Cooking with Zeke

Unfortunately I have no fabulous pictures of meals unlike the various foodie blogs I sometimes visit. But, this past Saturday was otherwise a great success in the happy homemaking category. Rainey and her sis had gone out to lunch and an early matinee of Sex and the City on the widescreen. Left with an empty (and very clean thanks to Rainey’s Friday efforts) house and an alternately fussy/happy/sleeping baby, I realized that something had been missing in my life – cooking.

Yes friends, of the two of us I am the one who would be voted “most likely to succeed as a stay at home parent.” This has more to do with my slacker mentality than it does Rainey’s domestic prowess – which is ample. Nonetheless, with Zeke in tow, a clean kitchen and bananas waxing overripe, I dug out one of my mom’s wedding gifts to us for my favorite (read, only one I’ve tried) banana bread recipe.

There’s not much to the recipe – flour, some baking powder, eggs, sugar, oil (or butter), said overripe bananas, cinnamon and some nutmeg. As I often like to say, you’re playing with a stacked deck. Even if it doesn’t bake into a perfect loaf, the right proportions of those ingredients will, without fail, taste delightful. The trick then, was managing baby Zeke. This proved to be a bit tougher than blending sugar, eggs and oil in our trusty Kitchen Aid.

To spare you the bulk of the gory details, we persevered. By a combination of singing silly songs to Zeke, listenting to him roll, laugh, then squeal for attention on the floor and, finally, one-armed batter pouring, the loaf was set to bake for “55 to 65 minutes at 350 degrees.” Approximately 55 to 65 minutes later our entire downstairs smelled of ripe bananas, nutmeg and cinnamon as the loaf cooled on a wire rack.

By this point I had tried all my tricks on the Zekester and he was starting to tire of my game. And tire in general. This is the thing about babies – two hours of growing, learning and general mischief can really wear them out. The thing about our baby, in particular, is that when he’s worn out he doesn’t think it’s in his best interest to rest. There’s learning, growing and general mischief to get into after all.

So after 30-40 minutes of shushing, comforting, cajoling and rocking, baby Zeke was down for the count and I was again faced with a blank kitchen canvas. Here I should mention that Rainey and I don’t always do a great job of using all the food we buy. Often we end up throwing away remnants of supplies that were purchased with eyes larger than stomachs. A situation we are constantly trying to remedy.

So then, the bag of potatoes sitting innocently untouched on the counter. This recipe is easy. And, allow me to say, completely of my own origin. Four white potatoes, medium size. Enough vegetable oil to fill a cast iron skillet to about 1/2″, spices to taste.

  • Heat approx 1 1/2 to 2 cups oil in a cast iron skillet
  • Slice the potatoes as thin as possible. I won’t spend the time here but to say that a very good knife (or knives) should be your first real purchase if you intend to do much cooking.
  • In a medium bowl toss your slices with a dash of vegetable oil and chosen spices. I did two potatoes with a hot curry and salt combo and two more with mesquite flavoring (cooked separately, of course)
  • Place slices in hot oil, turning once or twice, until cooked. Potatoes will be light to medium brown and will start to curl
  • Remove slices as they are finished and drain on paper towels.

That’s it. Let those puppies cool just long enough to pop one in your mouth and you may never go back to Lays again. Ok – it’s a little time intensive (and potentially messy with all that oil) to do without a dedicated fryer, but it’s great fun on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Pour the oil into a modestly priced receptacle and your skillet is left with just enough coating to bake at 450 degrees to keep seasoned.

Miraculously, Zeke stayed asleep through the whole potato affair, and Rainey and sis returned just in time to sample homemade potato chips fresh from the skillet. And ask about dinner.

Well, I did have a skillet to season, so what else might I find to bake at 450 degrees that would also suffice as an acceptable offering for dinner. Rainey’s sis being a vegetarian, we decided to go light. Some salad, blue cheese stuffed olives, and flat bread followed by the earlier sweet banana confection for desert.

The flat bread is my own recipe, modified from the breadstick recipe in my all time favorite cook book – The Vegetarian Express Lane. This particular work got me through three years of bachelor living without going the way of a super-sized Morgan Spurlock and an early heart attack from too many burgers and fries. Inexplicably, until recently this book sold used on Amazon for over $100. I briefly considered hocking mine after photocopying my staple recipes.

The beauty of this book is in its minimal number of ingredients and the expediency with which the recipes can be prepared. The recipe for breadsticks (my substitutions in brackets) follows.

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flower (sub 1 cup organic whole wheat)
  • 1 package rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Coarse salt (I used a rosemary infused Mediterranean sea salt courtesy of my spice-maven mother)
  • (5-8 calamata olives, chopped)
  • (1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped)

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees. Combine ingredients (sans salt) in a bowl, stir with a wooden spoon, adding flower if necessary. Transfer dough to a lightly flowered countertop, knead (adding flower as necessary) until mixture is smooth and not very sticky. Separate into two equal parts, use a rolling pin to flatten (about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick) and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through. Remove from oven, slice as desired and serve warm.

Oh yeah, the most important part of this recipe: allow spouse and her sis to care for Zeke while you turn on the happy homemaking charm. Good times and good eats were had by all. Let me know if you try any of these, or plan to, in the comments. Cheers.


3 Responses to “Cooking with Zeke”

  1. Rainey Says:

    I plan to try a few of these recipes…tonight. At dinner. When I eat the leftovers. YUM! :)

  2. Bookwoman Says:

    Recipe for a perfect evening from an amazing dad!

  3. Katie Says:

    I just made some potato chips following your directions–wonderful! Not quite as good as the ones you made, but pretty delicious :)

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