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Good Things from the Earth: Roasted Root Vegetables

30 Oct IMG_9954

Short and simple:

1 huge parsnip
4 carrots
3 beets
1 shallot, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and cut the vegetables. Toss with shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. Beets will be slowest to cook, so manage the cut size accordingly. Eat the whole plate, ignoring everything else that was served for dinner that night. Talk about how good it was.

Servings: 2 (because Mr. U. insisted that I share, otherwise 1).

Salade Niçoise

16 Jun Salade 2

This is Day 2 of Planned Overs for Grilled Tuna.  We took this delightful dish to a picnic concert at Cincinnati’s Riverbend featuring Natalie Merchant.  While everyone around us ate sad-looking sandwiches, we had this bountiful feast that spilled off our paper plates.

Start with:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Hard-boiled egg (and if you’re going to make hardboiled eggs anyway, make some extras and we’ll make a beautiful egg salad tomorrow)

From Day 1, we had:

  • Grilled tuna
  • Grill fries
  • Green beans, steamed and shocked

I like to top this with Brianna’s Real French Vinaigrette, or of course, homemade vinaigrette would be wonderful.

Natalie Merchant was funny and delightful, even singing a cover version of “Hey Jude”.

Quickies – Spinach, Red Onion, and Chickpeas

12 Jun Spinach and Chickpeas

In early April, we met up with a good friend in Columbus, Ohio and had a fantastic meal at Barcelona.  One of the highlights of the tapas tasting menu was a spinach, chickpea and red onion dish.  When I saw a recipe for Syrian Spinach and Lentils on quête saveur, I knew I was close, although the restaurant had clearly used fresh spinach.

I go on the record again as saying that you don’t change a recipe the first time you try it (and if you do, you do not have the right to complain) — but I did make small adjustments.  I didn’t have any lentils and I was in a hurry to try to recreate the chickpea experience at Barcelona.  Also, to get closer to the Barcelona taste, I increased the cumin by 50% to 1 1/2 teaspoons.  I also confess that I added a pat of butter to the oil, again, because there was a certain richness to the flavor we experienced at the restaurant, but this wasn’t strictly necessary and I’ve left the butter out of the final ingredients list.

Ingredients

  • 1 16 oz frozen leaf spinach
  • 1 medium-size red onion, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil (or optional combination butter and oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

I used red onion, instead of white or yellow.

Instead of adding the lentils near the start of the recipe, I sauteed the onion and garlic with the cumin and then added the spinach.

Once I had that going well, I added the chickpeas.

 

It wasn’t the same as the restaurant, of course, but as my husband likes to say, “It were good.”

Quickies – Fish with Onion, Herbs and Butter

5 Jun Fish with nuts and onions plated

This week, I planned a few recipes from other bloggers.  The other night, we tried Malou’s Buttered Fish with Coriander, Nuts and Spring Onions.

DISCLAIMERS:

My husband had been working all day on a small property we own.  It was late.  He was tired and hungry.  I didn’t take great photos of the food and I didn’t stop to retake the photos because someone had been working on a ladder all day.  I have no idea why I thought it would be a good thing to take fish topped with green herbs and serve it with spinach on a green plate, but I wasn’t about to tell him he had to wait to eat it until I had replated it.  Check out the original post for better photos.

Secondly, let me say that I hate it when I give someone a recipe, he changes all of the ingredients, and then tells me that he didn’t like it.  I try very hard to make a recipe, as given, the first time, so I can have a sense of what it does.  In this case, I was convinced I needed to try Malou’s recipe, but didn’t have any cilantro (must have made it all into cilantro pesto!) and my scallions were in a terribly sorry state.  This dish is a really simple concept, though, so I figured messing with it a bit wouldn’t kill it.  In this case, no worries.  We loved it and I have something new for my Quickies repertoire.

So here’s the basic recipe:

  • Butter, softened
  • Nuts, chopped or ground
  • Fresh herbs, such as basil or cilantro, finely chopped
  • Very thinly sliced onion of some type (scallion, shallot, sweet onion).  If using sweet onion, I would also cut the slices into small pieces

Mix it together, slather it on the fish and bake at 350F until the fish is done.

I used cod fillets, basil, peanuts and very, very, very thinly sliced shallots.

I love that this proved the versatility of a few simple ingredients:  fish, butter, a fish-friendly herb, some nuts, and something oniony.  Not as heart-healthy as some dishes, but served with simple sides, not so bad, either. 

Quickie – Glazed Pork

29 May Glazed Pork Dinner

I love this super-easy quick meal from Cooking Light magazine so much that I have a little container of the flour/spice mixture stored in my pantry.  A list of the remaining ingredients is taped to the top.  There is nothing to look up.  I just grab the little container of flour and spices and I’m ready to go.

Here is the recipe for Glazed Pork at myrecipes.com.  They suggest serving it with couscous cooked in chicken broth.  In a pinch, a package of Near East Toasted Pine Nut Couscous works great with this and cooks in less than the time it will take you to saute the pork.  I do this all the time, although my husband vastly prefers pearl couscous to this mix and my friend Karim would probably tell me that this stuff isn’t proper couscous anyway.  Shhhh, fellas!  This is about making weeknight dinners quick and easy, not about being authentic and perfect. 

Okay, back to dinner.  I’m going to heat three things:  1) water in my steamer pan for vegetables, 2) water for the couscous, according to package directions and 3) my saute pan.  This is going to go fast. 

The pork gets dredged in a flour and spice mixture and sauteed.  Once it has been cooked on both sides, you deglaze the pan with a mixture of orange juice and balsamic vinegar and then add raisins and capers.  It’s not strictly ‘correct’, but while I’m cooking the pork, I measure out all of the remaining ingredients, including the sugar, raisins and capers and just put it all in a small bowl so I can add it to the saute pan at the same time.

When I flip the pork, I put the vegetables in the hot steamer and drop the couscous mix into its pan.  Both of those items will be done in 5-8 minutes. 

As soon as the pork has cooked through, remove it to a plate and deglaze with the sauce mixture.  It just takes a couple of minutes for it to thicken and you can plate the other items while the sauce is finishing.  Spoon the sauce over the pork and we’re done here.  This would be great on chicken as well.  In that case, I might consider pounding the chicken breast a bit or butterflying it to make it a quick saute.  Note that I haven’t tried that, I just think it’s a good idea.

Note on Cousous Alternatives:  My husband liked this very much when I served it with miniature gnocchi once.  He said it was kind of like having it with spaetzle.  In combination with the flavors in the glaze, it made sense to his palate.  You can buy gnocchi in the Italian foods or pasta section of your grocery store.  (You can also make it and freeze it, but one thing at a time here.)  Gnocchi cooks similarly to pasta, but very, very quickly.

Quickies (sort of) – Beet Risotto

19 May Beet Risotto

I love this recipe from Cooking Light magazine.  It’s technically not a Quickie because it takes more than 20 minutes to prepare, but that is because of 20 minutes of simmer time.  Given that it’s a nice vegetarian option and I can find something productive to do after work with 20 minutes of simmer time, I include it here.  It did get a negative review from someone who said the beets didn’t cook enough.  I do medium dice here, about the size of my pinkie fingernail and the beets are just fine with the recommended cooking time.

Beet Risotto with Greens

I also cheat (a bit) by using prepared minced ginger and substituting chopped frozen greens for the Swiss chard (in this case, I used collard greens because they were in stock at my local grocer.  I also didn’t mix in the goat cheese.  I prefer the cheese on top, where I get more variation in flavor from bite to bite and can appreciate the goat cheese for what it brings to the mix.  I also didn’t bother to toast the walnuts.

It does make quite a bit.  We made a half recipe for 2 people and have Loved Overs.  This would be a great recipe as a side, but just look at the quantities of ingredients and adjust accordingly or you’ll be eating this for weeks.  Not that it’s a bad idea…

Random Recipes – Couscous and Chickpea Salad

12 May

Quick little salad to go with, well, just about anything.

  • 1 cup pearled couscous, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans, drained)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 T. chopped scallions
  • 2 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2-3 T chopped dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, dates, whatever you have)
  • Brianna’s Champagne-Caper Salad Dressing, to taste (or any slightly sweet vinaigrette – make your own!)

Mix it up.  Serve cold.

Quickies – Snapper with Tomato-Cilantro Sauce

9 May

I made this super quick and easy fish dish for an Indian-inspired menu the night we went to “A Flowering Tree” at the opera.

Random Rant: For whatever reason, the opera company has decided to start the show at 7:30 pm which makes it nearly impossible for me to put together a decent meal before we go and it’s too late to eat when we come back. Funny how 30 minutes makes the difference between a lovely evening and chaos. It detracts from the romance of the opera when you see a young couple in business attire on their way into the hall, running full speed, and tossing a fast food bag into a dumpster as they pass it.

Anyway – I loved this dish from Epicurious and best of all, it’s easy enough for a quick weeknight meal. Six ingredients (counting the fish!). I made it with snapper instead of roughy. Any flaky white fish will do for this.

Orange Roughy with Indian Spiced Tomato Sauce

In this picture, you can see that I used fat-free yogurt (hey, I said use what you had in your pantry!) and so the sauce broke as I knew it would, but it was still delicious. Now I put ‘small regular yogurt’ on my shopping list whenever this hits my meal plan.

Serve with Basmati rice and a cucumber salad: sliced cucumber, red onion, salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

I always keep a few packages of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice in my pantry for those nights when even the 20 minutes it takes to cook rice is too much for me. For two of us, it’s about right – two servings and leftovers for Mr. U.’s lunch the next day.

I made the little ‘cups’ for the salad from pappadums, which you can buy in the Indian foods section of your local grocery store. They cook in the microwave. I set a small soup cup in the middle of each as I cooked they so they poufed up into a nice little cup shape. Completely unnecessary – but this, as I said, was a quickie dinner for opera night, not a typical weeknight.

For dessert when we came back from the opera? Some sliced mango with a little bit of ginger-mint syrup. Mango ice cream or any other tropical fruit flavor would also be a nice finish.

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