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Weekday dinner inspirations: Pasta With Fresh Herbs and more

Mon | Love me tenders

Make a salad with zing by scattering spicy chicken tenders over sturdy Romaine. Buffalo-Inspired Chicken Salad can be made with takeout fingers or nuggets. Make your own by dipping chicken pieces in beaten egg and dredging in seasoned flour. Saute until brown on each side and bake for about 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven. Coat with a mixture of hot sauce and melted butter. Lay over greens that have been mixed with shredded cheese, diced cucumber and celery. Serve with blue cheese dressing.

Tue | Something fishy

Crunchy Parmesan Fish Fillets only seem fried. Dredge firm fish (like cod, grouper or halibut) in beaten egg then coat with a mixture that's half grated Parmesan cheese and half crushed cornflakes (or panko). Add a little cayenne to the mix if you want some heat. Coat a baking dish with nonstick spray and bake the fillets for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees. When halfway through, flip. They are done when the fish is flaky and opaque. Serve with macaroni salad and fresh fruit.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

Buy the bird and make Pasta With Fresh Herbs (recipe below) to go with. This is a great recipe for using up leftover fresh herbs. Forgo the rosemary. Its powerful taste will muscle out anything else. A good combo is parsley and basil, with a bit of thyme.

Thur | Between two slices

Roast Beef Sandwiches go uptown with a slather of blue cheese dressing, sliced red onions and creamy butterkase cheese. (Okay, use cheddar if you've got it; hold the singles, please.) Pile it high on hoagie rolls or even split Cuban bread. Serve with pickled green beans, okra or even asparagus.

Fri | It's snowing somewhere

So make some soup to offer long-distance support. Quick White Bean & Ham Soup starts with a cubed ham steak. In a pot, saute minced onions and chopped celery in vegetable oil. Add the diced ham and 1 teaspoon of dried herbs (nearly anything you have on hand or a combination). Add vegetable broth and 2 cans of drained and rinsed white beans (Great northern or cannellini). Heat through. Serve with rolls.

Read Stir Crazy online at www.blogs.tampabay.com/food. Submit your ideas for quick weeknight meals to jkeeler@sptimes.com.

>>easy

Pasta With Fresh Herbs

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup or more mixed herbs, such as parsley, dill, chervil, basil, tarragon, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram or mint (leaves and thin stems only)

1 tablespoon butter, optional

Salt

1 pound linguine or other long pasta

Freshly ground pepper

Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, combine the oil and garlic in a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium-low. Saute gently, just until the garlic begins to color, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile, wash, dry and mince the herbs. Place them in a bowl large enough to hold the pasta. Cut the butter into bits, if you're using it, and add it to the bowl.

Salt the boiling pasta water and cook the pasta until tender but not mushy. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and toss with the herbs and reserved oil-garlic mixture. Add a little more olive oil or some of the pasta water if you did not use butter and mixture seems dry. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4 as side dish.

Source: The Minimalist Cooks Dinner by Mark Bittman (Broadway; 2001)

Weekday dinner inspirations: Pasta With Fresh Herbs and more 12/09/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 3:30am]

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