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

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

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

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

Here’s what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Chicken tenders maybe? 

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

SUNDAY
July 3 cookout!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONDAY
Hamburgers, chips, cherry hand pies

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

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

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

Tart and juicy with a tender shell.

I actually just had pie for dinner.

No regrets. 

TUESDAY
Nachos, fruit salad

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

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

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

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

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

Goes in like this

and comes out six hours later like this

You don’t even need a knife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An exceptional summer meal, mostly made ahead of time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRIDAY
Pizza

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

 

 

Smoked chicken thighs with sugar rub

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

Basic pie crust

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Korean Beef Bowl

A very quick and satisfying meal with lots of flavor and only a few ingredients. Serve over rice, with sesame seeds and chopped scallions on the top if you like. You can use garlic powder and powdered ginger, but fresh is better. The proportions are flexible, and you can easily add more of any sauce ingredient at the end of cooking to adjust to your taste.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

What’s for supper? Vol. 299: Love is something when you have a hole in the floor

In haste! In haste! For today we are diving into the big renovation project for the summer, which is putting a new floor in the laundry room so we can turn the toilet back on and have TWO TOILETS before July 4th.

We had this renovation (converting a 3/4 bathroom into a laundry room with a toilet) done several years ago by some folks I can only describe as a team of supergoons, and they put the toilet in wrong; it leaked massively; the floor was ruined; we despaired; and things went from there. We’ve had one working toilet for all, for years and years, all through norovirus and everything. But we’ve since learned (the very hard way) that we’re capable of putting a new floor and subfloor in, so that’s-a-what we’re gonna do. And this time, it just means no washing machine for a few days, rather than no toilet. A breeze, I tell you. 

And, but first, I’m really sorry I haven’t gotten anything up on the site this week. Really struggling with the whole “writing words down” thing lately. If anyone has something fun and neat I can write about it, seriously let me know, because I got nothin’ in my noggin. 

Here is what we ate this week:

SATURDAY
Italian sandwiches, chips

Tasty as always. I had prosciutto and spicy capocollo, salami, tomato and basil, mozzarella, and red pesto, and balsamic vinegar on a length of baguette.

All from Aldi. The tomatoes are good this year. I have seven tomato plants going, myself, but they are all still green, except for a few yellow ones that are supposed to be yellow, which I just ate right off the vine while they were still warm from sunshine, without telling anyone. Except for you guys.

SUNDAY
Steak, chips, coleslaw; strawberry shortcake

Father’s day! Damien grilled some steaks, Lena made coleslaw, Clara made a pound cake and served it with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

A tasty treat for all. 

MONDAY
Garlicky chicken thighs with potatoes, zucchini, and summer squash

A new recipe, and it turned out great!  A pretty simple marinade with some cider vinegar and onion powder that gave it a little pleasantly acrid pop, along with the rough-cut garlic and fresh basil. 

I ended up cooking the potatoes in one large pan, and the chicken and vegetables in the other, and they were still a bit crowded.

This led to the zucchini and squash coming out a little, well, squashy. Next time I will cut them thicker and give them more space to cook; but I like the flavors a lot. The chicken turned out very juicy and full of flavor, and the whole meal was popular with almost everybody. 

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This is maybe the third time in my life I’ve cooked with zucchini. I don’t know why I even bought it, since I have it in my head that it’s just this wretched, slimy, flavorless monstrosity of a veg. It is a little slimy, but who isn’t these days.

I also found a cold Sicilian sweet and sour zucchini dish with onions that I’m dying to try next. Well, not dying, but I do have a recipe tab open on my laptop and my phone. 

TUESDAY
Tacos

Taco Tuesday! Taco Tuesday.

Feast your eyes on me valiantly skipping the sour cream and rapidly becoming the trimmest, lithest mother of ten in the entire tri-state area. 

WEDNESDAY
Rigatoni alla disgraziata with sausage

We’ve been having rainy, chilly days, so this heavy, fragrant pasta dish was very welcome. People kept coming in and asking what I was making, because it smells so wonderful, and I kept getting to take a deep breath, strike an obnoxious Warrior 2 pose, and intone, “Rrrrrrigatoni alla disgrrrrraziata!” 

Made it once, thought it was delicious, thought it would be even better with some meat, so I added sausage. And it was good, but honestly not necessarily improved. It’s an immensely hearty dish to begin with, with pasta, sauce, eggplant, toasted breadcrumbs, and mozzarella, with parmesan on top; so adding the sausage was fairly gratuitous, and it kind of fought with the breadcrumbs a bit. I think I’ll keep this as a meatless dish in the future.

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It’s fun to make. You toast the breadcrumbs in oil, then fry up the eggplant,

then add the sauce, then cook up the pasta, drain it, and mix it all together, then add back in the breadcrumbs, plus some mozzarella you’ve torn up. Then more freshly-grated parm on top just for fun. 

My goodness. I just had jarred sauce, because some overzealous person had tossed the leftover homemade tomato sauce I was planning to use; but it was still very fine. 

This is the Deadspin directions for the sauce my husband usually makes: 

[W]hip out a medium-sized saucepot and start a basic tomato sauce. Cook some chili flakes and chopped onions and garlic in oil for a few minutes; dump a big can of whole tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find ’em; um, not San Marzano if you cannot find San Marzano) on top of the aromatics, break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, chuck in some tomato paste and a few glugs of cheap red wine, and let this stuff simmer in the background while you cook everything else.

The eggplant dish definitely benefits from a sauce with chunky tomatoes in it. 

THURSDAY
Chicago hot dogs, fries

I guess you’re supposed to have a steamed poppy seed roll for this. As an Aldi shopper, I count myself lucky if they have hot dog buns at all. Or bread in general. So we had hot dogs on regular buns with tomatoes, pickle relish, mustard, raw onions, a dill pickle, and some pickled peppers, and celery salt. 

You would think the pickle relish plus the pickle would be too much total pickle, but they’re really very different things. Some of us were also pretty enthusiastic about the celery salt. It’s neat stuff! Like savory pixie dust. What else do you use it in? I need more. I guess it must be what makes Old Bay seasoning taste like that, along with paprika.

Moe prepped this meal while I started clearing out the laundry room. Here are some before pics:

 

You can’t see it, but there is indeed a hole in the floor and I did indeed fall into it while cleaning, even though I knew it was there because it was the whole reason I was in there, cleaning. But I broke my fall by grabbing the shelf, which indeed came down on my head, spilling out many year’s worth of outdated prescription drugs, first aid supplies, cleaning products, lightbulbs, and kind of a lot of Halloween makeup. So I have that going for me. 

Then we ate hot dogs, and then we went to Home Depot to get a bunch of lumber and screws, because guess what??? We’re replacing not only the laundry room floor, but the back stairs. Two home improvement projects; two!! I confessed to Damien that I had briefly entertained the idea of just replacing the back steps with a slide, so we could just, zoop, slide out the back, and he said it was okay, because he thought maybe we should just put one of those pirate climbing ropes in. You know, I remember leaving the hospital with our first baby, and both of us thinking, “They’re just going to let us go home with this whole baby? When we’re not even grown-ups?” That situation has not improved.

FRIDAY
I don’t know. Oh wait, pizza. 

Okay, that’s it! Gotta finish up work, gotta go to adoration, gotta go to a healing Mass they’re having at our parish and we’re definitely not going to miss, and then PIRATE SLIDE!!!! I mean new back stairs.

Oh, so when my big sisters were little, they went to camp and learned the song about “Love is something when you give it away, give it away, give it away, love is something when you give it away, you end up having more!” Except one of the kids went around singing, “Love is something when you have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants, have a hole in your pants…” I never did find out what the final line was. This is why you should never send your kids to a Jesuit college, I mean summer camp. 

And here are the recipe cards!

One-pan garlicky chicken with potatoes, summer squash, and zucchini

Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • more salt, garlic powder, and onion powder for sprinkling
  • 4 lbs potatoes, scrubbed and sliced thickly
  • 6 assorted zucchini and summer squash, washed and sliced into discs with the skin on

Instructions

  1. Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cider vinegar, garlic, garlic powder, onion, powder, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. Marinate the chicken thighs in this mixture for at least half an hour.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400.

  3. Grease two large baking sheets. Arrange the chicken, potatoes, and vegetables on the sheet with as little overlap as possible.

  4. Sprinkle additional salt, onion powder, and garlic powder on the potatoes and vegetables.

  5. Cook about 40 minutes or until chicken is completely done and potatoes are slightly brown on top.

5 from 1 vote
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Rigatoni alla disgraziata

A hearty, meatless pasta dish with eggplant, breadcrumbs, and mozzarella

Ingredients

  • 2 lg eggplants with ends cut off, cut into one-inch pieces (skin on)
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil, plus a little extra for frying bread crumbs
  • 3 cups bread crumbs
  • 3 lbs rigatoni
  • 6 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 lb mozzarella
  • grated parmesan for topping

Instructions

  1. In a very large skillet or pot, heat up a little olive oil and toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

  2. Put the 3/4 cup of olive oil in the pan, heat it again, and add the cubed eggplant. Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until eggplant is soft and slightly golden. Salt to taste. Add in sauce and stir to combine and heat sauce through. Keep warm.

  3. In another pot, cook the rigatoni in salted water. Drain. Add the pasta to the eggplant and sauce mixture. Add in the toasted breadcrumbs and the shredded mozzarella. Stir to combine. Serve with grated parmesan on top.