This weekend is the unofficial start of summer here in the US, even though actual summer doesn’t start for another month. This quick and easy summer pasta lives up to its name. It’s great for hot, sticky weather (which we always get plenty of here in NY).The dish can be eaten hot or cold, and since there’s no mayonnaise, it’s perfect for picnics or traveling. And, it’s good either for a quick lunch or a light dinner.Pairs beautifully with a cold glass of Chardonnay.
I’ve adapted this dish from a recipe for summer pasta in Jacques Pépin’s Fast Food My Waycookbook.The only thing you have to cook is the pasta. The rest is just a bit of chopping and maybe shredding or grating the cheese.I’ve used parmesan, but put in anything you like that works. It could be mozzarella, or Fontina too.
He says to warm the veggies first, but I didn’t. I don’t like freshly cooked tomatoes; they taste odd to me (kind of like some people think coriander tastes like soap).If you don’t have that issue, go right ahead and heat the veggies, for thirty seconds or so, in the microwave.
The original recipe called for zucchini, but having none, I went with some bell pepper instead. So, use whatever vegetables you like or have handy. For example, use zucchini, carrots, some cooked eggplant, a handful of spinach, or a mixture of bell peppers (I love the mini ones). This is not baking, so exact ingredients and careful measuring aren’t crucial.
One more thing, as is, this is a light, easy meal. If you want to make it heartier, add some protein to make it more filling.
Sometimes you get recipes from a cookbook, or online, or from a friend. This recipe for spinach lamb meatballs started in a cookbook in NY, bounced to the US West coast, and then back again to NY. It was a cross-country collaboration!
Here’s what happened. A friend had some ground lamb and was looking for dinner ideas.I mentioned a spinach lamb meatball recipe I had and gave her the ingredients.
She wanted to serve her meatballs with marinara sauce, so I suggested she might want to change it around a bit (the original recipe called for nutmeg, which wasn’t going to work with marinara sauce). Also, while the recipe I had fit her requirements, it was, honestly, a bit bland, and needed more punch.
She added her own spin, then told me what she did. I made a few more changes, and ended up with this recipe.
Red wine vinegar stands up to the lamb’s assertive flavor, while cumin adds a warm, nutty, slightly spicy bite. The spinach adds color, and those all important vitamins and iron too.
It’s pretty easy to put together too. First, you sweat the onions (cook them over low heat for a few minutes, until they become transparent). Then wash and dry the spinach (this is important, otherwise the meatballs will be too moist and won’t hold together). The rest is simply measuring, mixing, and rolling.
The great thing about pork tenderloin is that it’s fancy enough for guests, but so easy and quick you can serve it on an ordinary weeknight. Adding mushrooms and a bit of sour cream transforms the pork from plain to elegant. And, it’s done in about twenty minutes or so. There’s very little fussing. The only thing you have to cut up is a few mushrooms (and then slice the pork at the end). You get a rich, creamy sauce boosted by the bite of Dijon mustard and piquant capers —both of which complement the pork beautifully.
Add some rice (I always make extra so I can just reheat it) and a simple salad and you’re ready to eat. In this case, I went with just some spinach and cucumber, topped with baslamic vinaigrette. And now, that I think of it, the balsamic vinaigrette would likely work well with the pork too. That’s really easy!
Make sure to get the pork tenderloin, not a pork loin roast. The tenderloin is long and skinny and weighs about a pound each. You cook it fairly quickly on high heat. Think of it as the filet mignon of pork. The loin roast is closer to a pork version of roast beef. It’s much larger and rounder and you cook it low and slow.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, on to the recipe. This is adapted slightly from an old New York Times Menu cookbook recipe. The recipe in the book called for pork chops (which you can also use if you like). If you do that, cook them 2-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick they are. The original recipe called for a much longer cooking time, but the chops then were much fattier.
So here we are again with two major holidays on the same weekend.And, they’re two holidays with entirely different food requirements!One traditionally goes for brisket and matzo; the other gets lamb or ham. However, there are two common themes. The first one is eggs.Lots and lots of eggs.The second is everyone stuffs themselves silly at either one or two big dinners.But, you still have to eat something in-between all of that. Eggs with spinach and chili peppers is just the thing. It’s quick, and easy to make. And, it’s not a big, heavy meal.It’s essentially a sort of egg pancake or frittata, except with South Asian flavoring.
The other nice thing about this recipe, is it’s done in two stages, but you only need a single skillet to make it.First you cook the veggies, garlic, and ginger, then add the eggs to the same pot.Let those cook, and you’re done.Add the yogurt (or not) to serve.Depending on your affiliation, serve with toast, matzo, or just some fresh fruit. If your chili is super hot, the sweetness in the fruit will also help reduce the burn from the pepper.
Oh, and a third thing. It’s ready in about 15 minutes.So, if you’re hungry, and it’s late (as it was the first time I made this), you don’t have to wait long for a hot meal.
I adapted this from Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.In addition to reducing the amounts, I replaced the coriander with spinach. I don’t particularly like fresh coriander and I know lots of other people don’t care for it either.And, since my jalapeño pepper turned out to be really, really super hot, I added a dollop of Greek yogurt to cool it off, even though that wasn’t in the recipe.I found I liked it better that way too.
1/2 jalapeño pepper, sliced into thin rounds (keep the seeds if you prefer your food spicier, remove them if not)
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp lemon juice
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them with a fork. Add one pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper.
Pour the oil into a medium size skillet and set it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (it will sizzle if you add a drop of water), add the scallions.
Stir the scallions in the pan with a wooden spoon and let them cook for a minute until they brown slightly.
Add the garlic and cook for a few seconds more.
Once the garlic softens, add the spinach, jalapeño pepper, ginger, and turmeric to the pan and stir briefly.
Add the lemon juice and the rest of the salt and stir that into the spinach mixture, spreading everything evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Now pour in the eggs. Pick up the pan and swirl it around so that the eggs cover the pan from side to side. It should look like an egg pancake.
Put a cover over the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for two or three minutes, until the eggs are firm on the edges and cooked through. They may be slightly brown and crispy on the edges.
Cut into wedges (like a pie) and serve topped with yogurt (if you like).
Eggs with Spinach and Chili Pepper Substitutions and Variations
use the coriander if you like it
add two or three sliced mushrooms to the vegetable mixture
toss in 1/4 C diced canned tomatoes
if you’re not a spicy food fan, replace the chili with some bell pepper
Great for a weeknight dinner, this Vietnamese baked chicken with lime is an easy meal that requires very little active work.Measure, mince, and pour, then let it sit.Once it’s finished marinating, all you have to do is cook it for half an hour. The ginger and garlic are warm and spicy, while the chili garlic sauce has a bit of a kick. The lime adds brightness and a citrusy tang that complements the spicy flavors and cools them down.
The original recipe called for chili garlic paste, palm sugar, and fish sauce.And, it’s true, those ingredients would be more authentic. However, they also violate my own rules about avoidinghard-to-find or one use ingredients.I don’t want to buy an entire bottle or brick of something (like palm sugar) just to have it sit there. And where would I even find palm sugar? Nope.
So, I cheated.I used chili garlic sauce (not paste), swapped brown sugar for palm sugar, and ditched the fish sauce in favor of Worcestershire sauce (which does have some anchovies in it). I also wanted (for personal preference) to avoid all the salt in the fish sauce.
Marinating, even for a short time, helps the chicken absorb lots of flavor. Just don’t let it sit too long or it will get mushy from the citrus.
When you’re ready to start cooking, just pour out the marinade, pop the chicken in the oven, and wait half an hour. Dinner is done!
1 chicken thigh (leave the skin and bone in place)
1T soy sauce
1 T Worcestershire sauce (if you like fish sauce, use that)
1 T brown sugar
3/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp lime zest
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T cooking oil
lIn a small bowl, mix the marinade ingredients (soy sauce, Worcestershire, sugar, ginger, chili garlic sauce, lime juice and zest, garlic and oil). Pour that into a zip lock bag, and add the chicken. Close the bag, and shake it around so the marinade covers the chicken.Let that sit for half an hour, or up to four hours (in the fridge).
About fifteen minutes before you’re ready to cook, remove the tray from your toaster oven and line it with foil. Then preheat the toaster oven to 425 degrees. Also take the chicken out of the fridge to come to room temperature.
Take the chicken out of the bag and set it on top of a wire rack, skin side up, and then place the rack over the lined toaster oven tray. This will reduce cleanup a bit and help keep the chicken from getting soggy.
Bake for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let the chicken rest for five minutes. Serve with rice and garnish with lime.
Vietnamese Baked Chicken with Lime Substitutions and Variations
add some soy sauce to the marinade
swap the lime zest for lemongrass (you can buy lemongrass paste, which is easier to find in western markets than the stalks)
chop up some cilantro and add that to the marinade
if you do like fish sauce, I’m told Red Boat and Three Crabs are good brands (avoid the Taste of Thai, it’s full of sugar)
Since it’s spring and everything is turning green (and yellow and pink), it’s time to take advantage and turn from heavy food to something lighter and fresher. Spaghetti with green olives and lemon panko hits all those buttons. It’s light, it’s green, and it’s a bit of a flavor bomb that will wake up your taste buds.
It’s got zesty garlic, and earthy fresh spinach, paired with tangy capers, briny olives and a burst of citrus. Crispy, golden-brown panko crumbs mixed with dill and lemon zest add a bit of crunch.
In fact, I shared it with some friends and one of them said, “Oh I want that! I want it now! But I’m at work! Sob.”
I hate that the internet doesn’t include a “push here for spaghetti option”!
I found the original recipe on Bon Appetit, but I changed it a bit. First, it had anchovies. Nope! Nope! Second, I swapped the original parsley for some spinach instead. One, I had lots of spinach. And two, I don’t like parsley all that much, so there’s no point in buying a whole bunch of it. The spinach I will use for other meals.
One more small thing. The recipe said to cut some of the olives in half and then chop up the rest. It may have said to chop up the capers too (the instructions were a bit unclear). I started to chop the olives and then decided it was silly, so I stopped.
It also occurred to me after I made it that I could prepare the pasta first, then keep it warm while I cooked the panko and mixed everything else together. Just drain and wipe the saucepan, add the oil and panko, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. That way it’s only one pot!
I used ordinary green olives (because they were handy). I think I will try it next time with castelvetrano olives instead, since they are my favorite olive (and taste great with pasta).
Oh dear, I’m revising and internet commenting my own recipe! Ha!
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 T fresh)
1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
3 ounces spaghetti
1 garlic clove, mashed
1/4 C fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 T chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup green olives, pitted, halved
2 1/4 tsp drained capers
2 T grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a medium size skillet.
Add the panko and cook stirring, over medium heat, for a minute or two. Watch it closely so it doesn't burn. Once the panko turns golden brown, remove it from the pan and spoon it on a paper towel so it will drain. Add salt and pepper and mix in the dill and lemon zest.
Boil water in a large pot, add salt, and then add the spaghetti. Stir the pasta when you add it, so it doesn't stick. Once the spaghetti is done (about 8-10 minutes), remove from the pot and drain nearly all the water. Keep about 2 T of the water in reserve (this will help thicken the sauce).
While the spaghetti is cooking, mash the garlic. Use the broad edge of a wide knife to smash it, and then smear it around on the cutting board with the side of the knife to make a paste. Put the mashed garlic, spinach, basil, olives, and capers in a large bowl. Now add the rest of the olive oil. Toss it all together and season with salt and pepper.
Add the pasta and the half the reserved cooking water to the spinach olive mixture. Mix it all together so that the pasta is covered. If it's too dry, add more of the pasta liquid.
Squeeze the lemon you used for the zest and add 1 1/2 tsp of juice to the sauce.
Top that with the panko mixture and more Parmesan cheese.
Spaghetti with Green Olives and Lemon Panko Substitutions and Variations
like anchovies and parsley? Go for it!
use castelvetrano olives instead, they are firmer and more buttery
top the whole thing with some red pepper flakes
add more garlic
use the sauce over cooked fish (such as cod or tilapia)
I usually plan my meals, not precisely, but generally write down six or seven entrees and build from there. But, I had some ground lamb in the freezer and didn’t quite know what to do with it. My first thought was shepherd’s pie.But that requires first making mashed potatoes and then making the meat mixture. Too much work.Then I dug into my bookmarks and found a recipe for keema (or kima).She says it’s her most requested recipe! Keema is, roughly speaking, Pakistani shepherd’s pie (or maybe cottage pie, since the original is made with beef). It’s got ground meat, potatoes, and some veggies.And, best of all it only requires one pot!That’s my kind of cooking.
I’ve seen this spelled keema, and kima or called keema aloo (for the potatoes).However you spell it, you get a savory, not too spicy all-in-one pot meal. A meal which is ready in about half an hour too.
I used ground lamb, but ground beef is fine if that’s what you have.You could probably even make it with ground turkey if you wanted to. Chicken would probably be a bit bland.
Don’t be put off by the ingredients list. It’s mostly just adding small amounts of spices into the pan. You don’t even really have to measure.Just shake the jars a couple of times (if you have the kind with the small holes in the lids) or grab a pinch.
This is generally made with peas, but I didn’t have any so I tossed in some frozen broccoli instead. You could use the peas or whatever other veggies you have such as: cauliflower, cabbage, or peppers. I used Yukon gold potatoes, but regular russet potatoes will work too. You could even substitute sweet potatoes if you like.
As written, this recipe is relatively mild. If you want more heat, increase the curry, and/or add some fresh hot peppers or red pepper flakes.
If you want to go all out with the starch, you can serve this with rice or naan.I just made a side salad (trying to get my veggies in!).
An online food group I belong to is celebrating “rice month.” The idea is to highlight a recipe featuring, well rice. Someone suggested that nearly every culture uses rice so everyone ought to be able to find something to fit the theme. Unfortunately, I come from a long line of noodle and dumpling people. So, at first I was stumped. What could I possibly make for this challenge? Then I had an idea. I could borrow a “sister” culture! Eastern European Jewish people focus heavily on noodles, but the Sephardim (from Asia, India, the Middle East, etc.) have plenty of rice dishes. So, I looked through my cookbooks and found garlic ginger turmeric rice.
It’s a Bene Israel recipe, meaning that it was created by the Jewish population in India. You might almost call it a pulao. I’ve adapted this recipe from The Book of Jewish Food. Her version served six. Mine is about three servings (because extra rice is always good; more on that later).
This particular rice dish is packed with garlic, ginger, green cardamon pods, and a pinch of turmeric for that beautiful yellow color. It’s tasty (and it fights germs too, which made it even more appealing since I’m still fighting the creeping crud!). Don’t be put off by all the garlic and the ginger, both start out spicy and sharp but mellow and become almost sweet as they cook. The cardamom adds a complex taste; it’s a bit minty, with a hint of citrus and a spicy/warm flavor. The original calls for basmati rice (which I didn’t have), but ordinary long grain white rice will do just as well. If you use the basmati rice, rinse it several times before starting to cook it.
Blend the onion, garlic, ginger, and 2 tsp of the oil in a food processor or mini chopper until it forms a paste.
Pour the rest of the oil into a saucepan (about 2 quarts). Add the whole spices (peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom to the pan and cook on medium-high for a minute or two. The smell should start to waft through your kitchen and they may pop.*
Scrape the garlic ginger mixture out of the mini chopper and add it to the pan with the spices.
Reduce the heat to low, and stir everything around until the garlic/ginger becomes fragrant.
Now add the rice, salt, and the water and stir well.
Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat. Stir the rice, and simmer, with the pot covered, over low heat for 15-18 minutes.
Once the rice is done, let it sit for a few minutes and steam.
*You can either leave the spices as is, and then make sure to pick them out of the rice when it's finished, or scoop them out into a tea ball. Then put the tea ball into the pot, and continue on with the rest of the recipe.
Turn Your Garlic Ginger Turmeric Rice Side Dish into A Main Dish
As is, this is a side dish. But with a bit of extra effort, it can become a main dish too. There are a couple of ways to do this. For example, you could make it more substantial by cooking up some chicken or adding leftover pre-cooked chicken to the rice. Or, cook up some spinach and fry and egg (in the same pan if you want), and add that to the top. You can do the same thing with the leftovers a few days. later. Instant food!
The recipe says that for special occasions, this dish was often served topped with blanched almonds and raisins. While this wasn’t a fancy occasion, I decided to do it anyway. I didn’t have blanched almonds, so I just roughly chopped a few whole ones. Soak the raisins in water a bit before you use them, in order to soften them.
Stuffy head? Allergies starting to act up? I’ve got the creeping crud, so this szechuan chili noodle recipe immediately caught my attention. It’s a cousin to Dan Dan noodles, but a lot simpler, with ingredients that are easier to find if you live in a western country and far fewer steps. Dan dan noodles require making the chili oil, then the meat mixture, and finally noodles and vegetables. For this recipe, you only have to make the oil and the noodles. Call it Chinese-inspired.
You can make this with ground chicken or pork, or leave it as is (fewer things to buy and cook) and have it as a vegetarian dish. I didn’t have any ground meat handy (it was all in the freezer) so I went without. If you don’t have baby bok choy, green cabbage will do just as well.
You can get pre-made chili oil, but (at least the brand I got) has an odd metallic taste that I don’t like. It’s easy enough to make yourself, and only requires one extra small bowl (no additional pots!) to hold the mixture while you make the rest of the recipe.
Now about the actual noodles. The recipe I adapted this from used what she called “wide Chinese egg noodles.” I had never seen that. I looked and couldn’t find anything easily. Then in the comments she said it was really pappardelle. OK! Easier to find (and I love pappardelle). Plus then I get to make White Ragu Pappardelle with the rest of the pasta. If you want to be more authentic, use real Chinese wheat noodles or rice noodles.
One final recipe note. The original calls for chili paste (sambal oelek), which is essentially just a jar of spicy, ground chilis. You can get it online, or check your grocer. If you can’t find it, substitute garlic chili sauce (and possibly remove the garlic clove from the recipe, depending on how spicy you like your food). If not, then substitute sriracha or even hot sauce instead.
The whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes or so.
1/2 cup baby bok choy, chopped (or use cabbage if you prefer)
Fill a 2 quart saucepan (medium size) with water and bring to a boil.
First start by making the chili oil. You’ll need a good sized (large) skillet. Heat that over medium heat. Then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chili. Cook, or about 5 minutes, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Stir it occasionally and keep an eye on it so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add the sesame seeds and stir, cooking about another 30 seconds. Then carefully pour the mixture into a bowl.
The water should be boiling by now, so add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. Packaged pappardelle noodles should take about 7-10 minutes to cook. Fresh ones will cook faster, about three or four minutes.
While the noodles are cooking, in a separate, small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, chili paste, and water.
Add the scallions to the skillet you used to cook the chili oil and cook for two or three minutes. Pour the soy sauce mixture into the skillet and add the box copy. Simmer for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Stir the mixture occasionally so the box chop gets coated with the sauce.
Drain the noodles and add them to the skillet as well as half of the chili oil mixture. Stir everything to coat. Pour into a bowl and serve with the remaining chili oil and extra scallions.
Szechuan Chili Noodles Tools and Ingredients
Huey Fong Sambal Oelek Chili Paste Made by the same company that produces the wildly popular sriracha sauce. This is spicier, since it has more chili in it. Put it on noodles, in omelettes, or in soup.
The same great chili paste, plus extra garlic! Use it in Pad Thai, mix into eggs, stir fries, soups, or any food that needs a kick of flavor. I sometimes put it in my caldo verde. Doesn’t have sugar (unlike the sriracha sauce) so it’s more potent (also good if you want to avoid extra sugar).
Caldo Verde is a traditional Portuguese soup that’s made in one pot. And, it takes about half an hour to cook. It’s filling, spicy, and great for cold weather. The usual way to make this is with kale and linguiça, which is a garlicky pork Portuguese sausage. Except, I don’t like kale. Some use collard greens instead, or cabbage. I didn’t have cabbage, but I did have spinach. As far as I’m concerned, that works! It’s still a bitterish green and it takes less time to cook too.
This is good right away, but like many soups, it’s even better after it sits for a day or two. I’ve cut the recipe from six servings to about 2 or 3, depending on how hungry you are.
It does come with a few minor cooking decisions. You can cut the greens up roughly, or chop everything up into fine ribbons. And, you can either purée the soup, or leave it as is. I went with rough chopping and skipped the purée this time, mostly because I was feeling lazy. The last thing I made was pizza and I somehow got the tomato sauce everywhere: the stove, the floor, the cabinets, the sink. I’ve had enough cleanup to last me for a while, so I didn’t want to clean one extra thing (even a stick blender).
Also, if you can’t find the Portuguese sausage, any other garlicky sausage will do just fine.