For me, a quick recipe is one that uses familiar ingredients and techniques, and it can be made in roughly a half an hour. The title is often the first clue, letting me know the type of recipe and whether the author thinks it will be quick. I'll probably save the chicken mole for a weekend; but if the title says it's a "quick" mole, I keep reading.
Then I look at the ingredients and the recipe itself. The number of ingredients isn't usually a factor for me, but I do think about how much prep work will need to happen before cooking really starts. I keep an eye out for sneaky ingredients like cooked chicken and cooked grains that add extra time to a recipe if I don't have them already made.
I also look at active cooking time verses passive time like waiting for pasta to cook or a casserole to bake. I don't mind a little passive time, even if it technically makes the total cooking time longer. This is time when I can do a few dishes, answer mail, or just share an appetizer with my husband and catch up on our day.
All these factors together make a recipe "quick" in my mind. Of course, what happens when I actually get into the kitchen can revise that assessment, determining whether the recipe stays or goes! Formerly non-quick recipes can also edge their way into my weeknight meal rotation once I get faster at making them.
Do you go through a similar mental process? How do you define a quick recipe?
Related: On Learning How to Think Like a Chef