Weeknight Dinners- Linguine with Olive Sauce

I am an absolute sucker for anything salted and briny. Any dish that calls for olives, capers, and anchovies is immediately a friend of mine. Extra points if it also calls for lemon zest.

This recipe is one of those pasta dishes I like to subtitle “how to use up all the useless herbs in the fridge.” Extra herbs can always be a problem for a home cook. I find it happens most often with parsley, AKA the herb that is always and forever packaged in massive bunches at the market even when you need to use one tablespoon in a recipe. It never fails. I always feel a little sense of accomplishment when I’ve found a way to not let the leftover herbs in the fridge rot.

Overall this is the sort of dish I love to make midweek: cheap, full of pantry items, and flavorful. It is the sort of dish I might throw together on my own, but the overall ratios in this recipe make it worth using. As I said, I’m a sucker for the salty briny accents, and this has an overall zesty brightness that is balanced and hard to resist. The sauce is also a perfect match for linguine- which is saying a lot from me, as I tend to try to avoid long pastas at all costs. What would I change?  I’m definitely a maximalist when it comes to pasta, so I could have used a little more of the olive sauce and the breadcrumbs. Most people would be fine with the amount allotted, however.

Herby olive goodness.
Herby olive goodness.

Some final notes:

– I used green castelvetrano olives and oil-packed Italian anchovies. I think using the best ingredients possible here is a must for flavor, if you can swing it. (although the capers used were the ones packed in brine, not the supposedly-superior salt cured variety)

– The green olive sauce seemed to not need salt- I thought the dish was fine as-is. I did lightly salt the breadcrumbs as the recipe states.

-I used all the pasta water suggested and thought it might have needed a little more liquid when tossing, so leave a little extra just in case.

Recipe CreditBon Appetit

Kitchen Mess: 2.5 out of 4. Lots of chopping, mincing, and zesting, but nothing too intense.

Recommended for: Olive fanatics, weeknight dinners.

Not Recommended for: Anchovy haters!

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Weeknight Dinners – Sesame Cod

Needing a simple weekday dinner recipe, I looked to an old standby: oven-roasted white fish. Cod is pretty much a simple no-frills kind of fish, so I suppose it makes sense that my finished product was about the same.

I went for an Asian-inspired cod recipe, straightforward as can be and requiring next to nothing in prep work. The instructions stated to grate ginger, stir together with sesame oil, and massage on the fish as a marinade before roasting in a 400 degree oven. The garnish was equally as simple, simply a sprinkling of black sesame seeds, scallions, and pickled ginger. So why did it not meet my expectations? Were my expectations too extreme? To be fair, I was looking for a simple recipe to throw together in a half hour, tops.

Cod with Sesame and Ginger, Mirin and Soy Glazed Eggplant, Gingered Green Beans
Cod with Sesame and Ginger, Mirin and Soy Glazed Eggplant, Gingered Green Beans

My biggest mistake in the process was marinating the fish for the shortest amount of time given on the recipe. Instead of letting the ginger and sesame oil penetrate the fish for a bit, I went for the shortest amount of time specified in the recipe- 15 minutes instead longer. Really, if I’m going to be honest with myself here, I probably marinated it for 14 and a half minutes before throwing the whole thing in the oven. This important tidbit of info probably had something to do with the minimal tone of the dish. Still, regardless of my marinating speed issues I felt it was too subtle of a flavor for my tastes.

I paired the fish with an impromptu Japanese-eggplant-in-mirin-and-soy-sauce saute, which I seriously lapped up from my plate. Eggplant season is something I never really cared about, but with all the fun heirloom varieties out and about in the markets, my opinion on the nightshade is quickly changing.

Eggplant Sauteed with Soy Sauce and Mirin
Eggplant Sauteed with Soy Sauce and Mirin

Recipe credit: NY Times

Kitchen Mess: Minimal

Recommended for: Fast dinners, Healthy Meals, Picky eaters

Not recommended for: Special Occasions, dinner parties

End of Sour Cherry Season

It wasn’t the best of days, more frustration than anything. On those sorts of days I find it helpful to take part in a cooking activity that allows you to blow off some steam. I learned something new: pitting sour cherries was not one of those activities. Those buggers are soft and pillowy, offering up no resistance as I gored each one, one listless hole punch at a time, with my new cherry pitter. It’s like taking a giant mallet to a pillow-sized marshmallow. Actually, a pillow-sized marshmallow up against a giant mallet sounds more like a stress reducer than pitting sour cherries, which were one squishy non-pop at a time. Like the popcorn kernel that gives you a half pop, my cherries were phoning it in.

carnage
Carnage.

So I had these cherries, realized that I was one cup short of making a pie. Should I make a pie with more crust and less filling? Maybe not. Considering that most of the recipes out there called for 5 cups without a variation, I decided to trust the countless amount of pros in my cookbooks/websites. Feeling indecisive, I set my tray of just-4-cups-of-sour-cherries in the freezer in the hopes that I would figure it out in a couple of days.

Like promised, 2 days later I opened up the freezer, ready to use my frozen stone fruit for a simpler, more spontaneous option: fruit crisp. Not wanting to go buy another pint of cherries for pie, and not wanting to make a pan sauce or dessert topping with the cherries, I resorted to ye olde standby of desserts. It might be a standby, but it’s one of my favorites. I followed a basic recipe in the hopes of achieving a proper tart/sweet balance, and I think the fruit filling succeeded. The topping, however, might be a little too sweet for my tastes- and I prefer my crisp topping to be made up of oats and flour, not just flour.

Finished product.
Finished product.

Recipe credit: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/tart-cherry-crisp

Kitchen Mess: extremely minimal.

Recommended for: Fast weeknight desserts, crowd pleasers, that extra pint of vanilla ice cream lurking in the freezer.

Not recommended for: Special dinner parties