Round One: Me Vs. Kitchen

When it comes to the kitchen I am no gourmet chef, but I can follow the steps of a recipe to turn out a decent meal. Of course I also have my go to meals that I learned to make years ago or recall as my childhood favorites. Improvising while in the kitchen is definitely a quality I’d never brag about.  Not to mention, since I really only cook for myself, I tend to make food that fits my palate. For example, I love garlic, so my meal may just have a little too much garlic one would prefer to have in their food.

Through rough personal experience I have discovered it is NOT a bright idea to test out that new recipe I’ve been dying to try following a grocery store trip.  It’s bound to be a disaster! As you should have read in my last post (The Science of Grocery Shopping Not Exact And Far From Perfect) grocery shopping is a frustrating experience, and puts me far, far off from the frame of mind I should be in to prepare food. Especially a dish I am anticipating as part of my dinner. I had been dying to try a chick pea and orzo salad  similar to dishes I had eaten a number of times. My discovery was, well, interesting for lack of a better cliche.

There is this great little spot near my office called Figs Lebanese Cafe. It  is a hidden gem tucked away in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington DC. I eat there on occasion when I don’t have lunch with me.  Stop in if you are ever in the area as you won’t be disappointed. I tend to describe it as american food with a Mediterranean flair however they present a variety of foods adapted from international cuisines. They serve this amazing chick pea salad. Simple but delicious. Ever since my first bite I have been searching out a similar recipe. Same for their Orzo Pilaf.

Photo Credit: Figs Fine Foods Facebook Page
Chick Pea Salad Located Top Left

I had been searching and searching and searching for a Chick Pea Salad similar to the one at Figs. After arduous food magazine page flipping and inventive Google searching that led to some oddball dishes I was losing hope. After months and months of searching I can certainly tell you WHAT NOT to make with chick peas, or share horror stories of “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU DREAMED UP THAT CONCOCTION!” One link I clicked on took me to instructions for whipping up a Kangaroo and Chick Peas meal. I didn’t even know Kangaroo was eatable!!! It would be remiss of me not to mention that when stumbling upon the above meal I had to put my recipe craving search on hold for a few days.

There were many versions I tried. A few were tasty but varied greatly from what I had eaten at Figs. Others were a horrible chemistry project gone completely south that I evacuated my kitchen for fear of an explosion. Then there were those few that I couldn’t even believe anyone considered to be entitled food. I knew I wasn’t going to get a perfect match, but knew there had to be one out there that was close. FINALLY!! I stumbled upon THE ONE. Or so I thought.

I was going grocery shopping that night so was careful to ensure that each item I needed for the recipe was on my shopping list. Go figure, I forgot my list leaving it on my desk at work. Sshhh, don’t tell my boss I was putting it together at the office. Despite that, I shockingly managed to purchase all of the vital ingredients. I was rather proud of myself. Upon arriving home, dragging all the groceries to the front door, then lugging the bags up a flight a stairs, finally into my kitchen and then put in their respective place it was time to start the preparations.

Now it was time to get down to business. I was hungry. Which in the end taught me to my first two valuable lessons when testing out an experiment (recipe). I shouldn’t be exhausted from something I just did like grocery shopping. I shouldn’t be starving for dinner. Exhibiting pure ignorance these factors were ignored and I commenced on my kitchen adventure. With the recipe out I got to work chopping up the onions. While reading the next step I was pulling out the spinach and fresh parsley from my fridge. Rapidly I discovered why a food processor should be used when the recipe in fact states use a word processor. Mine fell to shambles some time ago and has yet to be replaced. My dull knives weren’t providing any speed to gratify my stomach in the immediate future. Eyeballing various utensils and gadgets I came to it! THE BLENDER! How difficult could it be – I didn’t have that much to chop up.

Holy epicness of stupidity in kitchen substitution. Through much stuffing, shoving, shaking, scraping, mixing, slamming and pounding various buttons I finally got the spinach and parsley into bitty green pieces. As I was about to begin scooping it out into a bowl I realized it wasn’t worth a second Olympic workout to fight getting these little green bits that were sticking all over the blender jar. I opted to continue mixing the remaining ingredients in the blender. Liquefying this baby was the only way to proceed.

A dash of this, cup of that, tablespoon of this and voila all the ingredients were there exactly according to measurements listed in the recipe. Time for the magic button pushing game and then to stir it into the chic peas. My chic pea salad looked like split pea soup with chick peas. Hesitant, I taste-tested this odd-looking concoction to discover this recipe was far from what I had been craving and searching for so long. The taste of my beloved Figs salad and this baby food looking gook was very distinct.

Uhm…. Yeah…

Sad and disheartened I went rummaging through my fridge and cabinets for a quick dinner that involved nothing more than opening a top so I could appease my rumbling tummy. I went for cottage cheese and Doritos. Don’t cringe. The cheeses compliment each other and it’s a rather tasty treat. No judging until you try it. Despite satisfying my hunger I was still upset. I poured myself a glass of wine and decided the kitchen would remain messy for the night.

The next evening I decided to attempt  the other dish I adore at Figs – Orzo salad. Again I had been forever seeking a recipe and finally stumbled upon two. Each were about half way what I was looking for so I decided serious improvising was in order. At this least for this go around I was in the correct mental state. I wasn’t starving nor frustrated from a grocery store circus jamboree. I was also prepared for failure since I know my guess-work in cooking is like the Tasmanian devil meeting Cinderella.

Orzo Pilaf Salad from Figs Fine Foods.
Amazingly delicious!

Each recipe I discovered had similarities to what I had previously eaten minus some ingredients. The salad at figs does not have bell peppers, feta cheese, Parmesan cheese or green onions that were called for respectively in these recipes.

Simple Orzo Pilaf

Orzo Salad

Subtracting the above items I made some variations through combining both recipes. I added cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and Worcestershire sauce all of which are in the salad I have at Figs. Their’s includes zucchini which I don’t like so I decided to omit that item, Shockingly my salad turned out rather well. It’s nothing compared to Figs but not too far off the mark. I gave myself a pat on the back and pulled out a fork!

It taste better than it looks.
I’m still working on presentation skills.

Kitchen – 1 : Abby – 1.We are tied this round. Until next time food, until next time!

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