Cooking has occured. Meals have been made. There were near hits but mainly misses. Some weeks every single thing you cook is just... meh.
There were failures. Outright failures. For instance, my eggplant flan which I'd been so anxious to make ever since the day this past summer I'd tasted it at Jaleo, a tapas restaurant in Washington, DC.
Mike and I had gone to Washington to meet up with some visiting out-of-town family, and after a short round of museuming talk had immediately turned to where to go for lunch. We ended up at Jaleo where we ordered up a bunch of tapas, and everyone shared them, and every single thing we ordered was some varying degree of delicious. Some were super delicious, some were really delicious, and some were just plain delicious, but nothing was any less than delicious.
Everyone chose one or two things from the menu and the thing I chose was an eggplant flan with red pepper sauce from the cold tapas menu. It was amazing -- custardy, creamy, slippery, delicate, and tasted intensely of eggplant.
When I got home, I immediately got on the internet and began looking for recipes but found none. The only thing I turned up when I searched under "recipe eggplant flan" was a book called Catalan Cuisine: Europe's Last Great Culinary Secret which listed eggplant flan among its recipes. I ordered a used copy from Amazon, and this past weekend I finally tried the recipe for eggplant flan.
It was not a success. My eggplant flan was on the dry side and the texture was just slightly cottony. The eggplant flavor was not intense, and the color was not the off-white of the eggplant I'd been served at Jaleo but rather an unappetizing khaki green. The overcooking was in part because I was trying to watch back episodes of The Wire while cooking and my attention was diverted when I should have been paying attention to the custards. Of course, the cookbook instructions were not particularly detailed and after reading a Lidia Bastianich recipe for a mushroom flan with very complete instructions, I realize that custards in the oven need to be watched like a hawk in order to insure they don't overcook.
Mike was completely uninterested in trying more than a bite of it and told me he hadn't really been all that enthusiastic about the original eggplant flan. Apparently I was so busy exclaiming over that eggplant flan that I failed to note that Mike's enthusiasm for it was not actually enthusiasm, just polite agreement. I ate one and couldn't bring myself to eat any of the rest of them, and given Mike's disinterest in them, I probably won't try to work on improving this recipe. On the plus side, all the red peppers I'd roasted in order to make the sauce for the flan were delicious.
Red peppers are one of my favorite things and this time of year is the only time that they are available locally and inexpensively enough that I can eat large quantities on a regular basis. Imagine my disappointment when another of my failures this past week was a recipe for red peppers stewed in balsamic vinegar from Return to Paris: A Memoir by Colette Rossant which is a very charming food memoir of a woman who grew up in Cairo before World War II and then resettled in Paris after the war. While I recommend the book enthusiastically, the red peppers stewed in balsamic vinegar I cannot recommend. I cooked six red peppers in a half cup of balsamic vinegar which reduces and becomes sort of syrupy, then tossed them with a little olive oil and chilled them. This treatment however, did nothing for them.
Let's see. What else have I cooked or otherwise been up to this week.
I bought a crepe pan -- actually I bought two -- prompted by absolutely nothing other than I happened to drive by Williams-Sonoma. Actually I'd been wanting them for a while but it was a sort of out of the blue purchase. Two nights ago, to celebrate my new crepe pans, I made eggplant and tomato sauce filled crepes, except because the tomato sauce and eggplant seemed to be somewhat Italian in mood to me I referred to the crepes as manicotti. It was not initially my plan to make eggplant tomato crepes, and in fact at 5 pm that day I had no plan for dinner whatsoever. What I did have were two cups of marinara sauce in the refrigerator, two eggplants on the counter, and fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator. Somehow the only plan that presented itself was the pseudo manicotti. On closer inspection, the fresh mozzarella turned out to no longer be all that fresh, but there was some mascarpone cheese -- a substance that if mixed with cardboard would probably make the cardboard taste good -- and I mixed a small amount into the tomato sauce with the eggplants, stuffed the would-be manicottis, baked them for a short while, and you know what? They were pretty darned good. In fact, they were probably the best thing I made all week.
But really, that whole making dinner thing, where night after night you come up with some idea for a meal that includes the major food groups (or most of them), is reasonably healthy, and, oh yeah, tastes good, sometimes really seems beyond me some days. I rack my brain and can think of nothing.
Anyway, I'm trying to shake off my food funk. The squash that you see pictured above is destined to be soup. I have a stack of recipes I'm waiting to try. And if I'm lucky, next week will be better than this week.