I have to say, I am relishing not really being up to eating out at night.  We used to go out all the time, and that is one of the great things about NYC, but it’s hell on a wallet and it’s crowded and I now almost exclusively wear sneakers since my feet are huge, so I would feel out of place in a fancy-pants place anyway striding in all big-footed in my Nikes, so why bother?  I go home for dinner.

In NYC, home for dinner normally means dialing in for food – Chinese, Indian, Mexican, whatever.  I have friends who use their ovens for extra storage.  Cooking can be a chore, so for New Yorkers, a home cooked meal often comes in a bag and a box.  And we do that, but I really like to get home and cook something.  I find that chopping and prepping and making something is a great way for me to wind down.  Now that said, I am not super interested in cooking for hours on end most weeknights, so I have a few stand-by recipes that I rely upon that are quick and good.  Thought I would share…

  • As much as it pains me, one of the best stand-by quick recipes I have is Rachel Ray’s Jambalaya.  I know she wears her shirts too tight, and has incredibly annoying habits like saying "EVOO" but if you can get past that, this dish is quick and darn tasty. 
  • Continuing on the Rachel theme, I use her curry recipe too, along with the chick pea/zucchini stew from the same episode.  Now this meal is a great one for a dinner party.  It’s better cooked a day ahead, and then all you have to do is heat it up when company comes over, put out the sides like onions, mashed bananas, chutney and let people go to town.  Curry is a bit unexpected at a dinner party, and if you make this the day before, fire up some store bought papadams, if you can find them, you look like a hero.  Add some mango sorbet at the end (and wine or beer all along the way) and everyone has a blast. 
  • I like recipes that are high impact, few ingredients.  The best example is Nigella Lawson’s recipe for chicken with chorizo and canneli beans.  It tastes great, cooks in no time, is great looking on a plate and needs only a few ingredients.  And because you are eating beans and greens on the same plate, it feels healthy (well, the chorizo makes it less healthy but who really cares?)
  • I also enjoy pounding on a few turkey cutlets at the end of a day, dipping them in egg then panko bread crumbs (seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper), lightly frying them and topping them with a little salad.  And the salad goes like this – take either arugula or spinach and mix it with grape tomatoes you have cut in half.  Throw a little salt and pepper over your greens/tomatoes, then ever so lightly toss the greens with extra virgin olive oil.  Next, squeeze some lemon juice on all of that and toss.  Re-season with more lemon, salt and/or pepper, as needed.  Make the salad right at the end or it will wilt.  Pile the salad on top of the warm fried cutlets.  Heaven.  I think this can also be served for company because it looks nice on a plate and tastes great.
  • Ellie Krieger’s pasta puttanesca can be on a plate in less than 15 minutes and it’s really good.  I like to use anchovies from a can rather than paste, but paste is fine, and let them melt into the sauce, and to avoid burning the garlic I mix my chopped garlic with a tablespoon or so of water and toss all of that in the pan.  I also make a pound of pasta and about double everything else in the recipe – she makes a half pound which is never enough (she is a health nut, after all).  The use of whole wheat pasta is great and the arugula works wonders.  I also cheat and use pre-chopped olives (unless I am feeling violent and want to take it out on olives) because pitting olives can be a pain.  I NEVER use cheese on this, as she suggests.  Cheese on a fish pasta is nasty and goes against ever Italian cooking rule I have ever read.
  • And of course, I can not forget old faithful: Roast Chicken.  Perhaps one of the easiest things ever to make.  Because Thomas Keller is a god, I use his recipe.  Take a small bird (2 to 3 pounds), wash it then dry it thoroughly, salt and pepper it, put it in a pan (I use a small cast iron skillet), maybe stuff a half a lemon into the cavity or garlic, and throw the whole thing into a pre-heated 450 degree oven for about 50 minutes.  Take it out, let it sit for 10 minutes while you maybe make a salad, and dig in.  I don’t always truss it, and I am often tempted to eat the whole thing straight out of the pan.   
  • Of course, clams are easy fun and impressive.  Big pot, maybe saute a little garlic and/or onion in some olive oil…maybe some chorizo if you have that around.  Throw in the clams and pour some wine and water over the whole thing (not a lot).  Cover and let simmer until the clams open.  Pour clams and broth into a big bowl.  If you are feeling fancy, toss with fresh chopped parsley.  A nice first course for a dinner party, or just for you on your couch.
  • And then there is soup.  Cream of something soups.  Soup is cool because people who don’t cook have no idea how easy it is to turn a batch of asparagus into a delicious soup.  This recipe is simple and great, and if you use an immersion blender, it’s even more simple and great.  I like to add a dash of cayenne pepper to mine.  If you make some garlic toasts that would be a nice and indulgent addition.

So those are my ideas.  I have other stand-bys but I cannot possibly share all my tricks, right?  Now, what will we have for dinner tonight?

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