Saturday, December 30, 2006

Braised Radishes with Raspberry Vinegar (Page 574)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 -- 6pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Terry, Teri, and Spencer
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Tuesday because I have been curious about it for a while and hadn't gotten around to making it yet. My mother was deeply skeptical, but she ended up liking it much better than anyone else. It was pretty good. Bitter vegetables are never my favorite, so I'm not a huge radish fan, but the braising did mellow out a lot of the bitterness. The raspberry vinegar glaze had an excellent flavor. It was tangy and sweet, which went well with the radishes. My dad really hated this recipe, but the rest of us thought it was fine. It was different than any radish preparation I have had, so it was fun to try it.

There are several things that I do not enjoy hearing from the pilot when I am on an airplane. Near the top of the list is when the pilot announces mid-flight, "Flight attendants, please be seated." That is never a good sign. I made it home today, but my flight was unbelievably turbulent. In fact, I have a gash to prove it. I had my hand near my face and we jolted so suddenly that I stabbed myself in the face with my thumbnail. It would have been funny if I wasn't both fearing for my life and trying to clean the blood off my face.

I am home now, and that's what is important! It feels good to be home. I love my family, but I don't think we are cut out to live together in such a small space. This past week my parents stayed in a hotel for a few days, and then it was just me and Spencer in the apartment, which was really fun! The best part of the trip was definitely spending an entire week with my brother. He lives in LA, and I hadn't seen him in about a year! Even when I do see him it is usually only for a day or two. It has been years since we have spent an entire week in the same place. It was great! We have a lot in common these days. He's teaching logic and philosophy classes at a community college, so we talked a lot about teaching, etc... He's also training to run another marathon, and I'm "training" to do my pull-up, so we worked out a lot and had a good time! I think he's coming out for my graduation so hopefully some of you who haven't met him will get a chance to. He is crazy smart and lots of fun!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Risotto Milanese (Page 257)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 -- 6pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Teri
  • Dining Companions: Terry and Spencer
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Tuesday because I love risotto, and this was the only risotto recipe in The Book that I hadn't made yet. It was delicious. This recipe is for a very classical risotto, flavored with saffron (hence the color). It wasn't as good as the red wine risotto or the porcini risotto from The Book, which were both completely divine, but it was really good. My mother wasn't sure it was worth all the stirring (risotto does take quite a lot of stirring) but I think it definitely was! Spencer commented that it would have been better with homemade chicken stock, which certainly it would have, but it had a good flavor even with just store-bought chicken broth.

I had lunch with one of my first boyfriends yesterday. Ross and I dated 10 years ago now, which is a terrifying thought. I can't believe I have been dating for more than a decade! Oh dear. Anyway, we had lunch yesterday with his current girlfriend and his brother. It was pretty entertaining. Jordan and Kat (the brother and girlfriend respectively) drank a huge pitcher of margaritas, so they were a little trashed. The four of us together ate quite a lot of fake Wisconsin Mexican food. Ross is a sweetheart. He plays upright bass professionally and is contemplating physics graduate school. It always makes me laugh to spend time with him. We were so young when we dated -- I have really funny memories. He was really in to being romantic, so on every month anniversary we would drive out to Governor's Island and have a picnic. It was almost invariably a disaster. One month I fell through the ice in to the lake. A couple months later we had a mini-mudslide which left us covered in mud from head to toe. We always had fun though. He's a really good guy. I got mono that year and was sick for 4 weeks. Ross spent his entire spring break sitting on the sofa with me, covering me in blankets and trying to teach me to play video games. I was pretty miserable, but we still had a good time!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Apple Pie (Page 760)

  • Date: Saturday, December 23, 2006 -- 5pm
  • Location: Fond Du Lac, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Teri
  • Dining Companions: Anne, Ellie, Spencer, Grandpa, Joe, Sue K, Brian, Katie, Terry, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+
My mom wanted apple pie to go with our family Christmas dinner, so we made this one. It was pretty good. It came out really beautiful. The crust was flaky and delicious, and browned beautifully. The filling was also good, although it was a little too soft for my taste. I prefer it when you can tell that there are really chunks of apple in the filling. In this pie the filling became very soft and homogenous. It tasted good, but texturally I thought it could have been better. It was a solid apple pie but it wasn't as good as my mother's usual recipe.

I officially retract every mean and nasty thing I said (and the even meaner and nastier things I thought but didn't say) about Apple Computers and my brand-new broken laptop. Why this moment of generosity? Because I got my laptop back today! I sent it Tuesday afternoon, and it came back, repaired, at 9:30 this (Thursday) morning. That's less than 48 hours! I am very impressed. Plus, they repaired my computer instead of giving me a different one, so nothing was lost -- all my software, music, and other stuff is still here! And it was, of course, totally free. Basically, I am delighted.

In other impressive news today, at dinner tonight my father started a sentence with, "Well if by some miracle you get a job at Stanford..." Ah, there's nothing like the support of family to warm your heart!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Grasshopper Pie (Page 772)

  • Date: Saturday, December 23, 2006 -- 5pm
  • Location: Fond Du Lac, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Terry, Spencer, Marie, Anne, Joe, Sue K, Katie, Ellie, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: C+

My mother being a devoted ice cream lover, she is also a die-hard fan of the ice cream drink. Grasshoppers being her favorite, she was intruiged by the idea of a grasshopper pie, so she chose this one for me to make for our family Christmas dinner. This pie was a little bit gross. I was skeptical when I read the recipe: whipped cream fillings stabilized with gelatin are never my favorite. I have not met a gelatinous filling that I like yet. The flavor of the filling was delicious (and extremely boozy!) -- the creme de menthe and creme de cacao reminded me of tasting my mother's grasshopper drinks when I was little. But the texture once it set was gelatinous and gross. The filling was far, far superior before it set. The crust was good -- cookie crumb crusts are never bad. This pie will not be repeated though.

I made dinner last night from The Book. It was the first time I have made a project meal for my whole family -- it has been a long time since the four of us have all been in the same place at the same time. The meal was monumental in another respect as well. After cooking yesterday, I am now officially done with more than one-fourth of the recipes in The Book! I am so excited. My goal was to pass the one-fourth marker by the end of the year, which I did. Since I started this project on January 4th, 2006, this puts me well on my way to finishing in 4 years!

I have also finished my medication increase! Yesterday I felt terrible. I have been doing my increase in phases over the past week, but yesterday was the worst I have felt yet. Stubbornly, I cooked anyway. I almost regretted this decision when I started to feel like I was either going to pass out or puke in the aisles of Whole Foods. I ended up being ok though, and leaving the store without incident! Today, I feel totally fine, which I think means that my body has adjusted to the higher dose, and I am not going to feel terrible any more! In honor of that victory, Spencer and I had a good long workout this morning.


Cuban Sandwiches (Page 192)

  • Date: Friday, December 22, 2006 -- 6pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I made these sandwiches for dinner last Friday because they required the Cuban roast pork loin that we had for dinner on Thursday as one of the ingredients. I always love Cubanos, and these were no exception. This recipe is very traditional: bread with ham, roast pork, pickles, and cheese, pressed in a sandwich press (or if you don't have one, which I don't, pressed between 2 heavy skillets). It seemed a little silly that the recipe called specifically for the Cuban roast pork, when any sliced pork loin roast would have been fine. The strong flavors of the pickles, swiss cheese, and mustard certainly drowned out the subtle marinade on the pork. Nonetheless, these sandwiches were simple and tasty.

I have decided to head back to Boston on Saturday. I was supposed to be away for the next 3 and a half weeks (another week and a half here and two in California). But instead, I am just going to go back to Boston. Partly my decision was the effect of living in a very small apartment with my family for too long. More than that though, I'm just not able to get work done here. It's a mystery since there isn't really anything to do. But somehow, working is difficult. So I wouldn't get much done in the next week and a half, and then I would head to California, where I am sure I would be tempted to spend more time with my dear friends that I never see than I would working. Add that all together with the fact that my thesis defense got moved earlier by 4 weeks, and it seemed like the best plan was just to go back to Boston.

When I was trying to decide what to do I was talking to a friend on the phone and I said, "I just want to go home and get some work done." Finally, after 4 and a half years of living there, I now think of Boston as home. It took a long time. And now, of course, I am about to move away! Oh well... Being in Madison has made me realize how comfortable I am in my life in Boston. I have always been happy at MIT, but the last year or two I feel also strangely at peace. That's a nice thing.

Anyway, to all of you in California: I'm sorry!!! I was so looking forward to seeing you. And to all of you in Boston who aren't out of town: I will see you soon! I'm flying back on Saturday.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Orange-Poppy Seed Cake (Page 706)

  • Date: Thursday, December 21, 2006 -- 8:00pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Mel, Teri, Spencer, and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: B
My mom requested something with poppy seeds for dessert on Thursday, and this was the only poppy seed dessert in The Book, so I made it! It was ok. My dad and Mel were a bit disappointed by the lack of frosting or sugar-y glaze on it. That didn't bother me so much, although I do love frosting! This cake was extremely thoroughly soaked with orange syrup, which made it nice and moist. However, I didn't think that the orange syrup tasted so good. The combination of orange juice with orange liqueur came out strangely flavored, and that flavor permeated the whole cake. That was my only big complaint. The texture of the cake was lovely, and the raspberry and creme fraiche accompaniment was perfect. With a different soaking syrup, this would be a winner!

I am really sending away my laptop today -- I think I have already said that twice, but I am having some trouble parting with it. I scheduled the DHL pick-up though, so today it is really leaving. Hopefully I will still post, if Spencer is generous enough to lend his laptop to the cause!

When I was ten years old I got salmonella on Christmas Day. It was by far the sickest I have ever been, and I was totally traumatized. I don't know what I got it from -- stuffing probably. That is usually the Thanksgiving/Christmas culprit. The odd thing was that my mother told me I was sick because I ate too much. She knew I had salmonella (and she didn't make the food that made me sick), so I'm not sure why she said that, but nonetheless I became convinced that eating too much had terrible, terrible consequences. I didn't eat anything but one scoop of mashed potatoes at Christmas dinner for the following 7 years after that. Now I am a little more flexible. At the very least, realizing that I had salmonella shifted my focus from avoiding food to avoiding stuffing. Although I eat pretty much anything, I very rarely eat stuffing that I didn't make myself for just this reason... I am always a little relieved when Christmas passes and I haven't been poisoned.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Cuban Roast Pork Loin (Page 468)

  • Date: Thursday, December 21, 2006 -- 7pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Mel, Teri, Terry, and Spencer
  • Recipe Rating: A
My mom picked this pork roast for dinner on Thursday. It was extremely good. The pork was perfectly cooked -- juicy, tender, and delicious. The sauce was wonderful, and definitely different from a typical sauce made of pan juices. The orange and lime juices weren't necessarily identifiable as such, but they contributed a lovely tang and depth to the sauce. This was an easy and delicious main course! Definitely a keeper.

Sometimes it occurs to me that I am very different from my parents. For instance: today. It's Christmas today and my parents really wanted to go out to dinner. Further, they wanted to eat at a bar. Now I like bar food as much as the next girl, but it's Christmas! Can any of you imagine me eating Christmas dinner in a restaurant?!? In the end, my parents' plan was foiled by the fact that nothing (and I mean nothing) was open. Not even the bars. So we ended up back at the apartment. My dad had hard-boiled eggs for dinner. My mother ate a Trader Joe's microwave burrito. I protested and at least cooked something, however minimal, for me and Spencer. We had brown rice with green beans and some soy chicken nuggets I found in the freezer. It actually wasn't bad. Everyone ended up eating some of my green bean and rice concoction, which made the evening seem a little bit more Christmas-y -- at least the four of us were eating together, even if it was in the living room while my mother watched the weather channel (why she loves the weather channel, I will never understand...).

Spencer and I are headed out for a run. Merry Christmas!

Whipped Chipotle Sweet Potatoes (Page 583)

  • Date: Thursday, December 21, 2006 -- 7pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Teri
  • Dining Companions: Terry and Mel
  • Recipe Rating: C+
I chose these sweet potatoes to go with dinner on Thursday because I thought the smoky chile flavor would complement the tortilla soup and Cuban roast pork nicely. I was not impressed with this recipe though. It tasted fine -- The chipotle flavor wasn't particularly bad with the sweet potatoes, but it also wasn't particularly good. My mom thought the potatoes were pretty spicy, while Mel and my dad said they could barely taste the chipotle. In my opinion, if you were going to add peppers, this was the right amount, but I am not sure why you would want to do that. My main complaint though was a textural one. We whipped these potatoes for a long, long time, but they would not become completely smooth. With a little bit of cream added, or some more butter, it would have been possible to get a nice whipped potato. But as it was, the potatoes had very small chunks, which just made the dish unpleasant to eat. Overall, not a recipe that I would recommend.

Merry Christmas! It is Christmas morning, and we are all tiptoeing around the apartment, trying not to wake my brother who is still asleep on an air mattress in the family room. I'm not sure how I got a bed and he ended up on the air mattress this year. It may be because I arrived first and quickly settled in to the second bedroom. Either that or the fact that I am in the midst of my medication increases secured me a room of my own!

We are back in Madison after a couple days in Fond du Lac and Oshkosh having Christmas celebrations with the extended family. Yesterday, for Christmas Eve, my mom's family took over a bar in Oshkosh at 11am and played Sheepshead for several hours. After being down most of the day I won a big hand in the end and approximately broke even. Then we went to visit with my dad's side of the family. Both of my dad's parents are dead and while I sometimes see my dad's two brothers, I hadn't seen my cousins on that side in about 8 years. They are significantly older than me -- some of them have children in high school! It was fun seeing them, hearing what they have been up to, and meeting second cousins that weren't even born the last time I saw my dad's family. We drove back to Madison last night, ate cereal for our Christmas Eve dinner (no one thought to buy food before we left town a couple days ago, and now all the grocery stores are closed!), and watched a movie.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tortilla Soup with Crisp Tortillas and Avocado Relish (Page 95)

  • Date: Thursday, December 21, 2006 -- 7pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Mel
  • Dining Companions: Teri and Terry
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I made dinner on Thursday and I picked this soup to go with the Cuban Roast Pork that my mom picked out. This soup was quite good. The deep-fried tortillas were, of course, delicious. The broth was very flavorful -- smoky and delicious without being too spicy. My mother was deeply skeptical when she saw everything going in to the soup, but she ended up loving it. My dad and Mel both thought it was a little too thick. It would also have been nice a little thinner, but the thickness didn't bother me too much. The avocado relish was delicious and complemented the soup nicely. Overall, this was a lovely version of tortilla soup that I would definitely make again. To see Mel's account of our dinner together, look here.

Yesterday we had our Christmas celebration on my mom's side of the family. Here is a picture of everyone! We were all there this year. There have been several years that either me or my brother Spencer wasn't able to make it, so everyone was excited that this year the whole family was there! We did our typical Christmas thing: ate, opened presents, and played cards. We also had a mean ping pong doubles match: me and Spencer versus my cousin Anne and her boyfriend Ryan. In the end Anne and Ryan won 4 games to 3! It was a fun day. It was a little sad seeing my grandmother though. Her health is really good for her age, but her short-term memory is completely shot. She asked me 3 times yesterday what company I work for. I explained to her each time that I am a student at MIT. She would say that she thought I graduated, and I would say that I was graduating in June. Ten minutes later she would ask again. On the up side, she seems really happy. I think it would be really scary to lose your memory, but she is very upbeat about it.

Today: more card playing and then some visiting with my dad's side of the family! Have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Potato Latkes (Page 567)

  • Date: Sunday, December 17, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Ronen's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ronen and Matt
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Ronen, Matt, and I made latkes on Sunday night for Hannukah. They were quite good. These traditional potato latkes came out crispy, golden and delicious. Between the 3 of us we ate enough latkes (these and the sweet potato ones) to supposedly serve more than 12 people! They were that good. I suppose that is one criticism: the recipe did not serve as many people as it claimed it would! This was a solid recipe though, and the latkes sprinkled with salt and served with sour cream and applesauce were delicious!

We made some extra latkes on Sunday and I was frying them up after we had finished eating. Eventually Ronen took over for me, and with the last batch he decided to make one big torus-shaped latke (see picture). I pointed out that there was no way he was going to be able to flip that thing! He acknowledged that it would be difficult, but we made a little wager about it, giving him odds that reflected the challenge of the endeavor. Meanwhile, Matt stayed as far away from this as possible, pointing out that the oil in the pan was likely to fly everywhere when Ronen flipped it. The second picture is Ronen preparing to flip. In the end, about half the latke ended up back in the pan and half ended up all over the floor. I laughed so hard I cried. The resulting latke was not homotopy equivalent to the one he started with, which determined that he lost the bet!

Well I have got to run. We are heading up to my aunt and uncle's house for our family Christmas celebration!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sweet Potato Latkes (Page 584)

  • Date: Sunday, December 17, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Ronen's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ronen and Matt
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Ronen invited me over on Sunday to make latkes for Hanukkah. We made both regular potato latkes and these sweet potato ones. This recipe was quite good. The latkes were perfectly crispy on the outside, and nice and moist on the inside. The sweet potato flavor was really nice, and the green onions were subtle, but complemented the potatoes well. Overall this recipe was quite good, and a very interesting alternative to ordinary potato latkes.

Melanie came over last night and we made a big dinner. My mother was deeply skeptical of various aspects of this meal -- when we started deep-frying she had to leave the room we were making her so nervous! Mel and I had fun though and for the most part the food was quite good! Even my mother admitted that the deep-fried tortilla strips made the tortilla soup delicious. Plus, at that point we had proven that we can deep-fry without burning the apartment down! Mel and I have been friends forever, and we cooked together as kids, but since she lives in Ohio and I live in Boston I hadn't seen her since I started my project. So it was really fun to cook with her from The Book last night!

Our Christmas celebration with my extended family on my mom's side is tomorrow because a bunch of them are flying to Las Vegas on Christmas Eve. Such holidays take place at my aunt and uncle's house in Fond du Lac, WI. Today I am making some pies to bring with us there tomorrow. Speaking of, I should probably get to it...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Chocolate Tart (Page 788)

  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 10:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matt, Matty, Ana, Jessie, Ronen, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I chose this recipe for dessert for our last Wednesday dinner of the semester because Ana is always requesting chocolate, so I figured we should make one of the most chocolate-y recipes in The Book! It was pretty good. The tart was beautiful, both before and after it was cut. The chocolate was intense -- very dark and rich. Some people enjoyed that while others thought it wasn't sweet enough. Someone commented that it tasted like we had just melted a chocolate bar and poured it over a cookie crust. I agree that the chocolate flavor was intense, but the additional ingredients in the filling gave it a fantastic texture! It was perfectly creamy and smooth. I enjoyed the crust, but several people didn't like how crumbly it was. They would have preferred a more traditional cookie crust that is baked. I agree that baking the crust a few minutes would have been an improvement. Overall though, it was a nice dessert. Framed by an otherwise mediocre meal, it seemed quite good!

So it looks like I will be defending my thesis 4 weeks earlier than I thought. My defense got moved from April 30th to April 2nd. I think the new date will be ok. Having the extra 4 weeks might have been nice but the new date has the advantage that it is just a couple days after the Talbot conference, which means that perhaps I can convince some of my good friends who will be in town to stick around for my defense... It would be so fun to have Andre, Chris, Mike, and Vigleik at my defense!! It would be just like old times!

I anticipate that the next few months are going to involve many, many hours in front of the computer, typing away... While I am home these next couple of weeks I am doing my medication increases and sending away my computer to be repaired so by the time I go to California at the beginning of January I will be back in thesis-writing mode!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Emeril's Barbequed Shrimp with Mini Buttermilk Biscuits (Page 325)

  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ronen, Glen, Matty, Matt, and Ana
  • Dining Companion: Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I chose this recipe for dinner last Wednesday because it was on my list of 12 recipes that the random number generator created. It was ok. As mentioned in the previous post, we had a little mishap making the sauce, so it would be unfair to really grade the sauce that we ended up with. Ronen and I did manage to salvage it with large quantities of heavy cream and yogurt. After our creative doctoring, the sauce was not only edible, but tasted pretty good. This recipe was fine. We started with good shrimp, and they tasted good once cooked. We couldn't coat them in creole seasoning before searing them, as we were supposed to, since all the seasoning had been added to the sauce. Nonetheless, the shrimp were pretty tasty. The main complaint about this dish was that it wasn't cohesive. The biscuits were fine (a little dry in my opinion) but they didn't seem to fit in well with the dish. Further, there was no point in having the biscuits be so small. As Ana pointed out, they were cute, but larger biscuits, with higher ratios of soft interior to crusty exterior, would have absorbed the sauce better. Overall this dish was fine but I wouldn't make it again.

My mother has an amazing ability to do things with the TV on. For instance, she can read a novel sitting right in front of the TV and it doesn't distract her. I, on the other hand, do not have these skills. I rarely turn on the TV in my apartment, and when I do it's because there is something I really want to watch on it, so I don't try to multitask. At some point in my life I was accustomed to being in a room with a TV on while trying to do something else -- my senior year in college one of my roommates really liked to watch TV in the same room where the rest of us had our desks. Now though, I find the TV really distracting. My parents don't watch an unusual amount of television, but they do have the TV on a large percentage of the time. Emilee told me once that she thought it was the flickering lights from the television that she found distracting, so as long as she couldn't see it, it was possible to ignore it. For me it is definitely the noise, which is worse because the noise travels further. Right now, for instance, I certainly can't see the TV, but I can still hear the news anchor reporting the exciting local Wisconsin news! Maybe I should shut the door...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Creole Seasoning (Page 326)

  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Ronen, Ana, Glen, and Jessie
  • Recipe Rating: B+
This recipe went with the barbequed shrimp that we had for dinner last Wednesday. There should, theoretically, be a picture here of the seasoning, but there's not. We had a little communication problem in the kitchen on Wednesday which resulted in all 1 1/3 cups of seasoning getting added to the sauce for the shrimp, rather than the 2 tablespoons of seasoning that was supposed to get added. In other words, the sauce had more than 10 times as much seasoning as it was supposed to! And there was no seasoning left to take a picture of! In order to grade the seasoning, we all just graded the flavor of the sauce, since it didn't taste like much other than the seasoning after we added so much! Most of us agreed that it was pretty good -- it definitely had a creole flavor to it. It would have been better of course, in a slightly smaller quantity!

I am in Madison now, settling in to the apartment. My parents split time between Madison and South Carolina, with my mother spending most of her time here and my father spending most of his time in South Carolina. They have a house in the south, but up here they rent an apartment. They moved apartments since I was last in Madison (in February) so today I came "home" to a place that I had never been before. It's nice though. It definitely has certain advantages over the old apartment -- for instance 2 bedrooms instead of 1. It's weird to go home and visit your family and be in an unfamiliar place. I have finally gotten accustomed to the house in South Carolina (where I have never lived) and I had just gotten used to my mother's old apartment in Madison. Now it is time to readjust. My family moved quite a bit when I was growing up. I think we lived in 7 or 8 different houses. I always hated the transitions. I have always enjoyed being in familiar spaces, and it takes me a bit of time to warm up to a new space. I can't complain though -- having my own bedroom here is awesome! I used to have to sleep in the family room at the old apartment. At least until Spencer gets here on Friday, I have a room of my own!

Golden Potato Wedges (Page 568)


  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt and Glen
  • Dining Companions: Jessie, Ronen, Ana, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this recipe for dinner last Wednesday because I love roasted potatoes. These potatoes weren't so good though. Despite being cooked longer than indicated in the recipe, they didn't brown evenly. The crispy parts were good, but many of the potatoes never crisped. It would have been much better to just leave the peels on, cut up the potatoes and roast them in generous amounts of olive oil, salt, and pepper. It's easy to make roasted potatoes taste delicious, and this recipe just didn't do it.

Greetings from the O'hare bus and shuttle center. I successfully made it back to the midwest and now I am just waiting for my bus to Madison. The last few days have been crazy (hence the lack of blog entries). I managed to get most of the things done that I needed to before leaving Boston, and I had a good three hour meeting with Lars yesterday, so now I am feeling nice and calm. That may also be due to the fact that the airplane portion of this trip is now over. This was the first time I have flown since I was on that plane that had mechanical problems and turned back, so I wasn't super excited about it. It was totally fine though, and now I am safely on the ground.

I am looking forward to this bus ride. It is, of course, possible to fly to Madison, but you can't fly direct from Boston and I hate the small planes that fly from Chicago to Madison. Plus, I really love the bus ride. I find riding on the bus to be so relaxing, especially at night. I have always loved riding in cars and buses. One of my favorite things about the midwest is that you can just drive and drive and drive and never be bothered with traffic. It's quite pleasant.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Creamy Slaw (Page 140)

  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Matt
  • Dining Companions: Ronen, Matty, Jessie, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: C+
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Wednesday because we were making barbequed shrimp, and coleslaw seemed like the right thing to go with barbeque. This recipe wasn't so good though. The main problem was that the cabbage just never really wilted. We let it sit longer than indicated, but still no wilting. It's possible that we should have sliced the cabbage more thinly, but even the thinnest pieces didn't wilt much. The dressing tasted fine, but the dish ended up being more like a cabbage salad with mayonaise dressing than coleslaw.

Last night Jessie and I went on the Somerville Christmas lights tour. Tragically, I forgot my camera -- it was amazing! The tour took place on the trolley buses that you sometimes see in Boston. They toured through the best lights in Somerville. The tour did drive down Springfield street in my neighborhood (which is pretty spectacular this time of year), but the best house by far was on Glen street. It was really something! We had such a good time. There were cookies and hot cider at the beginning/end of the tour. Half of our trolley was full of parents with small children and the other half was this huge group of people in their 50's who were totally trashed. They were hysterical. At some point we were driving down some street where almost every house was decorated. When the tour driver commented about one of the undecorated houses one of the guys in back of the trolley shouted out, "They just don't love Jesus!" Sadly, the tour is over now for the year, but if you didn't make it this year I highly recommend it for next year. It was a good time!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Bulgur and Lentil Salad with Tarragon and Walnuts (Page 152)

  • Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Glen, Matty, and Matt
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Jessie, and Ronen
  • Recipe Rating: B
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Wednesday because I usually really like this sort of thing: a healthy-ish dish with lots of grains/legumes. This recipe wasn't anything special though. It was pretty good, and compared to the rest of the meal (which was definitely sub-par) this dish was probably the best, but there wasn't anything striking about it. I enjoyed my serving, but I didn't feel compelled to eat seconds. Matty and Glen, who did most of the work on this dish, both said that they liked it but felt that it wasn't worth the effort. Ana deemed it picnic-appropriate, but said she couldn't think of any other appropriate occasion for it.

My beautiful new computer has been behaving really badly -- it likes to shut itself off many times per day for no particular reason. I made an appointment at the "Genius Bar" at the Apple Store in the Galleria this morning. The guy looked at my computer for a bit, deemed it broken, and told me that if I had purchased it in the store he would give me a new one but since I bought it online (from the Apple website) he couldn't. Why that makes sense, I have no idea. He told me to call the online store, which I did, and after an hour on the phone with a really nice tech support guy, he too deemed that my computer needed some serious repair. So I have to send my new baby away. Very sad. I felt very much like I was at the doctor's office -- they kept asking me all these detailed questions about what symptoms my computer was having, many of which I had no good answer too. The guy on the phone's best guess was that it is some temperature regulation problem, which actually makes a lot of sense considering the particular situations in which my computer decides to turn itself off. The only upside of my brand-new computer being broken is that it is still under warranty so I don't have to pay to get it fixed. That's something.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Double Chocolate-Walnut Biscotti (Page 685)

  • Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006 -- 6pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Haynes, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I started baking some Christmas gifts this past weekend. Biscotti make excellent Christmas presents because in addition to tasting good they are pretty, easy to package, and they keep a long time. These biscotti were good. They were pleasantly chocolate-y, without being totally dominated by the chocolate. I wasn't sure how chocolate chips would work in biscotti, but the little pockets of chocolate proved to be a nice addition. The biscotti were appropriately crunchy and delicious dipped in milk. I made enough to give to two friends and it took serious willpower to not eat them myself instead! It's not the best biscotti recipe I have found, but they were still very tasty.

It's almost 9pm and I am sitting in the common room in the department. Up until this semester I never spent much time in the department at night. I'm not sure why not -- I worked at night in previous years too, but I just always did it at home or at 1369. The department is peaceful at night though, and there is a sense of comaraderie between the few people who are around. Tonight I am here waiting for Matt. We are going to the gym to work on my pull-up after his office hours, which end in a few minutes. It's nearly impossible to work in the common room during the day because there are so many distractions, but at night it is a nice place to work. You can get stuff done but at the same time there are a few people milling around to keep you company. Tonight the common room has the further benefit that there is a ton of food in here left over from the colloqium. Speaking of, I may have a little snack before we head over to the gym...

Braised Beef, Peppers and Onions (Page 441)

  • Date: Saturday, December 9, 2006 - 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I wanted to make some sort of stew this past weekend and I picked this one because it seemed like a good opportunity to get one of the longer recipes done. It was good. The broth had a slow-cooked richness to it that I really appreciated. The flank steak was perfectly cooked -- tender and delicious. My biggest hesitation about the dish was that it was quite sweet. The peppers were delicious but there were so many of them that the gave the dish a very sweet taste, which was a little bit much for me. I was also unsure about the pimento-stuffed olives. I would have preferred the dish without them. Overall thought it was a good dish, and while it took quite a while to make, the depth of flavor that resulted was definitely worth it.

Last night the Wednesday crew got together and made dinner. The food was disappointing, but we still had a good time and checked off another 6 recipes. It was out last Wednesday dinner of the calendar year! One of the things I am looking forward to the most about my holiday travels is getting to cook with some people that I haven't seen in a while! Mel and Rach: I am counting on you guys to help me cook/eat some food for my project!

Yesterday was the last day of class/seminar at MIT for the semester. Consequently everyone has been in a really good mood for the last few days. It is easy to let your stress build up throughout the semester, and at the end you feel as though you can finally really exhale, which is a nice feeling. I always enjoy the end of the semester. It's so pleasant to walk down the halls and hear students clapping for their professors on the last day of class. Honestly, I don't feel any less stressed out now that the semester has ended, but I am looking forward to having a change of scenery for a month while I work on my thesis.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Chocolate Caramel Sauce (Page 874)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Andrew
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Matt, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this sauce to go with the bread pudding on Tuesday because The Book recommended serving the caramel sauce with it, but I had already made that one. So I figured that chocolate caramel sauce was close enough. This sauce was fine. It tasted like chocolate sauce and chocolate sauce tastes good, but there was nothing special about it. In particular, the flavor of the chocolate completely drowned out the caramel. Caramel takes effort to make so it seemed silly to go through that when in the end it was undetectable. The sauce was also extremely thick, even when warm, so it felt a bit like you were just eating plain melted chocolate. The flavor was good (chocolate-y!) but I wouldn't make it again.

I was talking to my supervisor at the homeless shelter on Sunday and explaining that I was going to be away for a while, first in Wisconsin, then in California. Her response: "That's really great that you can take a month off work." I laughed pretty hard when she said that. I tried to explain that I wasn't taking any time off -- my work is just very mobile. I actually tend to get more done in California than I do here because there are many fewer distractions. It got me thinking though about how I very rarely take actual vacation -- the kind of vacation where I don't bring work. When Em and I went to Las Vegas this summer for 4 days I didn't do any work, but that's the longest real vacation I have taken in several years now. Maybe this summer I will try to take a week or two and have a real vacation! Hmmm... I'm not really sure where I can afford to go for a week! I suppose sometime this summer I will have to move -- that could involve a long drive. Road trips are one of my favorite kinds of vacations! Now that it is starting to get cold though I am fantasizing more about sitting on the beach sipping drinks with umbrellas in them.

Meanwhile, back to work...

Monday, December 11, 2006

Toasted Bread-and-Butter Pudding (Page 829)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 - 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Andrew, Matty, Matt, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: C-
I picked this one for dessert on Tuesday because the "Puddings, Custards, Mousses, and Souffles" section is always falling behind the other dessert sections. This bread pudding was quite bad. I love bread pudding, but I didn't want to eat this. So many things were unappealing about it. For one, the custard separated out during baking. Some of it absorbed in to the bread and set nicely in the oven, while some of it just pooled as liquid in the bottom of the dish. It was easy to avoid the pooled liquid, but it made the dish seem very unappetizing. My main complaint though was that it had no flavor. It is so easy to make bread pudding taste delicious -- it is a wonderful medium for a wide range of flavors. This one was just terribly bland. Even drenched in sauce (we had chocolate caramel sauce, but the book recommended caramel sauce which might have been better) it was shockingly bland. As bread puddings go, this was not a winner.

Apparently the other day one of my aunts showed one of my cousins some pictures of my cakes. My cousin Brian's response: "I don't understand why Teena isn't married. She's old enough and she makes such good cake." When my mom relayed this to me, I laughed and laughed and laughed. Clearly, since I was once engaged, at some point I really felt ready to be married. But now, years later, I'm just not in a hurry. In the academic community it is so standard for people to get married rather late that I often forget that many, many people my age are already married. I always find it shocking when people comment on the fact that I am not married. Yesterday at the homeless shelter one of the guests demanded to know why I wasn't wearing a wedding ring. I told her I wasn't married. Her response, "Next week bring in that guy that is sometimes with you and I will tell him to marry you." I told her I didn't think that was a particularly good idea, but she was adamant. As I walked out the door she yelled from behind me, "You better not show up here alone next week!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Flank Steak with Chimichurri (Page 429)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt and Andrew
  • Dining Companions: Ana and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A
We had planned to make veal for dinner on Tuesday, but Whole Foods was out of veal cutlets, so we made this steak instead because I happened to remember the ingredients for it while we were at the grocery store. This recipe was extremely good. The chimichurri was strongly flavored but delicious on the meat. The broiled steak was cooked very nicely. It was a quick and delicious entree that everyone enjoyed.

I had such a nice weekend. Aaron sings with the Boston Choral Ensemble and on Friday night I went to hear their Christmas concert. Yesterday I did some of my favorite Saturday activities: cleaned my apartment, worked out, made stew, did some math, etc... Today I went to Rosie's in the morning and to work in the afternoon. I had a very productive afternoon at work -- I sat in the same chair for 3 hours without moving from it and I got a lot done! Then Tony, Ana, and I went in to Boston to see the Christmas lights on Commonwealth Ave. We went for a nice long walk down Comm Ave, and through the Public Garden and the Boston Common. It was a beautiful night for a walk and Boston is really pretty at Christmas time! We got hot beverages and had a really pleasant little field trip.

Maple Squash Puree (Page 579)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 - 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Andrew
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I picked this one as a side dish for dinner on Tuesday because this is the perfect time of year to eat butternut squash! It was very tasty. It had a texture highly reminiscent of baby food though, and that bothered some people. It would have been better had it been less liquidy, or pureed a little less completely. The flavor was excellent though. The sweetness from the maple syrup complemented the squash beautifully.

I just got home from the shelter. It was a crazy day at Rosie's today. When I got there at 10:30am everything was locked up and the only person in the kitchen was my fellow volunteer Danielle. There were no kitchen staff in sight. Now Danielle and I have both been volunteering at Rosie's every Sunday for nearly 2 years, so together we could easily make and serve lunch. BUT, we don't have keys and all the food is locked up. None of the non-kitchen shelter staff have keys either, and Virginia, who was supposed to have been there since 9am (with the keys!) was nowhere in sight. Other volunteers began to arrive and we quickly put together some soup with what we could find in the overflow food storage which isn't locked. At 11am with the assistance of a set of bolt cutters and a strong man, we broke in to the food pantry. Unfortunately we still couldn't get in to the walk-in fridge, the freezer, or the knife drawer! So, we made tuna salad sandwiches! At 11:15am the kitchen manager got there with keys, so we were able to get some milk, fruit, butter, etc... before the dining room opened at 11:30am. It was certainly an adventure! Apparently Virginia thought she wasn't working this morning... Whoops!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Zucchini Frittata (Page 632)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Andrew, Matt, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B-
This recipe was on the list I made with the random number generator. It was ok, but not great. My main complaint (and the main complaint of many others at dinner) was that it was way too salty. There was salt added both to the zucchini and to the eggs. That plus the salt from the feta and the parmesan just made it too salty. The texture was nice though -- it was appropriately fluffy. Aside from the salt issues, I enjoyed eating it, but it wasn't nearly as good as the tomato, garlic, and potato frittata that Marco and I made from The Book a few months ago.

My first year at MIT I formed two goals for graduate school. Goal number one: get a PhD. Goal number two: do a pull-up. The PhD is coming along fine, but I haven't made much progress on the pull-up. I am running out of time though. So Matt and I made a deal. He's convinced that with his help I can learn to do the pull-up. So he's going to be my trainer, and in return I am going to pack his lunches. It seems like a mutually beneficial agreement! Matt is out of town this weekend though, and usually Saturday is a work-out day in our routine. So yesterday he wrote me a long workout (with diagrams and everything) and left it for me to do today. When he was explaining everything to me yesterday, he even told me when I was allowed to get water during my workout. (I definitely ignored such details and just drank water whenever I wanted to -- don't tell Matt though!). I used to work out with Mike and at the time I thought he was pretty hard on me. This summer I worked out with Marco, who pushed me even more. But Matt is way less lenient than either of them! After only a couple weeks of Matt's workouts I am already making definite progress though, so I can't complain! I may do this pull-up yet!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Turkey Soup (Page 124)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Matty
  • Dining Companions: Andrew and Matt
  • Recipe Rating: B
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Tuesday because I still had the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving in the freezer and I wanted to finally turn it in to some soup! This recipe was fine. People had a variety of complaints, many of which were the result of user error (READ: Teena error) rather than the recipe. For instance, it didn't go so well with the rest of the meal. I saw that comment coming, but I had made the turkey stock on Sunday and I wanted to use it as soon as possible. My other mistake (and this is pretty inexcusable) is that there was so much going on right before we ate that I forgot to re-season the soup. So of course it desperately needed salt. All that aside, it was pretty good. There was nothing exciting or different about it, but it was good cold weather chicken soup. Matty's comment: "I would like it better if I had a runny nose." He's right -- it's exactly what you would want to eat if it was cold outside and you didn't feel well.

Usually I am excited about going home to Wisconsin, and I am always excited about going to California. I am leaving for my month in Madison/Stanford in a week and a half though, and I just can't get excited about going. Partly it's that I feel very settled in to my life here right now, and I don't really want to leave. More than that though I am dreading all the questions about what I am doing next year, etc... When I am here everyone knows better than to ask any of the graduating people about job stuff. Everyone knows it's stressful. Everyone knows that it's better just to leave it alone. My family and friends outside of math ask a lot of questions though. And it's great that they care and are interested in my life. But honestly, until it's time to hear about jobs, I don't want to think about it.

When you see people you haven't seen in a while you have to answer a lot of questions: about your job, about your relationships, about everything. So many things in my life are hard to define right now that I don't know how to answer those kinds of questions...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tapenade (Page 890)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 5, 2006 - 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Ana, and Andrew
  • Recipe Rating: C
I picked this recipe to go with our big dinner on Tuesday because the "Sauces and Salsas" section was again the one I was the most behind on. Ana summarized this dish best when she said, "This has more olives per square centimeter than olives do." It was deeply, intensely, olive-y! I like olives, really I do, but I found this hard to eat. It was just too pungent. The flavors of the capers and garlic were totally lost in the sea of olives. It was also visually very unappealing. The oil kept separating from the olive mixture, which resulted in a not-at-all-attractive spread. I usually like tapenade, but this one didn't do it for me.

Further exploration of my new computer led to the discovery that my computer can take crazy pictures. Here is a supposedly comic-book-style picture of me.

How is it possible that Christmas is in less than three weeks? Not only have I not started Christmas shopping, but I haven't even thought about Christmas shopping... I usually do a lot of Christmas baking, but I haven't started that either. Oh dear. I haven't spent Christmas with my family since my second year in graduate school, three years ago now... That was the Christmas I found out about my brain tumor. It wasn't really a happy time, and my family and I didn't get along so well that year. I ended up on an Amtrak from Chicago to Boston on New Year's eve, terrified and alone. I had my first MRI on January 2nd. The next year I didn't really feel well enough to travel over the holidays. Last year I had plans to go and then I just didn't. I have been home a couple times in the last few years, but never for Christmas. This year I am going home for the holidays. I found out yesterday that I have to increase my medication again. I think I am going to do it while I am at home. I hate doing these increases because they make me feel so shitty. But really I am lucky -- this is the first time I have had to increase in more than two years now. Wish me luck...

Ballymaloe Irish Stew (Page 507)

  • Date: Sunday, December 3, 2006 -- 5pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C
Matt picked this one from a list of possible Sunday afternoon food options. I agreed that it sounded good, but it was not so tasty. In fact, I gave my serving to Matt and ate cereal instead. My major complaint: the flavor of the lamb totally dominated all other flavors in the dish. Lamb is strongly flavored, and while I like its flavor, in this preparation it was just overwhelming. I wanted to be able to enjoy the heartiness of the potatoes and carrots, but everything just tasted intensely of lamb. This had to do in part with the way the lamb fat was rendered and the vegetables cooked in it rather than in butter or oil. Matt's main complaint was that the lamb was too fatty. This is a pretty fatty cut of meat, and although I trimmed the chops extensively, there were still large pockets of fat in them. Neither of us understood why the meat was in such large chunks. You usually think of stew meat as being cut in 1 inch pieces, and that works brilliantly. The shoulder chops in this recipe were only halved, which made this stew require a fork and knife to eat. Overall this recipe was not a winner.

I am typing this on my brand new computer!! Yay! I bought a MacBook and it came yesterday. Very exciting. I didn't have much time to play with it yesterday (work, seminar, book club, some crisis prevention, etc...) so this evening I am having fun with my new toy. I installed all the tex/latex software, so now I can work on my thesis! The whole point of purchasing the new laptop was to have a not-extremely-heavy computer in this time period when I am doing both a lot of typing and a lot of traveling. I was nervous about buying a Mac, since I don't really know how to use one, but Aaron and Chris have both been graciously helping me out. I think the computer and I are bonding rapidly. I haven't named it yet though. My previous computer was named Madison. The one before that was Berkie. With this one I am just not sure... Suggestions? I very rarely make big purchases, but it is so fun having some new things once in a while!

Ok, I am going to return to my exploration of all the features of this thing...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sauteed Dessert Crepes (Page 791)

  • Date: Monday, November 27, 2006 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Recipe Rating: B
I picked this one for dessert last week because it was quick, and it has Cognac in it so I didn't want to make it for Wednesday dinner (Ana is not a fan of Cognac). These crepes were pretty good. The flavor of the crepe batter was nice. The method of cooking them twice (first individually in a crepe pan and then all together in a large skillet) gave the final product a nice crispiness, and made the dish prettier than just individual crepes would have been. My only really complaint is that it was a little bland. The sugar on top helped a lot, but I prefer crepes to have something inside. With this method of cooking they would be hard to fill, and I think that is a downside. If the sugar and strawberries had been inside the individual crepes it would have been an improvement. As it was, there were many layers of crepe with some stuff on top. Crepe pastry is not a great one to layer -- it gets soggy and the thickness emphasizes the eggy taste of the batter. I still enjoyed eating it, but as Chris noted, it was "nothing special."

A couple of days ago one of the fourth year graduate students wrote on the chalkboard in the 4th floor common space, "We have to graduate in 3 semesters." I read it and instantly felt a little short of breath. Then I remembered I am graduating 1 semester from now. It really hasn't sunk in. I have a thesis defense date (did I mention that already?). I am defending on April 30th. Maybe it's not knowing where I will be next year, or maybe it's just denial, but I keep thinking that things will just go on the same as they have been. It's hard for me to imagine not living here. Matt and I were talking the other day, and he said, "Next year we should drive back to the Midwest for Christmas instead of flying." I instantly agreed that it was a great idea. It took me more than a minute to realize that I wouldn't be here next year at this time to drive with him.

The not-knowing where I will be next fall doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. But I think the only reason I'm not bothered is because I haven't actually internalized the fact that I won't be here.

Pan-Seared Ancho Skirt Steak (Page 429)

  • Date: Monday, November 27, 2006 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Chris and I made this steak last week because the "Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb" section was the one I was the most behind on. Strangely, I couldn't find ancho chiles (dried poblanos) so I substituted chipotles (dried, smoked, jalapenos) which worked out just fine. This steak was very tasty. The meat came out perfectly cooked and flavorful, and the sauce was spicy and delicious! The recipe was quick, easy, and very satisfying. It would make a perfect summer dinner!

Last night the Wednesday dinner crew came over (although notably it was Tuesday). We made 7 recipes which pushed me over the 300 mark in the project! I am hoping to hit 324 by the end of the year (then I would be one-fourth done with my project!), and I think I am well on my way to achieving that goal.

Every hundred recipes or so I like to thank a few people important to the project. First off, let me thank those people who have cooked and/or eaten more than 40 recipes for the project: Chris, Ana, Alex, Vigleik, Mike, Emilee, Brian, Matt, and Marco! You guys are amazing -- I really wouldn't be as far along as I am without you! Thanks also to the Wednesday dinner crew, who have made cooking possible (and fun!) in this busy semester: Ana, Matt, Craig, Peter, Glen, and Marco --thanks!

To Chris, Emilee, Brian, Vigleik, Shihchi, Richard, Anita, mom, and dad: thank you for making your kitchens available to me when I travel! It's wonderful to feel welcome in kitchens around the country! Finally, thank you to everyone who has spent time in the kitchen with me, patiently tried new foods, and/or welcomed the project in to your special occasions! More than 300 down, less than 1000 to go! Thanks for all your help!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Baked Breaded Acorn Squash (Page 578)

  • Date: Monday, November 27, 2006 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Chris, Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this one for dinner last week because I love acorn squash! It was fine, but not as delicious as I might have hoped. I wanted the breadcrumbs to form a nice crispy coating on the squash, but they never quite crisped up. I had to cook the squash twice as long as indicated in the recipe to even get the breadcrumbs to turn golden. The squash tasted good (as squash pretty much always does!) but I prefer the traditional method of halving the acorn squash and roasting it while basting with butter and brown sugar.

I had a nice weekend. I got a lot of work done, saw some friends, had a really hard workout on Saturday (maybe a little too hard -- I am definitely having trouble walking today), went to the shelter, visited with Chris and his family, etc... I made some lamb stew yesterday, which didn't turn out well, but it was still nice to do some Sunday afternoon slow cooking.

And this morning when I walked outside, it was snowing! Ok, truth be told I would probably call it "winter mix" rather than "snow," but there were some white flakes falling from the sky. It has already melted away completely, but it was fun while it lasted. I'm sure we have plenty of snow (and winter mix) headed our way in the next few months! I can't believe it is December already and I am heading home for the holidays in just a couple weeks! This semester just flew by...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Lentils and Curried Rice with Fried Onions (Page 277)

  • Date: Monday, November 27, 2006 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B
This recipe came off the list I made using a random number generator. It was fine, but nothing spectacular. The rice came out really dry, and the curry had that curry powder flavor to it that I don't find too enticing. The onions were delicious, as you might expect deep-fried onions to be. Chris was skeptical when he was adding the parsley, and he was indeed right that the whole parsley leaves seemed very out of place and did not add to the dish. Finely chopped parsley would have been a plus, but as it was it was better if you ate around the parsley leaves. Overall it made a fine side dish. Matt approved of the leftovers as a good late-night snack. I wouldn't make this recipe again, but I will keep the deep-fried onion slices in mind for other uses.

I am out in Southboro for the evening, hanging out with Chris and his family. Well, ok really I am drinking a beer, doing laundry, and watching trashy television! I had a really good run this afternoon, followed by delicious Mexican food. And now I am eating skittles. Basically, I can't complain!

There is a quote from "The Prophet" that I think of often. It says, "Let there be spaces in your togetherness." I thought a lot today about what a huge gift a little space can be. I often try to hold people that I care about too close. Sometimes a little distance can really do wonders...