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Menu Monday: Ultimate Anniversary Roast Chicken Dinner

Aaaaand we’re back. So, yes, I know it’s been rawther a while; mea culpa. But, after a nice fallow period, I’m feeling SO ready to get back into the swing of things and what better place to get started than with a very special, full-on, roast chicken dinner all-in-one recipe?

This is so good, in fact, that I’m pretty sure it’s Mr. T’s favorite dinner ever–which is a bit of a relief since I really have been doing this on at least a weekly basis for months. And even being in heavy rotation already, it still got the nod for our Valentine’s Day/10th anniversary dinner.

I don’t know what’s more amazing: that roast chicken, out of all the ridiculously fancy things I’ve made, seriously tops his dinner list, or that he’s been willing to put up with me for that long. Well, no looking gift horses in mouths here!

Having tinkered with this preparation countless times (well, like, at LEAST 15…) over the past few months, I’ve finally honed the process down to a point where you get trancendently juicy, flavorful chicken–bright with mustard, lemon, and herbs–along with savory potatoes and vibrant green veggies in the most efficient way possible. No extra pans, extra pots, or extra work. We have achieved maximum deliciousness with minimum fuss.

And while it’s not exactly in Rachael Ray territory in terms of turn around time, it’s still quite spectacularly fast for what you get out of it. Totally doable on a weeknight if organized. As you’ll see, there’s not a lot of ingredients and all the bits and pieces have been rolled up into one long recipe–but don’t let that stop you. You’re really only a few paragraphs away from the best homemade roast chicken dinner ever.

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Menu Monday: Ribollita & Gingerbread, a Souper Fall Supper

Ok, so this isn’t so much a menu as it is me telling you to make this ribollita for dinner, like, STAT. It’s easy, healthy, makes a ton, and is SO delicious you won’t mind eating it for a a few days. I certainly didn’t, and neither did Mr. T, who is kind of too good for leftovers most of the time… and he doesn’t even pick the carrots of of it and leave them in a sad little heap like he usually does. High praise indeed for a simple peasant soup.

Since this is really one of those chop-dump-simmer, meal-in-a-bowl type soups, there’s really not much else one needs to round it out. But, since it’s so easy, I’mma tell you to whip up a little batch of gingerbread too, while you’re at it.

Menu Monday: Ribollita & Gingerbread for a Chilly Fall Night

Ribollita
Ok, so I’ve already extolled the virtues of this extensively. It is a great soup. Key players: pork, kale, beans, stale bread. Other than that, whatever. Change up the veggies, mess with the herbs. It’ll come out great. Do also, however, hold onto your parmesan rinds. They DO make a big difference, particularly over a few days of reheating. Which brings me to my final note… this is delicious right when it’s done, but even better on day two. So, if you can bring yourself to start your Menu Monday cooking on Sunday afternoon, you’ll be amply rewarded.

Moosehead Gingerbread
And if you’re soup is already made on Monday, WELL THEN, it’s time to whip up a bit of cake. This is a dusky, spicy, pungent gingerbread. Very adult, and so, so tingly-good. This is the only reason I have EVER purchased coffee at Starbucks–not to go with, but in. The flavors develop over time, so it will be spicier on day two. Great eaten out of hand as a snack, with a little whipped cream or ice cream it’s absolutely the last word on late autumn desserts.

Menu Monday: Back to School with Apples & Squash

If there was a ever a time I wish I vlogged, it would be now, so I could give you all a big ol’ “HELLO!” a la My Drunk Kitchen. (MDK is totally worth the clicks, btw. Harto’s antics crack me up without fail, and that’s saying something, Frederick!) Sadly, they say the camera adds 10lbs, so my video debut is still SEVERAL Pilates sessions away.

In any case, though, I can assure you I’m back from, well… let’s see: late-summer blogger malaise, crazy work (it’s year-end for Feds, and that’s about as much fun as a barrel of bubonic monkeys), serial party-throwing, and, oh yeah, a faboo week in Costa Rica (looks tragic, right?) communing with birds and frogs and snakes and monkeys of the non-bubonic variety.

Now, while I am absolutely a-twizzle with new fun things to write , I did want go get back into the swing of doing Menu Mondays. It’s one of the few things I’ve gotten good (ok, ANY) feedback on lately, so tally ho. And, since we’ve been luxuriating in deliciously crispy fall weather here in D.C. for the past few days, I thought a tasty meal that celebrated back-to-school, the impending harvest, and the no-longer-so-far-away holidays would be just the thing.

We kick off with a crisp, juicy salad of fennel and apples with a bright cider vinaigrette, and continue in that sweet-savory vein with a toothsome combination of roasted butternut squash, kale, and raisins tossed with pasta and Parmesan cheese. Plums nestled in a almond-y batter and quickly baked off make a suitably autumnal conclusion.
These dishes’ dependence on seasonal produce links them together in a very appealling fashion. If, however, you’re like Mr. T and look slightly askance at sweet-savory pairings, you can omit the raisins from the pasta and reduce the cider in the vinaigrette. I absolutely love them as they are, however, and I’d encourage you to try them as-is first.

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Menu Monday 2: Hot Köfte, Cool Veggies, & Sweet Fruits

Menu Monday! Finally, an excuse to get excited about Monday! At least, for me… Woo! It’s clear that summer has taken up residence in D.C. and does not mean to leave till, oh, the end of September. *sigh* But with the heat, humidity, and bump in homicides we also get barbeques, picnics, camping expeditons, and trips to the beach.

In that carefree al fresco vein, here’s a quick menu of spicy-savory lamb meatballs, accompanied by succulent early-summer tomatoes and broccoli topped with a bright olive dressing, warmed flatbreads, and creamy yogurt swirled with spring’s last rhubarb and summer’s first strawberries. Perfect for an evening by the beach… or balcony.

Menu Monday 2: Hot Köfte, Cool Veggies, & Sweet Fruits

Lamb Köfte
This recipe is for the stovetop, but could easily be done on a lightly oiled grill to great effect, I’m sure–particularly if you’ve got some of those broad, flat skewers designed for grilling such mixtures.

Tomatoes & Broccoli w/ Broken Olive Vinaigrette (below)
This irresponsibly easy little dressing-tapenade-relish-thing is just the thing to point up the season’s first (not quite perfect) tomatoes. And its tasty juices collect temptingly in the heads of briefly steamed broccoli–providing a lightning quick and colorful side. It’s a perfect compliment to the spicy richness of the köfte–particularly wrapped up in a bit of flatbread.

Pita/flatbreads
Warm them briefly under the broiler or on the stovetop if you’ve got gas. It took me forever to figure out that most pitas and flatbreads really just don’t taste DONE until I heat them up a bit.

Greek Yogurt w/ Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
Serve in pretty dessert dishes and bask in the knowledge that this is a supremely tasty sweet that’s actually pretty healthy.

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Menu Monday: A Few Hours in Provence, Salad & Socca

Welcome to Menu Monday! Woo! I’ve always wanted this site to be not just about individual kick-ass recipes, but also about how to put them together into a coherent whole that can be enjoyed by cook and guest alike. And now, a year and a half and nearly 250 posts later, there’s enough of those kick-ass recipes up for me to be able to knit them together into menus for you. I’ll also be hitting up some of my favorite bloggers to round out these posts to give you a taste of what other people are writing about and to help me fill in some gaps in my own archives.
And this week, it made sense to head down to Provence. The cuisine of Nice and the surrounding region has always been one of my favorites, with its reliance on olive oil, fresh seafood, and simple vegetable preparations amped up with powerful flavors like anchovy, garlic, and saffron.

My affinity for the cuisine was cemented during a VERY entertaining week and half spent trailing around Aix-en-Provence with the inimitable Grandma Neecie and her favorite opera tour group: listening to Verdi’s Requiem at the Roman amphitheatre in Orange, lunching on mysterious terrines and champagne cocktails at Michelin-starred restaurants nestled high in the Luberon valley, tackling boulliabaise on the corniche in Marseilles, and otherwise having a grand old time.

In ANY event, though, we can tackle terrines and boulliabaise some other day (I’ve drunk all the Pernod, anyway). For the inaugural Menu Monday, we keep it simple, no? Some really tasty, unique nibbles; a fabulous entree salad; and a simple, fresh dessert. Let’s get to it!

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