Sunday, May 13, 2012

Week 7 Donna Hay: Spiced Grill

This has been the ultimate summer and cooking weekend.  I had friends over and bar-be-queued on Friday night for Girl's Book Club.  Then Saturday was gardening and a Donna Hay lunch for Mother's Day.  Sunday was my dad's side of the family luncheon before my and my sisters big trip to Ireland!  Did I mention I am going to Ireland and leaving in a week?!  I am so excited and of course will post pictures from my trip.

But now, let's get down to week 7 menu from Donna Hay's Instant Entertaining book.  Here was the menu: (all photos credited to my sister via iPhone.  Click HERE for her blog.)

grilled eggplant and white bean salad
(grilled eggplant, white beans, spinach leaves, and tomatoes in a parsley dressing)

spiced lamb with tahini dressing

(lamb rubbed with chili powder and cumin grilled with a tahini and lemon dressing)

mint and feta tabbouli
(mint, parsely, scallions and lemon mixed into bulgar)

date and almond cakes with orange syrup
I have to say this was one of my favorite meals so far.  I enjoyed everything!  Now for my notes.  

Starter: I am not an eggplant fan but I am going by the book for each meal the first time I make it and honestly the dressing flavors actually made me forget it was even there.  The dressing was vinegar, olive oil, pine nuts, parsley and garlic processed in the food processor.  Delicious!  My tummy does not really like raw garlic and I did get some hits of that so I think next time I will cook the garlic a bit in the olive oil and then process.  But to each his own. Oh, and did I mention that some of the parsley leave were celery leaves?  My sister planted celery in our backyard right next to the parsley.  I mean who does that?  I went into our backyard Friday night around 11pm after book club to get the herbs for the next day so needless to say I was tired and was not really observing the slight difference in leaf shape.  Oh well, it tasted great to me.

Main: Grilled flat bread, yes please. Used baby spinach leaves instead of rocket as my grocery store did not have and I couldn't tella difference, plus spinach is one of my favorite foods. Spice rub, tasty.  Lamb, I love the flavor but I think the cut was too thick.  I was lucky my grocery store even had lamb loin as that was all they had.  Grrr, why is lamb not more prevalent in grocery stores?  I have to wonder if lamb is to Australia as beef is to America?  I ponder this at night.  I admit I rarely, and I mean rarely eat beef or red meat but I cannot help but wonder if more lamb were in the stores if that would change.  My mother says lamb is seasonal so perhaps summer will show me differently. Now for the tahini dressing.  Umm...I had to swap one of the ingredients, you know, the tahini.  I have a problem with tahini.  I went through a phase where I was trying a bunch of different hummus recipes and we all know classic hummus calls for tahini.  So being true to the first time doing a recipe do it by the book philosophy I bought tahini.  A $10 jar of tahini in which I used about a tablespoon per recipe.  Let me tell you, I could not taste a difference in better flavor and actually felt like tahini was wasted on me.  Plus, how I make my hummus it turns out really creamy so no need to add the extra expensive ingredient.  That jar of tahini sat in my refrigerator for a very, very long time.  I gave up with tahini so when the recipe called for it I just could not concede to buying a jar and having it be wasted.  Tahini is close to creamy peanut butter and I had the perfect amount of almond butter left over so I gave myself a pass and did not buy the tahini.  Guess what?  That dipping sauce was amazing! Donna Hay must eat a lot of lamb and eating a lot of lamb she must have tried a million different sauce recipes because everyone I have made of hers is fantastic!  Even my vegetarian sister who had large slices of grilled eggplant had more sauce.

Side: Okay, forgive me again.  This recipe called for bulgar.  If you have not had bulgar just know it is super healthy and easy grain to make.  And well, the last time I had bulgar I realized I did not love it, but if it was accompanied with good flavors that I would not mind.  So again, grocery shopping around 11pm I could not find bulgar anywhere in the store.  I went up and down every isles when I finally gave up and came across barley grains.  Bulgar, barley, they both start with "B" and look pretty similar so why not?  Ha! The barley, in my opinion, actually had a better flavor than bulgar.  The downside is that it needs to cook a little longer.  It was slightly al dente.  I actually liked it that way but the consensus as the table was to cook a little longer.  All that to say, still really good.  Also, I am a sucker for scallions which this dish had plenty of.  Tons of mint and tons of parsley/celery leaves.  Healthy, good, and most likely going to be in my lunch box.

Dessert:  Donna Hay, you have done it again!  Date and almond cakes with orange syrup, yes please! So wanting my dessert to look like the pictures in Donna's book I cut off the top of the muffin and turned the desserts upside down to assemble.  Not wanting to waste I but the tops in a little bowl for my family to enjoy if they chose so.  I am glad I did because I got to taste the dessert with or without the orange syrup.  The almond date cakes on their own were, to quote Paula Deane, out of this world! Moist, soft, and in each bit you get hints of almonds and dates which become one flavor.  The orange syrup, well I haven't met a citrus syrup I didn't love, very good.  My oldest sister said that next time less syrup because she couldn't tast the cake flavor was well.  Noted.  Next time the syrup might just go on the bottom of the plate so each person can sop up as much syrup as their palate desires.

All in all, this had to be one of my favorite meals.  But now that I think about it I did like Bistro Basics, and the Greek Inspiration one, and who can forget the Asian Fusion or the Mediterranean Meal?  Then there was Easter brunch.  Who knows? That are all so good and I have plenty more too cook still! Bon appetit!

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