Now that I’m experimenting a bit more culinarily, branching out from the types of dishes I normally make, I also have a few more disappointments than I used to. Over the past two weeks I’ve tried a couple things which I had very high hopes for, but which were just…not fantastic. (And these meals inevitably seem to be the most complex, time consuming ones to prepare).

One particularly extravagant main dish (for my cooking practices, at any rate) was to be stuffed orange kabocha squash with curried red quinoa and oven-roasted eggplant. I had several of the long, thin type of eggplants, including one that was yellow. Well, that was the first item requiring a slight alteration of plans. I did a little research on what my yellow eggplant could be, and didn’t really turn up anything to corroborate that there was such a thing as a yellow eggplant in that shape. And it sounded like it was quite possible that this one could be bad. So I cut it open, and decided that it didn’t really have what I would consider a trustworthy eggplant smell. So I opted to go with one less eggplant. I sliced and salted the remaining eggplant to take out any bitterness, which I’ve never taken the time to do before, and then slow roasted it. And after all that, it just kind of turned mushy and oily by the time it was cooked, so I ended up ditching that part.

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Ingredients

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Ingredients (bad yellow eggplant, bad!)

Meanwhile, I took pains to cut lids out of the two little squash, scrape out the seeds and pulp, coat the insides with butter, a little mild curry powder and garam masala, and I roasted those as well. Unfortunately, these turned out to be some of the least tasty squash we’ve had (a little bitter in fact), and although they definitely seemed done when I took them out of the oven, it was still difficult to scrape out the flesh while eating them.

To prepare the quinoa, I cooked it in broth with a bit of cinnamon and garam masala, and then once it was done, added more garam masala, plus cloves and cinnamon. It actually didn’t taste that bad, but I probably could have held back on the cloves a bit, and with the disappointing squash, the whole thing just didn’t really come together. It sure looked pretty, though.

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Ingredients

Curried Quinoa Stuffed Squash

This next meal didn’t involve a long, drawn out preparation, but it did involve a tad bit of an investment. I had some Pappardelle’s Supreme Orzo left over, which has orzos in three flavors: fire-roasted red pepper, porcini mushroom, and saffron. Some red pepper chicken sausage I also had left over would go well with the red pepper orzos, and I thought some sort of a sauce with mushrooms would be perfect. I’ve been fantasizing about using chanterelles for something, especially after seeing such gorgeous ones at Pike Place Market when we were in Seattle. But given the fact that they’re $49.99 a pound at the Whole Foods in Boulder (and imported from France to boot), there’s no way I’m willing to put that much money into something that I’m pretty sure I can’t do justice to at this point. (My mushroom cooking skills have improved, but they’re definitely not up to the $49.99 a pound level yet). Fresh morels were similarly priced, but they did have a small package of dried morels at Whole Foods, so I splurged on that for $13, and used a third of the package.

Orzo Supreme with Sausage and Morels

Orzo Supreme with Sausage and Morel Ingredients

I simmered the morels for 20 minutes in water as the package directed, and the resulting broth (‘the flavor is in the broth’, they promised) was, well – nasty smelling. I like earthy, mushroomy tastes, but this was horrendously earthy. Bad earthy. I still used about 6 tablespoons of it anyhow, making a sauce along with some garlic, onion, and pepper sauteed in olive oil. It was diluted enough in that form that it wasn’t as overly pungent as the broth smelled. Then I cut up the reconstituted morels, which pretty much had NO FLAVOR. When they said the flavor was in the broth, they weren’t kidding. It was ALL in the broth. At this point, I started to suspect that all the wonderful flavor I remember from the morels we gathered outside of town when I was a kid was mostly from the butter they were fried in.

The finished dish didn’t taste bad or anything, it was just rather boring. Anything made with $13 mushrooms shouldn’t taste boring. Granted, I only used $4.33 worth, but really. Like the previous dish, despite the taste disappointment, it was rather attractive looking.

Supreme Orzo with Sausage and Morels

Supreme Orzo with Red Pepper Chicken Sausage and Morels

But, overall, I’m willing to accept some unsuccessful dishes in the search for new and interesting ones. Plus, sometimes the bad ones are almost more fun to write about, because you get to use creative hyperbole and words like horrendous.

You call this a post?

August 17, 2011

I’ve had several rather low-key, unexciting food days lately. It’s been a long, tiring week at work (even though it’s only Wednesday evening!), and I’ve been having trouble finding inspiration for a new post.  In a way, it didn’t help that I already had leftovers for four meals this week, and we went out to eat on Monday. Great for not having to do too much food labor, but bad for coming up with anything interesting to write.  It’s way too early in my blog career for a clip show (or rather, clip post).  But I did make some interesting purchases today.  I decided to stop after work and take a closer look at the remodeled Whole Foods, and to splurge on a few things that I hadn’t seen before.

Purchases from Whole Foods

I walked through the produce department, browsing through all the great stuff.  I was tempted to buy mushrooms, but didn’t really have a use for them the rest of the week.  But oh, they had some great looking chanterelles, blue foot mushrooms, and of course morels!  The whole $49.99 a pound morel thing is astonishing to me.  When I was a kid, my family would drive down to the river near where we lived, and we would gather morels into paper grocery bags. So we probably came home with what would now be about $200 worth of morels.  Free.  Funny how food trends change. I did however, buy a pepino melon from Ecuador (I know, hardly local…).  According to what I’ve found online, it’s actually more closely related to the nightshade family than melons, and has a taste that is sort of a cross between a cucumber and a honeydew.  (I sometimes shop like I’m playing Let’s Make a Deal – hmmm…I’ll take the vegetable behind door number 3!)

I was out of sherry vinegar, non-bulkish olive oil, and agave, so I replenished both of those. I really don’t know too much about olive oil, so I never know how to pick between the different kinds of EVOO. So I just went with one that was on sale, and looked pretty decent.  The agave (masquerading as honey – it’s actually honey flavored agave) was at terrific sale price – nearly half off the others available.  I got some guacamole made in-store, which turned out to be fantastic, with a little heat.  During my tour of Whole Foods this past weekend, our guide mentioned a new line of products from Falafel King in Boulder (a huge favorite of mine), called Life is Sababa.  There are several types of hummus as well as tzatziki sauce, all made without oil, so they’re lower in calories and fat than the traditional types.  I got some hummus with roasted eggplant to try.

Dried cherries are always expensive, so so when I saw a bag that were significantly discounted, I grabbed them.  In the bulk department I found blue posole  (me and color, you know)!  At our farm dinner at Red Wagon Farms earlier this summer, a couple of people were telling us that they had been preparing wheat berries, and really liked them.  I’ve wanted to try it for a while, but never got around to getting any.  They have such a huge selection of bulk things now, I found some soft spring wheat (in contrast to hard winter wheat), and can’t wait to try it.  And then I got some Endangered Species brand chocolate in two varieties I’ve never seen before – dark chocolate with goji berry, pecans & maca and dark chocolate with cacao nibs, yacon & açaí.  I’m familiar with goji berries and açaí after the recent wave of super-fruit popularity in the US.  But maca and yacon I hadn’t even heard of.  So I went to Wikipedia to find out what I had purchased (door number 2!).  Maca is a Peruvian/Bolivian root with a sweet and slightly bitter taste, and yaca is a Peruvian tuber which is supposed to taste similar to jicama with some floral overtones. My husband and I tried a small bit of both, and the one with yaca is awesome!

Good thing I’m out of leftovers after this week, so I’ll have plenty of blank slate for cooking next week!

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