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Monthly Archives: December 2010
When the cook top goes on the fritz, a bit of ingenuity is in order. A little more than a week ago the ignition switches on all six burners suddenly started clicking furiously in the middle of the night. The racket was stopped only by shutting off the power. The repair man returns tomorrow to fix a faulty ignition switch, just in time for the holidays. Meanwhile I’ve winging it on our meal plan, relaying on the microwave and oven more than usual. Along the way we stumbled upon some tasty surprises:
Sundried tomato pesto — A huge jar of sundried tomatoes is taking up more real estate in our refrigerator than I usually allow for a non-essential ingredient. My in-laws gifted the jar on their last visit and I’ve been searching for a quick and easy way to make haste with the batch, especially since the boys aren’t too crazy about them. Thus, there I stood in the market on Day one of our Cooktop Breakdown, pondering a menu change, when I spied a jar of Ciba naturals Sundried Tomato pesto. One look at the label and I knew what I’d be making … the perfect topping for roasted spaghetti squash:
INGREDIENTS: Organic extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, organic sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, walnuts, fresh garlic, rice vinegar, kosher salt, rosemary and black pepper.
Along with sole fillets with a Parmesan “Caesar” glaze, on a bed of fresh spinach, we ended up with a Meatless Monday meal more elegant than most.
I felt myself winging it as well the next evening since timing was tight before heading to a school concert. Luckily Metropolitan Market came to the rescue with a Sicilian stuffed pork tenderloin that was so scrumptious I retrieved the packaging from the trash to study the ingredients: Pork tenderloin stuffed with pesto, garlic, balsamic vinegar and topped with slices of provolone cheese and pancetta. I roasted it in a cast oven skillet with some chunks of yam. Serve an arugula salad with fennel and pomegranate on the side. At this point my husband wondered if we really missed the cooktop all that much.
The rest of the week’s meals weren’t quite so fancy — Zatarain’s Dirty Rice; Chicken with Green Curry Sauce. By the weekend, when we had friends over for a holiday dinner, I resorted to igniting a burner or two with a lighter to regain some sense of normalcy at the stove.
So what happens when you walk into the kitchen with a half-baked plan? You end up baking something else altogether. I was all set to whip together a quick green curry with chicken and eggplant, but I neglected to check the pantry beforehand. No coconut milk. Green curry was off the menu. But what to make? I was fixated on eating that eggplant.
The good news is it’s entirely possibly to start cooking at 5:45 and still produce a decent meal when you have a pressure cooker. With the clock ticking, the game plan went something like this:
— Start a pot of water on to boil; add whole grain penne
— chop up the eggplant, sprinkle with kosher salt (and pat dry about 5 minutes later); chop up half an onion, two cloves of garlic
— heat olive oil and a splash of red wine in the pressure cooker; add the eggplant, onions and garlic. Add a jar of puttanesca sauce. Top with the lid and cook for 12 minutes at low pressure.
— When time is up, add 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes and 2 T. capers to the sauce; mix in the drained penne and a cup of arugula.
— Put the pasta in a casserole; top with mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
— Listen to husband rave. 😉
It all worked just fine until son #1 returned home:
“Why did Mom put cheese sticks on the pasta?”
There’s something about that crunch period between Thanksgiving and Christmas where every best-laid plan goes haywire. Including meal plans, of course. I’ve been out for weeknight holiday events; the boys have been immersed in final preparations for robotics competition. That leaves my husband wondering what’s for dinner in a bigger way.
Last week’s plan was so uninspired that it was barely scribbled on a card: shrimp and black bean quesadillas (they cooked); two rounds of that scrumptious turkey chowder I mentioned in my last post; pizza and salad. I finally made it to the stove Friday night with an ad hoc concoction of broccoli, ham, pancetta and pine nuts over pappardelle. Not bad!
This week’s plan hasn’t been much better. Quick salmon burgers and sweet potato fries before dashing to yoga on Meatless Monday; a quick Brazilian black bean and ham s0up for Tasty Tuesday. Last night I headed out to my monthly business dinner while the guys dined on hot dogs and beans (yep, that happens) – not exactly keeping with the theme of Whole Grain Wednesday. Tonight I’m thinking about an adaptation of that chicken and eggplant dish, in green curry this time. Taking my chances on doing it in the pressure cooker. Guess I’d better get cracking!