Tag Archives: Thursday

Not Another Pizza Night

In addition to getting through the week without ordering takeout, we wanted to get through the week without an emergency trip to the market–and to use things that were already in the fridge.

“This pizza dough has to be used this week,” she said. “And this sauce.”


After a long day of office time and rehearsals, I headed for the train station to collect her, but I was late; she started walking and was almost home by the time I caught up with her. Fortunately, it wasn’t one of the brutally hot and humid days we’d had during production week; still, she was ready for a shower.

I didn’t want to use the oven and heat the kitchen, so I gathered everything I needed, took it to the deck, and lit the grill. The dough stretched beautifully, the coals were ready, the grill-grate was clean and ready. I oiled the dough and laid it out gently, per instructions.

She came to the deck, refreshed and happy. We talked for a moment. Well, maybe two moments.  However long it was, it was just longer than it takes for pizza dough to go from beautiful to charred black.

We put the pizza toppings on leftover rice, heated it in the microwave, and called it a day. Just not a pizza.

By the Numbers

It was so easy to make No-Knead Bread: 3 cups flour, 1.5 cups water, a teaspoon of salt, a pinch of yeast–put it in a bowl, stir, and wait.  18 hours later, you have dough ready to shape into a loaf.

Well, usually.

According to one of my collaborators, the worst home-baked bread is better than the best supermarket loaf. But on days when the dough is too sticky to handle, or the resulting loaf feels like it might be better for holding open a door than making sandwiches, I wonder. I believe he’s right in principal, but I wish the bread could be a little more consistent from one loaf to the next. I wish it could be as perfect as those biscuits were.

Oh, right.  Maybe scoop-and-level isn’t the best plan at bread-baking time.

“No-knead bread by weight,” I typed into Google, and the first link on the result page gave me what I wanted to see. 430 grams of flour, 350 grams of water, 8 grams of salt, 1 gram of yeast. That’s not quite as memorable as 3-1.5-1-and-a-pinch, but I’ll find a way to remember it.

I found the scale on the first try, pressed the unit button to display the metric measurement rather than English, and scooped away, watching the numbers.  Zeroed out the scale and added the salt.  Another zero for the yeast.  And then the water. Stir. Maybe the expectation of the result leads to the result; maybe I was fooled by what I wanted to see, but this batch of dough looked good already. I covered it and went about my day.

Morning came; time for the first shaping.  The dough did not say, “Dude, this is going to work out,” but it looked terrific, and shaped easily and without mess. Two hours later, and it looked even better. I’d like to say that the perfect little dough ball went uncomplainingly into its pre-heated pot, but it was a little sticky on the bottom; still, nothing like the problems I’ve had in the past.

An hour later, the loaf sat on a bread rack, its golden crust looking exactly like I’d hoped it would, and surprising me with little crackling noises as it cooled. Eventually the loaf was cool enough to cut. The crust was delightfully crisp; the crumb sturdy but soft. There are a few air pockets, but smaller ones than scoop-and-level gave me. And, most importantly, the bread is delicious–dangerously close to being good enough to eat a loaf all at once.

It might be that the baker who first described the no-knead method can get consistent results with volume measurements. I’m willing to bet he can detect variations from one batch to the next and make adjustments without any difficulty at all. But he bakes bread all day long; I bake one or maybe two loaves a week.  I’m still an improviser at heart, but not when it comes to this bread recipe. From now on, I’ll do it by the numbers.

No-Knead Bread, the next morning, after a slice for a snack and preparing an egg-and-cheese sandwich for her breakfast.

No-Knead Bread, the next morning, after a slice for a snack and preparing an egg-and-cheese sandwich for her breakfast.

To Be or Not to Bibimbap

She likes rice.  A lot.  A bowl of rice with butter, salt, and pepper would be a perfectly acceptable dinner for her any night of the week.  I like it well enough, though I prefer mine as an accompaniment to vegetables and protein, or at least custard-ed up and baked into pudding. Still, we haven’t had any in a while, so I made a batch and plated some up with a pork chop and some green beans, covered the plate with plastic wrap, and left it for her in the refrigerator.  Having two choir rehearsals scheduled with a little break between, I packed yogurt and fruit for me.

Maybe it was the second choir rehearsal that did it; maybe it was the quite-fast run I’d gone on earlier in the day, or the run and two walks I’d taken on Wednesday; maybe lunch had been insubstantial, or the fact that I’d forgotten the granola that usually accompanies the yogurt and fruit. Whatever it was, it was 10 PM and I was hungry.

And there was rice in the fridge.


It’s a traditional Korean dish: a bowl of rice, protein, pickled vegetables, and a fried egg on top. If you’re a purist, bibimbap is made by adding rice to a very hot stone dish.  I am not a purist.  Especially not at 10 PM. I shredded some carrot, chopped some parsley and dill pickle (kimchi is traditional, but not something I keep on hand), and microwaved a bowl of rice while frying an egg whose runny yolk would, along with a drizzle of soy, a couple drops of sesame oil and sriracha, become an intensely flavorful sauce.

It surely isn’t as simple as a bowl of rice with butter, salt, and pepper, but it was maybe six minutes from idea to first bite.   I had my late semi-simple supper with a glass of ginger ale, and a conversation about a lunch we’d had, maybe five years ago, at a Korean restaurant down the block from her office—long, long before it occurred to either of us that we might one day be sharing the Country House.

I can’t remember having bibimbap since that lunch, but it won’t be five years before I have it again.

In slightly more than the time it takes to fry an egg, a few scruffy vegetables and some leftover rice can become this.

In slightly more than the time it takes to fry an egg, a few scruffy vegetables and some leftover rice can become this.

Acquired Tastes

Thursday is choir night, and we still haven’t worked out that load-the-slow-cooker-at-noon thing such that dinner is ready when she gets home. She picked up something called “chicken fries” when she stopped at the market for the milk we needed for breakfast. I’m not sure if “chicken fries” are as closely related to McNuggets as they sound, but I’m not going to worry about it now.

I had the same choir-night dinner I’ve had for ages: after the choir room is set up and the night’s music has been practiced, I have a half-cup of yogurt, whatever fruit is handy, and some of our Really Good Granola sprinkled on top. It’s easy to fix, it’s light, and since there’s as much fruit as yogurt, the combination isn’t too gloppy on the vocal cords.

The thing is, although this has been my Thursday quick-supper for a long while, I can remember when I didn’t even know what yogurt was.  And then I knew, but I hated it.  (My first taste of yogurt was in the college cafeteria.  I thought it was pudding.  I nearly did a spit-take. I did not try it again for years.)

Apparently it was an acquired taste. I don’t remember when I acquired it, but I did.  Along with lots of others.

Steel-cut oatmeal. (Hated oatmeal growing up.)

Fish tacos. (What on earth is a fish taco?)

Cheese (the kind that isn’t pre-sliced and covered in plastic).

Beets.  Tomatoes. Coffee.

These things aren’t just acquired tastes, they’re positively comforting to me now. (Well, maybe coffee isn’t so much comforting as a requirement for consciousness some mornings. And afternoons. And the occasional evening.)

I wouldn’t combine them all in one meal, but if I had to plan a month’s worth of meals, they’d all be listed. Chicken fries might not make the short list, but if choir rehearsal runs a little long and there are leftovers when I get home, who knows?

Just a Little Something

There was no dinner at the country house. It was a rehearsal night for me, and the group I was working with threw themselves a little first-night-of-the-season party. I ate a couple bites of cheese and crackers. She met a friend to chat after work and grabbed a bagel for the train ride home. But that was her lunch, apparently, as her all-day meeting had not taken a break long enough for her to fetch the lunch that was in the office fridge.  When I found her–having walked home from the train since I was late with the rehearsal stragglers–she was unhappily poring over her laptop, processing the all-day meeting notes into her tasks for the next several weeks.

I left her working and returned from the kitchen with two little ramekins, each containing a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a smear of peanut butter, a drizzle of chocolate syrup, a dab of whipped cream, and a sprinkle of granola: a little salty, a little bittersweet, a little creamy, a little crunchy, cold on the tongue on a warm summer night. And, of course, some carbs and protein.

I won’t pretend this was a balanced meal. (What was I going to do, top the sundaes with strips of grilled chicken, carrot, and green pepper?) But it was comforting, and not too indulgent. And nobody was cranky afterward.


Dinner and/or a Movie

Having considered the offerings at the multiplex, we decided to stay in Thursday night and watch a movie. Frozen, maybe.  About time, since friends of mine wrote the songs and I still haven’t seen it.

We go to the theatre a lot.  Plays, musicals, whatever: over 50 shows so far this year. But somehow we haven’t been to a movie theatre in 2014, and the only video we made it all the way through in one sitting last year was When Harry Met Sally. 

Could we have popcorn?

Well, of course we could.  But we had eggs and grits for brunch, and corn chips as a snack; not to be corny about it, but maybe that’s a little too much corn?  (There seemed a kernel of truth there, but that’s the last pun on the subject.)  And besides, we’ve got CSA eggplant that we don’t want to waste.


Okay, why not?  I’ve never made it, but it’s good to prove that I can follow recipes, too. I’d make the eggplant, she’d start setting up brine to pickle the cucumbers we brought home last weekend.

Dill.  We need dill.

I headed for the market.

There was some very fine eggplant. There are pickles that, I’m sure, when we open the first jar in three weeks’ time, will be amazingly fresh and dill-icious. (I didn’t promise no more puns, just no more about corn.) There was no movie. By the time the last jar was sealed and the eggplant came out of the oven, it was too late to start. And if there had been a film crew doing a documentary while we worked, it probably would have been titled In a Kitchen This Big You’d Think They Wouldn’t Trip Over Each Other So Much.

Another night, the same movie still unwatched.  Story of my (contented, well-fed) life.

Eggplant parm, served with a little leftover penne-from-the-barbecue-place. Hey, at least dinner did not consist solely of Monkey Bread.

Eggplant parm, served with a little leftover penne-from-the-barbecue-place.
Hey, at least dinner did not consist solely of Monkey Bread.