Just a simple country supper

Manhattan spicy clam chowder from scratch

Onions sautéed in butter/margarine and olive oil; ¾ pound flash-frozen chopped clams added to heat through when onions have softened; jarred marinara sauce and sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio (half and half) to desired density of finished soup; add several sprigs of rosemary, oregano and mint, and two or three Table-spoons of dried Italian herbs, a Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, generous shake of Tabasco and freshly-ground black pepper and simmer for an hour. To finish, more flavorings can be added if desired; I also added 1/3 cup of coffee.

Pan-finished grilled/braised chicken thighs in a light tomato sauce

Grill-roast 10-14 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (this means grilling meat on the raised warming shelf of the grill, oiling the meat once or twice and keeping the lid closed to make it an oven). This can be done in advance, drizzling meat with jarred teriyaki sauce (or make your own) and covering for an hour or more. To finish, oil a skillet that can hold at least 8 or 10 thighs and brown the thighs over high heat. Lower heat just below medium and braise a few minutes in a mixture of marinara sauce and low-fat sour cream, adding fresh-grated nutmeg and pepper. When serving, add one or two fresh lemon or orange slices to each portion. Serve over:

Penne with peppers and onions

Cook whole-wheat penne and dress with a mixture of light mayonnaise and marinara sauce. Stir in a generous amount of red bell pepper and onion slices that have been grilled and then sealed for a half-hour in a heavy paper bag. Season with fresh-ground black pepper and, if desired, some salt. At table, add freshly-grated Italian pecorino romano cheese.

A generous side of mixed vegetables

Thaw plenty of the contents of a 5-pound bag of frozen “stir-fry” vegetables. If from Costco, this will include tiny Asian corncobs, mushrooms and water chestnuts with more usual items such as broccoli. Heat through quickly in a large sauté pan and dress with vinegar or fresh lemon juice with quality olive oil and Worcestershire sauce.

Bob Cramer, The Fearless Taster, 23 February 2011.