Friday, April 30, 2010

Will he or won't he?

I could prolly pluck the leaves off a full-grown tree and still not know if Contractor No. 4 is gonna show we sit...and wait...and sit...and wait...

...but the glasses are chilling and the pizza order's in...

Hooray! He came, he looked, he measured. So while we thought the choice was clear, he gave us more food for thought...and now the onus is on us.

We'll deliberate over masterfully made martinis...and pizza.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Every now and then... moves so fast that you hafta work hard just to catch up.

So here's a fast forward through my week to get us back on track, OK?

Sunday was under-the-covers icky (yes, that's a meteorological term) so Monday I hunted & gathered what was on the GPS (Grocery Procurement System); it's nice to have that luxury seeing as I'm home; weather still frigid, so we had warm, comforting, rice and beans for dinner see This too shall pass for details...this time I added coconut milk to the rice cooking liquid; and got cauliflower ear from being on the phone.

Runaround Suzy Tuesday: Picked Dill up from school; got him to dentist; whew, no nerve damage to his tooth; a little bonding job and he was good as new; got him back to school; then off to meeting for a freelance gig; brought Dill to orthopedist for follow up on his knee; Yay!!! from knee brace to knee cuff and physical therapy; What? I need another referral for this 'cuz the script isn't good enough? Sheesh!; No show for Contractor No. 3 - not good; we had store-bought sliders en baguette; at least the weather's starting to turn; and as Dill said: All day's been good news. Amen.

Wacky Call Weds: Suffice it to say, I had a field of cauliflower growing outta my head...3 calls for the PT referral; goofy, rude, recruiter wants my precious cash to find me a job. HA!; my bro finds it 'strange' that our Mom is coming here for Mother's Day...God, I hate this "holiday" but more on that some other time; and the piece de resistance? Dealing with frustrating incompetent, unhelpful civil servants about my COBRA bill...the saving grace was named Renee and she works for the Feds...the state ones were just plain ignoramuses - And I'm the one who was let go? Double sheesh!! Oh right, dinner! Dill and I trekked to a college fair and shared a half of a real deli hot pastrami...the rest came home to the other guys who scarfed down dogs and beans.

Thoroughly Thursday: Still on the phone for the this rocket science? I don't think so; poor Dill is suffocated by this new cuff...too small? After waiting a half hour for the nurse to check him out, we realize he needs a non-existent small-and-a-half. Oh well, the medium is better than feeling his pulse through the too-tight old one; Bummer, John and I were supposed to meet so someone else could make us a cocktail after his doc appt...but our lines were crossed...see my squishy face? He kindly mixed up a lovely martini that we enjoyed outside - Yay Warmth! - while grilling the pork tenderloin and veg...

Here goes:
-Preheat the grill to hot.
-Slice the pork loin lengthwise, but only 3-quarters of the way deep, to kind of flatten it so it cooks quicker.
-In a small bowl, whisk a quarter c hoisin sauce, 1 t canola oil, 2 T white or rose
wine (not the candy pink stuff-ever! It's not safe for human consumption...sorry Mom!), a half t granulated garlic and a dash of chili oil (or hot sauce).
-Baste the grilling meat with the sauce.
-Drizzle baby bok choy that have been halved through the core with olive oil - I still had some of the garlic infused stuff, so that's what I used - salt and pepper just on the cut side.
-As the meat cooks on the hot side, turn the other side down to med and grill the bok choy for 5 mins, or until warm and they have grill marks.
-Slice the bok choy, 8 or so creminis and halve 12 or so grape tomatoes.
-Toss together and dress with an olive oil drizzle, a half T red wine vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve the sliced pork on top.

So, that's my week in a nutshell...and pardon the non-PC self-description but after this week, I feel like I'm the nut in the shell...
I promise this won't happen often...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chip and Concurrence

I think I can safely say: These have been the strangest 6 weeks of my life.

Some not-so-good things - no job, Dill's injury, Mom's injury, tending to John's wounded back - and some good things - BEST friends ever...lifting my spirits and feeding my soul.

But, "odd" just doesn't do my life justice right now, even though the chicken finally did defrost!

While enjoying an after-dinner glass of vino last night, John's phone went off...It's Dill...He's OK, but...not the word a Mom wants to hear...he's chipped his front tooth. How bad? Not too bad, but...there's that word again...

Upon inspection this's a small irregularity that's kinda sensitive...We'll call the dentist on Monday.

Think that's the only curio to add to my cabinet? Notta chance. Read on and file under You-Can't-Make-This-Stuff-Up...

So, a man, a woman and a black cloud walk into a car dealership on Saturday afternoon.

What brings ya in? asks the former cop, now car salesman...
Well, my parents begin, we had a really bad car accident the night of the big March storm...
That was You? the cop/salesman says, halting their schpiel.
Yup, they chime...
I called it in, he says.

Wow! I'm gonna guess he's not Latino, but I'll call him Angel just the same.

To counteract the weird, the Bubbles gave me roasted chicken and orzo salad.

Here goes:

Orzo Salad
-Preheat oven to 350.
-Dice half an eggplant and let it sit, salted, in a colander for 15 mins.
-Toss with 1 t worcestershire sauce and roast for 25 mins, stirring after 15.
-Set aside.
-Slice 3 large garlic gloves and let steep in a quarter c olive oil over a low flame for 10 to 15 mins.
-In a large bowl, toss 8 oz cooked orzo pasta (don't forget to salt the water!), 2 T garlic infused olive oil (you can put the rest in a jar for other uses), half a diced yellow pepper, 4 thinly sliced
scallions, 1 large seeded and diced roma tomato, 4 diced artichoke hearts, 1 T capers, 1 T fresh thyme leaves, the juice from a lemon, a half t salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
-Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for the flavors to blend.

-Preheat oven to 375.
-Starting with a whole chicken, remove the backbone with shears so you can flatten him out.
-In a small bowl, mix a rub of 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 t smoked paprika, 1 t cumin, a quarter t cayenne, zest of a lemon (you'll need a 2nd lemon if you make the orzo salad at the same time), 2 T fresh thyme leaves, 1 and a half t salt, 1 t freshly ground black pepper, a half t fenugreek seed and a half t ground corriander seed.
-Slice half the lemon thinly (6 or so slices) and put under the chicken's skin. Squeeze the remaining lemon juice onto the bird and sprinkle both sides liberally with the rub.
-Heat a large oven-proof skillet on the stove til smokin...I used the Behemouth...and sear the skin side first. When the other side's seared, pour in 2 splashes of white wine and move to oven to roast for 30 mins.

A comforting meal in these topsy-turvy times...Oh, and of course, my folks bought a car from (our) Angel.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Some things are truly worth the wait

Contractor No. 3 paid his visit today. And the best part was that he came with his wife - my friend. My friend I'd never met in person.

His wife and I became fast friends about 2 years ago when she saw my name as the contact on a press release and just knew I could help her. She's VERY resourceful, you see, and I did my best. Apparently it worked, and we've been tight ever since. By phone, we've shared our boys' driving experiences and family issues, political banter and Can-You-Friggin-Believe-Its.

And now, I finally got to meet my pal...we hugged like we'd known each other forever and it was truly worth the wait.

For dinner, tonight, we went to visit old they're not 'old' but we've known them for ever. In fact - I love telling this story - he brought her as a 'date' to Dillon's bris. (Email me/comment if you need clarification!) Actually, we've known them longer than that...

But, we've been a little remiss in the getting-together department. So tonight we went over and were treated to a marvelous seafood dinner...Oh yes, my lads stayed home - there was hockey to be played!...and drank lovely wine...and chitchatted about this, that and the other thing...and simply enjoyed the divine comfort found in the company of good friends.

And it was truly worth the wait.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The big defrost

Some days I feel more domestic than others. But they are few and VERY far between. This was one of those domesticated days.

While I didn't do what I've wanted to do - change the clothes in my closet to the appropriate season - I did what John could never do - sort out the woodworking magazines littering the house. (Actually, they consumed his vanity in the master bathroom, but I don't wanna embarrass ssshhhh, don't tell.)

I tossed about a ton of my old mags too and it all felt so good.

I also tried to start dinner a bit earlier by defrosting a whole chicken in the morning...but since it was a rock at 6 - and it was a Friday - and a little medical procedure knocked John on his butt, we went with our pizza fall back.

Thanks Pizza guys up the street!

Oh well...I'm hoping that bird'll be toast on Sunday.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Contractor No. 2

Not as melodic as Love Potion No. 9, but not as odoriferous as Chanel No. 5 either. (While the latter is lovely, I'm a Chanel Coco Mademoiselle gal m'self.)

With time getting short before the Shower Stall Show n' Tell, the Bubbles told me that last night's leftovers and a Big salad is the way to go...a big salad with 2 little ones on the side...They're rather insistent when not hanging out with the toddler set.

Time was shorter than planned...I hate when that happens!...'cuz Contractor No. 2 showed up a half hour early for the appointment. Urgh! I don't do early: I'll be late to my own funeral, as the saying goes. Thankfully, he caught me with only my proverbial pants down.

Ready as I'd ever be, we trudged upstairs and I did the schpiel on behalf of my still-commuting-home husband: Yes, we'll need all new tile and Greenboard; No, we're keeping the same base; Yes, the seat will probably need to be reconstructed; Yes, we'll need a new shower door, but; No, we don't want anything too fancy-schmancy with etched sea birds or anything as ridiculous as that...

I can sum up his visit thus: He came. He saw. He measured. He said little. He left.

Time to make dinner!

I added sliced scallions and celery as well as jarred sliced sundried tomatoes to a mix of romaine and arugula and dressed it with a quick - as in swirled around the bowl, not even pre-combined - vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt & freshly ground black pepper.

To add a little variety for us see-food, oops I mean, seafood eaters, I made 2 'topper' salads. The first was a non-mayo tuna salad and the second was a shrimp and avocado morsel...

Here goes:

-Dump the contents of a fine oil-packed tuna tin into a bowl.
-Add a pinch of granulated garlic powder and salt n' pepper to taste.
-Squeeze on juice from about a third of a lemon.
-Mix to combine.

Shrimp and avocado-
-In a bowl, combine a quarter lb boiled and coarsely chopped shrimp and half a cubed avocado. -Add a third c plain yogurt, 1 t dijon mustard and the juice from a third of a lemon.
-Gently mix to combine.

Both were really tasty...and Dill even said that it all 'worked really well together.'

Wow...I got more outta him than I did from Contractor No. 2! Now let's see if his estimate hits the right note...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Guilty pleasures

Yeah, I got ' embarrassing to me as they are.

Butter-soaked movie popcorn, spoonfuls of Nutella from the jar, the chewy ends of a good rye bread (actually the heel from any good much so that my Guys think French bread comes from the market with chunks missing), Wild Cookies for breakfast....

But not all my guilty pleasures are food-related...there are others.

Listening to The Monkees, watching Real Genius for the umpteenth time, hearing that the NJ Devils have lost (sorry gang, but I bleed NY Rangers' blue) and checking my weekly horoscope.

I'm sure I missed a few, but it's the last one that's of interest today.

Now, I've heard that a person can open ANY book, point to a sentence and find some sort of relative meaning. Each week, I crack open that website and KNOW the Leo entry was written just for Me! It's creepy...but like a train wreck, I hafta look.

So today, feeling not-so-thrilled to be ungainfully employed, I searched out my dirty-little-secret of a site and - wouldja believe? - that horoscope lady nailed it.

She knew I'm riding a bumpy road to my goal this week. And, she said, a certain planet is providing the courage and strength I need to resolve this "rocky reality." Does this mean I'll be gainfully employed by next Wednesday's premonition? Doubtful. But it does mean she's sufficiently suckered me in and I've lost the sad-sack feeling.

Yay Me! We'll celebrate with stir-fried chicken and eggplant.

Here goes:

(Oh, you may have to tweek the seasonings a bit...I'm afraid something might've gone into the wok but not my notes, such as they are.)

-Start by marinating 3 large chicken breasts, sliced into thin strips, in a half t sesame oil, 1 T rice vinegar, a quarter c soy sauce, 1 heaping t hoisin sauce and a pinch of white pepper before prepping the rest of the ingredients.
-Cube half an eggplant - 3 c maybe - toss in colander and sprinkle liberally with helps leach out any bitterness...and let sit in the sink for at least 10 mins. Rinse thoroughly before cooking.
-In a small bowl, combine 1 T soy sauce, 1 heaping t ground bean paste, 1 t chili-garlic sauce and a half t honey. This sauce will coat the veg as they cook.
-Heat a wok - or large saute pan - to smoking, add 2 T canola (or veg oil), then quickly saute the chicken - with the marinade - until it's opaque. Remove chicken to a clean bowl and set aside.
-To the remaining juices, add 1 thinly sliced red onion and 3 small sliced garlic cloves and cook until translucent.
-Add the rinsed eggplant and saute for 4 mins (crusty is good here), then add the veg sauce and 1 5-oz (drained) tin sliced water chestnuts and 1 15-oz (drained) tin straw mushrooms.
-Stir to combine and when the veg are warmed through, return the chicken to the wok - you may need a splash of chicken stock for more sauce - and toss all to combine.

I served this with fried wide noodles, just like the kind that come with soup at the Chinese restaurant, because my defrosted eggroll wrappers (remember that post?) couldn't go back into the freezer. Easy peasy...cut 'em in strips and pop 'em into hot fat for a split second. The color'll tell you when they're done.

Whoops! I forgot to mention my favorite guilty pleasure food: Cotton Candy. Mmmm.....
What's yours?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

If you could have ANYthing ... wanted for dinner tonight, what would it be?

I've been asking myself this because the Bubbles seem to be AWOL...prolly playing in some 3-year-old's sun-drenched backyard. Fooey.

I think I want Chinese...perhaps I could whip up some egg rolls and some sauteed noodles....I wonder what's in the pantry to further this along...

Well, I've got the goods, but I also have VERY hungry spawn, so what can I do quicker? OK, here's your choice boys: Naan Pizzas or Baked Eggs.

Resoundingly, they opted for Baked Eggs. OK, easy and fast. For details, see In heavy rotation, but today I added 5 stems worth of fresh thyme leaves and 4 slices of prosciutto that I sliced into ribbons.

I hope the Bubbles come play with me soon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sing along...

Monday, Monday...dah dah dahdahdah dah...OK, enough of that. You know I can only carry a tune if my iPod's in my hand.

The first of the contractors is coming in for a shower-stall estimate dinner's gotta be quick and easy...I'm thinkin dogs and beans or pasta...

Nope, dogs and beans...I haven't had enough nitrates lately.

Since this is basically heat-n-serve, I'll regale you with what I put on top of mine...bbq sauce, then some leftover broccoli slaw and topped it all with a few slices of avocado. Man, they were good!

And washed it all down with a superb martini, thanks to my very own Martini God. I was leaning toward a crisp rose that's been chilling in the fridge, but no. After Contractor No. 1 left, the poor man (literally and figuratively) nearly hyperventilated and needed something stronger to help relieve the stress.

What's that? $600 for the newfangled Styrofoam base? We'll stick to the old shower pan. Huh? The floor's kind of soft near the shower? Can you add that to the estimate? Another exhaust fan? Just for the shower? Vent through the roof?

And on and on...

To be honest, when we got outside to look at the roof line, I didn't help matters.

Um, what about That? Do you do patio stairs? Yes they are caving in. What would I like there? Hmmm...bluestone? That expensive, huh? What if it wasn't a solid piece? Really? That much?

I happily ditched any idea for that rose and let the martini do its thang. I hope we have enough gin: Contractor No. 2 is coming on Thursday.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flavors of spring

I can't hold back any longer...I need, yes NEED, fried artichokes...the tang, the salt, the crunch, the yielding flesh...I think my fridge maybe harboring a few of those overgrown thistles and more are on the GPS...

..Yes, I will make them tonight! But as much as I would enjoy a meal from this delicacy alone - I could gorge 'til I bristled in verdant shades - pale greenish yellow isn't my color. I'm more a mix n'match gal...

Hmmmm...I watched a cooking show where the guy crisped up the skin on striped bass fillets and then nestled them in a lemony escarole broth...sounds good.

Let's go see what's at the market...

Thankfully, my GPS didn't let me down as it had last week...but there was no striped bass. I could've gone to the fishmonger, but I really didn't want to make yet another stop today.

There was an option though...whole bronzini. It was about the right size and the guy behind the counter said he'd de-scale and gut it for me, so I said: Sure! I'm brave, I'll take a whole fish! (Well, I said the last parts in my head...)

Oh, in case you were wondering if my non-seafood-avor would eat tonight - I picked up some minute steaks too.

And while cooking, my Master Mixologist macerated some (over-the-hill) strawberries in vodka, then muddled them with half a clementine and a splash of dry vermouth and garnished our 'tinis with a slice of the was waaaaay pretty and rather tasty...but certainly different. Ahhhh.....

Here goes:

(For the fried artichokes with lemon, see Decisions, Decisions...)

-In a large heavy-bottomed pot, crisp up about a half c applewood smoked bacon in 2 T olive oil. -Remove crispies and into the remaining fat, add a quart of chicken stock, 1 thinly sliced lemon, 5 crushed garlic cloves and the leaves from 6 or so stems of fresh thyme.
-Bring to a boil then add 1 15-oz bag o'chopped fresh escarole, 1 and a half t salt, 1 t freshly ground black pepper and 1 t turbinado sugar. (The lemon pith is bitter and sometimes so is the escarole.)
-While the broth is simmering (for 15 mins), heat 2 T olive oil in a large saute pan on med high.
-Pat dry your fish...inside and out if nec...and decapitate and de-tail fin if you choose...and season with salt and pepper.
-When your oil is smokin, add your fish - skin side down if you have fillets - and do not touch for about 2 to 3 mins...the skin will get crispy and will not stick to the pan if you're patient. (If you're doing a whole fish, repeat on other side, if you're doing fillets move on to the next step!)
-When the skin's crispy, gently place the fish onto the simmering broth - fillets go skin side up and put whole swimmers in with their 'prettiest' side up - and let braise for 1 to 3 mins depending how thick it is.
-Serve it up with a few crispy bacon pieces on top.

That fish was moist and flavorful - but not 'fishy' - and John even dealt with the bones.

I'm so glad I was brave.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The circle of life

This isn't the story of birth or rebirth or death. It's the story of Austen as Simba/Dillon as Rafiki.

Ya got me, it's really the story of being silly and using pets as props for Saturday night entertainment when the hockey gang is recovering from the Junior Prom (or some such nonsense).

We have 2 cats: Austen, a large long-haired ginger who is the Beta cat and Sizzle, a shrinking gray-striped tabby who is the elder statesman and pretty much rules the feline roost. Oh, and they used to be male...if you catch my drift.

And if you're counting that makes me the lone female in the house.

But back to Austen...he looks like a miniature lion and has that distinctive caught-in-the-headlights expression when Dillon lifts him over his head to meet the kingdom. Is it cruel? Maybe. But it's pretty funny too. At least - as Rafiki - Dill doesn't say, It iz time, then bonk Austen on the head with a stick.

Ah yes, back to the food chain...the Bubbles gave me whatever was lyin' around - chicken & apple sausage and pappardelle pasta - and I turned it into baked pasta fit for a king.

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.
-Start your super-salty water to boil for the half pound of pasta. And when ready, boil the pappardelle to al dente...any pasta would do for this, so don't worry if you don't have the long ribbons hanging out in your cupboard like I did.
-In a saute pan, toast 1 thinly sliced red onion and 2 minced garlic cloves in 2 T butter and season with salt and pepper.
-In a sauce pan, melt 3 T butter then add 4 T flour and stir to make a roux. Let it toast until cafe au lait color, then whisk in a quarter c white wine then a half c milk then 1 c chicken stock. -Season the bechamel sauce with 1 t salt, a half t each white pepper, smoked paprika and dried parsley.
-Finish the sauce by whisking in about 2 oz goat cheese. Keep warm on a very low flame.
[If the sauce is too thick, add more chicken stock in quarter c increments until it has a thick, but still liquid consistency.]
-Back to the saute pan...Thinly slice 12 oz sausage and add to the onions and garlic to warm. Add about 5 sliced cremini mushrooms, a half c frozen peas a splash of white wine and season with a half t salt and about a quarter t freshly ground black pepper.
-Cover and heat everything through.
-When the pasta's draining (out of the cooking pot), pour the contents of the saute pan into the pasta pot and pour the sauce over. Add the pasta and mix carefully to combine.
-Pour the whole shebang into the baking dish and top with a mixture of 2 T parmesan, a half c panko and 2 t olive oil.
-Bake for 40 mins or until crusty and bubbling.

And while I may be the de facto Queen of My Castle, your subjects will enjoy majestic pleasure with this dish...and elevate you to the top of Pride Rock.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What to do, what to do...

Yes, it's pizza night...and Conte's has been calling to me for some time like a Siren's Song - without the repercussions!

OK, maybe repercussions in the cholesterol department, but I can count on 2 fingers the times I've had lunch since entering the realm of the I should be OK...John? Not so much.

But Conte's is a treat, and we deserve a treat. So do you, by the way! We all do every now and again.

MMmmmm....Oh MY! That everything pizza - no anchovies! - was to die for! And really hit the spot. Thin crust, the most flavorful sauce, mouth-exciting toppings and a beer to wash it down. Truly, it's heaven on a bread-like product. Right...It's heaven PERIOD.

Those of you in the Princeton area or with ties here will understand what I'm saying...Others of you will have to make it over here for a taste.

And when you do...lemme know so I can join ya!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Only 2 things are certain: Death and...


I'm in the mood for risotto and the Bubbles complied. They gave me cremini mushrooms and frozen peas to fold in and shrimp to serve on the side. I love the Bubbles! (Today, anyway!)

Although I can't claim Italian heritage, risotto has long been one of my favorite comfort foods...It's creamy, satisfying and you can eat it with a spoon if you like. Kind of a hot version of ice cream...effortless to eat and just slides down. Ahhhh.....

I hear that some people are afraid to make it...

"Too much stirring," some say.

"Too much watching," others say.

"Too much kvetching," I say.

As long as your stock remains hot and your pot is sturdy, risotto is a cinch.

Here goes:

-In a stock pot heat 9 to 10 c chicken stock to simmering.
-Mince 2 large shallots, 4 garlic cloves and a sprig's worth of fresh rosemary leaves.
-In a heavy pot - I used my dutch oven - melt 4 T butter with 2 t olive oil...butter's for flavor, oil's to reduce burn.
-Add the shallot and onions and when they've sweated, add 2 c arborio rice to coat in the fat and toast just a smidge.
-Stir in a third c white wine to the rice and when it's been absorbed, stir in the stock 1 c at a time making sure each addition has been absorbed before you add the next. You do have to vigilantly stir so the rice doesn't stick to the bottom.
-After incorporating about 8 c of stock, season with a half t salt and lots of ground black pepper.
-Add more stock until the rice is creamy and al dente.
-Add 5 large sliced mushrooms, a half c peas, the rosemary and 2 handfuls grated parmesan and fold it all in.
-Serve immediately.

Oh, the shrimp! I forgot to tell you about them!
I put about a half pound onto a half sheet pan after marinating them in the juice from a lime, half a lemon and a clementine (they are REALLY orange!) as well as a sprinkle of chili powder. I popped the pan onto the hot grill and stirred them until they were pink. Whew, sorry 'bout that!

I'm thinking one other thing might be a certainty in utterly happy risotto makes me feel.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unfortunately, Fortunately

Yesterday, John and I played a game of Unfortunately, Fortunately.

Unfortunately, the plumber touched a tile in our shower stall and it caved in.

Fortunately, the leak from the stall onto the kitchen floor isn't a plumbing issue.

Unfortunately, we weren't planning on redoing our master bath.

Fortunately, we get to pick new tile for the shower stall for a little redecoration....

You get the idea...drip, drip, drip has planted its wet self as Priority 1 on our (ever-growing) List of Projects. Never mind that we have to strike a match to light the listing stove burners; or that the laminate on some kitchen cabinets has melted just enough to prevent doors/drawers from closing properly; or that our income was recently chopped in 2...

Nope. When the drip calls, you listen.

So while the Bubbles merrily popped overhead today, I was daydream designing with the blues and greens of glass mosaic tiles that Catherine and I saw at Lowe's yesterday...

Mmmm....that would go really well with - POP! - chicken. Chicken? Oh right...dinner.

Grilled, with bbq sauce, and maybe I'll make 'em into tacos...that's my plan and I'm stickin to it!

Unfortunately, a plan's only as good as the screen it's written on.
(no tortillas or taco shells in the house)

Fortunately, I am flexible!
(tacos morph into a french bread sandwich)

Here goes:

-Heat the grill to high.
-Dry 4 boneless chicken breasts and season lightly on each side with adobo seasoning. Drop onto the grill.
-After flipping the chicken onto the second side, brush the cooked side lightly with (jarred) bbq sauce. (I used Trader Joe's smokey, but not overly sweet, sauce.)
-When side 2 is done, brush on a bit more sauce. By basting the cooked sides, you don't have to worry about raw/cooked cross contamination...or having the sauce burn on the food.
-Slice open the french bread lengthwise and brush a bit of bbq sauce onto the bread.
-Thinly slice the chicken, pile onto the bread and top with 4 slices havarti cheese.

My darling Mixologist provided the martinis ... and on the side, we had broccoli slaw (see A new way to call...) and this time I wanted the dressing a bit more tangy so I substituted plain greek yogurt for the mayo, used juice from half a lemon, and added a half t honey and a quarter t sesame oil...and I think that's the way to go, especially the martinis!

Unfortunately, there were few leftovers.

Fortunately, the game starts over tomorrow.

Leftover's are OK in my book

Hmmm...So John's stopping on his way home to get lawn fertilizer, I'm hitting the market to pick up the butter and eggs the GPS didn't include and the guys have been noshing all afternoon...

...It's Clean Out the Fridge Night!

Well, last night's Savory bread pudding anyway...

The guys and I had a nice dinner, a little conversation and watched an 'educational' program on the life and times of sperm...they used people to illustrate the little swimmers and so Dill and I picked the top 2 and Jere says, the guy with the glasses wins, and we say, how do you know? and Jere says, I saw this in class. My tax dollars at work.

So, I'll leave you with this thought: If sperm were People-sized, their travel in the female body would be monumentally more strenuous and daunting than 15 back-to-back triathlons...So after they burst open their heads to gain egg-try (entry, get it?), they should be rewarded with a microscopic bread pudding...doncha think?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Time to try something new

I've often wondered what it would be like to take traditionally savory dishes and turn them sweet and vice versa....I have a wonderful apple cake recipe that I've been thinking about twisting into an onion tart, but haven't gotten around to it...

What I have gotten around to is a new take on bread pudding...a Savory bread pudding...and while I was somewhat concerned that it would embody the title of the blog, I had an inner confidence that everything would be all right. I mean really, it would be, in essence, an inside-out quiche, right?


The Bubbles gave me sagey sausages, parmesan, goat cheese, scallions and seasonings...

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 325 and grease a 9x13 baking dish.
-Chunk up a loaf of challah into 1 and a half inch cubes.
-In a large bowl, whisk to combine 6 eggs, 6 T melted butter, a quart heavy cream, 5 (3- to 4-inch long) sliced sausage links, a half c grated parmesan, 2 thinly sliced scallions, 3 minced garlic cloves, 4 oz chunked goat cheese, a half t salt, lots of ground black pepper and a half t aleppo pepper flakes.
-Add the challah cubes to the custard mixture and drown 'em so they soak up as much custard as they'll hold.
-Turn into baking dish and cover with foil.
-Bake for 50 mins, then remove foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 mins to crunch up the top.

Let me tell ya, as odd as this sounds it turned out was creamy and flavorful and scarfed up by all.

Anyone up for couscous cookies? Nah, me either...but I might be on to something.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, this is my funday

My GPS (grocery procurement system) failed me yet again. No butter. No eggs. Urgh! Maybe I should get the kind that talks to me: Um Suz, don't forget the staples - Again. Maybe one that's male with a sexy, silky voice...never mind, I'd never keep to my budget that way.


I did pick up a pork loin and since the weather was glorious yet again, it would work well along with potatoes and asparagus roasted on the grill. But how to do the meat? I decided to brine it would add flavor and since I rarely brine, it would also be 'different.'

Here goes:

-In a ziptop bag, combine 2 c water with 1 c salt (kosher's all I use), a half c sugar, 1 T black peppercorns, 1 t corriander seeds, 6 whole allspice, 3 roughly chopped garlic cloves, a quarter t red pepper flakes and a handful of fresh dill sprigs (stems and all).
-Pop in the 2 lb pork loin, squeeze out the air, and seal. Refrigerate for 1 and a half to 4 hours. I did the minimum and could taste the difference.
-Before grilling on a med high grill, remove from brine (discard the brine) and sprinkle with Jerk Pork blend seasoning.

My, Oh, My. We could taste the brine right off but it didn't put a salty or sweet flavor in our tasted luscious and tender. Or am I thinking of my fantasy GPS voice....No, it was definitely the pork.

Saturday in the Dark

I'll warn you now, with apologies to match: This entry is going to be really've seen, or um read, the food before - we had Korean BBQ steak - but this was a night of odd occurrences that when added up don't make much sense.

I walked around shaking my head - a lot.

I met a woman most didn't think existed; the phone rang off the hook; and there were teenage boys in and out of the house most of the evening.

All in all, it was a good night, an amusing night and it's a good thing my Master Mixologist was up to the task.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Caramel corn to die for!

Seeing as it's Friday - pizza day! - I thought I'd tempt you with a not-too-sweet snack that doesn't last long whether it's offered from the bowl or bag. It's tough to keep this guilty pleasure at arm's distance so there's a bit left to watch TV with...

A few of you - Vonnie, Catherine, Elena you too, right? - have had the pleasure of sinking your teeth into chewy fresh popcorn laced with rich sweet salty caramel and perhaps a few pecans. Those of you who haven't had that indulgence will have to recreate it on your own...or knock on my door. It's that good.

Now, I don't suppose it speaks well of my character to speak so well of my creations...But here's the thing: I'd say the same of someone else's - if it tasted as good (better's cool too)! By now you know me: I cook what I want to eat; I like to eat well; and if it's not good this go-round, I'll play until it's just where I crave it. (By the way, I've played with this quite a bit!)

Here goes:

-Pop yer corn. I heat the dutch oven with about a quarter c canola oil and 3 kernels in the bottom. (I'm not finished with the corn instructions yet if you're goin retro and not microwaving it, but I'll do simultaneous corn/caramel play-by-play since this is how I go about it. Oooo, I'll color the corn directions in green and the caramel directions in an orange. I love technology!)
-In another sauce pan, add a half c water to 2 c sugar and stir on high heat until sugar dissolves.
-By now, the 3 kernels have popped - Don't forget to keep the lid on!! - so add almost a quarter c more kernels to the pot and slap on the lid. You're gonna hafta shake the pot to keep the kernels moving so they don't burn. It's ready when there's about 5 seconds between pops. Remember Jiffy Pop? Kinda like that.
-When the sugar's dissolved, Stop stirring and let it come up to a boil. Watch this VERY carefully, because browning sugar goes from delectable to disgusting in a no time flat. You can shimmy the pan, but no stirring.
-When the corn is popped, toss it into a large bowl that you've sprayed with oil and sprinkle on about a half t of salt and a couple handfuls of pecans if you'd like.
-When the caramel is a lovely amber, cut the heat and add 3 T butter stirring.
-Quickly pour over the popcorn add another half t of salt and carefully mix the whole thing with a silicone or rubber spatula.
-Let can even spread it into a single layer on a Silpat-lined baking sheet to cool off in the freezer if you're impatient like me...then break it into bite-sized or hand-sized pieces to enjoy.

OK, there are about 3 salty foods on the planet that John could ignore without trouble...1 is popcorn...but to get some of this, he'd walk half-way around the planet - proverbially speaking, of course!

Are you craving it yet?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thank you Cuisinart! an order on Tuesday with the cheapest, slooooowest delivery option...and get it on Thursday - Now that's service with me smiling!

Even though my food processor is back in business, the Bubbles didn't care. They offered me pasta, beans, tomatoes and salty condiments....with a bounty like that, how could I refuse?

I couldn't....besides, I've had enough "meat" to last me...and I'm getting a little cranky. Which is probably why making dinner tonight was an ADD disaster!

Facebook IMing with a friend I desperately needed to hear from; talking on the phone; sending and receiving emails - including one so supportive, and from an unexpected source, that nearly brought me to (happy) tears; heating the pan then peeling the garlic - ACK, no wait! the bacon needs to go in the pan first!; What John? Yes, you can put the pasta in pot...wait, wait...Not Yet!!!

And on and on...I did finally get my groove back...

Here goes:

-Start the pasta water to boil...with lotsa salt!...and at the appropriate time, boil the pasta to al dente.
-Preheat large skillet and add 3 slices applewood-smoked bacon sliced in half-inch strips. Fry til order not to overcook the bacon, consider adding a quarter c water as it sautes - it keeps it from burning.
-Remove the bacon pieces from the pan and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan. Add about a t of olive oil before adding 4 large minced garlic cloves on med heat to sweat.
-Add 4 to 5 oil-packed anchovy fillets to the garlic and mash 'em up with the back of a wooden spoon...Jere'll never know they're there!...and add a half t crushed red pepper flakes, some freshly ground black pepper and 2 t capers.
-Drain a 15-and-a-half oz tin of cannellini beans, reserving the liquid, and add to the garlic. When they've picked up a bit of color, either from rolling around with the pepper flakes or from the heat, add a 14-and-a-half oz tin of diced tomatoes with their juice.
-Heat through and if you need a little more liquid to make more sauce, use the reserved bean close to the bottom of your container as possible, since it's naturally starchy and the starch thicken the sauce, of course!
-Combine with the pasta, add some grated parmesan and toss 'n serve!
[Just a note: There's no additional salt in all comes from the anchovies, capers, bacon and cheese.]

Well, a good dose of comfort carbs can soothe away the crankies...but still, I think I should crawl back into my Electronic Vacuum, don't you?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The car said it was 100 degrees

Gotta love Fickle April...Will this heat May bring flowers? Dunno, but it sure is blooming all the trees...and lemme tell ya, it's a lovely sight!

I am so ready for the delight of summer's warm, fragrant, weather...And the lovely, free-spirited allure of outdoor living. What's better than grilled salmon to pay homage to summer? I don't know either, so the Bubbles must be right!

(Since Jere doesn't do seafood, I needed to invoke one of Don Ho's tiny bubbles and also grilled chicken thighs.)

I riffed on a friend's salmon marinade and used it for both the fish and the chicken....I grilled up some mushrooms, celery and scallions and added them to the salad to round out the meal.

Here goes:

-In a blender, whir 3 quarters c orange juice, about a quarter c maple syrup - the Real stuff!, 4 med garlic cloves rough chopped, 1 ribbed & seeded jalapeno, 2 t fresh thyme leaves, a half t fresh (frozen, 'cuz that's where I store the hand) ginger peeled & sliced, lots of freshly ground black pepper and 2 T soy sauce to combine. If it's still a bit chunky, that's fine.
-Pour over proteins and let marinate while the grill heats.

The marinade hit all the right notes: Sweet, (a little) spicy, tangy and savory...just perfect on a sultry Prelude to Summer eve.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm sick of flesh

After eight days of hard, dry-as-the-Sinai matzah, I crave light, fluffy buttermilk biscuits...and since I have a wee bit of time on my hands, I can make 'em tonight! Ah, but how do I make them 'dinner?' What can I put in them...ticking off all suitable protein options, the Bubbles finally came to my rescue: Burgers!

OK, so it's more meat, but it's meat chopped into little bits - easier to choke down - and really, it's the only thing the Bubbles offered that fit on a biscuit bun!

Still being Passover, my mouth watered as I made the biscuits, but I held out!

I flavored the burgers with Worcestershire sauce and about a t of ground bean paste and John grilled 'em. Yes, with a dimple in the middle so they didn't go all ballish. And I made a salad...

...but the biscuits were the stars.

Here goes:

-Preheat oven to 450.
-In a mixer or bowl of a food processor (mine bit the dust this weekend but 2 replacement parts are on the way!) combine 1 and 3 quarters c flour with 2 t baking powder and a half t each baking soda and salt. Whir to fluff (aka sifting for the lazy).
-Add 6 T cubed frigid butter and mix only until the butter pieces are pea-sized.
-Add 3 quarters c buttermilk and combine only until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
(These last 2 steps are to ensure the biscuits are flaky and soft...which they were!)
-Dump out onto a floured surface and kneed 8, count 'em 8, times.
-Roll out to about a half inch thick and cut to your desired size.
-Place on ungreased baking sheet and brush tops with milk.
-Bake for 12 mins...and enjoy!

Oh my...they were manna in a desert of cracker crumbs...flaky (like me!), buttery, soft, and oh so tasty!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It had to be done...

...or as my friend so aptly put it: A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

So I did.

I needed fried chicken tonight, but being Passover...Oy vey, there's only so much unleavening a gal can take!...I couldn't use flour....Ah, but I do have matzah meal and matzah cake flour (just a finer ground version)...Would it work? Of course it would, I saw it in a magazine! Oooo, and they used egg whites as the wet stuff...interesting...I'll give it a go.

Of course, that's all I took from the recipe...matzah meal and egg whites...the rest belongs to that chef.

John and his soux chef (Jere) created a mashed potato dish Friday night when I was socializing that he replicated with sweet potatoes - essentially mashed w/carmelized onions - and put on some green beans while I lugged out the Behemoth and did the chicken strips.

Here goes:

-Heat about an inch of canola oil in a large cast iron skilled to 350.
-My chicken needed to be stripped, so I cut each of the 4 breasts into long thirds.
(A bit of a warning here: I had too much dip and dredge, so these amounts reflect that...)
-Mix 1 part matzah cake flour with 2 parts matzah meal, season liberally with salt, freshly ground pepper and granulated garlic in a suitable dish for dredging.
-In another, similar, dish mix 4 egg whites with a half t each aleppo pepper flakes and smoked paprika. I usually use hot sauce here, but my GPS failed me this week and I'm out. (It's on the shopping list for next week as is port...can't have that happen again!)
-Dip the chicken in the wet mixture then the dry and fry to crispy golden brown.

Not only did this work, but it worked great! Don't think it'll replace my Famous Fried Chicken, but it's a terrific alternative for Passover or any other time...

Oh, and even though it's still Passover, I only dipped once.

The result?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Duck and fore!

Ah...Spring is in the air...and that means two things to John: Gardening and Golf.

So, this weekend we did both.

Today was nine holes of golf and while I won't tell you what I shot (I did bogey a hole!), I will say that we had a great time...something I rarely say when golfing with my hubby. You see, there are some things that are better left undone between life partners...and golf is it for me. Neither of us is any good, so when the advice starts coming I'd rather be cleaning the house. But today there was no advice so maybe this is a new leaf for our marriage.

And while we galavanted in the sunshine, I was thinking about dinner...Mmmmm, duck breasts, grilled with a cherry port glaze and wild rice with grilled artichoke hearts. No wonder I didn't shoot so well!

Here goes:

-Start 4 c stock to boil for the rice and preheat the grill on high. Wild rice take about a third longer to cook than regular rice, so start that ahead. Oh, and it's a 1 part rice to 4 parts liquid ratio too.
-Drain a tin of artichoke hearts and put them on the grill to warm and get a bit of a char...when done, quarter them and marinate in olive oil, salt, pepper, 2 minced med garlic cloves and a squeeze of lemon.
-In a small sauce pot, simmer 3 quarters c dried cherries in a c of port...What?? Just a dribble of port came out of the bottle! Ah, there's about a c of red wine still in that bottle. OK, it'll work...with a fresh rosemary sprig until reduced by half. (Add stock if you've gone too far, like I did.)
-Score the skin of the duck breasts and season both sides with Chinese 5 spice and aleppo pepper flakes.
-Grill the duck - starting skin side down - until med rare...internal temp on the grill should be 135 and they'll carry over cook.
-Fold the artichokes into the cooked rice and serve the sliced duck w/sauce on top.

To be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the way the meal turned out...didn't have the POP I thought it would...but the guys couldn't get enough of it. Maybe I birdied that hole afterall!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bubble and squeak

If there's a "Jewish" version, matzah brei is it! And it's a Passover brekkie that gets unanimous cheers...

It's softened matzah mixed with eggs and fried...what could be bad? Except for the ketchup they smother it in...blech!...I'm not an eggs with ketchup gal.

Here goes:

-For each serving, break up 2 sheets matzah into 2" square or so pieces, rustic is fine and uniformity's not necessary, and put into a bowl.
-Fill the bowl with enough hot tap water to cover the matzah, then drain the water.
-Add an egg, salt and pepper to taste and mix - hands work best - to combine.
-Fry up in butter and listen to the bubble and squeak!

As good as it is, matzah brei fullness doesn't last all dinner's in order!

I've had a chuck roast in the freezer that's been giving me an Eat Me look for too long, so I took pity on it, defrosted it and got ready to devour it with roasted sweet potatoes and salad.

Here goes:

-Preheat the grill to really hot.
-Prepare a rub in the food processor: Whir 1 large dried ancho chile, 1 med dried chipotle chile, 2 dozen black peppercorns, a half t coriander seeds, 2 t salt, 2 t turbinado sugar, a quarter c coffee beans and 2 large sliced garlic cloves until ground.
-Cover both sides of the 4 lb roast with the rub, pushing it into the meat as much as possible, and sear each side on the hot grill.
-In a dutch oven, saute 1 large red onion diced, 4 ribs celery diced and 3 large garlic cloves sliced in about 3 T butter until translucent. Season with salt and ground black pepper.
-Add meat and juices to the pot and cover with a 14.5 oz tin diced tomatoes, a half c sweet vermouth and a 3" cinnamon stick.
-Cover the pot and braise on low heat for an hour.

John roasted the sweet potatoes on the grill while we enjoyed one of his signature cocktails outside and I rounded out the dinner with a salad of romaine, leftover blanched chopped spinach and dried chopped dates in a white wine vinaigrette.

It was such a lovely day that I tried not to bubble and squeak with enthusiasm!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day Four, and still no matzah brei

Wow! Did I get up so late as a teenager? Prolly. But by the time the guys get up, they're onto lunch. And, being a light-eating grazer by nature, I've been hitting the java and crunching some matzah spread with charoset and I'm pretty much sated.

Until the next little urge...

So as I slurp some coffee ice cream, I'll tell ya that dinner's on the guys tonight: I'm goin out!

Now, if you haven't guessed, even as a Jewish household we're blended - John isn't Jewish, but is incredibly supportive and I didn't grow up in a Kosher home - so our house rules reflect this.

When his parents came to a seder at our house, it invariably fell on Good I made fish to go along with the brisket. [Oh, and by the way...No one missed it this year!] When we get candy for Easter which, like Christmas, we do as a secular celebration, it's the stuff without corn syrup.

And while I don't sell or even put away my chametz (levened stuff), it sits untouched throughout Passover. There's no chametz-eating in the house. That's the rule.

But, as independent and free thinkers, my guys have to make their own choices when they're out of the house. (Besides, whoever would think I could monitor them probably doesn't have teenagers!) They've been bar mitzvahed (not really a verb, but you'll let me slide, right?) and need to figure out for themselves how they want it all to work.

Would I like for them to choose to keep Passover? Who wouldn't? But I have to be realistic.

So when I told John I would be hoisting a glass of wine to celebrate a friend's birthday tonight, I reminded him that if they choose chametz for dinner, it can't come into the house. And he was OK with that. "I know you don't want it in the house," he said, "and of course I respect that."

What a guy!

So I'm off to enjoy some birthday bonding with the comforting knowledge that I raised at least one of 'em right!

I think he deserves some matzah brei tomorrow morning!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And it was the best brekkie ever!

Today while the lads were still sleeping, I hard boiled 10 eggs and treated myself to one of my favorite brekkies: Hot hard boiled eggs smashed and 'smothered' in butter with salt and pepper...I even chopped up a little bit of scallion to add and it was a hot morning egg salad...It was divine. Creamy and salty and peppery and, like I said, a treat. (I rarely hard boil eggs...)

When the guys roused from their slumber, I made 'em for them too. Jere licked his plate; Dill asked for pickle relish in it...the thought of which disgusted me...but he agreed to add it later if he still wanted it. He didn't and would've licked his plate if the fork hadn't already done it's job.

Ah...that was brekkie...and now for a no-dinner evening (due to much grazing all day), or so I thought...

Oh well, Dill was out, so it was salad dayz and the leftover potato gnocchi squares pan fried in a little olive oil (OMG! They are divine that way!) for the two Js and leftover chicken soup with matzah balls for me...

...a little break never hurt anyone, right?