So some fairly exciting things have been happening here in the land where the pudding is savory and pants are called “trousers,” lest you intended to compliment the color of a male co-worker’s knickers rather loudly in the workplace. I hadn’t, and it was sobering.
Cultural disparities and mild HR offenses aside, I have been adjusting really well to life in London. The Food Network programming is radically different in the UK, but no matter – I get to watch all the Jamie Oliver I could ever want on the other food and travel channels. I can handle that. He’s dreamy. He has a new show called “Jamie does…” where he travels and basically does a Bourdain-style documentary, sans the eating of goat intestines and the like. I watched the episode where he did Athens, and I was inspired by the Greek salad he made while atop my dream villa:
1 beef tomato
1 medium red onion, peeled
1 green pepper
1 tablespoon red
3 tablespoons good-quality
Greek extra virgin olive oil
200g block of feta cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Jamie also called for black olives and two other types of tomatoes, but I left those out since multiple types of tomatoes felt excessive and I accidentally neglected to buy olives. Anyways, you start by chopping the tomatoes and green pepper, and slice the red onion really thin. He also taught me to run a fork along the cucumber skin before you slice so it has that fancy flowery look once you do slice. Throw the chopped vegetables atop the mixed greens. Then chop the herbs and toss those in also, and drizzle the whole mix with the red wine vinegar and olive oil. Toss it with your hands to look extra rustic like Jamie, and then top with salt, pepper feta and oregano. It may be simple, but it was so delicious and a solid new member of my go-to repertoire.
Like all reformed vegetarians, I go through mini-phases of rabbit food-like consumption followed by meat craving and subsequent meat binging. Par for the course, I guess. One such example of the rabbit food-like consumption is these adorable quinoa cakes I made a week ago.
2 cups water
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
2/3 cup grated carrots
2/3 cup butternut squash
1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
Zest of 1 large lemon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
The original recipe called for yellow squash, but the summer squash is as foreign to the Brits as the elusive Summer herself, so I had to sub with butternut squash.
You start by bringing quinoa and the water to a boil in a big pot, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to stand for 5 minutes and fluff with a fork.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa with onion, garlic, carrots, squash, spinach, zest, flour, baking powder, egg, salt and pepper. Form mixture into eight (4- to 5-inch) patties and arrange on an oiled baking sheet. Bake, flipping halfway through, until lightly browned and just crisp, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, I made the yogurt sauce, which you prepare by stirring together dill, yogurt and lemon juice. You serve the sauce atop the cakes. These cakes are seriously tasty, and I actually enjoyed bringing them for lunch even more. Ms. butternut squash did an excellent job, too. You would never have guessed that she was the stand-in.
The Whole Foods version look like perfect little patties, but mine came out like quirky little stars. I kinda prefer my way.
Before I describe the meat binging side of the past couple of weeks, let’s switch gears for a minute to discuss the sweaty in my life. Last we spoke, I was anti-gym but pro-badminton and yoga. I may have finally found my happy medium, folks. I’m now pro-everything, but my weeks mostly gym in moderation (3 times/week on average) and yoga or pilates more like 5-7 times a week. I’ve also been really regular with the street jazz dance class that I love slightly more than life itself. And voila – active, happy, but not abusing any one workout. It’s taken a fair 12 years or so to figure it out, but I may have finally done this. I’m all prideful, y’all. Downright spirited. Cocky, really. I’m thisclose to doling out unsolicited gym advice.
Now as far as the meat-binging goes, I found myself craving the lamb yet once again, so I made these lamb kebab skewers with tzatziki sauce.
2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/4 red onions, (1/4 finely chopped, 1 thickly sliced)
1/2 a lemon, Juice of
6 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
1 pound thick-cut boneless lamb chops, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
You start by making the tzatziki sauce, which happens when you put yogurt, cucumbers, garlic, chopped onions, and lemon juice into a medium bowl and stir well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Assemble kebabs by threading lamb, mushrooms, peppers, and sliced onions onto the skewers, alternating them as you go. Place all kebabs on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper, turning skewers around to season all sides. Drizzle with oil, once again turning the skewers to evenly coat all of the meat and vegetables.
Bake about 13 minutes for medium rare. Serve with tzatziki sauce on the side, and Frank’s Red Hot if you like it spicy like yours truly.
I went to a girl’s night last night, which basically was a thinly-veiled excuse to binge on Italian meats and cheese and dance to 90s hip hop – AKA my most favorite night ever. I made this beautiful chocolate mousse from Bobby Flay:
5 1/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
14 ounces cold heavy cream
3 large egg whites
Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish, optional
You start by placing the chocolate in a large bowl set over a pot with about an inch of water brought to a low simmer. Stir until melted. Turn off the heat and let stand.
I beat the cream until it formed soft peaks, then set it aside. With a mixer, I whipped the egg whites to soft peaks. I gradually added the sugar and continue whipping until firm.
Remove the chocolate and using a whisk, fold in the egg whites all at once. When the whites are almost completely incorporated, fold in the whipped cream. Cover the mousse and refrigerate for approximately 1 hour. I served it in little cups topped with more whipped cream. Twas a hit. They looked a little like this:
But, like, way less professional.
And, finally, to complete the meat binge, I made gnocchi with bacon and peas for dinner tonight.
1-pound package potato gnocchi
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons freshly chopped thyme leaves
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
I followed this recipe to a T, and it came out delicious.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the gnocchi and cook for about 5 minutes.
In a large skillet over medium heat add bacon and cook until slightly crisp. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 30 seconds. Drain the gnocchi and add it to the pan. Stir in the butter, then add the peas, a pinch of black pepper, and a pinch of salt and mix to combine. Add the lemon juice and allow flavors to blend. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer the gnocchi to a serving bowl and serve. Highly recommended. I just loved this. See below: