January 28 – February 3, 2019
Monday: Pan-Roasted Ribeye with Crispy Broccoli
Tuesday: Penne Rigate with Tomatoes and Eggplant
Wednesday: Tomato-Braised Rotisserie Chicken with Parsnip Skordalia
Thursday: Tomato and Eggplant Soup / Brie, Turkey, Apple and Chutney Sandwiches
Friday: Trout Milanese / Roasted Potatoes / Green Salad
Saturday: Take-out from The Cornerstone
Sunday: Guacamole and chips, one last meal of Chicken Tetrazzini, Salad
A Great Friend
Last week, I learned that an old friend – one of the strongest and gentlest of men – – was very ill. When I and another friend went to visit him at his home, we had no idea whether he would be able to talk or even recognize us. But he is a man of great thoughtfulness and so, as we came in the door, he shouted from his bed at the other end of the living room – “Hey” and then our names. That let us know that we didn’t have to walk on tiptoe and that our old friend was up for the same kind of banter and nonsense that we engaged in as roommates at college.
I mention this because, like Jerry, about whom we wrote in our September 24, 2018 post, this friend is a model for how to deal with the extreme difficulties of life. He has learned how to be there for family and friends, in spite of mountainous obstacles. And I mention it because my friend has the kind of courage and grace I would aspire to in similar circumstances – doubting that I could achieve it. Please keep my friend, Dan, in your prayers and thoughts.
Doing less for more
In the last few weeks I have found myself working a bit harder than I’m used to and facing the prospect of cooking dinner later than I’m used to and just a little too tired to get excited about it. I suppose we could have gone out to eat or ordered in. But SWMBO does not like going out much to restaurants, except on special occasions, and I’m not big on take-out.* So, I bucked up and waded into Monday night feeling much put-upon. That’s how I find myself in a position to offer a cooking tip that sounds like it came from one of those cooking shows with a title like “How to cook a week’s worth of meals in no time flat.”
*So, you ask, what were you doing with take-out on Saturday? First, let me remind you that the exception proves the rule. Second, having just flown in from New York, I was in no position to throw together dinner. Third, this is my blog and I would appreciate it if you didn’t interrupt me again.
The circumstances were simple. I had planned two dishes that called for an involved preparation of tomato sauce and it occurred to me that since the first – an eggplant and tomato soup would produce a quantity far larger than Beez and I could eat – I would simply use that soup as a sauce for the second dinner. We eventually ate the soup, but that first night I felt like something more substantial, so we used it as a dressing for some penne pasta. The next night we bought a rotisserie chicken at our local supermarket – this is one of the few prepared foods they get right (they have this nifty rotisserie machine that I would gladly take off their hands, except that SWMBO won’t allow it). Where was I? Oh yes, I cut the rotisserie chicken into 8 pieces and warmed it, skin-side up, in some of the tomato and eggplant soup/sauce, and, with a salad, we had another fine dinner. The next night, we finally got around to eating the eggplant and tomato soup along with some sandwiches. And that was spectacular. Three very nice dinners, minimal cooking, all home-made except for the rotisserie chicken. And I was able, two of the nights, to get the dinner on the table at a reasonable hour which is important, because SWMBO begins to bang her knife and fork on the table like a hopped-up prison inmate, if she is not fed on time.
I am not suggesting that you cook 7 meals over the weekend and then reheat and serve soggy, past-its-prime, or off-tasting food. But, if you keep your eye peeled – particularly if there are 2 of you (like us) – you will find, from time to time that you can create a bunch of meals without a lot of effort, without using every pot and utensil in the kitchen (a specialty of mine), with little stress and with a little extra time to relax, walk the dog, obey your wife, or read a book.
The three meals appear below:
TOMATO AND EGGPLANT SOUP
(adapted from Ina Garten’s Cook Like a Pro)
Timing: About 40 minutes
Serves 6 or 7 – we used this with other ingredients to cook 3 different meals
1 lb. unpeeled eggplant, 1/2-inch-diced – 4 ½ Cups
2 cups of chopped yellow onion
2 cups of chopped fennel
2 tablespoons of minced garlic – we used about 1 teaspoon
3 cups of chicken stock
28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
28 oz. can of whole tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried fennel seeds
1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Good Olive Oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Grated Parmigiano for serving
Chop the onion and the fennel
Mince the garlic
Measure out the other ingredients, picking the thyme leaves and grating the parmigiano
Dice the eggplant
Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a Dutch Oven over medium.
Add the eggplant and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently – it should be tender. If the eggplant begins to stick, add more olive oil.
Now add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, then the onions and fennel and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring from time to time. You want the onion to soften but not turn brown.
Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
Now add the chicken stock, the crushed tomatoes, fennel seeds, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of ground black pepper.
Into a food processor, pour the can of whole tomatoes and their liquid and pulse until the tomatoes are just coarsely chopped. Add these tomatoes to the pot.
Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Taste and add seasonings if needed. Serve hot, sprinkled with Parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.
You should have lots of this leftover, if there are only 2 of you. So the next day you can have . . .
BRAISED ROTISSERIE CHICKEN IN TOMATO SAUCE
New Ingredients: Rotisserie Chicken, Bacon (optional)
Cut a store-bought rotisserie chicken into 8 pieces. Pour a bit of the tomato and eggplant soup into a deep skillet – you want enough to flavor and warm the chicken, but not so much that the chicken skin is immersed. Add some crisp bacon to this, if you wish. Now nestle the chicken, skin side up, into the tomato and eggplant mixture and warm over medium. Serve with a salad.
If you still have some leftover tomato and eggplant, on the next day you can have . . .
PENNE RIGATE WITH TOMATO AND EGGPLANT SAUCE
You know how to make this, right? Undercook the penne rigate. Reserve some of the pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce, if needed. Add the penne rigate to a skillet of the tomato, eggplant soup that you have heated. Finish cooking the penne while tossing it in the sauce, adding reserved pasta water, if needed. Serve with garlic bread and a salad.