The Dinner Project: Week 11
March 30, 2011
Oh man, I don’t know what happened but last week I was not into cooking. Not at all. I mean, on Wednesday I ate a bowl of yogurt with oats and raisins while watching season 2 of The Wire, and just mixing those three things together in a bowl felt like too much work. And I don’t think I was even the one to do the mixing, I’m pretty sure Drew took care of that meal. But there were high points, like the shrimp scampi on Friday night and red lentil coconut curry soup that we ate twice, well, four times really with leftovers for lunch. I’m a sucker for anything coconut. The chicken we made on Sunday night was tasty but after having pulled chicken last week from what I later found out is one of the best barbecue places in town, it didn’t quite cut it. I’m starting to get picky, but I can’t help it because there’s so much good food in the South and even though a lot of it seems simple, I’m finding that its simplicity is rather deceiving.
For instance, take the buttermilk biscuits I made last week. They were good, but I certainly wouldn’t serve them to any real southerners. For one, I didn’t have any cake flour on hand so I substituted it with all-purpose which I’m pretty sure is not acceptable if you’re going for a light flaky biscuit. I mean, I’m the first to admit that I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to baking, but I’d think having the correct type of flour would be a tiny bit important in a recipe with only a handful of ingredients. And secondly, I hear you’re supposed to sift the flour and I don’t even own a sifter. To be honest, I thought sifting was one of those things that didn’t really matter, I’d always skip that step when I’d bake growing up and now I wonder if perhaps that was part of my disappointment in the final product. I really should try to follow directions a bit better.
So I’m ready to take it up a notch. Just yesterday I was at my friend Jenny’s house for lunch and she made the most incredible black beans in a tahini lime juice sauce and it was then that I realized it’s high time I move out of my cooking comfort zone. Never in a million years would I think to combine black beans and tahini and I want my brain to be more of the culinary risk-taking type. Luckily, starting tomorrow, Jenny is hosting a twice monthly potluck with a handful of chef friends and simple foodies like me, so I’ll have the opportunity to try new recipes and be inspired by what other people are doing. And, the beauty of a potluck is that I get to focus on making a side dish instead of a whole meal, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about my cooking self over the years, it’s that I love a good side dish. It’s the accessory to a meal, like a nice scarf or a simple leather handbag, sometimes you might be in the mood for something a bit fancy and other times the simpler the better.
Although now my definition of simple is starting to change because before I moved to the South I would never have believed that collard greens could melt in your mouth or that grits could be so subtly sophisticated. They are simple foods, yes, but especially with collard greens, something magical happens when you stew them in a pot for hours on end rather than trying to get away with cooking them in the shortest amount of time possible. It’s that type of simplicity that I’m aiming for, the type that requires a little more patience in the kitchen and, I would guess, in life in general. If I learned anything from my baking escapade last week, it’s that people down here have been making buttermilk biscuits for years, and I, on the other hand, have made them once, with the wrong flour. So here’s to taking a few more culinary risks and being okay with whatever the results may be. And, probably, to reading the directions first and making sure I have all the ingredients. Baking 101.
Monday, March 21 – Red lentil coconut curry soup & roasted satay spiced sweet potatoes
Tuesday, March 22 – Sauted green onions, garlic, garbanzo beans & parsely with a dollop of plain yogurt & sriracha
Wednesday, March 23 – A bowl of yogurt, oats & raisins (this was not a high point of the dinner project)
Thursday, March 24 – Same exact meal as Monday because it was that good. That red lentil soup is my new favorite.
Friday, March 25 – Shrimp scampi (5 stars, and then some)
Saturday, March 26 – We split a reuben & a chicken portobello sandwich from Mitchell Deli. They were both really tasty but I think from now on I’ll let my reuben cravings be fulfilled by Zingermans.
Sunday, March 27 – Soft corn tortillas filled with sauted red peppers, onions & chicken marinated in cumin, adobo spice & lime; topped with sour cream & chipotle salsa…yum.