weeknight gourmet

Category : Side dishes – vegetables

A Barefoot Contessa Holiday Meal: Herb-Roasted Lamb, Zucchini Gratin & Haricot Vert with Shallots

In case you are still on the hunt for a holiday menu, here is one that is sure to please any lamb lover!

I was happy to have 7 lamb lovers in the Berkshires this past weekend for an anniversary / holiday celebration with our dearest friends the Freilichs.  I turned to the Barefoot Contessa for recipe guidance as she always pleases a crowd and (at least on her show) looks to do it in a effortless, low stress way.

The lamb turned out perfectly!  It was a beautiful piece of meat from Guido’s in Pittsfield.  And the garlic – rosemary rub flavored the lamb amazingly well.  Definitely have a meat thermometer on hand when cooking a piece of meat of that size and varied thickness.

I served the lamb with the Barefoot Contessa’s Zucchini Gratin and Green Beans with Shallots (recipe below).  I have made the Zucchini Gratin a number of times and it is always a hit.  Given the richness of that side dish, I made a simple dish with haricot vert blanched and tossed with sauteed shallots and pancetta.  The pancetta was my add and was a nice touch!

Good friends, good wine, and a delicious meal made for a wonderful evening and weekend!

Herb-Roasted Lamb
Barefoot Contessa

  • 12 large unpeeled garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
  • 4 to 5 pounds small unpeeled potatoes (16 to 20 potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven so the lamb will sit in the middle of the oven.

Peel 6 of the cloves of garlic and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the rosemary, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and butter. Process until the garlic and rosemary are finely minced. Thoroughly coat the top and sides of the lamb with the rosemary mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Toss the potatoes and remaining unpeeled garlic in a bowl with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135 degrees (rare) or 145 degrees (medium). Remove from the oven and put the lamb on a platter; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow the lamb to rest for about 20 minutes. Slice and serve with the potatoes.
String Beans with Shallots
Barefoot Contessa

  • 1 pound French string beans (haricots verts), ends removed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, large-diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the string beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for 1 1/2 minutes only. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Heat the butter and oil in a very large saute pan (12-inch diameter) or large pot and saute the shallots on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned. Drain the string beans and add to the shallots with 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, tossing well. Heat only until the beans are hot.

If you’re using regular string beans, blanch them for about 3 minutes, until they’re crisp-tender.

Giada’s Veal Marsala and Peas & Proscuitto

I love Giada!  Much like the Barefoot Contessa, her recipes have never steered me wrong.  Italian food is what I love most and Italy is my favorite country to visit.  Giada, born in Rome, has made delicious Italian home cooking accessible to everyone.  Her recipes are always incredibly flavorful but never overly complicated or fussy.  Plus, she genuinely seems like someone I would want to be friends with.

I am a little jealous of her amazing figure and what I can only imagine as her very well-appointed closet and home (her husband is the Creative Director for Anthropologie).

The other weekend Tim and I had a delicious meal courtesy of Giada.  Even though I don’t make it very often, we both love veal.  When I was at my gourmet market in the Berkshires, they had some beautiful veal cutlets so I decided to make veal marsala.  Her recipe is simple and delicious.  If you like veal and mushrooms, this really cannot be beat!

For a side dish I made her Peas and Proscuitto.  So quick, easy and flavorful!  The sweet peas and the salty proscuitto are a great combination!  I bet even my mom who hates peas would enjoy it!  This side dish is going to become a staple.

Buon Appetito!

Veal Marsala
Giada DeLaurentiis

  •     8 veal cutlets (about 3 ounces each)
  •     Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •     2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •     2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  •     1 large shallot, finely chopped
  •     2 to 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  •     2 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced
  •     1/2 cup sweet Marsala
  •     3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
  •     Leaves from 1 fresh rosemary sprig

Sprinkle the veal with salt and pepper. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 veal cutlets and cook until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Transfer the veal to a plate. Add another tablespoon of butter and oil, if necessary. Repeat with the remaining 4 cutlets. Set the cutlets aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add a tablespoon of the olive oil, if necessary. Add the mushrooms and saute until tender and the juices evaporate, about 3 minutes. Season with salt. Add the Marsala. Simmer until the Marsala reduces by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and the rosemary leaves. Simmer until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Return the veal to the skillet. Pour in all of the pan juices. Cook just until heated through, turning to coat, about 1 minute. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using tongs, transfer the veal to plates. Spoon the sauce over the veal and serve.

Serves 4.

Peas & Proscuitto
Giada DeLaurentiis

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 shallots chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic minced
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb frozen pea thawed
  • 8 oz prosciutto diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley leaves

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper, and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the peas and saute until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the parsley and remove from the heat. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, and serve.

Elegant Weeknight Meal: Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb & Broccolini with Olives and Capers

Here are two great recipes for weeknight entertaining or for a special meal for you and your love.  Rack of lamb sounds complicated but is surprisingly quick and easy to make.

Luckily, I married a fellow lamb lover.  Not everyone likes lamb.  But I am a firm believer that if someone who likes beef and pork claims they don’t like lamb, they just haven’t had well prepared lamb.  It is by far my favorite meat!

The key to really delicious rack of lamb is to sear it on both sides and to then cook it in the oven at a relatively high temperature (425 degrees).  In this recipe after searing the lamb, you smear Dijon mustard and crushed garlic on the rack and then press a bread crumb – parmesan combo on top.  So much flavor!!  This recipe and the Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade are now my go-to lamb recipes!

Broccolini is a great and easy side dish.  I think it has a better texture than regular broccoli and will be more interesting to your guests.  After cooking the broccolini, you toss it with a olive oil, garlic, olive, and caper mixture.  Simple and delicious!

Tim and I enjoyed our meal with a wonderful Châteauneuf-du-Pape that we received as a gift.  A surprisingly tasty end to a typical Tuesday!

Mustard Crusted Rack of Lamb
Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 rack of lamb, trimmed (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Season rack of lamb well on all sides with salt and pepper. Heat a medium skillet over high heat and, when hot, add the oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the rack of lamb and brown well on all sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside to cool slightly before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Using the back of a spoon, spread the mustard evenly over all sides of the lamb. Spread the minced garlic over the lamb in the same manner.

In a small mixing bowl combine the breadcrumbs and grated cheese and toss to thoroughly combine. Using your hands or a spoon, spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly all over the lamb, pressing so that the crumbs adhere to the meat.

Place the rack of lamb on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes for medium-rare. Allow lamb to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before carving into chops to serve.


Broccolini with Olives & Capers
Fine Cooking

  • 4 medium bunches broccolini (2 to 2-1/2 lb.)
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbs. chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 Tbs. chopped capers (rinse only if salt-packed)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the broccolini and stir to separate the stems. When the water returns to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer and cook until crisp tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well. (The broccolini may be prepared to this point up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated.)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute, taking care not to let it get any color. Add the olives and capers and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broccolini and toss to coat. If the broccolini was cooked ahead, keep tossing until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Seared Steak with Cauliflower Puree

Here is a simple recipe to spruce up your typical steak dinner.  I just loved the olive-shallot-parsley-red wine vinegar combo on the steak.  I’ve actually made it several times now.

And, pureed cauliflower is one of my favorite veggie sides!  All the creaminess of mashed potatoes but lighter and healthier!

Seared Steak with Cauliflower Puree
Real Simple

  • 1 small head cauliflower (about 1 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into florets
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 strip steaks (1 inch thick; 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit it with a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil.

Place the cauliflower in the basket, cover, and steam until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Season the steaks with ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest before slicing.

While the steaks cook, transfer the drained cauliflower to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Puree until smooth.

In a bowl, combine the parsley, olives, shallot, vinegar, remaining oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Serve with steak and cauliflower.

Holiday Menu: Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon, Baby Arugula Salad & Cauliflower Gratin

The day after Christmas is my father-in-law’s birthday.  Tim’s immediately family came up to the Berkshires on the 26th to celebrate.  We had the delicious and festive menu below.  The pork I have made before and it was even better than I remember!  The bacon and the honey mustard coating gives amazing flavor to the meat.  This is the first time I made the Barefoot Contessa’s Cauliflower Gratin and it was a huge hit!  Who wouldn’t love cauliflower with a nice cream sauce and lots of Gruyere. I had some leftover Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash.  The dish reheated nicely.

We finished the birthday meal with a delectable Red Velvet Cake.  So moist!  And the cream cheese frosting was amazing!

Honey-Mustard Pork Roast with Baby Arugula Salad


Cauliflower Gratin


Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette (leftovers from Xmas)


The Best Red Velvet Cake

Holiday Menu: Cauliflower Gratin

I love cauliflower but I know not everyone does.  This is a recipe that will get even a hater to eat his cauliflower.

To reduce the prep time, I cut the cauliflower and grated the Gruyere earlier in the day.  Also, I used two medium size heads.  One head was not going to be enough for the six people I was serving.

There was not a crumb left to this dish!  Definitely a keeper!

Cauliflower Gratin
Barefoot Contessa

  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Holiday Menu: Rack of Lamb, Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette, and Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  We had a great first Christmas with Charlotte.  We enjoyed lots of time with family and lots of delicious food!

In case you are looking for menu ideas for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, I highly recommend our Christmas meal!  My go-to ladies — Ina Garten and Giada de Laurentiis — helped make our holiday meal spectacular!

The lamb was so flavorful and tender and the portobello mushrooms were amazing (and could have been a meal themselves).  The sprouts and squash were a great combination that I had never tried before.  And, I have made this cranberry cake before and it is always festive and delicious!

Grilled & Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette
Rack of Lamb Persillade
Cranberry Upside-down Cake

Holiday Menu: Grilled & Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

These stuffed mushrooms were a huge hit!  I am not a huge fan of Gorgonzola and I still thought these were unbelievably good.  I grilled the mushrooms on a grill pan, since it was not a night to be grilling outside, and then finished the mushrooms under the broiler.

The stuffing is so flavorful from the hot Italian turkey sausage, mascarpone, and Gorgonzola.  These mushrooms are hearty enough that you could make even these mushrooms as a main course.

Grilled & Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Giada de Laurentiis

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
12 ounces turkey sausage, casings removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 cup (4 ounces) Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
6 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the mascarpone cheese. Add the thyme, oregano, bread crumbs, 1/2 of the Gorgonzola, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir until all ingredients are combined.

Brush the mushrooms on both sides with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms, stem side down, for 3 minutes. Turn the mushrooms over and grill for 2 minutes until tender. Fill each mushroom with the sausage mixture and top with the remaining Gorgonzola. Return the mushrooms to the grill and cook until the stuffing is warmed through and the cheese starts to melt, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Cook’s Note: The assembled mushrooms can also be placed on a baking sheet and cooked under a preheated broiler until warmed through.

Holiday Menu: Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette

I usually just roast brussels sprouts but for Christmas I thought we should do something a bit more festive with the sprouts.  I thought this recipe looked interesting because I had never had butternut squash and brussels sprouts together.  The squash and sprouts were delicious with the bacon vinaigrette.  I skipped the chestnuts but followed the recipe otherwise.

Brussels Sprouts & Butternut Squash with Bacon Vinaigrette

  • 4 oz. thick-cut bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped steamed chestnuts

In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour all but 1 Tbs. of the fat into a heatproof bowl and reserve. Add the shallot to the remaining fat in the pan and sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, thyme and shallot. Slowly whisk in 5 Tbs. of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the brussels sprouts to a bowl of ice water. Drain well, then cut them in half lengthwise and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

Return the water in the pot to a boil, add the butternut squash and cook until just tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain again and place on a paper towel-lined baking sheet.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the squash and sauté, stirring occasionally, until light golden and warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the reserved bacon fat. Place the brussels sprouts, cut side down, in the pan. Cook, without moving them, for 3 to 4 minutes, then stir and add the sage and chestnuts. Cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to the bowl with the squash. Add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the vegetables (you may not need all of it), then stir in half of the bacon. Transfer the vegetables to a platter, sprinkle with the remaining bacon and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Skirt Steak with Haricots Verts, Corn and Pesto

Here is a delicious and easy dinner that you can make with either store-bought or homemade pesto. I used some pesto that my mother-in-law Pam made with the fresh basil from their glorious vegetable garden.

The corn – haricots verts combo with pesto was unexpectedly delicious.  It was sweet, salty, and very flavorful!  Fresh corn is obviously preferable but frozen corn works quite well.

I love skirt steak and it cooks up so quickly for an easy weeknight dinner.  But even if you don’t want to cook up the skirt steak, the haricots verts, corn, and pesto make a wonderful summer side dish!

Skirt Steak with Haricots Verts, Corn, and Pesto

  • 1 1/2 lb skirt steak
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ear corn, kernels cut off
  • 3/4 lb haricots verts, trimmed
  • 1/2 cup prepared basil pesto
Pat steak dry and cut into 4 pieces, then sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté corn, stirring, until just starting to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté steaks, in batches if necessary, turning over once, 3 to 5 minutes per batch for thin pieces and 5 to 7 minutes per batch for thicker pieces (for medium-rare). Transfer steaks to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

While steaks rest, cook haricots verts in a large pot of well-salted boiling water, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes, and drain well in a colander. Add beans to corn then add pesto, stirring to coat. Serve corn and beans topped with sliced steak.