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The Dinner Bell

It's dinner time! These bell-ringers take 30 minutes or less
from start to table. We let you adjust for the size of the party.
Dinner Bell recipes have fewer key ingredients than our
Main Dish category, require no advanced prep, yet promise
minimal clean-up and maximum enjoyment.

Chicken Mediterranean

Joy's Pesto

Pasta Princeton


Sautéed Bay Scallops with Saffron

Swampscott Sole with Sauce Mornay

Sweet Onion, Portobello, and Fontina Sandwiches


Sweet Onion, Portobello, and Fontina Sandwiches
This delicious burger-like vegetarian sandwich tastes as good as it looks. Arugula adds a nutty, peppery note. From The Sweet Onion Source.

Serves 4 - multiply recipe as needed.

  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • Olive oil as needed
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, about 4 1/4 to 5 inches in diameter, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 round sandwich rolls, split
  • 1 cup diced, roasted red bell peppers
  • 4 ounces Fontina cheese, sliced
  • Arugula (optional) or other leafy green

Separate onion slices into rings; toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper; spread out on a baking sheet. Brush mushrooms on both sides with olive oil; season well with salt and pepper. Put on a baking sheet. Bake vegetables at 500° F until onions just begin to brown and mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, spread 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise on cut sides of each roll. When vegetables are done, layer 1/4 cup roasted peppers, 1 mushroom, one fourth of the onion slices, and one fourth of the cheese slices on the bottom of each bun. Top with several leaves of arugula (optional) or other leafy green; cover with top of bun. Return to hot oven; bake until cheese melts, about 3 minutes.

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 6 veal scaloppine
  • 6 paper-thin slices of prosciutto
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup Chardonnay*
  • Additional sprig of fresh sage

Place flour in a shallow plate or bowl. Add a couple of shakes of salt and pepper and stir with a fork. Dredge (dip) scaloppine in flour mixture and coat both sides. Pin a slice of prosciutto and a fresh sage leaf to one side of each scaloppine with a toothpick (sage on top).

Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet or frying pan. Sauté scaloppine for 2 minutes on the veal side and 1 minute on the prosciutto and sage side. Be sure scaloppine is cooked through. Transfer to a heated platter and keep warm.

Turn the heat under the pan to high. Pour wine into the pan and stir well. Reduce over high heat for 2 minutes. Pour the sauce over the scaloppine and serve garnished with a sprig of sage.

* Drink the rest.

Chicken Mediterranean
Quickly serves one very hungry person or two restrained people. Multiply at will (the portions, that is). Prep the dried mushrooms, have all your ingredients measured and ready, put on the rice and you'll be ready to dine in 30 minutes. Also perfect with couscous.

  • 2 or 3 dried porcini mushrooms (each the size of a quarter would be nice, or bits and pieces to equal that)
  • boiling water to cover the mushrooms
  • a couple tablespoons of chicken broth or bouillon
  • 1 tablespoon of capers, drained
  • the zest of half an orange
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 pound fresh chicken stir-fry meat OR 1 skinless chicken breast, pounded
  • the juice of half an orange
  • 1/2 a small anchovy fillet, mashed, or 1/ 2 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put the dried mushrooms in a Pyrex cup and just cover with boiling water. Set aside to soak while you prep the remaining ingredients.

In a small saucepan, simmer the broth, capers, and orange peel. Chop the rehydrated mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Save a couple of tablespoons of the mushroom water for a later task (make sure it's not gritty). Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes and then move on to the next task.

In a saute pan, skillet or small wok, heat the butter and the oil until very hot. Add the chicken stir fry, brown quickly for just a few minutes and remove with tongs OR add the chicken breast and cook about 5 minutes per side until browned. Remove the chicken.

Let the hot fat and chicken juices reduce for a couple of minutes. Then, over high heat, return the chicken to the pan and add the sauce. Add the orange juice. Cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce has reduced even further, turning the chicken from time to time.

Remove chicken once more. Stir anchovy paste into a couple tablespoons of the reserved mushroom water and add to pan. Let the sauce bubble for a minute or two. Return the chicken to the pan, turn it a few times, and serve with plenty of the sauce on a good sticky rice or couscous. Good ol' reliable steamed broccoli on the side would be nice. Chocolate for dessert.

Acknowledgements to Mimmetta LoMonte's book Classic Sicilian Cooking for this recipe's inspiration.

Swampscott Sole with Sauce Mornay

Baking time takes this main course slightly over the 30 minute mark, but it's just so easy and delicious! Start the rice when the fish goes in the oven, prep a salad, and dinner will be on the table before you know it. Children love this dish!

Ingredients per serving:

  • 2 fillets of sole, flounder or, in a pinch, tilapia
  • 1/2 cup Cheez-Its, crushed
  • 1/2 cup Sauce Mornay (recipe below)
  • Nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Begin to prepare the Sauce Mornay. While the butter and flour (roux) for the sauce are gently cooking, grease a baking dish that will just hold the number of rolled fillets you plan to cook. Dredge the fillets in the crushed Cheez-Its, roll them up, and secure with a toothpick. Arrange the rolled fish in the baking dish and sprinkle the top with the remaining crushed crackers.

Finish preparing the Sauce Mornay. While the sauce is reaching a boil, put some rice on to cook.

When the Sauce Mornay is prepared, pour over the fillets as evenly as possible and dust the top with nutmeg. Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and the fish is cooked through. While the fish is baking, prep a side salad, put your feet up for a few minutes, and look forward to a savory feast.


Sauce Mornay

Once you've made this sauce, it will become a classic in your cooking repertoire. Makes one cup.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup very, very hot milk (just before boiling point)
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • Splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To create the roux (the butter and flour mixture), melt the butter in a small, deep, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Do not let it brown. Add the flour, and with a wire whisk, blend the roux until smooth. Cook the roux for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to reduce the raw flour flavor. The roux may darken slightly, but again, don't let it brown. Take the pan on and off the heat if necessary. Then, while stirring, add the hot milk all at once. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently from the bottom. Simmer gently for a few minutes as it thickens. Whisk in dry mustard, Worcestershire, and cayenne. Stir in cheese until melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Please note: Sauce Mornay is a bechamel (white sauce) with cheese added. Although the mustard and Worcestershire are traditional seasonings, they are optional. The cayenne is a foodies suggestion.

Joy's Pesto
Pesto for a crowd. Makes approximately two cups of pesto or enough for 2 lbs of pasta.

  • 2 garlic cloves (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup of your best extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tablespoons pignoli (pine) nuts
  • generous pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup freshly grated Locatelli romano cheese*

In a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, mince the garlic cloves. Add the next four ingredients and grind to desired consistency (I prefer mine with some texture - it hangs better and looks prettier on the pasta). Add cheese and blend quickly. Place in the bottom of the pasta serving bowl.
Add the hot cooked pasta, toss, and serve IMMEDIATELY with additional grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

*For a milder flavor, use half romano and half parmesan. Just make sure it's freshly grated. (Hint: Your food processor is all set up for this recipe. Grate a wedge. If you're still using the Kraft shake bottle, go to your room!)

For more tips on preparing a superb pesto, click here.

Sautéed Bay Scallops with Saffron
An elegant, colorful, quick meal. Bay scallops are the small, tender variety. They are considerably less expensive than their larger cousins, the sea scallops, and are found in most major US supermarkets.

  • one yellow or orange bell pepper, sliced in lengthwise strips and then halved
  • butter, approximately 1/2 stick
  • hot pepper flakes
  • basil, fresh or dried
  • 1 1/2 diced plum tomatoes (or a 14 1/2 oz. can of Del Monte Fresh Cut diced tomatoes) with the juice drained, saved and set aside
  • saffron, preferably powdered, about 1/2 an envelope (or to taste for the experienced saffron user)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 pound bay scallops
  • Serve over white rice cooked in fish bouillon (Knorr's brand works well - one bouillon to each cup of raw rice).

    Start the rice. Heat the oven to 170-200 degrees Fahrenheit for the purpose of keeping different stages of the prepared food warm as you cook on the stove top. Have all your ingredients ready to go.

    In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the peppers at medium high until tenderized. With a slotted spoon, put the peppers in a large heat-proof serving dish and place in the oven to keep warm.

    In the same skillet, heat the drained, diced tomatoes with the pepper flakes and basil, stirring frequently. Salt to taste.

    If dinner is ready to be served, scrape out the skillet putting the hot, seasoned tomatoes in with those peppers in the oven. Add the remaining butter to the skillet. While the butter is melting, dissolve the powdered saffron in two reserved tablespoons of the tomato juice. When the butter begins to bubble, add the scallops, stirring gently but continuously, until the scallops are just opaque and not quite cooked (only a few minutes at medium high). Stir in the saffron and tomato juice mixure.

    Add the peppers and tomatoes from the oven to the scallops in the skillet and stir. Add any additional tomato juice if the dish looks too dry. Taste for salt. Put a cover on the skillet and simmer for about 30 seconds and remove from heat. DO NOT OVERCOOK SCALLOPS. Put the whole delicious mixture back in the hot serving dish -- it's ready for the table!

    Serve over seasoned rice with a good California chardonnay. For some reason beyond my ken, this dish is delicious with a side of buttered Brussels sprouts.

    Serves four.

    Pasta Princeton
    Editor's Note: What I learned at college: "Necessity is the mother of invention." I invented the following recipe on a starving student's budget. You get your protein (egg and cheese), your carbs (pasta), your green vegetable (peas), and your garlic (garlic). Now I serve it at dinner parties to rave reviews. - Joy

    You can fix this in under 15 minutes with a little practice. This can be a one pan, one colander meal. I do suggest you serve it on a plate. Read this recipe through before beginning to cook. (What I also learned at college: "Timing is everything.")

    For each serving you will need approximately:

    • 1/3 lb of pasta (shells or tubes are nice-- they catch the peas)
    • 1/3 cup frozen peas
    • 2 tablespoons of butter
    • 1 small egg, beaten
    • a small garlic clove
    • 1/2 cup loosely packed, shredded mozzarella or jack cheese
    • 1/8 cup grated, good quality Parmesan or Romano and some for the table
    • freshly grated black pepper

    In a large pot of rapidly boiling and salted water, cook the pasta uncovered and at a good boil. While the pasta is cooking, measure out the rest of the ingredients and have them standing by. Put the colander in the sink. Approximately 4 minutes before the pasta is cooked, be sure the burner is on "high." Stir in the peas, cover the pan, and bring the contents back to a boil as quickly as possible. Once the pot reboils, remove the cover while it continues to cook.

    When the pasta is al dente, toss the contents of the pot into the colander (I told you to put it in the sink!). Put the hot pot on a handy surface. Don't worry about the peas. They are still cooking in the hot pasta. While the pasta and peas drain, quickly, and I mean quickly, throw the butter, the garlic clove, and the beaten egg in the still hot but empty pot. Immediately add the steaming pasta and both cheese. Toss like a mad person! Serve with plenty of freshly grated black pepper and a little more of that grated cheese.

    Clean up hint: Isn't washing up after melted cheese a challenge? Try rinsing the pan in cold water. Then scrape out as much cheese as possible with a metal spatula onto a paper towel. Put the pot in the dishwasher, top rack, facing down, or wash in extremely hot water. - Joy


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