Saturday, March 7, 2009

Looks Can Be Deceiving

I now keep my camera in the kitchen and rush to take pictures of anything I make that looks promising. But lately it's been a matter of "looking promising" and not delivering. Isn't that the worst?
I mean, doesn't this look appealing (for meat lovers)?

Meatballs are getting cozy with ham in my Dutch oven. I added the rest of the sauce ingredients and let them stew for 30 minutes. Soon after, I'm settled with a plate in front of the TV for Lost.

I had high hopes for this recipe and it looks sensational. So what's the problem? Sometimes looks can be deceiving.
I usually pride myself on being a good recipe picker. Smoky Meatballs in Serrano Ham Tomato Sauce had all the indications of a good recipe. Basic ingredients with a twist (smoked paprika in the meatballs for a smoky flavor, ham in the tomato sauce), the make ahead aspect of the meatballs, and the addition of chunks of red bell pepper allowing the recipe to stand as a one-dish dinner. But overall the recipe was lacking something, namely salt. Only 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt was allocated to a full pound of ground beef, and no salt was added to the rest of the recipe. As any Top Chef judge would say, the dish was underseasoned.
Not that one cannot add salt after tasting the dish. But as I mentioned, I was already well settled into the couch with my plate watching a gripping episode of Lost and never got around to finding the salt shaker. I was only aware enough to know I was disappointed in the recipe.
(Note that when I was warming up the leftovers at work, a woman standing next to me nearly drooled into my tupperware as she asked me what I was eating. At least that made me feel good.)

I tried another promising recipe the next week. Malaysian Chicken Curry with Sweet and Spicy Peppers:

Again with the red peppers. I'm sensing a theme. Do red bell peppers suck all the taste out of things? I'm not sure where this recipe went wrong. The chicken was seasoned well, browned in the pan and then simmered in coconut milk with curry powder, red peppers, and jalapeƱos. I forgot to start the rice so I turned to my favorite rice substitute, couscous, which is always ready in five minutes and does a good job of soaking up the coconut curry. And yet. The recipe didn't wow. And there is too much good food out there to settle for a lackluster performance.

So did I make anything good recently? I've been making this trout for a few years now, and it always satisfies yet doesn't look exciting:

I need a supply of these unassuming recipes which are delicious and memorable enough that I can keep coming back to them to recover from bad recipes.

Indian Grilled Trout (adapted from "step-by-step Indian")

4 trout fillets
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 fresh green chile, deseeded and chopped
1/2 tsp chopped ginger root or ginger paste
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Grated zest from half a lemon
Juice from one lemon

Season the trout and place in broiler pan. Heat the butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the crushed garlic, chile, chopped ginger, and spices and cook very gently for 30 seconds, stirring. Remove the pan from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice. Spoon half the mixture over the trout pieces and cook under the broiler for five minutes. Turn the fish over, spoon the remaining mixture over the fish and broil for a further five minutes. Garnish with cilantro and lemon wedges.

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