Happy Friday! Are you ready for some PEPPERSSSSSS!!!!!!!
But first, just like old times, there’s a little dust-up going on in my combox, which began when one reader wanted to know how it is that I’m over here eating kale salads and lean protein crumbles, but yet feeding my kids buttered corn dog nuggets and hot salt slop noodle casserole pie. A few readers jumped to my defense, which I appreciate very much, but the real answer is simple: I don’t like my kids. Please address any further questions to my menu planning assistant, who can be contacted here.
I kid, I kid. I love yez all, more or less.
The real question of the day is, WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THIS RHUBARB?
Short version, I planted a rhubarb root in early spring, and it didn’t come up at all, but by the time I had given up hope, nobody in town was selling rhubarb anymore. Or so I thought! I stopped by the Cheshire Floral Farm, honestly mainly just to cheer myself up, because it’s so pretty up there. It’s a nursery built on top of a hill, and it’s the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed in my life. Even the birdsong has a special clarity, because the air is so clear. The man who owns it is 74 years old, and he has thousands and thousands of plants which he appears to know intimately, individually, and everything is thriving. He showed me the rows of pots with seedlings he has prepped for next spring. Next spring!
So I mentioned rhubarb, and he started hiking up to the top of the hill, and I panted up after him. There were half a dozen potted rhubarb plants about two feet high, and half a dozen smaller ones. He said, “This rhubarb has a history, you know.” It started as a plant in England that his grandfather grew, and they divided the root and brought it over, and he planted it here in New England, and off it went. I chose a smaller plant, and he knocked the seeds off and told me to dig a deep hole and fill it with manure. Then he kept walking up hill, so I followed, panting. We went through a gate, across a lawn, past a garden, and around a shed, and there, my friends, were three rhubarb plants, each as big as a Volkswagon Bug. He snapped off three stalks and presented them to me.
So now I have rhubarb! Rhubarb for now, and for tomorrow, and for all my days to come, if I don’t screw it up. Usually I just make strawberry rhubarb pie, because it’s expensive and I only get it once a year, and that’s my favorite treat. But now I have plenty! What else do you like to make? Pickled rhubarb? Rhubarb jam?
He also said you can chop up the poisonous leaves along with some tobacco leaves, boil them, and make an insecticide, which you use as a spray. I’ll probably leave that one alone, but I love knowing that there’s a use for the leaves besides murder.
Okay! So here’s what we ate this week. And I apologize in advance, but I added in a lot of medical complaining, because it was that kind of week.
H.O.T. D.O.G.S., and I think fries
Cuban sandwiches, coleslaw, fruit salad
Sunday I took a big step forward with the patio, finally. I salvaged some pressure treated lumber from various old projects, and shoved them in around the perimeter, and staked them in place with lawn stakes. I rented a vibrating plate compactor and ran it over the soil. Then I roped the kids into trucking the gravel down to the backyard, spread that out, ran over it with a makeshift screed, and ran over it with the compactor several more times.
Then the dog ran over it several times, because of course he did. It’s fine. He’s helping compact everything. The gravel I ended up getting is not exactly what I wanted, but I did want to move forward, and I achieved that! So, hoot hoot. Next is sand, and then finally bricks.
A few hours in, I remembered “oh, supper,” and I had a boneless pork loin or something, so I threw it in the Instant Pot along with several giant glugs of apple cider vinegar, some water, a lot of cumin and garlic powder and some salt and pepper. I pressure cooked it on high for 22 minutes and it came out non-beautiful but very tender and quite tasty.
For the sandwiches, I had big pieces of sourdough bread, and I built them in this order: bread, mustard, Swiss cheese, pork, pickles, ham, more Swiss cheese, mustard. Mayo on the outside, fried in butter.
There is no particular reason this heavy, greasy, carby sandwich appears to be leering at you. You’re just imagining it.
I made a nice fruit salad with watermelon, mango, strawberries, and blueberries, and a quick coleslaw with cabbage and carrot with a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, a little olive oil, and freshly ground pepper.
Lemon pepper chicken, taboon, and muhammara (red pepper walnut dip)
Last week, I asked for more recipes with pomegranate molasses, which I had used so deliciously in the cherry walnut herb salad. Several people suggested muhammara, which is a Turkish red pepper walnut dip.
SEVERAL PEOPLE WERE RIGHT. I followed this recipe from The Mediterranean Dish, and made a triple recipe. It calls for two red bell peppers, but I had four red and two orange. I keep learning and then forgetting again that red and orange (and yellow) bell peppers are just green bell peppers at different stages of ripeness (and therefore sweetness). Red is the sweetest; orange is the medium stage. (Yellow, which I didn’t have, is the first “turning” stage.) But it’s all the same pepper.
Anyway, I oiled and roasted them peppers, which is something I enjoy.
These recipes always tell you to cover the roasted peppers with plastic wrap and let them steam themselves, to loosen up the skins; but I have found (by the scientific process of forgetting to do it) that this isn’t necessary. The skins come off just as easily if you just let them sit.
So I pulled off the skins, which I enjoy, and yanked out the core and scraped off most of the seeds. This is about half the pepper flesh.
And then you just whiz it up in a food processor along with toasted walnuts, olive oil, raw garlic, tomato paste, bread crumbs, of course pomegranate molasses, sugar, sumac, and salt. Now, this recipe also calls for Aleppo pepper, and says cayenne pepper is optional. I didn’t have either, and suddenly got an attack of the cheaps at the store, so I only bought cayenne.
Since I had so much dip, I divided it and added cayenne pepper (somewhat more than the recipe called for) to only one portion.
Friends, for something so earthy, it is heavenly. This is one of these profoundly nourishing, joyful foods. It just tastes like it’s feeding your whole being. It’s wonderfully tart but not in an aggressive way. The heat in the peppered one built gradually, and it tasted good with chicken, with vegetables, and with bread. And just by itself.
I made twelve little taboon breads. Last time I was a little unhappy with how they turned out, rather tough and chewy. Not sure if this is what caused it, but I realized that I forgot to put the pan in the oven to heat up before putting the dough on it to bake. This time I followed that step, and they turned out much more tender and fluffy. I love taboon.
It’s so easy, and you can start it less than two hours before you want to eat. Fast as a quick bread, but with the texture and heft of a yeast bread. So good. It doesn’t puff up and separate into a pocket like pita, so don’t expect that. It’s more bready, while still being a flatbread, so you could use it for wraps, or for scooping or sopping purposes.
I just made very simple roast chicken breast sprinkled with a lemon pepper seasoning mix and cut up, and spinach, black olives, and cherry tomatoes.
Damien and I ate the muhammara steadily for lunch and snacks for the rest of the week. It was wonderful with those flattened pretzel chip things, and also really nice with baby carrots, and with cucumbers. I am completely sold on muhammara.
Still happy to hear about more pomegranate molasses recipes, but if this is all I ever use it for in the future, diyenu!
Tuesday I made a bunch of taco meat, put it in the slow cooker, and then I was like, screw it, I’m going to the ER. Here’s the most exciting part:
Yes, that is my blood pressure. No, I did not eat tacos when I eventually got home, even though they had ruled out heart attack, as well as cancer and pulmonary embolism. But I do not recommend this blood pressure, at all.
Wednesday I wanted to get back to normal as much as possible, but I had lots of help! Clara made the shawarama marinade, Corrie made the yogurt sauce and Benny cut up the cucumbers and gathered and chopped the mint, and I had bought readymade pita and hummus, so it was just a matter of finishing everything up.
And very good it is, shawarma.
At this point, I had learned that there was, in fact, nothing wrong with my heart, and all my lab work so far came back showing that I’m actually extremely healthy, except for when my terrible doctor takes me off my medication and makes my blood pressure go nutsy; so yeah, I had a big blob of yogurt sauce. Ugh, I guess I’m self conscious about my food pictures now. Boo.
Thursday I drove up to the pulmonologist in Lebanon and they did all the breathing tests. I stopped to check on my parents’ grave (they are still dead, whew), and the lilac tree and rose bushes I planted made it through the winter, so that was nice! I said a decade and went on my way. Damien bought and served Aldi pizza, and Moe came by and helped with the driving.
Spinach chickpea stew
Friday morning I found out that my lungs are very healthy, capable, and working fine! Which is great, except . . . you know, I still can’t breathe, and my chest still hurts, and my lungs still make a sound like bacon frying at night. Like, other people can hear it, so I can’t be making it up. I don’t know! I don’t know. I’m getting an echocardiogram at the end of July, and I’m going to look into chronic anemia and sleep apnea, because I don’t know what else it might be. It’s not the smoke from the wildfires, because this has been going on since November. Albuterol doesn’t help at all. Maybe I’m just making bacon in my lungs. If anyone could, I would.
ANYWAY, today we are having this lovely lemon chickpea spinach stew
the recipe for which you can find here at Saveur. This weekend I’m going to work on my patio without worrying it’s going to be my last act on earth, so that will be nice.
Anyway, rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb. Allegedly that’s what crowds of extras on movie sets are supposed to say, in order to convincingly sound like they are having a conversation in the background. Someone smarter than me can write an essay about turning food into the logos. Imma go lie down.
You can make separate pieces, like pita bread, or you can make one giant slab of taboon. This makes enough to easily stretch over a 15x21" sheet pan.
- 6 cups bread flour
- 4 packets yeast
- 3 cups water
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
Mix the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer.
While it is running, add the olive oil. Then gradually add the water until the dough is soft and sticky. You may not need all of it. Let it run for a while to see if the dough will pull together before you need all the water. Knead or run with the dough hook for another few minutes.
Put the dough in a greased bowl, grease the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for at least an hour until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 400. Put a greased pan or a baking stone in the oven to heat up.
If you are making separate pieces, divide it now and cover with a damp cloth. If you're making one big taboon, just handle it a bit, then put it back in the bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. Let rest ten minutes.
Using a little flour, roll out the dough into the shape or shapes you want. Poke it all over with your fingertips to give it the characterstic dimpled appearance.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until it's just slightly browned.
- 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
Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425.
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.
Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.
Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.
- 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)
Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc.