Fish Pilaki and Mercimek Koftesi

I’ve noticed that it’s more difficult for me to get motivated to post when the food is less that awesome. Like I know I need to post but I just can’t gather the energy to get my stuff together, login, and do the thing. It almost feels like a chore and no one likes chores. Last week, when the food was spectacular, I was anxious to post and couldn’t wait to share the experience. There were a couple of nights where I wrote the post right after dinner because I wanted to get my thoughts down that quickly. This week? Meh, not so much. I made this meal on Tuesday night and it’s Thursday. Take from that what you will.

That’s not to say the food is bad because it’s far from bad; it’s just not fantastic. I guess this means I can’t expect everything to be life changing, which is something I’ve mentioned before but I guess I keep forgetting to remind myself. I will admit that’s a problem I have in general: expectations. I often times expect too much from people or from situations and end up disappointed. It’s something I’m constantly working on but I guess I need to work harder. Maybe work smarter, not harder? Isn’t that a saying?

The fish was good but it seemed familiar. Tilapia is a versatile fish and easily picks up whatever seasoning you give it so I don’t think the type of fish was the problem. The problem was the preparation. Carrots, potatoes, garlic, and onions aren’t anything special. I think I’ve actually made a slight variation of this meal before so this was just another fish dish to me. The 21 month old LOVED the fish so much she asked for thirds. The 3 year old was less than interested. 

The real surprise was the mercimek koftesi. Like I said before, there’s a reason they are so popular! The 3 year old liked them, although she did say they were spicy. They were a little spicy but nothing overpowering. It definitely livened up the bulgur and lentils because, let’s be honest, on their own, bulgur and lentils are a little boring. They were bean patties but you know how much I love beans so of course I was going to enjoy this! The dip of pomegranate molasses and olive oil was TO DIE FOR! Pomegranate molasses basically taste like thickened pomegranate juice but I love pomegranate juice. I’m glad I bought this condiment because I’m going to find other ways to incorporate it into meals. 

So while the fish was fine, I did honestly love the kofte. They were really easy to make and I think would make a great appetizer. And the American in me just wondered “What if I fried them????”

Recipe

Biber Dolma and Bulgur Wheat Pilaf with Vegetables

We are in Turkey this week! I decided to not buy a cookbook because, well, we settled on Turkey on Sunday night and with Amazon Prime, we wouldn’t get the book until at least Wednesday morning and I do my grocery shopping on Tuesdays. I wasn’t able to find any at our library and I could have requested it from another library but, again, wouldn’t have had it in time for grocery shopping. The internet to the rescue! 

I found lots and lots of “Top Turkish Meals” lists and chose the ones that they all had in common and then started searching for recipes. I found this website, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, and, wow. she is amazing! If you want to read a fantastic food blogger, check her out. If you prefer mediocre (at best) please continue reading me!

This was a good easy meal but it wasn’t anything special. I’ve made stuff peppers before so I knew what to expect in  terms of flavor but I did learn a new way of preparing them. I always made the meat and rice separately and then combined them in the peppers and roasted in the oven. This is a faster method for sure. The bulgur pilaf was really good and buttery. I’ve had bulgur before but this was fluffier and tastier.

I think the part that probably didn’t work for me was all the bell pepper. When I first started cooking regularly, I always used bell peppers. They are really easy to cook with and are a great way to add flavor. We probably ate bell peppers at least twice a week for almost a year so ever since then, I’m not a huge fan. I don’t dislike them but I also don’t seek them out. Probably shouldn’t have chosen such a heavy bell pepper meal BUT the internet wouldn’t shut up about biber dolma so I had to do it. The internet is so pushy.

Recipe

Bean Escabeche

This was our last Peruvian meal. I had planned it in the hopes of inviting our Paleo diet following neighbors over for dinner but I kinda forgot to invite them over…I think this is Paleo friendly, except for the rice. Okay I just took the time to Google “Paleo Diet” and no, this is not Paleo friendly. I thought you could eat beans when paleo but I guess not. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t invite them over.

Recipe

Arroz con Chancho

This recipe is called Arroz con Chancho, which translates to rice with pig. Spanish can sometimes be confusing because it often varies from country to country. I was once speaking to some Cubans about roasting some meat and one mentioned what they had roasted over the weekend. I didn’t hear him clearly so I asked him to repeat himself. His friend said “Oh, si aquí se dice oveja.” Translation: oh, yeah here they say oveja” Oveja means sheep. I asked what he had originally said and he said “Borrego” which technically also means ‘sheep’ but specifically it means ‘lamb.’ It can get confusing.

Off the top of my head, I can think of three ways to say ‘pig’ in Spanish: cerdo, puerco, and marrano. Growing up we always called pigs ‘marranos’ and pork was ‘puerco’; cerdo wasn’t used very often. I bring this up because when I saw the name for this recipe, I had to look up ‘chancho.’ Based on context clues, I quickly figured out it meant pork but I was curious to learn more. It appears that ‘chancho’ is more common in South America, which explains why I’m not familiar. So moral of the story: Español is muy dificil. Spanish is very hard.

 

Recipe

Green Quinoa and Turkey Atamalado

Atamalado is a way of preparing quinoa as a stew. This recipe called for turkey meat, both white and brown, but seeing as how it’s February and the only turkey available to me was either a full turkey or ground turkey, I choose the latter. I think it turned out fantastic.

I started eating quinoa about twelve years ago. Yes, this is my subtle way of saying I was into quinoa before it became a “thing.” I’m a quinoa hipster. I was 23 and had recently had my first ever full physical. You know the kind, the one that in addition to weighing you and the basics, you also get a full blood screen to check for any abnormalities. I was still in college and living the college life. That is to say, I was not exactly eating healthy, or really do anything healthy. When it came time for my results, my doctor said that everything looked great and it was some of the best blood work he’d ever seen. His exact words were “So keep doing whatever you’re doing because it’s working out great” I replied “I eat fast food and drink Starbucks daily, smoke, drink alcohol, and don’t work out.” I remember him sighing and saying “I normally wouldn’t encourage that behavior but it seems to be working for you. But maybe cut back on the smoking and drinking and eat a vegetable every once in a while.” So with that in mind, I decided to work on my diet. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me my lifestyle was unhealthy but I apparently did need his judgement to motivate me to do something about it.

I went to the grocery store and started buying actual food that wasn’t sandwich meat, didn’t come in a can, didn’t require cooking in a microwave, and didn’t have “Instant” on the label. It was hard. I was in the pasta section when I saw a little turquoise box labeled “Quinoa: A Complete Source of Protein.” A complete source of protein in a box? Please continue! I read the box and learned that it was an ancient grain that was regarded as a superfood. This was in the time before smartphones so I had to go by what was on the box, I couldn’t Google it. Because I’m an advertisers dream and constantly fall for flashy words and packaging (and because all it required was being boiled in water) I bought a box.

And I never turned back.

I actually enjoyed quinoa and because it was so easy to make and paired well with almost everything, I ate it regularly. Then it became the most popular food on the planet and the price skyrocketed. I don’t eat it as often now because I’ve learned how to cook other foods but I still like it a lot.

Recipe

Crab Ceviche and Scallop Cau Cau

So far I’ve only made three Peruvian dishes but I’ve already learned they really like their sauces. The cookbook refers to them as pastes but maybe that’s a language thing. The most common so far has been the Yellow Chili, Garlic, and Onion Condiment, which I mentioned in the last post was just yellow chili blended with oil and then fried with red onion and garlic. I mention this because for two reasons: 1. the next two recipes call for three different sauces and 2. if you’re really trying Peruvian cooking, you just need to know this because it’s going to extend your time in the kitchen significantly. You can make the sauces, which is what I choose to do, or you can buy them if you have a Latin American supermarket near you. I choose to make them because I don’t see myself using these sauces a lot in the near future and I don’t have a large pantry that can accommodate some extra jars. Also, these sauces require peppers that aren’t that easy to find. Luckily I have Fiesta Mart so I was able to find most but not all. BUT I’ve searched the internet and have found some substitutes for you:

Rocoto pepper.

This looks like a small bell pepper but it’s not. They have black seeds and are a little spicy. The ceviche called for a Rocoto Pepper Paste, which was the pepper blended with vegetable oil, and it was so fragrant, it made me cough. According to the interwebs, you can substitute a habanero pepper for this one. I took a pic of the rocoto pepper because it’s so unique!

I was introduced to ceviche over ten years ago but it was a white fish ceviche. When they explained how the fish was “cooked” by the citric acid, I didn’t get it. Like, you cook with heat, not juice! I was never good at chemistry…when I finally got over it and tried it, it was delicious! I’ve had it numerous times since then but I’ve never actually made it myself, until today! And of course I chose crab ceviche, which involved shucking a crab, another first!

First things first: crabs look gross and they do not sing and dance like Sebastian from The Little Mermaid. That was a letdown. Second things second: crabs do not contain a lot of meat, at least not the blue crabs I used. The recipe called for 12 oz of meat but after smashing four crabs, I got half that amount. It worked out for us because only the hubs and I were eating but I tell him I was glad I wasn’t making this for a large group of people

Scallops hold a special place in my heart but not because they are delicious; I had scallops on James’ and my first date. Scallops will always remind me of that terrible first date. Memories! The mushiness of the potatoes paired well with the chewiness of the scallops but the real delight came from the peas and mint. I also think the rice with the cau cau was unnecessary. I think another veggie would be better because the potatoes are filing on their own. Both of us felt bloated after this meal but it was so good! It’s just part of the job, you know…

Recipe

Poor Man’s Tacu Tacu

This week we’re in Peru! Only one person voted in the poll and they voted for Russian food but we were in the mood for something lighter. Also, I found this great cookbook!

I was at Costco a few weeks ago and saw this gorgeous cookbook on Peruvian cooking. It’s huge and colorful so I was immediately drawn to it! Way to go marketing team! At roughly 430 pages, it’s almost an encyclopedia and I was thiiiiis close to buying it when I saw the price tag. $30. Nope, not gonna happen. I just can’t justify spending that much money on a cookbook, or any book for that matter. Anyway, I was at the library last week and lo and behold, the super pretty cookbook was right there, FOR FREE. Easy decision right there!

The first meal is Poor Man’s Tacu Tacu. In Spanish it’s Tacu Tacu A Lo Pobre. Tacu tacu is apparently a very popular dish in Peru that is made of rice and beans, shaped into a patty, and fried. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but my favorite food combination is rice and beans. Any kind of rice and beans. I’ll eat them all! So I was pretty excited about this! Also, it’s fried. I love fried food.

This is normally served with fried bananas and a fried egg on top. I didn’t make the egg part because I felt this was going to be more than enough food but I did fry a banana.

THIS WAS AMAZING! The tacu tacu reminded me of Gallo Pinto but tastier! I kept eating the mix when I was preparing it and noticed that it was drier after I fried it but I still loved it. I think it would have benefited from a sauce but that’s about it. The meat was okay, nothing special, but the tacu tacu was fantastic! Even the girls ate it, BOTH OF THEM! I mean, granted the 3 year old smelled it first and said “NO!” but then I told her she could have some ice cream if she took just two bites. Two bites turned into eating the entire serving and her exclaiming “This is good, Mommy!” Success!

Recipe

Beef Fajita Nachos

I said I would post the recipe for my awesome, Super Bowl, Beef Fajita Nachos and I am nothing if not a woman of my word.

Ingredients

2 lbs beef skirt steak

2 very ripe avocados

1 tomato, diced with the pulp removed

12 corn tortillas

I don’t have accurate measurements of the following so just use how much you like:

Cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper

Cheese and sour cream

Do not use store bought tortilla chips when making nachos. Making your own chips is so easy and they are waaaay better quality! Also, they’re better for stacking since they won’t fall apart like store bought chips will. Grease a pan with oil. Brush each tortilla with olive oil and stack into fours; cut into quarters. Make sure you also brush the sides with oil so they don’t burn. Bake 12-15 minutes at 350.

Top with sour cream, cheese, and jalapenos! I forgot the jalapenos 😦 I had planned on making individual nachos because that’s the best way to eat them but I was running late so I just stacked everything on top of each other. They were still delicious!

Stuffed Eggplant and Bamboo Shoot Curry

This was our last Burmese meal and I’m actually eating the leftovers right now for lunch! It was better fresh…

Recipe

Quick Programming Note

I’m taking a break from cooking this week because I really just want dinner to be easy and not a production. I mean, I am still going to cook but it won’t be any fancy cuisine, just regular meals. Well, the theme is “What Will the Three Year Old Eat?” so, basically, 4th of July food. Hot dogs, hamburgers, meat loaf, tacos, super good stuff.

Both James and I have one more meal each to post so we’ll have those up in the next couple of days. I also made some bombass nachos for Super Bowl Sunday so I’ll post that as well. James thinks I should post some kind of cooking tutorial, specifically how to chop onions. Does anyone really need that? If so, leave a comment, I’ll post it.