Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf (Page 448)

  • Saturday, May 19, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I love meat loaf, and I had been eager to try this recipe, so I made it for dinner a couple weekends ago. This is a bit cliche, but I'll say it anyway: this wasn't as good as my mother's. It wasn't bad (you know me -- I like pretty much anything with ground beef!), but it wasn't one of the best meat loaves I have had. It didn't have a lot of flavor, and it was a bit tough. Also, the ketchup topping wasn't terribly exciting. My mom's ketchup-based topper has other tasty ingredients (however I am not sure what they are...) that make it extra delicious. This meat loaf did however get better with age. The next day it had more flavor to it, and was altogether more enjoyable. In summary, if you are looking to make meat loaf, you are better off asking my mom if you can have her recipe than making this one.

I am trying to cut back on candy. I'm not trying to lose weight or anything like that, but yesterday I ate more candy than I would like to admit, and I realized that maybe it would be good for my health to cut back a bit. So, I am eating only 4 little pieces of candy a day. I'm not so good with restricted eating. I usually eat whatever I want, whenever I want it. Aside from the candy, I crave mainly healthy things, and I have never had a problem with my weight, so it works for me. I have only been on three diets in my life, all of them motivated by the idea that I should eat healthier. In summary:

The Six Dessert Diet. Age 11. One of my friends told me that I ate too many sweet things. Perhaps she was right, because her comment motivated me to go on a very strict diet where I restricted myself to having only 6 desserts per day. It was extremely hard. I distinctly remember trying to convince myself that a fruit roll-up is not a dessert.

The Melanie Diet. Age 13. My friend Melanie was bored, and decided that my then pre-pubescent, stick-figure self needed to be put on a diet for her own entertainment. She made me eat banana chips and whole wheat pretzels pretty much exclusively. I hated those banana chips, so in the end she ate them all and I lived off the pretzels until I couldn't bear the thought of eating another one.

The Banana Diet. Age 20. I decided that I ate too much crap, so every time I started eating anything, I had to first eat a banana. I ended up eating a lot of bananas. It took at least two years after my diet ended to want to even get near a banana again.

In summary, my efforts towards restricting what I eat have never been completely logical, or successful. We will see how this less-candy venture goes!

Cauliflower Puree (Page 531)

  • Date: Saturday, May 19, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-


I made meat loaf for dinner a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to have mashed potatoes with it. Unfortunately, I have already made the mashed potato recipes in The Book, so I decided to try some mashed cauliflower instead. I do love cauliflower, but pureed cauliflower just doesn't seem like a good idea, does it? Well, it wasn't. The recipe claimed you could either mash or puree it, so originally I had planned to mash (which sounds slightly better, no?). But as you can imagine, cauliflower doesn't really mash into something you want to eat. So I pureed part of it and stirred it together with the mashed stuff to give the whole thing a reasonable texture. It tasted ok (if you like cauliflower, which I do), but it just seemed completely nonsensical to be eating cauliflower all mushed up. Assuming you can chew, I can see no advantage to this preparation. One of the nice things about cauliflower is that it has some integrity to it, which in this dish was completely lost. Cauliflower also doesn't absorb liquid nicely like potatoes do, so the dish ended up having a pool of liquidy stuff at the bottom, which was very unappetizing. I would recommend steering clear of this recipe...

The blog doesn't reflect it yet, because I am desperately back-logged, but I have now completely more than one-third of the recipes in The Book!!! I am very, very excited! I am a little behind schedule though. It took me slightly less than a year and half to do a third of the recipes, and I was hoping to finish the whole project in four years. So, I will have to pick up the pace a bit!

There are a couple sections that are more than half completed: Fruit Desserts and Cakes. Bringing up the rear are Hors D'Oevres and First Courses, and Fish and Shellfish. The most consecutive recipes I have completed is 11. A few of my short term goals:
  1. Finish off the remaining 14 recipes in the Fruit Desserts sections so I will have one completed section.
  2. Cook as many dishes as possible from the Fish and Shellfish section before I move inland.
  3. Starting on the first page of The Book, cook the first recipe I haven't made yet. (So far I have made the first 5 recipes. Up next: Seeded Crisps).
  4. Get all the sections above 25% completed.
For all the statistics you could ever want, click on Alex's Project Index on the right, and scroll down to the bottom of the page!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fried Eggs Over Warm Lentil Salad (Page 638)

  • Date: Saturday, May 19, 2007 -- 11am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A


Matt and I are trying to make some progress on the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book, so I picked this one for brunch a couple weekends ago. It was wonderful. Everything about this recipe was just right. The lentil salad was delicious -- very hearty, and very flavorful. The vegetables cooked in bacon fat, along with the red wine vinegar, gave the salad a nice depth of flavor that is sometimes lacking in lentil salad. It was a wonderful complement to the fried eggs. I was skeptical about the raw spinach with a bunch of cooked ingredients, but even that worked perfectly. The bacon bits, both in the lentil salad and sprinkled on top, provided delicious bursts of flavor. This meal was simple to prepare, wonderfully delicious, and aesthetically pleasing. I definitely recommend it!

Mike is in town for the summer and it is just like the good old days: hanging out, pretending to work, eating at Anna's Taqueria for lunch and at Christina's Ice Cream for dinner.... err, I mean, after dinner. If only Vigleik were here too, the department would feel complete once again!

I like this time of year a lot. Everything feels more leisurely than usual. People are relaxed, walking around outside, mowing their lawns. Over the long weekend I did a lot of relaxing myself. I cooked with friends at Alex's house on Sunday night, and then with different friends at my house on Monday night. Both meals were a lot of fun. Other than that I did the usual stuff: the shelter, the gym, Target... Today I tried to sort out the details of my move to Indiana. I wasn't completely successful in figuring everything out, but I made progress!

Now it is time to get some rest...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Red Lentil and Tofu Dal (Page 278)

  • Date: Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C

I picked this recipe for dinner a couple weekends ago because it sounded like the sort of thing that Matt really likes. It was not good though. My main complaint (and it's a serious one) was the amount of water. This recipe called for 1/2 cup of red lentils to be cooked in 3 and 1/2 cups of water, and then NOT DRAINED. There is no way that such a small quantity of lentils can absorb that much water. There was tons of excess water. So as not to completely ruin the meal, I did then drain a bunch of water from the lentils, but they were still terribly watery. The flavor of the dish was ok, but it was a bit bland. Matt wasn't totally sold on the combination of lentils and tofu. That was actually the one thing that didn't bother me about the dish. Overall this one was not a winner. It didn't taste bad, but as written the recipe creates a soupy, watery mess, and even after draining it is a bit flavorless.

When I moved to Boston, I brought a lot of my notes, problem sets, and exams from college. I remember thinking at the time that perhaps I would want to look at them during my graduate studies. Today I was sorting through the boxes that they are in, trying to decide what to take with me to Bloomington and what to throw away. Instead of thinking, "Well I may want to reference this material some day, so I should keep these notes" as I went through the various class notes I was thinking, "Well, I may be teaching this class some day, so I should keep these notes."

Despite having worked for many years towards this goal, it is difficult for me to believe that I am going to be a math professor. Ok, well really I am going to be a post-doc for the next three years, but I am going to be teaching my own classes, which feels very official to me! I got my teaching assignment for the fall. I am teaching two separate sections of the same calculus class. I know that a lot of mathematicians don't like teaching calculus, but I actually like that kind of teaching a lot. I am very much looking forward to it!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Indian Baked Rice (Page 258)

  • Date: Sunday, May 13, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made some dal a few weeks ago, so I made this Indian rice to go with it. This recipe wasn't bad. Cooking the rice in chicken stock and then adding the Garam Masala, ginger, jalapeno, etc... gave it a nice flavor. The toasted almonds complemented the flavor and texture of the rice well. My only complaint is that it was really dry. I was skeptical about cooking 3 cups of rice in only 4 cups of liquid, and indeed it came out dryer than I would have hoped. The rice was still tender though, and I enjoyed eating it.

I am starting to get excited about graduation! Truth be told, I am skipping the big graduation ceremony. It's really long (they call every name!) and it's outside, so usually it is hot and uncomfortable! They have a special hooding ceremony though for the people receiving PhDs, and that I am excited to go to. Plus, I am going to have a graduation party!

Mainly, though, I am excited because so many of my family and friends are coming! My brother Spencer is coming a week from tomorrow for the whole week. Then my parents fly in that Wednesday, and Emilee flies in on Friday! Plus, Matt, Chris, and Mike will all be here too! It is going to be so wonderful to have so many people that I care about all together in the same place!

Off to the shelter now...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Passion Fruit Fool (Page 804)

  • Date: Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Ana, Ricky, Vero, Philippe, Mike, and Tim
  • Recipe Rating: C-


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. Passion fruit puree was nowhere to be found, so I made one of the listed variants: mango fool. It was bad. Except for Ana, no one managed to finish their portion. I still can't figure out if there was a typo in the recipe. A fool is a dessert where you take pureed fruit and fold it into whipped cream and then chill. The passion fruit recipe had a reasonable ratio of cream to fruit, but for some reason the ratio given was extremely different in the mango variant. The fruit to cream ratio was way higher than one would expect for a fool. And it came out disgusting. It was too sweet, and too heavy, and too mango-y. Instead of being the light, fluffy dessert that it should have been, it was heavy and cloying. Aside from the sweetness, I thought the flavor itself was ok (but much too strong). A couple people thought that it actually tasted quite bad though, and Vero had a theory involving the fact that I used bottled lime juice. In my opinion, the lime juice is not to blame here, but rather the lack of sufficient whipped cream. In any event, it was bad, so don't make it!

Well the pull-up mission continues. With 14 days to go, I am inching closer to my goal, but still not quite there yet. I have been working out every day -- which has resulted in me being constantly hungry, and constantly tired. I can't remember the last time I slept so much! Aside from the fatigue, it feels good to be back in shape. I have been running a lot, in addition to lifting, which always makes me feel good.

With only two weeks to go though, I am worried that it's not possible. I would be tempted to just extend my personal deadline a bit, except that I am going to Virginia for two weeks right after graduation, and I don't think I will have anywhere to lift there. If I take two weeks completely off I am guaranteed to get less strong. So I want to do it before I leave! Wish me luck...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Blue Cheese Hamburgers with Caramelized Onions (Page 447)

  • Date: Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- 9m
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty, Matt, Ricky, and Tim
  • Dining Companions: Vero, Philippe, Mike, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I picked this recipe for dinner a couple weeks ago because I was in the mood for a burger. These burgers were ok, but I wasn't too impressed. Several people complained about the blue cheese (e.g. Mike: "Without the kitty litter taste from the blue cheese, the burgers would have been fine"). I like blue cheese but I didn't think blue cheese was necessarily a good choice for this preparation. The burgers were stuffed with the cheese, and since blue cheese is soft, it melted throughout the whole burger. Thus the blue cheese flavor permeated the entire patty. Now, I love blue cheese, but the whole point is that it tastes a bit moldy. So when it permeates throughout a hamburger, it gives the whole burger a moldy taste. Moldy meat: not so delicious. If the cheese had been sitting on top (as it usually is with a hamburger) it would have been less unsettling. You could look at it and think "Oh, there is moldy blue cheese on my hamburger that is giving that moldy flavor." But when the cheese is melted in the meat and you can't see it, it's hard to feel too good about the moldy taste. Also, who cooks burgers on the stove? Hamburgers should be grilled. In summary, these burgers were ok, but if you make them, change the cheese and grill them.

I have begun getting rid of the possessions that I don't want to move with me to Bloomington. It's a fun game: trashing things or giving them away. It's very therapeutic.

I used to be much more sentimental than I am now. In high school and college I kept everything. Receipts from meals I had with people I cared about, or ticket stubs from movies I saw with boys I had crushes on. By the time I got to grad school, much of that sort of sentimentality had been lost. But, I discovered as I was cleaning a couple days ago, not all of it. I had on my dresser a few glasses that were filled with dried roses. I have moved those glasses with me throughout my last couple moves without even thinking about it. The roses are pretty and I remembered that they had some sentimental value, although I couldn't recall exactly what. A few days ago I decided I didn't really want them any more. When I started dumping the roses into the trash I realized that I had labeled the bottoms of the glasses with the occasion on which I was given the flowers. Now that's not only sentimental, but also a tad obsessive! It really made me laugh though. For instance, one set of roses was from an apology after my then-boyfriend introduced me to a friend of his, but called me by the wrong name. And it wasn't just any name that he called me, but the name of a girl he had been interested in before he started dating me. Ah, good times.

Anyway, the roses are in the trash now, along with many other things that I have decided to finally part with. And the sorting/trashing/cleaning continues...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Spicy French Fries (Page 570)

  • Date: Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ana
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Mike, Tim, Vero, Philippe, and Ricky
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I was feeling like having a burgers and fries kind of meal for my post-thesis celebration, so I figured some homemade french fries were in order. Everyone made the same comment about these fries: they were delicious before they were seasoned, but the seasoning was just too overpowering. I like spicy fries, but these were indeed too spicy. I still ate them and enjoyed them, but the spiciness was overpowering. With half the amount of seasoning they could have been delicious. They were deep-fried twice, which initially seemed odd to me, but it did give them a nice golden-brown exterior and crispy texture. Overall not a bad recipe, but it had the potential to be much better.

Stories From The Past (1.1):

My freshman year at Stanford I took a course in partial differential equations. On the first day I walked in wearing a black t-shirt, a knee-length white skirt, and black strappy heels. I had my hair bobbed in a high ponytail with my sunglasses on top of my head holding back my straggly bangs. I sat down in an empty desk and pulled out a notebook and pencil. The guy in the seat next to me, a graduate student in statistics I would later find out, gave me a once over and then said gently, “Excuse me, but I think you must be in the wrong classroom.”

I smiled, opened my backpack again and pulled out a red textbook with the words Partial Differential Equations written clearly across the front. I said nothing.

“Oh,” he said, embarrassed, and turned away.

I am not offended by these exchanges. I have been mistaken for an administrative assistant in the math department, a wife, sister, or roommate of a mathematician, or just someone clearly lost and in the wrong place. Facing an unknown situation a mathematician will always choose the most likely explanation. As it turns out, they never assume that a female in a skirt and cute shoes is likely to be a mathematician.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tomato Ketchup (Page 892)

  • Date: Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ana
  • Dining Companions: Mike, Tim, Vero, Philippe, Ricky, Matt, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


We had a little celebratory dinner last weekend after I turned in my thesis, and we were making hamburgers and french fries, so I figured we might as well make ketchup. This one was hard to grade. On the one hand, it tasted ok, but on the other hand, it didn't taste like ketchup. My biggest complaint about it was actually textural. After many many minutes in the blender, it just never achieved that smooth ketchup texture. As you can see in the picture, it is very slightly chunky in a way that just wouldn't smooth out in the blender. The flavor was also a bit odd -- very fruity. We did an extensive analysis of the ingredients (and compared them to those on a bottle of Heinz ketchup) and ultimately decided that the fact that this recipe called for cider vinegar rather than white vinegar accounted for some of the mysterious fruitiness. All in all, this sauce was fine, but ketchup is definitely a misnomer, and anyone hoping for ketchup will be disappointed to put this on their burger and fries.

Ok, now that I have my thesis out of the way, I have a single goal left to achieve between now and graduation (June 8th -- a mere 18 days away): my pull-up! Now, the truth is that the pull-up prospects aren't looking so good, but I am not giving up yet. I have started a strict regimen of working out every day, including upper-body weight lifting for at least an hour every other day. Plus, every day I am doing some work on the pull-up bar. I have also taken up eating cottage cheese, my favorite super high protein snack, every day.

Can I do it in time? I have no idea. I am definitely getting stronger (the numbers don't lie!), but it's hard for me to gauge how far I have left to go before I will be able to do my pull-up. Plus, Matt, who acts as my personal pull-up trainer, is going to be out of town for the last 13 days of this effort, which won't help matters.

Well, I am off now for my daily trip to the gym!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sour Cream-Bran Muffins (Page 642)

  • Saturday, May 12, 2007 -- 10am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I bought the ingredients for these muffins a while back, so I figured it was about time to make them. They were tasty. They had a good nutty bran flavor and the right concentration of raisins. Unlike many bran muffins, they weren't too dense. The sour cream provided a richness and tang that went well with the bran. My only complaint is that they were a little too chewy for my taste. I would have preferred a slightly tenderer muffin. They were very good though, and I would certainly make them again.

Another relaxing post-thesis weekend! Today Matt attempted to teach me to drive stick shift. It went about as well as one could have hoped. I learned how to get the car into first gear, and from first into second. I'm pretty good in the empty parking lot, but as soon as there are other vehicles around I get a little too nervous to drive smoothly. It was my first lesson though. I think with more practice it will come together.

Tonight I went bowling with Ricky, Matt, and Matt. One of the Matts and I had a small wager on each of the two games and I lost both of them! Very disappointing. The first game I lost by a fairly narrow margin, but the second game I got creamed. I bowled badly that game and Matt bowled extremely well... what can you do?!? I do love bowling though! One of my goals for the summer is to bowl more. I haven't beaten Matt yet. We tied once, but I want to pull out a win!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Key Lime Cheesecake with Mango Ribbons (Page 752)

  • Date: Monday, April 30, 2007 -- 6pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Matt, Ricky, Haynes, William, Jacob, Peter, Big Mike, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A-


Matty picked out this recipe for his birthday cake. It was an excellent choice! The key lime flavor was tart and delicious, and it wasn't drowned out by too much sugar, as key lime recipes often are. The texture of this cheesecake was also lovely -- it was much lighter and fluffier than your average cheesecake. The less dense texture worked well with the citrus twist to this recipe. The mango ribbons were quite beautiful I thought. The mangoes I used could have been riper -- I would recommend using the ripest ones you can find. I initially used my mandoline to make the ribbons, but my mandoline is a rather cheap, low-quality one, so it couldn't make them thin enough to be able to curl them as much as I wanted. I found that a vegetable peeler worked wonderfully though. So if you don't have a mandoline, or you don't feel like dealing with it, a vegetable peeler is an excellent replacement in this recipe. As it was, some of the mango slices were a little too crunchy. This was probably the combined effect of the mandoline not slicing them thin enough, and the mango not being ripe enough. Haynes suggested that perhaps blanching them would have softened them up a bit. That would have worked I'm sure, although if I did it again I would just slice them all thinner. That said, this was a delicious, beautiful cheesecake that most people liked quite a bit.

Last night Chris and I went to see the Cowboy Junkies in concert. Well, that was the plan anyway. As it turned out I went to the concert alone and Chris showed up a couple hours later. It wasn't his fault. Any master plan hinging on an airplane being on time is doomed to fail. Chris' flight got in two hours after it was supposed to, and hence he was late. It was still fun though. I don't think I had ever been to a concert alone before and I rather enjoyed it. Plus, I adore the Cowboy Junkies. This is the third (or fourth?) time I have seen them in concert, and they are always wonderful. They were playing at the Somerville theater, which isn't too terribly large, and our seats were amazing. I had a great time.

We then came out to Southborough last night to feed Richard and Anita's cat and stay here for the night. Now I am looking out into the forest in the backyard, and having a very peaceful morning. Somehow when I packed to come out here for the night I remembered to bring the three loads of laundry I wanted to wash, but forgot all my toiletries. I was lamenting this when I got in to the shower last night, but then I discovered that my razor, facewash, shampoo, and conditioner were already in the shower waiting for me! That's one of the many things I love about coming out here -- it feels like home!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Berries with Orange and Sour Cream Shortcake (Page 814)

  • Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B


I picked this dessert to go with dinner a few weeks back because I figured it had to be amazing. Really, how can you go wrong with biscuits, whipped cream, raspberries, blueberries, AND blackberries? Sadly though, it wasn't as delicious as I had imagined it would be. The biscuits were more chewy and less flaky than they could have been. And while I am usually a fan of orange zest, I didn't think it contributed positively to the biscuits. The berries were delicious (obviously!), but having three types seemed like a bit of overkill. I would have preferred just the raspberries alone. As it was the berries were pretty overwhelming. This dessert was certainly tasty, but it didn't hold a candle to the recipe in The Book for strawberry shortcake, which is awesome! So if you are craving some berry shortcake (as I pretty much always am) I would recommend that recipe over this one.

Yesterday in Babytop (the graduate student topology seminar) we played Jeopardy! I organized the game and wrote the questions with the help of Andre, Vigleik, Mike Hill, and Chris. Some of the questions were math questions, some were more gossip about mathematicians. We divided everyone in to two teams. I was Alex Trebek. Haynes kept score. In the end, the score was something like 15,000 to 0. Although the score doesn't reflect it, the game was pretty evenly matched throughout. One the teams bet all their points at the end though, to try to catch the other team. And as you can see, they didn't quite do it! The funnest part was seeing people try to decipher the names of the categories to figure out what the questions in them would be about. Peter helped me name all the categories, and his ideas were great. Here's a list of the names of the categories, with explanations...

STANDS FOR -- given the following topology acronyms, identify what they stand for
TOPOLOGY FOR BEAVERS -- questions in this category are about the MIT topology group
STARTS WITH "TOP" -- the responses in this category start with "top"
ENDS WITH "OLOGY" -- identify words ending with "ology" from their dictionary.com definitions
ALEJANDRO'S FAMILY -- questions in this category are about cohomology operations
SIGNIFICANTS -- identify these topologists given the names of their significant others
YOUR SERVE -- questions in this category are about point-set topology
HE HATH HER CHART -- questions in this category are about things in Hatcher
IT'S ALL THE SAME IN THE END -- questions in this category are about stable homotopy theory
"TOPOLOGY" -- questions in this category are about topography
R IS FOR ROBERT -- questions in this category are about Haynes Miller
MELISSA JOAN HART -- question in this category are about Mike Hopkins
BUZZ LIGHTYEAR -- questions in this category are about E-infinity ring spectra
SKI VACATION -- questions in this category are about the Talbot conference
THE GIANT SQUID -- questions in this category are about tmf
MASS-MARKETED -- questions in this category are about things in Massey

Hopefully Jeopardy will become a Babytop tradition, because everyone seemed to have a good time. Thanks to all the Babytop alums who helped out with question-writing!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rib-Eye Steak with Wild Mushrooms (Page 425)

  • Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I chose this recipe for dinner a few weeks back because it sounded like something everyone would like. It was indeed very tasty. The steak was cooked beautifully, but it was really the mushroom sauce that made the dish. It was a beautifully rich sauce with mushrooms, bacon, and onions. Two other ingredients lifted it out of the ordinary and in to deliciously unusual though: maple syrup and lime juice. The sweet, rich maple syrup gave the sauce a wonderful uniqueness and depth. The lime juice provided a nice acidic kick. The mushrooms were tasty on their own in addition to making a great topping for the steak, and the sauce was the perfect thing to sop up with some bread. This was a very good dish.

Nothing makes me feel like an adult quite like car trouble does. This one was a first for me: I got a flat tire. It remains a mystery how this happened, but just as I was about to pull out of my parking space after seminar last night, some undergrad came running up to my car and started banging on my window. I thought he was crazy. Actually he was just trying to warn me that I had a flat. So I called AAA. (Yes, I am that girl who doesn't know how to put on the spare herself). The guy who came was grumpy but efficient. This morning I got up bright and early and (very slowly) drove my car with 3 real tires and 1 little tire in to be fixed. It's all better now.

It made me laugh though that the flat tire made me feel more like an adult than finishing my thesis did. I guess I associate adulthood with having to deal with the responsibilities in life that no one wants, e.g. car repair.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Roasted Butternut Squash and Spinach with Toasted Almond Dressing (Page 579)

  • Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Dave and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: C


I picked this one for dinner a few weeks back because it sounded really good. It was, however, not good at all. The main complaint was that the combination of the baked squash and the uncooked spinach was not delicious. It just didn't make sense -- not flavor-wise, not texturally. Plus, there was way too much spinach for the amount of squash. The squash was beautiful and delicious after it was roasted, but combining it with so much raw spinach made it quite unappealing. After tasting it, I separated out all the spinach from my serving and ate the squash alone, which was a huge improvement! In addition to just being an odd thing to add to squash, the spinach became slimy from being in contact with the baked squash, which was extra-gross. The lukewarm temperature at which this dish was supposed to be served was strange. The squash was much better when it was hot out of the oven. It's hard to make butternut squash bad, but this recipe came close...

I had the most beautifully relaxing weekend! On Friday night I visited Michael in Framingham. On Saturday I went out to Walden Pond with a friend, and took a nice leisurely walk around the pond. The weather was perfect, and Walden Pond is always gorgeous! Then I made dinner for some friends at Matt's place. Mike was in town, and it was great (as always!) to see him and Tim. Dinner was not-so-delicious (food from The Book can be unpredictable!), and I took a lot of shit for that. It was still fun though.

Yesterday I went to the shelter. It was a fun shift. My favorite moment: standing over a HUGE soup pot, squeezing the insides of some leftover chicken burritos in to the soup for yesterday night. It turns out that chicken burritos fight back a bit when you try to squeeze out their innards. I ended up with more than a little bit of burrito on my person. After my shift ended (and after cleaning the burrito guts out of my hair) I did some shopping, made dinner, and went to the gym. All in all, it was a very nice, very relaxing, very low-key weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mache with Raw Asparagus, Pistachios, and Parmigiano-Reggiano (Page 135)

  • Date: Sunday, April 29, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Karen H and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this salad for dinner a couple weeks back because it was one of the few simple green salads I hadn't made yet. It was pretty good. Mache is a nice green -- flavorful without being bitter. I haven't made too many dishes with raw asparagus in them, but it was nice. It provided a bit of crunchiness and bite, while contributing that excellent asparagus flavor. The pistachios were lovely, but there should have been more of them. They were entirely too easy to miss. The vinaigrette was simple, clean, and tasty. And the shaved Parmigiano on top was perfect. Overall it was a nice salad. There was nothing terribly exciting about it, but it every ingredient worked well, and they went well together.

I TURNED IN MY THESIS!!! As of 2pm this afternoon, I am a free woman! Whoohoo!!!

Wow, honestly I thought this day would never come. But I did it. I handed in 3 copies, on acid-free archival paper, with the correct covers, and clips, and signatures. And now it's done! It hasn't quite sunk in yet. All afternoon and evening I have still had that little "you should be working on your thesis" voice in my head. Hopefully that will quiet itself soon!

Tonight I am not celebrating exactly, but I am having a quiet evening out in Framingham, staying with Michael while her husband is away for the evening. We worked on perfecting her organizational system for her medications, and we curled up under blankets on the sofa and watched a movie. (Well, ok, truth be told Michael watched the movie and I almost instantly fell asleep. I woke up just for the ending, to see a bunch of people fleeing a mental hospital via helicopter...)

This weekend I am just going to relax, enjoy the weather, and do some cooking! Doesn't that sound perfect?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tarte Tatin (Page 774)

  • Date: Sunday, April 22, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Framingham, MA
  • Kitchen: Michael and Ephriam's House
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Michael, Richard H, Renato, Jack, Richard, and Anita
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I picked this one to make for dessert a couple weeks ago because it is a simple dessert that I had not made yet. It was pretty good. Everyone else around the table was much more excited about it than I was. I enjoyed eating it -- I mean, tarte tatin is never going to be bad. But I didn't think it was awe-inspiring. For one thing, it wasn't as attractive as it might have been. The apples around the edge stuck to the pan when I inverted it. The puff pastry crust puffed up, as it was supposed to, but it shrunk in diameter, and hence didn't cover the bottom of the tart. Chris declared the taste "simple and delicious." It was definitely simple, but I was leaning a bit more towards "simple and boring." The caramel flavor wasn't as strong and rich as I had expected and hoped for. I'm not really complaining -- it was definitely good. But I probably wouldn't select this recipe to make tarte tatin again.

I am turning in my thesis on Friday and it is almost done! Yay! It's amazing how long editing takes, but the end is in sight. I have a complete draft. I am headed back to the office in a minute to finish putting it in official MIT thesis format (yes, I am headed in to the office at 10pm!). Tomorrow I am going to read for typos, etc... and then on Friday I will print it on the fancy acid-free thesis paper, and be done with it! I have been looking forward to that day for quite a while now!

Well, I should head in the office now. Formatting awaits!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Moroccan-Style Roast Cornish Hens with Vegetables (Page 392)

  • Date: Sunday, April 22, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Framingham, MA
  • Kitchen: Michael and Ephriam's House
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Michael, Richard, Anita, Renato, Richard H, Jack, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I chose this recipe to make for dinner a couple weeks ago because I needed to make something gluten-free and dairy-free, and this one fit the bill. I thought these Cornish game hens were pretty good. The vegetables and sauce has a lovely flavor. The birds came out very nicely cooked. They were moist and flavorful. The skin was crispy and delicious over most of the bird, although the parts near the vegetables got more boiled than roasted, and boiled skin is never my favorite. Most people liked this dish pretty well but everyone had different complaints. For instance: the vegetables were too inconsistent in their doneness (Chris), the game hens looked too much like baby birds which made them hard to eat (Anita), the birds were too spicy (Renato), etc... I understood the basis for most of the complaints, but this dish won me over with its delicious flavor. The combination of spices that made up the base for the sauce really created a vibrant and tasty dish.

It is always a dangerous thing to go to the grocery store hungry. Especially for me. I love the grocery store. I walk in there and am immediately overwhelmed by the limitless possibilities... When I am well-fed, I usually manage to control pretty well my impulse to buy everything. But today, I went to the grocery store hungry. Not only was I hungry, but I went to the store as a break after many hours of work. So I was hungry, and mentally exhausted. I won't tell you how much I spent there (it's a little embarrassing) but I will tell you this: I only stopped shopping because my cart got too heavy to push! When I was standing in line, some old woman came up to me, called me "deary," and gave me a coupon that she couldn't use because you had to spend at least $50. She looked at my cart and said, "It looks like you'll be able to use it."

Well, at least I won't go hungry...

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Celery Root Bisque (Page 102)

  • Date: Sunday, April 22, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Framingham, MA
  • Kitchen: Michael and Ephriam's House
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Richard, Anita, Michael, Renato, Richard H, Jack, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


When Chris and I lived together we went through a long (and delicious!) pureed soups phase, so whenever I cook with him I feel compelled to make soup. I don't have so many pureed vegetable soups left to make from The Book, so this one was chosen mainly by process of elimination. This soup was ok. We omitted the optional duck confit and whipped cream (the confit because it was hard to find and the whipped cream because we didn't feel like locating a mixer in an unfamiliar kitchen). In retrospect, it may have been worth it to put in the effort to find the optional confit. For one, duck confit is delicious. Plus, my main complaint about the soup was that it was too overwhelmingly celery flavored -- I think the confit would have done wonders to balance it. As it was, this soup was delicious for the first few bites, and then (in my opinion) quite hard to eat. Celery is a very strong flavor, and even the milder celery root has an unmistakable celery kick to it. The soup was flavorful, but it wasn't a flavor that I wanted to eat a whole bowl of. Chris and I agreed that it would have benefited from some milder flavors to add depth and mellowness. Some potatoes and leeks, for instance, would have helped this soup a lot. The texture was lovely though. This recipe would make an excellent amuse bouche, but I wouldn't recommend it for a soup course.

I am officially in hiding. My thesis is due in the very near future, and on the general principle that these things take as long as you let them, I am still not ready to turn it in. So I am hiding. You might think that the office would be the right place to go if you want to get a lot of work done, but sometimes there are just too many distractions. The problem with really enjoying the company of the people you work with is that it can be hard to focus on your work when you could be eating cookies and doing the crossword with them instead.

So I stayed home today. Added bonus of working from home: I am still in my pajamas! I bought this really comfy pair of bright red Indiana University sweatpants when I was in Bloomington, and now I feel like wearing them pretty much all the time. If I work from home, I can!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Salade Verte (Page 130)

  • Date: Sunday, April 22, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Framingham, MA
  • Kitchen: Michael and Ephriam's House
  • Dining Companions: Chris, Michael, Renato, Jack, Richard, Anita, and Richard H
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I have been putting off making this salad because the recipe is incredibly fussy, but I am running out of green salads in The Book, so I figured it was time to make this one. I went in to it a bit biased against this salad. The recipe calls for five different types of salad greens, most of them in ridiculously small quantities (e.g. 1/4 of a head of iceberg lettuce). So although the salad is just greens and dressing, it requires a lot of groceries. The other very fussy aspect is that you are instructed to rub some cut garlic on some stale bread, toss the salad with the stale bread piece, and then remove the bread. This is supposed to give a crucial hint of garlic to the dish, which I couldn't really taste. Despite these complaints though, the salad was good. The five different greens provided a nice balance of bitterness and mellowness. The variety also provided textural interest. The tarragon dressing was mild but tasty. Overall it was a lovely, refined salad, but I'm not completely convinced it was worth the fuss (and the purchasing of 5 kinds of salad greens!).

I was out in Framingham this evening, visiting with Michael. I started crying while making quinoa. Michael was napping, and Chris was checking on her. I was standing alone in the kitchen, stirring my quinoa, and I just became overwhelmed.

It's so good to be there though. Every time I set foot in that house I feel so inspired by the obvious and tremendous love of family and friends there. After Michael woke up, she and I, along with Chris, Renato, and Ephriam, crowded onto the sofa, root beer floats in hand, and watched a seriously questionable TV show. Despite the cancer, and all the sadness, that moment was perfect...