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Archive for the ‘Recommended Meals’ Category

There’s something consistently comforting about homemade meatballs and tomato sauce for Sunday supper.  Maybe it’s the act of mixing and rolling the meat with your bare hands; an organic and ritualistic labor of love. Or, perhaps it’s just the sweet warm aroma of onion, garlic, fresh basil and tomatoes wafting off the stove.  Whatever it is, we couldn’t get enough of it this week when we tried Lidia Bastianich’s “polpette” with our spicy tomato-basil sauce. Instead of serving the dish over spaghetti, we baked a pan of polenta and then fried the squares in olive oil.  Light crunch on the outside with a soft, warm, heartiness on the inside — perfect with a dollop of tangy sauce.

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I’ll admit the thought of a fish stew didn’t immediately grab me for a fun weeknight in the kitchen. But upon closer inspection of this recipe, the layers of Mediterranean flavors were very intriguing: garlic, artichoke hearts, capers, green olives, white wine and tomatoes. Wow.

Served over couscous, it didn’t disappoint.  Fresh lemon juice and chopped ginger, cumin and basil, crushed red pepper. So many flavors that intertwine to create a zesty, light — and healthy! — dish.  Tilapia was on sale at the market and it worked out perfectly here.  Give this one a try.

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This is a fabulous dish to start off the New Year in the kitchen.  Lemon juice and zest add a tangy brightness to the fresh asparagus and sweet shrimp.  There’s a little bit of grated parmesan cheese and butter for creamy richness. And, the white wine and minced onion yield a great depth of flavor.  The recipe, from the venerated archives of Gourmet Magazine, gives a good reminder: “the rice should be creamy and tender but still al dente — like the consistency of a thick soup.”   Solid guidance that led to a perfect outcome this time around!

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Crusty French bread, spicy/salty pork meatballs and tangy, crisp grated carrot and diakon — the essential ingredients for an incredible bánh mì, or popular type of Vietnamese sandwich.  This recipe caught my attention back in January, but I waited until this summer to give it a try so I could take advantage of all that my local farmers’ market has to offer.   Since so much Vietnamese cooking features natural herbs and root vegetables, fresh produce is essential. (e.g. the ground pork in this case came from a small, family-owned farm in Virginia that showed me a photo of the pig before I bought it!)

The meatballs are oven-roasted and incredibly tasty, defined by savory garlic, spicy hot chili paste and a dash of salty fish sauce.  And as a cool and crunchy counterpoint, the grated carrot, diakon and cucumber are lightly pickled in rice vinegar, sesame oil and sugar. Top it all off with a handful of fresh cilantro sprigs.

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Fish cannot be any fresher than out of the water and into the frying pan, like this walleye dinner up at the lake.  It’s one of the highlights of every summer vacation (provided we have the luck to catch enough for a whole meal!).  The fillets are dipped in egg wash and coated lightly with bread crumbs and seasoning. Then dropped into a cast iron skillet over an insanely hot fire, which mom says is the secret to not letting the oil soak into the fish and keeping the outer crust crispy.

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Skewered grilled shrimp.

Gemelli and sliced green and white beans tossed with homemade pesto.

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This summer’s much needed vacation at the lake afforded a chance to connect with my “culinary roots” and my primary source of inspiration in the kitchen: Mom.  I continue to be amazed by her skill at consistently constructing beautiful and deeply satisfying meals. The first night we arrived, mom served grilled marinated lamb and vegetable kabobs, Israeli cous cous with fresh basil, feta and kalamata olives, and strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert.  A stunning outdoor dinner with the sun setting on the water.

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