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Inspire me PLEASE!

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What do you make when NOTHING sounds good? It is going to be a great day here so a bbq would work but just nothing jumps out and screams... eat me!! I am feeling rather blah about everything, I am in a rut.

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  1. Buy something you NEVER eat and cook it. Better yet is invent/adapt a recipe for cooking something you NEVER eat. Dare I say "Take a walk on the wild side"? Ohh, that was terrible.

    1. I don't know if this will tempt you or not, but we made them last Friday on the grill to great fanfare... grilled portabellos and red peppers, got some ciabatta from whole foods, sliced and grilled that, too, spread tasty fresh creamy goat cheese on the bread, topped with the 'shrooms and peppers and some arugula, and chowed down. I forget how tasty the combo is, and the grill really makes it -- I was quite impressed with what grilling the bread did. You could grill eggplant or onions, too, for the sandwiches. We had ours with steamed artichokes with a mustard vinaigrette. Made us all feel more virtuous about the grilled banana splits we had for dessert... with pistachio ciao bella... mmmm.

      1. If you have never made a souffle, learn. They cost a pittance to make, and learning the technique (the most important of which is simply to have all ingredients and tools ready to go before starting) is worth having in your skill set, and you will kick yourself for thinking this was too difficult. A wonderful resource for making wow-factor meals that you can prep in advance for a mere song!

        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        14 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          So true! As always, Karl S. is a fountain of wisdom.

          Soufflés are not difficult, dirt cheap, and always impressive.

          If you don't feel like spending time by the stove and it's a nice day out, grill yourself some spicy marinated shrimps. That always works for me.

          1. re: Karl S

            Wow Karl, so glad you included the link! Great stuff, thanks!

            1. re: Sir Gawain

              You are most welcome. If you can

              1. Whip egg whites,
              2. Make a bechamel, and
              3. Organize ingredients, utensils and your battle plan in advance:

              You can make a souffle with ease. Once you have the technique down, it's actually a breeze. As I noted in a follow-up to that link, my first souffle was made in a small loaf pan with approximate ingredients, the bechamel curdled a bit, and I improvised on the fly, and it still came out great. Thus I proved to myself the testimony of many chefs that souffles are virtually indestructible and that they probably provide more wow factor per unit of sweat (and certainly per unit of cost) than any other cooking technique you can bother to learn.

              1. re: Karl S

                I've never made a souffle, but AM interested. Karl, and Sir Gawain, what are you favorite souffles? And in mentioning them, what are your particular favorite ingredients for them? (if it makes a difference) What I mean is, if someone says swiss cheese, for example, what I would specifically want to know is whether it is better with gruyere or jarlsberg? Also, what side dishes would you serve with your favorite souffles?

                1. re: Niki Rothman

                  Hey Niki...just thought I would chime in...
                  My two favorite souffles are chevre (goat cheese) and cheddar with chives (I use a sharp cheddar for this). Serve with a very simple salad of butter lettuce dressed with a lemon vinaigrette, or some simply steamed asparagus dressed simililarly.
                  You also just can't beat a dark chocolate souffle for dessert with a raspberry coulis.

                  1. re: Aaron

                    Agreed, though I am of the school that chocolate flavors are not always shown to their best warm....hence I prefer savoury souffles to chocolate ones.

                    1. re: Aaron

                      I love spinach and gruyere in a souffle and the addition of the spinach gives it more of a real main dish weight to me. Many many yars ago my new husband was off doing some guy thing that involved beng out in the wilds of Clinton Cty. NY with a bunch of others and I was new to souffle making and proud of my ability to turn them out perfectly with come consistency. I invited my sister and her room mate over for dinner. I proudly served up my spinach and gruyere souffle and the room mate took one bite and demanded catsup and drenched her plate and the souffle with it. I was horrified!

                      Souffles are only limited by lack of imagination. I love all sorts of them, corn, cheese plain and cheese and ham, parmesan acheese tomato and basil. Just about anything you have on hand will work. For dessert I love lemon with maybe a dark chocolate sauce?

                      1. re: Aaron

                        I love cheddar and broccoli souffles. Also, sometimes I will use up all of the small pieces of cheese in my cheese drawer...a bit of this and a bit of that, to your taste of course. Souffles are easy, light and satisfying.

                      2. re: Niki Rothman

                        While jarlsberg is noted as a melting cheese (it has more flavor once it's melted), I would not use it in a souffle.

                        For a souffle, I would use a member of the gruyere family of cheeses (gruyere (french gruyere has a bit more prestige than swiss, btw, but is hard to find), comte, beaufort), more than emmentaler, or cheddar family of cheeses (there are so many good ones, you could experiment all over the place). It's the one thing I'd spend $ on for a souffle.

                        Myself, I love simple cheese souffles. Don't have to worry about ingredients sinking, and the simplicity allows you to truly taste the flavors of the ingredients.

                        My classic highbrow, low cost luncheon or supper recommendation (I've repeated this many times on this board). The first two courses can be served with champagne or another sparkling wine (prosecco comes readily to mind) - both tomato and egg can be hard to match to wines.

                        Pop the souffle in the oven (starts the clock ticking for 35-40 minutes) when all guests have arrived, and serve very light cocktail type apps, then, eventually:

                        1. Soup course: Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion (it's really so delicious as a soup, I hate to waste it on pasta! Marcella basically tips her readers off to this by saying that the sauce is good enough to eat on its own. And I normally hate tomato soup.) Be sure to serve in warmed soup plates. Because your oven is alreay in use, have a pot of scalding water available to warm the plates (and, if using, tureen).

                        Serve with a good bread, which also continues for main course.

                        2. CHeese souffle (please also serve on warmed plates) with any of the following (plus the bread)

                        - grilled/roasted vegetables (you'd have to make those in advance, then warm them on the stove top or serve at room temp), drizzled with hazenut oil or melted butter.

                        - fresh green beans or asparagus (you can parboil in advance in salted water, shock in ice water, and similarly warm on the stove top before serving; if you want to add lemon, add at the last minute, because it will turn green vegetables yellow.

                        -- Zuni Cafe slow-cooked romano/green beans (a personal favorite of mine)

                        - Marcella's smothered cabbage braise (a delightful winter dish, that I also find wonderful mixed with linguine fini and a bit of grated cheese)

                        - a simple green salad (that is, greens only, with fresh herbs of choice, and a simple shallot vinaigretter).

                        3. Dessert course: Something light and straightfoward. If like me you adore cheese, I wouldn't mind an overdose with a cheese board and fresh and dried fruits, and port.

                        Anyway, I have calculated that it possible to throw a repast such as this for about $5 a head. The wonders of going meatless and letting the incredible egg (and dairy) work their wonders.

                        Guests will be in awe. And so much of this can be prepped ahead, it's not funny. They would never make this themselves, nor are they likely to get this in a restaurant (restaurants that serve souffles almost always limit themselves to dessert souffles).

                        1. re: Karl S

                          Oops, that cost figure did not include wine.

                          I am of the school that iced tea (real) is the universal non-water dining beverage of choice in the absence of a fitting and affordable wine or beer.

                        2. re: Niki Rothman

                          I adore goat cheese soufflés, and usually use ripe Bucheron (log) for those. I have a recipe somewhere that I clipped from a magazine but if you know the basic method, you don't really need it.

                          I also love sweet individual soufflés, and tend to improvise them with a bit of ricotta for substance, flavored only with lemon oil and sugar, plus maybe a few (frozen) raspberries on the bottom. The key is to butter the inside of the ramekin and coat it generously with sugar.

                    2. re: Karl S

                      At first read I was wondering how this reply fit in with the OP's request for something for the BBQ, but after reading all the replies to this thread, I think I'll also give a souffle a whirl.

                      1. re: ncchowdog

                        SOrry, I did not read the OP's request as *limited* to BBQ or grilling outdoors, but rather than seemed to be as far as the OP was currently inspired, and solely because it was a nice day. The overall tenor of the message struck me as a more general plea for inspiration.

                        1. re: Karl S

                          I was and am looking for any and all inspiration, I simply suggested the bbq because of the weather that turned out much less fabu than I was hoping for.
                          I always cook the same old things and i am bored, I did however find an old recipe I had forgotten about from an old Bon Appetit for parmesan sage pork chops that I am going to make tonight.
                          I am very excited about the souffle idea! I thought they would be hard! Thanks EVERYONE for you suggestions, as usual hounds come through with flying colours!

                    3. Grilled foods allow for a lot of lattitude flavor-wise, and always perk up the taste buds.

                      1. If you want to grill, do something like this...
                        Plan on doing burgers (I know...not that inspiring), but then go to the store and look for what you think are the wackiest toppings you can imagine. Make lots of little burger topping bowls and try them all on a little of your burger.
                        You may discover a winner like I did...Roquefort cheese and Peanut Butter...WOW!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Aaron

                          I spread an herb butter on burgers before grilling...

                          By the way, broccoli is great grilled for a quick & healthy side; place florets in a Ziploc bag and pour garlic-infused olive oil (made yourself) over then close bag and distribute oil. Let sit on the counter until ready to grill. We like ours grilled to well-done (code for nearly burned!). Sprinkle with Kosher salt--unbelievably good!

                        2. I think to myself, "If health wasn't an issue and you could food from any location in the world right now (so a magic genie kind of situation), what would it be?" And if the answer isn't something I can make, I try to analyse my choice. Perhaps I'm in the mood for something carby, something fruity, something crunchy. Breaking down why I like food into composite parts often helps. My current desire for something fruity yet savoury has lead to an obsession for peanut butter and jelly on toast, for example.

                          Another way is to thumb through a food magazine, or browse somewhere like epicurious, or leite's culinaria. Anywhere with pictures is good. I often come away with lists of things I want to eat and make.

                          Or go to your favourite grocery store (something with good ambiance, or friendly people, or a kick-ass middle eastern section, etc.) and look at new products and the vegetables in season. That always gets me in a food-mood.

                          I hope you find your appetite for cooking!

                          1. What about a nice salad? Take advantage of the spring time veggies and greens and add seafood or other protien. Maybe a zesty vinegarette. The salad linked below has been calling my name.

                            Link: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                            1. Years ago, I had dinner at the home of a vegan friend. She had all the usual sides, but in place of the turkey, she served a nut loaf with shiitake gravy -- wonderful! I certainly didn't miss the turkey.