We returned from a short vacation Friday night and Saturday was filled with all the errands except for grocery shopping. As a dinner time approached I turned to the cupboard to see what kind of thing I could cobble together.
Lentils and chickpeas provide a bit of protein in a vegetarian dish. We served it with some grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.
Pantry Staple Pasta Sauce
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes Continue reading →
I made this for our Saturday night gathering recently and it was a hit. It is based on a recipe I found in Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates. I adjusted a couple of ingredients and written the recipe up in my own words.
Combine the tomatoes, lemon juice, soy sauce, Sriracha and paprika in a blender. Puree until smooth and set aside.
Heat the oil in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.
Add the tomato mixture and the chickpeas. Stir to combine and heat for about 10 minutes. You want the chickpeas to be warmed through.
Taste, adjust seasoning as desired, and serve.
I used Meyer lemons on my first attempt at this dish. It look 7 Meyer lemons to make 1/2 cup of juice. For regular sized lemons I’d normally need 2-3. Since regular lemons are more acidic than Meyer lemons I might add a tablespoon of honey to the puree mixture.
I prepped the tomato mixture an hour or more before cooking the dish and stashed it in the fridge. It made things less hectic at dinner time and, I suspect, gave the components in the sauce a chance to mingle.
Monday night found me with no dinner plan. There were a couple of aging zucchini in the fridge, still firm but starting to blemish and a purple bell pepper, all from the farm stand near work. I found a package of frozen spinach in the freezer and a vague plan started to form. The result was a curry-like dish.
Spinach and Zucchini Curry
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, mostly thawed (see first direction)
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, or pressed through a garlic press
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. sweet curry powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup water
kosher salt and black pepper
Remove the brick of spinach from the package, place it on a cutting board and cut it into about 20 cubes. This is easiest if spinach is mostly thawed. Transfer cubed spinach to a clean dish towel, twist towel into a ball and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and bell pepper, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat with oil. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the onions and peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer cooked onions/peppers to a bowl, retaining as much oil in the skillet as possible, and set aside.
Return skillet to medium heat. When oil is shimmering add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to redistribute zucchini and cook, undisturbed for another 2 minutes. Transfer zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers, again retaining as much oil as possible.
Once again return the skill to medium heat. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has been released, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, probably no more than 30 seconds.
Return the onions, peppers and zucchini to the pan and add the curry and paprika. Stir until spices are distributed throughout the skillet then add the tomatoes, yogurt and water. Stir until the yogurt is fully dispersed into the vegetables, creating a sauce. Cook for 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper; adjust as desired.
I nuked the frozen slam of spinach for a minute on full power to knock it from brick to mostly thawed. Your mileage, and microwave, may very.
You may wish to remove the seeds from the zucchini. I do this after quartering by just running the knife along where the seeds meet solid zucchini. Seeds aren’t really a problem on smallish zucchini. When the zucchini get to the large size the seeds can turn to mush in your dish.
I love a lazy Sunday however most of them are packed with to-dos and running around. It’s nice to be able to spend 10 or 15 minutes prepping something with the sure knowledge that you’ll have a taste meal at the end of the day.
Slow Cooker Pork, White Bean and Fennel Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 7 hours
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced into 1″ pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. country-style pork ribs, excess fat removed
3 bay leaves
1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can canned small white beans, undrained
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Combine broth, fennel, onion, garlic, pork and bay leaves in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, on low, for 6 hours.
Bump the slow cooker up to high. Add the spinach, tomatoes and beans to the cooker. Recover and cook for an hour.
Remove the pork (and bones) from the pot. Chop or shred into smaller pieces and return to the cooker. Add the vinegar, stir to incorporate. Taste and adjust salt/pepper as desired.
This soup is based on one from Campbell’s. I added a few things to bump up the flavor and reworked the instructions a bit as well.
My frozen spinach didn’t thaw much after 6 hours in the fridge. I took a chance and added the mostly solid spinach brick to the slow cooker. It heated up fine and the soup seemed no worse for wear.
Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until tender. Add brown sugar, spices and garlic. Stir to combine and heat until fragrant; 1 to 2 minutes.
Add tomato products, broth and orange juice. Stir until tomato paste is incorporated. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add black beans, stir to incorporate and cook for 20 more minutes. Beans should be heated through and slightly softened.
Taste for seasoning; adjust if needed. Serve with in a bowl with your choice of toppings.
This recipe is based on one I found while sorting through the stack of recipes that get printed out, made once and forgotten. I’ve tweaked the original recipe to match my preferences and written up my version of the instructions.
The original recipe apparently came from Southern Living magazine circa 2008.
While picking up produce from the local farm stand for our regular Saturday night gathering I came across a bin of green tomatoes. I had been struggling to come up with another side and figured I could give fried green tomatoes a try.
These are unripe tomatoes, not some fancy heirloom such as Green Zebra tomatoes. These are very firm; not a rock but certainly not a fragile tomato that will be easily bruised.
Fried Green Tomatoes
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 55 minutes
6 green tomatoes
1/3 cup coarse corn meal
1/3 cup fine corn flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1.5 to 2 cups vegetable oil
Core tomatoes and cut into 1/4″ slices. Place sliced tomatoes on a double layer of paper towels which you’ve laid in a rimmed baking dish. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes. Blot the tops of the tomatoes at the end of the rest period to pick up any moisture.
While the tomatoes rest combine the corn meal with the flours in the bowl of a food processor. Give it whirl for 30 second to a minute until the coarse corn meal is a bit finer.
Whisk together the 2 eggs along with 1/4 cup of water until combined. Set aside.
When ready to fry the tomatoes add enough oil in a 12″ skillet so that you have between 1/8″ and 1/4″ of oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat over over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Dip a tomato slice in the egg mixture and then shake off the excess egg. Dredge slice in cormeal/flour mixture, coating both sides. Add the slice to the skillet. Repeat until the skillet is full but not overcrowded.
Cook for 3-5 minutes then flip with tongs and repeat on the second side. The goal is the standard GBD (golden, brown and delicious). Transfer cooked tomatoes to a new rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle hot fried tomatoes with sea salt.
Repeat with remaining slices until all are cooked. You can keep the finished ones in a 200°F oven to stay warm while cooking the rest.
Tongs worked really well for me; far better than a spatula.
Next time I’ll try some buttermilk to coat the tomatoes instead of the egg. Egg worked OK however most of the recipes I looked at suggested buttermilk. Also I’d try this thing Ted does when he makes chicken fingers where he coats the chicken and then let’s it rest on a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes before frying. This helps the coating to bind to the chicken and seems to help it stay affixed after cooking.
These would have been good with a little spice mayo or remoulade sauce.
We try to have at least one vegetarian meal each week and when I’m at a loss for what to make I turn to chickpeas. This dish is similar to the Chickpea side dish recipe I posted years back. The flavor profile is different and it makes a filling meal with some rice.
Everyone, if I generalize very broadly, wants an easily prepared weeknight meal. Often times, for me at least, that means buying some random things during a recent shopping trip and then trying to figure out what to do with them. Tonight’s rendition of weeknight roulette included some aged leeks (as in I bought them a couple of weeks ago and should have used them earlier), mushroom, cherry tomatoes from the garden and some frozen chicken thighs that I left to thaw earlier in the day.
Chicken with Mushrooms and Tomatoes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
1 tsp. olive oil, divided
4 strips of bacon, roughly chopped
4 boneless/skinless chicken thighs
12 oz. cremini mushrooms, stems removed, tops quartered
3 leeks, quartered, cleaned and cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 onion, 1/2″ dice
1 Serrano chile, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the bacon, toss in the oil and cook under crispy (about 5 minutes). Remove the bacon bits to a paper towel lined bowl, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.
While the bacon cooks put the mushrooms in a microwave safe bowl and cook, uncovered, in the microwave on high for 4 minutes. Drain mushrooms and hold.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Transfer to the hot skillet, seasoned side down. Cook, undisturbed for 5 minutes. Sprinkle second side with salt and pepper and flip the thighs over. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes; you want the internal temp of the thighs to reach 170°F. Transfer to a cutting board and cover while you finish the dish.
Add the onions & pepper to the skillet along with about 1/2 cup of water. Scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate any fond that may have collected on the bottom of the pan. Add the leek, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and a dozen grinds of pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Chop chicken into 1/2″ pieces and return to the skillet. Stir chicken into the vegetable mixture. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to you liking. Serve with the reserved crispy bacon bits.
Frozen chicken thighs from the big box warehouse store are a convenience not to be overlooked. The ones I pick up come boneless & skinless in a 4-pack. When I remember I take them out of the freezer a couple of days in advance so they can thaw in the fridge. When I don’t remember I use a trick from Cook’s Illustrated (which picked it up from Harold McGee) where you place the well wrapped frozen item in hot water for 10-12 minutes. According to the article, and various research, the quick thaw time isn’t enough time for bacteria to grow. It works for me in a pinch.
As I was cooking this I also prepared some basic white rice (Bring 2 cups water, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 Tbsp. oil to a boil. Add 1 cup white rice, stir. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes.) At the last moment I decided to add the rice into the chicken and vegetable mixture. I minute of careful stirring and it was done. Plus all of the rice will be eaten. 🙂
I made this as part of the menu for my husband’s birthday bash this year. It came together very quickly and was very well received.
Corn, Avocado and Tomato Salad
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
2 cups frozen roasted corn, thawed
1 ping cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 lime, zested and juiced
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Add the thawed corn, halved tomatoes, lime zest and cilantro to a large bowl.
Juice half of the lime into a smaller bowl. Halve an avocado, remove the pit, scoop out the yummy flesh and cut it into 1/4″ pieces. Toss with the lime juice and repeat for the second avocado. Add the avocado to the large bowl.
Squeeze the other lime half into the larger bowl. Season with a big pinch of salt and a dozen grinds of black pepper. Stir well to incorporate.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 45 minutes for the lime and cilantro to season the dish.
Tossing the avocado with the lime juice is important as it help prevent the avocado from turning brown.
Take care when mixing everything together; a heavy hand will mush the avocado into a very chunky guacamole.
I think the original recipe came from Food Network.