Sunday, April 30, 2006

Broccoli with Mustard Seeds and Horseradish (Page 524)

  • Date: Friday, April 28, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Paul wanted something with broccoli so we chose this one. This broccoli was extremely good. It was a very simple dish -- just steamed broccoli with a butter sauce that had mustard seeds and horseradish in it. The horseradish and broccoli combination was excellent though! I should note that we put much less of the butter sauce on the broccoli than the recipe indicated. The flavor of the sauce was amazing, but neither Paul nor I like our vegetables too buttery. Overall a simple, but extremely tasty dish! I highly reccomend it!

When I was young I always talked about opening a restaurant that only served my then-favorite foods: steamed broccoli, cheese ravioli, and chocolate cake! I was so excited about it and I failed to understand that not everyone loved these foods as much as I did. My mom tried to convince me that most people like to have some options - another thing I didn't understand! If I ever do open a resaurant the menu will have more than 3 items, but there will definitely be broccoli, ravioli, and chocolate cake on there. My broccoli may have horseradish in it, my ravioli may be filled with butternut squash in addition to cheese, and my chocolate cake may be molten, but they will still be there...

I have always loved steamed broccoli. The first piece of cooking equipment that I ever owned myself was a steamer and I would make steamed broccoli almost every day. Even covered in horseradish and mustard seed sauce, steamed broccoli makes me nostalgic.

Chicken Scarpariello (Page 365)

  • Date: Friday, April 28, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: B
I suggested this one because I was in the mood for chicken, and it had some hot peppers in it, so I thought it would appeal to Paul. It wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. The hot peppers contributed very little heat. If I made it again I would at least double the number of peppers added. The meat came out nice and juicy with a good flavor. I didn't really like the chicken skin in this dish. I only like the skin still on the chicken if it is crispy (e.g. a roasted chicken, or chicken pieces finished in the broiler, etc...). In this dish the skin wasn't crispy, and it just seemed a little gross. I ended up peeling the skin off my meat before eating it. The red bell peppers and onions were really nice in the sauce. Overall it was enjoyable enough to eat but I wouldn't make it again.

This is recipe number 100 of my project!!! I am so excited. When I decided to do this project, I knew that I wouldn't quit, but I also would not have guessed that I would make it through 100 recipes in less than 4 months! I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me out with this project. It has been really fun to cook and eat with various friends. Most of the food hasn't been bad, but some of you have suffered through meals that weren't great. Everyone has had such a positive attitude about the project and I appreciate that so much. A special thank you to those people who have lended the use of their kitchen and/or equipment to the project (Chris, Emilee, Brian, Alex, Paul, my mom...), and to those people who have been kind enough to let me make food from The Book for their special occasions (Bridget, Mike, Vigleik...). When I started out I really thought of this as my project, but now I think of it as our project. So many people have helped out by cooking, and/or eating, and/or critiquing the food. Thank you all! 100 recipes down, 1193 to go!

Blueberry and Nectarine Buckle (Page 816)

  • Date: Thursday, April 27, 2006 - 6pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Pierre, Kay, Marco, Monica, Ben, Elizabeth, Christopher, Frederic, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+
Pierre and Kay had a little wine and cheese gathering at their place, so I made this to bring with me. I was worried about it while it was baking, because it looked really unappealing. Even when it was done, it was not at all a pretty dish. The taste was very good though, and it came out nice and moist. I like buckle a lot and this cake didn't disappoint. The topping was appropriately crispy with a great flavor and the topping to cake ratio was good. I used frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh ones, which worked fine. And I discovered when I went to the store that nectarines are out of season, so I used frozen peaches. Frozen fruit is great for baking though, and it was not a problem at all.

I'm beginning to think that no one reads my blog any more, since no one ever writes comments! That's fine with me, but it does make me feel like I should tell some really outrageous story here and see if anyone reacts. I thought of a few possibilities, but they were all horribly mean (e.g. pretending I had some terminal illness and announcing it on my blog). None were as mean as Mike convincing his little sister that she was adopted by producing fake adoption papers (yes I'm serious! I just learned this last night...), but still...

I have been eating so much candy lately that I think I have grown addicted. I'm at work right now, and craving SweeTart Chicks, Ducks, and Bunnies (part of the stash from the post-Easter raid of the Target candy aisle). Never mind that it is 9am, which is not really a good time of day to eat a lot of candy... I already finished all but 3 pieces of the Winegums from Jacob (I am saving those 3 so I feel like I didn't eat them all). Most of the Easter candy is gone too. It's a little bit gross. Once the Easter candy is gone, I plan to not buy any candy for a week or so. I think I need to detox!

Penne with Arugula and Prosciutto (Page 217)

  • Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2006 - 10pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Paul's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: C
Paul offered to make me dinner the night I had to grade my differential equations exams (yes, he is that nice!), and he asked for a recipe from the "Recipes for Mentally Challenged 9 Year-Olds" section of The Book. Strangely, The Book isn't quite organized in that way, but I figured that this one would meet the requirements. It was easy, but it also tasted really bad. The arugula was just tremendously overpowering, making the dish almost inedible. Paul recognized that this was going to be a problem while he was making it (since he tastes the food he cooks every five minutes!), so he cut way back on the amount of arugula, but it was still too much. I think that with a fourth of the amount of arugula that the recipe lists, this dish could be good. The other flavors in the dish were quite nice if you tried to steer away from all the arugula.

So, probably I shouldn't really count this one in my project since Paul made it. But I sat in the next room, grading exams, and answering his recipe-related questions, so I figure it's ok.

Mike's thesis defense was today. I still haven't really completely internalized the fact that so many of my friends are graduating and moving away. Honestly, I can't even picture what grad school will look like without Mike here with me. Mike and I became friends on day one. It was Mike who talked me in to taking an algebraic topology course my first semester at MIT, so I suppose I have him to thank for helping me find the field that I love so much. When Mike and I go places together we invariably get asked how long we've been dating (or in some cases how long we've been married!), which never ceases to make us laugh. I think though that people thinking that about us reflects that we have a great connection. I'm going to miss him when he's far away... He did a great job today. It's always wonderful to watch someone that you really care about do something really well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonaise Dip (Page 13)

  • Date: Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 5pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie, Josh
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this one as another hors d'ouevres for my black tie birthday because I like asparagus so much. It wasn't bad, but also wasn't great. The asparagus itself was a little dull -- it was just blanched. I think in order for blanched asparagus to work well as an appetizer it needs to be served with a strongly flavored accompaniment. The wasabi mayonaise sounded promising on that count, but actually the wasabi flavor was surprisingly mild. Everyone agreed that the dish could be really good if it had about twice as much wasabi in the sauce.

Serving this on my birthday reminded me that when Chris and I used to throw dinner parties together, we had a rule that you couldn't have a dinner party without asparagus. It was fun to try to come up with different ways to incorporate the asparagus in to the meal.

Today I am very sore. I went bike riding yesterday. Now, many of you are probably thinking that you have never seen me on a bike. It's true, biking is really not my favorite. But Paul convinced me to give it another try. We went on a short little ride in Cambridge along the river. I am going to try to keep at it, and build proper muscles so that I can bike longer distances. It seems a little ridiculous that I can run farther than I can bike! My goal: to be able to bike for 20 miles. We'll see if that ever happens!

Virginia Ham and Melon Apple Chutney on Corn Bread Rounds (Page 42)

  • Date: Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Paul and Alex
  • Dining Companions: Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: C+

Many months ago Cotton and Vigleik both volunteered the number 42 and as a page number I should use for my project (I think "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" had something to do with the popularity of this suggestion). I told them that when I needed an appetizer, I would make it. So I made it for my black tie birthday on Saturday! These weren't very good though. The cornbread rounds were excellent, but the pairing of the cornbread with the ham and chutney was totally dominated by the melon apple chutney. They didn't taste unpleasant, but it was in essence just like eating plain chutney...

I am so behind in my blogging. Having eaten these more than a week ago now, it's hard to remember exactly what they tasted like! I have been doing a lot of cooking, but I haven't been finding the time to write about it. One of these nights I will sit down and write up all the recipes I have made but haven't blogged about. Right now I think I am about 8 recipes behind! Ahhh!

I am writing this in my kitchen, where the cake for Mike's thesis defense tomorrow is chilling in the fridge, and Paul is making fresh tomato sauce on the stove. We went to Russo's yesterday and bought many pounds of tomatoes at an incredibly cheap price, and now we are putting them to good use! I like spending Sunday afternoon in the kitchen cooking. It's a good time to make intricate desserts and other things that take a while. It doesn't feel like Sunday to me unless there is something boiling on the stove all day. The weather is beautiful today and I have the windows in the kitchen open and Bebel Gilberto playing on my CD player. I feel very, very relaxed.

Melon Apple Chutney (Page 42)

  • Date: Saturday, April 22, 2006 - 9am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie, Josh
  • Recipe Rating: B-

This chutney is a component of an hors d'oeuvre that I made for my party on Saturday. It wasn't bad really, but I didn't like it so much. The melon and apple flavors were nice but I thought the vinegar was a bit overpowering. It might be ok as a complement to some roasted meat, but paired with anything less robust, it is just overpowering.

I went to the grocery store on my way home from work last Friday to pick up the ingredients for the trifle and for this chutney. I had to give some little presentation thing about my Food for Thought project to some MIT alumni on Friday evening, so I didn't leave MIT until almost 8pm. I was exahusted, wandering through Whole Foods, looking for a lot of things I don't usually buy (whole allspice berries, cheesecloth, etc...), and I remembered how much I love Whole Foods. One of the grocer guys was helping me find the hidden stuff (like the cheesecloth in the seafood section?). When I asked him if they sold kitchen string he thought about it for a while and then decided that they didn't. He told me though to go tell the meat guy to give me a piece of butcher's stirng. I did, and he didn't even bat an eye. He just cut me a long piece of string with his huge cleaver. It was really cute. You know, I realize that some of the food at Whole Foods is really expensive, but I really think they are a great company. The people they employ are so friendly and helpful. Plus, the food is consistently high quality. And they donate a tremendous amount of leftover bread and pastries to the homeless shelter where I volunteer, which is a great thing for the women there! Yay for Whole Foods!

Cranberry Cognac Trifle (Page 718)

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 - 11pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This was my birthday "cake" for my black tie party on Saturday night. When I went to grocery shop before making this and realized that it had 22 eggs in it, I was pretty excited! It was quite good. I am always a little wary about making trifles -- they are a big time investment because of all the components, and they can often be quite unimpressive. This one tasted good though, and it came out looking nice. The cake itself was very flavorful and absorbed the syrup and custard nicely without getting overly soggy. The cognac whipped cream on top complemented the richness of the rest of the dish quite well. Overall I was pleased with it. A few people complained that it wasn't as good as my "usual" cakes, meaning the cakes I make that are not from The Book, but as Mike commented, it is the best cake I've made from The Book so far.

It's Friday afternoon and I am sitting at home in my bathrobe! I tutored this morning and decided I would work from home this afternoon. This weekend is going to be a little crazy I think, so I am enjoying some time by myself for a few hours today.

I have some new goals. They are to eat frequently and to get enough sleep! I have made a couple different people mad at me in the last few weeks. And as I was thinking about how to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, I realized that the number of people I frustrate is inversely proportional to the number of hours of sleep I get, and directly proportional to the number of hours since my last meal. When I get tired and hungry I get really irritable, and my judgement becomes a little bit questionable. So, in the interest of preserving my friendships, I am going to try to remember to eat and sleep! So far, the eating and sleeping plan seems to be working out well!

Rich Custard (Page 720)

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 - 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This was yet another component of the trifle I made for my birthday party. When I first read the recipe I was quite confused: it's not quite creme anglaise since it has cornstarch in it, but it's also not pastry cream since it's not boiled. I guess "rich custard" is the appropriate name for this in-between sauce/filling type thing. It was so good though! Mmmmm.... Making custardy sauces never ceases to seem like a miracle to me: you just take such simple things: eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, and turn them in to something so incredibly good. My only complaint: it was a little thin for the trifle. If you look carefully at the picture of the trifle itself you can see that there is a tiny bit of seepage where the custard came through the cake. Now this is probably partly my fault on 2 counts: one, I could have packed my exterior cake strips more tightly, and two, I think I didn't let the custard get cool enough before assembling my trifle. That said, I think it still could have been a tad thicker. It tasted amazing though!

I have been trying in the last few days to make a plan for the summer. I want to be here for commencement of course, to celebrate Mike and Vigleik and Bridget finishing. I also want to spend some time in California - I am going to go on vacation with Emilee and Brian towards the end of June. Plus I will spend some time in Germany in July for a conference. It's not so much traveling really, but I would still like to have a plan. That's one of my goals for the week.

My differential equations students have an exam today, which means that my plan for tonight includes sitting at 1369 with a big glass of hot apple cider, grading exams! Everyone agrees that grading is prety miserable, but I don't mind it too much in small doses. Since I have a grader for the homework, the only grading I do is for exams. They are infrequent enough that I don't mind!

Cranberry Jam (Page 719)

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 - 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This was another component to the trifle I made for my birthday party on Saturday. The jam was quite good: not overly sweet. The vanilla bean added a great flavor, and the orange juice complemented the cranberries well. I don't have a food mill so I just forced the jam through a double mesh strainer with a wooden spoon, which seemed to work ok. The jam added a nice tartness to the trifle, and though it was the only component with cranberries in it, it gave the whole dish a nice cranberry tang. I suspect that this jam would also taste great on toast or scones!

So here are a few more pictures from my black tie birthday on Saturday! I should have taken more pictures of everyone in their fancy clothes, but I kept getting distracted!

Yesterday was my actual birthday and I had a nice, low key day. I got some really awesome presents. Jacob even bought me Winegums -- gummy candies that I love but I don't know where in Boston one can acquire them. Plus, I got beautiful flowers sent to my office which always guarantees a good day! Last night I went out to dinner with some friends at a new Thai restaurant in Inman which was quite good. Then we went to Christina's for ice cream, which is never bad! Overall, a very nice, very relaxing birthday!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Cognac Syrup (Page 720)

  • Date: Friday, April 21, 2006 - 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Paul, Alex, Marco, Mike, John, Sophie, Vigleik, Shihchi, Vero, Cotton, Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This was a component recipe for my birthday trifle for Saturday night. It's just a simple syrup, heavily flavored with brandy and some orange zest. The recipe calls for Cognac, or other brandy, so I just used some brandy that I had in my cupboard. The syrup had a nice, strong flavor and contributed both flavor and moistness to the Cranberry Cognac Trifle that it was a part of.

My birthday is Monday, so I had my annual black tie birthday party on Saturday night. It was fun to get together with my friends, all dressed up! I think some people don't like this tradition so much, but I love it! We ate hors d'oeuvres, drank a lot of wine, played taboo, and ate trifle! Everyone looked great! Mike came in amazing attire, as usual! Two years ago he wore his whole tuxedo. Last year he wore his tuxedo minus his tuxedo shirt. And this year: an amazing high-slit dress! It was gorgeous and he looked great in it. It was quite an experience sitting across the room from him though -- the dress was a little obscene!

I made seven different recipes from The Book for my birthday party, so I will be blogging about them for a while!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Parmesan Chicken (Page 356)

  • Date: Monday, April 17, 2006 -7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I suggested this one because I have been meaning to make it for a while. I like this sort of dish a lot: chicken breasts dredged in something that becomes crispy in the oven. In this manifestation the chicken breasts were coated in a mustard and vinegar mixture, then dredged in English muffin crumbs and parmesan cheese. They came out very tasty: tender and moist inside and nice and crunchy on the outside. Also, very flavorful. Aside from making a yummy dinner last night, they reheated well in our little toaster oven to make a great dinner tonight too! This is another dish that isn't fancy, or impressive, but is quite simple to make and very tasty!

So I was talking on the phone tonight with a friend and he told me something horrible that a complete stranger had said about me. Maybe I shouldn't be insulted by something said by someone who has never met, or even seen, me. But I am a little bit. I can't fault my friend for telling me what she said -- I accidentally asked about it (not knowing that the situation had anything to do with me). It's just weird for me to think that someone that I have never met has bad things to say about me. It got me wondering if I ever speak badly of strangers. I can think of a few situations when I have, and now I am regretting ever having thought, more or less said, those things...

Buttered Baby Spinach (Page 578)

  • Date: Monday, April 17, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: B

Paul picked this one because he likes spinach, and it seemed quick (we were really hungry...). It wasn't bad -- just a little boring. As the name suggests, it is just wilted baby spinach in butter. We put some good Australian Murray River pink flake salt on it, which helped. For a vegetable dish that only takes 5 minutes to make, this one isn't bad! But don't expect anything too exciting.

After dinner last night we went to Target to raid the Easter candy aisles! Everything was 50% off and they had a truly amazing amount of candy. We didn't succeed in finding caramel Hershey kisses (which I really wanted) but we did get 5 other bags of candy. Mmmmm... candy...

Today I was really tired. Being that tired made me realize how infrequently I let myself get so sleep deprived. It was really unpleasant. I felt really groggy, which was annoying, but more than anything I just couldn't focus. It's hard to get any work done in that state. Finally this afternoon I surrendered and took a long nap. Now I feel a million times better. I am going to try to get a lot of sleep tonight!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mojo Sauce (476)

  • Date: Sunday, April 16, 2006 (Easter!) - 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Alex, Marco, and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A-
We had a little tiff in the car in the grocery store parking lot about which grilled dish we should make, but we finally settled on this one. I think it was a good choice because this pork was excellent. The sauce had great flavor -- the citrus and garlic were a really great combination. The meat itself was quite succulent. The grill gave the pork a fantastic sear which resulted in the meat having a wonderful carmelized crust flavored with oregano. Overall a very easy and very tasty dish. All of us liked it quite a lot (and the four of us don't agree on much!).

Yesterday being Easter reminded me of my favorite easter moment. When I was young my dad used to take me to the Unitarian church in Madison for Easter. One year, when I was probably 14, they handed out Easter eggs at the end of service. The litte children in the congregation had decorated them, and most of them were covered in stars and stickers -- the usual stuff. Each person was handed one Easter egg. When I got mine, I looked at it and was trying to figure out what was drawn on it. It looked like some sort of wave, drawn in crayon, going around the egg. Then I noticed that there was also a set of axes labelled x and y and near the bottom of the egg it said y = sin(x). It was so strange. I interpreted this as a sign that I was meant to be a mathematician.

Grilled Bell Peppers with Criolla Sauce (Page 557)

  • Date: Sunday, April 16, 2006 (Easter!) - 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Alex, Marco, and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: C+
Alex kindly offered the use of his grill once again, so Marco, Mike, and I gathered at his place to grill up some food. I chose this side dish because it is one of the few grilled side dishes in the book! People had mixed opinions on this one. The suggested grades ranged from C (Marco) to B+ (Alex). Left to my own devices, I may have given it a grade in the D range, but I took everyone else's opinions in to account too! It wasn't that the dish was bad, but it just didn't make a lot of sense to me. It was essentially grilled red, orange, and yellow peppers with the skins removed, mixed in with raw onions, tomatoes, chiles, garlic, etc... All the flavors were good, it was just an odd assembly of things. The cooked red peppers together with the raw onions just didn't seem like a good combination to me. I actually did not eat the serving of it on my plate, which is unusual for me. Everyone else ate it and thought it was fine though, so it may be partly a matter of personal preference.

Everyone laughed when I suggested that our dinner last night was an Easter dinner. I like Easter though. It's one of my favorite holidays. I spent the afternoon at Rosie's Place, serving lunch to the women there. Easter at the homeless shelter is always a blast. They have a DJ come and play music and all the volunteers and guests are singing along and dancing. It's really fun. Plus, there are a lot of children there for Easter, which is always a riot. A little girl drew me a very pretty picture yesterday and she wrote my name on it over and over again with "I love you Teena" going down the side. It's very cute. A couple other little girls asked me if I knew cursive and when I said yes they asked me to write a whole variety of things for them. They were very critical of my cursive though, pointing out that some of my capital letters didn't look curvy enough!

It was fun to get together with Alex, Marco, and Mike, even if it was not officially an Easter event! We all grocery shopped together, cooked together, and ate together. I think it's so nice to be in the kitchen with friends. Plus, everything goes so quickly with 4 people cooking! Alex provided a couple nice bottles of wine and we had a fun, relaxing evening. Here are some pictures of Mike and Marco cooking.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Taco Salad with Salsa Vinaigrette (Page 164)

  • Date: Friday, April 14, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Paul had trouble picking a dish without oysters in it, so I picked out this one. It was really quite good. The beef was juicy with good cumin flavor, and the vinaigrette was excellent. We deep-fried some corn tortillas to make fresh chips for the salad, and not surprisingly they added a lot to the dish. This recipe is very quick, and while the salad it produces isn't extremely fancy, or impressive in appearance, it does taste really good!

I realized last night that I hadn't written in my blog since last weekend. Paul kindly pointed out that at that rate it would take me more than a couple decades to finish the project! So, I'm trying to get back in the swing of things a little! I am finally feeling not-sick, which is a great feeling after nearly 2 weeks of feeling shitty. I am ready to cook again!

Earlier today I finally sold my dead car. I was surprised both by how easy it was to sell it and how much I was able to get for it. In reality, I sold it for not very much at all. But I wasn't expecting to really be able to sell it, so it was a pleasant surprise! I got one last picture of me with Lipschitz before saying goodbye. Actually, this may be the only picture ever taken with me and my car...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Blueberry Muffins (Page 641)

  • Date: Sunday, April 9, 2006 - 11am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Jessie and Everton
  • Recipe Rating: B

I made these muffins for breakfast because I ran out of Cliff Bars! The muffin batter was unusually dense, and the muffins came out quite dense once baked. They are nice and moist though, with a good flavor. I don't particularly like the topping -- it is too floury. I made these with frozen blueberries, which worked well but meant that I had to bake them longer than indicated. Overall, these muffins aren't anything special, but they aren't bad at all.

I have finally started feeling better this weekend! I have my appetite, and some of my energy back. I didn't cook much this weekend, as I didn't want to take the chance of infecting anyone else with my illness, but I did have some amazing food. The highlight: dinner on Friday at Oleana. I had never been there before and it was excellent.

My goal for the weekend was to simplify my life a little bit. Tonight, as I was heading in to the office to finish something up, I realized that I felt very unburdened. Lately my life has felt complicated. In reality, most of those "complications" have been very positive additions to my life. Nonetheless, the complexity of it all was causing me stress. This weekend I simplified things. When I woke up this morning, I didn't feel sure that the decisions I made in doing so were good ones. But heading to the office tonight, ginger-lemon tea in hand, I felt very free. In that moment I realized that sometimes the shear simplicity of things can be a huge blessing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Olive and Eggplant Spread (Page 11)

  • Date: Sunday, April 2, 2006 - 1pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: ???

So I made this for the dinner party that was supposed to happen on Sunday, but didn't. I didn't taste it right after I made it, and then I ended up so sick this week that I never felt well enough to want to eat something so strongly flavored. Now, I feel a bit better, but it is too old to eat. So, I have no idea if it's good or not! It looks pretty, and it smells really briny. That's about all I have to offer by way of commentary!

Being sick sucks! Yesterday I felt terrible all day. I spent the whole day in bed, watching TV shows purchased from the Apple Music Store on my laptop. I was too dizzy even to read! I tried a variety of different shows to distract me from how horrible I felt. The most successful: Project Runway. I had never seen it before -- it's really fun! Today I actually made it out of bed and in to the department to teach my class (and John's). I did have to spend much of the afternoon napping on the sofa in my office, but it's still progress!

One thing I dislike about being sick, aside from feeling shitty, is that it is really hard to enjoy eating when you feel sick. Yesterday I wasn't hungry all day and nothing sounded good. I finally force-fed myself 2 Cliff Bars and a bowl of Clifford Crunch (read: fake Cheerios). Today there was a point when I was actually genuinely hungry. I view that as an excellent sign that I am on the mend!

One good thing about being sick: I didn't have to go out in the snow yesterday (yes, snow!). As it was, I could stay inside and hold on to my belief that it is spring!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pita Toasts (Page 7)

  • Date: Sunday, April 2, 2006 - 1pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I picked this recipe to be part of an appetizer for a dinner gathering I was planning to have at my place on Sunday night. My roommate became very sick with food poisoning or something on Sunday afternoon though, so I cancelled dinner. I had already made these though. They are really simple and quite tasty. They would make an excellent accompaniment for a wide variety of dips and spreads. I think there are a nice alternative to toasted baguette slices.

School is back in session and I am sick. Every day my symptoms seem to be different. Saturday and today have been the worst days so far -- the two days in between were pretty manageable. I rarely stay home from the office, but today I would have done it except that I needed to teach. In fact, jnkf is in Germany, so I was teaching for him too today. I am aiming to feel miraculously cured by morning, but if not I may actually stay home tomorrow.

This is the first time I have really been sick since Chris moved across the country. He's the only person in my life (aside from my mom!) who will stay with me when I am sick and take care of me. It's hard not having anyone like that here. I don't think he would identify that as something that he likes about our friendship: that we have the type of bond that results in us taking care of each other when we're sick. That means a lot to me though. Even though he and I have really been struggling lately to find the right way to be in each others' lives, I have been missing him a lot the last few days. Chris once spent 9 hours in the MGH emergency room with me. He has sat in the Mt. Auburn hospital waiting room through many MRIs. When I told him on the phone a few days ago that I was in bed with tonsilitis, he knew exactly what I needed to feel better. I have been incredibly lucky in the last 8 months that my health has been essentially problem-free. Tonight though, feeling sick and frustrated, I wish he were here. Probably he's glad he's not here though... :)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Green Apple Salad with Grilled Beef (Page 166)

  • Date: Friday, March 31, 2006 - 8:30pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Alex
  • Recipe Rating: A

I have been eyeing this recipe for a while, so when Alex offered up the use of his grill last night, I immediately picked this one. This recipe did not disappoint. While eating it, I was trying to think of something constructive to say about how it could be better, and I just couldn't. It was exactly right. This is the kind of dish I really like: some nice pieces of meat over a salad that is refeshing and light. It's the kind of meal that leaves you feeling energized and good, rather than weighed down by the food. The dressing on the salad was incredibly light with excellent flavor. The lime juice and fish sauce complemented each other well and the chiles gave it a nice kick. Plus, green apples and beef is a combination that I adore! I was really very happy with this dish.

Several years ago Chris got me interested in yoga, and I went to class once or twice a week for a long time. Last summer I was in yoga class one afternoon, thinking about my grandmother, and wishing that after being forced to live so much longer than she wanted to that she would finally be allowed to die. She passed away while I was in class that day. I never went back. Last weekend Cotton and I were talking a lot about yoga and I realized that I miss it. I still don't feel ready to go back to that class, but I decided to start practicing again at home. It's been really nice. It's always a good feeling to return to something that you enjoy but stopped doing.

Nobody writes comments on my blog anymore... :( At least the people I eat with should have something to say!

Grilled Asparagus (Page 521)

  • Date: Friday, March 31, 2006 - 8:30pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Alex
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I picked this one because Alex kindly invited me over to grill some stuff at his place. I do not have a grill, but there are 36 grilled dishes in The Book. Fortunately, Alex both has a grill, and loves food, so I think it will all work out ok! This asparagus was pretty good. It came out a bit undercooked, but that was our fault, rather than the recipe's fault. Asparagus is a great vegetable to grill: it holds up well, it gets beautiful grill marks, and the smokey grill flavor really complements the flavor of the vegetable. Plus, it is a fantastically easy preparation! Definitely a good recipe -- it would be perfect for a summer barbecue.

Alex's grill is set outside a window of his apartment, on the roof of one of the apartments below him. It makes for a great grilling set-up: you can just stand inside and grill through the window. It does necessitate the use of a flashlight while grilling though! Here's a picture.

One of my goals for Spring Break was to organize Food for Thought for the rest of the semester. This didn't happen in entirety, but I did get a good start. For those who don't already know: I have a grant from MIT to hold a series of food tasting in the math department (crazy, I know!). I had 6 tastings last spring and there will be 4 more this spring. Last year the six tastings were: citrus fruit, chocolate, oil and vinegar, cheese, artisanal breads, and salt. If you're interested: http://math.mit.edu/~tgerhard/fft . When I wrote the grant proposal it wasn't clear to me how well received it would be in the math department. I figured the graduate students would like it (graduate students always like free food!) but I didn't know how the faculty would respond. It turned out to be really fun for everyone though. Lots of faculty and staff in the department came to the tastings, in addition to the graduate students. The first tasting for this semester will be this week and I am hoping to get the same positive response!