It was the offer of fresh herbs from my mother that inspired this recipe — big bunches of mint and basil that I was determined to make good use of right away. I thought of using them together over pasta, and I took inspiration from a New York Times recipe for the addition of fresh mozzarella and fusilli pasta. While at the store to buy the pasta, I saw grape tomatoes I wanted to use. That’s how I came up with this recipe, an easy one that is great for warm weather, when we don’t want heavy sauces and don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen.
I can’t give exact amounts of the herbs, but I recommend using a whole lot. I had about six sprigs of garden-grown mint that, when chopped, yielded a large pile on the cutting board (if I could have scooped it up, it would have been a giant handful). Same with the basil. I had maybe three stems of organic basil that were huge and gave me about the same amount as the mint. But go with what you have, or whatever amount you prefer.
16 oz. fusilli pasta 1 punnet (about 1 pint) grape tomatoes 16 oz. mozzarella pearls (I used these from BelGioioso) or balls of mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces 1/2 cup olive oil 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving 3-4 garlic cloves, minced A lot of mint, chopped A lot of basil, chopped Garlic powder (about 1/2 tsp.) Salt and pepper to taste
Chop the tomatoes in half width-wise (if they are especially long grape tomatoes, cut them in thirds). Place them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients, mix and let sit at room temperature while you cook the pasta.
Cook the fusilli until al dente, then drain and add to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Mix well and serve.
I wanted a chicken dish to go with the yummy yakisoba I was making the other night. I almost made my marinated chicken, but I kept looking around and decided on this recipe instead. I liked it because the peppers and red onion would be colorful on the plate and also provide some vegetables.
I changed the amounts of ingredients on the skewers, but the marinade and glaze are the same as the original recipe, and they were delicious. And definitely use the garnish. It looked really good scattered on top.
The recipe uses mirin, which the author, Jeanette Marie, describes: “Mirin is a form of rice wine that’s commonly used in cooking. … It’s much lower in alcohol content than traditional rice wine and higher in sugar. So, mirin adds a sweet note to the flavor profile of any dish it’s used in. But, it also adds the unique flavor of rice wine.”
SKEWERS 8 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for an hour (the easiest way to do this is to lay them in a rimmed baking sheet filled with water) 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes 1/2 red pepper, cut into large squares 1/2 green pepper, cut into large squares 1/2 red onion, cut into cubes and separated into 2 or 3 layers each
GARNISH 1 green (salad) onion, thinly sliced on the bias 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds (toasted, if you have time)
In medium bowl, mix marinade ingredients. Add chicken cubes and toss to coat. Cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Thread the chicken, peppers, and onions onto the skewers, alternating chicken and peppers, then chicken and onion, and leaving a small bit of space between each one.
Line a baking sheet with foil, making sure to cover the sides to catch the liquid during cooking. Lay the skewers on top and bake 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
While the skewers are cooking, put the glaze ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
When the skewers are finished cooking, remove from the oven, place on a serving dish, and brush generously with the glaze. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds and serve immediately.
This is a copycat recipe for the chow mein at Panda Express. I think it comes very close, and is just as delicious, but after making it myself I’ll just call it yakisoba. We gobbled this up at dinner and it made great leftovers for lunch the next day. I served this with teriyaki chicken skewers.
Here it is, tweaked from the original based on the amounts that worked best for me.
1/4 cup soy sauce 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger 1/4 tsp. white pepper 2 4-oz. packages dried yakisoba noodles, seasoning packets discarded (this is the kind I used) 2 Tbsp. olive oil 1/2 onion, diced 2 small stalks celery, sliced diagonally 1/8 head of cabbage, shredded
In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and white pepper; set aside.
Cook yakisoba noodles according to package directions. Drain well. Measure out 11 oz. of cooked noodles and save the rest for another meal.
In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and celery and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.
Stir in noodles and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.
A super-delicious crowd-pleaser using just a handful of ingredients and a slow cooker, so it requires very little work.
I have resisted using our slow cooker because it feels a little like cheating. Yes, I know it makes cooking easy and produces wonderful results, and I know I’m being silly. But when I saw this recipe the other day on Family Fresh Meals, it seemed so appetizing and fun that I gave it a go. And it was a total success. We’ll definitely be making this again.
It calls for Italian dressing, which I didn’t have, so I made my own with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, and a generous amount of garlic powder, dried parsley, and dried oregano.
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 cup barbecue sauce 1/4 cup Italian dressing 1/4 cup packed brown sugar 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Season the chicken breasts generously with salt and pepper. Place in the slow cooker.
In a bowl, mix the barbecue sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over the chicken.
Set the slow cooker for 3.5 hours on high. When finished cooking, pull the meat apart with two forks. Serve on lightly toasted brioche buns with cole slaw.
When I found this recipe, I was looking for an easy dinner to make that night, one that was reasonably healthy with something I knew my children would enjoy. This ended up being just right. They especially loved the sausage (not so much the vegetables, which I loved, but we’re working on that!).
I used the veggies called for in the recipe, but you can use any variety you’d like. The recipe also calls for smoked sausage that you roast in the pan with the vegetables. I used a chicken sausage that I cooked separately on the stovetop and then cut into pieces when I served it, and that worked really well.
Serve this on top of rice, quinoa, or couscous.
2 small red potatoes 12 oz. green beans (I used chopped frozen green beans, straight from the freezer) 1 large head of broccoli (for about 1 1/2 cups florets) 2 bell peppers (try to use bright colors like yellow and red, but green is just fine!) 9 oz. smoked sausage 6 Tbsp. olive oil 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional) 1 tsp. paprika 1/2 tsp. garlic powder 1 Tbsp. dried oregano 1 Tbsp. dried parsley 1/4 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp pepper Grated Parmesan (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a large sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.
Prepare the vegetables: Chop the red potatoes (chop into small pieces so they will be tender in time), trim the green beans and halve, chop the broccoli, chop the peppers into thick squares, and cut the sausage into thick slices.
Place the vegetables and sausage on the sheet pan. Pour the olive oil and all the spices on top. Toss to evenly coat all the veggies and meat.
Bake 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and stir the vegetables. Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sausage is browned.
Cook the rice, quinoa, or prepare the couscous while the vegetables and sausage are roasting.
If desired, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the vegetables and sausage as soon as they come out of the oven.
This is one of the most popular dinners at our house. It never fails and I can’t quite figure out why, because it takes so little effort. But I get good-quality ingredients, like deli salami and real ciabatta rolls, and maybe that’s part of it. We can make whatever sandwich we want from a really tasty buffet. And bonus: We’ll have leftovers of everything, so if we make sure to buy enough bread, we can do it all again the next night.
Here’s how I plan it:
Individual ciabatta rolls, toasted
Sliced loaf of rye or sourdough, toasted
Buffalo mozzarella, sliced
Baby spinach leaves, arugula, or crunchy salad leaves
Baking is one of the easiest ways to cook salmon. It’s not complicated, and you don’t need to do much to make it delicious. Dress the fish with sauce, seasonings, or even just lemon juice, then pop it in the oven for a quarter of an hour and you have the basis of a fantastic meal.
This recipe has been in my cookbook from nearly the beginning, clipped from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution sometime in the very early ’90s. I taped the recipe to the page next to a full-page clipping of six ways to serve lemon garnishes.
You need only a handful of ingredients for this. I served the salmon alongside jasmine rice and a side salad with a sesame-soy sauce dressing. Fresh minced cilantro makes a nice garnish, if you have some.
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1 tsp. soy sauce
20 oz. salmon fillets
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, ginger, and soy sauce.
Place the salmon on a foil-lined baking pan and spread half the honey mixture on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake 12 minutes per inch of thickness. Halfway through the cooking time, spread with the remaining honey mixture.
This is a deconstructed chicken pot pie, one that cooks on the stove and doesn’t need to be baked. You just let it simmer until the sauce thickens, and then it’s ready. The puff pastry is the only part that needs to go in the oven, and it’s a nice way to finish the dish, especially with the sprinkling of parsley on top.
The recipe is my version of one printed in Southern Living magazine a few years ago.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs.)
3 cups chicken stock
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed if frozen (1/2 of a 17.3-oz. package)
1 egg, lightly beaten
About 1 tsp. dried parsley
12 oz. frozen peas
3 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 large celery stalk, diagonally sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 4 cooked bacon slices, slightly crumbled
Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Place chicken in a large pot with chicken stock and enough extra water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Turn off the heat, then remove the chicken and let cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Unroll the puff pastry sheet and place on parchment, then cut into four squares. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with parsley. Bake on bottom rack for 12-14 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown.
Cook peas according to package directions. Shred the cooled chicken and set aside.
In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and cook until carrots and celery are tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the flour and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the cream and 2 1/2 cups of reserved stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
Stir in peas, cheese, and chicken and cook until mixture is thickened, about 10-20 minutes (watch carefully). Season with salt and pepper. Add bacon toward the end of cooking, if using.
Divide mixture among four shallow bowls (you may have some left over), then top each bowl with a square of puff pastry.
It’s not often you can make a dish at home that tastes like it could have come from a restaurant. Complex flavors are hard to replicate, even with the tastiest homemade dishes. But this is one of those recipes that really does taste like it came from a professional kitchen.
It does take a long time to make, but it requires no special skills, and it’s worth it if you have an evening to devote to cooking. It will be the most special meatball tacos you’ve eaten in a while.
The recipe is adapted from Aaron Sanchez in the Food Network magazine. He provided his own recipe for the meatballs (the albondigas), but I used my own from the Sopa de Albondigas recipe. The only change I would make is replacing the rice in those meatballs with an equivalent amount of breadcrumbs, corn flour, or a mixture of the two. Bake the meatballs according to the recipe, then boil them for a further 10 minutes to fully cook them. You can make the albondigas while the sauce simmers.
Serve in warmed flour tortillas with crumbled queso fresco cheese and chopped cilantro (fresh coriander).
1 head of garlic
2 small/1 large plum tomato
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, quartered
1 Tbsp. chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce, or substitute 1 Tbsp. chipotle salsa
1 Tbsp. shortening
1 cup chicken stock
2 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. adobo seasoning
Freshly ground pepper
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 450F/230C degrees. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, then wrap in foil. Toss the tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzled with 1/2 Tbsp. oil and a pinch of salt. Toss the onion with the remaining olive oil on another baking sheet.
Roast the garlic, tomatoes, and onions, switching the pans halfway through, until the vegetables have softened and are browned in spots, about 45 minutes. (Remove any vegetables early if they’re getting too charred.)
Have a food processor ready. When the vegetables are done, squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins. Put half of them in the food processor, save two cloves for the albondigas, and save the rest for another use. Add the tomatoes, onion, and chipotles (or chipotle salsa) and puree, scraping down the sides as needed.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C degrees for the albondigas.
Melt the shortening in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the roasted vegetable puree and cook until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes. Pour in the stock, reduce heat to medium, and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted, then add the adobo with salt and pepper. Lower the heat and keep warm while making the meatballs.
Serve with meatballs in slightly warmed flour tortillas, topped with the crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro.