Please every­one at the ta­ble with these fun top­pings


Have you ever felt dur­ing a din­ner party that no mat­ter what you make, you just can’t seem to please every­one? That’s cer­tainly hap­pened to me.

One way to deal with this is to cre­ate a ba­sic dish and then ask your guests to pro­vide the fun top­pings. I did this re­cently and it was a huge suc­cess. Be­low are three of my fa­vorite top­pings ideas for a base dish like cheesy risotto, pasta, farro, cous cous or just plain rice. Of course, the sky is the limit.

Fried Zuc­chini Rib­bons This recipe makes use of a spi­ral­izer (spi­ral veg­etable slicer), which is my fa­vorite new kitchen gad­get. 3 zucchinis, rinsed, ends re­moved and placed in a Spi­ral­izer and turned into zuc­chini rib­bons 1 to 2 eggs, beaten, placed in a shal­low bowl 1 cup panko com­bined with 1/4 cup grated parme­san cheese, placed in a shal­low bowl Salt to taste (you may re­quire more) 1 pinch of your fa­vorite dry sea­son­ings (I ac­tu­ally like to use a lit­tle more grated parme­san) Oil for fry­ing Spi­ral­ize the zuc­chini. Dip it in the egg bath, shake it off, then dredge it through the panko mix­ture. Set it on a clean sur­face.

In a medium sauce pot add enough oil (usu­ally 1 1/2 inch up the side of the pot) to fry the zuc­chini a few spi­rals at a time. The best tem­per­a­ture for the oil is 350 to 375 de­grees. If you don’t have a ther­mome­ter, start at medium heat.

Sprin­kle a lit­tle flour in the oil — when it siz­zles, it is about the right tem­per­a­ture. With a slot­ted spoon, re­move the zuc­chini when it is crispy (this takes about 1 to 2 min­utes to fry) and set it on a pa­per towel lined plate. Fry the re­main­ing zuc­chini. You may have to reg­u­late the tem­per­a­ture. Sprin­kle with salt and your fa­vorite sea­son­ing. Serve as a top­ping.

Grill Chicken Manchego 2 ta­ble­spoons thyme leaves 1 tea­spoon rose­mary 1 tea­spoon sea salt 1 tea­spoon freshly ground black pep­per 1 heap­ing ta­ble­spoon lemon zest, the zest from about one large lemon 1 1/2 pounds Chicken Breast, sliced into cut­lets (you might have left­overs) 100% olive oil (for grilling) 1 cup shred­ded Manchego cheese (or white ched­dar cheese is great) In a large zi­plock bag, com­bine the thyme, rose­mary, salt, pep­per and lemon zest and close the bag and shake. Add in the chicken cut­lets and toss ev­ery­thing around un­til it is well coated.

When you are ready to grill the dish, wipe down the grates with 100 per­cent olive oil and turn on the grill to medium heat. The grill grates must be well-sea­soned oth­er­wise the meat will stick. If you can’t get it well sea­soned, it’s best to brush a lit­tle olive oil on your cut­lets be­fore cook­ing.

Place the cut­lets on the grill and cook them for about 2 to 3 min­utes per side. It may take less or more time, de­pend­ing on their lo­ca­tion on the grates and the heat your grill is gen­er­at­ing. The chicken is done when it is opaque in­side. A minute be­fore fin­ish­ing, evenly di­vide up the shred­ded cheese on the chicken and close the lid so that it will melt. Slice it on the di­ag­o­nal and serve as a top­ping.

Sautéed Onions and Pep­pers 1 large sweet onion, outer skin re­moved; halved from end to end, and then cut into thin slices try­ing to keep a piece of the core/ end on both ends so the slices stay to­gether 1 red bell pep­per, cored, seeded and cut into thin spears 1 green bell pep­per, cored, seeded and cut into thin spears 1 yel­low bell pep­per, cored, seeded and cut into thin spears In a large skil­let over medium heat, sauté the onions for about 7 min­utes un­til they start to re­lease their juices. I like my onions su­per caramelized, so I usu­ally cook them longer. Just be care­ful they don’t burn.

Next add in the pep­pers and stir ev­ery­thing gently to­gether. Cook the mix­ture for an­other 7 min­utes mov­ing ev­ery­thing around the pan so it does not burn. Serve as a top­ping ei­ther whole or roughly chopped.

Cook­ing at Home is a weekly col­umn where Re­becca dishes on what she’s been mak­ing.

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