Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A cow in a field -- Menu ideas and recipes for beef, sourdough, flounder, bigeye tuna, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and tuna salad

Menu ideas and recipes for beef, sourdough, flounder, bigeye tuna, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and tuna salad

A classic from Anthony Bourdain

As winter heads out, we enjoyed a stellar boeuf bourguignon on Sunday night. I adapted Anthony Bourdain’s recipe from his Les Halles Cookbook—sigh, I miss my old pretend boyfriend—by adding mushrooms and herbes de Provence, increasing the wine, subbing beef broth for water, and baking it at 250° F instead of cooking it on the stovetop. Dare I say it? Julia, step aside. His recipe is a keeper. I served it with mashed potatoes, of course, and roasted broccoli.

All that luscious sauce cries out for dippage, so I baked sourdough focaccia. I made a half-recipe and only let it rise about five hours in the frig, instead of overnight, and it was plenty flavorful.

A cow in a field -- Menu ideas and recipes for beef, sourdough, flounder, bigeye tuna, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and tuna salad

Fish dinners

Earlier in the week, we enjoyed baked flounder topped with a mix of Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, lemon zest, garlic powder, and melted butter. On the side, carrots roasted with garlic powder, ancho chile powder, thyme, cinnamon, and salt.

The next night, we had huli huli bigeye tuna. I made half the glaze recipe, subbed a little honey for all the sugar, added sambal oelek, and basted the tuna before and during baking. I made tuna salad with the leftover tuna and glaze, adding mayo, celery, and sweet onion. On the side, Brussels sprouts roasted with ham, orange bell pepper, red onion, garlic, thyme, and salt.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen and at the table!


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Prep for speckled trout ala Mummy Lorraine plus Menu ideas and recipes for ground lamb, eggplant, broccoli rabe, speckled sea trout, green beans, vegetables and pesto

Menu ideas and recipes for ground lamb, eggplant, broccoli rabe, speckled sea trout, green beans, vegetables, and pesto

Sunday dinner: moussaka

The dinner highlight of our week was a moussaka recipe from Bon Appétit. In an attempt to save time, I broiled the eggplant slices instead of roasting them, but I’m not sure I saved any time since I had to broil two sheet pans.

I adapted the recipe in additional ways: used ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon and allspice instead of a cinnamon stick, jalapeno instead of a Fresno pepper, cottage cheese instead of farmers cheese, and pureed the tomatoes with an immersion blender before adding them. Despite spending a few hours on this—I’m slow on Sundays—the dish was incredibly delicious.

On the side, broccoli rabe sauteed with onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and tomatoes—I’ve been in a broccoli rabe mood lately.

Prep for speckled trout ala Mummy Lorraine plus Menu ideas and recipes for ground lamb, eggplant, broccoli rabe, speckled sea trout, green beans, vegetables and pesto

Family fish favorite

Another night, we had speckled trout ala mummy Lorraine. For those who aren’t Reids, that’s baked fish with a topping of crushed Ritz crackers, lemon zest, garlic salt, and melted butter. We probably enjoyed this family classic with cod or scrod once a week growing up—we ate a lot of fish—and still enjoy it every time we go home.

Veggie ideas

On the side, a recipe I will make again: green beans with toasted slivered almonds, served with a roasted sweet potato. Ok, nuked for several minutes than finished in the toaster oven.

I didn’t have a green veg one night, so I sauteed broccoli stems, carrots and grape tomatoes from the produce drawer, and tossed them with defrosted basil pesto and Parmesan cheese.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen and at the table!


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Oysters -- Menu ideas for chicken, prosciutto, sage, striped bass, kale, sweet potatoes, shrimp, pizza, and oysters

Menu ideas for chicken, prosciutto, sage, striped bass, kale, sweet potatoes, shrimp, pizza, and oysters

Chicken saltimbocca

I haven’t had chicken saltimbocca in I don’t know how long, so I bought some prosciutto and provolone, picked some sage, and followed a recipe from Leite’s Culinaria. I didn’t have semolina, so I used flour instead, and added dry vermouth instead of white wine. The leftovers made excellent sandwiches.

Striped bass and kale/sweet potato gratin

The next night, a much simpler dish: striped bass (aka rockfish in the DMV) fillets baked with lemon juice, Aleppo pepper flakes, garlic powder, and butter. On the side, kale and sweet potato gratin, a favorite we haven’t had in a long time.

Oysters -- Menu ideas for chicken, prosciutto, sage, striped bass, kale, sweet potatoes, shrimp, pizza, and oysters

Super Bowl decadence

We went all out for our Super Bowl for two. For pre-game, we enjoyed North Carolina shrimp cocktail. I poached the shrimp in a court bouillon made with the shells, took them out when the broth reached 170°F, put them in a sealable bag, and chilled them in an ice bath.

A spicy Hawaiian pizza was ready for kickoff. My sourdough crust rose in the cool kitchen all day, so it was nicely flavored. On the top, tomato sauce, sliced ham, pineapple, red onion, red bell pepper, garlic, lots of hot sauce, jalapeño pepper, and provolone/mozzarella cheese.

I received a quart of shucked oysters in this week’s fish share, so I made Calabash-style fried oysters for halftime—it ended up being enough for two meals because we were pretty full by then. After consulting a few recipes, I came up with a dip of evaporated milk and eggs, and a dredge of 4/1 self-rising flour/cornmeal, salt, paprika, black pepper, and garlic powder. Wow. I’ll make those again.

Wishing you joy in the kitchen and at the table!


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Creative Commons licensed photo by Ben Stern via Unsplash

Menu ideas and recipes for chicken, rice, sea bass, flounder, broccoli, flank steak, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, duck fat and potatoes

Menu ideas and recipes for chicken, rice, sea bass, flounder, broccoli, flank steak, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, duck fat and potatoes

One-pot fish dinner

When I saw this one-pot gingery chicken and rice with peanut sauce recipe, I thought, hmm, I’ll do it with fish instead. I was going to add fillets of black sea bass about 15 minutes before the rice finished cooking but lost track of time, so I baked them before adding them to the pot. I loved the sauce, and the cukes and cilantro as a garnish. Next time, I might make it with brown rice and add some greens to the pot.

Another fish dinner and a new take on broccoli

This spiced and fried haddock (flounder, in my case) recipe from my pretend best friend Nigella was a bit of a disappointment because I could barely detect the flavors of the odd spice mix—ginger and paprika. Next time, I’ll increase the amounts.

On the side, not the broccoli purée recipe she featured as a side for the fish, but thanks for the idea, Nigella, but the New York Times version, which we really loved. It’s fun to have broccoli in a new format.

Sunday dinner

For the big meal of the week, I marinated flank steak, broiled it and then let it sit on chopped rosemary and thyme while it was resting. On the side, balsamic-maple roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon—a preparation that’s becoming a regular in our house. We also had roasted wedges of butternut squash spiced with cayenne, cinnamon, and smoked paprika.

But wait, one more side and it’s a good one… A while back, I roasted a duck—and saved the fat. Finally, I, well, remembered I had it, and found a good reason to use it—crispy duck fat potatoes. Oh my, potatoes never tasted so good. I’m thinking about rendering chicken fat (schmaltz) for a slightly less luxurious version.

Now, go make something good in your kitchen!


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Menu ideas and recipes for eggplant, broccoli rabe, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, bok choy, cauliflower and cinnamon

Menu ideas and recipes for eggplant, broccoli rabe, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, bok choy, cauliflower and cinnamon

The best eggplant parmesan

Yes, I’ll say it. This is the best eggplant parmesan I’ve ever made. This Washington Post recipe broils the eggplant slices instead of frying them,  cuts back on the cheese, and adds a bread crumb mix to the top for a fried feeling.

On the side, sautéed broccoli rabe, the perfect bitter, bold, green vegetable for eggplant parm. I cooked mine with onions, garlic, red pepper flakes, and grape tomatoes—even better when you have them, slow-roasted grape tomatoes.

Fish dinners

We enjoyed baked fillets of black sea bass with a basil pesto, parmesan and panko bread crumb topping, one of my go-to recipes.

The other fish on last week’s menu: baked vermilion snapper. A few minutes before the fillets were done, I poured Vietnamese scallion sauce over them. Really good.

Menu ideas and recipes for eggplant, broccoli rabe, black sea bass, vermilion snapper, bok choy, cauliflower and cinnamon

Bok choy and cauliflower

On the snapper’s side, steamed baby bok choy topped with toasted sesame seeds and a lime, Sriracha and sesame oil sauce.

Another veg from last week: Rachael Ray’s tasty cauliflower leek purée.

Cinnamon coffee, yes!

The coffee chat consensus this week: we love cinnamon in our coffee. Sprinkle it in, swirl a cinnamon stick around the mug, or add it to the filter along with the coffee—that’s what I did this morning, not as much cinnamon flavor as the other methods but smells great while brewing. I sometimes get my cinnamon fix in the gingerbread coffee syrup I add to my coffee, but I’m out of it right now.

Now, go make something good in your kitchen!


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Creative Commons licensed photo by Alesia Kozik via Pexels

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, bison, pasta, collard greens, eggs and leftovers

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, bison, pasta, collard greens, eggs and leftovers

Bright sunny fish for cold days

I love discovering new fish preps since I get two pounds of fish every week from Locals Seafood. This weirdly named but excellent Bon Appétit recipe for green seasoning baked cod (flounder in my case) tasted like summer. I adjusted the peppers, using a whole habanero, but only half a gigantic red bell pepper. I tend to ignore habaneros when I see them at the store because I get scared off by the heat, but they’re so flavorful and not so bad when you remove the seeds and ribs.

Retro pasta dish

Remember the working mom’s go-to meal, hamburger (or tuna) helper? It was a staple when my mom started working again. You can easily make your own: homemade hamburger helper.

Warning: this website’s user experience is horrible. It’s overkill on the ads and photos, and some bug on the site prevented me from scrolling down to the recipe, so I PDF’d it. I almost don’t want to send you there but we liked this simple dish. And, yes, I know I have a free, crappy baby WP-hosted site with awkward ads I don’t control, so who am I to talk, but my approach requires no maintenance and works for me.

Back to the recipe, I used ground bison instead of beef and added tomato paste and extra pasta. Next time, I’ll add mushrooms too.

Menu ideas and recipes for flounder, bison, pasta, collard greens, eggs and leftovers

Greens are back

We hadn’t had greens in a few weeks, gasp, so I made a collards sauté to go along with our fatty pasta. I added bacon, red bell, red onion, carrot, jalapenos and garlic to the pan with a swirl of sherry vinegar at the end.

A breakfast home for leftovers

If you have vegetable odds and sods hanging out in the frig, make a frittata. The one I made recently included broccoli stems, scallions, red bell pepper, garlic and leftover crispy kielbasa (the garnish for last week’s split pea soup), and was topped with a mix of cheeses. Any leftover collards will probably end up in a frittata too.

Now, go have fun in your kitchen!


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Menu ideas and recipes for tahini, sweet potatoes, split pea soup, quesadillas, broccoli, striped mullet and swordfish

Menu ideas and recipes for tahini, sweet potatoes, split pea soup, quesadillas, broccoli, striped mullet and swordfish

Tahini treat

I want this sauce on everything. This maple-lemon-tahini sauce from Bon Appétit is intended for roasted sweet potatoes. The recipe, which we loved, made a lot of sauce so I put the leftovers on roasted broccoli and red onions. So good. I can imagine it on fish and all kinds of things.

Soup from reliable Ina

The other highlight of the week was split pea soup with crispy kielbasa from Ina Garten. I added the meat from the smoked ham hock to the soup too, oink. You can’t go wrong with Ina’s recipes.

kenneth-schipper-vera-6y7jACxmhP8-unsplash

Strange but good quesadillas

On the side, quesadillas stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese, broccoli and red onion in a chipotle-peanut sauce. Yes, you read that right. Perhaps an offbeat combo, but they were really good.

Two easy, quick fish dishes

Want a simple fish prep? Here’s what I did with striped mullet last week. Mix equal parts Parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs. Stir in some fresh or dried herbs (I like parsley, dill or basil), lemon zest, garlic powder and melted butter and/or olive oil. Pat the crumb mixture over the fish fillets and bake until the topping is golden and the fish is done.

Another one (this time, it was swordfish). Place fillets in a baking dish. Top with juice from half a lemon, salt, thyme, garlic powder, Aleppo pepper (or pepper flake of your choice) and little pats of butter. Bake until done. Baking time depends on the thickness of your fillets. I usually go with 15 minutes at 375 but you might need more or less time depending on your fish.

Now, go have fun in your kitchen!


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Creative Commons photo by Kenneth Schipper Vera via Unsplash

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Holiday seafood dinners

The highlight of our holiday feasts was creamy baked crab cannelloni on Christmas Eve—a Giada recipe. Wow wow wow, it exceeded my expectations. On the side, broccoli roasted with red onion and garlic.

For Christmas dinner, we had shrimp fra diavolo with linguine. I was inspired by this Serious Eats recipe, except I made a broth with the shells (to use in lieu of clam juice) instead of pan-roasting them. I added bacon and onion to the sauce, and made a panko topping inspired by this Ina recipe.

On New Year’s Eve, we had linguine with calamari, another keeper. On the side, chard sautéed with red onion, garlic and dried cranberries.

As you can see, my holiday feasts always include Italian seafood dishes. What else would an Irish-Lithuanian do?

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

My favorite garlic bread

I made garlic bread to go with the shrimp and calamari dinners. You don’t really need a recipe for garlic bread but ever since I saw this NY Times version, I haven’t looked back. I adapt it by softening the butter instead of melting it, using whatever fresh or dried herbs I have on hand (parsley, basil and/or oregano). The mozzarella cheese (fresh or regular) is a must, not optional.

Danish for breakfast

On Christmas morning, I made a cheese danish. Not from scratch, heavens no, those days are long gone, at least for now. This recipe calls for frozen puff pastry. I prepped the filling the previous afternoon, so it was super easy to put together in the morning. We loved it and quickly scarfed down half the danish before I had to put it away.

Holiday desserts

I made the most swooningly delicious dessert in the slow cooker: sticky toffee pudding. I’ve always loved sticky toffee pudding but rarely see it anywhere. I think the last time I had it was in the early ‘00’s at St. John in London. Now I can make it for myself. This recipe is out-of-this-world good—especially with vanilla ice cream—and will be my new Christmas tradition.

I made three kinds of Christmas cookies this year: two of my regulars—coconut macaroons and dark fruitcake cookies—and a new recipe, pfeffernusse, which were just how I remember them at Pastries by Randolph in Arlington VA.

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Birthday tradition: corned beef

Every New Year’s Day, I make corned beef for Jim because it’s his birthday. I top my corned beef with an odd mix of ground spices—allspice, mustard, coriander, clove, black pepper, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper flakes and pieces of bay leaves—and then roast it for several hours in a low oven.

On the side, we enjoyed this extremely cheesy potato gratin and a cabbage sauté with bacon, onion, carrot, red bell, poblano and jalapeño pepper, and garlic.

Weekday dinners

Other meals we had during the break:

See you next week!


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Menu ideas and recipes for jalapeños, cilantro, black drum, chicken, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cabbage

Menu ideas and recipes for jalapeños, cilantro, black drum, chicken, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cabbage

Green goodness for black drum fillets

I love finding a new sauce for fish. Although this one might be meant for tacos, we loved it on baked black drum fillets: creamy jalapeño sauce. I used Vietnamese coriander instead of cilantro because it’s right outside my door.

I grew Vietnamese coriander (aka Vietnamese mint or rau ram) so I’d have a year-round ready supply of cilantro because there’s nothing worse than pulling out a blackened slimy bouquet of cilantro from the produce drawer. It doesn’t taste exactly the same as cilantro but it gives dishes a similar bright green flavor. Now I just hope I can help it survive the winter.

Chicken and sweet potato casserole

Last Sunday was all about casseroles. First, our main, a chicken, sweet potato and bacon casserole—very tasty. I used chicken thighs instead of breast. Dishes like this remind me how much I love even a little bit of Gruyère.

Menu ideas and recipes for jalapeños, cilantro, black drum, chicken, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cabbage

Brussels sprouts gratin

Winter vegetables

On the side, Brussels sprouts gratin, another keeper. I reduced the amount of cream (heeding the recipe comments) and added shiitake to the mushroom mix. More Gruyère!

Earlier in the week, we had this fall-apart, caramelized cabbage as a side. A completely different way of preparing cabbage—we loved it. Watch the heat on this one, it can sneak up on you if you have a heavy hand. Guilty.

See you next week!


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Menu ideas and recipes for oysters, shrimp, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, challah, roast beef and carrots

Menu ideas and recipes for oysters, shrimp, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, challah, roast beef and carrots

Thanksgiving feasting

Since Jim and I were on our own for Thanksgiving, we enjoyed a different kind of feast. I started by slurping down North Carolina oysters on the half shell—the perfect snack while making a few sides and our appetizer, shrimp cocktail.

Wow oh wow, I love my new approach to shrimp cocktail. I poached NC shrimp in a strained court bouillon, keeping the broth under 170°F, per this recipe, then chilled the shrimp, in sandwich bags, in an ice bath. Cocktail sauce (heavy on the horseradish) on the side. I saved the court bouillon and enjoyed warm mugs of it as a pre-dinner snack for several days.

I made cranberry ginger chutney to serve alongside Jim’s slow-and-low grilled venison roast (swoon!) because it’s not Thanksgiving without cranberries. My adapted version includes jalapeño and tons more ginger.

On the side, roasted Brussels sprouts with red onion, bacon, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar, and mashed potatoes.

Menu ideas and recipes for oysters, shrimp, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, challah, roast beef and carrots

Court bouillon with shrimp shells/heads

Steamed oysters

Later in the weekend, I steamed the rest of the oysters—a mix of Sea Cups and Core Sounders—for both of us and served them with brown butter mixed with hot sauce and lemon juice. The leftover brown butter sauce made an encore appearance on baked sheepshead fillets—now, that’s a tasty fish.

French toast

Sunday morning, I tried a new French challah toast recipe, oh my, it was scrumdiddlyumptious.

Menu ideas and recipes for oysters, shrimp, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, challah, roast beef and carrots

Roast beast

The weekend feasting continued with a roast beef dinner—my second time following this recipe, it’s a keeper. I completely forgot about drying the beef out ahead of time in the refrigerator, but I couldn’t tell the difference. I like adding garlic powder to the rub. On the side, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots with garlic powder, ancho chile powder and cinnamon.

See you next week!


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