What’s for supper? Vol. 142: In which I hit nobody with a baseball bat

No real new recipes this week, but no complaints, either. Except from me. I complained nonstop, and I’m still just warming up. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Caprese sandwiches with salami

I guess this is technically new, actually. And so much tastier than I expected, and easier than the chicken version. I toasted a bunch of ciabatta rolls, and set them out with sliced mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, basil, and genoa salami, plus olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simple and fabulous. Everyone loved them. A nice valediction for summer.

I recommend putting more than one layer of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in among the other ingredients.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, zaatar pita and yogurt sauce

I forget why I planned a rather involved meal for the day before a big party. Probably because someone told me about zaatar paste, and I had to build a meal around it.

The oven chicken shawarma recipe, which I’ve simplified from the NYT recipe, is on a recipe card below. I put together the marinade the night before and cussingly skinned, trimmed, and boned about eight pounds of chicken thighs (worth it. We’ve had this dish with bone-in meat, and it’s good, but not scrumptious) and set it to marinate in a ziplock bag with a couple of sliced red onions.

That’s the hard part (and it’s not hard if you have boneless meat!). Before dinner, it’s quick enough to spread the chicken out in a shallow pan and broil it up. I like to chop it up a bit a few minutes before it’s quite done, so you get more crisp pieces.

While it’s cooking, you assemble the fixings. We had it with chopped cukes, parsley, green and black olives, plenty of pita, feta, and of course yogurt sauce (whole Greek yogurt with minced garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and a little fresh parsley). And grapes. You just put everything you like on your plate, and hop to it.

I planned to make zaatar bread by mixing zaatar with olive oil, spreading it on the pita, and heating it, but shortly before dinner, my will to do even one tiny speck more of work leaked out the back of my ankle

so I mopped that up with a baby wipe and just set out zaatar paste for dipping, and that was lovely, too.

We sometimes have this meal with tomatoes, many other kinds of olives, or something made of eggplant, or pomegranates. All good. So good. The zaatar was a welcome addition, too. Now that I think of it, it does taste like sumac smells, which is also very summery.

MONDAY
Cookout!

Back in July, our annual family reunion was sparsely attended; so we tried again for Labor Day. It was nice! Cousins galore, and such lovely ones.

Some of them needed to become acquainted with the lizard:

and some of them just needed to cool their heads with a little chess:

My father brought burgers and hot dogs, and Damien made his sugar rub chicken thighs and, well, all the mahogany clams in the world. Fine, just all the clams in the supermarket.

Look at that price! I’m not made of stone! I bought all 75. He scrubs them good, then sets them over the coals until they pop open (and they really do pop. I watched them this time. It was pretty cute), then put them in the sauce (white wine, melted butter, lemon juice, and chopped onion cooked in olive oil with red pepper), and mix ’em up, then row back to Spain like there’s no mañana!

Or, just suck down four or five helpings while your family politely averts their gaze. If you don’t have memories that include buttery clams in wine sauce with a reflection of the blue September sky in ’em, I feel bad for you, son. I got ninety nine clams, but I don’t actually know this song.

TUESDAY
Chicken berry walnut salad

Back to school. Back to school. (We started last Wednesday, but had Monday off.) In the morning, I put dem chicken breasts under the broiler with some olive oil and basic seasonings, and when they were cool, I cut them into cubes. Spread some walnuts in a pan and let them toast for a few minutes. (Yep, the microwave way is easier, and gives more even results. But someone broke our microwave, and now it cooks for three seconds and then it goes ZUUUUUUUUL. I haven’t thrown it out yet, in case it fixes itself, but it hasn’t yet.)

Mixed greens, crumbled feta, dried berries (cranberries, blueberries, and cherries, but to be honest, they tasted all the same), and diced red onion. And some broccoli we happened to have, which went along with the rest better than I expected.

A little balsamic vinegar, and it’s a nice, filling meal. Everything was set up ahead of time, which makes me feel so smart.

WEDNESDAY
Pizza ala furry bastard

Now you’ll see how smart I really am. I had twenty minutes before it was time to go, so I buttered and floured five pans and stretched out the pizza dough, and left them on the counter to finish up when I got back. And when I got back, here is what I found:

So I took a baseball bat, and I . . . no I didn’t. I threw out the dough and complained about the cat for the next 48 hours. This is also the day that we went for a run and got a dramatic flat tire on the way back, and then the tire wouldn’t come off, so while we were waiting for AAA to come and hit it with a stick, we saw we had missed a phone call from the kid at home, who wanted to know how much to worry about the smoke that was coming out of the dryer. I blame the cat. He did catch a mouse the other day, though. I came pretty close to emitting an “eek,” let me tell you.

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, chips, carrots and hummus

I called one of my teenagers to make this meal while I was teaching one of my other teenagers to drive. She did fine. They did fine. We all did fine. We needed new tires anyway.

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

I must have been feeling guilty about something to agree to this. I bought them all new shoes! What the hell do I have to feel guilty about? Do I go stomping around on vulnerable pizza dough? No! Do I buy up all the clams? Well yes I do, but it was for a good cause. Do I hit anyone with baseball bats? Not at all. And yet here I am feeling bad and squeezing the juice out of six cans of tune. Line-caught tuna, because I feel guilty about the frickin’ dolphins, too. What a world.

Well, here’s your recipe cards.

Caprese sandwiches

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta, baguettes, sourdough, or other dense bread
  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced mozzarella
  • fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • vinegar
  • prosciutto, genoa salami, or sliced grilled chicken (optional)
  • pesto sauce or pesto mayo (optional)

Instructions

  1. You know how to make a sandwich. 

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
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and 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 and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. 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 (tzatziki)

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 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. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

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. 

Chicken berry nut salad

Any number of variations. Use whatever fruit is in season and whatever nuts are on sale. Dried fruit is also fine. 

Ingredients

  • chicken breast, seasoned, cooked, diced
  • salad greens
  • blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, fresh or dried
  • toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
  • feta or blue cheese, crumbled
  • diced red onions
  • balsamic vinegar or other light dressing

Instructions

  1. To toast the nuts: Spread them in a single layer on a plate and microwaving them on high for three minutes. This is the easiest, most reliable way to toast nuts, which improves the flavor and texture immensely for salad. 

    You can also toast them in the oven in a single layer on a pan in a 350 oven for 6-7 minutes, but watch carefully, as they burn quickly. 

A short history of awful pets

You know what’s no fun? Being a scapedog. This noble creature

boomer head shake

has simple needs. He just wants a crate with a blankie and lots of wet coffee filters and styrofoam meat trays hidden under it. He wants people to tell him what to do, and he wants to smell their wonderful, wonderful feet. He wants to go outside and then come inside and then to outside and then come in and then maybe go outside for a bit. He wants to eat snow. And he wants to protect the HELL out of the baby, which is sweet.

However, pretty much all I do is yell at him, and the more I yell at him, the more devoted he becomes, trying to win my favor.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

Boomer only pawn in game of life.

This is why we got a boy dog. I’m not saying that all men are like this, but I will say that this is why we got a boy dog.

I know he’s a good boy. So I’m trying to make myself feel better about him by reminiscing about all the other pets we’ve had, and how much more awful they were than this supremely irritating dog. For instance . . .

The cat who was our prisoner. I’ve written about this wretched animal before.

black cat

Never in my life have I been hated so passionately as I was hated by that cat. This is the animal who would sit on the couch, wait for me to walk in, make eye contact, pee profoundly, and then casually get up and walk out, making sure to brush past my ankles in a devastatingly ironic pantomime of feline affection, just to show us that she could if she wanted to. This is the cat who, in the time it took for me to get my shoes on to go to the vet, chewed her way out of the cat carrier and disappeared. This is the cat who actually burrowed into the wall and didn’t come out for several days, presumably plotting some horrible vengeance on the family who so barbarically gave her food and shelter.

One night, I had a moment of clarity and simply opened the front door. Propelled by a white hot loathing, she sped off into the darkness whence she came, and we never saw each other again.

The frog that died of ennui after costing us millions of dollars. If you factor in the emotional cost. My son found this frog in the sandbox, and we made some kind of bogus deal that I never thought he’d be able to fulfill — keeping his room clean or some pie-in-the-sky like that. So of course he did it, and he earned a frog.

frog

Happier times

We quickly learned that, despite spending his days doing exactly nothing, a frog is a needy creature. He needs a tank that has water and gravel, sand and moss. Okay. But he also needs live crickets to eat, and, even though he is a yard frog, he can’t eat yard crickets. Nope, they have to be crickets that cost money. And those crickets have to be gut loaded with special stinky calcium powder or something, and you have to time the feeding so that the crickets’ bellies will still be full before the frog eats them.

Les_remords_de_la_patrie

not how I imagined my life

At one point in my research, I came across the phrase “economical cricket husbandry” and sobbed aloud.

Now, the crickets get dehydrated pretty easily; but they will also drown themselves if you give them water, such as the water you might find in a frog tank. So you have to buy a separate container just for the crickets, and in it, you must put special hydrating gel, which the crickets absorb through their horrible abdomens. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s more upsetting than that. Oh, and do not leave a bag of crickets on your dashboard when it’s hot out, or you will have to make a second trip to PetSmart. And all the PetSmart people will know what you have done.

Also, froggie needs sunlight, but not direct sunlight, because that will burn him, but not indirect sunlight, because then he won’t get the correct gamma rays or something, and he will develop some kind of crippling bone disease.

GodzillaBlockparty

oh, the frogmanity

Froggie must have a special light fixture to prevent him from becoming Noodle Bone Frogzilla. But don’t worry, you have a PetSmart discount card! So the special bulb will cost a mere $38.

My question is, how the hell do frogs survive in sandboxes?

Anyway, our frog did not survive. He simply was miserable and made us miserable for many, many months, and then one morning, he looked even more dead that usual, and that was the end of that.

The worst mother fish ever. I’ve kept fish off and on for decade, and I’ve learned two things: One: when you have a really nice set-up, with plants and bottom feeders and Roman ruins, and you buy a new heater and it doesn’t seem to be heating up the water? So you keep turning it up, and it’s still not heating the water? So you turn it up some more, and then some more, and it’s still not heating the water up? You might want to make sure it’s plugged in. And, you might want to make sure you turn it down again before you plug it in. Unless you intended to make bouillabaisse with a side dish of ancient Roman ruins.

Again: not recommended.

Again: not recommended.

The second thing I learned was: do not get too attached. One time we had a fish who turned out, in keeping with the general theme of the household, to be pregnant. It gave birth to approximately 93 teensy little adorable fishlings. Or, was it only about 70. Huh, looks like there’s only about 30 now. Or, wow, there can’t be more than– OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE. Quick, look up what to do when the mother fish is eating all the babies! Okay, run out and buy this expensive little mesh isolation nursery thing! Phew, now they will be safe, and shame on you, you unnatural mother! I know you’re just a fish, but–

OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE!

Yep, the mother fish was sucking her babies through the mesh and eating them anyway.

WORSE THAN THIS.

WORSE THAN THIS.

At this point, a responsible pet owner can only put a blanket over the tank and take the kids out for ice cream until they stop crying.

The three doomed parakeets. One escaped out the window when we cleaned its cage. One got a chill and keeled over suddenly. And one simply got more and more despondent until it started kind of falling apart, which is the worst thing I’ve ever seen a bird do. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and so my husband asked grimly, “Do we have a paper bag?” His plan was to put the bird in a paper bag and run over it with the car.

horror

This is actually not a terrible idea, and I’m not sure why it makes me want to laugh hysterically; but it was about 17 years ago, and I’m still giggling. (We ended up bringing it to the humane society, who charged us $15 to gas the poor s.o.b. And they didn’t even give us the cage back!)

The tadpole of futility. We have this wonderful town pond, which has one section full of tadpoles and salamanders. The kids love seeing how many they can catch.

Eeek!

Eeek!

One day, feeling expansive after basking in the sun for a few hours, I made a tactical error, and allowed them to bring a tadpole home. We installed it in a pickle jar and it became the centerpiece on the dining room table.

OH BOY!

Mmm, appetizin’.

We named it “Bingo” and prepared to watch the miracle of life unfold before our eyes.

Mmm, appetizin'.

OH BOY!

Instead, it basically acted like a dead pickle with a mouth. It ate and ate and ate and ate, and got more and more bloated. And that’s it. One day, the kids started spazzing out, shrieking that the tadpole had pooped. It turned out to have sprouted a leg. Just one leg. And that’s it.

Was willst du von mein leben?

Was willst du von mein leben?

More weeks went by, and it never grew any more legs. It just continued to eat limp lettuce until I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and dumped it into the stream. Vaya con dios, pickle.

Adios.

Adios.

The phantom hamster. Our most current terrible pet. We had some gerbils, and they were pretty good, but then one died. So, because I don’t argue about these things, we got a dwarf hamster, and he was pretty good.

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

IN FACT SO TYOOOOOT!

Until he got out. How he did this, I do not know. He certainly doesn’t appear strong or intelligent or even competent, but somehow he got out. This produced extreme sadness in the boy community of the household for a week or so, until — and again, I would like to note that boys are different from girls — the joyous news was spread that the hamster appears to be alive and well, only he is living inside the walls! Hooray, apparently!

So now we have what may be, according to your point of view, the perfect pet: he requires no food, at least not any intended for him; he requires no care; he requires no changes of bedding, for reasons that I care not to think about. But we know that he’s there. And he is ours.

 And that brings us up to the dog. Well, he does love the baby. Boy, does he love the baby. And I know for a fact that he would not fit inside a paper bag.

It’ll have to be enough.

 

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