Sausages Braised in Tomato Sauce Over Polenta

It’s hard for me to think of dinners that aren’t pasta. When I have sausages in the refrigerator, for example, I think of all of the different pastas I can make with them: rigatoni with sausage and broccolini, ziti with sausage, onion, and fennel. I think I took it too seriously when Sophia Loren said: “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”

A year or two ago, though, I developed a dinner that feels like a pasta dinner that isn’t a pasta dinner, it’s a polenta dinner. I take whole sausages, brown them in olive oil, add onions and garlic to the pan, make a quick tomato sauce, and braise the sausages in there. Meanwhile, I cook a pot of polenta at the same time.

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Spiced Pork Chops with Delicata Squash and Apple Chutney

Making new friends is always a treat but difficult to do when you’re supposed to avoid social gatherings and remain six feet apart while masked. Luckily, I made two new friends last year when the food writer Ben Mims and his partner J made the same move that we made back in 2011 from New York to L.A.

Ben moved here to write for the L.A. Times (his recipes are top notch; I made his tamarind lamb shanks last night and they were dreamy); we met for dinner at a steakhouse on Hollywood and Vine and he told hilarious stories about growing up in Mississippi, then told even funnier stories on my podcast Lunch Therapy.

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Five Weeknight Dinners That’ll Make Your Week Better

Some of you may know that my husband Craig is a director. Last week he went back to work, directing four episodes of our friend Ryan O’Connell’s Emmy-nominated Netflix show Special. The protocols on set are intense, as they should be during Covid. Craig gets tested almost every morning, he wears an N95 mask all day, and when he gets home after a thirteen hour day he’s super tired because of all the extra rigamarole Covid’s causing.

That’s where I enter the picture. I remember one of the first cookbooks that I ever bought was Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess and, even though I have my own work to do during the day (I have a few projects in the works!), at night I’ve blossomed as a true domestic diva. Here are the five dinners that I made last week each night that Craig came home from work. They certainly made our week better, maybe they’ll help with yours.

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One-Pan Cod and Potatoes with Olive Gremolata

Every family has its own way with potatoes. Growing up, my mom would buy frozen potato latkes, heat them up in the toaster, and serve them with Mott’s apple sauce (you can hear all about it on my mom’s episode of Lunch Therapy). Most families, I’d venture, are mashed potato families. Some do it from a box, others from scratch.

Here at Chez Amateur Gourmet, we’re a roasted potato family. Specficially: pee-wee potatoes roasted with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sometimes with spices thrown in (smoked paprika, cumin seeds, crushed coriander seeds).

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One-Pan Salmon with Sugar Snap Peas and a Cherry Tomato Sauce

When we think about one-pan cooking, we usually think about a dish where all of the components cook together in one pan at the same time. But there’s another kind of one-pan cooking! (Sorry for the exclamation mark, I was excited.) It’s the kind where you cook multiple components in the same pan one after the other and then assemble everything together on the plate at the end.

That’s what I did here when I made salmon for dinner the other night. You may be thinking: “Make the components one after the other? Don’t they get cold?” And I’d say to you: “Not really, they’ll stay warm. Stop worrying so much.”

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Harissa Honey Chicken with Blistered String Beans

Grilling in the summer is difficult when you don’t have a grill. We had a communal one in our fourplex’s backyard, but I haven’t seen it in a while. Maybe I just don’t want to see it. I don’t really love our backyard, though I love our apartment in general; the backyard’s just not a place I want to spend much time. That’s my big realization about grilling: grilling is only fun if you like the environment in which you’re grilling.

So until we have a house with a pool surrounded by citrus trees and male models, I’m staying inside and using my broiler. It’s funny to me how many people don’t know about their broilers. When I interviewed the amazing Kate Berlant on Instagram Live, she said she didn’t even know if her oven had one. People! Your broiler can be your best friend in the kitchen. Let me tell you why.

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Stuffed Onions, Peppers, and Tomatoes with Sausage and Rice

Drinking before you cook has its benefits. For starters, it loosens you up; makes you less anxious about whether the salmon will sear perfectly or the Étouffée will be an Étoufail. On the flip side, drunk cooking might lead to cooking accidents and/or a viral web series.

On weekends, I like to enjoy a good cocktail before heading into the kitchen. My favorite, these days, is a White Negroni: equal parts Gin, Cocchi Americano, and this orange-flavored Amaro we get here in L.A. called Amaro Angeleno. It was after imbibing an especially potent version of this favorite drink that I decided to do something truly wild: I decided to stuff vegetables with random things that I had in my fridge and then to bake them in tomato sauce.

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