Pasta e Fagioli

pasta-e-fagioli
When we were on the East coast visiting during winter break, we took a little side trip to visit my brother in Philadelphia. It was a quick visit, but we had a very memorable meal. My sister-in-law, AAB, is a great cook. She always makes special treats for us when we visit, an effort which is not lost on any of us food lovers!

Dinner was so good on our recent visit, that I’ve made her recipes multiple times. One of them, I’ve written about: Speedy No-Knead Bread. For tonight’s bread, I added some lemon zest and rosemary to this simple bread. It was great, as usual. The girls still put honey on the bread, as my nieces did in Philly. Is there anything better than fresh bread with butter and honey? Such total comfort food.

The other dish that AAB cooked was Pasta e Fagioli (pasta fazoole), a hearty bean and pasta soup. The recipe that she used is from Cook’s Illustrated. She modified it to make it a little lighter by using Canadian bacon instead of pancetta. I’ve further changed it to make it a little more liquid by cooking the pasta separately. This helps because the recipe makes a lot of soup (it says it serves 8-10, but I think it is more like 6-8). By cooking the pasta separately, you can save and/or freeze the leftover soup for another day. I also add some chopped carrot. Tonight, when I made the soup, I threw in some green beans because I had them in the house. So the soup was more like a minestrone consistency, with the flavor of the Pasta e Fagioli.
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A Toasted Corn

This morning, for some unknown reason, I was thinking about when I worked in New York, right after college. There was a coffee shop behind the building where I worked and I would go there for breakfast. It was called “Genie” and it was on New Street. New Street did not look new. It was a pit of a street, wedged between tall buildings – a back alley really – behind and between Broad Street and Broadway.

This was not a glamorous coffee shop – no seating, just coffee, breakfast items, sandwiches, chips, chicken noodle soup, maybe a special of the day. These were the days before low fat. These were the days before double macchiatos.

There was only one type and flavor of coffee: Coffee. And, you could have it two ways: black or regular. There was no “decaf”. There was Sanka. You drank it because if you didn’t want caffeine, you could drink tea (Lipton) or Sanka. Even fancy restaurants served Sanka. Sanka came in an orange packet or orange labeled jar. The only legacy of Sanka is that decaf carafes at restaurants almost always have an orange handle or some orange marking. But, I digress.

Here is what I ordered on many a day: Coffee and a toasted corn muffin. Here is what the cashier yelled to the cook: “Coffee regular and a toasted corn. You want one or two sugars with that, honey?”. The coffee came quickly, piping hot with cream, and I put in my own Sweet-n-low. The cook split a gritty, rich corn muffin in half and put it on the greased griddle until it was golden brown. Then he slathered on some soft butter, put it back together, wrapped it in thin white paper, and threw it in a bag. If I was lucky, there would be a little plastic packet of grape jelly in the bag, too. Perhaps the inclusion of jelly had to do with whether the Yankees won or lost, or whether you inquired, for the n-th time that day, “How about those Giants?”.

You could also get an egg sandwich – either on toast, a roll, or an english muffin – with or without bacon and American cheese. The precursor to the egg McMuffin and WAY better. They had bagels, too. If it was HHH (hazy, hot and humid), I’d get iced coffee – coffee poured over ice. Oh, that hit the spot after a long subway ride.

I know these coffee shops still exist in New York. My dad goes to one almost every morning (though his place is fancier than the old place we used to go to – it has faux leather booths and a counter).

I have never found a coffee shop like Genie in San Francisco. Starbucks, Peet’s, and other coffee “houses”, sure. Bagel places, yup. But, no coffee shops, and few diners and delis.

Food seems to be more elaborate, less basic. Sometimes, I miss basic.

Menu for the Week

Here is a quick run-down for this week. My Mom & Dad will be arriving on Wednesday. S returns from his business trip with them.

All of this is subject to change, as I have to consult my sous-chefs, L & J.

Monday: Leftover Delight!
Tuesday: Pasta e Fagioli, Speedy No Kneed Bread, Fruit
Wednesday: 6-4 Dinner – Pork Chops, Quinoa, Broccoflower, Carrots, Salad, Berries & Biscotti
Thursday: out for dinner
Friday: 8-4 Dinner – Stovetop braised Chicken with Lemon and Artichokes, Rice, Salad, Dessert TBD

Frenzy and Family

apples
I have some leftovers and lots of great memories of a wonderful weekend with S’s family. Given that we live closest (by more than 800 miles) to Grandma, we were the locus of the activities for this past weekend’s celebration of her 80th birthday.

Family started to arrive last Monday (scrambled eggs for dinner day) and dinners at our house began with Wednesday’s meatball feast.

Thursday was a pretty calm dinner of chicken picatta – my sister-in-law, JM, showed me how to make the sauce after I cooked up the chicken breasts. It was a little of this and a little of that while I watched. I’ll have to polish the proportions (or find her base recipe) before I can post. I didn’t have time for pictures – that is for sure!

Friday brought more family in town from opposite corners of the country. We ordered pizza for delivery before our dessert open house. Something had to give!

cookie-platter

The dessert crowd started to arrive at about 7:30. We had fresh strawberries, butterscotch brownies, orange pecan biscotti, chocolate chip cookies (which got a little overcooked because I was helping L and my twin nieces make togas for a little show that they performed), and Grandma’s Jewish Apple Cake, plus plenty of wine and coffee.

The final guests left, very well fed, at about 11:00 – and they were on East Coast time!

pancakes

Saturday brought the final planning for the big party, so my sisters-in-law made a big pancake breakfast for the kids while I got the errands done. J photographed her “whipped cream with pancakes”. How much calcium is in whipped cream?

The party was a big success, at a local french restaurant, with great food and atmosphere. But it was truly great because Grandma was so happy to have her friends and family around. The kids all performed poems and songs. Family and friends made warm and funny toasts. JM orchestrated the production of a great “this is your life” slideshow – a treasure of wonderful photos and memories that all the siblings had a hand in amassing.

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Mmm Mmm Meatballs

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Last week, my friend MKG asked me if I had a meatball recipe.

Her request had great timing because it gave me an idea. Meatballs and spaghetti would be the perfect dinner for a crowd. So, I asked her if she would mind waiting a week for the recipe and she said, “No problem.” It has taken me a bit longer to post the recipe than I’d planned!

meatballs-in-sauce-2

Last Tuesday, I made the meatballs for Wednesday night’s dinner. I was a bit ambitious in my proportions because I thought we’d be 10 for dinner, but we were only 9. And, I thought my nieces liked meatballs, but they only like meat sauce. Oh, well – they were just fine having spaghetti with tomato sauce and no meat. Once they knew that there were meatballs, we couldn’t smoosh the meatballs and disguise the sauce as meat sauce.

meatball-mixturemeatballs-in-pantomato-saucemeatballs-browned

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The Secret Ingredient

egg
What do you cook when you don’t feel like cooking and it is so scorching outside you could fry an egg on the hood of your car?

Eggs.

But, I cooked them inside, on the stove.

Tonight, we had scrambled eggs on english muffins. It is S and my 13th anniversary and that was the first meal that I ever cooked for him. Just as good tonight as it was 14 1/2 years ago. The only difference was that tonight I made 4 egg sandwiches instead of two.

He guessed the surprise in the end, right before I was going to make dinner. It was an easy thing to guess, really. I didn’t have any groceries and I hadn’t started dinner, 5 minutes before our usual dinner time. I would have really shocked him by getting pizza delivered. But, not cooking would have been totally unlike me and we are having pizza on Friday.

Egg sandwiches – soon to be served at the fanciest restaurants for romantic dinners.

Menu for the Week

This is the big week of family visits. We’ve been looking forward to it for some time.

Dinners will be pretty easy for the first couple of days. Tonight is a secret simple dinner that I’ve planned with the girls.

Monday: Secret Dinner
Tuesday: Tilapia (method TBD), Snap Peas, Broccoli, Brown Rice
Wednesday: 10-4-Dinner – Spaghetti with Meatballs & Sausage, Garlic Bread, Berries, Shortbread Cookies
Thursday: 8-4-Dinner – Chicken Picatta, Green Beans, Rice, Salad
Friday: 9-4-Dinner – Order in Pizza & Salad! About 20-4-Dessert Party