“Mad Hungry Family: 120 Essential Recipes to Feed the Whole Crew.” By Lucinda Scala Quinn. Artisan. $27.95.

My spouse and I don’t have any children – unless you count our brown mutt – but we frequently cook like we’re a family of five. That means large casseroles, soups, stews and main courses with several sides. We try not to be gluttons, so our refrigerator is typically stocked with days-worth of leftovers.

With our predilection for cooking way more food than necessary, I was immediately attracted to the premise, but not necessarily the title, of Linda Scala Quinn’s “Mad Hungry Family: 120 recipes to Feed the Whole Crew.” The book is part of Scala Quinn’s “Mad Hungry” line of books, kitchen utensils and television programs.

The artfully designed book is aimed at novice home cooks who want to try their hand at putting food on the family table. While cooking at home is generally healthier for you, Scala Quinn doesn’t put a strong emphasis on the health aspect of the food, opting instead for recipes that are easy to understand, source and prepare.

When I first flipped through “Mad Hungry Family,” I was a little disappointed. All of the meals, divided into sections like poultry, fish, meats, vegetables, salads, eggs and holiday dishes, looked good, but nothing popped off the page.

The dish I was most interested in was probably one of the least sexy, a simple sauté of poblano peppers and potatoes. I was drawn to the mixture’s versatility, as a side dish, base for a fried egg or taco filling.


That didn’t quite seem enough to base a cookbook review on, so days before my deadline I threw a wider net, choosing to also test broiled steak with a side of green beans to go along with my potatoes and peppers.

The results exceeded my expectations. Broiling the steak proved an easier and less messy alternative to searing it on the stovetop, and the super-simple pan sauce of onions, butter and red wine vinegar was delicious.

Adding pan-fried prosciutto to the green beans created an incredibly flavorful dish, and the potatoes and peppers were just spicy enough without becoming harsh. I saved enough to let me eat them with eggs in the morning for a few days.

I went into “Mad Hungry” with low expectations, but now I look forward to tackling many of Scala Quinn’s other recipes. Even if you are a family of one, it’s worth your time to give her meal ideas a try.


Serves 2 to 4


Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

1½ pounds sirloin steak (3/4- to 1-inch thick)

1 onion, halved and sliced

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Preheat the broiler. Place a large oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) as close to the broiler as possible and let it heat for two minutes. Drizzle the steaks with oil and rub it over the meat. Season both sides of the steak generously with salt and pepper. Add the steak to the heated skillet and broil for 6 to 8 minutes (6 minutes for medium-rare). Transfer the steak to a plate to rest.


Heat the now empty skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and butter. Stir and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Pour in the vinegar and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the skillet. Simmer the vinegar until reduced, about 1 minute.

Pour any steak juices from the resting steak into the skillet and remove the sauce from the heat.

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Lay the steak slices on a platter, pour the sauce over top, and serve.


Makes 2 cups

Coarse salt


2 potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 poblano peppers

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, sliced

Boil a pot of salted water. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, 15 to 18 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, roast the chilies on an open flame, rotating as each part chars, until the skin is totally blackened, about 7 minutes. Alternatively, place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil, rotating to achieve the overall charring. Place the roasted chilies into a plastic bag and let them steam for about 15 minutes.

When cool enough to handle, remove 1 pepper at a time from the bag and pull or rub off the skin. Remove and discard the core, ribs and seeds. Tear the flesh into strips and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil. When it shimmers, add the onion and potatoes and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the chili strips and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir to combine and cook, covered, until the onions and potatoes are golden on the edges, about 5 minutes.

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