Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Baked Bay Scallops (Page 320)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Matt and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-
This recipe was on the list made by the random number generator. As you can tell from the photo, I didn't go to the trouble to find scallop shells to bake the dish in. Instead I used small ramekins, which worked just fine. This dish was quite good. I had never eaten a Nantucket bay scallop before. The Book promised that they would be "unusually delicate," and indeed they were. They were extremely tender with a mild, lovely flavor. We had to cook them a couple extra minutes to get them cooked through, but that might have been due to the ramekin versus scallop shell difference. Matty and I were both concerned that there was going to be too much butter, but in fact the butter provided a fantastic sauce for the scallops, and the leftover sauce was delicious sopped up with some bread. This was an expensive dish (said scallops are thirty dollars a pound), but it was quite good. I definitely recommend it.

I am coming to a deep understanding of how it is that people with addictions find themselves falling off the wagon. All I want out of life right now (more than candy, or a massage, or even really excellent Mexican food) is a diet coke. I want a huge, super-carbonated, fast-food soda fountain diet coke.

But I am on the wagon.

I have been decaffeinated for 19 months now. I will not give up so easily.

Here's the problem. Chris is my sponsor in my endeavor to eliminate caffeine from my life. But it is 8:30am in California right now and he is not generally pleased when I wake him up by calling his cell phone repeatedly until he answers. A phone call to Chris successfully navigated me through my last close call (at the Frankfurt airport after many hours of travel, with many more ahead of me). This morning I will have to rely on my own force of will. (And a can of caffeine free diet coke which, technically, I also shouldn't drink, but I can only ask so much of myself this week).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sweet Potato and Parsnip Puree (Page 584)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ana
  • Dining Companions: Matt and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I picked this recipe to go with dinner last Tuesday because we hadn't pureed anything in a few months and there are a lot of purees in The Book that need to be made! This recipe wasn't a huge hit. No one hated it, but no one defended it at judgement time either. Several people commented that it tasted strikingly like pureed carrots. It's true that the sweet potato flavor was largely overpowered by the parsnips (which have a carrot-like quality to them). It seemed like a strange combination to begin with. I would have vastly preferred just pureed sweet potatoes. I thought the texture of the puree was nice -- it wasn't too runny as some of the previous purees have been. I definitely wouldn't make this dish again, but I didn't mind eating it.

The funeral today was in a Catholic church in South Boston. I hadn't been to a Catholic mass in a long time. When I was in middle school a bunch of my friends were Catholic. Another (disjoint) section of them were vegetarian. I was neither and felt horribly left out. So one year I decided I was going to celebrate Lent and for Lent I was going to give up meat. The vegetarianism ended up sticking for 10 years, but the Catholicism lasted not nearly so long. I fainted in church one week (remember that Mel?) and then got a bloody nose in the middle of mass at a different church only a few weeks later. I interpreted these events signs that I wasn't meant to be Catholic. I loved church though. At that age I had no idea what to believe in when it came to religion, but I loved being surrounded by all those people, praying and singing together. That is still one of my favorite things about being in church, the unity of it all. Today everyone was united in memory of Johnny's wife Mary, and it was a nice service.

Roasted Garlic (Page 935)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Ana and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B
I picked this recipe to go with dinner last Tuesday because the oven wasn't going to be used during our dinner preparations so I figured we might as well roast some garlic! It's a bit hard to grade this recipe. For the most part roasted garlic is roasted garlic. It was good. It wasn't terribly exciting, but I enjoyed eating it on sliced baguette. My only real complaint is that the use of olive oil didn't make a lot of sense. Normally I would cut off the top third of the head of garlic before pouring the oil over. This recipe left the head intact, so when the oil was poured over it mostly just dripped off the outside of the garlic cloves. It would have been better had more of the oil reached the garlic. For that reason I prefer the method of cutting off the top of the head of garlic before roasting.

My first year at MIT I spent my January break out at Stanford. I wanted to surprise my friends, so I only told Emilee that I was coming. My first afternoon in town I headed to Elliot's house. Aside from being an ex-boyfriend he has long been a close friend and I was anxious to surprise him. His room was empty but his door was unlocked, so I wandered in. I left a Post-It on his computer monitor:
“I’m here. I’ll be eating at 6pm.”
At 6:05, Elliot waltzed in to Bangkok Cuisine and sat down next to me. Without my name, or the restaurant, he had found me. I think that’s why I loved him: I always felt found when I was with him.

At Stanford I had a default restaurant. And a default coffee shop. A default thinking spot. A default bar. Maybe that means I was boring, but I think it just means that I settled there. I settled here too, I think. But my defaults aren't so clear... Maybe that's not true. Maybe they are just different. I certainly have a default grocery store here. A default butcher. A default spice store. A default ice cream shop...

Monday, January 29, 2007

Candied Walnuts (Page 5)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt and Ana
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A
I picked this recipe to go with dinner on Tuesday because the Hors D'oeuvres and First Courses section was the one I was the most behind on. These candied walnuts were excellent! Usually when I candy nuts I coat them in boiled sugar. That gives delicious results. But this recipe had an alternate approach that was very successful. The nuts were covered in powdered sugar and then deep-fried in hot oil. The result was crispy, crunchy, and very slightly sweet. They were then sprinkled with cayenne and salt. These nuts were by far my favorite component of the meal on Tuesday. Everyone loved them, although some people thought they could have been a bit sweeter. Matt pointed out that a lot of the sugar came off the nuts in the hot oil -- I don't know how we could have prevented that from happening, but if more of the sugar had stuck they likely would have been even tastier!

Johnny's wife died on Saturday. I just got back from her wake.

The funeral home, like all funeral homes, smelled of preservation and perfume. Danielle and I went together. Johnny stood over his wife's casket the whole time we were there, crying and touching her face. Watching him, I tried to imagine what that must feel like: losing you wife when she was only 30 years old. Finding yourself suddenly a single father of three children under the age of 7. It was easier to think about the smell. When we finally went up to the casket to hug Johnny, I found myself completely without words. I just stood there with my mouth open, willing myself to say something. I was at a loss.

I still am. What do you say to that? Her 1-year old son isn't even going to remember her...

I suppose for some things there really aren't words. Cancer is one of them.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Rosemary Focaccia (Page 606)

  • Date: Saturday, January 20, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I picked this recipe because I love focaccia. The truth: I have a better focaccia recipe. The one we used in culinary school is definitely superior to this one. But this one was still amazing! The dough was a little too dry (I recognized this in the process of making it and added some additional water, but it was still a bit dry). The thing is, if you take homemade bread, brush it with huge quantities of olive oil and then sprinkle it generously with excellent sea salt, it's not going to be bad! This wasn't this best focaccia I have had or made in my life, but it was delicious, and I can't help but smile remembering that there are more pieces of it waiting for me in the freezer. If you've never made focaccia, you should. It's not hard and it is one of those foods that is simply awe-inspiring when eaten right out of the oven.

Like many of my better ideas, the thought of going to culinary school was born out of stillness. It was my second year in graduate school. It had been a long semester, during which my fiance and I had split, and I had taken my quals. In the wake of my qualifying exam, an eerie silence fell upon my life. I had focused so much attention preparing for that one day, that once it passed I was no longer sure what to do. There was, as always, loads of mathematics to be done. But math could only fill some of the silences. I have always been a little scared of stillness and I knew that if I sat still too long, I would have to deal with the pain of what had happened between me and my fiance. So I cooked. Every time I opened the oven door, releasing waves of chocolatey smells, I felt renewed. I cooked like an addict. Cakes, and cookies, stir fries and currys, tostadas, citrus salads, lemon orzo, lentil soup, potato leek soup, tortilla soup... soup, after soup, after soup. I cooked comfort foods. I cooked foods whose smells would overtake me. With the freezer packed with leftovers, I just kept cooking. It was as if I was charmed: nothing I made in those days turned out any less than perfect. Nothing was dry, or tough, over or undercooked, poorly seasoned. Everything was just right. Standing in the kitchen over a perfect dinner one chilly December evening, I realized that everything was always perfect because I only cooked things that I could prepare perfectly. Desperate for a push out of my comfort zone, into a world of foods unknown, I started looking in to culinary school.

Kale and White Bean Soup (Page 108)

  • Date: Saturday, January 20, 2007 -- 1pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
This recipe was on the list generated with the random number generator, so I made it last weekend to pack in lunches this past week. It was ok, but not great. The beans gave it a good heartiness, and contributed some texture to the broth. The smokiness of the kielbasa added to the dish, but the kielbasa itself wasn't very appealing in the soup (perhaps it was just not very good kielbasa, because normally I am strongly in favor of sausage!). Matt noted that the broth didn't have a lot of body or flavor to it. The soup was cooked for a good length of time, so I would have expected the broth to have more flavor than it did. Overall this recipe was fine. I liked eating it but I wouldn't make it again.

When I first started graduate school, people mistakenly assumed that my friendship with Mike was romantic in nature. In response, our friend Jon wrote the following quite funny seminar announcement concerning a marriage between me and Mike:

Empirical Work on the Stable Marriage Problem;
A Wedding of Michael H. and Teena G.

Tuesday September 31, 2002
10:00 A.M., Room 2-236

Refreshments will be served at 9:45, black tie banquet in 2-235 to immediately follow talk.

Abstract: Over the last several millennia, much work has been done on holy matrimony. The field began in earnest with the groundbreaking work on the avoidance of adultery [God1300BC], and has remained an active area of research until the present day. Recent work has focused on applying the tools of modern mathematics to this classical problem [Lang02]. In the present talk, we extend these results by wedding Michael H. and Teena G. Major results include the exchange of vows, the tossing of the bouquet, and the kissing of the bride. A conjecture about the intractibility of future relationships will be set forth. If time permits, connections to homotopy spheres (“queer spheres”) and the intrinsic irony of something called a “bridal shower” being associated with a math department will be discussed.

References:
[God1300BC] God. “Commandment 7” in The Ten Commandments. Private correspondence, 1300 B.C.
[Lang02] Serge Lang. Functor? I hardly even know her. Springer-Verlag: New York, 2002.

Work supported in part by a Wedding Reception Grant from the Parents of Teena Foundation.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Classic Zabaglione (Page 834)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Genevieve
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Ana, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: A-
This recipe was on the list that I made with the random number generator, so we made it for dessert last Wednesday night. Zabaglione has so few ingredients that most recipes for it are essentially the same. While this recipe wasn't anything particularly innovative, it was delicious, as zabaglione invariably is! We served it with blackberries and strawberries, and everyone seemed to enjoy it a lot. I thought the ratio of marsala to other ingredients was excellent. The marsala flavor was definitely there, but the custard wasn't overpowered by it. For a dessert that can be made in ten minutes, this recipe was excellent!

There is a group of us that eats lunch together in the math department common room nearly every day. One of our many rituals is that we read our horoscopes at lunch. I'm a taurus. This week my horoscope was terrible every day. I have a theory that Eugenia (the Boston Globe horoscope writer) had a fight with her boyfriend/husband and he's a taurus. Either that or the stars are aligned against me...

In high school the girl who wrote the horoscopes for the school newspaper hated me. I never knew why, and everyone considered her to be a bit crazy/unstable so I never pushed the issue. But for many months the taurus horoscopes were completely unveiled attacks aimed at me! Instead of being any sort of predictions, they were just insults. The other taurus' at the school were none too happy about this, and many of them were aware that I was the target for her anger. Why, I don't know. It's still a mystery to me... I found it entertaining though to read what she thought of me in such a strange medium. I clipped them out and saved them for a long time but I seem to have lost them in one of my many moves...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Broiled Bluefish Fillets with Fennel Mayonaise (Page 300)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Ana, Glen, and Genevieve
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I wanted to have fish last Wednesday night, and Whole Foods had some nice looking bluefish (well, as nice as bluefish ever looks...) so we prepared this recipe. It was very tasty. The fennel mayonaise had a great flavor, and it browned beautifully under the broiler. We had a particularly thick cut of fish, so we had to broil a few minutes longer than the recipe indicated, but it came out beautifully cooked. This is the second excellent bluefish recipe we have had out of The Book. Bluefish is very cheap relative to other fish, but these recipes prove that it can be exceptional when it is fresh and prepared well!

My estimated taxes are overdue. I know this, yet I haven't payed them. My father even emailed me to remind me 3 days before I needed to send it. I read his email. I left it in my Inbox. Every day I look at it, and think, "I should really do that." I have the money. All I need to do is write the check and put it in the mail. But I haven't done it.

This, to me, is mysterious. Stereotypes of mathematicians always include an inability to interface effectively with the real world. Such stereotypes would likely include an inability to do simple administrative tasks (e.g. pay ones estimated taxes). I have never before had a problem with such things. But right now, amid stressing about my thesis, and jobs, etc..., I suddenly have lost the will to pay my taxes. Or sort through a pile of mail. Or send in some receipts for reimbursement. It's not that I don't have time. For instance, right now I am listening to music and blogging (clearly). I could be paying my taxes. And in truth, I probably will do it tonight, because now that I think on it, I don't understand why I haven't done it yet. Having this whole job thing settled will be nice for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I will (hopefully) then return to being a fully-functional, prompt tax-paying citizen!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Swiss Chard with Olives and Raisins (Page 542)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Genevieve and Glen
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Matty, and Matt
  • Recipe Rating: C
I picked this recipe to go with dinner last Wednesday, but in retrospect I can't remember why. It wasn't good. Everyone agreed that the raisins were not a good addition. The sweetness of the raisins and the bitterness of the chard did not work well together. The contrast made the dish actually difficult to eat. The pine nuts and olives were tasty though. The dish might have worked well if we had simply omitted the raisins. Genevieve separated out the chard from the raisins and ate the two piles separately, which was probably the best way to go with this one. Definitely not a recipe I would repeat.

I am desperately behind in my blogging, which is mainly a reflection of the fact that I have been cooking like a crazy woman. Cooking is a beautiful distraction from stressing about either job stuff or my thesis. My refrigerator right now is quite a sight. It contains leftover sweet potato and parsnip puree, cream cheese frosting, fermenting mincemeat, preserved (READ: rotting) lemons, in addition to some stuff I didn't make. Open my freezer and you will find kale and white bean soup, escarole and sausage soup, turkey soup, rosemary focaccia, strawberry cheesecake ice cream, etc... Basically, if any of you all get hungry any time soon, feel free to stop by! The mincemeat looks (and smells) a little scary, and I have my hesitations about the lemons, but everything else is definitely edible!

Alex and Gunther had a big potluck dinner at their place tonight with probably 25 people! It was fun -- I met a lot of people and ate a huge amount of extremely tasty cheese fondue. Mmm.... bread and cheese!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fried Eggplant Sticks (Page 43)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty and Genevieve
  • Dining Companions: Matt, Ana, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I chose this one to go with dinner last Wednesday because I haven't been making great progress on the Hors D'Oeuvres and First Courses section of The Book. These fried eggplant sticks were very tasty! The Book suggested serving them with powdered sugar which, frankly, didn't seem like such a great idea. Surprisingly though, the powdered sugar went very well with the eggplant! The sticks were also delicious with salt. The eggplant had a lovely, custardy texture after being fried, which contrasted beautifully with the crunchy bread crumb exterior. Overall this was a very nice hors d'oeuvre that everyone enjoyed.

We had a Tuesday edition of Wednesday dinner tonight. Ana, both Matts, and I made dinner in record time and now we are watching the State of the Union address, for better or for worse. I don't like Bush. I don't like listening to him talk. I just get so angry, and I don't enjoy being angry.

Aside from being frustrated with our president, my day was good. I got a lot of work done, and I found some work that I was worried I had lost. A couple days ago I went to write-up a piece of my thesis and I couldn't find the spectral sequence computations I had done. I knew that I would never have thrown them away, but I looked everywhere and couldn't find them. In the end they were in my desk drawer, under a box of cereal. Apparently I had made a pile of important papers there and covered it up with Smart Start. Whoops. In any event, I found them, which made my day! I was not looking forward to redoing the computations from scratch.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Colcannon (Page 565)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Genevieve
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, and Glen
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I chose this recipe to go with dinner on Wednesday because I wanted to make the vegetarian gravy and I needed something to put it on. Colcannon is a very simple dish -- just mashed potatoes with cabbage. It was pretty good. I thought it was a touch dry -- it could have used a bit more milk or butter. Also, the cabbage needed to cook longer than indicated in the recipe to become sufficiently tender. The flavor was nice though. No one was wowed by this dish, but everyone liked it well enough. I ate the leftovers for days and it kept very well!

My senior year in college I shared an apartment with 3 other women: Emilee, Rachel, and Sara. We all graduated that June and moved away (some of us further than others -- Emilee just moved to the other side of campus!). I loved that apartment, and we had a really wonderful year together living there. A day or two after we graduated, I was the last one to move out. Everyone had packed in a hurry, and people accidentally left a few things behind. A friend of Sara's had made her a country music mix CD and she unintentionally left it in the stereo when she moved out. The stereo was the last thing I packed when I moved out, so I listened to that CD over and over again as I cleaned out the apartment. When I finally finished packing and cleaning, I unplugged the stereo and sat down on the floor next to it. That was the moment when I realized for the first time that I was really leaving Stanford. I sat there and cried for ten minutes before I got in my car and drove away.

I never did mail that CD back to Sara. It reminds me too much of that apartment and that very special year. I just can't part with it... I ran across it this weekend -- listening to it brought back a lot of lovely memories.

Portobello Vegetarian Gravy (Page 881)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Glen, Genevieve, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I chose this recipe to make with dinner on Wednesday because the "Sauces and Salsas" section of The Book was again the section that I was furthest behind on. This gravy was ok, but nothing special. My main objection was that it didn't seem at all deserving of the name gravy. It tasted like a cream sauce with some vegetable flavoring. We put it on mashed potatoes, and it was fine, but it wasn't like having gravy on them! It was also disappointing because the homemade vegetable stock that this sauce was made from was quite tasty. This recipe didn't do it justice!

Before I left for Christmas Haynes started giving me a hard time about setting concrete goals for myself with respect to the writing up of my dissertation. Haynes' advice is usually right (I can't think of any instance, actually, when he has given me poor advice...) so I have been goal-setting. It's true that I get more done when I have a very concrete timeline. It also makes me much less stressed out. In August I was worrying a lot about job applications, so I made a timeline of what I was going to do every day between the middle of August and the middle of October. That was perhaps a little obsessive! Of course eventually I got off my schedule, but it helped. I am hoping to stay on track with my thesis schedule for as long as possible (or until I am done!). The exciting thing is that it is really starting to look like a dissertation! Even a few months ago it seemed infathomable to me that I would ever have a completed thesis in my hand, but now I am almost there... Who knew!?!?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Smoked Salmon Smorrebrod (Page 179)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Ana and Craig's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ana and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B
Ana picked these sandwiches for dinner on Tuesday night because she was in the mood for something light after her long day of traveling. The Book claimed that these "dainty" sandwiches would make a "light but satisfying meal." These sandwiches were pretty good but they were neither dainty, nor light! The eggs were delicious -- cream cheese is always a good addition in scrambled eggs. I liked the combination of the eggs, the smoked salmon, and the rye bread, but there was too much salmon per sandwich. It overwhelmed the other flavors. The beauty of smoked salmon is that it is so intense that a little goes a long way. This recipe called for way more than would have been optimal. Overall though, these sandwiches were tasty, if not terribly exciting. I took half the salmon off of mine and then I enjoyed eating it quite a bit.

I discovered very early on in graduate school that when I have a lot to do my productivity increases tremendously if I take the day off from work on Saturday. I don't know why that is -- I guess sometimes I just need space from whatever it is I am doing. So, often, on Saturdays I don't do any math. Instead, I cook! Right now I have focaccia in the oven. I love baking bread, and focaccia is a personal favorite. I made soup when I woke up this morning, and some slightly frightening mincemeat this afternoon. My refrigerator is overflowing with food right now -- from a large jar of preserved lemons that I made this past week, to leftover colcannon (mashed potatoes and cabbage) from Wednesday dinner. During the semester it is hard to find time to cook as much as I would like to, but between terms there is plenty of time to get a lot of work done and still do a lot of cooking!

I just took my bread out of the oven and now I am eating a hot piece of rosemary focaccia, dripping with olive oil... I am so happy! I wish you all could be here to share this with me!

Escarole Salad with Hazelnuts and Currants (Page 137)

  • Date: Tuesday, January 16, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Craig and Ana's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Ana and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-
Ana and I picked this salad to go with dinner on Tuesday. It was bad. The bitterness of the escarole was terribly overpowering, and paired with the intense sweetness of the currants it was really hard to eat. Also, the whole parsley leaves were a bit odd. The dressing was tasty though. Matt pointed out that if you replaced everything green in this salad with romaine lettuce, it could have been delicious! Perhaps it would have been better if I had removed even more of the dark green leaves from the escarole -- the lighter leaves were certainly more palatable. In any event, I won't be making this recipe again!

I am slowly running out of recipes in The Book that have very standard ingredients, so I have decided to start stocking up on some of the more obscure ones that I will need! So this afternoon Alex and I braved the extreme winds and not-so-extreme cold to do some specialty food shopping. After our first stop Alex called me a crazy spice lady. Indeed, Christina's spice shop did yield a lot of things that I needed: fenugreek seeds, baharat, pickling spices, turmeric, urfa biber, Sichuan peppercorns, and Chinese black rice. Then on a stop at Savenor's I acquired some beef suet and veal demi-glace. Now that I have my beef suet I can make some mincemeat! I can honestly say that I have never before made pie filling that needs to sit in the refrigerator for 3 days to 3 months before going in the pie! I am deeply, deeply curious... I'm also a little concerned that it's going to be difficult to find anyone to eat my pie with me! At least I have 3 days to 3 months to try to talk some people in to it!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Steak Diane (Page 427)

  • Date: Sunday, January 14, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
Matt was in a wedding a few months ago and after the wedding the groom sent Matt some steaks as a thank-you-for-being-in-my-wedding present. The steaks have been in Matt's freezer all this time, so we decided we should start consuming them! We chose this recipe because it was one of the few in The Book that was designed for the particular cut of meat we had. It wasn't a great dish though. Although it is very classical, I'm not a huge fan of this genre of thing: i.e. beef covered in beef sauce. It's a little too much for me. I much prefer a sauce that provides some contrast with the meat (e.g. the chimichurri we had on flank steak not so long ago). Matt agreed that this sauce wasn't at all interesting. It tasted fine, but it didn't add to the dish. We both happily ate our steak, but there are so many amazing steak recipes in The Book that I certainly won't make this one again.

One of my best friends just called to tell me that he received an extremely prestigious fellowship. What was the first thing I did once he told me? I started to cry. I don't know what's wrong with me. I have never been that person -- the person who can't be happy for the good fortune of those she loves. That's not me. But, tonight it was. It's not as though I don't think he deserves the fellowship -- he totally and completely does. And I didn't even apply for it, so there is absolutely no reason for me to react this way. I think I am just so on edge about not knowing where I will be next year that I am behaving totally irrationally. I am happy for him, and I feel really awful about the way I reacted. Oy.

To make myself feel better I am making some ice cream! Ice cream always helps.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Buttermilk Biscuits (Page 596)

  • Date: Sunday, January 14, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+
Matt picked these biscuits to go with dinner on Sunday because he loves biscuits! These were pretty good. Matt wanted to learn to make biscuits himself, so he did all the work for these and I just supervised and offered some tips. They came out very nicely. They had a good buttermilk flavor, and were soft inside and slightly crispy on the outside as they should be. Matt had hoped that they would be flakier, and it's true that they weren't the flakiest biscuits I have ever had. A biscuit made with some shortening rather than all butter (as these were) is always going to be a bit more flaky and tender. They were quite good though, especially with some honey on them!

I can tell that I am nervous about job stuff because I just took my third shower of the day. When I am nervous, I shower. I have never again been so clean as I was the month before my quals at MIT. I find showering to be very calming. I especially appreciate extremely hot showers. As I am getting increasingly tense waiting to hear about jobs, I am becoming very, very clean! The waiting got intolerable only recently. I submitted all my job applications 3 months ago now, and the first couple months I hardly thought about it. Now, though, people ask me about it every day, so it's hard to put it out of my mind. First round decisions should come out within the next 3 weeks, so by then I should know something, be it good or bad. Until then I guess I will just moisturize frequently so the showering doesn't completely dry out my skin!

Catfish Fillets with Pecan Butter Sauce (Page 288)

  • Date: Saturday, January 13, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-
I picked this recipe on Saturday because it was one of the few fish recipes that I could find the right fish for. We did use sea bass instead of catfish to make this dish, but that was one of The Book's recommended substitutions. This dish was extremely good. The sea bass was delicious, and perfectly cooked. The flour coating on the fish browned beautifully, forming a delicious, crispy exterior to the fillet. The topping was slightly surprising -- the Tabasco and lemon gave it a real kick. When I tried it alone I wasn't sure I liked it, but on the fish it was delicious! The crunch was a nice complement to the tender flake of the fish, and the bold flavors enhanced the taste of the sea bass beautifully. Overall, it was a very nice dish.

The Wednesday crew came over to make dinner last night. Although the list in the project index doesn't reflect it yet, with the recipes from last night added in, Chris was officially unseated as the leader in project participation. Matt passed Ana and then Chris, to take the lead. He has cooked and/or eaten 82 recipes! This is the first time Chris hasn't been at the top of the list since the project started! It's impressive that he was able to keep the title this long given that he lives 3,000 miles away! We always cook like crazy when I am in California though... As long as I have known Chris he has been a huge supporter of my interest in food and cooking, so when we're together I feel especially inspired to cook.

Nonetheless, Matt is now the new leader. He is at a certain advantage because he lives only 2 blocks away from me. It makes it easy for me to drop leftovers over at his house, or for him to stop by and eat whatever I make! He's also a very flexible eater, which is an excellent quality when it comes to participation in this project. Further, he has the wonderful characteristic that he never gives me a hard time about my project! Matt always encourages me to cook from The Book and even when the food isn't great, he has a really good attitude about it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Brussels Sprouts Chiffonade (Page 525)

  • Date: Saturday, January 13, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B
Matt requested something somewhat healthy for dinner on Saturday, so I picked this dish to go with the meal. It was good. I had never seen a chiffonade of Brussel sprouts before but it worked well, and was seasoned nicely. It wasn't terribly exciting, and I likely won't make it again, but I did enjoy eating it. It was also very quick to throw together, which is a plus.

Ana got back from Portugal yesterday so we got together last night to make a quick dinner from The Book. It was fun to cook with her again! Mike also flew in yesterday and took Issy back, so I got a fantastic cat-less night of sleep last night! I do miss the cat though (except in the middle of the night!).

I got an email yesterday from a friend that I thought I would never hear from again. He and I have known each other a long time -- more than 8 years now. We have gone through periods where we were very close, and periods where we haven't talked for long stretches of time. Last winter we were talking very frequently. Then one day he stopped returning my calls. He lives in Wisconsin, and we don't have any mutual friends there, so I had no way of figuring out what was going on. Over the last year I have tried every month or so to contact him, with no success. When I last heard from him his mother, father, and brother were all battling cancer, so I was worried that something awful had happened. Then yesterday, after nearly a year of silence, he emailed me. He didn't explain why he wouldn't take my calls for the last year, other than to say that he had gone through a very difficult period and that he was sorry. It was so nice to hear from him though. More than anything, it was a huge relief to know that he is still out there and doing ok...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Spaghetti Squash with Moroccan Spices (Page 581)

  • Date: Saturday, January 13, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C
I picked this one to go with dinner on Saturday because I hadn't had spaghetti squash in a long time. I really disliked this dish though. I didn't even eat the small portion I served myself to start. The squash itself was tasty, and it was cooked nicely (the recipe calls for cooking the squash in the microwave, which worked well), but the Moroccan seasoning was so heavy-handed that it made the dish extremely hard to eat. If you cut all the spice quantities in half you might end up with something delicious, but as it is this recipe is way too strongly spiced. The squash would have tasted vastly superior if it had been coated in a little butter and kosher salt rather than the much too intense Moroccan spices in the recipe. Matt liked the recipe simply because he had never had spaghetti squash before and he loves trying new things. But he agreed that the flavors were a bit overpowering.

Mike's cat is going back to him today, and in honor of her last night in Somerville, she kept me up all night last night! I can't really figure out what was going on -- she had been doing much better. One day she even slept until 6:30am! Last night, though, she was not in the mood to be restful. It is mornings like this that I wish I hadn't given up caffeine a year and a half ago.

When I was young I didn't always sleep as soundly as I do now, especially if I was nervous about something. My mother used to try to calm me down by telling me that laying in bed with my eyes closed was almost as good for me as sleeping. I'm pretty sure that's not true, but nonetheless this morning I stayed in bed as long as possible, not sleeping because the cat was batting me in the face (or meowing and pounding on the door once I finally locked her out), but rather resting with my eyes closed. I have to admit that I do feel more rested now than I did at 4:30am, so maybe there is something to this...

Issy in the cutest cat ever, so I will be sad to see her go, but I am super excited about the idea of sleeping through the night again!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Huevos Rancheros (Page 637)

  • Date: Saturday, January 13, 2007 -- 11am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B
Matt picked this recipe for breakfast on Saturday. These huevos rancheros were pretty good. The ranchero sauce was excellent -- it had a good heat to it and a wonderful flavor from the roasted chiles, tomatoes, and onions. The only thing I didn't love about the dish was the preparation of the tortillas. They were fried in oil to soften them, but they ended just soaking up a bunch of oil. I didn't find that appealing. I would have preferred the tortillas either not fried at all (or fried extremely lightly) or fried until they were crispy. Other than that though, this was a nice, filling breakfast dish. And the leftover ranchero sauce was excellent on tortilla chips the next day!

I picked this recipe to make when I was staying with Chris about a year ago. I can't remember why we didn't end up making it (maybe he didn't have the right equipment?) but for about a week I kept saying I was going to make it. I even wrote a little huevos rancheros song, the only lyrics of which are "huevos... rancheros... huevos... rancheros..." I sang it a lot last Janaury (despite the few words, it was very catchy -- it has a dance that goes with it too, but that's another story). On Saturday when Matt and I were making this dish, I started singing my huevos rancheros song again. Matt gave me a deeply skeptical look.

Despite having zero musical talent, as long as I can remember I have written stupid songs. When I was growing up I wrote this song about the mailman that I really liked (that one had more than 2 words). I even wrote a whole musical when was 11 or 12. When I was young most of my songs were set to familiar tunes and I would just change the lyrics. As I grew older I started making up my own tunes too. Chris, probably more than anyone else in my life, has witnessed many, many of my little ditties. A couple years ago I wrote a whole series of tunes (jokingly) about how Chris was mean to me. He never really appreciated those, but I sing them still!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gingerbread Pancakes (Page 647)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 -- 11am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
Matt is trying to take advantage of Ana's absence to catch up with her in the recipe ratings. To that end, he wanted to make breakfast on Wednesday. He chose these pancakes. They were ok. In general I like gingerbread a lot, but I didn't think the gingerbread flavor worked that well in these pancakes. The sour cream made the pancakes nice and moist and gave them an interesting tang, but that tanginess was a bit odd with the distinctly gingerbread seasoning. On the upside, the pancakes were easy to make and made a nice filling breakfast. I enjoyed eating them, but I would have preferred a more traditional pancake recipe.

Lately I have had this overwhelming craving for SweeTarts. I ate a lot of them while I was in Wisconsin. For whatever reason I wasn't eating much while I was in Madison, so whenever I ate SweeTarts they increased my blood sugar, and improved my mood, dramatically. So now I have a very positive attitude about SweeTarts. Since Friday I have been seriously in need of some more of these delicious, delicious candies. Now if I were craving something a little bit more rare -- say, the elusive Nerd-filled SweeTart Rope (I kid you not), then I would have to be prepared for it to be difficult to satisfy my craving. But SweeTarts are a standard, are they not? Nonetheless, store after store has let me down. The cute corner store in Inman square only had Chewy SweeTarts, Star Market had no SweeTart products, and Target could only provide me with the Chewy SweeTart Variety Bag (if you are wondering how it is possible to have an entire variety pack of chewy SweeTarts, I wondered that myself...). In the end, I bought the variety bag, hoping it would satisfy my craving, even though all I wanted was a roll of good old classic SweeTarts. The abundance of Chewy SweeTarts I have now will tide me over until tomorrow, and I am holding on to the hope that Walgreens will come through for me and sell me some SweeTarts.

Note: It occurs to me that if this is the only thing I have to complain about, my life is pretty good!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Eggnog Ice Cream (Page 856)

  • Date: Saturday, January 6, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Vero and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C
Veronique invited me over for dinner last weekend and I made this ice cream to bring for dessert. I really didn't like it though (and I like ice cream!). It was incredibly boozy. The rum and cognac were so overpowering that the ice cream was almost hard to eat. With half as much alcohol it might have had a nice eggnog flavor to it, but as it was it just tasted like a bad ice cream drink. I definitely wouldn't recommend this recipe.

I got a lot of writing done on my thesis this week and I had a good meeting with Lars (my advisor) yesterday, so now I am feeling much calmer about things than I was a couple weeks ago. Today I took the day off from work, and just had the most restful day possible. I slept as late as the cat would allow me to, then I made huevos rancheros for breakfast. After some general laziness, I helped out with the math department mystery hunt team this afternoon for a few hours. (The mystery hunt is a bit hard to explain -- basically teams solve difficult puzzles of all different types for 3 days straight, 24 hours a day! As you solve the puzzles you get more puzzles and they all help you solve one big puzzle. I suppose that sounds a little bit awful, but actually it's fun. I don't have the puzze-solving energy to be there all the time and stay up all night, but I have enjoyed hanging out and working on a few puzzles.) Tonight, after I retired from the mystery hunting, Matt and I made ourselves a nice dinner. I had planned to go out after dinner, but staying in and having some peaceful time to myself was just too tempting!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Slow-Roasted Salmon with Mustard Parsley Glaze (Page 306)

  • Date: Friday, January 5, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ronen
  • Recipe Rating: B+
Ronen wanted fish for dinner on Friday, and after much deliberation he picked this recipe. It was good. The salmon was slow-roasted in a 225 degree oven, which is a preparation I hadn't tried before. It came out really beautifully cooked. It seemed strange to me, however, that the title of the recipe refers to the topping on the fish as a "glaze." It didn't at all resemble anything glaze-like. It was very thick in texture and not even slightly liquidy as one would expect a glaze to be. The topping tasted fine -- it was neither bad nor terribly exciting. This dish was quick and easy, but it was not nearly as good as the recipe for salmon cooked on salt, which was even easier.

I have eaten dinner in restaurants for the last 5 nights in a row, which is incredibly unlike me. I'm not exactly sure how that happened. I am starting to feel a little bit gross from all the restaurant food though. This weekend I am going to try to not eat out at all! I enjoy eating out, but after a few days in a row I just want to eat at home. When I was growing up we ate out a lot. I'm not particularly sure why. My mother is a great cook, but for whatever reason my parents prefer to eat in restaurants. At some point I just stopped going along with them most of the time when they went out for dinner. So I fended for myself. I was also not allowed to cook though when my mother wasn't home (that is a long story having to do with my brother putting a frozen pizza in the oven while it was still wrapped in plastic). So I ate a lot of cereal for dinner. Or yogurt. Now still, after I eat out a lot, or eat heavy meals several days in a row, I crave yogurt and granola.

Despite having reached near-capacity for restaurant food, I had fun at dinner tonight. Nora and Alex are in town this week, so I had pizza with them at Emma's, which is always delicious!

Pan-Browned Brussel Sprouts (Page 526)

  • Date: Friday, January 5, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matt's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ronen
  • Recipe Rating: B
Ronen picked this recipe to go with dinner on Friday. These Brussel sprouts were pretty good. They had a very mellow, nutty flavor, which was complemented well by the toasted pine nuts. As you can see in the picture, many of them got a bit burned on the cut side. I would recommend watching them carefully since they aren't flipped at all throughout the cooking. The flat side burned just as the Brussel sprouts were getting perfectly crisp tender all the way through. Overall though it was a nice side dish that would likely be well-received even by diners who aren't huge fans of the Brussel sprout.

Can I just say how much I love IAP? For those non-MIT people out there, IAP is the Independent Activities Period. Basically it means that very little happens at MIT during the month of January. There are no graduate courses, no seminars, etc... Basically there are no responsibilities. It is very relaxing. More often than not I have spent IAP elsewhere (in sunny California, or not-so-sunny Wisconsin). This year, though, I am here at MIT, and loving it! Part of what makes MIT so great is that it is so active. But after a semester of classes, and seminars, and constantly talking and working with colleagues, a little down time is a huge blessing. I still go in to the department, and there are a few other people around, but the atmosphere is very, very relaxed! It is a time when I am able to get a lot of work done! Right now I am sitting at my favorite table in the 4th floor common space outside my office. Peter, Aaron, and Max are the only other people up here -- they have been the only people around all week. Well them and this strange old guy who asked me a couple days ago if it worried me that theoretical math is useless! Luckily, he's not here right now!

I am looking forward to continuing to get a lot done through the rest of the month!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maple Walnut Ice Cream (Page 858)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Mike, Tim, Marco, Vero, and Ronen
  • Recipe Rating: B+
This ice cream was on the list of recipes that I made with the random number generator. I thought it was pretty good. As you can see in the picture, it didn't freeze properly, but that was my fault. I didn't realize the freezing container of my ice cream maker wasn't in the freezer until 8 or 9 hours before I needed to make the ice cream. The container really needs to freeze for at least a day in order to work properly. So the ice cream was soupy, but it had a nice flavor. Some people didn't like the addition of the walnuts, but again that might be my fault because I burned some of the walnuts while I was toasting them, so they didn't taste so good (clearly Wednesday was not one of my better cooking days...). I thought that the maple flavor was really good. The syrup was cooked down before it was added to the custard, and you could taste a little bit of that cooked sugar flavor, which was delicious. It was maybe a touch on the sweet side, but I definitely enjoyed it.

There aren't many decisions that I have made that I really regret. It's not that I don't make some terrible decisions: I do! But usually I learn something from the mistakes I make, and that makes them valuable to me. Occasionally though, I regret the choices I make. For instance: a year and a half ago when my grandmother died I had a little meltdown at the airport on the way to her funeral and I didn't get on the plane. I regret that. It wasn't just that I felt overwhelmed by her death, but also that I felt somewhat responsible for it. Her life ended very miserably, and I had spent months wishing (praying), for her own sake, that she would be allowed to die.

My grandmother was in many ways very, very different from me. From her example I learned a lot about myself, about relationships, and about family. When she died I inherited her wedding ring. I will wear it as my own when I am married someday. Now I occasionally wear it around my neck, as a reminder of the many things she brought in to my life. Today would be my grandmother's birthday, and I am thinking of her.

On a lighter note, it's Melanie's birthday today too. Happy Birthday Mel!!!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Chicken in Pumpkin Seed Sauce (Page 360)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Vero and Ronen
  • Dining Companions: Marco, Mike, and Tim
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Mike picked this dish for dinner last Wednesday. The sauce was a bit labor-intensive, but excellent! The chicken was beautifully cooked -- very moist and delicious (there were a couple people in attendance who don't like their chicken moist, but I do). The dish had two serious flaws however. One, the skin on the chicken just shouldn't have been there. I say it over and over again, but I will say it again: if the skin isn't crispy, why keep it? I suggested that this dish would have been much better if the chicken had been removed from the bones and shredded. Mike then pointed out that The Book has that listed as an alternate preparation. We should have done that! The other flaw was that this dish was fairly visually unappealing. Marco took a really nice picture of it, so you may not appreciate how ugly it was, but it was ugly. I think shredding the chicken would have improved it slightly on that count too. These things aside, this dish had a wonderful flavor and was really a pleasure to eat!

I got a wonderful night of sleep last night, and today I felt very awake. The upside of being awake was that I got a ton of work done. The downside of being awake was that I had a lot of energy with which to fuel my worries about job stuff. Here's the thing: I am not a patient person. Anyone who has ever spent time with me when I am waiting for important news, or medical test results can confirm that. I would like to be more patient -- I really would. Unimportant waiting (waiting in line, waiting in traffic, etc...) doesn't really bother me at all. But I find waiting nearly intolerable when it comes to important things. After almost 10 hours of sleep last night, I was wide awake today. Maybe it was that extra energy, but for whatever reason, today, nearly 3 months after I submitted my job applications, I ran out of patience and started to stress. It's not as though I have my heart set on any particular outcome. In all honesty, any of the possible outcomes would be fine. I just want to know. I am going to take a few deep breaths and try to put it out of my mind again. I managed to do that with reasonable success for three months. A few more weeks can't be that hard... right?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Asparagus with Tarragon Sherry Vinaigrette (Page 520)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ronen and Tim
  • Dining Companions: Vero, Mike, and Marco
  • Recipe Rating: B
Mike picked this recipe to go with dinner on Wednesday. This dish was pretty good. The tarragon sherry vinaigrette had a really nice flavor. I was skeptical about the hard boiled egg on top, but actually it was a good addition to the dish. I prefer roasted or steamed asparagus to boiled asparagus, but I still enjoyed the recipe. Opinions were definitely mixed -- Vero, for example, thought this recipe was terrible. Most people were pretty neutral about it though. There was some discussion about how the dish might need more salt, and I agree that a little bit more salt might have been an improvement. Overall, it was a pretty good recipe though.

My weekend was nice and relaxing. On Friday evening I went to the climbing wall at MIT for the first time. It was fun and a great workout. I had never climbed before, but the more experienced people there were really nice and gave me some helpful advice. Climbing seems like a fun new way to work towards my pull-up goal!

Yesterday it was 68 degrees outside! Who would have guessed that January in Boston would bring such weather. I wore flip-flops all day and opened the windows in my apartment. It was amazing! Last night Veronique made me dinner. The food was excellent, and it was such a treat to have someone cook for me! Then we watched an imitation Bollywood movie which was really entertaining -- lots of singing and dancing!

Tonight I am leaving the cat alone at Matt's and enjoying a night in my own bed! Mike promised me that Issy will be ok for one night by herself. She was disruptive last night, so tonight I really want to get a lot of sleep!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thai Sticky Rice with Toasted Coconut and Fried Shallots (Page 261)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Mike, Ronen, and Tim
  • Dining Companions: Vero and Marco
  • Recipe Rating: B
Mike and I picked this one to go with dinner on Wednesday because at some point we planned on having an Asian themed meal, and we thought this would go well. In the end our meal was not Asian themed, but rather "Mexi-Thai Puree" themed (don't ask me...), but we had this rice anyway. Some people really loved this rice - I think it got several A ratings -- but I was not as impressed. I agree that the coconut flavor was really nice, and the fried shallots were excellent. But the texture of the rice was way off. Instead of coming out sticky and delicious, it was extremely dry. This was almost certainly because the steamer wasn't sealed when we were making the rice. Normally I wouldn't hold an equipment problem against the recipe, but in this case I am not sure how it would have been possible to configure it to avoid this problem. The rice had to be in a sieve, above the water in the pot. In order for the sieve to latch to the bowl, it had to go over the edge, which prevented the steamer from sealing... We also managed to start a small fire with the cheesecloth the rice was resting in, but that's another story. Anyway, if the texture had been better this recipe would definitely be a keeper, but as it was, I wasn't convinced.

I have learned something valuable in the last few days: I am not ready to have children! The first night I had Issy (Mike's cat) she meowed and cried the whole night, from midnight to 8am. I tried to explain to her that I was sleepy and that I have a lot of work to do, but she was not compelled by these arguments. If I ignored her crying and tried to sleep anyway, she would use her little paw to hit me in the head to wake me up. It was a long night. I am definitely not ready to deal on a regular basis with a living thing that cannot be reasoned with. (Now that I think on it though, a baby is not likely to slap me in the head while I am sleeping, so maybe that would be an improvement...). Last night Issy did much better -- she let me sleep from 12:30am to 5:30am before she started hitting me in the head. I think she was just really freaked out the first night about being in a strange place, without either Mike or Tim around. It's my hope that each night she will get more and more comfortable, so I can get more and more sleep! Even when she is being bad, it's hard to get mad at her (ok, I was a little mad the first night) because she is so, so cute. And for a cat she is incredibly affectionate. Today I bought her some cat toys so she has something to play with while I am at work during the day. Hopefully if she plays during the day she will be more interested in sleeping at night!

Toasted Walnut, Roasted Red Pepper, and Cumin Spread (Page 12)

  • Date: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Mike and Vero
  • Dining Companions: Ronen, Marco, and Tim
  • Recipe Rating: A-
Mike picked this one to make with dinner on Wednesday because I asked him to pick something from the Hors D'Oeuvres and First Courses section of The Book. The first recipe Mike chose had beer in it, which is the one thing he is allergic to. This was his second choice. Opinions were mixed, but I thought it was very good. Mike complained that it was both spicy and bland, but I thought it had a lovely garlicky flavor, balanced by the roasted red peppers and walnuts. In addition to having a nice flavor and a beautiful texture, it was a very pretty color. I would happily serve this spread again.

I got a wedding invitation in the mail the other day. My first love is getting married to the woman he left me for. All of this happened many, many years ago, and the three of us are friendly now (hence the wedding invitation), but it was still odd to find that in my mailbox. In a strange way, I think it would have made me feel better at the time to know that he was ultimately going to marry Natalie. It makes it hard to feel too bad about Elliot picking her over me. Apparently he was really serious about her! He and I would certainly never have gotten married. That would have been a disaster!

In college I had this reoccurring dream about attending Elliot's wedding. In the dream it was not Natalie he was marrying, but someone else (long story...). And I was there, sitting in one of the pews, in a blue dress. Perhaps I should wear blue to the wedding... It's not until October, so I have a while to decide.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Escarole, Sausage, and White Bean Stew (Page 270)

  • Date: Monday, January 1, 2007 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+
I made this stew on Monday because I wanted to make something I could freeze and eat throughout the week. It was pretty good. For a quick stew it had a lot of flavor. The beans, escarole, and sausage went very well together, both texturally and in terms of taste. Between the salt in the parmesan, the chicken broth, and the sausage, the stew came out a a little too salty. It was still very tasty though. Accompanied by some bread it made a very hearty meal.

Mike brought Issy (the cat) over to be cat-sit, so now she and I are bonding and watching 24 together. She can't seem to decide if she wants to hang out with me and be petted, explore the apartment, or hide under the bed. She's very cute though, so I don't mind if she's fickle! She does seem a little jealous of my laptop.

It's strange to me how I don't feel lonely when I am alone in my own apartment, but being alone in someone else's apartment often makes me lonely. Why is that? Maybe it's that I always have a lot of things to do in my own apartment, so it never occurs to me to feel lonely. Or maybe the feeling of being at home negates any lonely feelings. I don't know. It's lonely here at Matt's place tonight though. I do have Issy to keep me company, which is nice.

Speaking of, I think she wants some attention...

Irish Brown Soda Bread (Page 602)

  • Date: Monday, January 1, 2007 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-
This recipe was on the list of recipes I made with the random number generator. I figured baking bread was a nice way to welcome the new year, so I made it on Monday. This bread was quite good. It had a lovely nutty, buttery taste, and was dense and moist. The combination of white and wheat flour with the wheat germ and oats gave it a great taste. It made a perfect accompaniment to stew. I baked it for the shortest amount of time in the range given and the bottom still burned a little, so I would recommend watching it carefully. This would be an easy bread to make even for people who don't do a lot of baking. Soda breads are especially quick and easy because they don't require time to rise, or much kneading.

Mike, Tim, Vero, Ronen, and Marco came over last night and we made a big dinner. Here's a picture that pretty much sums up the evening: Mike in a birthday princess hat, with a hunk of cheese. It was suggested that from this point forward Mike should be referred to
on the blog as The Boy Who Cried Cock. It's a long story.

A note: The Boy Who Cried Cock has started blogging again after a very lengthy hiatus. For those who are interested: http://mikeahill.blogspot.com/

Mike and Tim are leaving town tomorrow, so I am going to watch their cat Issy while they are away. Jessie is allergic to cats (in addition to not liking them at all), thus the cat can't stay at my place. So, the cat and I are going to stay in Matt's apartment, which is empty right now. Fortunately Matt lives only 2 blocks from my place so it's easy to go back and forth. Mike has warned me that the cat likes to be fed extremely early in the morning, and is very persistent about waking someone up to feed her. This could be interesting...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dried Cherry and Raisin Rice Pudding (Page 827)

  • Date: Tuesday, December 26, 2006 -- 6:30pm
  • 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 last Tuesday because my dad really loves rice pudding. It occurred to me later that it wasn't really the best choice since rice pudding and risotto in the same meal is pretty ridiculous, but I didn't think of that until after I made the rice pudding of course! My apologies that there is no picture. I actually took several, but in an impressive display of my skills utilizing technology, I accidentally deleted all of them off my digital camera before uploading them to my computer. Anyway, this rice pudding was ok. My parents both loved it, but my brother and I agreed that the cardamom flavor was unpleasantly overwhelming. Also, the addition of the dried fruit was odd. If the fruit had been cooked in the pudding a bit, allowing it to soften and the flavors to meld, it could have been good. But as it was, with the dried fruit just stirred in at the end, I thought the fruit detracted from the dish. The texture of the pudding was excellent though, and it was very easy to make. Overall it was a satisfying dessert, but if I made it again I would use half the cardamom, or maybe none at all!

Ok, time for a few New Year's resolutions:

  • Do a pull-up. Note: I am still trying and failing to do this, but I am making progress! I have other fitness goals too, but this is the main one.
  • Clean my apartment more often. Spending a week and half living with my mother for the holidays made me feel horribly messy. I am going to try harder in the new year.
  • Finish typing my dissertation. By the middle of March. Oy.
  • Answer my phone when people call me. I always say this, but I'm just not a phone person. I will try harder though.
  • Be less mathematically shy.
  • Make good decisions.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Complete another 325 recipes from The Book.
I think that's enough! On that note, I should get back to working on my thesis, so as to have some chance of accomplishing goal number 3!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Oven-Braised Beef with Tomato Sauce and Garlic (Page 421)

  • 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 braised beef to make for dinner last Tuesday because I was sick from my medication increase so I figured as long as I was stuck at home all day I might as well make something that has to cook for a really long time. It was pretty good. The beef came out very nicely cooked -- wonderfully tender and falling apart as braised meat should be. The sauce wasn't terribly exciting though, which wasn't surprising since the only ingredients were tomato and garlic. It wasn't bad, but it just tasted like tomatoes. One curious thing: the recipe suggested that you could just lift the beef out of the braising liquid, slice it, and pour the liquid over. In reality though there was so much fat floating on top of the braising liquid that it really had to be defatted. That should have been indicated in the recipe.

Happy New Year! I had a really fun day yesterday, which was a nice way to end 2006. Paul was in town for the weekend to spend New Year's with some friends, so we met up for brunch yesterday at the East Coast Grill. It was delicious but we ate way too much! Then we headed out to Walden pond and went for a nice walk around the lake. I hadn't been there in years and years. It was really nice out there and the weather was beautiful. Here's a picture of Paul on our walk.

Mike and Tim were having a party last night at Tim's place in the North End, so I started my evening there. While there I ate the first hamburger that I have had in the last 14 years. Crazy huh? It was good. I phased out of my vegetarianism more than 5 years ago now, but for some reason, I hadn't had a hamburger yet! Then I went to a party at Alex's, where his friend John used a chef's knife to pop off the champagne cork at midnight. It was pretty cool -- it made a surprisingly clean cut through the glass. I have heard of this being done with a sword, but it wasn't clear to me that it was going to work so well with a chef's knife. It put a little gash in the knife, but I think it was worth it for the drama!

Happy New Year!!!