Friday, March 24, 2017

Anthony's Delivery, March 23, 2017

Tonight was Jeannene's night to choose. She was in the mood for Italian and asked me whether I wanted to go out or have her cook something Italian. I was happy with either choice. She makes yummy pasta dishes and there's an Italian place in town that we drive by often, but have not yet visited. I have been in the mood for my own spaghetti, too, so I offered to make that, if she wanted me to. When she got home, she had been thinking it over, but asked what I wanted to do. The baby was asleep, so we thought it might be best for her just to run out and pick up either ingredients or take-out. Then, we remembered that one of the local pizza places, Anthony's, also delivers pasta---and it's quite good.

The wee boy woke up before we ordered, so we asked him if he'd rather have spaghetti or pizza. He gleefully chose pizza, so we ordered him a white pizza with spinach. It should have been really good, but instead, it turned out to be dry and flavorless. What a pity! I don't know if their other pizza is as bland, but I would definitely never order that again. The boy thought the cat might eat it, but he certainly didn't want to.

He did, however, quite happily dig into our ravioli (me) and lasagna rollatini (his Momma). We also had a beautiful Mediterranean salad. I didn't like the heaviness of the Caesar dressing with the fresh, cold crispness of the salad, so I ate it without any dressing at all---it was heavenly! The rest of the family agreed.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ropa Vieja, March 22, 2017

Yesterday morning, I started a batch of ropa vieja, one of my favorite Cuban dishes, going in the crockpot. The name literally translates to "old clothes" in English. The messy, stringy appearance the beef gets makes it look, they say, like a pile of old clothes. The smell of it perfumed the air all afternoon, making my stomach growl. When it was nearly ready, I fixed a batch of lime rice, heated some Goya black bean soup, and had supper all done. The finished product tasted really good to my wife. To me, it needed something. It was good, just not as good as in Miami, a bit insipid. I think next time, I'll toss in some tomato paste and red wine, to give it a fuller-bodied flavor.

Slow Cooker Ropa Vieja
1/2 c. chicken broth (I will use beef broth next time)
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 green pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 tbsp. cumin
Salt & pepper
1 1/2 lb. flank steak
Lime wedges

Mix broth, vinegar, onion, garlic, green pepper, bay leaf, and tomatoes together in your slow cooker. Combine the cumin, salt, & pepper. Rub all over the meat. Submerge in sauce. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Remove from pot and let rest about 10 minutes on a cutting board. Shred and mix back into the sauce. Serve with lime wedges. Serves 4-6.

Lime Rice
2 tsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lg. onion, chopped
1 c. rice (I like jasmine)
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
Juice of 2 limes

Cook onion and garlic in oil until onion is translucent. Add rice. Stir and cook a couple minutes. Add broth, salt, and lime juice. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat 15-20 minutes. Fluff with fork. Serves 4-6. 

Chili's, March 21, 2017

After my wife got home from work the other night, we sallied forth to look for spring jackets for our wee boy. We managed to find him some very cute clothes, indeed. My favorite new item is a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt. I hope he will like Hendrix when he's older. He does now.

Anyway, we decided it made sense to stop on the way home for dinner, rather than going to the grocery, then going home and cooking. There's not a whole lot to choose from close to our home, so we ended up at Chili's. It was either that or Buffalo Wild Wings. We ordered some boneless wings for an appetizer. I was surprised at how delicious their ranch dressing was. The wings were good, too.

For a main course, I got a pick-three sort of deal, with a beef tostada, a chicken sour cream enchilada, and a salad. The enchilada was yummy, but the tostada was so heavily laden with toppings that it became sodden and not-so-wonderful. The meal came with black beans and rice, but I find their rice to be quite dry, so I subbed mashed potatoes. Jeannene had a combo of ribs and some sort of honey BBQ chicken strips. We ordered pizza with broccoli for the boy, who is actually getting old enough to, when presented with two choices, tell us which he wants. That's pretty cool! He filled up on my black beans, though, so it was pizza and broccoli for lunch yesterday.

Spring Equinox Dinner, March 20, 2017

Eons ago, I read an article, or perhaps in some book, that the author made salmon cakes, new potatoes, and asparagus every year on the first day of spring. That sounded like a fine and delicious tradition to me. When I was growing up, I always hated asparagus. In fact, it rather horrified me. I couldn't understand why my mom liked it so much. It wasn't until my friend, Ben, invited me over for dinner one night when I was about 18 that I began to like it. I can't recall what the meat was, but his mom put plates holding not only asparagus, but squash, in front of us. I thought, "Oh, my lord! I'm going to have to choke this stuff down and pretend to like it." I was astonished to find that I quite liked both vegetables. I've been an asparagus fan ever since! My favorite way to eat is simply steamed, so it's just tender, and then plunged into an ice bath to retain the brightness and keep it from becoming overcooked. Sometimes, though, I get lazy and skip the ice bath. I am always disappointed in myself when that happens.

Fish cakes, on the other hand, have always been something I really liked. My grandmom made both tuna & salmon patties when I was a kid and I happily gobbled them up. So, when I decided to make salmon cakes every year for the spring equinox, I did what my grandmom did. I start by sorting the bones and skin out from a (drained) large can of salmon (about 15 ounces). You don't even have to do that, actually. The skin and bones are both perfectly okay to eat. They just really skeeve me out. My cat's birthday is the first day of spring, so he always gets the parts I don't like, along with some of the legit meat, as a birthday treat. I flake the salmon, then mix it with a lightly beaten egg, about half a sleeve of saltine crackers, salt, pepper, and a dash of worcestershire sauce. I heat some oil in a skillet and form the salmon mixture into 4 cakes. When the oil is properly hot, I add the salmon cakes and cook them until they're browned on each side and heated through.

As for the potatoes, I boil them whole, for the most part, with the skin on. If there are a few larger ones, I will halve those. When they are tender, I drain them and stir in butter, salt, pepper, and snipped dill. When I was in middle school, my friend, Charisma, had me to supper and her mom served us potatoes made that way. They seemed very fancy to me!

I always have the impulse to make some sort of lemony dessert---a layer cake, meringues served with lemon curd, lemon meringue pie. That seems like the perfect spring treat, to me. My wife, however, hates all things tart. So, this year, I cut up some organic strawberries before dinner, added a smidge of sugar, stirred them up, and let them macerate during supper. After the main course, I dished them up into our pretty new pastel bowls and set out a can of whipped cream. My wife proceeded to show our wee boy how to eat whipped cream from the can. He just wasn't at all sure what to think of that, but it did make him giggle.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Cannellini Beans & Spinach, January 3, 2017

My sweetie knows how much I love cookbooks, so I got three for Christmas. She got me the King Arthur Flour cookbook, one by Martina McBride, and Ina Garten's Cooking for Jeffrey. The other night, I tried a recipe for Italian white beans and escarole from the Ina cookbook for our supper. Sadly, the grocery had neither escarole nor kale, which I had suggested to my wife as a suitable alternative, should the grocery not have escarole. So, we ended up with spinach and it was delicious. I served it with good bread and pineapple chunks. When dinner was ready, Jeannene said, "This is dinner? I thought you were making something else." It is suggested as a side in the cookbook, but it made a fine dinner, too, and would be nice for vegetarians---and even vegans.

Cannellini Beans and Spinach
2 15 oz. cans cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1/4-1/2 c. olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c. chicken or veggie broth
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large bunch spinach, well-washed and trimmed
1 c. shaved parmesan (grated is fine, too, just use the good stuff & not the shaky stuff in the green can) (vegans can use some nutritional yeast to add flavor in place of the cheese)

Heat the oil in a pot. Add garlic & cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add everything but spinach and parmesan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Mash half the beans. Simmer another 5 minutes. Cut the spinach into 2-3" wide strips. Add to the pot, cover, and cook another 5 minutes, stirring halfway through the time. Remove from heat and add cheese. Adjust seasonings. Serves 2-4 as a main course, 6 as a side. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Grilled Goat Cheese Mini-Sandwiches, December 6, 2016

The other night, we had a salad and sandwich supper. But what a salad! And what sandwiches! I made mini-sandwiches by putting goat cheese and apple butter on baguette slices, then cooking them like you do a regular grilled cheese sandwich. They were terrific! The salad was endive, separated and arranged on a salad plate with some roquefort, pear slices, and walnuts. I topped the salad with a dressing made of 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, a good grinding of pepper, and 1/2 c. olive oil, whisked until it emulsified. To make the meal more hearty, I added a side of Yukon Gold potatoes fried in olive oil with oregano, salt, & pepper.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Chicken Cacciatore, December 3, 2016

Saturday night, we had Italian in, with a rib-sticking chicken cacciatore over crisp polenta, with sautéed garlicky kale (just cook chopped kale in a bit of hot olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper flakes until it's wilted and tender) and Pugliese bread. I started with a Martha Stewart recipe, which I'm sure is quite lovely, if you like dark meat and the bones don't wig you out. It's certainly much more traditional! However, my wife and I like breast meat and bones wig me out these days. So, here's my wuss version:

Chicken Cacciatore over Crisp Polenta
1-2 tbsp. olive oil (plus extra for polenta)
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
Salt & pepper
A handful of crimini mushrooms, halved (you can use any mushrooms, really)
1/4 c. flour
15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 onions, cut into wedges (I would dice next time, though)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
A big handful of green olives, halved
1 tube of polenta, sliced

Heat oil in a big pot. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Sauté until lightly browned. Remove to a plate. In the same pot, brown the mushrooms. Add flour and stir in well. Cook about a minute. Add tomatoes, wine, garlic, olives. Return chicken to pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium heat 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Adjust seasoning. While stew is cooking, preheat broiler. Brush polenta lightly on each side with olive oil & place on a baking sheet. Salt & pepper. Broil until deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Serve stew over polenta. Serves 4.