Here's what we like..Ya Dig?
By Ann Cantrell
As I have grown older, I have noticed a peculiar development. My food no longer magically appears in front of me when I returned home from school or work. After realizing that my mom no longer cooks for me, and that ramen noodles have a limited number of flavors to choose from, I began to learn how to cook. I decided to start out gradually since I only learned recently that a clove of garlic was a section of garlic and not some bizarre mixture of cloves and garlic. For a while, I fixed the usual college student food: quesadillas, hamburgers, pizza, and pretty much anything that required a limited knowledge on baking or cooking.
This Sunday, after discovering several ethnic grocery stores in Athens, I decided to venture out and cook something more difficult. A friend of mine told me that Mediterranean cuisine is very spicy and since I love spicy food and recently discovered a Mediterranean grocery, I decided to pick a recipe from this part of the world. One recipe jumped out at me after I read the description, “Not for the faint of heart.” I assumed this description pertained to the spiciness of the dish so I went about writing down the ingredients and the directions. I should have known that I was in for a rough night after I did not know what half of the ingredients were. Figuring my mom would know, I dialed her and asked where I could buy saffron leaves and tumeric. After she burst out laughing and offered absolutely no help, I made my way to the Taj Mahal, Athens local Mediterranean grocery store, which is apparently closed on Sundays so I shuffled over to the Kroger down the road.
I decided to give up on some of the more obscure ingredients in the recipe and go with things I knew. These ingredients ended up being; chicken, couscous, zucchini, squash, plum tomatoes, chili powder, jalapenos, onion and chicken broth. The recipe called for a lot of spices that I was not familiar with so I overcompensated with chili powder, pepper, salt, and jalapenos.
Once I returned home, I popped open the recipe book to look at the instructions which read, “Place chicken, chicken broth, and onions into large Dutch oven.” While I did actually know what a Dutch oven was, I did not have one nor did I know anyone who would. I read on and discovered that in recipe required three sauce pans and I only have two. After re-arranging the directions a bit, and cutting out a few steps, I began the process of cooking my dish. I sautéed the chicken and vegetables in the same pan and doused them in chili powder, pepper, and salt. In a separate pan, I cooked the couscous which after the cooking lesson at a local restaurant is one of the few things I can cook without messing up.
Alas, the tenderness of my couscous could not save this dish. My poor roommate, who hates spicy food, was the first to try my mishap of a concoction and almost threw up. I thought she might have had this reaction due to the spiciness but after tasting it, I knew the meal was just plain foul. I think there was actually a reason all those spices were listed in the recipe.
Although I am proud of myself for attempting to cook something I think next time I will stick to recipes where I can actually pronounce the ingredients.