Category Archives: Dinner Report

Thursday Night Special

Thursday is becoming increasingly my favorite day of the week.¬† Blue Eyes has a very long day on Wednesday, so lots of weeks we don’t see each other from bedtime on Tuesday until he gets home from work on Thursday. ūüė¶

In those weeks, Thursday becomes celebration time, and I often want to plan a special dinner for the two of us.  Tonight is one of those times.  I:m planning the menus around what I found  on sale in the supermarket this week: asparagus, veal cutlets, Marsala wine, and mushroom.  Plus I am having some staples I happen to have in the pantry and fridge: some Yukon Gold potatoes and heavy cream.

Thus, the menu is Veal Marsala, Potatoes Gratin, Roasted Asparagus, and an Apple Cake I’ve been wanting to try for some time. Now, the recipes:

VEAL MARSALA (This is for two generous grown-up portions)

3/4 pound veal cutlets

1/4 cup flour

salt and pepper

2-3 T olive oil

8 oz sliced mushrooms (fresh, not canned)

1 large shallot, minced

3/4 cup Marsala wine

1/4  cup water

2T¬† chopped fresh parsley (can use 1T dried if you don’t have fresh)

2T butter

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet, make sure the veal is very thinly sliced. (If it is not really thin, pound each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap with a mallet or even a rolling pin.) Salt and pepper the veal and coat it lightly in the flour.  When oil is hot, saute the veal on both sides until light golden brown.  Remove the veal to a plate.  Add the shallots and mushrooms to the hot pan an saute until the shallots are translucent and the mushrooms have given off their liquid.  Add the wine and water, scraping up any delicious brown bits on the bottom of the skillet. Add the butter and the parsley.  When the butter is melted and the sauce is deliciously glossy, add the veal back in and make sure the veal is heated through. This entire dish, once you turn on the heat under the oil should not take more than 10-12 minutes.

Pro tip:If you are making this with the potatoes and asparagus, do the veal last.

POTATOES GRATIN

I saw this recipe on a Jamie Oliver show years ago.¬† I never made those “Au Gratin” potatoes from a box again! This makes enough for two very hungry adults or two modest adults who sneak leftovers later.¬† Double or triple for a large family.

4-5 medium Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever kind you have, really!)

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz heavy cream

1t dried thyme or 1T fresh if you have it

salt and pepper to taste

2 generous handfuls of shredded cheese, whatever kind you like (I use sharp cheddar).

Directions:

Slice the potatoes very thinly, use a mandolin if you have one. Put these in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, reserving about half of the cheese for later.¬† Mix it all up–use your hands if you’re like me. Put it in a casserole dish.¬† Make sure the dish isn’t too large, or they will dry out and you won’t get the delicious sauce effect from the cream. Top with the reserved cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes until bubbly and lightly golden on top.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS

This is a favorite way to use asparagus, because you get a slight caramelization effect from roasting it that you don’t get from steaming.

You need:

asparagus

olive oil

salt and pepper

Directions:

Wash and trim your asparagus, lay it in a single layer in a sheet pan, drizzle with oil, salt and pepper it, roast it for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the heat of the oven.  Since I am making this with the potatoes, (at 350) it will take a bit longer.  If I were roasting it at a higher temp (400) it would be done in about 10 minutes.  You can turn the spears over about halfway through the time, if you want.

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Pan-Asian Explosion

Doesn’t that sound like fun?¬† Like, an explosion of deliciousness in your mouth?

I think so.

Last night I made Chicken Lettuce Wraps and Thai Peanut Noodles for the first time ever.  I hate to brag, but it was really good.

Recipes were requested over at FB, so here goes:

CHICKEN LETTUCE WRAPS

2 T vegetable oil

1 lb of ground chicken breast

1 cup minced water chestnuts

1 cup minced mushrooms

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 T rice wine vinegar

lettuce leaves–I used Butter Lettuce, but Iceberg would work, I suppose.

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet, when it shimmers add the chicken and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces (as if it were ground beef).  When the meat is almost done, add the water chestnuts, mushrooms, and onion, and cook until the onions are translucent and mushrooms have given off their water.  Add the garlic, and cook for a couple more minutes.   Combine the brown sugar, soy sauce and vinegar until sugar is mostly dissolved and pour this sauce on the chicken mixture and cook until everything is well combined. This will take about 3-4 minutes.

To serve, spoon the chicken mixture in a lettuce leaf, roll up soft-taco style, and enjoy! Delish! (This dish could be vegetarian or vegan if made with TVP crumbles instead of meat)

THAI PEANUT NOODLES

5-6 cups boiling water

1/2 an 8-oz package of rice noodles, more or less (I used what was left of a partial box, sorry, it’s not a precise measurement) you could also use plain old spaghetti noodles

2 T vegetable oil

1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets

1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts , sliced into matchstick sized pieces. (This is the other part of the can from the above recipe.  I used 1 small can total in both dishes.)

1 medium carrot, cut into matchstick-sized pieces

4-6 oz snow peas, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 chopped cilantro (optional)

(Here is the cheat to this recipe: I used bottled peanut sauce.¬† You can certainly make it easily enough, but I happened to have it in my pantry from a trip to TJ’s.)

1/2  of a 11.5 oz bottle of peanut sauce (See note above)

Directions:

Put the noodles in the boiling water, cover with a tight fiting lid, turn off the heat under the pan and set a timer for 8 minutes.¬† At the end of 8 minutes, drain the noodles and set aside.¬† Meanwhile…

In a wok or large skillet heat the oil until shimmering over med-high heat, add the vegetables (except garlic and green onion) and cook until tender-crisp. Add the garlic and reserved noodles, then the sauce and stir-fry until all combined.  Add the green onions and cook for about a minute longer, garnish with cilantro if desired. Try to keep from stuffing the entire pan of deliciousness into your pie hole.  Just try.

This dish is vegetarian if made with spaghetti, and is vegan if you use the rice noodles and make sure your sauce is vegan (mine was). If you are into that sort of thing…

 

Out of Africa

There was quite a lively discussion this morning at my house about the origins of the dish pictured above, Chicken Tagine, which was our dinner last night, along with Pearl Couscous and Chickpeas.

Our son insisted that it must be Mediterranean.¬† I countered with “No, it is North African–Moroccan, to be exact.”¬† He did not see the difference, but there is one. The basic flavor profile of North African cuisine includes spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, paprika, and herbs like parsley and cilantro.¬† Flavor enhancements and aromatics include olives, garlic, onion, and preserved lemon.¬† Chicken, lamb, and goat are the usual proteins.

As this was my first time cooking North African food, I used a recipe from a respected Amercian source–someone who is also (like me) largely self-taught.¬† Someone who knows how to adapt other cuisines to the American market and kitchen.

Thus, this recipe comes from Ina Garten’s, show, “Barefoot Contessa: Cooking for Beginners”

Note: this dish takes overnight to marinate!

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large Spanish onion, grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons canola, grapeseed or olive oil (not a heavy olive oil)
  • 1 to 2 preserved lemons, depending on size (See recipe below)
  • 8 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
  • Stems from the parsley and cilantro, tied with twine
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron or 1/4 teaspoon powdered turmeric and 4 strands saffron
  • 1 cup pitted green Moroccan or Greek olives
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, about 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, about 1/4 cup chopped

In a large bowl, mix the garlic, cumin, ginger, paprika, salt and pepper, 1/2 cup grated onion, and the oil.

Rinse the preserved lemons, and remove the pulp. RESERVE the lemon peel for later use.

Add the lemon pulp to the mixing bowl. Add the chicken. Mix everything together and place in a large plastic bag to marinate overnight in the refrigerator. (Twenty-four hours really gives the chicken the best flavor.)

In a large Dutch oven or casserole, place the chicken and marinade; add the stems of the parsley and cilantro, the rest of the grated onion, the powdered saffron and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat, turn down to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover, stir the chicken and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken to a serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Keep sauce on stove and begin to reduce.

Slice the preserved lemon peel into thin slices and add to the sauce along with the olives, parsley and cilantro. Reduce until the sauce is just a little thick. This shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes at most.

Uncover the chicken and remove the skin from the chicken. (It doesn’t look pretty and who needs the extra fat.) Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Preserved Lemons, Extra Quick-Style:

  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Cut the lemons into sixths, lengthwise, sprinkle with the salt and place in a non-corrosive dish (glass is good). Cover the lemons with water and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Allow to cool and then refrigerate.

Cook’s Note: The lemons can be refrigerated for up to 6 months as long as they are covered and stored in a glass canning jar.

You Just Might Smack Your Mama

Its that good.

And sooooo easy.

About a year a go I invested in a smallish slow-cooker, not the Lil’ Dipper, but the next size up.¬† It was on sale.

But you could make this recipe in a larger one, especially if you double it for a crowd.   This is very yummy.  Dangerously yummy.

You just might smack your mama. (Don’t worry; mine lives 350 miles away. She’s safe.)

Cheesy Corn

1 bag of frozen Corn (16 oz)

4 oz Cream Cheese ( I use reduced fat)

2T Butter

2T Milk

Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the corn in the crock pot, season to taste, add other ingredients, stir to combine.  Cook on low for several hours.

You can also melt cheese, butter and milk together and pour it on the corn in the crock.¬† But if you are in a¬† hurry you don’t need to.

There are a number of variations you could make to this recipe.¬† I’m thinking you could add diced green chilis, onion, other cheeses.¬† (Goat cheese might make it fancy!)¬† Wht ever you do to it, prepare for ZERO leftovers!

And be nice to your mama.


Crockpot Tuesdays

No, it does not have a satisfying alliteration.¬† Can’t do anything about that.

Tuesdays are Puppy College days around here, at least for the next month or so.  Blue Eyes and I meet at the animal shelter at 6:00 (he comes straight from work downtown) and for the next hour we learn how to be good Thumb Havers, while Bailey just basically lies there and looks cute.

We get home about 7:20, and I just don’t feel like cooking a meal from the beginning at that hour, so I like to have dinner ready when we get home.¬† That means the crock pot gets used a lot!¬† Although I have a few tried-and-true favorites, I’m always on the lookout for a new slow-cooker recipe.

Last week I did an old favorite: potatoes, green beans and smoked sausage.¬† Layer in the crock that order from the bottom up.¬† I use red potatoes, but you can use any variety.¬† I also use canned green beans (2 cans) if I don’t have any fresh, and it is just fine.¬†¬† The sausage I use now is low-fat turkey smoked sausage.¬† By putting it on the top, the meat flavors the other ingredients as it heats.¬† That’s it.¬† Low heat if you are going to have it in there several hours or high heat for a just a couple of hours.

This week I wanted something new, so I did a “crockpot lemon chicken” search and adapted what I found.¬† (I knew¬† had chicken thighs, lemons, fresh parsley, garlic on hand.)

One of the main rules of crockpot cooking for me is that I don’t make a run to the store for a special ingredient. I use what I have.¬† I adapt, adapt, adapt as needed. A “quick and easy” meal that requires me to crate the dog, put on shoes, make sure I look decent,(ahem…including a full complement of undergarments) start my car, and kill baby seals is not worth it.

I’m way too lazy for that.

So this week we are having this:

Crockpot Chicken with Lemon and Garlic

Chicken (I had some thighs; you use what you have.), about 1.5 lbs

1 Lemon (juice it and then chop the lemon carcass into eighths)

1/2 stick Butter (Oh, relax.¬† You’re feeding a whole family.)

3-4 cloves of Garlic

1/2 cup Water

1t Bullion or chicken soup base

Thyme (fresh or dried, whatever)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet, season the chicken with salt, pepper and thyme.  Brown the chicken (skip this step if your chicken is skinless but still melt the butter). Put the chicken in the crockpot but add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet  to combine them.  Then pour all that buttery, lemony, thymey, chickeny, garlicky goodness over the chicken in the crockpot.

I’m cooking mine for about 8 hours on low.¬† I plan to serve it with some steamed broccoli and some rice pilaf.¬† I’ll probably cook the pilaf ahead and reheat it while the broccoli cooks.


Delicious (Orzo I’ve been told…)

Orzo. That fun little rice-shaped pasta that finally can be found in organic, whole wheat form. (Yes, I’m trying to avoid teh white stuff.)

The nice thing about orzo is that like our other new friends quinoa and brown rice, it can take on a variety of delicious personalities.¬† Tonight we’re having is as a cold salad, with chickpeas and grape tomatoes.¬† Enjoy!

Orzo and Chickpea Salad

6 oz whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions and rinsed in cold water.

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

3T balsamic vinegar

1T olive oil

handfull of flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients, let “meld” in fridge for at least an hour.

We’re having this tonight with seared scallops.


Shrimp on the Barbie

Its been a strange week at the Cooksome house.¬† Daughter is home (also known as WonderGirl, though the older and more independent she gets, the less the “girl” moniker fits).¬† Daughter being home and having meals here complicates things as in she is a Vegetarian Who Doesn’t Eat Vegetables.

I know. Believe me, I’ve tried.¬† But she lives 2100 miles away.¬† There is only so much I can obsess about her diet. I’m about done with that.

It does mean that I need to make sure there is at least one starch-based dish at every meal, so she can have something to eat.

On the bright side, I do not consult her about the protein, which gives me much more freedom than when she was a Chicken Breast-Only Eater.

Thus, Tequila-Lime-Cilantro Shrimp!

I buy 1 pound bags of frozen raw easy-peel shrimp when it is on sale.  No, it is not as good as the shrimp that my friends on various coasts can get, but it will do here in landlocked country. It is a quick-cooking versatile protein: you can saute, fry, boil, broil, steam, grill, or bake it.  It cooks in literally minutes, and adapts well to a number of flavor profiles: asian, southen, cajun, french, italian, fusion, or BBQ.  It works in soup, salad, casserole, with pasta, on a kebab, and all by its little old lonesome.  It is delicious served either hot or cold.

Its a good go-to protein, and one of my favorite last-minute dinner secret weapons.  It can also be cooked with very little fat, if reducing fat is your goal, and is naturally low fat on its own.

This is how we are having it tonight:

Tequila-Lime-Cilantro Shrimp

1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp

Juice and zest of one lime

2-3 T of olive oil

Pinch of each: salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

Splash of tequila (or wine) (optional)

Handful of cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients except the shrimp in a small bow and stir together until combined. Pour this into a relsealable plastic bag, add the shrimp, removing the air from the bag before you seal it.  Smoosh it around a little to make sure the marinade gets all over the shrimp, put the bag on a plate and put it in the fridge.

Walk away.  Think about how delicious it is going to be. Next time you walk by the fridge, flip the bag over. If you are going to be marinating for a couple of hours, do this a couple more times.

You can marinate this in the morning, or at 3:00 in the afternoon like I did today.¬† It doesn’t matter.¬† It will still be delicious.

Possible substitutions: (I am all about the possible substitutions, especially if it means one less trip to the store! Think about the baby seals!)

  • You can use lemons if you don’t have limes, you can even use bottled citrus juice if you don’t have fresh citrus, or even orange juice.
  • Don’t like cilantro?¬† I don’t really understand how you can be alive and not like cilantro, but to each her own.¬† Try parsley, basil, thyme.¬† It changes the flavor profile, but you might discover something wonderful.
  • Don’t have olive oil?¬† Use plain old vegetable oil.
  • If you don’t cook with alcohol, use a splash of wonderful vinegar.

The shrimp can be grilled, broiled, cooked on the indoor contact grill, even sauteed.  The key is not to overcook shrimp.  As soon as it turns pink, it is done.  Three minutes later it is rubber.  And rubber is nasty.

Try it!¬† We’re having it tonight with corn on the cob and a salad.

Summer on a plate, baby.