Ratatouille Casserole

Sunday Dinner – 23 September 2018

ratatouille casserole

Claudia is on a ten day green smoothie cleanse, so I wanted something for this Sunday that wasn’t too incompatible. This dish is mostly baked veggies, so I figured it would fill the bill.

I sautéed some onions and garlic in a cast iron skillet, deglazed with red wine, then added a can of tomato paste, some thyme and S&P. Then, off heat, I made concentric circles of yellow squash, eggplant, orange pepper, zucchini, and red pepper. Once the whole thing was in place, I drizzled olive oil over the top, and sprinkled with the same seasonings.

After about 45 minutes in a 375 oven, and a little grated Asiago, it was ready to serve, along with Penne, salad, and some French Bread with olive oil and HDP.

Ratatouille and Pasta

Grammy brought another nice pie for dessert this week.

Wine was a marvelous Cabernet Franc from Jacqueline Bahue.

We’re missing Aunt Pat during her travels, and look forward to her joining us at table again in a few weeks. I think she would have liked the “Traditional French” music station from Pandora that we had playing during dinner.

 

Another Long Cook

Sunday Dinner – 16 September 2018

This is the first time we’ve repeated a main course for Sunday Dinner in 2018. We had a six pound Boston Butt in the freezer, and the weather was favorable, so it was hard to resist the long cook.

I was up at around 6:30 AM to set up the Weber Kettle and start the coals. I’d rubbed the pork shoulder Saturday Evening with my usual seasonings, and set up the Kettle as usual with a drip pan full of water between ten unlit briquettes on each side. I added several lit coals and some wood chunks before placing the pork on the grate. After about three hours, I wrapped the pork in foil to get it through the stall, and eventually moved it over to the Genesis Gas Grill to finish. After about six and a half hours total, the internal temp was 203 degrees F. We let it rest for about another hour before shredding.

I’d made pasta salad on Friday evening, and Claudia made a delicious green salad, plus some truly amazing green beans with onions and bacon for sides. The wine was from F. Stephen Millier (a Lodi Shiraz which paired perfectly with the barbecue). Claudia also made brownies for dessert.

We’re missing Aunt Pat while she spends some time with family out west. It was another lovely Sunday with Grammy and Grampy, though. It’s such a blessing to be able to be in their company each week.

Chili con Tres Frijoles

Sunday Dinner – 9 September 2018

This was one of the first things that I learned to cook well, and remains a favorite after decades.

It starts with a sauté of onions and garlic, which goes into the crock with kidney beans, pintos, black beans, diced tomatoes, some picante sauce, cocoa powder, liquid smoke, S&P, a bottle of beer and a package of Chili Man seasoning. Usually I add a couple of dried whole cayennes, but we’ve finally run out of the ones we’d grown and dried years ago. I started this on low at 8 PM Saturday night. This morning I cut up a couple of green peppers to add, checked seasonings, and added a little more ground black pepper and some kosher salt. At the very end, I added a handful of rolled oats.

I used to make cornbread from a Miracle Maize mix, but nowadays I mix it up from scratch – 1 1/4 cups of cornmeal, 3/4 cup of flour, 2 T sugar, 2 t baking powder, and 1 t coarse salt for the dry ingredients, then 1 1/4 cup of milk, 1 egg and half a stick of melted butter for the wet. Half an hour in the oven at 375 does the trick.

We served this with chopped avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream. I put Cholula sauce in my bowl. Grampy always has a little maple syrup on his cornbread on the side. The ladies opted for no wine this week. I opened a bottle of Shiner Bock for me, and a can of Busch NA for Grampy (which seemed to agree with him).

Grammy brought an incredible triple berry pie for dessert.

Triple Berry Pie

We missed Aunt Pat this week as she had other family obligations.

I’m looking forward to chili cheeseburgers for supper one night this week.

Zini al Forno, Salsiccia con Peperoni

Sunday Dinner – 2 September 2018

Baked Ziti

For this Sunday we made Baked Ziti and grilled Italian Sausages with peppers and onions.

I use the Ziti al Forno recipe from the Sopranos Family Cookbook – one of our favorites for years. We also sliced a couple of onions and four bell peppers for the bed underneath the sausages. I put them in an aluminum pan on the grill with olive oil for ten or fifteen minutes, then poured in a bottle of Pinot Noir, and placed the sausages on top. After turning the sausages every five minutes for about half-an-hour, I moved those to the grill grates for a few minutes before bringing the entire pan inside.

Italian Sausages

Claudia and Aunt Pat also prepared a salad, and breaded some zucchini slices with egg wash, bread crumbs and grated cheese that we grilled on the plancha.

Zucchini on the Grill

Everything was delicious. Dessert was a lovely cake that our Cousin Jennifer had brought us earlier this weekend, simply known as “The Cake.”

Farsi Chicken and Grilled Peppers

Sunday Dinner – 26 August 2018

Chicken and Peppers

We’re celebrating Aunt Pat’s birthday this week, so we made barbecue chicken for Sunday Dinner. Last weekend I told her the story of our Farsi Chicken recipe, so Claudia and I decided to go with that. Luckily this time I was vigilant, and didn’t burn it to a crisp.

Claudia made Basmati rice with Garam Masala, and we also grilled some peppers as a side. I made two of our favorite Wisconsin Supper Club appetizers, marinated olives and marinated mushrooms, and also churned up some lemon custard ice cream for dessert. The wine was an exceptional 2010 Côtes du Rhône.

Everything turned out just about right.

Deutsche Senfbraten

Sunday Dinner – 19 August 2018

Senfbraten

Still clearing out the freezer, so I decided to make pork roast with mustard gravy this week from a five pound pork loin.

The recipe came from The Daring Gourmet. Essentially, you slather the roast with mustard, brown it in a Dutch Oven, add some aromatics, wine and broth, and cook it at 325 for three hours. When everything comes out, you add a flour and stock slurry and simmer to thicken the gravy.

This is the sort of simple, savory food that my mother would have prepared when I was a child. I don’t remember her ever cooking this particular recipe, but the flavors brought back memories nonetheless.

Grampy’s 80th birthday is coming up in a few days, and he does love his pork, so I figured it would be a fitting dinner this weekend.

Aunt Pat had other family obligations today, so she didn’t join us, but we did have a chance to get together with her and Claudia’s cousins, Dan and Monica (and Monica’s husband, Ron) Saturday evening for a bit.

We served a Columbia Valley Riesling from Aldi’s with the Senfbraten, and I went easy on it because I may have been overserved Saturday night. It rarely happens, but it does happen. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Grammy brought a super delicious cherry pie for dessert.

Pork Chops and Hasselback Bakers

Sunday Dinner -12 August 2018

Pork Chops Hasselback Potaotes

This was a simple, delicious meal. We had some pork chops in the freezer, so I decided to use one of my favorite brines for pork from Vrobel. We were out of Bourbon, so I used dark rum in the brine, and also omitted the glaze.

For the Hasselback Potatoes, we used bakers. I made slits in them 1/8th inch apart, sprayed them with olive oil, and sprinkled with onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. They went into a pan on the grill over indirect heat for 30 minutes, then got hit with olive oil again, roasted another 20 minutes, then I put them over direct heat for another 15. I’d put some cloves of garlic in olive oil in the bottom of the pan as well.

The pork chops were on for maybe twenty-five minutes total over direct heat. Claudia cooked some corn that had been put away last year, and made a nice fresh green salad. She also baked a banana cake from scratch earlier in the day for dessert.

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches

Sunday Dinner – 5 August 2018

This week we grilled a bunch of veggies and made sandwiches.

Neither of us can remember precisely when, or why, we started making this particular meal, but we know that it goes back at least a decade to when we were living in Mattoon, Illinois. It’s basically a huge mess of vegetables, grilled in batches and put between bread with cheese and returned to the grill to get gooey.

We included eggplant, Portabello Mushrooms, zucchini, red and orange peppers, red onions and tomato slices. These were all seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Herbs de Provence, and grilled with liberal spritzes of olive oil. Once they were grilled, Claudia and Aunt Pat assembled them with Provolone slices between the halves of three loaves of Italian Bread, and wrapped them in aluminum foil, and then we put them back out on the Weber Genesis to warm through. Datsa Sanguige!

Prepping Sandwiches

We also grilled some halved nectarines for a few minutes, then topped them with Mascarpone, Balsamic Vinegar and honey before taking them out to finish.

Aunt Pat also brought a delicious lemon meringue pie for dessert.

We served a couple of bottles of rosé (once from Lodi and one from France) with the meal. Mrs. Noe and I aren’t huge fanatics for blush wines, but I do like them every now and then in hot weather (which was certainly a feature of this weekend).

Pastrami Time

Sunday Dinner – 29 July 2018

Reuben Sandwich

This week we made a Katz Deli style Pastrami.

Mrs. Noe has been encouraging me to clear out our chest freezer, so I thawed a corned beef brisket and mixed up some Pastrami rub.

  • 4 tablespoons black pepper.
  • 2 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

Brisket Rubbed

Since this recipe requires smoking and steaming, I decided to do the barbecue portion of it on Saturday. I rubbed down the nearly four pound pre-brined brisket and set up the grill for a long cook.

Kettle Set Up

Here’s how the Weber Kettle is set up for water smoking. The drip pan is about 3/4ths full of water. There are ten unlit briquettes, four live coals and two chunks of wood (cherry, in this case) on each side of the pan. One bottom vent is full open. One is completely closed, and the other is about halfway open. The top vent is full open. This creates lots of smoke and keeps the temperature steady at about 225 °F.

After four hours of smoking, the internal temperature of the brisket registered 137 °F. I wrapped it in aluminum foil and put it in the refrigerator.

Thinking of sides for the meal, latkes were a natural, but since Claudia’s family is Lithuanian, and I already had a decent recipe, I decided to substitute Kugela. So I cooked 12 ounces of bacon in a foil pan on the Weber Genesis to have it ready. I also saved the grease.

Come Sunday Morning, I placed the brisket on a rack in our Nesco roaster with a couple of bottles of Schlitz in the bottom of the pan, and set it to 250 °F for steaming. The center temperature registered 207 °F in just a couple hours, so I turned the roaster down to keep the cut warm until time to serve.

With the brisket in the roaster, I got busy peeling 5 pounds of red potatoes. I grated those in batches in the food processor, putting them in a bowl of water to keep them from turning brown.

After that I sautéed some grated onions in a bit of the bacon fat, then put the potatoes in a colander and pressed out the water with a plate before adding them to a bowl with the onions and crumbled bacon. Then I beat 6 eggs, and added them to the bowl with 1 can of Milnot, and some salt and pepper. Since the mixture was pretty wet, I added about half a cup of farina and combined it all before pouring into a greased 9 by 13 casserole. I topped it all with the remaining bacon grease. It went into a 400 °F oven for 15 minutes, then I brought the temp down to 350 and baked for another 55 minutes.

Kugela

Once it was out of the oven, I sliced the Pastrami while Claudia mixed up a Wulff salad (with white wine vinegar in the dressing). She had also baked a cake earlier in the day and put together a nice trifle for dessert.

We made Reubens of the Pastrami, rye bread, sauerkraut, Swiss Cheese and Russian Dressing. Kugela topped with sour cream and Claudia’s delicious salad were the perfect accompaniment. We also opened a bottle of excellent Aussie wine (a Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon cuvée called “Road to Nowhere” from 2011).

Dinner Plated

The trifle was incredible. I shook up a round of Pink Squirrels for the ladies too. :)

The part of this meal that had me most nervous was the Kugela, since previous attempts at it had come out a little bland to my taste. Happy to have gotten it right this time.

Pulled Pork and Roastin’ Ears

Sunday Dinner – 22 July 2018


Weber Kettle Smoke
For Sunday Dinner this week, we pulled a Boston Butt out of the deepfreeze and did a long cook.

It was a 5 1/4 pound pork shoulder that we’d gotten on sale some time when Ultra Foods was still in business here. I remembered to get it out of the freezer on Thursday evening so it would be thawed well enough to season on Saturday evening. Here’s my rub recipe.

  • 2 t Black Pepper
  • 2 t Mustard
  • 2 T Turbinado Sugar
  • 1 t Onion Powder
  • 1 t Garlic Powder
  • 1 t Paprika
  • 1 T Kosher Salt

I use this mainly for ribs and pulled pork, but it would also be fine for brisket or other cuts that get rubbed for smoking.

I also made a batch of Wolfe Pit Cole Slaw, and some Carolina Mustard BBQ Sauce Saturday Night. Here’s the recipe for that.

  • 1 C Yellow Mustard
  • 1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 2 T Ketchup
  • 1 T Soy Sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire
  • 1 T Crystal Sauce

Usually with the pulled pork I would cook up a pot of baked beans, and maybe serve some potato salad or macaroni salad alongside. But this week Aunt Pat brought us a baker’s dozen of fresh sweet corn from Hersher, so I saved back some ears for the meal. We generally cook our roastin’ ears on the grill nowadays, but I boiled these up in a big pot with a little salt, the old fashioned way, and they were delicious, smothered in butter. One of the cool things about living in Kankakee County is the incredibly sweet Hersher corn on the cob.

I was up shortly after 5:30 AM on Sunday to get the grill going. I set it up for the long cook as usual, with ten unlit briquettes on each side of a water pan, then adding four lit coals to each side, along with some wood chunks. Hickory and Apple are my choice most of the time for pork. The kettle was smoking steady at 225°F by twenty after six, and ready for the roast. I turned and mopped it every hour for the first four hours, using a spray bottle of coffee, cider vinegar and Maibock. After four hours, it was reading 135°F in the center, so I wrapped it in aluminum foil, moved all of the charcoal to one side of the grill, and added some additional briquettes to get the temperature up a bit. After another two hours, the roast was still only at 165 (and it had begun to rain pretty steadily outside) so I brought it in to finish in a 350°F oven. It took another hour-and-a-half to get up to around 190, which was my target temp for this cook. We let it rest for another half-an-hour before Claudia shredded it with the Kassa Claws.

The sweet corn, slaw and sandwich (on a Kaiser Roll topped with dill chips and Carolina Sauce) made for a pretty plate. Unfortunately, a problem between my camera and computer resulted in the loss of what would have been a nice photo to share. Rest assured that it was all plenty delicious. We also had a couple bags of chips, some Blues Hog Tennessee Red Sauce, and our old standby Sweet Baby Ray’s on hand at the table.

I’ve never been quite satisfied with the slaw recipe, so I think I might try a different one next time. Although this one came out better than previous attempts, it doesn’t match the sweet, creamy goodness of what I remember my mom making when I was a child. Otherwise, this meal was perfect. Wines were Cali Merlots from Intertwine and Karen Birmingham.

The older set played cribbage while Claudia and I took well-deserved, overdue short naps, then we enjoyed a nice banana cream pie that Aunt Pat brought for dessert.

Chicago Deep Dish

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

It’s probably no secret that pizza is one of our family’s favorite foods. Ordering a pizza on Friday night was our routine for literally years when we were first married. Both of my sons worked for a time in our favorite pizza joint where we used to live. We still enjoy a good restaurant pie from time to time, whether thin and crackly crust, thick and chewy or Chicago style deep dish.

We’ve also always made our own pizzas at home, first using store-bought crusts, then eventually making them from scratch. Finding the dough recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day made a huge difference in the quality of our home-made pizzas.

In addition to baking pizza on the grill we love this version of deep dish, and have been making it for the better part of a decade now. It draws on a recipe from Lou Malati’s in Chicago.

I start by prepping a ball of one-quarter of the dough from a batch of the AB5 recipe linked above. My iron skillet gets a liberal spray of olive oil, and then a good dusting of corn meal before the dough is spread out in the bottom. I press it down and out until it comes up the side of the pan about a quarter to half an inch.

Then comes a layer of Provolone slices to cover the bottom. After that, the rest of the toppings go on in repeating layers – shredded spinach, sliced mushrooms, shredded Mozzarella, canned diced tomatoes with herbs and garlic. Then finally it gets topped with some grated Parm or Romano, and maybe a tiny grind of black pepper and some coarse salt. About 30 to 40 minutes in a 425 °F oven, and it’s ready.

We’ve added other ingredients in the past, black olives, sausage, pepperoni or what have you. But this simple combination of spinach, mushrooms, cheese and tomatoes is my favorite. The bright tartness of the tomatoes is a perfect counterpoint to the earthy, savory veggies and cheese. It’s hearty, satisfying and the first bite literally makes my mouth water.

With the dough made ahead of time, this meal is not terribly labor intensive either. I think it took me about fifteen minutes to put together, and then maybe another five to assemble green salads on the side while the pie was cooling after it came out of the oven. Quick and delicious is always welcome on a Friday evening after a long work week.

This is another dish that I’d encourage you to try. It could hardly be simpler to prepare, and I guarantee that it’ll hit the spot. If you’re hesitant to make your own dough from scratch, you shouldn’t be, but you could probably use a boxed dough mix, or even buy a ball or two from your favorite local pizzeria if you’re on good terms with them.

Buon appetito!

Grilled Pizza

Sunday Dinner – 15 July 2018

This week we made pizza for Sunday Dinner. We finally have the process pretty well down.

I made a quick, no cook sauce from two cans of tomato sauce, one can of tomato paste, some oregano, basil, garlic, sugar, paprika, salt and pepper. We followed our usual process otherwise, as described in these earlier posts.

Easy Foolproof Grilled Pizza

How to Make Pizza on the Grill

After I par cooked the crusts, Claudia topped one with three cheese blend, another with veggies and another with fresh basil and mozzarella. Then they went back out to the plancha on the Weber Genesis to finish.

The crust this time was the best yet – a perfect combination of crunchy on the outside with a little dense chew inside.

Sunday Brunch

8 July 2018

This week we enjoyed a lovely Sunday Brunch. Claudia made a ham and asparagus strata and bacon wrapped tots. Mom baked sourdough raisin sweet rolls and Aunt Pat brought a nice fresh berry salad.

Also, Mimosas!

Fourth of July Cookout

We had an old fashioned cookout for Independence Day this year.

Turkish Kebabı

Sunday Dinner – 1 July 2018

Turkish Sunday Dinner

This week we tried our hands at Turkish cuisine.

A co-worker of mine is from Adana, and when I asked her what her favorite dish is, she said “the real kebap like we have back home.”

I did some research and found this video. When I related the recipe to her, she said that it is actually for Beyti Kebap which is popular a bit further east. Adana Kebap, as she describes it, is just the bell pepper, S&P and olive oil with the minced meat. Here’s another vid (sound is in Turkish, but you can see the preparation).

I stuck with the recipe from the first video, as follows.

Food Processor:
1 Red Bell Pepper
2 Red Onions
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Handful Parsley
1 T Sumac
1 T Salt
1 t Paprika
2 T Olive Oil

Mix together with 2 LBS Ground Lamb, place on skewers and cook.

I was able to obtain the sumac online, along with a set of wide skewers from Stephen Raichlen’s collection. Unfortunately, the lamb was difficult to find in our town, so I opted for 85-15 ground beef, which turned out to be a mistake. There simply wasn’t enough fat in the mixture to get it to stick to the skewers. After much cursing and sulking, I formed it into sort of elongated patties and cooked it directly on the grill grates. If I were to ever prepare this again, I would either use lamb, higher-fat beef, perhaps a mixture of beef and pork, or I’d find some other way to remove moisture and increase fat in the mix.

We served the meat with tomatoes and mini peppers (that had been charred on the grill with olive oil and S&P), pita bread (to substitute for lavash), a green salad, yoğurt sosu (a Turkish yogurt sauce) and soğan salatası (a marinated onion salad consisting of 2 julienned white onions,  3 T Sumac, the juice of two lemons, salt, olive oil and fresh parsley). Claudia also made a Turkish rice pudding for dessert.

The wine was a 2016 Paso Robles Malbec from Sharon Weeks, which paired really well.

Cattoo Malbec

Everything was tasty, and it was especially interesting to learn the taste of sumac, which was brand new for all of us. By the time we ate, though, I was so tired and disappointed and disgusted with the skewer issues that it was hard for me to really enjoy the meal. I would like to try another run at it using lamb, but probably not any time soon.

Eggplant Parm for Sunday Dinner

June 24th, 2018

plated-eggplant-parmigiana

We revisited one of our favorite dishes, Grilled Eggplant Parmigiana, this week. This is a family favorite that we enjoy several times a year. In fact, it’s our daughter’s favorite meal – the one she requests for her birthday.

We had lemons that needed to be used, so Claudia began early in the day baking a lemon cake from scratch, and making lemon curd. She’d gotten blueberries, blackberries and raspberries to go on top, and her mom did a beautiful job arranging them.

Aunt Pat was here early and took on the tedious task of prepping brussels sprouts. She separated each leaf for roasting on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. A little grated Parm on top, and they made a crunchy addition to the antipasti. Claudia also prepared a cheese and charcuterie platter, some olives and marinated artichokes.

It took a little while to get the plancha cleaned up for the Weber Genesis, but once it was clean and hot, the eggplant slices only took about twenty minutes for each batch to cook.

eggplant-on-the-grill

Then the pans of the finished dish went back out for another twenty minutes until they were nice and bubbly. In the meantime, Claudia fixed another fresh, vibrant salad with her famous Wulff Family Dressing.

Claudia also boiled the pasta, something I would have forgotten altogether. The final element was garlic bread, again, baked on the plancha. We served a big bottle of Bolla Valpolicella with the meal. It’s one of our favorite table wines, especially with Italian fare, and we don’t really drink it often enough.

This is one of the heartiest dishes I’ve ever tasted. Leave out the coppa and prosciutto from the antipasto platter, and this meal would have been entirely meatless as well. This would be on my short list for last meal at the end of the road.

Fathers’ Day 2018

Another Attempt at Chicken-Fried Steak

We had the pleasure of another Fathers’ Day with Grampy, and took the occasion to make another attempt at Chicken-Fried Steak.

As mentioned earlier, I became obsessed with this dish after a visit to Horseshoe Hill Cafe in Ft. Worth. This is the fourth time I’ve cooked it in the past couple months, and it was the best batch yet. I used bottom round steaks this time, which had the flavor and slight chewiness that you want. In addition to the beef, I breaded a batch of chicken breasts which turned out really good too. I managed to keep the peanut oil at 350°F in the cast iron Dutch Oven throughout the cook, and finally got a process in place to move from breading to frying to draining to holding in the oven as efficiently as possible. As always, the black pepper gravy was excellent.

Mrs. Noe made the mashed potatoes and steamed some broccoli with lemon butter, and she and Aunt Pat also pulled together a lovely green salad. I grilled some green onions with nice fat bulbs that I’d found at the Kankakee Farmers’ Market on Saturday. We also served some spicy pickled okra. Aunt Pat brought a delicious cherry pie and some soft serve from DQ for dessert.

One of the other little pleasures of the day was serving this meal on the plates that were used for Sunday Dinners at Claudia’s grandma’s. They’re a blue Currier & Ives pattern and, coincidentally, the same as the ones my mother had when I was growing up. So they hit the perfect nostalgic notes for both of us.

The ladies drank a nice California Rosé from F. Stephen Millier. I stuck with Shiners. My toast to Grampy for Fathers’ Day was “Here’s to us, and them like us. Damned few of us left.”

You can find the recipe for Grady Spears’ CFS at Texas Monthly. It calls for “round steak” but there are a lot of cuts that qualify. My best luck was with these bottom rounds, but some of that may have been more experience with prep and cooking. You could also use sirloin, eye of round or top round. Some will need more time with the mallet than others.

Flavors of Palestine

Sunday Dinner – 10 June 2018

Palestinian Food

This week’s Sunday Dinner was a classic from the Middle East, Maqloubeh.

The passing of Anthony Bourdain prompted feelings of sorrow, followed by a binge of Parts Unknown. One of the first episodes I revisited was his trip to Jerusalem, which also included a segment in Gaza with his Palestinian host, Laila El-Haddad. He was treated to Maqloubeh, a dish of rice, spices and other delicious goodies.

“Maqloubeh” is the Arabic word for “upturned” or “upside-down.” Although family recipes vary greatly, the main ingredients seem to be long-grain rice, eggplant, cauliflower, onions, garlic and lamb (or sometimes chicken). I reviewed seven or eight recipes online, and tried to get to the essence of the dish.

While we were cooking the main course, Claudia served some roasted red-pepper hummus that she’d made earlier, along with crudités and pita chips. I’ll try to goad her into adding the hummus recipe here at some point, but it is basically chick peas, fresh lemon juice, tahini, garlic, a roasted red pepper and some other seasonings. If you’ve only ever had store bought hummus, you are missing out. She also roasted some chick peas with spices in the oven on a cookie sheet. Those were super tasty and surprisingly crunchy.

We had a lot of help from Aunt Pat in the kitchen this week, as usual. The prep work on these dishes was pretty time consuming, so it was great to have another capable pair of hands at the cutting board all afternoon.

مقلوبة

Maqloubeh Recipe

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Pieces
  • 2 Eggplants, Cut Into Cubes
  • 2 Cauliflower, Quartered Then Pulled Into Florets
  • 2 Yellow Onions, Rough Chopped
  • Several Cloves of Garlic, Smashed
  • 2 Tomatoes, Sliced
  • 2 Cups Basmati Rice
  • Toasted Almonds
  • Yogurt with Mint and Seasoned Salt

Seasonings:

  • Coarse Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Cardamom
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Garlic Powder

Although the ingredients are usually either fried or roasted, I decided to cook them on the Weber Genesis. After seasoning 4 leg quarters, they went on the indirect side of the grill for 40 minutes, then were moved directly over the burner for another ten minutes to finish. Internal temperature was between 175° and 185° F when I took them off. The boneless, skinless chicken breasts got the same treatment, except for a shorter length of time (and more time over direct heat) until they registered 165° F. We covered them with a tent of foil until time to serve.

The eggplant and cauliflower pieces received the same seasoning, and were grilled with a little olive oil on a veggie sheet for a bit, just to soften them up and get a little charred flavor into them.

We hit a 6 quart pan with olive oil spray, and Claudia placed a layer of tomato slices on the bottom. At this point, the traditional version of the dish would get a layer of meat, but we had so many vegetables that we decided at the last minute to keep the chicken out and serve it alongside. We added some of the grilled cauliflower and eggplant, and some onions and garlic that Claudia had sautéed. Then a cup of brown Basmati rice, the rest of the veggies, and one more cup of rice went into the pot, and finally 4 1/2 cups of stock with a little Turmeric mixed in. We covered it and boiled it for ten minutes and then simmered for another thirty.

I was nervous when it came time to invert the pot.

Mqloubeh

As you can see from the photo, it did collapse a bit on one side. Next time I’ll do my best to leave it sit awhile longer once inverted before removing the pot. I think I would also heat the stock before adding it to the pot next time, to give the boil a head start. Otherwise, there isn’t a single thing I would plan to change.

I toasted some almond slices in a dry skillet, and sprinkled them over the top. We served the Maqloubeh and chicken with some Greek Yogurt (I’d stirred in some dried mint at my friend Mazen’s suggestion, along with a little Lawry’s). It was a delicious combination. Claudia also made a traditional Arab salad to go with.

سلطة خيار الطماطم

Cucumber Tomato Salad

  • 3 cucumbers, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • several cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons crushed dried mint
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mazen suggested that we add thyme to the salad, but it slipped my mind, so we’ll have to try that next time. This was one of the most vibrant, fresh-tasting salads I’ve ever eaten. Just delightful.

We served a couple bottles of my favorite bargain wine, Yellow Tail Shiraz, with the meal. It was a perfect compliment.

بسبوسة

Basbousa

When we were planning the meal, Claudia asked “what’s for dessert?” This is something I always seem to neglect. After a little research we settled on Basbousa, which is a yellow cake made from Semolina flour. She used this recipe for the cake, and topped it with a cinnamon simple syrup and coconut shreds as described here. It turned out just lovely as well.

Basbousa

The music stream for the day was a traditional Arabic and Andalusian station from Pandora, which added a special dimension to our gathering.

We eat to live, we eat to remember, but we also eat to learn. One of the things that has always impressed me about Bourdain is the way he seemed to foster such deep connections with people wherever he traveled. He wasn’t just a journalist conducting an interview. He was a friend, sharing a meal and some conversation.

We see our own Sunday Dinners as opportunities to celebrate cultures, times and places that we likely might not consider or examine otherwise. It was particularly nice to approximate and experience the aromas and tastes of a Palestinian kitchen this week. We’d not delved much into the food of the Eastern Mediterranean. Now that we have, I’ll be anxious now to find other dishes typical of the region.

Long live Palestine.

Mai Tai—Roa Ae!

Sunday Dinner – 3 June 2018

Our neighborhood grocer had pork loins on sale, so this week’s Sunday Dinner was a Trader Vic’s inspired faux Polynesian feast.

Char Siu Plated

I began preparations on Saturday with the marinade for the pork. The Char Siu recipe comes from an old Trader Vic’s cookbook, and consists of equal parts brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and ketchup. That all went in to a ziplock bag with the pork loins.

The sides for this meal came from Rebecca Crum’s Ezra Pound Cake site. I put together the Hawaiian Macaroni Salad on Saturday evening before we left for Mass.

I still hadn’t decided on the vegetable side until Sunday morning. Finally went with an Asian-flavored slaw, based loosely on Rebecca’s recipe. It was a package of slaw shreds, some chopped roasted peanuts, and this dressing.

Asian Slaw Dressing

  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tablespoon powdered ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce

Sunday morning at 9 AM maybe wasn’t the best time to perfect a Mai Tai recipe, but adversity builds character. After a couple of failed attempts (too strong, too sour) here’s the final concoction.

Mai Tai
Mai Tai

  • 1 oz Bacardi Gold
  • 1 oz Myer’s Dark Rum
  • 1 oz Orange Curaćao
  • 1 oz Crème de Almond
  • 1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz Grenadine
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime

Shook the heck out of that with crushed ice, decanted into a tumbler with cubes, and garnished with an orange wedge, a pineapple chunk and a cocktail cherry.


The appetizer recipe came from a site that, sadly, is no longer online. It’s a healthier, vegetarian version of Trader Vic’s Rumaki (chicken livers and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, smothered with brown sugar). The water chestnuts are still there for the crunch, the smoky bacon flavor comes from liquid smoke in the mushroom marinade, and pineapple chunks add some sweetness.

Veggie RumakiVeggie Rumaki

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 T white vinegar
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t powdered ginger

Pour some of the marinade over 2 cans of water chestnuts.

Add a teaspoon of liquid smoke to the remainder, and pour it over a pound of white mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces.

Let these sit in the fridge for a couple hours, then skewer them with chunks of pineapple, and cook them on the grill or in a 450°F oven for about 15 minutes. We served these while the rest of the meal was cooking


I cooked the pork loins on the Weber Kettle, over direct heat with some Hickory wood. I made another rookie mistake this week, pulling the loins off when they “looked done” instead of checking the internal temperature. So they had to go back out for another five minutes over high heat. They probably cooked for 25 minutes total. The last step was to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top.

I also roasted some baby carrots and scallions on the Genesis gas grill while the pork was cooking.

Carrots and Scallions

The pork can be served with mustard and sweet sour sauce on a King’s Hawaiian roll as a slider.

Char Siu Slider

We had a nice bottle of Stephen Millier California Zin with the meal. I managed to sneak in a Shiner Bock or two during the afternoon as well. It’s the Cowboy Way.

For dessert, Mrs. Noe baked an Angel Food Cake, and cut it into pieces for dipping in a simple orange/chocolate fondue, along with pieces of apple, banana and strawberries. Had I not been an idiot and forgotten about the pineapple chunks we had left, we would have dipped them too.

Music for the afternoon was courtesy of Jason Croft’s Bachelor Pad Radio. I’ve been listening to his show on Friday nights for decades now, and it always delights.

Overall, it was a satisfying meal and a lot of fun. The only thing that needs work is the macaroni salad. It just didn’t have much zing. I added some soy sauce, ginger and Bacos to try to kick it up a bit, but it was still a little bland. Maybe need to add some more vinegar next time, or some cheese shreds or something. Tarragon, maybe.

Until next week, Aloha ʻOe!

Cowboy With Shiner

Memorial Day Cookout

28 May 2018

Memorial Day Dinner

We stuck to traditional Mid-Century American fare for our Memorial Day cookout this year, with hamburgers and grilled roastin’ ears.

I also made one of my favorite desserts from childhood, a “cherry salad” consisting of cherry pie filling, coconut flakes, little marshmallows and banana slices.

Cherry Salad