For his birthday dinner last weekend, in addition to Mom's apple pie, Dad requested several such dishes. Although Mom did the bulk of the preparation, all are dishes I've made in the past and look forward to eating whenever the opportunity arises. Nothing culinarily revolutionary about any of them, but they're approachable, tasty, and easy to prepare. So I thought I'd share.
Our appetizers (shown at the top of this post) were not made by recipe, but by assembly: sliced French bread topped with Trader Joe's roasted-red-pepper-and-eggplant tapenade that I'd been requested to bring with me (no TJ's where my parents live) and shredded mozzarella, run under the broiler until melty. It doesn't get much simpler than this. Endlessly variable based on whatever cheese, tapenade, or other spread you have on hand or that appeals to you.
GRILLED MARINATED BEEF & VEGGIE SKEWERS
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons catsup
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1. Mix all marinade ingredients together until foamy.
2. [I think the original recipe calls for round steak cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes; feel free to substitute a more tender cut of beef, or try on game] Do not marinate meat in this mixture for longer than 3-4 hours. [So says the recipe, but I see no harm in letting it go longer. The better to infuse the flavor of the marinade into the meat, I say.]
3. Marinade can also be used on vegetables such as mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, although the recipe calls for parboiling onions and peppers first. [The idea behind parboiling the onions and peppers, I think, is so they will cook on the grill at closer to the same rate as the beef. But take care to avoid boiling the veg too long or it risks getting mushy and limp during grilling.]
3 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cups Uncle Ben's converted rice [I usually make it with whatever rice I have on hand]
1/4 pound butter
4 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 package slivered almonds (approximately 1/4 cup) [Sometimes I toast them ahead, in an effort to retain more crunch.]
1/2 pound mushrooms
dash garlic salt [or 1-2 garlic cloves, minced]
8 cups chicken broth [Heads-up: You'll need to add this (total amount) at two separate times.]
1. In a large casserole, brown onions and rice in butter. [A little fat from the rendered bacon never hurts, IMHO. And if you don't have a casserole dish suitable for stovetop cooking, just use a large skillet for this step.]
2. Add rest of ingredients except broth.
3. Add 4 cups broth.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, adding remaining 4 cups after first hour.
I bake it uncovered and check from time to time to see how much liquid is being absorbed, depending on the actuality of the oven I'm cooking it in. Ideally, it will remain moist but not be soupy.
MOM'S MARINATED ASPARAGUS
Peel the asparagus. Steam. Marinate in equal parts sugar and vinegar with part of the liquid from steaming the asparagus. She usually marinates it for a day before serving and advises: It keeps well - but pour off the marinade if you're keeping it for a while.
BONUS USE OF MOM'S PIE CRUST - AND A MYTH-BUSTER(?)
Thanks to Dad's birthday apple-pie request, Mom had another single homemade crust available, which I was lucky enough to be able to use for our Quiche Lorraine Memorial Day brunch before I headed home.
It seems odd that this very special pie, traditional in France, was so long in gaining popularity in America. A rich custard with cheese and bacon, it may be served either as an appetizer or as a main luncheon dish. Swiss cheese, which the Swiss know as Ementhaler, may be used in making this dish, but Gruyere has more flavor. Gruyere is available wherever fine cheeses are sold.Aside from my fascination with this time-capsule perspective nearly 50 years later, I'm guessing I'm not the only person under the assumption Quiche Lorraine includes Swiss cheese of some sort, especially if other esteemed cookbook authors feel the need to warn otherwise.What about you?
And what are some of your favorite "tried-and-true" dishes? I'd love to hear.