Posts Tagged With: date-night dinner

taco night! (and what we did with the leftovers)

Consider, if you will, the following Venn diagram:

milk does NOT go with tacos…..sorry, Mom….

Okay, so I’ve pretty much always liked tacos.

I remember getting really, really, I’m-almost-embarrassed-to-admit-it excited about trips to Taco Bell when I was in middle and high school. That stuff is like crack for teenagers.

Mexican restaurants? Like, the kind with free chips and salsa? Poor-college-kid paradise.

But let me tell you guys, the last couple of years have been a slow, delicious taco revelation.

So, without further ado, let me present to you a list.

Ahem.

Stuff I know now that I didn’t know in my Old El Paso days:

1. You can make your own tortillas.

Scratch that.

You must make your own tortillas.

Buy a big bag of masa harina (which, I learned, is a type of corn flour that’s been nixtamalized ). Mix it with water and a little salt to make dough (there are directions on the bag), form your tortillas, and toast them in a skillet until they look kinda like this:

warm, fresh, delicious

They’re impossibly easy, especially after you’ve successfully whipped up a batch or two, and once you’ve tried these rich, savory circles of toasted corn goodness, you’ll never crave a crumbly shell from a box again.

2. Ground beef is not a necessity, despite the directions on that Old El Paso package.

Use chicken, or tofu, or shrimp, or some other ground meat like pork or turkey. For our taco dinner the other night, we used medium heat pork breakfast sausage.

Yeah, I said breakfast sausage. Sounds weird, but it’s got just a little heat and spice to it that blends perfectly with smoky cumin and a mess o’ fajita-style veggies.

Heck, you could skip the meat altogether if you like and just pile your homemade tortilla down with some deliciously seasoned vegetables, and you’d be in taco heaven.

3. Wait. Veggies?

Yes, please!

I know those Old El Paso-ans suggest that the only vegetables you need for a good taco are some shredded iceberg lettuce, a little tomato, and perhaps a black olive or three.

But we like to pack our tacos with sauteed garlic, onions, and bell peppers, some roasted poblanos, creamy avocado, and roasted tomatillo salsa verde.

Not to mention a bright, beautiful handful of freshly chopped cilantro.

Tacos kinda seem like junk food, but when they’re loaded with all these garden goodies, they might even be good for you. 🙂

4. You don’t need sour cream.

Actually, Micah and I don’t even buy sour cream. Mostly because I don’t care for it, so it never gets used up before it goes bad.

But, really, sour cream is kind of a kitchen unitasker anyway. (I don’t know anyone who just eats the stuff plain.)

So if you can substitute an ingredient that serves multiple purposes and is actually good for you, why wouldn’t you?

It’s easy: any recipe that calls for sour cream will work just fine with plain Greek yogurt instead. (And plain Greek yogurt is a perfectly normal thing to eat by itself, unlike a big bowl of sour cream.)

That’s right. If you’re really craving a little bit of creamy tang on your taco, a little dollop of plain Greek yogurt will do the trick.

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I’ve shared our taco enlightenment, let me tell you about taco night.

this feast makes enough leftovers for several more taco nights, if you’re so inclined

The thing about tacos is that they’re anything but high-brow.

They’re street food, fast food, convenience food, kid food, easy food.

Tacos are what people make when they don’t feel like cooking.

But when you do feel like cooking, or when you’re whipping up a nice dinner to impress company or celebrate with friends, don’t shun the lowly taco.

If you let it, that handheld pocket of savory goodness will wow special guests, add cheer to any celebration, or even spice up a date night with your favorite person in the whole world.

What I’m suggesting here is a little more work than shells from box and a packet of seasoning mix. But it’s worth it.

This is a taco night to remember.

What’s in it (the taco filling):

  • 1 pound medium heat pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is fabulous)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle
  • salt and pepper

Step by step:

  • Brown the sausage over medium heat in a large skillet, stirring and breaking the meat up as it cooks.
  • When the sausage is done, drain off most (but not all) of the fat. Don’t throw it away–this stuff makes a great cooking fat for scrambled eggs tomorrow!
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell peppers to your skillet o’ sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Stir in the tomato, herbs, and spices, and cook for about 3-4 more minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Remember that roasted tomatillo salsa verde that I mentioned earlier? You can make it, too!

What’s in it (the salsa):

  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatillos, halved (or quartered, if they’re big)
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatillos on it in a single layer.
  • Brush the tomatillos with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes or until they look really juicy and tender and sizzly and good.
  • Let the tomatillos cool for a few minutes, then throw them into the food processor or blender with the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and cumin. Puree until your salsa as smooth as you like, then season with salt, pepper, and cayenne until it tastes amazing.

You’ve got taco filling and salsa…now what?

Serve those tasty fixins with:

  • homemade tortillas (this recipe is the same one that Micah and I use from DIY Delicious, and basically the same as what you’ll find on a bag of Maseca)
  • steamed rice (I seasoned mine with butter, salt, lime, and fresh cilantro)
  • black beans (Micah stewed ours in the pressure cooker with vegetable broth, chopped onion, garlic, and cumin)
  • roasted poblanos (brush with olive oil, bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, stick in a paper bag for 5-10 minutes, then peel, cut open, remove the seeds, and slice)
  • fresh sliced avocado
  • lots of chopped fresh cilantro
  • a little bit of grated cheese
  • lime wedges
  • Greek yogurt (or, if you must, sour cream)
  • good tequila that you can sip (not shoot) throughout the meal

And the leftovers?

That’s what omelets are for:

mmmm…….

Because taco morning is just as awesome as taco night! (Though at this point I might suggest laying off the tequila. :))

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

date night dinner – 4.7.12 – stuffed dates, beef stew over polenta, and a third wheel

Before I came along, Micah and his best friend Eric were pretty much inseparable. They played tennis and video games together, ate together, and even occasionally slept on Micah’s futon together. Purely platonic, I assure you, but these guys are close.

Eric met his wife Jinny in the summer of 2006, the same summer Micah met me, so the four of us have shared many a double date. But sometimes, one of us won’t be around to hang out, so 75% of our foursome ends up on a three-person date night.

Jinny had to work last Saturday evening, so you could say Eric was the third wheel for our date night dinner. But I’d like to counter that when Micah and Eric get together, their bromance wields a power so strong that I am most definitely the spare somebody in the room. And this doesn’t hurt my feelings at all, because who am I to stand in the way of true love? 🙂

Plus, the meal we were planning for that particular dinner was going to make plenty more than we could eat anyway, so why not share the bounty with a good friend?

sweet, salty, smoky, crunchy, yummy

Our pre-dinner snackie: celery and manchego stuffed dates, inspired by a dish at one of our favorite fancy restaurants, The National. We can’t really afford to eat at this upscale eatery as often as we’d like, but when I found some nice looking dates at Daily Groceries, and then we spotted some manchego in the cheese case at Shiraz last weekend, we knew we had to try to replicate our favorite National appetizer.

What’s in it:

  • 8 pitted dates
  • about 1.5-2 ounces. aged manchego cheese (you could sub sharp white cheddar with good results)
  • 1 small stalk of celery
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • smoked paprika, salt, and pepper for sprinkling

Step-by-step:

  • Slice the dates almost in half lengthwise so that they’re still attached on one side (kind of like you would a hoagie roll for a submarine sandwich).
  • Cut the cheese into 8 sticks that are about the same length as your dates and about 1/4″ thick.
  • Cut the celery into 8 sticks about the same size as the cheese.
  • Stuff each date with a piece of celery and a piece of cheese.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with smoked paprika (a little goes a long way), salt, and black pepper.

Our taste buds suitably tickled, it was time for the main event: a beef, carrot, and sweet potato stew that had simmered all afternoon, served over creamy polenta:

Warm and hearty, perfect for sharing with the one you love (and his best friend).

This was one of those magic one-dish concoctions where I winged it and hoped for the best, and it didn’t suck. In fact, it was pretty freaking amazing, maybe even better as leftovers for lunch later in the week.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound beef stew meat (you could probably also use this recipe to make a delicious pot roast or short ribs)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • zest from one lemon, one lime, and one orange
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Generously season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown on all sides. Remove to a bowl or plate.
  • Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and saute until translucent and lightly browned.
  • Return the beef  to the pot (plus any delicious juices that might have dripped from it). Immediately add the red wine and stir to scrape up any brown bits.
  • Add everything else! Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • At this point, you could simmer the stew on the stove at low heat OR stick it in a 300°F oven for several hours until the beef and veggies are tender.
  • We wanted our stew to be thicker than this turned out, so Micah used a slotted spoon to scoop the meat and vegetables into a covered serving dish, left the cooking liquid in the Dutch oven, and reduced the sauce until it was nice and thick, more like a gravy. Then we stirred it back into the dish of meat and veggies.
  • Serve over your favorite starch–polenta, grits, rice, mashed potatoes, pasta, gnocchi….gotta love those carbs!–and top with some chopped fresh cilantro.
  • Enjoy with the rest of that bottle of red wine!

This will come out seasoned kind of like a good pot of chili, dark and smoky from the chipotle and coffee and cocoa, but brightened up by the tomatoes and citrus zest. The beef was falling-apart-moist and juicy, and the carrots and sweet potatoes were sweet and tender.

Next time you end up being the third wheel, share a meal like this with the sweethearts and I guarantee you’ll all be feeling the love. 🙂

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date night dinner – 3.30.12 – steak ‘n’ taters

The weather here in Georgia has been unseasonably warm lately.

It’s been dang hot! Like, mid-80s in early March hot. Shorts and flip-flops hot. Summer hot. (Except that now, summer will probably be keep-your-babies-and-elderly-indoors-for-the-love-of-God hot.)

Hot weather makes me want to do several things:

  • Shave my legs (which Micah can tell you I’m not so diligent about in the winter)
  • Sip mojitos (but, of course, we have no rum or mint or limes in the house…)
  • Eat dinner outside (because the AC is on in here, and that makes me cold!)

Hot weather also makes Micah want to do several things:

  • Turn on the AC and complain about how hot it is
  • Drink beer (though he’s pretty good at that one year-round)
  • GRILL

Yep. I married a sweet, sensitive musician type, but he’s definitely a manly man at heart. When we started discussing what protein from the freezer we might want to defrost for date night, his first statement+question was: “I wanna grill something. Steak or pork chops?”

I let him pick, and he chose the steaks. Two big, beautiful 1-pound T-bone steaks from our pals at Moonshine Meats. They’d been in the freezer for a little while because we generally don’t eat steak very often, so when several packs of them come in our CSA box, it usually takes us a few months to get through them all.

These steaks were real purty. Nice T-bone shape, intense blood-red color, thick strip of white fat around the edges (which I don’t eat, but it does seem to make the surrounding meat nice and juicy, so I don’t usually trim it until after it’s cooked).

Then there was the smell. I haven’t gone around sniffing raw beef all my life, and honestly, I never noticed my ground chuck or rib-eye ever having much of a odor (which I guess I’ve always taken as a good sign). But somehow, all the beef and pork that we get from Moonshine Meats has this intoxicatingly gorgeous aroma. It smells…well, meaty. A touch grassy, too, like you can smell the farm where that cow or pig lazily grazed before becoming your dinner. And when you eat this stuff, that meaty, grassy, farmy scent becomes a meaty, grassy, farmy taste, too. It’s a magical experience.

I didn’t mean for this blog post to be an unpaid advertisement for Moonshine Meats, but it’s hard not to gush.

Anyway, that mouth-watering steak scent burst from the vacuum-sealed package as soon as Micah slit it open last night.

And then…

We checked the hourly forecast, and it called for rain.

Not grilling weather.

Poor Micah.

Undaunted, he decided to bring the party inside and pan-sear those shapely T-bones in a big cast-iron skillet.

(If you ever do this, by the way, please flip on the vent hood above your stove, turn on your ceiling fans, and open all your windows and exterior doors before those steaks hit the smoking-hot pan. Because those suckers are going to smoke. A lot. And while this magical Maillard reaction creates a satisfyingly crunchy, caramelized char on the outside of your steak, it also makes your house as hazy as the inside of a hookah den.)

Meanwhile, I whipped up a couple of sides: mashed potatoes (because steak ‘n’ taters is one of those classic combinations that’s hard to beat, and I had some milk and a bit of Gruyere that needed using), plus some balsamic-glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts (because even in a meat-and-potatoes meal, I like to enjoy some veggies, too).

A stick-to-your-ribs steak-'n'-taters feast.

You’ll see that, with the exception of salt and pepper, our recipes all call for five or fewer ingredients. No fancy cooking techniques, either. And no disasters! In fact, except for the lung-smothering smoke that filled our kitchen, this was one of the most stress-free date-night dinners we’ve cooked in a while.

What’s in it:

  • Steaks (adapted from Bobby Flay):
    • Two T-bone steaks
    • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
    • Salt and pepper
  • Taters:
    • 2 pounds potatoes
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • Shredded Gruyere (we only had 1 ounce, but would’ve added more if we’d had it)
    • Salt and pepper
  • Veggies (adapted from Epicurious.com):
    • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
    • 1/2 pound carrots
    • 1/4 small red onion
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • Salt and pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Start with the steaks: Remove your steaks from their packaging and let them warm up to room temperature while you are prepping the vegetables. Why? ‘Cause Bobby Flay says so.

* * * * *

  • Turn your attention to the taters: Cut your potatoes into small cubes. They don’t have to be beautiful since you’re going to mash them, but small, evenly-sized pieces will cook more quickly and evenly. (Also, I leave the peels on my taters because I like them.)
  • Dump the potatoes into a big-ish saucepan. Pour in the milk. If the liquid level is low, add water until it’s about even with the top layer of potatoes, and then add a good sprinkle of salt.
  • Heat this pan on a back burner on medium heat until it’s almost boiling. (Don’t let it boil unless you want to curdle your milk!) Reduce to a low simmer and let the potatoes cook while you’re working on everything else. (Ours were done in about 20-30 minutes.)

* * * * *

  • Now, start the veggies: Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on low heat for your veggies.
  • Slice your carrots and cut your Brussels sprouts. For a normal-sized Brussels sprout, this will probably be halved or quartered. Ours were crazy-huge end-of-season behemoths, so we cut them into eighths.
  • Finely chop your onion. Add it to the butter in the skillet and turn the heat up to medium.
  • When the onion is translucent, add the carrots and Brussels sprouts. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until they get some color on them.
  • Add 1/3 cup water to the skillet of veggies, cover, reduce to medium-low, and let cook for about 10 minutes.

* * * * *

  • Steak time! While the veggies cook, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in another large skillet on high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season them with plenty of salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Your skillet will start smoking. When it does, add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium-high. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side if you like your steaks medium rare like we do. (If you like your steak more done than this, move it to a 450ºF oven for a few more minutes afterwards. But I’m telling you, you’re missing out!)
  • Remove the finished steaks to a plate and cover with foil. They’ll rest for about 10 minutes while you finish up the taters and veggies.

* * * * *

  • Veggies: Remove the cover from your skillet of veggies, turn the heat back up to medium, and add the balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables look glazed and shiny. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Taters: Take the pot off the heat. Mash the taters in the milk with one of these:

'Cause I prefer my taters
smashed 'n' chunky.
(image from overstock.com)

  • Add two tablespoons butter and the shredded cheese to your mashed potatoes and stir until they’re all melted in. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Put it all on a plate and eat! (We enjoyed all of this with a bottle of Chianti. Mmm.)

While my body is still fatigued from our school’s spring book fair, and while my lungs are still recovering from a pollen-filled week and our smoke-filled kitchen, my taste-buds and belly were completely pleased with this delicious meal.

One note about portions: this dinner procedure resulted in 2 giant steaks, 3-4 servings of veggies, and 6 good-sized heaps of mashed potatoes. So you may want to take that into account if you try this out–unless you like random leftover veggies as much as we do. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

date-night dinner – 3.11.12 – a series of unfortunate events

It all started harmlessly enough.

“Let’s defrost that salmon. It’s been in the freezer a while,” suggested Micah. I love seafood, but although wild-caught salmon is one of the healthiest proteins you can eat, it’s not something we can afford to buy all the time. We’d ordered this particular salmon fillet through our amazing online farmer’s market, Athens Locally Grown (though it was actually caught by a dude in Alaska named Doug), and it really was on the verge of earning a loitering citation from the freezer police.

Plus, it was date night. Usually, Friday night is date night, and we cook a fancier-than-on-weeknights meal (or sometimes eat out), splurge on some wine (since I rarely imbibe during the school week), and catch a movie or visit a local late-night spot for music and drinks. That Friday, we’d gone to a local Mexican joint for dinner with Micah’s family, and that Saturday, we’d somehow managed to visit the second location of the very same local Mexican joint for dinner with my family. So Sunday became date night, which worked just fine for me since I’m on spring break this week. And for date night, we needed something delicious.

Back to that beautiful, pink hunk of fish. Originally, we thought we might try a salmon recipe from one of our very favorite cookbooks, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South:

image from indiebound.com

The author of this fantastic cookbook is one of our neighbors, his kids attend my school, and his restaurants are some of my favorites I’ve ever visited, ever. We knew this recipe for salmon with marinated vegetables would be scrumptious…if we ‘d had the right ingredients. Which we didn’t. Not even any passable substitutes. So, we did what I pretty much always do when following a recipe won’t work. We improvised.

What we DID have in the fridge: parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, a LOT of carrots, a bag of clementines.

We decided to sear the salmon per Hugh’s instructions and make the lemony salmoriglio sauce from the book (subbing clementine zest for the lemon, ’cause that’s what we had).

But, instead of marinating all those vegetables we didn’t have, we were going to roast and mash the parsnips (which we’d never cooked before), saute the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms in some olive oil, and enjoy all those yummy, earthy flavors with a nice Pinot Noir.

Finally, since date-night dinners often involve dessert, I decided to thin out the overabundant carrot population of our produce bin by grating some of those Vitamin A-bombs into a cake and frosting it with something clementine-y.

Simple enough, right? Meat and two simply-prepared veggies, cake with frosting. Except, somehow, (almost) everything went horribly wrong.

Micah worked on the sauce and chopped parsnips for roasting while I started on carrot cake (which I very loosely based on this recipe). Thinking that it would cook more quickly (and be cuter) as cupcakes, I split my batter into muffin cups and put that pan in the oven so I could start on the frosting.

Cream cheese frosting is the perfect match for carrot cake, but alas, we didn’t have cream cheese (and rarely do). But these folks suggested making a similarly tangy-sweet confection from Greek yogurt, which we always keep around. So I loaded the bowl of my stand mixer with Greek yogurt, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and some clementine zest. My frosting was coming together nicely and turning a lovely shade of orange, but it was still a little thin, so I added some more powdered sugar. Instead of making my icing thicker, though, this somehow made it thinner, more like a glaze. It was much too flimsy to spread on cupcakes (why hadn’t I just made a cake, anyway?), so I decided to reduce it a little. Gotta think on your feet when you’re improvising, right?

I got my Greek yogurt frosting/glaze thickened to a spreadable consistency around the time that my cupcakes were ready to pull from the oven. They were beautiful and smelled delicious. But (why is there always a but?), as soon as I tried to get one out of the pan, I could tell they weren’t done yet. Back into the pan, back into the oven. The tops of the cupcakes, once pretty little rounded mounds, fell and wrinkled. At least I could cover them with frosting, and at least (I hoped) they would taste good.

Ten minutes later, those cupcakes were still raw in the middle. “I’m giving these stupid things five more minutes, and then I’m calling it,” I grumped at Micah, and he agreed that this was probably a good idea. Five minutes later…well, they weren’t done, and I muttered some words that aren’t so polite.

In a hangry (hungry + angry) rage, I scooped all those ugly, smooshy cupcakes into a pie pan, mashed them together with some of my gooey clementine stuff to hopefully keep the resulting dessert from being too dry, and stuffed that on-the-fly mess of a cake back into the oven for the fourth and final time.

Meanwhile, we checked the parsnips, which theoretically were roasting in the other oven. Except that instead of becoming crispy-edged, soft-centered, caramelized nuggets of sweet-and-starchy goodness like any respectable roasted vegetable, these babies dried out and shriveled up like a chain-smoking grandma. Still hangry, I scraped those dessicated veggie bits into a saucepan on the back burner, dumped in some milk to rehydrate them, and started them a-simmering.

Now that the cake and parsnip disasters were as averted as we could hope for, it was time to turn our attention to our salmon, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. Micah had gotten everything cut and ready while I was battling the cake, thank goodness.

Micah was in charge of the fish because, well, meat is usually his job. He oiled up our biggest skillet and started heating it to sear the fillets. Those poor slabs of fish were goners as soon as they hit that hot pan. Despite Micah’s best efforts, they stuck. Bad. Turning them a few minutes later proved to be nearly impossible, and the second side stuck, too. This salmon might turn out to be delicious (please, oh, please! let it be delicious!), but it was ugly as sin.

While Micah fought with that sticky fish, I pulled my cake-like-concoction out of the oven, discovered it had miraculously not stuck to my pie pan, but was a bit concerned when it turned out onto the plate in one big, rubbery disc. I crossed my fingers that smearing it with the rest of the clementine frosting might be enough to make it edible, then turned my attention to the vegetables.

The parsnips had undergone an impressive transformation, swelling with milky tenderness, and I tackled them with my hand blender, bent on making this part of dinner not a disaster. One press of the “blend” button sent scalding hot milk and parsnip bits onto my forearm, which immediately reddened (and hurt like hell). More choice words. A big splash of cold milk into the pot. Another push of the button, and this time no mashed veggie shrapnel–just the smooth whir of blender blades as those stubborn parsnips finally accepted their fate. But, since they were now cold, I put them back on the back burner to reheat, and I crossed my tired fingers.

One side dish down, one to go. We heated some olive oil in a skillet and added the Brussels sprouts. They made a delightful sizzle when they hit the hot oil, and we sauteed them with their cut sides down to get those little baby cabbages nice and brown. Mushrooms were added, everything turned a beautiful color, salt and pepper were sprinkled, and this pan of veggies was done. Yep, sprouts-‘n’ shrooms, you guys got one measly little paragraph of this tale because you were kind enough to cooperate.

Time to cross our fingers and plate. Stubborn mashed parsnips, then scarred salmon, then those obliging Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, finally a big drizzle of lemony sauce:

Prettier than we expected, but we still hadn’t tasted it. If this dinner sucked, we had endured two hours of pain and suffering for nothing. It might be enough to make me cry.

Micah lit some candles, poured the wine, and tried for all the world to act like we hadn’t just suffered through kitchen hell. We carefully filled our forks with a little bit of everything and took a bite. Chewing thoughtfully, Micah raised an eyebrow at me. Swallowing just as thoughtfully, he raised his glass. “Good dinner,” he said.

I had to agree. It was good. The salmon was rich and fatty, as it should be. The veggies were earthy and rustic, as planned. The citrusy salmoriglio sauce brightened every bite. The Pinot was not a perfect match, but it definitely worked.

We ate every bite on our plates, drank up every drop from our glasses.

It was time for dessert. I spread the frosting on the cake, then cut it into wedges and prayed for a miracle.

It was okay. The texture of the cake was weird and dense and chewy, and the frosting was perhaps a tad too sweet. Still, the flavors were delicious. Not a total failure, but certainly not a success.

Sometimes, I feel really confident as a cook. A meal will come together exactly as planned, we’ll groan in pleasure with every bite, and we’ll leave the table pleasantly full and still musing on just how damn good that meal just was. Then, there are nights like this one, when I’m not sure if I’m cooking or fighting to the death in the Hunger Games. But ultimately, despite all the drama, this story was less tragedy and more comedy of errors, with everything (sort of) working out.

In the end, nights like this remind me that I’ve still got a lot to learn in the kitchen. That’s probably a good thing. 🙂

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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