I’ve been fighting the creeping crud and nothing helps fight germs better than a big bowl of soup, preferably spicy soup. This Chinese chicken noodle cabbage soup is perfect. The spicy broth clears the sinuses, the garlic, ginger and chili sauce have antibiotic qualities, and it tastes good too.
I adapted the recipe from a recipe I found on Epicurious. It’s not just smaller quantities though. My version has less sugar, and is a bit spicier (I wanted the heat more than sweetness). Gotta fight those germs! Also, since I didn’t have tahini handy (and wouldn’t want to buy it just for this), I ditched that and used peanut butter instead. I didn’t have seasoned rice vinegar either, so I substituted the regular kind. Their recipe cooked the chicken by boiling it in the soup. I decided I wanted more complex, caramelized flavor, so I cooked it with the cabbage. And, since I didn’t have sherry I reasoned that since sherry was essentially fortified wine, that some red wine and a drizzle of honey would work just fine. It did!
This is enough for one generous serving, or two smaller ones, depending on how hungry you are.
This is great for lots of recipes: put it in Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, chili citrus chicken thighs, sesame noodles, or add a kick to scrambled eggs or meatloaf. Or, mix it into mayonnaise for chili aioli.
This is just about essential for Asian cooking. Use it in this recipe, or for an Asian cole slaw. Baste meat with it, or combine it with some soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and scallions for a quick dipping sauce.
It’s suddenly fall-like here in NY, with cooler weather and even a few leaves starting to turn. So, time to start thinking about comfort food. And what better comfort food than skin on garlic mashed potatoes.
I’m posting this partly in honor of my sister-in-law, who loves mashed potatoes. She practically thinks they are a food group. When she married my brother, I included a larger version of this recipe in a mini-cookbook we made for her. Now, many years later, I make them slightly differently: not just mashed potatoes, but skin on garlic mashed potatoes. It’s less work, less cleanup and more nutrition. Win win win!
The original recipe calls for milk, but I was feeling decadent, so I went with half and half here. Use milk if you prefer. Or, even a bit of cream.
Make sure to use thin skinned potatoes that are suitable for boiling and mashing. I like to use either white potatoes, (sometimes called Eastern potatoes), or Yukon gold. The skins on the white potatoes are thinner than Russets, which makes them better for a recipe that calls for leaving the skin on the potato. Yukon gold are naturally more creamy and buttery tasting. Also, I’ve never particularly liked Russets, they seem floury to me. They’re higher in starch, and don’t reheat well. They also don’t hold their shape (not an issue for mashing, but a problem for potato salad or soup).
I just love moussaka, but the traditional version is just too much work for one serving. I had a recipe for a Jewish Eygptian version of moussaka without bechamel,(or messa’aa) but the first try needed more tweaking. Back to the drawing board! This version uses more spices, has better flavor, and is much easier to put together.
There’s Middle Eastern flavor from spicy/warm cinnamon and nutmeg, the bite of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes. You can make this either with ground lamb or ground beef (whichever you prefer).
Many of the recipes I saw required first making a tomato sauce, then a meat mixture, then the eggplant, and finally assembling the entire thing together. Too much work and too many pots and pans to clean up.
My way is easier. First salt and fry the eggplant (or broil if you’d prefer), then cook the onion and garlic, add the meat, tomatoes, and seasoning, layer it all together and bake it. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, you can have dinner ready in about an hour.
Or, make it all ahead of time, up to the point of putting it in the oven. Then, put the baking dish in the fridge, and cook it when you’re ready. Just take the dish out about fifteen or twenty minutes in advance so that it isn’t ice cold when you put it in the oven. Make a quick salad or some rice and you have dinner.
This recipe is also a product of a bit of advance planning. The trouble with cooking for one sometimes is that even if you make one serving you still have more ingredients left. However, a little menu planning can go a long way toward fixing that problem. You end up with several delicious meals, a lot less waste, and it’s far more budget friendly too.
12 thin slices eggplant (about half a small eggplant)
2 T plus 1 T olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 small clove garlic, smashed and minced
1/4 lb. ground beef or lamb
4 T crushed tomatoes
generous grinding of pepper and salt to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cumin
Preheat the toaster oven to 350 degrees.
Spread the sliced eggplant on a cutting board and sprinkle it with kosher salt. Let sit for fifteen or twenty minutes. Then rinse the salt off and pat dry.
Heat 2T of the olive oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the eggplant in one layer.
Add the eggplant slices to the hot oil and cook for a minute on each side (it should be lightly colored, but not brown).
Remove the eggplant, place on paper towels, and pat dry.
Add the onion to the pan, and add the additional 1T of oil. Let the onion cook for five minutes on medium-low heat, until it softens and the fragrance starts to waft through your kitchen. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
Now add the ground beef or lamb, the tomatoes, and the spices.
Cook for 10 minutes until the meat is browned.
Layer the bottom of a small (6 inches or so) baking dish with half the eggplant. Add the cooked meat mixture on top. Then arrange the remaining eggplant on top.
Put the dish in the toaster oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Moussaka Without Bechamel Sauce Substitutions and Variations
Pan fry some almonds in olive oil and add that to the meat mixture in the pan
Toss in some raisins
Top the moussaka with a mixture of yogurt, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt, and chopped cucumbers (sort of a tzatziki without the dill)
I use this dish all the time. It’s great for mini-moussaka (like this recipe), mac and cheese, peach crumble, triple chocolate cake, brownies, or ginger pear bread. You could even make quiche or a mini-meatloaf in it. The dish goes in the oven, the microwave, or the broiler and it’s dishwasher safe too. And since it’s pretty, you don’t need an extra serving dish (one less thing to wash).
Despite the name, this isn’t a spice mixture; it’s from a berry. Allspice is great for moussaka, and indispensable for meatballs, pies (pumpkin season is coming!), and chicken. Like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves it’s one of those warm/spicy ingredients that can add a little kick or a savory flavor depending on how you use it. It’s sort of a cinnamony, clove, nutmeg taste.
More Beef Recipes
Use up the rest of the package of beef with these recipes.
Tuna cannellini bean salad is a great meal for those days when you just don’t feel like “cooking.” Maybe you got home late from work, or you’ve been out running errands all day, or it’s just too hot to fuss. This meal requires nothing more complicated than opening a few cans, sprinkling some seasonings, and a little bit of chopping. Easy.
Everything comes straight from your pantry. The beans are canned, the tuna is canned, and the only fresh ingredient you need is some scallions, and maybe the lemon juice. Even that isn’t essential; if you don’t have scallions, use onion instead. If you’re out of fresh lemons, the bottled juice will do just fine.
If you do have the time and energy, this is a bit better with freshly cooked beans. The canned beans tend to be slightly mushy, and sometimes they’re a little salty. If you go the dried bean route, use my quick soak method to speed things up. If not, no harm, no foul.
The recipe is enough for two lunches or one dinner (depending how hungry you are). I usually find that I eat a whole 5 oz. can of tuna for lunch if I just make ordinary tuna salad, but adding the beans stretches it enough for two meals.
I’ve adapted it slightly from one of Pierre Franey’s Sixty Minute Gourmet cookbooks. I reduced the quantity and eliminated the parsley (never had any use for parsley). This is not only better than sixty minutes, it only takes about ten.
Serve with some fresh fruit and you have a fast lunch in under fifteen minutes. Add crusty bread to that and you have dinner.
Shortcut your dinner cooking routine with staples you already have in your pantry. This tomato artichoke pasta sauce recipe (also called Pasta Sauce Raphael) is ready in less than half an hour. The original called for fresh tomatoes and hours of simmering. My version is faster and tastes just as good!
It’s flavored with rich, sweet tomatoes, a bit of earthy oregano and summery basil, plus a gentle kick from red pepper flakes and plenty of black pepper.
The only thing you need to get is the jar of marinated artichoke hearts. You likely already have the rest of the ingredients in your larder (yay!). Since the basil and oregano are dried, you don’t have to go and get fresh herbs.
The best way to approach this is to begin by making the pasta. Set the pasta pot on the stove with water and start to bring it to a boil. While that’s heating up, start working on the sauce.
Save the rest of the artichokes to make the recipe again, or add them to an antipasto platter with salami, fruit, olives, and cheese on a night you don’t feel like cooking.
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.