How’s it hanging? Straight down? Yeah.
Here’s what we had for supper this week:
Chicken marinara sandwiches; broccoli and dip
We had lots of wonderful sauce left over from the chicken cutlets last week, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the oven and we had them on toasted rolls with sauce and slices of provolone.
Feeble picture, excellent sandwich. I looked for basil, but the stores were completely out, for some reason. Probably all those people whipped up into hysteria by the weather forecasters. You best go out and pick up some basil, Travis!
Chicken with chickpeas, pita and yogurt sauce; fried eggplant
Old reliable. You marinate the chicken (thighs or wings are best, and you MUST leave the skin on) in a cumin yogurt sauce for several hours, and the skin takes on the most amazing texture when you cook it.
I usually make two pans, with the chickpeas spread in among the chicken, which results in some crisp chickpeas on the edges and some rather soggy ones. So this time, tapping my finger cleverly against my temple, I put all the chicken in one pan and all the chickpeas in the other, on a lower oven rack. It worked! The chickpeas came out crisp and wonderful, with nice layers of crunch and a little soft center.
Then the kids told me they prefer them soggy. Tra la la.
I usually serve this with lemony red onion slices and fresh cilantro, but I forgot to buy onions, lemons, and cilantro, so it was a struggle.
I bought the eggplants purely out of a magpie impulse. So shiny, so pneumatic, so purply purple.
Such a lot of work to make them taste like anything. It actually wasn’t that hard, though. In the morning, I sliced the eggplant (leaving the skin on) and sprinkled both sides of the slices generously with salt, then laid them on napkins on a tray.
This draws out the moisture, and you can do it way, way ahead of time.
Before dinner, I made up a batter of flour, baking powder, water, and seasonings, and just dredged the eggplant through it before frying them in a few inches of hot oil.
This recipe turned out to be enough for about 1.5 large eggplants, so I will make a double recipe next time. I had to skimp a bit on the batter, which is sad.
Very good. The texture was perfect, crisp and knobbly outside and tender inside.
The spices in the batter did a kind of slow burn rather than packing a punch, so I may up the seasoning next time, but I may not. In any case, now I know I can make fried eggplant! About half the kids ate it. Hey, it’s hot, batter fried food with salt on top that you can dip in stuff. They kept saying it was good zucchini, just to drive me crazy. I really don’t like zucchini.
The kids also made a lemon cake from a mix and topped it with strawberries. Pretty!
Pork ramen with pickled carrots
I forgot to make soft boiled eggs for this, but it was still a good, filling meal. I cooked up the boneless pork ribs in oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thinly, doused them with soy sauce, and finished cooking.
We also had pickled carrots (recipe card at end), fresh snow peas, scallions, sautéed mushrooms, and sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, and crunchy noodles of some kind.
Boy, those snow peas were great. Little sriracha sauce on top, yum yum.
Meatloaf; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots
Nothing spectacular, but everyone is always happy on meatloaf day. I make my meatloaf with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, oregano, and plenty of Worcestershire sauce, mostly beef with some ground turkey, one egg and and half a cup of breadcrumb per pound of meat, and ketchup on the outside. Ghastly but tasty.
I made the vegetables with a sauce of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil and some basic seasonings, and spread them in a shallow pan to roast.
Oh man, those little charred outside leaves of the Brussels sprouts.
The carrots were underdone and it looks like I didn’t do a great job of combining the binder with the meat, but we were too hungry to care.
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese
I was thrilled with this soup. I’ll make it again in the summer when there are decent fresh tomatoes, but it was delicious with canned, and very easy. Fry up bacon, then cook up onions and garlic in the bacon grease. Add tomatoes and tomato juice and bay leaf, and simmer for a while. Then take the tomatoes out and puree them with cream cheese, and put that back into the soup. I threw in some fresh rosemary we had from last week’s porchetta.
I had some cream to add, but it didn’t end up needing it. Tons of flavor and texture.
We had grilled cheese with muenster on sourdough, and it was an immensely satisfying winter meal.
I briefly considered putting out salad, but fought past that impulse.
Omelettes; home fries
Choice of ham, cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions.
All ten omelettes I made tasted fine, but were very unsightly. It’s time for me to admit that I am just too jumpy to make good-looking omelettes.
Oh well. We started on a high note because Corrie made her very own omelette (all I did was the folding part)
and she was so extremely proud of herself, it lit up the whole house.
We also had home fries. Potatoes cut in wedges, mixed up with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and cooked in a hot oven for forty minutes or so.
I cooked them in the morning and heated them up in the evening. I had mine with hot sauce, and now I shall do this for the rest of my life.
Mac and cheese
I think we’re kind of tired of the Instant Pot kind, so I’ll go back to the old style, which I learned from the WIC cookbook, where you make the cheese sauce separately and then add it to the cooked macaroni.
This is actually a really good marker of how my standards have changed. It used to seem like SO MUCH TROUBLE to make a sauce from scratch, cook pasta separately, and combine them in a dish. You end up making two pots AND a casserole dish dirty, and that’s not counting the pan for buttering the bread crumbs; and that felt intolerable. I’ve gotten much more used to the idea of putting time and effort into dinner.
But my life is also much, much easier now, with the kids being older, me sleeping most nights, life being calmer and more predictable in general, and Damien being home so much. And never underestimate how stressful and exhausting it is to be always about to run out of money, and to know that, if you fall in a hole, there won’t be any foreseeable way out. It colors everything you do.
Which is to say: If you cook mainly easy things, and more complex dishes seem out of your grasp, chances are good you’re not lazy or terrible. Your life is just hard right now, and your mental and physical energy needs to go elsewhere. If nobody is starving, you’re doing fine. I just wanted you to know that.
Here are this week’s recipe cards:
quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.
An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable.
- 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
- 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)
For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved.
Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!
Add them to the brine so they are submerged.
Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.
You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.
- 3 medium eggplants
- salt for drying out the eggplant
veg oil for frying
3 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 3+ cups water
- 1 Tbsp veg oil
- optional: kosher salt for sprinkling
Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture.
Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming.
Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.
Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, scraping off excess if necessary, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.
Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.
Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.
Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce
A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant.
- 18 chicken thighs
- 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
- 4 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
- 4-6 cans chickpeas
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 red onions, sliced thinly
- 2 red onions sliced thinly
- lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
- 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours.
About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.
Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.
Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.
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. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.
While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
-Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.
-Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro.
-Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
Tomato bisque with bacon
- 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 46 oz tomato juice
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- salt and pepper
- crispy fried onions (optional garnish)
Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.
Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.
Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.
With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.
Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.
Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man.