There are three holidays this weekend: two big ones and one silly one. The big ones are Easter and Passover and since each holiday has entirely different traditions and foods, I was initially stumped. What do I post that works for both holidays? Then it hit me! These holidays do have something in common: eggs. This egg and tomato grain is just the thing.
I adapted this dish from a recipe by Jacques Pépin. It’s from his Fast Food My Way cookbook. I haven’t changed much, other than the quantities, and using canned tomatoes instead of fresh. The fresh tomatoes aren’t very good this time of year, and besides, I dislike fresh-cooked tomatoes.
The eggs are mixed with tomato and onions, garlic, and thyme. The thyme adds a slightly spicy flavor and pairs beautifully with tomato. The whole thing is then finished with grated, slightly nutty Swiss cheese. Delicious!
And it works whether you’re on Team Pesach or Team Easter. Not to mention that whether you observe Easter or Passover, you’re likely to want a light lunch before your big meal(s) or want to take it easy the next day. This egg dish is relatively light and won’t fill you up too much before or after all that heavy food. I’ve listed it as lunch, but it would also make a good breakfast or light brunch.
The third holiday? That’s April Fool’s. There’s no specific food for that (except in France maybe when they call it April Fish), but somehow the tomato cheese mixture on top of the eggs looks like bacon if you squint. April Fool’s!
Adapted from a Jacques Pépin recipe, I've cut the quantity to make the grain suitable for one person. Eggs, thyme, and tomato mixed with a generous grating of cheese for a quick, light and satisfying lunch or brunch.
1 quart water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, sliced (about 2/3
of a cup)
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped (roughly one clove)
pinch dried thyme
pinch black pepper
1/3 C canned peeled tomatoes
2 T plus 2 tsp grated Swiss (or Emmenthaler or whatever mild cheese you like)
Heat the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, gently poke the rounded end of the eggs with a pin or a thumbtack.
Once the water is boiling place the eggs on a large slotted spoon and add them carefully to the water, one at a time.
Let the water come back to a boil, and cook the eggs for 10 minutes. When they're done, remove them with the slotted spoon and place in a bowl of cold water to cool.
Then peel the eggs and cut them into wedges.
Add the egg wedges to a small casserole or baking dish.
Heat the toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the oil in a small skillet on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute. Then add the garlic, thyme, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. Let the mixture come to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Pour the tomato mixture over the eggs in the baking dish. And sprinkle the cheese on top.
Put the baking dish into the toaster oven and bake for 10 minutes.
Egg and Tomato Gratin Substitutions and Variations
At the end, turn up the toaster oven to broil and cook for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese
Don’t just have a dish that looks like bacon, add some real bacon and crumble it on top
Vary the cheeses: try Gruyère or mozzarella or Monterey Jack
Sauté some sliced porcini mushrooms with the onion/tomato mixture
Cooking tip: Poking the end of the eggs with a pin reduces the pressure inside, making them less likely to burst in the boiling water.
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.
Cinnamon and nutmeg, a touch of garlic and onion, tender eggplant, and tomatoes make a rich, delicious moussaka without the heavy bechamel sauce.
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.
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.
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.
There are times when a simple recipe is just the thing. This cherry tomato basil frittata takes only a few minutes to prepare and only requires four primary ingredients (eggs, cheese, tomatoes, and basil).
Despite its simplicity, it’s full of flavor, even though it only has a few ingredients. You don’t necessarily have to fuss for hours or use a long list of twenty ingredients to get something delicious to eat.
The other nice thing is that it uses ordinary pantry/fridge staples you probably already have in your kitchen. No special shopping trip required!
This is adapted from a recipe I cut out from The New York Times (I think) long ago. I added the goat cheese, since I had a little bit left I wanted to use up. If you don’t have goat cheese, use something else. Any relatively mild cheese would do the trick.
I also reduced the servings, and adjusted the cooking time. The beauty of single servings is that it takes a lot less time to cook and prepare. The original recipe called for 6 eggs and a pound of tomatoes!
This is a great quick lunch, weekend brunch, or even breakfast. It only takes a few minutes to make, so it’s great when you’ve got a bad case of the “hungries.” Add a chunk of crusty bread and you’ve got a meal.
A quick, easy light lunch or weekend brunch that's ready in under 10 minutes.
ground black pepper to taste
1 T goat cheese
4-5 basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 T olive oil
3-5 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Break the eggs into a bowl, add the salt and pepper and mix together with a fork.
Add the goat cheese and basil and stir gently.
Add the oil to a small frying pan and heat on medium heat.
Pour the egg/cheese mixture into the pan.Let it cook for 30 seconds to one minute, until the sides of the frittata start to set and look more solid. Pick up the pan and swirl it around so that the eggs cook evenly.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for additional 3-5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, and gently remove the frittata from the pan with a spatula.
Substitutions and Variations for Cherry Tomato Basil Frittata
make it with mozzarella cheese or monterey jack instead of goat cheese
add some fresh spinach
use a pinch of red pepper flakes in addition to the black pepper
swap the plain goat cheese for herbed goat cheese
mix up the tomatoes: try one of those yellow/orange/red tomato blends
There are probably hundreds or thousands of variations of this easy Mediterranean fish stew. In San Francisco, they add shellfish and clam juice or fish stock and call it cioppino. Sicilians make it with sea bass or orange roughy. The Greeks use dill and potatoes, while the Portuguese add sausage.
This particular version has tomatoes, potatoes, and some citrus zest. I adapted it from a New York Times recipe (which made a big pot of stew, enough for 6 people, and included the dreaded anchovies). I also threw in some mushrooms (mostly because I wanted to use them up). There’s no shellfish, and I made it with cod (which is more sustainable and budget-friendly than orange roughy or sea bass). I also swapped the chopped tomatoes they called for with tomato puree (that’s what I had, and it cooks faster).
There are two nice things about this recipe. The first is that it’s super-easy to make. Just make the stew, and then add the fish at the very end. Don’t overcook it!
The second is that you can make it in advance up to the point where you add the fish. When you’re ready to eat, reheat the stew and add the fish once it’s hot.
In a hurry for dinner?Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name. Nobody really knows why. One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.
Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.
Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and Niçoise olives.
Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).I always thought Niçoiseolives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.Niçoise is just the method of curing them.
I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up. That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.
Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.
The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.
Shakshouka doesn’t roll off the tongue when you try to say it. Maybe it’s a Middle Eastern market? Or a new folk dance? It is Middle Eastern spicy poached eggs, either Tunisian or Israeli (depending who you ask, or which ingredients you use). If you make it with onions and bell peppers, it’s Israeli. On the other hand, if you serve it up with feta or potatoes then it’s Tunisian.
This shakshouka for one recipe is actually two recipes that I mind melded together (one from column A and one from column B) to get what I wanted.
Also, for some reason, I thought it had spinach. So, I washed and chopped 1/4 C of spinach. Only to find out there was no spinach in either recipe. I added it anyway. Why waste perfectly good spinach? Besides it adds extra color and flavor, which I think worked out well.
The real recipe ingredients are poached eggs, tomato, onions, bell peppers, and some cayenne for kick.
I’m calling it lunch here, but it works well as a light dinner too. You can put the whole thing together in only 20 or 25 minutes.
So, easy, and no fussing. The hardest part is making sure you don’t break the egg yolks.
Serve it with lots of crusty bread to sop up the sauce.
After all the soup, turkey, and holiday food, it’s time for something a bit simpler. Until, of course, the next holiday comes along. The market had some beautiful Campari tomatoes on sale, right next to the fresh mozzarella. I couldn’t resist. So, I put that together with some basil, leftover roast chicken, and a fresh loaf of ciabatta bread. Voila! The chicken caprese panini sandwich.
This is more of a guide than a recipe. There’s not a lot of measuring.
I started with leftover roast chicken, so I didn’t need to make the chicken. If you already have cooked chicken, just pop it into the sandwich. Some leftover rotisserie chicken would work nicely. All you have to do now is grill the bread, melt the cheese, and add the tomatoes and basil.
If not, see the substitutions and variations section below for ideas on how to cook the chicken,
The bread does tend to slurp up the olive oil, but really it’s worth it! The sandwich gets golden brown, and the cheese is gooey and melty. It’s your favorite childhood grilled cheese sandwich for grownups!
Do use the fresh mozzarella if you can get it. It’s far more flavorful (and I think it melts better) than the pre-packaged kind.
Turn a caprese salad into a full lunch with some chicken and grilled bread.
2 T olive oil
2 slices ciabatta bread (or a small baguette, you want something crusty)
1/4 C shredded cooked chicken
1-2 slices fresh mozzarella
1 Campari tomato (or half a small beefsteak tomato), sliced
2-4 basil leaves
Heat the oil in a small frying pan
Add the two slices of bread, side by side.
Let the bread cook until it turns golden brown (about 3-5 minutes).
Add the cooked chicken and the mozzarella cheese. Put the second slice of bread on top of the first one, to make a sandwich. If you like freshly cooked tomato, add it with the cheese. If not, slide it in after you remove the sandwich from the pan.
Cover the pan and let the sandwich cook for 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.
Add the tomato (if you haven't already) and the basil.
Substitutions and Variations for Chicken Caprese Panini Sandwich
Saute some mushrooms (do that first) and add them to the sandwich at the end.
Start with fresh chicken breasts (season with salt/pepper/balsamic vinegar/olive oil) then gently cook in olive oil
Or, season the chicken with Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Cook that in a bit of olive oil
Add some avocado
Get an extra serving of veggies and put in a few spinach leaves
Or, try cooking it in the broiler instead (less oil needed)
Chopped Israeli salad isn’t quite what you might assume. It doesn’t have lettuce or carrots. It’s not even eaten when you’d expect. Israeli salad isn’t for lunch or dinner. Instead people eat it for breakfast with eggs, hummus, pita bread, fish, and olives. Not being much of a standard American breakfast person, I approve!
Of course, all of those things make a great lunch too, especially on a hot day whenyou don’t want to get anywhere near a stove or an oven. I adapted this recipe from a comment on Tori Avery’s web site.
She had a recipe for Israeli salad, and a commenter, Schelly Talalay Dardashti, pointed out that there’s a Persian version called “salad e-shirazi.”
She said it calls for red onion and parsley (neither of which I had). However, I did decide to follow her suggestion and use lime juice instead of lemon juice and add mint.
Make sure to use either Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers (rather than the standard kind). The Persian (or mini) cucumbers are shorter and thinner than standard cucumbers and usually sold in sealed packages. The English (or hothouse) cucumbers are the long, skinny ones individually wrapped in plastic wrap.
They’re easier to cut up and you don’t have to peel them! Also, the standard cukes tend to be more bitter.
I cut everything up, mixed it together, and left it out on the counter for a couple of hours (there’s nothing to spoil quickly) so that the flavors would blend.Also, if you put tomatoes in the fridge, they start to lose their flavor.
You can serve this salad with the pita and etc. I mentioned above for a light meal or as a side dish with a sandwich or some eggs. You can make plain scrambled eggs, a frittata, or keep the Persian theme going and serve it with Persian eggs. I added about 1/4 C of eggplant I had left over (recipe here and it’s even for one person).
There’s no picture of the eggs because I was hungry and started eating before I remembered to take one!
You can squeeze the lime with your hands, but it’s a bit messy. It’s much easier (and neater) to use a reamer instead. And since it’s made by Oxo, it’s comfortable to use. Tip: Leave the fruit out to get to room temperature (or zap it in the microwave for 5 seconds). It will juice more easily.
You can use a sharp knife to cut up your salad, but it’s even easier with a salad chopper. The double blades chop the salad, veggies, cheese, etc into tiny little pieces. And it takes a lot less effort. Just rock your hand back and forth.