What’s for supper? Vol. 245: Pugsy

Did you read the CNN article about What it says about us when we want a cook’s recipe but not their humanity? You have to get through quite a few paragraphs before they get to the punchline, which is that, when you just skip to to the recipe and don’t read all the chit chat and cultural background and tips about the best way to deflower a butternut squash, you are at risk of treating food like a commodity

Ope, that wasn’t supposed to be a joke? All right.

Anyway, as a more or less bona fide albeit very small time food blogger, I will tell you a secret: The reason food bloggers write so much extra stuff is because that makes people stay on the page longer, and then they get paid more. That’s it. That’s the reason. Many people, me included, also enjoy talking about food; but the main driving force behind chatty food blogs is that the person who did the work needs to get paid, and that means ads, which means eyeballs, which means words and pictures.

There is nothing nefarious about this. Some of these bloggers work their absolute tails off developing recipes, producing and editing videos, taking dozens of process shots, formatting everything, and promoting it all, and it’s not a volunteer situation! They have to get paid for their work. On food blogger message boards, they’re constantly agonizing over how to keep people there longer without annoying them so much that they leave.  Of course its tiresome when the best they can come up with is very obvious padding, like,  “Do you like corn? I do. Corn is just the best. When I see corn in the supermarket, I always think, ‘Gotta get some!’ and I load my cart right up! It just feels like summer. Summer in every bite. I will show you how to get that good old summer-in-every-bite feeling with this simple recipe that shows you how to cook corn, because corn is just the best” stuff. But the recipe is free, so.

There is also nothing wrong or dehumanizing, as the CNN article suggests, with a reader deciding they don’t care about all the extries and they just want the recipe card. Sometimes it’s 5:12 PM and you just need the recipe card. It’s just something to keep in mind: Food bloggers are not ravening egomaniacs who think the world is desperate to hear their opinions on copycat Southwest Chicken Irresist-a-bowl. They’re just trying to get paid in exchange for a service, just like everyone else. (I’m different, of course. I have a weird set up and unusually supportive readers who are nonetheless probably just about done hearing my thoughts on this topic.)

WELL, now that I’ve dragged you through 424 pointless words about words about food, I guess we can talk about food. Sorry. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Bacon cheeseburgers, fries, birthday cake

Elijah’s birthday! Following her magnificent performance with Corrie’s Teen Titans cookie cake a few weeks ago, she volunteered to do Elijah’s cake as well. This was a Sonic the Hedgehog cake

and it included Sonic, some other colorful characters that I have strenuously avoiding familiarity with, and also, if you look closely at what is lurking in the background, something called Pugsy

which is a character Elijah made up for the sole purpose of annoying his sisters. 

We intend to let Clara leave the house at some point, but not yet. Not when birthday season is just getting started. 

SUNDAY
Aldi pizza

There was some kind of hullabloo, I forget what, so we just had Aldi pizza. 

MONDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

Always popular. I drizzled a bunch of boneless chicken breasts with olive oil and seasoned them heavy with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and broiled and sliced them up. 

We had acres and acres of leftover buns and rolls in the house, so I made a ton of croutons. Ended up burning half of them, but nobody complained. And that is the magic of using a ludicrous amount of butter on your croutons. 

We also had diced red onion, blueberries of course, and toasted almonds. I had my salad with red wine vinegar. 

Nut note: You can easily toast almonds and other nuts by spreading them on a plate and microwaving them for two minutes or so. They come out much more even than with toasting in the oven, and it’s harder to burn them. Some of us are always on the lookout for opportunities to burn things.

TUESDAY
Eggplant parmesan sandwiches on unfortunately multigrain bread

My car was in the shop, so Damien did all the driving for most of the week, which meant I had an unbroken swath of time in the kitchen. I decided to try eggplant parmesan over spaghetti. Then I thought I’d made some french bread for a side, too. Then, I decided I’d made eggplant parm sandwiches on homemade bread, instead.

So I’m making the dough with this very reliable recipe,

Jump to Recipe

and what should randomly and unpredictably occur with no possible way of being warned? I ran out of flour. Facebook friends suggested I could actually use it, wet as it was

and just give it much longer to rise, and then bake it in a hot dutch oven, and I’d get a nice crusty loaf. I didn’t have the extra time, though. So I put some oats in the blender and ground them up pretty fine. I added a bunch of this, but it still looked too wet, so I uhh dumped in some pancake mix. 

I will be honest, I was starting to unravel a tiny bit at this point. I already knew people were not going to be thrilled at having a meatless meal in the middle of the week, so I was really counting on the promise of lovely fresh bread to make it seem appealing. And now I had a bunch of fricken oats in there. 

One smart thing I did was proof the dough in the Instant Pot. I just sprayed the pot with cooking spray and chucked the dough in there, sealed the top, and pressed “yogurt.” An hour later it was more than doubled, and zero cats had trod in it, which is by no means a given when I proof dough anywhere else in the house. 

Then I divided the dough into twelve lumps and set them to rise again. They didn’t rise terribly well, but by this time it was getting close to dinner, so I baked those mofos. They came out . . .  okay. They would have been fine with soup or something, but really not what you want for sandwich rolls. 

They were kind of tired-looking, and very grainy and crumbly inside, and they tasted like oats for some unknown reason. 

The eggplant turned out perfect. I salted, rinsed, dried, breaded, and fried the slices, then layered them with sauce and mozzarella cheese, and baked the whole thing, then carved it up so everyone got a nice stack of cheesy saucy eggplant on their roll, plus a scoop of sauce on top. 

It still tasted like eggplant, though. I always forget this about eggplant. Eggplants have wasted all their splendor in how they look when they’re fresh off the vine, and by the time you eat them, they have very little left to offer, other than a faint muskiness. The mild sauce, mild cheese, and crumbly oaty bread together with eggplant was . . . well, my husband described it as “filling,” and it was that. 

The only eggplant recipe I’ve ever loved is this one for spicy, crisp fried eggplant with yogurt sauce. 

I wish I had some right now. *sob*

WEDNESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, rice, sesame carrot slaw

I had twelve unexciting pork chops and just slathered them with this spicy Korean marinade

Jump to Recipe

for about an hour before shoving them under the broiler, turning once. Voila, exciting! Great flavor, no skill required. I ordered another little tub gochujang while it cooked. 

I really wanted gochujang bulgoki with the carrots and onions and nori and everything, but I was in a rush, and had the wrong kind of pork. So I cribbed the carrot slaw recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod and made some modifications (I made it a little simpler and quite a bit sweeter). I’ll put my recipe card at the end. 

Pretty popular. It’s sweet and bright and spicy and crunchy, and made a very nice accompaniment to the somewhat heavy and sticky marinade on the meat. So, hooray, another side possibility! I’m always hunting for more sides. If I never bake another potato in my whole life, I will be content. 

THURSDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Nothing to report. Well, I usually say that my secret is I apply a little skim of mayonnaise on the outside of the bread before frying the sandwich in butter. The truth is, I apply the mayo with a spatula, and it’s considerably more than a skim. What, you want to make a skinny corpse someday? Have some mayo.

FRIDAY
Khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread)

Another new recipe that’s been haunting me for a few years now, so I’m finally trying it today. It’s little kayak-shaped bread bowls full of three kinds of cheese, with an egg cooked into it. Eh? Eh? We’ll see if I screw up the breadPROBABLY but it sounds very promising.

I also grabbed some asparagus, which I will probably sauté, and some cans of tomato soup. Sounds like dinner to me. 

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 4-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Give each loaf several deep, diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in the bottom of the oven, or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give the bread a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Sesame carrot slaw

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 2 lbs carrots, shredded
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup veg oil
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lime juice (about three large limes' worth)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 Tbsp powdered ginger
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine in bowl with carrots and peppers.

 

5 from 2 votes
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Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 179: Stuffed grape leaves and Käsewegfall

Let’s have a pahty! Here’s what we ate this week (and don’t miss the video of Benny and Corrie rolling grape leaves like pros):

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

I know I always say I have no memory of Saturday, but this time I really mean it. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil and tomato

This was supposed to be chicken caprese sandwiches, but I tragically forgot to buy mozzarella. They were still good, but the Käsewegfall loomed large. I had mine with salt and plenty of pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil on ciabatta bread.

I also like this sandwich with salami instead of roast chicken, which makes it even easier and cheaper.

Then we went to see Toy Story 4 at the drive in movie, where we discovered, as we re-discover each year, that my vehicle simply will not play the radio with the lights off. The movie was just okay anyway. Our popcorn game, though, was on point. 

MONDAY
Pork ramen

Meh. Sometimes this is a really enjoyable meal, but it fell a little flat. Maybe it was just too humid for ramen. I sliced the pork thin and sautéed it lightly in sesame oil, then finished cooking it in soy sauce. We had soft boiled eggs, scallions, crunchy noodles, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds.

Anyway, I produced hot food. Two cheers!

TUESDAY
BLTs and tiramisu

Birthday! The birthday girl requested BLTs and tiramisu. I can’t claim we have any particular family recipe for BLTs, except that I think we’re up to seven pounds of bacon, which seems excessive to me, especially since I didn’t get the memo that it was okay to take more bacon because somebody went out and bought two more pounds. 

Damien made the tiramisu using this recipe. Pretty tickled that the kids often choose this as their birthday treat. When I was that age, my heart’s desire was a cake in the shape of Garfield. My mother rented a pan and spent an entire day following a guide for where to put little blobs of icing in Garfield colors. Man, I hope I thanked her. 

Here’s an unglamorous shot of the tiramisu in the middle of being demolished.

People added shaved chocolate to their individual pieces.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gryos, fried eggplant, stuffed grape leaves

It had been a big week of being hunched over a computer screen, so I was really glad to throw myself into a big kitchen project. 

I’ve been wanting to make stuffed grape leaves forever. The wild grapes in the yard are having quite a year, so the kids had no trouble finding some fine, clean specimens. We followed this recipe from Saveur, more or less, which makes 60 grape leaves. It’s not hard, but there are many steps. You have to make the rice filling and let it cool, then boil the grape leaves, dunk them in ice water, and dry them, then roll them, then steam them. 

Here is Benny gathering mint, which, as always, is also having quite a year:

And here she is drying off the grape leaves:

The girls did so well rolling them! I was truly impressed at how good they are with their little paws, and also how good Benny is at explaining what she’s doing. At one point, Corrie shouts, “I have a idea! Let’s have a pahty!” She says this several times a day, every day, just in case. Check out her proud smile at the end. 

You know, we’re all having quite a year.

The recipe says to put three layers of leaves in the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching, but I had run out, so I used parchment paper instead. We only made about 30, since I didn’t think people would eat them. 

They turned out so well! You squeeze a little lemon juice on top and have them with yogurt sauce. These are not perfect grape leaves, but they held together and tasted good, and we had a nice time making them. 

I don’t know how to describe the flavor of grape leaves. Not cabbage, not asparagus. They have a sort of cool, woody, herby taste, and they are much more tender than I was expecting. The filling we used was packed with herbs, and the whole thing was somehow both oily and refreshing. I’d like to start making these at least once a year, when the leaves are abundant.  

We also had pork gyros. I marinated the meat in the morning and Damien cooked it outside on the grill. So zippy and tasty. I’ll add a recipe card for the marinade at the end.

I used up all the tomatoes in the marinade, so we had the meat wrapped up in pita with just cucumbers, french fries, yogurt sauce, and hot sauce. Tasted perfect to me. Although honestly I have never gotten used to french fries being in there, and will probably skip it next time. So sue me. My mouth thinks it’s weird to have fries and bread in the same bite. But overall, this was a stupendous meal.

While he was cooking the meat, I fried some eggplant. You have to cut and salt the eggplant ahead of time to draw the moisture out, but the batter is simple and they fry quickly. I love this recipe because it tastes a little bland with the first bite, but this amazing warmth starts to sneak up on you until it’s quite a little pahty in your mouth. Wonderful texture, too — crisp and knobbly, with soft, tender eggplant inside. Very, very fond of fried eggplant. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Tuna noodle

I promised the kids tuna noodle, but then realized we’d be out of town on Friday. But a promise is a promise. Damien and I went out for an evening run at dinner anyway, so I really wasn’t hungry when we got back. I think I had beans and pita bread and a plum or something around 10 PM. Summah! 

FRIDAY
And away we go. Oh, there are still adults in the house, so there, robbers. 

Here are some recipe cards:

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

5 from 2 votes
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Yogurt sauce

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. 

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

What’s for supper? Vol. 163: Living beefly our new lives

I’m warning you now: Roast beef was $1.99 a pound. You know what that means.

SATURDAY
Roast beef sandwiches, snap peas, chips

Damien crusted the meat with tons of seasonings, seared a crust onto it in some hot oil in a pot, then roasted it in the oven. My phone with most of the photos on it has gone missing, so here is some roast beef of ages past:

Hahaha! Are you suffering now, you poor suckers? This is what Fridays in Lent are all about. Go on, crawl off to McDonald’s and order your fish filet with all the souls in purgatory rolling their eyes at you. Go on!

And now I found my phone, so here is additional beef:

SUNDAY
Lasagna with meat sauce, garlic bread, salad, root beer floats

This was Elijah’s birthday dinner. His actual birthday was Ash Wednesday, so. And then he had four wisdom teeth pulled the next day. AND THUS ‘TWAS THE MOST DOLOROUS OF BIRTHDAY WEEKS.

But the lasagna was out of this world, and he is having a party this weekend. Damien spent several hours making this heavenly lasagna following this Burneko Deadspin recipe. The ragù was quite good, but the creamy cheese sauce was to die for. When I made lasagna, I usually just use cheese(s) and some seasonings, or sometimes cheese with egg. In this recipe, you make béchamel sauce, then stir in the ricotta and a little nutmeg. Wow.

A lasagna to remember.

MONDAY
Lemon pepper beef on pita squares with yogurt sauce; fried eggplant

Beef again! Damien saw a food video on Instagram or something, and we couldn’t track down a recipe, so I improvised. The night before, I made a lemon pepper marinade and set it to sit overnight with some kind of cheap roast cut into strips. I also made two big tubs of yogurt sauce.

That day, I cut pita bread into squares and sautéed it in olive oil, then sprinkled a little salt on it. You put some hot pita on your plate, the yogurt sauce gets spooned over that, then the meat on top. Pretty good! I want to look around for a different kind of marinade, though, and chicken might have been better than beef. Lamb would have been great, of course. I ended up having to broil the meat in the oven, rather than sautéeing it as planned, because the pita and eggplant were hogging the stove. Need more planning next time.

It was a nice meal, though. We also had olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

The sautéed pita bread squares were really pleasant.  I wish I had used a bigger pan or done it in batches, but the parts that that did get enough heat and oil were part chewy but crisp on the edges, and made a nice base for the dish.

I also batter fried some eggplant. It’s not hard at all; the batter is simple and the slices fry up quickly. It’s just time consuming if you’re making a lot of it, which of course I am.

One triumph was that my son accidentally called it eggplant, rather than deliberately calling it zucchini to annoy me.  We dipped the eggplant in the yogurt sauce. I really need to find some kind of spicy tomato sauce recipe for Greek/Middle Eastern foods.

TUESDAY
Hot dogs and ??

Tuesday we went to that Samantha Crain concert, so the kids fended for themselves.

WEDNESDAY
Beef barley soup, pumpkin muffins

And the final beef. One more soup and muffin meal before the snow melts. At this point, we have this meal mainly because Corrie so enjoys helping me make it. It’s still good, though.

Benny made a little occasion out of it, as Benny will, and put the muffins in a cupcake tower.

Corrie got the one on top, as Corrie will.

THURSDAY
Blueberry chicken salad

We had tons of stale hamburger buns, for some reason, so I made a bunch of croutons. I didn’t buy cheese, and I forgot to dice any red onions, but the blueberries were big and sweet, and I did not burn the croutons!

We had mixed greens, roast chicken breast, toasted almonds, and big, buttery croutons. I had mine with balsamic vinegar. I toasted the almonds in the microwave on a plate: one minute, stir them up, one more minute.

FRIDAY
Tuna boats, maybe seafood chowder

I bought some kind of frozen mixed seafood package at Aldi a while back, and it’s been haunting my freezer. I think today’s the day. Maybe.

I urge you to share this post copiously in order to sanctify your brothers and sisters who seek to discipline their wills by looking at meat.

Here’s a few recipe cards:

5 from 2 votes
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Yogurt sauce

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. 

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Beef barley soup (Instant Pot or stovetop)

Makes about a gallon of lovely soup

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion or red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3-4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 lbs beef, cubed
  • 16 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 6 cups beef bouillon
  • 1 cup merlot or other red wine
  • 29 oz canned diced tomatoes (fire roasted is nice) with juice
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. If using Instant Pot, choose "saute." Add the minced garlic, diced onion, and diced carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and carrots are softened. 


  2. Add the cubes of beef and cook until slightly browned.

  3. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice, the beef broth, and the merlot, plus 3 cups of water. Stir and add the mushrooms and barley. 

  4. If cooking on stovetop, cover loosely and let simmer for several hours. If using Instant Pot, close top, close valve, and set to high pressure for 30 minutes. 

  5. Before serving, add pepper to taste. Salt if necessary. 

 

Pumpkin quick bread or muffins

Makes 2 loaves or 18+ muffins

Ingredients

  • 15 oz canned pumpkin puree
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup veg or canola oil
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • oats, wheat germ, turbinado sugar, chopped dates, almonds, raisins, etc. optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter two loaf pans or butter or line 18 muffin tins.

  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture and mix just to blend. 

  4. Optional: add toppings or stir-ins of your choice. 

  5. Spoon batter into pans or tins. Bake about 25 minutes for muffins, about 40 minutes for loaves. 

What’s for supper? Vol.159: Bisquey business

How’s it hanging? Straight down? Yeah.

Here’s what we had for supper this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken marinara sandwiches; broccoli and dip

We had lots of wonderful sauce left over from the chicken cutlets last week, so Damien roasted some chicken breasts in the oven and we had them on toasted rolls with sauce and slices of provolone.

Feeble picture, excellent sandwich. I looked for basil, but the stores were completely out, for some reason. Probably all those people whipped up into hysteria by the weather forecasters. You best go out and pick up some basil, Travis!

SUNDAY
Chicken with chickpeas, pita and yogurt sauce; fried eggplant

Old reliable. You marinate the chicken (thighs or wings are best, and you MUST leave the skin on) in a cumin yogurt sauce for several hours, and the skin takes on the most amazing texture when you cook it.

I usually make two pans, with the chickpeas spread in among the chicken, which results in some crisp chickpeas on the edges and some rather soggy ones. So this time, tapping my finger cleverly against my temple, I put all the chicken in one pan and all the chickpeas in the other, on a lower oven rack. It worked! The chickpeas came out crisp and wonderful, with nice layers of crunch and a little soft center.

 

Then the kids told me they prefer them soggy. Tra la la.

I usually serve this with lemony red onion slices and fresh cilantro, but I forgot to buy onions, lemons, and cilantro, so it was a struggle.

I bought the eggplants purely out of a magpie impulse. So shiny, so pneumatic, so purply purple.

 

Such a lot of work to make them taste like anything. It actually wasn’t that hard, though. In the morning, I sliced the eggplant (leaving the skin on) and sprinkled both sides of the slices generously with salt, then laid them on napkins on a tray.

This draws out the moisture, and you can do it way, way ahead of time.

Before dinner, I made up a batter of flour, baking powder, water, and seasonings, and just dredged the eggplant through it before frying them in a few inches of hot oil.

This recipe turned out to be enough for about 1.5 large eggplants, so I will make a double recipe next time.  I had to skimp a bit on the batter, which is sad.

Very good. The texture was perfect, crisp and knobbly outside and tender inside.

 

The spices in the batter did a kind of slow burn rather than packing a punch, so I may up the seasoning next time, but I may not. In any case, now I know I can make fried eggplant! About half the kids ate it. Hey, it’s hot, batter fried food with salt on top that you can dip in stuff. They kept saying it was good zucchini, just to drive me crazy. I really don’t like zucchini.

The kids also made a lemon cake from a mix and topped it with strawberries. Pretty!

MONDAY
Pork ramen with pickled carrots

I forgot to make soft boiled eggs for this, but it was still a good, filling meal. I cooked up the boneless pork ribs in oil until they were almost done, then sliced them thinly, doused them with soy sauce, and finished cooking.

We also had pickled carrots (recipe card at end), fresh snow peas, scallions, sautéed mushrooms, and sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, and crunchy noodles of some kind.

Boy, those snow peas were great. Little sriracha sauce on top, yum yum.

TUESDAY
Meatloaf; roasted brussels sprouts and carrots

Nothing spectacular, but everyone is always happy on meatloaf day. I make my meatloaf with salt, pepper, fresh garlic, oregano, and plenty of Worcestershire sauce, mostly beef with some ground turkey, one egg and and half a cup of breadcrumb per pound of meat, and ketchup on the outside. Ghastly but tasty.

I made the vegetables with a sauce of balsamic vinegar, honey, and olive oil and some basic seasonings, and spread them in a shallow pan to roast.

Oh man, those little charred outside leaves of the Brussels sprouts.

The carrots were underdone and it looks like I didn’t do a great job of combining the binder with the meat, but we were too hungry to care.

WEDNESDAY
Bacon tomato bisque; grilled cheese

I was thrilled with this soup. I’ll make it again in the summer when there are decent fresh tomatoes, but it was delicious with canned, and very easy. Fry up bacon, then cook up onions and garlic in the bacon grease. Add tomatoes and tomato juice and bay leaf, and simmer for a while. Then take the tomatoes out and puree them with cream cheese, and put that back into the soup. I threw in some fresh rosemary we had from last week’s porchetta.

I had some cream to add, but it didn’t end up needing it. Tons of flavor and texture.

We had grilled cheese with muenster on sourdough, and it was an immensely satisfying winter meal.

I briefly considered putting out salad, but fought past that impulse.

THURSDAY
Omelettes; home fries

Choice of ham, cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms, and scallions.

All ten omelettes I made tasted fine, but were very unsightly. It’s time for me to admit that I am just too jumpy to make good-looking omelettes.

Oh well. We started on a high note because Corrie made her very own omelette (all I did was the folding part)

and she was so extremely proud of herself, it lit up the whole house.

We also had home fries. Potatoes cut in wedges, mixed up with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika, and cooked in a hot oven for forty minutes or so.

I cooked them in the morning and heated them up in the evening. I had mine with hot sauce, and now I shall do this for the rest of my life.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I think we’re kind of tired of the Instant Pot kind, so I’ll go back to the old style, which I learned from the WIC cookbook, where you make the cheese sauce separately and then add it to the cooked macaroni.

This is actually a really good marker of how my standards have changed. It used to seem like SO MUCH TROUBLE to make a sauce from scratch, cook pasta separately, and combine them in a dish. You end up making two pots AND a casserole dish dirty, and that’s not counting the pan for buttering the bread crumbs; and that felt intolerable. I’ve gotten much more used to the idea of putting time and effort into dinner.

But my life is also much, much easier now, with the kids being older, me sleeping most nights, life being calmer and more predictable in general, and Damien being home so much. And never underestimate how stressful and exhausting it is to be always about to run out of money, and to know that, if you fall in a hole, there won’t be any foreseeable way out. It colors everything you do.

Which is to say: If you cook mainly easy things, and more complex dishes seem out of your grasp, chances are good you’re not lazy or terrible. Your life is just hard right now, and your mental and physical energy needs to go elsewhere. If nobody is starving, you’re doing fine. I just wanted you to know that.

Here are this week’s recipe cards:

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

5 from 2 votes
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Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

Cumin chicken thighs with chickpeas in yogurt sauce

A one-pan dish, but you won't want to skip the sides. Make with red onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates, grapes, or maybe fried eggplant. 

Ingredients

  • 18 chicken thighs
  • 32 oz full fat yogurt, preferably Greek
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp cumin, divided
  • 4-6 cans chickpeas
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 red onions, sliced thinly

For garnishes:

  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • lemon juice
  • salt and pepper
  • a bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 32 oz Greek yogurt for dipping sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade early in the day or the night before. Mix full fat Greek yogurt and with lemon juice, four tablespoons of water, and two tablespoons of cumin, and mix this marinade up with chicken parts, thighs or wings. Marinate several hours. 

    About an hour before dinner, preheat the oven to 425.

    Drain and rinse four or five 15-oz cans of chickpeas and mix them up with a few glugs of olive oil, the remaining tablespoon of cumin, salt and pepper, and two large red onions sliced thin.

    Spread the seasoned chickpeas in a single layer on two large sheet pans, then make room among the chickpeas for the marinated chicken (shake or scrape the extra marinade off the chicken if it’s too gloppy). Then it goes in the oven for almost an hour. That’s it for the main part.

    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. Sometimes when I make this, I put the chickpeas back in the oven after we start eating, so some of them get crunchy and nutty all the way through.

Garnishes:

  1. While the chicken is cooking, you prepare your three garnishes:

     -Chop up some cilantro for sprinkling if people like.

     -Slice another two red onions nice and thin, and mix them in a dish with a few glugs of lemon juice and salt and pepper and more cilantro. 

     -Then take the rest of the tub of Greek yogurt and mix it up in another bowl with lemon juice, a generous amount of minced garlic, salt, and pepper. 

Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 93: Bei mir bist du shwarm

In which I cook and complain my way through another week. Join me, won’t you?

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Saturday seems like so long ago, and yet the week flew by. Good thing I wrote down meals so there’s some evidence the week even existed.

Speaking of which, have I told you lately how much it helps to have a meal plan blackboard? I’m not the super organized type [the universe chuckles mirthlessly, choking back a sob of agreement], but I lurve my blackboard menu. I have one similar to this one hanging in my kitchen. Some days, there is no more wonderful feeling than lifting up your eyes and seeing right there in black and white what you’re supposed to be doing. One damn thing settled, anyway.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma, grilled baby eggplant

This meal never fails. We usually use this recipe from the New York Times and cook boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the oven. (Note: If you want to save a NYT recipe, copy it for your records now! You only get a certain number of free views, and you’ll definitely want to return to this one repeatedly.) I set the meat marinating, and then we went to the beach, where the water is clear as clear can be, the salamanders are plentiful, and everything is nice.

It’s a pond at the peak of a series of hills, so I suppose the water is all fresh and new.

This time, for the shawarma, we used the same marinade but cooked bone-in thighs with skin on the grill. The marinade didn’t permeate the meat as much as it does when it’s skinless, of course, but it was a reasonable trade-off, as the skin was fabulous.

We also cooked up the red onions from the marinade.

We may have told the kids to go sit down for dinner and then stood out by the grill sopping up marinade with pita bread for a good ten minutes while the chicken “finished cooking.”

We served it with pita bread, four kinds of olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, a variety of tomatoes, and yogurt quivering with crushed garlic, lemon juice, and fresh parsley.

This is one of those meals where, if you were an ancient Roman elite guy and you were rich and happy and well-respected and you just ate the shawarma, you’d start to think about warm baths and sharp blades, because it’s all downhill from here.

I am fun!

We had these cute little baby eggplants. It says on the internet that baby eggplant skin is tender enough to eat, but it kind of wasn’t. We sliced it pretty thick (the long way, so it wouldn’t fall through the grill. We need one of those veg basket things), then brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled on salt and pepper, and put them on the grill.

Not bad, not ravishing. Looking at the eggplants, that was ravishing.

Impudent strumpets.

***

MONDAY
Chicken nuggets, broccoli

I chose an easy dinner because Monday night was ANNUAL OPERA AND FANCY SNACK NITE!! Last summer, we showed the kids Don Giovanni, which we all, even the illiterate ones, enjoyed immensely. I really wanted them to see The Marriage of Figaro, but it seemed like we should watch The Barber of Seville First. We set up a free trial of Met Opera On Demand. I dunno, I almost fell asleep. Rosina could go suck an egg. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of people fussing over letters. Anyway, we assembled fancy crackers and an assortment of cheeses (brie, sharp cheddar, some kind of herbed gouda or something, and some honey goat cheese), mini eclairs, rolled chocolate wafers, and cherries and strawberries. This is where Aldi really shines.

Look how cultured:

The kids enjoyed the opera more than I did, so that was a win. But I want to watch The Marriage of Figaro next! Or Carmen. I’ve never seen Carmen.

***

TUESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday escapes me. I imagine we were running around.

***

WEDNESDAY
Chicken pesto pasta salad

I had high hopes for enchiladas on Wednesday, so I started some pork in the slow cooker with a can of Coke, half a jar of jalapenos, about six cloves of minced garlic, a chopped onion, salt, pepper, and maybe some chili powder. It cooked allllll day and smelled better and better and better, but then I had to go run 2.3 miles, do some writing, do an interview for SiriusXM radio, drive some kids to work and appointments, finish writing in the library, go home, and drag a washing machine, a TV, and a bunch of demolished cabinets to the dump (and got some dump mugs!), and then I realized I had promised to take four kids out for haircuts. So there was No Time For Enchiladas.

Instead, I poached about five chicken breasts, then cubed them and mixed the chicken up with bowtie pasta, olive oil, chopped fresh basil, minced garlic, a ton of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and some jarred pesto sauce just to help it along, because we all need a little help.

Tasted more interesting than it looks. Oh, pesto, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind.

***

THURSDAY
Pork enchiladas, chips and salsa

All Thursday, the spicy pork howled and clamored from the fridge to be brought forth into new life as enchiladas, and it would not be denied. So fine, I dragged out the meat and shredded it onto a shallow pan, then browned it up until it was a little crisp under the broiler.

I more or less followed Pioneer Woman’s instructions for enchiladas, dipping both sides of the tortillas in warm sauce, then rolling them up with meat, cheese, and onions, and topping them with more sauce, cheese, green onions, chili powder, and tomatoes. I made some with red enchilada sauce and some with green, and served it with sour cream. Probably the green onions would have been better added after the enchiladas cooked, ooops. They were still divine.

A little gummy on the ends, but who isn’t?

***

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I’ll probably use this Instant Pot recipe for mac and cheese from Copy Kat recipes. It’s not anyone’s favorite, but it’s so very easy.

I’ll tell you what, I worked too freaking hard this week, and I am pigzausted. That’s like exhausted, but pig. So much running around, so many appointments and shows and concerts and trips and extra jobs and trotting back and forth and back and forth like a wind-up toy. I think I’ll declare next week lump it or leave it week. Frozen burritos all around, and keep ’em coming.