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

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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
404.872.2942
eat@rthomasdeluxegrill.com

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 actually cooked something I really liked!” Maureen exclaimed one evening, about a month ago, as I walked in the door around 9:30 after teaching a class for Kaplan. Now, Maureen and I do fairly even duty in the kitchen, at least when it comes to dinners. But she had made a string of meals that while perfectly edible, she considered failures, so cooking was becoming a little disheartening. This salad, however, was excellent, and has hopefully restored her confidence. We happily ate it for lunch several days in a row without getting tired of it, and we made it again for our cook-out this weekend, only this time I helped. Most of our guests had never had quinoa before, but they all seemed to enjoy their first excursion.

So assuming some of you, too, have never had Quinoa, here is a short introduction. Quinoa is a pseudo grain — it is actually a seed, but it behaves like a grain. To prepare it, you simmer the seeds in water (or broth) until they’ve absorbed all of the liquid, just like you do when you make rice. Quinoa has a subtle nutty flavor when cooked, and can easily be substituted for bulger in recipes like tabbouleh or it can be used in place of couscous. Because, quinoa is not really a grain, it is a great choice for passover, as well. Even better, quinoa contains a complete protein, is high in antioxidants, magnesium, and is a good source of fiber — making quinoa a healthier choice than wheat or rice. If you live in Atlanta you can buy it in bulk at the Dekalb Farmers Market both in seed and flour form. I haven’t actually played around much with quinoa while baking, but when I do you’ll be sure to hear about it.

But really, if you’ve never tried quinoa, this recipe is a great introduction. But don’t stop there: also try Heidi Swanson’s Lemon Scented Quinoa or her Delicious Big Bowl – Quinoa, both of which are sure to please. Or, be like me and substitute the couscous for quinoa in Smitten Kitchen’s Couscous and feta-stuffed peppers. These peppers were amazing (or maybe I just have a thing for quinoa and feta together).
Recipe after the jump

chicken curry

Today I just couldn’t seem to get moving. My allergies were killing me, even though the pollen count was its lowest in days. I think at this point the problem is the accumulated effect of two weeks of staggering amounts of pollen, two weeks might I add, in which I decided it would be a good idea to start running again. Well, my sinuses are paying me back for my foolishness. But, as I was lying on my couch watching a movie after a long day on campus, and daydreaming about dinner, this curry came to mind. It is one of the few dishes that I repeat on a fairly regular basis (you know, every couple of months or so), so that pretty much guarantees that it will be good. Some day I will have to play around with simplifying the steps, I’m sure more things could be added to the pot all at once, I’m just not sure how that would go… Oh, and if you are nervous about being able to tell when the chicken is done, just leave it simmer a little longer or cook it separately.

Recipe after the jump