My sincere apologies for not getting anything up on the site this week. We started school again this week, and we are all exhaustipated. I knew that would happen, so last weekend, I pulled up a bunch of old back-to-school essays I had written, thinking I could dust them off and re-publish. But the funny ones were so dated, and the earnest ones were so naive, it really didn’t help with my little moroseness problem. I really hate this time of year. Like old Emily says, there is this fucking slant of light. I wish everything would just die and get it over with, rather than dragging us all through this long, drawn-out process where everything explodes into one final flame of exquisite color but it’s clearly the final fever ignited by the face of death. What kind of system is that, sheesh. Maybe I’ll hire a tour bus to come and look at it and buy postcards, that seems nice! I don’t know what is the matter with people. Yes I do.
Anyway, as I say, it was our first week of school, so I wanted to cook foods that everybody likes, because even a good first week of school is challenging, and comfort food helps. Here is what we had:
Lena actually took me out to eat to Thai Garden in Keene, and the people at home had hot dogs. I didn’t get pics of the delicious appetizers, which included golden triangles, but I did capture my main course, which the waitress recommended. I forget what it was called, but it was some kind of chicken coconut curry with lots of vegetables and two kinds of noodles, some soft, and then some crunchy fried ones on top. Very tasty.
I wish to compliment the Thai people on their brilliance. So good. We always have a nice time at Thai Garden. Fast, friendly service, tasty, hot food, and decent prices, and if you dither long enough, the waitress will just tell you what to order, and she will be correct.
Sandwiches at the beach
Sunday was the last possible day for me to fulfill my annual pledge to take them to the pond and stay as long as they wanted to stay and have dinner there and eat as much candy as they wanted. We packed grapes, watermelon, and blueberries, baguettes, meats, and cheeses, bags of chips, and most importantly, lots and lots of candy.
Hardly anyone else was there. It was a little on the cool side, and it turns out we don’t have quite the beach staying power we once did. We used to play-play-play until after the sun went down, but this year, we only made it about three hours, had an early dinner, and packed it in. But not before Corrie made herself exactly the sandwich she wanted:
And then we said goodbye to the beach for the year. We always say we can keep going a few more times even if vacation is over, but it never works out.
I made four pizzas, one pepperoni, one plain, and then two that I’ve been wanting to try: One Greek, with black olives, fresh garlic, black olives, feta, ricotta, fresh spinach, and tomatoes from the garden
I also bought a jar of marinated red peppers, but I forgot to put them on. It was pretty good!
But the other one was really the star. First I made a little salad with arugula, red onion, fresh lemon juice, good olive oil, and salt and pepper, and set it aside. I cooked the pizza with just sauce and mozzarella, fresh garlic slices, and fresh rosemary from the garden, and some more olive oil and a little extra salt and pepper. Then when it came out, I topped it with lots of torn-up prosciutto and the arugula salad.
I planned to add some freshly-shredded parmesan to the top, but the parmesan mysteriously disappeared. The pizza was full of flavor as it was. Really excellent. I loved the combination of raw and cooked elements, savory, tart, peppery and . . . herbaceous. The arugula did wilt a tiny bit from the heat of the pizza, so it all just melded together beautifully.
Most definitely making this pizza again. Aldi prosciutto and parmesan make it very affordable.
And now, since Moe moved out and the family continues to dwindle, I’m making my first tentative efforts to face the idea that four pizzas is too many. We used to polish off six extra large pizzas!
Spaghetti and meatballs
Nothing special. In fact the sauce was a little skimpy, as you can see.
No complaints, though. It was too hot for spaghetti and meatballs, but it was the first full day back, and everyone was very happy for this comfort meal.Jump to Recipe
I made five pounds of meatballs and added lots of Worcestershire sauce.
Pork ribs, peas, risotto
Pork ribs: just lots of salt and pepper, roasted up under the broiler until they are juicy. Possibly the tastiest possible meat with the littlest effort.
The risotto, I goosed so much, I’m almost ashamed. I’m including my recipe belowJump to Recipe
but I added 50% more butter, 50% more parmesan cheese (which mysteriously reappeared. My refrigerator has portals or something), and — this is a little gauche, but I made the chicken broth with at least double the amount of bouillon powder. So it was very intensely flavored and very salty, which is how the kids like it. And so do I. It was absolutely gooey.
You know what? I make no apology. Don’t run away from your feelings. We’re all doing it!
(Yes, my entire excuse is because I said “gauche.”)
Speaking of things you may not find attractive, here is my pork and risotto, which was not especially photogenic, but it’s on my camera, so here you go.
If you want kids packing risotto in their lunches and staying up late to microwave a little extra for themselves before bed, this is how to do it.
Kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato sheet pan bake; hot pretzels
This is a kind of cute recipe we haven’t had for a while. I used three 12-oz ropes (that’s what they’re called) of kielbasa, a large cabbage, and about four pounds of red potatoes. It’s super easy. You just cut everything up, douse it with olive oil and salt and pepper, put your thick slices of cabbage in there with more oil and salt and pepper, and cook it all. You flip everything at some point, and it takes about half an hour.Jump to Recipe
You can see that I got lazy and just flipped the cabbage, and let the potatoes and kielbasa be, so they only really got browned on one side, but it was fine.
I did chop up some parsley and make the nice garlicky mustard sauce with red wine vinegar.
We also had a bunch of hot pretzels.
Once things settle down a bit, I’m going to make homemade hot pretzels again. They turned out pretty nice when I tried them back in February, and they’re not difficult. According the the King Arthur people, you can make the dough in the morning and keep it in the fridge, then form the pretzels and bake them later in the day. Or you can make them completely but slightly underbake them, and then heat them up when it’s dinner time — probably more realistic for a weekday.
Tuna noodle casserole
The final installment in the “comfort, o my people” meal plan. Our tuna noodle is canned tuna and canned cream of mushroom soup mixed with egg noodles, cooked in a casserole dish with a topping of corn flakes and potato chips, with a dressing made of mayo, ketchup, and vinegar. Damien, who grew up with an entirely different set of monstrous casseroles, is talking about making spaghetti and clams, though.
And that’s it. Sorry about all the whining.
Meatballs for a crowd
Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs.
- 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.
Preheat oven to 400.
Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.
Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.
Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve.
Suppli (or Arancini)
Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella.
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying.
- 12 cups chicken stock
- 8 + 8 Tbs butter
- 1 cup finely chopped onions
- 4 cups raw rice
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
To make suppli out of the risotto:
- 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
- bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
- plenty of oil for frying
- mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)
Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.
Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.
In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.
Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.
Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.
Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.
Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.
If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.
When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.
This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!
TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:
Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.
Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.
Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate.
Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.
Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil.
Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.
Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over.
Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven.
One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce
This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter.
- 3-4 lbs kielbasa
- 3-4 lbs red potatoes
- 1-2 medium cabbages
- (optional) parsley for garnish
- salt and pepper and olive oil
mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):
- red wine if you like
- a little olive oil
- salt and pepper
- fresh garlic, crushed
Preheat the oven to 400.
Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).
Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan.
Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well.
Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.
Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish.