Four Quick Stovetop Vegetable Dishes

Ahhhh! Some nights you just can’t figure out what to do for a vegetable dish. Well, here are 4 suggestions that seem to pop up at our house pretty often. And we love them all. And we’re happy to see each one return to the table time and again. AND they are easy. They are quick. And they are all inventions of my mom! (Believe me, she knows what she’s doing.)

Escarole with Cannellini Beans and Garlic. This is a green that makes me super happy. It’s got just a hint of bitter, and the leaves are smooth and crunchy. With the beans (there’s your protein!) and some garlic, it’s almost a meal in itself.

Mushrooms with Peas and Shallot. Mushrooms are almost a super food and high on the umami meter. Peas add a pop of green and pop! in your mouth and the shallot aromatic pulls all the flavors together.

Zucchini Fritters. You’ll sit up and take notice once zucchini is fried. Frying brings out the best of zucchini and these fritters are like little comfy pillows for your taste buds.

String Beans and Potatoes. String beans, green beans, take your pick– all the same. I like to use the skinny french beans, but the regular Mr. Green Jeans string beans are perfect. The added potatoes give a nice starchy smoothness.

Try one, try all. Let me know your faves.

Escarole with Cannellini Beans and Garlic

Escarole and Beans

1 head escarole

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans

salt to taste

Clean the escarole: discard any outer leaves that are bruised. Rinse the head well (into the center, too) and drain and pat dry. Tear leaves into just a little larger than bite-sized pieces (or as you prefer).

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. Add garlic, let cook for about 2 minutes, but don’t let it color. Add the escarole. Season escarole with salt and toss until it begins to wilt. Add beans. Toss to combine, cook until leaves have wilted completely and are tender to the bite, about 4-5 minutes more. Adjust seasoning if needed. Add a little more olive oil if too dry. Serve.

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Mushrooms with Peas and Shallot

Mushrooms and Peas

8 ounces whole white mushrooms, or baby bella

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and sliced

1 cup peas (you can add frozen peas right into the recipe)

salt to taste

Rinse mushrooms to remove any loose dirt. Slice mushroom into thick(ish) slices.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add shallot, let cook for a minute. Add mushrooms. Let cook at a lively simmer for about 3 minutes. Stir in peas. Season with salt. Cook until peas are cooked through and mushrooms are cooked, about 2-3 minutes more. Serve.

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Zucchini Fritters

Zucchini Fritters

2 small zucchini or 1 medium-large

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg

1/4 cup grated parmigiano

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Trim the stem end from the zucchini. Grate the zucchini on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer grated zucchini to a medium mixing bowl. Add flour, egg, and cheese. Season well with salt. Stir to combine.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, spoon a couple of tablespoons zucchini mixture per fritter into the oil. Fill pan with fritters in one layer. Cook at medium high heat. Let them brown on the first side, then flip them to brown on the other. About a minute or so per side. Drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle a little more salt when the come out of the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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String Beans and Potatoes

String Beans and Potatoes

1 pound string beans, tipped

1 medium russet potato (or golden potato), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 garlic cloves, peeled

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil. Add olive oil and some salt. Add string beans, garlic, and potatoes. Let simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Drain and serve. (Add a drizzle of olive oil if you’d like and season with some more salt if you’d like.)

🙂 All YUM.

 

 

 

Find the Fava Beans (with Pasta)

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It’s spring. The best time to find some fava beans. (Although, because food tends to travel long distances, you may find them during other seasons.)

When I worked at Batali’s restaurant, Lupa, in NYC, springtime fava beans were on the menu every day. In the prep kitchen, shucking the beans was a daily routine. We shucked and parboiled with love. And the beans ended up in pasta, vegetable sides, and appetizers. I LOVE them.

You can often find them at international markets. When you buy them, buy a lot. The pods are bulky and once you get the beans out, the volume shrinks to about a quarter of the original beans-in-the-pod. But the little beans are rich, in a vegetable-healthy way.

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Here’s a recipe for a quick pasta dish with fava. I added shallot and mushrooms and a little bit of fresh herbs — basil & parsley — to go with spaghetti.

First: break open the pods and remove the beans. Discard the pods.

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Now: bring a medium saucepan– half-way filled with water — to a boil. Add a little salt, add beans. Par-boil for about 1-2 minutes. Then drain, and run under cool water. We’re not trying to cook the beans here. We want to loosen the shell coating.

Here’s where it gets a little tedious (but so worth it!): peel shell off of each bean. I usually pull from the thick bump on one end of the shell.

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Inside the tender beans are bright deep green.

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Now you’re ready to start your pasta sauce. Put a pasta pot of water on the stove to boil. Sauté a minced shallot and a handful of sliced mushrooms, and your fava beans in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Cook at a lively simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add a 1/4 of dry white wine. Let it simmer and almost evaporate.

I love some toasted breadcrumbs with this dish. Just add a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs or Panko to a small frying pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil, and sauté until browned.

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As your fava/mushrooms mixture cooks, boil some spaghetti. When spaghetti is done, drain (reserving a cup of pasta water), add to sauté pan with fava. Cook for another 2 minutes, coating pasta with sauce. If too dry, add pasta water and a little olive oil. Then a handful of the breadcrumbs.

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Mix them in. Serve. Eat. Mangia. Enjoy!

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Spaghetti with Fava Beans and Mushrooms

1  1/2 pounds fava bean (in pods)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 shallot, peeled and minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1/2-3/4 pound spaghetti

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/2 cup breadcrumbs or Panko

handful basil and or parsley leaves, rough chopped

salt to taste

Shuck the beans from the pods. Discard pods. Bring a half pot of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add beans and boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cool water.

Peel shells off of fava beans. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, add minced shallot, sliced mushrooms and fava beans. Saute until the mushrooms brown. Add the wine and let evaporate. Season with salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a pasta pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook to al dente. When done, drain (reserve a cup of pasta water) and add to pan with vegetables. Toss to coat, cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add more olive oil or pasta water if too dry. Add a handful of toasted breadcrumb. Mix in. Add herbs. Taste for seasoning, add more salt if needed. Serve.

 

Family Sicilian Chicken

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This is the simplest and most delicious chicken recipe ever. Ah-ha! Hard to believe? Well, it’s true. 😜 It’s been in my family for a couple of generations at least.

And it has a very Sicilian name: spizzadeda. That’s the best spelling I can come up with. I never saw it written down; I’ve only cooked it  after seeing it cooked by my mom. She attributes it to Palermo, home base for the Sicilian side of my mom’s family.

All you do is add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Cook chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

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Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine.


Add back chicken. Add water to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile, boil some spaghetti.


When done, mix spaghetti with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

Sound simple? Soooo surprisingly good!

Spizzadeda

8-10 pieces bone-in chicken

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

1 medium onion, peeled, thin slices

1/4 dry white wine (optional)

1/2 lb. or 1 lb. spaghetti  (you can use more water in the cooking if you use a full pound.)

grated Parmesan for sprinkling

Add a little olive oil to a frying pan to heat. Season your chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Sauté  chicken in hot oil until golden on each side. Take out. Add sliced onion.

Cook onions till soft. Add a splash of white wine. Add back chicken. Add water to fill to about halfway up chicken. Season with salt & pepper. Cover askew. Simmer for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Boil spaghetti until al dente. When done, mix with the simmering juice of the chicken. Sprinkle grated Parmigiano on your pasta servings with the chicken.

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Pork Pizzaiola

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What is pizzaiola? It’s either the guy making your pizza or a dish cooked “pizza-style.” In this case it’s a dish cooked pizza-style– which means it has tomato sauce and oregano in it. Those are the ingredients that are the signature tastes of pizzaiola.

Usually it’s made with steak. Here I’m using pork “chops” instead, but they are chops without the bone and really just thickish slices of pork loin.

It’s an easy dish and comes together in a half hour. Perfect! Serve it with a little pasta using the pizzaiola sauce.

All it takes is browning the pork coated in breadcrumbs (I got a trick from my mom– season pork with salt and pepper, then give them a light coat of olive oil for the breadcrumb to stick on). After they get golden on both sides, take them out of pan…

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…and saute onion until soft.

Build your sauce. Then add back chops for 5-6 minutes more. It’s so tasty. Try the same process with chicken cutlets. Oh yes!

Pork Pizzaiola

6-8 boneless pork chops

olive oil for drizzling and sautéing

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs

1 medium onion, peeled & thinly sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Lay chops out on a plate or pan. Season them well with salt & pepper on both sides. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil across them and then turn them to get lightly coated in the oil. In a medium shallow bowl, add the 2 types of breadcrumb. Season crumbs with salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan. When hot, press the chops onto the crumbs to adhere, on both sides. Place crumb-coated chops in pan. Sauté till golden on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Take them out to a paper-towel-lined plate or pan.

If needed, add a little more oil to pan, keep hot. Sauté onion until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add oregano. Add splash of wine. When wine evaporates, add tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Let tomato sauce simmer for 10 minutes. Add back chops. Spoon sauce on top. Let simmer with a cover askew for 5-6 minutes more. Serve.

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Mini Pies with Fresh Orange

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mini pies with fresh orange

Let’s celebrate a winter fruit: here’s a dessert that makes fresh oranges the center of attention. Mix them up with mascarpone, some sugar, and some extract boosts…and these mini-hand-pies are the perfect perk-you-up bite for a snack, with afternoon tea, or a morning coffee friend.

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I found the best way to get the flesh sans peel and pith is to cut off the peels and pith by sliding a knife all around the edges (careful—do it on a cutting board). Then cut flesh of oranges into slices then cubes.

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I added a vanilla glaze to drizzle on top with some crushed walnuts. (Don’t you always find the possibilities are endless?? 🙂

I did a demo on Nashville’s WSMV-TV “Today in Nashville” with Kelly Sutton and Carole Sullivan…here’s the segment on YouTube. (I also show you how to cut the orange.) And find the recipe below. Have fun!

Orange Mini Hand Pies with Mascarpone

3 navel oranges

2 sheets store-bought puff pastry

8 ounces mascarpone, room temperature

1/3 cup sugar 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1 egg (for egg wash)

Vanilla Glaze & Topping

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup walnuts, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Zest all 3 oranges. Cut off the peel and pith off the oranges. Cut oranges into slices and then into small dice.

Add the mascarpone to a medium mixing bowl. Add sugar and extracts. Stir to combine well. Stir in the orange pieces and orange zest. 

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough pieces until just slightly larger and thinner. Using a 3-inch square cutter, cut out squares of dough. Add a tablespoon of mixture in the middle. Fold to make triangles. Press along the edges to seal. Then use the tines of a fork to press closed more securely. Place triangles on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Re-roll dough scraps to make more — you should have about 30 mini hand pies.

Mix the egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush egg wash on each triangle. Poke a small hole in the center of each one. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden.

Make the Vanilla Glaze:

In a medium mixing bowl press out the butter with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the powdered sugar and mix until the butter is blended into small pieces. Add the vanilla and mix well. Run the kitchen faucet until very hot. Add 1-2 tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir rapidly to combine. If frosting seems too thick, add more hot water until it becomes the right consistency for drizzling.

Wait until mini pies are completely cool. Drizzle glaze on top in a zig-zag design. Sprinkle with crushed walnuts.

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We called them the “White Cookies”

fullsizeoutput_149cI was the one in our family who could devour a whole batch of “white cookies” in just a couple of sittings. So when my mom would say — should I make the white cookies? I had a push/pull feeling. Yes! I love them. No! I’ll be only one to eat them and here comes some extra pounds. Grr. BUT they’re so good.

Why was it only me who liked them? Well, they’re not too sweet (I’m not big on too sweet), they have a cakey almost biscuity body with a lemony vanilla-y icing. Ohhhh. Very good. Soft to the bite, exciting to the palate. Maybe they’re very sophisticated and that’s why I’m the only who recognized that (ha ha, just kidding).

Make them. Bake them. They’ll stay nice in a tin (after icing sets) for a week. But they won’t last that long. Because you’ll eat them first. And, yes, they’re from my Italian-American background, and despite our simple name for them I’ve seen similar cookies in Italian bakeries with the name: anginetti. But those bakery cookies never lived up to the ones coming from our home kitchen. So now…from your home kitchen!

“White Cookies” or Italian Lemon Cookies

For the cookies:

½ stick unsalted butter (four tablespoons)

5 tablespoons sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour plus 2 tablespoons

4 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

For the icing:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft (room temp)

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar

2 drops lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Make the cookies:

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs one at a time, and vanilla extract. Beat to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. Add to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. Beat to combine until a dough forms. Don’t over mix. Pinch off one-inch pieces of dough and shape into balls. Place on a baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough.

Bake for about 15 minutes until cookies are slightly colored golden-tan. Use a spatula to gentle move cookies from baking pan to a rack to cool (or open a brown paper bag flat and let cool on that). 

Make the icing:

In a medium mixing bowl, use a spoon to mash the butter flat. Add the sugar, and mix roughly. Run tap water until it is very hot. Drizzle in a little hot water – just start with about a teaspoon – and stir to combine, mixing vigorously and quickly to incorporate the butter. Add more water little by little until you reach a good consistency…like honey.

When cookies are cool, dip them top-first into the icing, then stand them icing-side up on a flat surface. Continue with all the cookies. You can store cookies in airtight tins once the icing has dried and set.

Sautéed Peas Roman-Style

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Why Roman style? Simply because I learned this recipe when I was a student in Rome — many years ago. It’s a recipe that one of my professors talked about in the hallway between classes. It’s never left my repertoire.

It’s so easy. So lovely. A perfect accompaniment to meat, fish, seafood. And so pretty, too!

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Sautéed Roman Peas w Onion & Pancetta

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1/3 cup pancetta, diced

1 medium onion, peeled, halved, thinly sliced

¼ cup wine

1 lb. bag frozen peas

salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the pancetta. Cook until lightly browned. Add onion & cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the wine. Let it simmer for a minute or so and mostly evaporate. Add peas and a ¼ cup of water. Cook until peas defrost and water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle a little olive oil. Serve.

BOOK peas roman

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

When I make stuffed mushrooms it’s always a last minute thought. And that’s okay. Because it takes near nothing to do.

You can make this recipe with 5 mushrooms, 12 mushrooms, 20. As long as you have a shallot (my favorite for this) or an onion (and some breadcrumb) you’re ready. Turn on the oven to 375 or 400. Line a sheet pan with foil. And go!

They are so tasty, and look so enticing and elaborate, you’ll never use a mushroom in any other way. (Well, of course, you will.)

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

12 medium to large white or cremini mushrooms (I love having the usual array of mixed sizes)

1 shallot

Olive oil for sautéing and drizzling

1/2 cup panko

2-3 sprigs parsley, leaves minced, stems discarded

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Line a sheet pan with foil. Drizzle a thin film of olive oil on foil. Gently pop out the stems of the mushrooms and line up the empty caps on the sheet pan. Mince up the stems. Peel and mince the shallot. Heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a medium frying pan. Sauté the chopped stems and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. When softened — about 2-3 minutes — add the breadcrumb & parsley. Drizzle a little more olive oil. Stir and coat crumbs with mixture. Add a little more salt. Take off heat. Let cool for a minute or so.

Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil over caps, and very lightly salt caps. Using a small spoon, spoon mixture into caps until heaping. Place pan with mushrooms in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes until tops are golden or lightly brown.

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Baked Stuffed Mushrooms

 

 

Beans & Macaroni aka “Pasta Fazul”

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Beans & Macaroni

My mom says she thinks Beans & Macaroni was an every Friday night dish when she was growing up — for Catholics, Friday was a no-meat day. Both my parents grew up in Brooklyn during the 1930’s & 40’s. My grandparents were from Italy and all cooking was Italy influenced. 

Beans & Macaroni is also the oft-dialect-named Pasta “Fazul” or in real Italian: Pasta e Fagioli. This is a very simple dish — deceivingly so, because the flavor is surprising and addicting. AND you’re eating awfully-good healthy.

You start by putting on the pasta pot to boil. Add your pasta, then start the other ingredients. That’s how long it takes. No time!

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pasta boiling

Try it. It’s a surprise (if you didn’t know it already) and when you’ve got a couple of garlic cloves, a can of beans, and a 1/2 lb. of pasta— you’re in!

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beans and macaroni ingredients

I added the “prohibited” meat, a 1/4 lb. of chopped pancetta.

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pancetta and garlic in oil

Also, not in my mom’s original recipe: some fresh herbs added at the end: basil, parsley, sage, or rosemary— just a little… of just a couple.

Beans & Macaroni (Pasta Fagioli — “Pasta Fazul”)

1/2 lb. small cut macaroni i.e. elbow or ditalini

1 15-oz can cannellini beans

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled & cut in half

1/4 cup minced pancetta (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

3-4 sprigs Italian parley, leaves minced, stems discarded

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced, stems discarded

grated cheese to pass at table

Fill a pasta pot with water and bring to a boil. Season water with salt and pour in pasta. Cook until “al dente” (done but not mushy).

Meanwhile, add the can of beans and its water to a small saucepan, add an additional  3/4 can of water. Season beans with salt & pepper. Bring to a simmer. After it’s hot, take a potato masher and mash down the beans one or two times only– so you get a little mush, but mostly left with whole beans (this thickens the whole dish a little). In another small saucepan, add the olive oil and garlic (& pancetta if using) until garlic gets just a little golden (and pancetta is cooked through), then shut off.

Drain pasta and add drained pasta to a medium serving bowl. Add the beans and its water. Add the olive oil, (cooked pancetta), and garlic. Sprinkle with parsley & rosemary, toss to combine. Serve in bowls. Pass grated cheese.

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your serving of beans and macaroni