weeknight gourmet

Category : Vegetarian entree

End of Summer Meatless Monday: Ratatouille

Here is a delicious way to use end of summer produce: ratatouille!  In addition to being a super cute Pixar movie, ratatouille is a stewed vegetable dish with eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, tomatoes, garlic, and onions.  When I was a vegetarian, my mom would make me a delicious ratatouille.  I didn’t have her recipe but saw this one in Real Simple and it looked quick enough for a weeknight dinner.

I followed the recipe with a couple of minor changes.  I used a red onion for a little extra flavor.  And unfortunately I was out of fresh basil so I used a 1/2 teaspoon of herbs de Provence.

I served the ratatouille with quinoa for a healthy meatless meal!  Tim and I both enjoyed the dinner and I don’t even think Tim missed the meat.

Real Simple

•    3 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 onion, thinly sliced
•    4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
•    1 small bay leaf
•    1 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
•    1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices
•    1 red bell pepper, cut into slivers
•    4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
•    1 teaspoon kosher salt
•    1/2 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
•    freshly ground black pepper

Over medium-low heat, add the oil to a large skillet with the onion, garlic, and bay leaf, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened.

Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until the eggplant has softened. Stir in the zucchini, red bell pepper, tomatoes, and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the basil and few grinds of pepper to taste.

Toddler Super Food: Quinoa with Black Beans and Corn

Trying to ignore the loud rain hammering the house and the tornado warnings for the county south of us to write this blog post!

As we prepped for Hurricane Irene and the prospect of losing power, I decided to make Charlotte some food that might be ok without refrigeration.  Over the past couple of weeks, she’s tried and loved both black beans and corn so I decided to make a quinoa dish with both of those ingredients.

In case you are not familiar with quinoa, I think of it as a nuttier couscous.  Quinoa is incredibly high in protein and fiber, but is also gluten-free so it is easily digestible.

Charlotte loved the quinoa!  She gobbled it up and exclaimed “YUM” after each bite.  So happy she loved such a delicious, protein packed meal!

 Quinoa with Black Beans & Corn

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup corn kernels
1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.

Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir corn into the saucepan (if frozen), and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through.  Mix in the black beans and corn (if not frozen) and serve.

Looking for Menu Ideas? Real Simple's Four-Week Dinner Plan

I used to grocery shop multiple times per week.  I would just pick up what I needed for dinner that night on my way home from work.  That’s not a realistic option now that Charlotte has come along and I am working full time.  Menu planning (and some shortcuts courtesy of Trader Joe’s and Fresh Direct) has become key to my weeknight cooking.

October’s issue of Real Simple Magazine features a four-week dinner plan.  Not having a ton of time to look for menu ideas, I decided to give Week 1 of the plan a whirl!  I made 4 of the 5 recipes.  They were all quite good but I thought the Penne with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella and the Pork Cutlets with Spicy Noodles really stood out!  Real Simple provided a shopping list making my life even easier!   I bought all of the ingredients on a Sunday and was prepared for a week of tasty, healthy eating!

The four recipes I made are below.

Roasted Tilapia, Potatoes, and Lemons

Very tasty!  I used tri-colored fingerling potatoes which were tasty and provided some great color to the dish.  The lemon and olives lend a great flavor to the very mild tilapia.

  • 1 pound baby potatoes (about 12), halved
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 4 6-ounce skinless tilapia fillets
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
Heat oven to 400° F.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes, lemon, thyme, 2 tablespoons oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer.  Roast, tossing once, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 20 minutes.
Toss the olives with the potato mixture; nestle the fish in it. Drizzle the fish with the remaining oil and season with paprika and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Continue to roast until the potatoes are golden brown and crisp and the fish is opaque throughout, 12 to 15 minutes.

Penne With Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Delicious!  I skipped the mint and used basil instead.  I also added some grated parmesan.

  • 1/2 pound penne (1⁄2 box)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1⁄4 pounds), cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the eggplant. Cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, red pepper, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, tossing, until the tomatoes soften, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the pasta, along with the mozzarella and reserved cooking water. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with the mint.

Turkey Burgers With Creamy Romaine Slaw

This was my least favorite of the four dishes but it was still tasty!  To save time I used shredded carrots.  And, we used sandwich thins as opposed to buns to save on calories.

  • 1 pound ground dark meat turkey (93 percent lean or less)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 leaves romaine lettuce, thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups)
  • 1 medium carrot, coarsely grated
  • 4 soft rolls, split and toasted
  • potato chips and pickles, for serving

In a medium bowl, gently combine the turkey, mustard, thyme, and scallions. Form the meat into four ¾-inch-thick patties. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook the patties until cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss with the lettuce and carrot.

Serve the burgers on the rolls, topped with the slaw. Serve with chips and pickles (if desired).

Pork Cutlets With Spicy Noodles

This was delicious!  I had trouble finding udon noodles so I used a brown rice spaghetti that I found at Trader Joe’s.  The noodles had great flavor from the broth, ginger, and jalapeno.  The pork was delicious as well!  I used two butterflied pork chops.

  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 pound udon noodles
  • 1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced
  • 1 red jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 4 thin pork cutlets (about 3⁄4 pound total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 scallions, sliced

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth and ginger to a boil.

Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the noodles are al dente, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and jalapeño and simmer until the mushrooms are just tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, season the pork with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Coat with the flour, then the egg, and finally the panko.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Slice the pork and serve over the noodles. Sprinkle with the scallions.

Meatless Monday: Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese

Tim and I are laying off the carbs for a few weeks but I made this Meatless Monday recipe in September and it was quick and tasty!  I used baby spinach because that’s what I had on hand.  The combo of parmesan and asiago was delicious!  Making my life even easier, Fresh Direct sells grated asiago.

This pasta dish will even get your kids to eat their spinach!

Fusilli with Spinach and Asiago Cheese
Giada de Laurentiis

  • 1 pound fusilli pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (9-ounce) bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup (about 3 1/2-ounces) grated Asiago
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, warm olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and tomatoes and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 more minutes. Add the cooked pasta and toss. Add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and the pasta cooking liquid and stir to combine.

Transfer the pasta to a serving plate and serve.

Summer Meatless Mondays: Corn Pesto

Here is another great summertime meatless Monday recipe using everyone’s favorite summer veggie — corn!  If you are looking for a way to enjoy corn other than corn on the cob, this is a delicious and unique pasta sauce.

The corn pesto and bacon combination reminded me of a corn chowder.  Make sure to save some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce — the pesto is pretty thick.

There is still nothing as delicious as a grilled ear of corn but this was definitely a tasty and different way to use corn.

Tagliatelle with Fresh Corn Pesto
Bon Appetit

  • 4 bacon slices, cut lengthwise in half, then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 6 large ears)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for serving
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces tagliatelle or fettuccine
  • 3/4 cup coarsely torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Cook bacon in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown, stirring often. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add corn, garlic, 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper to drippings in skillet. Sauté over medium-high heat until corn is just tender but not brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer 1 1/2 cups corn kernels to small bowl and reserve. Scrape remaining corn mixture into processor. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan and pine nuts. With machine running, add olive oil through feed tube and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set pesto aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot. Add corn pesto, reserved corn kernels, and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Toss pasta mixture over medium heat until warmed through, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency, 2 to 3 minutes. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer pasta to large shallow bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil leaves and reserved bacon. Serve pasta, passing additional grated Parmesan alongside.

Summer Meatless Mondays: Pasta Ponza

Here is a delicious vegetarian pasta recipe I made recently using my favorite food of summer — tomatoes!  I had some beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes that I used.  Roasting them only intensified their wonderful flavor!  I would have enjoyed the tomato – caper – breadcrumb mixture on its own but it was even tastier when mixed with penne and Romano cheese.

Sorry about the lack of photos — I left my good camera in the Berkshires so I will be short on photos for a while.

Pasta Ponza
Giada de Laurentiis

  • Butter for greasing
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 pound ziti or other short tube-shaped pasta
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 ounces) Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch glass baking dish. Set aside.

Place the tomatoes, capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the prepared baking dish. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tomato mixture. Drizzle the top with olive oil and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Place the pasta in a large serving bowl. Spoon the tomato mixture onto the pasta. Add the cheese and toss well. Thin out the sauce with a little pasta water, if needed. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve immediately.

What's been cookin' in the Weeknight Gourmet's kitchen?

I haven’t gotten into the rhythm of posting since Charlotte was born but don’t think that means I haven’t been in the kitchen!  I have been cooking.  Weekly Fresh Direct deliveries, augmented by the occasional trip to Chelsea Market, have allowed me to have food on hand to prepare simple meals during the week.

I haven’t tried a ton of new recipes recently.  Instead I have been going back to recipes that I have made in the past that I can either prepare ahead of time or are very quick and easy to make.

Here are a few examples of meals I have made recently:

Lemon Spaghetti: I could eat this dish everyday!  So delicious — fresh and flavorful.  And, it only requires a few ingredients and virtually no chopping.

Chinese Chicken Salad with Asian Coleslaw: I prepped this ahead of time.  I was hoping there would be leftovers for lunch but it was all gone.  The coleslaw was a new recipe.  But, again, super simple and I was able to use the leftover soy glaze for another meal.

RIBS: This weekend we had Tim’s brother and his family up to the Berkshires.  I made my famous ribs, grilled corn, tomato and mozzarella, and shaved zucchini salad.  Instead of making the rub and sauce, I bought a store-made rub at Guido’s and used Bone Suckin’ Sauce.  The only side that really required any prep was the zucchini salad but it only took about 10 minutes.

Key Lime Pie: I made the easiest Key Lime Pie ever this weekend.  Judging by the fact four people finished it in two sittings, I think it was a hit!

Whole Wheat Penne with Eggplant and Mozzarella: I made myself some comfort food while Tim was traveling this week.  I bought some of my favorite eggplant cutlets from Trader Joe’s and cut them into bite-sized pieces.  I mixed the eggplant with whole wheat pasta, jarred tomato sauce, and diced fresh mozzarella.  Delish!

While I have been able to cook, our time around the dinner table has certainly changed since Charlotte was born.  She has uncanny timing — quiet as a mouse as I prepare dinner but then as soon as the meal hits the table the crying starts.  Tim and I sit together at the table and take turn eating and passing our gorgeous little girl back and forth.  I guess Charlotte already knows how important family dinners are and she doesn’t want to be left out.

And don’t worry — Angus has not allowed all the changes to affect his dinnertime behavior.  Our loving pooch sits at our feet desperately hoping for a scrap and being on the lookout for some dropped food.

Our little round kitchen table is getting more crowded and I couldn’t be happier.

Meatless Monday: Tomato & Mozzarella Quesadillas with Basil

Here is a super quick and easy Meatless Monday recipe perfect for the summer when tomatoes and basil are in season.  I didn’t make any changes other than drizzling some balsamic vinegar on the basil salad.

Tim and I both enjoyed our “Caprese” quesadillas!  And, I loved getting dinner on the table in 10 minutes and the very limited clean up work!

Tomato & Mozzarella Quesadillas with Basil
Real Simple

  • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
  • 12 ounces grated or sliced mozzarella
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves picked
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Heat grill to medium. Arrange 4 of the tortillas on a cutting board. Arrange the mozzarella and tomatoes on the tortillas, leaving a 1-inch border empty. Season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and the pepper and top with the remaining tortillas.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the basil, pine nuts, oil, and the remaining salt; set aside.
  3. Cook the quesadillas around the perimeter of the grill until the cheese melts and the tortillas are crisp and golden, about 2 minutes per side.
  4. Immediately cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with the basil salad.

Meatless Monday: Fresh Vegetable Quesadillas with Corn Relish

Here is a great summer meatless Monday recipe.  The recipe is super quick because you do not cook the veggies before grilling the quesadillas.

I love using my grill pan to make quesadillas.  I usually just lightly brush the pan with olive oil or spray with non-stick cooking spray so the quesadillas are much healthier than frying them in some oil.

Use summer squash and zucchini for some additional color.  For the relish, I used frozen corn and added some feta cheese.  So simple but delicious!


Fresh Vegetable Quesadillas with Corn Relish
Everyday Food

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for grates
  • 4 ears corn (husks and silks removed), or 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 bunch scallions, half of bunch thinly sliced, other half cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 flour tortillas (10-inch)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (6 ounces)
  • 1 yellow squash, halved crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 orange bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), thinly sliced
Heat grill to low; lightly oil grates. Cut off tip of each cob. One at a time, stand each ear in a large wide bowl; with a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release the kernels (you should have about 2 cups). Discard cobs.
Add sliced scallions, lime juice, and oil to bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Set corn relish aside.
Place tortillas on a work surface. Dividing evenly, sprinkle half the cheese on bottom half of each tortilla. Top with squash, bell pepper, scallion pieces, and remaining cheese; season with salt and pepper. Fold top half of tortillas over filling to close.
Grill quesadillas, turning once, until browned in spots and cheese has melted, 6 to 8 minutes. Cut into wedges; serve immediately with corn relish.

Beat the heat with gazpacho!

I am a soup lover and a tomato lover so there is nothing I like more on a hot day than a cold bowl of gazpacho!  I just recently came across the Barefoot Contessa’s gazpacho recipe.  It is simple and quick and relies only on tomatoes and veggies (some recipes have you add bread to them to create a thicker consistency).

To make a meal out of the gazpacho, I sauteed some shrimp in olive oil and garlic and served them on top of our cool bowls of soup.  You could also serve with some crusty bread or a salad

The recipe made enough that I had the leftover gazpacho as an appetizer the next night and lunch two days later.  It tastes even better the next day!

Barefoot Contessa

  • 1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded, but not peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onions into 1-inch cubes. Put each vegetable separately into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until it is coarsely chopped. Do not overprocess!

After each vegetable is processed, combine them in a large bowl and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the more the flavors develop.