Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Language of Recipes

Unlike those people who salivate when reading a recipe for porcini pork tenderloin, I might as well be studying an instruction manual for a DVD player.

My eyes glaze over even before I reach the list of ingredients.

First off, I’m a math-phobe, so I panic as soon as I am confronted with ounces, cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. Second, I possess absolutely no patience, so I can’t sit still long enough for the oven to pre-heat or the meat to marinate.

“You mean the inside of the chicken isn’t supposed to be the color of Bubble Gum?”

The sight of a cookbook didn't always fill me with fear. In fact, I have fond memories of a recipe book that my older brother Steven and I created when we were nine and six, respectively.

The book was really an excuse to play with our food. We concocted all sorts of "recipes" generally involving a large dosage of sugar and artificial coloring.

For instance, two of our faves were M&M "juice" and something we dubbed Pop Tart Mash. In case these appeal to you or your inner child, here are the recipes:

M&M Juice

Take one bag of M&Ms (regular, not peanut)
Pour the bag in a cup of lukewarm water
Let the mixture sit for five minutes or until the water turns colors
Drink the water and eat the "naked" M&Ms

Pop Tart Mush

Take one chocolate Pop Tart
Crumble into a glass of cold milk
Use a spoon to mush the Pop Tart into the milk

Meanwhile, Avo, the kids and I recently visited my cousin Marla and her family in Westchester, where they treated us to a BBQ feast.

Avo and I both fell in love with one of the side dishes, an orzo salad that was both refreshing and flavorful. It also seemed like it would be a recipe that would be relatively easy for me to pull off on my own.

Marla generously supplied me with the recipe, which she adapted from Rachael Ray.

According to Marla, Rachael uses this as a marinade for chicken and sets some aside for dressing on a Greek type salad. But it worked really well on the orzo salad.

Marla's Orzo Salad

Note from Marla: This may be a bit too much for a 16 oz box of orzo but you could always use it for a salad dressing too.

zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh oregano (4 stems) stripped of leaves and chopped or use dried but you need less
3 cloves garlic chopped
8 oz. feta cheese crumbled
a bunch of scallions chopped
you could also add olives or roasted red pepper if you like (I don't like)

Combine lemon zest and juice with vinegar in a bowl and whisk in oil. Add oregano, garlic and whisk again to combine well.

Add dressing to cooked and drained orzo (run cold water in colander to cool off orzo and drain). Add feta, scallions and mix well.

Tomorrow, I plan to dispatch Avo to The Park Slope Food Coop while I muster the courage up to give it a shot.

I promise to report back.


Caitlin said...

The thing about recipes is they're just guides, really. You almost never have to follow them exactly. The exception, of course, is in baking, though if you have a little basic knowledge you can do some good tweaking of a baking recipe, too (usually the tweaking involves more math, though, sadly).

Anonymous said...

Hey Paula-- Ever put an M&M M-side-up in a glass of water? Takes a few minutes for the colored candy coating to dissolve and run down the sides, but then--voila!--the M will detach and float to the top. Try it at home. xoxo

mcmscricket said...

OK, the orzo salad does sound yummy and I want to try it. The M&M juice - not so much.

Undomesticated Me said...

Interesting, Beau. I'll give that a try. Sounds like a fun "experiment!"

Bernie Bernstein said...

From Mom, again...I know you're not good at math, but older brother and you, aged 6 and 9 respectively - I don't think so! I do seem to remember the M&M's and Pop Tart Mush though. I think Marla's recipe sounds good and I might try it. Let me know how your's turns out. On second thought, don't let me know. And, yeah, Caitlin is right, recipes are just guides, but you have to know how to be guided.