Pasta has become a classic American staple. It’s origin maybe Italian but in the past 50 years, it’s become one of the go-to easy dinners that many families enjoy at least once a week. My grandmother didn’t have many pasta recipes. The few that she had remained part of her unpublished recipe set that she developed later in her career. The trendiest dishes of the 1960’s, when her cookbooks were written, were of mostly of French origin. The pasta explosion came later. Even so, it’s become so common that there are many pasta dishes that can now be considered classics. These include dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, lasagna, and some cases chicken parmesan (or parmigiana). In most Italian red-sauce restaurants, the chicken is really the focus of this dish and pasta is really a side, if included at all. I’ve always preferred a more equal balance of protein and pasta. And although I enjoy a good chicken parm, I am also a seafood lover and found this deconstructed shrimp parmesan to be the perfect lighter alternative to the original red-sauce classic.
I often associate stuffed mushrooms with summer. It may seem illogical but there’s something about the portability of this perfect party appetizer that reminds me of long summer days filled with picnics and barbeques. These mushrooms are baked in the oven but that shouldn’t stop you from trying them on the grill. Tender caps are the perfect vessel for the sweet lump crab mixture reminiscent of salt water bays and blue crab season. Summer will be here soon, I can feel it.
Quesadillas have become somewhat of a Mexican American/Tex-Mex classic. The concept of a two tortillas sandwiched together with melted cheese couldn’t be simpler. Unfortunately, this common appetizer isn’t usually as healthy as it is simple. Arguably the most popular versions include a large amount of cheddar cheese, possibly some meat or chicken, and sides of both salsa and sour cream for dipping. Sure it’s delicious but why not take that same concept and make a healthier spring version? That was the idea behind this light and flavorful veggie-packed quesadilla.
Homemade chocolate chip cookies are one of the easiest yet tastiest sweets to make. They satisfy almost any chocolate cookie craving. I’m always looking for ways to put a twist on classic treats or maybe just an excuse to make them more often. Oatmeal is one of my favorite variations of this popular go-to cookie. It adds an interesting chewy texture and makes it easier to pretend that chocolate chip cookies are good for you. Raisins and cinnamon are common and natural pairings with oatmeal, especially for a cookie. However, I find it hard to pass on chocolate in a chewy cookie. Also, raisins seem too healthy for a dessert that still contains butter and sugar. The chocolate with the chewy oatmeal and the zip from the cinnamon are worth cheating on that spring beach body diet.
If there’s one type of cuisine my grandmother knew well, it’s Mexican. She and my grandfather took frequent trips to Mexico. While my father and uncle were off misbehaving, my grandmother explored the vibrant crafts and flavorful foods. She learned how to cook both traditional and untraditional dishes, adding her own twist when they returned to New York. Eggs Jalisco is an example of just that: traditional Mexican flavors with a twist …two twists actually because I couldn’t help but add fresh avocado and tomato as well.