Saturday, July 28, 2007

How Dinner Happens

You'd think that being a stay-at-home mom (aka Domestic Goddess (under development)) I'd be all uber-organized and down with the weekly menus again and whatnot. Well, I'm getting there, but I'm still having nights where dinner is just this vague thing that sort of just happens. That's not to say the end result isn't tasty though. Here's an example of how dinner evolved the other night....

12pm: arrive home after a whirlwind morning of waking up late, picking up the car from the autobody shop, feeding the child, dropping the child and the dog off at the g'parents.

Take ground lamb out of freezer. Think "bleh, I don't want damn lamburgers AGAIN."

12:10-1pm: ponder what to do with lamb

1pm: default to curry. Combine leftover tomato-garlic sauce that didn't make it into last night's spaghetti, curry powder, a can of coconut milk and some pounded lemongrass stalks and lots of grated ginger in a saucepan. Leave to simmer a while. Put rice in rice cooker to soak, set timer. (LOVE the rice cooker, but it can't do brown rice without a couple hours pre-soaking, which is all to the good anyway.)

2 pm: realize the lamb has no hope in hell of thawing in time to do anything with it. Commit cardinal sin of placing lamb in a plastic bag in a tub of hot water. ****NEVER EVER DO THIS****

2:30 pm: Mush as much lamb as is thawed with a couple tbsp of fish sauce, some fancy ketchup, an egg and some breadcrumbs. Leave with frozen chunk in fridge.

3 pm: skip out to picnic with buddy, turning simmering sauce off before leaving (whew, THAT could have been a disaster!)

5 pm: pick up child and dog

5:30 pm: arrive home, deal with child and dog, mush rest of lamb (now all thawed) together, form into meatballs. Strain sauce to remove bitties. Fry up meatballs, move into sauce, pour off grease from frying pan, deglaze with white wine, pour result into saucepan with everything else.

6:15 pm: remember zucchini forcibly offered by mother-in-law. Slice up zucchini, put in saucepan with everything else.

6:30 pm: serve dinner. Yum!

It would have been nice to have been paying enough attention to this to create an actual recipe from it, since it turned out very tasty, and I'd totally do it again. But I was trying to do about 50 million other things in there - including getting ready for the picnic and assorted errands, plus laundry and other household duties - so that didn't actually happen. The point to this post is that dinner doesn't have to be a planned-in-advance thing. Good dinners CAN come out of chaotic, busy days.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Summer Steak & Prawn Salad

This is a perfect light summer dinner. It got huge thumbs up from both the husband and the child.

4-5 oz cooked, cold, rare steak, preferably marinated beforehand in soy sauce & maple syrup (or honey, or brown sugar)
10 or so large prawns, shelled (do NOT ever throw prawn shells out, they are super for making quick seafoody sauces.)
a good bunch of quick-cooking greens - spinach, chard, dandelion, etc.
2 cups cooked rice "linguine"-style noodles (y'know, the broader ones, not the rice vermicelli)
chopped basil for garnish

1/3 cup unflavoured oil (grapeseed, sunflower, etc)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup combined lemon juice & rice wine vinegar
fish sauce to taste (probably 1 tbsp or so)
maple syrup to taste (maybe 1-2 tbsp) OR use honey, but less of it.

The dressing should be sweet, salty & sour. If you're not cooking for children or delicate palates, throw some sambal oelek in there too. (Actually I would have added it even with the kid eating, she's pretty good with spicy stuff, but we just ran out.)

Quickly sauté the shrimp in a touch of sesame oil and season well with sea salt. Set aside so they can cool down to room temperature. Steam the veggies then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. Pour into a seive & press out excess water, then chop roughly. Cook the rice noodles, and then strain into a seive or collander and hold under running cold water until they're cold. Drain, then toss with a touch of sesame oil so they don't go glommy.

Slice the cold steak very thinly.

Plate up: a handful of rice noodles, a handful of greens, topped with 2-3 oz of steak and 4-5 prawns, drizzle with a generous amount of the dressing, then top with the chopped basil.