Dinner 2/9/20

Miso ramen

Haven’t made ramen at home for a while. I think this was the last time I did, two years ago. I made my own dashi, which necessitated buying some kombu and bonito flakes at the Asian supermarket, but you can also buy instant dashi, which works just fine. This was miso ramen, so in addition to dashi, you need red miso paste. You also need some stock in addition to the dashi. I used Rachael Ray vegetable stock. Most ramen places we go to use their own pork stock made from scratch, but while homemade dashi only takes a few minutes, homemade pork stock takes hours and hours. It is on my list of cooking projects to do someday, just not that day. We had fresh ramen noodles on hand at the time, so we didn’t have to buy them at the H-Mart. If you don’t have a readily available Asian grocery, Amazon sells just about everything you might need for this, as does Umamicart.com. The other fresh ingredients all came from our regular supermarket.

Between instant dashi and boxed stock, you can make up ramen broth very quickly, so it’s totally do-able as a weeknight meal. The dried ramen you get on the cheap at the grocery store is an acceptable alternative if fresh ramen is hard to come by. Just cook it in some plain boiling water and add it to the broth. The rest of this bowl was some chopped fresh spinach, some frozen corn that I briefly microwaved, a 6-minute soft-boiled egg, and some enoki mushrooms.

Dinner 2/12/22

Moules Marinières with a glass of Vouvray

We got a little taste of spring here on Saturday. It was sunny and in the low 60s in the middle of February. We had one small errand to run, but since we were out and about on a nice day, chose to add a couple more stops to get the ingredients for dinner. Bridget said she wanted mussels, so we picked up a bag of mussels, a bottle of white wine (Marc Bredif Vouvray) and a baguette, then hit up Caramel Patisserie for some dessert treats.

Moules Marinières is about as easy as home cooking can be. Mince a shallot and a couple of cloves of garlic, sweat them in a bit of melted butter in a large pot, add the mussels and toss gently to coat, then add about a cup of the white wine to the pot, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes or until all the mussels have opened up. Don’t eat any mussels that fail to open, or you will have a bad time. They are delicious, and I love to dip a toasted slice of baguette in the accumulated broth to enjoy all the flavor of the alliums, the butter, and the wine together. These mussels were fairly large and quite juicy on their own. Vouvray is my favorite white wine for making mussels, but you can certainly use a Sauvignon Blanc. I used the wine in the pot and enjoyed a couple of glasses of it over the course of the evening.

Somehow I’ve gotten it in my head that this is a dish for summertime, probably because the cooking doesn’t heat up the kitchen much, but they were good on a mild evening in mid-winter, too. Might have even been better on Sunday, when we got six inches of snow.

Dinner 2/11/22

Chicken Parmesan

I used to love watching all the cooking shows on PBS on Saturday afternoons, but over the last year or so, as I have largely stopped watching broadcast TV, I have turned to YouTube for my cooking show fix. I am a big fan of Chef John and Food Wishes, Babish, and Sam The Cooking Guy. One of STCG’s episodes last week was for a homemade chicken parm, and it got me hankering for one REAL bad. However, we don’t have a deep fryer, and the appeal of the chicken parm definitely comes from the deep fried chicken cutlet. My wife wanted to go out for dinner on Friday night because she’d had a very stressful week, so I seized the opportunity and convinced her we needed to go to a local spaghetti joint.

We went to Bertini’s in Salem, which has been in business for almost 80 years, so you know they must do something right. It’s still like 1979 or 80 in their dining room, and the crowd in the bar was bigger than the crowd in the dinig room, but no matter. A spaghetti joint can always be counted on for all the usual Italian-American favorites.

I had this good-looking chicken parm, a house salad of iceberg lettuce with creamy Italian dressing, a side of spaghetti, and a glass of Chianti. The only missing element was the red-checkered tablecloth. I’m not old enough to remember when Italian food was thought of as exotic, but I am old enough to remember when it was still a big deal to go to an Italian restaurant like this. Now they are actually kind of a rarity, and this kind of food is the province of pizza joints, In fact, I imagine this restaurant really survives on its pizza business and the bar room. Anyway, it certianly hit the spot, and I had a slice of lemon meringue pie for dessert and went home well-fed.

Dinner 1/27/22

Tuna casserole

Mac & Cheese’s fancy cousin. I usually make this with egg noodles instead of pasta shapes, but I had a box of elbows. I also had some “fancy” tuna we bought on our last excursion to Eataly in Boston.

I stopped using Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for tuna casserole a few years ago, when my lactose intolerance was especially severe and taking no hostages. I also switched to Daiya shredded cheddar. Even though things have improved on the LI front, I have come to prefer Daiya for any macaroni-and-cheese combo, and I have stuck with the homemade white sauce, too. In cooking school, we learned a 1-1-1 ratio of milk, butter, and flour for bechamel, although I know there are some recipes that change that a bit. I steep about half a cup of dried portobello mushrooms in boiling water for twenty minutes, chop the reconstituted mushrooms, and throw the mushrooms and the liquid in the white sauce.

This tuna casserole has diced green bell pepper and yellow onion along with the tuna, cheese, and mushroom sauce. Sometimes I also like to stir in some Durkee French-fried onions, a la green bean casserole, but didn’t have any on hand.

Dinner 1/16/21

Ribollita

Ribollita is a traditional Italian soup or stew featuring white beans, kale, and other veg, usually served with a bit of bread floated in it and topped with cheese. This recipe also included some ham to add a little smoky flavor. I like the combo of cannellini beans and kale (or spinach), and make a couple of recipes that use them as the central ingredients. This particular recipe was an “easy” version that you could throw together, I think from the New York Times Cooking section. I feel like people think soup is one of those things that takes hours, but a lot of soups can be made quickly if you have the ingredients on hand. Most soups and stews DO benefit from having some time to let the flavors meld, so you can make them ahead, let them rest in the fridge, and then eat them later to enjoy that enhancement, but you can usually whip them up and serve them immediately, as we did with this.

Dinner 1/23/22

Beef stew

I got a hankering to make beef stew over the weekend. My wife’s been making stuff in the Instant Pot lately, and my mother always made beef stew in a pressure cooker, too, but I always do beef stew in my trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven. It just feels cozy to set up a big pot of stew on a January Sunday afternoon.

I use a pretty basic recipe. I’ve made Julia Child’s boeuf bourgignon a few times over the years, but I feel like that recipe tries to do too much for a beef stew. I did include some parsnips in this batch. I love parsnips, especially roasted along with some carrots to go with a roast beef or chicken. We had a bag of them in the veg drawer that I wanted to use up, so in they went, along with the usual potatoes and carrots, and some frozen peas as well.

Now that our daughter is back at college for the semester, I am the only one eating this. I liked it well enough on Sunday to go back for seconds, but I anticipate having this as a leftover for dinner tomorrow night as well. Maybe I will make some drop biscuits to go with it, since I kind of wished I had some on Sunday.

Dinner 12/24/20

Bibimbap

Christmas Eve 2020. We didn’t go to my mother’s house for Christmas Eve in 2020 because of the pandemic. Probably the first time we had not been there since before my father passed away in 1996. At the time, I think Maine still had its travel ban for people coming in from Massachusetts.

This bowl of Bibimbap came from Bonchon. We also got the requisite Korean fried chicken wings that they are known for. Bibimbap is sort of entry-level Korean food, but it’s also pretty reliable when you aren’t sure of what else might be good on the menu. If I order it in a restaurant, I like to get it in the hot stone bowl (Dolsot bibimbap), so the rice browns up and gets crispy, but that’s not really feasible for takeout.

Even without the stone bowl, and even though Bonchon is only a couple of minutes from our house, I think this is yet another dish that needs to be eaten immediately when served to get the maximum effect of the dish. It was okay as takeout, but not great. There aren’t a lot of Korean places around here, so I don’t have a good bead on where to go to get really good Korean food, so I won’t really speculate on the overall quality of Bonchon’s offering. I do really like their fried chicken, though.

Dinner 7/17/21

Pizza with sopressata salami

This pizza is from Area Four in Cambridge. It is one of my most favorite pizzas anywhere. Area Four makes great pizza all the way around – they do almost everything in-house, and their fermented pizza dough is simply the best. But this particular pizza, which features their own sopressata salami, is just amazing. No other pizza place I know anywhere comes even close to this.

All that being said, Area Four is something of a pain in the ass, as are most of the restaurants that have overpopulated Kendall Square in the last few years. They’re all a little too full of themselves and treat customers like crap. The waitstaff at Area Four always seem disengaged, will bring you the wrong order, spend a lot of time chatting at the bar, etc. I don’t need my ass kissed at a restaurant, but they could make a little more effort. If they didn’t have this incredible pizza, I would have written them off a long time ago. But…you gotta try this pizza.

Dinner 7/3/21

Brazilian shrimp salad

This is a variation on a salad recipe that features grilled shrimp, sauteed banana slices, and a lime-and-red-pepper vinaigrette dressing. The star of the dish is the dressing – citrusy, spicy, and a little sweet. I think the original recipe was a much simpler salad mix without so many other vegetables, just greens, the shrimp, and the banana slices. But there’s nothing wrong with throwing in cukes, tomatoes, carrots, or even other veggies. It made for a great summertime dinner salad.

Dinner 1/14/22

Korean flank steak tacos, black beans, corn

The recipe for these tacos can be made with either short rib or flank steak, and we happened to have flank steak in the freezer. The meat is cooked in an Instant Pot or other pressure cooker, so it only takes a few minutes, then gets finished under a broiler. Along with the meat, there’s a cooking liquid that includes gochujang, honey. hoisin, soy, garlic, and a fe w other things I’m forgetting. Meanwhile, you also make a slaw with a rice vinegar dressing, salsa verde, and diced jalapenos. These are also topped with a little shredded cheese.

Everything was incredibly tasty, but I can see where short ribs would really shine in this recipe. The flank steak just doesn’t have as much richness from internal fat. Several different layers of flavor from the pepper sauce, the slaw, the meat, and the cheese made each bite interesting. Spicy, but not impossibly hot – the gochujang we have on hand is mild, but you could ratchet it up A LOT if you were so inclined. Black beans and corn maybe seem like they don’t really go with Korean tacos, but my wife doesn’t eat meat, so that what she put in her tacos, and they served as the requisite non-spicy side you need to have with spicy food. Looking forward to having these again soon.