Saturday, May 1, 2010

Friday. You Know, We're Really Doing This!

It's late Saturday morning as I type this entry, with my window open on a beautiful spring day, fragrant breeze blowing in and Linkin Park playing from a streaming radio station.  I'll make a blanket apology for the quality of most of this week's posts -- most of them were written between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m., after a long day of work, kids, housework and homework.  The recipes are the worst...I readily admit that most of them were typed in while dozing off in front of my laptop.  I've gone back the next day and edited the things that say "mix in the dill an dfxrtz..."  I think the most amusing one was when the recipe said to cook for 45 minutes covered and 45 minutes uncovered -- but halfway through I actually fell asleep and started dreaming about wearing a hat...and when I looked back at what I typed, it said to cook for 45 minutes covered and 45 minutes without a hat.

So, when I got home from work yesterday, Angel was a bit distraught.  Seems that a number of ingredients we bought on Saturday have gone bad before we could cook them.  Namely, the Vienna bread for Friday's dinner had gone moldy, as had the asparagus for the soup.  Actually, we noticed the state of the bread a day before and were able to replace it, but the asparagus was discovered without enough lead-time to do anything about it.  So, the Friday menu was Ham and Egg Noodle Casserole and Bread and Apple Baba.

I was quickly pressed into service chopping ham, green onions and dill for dinner, while Gable ran apples through our Yankee apple peeler thing for the dessert.  Maybe it's just me, but I think that freshly chopped dill has an aroma rather like turpentine or paint solvent.  Possibly it's because of the sheer amount of the stuff -- I've never seen so much dill in my life.  I swear we have bales of it in our crisper drawer.  This morning on her way to town, Angel called me from the road to say "my God, we smell like dill."

Lazanki zapiekane z szynkq

So, the casserole.  I think it's a fair assessment to call it Total Comfort Food.  Noodles and ham, basically.  Actually, most of this week's food has seemed like comfort food, and Angel has marveled at how few ingredients we're really using for each recipe.  This one had noodles, ham, green onions and dill, and that's really about it.  In this case, the dill was really strong and a bit off-putting which is a shame because the ham and noodles are really good together. (after typing the recipe, I see that we added triple the dill that was called for.)  The kids were offering downturned thumbs and Gable, in desperation, went on a quest for our can of Mrs. Dash.  Astonishingly, the Mrs. Dash transformed the dish for the better.  Evelyn retracted her thumb and had seconds.  Angel deemed it a "make-again."  I won't go as far as that, but I thought it was all right.  The twins rooted out the ham and wolfed it down.

Babka z Bulki i Jablek

I was really interested in the dessert.  It had layers of sugared & spiced apple slices and (essentially) French toast -- slices of Vienna bread soaked in a milk-egg mixture -- that were then baked.  Unfortunately, I was the only one at the table to actually like it, and that was only after dousing it with half and half.  The apples were seasoned with brown sugar, vanilla and dried orange peel.  Typing that last sentence made me look at the recipe just now, and I realize that it called for chopped, candied orange peel, and we used dried, grated orange peel.  I'm going to guess that's the source of the strange, horse-liniment-like flavor that perfused the dessert.  I mean, none of the kids ate it.  At all.  I struggled a bit with it, but like I said, once I poured some cream into it (like I do with apple pie) it combined all the flavors and muted them a bit, and I thought it was delicious enough to snag one of the kid's uneaten desserts.

There is a reminiscence in Hungry Planet from Poland.  Marzena Hubert, the then-32-year-old mother of the family said that during the Solidarity movement and revolution of 1980, the embargoes that were enacted placed severe restrictions on what was available at the grocery store, and remembered being nine years old and standing in line at the shops for her father.  She specifically remembered the lack of anything sweet, and laments her daughter's outlook.  "Bananas, oranges -- they are normal to have.  For us, they were something incredibly special, and they still are," she said.  This may help explain the relative lack of desserts this week, and the simple nature of the recipes that there are.  Then again, maybe not!

As an aside, my wife is at least mildly amused (I think) with my oddball flavor assessments.  I realize that I've now compared food to gunpowder, horse liniment and turpentine, and that's just for Poland.  I'm curious what I'm going to come up with during some of the Asian nations.



Recipes:

Ham and Egg Noodle Casserole (Lazanki Zapiekane z Szynka)
3 cups cooked egg noodles
2 cups finely chopped ham
1 Tbs bacon drippings
2 Tbs chopped green onion
1/2 Tbs dill leaves
2 Tbs bread crumbs

Mix the noodles with ham, drippings, onions, and dill.  Place in a baking dish.  Sprinkle with bread crumbs.  Bake in a hot 400 degree F oven for 35 minutes.  Use chopped sausage instead of ham for a change.  Serve with Tomato juice or Tomato Sauce and salad.  Serves 4. (we doubled the recipe -- Nick)

Bread and Apple Baba (Babka z Bulki i Jablek)
2 cups milk
2 eggs
1 Tbs sugar
12 slices Vienna bread, toasted
8 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
2 Tbs finely chopped candied orange peel
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbs confectioners' sugar
bread crumbs

Beat the milk with the eggs and sugar.  Dip each toast and place on a platter.  Pour the rest of the milk mixture over them.  Sprinkle the apples with orange peel, vanilla, and sugar.  Arrange in 3 layers, starting and ending with toast, in a baking dish buttered and sprinkled with bread crumbs.  Bake in a hot 400-degree F oven for 40 minutes.  Remove to a serving platter.  Serve hot with fruit nectars. Serves 4. (Four?!  This served SEVEN with leftovers! -- Nick)
-- Both recipes from The Art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska

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