Category Archives: Main Dishes

Stay-In Sesame Noodles 

It’s not you, it’s me. Or maybe it’s you, too. As we’re entering month four of a full house, I’m just tired of coming up with new things to make and serve, so I’ve been relying on my tried and true. It’s not the worst thing to get reacquainted with these no fail recipes that are easy to prepare and even easy to learn by heart.  

Best of all, these recipes can fill the local army with homemade fare without breaking the bank, or spending all day cooking.  I’m talking about Easiest French Bread Ever, Maple Oat Breakfast Bread and Everyday Granola in the morning, a constant supply of blender salsa and chile crisp, plus a big bowl of broccoli salad whenever I need a no cook veggie fix, which is pretty much always. It’s also the perfect time to fill your freezer with a Tupperware of Frosecco or any other frozen concoction. The slurpee mothership is kind of like your sourdough starter of cocktails. Just keep scooping it out, and adding more as needed. Is that a problem? Do I care?

Now that we’re getting out a little, I am running in to people who have been spending more time cooking while in quarantine. They have been making some Bring It all stars, which are also excellent for entertaining. Things like Funitella Bruschetta (recently updated!) and, of course, Hero Slaw. And for dessert, Loosey Goosey Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Beach Pie because, ‘tis the season!  

Along the lines of no-fail fare, I give you my new favorite go-to recipe, which already feels like an old fave. Add this to your repertoire, and buy yourself some time to think about something other than “what’s for dinner?”  

Takeout (or Stay-In) Noodles 

From the New York Times

 Ingredients 

  • 1 pound noodles, frozen or (preferably) fresh 
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash 
  • 3 ½ tablespoons soy sauce 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar 
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (or tahini; see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger 
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic 
  • 2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste, chile crisp or chile oil, or to taste 
  • Half a cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch by 1/8-inch by 2-inch sticks 
  • ¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts  

Preparation 

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes (or recommended amt if using dried). They should retain a hint of chewiness. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil. 
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and chili-garlic paste. (You can also use an immersion blender or regular blender)
  • Just before serving, pour the sauce over the noodles and toss. Transfer to a serving bowl, and garnish with cucumber and peanuts. 

Notes:  

These are infinitely adaptable, and for suggestions, scroll through the many comments on the original NY Times post here. I hit the high points and recommendations here, in case you are sharing your paltry Internet connection with many young, curious, ever- streaming tenants. 

The Chinese toasted sesame paste called for here is not the same as tahini, the Middle Eastern paste made of raw, untoasted sesame. You can use tahini in a pinch, adding a little toasted sesame oil to compensate for flavor, or make your own from scratch with toasted sesame seeds and olive oil.  

To prevent dry noodles, serve immediately, or hold the sauce. I usually multiply the sauce recipe many times (I use a stick blender), and add a fairly minimal amount of the sauce to the noodles when they’re still warm. Chill the undersauced noodles until you are ready to serve, and then mix in as much extra sauce as you need 

Mind your noodles. The recipe says fresh or frozen, meaning egg noodles. It’s totally ok to use dried, as in regular spaghetti (my fave) or linguini, but 1.5 or double the sauce for a full pound of dried noodles.  

This is serious picnic fare, and can accommodate Vegans and carnivores alike with a variety of toppings like: shredded duck or chicken, tofu, cucumber, sweet red pepper, hot pepper, scallion, jicama, carrots, etc, all cut to roughly the same size.  

 

 

It’s the weekend— Have a ball!

Props to the McNultys of Hanover, for coming up with the idea of theme dinners to turn these Saturday nights in quarantine into something a little less, uh, quarantiny (as in, the state of restriction vs the popular cocktail). Last weekend they kicked it off with an après ski theme featuring Bring It’s own Guinness Fondue.

Their outdoor firepit version was not only inspiring, but also an excellent choice considering our fine spring weather. With the polar air expected this weekend, fondue is a solid option.  

Or….might I suggest, balls! Meatballs and “meat” balls are very versatile, can be made ahead and can accommodate many dietary needs. We’ve got Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, these quite excellent gingery sheet pan meatballs that I have made many times and never managed to capture on camera, the vaunted Ikea meatballs (secret recipe just revealed) and, featured here today, the shockingly tasty and “meaty” meatless meatballs.

This is a great recipe to have in your arsenal especially now that the shortage du jour is meat of all kinds. Whether you are trying to eat less or no meat, or you just can’t get your hands on the stuff, you need a good vegetarian meatball recipe, and here it is friends.

They take a bit of elapsed time, because you have to cook the water out of the mushrooms and let the whole shebang sit in the fridge for a spell, but they’re totally easy. And hey…we’ve got time! You can even show off  your domestic skills, make a double batch and stock your freezer.

As a bonus this recipe comes with a soundtrack suggestion suitable for any stage of creating or eating your Saturday night special. Crank yourself up some Queen because, well, we’re having such a good time, we’re having a ball.

Where’s the picture? Have you ever tried to get an appetizing picture of meatballs? Enough said…but how about another pic of fondue night? Happy weekend all!

 Ooh la la! Just another typical night around the fire pit.

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs                                                                      

Barely adapted from AllRecipes

Ingredients
Makes 20 meatballs

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 453 gr white mushrooms, finely chopped (use the food processor to save time)
1 tablespoon butter*
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup quick cooking oats
4 to 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese*
½ cup breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
2 eggs, divided*
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch cayenne pepper

3 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (or any other cheese you prefer, or no cheese at all).*

*Vegans and Vegan dabblers you’ve totally got this. I’ve made these with Vegan butter, your favorite cashew parm, aquafaba and no cheese on top and they were delicioso.

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with one pinch of salt and cook, stirring every so often until the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the butter, and cook on medium for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
Add onions and sauté for 5 further minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 1 further minute, until fragrant.

Transfer mushroom mixture to a large mixing bowl.

Stir in oats and mix until thoroughly combined. Add Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 egg, salt, pepper, oregano, and cayenne pepper (if using).

Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Stir in remaining egg and mix to combine.
The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight best).

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture, and with dampened hands roll into meatballs.

Arrange on the lined baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the meatballs until ready to use, or use immediately.
Bring tomato sauce to a boil in a large skillet (or saucepan), lower to a simmer, and gently stir meatballs into the sauce until coated.

Simmer meatballs in sauce for about 30 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, cover with a lid and let the cheese melt (about 4 to 5 minutes).

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and serve over spaghetti, zoodles, spaghetti squash, in a meatball sub or just plain nekkid.

PS. Can’t get enough Vegan balls? Got more cans of black beans than you know what to do with? Try these from Minimalist Baker, who never steers you wrong.

           Eat UP people!

Puppies, Squat Racks and Pasta Sauce

I had you at puppies, right? Apparently, now that the toilet paper hoarding issue is getting sorted out, the two things where demand is grossly exceeding supply is in puppies and home exercise equipment. Some people were prepared for the apocalypse, and had put in their puppy orders and built their proper home gyms. For the rest of us, I have this pasta sauce. Small consolation, but it’s something, and it comes from the master of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan*.

This sauce can be made with any canned tomatoes you have in your pantry (San Marzanos if you are fancy), plus an onion and butter. Five Tbsp of butter sounds excessive, but if we’re being entirely honest about the effect on our diet of all this time indoors, it is probably a drop in the bucket. There are more irresponsible uses of butter that are far less tasty.

So, with no further ado, and before I embark on a grocery mission which involves many russet potatoes (hint hint on what’s coming), I give you the easiest, tastiest darned pasta sauce you’ll ever make. Stay safe and healthy and well-fed!

Marcella Hazan’s Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

Method

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 

*Etna, NH, has its own master of Italian cooking, Teresa Lust. She read from her new book, a Blissful Feast, at the Norwich Bookstore, earlier in March, on what feels like the last time anyone could gather anywhere. I’m getting the goods to make her breakfast biscotti in the hopes that she will let me share them with you here. In the meantime, you can support the Norwich bookstore and Teresa by buying her book, which is a fun, interesting and delicious read about a part of Italy that is suffering hard right now. Have I mentioned puppies? Pet them if you’ve got them, while the rest of us visualize.

 

Best of Summer Simmer Chicken

Summer’s best dressed chicken…nekkid and fresh

Let’s be honest here about grilling and entertaining. Food that is hot off the grill is fantastic for everyone but the host, who is typically tied to said grill. If you really want to relax, it’s all about food that can be cooked long and slow with minimal effort and is very, very hard to mess up. Bonus points if it is good as leftovers. Some dishes that come to mind are crock pot pulled pork or carnitas and the king daddy of all picnic food: Chicken Marbella.

Ok, so maybe not pretty. But pretty tasty, which counts.

In case you have never met Chicken Marbella trust me when I say it is magical. It’s a Mediterranean classic, that even the most Mediterranean-averse eaters still love. That’s the magic. The only downside of Chicken Marbella is the long marinating time, and the longish list of ingredients.

With that in mind, this recipe is darned near perfect. It involves chicken that falls off the bone, and as much fresh basil tomatoes as you can handle. Even better, it takes easy to an impressively idiot-proof level. Any recipe that includes “throw” and “chuck” in the instructions has a place in my heart. With this recipe, and the supply of fresh corn coming your way, you’ve got summer dinners for any size crowd handled. While you’re figuring out what to do with your spare time, whir up a batch of ABC Summer Sauce to have on hand for the leftover chicken, veggies, pizzas, sandwiches, etc. I can’t count the number of times I’ve made it this summer, and it always gets raves.

Special slacker note: In three tries I have been foiled by bad pictures with this dish, but that hasn’t stopped me before. Honestly, though, a dish that makes even raw chicken looks somewhat pretty deserves some respect. Here’s hoping you get to step away from the grill and enjoy your summer evenings while they last!

Summer Simmer Chicken

AKA Jamie Oliver’s Tender and Sweet Chicken Legs with Sweet Basil and Tomatoes

From  Food52

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 higher-welfare chicken leg quarters
  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 big bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
  • 2 big handfuls red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes and ripe plum or beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes halved, plum tomatoes quartered
  • 1 whole bulb garlic, broken into cloves (less works too)
  • 1 fresh red chile, finely chopped, or a big pinch of dried chile flakes
  • Olive oil
  • One 14.5-ounce/410 g can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed (optional)*
  • 2 handfuls new potatoes, scrubbed (optional)*

* I’m all for keeping it simple without the beans and potatoes, but if you need to extend the feeding power this is a great way to do it.

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Season your chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and put them into a snug-fitting pan in one layer, skin side up. Throw in all the basil leaves and stalks, then chuck in your tomatoes. Scatter the garlic cloves into the pan with the chopped chile and drizzle over some olive oil. Mix around a bit, pushing the tomatoes underneath. Place in the oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours, turning any of the exposed tomatoes halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat is falling off the bone. If after an hour or so the skin isn’t crisping to your liking, you can turn up the heat and switch to convection, or just blast it under the broiler for a bit at the end, rotating the pan occasionally and watching closely, until you get the skin as brown as you like. Just don’t let the sauce simmer too vigorously or the meat might toughen up.
  2. If you fancy, you can add some drained cannelini beans or some sliced new potatoes to the pan along with the chicken. Or you can serve the chicken with some simple mashed potato. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins before serving. You could even make it part of a pasta dish—remove the chicken meat from the bone and shred it, then toss into a bowl of linguini or spaghetti and serve at once.

 

 

Okey Poke: Watermelon Poke Bowls

All the Fixin’s for a Poke Feast

At about this time, in the height of summer, we might as well throw up our hands and say, “It’s all about watermelon!” Seriously, between watermelon rosemary lemonade, watermelon salad, watermelon gazpacho and the soon-to-be shared watermelon jalapeño margaritas, I am hard pressed to get really excited about any other ingredient. But, like mama said, you must eat your veggies. And your protein. And your condiments (summer is condiment season after all).

This brings me to the poke bowl (say po-kay unless you want to horrify foodies and make Californians smirk). Poke originated as a thing in Hawaii, where fisherman needed a tasty way to use the trimmed scraps of freshly caught tuna. Bonus points for being able to serve it all out of a cooler. They did this by marinating it, putting it over sticky rice and then dressing it up with whatever condiments felt right. Intrigued by the sheer magnitude of food combining possibilities in one dish, I set out in search of my perfect poke match. I’m a huge fan of fresh raw tuna, as long as it is procured, prepared and paid for by someone else. When I saw watermelon poke taking over the Internet, I knew I’d met my destiny.

Watermelon poke, where watermelon stands in for tuna, is often made with raw watermelon which is quickly marinated. It is fine but bears little resemblance in taste or texture to tuna, and the perkiness drains right out of the watermelon after serving time. This version, adapted from Bon Appetit—in which the watermelon is marinated, cooked, then chilled until ready to be used—produces watermelon that is strangely similar in taste, texture and appearance to tuna. This not only gives you an easy, storable for days, cheap alternative to tuna, but it also makes the Vegans (not to mention the tuna) happy. Ba-da-bing! We have a winner!

As with any new type of food, the process can seem daunting at first. I promise, however, that it is low skill and effort/ high return. Here is what you’re doing:

  • Dicing the watermelon, and putting it in a simple marinade, ideally overnight.
  • Cooking that entire mixture down for 30 minutes then chilling it. At this point, or after the next step, it can chill in the fridge for up to a few days.
  • Tossing the cooked, cooled watermelon with sliced sweet and green onions, sesame seeds and soy sauce. Chill until needed (see above)
  • Cooking up a batch of sushi rice with some honey and vinegar. This can be served hot or made ahead and served cold.
  • Assembling your universe of your favorite fresh toppings, sauces and condiments.

Poke bowls are built around the upside of prep. Set up your basic elements and you can throw them together anytime, anywhere. They use what you have, what you love and what is fresh and available. They are the perfect cultural marriage of all your favorite things and a fully customizable feast.

With so many topping choices it is hard to decide what actual recipes to include here in your watermelon poke primer. For me, and for my very satisfied (and patient) extended family, the key components are the watermelon, the sushi rice and a few key condiments. The toppings are where you make this your own, and change it up based on mood, dietary constraints, availability, etc. My must haves among these are: pickled ginger for zing, avocado for creaminess, toasted peanuts or sesame seeds for crunch; scallions, chives or some such representative from the onion family to keep your taste buds honest.  

Sauces? Homemade are awesome, but sometimes enough is enough. Store bought faves can be as good or better.

And now, for the main event. Make a batch of the watermelon poke and store it in the fridge for poke bowls as needed. Bring it chilled, along with your cooked rice and an array of condiments to make a poke bowl bar for a party or picnic. This right here, my friends, will rocket you straight to the Bring It All Star Zone.

Watermelon Poke Bowl with a creamy sesame sriracha sauce.

Watermelon Poke Bowls

Mostly from justthefood.com 

  • Watermelon Poke (recipe below)
  • Sweet sushi rice (recipe below)
  • Diced cubed fresh vegetables
  • Savory sauces, crunchy toppings and condiments

The Watermelon Poke

Don’t fear cooking the watermelon. It will not disintegrate, but will assume the look and texture of raw tuna. Trust the process that will transform your watermelon from sweet to savory and into a weirdly awesome, Vegan-friendly science project.

For the marinated watermelon

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds cubed red seedless watermelon (about 6 cups), cut it into small cubes no larger than ½-inch. The consistent, smallish dice is key.

Method:

Mix together marinade in a shallow dish with a lid, or a re-sealable plastic bag.
Add watermelon and refrigerate for at least one hour, but it’s even better if you can do it overnight. Transfer marinated watermelon to a pan with a lid.
Cook covered on medium high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and continue cooking for about 10 minutes more, or until deep red and translucent and most of the liquid has been absorbed. If you have a really juicy watermelon, you can drain off any excess liquid.
 Chill until ready to serve.

For the Poke

  • 1 recipe marinated watermelon
  • 1 cup julienne cut Maui Onions
  • 1 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss to coat. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

The Sweet Sticky Rice

This sweet rice makes a perfect base to serve under your Poke. Use an Ice Cream Scoop for perfectly shaped balls of rice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups short grain arborio or sushi rice, rinsed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of your rice cooker and follow the directions on your rice cooker. If you do not have a rice cooker, bring salt and water to a boil in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Stir in remaining ingredients. Return to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed. 

The Condiments

Here’s a list of options to get you started:

  • Pickled ginger
  • Cubed avocado
  • Cubed mango
  • Cubed cucumber
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Chopped chives
  • Fried shallots
  • Dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • sprouts and/or seeds
  • Cilantro or mint
  • Ponzu or shoyu sauce
  • Furikake (now that you’ve got it from your popcorn adventure)

Assembling the Poke Bowls

Mound a scoop of rice in a bowl (not on an plate—that’s just the way it’s got to be).

Top with a scoop of watermelon poke. Top it off with your favorite condiments, then add a drizzle of your favorite sauce(s). You know what to do!

 

Inner Beauty Oven Fried Chicken

Yes I am self conscious about my thighs. But I love them just the same.

Confession: I’ve been wanting to share this recipe for a long time, but it wasn’t pretty enough. Just try to make fried chicken look appealing without a food stylist and studio lighting. If you succeed, let me know!

Let’s not let looks get in the way of substance because this, my friends, is a recipe you need to know…especially with Super Bowl, ski lodge lunch and après ski snack season upon us. (It will be equally useful for summer picnics, but we’re staying on message. And PS, see some Super Bowl recipe ideas way below.)

This recipe, by way of Food52, takes totally simple ingredients, and only asks that you adhere to an equally simple but all-important method:

 You brine it, you pat it, you coat it, you shake it hard and you bake it…in a hot oven on a hot roasting pan glistening with just enough melted butter. Oh, and you flip it. Because, you know, “chestnut golden brown” on only one side is just mean.

 My chicken took longer than 40 minutes for the first side to brown up, so use your good judgment on that. AND for max browning and crispiness be sure to use a metal roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet that gives each piece of chicken its space. I did some test pieces in a ceramic baking dish and they were not A-Team material.

 This totally passed the man test, the boy test, the boy-man test, the leftover test, the hot from the oven and cold from the fridge test, and the straight outta Tupperware in the lodge test. Be beautiful inside and out: Make this chicken!

Serves 4, or 3 big eaters

Provenance: From Food52 and Judy Hesser, whose daughter Amanda included it in her book Cooking for Mr Latte .

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons sea salt (divided, plus more for serving)
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (as good as you can get)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper (plus more for serving)
  • Optional: grated Parmesan cheese and grated fresh lemon zest (I have not yet tried this variation but it looks awesome)

Method:

  1. In the morning, combine 2 tablespoons salt and about a cup of warm water in a large bowl or container. Stir to dissolve the salt. Trim the chicken of excess skin and fat. Add the chicken to the bowl. Cover with very cold water and add a tray of ice cubes. Swish around with your hand to disperse them. Chill in the refrigerator until dinner time.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the chicken from the fridge and pat dry completely with paper towels (you can lay them on a clean dish towel to get off a lot of the moisture). Put the butter in a roasting pan large enough to fit the chicken in one layer (if you crowd them, they will stew vs. crisp). Place the pan in the oven. In a 1-gallon freezer bag, pour in the flour, remaining 1 tablespoon salt and pepper (along with the parm and lemon zest if you are using.) Give it a good shake. Add the chicken pieces two at a time and shake them until thoroughly coated. As you lift them out of the bag, shake them off vigorously. This is vital. You do not want a gummy coating. Line them up on a plate, and repeat with the rest.
  3. Lay the chicken pieces in the roasting pan, skin side down, and oven-fry until a chestnut brown and crisp on the bottom, about 40 minutes (sometimes it takes as long as an hour). Don’t flip them until this happens. Use a thin spatula to scrape them up off the pan and turn them; cook the other side until the bottom is browned, which will take less time, around 20 minutes. Remove the pieces from the oven as they finish cooking, and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Just before serving, grind fresh pepper over top and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

SUPER BOWL BONUS

And speaking of the Super Bowl…If you need some ideas for how to prep for your couch or wherever you are headed, you might want to consider Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili (so easy and feeds a crowd), Peoples Choice Corn Bread (not so easy but so worth it. You WILL be the halftime star). Game Day Wings, because, WINGS, Buffalo Chicken Meatballs because HOT SAUCE and potato bites because TATERZZZ! For some healthy snacking get your Hail Mary Coconut, your Nootch Popcorn and your Party Time Hummus on. Have a great weekend all!

A Lasagne For All Seasons

Daffy

Daffodils are way prettier than even the best looking lasagne, AND proof that we’re in the heart of spring.

True—the last post had a picture of daffodils. Also true, the last post and this one have nothing to do with daffodils. But they’re pretty aren’t they?

Today we’re taking a moment to breathe between seasons, to make sure we have one more solid meal before we’re all about veggies and salads, strawberries and spritzers. Because, even though linen and sandals are on the near horizon, we also have end of year sports parties, late night studying, school reunions, graduation visitors, all night studying, prom shenanigans, etc, etc, etc. There is always a need for a go-to lasagne. This one, thanks to Sister B, is now mine.

Like all of the most useful recipes, this is more about a solid method than about exact measurements and complicated ingredients. It comes straight off the package of Trader Joe’s no boil lasagne noodles and uses a mascarpone/parmesan mixture (vs ricotta/mozzarella) to coat the noodles between layers of red sauce and Italian sausage (vs spreading blobs of cheese between layers). This makes it both smoother in the middle and crunchier on the top than traditional lasagnes.

It is awesomely perfect as is, however it is also infinitely tweakable, with or without meat and with any combination of roasted vegetables. I recently made it with layers of roasted cabbage and walnuts, omitting the red sauce, and pouring a little water over it at the end for extra liquid to cook the noodles. Onions and butternut squash would be excellent in an all white sauce version or you could try a Mexican twist with chile-spiced mascarpone, chicken and corn. And of course kale will always try find it’s way into the party.

Once you’ve got the basic method down don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own. Or just follow the directions and make it again and again. After all, who ever had too many lasagnes at the ready?

Note: I highly recommend using a big rectangular pan (up to 10″ x 15″) and doubling it. Trust me–you’ll go through it. And you won’t be left with half a container of mascarpone cheese. Sister B also swears by using one extra noodle per layer. I just swear too much.

All Season Lasagne a la Trader Joe’s

Lasagne

Yep–not pretty at all. But you know you want that crunchy top layer.

Ingredients:

1/2 package no-boiling lasagne noodles (Any brand would work)
1 lb. uncooked sweet Italian pork sausage (or any sausage you prefer)
1 jar Trader Joe’s Bolognese meat sauce (or your favorite jarred or homemade red sauce)
12 oz. mascarpone cheese (1 1/2 small containers)
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the casing from all the sausage links; place sausage in a large skillet; break up sausage with a fork or spoon while it pan fries until cooked. Add Bolognese sauce to pan; mix, warm through and set aside.

In a separate bowl cream together mascarpone, milk, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese; mix in nutmeg. Season with pepper to taste. Spread a thin layer of the mascarpone mixture on the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Dip lasagne noodles into mascarpone mixture one at a time to cover completely; place in a single layer in the baking dish; top with meat sauce and evenly sprinkle on some of the grated Parmesan cheese.

Keep layering in the same order until all of the meat sauce is used (this should make three layers). For the top layer (4th layer): dip the noodles; make the layer; pour remainder of mascarpone mixture over top and sprinkle on the remainder of the Parmesan.

Rest lasagne for about 30 minutes to allow noodles to absorb liquid. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Rest at least 20 minutes before cutting.

Serves six.

 

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce—Mother’s Day Salvation

A bright, safe spot well outside of the kitchen

A bright, safe spot well outside of the kitchen

Growing up, the Hallmark Holidays got no play in our household. My parents refused to acknowledge either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and my Dad was quick to remind us that “every day is Children’s Day” when we pondered the possibility of such a thing. My own household is apparently steadfast in their resolve to uphold this tradition. This is the long way of saying that no, I am not recovering from Mother’s Day festivities. The complete lack of fanfare might have even been upsetting had it not been for some strategic culinary failures that assured I will not be cooking on Mother’s Day next year.

We started the day with Vegan tofu waffles, which were awesome. As soon as I get a picture they’re going up on the blog. I kept the waffles’ key ingredient as a smug secret. Not a soul suspected anything other than maternal good will.

Then came lunch. The waffles had gone over so well that I proceeded with my next experiment, going to considerable effort to collect all the right, freshest, fanciest ingredients. This lunch, Cooking Light assured me, was a “Staff fave” that would satisfy the “heartiest appetites.”

Long story short, the Braised Tempeh Reubens were inedible. Everyone gave them a good faith go, but even one tentative bite was just too much. In justifying my effort, I revealed the truth about the waffles which tipped off my total loss of credibility, and an every-man-for-himself dash to the fridge to pinch hit for lunch. The raid left us with nothing for dinner. Nothing but a sheepish suggestion to go out. On Mother’s Day. With no reservations. Two words: Not Happening. And yet, the cupboards were bare.

Enter, Marcella Hazan’s brilliant tomato sauce made with three ingredients and no chopping. It is so effortless even a Mom striking on Mother’s Day can make it without considering it actual work. This is a must for your weekday repertoire and for those Mother Hubbard moments when you’re not on your fresh and fancy game.

I have no picture, but hey, it’s tomato sauce with lots of butter. And there is not a smidge of tofu or tempeh left in the house. What could possibly go wrong?

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion (or a big shallot), peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. (This is a stealth move. Moms—grab that onion for yourself and mash it right up. It’s delish!) This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 

Chupe de Pollo con Chipotle

chipotle-chili-ck-1687650-x[1]First, I know it’s spring and everyone is thinking light, fresh, vibrant. So what’s with the winter stew you ask?  Here’s the scoop…

  1. It’s going to be 30 degrees and snowing at my house today (good grief!).  Every time I share this meal with someone they ask for the recipe (a Bring It pre-requisite).  I recently made this for a friend and I forgot how darn good it is.

In all seriousness, this recipe is a winner. It came to me from a friend who brought it to my house many years ago. I had a bike accident which resulted in a lot of couch time and several months on crutches. I couldn’t do much except sit, read, watch movies and visit with friend. It was so hard not to cook! On the up side, my unbelievably generous neighbors and good friends made meals for me and my family while I was out of commission. They delivered 3-4 meals each week right to my doorstep and there was always enough for left overs. It was so kind of them and very much appreciated (my husband loved it so much that when I came off crutches he actually said, “I’m going to miss the meal delivery”!). One of the meals they brought was this chicken stew. We all loved it and I had to have the recipe. Since then, I’ve made it over and over for friends and family and, every time I shared this meal with someone, they asked for the recipe. And so, a Bring It entry was way overdue!

This stew has a bit of a kick with the chipotle peppers. Careful if you are wimpy in terms of “heat”. It can get away from you quickly. Otherwise, go for it and enjoy!

Ingredients

1 (7 ounce) can chipotle in adobo sauce
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
6 garlic cloves, crushed
6 cups fat free, less sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 (15.5 ounce) can white or golden hominy, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup whipping cream (I used 1% milk)
1 cup chopped, seeded plum tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Remove 1 chile and 1 tsp adobo sauce from can (reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use). Finely chop chili, set chile and sauce aside separately.
  2. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped chile, onion, and next 6 ingredients (through garlic), cook 6-7 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in broth, bring to a boil. Add chicken, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and cool slightly (enough so you can handle it). Shred chicken with 2 forks, cover, keep warm.
  3. Remove pan from heat, let stand 5 minutes. Place 1/3 of broth mixture in blender and process until smooth. Pour broth mixture into large bowl and repeat procedure in two more batches. Return pureed broth to Dutch oven. Stir in potatoes and hominy; bring to simmer over medium heat. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in chicken and cream, simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in remaining adobo sauce, tomatoes, cilantro, and salt/pepper.

Bring It

Bring in original pot or crockpot with crusty loaf of bread – super easy.

Thanksgiving Samosas

A twist on Thanksgiving leftovers

A twist on Thanksgiving leftovers

Thanksgiving was so great this year. My mom, my sister and my brother-in-law came to visit from Connecticut. The three of them combined with my small family made for a total of six at the table. It was a small, quality group. My mom is very traditional and she was front and center when I created the Thanksgiving menu.  It consisted of turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, rolls, pickles, and olives. All followed up by the standard apple and pumpkin pie. We busted a move from tradition with a side of quinoa for the vegetarians in the group (running with scissors, I know!). We had a wonderful meal, great conversation and a nice, cozy time together. One of my favorite parts to the meal was the Gratitude Game we played at the end (Google “Gratitude Questions” and you can play too!).

The next day, I started thinking about what I could make with the leftovers that is non-traditional.  Since I didn’t play the “non-traditional card” on Thanksgiving Day, I figured I could do something fun with the leftovers. I pulled out my cookbooks for inspiration and found it right away. Samosas with turkey leftovers inside! That was it. I hesitated for just a split second thinking, “this borders on pie” (given that Samosas are essentially savory food inside pie shell). But then I realized, dare I say, I’m getting pretty good with the pastry shell.  And so, I forged ahead, making the pastry dough and gathering my leftovers to assemble these tasty nuggets.

Oh, one last thing…. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not BRING these Samosas anywhere. My boys scarfed them down in what seemed like nanoseconds.  Every now and then they would take a small breath and utter, “these are killer”!  Enjoy and happy holidays.

Ingredients

Dough:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
2/3 cup cold butter, cubed
2/3 cup cold water

Egg wash:
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Filling:
Leftovers!  This can include anything in your fridge.  I used turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. I wished I had more leftover veggies, because I definitely would have stuffed a few of these with veggies! Have gravy on the side for dipping!

Method

To make the dough, place flour, salt, baking powder, turmeric, and paprika in a food processor. Add butter and process until sand-like, approximate 10 seconds. Add water and pulse until mixture just comes together. Wrap dough in saran wrap and allow it to rest in refrigerator for at least an hour.

When ready, line up leftovers and take dough out of fridge and preheat the oven to 350. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough and cut into circles approximately 5 inches in diameter (I used the top of a large yogurt container to make the cut outs). Place approximately ¼ cup of filling on half of the circle of dough. Fold the dough over to make a half moon. Seal the edges well by pinching dough together. I used a folk to push down the edges and make little ridges.

Place samosas on parchment lined baking sheet. Mix 1 egg with 1 Tbsp of milk to make egg wash. Brush each samosas with the egg wash. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. They can be shallow fried if you prefer in 2 inches of vegetable oil until golden brown.

Gobble, gobble!