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 sale, preferably kosher

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.

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 onions and cilantro in lemon juice, pita bread and yogurt sauce, and pomegranates. 

Tomato bisque with bacon


Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon
  • 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

Instructions

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

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

    Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes.

    With a slotted spoon, fish out tomatoes.Puree them in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese.

    Return pureed tomatoes and cream cheese to pot.

    Add chopped bacon. Add rosemary if desired.

    Heat through. 

    Salt and pepper to taste

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.