Faking it

Grilled asparagus salad, recipe below

I’d decided to make the perfect birthday bbq fare for Dustin. Teriyaki marinated grass-fed beef burgers topped with swiss cheese, bacon, and grilled, caramelized pineapple slices. A fresh butter lettuce salad with sliced hard-boiled eggs, lemon vinaigrette, and grilled asparagus from the garden. Sticky pineapple upside down cupcakes. And for later, at home alone, a flourless chocolate cake with peanut butter ice cream.

I spent the better part of two days shopping, prepping, baking and assembling this menu, which didn’t turn out the way I’d wanted. Per usual.

It all started at the grocery store. In an effort to maintain my locavore status, I sought out grass-fed beef for the burgers but to my despair ended up with a Costco pack of half a ground cow.  At home, the flourless chocolate cake defeated me single-handedly by refusing to combine when folding the chocolate into the egg mixture and by leaking out of the springform pan.

Undeterred, the assembly for the pineapple upside down cakes was a snap but then the teriyaki burgers came together half-hearted as there was not enough ginger and not enough teriyaki marinade and I was not going to the store again. Unfortunately, the pineapple upside down cupcakes decided to fight me when it was time to come out of the pan and turned out ugly. The flourless chocolate cake never did set in the oven.

The next day, a beautiful, sparkling ocean of a day, we headed down to the beach and set up our beach chairs and the bbq. Many of our lovely friends joined us for beers and waves and tree climbing with the kids. When, finally, the food was grilled and the plates set out a feeling of utter disappointment overwhelmed me. Here I was, some sort of food blogger who is supposed to be able to cook well serving too small teriyaki burgers that didn’t taste like teriyaki.

The thing is I often don’t really know what I’m doing. I never went to culinary school or got any training besides flipping burgers at a sports bar. More often than not, I just wing it and hope for the best. The best doesn’t always come. Hopefully the food gods will forgive me, I just wanted everything to be perfect for Dustin’s birthday.

Thankfully the pineapple upside down cupcakes were served in near darkness so no one saw how ugly they were. And Dustin liked his flourless chocolate cake anyway.

Maybe it was perfect after all.

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Parmesan, Lemon, and Olive Oil
Very slightly adapted from Cooking Light

  • 2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 6 cups torn Boston lettuce (about 2 small heads)
  • large hard-cooked eggs, each cut into 6 slices 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) shaved fresh parmesan cheese
  • Prepare a hot grill. Place asparagus on a large piece of foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss well. Arrange asparagus in a single layer. Grill for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender, tossing once. Cool slightly. 
  • Arrange lettuce on a large platter. Top with asparagus and egg slices. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over asparagus and lettuce. Top with cheese. Serve immediately.

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5 thoughts on “Faking it

  1. I mess stuff up all the time. Especially on the first try. Some recipes aren’t written well, and there are a lot of variables that can alter the chemistry of your food. Every time you cook, you’re basically doing a science experiment. Usually, I’m the only one who’s upset about it. Everyone else is just happy to have food they didn’t have to make/pay for.

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  2. Exactly what Renee said above.I didn’t go to culinary school either, although I have attended many cooking classes and demonstrations by chefs or cookbook & other culinary writers. Even that amount of closeness to the pros does not guarantee that everything you cook will turn out like theirs…That said, we all have our off days and stuff happens. You are an awesome ‘natural’ cook and have demonstrated it countless times and won quite a few awards when entering cooking contests. Do not get discouraged.

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  3. What a herculean effort and I know Dustin really appreciated the food, but I also know he appreciated your efforts even more. He is one fortunate young man to have you! You are an incredible cook; do not get discouraged. Furthermore, I’m sure everything tasted wonderful. I wish I could have been there! I love you both!

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