Penne with zucchini, gruyere & bread crumbs

IMG_4910We had this dish again. Still delicious, still a hit (even with the younger set), quick to make (particularly with a sous chef like my dad) and chock full of veggie to boot.

This time we used zucchini, which is what the recipe calls for, instead of summer squash, which is what we used last time.

Easiest chicken cacciatore

IMG_4899Tonight is pizza Tuesday. All you need to know about that is we ordered from Otto and it was delicious.

What I really want to share with you is yesterday’s dinner. I made the easiest Chicken Cacciatore ever.

Actually, it’s the only Chicken Cacciatore I’ve ever made, so I can’t really promise it’s the easiest ever, but I managed to make it while carrying a baby in one arm. That’s got to tell you something.

We served the chicken with my dad’s amazing broccoli with lemon (also quick and easy, to be published soon), and a baguette with fancy butter. Weeknight perfection.

 

A new direction

I keep thinking we’ll settle into our life here, and suddenly I’ll have time to blog again, but so far that hasn’t happened.

This is probably because back when I posted daily, we had only one kid and I worked from home. Now there are two kids (one of which happens to be a bucket full of toddler trouble at the moment) and a full-time job in an office.

It might be time to admit that it’s going to take more than a little settling in to get my blog back on.

So this is what I’m thinking: a new, simpler direction. Just a picture and a description. Short and sweet (most of the time). We’ll see how it goes. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

xo

 

Autonomy for a night

Autonomy_IMG_3728My parents asked for the night off tonight. It wasn’t a big deal since I only work half a day on Friday, and because I had put myself on the schedule to cook when I made the week’s meal plan anyhow. Still, it made me chuckle that they asked.

Tonight was a new recipe for us, from the book Keepers. And guess what? It’s a keeper.

The recipe, Fusilli with Zucchini, Gruyere and Breadcrumbs, was a hit. I liked it for the flavor and the high ratio of vegetable to pasta, Shane liked it enough to take the leftovers for lunch, and Rose devoured hers so quickly that I questioned whether she’d eaten at all. Sid threw his pasta onto the floor and his fork into the serving pot and then ate a banana.

The meal was significant in that it was the first we’ve cooked and eaten in our own kitchen. It’s not that we haven’t been cooking and eating, it’s just that my parents kitchen downstairs is much bigger and more well-equipped than ours. It was nice to feel a bit of autonomy for a change.

I adapted the recipe slightly to make up for a lack of the correct ingredients and because I’m a cheese whore. Our version is below.Autonomy_IMG_3727

• Fusilli with Summer Squash, Gruyere & Breadcrumbs •
adapted from Keepers cookbook
serves 4-6

2 1/2 lbs summer squash, shredded (the recipe calls for zucchini but our store was out)
Salt
1 lb fusilli or other curly pasta (we used campanelle)
2 tablespoons butter
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 anchovy fillets
pinch of red pepper flakes
fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon’s worth)
pepper
olive oil for finishing
1 cup shredded gruyere
1 cup fresh, toasted, seasoned breadcrumbs or panko*

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta, salt it liberally. Shred the summer squash (or zucchini) on the large holes of a box grater, sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons of salt, toss it and put it in a colander to drain.

Grate the gruyere and set aside. Make your bread crumbs, or toast them if using panko (see note below). Give the squash a squeeze to release the liquid and leave it to continue to drain.

Melt the butter in a sautee pan large enough to hold the pasta and all of the zucchini. Add the onion, anchovies and red pepper and cook until the onions are soft and begin to carmelize. Squeeze the squash one more time and then add it to the onions and cook until tender and beginning to get golden, add the lemon juice and stir well to release any brown bits on the pan. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

When the pasta is done, reserve a cup of the cooking water, then drain pasta and add to the zucchini with a splash of cooking water and a glug of olive oil. Stir to combine, add cheese and stir again until cheese is melted. Serve topped with toasted bread crumbs.

*I made my bread crumbs from a fresh baguette which I toasted up and crushed, then sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil until golden and seasoned with salt and pepper. You could save some time by making the breadcrumbs ahead of time, or by using panko sauteed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.Autonomy_IMG_3726

 

 

 

 

New Year’s Eve

How many years makes a tradition? I’m thinking 3. That’s because this was our third year having Baked Alaska with penguins on top for dessert on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s celebration was pretty low key. We were less exhausted than last year but not quite as ambitious as the year before.

We had dinner and a bottle of bubbly around 6:00. Shane made pizza, and Rose and I made  a mini Baked Alaska (recipe here) with penguins and Sno-Caps on top. We filled it with Dulce de Leche ice cream because there are several pints of it in our freezer. As it turns out, Dulce de Leche compliments the flavor of meringue just perfectly.

Shane went to bed early with the baby (and got up with him the next morning). Rose and I stayed up until midnight (but not a moment later) playing games and discussing the possibility of adult diaper-wearing among Times Square revelers, and Taylor Swift’s ability to tolerate the cold.

And that wraps up 2014 for us.

Wishing you many happy dinners in the new year. xo

 

Christmas 2014!

Note: click on photos for a larger view, and click here if you’re wondering who all these people are.

We only had 20 people this year, which made it a relatively quiet Christmas dinner. Ha ha. (Read about previous Christmases here)

Really, 20 made for a more manageable group, but I wouldn’t say it was any less chaotic than usual. My mom wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dinner started with Crostini and three different toppings. A traditional fresh tomato topping called Piccanti, from the New Basics Cookbook. Muhammara, a Syrian spread made with toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, tomato paste and a whole bunch of other yummy stuff. And a green topping, made with lima beans, mint and lime.

After crostini we had the Big Prize drawing for our annual Christmas Lottery. Christmas Lottery is not a Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa, like many think. It’s literally a lottery run by Shane, the kids and I.

There are two prizes, the Big Prize, which is the lesser prize, and the Grand Prize which is a big deal. Some of the Grand Prize gifts over the years have been: a whole prosciutto, a magnum of Jameson whiskey, an industrial bubble machine, Bacon of the Month Club, half a wheel of Parmesan cheese, you get the picture.

The Big Prize is a (much) lesser gift, that hints somehow at what the Grand Prize will be. This year the Big Prize was a $10 gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts. Can you guess what the Grand Prize was?

The main course followed the first segment of Christmas Lottery. We had pork, which I can’t tell you much about except that many people said it was the best pork ever.

Accompaniments were my late uncle Jerry’s stuffed peppers, made by his son Josh, buttery mashed potatoes by Shane, and later, a fennel and orange salad with spinach.

I loved that this meal followed my 5-dish rule, which is that no meal needs more than 5 different dishes. If you have more, you can’t really absorb all of the taste information and you recall it as a possibly delicious but generally un-remarkable “meal blur.”

(Note: there may or may not be some scientific evidence behind this theory, and dessert is excluded from the rule.)

The Grand Prize drawing for Christmas Lottery 2014 followed the main course. The lottery was won by Wayne who claimed the uncharacteristically un-foodie prize of a “Five Star Restaurant Fun Pack,” which is a pack of 5 chain restaurant gift cards including Olive Garden, Ninety-Nine, Outback, TGI Fridays and we’ve already forgotten the last.

Because my sister did not arrive early enough to make her Buche de Noel, Iris’ Kourabiethes and André’s Molases Chip Cookies were joined on the dessert table by a bunch of green-frosted donuts (from Dunkin’s!)

And that’s it, until brunch the next day (see last photo). Merry Christmas!