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.