What’s For Dinner?

Coming off an eight day stretch one would think my creative juices would be completely juiced out. But this is the first week of the month and I want to continue this series called “What’s For Dinner?” The idea, as I mentioned previously, is to hopefully inspire you to make a quick and delicious dinner, mid-week. Even though I cook, pretty much five or six days a week I too am faced with the dilemma of “what’s for dinner”?

This week I have two examples of eating out versus eating in to share. On Monday night I had to pick up my husband at the airport very late, so I stayed in the city and had dinner with two friends. My bill came to $120.00. Two entrees (hamburger on the go for him) and a glass of wine. On Tuesday night, very untypical, we ate at a pub in our neighborhood. Two entrees, fish and chips and chili nachos (don’t judge),  plus three beers, came to $60.00. My “What’s For Dinner?” meal came to about $20.00 for the two of us. The best part: it was cooked in about an hour and so much healthier and fancier than the pub dinner.

Thumbalina carrots, mache, and spring garlic.

Lets get started! First off, I had a few things hanging in the fridge from my farmers market exploration last week that I wanted to use. You can easily substitute them for things you already have on hand. The mâchea spring lettuce green, I had left over from a cooking class last weekend. Tiny little spring garlic cloves with fragrant long thin stems. And, last, beautiful thumbalina carrots.

Thumbalina carrots and asparagus ready to cook. Maria Reina, Bella Cucina Maria

Using my cool asparagus pot I steamed the carrots for five minutes first.

Steamed Asparagus and Thumbalinas. Maria Reina - Bella Cucina Maria

Leaving the carrots in I added the asparagus, trimmed and tied with kitchen twine. They steamed for five minutes.

Steamed Asparagus and Thumbalinas. Maria Reina - Bella Cucina Maria

Just before plating they all got a nice drizzle of extra virgin, a few good scrapings of lemon zest and salt and pepper.

Baby kale from Whole Foods

Next up is the filling for fish filets. You can put just about anything in the roll. Rice, couscous, quinoa – even crab salad – I’ve done this a million ways. I was looking for “easy” and you can’t get any easier than a box of pre-washed greens. Getting the baby kale helps time-wise. You don’t have to go through the steps of washing stripping and chopping. Though I did roughly chop these, you really don’t really need to. The sub here could be spinach, but you might need a little more, only because spinach melts down when cooking.

Sautéed baby kale with spring garlic.

I used the spring garlic I found at the farmers market, but you can easily do this with one clove of garlic minced and the white part of two to three scallions. Finely slice the dark green part and set aside. With a good drizzle of olive oil sauté the garlic/white part for two minutes with a little kosher salt and ground black pepper. Add the kale and toss to wilt it. Have a taste and season again with salt and black pepper as needed. Set aside to cool a bit. Toss in some of the scallion green part, and save some for the salad. Feel free to add some parsley if you have it too.

Dover Sole

For the main course I went with Dover Sole. Amazingly I found it at Whole Foods for $12.99 a pound. Usually twice as much in a fish store. I got four filets equalling about 1/2 pound. This was enough for the two of us, with one roll left for lunch the next day. If looking for four portions get the filets slightly larger. You will have plenty of kale for stuffing.

Dover Sole Stuffed with Sautéed Baby Kale and Spring Garlic, Maria Reina - Bella Cucina Maria

Season the filets with kosher salt, ground black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a few scrapings of lemon zest. Fold the filets in half using the seam as a guide, sit them upright and make a circle. Add the kale to the center. Bake on a foil lined sheet for about 10 minutes in a 375 degree pre-heated oven. They are super thin and cook quickly.


Whole Foods had mangos on sale this week, five for $5.00. I could not resist. We use them in smoothies and also on top of yogurt. As I did my spin around picking things up I always walk through the beer room to take a peek for the hub. Right next to one of his favorites was a mango infused beer. How could I not with mango on my mind? I’m not a huge beer fan, but a mild fruit-infused pale ale is hard to resist. (It was delicious!)

You can literally queue this up to finish at the same time. The fish and vegetables will take 10 minutes to cook. Remember, 10 for the carrots and five for the asparagus. Though, my suggestion would be to start them a little before. You need to get them out and dressed before the fish is done.

Dover Sole with Kale, Salad with Mango and Avocado, Maria Reina - Bella Cucina Maria

Your last part is the salad. Make that while the fish is cooking. I used green leaf lettuce with some of the mâche, an avocado and mango; but really, you can do anything you like here. The dressing was fresh lemon with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you have any of the green part left from the scallion add that too. The hub brought home a nice semolina bread from the Grand Central Market, but it’s not really necessary. This will be more than enough for dinner.

So there you have it: Dover sole filets with baby kale and spring garlic, steamed asparagus and carrots, and salad. All done in about an hour. A perfect mid-week dinner without a lot of fuss and quite beautiful once plated. Infinitely healthier than what I ate on Tuesday night, and far less expensive than Monday.  I don’t have a recipe for you, only a shopping list. The goal of “What’s for Dinner?” is to find a few ingredients and put them together easily. It’s not rocket science kids … just delicious and easy dishes.

Buon appetito!

Your shopping list: What’s for Dinner?  Fish!
Makes 4 servings

1 lb. of asparagus ($2.99)
1 dozen thumbalina carrots, peeled, or 2-3 regular carrots cut in 2-3″ pieces ($1.50)
1 dozen micro spring garlic stalks, or 1 garlic clove and 2-3 scallions ($1.00)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
1 – 5oz box of baby kale or spinach ($2.99)
Fresh parsley, optional ($1.00)
4 – 6 oz portions of dover sole, or a thin flounder filet  ($20.00)
1 juicy lemon (.50)
1 small green or red leaf lettuce head ($1.99)
1 mango ($1.00)
1 avocado ($1.25)

Approximate cost of ingredients: $34.00
Four fun beers: $6.00
Total: $40.00 or $10.00 per person

Can’t beat that!


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