Posts Tagged ‘Quick Dinners’

Baked Salmon with Tomatoes, Dill Mayo, Couscous and Rainbow ChardIn a week of takeout, this is the most inspiring  (and maybe the only) thing I cooked.

The rainbow chard was sautéed with garlic and olive oil and dressed with vinegar. The cous cous was plain. The salmon was amazing.

The salmon recipe is from Life’s Ambrosia. The only change I made was to use dill instead of basil, since that what I had on hand.


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This isn’t, by any means, an authentic bangers and mash recipe. It is, however, a quick, hearty meal that satisfies, especially on rainy afternoons. The sautéed, tangy, vinegar-spiked collard greens on the side are the perfect accompaniment to the rich mashed potatoes, sausage, and quick pan gravy.

There isn’t a recipe here for the bangers and mash. I used leftover bratwurst sausages for the bangers, and made basic mashed potatoes. I folded in some sour cream and raw chopped scallion into the potatoes after mashing for a little something extra. The pan milk gravy was made from bacon drippings, and was heavily spiked with everything in my fridge (horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, spicy mustard, Beef Better than Bouillon, Tabasco, pepper) to give it some depth of flavor .

For the collard greens, I sautéed minced garlic in olive oil, added the greens and salt and pepper, gave everything a good toss, then turned the burner to low, added a drizzle of red wine vinegar, and covered them for about two minutes. They turned out perfect.

Next up: a simple bean soup with spinach.

I love CSA season.

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This ziti is one of my favorite dinners. The layers of fresh basil, pasta, tomatoes and spicy italian sausage and three cheeses; ricotta; Parmesan; and fresh mozzarella melt together into a gooey, satisfying, compulsively edible conglomerate. Pair a dish of this creamy, tomato-ey pasta with a caesar salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine and you have the perfect comfort food dinner.

Baked Ziti

Makes two medium baking dishes or one really large baking dish, about 12 servings

1 pound ziti or penne pasta
Olive Oil
1 pound Italian sausage
4 tbsp tomato paste
Red Pepper Flakes
2 14.5-oz cans tomato sauce
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
16-oz ricotta
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
8-oz fresh mozzarella, shredded
Italian Seasoning
Fresh Basil, chiffonade(d)
Salt & Pepper

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and boil the pasta until quite al dente. We’re going to bake the pasta, so we don’t want it to be overdone. Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned. Drain off fat if needed.
  4. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute.
  5. Add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, stir to combine. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning to taste. Turn the heat to low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  6. Mix the cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and half of the Parmesan together until well combined. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To assemble the ziti, coat the bottom of your baking dishes with a scant layer of the tomato and sausage sauce. Follow up with 1/4 of the cooked pasta, then 1/4 of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 of the fresh mozzarella, and 1/4 of the basil. Repeat with another layer of tomato sauce, then the pasta, ricotta and basil. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat in the second dish.
  8. Cover the dishes, and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Then, uncover and cook 10 to 15 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let stand about 10 minutes before dishing up.

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Mixed Quasi-Grill

102_0789What do we do when the mass of CSA veggies completely overwhelms us? When the fridge almost won’t shut, and when we do open it and hazard to move the milk, onions roll across the floor?

I take everything out, and I cook it. All of it. Well – almost all of it.

This is one of those meals. Those meatballs are actually venison burger from the freezer, seasoned and grilled. They’re served on a pita with a drizzle of homemade ranch dressing (we had no yogurt to make tzatziki, unfortunately) and Sriracha. The vegetables were originally skewered and taken out to the grill, but we didn’t have enough coals to really cook them, so I ended up sauteing them in a nice hot cast iron pan to get a grill-type char on them and cook them until just crisp-tender.

The meal could’ve been a massive fail (the meat, it was close. Did I mention I put it on sticks first? That was a ridiculous idea) but it ended up working out, deliciously.

No recipe here – just desperation.

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Zuchinni Fritters

102_0598We’ve been picking up giant zucchinis every week at our Orchard Gardens CSA, and up until now I’ve been cutting them into sticks then roasting them with a little sea salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. That technique is what I do to every vegetable, including broccoli, asparagus, big fat winter carrots, Brussels sprouts – I haven’t not roasted a vegetable that way.

I was inspired by this recipe (found via Tasty Kitchen) to try my favorite green vegetable a different way in the form of Zucchini Fritters, and made this for dinner one hot, sweaty night this week when the thought of turning on the oven seemed particularly unpleasant. The recipe calls for garnishing with Tzatziki sauce, but I used a dollop of sour cream and fresh mint here.

Zucchini Fritters

adapted (mostly just proportions) from The Noshery

Made 10 fritters, enough for 2-3 as a main course or 5 as a side dish.

1 gigantic zucchini, shredded, then squeezed in a tea towel of excess liquid
2 eggs, beaten
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small whole onion, minced
6 tbsp bread crumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive or vegetable oil for frying

  1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with a fork until combined. The mixture should be cohesive enough to form a loose ball.
  2. Heat about 1/4 inch of oil in a large skillet (I used cast iron) over medium to medium high.
  3. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to heap out the mixture into the frying pan. Flatten slightly.
  4. Let cook 3 – 4 minutes per side until golden brown.
  5. Drain on paper towels, serve immediately with sour cream and fresh mint as garnish.

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102_0403When it comes to quick dinners, pasta is my ultimate go-to dish. The formula is simple – take a protein (or not), saute it, add some sort of vegetable, sauce it (or don’t), and toss it all together with some cooked pasta. There isn’t a recipe – it’s a method. Clean out your fridge, be creative!

This meal followed the formula exactly – I sauted chopped up bacon, then added about 2 cups of chopped kale and cooked until wilted, added 4 -5 cloves of minced garlic, then deglazed the pan with about a cup of pasta water. I added the juice of half a lemon, a couple pats of butter, some fresh ground pepper, then tossed in the cooked pasta. A generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan completed the dish – and it took about 30 minutes to throw together.

Despite the bacon and butter, this was a light, fresh, satisfying dish with bold flavors – the bitterness of the kale, the saltiness of the bacon, the sharp tang of lemon and garlic.

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Beet Green & Ham Gratin

Beet Green & Ham Au GratinI based tonight’s dinner off a recipe provided by Garden City Harvest, the organization that provides our CSA share. The recipe, Bok Choy and Ham Gratin, caught my eye for its simplicity, and for an outside-of-the-box approach to Bok Choy, what I think of as an Asian vegetable good for stir fries and soups. Then again, I’ve yet to actually cook bok choy, so what do I know?

Anyways, I ended up making it with beet greens instead. When I got home and opened the fridge, the beet greens were limp and the bok choy was still in great shape, so beet greens it was. I soaked the slightly wilted greens in ice water until they regained some of their rigidity – totally salvageable. Why did I do this? The Joy of Cooking told me to. I generally do what Irma Rombauer & the Beckers say – they haven’t steered me wrong yet.

This was a great dish – a hearty main course and perfect with a fresh salad with a drizzle of Caesar dressing and spritz of lemon on the side. The beet greens retained much of their sharp flavor and weren’t overwhelmed by the ham or the cheese, though next time I’ll cut back on the cheese sauce. I made more cheese sauce than the original recipe suggested – I just really like cheese sauce. It’s shameful, really, how much I like it. As I made it, though, we needed spoons to delve into this goodness. In this case, less cheese sauce would be good.

A fun benefit of using beet greens instead of bok choy? The dish was slightly pink. Fun!

The recipe below is how I would make it next time – so it should have a thicker texture.

Beet Green and Ham Gratin

1 ½  tbsp butter
1 small onion, sliced thinly
2 scapes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups beet greens, cut into 2 to 3 inch lengths cross wise, including stems
Salt & Pepper
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 ½ cup milk
½ cup grated Swiss or other good melting cheese (I used a mild cheddar, it didn’t melt well), plus ¼ cup for topping
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup lean ham, chopped

  1. Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, sauté until soft.
  2. Add scapes and garlic, cook, stirring until garlic is fragrant.
  3. Add beet greens and salt and pepper, cook, stirring often, until the stems are tender and the leaves are wilted. Remove from heat.
  4. Add butter to small saucepan, melt. Add 2 tbsp flour and cook, whisking until browned. Add milk and heat until just about to simmer. Remove from heat. Preheat broiler.
  5. Add cheese and nutmeg, stir in until melted, then add ¾ of the ham. Add the beet green mixture and stir.
  6. Pour mixture into a small baking pan, sprinkle ham on top.
  7. Broil until bubbly, then add cheese and broil until just brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let sit before serving.

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