Ham with country mustard pan sauce

by Lisa

Most of us have experienced this moment: You set the plate of food on the table. The kids eye glare at it with disdain.  They groan, or turn up their noses, or pretend-barf. They say, “I’m not a (fish/meat/chicken/potato) person” or “That smells bad” or “What’s that?” (meaning, how in the hell did you ever think to cook that disgusting mess of so-called food?).

This happened at my table the the other night, in reaction to something I’ve cooked many times–a simple ham steak with a really quick country mustard sauce.

I said, “Fine, you don’t have to eat it.” But I asked them to try.  And this has been my attitude of late:  I let them choose what to eat.  So far, they haven’t gone hungry.

On this particular night, my son braved the food first. “Huh,” he said.   “It tastes better than it looks”

That was all the encouragement his sister needed, who agreed with him about the taste.  I didn’t think it looked particularly bad, but I suspect it was the grain of the mustard that looked weird to them

I’m not really sure exactly what I’ve done to get my kids to be moderately brave about food. Certainly, some of it is how their wired, but I suspect some of it is habit and expectation.  Certainly, it works in my favor that they like and trust each other. If one likes something, the other is more willing to try. I set things in front of them over and over and over again. I don’t argue or pander, but I give them a range of good choices.  I never force them to eat, but I do ask them to try small bites of new food.  Seasonal eating helps too–they expect certain things at certain times of year, and while there is sometimes a re-acclimation period (witness the ham, which I never cook in the summer), their memory is downright Proustian.

This ham is one of those fast weeknight dinners that I don’t cook too often, but it’s so easy, that probably I should.

Ham with Country Mustard Pan Sauce

  • Ham steak
  • Olive oil
  • Shallot, chopped finely
  • Country Mustard
  • Beer–a lager or light ale works well
  • Apple cider  or apple juice or water
  • Butter
  1. Fry the ham steak in a large skillet until warmed through, just a few minutes on each side.
  2. Sautee the shallot in a few tablespoons of olive oil until soft.
  3. Deglaze your pan with a few splashes of beer.
  4. Swirl in about 1 Tablespoon of mustard
  5. Add about 1/4 cup of cider, juice or water. The cider or juice will make it sweeter, but water works too.
  6. Simmer until the pan sauce reduced to about a 1/4 cup. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  7. Add in 1 T butter (optional).
  8. Return ham to the pan and simmer to warm through.
  9. Serve family style, with sauce.

Spaghetti with Garlic and Bread Crumbs

by Lisa

This recipe comes straight out of Lidia’s Italy–I have what seems like and endless stream of recorded programs, which I generally don’t get around to watching. But this weekend I did and on Sunday I made this simple, comforting pasta. It has 5 ingredients and comes together in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta–which means it’s also perfect for a busy weeknight. It’s also made from ingredients:  pasta, garlic, day old bread, olive oil, oregano–that you will very often have on hand. You can watch Lidia cook it for Al Roker here (and add spinach to the basic recipe).  My adaptation is below. It’s faithful to the spirit and the technique of the basic recipe, but it was a rainy Sunday, so I wasn’t about to go out for bucatini, though I would have liked to, and I didn’t have any oregano dried, so I substituted parsley and sage, which may be nontraditional, but was very good. I added a side dish of cauliflower roasted with olive oil, whole garlic cloves, and seasoned bread crumbs, which would have been just as good tossed in the pasta.

Spaghetti with garlic and bread crumbs

adapted from Lidia Bastianich

  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 3/4 loaf day old bread, shredded into coarse crumbs (use a box grater or your food processor; you might have to cut off some of the hard crust)
  • lots of thinly sliced garlic (about 6 large cloves, but to your taste)
  • olive oil
  • 4-5 sage leaves, chopped finely
  • 1 T parsely, chopped finely
  • salt
  1. Bring water to a boil. Salt and cook pasta.
  2. While pasta is cooking, pour about 1/4 cup of oil in heavy pan. The oil should coat the bottom of the pan
  3. Cook garlic for a minute or two, until it begins to soften.
  4. Add bread crumbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until bread crumbs are nicely toasted. You want them nicely browned, so they have some crunch.
  5. Add sage & parsley (or dried oregano), stir.
  6. Turn off heat.
  7. When pasta is finished, drain and add to the pan, tossing to coat.
  8. Serve on a large platter, with grated cheese.

Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

By Lisa

This is one of those fast and comforting foods you can be happy to serve on a busy weeknight or for an early afternoon Sunday dinner. It came about one day last winter when I was staring at what was left in my pantry and freezer. What spoke to me:  apples, potatoes, an onion, a pre-cooked sausage.  Since then, I’ve made the dish with chicken-apple sausage or kielbasa and both are good. It’s fast and needs little tending.  You can increase or–as we do–decrease the amount of meat to your taste, so it’s more of a flavoring/side accent.  My kids love all of it and I love that it’s a one dish meal.

Baked Sausage with Apples and Potatoes

Serves 4+

  • 1 link pre-cooked kielbasa or about 3 links of pre-cooked sweet sausage, about 3/4-1 lb total
  • 2 apples
  • 1 medium to large sweet onion (red or maui work best)
  • about 3 potatoes
  1. Core and slice apples into 6-8 wedges.
  2. Slice potatoes into sizes similar to apples.
  3. Slice onion into 8 pieces.
  4. Put potatoes and onion in oven proof casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Bake at 350 until potatoes are nearly tender, about 40 minutes.
  5. Add apples and sausage to casserole, placing sausage on top.
  6. Bake until apples are tender/soft and sausages are well-heated through, about 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with your favorite mustard and a green salad with a mustard-based vinaigrette (white balsamic vinegar + mustard+ 1 smashed clove garlic + olive oil)

At Bat: Herbed Chicken Skewers

By Lisa

This post is a bit of a risk today, since it breaks the orange/black theme. However, I made this recipe a few days ago, and it’s fast, easy, and mess-free. So:  it’s good for eating in front of the TV, and if you put the chicken on skewers, it goes with the general ballpark theme of food-on-sticks. Think of it as an alternative to corn dogs. Or chicken fingers. Or a cross between the two.

The method is this: cut about 1 lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast into thin strips. Thread it onto bamboo skewers then marinate for an hour or so in:

  • 2 chopped cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 generous tablespoon country mustard
  • 1/4 cup  white wine
  • a good handful of chopped herbs:  rosemary, parsley, thyme–whatever you like/have on hand

I grilled mine on my panini press in about 5 minutes, but you could also broil these (remember to soak your skewers first so they don’t burn up!).  They were a home run with both kids.

Ideally, you’d serve them with sweet potato fries. Topped with black salt.

Pumpkin Toast

by Lisa

Our children’s school has a great tradition of hosting a social for the parents (only!) of each grade in the early months of the year.  Some of Ella’s third grade class has been together since pre-school & it’s a terrific group of parents and children. This year, our enterprising room parents decided on a wine tasting + bring your own tapas party, and it was inspired.  We have a lot of great cooks in the class who brought things like sesame glazed chicken drumettes, bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with an almond, several varieties of stuffed mushrooms, a warm artichoke dip, etc. etc.

Staying with our theme of fall rooting for our team, I made Pumpkin Toast, a recipe I found in Food and Wine years ago and have been making every fall I remember.  The original recipe is here. Below is the version that has evolved in my house.

Pumpkin Toast with Cilantro Pesto

  • Pumpkin puree (from a can, or roasted and pureed fresh)
  • Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese, finely grated, about 1 cup, depending on pumpkin
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch
  • garlic, 1-2 cloves
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Olive oil
  • Bread–whatever you like, a whole grain loaf is terrific with the pumpkin, but I use Italian all the time–sliced into rounds or thin strips.
  1. Mix equal amounts pumpkin puree and grated cheese.  One can of pumpkin + an equal amount of cheese is a good amount for one loaf of bread. Set aside
  2. In a food processor, mix one bunch cilantro leaves, garlic, a handful of walnuts, more cheese + enough olive oil to make a pesto.
  3. Spread a layer of pesto on each bread slice.
  4. Top pesto with a generous spoonful of pumpkin + cheese.
  5. Top, if you like, with toasted walnuts, or a little shredded cheese. Or nothing.
  6. Toast in a 400 degree oven until bread is slightly crisp and pumpkin is warmed through.

We ate a variation of this last night with our dinner. To make it quicker for a weeknight, we toasted just the pumpkin + cheese mix on bread. It’s not quite as good without the pesto, but it’s a great family side dish/appetizer for a cold night.

More orange appetizers for the SF Giants Game!