Friends do crazy things for you. I know this because during girls' weekend, my friends did some crazy things for me. Originally I had thought of the weekend as a way for ALL OF US to get away to be together, to celebrate the changes in our life (motherhood, age, job changes, life and death) and that was why we were gathering. Somehow, the girls were under the impression that they were coming for me. ME. They all told their husbands that they HAD to come out to celebrate my 40th. MINE? HEY! I thought we were celebrating ALL of our birthdays!!
In addition, one friend, who knows of my intense admiration and undying love for a certain chef, Tyler Florence, began emailing the manager of Wayfare Tavern WEEKS in advance, basically seeing if Tyler could somehow come and meet me. I had been to the restaurant four times already, and never have I had the chance to meet Chef Tyler. To meet him, on this girls' weekend was her idea of a cherry on top of a huge sundae. She went back and forth with the restaurant manager, explained how all the girls were coming in from all over the US, showed him my blog and basically begged and pleaded for Chef Florence to make a quick appearance. (She even offered to forward various plane itineraries as proof of this grandiose event.) In the end, he didn't show up, but we got the lovely private room in the back and I got to see a really lovely series of emails from my friend to the restaurant, trying to arrange this meeting. The email was better than meeting the chef.
Still another friend, had it in her mind that she wanted to get me something really rather lovely for my birthday. I pretty much considered spending time with all my friends the BEST present of all. (especially given that we were all without kids and just eating and having fun.) She saw me admiring this beverage dispenser at Tyler Florence's shop and I could see her wanting to buy it for me. I loved the idea of it more than anything, and told her to stop thinking about buying something. I did want something similar and set my heart to get something like it at Bed Bath and Beyond.
Yet another friend was determined that I see my favorite Top Chef Masters contestant and subsequent winner, Richard Blais at an after hours event at the hotel where we were staying. Tickets sold out quicker than we had expected so we didn't have a chance at entry. Not to be stymied, she determined that we should try and get in anyways, and we walked over to try. Heavy and mean looking bouncers in the lobby pretty much deterred us rather quickly and so we made our way back to our hotel room. As we were getting on to the elevators, another couple walked in clearly looking for that event. Our elevators weren't going to the event so they walked away, but not before this friend screamed LOUDLY, "HEY! DO YOU HAVE ANY TICKETS?"
On another day, we decided to go shopping. I've shared often and confessed my complete lack of ability to shop any longer. We had, in our group, a few very fashionable folks, who wanted to take me shopping and show me the ropes. One friend was convinced that I was wearing jeans that were too big on me. She really wanted me to try on a smaller pair. At one point, I was in a dressing room trying on jeans with an audience of four very supportive women outside who assured me that no, the tighter jeans did not make my legs look like sausages. (this is my greatest fear with tighter jeans.) I was not convinced however, and somehow managed to make the friends go back to THEIR rooms to figure out if THEIR tighter jeans were making their legs look sausage-y. (They didn't because these girls don't the type of legs that make sausages.)
I had several wardrobe malfunctions (this is what I get for trying to wear new things that are outside of my comfort zone) and I am thankful that TMZ was not around to film these fashion faux pas. I'm sure I would have also made Glamour magazines "Don't" section (do they still do that?) and several other "The worst fashion EVER" pages. No matter. One friend managed to fix up my wardrobe in a jiffy (by stretching out a shirt and making it unwearable again. EVER.) But no matter. It was hilarious and fun.
The weekend, in short was fun and hilarious. It was too short, too packed and too exhausting but so worth it. Coming back I was refreshed and rejuvenated and was excited to be home - until I came back to sick Son, stressed Husband and cranky Daughters. I let the glow of the weekend carry me through and help me survive those first few hard days back.
It took me almost a week to recover from the weekend and a while to even get back in the swing of cooking. But when I did get back to it, one thing I found myself repeatedly thinking about was shawarma. I wanted to try it again, this time with beef. I mulled over which cut of meat, how to cut it, and how to prevent tough meat. I came up with this version, which by the way is a complete cheat, easy version of real shawarma, win which meat is cooked on a spit while thin pieces are shaved off. This is pseudo shawarma if you will. The flavors are really yummy and well - Son and Daughters gobbled it up.
Beef Shawarma with Tahini Sauce
Adapted from Food and Wine, May 2011
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 to 2 ¼ pounds flank steak
1 white onion, halved and cut into thin slivers
Prepare the flank by slicing it once down the center, along the grain. Cut each half into a half (so that you have quarters) again down the grain. The four long strips will now be cut AGAINST the grain, as thinly as possible. (a quick trick - slightly freezing the meat for about 10 minutes makes it much easier to slice thinly.)
In a large bowl, combine the cumin, oregano, garlic and lemon juice. Stir in the oil and a generous pinch of salt. Add the beef and onion and let stand for 15 minutes or alternatively, you can cover and refrigerate until needed.
Heat a large fry pan or griddle until very hot. Add the beef and onion and cook over high heat, turning occasionally, until the meat and onion are charred and tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to plates and serve with the tahini sauce, hot sauce, cucumbers, tomatoes, rice and pita/flatbread.
¼ cup tahini (sesame paste)
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
In a blender or mini food processor, combine the tahini with 1/4 cup of water, garlic, lemon juice and puree until smooth. Add the mayonnaise and puree until creamy. Season the white sauce with salt.
yumminess in my hand.