Another weekday dinner to plan!

I did my research and found this wonderful recipe, courtesy of Giada De Laurentis.

This is one of my family’s favorite meals. It is simple and tasty. Who knew that “agrodolce sauce” could be so easy! It may sound intimidating, but trust me it is not! Agrodolce sauce is an Italian sweet and sour sauce. “Agro” means sour and “dolce” means sweet. It is made by cooking down, or reducing sweet and sour ingredients, such as the vinegar and honey in this recipe.  

You can serve it with rice or potatoes. Just make sure to put a little bit of glaze on anything you make with it, because it will be delicious on those as well.

Her original recipe was made with pork chops. Feel free to make it with those. I substituted chicken bottoms and it was was delightful.

Giada never disappoints. Her recipes are always dependable and fantastic.

Add this one to your list of “must make”. It really was wonderful! This recipe will serve 4 people who will love this delicious sauce!

Ingredients for the Chicken

1/4 cup of olive oil
3 chicken bottoms, (thighs and legs attached)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper

Ingredients for the Glaze 
(Agrodolce Sauce)

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup honey
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 scallions, pale green and white parts only, chopped
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 stick of unsalted butter (4 tbsp. cut into 1 inch cubes at room temperature
1 tsp, kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

In a heavy, oven-ready skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the red pepper flakes.

Place chicken bottoms (skin side down) in the skillet and set your timer for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, thighs should be golden brown. Turn thighs over and set your timer for an additional 7 minutes.

Place pan in oven for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Take out of oven and set aside.


In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, honey, garlic, scallions and rosemary to a boil over medium-high heat.

Stir occasionally until honey has dissolved.

Simmer for 9 minutes (set your timer) until mixture is slightly reduced.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until smooth.

sweet sour sauce

Add salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken thighs on a platter and drizzle with the glaze.

It’s that simple!

Ever wonder what you can do with ground veal that is on sale at your supermarket? Well, there are several options. You could make meatballs, which are delicious but take a lot of time to prepare. They are also messy because they are fried. You could also make veal burgers, which are always a healthy option. This time, however, I chose to make a veal meat loaf. It was fantastic!

In the past, meat loaf was not considered to be so desirable. This concept has changed throughout the years and now you can find meatloaf on the menu at some very fine restaurants. It has come a long way. Many chefs have perfected the recipe and made it quite elegant. Although meat loaf has many “home-made” memories, it is no longer your mom’s meat loaf.

After you complete your mise-en-place, this recipe is as fast and as easy as it gets. I chose the ingredients carefully after reading through several similar recipes. The combined ingredients result in an exquisite, full flavored main dish. The Dijon mustard, steak sauce and chili pepper give it a nice tang. Every bite of veal is moist and delicious.

This recipe serves 6-8 people who will learn to love meat loaf again!

Ingredients for Veal Meat Loaf

2 pounds ground veal
1 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. steak sauce
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 cups ketchup, separated 
1 egg, beaten
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 large basil leaves, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)
4 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried)

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil in a pan on stove over medium heat.

Once the olive oil is heated, add the carrots and onions. 

veal loaf carrots and onions cooking

Cook until carrots and onions have softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl, and mix in the veal, breadcrumbs, Dijon mustard, steak sauce, chili powder, egg, garlic, 1 cup ketchup, onion, salt, pepper, basil and thyme.

Line an 8×8-inch loaf pan with parchment paper so that the parchment hangs over the sides, like handles.

Transfer mixture to pan and top with the remaining ketchup.

veal loaf in pan before cooking

Bake 45 minutes. 

Veal loaf in pan after cooking

It’s that simple!

Julie's bench

Marinating is one of the easiest and quickest ways to flavor food. Poultry, fish, meats, and vegetables are like sponges, and they can easily absorb the marinade. Many marinades have tenderizing effects as well, which start the “cooking process”. You need to be very careful in determining the amount of time you marinate your food. For instance, the acid levels contained in fish often accelerate the cooking process. Therefore, you should only marinate fish for 1 our or less.

Ideally, a marinade helps to flavor, and not tenderize foods. Using anything acidic, like citrus or vinegar, softens the food, allowing it to absorb the flavors of the sauce. There are many different types of marinades: Mediterranean, spiced, herbed, citrus or any combination of ingredients you enjoy. There are no rules for making a marinade. You can use whatever ingredients you have in your pantry. Combine them, add the food, and let the flavors blend. 

This marinade was superb. The cumin, coriander, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper added a savory, yet delicate aroma to the salmon. Marinating is the easy part; cooking the salmon is a little more tricky.  When cooking it on the grill, I usually time it  for 2-3 minutes each side, check the consistency, then alter the cooking time as needed.

This recipe is courtesy of Fine Cooking. It will serve 4 people who will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful marinade. 

Ingredients for Cumin-Orange-Honey Marinade

4 (1/2 lb.) center cut pieces of salmon
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup honey
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
Pinch cayenne pepper

Today’s hint: When marinating fish, let it sit for 30 minutes to one hour. If it marinates any longer, the flesh may start to “cook” and go mushy. This is especially true when using any citrus in your marinade.

Place garlic in the bowl of a mortar and pestle. 

Sprinkle kosher salt (about 1/2 tsp.) over garlic.

Mash with a pestle until a paste forms.

Honey Salmon garlic paste

Note: if you do not have a mortar and pestle, use the flat part of a knife to mash it down to a paste.

Whisk the garlic paste with the rest of the ingredients.

Place salmon in marinade and let it marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.

Honey Salmon marinade

Place salmon on grill for 2-3 minutes each side for medium-rare. Well-done fish requires one or two minutes more. 

*Cooking time will also vary according to the thickness of the salmon.

It’s that simple!

hybiscus flower

I recently came across this appetizer recipe in my archives and remembered that I had made it for a holiday. It was a big hit (not to mention delicious), so I decided make it and post it on my blog.

Unfortunately, this is not a recipe for the faint of heart. Making the filling is easy, but working the phyllo dough is a little tricky. If I’m being honest, it’s not that simple. Perhaps it is effortless for the bakers out there, but for us cooks…. not so much.

That being said, (and I hope I didn’t scare you too much), this is a wonderful recipe to try if you have the time. It is a great dish to make ahead for a dinner party and freeze. Once you get the hang of using the phyllo dough, it is fairly uncomplicated to make.

Don’t worry if a piece of the phyllo dough tears; just brush it with butter, and place a new one on top. It will not matter. Nor will it matter if your phyllo dough isn’t perfectly flat. It will right itself when you roll it up. 

Although I followed the recipe for the most part, I did make some changes. I used half the amount of salt called for in the original recipe, as I thought that the feta cheese was salty enough. In addition, I did not sprinkle any extra salt on top. I also did not use breadcrumbs between each phyllo sheet, as originally suggested, because I had poured all the breadcrumbs into the filling mixture (my mistake!). Guess what? My spanakopitas turned out beautifully. You can always fiddle with the ingredients of any recipe to accommodate your individual preferences. 

I say go for it! It is worth each and every minute you put into it when you relish each yummy bite! The phyllo dough is crisp and light. The filling is airy and not heavy. They come out of the oven beautifully browned, and you just can’t wait to dive in.

This recipe is courtesy of Ina Garten and will make 12 strudels, which will leave just about anybody delighted.

Ingredients for Spanakopitas

1/4 cup good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
3 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp. bread crumbs, divided
1 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 tsp. kosher salt (I used 1)
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
 2 cups small diced feta cheese (12 ounces)
3 tbsp. toasted pine nuts
24 sheets frozen phyllo dough, defrosted
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375.

Heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Add the onions, and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat.

Add the scallions, and cook for another 2 minutes until the scallions are wilted but still green. Meanwhile, gently squeeze most if the water out of the spinach and place in a large bowl.

Spanakopitas onions and scallions

When the onions and scallions are done, add them to the spinach. 

Mix in the eggs, Parmesan cheese, 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

spanakopitas spinah and eggs breadcrumbs added

Gently fold in the feta cheese and pine nuts. Set aside.

spanakopitas feta and pine nuts

Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough flat on a work surface with the long end in front of you. Brush the dough lightly with butter and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of breadcrumbs. (I did not use breadcrumbs for this).

Working quickly, slide another sheet of phyllo dough on top of the first. Brush it with butter, and sprinkle lightly with breadcrumbs. (use just enough breadcrumbs so the layers of phyllo dough do not stick together). 

spanakopitas phyllo dough with butter

Place a wet towel over unused phyllo to keep it moist.

Pile up 4 layers total on top of each other, this way, brushing each with butter and sprinkling with breadcrumbs. 

Cut the sheets of phyllo in half lengthwise. (Use a pie cutter, it will cut easier and not tear the phyllo)

Place 1/3 cup of spinach filling the corner side of the phyllo dough. Roll it up diagonally as if folding a flag.

spanakopitas phyllo with spinach

Fold it over straight and then diagonally again. Continue folding until you reach the end of the sheet. 

The filling should be totally enclosed.

spanakopitas phyllo rolled up completed

Continue assembling phyllo layers until all the filling is used.

Place on sheet pan, seam sides down.

spanakopitas in pan before baking

Brush with melted butter, sprinkle with flaked salt and bake for 30-35 minutes, until the phyllo is browned and crisp.

Serve hot.

spanakopitas laid out on towel

It’s that simple! (Uh, no, not really!)

The original sauce in this recipe was similar to a puttanesca sauce. I made a lot of welcome changes, however and if  I do say so myself, my sauce is outstanding.

Since I am not a lover of olives, I did not include them in this recipe. If you are fond of them, feel free to use them.

One of the secrets to making this dressing is to brown the tomato paste. This adds another depth of flavor that makes this dish so special. It is easy to do, and I hope that you take the extra few minutes to do it. All you have to do is push the other ingredients to one side of the pan. Add the tomato paste to the other side and allow it to get a little brown and caramelized. When mixed with the other ingredients, you really have added a new dimension of flavor to the sauce.

All of these ingredients combine together to make an exquisite sauce that is perfect for any weeknight meal (not only Friday!). You can use any kind of pasta with it, as it will be just as enjoyable!

This recipe will serve about 6 very overjoyed pasta lovers.

Ingredients for Friday Night Pasta

1/4 cup extra- virgin olive oil
10 anchovy fillets
6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
2 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 package spaghetti 
3 tbsp. capers
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Bring a medium size pot filled with water and a handful of kosher salt to a boil. 

Add the pasta to the pot and cook for 2 minutes less than cooking time specified in directions.


Heat a large high-sided dutch oven over medium heat. 

Place olive oil into the pan.

Add anchovies and cook until melted.

Friday pasta anchovies melted

Place in oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.

Friday pasta anchovies oregano pepper flakes

Move the oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic over to one side of the pan.

Add the tomato paste and brown for two minutes, turning as it browns.

Friday pasta tomato paste browning

Pour in the chicken stock and bring it to a boil.

Add the can of crushed tomatoes. Mix thoroughly.

Friday pasta crushed tomatoes

Mix in kosher salt and pepper.

Let simmer for 5 minutes.

Add in the capers and pasta.

Friday pasta spaghetti

Pour the reserved pasta water a little at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.

Serve hot.

It’s that simple!