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What's your favorite "impressive but easy" recipe?

I'm faced with several mid-week entertaining situations in the next month or so, starting this Thursday. I was hoping to get some ideas and/or recipes regarding somewhat impressive bot not time-demanding menus or dishes. The recipes don't necessarily have to be easy, just not too time consuming (which might be an oxymoron but I'm throwing it out there anyway). Thanks in advance, 'Hounds!

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  1. A crowd favorite has been roast salmon on mushroom polenta.

    The polenta is quaker quick grits (not the instant kind, but the kind that cook in 7 minutes) though it works jut fine with regular polenta or grits, it just takes closer to an hour to cook. I like this version because it takes all of about 15 minutes start to finish.

    Start with shallots, onions, garlic (in whatever ratios you prefer or ommiting any or all of then if you like) and some fresh thyme, saute that in some oil or butter (i think olive oil works best) for a few minutes and then add some chopped up mushrooms (the more varied, the better) and saute them until they get some color and give up some liquid, then splash in some white wine and enough chicken stock to cook whatever amount of grits/polenta you want to cook. Stir in the grits and, if you're using the quick grits, slap on the lid and leave it on the lowest heat pretty much until you're ready, though it'll be ready in 6 or 7 minutes. While that's working, put the salmon on a broiling pan (I use a whole side of salmon which usually comes in at about 2.5 to 3 pounds) and squeeze fresh lemon juice over it, salt and pepper and fresh thyme and slide it under the broiler for about 8 or 10 minutes, longer if you like medium-rare or medium salmon.

    It ends up being a pretty elegant looking, very tasty main course. Add some salad or maybe haricort vert with sliced almonds and some bread and you'd have a fairly decent meal in short order. Good luck!

    8 Replies
    1. re: ccbweb

      Thanks for the recipe, sounds really good. Rock on! So do you think a mixture of crimini, chanterelle, and oyster would work well? That's my basic go-to shroom mixture...

      1. re: adroit_minx

        Definetly, that's more or less what I use, too when I can get them all. Good luck!

      2. re: ccbweb

        This is my take on "Bistro Steak Frites," and it couldn't be easier!

        Take a few baking potatoes and slice them (skin on) into fries (I like a medium thickness). Lay them in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet. Top with a ton of fresh rosemary, kosher salt, and garlic powder. Put in 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Make sure you toss them about halfway through. When they are tender, turn the broiler on and finish them off until golden brown for a minute or two.

        Take a sirloin and rub with garlic, olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary, salt and pepper. Broil, grill, whatever you feel like until desired doneness. Slice thin against the grain.

        In a saucepan on medium high, put a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, whisk in about a tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup chicken broth, 1/4 cup maple syrup. Let thicken for a few minutes. Add a handful of fresh, chopped rosemary to finish. Pour over beef and toss to coat.

        The fries are SO good dipped in the sauce, too. I serve with a salad......

        1. re: ccbweb

          Polenta or mush made with finer corn meal can be cooked easily in the microwave, without the need to get the instant product. Mix the meal and water (or broth). I like to let it set for a while to wet the meal out, but that isn't absolutely necessary. Microwave on high for four minutes. Stir it. Repeat microwaving and stirring for a total of sixteen minutes, and it should be done. Sometimes I then add grated cheese and zap it again for a shorter period on lower power just to make sure the cheese is melted and then I stir it to integrate it. Patricia Wells' bay-scented semolina (cream of wheat, but cook it with broth and bay leaf) is another starch that is great.
          However, I do think that roasted chicken is always a winner. Cooking time can be a little longer than something broiled but preparation time isn't. Two winners are the "Chicken with Two Lemons "in Marcella Hazan's classic Italian cookbook or Teresa Lust's recipe in "Pass the Polenta." For the latter, you rinse the bird and pat dry, rub with olive oil, salt and pepper, squeeze the juice of a small lemon over and put the lemon pieces, a few cloves of garlic and some fresh herbs like rosemary and marjoram in the cavity, truss lightly, and roast on a rack at 400 for about an hour or until the juices run clear. For a large bird, allow plenty of time and cook it at 350. Put some water in the pan so the drippings don't burn, and use them for sauce or gravy.

          1. re: Father Kitchen

            That sounds like a good technique. Could just stir/fold in sauteed mushrooms or what have you afterwards. I'm not picking at the method with this next though, just wondering whether the texture of the microwaved polenta would be all that different from the quick cooking grits (the instant grits are rather gummy most of the time).

            And good suggestion on the roast chicken, it _always_ looks impressive and tastes great.

            1. re: ccbweb

              I've never cooked instant grits, but I generally avoid instant versions of products. If the preparation is anything like what they do to potatoes, it involves altering the starch structure, which may explain the gummy quality. The polenta I've had has always been good. A Croatian friend told me he steams it after soaking it, rather like rice, and never stirs it. His was almost custard-like in quality, but I never actually got to see him do it. He went home during the Bosnian war and I never saw him again.
              The next entry mentions souffles. The souffle cookbook that Dover puts out is easy to follow, and a souffle is always a hit. And if it falls, you just tell folks you are serving a savory pudding. And to combine the polenta idea with the souffle, there is always that wonderful southern dish, spoon bread.

              1. re: Father Kitchen

                I agree about avoiding instant. But the quick cooking grits are ground smaller so that they cook more quickly, not altered so that they need not be cooked (which is what is done to instant grits and the like).

          2. re: ccbweb

            One of my favorite easy recipes is BBQ Shrimp. It's really good, and it's quick and easy. Use medium to large shrimp. Don't peel it, leave the heads on. Put it in a baking dish, deep enough to collect the juice. Drizzle the shrimp with olive oil. Sprinkle Tabasco and worsteshire. Squeeze lemons over. After squeezing the lemons, slice them and lay over the shrimp. Cover the whole dish with pats of butter. Sprinkle with kosher salt and lots of fresh ground black pepper, one recipe I have says that if you think you've put enough black pepper, double it! Put under the broiler until the shrimp are cooked. Usually about 15 or so minutes. Use french bread to soak up the juice/oil. This is so good! Enjoy.

            GG in NO, LA

          3. i've said it before, and i'll say it again. souffle. cheap, easy, very impressive. round out with bread and salad. nibble on some nuts, meats, and whathaveyou while the thing is baking, and it's a perfect easy light midweek meal. especially if you have a lemon pound cake defrosted with some yogurt and blueberries.....

            10 Replies
            1. re: eLizard

              I'll second this. The cheese souffle recipe out of Craig Claiborne's NYT's cookbook is a crowd pleaser every time. And everyone is always in awe that I can make a souffle. Doesn't matter how much I protest that it's easy, they always feel like I've made a *very* special meal.

              1. re: Pistou

                Like this idea. Would you mind sharing the recipe?

                1. re: bite bite

                  Julia Child has a great recipe. I use hers with a pinch of cream of tarter in the egg whites. It's very very similar to Alton Brown's recipe on the Food Network.... I'd be interested to hear a paraphrase of Claiborne's, too.

                  1. re: eLizard

                    Aha -- just found it. (JC's The Way To Cook). Her recipes are always so tasty. Thanks for the heads up.

                    1. re: bite bite

                      actually mine is from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I wonder if the recipe is any different!

                  2. re: bite bite

                    I'm pretty sure we're not allowed to do that here (or am I wrong about that? If so, I'd be happy to share when I'm home and have the book.)

                    The thing Claiborne does that may differ from other recipes is he has you add Worchesteshire sauce and cayenned to the souffle base, which deepens the flavor and anchors the sharpness of the cheese.

                    1. re: Pistou

                      Sure you can share. You can't copy verbatim, but you can link to a webpage with the recipe (if there is one), or you can paraphrase the instructions.

                      1. re: QueenB

                        Okay then.

                        Cheese Souffle
                        Serves 4

                        4 Tbsp. butter
                        1/4 c. flour
                        1 1/2 c. milk
                        salt, worchestire sauce and cayenne to taste
                        1/2 lb. grated sharp cheddar (don't get all crazy fancy with the cheese. We put some really, really delicious English cheddar in once, and it was just lost. Tillamook or the likes is fine)
                        4 eggs, separated
                        2 egg whites

                        Preheat oven to 375F. Put milk in a small saucepan and heat over m. heat. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, then add flour. Whisk until blended. Add the milk to the butter and flour, stirring to incorporate. Season with salt, Worchestershire sauce and cayenne to taste.

                        Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Add the cheese and stir. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.

                        Beat the 6 egg whites until they stand in peaks. Cut and fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture. Turn into a buttered 2-quart souffle dish and bake 30 to 45 minutes. (Shorter time will give you some sauce at the bottom, longer will give you firm souffle throughout).

                        Note: be sure your guests are at the table, the wine is poured and the salad is tossed when the souffle is ready to come out of the oven. It merits an entrance, and it will fall quite quickly once it's out of the oven.

                        1. re: Pistou

                          Thanks. Going to make this week!

                          1. re: Pistou

                            This is a great recipe! And definitely use Tillamook cheese. They don't use added enzymes like all the other branded cheeses do. No rbst either. Yes, I'm from Oregon. LOL!

                            Here's a great recipe for mac and cheese. No boiling required! from the NYT.

                            Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
                            Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

                            2 tablespoons butter
                            1 cup cottage cheese (not lowfat)
                            2 cups milk (not skim)
                            1 teaspoon dry mustard
                            Pinch cayenne
                            Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
                            1/2 teaspoon salt
                            1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                            1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
                            1/2 pound elbow pasta, uncooked.

                            1. Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tablespoon butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

                            2. In a blender, purée cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve 1/4 cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

                            3. Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

                            Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

                2. Buttermilk Panecotta!
                  you just have to remember to make it in the am, or at least 3 hours beforehand to it has time to jell.

                  1. Not sure whether or not you will be serving any finger food or apps, but this is my current favorite.
                    Endive Boats

                    2 heads Belgian Endive (the yellow, pointy kind)
                    2-3 Roma Tomatoes , seeded and chopped
                    1/4-1/2 red onion, minced
                    1 avocado, pit removed, peeled and diced
                    1/4-1/2 cup good blue cheese, crumbled
                    Olive oil
                    Freshly Ground Black Pepper
                    Balsamic Vinegar

                    Arrange endive leaves on platter to make boats. Sprinkle tomatoes, onion, avocado and blue cheese amongst each leaf. Drizzle with olive oil, black pepper and a bit of balsamic vinegar. Makes a nice light salad course as well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: FeedingFive

                      my go to impress recipe would definetly have to be pasta carbonara. i cut up pancetta and render out the fat and crisp it slightly, add some butter if i don't think there's enough fat to cover the noodles and just for some more richness (its definetly not low fat!!) and then, while the spaghetti is boiling, i grate my parmiggiano, set a few egg yolks aside (i usually reserve 1 yolk for every 2 ppl) and then near the end of the cooking process i reserve some pasta water. then i combine everything and voila! a really mouthwatering dish in my opinion, and i find it soooo comforting. p.s. giada delaurentis adds cinnamon to hers....but any spice that is used in the making of salumi can work like cloves, nutmeg, etc.

                    2. Anything on the grill. Fresh fish with a little salt and pepper, served with a lemon wedge. Veggies kabobs drizzled with olive oil, s&p and grilled. The flavors impress and it takes almost no time. Pick ingredients accoring to what's freshest at the store that day.

                      1. Ceviche is one of my favourite things to serve once the weather warms up. It's a bit off the beaten path (does that count as "impressive"?), looks beautiful, and takes ten minutes.

                        1. Take a salmon fillet and throw some sesame oil, tamari, and if you're really ambitious and want to chop, ginger, on it. Wrap it entirely in a wet piece of nori. Sprinkle the top of the nori with some black sesame seeds. Bake.

                          The fish is super-moist, the nori becomes a crispy crust, and everything looks elegant, dramatic and lovely. It takes like two minutes to prepare.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: oralfixation

                            Please explain the "wet piece of nori" thing.

                            1. re: Sharuf

                              I just buy sheets of nori, dip them in a bowl of warm water, and wrap them around the fish tightly. Make sure the seam, or buncy area, depending on your skill and the size of the sheet and fish, is on the bottom so that the top looks good. The nori is pliable when wet, and crisps up when it's cooked.

                              1. re: oralfixation

                                Sounds excellent. How long and at when temp do you bake?

                                1. re: bite bite

                                  This is getting too technical for me. I do it a different way every time. Yet it seems to turn out. Let me know if you work anything out as ideal.

                          2. Paella is a great one-dish meal that can be ready quickly. I do this dish for company, because once all the chopping is done, it comes together effortlessly. Don't be intimidated by the number of ingredients. Most larders have them on hand.

                            Chicken Paella with Spanish Chorizo

                            Currently, the only Spanish chorizo allowed to be sold in America is Palacios, which comes in hot (red string) or sweet (white string). If you can’t get kosher chicken, brine the chicken pieces for 3 hours in 2 quarts of water with 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/2 cup of sugar. Then proceed with the marination. You don’t absolutely have to brine the chicken, but it will be juicier and will caramelize more evenly if you do.

                            3 to 3 1/2 lb. kosher chicken, cut into 2” pieces, as for Chicken Scarpariella

                            1/4 cup tablespoons dry fino sherry, or dry white wine
                            5 tablespoons olive oil
                            2 teaspoons ground cumin
                            1 teaspoon ground coriander
                            Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
                            1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
                            1/2 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
                            1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
                            2 bay leaves
                            1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
                            3 tablespoons minced parsley
                            4 cloves garlic, pressed
                            2 teaspoons sweet Spanish (smoked) paprika
                            Kosher salt to taste

                            4 cups low salt chicken broth
                            1/8 teaspoon crumbled thread saffron
                            3 tablespoons olive oil
                            1 9.5-ounce Spanish hot or sweet chorizo (Palacios)
                            1 medium onion, finely chopped
                            1 medium green bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
                            1 medium red bell pepper, chopped into 1/4-inch dice
                            1 bay leaf
                            1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen, with some of their juices
                            2 tablespoons minced parsley
                            2 cups Spanish short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or Arroz Bomba

                            Combine all the marinade ingredients in a glass measure. Place the chicken pieces in a sealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, turning the bag once.

                            Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Sprinkle the chicken lightly with salt and pepper.

                            Pour a cup of the broth into the marinade bag, and transfer that mixture into a 1-quart glass measure. Add the remaining 3 cups of broth. Sprinkle the crumbled saffron over the broth and bring to a boil in a microwave oven, 5-10 minutes, depending on the oven’s wattage. Keep the mixture hot.

                            Heat the oven to 400 degrees (gas) or 450 (electric). Heat the oil in a 15” paella pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken, turning once, about 5 minutes total (it should not be fully cooked). Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Scatter the chorizo in the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, green peppers, and bay leaf to the pan and sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened. Stir in the tomato and parsley, and cook for another 2 minutes.

                            Add the rice and stir to coat well. Pour in all the hot broth and bring to a boil. Continue boiling, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the mixture is no longer soupy but sufficient liquid remains to continue cooking the rice, about 4 minutes.

                            Discard all bay leaves and arrange the chicken pieces over the rice. Transfer to the oven and cook, uncovered, until the rice is almost al dente, 10-13 minutes in a gas oven, 15-20 in an electric oven. Remove the pan from the oven, cover it with a lid or heavy-duty foil, and let the paella sit 5-10 minutes, until the rice is cooked to taste. It should be nice and chewy.

                            Yield: 4 ample servings

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Tom Steele

                              Tom, do you have a good chicken scarpariello recipe?

                            2. I too think that salmon is a no-brainer. I've been really enjoying this 'healthy' recipe from Dr. Weill/Rosie Daley. Great technique -it is seared on one side to give it a wonderful crust, then finished in the oven so you have 10 minutes to do other last minute things. Stir fry green beans with garlic and soy is a simple side. You can pick any starch you want. Coconut rice maybe? Couscous if you are really pressed for time.

                              The orange sauce never really thickens up, so I like to use a bit of cornstarch mixed with cold water to drizzle in just until slightly thickened. Also instead of oranges and zest I put a couple of spoons of orange marmelade in the sauce--I like the touch of added sweetness.

                              1. First, miso glazed cod. So darn tasty and mind numbingly simple! To dress up the presentation, sprinkle it with white & black sesame seeds and serve it with a "Asian" salad (bagged mixed greens, bagged pre-shredded carrots, bagged bean sprouts, chopped green onion, and Asian-ginger-sesame dressing from the Ethnic aisle). Be sure to serve it with rice as the sauce is very rich and needs some starch to cut the richness ( and it tastes really good on rice)

                                Second, banoffi pie. This is a really delicious toffee-banana pie that is popular in England. What makes it really simple is, if you do the right steps beforehand, it's 5 minutes of assembly (10 if you make the graham cracker crust yourself). To make the toffee, throw the unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk in a crock pot before you go to work (on low, covered in water), they will be full of toffee when you get home and shelf stable! Make several at once and yank them out for an on the fly dessert for surprise guests. To make the pie, you can make the real crust, or just buy a graham cracker crust from the store. Assemble, chill, and serve!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: InmanSQ Girl

                                  Miso anything - yum.

                                  Where would I buy the paste and what is mirin sauce - where do I get it? Sorry - not familiar

                                  1 cup mellow white miso paste

                                  3/4 cup of mirin sauce

                                  1. re: stellamystar

                                    miso is in the refrigerated area of most grocery stores these days-- sometimes it's near produce items, sometimes in dairy-- an employee can help--

                                    but i get my miso from a large asian supermarket-- if you can, seek one out, you can choose from several different brands, colors, etc. (white miso is generally the mildest, and the miso is usually stronger as the color deepens to yellow, red. . .). i always get msg-free miso, my preference.

                                    mirin is sweet japanese rice wine, you can get it in the same store. if you buy mirin in a supermarket it will cost you an arm & leg, but it's usually cheap in an asian store.

                                    1. re: stellamystar

                                      Sorry, I am spoiled by living near several asian grocers. Miso paste is a refrigerated "fresh" (not dehydrated) version of the miso powder you are used to making miso soup with. It can often be found in main stream grocery store in a refrigerator case, usually grouped with all the other organic / vegetarian / ethnic / yuppy food. Miso paste comes in a bunch of different strengths and colors. I have tried this dish with white (pale yellow really), yellow, and red, and and white is the best, but the others are pretty good too.

                                      Mirin is sweet rice wine, which will be in your grocery stores "ethnic" aisle next to the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.

                                      Don't try to substitute with regular sake & sugar or powdered miso, I tried out of desperation once and the result was inedible!

                                  2. Stews over carbs. Most people love a savory sauce with a protein, layered over a carb. Put a green on the side and you're set. Many stews don't take too long. Try a Moroccan stew of chicken , olive and lemons (preserved, if you can get them.) It's a classic recipe and you can easily look it up online with the ingredient keywords ( also use: tagine). Quickly steamed couscous and a green salad maes a wonderful meal.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                      Stews over carbs? How about a curry over rice with lots of condiments? The condiments take longer to prepare than the entree itself. Your curry can range from authentic to a western adaptation, like an old Navy version which has been a party favorite in my family for 60 years. We like to make it with leftover lamb or turkey, but it is great with cut up chicken or even garbanzos. The basic version was to saute onions (and bell pepper if you like) add curry powder to it, then diced apple or some applesauce or crushed pineapple or some raisins, some broth, and the meat. Optionally, you can add some vegetables. Cauliflower is wonderful in this. Simmer to cook the meat and vegetables if they need it or enough to blend the flavors. You can finish it if you like the addition of a bit of yogurt or coconut milk. Meanwhile steam the rice. The condiments we served were usually: diced celery, diced onions (or sliced spring onions), chopped up hard boiled eggs, diced tomato, sweet pickle relish, chopped up peanuts, real bacon bits, toasted shredded coconut (unless you used coconut milk in the curry), and a chutney or India-style pickle. We used Major Grey's mango chutney or home made quince chutney. Fried plantains are good, too. Serve the curry over a bed of rice and sprinkle the condiments over that. I imagine an Indian cook would turn over in her grave at this inauthentic dish, but this is a version derived ultimately through Navy links, probably from the British. It is tasty (especially if your curry powder or garam masala is good), colorful, and a great buffet dish as people can eat it without worrying about cutting up food. Serve it with chappatis or rotis. A nice starter for this meal is a spiced lentil soup.

                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                        This dish has been a family tradition for about 40 years. We always take the leftover turkey from thanksgiving and the friday after we prepare the curry over rice. My grandparents were in the Navy and my grandma said that she picked up the recipe in Hawaii while they were stationed there about 60 years ago. Sinse my grandparents are both gone I have taken up carrying on the tradition. One that will last a lifetime for me. I reccomend the recipe to anyone. Thank You

                                    2. mussels. make a big pot of them with a big loaf of crusty bread and a green salad (i also like to add blood orange sections, shaved fennel, and crumbled ricotta salata or goat's cheese to green salad...make a simple vinaigrette and everyone says "ooh!"). mussels aren't necessarily impressive to everyone, but most people don't eat them that often and/or don't realize that they take about ten minutes to slap together (and they're wicked cheap).
                                      you can make a broth of butter, shallots, white wine, and parsley; fennel, ale, and shallots; garlic tomatoes, basil, white wine; saffron, white wine, shallots; or curried coconut broth. serve the mussels in big bowls, give generous ladles of broth, and lots of bread to sop up the broth.
                                      for quick dessert, there's always strawberry shortcake, if you get store-bought biscuits or angel cake (or top strawberries and whipped cream with macaroons or meringues). or grilled pineapple and mango slices with ginger ice cream.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ginqueen

                                        I love the mussels for guests. I've done the thai curry version which always seems to get everyone excited - red curry paste, some ginger, garlic, lemongrass, fish sauce and coconut milk.

                                      2. This berry tart is beautiful and easy, and delicious. People think you slaved all day. For this time of year when strawberries are in season, here is a recipe for Shortbread Strawberry Tart.

                                        Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

                                        Mix 1 cup of flour with 4 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar.) Using a pastry blender, cut in 1 stick of salted butter (one half cup) until crumbly. Chill for at least 15 min, and then turn the mixture into a tart pan, or a 9 inch spring form pan, or even a 9 inch layer cake pan. Press the dough into the pan evenly with your fingertips. Using a fork, prick the surface all over. ( If you choose, you can prick the surface to show 6 or 8 equally shaped triangles; think of a clock face to make your divisions. )

                                        Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 min, or until pale golden color; the edges will be slightly browner. Cool the shortbread. ( At this point you could stop, and serve triangles of shortbread with ice cream if you chose to do the "divide into 6 or 8 triangles direction.)

                                        Rinse and dry on paper towels 1 quart of strawberries (you may not need a full quart- but it fully depends on the shape and quality of the berries). Cover the surface of the shortbread with perfectly ripe fresh strawberries. You can do this in any number of ways. If the berries are perfect and evenly shaped, cut the stem end off, and place the berries, tips up, all over the short bread. Or if you have berries of varied shapes, cut the berries in slices from top to bottom. Place the slices in concentric circles, covering the shortbread base.

                                        Then, over very low heat, melt in a small saucepan some raspberry or currant jam ( anything dark red, more strawberry, even cherry), about 1 cup ( the low sugar jams work well with this). "Paint" the melted jam all over the berries using a pastry brush.

                                        Chill until serving. Whipped cream is good with this, and a couple of dark chocolates on the side.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: martmurt

                                          I've done something similar to this before, but with one "kick it up a notch" you might like. When the shortbread comes out of the oven and is still hot, sprinkle with mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark chocolate of worth while quality is best). When the chips melt, smear them around till it coats the shortbread, then proceed with the strawberries and jam. The melted chocolate adds another wonderful flavor, but also acts as a practical glue for the strawberries :)

                                        2. Vegetable tart. You can buy the crust, but I think it's almost easier to make it. Roll it out freeform, top with blanched or grilled sliced veggies, sprinkle with parmesan, then fold the edges up and bake. It's just as good at room temp, so no worries if your guests run late.

                                          Some good tart combos:

                                          Tomato, zucchini, fresh mozzarella
                                          Butternut squash and pesto
                                          Roasted eggplant and tahini
                                          Fennel, black olives and parmesan
                                          Wild mushrooms and caramelized onions

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: piccola

                                            I just watched an old Julia Child French Chef episode in which she makes a vegetable tart w/ spinach, white sauce w/ sauteed onions, sauteed mushrooms and ham. Roll out in a rectangle, put paper under half of long end away from you, and then when you place veggies on lower part, use paper to pick up dough, wrap over and seal.

                                          2. Fish baked in parma ham.
                                            Take some sunblush or sundried tomatoes, and whizz in a blender with a couple of handfulls of fresh coriander, a drizzle of olive oil, and black pepper.
                                            Lay 3-4 slices of parma ham side by side and slightly overlapping. Spread with some of the sundried tomato & herb mix, and then put a piece of firm white fleshed fish along the middle. Roll up the ham around the fish and put the seam on the underside so that it doesn't come unrolled.
                                            Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins at 180 degrees centigrade (sorry, you'll have to do the conversion!). Serve over mashed potato or polenta, with some greens on the side. If you want it to look posher, slice into four or five rounds and arrange prettily on the top of the potato / polenta.
                                            Great for when people come to dinner as the (already quick) assembly can be done before, so you just fling it in the oven and get on with having a glass of wine and a chat whilst it's cooking.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: pootle

                                              What a wonderful recipe! I can't wait to try it. BTW, 180 C. = 350 F.

                                              1. re: Tom Steele

                                                My oven seems quite hot compared to some, so it might need a bit higher. I normally have a peek at it after 10 mins or so and crank up the heat a bit if it doesn't look as though it's crisping up enough. The parma ham should go slightly crispy, but not too dried out.

                                                1. re: pootle

                                                  Meant to add - 3-4 slices parma ham with a piece of fish PER PERSON (sorry, if this is stating the obvious...)

                                                  1. re: pootle

                                                    this is my favourite that I've read here. And I don't have to convert the centigrade either!

                                                    1. re: pootle

                                                      A variation on this dish I've made substitutes arugula or another bitter green for the sundried tomato & herb mix.

                                                      1. re: pootle

                                                        this dish sounds delicious-I am going to make it-thanks

                                                      2. I know I repeat myself over and over here about this recipe, but it has to be the pork tenderloin with honey mustard rosemary sauce.

                                                        3/4 cup beer
                                                        1/2 cup Dijon mustard
                                                        6 tablespoons honey
                                                        1/4 cup olive oil
                                                        2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried
                                                        2 tablespoons chopped garlic
                                                        1 package pork tenderloin (found wrapped in plastic package at the store, will contain 2 tenderloins)
                                                        1/2 cup whipping cream

                                                        Whisk first 6 ingredients to blend in a glass baking dish. Add pork and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.
                                                        Preheat oven to 350°F. Transfer tenderloins to rack set in roasting pan. Reserve marinade. Roast until thermometer inserted into center registers 150°F., about 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit on cutting board, covered with aluminum foil 15 minutes.

                                                        Strain marinade into heavy medium saucepan (you can use cheesecloth for this, or a fine-meshed strainer). Add 1/2 cup cream and juices from roasting pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat a bit and simmer for 15 minutes. Be careful the first five minutes or so, as the sauce will want to boil over, so keep a good eye on it. Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste.

                                                        Slice pork into 1 inch slices. Serve with sauce drizzled over.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: QueenB

                                                          Ag! I've had this one ear-marked in my book of ideas for too long. I've got a bunch of tenderloins in the freezer and no excuses.

                                                          1. re: egbluesuede

                                                            I finally got a chance to try this last night and loved it QueenB. I paired it with some roasted asparagus, which went great with the sauce. Sooooo easy too.

                                                        2. For really easy- and if you are entertaining meat eaters, they will love you. A prime rib roast, served with yorkshire pudding , twice baked potatoes, green beans and a salad. Easy to prepare, and great tasting.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: macca

                                                            also easy to screw up... (not that I ever have...;-)

                                                          2. I think one of the easiest things to do is marinating a flank steak. You can easily make a really large amount. Just blend up the marinade the night before and put it into plastic bags with the steaks (my marinade is a mix of soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, brown sugar and olive oil). Grill when your guests come! Every time I've done this its been a huge hit.

                                                            1. I'm surprised nobody mentioned Chicken Marbella. It's easy to prepare and it tastes great.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: valerie

                                                                want to share the receipe? I am always looking for a new chicken dish.

                                                                1. re: Barbarella

                                                                  It's originally from The Silver Palate Cookbook and it's posted on a million different websites now...


                                                                  1. re: valerie

                                                                    I can vouch for Chicken Marbella. It is always a hit and easy to make for a crowd. I have given out the recipe about a dozen times...

                                                              2. Anything on the grill this time of year, as the others suggest.
                                                                Here's a great side dish and delicious.
                                                                in heavy medium saucepan, melt 3 T butter
                                                                Add 1/2 box orzo and saute
                                                                Once orzo is browned, add 2 cans of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add more broth, so have another can open and ready.
                                                                Check for firmness. When it is done, the orzo should be loose. Add more broth, so it is a tiny bit 'soupy'.
                                                                Remove from heat, add 1/2 cup fresh grated Locatelli cheese, season with black pepper, and add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fresh thinly sliced fresh basil.
                                                                Mix and serve. Note: the basil MUST be fresh
                                                                I serve this orzo often with a simple oven roasted salmon with a mustard sauce that you can make ahead.(recipe follows), and a nice salad. Easy, impressive and fast.
                                                                Mustard Sauce:
                                                                Place 1 cup dry white wine (can use vermouth) in small pot. Add 4 thinly sliced green onions. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil down until there is only a few tablespoons of liquid left in the pot. Add 1 pint of heavy cream, boil until this thickens, remove from heat, then add 1 T of Dijon mustard. Season with black pepper, and salt.
                                                                Serve with any type of seafood.

                                                                1. grilled shrimp with fruit and tomato salsa, coconut rice, black beans and fried plantains.

                                                                  other standby

                                                                  dijon and garlic breadcrumb crusted rack of lamb, horseradish mashed potatoes and either creamed spinach or oven roasted asparagus

                                                                  1. baked clams.

                                                                    i cribbed this recipe from bobby flay and new york's scotto family:


                                                                    i bake them in batches of three dozen. never once had a single clam left over. fry up some bacon if you can't leave well enough alone.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                                      Do the clams open easily b/c of the cornmeal/salt solution? I can never seem to get an uncooked clam pried open so easily. . ..

                                                                    2. scallops (sear them on grill) or saute them quickly....and make sep sauce of fresh parsely, white wine, garlic, pepper, salt, and hot pepper flakes...add some chopped french olives with herbs....and then pour this over your scallops, and serve with spanish rice (from the Near East box brand--no brainer ---and good)-------EASY, and VERY GOURMET Tasting!!!!

                                                                      1. Tuna Steak Burgers are the only way to go. They are perfect on an outdoor grill or on the George Foreman. I take a few tuna steaks and rip them apart into small chunks. I add minced garlic, fresh minced jalapeno, zest of a lime, juice of a lime, cilantro, finely chopped red onion, fresh black pepper, an egg to bind and usually about 1/4 cup of italian breadcrumbs (again to bind). Shape into burgers and grill. Usually take about 5-7 minutes total. I serve on a bun with some mayo mixed with cayenne (to taste). Everyone raves!!! They also taste great with fresh guacamole or fresh watercress used like a lettuce.

                                                                        (i left out exact quantities because it depends on how many steaks you use)

                                                                        1. Although it sounds counterintuitive, I personaly find that the easiest throw-it-together weeknight entertaining strategy is to string it out into multiple courses of one small & simple dish each. By separating the meal into separate courses, you don't have to worry quite as much about coordination between dishes. And by keeping each dish to just a few ingredients, I don't go nuts getting everything together.

                                                                          Since weeknight company usually means getting a late start when everybody's finally out of work and hungry, I usually have some no-prep appetizers on hand (e.g., bread, veggies, smoked trout pate, olives, spicy nuts; or maybe even just japanese snack mixes, some kimchi pajeon and beer, depending on the crowd :) )

                                                                          - A soup. Cold ones are good now that the weather is warmer! (Cucumber & buttermilk with dill is super-easy and refreshing-- 4 ingredients + salt to taste)

                                                                          - A light "main" dish, usually fish, since it's easy to bake quickly and goes well with whatever fresh veggie happens to be in season (asparagus, ferns, kale, bok choy), and fresh flavorful fish needs practically no additional dressing up. The polenta suggestions above are also great-- classic with mushrooms & gorgonzola, and maybe some arugula. My favorite more substantial meat dishes that require cooking time but very little prep/supervising time are both on epicurious: "my mothers brisket", and the keller "my favorite simple roast chicken"

                                                                          - A salad course. The shrimp & zucchini salad on epicurious is good this time of year (4 ingredients + dressing); the beet & sardine one is simple too (but I guess not all guests love sardines *or* beets). Or if you have access to nice fresh soft tofu, slices cold or hot with a japanese or korean sauce.

                                                                          - Clafouti or lemon pudding case (each has about 4 ingredients and comes together quickly) Or berries and cream. or just a nice sherry and some fruit and cheese :)

                                                                          1. You can try Sue's easy recipe for simple steamed eggs.

                                                                            1. How about beef bourgouingne with lots of pearl onions(frozen), carrots, and mushrooms. Can be made ahead and just warmed up, can even be frozen. Serve over pasta, or serve with rice on the side with a big salad and good crusty bread.

                                                                              1. I made this for my mom today. It is kind of ridiculous because it involves almost no cooking or preparation at all...because it uses addictive store-bought frozen sweet potato ravioli. I boil the ravioli while broiling or grilling a piece of salmon. Drain the ravioli, saute some garlic and throw in a big pile of baby spinach, cook on high and stir until wilted, add the ravioli back in, sprinkle with grated parmagiano and put it on a plate with some salmon...with black pepper. It's amazing and takes about 2 minutes active cooking time.

                                                                                1. Sirracha salmon

                                                                                  Marinade is equal parts dijon mustard, honey, and sirracha sauce (the kind in the plastic bottle with the rooster on it). If you get a really spicy batch of sirracha, you can lessen the amount.

                                                                                  Put the marinade on the salmon and reserve a small amount for a table sauce. Marinate for about half an hour and then broil or grill the salmon until the doneness you like. I won't give a time because it varies greatly depending on the thickness of your salmon.

                                                                                  Fabulous stuff and tastes very impressive.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: dalaimama

                                                                                    I love to do seared tuna that is quickly marinated and crusted with black and white celery seeds. It is so quick and is easy and looks impressive when sliced and served fanned out. I also love cioppino, epi has a really quick recipe and it is so easy. I use shrimp, mussels and live clams and sometimes fish. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                                                  2. I have a recipe that I came up with, but it is a side dish. People love it, and it's real easy. I make a sauce using the Recipe Secrets Garlic and Herb mix, add some extra herbs, and then toss it with Angel Hair. It is good along side of pork or chicken, and if you feel like it you could chop up some of the meat and toss it in there as well. It is requested on a regular basis.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: danhole

                                                                                      For a light meal, any good pastasciutta dish with an interesting mixed-greens salad is good. You can't miss with spaghetti alla carbonara, but there many other winning pasta dishes as well. And anything with mushrooms and a bit of pancetta in a cream sauce will be sure to polish your culinary halo. And if you want a little more substance with the meal, a properly roasted hen will always please. You can do it plain with just salt and pepper and butter or oil on the skin, or add some herbs, or do Marcella Hazan's marvelous chicken with two lemons from her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It takes only a few minutes of hands-on work to prepare and is always a pleaser, especially if it comes out of the oven with the skin all puffed up.

                                                                                    2. This fettuccine with brussels sprouts dish is very easy (once you thinly slice the sprouts, which you might be able to do ahead; if you have a food processor, even better!), and calls for 4 ingredients. If you don't like brussels sprouts, I served this to 2 people who thought they didn't like brussels sprouts, and even they liked it. The key is to keep the sprouts bright green, so don't cook it too much. Have the pasta water almost boiling before you start sauteing, b/c it will be done that quickly.

                                                                                      1. My easiest impressive thing is not a recipe but a piece of equipment: a trifle dish (glass serving dish with tall straight sides that stands on a pedestal). Anything you put in it is instantly showy. 1) Layers of cake or macaroons or ladyfingers, liquor sprinkled on, custard or ice cream, fruit, whipped cream, anything, knock yourself out. 2) A salad in layers. 3) A huge spectacular fresh fruit salad. Have lately seen these dishes at housewares stores for $19.95: a good investment if you EVER entertain.

                                                                                        1. In case no one's mentioned it before: vegetable tart, made with storebought puff pastry, pesto and whatever veggies you have on hand.