Aimee’s Pretty Palate: Easy-does-it dinner ideas

Photos by Aimee Broussard

At the time of sitting down to gather my thoughts and my recipes for this column, I’m surrounded by piles and piles of handmade masks being prepared for journeys across the state. These masks will go to medical personnel who are battling the coronavirus pandemic and are in desperate need of personal protective equipment, now forever engrained in our memories as “PPE.”

It started with an email from JoAnn Fabrics offering mask kits to those willing to sew them and donate to area hospitals in need. And then came the request from a high school friend whose daughter, a SICU nurse in Alexandria, was having to reuse the same hospital-issued mask for a 7-day stretch. Next came the text message from Broadmoor Methodist Senior Pastor Donnie Wilkinson, whose Women’s Ministry was supporting the Rural Health Network with masks and had a clinic on the brink of closing. One heartbreaking request after another, and just one week later I found myself serving as team captain for the south Louisiana chapter of the nationwide Sew You Care mask movement, providing free masks to medical professionals in need. To date, about 2,500 masks have come across my porch, where pickups and deliveries have become the norm. Nationwide, the movement is hovering around the 35,000 mask mark, and by the time you read this it will have escalated substantially.

If I told you I had been making dinner every night, I would not be telling the truth. My husband has singlehandedly sailed the kitchen ship and it’s been such a relief—and a conviction that everything found in my Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties cookbook can be easily created by someone with the most basic cooking skills, i.e. my sports administration husband.

The Italian Sausage Sandwiches are quick and easy, and an excuse to get outdoors on a beautiful evening and fire up the grill. The Honey Baked Ham freed up freezer space as we began our stay-at-home quarantine and provided the most delicious sandwiches for the lunch breaks we now share. And the Shrimp Scampi Pasta just can’t be beat for a light and quick meal when everyone is too tired to cook.

Until next time, friends.


ITALIAN SAUSAGE SANDWICHES WITH SKILLET PEPPERS

Ingredients:
6 Italian sausage links
1 (12-oz.) bottle dark beer (Guinness, etc.)
2 medium green bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
6 buns, split
6 slices provolone cheese, halved
Jalapeño peppers, sliced (optional)
Place sausages in a large saucepan; add beer, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until sausages are no longer pink.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, sauté bell peppers and onion in oil until tender. Add garlic, and cook a minute longer. Season with salt and black pepper.
Drain sausages, discarding beer. Grill sausages, covered, over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until browned with grill marks, turning occasionally. Line each bun with cheese and add sausage, then peppers and onion. Top with jalapeño peppers if desired.
Makes 6 servings.

HONEY BAKED HAM

Ingredients:
1 whole (5- to 10-lb.) precooked spiral-cut ham
1 stick butter
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
18 cup orange juice
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a pan large enough to hold ham and its juices with a few layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, or use disposable roasting pans for easy cleanup.
Combine butter, brown sugar, honey, orange juice and spices in a heavy saucepan. Heat on low until butter is melted and ingredients are evenly mixed.
Place ham in lined pan, and brush with the warm honey glaze. Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours, depending on size of ham. (Check packaging for exact cooking times.) Every 15 minutes or so, brush on remaining glaze.
If you’d like top of ham to be more golden brown, turn on broiler for a minute or so to caramelize top. You can also add more glaze with some extra brown sugar, and use a kitchen blow torch.
Let ham rest 10-15 minutes, then remove to a platter to serve.
Makes 8-10 servings.

SHRIMP SCAMPI PASTA

Ingredients:
1 lb. spaghetti (or linguine, if desired)
4 Tbsp. butter, divided
4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
Boil pasta according to package directions, removing before pasta is quite done. Drain pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season shrimp with salt and pepper; add to pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice to pan; bring to a boil. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and 2 Tbsp. oil. When butter has melted, return shrimp to pan along with parsley and cooked pasta. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle more olive oil and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.

Aimee Broussard is a Southern food blogger and award-winning cookbook author. Seen on QVC, Rachael Ray and more, she is a self-proclaimed accidental entrepreneur with a penchant for porches and sweet hospitality. Find her online at aimeebroussard.com.

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