SMPS Houston Chapter News

COOKING 101 with Sandy Roth

By Sandy Roth

Have you already cooked every iteration of your signature dish or favorite recipe, the one you know by heart? Have you and your family become so tired of eating the same rotation of foods that the idea of cooking another meal leaves a bad taste in your mouth? I have some tricks and tips to get you through quarantine tastefully and give you the variety you crave, all with ingredients you are very likely to find in your local supermarket. Get ready to kick your meal routine into high gear!


Breakfast is one of my favorite meals, but since most of us are still working from home, I don’t spend a lot of time or effort here, and would probably reach for something easy, healthy, and fairly quick. Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with fresh fruit, cereal, and yogurt. If you want to cook, make eggs, your favorite way, add some toast with butter and jam.


Let’s face it, lunch is a tough one because typically we are at a professional luncheon or enjoying lunch with co-workers and friends. Sandwiches are a staple for lunch,  so, let’s jazz up a BLT.  Tip: all these ingredients are to taste, no need for measurements and exact amounts. Make it your own.

What you will need:

  • Bread, bakery country white or your favorite
  • Mayonnaise
  • Pesto
  • Arugula
  • Marinated Campari tomatoes (add tomatoes, whole garlic cloves, fresh basil to olive oil)
  • Peppered, thick sliced bacon, cooked crispy

How to:
First, toast your bread. Now add your pesto-mayo spread (make it yourself with store bought pesto mixed with mayo). Add sliced Campari tomatoes that have marinated in olive oil with whole garlic cloves (remove garlic before serving) and fresh basil. At this point, season with a sprinkling of sea salt and cracked pepper. Top with peppery arugula or any greens you prefer and add crispy thick sliced bacon, followed by your other slice of bread. Serve with any store-bought chips, fruit, or prepared sides from your favorite grocer.

  • Tip: Roast your tomatoes (about 400 degrees for approx. 50-60 minutes) on a lined cookie sheet tossed with olive oil, chopped garlic, dried basil and oregano, crushed red pepper until they are soft and caramelized.
  • Bonus Tip: Marinate more tomatoes than you need for the sandwich and use them to make a margarita pizza for dinner! Add mozzarella to a store-bought pizza crust, like Boboli or fresh dough. Top with pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes, and fresh basil! Pizza made simple.


FOR PEAS SAKE! Before the shut down, I rushed to buy frozen vegetables to have on hand and got carried away with copious amounts of frozen peas. This is a recipe that is so easy, and it is served cold – so no messing up a lot of pots and pans. Just ladle and serve. Published by Saveur, June 2011.  

What you will need:

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small or 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 4 cups frozen peas
  • 1 qt. vegetable stock
  • 12 fresh large basil leaves (10 whole, 2 finely sliced for serving)
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sour cream or your best, highest-quality olive oil, for serving

How to:
Heat the olive oil in a small soup pot over medium heat, add the onion, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the peas and stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the whole basil leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup cool and then whiz in a blender until smooth. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Serve garnished with a spoonful of sour cream and the finely sliced basil.


SALAD: Make salad with what you have on hand. Greens, fresh herbs, grated cheese, fresh vegetables, fruits, dried fruits, nuts, croutons. You can’t go wrong! Make up a simple vinaigrette and get creative, change the vinegars, the sugars, the acids, different dried herbs, different kinds of mustards. Have fun with it! Published by Bon Appetit April 2019.

What you will need for a Basic Vinaigrette:

  • 1 ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup vinegar of your choice, red wine, white wine, sherry, champagne, balsamic
  • 1 TBL Dijon mustard
  • 1 TBL honey
  • Salt

How to:
Combine all ingredients in a sealable jar and shake vigorously.


This is where I’d focus my efforts. Nothing fancy. Pasta is always a crowd pleaser, it’s affordable, and usually, we have items in our pantry to whip up a delicious bowl of pasta and sauce. One of my favorite pasta dishes is so simple and uses only 1 pot! I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart. Take a photo of ingredients in the pan before cooking. It’s Instagram worthy!  

What you will need:

  • 12 oz. linguine
  • 12 oz. of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 basil sprigs, plus more (torn) for sprinkling on completed dish
  • Salt
  • 4 and ½ cups water
  • Grated parmesan for serving

How to:  
Combine pasta, tomatoes, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and water in a large straight-sided skillet. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and water has nearly evaporated, about 9 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, divide among 4 bowls, and garnish with basil. Serve with oil and Parmesan.


Other ideas that don’t require recipes. Keep it simple.

BEEF: Grill or sear your favorite cut of beef, filet, or ribeye to your desired temperature, let it rest. If you are using a cast iron skillet, deglaze your pan with some red wine, getting up all the cooked bits - add some mustard, fresh thyme if you have some, and then let it reduce. Take off the heat, finish off with some butter. Voile! You have a simple and delicious pan sauce. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper. While your steak is resting, sauté your favorite vegetable. Dinner with no recipe!

  • Tip: while reducing your pan sauce, if you add the butter on the heat, you might break the sauce.

So versatile. Sauté boneless, skinless breasts until cooked through. Add some lemon juice (a few teaspoons – not from the plastic lemon – buy fresh lemons), and about 1 cup of chicken stock, scrape up the brown bits. Take off the heat, finish with butter. Serve with very thin pasta tossed in olive oil, fresh parsley, and salt, and pepper. Dinner done. No recipe.

FISH: Don’t be afraid of cooking fish. I prefer red snapper or red fish. Lightly salt and pepper a fish filet, sauté or grill it. Add a squeeze of lemon, fresh herbs. Serve with marinated cherry tomatoes and herbs as your side.

  • Tip: Don’t overcook your fish! I prefer medium rare for my fish, not cooked through, moist and flaky!
  • Bonus Tip: Buy fish the day you are serving it.


MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Get creative and have fun!


Submitted by Sandy Roth, Marketing Manager at Fugro. Sandy has been a dedicated member of SMPS since 2010, and is the current Houston Chapter Past President. 





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