Day 75 – Mr. Crunch

May 11, 2007

Wednesday May 2, 2007: Croque Monsieur

Before coming back from New York we placed an on-line order for groceries to be delivered. It certainly made day 1 back home much easier, unfortunately our order focused a bit too much on breakfasts and snacks for the kids – we didn’t give much thought to having dinner on hand for our first night back.

A quick search through the fridge turned up cheese, ham and bread – so croque monsieur here we come. (My French isn’t the greatest, but I do know that croquer means to crunch, as I’m a bit of a dork, I’ve always referred to this sandwich as a Mr. Crunch…)

Essentially it’s a grilled ham and cheese that, once grilled, gets an additional layer of cheese on top and a short trip under the broiler to make it all a pile of melty-goodness.

The boy and K. (not being big fans of cheese) had mozzarella on theirs while my daughter and I enjoyed ours made with comte.

The Verdict

Was a surprisingly well received, low maintenance meal. The kids had some carrots, cucumber and cherry tomatoes with their Mr. Crunch; K. and I had a salad of mixed baby greens and a half bottle of Saintsbury Chardonnay. An easy, simple mid-week meal.

Days 75 – 77 NYC

May 6, 2007

Sunday April 29 to Tuesday May 2, 2007: New York City

My in-laws agreed to take the kids for a few days so we cashed in some frequent flyer points and took off for New York City.

Sunday we went to the Yankees – BoSox game, so dinner was a large soft pretzel (with ballpark mustard) and a $9 beer.

On Monday, we picked up breakfast from Buttercup Bakery, which we ate in the park.  After walking (and shopping) for hours and hours, we stopped for lunch at Katz’s (if I could figure out how to make pastrami this good, I’d weigh 400 pounds and I would never leave the kitchen). We had dinner at Bistro Citron (nice salads – goat cheese, beets; steak frites for K. and a burger for me).

Tuesday, coffee and muffins from Zabar’s in the park; a morning at the Met and a quick visit to the Pierpoint Morgan, followed by lunch at R.U.B. BBQ in Chelsea. It was pretty solid BBQ and Tony Roberts (from Annie Hall among other films) ate lunch at the table next to us.

I have no idea what the children ate while we were away and that’s a-ok by me…NYC was surprisingly warm, green and lush – can’t wait for our next trip back.

fifthaveinbloom

Day 74 – Ribs

May 6, 2007

Saturday April 28, 2007: Smoked Pork Ribs

It’s very rare that I’ll prep a separate meal for the kids. They pretty much eat what we eat (and vice-versa) every night. It’s more out of laziness than anything else – I don’t want to have to become a short-order cook making each family member a different dinner.

But tonight I’m going to smoke a side of ribs and I have a feeling neither child will really like it. My daughter won’t eat anything with skin or char marks, which pretty much rules this main course out.

The ribs get a dry rub of brown sugar, chili powder, cumin,  oregano with a pinch of dry mustard and a pinch of salt. The ribs go into the fridge for three or four hours and will smoke at 250F on my kettle grill for about 3 hours. (I’m using cherry wood left over from my father in-law’s fall pruning…)

Two potatoes and onion get thickly sliced, tossed in olive oil and kosher salt. This goes into a foil packet with some fresh rosemary and cooks alongside the ribs for the final hour.

The kids get a variation of the shrimp linguine I made earlier in the week that was a big hit, oh except for those pesky shrimp. I’ve decided to substitute boneless chicken thighs for the tiny crustaceans…

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 servings of frozen spinach

The onions and red pepper are sauteed in the olive oil and as they begin to soften (about five minutes) add the chicken and cook for 3 to five minutes. Add the white wine and scrape up any bits in the pan, let the white wine cook down (1 to 2 minutes) and then add the spinach and tomato sauce – stirring to help break up the frozen spinach.

The Verdict

Neither of the kids seem to like the ribs, which is too bad on one level as they are absolutely freakin’ delicious. Just melt in your mouth tender and wonderfully redolent of smoke and bbq and all good things. But it’s also ok as it means there’s more for K. and I to enjoy.

The kids do love their pasta and they both have seconds – eating the chicken this time (instead of eating around the shrimp like last time). This recipe is certainly a keeper for them… 

Day 73 – Fajitas

May 6, 2007

Friday, April 27 2007: Chicken Fajitas

Before I left for work, while our nanny was getting breakfast into the kids, I marinated four boneless chicken thighs in a few tablespoons of grape seed oil, the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of chili powder, a teaspoon of cumin, a pinch of salt and half a clove of garlic pushed through a rasp. This all went in a tupperwear container, which I shook vigorously, before tucking it into the fridge for the rest of the day.

When I got home from work, I took the tupperwear out of the fridge and made some guacamole – 1 avocado, juice of half a lime, generous pinch salt and a good shake of Chipoltle Tabasco.

The gas grill gets lit and a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil gets warmed in a cast-iron skillet. While the grill heats up, I julienned a red pepper and a small onion.

The chicken cooks for about 7 minutes a side and the onions and red pepper cook down in the skillet – I try not to move the veggies too much as I’m looking for them to carmelize a bit..

Once the chicken is done, it too gets thinly sliced and added to a platter with the onions and red peppers. Some salsa and more hot sauce gets put out with the dishes and cutlery.

The Verdict

Our daughter proceeds to put almost the entire bowl of guacamole on her first tortilla, which makes her tremendously happy. Some chicken and maybe red pepper gets folded in.

The boy eats his components separately. He’s usually a pure carnivore, but tonight he’s really into the tortilla as well as the chicken. He’s a guacamole hound and he does manage to get his bib and eyebrows a nice shade of green…

Day 72 – Take-out

May 6, 2007

Thursday, April 26 2007: Take-out

My brother in-law called K. late in the day and offered to pick her up on the way home from work, he thought they could stop somewhere near her office to get take-out for dinner.

Hearing the good news, I set the table, put some beer and wine in the fridge and then chased the kids around the yard waiting for K. and her brother to come home.

They showed up with chicken, rice, salad, potatoes, and garlic bread and we all ate prison style – heads down, elbows in, not much conversation as we devoured the food in front of us.

Maybe it’s the sudden arrival of nice weather, but I’ve noticed we’ve been all business at the table – and everyone seems to be eating more and more…

Day 71 – Greek Chicken

May 6, 2007

Wednesday April 25, 2007: Greek Chicken

In a previous life, K. was in publishing.  Many of her friends still are and every few months a small box or a large padded envelope will show up at our house with a couple of books in them.

Recently the package included a copy of Barbecue Nation (as well as three other cookbooks, which I’m sure I’ll get to later).

Looking for a new way to do some chicken, I tried out the following marinade from my newest complimentary cookbook:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (we went with oregano, thyme and sage)
Big pinch salt

Butterfly the chicken (remove the backbone) and press the breastbone until the bird is flat. Combine all of the marinade ingredients, mix well. Find a platter/tupperwear/large plate and pour the marinade over the bird, cover and refrigerate for 4 to 12 hours.

Grill the bird at 400F for about 40 minutes (10-12 minutes skin side up; 10-12 skin side down; 10-12 skin side up).

While the chicken was grilling, I put some orzo on to boil. In a large saute pan I warmed a few tablespoons of olive oil and added a diced onion, half a diced red pepper and cooked them for about 5 minutes. When they had softened, I added 1/3 cup pitted olives, 1/3 cup frozen spinach and a pinch of salt.

Once the orzo was al dente, I tossed the pasta with the sauce, had a taste and adjusted the seasonings.

I also cut up some tomatoes and cucumbers that I tossed with some feta, black olives, olive oil, oregano and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

The Verdict
K. really liked the chicken, I thought it was ok and the kids didn’t seem to notice it. Both ate it, but neither commented on it or made sounds like they were enjoying it. The marinade caused lots of small fires on my gas grill, which made it a bit of a pain to cook. If I made it again, I might cut back on the amount of liquid involved (don’t know that you need that much olive oil and lemon – just keep the ratios the same) as there was a fair amount of run-off from the chicken…

The boy didn’t like the orzo at all. He’d eat a hand-full and then spit it out, then he’d another hand-full and spit it out (you’d think he’d catch on that he didn’t like it) it made for a pretty messy meal. My daughter however, loved the orzo, which she ate and ate and ate. 

The little pucks of frozen spinach we picked up have been great the last two nights – a quick and easy way to sneak healthy stuff into the kids meals. 

For dessert, my daughter and I had a cheese course (comte, gloucester and some forme d’ambert). The boy ate organic cocoa cookies and goldfish crackers (I might have to seek a paternity test as he just wont eat cheese).

Day 70 – Shrimp Linguine

May 6, 2007

Tuesday April 24, 2007: Shrimp Linguine

The kids wanted pasta, K. wanted fish so I thought I’d try to make everybody happy.

I went through all of my cookbooks looking for a pasta and shrimp recipe and was stunned that I came up empty. Not even the voluminous Silver Spoon had an entry for shrimp and pasta.

So I diced an onion and a red pepper and sauteed them in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Deglazed the pan with about 1/4 cup of dry white wine, added some frozen spinach (gotta get greens and iron into my kids any way that I can), a few tablespoons of tomato sauce, a pinch of sauce and brought it all to a simmer.

When the pasta was al dente, I threw the shrimp into the bubbling sauce for about a minute, tossed in the hot pasta, gave it all a stir and got it into various plates and bowls.

Served with grated parm, a green salad and a baguette…

The Verdict

The kids loved the pasta and the sauce, in fact there were no leftovers, but as the meal progressed they ate less and less shrimp until we had a pile of shrimp sitting in the pan.

For some reason, the kids just wouldn’t eat the shrimp (even when I chopped them up and tried to hide them in their second and third helpings, the kids still ate around them).

Not sure if I’d make this again. I liked it, as did K. but it seemed wasted on the kids. Maybe if I made it with chicken we’d get more protein into them…

Day 69 – Leftovers

May 4, 2007

Monday, April 23 2007: Leftovers

With half a smoked pork butt in the fridge, we decide it should be a night of leftovers…a fresh green salad and a baguette make it seem a bit more festive.

 I used to hate leftovers, but I hate wasting food more. Surprisingly, the pork is a big hit with the kids and they’re more than happy to have a meal of it two nights in a row.

Day 68 – BBQ Pork

May 4, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007: BBQ Pork

Picked up a boneless pork butt from the butcher for Sunday dinner.

The meat got a dry rub (chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, smoked paprika, oregano) and an overnight stay in the fridge.

Sunday afternoon, I fired up the Weber and soaked some cherry wood, pruned from my in-laws yard as part of their year-end clean up, in a big bowl of water.

The pork butt went on the weber for about five hours at 250. It came off the cue and was all smokey goodness.  Baking potatoes went on for the final hour and green beans wrapped in foil went on for about 10-15 minutes.

This is a very low maintenance meal. 

I pulled it into shreds – the kids getting unsauced versions, while K. and I doused ours in a cider-vinegar based bbq sauce.

The Verdict
The kids really liked the pork and the green beans, they took a pass on the potatoes (who doesn’t like potatoes, sometimes I can’t figure my kids out).

While I liked the sides, I’d really like to figure out how to make BBQ baked beans…

Day 67 – Korean-style BBQ

April 22, 2007

Saturday April 21, 2007: Korean BBQ Ribs

Saw an interesting recipe in the latest Cook’s Illustrated for Korean style bbq ribs that uses short-ribs of all things. With the beautiful weather finally here, I wanted to get the Weber going – there’s nothing like the smell of briquettes when you’re sitting in the sun waiting for your supper – and thought this might be a recipe worth trying.

This was the best decision I made all weekend. David Pazzmino from Cook’s deserves a medal for this recipe.

It starts off with a fascinating marinade:

1 Pear, peeled, cored and chopped
6 cloves of garlic
4 teaspoons of ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Put all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and spin until smooth.

Prepping the Beef

Cook’s identifies four types of short ribs: English, flanken, korean and boneless. The only type I’ve ever seen for sale here in Toronto are the flanken style and that’s what I picked up for Saturday’s dinner.

If there are bones in your short ribs, you’ll have to carefully remove them along with any hard fat and silver skin.  

Your boneless beef should then be  put between two sheets of waxed paper and given a quick pounding with a wine bottle (or heavy blunt instrument of your choice) – you’re looking for uniform pieces of meat that are about four inches long, one inch wide and about one-quarter inch thick.

The marinade should be poured over these beef portions and put in the fridge for 1 to 12 hours – this is a tenderizing marinade, so the longer the beef sits the more tender it will become.  Our beef got about a four hour bath and was fantastically tender.

The Sides

I filled the chimney with briquettes and while they burned to grey, my daughter and I snapped some yellow beans and washed lettuce for a salad. The beans went into a foil pouch with some olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt.

For the salad dressing, I wanted to complement the Korean-style ribs and whipped up something along these lines (I don’t measure when I make salad dressing, so this is a best guess)

1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce

Mix these three items together and then slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking vigorously – taste as it thickens and stop when it’s struck the right balance.

We also made a batch of basmati rice.

BBQ

The ribs go over the hot coals and cook for about five minutes a side. They should be done in under 12 minutes. The foil pouch of beans also takes about 10-12 minutes to cook over indirect heat.

The Verdict

K. LOVED the ribs. She wants me to make them for the kids’ birthday parties. I too couldn’t get enough, I’m glad I didn’t make five pounds of them (as the recipe suggests) I would have eaten them all.

This recipe is a serious keeper. My hat is off to Cook’s on this one.

The boy liked the ribs too but my daughter wasn’t converted. She doesn’t like any char on her food, and was trying to find pieces of rib that had “no skin” she did eat lots of rice, beans and salad.

For dessert, our lovely neighbours actually passed a plate of assorted squares over the fence (lemon, date, some sort of caramel chocolate number).

My daughter also roasted marshmallows over the dying coals of the BBQ – one of her favourite summer activities.