Thursday, October 22, 2009

What My Sister Might Have for Dinner Tonight

If she reads my blog, that is. Starting Monday my sister, Ginny, is having her kitchen renovated and she is trying to eat down her pantry. Last night she was telling me she's down to a can of tuna, some pasta, a can of tomatoes, a can of chicken soup and a can of chili. Why she buys canned chili is beyond me, but I try not to judge. Which is hard, because, eww.

Anyway, as she was telling me this I suddenly remembered a pasta dish I used to make years ago, but stopped making because it involved tuna and both my girls took a dislike to tuna when they were about 4 and 7. (Although, happily, Em will now eat tuna salad if I make it with celery and give it a spin in my food processor.)

So this is what Ginny should do tonight:

Boil the pasta (it doesn't matter what kind).

Heat a saute pan on her nearly defunct cooktop. Swirl a little olive oil (or whatever kind of oil she has) in the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile chop an onion (Gin said she had a red one, but any onion will do) and toss it into the pan with the oil and cook until soft. Open the can of tomatoes and pour them in with their juice, cook down a bit. Open the can of tuna, drain it and toss it in. Taste (once the tuna is warmed through), season as needed with salt and pepper. Now, at this point she could throw in a tablespoon of capers, but Ginny isn't likely to have that. Or she could sprinkle some Parmesan on top of the whole thing, which is surprisingly good with the tuna. Peas are good too - and then she won't have to dirty up another pot making a vegetable.

Toss the tuna/tomato mixture in with the pasta. Eat it up, yum.

I also suggested she pour the soup over some rice and chicken breasts like our moms used to do with canned mushroom soup and chicken, then bake it for an hour, but she said her oven is kaput and her toaster oven couldn't really handle something like that.

As for the chili? I recommend saving it for an apocalypse -- when there's nothing else left.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cozy Soup (in Real Time)

I have this sweater that wears me. It's this silvery grey soft wool, it has shiny silver thread running all though it (I'm like a magpie with shiny), it has an empire waist, 3/4 sleeves and it has little flowers around the neckline. Yeah. It sounds kind of grandmothery but it's a DKNY Jeans sweater that I bought at a Macy's one day sale for $25-- so its actually kind of cool -- but because it's DKNY it's meant to be worn by someone at least 5'9" and the size of a post, whereas I'm 5'2" (after an hour of yoga) and shaped more like a pumpkin. But I don't care because I really like it and it's warm and surprisingly cozy for a shiny/silver/flowery thing. Whenever I put it on, which is fairly often because it's cozy, my friends all say, "ooh, cool sweater," which is significantly different from, "that sweater looks great on you!" I also know the sweater wears me because my Mom says nothing when I wear it -- which means the whole thing probably washes me out and makes me look exactly like a pumpkin, a grey pumpkin, despite it's DKNY status.

Oh Well. I say, it's good to have something cozy that wears you because it takes the pressure off. Which brings me to soup. Soup, while it doesn't wear me (though I've been known to wear IT), is the definition of a cozy and pressure free dinner. Tonight, because it's a perfect fall evening -- chilly and crisp -- I'm going to make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

This afternoon I am baking bread for sandwiches (click "bread" for the recipe) and right now I am roasting cauliflower for a potato-leek-cauliflower soup I intend to make when I get back from Em's voice lesson. I've got stock (made and froze last week) defrosting in the fridge, and I have about six little russet potatoes and one leek. When I get home I plan to chop the potatoes up into pretty small pieces, saute the leeks with some fresh sage and a bit of thyme.

Oh - timer just went off for the bread and I just took it out and it's all sunken in -darn! And it looked so pretty after it's second rise. I must admit, the dough was a little wetter than I usually let it be, so that's probably it. Cauliflower looks good though -- just took it out of the oven and it's nice and goldeny, but not too mushy - it still has a decent amount of crunch.

Heading out to the voice lesson now. Wearing the dowdy-only-on-me-sweater.

I'm back. Diced 3 potatoes and and one small leek and threw it all in a pot with my stock two minced sage leaves and a stalk of thyme and pinch of sea salt. It's simmering now. It'll take about 10 minutes for the potatoes to get tender.

Time for a glass of wine.

Ok - potatoes are tender. I fished out the thyme stem, then stripped a bunch of fresh thyme leaves into the soup. Tossed the roasted cauliflower into the soup. More salt, a bit of pepper, a squeeze of half a lemon. A lot of people would then blend this soup up either with a hand blender or in a blender -- but I'm not going to because my kids hate creamy soup. Weird. Anway...

While the soup rests, I'm going to grill the sandwiches (half cheddar, half mozzarella).

Sandwiches are done, ladling soup into the bowls. I'm more squeezing lemon into Smith's and mine because the girls can only tolerate so much lemon.

The sandwiches are really good dipped into the soup.

So there's my evening. Mad is finishing homework, Smith and Em are doing dishes, I'm finishing my cozy soup blog, curled up in my sweater and and an old pair of jeans, large wool socks, dog on my lap. Yes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nachos Libre

You know what I hate? I hate having had a difficult day with teens & preteens and the plumber for the shower and the cat on antibiotics and the newsletter due to the printer among other things and all I want to do is go down to the local bar with my sister and order a beer and a plate of nachos to pick at and the nachos come and the cheese is nicely melted and browned on top and there seems to be plenty of jalapenos and you grab the first chip, only to discover the cheese and the jalapenos are nothing more than a facade -- a false front for a big pile of warmed-over slightly stale tortilla chips. That's what I hate.

Nachos are supposed to be layered people. You put a layer of chips down, then you layer some beans and maybe some salsa and jalapenos and then some cheese and then more chips and then beans etc., and top it all off with lots of cheese. Then you stick the whole thing in the oven, then you broil it for a few minutes until the cheese on top bubbles and browns. Those are nachos.
Not some pile of chips with a few measly gratings of cheese on top of the whole thing.

So for lunch today, because, as my friend Sylvana used to say, the craving had been established, I made nachos they way they should be made when you order them with the beer. Except I had a coke because I still have to pick the children up from school and take them to the orthodontist.

You probably have your own way of making nachos, but here are my instructions just in case a certain bar cook in my neighborhood happens to be reading. You know who you are.

Preheat your oven to 350:
top your chips with a layer of cheese. Bake for a few minutes until the cheese starts melting, then layer on more chips, bean dip, black beans or whatever:

stick this in the oven, again until cheese starts to melt.

take them out - add more cheese, beans, whatever (I added jalapenos and chopped tomatoes) and turn your oven to broil. Broil until golden.

Now THESE are nachos:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I honestly can't believe Gourmet is closing. It's one of those magazines, one of those things in life you just think is always going to be around, even if you don't happen to be subscribing to it at the moment. And I loved the new covers: September it was a pear, October an apple dripping with caramel.

Years ago, I had this great recipe from Gourmet for almond toffee which I'd make for my dad every Christmas. I'd copied the recipe from my mother who had copied it from a magazine which had belonged to a friend. My copy lived on an old bank envelope push pinned to a bulletin board in my NYC kitchen. When I moved, I carefully put this beloved recipe into my Joy of Cooking, where I could find it. And did find it, returning it to the JOC, for years. Until we redid the kitchen. Then, I lost it. And have spent more time than I want to think trying to recreate it.

I never ever have.