Sunday, June 10, 2007

Short-Brained, Shortcake

Cooking has not really been my strong point lately. The end-of-school-year craziness - which I somehow manage to repress from my memory, so that each year it is a fresh unpleasant surprise - saps my desire to do much but plonk myself down at the end of the day and stare, glassy-eyed, at the long, long list of chores that need to be completed. And that I don’t really want to do. Making dinner starts to feel like a chore, too. And I've been tired enough that I've botched things more than usual (like the eggplant that fell victim to the family broiler curse). As an aside: I have a saaaad life. Poooooor me. Boo. Hoo.

Right, then. Friday, "cooking" was really more a matter of assembly. With a green salad, and the baguette purchased at the farmer’s market, I was able to open some cans, jars and the like and serve up a dinner that was pretty appealing. Okay, the chickpea salad was a little dull, but sometimes... dull isn't so bad.

For all that I’ve been struggling to muster an interest in weeknight dinners, I've still been enjoying getting it together (as much as I get it together) for family dinners on weekends. It’s nice, even when I’m tired and crabby (which is more often than I’d like to admit), to have all four of us sit down and eat together. Even when we are all a bit crabby, we seem to settle down.

Over the last year, the kids have learned to be polite about the dinners that I botch (fish baked with smoked paprika and lemon? not super-kid-friendly, it turns out, although still pretty tasty), and they try to help out here and there. They set the table, they shell peas, they snap the woody ends off asparagus (and half the rest of the spear, but you shouldn't ask a 5-year-old to help and then get ticked that the results aren't perfection). They've gotten to the point where they suggest menus. Vegetables are notably absent from their menu suggestions. Unless you're counting potatoes. I'm not.

Last night, I made chicken involtini with pancetta, sage and rosemary inside. I described them to the kids as chicken and bacon roll-ups, which is true, if not as sophisticated-sounding as involtini di pollo e pancetta. To a child, a chicken and bacon roll-up sounds better. They could give a crap that I can say it in Italian. I made patate di peppe from our sicilian cookbook (although, truthfully, we make these so often that we have our own way of doing it, and it's not the recipe in the book any more... but we still call them patate di peppe), a little asparagus, and we were all set. The kids were only required to have a fig-leaf taste of asparagus, and they cooperated, because they knew what was next.

The true purpose of dinner came a little after: strawberry shortcake.

There is no picture of the shortcake. Of anyone's shortcake. The below is the best I could do.

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