What’s for supper? Vol. 117: Cumin is king

Ready, set, food.

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pickles, chips

This weekend, the kitchen ceiling fell in. We knew it was on its way out (here was one hint from earlier that day:)

but the schedule got pushed up abruptly in a shower of dirt, pencils, and mouse poop. We mulled it over, did a few tests for lead paint, and decided our lives were already ruined anyway, so I tacked up some plastic sheeting and spent the day pulling down the stained, droopy, acoustic tiles that remained.

Underneath, as we suspected? A very promising stamped tin ceiling

with, um, a few problematic areas.

and

for instance.

Also we found a very fetching mouse skeleton, which, in my frenzy of productivity, I threw away. I now regret this. I also wonder where his head went.

We bought out house from the bank with no information, and have had to do some sleuthing to patch together a history. The previous owners’ home improvement choices are a mixed bag. When the basement was on fire, they just walled that area up. Okay, fair enough. But after the kitchen fire(s), they apparently decided that re-insulating was too much of a hassle, that the ceiling could easily be four inches lower, and that cheap and crappy never goes out of style. And who can fault them?

Oh yeah, us. We fault them! We fault them!

Anyway, here is what the ceiling looks like now:

When we have the emotional wherewithal, we’ll take those beams down (they were just nailed to the tin as a base for the acoustic tiles), remove as much paint as possible, shove a bunch of insulation (and a soupcon of mouse poison) into the holes and patch them up, and paint. Onward and upward.

Here’s an account of some of our previous half-assed kitchen renovations.

SUNDAY
Enchilada bake

Several friends tipped me off about making enchiladas so much easier by simply layering the components in a pan, as for lasagna, rather than rolling individual enchiladas.

The result: Yes, far far easier. Not much to look at, though.

The taste is, of course, just the same. I used too much sauce, so they turned out flabbier than even I would like (and I like flabby foods a lot). Verdict: will make again, because they were tasty and satisfying; but will also roll individual enchiladas again, if I have the time, because they’re nicer.

To make them, I coated some chicken breasts with oil, chili powder, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic powder, and broiled them, then shredded the meat. In some casserole dishes, I made layers of tortillas, chicken, canned enchilada sauce (I did one pan with red and one with green), shredded cheddar cheese, and sauteed, diced onions — probably 3-4 layers of each ingredient– and then baked it in a 350 oven for maybe forty minutes.

We also had sour cream, but I personally declined. I was prepared to scarf down eleventy million calories in chicken and cheese, but forbore to indulge in a dollop of sour cream on top. Please! I am not from Havana!

MONDAY
Moroccan (?) chicken with chickpeas, pomegranates

Pretty fancy meal for a Monday! I was having such a productive day on Sunday, I went ahead and started the chicken marinating then. The rest comes together very quickly. It’s a simplified version of this recipe from the NYT Cooking.

 

And this is the recipe that taught me I’ve been spelling and saying “turmeric” wrong my entire life. I solved that little problem this time by being clean out of turmeric. I never did have fennel. I decided that as of now, cumin is king.

Let me tell you, there was nothing lacking in flavor for this meal.

It was just screamingly delicious. My husband who hates chickpeas loves this meal.

To make the marinade, I took half a large tub of Greek yogurt and mixed it with four tablespoons of lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin. This I used to marinate probably eight pounds of chicken thighs and wings. I normally don’t like wings — they don’t seem worth the trouble — but for this dish, they were perfect. I let it marinate for 36 hours, but a few hours would work, too.

About an hour before dinner, I drained and rinsed four 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mixed them up with a few glugs of olive oil, a few more spoonfuls of cumin, salt and pepper, and two red onions sliced thin.

I spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then made room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken. Then it all went in a 425 oven for almost an hour. The chickpeas and the onions may start to blacken a bit, and this is a-ok. You want the chickpeas to be crunchy, and the skin of the chicken to be a deep golden brown, and crisp. The top pan was done first, and then I moved the other one up to finish browning as we started to eat.

While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:
Chop up some cilantro.
Slice another two onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Then take the rest of the Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper.
I just set these three dishes out and let people use them as they liked.

The sweet, tart pomegranate seeds are just delightful with the crunchy, savory chicken skin and the creamy yogurt sauce. Everyone got a quarter of a pomegranate and just dug in.

This is one of those meals where we kept shouting “SO GOOD! SO GOOD!” like a, like I don’t know what. But it was so good! This is a fairly cheap dish, too. Especially if you skip the turmeric.

TUESDAY
Spaghetti with jarred sauce and sausages, salad

I had about a dozen long Italian sausages, which I started to cook and then forgot about. Miraculously, they did not burn; but by the time it was dinner, I was so enervated that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut them into normal pieces. So everyone just got a bowl of pasta with a giant sausage lounging on top. No complaints.

WEDNESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Oops.

THURSDAY
Pizza

Nothing to say about that, except that I tried out one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom (affiliate link through Skimlinks), and it did make the bottom more crisp. Usually we slide the pizza out of its pan for the last several minutes of baking, but this method is far less of an invitation to cheesy disaster.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, roast cauliflower, french fries

Ooh, I think I have some sweet pepper and hummus, too.

Make the chicken! You won’t be sorry! Cumin is king!!!!

What’s for supper? Vol. 106: Ermerghersh, it’s turmeric!

Read on, if you dare.

SATURDAY
Cheeseburgers, chips

I have no memory of Saturday. This week was littered with migraines, and I spent a lot of time hiding in bed and then frantically rushing around to get caught up in between. The good news is, Corrie is starting to emerge from a long, long spell of constant tantrums. I feel like the goblins have brought my real child back. She still insists on being called “Dashi,” but I can live with that.

SUNDAY
Cumin chicken and chickpeas with yogurt sauce; pomegranates and pita 

Excellent new recipe from the NYT. I made the yogurt sauce and set the chicken (I used all thighs) to marinate the previous night. Then it was very quick the next evening to throw it in some pans with the chickpeas. While it was cooking, I made some yogurt sauce for dipping and some lemony onions for garnish, plus some chopped cilantro. If you love the shawarma I’m always pushing, you’ll almost certainly love this meal.

Something wonderful happened to the chicken skin, I suppose because of the yogurt marinade. It was crisp and flavorful, but also took on a kind of — I’m trying to figure out how to describe this without making it sound gross — a kind of robust chewiness.

I made two pans, but I foolishly only let one pan roast long enough so the onions and chickpeas were toasty-crunchy. I need a better light in the kitchen, because this really doesn’t capture the golden pan of wonder I pulled out of the oven. This pan is the somewhat-undertoasted one:

Pomegranates were 99 cents, so I bought four and quartered them. Perfect accompaniment for this meal. This is definitely going into the rotation. Damien was skeptical about the chickpeas, but he heartily endorses this dish now. It was quite cheap, too. I think the most expensive component was the pita bread.

I was planning to make my own pita, but spent most of the day sorting summer and winter clothes, which I very much enjoy because it is not tedious, exhausting, enraging, and emotionally draining in any way. (I got some satisfaction from throwing away anything with a peace sign on it.) Anyway, I didn’t make any pita. The recipe isn’t hard, but it’s pretty time-consuming. It’s worth the time, if you can spare it! Miles better than store-bought.

And now I must tell you. When I made this recipe for the first time, at the age of 42, I discovered that it is spelled “turmeric,” not “tumeric.” Ain’t that a pisser? But apparently nobody says the first “r,” so it’s pretty much now just tumeric, because who cares? I’m so torn. I’m generally in favor of not letting sloppiness win the day and shape our ends, but on the other hand, I’m too old to start knowing it’s turrrrrmeric. I really am. Also, I didn’t have any. So I went and just put a little extra cumin.

Guess friggin’ what? Cumin is sometimes known as “cucumin.” And for this reason, I give up. It warr good chicken.

Oh, while we’re on the topic, roasted chickpeas makes a great snack with plenty of protein. You drain the chick peas, toss them with a little olive oil, spread them in a single layer in a shallow pan, and sprinkle them with whatever seasonings you like. Roast them in a 450 oven for forty minutes or more. Be patient. You want them really crunchy, not just browned. (Chickpeas, like peanuts, are legumes, and may or may not be safe for kids with peanut allergies; so if you’re looking for a safe snack to send into school, this is something to check.)

***

MONDAY
Nachos

Tortilla chips, ground beef with taco seasonings from an envelope, shredded cheese, jalapeños, jarred salsa, and sour cream that I jealously guarded from working its way to the back of the fridge to be frozen. And that has made all the difference.

***

TUESDAY
Scrambled eggs, salad, oven roasted potatoes, leftovers

It was going to be sausage omelettes, but there was so much food in the house, we just heated up everything and made a bunch of scrambled eggs and potatoes.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers and chips

I have no memory of Wednesday.

***

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Made in the morning and kept warm in the slow cooker all day. If you haven’t put this meal in your rotation yet, what are you even doing with your life?

You fry up the chop meat with some garlic, drain the fat, and throw in a bunch of ingredients, and that’s it! You can just eat it! The kids like it because it’s sweet. You can vary how much ginger and pepper flakes you put it, to make it even more kid-friendly or kid-hostile. (I used a few squeezes of squeeze ginger because I am a dirty, dirty, lazy cheater cook. Squeezy!)

I set out scallions and sesame seeds on the table. Then, like a damn rookie, I sat down in the next room to enjoy my meal, and Corrie proceeded to silently decorate the entire bottom floor with the rest of the sesame seeds. Looks like we finally got our first snowfall of the season.

***

FRIDAY
Pasta

The kids have the day off, so I’m headed up north to visit my mother in the nursing home. I was supposed to wake up early to go running. That . . . did not happen.

Oh, I also did a practice run of apricot walnut rugelach this week. Do you want to know how to make rugelach? They are little rolled Jewish pastries. The dough is made mostly of cream cheese, and you roll it out on a sugared surface, rather than a floured surface. You want to know, right?