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Food Notes, Week 17.23
Baking dominated this week, with focaccia, macarons, and more.
This was a very good week for food in our house. As part of my decision to slow the job hunt and spend more time focusing on the things that sustain rather than drain me, I made a menu plan and spent more time puttering around the kitchen. The result was a good range of flavours and textures, a few experiments with new recipes, and a fridge full of leftovers that made lunch a daily pleasure.
A few of you have asked for specific recipes, so I’ll start posting those as individual posts in coming days. Once published, I’ll be able to go back and add links to these weekly roundups. But for now, the purpose of Food Notes is, hopefully, to inspire you to expand and explore your own weekly meal plans! As always, I’d love to know what you’re making, too, so feel free to share in comments below.
1. Baked Lentils with Cheese
This is one of those magical recipes that looks boring on the page but comes together in a surprisingly delicious way. It's also something I make when I feel like there's very little in the fridge or pantry. In this case, I made it because I was busy and needed to put something in the oven before I left the house. I served it with steamed green beans.
2. Chicken Burgers with Salad
The kids said they wanted "churgers" when I asked if they had any menu requests for the week. Apparently this is a portmanteau of chicken + burgers that they all know, though I'd never heard of it. I made spicy chicken patties from Bonnie Stern's new cookbook, complete with harissa and lots of chopped cilantro, served on squishy brioche buns with salad on the side.
3. Baked Orzo Puttanesca + Macaroni and Cheese
Yes, I made two types of baked pasta on the same night! This was for a dinner party with a bunch of kids. I wasn't sure if the other kids would go for the intense flavors found in puttanesca (olives, capers, tuna, preserved lemon), nor did I want to bore the adults with plain mac 'n cheese, so I just made both. Both pans got polished off, so it was a success. Served with a chopped salad and homemade vinaigrette.
4. Chicken Soup with Focaccia
This chicken soup recipe from Shelf Love calls for a parmesan rind and partial blending to thicken the soup before serving, and it was absolutely delicious. I served it with a homemade focaccia topped with parsley and garlic. I've realized it's impossible to use too much olive oil with focaccia. Also, when I tucked the kids into bed that night, they said they were excited to pack their lunches the next morning because of the leftovers that awaited!
5. Pakistani Kima with Rice
Another go-to weeknight dinner for us, this is a basic curry made with ground beef, potatoes, and peas, always served with steamed basmati. I remember eating kima for the first time on a trip to Karachi with my aunt and uncle, many years ago. It was a segregated eating arrangement, with all the women in one room, while the men dined elsewhere. I remember thinking it was absolutely delicious, and when I got back to Canada, I asked my mom to find a recipe for "hamburger curry," which she did—and we've been making it ever since.
6. Black Bean Soup with Focaccia (yes, again)
The kids wanted focaccia AGAIN, so I obliged (partly because I wanted it, too). It begged a soupy accompaniment, so I threw black beans into the Instant Pot for a fast, easy, spicy soup. I don't love the Instant Pot—everything comes out tasting and feeling the same—but it's super handy for "setting and forgetting," which I seem to require multiple times a week! I served the soup and focaccia to our weekly Tuesday dinner guest, along with an avocado-snap pea salad. The kids got a bowl of olive oil for dipping focaccia. (See, you can never have enough EVOO.)
Because the weekend was relatively quiet, I did lots of baking, which is supremely relaxing. Having just read Susan Cain's lovely book, Bittersweet, I feel like I've been embracing my melancholic side and want nothing more than to bake and drink tea or cocktails (depending on the time of day), while baking and moping along to Leonard Cohen, sad tango playlists, and French ballads. I know it sounds weird, but I did balance out the melancholy (and baking-induced calories) with some long, energizing, solo walks in the sunshine.
These were laughably unattractive, especially when you consider what they look like in Parisian bakery windows—but they were so delicious! I didn’t realize macarons were an almond meringue of sorts, like a lighter amaretti cookie. The kids asked to fill them with Nutella and I obliged because I didn’t feel like making the salty peanut butter and dulce de leche filling that I’d originally intended to make. I didn’t regret that choice.
A work in progress, these came from an old Ottolenghi cookbook and tasted absolutely heavenly, but fell apart every time I picked them up. I need to figure out a better binder. (Picture at top.)
Raspberry Oat Bars
These were another Ottolenghi recipe, one that I've owned for years but never tried. I can't believe it because they're perhaps the most delicious thing I've eaten lately. An oatmeal base, jam layer, topped with sugary, almost-caramelized nuts.
White Chocolate, Cranberry, Coconut Cookies
I riffed off a bunch of different cookie recipes I like and created my own chewy version that hit the spot quite perfectly. The double batch disappeared within 24 hours.
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