What’s for supper? Vol. 301: I speak for the food

Friday again! With so little warning, too. 

With food prices so high, I’m making a big push to shop the sales, to think about what food we already have in the house, and to plan the menu pretty strictly around that. So we ended up with some slightly peculiar meals, and a few really spectacular days. I think I ended up saving a little bit of money. You’d think it would be easy to tell, but somehow it’s not. 

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Damien cooked the burgers while the kids swam in the pool. I didn’t get any food pics, but I did catch this quintessential big brother-little sister moment

SUNDAY
Pizza at Hillsborough HOP

Sunday we went the Polar Caves in Rumney, NH, which we’ve been talking about doing for years. I haven’t been since I was seven, and to my delight, they are really, really caves. You clamber down into these holes in the ground, and you’re absolutely surrounded by rock, some of it dripping wet, and you have to clamber back up out of another hole. One cave had ice in it! It’s very exciting. You can feel the cold breath of the earth coming up at you as you get close, so you know right away it’s going to be a weird experience. 

Having recently done a tiny amount of wood working, I was also vastly impressed by the catwalks, staircases, balconies, and other wooden pathways built directly onto the side of the mountain, in and around the rock. Of course I got zero photos, but the work is beautiful and ingenious. At the same time, they just made it accessible, and no more, and didn’t turn the caves into rides. The kids all had a good time and said it was worth a two-hour drive each way. 

They also have a small animal park with deer and waterfowl, and a little playground and games like cornhole so you can stretch your legs and wait your turn. The cave tours are timed for two hours. There is also a clean, pleasant picnic area, and the bathrooms are also clean. Overall, highly recommended!

We stopped for pizza on the way home at Hillsborough House of Pizza. Tasty food, cheerful service. (We saw they have a drive-thru pizza window, which is fun.) My choice was a Greek pizza with spinach, feta, olives, and tomatoes. Quite tasty. 

MONDAY
Muffaletta sandwiches, deviled eggs, fruit salad

This sandwich has strayed pretty far afield from authenticity, but it (a) was easy to make on the day after a big trip,  (b) was yummy, and (c) used up some of the Tremendous Cheese Hoard that’s clogging up my fridge. 

I made the olive salad in the food processor with green and black olives, a few pepperoncini, some banana peppers, some scoops of red hot pepper relish, I think maybe some pesto, some olive oil and wine vinegar, and misc. Oh, and a handful of fresh parsley from something or other.

We had a few kinds of salami, some ham, and I think there was also some deli turkey, which is definitely not muffaletta-approved. And we had it on kaiser rolls. 

I don’t know if people have different recipes for deviled eggs. Mine is pretty basic: About 2 parts mayo to one part mustard, a little salt and pepper, and some paprika on top (and some more parsley).

You can see that I got a little carried away with the presentation for a Monday afternoon, but frankly I had a lot of bullshit in my head that needed clearing away, and working on deviled eggs for a while is as good a way as any to do a little mental tidying-up. 

I also made a lovely mid-July fruit salad. Watermelon, blueberries, blackberries, and peaches. The blackberries in the yard are still green, but these juicy monsters were on sale. I forgot how much it adds to a fruit salad to have peaches in it! Must get more peaches in life in general. 

Altogether, a very pleasant summery meal, which I ate outside next to a patch of milkweed, Queen Anne’s Lace, and black eyed susans. Very July.

A hummingbird stopped by and acted like a little weirdo before zipping off. A seaplane passed over the yard. Very July indeed.

TUESDAY
Maiale al latte with leeks and bread

Pork shoulder was 99 cents a pound, so I got the biggest, fattiest one I could find and away we went. This recipe is from my new favorite site, Sip and Feast. Maiale (say “my-ALL-lay”) al latte just means “pork with milk,” and the thing to know is that the milk is supposed to curdle as it cooks. You end up with these scrumptious, savory curds in the sauce that honestly do not look especially deluxe, but they are delicioso, and you do not want to skip over them when you scoop up the sauce.

This meal was lots of fun to make. And I think I have discovered a General Principle: The worse a dish looks, the more pictures I will take, in an effort to capture and convey how yummy it is. This is because I am a friend of food. I want you to like it. I am the XXXX.* I speak for the food. 

You start off browning the seasoned pork all over in olive oil on the stovetop

and then you take the meat out and add in some wonderfully fragrant ingredients: Butter, lots of rough-cut garlic, thick peels off a lemon, lots of sage (sadly I couldn’t find leaves, so I used ground sage), bay leaves, and chili flakes. Cook that up, add some white wine,

cook it down some more, and add in plenty of milk, and then the pork goes back in.

you cover it, and it goes into the oven for a few hours. That’s pretty much it.

Hello! Look at the little curds clinging to it. 

You can add some leeks into the sauce and cook them up right at the end, to serve with the meat. And that is what we did, and we also warmed up some baguettes to sop up that toothsome sauce.

Gosh, the sauce was wonderful. You can imagine how fortifying and rich it tasted, with those ingredients. I did up hot pepper flakes and garlic quite a bit from the suggested amount, and so it was on the spicy side, but really just mostly just savory and cozy. And I did go back for seconds of just sauce and curds. 

I ended up cooking the meat a little longer than I meant to, because I had to run out and pick up a kid who wasn’t needed at the yogurt shop after all because they were predicting hail, so the meat came out of the oven shreddy, rather than sliceable. Look how it fell apart.

Nobody complained! But next time I will take it out a little sooner. 

Now let’s talk about leeks. I have never cooked with leeks before, that I can remember, so I had to look up how to prepare them. They are large and a little intimidating, like oversized scallions.

They grow right in the soil, so they need some pretty aggressive cleaning. This site suggested cutting off the root and tough green ends, slitting them up the side, dunking them in water, and then agitating them, so I filled a pot with water, plunged the leeks in, and shouted, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN THERE DAY AND NIGHT? WHY DON’T YOU GET OUT OF THERE AND GIVE SOMEONE ELSE A CHANCE?”

This is why I’m so popular!

But just about everybody in the family liked this meal. Several of them also carefully mentioned that it would be an especially delicious meal if it were, for instance, cold out, and not, for instance, 84 degrees and humid; and I had to agree. The weather report said it was going to rain! And hail! Oh well. It was still a wonderful dish, and I’ll make it again soon, when the price of pork and the temperature drop. And I do like leeks, even if they are bathroom hogs. 

WEDNESDAY
Meatball subs, watermelon

Ground beef still on sale from July 4th, I guess. Nobody complains about my meatball subs. I put plenty of Worcestershire sauce into the meatballs, which is an easy way to make sure they don’t come out bland.

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25 minutes or so on a broiler rack on a pan in a very hot oven, and then I moved them to the crock pot with some sauce for the rest of the day. 

And finally, the final half of the final watermelon I bought and forgot to serve on July 4th has been consumed, amen. 

THURSDAY
Gochujang smoked chicken thighs, Asian cucumber salad, grilled sweet potatoes, pineapple

My friends, this was a queen among meals. I could not have been more pleased about how all of it came together. 

The chicken and the sweet potatoes are new recipes for us. We’ve made gochujang pork a number of times, but chicken thighs were on sale and Damien was willing to cook outside, so this from My Korean Kitchen sounded good. Same website I got my bo ssam recipe from

I started the meat marinating the night before (and had a tiny adventure when I blindly grabbed for ginger in the basket where I keep ginger, and AUGH)

Initially, I marveled at the cleverness of whoever put little Wicket or Weechee in there, artfully matching its brown and furry trunk-like legs with the bulbous limbs of the ginger root as a devilish little prank for some unsuspecting cook; but I quickly realized they actually put it in there because it is a basket, and if I leave a basket out, people will stuff random things in it.

The marinade was pretty dramatic in itself.

It has Sprite in it, which apparently makes an appearance in a lot of Korean recipes. I started to hunt around for some background on this topic, just so everyone gets their money’s worth, and was right on the verge of clicking on a story called “Korean cold noodles for gay men,” and then I thought, you know,,,not right now.

The recipe calls for chicken filets, but I bought bone-in thighs and just pulled the skins off. I also bought a few drumsticks because What If There’s Not Enough Food? And so wages the eternal battle between the thrifty mom who wants to save money and the anxious mom who wants to stuff everyone’s face.

Well, they were fantastic. Fiery spicy, but with a good layering of flavors, and wonderfully juicy. Really perfect. Here’s my plate:

We prepared the sweet potatoes very simply, and I really liked how they turned out. I just cut raw sweet potatoes in thick slices (I tried to cut them the long way, to get the largest pieces possible), brushed both sides with olive oil, and sprinkled both sides with sea salt and pepper. They were medium-small sized potatoes and I got about five slices per potato. 

Then Damien grilled them along with the chicken, about 3-4 minutes per side, until they were soft all the way through. 

They made a really nice change from our usual Asian side dishes of rice or coleslaw. Very popular with me. 

I cut up a couple of pineapples, and I made a cool little quasi-Asian cucumber salad. (I also cut up some cucumbers plain for the babies.) This is a great little salad.

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It takes about five minutes and it’s got so much flavor, and always strikes me as rather sophisticated. 

Cucumbers, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, red onion, sesame seeds, and a little kosher salt. Sweet, slightly tangy, and refreshing, and also pretty. You do want to eat it the same day, because it’s best when the cucumbers are still fresh and crunchy. 

FRIDAY
Salmon burgers

I discovered that you can buy one bag of chopped-up frozen breaded pollock-or-whatever patties, and that won’t be enough for the family, or you can buy two bags, and it will be way too much and you’ll feel terrible throwing out all that wadded-up uneaten fish, OR, for the same amount of money as too much pollock, you can buy just the right amount of frozen salmon portions. So what the heck, I’m not made of stone, and I was tired of standing there with my head in the Aldi refrigerator thinking about it. I got the salmon, and some burger buns and tartar sauce.

I will probably just pan fry the fish in butter and squeeze some lemon juice on top and call it good. Yeah, it was a good week!

*For this joke, I consulted the rhyming dictionary to find a funny substitute for “Lorax,” and the best one I could come up with was “Withholding Tax,” which is not very, you know, what do you know about Korean cold noodles for gay men? Because maybe it’s time. 

Meatballs for a crowd

Make about 100 golf ball-sized meatballs. 

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs ground meat (I like to use mostly beef with some ground chicken or turkey or pork)
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 8 oz grated parmesan cheese (about 2 cups)
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, basil, etc.

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400.

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

  3. Form meatballs and put them in a single layer on a pan with drainage. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or more until they're cooked all the way through.

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

 

 

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. 

 

spicy cucumber salad

A spicy, zippy side dish that you can make very quickly. 

Ingredients

  • 3-4 cucumbers, sliced thin (peeling not necessary)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 1+ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Optional:

red pepper, diced

  • 1/2 red onion diced

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Serve immediately, or chill to serve later (but the longer you leave it, the softer the cukes will get)

What’s for supper? Vol. 300: We eat in the shade

For months, I’ve been watching the approach of What’s for Supper? Vol. 300 and wondering what spectacular thing I would do to mark the occasion. It turns out vol. 300 hit on a week where I was insanely busy and did almost no cooking, I wrote up a long post complaining about all the home renovations we did instead, and the whole thing was so whiny and boring, I couldn’t bear to publish it.

So here we are at actual vol. 300, and guess what? I’m VERY EXCITED ABOUT THIS NEW COLD SICILIAN FRIED SWEET AND SOUR ZUCCHINI DISH. So it all worked out! I wish it were a Spartan zucchini dish, but it is still very good. 

There were be no further 300 jokes. That’s all I got, unless I think of another one. 

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken tenders maybe? 

We were, as I mentioned, coming off a long week of very intense home renovations, some planned, some thrust upon us. I think we also had cold broccoli.

SUNDAY
July 3 cookout!

Sunday was our lovely annual Independence Day/family reunion cookout, somewhat smaller than some years, but still a wonderful day with perfect weather and the very best of company. Here’s the whole album of photos on Facebook, if you care to take a look at all the cousins and hamburgers and sparklers and one very happy puppydog

We kept the menu pretty basic: Hamburgers and hot dogs, veggie burgers and tofu dogs, and smoked chicken thighs with a sugar rub

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I decided life would be better for everybody (me) if we didn’t need forks for anything, so I didn’t make any side dishes at all; I just bought about forty bags of chips. Didn’t even buy corn. My neighbor Millie brought over a banana bread. Clara made patriotic cream puffs

and I made a bunch of red and blue Jell-o cups with Kool Whip on top, and we had little ice cream cups and lots of candy, lots of soda and beer, and dark and stormies (ginger beer, dark rum, lime juice, and ice).

We had sparklers, snappers, glow sticks, googly-eyed glasses, patriotic tattoos, the pool and trampoline, and Damien flew the drone around and the dog just about lost his so-called mind.

Then we read the Declaration of Independence, ate candy, swatted bugs, and set off fireworks. A very good day.

Sharing this one photo out of sheer vanity, because my arms look okay for once.

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cherry hand pies

This seems strange in retrospect, but I guess I felt like making eleven little pies the next day, so that’s what I did. I wasn’t really sure what shape to do, so I made them ridiculous.

I used my very reliable pie crust recipe, with the frozen grated butter and ice water

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and I made a filling with just cherries (Benny used the “narrow-neck bottle and chopstick” system of pitting her half of the cherries, but I prefer the “just rip their little hearts out” method, with is messier but faster), a handful of sugar, a few spoonfuls of cornstarch, and a little salt. I brushed a little egg wash and a sprinkle of sugar over the top and baked them up, and I thought they were just swell.

Tart and juicy with a tender shell.

I actually just had pie for dinner.

No regrets. 

TUESDAY
Nachos, fruit salad

Nothing fancy. Just seasoned beef and cheese on chips, with salsa and sour cream and cilantro on the side, and a fruit salad of watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries.

I bought four watermelons for the cookout and forgot to serve them. I managed to smuggle two of them into my sisters’ cars as they drove away, but I still have two to get through, so that’s been a feature this week. 

Not exactly a hardship. The fruit is all so sweet right now, you can’t imagine. Well, I hope you’re having some fruit yourself, right now, so you don’t have to imagine. 

WEDNESDAY
Bo ssam, rice, garden lettuce, and sweet and sour zucchini and summer squash

Bone-in pork shoulder was 99 cents a pound, so I knew what I had to do. I got this pork, about a 9-pounder, going the night before, with a cup of sugar and a cup of salt rubbed all over it and wrapped up tight with plastic wrap. Then at about noon the next day, I unwrapped it again, put it in a 300 (oh! 300! There you go) oven in a pan heavily lined with tin foil, and that, my friends, is just about the whole entire deal. It’s so easy.

Goes in like this

and comes out six hours later like this

You don’t even need a knife.

There is supposed to be a part at the end where you put brown sugar, cider vinegar, and a little more salt on it and let it finish cooking into a crunchy little savory sugary crust, but half the time I forget to do this part, and nobody notices. The pork I got had a nice fat rind on it, so it already had a wonderful caramelized crust on top. Oh, this roast is just superb. You squint hard at it, and it falls to pieces, that’s how tender it is. 

Now, how about sides? Damien and I admitted to each other that we just don’t like kimchee. We’re not all that crazy about spicy coleslaw, either, which is kimchee for babies. But I wanted something piquant and tart to go along with the dark, salty flavor of the pork. Seemed like the perfect time to try this recipe I’ve been eying: cold fried sweet and sour zucchini, or zucchini agrodolce (literally “soursweet”) from Sip and Feast.

I followed the recipe slavishly (I used three zucchini and two summer squashes), and it turned out so well. I was so skeptical! You fry and salt it,

then make a little sour onion sauce for the vegetables and let it chill,

and serve it cold? Or room temperature? But I cannot stop eating this stuff. It’s sparkling tart, and the vegetables retain a nice crunch.

But it doesn’t have that “every cubic centimeter of this tastes exactly the same” that you get with pickled vegetables, and they didn’t get rubbery at all. I don’t know! I just love it. The recipe was written very clearly and agreeably, too. Looking forward to exploring the site for more recipes. 

So in the morning, I threw the pork in the oven and made the zucchini and put that in the fridge, and then spent the rest of the day going out of my mind because everything smelled so good, but it wasn’t time to eat yet. I guess that’s how the dog feels all day, every day. 

In the evening, I made a big pot of rice and sent Benny out for some lettuce from the garden, and we had a wonderful meal. It all went together so well.

An exceptional summer meal, mostly made ahead of time.

THURSDAY
Korean beef bowl, rice, leftover zucchini, watermelon, leftover broccoli

I’m a little tired of Korean beef bowl, but this time it turned out really tasty with a tiny tweak. I usually fry up the fresh ginger and garlic in sesame oil, then add the beef, then drain off the fat, feeling sad about draining away all the flavor from the ginger and garlic. So this time, I cooked the meat 3/4 of the way, then drained it most of the way, then added the ginger and garlic, then finished cooking the meat.

The flavor was much brighter this way. You can see I also left the ginger and garlic in fairly big pieces. I also upped the amount of red pepper flakes. I’ve updated the recipe card

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and I’m definitely doing it this way from now on! Of course you can still use powdered ginger and/or garlic, rather than fresh.

I served it with rice, sesame seeds and chopped scallions, and of course more watermelon, and leftover zucchini, and some leftover raw broccoli from who knows when. Great little meal that went from a hunk of frozen beef to hot dinner in about 25 minutes.  

It didn’t hurt that, after I got my writing done for the day, I had spent a hour stapling welded wire to the garbage enclosure, and then an hour playing cow-catcher choo choo train with the girls in the pool. If you ever need to work up an appetite, this is a recommended method. 

And I helped myself to some more cold zucchini and squash, and it was even more delicious

It was a little bit of a hassle to fry all that zucchini and squash, but it was totally worth it. I hope you can tell I’m going to keep harassing you about this dish. 

FRIDAY
Pizza

I even remembered to take the dough out of the freezer. I am a golden god. 

 

 

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.

 

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 use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar (or less if you're not crazy about sweetness)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 inches fresh ginger, minced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 lb2 ground beef
  • scallions, chopped, for garnish
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, cook ground beef, breaking it into bits, until the meat is nearly browned. Drain most of the fat and add the fresh ginger and garlic. Continue cooking until the meat is all cooked.

  2. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes the ground beef and stir to combine. Cook a little longer until everything is hot and saucy.

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