What’s for supper? Vol. 294: Ya burnt!

Another Friday! We have arrived. We really launched our warm weather cooking this week. We also had our first “oh yes, that skunk is definitely rabid” situation, so I guess spring is officially fully here. I made some berry pies and only partially roont them. 

Here’s what we cooked and ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Indian food!

The kids had an assortment of frozen foods, and Damien and I went back to Royal Spice, where we had the same vegetarian appetizers as last time, because they were so appetizing, and then I had goat biryani and Damien had goat vindaloo. Superb. So delicious, I forgot to take pictures.  I need to get back to some Indian cooking. Gotta break in the new mortar and pestle Lucy got me for mother’s day! 

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, grilled corn, blueberry-strawberry pie 

We had our elderly neighbor over. I’ve been meaning to have her over, ever since we moved in, uhh, sixteen years ago. Listen, we don’t like to be pushy in these parts. We did have a nice time, although she is fairly deaf and the conversation kept circling back to a reliable topic, i.e. her roasting me for buying vegetable plants for the garden instead of starting seeds.  The dog thought she was absolutely incredible, and she thought the kids were absolutely amazing for swimming in the pool even though it was a little chilly. She dug up some of her bleeding hearts for me, and I gave her some pie. A good visit.

Damien cooked burgers and hot dogs and corn on the grill, always tasty. He cooks the corn right inside the husks, which makes it super sweet and juicy. You just peel and eat. I will admit, at least 50% of the reason I like this method is because it looks so dramatic. 

I made a couple of pies for dessert, and let me tell you, I was worried the whole time that the filling would turn out too runny, and guess what? It did. Not that I took any steps to prevent that from happening; I just worried about it. I sprinkled a good amount of corn starch in with the fruit and sugar, and let it sit for a while before baking; and I let it sit for a while after baking and before cutting. But it was still runny. I guess I should add even more corn starch? Anyone? It tasted great, just sweet enough, and they were very pretty. Just runny. 

I just mixed together strawberries and blueberries, sugar, a little salt, what seemed like a good amount of corn starch, and some fresh lemon juice. 

Here’s the unbaked pies:

and baked, with an egg wash and a little sugar on top, sadly somewhat burnt:

but still pretty

Here’s my recipe for pie crust, which is reliable and easy to work with.

Jump to Recipe

The main secret is to freeze the butter and grate it into the dry ingredients, and then just barely handle it after that.

We made some fresh whipped cream to top it with. Then the kids cleared the table and put the whipped cream away in the fridge. In a ziplock bag. I know that this is technically better than the other way they were likely to put it away (in an open bowl, with some old meatloaf on top), but somehow it didn’t feel better. 

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad, grapes

A decent meal (if one that I’ve been eating a little too often for my liking in one form or another these days, in an effort to shed my Covid Ennui weight). Chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil, grilled and sliced, served on romaine lettuce with dressing from a bottle and freshly-grated parmesan cheese, and buttery homemade croutons. (FYI, the dressing and buttery croutons are not included in the Covid Ennui weight shedding plan, sadly.)

We did bat around the idea of getting ducks this year. Maybe next year. I do love duck eggs, and I would abase myself for homemade caesar salad dressing made with fresh duck egg yolks.

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Maybe next year! Quack.

TUESDAY
Honey mustard drumsticks, homemade tortilla chips, corn and bean salad

Sweet, colorful, mostly finger food. I thought this was going to be a super kid-pleaser meal. This despite that fact that I have met my kids.

Of course you can tell with an introduction like that that they mostly ate cereal. One proudly showed me the dusty can of chicken noodle soup she had discovered in the back of the cabinet. Oh well. I still thought it was a pleasant warm-weather meal.

I roasted about 24 drumsticks with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then rolled them around in a honey mustard sauce, made with probably a cup of honey, half a cup of mustard, and the juice of a large lemon. Then let them chill in the fridge for the rest of the day.

The corn salad was made with 3 ear’s worth of corn leftover from the cookout, a can of drained black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with chiles drained, the juice of one lime, half a red onion minced, a small bunch of chopped cilantro, and salt and pepper. I kept it bland so the kids would eat it, ho ho ho. 

The tortilla chips, I made by cutting flour tortillas into triangles, tossing them with oil, and sprinkling them heavily with Taijin powder a few times, then spreading them on a pan and baking them in a 350 oven for about half an hour, stirring them a few times so they wouldn’t stick. They don’t turn out completely crisp, but some of them are a little bit chewy.

Here is my helper, performing a crispness test:

You could probably avoid this by baking them longer at a lower temp, and giving them more space, but genuinely I like them a little chewy. I honestly have the palate of a sickly Victorian child. I want at least some of my foods to be milky and the consistency of tapioca. I also like more exciting foods, but my first love will always be the diet of an invalid. And now you know my secret.  

WEDNESDAY
Tacos, pineapple and papaya

I optimistically planned the menu this way, with tacos on Wednesday rather than Tuesday, thinking we’d have leftover corn salad and tortilla chips to go along with the tacos. Which we did, but (see previous day) nobody was happy about it. They were happy about the tacos, though, so there.

I sweetened the deal with some fresh pineapple and papaya. Boy, papaya sure is, it sure looks, boy. I feel like I ought to have someone else in the room when I cut it up, just so there’s no misunderstandings. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Something weird happened with this pizza. Maybe a weird batch of dough, I don’t know. Maybe I used too much sauce. It just clung to the pan and didn’t act right. It was okay, just kind of heavy. I also forgot to buy olives.

I made one plain, one pepperoni, one garlic and onion, and one ham and pineapple.

Plenty of fresh parmesan on all of them, which was nice. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

A couples Fridays ago was supposed to be mac and cheese, but I ran out of steam and just bought some Aldi pizzas. We have SO much stray cheese in the house, though, so I really want to use it up this time.

Oh, last Friday I did make the seafood lo mein

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with the mixed frozen seafood pouch from Aldi, and it turned out just great. It had all kinds of great stuff, mussels, scallops, a little octopus, wonderful. I threw a little fish sauce in there, plus some asparagus and some scallions, and it was a very tasty little meal. 

My wish now is to make empanadas. It just came into my head and I can’t think of a reason not to do it. I am thinking of buying the dough disks, if I can find them, so I can get the hang of it; and then if people like them, I can always try making my own dough next time. Any empanada advice? I think I have a press I bought to make dumplings, so I can probably use that. 

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

basic lo mein

Ingredients

for the sauce

  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 5 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tsp sugar

for the rest

  • 32 oz uncooked noodles
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • add-ins (vegetables sliced thin or chopped small, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 2/3 cup rice vinegar (or mirin, which will make it sweeter)

Instructions

  1. Mix together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

  2. Boil the noodles until slightly underdone. Drain and set aside.

  3. Heat up a pan, add some sesame oil for cooking, and quickly cook your vegetables or whatever add-ins you have chosen.

  4. Add the mirin to the pan and deglaze it.

  5. Add the cooked noodles in, and stir to combine. Add the sauce and stir to combine.

What’s for supper? Vol. 292: All the ingreediants you need

Happy Friday! It’s been a weird week and I’ve picked up a number of new readers. Welcome! I look forward to grievously disappointing you all.  

But not today. Today, and most Fridays, we just talk about food, and nobody in the history of the world has ever been disappointed by food. Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Quick and tasty. Carton of salad greens, bag of shredded pepper jack cheese, some cherry tomatoes, some blue cheese crumbles, some of those crunchy fried onions that come in a tub, and buffalo chicken from frozen. Blue cheese dressing on top. All the speed of a frozen dinner, all the salad of a salad. 

Please enjoy the dead dog in the background. (He got better.)

SUNDAY
Ragù on fettuccine

Damien made an outrageously delicious ragù using the Deadspin recipe. It comes out different every time. He starts with ground pork and and beef and sometimes adds veal, but this time he bought a hunk of pancetta and ground that up with a meat grinder — a whole pound of it! — and whoa, it was amazing. If you think pasta must always have a tomato or cream sauce on it, you must try this recipe. 

It was . . . well, I’m not proud of this, but I just googled “what does pancetta taste like,” because I stayed up late watching The Mummy and can’t think of a word for what pancetta tastes like, besides “salty.” One of the results that turned up was “unctuous.” Literally, unctuous means “oily” (think “extreme unction” when a priest anoints someone with oils), which has been extended to mean an oily, ingratiating, flattering manner. I’m trying to think whether pancetta is in some way gastronomically ingratiating or just literally oily, and I have decided that The Mummy is one of the best movies ever made, especially if you are drinking margaritas. (See below)

Also, I don’t know if you do this, but Damien has two pasta tricks: He salts the hell out of the water he cooks the pasta in, which makes it much more flavorful; and he saves a bunch of the water out before he drains it, and then he adds that back into the drained pasta, to keep it from sticking. I always used to use oil for this purpose, but pasta water works much better. 

MONDAY
Vermonter sandwiches, strawberries

A very fine sandwich. I broiled some boneless, skinless chicken breasts with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cut them into thick slices. Then plenty of honey mustard, and layers of bacon, thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese, and thick slices of granny smith apple. I usually make these sandwiches with ciabatta rolls or sourdough, but this time I used baguettes.

A VERY FINE SANDWICH INDEED. My only sadness was I couldn’t find the lemon juice, so the apple slices got a little brown before supper. Still good. 

TUESDAY
Tacos, tortilla chips and salsa

Taco Tuesday, nothing special. We just had jarred salsa, shredded cheese, and sour cream for the tacos.

I’m always amazed at how excited the kids are to have tacos if it’s Taco Tuesday. I would appreciate it if people could make up other exciting food days, when cheap and easy meals would be transformed into special treats just because of alliteration. I guess there’s Fish Friday, but somehow that never inspires cheers. I guess people just like tacos. 

WEDNESDAY
Korean beef bowl and rice

Old faithful. I used fresh ginger and fresh garlic, but you can totally squeak by with garlic powder and powdered ginger. Soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, a little sesame oil but you can use whatever oil, and boom. This is a great dish to make ahead of time, and then you just need to cook some rice and dinner’s set. 

Jump to Recipe

Sometimes I transfer the beef to the slow cooker and make some rice in the Instant Pot and then, get this, I wipe down the stove top before dinner.

Would have been good with some scallions and sesame seeds on top, like in this picture from another week, but I forgot. (I also forgot to take a picture this week.)

Also would have been nice with a vegetable side — I like sesame broccoli for this meal — but whoever was in charge of shopping (me) did not buy any vegetables. 

Here’s the sesame broccoli recipe, anyway:

Jump to Recipe

THURSDAY
Chili verde, rice, plantain chips, margaritas

As we know, Cinqo de Mayo is Mexican for Thanksgiving. Or something. I don’t know, I was absent that day. All I know is it seemed like a good excuse to make chili verde, which I love doing. I love every step of the process.

First you char the peppers and tomatillos

and cover and cool them a bit, and then you pull the skins off (I decided to leave all the seeds in to keep it pretty spicy)

then you purée the peppers and tomatillos with onions, garlic, and cilantro

then you sear the pork (and you know how much I care about this dish because I took the trouble to cook the pork in five batches, so I didn’t crowd the pot for once in my damn life)

then you add the pork and the puréed vegetables to the pot and let it cook for the rest of the day. My goodness, the smell. 

I added a few cups of chicken broth at one point, and while I was out of the house, someone helped the pork collapse into lovely tender pieces.

I had my chili over rice and topped with more cilantro, plenty of sour cream, and a little squeeze of fresh lime juice, with plantain chips on the side.

Heaven help me, I would murder someone for this meal, I love it so. 

Later in the evening, Damien made a pitcher of margaritas

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which I forgot to take a picture of, but I had two, out of respect for Mexican Thanksgiving. Also people had been mean to me on Twitter all day, so. 

Oh wait, I did take a picture. A strange picture of our strange house, including a list of INGREEDIANTS for a delicious sammicth. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Shoot, that reminds me, I have to make supper. Wish we still had some of those margaritas left. 

 

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. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

Spicy Chili Verde

You can decrease the heat by seeding the peppers, using fewer habañeros, or substituting some milder pepper. It does get less spicy as it cooks, so don't be alarmed if you make the salsa and it's overwhelming!

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs pork shoulder
  • salt and pepper
  • oil for cooking
  • 2 cups chicken broth or beer (optional)

For the salsa verde:

  • 4 Anaheim peppers
  • 2 habañero peppers
  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 4 medium onions
  • 12 tomatillos
  • 1 head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1 bunch cilantro

For serving:

  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • additional cilantro for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Pull the husks and stems off the tomatillos and rinse them. Cut the ends off all the peppers. Grease a large pan and put the tomatillos and peppers on it. Broil five minutes, turn, and broil five minutes more, until they are slightly charred.

  3. Take the pan out and cover the peppers and tomatillos with plastic wrap or tin foil for ten minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, pull the skins off the peppers and tomatillos. At this point, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to decrease the spiciness if you want.

  4. Put the skinned tomatillos and peppers in a food processor or blender with the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Purée.

  5. In a heavy pot, heat some oil. Salt and pepper the pork chunks and brown them in the oil. You will need to do it in shifts so the pork has enough room and browns rather than simmering.

  6. When all the meat is browned, put it all in the pot and add the puréed ingredients.

  7. Simmer at a low heat for at least three hours until the meat is tender. If you want thinner chili verde, you can add chicken broth or beer. At some point, if you don't want the pork in large chunks, press the meat with the back of a spoon to make it collapse into shreds.

  8. Spoon the chili verde into bowls, squeeze some lime juice over the top, and top with sour cream and fresh cilantro.

 

Damien's margaritas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar for simple syrup
  • sugar for glasses
  • kosher salt or sea salt for glasses
  • white tequila (we like Lunazul Blanco)
  • triple sec
  • lime juice

Instructions

  1. First make the simple syrup, and allow time for it to cool.

    Combine the sugar with a cup of water in a small pot and simmer, stirring, until it is clear. Let cool. Damien puts it in a mason jar and refrigerates it.

  2. Prepare the glasses. Mix sea salt or kosher salt and sugar in a saucer and add a little lime juice to wet it. Rub a lime wedge along the edge of the glass and roll it in the salt and sugar mix.

  3. To make the margaritas, put some ice cubes in a cocktail shaker or mason jar. Add three parts tequila, two parts lime juice, one part Triple Sec, one part simple syrup. Shake until the lid gets cold. Pour the liquid into prepared glasses.

What’s for supper? Vol. 288: Paneer, and yet so far

I do believe I’ve picked up some new readers! Welcome. Also welcome to a few people who are fasting and praying for my conversion, what the heck. To everyone who’s here for whatever reason, I usually do a Friday food round-up, with photos and recipes of the meals we cooked for our large family for the week. Except I didn’t get around to it yesterday, or last Friday. So here’s a little catching up:

Oh, but first, there was the Friday before that! I was threatening to make those San Francisco Vietnamese garlic noodles from the NYT. A few friends warned me they were rather bland, despite the garlic — kind of a lot of garlic, if you’re tripling the recipe —

 oyster sauce, and fish sauce, so I decreased the amount of pasta and increased the sauce ingredients, and I thought it was tasty. (I also used asiago rather than parmesan, because they are both triangles and I can’t read.) A nice combination of savory and creamy with a tiny bite, not overpowering, but a little off the beaten path.

It didn’t knock my socks off, but I’ll probably make it again, as I usually have these ingredients in my house. And sometime when it’s not Lent, I’ll add caviar as suggested, or maybe scallops.

We also had our Italian feast for St. Joseph’s day with a nice antipasto of whatever wasn’t too expensive at Aldi, and whatever hadn’t expired in the back of my cabinet:

Looks like some fresh mozzarella, some various salamis and other cured meats, pickled vegetables, and tomatoes. I think there were some pickled hot peppers with some kind of cheese filling. And cantaloupe. If you ever had a job prepping breakfast in a hotel while you were pregnant, and the smell of rotten cantaloupe was the most miserable thing you ever inhaled, and you were wondering how many years it would take you to get over it and enjoy cantaloupe again, the answer seems to be [feverish calculations] twenty-five. 

So Damien made spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread, Lucy made suppli, or arancini (breaded fried risotto balls with melted mozzarella in the center)

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and Clara made zeppole. Must hunt down her recipe, because they were fab.

And I just sat there and ate. Buona Festa, San Giuseppe!

Looks like that week we also had a pretty chicken salad with toasted almonds, strawberries, and croutons that I did NOT BURN FOR ONCE

That would be mixed greens, grilled chicken breast, fresh strawberries, feta cheese, diced red onion, and toasted almonds, and croutons made of stale hot dog buns, with red wine vinegar.

(And here’s my periodic reminder that the easiest way to toast nuts, to make them crunchy and bring out their flavor, but not to burn them, is to spread them on a plate and microwave them for a few minutes. You can do it in the oven, but there’s no real advantage, and they’re very easy to burn.)

. . . and it looks like I finally got around to putting fennel on a pizza, like I’ve been threatening to do for some time. This one had fennel, fresh garlic, anchovies, feta, fresh parmesan, and artichoke hearts.

What a stupendous pizza. I sliced the fennel in rings, which I feel isn’t quite right, but it tasted great. No ragrets.

Ooh, then on Friday, it was the Annunciation, which is a meat Friday in Lent, so we had roast beef sandwiches with provolone and horseradish sauce on toasted buns,

and a side of caprese salad, which is always nice. 

The roast beef, Damien made by crusting it with I think salt and pepper and garlic powder and searing it in olive oil with lots of garlic cloves, and then roasting it at 350 for about 45 minutes, and then he starts checking it. He lets it rest for a while before slicing it. 

The caprese salad is just fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, freshly ground salt and pepper. I didn’t bother reducing anything.

Okay! Caught up. Now for the week we just finished:

SUNDAY
Chicken quesadillas

Nothing to report. Chicken, cheddar cheese, jalapeños in the quesadillas, salsa and sour cream on the side. 

I do remember that I went shopping and had made up my mind that I was finally going to buy one of those giant smoked turkeys they had at Aldi, that I had been thinking about for several weeks, and that I had planned at least two meals around it. Got there and . . . they were just regular frozen turkeys. Note even a good price. I tried to persuade myself that I wanted to do  Thanksgiving in the middle of the week in March, but it turns out I very much did not. So I wung it. 

MONDAY
Ham, garlic parmesan mashed potatoes, salad, rolls

Meal number 1 that I wung: A “join us for dinner in the church basement”-style dinner. Nothing wrong with that! I did not make an ambrosia salad, however, because that’s an abomination. 

My only tip is that, if you’re not planning to glaze the ham or stick pineapples to it or anything, you can slice it ahead of time and then heat it up, and it makes an easy meal even easier. 

Oh, here’s my recipe for garlic parmesan mashed potatoes. I made five pounds and warned everyone not to go nuts, because there were only five pounds, and they acted like it was death camp rations. That is nearly half a pound of potato per person, not counting the butter, milk, and parmesan! I guess we burn all those extra calories by making an ungodly fuss about everything all the time. 

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TUESDAY
Gochujang pork chops, sesame broccoli, rice

Now this was a tasty meal with minimal effort. I started the pork chops marinating in the morning with this sauce

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made of gochujang, honey, sugar, garlic, and soy sauce. I heated up the broiler nice and hot and shoved the chops right under it, and turned them once. They were on the thin side, so I was careful not to overcook them. 

I also love using this marinade on pork ribs and giving them to Damien to cook outside, but the chops turned out great. (It’s also wonderful for gochujang bulgoki, when you include matchstick carrots, sliced onions, and slice the pork before marinating, and you serve it with nori. It’s really just a fine, fine marinade.)

I made a big batch of basmati rice in the Instant Pot, and a big tray of toothsome sesame broccoli

which there is a recipe for

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but it’s easy as can be. You just drizzle the broccoli spears with sesame oil and soy sauce, salt, pepper, and sesame seeds, and send them for a short ride under a hot broiler to turn bright green with a tiny bit of char. 

Delicious meal, very easy, minimal cook time. 

WEDNESDAY
Bagels sandwiches with egg and cheese, choice of ham or sausage; OJ

Nothing to report. Well, I employed the very healthful method of frying the eggs in a truly ludicrous amount of butter, and not flipping them over, but cooking the tops by spooning melted butter repeatedly over the yolk, which causes the white to bubble up around the yolk and sort of support it, so you get a little film over the top of the yolk, but it’s still runny on the inside. 

THURSDAY
Nachos

This was the second meal (wait, third?) I planned on the fly, and Damien offered to make it while I was doing . . . something or other. Probably crying. It was an insane week with about 60% more meetings and driving and assignments and complications and drama than necessary. I cooked some ground beef with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin, and he made one tray with just that, and one tray with that and also jalapeños, and leftover roast beef, and leftover chicken, and of course cheese. 

Maybe it was just the “somebody else made dinner” talking, but I thought it was delicious. 

FRIDAY
Saag paneer, naan

Well, this was a semi-tragic finale to an exhausting week. All week, I had been looking forward to trying this Instant Pot recipe (it also has stovetop instructions). I love Indian food, I love spinach, I love creamy things. I figured the kids wouldn’t like it, but they can go to hell, I mean make themselves toast. I did have an extremely busy schedule, but I got up and finished up some editing and sent off some articles and wrote some interview questions, then briskly set to work prepping all my saag paneer ingredients and making the dough for naan. 

Or, well, I was going to, but we were out of yogurt, and so was the only convenience store in town. So I zipped into the next town because I needed paneer, anyway. I was still sort of unclear about what paneer was, exactly. I made some inquiries, and learned that it is cottage cheese, sort of, but not really. And it has been a kind of trying week, and I couldn’t bring myself to ask social media a cheese question. I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So I went to the international market, and they had one kind of paneer, so that settled that. Bought two blocks and zipped home.  

I cooked the first part of the saag paneer with all the vegetables, and of course it smelled great

— and here I had a little larf to myself, because I experienced Spinach Panic, where you follow the directions for cooking a pound of spinach but it still seems like THIS CAN’T POSSIBLY BE RIGHT

but it is right, it’s just cooking with fresh spinach. Two minutes later, it was fine:

Did a little more work, went to adoration, went to pick up the kids from school, and then got back to finish up this meal, with the house already smelling most excellently. 

I open the Instant Pot top, and it’s going along great, and then I get up to the part where you add the little blocks of paneer. Which I did. And I waited for them to melt, and they did not. I stirred, I adjusted the heat, I pressed on them, I stirred some more, I did everything I could think of. They remained intact. 

Okay, if you’ve ever cooked with paneer, you know what the problem is: The problem is, I’m an idiot. Paneer is not supposed to melt. Because it’s . . . cottage cheese, sort of. And I would have known this, if I had asked social media, or . . . READ THE RECIPE. Which clearly states, “Add Paneer cubes and Garam Masala to it. And cook it further on saute mode for about 5 minutes. Your Palak Paneer is ready.”

Why did I think the paneer would melt? I have no idea. The recipe also included a photo of the finished dish, clearly showing the green puree with the white paneer cubes bobbing merrily around on top. This made no impression on me whatsoever. I was still angrily prodding the paneer with a wooden spoon, trying to force it to melt, because it is cheese!  So I finally poured the whole thing into the food processor and whirred it until it was all blended, and I put some more salt and garam masala and chili powder and lemon juice in, heated it up again, and that is what I served. 

It was actually really good. Very hearty, lots of flavor. Just . . . not really saag paneer.

The good(?) news is, I have a whole other block of paneer, and lots of leftover saag paneer with paneer blended up in it, so if I wanted to, I could make ultra paneer saag paneer! If I wanted to. Or I could just draw a veil over this whole episode and have my husband take me out for Chinese. 

Hey, the naan turned out great. It was tender and pleasant to eat. I made 32 pieces, which is kind of a miracle, considering I was frying it one piece at a time at the end of the day at the end of the week while having a mental breakdown over the fucking paneer. 

So, for the naan, I used this King Arthur recipe, which is nice and simple. It takes about an hour to rise, and then you just cut it up, let it rest, roll the pieces out, and fry them in a hot pan. I used the standing mixer to knead the dough and it turned out a little stickier than it was supposed to, so I used lots of flour when rolling the pieces out. I found it was helpful to keep a wet dishtowel by the stove to wipe out the burnt flour the accumulated in the the pan, in between frying. I tried both an iron frying pan, as the recipe called for, and a T-Fal double wall stainless steel frying pan, and didn’t notice any difference. 

This is a picture of last time I made naan. I have a new picture of the new naan, but I lost my phone. I can hear it dinging somewhere in my bed, but I can’t find it. 

And now we are all caught up. If you have any tips about cooking, please keep them to yourself, as my brain has completely smoothened over and is not accepting new information at this time, thank you. 

Suppli (or Arancini)

Breaded, deep fried balls of risotto with a center of melted mozzarella. 
Make the risotto first and leave time to refrigerate the suppli before deep frying. 

Ingredients

  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 8 + 8 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 4 cups raw rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

To make suppli out of the risotto:

  • risotto
  • 1 beaten egg FOR EACH CUP OF RISOTTO
  • bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs
  • plenty of oil for frying
  • mozzarella in one-inch cubes (I use about a pound of cheese per 24 suppli)

Instructions

  1. Makes enough risotto for 24+ suppli the size of goose eggs.


    Set chicken stock to simmer in a pot.

    In a large pan, melt 8 Tbs. of the butter, and cook onions slowly until soft but not brown.

    Stir in raw rice and cook 7-8 minutes or more, stirring, until the grains glisten and are opaque.

    Pour in the wine and boil until wine is absorbed.

    Add 4 cups of simmering stock and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the liquid is almost absorbed.

    Add 4 more cups of stock and cook until absorbed.

    If the rice is not tender by this point, keep adding cups of stock until it is tender. You really want the rice to expand and become creamy.

    When rice is done, gently stir in the other 8 Tbs of butter and the grated cheese with a fork.

  2. This risotto is wonderful to eat on its own, but if you want to make suppli out of it, read on!

  3. TO MAKE THE SUPPLI:

    Beat the eggs and gently mix them into the risotto.


    Scoop up about 1/4 cup risotto mixture. Press a cube of mozzarella. Top with another 1/4 cup scoop of risotto. Roll and form an egg shape with your hands.


    Roll and coat each risotto ball in bread crumbs and lay in pan to refrigerate. 


    Chill for at least an hour to make the balls hold together when you fry them.


    Put enough oil in pan to submerge the suppli. Heat slowly until it's bubbling nicely, but not so hot that it's smoking. It's the right temperature when little bubbles form on a wooden spoon submerged in the oil. 


    Preheat the oven if you are making a large batch, and put a paper-lined pan in the oven.


    Carefully lower suppli into the oil. Don't crowd them! Just do a few at a time. Let them fry for a few minutes and gently dislodge them from the bottom. Turn once if necessary. They should be golden brown all over. 


    Carefully remove the suppli from the oil with a slotted spoon and eat immediately, or keep them warm in the oven. 

 

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.

 

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. 

 

Sesame broccoli

Ingredients

  • broccoli spears
  • sesame seeds
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat broiler to high.

    Toss broccoli spears with sesame oil. 

    Spread in shallow pan. Drizzle with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds

    Broil for six minutes or longer, until broccoli is slightly charred. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 281: Wellness with yogurt sauce

Another week, another vow to write more, another week in which I did not write more. It’s just that I only have a very few things to say, and those things are paralyzingly overwhelming, that’s all. Good thing there’s food! Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Tacos, corn chips

Just regular tacos. Actually slightly irregular, because it was a pre-packaged seasoning kind of day, but all they had was fajita seasoning. They were fine.

I had cilantro and jarred salsa verde with mine, and they were fine, mild little tacos.

SUNDAY
Spaghetti with Marcella Hazan’s sauce, sausages, garlic bread

Damien made dinner again. Yummy.

I skipped the sausage either because I was virtuously counting and limiting calories and decided to forego sausage, or because I had already consumed a monstrous number of calories that day and didn’t deserve sausage, I forget which. I’ve been alternating all week, sometimes within the same day. Follow me for more wellness tip. Wellness bellness mellness shchmellness tips.

Anyhoo, this is the voice of your conscience telling you to try Marcella Hazan’s amazing three-ingredient red sauce already.

Jump to Recipe

Don’t get cute and start adding basil or anchovies or anything. Just do the recipe and be amazed.

MONDAY
Cuban sandwiches

Slowly working my way through meals that people have been begging for. Cuban sandwiches are supposed to be made on Cuban bread, which is made with lard. I just went with sourdough bread because these are gigantic, unwieldy sandwiches, and sourdough holds up well. 

The essential ingredients are: Pork, ham, pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard, and it’s grilled in butter. There are all kinds of scrumptious ways to prepare the pork, but I was in a hurry, so I just chunked a boneless loin in a pan in the oven with some cider vinegar and salt and pepper, covered it with tin foil, and cooked it at 325 for 40 minutes or so. 

Then, after I sliced it up and put it on the sandwich, I sprinkled each piece with cumin, oregano, and garlic powder, and more salt and pepper before frying. Kind of a backasswards way to do it, but sometimes I have to prep dinner in bits and pieces throughout the day, so that’s how it went. 

I made sure there was cheese on both sides of the sandwich, to glue it together, and used plenty of butter to grill it. And my dears, this is one tasty sandwich. 

TUESDAY
Chicken caesar salad

Another hurry-hurry day. Damien roasted the chicken. I shredded some fresh parmesan and made some croutons from stale hamburger buns, and then somewhat burned them, which was sad. Just bottled dressing. An okayish meal, but everyone was hungry, so that helped.

I do have a kickass recipe for caesar salad dressing, if you feel like making it from scratch, and you don’t care about doing it “the” “right” “way.”

Jump to Recipe

It tastes good to me, and a few teaspoons will wake your face head up. Last summer, I made it with local raw duck eggs and it was insane. 

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas ala leftovers

We had lots of taco/fajita meat left from taco/fajita night, plus chicken left from chicken caesar salad night, so I sliced up some cheddar cheese and away we went. I also chopped up some cilantro and opened a jar of jalapeños, and Benny went around taking orders. 

I had chicken, jalapeños, and cilantro in mine.

Nothing to report. I managed not to burn anything. There was one quesadilla that had some cheese that just wouldn’t melt. I fried and fried and fried it, but it just wouldn’t melt. I don’t know what the hell was up with that. I just thought I’d let you know. 

THURSDAY
Chicken shawarma, fried eggplant

For the first time in my life, I made chicken shawarma, and didn’t really feel like eating it. The reason was because I also made some fried eggplant, and could not pry myself away from the pan.

I tweaked the recipe a bit 

Jump to Recipe

so there is more batter coverage, it’s a tad spicier, and I increased both the water and the baking powder. They turned out SO GOOD.

A lovely crisp outside with a little bit of lofty batter inside, and the eggplant is almost creamy, with that thin sharp ribbon of skin, and a little shpronkle of kosher salt that nestles in the nooks and crannies, and then a very subtle spicy aftertaste. 

I ate some shawarma just for propriety’s sake, but I was totally in it for the eggplant. I didn’t even bother with any yogurt sauce (although I made plenty)

Jump to Recipe

I used to add red onions in with the chicken when I marinated it, but they got a little mushy, so I started holding them back until it was time to cook. This time I forgot to put them in, so I sprinkled them over the top of the chicken halfway through cooking it.

I am here to tell you it doesn’t matter. It’s all good. It’s shawarma. 

FRIDAY
Tuna boats and hot pretzels for the kids, supermarket sushi for adults

Gotta have some fun. 

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!

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

Chicken shawarma

Ingredients

  • 8 lbs boned, skinned chicken thighs
  • 4-5 red onions
  • 1.5 cups lemon juice
  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbs, 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 entire head garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add chicken. Put in ziplock bag and let marinate several hours or overnight.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425.

  3. Grease a shallow pan. Take the chicken out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan, and top with the onions (sliced or quartered). Cook for 45 minutes or more. 

  4. Chop up the chicken a bit, if you like, and finish cooking it so it crisps up a bit more.

  5. Serve chicken and onions with pita bread triangles, cucumbers, tomatoes, assorted olives, feta cheese, fresh parsley, pomegranates or grapes, fried eggplant, and yogurt sauce.

 

Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

  • 32 oz full fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • fresh parsley or dill, chopped (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Use for spreading on grilled meats, dipping pita or vegetables, etc. 

 

Fried eggplant

You can salt the eggplant slices many hours ahead of time, even overnight, to dry them before frying.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

veg oil for frying

3 cups flour

  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3+ cups water
  • 1 Tbsp 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, scraping off excess if necessary, 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.

What’s for supper? Vol. 279: We don’t talk about shiitake mushrooms

What a short week, and how unproductive! And how stupidly cold. And stupid in general. We did have a few good meals, though. Here’s what we ate this week: 

SATURDAY
Buffalo chicken salad

Those pesky shupply change issues came for the frozen buffalo chicken, and I couldn’t find any, so I bought some regular chicken. So we had greens with chicken, grape tomatoes, shredded pepper jack cheese, crunchy fried onions (the kind that come in a canister), blue cheese dressing, and then some buffalo sauce on that. 

Tasted great. I think buffalo chicken is too hot anyway. 

SUNDAY
Museum 

Sunday, I took Sophia and some of her friends to the Worcester Art Museum for her birthday. We masked all the way there in the car, and then stopped to grab some lunch, and I looked in the rear view mirror, and they were sharing an ice tea. Two honor students, one straw. ANYWAY, the museum was great. You can check out some of the photos I took here. (They’re not really a representative sample of their excellent collection! I’ve been there many times and didn’t snap pics of their more famous works. If you’re in the area at all, you should go. It’s small enough that you can see absolutely everything in under three hours, but there’s plenty worth seeing, and the descriptive cards are top notch, very informative.)

Afterward, I offered to take them to a restaurant of her choice, and she chose Chili’s. I support this. Chili’s offers reliably B- food with reliably B+ service, and the floors are usually not gritty. I swear I would have taken her somewhere fancier, but it had been a long day and I totally understand her choice. (I had shrimp tacos and they were kind of weird, to be honest. I guess I didn’t read the description and wasn’t expecting them to be absolutely baggy with coleslaw, but that’s what you get.) 

I believe they had some kind of pasta with red sauce, peppers, and sausage at home. 

MONDAY
Pork ribs, garlic mashed potatoes, honey balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts

This was a low-skill, popular meal. The pork ribs were just plenty of salt and pepper, roasted on both sides under the broiler. The mashed potatoes were made with an entire peeled head of garlic boiled and mashed in with the potatoes. And the Brussels sprouts, I trimmed and halved, drizzled with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, lots of honey, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, and a large handful of chopped walnuts, and roasted under the broiler. 

I LOVE roast vegetables with nuts. This is how kings eat their vegetables. Real kings, not stupid kings. 

I wish I had let everything cook a tiny bit longer, but we were all so hungry. It’s been so cold, and all I want to do is eat. 

TUESDAY
Bugogi dubap (garlic soy beef on rice) 

A much-anticipated meal. Strips of garlicky, gingery beef, with onions, scallions, and mushrooms served over rice. Somewhat sweeter than many similar recipes I’ve tried. Not like a sweet and sour dish, but just a little fruity. 

I slightly adapted the recipe from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha. It turned out very well, although next time I will put less of the marinade in with the meat when I cook it. It was just too pulpy, and I would have liked a little more of a sear on the meat.

The marinade includes kiwi, which is what provides the acid to tenderize the meat, and wow, it works well. It was . . . there isn’t really a synonym for “tender” that works well for meat, so I guess we’ll stick with that. (When my little brother was about 5, he couldn’t remember the word for “chicken tender,” so he told the waitress he wanted “chicken softies.” So you see what I mean.) 

It’s served, as I said, over rice with scallions and sesame seeds. Tons of flavor, nice and bright, with loads of garlic and fresh ginger. 

Next time I will not bother paying for shiitake mushrooms. I’m sure some people can taste the difference, but I sure can’t. I can taste the difference when they’re raw, but not when they’re cooked! (Not to mention that the first batch of mushrooms I bought got moldy, so I had to run out and buy more, and I was late picking the kids up from Dungeons and Dragons, so I decided to go to the co-op for my replacement shiitake mushrooms, rather than the supermarket, and . . . you know what, we’ll just let a shiver pass through our system one last time and then quietly turn the page in the ledger and not think about that part of the food budget anymore.)

The recipe in the book calls for soju, a dry Korean rice liquor, but it doesn’t mention what to do with it. Presumably you throw it into the marinade, but possibly you’re supposed to deglaze the pan with it. In any case, I didn’t have any. I was planning to substitute vodka, but I forgot. So now you know as much as I do. Possibly it would have cut the sweetness slightly. 

Verdict: Definitely making this recipe again, with cheaper mushrooms, less marinade and more room and heat in the pan. Loved the garlic and ginger and kiwi, loved how simple it was, adored how tender it made the beef.  A very good way to treat a cheap cut of beef. 

WEDNESDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Nothing to report, other than that the burgers turned out long, for some reason. This is what passes for entertainment around here.

THURSDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, tater tots

Not true muffaletta sandwiches, no doubt. You’re supposed to have a specific kind of bread, specific meats and cheeses, and a particular blend of olives. We had all the deli meats I felt like paying for (some ham, a few kinds of salami, a little bit of capicola and a little bit of prosciutto) and a delightful salad made of things that fell out of my cupboard into my food processor.

I think I used three cans of black olives, two skinny jars of green olives, maybe six little pepproncini, half a jar of capers, some olive oil, and a little wine vinegar. I would have put some giardiniera salad in there, but I couldn’t find it. Our refrigerator is a travesty. Parsley would have been good, but we had none. 

This picture makes me laugh because the sandwich appears to be eating itself. Monch monch.

We ate very early because Sophia had an art show. They made it fancy, with a little jazz band, and the whiter the kids were, the harder the adults in the audience bopped their heads, as if they could will rhythm into existence with their necks. The good will in a room full of parents listening to their teenagers playing jazz solos will save the world. 

I thought Sophia’s self portrait was pretty good!

Although as you can see, in real life she doesn’t actually have a mouth or nose, so she had to use her imagination. Strange times. 

While we were gone, Clara whipped up a Bruno and Rat cake, as one does. 

I still haven’t seen Encanto, but this seems like a good cake to me. 

Best rat cookies I’ve seen in quite some time. 

I’m not sure what these are for.

Some kind of interactive element? I guess we will find out when the kids come home from school today. 

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

I didn’t even buy any cheese. I can feel how much cheese there is in this house. By the end of the day, God willing, there will be less. 

In conclusion, I just noticed I have tagged this post both “olive salad” and “olives salid,” and I guess that’s fine. 

Bulgogi dupap (soy garlic beef)

A Korean dish of tender strips of sweet and savory garlicky beef, served over rice. Adapted from Cook Korean! by Robin Ha

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs beef chuck, sliced as thinly as you can
  • 3 onions (divided)
  • 1-1/2 heads garlic (20 cloves or more)
  • 3 inches fresh ginger
  • 2 kiwis
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sesame oil (divided)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch scallions, divided
  • 12 oz mushrooms

cooked rice

sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine 1.5 of the onions, the garlic, the ginger, the kiwis, the soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of the sesame oil, and the sugar and pepper. Combine until blended. Marinate the sliced beef in this for at least three hours.

  2. Cut the mushrooms and the remaining 1.5 onions into thin slices. Cut most of the scallion (green parts) into three-inch pieces. Save out a few and slice thinly for a garnish.

  3. Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet and sauté the beef until it's just slightly browned, then add the onions, scallions, and mushrooms and continue cooking until the meat is fully cooked. You may have to cook in batches to avoid crowding the pan.

  4. Serve meat and vegetables over cooked rice. Top with scallion garnish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

What’s for supper? Vol. 274: In which we all need a nap

Hey! My apologies for being absent this week. I was working on some other writing projects and then also unexpectedly got ambushed by my dining room. We didn’t end up having any guests for Thanksgiving, so I didn’t end up doing a thorough “HOLY CRAP, PEOPLE WILL FIND OUT HOW WE LIVE” cleaning of the house before Thanksgiving. But apparently the late November cleaning frenzy is baked into my system, so I ended up doing it more or less involuntarily on Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving anyway, and I couldn’t stop thinking about that can of ceiling paint I had bought, and you know how this story goes. I’ve been wanting to redo the floor, which is horrendous, but there’s no sense in doing the floor when you know the walls need painting, and what kind of lunatic would paint the walls when the ceiling is in such a state. So I painted the ceiling, and then while I had the Killz out, I just touched up the trim a little bit, and that made everything else look so dingy, I went out and bought more paint, and now my dining room is Glidden Sunbeam instead of Behr Sea Glass.

And my ceiling is Extremely White instead of Spaghetti Sauce. The floor is Still Horrendous. But it’s a small room and reasonably level, so I’m seriously eyeing some peel-and-stick tiles, for a treat. Of course once you have fresh ceiling and walls, you can’t just put everything back the way it was, so I put up so many hooks and shelves, and I threw out so many moldy backpacks, and I have a whole new theory of mitten storage, and there’s a shelf for plants that doesn’t collapse and dump soil on your head whenever you touch it, and there’s a white board with magnetic markers on the door so people can put down their schedule, and there’s a spot for mail that isn’t the table

But I never did a Thanksgiving food post. So I’ll do a separate post for the dining room. (I know some of you don’t care at all about my dining room, but some of you care very much indeed. I know this.)

Okay, here’s what we ate last week! It was all easy peasy food while I prepped for Thanksgiving, except for one meal, which was Albert Burneko’s sausage bean soup with escarole from Defector. I followed the recipe (or “recipe”) slavishly, except I couldn’t find any escarole, so I used a bunch of mixed greens. This soup was truly delightful to make. Wonderfully pungent and colorful every step of the way.

I think I’ll make it again when I can find some escarole, though, because the greens didn’t quite pull their weight, either with flavor or texture. 

Olive oil, big hunks of loose hot sausage, onions, garlic, pickled peppers and their brine, wine, greens, and cannellini beans. The final soup was incredibly hearty and warming, with a pleasantly sharp and slightly bitter tang in the broth. I served it with freshly-shredded parmesan cheese.

The kids, it goes without saying, did not appreciate it, which is why I made a bunch of buttery garlic knots out of pizza dough. 

And now for the Thanksgiving food! We ended up with mulled cider, cranberry orange muffins, cranberry sauce, parkerhouse rolls, garlic mashed potatoes, spanakopita, and two roast tequila turkeys, one with regular vegetable stuffing and one with sausage oyster stuffing, and gravy. Dessert was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, and apple pie with whipped cream or ice cream. All the recipes for all of these dishes are gathered here.

Corrie helped me make the cranberry muffins, and boy did she talk a lot.

In the background you can see the dozens of gingerbread cookies Clara made to be sold at the tree lighting ceremony to raise money for the D.C. trip we kind of forgot two of the kids will be going on. Damien took the kids out in the dark and the rain while I . . . made myself useful in some way, I’m sure. 

The muffins turned out flat and faintly sticky like they always do, and I guess I just like them that way, because I don’t feel motivated to fix it or seek out another recipe. 

The spanikopita were fab. 

Turkeys were gorgeous and the sausage oyster stuffing was to die for. 

The parkerhouse rolls were an abject failure. I haven’t made them in years and I screwed them up in at least three distinct ways. People ended up gouging out the insides and extracting a few bites of edible bread-like substance from them. 

The pies were a big hit. Well, except for the pecan pie. It tasted great — it’s a nice recipe, and is more muted and less screamingly treacly than many — but I had carefully cut out leaves and branches and arranged a lovely pecan tree, and it quietly sank into the custard and disappeared during baking. Oh well!

The other pies were more successful. Here are the pumpkin pies, with a readymade graham cracker crust and decorations made of standard pie crust dusted with powdered sugar:

I guess I was subconsciously thinking “stars and stripes,” I don’t know

and I was highly pleased with my two apple pies. I did a checkerboard one with butterflies and a fringe

and a basket weave one with leaves and other doodads:

I brushed them both with an egg white wash and sprinkled them with sugar before baking, and this is how they came out:

and

Me gusto. These were baking while we ate dinner, and when they came out of the oven, I felt much better about the parkerhouse rolls. 

Okay, on to this week! Not very many adventurous meals, but some pretty plating, anyway. 

Saturday was burgers, which Damien cooked. 

Right before I went shopping, a giant shelf tipped over and dumped all its contents all over the room, smashing glass, dumping flower vases, and scattering boxes of beads and crafts and miscellaneous junk. Damien graciously shooed me out the door and dealt with the chaos, but I think that may have been what triggered my renovation frenzy. That and Thanksgiving, plus the ongoing seasonal outerwear changeover, and . . . I don’t know, everything. More covid testing. The threat of school going remote again. Fundraising. The footprints, yes footprints, on the ceiling. Somebody Do Something. These kinds of things work out so much better when you have an understanding husband who is willing to cook dinner while you decide the solution is to make everything yellow instead of blue on the same week that we’re also doing Chanukah and the Advent wreath and the Jesse tree.  

SUNDAY
Mexican beef bowls

Also made by Damien. He swears he just followed my recipe, but they were insanely delicious. Possibly it was “someone else made dinner” effect, but he’s a very good cook. It is a good recipe, too, a lovely, zippy marinade that makes the beef very tender.

Jump to Recipe

He marinated the meat in the morning, then roasted it in the evening and sliced it, then served it with its gravy over rice with a bunch of fixings: sautéed sweet peppers, chopped cilantro, shredded cheddar, corn, sour cream, and corn chips, and some wonderful black beans. Wonderful beans, I say! 

Gosh, I love this meal.

I cannot tell you how delicious that meat is. 

MONDAY
Harvest Salad with Turkey and acorn squash

I had, like the rest of the country, a lot of leftover turkey. So I cut it up and served it over salad greens, along with a bunch of other autumnal toppings: Sliced almonds, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and dried sugared dates. I also put out feta and sunflower seeds, and I meant to cut up some green apples and red onions, but I forgot. It was pretty good. 

I roasted up a couple of acorn squashes, correcting guessing that no more than four people would want their own squash half for dinner, despite how ravishingly beautiful they are.

I cut them in half, scooped out the seeds, plunked in a blob of butter and brown sugar, and roasted it at about 400 for about 45 minutes or longer. Could have used a schpronkle of sea salt. You can mash and scoop your own little tender squashy cup right on your plate. I could easily see putting a scoop of ice cream in there, and some pralines, and serving this as a dessert. I threw some almonds and dates in there, and it was very cozy. 

TUESDAY
Pulled pork on potato buns, coleslaw, tater tots

The pulled pork turned out fantastic, and, according to tradition, I didn’t write down how I made it. I think it was a can of Sierra Nevada beer, some leftover onion, some pepproncini and brine, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and . . . maybe that’s it? In the slow cooker all day. 

It was bright and spicy and delicious. I had mine with some bottled Baby Ray or Baby Somebody sauce, and more pepproncini, because it’s cold out. 

The coleslaw was actually a little bland, but the picture was pretty, so here you go:

I made it with mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, and pepper. Couldn’t find the celery seed.

WEDNESDAY
Quesadillas and chips

 Nothing to report, except that I splurged on silly fancy red and green tortilla chips. They honestly taste a little weird, and I probably won’t do that again. 

I also sprinkled cilantro all over my quesadilla, and then it turned out to be parsley. Why did we even have parsley in the house? It was fine, just not quite the olé experience my mouth was prepared for. I drowned my sorrows in sour cream. 

THURSDAY
Spaghetti and meatballs

I guess I didn’t even take a picture. These were honestly the world’s blandest meatballs. I had put all my creative powers into rearranging the pictures on the dining room wall, and formulating new and compelling reasons why the kids should put their backpacks on the backpack hooks which I have installed for them, or at very least, please please refrain from flinging spaghetti at the freshly-painted ceiling. After dinner I fell asleep and it was like sinking into a narrow grave. Just down, down, down, and it was so black and still. In a good way! In the best way. You know the nap grave. It is good.

FRIDAY
Shrimp ramen, I guess? 

I know there is shrimp in the freezer, and all I have to do is defrost it and peel it and sauté it, and cook up some ramen, and assemble a variety of vegetables and crunchy noodles and sauces and sprouts, and then boil some eggs for the top.

Maybe . . .  I will just make scrambled eggs.

I will close with a photo of Benny offering cookies to the family. Maybe she needs a nap, too. 

 

Beef marinade for fajita bowls

enough for 6-7 lbs of beef

Ingredients

  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 head garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together.

  2. Pour over beef, sliced or unsliced, and marinate several hours. If the meat is sliced, pan fry. If not, cook in a 350 oven, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. I cook the meat in all the marinade and then use the excess as gravy.

What’s for supper? Vol. 267: The ramens of the day

Cozy foods this week! Brussels sprouts! Some fish sauce comparison! Amusing tricks with lemon! The rediscovery of fennel! And more. Come see what we ate. 

Despite my excitement, I didn’t get around to using my new foley mill last week, for applesauce or anything else. We do go to an apple orchard; we did not pick apples from our own tree yet. I did buy a second single-use appliance, though: One of those cast iron apple slicer and peelers that clamps onto the counter and does everything with a crank. Pretty ingenious. 

The kids like to put apple slices on their ham and cheese sandwiches, so this will probably get regular use, beyond just the production of tasty, tasty apple peels

We are really slipping as a family, though. In the past, we would have been knee deep in denuded onions, potatoes, and baseballs,  with little peels of doll heads all over the floor. Now we’re just, “tee hee, I can peel all the apples I want.” We’re slipping.

SATURDAY
Hot dogs and chips

An extremely drivey day that started out with a Saturday morning alarm and two loads of cars through the drive-thru flu shot clinic, and kept going like that. Benny had a pal over, Damien cooked hot dogs on the grill, and we had a campfire and roasted marshmallows. I did buy a skeleton. We haven’t settled on a ludicrous display for the year, but we now have two fully posable skeletons. 

SUNDAY
Salad with chicken, feta, walnuts, cranberries

Sunday was the day we chose to go apple picking. We’ve gotten pretty good at planning day trips. Damien cooked the chicken after Mass, and we had the kids make their Monday lunches and do their evening chores in the afternoon, so when we got home late and full of apples and smelling faintly of goat poo, all we had to do was eat the prepped food and slither into bed. Truly, the greatest organizational hack of all, though, is to not have a baby or a toddler. Nothing beats it. Also, let people go apple picking in their pajamas if they want. 

I myself wore a sweater and leggings, which are pajamas. As I mentioned, we are slipping. (If you care to see our apple picking photos, they are here.)

The dinner we prepped was salad with roast chicken, toasted walnuts (toast on a pan in the oven for a few minutes or, even easier, in the microwave for a few minutes), feta cheese, and dried cranberries. I had mine with wine vinegar. 

Decent and filling. I feel like there was some kind of bread component, but maybe I’m confused.

MONDAY
Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, roast honey balsamic Brussels sprouts with walnuts

My big secret with meatloaf is only to make it a few times a year, so it doesn’t become an emotional burden. The other thing I struggle with, with meatloaf, is the desire to get cute with it. I want to make adorable little meat muffins, and I know nobody wants that, even though I feel like deep down they would enjoy it. 

Or I start pulling out my silicone pans

or I start felling sculptural, and we end up with meat horrors

Or, not pictured, giant meat boobies. It’s just . . . you give me big hunks of raw material, and I want to create. Anyway, this time I just made three big loaves, that’s it. That’s what kind of month it’s been. Here. Here’s yer meat. 

It’s a serviceable recipe, though, as long as you don’t underseason it.

Jump to Recipe

I use red wine and Worcestershire sauce inside and ketchup outside, and it has a pretty good savor. It would make good leftover sandwiches, but that doesn’t fit into my current calorie arrangement, so the leftovers are just hulking in the fridge, awaiting their doom. And who isn’t. 

We also had ten pounds of mashed potatoes, which I meant to make as garlic parmesan mashed potatoes

Jump to Recipe

but I just plain forgot, so they were just plain with milk and butter and salt

and I also forgot how dang long it takes potatoes to cook, so we had supper pretty late.

I also had four pounds of Brussels sprouts, first of the season. They turned out swell, with very little effort. I stemmed and halved them, spread them in a pan, and drizzled them with olive oil and honey, and some balsamic vinegar, pepper and kosher salt, and then – aha! – tossed in a few handfuls of chopped walnuts, and roasted it under the broiler. 

I don’t know why I have two photos of this, but here you are. 

To think that I spent most of my life not knowing about roasted vegetables. You throw a few nuts in there, and it’s almost a meal in itself. Thank you, Aldi, for cheap nuts. 

TUESDAY
Banh mi, pineapple

I have, in the past few years, tried banh mi from various places, and mine is the best. It just is. I recommend mine. I’ve also tried making my same recipe with various meats, and it always tastes the same as very cheap pork, because the sauce is just that powerful. 

Jump to Recipe

I use a lightly toasted baguette with plenty of plain mayo. I put out sriracha mayo for anyone who wants it, but for me, there are enough other spicy elements. Pork, sweet pickled carrots, plain cucumbers, plenty of cilantro, a few jalapeños, and that’s it. It’s just the best sandwich going. 

Here’s the recipe for pickled carrots, which I may fiddle with. It’s a bit sweet.

Jump to Recipe

I served pineapple on the side because I got confused. It was supposed to be for Wednesday, but I had already started cutting it up, so it was too late. 

I also used a different kind of fish sauce in the sauce this time, and it was just as savory and salty and weird, but the smell wasn’t eye-watering. I mean, my eyes were a little concerned, but they weren’t absolutely streaming. Fish sauce is made by mixing anchovies with salt and then I guess letting it sit in giant fermentation vats for several months, and then collecting the runoff, or something? I haven’t looked into this deeply. Anyway, I’m drinking more. 

Now you know everything I know. The less stinky sauce was considerably cheaper, too. 

WEDNESDAY
Pork ramen

I cleverly timed this so we would have leftover vaguely Asian sandwich fixings from Tuesday to top the ramen on Wednesday. Oh, I’ve got a few tricks up my sl– ope, nope, sorry, that’s a carrot. Damn shredded carrots got everywhere. I’m not joking, it was terrible. 

So we just had a big pot of ramen, and I cooked up some boneless pork ribs in sesame oil and sloshed on a little soy sauce toward the end

and sliced them up. I considered messing around with some garlic and brown sugar, but then I remembered how lazy I am.

Also set out soft boiled eggs, cucumbers and carrots from the previous day, some nori, pea shoots, crunchy noodles, sesame seeds, and all the various sauces I could find that seemed like they came from the right hemisphere. 

I do like this meal, and it’s so easy and cheap. I think the most expensive part was the nori.

Top view. Dive in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY
Ina Garten’s roast chicken with carrots and fennel

Damien was in charge of Thursday’s meal, and he went for this spectacular roast chicken and vegetable dish. The chickens are stuffed with garlic, lemon, and thyme, and wow, can you taste it. It’s so juicy and absolutely packed with flavor, not to mention hilarious to look at. 

Hello, lemons! The chickens get roasted on a bed of vegetables, and I think Damien made a separate platter of just vegetables so there would be plenty. I always forget about fennel in between having this dish, and it’s so good. It’s like all the best parts of onion and cabbage, but it takes up other flavors very nicely. People describe fennel as having a licorice-like taste, and I guess it does, but I don’t like licorice (or anise), and I like fennel a lot. It’s just sort of fancy and peasant-y at the same time, sort of elegant and cozy, juicy and crunchy. I don’t know. Don’t even get me started about the carrots. 

This is a very fine meal, very cheering on a gloomy, rainy day. We served it with plenty of baguettes and soft butter to sop up the lovely lemony juices. 

Look at that beautiful fennel, so elegant, so cozy.

FRIDAY
Grilled cheese

Finally Friday. Kind of a draggy week. Just a lot of covid tests and . . . I don’t have to tell you, the same nonsense everyone is dealing with. Everything is medium terrible and I feel medium guilty for not managing it better. Whatever. We live to grill another day. My stupid hip is still endlessly healing up from ??mysterious non injury maybe arthritis?? so I’m on day 2 of a yoga program. It’s this one, which is on Amazon Prime, if you’re interested. It’s not too woo woo, and she’s pretty good at explaining what you’re actually supposed to be doing with your parts. Then at the end she’s like “and now we will pray to honor the body” and I’m like “sorry toots, gotta shower and get to adoration” and I boop it off. 

 

Meatloaf (actually two giant meatloaves)

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground beef
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 cups breadcrumbs
  • 3/4 cup milk OR red wine
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder or fresh garlic, onion powder, fresh parsley, etc.

  • ketchup for the top
  • 2 onions diced and fried (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450

  2. Mix all meat, eggs, milk, breadcrumbs, and seasonings together with your hands until well blended.

  3. Form meat into two oblong loaves on pan with drainage

  4. Squirt ketchup all over the outside of the loaves and spread to cover with spatula. Don't pretend you're too good for this. It's delicious. 

  5. Bake for an hour or so, until meat is cooked all the way through. Slice and serve. 

 

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.

Pork banh mi

Ingredients

  • 5-6 lbs Pork loin
  • 1 cup fish sauce
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2 head garlic, minced or crushed
  • 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 kosher salt

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. 258: There’s always enough food. What if there’s not enough food?

I have an overwhelming desire to talk about cheese! Who’s with me?

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Pizza

I took myself by the scruff of the neck and bought a mere four balls of pizza dough, with which to make a paltry four pizzas for our diminished little miniature family of eleven. We just can’t eat six pizzas anymore. There’s so much left over, it’s ridiculous. We are ridiculous with food. 

We had one olive pizza, one pepperoni, one cheese, and one with red and yellow peppers, salami and pepperoni, and fresh mozzarella. Made me want more salami, red pepper, and fresh mozzarella in my life. I would eat that on a sandwich, wouldn’t you?

SUNDAY
July 4th cookout!

We didn’t get to have this party last year because of covid. Cancelling it was especially hard, not just because it’s much-anticipated annual family reunion, but because it was supposed to be the party in lieu of a wake for my dad, which we also couldn’t have because of covid. So, this year, we did it! Almost all my siblings were there, many of their children, and also a dear friend from college that I haven’t seen in something like ten years. It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

Plenty of food, great weather, tons of sparklers and kind of a lot of fireworks, and poppers and glow sticks and tiki torches, temporary patriotic tattoos, candy, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and everything. 

The only thing approaching a disappointment was that my brother’s dog didn’t like our dog. Our dog was too dumb to realize this, though, so he, at least, was spared the disappointment. I did make frozen ham balls for both of them (you put ham and various dog treats in a bowl or bag of water and freeze it, and licking it it keeps them entertained and cool at outdoor events), but that wasn’t enough to forge a friendship over. 

We do a basic American cookout food, no fancy tricks with fish sauce or shallots or bechamel anything. Hamburgers, hot dogs, brats and sausages, veggie burgers and dogs, and smoked chicken thighs. Damien also made some clams in white wine and lemon juice just for fun, and we had pasta salad, and potato salad, veggies and hummus, chips and dip, and watermelon, and more store brand soda than you could shake a stick at (oh yes, there was Dr. Perky and Mountain Lion), and cheap domestic beer, and dark and stormies. For dessert, we had ice cream cups, chocolate and vanilla pudding cups, and red and blue jello cups with whipped cream. U.S.A!. U.S.A! It was a good, good party. Nobody even got burned or drowned.

I think we ended up with about 4o people. Damien got a bird’s eye view with his drone. You can see the kids lining up to get their sparklers lit.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0245.JPG

I didn’t get a lot of food photos. The potato salad was potatoes, mayo with cider vinegar and sugar, fresh dill, celery, and salt and pepper. The pasta salad was farfalle, fresh basil and parsley, red onions, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, black olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper and oregano, and fresh parmesan. 

MONDAY
Leftover chicken, hot dogs, and brats, and salads

So, maybe we made too much food. Plenty of leftovers.

Oops, I forgot to share the smoked chicken recipe. Here:
Jump to Recipe

TUESDAY
Leftover burgers, chips

Yep, still plenty of leftovers. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken caprese sandwiches, watermelon

Hoping to avoid an insurrection, we threw out the rest of the leftovers and had chicken sandwiches with provolone, tomato, and basil on ciabatta rolls.

There was some leftover watermelon, but I craftily cut it into chunks, rather than serving slices.  They weren’t fooled, though, and I had to eat most of it myself. 

THURSDAY
Steak and blueberry salad with lemon feta crisps; cherry pie

Something completely different. Steak was on sale, so Damien made a sugar-salt rub, grilled them and sliced them, and I served the meat on salad greens with blueberries. 

I wanted to try making cheese crisps, which I have heard are very easy. Well, they were easy, but I would not call them crisp in any way. Cheese disks, I guess. Cheese blips. 

It was probably the type of cheese I used. I crumbled some feta cheese and mixed in some shredded mozzarella and the zest of a few lemons, put the mixture in little piles on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper, and baked for 6-7 minutes. I tried 375 and 400, but they really just came out chewy, even after they cooled on a rack for a few hours. The flavor was excellent, though, and really perfect to go with the steak and blueberries. Next time I will try just parmesan and see how that goes. 

We had some guests and I was a tiny bit concerned there wasn’t enough food (even thought there is always always always enough food. There is always too much food), so I decided to make some cherry pies. I was planning a lattice crust, which I usually manage without any trouble, but I was rattled due to trying to make a lattice crust while simultaneously getting embroiled in one of the wildest goose chases I’ve been in in years, involving Facebook marketplace and some wooden pallets, heavy rain, an allegedly disgruntled ex-tenant (not mine), a security camera, LOTS of screenshots, at least two people taking photos of each other’s license plates, and the police force in two different towns; and the kids were playing Dungeons and Dragons very loudly the whole time, which is not to say this was their fault, but it definitely did not help. I may possibly write it up at some point, but the short version is I never did get my pallets. We saw a nice turkey family on the way there, though, and some pretty fawns on the way home. I never got any pie. 

And look! I have a video of Benny showing us how to pit cherries with nothing but a bottle and a chopstick (and a cherry). This must be about a year old, because it’s shortly after Benny’s haircut, but before I painted the kitchen yellow. And it’s cherry season.  

Anyway, I ended up making one pie with a sort of twisted spiral crust

and one rather tacky flower one.

Did I mention I never got any pie? Too embroiled. I hope there is some leftover. (Of course there is some leftover. THERE’S [waves arms like deranged orchestra conductor] ALWAYS ENOUGH FOOD AND THERE’S ALWAYS SOME FOOD LEFT OVER.)

FRIDAY
Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce and pasta, garlic bread

Marcella Hazan to the rescue. 

Jump to Recipe

It’s still raining. I believe we’re having another dinner guest. What if there’s not enough food? Maybe I should run out and get more food. I would hate to not have enough food. 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups brown sugar
  • .5 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 20 chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together. Rub all over chicken and let marinate until the sugar melts a bit. 

  2. Light the fire, and let it burn down to coals. Shove the coals over to one side and lay the chicken on the grill. Lower the lid and let the chicken smoke for an hour or two until they are fully cooked. 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherry pie filling for TWO pies

Keyword cherries, cherry pie, desserts, fruit desserts, pie

Ingredients

  • 7 cups cherries pitted
  • 2-2/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Instructions

To pit cherries:

  1. Pull the stem off the cherry and place it, stem-side down, in a bottle with a narrow neck, like a beer bottle. Drive the blunt end of a chopstick down through the cherry, forcing the pit out into the bottle.

To make the filling:

  1. Mix together the pitted cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl and let it sit for ten minutes or so until they get juicy. 

  2. Stir the almond extract into the cherry mixture and heat in a heavy pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, for several minutes. Stir in the butter.

  3. Let the mixture cool a bit, then pour into pie shells. 

Recipe Notes

This would also be fine over ice cream. 

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. 255: I’m in the zarn

I was kind of blah about writing this post today, but as I went through my photos, and gosh, we had some pretty good food this week. We had several meals where leftovers were successfully rolled into the next meal, which is always gratifying. Is it weird that I’m enjoying this food all over again by writing about it? That’s okay.  

SATURDAY
Burgers and chips

Nothing to report, but tasty.

Cooked outside, eaten outside, and you can see I haven’t killed my mother’s day flowers yet. 

SUNDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, coleslaw

I don’t remember what I put in the slow cooker with the pork. I think some ginger ale and misc spices. I was planning to serve it with bottled sauce, so it really just needed to shred, not taste like anything in particular. I had mine with Carolina-style sauce, red onions, and jalapeños, and it hit the spot. The sweet, citrus-y sauce was great with the sharp onion and spicy jalapeño.

Cole slaw was real simple, just cabbage and carrots with a dressing of mayo, cider vinegar, a little sugar, and pepper. I use half a cabbage and just throw the rest away, which feels terrible, but it’s just bowing to the inevitable. Yes, I know I can compost it. I won’t, though.

MONDAY
Chicken caesar salad with fresh duck egg dressing

I mentioned how much I like duck eggs last week. Well, my friend Roberta brought over some more, and I made some VERY POWERFUL caesar salad dressing with them. Duck egg yolks, fresh garlic, kosher salt, fresh lemon juice, a little mustard, and tons of freshly-grated parmesan, anchovies, and vegetable oil. 

I accidentally bought anchovies wrapped up around capers, but it didn’t seem like the time to be cowardly, so I threw them all in there, along with the fish oil. You are supposed to mix together most of the dressing ingredients and then slowly drip the egg yolk in one drop at a time, but life is short. I just put everything in the food processor. 

Jump to Recipe

I swear, if you put a fuse in this thing, you could blow up a city block.

I roasted up the chicken breasts with some basic seasonings and served it with Romaine lettuce, the dressing, some more shredded parmesan, and something called parmesan crisps, which I guess is fried cheese? They’re pretty good, but they put, like, eight in a bag. I know I’m giving my kids food issues when I say “okay, everybody gets four,” but that’s how it worked out. 

Anyway, the salad was delicious.

Big hit. There was way too much dressing, and I ended up throwing away the extra, because I’m brave enough to eat raw duck egg yolk, but not for more than 48 hours. 

TUESDAY
Roast beef, chimichurri, garlic knots, raw veg, etc.

Now this was a lovely meal. I suddenly remembered about chimichurri, which made me think of roast beef, which made me think of garlic knots, and then it just went from there. 

We ended up with those three elements, plus raw broccoli, raw sugar snap peas, some lovely cheddar left over from Opera Nite, and some crackers, and some feta, and some beautiful dry salami, and of course some last-chance duck egg caesar salad dressing. Everyone loved this meal. I have no idea who ended up with what, but there was something for everyone. 

I made the roast beef by giving it a heavy coating of kosher salt, pepper, and onion powder, and sloshing some red wine over it and cooking it uncovered for maybe 40 minutes in a 375 oven. It came out lovely and rare and juicy. 

The garlic knots were from frozen pizza dough. Chop into 12 pieces, roll into snakes, knot and pinch, and top with butter and garlic salt, and bake at 350 for 11 minutes or so. You can also bake these first and then roll them in melted butter, and maybe some parmesan, but I prefer this less-greasy type.

Oh, the other thing is that my food processor broke. The little tab that activates the motor snapped off, and there is no workaround that didn’t sound like an electric shock to me. So I tried making chimichurri in the blender, which only reminded me that I hate all blenders and think they should be illegal. In my madness, I then tried making chimichurri in the standing mixer with the whisk attachment. I knew it was stupid, but I just had to try. (Do not try this.) So finally I just put it in a bowl and chopped away for a very long time like a peasant. Of course it worked fine. Chopping works.

(I did have some regrets about being the kind of person who doesn’t bother to cut the stems off parsley, though. You can get away with that if you use a food processor! Anyway, my friend Tina is very graciously sending me her extra Cuisinart, and I’m SUPER EXCITED. Oh, the things I will process!

Anyway, if you don’t have chimichurri in your circulation, you really should. It goes on all kinds of foods and makes them taste like a summer day.

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The recipe is very adaptable to what kind of herbs you have and how spicy you like it. 

WEDNESDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, pasta salad, leftover broccoli

Damien made the sandwiches. He not only puts mayo outside the sandwiches before frying them in butter, he puts mayo on the inside of the bread, for purposes of having more mayo. Did I mention he’s lost 65 pounds this year? He should write a book.

The pasta salad was nice. I used farfalle, and just threw in the rest of the chimichurri, plus some leftover salami and red onions and feta, and some sun dried tomatoes, and some sea salt. 

It really could have used a little brightening up with wine vinegar, but I was too lazy to open a bottle. 

THURSDAY
Chicken drumsticks, risotto, salad

Bit of a crazy day. I was super distracted, and I have no idea what I did, but the Instant Pot kept beeping and burning and not cooperating, and I kept accidentally eating leftover pasta salad even though it was almost supper time.  The risotto ended up quite creamy and delicious, but I had no idea what I would find when I finally opened the lid. (It’s a good recipe, I was just in another zarn.*)

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The drumsticks were uninspired, just salt and pepper and olive oil, roasted on a tray with drainage until they were done. Hey, hot food!

This picture makes me laugh. I couldn’t figure out how to position a lone drumstick so it didn’t look like it was pointing at something. 

FRIDAY
Tuna noodle

At the kids’ request. (For those not in the know, this is a casserole of canned tuna mixed with cream of mushroom soup and egg noodles, topped with crushed corn flakes and potato chips, served with a dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise. If you know, you know.)

I forgot this is the feast day, though: Sacred Heart. I feel like it would be contrary to the spirit of the day by serving meat that happened to be all the meat we have leftover in the fridge, but on the other hand, meat. It’s a struggle. What are you all having? 

*This is a family joke I just remembered. There was some song that went, “It’s so hard to love you / when you’re in another’s arms” and some kid misheard it as “in another zarn,” which they took to mean “not here.” So whenever we saw someone spacing out or mentally absent, that became “in another zarn.” But I think I can truthfully say I was mostly in the zarn this week!

caesar salad dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 anchovy fillets, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about two large lemons' worth)
  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 4 raw egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Just mix it all together, you coward.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

 

Instant Pot Risotto

Almost as good as stovetop risotto, and ten billion times easier. Makes about eight cups. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground sage
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cups rice, raw
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • pepper
  • 1.5 cups grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn IP on sautee, add oil, and sautee the onion, garlic, salt, and sage until onions are soft.

  2. Add rice and butter and cook for five minutes or more, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly opaque and butter is melted.

  3. Press "cancel," add the broth and wine, and stir.

  4. Close the top, close valve, set to high pressure for 9 minutes.

  5. Release the pressure and carefully stir in the parmesan cheese and pepper. Add salt if necessary. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 250: Flandemic!!1!

Look, it’s Vol. 250! A few months ago, when I noticed this milestone was coming, I decided to do something really special. Then I forgot about it and just kept on cooking stuff. So here we are. 

Today’s post does include two vidyas: One of me thumping the side of my very first flan, to see if it ripples in waves, or wobbles as one; and one of me attempting to turn said flan out of the pan. Stay for the flan drama, which includes schlorping!

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Smoked ribs and brats; spicy Asian coleslaw

Damien got a new smoker to replace the one that was essentially a rusty garbage can. He christened it with these wonderful smoked ribs, while several of the kids and I went to explore Madame Sherri’s castle and forest. There is a short loop trail and a longer loop trail, so we chose the short one, hiked half of it, somehow looped into the long one, did the entire thing, rejoined the first one, and finished that. I think. There was a mountain involved. In my defense, I am stupid.

Anyway, we did get back home eventually, and there were these magnificent ribs waiting for us: 

He made three racks of ribs, and also smoked a bunch of beer brats, too. We had leftover spicy Asian coleslaw from last week , so that rounded out the meal. 

Absolutely delicious. I’ll put the recipe card at the end. 

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SUNDAY
Hot dogs, fries

Nothing to report. I don’t even remember what we were doing on Sunday. Something strenuous, no doubt. 

MONDAY
Caprese chicken burgers, broccoli and dip

Elevate that chicken burger! Plenty of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, kaiser rolls, and tomatoes and basil. 

I forgot to get cheese, but nobody noticed. 

TUESDAY
Salad with chicken, strawberries, feta, and walnuts

Here I would like to pause and congratulate myself for serving all the meals this week in the correct order. I had tomatoes, basil, strawberries, and (as you will see) avocados and mangoes, and we ate everything when it was ripe.  I’m just patting myself on my back for this achievement. And it’s easy, too, ever since I grew this third Pfizer arm. *pat pat*

Anyway, broiled chicken breast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; strawberries, feta cheese, red onions, and toasted walnuts. Toasted by putting them in the microwave for a few minutes. 

Oh, and croutons. We had no end of leftover hot dog buns in the house, which make great croutons. Tons of butter, pepper, garlic salt, and oregano in a 300 oven for maybe half an hour. 

WEDNESDAY
Tacos, guacamole and chips, flan with mangoes, palomas

Just regular old tacos, to everyone’s relief. And some guacamole made with a sight tactical error: I used canned tomatoes because the two tomatoes I had set aside the other day vanished down someone’s gullet. I know canned tomatoes are no good, but I did it anyway. I don’t know why. 

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Anyway, the big deal was that I wanted to make flan for the first time. I adore flan. I adore custards of any kind. I had heard that flan is rather fiddly to make, but I wanted to at least try. 

Guys, it was really easy. This recipe has five ingredients, and the hardest part is how boring it is to stir the sugar when you’re melting it for the topping. So basically you have to stir it forever over a medium heat, so it melts into a lovely caramel: 

Then you pour it into your dish (I couldn’t rustle up enough ramekins, so I made one big flan) and let it spread over the bottom and a bit of the sides. 

(It hardens like candy at this point; but after it sits for several hours with a custard on top of it, it loosens up into sauce again.)

Then you whisk together the rest of the ingredients — eggs, condensed milk, evaporated milk, more sugar, and vanilla — and blend them well, and pour them into the pan on top of the caramel. Then you bake it, covered, for a long time in a water bath (which just means inside a bigger pan that’s full of hot water. This steams the custard and helps keep it cooking at an even temp throughout). 

You do want your eggs to be room temperature so they meld nicely into the custard. Here’s a tip I didn’t know until this week! You can take cold eggs and put them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes, and guess what? They warm up! If they’re not warm enough, do it again. How about that? 

So here it is in its bath:

The hussy!

It took considerably longer than expected to cook — almost 2 hours. You will know when it’s done when it wobbles as one, rather than rippling, when you bump it, like so:

 

 

Then you cool it, chill it in the fridge, and then you run a knife along the edge to loosen it, and flip it upside down, and that’s how you get that gorgeous caramel sauce gracing the top. For some reason I thought this, too, was worth documenting on video, so here I am, schlorping it out of the pan:

 

 

And here it is! Lovely, lovely caramel flan, shining like the setting sun. 

It has a bunch of air bubbles along the outer edge, which apparently is a point against it, but it didn’t bother me!

I had a bunch of mangos, so I scattered those over the slices of flan. 

Truthfully, it was fully sweet enough and didn’t need the mango. Next time I will try maybe toasted coconut, or toasted pecans maybe. Or nothing. It was so good on its own. Silky smooth, creamy, mellow, buttery, warm, rich. Just perfect. 

Damien also made a new-to-us drink: Palomas. It’s tequila with grapefruit soda, and salt on the rim. 

It was pretty good. Not as good as the fact that the grapefruit soda is called “Squirt.” 

THURSDAY
Puntas de filete

Something new. It’s basically — well, pieces of meat in a sauce, served over rice or noodles (fideos). That doesn’t narrow it down much, but the kids liked it, and I thought it was tasty enough. The version I made is very mild. 

I browned up some beef chunks in oil, then took the meat out, melted a bunch of butter in the same pot, and cooked up some diced onion, then minced garlic and serrano pepper, then added in beef stock, crushed tomato, bay leaves, and salt. Put the meat back in, heated it through, and that was it. 

Here’s the recipe I used, from an actual paper book called The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

If you’ve got all your ingredients prepped, it comes together very quickly. I served it with cilantro, on rice cooked in chicken broth, which the kids like so much, I’m starting to think they’re making fun of me in some way.

If you’ve made this dish, tell me your favorite variations! I definitely want to make it again, but with a little more flavor in the sauce. 

FRIDAY
Sugar rub chicken thighs, brats, Fasier cake

Today is Moe’s 19th birthday, so Damien fired up the smoker again, and we’re having sugar rub chicken thighs, which everybody loves, and I guess a Frasier cake. Clara’s been slaving over it for about 48 hours and I’m almost afraid to look. I sure do have weird kids, but they make cakes for each other, so that’s nice. 

For the chicken thighs, Damien uses the same sugar rub that he used for the pork ribs (or I guess it’s never quite the same, but it’s the same basic idea), so if you want to do this recipe (WHICH I RECOMMEND), just do the sugar rub part. 

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Oh, one more thing: We’ve been using white pepper a lot, because, I don’t know, we lost our regular pepper. White pepper is really interesting. It’s not necessarily more spicy than black pepper in itself, but it adds a kind of fizzing spark to other things and enhances their spiciness, somehow. I like it! But you have to not get carried away. 

And them’s the facts!

sugar smoked ribs

the proportions are flexible here. You can adjust the sugar rub to make it more or less spicy or sweet. Just pile tons of everything on and give it puh-lenty of time to smoke.

Ingredients

  • rack pork ribs
  • yellow mustard
  • Coke
  • extra brown sugar

For the sugar rub:

  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp white pepper

Instructions

  1. Coat the ribs in yellow mustard and cover them with sugar rub mixture

  2. Smoke at 225 for 3 hours

  3. Take ribs out, make a sort of envelope of tin foil and pour Coke and brown sugar over them. close up the envelope.

  4. Return ribs to smoker and cook another 2 hours.

  5. Remove tinfoil and smoke another 45-min.

  6. Finish on grill to give it a char.