What’s for supper? Vol. 310: Back on my biryani

GOOD
MORN-ING
GIRLS-AND-BOYS!

{Good morn-ing, Miss El-lis!}

Sweet, sweet Miss Ellis, our music teacher who seemed to have descended from another era and remained untouched by all the very small town 1980’s public schooliness that swirled around her modestly clad ankles. She died relatively young, and so she still remains in my mind as a tall, gentle, slightly stooped, slightly pained-looking woman with a feathered bob, still wearing the plaid jumpers, clogs, and clunky folk jewelry that looked right to her while the rest of the world succumbed to Cyndi Lauper. She had us tootling into our recorders and scraping away at our lummi sticks while she labored away on her autoharp, teaching us folk songs from around the world against our will. And I still remember them, dozens of them. What a lovely woman. Good morning, Miss Ellis!

I guess it’s just fall, remembering time. It’s also cool weather, drizzly weather, and time to really start leaning into things that smell lovely and warm you up from the inside out. It helped that I didn’t have a car all week, so I was home to cook and take my time at it. Here’s what we had: 

SUNDAY
Italian sandwiches, fries

Damien made this meal while I sweated and slaved over a hot computer, putting together an Instacart order. Nobody’s tired of Italian sandwiches yet. I’ll tell you, this has not been a great year for tomatoes, though. They look okay, but they just don’t taste like much. The basil is fine, though. 

Sandwiches are a fine time to practice your pepper grinding skills. Also don’t be afraid to really bend that elbow when you’re pouring the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Tips!

MONDAY
Carnitas, guacamole

Just another manic Monday, that’s my carnita day. You start out with some hunks of pork sprinkled heavily with salt, pepper, and oregano, and simmer them nicely in a ton of oil and some Coke, a few quartered oranges, some cinnamon sticks, and a few bay leaves.

Jump to Recipe

Give it plenty of time. 

Pull the extries out and keep cooking it until the meat just gives up. 

and then maybe cook it a little longer just to give it a little more texture and color. 

I like carnitas with pico de gallo and sometimes beans and rice, but this time I just made a bowl of guacamole. 

Jump to Recipe

It wasn’t the greatest, and I’m not sure why. I forgot to order tomatoes, so that was missing, but it also just had a kind of harsh taste. Maybe the onions were a little old? Not sure. I mean don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty. It just wasn’t the greatest. 

The carnitas were good. Sweet and a little smoky or something. Not smoky, I don’t know. I had plenty. 

TUESDAY
Chicken biryani, coconut mango sorta-sorbet

A new recipe! I could not have been more pleased with how this turned out. This is from Simply Recipes and I followed it exactly, except for extending the cooking time, which I was prepared for, because last time I made biryani, the rice was so underdone. Oh, I also used chicken broth instead of water, and I skipped the golden raisins, because I knew it would prejudice the kids against this meal. 

I started cooking in the morning. First I gathered the spices. Salt and pepper for the chicken, and then onion, fresh ginger, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. 

Next, I accidentally dumped about 1/4 cup cardamom down the heating vent. This is not a bad way to begin the heating season, and I may sell this idea to Martha Stewart. I did manage to get the rest into the mortar and pestle and grind it up.

The next step is to prep your rice (I just used regular shorty rice, no fancy basmati or anything) and set that aside; and then slice the chicken thighs up along the bone, then season and fry them in oil. 

At this point, I realized that my almost lifelong horror of frying chicken is probably outdated and unnecessary. When I think of frying chicken, I think of a miserable, stressful catastrophe with hot oil spattered all over the place, billowing clouds of smoke, people screaming, the earth cracking open like a giant egg, species going extinct, I don’t know. Just a bad chicken scene in general. 

But that’s probably because last time I tried to fry chicken, I had a ton of little kids in the kitchen literally hanging off my legs, if not my boobies, while I fried. I probably had a terrible, thin, warped pan to cook with, and not enough oil, and no tongs, and maybe a broken stove, and I was probably in the habit of constantly telling myself what a rotten cook I was while I cooked; and supper was probably late, and everyone was upset, and the earth was probably cracking open like a giant egg. The odds, in short, were against me at the time. A bad chicken scene indeed. 

But things are different now! I have better equipment, I’m a much more confident and skilled cook, and I almost always cook alone. Or if someone comes in, I tell them to go away, and they do. 

What I’m saying is, I’m going to fry some chicken next week. I will probably still tell myself I’m a rotten cook, but, per my therapist, I will catch myself saying this. 

Anyway, back to the biryani. The next thing is to take the chicken out of the pan and fry up the onions and ginger in the oil. Lovely, lovely. Then you add in the turmeric and cardamom and it gets even better. Turmeric, as you know, is this deep golden hue, and you wonder if it’s going to stay so golden when you mix it in to other things, or if it will become diluted. And you will not be disappointed! Oh, I enjoyed myself so much.

Cook a bit more and then add your rinsed rice into the pan

and then add in the chicken, the broth, and the bay leaves and cinnamon. 

My friends, I had to physically force myself to put a lid on the pan. The aroma was straight from paradise and I did not want to be separated from it. 

So it just simmered for about 20 minutes, and when I took the lid off, this magic had occurred:

I don’t know what I expected, but I was just thrilled. Look at it! It’s biryani! 

According to the recipe, the biryani is now cooked. As I expected, though, it was cooked unevenly, and much of the rice was still crunchy. This is a very common issue with biryani, apparently. This is why I started in the morning. So I transferred the whole thing to the slow cooker and set it on low, and let it steam itself for the rest of the day. 

By dinner time, it was piping hot and thoroughly cooked, but not mushy or anything. 

I served it up with some toasted almonds and some chopped cilantro. 

They liked it! Just about everybody liked it. This dish has plenty of depth and cozy layers of flavor, but it’s not spicy at all. This recipe is most certainly going into the rotation, and I may even sneak some golden raisins in next time. So delicious. 

I love that I was able to make it all in the morning. It would make a great party dish. Tasted even better the next day. Wonderful stuff. 

Now for the sorta-sorbet. As I mentioned the other week, the Concord grape sorbet I made turned out so well, I thought a mango sorbet would be great to go with Indian food. The mangoes I ordered were nowhere near ripe, though, so I asked Damien to bring home some frozen mango chunks, and then quickly chose this recipe, which looked simple but promising enough. 

Foolish Simcha, ignoring the biggest red flag at all. She calls it a “sorbet dessert,” rather than just sorbet. This is classic recipe vacillation language, when you come out with something kind of gloppy and you don’t really know what it is, so you just straight up lie about it, and then call it “dessert” to cover your butt. 

Or maybe I screwed up, who knows. Anyway, you’re supposed to blend the mango, coconut milk, lime juice, honey, vanilla, and a little salt in a blender, and …. that’s it. 

In her world, this comes out of her blender the consistency of thick, creamy soft serve ice cream, and she scoops it into an adorable coconut-shaped ramekin and boops a mint leaf on top for the photo. 

In my world, it looked like someone ate a mango and then their stomachs changed their mind. 

I tried freezing it in separate little cups and everything. No dice. I mean it was fine. It tasted fine. It wasn’t any damn sorbet, though. I probably should have put it through my ice cream maker, but by this time, I was kind of mad, and decided not to, on principle. I comforted myself with more biryani. 

WEDNESDAY
Bacon, brussels sprouts, and eggs

Second dark, rainy day in a row. This is a most excellent, one-pan meal that comes together pretty quickly, and that just about everybody likes. I kifed this recipe from Damn Delicious, and I like Chungah, but she calls for four pieces of bacon, and what is that. I used four pounds of bacon, plus three pounds of brussels sprouts, and about fifteen eggs. It was too much bacon, but on the other hand, it was dark and rainy out

You make a nice little sauce with balsamic vinegar, honey, fresh garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and you cook the bacon and brussels sprouts with this on a sheet pan

Then you crack some raw eggs carefully over the pan, sprinkle some red pepper flakes and freshly-grated parmesan cheese over that, and some more salt and pepper, and cook it several minutes longer, just until the whites set but the yolks are still wobbly.

And that’s it. So easy. Gosh, it’s delicious. The bacon and brussels sprouts soak up the sweet vingary garlicky sauce, and you can pick up forkfuls of this and dip it in the hot egg yolk and just have a wonderful time. 

Would have been great with some hot crusty bread or some hot pretzels. I think I served tortilla chips. 

THURSDAY
Chicken soup with matzoh balls, rolls, pizza rolls, cake

Thursday was Clara’s birthday! I still owe her a decent cake and a real present, because the whole entire day was eaten up with the worthy project of BUYING A CAR. 

There is a whole long agonizing story about the old car, which is still unresolved, but I did miraculously find this lovely 2010 Honda Odyssey and now it’s mine. Well, I guess technically it belongs to the Service Credit Union, but in five short years it will be mine! I truly love it. I haven’t heard a single bad thing about Honda Odysseys, and this one has heated seats and a sunroof and it only smells a little bit weird, and only in a cat way, not in an automotive way.

Clara modestly asked for chicken soup with matzoh balls for her birthday, and I had the foresight to get the soup going the night before. The soup could not be simpler. It’s really a broth with a few garnishes, more than a soup. A big pot of water with chicken parts with bones, big pieces of carrots, onion, and celery, salt and pepper, and a big handful of fresh dill and fresh parsley. Simmer all day, then strain. Put back as much of the solid bits of chicken and vegetables as you like, but understand that it’s mostly for texture and looks, as the taste has gone into the broth. Let the broth cool and skim off the fat if there’s too much. Then reheat and use as you wish. (I wish to use it to cook matzoh balls.)

So on Thursday I got the matzoh ball dough going when I got home (it needs to chill for at least half an hour), then strained the soup, heated it up, and started cooking some pizza rolls I bought in a panic because what if there’s not enough food? Then I made about 50 matzoh balls and let them simmer and steam for about half an hour.

Served with some soft rolls because what if there’s not enough etc etc
I threw a little fresh dill and parsley on top of the soup, and it was very nice.

I don’t know if all of the matzoh balls were cooked properly, but all the ones I got were!

And then we had a STORE-BOUGHT CAKE. Because I may be an idiot, but even I know that if you get home after 6 PM, it is too late to start baking a cake. I still owe Clara a real cake. Maybe this weekend. 

FRIDAY
Land, I don’t know. I think we are having spaghetti. 

 

John Herreid's Carnitas

Very easy recipe transforms pork into something heavenly. Carnitas are basically pulled pork tacos with the meat crisped up. Serve with whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • pork butt/shoulder, cut into chunks
  • salt and pepper
  • oregano
  • oranges, quartered
  • cinnamon sticks
  • bay leaves
  • 1 can Coke or Mexican Coke
  • 1 cup or less vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the chunks of pork with salt, pepper, and oregano.

  2. Put them in a heavy pot with the oil and Coke, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer.

  3. Simmer, uncovered, for at least two hours. The oranges will start to get mushy and the liquid will begin to thicken.

  4. When the meat is tender, remove the oranges, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Turn the heat up and continue cooking, stirring often, until the meat has a dark crust. Be careful not to let it burn.

  5. Remove the meat and drain off any remaining liquid. Shred the meat. It it's not as crisp as you like, you can brown it under the oven broiler, or return it to the pot without the liquid and fry it up a bit.

  6. Serve on warm tortillas with whatever you like.

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Bacon, eggs, and brussels sprouts in honey garlic balsamic sauce

Adapted from Damn Delicious.  An easy and tasty one-pan meal that would work for any meal. Great with a hearty bread like challah. 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 3 lbs uncooked bacon, cut into 1- or 2-inch pieces
  • 18 eggs
  • oil for greasing pan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed

Garnish (optional):

  • parmesan cheese, grated
  • red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Grease two large oven sheets. 


  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Mix Brussels sprouts and bacon together, spread evenly in pans, and pour sauce all over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

  3. Cook until bacon is almost done (almost as crisp as you like it) and Brussels sprouts are very slightly browned, 18-20 minutes.

  4. Pull the pans out of the oven and carefully crack the eggs onto the Brussels sprouts and bacon, here and there.

  5. Return pan to the oven and cook a few minutes longer, just enough to set the eggs. The yolks will get a little film over the top, but don't let them cook all the way through, or you'll have something resembled hard boiled eggs, which isn't as good. You want the yolks to be liquid so you can dip forkfuls of fod into it.

  6. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and serve. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 305: We all scream “bastani!”

Hi! Hi! I meant to do a food-and-ocean pictures post last week, when we were in Cape Cod, but I became overwhelmed and it languishes unfinished in my drafts folder. It’s worth summarizing, though, because I realized I actually have a routine down for vacation week, though, which takes into account limited budget, limited packing space, and a desire to avoid that “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties In Closer Proximity To Ocean” effect, but also a desire to not just eat boring everyday food, because we are near the ocean. (I should note that, at home and at the beach, Damien does all the laundry! And in fact he did most of the cooking while we were on vacation, too, so there.) Here is what we had (and what we did): 

First day: Sandwiches on baguettes (the most portable bread) and fake Pringles (the most compact chips). We have to bring a cooler anyway, for use at the beach, so I cram it with as much deli meat and cheese as possible, and we have this for our first meal, plus for lunch throughout the week. I also brought coffee, milk and cereal for the first breakfast, so we don’t have to leave the house until at least mid-morning of the second day.
Here are some pics on Facebook from our first day, discovering that the water on this part of Cape Cod is amazingly warm. 

Second day: 
Pics on Facebook from day 2. Our lovely house was literally a one-minute walk from the beach, but we wanted to see what else was in walking distance. Turns out, other beaches! But this one had a sign warning you not to swim there if you are bleeding, and not to wear dangly, shiny jewelry, or be too delicious. 

This picture is for all the haterz who ever wanted to BURY ME (I got out)

Before the beach, I went shopping, came home with rotisserie chickens and salad and chips, plus food for the rest of the week.

I had beach town supermarket sticker shock, so between that and the fact that Corrie came shopping with me, I came back with an awful lot of Jello, which came in handy later in the week when it was rainy and we needed something to fling around the kitchen.

Third day: 
We went to Paine’s Creek Beach and explored the tide pools. A dreamlike spot I’d love to go back to someday.

I think we actually went to a second beach that day? It’s all a blur. Damien grilled tasty burgers outside and made fries in the oven for dinner.

Fourth day: Seafood boil. We had some half-assed plans to dig our own clams, but there were complications with the permit and the equipment, so we decided to buy the seafood this year and plan to plan ahead next year. Still a huge treat. Recipe from the Narraganett beer can:

Damien made this meal as well. He got a bunch of littleneck clams, a few oysters, lots of mussels, and some kind of other big clams, and some kind of Spanish sausage, and we had cute little red potatoes and onions, bay leaves and peppercorns and parsley. Skipped the breakfast sausage. It’s all supposed to get boiled together, but we ran out of room, so he grilled the corn in its husks on the grill, and that turned out great. Man, that was a delicious meal. 

The tragedy was we didn’t think of getting some crusty bread to sop up the broth, which was tremendous. I liked the little neck clams best. Oh, what a feast. I had, uh, four helpings.

Most of the kids had chicken nuggets and corn, because what do they know. 

This was the day we rented kayaks and canoes! We paddled up Swan River, out into the ocean a bit, and then back down the river. A most excellent adventure, and now I am absolutely on the prowl for some used kayaks so we can do this more often. 

Fifth day: Restaurant

It rained and thundered, so we went to the movies, and then went out to eat and got ice cream. We always have one restaurant day when we go on vacation. We descended upon Kate’s Fried Seafood and Ice Cream in Brewster, which was very good. I kind of regret not ordering a big fried platter like the others did, because it turned out to be not greasy and just nice, but the salmon burger and sweet potato fries I picked was also very tasty and fresh.

That night we played poker for Swedish Fish and I believe it was also that night Damien and I both fell asleep on the couch for some reason. 

Sixth day: Frozen pizza
The weather cleared up enough for some more swimming, and there was a spectacular sunset for our final evening. 

Last day: Supermarket sandwiches on the way home. We had to be checked out by 10:00, so we had a quick breakfast, cleaned like maniacs, drove for a while, stopped for cheeseburgers, drove more, fulfilled my recently acquired lifelong dream to tour the U.S.S. Constitution, which is the world’s oldest ship still afloat!

and then to be honest the day started to go downhill, but Damien always listens to my stupid plans, so we walked a mile to the T station and rode the train to Chinatown. This would not have been a bad idea except that it was at the tail end of a very long and exhausting day and week, and nobody was at their best. So we got some reasonably tasty treats,

wandered around for a bit, and discovered they were having some kind of amazing food and dance festival at this very spot tomorrow, and decided to call it a day. Back on the T, another mile walk, couldn’t super duper remember where I parked the car, found the car, drove about an hour, stopped and got sandwiches at the supermarket, drove another two hours home, and BOY was the dog happy to see us. BOY WAS HE. 

And that was vacation. It was beautiful. 

Here’s what we had this past week: 

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with marinara sauce, garlic bread

Damien shopped for and made dinner. Absolutely delicious. 

His recipe, and I’m running so ludicrously late today, I don’t have time to make a recipe card at the moment:

One chopped onion per can of tomatoes, (he used 4 cans) and a diced head of garlic. Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes until you can smell the oil in the room, then add the onions only and cook till soft. Add a little salt. Add the garlic and cook some more, and then add tomato paste (one can per can of tomatoes, so four cans.) Cook that a bit then add sugar and some glugs of wine. Add the tomatoes and simmer, adding wine and a little olive oil as needed/wanted. When most of the tomatoes are broken down it’s pretty much ready.

It was good to be home. And the weather was suddenly autumnal, which was kind of unnerving. We expect to have some more summer heat soon, but we have definitely rounded a corner. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with marinara sauce, provolone and basil; lemon rosemary olive oil cake

There was lots of wonderful sauce left over, so I bought some chicken burgers and cut up some baguettes, and we had sandwiches with a slice of provolone, a few basil leaves, and generous scoop of hot sauce to melt the cheese over everything. 

Always tasty.  

And then Clara made an amazing cake for the Assumption: A lemon olive oil rosemary cake with rosewater. She said there was a lot of prep work, with all the chopping and zesting, but the baking itself was quite simple, and it came out light and luscious, and you could really taste all the elements. 

So pretty. So nice to have someone else spontaneously coming up with cakes!

TUESDAY
Tostadas

Tostada Tuesday! Like Taco Tuesday, but when all the stores are out of taco shells so you suddenly realize that you can buy that bag of tostada shells you’ve been walking past and not buying your whole life, and no one will stop you. 

I’m not going to say tostada Tuesday changed my life, but it was fun, like discovering a new shape of pasta or a new . . . uhh, I don’t know, I got nothing. I gave up alcohol over a week ago and I’ve been sleeping through the night every night for the first time in many years, but it’s just made me stupider, which doesn’t seem fair. Anyway, I wonder what else I’ve been walking past all these years, week after week, and never even considering buying, besides tostada shells. 

I also made a big bowl of guacamole.

Jump to Recipe

The avocados looked fine, but they tasted so pale and watery. No one else noticed, but I was really dismayed. Hope it’s a fluke. Not an actual fluke. That would be disgusting. 

WEDNESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches

I planned these solely because people were kind of cranky and I wanted them to like me again. A Vermonter sandwich is thick, crusty bread (preferably sourdough or ciabatta, but I got baguettes), thick slices of roast chicken or turkey, lots of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, slices of tart green apple, and lots of honey mustard dressing. 

It is a very hearty, cheering sandwich and it will make you friends. Corrie claimed that, once, I bought cheddar cheese that was so sharp, she cut her finger, and she absolutely insisted that this literally happened, and she will die clinging to this story. 

THURSDAY
Bo ssam, rice and lettuce, Asian cucumber salad, watermelon; saffron rosewater pistachio ice cream 

Thursday was supposed to be pork ribs, and they were supposed to be $1.49 a pound, but the supermarket flier lied to me, so I ended up pacing back and forth in front of the meat section, snarling quietly to myself, and then gloomily purchasing a giant fatty pork butt with no particular plans. 

Sometime during the week, the bottle of rosewater left over from the Assumption cake began to work on my brain, though, and I realized I had a jar of saffron threads I had never used, and Lucy had given me a mortar and pestle for mother’s day that I had likewise never used, and all that was lacking was a bag of pistachios, and then I could make . . . BASTANI. Bastani is persian ice cream made with, as you no doubt surmised, saffron, rosewater, and pistachios, and the idea of it has been haunting me. If you’ve never been haunted by the idea of persian ice cream, then baby, you are missing out. 

So from there, I says to myself, I says, what kind of pork goes with this kind of ice cream? And of course the answer was bo ssam. Usually I make bo ssam and then figure out what kind of soothing, mild thing I will serve along with it, but this time, I worked in the other direction. 

I have made bo ssam half a dozen times, and I keep simplifying the recipe, until I’m not even sure if it’s bo ssam anymore. All I do is, starting the night before, I mix a cup of salt with a cup of sugar and rub it all over a fatty piece of pork butt or shoulder, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate it overnight. Then around noon I heavily line a pan with tinfoil, unwrap the meat, and put it in the pan, and cook it for six hours at 300. That’s it. We eat it with lettuce, rice, and whatever Asian sauce I can find, and something soothing to the palate.

I’m telling you, I could make this with recipe with my eyes closed. I could make this recipe with my feet. It’s so simple, and everybody acts like I’m some kind of conquering hero genius, and they gobble it up. It is so tender, it is just barely holding itself together under the caramelized salt and sugar crust. It’s ridiculous meat. There should be a law! 

I cut a watermelon into chunks, I made a pot of rice in the Instant Pot, and I made a bowl of Asian cucumber salad, which is always refreshing and pretty and takes literally five minutes to throw together. 

Jump to Recipe

And there it all was. I brought my plate outside and ate alone so no one would see me acting like a monster with it. This was just a spectacular meal, an absolute festival of flavors. 

Everybody ate a lot, and had to rest up for a while, and then I brought out the ice cream! PERSIAN ICE CREAM.

Not gonna lie, this was kind of a pain in the pants to make. I am going to write a whole separate post about various ice creams I have been making since I got my ice cream maker, so I will go into more detail there, but I made a triple recipe, and it just took a long time because you have to stand there whisking the custard until it thickens, and I have a special knack for making custards take a ludicrously long time to thicken (well, probably because I’m always making triple recipes). I thought it turned out great, though. About half the family liked it, which is not bad. You could smell but not taste the rosewater. It was a wonderful color, and I was very pleased with how the saffron tasted warm, because it was saffron, but cold, because it was ice cream. I used plenty of salted pistachios (the recipe calls for unsalted) because that’s what I could find, and that turned out perfect. I did not use vanilla, and didn’t miss it. All in all, a success. But I have promised them to go back to something like chocolate chip or rocky road for the next batch. They are pretty good sports, but they have their limits with my globalist nonsense. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

There are four balls of pizza dough defrosting on the counter, and that is as far as I have gotten. Next thing you know, people will want me to get dressed. 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

5 from 3 votes
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spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

What’s for supper? Vol. 304: It’s souvlaki all the way down

Happy Friday! The name of the game this week was souvlaki! We didn’t really have that much Greek food; I just like saying “souvlaki,” and apparently so do Greek people, because every time I look up a recipe for something Greek, they let it slip somewhere in the recipe that this is souvlaki. No matter what it is. I have looked it up, and apparently the main ingredient necessary, in order for a dish to qualify as authentic Greek souvlaki, is “various meats.”

This is what makes me take a dim view of arguments that such-and-such dish isn’t really authentic. I mean, if it’s made of sawdust, then no, it’s not authentic cuisine. One time I told my kid I was eating imitation crab meat, and she said with great condescension, “Weww, Mama, I woudln’t eat wubba cwab if I was you.” But that is as far as I’m willing to go. Beyond that, it’s all authentic souvlaki as far as I’m concerned. (This is a complicated joke about fake meat, mock turtle soup, and turtles all the way down, if you like. If you don’t like, you can just keep reading, and eventually there is a nice picture of pork.) 

Weww, Mama, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, veggies and dip, chips, cherry pies with ice cream

My sister and five of her kids came over on Friday. On Saturday, we had a lovely guest for lunch, Fr. Michael Eades, a Toronto Oratorian who was passing through, so we had a little cookout in the middle of the day, and then we went to the beach, and then we came home and had another little cookout, because It Is Summer. 

I had a lot of fun making the pies. I do recommend sitting down in the afternoon and pitting several pounds of cherries while chatting with your beloved sister, and all your kids goof around playing cousin games and being silly. It’s just nice. Then I made the pies and Corrie brushed them with egg wash for me

and of course I managed to burn them, but they still got ate up. 

Here’s my reliable pie crust recipe:

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Spaghetti al carbonara 

Other meats have gotten more expensive, but bacon, which was always expensive, has stayed about the same, so I convinced myself this counted as a cheap meal, because I hadn’t gone shopping yet and it was literally the only dinner I could think of. 

Just about everybody likes it, and I managed not to burn the bacon, anyway. I bet you haven’t made carbonara for a while! Why not make it this week?

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Just pasta, bacon, parmesan, eggs, butter, and lots of pepper. Sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather used to say. You can make it fancier if you want, but the basic version is so easy and good.

MONDAY
Chicken drumsticks, pasta salad

Drumsticks really are cheap, to my sorrow. I hate drumsticks. I mean, they’re fine. On the drumsticks, I put olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and paprika, and roasted them, turning them once. The pasta salad had olive oil, wine vinegar, black olives, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, and I imagine salt and pepper. 

Not a sophisticated meal, but I went shopping in the afternoon, got home late, got the food put away because the grocery-put-away kid was at work, and then cooked supper, so everyone has hungry and appreciated food. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

I used to think Taco Tuesday was so silly. The kids would get so excited if I served tacos on Tuesday, and I just could not see what the big deal was. It was just tacos, regular tacos, and it happened to be on a day that also started with T, big deal. 

But you know what? Taco Tuesday performs the valuable service of letting me not figure something out. What day is it? Tuesday. What are we having? Tacos. What are people? Happy. Take a little nap, brain. THIS IS WORTH FORTY MILLION DOLLARS.

To the drained ground beef, I added lots of cumin, lots of chili powder, salt, plenty of garlic powder and onion powder, and some water. I guess I am officially weaned off using those little packets of taco seasoning. The secret ingredient is, as I suspected, salt. 

I went to take a picture of my tacos, and the camera was open the other way and captured this somewhat portentous photo of myself, looking like I am considering devouring not only the tacos, but the entire world, because the world is asking for it.

 

And here is the picture of my tacos.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros (souvlaki), homemade vanilla ice cream

The star meal of the week. I had a pork loin that I cut into thin slices and marinated in the morning. I sorta kinda followed this recipe (souvlaki), except I used a lot more garlic than it says, skipped the thyme, and went with fresh rosemary and fresh oregano. The one important thing is that this marinade includes honey, which he claims (and which I have no reason to doubt) breaks down the pork fibers. I marinated the meat about five hours and then pan-fried it in batches, and it certainly came out amazingly, yieldingly tender. 

I also made a big batch of garlicky yogurt sauce

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and cut up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers, and we cooked some french fries and I sent the girls out for a bunch of wild mint leaves, we and wrapped it all up in pita with feta cheese and hot sauce. 

Hot damn, it was delicious. (Actually I skipped the fries because I ran out of room and I secretly think it’s kind of gross.) I forgot to take a picture of it actually wrapped up like a wrap, because I just gobbled it up. You really cannot beat fresh herbs in a wrap. I think I’m going to take another stab at growing herbs inside this winter, because it makes such a difference. 

THEN, my ice cream maker arrived! Actually it arrived on Tuesday. I’ve been haunting Facebook Marketplace, and found a great deal on a Cuisinart ice cream maker (this one, and I didn’t spend any $83.10 on it!). We dashed out (that’s an ice cream maker joke) for some heavy cream and decided to just start with vanilla. I had put the bowl in the freezer in the morning (this is the kind you don’t need ice or salt for, but you do need to freeze the bowl for at least six hours ahead of time), and we made one batch that came out great, but the bowl did not stay cold enough in our sweltering kitchen to make a second batch. So I went ahead and ordered a second bowl from eBay, plus the Ben and Jerry’s recipe book everyone is telling me is the best. 

Benny always strives to dress appropriately for the occasion. 

So, no thrilling ice cream tales so far, but our first foray was pleasant enough. The machine is very simple to use. The ice cream comes out of th machine like soft serve, but I spread it in a pie plate and put it in the freezer for a few hours, and it came out like high quality hard pack ice cream.

There are some peaches on our peach tree, and we intend to make them into ice cream when they’re ripe; and we’re planning some ginger ice cream for next time we have Asian food, and probably, oh yes, blackberry ice cream when we get back from vacation and haven’t been scrounging away at the blackberry bushes for a whole week. 

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, cheezy weezies

Just good old oven broiled ribs with salt and pepper with the fat crisped up, nothing better. I was planning mashed potatoes, but it was and is way way too hot, so cheezy weezies it was. It’s been so hot all week. Hot hot hot. I actually got a bunch of work done on Thursday morning and then did something I haven’t done in decades: I draped myself over a floatie and just drifted around in the pool thinking about nothing. Just drifted like a screensaver, drift, bonk, driffffft. 

Actually before that, I went to jump off the little deck, got caught on a nail, and left most of my swim suit bottoms behind. Straight out of Looney Tunes. The kids may never recover. 

I’ll show you various meats. 

One of my kids immediately climbed out of the pool and went to find me a towel to cover my modesty. And another of my kids immediately shouted, “Not that one! That’s my towel!” And I am taking notes. 

Anyway, after that is when I decided I would just drift for a while. For some reason, the kids got out of the pool after my comic mishap. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And now, I can hardly believe my luck, but we are getting ready to go to the ocean for a week. I planned (and, in a stroke of good sense, pre-paid for) this vacation back in the middle of winter, and boy oh boy. Are we going to swim in the ocean. We usually go to Hampton Beach, but we’re venturing a little further down the coast this year. I bought Aldi’s entire stock of oversized towels on clearance, and we have our shark-spotting app all fired up, and we might not have our absolute favorite kind of insulin, but we do have insulin, and the check engine lights are on but are not flashing, so off we go! The house we rented has a small balcony and a SPIRAL STAIRCASE in it. And is near the ocean!!!!!!!!!! It allegedly has a little boardwalk leading to a private beach 300 yards away, but many of those words can mean all kinds of things, so we shall see. But still. The. Ocean. I’ll probably be posting photos on Facebook and possibly Instagram if you want to see what we’re up to.

Yes, there will be someone watching the house at home, so please do not feel free to rob us of all our cool and valuable possessions, such as our, um, our very valuable, you know what, go for it. I guess the printer is only a few years old if you want. I may have a Creedence tape in there somewhere.

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 292: All the ingreediants you need

Happy Friday! It’s been a weird week and I’ve picked up a number of new readers. Welcome! I look forward to grievously disappointing you all.  

But not today. Today, and most Fridays, we just talk about food, and nobody in the history of the world has ever been disappointed by food. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Quick and tasty. Carton of salad greens, bag of shredded pepper jack cheese, some cherry tomatoes, some blue cheese crumbles, some of those crunchy fried onions that come in a tub, and buffalo chicken from frozen. Blue cheese dressing on top. All the speed of a frozen dinner, all the salad of a salad. 

Please enjoy the dead dog in the background. (He got better.)

SUNDAY
Ragù on fettuccine

Damien made an outrageously delicious ragù using the Deadspin recipe. It comes out different every time. He starts with ground pork and and beef and sometimes adds veal, but this time he bought a hunk of pancetta and ground that up with a meat grinder — a whole pound of it! — and whoa, it was amazing. If you think pasta must always have a tomato or cream sauce on it, you must try this recipe. 

It was . . . well, I’m not proud of this, but I just googled “what does pancetta taste like,” because I stayed up late watching The Mummy and can’t think of a word for what pancetta tastes like, besides “salty.” One of the results that turned up was “unctuous.” Literally, unctuous means “oily” (think “extreme unction” when a priest anoints someone with oils), which has been extended to mean an oily, ingratiating, flattering manner. I’m trying to think whether pancetta is in some way gastronomically ingratiating or just literally oily, and I have decided that The Mummy is one of the best movies ever made, especially if you are drinking margaritas. (See below)

Also, I don’t know if you do this, but Damien has two pasta tricks: He salts the hell out of the water he cooks the pasta in, which makes it much more flavorful; and he saves a bunch of the water out before he drains it, and then he adds that back into the drained pasta, to keep it from sticking. I always used to use oil for this purpose, but pasta water works much better. 

MONDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, strawberries

A very fine sandwich. I broiled some boneless, skinless chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cut them into thick slices. Then plenty of honey mustard, and layers of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and thick slices of granny smith apple. I usually make these sandwiches with ciabatta rolls or sourdough, but this time I used baguettes.

A VERY FINE SANDWICH INDEED. My only sadness was I couldn’t find the lemon juice, so the apple slices got a little brown before supper. Still good. 

TUESDAY
Tacos, tortilla chips and salsa

Taco Tuesday, nothing special. We just had jarred salsa, shredded cheese, and sour cream for the tacos.

I’m always amazed at how excited the kids are to have tacos if it’s Taco Tuesday. I would appreciate it if people could make up other exciting food days, when cheap and easy meals would be transformed into special treats just because of alliteration. I guess there’s Fish Friday, but somehow that never inspires cheers. I guess people just like tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Old faithful. I used fresh ginger and fresh garlic, but you can totally squeak by with garlic powder and powdered ginger. Soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, a little sesame oil but you can use whatever oil, and boom. This is a great dish to make ahead of time, and then you just need to cook some rice and dinner’s set. 

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Sometimes I transfer the beef to the slow cooker and make some rice in the Instant Pot and then, get this, I wipe down the stove top before dinner.

Would have been good with some scallions and sesame seeds on top, like in this picture from another week, but I forgot. (I also forgot to take a picture this week.)

Also would have been nice with a vegetable side — I like sesame broccoli for this meal — but whoever was in charge of shopping (me) did not buy any vegetables. 

Here’s the sesame broccoli recipe, anyway:

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THURSDAY
Chili verde, rice, plantain chips, margaritas

As we know, Cinqo de Mayo is Mexican for Thanksgiving. Or something. I don’t know, I was absent that day. All I know is it seemed like a good excuse to make chili verde, which I love doing. I love every step of the process.

First you char the peppers and tomatillos

and cover and cool them a bit, and then you pull the skins off (I decided to leave all the seeds in to keep it pretty spicy)

then you purée the peppers and tomatillos with onions, garlic, and cilantro

then you sear the pork (and you know how much I care about this dish because I took the trouble to cook the pork in five batches, so I didn’t crowd the pot for once in my damn life)

then you add the pork and the puréed vegetables to the pot and let it cook for the rest of the day. My goodness, the smell. 

I added a few cups of chicken broth at one point, and while I was out of the house, someone helped the pork collapse into lovely tender pieces.

I had my chili over rice and topped with more cilantro, plenty of sour cream, and a little squeeze of fresh lime juice, with plantain chips on the side.

Heaven help me, I would murder someone for this meal, I love it so. 

Later in the evening, Damien made a pitcher of margaritas

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which I forgot to take a picture of, but I had two, out of respect for Mexican Thanksgiving. Also people had been mean to me on Twitter all day, so. 

Oh wait, I did take a picture. A strange picture of our strange house, including a list of INGREEDIANTS for a delicious sammicth. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Shoot, that reminds me, I have to make supper. Wish we still had some of those margaritas left. 

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. 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. 

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

Damien's margaritas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar for simple syrup
  • sugar for glasses
  • kosher salt or sea salt for glasses
  • white tequila (we like Lunazul Blanco)
  • triple sec
  • lime juice

Instructions

  1. First make the simple syrup, and allow time for it to cool.

    Combine the sugar with a cup of water in a small pot and simmer, stirring, until it is clear. Let cool. Damien puts it in a mason jar and refrigerates it.

  2. Prepare the glasses. Mix sea salt or kosher salt and sugar in a saucer and add a little lime juice to wet it. Rub a lime wedge along the edge of the glass and roll it in the salt and sugar mix.

  3. To make the margaritas, put some ice cubes in a cocktail shaker or mason jar. Add three parts tequila, two parts lime juice, one part Triple Sec, one part simple syrup. Shake until the lid gets cold. Pour the liquid into prepared glasses.

What’s for supper? Vol. 275: It’s “tah-ZHEEN”

Happy Friday! Or whatever! Tell me it’s any day at all, and I’ll believe you. Tell me it’s the 34th Throosday in Blorgvent and I’ll believe you. It’s been the kind of week where I’m literally dreaming about sleeping. I seem to have two weeks of What’s For Suppers to catch up on, so I’ll just hit the highlights of last week: 

Two Fridays ago was ramen with shrimp, broccoli, and soft boiled eggs. I’m sharing a pic because I so infrequently manage to actually soft boil eggs. I always go hard. 

The shrimp was tasty. I think Damien sauteed it in sesame oil and garlic and then squeezed lemon over it, or something along those lines. 

Another fine meal was toward the end of Chanukah, when we had
Potato latkes and homemade applesauce, smoked chicken thighs and homemade barbecue sauce

Latkes are easy to make,

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but when you’re making a lot of them, it’s a problem to know how to manage all those potato shreds ahead of time. Normally, peeled potatoes discolor very quickly, and I usually solve this by keeping them in water until I’m ready to use them; but if you’re going to fry several batches of them, it’s a hassle to get all the water off first so the hot oil doesn’t spatter. This year, I tried something new: I shredded the potatoes in the food processor, and then I just rinsed the shreds thoroughly in very cold water, left them in the colander, and covered them with plastic wrap. Guess what happened? THEY STAYED WHITE. 

Amazing. 

Now, the absolute truth is that, when I added the eggs and flour and salt and pepper, the potatoes ended up giving up so much water, they were pretty wet anyway, and I still ended up having to squeeze the mixture pretty vigorously before putting the latkes in the oil. But I still got a little thrill because at least they weren’t brownish purple. 

The latkes turned out well, crisp on the outside and tender and mealy inside. It’s dark as heck and after all these years, I haven’t figure out how to rig up some good indoor lighting to take good food pictures during winter, so here you go:

We had them with sour cream and homemade applesauce, which I made in the Instant Pot. I peeled and cored a few dozen apples and put them in the IP with about a cup of water and cooked them on high for maybe eight minutes, twelve minutes, I don’t know. Then I drained off what turned out to be too much water and added some butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, and gave it a little stir, and that was it. Hot damn, homemade apple sauce is just the best thing in the world. 

I was astonished at what a lovely rose color I got even without the peels. 

I don’t think I added sugar, because these are still local, in-season apples and the flavor shouldn’t be tampered with much.  I used Cortland, Macintosh, and Granny Smith, which are all on the tart end of the scale. 

Damien made his wonderful sugar smoked chicken thighs out on the grill, and he used the same spices to made a homemade barbecue sauce which turned out a little spicier than expected, so he served it for dipping, rather than brushing it on. 

Man, it smelled good in the house, with the smoked chicken, the warm apple sauce, and whatnot. A strange meal, but hearty and tasty. I never know what to make with latkes! The only thing I can think of is chicken soup, which we have at other times, and brisket, which I remember from my childhood with loathing. 

Then I squeaked in a bit batch of rugelach on the very last day of Chanukah. I do love rugelach, and I give you my blessing to make them for Christmas, because they are delicious and not hard to make and they’re adorable. (And you can take advantage of my brilliant ooze rescue method.)

I ended up with four varieties this year: Cinnamon honey walnut, ginger walnut, cherry, and blueberry. Lovely, lovely. They ended up a little fluffier and less flaky than normal this year, for reasons unknown, but I did not mind.  

Last Wednesday was Benny’s birthday and she requested Damien’s delectable basil chicken cutlets with homemade red sauce and provolone. He uses this Deadspin recipe and it has never been anything but excellent. Juicy chicken in a fluffy breading with a basil leaf tucked under a slice of provolone, served with a scoop of hot red sauce over it, so the cheese melts and melds the whole thing together. 

He made so much, we had it the second day, layered into a casserole dish and heated up like a giant chicken lasagna. So good. 

Over the weekend was her birthday party, which we managed to have almost entirely outdoors, because NH is all ate up with Covid again. We had a pallet bonfire, and the kids whooped it up on the trampoline in the dark with glow sticks, and then we came in for presents, went outside to set off fireworks, and came in for cake. Some party photos on Facebook here and here

We decided to make bonfire cupcakes, which are very easy to make, but are pretty impressive. Chocolate frosting, broken hazelnut Pirouline wafers for the logs, shredded coconut with green food coloring for the grass. We put a bunch of Jolly Ranchers in a bag and smashed it with a hammer, then spread the chunks in a parchment paper-lined pan in a low oven for a few minutes until the candy melted. Then we let it harden into a sheet, then cracked it into little “flames.” Stick a few in between the logs, sprinkle on some gold sugar for embers, and you have little cupcake campfires. 

 

Top each one with a mini marshmallow on a toothpick, and it’s just cute.

I did toast each one with a butane lighter because my life was ruined anyway.

And that was last week! This week, let’s see. 

MONDAY
Carbonara 

A sweet Facebook friend sent me three pounds of most excellent smoked bacon from Tennessee, with a warning not to attempt to eat it straight like breakfast bacon, because it’s powerful stuff.  My dears, I’ve never had such bacon. Such an intense, earthy, smoky flavor. It was really exciting! I really get the best mail and have the nicest readers. I didn’t get very good pictures because I was in a bit of a hurry to start gobbling it up.

If you’re not familiar with carbonara, it may be the most cheering, flavorful dish you can make with the fewest number of ingredients. Just pasta, bacon, eggs, pepper, and parm. Well, I guess that’s five, and maybe not so surprising that it tastes so good, but it really is wonderful, and you should make it soon. 

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TUESDAY
Vaguely Mediterranean chicken on pita with yogurt sauce; Greek vegetable salad

Not exactly shawarma, but I did throw together several of the ingredients for the marinade

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and put some chicken thighs in it for several hours. Then I broiled it, turning once

and served it with pita pockets and yogurt sauce, and a little salad. Pretty tasty with very little effort. 

I served it with grape tomatoes, baby cucumbers, black olives, red onion, fresh parsley and dill, kosher salt, and olive oil.

We also had some kalamata olives, which I ended up serving on the side, thinking they had pits in them, but they did not, oops. And some hunks of feta cheese. 

It was a really good meal, and I liked it a lot. Fresh squeezed lemon juice in the marinade on a Tuesday! Freshly pressed garlic in the yogurt sauce! Two kinds of fresh herbs! I’m making a fuss because NOBODY ELSE DID, which for some reason still bothers me even at this late date after all these years. Oh well. 

WEDNESDAY
My birthday!

The kids had chicken nuggets and Damien and I ran away to Luca’s, where we haven’t been for many a year. I went ahead and ordered the garlicky escargot, because I’ve never had escargot, and if not when your husband has offered to take you to a Rather Expensive Restaurant, then when? 

They were . . . fine. I don’t know why you would have escargot if you could have seafood, though. They were just kind of chewy and muddy, kind of like if someone was trying to somehow reconstitute mussels or oysters from scratch but had only heard them described. So now I know! 

Then, after surreptitiously looking up how to pronounce “tagine,” I ordered the Moroccan lamb tagine, and that was a good idea.

The lamb was braised tenderly in a lovely, slightly spicy broth, and it had carrots, fingerling potatoes, apricots, and pistachios, and I forget what else, served with a yogurt sauce. Very  pretty, warming, and interesting to eat. I also had a couple of delicious cocktails made with pear vodka, ginger liqueur, and nutmeg on the rim, and the whole meal was extremely pleasant and autumnal. 

Then we saw West Side Story, which Damien and I both loved. The older kids and Damien got me excellent, thoughtful gifts, and the younger kids made me wonderful cards. (The middle kids acted like I was some sort of vaguely familiar insect who was late picking them up, but what are you gonna do.) 

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl on rice; sugar snap peas

Always tasty, even when you run out of brown sugar and have to use honey, and don’t have red pepper flakes and have to use chili powder. I did put red pepper flakes on the list right away, though. We felt that loss more keenly than the brown sugar part. Although it was a bit dry, because we didn’t have the sugar melting into a sauce. Being hungry helped. Write that down. 

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FRIDAY
Omelettes and hash browns

But I have to buy more eggs! The kids have been doing distance school all week, and apparently that means Egg Time. 

Potato latkes

Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce for Hanukkah or ANY TIME. Makes about 25+ latkes

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs potatoes, peeled
  • 6 eggs beaten
  • 6 Tbsp flour (substitute matzoh meal for Passover)
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Grate the potatoes. Let them sit in a colander for a while, if you can, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. 

  2. Mix together the eggs, salt and pepper, and flour. Stir into the potato mixture and mix well. 

  3. Turn the oven on to 350 and put a paper-lined pan in the oven to receive the latkes and keep them warm while you're frying. 

  4. Put 1/4 to 1/2 and inch of oil in your frying pan and heat it up until a drop of batter will bubble.  

  5. Take a handful of the potato mixture, flatten it slightly, and lay it in the pan, leaving room between latkes. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, making several batches to leave room in between latkes. Fry until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Eat right away or keep warm in oven, but not too long. 

  6. Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce or apple slices. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Rugelach

These are tender little pastries for Chanukah or any time. Use whatever kind of filling you like: Jams, preserves, cinnamon sugar, nutella, etc. These are time consuming, but don't take much skill, and they freeze well, so they make pretty little gifts.

Servings 80 rugelach

Ingredients

dough

  • half pound butter
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup or more sugar, for rolling

filling

  • 1/4-1/2 cup preserves or other filling
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, combine the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Slowly add in the flour and keep mixing until smooth. You can do this by hand, but it will take a while! The dough should be fairly stiff and not sticky when it's done.

  2. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 400.

  4. Prepare a pan by lining it with parchment paper, then spraying a baking rack and putting the rack on the parchment paper. Line a second pan with parchment paper, to which you will remove the rugelach when they come out of the oven.

  5. Use the sugar to cover your work space, and use a rolling pin to roll a ball of dough into a round shape the size of a large plate. It should be thin enough to flap a bit when you give it a shake. If your rolling pin sticks, sprinkle more sugar on. You can turn the dough over to make sure both sides get sugared. It doesn't have to be perfectly round, as it will be cut into pieces.

  6. Spread the jam or other filling over the dough, leaving an open space in the middle. If you're adding nuts, sprinkle them over the filling.

  7. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 16-20 triangles.

  8. Roll each triangle up from the outside in. Place each rolled rugelach on the sprayed baking rack on the pan, with the skinny point down. They puff up a bit, so leave the space of one rugelach in between.

  9. Repeat for each ball of dough.

  10. Bake for ten minutes. If the dough isn't golden brown, give it another two minutes. These go from perfect to burnt very quickly, so be alert.

  11. When they bake, the filling will ooze out and pool and burn on the parchment paper, but the rugelach will not burn.

  12. When the rugelach come out of the oven, immediately use a butter knife to transfer them to another pan or rack to cool.

  13. Once they are cool, they can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the freezer for weeks without harm.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

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. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 273: Bread in every language, straight from the heart

I almost forgot to do a food post! And that would be a shame, because I have so many carbs to tell you about. Plus rat on a stick. 

SATURDAY
Burgers and fries

Saturday was forty-three years ago. 

SUNDAY
Pasta  with red sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Damien made this and it was deliciouso. He didn’t write anything down, but he said it was basically like in Godfather. 

from Godfather GIFs via Gfycat

No, sadly, not that part. The Clemenza part with the little sugar and the little wine.

 

via Gfycat

And that’s my secret. 

It really was highly delicious, and I don’t just mean the sight of my husband in an apron. 

I don’t know how we got along all these years without cheap parmesan wedges from Aldi, to be shaved directly over one’s steaming plate of pasta. 

MONDAY
Ham, mashed potatoes, string beans with caramelized pecans

The children were jonesing for their favorite meal, ham, peas, and mashed potatoes. I’m not crazy about ham, but it sure is easy, especially if you buy a fully-cooked one and cut it up first, then heat it up. And that’s my secret. Oh, and I had some of that amazing stone ground mustard with the ham.

It’s sweet and tasty and makes ham much more interesting. It has these weird little popping bits in it that I guess are mustard seeds? I don’t know, but it’s super fun to eat. 

I thought we had frozen peas, but it turned out I only had some bag of fresh string beans, alas.

Right before dinner, I got the idea to spiff them up a little bit. (It was a lot of steps, but they were all fast, easy steps.) You boil the string beans in salty water and then dunk them in ice water to stop the cooking, and dry them off. Melt a bunch of butter and brown sugar in a pan, toast the nuts in the oven, then caramelize the nuts in the butter and sugar. Then put the string beans into the butter-sugar-nut mixture and heat it all up. There’s a recipe, but that’s basically all it is (I assume. I skimmed, I skimmed.) 

 

Everyone liked them, and they ate a lot more vegetables than they would have if I hadn’t essentially made them into candy, let me assure you [nods wisely with sugar trickling out of ears].

 

TUESDAY
French onion soup and cheesy ranch pull-apart bread with bacon

This is where the week really started to get away from me. And honestly, I’m thinking back to the conversation I was having with my husband about how my weight loss just isn’t coming along at the pace I would like, and, well, okay, I hear it. Anyway, you fry up three pounds of bacon, set them aside to cool, melt two sticks of butter and add a packet or two of Ranch dressing seasoning and mix well. Cut up three sturdy loaves of bread in a criss-cross pattern, leaving the bottom intact so it holds together. Shred two or three 8-ounce blocks of cheddar cheese. Stuff the cheese and bacon down into the cuts in the bread, and then pour the ranch butter all over the loaves. 

Preheat the oven, wrap the loaves in tin foil, and bake for 15 minutes or so. Then unwrap them and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is a little toasted. Serve immediately, before you come to your senses. 

I also made a nice pot of simple french onion soup using this very basic recipe.

Jump to Recipe

I think I actually increased the onions and butter, decreased the water, and increased the wine, because, I don’t know, it was raining. I had my soup with plenty of fresh parmesan on top. I don’t bother baking the parmesan on, because I’m hungry. 

A very fine meal. Possibly more butter than is strictly recommended for a single human to consume in one sitting. Better lie down. 

WEDNESDAY
Nachos

Not gonna lie, these were fairly lousy nachos. I was just very distracted. One pan was chips, plain ground beef, and cheese, and one pan was chips, ground beef with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper, and cheese. I hurled some sour cream and salsa at the table and went to lie down. 

THURSDAY
Khachapuri and sausages

On Thursday, I got my mojo back and was ready to start carbing it up again. We had khachapuri — Georgian boat-shaped bread stuffed with cheese, with an egg baked into it — once, back in the spring, and they were delicious, but very labor intensive. This time I bought some pizza dough, and that sped things up tremendously. I made four boats with each ball of dough. 

You roll or stretch the dough into a round about 10 inches wide, then roll the two ends toward the middle, like a scroll. Pinch the rolled ends together on each side to make a gondola shape, then stuff the inside with a cheese mixture (I used ricotta, mozzarella, and feta). Brush with egg wash, bake for a while, then make a little well, crack an egg into it, and bake a little longer until the white is set but the yolk is still a little loose.

Mmmmm.

Top with fresh parsley and some red pepper flakes and freshly-ground sea salt.

Mother of pearl, these were tasty. The cheese stuffing is fluffy and mild and the whole thing is just so fragrant and eggy and cozy.  I fried up a bunch of breakfast sausage to go with it, and it was a delightfully filling meal. Probably the perfect November food.

FRIDAY
Domino’s

Supposed to be homemade pizza, which I felt a little sheepish about since we’d already had so many bread and cheese meals already, but I forgot to take the dough out in time. I was feeling fairly floppy anyway, and fell asleep in the adoration chapel, and we’re going to see a kid in a play tonight, so Damien made the call to Domino’s, and lo, it was a good call. 

The only other thing I have to add is that I turned my back for one minute and somebody did this to my menu planning board.

I want it on the record that not once, not even during Lent, did I serve rat on a stick. Gruel, maybe. 

Simple French onion soup

Serve with a piece of toasted baguette at the bottom of each bowl. Finish with cheese on top.

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 cups onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 4-6 cups beef broth (can also use chicken broth or a combination of water and white wine)
  • pepper
  • parmesan or mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. In a heavy pot, melt the butter and then add the onions. Cook very slowly over a low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft and somewhat darkened.

  2. Stir in the sugar until dissolved. Stir in the flour and mix to coat.

  3. Add the broth (or water and wine). Add pepper to taste and simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer.

  4. Serve with a hunk of toasted bread in the bottom of each bowl. Sprinkle cheese on top, and if you have oven-safe dishes, brown under the broiler to form a skin on top of the soup.

What’s for supper? Vol. 263: Cardiologist’s delight

Let’s go! No tears! No tears! Where is your mask! Where are your shoes!!! Here’s what we ate this week, which was BACK-TO-SCHOOL WEEK: 

SATURDAY
Prosciutto sandwiches

Damien handled dinner while I took the kids shopping for school supplies on the absolute last possible day I could get away with it. I don’t remember if I actually ate some hemp gummies beforehand, or just planned to, but I’m here now, so I clearly survived somehow. 

My particular sandwich was a length of baguette with prosciutto, provolone, tomato, olive oil and vinegar, fresh pepper, and a schmear of red pesto. Yum yum. I wish I had one right now. 

Sometimes people ask us, “Simcha, Damien, your household seems to run so smoothly, and your children all seem so capable and well-rounded. What’s the secret to your success?” We always smile and gently explain that it’s simple: We invite our children to help us in the kitchen. This not only teaches them skills they’ll lean on for the rest of their lives, it keeps them invested in the immediate well-being of the family, and shows that their actions in the here and now truly are, in a very real way, who we are as a community. Here, for instance, is a tomato one of the children sliced up for dinner in a very real way:

Nice slicing, jerk. I’ll invest you in a very real way.

SUNDAY
Ape law

Clara and I were at the Green River Festival, as I mentioned.

Those are my migraine sunglasses. I know they look stupid but they’re the only frames that don’t squeeze my head. I had a falafel wrap for lunch from Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop based in Burlington, VT (fresh and tasty, and the pita was top notch) and some kind of pork dumplings and coconut curry for dinner, but I paid cash so my bank statements aren’t reminding me who that vendor was. I also bought some peaches and cream ice pops from Crooked Stick Pops, and they tasted exactly like peaches and cream, so that was nice. 

I am not sure what the people at home had? Possibly grilled burgers and hot dogs. We call this “ape law,” which just means I’m not there and didn’t make any plans or buy any groceries, which just means Damien usually makes burgers and they watch SpongeBob or something. In order to get a really good Ape Law situation going, you have to be not exhausted, and we are all exhausted. 

MONDAY
BLTs

First day of school for college kids and Catholic high school. We had LEFTOVER BACON after supper, can you imagine? I truly just do not know how much food to buy anymore. 

Benny and Corrie made a back-to-school cake together, very cute.

They accidentally added three times too much water, then bulked it up with flour. They then gave this brand of cake mix low ratings because the texture is fine, but it’s kind of bland. And their mother officially has no opinion about that. 

TUESDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, broccoli, bacon-roasted corn on the cob

Orientation day for elementary and middle school charter school kids. This turned out to be a half day, but I somehow missed that detail, so what could have been a mere 3/4 of a day of driving around like an idiot turned into a full day of driving around like an idiot (because they were two different halves of the day and two different towns, but not the same town we live in). This is what people are referring to when they say some parents are just too lazy to homeschool their own children [skin falls off from sheer exhaustion].

Anyway, Vermonter sandwiches are: Roast chicken breast, bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, green apple, and honey mustard on sourdough or ciabatta. 

A good, hearty sandwich, and you can of course make everything ahead of time. If you rinse the apple slices in lemon or lime juice, they won’t go brown.

I also cut up a bunch of raw broccoli, and then forgot I had done so and thought we still needed a side, so I shucked a bunch of corn. I then got a brilliant if not precisely heart-healthy idea: I put the corn on a giant baking pan and poured a bunch of bacon grease and bits over it and rolled it around, and sprinkled it heavily with salt. I covered it loosely with tin foil and roasted it for several minutes until it was making a little noise. Then I uncovered it and let it brown up a bit, and turned it a bit and browned the other side. 

It was pretty fab! Not monstrously, earth-shatteringly wonderful, but it tasted special and crisp and savory, and it sure was easy. Definitely worth doing if you have bacon fat around, especially if you do not feel like heating up a giant pot of water, which I could go the whole rest of my life without feeling like. 

WEDNESDAY
Mexican beef bowls

First day of public high school and first full day of everyone in everything. I wanted to make a hearty and popular meal, but I bobbled it a little bit. I didn’t buy enough meat, and I cooked it too long, and I forgot to get corn chips or avocados, and I accidentally put basil-flavored tomatoes into the beans instead of chili tomatoes, and I burned the rice a bit. Come to think of it, everyone must have been absolutely starving, because I screwed that up pretty bad! Oh well. 

It’s a great marinade, though,

Jump to Recipe

and a good meal if you don’t screw it up. So we had rice, beef, corn, sweet peppers, cilantro, sour cream, beans and tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and limes. I didn’t get around to sautéing the peppers. I did use Taijin powder liberally, which always helps.

I cut the corn off the leftover corn on the cob and heated it up in a pan. Hey, I actually burned that, too. You know what, it was a very trying day, but everyone got fed. 

THURSDAY
Omelettes, sausages, cinnamon buns

I didn’t burn a single omelette, and even managed to do a fancy trifold on some of them, but the photos didn’t turn out great, so you’ll have to use your imagination. We just had your choice of cheddar cheese and ham, and the cinnamon buns were from a can. Everyone was happy. 

FRIDAY
Stuffed shells

Benny has been longing for this meal for weeks, but it’s been way too hot and steamy to even consider it, but I have to admit, today it’s chilly and foggy and perfectly fine for stuffed shells. I always think, “Just because school starts, that doesn’t mean we have to stop going to the beach and stuff! We can still have summer fun on weekends for a while!” but it seems like the temperature plummets the very moment the school year begins, and bam, it’s fall. Oh well. At least we have stuffed shells. I guess I have to heat up a big pot of water, though. 

My recipe isn’t spectacular, but it’s serviceable, and has nutmeg. Gonna shave up a ton of fresh parmesan, which makes a big difference, too. 

Stuffed shells

Just a basic recipe. You can add meat to the sauce or spinach to the cheese, or anything that strikes your fancy. Serves about 10.

Ingredients

  • 2 12-oz boxes jumbo shells
  • 2 32-oz tubs ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4-5 cups pasta sauce

Instructions

  1. Cook the shells in salted water, drain, and rinse in cool water. Mix them up with olive oil so they don't stick together.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350. Mix into the ricotta cheese all the seasoning, the parmesan, and 3 of the cups of mozzarella.

  3. Spread a little sauce in the bottom of an oven-proof pan or dish. Stuff each shell with about 1/2-1/3 cup of cheese filling and lay the stuffed shells close together.

  4. Top with the rest of the pasta sauce, and sprinkled the remaining mozzarella on top of that. Cover loosely with foil and cook for 45 minutes or longer, until it's bubbly. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 253: Salad days

Hi! It’s Friday! Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, chips

Damien cooked ’em outside.  

They were delicious, of course. Try pickled jalapeños on your burger instead of regular pickles. It’s just nice. 

SUNDAY
Turkey bacon wraps, cheese balls

These wraps were based around what was in the freezer and what was on sale. We ended up with honey turkey, sriracha turkey, thinly sliced corned beef, baby Swiss, and smoked gouda. I fried up some bacon, and it looks like I put some lettuce and maybe honey mustard in there. 

I like wraps because they present as a sort of efficient nutrition delivery system, but then there’s bacon and smoked gouda inside. I guess I’m easily amused. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, baked potatoes, peas

Damien cooked again. I remember this being tasty, but not many details, and I don’t seem to have taken a photo. I think he put olive oil, salt, and pepper on the outside of the potatoes before baking them, and that was a very good idea. 

TUESDAY
Bagel egg cheese sausage sandwiches

Busy day calls for bagel sandwiches. Fried eggs, American cheese, frozen sausage patties. 

And orange juice. This bagel sandwich appears to be leering at me.

WEDNESDAY
Jerusalem mixed grill with tomato cucumber salad

I was pretty excited about this meal, because I remember being absolutely smitten by it last time. This time it was good, but not great. I forgot to sear the meat first, and I left the liver in pieces that were too big. So it was a hearty and pleasant meal, and the flavors were good, but the texture was not excellent, and I left a lot of meat on my plate. 

I still recommend the recipe, which is nice and easy.

Jump to Recipe

You have boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and livers (and hearts if you have them, which I did not. Ask anyone) tossed with your spices (which include cinnamon and nutmeg). You caramelize a ton of red onions, then sear the meats, then finish cooking them with the onions. 

Next time, I’ll sear the meat first, and also cut the liver into smaller pieces, and possibly even use two pans so as not to crowd the pans (ha ha, I am not going to do that. I would rather die than not crowd the pan). You serve the meat with a lemon wedge so you can give it a little squeeze before you eat it. Then we’ll see who leers at whom. 

Lena made a bunch of yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

and I made an Israeli salad, and we had sharp little pickles and your choice of pita or marbled rye bread. I’m not complaining!

I guess I’m complaining a little bit. It’s like everything else lately: You’ve been waiting and looking forward to it for such a long time, and then you get it, and it’s . . . fine. 

The Israeli salad was definitely the most popular part of the meal. This particular iteration was Roma tomatoes, little baby cucumbers with the peel on, fresh lemon juice, lots of fresh parsley, a little olive oil, and some kosher salt. I would have put some diced red onions in there, but I caramelized them all. 

This is a wonderful salad, with the lemon juice and parsley really adding interest and making it refreshing. A good accompaniment to lots of different meals. 

Half the kids were actually at McDonald’s having a BTS chicken meal, which they pronounced “fine.” It did not come in a pretty purple box as advertised. Now you know as much as I do. 

THURSDAY
Steak salad with pears and feta

A tasty meal with a few elements that work so well together. Mixed greens, sliced pears, feta, and roast beef cooked in red wine. 

I accidentally ended up with a kind of weird cooking method for the meat, but it worked out well. I seasoned a big hunk of beef with pepper and garlic salt and put it in a 350 oven in a pan with some red wine sloshed on. I cooked it for maybe 40 minutes until it was quite rare, then sliced it up, added some more wine, covered it, and finished cooking. I don’t think this is a technique so much as a demonstration of why I haven’t gotten around to writing that cookbook yet, but the meat was tasty and tender. 

I had my salad with red wine vinegar and it was delightful, very summery and sophisticated, but filling. I feel deep within me that red meat may be bad for your heart, but it’s good for mine. 

FRIDAY
Shrimp lo mein for those who want it, canned tuna for those who don’t

Gonna use my trusty basic lo mein recipe

Jump to Recipe

and throw some shrimp in. Here’s a lo mein of ages past. 

I may have some sugar snap peas, fresh ginger, and scallions lurking about. This is a great end-of-week meal, last chance to use up those vegetables. 

And that’s my story. Pretty happy to be fully into cooking summer food now. How about you? Anything nice on your table? 

Jerusalem mixed grill

May not be the most authentic spice mix, but it sure tastes good. Serve with pita bread, hummus, yogurt sauce, dill pickles, and Israeli salad 

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed and cut into pieces
  • 8 oz chicken livers
  • 6-7 red onions, sliced thin
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 4 lemons

spices:

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Instructions

  1. First caramelize the onions. You know this will take at least an hour. Set the onions aside. 

  2. Toss the chicken thigh pieces, hearts, and spices together. 

  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. When it's very hot, add the meats and sear on all sides. Then turn the heat to medium and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked all the way through. Note that livers cook faster than thighs, so make sure the thighs are done all the way. 

  4. Serve with pita and yogurt sauce. Squeeze the fresh lemon over the meat. 

 

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. 

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 251: Viva la vacuna!

Friday again! What do you know about that!

Before we go any further, feast/shield your eyes on this:

Clara made Moe a Frasier cookie cake for his birthday. AS ONE DOES. 

With extra cookies. 

SATURDAY

I think the people at home had burgers, but Lena and I went OUT for burgers, because it was her birthday (kindofalongtimeago) and we finally managed to go out (and ate outside, since Lena’s not fully vaccinated yet). We both had teriyaki burgers with pineapple. Not bad! The burger didn’t taste much different than normal, to be honest, but it was tasty. I guess I forgot to take a picture. There were a lot of distracting dogs going by. 

This being the world’s swankiest birthday celebration, after we ate, we went to the dollar store, and then we went to see the new Mortal Kombat movie (the theater was almost empty and we wore masks. doot-do-doo, normalizing continued caution, doot-do-doo). We LOVED the movie. It was so gleefully stupid.

Haha, I forgot about the part where the guy stabs the other guy with a knife made out of his own quick-frozen blood! Quite a few funny moments, some well-done fight choreography, and it had a kind of dumb-innocent sweetness. Of course it was insanely violent, because it’s Mortal Kombat, but if you’re okay with that and want to be cheered up, I recommend this movie. 

Oh, and we played a dinosaur shooting arcade game. Happy finally birthday, Lena!

Also, don’t tell anyone, but unless we’re in the throes of COVID-20 by then, we’re going to see Hadestown in November. !!!!!

SUNDAY
Shrimp skewers, steak, fresh bread, key lime pie

Mother’s day! We do have a lot of celebrations around here. My family has gotten pretty great at mother’s day. I was showered with thoughtful gifts, went to Mass, went for a run, spent most of the day gardening (well, mostly installing a new mailbox, which I did so boneheadedly that I don’t even want to remember it), and then Damien grilled up a feast, and we ate outside while looking at my new flowers. 

People always say “You deserve to be pampered!” and I always say “do not consider what we truly deserve” but anyway the shrimp and steak were wonderful, and so was the pie, which Clara made using this recipe

and I had a truly lovely day. 

MONDAY
Vemonter sandwiches

Always popular. Ciabatta rolls, a few thick slices of roast chicken, a thick slice of sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, green apple, and honey mustard. 

I had the brilliant idea to use the pineapple corer on the green apples, but I could only find one piece of it. So I used it anyway, which resulted in this Escher apple

and a slightly mangled hand. I continued using it for five more apples, because I’m the kind of person who keeps going “ouch!” but then sticking my hand in there again.  

TUESDAY
Pork bibimbap

It’s been too long for this champion of all bowl dinners. Someday I will have authentic bibimbap, but I’m pretty happy with the version we’ve come up with. Everyone gets bowl of rice, and you heap on meat with lots of sauce, various fresh and pickled vegetables and crunchy noodles, and slap a fried egg on top. The sauce seeps down, the egg yolk trickles down, you have layers and textures and all kinds of mingling of cool and spicy and savory and mellow, and it’s just scrumptious. Pure happy food. 

I had mine with sugar snap peas, baby pea shoots, crunchy noodles, plenty of spicy sauce (new recipe below), and sesame seeds. Normally, I’m opposed to sharing photos of half-eaten food, but look how beautifully the egg yolk made its way to the bottom and mingled with the rice: 

Every time I make this meal, I prowl about the world seeking a new recipe for the meat. This time I marinated it in a standard mixture of brown sugar, red pepper flakes, minced garlic, kosher salt, and pepper, seared it in oil, deglazed the pot with a little water, then put it in the slow cooker for 6 hours, and shredded it.

It was tasty, juicy and not too spicy for the kids. But the sauce I made with it was va va voom. Very spicy and warming. Here’s the recipe card:

Jump to Recipe

Oh, I suggest frying the eggs in oil, rather than butter, to give them a nice crisp, lacy edge.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Last week, Rebecca in the comments mentioned she made a pizza with artichokes, bacon, and blobs of pesto, and man, did that sound good, so Damien went and did likewise, plus sun dried tomatoes and some fresh parmesan shreds on top of the mozzarella.

He also made one with onion, feta, fresh garlic, and fresh parmesan, for a total of three cheeses, three cheeses! So good. And if you play your cards right, you can have three pieces of pizza and still come in at a calorie deficit for the day. WHICH I DID.

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls

A very fine meal. I didn’t go bananas with the toppings, as I sometimes do, with roast corn and corn chips and spicy beans and whatnot, but there was a big pot of rice, lots of well-marinated beef strips, sautéed peppers, cheese, sour cream, and cilantro. Here’s the recipe for this lovely piquant marinade:

Jump to Recipe

Here’s a beef bowl photo from ages past:

HOWEVER, Damien and I hit two full weeks after our second shot on the very day that the CDC announced that such people could do pretty much whatever they want! So we set dinner on the table for the kids, look’d at each other with a wild surmise—and went to the Winchester, I mean Chili’s.

Look, we really like Chili’s. It’s cheap, the food looks exactly like the pictures on the menu, the waitresses has no interest in forming a relationship with you, and this particular Chili’s boasts a beautiful view of part of Home Depot and a tree. I had grilled salmon, rice, and broccoli and kind of a lot of margaritas, went to lie down, got a little cussy on Twitter, watched the Sopranos, and went to bed. ¡Viva la vacuna!

FRIDAY
Spaghoot

Kids 12 and up are getting the first shots today! The older kids are getting their second ones next week. Full immunity by the beginning of summer vacation, you guys. Little by little, we’re getting there. 

 

Spicy sauce for bibimbap, etc.

Drizzle this over any meat or dish that needs a bump in flavor. A little goes a long way! Adapted from the New York Times cooking section

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 inches fresh ginger, grated or minced
  • 1/3 cup gochujang
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (can substitute sweet red wine)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil and lightly sauté the garlic and ginger.

  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir to blend, and continue cooking at medium heat for several minutes until they are thickened.

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 247: In which beef is on sale

Yeesh, it’s been three weeks! Sorry about that. Slowly scrabbling my way back to normal. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
BLTs and root beer floats

Saturday was Irene’s fake birthday. Her actual birthday was on Good Friday, and she has decided to postpone her friend party until she can have a beach party. So on her fake birthday on Saturday, we went mini golfing, where she (a) hit the ball completely across the highway (b) hit a baby with a ball and (c) got a hole in one and (d) still came in last. She liked her presents, though, and those parents definitely should not have left that baby sitting around so close. 

And it was warm enough outside for me to slink away and eat my dinner in the yard!

I mention this because today, in this same yard, there are about 4 inches of snow outside, and it’s still coming down. 

I won’t make the joke about how I brought this on by finally putting away all the mittens and boots and snow pants a few days ago, because everyone’s making that joke. Instead I will confess that it’s because I stabbed a man and buried him under the St. Joseph statue in the pansy garden. Sorry, it’s all my fault. In my defense, he was sharing that LifeSiteNews story about how Pfizer is halfway to genocide via “top up” shots. I did what I had to do.

SUNDAY
Banh mi with liver pâté (well, chopped liver)

By a strange twist of culinary fate, we now have a tradition of eating banh mi not too long after Easter, because we usually have leftover chopped liver from Passover. Chopped liver is what most people would call pâté, and it is rich and velvety smooth and pungently wonderful. We just call it “chopped liver” to keep the goyim away so we can have it all to ourselves. I made a recipe card just for you, though:

Jump to Recipe

But first you have to pass the test of knowing that it looks like this at a certain stage, and still deciding to make it:

Now for the banh mi! I usually make banh mi with pork,

Jump to Recipe

but beef shoulder continues to be $2.99 a pound, so that’s what I used. I also only had about half the amount of fish sauce I needed for the marinade, so I made up the difference with oyster sauce, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce; and I cut the sugar by about 1/3. Well, it tasted exactly the same. The strong flavors of fish sauce and garlic are so strong, that’s what came through. 

The beef was rather tough, sadly, but still tasted good. I served it on toasted baguettes with cucumbers, cilantro, your choice of mayo or sriracha mayo, jarred jalapeños, and quick-pickled shredded carrots. 

I also tweaked the pickled carrot recipe. Normally I just splash in some white vinegar, water, and dump in some sugar (yes, there’s a recipe, Jump to Recipe but I don’t always bother to look it up)  but this time I carefully measured out white vinegar and cider vinegar, honey, salt, and hot pepper flakes according to this recipe. You’ll never guess: It tasted exactly the same.

So either I’m some kind of naturally gifted master chef whose culinary improvisations are flawless, or else I just like food and don’t care much what it tastes like as long as I can gnarrrrrr. 

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, pasta salad

Chicken burgers were chicken burgers. But we had tons of leftover specialty foods in the house from various things, so it ended up as quite a nice pasta salad. I used a pasta called “casarecce,” which are sort of rolled-up little twists; and I added herb-infused olive oil, black olives, diced red onions, some bits of hard salami, sun-dried tomatoes, raw asparagus tips, and some smoked cheddar from a local farm.

Then I glopped in some jarred pesto, which probably drowned out the herbs in the olive oil, but it was delicious. I added the fixins while the pasta was still hot, so the smoked cheese melted a bit. I usually like a crumbly cheese like feta in a pasta salad, but this worked out very nicely. 

And I enjoyed the victory of not serving chips or fries, even if no one else did. I also happen to love raw asparagus. I think the taste comes through well, and they are crunchy but very light. Good stuff. 

TUESDAY
Chicken on salad with green apples and walnuts

We had tons of walnuts in the house from passover. I roasted up some chicken breasts with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, sliced it, and served it on salad greens with green apples, walnuts, feta cheese, and dried cranberries. An elegant meal, consumed elegantly in bed. 

I had a brief urge to make rolls or something, but it passed. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, veg and dip

Nothing to report. Oh, except some of the veg were sugar snap peas, and they are so good, and, get this, 35 calories for a whole cup. I’m super tired of being fat, so I’ve started counting calories, and am very grateful that I already like raw vegetables. If you give me any advice, though, I will stab you and bury you under the St. Joseph statue in the pansy garden. 

THURSDAY
Mexican beef bowls (formerly beef fajita bowls)

Just a fantastic meal. I think only one person in my family doesn’t like this meal, which is pretty darn good. The marinade is so rich and bright and tangy, I just love it. 

Jump to Recipe

The meat turned out wonderfully tender. Here is one of the more well-done hunks. The other ones were bigger and more rare.

I made a big pot of white rice and served it with strips of meat (I marinated and roasted the meat and then sliced it), fried peppers and onions, roasted corn, black beans and tomatoes with chili peppers, cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, and corn chips. 

I could easily have skipped the rice and corn chips and still had a very filling, satisfying meal. I forgot to use the lime wedge because there is already tons of flavor in this meal. 

As you can see, these aren’t strictly bowls. All our bowls were dirty, so we used plates, so I accidentally helped myself to twice as much food, oops.

I also bought but forgot to use something from Aldi called “elote seasoning,” which is cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and cheese in a little bottle. It goes on corn or whatever you like. The kids thought I was just kidding about people selling corn on the street, the rubes. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

My mac and cheese recipe is just that you make a white sauce and throw in whatever cheese you have lying around, plus a little mustard and/or hot sauce. You don’t really taste it, but it gives the sauce some more depth. Mix with cooked macaroni, pour into a greased pan, and top with buttered panko crumbs, and bake at 350 until the sauce is bubbling and the top is lightly toasted.

Damien and I were actually planning to skip out on the kids and have pizza, but the heavy covering of snow is making outdoor dining less appealing. We shall see. 

Here’s the recipe cards for the week. 

Oh, wait, one more thing! I was browsing through a Julia Child book and she suggests an easy way to peel garlic: You cut the ends off the cloves and then dunk the whole head in boiling water for 30 seconds, then rinse it in cold water. The peels really do slide right off if you’ve completely detached the ends first. This is only worth the trouble if you need to peel an entire head of garlic, which I often do. I OFTEN DO. 

Chopped liver (chicken liver pâté)

A very rich, pungent, velvety pâté made with cheap and humble ingredients. Spread it on crackers with a little horseradish, or add it to your banh mi. It freezes very well (but takes a while to defrost, as it is dense).

Ingredients

  • 2 to 2-1/2 lbs chicken livers, rinsed and trimmed
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 onions
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • oil for frying the onion
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put the livers, the raw eggs in their shells, and one onion into a pot with the chicken broth.

  2. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for an hour. (This part looks very weird, but don't lose heart.) Drain off the broth and set aside the livers, onion, and eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, peel them.

  3. Chop the other two onions. Set one aside and fry the other one in oil until crisp.

  4. Using a meat grinder or a food processor, grind up the livers, the boiled eggs, the boiled onion, the fried onion, and the raw onion.

  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and chill. It should be moist and spreadable. If it's too dry and crumbly, add a small amount of oil.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.