Thursday, June 11, 2009

Summer in the Mediterranean

For the first time in my adult life I made a meal that I conceptualized on my own and it came out good. So good in fact that I’m pretty excited to have a whole bunch of it left over so it can become lunch this week. As I have explained before I’m not much of a cook. In fact if it isn’t a recipe safely printed on paper in front of me or something I have tried at least a billion times, it is pretty likely the end result will be something so wrong even the raccoons in our dumpster won’t eat it.

Take for example what should have been lemon poppy seed cake. It tasted like lemons; the texture just happened to be, slightly off. If only I had the right sized pan it would not have turned into lemon poppy seed super bouncy ball surprise. Then there was the other meal that in a peculiar way almost kind of worked. I barely remember what was in it but I know it had corn. And something Asian because it was dubbed Kung Pow Sombrero. That is one of those memories I blocked immediately due to its ability to beget such immeasurable feelings of pain, er, I mean, nausea, to bubble up to the surface. Sorry for the visual but if you think that’s unpleasant you should have tried the meal.

Sometimes I feel as if I have turned into the Mom in Better Off Dead:
“It has raisins in it. You like raisins.”

So anytime I greet Matt with the words “Ooh, hey, I thought up this great recipe that I made for dinner.” You can understand his trepidation in shoving even one forkful into his empty belly. And that boy can put away some serious food.

But Wednesday was oh so different.

That afternoon my friend and I took a buzz through the local farmer’s market and I picked up a huge bunch of fresh dill. Now there is no way in all that is holy that two people will ever be able to go through that much dill before it goes bad so I began hatching plots for ways I could use it creatively. In everything.

As smoke rose from the empty space in my brain where normal people have an index of foods and the accoutrements that go nicely with them, I decided that cucumber might be a good start so I made some big ‘ol cubes out of about half of one.

Cucumber dill sounded somewhat ‘Summer’ to me so the next thing that popped into my head was Greek yogurt, instead of mayo, as a liquid dressing. Adding the yogurt would provide just a tiny kick of bitterness and that zippy ‘in the Mediterranean’ I was looking to add to my ‘Summer’. Not too overpowering though, luckily I only got the small container. A little lemon juice (from half of a real lemon which I bought to candy the peel -- a fun science experiment), finally, a squeeze of agave evened out the bitterness and it was oh so on.

I boiled up some elbows so I could turn this delightfully creamy goodness into a pasta salad and cooked one chicken breast with some lemon and dill as a little extra something. I never even put the chicken in mine though because I was completely satisfied with just the pasta salad. Man I love summer. I recommend eating right away because the yogurt has a tendency to dry out a smidge, but the flavor is still awesome later if you want to chill it and let it all soak in together like I did.

So then it was time to move on to that pesky lemon peel. I suppose I should back up for just a moment to say that not all of this meal went exactly according to plan. Desert kind of took a digger off the side of a 600 foot cliff in fact, which is so rare because I tend to bake much more effectively than cook. Precise measurements, blending together at predetermined intervals is just the level of structure I need to make something come out well.

Sadly I ended up with lemon graham cracker smoothie this time.

I took a recipe from Joan a few weeks back, bought the required ingredients and was so excited to make this delicious sounding lemon goodness that I even picked up a can of whipped cream and some cacao niblets to garnish the top of this yellow disc of heaven. Unfortunately I wasn’t really thinking when I decided to use soy milk instead of cow milk because that was all we had in the house. I also wasn’t thinking when I stuck with the three ounces of cream cheese instead of bumping it up to six.

Yeah, pudding is never going to set up when it has that little fat to bind it.

Watch it wiggle, see it splash out the sides just does not have the same ring to it.

Regardless of the pudding I was determined to garnish this baby. Besides, at the time of the lemon peel incident I still had no idea the pie would never set. So I commenced with creating candied peel for the first time. It sounded simple enough -- only three ingredients and a few straightforward steps. I could do that, no problem.

Whoever writes up those online recipes should really warn a person that it is necessary to constantly stir once the lemon peel goes back into the boiling sugar water or they might just end up with an entire pan full of syrupy brown goo. Oh and then also warn us that when we go to rinse that goo down the drain, even with scalding hot water, that it will instantly solidify to the bottom of the pan, causing much cursing to ensue and hours of soaking to save the pan that someone who can not cook has no business owning.

Poor pan, you only ever boil water, you’re barely broken in after 11 years. Well you earned your stripes last night. It was as if I had a car that I never drove above thirty miles an hour for two decades and then one night decided it might be fun to push her a little so I slammed the pedal down and jacked it up to 160 in 2.1 seconds.

The smoke in here was so bad I thought the alarm might go off but I kicked my own ass into high gear, opened the balcony slider and the living room window for cross ventilation then snatched the oscillating fan from the bedroom which I set up square in the middle of the kitchen. That pan continued to pump out smoke for what felt like twenty minutes.

I decided to forego giving it another try with the other lemon and instead made myself up a big bowl of the one thing I did oh so right last night. As I gobbled down the tart and sweet pasta salad I tried not to choke on sugar smoke as I enjoyed the soothing sounds of the slow turning, whirring fan. If I closed my eyes it was just like a lovely summer day.


Rosebud Collection said...

Oh had a few problems and you did give me a good laugh..
When I was first married, I made cookies and turned the broiler on instead of the oven..need I say more? I had never used an electric stove before..


...1987.?..I made an impromptu "Pineapple Soup"...that has haunted to this day!

I cannot "do" recipes. I just do.

I do admire your ambition. Be well.

Theresa said...

"...lemon poppy seed super bouncy ball surprise." Funny! Glad you were able to utilize the dill. Kudos girl! I can't cook ANYTHING.

Joan said...

Oh no! :) Things do burn a while, don't they!
I use 1 percent and it sets fine, so that won't be too unhealthy. :)It really is yummy, you will have to try again. Just don't try the lemon peel. :)
Sounds like the night ended with you feeling pretty calm. Yay for your pasta salad.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Oh no Carolyn that is hilarious but only because I have done something similar haha! OK, many things similar, I admit it lol.

Teri pineapple soup huh? Hmmm, yeah not so sure about that one either. See you just do which means you're a cook as far as I'm concerned!

Theresa I used to be the same way, luckily Matt works out of the house & gets home late so he has said many times he has no cause to complain about what I make. God love him, no matter what it is he eats it :)

Oh Joan, I was so very sad because I've been looking at the crust for days so longingly for the yumminess that was to be this pie. We are so eating it anyway tonight lol. I will not give up & will certainly try it again!

Judi FitzPatrick said...

There is no such thing as a mistake in cooking - just a learning opportunity! Thanks for the laughs.
Hugs and kisses, Mum

Bree said...

The part about the dill in everything made me laugh really hard, Jenn! I get in a mood for something and at some point in the process I remember I'm only cooking for one and there is no way in hell I'll use it all before it goes bad...this has lead to some very amusing food combinations, the majority of which I will probably never tell anyone about.

Also, HUGE points for referencing Better Off Dead; I WANT MY TWO DOLLARS!

Audrey said...

Where are the pictures? The salad sounds awesome! I'm going to look up Joan's site and find the lemon graham smoothie? That was what you called it right?

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Happy to provide some giggles Mom & Bree! Yeah I kept thinking of how she gave like 600 tv dinners as Christmas presents & how that might just be my fate lol.

Audrey if you go to Joan's site & click her sidebar link for deserts it is the Lemon Pie (I only called it the smoothie because it should have been solidified but definitely wasn't!)

Chris Stone said...

lol. i'm not much into baking deserts. and i tend to cook the same recipe several times in a row until i get it down. had to explain this to my brother... as it always seemed for a while there that i was asking him over when making veggie curry. *and his wife hates curry. lol.*

Almost Precious said...

Jenn so funny. I think all of us have some story they could tell about a cooking fiasco. I know I have volumes in my repertoire of disasters, including one where the top came off of this huge pepper shaker and dumped about a half a cup of ground black pepper into my pot of beans...was the hottest batch of beans I ever made or will ever make. Was so hot nobody could eat it, my dad, who loves things hot, tried but his forehead broke out in a sweat you wouldn't believe...I exaggerate NOT ! Think it probably even cleaned out the kitchen drain when it went down the garbage disposer ! And that's just one thing that comes to mind. ; )

Bridgete said...

Haha. Well, I'm glad your dinner experiment turned out well, even though the dessert did not.

And, just a note...I'm betting the online recipe assumed you knew the cardinal rule of candy making. Sugar burns if you don't stir it. It's automatic for me because I've been helping my mom make fudge (and later making it myself) every Christmas since I was...I don't know...6? 8? Something like that. Anyway, don't be scared off of future candy endeavors just because you burned it this time. Just remember the rule. ;)

Karen said...

Congrats on making a delicious pasta salad! Hope you'll continue to experiment. When I was first married I remember calling my MIL to ask how to bake a potato. My husband wanted gravy once, so I made some (had no idea what I was doing). It was very congealed and very pale. I didn't have any Kitchen Bouquet but I did have food coloring. I added drops of this and that to make brown and it ended up green. My husband (now my ex) and I still laugh about this and it was almost 30 years ago! LOL