Thursday, January 18, 2007

What to Cook? What to Cook?

So we've got some friends coming over Saturday for dinner. A little background:

These friends lived in Indy when we did, but we didn't know them. They moved to Brooklyn a little after us, and we met them through mutual friends who also made the Indy-to-Brooklyn move. We moved back here, and a bit later they moved back here. They've been back a few years, and other than running into one of them at Target a couple years ago, we haven't seen each other. Pathetic. So we finally said, "Why aren't we hanging out?" and so they're coming to dinner Saturday night.

The dilemma is that we're going to have four kids aged 10 months to 7 years running around our little house, and we're going to want to hang out and talk and catch up on the last five years. In other words, I don't want to be chained to a stove. I want to make something early in the day that I can stick in the oven for an hour or so and have ready. The other dilemma is that Ryan is a fish-eating vegetarian, which cuts out some options. So I'm thinking either:

  • Katie's Tuna Noodle Casserole, homemade applesauce, and green salad, or
  • Portabella Lasagne, green salad, and some yet-unnamed side dish, or
  • Patricia Well's baked risotto (with Katie's addition of spinach, which totally kicks arse), green salad, and some yet-unnamed side dish

R & M are an easy going, easy-to-be-around couple, so I'm not worried about impressing them, but wonder if Tuna Noodle Casserole might be a bit too casual when we haven't seen them in five years. And I definitely feel like vegetable lasagne or risotto with only a salad feels a little skimpy.

But if I go with one of the other options, what is the yet-unnamed side dish going to be? Will applesauce work with risotto or mushrooms? I just don't know. Thoughts would be welcome.

In other news (term used loosely), Amy's posting the recipe for her grandma's eggplant polpetti and Laura's successful venison version made me want to do two things: Try it with lamb (which we still have a freezer full of), and eat Eggplant Parmesan, which we haven't had in forever. Phil will eat it, but he doesn't adore it like I do, so we invited Noah and Holly over so that three out of four people in the room were into the meal. The recipe comes from my very old copy of Moosewood Cookbook, and I love it because the eggplant isn't fried, but tastes great -- a bit lighter than the traditional version.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium eggplants
3/4 cup or so milk
2 cups or so wheat germ (or bread crumbs, although I've not made it with bread crumbs)
Some italian seasoning like basil, oregano, and thyme -- about 1/2 tsp. each
2 quarts homemade or storebought tomato sauce
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 or so parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the milk into one shallow bowl and the wheat germ mixed with the seasonings into another. Slice the eggplant into 1/2-inch slices. Now dunk it in the milk, coat it in the wheat germ, and lay it in a single layer on a baking sheet. (You'll need two sheets.) Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes -- until the eggplant is soft.

In a 9-by-13 pan, ladle some tomato sauce, add a layer of the baked eggplant, and cover with more sauce. Now grab a couple handfuls of mozzarella and sprinkle it generously over the top. Now layer again... sauce, eggplant, cheese. When you run out of ingredients or space, stop. Sprinkle parmesan generously over the top.

Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes -- until the top is bubbly and lightly brown. Let it sit for 10 minutes, and then dive in.


And while I'm at it, here's the risotto recipe mentioned above, which Katie first brought over the week T was born, which made a lovely, comforting, sorry-you're-getting-no-sleep meal:

Risotto Rosso

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
sea salt to taste
1 cup Italian Arborio rice
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
1/2 cup tomato sauce
A good handful of fresh spinach leaves
3/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a heatproof baking dish, combine the oil, onion, and salt over moderate heat. Stir to coat the onion with the oil and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice stirring to coat with the oil, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and tomato sauce, and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat. Stir in half the cheese and the spinach, and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Cover the baking dish.

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven. Bake until the rice is cooked through and has absorbed most of the liquid, 30 to 35 minutes. The baked rice should be moist but not soupy. Serve immediately.


In a totally stream-of-consciousness thought, Phil agreed with Amy that pirate mittens are cuter than a pirate hat, so mittens it is. Shiver me timbers!


Blogger amyzeats said...

oh now, you know my answer to this! if we were on "who wants to be a millionaire" (which i watched in my gym the other day for the first time, and which i'm convinced i must go on to win lots and lots of money), you would guess...crab cakes! make crab cakes! you can make them ahead of time and just reheat them when it's time for dinner.

8:37 PM  
Blogger Eleanore M said...

Make the Risotto often and love it. Katie suggested doubling the recipe, so I do. It's great later when you don't feel like preparing another meal!! My biggest problem in MI is finding the Arborio rice I now buy a couple boxes when I'm at Trader Joe's.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I think applesause would go with any of the dishes--there isn't a fruit in there and it can be like a healthy dessert.

4:55 AM  
Blogger Cindy K said...

Hmmm. Crab cakes. I like it! Do you have a great recipe (I know you do... I've had them!). And how do you reheat? In the oven? And what to serve with? Maybe I could even make the risotto as a side dish and sprinkle some dried cherries on the salad to get some fruit in. It's all starting to come together...

9:07 AM  

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