Tablet Life & Arts

Everyday Food: Start December with five easy dinners

One trip to the grocery store is all you need to make a week of easy dinners that will warm you from head to toe.

Shopping list


• 2 large red onions

• 1 to 2 red jalapeño or serrano chilies

• 1 pound white new potatoes

• 2 heads garlic

• 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes

• 3 large tomatoes

• 1 piece fresh ginger

• 3 lemons

• 1 bunch cilantro

• 1 bunch thyme

• 2 leeks

• 2 bunches arugula


• 1 pound bacon

• 4 salmon steaks (6 to 8 ounces each)

• 1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds) in 8 pieces


• 1 pint heavy cream

• 4 ounces Gruyere

• 2 ounces Parmesan

• 1 ball fresh mozzarella (about 12 ounces)


• Oil: extra-virgin olive, vegetable

• Butter

• Paprika

• Ground cumin

• Balsamic vinegar

• All-purpose flour


• 104 ounces low-sodium chicken broth

• Arborio rice

• Couscous

• 8 slices white sandwich bread

• Dry white wine

• 1 package (10 ounces) frozen peas (optional)

Tomato soup with cheese and bacon toasties

Serves 4

If tomatoes are on sale, make a double batch of soup (omitting the cream) and freeze, up to 3 months. Stir in the cream after thawing and reheating the soup.

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 large red onion, chopped

• 1 garlic clove, chopped

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

• 3 large tomatoes (about 2 pounds total), cored and chopped

• 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

• 1/4 cup heavy cream

• 6 slices bacon

• 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

• 8 slices white sandwich bread

• 1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until onion softens, 4 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes and increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until tomatoes begin to break down, 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Add broth and 1 cup water. Simmer until tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes. In batches, puree soup in a blender (use extra caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pot and simmer 1 minute; stir in cream and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.

3. In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until lightly browned but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels; discard fat from skillet. Butter 8 slices bread. Place 4 slices, buttered side down, on a work surface. Top with bacon and cheese. Top with remaining bread, buttered side up. In batches, cook sandwiches in skillet over medium-low heat until cheese melts and bread is golden, about 5 minutes per side. Quarter sandwiches and serve with soup.

Note: To create a velvety texture without using a lot of cream, puree the soup until smooth in a blender.

Marinated salmon steaks with couscous

Serves 4

• 1 bunch cilantro, thick stems removed

• 3 garlic cloves, chopped

• 1 to 2 red jalapeño or serrano chilies (ribs and seeds removed), chopped

• 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

• 1 teaspoon paprika

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

• 4 salmon steaks (6 to 8 ounces each)

• 1 cup couscous

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. In a food processor, pulse cilantro, garlic, chili, ginger, paprika and cumin until finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup oil and lemon juice and pulse to combine.

2. Arrange salmon in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Rub both sides with cilantro mixture. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake salmon, uncovered, until opaque throughout, 12 to 14 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Stir in couscous, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Cover and let stand until tender, about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in lemon zest and 1 tablespoon oil. Serve salmon with couscous.

Leek, bacon and pea risotto

Serves 4

This recipe yields extra risotto for the risotto cakes on Friday. If you don’t plan to make them, halve the recipe and reduce the cooking time slightly.

• 2 leeks, white and light-green parts only

• 12 cups (96 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth

• 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into strips

• 2 1/2 cups Arborio rice

• 1 cup dry white wine

• 3/4 cup frozen peas (optional)

• 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving

• 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Halve leeks lengthwise; rinse thoroughly. Pat dry; thinly slice. In a saucepan, bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, in a large, straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring, until lightly browned but not crisp, 5 minutes. Add leeks; cook, stirring, until softened, 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add rice and cook, stirring, until translucent around edges, 1 minute.

2. Add wine and stir until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup broth. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until broth is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Repeat process, gradually adding broth, until rice is al dente and risotto is creamy (you may not need all the broth), about 35 minutes. Stir in peas (if using) after the final addition of broth.

3. Remove skillet from heat and stir in Parmesan. Cover and let stand 2 minutes. Season risotto with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Reserve half the risotto (about 4 cups) in refrigerator for risotto cakes. Serve remaining risotto with Parmesan.

Baked chicken with onions, potatoes, garlic and thyme

Serves 4

• 1 whole chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), cut into 8 pieces and breasts halved crosswise

• 1 pound white new potatoes, halved (quartered if large)

• 1 large red onion, cut into eighths

• 1 head garlic, cloves separated and left unpeeled

• 6 sprigs thyme

• 1 lemon, quartered

• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange chicken, potatoes, onion, garlic, thyme and lemon in a 12-by-16-inch roasting pan.

2. Whisk together oil and vinegar and drizzle over chicken and vegetables. Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper. Turn chicken skin side up.

3. Roast until chicken is browned and cooked through, about 50 minutes.

Risotto cakes with roasted tomatoes and arugula

Serves 4

• 4 cups leftover leek, bacon and pea risotto, cold

• 2 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 8 cubes

• All-purpose flour, for dredging

• 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes

• 4 sprigs thyme

• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

• Coarse salt and ground pepper

• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

• 2 bunches arugula, thick stems trimmed

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Form risotto into 8 balls. Press a cube of cheese into center of each ball and flatten risotto into 1/2-inch-thick patties (make sure cheese is covered). Dredge patties in flour and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes or so.

2. Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with thyme and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes begin to collapse, about 20 minutes.

3. In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium until it sizzles when pinch of flour is added. Dredge patties in flour again (shaking off excess). In two batches, fry patties until golden and warmed through, about 10 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels. Serve risotto cakes with arugula and tomatoes.