Category Archives: POTATO!

Of Eggplant, Zucchini, and Burittos

Having been able to devote some time to cooking this weekend and today, I decided to try out some new things. Each night offered its own challenges, though, and a much different approach to cooking.

Sunday night is “big meal” night here. Its developed into family tradition that I spend a lot of time in kitchen preparing a tasty and elaborate meal, often with a desert, that we can use to close out our weekend. This is usually followed by a rousing game of Boggle and some Uno, both of which She-Who-Hums does pretty well at for her age. TPE and I both look forward to these nights of good company and good food. I really hope She-Who-Hums looks back on those nights fondly when she is our age and carries the tradition on.

Anyway, I figured last night was as good as any to finally try eggplant with TPE. We had a very small one procured from the farmer’s market, allowing her to experiment without a ton of it sitting around. And it can take a while to cook, making the weekend a good time to try it. I opted for a eggplant, tomato, cucumber pita with a red pepper raita for two reasons. First, the recipe called for the eggplant to be battered and baked, meaning that she’d be getting something close to fried. Second, the flavors more generally are familiar to her. I was basically trying to make the experience go well. Since its a big night in the kitchen, I also tried out the zucchini fritters from the other night, but substituted feta for goat cheese.

The meal was a mixed bag for TPE. On the one hand, she grew from uneasy acceptance of the fritters to enjoying them (especially with some of the raita). On the other hand, she took one bite of the eggplant and gave me the potato look. ( You know, the POTATO! look.)  The pitas were flimsy therefore detracted from the experience, but it was a pretty nice end-of-summer kind of meal.  Refreshing pitas with nice Greek flavors, along with savory fritters stuffed with cheese.  Not bad, all in all.  She-Who-Hums even got in the act and at a bologna pita (don’t get me started…at least her vegetables weren’t pickles and olives for once).

Tonight was a different story.  We decided early on that we’d have a black bean burrito kind of thing, having been inspired by She-Who-Hums suggestion that we go to the “Mexican” restaurant.  (We would’ve gone, but she declined to pay.  He’s absolutely hoarding money in her room, so yeah…I would’ve let her pay.)  Surprisingly, there wasn’t one black bean burrito recipe in any of my trusted vegetarian cookbooks.  So I improvised.

I know what you’re thinking, “He thinks he’s so bad-ass, just throwing things together in the kitchen.  Mr. Kitchen Know-It-All!”  While I assure you my ego is alive and healthy, improvised cooking is outside of my comfort zone.  Sure, I can make do when ingredients of a recipe are gone or I need to adjust, but that’s not me making decisions.  I’m still basically following orders; and that’s easy.

Nevertheless, I pressed forward.  We decided that we wanted black beans, rice, and “lettuce…AND CHEESE?!” (the last part was TPE’s contribution).  The problem was that she also didn’t want anything that you would put in a burrito like, you know, Mexican-themed seasonings like cumin.  (She suggested using taco mix.  REALLY!)  Anyway, I busted out my copy of THE FLAVOR BIBLE to get some ideas.  Seeing nothing all that inspirational, I made the rice and seasoned it with oregano and other assorted herbs and then make a fajita-like mix of peppers, onions, fresh corn, black beans, and diced tomatoes.  I went with about a 1/2 tsp of chili power, salt, and pepper.  I added some stock to let those flavors seep in as well, especially as the tomato broke down.  The resulting dish was fun (we built them at the table), tasty, and very filling.

So, here are my questions:

  1. What are your family food traditions?
  2. And, do you follow directions or just through stuff in a pot that sounds good?

All for now, dear reader.

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It Was Bound to Happen

Tonight was like my personal kitchen Armageddon.  Really.

We’ve been out of town the last couple of days attending my high school reunion.  That means that pickings are slim in the pantry.  I figured that this would be a good time to try out the red lentils I bought a couple of weeks ago.  The green lentils have been a hit, I figured, so these might be a nice addition to our repertoire.

The recipe I chose was an Indian dal.  Having learned my lesson with the (almost non-existent) red pepper flakes with my galettes, I kept out any semblance of heat.  That kept the ingredient list pretty simple — butter, onions, garlic, tumeric, salt, red lentils, and water.  You finish it off with a little unsweetened coconut milk, some toasted mustard seeds and shallots, and there you go.  Dinner.

Not so much.  She-Who-Hums decided she wanted to cook something too.  I want to encourage cooking and eating with her, so I said yeah.  That was probably a mistake after a hectic day to start with, but it seemed simple — “fried” chicken.  In reality it was a baked, encrusted chicken breast.  I didn’t have to do much as I had her to most of it.  But its never that simple, because she had lots of questions.  Lots.  That’s not so good for the concentration.

That led to the first big problem.  I cooked the lentils until the became mush.  In my defense, I was following the recipe and had set my timer.  As it turns out, these things become liquid pretty fast and you’ve got to pay a lot of attention to them.  At that point, I had some rice cooking, was waiting for my sweet potato to cook and mash, and put She-Who-Hums food in the oven.  Everything was based on the timing of the lentils.  Well, I tasted lentils and they were terrible.  I couldn’t serve them, so in the trash they went and I started over.  I STARTED OVER!

I hurry up and get everything going again, vowing to check everything every minute or two.  Those lentils wouldn’t get me twice.  I take the sweet potatoes off the stove and mash them.  “Nice,” I thought, “things will be alright.”  Then I checked the basmatti rice.  It wasn’t burned, thank goodness but I had probably needed to turn the heat a few minutes earlier.  “Not a major disaster,” Mr. Brain prattled on.

TPE comes in and asks whats for dinner, and I tell her.  She notifies me that she hates sweet potatoes.  Now you’d think that I wouldn’t be surprised by this, given our last adventure with potatoes.  But I could’ve sworn that she told me she liked them recently.  Turns out, I fabricated that and it was all about She-Who-Hums.  Disaster number 2 or 3, depending on whether you’re counting the rice.  I am.

Anyway, I finally had a meal for everyone.  The dal looked beautiful, with a nice golden hue and a slightly sweet sauce.  I spooned it over the rice, put a plate down for TPE and myself.  She-Who-Hums sat down with her chicken (which turned out quite nice actually) and a plate that included jalapenos, pickles, olives, sweet potato, and rice with soy sauce (I know, right).  Finally, everything turned out great.

Then I looked at TPE.  Her expression said it all.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“There is a smoky taste,” she replied.

“Smoky?  Its just tumeric.”

It doesn’t really matter how the rest of the conversation went.  She decided to make herself a burrito.  To shorten the story a bit, her reaction to the burrito was very similar to the red pepper flakes.  That led to attempt number #3 to feed TPE:

I ate the final product (the dal and, incidentally, part of the burrito).  It was OK, but not outstanding.  So I put a little of She-Who-Hums left over jalapenos on it and…it was much, much better.  Talk about irony…the dinner I made for TPE wasn’t satisfying to me until she blew it off.

Anyway, after 4 disasters I decided to end the dinner in the only way that made sense.

She almost ate a potato!

Tonight was another “3 people, 3 dinners” thing, but it wasn’t really that bad.  The Kid had some sort of pre-packaged corn dog thing; TPE had leftovers from last night along with a leafy salad.

In other words, I only needed to feed myself.  That’s fine by me because I like everything and this gives me a chance to try out new things.  My mind immediately focused in on “Indian food,” so I decided to dig into my now-trusty copy of Deborah Madison’s book for a recipe.  The recipe is more “Indian-like” than Indian, but it had the added appeal of not being too spicy (which meant TPE would at least try it).  The recipe itself is simple enough — some potatoes, cauliflower, onion, greens, and shredded carrots, all of which was covered with a fairly basic spice mixture.

Anyway, after the ladies sat down and began to enjoy their various dinners, I told TPE that she should check my dish and see if it was something she might like.  Her immediate reaction was…a disgusted face and a “what is in it?”  (This isn’t personal…I don’t think).  My dilemma…lead with the cauliflower, onion, or the dreaded potatoes?

You see, TPE doesn’t eat potatoes.  Well, that’s not quite right.  She eats french fries and tolerates a new recipe I’ve used for potato croquettes, but she will not under any other circumstances eat a POTATO! (Or, so she thinks…if you catch my drift.)

Given these circumstances, I led with onion and then cauliflower.  And she didn’t blow chunks, spit on me, or hand over the divorce papers.  She even offered a, “I could eat that…not bad” comment!  But then I blew it by saying, “Hey, maybe you’ll like potatoes in this!”  She tried.  She really did.  But it was a failure.  Let’s just say that the poor piece of potato that I gave her came back gnarled with its soul no longer in tact. I was…THIS…CLOSE!

But, I live to fight another day.