Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Firsts & Failures

It's officially summer!

I've been blogging for 3+ years now. I still enjoy sharing our food adventures. I still enjoy reading other food bloggers' food (and other) adventures. But I find that I have less & less to say these days. I think the problem is that our meals are kind of... cyclical. Or maybe I should say seasonal. Plus, we have our favorite meals, the meals that we really enjoy and feel compelled to make when their 'season' rolls around. Much like pumpkin, cinnamon, and apples dominate our dining and baking in autumn, ice creams and salads and lots of grilled veggies dominate our summer eating.

I haven't written much lately because we've been eating meals that we make every summer, meals that I've blogged about for the past 3 summers. This is the 4th summer for the blog.

I stopped photographing and blogging our weekly CSA goodies because, frankly, I got bored doing that. It's much easier to put the CSA stuff directly into the refrigerator rather than pull it out of bags, arrange it, photograph it, re-bag it, clean the counter/floor where dirt and stray bits have fallen. This is our 4th year of CSA goodies, and if you click back through the past 3 years of CSA posts, you'll have a good idea of what we've been getting. So far, it's still mostly greens, which we turn into salad, or we grill (kale chips), or we saute (collards).

Over Memorial Day weekend, we made our first grilled, boneless leg of lamb of the summer:
 Delicious, moist, tender, mustard & rosemary flavors.
We served the lamb with our first platter of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil drizzled with balsamic syrup:
This week we are enjoying our first Grilled Zucchini & Red Pepper Fattoush, possibly my favorite summer salad that we make. We also are enjoying our first batch of Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream, my favorite of the ice creams/sorbets we make.

We've also had a few failures. Maybe not complete failures, but disappointments. Over Memorial Day weekend, we made the first Fruit Tart of the year. SP had  just finished pulsing the dough in the food processor and I was looking at my past posts on the Fruit Tart when I realized that in every single post I wrote that we should remember to grease the tart pan. I started to tell him, I was reaching for the tart pan, but I was too late. he had already started pressing the dough into the pan. We let it go, after all, non-stick tart pan. Of course we learned our lesson.
When it was time to serve it, the bottom tart pan piece would not pop up out of the tart ring. The crust crumbled and fell apart.
 It was a mess. Crumbs all over the kitchen. An ugly tart.
 Ugly piece of tart.
My parents thought it was very tasty, and I have to agree, it tasted as good as it had in the past. It was just... a mess. So disappointing.

Then there was some salmon that got grilled too long and not even a tasty sauce of yogurt, mayo, sour cream, lemon, dill, and cucumber could save the fish. Bleah. Fail.

In an effort to use up some food in the freezer, we had a night of burgers. Turkey burgers and ham burgers. As in ground ham. It was leftover from when we made my grandma's Pork Balls at Christmas (ground pork and ground ham in a mustard-vinegar sauce). I always loved my grandma's ham loaf (ground ham shaped like a meatloaf). So I figured we'd just turn the ground ham into a patty and grill it.
The ground turkey burgers are on top. The ground ham below. What a mistake. The ground ham did not want to form into patties, not even when we finally added an egg. They turned out dry. Crumbly. Too charred. Not very flavorful other than ham salty. I kept trying to dip bites of ham into the salad dressing to add flavor.
It doesn't look all that awful in the photo, but trust me. Do not try to make a ground ham only burger. Huge fail.

And then there was the Baily's ice cream we made in May. My mom really likes Baily's ice cream and I started craving some, so since she was coming into town, we decided to try making it. Basically, a vanilla base with Baily's added. 
It wasn't very good. Too much vanilla flavor and too little Baily's flavor, but adding more Baily's would have made it too strong. We ate about half, the other half hung out in the freezer for a month, and then it was tossed in the sink to melt away. Another failure. At least the pizzelles were good, even though SP used triple sec instead of anise. I know, that doesn't sound like an easy error, but the printed recipe we use (pizzelles with butter, not vegetable oil) actually calls for 'triple sec or another liquor/extract.' We always use anise extract, but I never wrote a note on the recipe sheet, so he used triple sec. He was trying to be a good husband. I had been complaining about not having any dessert and that maybe we should make pizzelles, which usually means I measure the ingredients, he makes the batter, and I 'bake' them in the pizzelle maker. One morning before getting me up he found the recipe and made the batter all by himself. Since I wasn't there to help in making the batter... and since I never wrote a note on the recipe... he used triple sec. They were tasty pizzelles, I just prefer pizzelles with anise flavor.

As for dining out, the past few weekends have been family dinners with SP's family to celebrate birthdays, so we have dined at Outback & Red Lobster. Neither is one of my 'more tolerable' chain restaurants. Actually, I really don't think much of either place. I had a chicken-bacon-cheese quesadilla appetizer for my meal at Outback because I don't really like steak or fish, I don't order pork when I am out (cooking temperatures, pink inside risks, and usually well done = tough leather at a place like Outback), and I don't usually order messy things like ribs at a restaurant. The last time I was there I ordered the Alice Chicken dinner and it was way too salty, had way too much cheese so it was greasy, and the veggies were drowning in butter. Yuck. So I got an appetizer for dinner. It was OK.

As for Red Lobster, I think the quality for the price is atrocious and I'd much rather spend $20-$30 on a  seafood meal at a place like Bistro 19 or Eleven or Willow or take your pick of places like those in the area. Of course I don't really like fish, so I am limited to shrimp/crab/lobster or a chicken dish. The list of fish specials (like cod, mahi mahi, tilapia, salmon) had half and full portions, but the full portions were almost all priced $20+. I'm also not really a fan of fried seafood (fried seafood always makes me feel gross), or scampi seafood (garlic = bad for me), so after eliminating huge chunks of the menu, I ended up ordering a '4 course for $15 meal.' The creamy potato bacon soup was rubbery, lukewarm, and not especially bacony. The garden salad was iceberg lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes and was just OK. The cheddar bay biscuits, which I remember as being the best thing about Red Lobster about 10-15 years ago, were not as good as I remember and were actually kind of bland and too salty. My shrimp skewers were OK, lots of shrimp, but the Honey BBQ sauce was just so-so. It didn't really look like BBQ sauce, more like a glaze spooned on top and it was yellowish, not red, and it was more like a honey-dijon dipping sauce than honey BBQ sauce. The apple crostata was OK, a little bland and tasted like a Sara Lee frozen dessert warmed in the oven.

So that's the scoop on some successful firsts of the grilling/summer season and some recent failures at cooking and dining out!

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