I have been itching to get out and go somewhere new and exciting ever since we got back from Vancouver. I tried to scratch that itch by making a google map of an epic road trip we could take to get to next year’s NPL convention in Salt Lake City, if money and time were magically no object. I went down a rabbit hole when I saw an ad for $49 Frontier airlines flights from Austin to Denver. If I booked right now, I could take the kids to Denver for $200 round trip! But we’d have to stay 1 day or 6 days to get that fare. We could camp for six days in Rocky Mountain National Park! But we’d need a car. Hey wait, there’s a free shuttle to the park! But I’d have to carry a tent and a week’s worth of bear-proof provisions on said shuttle. That’s when I gave up on that idea. But I was sad to do it because, $200! And it’s so hot here. I think we’re going to do a little overnight trip to San Antonio with my sister instead. In the meantime, here’s what we ate this week (slash in the few days before leaving for Vancouver).
Parmesan Chicken, Green Salad, Yellow Watermelon with Herbs and Serrano. We eat salad, who says we don’t? We don’t. Scrolling through my pictures I’m ashamed of how few green things we’ve been eating lately. This dinner is the lone exception this week (and it’s actually from before we went to Vancouver) unless I get partial credit for the zucchini bread below, which manages to be delicious in spite of (?) the two large squashes grated into the batter. This chicken is an old favorite, something I would make for Andy in college when I was a blindly devoted follower of the Barefoot Contessa and cooked almost exclusively from her cookbooks. Andy always loved it and it turns out little George loves it too. Hey and me too. Henry was less wild about it but he was also in a super shitty mood that night, so who knows. I use fresh breadcrumbs or panko instead of the dried ones the recipe calls for. Adding a handful of grated parmesan to the breadcrumbs makes the chicken crisp up extra beautifully and taste like nutty cheese, so yes. This yellow watermelon was the worst one of all time. It was 400 percent seeds, held together by the flimsiest network of remarkably not-sweet yellow flesh. It was marginally better tossed with herbs and the chile and olive oil, salt and pepper.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread. Make this. It is insanely good. My sister liked it better than my standard chocolate cake (which is completely ridiculous, that cake is untouchable, but still, gives you some sense of how great this zucchini bread is). I made half the recipe, one loaf, and didn’t drain the zucchini like instructed because I didn’t want to, I also added a handful of chocolate chips because why not. The recipe calls for a mountain of zucchini, 2 cups per loaf, but it all but disappears in the bread, leaving only a superbly moist crumb behind. I’m making it again tomorrow.
Sausage Wrap. Not a ton of notes needed for this one! You can look at the picture and work out what to do as a fun culinary exercise. Ok, I’ll help. It’s sausage wrapped in a flour tortilla. Voila, sausage wrap. Is this a Texas thing? If you’re from loftier climes where people don’t wrap sausages in tortillas, don’t think you’re better than this. It’s delicious and I encourage you to take the eight seconds to make one for yourself.
Spaghetti and Meatballs. Ok, so meatballs. I love the meatball recipe I’ve settled into. The meatballs are simple, and tender and flavorful. They are also so soft that they collapse into themselves and could not be called balls by even the most generous measurement. Here’s what I do. Take a slice of bread, literally any kind (I used a goddamned hot dog bun here because I had nothing else and it worked like a charm). Tear it into pieces in a medium bowl and splash enough milk over the top to get the bread nice and soggy (about 1/4 cup). Mash it up with your hands (this is called a panade, and it will help keep your meatballs tender, add structural stability, and add volume to the mixture so you get even more sweet sweet meatballs). Then add a pound of ground pork (I have come to really prefer this over beef or a mixture of meats), finely chopped onion and/or garlic, chopped basil or parsley, grated parmesan, salt and pepper. Form into balls, brown on all sides in a skillet set over medium heat with a bit of olive oil, then pour your tomato sauce on top and allow the meatballs to simmer for another 10 minutes or so. Try them if you believe that the form follows function rule should also apply to meatballs.
Hummus. Why am I sharing this sad looking bowl of hummus with you? I don’t know. I guess because I took a picture of it, and that is essentially my only criteria for what makes it into my blog. I cooked a big batch of chickpeas (soaked overnight, drained and covered with fresh water, salt, a bay leaf, and three garlic cloves, cooked for about an hour and a half, until they were completely tender) and used some for this hummus, some for the curried chickpeas below, and some were reserved for my favorite crispy chickpeas with chorizo and spinach that we’ll eat tomorrow. Hummus tastes a lot better when you make it when the chickpeas are hot. I spooned the chickpeas into the food processor, added a garlic clove, the juice of a lemon, a pour of tahini, and salt and pepper. While this was processing I added enough of the chickpea cooking liquid to make the hummus smooth, then I scooped it unceremoniously into this bowl and put olive oil on it and it was hummus and it was good. We ate it with carrots and celery (hey! another green thing!) and pita chips leftover from when the kids and I went camping weeks ago.
Andalusian Gazpacho, Focaccia, Olives. Now, it is an undisputed fact that my mom makes the best gazpacho on the planet. Check out her recipe here. The only trouble is that that recipe calls for a big can of tomato juice, and that’s not available at my regular grocery store. So when I don’t make mom’s I make this different but also delicious version, which is completely smooth and thickened with bread like the traditional soup. I’ve followed the recipe to the letter and also skipped the steps where you have to freeze and then thaw the vegetables and both versions are great, so save yourself the hassle if you don’t have the time or energy for it. I also don’t bother peeling the tomatoes, or seeding them, because this soup gets pushed through a fine mesh strainer and all the pulpy bits are left behind. I served it with store-bought focaccia and olives.
Gluten Free Strawberry-Blueberry Crisp. More crisps, y’all. This is oats, sugar, butter, and a lot of chopped pecans on top of strawberries, blueberries, lemon juice, and still more sugar. It was still looking too wet and oozy after 45 minutes in the oven, so I broiled the hell out of it to crisp up the top. I took it a bit too far, because the fruit lost all its juices and adhered itself to the crisp layer, but it still tasted good to me.
Mini Peach Jam Hand Pies, Regular and Gluten Free. When I made patriotic pies for the Fourth of July, I had extra pie dough leftover from both my regular and GF crusts, so I froze it to make little tarts or something with later. I’ve also been making peach jam, which was meant to be saved for winter, but Henry loves it so much that I had to crack open a jar for him. I dropped teaspoons of the stuff onto little circles of the rolled out pie dough, crimped them closed with a fork (mostly unsuccessfully as you can see in the picture), brushed them with egg wash, sprinkled them with turbinado sugar, and baked them at 425 for about 12 minutes. They were a big hit- Henry ate fully half of them, and would have eaten more if left to his own devices.
Mejadra with Crispy Onions, Quick Curried Chickpeas. This mejadra is from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook and it’s as delicious as it is ugly (of course his is gorgeous- mine is a drab shade of brown because I cooked the rice in the lentil cooking water). It’s lentils, rice, crispy fried onions, and spices all tossed together to the benefit of all parties, and topped with dollops of rich greek yogurt for serving. If you try it, do heed the advice in the headnote and fry the onion in a bigger pan in more oil, I don’t know why Ottolenghi is so skimpy there. I made the chickpeas just because I had some, and the ingredient list was stuff I had on hand, and because Henry has declared chickpeas his second favorite food, after risotto. I added a little greek yogurt at the end, though the recipe doesn’t call for it, and thought it improved the dish.