Cooking Around Obstacles

April 6 – April 12, 2020

Congee (2)

Monday:                   Congee with Ginger-Scallion Sauce with Flatbread

Broccoli Dill Pasta (2)

Tuesday:                   Broccoli-Dill Pasta with Dressed Greens

Chicken Birria (2)

Wednesday:            Goat (Chicken) Birria Tacos with Cucumber Pico de Gallo

               Shepherd's Salad (2)

Thursday:                 Shepherd’s Salad

Shrimp Wedge 2 (2)

Friday:                       Shrimp Wedge Salad with breadcrumbs and hot sauce dressing

                          Pizzas (2)

Saturday:                  Pizza with Salad

Grteek Chops (2)

Sunday:                     Greek Lamb Chops, Greek Salad, Roasted Potatoes with

Rosemary and Pancetta, Orange Cake

It is difficult to plan menus or, indeed, anything, these days.  And any plans you make other than reading, remote work, laundry, Spring cleaning and walking around the neighborhood, are apt to be disrupted.

If you’re going to cook, you need to be adaptable, because there’s no knowing ahead of time what you’ll find on those rare (it is to be hoped) trips to the store.

So, it was with trust in the Lord – not a bad thing to do on Easter – that I put together an Easter menu for Barbara, Andrew and myself.  Rusty makes do with kibble.

I decided to cook a bone-in pork loin with polenta and some Lucali (classic Italian restaurant) salad.

Adaptation #1.  SWMBO, without a moment’s hesitation, said that it was Easter and we were going to have lamb.  Well, I thought, okay – how about grilled chops – a leg would be too much for the three of us?  (I had a great Asian-flavored recipe for chops on the grill.)  SWMBO agreed and I could breathe a bit easier.

Adaptation #2.  It was supposed to rain – held off until late, but then really pelted down.  So, grilling the chops was not an option.  But I found a great recipe for Lamb Chops Greek Style and that meant forgetting the Asian marinade and also that

Adaptation #3 . . .  the Lucali salad was out, not being quite the thing for marinated chops – but we had cucumbers, and a green pepper and a red onion and a jar of pitted kalamata olives and a bit of week-old feta for a Greek Salad, to which we added some cubed, firm avocado which really worked with the other ingredients.

However, with the chops, instead of the pork loin, there was really no reason for the polenta so,

Adaptation #4 . . . we roasted some fingerling potatoes, threw in some pancetta at the last minute, with rosemary and a squeeze of lemon to Greek it up.

All of which led to a lighter meal, much more to SWMBO’s tastes, but also calling, I thought, for a decadent finale.  I myself am, if not decadent, in decline, and I didn’t relish the thought of adding more cooking chores to the dinner.  But we had oranges, and I was able to pick up some mascarpone and a pound cake and we closed with Jacques Pépin’s instant orange cake – a real hit with Andrew and me, and Beez even took a bite.

Tuesday’s meal also had to be adapted, since SWMBO would not allow me to go to the Hallal butcher to get the requisite goat.  We adapted with chicken.

Below are the recipes for the chops and the salad.  If you’re going to make Jacques’s orange cake – which you can find on the internet here –instant orange cake– use half-again as much mascarpone as he calls for and a bit more orange juice.  And soften the mascarpone in the microwave, and, if you can find an authentic marmalade, you will find the bitterness of the orange peels plays nicely against the sweet of the oranges and the cake.

Grteek Chops (2)

Greek Lamb Chops

(adapted from


A bit less than 1 hour plus time for marinating – 30 minutes to overnight.

Ingredients:                                             Serves 4

8 rib lamb chops – I could only find tiny, but thick, lamb chops at Whole Foods, so, for three people, we used 9.  And, they only had 6 rib chops, so we used three loin chops as well.
¼ cup olive oil for marinade
More olive oil – at least 1 tablespoon – for cooking
Juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 cloves of garlic – we used 2
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of ground black pepper


Trim the hard fat from the chops.

Assemble other ingredients.

Make the Marinade:

Mix all of the ingredients, except the chops, in a bowl.  Put the chops into a large baking dish or a large zip-lock bag (that’s what we did), and pour the marinade over them.  Rub the marinade into the flesh and marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator.  We marinated for about 5 hours – made the marinade just after lunch.

Cook the Chops:

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan (we used a large, carbon steel, non-stick skillet) over medium-high until a minute or two after it starts to really shimmer and move and just before it starts smoking.  Fry the lamb (in batches, if you don’t have that larger pan) for 3-4 minutes per side.

Let the lamb rest 5 minutes.

When you serve, offer some dried oregano and lemon slices for diners to add some extra flavor, if they wish.

Greek Salad (3)

Greek Salad (with Avocado)

(adapted from

Timing:                      How fast can you chop?  7 minutes at most

Ingredients:                                     4 plus servings

For the dressing:

6 tablespoons olive oil (we used about 5)
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons of minced garlic – we used less – maybe one medium clove.
1 ½ teaspoons of minced parsley
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
¾ teaspoon, honey (we left this out)

For the salad:

4 medium Roma tomatoes, diced (we used cherry tomatoes – maybe 15, halved and/or quartered, depending on their size – we cannot get ripe tomatoes, other than cherry, in Pittsburgh at this time)

1 medium English (seedless) cucumber, sliced into half moons

½ small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons rinsed and drained (we like onion, so we used ½ of a large red onion).  Note:  rinsing in cold water, or even letting sit in ice water, then draining, takes out some of the bite.

½ green or yellow bell pepper (use the green – get that really pepper flavor)
¾ cup kalamata or black olives, sliced (we left them whole – they were pitted)
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese – we didn’t have that much and the salad turned out fine.
1 avocado (firm), diced

Make the dressing:

Add all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend, then season with salt and store in fridge until ready to use.

Make the salad:

Slice the onion and rinse or let sit in cold water, to take out the bite.

Chop and slice all other ingredients and put into serving bowl.

Drain onions and add to bowl.

Drizzle the dressing over the top and toss (gently – you want the avocado to stay in cubes) to coat.

NOTE:  do not dress until a few minutes of serving.

2 thoughts on “Cooking Around Obstacles

  1. Good move on making the orange cake, and excellent move going for the lamb chops, Barbara is absolutely right about Lamb chops. Why you would even consider pork is beyond me, but, many things are beyond me and this is at least interesting and pleasant.

    Keep mentally working on your swing (whenever you can find the time)! Trump will clear things up in no time (gasp!)



Leave a Reply