What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king

Ready, set, food.

Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

This weekend, the kitchen ceiling fell in. We knew it was on its way out (here was one hint from earlier that day:)

but the schedule got pushed up abruptly in a shower of dirt, pencils, and mouse poop. We mulled it over, did a few tests for lead paint, and decided our lives were already ruined anyway, so I tacked up some plastic sheeting and spent the day pulling down the stained, droopy, acoustic tiles that remained.

Underneath, as we suspected? A very promising stamped tin ceiling

with, um, a few problematic areas.


for instance.

Also we found a very fetching mouse skeleton, which, in my frenzy of productivity, I threw away. I now regret this. I also wonder where his head went.

We bought out house from the bank with no information, and have had to do some sleuthing to patch together a history. The previous owners’ home improvement choices are a mixed bag. When the basement was on fire, they just walled that area up. Okay, fair enough. But after the kitchen fire(s), they apparently decided that re-insulating was too much of a hassle, that the ceiling could easily be four inches lower, and that cheap and crappy never goes out of style. And who can fault them?

Oh yeah, us. We fault them! We fault them!

Anyway, here is what the ceiling looks like now:

When we have the emotional wherewithal, we’ll take those beams down (they were just nailed to the tin as a base for the acoustic tiles), remove as much paint as possible, shove a bunch of insulation (and a soupcon of mouse poison) into the holes and patch them up, and paint. Onward and upward.

Here’s an account of some of our previous half-assed kitchen renovations.

Enchilada bake

Several friends tipped me off about making enchiladas so much easier by simply layering the components in a pan, as for lasagna, rather than rolling individual enchiladas.

The result: Yes, far far easier. Not much to look at, though.

The taste is, of course, just the same. I used too much sauce, so they turned out flabbier than even I would like (and I like flabby foods a lot). Verdict: will make again, because they were tasty and satisfying; but will also roll individual enchiladas again, if I have the time, because they’re nicer.

To make them, I coated some chicken breasts with oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, and broiled them, then shredded the meat. In some casserole dishes, I made layers of tortillas, chicken, canned enchilada sauce (I did one pan with red and one with green), shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed, diced onions — probably 3-4 layers of each ingredient– and then baked it in a 350 oven for maybe forty minutes.

We also had sour cream, but I personally declined. I was prepared to scarf down eleventy million calories in chicken and cheese, but forbore to indulge in a dollop of sour cream on top. Please! I am not from Havana!

Moroccan (?) chicken with chickpeas, pomegranates

Pretty fancy meal for a Monday! I was having such a productive day on Sunday, I went ahead and started the chicken marinating then. The rest comes together very quickly. It’s a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT Cooking.


And this is the recipe that taught me I’ve been spelling and saying “turmeric” wrong my entire life. I solved that little problem this time by being clean out of turmeric. I never did have fennel. I decided that as of now, cumin is king.

Let me tell you, there was nothing lacking in flavor for this meal.

It was just screamingly delicious. My husband who hates chickpeas loves this meal.

To make the marinade, I took half a large tub of Greek yogurt and mixed it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin. This I used to marinate probably eight pounds of chicken thighs and wings. I normally don’t like wings — they don’t seem worth the trouble — but for this dish, they were perfect. I let it marinate for 36 hours, but a few hours would work, too.

About an hour before dinner, I drained and rinsed four 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mixed them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two red onions sliced thin.

I spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then made room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken. Then it all went in a 425 oven for almost an hour. The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
Chop up some cilantro.
Slice another two onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Then take the rest of the Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

The sweet, tart pomegranate seeds are just delightful with the crunchy, savory chicken skin and the creamy yogurt sauce. Everyone got a quarter of a pomegranate and just dug in.

This is one of those meals where we kept shouting “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” like a, like I don’t know what. But it was so good! This is a fairly cheap dish, too. Especially if you skip the turmeric.

Spaghetti with jarred sauce and sausages, salad

I had about a dozen long Italian sausages, which I started to cook and then forgot about. Miraculously, they did not burn; but by the time it was dinner, I was so enervated that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut them into normal pieces. So everyone just got a bowl of pasta with a giant sausage lounging on top. No complaints.

Taco Tuesday



Nothing to say about that, except that I tried out one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom (affiliate link through Skimlinks), and it did make the bottom more crisp. Usually we slide the pizza out of its pan for the last several minutes of baking, but this method is far less of an invitation to cheesy disaster.

Tuna boats, roast cauliflower, french fries

Ooh, I think I have some sweet pepper and hummus, too.

Make the chicken! You won’t be sorry! Cumin is king!!!!

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14 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king”

  1. That chicken dish looks delicious. My husband hates chickpeas too. ( I used to make a delicious chickpea soup from the Moosewood cookbook regularly until he confessed he thought of it as penance eating.) Maybe he won’t notice them if they’re roasted and hidden under chicken.

    I usually make chicken enchiladas with leftovers from a whole roasted chicken. First I saute an onion, a red and a green bell pepper and garlic. Then I add a cube of cream cheese and a bit of chicken broth. When the cream cheese is mushy, I add the chicken and stir it all up and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. When I roll the filling up in the flour tortillas, I add a bit of Monterrey Jack to each one (more if I need to stretch the meal). Authentic Mexican food is not as cheese drenched as Americans think. Usually I make my own green enchilada sauce because it is very hard to find canned sauce without MSG. I did find one brand recently that I keep stocked in my pantry for lazy days. I spent over 40 years of my life in Southern California, so I’m very picky about Mexican food. My big food complaint since moving east is that it is very hard to find Menudo.

  2. So sorry about the ceiling – what a pain!
    Sat: those calzones you posted a couple weeks ago. Everyone loved them; going in the regular rotation.
    Sun: chili
    Mon: roast beef and baked potatoes. Yay dutch oven, the safe way to go for incompetent cooks like me. Everyone liked it, and all I did was stick a roast in the dutch oven with a packet of Italian dressing seasoning on it.
    Tues: cream cheese chicken with noodles. Crock-pot win.
    Wed: leftover everything.
    Thurs: my aunt gave us a Cheesecake Factory gift card and babysitting, so she fed the kids Chick-Fil-A and husband and I had a nice meal out.
    Fri: mac and cheese. Sometimes they like it and sometimes everyone complains that it isn’t Kraft; we’ll see which one it is tonight.

  3. I like your summer beam kitchen look and that you got more height in the kitchen!

    My pet theory is that turmeric does nothing except add color.

    I love Indian stores for seasonings–10 lb bag of cumin for $20. They also generally have great prices on nuts, in case there are any expat stores near you.

  4. I also like the TJ light fish sticks for fish tacos. Their cilantro dressing is really good to use on this–gives it moisture and the cilantro taste is very prominent.

  5. I’d love to try some of your international dishes. Not sure how much my Texas hubby would go for it. I’m Texan too but more willing to experiment. Whenever you make those and then you describe how your family loved it, which I assume includes the kids, it gives me hope! lol. I’m going to try the Moroccan Chicken dish. 🙂

  6. You are a gourmet cook in my book!!! I wish I was swimming in money and could give you a massive gourmet kitchen to enjoy! You are such a good sport about your ceiling issues! I hate it happened to y’all.

  7. My greatest culinary triumph this week was fish tacos. I was the recipient of so much food love it made me blush. My seventh kid Xave can get really emotional about food. I think he thanked me 50 times. My husband and I prepared for fat Tuesday with Tequila. I might have been a little sloshed for my book club meeting, but was responsible enough to ask my husband to be my Uber. We talked about how great tequila is on the way there and the fearful possibility of making it a completely dry Lent. I still need some convincing

    The Icelandic Cod was exceptionally good for tacos. I cut it in strips, dipped it in egg, breaded it in Panko (Trader Joe’s version) and fried it in olive oil, finishing with a spritz of lime.

    I made a salsa of green onion, cilantro, tomato and jalapeno with salt, pepper, olive oil, and bit of apple cider vinegar.

    The avocado sauce (avocado, sour cream, heavy cream, lime, apple cider vin., salt, pepper) was extra fancy with some pickled red onion, radish, and marinated red peppers. This was mixed with red and green cabbage.

    I warmed the corn tortillas on the skillet until they were nice and soft.

    1. I also like the TJ light fish sticks for fish tacos. Their cilantro dressing is really good to use on this–gives it moisture and the cilantro taste is very prominent.

      1. I’ve been meaning to try fish sticks for quicky tacos! Trader Joes also has a good, more economical cod that is frozen, but that requires thawing forethought.

        The food bar at Whole Foods is great for getting little garnishes like the pickled onions, just a touch of sliced radish or a scoop of marinated bell pepper. I find that I have fewer jars in my fridge too…

        1. I just thaw fish by filling one side of the sink with hot water, put the bag of frozen fish in there and wait… Maybe turn it over, add some boiling water to make it quicker. It’s fast enough that the fish is unlikely to go off.

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