A rare thing that has happened only twice in the nearly nine years my husband and I have been a couple is the coincidence of Protestant Easter and Greek [Orthodox] Easter. The planets (or calendars, at least) aligned this year and made for a glorious Easter celebration after church, involving extended family and a very nice Greek restaurant in Center City, Estia. They offered an authentic celebration (food and tradition-wise) of the Orthodox holiday, complete with eggs dyed bright red (for smashing) and koulourakia for eating. What makes that as funny as it is thoughtful is this: Yiayia always brings the red eggs and cookies to the restaurant, because we've never gone to a Greek restaurant for Easter. So, much confusion ensued as we tried to figure out how the waiter got Yiayia's eggs and he was nearly apologizing as he presented the koulourakia. Yiayia was gracious, telling him the restaurant did a much better job than she did anyway.
After a lot of fun and even more food, we kissed our Greek coffee goodbye along with our relatives and headed out to my parents' home, 35 strenuous miles outside of the city. I had gotten up early in the morning, while the rest of the world was still asleep (not my nature) so I could pile pink goop on my hair and then try to cook with a towel around my neck. Miraculously, I did manage to color my hair while I made the two sauces and boiled the pasta for what would become my Pastitsio, from The Urban Vegan, of course. While the dish baked away in the oven, I had time to wash the goop out of my hair (and turn the tub a gorgeous shade of pink just in time for Easter!), get dressed and made up, and even rouse my husband from his coma in time to get to church.
Anyway, the Pastitsio was absolutely a hit, especially with my tiniest cousin, who kept pulling his mommy's fork away from her mouth and towards his! My adult cousins loved it and asked for the recipe. It was actually very attractive when I pulled it out of the oven, but my brain doesn't function on all of its cylinders in the AM hours, so I forgot to photograph it. That's really too bad, because despite being tasty, the Cameroon Mafe that was our dinner tonight was absolutely nothing short of repulsive.
I wish it didn't look like vomit, because it was actually quite good. I was a little fearful of using harissa as a condiment, rather than being mixed in during the cooking, but in the future, I will try this recipe at least one more time with the following changes:
I will stir in a moderate helping of harissa - the mafe was good but a little bland. The subtleties of the flavors were just that: subtle. Part of the recipe involves making a kind of paste/sauce from tomatoes, ginger, and a good deal of garlic. Because of the 10 cloves of garlic and 2" fresh ginger, I really expected those flavors to be more pronounced, but they were not. The PB was good and not overwhelming, but it needs something.
I will cut the recipe in half. It occurred to me while I was cooking that there would not be room for leftovers in the fridge...and that there would invariably be leftovers. I let My Mind wander down the little tangent paths she likes so much and realized that if I halved more of the recipes I make I could accomplish two things (it seems wrong to use a turn of speech involving birds and stones here) at once: I could prevent our refrigerator from housing so many science-projects-in-waiting and I could actually save a little money, which I guess is always a good thing, right? I just can't count the number of times I have remarked on this humble blog about the overwhelming volume some of these recipes produce. I think when I make up the new menu, I will just automatically halve any recipe that yields 6+ servings.
Speaking of altering recipes, I'll leave you with a link and a final thought. In this post, Dynise explains what she calls the "tyranny of the recipe," describing how everyone who isn't Rachael Ray feels bound to follow recipes just as they are written. If you look through her post, you'll see pictures of her writing all over her cookbooks. That almost feels like blasphemy to me! I think I have been out of school too long, because there was a time I would think nothing of putting my pen/pencil to a book and making a quick note here or there. I sometimes attach a post-it note to remind myself of some substitution for eggplant or mushrooms or sweet potatoes, or the other myriad things my husband won't eat and I have to creatively replace. I think I need to sharpen my pencil and let myself make notes, though - they are my cookbooks, after all.