Here’s my Times Union story for June 2021. You can read it online here, or see below.
it goes along with Sesame Buckwheat Noodles With Herbs and Veggies, Cheese and Bean Pupusas with Smoky Slaw and Sugary Lemon Berries.
As always, thanks for reading!
It’s been a privilege for me to have good dads in my life and I am grateful for all of these men throughout the year, of course. But here it comes, another Father’s Day, and it’s time to celebrate, thank and cook for them on their special day once again.
The dads I honor on Father’s Day are my own dad, my husband, and my husband’s father. I applaud them for their commitment, for their support, for their love. It’s not easy, being a dad, and it’s definitely not easy being a good one. But these men were, and are, good dads in so many ways. I like to think about the times dads are dads when there isn’t another adult around, specifically, at dinnertime. Because the stories told about dads at dinnertime when no one is watching are endearing and sometimes hilarious.
I do love to hear about the food people ate when it was strictly up to the dad to decide. First, though, I’ll acknowledge that there are many dads who are the household chef, and roles now are different than in the ‘70s. But most friends tell stories of TV dinners, hot dogs, fried bologna, and even spaghetti sauce over toast every time mom was out for the night.
Growing up, my parents were divorced and I lived with my dad. He was a solid home cook, with a steady rotation of spaghetti, chili and kielbasa. He made use of boxed convenience foods and there was plenty of Shake ‘n Bake and Hamburger Helper. I asked my own children what they remember being served when I was out for the evening, and the answer was the same: sausage. Lots of sausage. The common thread among everyone I asked about the dad dinners was meat. Always, meat. Sometimes some rice, occasionally sauce (even if it was served on toast) but rarely and almost never, was it vegetables.
Years ago, I would leave food for my husband to cook up when I was going out for the evening: chicken, pasta, pieces of broccoli. They never used it, instead going for baked beans (and he convinced our children that baked beans are a vegetable) and Italian sausage. Eventually, I gave up on pushing for anything green. That is how, in our house, the Dad Dinner was born. On the menu: greasy meat, saucy, sweet beans, and most likely, ice cream for dessert. No one does it like dad.
I’ve put together a few recipes here, things that might appeal to dad, but take a little time and effort. There’s some mixing, a little chopping and more vegetables than you’d expect on a typical Dad Night dinner menu. My message to dads, and to anyone who does the off-night cooking: a little chopping goes a long way. The rest of us, we care about you. Take care of yourself, would you? Eat your veggies and yeah, feed some to the kids, too.
The recipe for buckwheat noodles is one we make often around our house. There are a few variations on what it goes with: tofu, tuna, grilled salmon or chicken. The noodles are a good change up from regular wheat pasta, as they’re made from buckwheat. Most of the buckwheat soba noodles you’ll find in the grocery store are made from wheat flour and buckwheat flour. For true buckwheat noodles, head to the Asian grocery. A traditional Japanese noodle and labeled Soba, buckwheat noodles are nutty and chewier than regular wheat noodles and pair well with sesame, vegetables and herbs. In this recipe, the veggies are cooked, just a little bit, so they’re soft and kind of slurpy like the noodles they nestle in. The savory juiciness of this dish is in tahini, which is made from ground sesame seeds. It’s slightly bitter and super creamy and you probably know it from being an essential ingredient in hummus. Here, it balances the sweet maple and citrusy lime. A break from the regular old pasta and tomato sauce side dish (though we love it so) is always welcome around our house, and this recipe delivers on being a good change. It’s good in a lunchbox, for moms, dads or kids, the next day.
Pupusas are a little project and can be super fun to make together. They are dumplings of a sort, native to El Salvador. The flour used here is made from alkaline-treated corn and finely ground, so regular old corn meal won’t work. Pupusas can be stuffed with any kind of bean, or a bit of shredded meat (think leftovers from barbeque or tacos.) If you want to make pupusas with just cheese, it will be simple, but still good. The little cake has a sweet corn taste with stretchy cheese as you bite it, and the cole slaw, which is creamy and plenty smoky, rounds out all of the important flavor factors. Pupusas are best eaten straight from the hot pan, while they’re crispy on the outside and soft throughout. There are a lot of things going on in one little food item here, and that’s probably why we love them so.
Lastly, I’ve included a simple recipe for strawberries, made into a luscious, syrupy sauce. Strawberry season is upon us, and what a glorious, joyful thing that is. At the farmer’s market, tables are filled with row after row of green cartons, overflowing with rich, red berries. I am not above buying a quart of supermarket berries in the middle of winter, mostly done for the longing of the real thing. But now, the real thing is here and boy, we should eat them up while we can. Locally produced berries have more flavor, more juice, are more red and they smell like strawberries (it’s weird but supermarket strawberries don’t have any scent.) When you’ve eaten and baked and used up every berry in every conceivable way, here’s one last recipe, for berries in a sweet and tart sauce. These lemony berries are good on cake, biscuits, oatmeal and especially good on soft and melty vanilla ice cream. They are also good, at room temperature, eaten with a spoon directly from the bowl. If you are celebrating Father’s Day, sugary lemon berries would make a fine ending to a big meal, especially one made up of meat and not a lot of vegetables (ahem, you dads know what kind of meal I’m talking about.)
I’ll end this story with a shout-out and a thank you to all the fathers out there, including my own dad and my husband. We love you and appreciate you and the good work you do for your families every day. I hope all the rest of the dads out there enjoy this special day and get to eat lots and lots of barbecued meat, sweet desserts, and a few green vegetables, too.