Aug 8, 2011

July KTC Event: Easy Breezy Beautiful Summer Fare with Joyce and Damian

Hey there, crazy cats! If you are wondering what the heck the title is all about, allow me to direct you to Cycle 11 of America's Next Top Model, a show where Tyra Banks demonstrates her continued ability to be a living, breathing train wreck while dragging down a dozen pretty model wanna-be's on national TV.
Also, for this blog post, I tried out some new speech-to-text software on my mobile phone. It's called Dragon Dictation, and it takes the blah blah blah that comes out of my mouth, and converts it to written blah blah blah with way more accuracy than I would have anticipated. For your enjoyment, I've called out in the blog a couple of the funnier typos/errors in translation that the program made.

Now, on to the good stuff...

It was an easy, breezy summer day indeed when we met in the house of Joyce and Jessica to enjoy easy, breezy summer fare! Joyce and Damian, our gracious hosts, had readied everything we'd need to enjoy an afternoon of delights. We had snacks...

And more importantly, we had booze:

The afternoon itself was typical for a summer day in Seattle, changeable, grey, and rainy. This was the view out the back door:
In spite of the gloom (or maybe because of it!), Jessica, Shawn, and Joyce took great pains to liven up the atmosphere a bit:
It must have worked really well, too, because folks were in particularly cheery spirits!
Even Rosie was smiling!
The evening's menu included:
We jumped right in and got started.

Damian and Joyce had marinated lamb cubes in a fabulous shwarma-style spice mix of garlic, cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, cumin, mace, salt, lemon juice, and yogurt. As if the description alone weren't enough to make your mouth water, have a look at the final product!
While the lamb was browning so beautifully, dear Jessica had just created what might have been the most delicious salad dressing ever. Made with yogurt, avocado, and a ton of garlic, it was extraordinarily tasty and would be a hit on vegetables or potatoes in addition to being salad-friendly. In this shot, Jessica shows us just how delicious it is!
Since Rick was out-of-town fishing, we decided to take advantage and have as much cilantro as we were able today. Damian happily chopped away a full bunch for our assorted garnishes...
Fernando helped seed the tomatoes to make salmorejo, which is a chilled tomato soup, similar to gazpacho (tee-hee, my dictation program translated "gazpacho" as "best Pacho"). Salmorejo hails from Southern Spain, and is made with bread and almonds blended up into the soup to give it a very interesting body.
As an experiment, we thought it would be fun to slice up some of those polenta tubes and see what happened if we dropped them into the deep fryer for a few minutes. I know I had you at "deep-fried polenta," but have a look for yourself. Yum!
What? What's that you say? It doesn't look like polenta slices? Well, my pretties, you're definitely right about that one. We learned from our polenta experiment that you can only fry a few slices at a time - otherwise, everything breaks up into small, unevenly-fried bits. Not a bad thing, mind you, but from a greasy-fingers-management point of view, definitely something to keep in mind.

We'd garnish our chilled salmorejo with some hard-boiled egg and some jamón. Here's Damian fixing up the fixin's.
Next up, homemade falafel. This could not have been more delicious: coarsely ground garbanzo beans, perfectly spiced...They look yummy right here on the baking dish, and they haven't even been cooked yet!
Of course no easy summer dinner would be complete without freshly-made pita bread, right? Meg, Anne, Joyce, and even Fernando pitched in to stretch, knead, shape, and roll.
Anne had some pretty good luck...
As at least half of our group can tell you, given the right stroke and touch, little pitas can quickly grow into really big pitas!
And then into the oven things went, looking pretty flat.
Curiously enough, however, a few minutes in a hot oven do wonders for pita dough - check out the difference!
Our resident movie star Joyce shows us how to do things:

Of course, some pitas puffed up less than others, and these pitas we named "lavash." While they were too flat to fill with lamb, they were definitely not too flat to use as a pretend duck bill.
Another funny dictation error: "Joyce pretending to be a pita beast duck that's right Joyce theater looks like a duck if it walks like and death if it quacks like about it might be Joyce with pita in her mouth." Can I get an Amen?

Fernando tried his hand at rolling out the pita bread...Look at that devilish smile!
Now, look carefully at the photo above - You can barely tell, but Meg is in the background slicing up eggplant fries. These eggplant fries would be the most delicious and most horrifying thing we ate all night: long eggplant slices are lightly dusted with a little rice flour and some spices before having a nice warm dip in the deep fryer. Delicious, delicious, delicious!
I'd be remiss if I didn't introduce the heavy lifter of the night, William's deep fryer. To me, it looks like it is making a sad face, probably because it knows that its contents are the culprits of my rising cholesterol numbers and my ever-tightening pants.
We've just about nailed down all the details; we enjoyed crunchy-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside eggplant fries, and Joyce manned (womaned?) the grill to sear our romaine lettuce. The falafel emerged, crunchy and delicious:
We readied ourselves to serve, and William took his seat at the table.
Et voilà. First course: grilled romaine lettuce, dressed with the aforementioned Most Delicious Green Dressing Ever, alongside a glorious martini glass filled with salmorejo. Here's what it looked like:
I know you want to see these a little bit closer. You're welcome.
We forked the bits of lamb into our fresh pitas...
But the unexpected hit of the party was the Pickle Sauce that we put on the lamb. I don't know who made it or what was in it, but EVERYONE raved over it.
We talked about the Pickle Sauce all night long. We loved it so much that Fernando and Shawn even made up a chart-topping pop song about it--Check it out by clicking here!

Cheers to us! ¡Salud!
In spite of the intended ease, breeze, and beauty of our summer fare dinner, by this point, we were so full that we were unable to even think about preparing and eating hand pies for dessert. Hand pies: they sounded sooo wonderful, "a PopTart for grown-ups," was the official description...nevertheless, our stomachs won. No hand pies for us. We did make due with a sweet and creamy glass of Amarula instead, certainly an adequate substitute!
Meanwhile, we rediscovered that the only downside to making deep-fried polenta, deep-fried eggplant fries, and deep-fried falafel is that that, when you're done, the deep fryer needs a good cleaning and it is kind of a pain to clean. Poor Damian got to scrubbing...
While Damian was doing that, the rest of the cooks took a load off...
Poor Damian kept scrubbing...
And everyone else kept relaxing...
Finally, I think Damian's arm wore out or something - William himself got into the act. Here he is extolling the virtues of SOS pads:
All that manly hard work paid off, though - take a look at that spic-and-span deep fryer! Just like new!
And that's all, folks! Once more, we've gone to a "regular" schedule for our future Kiss the Cooks events, and our next one is coming up on August 20, hosted by Shawn and Meg. Other official news finds us planning to go to Lopez Island in lieu of our normal meeting in October, and William has spearheaded the effort and secured our lodging for the weekend. Thanks, William!
See y'all on the 20th!

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