Before I left on vacation, I meant to write a few posts and have them auto-publish. I didn’t quite manage to make it happen. Then, I thought I would post something while I was gone. Um, no. I also packed hazelnuts and flour to make my cake for the Daring Bakers, which also didn’t happen. But, I had a day and a half in Atlanta before the posting deadline, and my roommate’s boyfriend had a birthday, so I was sure I could and would pull off the cake. Enter, the flu. Needless to say, I didn’t bake anything for my roommate’s boyfriend’s birthday. So, it has been a couple of weeks without a post, and a month without Daring Bakers, which is sad. I wish I could say that this delinquent behavior is behind me. But I have my oral exams for my PhD rapidly approaching, and as a result I have been having trouble sleeping, which means that I have had trouble functioning, which means that I’m looking at a very rough month and a half. So, I will try to get some posts up, but it might be more like once a week. Think good thoughts for me. I will need them.

So, where were we, I believe we had just finished the fish course of my five course Italian dinner. Next up, was a meat course, in this case, lamb. We bought a beautiful piece of lamb tenderloin from Star Provisions and cut it into pieces and then batted those pieces into thin strips. We then coated the lamb with a flavorful rub, threaded our skewers, and threw these on the grill. They were amazingly good, and also pretty easy once the lamb was batted (beaten into thin sheets).

Recipe after the Jump

I know my posting has been a little erratic of late, but I have lots of posts on the back burner, so bear with me, they’ll get here soon.

Tonight I have an easy recipe to share with you. I’m always looking for weeknight dinner recipes that I can pull together largely from the contents of my pantry. I’m not really the queen of meal planning, largely because I so often give into cravings. But I don’t like grocery shopping every day either. This meal was delicious, and fairly easy. The original recipe called for beef and some vegetables that I didn’t have on hand, but a few substitutions left me with a dinner I would happily repeat.

Recipe After the Jump

Nothing gets this girl as excited as the words “pig roast” or “pulled pork.” I think I could live without chicken, and maybe even beef, but not pig. I love me my pig. So last weekend, I went with a friend to a pig roast. I imagined heaping platters of all you could eat pork, unfortunately, there was nothing “all you can eat” about this roast. Still, we happily licked our platters clean and moved on to the drinking portion of the evening. Until midnight rolled around and I exclaimed, “I want more pig.” We didn’t actually satisfy that craving on the spot, but the next day, still craving some good southern comfort food, I proceeded to make pulled pork. I don’t have a smoker, so I made my pork in the slow cooker. It still tasted great, and while it lacked a little smoky flavor, I will definitely make this again (though I’m curious what the effect of some liquid smoke might be). I also made the Gluten-Free girl’s arepas, and the combination was spectacular. So if you are craving some pork-y goodness, give this recipe a try.

Recipe after the Jump

Today I was trying to have a perfect day. I slept in, I spent a little time this morning relaxing on my deck and watching my garden grow. Then I read for a couple of hours, biked to the coffee shop, and read for a couple more hours, before allowing myself to venture out on a shopping mission. I explored a new (to me) bike route from Decatur to Little Five Points, bought my baby sister a birthday present, and biked home. Soaring along alone on my bike, I felt perfectly happy, and I was convinced the day was only going to get better.

After all, I was planning on seeing Casablanca at the Fox theater tonight. I’ve never been to the Fox, and Casablanca on the big screen in an old school theater sounded amazing. Unfortunately, life intervened in the form of unexpected and unwarranted ugliness, and before I knew it I was canceling on the movie and wallowing on my couch. But that isn’t really where I want to be, or how I want to feel. So I’m choosing to let go and move on. While it is too late to catch the movie, it isn’t too late to stop wallowing.

But before I get off my couch, I’m going to leave you with a recipe, or two. I made this dinner last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. The margarita shrimp taste perfectly summery and pair beautifully with the coconut rice. I found that I liked the rice best with both raw coconut and toasted coconut mixed in and spring onions sprinkled on top, but it is also good plain.

Recipes after the jump

tibs wett

I wish I could start this post with Maureen’s drawing of the North Pole, which she made last night left-handed, blind-folded and probably a little tipsy. It looked like a shrimp wearing a cowboy hat (the hat was apparently an igloo). I laughed so hard I cried, but unfortunately, the dry-erase board has since been wiped clean and nothing remains of the drawing. So sad. But back to the food, I have been seriously enjoying Marcus Samuelsson’s The Soul of a New Cuisine lately. The book is crammed full of beautiful pictures of Africa and intriguing recipes from all over the continent, each one loaded with spices. I am a little sad that the book is not divided by region or country, or at least indexed so that if you want to make, say an Ethiopian meal, you can easily find Ethiopian recipes. I also wish that all of the photographs were clearly captioned. But when the food tastes this good, those are small complaints.

Last night, I did my best to pull together an Ethiopian meal. I made the Tibs Wett and the Injera from Samuellson’s book (he calls the Tibs Wett “Stir-fried Beef Stew,” but don’t let that fool you). The Tibs Wett was fabulous. We didn’t splurge on the tenderloin he recommended (and couldn’t find the hangar, which might have been less expensive). But it was quite good with sirloin steak, and we really want to try it with lamb. The sauce was amazing, full of flavor and nuance, though it could have possibly used a little more heat. Sammuelson suggests serving it with Awase, which is a very spicy condiment, and next time I might just do that.

The injera was okay, Sammelson provides a simplified recipe that saves the home cook from the three-day process of making and fermenting the batter. But, I think I want a more traditional recipe. This injera just didn’t have the sour tang that the real stuff has. I also had some difficulty making my injera as thin (or as big) as they should be. However, when smothered with stew, the injera was quite tasty. The pancakes did a good job absorbing the sauce, and complimented the stew, so I’ve decided to go ahead and share the recipe. Just don’t expect it to taste like the injera you’ve had at a restaurant.

Recipes after the Jump

When I made this chicken, for yet another mini dinner party, I was a little bit disappointed. The chicken was moist and flavorful, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, but the jerk seasoning wasn’t very present. It was a good roast chicken, with some subtle interesting hints of the jerk rub. So, I decided to try it again. I still had some jerk rub in the fridge, I bought a whole chicken breast instead of a whole chicken, and after giving the chicken a good solid rub-down, I let it sit overnight. I came home from an eight mile hike, threw it on the grill for about 25 minutes (turning it 4 times), and devoured it. I swear that it might be the best chicken I’ve ever eaten, but I also admit that hunger might be coloring my judgment…slightly. It is very, very good chicken. So good, that when my Dad comes down next weekend, I think I might make it for him.

Recipe after the jump

I love hosting dinner parties. Small ones, big ones, I like them all. But my favorite part is planning the menu. For me it is an agonizing artistic event. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes only hours, but it is a process that can’t be rushed. Occasionally, I am helped along by a menu from an entertaining cookbook. But often I build the menu around a dish that I’ve been wanting to make, or I start flipping through cookbooks looking for that dish around which I can construct a menu. I know this doesn’t sound like it should take hours, or even days, but I’m a little bit insane. I almost never want to make something I’ve made before, and I often want to make something that is either ridiculously expensive, or ridiculously involved, or both. So, I tell myself that I have to simplify, and I make compromises. If, for example, I feel I have to make an exquisite dessert, I try to find an entree that is both tasty and easy. I still often need help editing my exuberance, and a phone call to Shannen quite often does the trick. For example, she talked me out of making homemade ravioli for a dinner party in May, reminding me that ravioli is heavy, and not exactly the easiest thing to pull together. Instead, I ended up with this:

homemade salsa fresca with tortilla chips
sauteed bok choy
corn on the cob
polenta corn cakes
grilled salmon with roasted poblano lime butter
strawberry shortcakes

I forgot to take pictures, but it was a great meal. Even though the polenta cakes didn’t want to cohere, and the shortcake recipe was not quite right. The company was great, the wine was plentiful, and the salmon was spectacular. Since you can’t enjoy the company or the wine, I thought I’d share the salmon.

Recipe after the jump

Last night, I threw together another quinoa salad. I needed some comforting, and I knew a quinoa salad would do it. This time, I roasted an eggplant and a couple of tomatoes, tossed in some basil and diced spring onions, and served it up with a creamy lemon dressing. It was good, both warm and cold, but especially warm, I think the cold version could have used some baby spinach tossed in for good measure. It was comforting, but I did still resort to ice cream and hot fudge later in the evening… and then nachos and a hard cider even later… not really the way to look good in a bathing suit this summer.

The quinoa salad I made had lots of flavor, which was not true, sadly, of the Lucky Green Tea Quinoa bowl that I had at R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill the other day. A friend and I decided to check out R. Thomas’ because they have a fairly extensive range of gluten-free options and their chef really pays attention to his ingredients. The first thing I noticed about R. Thomas’ is that this is not the typical Buckhead restaurant. The side of the building is lined with birds in cages, happily singing away, and the whole restaurant seems to have been beamed in from a different planet, or maybe just Berkeley in the seventies. The menu is vegetarian and vegan friendly, but there are also plenty of free-range meat options. I immediately zeroed in on the quinoa bowls (hello, my name is Lynn, and I’m a quinoa-holic).

I had heard that the Thai Quinoa bowl was amazing, but since they let the local paper print that recipe, I plan on making it soon and wanted something different. I decided on the Lucky Green Tea bowl because it sounded interesting and flavorful. The vegetables were fresh and tasty, the quinoa was good, but I couldn’t taste the green tea or the miso. There was also supposedly some wasabi in the bowl, but I couldn’t taste even a hint of it. I mixed in a purple relish that was hanging out on the side of the plate, and that kicked up the flavor a bit, but at almost $12, I was disappointed. Still, I bet there are some real winners on their menu. My friend’s burger was very good, and so was her Raw Spicy Gingerade. Next time, I’m trying the Down Home.

R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill
1812 Peachtree St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30309

For a gluten free menu, look here. This menu is not available in the restaurant, so print it out and take it with you. I forgot to do this, but my server was quite comfortable helping me figure out what I could eat (it helps that 70% of their menu is okay… even the chicken piccatta)

Recipe after the jump

I was exhausted last night, and heading to bed, when I thought “hey, if I make up a sponge, I can try making bread again tomorrow.” I’m sure that most people would just have gone to bed… but I did some quick recipe surfing, pulled out my flours, and then realized that all of my measuring cups were dirty, and I had just started the dishwasher, so I couldn’t wash any by hand. Again, most people probably would have just gone to bed, but I scrounged around and came up with a shaker that had liquid ounce measurements on it, and proceeded to use it to measure my flour and my water. It felt a little ridiculous to be measuring flour in a shaker covered with recipes for alcoholic drinks, but it worked. I added the flour and water to my yeast and sugar, and headed off to bed, only twenty minutes or so later than I had intended.

A sponge, or preferment, is a way to give flavor to your bread. Basically, you mix some of your flour with all of your liquid and yeast, and allow the mixture to sit, anywhere from 8 hours to 24, before making your bread. Since I started my sponge last night, when I woke up this morning, I had a happy bubbly bowl full of very liquid dough (which had sat 10 hours). My plan was to cook half of it in my cast iron dutch oven (which is supposed to help give the crust a nice crunch) and then use half of it to make pizza.

The recipe I was playing with was James Beard’s “French-Style” Bread, which my parents always used to make pizza crust when I was a child. The recipe is supposed to make baguettes, and my artisanal-style loaf didn’t rise much higher than a baguette, so no sandwiches. However, the bread is tasty and would be great dunked in olive oil, or as the base for bruschetta.

My version of this bread bears very little resemblance to Beard’s recipe. He does not use a preferment, and uses all-purpose flour. I had to substitute for the flour, add xanthan gum, and add a preferment step. Some things about Beard’s recipe could probably still use some tweaking in my adaptation. I used a tablespoon of yeast, but with the preferment, I could probably cut that back to 2 teaspoons, and possibly even further. Also, the tablespoon of salt seemed a little much as well. Still, I wouldn’t post this, if it wasn’t quite good as is. As bread, this recipe is not perfect, but good. As pizza crust, it is very, very good. Probably the best I’ve had, definitely the best I’ve made since going gluten-free. Maureen agrees. She thinks it tastes like real pizza.

Recipe after the jump

saag aloo
Last night my roommate and I started talking about our grocery bills. Now, I almost never go out to eat, have a habit of spontaneously feeding random people, and love to cook… so, I would expect that I spend more on groceries, or at least more on groceries per person, than the average American. Still, I couldn’t resist running the numbers to find out just how much I have spent at the grocery store this month.  The actual number, $284, doesn’t bother me too much, but if I break that out per week that is $71, to technically feed one person… and that is only if I don’t go to the grocery store again till May.  I was going to go to the farmer’s market day, but instead I decided, that I would challenge myself to make it until Thursday without buying more groceries.

This shouldn’t be too hard, as my fridge and freezer are still quite full of food. But it is random food, food I bought without a plan or is leftover from a previous meal. Which means, it is the perfect food for some creativity. On taking stock of my fridge this afternoon, I realized I had half an onion, tomatoes, a full bag of spinach, and a jalapeno pepper. Excitedly I thought, I could make palak paneer! But, I was missing the “paneer” part. If I made my favorite palak paneer recipe, I would also need cashews and cilantro-ginger-garlic paste. But, never fear, I did have peanuts, ginger, garlic, and potatoes.

If you want a fabulous Saag Paneer recipe, you can’t go wrong with Mahanandi’s takeon this classic North Indian dish. I like it better than any restaurant version I’ve had, and it is better for me (no heavy gravy to weigh down the sauce). But this rendition is also quite good, and worth repeating as tracking down inexpensive paneer can be challenging.

Recipe after the jump

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