Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: November 22, 2011

Baked rigatoni.

This baked rigatoni wasn't for our dinner; it was for some friends whose young son is gravely ill.  I made the same thing a couple of weeks ago for different friends under similar circumstances.

Bringing food. Huh.  It's a nice tradition; I do it a lot.  It seems completely inadequate right now.

As a lawyer, I'm trained to figure out a way to solve problems.  I am an extremely pushy, anal-retentive, overfunctioning lawyer-mom.  I am not good with situations where there is nothing to do but hope for the best.  Right now, there is nothing much else to do.  That is unacceptable to me.

So what else is there?  Well, at least my friends could have a nice meal.  Maybe it would make them feel a little better, and maybe they'd be a little more well-nourished, and maybe that would give them just a little more strength to cope with the unimaginable.

Baked Rigatoni (serves about 6)

32-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 Tbsp olive oil
one bunch each fresh basil and oregano
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (optional; for veggie rigatoni, omit the sausage)
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese or Italian 5-cheese blend
1 sweet onion, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, diced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
2 Tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk (low-fat works fine)

Note: This recipe can be frozen before baking.  When baking, preheat oven to 375.

1.  Make the sauce.  In a pot, combine the crushed tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the salt and pepper, and the fresh herbs. Cover and simmer while you prepare the rest of the dish.

2.  Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta. Cook the rigatoni until just short of al dente, about six minutes. Drain and set aside.

3.  While the pasta is boiling, heat the remaining olive oil in a large, deep pan. If using sausage, brown it until it's cooked through, remove from the skillet and set aside.  In the same pan over medium-high heat, saute the onion, carrots, garlic, and bell pepper (if using) until the vegetables are very soft.

4.  When the vegetables are very soft, sprinkle the flour over them in the pan.  Saute, stirring constantly, until the flour is light brown and begins to smell a little nutty.  Add the milk and boil, stirring, until it is very thick.

5.  Remove the tomato sauce from the heat; remove the herbs and discard.  Add the tomato sauce to the vegetable mixture in the pan.  Add two cups of the shredded mozzarella and stir until combined. 

6.  Assemble the final dish:  In a large bowl, combine the cooked rigatoni, sausage (if using), remaining mozzarella, and tomato mixture.  Stir gently until evenly combined. Transfer to a 9-by-13 baking dish and sprinkle with the grated parmesan.  Bake for 30 minutes covered with aluminum foil, then remove foil and bake for about 15 minutes more, until the cheese has started to brown.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: November 17, 2011

Chicken pot pie.

Used the leftovers from Monday night.  Delicious, comforting, and hearty.  Alex says pot pie is his favorite dinner; I wish he had told me that before.  I'll have to make it more often.

My mom and dad joined us for dinner and insisted on talking about Thanksgiving.  We will host it, as usual, but my enthusiasm is just missing this year and I've been denying the need to plan the meal.  I need some inspiration. 

So:  If anyone is reading, what's your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?  What's your least favorite?  What do you consider the most unusual food to make it onto your Thanksgiving table?

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Made for Dinner: November 14, 2011

Chicken with forty cloves of garlic.

This was so great. (It's just roast chicken on a bed of garlic cloves, really not complicated.)  But would my three children eat it?  Oh ho ho ho noooo.  No they would not.

Josh is getting big. He is a Tween  Pre-Teen whatever, he's eleven.  He does not want to hang around the boring stupid house on a Monday night and eat boring stupid roast chicken.  He got a better offer; he went to the school skating party to hang out with his friends and eat pizza.

Eli looked at the chicken and looked at me and raised his left eyebrow and took a drag on his cigarette and said, "You must be joking."  I mean, no he didn't, because he is four. But he clearly would have if he were a thirty-seven-year-old British guy.  So we gave him a hot dog and apples.

(I know you're not supposed to fix special meals for children who are difficult eaters.  Be steadfast! Be resolute! I know. But the child's pants won't stay up. All his bones show.  Resolute is easier said than done.)

Alex probably would have eaten the chicken, but he knew one brother was getting pizza and the other brother had a hot dog and, you know, forget it.

Well, it was delicious, anyway.  The recipe is here, and worth a try.