy dinners, and a few dishes requiring no cooking at all. Finally, since we have a hunch that these are recipes you, too, will make over and over again, we've created eight different menus--complete with wine pairings--that make meal planning and low-key entertaining a snap.

As this issue of Gourmet Quick Kitchen will show, we favor convenience--a word we'd like to hereby reclaim from fast-food chains and frozen-dinner packaging--having discovered over the years that there's nothing more convenient than fresh herbs or in-season vegetables, which need only the gentlest coaxing to release their miraculous flavors, or tender meat and seafood that cooks up in the time it takes to set the table. We think once you look inside, you'll agree: Simplicity is not a shortcut, and speed requires no compromise. On the contrary, they're the key to living deliciously every day.

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