Sometimes you reeeally think you know a person, and then they move home after five years in the wilds of the west, and you discover that your youngest sister has a real affinity for pasta salad. You never stop learning, I guess.
I don’t think I’ve ever posted a recipe for pasta salad, unless you count the World Famous Sesame Noodles (I do not) and suddenly here is the second in as many months, if you count the couscous salad (I do.) October is kind of a weird time for pasta salad, they generally say “picnic or bust” to me, but Sister is home! She likes pasta salad! So pasta salad we will eat. This particular pasta salad is my version of one that is sold at a small lunch place in NH, near my new brother’s family. It might be perfect. It is mayo based, but isn’t goopy or heavy, and it has pickles in it, which are a welcome addition to most things. We had it for lunch one day up there, I decided to recreate it immediately, and I have made it several times since. Twice this weekend, as a matter of fact. I was feeding the motley crew that had gathered to help move Sister and her hubs in to their new house, and the first time I made it I didn’t cook the pasta quite enough, so I had to make it again. (The first batch eventually softened up, so I ate it all. Myself.) As it turns out, I didn’t take pictures of either batch this weekend, so I have to make it AGAIN for all of you. Good thing the sister lives close by so I can drop the bulk of this batch off at her house. If I don’t eat it all first.
You can save this for the summer, or you can throw caution to the wind and make it now. Pasta salad doesn’t just have to be for the warm weather. Pasta salad, all year round! Get wild, you funky little flowers, you.
Mac Salad (serves 8ish)
1 lb small pasta shape of your choice (small shells are good!)
3/4 cup diced cucumber
3/4 cup diced dill pickle
2/3 cup mayo
¼ cup dill pickle juice of your choice
2 tsp Cholula (or hot sauce of your choice)
2 cloves garlic, mashed fine with the edge of a heavy knife
One large shallot, minced fine (approximately 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta in salted water to al dente per package instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, mix the mayo, pickle juice, hot sauce, garlic (pro tip: use a pinch of the salt to help mash it to a fine paste) and shallot in a large bowl and stir to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. When the pasta is cooked, drain and rinse the pasta and add to the bowl with the pickle and cucumber. Toss the pasta and dressing together and then taste again for salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Lamb has never really been my jam, if you will. I would never order it in a restaurant or anything, and it was fine when my dad would grill it at Easter (no knock on my dad, it was the lamb that was the problem, not the prep, everyone else loved it.) Those little lamb chops that people LOVE that come around on trays at parties and make people go nuts? Pass. So whatever in the world possessed me to make lamb meatballs one day is beyond me. I am so glad I did though, because I enjoyed my first attempt enough to keep futzing with the recipe, and now I LOVE these. Like LOVE them. And other people do too. A client told me they are the best meatballs he has ever had, so there you have it.
I have been making these for ages, but my delay in sharing is in NO WAY indicative of how much I like them. In fact, I do believe these will be one of my favorite things to end up on this here blog. The meatballs can stand on their own - I have put them in a pita with some tzatziki and feta and been quite pleased with myself - but this preparation is really something special. The harissa in this sauce really makes them sing. They are spicy and rich and flavorful and super filling. These are really perfect for this incoming cooler weather, and since I feel like mixing my metaphors, they are sturdy in the best way, but they don’t lack a sense of adventure. The sweet perfumy-ness of Jasmine rice is a really great foil for these; farro, orzo or even toast would also be excellent.
Fall really is the best, it is sunny and gorgeous and perfect for sleeping, and most importantly, it makes me want to cook. I want to make cookies and pasta and roasts, I want to have people over every night, and I want to go camping. This weather makes me want to feed people, so come on over, I’ll make you meatballs.
I have spent ALL DAY fighting with internet providers on the phone. It is a racket. I am moving to the woods.
Seester is officially a MA resident and I am PUMPED. Everyone is back on the east coast and all is right with the world.
I miss my four-legged roommate. I don’t even know who I am any more.
It has come to our attention recently that Shan and I are celebrating TWENTY YEARS of being friends next August, so we are planning a vacation somewhere fabulous. I have the best bestie. We are open to suggestions. It should involve a beach. Or a spa. Or amazing food.
Lamb Meatballs with Chickpeas and Harissa (Makes about 20 meatballs - Serves 4-6)
For the Meatballs
1 lb ground lamb
1 Small onion, divided, half minced, half diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbl minced parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbl canola oil to fry
Put all ingredients except for the canola oil in a mixing bowl and mix well with your hands to combine, being careful not to over mix. Portion into golf ball sized meatballs, I like to use a medium sized cookie scoop (it holds about a tablespoon and a half of meat mixture.)
Heat oil in heavy frying pan over medium heat, and fry the meatballs, in batches if necessary, turning frequently, until browned and crispy on the outside. (They will likely not be cooked through.) Remove browned meatballs to a plate and reserve cooking oil in the pan to make sauce.
For the Sauce
Remaining diced onion from above
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbl tomato paste
1 tbl harissa
1.5 cup chicken stock
1.5 cup coconut milk
2 14.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Place the meatball pan over medium low heat and add diced onion and minced garlic and cook, stirring frequently until softened, 2-4 minutes, depending how hot the pan is. Add tomato paste and harissa, raise heat to medium, and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, while the tomato paste and harissa caramelizes, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and let the chicken stock reduce to about one cup, stirring frequently, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and whisk to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer and add the meatballs. Cook meatballs in the sauce about five minutes. Add chickpeas, and cook five more minutes until sauce is reduced, flavors combine and meatballs are cooked through to your liking. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve sauce over rice or base of your choice!
I am into sauces lately, it seems.
This is another versatile one that I find myself using for all sorts of things, from salmon to lamb. For parties I will poach a side of salmon and serve it cold, with this along side. With lamb meatballs I will just pile this right on top or shove both in a pita with some feta cheese and tomatoes. Or I will sauté some chickpeas and kale with some harissa, fry an egg, and dollop tzatziki on top of the whole thing for breakfast. It's, rich, creamy, garlicky and refreshing and feels like it might actually be good for you. It adds richness, tempers heat, and adds an herby flair. It's a work horse.
Tzatziki is Greek in origin and goes really nicely on a crudite platter, a meze plate or a summer buffet. Or eat it with a spoon if you want. Because I do. I make sure to use full fat yogurt here. When it comes to yogurt, sometimes it doesn't matter, but for tzatziki, it definitely does. Plus you are already using sour cream, so why not go all out? There are a ton of recipes for this out on the webs, and you can even buy it pre-made in the store (but it is really easy to make, so don't do that) but I get raves about this one. People love it. It might be the full fat yogurt.
It is super easy. It takes about 30 minutes start to finish, and about two-thirds of that time is waiting for cucumbers to drain, so you really have no excuse. Easy, easy easy. I think the "hardest" thing is mashing the garlic and the waiting. You do want to wait though, because the better you drain that bad boy, the richer the sauce will be.
Tzatziki is delicious. Make it.
OK here goes: In re: Trump. If his latest appalling scandal, his "locker room talk" from back in 2005, his use of p***y, has put you over edge, but the appalling things he has said about Mexicans, Muslims or women in the past hadn't yet, welcome to the other side, but I have questions for you. Sadly, I have worked most of my adult life with privileged men, and what he said surprises me NOT AT ALL. In fact, I am surprised so many people are surprised that (some) men talk like that. I am appalled, grossed out, and sad, but not surprised. It's a real bummer to hear it out loud instead of just imagining its being said when you leave the room, but I am not surprised. BUT LET ME BE CLEAR. What he said? What he described? THAT'S SEXUAL ASSAULT. It's not flirting, it's not making a move, it's not fun and games, it's SEXUAL ASSAULT. I am appalled but not surprised. Lastly, to the men that are upset/appalled/grossed out because you have daughters, sisters or moms, I would like you to take some time getting upset/appalled/grossed out because he is talking about actual human women that are actual human people in their own right, not because he is talking about someone who could have some relationship to you, a man. If it takes having a mom/sister/daughter to think about women has having agency and dignity, you need to take some time.
1. I was at the RMV last Friday afternoon and it is a hellscape. But it sure does make me appreciate the app that let me edit this page while I was sitting there. Yay technology! Making tortured wastelands productive since Al Gore invented the interwebs.
2. I made lobster Rangoon the other night and they were delicious, but the filling pocket blew up like a balloon when I fried them, and I realized that was probably a result of all the water in the filling turning to steam, so now I have to figure out how to avoid that. My favorite takeout places don't seem to have that problem.
3. Related to 1 (see above) could someone please explain how the ticket system works? I mean I sort of get it, and things always seem to be moving along at a decent clip, then ALL THE SUDDEN there's a totally new letter involved. All kinds of As Bs and Cs and then out of nowhere there's an X and an I in the mix. You think they are just messing with us? I wouldn't blame them. If I worked there I would totally mess with you all to pass the time. Also, they could make a killing with a bar in the waiting area. (Don't @ me, it is a city RMV, no one drives to get there.)
4. WHO WAS EVER LAUGHING??? No but seriously you guys, seriously. What is happening.
5. What I am reading: Notorious RBG. And tonight I am going to see Anthony Bourdain, and I have actually never read Kitchen Confidential. I sort of assume that will change after I see him speak.
6. What I am listening to: My Favorite Murder Podcast, The Ezra Klein Show Podcast, what ever is on my brother in law's iPod that is currently the only thing I can play on my living room speaker.
7. Where I am eating: At home, mostly, or at the incredibly delicious Brewer's Fork, which is where seester is working.
8. My dog best friend is moving out today and I am really sad. I might like dogs now, don't @ me.
Tzatziki (makes about 3 cups)
1 english cucumber, shredded
1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided, plus additional to taste
1 large clove garlic
Juice of one lemon
1 cup sour cream
1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup dill
1/2 tsp fresh pepper or to taste
Shred the cucumber in a food processor or on a box grater. Place in a fine sieve and top with 1 tsp of the kosher salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes to drain. While the cucumber is draining, using the side of a kitchen knife, smash the clove of garlic and mash with 1/4 tsp kosher salt to a fine paste.
Mix the garlic in a bowl with the lemon juice. Add the sour cream and yogurt and mix well. Mix in dill and stir to combine. Press any extra juice out of the drained cucumbers, and add them to the mix. Stir well and add the pepper and any any additional salt to taste.