Easy meals for two for empty nests include Spanish prawns, apple scones

It is done. The third child, our last child, went to college. Everything happened in the classic way: Paul and I took him in a car filled with garbage cans, a fan, new towels and a duvet. We drove down bumpy Highway 88 in a quiet car. We arrived and unloaded, putting clothes in drawers, posters on the walls. There was the necessary trip to Walmart, for the things we forgot.

Then a quick lunch. After, it was time to leave and Elliot was ready for us. So we hugged and I hung on. And then we left. I sure miss him, and most of the time it’s a dull nagging feeling, almost like I’ve forgotten something. And other times it hurts, a lot.

Elliot’s absence from our home is marked by things that are no longer there. Above all, it’s a lot of things. There’s no pile of shoes outside the front door. No piles of laundry and no piles of dishes in the sink. I never thought I would miss the batteries.


I miss him a lot at dinner time. It took some getting used to not seeing him, not looking forward to seeing him. Every day around 4 p.m., I started thinking about home, dinner, seeing my loved ones. Now I remember he’s in college.

Dinner time has changed, of course. It’s calmer. It’s later than before. Paul and I often dig and find what we can in the fridge. The kitchen is not quite dead, although it is different.

I force a look on the bright side, and we can now eat shellfish at home. Elliot is allergic so I wouldn’t cook it at home. I love shells, all that, anything. We traded a kid for a shrimp dinner. This shrimp dish is a particular favorite and a riff on a dish that Paul and I had many years ago at a Spanish restaurant. What I love about Spanish cuisine is its simplicity. The ingredients are few and in these cases make sure to make them count. In other words, don’t be cheap. Use a good olive oil. Buy wild shrimp (they are more brackish and better for the environment). Look for fresh, crunchy garlic, which is spicy and full of flavor. You can buy it easily at the farmers market right now. This recipe is simple to make, good for a quiet dinner for two and just as good for guests. Perhaps the best part is the hot garlic sauce that soaks into the bread, a necessary side dish.

Without Elliot, I can also change the salad routine. Our salad tastes are not the same. He likes the Romaine, with croutons and cheese. Me, I like all the colors in my salads, all kinds of cheeses, herb vinaigrettes and tangy vinegar. I made a salad that I knew he would just choose, and Paul and I had it for dinner and again for lunch the next day. Here’s what’s really good about salads in mid-September: there are so many great summer things to find at the farmer’s market. There are some tomatoes left. There is corn. But since fall is on its way, there are also some fall vegetables. The Delicata squash, if you’re not familiar with it, is worth a look, if only for the beauty of its pale green striped edible skin. Toss the delicata squash with olive oil and roast until the slices are golden brown. These wedges are soft and tender on the inside and crispy and golden on the outside. I roasted it with baby carrots and tender shallots, then paired those things with the last tomatoes from the garden, leftover steamed corn, feta cheese, and sliced ​​almonds. All of these things made for crunch, flavor, and enough color to resemble an artist’s palette. The vinaigrette is another favorite, filled with herbs, creamy avocado with a sweet bite of garlic. Green Goddess can be used as a dip for vegetables or diluted to dress a salad. We ate this salad with chicken that Paul grilled, but it’s hearty enough to stand on its own for a light dinner.

I made a batch of scones to celebrate the arrival of fall, and it surely reminded me of my youngest child. He is a carb and sugar lover and I have often indulged him by buying him muffins, cookies and pastries. Paul and I don’t eat this stuff often, so when I see the apple cider donuts at the market, I turn away and try not to feel sad. An occasional treat is always in order, so I baked the scones. These are warm with lots of cinnamon and subtly sweetened with apple. A note about the sugar I used here: I call it raw or golden sugar, which you can easily find in the baking aisle. These sugars are less processed and have a different flavor than the regular old white variety. They will have hints of molasses and caramel. But you can use white sugar and it will still be good.

We’re not exactly empty nests here, as our middle child, Zoe, has moved in again. She came with her little dog in tow, and she’s going to college, working, and saving her money. I’m so glad they’re here because I don’t want the nest to be empty yet.

So far, Elliot is doing well. He texted, hours after we dropped him off at SUNY Oneonta. He wrote exactly this: “thank you mom and dad, for everything. I’m so happy.” And then he added a red heart. It’s hard to be sad when he’s so happy. We’ll be visiting in a week and I’m sure my excitement and joy is greater than his I also know he’ll be back in a few weeks for fall vacation and I can’t wait to bake him some cakes and see the piles and piles of his things around the house.

Shrimps in garlic sauce

4 servings of appetizer

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

10 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 heaping teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 heaping teaspoon sweet Spanish paprika

1 pound wild-caught large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails on

Juice of a lemon

1 small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt, for garnish

Black pepper

Bread, for serving

  • In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic, red pepper, paprika and salt and stir until the garlic is fragrant and barely golden. Move quickly so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the shrimp, lemon juice and parsley. Quickly stir, coat the shrimp and cook until plump and no longer translucent, 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, season to taste with sea salt and plenty of black pepper, and serve with bread to soak up the juices.

Late summer/early fall salad

For 4 people

Olive oil

1 delicata squash, seeded and sliced

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

4 shallots, peeled and sliced

4 cups of green salad

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Kernels cut from two steamed corn cobs

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup sliced ​​almonds, toasted

Green Goddess Dressing, the recipe follows

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the squash, carrots and shallots with just enough olive oil to coat them lightly, then spread them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use two sheets if vegetables are crowded. Roast for 12 minutes, then stir and roast for another 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and let cool down.
  • Spread the salad leaves on a tray and arrange all the vegetables, cheese and almonds on top.
  • Drizzle with a little vinaigrette and serve the rest on the side.

Green Goddess Dressing

Makes about 1 ½ cups

1 ripe avocado

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup packed fresh mixed herbs (flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, dill, tarragon, etc.)

1 clove garlic, peeled

½ teaspoon of salt

Black pepper

Water, to thin

  • Combine avocado, oil, lemon, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper in a blender. Start the motor and slowly pour in water – up to ⅓ cup, until the dressing is smooth and pourable.
  • The dressing will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container (a small glass jar works well) for three days.

apple and cinnamon cakes

Give 8

For the scones

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon of cinnamon

½ cup raw or golden sugar (see note)

6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter

½ medium tart apple, peeled

½ cup of milk

For garnish

¼ cup raw sugar

Butter, for serving

  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a baking sheet.
  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and sugar.
  • Grate the butter over the large holes of a box grater and stir it into the flour mixture. Use the same grater to grate the apple into the bowl and stir gently to combine. Use your fingers to separate the large chunks of butter.
  • Incorporate the milk, mixing until a homogeneous and soft dough is obtained. Gather and form a large ball, knead several times and place on the prepared baking sheet. Press the dough into an 8″ wide circle. Use a sharp knife to cut the circle into 8 wedges and separate them, just a little. Sprinkle with additional raw sugar.
  • Bake for 22 minutes or until the scones are firm to the touch and golden on the bottom. Let cool and serve with additional butter, if desired.
  • Note: Raw or golden sugar is easily found in the supermarket and has a caramel flavor. You can also use white sugar.

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