The Dinner Project: Week 10
March 23, 2011
The season of barbecuing is upon us here in the south and believe me, I still can’t believe it. It’s March for pete’s sake! MARCH. Where I come from (Michigan) and where I lived for four years (Minneapolis), you’ve still got another month or so until you can really allow the idea of comfortably cooking outside to fully enter your thought spectrum. In fact, until a few weeks ago I didn’t even realize that winter was actually over. Like for real over. Not cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t snow the first week of May, kind of over. And I mean no offense to the upper midwest, no offense at all because spring, summer and fall in that part of the country is simply gorgeous, it’s just that in my four years of living in Minneapolis, I learned that I am really not so hardcore when it comes to winter.
I used to think I was pretty hardcore. When I was in high school I had a subscription to Outside and Backpacker magazine and I’d adorn the walls of my bedroom with cut out pictures of downhill skiers trying to outrun an avalanche or rock climbers hanging off the side of a precipice with nothing but nothing for a million feet underneath them. There were pictures of tents pitched on icy tundras in Iceland, mountain bikers racing through the Arizona desert, climbers in all their gear atop Mount Everest. This life of reckless adventure looked so exciting to me from the comfort of my basement bedroom in Ann Arbor and I was certain that I was just like these people, even though my knowledge of the outdoors did not exceed that of canoeing down the Huron River.
And then when I was 22 years old, freshly graduated from college with absolutely no clue what to do with my life, along with the man I am now married to but at that point had only known for a mere six months, we packed our stuff and moved to Boulder, Colorado. Suddenly I was in the midst of it all, surrounded by the mountains I’d always dreamed of and everywhere I looked there were rock climbers and mountain bikers and people training for the Olympics, not to mention the “average” Boulderite who trained with pretty much the same intensity as that of an Olympian. There is no off-switch in Boulder, I soon came to understand. It is all or nothing, always.
In a funny serendipitous sort of way, I ended up working with a bunch of people whose boyfriends and friends were the people I’d spent years reading about in Outside. They were the dudes or super ripped women on the covers of the magazine, hanging off a cliff with maybe a rope or two if they were feeling a little insecure about their safety that day. After meeting some of these people and hearing story after story of their adventures, it dawned on me that you have to be a little bit crazy to do the sorts of things they’d do, and that I might not have that specific type of crazy in me.
I remember one guy whose arm was in a sling, his knee completely obliterated and more than a few dozen stitches adorning the rest of his body, telling me that he ended up this way because he was trying to set a new record for free-climbing the Flatirons. If you’ve never seen the Flatirons, they are these huge beautiful rock formations that jut out of the earth and have long since been a symbol of Boulder, as well as any rock climber who wants to prove themselves to their peers. So the challenge was to start in Chautauqua Park, run the few miles up the steep trail that leads to the base of the Flatirons, climb up the gigantic rock without any ropes, climb back down and then race as fast as you can to the bottom of the trail. Mind you, this is not an official race or anything, it’s really just all about bragging rights. So this guy decided to do it one day and almost finished the whole thing until he tripped over a root running at full speed and tumbled head first down the trail, hence the multitude of injuries. As much as I wanted to be cool and nonchalant about it all, like everyone else was being, I probably reacted somewhere along the lines of, “What the hell? You did what?! You know that’s completely crazy, right?”
As the years have progressed, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I am not an adventure seeker extreme sport type, I’m more of a cross-country skiing as opposed to downhill type of girl. I like a nice bike ride, a good hike, especially if it involves a picnic with wine and cheese. And when it comes to winter, I’ve discovered that it suits me quite well to live in a place where two inches of snow shuts the city down. I find it rather charming. I get just enough of the cold and snow where it feels like a special occasion to wear my Sorels, and then before I know it, just as the charm of being warm and cozy starts to wear off, it’s barbecue season. Seriously, it happens as quickly as that, I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it. And if Sunday’s barbecue (below) is any sign of what’s to come, well, let’s just say you might be hearing me say y’all sooner than you think.
Monday, March 14 – Red lentil dal with brown rice
Tuesday, March 15 – Sauted garlic, green onions, garbanzo beans & brown rice topped with sour cream & sriracha (I’ve discovered that a little sour cream and sriracha makes what could be a super boring meal turn into something I’d actually deliberately make again)
Wednesday, March 16 – Multigrain Wasa crackers (those swedish ones with packaging from the 80s that hasn’t changed since) & roasted red pepper hummus eaten while driving to a friends house
Thursday, March 17 – St. Patty’s Day! Homemade Shepards Pie (my first time making it….yum) and as I always do on St. Patty’s, I made a loaf of the Manney Family Irish Soda Bread. We discovered our oven is slightly tilted when half the batter for the bread started spilling over the side of the loaf pan and into the bottom of the oven. It might not have been the prettiest loaf of bread ever, but it tasted just as I remembered.
Friday, March 18 – We went to the monthly wine & shopping night at the Nashville Farmers Market which was a really fun event. We came home with some pulled chicken & kale, cooked it up with some onions, warmed up some corn tortillas, topped ’em with chipotle salsa and ten minutes later had the most delicious dinner ever (photo above)
Saturday, March 19 – Impromptu BBQ at Austin’s: Burgers
Sunday, March 20 – BBQ at Amy & Brandon’s! Hands down the best meal I’ve had since we moved here, it brought back so many memories of our gourmet BBQs in Minneapolis. I made Potato Salad with Bacon, Rosemary & Lemon (I don’t know why, but I really love making potato salad…and this is a really good one); Jill made the best homemade bread I’ve had in a long time, which she gave me the recipe for and I’ll be making soon and posting here, she also made bacon wrapped figs minus the toothpicks to hold them together so they ended up making a great topping for the bread; Amy made sauted kale from the farm with a little honey added to it which is now my new standard for cooking kale; there was a simple salad of lettuce that Brandon had just picked minutes before at the farm; oh, and not to mention goat from Peaceful Pastures, pork chops & steak that were all cooked to perfection. I will be dreaming about this meal for a long time.