Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (Page 5)

  • Date: Tuesday, June 27, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Chris' Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Chris
  • Recipe Rating: B+
The online random number generator picked the page number for this recipe. These roasted green pumpkin seeds were pretty good. The recipe was very quick and the seeds were certainly very snackable. I needed to add a little more salt than indicated in order to get a good saltiness. Chris noted that they didn't have as much "pizazz" as some of the other snacks I have made from The Book (e.g. the Rosemary Walnuts). (Side Note: I didn't even make fun of him for using the word pizazz. I was very proud of myself for that. I guess I am making fun of him now though, so maybe I shouldn't be so proud.... hmmm....). Overall, this recipe makes a very quick snack that would be perfect for a big poker game, or a Superbowl party, pizazz or no.

The last two days have really given meaning for me to the phrase "When it rains, it pours." They have just been awful. It's never good when problems with work and personal problems compound. At this point, I just feel exhausted. The last few days I have been so distracted trying to resolve my work problems that I haven't been eating, which never helps my mood. Perhaps that has contributed to my personal problems! At 4pm today I realized I hadn't yet eaten a meal. Not a good sign. Even then nothing sounded appealing, so I just grabbed a smoothie and went back to work. I finally resolved part of my work problem today though, and all of the personal problems, so I am more optimistic about tomorrow.

I had nightmare after nightmare last night, so I didn't sleep much. One of them was pretty funny in restrospect (although scary at the time). In the dream, there was a Stanford Army and they were invading MIT. Although no one at MIT understood why we were being invaded, the MIT Army was called on to defend the campus. I was apparently in the MIT Army Reserve and so I was pulled in to the warfare. Strangely, Haynes was the head of the MIT Army, which doesn't really seem like the sort of job he would enjoy... He lead a very defensive mission ('Don't fire unless fired upon," etc...). A lot of the battles took place in the MIT gym building, and I ended up getting shot by a Stanford undergraduate. I was wounded , but ok. I also had a grenade thrown at me, but that didn't appear to do any damage. Just when I was taken to the hospital for my gunshot wound, the Stanford Army seemed to be retreating. Then I woke up. It was very odd.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Almond Cake with Kirsch Cream and Lingonberry Preserves (Page 710)

  • Date: Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian, Bret, Karen, Stanford Mike, and Kai-Mei
  • Recipe Rating: B-

Emilee's only criterion in selecting a dessert was that it had to contain a kind of alcohol that she didn't own. Since she had no kirsch, we selected this cake. It was ok... The almond flavor of the cake was very nice and the cake was wonderfully moist. It was so incredibly dense though that it was hard to eat more than a few bites. And while in general I really like whipped cream with alcohol in it, the kirsch whipped cream just didn't taste good. In fact, the kirsch gave the whipped cream a slightly soured flavor, which wasn't appealing. The lingonberry jam was tasty, but could have been better incorporated in the dessert. Emilee pointed out that it would have been a much nicer dessert if the cake was split and filled with the jam rather than just having the jam on the side. The cake batter was excellent raw and Brian speculated that it wouldn't be as good once we baked it. I think he was right! Overall, it wasn't a bad dessert, but I wouldn't make it again. I forgot to take a picture before I started eating my piece -- whoops!

So I was reading Self magazine in the car on the way to the beach this weekend, and there was this little mini-article with financial tips. Now, granted, Self isn't really known for being a source of incredibly accurate information, but I was still reading it. They had a little blurb about how to compute what your net worth should be. Their algorithm was to take your age, multiply by your annual income, and divide by ten. I did this, and was appalled! I am apparently supposed to have way more money than I do! I went on and on about this for a while in the car and finally Emilee suggested that I calculate what it should be in 10 years, figuring that that would seem like a more reasonable number and I would feel better. Again, shocking! How am I so poor?!?

On another note, I saw the movie Wordplay yesterday, a documentary about the New York Times Crossword and competitive crossword solvers. It was really fun! I definitely recommend it! One of the highlights: Jon Stewart makes a few appearances and is, of course, really funny.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Grilled Beer-Marinated Chuck Steak and Onions (Page 435)

  • Date: Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Brian and Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Stanford Mike, Kai-Mei, Bret, and Karen
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Em, Brian, and I picked this one. We figured, how can you go wrong with beef, marinated in beer, and grilled!?! It turns out we were right, this dish was very good. This recipe is made with chuck steak, which is a tasty but tough cut of meat. The overnight marinating really tenderized the meat though -- it wasn't tough at all. You could easily have mistaken it for a much more expensive cut of beef. The highlight of the dish was really the onions though. They too were marinated overnight in beer and then Brian grilled them to perfection. They were easily the highlight of the entire meal! Overall this was a really solid dish, and a great meal for a crowd.

This is recipe 150 in my project! I think when I get to 200 I will have a nice party to mark it! I am aiming to get to 200 by the end of the summer.

I don't know how many times I have been to the beach in Northern California, but certainly many times. Yet somehow, when we went to the beach in Santa Cruz yesterday, I had this idea that the air would be warm, and the water would be warm, and I would swim and lay in the sun. If I had thought about this carefully I would have remembered that last summer when we went to the beach in Santa Cruz we stopped for hot chocolate on the way home because we were so cold! Somehow I forgot this. It was a very cold beach day yesterday. The water was freezing -- the only people in it were a few surfers, most of them in wetsuits. Plus, it was overcast and about 65 degrees and windy. We still had a fun time, but I felt a little stupid (and cold!) for wearing a tank top and shorts. Plus, since it was so overcast I skipped the sunblock (I know, I know, not so smart) and got really sunburned. Apparently I was not on top of my game yesterday... Here are some pictures of Emilee and me wearing appropriate and inappropriate Northern California beach attire, respectively.

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes (Page 584)

  • Date: Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian, Bret, Karen, Stanford Mike, and Kai-Mei
  • Recipe Rating: B
Emilee, Brian, and I picked out this recipe for our dinner party on Thursday. These sweet potatoes were unusual, but not in a bad way. This was another dish where there were really diverse opinions. I enjoyed eating them, but when I went to get seconds this wasn't the dish that I reached for. The spice combination was non-canonical: coriander, fennel seeds, oregano, and red pepper. It worked though. I'm not a huge fan of anisey flavors in general, but the fennel wasn't bad with the sweetness of the potatoes. This dish was interesting, but as someone at the table (I think Mike) pointed out, "There are so many better things you can do with a sweet potato."

Emilee and Brian came over to Chris' place last night and the four of us swam, drank beer, and ate pizza. I love summer evenings like that! Today we are going to head to Santa Cruz to go to the beach.

I am making slow but steady progress thinking about job applications: asking people for letters of reccomendation, thinking about where I want to apply and what sorts of pieces these applications have. The hard thing about being out in California is knowing that I would really like to come back to Stanford after I graduate, and that's a very unlikely option. My plan for the job application process was not to get my hopes up about anything. And I've managed to do that so far about everything except coming to Stanford. The thing is, there are several math departments where I think I would be extremely happy mathematically, including Stanford. But so much of my non-math life is here too. It's just so tempting. I love the department here. In addition to being a very strong department, it's a friendly department. And I think it's a good mathematical fit for me. But I also really want to be here when Em and Brian have their first child. And I want to make dinner with Chris, and visit Rachel and Eric in Davis. I want to see Bret and Karen's new house, and drink beer with Soren. I want to drive down to LA to visit my brother. It just seems scary to start over somewhere new when I already have a life here. I will probably end up starting over though, and I am trying to view that as an exciting change. I try to remember that I felt the same way when I left California after college, and although it was hard to leave everyone behind, I built a really great network of friends in Boston. The truth is, I think I would be happy in any of the places that would make sense for me mathematically. I just think I would be the most happy here!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Green Bean Salad with Pumpkin Seed Dressing (Page 143)

  • Date: Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian, Karen, Bret, Kai-Mei and Stanford Mike
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Emilee and I have been wanting to do something with green pumpkin seeds, so we chose this as a side dish for our dinner last night. It was met with extremely mixed reviews. Emilee, Bret, and I really liked this dish, and the rest of the table thought it was a bit gross. It was definitely over-dressed. We didn't even use all the dressing, but it was still too much. If I were going to make it again I would probably cut the dressing in half. The flavor of the dressing was very nice though. The ground pumpkin seeds gave some body to the dressing and contributed a great nutty flavor. I thought the dish was very tasty, and a little bit unusual. It seemed that many people thought it was just too weird though.

I have been wondering lately if people get more or less picky about food as they age? I have certainly outgrown almost all of my finickiness about food. But maybe that has less to do with age and more to do with the fact that I have learned more about food as I have gotten older. I think it is harder to dislike foods that you cook with and know about. Maybe that's just me... It's interesting to me to see what people will and will not eat though. Some friends of mine have aversions that I just don't understand (blue cheese, mayonaise, mustard, vinegar, etc...). Other friends will eat absolutely anything. I wonder how much that has to do with what you were fed as a child. Do you think that adventurous eaters are more often the product of parents who fed their children a wide variety of foods? I don't really understand why many parents feed their children a very limited, bland diet. If I have kids someday, as soon as they start eating solid food I will feed them whatever I eat. It doesn't seem obvious to me that children really have a different palate than adults do. I think kids just tend to like what they are used to. If they are used to eating a wide variety of things, probably they will like a wide variety of things. Well, I guess I will have to wait and see...

Roasted Pepper and White Bean Spread (Page 13)

  • Date: Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian, Karen, Bret, Kai-Mei, and Stanford Mike
  • Recipe Rating: C+

I picked this one as an easy appetizer for our dinner party last night. This recipe wasn't bad, it was just really dull. We all ate it, but no one was too excited about it. To be fair, we omitted the optional anchovy fillet. Maybe the anchovy would have given the spread more depth of flavor. As it was, it just tasted like pureed roasted red peppers, diluted a bit with some beans. It wasn't terribly appealing. The color was nice though.

We had a really lovely dinner party last night. There is something so nice about gathering friends together on a warm summer night to drink beer and grill steak. My friend Bret is getting married in August and I hadn't met his finace Karen yet, so it was really fun having them to dinner! They are one of those couples that just immediately seems like a great match. I am so excited for them! I am planning to come back to California for their wedding in August. It sounds like it is going to be an elaborate affair!

Bret and Karen both work for Google and they were telling me last night about Google Spreadsheets which I had never used. It's nice because it is a very easy way to share spreadsheets with others (basically it is cool in the same way that Google Calendar is cool). Paul has been suggesting that I list the recipes in my project on a spreadsheet with their grades so that one could sort easily for the A recipes, etc... I started doing this this morning. I can't figure out how to make the spreadsheet public though -- I can only give permission person by person. If anyone is interested, let me know and I can add you.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Curried Chicken Salad (Page 161)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companion: Brian
  • Recipe Rating: B-

Emilee and I picked this recipe while flipping through the cookbook in the grocery store, trying to figure out what to eat for dinner last night. This chicken salad wasn't great. I thought it was ok, and Brian was certainly willing to eat it, but I think it was one of the first recipes that we've made together that Emilee really didn't like. Its major flaw was that the curry was totally overpowering. The flavors of the lime juice, honey, and ginger didn't come through at all. The whole dish just tasted like curry powder. Brian commented, "This is why curry powder is a bad thing." He usually blends his own curries, and in this dish it was very clear that one of his own blends would have tasted better. With less curry and a higher concentration of fruit and nuts, it would be a pretty solid chicken salad. As it is, it was ok, but not something I would chose to make again.

Yesterday was a nice day. I had a productive day at work. Then Emilee and I went to Ikea to buy lingonberry jam for a dessert we are making for tonight. It had honestly never occured to me to shop for food at Ikea, but they did indeed have our jam! After Ikea we got pedicures, wandered around BevMo (my favorite liquor store!), and grocery shopped. A few people looked at us like we were nuts, wandering through the liquor store and the grocery store carrying a huge cookbook, but it turned out to be useful when a vegetarian woman who was trying to buy beef asked us for help distinguishing which cuts were which! I just opened to the labelled picture of a cow, and it cleared everything right up! We are having a big dinner tonight, so we started cooking last night. Once all our prep work was done we walked to 7-11 to get slurpees. It was a really lovely day.

I'm already starting to get excited about our dinner tonight. In Emilee and Brian's fridge right now there is a really yummy looking almond cake, and a whole lot of beef marinating in beer. How can we go wrong!?! We are having a little dinner party tonight, which should be really fun. I am trying to spend a lot of time with Em and Brian while Emilee is still on vacation. Next week they are away visiting their families and when they get back Em starts her rotations! She says she doesn't think she will really be that busy, but working 80 hours a week sounds like a lot to me! It will be exciting though to hear about everything that she is doing and learning at the hospital.

Ok, time for a morning swim...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Beets with Lime Butter (Page 523)

  • Date: Tuesday, June 20, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Emilee and Brian
  • Dining Companions: Nathan, Anh, and Chris
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Emilee, Brian, and I picked this side dish to go with the main course Brian made last night. These beets were excellent. The flavor was fantastic, and grating the beets made this dish much quicker than most beet dishes. I increased the lime zest and juice, but everyone agreed the dish would have been still better with more lime. Overall this was a wonderful side dish: beautiful, tasty, and easy!

Brian was experimenting with developing a good tandoori trout recipe last night so a bunch of us gathered at Em and Brian's place to eat his first attempt. It was really very good! He spiced the fish beautifully, and then grilled them whole. It was very tasty, and a perfect meal for a warm summer evening!

I have decided that my dream vacation definitely includes a day at the spa. We had a spa day in Vegas, and it was so wonderful! The spa there was really fabulous: hot tub, dry sauna, steam room, etc... plus all the available services. There are few better ways to start the day than lounging in a hot tub with cold cucumber slices over your eyes! We had facials at the spa, which I had never done before. I knew I was going to enjoy the facial experience the moment I got in the bed they do your facial on and realized that the whole bed was heated! At one point, I was laying in the heated bed with my feet wrapped in hot towels, my hands in electric heating mitts, my face wrappped in a hot towel with only my nose poking out, and a steam machine blowing steam on me -- it was awesome!

Actually I had many enjoyably warm moments in Vegas. It was around 100-105 degrees while we were there, which is a little hot, even for me. But it was perfect for lounging by one of the 5 pools at our hotel. Even for walking around it wasn't so bad because the heat was really dry. A hundred and five in Vegas felt much more comfortable than 95 in South Carolina, where it is really humid.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Apple Crisp (Page 812)

  • Date: Thursday, June 15, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Apartment: Chris' Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Robert and Soren
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I picked this recipe for dessert to go with the lasagne last week. I wasn't too impressed by it. The filling was pretty good, although maybe a touch too sweet. I didn't really like the topping though. For one thing, I checked the crisp after it had cooked for less than three quarters of the indicated time, and the nuts in the topping had already started to burn, while the filling was undercooked. Further, I didn't think the topping had great texture. I much prefer crisp toppings with oatmeal in them. The texture of this topping was pretty grainy, which was disppointing. As I ate this dessert I just kept thinking, "Well this isn't as good as my mother's recipe."

Emilee and I got back from our trip to Vegas this afternoon! We had such a fun time! We even managed to gamble a little without losing too much money. We computed that our net gambling loss, between the two of us, was around seven dollars. I don't feel so bad about having lost $3.50 a piece. It's a good thing Emilee was there though: it turns out she has more gambling skill than I do. This morning she won $25 from a 25 cent Keno game (caveman Keno to be exact, although I don't claim to understand exactly what the "caveman" part of it was). We promptly lost her winnings playing Pai Gow Poker though, the only game that we were brave enough to actually sit at the tables and play. When the dealer found out I was from MIT he asked me if I was going to cheat. I think after watching me play for a few minutes, he wasn't too worried!

We stayed at the MGM Grand, which was really nice, and HUGE! All the hotels there were just enormous. I think I knew that things would be big, but I just had no idea how big. We got lost several times within our hotel (not to mention when we ventured out of our hotel!). Everytime we got lost though we would find something new and exciting. We discovered that there was a lion habitat in our hotel. That was pretty cool. The lions, unlike most things in Vegas, were actually real! Here's a picture of me and Em in front of one of The Strip's many waterfalls...

More on Vegas in the next few entries...

Friday, June 16, 2006

Butternut Squash and Hazelnut Lasagne (Page 234)

  • Date: Thursday, June 15, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Chris' Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Robert and Soren
  • Recipe Rating: C+
This recipe was another product of the online random number generator. It wasn't great. To be fair, I am always partial to lasagne with a tomato based sauce, and this one was a bechamel based lasagne instead. But still, I approached it with an open mind and wasn't impressed. The squash filling had a good flavor, but the bechamel was too bland. Plus, this recipe, like most new lasagne recipes, called for no-boil, oven ready lasagne noodles. I really think that these oven-ready noodles are a lousy innovation. For one, they absord so much liquid, that this lasagne for instance, came out a bit dry. Also, I really just don't like the texture of the no-boil noodles. I appreciate that it makes lasagne take much less time to make, but I don't think that the saved time makes up for the reduction of quality. Overall, I wasn't impressed by this dish. I left half my piece on my plate. Plus, it took a non-trivial time investment to make. It just wasn't worth it.

Emilee and I are flying to Las Vegas in the morning for a little vacation! It seems appropriate that I make my first trip to Vegas tomorrow since it is my parents' wedding anniversary tomorrow and they were married in Vegas 29 years ago! They must have one of the longest lasting marriages to come out of Las Vegas! Since I doubt I will be cooking in my hotel room, I probably won't blog until I come back in a few days.

It was hot here today. And sunny. I was only outside for a few minutes but I managed to sunburn my shoulders. Tonight I went for a nice swim and now I am sitting in my PJs, eating leftover apple crisp with ice cream and drinking a Corona. This may be the ideal was to spend a Friday evening! Well I should pack for my trip...

Squash, Tomatoes, and Corn with Jack Cheese (Page 593)

  • Date: Thursday, June 15, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Chris' Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Robert and Soren
  • Recipe Rating: B

So, as promised, I have returned to random number selection to pick some recipes while I am in California. An online random number generator picked this one. These vegetables were ok. The entire recipe is pretty much captured by the title: it is a few types of vegetables, cooked, with Monterey Jack cheese added. There wasn't anything bad about it, it just wasn't terribly interesting. We ate it as a side dish, but the recipe claims you could serve it as a vegetarian main course, which seems really strange to me. I think it's not substantial enough nor interesting enough to be served as a main course. It was a nice, simple, side dish though.

Robert and Soren came over for dinner last night. We were going around the table at the end of the meal offering grades for the recipes, and when I asked Soren what grades he would give them he said, "Well, if they were Stanford students, I would give them all A minuses." I thought that was pretty funny, although not really so helpful! This entire meal was just ok. Usually when I cook from The Book, there will be at least one component of the meal that is an A-range recipe. Not so in this case. I do feel a little bad having people over for dinner and serving them food that, according to my grading scheme, I wouldn't serve to guests! But there is no way to tell in advance. And since I have recommitted myself to the random number generator, I can't even only pick things that sound like they will be good. Well, if in a year no one wants to eat my dinners any more, I will know I have a problem. Until then, I will just hope that everyone has a good attitude about experimental food!

So the Hamburger Helper that was here in January is again in Chris' pantry, which means one of two things. Either he still hasn't made it, or he bought it again! I am hoping for the former. I promised to make it the last time I was here, to see what it tastes like, but I never did. This time I am really going to do it! I think it serves 4, so I'll invite Em and Brian over -- we can enjoy it together! Mmmm...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blackberry Cobbler (Page 815)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian and Chris
  • Recipe Rating: A-

We wanted something with fruit for dessert so Emilee and I chose this blackberry cobbler. It was quite good. We substituted frozen blackberries for fresh ones, and they held up really well and tasted great. We went with the low end on the range of sugar to add, and the cobbler came out nice and tart. The biscuit-like topping had a great flavor and was very moist. This dessert was a winner -- extremely simple to make and very satisfying. With some vanilla ice cream, it was perfect!

The thing I love about coming to California is that it doesn't feel like traveling. Maybe it's because I lived here for so long, or maybe it's because some of my closest friends live here, but coming to California always feels like coming home. Plus, when I am here I always stay with Emilee for part of the time, and with Chris for part of the time. Clearly I am a guest in both of their homes, but having lived with each of them before for long periods of time, I don't feel like I am imposing as much as I would with most people. I do feel a little guilty stealing a desk in the Stanford Math Department for a month when this isn't primarily a mathematical visit, but I do need a place to work every day.

I had this dream last night (or series of dreams?) that was just a bunch of vignettes of people that I trust and care about letting me down. It was really strange. None of the people in the scenes were malicious, they just disappointed me in various ways. For example, in one scene I was at my grandfather's birthday party in Wisconsin and a friend of mine was supposed to be meeting me there to meet my family. He didn't show up so I called his phone and he was in San Francisco, and was completely confused about what day it was. Apparently I hadn't seen this friend in a while and I was disappointed that he wasn't coming, and he was upset because apparently he had missed some important meeting in Boston since he had been confused about the day. We got in a big disagreement on the phone about whether it was Wednesday or Thursday today and then he flew to Boston. The thing that was odd about this dream though was that it was a group of people that has never really done anything to disappoint me, nor was I feeling let down by anybody last night when I went to bed. So I don't know what it means really. Very odd...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Layered Cobb Salad (Page 162)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Emilee
  • Dining Companions: Brian and Chris
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Emilee and I picked this salad while sitting in her car in the Whole Foods parking lot. Although it was a very typical simple Cobb salad, we both thought it was quite good. Brian agreed that it wasn't bad but thought it shouldn't be served as a dinner entree, and Chris hated it, but only because he has a strong aversion to Roquefort (well, really any blue cheese). We started with really good, fresh ingredients, which made for a very clean, tasty salad. The dressing had a nice flavor, but we didn't need all of it. The blue cheese contributed both a good flavor, and a creaminess to the salad. Overall, this dish wasn't anything terribly out of the ordinary, but it was a good, enjoyable salad.

I made it to California yesterday. It's good to have a change of scenery. I love living in Boston, but the past few days I was starting to feel like everyone is abandoning me. Paul moved away, Bridget moved to Chicago on Monday, Mike and Vigleik are leaving soon, and Jessie officially decided to move out of our apartment and in with her new boyfriend. It's just a lot of changes in a short period of time. I think being away for a bit will be good for me.

I enjoy being in California so much. Today I had a lovely day. I got up at 7am and went for an early morning swim outside. Then I went to the math department at Stanford and worked. I am in the same office I had in January, so it feels very familiar. This evening, after a productive day of work, Emilee and I grocery shopped and made dinner, and we ate with Brian and Chris. It was a really nice day. I am exhausted now though. It's only 11pm here, but I think I haven't adjusted yet to Pacific time. It feels very late.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Triple-Chocolate Fudge Brownies (Page 689)

  • Date: Sunday, June 11, 2006 - 6pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Jessie and Jose
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I was in the mood for something sweet (as always!) and I picked these brownies because I already had all the ingredients. As the name suggests, these brownies are awesome. They are fudgy, and chocolatey, and delicious! I used really good Michel Cluizel chocolate in the batter, and I replaced some of the chocolate chips with chunks of single origin El Rey chocolate that I had in my pantry. The brownies came out flavorful, and moist, and wonderful. I think they are some of the best brownies I have ever had. The multiple types of chocolate give them a much deeper and more interesting flavor than your average brownie. I highly recommend this recipe!

I had a very mellow day today. I went to the homeless shelter, and then to the office. Then I came home, made brownies, worked some more, and went to Diesel with John for a late night cup of tea. Today was a fun day at the homeless shelter. I made an enormous salad with two of the other volunteers. I think I washed 12 heads of romaine before I figured out that the salad spinner had a hole in the bottom and was draining onto the counter and then onto the floor. There was a little lake around me. We had spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, and garlic bread for lunch at the shelter today. It was really good! The food there isn't bad per se, but at any given meal I usually only eat one or two components of it. I'm not big on most canned food, and a lot of the things we make come from cans... This was the second week in a row that the food was really good though, and I ate everything we made!

So I think some of you out there have acquired The Book yourselves and have made some things out of it (hint, hint: Paul). You all should comment to the blog when you make things from The Book. Let me know if you disagree with my rating, or, if I haven't made it yet, let me know how it is! I would love to hear about everyone else's cooking adventures!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Buttermilk Waffles (Page 652)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2006 - 6pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

On Wednesday night I was flipping through the book to find myself something for dinner, and I decided I wanted waffles! I felt a little self indulgent making a batch of waffles just for myself, especially since the recipe made 24 waffles, but it was worth it! These waffles were excellent. They came out crispy on the exterior, and nice and soft inside. The buttermilk gave them a wonderful tang. I put some butter and sugar on top and they were divine! Since I couldn't eat all 24 at once, I froze most of them. Today I pulled some out of the freezer for brunch and threw them in the toaster. They were still great! This recipe couldn't be simpler, and the waffles are just perfect.

Yesterday, for the first time, I started to really worry about the whole job application process looming in my not-so-distant future. I'm not really sure what brought on my sudden worrying. But I started thinking about it and immediately felt very panicky. It's just scary because jobs in math academia are hard to get. If I end up not getting an academic job it wouldn't be the end of the world (I could go to pastry school!) but I would still prefer to stay in academia... The whole process doesn't really start until the fall, and you don't find out what job offers you've gotten until the late winter, so really I shouldn't start worrying now! I remember when I applied to graduate school I was really worried about not getting in anywhere. It was silly, I guess, to worry about that, but at the time it felt like a very real concern to me. I remember sitting around in my apartment at Stanford one afternoon with my friend Josh, brainstorming about what I could do if I didn't get in to graduate school. He kept suggesting that I do something totally different. He suggested, for instance, that I should make furniture. I tried to tell him that wood shop in middle school was not my best subject, but he insisted I could learn! Maybe I should call him and ask what I should do if I don't get an academic job -- I'm sure he would have some great suggestions!

Despite the ever-present rain it has been a nice week-end so far. Alex had a dinner gathering last night with yummy Osso Buco. Then I had drinks with Elliot, an old college friend who was in town to see his younger brother graduate from Harvard. Tonight there was a fun gathering in honor of Bridget's graduation. Plus, I have done a lot of working from home, laying in my bed reading math papers -- one of my favorite activities when it rains!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Panfried Tofu on Sesame Watercress with Soy Orange Dressing (Page 279)

  • Date: Monday, June 5, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Paul picked this dish for his last meal in Boston on Monday night. It was extremely good. The tofu was perfectly fried and generously sauced. The sauce was simple but delicious - the sesame, soy, citrus combination really worked well and the consistency of the sauce was great. The bed of sesame watercress that the tofu sat on was also very nice. Overall a great tofu dish. One note: it took much longer than indicated to get the tofu properly fried. To get a nice golden brown, I had to panfry the tofu at least 20 minutes, rather than the 6-8 minutes indicated in the recipe. It turned out really wonderful though.

I have been in a not-great mood for the last 3 days or so. This afternoon I got back from tutoring and was feeling really crabby. I was sitting in my apartment, trying to understand why I was in such a bad mood, and I realized that I hadn't had a real meal since dinner on Tuesday, 3 days ago. Since then I have been really flaky about finding food to eat. Yesterday I had popcorn for dinner. The day before I made waffles and ate a couple waffles for dinner. Yesterday for lunch I had a few bite-sized cakes that they served after the hooding ceremony. Basically I have been eating food that is terrible for me, in not-large-enough quantities for 3 days! It's no wonder I was crabby. Upon thinking about this I immediately walked to Inman square and had a nice sit-down Thai meal by myself. Afterwards I came home and took a 45 minute nap. Now I am in a great mood!

I love eating in restaurants alone. It feels so indulgent. Since it was 2:30pm in the afternoon, I was actually the only person in the whole restaurant. I got the best service I've had in my life! It was just a very peaceful experience. I ate (a lot!) and read a math paper.

I think I have had this problem before in the summer where I don't think carefully about eating every meal. My mood is extremely hunger-dependent (I am sure many of you could comment on that!), so I am going to try to make an effort to eat for the rest of the summer. I love to eat, so that shouldn't really be so hard :)

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gingered Noodle Salad with Mango and Cucumber (Page 149)

  • Date: Monday, June 5, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Recipe Rating: C-

Paul was in town for two days early this week so we made dinner one last time before he moved away. This salad wasn't very good. I like all the components, but the salad just wasn't at all cohesive. The fruit and vegetables did not incorporate with the cellophane noodles. The dressing had good flavor but it was very light, which meant that you could hardly taste it on any of the components other than the noodles. The dish came across like eating some seasoned noodles with pieces of mango and cucumber on top. It wasn't very appetizing.

Today was a little bit difficult. The doctoral hooding ceremony at MIT was today. I was so happy for Mike, Bridget, and Vigleik as they got hooded. At the same time though it really cemented for me the fact that they are leaving MIT. When I decided not to graduate this year, I knew that watching my good friends graduate and leave would be difficult. I don't regret my decision to stay at MIT another year, but when I try to think about what next year will look like without Mike, Bridge, and V, it scares me a little.

Further, I always get worried when friends move away that I won't do a good enough job of keeping in touch. I am more than a little phone shy, which isn't a great quality for long-distance friendships.

*sigh* Basically I am just worrying today. You know, I am sure everything will be fine. It just seems that a lot of things are changing lately. I sometimes need some time to adjust to changes...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Pudding (Page 824)

  • Date: Thursday, June 1, 2006 - 2pm
  • Location: Hartsville, SC
  • Kitchen: My Parents' House
  • Dining Companion: My Mom
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I made this chocolate pudding last week, on my last day in Hartsville. I wasn't really excited about it. I thought the flavor was a little too chocolatey (if such a thing is possible!) and the texture wasn't as smooth and creamy as I would have liked. It was a little too gelatinous. My mom really liked the pudding though. I made 4 little dishes of it. I ate about a third of one and my mother ate the other 3 and two thirds over the next day. She suggested it would make a good filling for a fudge pie, which is quite possibly true. I think having a crust under it would be nice -- then there would be something to contrast with the intense chocolate flavor a bit. Overall I think I just prefer more of a chocolate pastry cream type pudding rather than this one.

Cooking at home made me really long for a big kitchen. I shouldn't complain really, my apartment has a relatively large kitchen. But at my parents' house they have a dishwasher, and tons of counter space, and huge cupboards, and a big table in the kitchen. I am jealous. I love cooking in a big kitchen. Chris' dad and stepmom live in the suburbs of Boston, and they have an enormous kitchen. Actually their house has 2 kitchens! The bigger of the 2 even has 2 ovens! And they have granite counter tops. It's so nice to cook there. Whenever I end up there I always volunteer to make dinner at least once! I don't really need a kitchen that glamorous, but a girl can dream! My mother's kitchen, although nice, is strangely equipped. She has some things even I don't have (e.g. an iced tea brewer), but the first night we cooked Paul asked her where the cutting boards were and she said, "Oh, I don't have a cutting board." What?!?! It turns out she did have one, she just didn't know it! We found it a couple days later, after cutting vegetables on a serving platter for 2 nights. She also doesn't have a food processor, although she has a good excuse. When I was 12 she cut off the top of her thumb cleaning the food processor. The funny thing was that she was only using it because she had been knicking herself with knives and my dad thought using the food processor would be safer.

Well, I am jealous, but on the other hand, it's nice to be cooking back in my own kitchen, where I have equipment that I like and I know where everything is!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Homemade Sausage Patties (Page 492)

  • Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 -7pm
  • Location: Hartsville, SC
  • Kitchen: My Parents' House
  • Fellow Chef: Mom
  • Dining Companion: Dad
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My mom and I made these sausages to go with our Puffed Apple Pancake last week when I was in South Carolina. They were extremely good! The sausages were simple to make, and the seasoning was wonderful! The many spices in the recipe complemented one another beautifully to produce really tasty sausage. One note: my patties actually took much longer to cook through than the time indicated in the recipe. I would say that they took at least twice as long, but then they came out perfectly cooked: very moist inside but with a browned, crispy exterior.

So it sounds like I may have to find a new roommate for next year. My current roommate started dating someone a few weeks ago and they are now talking about moving in together. They haven't totally decided yet, so I am trying not to worry about it. I don't want to find a new roommate though! I like living with Jessie. Plus, I am not sure that anyone I know is looking for a roommate for the fall, which may mean that I have to live with a stranger. I haven't lived with a stranger in a long time. I don't like living alone though, so I'll have to figure something out! Yick!

Being away from Boston last week was really refreshing. I was so tired when the semester ended, but now I am feeling really energized and motivated which is exciting. I leave for California in a week, so I am trying to have a productive few days before then. I want to get some work done, and also do some (late) spring cleaning around my apartment. I started cleaning my room this morning, which basically amounted to throwing lots of stuff away! Tonight, after work and the gym, I am going to continue getting rid of some things... I really have a lot of stuff I don't need.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Puffed Apple Pancake (Page 649)

  • Date: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Hartsville, SC
  • Kitchen: My Parents' House
  • Fellow Chef: My Mom
  • Dining Companion: My Dad
  • Recipe Rating: B+

My mom has been eyeing this recipe since she got The Book, so she wanted to make it together. It was quite good. The pancake came out nice and custardy. The cooked apples had a lot of flavor and were perfectly tender. I would have prefered if the custard-like base had a bit more flavor to it. It was slightly bland. The pancake was still very good though. We ate it with sausage for dinner, and it made a nice meal. I was skeptical about eating pancake for dinner, but it wasn't too sweet, so it worked out well. It would also be great, of course, as a breakfast or brunch dish.

I made it safely back to Boston this evening. When I got off the plane it was 54 degrees and raining. I was dressed for 95 degrees and sunshine so I had to do a quick change of clothes at the airport before venturing out!

While waiting for my flight in Charlotte, I finished reading "The Time Traveler's Wife," in the terminal. I cried my way through the last 40 pages of the book. Books don't usually make me cry. Sad movies do sometimes, but it's a very rare book that I react to so strongly. I was too involved in the book to get up and get a tissue, so there were tears running down my face and I was sniffling. I'm sure people though I was crazy! Crying in front of complete strangers is a little embarassing of course, but it's also interesting to see how people react. I could tell that people weren't sure if I was upset about my book, or upset about something else. In the south, people are much more likely to try to help a complete stranger than they are in Boston, and I could see that a couple of women were trying to figure out if they should ask me if I needed anything. Everyone just let me be though, and when I finished my book I went to the bathroom and dried my eyes before my flight.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake (Page 718)

  • Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Hartsville, SC
  • Kitchen: My Parents' House
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Dining Companions: My Parents
  • Recipe Rating: A

South Carolina is famous for its peaches, and my dad picked some up the other day. I was looking for something to do with them and I decided to substitute peaches for the apricots in this recipe. I wanted to make this one while I was home since my mom has a big, old, cast-iron skillet, which I don't. This cake was fantastic! It was beautiful, and so wonderfully moist! The first time I made the topping I wasn't watching it too carefully and I burnt it. I almost burnt it the second time too, but it came out really nicely - a very deep caramely flavor! The best part though was the flavor and texture of the cake itself. The buttermilk and almond extract gave the cake a wonderful and tangy taste, and it was perfectly tender and moist. This was really an excellent dessert!

I started reading a book last night that I just couldn't put down. Vigleik got me "The Time Traveler's Wife" for my birthday a couple months ago and I brought it with me to SC. It's been a while since I have read anything that I liked enough to keep reading late at night instead of going to sleep. The book really hooked me though. Finally, after reading 250 pages I tore myself away to get some sleep. I had a little trouble falling asleep though (ok, I never really have trouble falling asleep, but I did lay awake for 10 minutes before drifting off which is practically unheard of for me). The book is this amazing love story. I find love stories to be simultaneously uplifting and a little depressing. No, depressing isn't the right word. Maybe they just make me feel a bit lonely. I have so many great people in my life that I always feel a bit silly when I feel lonely... After a few minutes of loneliness last night, I snapped out of it and fell asleep! I am looking forward to curling up with the book again today. In fact, I may do that right now!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Charred Tomatillo Guacamole (Page 10)

  • Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 - 7pm
  • Location: Hartsville, SC
  • Kitchen: My Parents' House
  • Fellow Chef: Paul
  • Dining Companions: My Parents
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My mom made chicken fajitas on Tuesday night for dinner, so Paul and I made this guacamole to go with them. I had never made guacamole before that had tomatillos in it. It was extremely good, which was amazing because the only avocados we could find were borderline rotten and we had to use dried cilantro instead of fresh because fresh cilantro couldn't be found at the grocery store here. With proper ingredients, this guacamole would no doubt be fantastic! My mother had never seen a tomatillo before, and seemed a little bit skeptical, but she too loved this recipe. Usually I just make guacamole by mashing up some avocado with salt and lime juice, so this was a wonderful change, with a very unique flavor.

This is my last full day in Hartsville. I am flying out of Charlotte on Saturday so tomorrow we are going to drive up there and do a little shopping, maybe see a movie, and stay over night. It's good timing because I am about ready to leave Hartsville. There's essentially nothing to do here, but still I am not managing to be very productive workwise. I'm trying to cut myself some slack -- it was a long semester. A few days of rest are probably good for me! But I think part of being a graduate student is feeling guilty when you aren't particularly productive. For some reason the heat here also makes me feel lazy. When it's 95 degrees outside I don't really feel like going running, or even venturing out of the house. I have been getting up early so my mom and I can go run errands and things before the heat really sets in. My parents have a big screened-in porch in their back yard which is a really nice place to sit around 8am, when the sun is shining, but it's not yet overwhelmingly hot outside.