Friday, September 6, 2013

Two Items for Too-Busy Weeknight Meals


The Fall semester has begun in earnest.  I have three different courses I am teaching while the deadline looms—too closely—for scholarly research work and developing an online course.  Cook dinner?  Who, me?  Eat?

This week, I found saving grace in two items from the fridge that I knew would come in handy some day.  A few weeks ago, I found a new frozen pizza that Will and I promptly fell in love with.  Its brand name is “Mandia,” but I can find very little about this Naples, Italy company.  They have Portobello Potato, Eggplant Buffalo Mozzarella, Garlic and Cheese, and various roasted vegetable pizzas as well.  We had already tried two pizzas, and Wednesday marked our third variety: the traditional Margherita. 

I noticed that it didn’t have basil—which I think of as indispensable to a traditional Margherita—but it had cherry tomatoes that looked good.  I figured, why not?  After all, we always have fresh basil around, and it would be more appetizing to add fresh basil after the baking than actually to cook basil.  Will and I usually drizzle (need I add, “Extra Virgin”?) olive oil over slices of pizza to enhance its flavor.  The crust on this pizza is fabulous, like a good French baguette or Italian bread. Thin in the middle, slightly puffed and still crusty on the ends.


I would serve the pizza with a small side salad.  In addition though, some roasted mini sweet peppers came in handy.  As I mentioned in my post about Spanish tapas, we were tremendously impressed with the flavor of pimientos de padron—those mild tiny green peppers.  I looked all over my grocery stores for those, but sadly came up empty.  I did find, however, a bag of assorted mini sweet peppers which I remember seeing—and purchasing—before. 

To roast peppers shown in the photo at the top of this post: 
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, drizzle and heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and then throw in the washed and dried peppers.  Slowly let them roast until they are somewhat soft and starting to blister open in parts.  (You can roast them in an oven as well, but I thought the pan-roasting was quicker and just as tasty in the case of mini peppers.)  Take them off the heat and then sprinkle with some sea salt.  Try to use salt flakes or crystals such that you can still see them at the table.  Will declared that these peppers were just as good as the green peppers we had in Spain.  I cannot remember well enough to argue with him, and I quite enjoyed these.

Simple preparation of first-rate ingredients is something I have come to really appreciate during these mid-week dinners when we are both exhausted from the day’s work.  Something that takes all the cooking pressure off of us (like baking a frozen pizza and then throwing on some fresh herbs) or roasting a single ingredient in the best olive oil and then seasoning them with the best sea salt (in the case of the roasted peppers) allows us to continue eating well even when we have no energy to cook creatively.


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