Comfort! Comfort! Baked ziti with sausage, and chili verde with corn bread, and juicy, vaguely Asian beef for your ramen, o my people. And some adorable lemon tarts you can probably make even if you’re terrible with desserts. O my people.
Also, I hope you guys like pictures, because I took a lot of pictures this week.
Hot dogs, chips?
Baked ziti with sausage, breadsticks, mini lemon meringue tarts
We had such a nice day on Sunday. Damien made dinner, Elijah, who is taking a cooking class in school, decided we needed homemade breadsticks, and I got a yen for lemon meringue tarts. Other than the cozy kitchen activities, we just went to Mass and played with the animals and dyed hair and hung out.
First the ziti. We used to have baked ziti allllll the time, and we really got burnt out on it. But that would not have happened if we had been using this recipe. A Deadspin recipe.
The picture, sadly, doesn’t capture even a fraction of its massive, creamy, meltingly cheesy, chaotic, flavorful glory. It has three kinds of cheese, fresh herbs, sausage, hunks of tomato, everything good. It’s like lasagna showed up at your house and got hysterical, but in the most entertaining way.
Here’s Elijah kneading his second batch of breadstick dough.
He made a batch of breadsticks just for snacks, and they got gobbled up right away, so he went right back and made another double batch for dinner. I’ll see if I can get his recipe.
And now for dessert. So, these lemon tarts are . . . not sophisticated. They have two flavors: LEMON!! and SUGAR!! If you like those two things, you will like this dessert, which is bright and cute and not hard to make, although it’s a bit labor intensive.Jump to Recipe
Last time I made this recipe, I just made pie. This time, I thought it would be fun to have individual little tarts.
I ended up using a full box of animal crackers (I told you it wasn’t sophisticated) which made enough crust for 24 cupcake-sized tarts. I didn’t have faith that they would hold together, so I used cupcake papers. This turned out to be unnecessary, as the crust and the lemon layer are both quite sturdy, and it just gave me an extra step to do when I had to peel them all off after baking. Anyway, I whirred the animal crackers, butter, and brown sugar in the food processor until it felt like damp sand, then deposited a heap into each cupcake tin. Then I pressed each one with a cup, to make, well, a cup shape.
You do not need to bake these shells before filling. Then you just mix together condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and pour it into the shells, and bake.
Then the meringue is just egg whites and powdered sugar. Note that this is the third kind of sugar in this recipe already, gevalt. This is where your teeth are really going to start to bother you. So you just whip it into stiff peaks, glop it on top of the baked lemon, and then bake it a little more.
But wait! You need these to be a little more lemony and a little more sugary! So you are going to make some candied lemon peels, which are surprisingly easy and quick to whip up.
Basically, you scoop out the pulp, cut the lemon peel thinly, boil it in plain water three times to cut the bitterness, then boil it in sugar water, drain it and let it dry a bit, then toss it with sugar and ginger.Jump to Recipe
In real life, they look less like french fries.
I couldn’t quite, quite figure out how to place the lemon peel garnishes. Hmm?
Do you like my hat?
The meringue had plenty of little ledges and curls, so it wasn’t hard to make a half-dozen lemon peels stay on each tart, but they looked a little inelegant.
Maybe next time I will insert the peels in between the meringue and the curd. That would probably work!
Okay, they kind of look like french fries.
I think next time I do this, I will use ginger snaps for the crust, and probably leave more pith on the lemon peel, and maybe cut them a little thicker, because I tasted more sugar than lemon. But overall, everyone liked it, and in retrospect, this was the dessert that launched a migraine that hasn’t let up all week, so you know it’s good.
Really, what is wrong with me.
Chili verde, corn bread, rice, pineapple
Speaking of food that hurts, here is another dish I’ve been craving, but I felt some trepidation about coming home with the right peppers, after my experience last time and also that other time. I always tell myself, Now look, you’re a functioning adult. You can read and everything. All you have to do is look carefully at the tags, maybe consult that plastic binder they have, and you’ll be able to tell which kind of pepper is which. You’ll be able to tell!
And I try; I really do. I’m highly motivated. And yet somehow I always end up coming home with, like, a Columbian dolor extremo pepper or a — guys, I’m really tired and I can’t seem to come up with a fake funny pepper name, but you get the idea. I’m a pepper idiot. Soy pimienta idiota.
Anyway, this time, I got lucky, because the spiciness was perfect. Whatever these are, they were good.
In this recipe you roast the peppers along with the tomatillos,
then pull off the skins, and I also removed about 80% of the seeds and membrane. Then you puree it all in the food processor along with lots of onions, garlic, and cilantro. Mmmm.
Brown up some seasoned pork chunks in oil in batches,
then throw the puree into the pot with the pork and let it simmer. I did this part in the crock pot and let it go all day, and oh boy, it was so tender and savory and wonderful by dinner time.
Serve it over rice to sop up the wonderful juices, squeeze a little lime over the top and put a little sour cream to cool it down, and it was amazing.
Spicy enough to wake up my whole face, but it didn’t cause any pain. Good stuff.
This is fork-tender, so you can easily shred it if you want, but I felt like leaving it in chunks. You can also add some broth before you start it simmering, to, well, make it more brothy; but I liked having it fairly thick. Just so you know, there are options.
I made a tray of corn bread that I didn’t overbake for once in my life. I have switched to a more finely milled corn meal, so maybe that helps. This picture is from Picasso’s cornbread period:
You don’t need a cornbread recipe, right? It’s just regular cornbread.
Roast drumsticks, baked potatoes, steamed veggies
Dinner had been challenging for certain people for the last couple of days, so I decided to go with a kid-pleaser: Just regular normal drumsticks seasoned with salt and pepper, baked potatoes with butter and sour cream, and mixed vegetables that went straight from a bag in the freezer, to a bowl on the table, to the garbage, no mess, no fuss.
I have to admit, it was a tasty meal. Nothing wrong with drumsticks and baked potatoes. I also made some frozen butternut squash, which I ate out of a sense of duty to eat something that was not brown, but it was not great.
What was great was this POTATO BUTT.
I believe this is what the kids call an “absolute unit.” To see this and other absolute units, follow @PotatoesButts on Twitter. This will not profit you in any way.
Vermonter sandwiches, Bugles
A much-longed-for sandwich. Toasted ciabatta rolls, honey mustard, thick slices of roast chicken, slices of sharp cheddar, bacon, and slices of green apple.
Someday I’ll take a good picture of this very fine, tart, hearty sandwich, but not today.
Beef and tofu ramen
Usually, “fancy ramen” includes some boneless pork ribs sauteed in soy sauce and sliced up. I was pretty tired of this, so I got a big hunk of beef chuck roast, intending to marinate it. Then somehow it came to be 4 PM on Thursday, and the beef was still sitting there and hadn’t even bothered to magically marinate itself, the lazy thing. So I rubbed some brown sugar on top, sprinkled it heavily with garlic powder and dried ginger and lightly with salt
and put it in a 400 oven for about half an hour, then sliced it up.
Not bad! It had achieved a vaguely Asian taste, and it was juicy, and that was what I was going for.
We also had soft boiled eggs, pea shoots, scallions, spinach, firm tofu, and various sauces. I put a blob of sambal oelek on the edge of my bowl and added a dab to every third spoonful or so.
I also had meant to do more with the tofu, but I just ran out of time, so I just cut it into cubes, warmed it in the microwave, and threw it in my bowl. It was fine. I like tofu. But I wouldn’t mind trying some more exciting things with it, if anyone has some low-skill ideas for me.
Gosh, I love this meal. I love all my meals. I love food.
Today we are doing some kind of outdoor winter fundraising thing, and I’m experiencing a bad attitude about it. I plan to buy some Aldi pizza on the way home, and also something for dinner tomorrow, because it sure looks like we’re gonna be snowed it. Maybe I’ll make some pie.
Cheater's lemon meringue pie
I like a pie shell made from several cups of animal cracker crumbs whirred into a sandy texture, mixed with a stick of melted butter and 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a dash of salt. Mix well and press into the pan.
- 1 pie shell
For the lemon layer:
- 14 oz sweetened condensed milk
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 lemon, zested
For the meringue:
- 3 egg whites
- 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350
Mix together the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice, and lemon zest until well combined. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
Bake 10-15 minutes until the mixture has a little skin.
While it's baking, use an electric mixer with a whisk attachment to beat the egg whites until it has soft peaks. Then gradually add the sugar until it has stiff peaks.
When the lemon layer comes out of the oven, spread the meringue over the top and make a little peaks all over it with a fork or spatula.
Return the pie to the oven and bake for another ten minutes or so until the meringue is slightly browned.
candied lemon peels
use as garnishes, or just eat as candy
- 3 lemons
- 2 cups sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
- dash ginger (optional)
Cut the lemons in half or quarters. Scoop out all the pulp.
Cut the rind into strips as thinly as you can. It's fine to leave the pith attached.
Put the strips in a small pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, then drain. Do this three times. This is to reduce the bitterness of the pith.
After the third boil, drain off the water, remove the strips and set them aside.
Combine two cups of sugar with two cups of water and heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Return the citrus strips to the pot. Simmer, stirring often, until the pith is translucent.
At this point you have a few options:
(a) You can keep the citrus peels in the sugar water and store it that way. They are less decorative this way, but they will keep in the refrigerator; or
(b) You can drain the sugar water off and spread the citrus peels out on a tray to dry. Toss them with more sugar, or colored sugar, and powdered ginger if you like. They will be dry enough to use as garnishes in about half an hour, but they will feel more candied if you let them dry overnight. They will keep for several weeks if you store them in an airtight container.
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!
- 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
- lime wedges
- sour cream
- additional cilantro for topping
Preheat the broiler.
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.
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.
Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.
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.
When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.
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.
Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.