Tonight’s dinner called for Chopped Creativity

Do you have dinners like this? Clean out this and that in the fridge and what to make? My neighbor Madeline went to NYC earlier in the week for a grandson’s bar mitzvah. She and her husband will stay at least 3 weeks. Tuesday morning I came home with several bags of produce and more – onions, potatoes, fresh corn (it’s been really good this year), sweet peppers, and eggs. I took some of the onions and potatoes to share with my friend Marie – that always feels good.

In addition, my husband was away for a week and a half. One of my goals was to eat through the freezer. Let’s see, several zip lock bags of small chicken pieces, a container of steak and kidney pie (one of our favorites), and another container of African chicken, but it wasn’t that. You must have some mystery meat in your freezer. In the end, hardly made a dent was made!

Tuesday afternoon, the Chopped basket came out. I cooked down about 5 onions, caramelizing them carefully. I sauteed the sweet peppers with an one from my fridge. The mushrooms hiding there also found their way into my saute pan. Then disaster struck … we’ve been having load of rain and the book club girls one-by-one decided not to meet. I pulled 2 lamb chops out of the freezer to put under the broiler with garlic powder and Greek regani (oregano). Next was brown rice which I mixed with all of the mushrooms and some of the sauteed onions and peppers (the rest went into the still-full freezer for other uses).

Danny came home yesterday afternoon. I was working all day and evening, ushering at the annual Muscle Mania Miami – but that’s yet another story. Today, was the day to find uses for the rest of the waiting Chopped basket! I already knew I wanted to make an onion pie with the rest of my neighbor’s onions. Among her contribution was a nice pack of thick green onions, scallions. I had my own pack of scallions. Recently I had downloaded a recipe for chicken with lemon and spicy spring onions (Bon Appetit May 2019). Good use for this ingredient paired with a nice whole chicken and a fresh lemons. Dessert would be a Pavlova – an over-sized, baked meringue – with fresh berries – a good use of the out-dated eggs. †

Where do the recipes come from? I have a nice collection of much-loved cookbooks which I turn to often. I also receive a number of daily e-mails from different sources offering lots of recipes. Google is always a good fallback to find the use of some specific ingredient – often leading to downloading the choice recipe. In addition, sometimes I just make up something after seeing some random culinary items. †

Onion Pie

I made up the onion pie recipe myself. I use a ready-made pie crust. Yes, I’ve attended countless technique classes at Williams Sonoma and have seen how easy it is to make a pie crust in the food processor. It’s simply easier to buy one ready made and keep in the freezer for a day like today when I have a need. I sliced a bunch of onions (such a clear measure!) very thinly. You can test your knife skills or pull out the mandoline to do this. Next with a little bit of olive oil, saute the onions over medium heat for about 20-30 minute til they are well-wilted. The only condiment to add is about 4-5 small anchovy fillets. You can keep the rest in a glass container in your fridge along with the oil from the can for the next time you need anchovies. Stir continually until the anchovies are dissolved.

Next, open the crust in the center of a baking pan. I line the pan with a Sil Pat (another Williams Sonoma purchase, best when they are marked down). Preheat the oven to about 350 degrees F. Mound the cooked onions in the center of the crust. Simply fold in the edges of the crust as in the picture. Bake for between 30-45 minutes. I kind of fell asleep in front of the tv while cooking today, thus the crust while not burnt is well-browned and nicely crunchy.

A nice slice to enjoy

Next, the Pavlova. I used a recipe for French meringue found on Google. The ingredients are few – egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar (I used regular, not fine, not powdered), and that’s all. Some recipes call for a little white vinegar.  I’ve tried this and none of us like the flavor it imparts. Follow the instructions carefully, whipping the eggs then adding the other items.  I don’t pipe it, but spoon it in a nice shape on the Sil Pat (so the Pavlova doesn’t stick to the baking pan). It bakes in a slow oven, 200 degrees F, for about 1- 1 1/2 hours. After cooled, top the Pavlova with fruit of choice. And eat an enjoy. This one was lovely and crunch on the outside, and smooth and mushy in the inside.  And as light an airy as was world-famous ballerina, Anna Pavlova!

Take note of the heart shaped strawberries, so easy to make

What to do with the remaining egg yokes. You can add a few to an omelette. You can return to Google to see loads of recipe recommendations. My choice was to make yoke-rich mayonaise with my lovely immersion blender. My family is, from many years ago, a Hellman’s family. My husband and I, however, rarely eat the stuff. When I need it, out comes the immersion blender and zip, zap, mayonaise. We have a nice supply of it today, thanks to my neighbor.

When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in a previous, long-ago life, no mayonaise to be found in the shops in Jamaica. I must have had a blender and my Joy of Cooking book and made my own. I mentioned the mayonaise to a friend and her mother expressed interest. That was an easy holiday gift to share with such a wonderful family who took me in in a far away land.

And thus, a new week starts … creatively – Cheers ~

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