Hot. Cold. Then hot again. Anyone else getting whiplash from this weather? The calendar says fall, but the thermometer reads summer. To beat the heat, try a leftover roast lamb eggplant spinach salad. You can use leftover lamb from my Greek lamb breast recipe, or just broil a lamb chop.
This salad is a festival of tastes, textures, and colors. You get luscious lamb topped with tender golden-brown eggplant over earthy spinach, refreshing crisp cucumbers, and sweet tomatoes. Then the whole thing is finished with a rich garlicky lemon mayonnaise.
I’ve sauteed the eggplant in a skillet (because I didn’t want to heat up the oven), but you can grill it if you prefer, or bake it in the oven (400 degrees for about 20 minutes). Then just add spinach and your favorite salad ingredients.
I have adapted this from a Silver Palate cookbook recipe which called for pignoli nuts and olives. I had neither, so I filled in with cucumber and tomato. You could also put in mushrooms, sprouts, experiment with different kinds of olives, or top it with toasted nuts. See the “substitutions” section below for more ideas.
You can either make the mayonnaise from scratch (homemade mayonnaise is divine, just remember to use it up quickly), or just dress up some store-bought mayonnaise with a bit of garlic and lemon juice. I like to “freshen” up commercially made mayo with lemon and olive oil whenever I use it. It tastes more like homemade that way.
Have this for a quick dinner, or make it for lunch. I think of it as an entree salad; it works for any time you want something filling without a lot of fussing (or waiting).
A great way to use up leftover lamb or get a hearty meal without a lot of cooking. This works for dinner or for lunch.
1/4 lb. or so leftover roast lamb (or one lamb chop, broiled), cut into cubes
5-6 slices eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch strips
1T olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 cups spinach, washed
1/2 beefsteak tomato, cut in wedges (or 4-6 cherry tomatoes)
sliced cucumber (about 1/4 cup)
Lemon Garlic Mayonnaise Dressing
1 small clove garlic, mashed
pinch kosher salt
2 T mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
If using pre-cooked lamb, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. If you are cooking a lamb chop, broil it for 7-8 minutes (turning once) and let cool while you prepare the eggplant.
Spread the eggplant out on a colander or a cutting board and sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 15 minutes and then rinse.
Dry off the eggplant with a paper towel.
Heat the oil in a small skillet and add the eggplant slices. Saute until the eggplant turns golden brown.
Add the spinach, eggplant, and lamb to a medium-size bowl.
Add the cucumber and tomatoes.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine. Taste and correct seasoning and/or add more lemon juice if necessary.
Pour dressing over the salad.
Leftover Roast Lamb Eggplant Spinach Salad Substitutions and Variations
Top with pignoli nuts, chopped almonds, or chopped walnuts
Add 1/4 C feta cheese and some mint
Add some sliced apples
Make some orzo and add that to the salad
Try different veggies like zucchini, bell pepper or squash
I know, broccoli is controversial (though not quite as much as brussels sprouts). Some love it, some hate it. If you’re not a broccoli fan, this recipe for oven roasted lemon garlic broccoli might change your mind. Roasting helps reduce the bitterness and gives the broccoli a nutty flavor (from the caramelization). It also makes the broccoli crispy outside, tender and sweet inside.
I have used frozen broccoli florets, because they cook more quickly (and I had a big bag of them). This is also more practical, since it’s tough for one person to eat an entire head of broccoli all at once! This way I can take out just what I need and the rest can stay frozen until I want it for something else.
Plus, frozen vegetables often have more vitamins and better nutrition than fresh vegetables do. That’s because the frozen version has been picked and then preserved (by freezing) immediately, while fresh produce may have traveled for days from some other state (or even country) before it gets to your supermarket.
If you have fresh broccoli (or a farmer’s market nearby), you can use that too. Don’t toss out the stems, they are just as good as the florets. They do cook faster (and better) if you remove the tough outer layer from the stems first. A vegetable peeler will work just fine for this.
You’ll also need to cook fresh broccoli a bit longer (since the frozen broccoli has been blanched first). Roast the fresh broccoli for about 25 minutes. If you like it super-crispy, roast it for half an hour (turning it once).
Coq au vin (or rooster in wine) is a classic French dish. It’s flavorful, it’s rich, and it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare. First, you season the chicken, let it sit overnight, then brown it, add vegetables, and braise it slowly. Authentic coq au vin also requires lots of pots, lardons, which are thick matchstick strips of bacon, glazed pearl onions, croutons, and finally toast points! It takes hours to prepare it properly. It’s wonderful, but it’s also a major undertaking, and highly impractical for a weekday dinner. In contrast, this stovetop coq au vin takes about half an hour to make. Much better!
I have adapted this recipe from Pierre Franey’s 60 Minute Gourmet Cookbook. Being French he called it “Poulet Sauté au Brouilly” (or chicken sautéed in Brouilly wine). I say stovetop coq au vin or chicken with red wine sauce and mushrooms works just fine.
And, once you finish a bit of chopping and browning, stovetop coq au vin mostly cooks itself. You don’t have to fuss with it, you don’t need to use half the pots in your kitchen, and you don’t have to clean them up either. This version only requires a single skillet.
When choosing the red wine, look for one that’s fruity and flavorful, but not too tannic. Wines such as Zinfandel, Brouilly, Beaujolais, or Merlot are fine (I used Merlot). On the other hand, a Cabernet Sauvignon would be overpowering.
It’s officially fall, so that means it’s also officially apple season! This easy one serving apple crisp recipe really satisfies that apple craving, while indulging your sweet tooth at the same time. I had a serious hankering for something sweet, but not too gooey, and this hits the spot.
Try to use apples that are large, crisp, and juicy, but not too sweet. I am lucky enough to have access to a greenmarket with a farmer who grows 75 kinds of apples. So, I used Esopus Spitzenberg (supposedly Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple). If you don’t have 75 kinds of apples, Granny Smith or Mutsu or similar will do just fine.
The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar (for 12 servings), which was waaay too much. Every other recipe I saw used half that. So, I followed suit and cut it in half. It’s still sweet and delicious, without endangering your teeth.
A mini chopper is essentially a food processor’s little cousin. This is perfect for grinding up the oatmeal in this recipe. And, it takes up a lot less space than a food processor. It’s great for chopping nuts, dicing onions, making pesto, or even grinding a small batch of meat for meatballs.
This dish is ideal for baking smaller casseroles, cakes, crisps, and crumbles. Use it for brownies, peach crumble or a mini-meatloaf. It’s perfectly content in the oven, the dishwasher, and the microwave. And, it also takes up very little space in your cupboard.
Most recipes for challah make two loaves, which is way too many for one person. This one is different. It’s a single loaf challah recipe, made in the Kitchenaid.
If you’re not familiar with challah (pronounced like the “ch” in “loch”), it is a sweetened bread that is somewhat similar to a French brioche. The difference is that challah is usually made with vegetable oil instead of butter (so that those keeping kosher can have it with a meat meal). Incidentally, the leftovers make fantastic French toast.
Challah is traditionally served every Friday night as part of the Jewish Sabbath observance. The bread is usually braided, into three, six, or even twelve strands. I read recently that it might be to emphasize unity; another post suggested that three strand represent truth, peace, and justice. Poppy or sesame seeds are manna falling from heaven.
Usually, the loaves are braided and end up long and narrow. However, on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the loaves are round, to symbolize unity (no beginning and no end), unending blessings, and maybe even “the circle of life.”
This particular recipe was originally by Joan Nathan, which made two loaves. That recipe was then adapted by Deb Perlman (of Smitten Kitchen). Deb’s version was then revised to a single loaf by Jenny at Cuban Reuben and slightly adapted again by me. It’s almost biblical, isn’t it: Joan’s recipe begat Deb’s, Deb’s begat Jenny’s, and Jenny’s begat mine!
I did make a few changes. First, I used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast. And second, I found that I didn’t need four eggs, plus a yolk. Three plus the yolk were plenty.
1.5 tsp instant yeast (or one packet active dry yeast, which is 2¼ tsp)
1½ tsp plus ¼ cup sugar
¾-1 cup warm water
¼ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs, divided
1 egg yolk
1½ tsp table salt
4 cups flour
Remove the bowl from your stand mixer (preferably a KitchenAid). Pour the yeast, 1½ tsp sugar, and the water into the bowl and stir it all together with a long spoon. Use more water if the weather is dry, and less if it's humid. If you use the instant yeast, you can go to the next step. If you use active dry yeast, let it sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbly and foaming.
Attach the paddle to your mixer. Now add the vegetable oil, two of the eggs (one at a time), the egg yolk, the rest of the sugar, and the salt, and mix that on Speed 2 (KitchenAid) to combine everything together.
Gradually mix in the flour, adding about ½ a cup at a time.
Once the dough forms a solid ball, swap the paddle for the bread hook. Knead about 5-8 minutes. f you don't have a KitchenAid, you can do it by hand, but it will take longer (10-12 minutes).
The dough is kneaded enough when it looks smooth and elastic, and you can pull it without tearing. If it looks shaggy and bristly, add more flour. If it's dry, add more water.
Coat a clean bowl with about a capful of vegetable oil. Add the ball of dough and cover it with plastic. I generally use a plastic bag from the supermarket. A shower cap will work too. Don't wrap it too tightly, you want to leave room for the dough to expand.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour. Then punch it down with your fist, cover it again, and let it rise for another two hours.
You're now ready to braid the challah. Sprinkle some flour on a counter or board, and sprinkle a bit more on your hands (to keep it from sticking).
Cut the dough into three pieces with a sharp knife. Take each piece and roll it out with your hands into a strand that is about 12 inches long. Pinch the strands together at one end. Then braid the strands together. Once that's done, wrap them all around in a circle. Tuck the ends in underneath the loaf. Transfer the challah to a nonstick cookie sheet.
Crack the last egg and beat it lightly. Brush about half the egg over the bread. Let it sit again, covered, for another hour.
Then brush it again with the rest of the egg.
While the bread is on its final rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the last rise is finished, and the oven is hot, bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. If you want, open the oven halfway through the cooking process, and brush the challah again with any remaining egg (this fills in any bare spots as the bread expands).
Single Loaf Challah Recipe Substitutions and Variations
For an extra-sweet new year, mix 1 cup of raisins into the dough before you braid it.
Or, add 1/4 honey to the recipe
Top the challah with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or salt
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.