I first learned to make this eggplant dish when I was visiting a cousin in Boston. He was living in a rambling house with lots of roomies and a student budget. Creativity was important! This meltingly tender broiled eggplant infused with olive oil and flecked with fresh rosemary takes full advantage of seasonal produce. Just grab some of the fresh eggplants popping up in your local farmer’s market and make this super simple recipe.
Since this recipe is made nearly entirely with pantry staples, all you have to buy is the eggplant. Fresher eggplants are less bitter than their out-of-season cousins and the standard dark, nearly black supermarket offerings. And, the farmer’s market should have a much wider selection. I used Graffiti eggplant (streaky purple), but white eggplant, or fairy eggplant (the smaller streaky variety, which is particularly tender) works just as well.
Look for smaller eggplants with firm skin. A wrinkled eggplant is an old eggplant. The smaller ones are sweeter too. Check the stem to make sure it’s fresh; it should be free of mold or mushiness. An eggplant that’s heavy for its size is better. Lighter ones are likely to be hollow and less fleshy (so less to eat).
There’s some slightly inaccurate folk wisdom about “male” and “female” eggplants, with males having fewer seeds. The flowers are both male and female, but the fruit isn’t. However, if you want fewer seeds, check the bottom of the eggplant. There’s an indentation which is sometimes oval and sometimes round. Eggplants with an oval indentation seem to have fewer seeds than the round ones. So pick the oval eggplant (because you want fruit, not seeds).
I’ve been craving chicken shawarma ever since I first saw The Avengers movie (years ago!) Since I’m in NY, and the city wasn’t really broken like in the movie, I even looked up the place where the last scene was filmed (when they were all sitting around eating shawarma). But somehow, I never managed to get there. I was re-watching the movie again recently and had the same craving again. Then I thought, wait, I know how to cook! Why go out and schlep all the way to midtown when I can make homemade chicken shawarma instead?
So, instead of going out, I went to the Internet and found a NY Times recipe. This dish is traditionally made on a spit or a rotisserie, but who has a roasting spit in their home? Not me, and certainly not in my tiny kitchen. The oven works just fine. If you want, you can roast the chicken first, and then fry it in a pan to make it crispier. I prefer my chicken moist and tender, so I skipped that step.
You make this dish in two stages. First marinate the chicken, make the yogurt sauce, and let both sit in the fridge. It’s best if it sits overnight, but allow at least an hour so that the flavors have time to blend together.
I put the chicken and the marinade ingredients in a plastic zip lock bag, shook it all up, and rubbed the sauce into the meat. One less bowl to clean! The yogurt sauce went into a small ramekin.
There are hundreds of different ways to make the sauce: with za’atar or sumac, with dill, mint, basil, mostly mayo, yogurt/mayo, and on and on and on. I’ve listed several different variations, just pick the one that suits your tastes and the ingredients you have on hand.
I could use za’atar and sumac, but I left them out of the instructions since they are a bit exotic in the US and I try to stick to ingredients that are readily accessible. The lemon zest, salt, and pepper that are in the recipe are a decent substitute for the sumac. You can combine thyme, sesame seeds, sumac (or lemon pepper), plus salt and make your own za’atar substitute.
If you like, combine the dry ingredients for the marinade together and keep them in a spice jar. Then, you just have to add fresh lemon juice and you’re ready to cook.
Serve this with a Greek salad, rice, olives, feta, or even (gasp) French fries. Fried or roasted eggplant would be great too.
These little ramekins are super-handy in the kitchen. I use them for dips, sauces, mixing up a quick salad dressing, nuts, slices of lemon to squeeze on fish, and olives. Use one for the olives, and another to hold the pits (works for cherries too). Or, you can even use them for spare change.
If you want try try actual za’atar, make sure to look carefully at the ingredients. Some of them have wheat (?!?) in them, and others are just thyme (which is the English translation). You want a mixture of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano or marjoram, and sumac. This one delivers what it should. Use it for the yogurt sauce, add it to roasted vegetables or fish, or sprinkle it into olive oil and serve with pita bread.
Sumac adds a pop of bright red color, as well as a citrusy, lemon flavor to food. It’s great with hummus, over fish, mixed in salads, or on potatoes. There’s no additives, salt, or other fillers in this jar, just sumac.
It’s so hot and sticky in NY you can practically swim in the air. Bleah! Even I don’t want to turn on the stove in this weather. When it feels like 100 degrees outside, dinner is a no cook meal. After dinner, it’s this frozen mango yogurt dessert recipe. It’s super-easy to make. And, you don’t need an ice cream machine or any special equipment either (a blessing in a small kitchen). An ordinary blender (or a stick blender) will do just fine. You also don’t have to add any sugar or honey. The recipe gets its sweetness entirely from the natural sugars in the fruit.
I’ve adapted this from Foodaholic’s frozen lemon ginger mango recipe. She made enough for a family (I didn’t), and I also changed her technique slightly. She freezes the yogurt and the fruit separately and then blends them together. I found it got much too hard that way. And, it’s an extra container to wash. So, I just put it all in the blender and hit the button. She is right that the yogurt must be thick (Greek yogurt works best), and that it will crystallize if you leave it in the freezer too long.
If you can get good fresh mangoes, use them! If you can’t, or if you are lazy and don’t want the fuss and mess of peeling and cutting them, buy the frozen mangoes from Trader Joe’s. Take out what you need and let the fruit defrost slightly before trying to put it in the blender.
A great way to take advantage of fresh, local strawberries, this strawberry balsamic grilled cheese sandwich is an updated childhood classic meant for grownups. Don’t worry, it’s still wonderful comfort food!
I saw a similar recipe on social media and decided I had to try it. They used blackberries, but I figured strawberries would work just as well, and I had just a few local summer strawberries left (since the season was delayed by wet weather). The original post I saw didn’t specify what cheese to use. The internet suggested a strawberry balsamic brie sandwich, but I didn’t have brie either. So, I used smoked gouda instead. The gooey, melty, smoky gouda, the tart vinegar, and the sweet strawberries combine for a salty-sweet-tangy burst of flavor. Plus, some crunch from the grilled bread.
You can use the gouda, or brie, or probably any mild cheese that melts well for this. If you don’t have strawberries, use blackberries instead. I made this with rye bread, but any crusty bread would work well. Ciabatta would likely be great (it makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches), because it absorbs the oil’s flavor and turns a beautiful golden brown without getting greasy.
There are lots of different opinions on how to grill cheese sandwiches (or toast them if you are in the UK). Some butter the bread, others slather on mayonnaise (no no no). I prefer to just cook them in a mixture of butter and oil. The oil has a higher smoking point than butter does (so it’s less likely to burn). The butter adds extra flavor.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a long-ago birthday dinner at a tiny neighborhood Italian restaurant. The restaurant is now (sadly) closed, but their smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce lives on!
The pasta is bathed in a velvety, slightly pink, tomato sauce with a touch of cream. It’s delicious and elegant too. Make a double batch and serve it for company (they’ll think you’ll worked on it all day).
This only requires a little bit of smoked salmon (about a slice or two), so you won’t bust your budget cooking it. Even better, check to see if your market or deli sells smoked salmon ends. They’re much cheaper, and taste just as good as the fancy slices. Besides, a beautiful slice hardly matters when you are going to cut it up into small pieces!
If you don’t have any smoked salmon handy, you can use leftover cooked salmon instead. Add it right at the end. The idea is just to heat it up. You don’t want to overcook it.
To save some time (and get dinner done faster), put the water for the pasta in the pot first, and start bringing it to a boil. While the water is heating up, chop the onion. Then get the second pan going with the butter and oil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot. Finish the sauce in the second pan while the pasta cooks. That way, you have dinner in about 20-25 minutes and nothing sits around getting cold.
A lemony cucumber salad is the perfect antidote to a brutally hot day. And, with July nearly here, the temperature (at least in NY) is forecast to soar well into the 90s! This salad is cool, refreshing, and you don’t have to cook anything. It’s also ready in about five minutes. So, it’s great when you have a bad case of the hungries and don’t want to wait a long time to eat (look further down the page for tips on making this a full meal).
I made my cucumber salad with romaine lettuce, English cucumber (the long seedless kind), fresh lemon juice, and dill. If you use the English cucumber, you don’t have to peel it; which is a welcome extra shortcut. I used dried dill, but fresh is even better, if you have some.
On the other hand, if you would rather have a meal that’s a bit heartier, toss in some sort of extra protein. You could add a sliced hardboiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or goat cheese, or even shredded leftover chicken. With the protein, the recipe as written is enough for lunch. If you want to have it for dinner, double the quantities of everything.
Ever get stumped by what to do with leftover steak? Steaks aren’t sold for one person, generally. The portions are too big! It’s not enough for another steak dinner, and too much to toss without guilt.
You could make a steak sandwich, or try something a bit different and toss it into a steak salad. Add some veggies, goat cheese, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette and you’ve got a delicious dinner without any cooking. Cold leftover steak salad is the perfect solution for hot summer days when the thought of turning on the stove is too much to bear.
This recipe is inspired by a steak salad on Food Network. I liked the basic idea, but wasn’t about to buy three kinds of greens, extra red onions, or bleu cheese (since bleu cheese and I don’t get along). I used just one kind of lettuce (green leaf) instead and swapped the bleu cheese for herbed goat cheese.
This is best with leftover steak (since it’s already cold), but you can pan fry a small piece if you want and let it rest (or chill in the fridge) while you do something else. Use the rest for a steak sandwich or in a stir fry.
If you’re hungry, chicken thighs are a great answer to the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” You can get this chicken and mushroom skillet recipe from walk in the door from work to ready to eat in about half an hour.
And, it only requires one pot! Less clean up is a good thing, in my book. You don’t have to marinate the chicken, or leave it overnight, or fuss with it. Pan fry the chicken, slice the mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and let it simmer.
There’s no separate gravy to prepare either. It creates its own sauce right in the pan.
The funny thing is, I “invented” (or thought I’d invented) this recipe one night from ingredients I had lying around. It turns out that it’s nearly identical to a recipe in one of Jacques Pépin’s cookbooks. I don’t pretend to be his equal, but if you’re going to “borrow” an idea from someone, start at the top!
Although, I will say that his recipe requires two pots and mine only needs one. Yes, I do count the washing up necessary to make something (it makes a difference when you don’t have a dishwasher).
Serve the chicken with rice or crusty bread to sop up the sauce. The vegetables in the photo were just some frozen mixed vegetables that I microwaved with salt and lemon pepper.
A quick one pot chicken dish with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.
1 chicken thigh, bone-in
salt and pepper
1-2 T olive oil
2 tsp flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1 clove minced garlic
2-3 sliced mushrooms (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 C chicken broth (plus one or 2 T if needed)
pinch dried thyme
Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a small skillet on medium heat.
Put the chicken in the pan and cook five minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook another five minutes.
Add the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Sprinkle everything with the flour and stir to distribute it evenly.
Pour the chicken broth into the pan and sprinkle the thyme over the chicken and vegetables.
Cover the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set it on a plate. Stir the remaining vegetables and scrape up the brown bits at the bottom. If it's too dry, add another tablespoon or two of chicken broth. This should deglaze the pan and create a sauce. Cook for another few minutes until the sauce thickens.
Pour the mushroom sauce over the chicken.
Chicken and Mushroom Skillet Recipe Substitutions and Variations
stir a splash of dry white wine into the sauce (or use the wine instead of the chicken broth)
add 1/3 cup of frozen broccoli to the mushroom mixture
Anyone else here a starch fiend (waits and looks for raised hands)? I just love potato salad, but I’m not that crazy about the usual heavy versions loaded with mayo. This Dijon mustard vinaigrette potato salad is different. It’s French, for one thing, which means there’s no mayo in it. Instead, it has olive oil, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard for a bit of bite.
It’s really easy to make, without a lot of fussing. You can eat it warm out of the pan, at room temperature, or chilled. Since there’s no mayonnaise, it also travels well if you’re going on a picnic or to a barbecue (make more!).
The best part? No peeling (oh, the scandal)! That makes the prep time faster. And, you get more vitamins too.
Oh, the humble potato. It’s not so humble after William Sonoma finishes with it. And their potato salads have artichokes, feta cheese, or red bell pepper. (There’s also recipes for fries, and roasted fingerling potatoes). One reviewer said she got it from the library – but her family wouldn’t let her return the book! So, rather than risk a giant fine, she bought a copy.
Potato salad with seafood, pesto, nicoise, and tarragon and lamb. Lots of delicious combinations you may have never thought of.
More Potato Salad Recipes Without Mayo
German potato salad – Bacon, vinegar, and onions give this potato salad a nice tang. Italian potato salad – Lots of garlic (don’t kiss anyone after you eat it), and a few simple ingredients. Best served at room temperature. Greek potato salad – Made with feta cheese, parsley, and onion (no mayonnaise in sight). Herb Potato Salad – Recipe from Ina Garten with tarragon and wine.
Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette Potato Salad Substitutions and Variations
add a hard boiled egg
mix up your potatoes (try it with some red potatoes)
This recipe makes me smile whenever I make it. You may wonder what’s so funny about linguine with garlic and olive oil? Nothing really, it just reminds me of a friend.
This friend does not cook. At all. I don’t think she’s ever used her oven. I was at her house one day and I was hungry. Nobody else wanted anything, so I started poking around in her fridge and cupboards (with permission).
I found some dried pasta, bouillon cubes, some olive oil, and a can of parmesan cheese. So, I made the “shelf stable” version of this recipe. They all looked at me as if I had walked on water or parted the seas!
It is, of course, much better if you have higher quality ingredients at hand. Here at home, I used fresh linguine, homemade chicken broth, and freshly grated parmesan cheese, along with high quality olive oil.
You can do it that way, the shelf stable way, or somewhere in-between. I won’t judge.
A simple, weeknight dinner you can make even if your cupboards are nearly bare! It can be fancy (fresh pasta), or simple and basic (shelf stable ingredients). Great for those, what the heck do I eat for dinner nights. A lot of flavor without a lot of effort.
3 garlic cloves, minced
2T olive oil
2 quarts water
1 tsp salt
1/4 lb. linguine or spaghetti
1/3 cup chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Add the oil to a small frying pan. Put the garlic in the pan and cook over medium heat. until it turns slightly golden. Don't burn it! Stir it every once in a while, then turn off the heat and set it aside.
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt.
If you are using dried pasta, add it, then stir it (to keep it from sticking).
Cook for 5-8 minutes until it's al dente (soft, but not mushy).
If you have fresh pasta, add it, stir, and watch carefully. The pasta is cooked when the water returns to a boil (a minute or two).
Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.
Add the chicken broth and turn the heat back on to medium. Let the pasta/broth mixture simmer for a few minutes until most of the broth is absorbed.
Take the garlic/oil mixture you set aside and add that to the pasta pot. Using a spoon and a fork, toss the whole thing together, like a salad.
Remove to a plate and serve, topped with black pepper and grated cheese.
Substitutions and Variations for Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil
Make it more substantial with some cooked chicken or cooked shrimp