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Fantastically simple fantastic meals...

There are some dishes that are so incredibly simple to make, yet the "sum of the whole" is always much greater than the parts. A couple of days ago I made mussel stew. Sweat onions, add a little garlic, a couple of pounds of mussels, some white wine, a little chopped parsley, some milk. It was incredibly good, and that's what started me thinking about the really simple dishes that can really knock your socks off. No special sauces. You don't need three pans and fifteen mis en place dishes. It cooks quick and you and everyone you share it with are happy you did it.

Do you have a favorite fantastically simple fantastic meal?.

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  1. Crispy pan fried salmon. Heat pan to medium-hot. Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides of a with-skin salmon fillet. Drizzle olive oil in pan. Place salmon in pan skin side down, watch for color change 2/3 way up the fillet, flip, and finish. A simple green salad or steamed veg (mmmm, asparagus) and maybe rosemary potatoes done in the oven. If I'm feelin' froggy, I might deglaze the salmon pan with a splash of white wine and a squirt of lemon and swirl in a bit butter. Dinner in 40 min (cuz the potatoes take longer).

    1. Lamb-Noodles Romanoff - I put it in the Recipes section.

      1. My unexpected guests for dinner depends on having nori, rice, canned tuna, Viet rice paper rounds, and dried pastas in the pantry; stocks, spices, corn tortillas, and fish in the freezer; and meats, cheeses, eggs, shredded chicken, vegetables, caviar, and fruit in the ref.

        Then the possibilities are endless: makizushi rolls with canned tuna and/or julienned Japanese omelet and my pickled ginger; Viet spring rolls/Filipino fresh lumpia; pastas with uncooked sauces; quick Asian or Mexican fish soup/stew; breakfast caviar arugula mozz omelet; musubi with roast chicken (the classic simple and good); simple scratch thin crust no rise pizza; fish cioppino; tacos with ground spiced ground meat, grated cheese, tomato, lettuce, home made sauce; and so much more. Also possible are anything from a good cheeseburger or steak sandwich to a quick stir-fry.

        But my fave for the moment, as I’ve mentioned before, is doing an artichoke in the microwave and making simple makizushi (rolls) for my daughter and me before she goes back to be with her mother for a week after a week with me.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Doing an artichoke in the microwave? Tell us more.

          1. re: Sharuf

            I learned that here from other hounds. Trim and wash the artichoke, leaving the residual moisture in the artichoke. Place in glass bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap (or glass lid). Nuke for 4 1/2 minutes. Come out perfect.

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Do you wash it in acidulated water?

              1. re: CindyJ

                I just run it under a lot of water and then pop into the MW - too quick for it to start oxidizing.

                1. re: Sharuf

                  The ones here are smaller than those from Watsonville. I guess mine are about the size of a medium grapefruit. Another tip I find useful: buy artichokes according to stem diameter - thicker stem = more heart.

          2. I make seafood pouches in parchment paper, some frozen spinach, fresh fish, veggies of your choice, butter, lemon and herbs, a little white wine and close up and bake on a cookie sheet (NO pans) Serve in the pouch, a great dish.

            3 Replies
            1. re: kchurchill5

              You can also just pop the pouch in the microwave. Talk about quick and easy!

              1. re: alanbarnes

                I did once and yes it did seem ok. Always use the oven, but I suppose it works fine. I usually make 4-6 at the time so the micro may not work, but for 1 or 2 it could.

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  Agreed that if you're cooking a bunch of servings, the oven is the way to go. But for a single meal, the microwave is quicker and more efficient.

            2. Nach Waxman's Beef brisket from the Silver Palate New Basics (but you can google the recipe...) 4 ingredients. Flat cut brisket, onions, tomato paste, salt & pepper & garlic & carrot (ok...7 ingredients; but do S&P count?....) The only thing you need is time and patience.

              2 Replies
              1. re: adamshoe

                My favorite beef bourguignon recipe is from this book... I may try the brisket this week-end. What is your favorite thing to serve it with?

                1. re: akp

                  akp: I like latkes or a sweet noodle kugel. If you make it, go with more than 1 (1!) carrot and I use up to 12 onions. The aroma and flavor of this dish is outstanding and belies it's simplicity, plus it's even better the second or third day (if it lasts that long!) I'm not sure it's in the Silver palate book, but definitely in New Basics or available online. Nach Waxman owns the ultimate cookbook store in NYC. adam

              2. French omelets (not puffy, but loose). We sprinkle in some thyme, some grated Parma cheese. Sometimes plop on a bit of bitter orange marmalade. Baby greens dressed with a vinaigrette or not, on the side. Maybe a bit of toast.

                Very quick comfort, but also spectacularly tasty.


                1. Breakfast Pasta ...

                  Spaghetti, bacon, some parm cream and a shallots. Simple saute with onion and bacon, toss with pasta, some cream and parm. A little seasoning s/p and some parsley. Great simple elegant, delicious.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    kc, your breakfast sounds like my dinner! Bet it would be even better with a poached or raw egg tossed in there, too. Remember, it's the most important meal of the day....adam

                    1. re: adamshoe

                      I actually serve that for dinner with a nice salad. a great hearty pasta. Most people think breakfast. But two of my best friends. After bar hopping and a night on the town they would all go home at 3-4 in the morning make this. I was traditional. Fresh Olive oil too to garnish. she said she and all her friend grew up on it and it was a staple in her town.

                      Sorry I didn't mention 2 eggs well beaten, as well in the cream mix. Sorry about that. I guess to tired today. Still recovering from the flu so a bit groggy still, no excuse, but it really is. Sorry I missed that. I agree with you , you could easily put the egg on top too.

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        Sorry about the flu! I hope you feel better quickly. Chicken soup.

                        1. re: rememberme

                          Preety much healed, still just groggy, much better today, thx. Sucks being sick, I'm not sick often so I hate when I am.

                          And I did eat chicken soup.

                  2. Deep fried soft yolk egg atop a slice of tomato in a pool of mustard dressing with anchovies on the side and Crostini with herb butter; nice glass of Chardonnay or Riesling. .

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: todao

                      Don't like the mustard dressing, like the anchovies and love the crostini, chardonnay is nice, egg is egg is great ... no mustard. Got a deal.

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        Would you then accept whisking mayonnaise, crushed garlic, red wine vinegar and olive oil for the dressing? I guess we could add some ketchup. I don't even buy the stuff but I understand some folks like it. I'm surprised you wouldn't like the mustard; it's Dijon.

                        1. re: todao

                          ohhhhh, ketchup... no way. Sorry, mayo yes, garlic and wine, sure. I just changed mine. It's called cold meds, still suffering, I did add egg to my cream mixture to the pasta, so more of a cream egg mix. Sorry I missed that. my "bad" still the garlic and mayo could be interesting, dijon I could handle, ketchup ..... I got to disagree with that. Not a big ketchup fan, just me. But who knows. Had crazier combos

                    2. My neighbor's stuffed clams. He harvests big clams, chops up the meat, adds crushed Ritz crackers, garlic, olive oil and parsley, stuffs the shells and bakes them for a little while. Amazingly good. But he's from Naples, so everything he makes is delicious.

                      1. not really a proper 'meal' i guess, but roasted whole garlic heads are fantastic and fantastically simple :) . there are a few ways to do this, but my best results come from the following method: slice a couple of centimeters off the tip-top of each head (just a **little bit, to expose the clove); put each in a ramekin; pour over some olive oil; grind on some salt, pepper and (sometimes) thyme; cover ramekin with foil; roast on 400F/200C for 40-odd minutes (usually not longer).

                        remove & pour ramekin contents onto a plate :) . the cloves are always perfectly soft and browned and can be easily squeezed out of the skins with fingers. eat mashed/spread on crusty bread. ideally with some kind of melty cheese, or roasted/sauteed mushrooms, or sauteed spinach, or all of the above.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: goreystory

                          Garlic party ...

                          Yes, I made some 60 heads of roasted garlic. We had in on baguettes and I had toppings of cheese, chopped tomatoes, bacon and olives. Some we toasted, others, just ate. I also had some premade pasta we tossed with pasta, chicken or shrimp, arugula, some cannellini beans; another was with roasted mushrooms sliced and added with the garlic, some white wine and spinach; other was spread on some good toasted bread with some meats for a toasted grilled sandwich. It was a fun party.

                          I love garlic and just with breadsticks I could make a meal of it. Great idea. I love garlic period, any way.

                          You can't get much better. I just wrap mine in foil rather than a ramiken with just the olive oil as well like you. I spread mine on a baguette then I top with some cho

                        2. Summer tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella with some salt and olive oil

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: Cinemaverite1

                            Or frozen summer tomatoes for sauce. Just did it today with two gallons of farmers' market Romas. These fruits practically sauce themselves when frozen. Get your aromatics in the pot, then dump in the thawed and oh-so-juicy frozen tomatoes. I pureed mine with an imersion blender. Result: rich tomato sauce, destined for tomorrow.

                            Make a note to freeze some summer tomatoes for the next bout with the winter-doldrums. Such easy sauce, and it tastes of summer.


                            1. re: cayjohan

                              FL almost year round, but from MI, froze them a lot during the summer. What a treat with fresh winter tastes. Tomatoes are the best.

                              Simple sauces to rich slow simmered stews. Great flavor.

                              1. re: kchurchill5

                                I'm in the frozen north, so I make the sauce in the summer and freeze it, complete. Tomatoes just with stems removed, basil and garlic sprinkled on top, olive oil, salt and pepper, all in a deep (3") roasting pan. Foil on top, in the oven at 350 for an hour, when cool, slip off the tomato skins and throw it in the freezer. Tastes like August in February. And I just got really hungry!

                                1. re: rememberme

                                  Nice job. We were northern MI, southern MI our home but wknds and summer and vacations were spent at the summer home. On a lake, big big garden, corn, beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes,, squash of every kinds, peppers, rheubard, pumpkins, you name it. Loved it. Also Cherries, big time, Cherry Festival in Traverscity just north of us., and apples of course. But tomatoes, tons and always froze them. I miss some of that, not the cold but the garden. I grow them here but not like that up there. I'm envious. Do you freeze anything else?


                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                    I freeze whatever's left in my garden when frost hits -- swiss chard, scallions, broccoli leaves, celery. Basil is always made into many jars of pesto, plus some smaller cubes. I live near the city (Boston) so my garden isn't huge but it's pretty productive -- lots of lettuce. I have to tell you that one of my indulgences is paying through the nose for frozen tart cherries shipped in dry ice from Michigan! I have a dwarf cherry tree, which gives me about 8 quarts, but that doesn't feel like enough, so I order more at great expense from King Orchards (can't remember offhand where in Michigan it is.) I have to say that the northern peninsula sounds like a magical place!

                                    1. re: rememberme

                                      I do miss some of that. Good for you. I do grow collards here and love them. Basil and herbs I have tons. Lettuce, not good here with my garden but, the cherries, I miss them. Buelah MI had a cherry Festival. The restaurant was all Cherry, Cherry sundaies, cherry dips for chicken. One dish was a spinach salad with bacon and topped with a cherry vinaigrette which was to die for. Another was a cherry and walnut pasta. I found the recipe but haven't made it. It had cherries sauteed and reduced with some balsamic, honey and ground walnuts, served over pasta that was mixed with fresh greens. It was amazing. The owner made fresh pasta there and another was their fried ravioli stuffed with ricotta and cherries and topped with a sauce I have never figured out. Almost like a creamy honey and cheese sauce. It was amazing.

                          2. By far, my Dad's lobster pie - sooooo goood and only lobster chunks (already steamed), ritz crackers crushed, lemon juice, butter, bread crumbs and parsley or cilantro. Bake until heated through and butter has melted.

                            It definately taste like something someone spent hours preparing. The lobster really shines here.

                            1. Tonight had a friend over for dinner: 1) Tandoori Chicken---Mix a container of yogurt with a tablespoon of Tandoori Masala and marinate chicken 24 hours. Preheat oven to 425* and bake chicken until done (time depends on size of pieces). 2) Spinach---Cook frozen chopped spinach, drain, and for each box of spinach add salt to taste plus 1 tsp curry powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (do this while spinach is hot so cheese will get melty with the curry and garlic). 3) Rice---Melt a stick of butter, in it saute 2-4 tsp curry powder, a sliced onion, and a handful of raisins---salt to taste---then add 3-4 cups of hot cooked rice. These three make a good combo. Learned a word in some obscure course once, nonsummativity---means the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts. Yes.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Querencia

                                I *think* nonsummativity can mean the sum of a whole (group) may be larger or smaller than the sum of its parts, not just greater than. Don't need any recipes from the negative side. Got enough of those of my own!

                                But thanks for kicking my word recall in the butt. That's ALWAYS welcome! '-)

                                1. Summertime in Boston, is the easiest and best meal for me.

                                  Get two pots with a couple inches of salted water boiling rapidly.
                                  Place a couple of lobsters in one, and a couple of shucked fresh corn on the cob in the other. Cover tightly.
                                  Slice a couple of garden tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

                                  After 5 minutes, take corn out of pot. Ditto after 12 minutes with the lobsters.

                                  YUM... can't wait!

                                  1. Masamba: potatoes, steamed greens (we use kale or collards) topped with mixture of salsa and peanut butter.