What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Pugsy

Did you read the CNN article about What it says about us when we want a cook’s recipe but not their humanity? You have to get through quite a few paragraphs before they get to the punchline, which is that, when you just skip to to the recipe and don’t read all the chit chat and cultural background and tips about the best way to deflower a butternut squash, you are at risk of treating food like a commodity

Ope, that wasn’t supposed to be a joke? All right.

Anyway, as a more or less bona fide albeit very small time food blogger, I will tell you a secret: The reason food bloggers write so much extra stuff is because that makes people stay on the page longer, and then they get paid more. That’s it. That’s the reason. Many people, me included, also enjoy talking about food; but the main driving force behind chatty food blogs is that the person who did the work needs to get paid, and that means ads, which means eyeballs, which means words and pictures.

There is nothing nefarious about this. Some of these bloggers work their absolute tails off developing recipes, producing and editing videos, taking dozens of process shots, formatting everything, and promoting it all, and it’s not a volunteer situation! They have to get paid for their work. On food blogger message boards, they’re constantly agonizing over how to keep people there longer without annoying them so much that they leave.  Of course its tiresome when the best they can come up with is very obvious padding, like,  “Do you like corn? I do. Corn is just the best. When I see corn in the supermarket, I always think, ‘Gotta get some!’ and I load my cart right up! It just feels like summer. Summer in every bite. I will show you how to get that good old summer-in-every-bite feeling with this simple recipe that shows you how to cook corn, because corn is just the best” stuff. But the recipe is free, so.

There is also nothing wrong or dehumanizing, as the CNN article suggests, with a reader deciding they don’t care about all the extries and they just want the recipe card. Sometimes it’s 5:12 PM and you just need the recipe card. It’s just something to keep in mind: Food bloggers are not ravening egomaniacs who think the world is desperate to hear their opinions on copycat Southwest Chicken Irresist-a-bowl. They’re just trying to get paid in exchange for a service, just like everyone else. (I’m different, of course. I have a weird set up and unusually supportive readers who are nonetheless probably just about done hearing my thoughts on this topic.)

WELL, now that I’ve dragged you through 424 pointless words about words about food, I guess we can talk about food. Sorry. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, fries, birthday cake

Elijah’s birthday! Following her magnificent performance with Corrie’s Teen Titans cookie cake a few weeks ago, she volunteered to do Elijah’s cake as well. This was a Sonic the Hedgehog cake

and it included Sonic, some other colorful characters that I have strenuously avoiding familiarity with, and also, if you look closely at what is lurking in the background, something called Pugsy

which is a character Elijah made up for the sole purpose of annoying his sisters. 

We intend to let Clara leave the house at some point, but not yet. Not when birthday season is just getting started. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza

There was some kind of hullabloo, I forget what, so we just had Aldi pizza. 

MONDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

Always popular. I drizzled a bunch of boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and seasoned them heavy with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and broiled and sliced them up. 

We had acres and acres of leftover buns and rolls in the house, so I made a ton of croutons. Ended up burning half of them, but nobody complained. And that is the magic of using a ludicrous amount of butter on your croutons. 

We also had diced red onion, blueberries of course, and toasted almonds. I had my salad with red wine vinegar. 

Nut note: You can easily toast almonds and other nuts by spreading them on a plate and microwaving them for two minutes or so. They come out much more even than with toasting in the oven, and it’s harder to burn them. Some of us are always on the lookout for opportunities to burn things.

TUESDAY
Eggplant parmesan sandwiches on unfortunately multigrain bread

My car was in the shop, so Damien did all the driving for most of the week, which meant I had an unbroken swath of time in the kitchen. I decided to try eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. Then I thought I’d made some french bread for a side, too. Then, I decided I’d made eggplant parm sandwiches on homemade bread, instead.

So I’m making the dough with this very reliable recipe,

Jump to Recipe

and what should randomly and unpredictably occur with no possible way of being warned? I ran out of flour. Facebook friends suggested I could actually use it, wet as it was

and just give it much longer to rise, and then bake it in a hot dutch oven, and I’d get a nice crusty loaf. I didn’t have the extra time, though. So I put some oats in the blender and ground them up pretty fine. I added a bunch of this, but it still looked too wet, so I uhh dumped in some pancake mix. 

I will be honest, I was starting to unravel a tiny bit at this point. I already knew people were not going to be thrilled at having a meatless meal in the middle of the week, so I was really counting on the promise of lovely fresh bread to make it seem appealing. And now I had a bunch of fricken oats in there. 

One smart thing I did was proof the dough in the Instant Pot. I just sprayed the pot with cooking spray and chucked the dough in there, sealed the top, and pressed “yogurt.” An hour later it was more than doubled, and zero cats had trod in it, which is by no means a given when I proof dough anywhere else in the house. 

Then I divided the dough into twelve lumps and set them to rise again. They didn’t rise terribly well, but by this time it was getting close to dinner, so I baked those mofos. They came out . . .  okay. They would have been fine with soup or something, but really not what you want for sandwich rolls. 

They were kind of tired-looking, and very grainy and crumbly inside, and they tasted like oats for some unknown reason. 

The eggplant turned out perfect. I salted, rinsed, dried, breaded, and fried the slices, then layered them with sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked the whole thing, then carved it up so everyone got a nice stack of cheesy saucy eggplant on their roll, plus a scoop of sauce on top. 

It still tasted like eggplant, though. I always forget this about eggplant. Eggplants have wasted all their splendor in how they look when they’re fresh off the vine, and by the time you eat them, they have very little left to offer, other than a faint muskiness. The mild sauce, mild cheese, and crumbly oaty bread together with eggplant was . . . well, my husband described it as “filling,” and it was that. 

The only eggplant recipe I’ve ever loved is this one for spicy, crisp fried eggplant with yogurt sauce. 

I wish I had some right now. *sob*

WEDNESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, rice, sesame carrot slaw

I had twelve unexciting pork chops and just slathered them with this spicy Korean marinade

Jump to Recipe

for about an hour before shoving them under the broiler, turning once. Voila, exciting! Great flavor, no skill required. I ordered another little tub gochujang while it cooked. 

I really wanted gochujang bulgoki with the carrots and onions and nori and everything, but I was in a rush, and had the wrong kind of pork. So I cribbed the carrot slaw recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod and made some modifications (I made it a little simpler and quite a bit sweeter). I’ll put my recipe card at the end. 

Pretty popular. It’s sweet and bright and spicy and crunchy, and made a very nice accompaniment to the somewhat heavy and sticky marinade on the meat. So, hooray, another side possibility! I’m always hunting for more sides. If I never bake another potato in my whole life, I will be content. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Nothing to report. Well, I usually say that my secret is I apply a little skim of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread before frying the sandwich in butter. The truth is, I apply the mayo with a spatula, and it’s considerably more than a skim. What, you want to make a skinny corpse someday? Have some mayo.

FRIDAY
Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread)

Another new recipe that’s been haunting me for a few years now, so I’m finally trying it today. It’s little kayak-shaped bread bowls full of three kinds of cheese, with an egg cooked into it. Eh? Eh? We’ll see if I screw up the breadPROBABLY but it sounds very promising.

I also grabbed some asparagus, which I will probably sauté, and some cans of tomato soup. Sounds like dinner to me. 

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. 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. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. 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.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

5 from 2 votes
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French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Sesame carrot slaw

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 2 lbs carrots, shredded
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup veg oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about three large limes' worth)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine in bowl with carrots and peppers.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

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16 thoughts on “What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Pugsy”

  1. 5 stars
    I look forward to your Friday food posts for your writing even more than for the recipes. It is your voice and your ideas that make me think ‘wait, it’s Saturday, I didn’t read Simcha’s food blog yesterday’. Though I have tried many new ideas from your recipes. Now for that story about the time I randomly decided to try a Georgian restaurant without knowing anything about Georgian food….. and me trying to eat a Khachapuri and 3 other things I ordered to ‘try a new cuisine’ (it seems all of their dishes on the menu were meant to be family style).

  2. There are a few food bloggers whose pre-recipe writing I’ll slow down to read. Mostly just you and Smitten Kitchen. But I’m usually looking for a recipe because dinner time is coming and people are starting to circle the kitchen like birds around a carcass and I’ve put off dealing with it until too late. I’m terrible at this.

    I read a blog once that had this whole story about this guy she met, and this is what he was like, and then one day she found out that he’d died by suicide, and anyway, here’s a great cheesecake recipe. I bet he would have liked it. It was…uncomfortable. I get that bloggers need to keep people around for ad revenue reasons, but yikes.

    1. Ha! I read two food blogs: yours, and smitten kitchen. Ilike your writing at least as much as the recipes! All the chatty details are what get me through the process of planning the week’s meals before my weekly grocery shopping, which I find a very difficult process. You often help me laugh at myself and not take everything so seriously. By Sunday afternoon I’m usually very concerned about the state of the world and my role in it. Thanks for the good pseudo-company, and food ideas!

  3. This was a very enlightening post. Recently, I came across a blog that had gorgeous pictures, so I decided to follow it. That didn’t last long because the posts were sooooo loooooooong. I wondered if the writer realized how lengthy her posts were, and how much extraneous info was in there. Thanks for the lesson.

    I always read all of yours because you’re entertaining.

    Clara killed it again with the cookies. Has she thought of doing it to make money?

  4. 5 stars
    I always read all the intro stuff because I like the way you write and like hearing about your family. I generally skip the recipes.

    1. thank you! I started this partly to get more ideas for what to cook (it was originally a blog link-up, but that never really caught on), and also as a way to just take a regular break from politics and news headlines and whatnot, and just vibe, as my kids say. So I’m glad it seems worth reading to you.

      1. It’s so fun to read. Usually your stuff sounds yummy and if not it’s amusing. Love the real family tales of life and discovering new food. I haven’t made any of your recipes yet, but they always make my mouth water. Perhaps I’ll skip the oat pancake bread.

  5. First, that cheese/egg/bread boat looks delicious. I would never make it, but I am excited for you to do it.

    Second, I saw that headline on CNN, but I didn’t read the article. Because I don’t really care what CNN thinks it says about me when I want an online recipe.

    Although, I do write about food a LOT, for no pay whatsoever, just because it’s an interest of mine. I also like to read about it, so I’m happy to be scrolling and contributing to food bloggers who do make money from it.

    1. That’s awesome. Food is one of my favorite things to write about, and I did write for a long time just for the fun of it. That’s no longer a reasonable way for me to spend time, but it’s a shame how much pressure there is for people to monetize everything they enjoy. I have to stop myself from telling people “ooh, you could totally sell that on Etsy!” rather than just saying “ooh, I love it!”

      1. It is a shame. I’ve lost count of the people who have asked why I don’t have ads or otherwise try to make money from my blog, given the fact that I’ve been writing there for almost 14 years (yikes) and actually have quite a few readers. I don’t try to make money from it because it’s my hobby. And when you start to try to make money from a hobby, it becomes a job. Not that you can’t have fun with a job, too, but it’s not the same.

      2. This conversation made me realize that I had my adblocker turned on for your site, so I turned it off. I feel like such a freeloader, considering how often I read your stuff!

  6. I enjoy a good eggplant parm, but that means getting it from a restaurant. The ones who do it well invoke some type of magic.

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it, other than a few days ago, so I’m sure I’m missing something!

  7. One thing I’ve always wondered, if staying on the page longer means more money–does this mean actively scrolling? Or does just leaving the tab up generate more money? I’ll often leave up recipe tabs I’m planning on making for the week and check on them a few times, to write down ingredients, plan my day for when I need to start prepping it, and then of course to look at while I’m cooking. So now I’m curious if that leads to more revenue for the author or if it only counts when I’m actively scrolling through the page.

    1. I believe it’s active scrolling that matters, so you see more ads. Although this may be different for sites that have video ads, which I try to avoid.

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