What’s for supper? Vol. 189: Suppli! Canolli! French onion soup! Jacques Pepin’s chicken thighs! Parmesan asparagus! and more

Come, come away with me, on a magical food journey withouten any potatoes in it! 

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips, broccoli and dip

I can’t even remember what we were doing on Saturday. Running around, no doubt. 

SUNDAY
Pork ribs, cole slaw, mashed squash

This is my new favorite way to make acorn squash. Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast, scoop, mash with butter, brown sugar or maples syrup, kosher salt, and a little chili pepper. It’s easy enough that I don’t mind making it for the very few people who like it. As I was eating, I asked Damien if he remembered that wonderful squash we had in the hospital after Corrie was born, and he reminded me that he and I have very different experiences of that first post-delivery meal. (He did not remember the squash.) 

I sprinkled the pork with salt and pepper and put them in a roasting pan under the broiler, turning them once. 

The cole slaw was very simple, just shredded cabbage in a dressing of mayo, vinegar, a little sugar, salt, and pepper. 

MONDAY
WELL. LET ME TELL YOU. 

Monday is our annual “I don’t want to talk about it; we just really like Italian food and there aren’t any birthdays in October, so we have some free time” October 11th meal. We had a houseguest this week (my oldest kid’s friend from college), and my son’s girlfriend was here, and so was my father.

Excellent guests, all. I poured a little wine, and away we went!

For antipasto, we had two kinds of salami, fresh mozzarella, provolone, purple olives, giant green olives stuffed with garlic, fresh bread, toasted bread, artichoke hearts, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, breadsticks, pears wrapped in prosciutto.

And something called “pepper drops,” which turned out to be sweet, tender, marinated infant peppers. I didn’t get great pictures, but this is the basic idea, in the middle of my “everything happens here” kitchen:

While they were munching on that, I made the suppli.

Suppli are breaded, deep-fried balls of risotto with mozzarella in the center, and if that doesn’t sound good to you, I just don’t know what to say to you. You can add various things — mushrooms, pancetta, herbs, tomato sauce, etc. — but that is the basic form. 

It’s much easier to make suppli if the risotto is chilled, so I made it the night before. I love my Instant Pot for easy, weekday risotto, but nothing beats creamy, fragrant, labor intensive, stovetop risotto for suppli. I formed them in the morning

and fried them while people were eating the antipasto. I am extremely proud of my suppli, and they turned out so well this year! Next year, though, I’ll let them all warm in the oven for at least five minutes, to make sure all the cheese is melted. 

Then Damien served his course, which this year was pasta and homemade tomato sauce with sausages, and a mountain of garlic bread. Because I am frail, I skipped this course, and just ate some pomegranates. 

Totally worth extra time in the underworld. 

Finally, we had mini cannoli and Italian ices. I had to call around a bit and get a bakery to set aside some empty cannoli shells for me. I don’t really have a recipe for the filling — just ricotta cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla or almond extract. You can pipe it into the shells with a ziplock bag, and then sprinkle them with rainbow sprinkles or chocolate shavings, and pop a maraschino cherry in the end. 

And that, my friends, was a very good meal, and a very good day.

TUESDAY
Leftovers.

It was such a good meal, we had some of it twice.

WEDNESDAY
Jaques Pepin’s insanely crispy chicken thighs with mushroom sauce; parmesan asparagus

Someone posted this recipe after I asked for truly easy meal ideas last week. I was skeptical then, since it looked complicated and weird. 

WELL. This is definitely going in the rotation. It’s a weird cooking method, but it’s almost brainless, and comes out ridiculously tasty and oh ye gods and little fishes, that skin is remarkable. You may never in your life have had chicken thigh skin this good. Recipe from this site

Basically you take chicken thighs, turn them skin down, and slash the meat on both sides of the bone, then salt and pepper it heavily. You put the thighs skin down on a COLD SKILLET, turn it way up until it sizzles, then turn it to medium, cover it tightly, and walk away. Well, you can check it a few times to make sure it’s not burning, and loosen the meat up off the pan, but that’s the only thing you have to do for it.  

When it’s done cooking (about 25 minutes), you keep it warm in the oven while you sauté some mushrooms, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and white wine in the chicken fat, and then you have a lovely sauce to spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle some chopped chives over the top, and there it is.

You are thinking, “But what is a French recipe without butter? Surely this needs some butter to add richness and flavor and moisture.” Do me a favor and try this one time without butter, and see how it goes.

You will also think, “I’m only seasoning under the thighs? Surely the skin needs some flavor as well.” It turns out I was supposed to season them on both sides, but it didn’t matter! I don’t know how it works — I guess those slashes help the seasoning rise up into the whole thigh? — but the whole piece of chicken was flavorful. The thighs get sort of flattened, and the skin turns into . . . argh, how do I say this so it doesn’t sound gross. It sort of becomes a crisp cap or a rind to the meat. It’s just great. You really have to try it.

I will admit I made a huge mess with this, but that’s mainly because the skillets I used have almost no rim, and I slopped hot chicken fat everywhere. Next time I’ll just use some big frying pans, or maybe keep a baster on hand to keep the fat under control. I do recommend cast iron if you have it, but any stick-resistant pans should work. 

Oh, and if you have mushroom-haters in your family, you can easily serve the chicken plain, since the mushrooms get cooked separately. 

I didn’t get around to serving the asparagus with Monday’s feast, so I spread it in a pan, drizzled it with olive oil, shook on plenty of salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese, and roasted it.

Perfect, and so fast and easy.

THURSDAY
French onion soup, smoked turkey and Swiss sandwiches

‘Tis soup season. I follow a very simple, flexible recipe where you slowwwwwwwwwly cook a ton of onions in a ton of butter, maybe stir iin some sugar, then stir in some flour and pepper, then add chicken or beef broth and parmesan cheese, and let it simmer for as long as you can. Top with more parmesan. I don’t like having a thick layer of cheese on top. I hate it when you’re supposed to bust through a layer of something and all you have is a spoon. Life is hard enough. 

Infected with some madness, I picked up a gallon of glue so the kids could make slime (no school because a nor’easter left a lot of downed power lines and debris in the road) which I’ve somehow managed to resist all these years. We made the kind with glue, baking soda, and contact lens fluid.  It turned out well, but it needs a lot more contact lens fluid and mixing than they say! We also had a dentist appointment, and we needed to hit the flu clinic, so it wasn’t exactly the sleepy, cozy, rainy day at home I envisioned. I rushed the soup a bit, so it was a little on the light side, but it was still delicious, buttery, sweet, rich, comforting. No leftovers, which is rare in this house. 

I made a bunch of leftover hot dog and hamburger buns into big croutons. I drizzled them with olive oil and shook on plenty of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, and toasted them slowly in a 300 oven. 

We had smoked turkey from the deli, Swiss cheese, and ciabatta rolls. I had mine with dijon mustard and pickles. We all went to a flu shot clinic at 5, so it was good to come home to hot soup and easy sandwiches. 

This was the swankiest flu clinic I’ve ever seen. They had apples and cider, and the kids got stickers, pencils, and candy, and then they were allowed to pick out a teddy bear and bring it to a nurse, who would then put a cast on it wherever you wanted.

The place was absolutely mobbed. I am very proud of NH. I know nobody was showing up with all their kids on a Thursday evening just to get a teddy bear. 

FRIDAY
Quesadillas

Just quesadillas, I believe. 

Okay, here’s the recipe card for the suppli and risotto. Will add more cards later as time allows! Get your flu shot! 

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. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 188: A week of truly fast, truly easy, mostly decent meals

Today’s post will be pretty bare bones, as I have cleverly arranged my schedule so that every time I say, “Whew, that big thing is done!” I suddenly remember I now have to do the other big thing. At least I was smart enough to plan quick and easy meals for this week. Everything on this list goes from cold kitchen to hot food on the table in about half an hour, if you don’t shilly shally (and that takes into account that I’m making massive amounts of food, which you are probably not).

Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Domino’s

This wasn’t actually the plan. The plan was to use the huge collection of french bread we forgot to make into garlic bread last week, and turn it into french bread pizza. But the “last week” part turned out to be important, and the bread was all moldy. So we got Domino’s.

SUNDAY
Beef stroganoff and caramel apples

Nice simple recipe, which I actually prefer to stroganoff made with good beef that you have to cut up and cook slowly. I cooked up a bunch of chopmeat in a heavy pot (does anyone else call ground beef “chopmeat?” Or is that just something my mother would say, like “dungarees?”), then took the meat out and drained out most of the fat, then sauteéd up some chopped onions and garlic (pre-minced garlic from a jar, thank you very much) in the fat. Then I put the meat back in, added some beef broth, wine, salt, and pepper, and sliced mushrooms, and let it cook down a bit, and got some egg noodles cooking.

Just before serving, I stirred in a bunch of sour cream to the meat, and served it over the noodles. Very tasty and filling, if not photogenic. 

The caramel apples were made with those caramel wrap sheets, and the kids handled it after I demonstrated one.

You just stretch the wraps over the apple, jam in a stick, and put them in a warm oven for a few minutes, and you become an Accomplished Autumn Homemaker, so you can check that off the list for the year.

MONDAY
Chicken burgers, roast brussels sprouts, grains and veg, chips

Cut them stems off the Brussels sprouts and cut them in half. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on plenty of salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven until they are slightly charred. So good. I fleetingly considered mixing them with some dried cranberries I happened to have, but I didn’t want a mutiny on my hands. I still think it would have been good, though. 

As you can see, I bought some kind of frozen thing with various grains and vegetables mixed in, that just needed to be heated up in a pan. It wasn’t very good, but it made me feel better about serving chips. 

TUESDAY
Chicken stir fry on rice

I set a bunch of rice cooking in the Instant Pot using the 1:1 method, which makes it turn out sticky and good. 

I cut up a bunch of chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. I cut up a bunch of broccoli into bite-sized pieces. I cooked the chicken in sesame oil in a big pan, drained out the moisture that accumulated, then added the broccoli and cooked it just lightly. Then I dumped in a few bottles of sauce and heated it through. 

I used something called Citrus Ponzu Sauce, which claimed to be “Japanese inspired.” It was, as advertised, a blend of bright citrus, savory soy sauce, and red chili peppers. I also sprinkled some red pepper flakes on top of mine. 

WEDNESDAY
Giant pancake, bacon, eggs

You know about giant pancake. Even the NYT now knows about giant chocolate pancake, and they have the nerve to put it behind a paywall. (They also did a thing about how neat Funfetti is a few weeks ago, so I don’t know why I ever feel bad about anything I cook.) You preheat the oven to 350, take a whole box of “just add water” pancake mix, and add enough water that it looks like, you know, pancake batter. Then you can stir stuff in. I had a bag of chocolate chips on hand, so, boop. You butter a pan and throw it in the oven for about half an hour until it’s a little brown on top. Cut it into wedges and be adored. Your degenerate children will want to put syrup on it, and you will let them.

While it was baking, I fried up five pounds of bacon and scrambled a few dozen eggs. While I was cooking, Irene goes, “It’s funny, they call it ‘breakfast for dinner,’ but I never have bacon or eggs for breakfast.”
“Yeah,” I said; “If it were breakfast, we’d be having–”
“Cold Pizza,” she said. “Cold cake. Or nothing.”

So, I need to step up my breakfast game, then.

Or they can get out of bed when I tell them to get out of bed, how about that. 

THURSDAY
One-pan kielbasa, cabbage, and red potato

This one may have taken a little longer than half an hour, because you have to cut three things and also make a dressing, but it’s stupid easy. Recipe card at the bottom. It’s delicious. 

I did buy parsley and chop some up for the top, and it still qualifies as stupid easy. 

FRIDAY
Macaroni and cheese, my dudes. 

There may even be a vegetable of some sort in the fridge, who can say. 

***

 

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. 

Ingredients

  • 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):

  • mustard
  • red wine if you like
  • honey
  • a little olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh garlic, crushed

Instructions

  1. 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. 

 

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

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

SATURDAY
Steak, hot bread, salad

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

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

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese, chips

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
French toast casserole, sausages, plums, OJ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Hot dogs, beans, fries

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

THURSDAY
Nachos

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

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

FRIDAY
Fish tacos

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

Here’s the recipe cards!

 

French toast casserole

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

Pork and ricotta meatballs

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.

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

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

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

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

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

Dramatization of me making the menu for the week:

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

Me: YES.

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

SATURDAY
Pizza

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

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

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

SUNDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cannoli

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

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

MONDAY
Sandwiches, chips, watermelon, candy

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

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Pork ramen

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

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

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

WEDNESDAY
Banh mi

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

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

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

Wednesday was also the day this happened:

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Grilled pizza sandwiches

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

Even the sandwiches look skeptical.

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

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

Maybe? 

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Quesadillas, chips and salsa

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

***

Pork banh mi


Ingredients

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

Veggies and dressing

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

Instructions

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

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

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

  4. Toast a sliced baguette or other crusty bread. 

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

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

Ingredients

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

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

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

Instructions

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

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

    Add them to the brine so they are submerged.

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

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

Here’s what we ate this week!

SATURDAY
Caprese chicken sandwiches

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

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

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

Here is another sandwich picture, since I have it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Chicken berry salad

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

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

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

TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday

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

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

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

At home, they had tacos. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THURSDAY
Pork spiedies, fries, pineapple

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Tuna?

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

***

 

Chicken Caprese Sandwiches

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce

We made a quadruple recipe of this for twelve people. 

Keyword Marcella Hazan, pasta, spaghetti, tomatoes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients in a heavy pot.

  2. Simmer at least 90 minutes. 

  3. Take out the onions.

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

 

pork spiedies (can use marinade for shish kebob)

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients. 

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

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

    Serve in sandwiches or with rice. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 181: Omnipod, oyakodon, and Eggos

They tell me it’s Friday! Here’s what we apparently ate this week:

SATURDAY

Even though we had just come back from vacation that afternoon, I really put myself out there for my family and came up with an entire four-course meal, including chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, coleslaw, and biscuits.

Man, am I a good mother! 

SUNDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough, chips

Corrie helped with ham placement.  

MONDAY
Spaghetti with sausages

A request from the kids. I remember cooking this, but not eating it. I  think maybe Damien and I went running and then got half price sushi at the half price sushi place? That sounds right.

TUESDAY
Oyakodon on rice noodles, sesame broccoli, spicy honey cucumber salad

Almost a really good meal, if I had been just a smidge more competent. Oyakodon is apparently a staple in Japan. It’s chicken and onions cooked in a savory broth with a little runny egg on top, and served over rice. It turned out we didn’t have rice, but only rice noodles. And then I couldn’t find dashi, so I substituted beef broth with a dash of fish sauce. Since I don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like anyway, I figured it couldn’t hurt. But then I also, um, accidentally tripled the amount of sugar it called for. 

It was still a tasty, cozy dish. You slice up chicken thighs and onions and cook that in the broth, then drizzle beaten egg over that and let it cook just a minute, and then slide it over your rice with some scallions or whatever, and spoon broth over it.

I may make it again, but probably when it’s cold out. I made a recipe card but somehow lost it. Bah! Here’s the more authentic recipe I based it on

I cut the broccoli into spears, spread them in a pan, drizzled it with sesame oil and a little soy sauce, and sprinkled it with sesame seeds and pepper, and then roasted the whole thing. This is ridiculously tasty and takes, like, six minutes start to finish. 

The cucumber salad is a snappy, refreshing summer side dish, also very fast. Vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and a few other things. Recipe card at the end if I can find it.  Here’s a terrible picture. 

I feel like we went to the beach after supper. I must really be feeling the pressure to end summer right. 

WEDNESDAY
Chicken burgers, corn on the cob

I really don’t remember Wednesday. I was doing . . . something. I remember a lot of driving around, like a lot of driving around, some unpleasantness at Home Depot, and then I think we had a guilt trip to the playground, so we ate late. What an exhausting week it has been. I keep accidentally staying up until 2 a.m. and then dreaming I’m pregnant. 

THURSDAY
Pulled pork sandwiches, french fries

Thursday was a bit nutty. We were gone for many hours for the training for Lucy’s new insulin pump. Damien took a small detour because the town we used to live in was cordoned off with a naked man shooting at police, and that’s his territory. The town, I mean. Not being naked and shooting at police. Then we dashed home, gobbled up supper, and went to Mass. I remember behaving rather badly, I forget why. 

Lucy’s pump just has saline solution in it now, not insulin, while we learn how to use it. So she is pretty pleased to be a daughter of Neptune, with salt water running through her veins. 

I made the pulled pork by dumping a hunk of pork into the crock pot with some Coke, cooking it all day, draining it, shredding it, and dumping in a bottle of barbecue sauce. It was indeed food. 

FRIDAY
Birthday party!

I cleverly got Clara to bake the cake on Thursday night before staying up till 2 a.m. and dreaming I was pregnant. Then I frosted the cake this morning ,and then I dropped it on the floor. Actually I dropped it, rescued some of the layers, reassembled what was left, and then dropped it again. Why? Well, WHY NOT?

So I ran out for a store-bought cake and it came together pretty okay. 

The candles are grouped around the letters “L-U-C-Y.”
I knew this party was coming, but somehow didn’t really make any plans. Happily, I did have garbage bags, paper bags, and thumb tacks. Voilà, The Gate. 

I mean, it does look ominous. I briefly considered tearing up bits of paper and threading them on threads and hanging them from the ceiling so you got that Upside Down effect with the drifting ashes or whatever it’s supposed to be, but even I could tell that was a bad idea. 

The kids are upstairs at this very moment making a Scoops Ahoy sign. The guests will be here in a little bit, and then we’ll have ice cream, then have a little beach trip, and then come home for pizza and cake. Phew. 

Okay, here are some recipe cards, quick, before the guests get here!

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 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. 180: The stupids at sea

Maybe you noticed a dearth of new writing here last week. This is because the Fishers went on a Real Actual Vacation! In 22 years of marriage, the longest family vacation we’ve ever taken was three days, and that involved a yurt, a skunk, a bathroom made of corrugated tin, and another skunk. So a full week in a real house near the honest-t0-goodness ocean before any of the kids move away for good is pretty swanky! I found the place in December, and all this year, I’ve been getting knotted up in tighter and tighter balls of anxiety, so sure it was going to fall through and be terrible in one way or another.

It was magnificent. A nearly perfect week from start to finish. Not only did no one drown, throw up, get burnt to a crisp, get bitten, get lost, or get escorted off any premises, we had no other problems at all. Except one night I thought there was a ghost in my room, but that was my problem. Actually, I threw up once, but that was just a migraine triggered by the unwise choice to eat fried dough with sugar. And also Corrie briefly had fake meningitis, but she got better. 

Some people, upon arriving at the beach, instantly become sun-kissed and  smashing in their flowy cotton caftans, silver toe rings, and sporty sunglasses, and they know how to work the umbrella and stuff, and they don’t get attacked by their own kites. We, on the other hand, look and act like a bunch of giant weirdos, because that is what we are. But we were all there!

I assumed that, for the privilege of living four blocks from the ocean, we’d have to put up with thumping music, clouds of pot smoke, and drunken morons with firecrackers all night, but no! The house was just beyond the fried pickle-frozen daiquiries-overpriced boogie boards-half price baja jackets-your name on a grain of rice-tarot card-freehand henna-Led Zeppelin tribute band tonight only zone, and our block was remarkably quiet and staid. And the view from our bedroom window was a water tower and church steeple on one side, and on the other, this serene, wild-smelling salt marsh, populated only by egrets and cormorants. Amazing.

Since I’ve somehow missed the last two weeks of What’s for Supper posts, I’ll do one now, although we firmly resolved to cook as little as possible, and we never did get around to cooking live lobsters.

SATURDAY
Deli sandwiches

We arrived at the house in the late afternoon, unloaded, dibsed rooms, and headed straight to the beach. Woo hoo!

There is nothing better than the ocean. Just nothing at all. It’s impossible to be unhappy when you’re up to your thighs in frigid, frothing salt water, the breeze is whipping through your hair, the sun is glittering, and the foam really does look like little white horses galloping madly to the shore. Oh boy!

The tide was out and hardly anyone was there. A perfect way to begin. 

SUNDAY
Frozen pizza

Sunday, we made our way to St. Patrick church, two blocks away, which has a gorgeously preserved, 105-year-old carved wooden altar and communion rail. The kids have never been to an ad orientem Mass before, so that was cool, as was my little impromptu lecture about common misunderstandings surrounding it and how it ties in with the final scene of The Dawn Treader. They enjoy my lectures so very much!

Then we came home for a quick lunch and then WENT ON A WHALE WATCH. I delivered all the appropriate warnings about how there’s no guarantee we’ll see anything, and it’s just nice to be on a boat. But we came across a bunch of frolicking dolphins before we even left the harbor, and then we saw SO MANY WHALES.

Humpbacks and finbacks, including two mother-and-calf pairs

just swashing around, flipping their tails, blowing sighing rainbow sprays, and rolling over. Extraordinary! We learned that whales don’t breathe involuntarily, so part of their brain is always awake to make sure they keep breathing. So they go into a sort of half-sleep and slowly, dreamily rise and fall in the water. This is what the mother and calf were doing. 

I cried like a 44-year-old white lady seeing her first whale. 

Not that I’m planning to give birth with the aid of a humpback midwife or anything (I’m not pregnant, also. Sheesh, settle down), I really do understand why people think whales are mystical beings with some special wisdom to impart to humanity. They are so graceful and numinous, and they clearly understand . . . something, anyway. They were both gravely aware of and regally indifferent to our stupid little boat, and they move as if they’re operating in some slightly other reality.

Here’s one especially curious calf. Check out that green glow:

 

NUMINOUS. I highly recommend Al Gauron Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching if you’re in the area.

MONDAY
Burgers, chips, broccoli and dip, watermelon

There was a grill in the yard, but it was smelly and weird, so we just cooked inside. We had good long beach day, and the kids discovered riding the waves.

We had a sandy lunch wrested manfully away from the seagulls, who have no respect for a diabetic child’s medicinal pop tarts with unicorns printed on the frosting. Sheesh, sea gulls! 

Corrie made the executive decision that Monday was arcade day. You guys, the arcade has not changed one tiny bit in forty years. Skee Ball is still a quarter. I still suck at Skee Ball. I still don’t understand the thing with the sliding platforms that push quarters around. I have yet to whack even a single mole. It was awesome. 

I also very much enjoyed graciously handing out stacks of quarters to children who desperately wanted another stack of quarters. 

TUESDAY
Rotisserie chicken, veggies and hummus

Rotisserie chickens currently cost less than raw chickens, for some reason.

Two of the teenagers bailed out and went home in their fancy pants teenager car before evening, leading to yet another rekajiggering of sleeping arrangements. Although we had three bedrooms with five beds, a sleep-in porch, and three pull-out couches, and an air mattress, Corrie ended up sleeping on a quilt on the floor in our room, and in the morning, she changed her name to “Puppy Stupendous.” I mean. She’s not wrong. 

She did not especially want to leave the beach on this day. Her protest took the form of repeating, “Hello. My name is Sandy McGoo” over and over and over and over and over again, all the way home. Then when we got home, she refused to hose off because, HELLO, she is SANDY MCGOO, who is SANDY. Using all my powers of We Are All Having a Happy Vacation, I persuaded her that it was at least as much fun to be Lipstick Lady, who takes showers before applying lipstick. I still can’t believe that worked.

Then we found a touch tank that was $1 a head instead of $6 a head. At least we think it was a touch tank exhibit. Anyway, we touched a lot of things.

 

WEDNESDAY
Fried food

We beat the thunderstorms and got in some swim time in the morning. But first we bought some shovels. My goodness, if I had known how much joy could come from being shovel owners, I would have bought them shovels long ago. 

We also got a kite. When I was little, you could get just a scrap of plastic with a stick on it and some string, and you would run and toss it up in the air, and it would catch an air current and you could just sit there and watch it swoop around for hours. Now all they have is these complicated trick kites with multiple tethers and flexible joints, and they go up only to immediately hurtle down at your face at top speeds. We gave up pretty quick, because we were there to swim and don’t need that kind of hostility at the beach. 

We had dinner at the Clearly Just Someone’s House, But It’s By the Water and They Have Enough Chairs Café. The kids had burgers; Damien and I had lobster rolls. One kid had a falafel wrap, which made me wonder if she had gone vegetarian and I, bad mother, didn’t notice, just like I didn’t notice when one kid got a nose ring; but then I remembered she had a burger for lunch. Kids these days with their falafel.

You’ll notice I don’t actually have a ton of pictures. That’s because I LEFT MY PHONE AT THE HOUSE ON PURPOSE. I am working at being more present in the moment and not having the freaking thing on my person at all times, and it felt pretty good.

There were supposed to be fireworks on the beach, but most of the kids were too wiped out, so Damien, Lena, and I headed out, and waited a pretty long time in the surprising August cold before realizing there were no fireworks. I was so relieved. Even though they didn’t want to go, I felt so guilty about seeing fireworks without them. We did go get a cocktail, though, and I didn’t feel guilty about that at all.

Moe got a video of the storm gathering power:

 

THURSDAY
Hot dogs for kids, sandwiches for grown-ups

Beach in the morning, with some clambering around on the rocks and tide pools before the tide came in. Some promises involving shell bits and hot glue were made. Ice cream was consumed. Then the kids went home for hot dogs while we headed out for something other than hot dogs. 

We walked for kind of a long time looking for the perfect restaurant, and finally settled on a place that was made by assholes for assholes. It was basically La Grunta, except with lobster instead of deer. After a bunch of assholes wearing leis and toe rings cut us in line for the Hospitality Hut, we overheard two assholes saying it would be a half hour wait, and that wasn’t even for the asshole deck. So we got the hell out of there and went to a little hole run by Lebanese people who just wanted to make you a sandwich without any bullshit. We got two sandwiches to go and gobbled them up by the water.

We could have gotten closer to the water, but I felt a strong need for a seat with a back on it. 

FRIDAY
Domino’s

Only a few kids still wanted to swim by this point, as we had been in or on the water every day for the last six days. I wanted to, but not as much as I wanted to complain about my sore neck and stress out about what we had done to the rug; so Damien took some kids to the beach and I went to lie down while the other kids packed and vacuumed. Apparently  Benny buried Corrie in the sand up to her neck and then ran away. No jury on earth would convict. 

Then they came home and de-sanded one last time, I dragged seaweed out of the drain one last time, and then I took the little girls to the playground one last time, which was a leetle bit further away than we remembered. Benny was pretty exhausted and melty on the walk home, and she wanted some help for the last few blocks. So Corrie got behind her and pushed. 

Saturday morning we checked out, and then made one last pilgrimage to Ocean Boulevard to eat fried dough and purchase the long-promised souvenirs. This is a good technique if you are feeling a little blue about vacation being over. By the time all the kids have found something they like, everyone will be thoroughly sick and tired of that town and you will be overjoyed to leave. 

I bought myself an artificially-colored capiz shell wind chime made in Indonesia for white ladies who cry about whales, because I’m on vacation, dammit, and that’s what I wanted.

And that’s how the stupids went on vacation! 

What’s for supper? Vol. 179: Stuffed grape leaves and Käsewegfall

Let’s have a pahty! Here’s what we ate this week (and don’t miss the video of Benny and Corrie rolling grape leaves like pros):

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

I know I always say I have no memory of Saturday, but this time I really mean it. 

SUNDAY
Chicken sandwiches with basil and tomato

This was supposed to be chicken caprese sandwiches, but I tragically forgot to buy mozzarella. They were still good, but the Käsewegfall loomed large. I had mine with salt and plenty of pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil on ciabatta bread.

I also like this sandwich with salami instead of roast chicken, which makes it even easier and cheaper.

Then we went to see Toy Story 4 at the drive in movie, where we discovered, as we re-discover each year, that my vehicle simply will not play the radio with the lights off. The movie was just okay anyway. Our popcorn game, though, was on point. 

MONDAY
Pork ramen

Meh. Sometimes this is a really enjoyable meal, but it fell a little flat. Maybe it was just too humid for ramen. I sliced the pork thin and sautéed it lightly in sesame oil, then finished cooking it in soy sauce. We had soft boiled eggs, scallions, crunchy noodles, pickled ginger, and sesame seeds.

Anyway, I produced hot food. Two cheers!

TUESDAY
BLTs and tiramisu

Birthday! The birthday girl requested BLTs and tiramisu. I can’t claim we have any particular family recipe for BLTs, except that I think we’re up to seven pounds of bacon, which seems excessive to me, especially since I didn’t get the memo that it was okay to take more bacon because somebody went out and bought two more pounds. 

Damien made the tiramisu using this recipe. Pretty tickled that the kids often choose this as their birthday treat. When I was that age, my heart’s desire was a cake in the shape of Garfield. My mother rented a pan and spent an entire day following a guide for where to put little blobs of icing in Garfield colors. Man, I hope I thanked her. 

Here’s an unglamorous shot of the tiramisu in the middle of being demolished.

People added shaved chocolate to their individual pieces.

WEDNESDAY
Pork gryos, fried eggplant, stuffed grape leaves

It had been a big week of being hunched over a computer screen, so I was really glad to throw myself into a big kitchen project. 

I’ve been wanting to make stuffed grape leaves forever. The wild grapes in the yard are having quite a year, so the kids had no trouble finding some fine, clean specimens. We followed this recipe from Saveur, more or less, which makes 60 grape leaves. It’s not hard, but there are many steps. You have to make the rice filling and let it cool, then boil the grape leaves, dunk them in ice water, and dry them, then roll them, then steam them. 

Here is Benny gathering mint, which, as always, is also having quite a year:

And here she is drying off the grape leaves:

The girls did so well rolling them! I was truly impressed at how good they are with their little paws, and also how good Benny is at explaining what she’s doing. At one point, Corrie shouts, “I have a idea! Let’s have a pahty!” She says this several times a day, every day, just in case. Check out her proud smile at the end. 

You know, we’re all having quite a year.

The recipe says to put three layers of leaves in the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching, but I had run out, so I used parchment paper instead. We only made about 30, since I didn’t think people would eat them. 

They turned out so well! You squeeze a little lemon juice on top and have them with yogurt sauce. These are not perfect grape leaves, but they held together and tasted good, and we had a nice time making them. 

I don’t know how to describe the flavor of grape leaves. Not cabbage, not asparagus. They have a sort of cool, woody, herby taste, and they are much more tender than I was expecting. The filling we used was packed with herbs, and the whole thing was somehow both oily and refreshing. I’d like to start making these at least once a year, when the leaves are abundant.  

We also had pork gyros. I marinated the meat in the morning and Damien cooked it outside on the grill. So zippy and tasty. I’ll add a recipe card for the marinade at the end.

I used up all the tomatoes in the marinade, so we had the meat wrapped up in pita with just cucumbers, french fries, yogurt sauce, and hot sauce. Tasted perfect to me. Although honestly I have never gotten used to french fries being in there, and will probably skip it next time. So sue me. My mouth thinks it’s weird to have fries and bread in the same bite. But overall, this was a stupendous meal.

While he was cooking the meat, I fried some eggplant. You have to cut and salt the eggplant ahead of time to draw the moisture out, but the batter is simple and they fry quickly. I love this recipe because it tastes a little bland with the first bite, but this amazing warmth starts to sneak up on you until it’s quite a little pahty in your mouth. Wonderful texture, too — crisp and knobbly, with soft, tender eggplant inside. Very, very fond of fried eggplant. Recipe card at the end. 

THURSDAY
Tuna noodle

I promised the kids tuna noodle, but then realized we’d be out of town on Friday. But a promise is a promise. Damien and I went out for an evening run at dinner anyway, so I really wasn’t hungry when we got back. I think I had beans and pita bread and a plum or something around 10 PM. Summah! 

FRIDAY
And away we go. Oh, there are still adults in the house, so there, robbers. 

Here are some recipe cards:

Fried eggplant

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

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • salt for drying out the eggplant

1/2 cup veg oil for frying

2 cups flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp veg oil
  • optional: kosher salt for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Cut the ends off the eggplant and slice it into one-inch slices.
    Salt them thoroughly on both sides and lay on paper towels on a tray (layering if necessary). Let sit for half an hour (or as long as overnight) to draw out some of the moisture. 

  2. Mix flour and seasonings in a bowl, add the water and teaspoon of oil, and beat into a batter. Preheat oven for warming. 

  3. Put oil in heavy pan and heat until it's hot but not smoking. Prepare a tray with paper towels.

  4. Dredge the eggplant slices through the batter on both sides, and carefully lay them in the hot oil, and fry until crisp, turning once. Fry in batches, giving them plenty of room to fry.

  5. Remove eggplant slices to tray with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt if you like.. You can keep them warm in the oven for a short time.  

  6. Serve with yogurt sauce or marinara sauce.

5 from 1 vote
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Marinade for pork gyros

Marinate thinly-sliced meat for several hours, then grill over the coals or broil in the oven. Serve wrapped up in pita with cucumbers, tomatoes, french fries, hot sauce, and yogurt sauce. This marinade is enough for about five pounds of meat. 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium tomatoes diced and smashed a bit
  • 2 onions grated
  • 2 Tbsp oregano (or a large handful of fresh oregano, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 12 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • kosher salt and pepper

What’s for supper? Vol. 177: Don’t call it a barbecue!

What a week! Summer is officially underway, emitting showers of sparks as it comes. If I finally figured things out, this post contains two videos.

Here’s what we had this week:

SATURDAY
Grilled ham and cheese on sourdough

Saturday was twelve years ago. Let’s see if I took a picture of my sandwich. 

Oh yeah!

Sometimes you takes the trouble to plates your dinner, sometimes you don’ts.

SUNDAY
Chicken shawarma with vegetables, pita, and yogurt sauce; frozen grapes

It’s been too long since we shawarma’d. I marinated the meat in the morning and cooked it under the broiler, since it was too rainy to grill outside. We had the meat and onions with black and kalamata olives, feta, parsley, pita and yogurt sauce, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Frozen grapes are a splendid way to clear your head when you’re feeling hot and grumpy. Just remember to dry them off before you freeze them, or they will get a little jacket of ice. 

MONDAY
Hamburgers

I also feel like there was some vegetable involved, but I can’t prove it. What I did do was add my little portion to the worldwide onslaught of senseless food videos.

The occasion was that we have new knives like rich people, but I suffered a relapse and bought a meat chub like a poor. See, Damien and I discussed how we are now so wealthy, we no longer have to buy ground beef in opaque plastic printed with a photo of the meat allegedly inside, but can now treat ourselves to meat you can see! But on the other hand, this meat chub was so cheap.  So I tried to make the best of it.

Watch the video if only to hear Damien yelp as I severed the chub.

TUESDAY
Chicken nuggets, cheezy weezies, snap peas

We were supposed to have this meal on Wednesday, so we could do party shopping and cleaning, then have a quickie meal, and then run off to see the city fireworks. But I spent so long prepping Tuesday’s meal, I ran out of time to cook it. So we had the nuggets. I amused myself by plating it nicely. 

I AM AMUSING.

WEDNESDAY
Sesame lime chicken, cucumber salad, cherries

This chicken was a NYT recipe I simplified and messed up a little. It was tasty. Not quite as razzle dazzle as I expected, what with the lime zest, fresh ginger, and fish sauce

but a pleasant, robust flavor. I’ll put a recipe card of my version at the end. 

What made the meal was a lovely cucumber salad (recipe at the end), which I’ll be making more often throughout the summer. I really enjoyed the cool, vinegary cucumbers together with the warming honey and hot pepper. A great match for the lime and fish sauce in the chicken. 

And the cherries, first of the season, were rewardingly luscious. 

If you look closely, you can see that Corrie had put a bowl of blue Jell-o on top of her head, and then, upon hearing that I would be needing to wash her hair, she crushed a bunch of soap into her scalp to wash up. That girl tries. 

THURSDAY
July 4th cookout!

Honestly, this is the best day of the year. As many cousins as possible come, and we have three times as much food as we need.

Here’s the leftover meat, after we all ate until we went insane:

I daringly ate my burger with pepper jack cheese, and jalapeños instead of pickles. 

It’s not a barbecue, though. I have finally learned that you can’t call it a barbecue unless you spend 172 hours smoking a brisket made of an entire herd of long-horned steer. If you call anything else a BBQ, the ghost of Sam Houston will appear and strangle you with a bolo tie. Me so sorry, me just dumb New Englander who not understand what meat is! All we had was hamburgers, hot dogs, beer brats, sugar rub chicken thighs, and mahogany clams, and it was just a cookout. We also had potato salad (recipe card at the end), an avalanche of chips, watermelon, all sorts of beverages and all sorts of desserts, and Clara made so many chocolate chip cookies that, if you stacked them all up on top of each other, they’d be enough for all the cousins. All the cousins, I say!

The potato salad turned out well. People who don’t usually eat it ate it (recipe card at the end).

As many people reassured me, the kids absolutely did not care that my patriotic layered Jell-o cups didn’t turn out like the picture on the internet. I also made frozen pudding and cream cups, and we had about a bushel of corn on the cob we completely forgot to roast, and ice cream we forgot to eat, and marshmallows we forgot to toast and another watermelon that I don’t even know what happened to it.

And the table top I classily made out of cardboard didn’t even collapse. 

I ate a ludicrous number of steamed clams drenched in butter, onions, white wine, and lemon juice, and then wallowed around in Dark and Stormies for a while (dark rum, ginger beer, ice, and fresh lime).

And it was perfect. A wading stream and a trampoline, sparklers and glow sticks, American flags and twinkling lights, guitars, hammocks, salamanders and bug spray, fireflies, tiki torches, cheap beer, and fireworks, and my beloved family. Everyone should be so lucky.

Here’s the whole gang:

FRIDAY
Leftovers, I do believe. 

Okay, gotta go drive people around for a bit, and I will come back with the recipe cards this afternoon! 

 

5 from 1 vote
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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
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Mix marinade ingredients together, then add sliced or quartered onions and 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 and onions out of the marinade and spread it in a single layer on the pan. 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.

5 from 1 vote
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Yogurt sauce

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

sesame lime chicken

Adapted from a NYT recipe. Serve with cucumber salad for a wonderful summer meal, with rice. 

Ingredients

  • 16 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or 8 breasts pounded thin)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 6 inches fresh ginger peeled and grated
  • 12 garlic cloves crushed
  • 8 limes zested and juiced (you need both)
  • 1/4 cup peanut or sesame oil
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • diced chiles (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all sauce ingredients together and pour over chicken. Let marinate at least four hours. 

  2. Remove from marinade. Grill over coals or broil in oven, turning once. 

  3. Serve with cilantro garnish and chiles, if desired. 

 

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)

potato salad

Ingredients

  • 3-4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed (peeled if you like)
  • 3 ribs celery, stringed and chopped
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 bunch parsley, chopped
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

for dressing:

  • 1 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put potatoes and the three eggs in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down, cover loosely, and simmer until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork (15 minutes or so) 

  2. Drain the potatoes. Fish out the eggs, peel, and chop them.

  3. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-sized pieces and mix them up with the olive oil. 

  4. Add the chopped eggs, celery, onion, and parsley. 

  5. Mix together the dressing ingredients and add to potatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold.  

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. 

 

Grilled clams or mussels in wine sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 white or red onion
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • live clams or mussels
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white wine
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Prepare sauce: Coarsely chop the onion and sautee it in the olive oil with the red pepper flakes. Add salt and pepper. 


  2. Add two sticks of butter and let them melt. Add the wine and lemon juice. 

  3. Light the fire and let it burn to coals. While it's burning down, sort and clean the shellfish, discarding any damaged or dead ones. (If they're open, tap them. If they don't close, they're dead. If they're closed, they're fine.)

  4. Lay shellfish on grill until they pop open. The hotter the fire, the shorter the time it will take - five minutes or more. 

  5. Add shellfish to sauce and stir to mix. 

What’s for supper? Vol. 176: Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation

Oh Friday! I was whooping it up in Princeton, NJ for a big part of the week. Great trip, wonderful people, tiny airplane, glad to be home. Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken quesadillas, tortilla chips, guacamole

Corrie is always trying to get me to watch food videos with her, and I kept saying “not now.” So, as she says: “I like food videos, so I may as wewll make my own!” This video will make you feel better about the cleanliness of your food preparation area, about your efficiency with avocados, and most of all, about your Spanish. But it may make you wish you had a cooking companion and videographer like I have.

I don’t want to hear and kvetching about the vertical camera! She’s four!

For the quesadillas, I drizzled the chicken with olive oil and sprinkled on plenty of chili lime powder, then roasted it. I think I either left the house or went to lie down at this point, because I don’t remember making quesadillas, but I do remember eating some. 

And very good they are, quesadillas that somebody else made.

SUNDAY
Grilled chicken, bratwurst, pork ribs, and shrimp with mango salsa; chips and guacamole; strawberries and ice cream

Damien’s mom came by to watch Into the Spiderverse with the kids, and Damien smoked up a feast.

Now, here is where you may begin to notice a certain theme: Mandatory Meat vs. Optional Meat. I like meat? I really do. But I can imagine a happy life without it, unlike some husbands. I am most certainly not complaining! It just wouldn’t occur to me to cook a meal featuring four different meats; and it wouldn’t occur to him to go to a restaurant and not order meat. I guess between the two of us, we even out. As with so many other things. 

He used the same rub for the ribs as he does for the chicken, but for the ribs, he put some mustard on first, before smoking it. (I think he seared it on the grill and then moved it to a smoker? His ways are mysterious.)

He boiled the brats in beer and onions before grilling them. The shrimp, he marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and a little salt and pepper, and skewered them on skewers that had been soaked in water, then grilled them. 

So good. That chicken is so juicy and the skin is so crisp.

Have I told you about Damien’s Amazing Interchangeable Cinderblock Meat Altar Situation? He wanted a really big grill, but we don’t especially care for, you know, paying for things. We keep buying cheap grills and then leaving them out in the rain to rust, and that’s no good.

So he got a bunch of cinderblocks and built up this giant monolith for the base. Then he has an assortment of little blocks and chunks, grates of various sizes, chimneys, tongs, different charcoals and whatnot, and he just builds to suit, depending on how much fire he wants, how high the grate and how much air circulations, how many different fires he needs at the same time, and so on.

He does want one big grill to go over the whole thing, for when we have a lot of guests. And today is the day I found out he’s too much of a fancy man to even consider stealing a shopping cart. 

Anyway, the mango salsa was pretty tasty. I did say I was interested in mangos! So pretty, too. 

I do like the taste, but I’d probably buy them just for how the peels look. 

I’ll put a recipe card at the end. Oh, it’s so good to eat outside again! Even the plates are happy. 

Oh, mangoes have not seen the last of me. 

And I do believe Corrie is firmly in the “carnem et carnem solum” camp. 

MONDAY
Creamy lemon sausage pasta

I saw this recipe in the New York Times and it looked easy enough, and everybody likes lemon and cheese. But I figured I better get some meat in there, for the more carnal amongst us. I also tweaked the proportions so there was more sauce per pasta.

So, you just cook pasta, then cook up the sausage, then mix it together with ricotta and parmesan, lemon juice and lemon zest, salt and pepper, and some of the pasta water to thin it out, and stir all that into the cooked pasta, and put some fresh basil and red pepper flakes on top. 

It was good? It was almost good. It was not great. It was filling, and a little odd, but definitely cheap and easy. I would have liked to have the lemon and cheese filling in ravioli, probably; but as a sauce, and with the sausage, I was not entranced. I don’t know if it was the combination of sausage and lemon, or if this just wasn’t the dish for us. Oh well, onward and upward. 

TUESDAY

I was gone, wasn’t I! On Tuesday I did a Theology on Tap with the beautiful and indefatigable Kait Mayer, who also took me out to eat beforehand at Triumph Brewing, where I had . . . 

Well, look, now we’re back to the difference between me and Damien. I ordered the tempura mushroom banh mi, and I stand by it. The mushroom had a lovely, crisp coating, the bun was soft and giving, and the shredded vegetables were copious, flattered winsomely with a spicy mayo just as the gods ordained. It was delicious. 

WEDNESDAY

I had lunch at EFES Mediterranean Grill with my Aunt Joan and Uncle Lloyd. Lovely little place! Athough I wanted to want lamb dumplings or something along those lines, it was tremendously hot and humid, so I just ordered an appetizer, which was plenty. Homemade yogurt with spinach and walnuts with a basket of pita, and there were also little cups of sauce — something orange and very warming, and something minty and cooling. I got a very clear message that I need more mint in my life.

Then we did a mini-tour of Princeton campus, and then I mooched around the Princeton Art Museum. I only had time for the ancient art gallery, which was, as the kids say, extremely my jam. I posted a bunch of photos on Instagram. What a gorgeous place, and free admission. 

Then the gracious Claire Gmachl and the monsignor took me out for dinner at the Blue Point Grill, where I had arctic char and wild rice. I had to ask what arctic char is, since I am a bumpkin. It turns out it’s like salmon, but more salmony. And I fully expected to see a wiggly red line appear under “salmony” as I typed, but it turns out salmony is so a word. Then I thought maybe it was some obscure legal term, like simony, only more salmony. Oh, you want it in a sentence? Then how about The Sporting Review’s observation:

“This stream, which forms the Cascade de Con, abounds with a delicious little trout, the best flavoured and the most salmony I ever ate.”

Or perhaps this 1906 entry in Horticulture by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will satisfy you:

“The color is pretty much the shade seen in Queen Alexandra, a salmony bronze, one of the kinds commonly called off-colors…”

This seems interesting to me. But I did not sleep a lot this week. I did go ahead and look up “arctic char” to see if the internet would rush to offer the information that it’s rather salmony, but all I learned was that its distribution is circumpolar. I feel that same way myself. 

After my talk, I got to hang out with Tom and Elizabeth McDonald, who are SO MUCH FUN. And I have a photo which I am currently saving in case I ever need to blackmail Tom. 

THURSDAY
Pizza

Damien insisted on making dinner while I lay down. Benny brought me dinner in bed:

Then they went to the beach while I lay down some more! I hope my current life isn’t the opposite of working out your purgatory on earth so you don’t have to do it after you die, because I feel like I’m racking up a lot of rewards that I haven’t quite earned.

FRIDAY

It says on the blackboard “giant choc chip pancake – eggs” and I don’t feel like I can argue with that, even though I’m sitting here smelling the pancakes they are making themselves for brunch. 

Coming up: our giant family July 4th cookout and mostly-legal fireworks display! We’ll be having, you guessed it, lots of kinds of meat, plus all the usual summer foods — potato salad, corn on the cob, watermelon, and a variety of refreshing beverages. What should we do for dessert? The kids want a cake in the shape of a flag, with red and blue berries, but I’m fairly anti-cake in the summer. I think we have done ice cream cups and a giant mountain of cookies in the past. That may be perfect; but I’d love to hear other ideas, too. Whatcha got?

Mango salsa

Good for shrimp, pork, chicken, or just tortilla chips

Ingredients

  • 6 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 med red onion, diced
  • 1 large jalapeño, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, diced or sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • lime juice to taste

Instructions

  1. That's it, dude.

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. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

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

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly.