Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Fighting with Food...and then I see the light

I don't literally fight with my food and I haven't had a food fight in years, but I'm referring to running into trouble with certain dishes. In general I'm happy with the outcome of what I prepare, but I have my share of misses, too. Oh yes. What hasn't worked for me lately: failed enchiladas (note: only use white meat and cook longer), beef and spinach lasagna (gummy), Madeleine cookies (heavy and dry), and over-limed asparagus stir-fry, all--with the exception of the lasagna (it was so bad I still can't talk about it)--written about in earlier posts. Unfortunately, I am adding a newcomer to the list: rhubarb cake. This makes me terribly unhappy because first, I was so looking forward to making and enjoying it and second, because it didn't hold a candle to my friend Hannetjie's version.

It might not look bad in the photo, but it was so no success, trust me. I've tried to figure out why and here is what I've come up with: I converted all the measurements from Hannetjie's recipe (metric to U.S.) and my math skills are pathetic...and that's using an online converter!; I used too big of a tart pan. Actually I baked it in a glass pie plate because my quiche/tart pan is quite large and I knew I did not have enough prepared ingredients to make it work; It needed more time in the oven. I baked it for 35 minutes and it looked done, but the golden brown top belied the undercooked dough sitting at the bottom. I was aggravated even more because if I had poked it with a cake tester upon removing it from the oven, I could have returned it and baked it longer. But No, I took it out, set it on my kitchen counter and forgot about it until dinner time.

While the rhubarb was cooked perfectly (yes, one small victory!), the dough on the bottom was mushy and barely set. And right under the lovely golden brown top was another gooey mess. I have to admit that the taste was not bad, but it just didn't work. I think I know how to improve it the second time around, but talk about disappointing. Maybe if I hadn't tried Hannetjie's cake I wouldn't be judging mine so harshly, but I know I would still give it a thumbs-down. Also, I hate to admit this because wasting food is stupid, but I threw it away. This was only after I gave some to my son and he stuck his tongue out and shook his head. Love the honesty.

I redeemed myself today with Burek. My son wasn't crazy about it, but he doesn't tend to like meals with ground beef as the base. My husband loved it, and, while it didn't taste like the authentic burek I savored in the past, I thought it was delicious. I served it with a dollop of plain yogurt and a Greek salad. I think I did something a little funky with the rolling part though. I thought it looked a little fat, like I should have put less meat inside before rolling, but it didn't affect the taste one bit. I was happy to make this dish because it is not easy to find phyllo dough where I live. I had a meeting at the International School of Aarhus today about being a substitute teacher in the next school year, so I stopped at a big supermarket in Aarhus to get the phyllo. I also bought a bottle of wine there, on sale for 20 DKK, only $4 USD,...and so good! Having-had-time-to-think-about-it-note: Next time I make burek, I'm going to make one big piece, like the way I've seen it done in the past. Basically, I will fill each piece of phyllo with a little less meat, start on the outside of my pan by making a circle of dough and then working from the outside in (think finished cinnamon roll...sort of) until I have a pinwheel-looking pie. I can't wait to try it this way.

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