Real Simple: Week Two

Welcome to week two of horrible eating thanks to Real Simple. Last week, I started their month of recipes. After that first week, I took it as a challenge—to cook five nights a week and to eat what came out of the kitchen unchanged.

I’m not going to mince words… this has been more of a challenge than I thought. The recipes have sounded good on the surface, but have been truly boring once you start to eat them. And, for those of you who don’t like change… good news, this week is more of the same.

Monday: Roasted Salmon, Broccoli, and Potatoes with Miso Sauce

  • 1½ lbs new potatoes (about 15), halved if large
  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
  • 3 T plus 1 t canola oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 3 T white miso (found in the refrigerated section, near the tofu)
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 4 6-oz pieces salmon fillet
  • ¼-½ t crushed red pepper

Heat oven to 425°. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes and broccoli with 2 T of the oil, ½ t salt, and ¼ t black pepper. Roast, tossing once, until the vegetables are tender, 25-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the miso, vinegar, 1 T of the remaining oil, and 3 T water.

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drizzle with the sauce, sprinkle with the crushed red pepper, and serve with the vegetables.

Results

Roasted Salmon with Potatoes and Broccoli

And, another week of Real Simple starts with an anemic-looking, salt lick of a sauce. A few thoughts:

  1. Make sure your potatoes are pretty small or more than halve them because they have to cook at the same rate as the broccoli. So, make sure your broccoli is cut a bit larger. In the midst of some lovely veggies, I had a few larger under done potatoes and burned broccoli.
  2. Roasted broccoli smells like hot socks.
  3. This is salty, salty, salty… and not in a miso soup sort of way.

Tuesday: Chicken and Rice with Peas

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ lbs)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 C long-grain white rice
  • 2 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 T fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 C frozen peas
  • ½ C pitted green olives, halved

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ t salt and ¼ t black pepper. In two batches, brown the chicken, 5-7 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the drippings in the Dutch oven and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add the rice, broth, thyme, and chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is tender, and most of the liquid is absorbed, 20-25 minutes.

Remove the Dutch oven from heat. Transfer the chicken to a plate. Fold the peas and olives into the rice and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Serve with the chicken.

Results

Oh my good gravy. It was all 1960 up in this recipe. Red pepper, olives, and peas. Seriously? As if we’re just adding crap to rice to make it look pretty without a care in the world as to how it would taste. Awful. Then, the addition of thyme just made the whole thing taste like a muddy mess. Probably the worst idea for rice that I’ve ever had the misfortune to taste.

Chicken with rice and peas

Paul, my sister, AND Mr. Moo all found it a bit disgusting. The leftovers sat in the fridge for quite a bit before I ended up pureeing them for the dog. (I kid you not.)

Wednesday: Red Lentil Curry

  • 3 T canola oil
  • 2 T chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 8 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1T curry powder
  • 4 medium carrots (about 8 oz), chopped
  • 1 large russet potato (about 10 oz), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 C red lentils
  • 4 C low-sodium vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • Naan bread and lime wedges, for serving

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallion whites and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2-3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder. Add the carrots, potato, lentils, broth, ¾ t salt, and ¼ t pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Sprinkle the curry with the scallion greens and serve with the naan and lime wedges.

Results

Finally! A recipe that had some flavor. Too bad it came out looking like this:

Lentil Soup

So, despite my self-imposed challenge to not change the recipe, I found myself giving the soup a few pulses with the immersion blender. After which, it came out with a better consistency for curry with potatoes in it.

Lentil Curry with Naan

Mr. Moo loved it. This was a definite winner in comparison to the others. Having said that, I’ve had better curries… in fact, I’ve made better curries.

Thursday: Beef and Bean Enchiladas with Sautéed Zucchini

  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • ½ lb ground beef
  • 1 15.5-oz can pinto beans, rinsed
  • 2 C grated cheddar (about 8 oz)
  • 2 C enchilada sauce
  • 8 6” corn tortillas
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb total), thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream, salsa, and cilantro, for serving

Heat oven to 400°. Heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 2-3 minutes. Mix in the beans and 1 C of the cheddar.

Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish. Roll up the beef mixture in the tortillas and place the rolls seam-side down in the dish. Top with the remaining cup of enchilada sauce and cup of cheddar. Bake until the cheddar is brown in spots, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and ¼ t salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden, 8-10 minutes. Top the enchiladas with the sour cream, salsa, and cilantro and serve with the zucchini.

Results

The crux of this recipe is definitely the quality of your enchilada sauce because this is drowning in it. If you don’t make your own, you really need to find a good (read not El Paso or Ortega) enchilada sauce. So, the enchilada filling was just OK… ground beef, pinto beans, and onions. Read no spices inside the filling. Thank you bland middle bit.

Enchiladas

My last complaint about this recipe is the random side dish. If the editors at Real Simple looked back at this recipe thought, “Hmmm… we need a vegetable in there.” Why oh why would they just slap some bland zucchini on the side? It doesn’t really fit with the dish. If they were hell bent on using zucchini, maybe put it inside the enchilada or grill it or do something besides cook it in oil. Blah.

Friday: Ham and Mozzarella Melts with Sautéed Spinach

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 bunches flat-leaf spinach, stems discarded (about 16 C)
  • 2 large ciabatta rolls, split
  • 4 oz sliced deli ham
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 t dried oregano

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ¼ t each salt and pepper, and as much spinach as will fit. Cook, tossing and adding more spinach when there is room, until tender, 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broiler. Place the rolls split-side up on a foil-lined large broiler-proof baking sheet. Dividing evenly, top with the ham, tomatoes, mozzarella, oregano, and ¼ t each salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese is melted, 2-3 minutes. Serve with the spinach.

Results

Paul loved this one. I had to agree, but I also had to point out that this is really a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. If you’re going to make this recipe and you get ciabatta rolls, you will probably have to cut off the tops a bit so you have a flat surface. I had one go a bit roly-poly on me.

Ham Mozzarella Melts

But, yes, this was a top notch way to end a week of horrors. So, why, you ask do I continue. Because this is really forcing me to save by not ordering out, having leftovers for lunch, and not impulse buying at the store. By the way, the total for this week came in at around $75.

I’d like to ask of Real Simple: Why does your magic formula for salt and pepper seem to be ½ t salt, ¼ t pepper? That seems to be a regular ratio here. Also, what’s with supreme amount of sautée? OK, two down, two more to go… on to next week. Read more at Week Three of the Real Simple experiment.

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  1. #1 by sybaritica on 10.16.2012 - 10:36 pm

    I love miso with salmon… try rubbing some on raw salmon and letting it sit with a light weight on the fillet overnight and then grilling it… Really good!

  2. #3 by emmycooks on 10.16.2012 - 10:49 pm

    This is hilarious and awesome. I think it could be its own blog: you have a bunch of real people test & review the recipes from each cooking magazine each month. I might try the eggplant and tofu from last week, though–I love that combo. I’ll tone down the salt at your suggestion. :)

    • #4 by e.marie on 10.17.2012 - 11:59 am

      thanks… good luck with the tofu… i can never make it come out right

  3. #5 by theplumpalate on 10.17.2012 - 12:38 am

    Real people cook! Love it. Though I don’t love that you’ve been eating marginal meals every night for two weeks. Ouch. :/ Good for you for trying this anyhow. Thanks for the thorough recap!

    • #6 by e.marie on 10.17.2012 - 11:59 am

      oh, we’re all about marginal meals in my house! ;) i LOVE cooking from old cookbooks so my poor husband has been subjected to some winners… after this month of experiments, i’m going back to regular recipes i know are good…

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