Have you ever wondered why restaurants have nightly specials? There are many reasons, actually, but they all have one thing in common: spontaneity. Nightly specials are a way to cook with seasonal fruits and vegetables, the catch of the day, unexpected leftovers, and spur-of-the-moment market finds. They are also a way for chefs to experiment with exciting new ingredients, develop their own signature dishes, and road-test new ideas that may eventually become regular menu features.
If these reasons sound familiar, that’s because they all apply to home cooks as well.
Because there’s no set menu in a home kitchen, every dinner is a nightly special. But all too often, home cooks find themselves in a rut, recycling the same meals week after week. Nightly Specials shows home cooks how restaurant and home cooking can meet. Acclaimed New York chef and host of the Travel Channel’s Epicurious, Michael Lomonaco, along with award-winning food writer Andrew Friedman, offer up 125 recipes that use fresh and spontaneous ingredients to create innovative starters, salads, entrees, sides, and desserts. All the recipes are simple, loosely improvised dishes that will inspire home cooks to be flexible and remain open to each day’s culinary possibilities. Best of all they can be selected at the last minute and cooked successfully in relatively little time.
No matter what the season or occasion, you’ll find the perfect recipe in Nightly Specials. Toss together salads like Cool Roasted Beets with Mint or Mango and Red Onion Salad with Basil Vinaigrette. Warm up with a bowl of Curried Pea Soup with Frizzled Ginger or Moroccan Lamb Stew. Main courses include everything from quick-comforting favorites such as Supermarket Mushroom Risotto to show-stoppers such as Hacked Chile Lobster and Boneless Roast Leg of Lamb with Feta Cheese, Olives, and Eggplant. Desserts range from holiday classics such as Pear-Cranberry Upside-Down Cake to peak-of-the-summer favorites such as Plum and Peach Cobbler and indulgences such as Baked Alaska with Coconut Sorbet and Chocolate Ice Cream and Chocolate Truffles.
In Nightly Specials Michael Lomonaco, former chef at Manhattan’s Windows on the World and Le Cirque, offers 125 easy dishes–food for everyday enjoyment. Avoiding complication and fussy invention, Lomonaco focuses principally on old favorites, like Maryland-Style Crab Cakes and Chicken Pot Pie, to which he often gives a satisfying twist. (His meatloaf, for example, contains pecorino cheese, tomatoes, and oregano.) Included also are “original dishes” like Hacked Chile Lobster, Corn Cakes with Smoked Salmon, and Beef and Porter Stew, also uncomplicated to prepare. The Lomonaco approach extends to tempting desserts like Triple Berry and Pecan Crunch Pie, Silky Coconut Flan, and a particularly good flourless chocolate cake. Recipe variations called Nightly Specials–you can, for example, exchange grilled chicken breast for the roast beef in a hash with mushrooms–round out this very attractive collection. All the dishes celebrate an improvisatory spirit that leads cooks to create menus based on what’s freshest in the market–your own nightly specials. –Arthur Boehm
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