Laksa, Focaccia, Peach Pie, and Creepy Dog Faces

This is a chigger PSA. Do you know what chiggers are? If so, you’re free to skip this part.

Chiggers. The name sounds vaguely racist. Like the first time I ate a crawdad and the (very nice) man who prepared them said, “You’re a coonass now!” And I was like, what the hell is that term? Is it a racist thing? Anyway, not enough people know about chiggers. This has come up twice in that past week, so I’ve got some solid anecdotal evidence to back me up here. The first time I got them, I woke up in the middle of the night with the craziest itchy bites all over my nether regions. I assumed it was just some bizarre pervy mosquito with a taste for lady parts. But then the bites lasted for days and days and I googled “itchy mosquito bites crotch” and found out about chiggers. They are tiny red mites that live in tall grass and are most active in the summer. They climb from the tall grass onto your body and seek out folds in your skin, or places where your clothing presses tightly against your body. They love to bite you under your underwear and bra. The bites can look big and mosquito-y or small and pimply. They itch terribly and last from 1-3 weeks. Helen got them a week ago and worried she’d been bitten by a Zika-virus mosquito, cuz the bites were so bad and because she’s a worrier. I told her about chiggers. Then we visited our dear friends, who were covered in the bites after spending weeks playing in the tall grass around their home. I told them about chiggers. Then the boys and I all got chewed up by chiggers. But at least we knew what had happened! Which is something, right? They’re monsters, really. They bit my nipples, you guys! Both of them. Helen gave me her generic-brand calamine lotion, which expired in 2014, but still helps a bit. We’re on day 4 and things aren’t feeling so bad anymore.  All this to say, stay away from tall grass in the summer time. And if you wake up with red bumps all around your crotch, it’s probably chiggers. Or something that I have no business advising you on. Here’s what we ate this week.

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Chicken and Pumpkin Laksa. We went swimming with our friends! It was a freakish 72 degrees outside and overcast and the water was freezing but still so fun. We brought tons of snacks and spent a lot of time eating next to the pool. Phinnie, that magical niece of mine, stumbled over nothing and sat down hard on a bowl of beautiful fruit Helen had brought, scattering blueberries and orange segments everywhere. It gave me a twinge of nostalgia for the not-so-long-ago time when I couldn’t set a plate of food on the floor because one toddler or another would invariably step in it and track hummus across the house.

We all loved this delicious noodle and coconut milk soup from A Bird in the Hand. I had never heard of laksa, googled it, and it turns out I had also never heard of the cuisine it comes from, Peranakan, which is a combination of Chinese and Malay cuisines. The recipe’s not online, near as I can figure, but lots of other laksa recipes are, and they all look delicious. Looking at that recipe made me sad, because it’s from an Australian site, which reminded me of The Katering Show, my dearest love, which has a full new season of episodes available, but only for people who live in Australia or are good at computers.

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Chile Verde with Pork. There’s a ball pit at parkour and there are red, orange, yellow, green, and blue balls (blue balls) and one, one, purple ball. It was our precious play thing until it vanished under mysterious circumstances many weeks ago. This week, George and I found it, along with a passel of other balls, crammed into a piece of equipment with a small crack and a lid that doesn’t come off. I tilted it on its side and jammed my arm as far into the crack as I could, and my elbow hurt for a few hours afterwards, but we got that purple ball out. Also there were two other purple balls in there so the first one lost some of its mystique. That’s the most notable thing I can remember about Tuesday.

My mother in law, Mary, gave us some of the wild pork and venison they had in their freezer, from animals that my father in law had shot, including two pounds of shoulder steaks, which I think were pork, but I’m not super sure about that. Free meat!! These shoulder steaks had the wackiest sets of bones running through them, and it took a fair amount of work to separate the meat from them. I also ran into shards of things that were hard and metal-y and possibly bullet shrapnel? It weirded me out, but I looked at all the pieces carefully and hoped that I had found any stray pieces of bullet, or whatever that stuff was. I said nothing to my family about this and everyone ate it happily, in blissful ignorance that any bite could find them chewing on bullet bits. I was a little wary. No one reported anything amiss. Another successful dinner!

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Passover Buttercrunch Brittle. This is from the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook and I was so excited to try it. I had 3 1/2 boxes of matzo in my pantry leftover from a Passover regimen I flaked out on. The recipe calls for microwaving this brittle though, and I don’t have a microwave, so I tried to just do the same sort of thing on the stove top. I’m not sure if it’s because of this, or because the matzo was stale (we used the 1/2 box that had been opened since Passover), or because the recipe’s just not great, or all of these things, but this was terrible. I know it’s not fair for me to not follow the recipe and use stale matzo and then complain that I didn’t like the outcome, but this was so dense and hard to chew and generically sweet and I wasted a cup of nuts and 1/2 a cup of raw, local honey and felt bad about it. I threw it away. I’m going to stick to matzo brei and chocolate caramel crunch to use up the last three boxes of matzo.

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Butternut Risotto. I still hate risotto, but it’s been a while since we’ve had it and Henry has been going through withdrawals. When we were picking out a birthday cookbook for him at the book store, he found one with a recipe for risotto and said, we need look no further! It was a shitty cookbook, though, and a bad recipe, so I told him I could just teach him how to make the butternut risotto he loves, and then we could get the pretty cookbook with the screwy melon cake. So Henry made this risotto. I set up the stool in front of the stove, and he used two hands to move ladlefuls of simmering stock into the rice and squash pot, and then stir it, repeat for 30 minutes. Halfway through he started to climb off his stool, announcing that he was tired of stirring and was going to go outside to play and I tilted my head back and laughed wickedly and said he had to stay and stir. In the end, I know he thought it was worth it. Look how he garnished it! With rosemary he chopped himself and onion blossoms from the garden. He ate three bowls of the stuff and was so proud. Andy and I ate a bowlful each. Henry did great, but we’re just so sick of the stuff. After the kids were in bed Andy went to Taco Bell and we had a second dinner, cuz we’re gross.

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Turkey/Bacon/Avocado Sandwich. It doesn’t look like much, but this is the glamour-shot version of what I ate for dinner on Thursday. Which is to say, it’s a lie. Here’s what I really ate:

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All the stuffing and 3/4 of a sandwich. This photo is still sort of a lie because I ate easily twice this amount of stove top stuffing. George was the one who had asked me to buy the stuff (I got to go grocery shopping by myself while Mary watched the kids!) so I made it for dinner. He said, after being asked repeatedly, that he definitely did not want a sandwich, he just wanted stuffing, but he always wants the opposite of whatever I end up doing, so once I got to the table he did want a sandwich. I selflessly gave him one quarter of mine. That’s all I could spare.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I made a big batch of cupcakes and sent half of them to work with Andy and took the other half on our playdate. I came home with two cupcakes (there were 7 cupcake-eaters at the playdate) and promptly ate them. And Andy (who works with three other people) also came home with two, which means they hit those cupcakes pretty hard. But I ate the two he brought back home the next day, so I’m the reigning cupcake eating champion. Did you think this was going to be a cupcake logic problem? It has that setup, but is instead just a long boring story about how much I like cupcakes.

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Focaccia with Tomatoes, Broccoli, and Pecorino. Another Hot Bread Kitchen recipe. It was good, but not as good as my favorite focaccia. It had a sort of egginess to it, even though there are no eggs in the dough, that reminded me of the bread at Schlotzsky’s. I brought it for lunch, to a family who just had their fourth baby, but the mom had made a feast for us that blew the focaccia out of the water. Columbian beans and rice, served in a pretty little bowl with little piles of tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and avocado around the edge and a perfect fried egg in the middle. It reminded me of bibimbap and I really really loved it. Here’s a recipe that’s sort of like what we ate.

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Chilaquiles with Columbian Beans. I got to take some of those incredible beans home with me, and served them alongside chilaquiles from Hot Bread Kitchen. I was super full from eating all those cupcakes, but made the effort to pack this stuff in too- it was so good.

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Flan. Carla, the mom who feeds her family of six and also my family, also sent me home with a pan full of flan. It was wobbly and creamy and felt real good in my mouth. Can I say that? I did it.

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Pie Face. If you have been aspiring to be the best giver of gifts that children love and parents hate, you can give up right now, because my sister Joanna has this title in the bag. Exhibit A was the cat piano they sell at Target, which has settings to meow in place of playing regular piano sounds and also a full suite of terribly rewritten children’s songs all made over to be about cats, sung by a bunch of tone-deaf kids. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are also controls to speed up or slow down the tempo of these songs, which Henry does with relish, creating symphonies of discord with the many tools afforded by the cat piano. And for his birthday this year, Joanna gave Henry Pie Face, which Andy and Henry played for the first time last week. You put your face in a hole and wait to see if you’re going to have whipped cream hurled at you or not. As you can see, it was a hit!

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Risotto Balls, Mozzarella Sticks, Salad. I had originally served myself two risotto balls and one mozzarella stick, but quickly saw that I would need to add a third ball. My site is already classifed as erotica by content control software programs after I linked to some mushroom porn last summer. Also, I was the only one who ate a salad, and I mostly just did it to save face with you guys.

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Andy’s Adelaide  impression. This might win the prize for creepiest picture on my blog so far. It is posted here for no reason except that it was taken this week and why not.

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Peach Pie, Gluten Free. We’re having a food52 pie-making meet up on Tuesday, and we’re making peach pie, so I wanted to do a test run. I made this one for a belated Mother’s Day brunch at Joanna’s house. It was all bubbly and hot in this picture, but it settled down and the sauce thickened up nicely as it cooled. A good pie.

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Carrot “Noodle” Salad. Henry made this carrot salad for the brunch, from his new cookbook. It tasted mostly like a pile of carrots, but that’s not so bad, right? Needs more lemon juice and oil.

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Extra Crispy Roasted Potatoes. And I made some shockingly crispy potatoes. I followed the recipe in The Food Lab cookbook, which is not exactly like the linked recipe. Only 3 pounds of potatoes are used, tossed with the same amount of fat, and roasted at 450, not 500. The recipe worked, like every recipe I’ve made from the Food Lab, exactly as written. I had my doubts about these potatoes not sticking to the pan- it seemed like a glue-y mess when I dumped them on there, but at the 25 minutes mark, the spatula slipped right under them, and 25 minutes after that they slid easily off the sheet pan into my serving platter. They were great.

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Pesto Pepper Pizza. For dinner that night, Henry made us two of these pizzas from his cookbook. We made the pizza dough and the pesto, chopped the peppers and shredded the cheese together, and Henry rolled out the pizzas and assembled them himself. Except that he dumped all the peppers into a heap in the middle of the pizza and I asked him to spread them out a bit. I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for controlling my type-A-ness while watching him roll out the dough, though. I loved this pizza! The pesto/pepper/mozzarella combination is a good one.

Later that night, after doing very little on my blog and instead reading some of The Cuckoo’s Calling, a book my mom gave me before George was born that I’m just getting to now, I went into the computer room to say goodnight to Andy and he had his headphones on and looked at me and then looked back at his game to pause it. This infuriated me. Why couldn’t he just take his headphones off for a second? Why did he have to take the time to pause the game? I’m getting my period. Wish my family and people in line with me at the grocery store or wildflower center luck in the coming week.

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3 thoughts on “Laksa, Focaccia, Peach Pie, and Creepy Dog Faces

  1. Mary Alexandra Agner May 17, 2016 / 1:42 pm

    I think Peranakan is a little more complicated than what you wrote above 🙂 But I learned all I know, and all I know on Peranakan cuisine in Singapore, from Ovidia’s Yu’s series of light murder mysteries starring Aunty Lee. I think the first book is _Aunty Lee’s Delights: A Singaporean Mystery_. They are excellent and also make you hungry.

  2. Joanna May 17, 2016 / 3:50 pm

    You are welcome! I only hope I can find more gifts that Henry will love and you will hate in the future. I’ve set the bar so high perhaps even I can’t cross it. I love that photo of Henry! Also I’m excited for these recipes because I really liked the carrot noodle salad and those crispy potatoes and plan to try them at home.

  3. Gangie May 17, 2016 / 5:22 pm

    In my head when I see your post in my inbox I think “yay a new post” always, every time. This one did not fail to entertain. I loved it.

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