Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Family Fellowship

We usually host an impromptu family dinner about once a month.  Typically these dinners occur on Friday nights in which pizza is the featured menu item.  But this weekend we decided to have dinner on Saturday evening and in celebration of the new Fresh Market opening in our area (perhaps the subject of another weekend cooking post...) I decided to cook a rather electric meal.  The main course consisted of grilled Pork Chops, Parmesan Chicken, and oven baked Salmon. These were accompanied by store bought twice baked potatoes, oven roasted asparagus and Quinoa Salad.  I thought there was enough food for an army, but as it turned out, there were few leftovers after the six of us ate.

I shared the Satay Pork Chop recipe here a few weeks ago, but the chicken and salmon recipes were mostly a combination of online searches and personal experimentation.  The Parmesan Chicken recipe I adapted from an AllRecipes dish which called for an unusual way to bread cutlets:  dip the chicken in olive oil rather than egg.  I will adopt this method from now on.  The breading adhered well to the meat and did not separate during baking.  The chicken was moist and flavorful.  A successful experiment.

The salmon recipe I use has evolved over time, in fact, I do not remember where I first found my inspiration.  I use Trader Joe's Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce, which is similar in flavor and texture to a subtle dijon mustard.  I spread an even coat over the top of the filet and then sprinkle liberally with Penzy's Sunny Paris (a spice mixture of shallots, chives, green peppercorn, dill weed,  basil, tarragon, chervil, and bay leaf which marries well with fish and/or chicken).  I baked the filet and the chicken cutlets in a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes and both were done to perfection.

Oven roasted asparagus is my favorite way to prepare this vegetable, in part because it is so simple, but also because the method showcases the flavor so well.  I simply line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with PAM.  I arrange the asparagus in a single layer on the sheet and spray the tops with PAM as well.  Bake in a 400 degree oven about 12-14 minutes (for thinner asparagus, I would assume a bit longer for thicker stalks) and then drizzle a mixture of melted butter, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar over the top (a tasty combination which I found here).

The real experiment of the day, however, was the Quinoa Salad (pronounced keen-wah). I fell in love with the flavors of Tabbouleh when I visited Paris two years ago.  The vivid colors of red cherry tomatoes, green flat leaf parsley and golden quinoa grains seemed so festive that I could not resist.  The fresh combination of vegetables and grain, coupled with a  bright lemon vinaigrette, was the perfect summer side dish.

I found the following recipe at, but of course, I adapted and tweaked just a bit to meet my personal tastes.


  1. Bring 1 cup quinoa (thoroughly rinsed) plus 1 1/4  cups water (I used broth) and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes.  Allow to stand for 5 additional minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
  2. While quinoa is cooling, whisk together the dressing ingredients:  2 Tablespoons lemon juice - 1/2 cup olive oil (I reduced this by half!) - minced garlic clove - salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour mixture over cooled quinoa (I used about 2/3 of the dressing ... you may prefer more or less, depending on taste)
  4. Next add the following vegetables:  pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half; english cucumber, diced; 2/3 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped; 2 scallions, sliced thin; 1/2 cup mint, chopped (I omitted the mint due to personal preference and did not miss it in the least)
  5. Toss together with the quinoa and chill for about thirty minutes before serving.
Our family tends to be a real "meat and potatoes" crowd and I was not sure how well this new recipe would be received.  But based on the compliments and lack of leftovers, I would say that we have discovered a new favorite.


  1. Sounds delicious! I used to not like fresh mint, but once we started growing our own I've gotten to like it more in salads and drinks.

  2. Oh a quinoa tabbouleh sounds awesome. And don't you just love Penzeys? We use a lot of their salt-free spice mixes.

  3. I am always trying to figure out what to do with quinoa, so thanks for this recipe. Penzey's blends are so fantastic -- I head there every trip to Madison!

  4. I never heard of the olive oil instead egg to dip the cutlets, I'm going to try that one.

  5. The quinoa salad sounds delicious and I'd love a post about Fresh Market. Wish we had one in the area.

    I'm adding your new blog to my reader. It's good to see you again, Molly!