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:

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.

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. 120: TeamDonutEyes

Oh, what a week. Let’s talk about food.

SATURDAY
Pork ramen

Still not tired of it. Kyra (you know Kyra) reminded me about Chinese five spice, so I dusted some boneless chops with it and sauteed them in olive oil. Succulent and delicious.

Big pot of ramen noodles with your choice of sliced pork, soft boiled eggs, frozen stir fry veggies, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and hot sauce. So cheap, fast, and delicious.

SUNDAY
“Greek nachos,” birthday cake

Corrie’s birthday!

 

Yep, we bought one of those helium tanks from Walmart. It comes with 30 balloons and ribbon, and, well . . .

The “Greek nachos” recipe is from Damn Delicious. It wasn’t as outrageously delicious as I remember, but the kids all loved it, and it was very pretty and satisfying. Lots of prep work, though. LOTS.

Basically you make homemade pita chips (these are the best part of the meal). Cut pita into triangles, drizzle them with olive oil, and add a little salt, then bake them. On top of these, you have pieces of grilled chicken, olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, and roasted red peppers. And of course tzatziki sauce. Full fat Greek yogurt is my middle name.

I decided to roast my own peppers, for some reason. It wasn’t hard, but I don’t think they tasted any better than the jarred ones. Cheaper, anyway. I used Ina Garten’s directions.  You preheat the oven to 500, put them peppers on a pan, and roast them for 35 minutes or so, until they’re all wrinkly and a little charred. I forgot to turn them. I lost the pic I took, but they were pretty ghastly, very alien autopsy.

Then you let them cool a bit. The stem and seeds come off pretty easily, and you can pull the skin right off, which is fun. The peppers make juice while roasting, so you put that in with the skinned pepper flesh and add some olive oil, and there you are.

Corrie wanted a rainbow cake, and she and Benny decorated it together with Skittles.

MONDAY
Pork and peanut dragon noodles, garlicky string beans

New recipe! Only a few of the kids liked it, but Damien and I thought it was fantastic. This is from Budget Bytes. So easy and cheap. The sauce has just three ingredients.

You brown up the pork, add the sauce and chopped peanuts, and simmer it while you’re cooking some ramen noodles. Then put it all together. That’s it!  Very savory and peppy, with a great texture from the peanuts. I don’t usually like peanuts in meat dishes, but this combination of flavors was perfect. I made a quadruple recipe, with two pounds of pork.

It calls for chili garlic sauce. All I had was sambal oelek, for some reason, which is marinated crushed pepper paste. It seemed fairly strong, if sweet, so I used about half of what the recipe called for, and it was great.

We couldn’t not have garlic, so I heated up some olive oil and browned up a tablespoon or so of minced garlic, then added a few pounds of trimmed string beans and some sesame oil. Then I just kept it moving in the hot pan until the string beans were a little charred. Tons of flavor, and nicely crunchy.

TUESDAY
Quesdillas, corn chips

I added leftover scallions to mine.

The children insist on pronouncing it “quassa-dillllas.” They also say “GWACK-a-mole,” to rhyme with “whack-a-mole.” They do this because they are savages, savages, barely even human.

WEDNESDAY
Egg in toast?

I forget. We made homemade bagels, which I intended as dinner, but the day got away from me.
I used this recipe from King Arthur Flour, appreciating the detail that if you’re using a mixer, the dough “will ‘thwap’ the sides of the bowl.” I couldn’t find my dough hook, so there was somewhat less thwapping, sadly, but it’s very stiff dough.

I also didn’t have as much yeast as I thought, so I was only able to make a double recipe, or 16 bagels.

They turned out . . . okay. With bagels, you make the dough, let it rise, make the dough into balls, let them rise, poke holes, boil them, add toppings, and then bake them. The main problem was that I was yakking with another mom the whole time, and made the grievous mistake of using 1-1/2 cups of water for the water bath. That’s the amount of water that goes into the dough; the water bath is supposed to be two quarts.

Here you can see me in the act of thinking, “Something ain’t right here . . . ”

This is the same kind of thinking that led me, in 7th grade Home Ec class, to read the directions to take the two skirt panels and sew the side together, and to conclude that I ought to I sew both sides of one panel together, and then sew both sides of the other panel together. Rather than sewing . . . you know, let’s just move along.  Poor Mrs. Dakin.

In my defense, look at my kitchen. Look at it! It’s ridiculous. Although I did buy a hutch yesterday, and that tangle of cords is soon going to be moved away from the stove, so people can stop accidentally charging their phones in the toaster.

So, the poor bagels had to splash around in a little kiddie pool of a water bath, rather than being dunked into the deep end. Also, the sugar-to-water ratio was way off, so they were quite sweet. Here is how they looked after their water bath, before baking:

They still would have been all right, except that I burned half of them. OH WELL. They did all get eaten! I made eight sesame, four poppy seed, and four kosher salt.

And we had a pretty good time. Some of us had a very very good time.

THURSDAY
FISHERS DINE OUT!

Vacation’s almost over, so we went to the local children’s museum, which I love. It’s quite low-tech, and very lovingly designed by someone who really understands kids. There is also a pretend dentist section with a really comfortable dentist chair just the right size for a tired mother and her cell phone.

By the way, I am solidly #teamdonuteyes

Corrie did quite well, and only flipped out once, in the dress-up section, where she literally had to share the stage with another toddler, and she didn’t want to.

Then we went out for pizza. It was early, so I thought it would be empty, but it was jam-packed.  This is just a casual pizza joint, not a place that takes reservations. There’s not really any room for waiting for a table, so it was very awkward.

Then the manager came over, beamed at everyone, gave the kids enormous homemade cookies to ease the wait, and made sure we knew he had a table in mind for us, and would seat us as soon as possible. They made us feel like they were glad we were there.

Waitresses and hostesses, please be more like this to big families, if you can.  Act welcoming, just like you would for any customer. I know it’s stressful to have a large party, but most big families don’t go out very often. Please don’t make us feel like we’re nothing but a hassle for you, even if that’s what we are. It meant so much to me to feel like a normal, valued customer instead of a problem. We went to a different restaurant for Mardi Gras, and I felt like they couldn’t wait to get us out of there.

I also ordered one of the pizzas half anchovy, because that’s how mothers get leftovers for once.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese, salad, chips

Damien and I were supposed to whisk ourselves away to NH’s tiny little bit of coast for the night, but of course it’s March, and so we must have a nor’easter with flooding and catastrophic winds predicted. And so we change our plans, tra la la.

What’s for supper? Vol. 111: Make America grate again

I have a doctor’s note that says I don’t have to write a pointless introduction today. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Aldi was out of those wonderful sourdough loaves, so we had our sandwiches on ordinary bread. It was sadder than I expected. Thank goodness there were pickles.

***

SUNDAY
Pork gyros

New recipe!  Pork gryos from the New York Times. And it’s a doozy. I found myself standing in the kitchen on a Sunday morning, still in my pajamas, and grating a tomato. Worth it. (I had purposely bought large, firm tomatoes for this recipe.) The marinade (olive oil, lemon juice, grated onion and grated tomato, minced garlic, paprika, salt and pepper, and fresh oregano leaves) on its own is extremely delicious, and would not be out of place as bruschetta topping.

So you slice the pork shoulder thin, marinate it, add a quartered onion, and roast the meat and onion in a shallow, oiled pan at 450 for 40 minutes or so. When it was close to being done, I took a rocking knife and broke it up a bit, then put it back in the oven, and then used the broiler toward the end to crisp it up a bit. I wish I had sliced it even thinner so it roasted up a little more crisply, but we were too hungry to keep messing with it. It was fantastic.

I gave the kids plain pita bread, because I’m lazy, but Damien browned up a few pitas in olive oil for the two of us. Lordy. I served it with triangles of cucumber, grape tomatoes, crisp french fries, hot sauce, and a basic yogurt sauce (Greek yogurt with lots of minced garlic, lemon juice, and a little salt). If you’re somehow not familiar with gyros, you wrap everything, even the french fries, up in the warm pita bread

and just cram in into your face.  You look at your husband, who is doing the same, and you just nod wordlessly at each other as you chew. Gyros.

I think the NYT recipe is locked, but really all you need to know is the marinade ingredients for 2.5 pounds of pork shoulder:

  •  Juice of 2 lemons
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium-size tomato
  • 2 medium-size yellow onions, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, approximately 5 sprigs

One onion is for the marinade, and the other gets quartered and added to the meat when you cook it. Next time, I’ll get more fresh oregano to sprinkle on top, or maybe some mint leaves. I made a double recipe, which was juuuuuust enough for everyone.

***

 

MONDAY
Roasted kielbasa, cabbage, red potato, cauliflower

Everyone except my husband likes this dish. I was extremely hungry while shopping, and this head of cauliflower looked amazing to me (?), so I cut that up and added it to the mix. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it wasn’t out of place, either. I love the texture of roasted cauliflower, as long as I’m not required to pretend it’s rice or pizza dough or some friggin thing.

Here’s the recipe from Budget Bytes. Cheap, tasty, and very easy to prep right before dinner time, and it’s a true one-pan meal. I like the sauce, but reduce the amount of oil by quite a bit.

This is an old picture, sans cauliflower, plus parsley. I remember being very proud of that parsley.

***

TUESDAY
Beef barley soup

In this topsy turvey world in which we live in, steak is cheaper than stewing beef, so I got a few pounds of steak. Cubed it and sautéed it gently in the Instant Pot with a little olive oil, a diced onion, a tablespoon or more of minced garlic, a few diced carrots, and oregano and fresh pepper. When the meat was brown, I added three small (15 oz?) cans of tomatoes with the juice, about eight cups of beef broth, and about 15 oz of sliced mushrooms. When the vegetable were all soft, I added some more water, about a cup of red wine, and about a cup of barley, and gave that a little boil until the barley was soft (probably half an hour or more).

I like adding wine toward the end of soup-making, so you can really taste it. That may be uncouth, but I like it. Also, I kept eating this soup for lunch for the rest of the week, and the barley and the broth just kept improving.

It was the first night of Hanukkah, so I planned to make potato latkes, but it turned out that doing the Advent wreath, the Jesse tree, and the menorah was enough to keep me busy on a Tuesday night, so we had bread and butter.

***

WEDNESDAY
English muffin pizzas, salad

I have no memory of Wednesday. Something about cheese.

***

THURSDAY
Chicken burgers, tater tots

I actually took a nap before supper, and then decided someone who was that tired could legitimately be excused from making another salad.

***

FRIDAY
I think mac and cheese?

There’s no end of cheese in the house from various dinners, so I’ll use this yummy and reliable recipe from Copy Kat for Instant Pot mac and cheese. If I’m feeling fancy, I’ll put it in a casserole dish and add some buttered bread crumbs on top.

And it’s my birthday! I’m 43. I’m sitting here on the couch sharing a blanket with my curly-headed toddler, watching Masha and the Bear, still feeling nicely full from the special breakfast my husband made me before he left for work, and looking forward to presents and cheesecake tonight. Muy contento. We’re super busy this weekend, so I’m gonna request a birthday outing in January to see the Winslow Homer oil exhibit in Worcester. Eeee!

What’s for supper? Vol. 101: Every meal is one-pan if you believe in yourself

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Aldi pizza

Saturday was apple picking! It was unseasonably hot, but the orchard lanes were fragrant, the apples were huge and plentiful

no one fell off the hayride

(although a few were verrrrrry suspicious), and no one stepped on a rabbit or a goat

(yes, I know this is a calf, not a goat). We also decided at the last minute to go to the parish picnic, which boasted two bounce houses this year, and we managed to escape without getting to know anyone any better. We love our parish, and don’t want to spoil it.

***

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, raw peppers

We have two fewer kids in the house, but two teenage sons — the kind who go to bed looking like someone owns them, and wake up with high water pants on — so we still go through a full five pounds of ground beef.

Oh wait, I bought pre-formed Aldi patties, I forgot. To offset the weird, bready taste, Damien put them on the grill, where they looked very dramatic.

And that’s the end of that chapter.

***

MONDAY
Apple pecan chicken salad

Still not tired of this fancy salad.

I put some chicken breasts under the broiler with oil, salt, and pepper, and cut it into chunks when it was cool. Served on greens with toasted pecans, chunks of apple, crumbled bleu cheese, diced red onion, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Yuhm.

Oh, the Aldi raspberry vinaigrette is not very good, though. It tastes mainly of oil.

***

TUESDAY
Chickens burgers, waffle fries, frozen grapes

A dinner entirely from the freezer, for the last day of a heat wave.

***

WEDNESDAY
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato

You know when you make something four times, and each time, everyone loves it and thanks you and gobbles it up? And then you make it the fifth time, and they ask what’s for supper, and you tell them, and they look at you with weary, disappointed eyes, and go slumping off toward the box of corn flakes?

Luckily, I was prepared to eat enough for a large family all by myself. Also, you can’t beat a one-pan meal that really is one pan.

(or, in our case, two pans). Here’s the recipe from Budget Bytes, including the tasty mustard sauce (you could do with way less oil, though, I think).

You’ll notice I sprinkled parsley on it. It’s my new favorite thing to have a bowl of chopped parsley in the fridge at all times. It makes everything prettier, and . . . okay, I feel like it cleans my teeth. I also brush and floss. But I feel like the parsley is doing its part.

***

THURSDAY
“Greek nachos”

Terrible name, yummy meal.  The recipe is from Damn Delicious, and she classifies it as a sheet pan meal, which — I mean, you can definitely put it all on one pan. You still have to chop up a ton of things, cook and chop the chicken, make the tzatziki sauce, and toast the pita, but then you can go ahead and put it in one pan if you really want to. I set everything out in separate bowls and platters and let people take what they wanted.

I took this picture of my plate before I helped myself to a completely normal amount of tzatziki sauce with a fire hose. This is a great make-ahead dinner to serve cold (although the warm pita chips, part crisp and part chewy, with a little sprinkle of coarse pink salt, were magnificent). Definitely going into the rotation.

***

FRIDAY
Ziti with jarred sauce, salad

I woke up this morning and said out loud, “Maybe I’ll make bread today.” Then I was too lazy to even say, “And maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.” But I thought it. Maybe I’ll just put on some slippers, eat my parsley, and go to bed.