A good friend of mine just got back from a vacation in Israel.  Her first email to me upon her return wasn’t about the awe of walking where Jesus walked, or the emotion of the Wailing Wall.  It was about food.  She told me about fresh grapes, fresh olives, fresh pomegranate juice, hummus, challa bread and pita, pastries, and authentic Morrocan food.  Oh, yum.  Book my flight right now, please.

I really enjoy food.  I blame my husband for this.  When we were dating, he was preparing to start culinary school.  We were engaged for his first year of school and married for his second year.  He taught me much about food — including the idea that not every meal must center around ground beef or tuna or boneless skinless chicken breasts.  (That’s what my meals as a single person were like.  I ate well, but rather monotonously.)  He has introduced me to food of many cultures — and I’m talking real food from real cultures, not “Mexican” from Taco Bell or “Chinese” from the local buffet.  (Not to say those restaurants don’t have their place or that I’d never eat there again.  I’m not proud.  I like food.  Period.)  But my world has been opened up to a much wider variety of food than I’d known for the first 20 years of my life.  I’d never seen fresh ginger or owned a bottle of curry powder before.  Now these are staples in our pantry.

More recently, I’ve become infatuated with food blogs.  If you look at my links, you’ll see a few that I’ve discovered.  I love reading about food, looking at delectable photos, and dreaming about cooking these masterpieces.  Wednesday, I was looking at The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and reading about her shrimp quesadillas.  They looked fabulous.  I wanted them.   I had to wipe the drool off my face before I dripped onto my keyboard, causing it to short out.

Later at home, I tried to decide what to make for dinner.  I didn’t have any shrimp (and the money in the food envelope is gone until next payday), but I did have some ground beef.  (Yes, as a remnant of my single days, I still try to keep ground beef in the freezer for those I-don’t-know-what-to-make-for-dinner emergencies.)  So I decided to make the quesadillas with taco meat, but use the same basic techniques that PW used.

I browned the meat and added the seasoning.  I thought we had taco seasoning, but it turned out to be chili seasoning.  It smelled basically the same, but it tasted a lot saltier to me, so I was a little disappointed.  Still, it was better than nothing.  I didn’t have Monterey Jack cheese, so I used a mixture of Salsa Cheddar we got at the Farmer’s Market and pre-shredded Mozzarella.  I cut my onions and peppers as directed and put them in my iron skillet.  I didn’t get them as nice and brown as PW did, but that’s probably because I was hungry and impatient.  But it still looked and smelled good.  I put the onions and peppers in a separate bowl so I could use my nice heavy iron skillet for the quesadillas.  It looked like PW used an iron skillet, so I wanted to do it right.

When I have made quesadillas in the past, I put the filling on one side of the tortilla and then folded it over, so I have a half-moon shape.  But PW said to lay one tortilla down, put all the fillings on, then put another tortilla on top.  Well, okay, I can do that, I thought.  I put my tortilla in the iron skillet.  It fits exactly.  You might think this is a good thing, but I was thinking, how in the heck am I going to flip this bad boy over?  I can’t scoot the thing around to adequately get a spatula under it.  I figured I could do the old cake-pan flip.  You know, you put a plate on top of the cake pan and flip the whole thing over so your cake comes nicely out.  The problem was that this was an iron skillet.  A heavy, hot iron skillet.  I put the oven mitts on my hands and tried to invert this ridiculously heavy skillet.  I tried to just flip it onto the plate, but I couldn’t flip it quickly enough to get it over without it falling out all over the kitchen counter.  (Luckily, I realized this before it happened.)  So instead, I had to put my left  hand on the top tortilla, turn the skillet over with my right hand just enough for the quesadilla to tip out, then quickly and simultaneously put the food on a plate before it spilled and put the skillet back on the stove before my arm gave out.  Then I slid the quesadilla back into the pan to brown the other side.

I’m glad I had to do that only twice.  My arms would have given out and/or I would have had a huge mess of quesadilla fillings on the floor.  The dogs would have liked it, but I would have been unhappy.  And hungry.  But my first food blog experiment turned out okay, though I’m sure it would have been much, much better with shrimp than it was with salty ground beef.

But my friend’s email made me realize that I can’t quite remember the last time I ate a meal that I found truly divine.  I miss that.  This new budget plan, while wonderful, makes it more difficult to eat well.  Not that I’m wasting away, by any means.  I just need to do a better job of learning to cook fabulous meals on a shoestring budget.

Now I have to end this blog.  I need to go.  I’m hungry.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rita
    Sep 11, 2009 @ 22:37:52

    Even so you share with us ALL every Monday Night Meal.
    We are grateful for your labor of love.
    This evening I tried Kim’s Cuban Pork, not as successfully as she makes it sound. Fortunately the guests were VERY hungry.

  2. Kim
    Sep 12, 2009 @ 10:40:29

    The trick isn’t always in the ingredients (although that helps) but in the techniques used. My preoccupation with food blogs has helped immeasurably as I’m learning new techniques. Still have my share of disasters but the journey is half the fun 🙂 Do you listen to The Splendid Table on public radio? We download the podcasts and listen when traveling in the car. Used to love the food shows on public t.v. too, especially the Italian lady, Lydia. One of my dreams is to go to Italy and spend a week or two at one of those country estates on a cooking vacation.

    • Karen
      Sep 22, 2009 @ 13:48:29

      Oh, Kim, I’m not sure I agree. While good techniques can make mediocre ingredients good, there’s nothing that compares with good ingredients. I’m married to a chef, so he knows all about technique, and he can make some pretty wonderful stuff out of no-so-great ingredients. But everything is better when your ingredients are fresh.

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