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Menu ideas for the week: lemon chicken, vodka pasta, grouper

Looking for dinner ideas? We share our weekly menu plans.

Whenever my friend Julie Overton, a taster on our Taster’s Choice food panel, makes a trip to Detwiler’s grocery store in Manatee County, she offers to pick up anything I need. Even if I don’t ask, she usually calls to share the price of beef tenderloin, one of our favorite indulgences. Recently, she found a smaller one that required trimming, but it was a perfect size, about four pounds, for my family of four. I watched a couple videos to refresh my memory on how to prepare a tenderloin, and took the time to trim and tie it myself. It was worth the effort. I got two meals out of it — and they were spectacular.

Here are the dinners I made recently.


Beef tenderloin: I prefer the method of cooking this on high heat (500 degrees) for a short period of time (25 minutes for medium-rare). I took the trimmed tenderloin out of the fridge for about an hour until it was close to room temperature. Make sure it’s dry, and then rub it with butter or olive oil and salt and pepper. This week, thanks to a delivery from my colleague Michelle Stark, I had some fresh rosemary to include in the rub. Some of my friends like to sear the meat on the stove before putting it in the oven. Admittedly, that adds a nice char and flavor, but it’s an extra step I usually skip. It’s also important not to overcook the tenderloin. I prefer mine on the rarer side, so I pull it out of the oven at 20 minutes and let it rest about 15 minutes before serving. It’s a nice roast to slice really thin. I served it with mashed potatoes and asparagus. I had a roll of biscuits in the fridge that I popped in the oven while the meat was resting.


Lemon chicken: This is a dish that’s easy to make, and I usually have all the ingredients on hand. I had a few lemons this week and some fresh thyme so I followed Ina Garten’s recipe on Chicken, lemons, garlic, olive oil and even dried herbs will churn out a meal for a family of any size. I served this chicken over rice and added a fancy side — a zucchini and corn souffle. I had some extra zucchini and fresh ears of corn from a farm basket I had ordered. The recipe came from, and it was a crowdpleaser. It took a little prep (grating zucchini and whipping egg whites) but it baked into a luscious, slightly crusted and very fluffy dish. I’ll be making this again, but probably when I can have company, because it makes for a great presentation.


Vodka pasta: My daughter spent her fall semester in Italy and was craving some of the dreamy pasta dishes she enjoyed there. Her roommate from the study abroad program sent a recipe for Fusilli alla Vodka with Basil and Parmesan from and said it was “exactly” like the dish from one of their favorite restaurants in Florence. She was right, according to my daughter. I used corkscrew pasta and a little extra tomato paste for color.

Related: More menu ideas: slow-roasted chicken, rice bowls, fennel pork chops


Beef Bourguignon: This is not a traditional weeknight dinner in our house. But I had the time and I had beef tenderloin leftover from our Sunday supper, so I made Julia Child’s famous beef recipe using a recipe on Stew meat is fine for this dish as well. I used an entire bottle of red wine and substituted dried herbs for some of the fresh ones that I may not have on hand. I also keep a bag of peeled pearl onions in the freezer. I draw the line at peeling tiny onions, but they add texture and flavor to the dish, for sure. I served this over crusty bread this week, although I usually make mashed potatoes.


Grouper and snapper: My husband and son had a successful fishing trip over the weekend, so we had fresh grouper and lane snapper. I don’t do the filleting but I am happy to cook the fish. I usually bread it with flour, egg and bread crumbs (a mixture of Italian and panko crumbs for texture). I saute the fish on the stove in butter and olive oil (not too much) and finish it in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes. The secret to cooking fish is to make sure it’s not overcooked. As soon as the flesh is white and not see-through, it’s done. I served it with white sticky rice (a throwback from my childhood in Hawaii) and some chopped purple carrots (another treat from a farm basket). The snapper filets are especially tasty but they are small and very thin, so cooking times are extra speedy. I sometimes make a lemon butter sauce to drizzle over the fish, although when the fish is fresh, it doesn’t really need more than a squeeze of lemon.


Homemade pizza: We got some pizza dough from the Publix bakery and thawed some frozen marinara sauce that I made a couple weeks ago. It was a perfect way to use up some of the leftover chicken, steak and veggies from the week’s meals. I grated mozzarella cheese and had some fresh Parmesan for extra flavor. I made a side salad for the dinner and a boxed mix of brownies as an added treat for dessert.