February 20, 2009

chalk it up to lessons learned

I can’t remember exactly how he put it, but Ryan said something to the effect of... he expects me to mess up sometimes. My learning curve and success rate have been on a steep incline in the kitchen, happily, but I am far from mistake-less. Which brings me to Tuesday night’s pink slip.

During my grocery shopping, I picked up a head of cauliflower for the sole purpose of roasting it. I’d heard from many people how delicious roasted cauliflower is, and couldn’t wait to try it. Besides, I get excited about any reason to use my favorite baking dish—a red 9x9 Le Creuset. I found a promising recipe for which I had every ingredient, including fresh parsley from the container garden. Not to mention, I’d just furthered my kitchen accessory collection with a retro juicer and could squeeze some fresh lemon juice.
Do you see where this is going yet? Yeah, but you don't know all of it.

Trying to make this a meal, I wanted to use up some whole wheat couscous and the leftover arugula from dinner the night before. Enter a recipe for orange-scented couscous, and then my brilliant idea to wilt the arugula in at the end for a splash of bitter green to compliment the sweet orange.

It sounds like a pretty good meal, doesn’t it? Fresh herbs, delicate orange zest, simply roasted cauliflower...

Well, let’s start with that. I prepped and photographed and plopped it in the oven at 450... Only to, about 15 minutes later, hear a strange POP! from the vicinity of said cauliflower in the oven. Fearing the worst, I slowly opened the oven door, and gained confirmation. My beautiful, perfectly square, singular Le Creuset dish was cracked down the middle. No warning, no distress signals, no last rites... Just sudden death. Without muttering one curse word (or shedding one tear), I reached in and carefully grabbed both very much separated sections of the dish. I picked up the head of cauliflower, whose destiny still lay in the delicate balance between it’s totally gonna be delicious and this is so not gonna work, dropped it in my equally red but not as cute red stoneware pie plate, and back in the oven it went. Finley was... let's call it suspiciously annoyed. Meanwhile, Ryan called on his way home. “I’ve had a minor kitchen setback, but it’s not so bad,” I told him, at which point I was dipping some leftover rosemary bread in the olive oil and sea salt at the bottom of one of the halves. At least I’m resourceful.

Onward, I thought, to my fresh orange zest and juice and couscous. It smelled wonderful, and probably would be fantastic maybe with some saffron (I’ve never had saffron, but for some reason I think it’d taste great with this) and not with arugula. But I dumped the arugula in anyway. Pretty! Ryan, standing behind me by then, wrinkled his nose at the thought of a savory orange dish. I’d forgotten that he’s not a fan (remember orange beef night?). Orange and chocolate? Awesome. Orange and couscous? No way. The timer signals that it’s time to take the cauliflower out of the oven, again, and I was happy to see that at least one of my stoneware dishes made it through the night unscathed. I set the table and plated the food... And we took one bite of each and decided: Unworthy! The cauliflower was still tough, though burned on the tips and completely void of any moisture at all (so I have yet to successfully roast a vegetable—WHAT IS THE SECRET!?!?) The oh-so-thought-out-orange-arugula combo was nauseating. Ok, it’s not that bad, I think, and direct Ryan to reach for some soy sauce. It’s just not working. I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry, so I leave the room. Ryan chooses for me and laughs; I re-enter the room and announce, “Let’s go get food, but we have to do the drive-thru because I’m in my pj’s and I’m not changing. And you’re buying.” Fin's part of it by this point, and wants to come with us. Ten minutes later we return with Cokes in styrofoam cups and piping-hot nuggets and waffle fries. For dessert I smother a banana with Nutella and sprinkle leftover orange zest on top, which makes for a surprisingly fantastic sweet treat. Of course, not wanting to break my budget for the week, and having ruined dinner, here’s what I scrounged up for lunch the next day... This just goes to show that when one dinner plan doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just another little pink slip for the collection. And maybe a sub-par lunch at your desk the next day.