Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lebanese red is akin to Chianti (but not quite as good)

In celebration of our final night off together, Mister and I treated ourselves to a nice dinner at our favorite Lebanese restaurant, Cedars, and a movie: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.

We had intended to see Underworld in the theater, but to be honest, I'm glad we rented it - I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy other crappy films noir (for example, my unreasonable love for The Crow: City of Angels), but Mister seemed quite underwhelmed. Whatever - Rhona Mitra was astonishingly beautiful, so I was able to overlook Kate Beckinsale's absence. There were also a lot of great one-liners, primarily delivered by Bill Nighy's character, Viktor.

Our dinner at Cedars was delightful, as it always is. The service there cannot be beat - friendly, intimate, accommodating. Also, the food you get is worth far more than what they charge (don't tell them I said that!). I had mentioned wanting to try the Lebanese red wine they offered, and I decided Monday would be the night I finally made good on my intention. It was dry, had some of the sparkle of Chianti but the darker flavors of was okay, but nothing special and I probably won't get it again. As is our custom, we started with a mixed appetizer plate of falafel, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, baba ganoush, and pita. Mister also got fries with peppers & onions, and for his entree he ordered spanakopita with a side of rice. I believe I have become incapable of ordering something other than the Imam Baldi. It is just so good - roasted eggplant with other roasted/braised veggies - acorn squash, carrots, zucchini, celery, potatoes - sprinkled with raisins and feta good. Appropriate, since "Imam Baldi" translates to "the Imam fainted." Legend goes that an Imam visited some folks who prepared this roasted eggplant dish, and the scent of the food alone knocked him out. I would agree!

Today was a long and tiring day, and being a Wednesday, I had a peanut butter sandwich for "dinner" tonight (I finished my cheerios on Monday, too). However, I did make the Mediterranean (Mock) Risotto for dinner last night:Let me tell you - the flavors were very intense. I might even say too intense, and I believe I would have Mister's support in making that statement. He did his best to get through it with the help of some bread to calm the flavors. Honestly, I think there was too much of two ingredients: white pepper and sun-dried tomatoes. I will attempt this again in the future and cut down on those things to see how it turns out, but I will share it with you now. One more note, before I give you my recipe: although I have cooked barley on several occasions now, Mister revealed to me just last night that he doesn't like "squishy wheat."

Mediterranean (mock) Risotto
about 6 servings
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup pearled barley

1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup sliced roasted peppers
1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives
1 generous tsp dried basil
pinch of white pepper

Bring vegetable broth to a boil. Stir in barley and basil, cover and simmer on lowest heat 45 minutes. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and add them with the white pepper in the last 15 minutes of cooking. After 45 minutes, stir in roasted peppers and olives, cook until heated through and most liquid is absorbed - about 5 more minutes.

It's actually pretty simple and doesn't require a whole lot of hands-on time. The recipe above contains the revisions I will make next time regarding the amounts of white pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, so if you want to give it a try, just tell me how yours ended up!

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