Off Duty.

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At some point in the history of writing these posts about dinner, I mentioned that my husband was a hardbound encyclopedia set salesman.  I think I even went so far as to call him a “warrior of the static information age”.   I wrote that because I thought it sounded absurd enough to be obviously untrue.  But then, one of Andra’s relatives recalled with sweet nostalgia that someone in her family had at one time actually BEEN an encyclopedia salesman.  I mean, what are the chances that my sarcastic, obscure reference would actually have some basis in reality in one of our families?   I should have known that any attempt to be funny always results in proving what a jerk I am.

The truth is that my husband is not an encyclopedia set salesman.   He’s a dedicated public servant and for the last two years, he’s managed to nimbly weave a blanket of freedom at an extremely difficult loom and manage to make it look easy and be fun to hang out with.   (For more information on exactly what my husband does for a living, you can go to his blog, http://www.whatIdoforworkandhowitrelatestoyou.nonya.com.)

Now, he’s done with the hard stuff (for at least a year) and we’ve moved to a new place, where we’ve been led to believe that family dinners will happen with much more regularity than they did in New Jersey.

And while the graduation from the previous job is exciting enough to make you double-clink your popsicle, there’s more.

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We’re back to a gas stove and a full knife drawer.  And Stella made it safely.

 

So for the next year, while we live in rural Pennsylvania and see more of my husband than is normal, expect great things.*

– Catherine

* The term “great things” relates to dinner only.  And probably not with the frequency I should be cooking/taking photos/actually posting.  Any resemblance to Martha Stewart’s use of the term “Good Things” is purely coincidental.

Me, Myself and I

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Remember this meal?  From here and here.  It’s an oldie but goodie.  Quick, delicious and complete.   This was dinner on Tuesday night.  Last night got busy and before I knew it, 7:00 rolled around and I was standing in the kitchen with no plan.  But in the fridge I had some chicken pieces left over from Tuesday’s dinner, tomato sauce  and mozzarella leftover from Saturday’s homemade pizzas.

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And there it was,  chicken parmesan.

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While it baked I cut up some zucchini and put it on a sheet pan to roast with the chicken.  It took all of 5 minutes to assemble and 15 minutes to bake.  I threw together a quick salad and dinner was done.

As I ate, I thanked my Saturday and Tuesday self.  They made the unorganized  Thursday self look so pulled together.  It’s really nice when we work as a team.  Now, I’m off to talk to Friday Andra about her blog writing.  She really needs to step up her game.

Better the second time around chicken parmesan

6 pieces of panéed chicken breasts, preferably leftover

6 oz. of fresh mozzarella

2 cups of Tomato sauce

1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 cup fresh basil, torn into pieces

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread the bottom of a medium-sized baking dish with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Lay chicken in a single layer over the sauce.  Spread remaining sauce over chicken pieces.  Lay mozzarella slices over the chicken and sauce.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese has melted and browned just slightly.

Serve with fresh basil and freshly grated parmesan sprinkled over the top.

No food processors were dirtied in the making of this tart

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The tomato tart will replace our usual weekly quiche this summer.  Because tomatoes are so good right now?  Yes. But, also because my family has asked for a break from quiche for a while.  I came home the other night to find them picketing in the driveway  and chanting, “Hear us roar, real men don’t eat quiche, anymore”.  Fine, I’ll make a tart.

Like our current tween set who think they have discovered things like Journey, the Rubik’s cube and Pac-Man, I have made a discovery of my own. I have created a one bowl tart/quiche crust that works even better than the food processor method. Having never been completely successful in turning out a crust with sheets of thin, crispy, buttery, and flaky layers, the solution  came to me as I stood over the sink washing the food processor bowl.  No matter how cool my ingredients were when they started out, the quick spin in the food processor was melting the butter.

Speaking in absolutes is never a good idea.  But, there are a few exceptions, like we can never be too rich, too thin or too close to the end of the GYN table, (scootch, scootch). It took me awhile to figure out  that the crust ingredients can never be too cold.  I’ve watched enough Food Network to know that the thin, buttery layers in a crust are created from the steam that is formed when the cold pieces of butter melt causing the layers of dough to puff up.   Starting with frozen butter, grating it quickly on the big holes of a box grater and mixing by hand was my solution and the result was exactly what I had hoped for.  Can you see the layers?

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It was a hit all around.    Apparently, real men do eat tarts.

P.S.  I can’t take credit for the idea that you can never be too close to the end of the GYN table.   That gem came from my sister!

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Tomato Tart 

1 recipe for Andra’s new and improved crust recipe

1 head of garlic

2 large tomatoes

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

8 oz. of buffalo or fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4″ thick rounds

1/4 cup fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°.  Cut off the narrow end of the head of garlic.  Wrap it in foil and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until fragrant.  Remove from the oven and let it sit in the foil until it is cool enough to handle.  Lower the oven temperature to 400°.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8” thick and place into a 10” tart pan with a removable bottom, pressing it around the corners and removing any overhang.  Place the crust into the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it’s papery skin and spread with an offset spatula onto the base of the chilled crust.   Sprinkle with half of the parmesan cheese and then lay tomatoes over the crust so that they are not overlapping.  Lay slices of mozzarella over the tomatoes and then sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the tart and bake for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has started to brown slightly.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.  Top with fresh basil and serve.

Andra’s New and Improved Crust

1 stick of butter

1 1/2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 large pinch of salt

6 tablespoons of ice water

Place a stick of butter and a glass of ice water in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Grate the butter into the dry ingredients, sprinkle the iced water into the bowl and then quickly work to combine everything just until it holds together in a ball.  You should still see pieces of butter in the dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.  Can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for up to two months.

Farewell Tea Party

Last week, we had a farewell tea party for my girls and their New Jersey besties.

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We started with an amuse-bouche of sweet popcorn in condiment bowls and then had cucumber sandwiches and white chocolate fondue.  Next time, no fondue forks.  Those things are sharp and everyone just dips fruit directly into the barely warm chocolate anyway.

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My helper setting the table:

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Every civilized tea party has handwritten place settings.  (If Kate Middleton uses any of the names above, there will be another, much larger consolidated tea party and baby shower.  If Kim Kardashian uses any of them, we’re going to Canada.)

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A great time was had by all.

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– Catherine

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Chinese Ketchup and Garlic Soy Broccoli

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Last night I made Ina’s Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce with a  simple rice pilaf and grilled pork tenderloin.  The tenderloin was one of those peppercorn packaged ones, which I shouldn’t admit that I like as much as I do.  They’re so easy and I did make two of the three components for dinner last night from scratch, so I feel no guilt about it.

The broccoli was delicious, but I think next time I’ll roast the broccoli instead of blanching it.  The ratio of garlic and soy were perfect; I’m a little upset this is Ina’s recipe, it seems so obvious that I wish I had come up with it.  I did use less crushed red pepper than the recipe called for and my husband and I just added more at the table.  The adults got hoisin drizzled over our pork; the kids each got little ramekins of “Chinese Ketchup” (hoisin) for dipping.

– Catherine

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