What’s for supper? Vol. 294: Ya burnt!

Another Friday! We have arrived. We really launched our warm weather cooking this week. We also had our first “oh yes, that skunk is definitely rabid” situation, so I guess spring is officially fully here. I made some berry pies and only partially roont them. 

Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Indian food!

The kids had an assortment of frozen foods, and Damien and I went back to Royal Spice, where we had the same vegetarian appetizers as last time, because they were so appetizing, and then I had goat biryani and Damien had goat vindaloo. Superb. So delicious, I forgot to take pictures.  I need to get back to some Indian cooking. Gotta break in the new mortar and pestle Lucy got me for mother’s day! 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, grilled corn, blueberry-strawberry pie 

We had our elderly neighbor over. I’ve been meaning to have her over, ever since we moved in, uhh, sixteen years ago. Listen, we don’t like to be pushy in these parts. We did have a nice time, although she is fairly deaf and the conversation kept circling back to a reliable topic, i.e. her roasting me for buying vegetable plants for the garden instead of starting seeds.  The dog thought she was absolutely incredible, and she thought the kids were absolutely amazing for swimming in the pool even though it was a little chilly. She dug up some of her bleeding hearts for me, and I gave her some pie. A good visit.

Damien cooked burgers and hot dogs and corn on the grill, always tasty. He cooks the corn right inside the husks, which makes it super sweet and juicy. You just peel and eat. I will admit, at least 50% of the reason I like this method is because it looks so dramatic. 

I made a couple of pies for dessert, and let me tell you, I was worried the whole time that the filling would turn out too runny, and guess what? It did. Not that I took any steps to prevent that from happening; I just worried about it. I sprinkled a good amount of corn starch in with the fruit and sugar, and let it sit for a while before baking; and I let it sit for a while after baking and before cutting. But it was still runny. I guess I should add even more corn starch? Anyone? It tasted great, just sweet enough, and they were very pretty. Just runny. 

I just mixed together strawberries and blueberries, sugar, a little salt, what seemed like a good amount of corn starch, and some fresh lemon juice. 

Here’s the unbaked pies:

and baked, with an egg wash and a little sugar on top, sadly somewhat burnt:

but still pretty

Here’s my recipe for pie crust, which is reliable and easy to work with.

Jump to Recipe

The main secret is to freeze the butter and grate it into the dry ingredients, and then just barely handle it after that.

We made some fresh whipped cream to top it with. Then the kids cleared the table and put the whipped cream away in the fridge. In a ziplock bag. I know that this is technically better than the other way they were likely to put it away (in an open bowl, with some old meatloaf on top), but somehow it didn’t feel better. 

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad, grapes

A decent meal (if one that I’ve been eating a little too often for my liking in one form or another these days, in an effort to shed my Covid Ennui weight). Chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil, grilled and sliced, served on romaine lettuce with dressing from a bottle and freshly-grated parmesan cheese, and buttery homemade croutons. (FYI, the dressing and buttery croutons are not included in the Covid Ennui weight shedding plan, sadly.)

We did bat around the idea of getting ducks this year. Maybe next year. I do love duck eggs, and I would abase myself for homemade caesar salad dressing made with fresh duck egg yolks.

Jump to Recipe

Maybe next year! Quack.

TUESDAY
Honey mustard drumsticks, homemade tortilla chips, corn and bean salad

Sweet, colorful, mostly finger food. I thought this was going to be a super kid-pleaser meal. This despite that fact that I have met my kids.

Of course you can tell with an introduction like that that they mostly ate cereal. One proudly showed me the dusty can of chicken noodle soup she had discovered in the back of the cabinet. Oh well. I still thought it was a pleasant warm-weather meal.

I roasted about 24 drumsticks with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then rolled them around in a honey mustard sauce, made with probably a cup of honey, half a cup of mustard, and the juice of a large lemon. Then let them chill in the fridge for the rest of the day.

The corn salad was made with 3 ear’s worth of corn leftover from the cookout, a can of drained black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with chiles drained, the juice of one lime, half a red onion minced, a small bunch of chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper. I kept it bland so the kids would eat it, ho ho ho. 

The tortilla chips, I made by cutting flour tortillas into triangles, tossing them with oil, and sprinkling them heavily with Taijin powder a few times, then spreading them on a pan and baking them in a 350 oven for about half an hour, stirring them a few times so they wouldn’t stick. They don’t turn out completely crisp, but some of them are a little bit chewy.

Here is my helper, performing a crispness test:

You could probably avoid this by baking them longer at a lower temp, and giving them more space, but genuinely I like them a little chewy. I honestly have the palate of a sickly Victorian child. I want at least some of my foods to be milky and the consistency of tapioca. I also like more exciting foods, but my first love will always be the diet of an invalid. And now you know my secret.  

WEDNESDAY
Tacos, pineapple and papaya

I optimistically planned the menu this way, with tacos on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, thinking we’d have leftover corn salad and tortilla chips to go along with the tacos. Which we did, but (see previous day) nobody was happy about it. They were happy about the tacos, though, so there.

I sweetened the deal with some fresh pineapple and papaya. Boy, papaya sure is, it sure looks, boy. I feel like I ought to have someone else in the room when I cut it up, just so there’s no misunderstandings. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Something weird happened with this pizza. Maybe a weird batch of dough, I don’t know. Maybe I used too much sauce. It just clung to the pan and didn’t act right. It was okay, just kind of heavy. I also forgot to buy olives.

I made one plain, one pepperoni, one garlic and onion, and one ham and pineapple.

Plenty of fresh parmesan on all of them, which was nice. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

A couples Fridays ago was supposed to be mac and cheese, but I ran out of steam and just bought some Aldi pizzas. We have SO much stray cheese in the house, though, so I really want to use it up this time.

Oh, last Friday I did make the seafood lo mein

Jump to Recipe

with the mixed frozen seafood pouch from Aldi, and it turned out just great. It had all kinds of great stuff, mussels, scallops, a little octopus, wonderful. I threw a little fish sauce in there, plus some asparagus and some scallions, and it was a very tasty little meal. 

My wish now is to make empanadas. It just came into my head and I can’t think of a reason not to do it. I am thinking of buying the dough disks, if I can find them, so I can get the hang of it; and then if people like them, I can always try making my own dough next time. Any empanada advice? I think I have a press I bought to make dumplings, so I can probably use that. 

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

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.

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. 182: It’s still summer, dammit

Here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches

We are awfully tired of grilled ham and cheese for dinner on Saturdays, but I get home from shopping so late, and then it takes eleven hours to put away all the food, so Saturday has to be something quick and easy. This was quickish and easy.

The chicken was just broiled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We had ciabatta rolls with tomatoes and fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s still summer, dammit!

This sandwich posed a bit of a challenge when assembled, but I just unhooked my lower jaw and dominated it.

Here is another sandwich picture, since I have it:

As you can see, I like plenty of balsamic vinegar. I like to put the dressings and salt and pepper on several layers of this sandwich, and use freshly-ground pepper and salt if I can get it. Mmmmm.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, broccoli and dip, blueberry pie with whipped cream

Damien’s mom came over, so Dora and I decided we would celebrate with potato salad. I said, “I’m so excited you’re making potato salad!” And she said, “Oh. I was so excited you’re making potato salad.” So I made the potato salad, and guess what? It wasn’t very good. It was just kind of bland, and also I forgot I was cooking potatoes, so they cooked into mush. Oh well.

I realized I’d gone all summer without making any fruit pies, and that aggression will not stand, man. The pie had some structural problems when we cut it, but look how pretty!

When I served it up, what people got was less a slice of pie and more of a . . . pie area. Everyone got a pie area with whipped cream. It tasted good, anyway. I don’t use a ton of sugar either in the pie or in the whipped cream. I didn’t have enough dough for a lattice crust, so I rolled little balls of dough and stuck them around the edge, then flattened them with a fork. If I had remembered to do a sugared egg wash, it would have been like little cookies.

My pie crust trick is that you freeze the butter, then shred it on a vegetable grater. Then it’s easy to incorporate into the flour without overworking it. I use Fannie Farmer’s basic pie crust recipe, and I honestly don’t remember what I used for the filling. Blueberries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, butter, I guess. Probably I should have used corn starch instead of flour. 

MONDAY
Chicken berry salad

I actually don’t remember eating this meal. It’s possible I skipped it and just ate leftover pie for supper. It’s still summer, dammit. 

Here’s an old picture of this meal: Roast chicken breast sliced up, mixed greens, diced red onion, feta cheese, toasted almonds, and a vinaigrette dressing. 

The trick is to serve salads with chicken just a little too often, and then people are really raring for some squash and Brussels sprouts and stews by the end of summer. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Hweat! Tuesday Clara and I abandoned our family and drove away to New York City to see Hadestown on Broadway for her birthday, as I mentioned. I’m immensely proud and still slightly baffled that I drove to New York City, found our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, found a place to park, found the theater, didn’t have any problems with the hotel reservations or tickets, didn’t get lost, didn’t get into any accidents, had zero combat with rats, roaches, or bedbugs, didn’t create any international incidents with furriners, didn’t get mugged, didn’t throw up, didn’t cry except during the show, and kept us fed and on schedule, and even tipped the parking lot attendant appropriately. Not bad for a country mouse

Clara was not terribly interested in exploring any restaurants that smelled of curry or sumac, so we went for good old American food. She had a burger and fries and I had a Reuben. This is a place called Jax BBQ on 9th avenue. I guess we were supposed to order barbecue, but we do what we like. 

We were pretty wiped out, so we went back to the hotel room (we stayed at the Casamia 36 hotel, where I got a pretty good price through AirBNB. It was small and very much no frills, but very clean and pleasant enough) where Clara worked on her Hadestown drawing

At home, they had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Wednesday morning, we set out for make sure we knew where the Walter Kerr theater was, about a mile away. It was nice traveling with someone who has almost the exact same anxieties as me. We had a lot of conversations that went, “Okay, I know this is crazy, but can we just…” — “Oh, sure, sure, I completely understand!” So we found the theater, then decided that we could check out Times Square without getting too lost. It was . . . well, it was different from home. 

Despite my best efforts, we did see the apparently famous Naked Cowboy. We saw a lot of people who had persuaded themselves it made sense to buy national brands of clothing and jewelry in Times Square, even though you could easily find the exact products online or in, you know, Biwabik, Minnesota. It was very hot and muggy smelled like different kinds of garbage, and sounded like Hell. I know New York City has innumerable nicer things to offer than Times Square, but we really didn’t want to get lost, so we lurked about for a while with our eyes bugging out, and then had lunch at a deli. Look, here is my sandwich:

Damn fine pickle. Then it was time to head over to the theater! And that’s when things really got great! I was expecting something extraordinary, and it was even better than I expected. 

After the show and after Clara got a few autographs on her drawing, it started pouring rain, so we schlopped the mile back to the parking garage. Okay, we got a little bit lost, but that’s because my phone sometimes insists on showing me upside down maps. We did pop into a little Greek grocery and bought some olive oil soap and some kind of honey apple pastries to bring home. There was a nice orange cat and some Greek men who thought it was pretty cute how wet we were. And then we retrieved our car, I recovered quickly at the shock of how much it costs to park your car for 24 hours in New York City (SO MUCH. OH MY FRIENDS. SO MUCH.) and away we went! We stopped in Connecticut to put dry clothes on.

It was a pleasure to travel with an art student as we zipped over and under all those spectacular stone bridges on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. They are all different, and some of them even have two different sides! Normally I don’t care for art deco, but when it’s mitigated by creeping vines and those lovely trees on the median of the highway, it’s great. (They are not all art deco, of course, but that’s the easiest style to identify when you’re driving under it.) Here’s someone who did a 60 MPH drawing challenge. When I was little and we would drive to NY or NJ to visit family, we would always look forward to the one with wings

Back home, they had Marcella Hazan’s miraculously simple and confoundingly delicious tomato sauce, with sausages and spaghetti and garlic bread. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies, fries, pineapple

On Thursday, I made some spiedie marinade (recipe card at the end) in the morning, but half the pork had gone bad. So I set what I had to marinate, and then threw raw meat-tainted oily marinade all over the inside of the refrigerator for no reason at all! Then I went out for more pork and had some pharmacy adventures (not in the fun way), set the rest of the meat to marinate, and took the kids to the beach, because holy crap, it may still be summer, but not for long. 

Got home, shoved the pork under the broiler, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, plus pineapple and fries.

This is a good marinade. You can adjust it as you like, and it really tenderizes the meat.

You can see that I had leftover broccoli instead of fries. This may seem virtuous, but you have to remember that I had consumed about a cubic yard of meat in the last 48 hours. Also, the kids ate all the fries while I was toasting my bun. 

FRIDAY
Tuna?

It says “tuna.” I may want to run to the store. Actually we are going out to shop for school supplies today. This is actually the last possible day to do it, because we start on Tuesday and we’re going to the beach one last time on Monday. It’s still summer, dammit. 

***

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Keyword basil, chicken, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone, sandwiches, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta rolls, Italian bread, or any nice bread
  • Sliced grilled, seasoned chicken
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced prosciutto
  • Sliced mozzarella or provolone
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Pesto mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, whatever. Put chicken on shallow pan with drainage, and shove under broiler, turning once, until chicken is browned on both sides. Let cool and slice thickly, you animal. 

  2. Toast bread if you like. Spread pesto mayo on roll if you like. Slice tomatoes. 

  3. Pile chicken, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and a slice or two of prosciutto, sprinkling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper a few times as you layer. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red or white wine vinegar
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice.