Category: dinner


As is often the case in the summer, I abandon planning menus ahead preferring to be inspired by the availability and bounty of the local harvest. In fact, tonight’s dinner started with taking out all of the vegetables on hand and laying them on the counter. As I peruse each offering, associations begin to take place and I become inspired by what strikes me at the moment, embracing certain ingredients and editing out others for a later meal. What was left on the worktop tonight was broccoli, mushrooms, onions, summer squash, and red peppers. A rummage through the pantry produced a box of dried garden rotini. There was some sharp cheddar in the fridge. The result: a vegetable-packed macaroni and cheese (or perhaps I’ll call it a vegetable and pasta gratin), that was more than satisfying as a one-dish meal.

Similarly, I had no plans for any particular dessert. That is, until I passed by the next door neighbor’s farm stand this afternoon. Late season strawberries! Thus, one of the simplest sweet endings to an impromptu meal was achieved with very little effort.

Garden vegetable and pasta gratin
Cornbread muffins

Strawberries with sour cream/ground pecan/brown sugar dip

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I am an advocate of finding new ways to use leftovers and tonight’s dinner includes components of dishes that were made earlier in the week and transforms them into something new. Orange bell pepper halves are stuffed with a mixture of leftover brown rice, slivered green beans, and caramelized onions. Mushroom caps are stuffed with leftover black-eyed pea salad that has been mashed into a puree. Baby summer squash are hollowed out, blanched briefly in boiling water, drained, and stuffed with grated pepperjack cheese. The watery flesh is scooped out of tomato halves and replaced with a mixture of herbed breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan. Once all of the vegetables are stuffed, they roast together on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, and dinner is served.

A further note about the squash. I first devised this utterly simple treatment to serve as an hors d’oeuvre at a birthday party I catered many years ago, and they were such a hit I was offered several other future catering jobs before the evening was over.

Orange bell pepper half stuffed with brown rice and green beans
Mushrooms stuffed with pureed black-eyed pea salad
Baby summer squash stuffed with pepperjack cheese
Tomato halves stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs, garlic, and parmesan

Peach ice cream

I suppose if I were to subtitle this menu, it would be “Swedish Meatballs meet Stroganoff meets Chez Edouard” because the resulting main dish has elements of the first two but everything is transformed based on my own whims. The meatballs are made of ground turkey and the sauce is not typical of that for either the Swedish dish nor the stroganoff.

As a reminder, meatballs will be far more succulent and tender if you refrain from packing the meat during the rolling process and bake them in the oven as opposed to the stovetop method. Never overcook meatballs which inevitably leads to tough, unpalatable results.

Tonight I enriched the turkey with finely diced roasted red pepper along with minced shallots, garlic, and herbs. After removing the meatballs from the oven I tossed them in a pan with a sour cream-Dijon-rosemary sauce. Adding a small amount of cornstarch to the sour cream helps keep it from curdling, but even then it’s very important not to bring the sauce to a boil: simply heat it through.

Turkey meatballs and sautéed cremini mushrooms in a sour cream-Dijon-rosemary sauce served over housemade tagliatelle pasta
Steamed sugar snap peas and asparagus from the farmers’ market
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Housemade peanut butter sandwich cookies

There is certainly nothing extraordinary about tonight’s menu–the main dish has been done by numerous other cooks before. But the various components add up to a satisfying and simple meal. Think bean and cheese burrito, but instead of the fillings folded into a tortilla, they’re sandwiched and layered into a casserole-type dish that can be cut into wedges. The rice is given a bit of extra pizazz with the addition of onions, roasted red peppers, and pine nuts, and the summer squash is prepared simply…blanched until tender in a small amount of spring water to which a knob of butter, salt, and pepper are added.

Dessert involves a dish of the ice cream made earlier in the week, but updated with a topping to add a new twist.

Southwestern tortilla stack en casserole with housemade refried beans, green chilies, sour cream, and pepperjack cheese served with salsa
Rice pilaf with onions and roasted red peppers
Summer squash with a butter glaze

Pineapple-coconut ice cream with a fruit and nut trail mix topping

Tonight’s menu celebrates the transition from spring to summer. When I produce a vegetable plate I usually like to include a variety of tastes, textures, cooking methods, and (in warm weather) a combination of hot and cold offerings. And while that approach does involve a bit of extra time and effort, I try to streamline the prep by creating as many components as possible ahead of time. In this instance, the beets were made over the weekend and the lentil salad and muffins were produced earlier in the day, leaving only the potatoes and squash to deal with at the last moment.

Vegetable Plate for June 11, 2013
Chilled lentil salad served over baby spinach leaves
Marinated baby beets from Clay Family Produce next door
Boiled new potatoes from my father’s garden
Breaded and oven-fried summer squash from the farmers’ market
Cornbread muffins

Fresh strawberries and cookies

After the hiatus created by my recent move, I’m happy to report that I am settled into a new home and ready to resume more regular blogging about my dinner menus.

Tonight’s dinner was simple, quick, and tasty. While the onions caramelize on top of the stove, the fish bakes in the oven. Fresh baby spinach and pinenuts are tossed with the onions at the last minute and plated as a bed for the filet of fish. Both the dessert and bread were made yesterday, so from beginning to end this menu took less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Baked cod served on a bed of caramelized onions, wilted spinach, and pinenuts, and drizzled with a puree of roasted red pepper
Couscous with fresh parsley and dill
Yeast roll Chez Edouard

Housemade pineapple-coconut ice cream with crisp butter cookies

Here in the western burbs of D.C., it was yet another winter day that started with snow in the early morning hours, transitioned to a lull during which no precipitation occurred, and then ended with a dreary drizzle of rain with temps never climbing above 40 degrees F. So, I decided to make something I had not made in a while and don’t think I have posted before—Vegetarian Jambalaya Soup.

The ice cream is my creation, featuring a mix of vanilla ice cream custard and orange juice blended together before being chilled and then frozen in the ice cream maker.

Chez Edouard veggie jambalaya soup of aromatic vegetables, diced red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, black-eyed peas, vegetable broth, and rice, seasoned with paprika and a dash of hot sauce
Baby lettuce salad with my sister’s homemade pickled okra and my house-made
buttermilk ranch dressing
Cornbread muffins

House-made creamsicle ice cream with walnut cookies

Soup Night

O.K. I know that most folks reading this are going to say why on earth would he propose this menu to us? Tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich?

Here is why. The soup is homemade “from scratch”  and doesn’t remotely resemble anything that would be tossed out of a can into a pot with a cup of water added. A couple of years ago, I made my “homemade tomato soup” in a large quantity for an office gathering, and so many people asked for the recipe I knew it was a big hit. There wasn’t even a tablespoon of my soup left at the end of that luncheon.

 And the “grilled cheese sandwich” is also updated a bit—including pepperjack and cheddar cheeses as the filling along with a slice of crumbled, crispy bacon.

So, ubiquitous as it may seem, a dinner of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwhich can certainly be revisited, updated, and made more interesting as a casual weeknight meal.

Eddie’s house-made tomato soup
Pan-grilled sandwich of pepperjack and cheddar cheeses on  house-made cheese bread
Fresh lettuces with vinaigrette

Ice cream and cookies

This is not the dinner I had planned to cook tonight, but when the D.C. area was suddenly hit with a major snow event today, I decided that a comforting stew was in order. So, I searched through what was available in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry—carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, turnips, a small amount of ground beef, canned tomatoes, garlic, beef stock, and some leftover braised cabbage. I cut all of the vegetables into large chunks and heated them in a bit of olive oil before adding the rest of the ingredients, and let everything simmer very gently on the back of the stove until the vegetable components were just fork tender. To my mind a true stew
requires that the finished dish should be “chunky” in nature and the vegetables,
in particular, should not have been cooked into a mushy texture.

I made some Irish soda bread which included whole wheat flour to accompany the
soup.

And for a sweet ending, the simplicity of a small wedge of milk chocolate was
satisfying.

If you have been following my blog for a while you know that I like to explore cuisines from many different parts of the world. Outside of the cuisine of my Southern U.S. upbringing, I am particularly inspired by French, Italian, Mexican, and Asian influences, along with what has often been labeled “California Cuisine.” Tonight I return to Mexico.

The burritos are composed of classic Mexican cheese sliced and melted in a shallow earthenware casserole dish with pre-cooked chorizo sausage and then stuffed into heated taco-sized flour tortillas and served with the sauce, rice, and beans.

The dessert fritters are a classic Sonoran dish. The flour-spice-egg dough is dropped
by rope-sized pieces through a pastry bag into hot oil and fried until crisp on the exterior. After draining on paper towels, they are lightly coated with granulated
sugar while still warm. These can be made ahead.

Queso Chihuahua and chorizo burritos with onion-lime-sour cream sauce
Arroz Verde (green rice) with cilantro and poblano chiles
Braised black beans

Mexican fritters

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