Well, it’s clear that I haven’t had a chance to post much here recently, and I haven’t been doing many cooking challenges lately either. Sometimes life gets too hectic. With that in mind, I am returning my focus to simple recipes, and I will post a bunch of them here.
By simple recipes, I mean recipes that have only a handful of ingredients, no more than five total, including salt, pepper and oil. Or quick but complete dinners that you can put together in one pan. These are the kinds of recipes that you will memorize after making them two or three times, so that you can easily whip one up on a weeknight even if you’re dead tired, or you can pull out when you’re not sure what to make with that ingredient you picked up on sale.
These recipes are great to add to your repertoire, but the problem is that they can become boring after a while. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a ready-made arsenal to add pizzazz to any recipe. You can vary the flavors depending on your mood and what you have available.
Here is my list of sure-fire ways to quickly and easily boost the flavor quotient in a simple recipe:
- Garnish it with fresh herbs after cooking.
- Sprinkle in a little citrus juice or vinegar at the end of cooking.
- Add minced chiles or red pepper flakes for heat.
- Substitute heavy cream, sour cream, plain yogurt or melted butter for some of the oil.
- Sprinkle with grated Parmesan or other cheese or with crumbled bacon (you can substitute bacon grease for some of the oil as well).
- Mix in slow-roasted tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pesto or other ready-made ingredients from the pantry.
- Substitute or add similar vegetables.
As I post some of my favorite tried-and-true simple recipes, I’ll provide examples of these flavor boosters. But never be afraid to experiment. Cooking is more fun that way!
Maybe this isn’t a true stroganoff, since it doesn’t have beef, but it is an easy and tasty weeknight meal. I adapted the recipe from my base recipe for Saucy Chicken.
Time to make: ~30 minutes
What you need:
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- ½ lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
- ½ bell pepper, sliced
- ½ red onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ lb. boneless chicken breast, diced and tossed with salt, pepper and dried herbs (such as sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano)
- ¼ cup sherry
- ¼ cup sour cream
- egg noodles, cooked
- Heat the oil over medium-high
- Saute the mushrooms, pepper, onion and garlic until browned
- Add the chicken and cook until browned
- Reduce the heat to medium
- Add the sherry and let simmer a minute or two
- Add sour cream and mix well
- Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through
- Serve over egg noodles
It’s getting to be that time of year, again — party time. And while I love to try out new recipes for hors d’oeuvres, it’s good to have a few tried and true workhorses on standby. Such is the Sour Cream Dip, always a favorite and literally a blank palette for the cook to experiment with. While Sour Cream Dip works well with chips, it’s particularly good with crudités: cut-up raw (or sometimes blanched) vegetables. This gets some vegetables on the table while still remaining high in decadence.
My basic formula for sour cream dip is 3 parts sour cream and 1 part mayonnaise, for added richness and flavor. If you’d like a tangier dip, substitute plain yogurt for the mayonnaise. Combine ¾ cup sour cream and ¼ cup mayonnaise, and you’ll have enough dip for about 10 people. Mix with 1 tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper, plus other flavorings as desired. Here are some suggestions, to be used in any combination:
- ½ cup blue cheese or feta
- ½ cup smoked fish
- ½ cup minced vegetables, such as cucumber, scallion, onion, bell pepper and/or tomato
- minced garlic and/or fresh herbs, to taste
- 1 tbsp. horseradish or mustard
- up to 2 tbsp. seasoning mix, such as curry powder or Southwest seasoning, to taste
Spicy Italian Sour Cream Dip
- ¾ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 scallion, minced
- 1 tbsp. Italian dressing seasoning (Penzey’s is recommended)
With conveniently cut-up and bagged veggies from the grocery store, crudités are a snap to make. But if you want to get a little more creative and put in slightly more work, here are some suggestions:
- No work: pre-bagged broccoli and cauliflower florets, baby carrots, celery sticks, jicama sticks, cherry tomatoes, mushroom caps (will need cleaning, though)
- Some work (cutting up): bell peppers, cucumber, summer squash, zucchini
- Slightly more work (blanching): asparagus spears, green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, new potato wedges
- Fun: Scoop out a cabbage, sweet pepper or squash to hold the dip