Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A cooking failure and two cooking successes

It’s taken me a while to get over this, but I think I can post about it now.

I am actually a decent cook. I mean, It’s not rocket science. I can read and follow a recipe like any idiot and I’ve got a basic understanding of what foods go well together if I feel like taking a recipe and tweaking it a little. Garlic and onion = good. Garlic and maple syrup = bad.

Several weeks ago I saw a Rachel Ray show where she made a hummus/baba ganoush (I can’t spell that) inspired pasta sauce.

I was immediately fixated on the recipe and had to try it. I mean, I love hummus, I really like baba ganoush and I love pasta. What could go wrong?

So, I invited my brother and his girlfriend over for dinner and set to work. I drained a can of chick peas, I sliced an eggplant, and I doubled the amount of garlic in the recipe because there’s never enough garlic in anything. I added tahini paste (mmmm). I added some red pepper flakes. I cooked it all together with some olive oil.

I put together the food processor we got for our wedding and processed the whole mess.

You guys, it was like eating paste. Thick and tasteless. How 8 cloves of garlic and a full tablespoon of red pepper flakes just disappeared into that tasteless mush, I’ll never understand.

I had one bite and immediately called Papa John’s and ordered a pizza. The mister manfully cleared his plate, and my brother tried to follow suit. My brother’s girlfriend and I made due by eating dessert until the pizza guy showed up.


I’m not going to post the pasta recipe I tried. It was terrible and I don’t want any of you to suffer what I went through. Instead what follows are a couple standbys.

The mister loves to grill but always forgets that I’m going to want more than a hunk of meat for dinner. A nice salad, maybe some pasta.

So, I make the following frequently, as the leftovers make for good lunches at work.

Cheesy Orzo

2 cloves garlic, minced or run through a garlic press
1 small shallot, chopped
Olive oil
1 c. orzo (pasta that looks like rice)
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. shredded mozzarella

Drizzle olive oil into bottom of pot. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until garlic is soft and shallots are clear, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and orzo. Cover pot and simmer until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, add cheese, stir until combined and cheese is melty. Serve warm.

For leftovers, add a small splash of stock to the container so the pasta doesn’t dry out when you reheat.


The mister has a pathological hatred of mayonnaise, sour cream, cream cheese, and nearly every salad dressing known to man. I can fake him out on the sour cream/cream cheese thing pretty often.

Is there cream cheese in this?

Nope, plain yogurt.

He has no idea.

But the salad dressing thing drove me nuts! I mean, if I make a fancy salad for dinner (the kind with shrimp or steak or chicken on top of it) I expect him to eat the damned thing, so it’s been a challenge to find salad dressings he will eat. Standard oil/vinegar combos gross him out (apparently he hates vinegar too). Honey mustard thinned with some olive oil works in a pinch, but it’s not my favorite.

The following salad dressing recipe works, though. He likes it, I like it, and it takes about 2 minutes to make.

Summer Salad Dressing

¾ to 1 c. olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons, plus about 1 tsp. lemon zest
2 cloves garlic

Combine olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Using the same grater/zester you used for the lemon zest, grate the garlic into the same bowl. Watch out for your knuckles. Whisk together. Easy-peasy!


Molly said...

I'm going to have to try that cheesy orzo recipe. I can't believe Joe has such a dislike for the deliciousness that is mayo/sour cream/cream cheese. I'd blame it on his mother.

SLynnRo said...

I don't know dude, that combination scares me a bit, even in theory!