Suppers for Empty Nesters

The fussy eaters have moved out, and the kitchen’s your playground again.
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Cantaloupe Soup with Prosciutto

Puree the flesh from a cantaloupe with lime juice, white wine (or water) and sugar until smooth; chill the soup. Put a few slices of prosciutto in the oven at 375 until they are just crisp. Serve the soup topped with shards of the toasted prosciutto.
Photo: iStockphoto

Tangerine and Asparagus Salad with Sesame Dressing

Peel and separate 2 tangerines. Trim a bunch of asparagus, then cut the spears on the bias; blanch the spears until they turn bright green. Toss the tangerines and asparagus with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil, a splash of rice vinegar, a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of sugar; garnish with toasted sesame seeds.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Provençal Poached Eggs

Slice a cup of mushrooms and a handful of black olives; chop an onion and 2 or 3 plum tomatoes. In a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, cook a clove of smashed garlic and the onion for about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, olives and tomatoes, and let the mixture simmer over medium heat; sprinkle with fresh thyme, oregano and/or basil. Poach 4 eggs, and toast thick slices of peasant bread. Add a couple of tablespoons of capers to the vegetable mixture; season with salt and pepper. Serve the vegetables and eggs on the toast.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Pistachio-Crusted Fish

Heat the oven to 400. Put about a cup of shelled pistachios in a food processor, and pulse a few times until the nuts are just ground. Add a small handful of parsley and salt and a pinch of cayenne; pulse once or twice more to combine. Cut any hearty fish fillet into large pieces, and rub with olive oil; then press the pistachio mixture on them to form a crust. Put in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with more olive oil, and cook until golden brown and done in the middle, 6 to 12 minutes, depending on their thickness. Serve with lemon slices.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Prosciutto-Wrapped Fish with Garlicky Spinach

Heat the oven to 400. Season any thick, white fish fillets with salt and pepper, and wrap them in thin slices of prosciutto. Sauté the fish in butter for about 2 minutes on each side, until the prosciutto begins to color and crisp up; put the fish in the oven, and continue cooking until done, an additional 5 minutes or so. Sauté a clove of minced garlic in olive oil, and add a bunch of spinach until just wilted; season with salt and pepper, and serve topped with the fish.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Seared Scallops with Fennel and Pink Grapefruit

Mix together about cup olive oil, lemon or lime juice, some salt and pepper, and the zest of a pink grapefruit. Supreme the grapefruit (divide into sections, removing the membranes). Core and thinly slice a head of fennel, and toss with a few cups of chopped arugula and the grapefruit sections. Sear 6 scallops in olive oil until nicely browned, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Serve the scallops on top of the salad.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Sweet Spanish Toast

Heat about inch of olive oil in a large skillet until hot. Soak thick slices of good bread in a mixture of milk, sugar and salt; then dip them in beaten eggs, let them drain a bit, and pan-fry in the hot oil until crisp on both sides. Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, or drizzled with honey, syrup, fruit compote or melted chocolate.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Creamy Avocado Soup with Shrimp

Puree a couple of ripe avocados with 2 cups of whole milk (or part half-and-half for a richer finish), a squeeze of lime juice and salt and pepper. Toss cooked shrimp with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice; add the shrimp to the soup to serve.
Photo: Mitchell Feinberg

Tomato, Prosciutto and Basil Strata

Heat the oven to 400. Soften a chopped onion in butter; stir in a chopped fresh tomato, 3 beaten eggs, cup of chopped prosciutto, cup of shredded basil, a splash of milk or cream and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Top with bread cubes and pieces of fresh mozzarella. Bake until just set, about 10 to 15 minutes; put under broiler quickly to brown top.
Photo: iStockphoto

Dandelion and Cannellini Bean Soup

Cook half a chopped onion in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add precooked or canned cannellini beans (with their liquid) and about 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth; bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, mashing some of the beans a bit. Add 2 cups of chopped dandelion greens, and stir until wilted; serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan.
Photo: iStockphoto

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Cabbage and Carrots

Cook a tablespoon each of minced garlic and freshly grated ginger in peanut oil; add cup of shredded carrots and 2 cups of shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add a cup of peeled shrimp (chopped if they’re large). Reduce the heat, and cook until the shrimp turn pink, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil; top with cilantro and serve.
Photo: iStockphoto

Lima Bean and Spinach Stew

Cook a package of frozen lima beans in a cup of water with salt, butter and a tablespoon of minced garlic. When the beans are tender, puree half of them with most of the cooking liquid until smooth; add half-and-half to thin. Return the pureed bean mixture to the pan with the whole beans, and season with salt and pepper. Add handfuls of baby spinach, and continue cooking until the greens are wilted. Add liquid if necessary, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a few gratings of Parmesan.
Photo: iStockphoto

Cress and Balsamic-Raspberry Salad with Gorgonzola

Wash a cup of raspberries, and put them in a salad bowl. Toss with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and several grinds of black pepper. Add a bunch of watercress, crumbled Gorgonzola, salt and olive oil; toss, and serve.
Photo: iStockphoto

Friseé Salad with Poached Eggs and Pancetta

Dice a thick slice of pancetta, and fry in olive oil until brown. Whisk together olive oil, sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard and pepper. Poach 2 eggs in boiling water for about 3minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, draining off excess water. Toss enough frisée for two with the dressing, top with the eggs, and sprinkle with the lardons of pancetta.
Photo: iStockphoto

Fennel-Parmesan Gratin

Cut 2 fennel bulbs into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and boil for about 3 minutes or until just tender. Drain and put in a broiler-safe dish; pour in a few tablespoons of cream, dot with butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with homemade bread crumbs and lots of freshly grated Parmesan. Put the dish under the broiler until the bread crumbs are golden.
Photo: iStockphoto

Broiled Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Pecans

Dice a couple of slices of pancetta or bacon, and fry until brown; drain, and set aside. Trim about a pound of Brussels sprouts and quarter them. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Broil the sprouts for about 5 minutes, until the edges are browning. Meanwhile, roughly chop a handful of pecans. Shake the pan to flip the sprouts; add the pancetta and nuts, and broil for an additional 3 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and plenty of fresh parsley.
Photo: iStockphoto

Fried Endive with Lemon Butter

Trim endive heads, and halve lengthwise. Cook them in boiling salted water, with a squeeze of lemon, for about 3 minutes. Drain and dip the pieces in milk, then in salt-and pepper-seasoned flour. Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat; add the endive, cut side down, and cook for about 2minutes on each side, until the endive starts to brown. Add butter to the pan, and continue cooking, about 30 seconds. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped parsley; let the sauce cook to thicken a bit. Serve the sauce drizzled over the endive.
Photo: iStockphoto

Mussels in Curried Coconut Broth

In a large pot, combine 1/4 cup of water, the rind and juice of a lime, a teaspoon of sugar, a couple of tablespoons of green curry paste, a splash of fish sauce, a can of coconut milk and 2 pounds of clean, debearded mussels; bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the shells open; throw away any that don’t open. Stir in chopped cilantro. Serve the mussels in bowls with the broth.
Photo: iStockphoto

Chicken with Olives and Capers

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and dredge in flour. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, and brown the chicken on both sides; remove. Stir a small handful of brine-cured green olives and a tablespoon of capers into the pan. Add a cup of white wine, and bring to a boil; cook over high heat until the liquid is reduced and syrupy. Add a tablespoon of butter, chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Return the chicken to the sauce to heat through, and serve with a parsley garnish.
Photo: iStockphoto

Pork Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Pound pork cutlets (about pound) to -inch thickness, and slice them into 4-inch pieces. Combine the juice from 1 lime with a smashed clove of garlic; add the pork, and let it marinate for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together cup of peanut butter, a couple of tablespoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, a splash of soy sauce, a pinch or two of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of brown sugar and just enough water to make a smooth sauce; adjust the seasoning. Set aside most of the sauce for dipping, and smear the rest on the pork. Then thread the pork onto skewers, and grill for 2 minutes on each side, or until it is cooked through. Serve with the peanut sauce and lime wedges.
Photo: iStockphoto

Chicken with North African Spices

Heat the broiler or a grill pan, and rub thin chicken breasts with a mixture of ground cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Cook the chicken until nicely browned and done, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total. Meanwhile, mix a cup of plain yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice, chopped fresh mint and salt. Serve the spice-rubbed chicken with the yogurt sauce.
Photo: iStockphoto

Stilton-Stuffed Burgers

Season pound or so of ground beef with salt and pepper; form the meat into thin patties. Put a couple of slices of Stilton on one patty (and a slice of tomato if you like), and cover the stuffing with a second patty, making a sandwich. Pinch the sides of the patties together to seal them. Cook the burgers on a hot grill, on a grill pan or under the broiler, turning them once, until done.
Photo: iStockphoto

Chorizo with Chickpeas and Greens

Fry a can of well-dried chickpeas in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until they just begin to color. Add cup of Spanish smoked chorizo cut into 1/4-inch pieces, and cook until the chickpeas are crisp and the chorizo is slightly browned, about 5 more minutes. Add 2 or 3 cups of tender greens (*spinach* or arugula), and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Photo: iStockphoto

Spicy Pork Tacos with Tart Apple Slaw

In a small bowl, combine a tablespoon each of sugar, cumin, chili powder, paprika and salt; rub it into slices of pork (about pound). Slice a tart apple and a small red onion as thinly as you can (use a mandoline if you have one). Toss the apple and onion with olive oil, lemon juice and freshly chopped cilantro. Grill the pork, turning once, until browned and cooked; cut into strips, and serve it stuffed in warm corn tortillas spread with a dollop of sour cream and topped with the apple-onion slaw.
Photo: iStockphoto

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb with Couscous

In a small bowl, mix together 1 teaspoon each cumin and coriander, teaspoon turmeric, salt and pepper. Rub lamb chops with olive oil, and dust with the spice mix; put them in an ovenproof dish. Broil the lamb for about 8 minutes, turning once to brown on both sides. Meanwhile, make couscous, and toss with chopped parsley. Serve the lamb on a bed of couscous with lemon slices.
Photo: iStockphoto

Garlicky Noodles with Beef and Bean Sprouts

Soak rice noodles in boiling water until soft, about 10 minutes; drain. Cook a tablespoon of minced garlic and a handful of chopped scallions for a couple of minutes, or until softened. Toss the garlic mixture with the noodles, and set aside. Stir-fry thinly sliced beef in peanut oil for about 2 minutes; add a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add a little water and soy sauce, and cook until the sauce coats the beef and vegetables. Serve the noodles topped with the beef, and garnish with chopped peanuts.
Photo: iStockphoto

Pasta with Garlic, Anchovies and Capers

Boil and salt water for pasta (any kind you like), and cook it. Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, and add 2 cloves of minced garlic; cook for a minute or until just fragrant. Add a few drained, chopped anchovies (the kind marinated in oil and packed in glass), and cook for a minute or so, smashing up the anchovies with a fork as they cook; add a couple of tablespoons of capers. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the anchovy-caper mix and toss, adding pasta water as needed to moisten the mixture into a sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Photo: iStockphoto

Pasta with Red Onion, Pancetta and Pine Nuts

Toast 1/4 cup of pine nuts in a dry skillet. To boiling, then salted water, add pasta (any kind you like). Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, and add cup of diced pancetta; cook until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add half a thinly sliced red onion; cook until soft and starting to color. Add a few drained, chopped anchovies (the kind marinated in oil and packed in glass), and cook for a minute or so, smashing up the anchovies with a fork as they cook; add a couple of tablespoons of capers. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the onion-pancetta mix and toss, adding pasta water as needed to moisten the mixture into a sauce. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.
Photo: iStockphoto

Pasta with Arugula Pesto

Add salt to boiling water, and add pasta. In a food processor, puree 2 large handfuls of arugula, cup or so of pine nuts or walnuts, a clove of garlic, some freshly grated Parmesan, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to create a paste. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water. Combine the pasta and as much of the pesto as you like, and toss, adding pasta water as needed to moisten the mixture into a sauce. Serve with more freshly grated Parmesan.
Photo: iStockphoto

Sweet Couscous with Almond Milk

Bring 2 cups of almond milk with a pinch of salt to a boil, and stir in 1 cup of couscous. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 5 minutes or so. Fluff with a fork, add some chopped almonds and dried apricots (or chocolate chunks), and serve warm.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MORE, SEPTEMBER 2010, AS "SIMPLE, SOPHISTICATED SUPPERS."

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Photo: iStockphoto

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