tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal


Faux-warma or Yes, We Watched Avengers

Dear E,

I'm not sure about you + G, but N and I seem to have a default meal plan. If we can't come up with anything, we tend to go back to the ol' standard of something vaguely middle eastern, usually faux-shawarma (not cooked on a spit) and tabbouleh.

This time around, I wanted to do something mezze-style and make a number of different smaller dishes. Tabbouleh, fattoush, roasted chickpeas, stuffed grape leaves, tzatziki, marinated feta.

One of my favorite salads is fattoush, a Levantine bread salad made with toasted or fried pita bread. Back in DC, Lebanase Taverna makes a delicious version that their menu describes as "PEASANT SALAD lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, radish, mint, parsley, toasted pita chips, pomegranate & sumac dressing."


Using that description as a starting point I threw together that combination of ingredients in proportions that looked right (cooking by color). When it came to the dressing, I wasn't sure what to do. I thought I remembered a thin, yogurt-based dressing on Lebanese Taverna's version, so I tried my hand at a garlic-and-yogurt dressing with sumac and lemon juice. It wasn't quite right, though it was edible.

I actually just found this recipe online, that details their version of this salad and that dressing. I am going to have to try again, I guess! Pomegranate molasses in the dressing, interesting...

I found a jar of grape leaves in the pantry and decided to make stuffed grape leaves. I halved this recipe but otherwise followed it fairly closely and they turned out very well. Very simple! Reheated (I prefer them warm) the leftovers were just as good.

stuffed plate

I think N would say that the lamb was not up to his standards, but it reheated great.

I used David Lebovitz's marinated feta recipe using fresh herbs from the garden and some red pepper flake. It really didn't sit long enough before we ate it; next time I'd give it 3-4 days before serving.

Along with dinner, we tasted a number of beers. I bet you didn't expect to have the #1 American beer (via Zymurgy reader poll), Russian River brewing Co's Pliny the Elder! It is one of my favorites and relatively difficult to come by. Thanks to N for picking up a couple of bottles.

Beer lineup

[Beers, L-R: Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA (another favorite of mine), RRBC Pliny the Elder, Left Coast Hop Juice, and Laurelwood Gearhead IPA. ]

What, Settlers again??!


I was surprised when N suggested that we play Settlers two weeks in a row! By winning again, I think I may have cured him of suggesting we play it again next week.

After a round of Settlers, we played a bit of Uno and G managed to put us all to shame. I'll get him next time!


The choice

...G gave me was Brisket or Ribs. And this was Monday night, five days before our dinner. Do you think he was excited about smoking some slab of meat?

I wanted to try a coffee rub. I STW and found a few inspirations. Starting with this one and added tsp each of cocoa powder, garlic and onion powder, and a tiny hint of cumin. Someone, not I, used all the chili powder in the house, so I used a mix of chipotle with New Mexico for this recipe. G tasted the rub and gave it approval for the brisket - a 6lb flat from Fischer Meats in Issaquah.


I liberally rubbed all sides and he put it on around 9am. He smoked it with apple wood and chunk charcoal around 225°F. He pulled it off when the meat hit 185°F, around 5:30 pm.

Yes, I did have a moment where I thought 6lb is a lot of meat, and it will be not enough for all of us. To mitigate that situation, I suggested we try smoking jalapeno poppers. G seeded the jalapenos while I made the filling of cream cheese (for texture), extra sharp cheddar (for flavor), with a shot of Worcestershire and soy sauce.  Spicy, gooey, and wrapped in bacon.

I wanted some simple sides, but did not want to repeat the usual suspects of corn bread, beans, slaw. Flipping through MSL and saw this Potato and Green Bean Salad, my first thought was, "Yay starch and veggies all in one". My second thought was "Are green beans in season yet?" This slow start of a summer is messing with my sense of season.

For extra crunch, I made a fresh English cucumber, jicama, and radish salad, with my go-to vinaigrette of lime juice, soy & fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili garlic paste.

Untitledpiled high

I was satisfy with the rub, but I thought the brisket was underdone. I couldn't pull it apart with my hands. I subscribed to the "An overcooked slice of Brisket will fall apart when handled or moved. A properly cooked slice should pull apart easily". Both N and G disagree.

I enjoyed the nothing not to like with potatoes, green beans, lemon mustard dressing salad. I should have cut the crunchy veggies skinner in the other salad. The jalapeno poppers were good. My first was tasty, my second was spicy hot hot hot. Ouie. I thought G could have warn me that he did not get all the seeds out.  After the fire stopped burning in my mouth, I agree with him that he should definitely make them again. I may consider getting the Sur La Table Chili Pepper Corer, for my selfish reason of no-more-too-spicy-peppers. Or not, single use gadget.

Untitledget off my property!

I was happy when G took my not so subtle push for "build long roads and &#$! block other people" - Settlers of Catan, and no one objected. Settlers of Catan, this specific German version (not this copy) was my first introduction into the genre of "German Board Games." This was a bit of nostalgia for me.

The first board was a dud. N made the unilateral decision and remade the board. This second board was slightly better, but it wasn't long before there were heated "... blocking..." comments.  You rocked this game. Perhaps all games you've been playing online made you kick-#$!?

The morning after, I checked on some clarification. Funny, I think the original rules do not have the five settlement/city limit. Resources cards are hidden, BGG thread. Read up more on roads and settlements BGG thread and some more clarifications. Yay Settlers of Catan, oldie and goodie.

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Meat and Pie

Dear E,

Please excuse my tardiness thanks to this awful cold. Just over a week ago we got together to continue our celebration of G's birthday month with grilled meat and pie!


N marinated some flank steak in Moroccan spices and grilled it along with some bell peppers and onions. Easy peasy, as Jamie Oliver would say!

I made a quick harissa using this recipe. We really like this harissa with everything from fish to beef to chicken. I double the cumin and coriander and use 1-3 jalapeños depending on how spicy they are.

Knowing that we had pie in our future, I opted to make two salads instead of anything too heavy. I threw together a quick raw carrot salad and an arugula-feta-mint-orange salad (inspired by this recipe).

The carrots were a bit of a miss -- I thought they would go well with the flank steak, like do chua. Unfortunately they did not really work out that way.

I liked the arugula salad (not sure about anyone else). I'm on a kick of adding mint to salad greens. Next time I hope to remember to supreme the oranges, though!

G Birthday Pie!
G's Birthday Pie!

You carefully carted G's birthday pie all the way up to our house without any major failure! It was a banana cream pie (basic recipe), with addition of a 2 oz of white chocolate in custard and a salty caramel sauce. Yum!

No games tonight due to super-full tummies. We have a few new ones to try, like the full version of Nuclear War (BGG).