Janet here: So you don’t know what to make for dinner and can’t imagine making another burrito or quiche? Take a deep breath and realize you have the makings of a great (easy) dinner within your grasp. I’m talking something I generally call tortilla pies.
Here’s the general idea: You saute up some veggies, maybe take some chicken you’ve got in the fridge and saute that up, grate some cheese of your liking, add some spices and then build a tortilla tower. Bake it and you are in business about 30 minutes later. It’s that simple.
You could take some leftover veggies too for one of the layers….or saute them fresh in whatever combination you want. Interested in Mexican? Use chilies and south of the border spices. Got a yen for something Indian? Add in cumin and curries and you’ve got something that works there too. The point is it’s as versatile as you want it to be. The only limitation is your imagination.
Here’s a recipe to get you started.
12 6-inch corn tortillas
about 3 cups assorted diced veggies such as onion, garlic, zucchini, peppers, whatever your heart desires
about 1 cup of diced chicken
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheese
1 cup or so salsa OR
2 tablespoons butter, about 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup diced green chilies and about 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 inch baking pan with canola oil.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute the veggies/chicken of your choice for about 5-7 minutes until just cooked. If you’re doing veggies alone, start with onions and then add garlic and the denser veggies, ending with zucchini, which cooks quickly and you don’t want it to be overcooked. If you’re doing chicken add it after the onions but before the garlic. It can all be sauteed together.
If you’re using salsa, move to the next step. If you’re making this roux version (pictured here), melt the butter, stir in the flour to make a roux and then add the broth and stir frequently until it thickens. Take it off the heat and add the chilies.
Place 4 tortillas (they will overlap a bit) in the bottom of the baking pan. Add half the sauteed goodies. Spread cheese on top and whatever sauce you’re using. Then add another layer of four overlapping tortillas. Spread your veggie/chicken/salsa/roux/cheese mixture on top. End with four more tortillas and a little salsa/roux/cheese. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes until bubbling and lightly browned on top.
Janet here: On Monday it was 80 in California where we were visiting the Divine Miss M and her caretakers (aka Rachel and John). Today I drove home through the first snow of the season, a disgusting combination of slush and slop. I was not pleased.
So it goes in the Northeast this time of year. The leaves drop, the weather cools and I begin to think of serious comfort food to get me through winter. Thick hearty soups top my list but so do casseroles. This one from Not Your Mother’s Casseroles — yes, I know I’m obviously a food stalker of Faith Durand since I’ve touted at least nine of her damn fine casseroles — had my husband raving something about how this was one of the best things I’ve ever made. Now to give you some perspective, I should note that Peter is one of the best people to cook for in the world. For 30 years (!) he has praised every single thing I’ve made — one notable exception but I’ll be writing about that in an upcoming post — and thanked me for the meal. And it’s been genuine (trust me, I can smell a food brown-noser a mile away).
I’ve also made some damn tasty meals over the years. So to hear him repeatedly rave about this every time he’s warmed up the leftovers and say this is one of his favorite things ever — well, it’s impressive.
So what are you waiting for? Get cooking! And let us know what you think.
Pearl Couscous Gratin with Goat Cheese and Spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
juice and zest of one lemon
1 shallot, minced
2 cups loosely packed fresh spinach, cut into ribbons
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until the couscous is a light brown. Add the broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat to low and cook for 14 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and take off the heat.
In a large bowl, mix the couscous with the lemon zest, shallot, spinach and almonds. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Then stir in the cottage cheese and about 3/4 of the goat cheese. Add this cheese and egg mix to the couscous mix and mix well. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the couscous mixture in the baking dish. Crumble the rest of the goat cheese on top. Drizzle with olive oil. Back for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
I know I may seem just a little bit like a stalker of Faith Durand’s new cookbook Not Your Mother’s Cassroles. But I have to tell you that if I was going to buy one cookbook this year for someone I love, this would be the cookbook. I have now made about 9 recipes from this book and they’ve all been complete, total hits AND easy to make. Could you ask for a better combination?
Anyway, part of the love fest I have for this particular recipe is that you can make it ahead and then enjoy your company…which is precisely what I did on Friday night when we invited over some of our favorite people, Karen and Pete, for dinner. We haven’t seen them in a while and I wanted to be able to enjoy the visit as opposed to spend most of it in the kitchen while everyone else was talking and having fun.
Mission accomplished: I spent with our friends and we had a good diner. The proverbial win-win…..What I did not do was take a photo. Actually I thought I had taken a photo but I can’t find it on my phone. I suspect the gin and tonics have something to do with my memory here — another reason to make the meal ahead
Turkey Enchiladas with Spinach and Cheese
8 cloves of garlic, sliced in half
1 1/4 pounds fresh baby spinach
1 cup chicken or turkey broth
1 bunch scallions, sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
juice of one lime
salt and pepper to taste
for the enchilads
12 6-inch corn tortillas
4 cups choppped roasted turkey
2 cups shredded cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease the baking pan with olive oil.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cooks just until wilted. Then added the broth and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and then add the scallions, cilantro, and jalapeno. Cool slightly. then blend in a food processor until smooth. Add the lime juice and season to taste.
Overlap half the tortillas in the baking pan. Sprinkle half of the turkey over the tortillas. Then pour in half of hte spinach mixture
The other night John made hot wings. Deeeelicious as they were, he made enough for an army larger than two and so we found ourselves not with a few leftover, but a ton. While we both have a thing for hot wings (this may be the secret to our successful partnership), this leftovers thing was a new problem.
No joke. We have never not eaten all of our hot wings. Never.
We entertained the idea of just continuing to eat them for days on end, but both felt intrigued by the idea of trying to innovate a little with our leftovers. And so we concocted hot wing chicken salad.
We peeled the chicken from the bones (umm…this was tedious), diced up some celery and then mashed it all together with blue cheese dressing. Piling mountains onto squishy buns, we sat down certain that we had just created the greatest thing since chocolate ice cream (ok, I thought it was the greatest thing since chocolate ice cream…John probably was thinking of some other food, though, since he is simply unable to do the things to ice cream that I effortlessly endeavor).
Everything was fine except that we both found ourselves feeling like we were eating these giant piles of mush. Maybe it was the buns (these were like, I don’t know, little fluffy buttery clouds), or maybe we should have made the celery crunch more prominent. Maybe we needed another flavor–onions came to mind for both of us independently. While we maintain that the idea is certainly not at fault, the missing piece eludes us.
I guess we’ll just have to give it another go around the next time there’s a giant tupperware of leftover chicken wings in the fridge…you know, if that ever happens again in our lives.
Clearly winter is getting to me. I am craving comfort food and have been on a baking and bacon binge — although so far not in the same moment, which is probably good. If, however, you see a post here about a bacon chocolate chip cookie some day soon, you will know I have officially gone off the deep end.
While I gave up eating red meat over 30 years ago, I remain a bacon freak and often suggest that my children order bacon when we’re at a restaurant so I can snag a piece. It’s a weakness I know, but there it is. Anyway, to appease my conscience, I made this dish with turkey bacon. You obviously can use the other kind and all will likely be well.
Mac and cheese is the consummate comfort food to me but for years was — sadly — off limits in our family meal cycle because Rachel got sick once after having this for dinner and basically even the mention of mac and cheese elicited a gag reflex on her part.
Almost the day she left the house, though, I brought it back. This particular version is made not just with grated cheddar but with blue cheese as well. And, then, because I clearly had not added enough calories yet, I added bacon … lots of it. (I also made a chili with bacon the same week but more on that another time.) The reviews were raves all around. I dare you to feel differently.
Ridiculously Cheesy Mac and Cheese
serves 4 or fewer if you have teenage or older boys in the house
3/4 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
5-6 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into bits
3-4 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk (or you could do half-and-half if you felt really decadent)
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/2 cup bread crumbs
Fill a large pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Remove from heat and drain out the water.
While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter. When it’s melted, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Add the milk and stir so there are no floury blobs and until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheddar. Stir until the cheddar is melted in. Add the blue cheese and stir until melted.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta in a casserole dish. Add the bacon pieces and stir it all together. Taste for salt and pepper needs (likely not much salt due to the bacon and the cheeses). Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and the whole delicious concoction is bubbling.
Want to have dinner on the table about 20 minutes after you start and have it be nutritious? Make this super simple spinach and cheese(s) pizza. I did it the other night and it’s a new favorite pizza. (I also didn’t take a photo because I first thought it was too easy to share, but obviously have gotten over that.)
First I am a fan of the thin Boboli pre-made pizza crusts. If you have an issue with that, you can pick up some pre-made dough or, if you’re really a purist, you can make your own from scratch, at which point this is no longer a super simple/fast dinner options but obviously will be tasty nonetheless.
Anyway here’s the “recipe.” You can lie and tell your family it took hours to prepare
Sauteed Spinach/Cheese Pizza
1 Boboli pre-made pizza crust or the crust of your choice
1 package fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
about 1 cup of feta cheese
about 1 cup of grated mozzarella
4-6 slices of provolone
Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in the pan. Add the spinach, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Toss for a few minutes until the spinach is just wilted.
Crumble and spread the feta around the pizza crust. Feel free to add more cheese in general to satisfy yourself. My suggestions are approximations. Spread the spinach/garlic mix over the pizza dough. Lay the provolone on top and then sprinkle the mozzarella around the top.
Put the pizza in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the crust is a little crusty and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Slice and serve.
Ok, so before I go any further, I feel like I need to disclose the fact that we–as in John and I–do not do Valentine’s Day. Never have (except that one year that John broke the rule and got me a present and I felt horrible for not having broken the rule myself and gotten him one…) and most likely never really will. It’s just not really our style. We don’t do anniversaries, either, and I am here to say that despite our shirking of these social norms, we are still completely in love and there is plenty of romance.
But anyway…that’s really neither here nor there because today is Valentine’s Day and most likely you are here reading because of the title of the post which, most likely, means it has snuck up on you (either that or you’re just a loyal reader and we *love* you for that). Anyway, if there’s a person/people/whatever walking around today with hearts in their eyes and a bounce in their step because they just know you’re going to do something sweet for them, I–the anti-valentine–am here to help.
There’s a meal that we eat from time to time and, at least for my part, it’s not only because it’s delicious but also because it reminds me of the early days of John+Rachel, back when we went to the grocery store every day to pick out dinner, back when we lived in a studio apartment, back when there were no kids or kittens…ahhh, back in the good old days. It’s really phenomenally simple but it’s just decadent enough to feel out of the everyday, to feel a little bit special. Turn it into an impromptu picnic on the living room floor with some candles and wine (and hey, if you’ve got a little time, some homemade peanut butter cups…you can do it!) and everyone will be feeling love-ly in no time.
Here’s what you need:
1 fresh baguette
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
arugula (2 handfuls? I don’t know…)
very thinly sliced rare roast beef (or skip this for a vegetarian meal…it’s scrumptious either way)
salt and fresh pepper
Here’s what you do:
Slice baguette in half and then into pieces roughly 6 inches long. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Pile arugula and onion and top with tomato. Fold roast beef on top and sprinkle salt over. Crumble blue cheese before a dash of fresh pepper. Eat and watch the sparks fly.
Lest people think Rachel and I are only obsessed with desserts and sugar, I thought I’d put up this tasty, easy soup that I made the other night for dinner. I served it with a frittata and life was good all the way around.
Roasted Tomato Black Bean Soup
serves about 6
7 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 large onion, cut into about 6 pieces
3 cloves of garlic, whole
about 2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 cups broth, veggie or chicken (how much depends on how soupy you like your soups)
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt/pepper. Place on a baking pan and roast for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the onions are beginning to brown slightly. Garlic should be soft too.
Meanwhile drain and rinse the beans. When the tomatoes are done, place them in a large saucepan with the beans, spices and broth. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Then place in the blender in batches and puree. Add a little fresh cilantro if you’re so inclined and you’re ready to go.
What’s your favorite go-to soup for supper?
Janet here: It’s hot, hot, hot again on the East Coast and the idea of turning on an oven is pretty much a non-starter for me. While I would like to believe everyone in my family would just eat this incredible blue cheese cole slaw for dinner (click here for recipe), in fact I do have to serve up something else. This lemon chicken, adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, is mighty tasty as well as being a good excuse to serve the cole slaw. It does require planning ahead a little bit — you have to marinate the chicken overnight — but then you can send someone else outside to grill the chicken while you stand by the fan and stay cool!
Janet here: I have always been a fan of good cole slaw, i.e. the stuff that allows enough of the crunchy tasty deliciousness of the cabbage to come through rather than the glop that so often passes for cole slaw in restaurants. I figured the Barefoot Contessa, one of my culinary goddesses as regular readers know, was probably on to something with the addition of blue cheese. What I did not expect was to be transported into blue cheese rapture. If you love blue cheese, you will. love. this. Make it now.
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa at Home
makes enough for 6 unless you go crazy and eat most of it yourself
1/2 small head green cabbage
1/2 small head red cabbage
3 carrots grated
1 1/2 cups maynonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup blue cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Slice up the cabbage however you want to make it look like cole slaw. I cut the cabbage in half and then into slices and then into bite-sized pieces. People who have food processors can use that. The key is not to include the cabbage core and not to make the pieces too thick. Add them to a large bowl. Grate the carrot however you want. I used an old-fashioned hand grater. Fancy people will use food processors — and get done a lot quicker. Add to the bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayo, cider vinegar, celery seeds, salt and pepper. Add the cheese and parsley. Add to the veggies and toss. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve cold or at room temperature
Rachel here: Ok, so obviously I love blue cheese (it’s mentioned in my post about foods I couldn’t wait to eat once M was born) and I definitely love cabbage and so this cole slaw sounds nothing short of divine. Unfortunately, as John and I learned the hard way one evening a few weeks back, M doesn’t do cabbage (supposedly lots of babies don’t…and though she’s a big spitter upper anyway, the fireworks after I ate cabbage caught our attention and have been avoided since I’ve steered clear of it). So anyway, I guess I’m going to have to add this recipe to my NEW list of foods I can’t wait to eat once M and I are no longer attached at the breast. (I know I wrote yesterday that I love a good list, but I am getting a little tired of making lists of foods I love but can’t eat…just so you all know).