Alas – my I-phone has acquired some digital disease that won’t allow it to send most of the photos I took for the blog. The salad was built around cucumbers, peaches, parsley and pumpkin seeds. The Grilled pork had a crunch, caramelized crust, and the red rice had just the right amount of heat to balance its heartiness. You’ll just have to use your imagination.
Monday: Savory Fruit Salad with skirt steak hash
Tuesday: Grilled Pork Loin / Red Rice / Green Salad
Wednesday: Spaghetti with Roasted Tomato and Walnut Pesto / Green Salad
Thursday: Beez’ in hospital – Lunch brought by Billy from Lydia’s on Grant Street. Kenyan Short Ribs with Spiced Noodles and Vegetables.
Friday: Leftover Spaghetti
Saturday: Best Margherita Pizza I ever made
Sunday: Grilled, Herbed Chicken with Zucchini Toast
Last week Barbara had a new hip installed. Everything went well at the hospital – well, everything but the nutrition which, you would think, is an important part of the healing process.
If you ever need to have vegetables, meat or chicken denatured – stripped of all taste, color, flavor, and resemblance to their former selves, your local hospital should be able to oblige. I keep trying to imagine the kind of people who would have gathered to envision, then plan and enact this culinary desecration. I haven’t succeeded yet.
The morning starts off with a plate of food wet from having sat beneath a plastic cloche for who knows how long. It features an egg-like substance cooked into something too uniform to have come from an egg and has the texture and taste of tofu. The ‘eggs’ are surrounded by biopsy-thin slices of bacon and accompanied by a side order of soggy toast. Lest you think that this bland and saturated plate is medically necessary, you should know that the breakfast also comes with packets of salt, three packets of jelly and a small tub of butter. Oh, and you get a plastic cup of tincture-of-coffee.
Under the circumstances, SWMBO sent me down to get some real coffee in the cafeteria – her interest in food having being eliminated by the hospital’s prison fare. For lunch, Billy brought her Kenyan food – short-ribs, spiced spaghetti and vegetables from Lidia’s Café on Grant Street. (If you work downtown, you should get to know Lidia.)
*The Kenyan food violated the doctor’s directions (never given to Barbara or me – perhaps entrusted to the cafeteria who may have been too busy working out how to make prime rib taste like rubber to pass them along. Unbeknownst to us, Beez was supposed to have a clear diet. But hey, she loved the food and did fine.)
While we can recommend the cottage cheese and the ice cream, we would not suggest that you go out of your away to dine at UPMC/St. Margaret’s. And while it’s difficult to pin the blame for this food on any one person, we believe that some day, some how, some one should pay.
But there is also good news – Beez is home and doing well and moving (slowly) about the house. Bill is learning some needed patience and humility in his role as nursemaid. And we had a number of fine meals during the week. We’re going to share our celebratory meal from Sunday – an herby grilled chicken and a revelatory side of lemony zucchini on toasted bread. I’ve been dipping into the River Cottage Cookbook again and discovering that this Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is pretty down home for a man with a post-childhood name (a name that should only be given to a boy with a solid record of being a twit). It turns out that he’s a real farmer – well, a pretty hard-working amateur. But above all, he’s a fine cook – and a simple one. No seventeen-reduction sauces or three-day marinades, and not a hint of foam, except at the top of the mug of beer that he drinks after polling the Herefords or bringing in the sheaves.
GRILLED, HERBED CHICKEN (you can bake in oven as an alternative)
(Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall –
This is a simple dish, perfect for a quick turn on the grill.)
Timing: Marinate for 1-4 hours Cook for about 30 minutes
Ingredients: (Serves 4-6)
1 chicken cut up or about 3 lbs. of chicken parts on the bone
3-4 tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil
½ teaspoon of English mustard (we used about ¾ teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder)
Mixed fresh herbs, chopped – about 3 tablespoons and a bit more for garnishing. We used a lot of parsley, some chives and a good batch of Hilda’s thyme (you might use a little tarragon instead)
Some grated lemon zest – we used maybe a teaspoon
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Small garlic clove, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Chop the herbs and the garlic and assemble the oil, lemon, and mustard.
Cut up the chicken and/or pat the chicken parts dry.
Combine the oil, mustard, herbs, lemon zest and juice, the garlic and lot of pepper (no salt) in a bowl large enough to hold the chicken parts.
Slash the chicken parts in a few places to allow the marinade to penetrate.
Toss the chicken in the marinade and refrigerate for 1 hour or, better, up to 4 hours.
Take the chicken out of the fridge about 1 hour before cooking.
Start a fire in your grill and while its warming, drain the chicken parts and pat off the excess oil
Season the chicken parts with salt.
Grill for about 45 minutes, turning once. We cook the chicken for about 20 minutes per side indirectly, that is, off to the side of where the coals are gathered and hottest. We then crisp the skin over the coals for about 5 minutes. [NOTE: The juices should run clear – or the chicken should register about 160 in its thickest part. Your grill might be hotter or cooler than mine, and if you use charcoal (we do), it can be hotter or cooler on any given night – hence the cooking time is ball-park.]
Baking in an oven – as an alternative, bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, turning once.
Let the chicken sit on a warm dish for about 5 minutes – sprinkle with a little more seasoning (we used more herbs and some sea salt and pepper) – enjoy.
EXTRA We served the chicken with ZUCCHINI TOAST
(Adapted from River Cottage Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
Timing: 5 minutes to prep, 5 minutes to cook
Ingredients: Serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side dish
3 or 4 Zucchini (about 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
Ground Black Pepper
1 small garlic clove crushed (we forgot this)
¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Grated zest of ½ lemon and 1 ½ tablespoons of lemon juice
2 thick slices of Bread (we used not so thick, pre-sliced multi-grain sourdough from Giant Eagle)
10 fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips
Extra-virgin olive oil or canola to finish
Slice zucchini into thin disks
Grate lemon and measure out juice
Assemble other ingredients – do not slice basil until do dress the dish.
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt.
Sauté over medium-high for 4 to 5 minutes (less time if you have a high BTU burner) until moisture evaporates and zucchini are beginning to brown a bit.
Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook for one more minute – zucchini will soften.
Stir in the lemon zest and juice.
Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt as needed.
Toast the bread and remove the zucchini from the heat and stir in the basil.
Pour the zucchini mixture, with its juices, over the toast, drizzle with a bit more oil and eat.