What’s for supper? Vol. 172: Sweet sweet summertime (almost)!

Summer, almost! Summer foods, yes! Grilled corn, fresh fruit, fresh basil, smoked meats! I’m very excited about summer food. And other warm weather things.

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

The local garden club had their annual sale and I stocked up on things that we all know are supposed to grow in this area, because that is where they are from, so there is no excuse. 

We had burgers cooked outside on the grill, which are the best burgers. Even better, burgers eaten outside while I squint menacingly at the stuff I just planted.

Mmmm, squinting. 

SUNDAY
Pizza and ice cream

On Sunday, we went to see my mother in the nursing home.

I got a bit of eye contact and she held my hand, which was more than I was hoping for. It is a beautiful spot on top of a hull, full of trees and birds. 

Then my father took us out for pizza and ice cream down by the river.

A good day!

MONDAY
Hot Dogs Of Many Nations, potato salad, sorta-elotes, fruit salad

You can sing “hot dogs of many nations” to the tune of “look for that silver lining” if you want to. Children find it very irritating and pretend they don’t hear you, but I know they hear.

I didn’t go all out and do all the possible hot dog toppings, but we had a good assortment of mustards and whatnot. I had a buffalo dog (blue cheese, hot wing sauce, and scallions) and Damien had a Chicago hot dog (chopped onion, pickle relish, pickled peppers, tomatoes, a dill pickle, mustard, and celery salt). 

Don’t they look nat-u-ral together? Just like two Essem franks should be. 

Dora made some tasty potato salad, and I put together strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi in this Walmart leaf dish which I’m inordinately fond of. It makes me feel like Mowgli.

I also got mangoes, but they were still hard as a rock.

Damien roasted the corn over the coals with the husks still on, which makes the corn tender and sweet. Then we sprinkled them with parmesan cheese and chili lime powder and squeezed on some lime juice. 

Next time, I want to roast the corn after shucking it, so it chars a bit, and maybe I will make up a kind of paste to rub onto the cooked corn. Anyway, first corn of the season a success!

And we went to the beach! Oh lovely beach. Here are some mermaids:


 

TUESDAY
Smoked roast beef sandwiches, chips, raw string beans

Damien actually did the roast beef the previous day in the smoker, while the hot dogs were cooking. He dried it off, slathered it with A1 sauce, then sprinkled it with chili, plenty of kosher salt, and some onion powder and garlic powder, and then he smoked it for two or three hours until the meat thermometer showed between 120-130, so it was rare. 

I sliced it as thin as I could, and it was fantastic.

The smoky flavor permeated the whole thing. I put pickled pepper rings on my sandwich. I mixed a little horseradish into mayo, and we toasted some kaiser rolls and I picked up some decent provolone from the deli. I have finally sadly concluded that Aldi provolone is the right color and the right shape and definitely the right price, but it doesn’t actually taste like anything at all. It’s not bad, so it’s not really convolone, but I guess overall a neutralvolone.

WEDNESDAY
Bacon-wrapped stuffed chicken, pasta salad

On my quest to insert every possible edible substance into chicken, this week’s installment turned out quite nicely. I cut the chicken breasts in half and folded each half over a scoop of jarred spinach artichoke dip, then wrapped each folded chicken breast in three strips of bacon. Tasty! Recipe card at the end. 

I laid out two strips of bacon and put the chicken on top of that, and spread a scoop of dip on top

then folded the chicken in half and wrapped the bacon up and over the top

and secured it with two toothpicks through the top. I was going to leave it at that, but I was afraid the dip would leak out when it cooked, so I took a third strip of bacon and laid it crossways over the top, then tucked the ends underneath. This made a nice little packet. 

I put the wrapped chicken on a rack on a pan lined with tinfoil. I hoped having the heat circulate underneath would make the bottom bacon cook well. It wasn’t flabby or gross, so that was good, but it wasn’t as crisp as you want bacon to be, either. 

Still a cute and tasty meal. This would be a great dish to make ahead and then shove in the oven later, if you have company. It wasn’t really hard to make, and I made the chicken and the pasta salad, start to finish, in under an hour. 

Ah, the pasta salad. For the first time in the history of my pasta salads, there was no leftover pasta salad. I used cavatappi, julienned sun dried tomatoes, feta cheese, freshly-grated parmesan . . . 

Wait. I just wanted to make sure you heart that. FRESHLY-GRATED PARMESAN. I like grating it big, almost shredded. It’s just so sharp and wonderful. Okay.

. . . and some raw kale just to show who’s boss around here, and some spicy dry salami bits, and a dressing I made from fresh basil, fresh garlic, olive oil, and a little red wine vinegar, and then just a little kosher salt. 

Next time I will make three times as much. It was a really zippy salad. I know this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking idea, but using fresh ingredients makes such a difference. 

THURSDAY
Bibimbap, mango

Benny has been asking for bibimbap, possibly mostly for the name, but at least partly for the rice and the egg. I made a slightly different sauce to cook the pork in this time, and I think I’ll stick with it. I’ll put the recipe at the end. I just dumped a hunk of pork in the Instant Pot with the sauce and used the meat button, then shredded it and cooked it a little longer. I think for texture I prefer pork that’s been cut into bits and then cooked on the stovetop, rather than shredded, but it was a good flavor. 

We got home late and I didn’t have a lot of fixings prepared, so I just made some rice, and we had pea sprouts, cucumbers, crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and of course a runny fried egg on top. I had raw spinach and tabasco sauce with mine.

The mangoes I bought for Sunday finally ripened up, and they made a good accompaniment for this meal. Also a good meal to prep early (especially if you have two slow cookers) and then throw together at dinnertime, as long as you have time to fry a few eggs up. 

FRIDAY
Pasta, I guess?

I feel like I have put in my kitchen time this week, and now pasta will be fine. Gonna post this now and circle back later to put the recipe cards in. Tell me about your favorite things to do with roasted corn, though!

Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 24 oz cavatappi or other pasta
  • 7 oz sun dried tomatoes (I like julienned)
  • 4 oz crumbled feta
  • 1 cup freshly shredded parmesan, loosely packed
  • lg handful kale, chopped
  • 6-8 oz dry salami, chopped

for the dressing:

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • kosher salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water and drain. 


    Make the dressing by whirring the basil and garlic in the food processor until you get a paste, then slowly add the olive oil and vinegar. If it's not thin enough, add more olive oil. 


    Mix the rest of the ingredients into the pasta. Salt to taste. 

Korean sauce for bibimbap or other dishes with meat

A sweet, spicy, savory Korean sauce for cooking, marinating, or brushing on to grill. Susceptible to many adjustments if you like it sweeter or spicier, thicker or thinner. This recipe makes enough to cook 4-5 lbs of meat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or plain vinegar
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Blend all ingredients together. If you're cooking in the Instant Pot, you may want to add 1/4 cup water or so to make sure there is enough liquid to prevent burning. 

 

Chicken stuffed with artichoke dip and wrapped in bacon

I mean. 
This is actually fairly easy to put together, and you can make it far ahead of time and then put it in the oven when guests come over. One large chicken breast yields two servings. 

Of course you can make your own spinach artichoke dip, but using jarred dip keeps it simple.

Ingredients

  • 6 large chicken breasts
  • 36 slices bacon
  • 2 cups spinach artichoke dip
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Line a large pan with tin foil and put a rack on it, so the bacon can drain while it cooks. 
    Preheat oven to 375.

  2. Cut the chicken breasts in half, so each one yields two flat breasts.

  3. Lay two strips of bacon side by side and lay a chicken breast on top of it. Spread a scoop of artichoke dip on the chicken.

  4. Carefully fold the chicken in half to enclose the artichoke dip. Then fold the bacon up and over the chicken. Secure it all with two toothpicks. 

  5. Take a third slice of bacon and lay it crosswise over the top of the chicken. Push it down onto the toothpicks, and carefully tuck the two ends underneath the chicken. 

  6. Cook the chicken at 375 for 25 minutes or more, until it is cooked all the way through. 

  7. If the bacon isn't browned sufficiently, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to finish it off. 

What was for supper last week? Vol. 137: Ah’m a-splurgin’!

It was vacation week! We ate like kings!

SATURDAY
Steak and lobster

We had a lot of kid activities planned, so Damien wanted to make sure we had one fine grown-up meal. (The kids had hot dogs and chips at home.) He packed up a cooler and we went here:

We swam for a while, with nobody else in the entire pond except for some loons and a bunch of amorous dragonflies. Then he made a fire and we had bread and cheese, strawberries and blackberries while the flames died down.

He put some steaks and lobsters over the coals:

The lobster only needed a few minutes on each side, and we ate it with herbed butter and lemons while the steaks finished cooking. I’ve never had grilled lobster before. The sweet flesh with a smoky edge is completely wonderful. The steak had a simple rub of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and came out insanely tender with lots of juice.

 

Also, having visible cooking marks on the lobster really helps me get over that last psychological “you are cracking apart and devouring an entire creature here, you psychopath” obstacle. It just looks more like food. Score another point for charring your food! I’ll take my charred lobster cancer like a man.

We also brought some peaches to grill (most desserts are out for me because they are migraine triggers), but we were both stuffed to the gills and couldn’t eat any more.

And that is how you kick off vacation week!

SUNDAY
Buffalo chicken salad, fries, cherries

One of my kids has a job in a deli, and she’d been hungrily eyeing their buffalo chicken salad. I couldn’t find an exact recipe, but since she had never actually tasted it, I didn’t think I could really get it wrong.

I cooked a few pounds of pasta (I believe it was radiatori. Here is a nice guide to pasta shapes), then I took 3 large chicken breasts and put them in the Instant Pot with a cup of water, high pressure for 7 minutes. I cut the cooked chicken into chunks and mixed it together with the pasta and:

4 stalks celery diced
3/4 cup sour cream
10 oz blue cheese dressing
1/2 cup buffalo sauce
2 Tbs paprika
It was pretty good. Not knock-your-socks-off, but if you like buffalo sauce, it’s something a little different, and it sure was easy to make. It’s supposed to have carrots, but I don’t think that would have added much (but you definitely want the celery in there, for texture and to cool your tongue from the hot sauce). I also made plain pasta, which is what most of the kids ate, which is why there was enough left over for me to eat lunch all week.
I hadn’t really planned out any sides. I have a hard time coming up with sides to pasta salads. It’s like when my grandmother went to the pet store asking for food for her daughter’s Sea Monkeys, and the man said, “Lady, Sea Monkeys are food.” So I ended up with a kind of self-inflicted one-family potluck meal of buffalo chicken salad, french fries, and cherries. Well, they ate it!
MONDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches

Now this was a good idea. I had more chicken breasts (I guess they must have been on sale), so I roasted them under the broiler with salt and pepper, then sliced them. Then we laid out chicken, sliced mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, prosciutto, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and let people build their own sandwiches.

I also put out some mayonnaise and pesto sauce, but I didn’t end up using it. This was an extremely tasty summer sandwich, very fresh and pleasant and filling. I should have used Italian bread instead of Kaiser rolls, was the only thing. Next time!

TUESDAY
Ocean!

Tuesday was ocean day. New Hampshire really only has one beach, about two hours from us, and it’s terribly trashy at night, but gorgeous during the day. We brought along subs, nectarines, chips, and cookies from the supermarket for lunch, and managed to eat most of it before the very bold seagulls had their way with it. I love the ocean.

It was a completely wonderful day. We didn’t bring any shovels or buckets or kites or floaties or anything. Just played in the cold waves and the fresh breeze and the glittering sun for hours and hours. Irene got lost and we, um, forgot to bring Lucy’s insulin. But the lifeguards found Irene again and Damien squeezed some insulin out of a local pharmacy and it was still fun. I love the ocean.

For dinner, I had my heart set on eating somewhere that served food in plastic baskets and had sand in the bathroom, so that’s what we did. It was called Swampy’s Sea Shack or Chunko’s Squid Hut or something along those lines. There were a bunch of drunken louts singing “Sweet Caroline” over their beers. I had the calamari platter. The coleslaw was terrible. I love the ocean.

WEDNESDAY
Deconstructed shish kabob; pineapple cucumber salad; Tweezlaires

I took a big hunk of pork and cut it into big cubes and mixed it up with wedges of red onion and green pepper. I had mushrooms, too, but they had gotten all slimy, alas. I stirred it up with a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes and let it sit for a few hours.

We briefly considered putting the food on skewers and grilling it outside, but we were still exhaustipated from the beach, so I just spread the meat and veggies in a shallow pan and put it under the broiler until it was a little blackened. Good stuff.

Again I needed a side dish, but hadn’t made solid plans. My friend Jennifer suggested this pineapple cucumber salad, which calls for pineapple and cucumber, which I had, and lime zest and fresh cilantro, which I didn’t. So I used bottled lime juice and chili lime seasoning. It was nice! Just something different. May try again when I have cilantro.

We also had Tweezlaires, because that’s what I told the kids we were having before I found the pineapple recipe.

THURSDAY
Bibimbap

Oh son. If you haven’t made bibimbap, then this is your time. It is absolutely the party that your mouth deserves to have.

I sliced up some pork as thin as I could and set it to marinate in gochujang sauce, which I made with gochujang, honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce (proportions here).

I also sliced up a bunch of carrots and cucumbers very thin with the wide end of a cheese grater, because someone has absconded with the spindle part of my food processor. I set them to pickle in water with some white vinegar and sugar mixed in.

I made a ton of rice in the Instant Pot. It comes out good and sticky when you use the 1:1 method. When the rice was almost done, I fried up the meat in a skillet, and sliced and sauteed some mushrooms.

Then, when the rice was done, everyone put some in a bowl, and piled on their choice of pork, pickled vegetables, pea sprouts, and mushrooms, with sesame seeds, soy sauce, and wasabi sauce. And then a fricken fried egg on top. It’s so good. The various juices trickle down through the rice and you just have to focus on not passing out with joy before you get to the bottom.

FRIDAY
Canobie Lake Park!

Friday was our long-awaited trip to the excellent amusement park that’s a couple of hours away. We went with the Girl Scouts, who picked up a big part of the tab, so we splurged on actual park food for lunch, and then we had monstrous ice cream sundaes around dinner time.

We stayed eleven hours. Would have been longer, but there came a crashing, thundering downpour and they had to close the park and evacuate everyone. We made our way to Papa Ginos. I don’t care what you say, it’s really quite good pizza. Also, we only ever seem to eat there when we are wet, exhausted, and completely starving. But I still think it’s good pizza!

And that’s what we did on our summer vacation.

Meanwhile, at The Psycho-Neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous . . .

Let me give you a little background.

One time, my mother opened the front door to let in a guest. My father darted through the house, opened a window in the back, and jumped out. This qualified as a brilliantly successful social situation, because he did not have to talk to the person he didn’t want to talk to.

One time, they brought a fruit salad to a potluck dinner, but they decided to try some new recipe that included a sort of eggy custard. They said it tasted good, but it looked a lot like someone had just thrown up in a bowl and then added a ladle. No one ate it. Rather than own up to being the ones who brought a basin of puke to the potluck, they just abandoned it and slunk away. It was a nice ladle, too.

So that was how I was raised. When in doubt, run, slink, hide, just get away! And then you can go sit in the bathroom for a while by yourself until you feel better, and then maybe have lunch.

One time, my husband and I went to a wake, and I was eight months pregnant. The widow greeted us at the door and, clasped us warmly by the hands and, in hushed tones, thanked us so much for being there with her on this difficult day. So I responded in un-hushed tones, “I just need to find a bathroom!”

Why did I say this? I do not know. For some reason, my brain reads any kind of social interaction as ULTRA EMERGENCY PANIC TIME, and responds by shooing intense spurts of electrons toward the Inappropriate Response Center, and my mouth opens, and the wrong damn thing comes out, but loud.

It’s not always a catastrophe. Sometimes, I find myself in a social situation and I manage to escape unscathed, and only have to eat a few sandwiches before I’m ready to breathe normally again. Here are a few of my recent social triumphs:

While shopping, spotted another mom from school browsing through produce section; shoved past an old lady who looked like she was planning to pay in nickels, scored that red-headed bagger who does not mess around with eye contact, and was able to scoot away and rocket out of there before other mom even noticed me.

Came face-to-face with that guy who is named either Rick or Rich, and I definitely can’t ask which it is, because I already did that a few months ago, and I can’t remember what he said. So I got right out in front of it and shouted, “HEY, how’s Wendy?” Which was a not-inappropriate thing to say. Wendy is his wife. They just got divorced, actually, come to think of it. Or possibly I just feel like they ought to get divorced. Or possibly Wendy is his dog. But she does still exist, and is absolutely affiliated with Rih in some way, so it was totally normal to ask how she was. High five, Rih.

Ordered food at restaurant and was unexpectedly asked to make choice about salad dressing. Answered in appropriate fashion without stammering, freezing up, or laughing inappropriately. Ended up with very unpleasant salad dressing, but still, the waitress didn’t back away looking nervous and come back with a burly manager for back-up.

Went to party; didn’t cry until was in car.

Went to other restaurant. Waitress said, “Enjoy your food!” Was able to prevent self from responding, “You too!” Did say, “Meh heh heh heh!” like a goat for some reason, but oh well.

Got pulled out of line and received next-level pat down from TSA agent because I was very suspiciously sweating and trembling and my eyes were darting around like someone with explosives strapped to him or herself. Was able to persuade a very skeptical Janiqua that this is just how I am when I have to stand next to people, and if anything was going to explode, it was going to be my bladder because I was too shy to ask anyone where the bathroom was. But, I did not fall down.

Call it a victory and pass the fruit salad.

***

Image: Werwin15 via Flickr (Creative Commons)