Your Biggest Cooking Questions-- Answered

Photo: Gentl & HyersBy Kate Rockwood

Q: I didn't have time to stop at the grocery store. What can I make for dinner?

"People are always surprised by the healthy, tasty meals you can pull from pantry ingredients," says Melissa d'Arabian, host of the Food Network show Ten Dollar Dinners (her cookbook by the same name was just published). The trick, she says, is to get adventurous with ingredient swaps--say, replacing meat with canned beans or fresh vegetables with frozen. "Familiar flavors are comforting, but don't hesitate to present them in a new package," she says. In her dinner-friendly variation on the Mexican breakfast dish huevos rancheros, d'Arabian substitutes spaghetti for the usual tortillas. When serving, break the egg yolk and mix it into the salsa for a silken pasta sauce that's light, fresh-and wholly original.



RELATED: Huevos Rancheros Spaghetti Recipe


Photo: Gentl & HyersQ: What's the easiest way to throw a dinner party that accommodates everyone's diets?

Trying to find one dish to satisfy every preference and allergy means you're unlikely to satisfy anyone. Instead, Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table, adopts a fork-in-the-road approach: Start with one base recipe, then add the protein or substitute ingredients at the end. For a vegetarian-friendly take on bouillabaisse, for instance, Berley waits until the last few minutes to divide the stew in two, then adds chunks of white fish to one half and plump white beans to the other. "The fish and beans have similar textures, flavors, and cooking times," he says, "so it feels like everyone's eating the same meal."

RELATED: Vegetarian-Friendly Fish or Bean Stew Recipe

More delicious dishes-with or without meat.

1. Serve croque monsieur sandwiches the classic way, with ham, or with the meaty flavor of sun-dried tomatoes.

2. Black bean enchiladas are tasty with either shredded chicken or smoked tofu.

3. Brown butter, tarragon, and thyme make a decadent sauce for sautéed shrimp or great northern beans, served on soft polenta.


Photo: Gentl & HyersQ: What's the best way to get more superfoods into my diet?

Many people relegate vegetables and whole grains to the role of side dish, part of the "eat them; they're good for you" attitude formed in childhood. Instead, try incorporating superfoods into the entrée in the middle of the plate. Here, Diane Morgan, author of the new cookbook Roots, mixes antioxidant-rich sweet potatoes and vitamin-packed kale with quinoa (a powerhouse grain) to form satisfyingly crispy patties. Using the same water to cook the kale, sweet potatoes, and quinoa helps retain the vitamins leached out by boiling.

RELATED: Get the Pan-Fried Quinoa Cakes Recipe


Photo: Gentl & HyersQ: I'm bored with my standard roast chicken. Any suggestions?

Try rubbing the chicken with different herbs and adding vegetables to the roaster to make an easy one-pan meal, suggests chef Art Smith of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago. Inspired by English food writer Nigella Lawson--"She made me her version of chicken Vesuvio, with oregano and artichokes, at her swish London apartment"--he creates his own variation here, throwing spicy chorizo and green beans into the mix along with white wine and broth for a juicier bird. "A dish can be simple and scrumptious at the same time," Smith says.

RELATED: Get the Roast Chicken with Green Beans and Artichokes Recipe


Photo: Gentl & HyersQ: I always wind up with leftover ingredients. How can I use them?

"Small bits can be so annoying," admits blogger Deb Perelman, author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, out this month. "If you had two cups of leftover potatoes, you'd serve them the next day for dinner. But half a cup?" Don't bother trying to stretch ingredients into a lackluster repeat performance of the original meal, she says. Think creatively to make that single serving of pasta or broccoli the start of a completely different dish. Rather than let an open bottle of red wine languish on the refrigerator shelf, Perelman uses it in place of the usual food coloring in a red velvet cake. The result--a rich, fudgy marriage of chocolate and wine--will leave you hopeful for more leftover Pinot Noir in the near future.

RELATED: Get the Red-Wine Velvet Cake Recipe


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