It is always hard, for me anyway, to get back into the normal routine after a vacation. I just realized maybe I don’t like my routine, that could be why I vacation so frequently or maybe vacationing frequently is my routine and that I can live with. Seriously, I was really only referring to returning to the routine of planning meals and cooking for the two of us on any given night of the week. Let me explain why. When we vacation as a family there tends to be between 13-18 people in the house depending on who is all ready, willing, and able to come. (Willing and able are the deciding factors. Really who is not ready to go on vacation? Ahh but willing to go with a big group of family for some families is a problem and able to go is another more understandable problem ha ha). That being said we are pretty easy to vacation with. As a group we relax. We do our own things individually or as a group. Whatever we choose we all have a good time.
Dinner time is a different story, we are all pretty passionate about dinner and all have various opinions. We all sit down together for dinner most nights on vacation, which for a large group requires a bit of planning. After vacationing this way for 20+ years, my Aunts and Mom have through trial and error learned what works and what doesn’t. Pretty much everything is clockwork now, not much planning is needed except for a tweak here and a change there. We do rely on a few of the same dishes each year, old family favorites and mainstays. Recently however there has been occurring what I have taken to jokingly calling “The Uprising”. All of the kids in our usual group whose parents took year after year have now grown. We have our own culinary skills and tastes and we have (almost) convinced my Aunts and Mom to let us plan and cook a few different meals every year. I think they still view us as kids. When we first told them we want to plan and cook dinner for our group of 18, they looked at us quite the same way Steve Martin’s character did in Father of the Bride when his daughter said she was getting married. Our kids want to do what? There was a little resistance (remember resistance is futile) but they eventually and thankfully gave in (mostly). Remember what you taught us, cooking is fun! We actually have made some really memorable meals during this and past vacation. Including one meal a few years ago made by my brother which involved slow roasting a giant pork butt for pulled pork. It was a thing of beauty. This year we enjoyed a meal which I will relate later made by my cousins, brothers Kory and Lance.
Other than all the dinners we cook together on vacation there is also eating out at a variety of restaurants. The last three blog posts covered a handful of the great places we visited. (If you missed any of the reviews click here for Duck Donuts, here for wood fired pizzas at The Paper Canoe, and here for an awesome brewery and cafe we visited). We actually ate out more on this beach vacation than any other I can remember, including twice at our favorite place The Colington Cafe. I’m not complaining by any means, eating out and only having personally to cook once in a whole week is wonderful. But it does have its drawbacks. It is like someone that really got caught up in some kinda exercise craze and then missed one workout that led to a domino effective of many lost workouts. It is hard to get motivated to do that first one again. After two weeks of not cooking like I normally do, I am like that person who has not worked out in a while, not too excited to flex my culinary muscles as it were. This vacation left me spoiled. I only had to cook a few times in the two weeks we were there and I was weakened when I came home, hearing the words take-out spill from my mouth one too many times.
Since I had two days off in a row last week I decided I didn’t want to be that person that had a little change of routine and fell off the bandwagon. I decided I better do a bit of meal planning last Wednesday, before I was too far gone, and return to my wholesome cooking routine. I looked to my Jerusalem cookbook. I love it so much, the pictures and stories continue to inspire and excite. The book motivates me to want to be in the kitchen recreating these colorful, flavorful, inventive dishes. Last Thursday’s meal was this: oven roasted cauliflower with smoked sweet paprika (my own simple creation), saffron rice with cranberries and pistachios, and turkey and zucchini meatballs with greek yogurt sumac sauce, both recipes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. To say it was delicious, is a gross understatement. The whole meal was packed with vegetables that were punctuated with flavors that made them pop. I especially liked this rice dish for meatless monday. It was easy to make, and had a sweet and savory thing going on that was addictive. It paired really well with the roasted cauliflower and along with a green salad of spinach and baby lettuces would make a nice vegan dinner. Try it for your next meatless monday or any day of the week for that matter!
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2⅓ cups boiling water
- 1 tsp saffron threads
- 1 cup cranberries
- ½ cup chopped dates
- ½ cup chopped pistachios
- ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
- kosher salt to taste
- freshly ground white pepper
- juice from ½ lemon
- Prepare saffron threads by placing them in small bowl and covering with 3 tbsp boiling water, allowing them to soak for 30 minutes.
- Warm olive oil in medium saucepan and stir in the basmati rice coating each grain with oil. Toast rice for 1-2 minutes stirring often.
- Add boiling water to rice, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few twists of pepper. Mix well and cover with lid, cook over very low heat (I had it on my smallest burner at its lowest setting) for 15 minutes without removing lid to peek.
- After 15 minutes remove rice from heat and pour saffron water over one side of the rice covering about ¼ of the surface. The majority of the rice should remain white. Cover pan immediately with lid and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove white rice carefully from pan and place in large bowl fluffing with fork.
- Add cranberries, chopped dates, and pistachios. Leave out a few of the pistachios for garnish if desired. Mix well.
- Fluff saffron rice with fork, then fold it gently into white rice along with fresh herbs being careful not to over mix.
- Just before serving squeeze juice from ½ lemon over rice and toss to distribute. Season to taste and serve. May be served warm or at room temperature.