Noodle Casserole That Makes People Want to Marry You

Some friends and I were discussing some article I skimmed and promptly forgot everything about, including the site I read it on, except this: that a man wanted to divorce his wife because her tuna noodle casserole was so gross and she served it so often.

I’ll have to check with my resident geeks (ie. my husband, Tim, and my dad, Tom) but I think the Talmud actually does provide some legitimation for these grounds for divorce–there’s a kind of “if she burns the bread” clause.

But anyway, I said to my friends, I don’t want to brag, but my noodle casserole makes people want to marry me.

(Don’t want to brag? Whatever. Of course I want to brag! This stuff is good! )

And so one friend asked for the recipe, and here it is, as promised.

Salmon Noodle Casserole

Preheat oven to 400F. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the egg noodles, and a smaller pot of salted water to boil for the broccoli.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, dry saute 8 ounces fresh, cleaned, mushrooms, broken into pieces.

Continue to stir them for 10 minutes or so, or until they have given up much of their moisture. Add 1 medium onion, minced finely, and just enough butter to keep it from sticking. Cook another 10 minutes or so until onions are just short of browning. Remove from pan and set aside.

In same saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter, stir in 2 tablespoons flour and blend well over low heat until just short of browning. Whisking constantly, pour in 1 cup half and half. Continue to whisk and bring to just short of the boiling point, add onion and mushroom mixture, salt and pepper to taste, 1/3 cup milk and set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch and cool 1/2 lb (2 cups) of fresh broccoli. (ie. throw it in some boiling salted water for 1 minute, then drain and run under cool water; set aside.)

I think these noodles are the best ones.

Cook 12 ounces extra-wide whole-egg noodles for three minutes less than the shortest time suggested on the package, drain, rinse thoroughly with cool water.

Mix cooked noodles, sauce, and broccoli with 2 cups grated mild cheddar or jack cheese and 2 cans wild-caught salmon* (drained) and spread in shallow buttered ovenproof pan, sprinkle with 1 cup crushed high-quality potato chips.

(Yes, I realize that potato chips are not “healthy,” whatever that is. You can leave them out if you want, but don’t blame me if your casserole doesn’t attract the adulation you desire.)

These potato chips (local for me!) are the BEST!

Bake 20-25 minutes.

*you can skip the salmon to make it vegetarian, but why not support the lovely Leslie Leyland Fields‘ other job, too? 😉

Seriously Good, Seriously Curative Chicken Soup

The thing about chicken soup is that it it can make you think about being sick, which is not so appetizing. And since the curative powers of chicken soup have been written up in medical journals and such, it’s a dish that can have an unfortunate medicinal aura about it, as if you are slurping cough syrup or something.

But this chicken soup is not like that. It cooks so long and slow and fragrantly that by the time it all comes together, you feel energized just smelling it, and almost virtuous when you start eating it.

It’s soothing for people with colds, and also to those with intestinal woes–though it’s a good idea to stick to broth alone at first. But with all the vegetables, chicken, and noodles (and some fresh bread and butter), it’s a meal that everyone–sick or healthy–can enjoy.

I prefer to make a raw-bones stock, but if you have a chicken carcass, by all means, use that. Some people buy chicken wings and backs specifically to make stock, but I prefer to use a whole small bird–sometimes a Cornish game hen, because free-range ones are more readily available where I live.

Ingredients:

For the stock:

bony pieces from ~3 lbs chicken

olive oil

salt

2 bay leaves

1 large yellow onion, chopped, most of peel left on

celery tops, cleaned (about 2 cups)

2 carrots, cleaned

1 head garlic, cloves separated but left unpeeled

For the soup:

schmaltz (I’ll explain!) or olive oil

leftover OR raw chicken, cut into very small pieces

2 pounds each celery and carrots, cut into very small pieces

1 large yellow onion, chopped very finely

3 cloves fresh garlic, minced

To Prepare:

Make schmaltz:

Begin by stripping all skin and fat off the raw chicken; de-bone the meaty pieces and set the meat aside. Place all the skin and fat in a large skillet with 1 cup water and cover; place over low heat. You are going to simmer this slowly until the fat dissolves, the skin releases its fat and becomes slightly crispy. Then, you will skim off the skin pieces and use the fat to cook the soup veggies and chicken. Or, you can skip this and just use olive oil, but don’t come crying to me when your soup doesn’t have the authentic Jewish-grandma taste. (Plus, chicken fat has antibacterial properties. Really.)

Oy Gott. This is just awful looking. So vulnerable.

Make stock:

CAREFULLY hack all the bony pieces into 2″ chunks. Please be careful–use a good chef’s knife or cleaver and pay great attention when you do this; we don’t want fingerbone soup. Place your stockpot over medium high heat and add 1 Tablespoon olive oil, then chicken bone pieces. Turn them after 2 minutes, browning on all sides. Add chopped onion and stir frequently until the onion is very soft. Add garlic cloves, celery tops, carrot, and bay leaves. Continue to cook and stir until the celery tops are very wilted and dark green and vegetables have reduced in size–maybe 20 minutes, or longer if you want a more developed flavor. Add 2 teaspoons salt and water to cover. Bring close to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer at least 2 hours, adding water as needed to maintain the same level.

The vegetables should be looking like this before you add the water--maybe even a little more wilted.

Now prepare soup vegetables/chicken:

After the fat and skin have released lots of yummy fat into the water, turn heat to medium high and allow excess water to evaporate, stirring constantly and watching so that it does not burn. Add chopped onionand cook until they are translucent. Add minced garlic, stir 2 minutes more. Add small chicken pieces; stir until close to browning; add chopped carrots and celery. Reduce heat and stir frequently until carrots and celery are softened; cover and allow vegetables to simmer in their own juices for at least 1 hour, checking occasionally that they don’t burn.

After stock has simmered, strain it through a colander lined with a cheesecloth (or just a colander if you’re not fussy about little bits). Add stock to vegetable/chicken mixture; simmer 30 minutes and add salt boldly to taste.

Cook extra-wide egg noodles (Pennsylvania Dutch brand is highly recommended, yes I know, white flour blah blah–but they are the best) separately in heavily salted water; drain and toss with butter to keep them separate. Add noodles and soup separately to each bowl.

Deliciousness!

I swear this soup has helped my kids recover from illnesses quickly. Sometimes I throw the steaming strained stock vegetables in a bowl so my kids can inhale the curative steam.

Sunday Recipe (On Monday): Eggplant Dip

This week’s recipe is super-simple and totally delicious. I made fresh pita to go with it, but it would also be great with purchased pita, naan bread, or even bagel chips.

Preheat oven to 450F.

{you don’t need to cut everything neatly, since it’s going to be almost-puree anyway. if you’re using Japanese eggplants, like I did, just leave the skin on–it’s quite tender.}

Toss all of the following together in a large roasting pan:

  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/4 cup fresh seeded and diced tomatoes)

Roast for 45-65 minutes, or until the vegetables are fragrant and caramelized. Cool slightly before pulsing in food processor to your desired level of chunkiness.

(We had a lot of eggplants and peppers, so I doubled the recipe and put what we didn’t eat immediately into 1/2 pint jam jars to freeze.)

{if you’re going to do the same, remember to leave 1/2″ of space at the top of the jar to allow for the expansion that comes with freezing!}

{small white bowl to the far right has the eggplant dip. my son, trying his best to look fierce.}

Delicious as an appetizer to Middle-Eastern inspired dishes. Yum!

 

Beets! Beets! Beets!

We’ve been a little serious around here what with two days of posts (here and here) on body image stuff, so I think it’s time for something more fun.

Like cake.

I don’t make desserts for every day meals. And I generally don’t bake cakes in the summertime. But you know? Some days, you just feel like having some cake.

On this day, I was harvesting beets to make room for the very enthusiastically reproducing strawberry plants. My son and husband were helping me:

{he's not faking that enthusiasm for the beet, either.}
{my dear husband, the real gardener in the relationship}

So, earlier in the summer, I’d pulled a few beets and grated them, raw, into lettuce salads, where they mingled beautifully with the vinaigrette and brought some lively color and flavor to our (seemingly) endless bowls of leafy greens. You can make a beet salad that’s mostly just, well, beets, but I just wasn’t feelin’ it.

I spent several hours with the beets, boiling them, slipping their skins off cutting them up to put in the freezer, and when I was done, my fingers were stained brownish and I was tired of looking at beets qua beets, so I did something really fun:

I pureed them in the food processor with some applesauce, added sugar, sour cream, some eggs, some vanilla, some flour, some cocoa powder, and some baking soda and made the most beautiful red-tinted cake batter–

And that, of course, turned into this: And we’re back to where we started.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, beets are good for you, blah, blah, blah, antioxidants and phytochemicals and fiber AND–THEY TASTE AMAZING IN CHOCOLATE CAKE, which is the best part:

“Food is the daily sacrament of unnecessary goodness, ordained for a continual remembrance that the world will always be more delicious than it is useful.” (Robert Farrar Capon)

{Hoping YOUR day has some unnecessary goodness in it, too!}

Sunday Recipe–Eggplant Thai Curry

I made this week’s Sunday Recipe with eggplant, basil, green sweet pepper, green beans and cherry tomatoes from our family’s garden. It went over big with the family, though my 5 year old–who is in a picky stage–denounced it as ‘sour.’ One of the things I like about this dish is that it brings together the foods we have plenty of right now–local–fusing them with flavors and techniques that are, well, global. It’s a dish where meat is more of a flavoring than a center-of-the plate item, and it relies on rice to ‘stretch’ it. Eat it, and savor each bite, allowing its flavors to remind you of the bounty of God’s creation and of people whose lives are flavored differently than yours.

Here’s how to make your own!

First get some of this good stuff–

And set aside.

Process in food processor or blender until smooth:

  • One small onion
  • 3 tsp. Thai chili sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 TB ketchup
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 TB fish sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1.5 TB chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
Set aside.
Meanwhile, brown in large pot/pan:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 3 cups eggplant, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 green pepper, diced

Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the meat is well-browned and the pepper is starting to caramelize. Then add the curry mixture and stir until very fragrant. Add:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup green beans, snipped into pea-sized bits
  • salt & freshly ground pepper (preferably white) to taste
Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
(This is a good time to start a pot of rice to go with it.)
Just before serving, stir in:
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into slivers
{There’s no pic of the finished dish because I couldn’t seem to get a good one…maybe next time.}
UPDATE! My dearest friend/sister Sarah made this dish and sent me the picture:
Serve immediately with plain steamed rice.
Eat it with joy!