Thursday, June 28, 2007

Profiteroles (Page 792)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B+


It was shockingly hard to find a recipe for dessert in The Book that didn't require an electric mixer, or some type of special pan. Mike (like any person who doesn't do a lot of baking) doesn't have these items. I would like to say that this recipe was one of the few that didn't call for an electric mixer. In truth, it did, but having made pastries with pate a choux dough many times before, I knew that I could beat it with a wooden spoon instead and it would be just as good. So I picked these profiteroles for dessert. Truth be told, I don't particularly like profiteroles. I understand that they are composed entirely of delicious things: cream puff pastry (pate a choux), ice cream, and hot fudge. But still, they aren't my favorite. As I have mentioned many times by now, I just can't stand behind soggy baked goods. I find it impossible to eat profiteroles fast enough that the ice cream doesn't melt a bit and turn the pastry soggy. That said, for profiteroles this recipe was pretty good. The recipe suggested filling the pasty shells with burnt orange ice cream. Not being equipped to make, or able to buy, that particular flavor, I filled some with vanilla and some with dulce de leche ice cream. The size of the profiteroles was nice -- they were nice and small, so even three of them made a somewhat manageable dessert. My only real complaint with the recipe was that the shells weren't cooked in a way that optimized the crispiness of the pastry. Usually pate a choux is started in a hot oven, and then finished in a medium oven, to give the insides time to dry out. Further, you often poke a small hole in the finished pastries and put them back in the oven to further dry. This gives the pastry a lovely crispy shell. These small pastries were simply cooked in a hot oven, and so while they were crispy directly out of the oven, they immediately got a bit soft. Overall though, if you are looking for a profiterole recipe, this one isn't bad.

There is no recipe for this one online.

My bedroom is entirely boxed up, minus my container of Flintstones vitamins and the wireless internet router, which I will kindly leave plugged in for Mike and Jessie. It was like something out a movie earlier today, when just as I was sealing up the last box, I got an email from a complete stranger, needing photos for some article about some (non-math) project I did long ago. Said photos were located somewhere in the pile of boxes. Of course instead of labeling the boxes carefully, I had just labeled them all "Teena Bedroom," so fulfilling this nice woman's request required opening about half of them, rummaging through the contents, and sealing them again. I found the photos though, and the woman who needs them sent me back a cute email, the entire contents of which was the sentence, "You are a gem." That cracked me up, especially coming from a complete stranger. I can only hope that no one else is in desperate need of anything that once lived in my bedroom. It seems sadly inevitable that these boxes will get opened at least one more time. What are the chances that I managed to successfully leave everything I will need in the next month and half out of those boxes? Probably not good!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hot Fudge Sauce (Page 874)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- 8:30pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made profiteroles for dessert one night a couple weeks ago, and this hot fudge sauce was the recommended accompaniment. It was tasty. It had an indulgently rich chocolate flavor without being overly sweet. The texture was also perfect: appropriately thick, but not clumpy. If you are looking to make ice cream shop hot fudge, this is your recipe. It was tasty on the profiteroles, and also just by the spoonful! Tom suggested that it might have been more interesting with some booze added to it, but if you are looking for a basic hot fudge, this is the recipe for you!

Here is the recipe.

The last six weeks have held more major events than most years: handing in my thesis, graduation, Michael's death and funeral...

Lately I have found myself craving a normal day. A day where I work, and eat, and go to the gym. A day that is simple. At long last, today I had that day. I did some work, went to seminar, had a long run, ate macaroni and cheese from a box, etc... It was just a completely normal day, and that felt great! I still don't feel completely like myself -- I suppose that takes time -- but I did feel today like I was reclaiming my life.

Added bonus: I discovered that even after a nearly 4 week hiatus, I can still do a pull-up!

Pasta with Tomato and Basil (Page 206)

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I chose this recipe because it seemed appropriately summery, and met all the requirements for preparation in Mike's kitchen. This dish was simple, and arguably unexciting, but I liked it! My dining companions were, however, less than impressed. It was a simple dish, made with pasta, basil, and garlic. Usually when I make that dish the three aforementioned ingredients aren't cooked. In this case, they are. You can't really go wrong with basil and tomatoes. The sauce tasted good. It seemed like a strange choice to call for egg pasta (why have a rich pasta with such a light sauce?), and if I make it again I will definitely go for a non-egg variety. Ashley pointed out that this dish is just as good (maybe better?) with raw ingredients, and obviously simpler to make, so why would you ever make this one? To a certain extent I agree -- this recipe for instance called for the tomatoes to be peeled, which isn't hard, but is maybe a little overly fussy for such a simple dish. But, I still enjoyed eating this dish, and if I had it in front of me right now I would be excited to eat it again!

There's no recipe for this one online.

Emilee and I watched this terrible TV show on Monday called "Age of Love." It's like The Bachelor, except with the added twist that the guy is 30 years old, and half the women are in their twenties, and the other half are in their forties. Supposedly there are going to be some physical challenges pitting the twenty year-olds against the forty year-olds, but we didn't see that. To even out the playing field they picked the most well-preserved forty-somethings I have ever seen, and some of the most annoying twenty-somethings that you can imagine. The guy, who is apparently some sort of tennis star, stumbles through it, saying over and over again how he has never dated an older woman before. The show claims to be some sort of social experiment testing whether age really matters. Well obviously age matters to some extent. Duh. For instance, Mr. Tennis Star keeps saying how he wants to have kids. That's a relevant consideration when some of the women on the show are 48 years old, etc...

I have never dated anyone more than two years younger than me or seven years older. It's hard for me to imagine wanting to date someone 18 years younger than myself. Of course, at this point that would be both disgusting and completely illegal. Maybe later in life it would seem more reasonable...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Scallions with Lemon Parsley Butter (Page 576)

  • Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B

While cooking at Mike's place, I chose recipes that required limited equipment, and with ingredients that could definitely be found at the one grocery store I could walk to from Mike's apartment. This recipe met these two criteria, so I made it one night when Tom and Ashley came over for dinner. This dish wasn't bad. Full disclosure: I had never eaten, more or less made, a scallion-based dish before. This type of preparation is very common with leeks, but I had never seen it done to green onions. I was a bit skeptical about this dish. Scallions have a very pungent flavor, and I wasn't sure I would enjoy a side dish of them alone. They turned out better than I thought they would though. Blanching the scallions mellowed them out a lot. They still had a distinct flavor, but without being biting, or bitter. The lemon parsley butter complemented the scallions nicely. There was some discussion as to whether the dish had too much butter on it, but I thought it was approximately the right amount. My only complaint was that the dark green ends were very tough and stringy, which made them hard to eat, and much less enjoyable than the white and light green parts. I probably wouldn't make this dish again, but it wasn't bad.

Here is the recipe.

Emilee is in town all week for a conference on geriatrics, and it has been wonderful to have her around. She's busy all day at the conference, so I have been packing and working by day, and hanging out with her at night. Last night we made dinner, drank Corona, watched a terrible TV show and ate ice cream. It was perfect.

Packing is distinctly less fun. Starting Friday I will be staying with a friend for the rest of the summer (still in the area), and Mike will be staying at my place, so I am trying to at least pack up my bedroom before he moves in so he has somewhere to put his stuff. I am more or less done boxing up my bedroom, but I can't even set foot in the kitchen without thinking about how much work that it going to be! I ran out of both tape and boxes a little while ago though, so I decided to quit for the day. I am also rapidly running out of places to put the packed boxes. Why is moving so horrible?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Cantaloupe in Port Jelly (Page 806)

  • Date: Tuesday, June 12, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


Whoops, I accidentally skipped this one in my blogging. I picked this dessert because I am trying to finish up the Fruit Desserts section of The Book. The dish was odd, but not necessarily bad. Port jello was something I had never considered making before, and actually it tasted better than it sounds. The flavor of the ruby port came through clearly, and it had just the right amount of sugar added. I think it would have been better without the cantaloupe chunks though. Cantaloupe is one of my favorite fruits, but serving it floating in jello does not do it justice. Texturally, I think melon in jello is just a bad idea. Surrounded by all that gelatinous substance, the melon itself tasted almost soggy. Overall, it was a refreshing dessert for a warm summer evening, but I'm not sure that I would feel compelled to make it again.

Here is the recipe.

My parents were in town this weekend for Michael's memorial, and on Saturday night Emilee flew in because she is attending a conference at the Boston Medical Center this week. So on Sunday the four of us spent the day together in Boston. We at lunch downtown and then my mom, Emilee, and I did some shopping! After a few hours of trying on clothes, my dad treated me and Em by purchasing us massages in the hotel spa. I hadn't had a professional massage in years, and it was awesome! We followed our massages with a delicious dinner at the East Coast Grill. Emilee and I finished the day by going to the movies. She is staying in the Boston University dorms, so I thought we would just walk to the movie theater at Fenway. Somehow I got lost (of course), but eventually we got there only to discover that our movie didn't start for another 2 hours! So we ended up going down to the theater on Boston Common. It was worth the detour though, because we saw Knocked Up, which was pretty funny. It was a lovely Sunday!

Fried Calamari with Peperoncini Mayonaise (Page 75)

  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Tom and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I am terribly behind on the Hors D'Oeuvres and First Courses section of The Book so I chose this dish to make when Tom and Ashley came to dinner a couple weeks ago. It was ok. I have two main complaints. One, the coating of rice flour was too thin. I prefer a thicker breading on my fried calamari. There was some disagreement about this point -- some people were happy with the thin crispy coating that the rice flour provided. Complaint number two: the directions instructed you to deep-fry until golden. We did just that, but the squid came out over-cooked. As you can see in the picture above, they still look a little pale, but many of them were tough and overdone. The peperoncini mayonaise was decent. I would have preferred a lighter, tomato-based dipping sauce, but it wasn't bad. I enjoyed eating this dish well enough, but the next time I make calamari, I will look for a different recipe.

Here is the recipe.

My apologies for the blog silence over the week-end. Saturday was Michael's memorial service and celebration of life party. Both events were lovely. The memorial service was held in a beautiful hall. There was a lot of music, several speakers and various readings. Michael was eulogized beautifully by everyone involved. I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to get through my talk without breaking down, but it ended up going smoothly.

After the service everyone congregated at Richard and Anita's house for a party. Michael asked me months ago if I would be in charge of selecting/ordering the food for this event, so I did just that. I have never ordered food for a hundred people before, and I was worried that there wouldn't be enough. We ended up having plenty though (perhaps a bit too much!), and my huge cake got served too. The party was great -- the weather was perfect, and people were able to socialize, sing some of Michael's favorite songs, eat, and remember Michael. I think it was exactly as she wanted.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Chocolate Cake with Orange Buttercream (Page 744)

  • Date: Saturday, June 9, 2007 -- 4pm
  • Location: Soutboro, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Vero, Emilee, Teri, Terry, Richard, Anita, Ephraim, Renato, Richard H, Alex, Glen, Chris, Danielle, Carol, Jessie, Victoria, Haynes, Angelica, Jack, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A-




I made this, the smaller of the two wedding cakes in The Book, for my graduation party. Despite the fact that the frosting definitely left something to be desired (see entry below), this cake was delicious. The layers of cake were moist, dense, and chocolatey. They had a rich flavor without being too sweet. Luckily, the filling between layers was a Grand Marnier scented ganache, rather than the icky frosting. The ganache was lovely -- it had a beautiful texture, a deep chocolate flavor, and the perfect hint of orange. I was serving more than 25 people, so I multiplied this recipe by 1.5 and cooked it in two 12 inch pans instead of 3 9 inch ones. It worked perfectly with that adaptation. I decorated the cake very simply, with candied oranges. This was not part of the recipe. If you swapped out the frosting in this recipe with one that tasted good, this cake would be a huge winner! The recipe is essentially the same as the one here, except that the cake in The Book is layered but not tiered, and the frosting is very slightly different (see entry below).

Today I finished making the bigger of the two wedding cakes in The Book. I never imagined that I would make both the wedding cakes in the same month, and neither of them for a wedding! The cake is ready for the memorial service tomorrow though, and I have safely transported it (and myself) to Southboro. I have thought about my eulogy, and talked to the caterers about the food order, so I think I am ready -- or at least as ready as I am ever going to be -- for tomorrow.

Funerals are always very emotional for me, and I have never been to one for someone I was so close to. I am anticipating a difficult day. I hope that I am able to keep it together enough to get through my words at the service. If I can't, though, I can't. I'm not going to worry about it now. Instead I think I will sleep...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Orange Buttercream (Page 746)

  • Date: Saturday, June 9, 2007 -- 4pm
  • Location: Soutboro, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Vero, Emilee, Teri, Terry, Richard, Anita, Ephraim, Renato, Richard H, Alex, Glen, Chris, Danielle, Carol, Jessie, Victoria, Haynes, Angelica, Jack, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: C


I made the smaller of the two wedding cakes in The Book for my graduation party, and this was the frosting that went with the recipe. I love frosting. I particularly love mousseline buttercreams, so I was quite optimistic about this recipe. Much to my dismay though, this frosting was bad. The texture was lovely, as it always is in mousseline buttercream, so it was really the flavor that was the problem. Instead of tasting like orange (as you might have guessed from the name) this frosting tasted only of one thing: butter! Now, I like butter, but this frosting tasted just like whipped butter, which isn't particularly delicious on cake. It was especially frustrating because this recipe was seriously time-consuming. Mousseline buttercream takes a long time, and this one also had orange curd folded in. The orange curd tasted good before it was added to the frosting, but the orange flavor of it got lost behind all the butter in the final product. The cake that this frosting went with was excellent, but this frosting was really bad. In case you want to see for yourself, this frosting is essentially the same as the orange buttercream in this recipe. The only difference is that the one in The Book has the orange zest included in the orange curd (and then strained out) rather than added to the finished frosting.

Well, there is dried frosting adhered to my elbow, and dried cake batter on my shoulder and my cell phone. So all in all it was a successful day of baking. In my kitchen right now there are six cake layers (to be split in to 12), a huge vat of frosting, a tub of lemon soaking syrup, 4 jars of blackberry jam, 10 containers of fresh blackberries, and a tray of carefully piped frosting roses. So all I have left is assembling it all! That will be a job for tomorrow!

Looking at the picture above, I am remembering the good old days (i.e. 2 weeks ago) when I was making cakes of a size such that the frosting fit in to the bowl of my mixer. Not so today. The frosting had to be done in 3 batches. I optimistically tried to do the cake batter in only two. The stand mixer rebelled, spraying cake batter everywhere (hence the condition of my shoulder/cell phone). I showed it who was boss though, by using my hand mixer instead.

On the up side, at least the frosting I made today tasted good, unlike the stuff in the picture above!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Seeded Crisps (Page 7)

  • Thursday, May 31, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Vero, Ricky, Matt, Ben H, Ben W, and Jacob
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made these for Bad Movie Night because it was the first recipe occurring in The Book that I hadn't made yet (I have now made the first 7 -- next up: Benne Seed Pita Toasts). These seeded crisps were pretty good. I do love to deep-fry, so I enjoyed making them quite a bit. The combination of seeds was very tasty. The poppy and sesame seeds were mellow while the mustard seeds and cayenne gave the crisps a bit of a kick, which was unexpected but nice. My only complaint is that they were a little greasy. The wonton wrappers absorbed quite a bit of oil. On the other hand, greasy food is probably the right way to go for Bad Movie Night! I'm not sure I would make them again (super-greasy food isn't my favorite), but they were tasty and everyone seemed to enjoy snacking on them. The recipe is essentially the same as the one here except the one in The Book uses only white sesame seeds.

Well, I made it back safely to Boston. The woman sitting next to me on the plane was way more scared than I was, which, strangely, always makes me feel better about flying.

Now I have officially begun preparations for this cake for 107 people (it was 80 people, but somehow 80 became 107 overnight). Truth be told, it's really three cakes, not one. I am making the wedding cake from The Book (except even BIGGER), but since a tiered wedding cake seems not terribly appropriate for a memorial service, I am not going to stack the tiers. So there will be a big cake, a medium sized cake, and a small cake, hopefully tastefully decorated and artfully arranged.

So far I have only managed to purchase the groceries for this adventure. You should have seen the look on the face of the check-out woman when she was scanning my 18 boxes of cream cheese and 7 pounds of butter. You could tell that she wanted to ask, "Why, oh why are you buying these items?" I suppose they are trained not to ask such questions though. So she just looked at me quizzically, and I was so charmed by her confusion that I offered no explanation.

Tomorrow the real adventure begins, as I will then start baking the layers!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Honeydew in Rosemary Syrup (Page 806)

  • Monday, May 28, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Ricky, Daniel, and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: B


I picked this one because I am working on finishing off the Fruit Desserts section of The Book (only 13 recipes to go!). This dessert was definitely interesting, but not necessarily in a good way. Quite honestly, I would have preferred to eat just plain honeydew melon. The syrup had a distinct rosemary flavor, which was novel with the melon, but I don't think it worked very well. I appreciate the integration of traditionally savory ingredients in to desserts -- and the concept is often executed most successfully with fruit desserts. In this case, though, I wasn't terribly impressed. Further, although the recipe calls for black peppercorns, I found the peppercorn flavor completely undetectable in the final result. This dessert was far from inedible and it was interesting to try once, but I wouldn't make it again. The recipe is very similar to this one, although the one in The Book calls for only half as much rosemary, and says to let the whole thing stand at room temperature for one hour before serving.

Tomorrow I am headed back to Boston. Michael's memorial service is this weekend, and between now and then I need to figure out how to make a cake for 80 people! This will definitely be a new adventure for me. Fortunately, I have plenty of time to figure it out.

With my stay in Virginia drawing to a close, we had Tom and Ashley over for another Book dinner last night. Most of the food was pretty good -- two A recipes in one night! I tried to pick more carefully this time because last week we had Tom and Ashley over for a rather mediocre Book dinner! After dinner we played Kill Dr. Lucky, which is a board game that was new to me. It was a lot of fun -- I definitely recommend it.

Today I need to pack. I rode down here in a car, but am flying back, so I have way more stuff down here than I can take with me on the plane... It's a bit of a problem.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Skate with Black Butter (Page 286)

  • Monday, May 28, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Daniel, Matt, and Ricky
  • Dining Companion: Mike
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I picked this recipe because I am trying to make as many seafood recipes as possible before I move inland. This recipe was fine, but I wasn't particularly impressed. It was quite simple: fish cooked in butter that has itself been cooked to the point of (almost) blackness. There was no skate to be found at Whole Foods, so we made it with one of the acceptable substitutes listed in the recipe: sole fillets. The dish tasted fine, but it was so buttery. Fish can be so lovely as a light entree. I just don't see the point of taking a delicate piece of fish and drenching it in butter. This dish felt heavy, which isn't really what I look for from a delicate white-fleshed fish. It tasted fine though -- the black butter was everything you would expect it to be: rich, flavorful, nutty. I wouldn't make this recipe again, but I didn't particularly mind eating it. This recipe doesn't appear online.

I did it! I beat Matty at bowling!!! Our bowling rivalry has been going on for a short while now, and I have never won a game against him. It's not that I am so much worse than him, but rather I let him psych me out! Last night though, we went bowling with Tom, and on game two I beat Matt 147 to 131. Now, to be fair, I should say that Matt and Tom both wiped the floor with me on the other two games (Side note: on the first game Matt bowled a 170! I was impressed.). Matt won the night, but it didn't matter to me -- I won a game!

Anyone who has ever been bowling with us in Boston knows that it is an ordeal. There are very few places that have real bowling (as opposed to crazy Boston candlepin bowling, which is no fun), and consequently they have absurd hours because of the leagues, and you always have to wait for a lane. In Charlottesville, Virginia however, there are no such problems. The bowling alley was three-quarters empty last night, and bowling cost 99 cents a game! Plus, it was way fancier than our usual Boston alley. There were crazy graphics on the automatic scoring, and you could use the computer to call a waitress to come and bring you food. It was amazing!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Honey-Glazed Wax Beans (Page 523)

  • Monday, May 28, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt and Ricky
  • Dining Companions: Daniel and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I chose this recipe for dinner a few weeks back because we needed to make a quick dinner, and this recipe was very quick. I liked these beans a lot. Had I blogged about them immediately after we made them, I probably would have given them a B+, on the grounds that they were good, but not terribly exciting. Since we made them, however, I have often thought about eating them again. This dish was simple, and very basic, but it was good. The beans were cooked in boiling water and then tossed with a mixture of honey, lemon zest, and salt. It wasn't obvious to me that honey on beans was going to be good, but I found it delicious. It was subtle, but tasty, and the lemon zest provided a lovely contrast. Wax beans don't have a strong flavor, so it was nice to pair them with flavors that are delicate, but delicious! The recipe is here.

Happy Father's Day! Today is cause for double celebration in my family because in addition to being Father's Day, it is also my parents' 30th wedding anniversary! They got married in Las Vegas, 30 years ago today! I always tease them that they probably have the longest lasting marriage to ever come out of a Vegas walk-in wedding.

The story goes that in order to get married there, you only had to tell the people in charge your names, and how many times you had been married before. Apparently my mother almost bolted out the door when the man in from of them in line said that this would be his 13th marriage!

It worked out for my parents though, because my mom and dad, Terry and Teri, are celebrating 30 years together today!

Sweet Potato Chips with Lime Salt (Page 6)

  • Monday, May 28, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Daniel, Matt, and Ricky
  • Dining Companion: Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A



I picked this recipe because it was the first one in The Book that I hadn't made yet. These chips were awesome! There was some disagreement about how much salt should have been on them -- Mike and I love salt and hence had no complaints; Matt and Ricky wanted less salt. But that aside, everyone agreed that they were delicious. The lime zest in the salt enhanced the recipe quite a bit. It provided a subtle, refreshing note without overpowering the flavor of the sweet potatoes. This recipe was a winner. It is essentially the same as this recipe, except the one in The Book calls for kosher salt instead of table salt, and 1.5 times as much of it.

Yesterday my traveling companion and I went to the Kings Dominion amusement park! It was great! I wanted to go to a water park, and my traveling companion wanted roller coasters, so we went to Kings Dominion, which is an amusement park and a water park TOGETHER! Crazy. I don't think I had been on a roller coaster, or in a water park for almost 10 years. I had so much fun. The two of us have completely opposite tastes in rides. He loves anything with a big drop -- the bigger the better -- and I am fine with loops or being upside-down, or going fast, but I hate the drops. So it took a little coercing to get me on some of the roller coasters he wanted to go on, but in the end I caved on all but one of them. There was one that I just wanted nothing to do with... it shot you straight up, and then straight back down. It really didn't look fun. Roller coaster technology has definitely changed since the last time I was on one. Many of the new ones "blast" you up the big incline in a second or two instead of pulling you up slowly like they used to. I'm not sure how that blast is powered but it is crazy, especially if you aren't expecting it. We rode The Volcano, where the part with the blast occurs in a fake mountain, so you can't see it from the outside. There I was, sitting in my seat, waiting for the slow incline, and all of the sudden we were shot straight to the top. It was awesome! I also rode my first standing roller coaster. The roller coasters ended up being more fun than I expected, and I got my fill of water rides too (I love any ride that involves water). It was a good day. We went on rides, ate cotton candy, sno-cones, and huge soft pretzels, and enjoyed a completely beautiful day of Virginia weather. I was so exhausted by our day of thrills yesterday that I woke up at 12:30pm today!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grilled Tropical Fruit with Rum Sauce (Page 811)

  • Date: Sunday, May 27, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex and Gunther's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Alex
  • Dining Companions: Gunther, Katiri, Andreas, Jocelyn, and Phillip
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I picked this recipe to make at Alex's because he has a grill and I do not. This recipe was disappointing. It seemed so promising. I love grilled fruit. I love ice cream. I love caramel sauce. But this wasn't great. It had two main problems:
  1. Upon touching the ice cream the caramel sauce immediately turned in to an impenetrable rock. You could try to break it with your hands and put it in your mouth, but then it immediately adhered to your back teeth. It tasted DELICIOUS but was seriously unpleasant to eat. This problem would have been easily solved by adding more butter to the sauce, but as written, the sauce was a disaster.
  2. It was just too much. I would have preferred just one kind of fruit (bananas or pineapple probably), or just fewer pieces of each, but as written the servings were huge and having so many types of fruit was a bit overwhelming!
I still ate most of my dessert, and I enjoyed it well enough, but I wouldn't make it again. In case you are interested, a very similar recipe is here, although the one in The Book has 2/3 cup of rum instead of 1/2 and omits the chile-macadamia brittle.

I keep trying to remember to post more pictures of people enjoying the food, rather than just pictures of the food itself. To that end, here's a picture from dinner at Alex's place a few weeks ago.

I am also going to start posting links to the recipes when available, since people without The Book often ask me for copies of the recipes that are good. The website www.epicurious.com has some of the recipes on it (or slight variations of the recipes). I will try to note in which ways the recipe in The Book is different from the one I link to. In many cases the recipe doesn't appear online though, so if you want one of those, you will still have to ask!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

London Broil with Ravigote Sauce (Page 438)

  • Date: Sunday, May 27, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex and Gunther's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Alex
  • Dining Companions: Gunther, Andreas, Jocelyn, and Katiri
  • Recipe Rating: A-


Alex and I always choose something grilled from The Book when we cook at his place, since he has a grill and I don't. This dish was a winner. The meat was beautifully cooked and the marinade gave it a nice flavor, particularly on the exterior. The sauce was flavorful without being heavy, and consequently provided a nice contrast to the richness of the beef. I appreciate when red meat is served with a pungent, briny, herb-filled sauce rather than a meaty sauce, and this recipe was a beautiful execution of that idea. The sauce was a little bitter (as mentioned in the post below), but other than that, I had no complaints about this dish. It was very tasty, and pretty simple to make.

After several extremely restful days in a row, I am starting to feel like myself again. Last night some people came over, and I made a real dinner for the first time in a couple weeks. It felt good to cook again. The goal for today is to go to the gym. After weeks of working out every day, I just stopped the week-end Michael died and I haven't been back since. I think it's time though... No doubt a good run and some weights will only make me feel better. Probably I won't be able to do my pull-up any more though, which is especially sad because after all his hard work training me to do it, Matt never saw my pull-up success! Mike saw it though, so at least I have someone to back-up my claims!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ravigote Sauce (Page 438)

  • Sunday, May 27, 2007 --8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex and Gunther's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Alex, Gunther, Andreas, Katiri, and Jocelyn
  • Recipe Rating: B+


This sauce went with a grilled dish that I chose because I always try to do at least one grilled recipe when I cook at Alex's place! The sauce alone was a bit difficult to eat. The strong flavors of the onion, capers, vinegar, and mustard made a very pungent combination. It was delicious served on meat or bread though. My only complaint is that the ratio of onion to the rest of the ingredients was too high. The onion gave the whole sauce a very bitter note that didn't work so well. Aside from that, this briny, herby, sauce was quite delicious.

Hello from sunny Virginia! I don't usually think of Virginia as being part of The South, but it definitely has a different cultural feel to it than the northeast. For instance, I went to the grocery store on Monday, and in the brief time I spent there, EIGHT strangers talked to me, for no particular reason.

It's beautiful here -- very hilly and wooded. The hilliness is actually working against me though. The only vehicle Matt and I have here is his car, which is a stick shift. Despite the two parking-lot lessons he has given me, I am still too scared to drive on the streets. The idea of stopping at a stop-light, on a hill, completely terrifies me. And it is very hilly here. So I am not driving. Which means that I am spending a lot of time wandering around on foot. Luckily there is a grocery store within walking distance from Mike's apartment...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Garlic Soup with Poached Eggs (Page 113)

  • Date: Sunday, May 27, 2007 --8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex and Gunther's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Alex, Gunther, Andreas, Katiri, and Jocelyn
  • Recipe Rating: B-


Andreas selected this recipe off the list generated by the random number generator. It was ok. To be fair, I was expecting it to be quite bad, and it was actually better than I had imagined. I couldn't get too excited about it though. As is often the case with quick soups, there wasn't a lot of depth of flavor to it. Perhaps if I had used homemade chicken stock rather than purchased chicken broth, that problem would have been slightly alleviated. Also, I am never a fan of soggy bread. Had the toasts been served alongside the soup, instead of in it, they would have been delicious. But after sitting in the broth, they lost the crispy texture that made them so wonderful. The poached eggs were surprisingly good in the soup. It's hard to poach eggs in broth though! As soon as I dropped them in to the pot I couldn't see them at all. It was guesswork to try and make sure they weren't on top of one another, and also to decide when they were done. The eggs came out nicely though, and added a lot to the dish. I wouldn't make this soup again, but I was happy to try it once.

My apologies for the long silence. It has been a very emotional week.

Things are calmer now. I am slowly becoming more and more able to think about Michael's death without crying. And I have graduated. My parents, Spencer, Matt, and Emilee all came to town to celebrate with me. Hooding was lovely, and then Richard and Anita hosted us all for a party at their house. It was really nice. I wasn't sure that having a party was a right thing to do, in light of the circumstances, but I think it was.

Now I am in Virginia for a couple weeks, relaxing and staying at Mike's apartment (although Mike, sadly, is in Boston). Matt and I drove down on Sunday. Last night I got the first long night of sleep I have had in many, many days. This morning I am feeling refreshed, and ready to go forward...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Milanese Mixed Salad (Page 131)

  • Date: Sunday, May 27, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Alex and Gunther's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Alex and Katiri
  • Dining Companions: Gunther, Andreas, and Jocelyn
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I'm not such a fan of bitter vegetables, so I haven't much been looking forward to making this recipe. I figured that arugula and radicchio together in one bowl was a recipe for disaster. This salad surprised me though. It was actually quite good. The vegetables were indeed bitter, but the bitterness was nicely balanced by the sweetness of the carrots. The white wine vinaigrette dressing was light, which was a nice complement to the salad components. The dressing could have had a bit more flavor to it, but it still worked well. We shredded the carrots a little smaller than would be ideal, which resulted in some slightly mushy carrot pieces. Overall though, this salad was very light, summery, and refreshing. A couple people complained that it was a bit boring, which might be true, but I found it to be quite tasty nonetheless.

I don't know what to say. After a very difficult weekend, Michael died last night. I was sitting in bed next to her when she passed, which is where I had hoped I would be when the time came.

She was an amazing woman who touched my life, and the lives of many others, in enormous ways. She will be dearly, dearly missed...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Foolproof Basmati Rice (Page 258)

  • Date: Thursday, May 24, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made this rice to go with dinner one night because it was the first recipe that I ran across for which Matt already had all the ingredients in his kitchen (it helped that there were only 2: rice and water). The entire time I was making this rice, I kept thinking, "Thank goodness Vero isn't here." Vero thinks the rice recipes in The Book are pretty ridiculous (see her mocking me here). This one would be especially easy to mock because, seriously, the only ingredients are rice and water. So what makes this recipe different from the directions that come on the bag? This rice is cooked in the microwave! I'm not positive, but I think this may be the first recipe I have made from The Book that calls for using the microwave. So this recipe (only very slightly paraphrased) is: put rice and water in microwave-safe dish. Microwave. Fluff with fork when done. Vero might argue that it's not really a recipe at all. That aside, this rice was fine. The recipe promised me "distinct yet fluffy" grains of rice. They were indeed distinct, but not so fluffy really. And a little too dry. It wasn't bad though, and it was incredibly easy.

My father is an engineer, and when I was young that was what I wanted to do too. As a child I asked my dad what kind of engineering had the most math in it. “Electrical,” he said. I asked him which college was the best for studying electrical engineering. “MIT,” he answered. And with that, my eight year-old vision of my life was set. I would go to MIT and become an electrical engineer. Over the years, my dream evolved slightly. As an undergraduate I chose Stanford instead. At age 17 it dawned on me that as the only thing that appealed to me about engineering was the math, it might be more efficient to just study math. Despite these minor adjustments, here I am, about to graduate from MIT. It makes me laugh to think that my crazy dream from almost 20 years ago is coming true. It's funny how that happens...

Pad Thai (Page 245)

  • Date: Monday, May 21, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Framingham, MA
  • Kitchen: Michael and Ephriam's House
  • Fellow Chef: Chris
  • Dining Companions: Richard H, Jack, Renato, Michael, Jean, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


A few weeks ago I was visiting Michael and I had The Book with me. She flipped through it for a while, and then asked me if I would make this recipe for her. So Chris and I made it for dinner one night for the crew out in Framingham. This Pad Thai was pretty good. The sauce had a great flavor. The recipe wasn't as Americanized as many Pad Thai recipes you find in cookbooks from the US. Indeed, the sauce started from a block of tamarind (if you've never seen one of these sticky dried tamarind blocks, they look incredibly unappealing, but they make for a great tasting sauce!). The result of the authentic ingredients was a delicious sauce. The egg, shrimp, and tofu all work well in the dish. My only real complaint is that there were way too many bean sprouts. I like sprouts as much as the next person, but the dish felt very overpowered by them. I think Pad Thai is delicious with a few sprouts sprinkled on it, but this dish had sprouts on top and sprouts throughout, and there were just too many of them! Other than that though, it was good. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

It seems that no one really believes me that I did a pull-up yesterday (grrr... with friends like these...). So today I did one again, this time with Mike as a witness. So if you have your doubts, talk to Mike, and hopefully he will vouch for me!

I am definitely stronger now than I ever have been. Well, at least my upper-body is stronger. I would like to maintain some of this strength -- it would be nice to continue to be able to do a pull-up. Sadly though, I think my body naturally tends towards a state that is weaker and less muscular than my current one. Thus, I think it will take a lot of work to maintain my new pull-up ability. I have not yet investigated the gym situation at Indiana University. However, if it's like and any other huge state school I have ever seen, there are probably tons of big, nice workout facilities. I will miss the MIT Z-center though. I like it there a lot. I think having a place to workout that you like is extremely important. I have also grown especially attached to the Z-center lately, since I have been working out there every single day for the last few weeks!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Mango Chutney (Page 906)

  • Date: Sunday, May 20, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator. The recipe claimed this chutney would complement pretty much anything, so we ate it with Chik Nuggets. Perhaps that wasn't the best possible pairing (sometimes you just have to go with what's in the freezer though!), but it was still very good. My usual complaint with chutney recipes is that they are often overpowered by the vinegar. This recipe was well balanced though. The flavor of the cider vinegar came through without drowning out the mango and spices. There was an appropriate complexity of flavor -- it was interesting without being overwhelming. It also had a nice, thick chutney texture, with big chunks of mango in it. It was easily as good as any mango chutney I have had.

I am out in Framingham for the evening, staying with Michael. She's sleeping now, and I am looking out the window at the gorgeous trees in the backyard.

Jack asked me tonight if I have ever been through this before. I really haven't. I have lost people in my life, but never to cancer. Never like this. It's a lot to process. When I am out here I end up staring out the windows at the trees a lot, sitting with Michael as she sleeps. I expect that years from now I will still remember these trees quite vividly...

Stilton Sauce (Page 884)

  • Sunday, May 20, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. This sauce was delicious! The Book recommended eating it on steak. We ate it on broccoli and it was amazing. I love blue cheese, and stilton is a great blue cheese. This sauce made it even better though. The butter and cream both gave the sauce a magnificent texture, and mellowed out the somewhat harsh flavor of stilton. The white wine reduction gave the sauce a lot of depth of flavor. This sauce was a winner. It tasted great, and the texture (both in terms of the viscosity and the smoothness) was spot on. This is a very lovely sauce!

Believe it or not, I did it! With 7 days to spare, today I did a pull-up!!!!

I had my doubts that I was going to do it. Who am I kidding, when I made this goal I thought it was impossible. But I guess it goes to show that if you put enough effort into something, you can produce shocking results.

I only wish that Matt had been there to see it! It's almost as much his accomplishment as mine, as he designed the brutal training regime that led to this miracle. I also owe thanks to Mike, who first got me started going to the gym at MIT years ago, and Marco, who introduced me to the wonder of weight-lifting (and those yellow record sheets that I have now been through so many of).

Well, now my two pre-graduation goals are complete: 1. Finish my PhD. 2. Do a pull-up. I'm still going to keep working out as hard as I have been though, so I can replicate my pull-up accomplishment when Matt is back in town next week.

Yay for small victories!!!