Tag Archives: fresh herbs

Quick Weekend Pasta Dinner (Rigatoni with Savory sausage & Sweet Onions) – Serves 6

I don’t know what your weekend is like but for me I always move a little slower on Saturdays. The weekdays I am up early, busy all day and fall into bed exhausted each night, and so Saturday I think my body and brain go on strike in order to recoup. This means that making an easy dinner fits right into the relaxed pace I am in dire need of.

The easiest dinner in the world!

The easiest dinner in the world!

This is a family day for me, a day when I try to avoid having anyone over for dinner (unless of course it is a “weekend guest” weekend!) preferring to close the door on all things that are a hassle on Friday night. I love having friends over Friday as I am in work mode anyway and it is a great way to celebrate the beginning of a couple of days that are different from the rest.

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

Herbs from my garden save my life most nights

If I go grocery shopping on Saturday I make sure to buy some very convenient items with an eye on making my dinner prep a breeze. This Saturday I found some great seasoned sausage and knew it would be all I would need to flavor the whole dish (save for throwing a few fresh herbs snagged from my garden).

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire lenght of the sausge adn sliding it off. then it is easy to cut or break the sasge into your pan

Remove sausage casing by cutting the entire length of the sausage and sliding it off. After that it is easy to cut or break the sausage into your pan

 A good pasta dish can be one of the most delicious things in the world to eat if it is mixed with the right combo of flavors. It was so good that if I had happened to get in over my head and invite people to dinner it would have worked out very well indeed.

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You will need:

3 to 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbs unsalted cold butter

1lb savory sausage (I used an apple and onion sausage, but any flavor combination that appeals to you and is available will do!) – removed form casing

3 small/medium sweet onions – diced

2 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 small sprig fresh rosemary

3 or 4 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional – I always like a bit of heat!)

1/2 tsp salt (but taste dish before adding)

4 cups chopped greens (spinach, kale or chard work great)

1lb rigatoni (I use Barilla brand with ridges)

1/2 to 3/4 cup pasta cooking water (this is water reserved after cooking the pasta)

Method:

*Place the water on for the pasta. Rigatoni takes between 12 to 14 minutes to cook so plan on timing it to be ready when the rest of the dish is cooked. BEFORE YOU DRAIN THE PASTA WATER SCOOP OUT ABOUT 1 CUP AND SET SIDE.

1 – Place large pan (large enough to hold the entire finished dish) on low/medium heat and add 3 tbs of the oil. When it has wormed, Add the onions and garlic and cook stirring occasionally for 10 minutes, until nice and soft. Add the herbs and pepper flakes (if using).

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

Saute onions in oil, add herbs after a bit

2 – Add the sausage either by cutting it was a scissors or breaking it off with your hands into the pan. Break it up further with a wooden spoon as it is cooking. Turn the heat up a little and cook until the sausage begins to brown a little and is cooked through (depends but anywhere up to 15 minutes).

Add sausage

Add sausage

3 – Add the spinach and stir quickly. Turn heat off, taste for addition of salt and add if you think it needs it.  Cover with lid. until the pasta is ready.

Add greens

Add greens

4 – Add the pasta directly from draining into the pan (DO NOT RINSE PASTA UNDER COLD WATER), al with 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water and cold butter. Replace lid and after a minute stir everything gently.

add cooked pasta and pasta water

add cooked pasta, cold butter and pasta water

Serve in warmed bowls and pass the cheese if you have it on hand. A few extra pepper flakes wouldn’t go astray either!

Did I menton how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmiagiano reggiano!

Did I mention how great this tastes topped with the cheese of the gods: Parmigiano Reggiano!

Simple Lemon Chicken with Zero Talent Required! (serves 6 – 8)

 It will take more time to read this recipe than it will take you to prepare this dinner – I’m dead serious! It is dinners like this that have saved me from ordering take-out many an evening and I suggest that you add this to your repertoire.

Fast Lemon Chicken

Fast Lemon Chicken

I made this last night because right when I should have been making dinner I had to pick my kids up from their grandmother’s house. How was I going to make dinner and have it ready when they got home if I was the one picking them up?

Easy: I put this together in 5 minutes, popped it into the oven and it was ready when we got home. It was so lovely to walk into the house and smell the wonderful aroma of roasting chicken.

The lemon and herbs in this dish made the flavor happen magically and it tasted like a dish that I had labored over  – I’ll never tell!

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*This is a Great Blood Type A Diet recipe, just omit the black pepper and pepper flakes if you are strict*

You will need:

1 1/2 lbs chicken thigh cutlets (that means, no skin and de-boned. They are sometimes called thigh oysters)

2 chicken breast fillets, cut in half lengthways

sea salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper flakes for seasoning

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sweet onion, halved, then sliced thinly

1 cup baby carrots (if very small leave them whole, if larger quarter them lengthways giving you “skinny sticks”)

1 sprig rosemary (about 3 inches)

4 sprigs thyme

1 lemon, quartered

3 cups chicken broth

Method:

Preheat oven 425*

1 – Prep veggies and season meat with salt and  pepper.

2 – Scatter onions, carrots, rosemary, thyme, and lemon in bottom of pan, roasting dish or baking tray. Add the broth. Place chicken breast on top in 4 completely separate spots. Lay one of the chicken things on top of each of the breast pieces and the rest of the things in-between.

3 – Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper flakes over the chicken (if using) and drizzle the entire dish with the oil.

4 – Place in your preheated oven for 40 minutes.

DONE!

DONE!

Remove from oven and remove the lemons and herbs. Serve with anything you like: pasta, rice, bread, boiled potatoes or a salad.

A Great Tofu Dinner! (serves 2)

Okay so last night I longed for food that would feel like injected medicine straight into my veins. You know those days when your energy is zapped and you are in dire need of some kind of booster shot? For some people it is a big hunk of steak barely cooked, but for me it is this: a tofu dish with dark greens, and the all-powerful, blood thinning, heart healthy onion!

Really unctous dinner (I swear!)

Really unctuous dinner (I swear!)

I spiced the whole thing up with curry powder and it was just what the doctor ordered. It was not only good for me, it tasted sublime too. The textures were silky and the broth was zingy and packed with flavor.

I don’t regard this as a vegetarian or vegan dish but rather just anther great dish to cook for the whole family for dinner. Dinners like this are a great balance to some of the heavy food we tend to eat. You should really not take my word for it, but rather cook it yourself tonight!

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*This happens to be a highly beneficial Blood Type A diet dinner. Yes, there is curry powder and if you use something very mild and 1/2 the amount suggested, I think it will work great for you. if however you are super-duper strict I suggest replacing the curry powder with some fresh herbs like 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or Italian parsley, 4 sprigs thyme or 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary leaves*

You will need:

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced

3/4 cup matchstick carrots

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, cubed

3 cups dark green spinach, roughly chopped (or other dark green like kale)

1 tbs curry powder (use less is very hot)

1 tbs all-purpose flour

1 tsp sea-salt (I use Maldon salt) – use 1/2 tsp if using very fine salt

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock) OR good quality bouillon cube crumbled and water

Method:

1 – Put saute pan on medium heat and add the oil. Saute onions for about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and flour to the onion mixture and stir to incorporate with everything.

add carrots

Saute onions, then add carrot

2 –  Add the stock (or water and bouillon cube) and turn heat up a little. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Taste for addition of salt and add at this time.

add liquid, then tofu

Add liquid, then tofu

3 – Top with the spinach and stir gently. Bring back to a simmer, cover and turn heat down to low/medium and cook gently for 6 to 8 minutes.

add spinach

Add spinach

4 – Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes before serving

Simmer

Simmer

Divide between two bowls and serve as it (which is how I had it) or with bread or rice.

Serve

Serve the Yummy-ness!

Crispy Fried Pork (or tofu!) Medallions with Escarole Rice (serves 4)

Crispy Fried Pork Medallions with Escarole Rice

Crispy Fried Pork Medallions with Escarole Rice

Sometimes I am in the mood to make dinner as quickly as possible, and others, like last night, there is nothing I enjoy more than standing in my kitchen lazily chopping and stirring, in the company of whomever wants to watch the movie I may have playing and perhaps share my bottle of wine.

frying pork to lovely crispiness

frying pork to lovely crispy-ness

I am always trying to come up with interesting ways to cook pork tenderloin. It is such a delicate cut of meat with a tenderness that needs to be preserved for it to taste its very best. I sliced the pork and with a crowded counter filled with bowls of flour, an Asian egg mixture and another of panko crumbs I coated each piece of meat before frying to perfection. This was so good, and such a hit, I was sorry I hadn’t double the recipe!

Fresh herbs will always make your food taste better

Fresh herbs will always make your food taste better

I thought it would be perfect with a very aromatic rice, and since I was hell-bent on using up every last herb I had purchased for recipes over the Christmas break, I added chopped pungent rosemary and liquorice-y tarragon to the rice with a couple of mushrooms and sweet onions to make the best accompaniment ever. It was hard not to eat and say “mmmmm” the whole time we were eating!

By all means these two dishes can be made as part of other dishes. I think the pork with be great on a buffet table and the rice could go with so many other meat dishes, (and in the case of my dinner, crispy fried tofu).

Happy New Year’s Eve – Cook something memorable!

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You will need:

1 pork tenderloin, (try to find one that is about 1 1/4 lbs) cut into 3/8″ or 1 cm slices

OR tofu (instead of pork)about two packages of extra-firm, sliced into triangles or big squares (prepared as instructed below ingredient list)

2 large eggs

2 tbs hoisin sauce

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs mirin

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups panko crumbs (have more on hand)

1/3 cup olive oil

3 medium sweet or yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced

1 medium head escarole, washed and roughly chopped

2 large mushrooms, diced

10 (or so) fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

1 stem of rosemary leaves, pulled off stem and chopped (about 1 tbs)

1 tsp cayenne pepper flakes (optional)

sea-salt to taste

6 cups cooked basmati rice

Dipping sauce: 6 tbls soy sauce mixed with 6 tbs mirin. Divide between 2 or 3 bowls for the table.

*This can easily be a vegetarian/vegan or Blood Type A Diet recipe. Use extra firm tofu which you should squeeze of excess moisture (enough for 4 to 6 servings) and follow method below or follow method here.

Method:

1 – If you are going to cook rice, put it on right away and let it be cooling until you need it. If you already have leftover rice, take it out of the fridge and stir to loosen.

2 – Mix the eggs in a shallow bowl with the hoisin, soy and mirin. Place flour in a shallow bowl or a dinner plate. Put panko crumbs on a dinner plate. Place a big platter or plate on the counter beside the other plates and bowls.

3 – Make sure the pork is dry and then dip each piece in flour, then coat with egg mixture (by dipping), and finish by pressing each side into the panko crumbs. Place on the waiting platter or plate. When they are all dipped and rolled, place in the fridge. * I find they cook so much better when they are cold*

Prep pork and store in fridge until ready to fry

Prep pork and store in fridge until ready to fry

4 – Next make your dipping sauce (see method in ingredient list).

make dipping sauce

make dipping sauce

5 – Put big saute pan on medium heat and add 2 tbs of oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes.

saute onions

saute onions

6 – Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes. You may have to add more oil. Add the chopped herbs and some sea-salt (about 1/2 to 1 tsp) and stir into veggies.

add herbs

Add mushrooms, then herbs

7 – Cook until onions are nice and soft.

cook for several minutes

Cook for several minutes

8 – Add the chopped escarole and cayenne flakes (if using) and cook until the greens wilt (about 4 or 5 minutes).

add escarole

Add escarole & pepper flakes

9 – Add the rice and stir until it has completely warmed through. Cover with lid and keep warm on lowest heat (or turn off and reheat right before serving)

add rice

Add rice

10 – Put large saute pan on medium/high heat and add about 3 tbs oil. When it is hot add the pork in a single un-crowded layer. Cook until crispy on both sides (about 2 to 3 minutes per side). Remove to a plate and keep warm in low temperature oven until you have fried all of the batches. You will need to add more oil as you go.

fry pork

fry pork

Serve pork alongside the rice and drizzle a little of the dipping sauce over the pork before serving. Each person may add more dipping sauce or hot sauce as they please.

serve with a drizzle of dipping sauce

serve with a drizzle of dipping sauce

The pork can be easily substituted for tofu (I did) and prepared exactly the same way. (Check above for further instructions)

I had exactly the same thing only with tofu

I had exactly the same thing only with tofu

Roast Sausage with Onions & Herbs (serves 6)

If you absolutely think you cannot cook, you should give this dish a try. It is dead easy, and full of flavor. I find if you use fresh herbs and good quality meat, you can forego creativity!

Roast Sausage with Onions & Herbs

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to cook more dinners for you and your family, this dish may help you fulfill that promise to yourself without too much difficulty.

I know it can be daunting to think about preparing an evening meal after working all day. This easy-to-make-recipe may make it less so.

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You will need: 2 lbs good quality sausage ( I used a polish sausage with marjoram. you can use your favorite Italian style sausage or other flavored sausage. Try chicken or turkey sausage), cut into 3 or 4 inch pieces, 1 large sweet onion, diced, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped, 1 rib of celery, diced, 3 sprigs thyme, 1 vegetarian stock cube, 21 1/.2 cups water (or 1 1/2 cups chicken or veggie broth), 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Prep all ingredients. Scatter onions, celery, parsley, thyme and crumbled bouillon cube into the bottom of a saute pan or small roasting pan. Add the liquid and lay sausage pieces on top. Drizzle sausages with oil. Place in oven for 25 minutes.

Put everything into the pan in layers

2 – After 25 minutes take pan from oven sand turn sausages. place back into the oven for another 12 or so minutes.

This is the easiest thing in the world to make

Serve with rice, bread, or pasta.

Baby Back Ribs Cooked in Sparkling Apple Cider & Herbs For Tom’s Christmas Party (serves 8 as Main Course, 12 as Part of Larger Meal)

 So much of this festive season was spent planning food, cooking, eating, and visiting friends and family. This particular evening was devised by Tom who asked if I would help by making a main course and a giant salad. I asked how many people I should keep in mind, and he said he expected around 12. I was very excited about having this get-together as some of my dearest friends would be travelling a long distance to spend christmas with us, and they were going to get to join us at Tom’s.

This is what I made for Tom’s Christmas Party

I hummed and hawed about what to make. I wanted to cook a giant portion of something, but didn’t want it to be fussy and hard to reheat when we got there. I had lots of ingredients to choose from as I had just stocked my kitchen to the gills with every sort of food imaginable in anticipation of Christmas gluttony! I settled on 5 lbs of baby-back ribs. 

Evidence of Santa’s existence

I wanted to cook them in wine and herbs, but found I had neglected to buy any white wine (prefer red). I panicked a little, but, upon seeing the 1/2 bottle of the kids sparkling apple cider changed my plan. Apples and pork are traditionally a fantastic combination, so, this would do the trick. That, along with the delectable white sweet potatoes I had bought to roast for christmas dinner (oh well) would complete my vision of braised tender pork in sweet syrup-y broth.

Everyone got a Christmas cracker

I was surprised at how this simple dish came together. It was wonderful on every level; tender meat, herb-infused flavor, mouth-watering potatoes, and delicately sweet broth. 

I was also surprised to find not 12 people, but around 18 when we arrived. Tom apparently had  gotten deep into the christmas spirit and invited a crowd, and cooked food to match!

Snowball bowl of eggnog!

It was the funnest party I had been to in ages. My friends had arrived exhausted from their drive a little earlier, and I whooshed them up to the shower, and off we went. They were revived body and soul, and I was so happy to have been able to start off their visit with something spectacular. 

I ate all sorts of wonderful food, but the oddest thing I tried was eggnog. I have lived in this country for more years than I care to admit, but have never tried this American Christmas elixir before. Being that it was served from a bowl that looked a snowball, with cups to match, I couldn’t resist.

It was creamy, with overtones of nutmeg, and a strong blast of whiskey on the backend; wow! I drank 2 cups very happily after dinner, and was warned to stop if I didn’t want to feel it in the morning.

The morning did start out a little hazy, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

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You will need: 5 lbs baby back ribs, cut into 1 or 2 rib pieces, 4 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, 2 or 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, 5 sprigs fresh thyme, 4 white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large slices, (orange sweet potatoes would work also),  4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 1 large sweet onion, diced, 1 1/2 cup sparkling apple cider, 1 vegetable stock cube, (I use Rapunzel brand), 2 1/2 cups water (or, 2 1/2 cups chicken broth), 1 tsp sea-salt, freshly cracked black pepper. *you will also need a very big casserole pot*

Preheat oven 375*

1 – Put big saute pan on high heat and add some of the oil. Sear the ribs in batches until they have browned (part of the ribs will not make contact with the pan, but don’t worry, just brown what you can). Transfer to the big casserole as you go (you will also need to add oil as needed).

sear ribs

2 – Turn pan down to medium/low and add onions and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently.

saute onions and garlic

3 – Add the herbs and sliced potatoes and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the apple cider and stock (or water & bouillon cube) and turn up heat. Bring liquid to a boil and scrape as much of the brown bits stuck to the pan into the liquid as possible. . Turn off heat.

add potatoes and liquid

4 – Carefully pour the vegetable and broth mixture over the ribs and cover with lid. Place in oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. *This can also be made ahead and reheated gently on stove-top*

cook in oven and you get this!

This can be served as is, or with a green salad (as below). either way, this dish is absolutely fabulous.

I had my ribs with a fresh salad

Along with what I brought, Tom also serves the following mouth-watering dishes:

Paella

Salt-crusted Wild Norwegian Salmon

Fresh pistachios brought directly from Turkey by a visiting friend

Cake by Tina & Bridget

festive ribbons of hard sugar sweets

Sweet  flaky pastry made by Tom (I had to top it off with some sugary candy pieces)

In the thick of the party

Smokey Bacon & Apple Sausage in Smoked Paprika Cream (serves 6)

 My mother-in-law has been telling me for years about the butcher shop close to her house, and somehow I had forgotten all about it, until yesterday. I was driving by and had some time on my hands, so decided to check it out.

some herbs and peppers still thriving in my late Autumn garden

It was not very exciting on the inside, no big fancy displays enticing me to buy, no cheery greeting upon entering the premises, nothing. The overall feel was brown, drab and uninteresting. 

When I stepped up to the counter I decided to ask for things that I can never find around here, like a bone-in ham that is still uncured and uncooked, the kind my mother used to boil all day to make her Bacon and Cabbage dinner. I also inquired about pork belly and pork bones. I really wanted to try my hand at making the pork buns from the momofuku noodle bar in New York City (see post, “Pork Buns Anyone?”) and use the pork belly in a noodle soup and sandwiches.

They had the ham, and cut me a lovely 4lb piece which included the bone, and, they had just run out of pork belly but could get me some if I wanted it, oh my! They also smoke their own streaky bacon and I bought a pound of it, along with a ring of their apple sausage. All in all, I was pleased, and was more than happy to forego the fancy interior, for a good quality product with no nonsense service.

I went home very excited about the prospect of boiling my big ham and making one of my mother’s best dinners. It would have to wait for a day or two as I needed time to boil it, then let it rest before slicing, and last night I didn’t have hours to lolly-gag in the kitchen.

Smokey Bacon & apple sausage with Smoked Paprika Cream

I cooked the apple sausage and bacon instead, and seasoned the whole dish with some lovely smoked paprika I had purchased from a fantastic spice shop in New York City this past weekend.

The dish had amazing depth, and the cream I added brought out the smokey flavor of the paprika to the fullest. I had a lovely head of cauliflower and fingerling potatoes from my crop share box (see top right of my blog of more info), and decided to cook them separately and add to the dish last-minute.

Along with using herbs and peppers from my garden, this was a very locally sourced dinner, and that made it taste all the nicer!

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You will need: 1 lb apple seasoned sausage, removed from casing, (another flavored sausage would work such as mild italian or garlic), 1/2 lb smoked streaky bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces, 1 large onions, diced, 2 long green seasonal peppers, sliced (or 1 green pepper, small dice), 4 cups spinach leaves, 3 stalks of parsley with leaves, roughly chopped, 1 apium leaf, with stalk, roughly chopped (apium is a herb which is a cross between a parsley and celery leaf), or, 2 tbs chopped celery leaves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 2 1/2 cups mushroom or chicken broth (I used 1 Telma brand mushroom stock cube and water), 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 1/2 tsp smoked paprika,2 tbs all-purpose flour, freshly cracked black pepper and sea-salt to taste. 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets, 2 lbs small fingerling potatoes or baby potatoes, cut in half or quartered if on the big side.

saute the meat, onions and peppers before adding the herb

1 – Prep all ingredients. Put a big saute pan on medium heat and add the sausage, (use your fingers to pull off bite-sized pieces and put directly into the pan), bacon, peppers and onions. Cook until onions start to soften and meat is browning (about 15 minutes). Add the herbs and continue to cook for another 5 or so minutes.

2 – While meat is cooking, put potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until nice and soft (but not mushy). Drain and set aside. At the same time put a pot of water on for the cauliflower. When the water boils, add the cauliflower and 1 tsp of salt, and boil until it is soft but still firm (5-7 minutes). Drain and set aside.

add the spice and flour

3 – Add the paprika and flour and stir until incorporated.

add liquids

4 – Add the broth and cream and stir. Cook until it starts to get hot and thicken slightly.

ready to serve

5 – Add the spinach and cook for a minute before adding the cauliflower and potatoes. Turn heat off.

Serve in warmed shallow bowls as is, or with a little bread or rice.