what was I cooking last week you ask?
I already had bone-in chicken breasts and a sufficient amount of canned plum tomatoes in the freezer, a tube of anchovy paste in the refrigerator, basil in the garden and pantry staples (kosher salt, black pepper, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic and red pepper flakes. The only item needed to be purchased was bocconcini (small balls of fresh mozzarella).
This is a great weeknight meal, as it takes just 45 minutes to prepare and is a one pot meal…hurray! Using an oven-proof skillet, a little oil is added to the pan to brown the pancetta. Next, sear the chicken until browned on both sides. Add the garlic, anchovy and red pepper flakes. Once those flavors have blossomed, the tomatoes and basil go in the pan for 10 minutes. Following this step, return the chicken to the pan and bake uncovered for approximately 30 minutes. When done, remove from oven and top with mozzarella, turn oven setting to broil and place the pan under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is melted. Garnish with the pancetta and additional basil.
What a tasty dish and easy too! The flavors were a wonderful blend, a bit spicy from the red pepper flakes, a little salty from the pancetta and richness from the mozzarella. My husband does not like anchovies, however, I snuck it in as it adds umami to the dish. Although he questioned its presence, he couldn’t detect it.
The following day I prepared Shrimp Creole. Again, a check what was on hand revealed that I only needed a few items items: shrimp, green bell pepper and a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. For the recipe you’ll also need, Creole seasoning (the recipe includes the ingredients for making your own seasoning), unsalted butter, all-purpose flour, yellow onion, celery ribs, fresh garlic, hot sauce (optional), granulated sugar, dried thyme, oregano, dried basil, dried bay leaves, fine sea salt, black pepper, scallions, flat leaf parsley and steamed rice.
I was able to make my own Creole seasoning as I had all the spices on hand. I would also suggest using diced tomatoes instead of sauce. Other cooks also suggested swapping the tomato sauce for chopped tomatoes such as Rotel. The recipe calls for making a roux, however, I found the sauce too thick and added water above what the recipe called for to make it looser. This recipe takes about 50-60 minutes to prepare, but worth it. The seasoning was perfect for our taste. Instead of dried herbs, I used fresh thyme, oregano and basil from my coldframe. Overall, a delicious dish and worth the work.
As mentioned before, my husband and I love our pasta. Despite not being a Thursday night, I made the Butternut Squash Pasta with Brown-Butter Bread Crumbs. For the recipe you’ll need unsalted butter, fresh sage leaves, panko bread crumbs, extra-virgin olive oil, shallots, fresh garlic, 1-1/2 pounds butternut squash, rotini or fusilli pasta, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (optional) and freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese. From the pantry I already had a good portion of the ingredients on hand and only had to purchase the squash, additional shallots and fusilli pasta. This recipe takes 40 minutes to prepare.
The sauce for this pasta dish is made with reserved pasta water, shallot mixture and the ½-inch cubed squash that is cooked in the pasta water. To create the sauce, the aforementioned ingredients are stirred vigorously and “some of the squash mashes into the sauce.”  While we enjoyed the pasta as prepared, my husband and I would have preferred more of a squash sauce. One commentor roasted the squash at 400° for approximately 20 minutes while the pasta cooked. If I was to prepare this dish again, I would peel, seed and cube the squash and cook it in my pressure cooker. When done, I would place in a bowl and mash until smooth. Once added to the cooked pasta with the reserved pasta water and shallot sauce, this should make a fine sauce.
Overall, something different and flavorful; I would make this dish again.
The last recipe I prepared last week came from the NYTimes Cooking recipe of the day, Salisbury Steak. I previously prepared Salisbury Steak from a recipe from Monmouth Meats, but this recipe seemed to pack more flavor. Perhaps the grass-fed ground beef that I purchased from Palmer’s Quality Meats in Neptune was an integral factor in the wonderful taste of this dish. For the recipe you’ll need a yellow onion, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, dark brown sugar, an egg, salt, pepper, 1 pound ground beef, panko bread crumbs, olive oil, cremini mushrooms, all-purpose flour, 1 cup beef stock, whole milk and fresh chives.
Other than the ground beef and mushrooms, I had everything I needed to make this dish. The recipe takes 35 minutes to prepare. The steaks are prepared with grated onion, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, egg, salt and pepper. A bit of panko is used as a binder. You shape the beef into 8 patties then pop in the freezer to firm up.
The steaks are sautéed in a skillet with a bit of olive oil. Once browned, they’re set aside so the sauce can be prepared. The remaining onion and mushrooms are added to the pan, seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked until deeply brown. Flour is added to the pan and stirred with the vegetables for approximately 30 seconds to cook out the raw flour taste. The liquids are added along with ketchup, and brown sugar. Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly. The steaks are returned to the pan until the gravy thickens to your likeness. Garnish with the chopped chives before serving.
Wow, what a fabulous meal. The combination of flavors along with the grass-fed beef made for a terrific supper. I served the steaks with mashed potatoes flavored with chives. Overall, a great eating week.
 Recipe by Kay Chun, The New York Times, quote from her recipe directions
Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes, Pancetta and Mozzarella
By Melissa Clark, The New York Times
From the column “What to Cook Next Week,” October 15, 2022
Time: 45 minutes
3½ pounds bone-in chicken pieces (or use a 3½ pound chicken cut into 8 pieces)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
5 ounces pancetta, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
8 ounces bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into ¾-inch pieces)
By Vallery Lomas
NYT Cooking and
The New York Times column “What to Cook Next Week”
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Time: 5 minutes
For the Creole Seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or less, if desired)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Shrimp
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons homemade or store-bought Creole seasoning
¼ cup unsalted butter (½ stick)
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce (no salt added)
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½teaspoon dried oregano
½teaspoon dried basil
2 dried bay leaves
Fine sea salt and black pepper
¼ cup chopped scallions
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems
Steamed rice, for serving
Butternut Squash Pasta with Brown-Butter Bread Crumbs
By Kay Chun
“What to Cook Next Week,” The New York Times
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Time: 40 Minutes
“A fun tip for easy squash pasta: Boil cubed squash with your pasta. Not only does it save time and effort, but also the salted pasta water helps thoroughly season the squash. The pasta and squash are then drained together and returned to the pot, where some of the tender squash breaks down and helps create a rich, creamy sauce without the addition of heavy cream. A fragrant brown butter that’s been infused with garlic and sage is used two ways in this meal: It serves as the base for the sauce, and it flavors the crispy bread crumb topping.”
6tablespoons unsalted butter
12 fresh sage leaves plus 1 sprig
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped shallot (from 2 large shallots)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into ½-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
1 pound rotini or fusilli pasta
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch of red-pepper flakes (optional)
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
Salisbury Steak, By Eric Kim
The New York Times Magazine, “Salisbury Steak Deserves Another Chance”
October 20, 2022
Servings: 4 to 6
Time: 35 minutes
For the Steaks
1 medium yellow onion
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
Salt and black pepper
1 pound ground beef
½ cup panko bread crumbs
Olive oil, for searing
For the Gravy
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock
½ cup whole milk
Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and brown sugar, for seasoning (optional)
Finely chopped fresh chives, for sprinkling (optional)
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A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.