What’s for supper? Vol. 207: The Wurst-Käse scenario

Everybody okay? We’ve been lucky so far here and don’t have a lot of food shortages, so we’re eating normally. In fact we may be eating somewhat lavishly, almost as if that is the one thing I can do. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, snap peas, grapes

Old faithful. It’s such an easy recipe with just a few ingredients, and has so much flavor.

I used fresh garlic and ginger, but it’s also good with powdered. You can fiddle with the amount of sugar, too.

Jump to Recipe

 

SUNDAY
Grilled cheese with bacon and tomatoes, banana cream pie

I was looking for something more interesting than regular old grilled cheese. The first idea I found turned out to be grilled cheese with caramelized onions, which I mistook for bacon. So I says to myself, I says, BACON INDEED. I fried the sandwiches in bacon fat and put them in the oven for a bit to make sure the cheese was melted. You can almost see it leering at you. 

My daughter informed me that this is no longer a grilled cheese with bacon sandwich; this is a bacon melt. She does live down the street from a diner, so she should know. 

The banana cream pie was a tremendous pain in the neck. I decided to make homemade vanilla custard using this recipe, and it was delicious, but I think we ended up stirring it for about three hours. I had the foresight to make it the night before. Right before dessert, I put some sliced bananas in a graham cracker crust, spread the custard on top of that, added some more bananas, and piled fresh whipped cream on top. It was really good. There are few things better than homemade vanilla custard. Just get ready for a lot of stirring. 

Believe it or not, my slice, pictured here, was the only one that fell apart when I dished it up.  

MONDAY
Pork banh mi, pineapple

Still the greatest sandwich known to mankind. 

Jump to Recipe

I made the marinade and sliced up the meat in the morning, and Clara started some carrots pickling in rice vinegar and water.

 

Jump to Recipe

A little prep work, and then at dinner time you just spread it in a pan and broil it up

and you have yourself a wonderful meal. 

Toast up some bread, spread it with sriracha mayo, get your meat and your carrots in there, add some cucumbers and cilantro and sliced jalapeños.

So good. I hear you can make this all different ways with all different meats, but I can’t imagine improving on this combination.

Oh, and fresh pineapple and cilantro is a wonderful combination, it turns out. I also bought a papaya, but it turns out they’re not really ripe until they turn yellow, which we’re still waiting for. 

TUESDAY
Cheese-stuffed sausages on farfalle

For you, my pets, I made a short video of myself stuffing cheese sticks into sausages. Please use in a way that will not bring shame onto your ancestors. (Sorry I forgot to turn the phone sideways.)

VIDEO

So as you can see, this is an easy if unseemly process. Then you just cook up the sausages in some sauce in the oven until they look truly monstrous

and serve it over pasta. I think I overcooked it a bit, and the cheese got kind of clotted.

I suppose I cooked the moisture out of it or something. Still a tasty dish.

WEDNESDAY
Zuppa toscana, mashed butternut squash

On Wednesday I planned to try my hand at focaccia, possibly focaccia adorned with a beautiful floral motif made of chives and bits of pepper and red onion. Instead, I had a little come-apart, and had to sternly tell myself that I could try a new bread recipe on some other day, when I wasn’t having a little come-apart. 

I did make soup, though, and an easy soup it is.

 

Jump to Recipe

You cook the sausage, you add in the onion and garlic, then sliced potatoes, then some flour. Then chicken broth and half and half, and at the end, kale and pepper. Don’t tell my doctor, but my favorite part is when you pour in the half and half and the orange bubbles well up from underneath the sausage. Bloop!

For the squash, I chopped off the ends, microwaved it for four minutes to make it easier to slice, sliced it in half, and baked it for an hour or so. Then scooped out the seeds, scooped out the flesh, and mashed it up with butter, maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon. We seem to be out of chili powder. 

THURSDAY
Calzones, birthday cake

It is the birthday of Irene! Here are some calzones of ages past, since I forgot to take a picture:

 

Jump to Recipe

 

She finally decided against a Cutthroat Kitchen birthday party, and instead we went with a general theme of “wow, that is noisy.” Among her gifts were a battery operated Nerf machine gun, and a megaphone. The plan was to have a fire and roast marshmallows, make steel wool fireworks, and shake up some Coke and Mentos. It turned out to be windy and rainy, though, so we just did the Coke and Mentos. She absolutely loved it. I think the photos are currently on Damien’s phone, but she was one happy kid. 

Her cake was a Full Metal Alchemist Somethingorother Symbol. I did a buttercream transfer, which means you print out the design, put something transparent or translucent over the paper, and use that as a guide to make the design in icing or melted chocolate or whatever. Then you freeze it, and when it’s solid, you flip it over onto your frosted cake. I won’t even bother sharing the photo, because there is no technique that compensates for migraine shaky-hand! But she liked it anyway. 

FRIDAY

Tuna noodle

So let it be written, so let it be done. 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can improve the flavor by using fresh garlic and fresh ginger, but powdered works fine, too. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking. 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil (you can skip this, really, or use olive oil, but it adds flavor)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat the sesame or other oil in a skillet. Lightly cook then garlic, then add the ground beef and cook, breaking into bits, until the meat is all browned. Drain most of the fat. 

  2. Mix together the brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and pepper flakes, and add to the ground beef. Or you can actually just chuck everything in the pan and stir it up right there. Cook a little longer until everything is combined and hot. 

  3. Serve over rice and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. 

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

Roasted butternut squash with honey and chili

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • olive oil
  • honey
  • salt and pepper
  • chili powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler to high

  2. To peel the squash: Cut the ends off the squash and poke it several times with a fork. Microwave it for 3-4 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, cut it into manageable pieces and peel with a vegetable peeler or sharp paring knife. Scoop out the pulp and seeds.

  3. Cut the squash into cubes.

  4. In a bowl, toss the squash with honey and olive oil. You can use whatever proportions you like, depending on how sweet you want it.

  5. Spread the squash in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and chili powder.

  6. Broil for 15 minutes until the squash is slightly charred.

 

Calzones

This is the basic recipe for cheese calzones. You can add whatever you'd like, just like with pizza. Warm up some marinara sauce and serve it on the side for dipping. 

Servings 12 calzones

Ingredients

  • 3 balls pizza dough
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup parmesan
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 egg yolks for brushing on top
  • any extra fillings you like: pepperoni, olives, sausage, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. 

  2. Mix together filling ingredients. 

  3. Cut each ball of dough into fourths. Roll each piece into a circle about the size of a dinner plate. 

  4. Put a 1/2 cup or so of filling into the middle of each circle of dough circle. (You can add other things in at this point - pepperoni, olives, etc. - if you haven't already added them to the filling) Fold the dough circle in half and pinch the edges together tightly to make a wedge-shaped calzone. 

  5. Press lightly on the calzone to squeeze the cheese down to the ends. 

  6. Mix the egg yolks up with a little water and brush the egg wash over the top of the calzones. 

  7. Grease and flour a large pan (or use corn meal or bread crumbs instead of flour). Lay the calzones on the pan, leaving some room for them to expand a bit. 

  8. Bake about 18 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Serve with hot marinara sauce for dipping.  

 

Cheese-stuffed sausages in sauce

A completely degenerate dish. Serve over pasta.

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400.

  2. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce over the bottom of a baking dish.

  3. Carefully insert one cheese stick inside each sausage. If the end is already open, you can just thread it in. If not, cut a slit. Go slowly so as not to break the skin.

  4. Lay the stuffed sausages on the sauced pan and pour the rest of the sauce over them.

  5. Cover the pan with tinfoil and bake for 40 minutes or so, until the sausages are cooked through. You can take the tinfoil off toward the end if you want the sausages to brown up a little.

  6. Cook some pasta while the sausages are cooking. Heat up some additional sauce if desired. Serve the sausages on top of the pasta with more sauce if desired.

What’s for supper? Vol. 206: Thank God for canned tomatoes.

Let’s talk about food! Hope you have plenty at your house. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Brats, chips, strawberries

Damien boils the brats in beer and onions, then browns them up with more onions. Some of the kids eat theirs with still further, raw onions, but I feel that is too many onions. 

SUNDAY
Braised Pork All’arrabbiata, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, grapes

Someone mentioned this recipe on Twitter, and I happened to have two hunks of panic pork picnic in the fridge, aging rapidly. So I hacked it up and cooked it, and MAN IT WAS GOOD. 

You brown the hunks of pork with salt and pepper, then cook up some onions, tomato paste, garlic, red pepper flakes, red wine, and diced tomatoes on the stovetop, then put it all in the oven for a few hours until the pork is tender. 

Jump to Recipe

This is one of those recipes where you could really subsist on the smell alone. Fabulous. Nice and easy, too, and cheap if you can get pork cheap. The red pepper gives it a little dazzle up front, but it’s not super spicy, just very rich and warming. Of course you could adjust it to make it hotter.

I went with parmesan garlic mashed potatoes, which I somehow have never made before. They were a big hit. I put smashed garlic cloves right in with the water to boil the potatoes, and then mashed them along. 

Jump to Recipe

Check it out: I says to myself, I say, HOW WOULD IT BE if we were to put a layer of pork all’arrabbiata in a casserole dish, sprrrrread some garlic parmesan mashed potatoes on that, sprinkle it with a bit more cheese, and slide the whole thing into a medium oven to think about what’s it’s done until the top is nicely browned? I think it would be wonderful. 

I know people use pork arrabbiata as a sauce for pasta, but that just doesn’t appeal to me. I think it would be great with egg noodles, though. Or on toast!

MONDAY
Asian meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli

I just love these tasty little meatballs. I had plenty of scallions and fresh garlic, which I chopped pretty coarsely, and I added some extra soy sauce. The only other ingredients are crushed Ritz crackers, kosher salt, and pepper. And ground beef, yes. 

An easy, quick meal that just about everyone likes. I make a nice little dipping sauce, half soy sauce and half mirin, to give it a little extra zing. Damien prefers his with sriracha. These are flavorful enough that you could use ground turkey, if you really needed to, what with the war on and all, and they would still be good. 

We had it with white rice and some broccoli which I’ll call “steamed,” but it was really drowned. I am not used to cooking frozen veg!

TUESDAY
Chicken quesadillas

I actually skipped the chicken for mine and just had cheddar and jalapeños. Not my finest frying effort; whatcha gonna do. 

I made the chicken by sprinkling it lavishly with chili lime powder and cooking it very slowly in oil, then slicing it up. I know I bought tortilla chips at some point, but they had disappeared off the face of the earth. I said I would slice up some sweet peppers, but I did not. 

WEDNESDAY
Omelettes and challah

I offered the choice of sausage, pepper jack cheese, or both. Then someone leaked the news that we also had cheddar, and there was a panic. I guess there has to be a panic about something. 

The challah turned out great!

Jump to Recipe

 

I made a double recipe, enough for two huge loaves, and my poor old mixer is getting so old and wobbly, I was afraid I would break it, so I pulled the dough out to knead by hand. Man, I am weak. That was exhausting. I eventually gave up long before it reached the required “feels like a boob” stage, cut the dough in half, and threw it back into the mixer a batch at a time, but I still rushed it a bit, and set the dough to rise when it was still pretty knobbly. 

But like I said, it turned out great! I was most pleased.

It looks flat in this picture, but in real life, it was most pneumatic. 

Look at the sheen on that crust. 

I made exactly two nice, tidy omelettes, and the next ten looked like they were the best I could offer with my broken arm (I do not have a broken arm).

THURSDAY
Pizza

Two pepperoni, two olive, one plain. And them’s the facts. I used the leftover sauce Damien made last week. 

FRIDAY

Pasta again, I believe. This pandemic is taking on a distinct canned tomato flavor. 

 

braised pork all'arrabbiata

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs pork, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 medium onions, diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 5 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 28-oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • more salt and pepper if needed

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.

  2. Salt and pepper the pork chunks. In a heavy pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and brown the pork on all sides. Do it in shifts if necessary, to make sure all the pork gets browned.

  3. Remove the pork from the oil and set it aside. Add the diced onions to the oil and cook a few minutes until soft.

  4. Add the minced garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, a few minutes more.

  5. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce becomes thick.

  6. Add the diced tomatoes with juice and combine with the sauce. Put the pork back in and stir so it's all coated with sauce.

  7. Put a lid on, or cover tightly with tinfoil, and put the pot in the oven for at least two hours, until the pork is very tender and stew-like.

  8. When the pork is done, the sauce should be thick, not liquidy. If necessary, simmer on the stovetop to cook off the excess liquid.

  9. If the pork is very fatty, shove the pork to one side of the pot, let the fat collect on one end, and drain it out with a spoon.

  10. Serve with parmesan mashed potatoes.

 

Garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs potatoes
  • 8-10 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 8 Tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 8 oz grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Peel the potatoes and put them in a pot. Cover the with water. Add a bit of salt and the smashed garlic cloves.

  2. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer with lid loosely on until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

  3. Drain the water out of the pot. Add the butter and milk and mash well.

  4. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper to taste and stir until combined.

Vaguely Asian meatballs with dipping sauce

Very simple meatballs with a vaguely Korean flavor. These are mild enough that kids will eat them happily, but if you want to kick up the Korean taste, you can serve them with dipping sauces and pickled vegetables. Serve with rice.

Servings 30 large meatballs

Ingredients

  • 2.5 lbs ground beef
  • 1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed finely
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped (save out a bit for a garnish)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp ground pepper

For dipping sauce:

  • mirin or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Mix together the meat and all the meatball ingredients with your hands until they are well combined. Form large balls and lay them on a baking pan with a rim.

  3. Bake for about 15 minutes.

  4. Serve over rice with dipping sauce and a sprinkle of scallions.

Challah (breaded bread)

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 6-8 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp yeast
  • 2 egg yolks for egg wash
  • poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
  • corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.

  2. In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.

  3. (If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)

  4. Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.

  5. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.

  6. Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.

  7. Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.

  8. Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.

What’s for supper? Vol. 204: Get yer carnal desires here

Here please insert a joke about carnitas, carnal desires during Lent, incarnation, whatever. 

SATURDAY
Waffles, scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, OJ

Nice and easy. 

SUNDAY
Carnitas, pico de gallo, guacamole and chips, honey sriracha pineapple

This is a recipe from John Herreid, who posted it as an extra on his Facebook art account, J.R.’s Art Place, which you should definitely be following. He shares a very wide range of fine art, things you’ve never seen before, often with illuminating or amusing little tidbits of information. You should follow it!

The carnitas recipe was very easy. You just chunk up some pork, sprinkle it with salt, pepper, and oregano, and cook it in a pot with a cup of oil and Mexican Coke or some other soda containing cane syrup; and orange wedges, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, and simmer for several hours. Take out everything but the meat and cook it a bit longer, until it gets a dark, glazey crust. Then shred it and you’re set. John’s recipe said to drain it, but the meat I made had absorbed just about all the liquid by the time it was done. 

Oh my land, the smell. 

It just got better and better, and the flavor was intense and wonderful. 

I couldn’t find Mexican Coke and ended up using root beer, so it had a sort of anise-y tinge to it. Most definitely making this recipe again. 

I made up a big batch of simple pico de gallo

 

Jump to Recipe

 

and also a big batch of guacamole.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Fantastic meal. I had resorted to cooking bland pork and seasoning it after shredding, because I just couldn’t seem to get much flavor into the meat itself. Those days are gone, my friends. 

I served one pineapple raw and just grilled (actually broiled) a few pieces, because Lena and I are the only ones who really like it, and I suspect Lena’s just being polite. I made a little sauce of olive oil, honey, and sriracha, and rolled the pineapple spears around in it, then put them under the broiler, turning once, for a few minutes. 

You get a little caramelization on the charred ends, and it’s just nice. 

 

Jump to Recipe

 

MONDAY
Hot dogs, potato salad, string beans

A few of my kids are pretty passionate about potato salad. So I made some, partly to assuage my guilt for serving hot dogs. Then I ruined everything by accidentally drowning it in pepper. 

It wasn’t actually ruined, but it kind of separated the men from the boys.

I don’t really have a potato salad recipe. I throw a few whole eggs in with the potatoes to boil. I made a dressing out of mayo, apple cider vinegar, salt, and of course pepper. I like it with diced red onion and celery or even some diced pickles, and fresh dill, but no one else likes any of those things, the monsters. At least I managed to make a sane amount this time around, so it was gone by day 2, rather than lingering around getting icy in the back of the fridge and then getting thrown out by a wrathful child who is the onnnnnnnly one who ever throws things away around here. 

TUESDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, fresh bread

I sort of got tricked into making bread.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

Lena is home from college this week, and she and Corrie made some plans over the weekend to make bread. I said Tuesday would be a good day, since we’re having spaghetti. But when it came down to it, Corrie didn’t really want to stop watching Scooby Doo, so it was left to Lena, who doesn’t actually know how to make bread. So I showed her, but I had to keep leaving the house and shouting vague instructions as I went out the door. The upshot was that the rising loaves got moved around from pan to pan a lot, which is not something that rising loaves enjoy. So we ended up with some rather dense, earthy bread. 

You know what, fresh, hot bread is fresh, hot bread! No ragrets. 

Oh, the meatballs:

Jump to Recipe

WEDNESDAY
Pizza

Tuesday’s meal was really a ruse to make leftover meatball pizza on Wednesday. Meatball pizza is unreasonably delicious. 

THURSDAY
Chicken tortilla soup

I really like this recipe, which I have adapted from Two Sleevers.

 

Jump to Recipe

 

You make a puree in the blender or food processor

(uh, it might be smarter to do this in batches)

then cook the puree up in oil for a bit, add the water and chicken, and pressure cook it. (Of course you can easily adapt this for the stove top; just simmer, rather than pressing buttons.) Fish out the chicken, shred it,

and throw it back in, and there it is. I wish I had cooked the puree a little longer to develop the flavor, but it was still pleasantly spicy and warming.

Tortilla soup is, um, supposed to have tortillas in it. You’re supposed to use corn tortillas, which thicken the soup up. But I just don’t like corn tortillas. They taste bad and sour and gritty to me. So instead, I made spicy, crunchy flour tortilla strips and put them on as a topping, along with sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, and cilantro. I really wanted avocados, which I used up making guacamole earlier in the week, but I had this overwhelming, passionate need not to stop at Aldi on a Thursday afternoon. 

Oh no, you’re onto me, I’m not a real Mexican! 

I made the tortilla strips by cutting them into slices, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling them generously with Tajín chili lime seasoning, which is just chili powder, sea salt, and dehydrated lime juice, so if you can’t find it in stores because of COVID-19, you can easily make your own by running some limes through your dehydrator three days previously and then pulverizing it with your butt. Write this down, it’s important. Then you spread them on a pan and bake them slowly in a medium oven, stirring occasionally, and then you burn them. Every. Single. Damn. Time. 

Everyone still liked them, though. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

Today is Elijah’s birthday. His birthday almost always lands in Lent, but this year is special, as it’s a Friday in Lent. Also, he has to stay after school to do some work with his math teacher. It’s hard out there for an Elijah. We’ll whoop it up on Sunday, though. 

 

 

Pico De Gallo

quick and easy fresh dip or topping for tacos, etc.

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced OR 1/2 serrano pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8 cup lime juice
  • dash kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients together and serve with your favorite Mexican food

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

Spicy honeyed pineapple with ice cream

You could drizzle this with a caramel rum sauce and maybe sprinkle with pralines, but it's good just with fruit and ice cream, too. You can also serve the pineapple as a side dish (without ice cream!) for many Mexican foods.

Ingredients

  • 1 pineapple, cut into spears or rings
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/8 cup honey
  • sriracha sauce to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler; or, if grilling outside, let coals die down.

    Mix olive oil, honey, and a few dashes of sriracha sauce, and slather the sauce all over the prepared pineapple.

    Spread in single layer on pan or over grill and cook, turning once, until it's slightly charred. 

    Serve hot with a scoop of ice cream. 

 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 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.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

  2. Mix all ingredients together with your hands until it's fully blended.

  3. 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.

  4. Add meatballs to sauce and keep warm until you're ready to serve. 

 

French bread

Makes four long loaves. You can make the dough in one batch in a standard-sized standing mixer bowl if you are careful!

I have a hard time getting the water temperature right for yeast. One thing to know is if your water is too cool, the yeast will proof eventually; it will just take longer. So if you're nervous, err on the side of coolness.

Ingredients

  • 4-1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 10-12 cups flour
  • butter for greasing the pan (can also use parchment paper) and for running over the hot bread (optional)
  • corn meal for sprinkling on pan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, put the warm water, and mix in the sugar and yeast until dissolved. Let stand at least five minutes until it foams a bit. If the water is too cool, it's okay; it will just take longer.

  2. Fit on the dough hook and add the salt, oil, and six of the cups of flour. Add the flour gradually, so it doesn't spurt all over the place. Mix and low and then medium speed. Gradually add more flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the side of the bowl as you mix. It should be tender but not sticky.

  3. Lightly grease a bowl and put the dough ball in it. Cover with a damp towel or lightly cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about an hour, until it's about double in size.

  4. Flour a working surface. Divide the dough into four balls. Taking one at a time, roll, pat, and/or stretch it out until it's a rough rectangle about 9x13" (a little bigger than a piece of looseleaf paper).

  5. Roll the long side of the dough up into a long cylinder and pinch the seam shut, and pinch the ends, so it stays rolled up. It doesn't have to be super tight, but you don't want a ton of air trapped in it.

  6. Butter some large pans. Sprinkle them with cornmeal if you like. You can also line them with parchment paper. Lay the loaves on the pans and give each one several diagonal slashes with a sharp knife. This will allow the loaves to rise without exploding.

  7. Cover them with damp cloths or plastic wrap again and set to rise in a warm place again, until they come close to double in size. Preheat the oven to 375.

  8. Put the pans in the oven and throw some ice cubes in or spray some water in with a mister, and close the oven quickly, to give it a nice crust.

  9. Bake 25 minutes or more until the crust is golden. One pan may need to bake a few minutes longer.

  10. Run some butter over the crust of the hot bread if you like, to make it shiny and even yummier.

Instant Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup

Adapted from twosleevers.com. This is a very flavorful chicken soup. It has a little hotsy totsy burst of spice with the first taste, and then the more complex flavors come through slowly. Magic.

It's fairly brothy, and then you heap up all the garnishes you want on top.

This is a little over a gallon of soup.

Ingredients

  • 2 med onions
  • 1 lb (4 medium) tomatoes
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 chiles in adobo sauce plus some of the sauce
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (include seeds for more heat)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • water
  • salt to taste
  • garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla strips, chopped scallions

Instructions

  1. Cut the onions and tomatoes into chunks so they will fit in the blender or food processor. Put the onions, tomatoes, jalapeño, chili pepper and sauce, garlic and cilantro into a blender or food processor and blend it until it's a thick sauce. You may need to do it in batches, or just keep poking the big pieces down so everything gets blended in.

  2. Add enough oil to the Instant Pot pot to cover the bottom. Press "sauté" and let the oil heat up for a few minutes.

  3. Pour in the tomato mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, for about ten minutes, until any liquid is mostly absorbed. You may need to press "sauté" again to keep it hot.

  4. Cut the chicken breasts into pieces and put them in the pot. Add six cups of water.

  5. Close the top, seal the valve, and press "pressure cook," then the + button until it goes to 20 minutes. When it's done cooking, let it naturally release for 10 minutes, then release the remaining pressure manually.

  6. Open the top and fish out the chicken. Shred it and return it to the pot. Add salt to taste.

  7. Serve the soup with garnishes: avocado slices, sour cream, tortilla strips, shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, and chopped scallions.

What’s for supper? Vol. 202: Grasping at strawberries

Oops, I forgot to do a food post last week. We had a few meals outside of the normal rotation, so let’s review!

One that people liked was turkey bacon wraps. I had mine in spinach wraps , with smoked turkey from the deli, bacon, pea shoots, a nice mild lacy Swiss, and horseradish sauce, with a snappy dill pickle.

We also had some berries and some of those awful spicy crunchy onion ring snacks that are so unreasonably delicious. Fresh fruit is not great at this time of year, but I’m so desperate for color, I’m willing to grasp at strawberries. 

Against my best instincts, I also made a giant chicken pot pie last week. For reasons I don’t understand, no one except me likes chicken pot pie, but I thought maybe I would just make one so delicious and wonderful that they’d all . . . change their minds. Look how cozy and enticing it is!

What you can’t see, since this is a still pic, is that I made the sauce way too thin, and the contents were rolling and sloshing around under that lovely crust. It still tasted good! But we ate it in bowls. 

I used readymade puff pastry dough, top and bottom. (I had some left over, which is what gave me the idea of chicken pie.) I cooked the chicken, carrots, and potatoes in broth in the Instant Pot, and then made a white sauce with chicken broth and milk, then put them together and poured it into the crust. If there’s ever a next time, I will slightly undercook the potatoes and I’ll bake the bottom crust a bit before filling it. And of course I’ll make the sauce much thicker.

I still thought it was a delicious. But no hearts or minds were won this day.

We also had a new kind of salad that I expected to be more popular than it was. The family is pretty tired of buffalo chicken salad and all the other chicken salads, but mango and avocado were both on sale, so I made this lovely mango avocado lime cilantro honey salsa to go with a salad with chicken, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

I don’t seem to have written the recipe down, because why would I? Bah. I guess it was . . . mango, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, honey, and red onion. And there was a dressing made of olive oil, honey, dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, minced garlic, cilantro, and salt and pepper. It was really tasty, sweet and summery. Ugh, why did I not write this down? Doesn’t matter, nobody liked it anyway except me. They are so dang spoiled.

Finally, we had gochujang beef with rice. Usually I made this dish with pork. It turns out it’s good either way, and certainly easy. The sauce is just a few ingredients, and you can prep everything in the morning or even the night before, and then just, zoop, cook it up. I’ll put my recipe card at the end,

Jump to Recipe

and you can just substitute beef if you like. I used shredded coins of carrots rather than matchsticks, and I think I prefer it that way. 

Oh gosh, last week was also Valentine’s Day. Clara baked something like 130 cupcakes, and we decorated about half of them. I iced them and added some fancy sprinkles, and Benny sat there and sedately rolled up about 72 fruit roll roses. 

The way you do this is you roll the end of the roll tightly, and then you rotate the roll in one direction while twisting the unrolled part in the other direction and wrapping the twisted part around the roll. I can’t describe it better than that, because I’m not very good at it. But Benny is!

The cupcakes were a big hit. Benny also made those Valentines where you take a photo of the kid holding her fist out, and then cut two little slits in the print and insert a lollipop.

Okay, on to this week! Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, strawberries, chips

Nothing to report. These February fruits are not great, but it’s so cold and bleak, I’m willing to grasp at strawberries. 

SUNDAY
Pizza

Nothing to report. 

MONDAY
Roast pork ribs, tater tots, asparagus

Crazy busy day with hours of driving and appointments, so I was pretty pleased to have this meal cooked in what we professionals “a twinkling.”

Pork ribs with salt and pepper under the boiler, turn once, boom. BBQ sauce from a bottle. Asparagus sautéed in a pan with some sesame oil and lemon wedges. 

TUESDAY
Paprika parmesan chicken with tomatoes and peppers, buttered noodles

Second time making this recipe, which takes a bit of chopping but is a one-pan dish with a simple but very tasty sauce.

 

Jump to Recipe

About half the family likes it, which is pretty good. It’s easy enough, and the chicken turns out very moist and full of flavor.

I love the bright colors for winter, and it’s important to make sure everyone knows you used TWO kinds of paprika. Two!! (If you have to pick one, go with the smoked one.)

As you can see, I crowded the pan.

It’s just what I do. It turned out fine; the chicken just didn’t get as crisp as it might have. Still delicious!

WEDNESDAY
Beef teriyaki stir fry with rice

One kid is very fond of stir fry, and every once in a while, we indulge her. It’s a sacrifice, but I’m willing to ask Damien to cut up a hunk of beef, and then when I get home, I start some rice cooking in the instant pot, sauté the sliced meat in a pan, chuck in some frozen vegetables, and then slop on some bottled sauce at the end.

I really like this teriyaki sauce: Veri Veri Teriyaki, although it’s a bit thin, so I added a little cornstarch while cooking.

I always ask myself if I like it just because it’s called “Soy Vay,” and I just don’t know. 

THURSDAY
Chicken quesadillas, beans and rice

Damien cooked the chicken in the morning, and I threw together some beans and rice and made the quesadillas. 

I didn’t take any pictures, but here is a beans and rice of ages past. 

Jump to Recipe

I snacked on so much cheese and chicken while cooking everyone’s quesadillas, I ended up not wanting one myself. I could actually eat beans and rice every day. Recipe card below. 

FRIDAY
Fish burgers, cole slaw

This will be tonight.

 

Jump to Recipe

Probably I should get chips or something. I got some soft rolls and some battered frozen fish and tartar sauce.

Oh, speaking of which, Lent is coming, and you need to know that Wendy’s cod sandwich is the best fish burger you can get, and if you’re looking for a really stinging penance, give up ordering Wendy’s cod sandwich.  No further questions at this time. 

One-pan paprika chicken with parmesan, tomatoes, and peppers

Bright, sweet, easy, tasty! Make with buttered noodles or hearty bread, or just by itself.

Ingredients

  • 6 lbs chicken parts with skin and bone
  • salt and pepper for sprinkling
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp minced garlic (probably a whole head)
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 3-4 pints cherry tomatoes (I used fancy tomatoes in various colors), halved
  • 4 sweet peppers (I used red, orange, yellow, and green), sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425

  2. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, paprikas, and oregano, and toss with the chicken so it's coated

  3. Spread the chicken in a pan with a rim and sprinkle with salt.

  4. Add the tomatoes and peppers to the pan in between the pieces of chicken. If the pan is too crowded, spread everything out into a second pan. You want to leave room so it will roast a bit.

  5. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper and lightly drizzle with olive oil.

  6. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over everything.

  7. Roast for about 40-50 minutes until chicken is golden and a little crisp.

  8. Serve chicken, topped with parsley and a little pepper. Sprinkle a little extra cider vinegar on top if you like.

 

Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)


Ingredients

  • 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
  • 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
  • 1 onion sliced thin

sauce:

  • 5 generous Tbsp gochujang (fermented pepper paste)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves minced garlic

Serve with white rice and nori (seaweed sheets) or lettuce leaves to wrap

Instructions

  1. Combine pork, onions, and carrots.

    Mix together all sauce ingredients and stir into pork and vegetables. 

    Cover and let marinate for several hours or overnight.

    Heat a pan with a little oil and sauté the pork mixture until pork is cooked through.

    Serve with rice and lettuce or nori. Eat by taking pieces of lettuce or nori, putting a scoop of meat and rice in, and making little bundles to eat. 

 

Coleslaw

Ingredients

  • 1 head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 5 radishes, grated or sliced thin (optional)

Dressing

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1 cup cider or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Mix together shredded vegetables. 
    Mix dressing ingredients together and stir into cabbage mix. 

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 195: Pork gyros! Buffalo chicken salad! Zuppa toscana!

I think I forgot to do a food post last week. Sorry! I don’t think you missed much. I think we had leftover turkey sandwiches, because if you can believe it, last week was the week after Thanksgiving, and here it is already almost judgment day, I mean Christmas.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats and chips

The kids demanded this meal, with plenty of onions. Damien boils the brats in beer and then browns them up. Sometimes he makes Onions Three Ways (onions cooked in beer, fried onions, and raw onions), but this time we just had raw onions. 

SUNDAY
Birthday lasagna, brownie sundaes

Sunday was Benny’s actual birthday, and she requested lasagna, which Damien made while I wrote a bunch of stuff I suddenly realized was due on Monday because I definitely know what’s going on. 

He said he didn’t follow a recipe, but here is how he described it:

For the meat sauce: You take some cut-up onion and garlic and cook it in olive oil with a few red pepper flakes. Then you add the meat [we had ground beef] and brown it up. Then add a can of tomato pasta and a can of whole tomatoes crushed up a little, and a splash of red wine.

For the cheese mixture: You put a shit ton of shredded mozzarella in the [three tubs of] ricotta cheese, a bunch of garlic powder, salt and pepper and oregano, and some cinnamon [couldn’t find the nutmeg]

He cooked up a few boxes of pasta and layered that with the meat sauce and the cheese mixture and lots and lots of sliced mozzarella and parmesan and chopped Italian parsley. Then he sprinkled parmesan cheese and olive oil on the top, and baked it. 
 

He made two lasagnas. This was the small one:

 
It was magnificent. So ridiculously good. Sometimes he makes a béchamel sauce with mozzarella and ricotta and uses that for the cheese part, which is also heavenly.
 

MONDAY
Pork gyros

I was pretty excited about this meal, but I think we were just too busy to enjoy it properly. It doesn’t take any particular skill. You can make a quick marinade in the morning with the food processor, slice up some pork, and then just broil it up in the afternoon. I made my marinade out of tomatoes, onions, lots of fresh garlic, kosher salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice, an absurd amount of paprika, and fresh oregano and fresh mint. It’s a good marinade, sweet and spicy. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s really better if you can cook the meat outside, but under the broiler is fine. I think I got too excited about the marinade and put too much of it in in the pan, so it was just too wet. It did come out extremely tender, though. 

I had mine with cukes and hot sauce on pita. The yogurt had gotten frozen and thawed, so the sauce I made tasted okay, but it was kinda grainy, which is always discouraging.  Oh well. I really need to start making less food. We’re in that part of life where I need to start making less food. And I keep dreaming I’m stealing babies. Bah. 

TUESDAY
Zuppa toscana, rolls

This is a very fine soup, simple and delicious. Only a few people like soup, but those who do (me) eat it for lunch every day for the rest of the week. 

Jump to Recipe

This soup is made of Italian sausage, thinly-sliced red potatoes, garlic and red onions of course, lots of kale (this is what kale is for, if you were wondering), chicken broth, half and half, and a little olive oil and some flour to thicken it up, and pepper. You can add mushrooms if you like, but it’s fine without them.

This is supposed to be a brothy, lightly creamy soup, but I added too much flour and not enough broth, and it came out as almost a chowder, which honestly was not a problem. 

I bought a bunch of frozen rolls because I am, as one of my kids used to say, soaking tired. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

I guess? I barely remember this. We had a nutty week where Damien’s car broke, then my car broke, then Damien’s car broke again. So we had a lot of chicken-fox-basket of corn-type problems to work out. 

Happily, I had leftover soup to sustain me.

THURSDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Thursday we had yet another concert. I had strong armed Clara into baking cookies for the bake sale, so that was fine. I finished up all my writing for the week, so that was great, and I had an appointment with my new therapist, and that was also, I don’t know, we’ll see, and I also had my act together enough to have a quick and easy meal planned for when I got home with the kids, but not enough to remember where all the kids were, so someone else had to make supper while I dashed out in the dark to go back into town to get the one I forgot, so we could wolf supper down, throw on some dress clothes, and zip back into town for the concert, and we had to park six blocks away in the dark, and Corrie was so terrible, Damien had to take her home before they even got to hear Feliz Navibla. Then back home to drop off the kids (I didn’t even wait to get my cookie tray back. We just had to go) and go out so we could finally start Christmas shopping and pick up the other kids working at Target and Michael’s, and also I had to get some cake mix. We honestly didn’t find anything good for presents in the whole store, but I almost bought a baby doll for myself, because it was cute.

We got home at 10:30 and I was already feeling a little gloomy about having to make a cake at 10:30, even though it was just a mix cake, but then we discovered that the kids at home somehow didn’t realize that we expected them to do the dishes, or any kind of cleaning at all. At this point, I did cry, just because, I don’t know, my feet hurt and I’ve been trying so hard to keep the tub clean and nobody even noticed. So Damien thanked me sincerely for how good the bathroom has been looking, and did all the dishes, and poured me a drink while the cake baked, and I ate all leftover cookies. I’m different from other people! I don’t like being tired. 

So, the salad is greens, buffalo chicken from frozen, crunchy fried onions, and blue cheese dressing. It’s a pretty good salad. The concert was really bad, though. 

FRIDAY
Aldi pizza, birthday cake

Time for Benny’s party. She has asked for a Starfire cake. The other day, Damien and I were shopping and feeling so very old, because we didn’t understand a lot of the toys. This, for instance. As you can see, it is a Fart Jacobs slime display case to go with your Poopsie Surprise Unicorn, and it costs $44.99.

I mean, we didn’t buy it or anything, but still. If you will direct your eyes to the part where the unicorn is wearing a sexy diaper

I don’t know, I mean, are we in hell?  

Anyway, the kids had told me that when I do a search for Starfire to make the cake, I might want to do a safe search, and they were right. You know what, I’m going to find that sun lamp we got. I need to get some balloons for the party. We are having Aldi pizza for supper. In conclusion, we, the undersigned, feel that this would be a good time for the Messiah to come back, but in the meantime, let’s start packing. 

Well! Here are some recipe cards. 

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

 

 

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. 

Zuppa Toscana

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. sweet Italian sausages
  • 1-2 red onion(s), diced
  • 4 medium red potatoes, sliced thin with skin on
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 3 cups kale, chopped
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • olive oil for cooking
  • pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour

Instructions

  1. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings. Saute it up in a little olive oil, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. When it's almost done, add the minced garlic, diced onion, and sliced potatoes. Drain off excess olive oil.

  2. When onions and potatoes are soft, add flour, stir to coat, and cook for another five minutes. 

  3. Add chicken broth and half and half. Let soup simmer all day, or keep warm in slow cooker or Instant Pot. 

  4. Before serving, add chopped kale (and sliced mushrooms, optional) and cook for another ten minutes (or set Instant Pot for three minutes) until kale and mushrooms are soft. Add pepper. Add salt if necessary, but the sausage and broth contribute salt already. 

  5. This makes a creamy soup. If you want it thicker, you can add a flour or cornstarch roux at the end and cook a little longer. 

 

What’s for supper? Vol. 187: In which I make good choices and bad choices

I know I said I was ready to start cooking cold weather food, but this time, I mean it. Come for the honey chili acorn squash, homemade applesauce, and heavenly bacon tomato bisque, stay to feel better about the birthday cake you bought at Safeway. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Beer brats with onions, chips

The kids unexpectedly begged for beer brats with onions, and that could be arranged. Damien boiled them in beer and onions and then browned them up in a pan. For me, however, he bought a surprise steak, since I was feeling low. 

It helped!

SUNDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, chocolate cake

This was a birthday meal for Moe. Moe’s birthday is in May. 

Now, you may think it’s pathetic that we wouldn’t get around to celebrating a May birthday until October, but you are mistaken. That’s not pathetic! THIS CAKE IS PATHETIC! 

You will have to take my word for it that the theme was not “mangled remains of a once-proud city after a nuclear holocaust.” It really wasn’t. He is very into theater, so the theme was “comedy and tragedy,” and I made a comedy and tragedy mask with ribbons, and a bunch of olive leaves.

See, last time we made little garnishes out of melted chocolate, they turned out great.

What’s for supper? Vol. 144: Chocolate garnicht

It was easy, even. I don’t know what the hell happened this time. I guess maybe possibly I was rushing a bit. And also, it’s possible my confidence was a little shaky after the cake I had made last week, for Clara’s birthday. 

Now Clara, if you will recall, already had a huge blowout birthday in August when we went to Hadestown

A quick review of Hadestown, which you should sell a kidney to see

So I’m not saying I didn’t try to make a good cake, but after a birthday like that, I did feel less pressure to absolutely nail the cake part.

That being said, this was one garbage cake.

I had meant so bake it the night before, but it turns out I bought cake mix that requires egg whites, and we were out of eggs, and the quik-e-mart was closed, and there’s really no substitute for egg whites. So I asked Damien to bake it the next day while I was shopping. I couldn’t find the right pans, so I ended up giving him two round pans and one flower-shaped pans. 

In my head, it would look something like this:

A sort of grim, underworld nod to a wedding cake, topped with a glowing red blossom and dripping with shiny, dark chocolate. EASY ENOUGH, RIGHT?

So I set about fashioning a glowing red blossom out of fruit rolls and toothpicks, as one does. That part was actually not terrible, except that I got tired of feeling sticky, and didn’t make enough petals.

The inspiration:

And the execution:

To be fair, this was halfway through. It did end up looking a little better. A little.

Then the cake cracked a bit when it baked. That’s fine, that happens. But then, I decided to put the layers together without leveling them off. Why? Who can say? Maybe I suffered a mental injury while trying to fashion a blossom out of toothpicks and fruit rolls. Of course the unleveled cake cracked even more, and continued to crack, in a way that was no longer fine. So I broke up some wooden skewers so they’d be nice and splintery, and jammed them in to keep the layers together. 

But wait, it gets worse! Let’s talk about the chocolate ganache, which was going to rescue the whole wobbly mess by gracing it with a rich, glossy chocolate coating that dripped decadently down the sides.

I have never once in my life been able to make a chocolate ganache. It’s just beyond my capability. Doesn’t matter what recipe I use, what ingredients I splurge on. It never comes out. I’ve wrecked it so many times, and so consistently and so thoroughly, that we’re way beyond the point that there’s anything remotely admirable about trying again. There is a section in the DSM about people who still try to make a chocolate ganache with my ganache history. So naturally, that is what I tried.

You’ll never guess. It didn’t turn out.

It was grainy and soupy and bad. I slopped it on the cake anyway, hoping that a last-minute birthday miracle would make it magically coalesce into something edible. That did not come about. It did not come about, even though I helped it along by dumping a lot of gold sugar into the crack in an effort to make it look symbolic!

So.  That was what I had in my arsenal of cake confidence while approaching this other cake. Yeah, remember the other cake?

I didn’t mean for it to look like a photo you show to a cricket when threatening him about what you could do to his family if he doesn’t spill what he knows. I didn’t mean for it to be straight out of the “this is why you never go to sleep with a cell phone charging under your pillow. Poor Madyson now has a plastic bag where her jaw once was, and she wants you to look at this picture and think hard about your choices” file. It just turned out that way, all by itself.  

The good news is, there are no birthdays in November. 

MONDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

This actually tasted far better than it looks.  And yes, that is a sheet in the background. I was eating salad in bed. 

I wanted to make something like the salad I had at Wendy’s. I love Wendy’s salads. They are fresh and delicious, and let’s face it, sometimes you get a little surprise, especially if Pilar is working that day. 

I bought two bags of breaded chicken strips, one regular and one buffalo. I cooked those and cut them up and served them along with mixed greens and shredded pepper jack cheese, with buffalo ranch dressing and some of those crunchy fried onion things people put on that gross Thanksgiving string bean casserole. I thought it was very good! And of course extremely easy. The cheese didn’t really hit the spot, and I did mean to get tomatoes. I think maybe blue cheese next time. But there will be a next time for this salad.

TUESDAY
Pork ribs with applesauce, mashed squash, mashed potatoes

It’s edible squash season, motherfuckers.

I had the kids pick all the terrible apples they could reach from our terrible apple tree, Marvin.  We don’t do anything at all to take care of this tree, and the apples aren’t great for eating, but most of them are just a little spotty and weird, so fine for cooking. 

Well, some of them are terrifying. 

Doesn’t it look like it wished it could scream? This one didn’t go into the pot.

We also had an awful lot of bruised, dinged, maltreated apples left over from apple picking. 

I cut out all the bad spots, quartered them, and chucked them, peels and cores and all, into a big pot with a few inches of water, and set it to simmer with a loose lid. A few hours later, the apples were mushy and collapsed, and the kitchen smelled heavenly, and I suddenly remembered I had gotten rid of my food mill. So I was reduced to shoving the cooked apples through a strainer to get the peels, cores, and seeds out. Bah.

 I still stand by leaving the peels on when you cook the apples, for color and flavor, but if you don’t have a food mill, be smart and core them before cooking. Bah. What a stupid week. Anyway, I put the strained applesauce back into the pot and added a hunk of butter, some cinnamon, and some honey and let it cook down a little bit more. SO GOOD. There is nothing like warm, homemade applesauce.

I had two acorn squashes. I cut them in half and scooped them out, then put them in a pan in a 400 oven for about an hour, until the flesh was soft. Look how October it is:

Then I scooped it out, mashed it a bit, and added butter, honey, a little salt, and chili powder. I figured I was the only one who would eat it anyway.

I thought it was delicious! And yes, I was the only one who ate it. 

The pork ribs, I just sprinkled generously with salt and pepper on all side and put them in a 450 oven for about 25 minutes, turning once. This is the best way to make pork ribs. Fight me. 

Behold, my Salute to October:

WEDNESDAY
Meatball pizza

Aw yisss, leftover meatballs! I did not take a picture. Too busy eating meatball pizza.  

THURSDAY
Bacon tomato bisque, grilled cheese

This really is the soup of all soups. It takes even less skill than some soups, but it tastes both delicious and fancy. It is absolutely packed with flavor. I tweaked it a bit after last time I shared the recipe card (below). Bacon, garlic, onion, rosemary, tomato, and so creamy and rich. 

I also sprinkled the top of mine with some of those crunchy onion things we had left, and that was an excellent choice. 

I made a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches with sourdough bread and American cheese, because dammit, I like American cheese. It melts good. I cooked them in the pan that the bacon, onions, and garlic had been cooked in. 

FRIDAY
I don’t know. I think I wrote spaghetti. 

***

4 from 1 vote
Print

Tomato bisque with bacon

Calories 6 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1/2 - 1 lb bacon (peppered bacon is good)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 35 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 46 oz tomato juice
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • crispy fried onions (optional garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fry the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, chop it up, and drain out all but a a few teaspoons of grease.

  2. Add the diced onion and minced garlic to the grease and sauté until soft.

  3. Add tomatoes (including juices), bay leaves, rosemary, and tomato juice, and simmer for 20 minutes. Save some rosemary for a garnish if you like.

  4. With a slotted spoon, fish out the bay leaf, the tomatoes, and most of the rosemary, leaving some rosemary leaves in. Discard most of the rosemary and bay leaf. Put the rest of the rosemary and the tomatoes in a food processor with the 8 oz of cream cheese until it's as smooth as you want it.

  5. Return pureed tomato mixture to pot. Salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Heat through. Add chopped bacon right before serving, and top with crispy fried onions if you like. Garnish with more rosemary if you're a fancy man. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 186: The world is cold, but food is warm.

Everyone is sick and mopey and overworked, and there is frost on the windshield in the morning. And we’ve decided that Corrie is watching far too much TV, so we are doing a little detox there, which is hard on everyone.  So I focused on cozy, unchallenging meals for this week. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Steak, hot bread, salad

Well, London broil. That’s a steak, right? Everyone looked so droopy and sad, I thought we could all use some steak, and it happened to be on sale. Damien seasoned and broiled them, and I bought a few of those pull-apart bread rings and threw them in the oven right before supper. I put out some salad but it remained largely unmolested. 

The pictures are lackluster but the meat was great. Much better than the other way around, as sometimes happens. 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

Sunday we went to Mass and I led my first faith formation class, which went great! Overall. Some of those kids know a lot and some of them know hardly anything, but they are all interested in Jesus! And why not? He is an interesting guy. 

We came home for lunch and some of us were clever enough to fix ourselves steak and cheese sandwiches. 

Then we met my dad and went apple picking at our absolute favorite orchard, Wellwood Orchards in Springfield, Vt. It’s way up in the mountains where the air is so clean and good. You buy your bags and then get into a wagon, and a tractor pulls you wherever you want to go. We wanted mostly Macintosh, Macouns, and Cortlands, although some of the younger and more naive children were swayed by the deceit of that apple that calls itself “delicious.” 

This orchard has a little farm animal petting zoo, with cute little goaties and fancy ridiculous chickens, and the sun shone down, and the air smelled like apples, and it was just a good day. There are a bunch of pictures on my FB page. Here’s my favorite:

We also stopped at the Vermont Country Store and spent more money on candy than I have ever imagined it was possible to spend on candy. Irene bought wax lips with fangs, because Monday is school picture day and she’s not made of stone. 

MONDAY
French toast casserole, sausages, plums, OJ

Continuing the theme of “life is cold; here is some food that is hot.”

I’ll do my best to make a recipe for french toast casserole, but it turns out different every time. It’s definitely a good meal for kids to help you make. Although I would not recommend letting your very contagious four-year-old mix the orange juice in the other room. We ended up making a whole separate batch for those who did not wish to drink plague juice. 

I browned up some frozen breakfast sausages and set out a bowl of sweet little plums, lovely, dusky little plums. 

TUESDAY
Pork and ricotta meatballs on spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce

Sometimes you see a recipe and you just know. This one, from the NYT, calls for ground pork, ricotta, parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, and salt and pepper, and that’s it. You bake them, so it’s nice and easy.

They don’t look like much, but they are delightfully fluffy and so full of flavor (although I thought the amount of salt it called for was way too much), with little creamy pockets of cheese. I ended up using three pounds of pork and one pound of ground beef, and more parm than the recipe called for, and panko bread crumbs; so I guess that’s a good enough reason to make up my own recipe card. I had to cook them ahead of time and then heat them up in the sauce, but next time I want to cook them right before we eat them, so they can be as light as possible. They did soak up a lot of the sauce, which was unexpected. Possibly because of the panko bread crumbs.

I made Marcella Hazan’s miraculous three-ingredient sauce in the morning in the crock pot.

Boy, does it not look like it’s going to be delicious. BUT IT IS. 

This was a popular meal, and we have been snacking on meatballs all week. In fact, the other day, I was working and thinking about meatballs and asked Benny to snag me a couple. This is what she brought me:

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, beans, fries

This meal was just a gift to myself. I actually asked Benny and Corrie to make it for me, and they somehow didn’t do a very good job, but still. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

Again, no culinary adventures, but everyone was happy. I spread tortilla chips in a pan, spread cooked, seasoned ground beef over that, and sprinkled it heavily with shredded cheddar, and then topped it with chopped scallions. The scallions were third gen, if anyone cares. 

I had mine with salsa and sour cream. And very good they are, nachos. 

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

I splurged on batter-fried frozen fish instead of the breaded kind. We have tortillas, shredded cabbage, cute li’l cherry tomatoes, lime wedges, sour cream, and ooops, I forgot to buy avocados. 

Here’s the recipe cards!

 

5 from 1 vote
Print

French toast casserole

An easy, kid-pleasing meal, pleasant and cozy for breakfast, brunch, or brinner. Use any kinds of bread you have in the house. You can also add raisins, slices of apple, or whatever sounds good. 

I'm not putting measurements in, because you can make this so many different ways, so it's more pastry-like or more custardy. Use the same proportions you'd use to make regular french toast and it will be good. 

Ingredients

  • bread, torn up
  • eggs
  • milk
  • dash of salt
  • white or brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • vanilla

Instructions

  1. Grease a casserole dish or cake pan. Preheat the oven to 350.

  2. Tear the bread up into chunks and spread them in the buttered pans.

  3. Mix together the eggs, milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla, and pour the batter over the bread. Stir up the bread so all of it is wet. 

  4. If you like, you can let the casserole sit for a few hours to let the egg soak in, but it's not essential.  

  5. Sprinkle the top with more sugar and cinnamon, if you like. Bake for 40 minutes or so, until the egg is all cooked and it's a little toasted on top. Serve in wedges and drizzle with syrup, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or serve with jam or fruit toppings. 

Pork and ricotta meatballs

Adapted from a NYT recipe, found here.  Very easy to put together, and the extra creamy, fluffy, cheesiness make these remarkable. 

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs ground pork
  • 1 lb ground beef or turkey
  • 2+ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 32 oz ricotta
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

  2. Lightly mix together all ingredients in a bowl. The ricotta doesn't need to be completely incorporated. Form into balls. This makes about 75 walnut-sized meatballs. 

  3. Grease a rimmed baking sheet and arrange the meatballs on it. 

  4. Bake for about half an hour, until the meatballs are slightly browned. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

What’s for supper? Vol. 183: Sandwiches, sandwiches, barely even human

Dramatization of me making the menu for the week:

Me: Okay, now, concentrate! What’s for supper all week long? Let’s make a list! Good! Fun!
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes, you can! 
Me: Can’t.
Me: Yes you can. This is your job, and it’s easy. Just think of what people like to eat. What do people like to eat?
Me: I mean . . . I guess . . . food?
Me: Yes, good! And what kind of food? Can you think of some?
Me: Like . . . like . . . the kind you put in your . . . mouth?
Me: Good! You’re doing so well! And what kind of food do we put in our mouth?
Me: Like . . .
. . . .
. . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . sandwiches?

Me: YES.

[feebly writes down “sandwiches” several times, lets pen loll out of fingers. Late August housefly coasts in and lands on my shopping list. It marches across the page with arrogance and disdain. A single tear of weariness leaks out of my eyeball and trickles down my cheek and onto the paper, zig-zagging across the crumpled page until it seems to spell out b-a-c-k-t-o-s-c-h-o-o-l.]

SATURDAY
Pizza

Saturday, Damien had a hunting safety course all day and I had a planning session for faith formation (I’m going to teach second grade, hoop de doo!); and then I drove Lena back to college. We both got home quite late, and Damien got pizza of some kind, either Domino’s or Aldi. 

I tried bubble tea for the first time. I had sesame matcha. I will tell you, if the very idea of bubble tea repels you, then bubble tea itself will definitely repel you; but if you’re thinking to yourself, “I could go for some gummy black blobs in my beverage right about meow,” then you will love it. I loved it.

Sending your kids off to college is bullshit, though. SIGH SIGH SIGH.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cannoli

Sunday Damien had more training and I had to do the shopping I didn’t do Saturday. I had a hunch we’d be pretty wiped out and I was not wrong, so I bought pre-made burger patties, because such are the blessings of capitalism, and who am I to turn them down? 

It was Elijah’s shopping turn, and as fall approaches, a young man’s fancy turns to cannoli. We didn’t see cannoli shells, so we got some pizzelle. I made very simple cream filling with ricotta cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and we had a scoop of cheese on the cookie topped with shaved chocolate and maraschino cherries. I know I have almond extract somewhere, but it was hiding. 

MONDAY
Sandwiches, chips, watermelon, candy

Monday was the very last day of summer vacation, and it’s become our tradition to spend “all day” at the beach. In practice, this meant running around like a maniac doing errands all morning while the kids focused on being disgruntled, and then heading out to the town pond around 2:00. We did spent about four hours there, which is definitely long enough to get that “no one tells me what to do” feeling. We had the place to ourselves, except for a few silent, stringy old people and many, many dragonfly engaged in l’amour

Sometimes I think my kids are getting spoiled and worldly, and then I realize at least half of them still think it’s a huge treat to get the really big jar of pickles and to be allowed to just stick their hands in their and wipe them off on the grass. So we are doing okay. 

I took many pictures, but this one sums up the tone of the meal pretty well:

I texted Damien that we were on our way home, so he started a fire in the firepit, and we gathered around and told moderately spooky stories in the sorta-getting-dark. I did this knowing full well that it was exactly the kind of thing that would immediately become a Very Important Tradition That We Always Do. 

TUESDAY
Pork ramen

So Tuesday school finally happened. We have two in college, one taking a gap year and working on a big illustrating job, two in high school, and the rest are in 8th, 6th, 5th, and 2nd, and Corrie is home. I actually expect this year to be somewhat easier than last year. When I ask myself why, I’m not sure, but even thinking so is a pretty good sign. According to my therapist. What does he know, the giant weirdo. 

I keep forgetting it’s a food blog today. Let’s see, I cut up some boneless pork chops and sautéed them in oil, then sliced them and dashed in some soy sauce and finished cooking them. I chopped up some scallions and sugar snap peas, and I soft boiled a bunch of eggs. I sliced some mushrooms and sautéed them in the pan with the porky oil. We had crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and hot sauce for toppings.

Everyone came home hungry and they were happy with a big pot of ramen and pork.

WEDNESDAY
Banh mi

Oh look, sandwiches! But to be fair, these are the greatest sandwiches known to mankind. I made the marinade and sliced a boneless pork loin in the late morning and let it marinate the rest of the day. I quick pickled a bunch of carrots, but decided to let the cucumbers just be plain, so there was a cool taste with all the bitey tastes. I chopped up a bunch of cilantro, and made some spicy mayo (I couldn’t find sriracha, so I just used hot sauce. Not as good). And I had a jar of jalapenos. 

I did toast the bread, which I hate doing, for some reason, but it makes a big difference for these sandwiches. Gosh, I love this meal. I prepped everything in the morning, and then before supper I just had to fish the meat out of the marinade, spread it on a pan, and broil it.

If you haven’t made these sandwiches before, they’re delicious way out of proportion to how hard they are to make. However, when you’re cooking the meat, it smells horrendous way out of proportion to . . . anything. Really, nothing this side of hell should smell like that. But it’s worth it! Recipe card at the end.

Wednesday was also the day this happened:

We had to leave to pick up the kids, but Corrie didn’t want to get out of the bath. I did everything I could think of to get her out, and she ended up on the floor, screaming and writhing. She’s amazingly heavy and strong, and when she’s wet, she’s just about impossible to pick up and hold, much less dry off and get dressed. I was getting madder and madder, so I stepped away to collect myself, and when I came back and opened the door, the stool and wastebasket were knocked over, the towels were all dragged onto the floor, and I could hear violent splashing.

I thought, “Oh great, she’s back in the tub and I’ll have to start all over again.” But when I pulled back the curtain, she wasn’t in the tub.

And that’s when I realized she was so mad, she had jumped right into the toilet.

THURSDAY
Grilled pizza sandwiches

We used to have these a lot, but haven’t for a while, so the kids were pretty excited. I was honestly not at my best as a chef by Thursday. We’re still staying up stupidly late, but now waking up stupidly early. I like to spice things up in the middle of the night by stupidly worrying about stupid things for a while, too. Put it all together, and you get someone who is not going to do a great job flipping heavy sandwiches stuffed with shredded cheese. 

Even the sandwiches look skeptical.

This particular one actually looks kinda like Attorney General William Barr, shown here with Lamar Alexander, who is also full of cheap cheese:

Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
Office of Senator Lamar Alexander [Public domain]
I feel like I haven’t sufficiently made my case here. Look at this:

Maybe? 

I know you want to know how to make these wondrous grilled Wiliam Barr sandwiches, so here is how: Sourdough bread spread with sauce, then cheese, then pepperoni, then topped with another piece of bread spread with sauce. Then the outsides are brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with garlic powder and oregano, then fried in a pan with more butter. It’s actually better to spread them with softened butter with garlic powder and oregano mixed in, but I accidentally melted it.

It would also be a heck of a lot easier to manage if it had slices of mozzarella, rather than wads of shreds, but did I think of that when I was shopping? Nopey.

I grill them and then slide them in the oven for a few minutes to make sure the cheese is melted and can prosecute on behalf of our Lord, the King. This is a attorney general joke and it’s the best I can do right meow.

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

Not technically a sandwich! And we made it through the first week. There were no guarantees.

***

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 12 Tbs sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 4 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1.5 tsp pepper

Veggies and dressing

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • cilantro
  • mayonnaise
  • Sriracha sauce

Instructions

  1. Slice the raw pork as thinly as you can. 

  2. Mix together the fish sauce ingredients and add the meat slices. Seal in a ziplock bag to marinate, as it is horrendously stinky. Marinate several hours or overnight. 

  3. Grill the meat over coals or on a pan under a hot broiler. 

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

quick-pickled carrots and/or cucumbers for banh mi, bibimbap, ramen, tacos, etc.

An easy way to add tons of bright flavor and crunch to a meal. We pickle carrots and cucumbers most often, but you can also use radishes, red onions, daikon, or any firm vegetable. 

Ingredients

  • 6-7 medium carrots, peeled
  • 1 lb mini cucumbers (or 1 lg cucumber)

For the brine (make double if pickling both carrots and cukes)

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar (other vinegars will also work; you'll just get a slightly different flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sale, preferably kosher

Instructions

  1. Mix brine ingredients together until salt and sugar are dissolved. 

  2. Slice or julienne the vegetables. The thinner they are, the more flavor they pick up, but the more quickly they will go soft, so decide how soon you are going to eat them and cut accordingly!

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

  3. Cover and let sit for a few hours or overnight or longer. Refrigerate if you're going to leave them overnight or longer.

What’s for supper? Vol. 182: It’s still summer, dammit

Here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches

We are awfully tired of grilled ham and cheese for dinner on Saturdays, but I get home from shopping so late, and then it takes eleven hours to put away all the food, so Saturday has to be something quick and easy. This was quickish and easy.

The chicken was just broiled with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We had ciabatta rolls with tomatoes and fresh basil, mozzarella, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. It’s still summer, dammit!

This sandwich posed a bit of a challenge when assembled, but I just unhooked my lower jaw and dominated it.

Here is another sandwich picture, since I have it:

As you can see, I like plenty of balsamic vinegar. I like to put the dressings and salt and pepper on several layers of this sandwich, and use freshly-ground pepper and salt if I can get it. Mmmmm.

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, potato salad, broccoli and dip, blueberry pie with whipped cream

Damien’s mom came over, so Dora and I decided we would celebrate with potato salad. I said, “I’m so excited you’re making potato salad!” And she said, “Oh. I was so excited you’re making potato salad.” So I made the potato salad, and guess what? It wasn’t very good. It was just kind of bland, and also I forgot I was cooking potatoes, so they cooked into mush. Oh well.

I realized I’d gone all summer without making any fruit pies, and that aggression will not stand, man. The pie had some structural problems when we cut it, but look how pretty!

When I served it up, what people got was less a slice of pie and more of a . . . pie area. Everyone got a pie area with whipped cream. It tasted good, anyway. I don’t use a ton of sugar either in the pie or in the whipped cream. I didn’t have enough dough for a lattice crust, so I rolled little balls of dough and stuck them around the edge, then flattened them with a fork. If I had remembered to do a sugared egg wash, it would have been like little cookies.

My pie crust trick is that you freeze the butter, then shred it on a vegetable grater. Then it’s easy to incorporate into the flour without overworking it. I use Fannie Farmer’s basic pie crust recipe, and I honestly don’t remember what I used for the filling. Blueberries, flour, sugar, lemon juice, salt, butter, I guess. Probably I should have used corn starch instead of flour. 

MONDAY
Chicken berry salad

I actually don’t remember eating this meal. It’s possible I skipped it and just ate leftover pie for supper. It’s still summer, dammit. 

Here’s an old picture of this meal: Roast chicken breast sliced up, mixed greens, diced red onion, feta cheese, toasted almonds, and a vinaigrette dressing. 

The trick is to serve salads with chicken just a little too often, and then people are really raring for some squash and Brussels sprouts and stews by the end of summer. 

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday

Hweat! Tuesday Clara and I abandoned our family and drove away to New York City to see Hadestown on Broadway for her birthday, as I mentioned. I’m immensely proud and still slightly baffled that I drove to New York City, found our hotel in Hell’s Kitchen, found a place to park, found the theater, didn’t have any problems with the hotel reservations or tickets, didn’t get lost, didn’t get into any accidents, had zero combat with rats, roaches, or bedbugs, didn’t create any international incidents with furriners, didn’t get mugged, didn’t throw up, didn’t cry except during the show, and kept us fed and on schedule, and even tipped the parking lot attendant appropriately. Not bad for a country mouse

Clara was not terribly interested in exploring any restaurants that smelled of curry or sumac, so we went for good old American food. She had a burger and fries and I had a Reuben. This is a place called Jax BBQ on 9th avenue. I guess we were supposed to order barbecue, but we do what we like. 

We were pretty wiped out, so we went back to the hotel room (we stayed at the Casamia 36 hotel, where I got a pretty good price through AirBNB. It was small and very much no frills, but very clean and pleasant enough) where Clara worked on her Hadestown drawing

At home, they had tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and sausages, garlic bread

Wednesday morning, we set out for make sure we knew where the Walter Kerr theater was, about a mile away. It was nice traveling with someone who has almost the exact same anxieties as me. We had a lot of conversations that went, “Okay, I know this is crazy, but can we just…” — “Oh, sure, sure, I completely understand!” So we found the theater, then decided that we could check out Times Square without getting too lost. It was . . . well, it was different from home. 

Despite my best efforts, we did see the apparently famous Naked Cowboy. We saw a lot of people who had persuaded themselves it made sense to buy national brands of clothing and jewelry in Times Square, even though you could easily find the exact products online or in, you know, Biwabik, Minnesota. It was very hot and muggy smelled like different kinds of garbage, and sounded like Hell. I know New York City has innumerable nicer things to offer than Times Square, but we really didn’t want to get lost, so we lurked about for a while with our eyes bugging out, and then had lunch at a deli. Look, here is my sandwich:

Damn fine pickle. Then it was time to head over to the theater! And that’s when things really got great! I was expecting something extraordinary, and it was even better than I expected. 

After the show and after Clara got a few autographs on her drawing, it started pouring rain, so we schlopped the mile back to the parking garage. Okay, we got a little bit lost, but that’s because my phone sometimes insists on showing me upside down maps. We did pop into a little Greek grocery and bought some olive oil soap and some kind of honey apple pastries to bring home. There was a nice orange cat and some Greek men who thought it was pretty cute how wet we were. And then we retrieved our car, I recovered quickly at the shock of how much it costs to park your car for 24 hours in New York City (SO MUCH. OH MY FRIENDS. SO MUCH.) and away we went! We stopped in Connecticut to put dry clothes on.

It was a pleasure to travel with an art student as we zipped over and under all those spectacular stone bridges on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. They are all different, and some of them even have two different sides! Normally I don’t care for art deco, but when it’s mitigated by creeping vines and those lovely trees on the median of the highway, it’s great. (They are not all art deco, of course, but that’s the easiest style to identify when you’re driving under it.) Here’s someone who did a 60 MPH drawing challenge. When I was little and we would drive to NY or NJ to visit family, we would always look forward to the one with wings

Back home, they had Marcella Hazan’s miraculously simple and confoundingly delicious tomato sauce, with sausages and spaghetti and garlic bread. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies, fries, pineapple

On Thursday, I made some spiedie marinade (recipe card at the end) in the morning, but half the pork had gone bad. So I set what I had to marinate, and then threw raw meat-tainted oily marinade all over the inside of the refrigerator for no reason at all! Then I went out for more pork and had some pharmacy adventures (not in the fun way), set the rest of the meat to marinate, and took the kids to the beach, because holy crap, it may still be summer, but not for long. 

Got home, shoved the pork under the broiler, and we had the meat on toasted rolls with mayo, plus pineapple and fries.

This is a good marinade. You can adjust it as you like, and it really tenderizes the meat.

You can see that I had leftover broccoli instead of fries. This may seem virtuous, but you have to remember that I had consumed about a cubic yard of meat in the last 48 hours. Also, the kids ate all the fries while I was toasting my bun. 

FRIDAY
Tuna?

It says “tuna.” I may want to run to the store. Actually we are going out to shop for school supplies today. This is actually the last possible day to do it, because we start on Tuesday and we’re going to the beach one last time on Monday. It’s still summer, dammit. 

***

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

Keyword basil, chicken, mozzarella, prosciutto, provolone, sandwiches, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Ciabatta rolls, Italian bread, or any nice bread
  • Sliced grilled, seasoned chicken
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Sliced prosciutto
  • Sliced mozzarella or provolone
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional: Pesto mayonnaise

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler. Drizzle chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, whatever. Put chicken on shallow pan with drainage, and shove under broiler, turning once, until chicken is browned on both sides. Let cool and slice thickly, you animal. 

  2. Toast bread if you like. Spread pesto mayo on roll if you like. Slice tomatoes. 

  3. Pile chicken, tomatoes, basil, cheese, and a slice or two of prosciutto, sprinkling with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper a few times as you layer. 

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes or whole tomatoes, broken up
  • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
  • salt to taste
  • 5 Tbsp butter

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

  4. I'm freaking serious, that's it!

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup veg or olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4-5 lbs boneless pork, cubed
  • peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cut into chunks

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

    Mix up with cubed pork, cover, and marinate for several hours or overnight. 

    Best cooked over hot coals on the grill on skewers with vegetables. Can also spread in a shallow pan with veg and broil under a hot broiler.

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

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