Monday, July 20, 2009

A long disastrous story and a salad

We decided to start a blog. A cooking blog, because that's how we spent our summer: cooking. And now, Callie's leaving, and Goor's hungry, and predicting an endless array of... majudra. And so, from 10 time zones apart, we'll keep cooking together. If you're lucky, you can cook with us, too!

Last night, determined to have a special dinner-for-two on the balcony before Callie sets off for the US, we decided to do a greatest-hits sampling of the best dishes of our summer together. Mushroom bourguignon, that deep, dark, and surprisingly vegetarian simmering of mushrooms in a red wine reduction that we first made for our "weekaversary." Mustard potatoes, celebrated by our fellow potluckers. Greek-ish salad, because we found the most delightfully tangy and smooth feta just blocks away at the Levinsky shuk. Homemade cactus-fruit ginger ale kicked up with arak. And finally, pie, which had always been a favorite dessert of Callie's, but which she'd never dared to make on her own, but which she and Goor made over and over this summer: fresh apples, picked from the Tel Aviv University campus, cherry pie for Fourth of July, and last night, plum.

It was... well, a bit of a disaster. From the beginning, Callie forgot some key things from the market -- butter, a pie pan, sugar, soda water, tomato paste -- her mother's voice echoing in her head that any decent dinner requires a minimum of 5 trips to the grocery store.

And then... it was hot. Tel Aviv hot. Hot-two-cold-showers-in-the-midst-of-cooking hot. Sweat pouring down your forehead and your neck and your shoulders hot. And we were misterable. Cooking together -- our favorite thing! -- and we were miserable. Terrible.

(Goor says we're going to be "the bitter cooks." Callie is more optimistic.)

Whether it was the heat or the stress over Callie's upcoming departure, our timing was... off. Despite the fact that we were boiling, the water just wouldn't. And by the time the water did boil for the pasta, the rest of the food became inexplicably cold. All that, and of course the beer -- a dark Czech beer we'd enjoyed so much in Prague that Callie happened upon at the store -- the beer was warm. Cold food, warm beer... it felt a lot like we were eating leftovers.

Goor remarked that cooking is a performance art, that it's fun to do for someone else, but when we do it together, just for ourselves, it's hard to switch from the performance to being the audience, that it's always just a little hard to truly enjoy something that you've slaved over -- nay, sweated over -- for literally hours in the kitchen. Callie thought of her father, his plate nearly empty on Thanksgiving, tired of crouching over a turkey.

Nonetheless, despite some of the disasters that ensued (and you'll probably hear more about these later), the recipes we started with were gold, for the most part, and that's why we'll share them here.

You just have to cook in season. You know, winter.

In the interest of getting as many posts out of this meal as possible -- and holding your apt attention, we're sure -- we'll tease you with just one of these recipes this morning. Ok, yeah, quite a tease, after we've told you it was such a failure. But really! You should cook these recipes! In... December. Or... air-conditioning! We will.

This morning's recipe is the most boring of them, but it was also the most successful. With good ingredients, you can't go wrong. So, here it is:

Callie's I'm-Sorry-But-I-Hate-Olives Greek-ish Salad

1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and torn into small pieces
4 tomatoes, chopped
2-4 cucumbers (2 American or 4 Israeli)
1 small red onion, diced finely
225 grams or 8 ounces of feta, cut into small cubes
1/2 c olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs dried thyme
cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and feta in a bowl. Pour liquids on top. Add thyme, rubbing roughly against your palm as you drop it in. Add black pepper. Toss and taste. Add more lemon or pepper as needed.

There it is. Embarrassingly easy. Which may be why it turned out. Sigh. Soon, the rest of the meal! (Some of which also turned out, really. We promise.)

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