Archive: June, 2012
My oldest son, standing in for his sister and taking a crack at cooking and blogging, is not in the least bit interested in light or vegetarian recipes.
“Where’s the beef?” was the refrain I often heard from him and his brother if I tried to offer meat-free dinners when they were growing up.
However, I did come up with some dishes the boys came to love, including this summer pasta salad, a take on a caprese salad, made with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves — and, of course, a hearty helping of sliced grilled chicken for the meat-eaters.
This started, as many favorites do, as a thrown-together recipe, when there was leftover grilled chicken in the fridge and pasta in the pantry. With a pot of basil growing on the back porch, and tomatoes and mozzarella weekly grocery staples at this time of year, you can see how easily this came together.
It’s honestly not something that even requires a recipe, but for the beginning cooks in my family, everything requires a recipe.
The bonus is that you can put this dinner on the table in 30 minutes, even if you are grilling the chicken. Just let the chicken rest for five minutes before you slice it and toss it with the rest of the salad and the lemon vinaigrette. The fresh-squeezed lemon juice really brightens this salad, so please don’t even think about using that stuff from a bottle.
Tim's Favorite Pasta Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 or 3 boneless chicken breasts
1 pound pasta (shells, ziti, or fusilli)
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch dice
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½- to 1-inch dice
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat grill to medium high.
2. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
3. Fill large pot with water for cooking pasta. Add a pinch of salt and bring water to a boil.
4. When water boils, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, usually 9 to 13 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside.
5. Meanwhile, when grill is hot, oil the grates with paper towel, and grill chicken breasts, about 6 to 10 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Remove from grill and let rest for about five minutes, then slice into thin strips.
6. Slowly pour the olive oil into the lemon juice, stirring constantly, to make the vinaigrette.
7. Combine pasta, chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
8. Slowly drizzle about half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. Add more to taste. (I like to save a little to revive leftover salad the next day.)
9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Per serving: 551 calories, 39 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 16 grams fat, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 213 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber
My daughter says she has not completely abandoned the blog, but she has certainly not been cooking, taking a few weeks before she starts medical school to visit friends, go to the beach, and do a lot of nothing.
So, I’ve implored my son to take a crack at this cooking thing. Sally had a preference for learning a lot of vegetarian dishes, or meals centered around fish or chicken.
While Tim’s favorite meals are more meat centric, everyone in the family loves crab cakes, so I thought that would be a recipe he was anxious to learn.
Well, not so much. Tim made it pretty clear. He wanted meat. Red meat. And potatoes. Colored vegetables were optional.
Okay then. He wanted to just grab a few steaks and throw them on the grill. But as he was home for dinner over the weekend, I suggested we cook together, and try London Broil, or top round. Much more meat, just as tasty, for a much better price. In fact the two pound slab of top round I bought was about $10. Even (what used to be less expensive) flank steak was about twice that price.
I did a quick marinade with fresh herbs and olive oil, coarse salt and pepper. Then while the grill was heating up, we cut up potatoes, zucchini and carrots.
We roasted the zucchini and carrots in the oven with a little olive oil and salt. Instead of whipped potatoes, which are not terribly hard but can be challenging for a new cook, we went with smashed potatoes.
They don’t need to be peeled, just cut up, boiled, then literally smashed with a potato masher, with butter, salt and a little milk. Even Tim was impressed at how easy they were.
The London Broil was grilled to a nice medium rare, so good that the son who never eats leftovers brought them home to his apartment for dinner the next night.
Two nights in a row without takeout is a good start.
London Broil, Smashed Potatoes, and Roasted Vegetables
Makes 4 servings
2 pounds of top round beef
3 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, or marjoram
1½ teaspoons coarse salt, plus to taste for veggies
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, plus to taste for veggies
4 medium-size Idaho potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
2 zucchini, washed
4 carrots, washed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
1. Mix together and rub into the beef the herbs and salt and pepper. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Let the meat sit out for 1 hour at room temperature.
2. Prepare the grill.
3. Meanwhile, slice the zucchini and carrots into coins, and cut the potatoes into 2-inch chunks.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the potatoes in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil.
5. When the grill is hot, put the meat on the grill and cook for 3 minutes on one side, turn over and cook for 3 minutes on the other side. Then turn down the heat, and cook for 6 or 7 minutes on each side for medium rare.
6. When the oven is hot, put the veggies on a sheet pan, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put in the oven for about 15 minutes.
7. Once the potatoes boil, set the timer for 10 minutes, but keep checking with a fork to see if they are soft.
8. When the potatoes are fork-tender, drain. Add butter and milk and smash the potatoes with a potato masher (with skins on) to desired consistency. (But don’t mash too much or they will turn to glue. They should be a little lumpy.)
9. Take steak off the grill and let rest for 5 minutes. Slice thinly across the grain and serve with potatoes and vegetables.
-Adapted from a recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food