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.

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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.

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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.

The lady was sad, and MAD. (We showed the kids an opera!)

don giovanni

My kids’ experience with opera comes entirely from Bugs Bunny, and we really wanted them to branch out. So, with great trepidation, we showed them Don Giovanni last weekend … and they loved  it. More or less.

We did it in two nights. The first night, I set out some trays heaped with treats in the living room. We had brie, havarti, and honey goat cheese and three kinds of crackers, red and green grapes, mini chocolate eclairs, and sparkling cider. So the kids were all excited and cheerful, and ready to have a fancy good time. For my kids, this step is essential. If they get any whiff of high art or culture, they turn into jerks and refuse to enjoy themselves, so they need to be softened up. This is okay with me, because I, too, enjoy cheese.

We went with the Metropolitan Opera’s 2000 production with set design by Franco Zeffirelli. This production has large, clear subtitles, and all the literate kids followed the action just fine. (And the story doesn’t waste any time, but leaps right in, which is one of the reasons I chose this opera.)

The amazing thing was that Benny (age 3) picked up an awful lot, too, and was engaged throughout. She could tell that DonjiManji was one bad dude. She called all the women “princesses” (score one for the wonderful costumes, which were everything opera costumes should be) and said that Donna Elivra was “sad, and mad.” When Don Ottavio was pestering Donna Anna for the umpteenth time, she remarked, “The princess wants him to shut up.”

They laughed at the funny parts (Ferruccio Furlanetto as Leperello did a great job of making all the subtler jokes obvious with gestures and smirks) and were aghast at Don Giovanni’s wickedness.

The NYT review said that Bryn Terfel

comes to the Don with his own powerful if somewhat repugnant point of view. If the production is about period elegance, the character itself achieves a modern mean-spiritedness. Endearing naughtiness is replaced with outright sadism. This is a coldly obsessive figure for whom rape and murder is not offhand but committed with pleasure.

Well, that is the role. I don’t see how the rest of the opera makes any sense if the Don is just endearingly naughty; and his sneering callousness helped the kids to see why (spoiler) Don Giovanni goes to Hell but Leperello gets off the hook. Terfel’s power and command were sufficient to explain why the women found him hard to resist, and, as the NYT says,

this not very nice man sings like an angel. The articulation was wonderful, and Mr. Terfel commands such a depth of color that his ”La ci darem la mano” could soar out into the hall even at half voice. Volume does not necessarily conquer the Met’s bigness. Quality and focus have a better chance.

The entire cast had that focus, and no one seemed dwarfed. Here’s the rest of the cast:

Bryn Terfel (Don Giovanni), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Leporello), Renee Fleming (Donna Anna), Solveig Kringelborn (Donna Elvira), Hei-Kyung Hong (Zerlina), Paul Groves (Don Ottavio), Sergei Koptchak (Commendatore) and John Relyea (Masetto). James Levine was conductor.

Renee Fleming was tremendous. I think a few of the kids were crying when she wept, “O padre mio!” The NYT:

Fleming’s Donna Anna had unusual breadth. ”Non mi dir” luxuriated in the softness of her timbre, yet the early scenes abandoned beauty for its own sake and took on a wonderful fierceness. She is in both moods a splendid musician; the attention to rhythm, phrase length and pitch legitimized the emotion.

Quite right about the two moods. She showed real depth. Her character is naturally more interesting than Don Ottavio’s anyway, but I was really struck, in this production, by how unworthy he is of her! And what a pest, good heavens. I think if she broke a toe or won the Nobel prize for phsyics, he’d scoot over and explain that this was the perfect time for her to get over her grief and marry him.  Anyway, she was immensely present in the role, and plus, she is just so beautiful.

Solveig Kringelborn as Donna Elivira was a revelation to me. I’ve heard this role mainly played as straight up crazy bitch; but Kringelborn brought out some real pathos and humor, and avoided sounding screamy in a role that has a lot of high notes. I enjoyed every minute of her performance, and the kids loved her.

Zerlina, I was not so crazy about, and the kids had a hard time with her character. I’ve seen her played more winningly.  Her voice was crystalline and her diction was perfect, but there was no appeal in her stage presence, that I could see. It would have been fine as an audio performance, but I wouldn’t seek out Hei-Kyung Hong out for this stage role again.

Masetto did fine. Paul Groves as Don Ottavio was nicely stolid and useless, and his voice was as lovely as you could wish for his lovely arias. Don Ottavio is not actually allowed to breathe at any point, and Groves did not. The Commendatore was nice and creepy. I totally would have repented if it had been me holding that cold hand!

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up again

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up

We rented this two-disc set through Netflix, which has several Don Giovannis available. You can buy the DVD set on Amazon, or you can rent it directly from the Met for $3.99.

Very sensitive audiences will be upset with the scariness of the final scene, and with Don Giovanni’s handsiness, but it is an opera about rape and damnation, so. There was nothing so explicit that we found it off-bounds for the kids.

Next up: not sure! I think Mozart is great for kids: the emotion is so evident, and he doesn’t waste any time. Maybe The Barber of Seville.I’m sadly ignorant about Italian opera, and I’d like to remedy that. What would you suggest?