What’s for supper? Vol. 304: It’s souvlaki all the way down

Happy Friday! The name of the game this week was souvlaki! We didn’t really have that much Greek food; I just like saying “souvlaki,” and apparently so do Greek people, because every time I look up a recipe for something Greek, they let it slip somewhere in the recipe that this is souvlaki. No matter what it is. I have looked it up, and apparently the main ingredient necessary, in order for a dish to qualify as authentic Greek souvlaki, is “various meats.”

This is what makes me take a dim view of arguments that such-and-such dish isn’t really authentic. I mean, if it’s made of sawdust, then no, it’s not authentic cuisine. One time I told my kid I was eating imitation crab meat, and she said with great condescension, “Weww, Mama, I woudln’t eat wubba cwab if I was you.” But that is as far as I’m willing to go. Beyond that, it’s all authentic souvlaki as far as I’m concerned. (This is a complicated joke about fake meat, mock turtle soup, and turtles all the way down, if you like. If you don’t like, you can just keep reading, and eventually there is a nice picture of pork.) 

Weww, Mama, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, veggies and dip, chips, cherry pies with ice cream

My sister and five of her kids came over on Friday. On Saturday, we had a lovely guest for lunch, Fr. Michael Eades, a Toronto Oratorian who was passing through, so we had a little cookout in the middle of the day, and then we went to the beach, and then we came home and had another little cookout, because It Is Summer. 

I had a lot of fun making the pies. I do recommend sitting down in the afternoon and pitting several pounds of cherries while chatting with your beloved sister, and all your kids goof around playing cousin games and being silly. It’s just nice. Then I made the pies and Corrie brushed them with egg wash for me

and of course I managed to burn them, but they still got ate up. 

Here’s my reliable pie crust recipe:

Jump to Recipe

SUNDAY
Spaghetti al carbonara 

Other meats have gotten more expensive, but bacon, which was always expensive, has stayed about the same, so I convinced myself this counted as a cheap meal, because I hadn’t gone shopping yet and it was literally the only dinner I could think of. 

Just about everybody likes it, and I managed not to burn the bacon, anyway. I bet you haven’t made carbonara for a while! Why not make it this week?

Jump to Recipe

Just pasta, bacon, parmesan, eggs, butter, and lots of pepper. Sticks to your ribs, as my grandfather used to say. You can make it fancier if you want, but the basic version is so easy and good.

MONDAY
Chicken drumsticks, pasta salad

Drumsticks really are cheap, to my sorrow. I hate drumsticks. I mean, they’re fine. On the drumsticks, I put olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and paprika, and roasted them, turning them once. The pasta salad had olive oil, wine vinegar, black olives, red onions, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, minced garlic, and I imagine salt and pepper. 

Not a sophisticated meal, but I went shopping in the afternoon, got home late, got the food put away because the grocery-put-away kid was at work, and then cooked supper, so everyone has hungry and appreciated food. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!

I used to think Taco Tuesday was so silly. The kids would get so excited if I served tacos on Tuesday, and I just could not see what the big deal was. It was just tacos, regular tacos, and it happened to be on a day that also started with T, big deal. 

But you know what? Taco Tuesday performs the valuable service of letting me not figure something out. What day is it? Tuesday. What are we having? Tacos. What are people? Happy. Take a little nap, brain. THIS IS WORTH FORTY MILLION DOLLARS.

To the drained ground beef, I added lots of cumin, lots of chili powder, salt, plenty of garlic powder and onion powder, and some water. I guess I am officially weaned off using those little packets of taco seasoning. The secret ingredient is, as I suspected, salt. 

I went to take a picture of my tacos, and the camera was open the other way and captured this somewhat portentous photo of myself, looking like I am considering devouring not only the tacos, but the entire world, because the world is asking for it.

 

And here is the picture of my tacos.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gyros (souvlaki), homemade vanilla ice cream

The star meal of the week. I had a pork loin that I cut into thin slices and marinated in the morning. I sorta kinda followed this recipe (souvlaki), except I used a lot more garlic than it says, skipped the thyme, and went with fresh rosemary and fresh oregano. The one important thing is that this marinade includes honey, which he claims (and which I have no reason to doubt) breaks down the pork fibers. I marinated the meat about five hours and then pan-fried it in batches, and it certainly came out amazingly, yieldingly tender. 

I also made a big batch of garlicky yogurt sauce

Jump to Recipe

and cut up a bunch of tomatoes and cucumbers, and we cooked some french fries and I sent the girls out for a bunch of wild mint leaves, we and wrapped it all up in pita with feta cheese and hot sauce. 

Hot damn, it was delicious. (Actually I skipped the fries because I ran out of room and I secretly think it’s kind of gross.) I forgot to take a picture of it actually wrapped up like a wrap, because I just gobbled it up. You really cannot beat fresh herbs in a wrap. I think I’m going to take another stab at growing herbs inside this winter, because it makes such a difference. 

THEN, my ice cream maker arrived! Actually it arrived on Tuesday. I’ve been haunting Facebook Marketplace, and found a great deal on a Cuisinart ice cream maker (this one, and I didn’t spend any $83.10 on it!). We dashed out (that’s an ice cream maker joke) for some heavy cream and decided to just start with vanilla. I had put the bowl in the freezer in the morning (this is the kind you don’t need ice or salt for, but you do need to freeze the bowl for at least six hours ahead of time), and we made one batch that came out great, but the bowl did not stay cold enough in our sweltering kitchen to make a second batch. So I went ahead and ordered a second bowl from eBay, plus the Ben and Jerry’s recipe book everyone is telling me is the best. 

Benny always strives to dress appropriately for the occasion. 

So, no thrilling ice cream tales so far, but our first foray was pleasant enough. The machine is very simple to use. The ice cream comes out of th machine like soft serve, but I spread it in a pie plate and put it in the freezer for a few hours, and it came out like high quality hard pack ice cream.

There are some peaches on our peach tree, and we intend to make them into ice cream when they’re ripe; and we’re planning some ginger ice cream for next time we have Asian food, and probably, oh yes, blackberry ice cream when we get back from vacation and haven’t been scrounging away at the blackberry bushes for a whole week. 

THURSDAY
Pork ribs, cheezy weezies

Just good old oven broiled ribs with salt and pepper with the fat crisped up, nothing better. I was planning mashed potatoes, but it was and is way way too hot, so cheezy weezies it was. It’s been so hot all week. Hot hot hot. I actually got a bunch of work done on Thursday morning and then did something I haven’t done in decades: I draped myself over a floatie and just drifted around in the pool thinking about nothing. Just drifted like a screensaver, drift, bonk, driffffft. 

Actually before that, I went to jump off the little deck, got caught on a nail, and left most of my swim suit bottoms behind. Straight out of Looney Tunes. The kids may never recover. 

I’ll show you various meats. 

One of my kids immediately climbed out of the pool and went to find me a towel to cover my modesty. And another of my kids immediately shouted, “Not that one! That’s my towel!” And I am taking notes. 

Anyway, after that is when I decided I would just drift for a while. For some reason, the kids got out of the pool after my comic mishap. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

And now, I can hardly believe my luck, but we are getting ready to go to the ocean for a week. I planned (and, in a stroke of good sense, pre-paid for) this vacation back in the middle of winter, and boy oh boy. Are we going to swim in the ocean. We usually go to Hampton Beach, but we’re venturing a little further down the coast this year. I bought Aldi’s entire stock of oversized towels on clearance, and we have our shark-spotting app all fired up, and we might not have our absolute favorite kind of insulin, but we do have insulin, and the check engine lights are on but are not flashing, so off we go! The house we rented has a small balcony and a SPIRAL STAIRCASE in it. And is near the ocean!!!!!!!!!! It allegedly has a little boardwalk leading to a private beach 300 yards away, but many of those words can mean all kinds of things, so we shall see. But still. The. Ocean. I’ll probably be posting photos on Facebook and possibly Instagram if you want to see what we’re up to.

Yes, there will be someone watching the house at home, so please do not feel free to rob us of all our cool and valuable possessions, such as our, um, our very valuable, you know what, go for it. I guess the printer is only a few years old if you want. I may have a Creedence tape in there somewhere.

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
  • 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube

Instructions

  1. Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.

  2. Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.

  3. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Then add the shredded butter and combine with a butter knife or your fingers until there are no piles of loose, dry flour. Try not to work it too hard. It's fine if there are still visible nuggets of butter.

  4. Sprinkle the dough ball with a little iced water at a time until the dough starts to become pliable but not sticky. Use the water to incorporate any remaining dry flour.

  5. If you're ready to roll out the dough, flour a surface, place the dough in the middle, flour a rolling pin, and roll it out from the center.

  6. If you're going to use it later, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. You can keep it in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months, if you wrap it with enough layers. Let it return to room temperature before attempting to roll it out!

  7. If the crust is too crumbly, you can add extra water, but make sure it's at room temp. Sometimes perfect dough is crumbly just because it's too cold, so give it time to warm up.

  8. You can easily patch cracked dough by rolling out a patch and attaching it to the cracked part with a little water. Pinch it together.

 

Spaghetti carbonara

An easy, delicious meal.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs bacon
  • 3 lbs spaghetti
  • 1 to 1-1/2 sticks butter
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • lots of pepper
  • 6-8 oz grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until it is crisp. Drain and break it into pieces.

  2. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. If you like, add some bacon grease to the boiling water.

  3. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add the butter, pieces of bacon, parmesan cheese, and pepper and mix it up until the butter is melted.

  4. Add the raw beaten egg and mix it quickly until the spaghetti is coated. Serve immediately.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 193: Baklava! Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Banh mi! Italian wedding soup! Pumpkin bread! AND MORE!

Hello! You may remember me from that time you used to get an email from me every time I posted. But then, several weeks ago, WordPress stopped sending emails; but I didn’t realize until recently. I’ve been plugging along, wondering where 40% of my readers went. My brother fixed it for me last night. Sorry about that! I think it happened when we updated WordPress.  I believe some people got an email called “test,” and also some people got one with lots of links (I have no idea why that one random post was chosen to be sent out).

Would it be helpful to have a round-up post with links to all the posts you may have missed for the last several weeks? Or should we just move along? 

Anyway, here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Nachos

Damien made three platters of nachos, including one with lots of jalapeños and queso. I hardly ever buy a jar of queso, because I am completely shameless. I could be actively dying of a heart attack and I would bat away the defibrillator so I could run my finger around the inside of the queso jar one more time. But it’s okay, because I went to the Y a couple weeks ago.

SUNDAY
Shawarma! Rice pilaf! Baklava!

So, I’m not pregnant, we have no babies or even really toddlers, Damien’s home for dinner most nights, we’re not drowning in poverty, nobody’s having a health crisis, and we can finally relax a bit. So what do we do? We sign up for All The Things. This week, it was the themed dinner for the Dead Theologians Society youth group. If you have this in your parish, you should totally sign up! Really neat program, especially for kids who are allergic to LifeTeen stuff. The kids have a social time, then they learn about a saint, then they have prayer time, and then they eat a meal related to the saint. This week it was Mary Magdalene, who apparently comes from a region of Israel renowned for its pickled fish. 

Coward that I am, I settled on shawarma. (And now I’m imagining swooping in and settling, bat-like, on a pan of shawarma to devour it noisily, which is, in fact, what happened.) I thought there would be about 25 people, so I prepared 20 pounds of chicken. Terrified it wouldn’t be enough food, I made about a barrel full of rice pilaf and loaded up the church kitchen counter with pita, tomatoes, cucumbers, stirred up a bunch of yogurt sauce, dished out so many black and red olives and so much feta cheese and parsley, and chopped up some pomegranates, and then I made baklava for dessert. I did buy store-bought hummus.

Yeah, so, it was enough food. This is about half of what I made. 

I surveyed a bunch of rice pilaf recipes, and ended up just winging it. It was fine, if a bit bland. I cooked up a bunch of basmati rice, then stirred in blonde raisins, pepitos, parsley, curry powder, cumin, cinnamon, pepper, and whatnot. I didn’t get a great pic, but it was kind of meh anyway. It smelled fantastic, though. 

Pepitos, it turns out, are pumpkin seeds without the outer shell. I thought they were squash seeds! Now I know something. 

I got the baklava recipe from Pioneer Woman, and I followed it slavishly, so I won’t make my own recipe card. I did use almond extract along with the vanilla, and that was nice. I also used less of the syrup than it called for, since I always find baklava way too sweet and sticky. It was still very sweet, but not monstrously so.

You can definitely make baklava! It’s a little time-consuming, but not difficult, and it would make good Christmas treats. Basically you brush a ton of sheets of phyllo dough with butter and spread a few layers of chopped walnuts and cinnamon in between some, then bake it and cut it, then pour a hot syrup of honey, butter, sugar, and extracts over that (and the sizzling is a lot of fun), and let it sit. 

I started pouring the honey over the butter and then though, “Ooh, other people are gonna want to see this.” I’ve never had so much honey in one place before. 

 

 

If you listen carefully, you can hear me breathing heavily, and if you listen really carefully, you can hear my heart saying, “Really? After our little talk about all that queso, really?”

Once it was thoroughly soaked, I put the pieces in cupcake papers. I ended up with about 50 large pieces of baklava from a double recipe.

It was pretty popular!

Next time, I will experiment with adding different things to the walnuts. Maybe some bits of candied citrus, hmmmmm. 

I didn’t get any pics of the shawarma itself, but I’d call the meal a success. I’ll put the shawarma and yogurt sauce recipe cards at the end 

*****Note! The recipe cards are on a second page! You will need to click on the little 2 in a box to get to the next page and see the recipe cards! Unless the Jump to Recipe thing is magically working today*****

and harass you one last time to make some shawarma. It’s so easy — just make a simple marinade for chicken and onions, and you slide it into a pan, cook, and then chop it up — and the flavor is out of this world. Dish up a bunch of cheerful little toppings so picky people can pick what they like, and you get one happy evening. 

MONDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil, tomato, and mozzarella; chips

This is what I was planning for Sunday, somehow not realizing we’d have a mountain of shawarma leftovers. Damien picked up some frozen herb and parmesan-crusted chicken breasts, and we had those on ciabatta rolls with tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella. 

I make mine with plenty of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and freshly-ground salt and pepper, as you can see. So good, even though November tomatoes are rather weary. 

Also, check out my pretty new drinking glasses! A great score at the Salvation Army. I’m slowly replacing our plastic ware with ceramic, glass, and steel before we all grow phthalate tails out of our faces.

TUESDAY
Banh mi

Another dish that used to seem intimidating and now is routine but delicious. You slice up the pork and get it marinating in the morning and quick pickle some carrots, and by evening all you have to do is throw the meat in a pan and broil it, and you have an amazing sandwich just exploding with flavor.

Jump to Recipe

It helps if you have a little bear to help you with the carrots. 

I shared this on Facebook and several people pointed out that it’s not necessary to peel carrots, if you give them a quick scrub. Never occurred to me! I wonder how many of my kitchen habits are outmoded. It seems to me carrot peels used to be tougher and dirtier, but I really don’t know. I’m thinking of the woman whose husband asked her why she always cuts the ends off roast beef before she cooks it, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they asked her mother, and she said she learned it from her mother. So they go visit old granny at the rest home, and she says, “Oh, it’s because the only pan I had was too small to fit a whole roast.” 

Anyway, it kept Corrie busy for a good ten minutes, so that’s a good enough reason for me. I also had some luck with a bag of dried beans and a cupcake pan. This bought me over half an hour!

What was I talking about? Oh, banh mi. I like my sandwich on toasted bread, with plain cucumbers, a bunch of cilantro, and some mayo with sriracha sauce stirred in. 

The kids don’t even complain about the smell of fish sauce anymore! Or maybe they all just have colds. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

WEDNESDAY
Italian wedding soup, pumpkin muffins

I didn’t really have a recipe for this. I just surveyed a bunch of recipes and figured I had the basic idea. I’ll add my recipe card at the end (Jump to Recipe), but you can definitely put your own spin on this. 

I made about 70 meatballs with ground turkey, parmesan, and fresh parsley. You could also use pork or a combination of ground meats. I boiled them in chicken broth, but I may bake them in the oven next time before adding to the soup, as they got a little blurry. 

So it’s just chicken broth with bunch of tasty little meatballs, and then I threw in a few handfuls of ance di pepe (that is pasta in little nubbins; other small pastas would work fine) and a ton of torn-up spinach, and let it simmer. You can top it with more parmesan and some fresh pepper. I thought it was great, and so easy. 

We had pumpkin bread (Jump to Recipe) because I promised Benny, but I would rather have had a more bready bread with this dish. Still, a cozy, hearty meal for a sniffly, drizzly day. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

I flexed my pizza muscles a bit and made one cheese pizza, two pepperoni, one olive, and one *ahem* olive, garlic, feta, tomato, spinach, and parmesan.

Veddy good.

FRIDAY
Spaghetti

And that’s that. I’m going to put the recipe cards on page 2! If you wish to see the recipe cards, then you must click on the little box with a “2” in it! Here is a screen shot of what will be at the bottom of the page. Please click on the 2!

Oh, and one more thing: I have sooo much phyllo dough left over from the baklava. Might as well use it for Thanksgiving. What’s your favorite phyllo dough recipe that isn’t baklava? Could be dessert or a side dish, like an asparagus tart or whatever.

Also, what’s the verdict on a “here’s what you missed” post, for people who weren’t getting my emails? Yes or no?