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Posts Tagged ‘quick and easy’

Dinner Rush! Paprika Steaks with Maple-Worcestershire Shallots

Polar vortexes, bubbles freezing in mid-air, snow falling by the tens of inches – it’s all too much! Calm down, 2014! A year kicking off with such atmospheric tenacity certainly merits a bit of indulgence. Make it a steak night, why don’t ya?

Few pleasures in life quell the inner carnivore’s urges like a steakhouse dinner – thick slabs of flame-broiled beef accompanied by “creamed” this and “Frenched” that – if only it weren’t for those pesky New Year’s resolutions! Eat healthier; save time; spend less money; blah blah blah. Lucky for us all, we can have our steak and eat it too.

These paprika-dusted steaks get a punch-up from smoky, spicy paprika while staying nice and lean (and reasonably priced) thanks to common butcher cuts like flank, strip, skirt, hanger or London broil. And sure, caramelized onions are great, but this is Dinner Rush! – there’s not time! Naturally sweeter shallots cook down quickly and supercharge the deep flavors of caramelization thanks to Worcestershire and some trusty ‘ol maple syrup.

Now please, for the love of Pete, stay inside until spring. People are throwing boiling hot water into the air to watch it vaporize (and burning themselves in the process.) It’s madness out there.

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Brunch Rush! Christmas Frittata with Whipped Ricotta

When I was a kid, every Christmas morning’s fast was broken with quiche. It was just my mom’s special holiday thing. She’d load up a frozen, compression-molded pie crust with ham and cheese for us, peppers and onions for her, and we’d open presents while it baked away. It was no Thomas Keller-esque creation, nor was it trying to be.

It was actually a brilliant strategy on her part. A simple, self-contained breakfast that could be prepped ahead of time made the frenzy of the morning a bit more manageable. It also became a holiday tradition, the memory of which is still evoked today. The sight of our glimmering Christmas tree and the smell of cooking ham, peppers and eggs bring me back to the magic of a holiday morning — when the world seems to stop for a few hours and we all just revel in being together. It’s what food, family and the holidays are all about.

A little cook’s note: You could certainly put all of these frittata fillings into a pie shell and bake them off as a quiche, but I prefer to hold back on the carbs. It leaves more room for cinnamon rolls and mimosas.

Christmas Frittata with Whipped Ricotta

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Dinner Rush! Hummus Plate with Spiced Ground Beef

I think it’s a bummer that we treat hummus only as a dip or a condiment. Don’t get me wrong; I’m more than okay with its ubiquity. The fact that I can now snack on my commute home with a grab-and-go pack of roasted garlic hummus and pretzels from the train station kiosk makes my day complete. But I see hummus bound for bigger and better things. Forget the warm-up act; I see hummus playing the main stage.

My husband often speaks of a meal our buddy, J. M. Hirsch (who you should absolutely follow on Twitter), once made for him that was simply a plate of hummus topped with deliciously spiced ground beef and served with torn pita in place of silverware. He waxes poetically about how it was simple, boldly flavored and one of those fun meals that you get to eat with your hands. What more could a guy ask for?

Rife with opportunity to personalize it to your own tastes, meals like this are well-deserved. They shake up the daily routine by bringing in the flavors of a global cuisine that you may not get to experience everyday. Plus, second only to tackling foods eaten on a stick, eating with your hands may just be the most playful thing you do all day long.

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Dinner Rush! Linguine with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts

I find few things in life to be as transformational as roasted broccoli. That’s right, I said it: transformational.

I’ve always been a big fan of the green machine (especially in the presence of cheese sauce, but that’s a recipe for another time). It has served me well in many a Chinese takeout container and is simply superb in a cream soup.

It’s not until you roast it, though, that your eyes are finally opened wide and you realize just what you’ve been missing. Deeply caramelizing the tender ends of a broccoli floret not only makes them crunch a little when bitten into, it awakens a hearty, almost meaty flavor that otherwise lies dormant in one of America’s favorite go-to vegetables. Word to the wise: Don’t rush the roasted broccoli. The deeper and darker it caramelizes, the more payoff you’ll have at the dinner table.

Try it alongside toasted walnuts and a balsamic glaze that harmonizes so well you’ll be salivating for the next Meatless Monday.

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Dinner Rush! Veal Cutlets with Peppery Braised Green Cabbage

My husband grew up with an Italian-American great-aunt who treated veal cutlets like a food group. While I never had the chance to visit the Staten Island home that played stage to so many of his early childhood memories, the stories he tells about her and his adventures in that house are as vivid as reality.

Stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey while clad in all of her jewelry — and hair still in curlers, mind you — is a popular one. As is his Uncle Joe slowly making a Manhattan drinker out of him by way of the cocktail shaker’s dividends topped with a heaping helping of 7Up. The most popular and recurring story I hear, though, is about the stash of cutlets she would keep in her basement chest freezer in quantities fit for the post-apocalypse.

So the story goes, every time the family came to visit, she’d take his little boy hand in her large, heavily jeweled lady-of-a-certain-age hand and they’d head to the Italian butcher down the street. Pork was a fine choice, but for special occasions none other than a dinner of veal cutlets and risotto would do. Back at the mansion, with her electric burner on high, Auntie’s paper-and-twine-wrapped bundle of meat would transform itself into a feast. His favorite part of the meal, being a short-attention-spanned child, was the etched crystal dish of Parmesan cheese passed at the table. It overflowed with freshly grated powder that would flurry over his dinner plate one demitasse spoonful at a time.

I only got to meet Auntie once before she passed several years ago, so I suffice to live her legacy vicariously through stories of her antics, relics of her Staten Island home and attempts at her famous veal cutlets.

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Dinner Rush! Spicy Korean Beef Lettuce Cups

Those of you that read my blog know that I love a grocery store. Some people have shoes or gadgets or lotions and potions. Not me. I’ve got the dairy case, cheese counter and friendly deli staff. Since this is my drug, and guilty indulgence is imminent with every visit, I’ve amassed a pantry full of random odds and ends, all of which I clearly need to have. The spoils of this most recent visit? Fresh-packed kimchi.

Kimchi is a spicy condiment made of fermented cabbage with other vegetables. It is an essential staple of the Korean diet and also boasts a ton of health benefits as a result of being a probiotic. The off-putting-to-some smell shouldn’t deter you from experiencing its hot, sour, salty and sweet balance that is surprisingly versatile across several different types of cuisine.

Taking some inspiration from classic Korean flavors, this dish is a bit of a riff on beef bulgogi. A classic in Korean barbecue houses, bulgogi is a simple presentation in which slices of beef are marinated in a sweet blend of soy sauce, sugar, garlic and sesame oil and then seared or grilled. The service is often an elaborate DIY spread with my different condiments, rice and leafy greens available to package all of the flavors together.

The point of this whole story?  Next time you’re out shopping try and pick up just one new thing. You might just end up surprising yourself.

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Dinner Rush! Whole Branzino with Grilled Peach Caprese

I’ve been called many things in my life, but a slave to fashion is not one of them. I don’t care what the calendar says. What, just because Labor Day has passed I should pack up and forget about all things summer? Fine, the white hot pants can retire for now, but I’ll be damned if the grill is being nestled back into the far corners of the garage. Not now. Not yet.

As the bounty of summer fruits has come pouring into my local farm stands, peaches and tomatoes are nailing it right now.  Chefs like to say that “if it grows together, it goes together,” and I, for one, couldn’t agree more. I love a good old fashioned watermelon-tomato salad during the warmer months, but slipping a few peaches into your caprese takes it to a whole other level. The flavor of the peach is heartier and totally satisfying, especially after a quick go with the grates of a hot grill.

For those of you squeamish about working with a whole fish, I make one simple request: try something new. Enjoying a whole fish is a great interactive eating experience that encourages lots of sharing of plates at the table (be mindful of the bones in the meat). Any reputable fish market will take care of all the mess work, too — just ask them to gut the fish for you (they’ll even take the head off if that’s a bit too much for you.)

Sorry, one more request: don’t let the calendar tell you what to do, either. Enjoy the warm outdoor weather for as long as we’ve got it.

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Meatless Monday: Quick Caprese Sandwich

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Here in NYC it’s been too hot to turn on the oven, let alone think about cooking. Standing over a hot stove in an non-air-conditioned apartment? No way. So to make things easier, I’m going with this caprese sandwich for dinner tonight. If you too are struggling to keep cool, I suggest you do the same. Delicious and requiring hardly any thought or effort, it’s a Meatless Monday recipe you’ll be thankful to have on-hand.

On your way home, pick up some fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a baguette from your favorite bakery. Heirloom tomatoes give the sandwich an edge, but any ripe tomato will do. The basil oil is also not necessary, but make it anyways. It only takes a few minutes to whip together and will make this ten-minute sandwich taste like a million bucks.

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Meatless Monday: Cheap and Tasty Frittata

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

A frittata is a great way to clean out your fridge, but it’s also a budget-friendly option when the shelves are looking pretty bare. For a delicious, wholesome frittata, you’ll need eggs, seasonal veggies, good melting cheese and fresh herbs. With such a short ingredient list and a multitude of combinations to try, it’s a quick and easy dinner you can play around with time and time again.

Crisp asparagus and smooth jack cheese are two good options when choosing your ingredients. Aida Mollenkamp adds cilantro for a touch of fragrance and extra oomph. Serve with a side salad or grilled veggies. If there are leftovers, I think a wedge is just as tasty room temperature for breakfast or lunch the next day.

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Dinner Rush! Chipotle BBQ Glazed Pork Loin With Spicy Watermelon Salsa

My mom is one of those endlessly entertaining people who calls me with the best food questions. “How can I combine cream and cheese to make cream cheese?” “Do you have a recipe for diabetic cupcakes?” “What the heck is in bologna, anyway?”

We had a similar conversation last week about barbecue sauce as her mind was blown upon learning that one could make their own with about as much effort as it takes to watch paint dry. Breaking beyond the bottle I walked her through the careful blending of ketchup, sweetener and assorted spices with nuclear precision. As we talked through it and my Dinner Rush light bulb kicked on, I told her I was going to make a barbecue pork loin with spicy watermelon salsa.

“Wait now, a what?! A watermelon salsa?!”

“Yeah, Mom, I was reading about a spicy fruit salsa in a magazine last week. Sounded delicious, plus I’ve got a bunch of watermelon to use up.”

“Wow, a salsa made of watermelon. I tell ya. Just what will they think of next?”

She’s amazing.

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