Posts Tagged 'Quick Meal Recipes'

Thai Chicken with Basil

As I was making my desserts this afternoon for this month’s gourmet club, it occurred to me that in all of June’s travel-related craziness, I never blogged my dishes from last month’s Thai-themed gourmet club.  They’re too good not to share!

I was initially a bit nervous about today’s dish – Thai Chicken with Basil – because it isn’t something you make ahead.  As many of you know, I prefer to do as much as I can ahead of time when entertaining to keep my kitchen space clean and my stress level low.  My kitchen is a gathering place and it isn’t a space I can close off, so cooking with company present involves putting on a bit of a show.

Thankfully, this dish was pretty easy to throw together.  Here are the “prep steps” I took to make things as easy as possible (everything was stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator):

  • I cut the chicken breasts and stored them separately.
  • I combined the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar in a small container.
  • I cut the onion and stored it separately.
  • I seeded and sliced the chiles, minced the garlic, and stored them together.
  • I washed the basil and stored it separately.
With the hard work done, all I had to do was combine the marinade and the chicken and then dump the right things in the pan at the right time.  Easy entertaining! Here’s the recipe:
Thai Chicken with Basil
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4), cut into 1-by-2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
3 fresh red chiles, seeds and ribs removed, cut into thin slices, or 1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
Method:
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the fish sauce, soy sauce, water, and sugar.  In a large nonstick frying pan or a wok, heat the oil over moderately high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Stir in the chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer.
Remove the chicken from the marinade with a slotted spoon and add it to the hot pan.  Cook until almost done, stirring, about 3 minutes.  Add the marinade and cook 30 seconds longer.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the basil. Serve topped with remaining 1/2 cup basil.

Thai Chicken with Basil

Oh, this dish is really yummy.  There’s a hint of sweet, a hint of heat, and the sauce is delightfully salty (not overpoweringly so).  The chicken came out nicely cooked, and I love the tender onions and fresh basil.  I didn’t take time to photograph the dish during gourmet club, so I gladly made it again the following week because we enjoyed it so much.  If you’re a fan of Thai food, give this one a try!

TIPS:  When I was working on this recipe in May, SuperTarget was the only grocery store I found that carried red chiles.  (They were Fresno chiles, specifically.)  I’m seeing them in King Soopers/Kroger these days as well.

Recipe link: Thai Chicken with Basil

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Greek-Style Pork Chops

Let the grilling begin!  Labor Day weekend is upon us, and cooking up some delicious grilled food and enjoying it outdoors is practically mandatory.  Today’s recipe – Greek-Style Pork Chops from the July 2010 issue of Cooking Light – caters both to those who have outdoor grills and those who don’t; the recipe is actually written for a grill pan but can be prepared either way.  Plus, it’s a super healthy option to work into what is typically (for us, anyway!) a pretty indulgent weekend. More room for cupcakes, right?

To make the dish, I started by marinating the pork chops.  In a large zip-top bag, I combined 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and 2 minced garlic cloves.  I added 4 boneless center-cut pork loin chops (mine were about 5 ounces each) and sealed the bag.  I marinated the pork at room temperature for 20 minutes, turning them after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I whisked together 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 3/4 cup of plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt (I used Fage 0%), 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill, and 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt to make a sauce for the pork.  I covered the sauce and stashed it in the refrigerator.  I also diced plum tomatoes (1 1/2 cups), cucumber (1 cup), and red onion (1/2 cup) and combined the ingredients to make a salad.  The recipe said to season the salad with 1/8 teaspoon of coarse salt, but I definitely thought it needed more.  I’d recommend starting with 1/4 teaspoon and seasoning to taste from there.

Once I had the sauce and the salad prepared, the chops were ready for the grill.  I heated my grill pan over medium-high heat and sprayed it with my olive oil mister. (The recipe suggests cooking spray.)  I removed the pork from the bag, set the chops on my designated meat cutting board, and discarded the marinade.  I sprinkled both sides of the pork chops with 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt and added the pork to the preheated pan.  I cooked the chops for 4 minutes on each side, removed them from the pan, and then let them rest for 2 minutes before serving.  I served the pork chops on top of the tomato mixture, topped with the yogurt mixture.

Greek-Style Pork Chops

This dish has so many fantastic qualities.  It was fast, easy, inexpensive, and (most of all) delicious.  The juicy pork chops and super fresh salad just taste like summer. The creamy yogurt sauce is such a treat, too; it really takes the dish to the next level.  I look forward to making this one again and again.

Whether you’re grilling, traveling, or just doing some much-deserved relaxing at home, have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!

TIPS:  To prepare pork chops on the grill, I would recommend grilling them for 3 – 4 minutes per side over medium-high heat.  Don’t forget to oil the grill grates before throwing the chops on!  (I forget at least one out of every four times, guaranteed.)

Recipe link: Greek-Style Pork Chops

Soy-Glazed Salmon with Watercress Salad

It’s a momentous day, dear readers.  For the second time in this blog’s 33-month history, I’m posting a salmon recipe.

I pride myself on being the kind of person who will eat just about anything, but salmon and I have a rocky relationship.  There is nothing – nothing! – like a top-quality piece of salmon sashimi (especially if it comes from here).  When I was fresh out of college, I would prepare it en papillote for dinner on a regular basis.  I’ve also enjoyed barbecued salmon on occasion. (I think the grill can dry it out a bit so it isn’t quite so rich.)  At this stage in the game, though, I sometimes have a hard time with oven-baked, just-opaque, unctuous salmon.

Despite my qualms, the recipe for Soy-Glazed Salmon with Watercress Salad from the July/August 2010 issue of Everyday Food caught my eye.  (Major props to the food stylist who made broiled salmon look so good I couldn’t resist it.) There was some gorgeous wild caught sockeye salmon on sale at my grocery store recently, and 20 minutes of preparation time made the recipe a perfect weeknight meal.  I decided to give it a go.

The ingredient prep required segmenting 2 oranges (click here for a how-to), so I did that first.  I set the segments aside to use in the salad and squeezed the juice from the membranes into a small bowl.  (They should yield about 3 tablespoons.)

Next, I made the salmon glaze, which would also become part of the salad dressing.  In the small bowl with the orange juice, I added 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 3 teaspoons of honey, whisked everything together, and seasoned to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  In a large bowl (which would become the salad bowl), I whisked together 1 tablespoon of the glaze with 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. I set the bowl with the dressing aside.

I heated my broiler with the rack 4 inches from the heat and lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  I seasoned 4 salmon fillets (the recipe suggested 6 ounces each, but mine were 5 ounces) with salt and pepper and broiled them for 5 minutes.  I removed the fish from the oven, brushed them with the glaze, and then broiled them until they were opaque throughout (2 more minutes).  I brushed the salmon with the glaze once more after I removed the fillets from the oven.

To finish the salad, I added the orange segments, 12 ounces of watercress (thick ends trimmed), and half of a small red onion (thinly sliced) to the dressing and tossed to combine.  I seasoned the salad with salt and pepper to taste and served it alongside the salmon.

Soy-Glazed Salmon with Watercress Salad

I’m delighted to report that the salmon was pretty tasty.  The glaze was fantastic, and it made the fish incredibly flavorful.  I’ll admit that I enjoyed the drier ends of my fillet more than the center, but that’s just me.

I loved every element of the salad except for the most central one: the watercress. I’d never tried it before, and it’s really just too bitter and the stems are too woody (even after a significant trim) for my taste.  I ate it, and I would certainly eat it if someone served it to me, but I wouldn’t seek it out.  Next time, I’ll probably make the salad with arugula.

TIPS:  Removing the skin from fish before cooking is one of my least favorite chores.  Thankfully, leaving the skin on works well with this recipe.  I broiled the fillets flesh side up, and the cooked fish easily flaked away from the skin.

Niman Ranch Burgers

After years of rental housing, moving, and making do with a grill pan, I have to say that I love my real deal Weber grill.  This is the second summer we’ve had it, and I’m determined to become just as good of a cook outside as I try to be inside.  I’ve had some success, for sure, but the one meal that keeps throwing me for a loop is burgers.

Burgers!  You’d think they’d be the simplest thing.  I had an absolute disaster with them last year…  When I cook on the stove, I usually try to buy the leanest ground beef I can find to avoid having to drain it.  On the grill, super lean beef is a bad idea.  Like it or not, fat provides flavor; we ended up with dried out, tasteless little pucks.

This year, I accepted that I was going to have to use beef with a higher fat content in order to get better results.  I found a tasty-looking recipe – Ina Garten’s Niman Ranch Burgers – and decided to give them a whirl.  (Full disclosure: I did not seek out Niman Ranch beef specifically, so I suppose these are just “burgers.”  I did use 80/20 beef as recommended, though.)

Prior to starting the burgers, I heated my grill to medium-high.  In a large bowl, I combined 2 pounds of 80% lean beef, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of coarse salt, and 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  I gently mixed the ingredients with a fork (overmixing will toughen the meat).  I recently acquired a burger press – I figured that uniform patties would help me get to uniform cooking – so I used that to create six 1/3-pound patties.

Once the grill was ready to go, I oiled the grates to prevent the burgers from sticking.  The recipe said to cook the burgers for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare.  We are definitely medium to medium-well hamburger eaters, though, so I decided to give mine 5 minutes on each side.  (I’ll probably drop this to 4:30 or 4:45 on each side next time.)  Once the burgers were done, I served them on toasted rolls (I used mini Kaisers from Target, which are so not mini!) with caramelized onions.

Niman Ranch Burgers

I overcooked the burgers slightly, so they weren’t amazing, but they were strides ahead of last year’s disaster.  The olive oil and the higher fat content of the meat kept the burgers moist, and the seasoning combination was simple but so good. This is a great “basic burger” recipe that I fully intend to try again, next time with ground chuck (a tip from my dad) and slightly shorter cooking times.

TIPS:  The burger press took a little getting used to.  I initially had a hard time getting the patties out of the press, but running a butter knife around the edges before inverting the press over a plate helped a lot.  If you are going to freeze any of your patties (I froze half), be sure to freeze them on wax paper or some other surface that will easily release them once they’re frozen.  I must have mentally checked out when I went to freeze mine because I put them directly on a plate to flash freeze them before putting them into freezer bags.  Getting them off of that plate took a little bit of thawing and quite a bit of coaxing.

Recipe link: Niman Ranch Burgers

Bell Pepper Egg-In-A-Hole

In the interest of tightening up my grocery budget just a bit, I recently went on a quest to see if Costco’s meat really was cheaper than my regular grocery store. The verdict?  Not so much.  However, I did discover that Costco had killer deals on several items of produce.  I was able to get 12 large Braeburn apples for only $4.49 (I’m used to paying around $1.99 per pound unless I make the special trip to Sunflower Market; $4.49 usually translates into about 5 apples), 12 ounces of raspberries for $2.99 (usually anywhere from $2.99 to $4.99 for only 6 ounces!), and a bag of 6 gorgeous red peppers for $5.79 ($1.99 each on a normal day, $0.99 when on sale).  I’m not sure that Costco would be worth a special trip since it’s 15 minutes from my house, but I’m definitely going to visit the produce area during every Costco trip from here on out.

Today’s recipe centers around the peppers from my produce score.  I have a special place in my heart for Egg-In-A-Hole; my uncle made if for me for breakfast during my Colorado visits when I was growing up (except he called it Egg Toast).  I always get the warm fuzzies when someone makes me breakfast, and his version was always so delicious.  I saw this particular version – Bell Pepper Egg-In-A-Hole – in this month’s issue of Everyday Food, and I just had to give it a shot.

To prep for the meal, I sliced one red bell pepper (any color is fine) into four 1/2-inch-thick rings and grated 2 teaspoons of Parmesan cheese.  In a large nonstick skillet, I heated 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  I added the bell pepper rings to the skillet (evenly spaced) and cracked 1 egg into the middle of each ring.  I seasoned the eggs with coarse salt and ground pepper and cooked until the egg whites were mostly set (about 3 minutes).  Next, I gently flipped each egg (with the pepper, of course) and cooked for an additional 90 seconds.  (The recipe says 1 minute for over easy; we tend to like our eggs over medium.  Cook them longer if you like your yolks cooked through.  If you gently touch the yolk area with your finger, you should be able to sense how cooked the yolk is by how firm to the touch it is.)  I sprinkled each egg with 1/2 teaspoon of the Parmesan and placed each one on a slice of unbuttered wheat toast.

In a separate bowl, I tossed 8 cups of mixed salad greens with 2 teaspoons of olive oil (the recipe said to use 1 teaspoon, but I didn’t think it was enough), seasoned the greens with coarse salt and ground pepper, and then tossed again.  I served the salad alongside the eggs.

Bell Pepper Egg-In-A-Hole

This was such a fun, delicious twist on the traditional Egg-In-A-Hole recipe.  Two added bonuses: it’s an incredibly light meal (only 4 Weight Watchers points, even with the extra teaspoon of oil in the salad) and it only took 10 minutes to prepare. 10 minutes!  It’s love.  I was also shocked by how delicious the salad was since it had next to nothing on it.  Flavorful greens and an appropriate amount of seasoning really did the trick.

Now, if I were going to serve this to company, I would probably butter the toast. Between a bit of runny yolk and the awesome flavors of the egg and the bell pepper, I didn’t miss it; I just think the extra bit of flavor would really step things up for guests.  Also, if you’re feeding folks with strong appetites (especially at dinner), be warned that Dr. O ate three of these.  He’s a machine.

Hope you try the recipe and enjoy!

TIPS:  I was surprised to see that the recipe recommended cooking the eggs over medium-high heat.  I’m used to cooking them over medium-low to medium heat for tenderness.  Everything worked out well with the recipe, though, so I’ll go with the higher heat setting when I make eggs this particular way.

Recipe link: Bell Pepper Egg-In-A-Hole

Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

You know how the simplest things are often the best things?  Today’s recipe – Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce from the March 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those things.  You take four core ingredients (bacon, red onion, canned tomatoes, pasta), mix them with a few pantry staples and seasonings, and end up with a dish that’s out-of-this-world delicious.  Plus, it’s ready in just 30 minutes, which makes it perfect for weeknights.

First, I had to cook the bacon.  In a medium saucepan, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat.  I added 4 slices of bacon (cut into 1/2-inch pieces) and cooked until it was browned and almost crisp (about 4 minutes).  Next, I added 1 medium red onion (halved and thinly sliced) and cooked until it was softened (again, about 4 minutes).  I added 2 minced garlic cloves (I’ll admit I almost always use the jarred stuff, so about 2 teaspoons) and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and stirred until the mixture was fragrant (about 1 minute).  Finally, I added 1 can (28 ounces) of whole peeled tomatoes, broke them up in the pan with a wooden spoon, and seasoned with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  I brought the sauce to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and cooked until it was slightly reduced (15 minutes).  (Give the sauce a quick taste at this point to make sure it’s seasoned to your liking.)

Meanwhile, I cooked 1 pound of orecchiette (use another short pasta if you can’t find it) in a large pot of salted water.  The recipe said to stop cooking it one minute before the recommended cooking time; since I’m at a higher altitude and pasta always takes longer, I used the full recommended cooking time.  I drained the pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water, and put it back in the pot.

I poured the sauce and the pasta water over the pasta in the pot and returned it to the stove top; I cooked the mixture over medium-high heat until the sauce thickened and coated the pasta (2 minutes).  To serve, I topped each portion of pasta with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

This pasta is so simple but so delicious.  The orecchiette was cooked perfectly, and there was just the right amount of sauce with just the right thickness.  In terms of flavor, there was a hint of smokiness from the bacon and from the charred bits of onion, sweetness from the tomatoes, and a bit of heat from the red pepper flakes. The Parmesan and parsley brought everything together nicely.  I would absolutely make this one again.

In the interest of full disclosure, one of the main reasons I even tried this dish was because the leftovers formed the base for another dish: Pasta and Cheese Frittata.  I wish we had just enjoyed the leftovers as is, unfortunately, because the frittata was a disappointment.  I started by following the instructions precisely.  When things started to smell pretty browned (at the 3-minute mark!), I turned the heat down a notch.  When things started to smell borderline burned at the 5-minute mark, I turned the heat down another notch.  I finished out the recommended 6 minutes of stove top time and put the frittata in the oven for 4 minutes to brown the top.  I was hoping against hope that the underside of the frittata would be fine, but I knew better; when I inverted it, it was pretty much burned.  I should have looked more closely at the photograph included with the recipe…  You know if a food stylist sets up a photo with an item that is practically charred, your results probably aren’t going to be better.  I’m not sure, though, that I could have turned down the heat from the beginning and ended up with a fully-cooked frittata.  Beyond being burned, the frittata itself wasn’t really great in terms of flavor or texture, so I don’t plan to try it again using a different technique.  Oh, well!

TIPS:  If I perceive that a recipe has more oil or butter than necessary, I typically cut it down a bit.  For this recipe, I took about a tablespoon of rendered bacon fat out of the pan before I added the onion.  There was still plenty of oil for cooking, but I managed to cut about 110 calories and 12 grams of fat from the dish.

Recipe link: Orecchiette with Bacon and Tomato Sauce

Quick and Easy Valentine’s Day Recipes

Since I just passed on these recommendations to a certain someone (I won’t give you away!), I thought I might as well share them with the rest of you.  These are recipes that I think are special enough for your sweetie but fast and easy enough for the cook to be able to relax and enjoy the evening.

Chicken with Olives and Sun-Dried Tomatoes – Juicy chicken with elegant presentation, plus you can assemble it a day ahead.

Goat Cheese “Ravioli” with Parsley Sauce – Use wonton wrappers to make almost-homemade ravioli.  This one can even be made a day ahead (or frozen) to make mealtime that much easier.

Halibut Meuniere – This is a fast, fresh-tasting fish option.  Love that golden crust!

Pan-Seared Steak – No grill required.  This is a great way to create a steakhouse-style meal at home.

Pear and Prosciutto “Carpaccio” – This one is more of an appetizer, but it’s gorgeous and easy.  Reduce the balsamic vinegar a day before to get things on the table even faster.

Penne with Vodka Sauce – Pink sauce is so in line with Valentine’s Day, don’t you think?

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Chops – As I said in the original post, this one is AMAZING.  No one will believe it only took 15 minutes to make.  Be sure to get prosciutto di Parma at the deli, though…  The packaged stuff is borderline inedible.

Raisin-and-Bread-Stuffed Pork Chops – It’s comforting and delicious, and it only takes 25 minutes to go from ‘fridge to table (including a side of veggies).

Let me know if you give any of them a try!




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