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In the Kitchen with .. Easy Work Night Dinners
updated: Jan 08, 2010, 11:07 AM
By Edhat Staff
Every January I find myself spending more time in the kitchen than in previous months. Even if you didn't make a resolution to spend less money or eat healthier, it's just a time of year when eating out, or even ordering takeout, seems to make less sense.
As a teenager, I never understood why my mother was always asking us what we wanted for dinner. As an adult, even without kids, I get it. Coming up with a meal plan for days on end can be a real challenge. The best I can do is three or four days ahead, and that's only because it gets old going to the market every day.
I try to keep things easy, inexpensive and creative. No one wants to eat the same thing every night. My feeling is that weeknight dinners shouldn't take more than 30 minutes to make.
Here are three recipes that we enjoyed in the last week. They're all adjusted to quantities to feed two people, so keep that in mind if you're cooking for more.
Monday: Chicken Ginger Sauté with Snow Peas (from Fine Cooking)
Heat olive or vegetable oil in a skilled and stir fry ¾ cup snow peas for 2-3 minutes. (I also added a ½ cup of fresh shitake mushrooms, which were a nice addition.) Remove, add another tablespoon of oil and 1 ½ chicken breasts, cut into stir fry size pieces. Cook through and remove.
For sauce, cook thin slices of a 1-inch length of fresh ginger root for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cloves garlic, mix and then combine ¼ cup low sodium chicken broth (mix in 2 tablespoons corn starch to thicken), 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, and ¼ cup sake. Stir and cook until boiling, then reduce heat. Add chicken, snow peas and mushrooms.
Serve with rice noodles. To enhance flavor, put the noodles into the stir fry pan with the sauce and mix all ingredients before serving. The large ginger pieces were a big hit in our house because we're both recovering from a horrific head cold, picked up over the holidays.
Tuesday: Salmon in phyllo dough with potatoes
This recipe is great for a dinner party because it's so easy to prep ahead of time, but it's also so easy that there's no reason not to make it on a weeknight. Probably the most important thing you need to do is make sure to defrost your phyllo dough several hours ahead of time.
When selecting the fish, look for de-skinned filets, about 4 by 4 inches square. Larger pieces are difficult to wrap.
Prep the salmon pieces with salt and pepper, a coating of sour cream or Greek yogurt and a liberal sprinkling of fresh chopped dill or dry dill on top.
To make the phyllo packets, coat one side of each piece of phyllo with melted butter (a pastry brush is best to use), and layer four pieces on top of each other. Place salmon on the middle of the dough stack, and fold edges over, creating a neat envelope. Brush the top and edges with butter to stick during baking.
Bake time: 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Dough should be crispy brown but not burnt.
Potatoes: My best, mashed potato tip is to add ½ of a medium sweet potato to each 2 medium-sized regular potatoes in the batch. It adds flavor and sweetness. This week, I made the phyllo salmon with scalloped potatoes, using fresh Yukon Golds from the Farmer's Market, but my recipe needs an upgrade, so I won't share it here. (If you have an excellent scalloped potato recipe, please post it in the comments section!)
Wednesday: Easy Spicy Italian Sauce with Polenta or Pasta
Sauté half a small onion, 2-3 cloves garlic, and 2 pieces of shredded Italian sausage of your choice in olive oil. I have a problem with sausage skins, so rather than slicing or dicing, I de-skin the sausage and mash the insides with a fork before putting it into the pan. Add 1-tablespoon basil, and a pinch of oregano. When sausage is cooked through, add 1-2 cups fresh shredded spinach. Finish with half a large can of your favorite pre-fab tomato sauce.
One of my oldest cookbooks has the notation: "Guys don't like it," my assessment after a Berkeley dinner party went horribly awry. So, I made fried polenta slices for myself and gave my boyfriend the option of having his sauce with ravioli, which he accepted. In his words, "Polenta's like grits. It doesn't taste good unless it's smothered in cheddar cheese." He probably has a point.
Nevertheless, here's a nice polenta recipe that actually has cheese in it, from Better Homes.
Cheese and Basil Polenta
In a mixing bowl stir together 1 ½ cups shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, and 2 tablespoons diced fresh basil.
In saucepan, boil three cups of water. Add (mixed) 1-cup cornmeal, ½ teaspoon salt, and 1-cup cold water. Stir while adding, and cook and stir until boiling. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
In baking dish, layer hot and cold mixtures, ending with cornmeal on top. Cool for one hour, then chill for several hours or overnight. Bake in 350-degree oven for 40 minutes (top should be slightly brown). Let cool before serving. (You could fry on the stovetop in olive oil, too.)
2010-01-10 11:37 AM
mmm, will definitely give the Phyllo Salmon a try...and will check back here to see if anyone posts a great Scalloped Potato recipe (mine never works, always too runny!)
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