I have an overwhelming desire to talk about cheese! Who’s with me?
Here’s what we ate this week:
I took myself by the scruff of the neck and bought a mere four balls of pizza dough, with which to make a paltry four pizzas for our diminished little miniature family of eleven. We just can’t eat six pizzas anymore. There’s so much left over, it’s ridiculous. We are ridiculous with food.
We had one olive pizza, one pepperoni, one cheese, and one with red and yellow peppers, salami and pepperoni, and fresh mozzarella. Made me want more salami, red pepper, and fresh mozzarella in my life. I would eat that on a sandwich, wouldn’t you?
July 4th cookout!
We didn’t get to have this party last year because of covid. Cancelling it was especially hard, not just because it’s much-anticipated annual family reunion, but because it was supposed to be the party in lieu of a wake for my dad, which we also couldn’t have because of covid. So, this year, we did it! Almost all my siblings were there, many of their children, and also a dear friend from college that I haven’t seen in something like ten years. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.
Plenty of food, great weather, tons of sparklers and kind of a lot of fireworks, and poppers and glow sticks and tiki torches, temporary patriotic tattoos, candy, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and everything.
The only thing approaching a disappointment was that my brother’s dog didn’t like our dog. Our dog was too dumb to realize this, though, so he, at least, was spared the disappointment. I did make frozen ham balls for both of them (you put ham and various dog treats in a bowl or bag of water and freeze it, and licking it it keeps them entertained and cool at outdoor events), but that wasn’t enough to forge a friendship over.
We do a basic American cookout food, no fancy tricks with fish sauce or shallots or bechamel anything. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and sausages, veggie burgers and dogs, and smoked chicken thighs. Damien also made some clams in white wine and lemon juice just for fun, and we had pasta salad, and potato salad, veggies and hummus, chips and dip, and watermelon, and more store brand soda than you could shake a stick at (oh yes, there was Dr. Perky and Mountain Lion), and cheap domestic beer, and dark and stormies. For dessert, we had ice cream cups, chocolate and vanilla pudding cups, and red and blue jello cups with whipped cream. U.S.A!. U.S.A! It was a good, good party. Nobody even got burned or drowned.
I think we ended up with about 4o people. Damien got a bird’s eye view with his drone. You can see the kids lining up to get their sparklers lit.
I didn’t get a lot of food photos. The potato salad was potatoes, mayo with cider vinegar and sugar, fresh dill, celery, and salt and pepper. The pasta salad was farfalle, fresh basil and parsley, red onions, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, black olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and oregano, and fresh parmesan.
Leftover chicken, hot dogs, and brats, and salads
So, maybe we made too much food. Plenty of leftovers.
Oops, I forgot to share the smoked chicken recipe. Here:
Jump to Recipe
Leftover burgers, chips
Yep, still plenty of leftovers.
Chicken caprese sandwiches, watermelon
Hoping to avoid an insurrection, we threw out the rest of the leftovers and had chicken sandwiches with provolone, tomato, and basil on ciabatta rolls.
There was some leftover watermelon, but I craftily cut it into chunks, rather than serving slices. They weren’t fooled, though, and I had to eat most of it myself.
Steak and blueberry salad with lemon feta crisps; cherry pie
Something completely different. Steak was on sale, so Damien made a sugar-salt rub, grilled them and sliced them, and I served the meat on salad greens with blueberries.
I wanted to try making cheese crisps, which I have heard are very easy. Well, they were easy, but I would not call them crisp in any way. Cheese disks, I guess. Cheese blips.
It was probably the type of cheese I used. I crumbled some feta cheese and mixed in some shredded mozzarella and the zest of a few lemons, put the mixture in little piles on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and baked for 6-7 minutes. I tried 375 and 400, but they really just came out chewy, even after they cooled on a rack for a few hours. The flavor was excellent, though, and really perfect to go with the steak and blueberries. Next time I will try just parmesan and see how that goes.
We had some guests and I was a tiny bit concerned there wasn’t enough food (even thought there is always always always enough food. There is always too much food), so I decided to make some cherry pies. I was planning a lattice crust, which I usually manage without any trouble, but I was rattled due to trying to make a lattice crust while simultaneously getting embroiled in one of the wildest goose chases I’ve been in in years, involving Facebook marketplace and some wooden pallets, heavy rain, an allegedly disgruntled ex-tenant (not mine), a security camera, LOTS of screenshots, at least two people taking photos of each other’s license plates, and the police force in two different towns; and the kids were playing Dungeons and Dragons very loudly the whole time, which is not to say this was their fault, but it definitely did not help. I may possibly write it up at some point, but the short version is I never did get my pallets. We saw a nice turkey family on the way there, though, and some pretty fawns on the way home. I never got any pie.
And look! I have a video of Benny showing us how to pit cherries with nothing but a bottle and a chopstick (and a cherry). This must be about a year old, because it’s shortly after Benny’s haircut, but before I painted the kitchen yellow. And it’s cherry season.
Anyway, I ended up making one pie with a sort of twisted spiral crust
and one rather tacky flower one.
Did I mention I never got any pie? Too embroiled. I hope there is some leftover. (Of course there is some leftover. THERE’S [waves arms like deranged orchestra conductor] ALWAYS ENOUGH FOOD AND THERE’S ALWAYS SOME FOOD LEFT OVER.)
Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and pasta, garlic bread
Marcella Hazan to the rescue.Jump to Recipe
It’s still raining. I believe we’re having another dinner guest. What if there’s not enough food? Maybe I should run out and get more food. I would hate to not have enough food.
Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub
- 1.5 cups brown sugar
- .5 cups white sugar
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 20 chicken thighs
Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit.
Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked.
Basic pie crust
- 2-1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 sticks butter, FROZEN
- 1/4 cup water, with an ice cube
Freeze the butter for at least 20 minutes, then shred it on a box grater. Set aside.
Put the water in a cup and throw an ice cube in it. Set aside.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Cherry pie filling for TWO pies
- 7 cups cherries pitted
- 2-2/2 cups white sugar
- 2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 3 Tbsp butter
To pit cherries:
Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.
To make the filling:
Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy.
Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.
Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells.
This would also be fine over ice cream.
Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce
We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people.
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
- 1 onion peeled and cut in half
- salt to taste
- 5 Tbsp butter
Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.
Simmer at least 90 minutes.
Take out the onions.
I'm freaking serious, that's it!