Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

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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Menu ideas and recipes for black drum, yellowfin tuna, eggplant, sweet potatoes, pasta, gorgonzola, smoked salmon, greens and root vegetables

Menu ideas and recipes for black drum, yellowfin tuna, eggplant, sweet potatoes, pasta, gorgonzola, smoked salmon, greens and root vegetables

Brazilian fish stew

This moqueca de peixe (Brazilian fish stew) recipe is from Jessica Harris, a respected culinary historian and cookbook author. Oh my, we loved this stew—I made it with black drum fillets. No worries if you don’t have dende oil, I didn’t, just omit it.

Yellowfin tuna and gochujang-glazed sides

Another night, we enjoyed pan-seared yellowfin tuna with avocado, soy, ginger and lime, a reliably delicious Tyler Florence recipe. Yes, yellowfin again, what a charmed life—only possible because of my weekly fish share.

On the side, gochujang-glazed eggplant with fried scallions and gochujang-roasted sweet potatoes. I do love my gochujang.

yellowfin gochujang eggplant sw potatoes

Pasta extravaganza

Jim was away on his annual hunting trip for several days last week (two deer!) so I had my annual pasta indulgence festival—and probably gained about five pounds. I made my usual gorgonzola pasta since he’s not a blue cheese fan. This year, it featured shiitake mushrooms and arugula.

I also made a smoked and canned salmon pasta with onion, garlic, peas, lemon zest, dry vermouth, cream, parmesan, asiago, tarragon and black pepper. That was my favorite.

The usual sides

Greens made an appearance once again, sautéed with linguiça, onion, carrot, red bell pepper and garlic. Another regular: roasted sweet potatoes and daikon radishes with red onion, garlic, smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, and thyme.

See you next week!


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Menu ideas and recipes for chicken, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, polenta, mushrooms, greens, chickpeas, yellowfin tuna and black drum

Menu ideas and recipes for chicken, cranberries, Brussels sprouts, polenta, mushrooms, greens, chickpeas, yellowfin tuna and black drum

Embrace the cozy—and cranberries

When it gets cold, I start thinking about cranberries—childhood conditioning, I guess. The star of our Sunday dinner was cranberry chicken parmesan. It may sound weird but it’s really good. While eating the leftovers for lunch, I realized it’s a bit like Thanksgiving and since this Thanksgiving is a no-turkey feast (yay!), that’s fine by me.

On the side, balsamic-maple roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon (double the sauce), and oven-baked polenta with roasted mushrooms and thyme. What a glorious meal it was!

greens linguica and chickpeas

Greens and company

I was getting bored with my usual greens treatments, so I took inspiration from this recipe to make kale, radish, turnip and daikon greens with linguiça, chickpeas, onion, sweet pepper, jalapeño, garlic and smoked paprika.

“Yellowfin tuna, again?”

A phrase often heard in this house but never with a whiny tone, always an excited one. This time, I made blackened yellowfin tuna with a spice rub of brown sugar (responsible for some serious blackening), chili powder, garlic and onion powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt.

And wouldn’t you know it… guess what I got in Thursday’s fish share? That’s right, another pound of yellowfin tuna. Not complaining, trust me.

Drum roll

An even simpler fish dish the next night: black drum fillets baked with butter, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper flakes and Turkish seasoning.

See you next week!


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Menu ideas and recipes for eggplant, yellowfin tuna, salmon, sweet potatoes and green beans

Menu ideas and recipes for eggplant, yellowfin tuna, salmon, sweet potatoes and green beans

Eggplant lasagna

Nearly every week, I’ve been getting eggplant in my CSA share. Instead of my usual eggplant and sweet peppers (plus red onion, garlic, basil and red wine vinegar) dish, I made eggplant lasagna. I did miss the texture and taste of pasta—I’d add a layer or two of that next time. I used basil pesto instead of basil alone in the ricotta and spinach mix—that was a good move.

eggplant kirsty-tg-iyEc3PHk2ZM-unsplash

Yellowfin tuna with chile crisp

I’ve seen lots of recipes for chile crisp (spiced oil) in the past year or so. Last year, I made this chile crisp for fish—it was very good. Last week, I made a half portion of this crunchy spice oil recipe for yellowfin tuna—also very good.

Salmon and sweet potato hash

One of my favorite Sunday breakfasts happens when I have leftover roasted sweet potatoes or root vegetables. But this time I made it for a weeknight dinner. First, make a sweet potato hash (mine had daikon radish too) with sweet pepper, poblano pepper, jalapeño pepper, onion, garlic and warm spices like smoked paprika and cayenne. Then, stir chopped pan-seared salmon into the hash. Serve it with a fried egg on top.

sweet potatoes

Green beans almondine

Here’s a nice idea for green beans. While you’re steaming the beans, sauté garlic and almond slices in a neutral oil supplemented with a few pads of butter. Toss in the steamed green beans along with lemon juice and zest and mix it all together. Yum.

See you next week!


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Creative Commons photo of eggplant by Kirsty TG via Unsplash

Menu ideas and recipes for ground lamb, baked pasta, greens, vermilion snapper, speckled trout and sourdough discard

Menu ideas and recipes for ground lamb, baked pasta, greens, vermilion snapper, speckled trout and sourdough discard

lamb rigatoni

Pasta and greens comfort

Our Election Night tradition is a big plate of cheesy baked pasta. This year, I went with a recipe for Baked Rigatoni with Lamb Ragu from Ina Garten’s new cookbook, Modern Comfort Food. Oh my, so good, a huge casserole of comfort food that provided leftovers all week. Add it to your repertoire—if you’re a lamb lover like me, or use a different ground protein.

I probably should have chosen a different preparation for the greens I served on the side—a mix of kale, collards and baby mystery greens—but I guess I had comfort on the mind when I picked my creamed greens deluxe recipe. Swoonworthy, I’m telling you, so good.

creamed greens

Snapper and speckled trout

Earlier in the week, we enjoyed pan-seared vermilion snapper in a dry vermouth (instead of white wine), tomato and basil sauce. It’s one of my favorite ways to prepare all kinds of fish.

The next night, I baked speckled trout fillets with lemon juice, Aleppo pepper flakes and butter. Nothing else is needed to enhance that amazing trout flavor.

Sourdough maple walnut bread

Every two weeks, after I feed Tony, my sourdough starter, I need to do something with the discard. Last Sunday, I made sourdough maple walnut bread for a breakfast treat. It was sort of like a quick bread—no rise needed.

See you next week!


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