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.


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.


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.


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.




Beans & Macaroni aka “Pasta Fazul”


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!


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!


beans and macaroni ingredients

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


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.


your serving of beans and macaroni

Sicilian-Style Roasted Chicken

Roasted Chicken Sicilian Style

Roasted Chicken Sicilian Style

We also called this chicken “Italian-style” when I was growing up (even tho everything was Italian-style…except for the occasional hot dogs and even Italians like hot dogs). To me it was “chicken with salad dressing.” Don’t get me wrong, I love this recipe, but the ingredients are salad dressing and that’s how I always remembered the recipe: olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic. And there you have it. That’s the recipe. But check out more details below.

My mom recently informed me that it’s not “Italian-style” chicken, but Sicilian-Style since she learned it from her mother-in-law and guess where her mother-in-law (my grandmother) was from? Yes, that’s right. Sicily. (Note: I added the lemon & parsley touch. Wherever I can get flavor and color I take it.)

This chicken is so tasty you’ll likely eat every piece in one sitting. But don’t. Probably not good for your waistline (or mine).

Sicilian-Style Chicken

1 chicken, cut up into 8-10 pieces

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or white vinegar or balsamic

2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and quartered

1-2 tablespoons dried oregano

Salt & pepper to taste

1 lemon, sliced into thin wedges

2-3 sprigs fresh Italian parsley, leaves minced, stems discarded

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Season chicken pieces with salt & pepper. Place in a roasted pan. Drizzle olive oil, drizzle vinegar, sprinkle with garlic and oregano. Roast for 45minutes-1 hour until an instant read thermometer reads 165 in the thickest part of the thigh. Then turn on broiler and broil for about 2-3 minutes to golden.

Remove pieces to serving platter. Drizzle some of the juices. Sprinkle with parsley and lemon wedges. Serve.

I also demo’ed this recipe on WSMV-TV Channel 4 Nashville. Here’s the video segment:

Sicilian Chicken segment on WSMV-TV Channel 4 Nashville

Buon Appetito!

Asparagus. Easy. With 3 Levels of Tasty.

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

Asparagus w 3 Flavors

I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets nervous if there isn’t a green dish somewhere amongst the dinner menu. I need to have at least one dish that has green in it. Or a whole bowl of green all by itself. Broccoli rabe is my first go-to green. I love Swiss chard, too. String beans. Escarole. Dandelion. And even romaine for a salad.

Then there’s asparagus. What an unusual animal. No other green quite like it. A tall, completely edible (almost), stalk. Ever see how they grow? They rise from the earth like mini-skyscrapers (yet I’m sure they have no interest in going any higher than your knee and even that’s “stretching” it). And, yes, ancient people loved them, too. There’s a recipe for asparagus from Apicius (Roman Empire gourmand with a fondness for recording recipes…thank you!): “…immerse in boiling water backwards,” which reminds me there is even cookware made especially for cooking asparagus (I’ve never used any). Wikipedia just told me that Romans would even freeze asparagus up in the snowy Alps so they’d have plenty for the Feast of Epicurus (no, not the website).

I make asparagus a million different ways. They cook so fast so they pop up as the green at the table often. Here’s one way that gets you asparagus PLUS 3 flavors (1. garlic 2. lemon 3. parmigiano) all in one.

First: peel and slice (thinly) 3-4 cloves of garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a small sautĂ© pan. Add the garlic slices. SautĂ© till they become deep brown. You’ll be doing what everyone always says “DON’T do.” Cooking garlic to dark brown. Trust me. It becomes chewy and yummy, not bitter. Lift garlic out of oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Don’t throw out the oil.

Rinse and dry a lemon. Cut lemon into 1/4-inch tiny pieces. Peel and all.

Line a sheet pan with foil and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Snap the woody ends off the asparagus (or cut them all off in one fell swoop). Lay out the asparagus on the sheet pan in one layer.  Drizzle more olive oil (don’t forget the garlic oil). Sprinkle more salt. And a little pepper. Sprinkle lemon pieces.

Roast in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes until tender or crisp-tender. Transfer asparagus and lemon pieces to serving plate and sprinkle golden garlic. Toss to combine. Add a dusting of about 1/4 cup of grated parmigiano.

Oh. Yeah. Enjoy.

About 15 minutes later witness the great mystery that’s been observed since early man. Asparagus pea (yes, I just spelled that wrong. Just couldn’t say the other word around food).

Artichokes. Carciofi. Keep it simple. But do indulge.

Carciofi alla Romana

Carciofi alla Romana

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love and admire artichokes. In Italian: carciofi. Also, my favorite Italian word. If I had the opportunity to change my name I would change it to carciofi. First name or last name. Or both. Carciofi Carciofi, pleased to meet you.

I can’t remember the first time I had artichokes. It had to be very young. My family takes the artichoke in stride. Artichokes are as common, and as likely to be part of the table, as a plate or fork. Or possibly bread. Ridiculously easy to prepare. And so tastebud fulfilling, you always feel confident in the meal when artichokes are brought to the table.

My recipe has evolved over the years. I used to stuff the leaves with parsley and garlic. Now I simply put parsley and garlic in the cooking water with a heavy douse of olive oil, salt & pepper. First, trim the tops. Cut off about a third. Snip the thorns from the tips of all the leaves. Cut off the stems. Set them up, standing tall, side by side in a heavy sauce pan. Fill with water about halfway up. Drizzle a bunch of olive oil on artichokes and in water. Season with salt & pepper. Let cook for about 30-40 minutes until very tender.

Enjoy by nibbling the leaf tips. And if you’re drinking a glass of wine, with each artichoke bite your sip of wine will taste Odd/Strange. Some chemical reaction. But that never stopped me. Don’t let it stop you.

You say rapini. I say broccoli rabe.

I wonder why the bitter taste is an Italian favorite. I’m Italian-American and I seem to have the gene: Campari and broccoli rabe are my two bitter favorites.

Sometimes when I open a new bunch of broccoli rabe I can smell the bitterness sailing up from the bunch without even sniffing close. I can open the refrigerator and if there’s a bunch of broccoli rabe in there and I can smell it. And even though most times I’m buying Andy Boy brand, not every bunch is so strong. It’s hard to know what makes the difference from bunch to bunch: sun, rain, soil, month?


The little bud-like clusters are the best parts. I like to include some of the thick stem pieces, too. I cut it all into a little larger than bite-sized pieces, leaving out the really thick stems. (I cut those off from the entire bunch before removing the twist tie.) It’s very easy to make and I’ve adjusted my cooking style for broccoli rabe over the years.

I used to get a saucepan boiling with water and plunge it in. Let it cook until almost tender. Then drain, and saute in a skillet with olive oil, thinly sliced garlic, and red pepper flakes until cooked through and tender/al dente to the bite.


Now I just use a large skillet with a little water in it (about a 1/4-1/2 inch). Get that boiling. Then add the broccolie rabe and cook to tenderish. By then most of the water has evaporated. Then I add some olive oil and the garlic and pepper flakes and season. It skips a step and comes out more delicious!


Eat it straight. Or add it to pasta. Stays nice leftover, too.


Grilled Eggplant Parmigiano

All you need is a grill and a food processor. No need to turn on stove or oven.

Slice your eggplant into medium thin slices. Brush with olive oil, season with salt & pepper. Grill until softened, imprinted with grill lines, and even charred a bit. Also grill two big tomatoes sliced in half, 1 large onion, peeled and sliced in half, and 2-3 cloves of garlic (keep them together so they don’t fall through the grill or hold together with skewer). Pulse the grilled tomatoes, onion, and peeled grilled garlic cloves in the food processor until you have a smooth sauce (or chunky if you like). Season with salt & pepper. Spoon some sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish (I use an alimunum one since it’s going back on the grill). Place a layer of eggplant slices on top, spoon some sauce, sprinkle grated parmigiano, scatter cubes or slices of mozzarella. Repeat in one or two more layers. Place back on a very low grill (or use top grate away from direct heat if you have one). Close cover and cook until cheese melts and is bubbling.

Now pour a glass of cool Italian white wine (Frascati? Pinot Grigio? Soave?) and enjoy…preferably outoors in a garden fragrant with basil and ripening figs. 🙂