Kik Alicha, Timatim Firfir, Beet-Potato Salad, and Injera

I know, it’s been a WHILE since I last posted, four weeks to be exact. Sorry! We had a lot of social obligations, then Halloween, my birthday, the election… Life has been hectic and I have not had the time nor energy to sit and talk about food. There has been a lot of good, actually a ton of good, and bad in the past month and this project took a backseat to more pressing issues. It’s really hard to get excited about food when there are bigger things to focus on. I’m not going to get into it because I think there has been enough talk in the past week. I will say this, I feel like we need to accept where we are and focus our energy on making the best out of it. We can’t change what has happened but we still have the ability to change the future. Focus on that. Focus on what you can do. Get out there and do it. We’ve all heard the wake up call so now it’s time to sit up, put your feet on the ground, and make the Devil say “Oh shit, she’s up!”

So we ate Ethiopian food four weeks ago! Ethiopia was one of the weeks both James and I were really excited about. We were introduced to it a few years ago when we had dinner with some vegan friends. What we both remember from that first meal was the injera, which is a sourdough flatbread. Our friends warned us beforehand that we might not like it because a lot of people are put off by the bitter flavor but luckily James and I are both bitter people (I’m kidding, sort of). The injera was our favorite part of the entire meal and it has remained one of our favorite things to eat. Making injera isn’t fast. The batter has to ferment for at least three days but you can technically start using it after one day. Making my injera was delayed a day because I’m an idiot. When doing my grocery shopping, I grabbed a bag of teff seeds; teff flour is what is used to make injera. It is a a grain that is similar to millet and quinoa and is high in fiber and iron. The problem was I needed teff flour, not seeds. And even though I read “teff seed” on the package, it didn’t register. It registered after I poured the entire package of seeds in a bowl and mixed it with water. Finally the light bulb went off and I literally said to myself “Dummy. You need flour, not seeds!” and I smacked my forehead. So I had to go back the next day and buy flour. Watching it sit on my counter top was painful because I just wanted to cook with it right away and I am not a patient person. When it finally hit the 24 hour mark, I was so excited! The cooking technique was very similar to making the dosas and we all know how I aced that (brushes off shoulders) so I knew I had this!

I did not have this. I mean, it was fine but the flavor was not the same as what I’ve eaten. My injera wasn’t as spongy and it was kind of grainy. I was sad but I figured it wasn’t as great because it needed more time to ferment. So it goes. I moved on and prepared the rest of the meal.

Yeah the rest of the meal wasn’t much better. The kik alicha was good, even though I substituted white urad dal for the split peas. It was very creamy and buttery and it was similar to another dal we had during Nepal week. The timatim firfir was just onion, pepper, and tomato in olive oil and lemon juice. It really didn’t absorb any of the berbere seasoning and it was pretty acidic. And then the beet-potato salad…ugh. Like the timatim, it was just a sum of ingredients. There was nothing special about it, we just ate boiled potatoes and beets.

So obviously this meal was a fail but I had hopes for the next day’s meal. I can’t remember if the girls ate it or not but I want to say no. Because we didn’t even like it. So it goes.

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Pollo al Ajillo, Patatas Bravas, Pimientos de Padron, Albondigas, and Croquettes

Last week was Spanish week and, man, it took me a minute to get back into the groove after being off for two weeks! I didn’t do any meal planning during my blog-cay (a word I totally just created but I’m gonna trademark because ‘merica) and winged dinner and grocery shopping for two weeks. I thought the lack of structure would stress me out but working on the fly was pretty freeing. I didn’t have to think about staying on schedule, which is always running through the back of my mind, but the best part was I got to create my own meals. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed myself and that was nice.

Then I got to last week and I was like “So much for that!”  Okay, that makes it sound horrible and it really wasn’t but it was an adjustment. Last week was a busy social week. We went to Dallas the weekend of the fourth for friend’s wedding (congrats Kavya and Matt!), then we had Neighborhood Night Out, various doctor’s appointments, and finally I had a bachelorette party this past weekend. Crammed into all of that was the usual grocery shopping, chores around the house, and errands. I barely had time to watch my stories!

One of the few silver linings to the week was that I was cooking Spanish food. Spanish food, with its tapas filled cuisine, made meal planning a lot easier considering the fact that we wouldn’t be eating as a family a lot during the week. It was only two nights but those two nights fell on days that I typically cook for the blog so it worked out. Since we had two light “meals” I’m just combining all three into one post. For whatever reason I’m unable to add the pic of the one real meal I made to this post but it’s on the Pics page if you’re curious.

The first night was Tuesday, which was our Neighborhood Night Out and it was a potluck. I made albondigas, which are meatballs. They weren’t very difficult to make but they did require a bit of planning because I had to let the meat chill for at least an hour before cooking them. Everything was on course until I locked myself and Niko out of the house when we were on our way to take him to get his staples removed. What followed were three hours of frantically calling James to tell him he had to leave early from work so he could pick the girls up from school, Niko and I hanging out at a neighbor’s house until James got home forty-five minutes later, rushing to pick the girls up, rushing back home to cook the meatballs and the sauce, and then heading out to the potluck and putting on my happy face. And then no one ate them! That’s not true, they did eat some, but not enough. I made about thirty meatballs and we came home with half. I don’t think it was the flavor, they tasted fine, but they didn’t look very appealing. The sauce was made up of leeks, garlic, onions, and white wine so it was a light brown color and I think that threw some people off. No one complimented me on them either so maybe the flavor was a bit off as well. Meh, we saved them for dinner the next night.

Which is when I made pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken), patatas bravas (Spanish homefries), and pimientos de padron (roasted padron peppers). The recipe for the chicken called for a whole chicken but I used breasts and thighs. I was worried about the breasts drying out but they came out pretty juicy and tender. I had hoped it would be garlicky because of the name but I didn’t get any garlic flavor out of it. I was pretty disappointed in that. My potatoes came out kinda mushy, which caused a frown. Homefries are NOT supposed to be mushy. I also thought the sauce was too acidic. The recipe called for both crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and I think that was a bit of an overkill; it would have been fine with one or the other but not both. Who knows, maybe I did something wrong but I followed the recipe so I’m gonna say no. By that time, I was pretty down on the meal but then, BUT THEN, I got to the peppers. The recipe called for padron peppers but I couldn’t find padron so I substituted shishito. From what I’ve read, the appeal of pimientos de padron is that you never know if you’re getting a hot or mild pepper. Unlike other peppers, you can’t tell if a padron pepper is spicy based on the color or shape so you’re kinda playing pepper roulette with this dish. I don’t like spicy peppers so when I read that shishitos are consistently mild, I was okay with the substitution. What I read was wrong, y’all! Both James and I got a couple of long shishitos that cleared up our sinuses and made our eyes water! The good thing was we quickly figured out it was the long peppers but still, it was a surprise. So luckily the entire meal wasn’t a bust. Another silver lining!

On Saturday I attended a pot luck dinner to kick off my friend’s bachelorette weekend. The girls were going out to downtown Austin after dinner so I knew I needed to fill their stomachs with fried, gooey, goodness. This is when the croquettes walked in. Croquettes are basically fried ham filled bechamel sauce. Seriously, that’s all they are. You make a bechamel sauce, add some ham, chill it, shape into balls, and then fry it. And they’re amazing! Like the meatballs, it took some prep time but once the bechamel sauce was made, it took me less than ten minutes to fry them. I worried about them losing their gooeyness on the drive down to east Austin but even after a twenty minute drive and another thirty sitting on the counter before we got to eating, they were great. They lost a bit of the crispness but they were still delicious and I know they helped them at 2 a.m. when they needed a post drinking snack.

Aside from the cluster that was Tuesday afternoon, Spanish week was okay. Yes I was disappointed with most of it but I also loved some of it so it wasn’t a total loss. I know some people wanted me to make paella but you can’t make paella for a small group and unfortunately we didn’t have time last week to have people over for dinner so that was a lost opportunity. I did have some trouble narrowing down what to make because I couldn’t find a lot of actual meals from Spain, everything was just a combination of a bunch of tapas. Which I’m okay with, Mrs. Flax from “Mermaids” and her belief that you should only eat hors d’oeuvres and finger foods for every meal has stayed with me since I was a kid, but I was kind of hoping I would be able to find full meals. Meh, so it goes.

This week we are in China and I have been looking forward to this week for a long time! We are actually on day three so I am a bit behind on posting but I hope to be caught up by tomorrow. If you’re wondering just how excited I am about this week, consider this: I am cooking five times this week. I’ve been averaging two to three for the past few “trips.” It’s going to be amazing!

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