I do believe I’ve picked up some new readers! Welcome. Also welcome to a few people who are fasting and praying for my conversion, what the heck. To everyone who’s here for whatever reason, I usually do a Friday food round-up, with photos and recipes of the meals we cooked for our large family for the week. Except I didn’t get around to it yesterday, or last Friday. So here’s a little catching up:
Oh, but first, there was the Friday before that! I was threatening to make those San Francisco Vietnamese garlic noodles from the NYT. A few friends warned me they were rather bland, despite the garlic — kind of a lot of garlic, if you’re tripling the recipe —
oyster sauce, and fish sauce, so I decreased the amount of pasta and increased the sauce ingredients, and I thought it was tasty. (I also used asiago rather than parmesan, because they are both triangles and I can’t read.) A nice combination of savory and creamy with a tiny bite, not overpowering, but a little off the beaten path.
It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’ll probably make it again, as I usually have these ingredients in my house. And sometime when it’s not Lent, I’ll add caviar as suggested, or maybe scallops.
We also had our Italian feast for St. Joseph’s day with a nice antipasto of whatever wasn’t too expensive at Aldi, and whatever hadn’t expired in the back of my cabinet:
Looks like some fresh mozzarella, some various salamis and other cured meats, pickled vegetables, and tomatoes. I think there were some pickled hot peppers with some kind of cheese filling. And cantaloupe. If you ever had a job prepping breakfast in a hotel while you were pregnant, and the smell of rotten cantaloupe was the most miserable thing you ever inhaled, and you were wondering how many years it would take you to get over it and enjoy cantaloupe again, the answer seems to be [feverish calculations] twenty-five.
So Damien made spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread, Lucy made suppli, or arancini (breaded fried risotto balls with melted mozzarella in the center)
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and Clara made zeppole. Must hunt down her recipe, because they were fab.
And I just sat there and ate. Buona Festa, San Giuseppe!
Looks like that week we also had a pretty chicken salad with toasted almonds, strawberries, and croutons that I did NOT BURN FOR ONCE
That would be mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, feta cheese, diced red onion, and toasted almonds, and croutons made of stale hot dog buns, with red wine vinegar.
(And here’s my periodic reminder that the easiest way to toast nuts, to make them crunchy and bring out their flavor, but not to burn them, is to spread them on a plate and microwave them for a few minutes. You can do it in the oven, but there’s no real advantage, and they’re very easy to burn.)
. . . and it looks like I finally got around to putting fennel on a pizza, like I’ve been threatening to do for some time. This one had fennel, fresh garlic, anchovies, feta, fresh parmesan, and artichoke hearts.
What a stupendous pizza. I sliced the fennel in rings, which I feel isn’t quite right, but it tasted great. No ragrets.
Ooh, then on Friday, it was the Annunciation, which is a meat Friday in Lent, so we had roast beef sandwiches with provolone and horseradish sauce on toasted buns,
and a side of caprese salad, which is always nice.
The roast beef, Damien made by crusting it with I think salt and pepper and garlic powder and searing it in olive oil with lots of garlic cloves, and then roasting it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and then he starts checking it. He lets it rest for a while before slicing it.
The caprese salad is just fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground salt and pepper. I didn’t bother reducing anything.
Okay! Caught up. Now for the week we just finished:
Nothing to report. Chicken, cheddar cheese, jalapeños in the quesadillas, salsa and sour cream on the side.
I do remember that I went shopping and had made up my mind that I was finally going to buy one of those giant smoked turkeys they had at Aldi, that I had been thinking about for several weeks, and that I had planned at least two meals around it. Got there and . . . they were just regular frozen turkeys. Note even a good price. I tried to persuade myself that I wanted to do Thanksgiving in the middle of the week in March, but it turns out I very much did not. So I wung it.
Ham, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, rolls
Meal number 1 that I wung: A “join us for dinner in the church basement”-style dinner. Nothing wrong with that! I did not make an ambrosia salad, however, because that’s an abomination.
My only tip is that, if you’re not planning to glaze the ham or stick pineapples to it or anything, you can slice it ahead of time and then heat it up, and it makes an easy meal even easier.
Oh, here’s my recipe for garlic parmesan mashed potatoes. I made five pounds and warned everyone not to go nuts, because there were only five pounds, and they acted like it was death camp rations. That is nearly half a pound of potato per person, not counting the butter, milk, and parmesan! I guess we burn all those extra calories by making an ungodly fuss about everything all the time.
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Gochujang pork chops, sesame broccoli, rice
Now this was a tasty meal with minimal effort. I started the pork chops marinating in the morning with this sauce
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made of gochujang, honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. I heated up the broiler nice and hot and shoved the chops right under it, and turned them once. They were on the thin side, so I was careful not to overcook them.
I also love using this marinade on pork ribs and giving them to Damien to cook outside, but the chops turned out great. (It’s also wonderful for gochujang bulgoki, when you include matchstick carrots, sliced onions, and slice the pork before marinating, and you serve it with nori. It’s really just a fine, fine marinade.)
I made a big batch of basmati rice in the Instant Pot, and a big tray of toothsome sesame broccoli
which there is a recipe for
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but it’s easy as can be. You just drizzle the broccoli spears with sesame oil and soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and send them for a short ride under a hot broiler to turn bright green with a tiny bit of char.
Delicious meal, very easy, minimal cook time.
Bagels sandwiches with egg and cheese, choice of ham or sausage; OJ
Nothing to report. Well, I employed the very healthful method of frying the eggs in a truly ludicrous amount of butter, and not flipping them over, but cooking the tops by spooning melted butter repeatedly over the yolk, which causes the white to bubble up around the yolk and sort of support it, so you get a little film over the top of the yolk, but it’s still runny on the inside.
This was the second meal (wait, third?) I planned on the fly, and Damien offered to make it while I was doing . . . something or other. Probably crying. It was an insane week with about 60% more meetings and driving and assignments and complications and drama than necessary. I cooked some ground beef with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and he made one tray with just that, and one tray with that and also jalapeños, and leftover roast beef, and leftover chicken, and of course cheese.
Maybe it was just the “somebody else made dinner” talking, but I thought it was delicious.
Saag paneer, naan
Well, this was a semi-tragic finale to an exhausting week. All week, I had been looking forward to trying this Instant Pot recipe (it also has stovetop instructions). I love Indian food, I love spinach, I love creamy things. I figured the kids wouldn’t like it, but they can go to hell, I mean make themselves toast. I did have an extremely busy schedule, but I got up and finished up some editing and sent off some articles and wrote some interview questions, then briskly set to work prepping all my saag paneer ingredients and making the dough for naan.
Or, well, I was going to, but we were out of yogurt, and so was the only convenience store in town. So I zipped into the next town because I needed paneer, anyway. I was still sort of unclear about what paneer was, exactly. I made some inquiries, and learned that it is cottage cheese, sort of, but not really. And it has been a kind of trying week, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask social media a cheese question. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went to the international market, and they had one kind of paneer, so that settled that. Bought two blocks and zipped home.
I cooked the first part of the saag paneer with all the vegetables, and of course it smelled great
— and here I had a little larf to myself, because I experienced Spinach Panic, where you follow the directions for cooking a pound of spinach but it still seems like THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT
but it is right, it’s just cooking with fresh spinach. Two minutes later, it was fine:
Did a little more work, went to adoration, went to pick up the kids from school, and then got back to finish up this meal, with the house already smelling most excellently.
I open the Instant Pot top, and it’s going along great, and then I get up to the part where you add the little blocks of paneer. Which I did. And I waited for them to melt, and they did not. I stirred, I adjusted the heat, I pressed on them, I stirred some more, I did everything I could think of. They remained intact.
Okay, if you’ve ever cooked with paneer, you know what the problem is: The problem is, I’m an idiot. Paneer is not supposed to melt. Because it’s . . . cottage cheese, sort of. And I would have known this, if I had asked social media, or . . . READ THE RECIPE. Which clearly states, “Add Paneer cubes and Garam Masala to it. And cook it further on saute mode for about 5 minutes. Your Palak Paneer is ready.”
Why did I think the paneer would melt? I have no idea. The recipe also included a photo of the finished dish, clearly showing the green puree with the white paneer cubes bobbing merrily around on top. This made no impression on me whatsoever. I was still angrily prodding the paneer with a wooden spoon, trying to force it to melt, because it is cheese! So I finally poured the whole thing into the food processor and whirred it until it was all blended, and I put some more salt and garam masala and chili powder and lemon juice in, heated it up again, and that is what I served.
It was actually really good. Very hearty, lots of flavor. Just . . . not really saag paneer.
The good(?) news is, I have a whole other block of paneer, and lots of leftover saag paneer with paneer blended up in it, so if I wanted to, I could make ultra paneer saag paneer! If I wanted to. Or I could just draw a veil over this whole episode and have my husband take me out for Chinese.
Hey, the naan turned out great. It was tender and pleasant to eat. I made 32 pieces, which is kind of a miracle, considering I was frying it one piece at a time at the end of the day at the end of the week while having a mental breakdown over the fucking paneer.
So, for the naan, I used this King Arthur recipe, which is nice and simple. It takes about an hour to rise, and then you just cut it up, let it rest, roll the pieces out, and fry them in a hot pan. I used the standing mixer to knead the dough and it turned out a little stickier than it was supposed to, so I used lots of flour when rolling the pieces out. I found it was helpful to keep a wet dishtowel by the stove to wipe out the burnt flour the accumulated in the the pan, in between frying. I tried both an iron frying pan, as the recipe called for, and a T-Fal double wall stainless steel frying pan, and didn’t notice any difference.
This is a picture of last time I made naan. I have a new picture of the new naan, but I lost my phone. I can hear it dinging somewhere in my bed, but I can’t find it.
And now we are all caught up. If you have any tips about cooking, please keep them to yourself, as my brain has completely smoothened over and is not accepting new information at this time, thank you.
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.
8 + 8
finely chopped onions
dry white wine
grated parmesan cheese
To make suppli out of the 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)
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.
This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!
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.
Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes
garlic, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.
Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.
Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.
Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.
Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)
boneless pork, sliced thin
in matchsticks or shreds
gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap
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.
Preheat broiler to high.
Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil.
Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds
Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred.