Monday, April 12, 2010

How Do You Feed Eight People with Three Steaks?

Localizing our diet means that I have to be more creative ... and plan a little better, too.

I'm not always so great at it, which means there are days when we're eating dinner at 8:00 at night. Tonight was one of those nights.

The way my schedule has worked out recently, I, usually, spend the whole afternoon working, and will often not have everything typed up and ready to go until around the time Deus Ex Machina gets home. Then, I have to go out to my client's office - half hour round trip by car.

Today, I decided I wanted to make Doner Kebabs for dinner. Obviously, I can't make an authentic Kebab, like the ones Deus Ex Machina and I enjoyed in Germany, but I can fairly closely reproduce the flavors.

The problem is that it's time consuming, and all of the meat was frozen, and the pita bread had to be made from start to finish, and it was 6:00, and I still had to go out to my client's office.

But I was determined that tonight's dinner was going to be Kebabs, and I wasn't going to be deterred.

I took the meat out of the freezer and plopped it into the stainless steel sink.

Then, I made the pita dough. Most bread doughs use the same basic ingredients: water, yeast, sugar, salt and flour. The directions for the pita called for proofing the yeast (add yeast and sugar to warm water and let sit for 10 minutes), and then, in a large bowl, adding the flour and making a well. It said to pour the proofed yeast liquid and an additional cup of warm water into the well, and then mix and knead the dough until it was elastic. Then, add a tablespoon of oil and knead until the oil is mixed in.

I did all of the mixing and kneading and formed the dough into a ball, placed it in the bowl, covered it with a cloth, and put the bowl in a sink with some warm water, because my house is pretty cold right now, and I didn't think the dough would rise well enough. I was already going to be skimping on the amount of rise time as it was (the directions called for a three hour rise ... um, yeah - not happening), and I needed to give the dough every opportunity I could.

After I finished prepping the dough, I put the, mostly still frozen, tenderloins (half beef and half road-side deer) in my iron skillet in some olive oil and rubbed with a mixture of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, rosemary, and marjoram. I turned the oven on 325°, put a cover on the skillet, and put it in the oven.

Then, I went to my client's office.

When I got home, the aroma from the oven was heavenly.

The dough had doubled, and so I started rolling it out into flat rounds and baking them. The first couple of pitas didn't puff up, but the last several did.

It always amazes me to note that I can make pita bread - actual pita bread that can be sliced in half and stuffed. Pita bread was one of those mysterious types of foods that I was sure could only be made with special ingredients and a little magic, and I think it's pretty cool that, apparently, I have that special magic, too ;).

While I was working on the bread, Deus Ex Machina was cutting the tenderloins into very thin slices.

I made my version of tzatziki, without cucumber, because this time of year, I don't have cucumber. Instead I add some dried herb (tarragon is my favorite, but I've also used mint), and instead of yogurt, I mix equal parts real cream and mayonnaise, add a splash of red wine vinegar, and of course, a couple of cloves of garlic. It's really very good, and I also use it as my main salad dressing, when we have lettuce - which will hopefully be very soon!

The point is not to show what a great and amazingly creative cook I am, because, well, I'm not, but over the past several years, I have learned that almost anything I can buy in a restaurant, I can make at least as well in my kitchen, and with fresh, local ingredients and because it's usually very fresh, like the pitas that were pulled from the oven fifteen minutes before they were eaten, it's even better.

I love the fact that I know where most of the ingredients come from, but even more, I love that I know how to make a few things that might seem exotic.

My daughters' dance school participated in a bake sale this past weekend and my contribution was Baklava. It's probably the most exotic and decadent dessert known to man, but it's wicked easy to make.

A big part of our self-sufficiency goal is being able to feed ourselves, which includes knowing how to make a meal out of what's in my kitchen. We follow the eat what you store/store what you eat method of stocking up, which means we don't store or eat proceesed, pre-made or factory canned foods. Learning how to cook using whole foods has been one of the most empowering lessons I've learned over the past few years.

And I can take three tenderloins (maybe a pound of meat), a handful of herbs, nine pitas, a small head of (locally grown) lettuce, and some tzatziki sauce and feed eight people.

That's pretty cool.

Oh, and tasty ;).


  1. I have to admit this my favorite part of our new lifestyle - I love coming up with something to eat with just what I have on hand. Admittedly, it's not always as local as I'd like, but being able to feed 4 people with less than a pound of ground beef, a bunch of chard (will be very local soon ;} ), some onions, local potatoes, fresh local butter and homegrown herbs is exciting. Then for everyone to say they love it = very happy mommie.

  2. Standing ovation! Loved the way you SHOWED that it can be done...all the TELLING in the world wouldn't have made it so clear. I'm wishing you lettuce soon for that amazing tzatziki. Won't be long now...