What’s for supper? Vol. 349: Take that, Fürst-Pückler

Happy Friday!  Today I am knee-deep in Dalekanium. This week, we had our big anniversary party (our anniversary is Oct. 25, but we had a party on the 15th), and now I’m buckling the heck down with Halloween costumes. First I managed to get incredibly sick for 24 hours, but I’m working my way past that now and made some progress on Dalek Sec:

This may look primitive to you, but I think my budget is roughly the same as what the BBC had to work with in 1963, so it’s fine. 

This is for Corrie. Last year, she was Duck from Sarah and Duck, and Benny was Sarah. 

Benny is a little fed up with being civil and well-behaved, and this year she’s going as Classic Green Goblin. More on that later!

So this week, we kinda front-loaded all the good food, and then I collapsed like a bunch of broccoli. We did not, however, have any broccoli. I just don’t like it very much, except one time when I was litle, my father took us to to a Japanese restaurant in New York City, and I didn’t know what to get, so they picked a tempura dish for me, and there was a single piece of each thing. I shall never forget that tempura broccoli.

Here’s what we did have: 

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday I was busy cracking the whip, forcing my poor beleaguered children to do foolish things like sweep the hallway and clean under the couch cushions even though the guests might not even look under the couch cushions. 

On Saturday I made two kinds of ice cream, the panna cotta, and the suppli.

I was planning pistachio ice cream, and I followed this recipe, which is a copy cat Ben and Jerry’s recipe. I only made one teeny error: I uh bought cashews instead of pistachios. In my defense, “cashew” has an “sh” in it, and “pistachio” has a “ch.” I honestly think that was what confused me. It doesn’t take much, on a good day, but on Saturday I had a migraine and I was more than half zombie. (Did I tell you I finally got a referral to a neurologist??)

My original plan, you see, was Neapolitan ice cream, which is supposed to be pistachio, vanilla, and strawberry, to kinda get the colors of the Italian flag, although AKSHULLY: “The first recorded recipe was created by head chef of the royal Prussian household Louis Ferdinand Jungius in 1839, who dedicated the recipe to Fürst Pückler. To this day, the German name for Neapolitan ice cream is Fürst-Pückler-Eis.”

Soo, I forged ahead with cashews. Take that, Fürst-Pückler. I added some almond extract and, at the last minute, threw in some white chocolate chips. 

The other ice cream I made on Saturday was chocolate, and I just followed the Ben and Jerry’s recipe from their Ice Cream book

Jump to Recipe

They actually have three chocolate ice cream recipes. This one uses both  unsweetened baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder. 

Then I made the panna cotta, and I made my second dopey move. I used this vanilla bean recipe, which I had made last time and it turned out so nice. So I infuse the cream, I make the special vanilla-rubbed sugar, I slowly bring the cream to the right temperature, I bloom the gelatin, I chill the cream, I’m going along, I’m going along, and I’m tasting it from time to time as one does, and every time I taste it, I think to myself, “Wow, it’s not very sweet, is it?” And every time, my entire response to this is, ” . . . . huh.” So I clear out the fridge and pour the panna cotta into styrofoam cups in muffin tins and close the door and feel very acccomplished, because that’s done . . . 

. . . and then I see the bowl of sugar, still sitting there. That’s why it wasn’t very sweet! Light dawns on blockhead. I was in quite a panic, because I didn’t know what could be done; but a Facebook friend clued me in that you can re-heat gelatin, as long as you do it gradually. So I put the sugar into the pot, added one or two of the cups of cream mixture and made a little slurry and heated that a tiny bit, and then slowly added and very slowly heated and stirred the rest of the cream back in, until the sugar was dissolved. Then I put it back in the cups and back in the fridge. Whew. 

Then the suppli!

Suppli, also sometimes called arancini, are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. We ate them just about every day in Rome for lunch, where you could get them for 1,000 Lire (about a dollar) in 1995, which is when I spent a semester in Rome (Damien’s class was a couple years after mine). 

It’s a time-consuming recipe, but eminently worth it.

Jump to Recipe

I sprang for arborio rice, which I don’t always do, and the risotto came out so mild and creamy, I could weep. I let it chill, added egg, and then formed it into balls with little cubes of fresh mozzarella inside, then rolled them in panko crumbs. They sort of slumped because the risotto was so creamy; but I chilled them overnight and by the time it was time to fry them, they held together nicely. 

Then that was enough for one night. 

SUNDAY
Antipasto platters, suppli, fettuccine and ragu, bread, ice cream, panna cotta with berries

Sunday Damien made the ragù using this amazing Deadspin recipe. It was heavy on the veal this time, and it was superb, as always. 

I started the other two kinds of ice cream in the morning: The cherry vanilla (just vanilla ice cream with maraschino cherries thrown in, plus some almond extract and a little of the syrup from the cherries), and the grape sorbet. I had frozen some grape mash from when we processed all those millions of Concord grapes and all week I have been trying to think of a joke for this picture, but I got nothing

Feel free, like if you want to show it to your doctor or something, I don’t know. 

Anyway I managed to make the grape sorbet and the cherry ice cream without incident, and stowed them in the freezer to firm up for evening. Then the only thing I had to still make was the bread. Easy! I can make bread!

Jump to Recipe

I decided four loaves would probably be enough, so I made a big batch of dough, and, because it was a little chilly in the kitchen, I turned on the oven for a few minutes, then turned it off and put the dough in there to rise. 

Then I forgot I had done so. 

Then

I asked Damien

to preheat the oven for me,

so I could bake the bread. 

AND THAT IS NOT HOW YOU MAKE BREAD. I realized ten minutes into it what I had done, and it was definitely too late. The only good thing I could think was that this was the third idiotic thing I had done (first the cashew pistachio ice cream, then the sugarless panna cotta, and now the half-baked bowl of dough), and three is the magic number, so surely I was done being stupid! 

I had a tiny little bit of stupidity left in me, though, so I thought, “Well, as long as I have this dough, it couldn’t hurt to try baking it and see what happens.” So I clawed out the part that was still dough-like and made it into balls and baked it like rolls. 

When I say “like” rolls, I mean . . . well . . . 

In my defense, that’s about what I expected. And I did throw them away! Didn’t even feed them to the ducks. 

By this time, it was starting to smell pretty great in the house because of the ragù, and it was time to sit down and have some fun making antipasto trays. I don’t even know what-all I got. Just this and that, some cured meats and olives and fresh and pickled vegetables and various cheeses. 

and breadsticks, and a bunch of grapes and clementines

and I made a bunch of bruschetta out of store-bought bread, and all the kids came and brought more bread just for eating, and they brought flowers, too.

The suppli fried up REAL nice (I think I ended up with about 30) 

Our friends Sarah, Tiffany, and Theresa came and we all got to just sit around and eat and talk and laugh and it was so nice. 

Oh, and the panna cotta turned out fine! Everyone liked it. I meant to macerate the berries, but I forgot, so I just threw them on top, and it was great. 

So, happy almost anniversary to us. I wish I had gotten more pictures!

As long as I’m going on and on and on, I might as well tell you about my patio chairs. I got them FREE on the side of the road, and then I found cushions at Walmart on clearance, and don’t they look nice?

Whew. 

 

MONDAY
Leftover pasta and ragu

Monday, naturally, we had tons of leftover food, so I bought some more pasta on the way home and we had ragù again, which no one was mad about, believe me. It’s so good. 

TUESDAY
Aldi pizza again

Tuesday was when I had to admit I wasn’t just tired after the party, I was really sick. I dropped Corrie off at school and realized I wasn’t in any shape to drive home, so I parked in the school lot and fell asleep in the car for forty minutes, then crept home and slept most of the next 24 hours. Damien got pizza and managed everything else.

WEDNESDAY
Rotisserie chicken, salad, and leftover antipasto

Wednesday I felt half human, so I just napped a bit and then picked up some rotisserie chickens and cut them up, and pulled the rest of the leftover antipasto elements out of the fridge

and I had a nice little girl dinner 

Do you see how thick they cut the prosciutto, though? I forgot about this. I wasn’t watching, and they cut it like ham! I was so annoyed. I had been planning to make some kind of prosciutto-wrapped fruit slices for the party, but when I opened the package, it was impossible. Oh well. Pickled vegetables make everything better. 

THURSDAY
Burgers and chips

Thursday I was like, oops, the person who is me has still not gone shopping this week; so I got some hamburger meat, and we had burgers. 

Look at me, I had sugar snap peas instead of chips. I’m kind of furious at how slowly I’m losing weight, but it is coming off. Slowly. (Don’t ask me how I can eat panna cotta and prosciutto and still be furious about how slowly I’m losing weight. I just can, okay?) 

FRIDAY
I have no idea. Noooooo idea. I don’t even know what food is. I should have saved those rolls. 

I would seriously rather eat those than come up with something new for nine people to eat. Take that, Fürst-Pückler.

Oh, you know what? I never said, but the cashew white chocolate ice cream was really good. I may make it on purpose sometime.

 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

 

Jerry's Chocolate Ice Cream

This is the more textured chocolate ice cream from the Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipe book. It has a rich, dusky chocolate flavor and texture. Makes 2 quarts. This recipe requires some chill time before you put the cream mixture into the machine.

Ingredients

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 cups milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Melt the unsweetened chocolate. I used a double boiler, but you can use a microwave if you're careful. Whisk in the cocoa and continue heating until it's smooth. It's okay if it's clumpy. Continue heating and whisk in the milk gradually until it's all blended together. Remove from heat and let cool.

  2. In another bowl, whisk, the eggs until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the sugar and continue whisking until completely blended. Add in the cream and vanilla and continue whisking until blended.

  3. Add the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate for about three hours, or until it is cold.

  4. Use the cold mixture in your ice cream machine. I used my Cuisinart and let it churn for thirty minutes, then let it cure overnight.

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
  • 5 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 315: When in doubt, add butter

Another week! Nobody told me that Halloween was Monday, so now I’m scurrying around like a DIY rat, scouring the local stores for yellow duct tape and a green knit hat and other things that ought to be easy to find but aren’t. And it just now occurred to me I could spray paint a hat the right color, couldn’t I? And so I shall. Anyway, despite the scurrying, we had some pretty spectacular food this week, and that has made all the difference. Read on!

SATURDAY
Hot dogs, chips

Saturday we went to the local pumpkin festival, which they had carefully renamed “Gathering of the Gourds.” The festival has been a Whole Thing, because for several years they tried to beat the world record for greatest number of illuminated pumpkins. It was fun, but also very overwhelming and expensive for the town, as tons of people poured into town to see the giant towers of jack-o’-lanterns.

Then came October of 2014, and I think I was in . . . Georgia? I forget where, but definitely away from home giving a speech, and I came down to the hotel lobby to get my free continental breakfast and blearily became aware that the TV was saying there had been riot with tear gas and rubber bullets, fires in the street, and a car tipped over, and I recognized the street. Called home and established that, while Damien and the kids had indeed been at the festival, they had not personally torn a parking meter out of the ground or thrown a beer bottle at anyone’s head. So that was okay.

Anyway, the pumpkin festival has been pretty hit or miss since then, and Covid was really the kiss of death. This year it was basically some stores giving out candy, a pile of pumpkins you could carve if you wanted to, and a bunch of vendors in a parking lot — including Clara and Elijah, so that was cool.

So we did that, and Benny had a party to attend, and I think we worked on Halloween costumes and baked Alaska, and days like this is why they make hot dogs. We also had a Wolf Man movie to watch. We started with Frankenstein, then Bride of Frankenstein, then Son of Frankenstein, and then we had to watch The Wolf Man so we could watch Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. The kids keep saying, “Well, that has to be the last one, now, because he clearly died at the end” and then we explain once again the concept of a movie studio backing up a truckload of cash to one’s house. I think next is a movie that has Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and Dracula. And a truckload of cash. (I recommend all of these movies, by the way, especially the Frankenstein ones. They are gorgeous, they move right along, and their entire agenda is to be creepy and scare you with spookiness, which is very refreshing.)

SUNDAY
Bastardized jambalaya

Last week I heard myself say I didn’t really know what to do with kielbasa except make a sheet pan meal with potatoes, but then I immediately remembered: hark! you can make jambalaya. I told my husband that I was probably going to make some kind of bastardized version, but he said that was okay, because he was kind of a bastard himself. Who among us.

Jambalaya is one of those things people get a little huffy about, but I myself feel that you should cook what tastes good to you, and as long as you’re not running up to first generation immigrants and saying “try it like this, stupid! It’s so much better my way!” then THERE IS NO PROBLEM. It’s food, food is for eating, boom. 

So here is my quickie whatever jambalaya, made with kielbasa and shrimp.

Jump to Recipe

I was planning to throw some leftover chicken in there, but I did ask the kids to clean out the fridge really thoroughly, and I forgot to specify to save the chicken. Well, it was completely delicious, really filling, and it was done in about 45 minutes, start to finish. Obviously you can adjust the spices as you see fit. 

MONDAY
Chicken cutlet sandwiches, fries

Monday was supposed to be chicken burger day, but I can only find frozen chicken burgers half the time these days. I blame Hunter Biden, for some reason. So I had a sudden memory of the delicious chicken cutlets my mother used to make, and that became the plan. 

I don’t even really have a recipe. I sliced chicken breasts lengthwise, dunked them in beaten egg with a little milk and salt and pepper, then dredged them in panko crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. Then I pan fried them in canola oil and melted butter. 

Much faster and tidier than whole pieces of fried chicken, like thighs or drumsticks. I easily could have served them as is, maybe with a lemon wedge, but I was already on a sandwich track, so I put out sliced cheese, sliced onions, and sliced tomatoes. I couldn’t find the aioli mayonnaise, so I just had regular, and it was scrumptious. 

I love things fried in panko crumbs. If you fried a socket wrench in panko crumbs, I would be like, “Ohh, it’s so fluffy and nice” and I would have seconds. The chicken stayed juicy, and it was just a tasty treat all around. I also bought some malt vinegar for the fries, and that was a hit. 

TUESDAY
Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, rice, baked Alaska

This was our anniversary meal!  The baked Alaska, I already wrote about in excruciating detail yesterday Now we must talk about the meal we had, that Damien made. It was magnificent. 

He took a chance with a new recipe, and I think it was the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was one of those twice-fried recipes, with a sauce that dances around in your taste buds in three distinct phases. It has a crackly, crunchy skin and is coated in a sticky, sweet, gingery sauce that is just TRANSPORTATIVE. I can confidently say that it was totally worth all the time and energy Damien put into it.

Didn’t hurt my feelings at all that he spent the afternoon cooking and wearing the kilt I got him, either. Ahem.

The chicken recipe is from delish.com, and it also has a recommended side dish of large pieces of grilled broccoli in a hot garlicky sauce with parmesan, which Damien also made, and which was also fantastic.

I made a big pot of plain rice in the Instant Pot and man, what a feast.

It was really hard to stop eating. 

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa Toscana, french bread

Wednesday was supposed to be nacho day, but it was rainy and chilly and just begging for soup, so I complied. I made a big pot of Zuppa Toscana, which only has nine or ten ingredients (which is not a lot for soup) and is absolutely the soul of comfort and coziness. Mild sausage, red potatoes, cream, and kale.

Jump to Recipe

I had heavy cream left over from all the ice cream making, so I used that along with the half and half, and wow, it was rich. 

I was in a rush, so you can see I ended up putting the soup out before the kale was completely soft. It was cooked all the way, but it wasn’t noodle-soft. It wasn’t bad, just different! 

I also made four loaves of French bread. I was literally running around trying to get stuff done, and was trying to sell emergency raffle tickets that it suddenly turned out we had to unload twenty of before tomorrow, and we had to get to a soccer game, and I kept forgetting I was making bread, so it’s a miracle it turned out at all. This should be a testament to how easy this recipe is!

Jump to Recipe

The loaves were not terribly photogenic, and I suspect someone squonched one of them before I put it in the oven, and if I were on the Great British Baking Show and they really wanted me to produce four completely identical loaves, I would not have gotten a handshake

but man they tasted good! Piping hot from the oven, so perfect with the rich, creamy soup. 

I did run a little butter over the tops when they came out of the oven. The purpose of this is to make them more buttery. Look, I’m working on building up my neck fold. For winter. 

I also did the trick of throwing a few ice cubes into the oven along with the unbaked loaves, which is supposed to produce a cloud of steam, giving the bread a thin, fragile crust. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This time it worked great. The inside was pillowy soft, and the crust absolutely shattered when I cut it.

Couldn’t be more pleased.

THURSDAY
Pork nachos

Didn’t have a super solid plan for this. I had a big bone-in pork shoulder, and put it in a shallow pan with a bunch of cider vinegar, then rubbed it with mustard and rubbed in a bunch of salt, garlic powder, a little chili powder, and lots of cumin, covered it loosely with tinfoil, and cooked it at 325 for several hours. 

Usually I will shred the meat and distribute it over the chips and melt cheese over it for nachos, but this time I made the chips and cheese separately (one pan with jalapeños, one without), and let people make their own choices about pork, which they appreciated. 

The best thing about this picture is that I labelled it “nacho table” and my phone was like, uh, no, ‘scuse me, that a macho navel.

FRIDAY
Kids are making tuna noodle, Damien and I are scooting away for a little day trip to round out anniversary week. Smell ya later! 

Oh, here’s some recipe cards for the week: 

bastardized jambalaya

completely inauthentic, just things that seem tasty to me

Ingredients

  • 2-3 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 rope jambalaya, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
  • raw shrimp
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups raw brown or long grain rice
  • 10-oz can diced tomatoes with chilies

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, heat up the oil. Brown up the kielbasa. Add in the onions, celery, and green pepper and continue stirring and cooking over medium heat until the vegetables are somewhat soft.

  2. Add in the garlic and spices and cook a few minutes more. Add in the raw shrimp and stir.

  3. Pour in the chicken broth, rice, and tomatoes with any juice. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until rice is cooked.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

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
  • 5 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.

Twenty-five years calls for baked Alaska!

On Tuesday, Damien and I celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

We did it in the way we know best: With a lot of food. Damien made a spectacular meal of Korean fried chicken, roast broccoli, and rice (more about that tomorrow!), and I was in charge of dessert. 

Twenty five years ago, I baked our wedding cake at the last minute, because my mother got sick, or accidentally cut off her own hand, or otherwise made sure she didn’t have to make the wedding cake. Which, understandable. I don’t remember what recipe I used; I just remember just baking more and more and more cake until it finally seemed wedding-sized, and I was very tired, so I stopped. And that’s how you do it!

We didn’t have a little bride and groom or even a floral topper. This is because I forgot. It was just cake. At the reception, my friend Kate noticed it was just bare white, and gathered up loose flowers and ferns from the bridesmaid’s bouquets and strewed them over the cake, and last I heard, this does not invalidate a marriage.

Nevertheless, someone told us it was traditional to save the top layer of cake and eat it on your first anniversary, so someone wrapped it up and we dutifully put it into the freezer. 

And then we moved, and moved the cake to the freezer of the new house. And then we were pretty busy, so we forgot about it, and then we moved again, and then we moved several times, and had ten kids and probably half a dozen refrigerators, and after a certain point, I got a little weird about the cake and wouldn’t let people throw it away even though it was taking up valuable space and there was no possible way it was edible. 

Anyway, maybe I had the sort of semi-disastrous wedding cake in my head as I hatched the idea to make a baked Alaska for our 25th anniversary. And let me apologize for the lack of photos in the first part of this. It does get less wordy and more pretty as it goes!

This was my first attempt at making baked Alaska, which is a cake topped with ice cream surrounded with meringue which is then toasted and/or set on fire. You can toast it with a torch, as I did, or you can bake it in the oven, and you can eat it that way, or you can toast it and then douse it with 80-proof liquor and flambé it. Either way, the novelty is that the ice cream stays frozen while the outside is briefly very hot indeed.

No part of it was difficult, but it did take some planning, because I wanted to make the ice cream and other components from scratch, and you have to freeze the ice cream bowls for 12 hours before making ice cream, and I was making three kinds. You can make it with store-bought ice cream, though, and you don’t need any special equipment to make the baked Alaska. You can use a kitchen torch, but you don’t have to. I will include a condensed version of the recipe at the end. 

As I mentioned, the meal was Korean or Korean-adjascent. With that in mind, this is what I ended up with for dessert, from the bottom up: 

Pound cake (which I made from a mix, because my baking is unreliable)
Raspberry-blackberry jam and pecan pralines
Mango ice cream
Pecan pralines
Coconut ice cream
Raspberry-blackberry jam
Strawberry ice cream
Meringue, toasted with a torch and then flambéd with spiced rum

Here’s the timeline, with recipes for each component

SATURDAY
I made a double recipe of Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry ice cream. Damien loves strawberry ice cream, and he said this is the best he ever had. 

Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the strawberries

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

For the ice cream base

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  1. Hull and slice the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and lemon juice, cover, and refrigerate for an hour.

Make the ice cream base:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and continue whisking to blend.

Put it together:

  1. Mash the strawberries well, or puree them in a food processor. Stir into the ice cream base.

  2. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

It comes out a lovely petal pink and is full of strawberries. What more could you want?

SUNDAY

On Sunday I made coconut ice cream. I used the Ben and Jerry’s recipe for this as well, and it was very easy: Just a sweet cream base with a can of coconut cream stirred in. Here’s that recipe:

Ben and Jerry's coconut ice cream

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 15 oz coconut cream

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs for two minutes until fluffy.

  2. Add in the sugar gradually and whisk another minute.

  3. Pour in the milk and cream and coconut cream (discarding the waxy disk thing) and continue whisking to blend.

  4. Add to your ice cream maker and follow the directions. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes, then transfer the ice cream to a container, cover it, and put it in the freezer.)

This ice cream would be an excellent base for all kinds of lovely add-ins, nuts and chocolate chips and things. It was very rich and pleasant just plain, though. 

MONDAY

Monday I made mango ice cream, cake, and pralines. 

First the mango ice cream. I fiddled with various recipes, and here is what I ended up with:

Mango ice cream

Ingredients

  • 30 oz (about 3 cups) mango pulp
  • 2 cups heavy or whipping cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 mango, chopped into bits

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, whisk the milk, sugar, and salt until blended.

  2. Add in the mango pulp and cream and stir with a spoon until blended.

  3. Cover and refrigerate two hours.

  4. Stir and transfer to ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. (I use a Cuisinart ICE-20P1 and churn it for 30 minutes.)

  5. After ice cream is churned, stir in fresh mango bits, then transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover, and freeze for several hours.

My goodness, this was fantastic. If you like mangos, this is your ice cream. Lovely golden color, too. 

While it was churning, I made two boxes of Betty Crocker pound cake mix. I made two nine-inch rounds, plus an extra heart-shaped pan. I knew I was going to have to cut up the cake and reassemble it into a larger circle, so I wanted to have lots of curved pieces to choose from. 

I also made a batch of pecan pralines.

My computer has weirdly evaporated any trace of this recipe, so I’ll have to come back later and fill it in when I find it. It was just a basic recipe with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and egg white, as I recall, and a low oven with the timer going off every fifteen minutes to stir the dang things. They came out nicely light and crunchy, very hard to stop snacking on them. 

TUESDAY

Tuesday was our actual anniversary. The first thing I did was clear out a space in the freezer, so there would be plenty of room to freeze the dang thing. Then I decided at the last minute to make some fresh jam to go in between the baked Alaska layers. This was a good idea, but I wish I had made more, because it was a little dry in between the cake and the first ice cream layers, but I only had a few cups of berries (half blackberry, half raspberry). 

It’s super easy. You combine three parts very ripe berries to one part sugar, and a li’l spoon of fresh lemon juice, bring it to a gentle boil in a pot, turn it down to simmer, and keep it simmering, stirring it frequently, until it thickens up. The recipes say it takes twenty minutes, but nothing takes twenty minutes. It took probably forty minutes to turn into anything I could honestly call “jam.” But it was a chilly, drizzly day and I did not mind hanging around sniffing the gentle clouds of berry steam. 

And then I was ready! Ready to make a baked Alaska! I had watched a few videos and read a few recipes, and chose out the most reasonable-sounding instructions. Here is what I did. 

My goal was to have the whole thing assembled at least four hours before dessert time, so it would have plenty of time to freeze. I took the three tubs of ice cream out of the freezer to let them soften up.

Note: The coconut ice cream softens up faster than the others, and eventually separates, so if you’re using it, maybe leave it in the freezer longer. 

I was planning an enormous baked Alaska. It probably could have served 15 people. I sprayed a plastic salad bowl 12″ in diameter with neutral cooking spray. Then I lined it with two ribbons in a cross shape, to make a handle to lift the frozen ice cream out at the end.

Then I lined the whole thing with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges. 

I really did not want that ice cream to get stuck!

I also made a diagram of what I wanted my finished baked Alaska to look like, because I knew I was going to get confused. Remember, you’re making it upside down, so the first thing you put in is going to be on top of the finished product.

I mushed up the strawberry ice cream a bit to make it the consistency of soft serve, and spread it in the bowl, making a smooth surface with a spatula.

Then I put it back in the freezer for 25 minutes or so. The jam was still pretty hot from being cooked, so I popped that in the freezer, too. When the ice cream had solidified a bit, I spooned some of the jam over the top and spread it out. Then I took the coconut ice cream, mushed it, and spread it out, and sprinkled pralines over the top, and put it in the freezer to harden a bit. Then I repeated the process with the mango ice cream, making the third layer. I spread the rest of the jam and the rest of the pralines over this. 

(I wanted this baked Alaska to be in layers, but you can also make it with random scoops or blobs of different kinds of ice cream, and this is easier and faster, because you don’t have to let it freeze in between, and you don’t have to try to smooth it down. But you don’t get stripes, and where’s the fun in that?)

Then I folded the flaps of plastic wrap over the ice cream to compress it all and make it as smooth as possible. 

Then it was time to cut up the pound cakes! I had two nine-inch rounds and a heart-shaped caked. First I leveled them, then I cut one of the rounds in half and laid them along both edges of the bowl. I cut a long rod out the center of the second round and used it to fill up the center. Then I cut rounded wedges from the heart to fill in the remaining gaps. I was pretty proud of how well it all fit together. 

You can see that I put the crust edge down, touching the ice cream, and the trimmed edge up. I wish I had done it the other way, so the more tender cake would be in contact with the jam and ice cream. Next time!

Many people use brownies for the base. Any baked good is fine, as long as it’s dense and can hold up to the weight of a lot of ice cream. When all the gaps were filled in, I folded the extra plastic wrap flaps over the cake again, and added a little extra, to keep it dry in the freezer, and that part was all done. I got it in the freezer by noon. 

I also did some prep for the meringue early in the day. I separated eight eggs gave the yolks to the dog, and set the whites aside so they would be room temperature when it was time to make the meringue. Then I made some superfine sugar: I put two cups of regular granulated sugar into the food processor and whirred it for a couple of minutes, and then set that aside as well. 

The meringue turned out to be the only part that gave me trouble. After dinner, I started whipping the egg whites in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment along with 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar. I whisked it until it was frothy, and then started adding the superfine sugar, one little scoop at a time, with the whisk going on high. And it went and it went and it went and it went, but it the peaks just never got stiff. Every time I tested it to see if they would stand up straight, they would flop over. I know it takes a long time with a lot of eggs, but it really got to be ridiculous after a while, and I was afraid I was going to break the eggs, so I decided to just go ahead and work with what I had. 

With great trepidation, I put a pan under the ice cream bowl, flipped it over, gave it a tap, and . . . it came right out, no problem whatsoever. I didn’t need the handle or anything. The plastic wrap peeled off easily. Here’s how it looked at this point:

At this point, you don’t have a lot of time. You have to spread the meringue all over the whole thing, including down to the bottom of the cake base, before the ice cream melts. The meringue insulates the ice cream and keeps it from getting melted by whatever kind of heat you apply. I frantically meringued it with a spatula and then added scallops (I mean designs, not the shellfish) with a fork, then I toasted the whole thing with a kitchen torch. That was fun! It brought out the design like magic, like those books you get when you’re little, that you brush with water and a hidden picture appears. 

Next step: Flambé! I had bought a nip of Kraken spiced rum and just sort of splattered it all over the baked Alaska, and then turned the torch on it, and up it went.

It just made a small flame, so I threw some more rum on and torched it again, and that was a little more impressive.

 

 

There is supposed to be a video above! Please tell me there is a video above. 

Some of the instructions I read said you were supposed to
warm the rum, which I forgot to do, and some said you were supposed to pour it into an eggshell (?) and set it on fire and then pour it onto the baked Alaska, which sounded like a wonderful way to set your arm on fire. My method worked fine, and it burned itself out fairly quickly, without blackening the dessert too much. 

And then it was time to cut! I thought it would be an absolute menace to hack through, but it was actually quite easy, and the knife slid right through. The ice cream held together in distinct layers, yet the cake wasn’t hard and frozen. I was so pleased.

The meringue even held in place and didn’t really start to slide until I was almost done cutting slices for everyone. All in all, a complete success, way beyond what I was hoping for. 

You guys, it tasted so good. I guess I was halfway expecting it to be some kind of novelty monstrosity dessert that would impress the kids because it was on fire, but instead it turned out to be truly delicious. 

I was entirely happy with the combination of creamy, tropical fruity flavors, and the jam and nuts added a lot of interest so it wasn’t just sugar and sweetness.

I do wish I had made more jam, but the jam itself was a great idea. Cold jam made from fresh fruit is an absolute delight. The meringue itself had more depth of flavor than I was expecting. The light torching had caramelized it slightly, and it had a wonderful cozy, toasty taste that added a real layer of appeal. 

I will absolutely be making this again. Absolutely! Not for a while, though! 

Ah, but what about the top tier of the wedding cake, the one we saved for a quarter of a century, brought with us through several moves and held onto throughout countless power outages? WHAT OF IT? 
 
Well, I happen to have this video of Damien finally unwrapping it, and I think you’re just perverse enough to be curious. Enjoy! Enjoy! 
 

Well. Anyway, you can make a baked Alaska in a day. You can see I did this the slightly insane way, but you can get a readymade cake, get a quart or two of ice cream from the store, and make a meringue, and set it on fire! Do it! 

Here are the assembly instructions for baked Alaska, without all the recipes and chit-chat. This is for a somewhat smaller one than the one I made, but you can fiddle with the proportions.

Spray or grease a bowl.
Lay a cross of ribbons inside it to make a handle, to help you lift out the frozen ice cream dome. 
Line this with plastic wrap, leaving some hanging over the edges. 
Add small scoops of various flavors of softened ice cream. Or add softened ice cream in layers, smoothing it down and letting it freeze in between. 
Continue filling the bowl, and leave a space on top. Fold the plastic wrap over the top and smush it down, to compress it and make the top smooth. 

Get a pound cake, slab of brownies, or other dense cake, and cut it into slices about half an inch thick. Fit these over the top of the ice cream like a puzzle, filling up all the gaps. 
Fold the plastic wrap over the top of the cake and freeze the bowl for at least four hours until the ice cream is rock hard. 

Make the meringue: Make a cup of superfine sugar by whirring it in the food processor for a minute. 
Separate four egg whites and add in 1/4 tsp cream of tartar. Whisk with an electric mixer until frothy.
Spoonful by spoonful, add in one cup of superfine sugar until the meringue  is smooth, not grainy, and the peaks are stiff. (Test by pulling out the whisk and turning it upside down. If the meringue stands up straight and does not flop over, they are stiff.)Take the ice cream bowl out of the freezer and flip it upside down on a flat pan. If it doesn’t pop out, use the ribbon handles to pull it out. Peel off the plastic wrap.
Spread the meringue all over the ice cream and cake, all the way down to the bottom, and make it into decorative swirls, using a fork to add details if you like. 

Lightly torch the meringue to toast it.
(If you don’t have a torch, you can toast it in the oven, but you will need to re-freeze the whole thing for a few hours first, before popping it into a 500 oven for 4 minutes.)
 
To flambé the meringue, pour a few tablespoons of 80-proof liquor like rum or brandy over the top of the meringue and touch a flame to it. It will burn itself out in a minute or so. 
 
Cut with a sharp knife. If it’s too hard to cut, dip the knife in hot water. 
 
 

What’s for supper? Vol. 200! Let me not be misconstrued: All I really know is food.

“What’s for supper” was this thing
I started on a whim.
I thought it would be nice to take
A weekly break from grim
And ghastly stories all about
The Church and sex and stuff,
And write, instead, about meat loaf
And peanut butter fluff. 

Well . . . 

Let the happy news be thundered:
“What’s for supper” turns two hunderd.

SATURDAY
BURGERS AND CHIPS

“Burgers and chips,” the blackboard says.
So I guess that’s what we had.
Burgers and chips are always good.
They really can’t be bad.

I didn’t take a picture, though.
You know what burgers look like, bro. 

SUNDAY
PEPPERONCINI BEEF SANDWICHES, MEYER LEMON MERINGUE PIE

Pepperoncini beef is great
Chunk it in the crock pot, then you wait. 

Shred the meat and serve on rolls,
Dish some nice jus up in bowls,

Top with cheese and mayonnaise,
Then enjoy the songs of praise.

Finish up with lemon pie!
Sweet meringue piled nice and high.

Two cheerful pies for gloomy weather.
They took six years to put together.

MONDAY
FISH TACOS

♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬
Fish tacos is the meal for me!
Fresh cabbage shredded cheerfully!
Lime wedges waiting plump and green!
Keep the salsa, just gimme that sour cream.

Fish tacos is an easy dish!
Fish tacos are all made with fish!
Aldi has avocados cheap!
Darling, I love you, but, oh, that cabbage heap. 
♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬♩ ♪ ♫ ♬

TUESDAY
SHAWARMA, FRIED EGGPLANT

Sometimes life is very dark.
Joys are feeble, pains are stark.

Wherefore all this shuck and jive?
What’s the reason we’re alive?

It’s shawarma

Cease your weeping, wipe your eyes.
Marinate those chicken thighs

In garlic, cumin, cinnamon.
Filthy eastern ways are fun

With shawarma.

Slice some eggplant, salt it well
Dredge in batter, what the hell. 

Fry ’til crisp and serve it hot
With yogurt sauce. Yes, please, a lot.

And shawarma.

WEDNESDAY
PIZZA

Somewhere in my kitchen, 
Is a missing ball of dough. 
I had it Wednesday morning
But by noon it had to go. 
I made four pizzas with the rest
And looked both high and low
But dough ball number five skipped town
Like Barry Manilow.*

*I don’t know, what do you want from me

THURSDAY
ONION SOUP, BEER BREAD, BRATS

It’s only melted butter,
Melted butter in a pot
Cuddled up with onions
And some beef broth, not a lot. 
Salt and pepper and flour
And a drift of parmesan.
But it smells like heart’s desire
And it tastes like supper’s on.

 

FRIDAY
MAC AND CHEESE

You know what, you write a poem about mac and cheese. 

***

Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 hunk beef
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • several glugs Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • rolls
  • sliced provolone

Instructions

  1. Put the beef in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice. If you like, cut the stems off the pepperoncini. If there isn't enough juice, add some beer. Add the worcestershire sauce if you want a slightly more savory juice.

  2. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for several hours until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. 

  3. Shred the meat. If you like, chop up a few of the pepperoncini. 

  4. Serve meat on rolls with mayo if you like. Lay sliced provolone over the meat and slide it under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Serve the juice on the side for dipping. 

 

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Fried eggplant

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

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

veg oil for frying

3 cups flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp 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, 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.

  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.

Beer bread

A rich, buttery quick bread that tastes more bready and less cake-y than many quick breads. It's so easy (just one bowl!) but you really do want to sift the flour.

This recipe makes two large loaf pan loaves.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups flour, sifted
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 12-oz cans beer, preferably something dark
  • 1 stick butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375

  2. Butter two large loaf pans. Melt the stick of butter.

  3. I'm sorry, but you really do want to sift the flour.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients, and stir in beer until it's all combined and nice and thick.

  5. Pour the batter into the loaf pans and pour the melted butter over the top.

  6. Bake for about 50 minutes until it's crusty and knobbly on top.

What’s for supper? Vol. 146: Tutto il Formaggio

What did we eat this week? Oh, wait till I tell you.

Recipe cards at the end.

SATURDAY

On Friday and Saturday, l’uomo and I went away! We did! It’s our anniversary this month. Twenty-one years, my friends, and it gets better and better. We had three days and two nights at the beach — longer than we’ve ever been kidless together since the day we got married — and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But I’m only gonna tell you about the food.

First night, he had the surf and turf

and I had about a bathtub’s worth of lobster formaggio.

Sharp, creamy, and wonderful. We also had lobster-stuffed mushrooms and lobster rangoon. We, um, we like lobster. I only ate half and then of course accidentally left my leftover package in the restaurant, rather than bringing it to the hotel and then accidentally leaving it in the mini fridge.

We staggered back to our room, with its sweet little ocean view balcony and there were champagne and strawberries waiting for us, plus a lovely little plate of cheeses and fruits

I’m finding it hard to believe that we ate this that same night, to be honest, after all that lobster. Maybe we ate it the next day? I do recall having a hearty breakfast the next day, and then we spent a lot of time clambering around on rocks gawking at tide pools and snickering over the people waiting in line to get into the Social Distortion concert. Someone had written BRIANNA I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU on one of the shuttered souvenir shops. And then there was this:

This has been my approach, as well, and it’s worked well for me. Hey, it’s the off season. And then more tide pools! Tide pools are the best. Look at all those little baby mussels!

We weren’t ready for dinner, as such, but a little light snack sounded all right, so we had some cocktails with a dozen oysters with plenty of horseradish, and a charcuterie board. I didn’t know what that was, but food that comes on boards has never yet disappointed me. This one was exceptionally good, with various dried meats, roast beef, pickled vegetables, sharp and tender cheeses, hot crusty bread, honey, fig paste, and the most amazing mustard.

It seems silly, but I can’t say enough about this mustard. It just transformed everything. Tell me about fancy mustards that you know about! I don’t even know what to search for, but I have a food processor and I want to be a part of this.

I think maybe it was now that we brought the strawberries out? And the other cheeses? What I’m trying to say is, salt air really gives you an appetite. We didn’t drink the champagne, because we never drink the champagne. We now have three bottles of champagne in the refrigerator, left over from last Valentine’s Day and also our 20th anniversary. I honestly don’t know why we keep buying it. If you want it, you can come over and get it. The mustard is all gone, though, so don’t get your hopes up.

Anyway, we had a nice time. Such a nice time. I love that man.

SUNDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

Back to life! Back to sandwiches without even a little bit of lobster in them. These particular sandwiches are a favorite around here. Slices of roast chicken or turkey, slices of tart green apples, bacon, thick cheddar cheese, and honey mustard on ciabatta rolls.

You can toast the whole thing for a few minutes if you like. Yum yum.

MONDAY
Various antipasti; suppli; linguine with ragu; lemon ices; pizzelle cannoli

So, on some random Monday in early October, we have a day off school for no reason and eat Italian food. Fine, it was for Columbus Day. Fight me.

We start with suppli, also sometimes called arancini. These are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with a core of melted mozzarella. YEAH, SORRY ABOUT COLUMBUS DAY. I’m so glad you don’t celebrate Columbus Day, because then you don’t have to eat suppli. They’re really not very good. They aren’t the food of the gods or anything. You wouldn’t wet yourself because of how meltingly fabulous they are. Don’t be silly.

When they’re frying, you don’t have to physically restrain yourself from reaching into the hot oil to grab a wonderful golden ball of glory

They don’t rest on the plate, fragrant and smiling, inviting you to break through the tender, crisp shell into the creamy risotto within

and when you break it open you won’t whimper with delight as the mozzarella meltingly swoons across your plate

It’s just food. It can’t possibly be that good, my stars. Get ahold of yourself.

We also had an assortment of antipasti, into which I put very little effort, because making suppli is exhausting, man. I cut several Bosc pears into wedges and wrapped them with paper-thin prosciutto, and that was nice. We also had various olives and marinated vegetables, cheeses, salamis, breadsticks, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun dried tomato bruschetta, and whatnot. Very pretty.

I knew I shouldn’t eat another suppli, but I did it anyway.

The night before, Damien had made his magnificent ragu, which is a tomato-less meat sauce with ground pork and beef, celery and carrots, garlic, lots of red pepper flakes, and tons of anchovies that just sort of melt. We briefly considered grinding up some pancetta, but life suddenly seemed short, so we went with a mere two meats. I haven’t written up a recipe card yet, so I’ll just link to the Deadspin recipe for now. You must try this. It’s so simple and so amazingly good.

Does it look like much? No, it does not.

But it smells and tastes like if pasta went to heaven, and this is who it gets to spend eternity with: ragu. I don’t know where me eating it fits into this cosmology, but there you are.

I had made a desultory supermarket search for cannoli shells, but quickly gave up and bought those snowflake-shaped pizzelle cookies

(photo from Wikimedia Commons)

and topped them with a scoop of simple cheese filling (ricotta with confectioner’s sugar and a little almond extract), shaved dark chocolate, and a few maraschino cherries. Nobody complained! But I forgot to take a picture.

And! I just found out this minute that you can actually make cannoli shells using pizzelle cookies. You put them in the microwave on high for 30-40 seconds and quickly roll them around something round, like a broom handle. They harden right up, and then you can fill them. What do you know! Next year in Jerusalem or what have you.

TUESDAY
More ragu on spaghetti and garlic bread

We had so much leftover food, I didn’t even need to cook more pasta. I just boiled some water and dunked the cooked leftover linguine in for a minute, swished it around, and then drained it. Good enough for the likes of us. We even had leftover garlic bread, which is unheard of in these parts.

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen and roasted Brussels sprouts

I’ve never had “real” ramen, but it’s on my list, and in the meantime, this is a happy little meal. In the morning, I sliced up a bunch of carrots on the wide blade of the cheese grater and put them in a bowl covered with vinegar and sugar. Then I soft boiled a dozen eggs, and then cooked up some boneless pork chops in olive oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thin and finished cooking them with soy sauce.

When it was dinner time, I re-heated the pork in the microwave and cooked up a big pot of ramen, and served it with the pork, the carrots, the eggs, plus some hot sauce (where did my sriracha sauce go? I don’t know) and sesame seeds and crunchy noodles. Good stuff. So many nice variations for Fancy Ramen Nite.

The Brussels sprouts were actually supposed to be part of the Italian meal, but the very idea of green vegetables had been forced vehemently out of my head by vengeful and jealous risotto god. I trimmed them and cut them in half, then mixed them up with plenty of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted them in a shallow pan. Oh gosh, the crisp little charred leaves on the outside. Magnificent.

Roasting is by far my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. You could add bacon or balsamic vinegar or honey, but it doesn’t really need it.

THURSDAY
Beef barley soup and pumpkin date muffins

It suddenly got chilly and rainy after a weirdly hot and humid week, so I was glad I had put off making soup until Thursday. I do a nice, basic recipe: garlic, red onion, carrot, and beef, then beef broth, red wine, and diced tomatoes with the juice, then mushrooms and barley toward the end. You can make the whole thing in the Instant Pot pretty quickly, if you can’t leave it simmering on the stovetop.

 

I also made pumpkin muffins, the first of the season. These are so fast and reliable, with a cozy, spicy flavor, and you can add all kinds of friendly toppings — oats, almonds, wheat germ, or turbinado sugar. This time, I stirred some chopped dates that were lurking about in the cabinet for some reason.

These muffins always turn out wonderfully tender and moist. I got the original recipe from Allrecipes, but I use half the sugar it calls for, and they’re still quite sweet. We usually have these as a quick bread along with soups, or to put in lunches so I feel like a good mother, but you could increase the sugar (or not) and add cream cheese frosting for a pleasant dessert.

Of course you can use this recipe to make loaves, as well. We do muffins because it’s easier to keep track of carbs that way. Speaking of which: T1D kid has over six months under her belt and we haven’t killed her yet! High fives all around! She’s even running cross country now, the maniac.

FRIDAY
Pizza

We have a birthday! I have made some vague promises of a cake. We shall see.

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

5 from 2 votes
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Vermonter sandwiches

Ingredients

  • ciabatta rolls
  • grilled chicken or turkey, sliced
  • crisp bacon
  • Granny smith apples, cored and sliced
  • cheddar cheese, sliced thickly
  • honey mustard sauce

Instructions

  1. Layer all sandwich elements on roll. If you like, toast the sandwich before adding the apple slices and honey mustard. 

5 from 2 votes
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Cannoli filling

Use to fill cannoli shells, or put a scoop on top of pizzelle cookies. Top with shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, etc. 

Ingredients

  • 32 oz ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and refrigerate until you're ready to use it.

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

5 from 1 vote
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Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 30 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

Marriage advice from two who know

YES, it’s our twentieth anniversary! We’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Here are none of them:

People think marriage is expensive, but there are so many costs you can halve when you become one flesh. Hello, one toothbrush. Hello savings! And thriftiness can be sexy, too. Take turns with it and watch each other brush. Up and down, up and down, side-side-side-side-side! This is hot.

Communication is at the heart of unity, and many people are most comfortable communicating constant expressions of disappointment. Start there, then work your way up to berating each other in the Wendy’s drive thru because why the hell would a grown man truly need that much ketchup, until you’re known far and wide as They’re At It Again. Eventually, the police dispatcher will have a special code just for you two. Embroider it on a pillow.

If you would like to broadcast your love to the world, pose often with your hands touching each other in claw-like fashion, or I guess it’s a heart shape. Grr! Love! Grrrr! I’ll scratch your eyes out!

Compromise, compromise, compromise. Try only being an irrational son of a bitch half the time.

Frequently tell your beloved that you cherish every tiny bit of them, from head to toe. Then, on a milestone anniversary, prove it by presenting them with a romantic pillow stuffed with years of carefully gathered toenail clippings, belly button lint, and drain hair. Pinterest has some good ideas for how to make this project happen. Tip: Don’t spend too much time on Pinterest. It’s not healthy.

When you take a picture of the two of you, hold up an empty frame in front of you. People are doing this. There must be a reason. It can’t be meaningless, can it?

Try to find hobbies you can do together. Accrue debt in both your names. Develop contagious skin conditions you can share. Work your way through vast quantities of cheese and meet in the middle. Grow identical beards.

Cultivate pet names for each other. Consider “sweet cheeks,” “sugar lips,” “xylitol assy cheeks,” or “partially-hydrogenated-palm-oil-me-lad.”

Keep a sense of mystery alive in your marriage. One woman was mad at her husband for forty-three years and refused to say why! And he kept up his end, too. She had no idea what was going on in that basement bathroom the whole time, with the rolled-up towel stuffed under the door and the scuffling noises.

Mason jars aren’t just de rigeur for the wedding reception; they must be carefully featured and maintained throughout your entire marriage. Commute to work in a mason jar if you have to. Tout pour l’amour! Tout, I say!

Romantic: Getting matching tattoos.
Even more romantic: Surprising each other with the tattoos you give your spouse while he or she is unconscious.
Even more romantic: Discovering what kind of tattoos you thought it was a good idea to surprise each other with while you were unconscious. How is it even physically possible for the Tasmanian Devil to accomplish . . . that . . . with a dolphin? Only your id knows.

Never underestimate the power of “pillow talk.” Try, “Mphhh grphhh umph bhh.” Also very evocative: Pillow screaming.

***

Happy anniversary, man. You know I don’t mean it. But I meant it when I said “I do.”

***
Image by Stephan Nakatani via Flickr (Creative Commons)

When Ella Fitzgerald had no one to watch over her

Ella Fitzgerald’s voice means warmth, joy, careless brilliance, strength wrapped in velvet. But her early life was cold, rough, harsh.

It’s Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th birthday today, and on NPR’s Morning Edition, Susan Stamberg reports that Fitzgerald, born poor, was orphaned at 15. Her surviving stepfather was hard on her, and she lived for a time with an aunt, but then started skipping school, eventually living on the streets.

“She was on the streets of Harlem dancing for tips” [Smithsonian Curator of American Music John] Hasse says.

She earned more pennies as a lookout for cops outside a brothel. At one point, she was arrested for truancy and sent to a reform school, where she was regularly beaten. So she ran away — this awkward, gawky girl with skinny legs and old, cast-off boots — with no money, living on the streets and sleeping where she could.

Around this time, Fitzgerald used to say, she first began to sing on stage. She was 17, and found herself terrified in front of a brutal audience at Amatuer Night at the Apollo. She had been planning to dance, but her legs shook too badly; so instead, she sang. And everyone loved it, so she kept on singing. At least that’s the way she tells it.

Who can describe her voice? Instead of talking about it, let’s listen. The velvety ballads are my favorites. Here’s one of the greatest:

Oh, how I need. What a miracle of vocal engineering that she goes all high and hoarse without losing an ounce of power. Happy birthday, you beautiful woman. Someone I’d really like to know.

Image: Ella in 1940, photo by Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons