Happy Friday? I meant to put an exclamation mark, but I’ll let it stand. Up until yesterday, I kept seeing memes about how awful and long and exhausting January is, and I kept thinking everyone is being silly, and this is just a normal month; and then today I realized I’ve been feeling that way for four months, and all four of those months have been January. Bah. Boo. But at least it must be almost over, anyway.
Anyway, some of that January futilitism crept into my cooking this week, and despite making as much as my second-best efforts, everything turned out . . . basically tolerable. Oh well. I also wrote 40% of several essays and they all suck.
However, I did do a really neat interview with an artist yesterday, someone you may not know about, but should. So there’s something to look forward to! There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just bidding farewell and good riddance to the week.
Here’s what we had, and it was all FINE:
Grilled ham and cheese, chips, chicken barley soup
We had lots of leftover soup from last week, so I reheated that and then burned every single grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Some of it was because I forgot to spread mayo on the outside of both sides of the sandwich, and some of them, I just burned for fun.
I did get a few people who hadn’t done so before to try squeezing lemon juice over their bowl of soup, and they agreed it was very tasty that way. Here’s the soup recipe. Definitely worth making. Still plenty of winter left.
s t i l l p l e n t y o f w i n t e r
Gochujang bulgoki, coconut stringbeans, pineapple; kalakand
On Sunday, it just happened to work out that all my kids could come for dinner! So I was planning a big Indian meal, with vindaloo, coconut string beans, tomato yogurt salad, naan, rice, and dessert. But I did the thing I will apparently never ever ever stop doing, and I just skimmed the recipe, and discovered too late that you’re supposed to marinate the meat for at least eight hours. Soooo did some quick menu switches, and ended up with a half-Korean, half-Indian menu. I had little warning bells going off in my head that this was not a good idea, and I was right! Bah.
The food was . . . fine. I made gochujang bulgoki with thinly sliced pork, matchstick carrots, and plenty of onionJump to Recipe
because that does need to marinate, but it can be just a few hours. I had much less gochujang (the actual fermented hot pepper paste) than I thought, though,
and it just didn’t hit the mark. Also I severely crowded the pan, so the meat was more braised than pan fried. It was tender, but just bland and slightly watery.
I decided to forge ahead with the string bean recipe I was originally planning to make, because they are Aldi string beans and you use ’em or lose ’em. But she called for cooking the string beans for twenty minutes, which is insane. It’s one thing if you want string beans cooked to a mush, which might work out for certain recipes, but she specified not to overcook, so they don’t lose their crunch. Insane!
I have since discovered that string beans in India are a different variety, and they are tougher, and do need a lot more cooking. So I did just cook them for a few minutes, and then added them to the mustard seeds heated till “spluttering” in hot oil (I love how many Indian recipes use the word “spluttering,” and I wonder if there is some cognate in some Indian language.
Anyway, the result was . . . fine.
Maybe I would have enjoyed them more if they had accompanied a dish with seasoning that made more sense along with the mustard seed, coconut, and jalapeno, but watery gochujang was not it. Boo.
I made a big pot of rice and cut up a bunch of lettuce and also put out the last of the seaweed sheets from New Year’s Eve, and I did have fun making the little grabby bundles of seaweed, bulgoki, and rice
I do like some bundled food.
Oh, it looks like we also had pineapple, which, again, was fine, but just . . . not quite the thing.
There was enough food, anyway, so that was a relief, and everybody had a good time and I heard uproarious laughter coming from the dining room, so that was lovely. I was a little bummed about the meal, though, and then suddenly realized wait! I had made dessert!
The dessert was something called kalakand, which is a sort of sweet milk cake which you make with paneer, but not THAT kind of paneer; you are supposed to make your own paneer, which is soft set. OR, you can use ricotta cheese. It so happened I had a bunch of ricotta left over from birthday calzones, which is why I decided to make this recipe.
It does say you will need to stir it longer if you use ricotta, and Swasthi was not kidding about that. It says “ten minutes,” and it took me at least forty minutes of stirring.
Corrie had a friend over, and it was just as well I had to park myself in the kitchen and stir, because I could keep an eye on them, rather than ducking and covering, which is what my animal instinct tells me to do when these two get together. So I stirred that mofo forever and eventually decided that it was as thick as it was ever gonna get, and put it into a lined pan and pressed slivered almonds into the top.
I let it chill in the fridge for several hours, and then brought it out after dinner with lots of caveats about how uncertain I was about the whole thing.
People liked it, I think? I don’t think it came out right. It certainly wasn’t cake-like in any way. It helped that nobody had any idea what it was supposed to taste like. I suggested “Cheesecake Play-Doh,” and that got the most votes.
In conclusion, I kept forgetting what it was called, and when I was searching for the recipe today (because I keep dozens of tabs open, but not the ones that I know I will need on Friday), I turned up this:
I don’t know what this song is about, and if it’s offensive, you have only your polyglotismo to blame.
Regular tacos with pico de gallo
Monday was a day off, and I thought we all needed something a little more normal, so I just made regular tacos. Actually I sneaked a pound of ground sausage into the three pounds of ground beef, because it somehow worked out to be cheaper that way, and nobody noticed.
I had the tomatoes I was planning to make into yogurt salad, so I made a bowl of pico de gallo with them. I was super tired and didn’t feel like chopping, so I just threw tomatoes, onions, and cilantro into the food processor, and then added some olive oil, salt, and some lemon juice, because I ran out of limes.
It was fine. Everything is fine.
One-pan kielbasa, red potato, Brussels sprouts; challah
The kids have been agitating for kielbasa, so I made this one-pan mealJump to Recipe
(well, two pans of it), except I used Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage, and rather than serving the sauce along with the meal, I cooked the food for 20 minutes, then added in the sauce, switched the pans and finished cooking it for another 12 minutes or so.
It was super cold out, and I kept thinking about fresh, hot bread, and I had some work to avoid, so I made challah.Jump to Recipe
I made a double recipe, which is what I usually do, but usually I make one batch in the standing mixer and one batch by hand. It’s not dumb if it works! But for some reason I decided to make a double batch all in one bowl, with the very predictable result that it spurted jets and fountains of flour all over the kitchen.
Then I put the bowl to rise on top of the coffee maker, which is the warmest spot in the house right now, and then I completely forgot about it. So it rose plenty.
Oops. I wisely decided I was in no mental state to make another attempt at a four-strand braid, which I try from time to time, and it always makes me cry. I just divided the dough monster in half and then cut each one into four balls, then rolled out three and made a big braid, and cut the remaining ball of each batch into thirds and made it into a smaller braid to lay on top. I let them rise again, brushed them with egg wash, and then baked them.
They turned out pretty!
I made them with duck eggs, including a duck egg for the egg wash on top. You will never find an eggier egg than duck eggs.
I couldn’t find the poppy seeds, so as you can see, I used sesame seeds on one. Which made me think of this quick little bit from You Don’t Have To Be Jewish:
If I didn’t clip it right, the whole album is here, and the bit in question starts at about 20:17.
Anyway, it was an okay-to-pretty good supper. The bread was a tiny bit underdone, so it was a little damp in the middle, but just a tiny bit; and even though I switched the meat and potato pans, one got a lot crisper than the other. But it was fine.
Fine, I tell you!
Wednesday I didn’t even feel like messing around one tiny bit, so I just made three pizzas, one cheese, one black olive, and one pepperoni. I took a picture so I would remember what we had
A perfectly fine pizza, with pre-shredded cheese that doesn’t taste like anything, and I couldn’t find the garlic powder or the block of parmesan. It was so cold in the kitchen that the dough didn’t 100% defrost, so the crust was a little bit CLAGGY. But I managed to stick to my meal plan for once, so it tasted pretty great anyway.
Glazed ham, baked potato, mysteriously spicy mashed squash
On Thursday morning, I remembered that we still had leftover coconut string beans in the refrigerator, so I put them out for the ducks, who were incredibly rude about it.
Possibly angry at me for making their children into challah, but I don’t think so. We have to run and get the eggs in the morning before these dopes step on them and crush them.
On Thursday morning, driving the kids to school, I turned on the classical music station and tried to guess the nationality and era of the piece that came on. I guessed German, 1820. And guess what! It turned out to be Karl Maria von Weber, written in 1815! I felt SO SMART. Then the dog turned on the hazard lights and I couldn’t figure out how to turn them off, so I had to pull into a parking lot and watch a short YouTube video.
If you are wondering, the hazard light button is the giant, centrally located button with the big “HAZARD” symbol prominently displayed in red, which is why I couldn’t find it. Probably my Instant Pot gasket is in the glove box, where I put it while not reading all the way through the vindaloo recipe and buying the wrong kind of beans.
Anyway, Thursday was the day we were supposed to have the bulgoki, but I had already used the meat, and I had Corrie with me at the store when I was shopping for a replacement; and if you take Corrie to the store with you, you’re going to come out with ham.
So I got a big spiral-cut ham with a glaze packet on sale, and she pushed really hard for peas and mashed potatoes, but nobody felt like peeling potatoes, and I felt like I had to assert some kind of authority, so we had baked potatoes and mashed squash.
I usually cook the squash in the Instant Pot to save room in the oven,Jump to Recipe
but when I was dealing the challah flour explosion, I also decided to thoroughly clean the IP top and had hidden the gasket from myself, so I shoved things around and just cooked the ham, baked potatoes, and squash all at 400, which is not the right temperature for any of them. My motto is, if we can’t all be happy, then we’ll satisfy justice by all being miserable.
I sprinkled some baking soda and sea salt on top of the squash before roasting it, and it came out perfectly nice
and then I grabbed some butter and some spices that were handy: Cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, and scooped out the flesh and started adding lots and lots of cinn– ope, actually that was cayenne pepper. Wuite a lot of it. Corrie advised me to cover my mistake by also adding lots and lots of cinnamon, so that is what I did. I skipped the sugar because you really don’t need it with a decent squash. Some nutmeg would have been nice, but it didn’t seem like the time to rummage through little tippy bottles, so I just mashed that mofo and set it out. It was actually pretty good! Spicy! For some reason.
Mac and cheese
Just mac and cheese. I’m sure it will be fine.
When I insisted on making squash instead of peas, I told Corrie that I only recently started liking squash. In fact, the very first time I had mashed squash was in the hospital, right after giving birth to her, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life. And from then on, I’ve had a thing for butternut squash. So it was really her fault. The rest of the kids then turned on Corrie in anger like Joseph’s brothers, because she was the cause of their cruel, heartless mother sometimes making mashed squash for dinner and not making anyone eat it or anything. I am truly a monster! Next time I’ll feed them all to the ducks. Then we’ll see who gets mashed.
Gochujang bulgoki (spicy Korean pork)
- 1.5 pound boneless pork, sliced thin
- 4 carrots in matchsticks or shreds
- 1 onion sliced thin
- 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
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.
One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato dinner with mustard sauce
This meal has all the fun and salt of a wiener cookout, but it's a tiny bit fancier, and you can legit eat it in the winter.
- 3-4 lbs kielbasa
- 3-4 lbs red potatoes
- 1-2 medium cabbages
- (optional) parsley for garnish
- salt and pepper and olive oil
mustard sauce (sorry, I make this different each time):
- red wine if you like
- a little olive oil
- salt and pepper
- fresh garlic, crushed
Preheat the oven to 400.
Whisk together the mustard dressing ingredients and set aside. Chop parsley (optional).
Cut the kielbasa into thick coins and the potatoes into thick coins or small wedges. Mix them up with olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread them in a shallow pan.
Cut the cabbage into "steaks." Push the kielbasa and potatoes aside to make room to lay the cabbage down. Brush the cabbage with more olive oil and sprinkle with more salt and pepper. It should be a single layer of food, and not too crowded, so it will brown well.
Roast for 20 minutes, then turn the food as well as you can and roast for another 15 minutes.
Serve hot with dressing and parsley for a garnish.
Challah (braided bread)
- 1.5 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
- 2 eggs
- 6-8 cups flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1.5 tsp yeast
- 2 egg yolks for egg wash
- poppy seeds or "everything bagel" topping (optional)
- corn meal (or flour) for pan, to keep loaf from sticking
In a small bowl, dissolve a bit of the sugar into the water, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir gently, and let sit for five minutes or more, until it foams.
In the bowl of standing mixer, put the flour (starting with six cups), salt, remaining sugar, oil, and eggs, mix slightly, then add the yeast liquid. Mix with dough hook until the dough doesn't stick to the sides of the bowl, adding flour as needed. It's good if it has a slightly scaly appearance on the outside.
(If you're kneading by hand, knead until it feels soft and giving. It will take quite a lot of kneading!)
Put the dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour, until it's double in size.
Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle it with flour or corn meal. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll three into "snakes" and make a large braid, pinching the ends to keep them together. Divide the fourth piece into three and make a smaller braid, and lay this over the larger braid. Lay the braided loaf on the pan.
Cover again and let rise again for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 350.
Before baking, make an egg wash out of egg yolks and a little water. Brush the egg wash all over the loaf, and sprinkle with poppy seeds or "everything" topping.
Bake 25 minutes or more until the loaf is a deep golden color.
Instant Pot Mashed Acorn Squash
- 1 acorn quashes
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Cut the acorn squashes in half. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt on the cut surfaces.
Put 1/2 a cup of water in the Instant Pot, fit the rack in it, and stack the squash on top. Close the lid, close the valve, and cook on high pressure for 24 minutes. Do quick release.
When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop it out into a bowl, mash it, and add the rest of the ingredients.