Despite having hosted our friends for dinner for many of the Saturday nights over the past 20+ years I still find myself stumped fair to regularly on what to make for dinner. As a result I will often add “2 vegetables” to my grocery list with no real plan and hope for inspiration while in the produce section. Here are the results from such a recent inspiration.
Seared Zucchini with Beans
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
- 1/2 red onion, 1/4″ dice
- 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
- 3 zucchini, 1/4″ dice
- 1 28 oz. can kidney beans, drained
- 2 tsp. Penzey’s Mural of Flavor spice blend
- 1/2 cup water.
- kosher salt and black pepper
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent; about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, stirring it into the onions and cook until fragrant, which should be less than a minute. Push the onions and garlic to the edge of the skillet.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the zucchini and spread it out into a single layer. Allow it to brown on this side, untouched for 3-4 minutes. Now sprinkle the zucchini with salt and stir it to redistribute the pieces. Cook for another minute.
- Add the beans, spice blend and water. Stir everything together and cover. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
You can really use any type of bean here that you like. Hominy probably wouldn’t be my first choice but if you rinsed it then it would work.
If you don’t have the Mural of Flavors spice blend you can mix together 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1 tsp. ground black pepper, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander and the zest from a lemon or orange. Use 1 teaspoon of that and save the rest.
The turkey came first, at least in this menu preparation. It had been sitting, frozen and waiting, in the freezer since after Christmas when my mother gifted it to me so it wouldn’t take up room in her freezer. My husband mentioned the rice in passing, thought I think he was more interested in how we have used the leftovers in the past than the side dish itself. The other sides dishes came from foraging at the megamart for what looked good.
Dessert came from looking at a past menu. The cake itself is not very sweet; the frosting makes up for it with gusto.
Mexican Green Rice
Skillet Cauliflower with Red Pepper
Roasted Asparagus with Sherry Vinegar
Old-fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Notes under the cut
Searching for a suitable dessert to make for Easter Dinner at my mom’s house is a delicious challenge. While most of us enjoy a chocolate whatever-you-bake special dinners are a chance do something different. I had some cherries in the freezer that I wanted to do something with. An hour lost to the Internet provided several options. In the end I opted for this lovely creation on the right.
Notes under the cut
V asked if she could bring two guests this week so I wanted a heaping lot of food that would be acceptable to teenagers. Tacos came to mind, ’cause who doesn’t enjoy a taco now and then. I, of course, made too much food.
Ground Beef Tacos and Turkey Tacos
with various fixings (see note)
Baked “Spanish” Rice
Zucchini and Beans
Hot Cross Buns, for dessert
Notes under the cut
There are times when an improvisation turns into something you want to repeat again and again. This dish is one of the successes that I will continue to make once a month or so because it’s just that tasty.
It’s “origin story” isn’t very glamorous though. I realized I had some cooked farro slowly wasting away in the fridge as I was putting together the menu for one of our mostly weekly Saturday night gatherings. Since I hadn’t actually planned on making it part of dinner I didn’t pickup the additional ingredients necessary to make Farro with Mushrooms and Thyme. Luckily, a handful of pantry staples turned this from a bland grain into a flavorful side dish.
Prep time: 5 minutes (if you have precooked your farro)
Total time: 20 minutes
- Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just shimmering. Add the diced onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with oil and saute until translucent, 5-8 minutes.
- Add the butter. When it is fully melted add the farro, paprika and spice blend. Toss until the farro is coated with butter and the spices are well distributed.
- Heat for about 5 minutes so that the farro is heated through. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Serve.
If you have fresh herbs such as parsley or chives on hand you could added a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs at the end of cooking.
Tonight’s menu was a tribute to the cultural holiday that happened yesterday by which I mean St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of older recipes mixed with a fresh green salad. Our friend G provided a wee bit of local craft Stout as well.
Guiness-braised Pork Shoulder
Salt “Crusted” Potatoes
Green Salad with Red Peppers, Radishes and Baby Cucumbers
Our Standard Vinaigrette
Irish-American Soda Bread
Notes under the cut
Occasionally I plan to make a pan sauce after browning meat and find that the fond in the bottom of the skillet is just too blackened to make a good sauce. I came up with this “gravy” after a recent meal featuring skillet seared pork chops. The chops were nicely browned however the fond in the bottom of the pan was too far gone to use. Luckily pork and mustard have an affinity for one another so this recipe did the trick. It was also tasty on the roasted broccoli we served.
Servings: 1 1/2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes
- 6 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 6 Tbsp. water
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp. whole grain mustard
- 1 cup hearvy cream
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 1 Tbsp. rendered bacon fat (or other softened solid fat, such as butter)
- salt and pepper
- Combine the flour and fat in a small bowl to form a paste. This is called a beurre manié and it will be used later to thicken the sauce. If you don’t have bacon fat then unsalted butter could also be used.
- Add the Worcestershire and water in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Add the mustards, whisk to combine and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. The mixture will reduce slightly in volume.
- Stir in the heavy cream. Allow the mixture to return to a simmer and add the burre manié you made in the first step. Whisk the sauce until it is fully melted and incorporated.
- Allow the sauce to simmer for another minute; it should thicken into a nice sauce.
Don’t be scared off by the beurre manié. You can use any softened solid fat, such as butter or even the odd tablespoon of Crisco. Use a fork, or the back of the spoon, to press the fat into the flour until it is well combined. The idea is that the fat-coated flour particles will melt and help thicken the sauce as it simmers. Additionally the fat added at the end will add a soft sheen, similar to the effect of finishing a sauce by whisking in cold butter.