With apologies to the people of Bologna, and everyone who takes their meat sauces seriously: here’s a variation for those of us who don’t eat meat. It’s quicker (great for a weeknight) but every bit as hearty and warming as a traditional bolognese. More
We must have eaten this summer, and I must have cooked, but I can’t remember doing either. What I remember is a dark smudge of days, in which I often seemed engaged in a protracted struggle to not cry. Somewhere in there, we had meals, but I did not make ice cream, or roast peppers, or pack my freezer with pesto or roasted Early Girls. There were very few early evening cocktails.
It’s only in the past month, with the kids settled in school, the carpools worked out, the games firmly anchored in our weekends, that things have begun to feel normal again. The return to health–physical, psychic, emotional–was stealthy. But it must have been steady, too, because last week, as I stood over the kitchen counter eating ice cream straight from the freezer bowl I felt a twinge of joy: I had made something new. Things must be better. That the thing was ice cream, in September, and not in June, July, or August, slayed me a bit, reminding me of just how much summer we’d missed, and how much of that sweet, bright period was stolen from our family. But life is like this sometimes. Families, sons, daughters, parents, spouses…we take the bitter right along with the sweet. And we are lucky. We’ve healed. We’ve moved on.
So the ice cream was also providential, a kind of transition, a sweet thing welcoming our family back to itself. And I realized I’d been cooking other transitional things, too, meals to usher us from sickness to health, from instability to stability, from summer into fall. I cooked the bright Brandywines and Pineapples and Purple Cherokees that we always eat raw into a light but comforting heirloom tomato sauce. I barbecued tofu instead of sauteeing it. I turned the salmon backs into cakes. And I made this pizza, loaded with the last of summer’s fresh pesto, the final crop of sweet 100s, and the bitter bite of grilled raddichio. A little sweet, a little bitter, completely ravishing.
Pesto pizza with fresh mozzarella, grilled radicchio, and sweet 100s
Grilled Pesto Pizza with Radicchio and Sweet 100s
- 1 recipe pizza dough
- grated,fresh mozzarella
- 1 small head radicchio
- 1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sliced if you’re not lazy like me)
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- Quarter the radicchio and coat with salt, olive oil, and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. Grill until tender, or alternately, roast in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. Let cool and coarsely chop. Set aside.
- Roll out a piece of homemade or store bought pizza dough.
- Turn on your grill to HIGH and close the lid to preheat.
- When the grill is hot, brush the grates with olive oil and immediately lay the pizza dough across the grill.
- Cook 2-3 minutes, or until the dough begins to bubble and dry out. Using tongs, flip the dough immediately and cook until the dough puffs, another minute or 2.
- Remove dough from grill and onto cutting board. Close grill and lower the heat to MEDIUM.
- Quickly spread a layer of homemade or store-bought pesto over half-grilled dough.
- Top pesto with fresh grated mozzarella, the radicchio, and a sprinkle of sweet 100s. Be judicious with the cheese and don’t overload your pie.
- Return the pizza to grill and lower the lid. Cook until cheese is melted and bubbly. Check heat occasionally to make sure the crust isn’t burning on the bottom.
Finn does not sit still. Not much. Unless there is a pile of Lego in front of him, or a build-your-own remote control robot arm, or a book of 888 1/2 facts about the Titanic. Then, he is immoveable. But other times? He jumps, he squirms, he dances, he rolls, he hops. He runs, skates, and twirls. He giggles and climbs. He falls. He is all energy, all the time. He is my exuberant one, buoying the spirits of the house.
In his honor: Chicken Saltimbocca. It means jumps in your mouth. It jumped in his mouth. He sat still. He ate.
- 4 chicken cutlets, pounded very thin
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 4 sage leaves
- Butter for frying
- Pound each chicken cutlet until it is very flat and thin.
- Cover each cutlet with one slice of prosciutto and one sage leaf. Fasten meat and sage to cutlet with a tootpick.
- In a heavy frying pan, melt 2-3 tables spoons of butter.
- When foaming subsides, cook chicken, prosciutto side down, until chicken is mostly cooked through and lightly browned. About 3 minutes.
- Turn chicken over and finish cooking. 1-2 minutes.
- Remove from pan and place on warm platter.
- Deglaze pan with wine and reduce by about half. Pour deglazing sauce over chicken & serve immediately.
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.
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.
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
- Marinate salmon for a few hours in white wine, Meyer lemon juice, salt, a few handfuls of cilantro, garlic
- Grill salmon on high heat for five minutes, until just cooked through.
- Let salmon cool, then flake meat off the bone
- Pile fish on fresh sesame buns and garnish with cream sauce, cabbage, and extra cilantro and lime as desired