Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Baked Four-Cheese Farfalle (Page 224)

  • Date: Sunday, October 22, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Lauren, Denis, Matt, Jessie, Glen, Vero, Philippe, Angelica, Ricky, Marco, Matty, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I chose this recipe for the pasta dinner last Sunday because I wanted to offer a vegetarian pasta dish. This recipe was very good! The blend of mozzarella, gorgonzola, fontina, and pecorino romano was flavorful without being overwhelming. The addition of the tomatoes made it a bit lighter than traditional macaroni and cheese. It was perfect comfort food -- warm, tasty, and full of cheese! My only regret was that I didn't double the recipe -- it would have been nice to have more leftovers! There were a few people who weren't thrilled by this dish, but mostly it got very good reviews from the crowd.

Happy Halloween!!! I love Halloween. It's my mom's favorite holiday by far and I think her good cheer about it rubbed off on me as a child. My mother really does not like Christmas or Thanksgiving, but she's all over Halloween. I think it has to do with the candy! (If you think I have a sweet tooth, you should meet my mother!) I am looking forward to the day when I live in an actual house and little kids come trick-or-treating at the door. I love handing out candy to kids in costume! A couple of years ago, Chris and I lived on the first floor of a house and we got a lot of trick-or-treaters. We didn't know how many to expect and eventually we ran out of candy. Chris went out and got a couple more bags, but within an hour we ran out again. So we sat in the apartment, watching a movie and pretending not to be home when the kids rang the doorbell. One kid opened up the mail slot in the door, peered in at us, and yelled, "I can see you! Give me some candy!!!" It was really funny, and a little bit horrifying.

My favorite Halloween memory ever: My mom told my brother one year that he couldn't go out trick-or-treating because he was too old and he didn't have a costume on. Spencer disappeared in to the kitchen for a few minutes and reappeared with a huge knife stuck straight through a box of Wheaties:
Spencer: "Now I have a costume."
My mom: "What are you?"
Spencer: "A cereal (serial) killer."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Perciatelli with Sausage Ragu and Meatballs (Page 222)

  • Date: Sunday, October 22, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Ricky, Matt, Vero, Philippe, Marco, Glen, Angelica, Jessie, Lauren, Denis, Matt H, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I picked this recipe for the pasta potluck dinner last Sunday because it takes a long time to make! During the week I can only cook after work, which makes it hard to do the recipes that are start to finish 4 hours like this one is! So on the weekends I try to make some progress on the longer recipes. I don't even know where to begin with this recipe. Let me say first that it tasted really good. There were many, many negative comments about it, but no one really disputed that it tasted good. Perhaps Angelica summarized it best when she said "I was scared by the sausage!" There was a lot of sausge, but the big problem was really with the presentation instructions, which were to pile all the sausages and meatballs on top of the pasta. It was very intimidating looking at a huge bowl covered in sausage. There was a lot of pasta there, but it was difficult to get to, and many people (like Angelica) were scared off by the sausage. Vero and Philippe gave me a particularly hard time about the sausage! After the party I sliced up the sausage and mixed it in to the pasta. I brought it in to the department that way the next day for Matt and Ana Rita, and they responded much more positively to it than the party crowd on Sunday night. The ragu had a great flavor, but if I make it again, I will definitely mix the pasta in with the meat before serving.

Veronique today was threatening to make a ghost blog of my blog. I'm not sure what that means exactly, but I am pretty sure it's not a good thing. She has been asking for the picture of this dish for days now (I guess Philippe wants to write something on his blog that requires this lovely sausage-filled picture!) so I am a little concerned that this picture will also be featured prominently on Vero's ghost blog! I know she bought a book of cocktail recipes and was going to do a similar project to mine with her book! Perhaps that will be the inspiration for the ghost blog? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...

Sicilian Meatballs (Page 222)

  • Date: Sunday, October 22, 2006 - 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Jessie, Matt, Lauren, Denis, Marco, Veronique, Philippe, Ricky, Angelica, Glen, Matt H, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B+
These meatballs were a component of the "Perciatelli with Sausage Ragu and Meatballs" that I made for the pasta potluck dinner I had last Sunday night. They were quite good. They had a very nice flavor, and the addition of currents and pine nuts gave them a unique twist. They also retained a wonderful juiciness throughout the cooking. My only complaint is that they lacked enough structural integrity to survive the ragu. Some of them remained whole, but many of them just fell apart as they cooked in the sauce. It made the dish seem a bit more like pasta in meat sauce than pasta with meatballs. They were very tasty though!

Tonight Alex and I made dinner at his place. We hadn't cooked together in more than a month so it was fun to get together again and cook! We took advantage of the resources available at his place and chose mainly dishes that involved either grilling or lots of alcohol! Alex also showed me the code for the blog index that he made, which was pretty cool. And I got him to add a new feature: a list of my frequent fellow chefs and dining companions, listed in order by how many recipes they have helped with. It's pretty interesting! Chris is way ahead (with 67 recipes!). It will be a while before anyone catches him. The next cluster of people is in the mid-forties. If you want to see it, click on "Project Index" on the right and then scroll all the way to the bottom. There should be some sort of prize for the person in the lead -- any suggestions? Maybe I should buy The Book for the person in the lead... hmmm... the only problem with that is that many of the people near the top already own The Book (coincidence? perhaps not!). I will have to think of something...

Orange-Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting (Page 722)

  • Date: Saturday, October 21, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Lauren, Denis, Matty, Glen, Brett, Jessie, Max M, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I made these cupcakes for Matt's party last Saturday because cupcakes are excellent party food! The recipe is for full-sized cupcakes, but I made them in a mini-muffin tin to make them even more party-appropriate. This meant I modified the baking time of course, but I didn't make any other changes. These cupcakes were pretty good. The cake itself had a nice orange flavor. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate chips in cake, but this recipe called for the mini chocolate chips, which are indeed preferable to the big ones for this use. I didn't love the pairing of the ganache frosting with the cake recipe (the frosting was too dense for cake this texture), but the flavors were good together. All in all, it was a good recipe for cupcakes with an interesting twist of orange.

I did laundry last night. For those of you who don't know me very well, this might not seem like much of an accomplishment... but those of you who do know me well will appreciate that this is not something I do very often. I actually enjoy doing laundry when there is a washer and dryer convenient to me. It's not the sorting, or folding, or any of that that I hate. Maybe the problem is that I let my laundry pile up so much that I always have to do multiple loads, and there is only 1 washer and 1 dryer in my building, so it takes forever and involves lots of trips back and forth to the basement. Even that doesn't sound so bad -- I'm not really sure what I hate about it actually, but for some reason I don't like to do laundry. When I was growing up my mom always did my laundry, and in college Emilee washed most of it (yes, she was the best roommate ever!). When I lived with Chris he did all the laundry. But now, I do it myself! Last night I just took it all to the laundromat so I could do it all at once. I love the laundromat -- I should always do my laundry there! Laundromats are always warm. It's a nice place to curl up in one of those totally uncomfortable plastic chairs and read a book. It was a good experience -- and now all my clothes are clean! There were things in my dirty laundry basket that I had forgotten that I even owned! Perhaps I should consider doing laundry more often...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Chocolate Frosting (Page 723)

  • Date: Saturday, October 21, 2006 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Jessie, Matty, Lauren, Denis, Glen, Max M, Brett, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B
Matt had a party last weekend, and I made mini-cupcakes to bring to it -- this was the frosting for the cupcakes. This recipe was just chocolate ganache -- i.e. chocolate and cream -- so it couldn't have easier. I had to add a bit of extra chocolate because I wanted to pipe the frosting and I needed it to be a little more stiff than it was. It I were going to do it again, I would whip this to get a whipped chocolate ganache. That would have been more suitable for piping. As it was the frosting was a bit dense. It was good though -- several people commented that it was deliciously chocolatey.

It was funny listening to the comments about these cupcakes last weekend because most of the people at this party were pretty drunk, and the cupcakes got consumed after most of the alcohol! One person told me that my cupcakes were "magical." That made me laugh. Another rather drunk person said that my cupcakes reflected "true talent" in the kitchen! The cupcakes were fine, but I think peoples' impressions of them benefited from the beer-goggles effect. I have noticed that the food in the project is graded more leniently when people are tipsy.

I find it interesting the ways in which people behave differently when drunk. As many of you know, I can't really drink much, so I am usually pretty sober at these parties where everyone else is trashed. I have decided that you can learn a lot about a person by the way they behave when their inhibitions are down. I used to be really uncomfortable around drunk people (I had my reasons) but now I generally find it really fun... Plus, after a few drinks my cupcakes apparently taste great!

Curried Noodles with Vegetables (Page 243)

  • Date: Friday, October 20, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: B
I picked this one to make for dinner last Friday because I had a craving for stir-fried noodles and vegetables. This recipe was pretty good. Unlike some of the other recipes in The Book with rice stick noodles, the noodles didn't have a gelatinous quality to them (Brian, I know you're crushed!). The vegetables were perfectly crisp-tender. The vegetables even incorporated well with the noodles, which can sometimes be a problem with dishes like this. My only big complaint is that the curry flavor itself wasn't great. The dish had a whole lot of curry powder in it, and no other spices, and the flavor reflected that. It tasted like curry from a jar. It was still very satisfying though.

I had a really wonderful, really relaxing weekend! Mike was in town, so I got to see him and Tim for dinner last night, which was fun. We went to Border Cafe -- I hadn't been there in a long time. One summer a bunch of us went there almost every Sunday night. The food there isn't particularly amazing, but I have a real soft spot in my heart for chips and margaritas! Ok, ok, full disclosure: I prefer non-alcoholic strawberry margaritas to ones with alcohol in them! Last night Mike and Tim ordered real margaritas and they came in real maragarita glasses. My virgin margarita came in a plastic water cup! Apparently if you order a drink suitable for a 5 year-old, they give you a cup suitable for a 5 year-old! It was tasty though!

We had a fun dinner. Matt came too -- he had never met Mike and Tim before, and he instantly sided with Mike in all our disagreements and they ganged up against me! It's never a good idea to bring friends from different time periods together! Lots of semi-embarassing stories changed hands...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Individual Molten Chocolate Cakes (Page 742)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Craig, Matty, Glen, and Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I picked this one for dessert last Wednesday because Ana really likes all things chocolate and we hadn't had a chocolate dessert in a few weeks. The recipe was quite good. When cooked to the specified doneness in the recipe, I thought the cakes were a little too molten though. They would have been better after another 2 minutes in the oven. That said, everyone loved this dessert. One person offered that it would be better with a raspberry coulis rather than the coffee creme anglaise. I tend to agree, but several people stood strongly behind the creme anglaise sauce. Everyone but me gave this recipe an A grade, but I had to give it an A- because I have a molten chocolate cake recipe that I think is a bit better.

The usual Wednesday crew didn't cook tonight because everyone was too busy! It was sad not to have our weekly cooking/eating fun, but at least it will give me a chance to catch up a bit on my blogging!

I am at my friend's house as I write this, where we are both supposed to be working. Clearly, I am blogging instead. He is concentrating on picking out music to inspire him to work. After he went through 3 or 4 different artists, I started laughing at him, but I do understand the need for the right music in the right moment. I have a hard time working when it is silent. A few weeks ago I lost my iPod for 3 days, and I was at a complete loss without it. I had a really hard time concentrating without the ability to put on my headphones, turn up the music and block out everything else. The one thing I really can't do without music is run. I love to run, but I am completely dependent on music to keep me moving. Oh, he just changed the music again... what is this? It sounds familiar... Lisa Shaw apparently?!? It's not bad work music... maybe I should try to do some work to it! Oh no, wait, he's changing it again...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fish en Papillote with Tomatoes and Olives (Page 302)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt H, Glen, Craig, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B
I chose this recipe for our entree last Wednesday because the "Fish and Shellfish" section was the one I was most behind on. I was a bit disappointed by this recipe. It was fine, but cooking things en papillote (wrapped in parchment) is one of my favorite techniques, and this recipe just didn't do it justice. The fish didn't get much flavor from the other ingredients that it was wrapped with and the sauce that collected in the parchment packets was very watery. Everything that went in the dish was good, and the net result tasted fine, but it had surprisingly little flavor. On the up side, Matt and Glen did a beautiful job wrapping the individual parchment packets. I have included pictures of the dish still wrapped, and after it was opened, and of Matt carefully assembling a packet.

When Chris and I lived together we lived on this cute little dead-end street in Cambridgeport. I drive by there sometimes on my way in to Boston, and it always brings back memories of my first few years in graduate school: quals, Bessie, etc... At the end of the street there is a huge, old brick church (and bomb shelter, according to the signs on the side). I've never been inside, but it always made me smile to see the children running around outside in their Sunday best..Today I drove by that street on my way to an appointment and there were huge signs advertising that the church is going to be made in to condos. I was totally shocked -- I'm not even sure how that's possible. I guess they will just tear the whole building down and start from scratch. I called Mike to tell him, knowing he would also be saddened by this, and his response was priceless: "Condos?!? That building is totally wrong for condos. A brothel maybe, but not condos!"

Garlic-Ancho Chile Jam (Page 915)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Craig
  • Dining Companions: Matt H and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: C+
I picked this one because the "Relishes, Chutneys, Pickles, and Preserves" section of The Book is going very slowly. This jam was pretty gross. Ok, I should rephrase that: in my opinion this jam was pretty gross. If I had graded it without the consideration of the opinion of others, I probably would have given it a C-, but the jam had some strong supporters. Craig really liked it -- he was convinced it would be great on anything. I believe he even said that it was one of his favorite things that we have made so far! I gave him the leftovers. I'm not sure whether or not he actually ever ate the leftover jam, but he did take it home with him. Other people were not quite as enthusiastic. Ana thought it was too spicy. I thought it was just overwhelmingly smoky. The only think you could taste was the smoky ancho chile flavor. Ana beautifully roasted garlic for this jam, but you couldn't taste it at all. The flavors of the honey and cider vinegar were also totally lost. It just tasted like pureed chilis... It might be ok on a big hunk of meat, but it was not tasty on bread (which was one of the serving suggestions in The Book). Yick.

I read this article in the New York Times a few weeks back that really depressed me. I was reading it in the common room in the math department and I must have looked upset. A friend turned to me and said, "Is something wrong?" I said "This article is depressing." He responded, "Teena, you are reading the Style section." Ok, he has a point... but I did find this article upsetting. It was about hand-holding. In particular it was about how people don't hold hands any more. No one wants to be thought of as being attached, or taken, so people are much more likely to kiss or have sex than hold hands. I had never thought about it before -- but it's really true. People seem increasingly uncomfortable with identifying as a couple in public. In college Zach used to always try to convince me that people are constantly trying to "trade up," and thus want to always seem single. I found that idea disturbing at the time, and the New York Times article confirmed that he is at least partly correct.

I like holding hands. Not all the time, and not in certain social situations, but in general I think holding hands is nice. I would like to end up with someone who will sometimes hold my hand.

Sweet and Savory Sauteed Bell Peppers (Page 558)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt H
  • Dining Companions: Glen, Ana, and Craig
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this one for dinner on Wednesday because it sounded like a light, flavorful vegetable dish that would go well with fish. The recipe was ok. The flavors were nice, but the dish just wasn't cohesive. The raisins and pine nuts were tasty (as Ana pointed out several times!) but they all fell to the bottom of the dish, so it was difficult to get a good serving of the peppers and other stuff together. Even with all the components on your fork though, it just didn't mesh well. Someone (I think Matt?) commented that it didn't taste like a recipe. That initially made me laugh, but I think the meaning of that comment was correct. The dish just felt like a bunch of things that taste good, thrown together without any thought. They still tasted good all together, but it was uninspired.

There is a math conference in Park City, Utah every summer. The topic varies from year to year, but it is always a big gathering of mathematicians for about three weeks. They have a program for undergraduates too, and the summer after my junior year in college I went there. Meals were eaten outside, under a huge tent. Everyone sat around big, round tables. A few days in to the conference I noticed that the last seats to fill up at every table were the ones on either sides of the women. At first I just thought that no one wanted to sit with me, but then I noticed that the same thing was true of my friend Courtney, my other roommate at the conference, and all the other women in our undergraduate program. Eventually the women just started sitting next to one another... The guys were very nice and friendly, but it took almost 2 weeks before they would sit next to us without hesitation.

Last week, sitting in Mike and Jacob's class, I noticed that in a room with 24 men and 3 women, the women were all sitting in one small area of the room... I find it interesting that that very often happens, particularly because I never think consciously about choosing to sit with my female friends versus my male friends...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Basic French Vinaigrette (Page 168)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Craig
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Matt H, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: A-
We ended up making this salad dressing on Wednesday because the grocery store had no fresh figs. We had planned to make a yummy salad with figs, goat cheese and bacon (!) but we didn't have The Book with us at Whole Foods, so when the store had no figs, we decided we would just make whatever dressing I had the ingredients for in my pantry. This one was quite good though. It wasn't terribly exciting, but for a basic vinaigrette, it was just right. The addition of minced shallots in salad dressing is always nice, and the mustard gave it a good flavor. It went very nicely on a traditional green salad.

Tonight I had a potluck dinner at my place with some friends! It was nice to have a bigger dinner gathering. I used to have big dinners very frequently, but lately I have not felt so inclined to. Partly it's because I have been busy, but partly it's because functions like that really make me feel the absence of my friends who have moved away. It's strange to have a pasta potluck dinner without Mike, Chris, Andre, Vigleik, and Shihchi! They were regulars! Mike's contributions to the potlucks were always very unpredictable. One week: corn ice cream. The next week: a box of triscuits!

Dinner tonight was fun though. I made some food from The Book, and everyone else brought yummy things to eat! Veronique and Philippe were at dinner -- they also own The Book, and they suggested that they should start using it as a take-out menu. They can just call me and place their orders! It's not a bad idea really -- I probably wouldn't say no, unless of course they ordered something I had already made!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cream Biscuits (Page 596)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matt H, Glen, Ana, and Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Mysteriously enough, the recipe for these Cream Biscuits is in The Book twice, in two different places: once with the Strawberry Shortcake recipe, and once in the Breads and Crackers section. I decided I don't need to make it twice, but I did count it twice when I calculated the recipe totals, so I am adding it to the blog (again) for completeness. I have nothing new to add by way of commentary -- they were extremely good!

This weekend I have returned to the kitchen. For some reason lately I haven't been cooking much. I am still making progress on the project because the Wednesday crew comes every week and we make 5-7 recipes. But I haven't been doing much cooking on my own, and I'm not really sure why. I've been busy, but usually I don't let the rest of my life overwhelm my urge to cook. Last night I made a real dinner for myself for the first time in a long time. I made this huge noodle dish from The Book, and when I was done, I just stared at it and thought, "How am I going to eat all this?" Luckily, Matt stopped by, starving, and helped me out with it. Today I made 4 more recipes. I went through a period a couple years ago where every Saturday morning I would make a huge pot of soup and fresh bread. It was a really nice way to start the weekend. I love puttering around the apartment with something yummy simmering on the stove. Today I made a big pot of ragu, and now the whole apartment is warm and smells fabulous. I also made cupcakes, which are such a happy food. It's hard to have a bad day when you have cupcakes!

The downside of doing so much cooking: I am really, desperately behind in my blogging. At this moment I think I am 9+ recipes behind! Oy! Maybe I will find some time to catch up a bit later today (after my run!).

Friday, October 20, 2006

Strawberry Shortcake (Page 813)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Glen, Jessie, and Matt H
  • Recipe Rating: A
I picked this one for dessert last Wednesday because I LOVE strawberry shortcake. This recipe was excellent. When we were eating it, we all fell completely silent -- we were totally entranced by the dessert! The strawberries had just the right amount of sugar added to be delicious and dessert-like without being too sweet. And the whipped cream with sour cream and sugar whipped in was amazing! Add the yummy cream biscuits and it was perfect! Ana had never had strawberry shortcake before (apparently it's not a traditional Portuguese dish!). When I asked her what she thought, she said, "My stomach is so happy!"

Eating this reminded me so much of Emilee... In college, whenever the dining hall served strawberry shortcake Em and I would skip the rest of the meal and have a huge bowl of strawberry shortcake for dinner. Then we would go back in to the cafeteria, make ourselves each a second bowl, and stash them in the mini-fridge for later. Yum! I don't think I know anyone who loves and appreciates strawberries as much as Emilee does. We ate a lot of strawberries in college! It's funny to think about how much her taste in food has influenced the way I eat. People in the math department tease me about how I eat cottage cheese with my lunch almost every day. That habit came directly from Emilee! The best food that Emilee introduced me to though was the avocado. That's right: I had never had an avocado before I went to college. Shocking, I know.

Emilee would have really enjoyed this dessert. I may have to bend my no-repeating policy and make it for her the next time I am in California!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Cream Biscuits (Page 814)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Glen, Ana, Jessie, and Matt H
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I have been anxiously anticipating making the Strawberry Shortcake from The Book for months now. Last week on Wednesday we finally made it, and these biscuits were the base for the dessert. They were good. I had never made cream biscuits before -- usually I use butter or shortening for the fat -- and I was curious if they would come out as flaky and tender as they do with solid fat. Indeed they did. The flavor was nice --less buttery of course than a traditional butter biscuit -- but still rich and tasty. They rose and browned beautifully (even though some of them were a little lop-sided!). Everyone liked them a lot -- Matt was convinced that they would go well with any possible meal! I don't know about that, but they were a FABULOUS base for the Strawberry Shortcake.

I got asked today to make my first wedding cake. I am really honored. I was so shocked when I got asked -- making a cake for someone's wedding is a big responsibility! I guess I shouldn't be surprised -- Meghan, the woman who asked me, also trusted me to take care of her three beautiful children when I was practically a child myself. I started watching Teague, Devin, and Aria when I was 12 years old and they were 3 months, 2 years, and 4 years old respectively. In retrospect, I don't know why Meghan thought I was mature enough to handle that! I guess she knew that I could always call my mother to help if I got overwhelmed, since we only lived 2 doors down! I grew up with Meghan and her kids. And now, Meghan is getting remarried and she wants me to make the cake! I feel really honored that she trusts me to be a part of her special day! The wedding isn't until August, so I have a while to figure out what I will make!

Falafel Pitas (Page 182)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana, Glen, and Matt H
  • Recipe Rating: A

I picked this recipe because the "Sandwiches and Pizzas" section was getting a little low, and I love homemade falafel so much! This recipe was excellent. We made this a week ago, but Matt is still saying at least once a day, "I can't believe we made falafel that good!" The spices were perfect, the patties were neither too wet nor too dry, and Glen deep-fried them to perfection! Stuffed in to a pita with the chopped vegetable salad and tahini sauce, these falafel were AMAZING! We saved the leftovers and Ana, Matt, and I met for lunch in the department the next day to eat them. We popped the falafel patties in to the toaster over for a few minutes, and they were wonderful all over again! Homemade falafel is always a treat, and I highly recommend this recipe! The picture is having issues -- will post it later today.

Last night the Wednesday crew came over to make dinner (putting me even further behind in my blogging!), and we made 5 more recipes. With those recipes complete, I am done with more than 1/5th of The Book! Yay! It is starting to look like I am going to run out of desserts first. That and salads, and pasta dishes! If I keep choosing recipes the way I am now, at the end I am going to be eating a lot of fish and a lot of hors d'oevres. That's fine with me! I like fish and hors d'oevres. In reality, I think I can predict exactly which recipes I will be eating at the end. For example: "Tripe Roman Style," "Crispy Sweetbreads with Parsnip Puree, Braised Endives, and Port Sauce," and "Tongue with Mustard Horseradish Sauce" will probably all occur in the last few months of the project! I also need to have a slightly higher salary before I can make dishes like "Blini with Three Caviars," and "Classic Foie Gras Terrine." Vigleik and I computed at some point how much the foie gras alone costs for that last recipe. I think it was around $150. All that said, I am excited to be one fifth done! A fifth is a decent fraction of the recipes!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Moroccan-Style Carrots (Page 529)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ana
  • Dining Companions: Matt H and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: B

I picked these carrots to go with dinner on Wednesday because I thought the flavors would compliment the falafel well. The recipe was pretty good. The carrots were nicely cooked (note: they were too soft for Ana), and the spicing was nice. The cumin and cayenne gave the carrots some smokiness and kick, and the cinnamon and honey contributed a nice sweetness. My biggest complaint is that the direction to let the carrots cool to room temperature was, in my opinion, a bad one. I ate some of the carrots when they were hot, and they were much more appetizing than they were at room temperature. That said, they were still good -- Matt and Glen kept going back for more until every last carrot was gone!

I have eaten dinner in restaurants for the last 3 nights in a row, which for me is pretty unusual. I like eating out, but the portions are inevitably too big for me. Last night I went out with topology group after seminar. I ate about half my food and then took the rest home. Someone commented at the end of the meal that I didn't eat anything. There is this quizzical look that people give you when you don't finish your food at a restaurant. Some people will assume you didn't like the food. Others will assume you are dieting or have some sort of disordered eating. It really frustrates me that if you stop eating when you are full people will assume that there is something wrong with you, or the food.

Restaurant portions (at least in this country) are too big for the average-sized person. But many, many people are raised in families with a clean-your-plate mentality. It's a dangerous combination, which certainly contributes to the obesity problems in the US. Why are we not taught to stop eating when we are full? Food can be wrapped up, and taken home, and eaten at another time. Nothing is wasted by doing that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chopped Vegetable Salad (Page 183)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Glen and Matt H
  • Dining Companion: Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I picked this one for dinner on Wednesday because it went with the falafel recipe I wanted to try. This vegetable salad was quite good. It was designed to go in to the pita with the homemade falafel, and it was absolutely perfect for that purpose. It was crunchy, refreshing, and flavorful, but yet didn't overpower the falafel itself. It was excellent. The next time I make falafel I will certainly make it.

I made lasagne this afternoon with Danielle and Carol. Lasagne is a food that is easy to gift, and as such I have in my life made many, many lasagnes for people that I care about. I have made lasagnes for people who are overworked, or in mourning, or just in need of some hot, homemade food. I have made lasagnes for people who are sad. But today, today was hands-down the saddest lasagne I have ever made.

My friend's wife is dying. She has cancer and last week they sent her home from the hospital to die. She is 29 years old, with three children under the age of 6. The lasagne is for them. Making the lasagne was easy... writing in the card that we got to go with it was impossible. What do you say? I'm thinking about you? I'm praying for you? What I wanted to write in the card, in huge block letters, was "You and your family don't deserve this." Because honestly, that is the thought that his gone through my head over and over in the last week -- why them? I can't imagine what it must be like to be her, dying so young, or him, about to be a single father to three small children. I just can't imagine... And it seems so horribly, desperately, unfair.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Tahini Sauce (Page 891)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt H
  • Dining Companions: Glen and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I picked this one to go with dinner on Wednesday because the "Sauces and Salsas" section is AGAIN the one I am most behind on. (Note: I have now done at least 10% of the recipes in each of the 21 sections of The Book!). This tahini sauce was quite good. We made falafel for dinner (more on that when I get to that entry) and this sauce was perfect with the falafel. The only complaint, which Matt voiced and I agree with, was that this sauce had a little more bite than it should. We both speculated that perhaps the tahini we started with wasn't as fresh as it could have been... That wouldn't be the fault of the the recipe though. This sauce was good, and when I next make falafel, I will be sure to make it!

I did it! I finished my job applications! I went in to the office and sent the last 10 this morning/afternoon, and now I am done! I am pretty excited. After I finished, I went shopping! It was really fun. I wanted to spend some time by myself, just enjoying having the stress of applications out of my system. Shopping was very therapeutic. Then I went running, which is always the right thing to do at the end of a stressful time.

Tonight, Jacob and I celebrated with beer and nachos for dinner (ok, ok, Jacob had salad for dinner, and I had nachos!). Then we watched this movie "Brick" which I thought I would hate (based on Jacob and I having totally opposite taste in movies, and him really liking this one...) but in fact it was quite good!

I'm so excited about being done! Yay!!! Now I don't have to think about it again until at least January, when I will start to hear back...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Three Cities of Spain Classic Cheesecake (Page 751)

  • Date: Saturday, October 7, 2006 -- 10pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Alex, Gunther, and a bunch of other people...
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I picked this cheesecake to make for Alex and Gunther's housewarming party last weekend. It was quite good. I was skeptical that with only 5 ingredients, this cheesecake would be boring, but instead it proved to be an example of how simplicity can sometimes be best. The flavor was excellent, and the density was just right for a cheesecake. My only complaint (and this is a rather serious one) is that the center never set... I baked it longer than indicated (having noticed after the indicated baking time that it wasn't nearly done enough). But even with an additional 10 minutes or so in the oven, and a full 8 hours of chilling, the middle was not as set as it should have been. It was still excellent though, but if I make it again -- which I probably will -- I will cook it longer.

I was looking for something tonight (which I never found incidentally) but I came accross some old journal entries. I found something I wrote my first month at MIT... it's funny reading it now, more than 4 years later, as I am beginning to think about moving away from here and leaving behind my friends here. Here it is:

"I miss the feel of T-19. That place, unlike any other in my life, felt like home. I have all these memories: endless dinners with bottle after bottle of red wine, yahoo crosswords with Em, lazy hot tubs, math on the living room floor... I really liked it there. That was a good year. And while I am glad to be at MIT, I miss that place. I don't miss people in the way that I thought I would though; I don't need them to visit. I don't particularly want to go visit them. I just want to _be_ with them again. I want to see Emilee when I wake up every day. I want to eat ice cream nightly with Rach. I want to do homework with Jonathan. But that era has ended. And as I attempt to build a life here, at MIT, to find those people I will want to be with in years to come, I am reminded how hard it is."

Crumb Crust (Page 752)

  • Date: Saturday, October 7, 2006 - 10pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Alex, Gunther, and a bunch of other people...
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Alex and Gunther had a housewarming party last weekend and I made a cheesecake to bring to it. This was the crust for the cheesecake. This crust was very good. Let's be honest, it's pretty hard to go wrong with graham cracker crust, but this recipe was just as good as you would expect! Gunther was a big fan! Even without being blind-baked, it got nice and crispy. I would definitely use this recipe again for all my crumb crust needs!

Job applications make my stomach hurt. I am almost done though. I sent 10 more today, and I am planning on doing the last 10 tomorrow. Then I will be done! Yay! Tonight I decided to just stay in and relax. I made mac and cheese for dinner and now I am in my pajamas (at 8pm on a Friday night!) drinking a beer and laying on the couch. It's really, really nice. I was tempted to go back to work after dinner to finish my applications tonight, but I am so braindead! Beer and pajamas was definitely a better choice.

I am happily making a mental list of the things I am going to do to treat myself once all my applications are in...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Broiled Grapes in Mascarpone (Page 805)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matt H, Ana, Peter, and Marco
  • Recipe Rating: C

I picked this one for dessert last Wednesday because it is one of the few 30 minute or less desserts I have left, and last Wednesday I promised my crew that dinner would be a 30 minute meal! I also promised Emilee long ago that I would make this recipe sometime when she wasn't around, so I fulfilled that promise at the same time! In all her flipping through The Book, this was the one recipe that Emilee thought sounded the most foul. She was right. It was pretty bad. It just didn't make a lot of sense. The mascarpone cream tasted good (well, Ana objected to the Cognac, but if you like Cognac, it was good), but it just didn't go at all with the grapes. Since the dish was only broiled briefly, the grapes were totally raw, but the cream was melted and warm... it was a very odd an unpleasant combination. The one nice thing about the recipe was the carmelized sugar... it's hard to go wrong with carmelization! This recipe was not a winner.

I am very behind in my blogging. A subset of the Wednesday crew came over to make dinner tonight and we made 6 recipes! That puts me 8 recipes behind in my blogging. Oy! Ana pointed out after dinner tonight that we are getting more efficient at cleaning up at the end of the night. I think we are getting more efficient in general. Tonight I didn't specifically choose recipes that are really fast like I did last week, but we still ate in a timely fashion. I think people are starting to know where things are in my kitchen, which speeds cooking up considerably. The most exciting new part of our Wednesday tradition is that Whole Foods has started having a special event from 5 to 7pm every Wednesday where they have samples throughout the store of various prepared foods. It's awesome! We leave the department at 5:30pm and go grocery shopping. This way we get a nice snack to hold us over until dinner (which is sometimes a little late...).

I have to admit, I was a little scared when Paul and Mike and Vigleik and Shihchi moved away that there wouldn't be many people left who wanted to cook with me here. I am really glad to have found a core group of people interested in the project. Our Wednesday night dinners are fun, and I hope we are able to carry on the traditional until I move away! Ana, Peter, Marco, Matt, Glen, and Craig -- you guys are awesome!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bluefish with Lemon Caper-Brown Butter Sauce (Page 292)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Peter and Marco
  • Dining Companions: Ana and Matt H
  • Recipe Rating: A

Peter requested bluefish for dinner because it is such a cheap piece of fish, he was curious whether The Book could make it taste good. Indeed it did! This recipe was excellent. Bluefish can have an overwhelmingly strong flavor, but in this preparation it was just wonderful. The fish was perfectly cooked: moist and flaky (note: we had to cook it a couple minutes more than the recipe indicated). And the sauce was perfect -- brown butter is always amazing, and the lemon and capers complemented the richness of the butter very nicely. Overall this was a fabulous (and cheap!) fish dish. Everyone agreed that it was great. I highly recommend.

Today was a great day, because I finally submitted some of my postdoc applications!!! I sent three applications today, including the NSF application that has been haunting me for a long time now! I am applying for 34 jobs (I know, I know, it's a lot, but that's about how many postdocs most math grad students apply to). So now I only have 31 left to go! All the hard parts are done though -- now it is just mainly administrative stuff (editing cover letters, filling out school-specific forms, etc...). I would like to have them all done and sent by the end of next week -- we'll see how that goes! It's nice to finally be rid of a few of the applications though. It's the sort of thing where you can keep editing indefinitely, but at some point it is better to just let it go!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Minted Peas and Onions (Page 555)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt H
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Peter, and Marco
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I picked this one for dinner on Wednesday because I love peas and this was a quick pea recipe. It was ok. My main complaint is a textural one: the softness (and slight sliminess) of the onions didn't go well with the just tender peas. If the onions had been chopped small rather than cut in semi-circles, I think it would have done a lot towards solving this problem. As it was, it felt a bit like there were worms in my peas. The flavors were good: mint with peas is a classic combination for a reason. No one was particularly excited about this dish, but no one really hated it either. It was just ok.

Today is Columbus Day, which is an MIT holiday. I took advantage of the holiday to go in to work and get a lot done while the department was empty and all our seminars were cancelled. I made good progress on my job applications, and then went for a nice run. I have been trying to learn to run faster, and I am making good progress towards that goal. But I don't particularly enjoy running at my faster pace. So today I indulged myself by going for a longer, slower run. It was so nice. And then I came home and realized that there were leftovers in the fridge! Few things are nicer when you are really hungry than finding good food in the fridge that only needs to be microwaved.

It was a good day. That probably had something to do with how well rested I was... Last night I was tired and ready for the day to be done at 10pm, so I just went to bed! I slept for 9 and half hours. It was awesome!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Garlic Bread (Page 606)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt H, Ana, Marco, and Peter
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I chose this one for dinner on Wednesday because it was another quick recipe. There were mixed opinions. Matt and I liked it. Everyone else complained that it wasn't very exciting. I agree that it wasn't particularly unusual, but it tasted good! Matt pointed out that it was also so easy to make that it would be practical even for people who don't cook so much... It was appropriately butery and garlicky, and the parsley was a nice addition both for flavor and color. I liked it.

I had to go to the doctor yesterday for a physical. I saw a doctor that I had never met before. She was really nice, but she had the unusual quality that she phrased every question with the word "we." "Have we been eating enough calcium? Have we been gaining or losing any weight? Have we been doing out breast self-exams?" It was a little absurd... When the questions started getting more personal -- "Have we had any new sexual partners in the last year?" -- I seriously had to bite my lip to keep from laughing.

After the doctor we went to the gym to get our exercise ("Have we been exercising?")... oh no wait, that was just me! I had a good workout, which was a little surprising since I ate mac and cheese and chocolate peanut butter frosting for lunch! My lunch choices did make it difficult to answer "Have we been eating healthy?"

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Greek Salad (Page 143)

  • Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Peter and Marco
  • Dining Companions: Matt H and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B

Last Wednesday we spent a long time cooking, so this Wednesday several members of my weekly cooking crew requested quicker recipes. Thus, I picked only recipes that claimed to take 30 minutes or less for last night's dinner. I chose this one because it was one of the few quick salads I haven't made yet. It was fine. All of the ingredients were good, and tasted good combined with one another. We debated a bit whether or not the chunks of tomatoes were too big. They were pretty that way, but so large that they were a bit unappetizing. Plus, the ratio of tomatoes to other ingredients was too high. After dinner, the only things left in the salad bowl were tomatoes. The flavors were good though. It was a very typical Greek salad. I liked it, but if I made it again I would add a little more feta and fewer tomatoes, cut to a more reasonable size.

Today is Jessie's birthday and she is having a birthday party here tomorrow. The one thing I really needed to do tonight was make her birthday cake. Ten minutes in, a pipe in the kitchen burst. Seriously. Making cake without an operable sink is difficult I discovered.

I was in a weird mood today. It wasn't a particularly bad mood, but I must have looked a little off. The first person I saw in the department asked me if I was sick. I said no, and he said, "Oh, you look sick." Later in the day Tony (our fabulous administrator in headquarters) asked me if he was going to find me passed out in the hallway with a Toblerone bar. Apparently I was not looking so good today! I am feeling very peaceful tonight though, drinking a beer, eating SweeTarts, and editing my research statement.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mango Tart (Page 784)

  • Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Peter
  • Dining Companions: Matt H, Ana, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This recipe was a compromise in a disagreement where Ana wanted orange slices for dessert and I wanted strawberry shortcake. The logic by which we came to this recipe is still unclear, but it was pretty good. This recipe called for frozen puff pastry, which was easy, and came out beautifully browned, crispy, and delicious. The lime cream under the mangoes was extremely tasty. Overall this was a quick dessert that everyone liked. There wasn't anything incredibly special about it, but it was quite nice. The picture is saved on a different computer so I will post it tomorrow.

Chris is in town for a few days, so I came out to Southboro tonight to visit with him and his family. The rental car place gave Chris a convertible because they didn't have the car he requested, so we have been driving around with the top down. I love riding in convertibles! Last night we drove around Cambridge and Boston for more than an hour, singing along to the radio and enjoying the crisp night air. It was the perfect rejuvenation for me. A couple people pointed and stared at us like we were crazy (may have had something to do with me singing along to the country music) and one guy asked us for a ride to South Station.

I love riding in the car. My high school boyfriend, Jason, and I used to ride around for hours, just listening to music and enjoying the Wisconsin countryside. Those are my favorite memories with him: sitting in the passenger seat of his purple station wagon, with one foot out the window, a whitewater kayak strapped to the top of the car, driving out to the middle of nowhere...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples and Cider Cream Sauce (Page 480)

  • Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana, Peter, and Matt H
  • Dining Companion: Glen
  • Recipe Rating: A-

Peter requested pork for dinner on Wednesday, so Ana and I picked this recipe. These pork chops were quite good. They were cooked nicely and the sauce and apples that accompanied them were wonderful. It's hard to go wrong with pork and apples! I was worried that the cream in the sauce was going to make it too rich, but it was very nicely balanced by the vinegar and cider. And I should mention the lovely job that Matt did plating and saucing the pork chops -- he gets an A+ for his artistry! :)

My morning started with a moment that seemed straight out of a bad movie. I was leaving my apartment, carrying my backpack, my keys, a sweater, my lunch, lunch for a friend, and the cake holder with the cake from my class in it. I made it out of my apartment and down the stairs. When I got to the front door of the building, I needed to shuffle things around a little to free a hand and open the door. In a demonstration of physics that I don't understand, one of the latches on the cake holder opened and the bottom fell out. I gasped as the cake fell. It landed, of course, face down on the ground. I stood there for a minute, not sure whether to laugh or cry. When I noticed the pink frosting all over my cowboy boots though, I couldn't help but laugh. I picked up the cake, brought it back upstairs and scraped off the contaminated frosting. I refrosted it (finally a use for all the leftover frosting!), but then my food safety concerns won out over my love of cake. It had been on the floor! Floors are gross. If it had fallen on the counter, or a piece of furniture, I likely would have still brought it in to the department. But I couldn't serve it after it fell on the floor! So the cake ended up in the trash. Tragic!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rustic Garlic Soup (Page 94)

  • Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ana
  • Dining Companions: Matt H, Peter, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: C

I suggested this soup for dinner on Wednesday. It was not good. Even Matt didn't finish it and he'll eat anything! ;) He did keep insisting that he would eat it, if there was nothing else to eat... Not really high praise. The soup was incredibly rich with egg yolks, but there was nothing else to it. I liked the garlic flavor, but the richness was really off-putting and the completely homogeneous texture only emphasized how rich it was. Ana liked the bread in the soup... I'm almost never a fan of soggy bread (exception: bread pudding), so I didn't even like that. In summary, this soup was a disappointment.

Chef Stacey taught my baking course in culinary school. We had one lab day about cake decorating, and I remember her saying that the most important skill in cake decorating is knowing when to stop. Today in my cake class, I certainly ignored that wisdom (see picture below)! To be fair, I went overboard intentionally... I was experimenting and wanted the extra practice. As a general life principle though, knowing when to stop is a hard thing. I feel strongly, for instance, that if Americans knew how to stop eating when we were full, this country wouldn't have the obesity problem that it does. I am good at stopping when it comes to eating or drinking, but in general, letting go is not my specialty. Stopping is hard...

If anyone wants some of my over-decorated cake, it will be in the common room during tea tomorrow (Monday)!