Favorites From Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking

Friday November 4, 2016

Question: Can you share five recipes from your book Not Your Mother’s Weeknight Cooking and tell us why you like these recipes for busy weeknights.

Mustard-Soy Glazed Salmon with Brown Sugar and Ginger page 11

Salmon is like a blank artist’s canvas. Who could have known that salmon would become so popular? It has such a rich, satisfying flavor and it complements every single ingredient in all cuisines. So salmon is a bit of a chameleon. You are limited only by your imagination and culinary aptitude. I like salmon first of all because every place I shop carries at least one choice, wild and/or farmed, so it is easy to pickup on the way home. I don’t like looking for unusual ingredients unless I have lots of time. The almost-Asian marinade here ended up being one of my favorites. They are all ingredients easily in my pantry: soy sauce, Dijon, ginger, brown sugar. I love minimal prep, 5 to 10 minutes at most. This recipe fits that criteria–I can glance at the list of ingredients and toss it all together. The reward is that the salmon flavor and texture is enhanced, not overpowered, and there is a different flavor than if I made the salmon plain with some lemon. I dont know what it is about the alchemy of salmon and brown sugar, but it is an A plus winner. This is also a favorite since it was a gift from one of my dearest friends, who has the same palate choices that I do.

Mustard-Soy Glazed Salmon with Brown Sugar and Ginger

When I asked my chiropractor, Dr. Ken Felch, for his favorite salmon recipe, he sent this gem. “I hope it fits your criterion,” he said. “It is borrowed/stolen from a fishing resort in Northern British Columbia on Stuart Island. It is perfectly delicious.” The combination of the French mustard, lemon juice, butter, and Worcestershire sauce, makes for a totally different flavor than regular Asian marinades. The layer of Dijon is thin and the sprinkling of brown sugar is light; I use my fingers and rub some brown sugar over the fish, but you can use a small sieve if you like. You can also get the whole side of salmon and cook this in one piece, slicing it into portions after cooking.

Cooking Method: Oven

Cook Time: 12 to 15 minutes

Serves 4

4 (6-ounces each) 3/4- to 1-inch thick center cut salmon fillets, skin on

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce

1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

3 to 4 cloves garlic, pressed

4 teaspoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 350º. Cover a shallow rimmed baking sheet with foil. Arrange the fish skin side down on the baking sheet. With a small metal spatula, spread each fillet with a thin layer of mustard. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Drizzle over the fillets. Then sprinkle each with a teaspoon of the brown sugar and dot with little bits of the butter. Bake in the center of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until firm and no longer opaque. Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes; it will continue to cook as it stands. Serve immediately.

Chicken Piccata page 52

Chicken Piccata is one of my all time favorite dishes. Again I love that it utilizes pantry items: lemon, parsley, capers, chicken broth. The sauce is thin so there is no worry about excess fat. It cooks insanely quickly, in the blink of the eye. Pounding the chicken breast in a heavy plastic freezer bag changed my life; no more messing with the pieces of parchment on a cutting board. I have never met anyone who didn’t like a piccata unless they were vegetarian, and even then I suspect they might love it. Everyone in my family-mother, sisters–all make this recipe, so it is well tested.

Chicken Picatta

Once you know how to make a tangy piccata, you will never be without the recipe and just possibly serve it once a week. This is where you perfect your technique of pounding the breast with a flat mallet (never the uneven side or it will decimate the meat). Slip each breast into a quart-sized sealable plastic bag and pound with a mallet, veal pounder, or bottom of a saucepan. You are looking for about 1/4 inch thick. When done cooking, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with brown rice or mashed potatoes.  Excellent the next day for leftovers.

Cooking Method: Stovetop

Cook Time: About 15 minutes

Serves 4

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2-pounds total), leave thick, or pound thin with a flat mallet (see headnote), or butterfly cut to open like a book if thick enough

Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour or oat flour (made by grinding quick-cooking or old-fashioned oatmeal in blender or food processor), for dredging

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 medium shallot, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine or low-sodium chicken broth

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2 to 3 lemons)

2 tablespoons drained chopped capers (more if you like lots)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate and dredge the breasts on both sides.  In a large 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil.  Sauté the chicken until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken to a platter with metal tongs and cover with foil to keep warm until the sauce is finished.
Add the shallots and cook until translucent, 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the wine or broth, lemon juice, and capers to the skillet. Bring to a low boil and  stir a few minutes to reduce and thickens slightly. Return the breasts to the skillet and partially cover. Spoon the capers and sauce mixture over the top as you lift the lid every few minutes.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through but be careful not to overcook, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Add the parsley to the sauce. Remove the chicken to individual plates and divide the sauce between the four portions. Serve immediately.

Ravioli with Mushrooms and Sweet Peas page 157

When I wrote Weeknight Cooking, I took advantage of including recipes that I make for myself and/or that came from my family. I first made this recipe in the 1980s for a quick dinner out of Martha Stewart’s first Quick Cook book, which is still one of my favorite books from her. The combination of the peas and mushrooms was one I come back to over and over. I then started to make it in large batches for catering jobs. It was wildly popular. A recipe is really alive when you love it so much you make it over and over. Again a very fast dish to prep and prepare with pasta being very economical. Keep a few packages of the fresh ravioli, now a staple in the supermarket cold section by the butter, in the freezer.

Ravioli with Mushrooms and Sweet Peas

This has to be the ravioli I make the most. I originally made it with frozen peas for catering, but you can make this extra special with fresh peas. This is a sauce-less pasta dish and really delicious in its simplicity.

Cooking Method: Stovetop

Cook Time: About 10 minutes

Serves 4

2 (9-ounce) packages meat or cheese ravioli

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

12-ounces white mushrooms, thin sliced

2 cups frozen petite peas, thawed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli to the pot. Cook the ravioli according to package directions until al dente (tender but still firm, not overly soft). Drain well in a colander and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and mushrooms.  Cook to brown the mushrooms and evaporate the liquid, about 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook a few minutes. Add the ravioli to the pan, tossing well to combine and heat. Season to taste. Portion onto shallow plates and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve immediately as ravioli cools quickly.

Cobb Salad page 242

I have a passion for crispy cold main dish salads and eat them all year round, which is why I dedicated a full chapter to them, and Cobb is the one that reigns supreme. I like to keep an assortment of vegetables in the fridge for making salads. I shop once a week for leafy greens, and then complement with canned beans, bacon, crumbled cheese, an assortment of chopped fresh vegetables, deli meats. For some reason the raw with the protein added is perfect for my metabolism and I don’t even need bread. I will even wash the greens one day and have bags ready to use immediately, since nights even washing produce is even too much. A main dish salad is a sure thing when a friend comes over for dinner. I use a homemade ranch style dressing on my Cobb. Then I use it on small side salads or tossed greens the rest of the week. Always keep a jar of salad dressing in the fridge designed to last you one week. If you don’t have a good dressing, you might skip the salad altogether, since dressing makes the salad lip smacking good.

Cobb Salad

Cobb Salad was created in the legendary Brown Derby restaurant in Los Angeles (which was constructed like an oversized hut), and its patronage included old Hollywood from the 40s and 50s, and new Hollywood faces from the 60s and 70s. One day the owner went into the kitchen and tossed together a salad at the request of a diner with what was on hand at the cold station. The salad was such a hit (it has all the ingredients for a club sandwich) that diners started asking for it and it became a standard on the menu. I have had many Cobbs in my life, since it is an all-time favorite salad. Variables include applewood-smoked bacon, smoked chicken, real Roquefort from France or a domestic bleu from Wisconsin, even heirloom tomatoes. Whatever level you decided to play with your Cobb, the combination of the elements is perfectly satisfying and if you think you can leave out one part, beware. It won’t taste or feel quite the same with every bite. I use a buttermilk dressing for my Cobb, my contribution to the legacy.

Cooking Method: Stovetop

Cook Time: 7 minutes

Serves 4

Buttermilk Herb Dressing

1 small clove garlic or 1 green onion

1 or 2 basil leaves

1 sprig flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup mayonnaise or soy mayonnaise

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped fine

2 cups Boston lettuce, chopped fine

2 cups iceberg lettuce, chopped fine

3/4 cup watercress or 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarse stems discarded, chopped fine

1 to 2 ripe avocados, diced

3 cups cooked chicken breasts, diced fine (a rotisserie chicken from the grocery                is a real time saver), or coked turkey breast

6 slices cooked lean bacon, chopped fine

2 large tomatoes, 1 seeded and chopped fine, and 1 cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onions

1/2 cup crumbled Roquefort or other favorite bleu cheese

In a small food processor, drop in the garlic or green onion and chop. Add the basil and parsley; pulse to finely chop. Add the buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt; pulse a few times to combine. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator; dressing thickens as it sits. Makes 1 cup.

Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by a 1/2-inch or so. Bring to a gentle boil. Now turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for exactly seven minutes. Have a big bowl of ice water ready and when the eggs are done cooking place them in the ice bath for three minutes or so, long enough to stop the cooking. Crack and peel each egg. Set aside.

Toss together all of the lettuces and watercress in a large salad bowl. Halve, pit and peel the avocados and cut them into 1/2-inch chunks. Arrange the chicken or turkey, bacon, bleu cheese, chopped tomato, and avocado decoratively over the greens and toss well before serving with the vinaigrette. Finely chop the hard cooked egg. Garnish the salad with the chopped egg, tomato wedges, and chives. Serve the dressing on the side.

Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwiches with Tarragon Gravy page 270

One of the greatest coups of the poultry industry was their decision to market turkey parts instead of just whole turkeys. When I grew up turkey was a strictly holiday meat. I waited for it all year long. The whole roast was eaten one day, stuffed of course, with all the predictable accompaniments. Then the next day, hot turkey sandwiches, and the next turkey soup. It was a massive undertaking in the kitchen and a time commitment. Turkey is no longer relegated to the winter holidays; it is an all season meat. Hot open faced sandwiches of all types is the next big rage in the culinary world. For good reason. A sandwich is an entire meal, nutritionally complete and satisfying. Now a hot turkey sandwich is less than half an hour away with pre-sliced turkey breast and a delicious package of gravy doctored up slightly with a dash of licorice-scented tarragon, one of my mother’s tips since she is always looking to use her homegrown tarragon. I make some type of composed sandwich for dinner once a week.

Open-Faced Hot Turkey Sandwiches with Tarragon Gravy

One of the great things about the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the leftover bonanza that fosters casseroles, soups, enchiladas, and at least one open-faced hot turkey sandwich. But I like turkey all year round. Inspired by a recipe from Brooke Dojny’s The New England Cookbook (The Harvard Common Press, 1999), this is one of the best ways I’ve ever found to use those packaged presliced boneless turkey breast cutlets. I am a proponent of packaged turkey gravy, which is way faster and easier than a pan sauce from scratch, and I boost the flavor with herbs and wine. Definitely serve this with cranberry sauce, and grab a knife and fork.

Cooking Method: Stovetop

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4

Tarragon Gravy

One 1.8-ounce package turkey gravy mix

1 1/4 cups water

2 tablespoons dry red or white wine

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon

4 thick slices white, whole wheat, or country bread

1 pound thinly sliced turkey breast cutlets

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Prepare the gravy mix by combining the mix, water, wine, and tarragon in a small saucepan. Blend with a whisk and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly and bringing to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, until thickened. Set aside, keeping warm.

2. Toast the bread in a toaster or under the broiler. Set aside on dinner plates.

3. Season the cutlets on both sides first with salt and pepper, then with the poultry seasoning. In a large skillet, melt the olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Place the cutlets in the pan in a single layer (do 2 batches) and sauté until lightly browned, 2 minutes per side. Divide the cutlets into 4 portions and arrange over the toast. Ladle the gravy over top. Serve immediately.

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