Those were Miss T's and her Master Engineer's proclamations about my prospects in Episode 1. Well. I took that as a challenge. I would show them. I have pride, after all.
And you know what they say about pride going before a fall.
This was a tough week, full of highs and lows. The ingredients were fine: leaf lettuce, spinach, kohlrabi, baby beets, strawberries, garlic scapes, and cucumber. Let's go with the easy ones first.
Fresh cucumber. So delightful that I really did nothing with it. I sliced some to put on a tuna sandwich (made with this wonderful homemade tartar sauce--I used sour cornichons, oh my, so good) and ate the rest raw, just sliced. They were that good. But I felt a tingling of doubt. This is supposed to be a cooking show-off series. And I didn't cook, I just sliced and ate.
That train of thought also caused some discomfort when I used the lettuce for--what else?--salad. With spinach.
A strawberry spinach salad, with lettuce and chopped pecans, and a vinaigrette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped green garlic, pinch of salt, and dash of honey, the recipe from the CSA newsletter. Quite tasty. So I decided to try another salad, this one from Deborah Madison's The Greens Cookbook.
The original recipe calls for butter lettuce, spinach, avocado, and ruby grapefruit tossed with a vinaigrette using fruit vinegar, olive oil, diced shallot, chopped mint, chives, and black pepper. I used leaf lettuce rather than the butter lettuce, and lemon vinegar. All of which would be fine, if I lived wherever it is that Deborah Madison lives, because apparently she lives someplace where lettuce and grapefruit are in season at the same time. That is not the case in Minnesota. The lettuce and spinach were fine--the grapefruit was awful. Bitter. Nasty. And having tossed them together, I managed to get nasty grapefruit juice all over the salad. Blech.
To recover my wounded pride, I used some of the extra strawberries with rhubarb and made a pie.
Although delicious, this did not strike me as significantly creative, especially given that I used store-bought pie crust. Remember--I don't like to bake, and I particularly don't like to bake things that require rolling pins.
Then I began to fret that my originality was going to be an issue. After all, is this:
An omelet with spinach and green garlic very much different from the scrambled eggs with spinach and green garlic that I made last time? Which raised all kinds of issues--if it's delightfully yummy to mix eggs, spinach, and green garlic, is it OK if I repeat it? I mean, green garlic has a short season. Do I have to do something new with it if the old way is so good?
You can see how the angst was building. Especially since the highlight of the first few days was this:
If you think that picture looks familiar, you'd be right. I stole it right off Miss T's blog from her first round of Iron Chefettes. A salad with oranges, pecans, and smoked trout. Delicious.
But not creative, at least not for me.
Oh, the pressure, the pressure was building...
I decided to use my kohlrabi in a coleslaw.
I mixed it with some broccoli slaw from the store. Tasty. I felt a little better. So I tried this:
Portobello mushrooms stuffed with spinach and goat cheese. Pretty good, although I think I'd use a different cheese next time. Maybe a good ricotta.
But it made me feel better. So I got really brave and tried another recipe from the CSA newsletter:
Soft corn tacos with garlicky greens. I used kohlrabi leaves, beet greens and spinach, sauteed with green garlic and onions. (No, the kids weren't particularly interested in this.) I thought it was good, but could have used some protein, not necessarily animal--maybe some tofu or beans. Or shrimp. Or chicken. I would make it again, with protein.
Feeling more confident, I tackled what I considered to be the most problematic ingredient: beets. I have never been a fan of beets, but I can't help feeling that it's because I just haven't found the right way to cook them yet. Then I discovered this recipe:
Chocolate beet cake! Perfect, right? Well, sort of. Remember--I don't like to bake. It's such a precise form of cooking. And it wasn't until I'd cooked and pureed the beets that I realized I didn't have nearly as much as the recipe calls for; instead of 3 cups, I barely had 1. I noticed that the recipe didn't call for sugar, presumably because the beets would handle the sweetness. Oh, the agony of trying to figure out what to do. But having pureed the beets and melted the unsweetened chocolate, I had no choice but to carry on. I made a wild guess that 1 1/2 cups sugar would make up for the lack of beets, but after the cake was in the oven, I began to worry that it wouldn't be moist enough.
It turned out OK. Sweet, but not overly. It had a very dense texture, like a rich brownie, maybe because it needed more liquid. But it tasted fine, and I would try it again, with the proper amount of beets.
Finally, an ingredient I wasn't worried about: garlic scapes. (Miss T. talks about what a garlic scape is here.) I've used these before, and given that I'm so fond of garlic, it's a no-brainer that I'd like them. I decided to branch out from eggs and stir-fries, and tried this recipe:
It sounded innocent enough. Caramelize some dark brown sugar, add the scapes and cook, then add chopped tomatoes and wine and cook some more. Easy-peasy, and attractive, right?
Well, it was attractive, until it appeared on the dinner table to a considerable silence. Finally DH picked up one tendril and launched into a story he'd read on the internet about some woman who'd wanted to lose weight, so she deliberately ingested a tapeworm, which did help her lose weight, but then it laid eggs, which eventually killed her.
You can imagine how the interest level for eating garlic scapes declined at that point.
And to boot, the dish didn't taste great at all. I'm still not sure why--the ingredients seemed like they would work well together. Maybe it was the power of suggestion--I can't imagine that tapeworms taste very good.
So that was my box this time. Even if I don't win for cooking, can't I get points for the sheer drama?