dinner

Chive Meatloaf

by Lisa

As Caroline and I are readying our book for the publisher, we are more than usually pressed for time, facing deadlines, making decisions, and still taking care of the kids, the field trips, the soccer tournaments, the homework….Suffice to say, dinner has been put under pressure, too, and I often feel like I’m cooking that on deadline, too.

The other night, I had loads of fresh produce, some good meat, potatoes that needed to be used. It was cold. The obvious choice: meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I had fleeting visions of shephard’s pie, or meatloaf covered w/potatoes, but that was just two more steps than I could handle.  Also, I had in mind, Stacie Stukin, one of our contributors, whose essay includes a great anecdote about how her own mother made meatloaf, without ever touching the meat. I find this inspired, and while I didn’t manage it entirely, I did use one of her techniques. See if you can guess what it is.

As I was prepping, I discovered I had no onions.  I’m not quite sure how that happened.  But I did have a large, fresh bunch of chives, so I used them instead, and it was good.

Chive Meatloaf

for each pound of ground beef:

  • 2 slices crustless, cubed, white bread, soaked in milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • several dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • a *lot* of chopped chives, maybe 1/3 cup, you want them to speckle the loaf
  • sprinkle of salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together well and mold as desired. Top with tomato sauce or a thin layer of ketchup.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour.

Butternut Squash & Hominy Stew

by Caroline


This is absolutely not a recipe I would make just for my family, since my kids are at the stage when stews and other cooked food mixtures don’t appeal to them at all (although they will happily eat their own weird combinations of food, if they make them themselves). But, this recipe arrived with our CSA box days before a weekend away with a couple other families, and as I do when my parents come to visit, I figured I could use the four other adults as guinea pigs. I loved the idea of adding the ground almonds and sesame seeds (the result is not gritty at all); I loved that it used most of the week’s CSA vegetables in one colorful dish; I loved the surprising addition of hominy. I served it with the biscuits from the pear cobbler recipe I posted recently (leaving the sugar out of the biscuits) and it was a huge hit. It’s a delicious, hearty, chili-like stew that I’m looking forward to making again the next time I’m cooking for grownups.

Butternut Squash & Hominy Stew

2 onions, chopped
olive or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dry oregano
4 tablespoons mild ground chili
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
8 ounces mushrooms, quartered
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 can hominy, drained and rinsed
2 pounds tomatoes, chopped or crushed
a handful of almonds
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup frozen peas (or a 10 ounce bag)
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro

heat some oil in a large pot and saute the onions for 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, the chili powder and continue cooking another minute or so. Add the squash, mushrooms, and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat, cover and simmer slowly until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Grind the almonds and sesame seeds in a food processor until finely chopped. Add them to the stew with the cauliflower, tomatoes, and hominy and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the tomatoes have broken down. Add the peas and cilantro and cook through. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt, pepper, chili). Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and more cilantro.

5-Spice Pan Grilled Steak

By Lisa

It’s still hot in these parts, and last night, I was going to make your standard, California grilled steak, but when I opened the pantry yesterday morning to start the marinade I found I had neither enough balsamic vinegar nor any ginger.   I quickly recalibrated. I had rice, which had the advantage of cooking in a rice cooker while we were at soccer practice, and fresh bok choy…and 5-Spice Powder.

But into the ziplock bag went:

  • 1/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 5 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1-2 tsp 5-Spice powder
  • 1 lb flank steak

I washed the rice and set the timer on the  rice cooker.  The meat sat in the marinade in the refrigerator all day. I turned it 2-3 times.

After school, I sliced the bok choy and 2 more cloves of garlic and left it all in a pan with some olive oil, ready to go.

When we got home, I decided to pan grill the steak, just because. I left the steak out for about 30 minutes (could have used longer, as it was a pretty thick steak and didn’t cook quite as fast as I’d have wanted it to–see below), then seared it on each side for 1 1/2 minutes on high heat. It finished cooking on medium heat for about 3 more minutes each side. It rested for about 10 minutes, then was thinly sliced against the grain.  It was still a little rare for us, purplish being just this side of the very medium rare meat we all like, so I pushed all the bok choy to one side, and let it rest on very, very low heat for just 2-3 minutes, which produced a terrific, light pan jus, which was great for the rice.

The 5 Spice powder gave the steak a spicy, earthy, deeply flavorful crust.

The best bit? No forks. We ate everything with chopsticks, and I have meat left for sandwiches and rice for sweet rice.

Learning to Eat Ceviche

By Lisa

On Friday evening, we were on our way for tacos, when all hell broke loose in the car. It was 5:30 pm. My 7-year-old son had just finished an intense 90-minute soccer practice. During this time his sister had been kicking the ball around with a few teammates. It was the end of another 90 degree day. Both kids were hot, sweaty, and my son’s knees were black from turf dirt.  They were hungry.  They were tired.   It was no surprise what happened next: yelling, fighting, tears, complete and utter irrationality.

Normally, this is not the state in which I take kids out to eat. In fact, taking tired, hungry, cranky kids out goes against everything I’ve ever written here about kids and restaurants, summed up here.

But let me back up. The kids are growing like weeds. These days Finn reminds me of a baby giraffe. He’s all lanky arms and spiking legs and careens around on his bike, or skates, or on the field in a headlong way, as if shot from a catapult, always on the verge of falling.  Ella is an athlete.  She spends long, intense hours at the soccer field and in the pool.  To see her in her soccer gear or swimsuit is to see a girl totally at home in her body and its strength. It’s awesome, and we tell her this every day.   It’s become clear to her father and me that her body craves this kind of  physical outlet just as much as her mind craves the novels she schemes to stay up too late reading. Even Finn, whose sports are less serious will gear up  for roller hockey and skate in the car port on days we’re at home.  All this means one thing:  they need more food.  A lot more food.  A few weeks ago we made the direct link between between the kids’ moods and their blood sugar levels.

There are distinct danger times: right after school, right before lunch, right before dinner.   Snacks have become urgent, no-compromise affairs.  I’ve been tempted to show up at school with those little glucose packs cyclists carry.  Instead, I’ve become an efficiency expert, whipping up smoothies with milk and fresh fruit or peanut butter, slicing cheese, cutting fruit, freezing yogurt, rolling salami, pouring milk, handing over crackers, defrosting edamame, portioning nuts. Protein has become essential for both of  them, pre- and post- practice, and calcium is especially important for Ella in these pre-adolescent years–as it is for all girl athletes.

So that night on the way to tacos (or not) I had two choices: take them home and find something to cook, or soldier on and hope for the best.  The first option was not so appealing to any of us. My kitchen was clean.  I had nothing prepped. We love tacos. What they needed was food. Fast. So against my better instincts, I drove straight past our house and up the hill to the taqueria, all the while scheming about what healthy, sustaining thing I could get into them fast.  Because it was hot, and perhaps because the taste of fresh lime and seafood is still lingering from our San Diego extravaganza, my food brain conjured one word :  ceviche.

Before we entered, tears were dry, kids were calm, and they had been read the riot act in my scariest mom voice.

Inside, they commandeered the table where they could watch the MLS game (another benefit of taco night out). I stood in line. ordered for all of us, and asked for the ceviche to be brought right away.  I had no reason to think they would love it.  But I also had no reason to think they wouldn’t.  It was cool and fresh and full of  citrus and tender white fish.  I knew it wouldn’t completely stuff them before their dinners, and I knew it would complement whatever they ended up ordering.   I also told them they had no choice in the matter, and so two minutes later, while we waited for carne asada, and tacos al pastor, and a quesadilla, the kids confronted a gorgeous pile of white fish ceviche with fresh avocado and a mountain of fresh chips.  Finn dug in first, and then there was no turning back. Not for him, not for Ella, and not for the mood of the night.   As quick as they could load a chip, the mood of the night turned.  They polished off the ceviche until only scraps of fish were left.  Dinner came and they didn’t stop eating.  We went home happy and ate ice cream.

The lesson here?  Food is fuel.    If you’re lucky, sometimes it’s more.


Post-ceviche bliss

Ella’s Grilled Salmon Back Sandwich

By Lisa

Salmon Backs are a seasonal favorite around here. If salmon is in season, we’re sure to eat this cut of the fish nearly once a week. It’s fast, flavorful, and really economical.  I can’t afford to keep my family in salmon filets or steaks, but I can afford to feed them piles of salmon backs: in tacos, “ceviche” flavored, lox style, etc.

Earlier this week I made some on the grill and we ate it in soft Middle Eastern flatbread with cream sauce, cabbage, and lime.  As usual, it was delicious. I had to stop myself at two, and Finn at a pile with his spoon. But we still had some leftover, which Ella called dibs on, but then I had not a tortilla in the house.  I offered her crackers, a range of breads, fresh sesame rolls. She chose the rolls and made this sandwich, which is basically taco fillings on a bun. Of course  you can use another cut of fish, but it wouldn’t be the same, because this is basically the fish equivalent of a sloppy joe:  piles of light, loose grilled fish, a creamy sauce, a squeeze of lime for flavor, a bit of cabbage for crunch.

I was happy to let Ella take control of her meal, and even happier that she gave the family another way to keep seasonal eating fresh.

Grilled Salmon Back Sandwich

  • 1-1 1/2 lbs Salmon backs
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • two handfuls of cilantro, leaves and stems + chopped cilantro for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • Cream sauce:  equal parts mayonnaise, sour cream or plain greek yogurt, and cumin to taste
  • shredded cabbage
  • lime wedges
  • Sesame Buns
  1. Marinate salmon for a few hours in white wine, Meyer lemon juice, salt, a few handfuls of cilantro,  garlic
  2. Grill salmon on high heat for five minutes, until just cooked through.
  3. Let salmon cool, then flake meat off the bone
  4. Pile fish on fresh sesame buns and garnish with cream sauce, cabbage, and extra cilantro and lime  as desired