March 30 – April 5, 2020
Monday: Mushroom Quesadilla with Fixings and Dressed Arugula
Tuesday: Spicy Baked Pasta with Cheddar and Broccolini
Wednesday: Lentil Soup with Homemade Flatbread and Avocado Dip
Thursday: Chicken Katsu Sandwiches with Cole Slaw
Friday: Monk Fish Piccata with Oven Roasted Potatoes
Saturday: Lamb Burger with Tzatziki Sauce, Mere’s Fancy Beans, Greek Salad
Sunday: Hoisin-Glazed Pork Tenderloin, Grilled Napa Cabbage and Vegetables
This week, to help you shelter in place at a time of peak pandemic, we’re going to share a recipe which I guarantee you can cook from your pantry unless you’re one of those who keep only a six pack of beer and some leftover Chinese take-out in your refrigerator. (You know who you are and the mystery is why you read this blog at all, being a person committed, ethically and religiously to not cooking.) Sorry for that aside, folks, but he deserved it.
These are not easy times for creatures of habit, which certainly includes me. I miss friends and family, shopping for vittles at various markets, particularly the specialty shops in the Strip. And I miss having friends and family over for dinner on weekends, visiting Carnegie Library (Main Branch), going to the gym, Sunday Mass, the monthly meetings of the Dunnings Group, the weekly meetings of my Bible Group, buying booze and so many other things.
So, in addition to food, here are some things we are doing (Andrew, SWMBO and I) to avoid going crazy.
Andrew works every day – and that routine is great for him.
Andrew also plays and records music
Barbara is an encyclopedia of information, reading the NYT, WSJ, Washington Post and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and tacking news from all sources every day.
We play Scrabble.
We watch Jeopardy! every night at 7:00 and laugh at each other’s mistakes.
We watch a grilling course from the CIA in California and have learned a good bit about grilling vegetables.
I continue with my various studies, a minimum of work and my blog.
We have found a number of television programs worth watching:
Andrew and I found ‘Broadchurch,’ a BBC offering, fairly riveting. Beez doesn’t go in for dark stories, so we had to wait until she went to bed to watch it.
And HEY! Do yourself a favor and watch “Somebody Feed Phil” which is streaming on Netflix – it will get your mind, at least, out of the house and traveling the world to beautiful destinations, it will introduce you to fascinating cooks, bartenders and food, and, above all, it will introduce you to the strange and wonderful and very funny Phil Rosenthal and his family. If you don’t find this program addictive, I would consider psychiatric help.
On the movie front we have only two suggestions so far – Beez finds it hard to stay up in the evenings to watch movies:
Do watch an old-fashioned musical which will make you laugh – “The Court Jester” starring Danny Kaye and an absolutely smoldering Glynnis Johns.
Do not watch “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” It is difficult to get a fine actor – Leonardo DiCaprio – to act like a caricature, but Quentin Tarantino achieves that feat in this absolute stinker of a film. The idea, I suppose, was to parody the Hollywood scene of the 70s. Apparently, the slightest bit of parody or sarcasm – anything that lets viewers feel superior to others who may not be in the know, is the new standard for ‘art’ films in Hollywood. That is the only possible explanation for why anybody would call this a good movie. As for Brad Pitt – “Best Supporting Actor” – first, he isn’t supporting, but rather a co-star; second, because Tarantino has some idea that stunt doubles and underlings, in general, are more genuine than stars (which may well be true), he is the only actor in the movie allowed to play a genuine person; and third – let me remind you not to waste you money on this turkey.
Please send us your recommendations for keeping ourselves busy enough so that we don’t go reaching for the knife drawer after a little too much together time.
And, oh yes – here’s a recipe for which I’m going to give you lots of alternatives for each ingredient so that, no matter what, except for the person (you know who you are) with only beer and take-out in the fridge, you will be able to cook this from your pantry. I’m going to add an easy recipe for home-made flatbread which is a good accompaniment to the basic recipe, and which requires only salt, water and flour.
LEMONY LENTIL SOUP / WITH HOMEMADE FLATBREAD
(adapted from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/29/20)
Timing: 30 minutes
2 cups orange lentils – alternatives – other lentils (green, black), cannellini or garbanzo beans, barley – if you don’t have any of these, call me, we’ll figure something out.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (regular olive oil or vegetable oils will work)
1 tablespoon butter (or whatever you use as a substitute – and do us both a favor, don’t waste your money on butter substitutes; just buy butter and don’t overuse it and it will not kill you in the foreseeable future)
1 large onion, diced – obviously, a few shallots will work, as will finely diced celery with a little bit of onion powder tossed in.
1 large carrot – diced (or use any root vegetable other than potatoes, or some bitter, substantial greens with a few pinches of sugar thrown in to make up for the carrot’s sweetness)
2 large garlic cloves, diced (we used one – if you have no garlic, try a little garlic powder or garlic salt)
3 black cloves – entirely optional – or use maybe 1/8 tsp of ground cloves
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes – or any hot pepper dry or fresh
8 cups chicken broth – or vegetable broth – or water (if you use water, add some dried mushrooms reduced to powder in a mortar or a bit of MSG or a tablespoon of fish sauce. In other words, you need to add some umami.
Juice of 2 lemons – or any citrus juice – if you use bottled orange juice, skip the sugar mentioned above.
The Post-Gazette calls for fried onions – the kind that come in a can. We used seasoned breadcrumbs to add a little crunch and taste. Just whiz up some bread – crust and all – in a food processor and cook in a bit of butter and oil (wait until the bubble foams) and season with salt and pepper.
Gather and chop, slice, measure out and prepare all ingredients.
Rinse the lentils two or three times.
If you’re using a tougher root vegetable (parsnip, celery root, rutabaga), parboil until it’s softened.
In a large pot, heat the oil and butter over medium.
When hot, add the onion, garlic and cloves and sauté for a minute or two.
Now add the lentils and the carrots and cook until the onions are translucent, stirring from time to time – about 5 minutes.
Season with salt and cook for another 2 minutes.
Now add the chicken broth stock and cover the pot with a lid.
Cook for 15 minutes or so, then turn off the heat and add some lemon juice.
Stir, remove the cloves and serve . . . with the flatbread recipe below.
(adapted from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/29/20
Timing: 45 minutes – includes 30 min. refrigeration of dough
2 cups All-purpose Flour
3 ½ tablespoons butter
¾ cup of milk
½ teaspoon of salt
½ tablespoon olive oil
Make the dough:
In a bowl, combine the butter and milk and heat until butter is just melted. Do this on a stove or in a microwave.
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt and then add the butter mixture.
Sprinkle a work surface with flour and then, forming the dough until a rough, shaggy ball, pull it out of the ball and knead it for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and glossy. If it’s too sticky, add some flour.
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or so.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces and roll them into balls. Now, on a floured surface, roll out the balls into 1/8-inch thick rounds.
Cook the flatbreads:
Heat the oil in a nonstick pan over medium. When hot, add 1 flatbread to the pan and cook for 1 minute or more (it should bubble up). Flip and cook the other side – pressing down if it puffs up. You should see golden brown spots on both sides.
Stack the cooked bread and keep wrapped with a moistened tea towel while cooking the remaining rounds.