It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
I absolutely love this pasta dish from Noble Pig. The ingredients are quite simple–pasta, either fresh or frozen, summer squash and bit of cheese and cream. But when these ingredients are pulled all together the results are truly delicious. The secret is the combination of cream and parmesan cheese combined with bright and tangy lemon zest. It is unexpected yet so welcome. And as an added bonus you truly get a balanced meal in a single dish thanks in part to a generous amount of squash. What a perfect end of the week meal. Enjoy!
CREAMY RAVIOLI w/ SQUASH, LEMON & CHIVES
16 to 18 ounces cheese ravioli
1 Tablespoon olive
1 shallot, chopped
3 summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash; about 1-1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add the squash and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to the skillet.
- Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the cream and lemon zest and cook until the vegetables are tender and the cream is slightly thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the squash mixture, grated cheese and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the cooked ravioli and toss gently to coat. Add additional reserved water if the sauce is too dry.
- Serve sprinkled with the chives.
Spring is in the air, well sort of. At least it is here in Belgium. And the calendar definitely says it is spring which means that the fresh baby vegetables are beginning to replace hearty root vegetables at the stands in the markets. So what better way to celebrate the new season than with this easy risotto that is filled with the best fresh vegetables that spring has to offer?
Marking risotto is more of a formula rather than an exact recipe. Rice is slowly cooked in a mixture of broth and white wine. When the rice is al dente, you stir in the add-ins of your choice which in this case is the freshest of the baby vegetables I found at the market. Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you like or that look good. And the final touch is the creamy addition of both parmesan cheese and creme fraiche (you can substitute sour cream if you prefer) which adds a touch of tang while bringing the entire dish together.
Enjoy the risotto as a meal unto itself or alongside your favorite grilled meat. Just be sure to have the rest of your meal ready before you finish the risotto since it truly tastes best when eaten immediately.
GREEN VEGETABLE RISOTTO
3/4 c green beans, blanched and snapped into 1 inch pieces
3/4 c sugar snap peas
3/4 c asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 small shallot, minced
1 green onion – white part only- mince
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
top with sliced green onion (Green part)
- Fill a medium sized pan with water and bring to a boil.
- Add the green beans, snap peas and asparagus.
- Cook for 30 seconds, drain in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- Combine the broth and white wine in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the temperature but keep the broth mixture hot.
- In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until it is soft and golden.
- Add the rice and stir to combine making sure each grain of rice is coated with butter.
- Gradually add the hot broth to the rice by the ladleful, stirring to combine after each addition. Continue to stir the rice often to keep it from sticking.
- Continue adding the broth being sure to add the next ladle before the rice has cooked itself dry. Repeat this process until the rice is tender to the bite. You may not need to use all of the broth.
- Prior to adding the last ladle of broth, stir in the vegetables and the green onion to the rice and stir to combine.
- Off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and creme fraiche.
- Top with sliced green onion.
- Serve immediately.
It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.
Tonight calls for soup. After a holiday season filled with rich treats and perhaps a late night ringing in the new year, tonight’s dinner needs to be easy, fast and on the lighter side while still being warming and comforting (since the weather is anything but). So soup it is. And this soup, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe
fits the bill perfectly. It is warm and satisfying without being heavy. And in true Fast Friday form, it is fast. So go ahead and make a pot tonight. Just add some crusty French bread and dinner is served.
1 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce each) cans diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups uncooked small pasta
9 ounces spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium heat until browned, 3-4 minutes, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks.
- Add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and continue to cook, stirring often, until the sausage is cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
- Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, basil, salt and pepper.
- Bring the soup to a boil.
- Add the shell pasta, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is tender, stirring occasionally to make sure the pasta isn’t sticking.
- Stir in the spinach and simmer for another minute until the spinach is wilted.
- Serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
One of my favorite side dishes in polenta. Warm and creamy it is satisfying on its own and makes the perfect bed for soaking up rich sauces and stews. When dining out I will often select a dish simply because the main entree is accompanied by polenta. But despite my love of this dish, until recently I rarely cooked it at home. Why? After all making it is quite simple; all you really need is boiling water and cornmeal and a spoon for stirring. Lots of stirring. And that is why I tended to shy away from making homemade polenta. Try as I might; experimenting with temperature, cooking apparatus and spoon, my polenta would inevitably end up filled with unappetizing lumps. But then I broke out my slow cooker.
Yes, polenta made in a slow cooker. Really, nothing could be easier and best of all, there simply aren’t any lumps. I love it. This recipe is from William Sonoma and is everything a good polenta should be. It is rich and creamy and this version is studded with corn kernels. By topping it off with sautéed mushrooms you have a complete meal by itself. Or you can serve it along side your favorite meat dish that has lots of juice you want to sop up.
CREAMY HERBED POLENTA w/ MUSHROOMS
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup stone-ground polenta
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
3/4 pound brushed clean and quartered
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
- In a slow cooker, stir together the stock, polenta, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.
- Cover and cook on the low setting for 3 to 3 1⁄2 hours, stirring two or three times if possible. The liquid should be absorbed and the polenta should be thick and soft and no longer gritty.
- About 10 minutes before the polenta is ready, in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the oil.
- Add the shallot and mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender and their liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and parsley, season with remaining salt and pepper, and cook for 1 minute more.
- About 5 minutes before the polenta is ready, stir in the oregano and thyme, Parmesan and corn kernels, then re-cover.
- Spoon the polenta into warm shallow bowls or a serving bowl and top with the mushroom mixture.
- Serve immediately.
Serves 4 to 6.
Summer isn’t quite over and there is still time to grab what I consider to be the quintessential summer vegetable–fresh corn on the cob. The best corn on the cob is picked and eaten within a few hours and it is so sweet that neither butter nor salt is needed. And if you have your own garden or easy access to a farm, you just might be able to partake in this freshest of fresh endeavors. But those of us who aren’t so fortunate needn’t despair since tasty fresh corn on cob is still available in most markets this time of year. Corn on the cob is tasty when simply boiled or steamed and is delicious when grilled with olive oil and fresh herbs. But if you want to dress the corn up further why not go all out?
I’ve adapted this recipe from The Splendid Table and this takes an ear of corn to a whole new level. The corn is drenched in melted butter as it is grilled which infuses the corn with a sweet and slightly charred flavor. A thick coating of tangy creme fraise helps the freshly grated parmesan cheese adhere to the ears which are then dusted with chili powder. This corn is so good that it is often the main attraction on the plate. I like to serve it with a simple grilled meat that allows the corn to really shine. And as an added bonus the corn toppings are so delicious that they can turn a ho-hum ear into something fabulous. How can you not try this?
6 ears fresh sweet corn, husks removed
1 /2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups creme fraiche
About 3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup medium hot chili powder
1 lime, cut into six wedges
- Place the corn on a medium-high grill. Using tongs to turn the ears, grill the corn for 8 to 10 minutes, brushing generously with butter with each turn.
- Remove the corn to a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Spread the creme friche on a shallow plate and the cheese on another plate.
- When the corn is cool enough to touch, roll it in the creme fraise, draining off the excess.
- Roll the creme fraise coated ears in the grated parmesan cheese then sprinkle evenly with the chili powder.
- Serve immediately with the lime wedges.
Pesto is my favorite way to use fresh basil. Because it can be made in a matter of minutes there is no reason to buy it pre-made. Simply puree all of the ingredients together in a food processor and you have a sauce that can dress up pasta or be served as a spread on a sandwich or as a marinade for chicken, pork, or fish. The quantities are only recommendations and you can adjust them to match your preferences. You can add more or less garlic depending on what you like and walnuts can be substituted for the more pricy pine nuts if you prefer. If the sauce it too thick for your liking add additional olive oil to the mixture.
This pesto can be used immediately or stored in a sterile container in the refrigerator for up to one month. Whenever fresh basil is available I like to have a batch of pesto sitting in the refrigerator ready to use. It can turn a boring box of pasta into a colorful and flavorful dinner in no time.
4 cups fresh basil leaves
8 cloves garlic
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
- Place the pine nuts in a small saute pan. Stirring constantly, heat over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes until toasted. Set aside to cool.
- Place the basil leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the leaves are finely minced.
- Add the garlic cloves and pine nuts and continue to pulse until all of the ingredients are uniform in size and the mixture resembles a thick paste.
- With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and pulse to combine.
- Transfer the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Add the parmesan cheese and stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 2 cups