Daily Archives: February 9, 2014

let’s eat: on the menu

 Hmmm… where to start? I suppose with Sunday.

I believe there was  a big game on that day, but I watched about five minutes of the actual game, and part of the half time show, and maybe two commercials. I ran some late afternoon errands, and once I got home and everything put together for dinner, the evening had sort of gotten away from us. The girls love taco nights, and so we had tacos on the menu for dinner. I thought I’d make some fresh guacamole, but when I ran into Fields Foods for a few groceries they were making it right there in front of me. I tried a bite, and decided I’d let them have the chopping and mixing honors that day, and I brought a container home. E ended up not feeling so hot, and she couldn’t even eat dinner – which she has complained about for the remainder of the week. “Why, oh why, did I have to lose my appetite on Taco Night… instead of, you know, Caramelized Fennel and Zucchini Tart Night??” (I added that last part, but she has been whining about the taco miss.)

Monday night I made this Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs. Where the other favorite mac & cheese recipe falls most decidedly on the lower cheese spectrum (I suggest heaping your measuring cups a bit on that recipe), this pumpkin version leans in the opposite direction. Not so much leans, but really dives in, I think. There are twelve ounces total of two different cheeses, and the resulting casserole dish is enough to serve a table of twenty. The pumpkin and the nutmeg render the dish a gorgeous color, but I’m going to tell you that if you are worried that this is going to taste remotely like a Thanksgiving pie then worry no more. I think I’d up the pumpkin and the spice a bit next time. The bread crumbs are really delicious – I’d up them as well. I used a baguette, torn into chunks, whirled with the sage leaves and then mixed with olive oil. They came out crispy and delicious, and left me wishing for more. This is the dish that never ends, so consider yourself warned.

Tuesday was M’s half birthday and so he got a dinner and dessert of his choosing. He never really chose a dinner, so I chose for him. I made the Leek Fritters from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook (a recipe we’ve made several times before) and the Roasted Root Vegetable Salad from the same cookbook (first try). The leek fritters were delicious, especially with the lemon-garlic sour cream on top. If you love root vegetables, then I’d also recommend this salad. It’s large enough to make a main course – maybe up the quinoa amount a bit. You roast shallots in foil until soft, then you blend them with sherry vinegar and some balsamic and olive oil. You then toss the roasted veggies in the dressing, and it makes a really beautiful, hearty dish. It helped me use up some radishes I had as well – I can’t remember roasting radishes before, but they were tasty.

Dessert was the star of the show on Tuesday. When I was looking at the dinner recipes, the book first flipped open to Chocolate Silk Pie. M’s favorite dessert memory is of the French silk pie from Bishop’s Buffet in Iowa – a pie equal he swears he’s never found. It used to be made on a graham cracker crust, and most chocolate silk pies you find in restaurants today are on traditional pie crusts. Deb’s version is on a chocolate wafer crust, and it is divine. Crushed chocolate wafers (took me two stores to find the same Nabisco brand – not a sandwich cookie like an Oreo) are mixed with melted butter and a little salt – a combination that can never, ever do you wrong. The filling takes awhile to make – beating the mixture for five minutes after every addition of an egg – but it’s not hard at all. The pie sits in the fridge overnight, and then the whipped cream comes together in less than ten minutes – just enough time for you to take the back edge of a knife to a bittersweet bar of chocolate for some shavings on top. We don’t do dessert a lot around here, but no grownups complained about leftover slices every night last week.

Wednesday was tag team night, and so the girls and I put together quesadillas and also ate some… pumpkin mac & cheese. I’ve completely converted to the uncooked flour tortillas – so, so much better than the other guys.

Last week we ordered from Blue Apron again, but we got a message on Wednesday that delivery would be delayed a day due to the storms in the East. So Thursday night we made Tortilla Espanola – more like a potato and onion frittata but with less eggs (might even describe it as a gratin), with a Bitter Green Salad on the side – Radicchio, Endive and Arugula with a simple dijon mustard and vinegar dressing. We skipped the almonds and added some salted pepitas we had around. Delicious, and hit the spot on (yet another) snowy day.

Friday night we met up with a few other families and attended the Eliot Society Family Night at Washington University. We had a big dinner buffet there of the usual sort of buffet food, but also lots and lots of steamed asparagus to keep the little one happy. We watched two basketball games in a row that included two players making their 1000th career point (one women’s, one men’s) and the men’s coach winning his 600th game. Then we drove home in the snow (again) and collapsed.

Saturday night we made another BA meal – a Caramelized Fennel and Zucchini Tart with Homemade Tomato Jam and Olive Oil Crust. I used this recipe to try and push myself past my aversion to fennel. There are few things I won’t eat, and licorice is one of them – which means fennel and anise are generally a huge turnoff. I took my friend’s advice to leave the chopped fennel fronds out of the tomato jam (good call) and I chopped the fennel up smaller and cooked it longer in the skillet to really mellow it out and sweeten it up. It was delicious in the dish, and the whole thing was tasty. I’m not completely convinced that the tomato jam needed to be so sweet (quite a bit of honey), and the crust was a bit of a distraction. I might not put this on the repeat list, but I will certainly be more open to fennel in the future. Mission accomplished.

It’s Sunday now, and another week is starting. With more snow – did I mention that? It should be a busy week in the kitchen – yet another half-birthday, and some Valentines to make (edible, of course), and then Valentine’s Day itself. Hope you have a tasty week. If you ate something really good, please share.

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P.S. If the recipe isn’t published on the internet by the author then I just link to the cookbook. It’s not hard to search around and find them posted by others – I just feel very strongly about sending you to the original source.