BLADE ILLUSTRATION/JEFF BASTING Enlarge
You come home from a long day at work. Your boss was giving you grief all day. Your spouse is in a bitterly bleak mood and is taking it out on you. The kids have to go to soccer practice and ballet class. Your muffler has a hole in it and you’re pretty sure you’re getting an ingrown hair.
The last thing you want to do is make dinner. But you have to eat.
You don’t want to go to a store, not with all that noise coming out of your muffler. So you go to the pantry and you go to the fridge. You reach into both, pull out a pile of stuff, and dump it on a counter.
What are you going to make? What are you going to cook that is fast, easy, and made from things you are likely to have on hand?
Franks and beans is a perennial favorite — cheap, delicious, and packed with protein. But what if you don’t have any hot dogs, or maybe you want to try something new?
No problem. Just substitute ground beef for the franks and cook it the same way. Voila, you have beef ‘n’ beans. Brown the beef in small clumps — it will clump up anyway — in onions and garlic. Add baked beans, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and a dash of vinegar. Want a bit more of a kick? Stir in some hot sauce for a real Southwestern-style treat. Eating it around a campfire is not required, but it couldn’t hurt.
If you happen to have a salmon fillet or two lying around and you are tired of cooking it with a squeeze or two of lime juice, you could do worse than the classic pairing of maple syrup and bourbon as a glaze. The big, bold flavor is so finished and professional everyone will think you were working on it all day. But it is simple and it takes no time at all, except a little time for marinating — and even that can be eliminated.
To cook the salmon, all you have to do is remember the three B’s: Brush it, broil it, and baste it.
Not that long ago, it was considered wrong, strange, and impure to blend the cuisine from one culture with the cuisine of another culture to result in a new, mixed cuisine — a Hegelian dialectic of the kitchen, as it were. But these days it’s called fusion.
Which leads us to pierogi. Sure, pierogi are great as they are, or topped with fried onions or sour cream. But there are only so many things you can do with them, which can be a problem if you happen to be a maker of frozen pierogi and you’re trying to think of new marketing ideas. And so the pierogi marketers have turned to fusion.
Because they’re frozen pierogi, let’s call it cold fusion.
One recipe sent out by Mrs. T’s Pierogies looked to the East for inspiration and came up with an Asian take on traditionally Eastern European fare: Pierogi Pad Thai. But don’t worry. We’re not even going to contemplate that one.
Instead, we’re going to go with another one of their suggestions just right for the season, Pierogi Primavera. If you think of pierogi as a kind of pasta — it’s sort of a stuffed pasta, like tortellini or ravioli — then why not use them as a variation on Pasta Primavera?
The beauty of this idea is that you can use any springtime vegetables you have on hand to make it. You could even substitute out the pierogi for pasta, if you wanted to get daring and creative.
And finally we have that other favorite, chicken cacciatore, which first came to this country in restaurants, then moved to home kitchens, and now largely has been forgotten. But it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s extremely forgiving, and it can be made from ingredients you are likely to have in your pantry.
In Italian, “cacciatore” means “hunter,” and chicken cacciatore is meant to be chicken that is cooked in the style of hunters. But it’s hard to avoid the image of Italian hunters walking around poultry farms, blasting away at crowds of helpless, squawking chickens.
Hunter style, in Italy, is chicken — or rabbit, which probably was the recipe’s original meat — that has been simmered in tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and wine. White wine is more popular in Northern Italy, and that is what we use for our recipe, although the red wine that is favored in Southern Italy and Sicily sounds like it would be great, too. In the southern part of the country they also spice it up with red pepper flakes, or you could replace the bell peppers with peppers that are a bit more fiery.
But don’t go overboard. This dish is about the chicken simmered in tomatoes with the mellowing depths of peppers and onions, not about searing your tongue.
Contact Daniel Neman at email@example.com or 419-724-6155.
1 pound salmon fillets
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup bourbon
2tablespoons lemon juice
Mix together syrup, bourbon, and lemon juice in a shallow dish big enough to fit the salmon. Place the salmon flesh-side down in the mixture for 30 minutes.
Preheat the broiler and grease a baking sheet or spray it with non-stick spray. Put the salmon skin-side down on the baking sheet, sprinkle it very lightly with garlic powder, and brush the top with the marinade. Boil the marinade at least 1 minute (to make it safe for basting the fish) or until it reduces to a light syrup for a more pronounced bourbon-maple flavor.
Broil the fish 4 minutes, baste with the marinade, and return to the broiler until done, another 1-3 minutes depending on the thickness. The fish should flake away easily at the thickest part.
Yield: 4 servings
1 (16-ounce) package frozen pierogi, potato and cheese flavor
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 cup frozen peas, thawed slightly
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté pierogi as package directs in 12-inch skillet. Remove from skillet.
Heat oil in same skillet over medium heat and cook asparagus (or other fresh, green vegetables), carrots, and red onion about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally. Stir in peas; cook 2 minutes longer. Stir in pierogi and salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 4 servings
Source: Mrs. T’s Pierogies
Beef ’n’ Beans
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
2 (16-ounce) cans vegetarian baked beans, or 1 (28-ounce) can
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcesterschire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
In large skillet over medium heat, stir together ground beef, onion, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. With a spoon or spatula, break up the beef into bite-sized clumps or smaller. When the beef is browned, pour off excess fat, if any.
Add the vegetarian baked beans (the other ingredients mimic — but surpass — what you get in regular baked beans), mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded and the beans are bubbly, about 5 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings
4 chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons oil
1 green pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 red pepper, chopped into bite-size pieces
8 white mushrooms, quartered or chopped into bite-size pieces
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 cup dry white wine OR red wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce can) tomatoes, preferably plum
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or more to taste
Salt and pepper
Remove the skin or bones from the chicken, if desired. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
Over medium high heat, coat the bottom of a large saucepan with oil. Brown the chicken breasts on both sides; don’t crowd the pieces, do this in batches if necessary.
Remove the chicken to a plate, lower the heat, and sauté the green and red peppers, mushrooms, and onions until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, broth, tomatoes, oregano, salt, and pepper. With a spoon or spatula, break up the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer 30 minutes. For a thicker sauce, remove the chicken and boil the sauce another few minutes.
Serve over noodles.
Yield: 4 servings