Home Cooking 5

Lunch Disaster and Rebirth

oakjoan | Sep 17, 200508:53 PM

Friends came over for lunch today and I got into some kind of paralyzed state (since yesterday afternoon) and could NOT decide what to make. It had to be pretty healthy - no deep-fried breaded pork loaf - and something I could whip up by 1 p.m. without having to get up really early on a beloved sleep-in day like Saturday.

At first I was going to do the Chicken with Honey, Vinegar and Figs from Zuni, and even borrowed my friend's cookbook. Then I decided that was too rich so I floundered around until 4 p.m. yesterday, when I went to Berkeley Bowl. I bought the ingredients for the Chick/Fig dish. I also bought some nice-looking pears that I thought I'd poach and serve with sweetened yoghurt (that good Fage sheep and goats' milk stuff).

I found a recipe for pears poached in verjus. Luckily, I had a full bottle of verjus a friend in Mendo County brought me from Navarro Winery. I poached the pears with the verjus and some sugar until they were tender. Then I drained off the liquid and put them in the fridge.

This morning when I tried one, it tasted as if it'd been left overnight in a can - horribly tinny. I cut into another one and found the same thing.

So now I think, well maybe if I reduce the verjus liquid, it'll transform the pears -- and served with the yoghurt, how could it be bad? I put the verjust on the stove to reduce but leave it too long and it burns....it burns when it's still liquid! So now, not only do I have no dessert, the whole house smells of burned sugar. I open all the doors and windows. Now I think that I'll make a carmelly sauce from brown sugar and butter. I turn around for what seems to be 2 seconds, and suddenly smell the familiar burning sugar. This time I catch it before it really begins to smoke, but it's ruined. It's now 11:45 and they're coming at 1.

I abandon the idea of serving the pears at all. Luckily, we got a couple of good melons from Full Belly Farm yesterday, and I figure I can make some quick cookies to serve with coffee and melon slices. This is usually a recipe for disaster but this time it works out.

My husband keeps coming into the kitchen, looking at me, and then tiptoeing backwards out of the room. I fantasize I hear him calling 911..."Yes, officer, she's totally lost her mind."

I look on the Epicurious site and find my salvation! Pistachio, Apricot Oatmeal Cookies. I actually HAVE a tub of shelled pistachios. The dough takes about 10 minutes to make - no chilling necessary and I also used regular oatmeal instead of the quick-cooking type called for. The cookies are a snap (sorry) and turn out perfectly.

So I ended up making a sort-of North African soup with garbanzos, French lentils, onions, garlic, celery, peppers (sweet), yams and tomatoes. Another bit of luck was that I had a large container of recently-made chicken stock for a base.

I seasoned it with cumin, cinnamon, a few squirts of harissa from a tube, and a pinch of something in a jar I ground up for a dish a few weeks ago that smelled good. Served it with the yoghurt mixed with shredded fresh mint and pita bread (white and whole wheat) I sprinkled with the same spice mix, salt, crushed cumin seeds and brushed with a little butter. Crumbled into the soup, they were really good.

I served a salad with chopped Armenian cuke (looked like a French Horn - all curly), tomatoes, arugula, green onions and slices of red daikon. Sherry/mustard/olive oil dressing.

It was a big success. The main drawbacks are twofold: (1) I have 2 nice stainless pans with black, tarry gunk stuck to the bottom on the back porch; and (2) 8 poached pears sitting in the fridge, and I just want to sit in a chair and eat potato chips for the next year and a half....wait, that's 3 things!

Anyway, the cookie recipe is great. Crispy, buttery, deelish.

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