Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cherry Clafouti (Page 817)

  • Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 9:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty and Rachel
  • Dining Companion: Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A-


Since I now have all those sour cherries in the freezer I am excited to use them, so I picked this recipe for dessert last week. It was quite good. The texture was perfect for a clafouti: somewhere between a custard and a pancake. The bursts of sour cherry flavor were lovely. The batter had a bit of kirsch in it, presumably to tie it together to the cherries, but it was so subtle that it was borderline undetectable. If I make this one again I will up the kirsch a bit. The dessert was satisfying without being too sweet (Mike thought it wasn't sweet enough -- he thought it would have been better with sweet cherries). I liked it just as it was. All four of us went back for seconds (or thirds!), and we ended up finishing the whole thing off. It was a perfect end to a summer meal! If you can't find sour cherries, you could easily substitute one of a whole variety of fruits for the cherries and still get something delicious (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc.... yum!).

Sadly, there is no recipe for this one online.

The first time I ever had a clafouti was in Los Angeles. I was there with a friend, visiting a friend of his (this story isn't terribly flattering, so I'll rename everyone). The friend of a friend, we'll call him Bob, liked to cook a lot, so my friend, we'll call him Joe Bob, thought that he and I would get along fabulously. Our first morning there we went to the farmers' market and picked up many beautiful blackberries. When we returned to Bob's apartment he suggested we make a clafouti with them. He didn't want any help from me or Joe Bob, but we milled around the kitchen while he threw together the blackberry clafouti. I asked Bob about his interest in cooking and he told me that his specialty was Italian food. I responded by asking if he had made a lot of gnocchi, mentioning that although I had tried several different recipes I had yet to find the perfect gnocchi. His response:
"Well I have a great recipe, but it would be much too difficult for you. I don't know of any good gnocchi recipes that you would be able to make."

Oh. That ended that conversation. When the clafouti came out of the oven I ate my piece in silence. I am happy to say that this clafouti was much better than his. Maybe I should send him the recipe with a note, "Thought that this recipe was an improvement over the one you have. I hope it's not much too difficult for you! Best, Teena"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Chinese-Hawaiian "Barbequed" Ribs (Page 491)

  • Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Rachel and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A


I picked these ribs because they are one of a very small number of Hawaiian dishes in The Book, and I was looking for something to go with the Hawaiian Chicken Long Rice. These ribs were AWESOME! Like any slow-roasted pork, the meat was tender and delicious. But it was really the sauce that made the dish. This sauce, composed of items you probably have in your refrigerator/pantry (sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, sherry, garlic, ginger, salt...), was incredible. It was flavorful, tangy, perfectly seasoned, and it became deliciously gooey and browned on the ribs. It was delicious! I made a stupid mistake when I made these -- the ribs were stacked when I bought them, and really stuck together, so somehow I didn't realize until after they were cooked that I had two big racks instead of one. The net result of this was that only one rack got basted (the one on top). So we boiled down the extra basting sauce and used it as a dipping sauce for the not-basted ribs. Also delicious! The point: you can't go wrong with this recipe. I highly, highly recommend this one. If you like ribs at all you will love these!

Lucky for you, here is the recipe.

It's so nice housesitting out in Southborough. My day today: woke up, did some work and administrative stuff for moving, ate lunch, went to the grocery store, more work, swam in the pool, sat in the hot tub, made dinner in a big fancy kitchen... It was completely lovely. Being out here, it is almost possible to forget about all the packing I have left to do! It's also so nice to have all sorts of fun things I don't have in my apartment: a dishwasher, a swimming pool, a hot tub, a cat, a king-size bed, two ovens, cable TV, lots of space, etc... Although I'm sure I will never own a house as big and fancy as this one, I am looking forward to someday having a house. And a backyard. And maybe even a hot tub! In the meantime, I can occasionally housesit for people who do, and live the life of luxury, however temporary!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Chicken Long Rice (Page 247)

  • Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Rachel
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This one came off the list generated by the random number generator. I found it to be quite tasty. This Hawaiian dish consisted of pieces of chicken added to rice vermicelli soaked in a chicken-ginger-mushroom broth. I am always a fan of dishes in this genre: shredded meat with brothy noodles. The noodles came out very flavorful. The ginger was subtle but present and the fresh chicken broth gave the noodles some depth. My only complaint is that the dish was a little salty (probably from the addition of bouillon to the broth). Oddly, although Rachel agreed with me that it was too salty, Mike thought it wasn't salty enough. I can offer no explanation for that. Salt issues aside, it was delicious, and I would definitely make this dish again.

Here is the recipe.

Today was my last day working the Sunday lunch shift at the homeless shelter. I have been volunteering there every Sunday for almost 3 years now. Many of the people on my shift have become good friends of mine, and I will miss both them, and the opportunity to cook and serve lunch each week to the wonderful community of women who come to the shelter.

Although the staff at the shelter and my fellow volunteers knew I was moving soon, I hadn't mentioned to any of them that today would be my last day. I told Danielle last night over dinner though, so this morning word got out rapidly. I find goodbyes very difficult, and in many cases I would rather just slip out without saying anything. That is, of course, terribly rude, and especially unpleasant for those people who like goodbyes, and think they are important. The thing is, I just never know what to say, especially with people who are important to me. I always want to tell people how they have helped me, or inspired me, or enriched my life. But it's not easy, in that moment, to say anything coherent to that effect. So inevitably I always end up saying something stupid: "Goodbye. I hope I see you again soon," when really what I mean is, "Thank you so much for being in my life." Add to that that I am perpetually in a state of denial about the possibility that I might not see people again, or not for a long time, and it makes the goodbye process a little daunting.

In any event, I said my goodbyes at Rosie's today, and I will continue to say them to a variety of people in Boston over the next few weeks.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Carrot Ginger Dressing (Page 171)

  • Date: Thursday, July 26, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Fellow Chef: Rachel
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: C+


I chose this recipe because it seemed like it might go well with our Asian/Hawaiian themed meal on Thursday. This typical Japanese dressing can be very good, but in this particular manifestation it just wasn't. It had two major problems: flavor and texture. The flavor was shockingly bland given the flavorful, delicious ingredients that went into it: carrots, ginger, shallots, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, etc... I think it was a salt issue. Salt brings out the flavor in the food, and this dressing didn't call for any. Obviously soy sauce is salty, but usually a recipe would at least call for the dressing to be seasoned with salt at the end. To be faithful to the recipe I didn't do it, but I regretted it -- the dressing was bland. The texture was also quite disappointing. This recipe used both the food processor and the blender, with the promise that the two appliances together would produce the perfect texture. Not so. Despite plenty of time in both, it was thick and chunky and unappealing. Matt also made the correct observation that it would have been much better had it been chilled before serving. Overall, this recipe did not do justice to carrot ginger dressing.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except that the one in The Book leaves out the salt.

After having an excellent dinner of Venezuelan food in the South End, I am now out in Southborough, house/cat-sitting for Richard and Anita. It's peaceful out here -- well relatively peaceful anyway. Coda, the cat, is walking back and forth on my lap, between me and my computer. Trying to convince her to sit down isn't always so effective... Coda is a good cat though, affectionate and easy to take care of. She has now abandoned me to sit with my friend on a different sofa and she is purring so loudly I can hear her across the room.

I haven't been out here since the week of Michael's funeral, and it brings back a lot of memories. I sat next to Michael on this sofa so many times, drinking tea and talking. I miss her deeply, and find myself thinking about her very often.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Kale and Potato Spanish Tortilla (Page 633)

  • Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I made this recipe as part of my ongoing effort to cook as much as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book. It was pretty good. The potatoes were cooked perfectly, and poaching them in oil gave them a lovely flavor (although it used an obscene amount of olive oil). I would have liked the dish better without the kale, which is more traditional anyway. I suppose the kale added color, but other than that it didn't contribute positively to the dish. The consistency of the tortilla was perfect, and the ratio of eggs to potatoes was just right. I found the dish too salty, which is odd because I love salt and rarely think that the food in The Book is over-salted. Nonetheless, I would reduce the salt in this one if I made it again. Other than those minor comments, it was a good tortilla. If you like Spanish tortilla I would recommend trying this recipe.

Here is the recipe.

This afternoon I briefly attended part of an economics conference to see a friend give a talk. I was completely astonished by how different it was from a math conference. There were many superficial differences (dress code for instance...). But the major difference was the presence of a discussant. For each person presenting a paper, there was an assigned discussant who prepared in advance a critique of the paper. So the hour of presentation was structured as: 20 minute presentation by the author followed by 20 minute critique by the discussant, followed by 20 minutes of audience comments and questions. The astonishing thing was not this structure, but rather the unbelievably hostile tone of the discussant. Now clearly that could have been specific to this instance, but this guy was rude. Some of his comments were interesting, but the way in which he phrased them seemed inexcusable to me. It felt like a personal attack on the author of the paper. It made me curious to attend more such talks and see if this behavior is typical or out of the ordinary. In any event it made me grateful for both the structure and the tone of conferences in mathematics!

Almond Apricot Biscotti (Page 686)

  • Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, Teri, Terry, Spencer, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made these biscotti to bring with us as gifts on our trip to Chicago/Wisconsin. They were ok. The almonds and flavor from the almond extract were nice, but I would have preferred them without the apricots. They tasted fine, but the method The Book called for to incorporate them in to the cookies resulted in some cookies having huge clots of apricots, while others had hardly any, or none. I think the point of the suggested method was so that there wouldn't be apricots on the outside of the cookies. I fail to see why that is important, and it certainly isn't worth the huge apricots clumps. It would be much better to simply have mixed the apricots in to the dough with the almonds so they would be distributed evenly. These cookies are less hard/dry than traditional biscotti, and I found that I prefer the texture of more traditional ones. I have a recipe I love for almond biscotti, and although these weren't bad, they just didn't measure up.

Here is the recipe.

My dear, dear friend Rachel has been in town the last few days, which has been just wonderful. She has been following my project for a while, but I hadn't seen her since I started it, so we took this opportunity to do some cooking together. Last night she and I cooked up a feast of Hawaiian food from The Book. Mike and Matt joined us for what turned out be a delicious meal! Our meal was followed by several hours of lovely conversation.

Today Rach and I went out to Walden Pond for a beautiful walk. Rachel and I were roommates our senior year at Stanford. Often on the weekends we would go for long walks, enjoying the beautiful California weather and chatting about all sorts of things. Today as we were out for our walk it felt just like old times. Rachel still lives in California, but last year when I was spending a lot of time there she was living in Syria, so I hadn't seen her in almost 2 years! It was so, so good to see her again. We always have a wonderful time, just hanging out and talking.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cheddar Pecan Crackers (Page 29)

  • Date: Monday, July 16, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I chose these crackers because I had all the ingredients for them in the pantry. They were pretty good. Mike and Matt both insisted they were not crackers (over and over again: "You made cookies!"). They may have had a cookie look about them, but they were definitely not sweet. These crackers were cheesy, crunchy, and spicy. Perhaps a little too spicy. The cayenne overwhelmed the flavor of the cheddar a bit. Other than that they tasted quite good. The pecans and cheese were in nice proportion. They were a touch too buttery/greasy for my taste, but I still enjoyed eating a handful of them. These crackers would be a nice snack at a big holiday-type party.

This recipe does not appear online.

Well at long last I am almost caught up on my blogging. There is only one recipe that I have made but not blogged about yet! On the one hand, it is good to be caught up. But on the other hand, that means I have to do some serious cooking in the next week and a half so I have something to blog about while I am away in Norway! The rest of this summer is going to be a bit crazy. Starting Saturday I am house-sitting for Richard and Anita for a week, which will be awesome, but it means I won't be around Cambridge as much. A week from Saturday I leave for Norway to attend a conference for a week. A few days after I get back I move all my stuff to Indiana, only to fly back two days later to go to Maine for a week. I then fly back to Indiana, arriving in Bloomington the day before I start teaching. I am trying not to let it all stress me out, but I am starting to get a litte tense...

Polonaise Topping (Page 895)

  • Sunday, July 15, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

I picked this recipe because it was the first one I came across that I had all the ingredients for in the pantry. This topping was ok. I love breadcrumbs in pretty much any manifestation, and these breadcrumbs were crisped in butter, which is extra delicious. The hard-boiled eggs were a good addition, but I felt that the recipe called for more egg than it should have. The eggs contributed a nice richness, but as it was they overwhelmed what should have been a very simple topping. We ate this on cooked broccoli and cauliflower, and it complemented those vegetables nicely. I enjoyed eating this well enough, but I don't think I would make it again.

Here is the recipe.

Last night I went to my last book club meeting in Boston. I joined this book club more than three years ago now, when I was feeling a bit desperate for some non-math friends. My long-time friend Victoria had a book club with some other people she knew, who mainly worked in publishing. So I joined! Since then new people have joined, and some people have moved away, but a lot of the members are still the same. We get together once a month, and always have a good time.

Last night we were discussing "Digging to America" by Anne Tyler (which I liked, but some people found dull). We ate guacamole. We played with Ellen's dog. We gossiped. It was fun. Victoria is also moving away (business school in Michigan), so we had chocolate cake as a farewell. I will definitely miss the book club women!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Chilled Sour Cherry Soup (Page 821)

  • Date: Saturday, July 14, 2007 -- 10pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-



Matt had a chilled sour cherry soup while visiting Hungary and loved it, so he has been requesting this recipe for quite a while. After we went cherry picking a couple weekends ago, it was finally possible to make it. This soup was quite good. It took me a minute to warm up to it, but I ended up enjoying it a lot. It definitely had a cherry-pie-filling taste to it, but it was thinner, with more depth of flavor. The cinnamon complemented the cherries much better than I had expected it to, and the sour cream mixture was delicious with the soup. In general I am not a huge fan of chilled soups, but this one was very refreshing. It was listed in the Fruit Desserts section of The Book, but it wasn't terribly sweet, so you could certainly use it for a wonderful summer soup course as well. Overall I think this recipe is a winner. Matt deemed it just as good as the soup he had eaten in Hungary.

The recipe is in the comments after the post.

This recipe was the first one we made with all the sour cherries we picked a couple weeks ago. I couldn't help but include this photo of a portion of the cherries we picked. Before we left for Wisconsin, I pitted and froze them in separate bags for all the different recipes that call for them. It was a bit of a pain, but now I am ready to make everything from the Cherry Tortoni to the Cherry Clafouti! After all the trouble I had finding sour cherries in Boston, I am relieved to have a freezer full of them. Of course when we were in Wisconsin this past weekend the Farmer's Market was flooded with sour cherries. Oh well! Picking them was great fun, and I wouldn't have wanted to worry about transporting them all the way from the Midwest. Plus, even at the Farmer's Market they were more than three times as expensive as what we paid to pick them ourselves.

I am looking forward to making some more cherry recipes soon!

Cranberry Caramel Bars (Page 691)

  • Friday, July 13, 2007 -- 6pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, and some people in the math department common room.
  • Recipe Rating: A


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. These bars were awesome! The shortbread crust was buttery and delicious, and the cranberry/pecan/caramel topping was both beautiful and had a fantastic flavor. The chocolate was completely unnecessary though. In fact, the bars were better before I put the chocolate on. It was decorative, but distracted from the recipe. That aside, these were delicious! Although I made them in the middle of July, they would be perfect during the holiday season. Plus the recipe is simple and makes a ton of them!

Here is the recipe.

I am now back in Cambridge and back at the office. After my weekend in the Midwest, I am craving lots and lots of vegetables. I more or less lived off of beer, meat, and cheese for 4 days. Also various desserts: pie, cake, cheesecake, cookies, etc... We really ate some remarkable Wisconsin food. The most remarkable perhaps: a half pound hamburger, topped with a third pound bratwurst patty, topped with bacon, and sandwiched between two soft pretzels. Wow. We also sampled Wisconsin cheese in a whole variety of forms: deep-fried cheese curds, deep-fried chunks of cheddar, fresh cheese curds from the farmer's market, etc... I do love cheese, and there are few things as good as fresh, squeaky cheese curds. They are easily available in Wisconsin, but I have yet to see them on either the east or west coast. It's sad really, because they are delicious! I think I may have overdone it on the meat and cheese though, because by the end of the weekend I was feeling a little gross.

We met Brad in Chicago for Thai food yesterday before flying out, and I ordered a huge plate of vegetables and tofu. It was a welcome change!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Fried Eggs and Asparagus with Parmesan (Page 638)

  • Friday, July 13, 2007 -- 11am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this recipe as part of my ongoing effort to cook from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book. This dish was quite good. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, and went wonderfully with the fried eggs and parmesan. The simple boiled vegetables complemented the richness of the eggs and cheese quite well. It made a very satisfying brunch, but would also work well for dinner. I didn't have the individual gratin dishes that were called for, so I just baked it in one big oven-proof dish and that worked perfectly well. I would definitely recommend this one for a simple and delicious egg dish.

Here is the recipe.

My Wisconsin weekend has come to a close. It was fun being back home, but a little too busy to be very relaxing. The purpose of the visit was a graduation party that my parents threw me on Saturday. They invited a lot of their friends who I had never met, or didn't remember. One guy refused to give me my graduation card until I could identify who he was. It was a little awkward because I had no idea. After several hints I was still not able to remember his name, but I did come up with the only other time in my life that I had met him. Apparently that sufficed.

A bunch of people also came that I do know. I hadn't really asked my parents who exactly they invited, so I was delighted to see my fourth grade teacher, for instance, who I hadn't seen in years! It was fun to catch up with a lot of people that I hadn't seen in quite some time. Vigleik and Shihchi even drove up from Chicago to come to the party and hang out for the evening! All in all, it was quite a good time. I can't remember the last time I hosted a party with a keg. I guess that's what happens when my parents are in charge of the food and beverages!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Orecchiette with Cauliflower and Lacinato Kale (Page 213)

  • Date: Thursday, July 12, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


This one came off the list generated by the random number generator. This pasta dish was ok. I love cauliflower, and with respect to that it was a good preparation. There were small pieces of cauliflower dispersed throughout the pasta, which was quite nice. I'm not a huge kale fan, but I think it was well prepared, so if you like kale you would probably enjoy it in this dish. The breadcrumbs were also a winning addition, as you might imagine because breadcrumbs are delicious! My only real complaint is that it was very oily. The dish felt very weighed down by all the oil in it. I couldn't find orecchiette so I made it with campanelle instead, which was a good shape for the dish. With less oil (and perhaps no kale) this dish would have been extremely tasty. As it was, it wasn't bad.

There is no recipe for this one online.

One of the things that is fabulous about Madison is that it is built on an Isthmus between two lakes. This morning my friend Meghan and her fiance Mark took me, Matt, and Spencer out boating on one of them, Lake Mendota. It was so fun! I haven't been on a motor boat in ages, and I just love being on the water. We had gorgeous weather, and the water was plenty warm for water activities. We started off with some tubing, which I have always loved. Basically you hitch a sturdy innertube on a rope to the back of the boat, and you hold on to the inner tube for dear life as the boat drags you quite fast along the water. It was fun and I was doing a good job holding on. In fact, I didn't fly off at all, but it seemed like a good idea to let go when my bikini bottom fell off. Whoops! After that we did some water skiing. Well, really Matt and Mark did some water skiing and I tried. I had never attempted to water ski before. I was able to get up (which everyone kept saying was the hardest part) but I had a tough time staying up for long.

It was fantastic being out on the water! I would love to own a boat someday because I find that sort of thing so enjoyable.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Matzo Brei (Page 630)

  • Thursday, July 12, 2007 -- 10am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made this recipe last week as part of my ongoing effort to cook as much as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section this summer. This dish was ok. The amount of butter was pretty terrifying, and I am not-too-easily shocked by such things. The matzos were a little soggy for my taste, and continuing to cook them to make them crispy would have resulted in some dramatically overcooked eggs. It had a good flavor (how could it not with that much butter?). The flavor was very reminiscent of french toast, and consequently it seemed that some maple syrup would have been a good addition. Overall it was enjoyable, but maybe not enough to compensate for how unhealthy it was!

Here is the recipe.

I just had the most fantastically Midwestern evening. We went out to dinner to celebrate my mother's and brother's birthdays. Spencer chose the restaurant and we ended up at a place called Smokey's Club, which is a steakhouse that has been in Madison for ages. We all ate huge steaks for dinner, on plates garnished only with one sprig of parsley. That was the whole plate: a huge steak and a sprig of parsley. The highlight of the meal was really our appetizer though: we ordered some deep-fried cheese curds because Matt had never had them. Welcome to Wisconsin! Those cheese curds were so delicious...

After dinner we went disco bowling! Matt and my dad both beat me (very depressing!) but we all bowled pretty well. My mom bowled 100 one game, which is, I think, her best score ever. The disco lights and loud music definitely enhanced the experience.

Still on the agenda for our Midwestern extravaganza: the Dane County Fair!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tomato and Cucumber Salad in Pita Bread with Za'atar (Page 183)

  • Wednesday, July 11, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I picked these sandwiches to make last week because they seemed like perfect hot weather food. Indeed they were quite good (as you can tell because I was so distracted I forgot to take a picture before I took a bite). The tomatoes and cucumber salad was tasty, but it was really the za'atar (sesame thyme seasoning) that made the sandwiches delicious. It gave the sandwiches a unique refreshing flavor without overwhelming the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. There was nothing fancy about this dish, but for a simple summer meal, it was very nice.

This recipe does not appear online.

Hello from the Midwest! On our way to Madison, we made a stopover tonight in Chicago to visit Matt's brother and some other friends of his. So I am writing this from the very comfy sofa in Brad's condo, while I am watching Top Chef on cable TV (what a luxury!). I can't complain! In the morning it is off to Madison.

Tonight we had dinner with Matt's friend Alp. When we walked out of the restaurant it was POURING in a way that it does in a Midwest, but I have never seen on either coast. We were outside maybe 5 minutes, with umbrellas, and got completely soaked. It was actually really lovely. It reminded me so much of the years I spent growing up in Madison. I can't remember the last time I got truly drenched in a rainstorm like that. It took towels and two hairdryers for the three of us to get dry, but it was worth it!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sesame Thyme Seasoning (Page 184)

  • Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This seasoning went with some cucumber and tomato salad sandwiches that I made for dinner last week. It was very simple: just a combination of toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac, minced fresh thyme, and salt. It was quite good. I wasn't so familiar with ground sumac, but its tart, berry flavor really enhanced the sandwiches. The sesame seeds provided a nice nuttiness and texture. The combination of those two ingredients with the thyme was very successful. Matt, who universally complains about having to grade seasonings from The Book, was completely taken with this seasoning. After very generously sprinkling it on his sandwich, he saved the leftovers and ate it on some fried eggs a few days later. He deemed this delicious as well.

Here is the recipe.

Sometimes the recipes in The Book that appear online at epicurious.com have brief reviews after them that were posted by people who tried the recipe. I make a point of not reading these reviews before writing my own comments. Just now I was checking out the reviews for this recipe. None of them are really about the recipe, but rather they are all about how no one could find ground sumac. Although I am not really a city girl at heart, one thing I like about living in the city is that I very rarely have that problem. Ground sumac, for instance, was a piece of cake to find. I just walked around the corner to the fabulous Christina's Spice Shop. I didn't learn to fully appreciate Christina's until this year, and I really missed out the previous 4 years. It is an amazing store!

Next year will be a bit of an adjustment I'm sure. Finding obscure ingredients is always trickier in the Midwest. Fortunately though I have lots of friend in Boston to go to Christina's for me and send me stuff (hint, hint...)!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Key Lime Pie (Page 766)

  • Date: Monday, July 9, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Ricky, and Vero
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I made this pie to be enjoyed over a game of Trivial Pursuit last week. It was pretty good. I have a fancier key lime pie recipe that I like better, but it is much more time-consuming than this one. For a simple, tasty key lime pie, this recipe is pretty good. A few small comments: One, the crust came out not as crispy as it could have. Were I to do it again I would bake it a bit longer. Also, the lime filling was a little bit too thick and heavy. Other than that the pie was nice. The lime flavor was present without being overwhelming. The ratio of filling to crust could have been a little bit higher, but as it was the pieces were so thin, I just had to have two! If you are looking for a super, super simple key lime pie recipe, this is the one for you.

Here is the recipe. The one in The Book is very slightly different in that it calls for only 6 tablespoons of key lime juice.

I am off to Wisconsin on Wednesday for a long weekend at home with the family. My parents are throwing me a graduation party, Midwest edition. When they originally proposed this to me, they pitched it as a barbeque-with-extended-family kind of thing. Somehow, between then and now, it has become hors d'oeuvres at the Wisconsin Memorial Union, overlooking the lake. The guest list has also expanded to include some people I have never even met! It remains a mystery to me why people I have never met would want to come to a graduation party for me. Maybe I will ask them... In any event, it should be fun. For one thing, my brother is coming back to Wisconsin for this shindig, and it's always good to see him. Plus, I got to pick out the food from the catering menu (except dessert -- my mother was insistent on fudge-bottomed pie. Also, the nacho bar I dreamed of and wanted got vetoed. I'm still sad about that). I may not cook much from Wisconsin, but hopefully that will give me a chance to catch up on my blogging.

Golden Egg-White Omelets with Spinach and Cheese (Page 631)

  • Date: Saturday, July 7, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C-

I made this recipe as part of my summer project to cook as much as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book. This omelet was awful. I love omelets, and I especially love egg-white omelets, but this was one that I actually wouldn't eat. Exhibiting a choice that I completely cannot understand, this recipe added pureed roasted yellow peppers to the egg whites to make them look more like whole eggs. Why, why would you do that? Besides being a huge pain in the ass, the fake egg mixture gave the omelet a terrible texture. The claim was that this was supposed to improve the "rubbery" texture of egg whites. But I would much, much, much rather have that rubbery texture than the spongy, watery texture of this concoction. The spinach filling was fine, but I was too offended by the fake eggs to really enjoy it. Delicious egg white omelets are so easy to make. Please don't bother with this recipe!

Thankfully, there is no recipe for this one online.

Today is my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday mom! My mother has bestowed many gifts upon me, including my love of baking. My mom isn't fascinated by the sort of elaborate baking and cake decorating that I am, but she is a fantastic baker. If you are looking for the best chocolate chip cookie you have ever eaten, she's your woman. Or oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies, etc... The same goes for all sorts of pies. She taught me to make lemon meringue pie from scratch when I was young, and I made pie after pie after pie. Never one to use a store-bought crust, some of her first cooking lessons to me were about how to roll out a perfect pie crust.

I was in a school play when I was in 9th grade, and my mother baked treats for the whole cast for pretty much every rehearsal. Every day I would show up with tupperware containers full of cookies, or brownies, or cake. The cast and crew loved it! At the time I was grateful, but thought it odd that she wanted to do that. Now I completely understand and very much see myself in that gesture.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Fresh Orange Slices with Candied Zest and Pistachios (Page 808)

  • Date: Thursday, July 5, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Ricky, Vero, Grace, Jacob, and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: C-


I picked this one because I only have 11 recipes left in the Fruit Desserts section, so I am trying to finish it off! This dessert was awful though. It completely lacked any subtlety. It tasted like orange, followed by more orange, followed by more orange. And while I love candied zest as an accompaniment to a cake, or other dessert, the candied orange zest served on oranges was completely overwhelming. Most people just refused to eat it. The only positive thing that I can say is that the pistachios were a nice component. They tasted good in the orange syrup. But all together the dessert was pretty mediocre. You would be better off serving just a plain old orange. Or perhaps nothing at all.

The recipe is very similar to this one. Some of the amounts are different. I won't explain exactly how because I really don't recommend making it!

A quick shout out to my friend Alex, whose birthday is today. Happy Birthday! Alex is the mastermind behind the project index (link in the sidebar on the right) which provides me with endless entertainment. It also helps tremendously in keeping track of which sections I am behind on and which sections are going well. Plus, I love to be able to see all in one place the various people who have cooked/eaten with me throughout this project, and to remember which recipes they took part in. Basically what I am saying is: Yay Alex! I would have no idea how to program such a thing myself, but Alex is smart that way. And I appreciate it!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mushroom, Radicchio, and Smoked Mozzarella Lasagne (Page 231)

  • Date: Thursday, July 5, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Matt, Ricky, Jacob, Vero, Mike, and Grace
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this recipe because Jacob came for dinner on Bad Movie night, so I needed something vegetarian. I had very, very, very low expectations for this dish. The last radicchio and smoked mozzarella dish was a disaster. Matt and I made this dish together, and the mushroom and radicchio sauce looked foul from the start. Even Matt, who is very open-minded about food, was scared. But in the end it came together beautifully. Mysteriously enough the bitterness of the radicchio all but disappeared. The mushrooms were flavorful without tasting like dirt (which is usually my main mushroom complaint). The smoked mozzarella gave the dish a bit of a kick, but the smoky flavor wasn't overwhelming. I did some strange multiplication to make a recipe big enough to serve all of us, and then I maybe didn't use quite as much pasta as I should have. So my version could have used more noodles, but that was not the fault of The Book. Mike complained about the kind of mushrooms I used (just regular old white button), noting that the dish didn't taste as expensive as it could have! But overall most people liked it, and I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it!

Here is the recipe.

There are six recipes in The Book that call for sour cherries. I have searched and searched for these mythical sour cherries. I have looked for them, both fresh and frozen, in every grocery store I have stepped foot in for months. Right now it's sour cherry season, but still no luck. Finally, I decided to give up and order them online. But online research only proved that they are harder to find than I had imagined. I am apparently not the first person to have had this problem. Much research though led me to a farm about 45 minutes north of Boston with pick-your-own sour cherries. So this morning Matt and I drove up there, nice and early, and picked cherries! It was completely delightful. They were incredibly picked over which meant that we ended up crawling into the very hard to reach places to pick. When we got there we asked for 4 quart containers, and the guy at the farm stand said, "It might be hard to pick that many -- we're almost out." We ended up picking 8 quarts though (9 and half pounds!), which is enough to do 5 of the 6 recipes in The Book. I made cherry soup tonight. Tomorrow I will pit and freeze the rest of the cherries for future projects. Picking fruit was SO much fun. I hadn't done that in a long time. It made me anxious for apple season!

Benne Seed Pita Toasts (Page 8)

  • Date: Thursday, July 5, 2007 --7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike, Vero, Jacob, Grace, Ricky, and Matt
  • Recipe Rating: B


Matt and I hosted the Bad Movie Night crowd at his place a couple weeks ago, and we made dinner. I chose this recipe because it was the first recipe in The Book that I hadn't made yet (Now I have made the first 8 recipes. Next up: Liptauer Cheese). These toasts were fine. They had a nice crunch and a good sesame flavor. The directions for making them were quite bad though. There was a sesame seed and butter mixture that you were told to "brush" onto the pita. This mixture was horribly lumpy -- there was no way you could brush it on anything. The sesame seeds all stuck together while the butter pooled around them. Getting stuff on the pita required both a brush for the butter and a fork for the sesame seeds, which were very difficult to spread with any tool. This difficulty amounted to a very uneven distribution. Some toasts were nice and buttery, while others had practically no butter, but plenty of clumped-together sesame seeds. They all tasted fine, but it seemed to me that they would have been just as good (and much less of a pain) if you just brushed them with butter and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Here is the recipe.

Alex added a new feature to the Project Index (link in the sidebar on the right) that computes a projected completion date for my project based on the rate I have been going so far. It confirms that I am a wee bit behind schedule. I had hoped to finish up four years from when I started, which would be January 4, 2010. But instead my currently projected completion date is May 1, 2010. Overall I am averaging 0.82 recipes per day, which isn't too bad. My plan is to try to get that up to 1.0 recipes per day, at least for this summer. Truth be told though, I am not too worried about finishing up a little late, as long as I finish. Some of the recipes towards the end are probably going to be a little time consuming -- although I have been doing a better job of doing some of the time-consuming recipes now, e.g. the wedding cakes. In any event, I am hoping that the new feature tracking my pace will keep me motivated to not fall behind!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Coconut Custard Pie (Page 770)

  • Date: Wednesday, July 4, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Alex, Gunther, Matty, and a bunch of other partygoers...
  • Recipe Rating: C

This one came off the list made by the random number generator. I made it to bring to a 4th of July party at Alex's. In summary: yick. What's worse than a recipe being bad is when a recipe takes truly delicious components and makes them bad. I would probably have felt better about this pie being bad if it at least contained one ingredient that I don't love. But as it was, it took a bunch of delicious things and made them significantly less delicious. First the positive comment: the crust was good. It was a quick puff pastry crust rather than a more traditional pate brisee. It came out very nicely on the sides. On the bottom it was a bit soggy, despite being blind-baked, but it still had a nice flavor. The real problem was the filling. The coconut custard was incredibly eggy, both in taste and texture, which made it wholly unappealing in a sweet pie. It had a gelatinous quality to it that was quite bad. The whipped cream topping was nice, but it was sweetened significantly, which contributed to the whole dessert being way too sweet -- and I like my dessert sweet, so you know this one was way overboard! I love almost any pie, but I found this one hard to eat. Definitely not a winner.

Here is the recipe.

When I was writing my thesis, I would sometimes work at one of my friends' apartments for a change of scenery. In the spring I would sit on his futon in my Indiana sweatpants and a t-shirt, typing away all afternoon. There is a guy who lives across the street who was always sitting on the porch. I don't know if he's unemployed, or just works odd hours, but almost every afternoon that I was sitting on the futon he would be lounging on the porch furniture, reading a novel while I was working on my thesis. In moments of deep self-pity, I would stare at him and envy his leisurely reading. I could never tell if he could see me there. If so he probably wondered if I was unemployed myself, or what kind of job I had that involved sitting on a futon in sweatpants all day.

Today the weather is beautiful, and I am outside sitting on the porch with my laptop, relaxing and writing emails. The mystery guy just came outside and is sitting on his floral green porch furniture across the street. I had to stop myself from yelling, "hi" when he came outside. I had to remind myself for a second that even though I have him filed as "Porch Guy," I don't actually know him...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cheese Omelet (Page 631)

  • Date: Sunday, July 1, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this recipe as part of my mission to cook more from the Breakfast and Brunch section this summer. It was delicious. As I was making this I thought, "Does there really need to be a recipe for a cheese omelet in The Book?" Making omelets is pretty simple, and this one has very few ingredients. I have to say though, this recipe makes a lovely omelet, so I think it deserves to be included. One minor comment: the recipe could have called for slightly less butter and slightly more cheese. It wasn't quite as cheesy and gooey as I would have liked inside. The recipe called for a lot of butter, and while it contributed a lot of flavor, it left the omelet a little greasy. Less butter would have been better. If you don't make a lot of omelets and are looking for very specific directions for making a good one, give this recipe a try.

There is no recipe for this one online.

For the first time in a long time I am less than two weeks behind on my blogging! Whoo hoo! My friends have been complaining a lot that they aren't getting quoted as much in my blog as they used to be. This is not (as Mike might suggest) because I am ignoring other people's food commentary, but rather just because I forget exactly what people said between the time we eat the food and I write it up. Now I am trying to close the gap a little. Obviously one way to close the gap would be to stop cooking, but I am not sure that's such a good idea! So I will have to blog faster! I am currently only 10 recipes behind, which isn't too bad. It's important to always be a few recipes behind, because then if I am traveling, or too lazy to cook, I still have something to blog about!

Maple Mustard-Glazed Canadian Bacon (Page 658)

  • Date: Sunday, July 1, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+


I picked this recipe as part of my mission to do as many Breakfast and Brunch recipes as possible before I move to Indiana. This recipe was not a winner. The maple mustard glaze had a good flavor, but broiling the Canadian bacon made it incredibly tough. It ended up having the consistency of shoe leather. It would have been infinitely better had it just been brushed with the glaze and then heated in a frying pan on the stove. As it was, it was dry, and chewy, and gross. It's rare that I will take one bite of a piece of meat and not want to eat any more, but with this recipe, that was what happened. Matt wasn't quite as offended by the dish as I was, but he agreed that it wasn't good.

Here is the recipe.

Truth be told, although I blog I don't read too many blogs. My friends Mike and Melanie have blogs and I read those. I also read the blog of the guy who is doing the same Gourmet Project that I am. But in general I am not so much into reading the blogs of strangers.

There is one website though that I have to recommend for those who are unfamiliar: PostSecret. People anonymously send their secrets to this guy on postcards, and every Sunday he puts a bunch of new ones on the website. It's really interesting to read the things that people write, and see what secrets they feel weighed down by. If you have never seen this website, I suggest checking it out for a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Marion Cunnngham's Raw Apple Muffins (Page 641)

  • Date: Sunday, July 1, 2007 -- 2am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Mike
  • Recipe Rating: A


I had to stay awake really late one night, and I figured the best way to prevent myself from falling asleep was to do a little baking! These muffins were awesome! Just reading the recipe they didn't sound too inspired, but they came out perfect. They were fantastically moist, and had wonderful chunks of apple. The raisins and walnuts were in the exact right quantity, and added a lot to the muffins. The spicing was also spot on. The muffins weren't too heavy, or too sweet. It was an ideal recipe for this type of muffin. They stayed moist and delicious for days, which is a lovely quality in a baked good. The next time I am in need of an apple muffin I will definitely be making this recipe again.

Sadly, this recipe does not appear online.

Well, I went to the doctor today to get the results of my MRI from last week. Fortunately, everything is looking ok! My tumor (Bessie -- that's what I named her -- it's a joke, but I am not going to explain it) isn't taking up any more space in my brain than she was last year at this time. So that's good. It was my last visit with my tumor doctor before I move away and find a new doctor. As I was leaving he said, "Well, it's been a pleasure. You are a very low-maintenance patient." I wasn't sure how to translate or respond to that. Was the content of that comment, "Thanks for not bugging me too much with questions," or "Thanks for not having more serious medical problems."? It's a mystery.

It made me feel strangely nostalgic though, realizing it was the last time I would sit in his huge office and stare at the tropical fish, while he drew pictures and explained to me for the nth time the various risks I should avoid. I don't particularly like it there, sitting in his office, but it's one of those things that I had classified as just part of my ordinary life. It didn't occur to me until today that this would be the last time, and I would have to find new tropical fish to stare at.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lemon Blackberry Wedding Cake (Page 736)

  • Date: Saturday, June 23, 2007 -- 4pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Chris, Richard, Anita, Richard H, Renato, Ephraim, Jack, Emilee, Teri, Terry, Marco, Mike, Tim, John, and many, many others...
  • Recipe Rating: B-




Several months before she died Michael asked me if I would take care of the food for her memorial service. I had most of it catered, but Ephraim requested that I make a cake. I went back and forth about making the big wedding cake from The Book for this event, but finally decided that Michael was always so supportive of my culinary experimentation that she would certainly have endorsed the idea. As you can see in the pictures, I chose not to tier the cake, as that seemed inappropriate for the occasion. As I was serving more people that this cake was intended for, I multiplied the cake batter by 4/3 and the frosting by 3/2 (so I would have plenty to decorate with).

The cake(s) came out really beautiful, but I wasn't happy at all with the way they tasted. This recipe was written to be as simple as possible to make. To that end, the cake is a pound cake, the layers of which hold up very well to being split, and don't crumb much. It's a joy to work with. But, really, it's a bad choice of cake for a huge layered creation like this. Pound cake is heavy, and really dense. It's also pretty dry, which is something I am very sensitive to. To the credit of whoever wrote this recipe, there is a lemon soaking syrup as part of the recipe to combat this dryness. But the cake was so dense that it wouldn't absorb much syrup. This was a problem not only because the cake was left dry but also because the syrup left a pool of liquid on top of the layers, which mixed with the blackberry jam and dripped off the sides of the unfrosted cake, making a huge, berry-colored mess. Fortunately, frosting covers a multitude of sins, but it was more than a little annoying. All the lemon flavor for the cake was also in that syrup, which mainly ran off the cake rather than absorbing, so the cake came out a little bland in addition to being dry.

Conceptually this cake was a good idea, but by dumbing-down the recipe with pound cake layers, it really ruined the cake. All that said, it was beautiful, and most people at least claimed to enjoy it. The decoration was not part of the recipe.

Here is the recipe, but if I were you I wouldn't try it.

Cream Cheese Frosting (Page 739)

  • Saturday, June 23, 2007 -- 4pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Chris, Richard, Anita, Renato, Ephraim, Richard H, Jack, Emilee, Mike, Tim, John, Marco, Teri, Terry, and many, many others...
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This was the frosting for the cake for Michael's memorial service. It had a good cream cheese flavor, and was sweet without being cloying. The texture was very smooth and fluffy, as a frosting should be. I would certainly use this recipe again for all my cream cheese frosting needs. Although I liked this frosting a lot, it seemed like an odd choice to frost a wedding cake with because cream cheese frosting doesn't set up very well. A frosting that is butter-based (like buttercream) will harden nicely in the fridge and hence provide a lot of stability and can be piped beautifully. Cream cheese doesn't set very hard though, so this frosting never gets super-firm. That makes it difficult to do intricate piping, and also difficult to use the frosting as a source of structural support. It worked out fine, but frosting and decorating would have been much less of a pain with buttercream.

Here's the recipe.

Last night some of us played Trivial Pursuit and ate key lime pie while drinking some alcoholic beverage that Vero made called Sunday Ham. Mmmm... liquid ham. Actually the drink wasn't bad, but our trivial pursuit skills weren't terribly impressive. I had desperately wanted to play, but it was a little bit depressing how few of the questions we could answer. Vero and Matt G won with an impressive ability to guess correct answers. At one point they needed to name the state where the Offutt Air Force Base (and Strategic Air Command) are located. They had no idea, but happened to guess the correct answer, Nebraska. How likely is that?!?

At the end of the evening someone made the fine suggestion that next time we play a game that doesn't require any specific knowledge. Pictionary, here we come!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Lemon Syrup (Page 739)

  • Date: Saturday, June 23, 2007 -- 4pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Chris, Richard, Anita, Richard H, Jack, Teri, Terry, Ephraim, Emilee, Marco, John, Mike, Tim, and many, many others...
  • Recipe Rating: B


This syrup was a component of the cake I made for Michael's memorial service. It's hard to say too much about this one. The recipe was: stir together some lemon juice, some water, and some sugar. That's all. So, it tasted a lot like it sounds -- basically like lemonade. I like lemonade. Would I drink this stuff plain? Maybe not. But for its intended purpose it had the right concentrations of lemon flavor and sweetness. I wasn't wowed by it, but it wasn't bad either. In theory this syrup was used as a soaking syrup for the cake layers before they were assembled. In practice that was a bit of a disaster, but more on that when I get to the cake itself.

Here is the recipe.

My new pet project for the summer is to cook as many recipes from the Breakfast and Brunch section as possible. When I move to Indiana I will be living alone, at least until I find a roommate, and somehow cooking breakfast/brunch seems less likely to happen when I am living by myself. Truth be told, the only things I can eat in the morning without making myself sick are Clif Bars. I used to be a person who woke up in the morning, rolled out of bed, and was starving to eat whatever I could find in the kitchen. It never bothered me. Now, thanks (I think) to my nasty medication, this is not the case. A certain friend likes to make fun of me about how often I ignore the obvious consequences and try to eat something non-Clif trademarked in the morning. It's nearly always a disaster. So, cooking breakfast/brunch for myself is a no-go, at least in the morning. Thus, I am making as many of those recipes as possible while I have someone else around to eat them. I, of course, still taste everything (a few bites is usually not enough to make me regret it), and sometimes I make brunch for late morning, when I am able to eat like a normal person!

Almond Flan with Summer Fruit (Page 834)

  • Date: Monday, June 18, 2007 --8:30pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: A


I picked this recipe because flan seemed like the right dessert to pair with fish tacos. Truth be told, I usually don't like flan. It is very near the bottom of my list of preferred desserts. I never make it, and I rarely eat it. So I approached this recipe with a bad attitude. I will admit though: I was wrong to be crabby about this flan recipe. It was amazing! My usual flan complaints are that the texture can be very gelatinous and unappealing, and the flavor is often overwhelmingly eggy. This flan suffered from no such problems. The texture was smooth and lovely, the flavor had just the right amount of egg, complemented by a hint of almond, and the caramel topping was delicious! It also looked beautiful when it came out of the pan, and sliced very nicely. This recipe was a winner. Everyone at dinner loved it!

I am sad to say that this recipe does not appear online.

This past week has been full of parties or big social gatherings (every day since Tuesday!), so I am very much enjoying the peacefulness of this Sunday morning. I wish I were better able to motivate to wake up early in the morning. It is such a lovely feeling to be awake when things are wonderfully still. There aren't cars tearing down the street, or people yelling outside. Everything is just quiet, save the noise of some birds and barking dogs. Plus, morning has such an air of optimism to it. I just love it. The problem is that in order to find that silent, still place on a weekday morning, you need to be awake much earlier than I can manage to be most days. But Sundays are still at luxurious hour of 8am. And so I can wake up, take a look outside, and make breakfast in my pajamas, all while enjoying the wonderful feeling of early morning.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fish in Crispy Tacos with Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa (Page 295)

  • Date: Monday, June 18, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I actually picked these tacos because we had a bunch of avocados in the fridge that we needed to use up before they rotted (I know, I know, what a problem to have!). These tacos were delicious! There was no red snapper to be found, so we used some beautiful grouper. The fish had a great flavor, and the salsa was amazing (see post below). It all sat on deep-fried tortillas topped with a bed of arugula salad dressed with a simple lime dressing. The only complaint anyone could come up with was that it was difficult to eat gracefully. That may have been user error though. The directions were a bit unclear to me, as they call for you to deep fry "taco shells" to make the base for this dish. It occurred to me that this meant that I was supposed to buy the folded corn taco shells and use those, which would have been easier to eat. But those are already deep fried, so why would you deep fry them again? This confusion led me to buy corn tortillas and fry them up. They tasted great, but the flat shape did make the tacos hard to eat. It was a small price to pay though for a great entree!

Here is the recipe.

I am exhausted on this late Friday night. This morning was my annual MRI exam. It was uneventful, but I always find it exhausting nonetheless. It seems like laying still for an hour wouldn't be tiring, but somehow laying still for an hour in a very small space that shakes and makes incredible amounts of noise is not so relaxing! I also feel extra unsettled by the metal contrast they shoot in your veins. The first time I had the MRI with the contrast agent, the technician who was giving me the injection said, "Don't worry, it's safe. It's an element." I found that not-so-comforting. Now, every time I have that injection of contrast in my arm I think about that comment. I also made the mistake that first time of saying that I felt weird after they injected the contrast. All I had meant was that I could feel the cold liquid moving up my arm. Apparently though some small percentage of people are fatally allergic to the stuff they use, so when I said that the technician completely freaked out. Now I am much more careful about my choice of words!

Anyway, MRI day is admittedly not my favorite part of the year, but it's over now. Results next week!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Avocado and Tropical Fruit Salsa (Page 296)

  • Monday, June 18, 2007 --7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: A


This salsa accompanied some fish tacos that we had for dinner a few weeks ago. It was excellent! From the various tropical fruit options listed, I used golden kiwis and mango, which were absolutely perfect with the avocado and remaining ingredients. The fruit gave this salsa a lovely sweetness, while the red onion and jalapeno gave it some savoriness and spice. It was absolutely wonderful on the fish tacos, but I think it would be great with any seafood, or on chips, or, frankly, by the spoonful! I highly recommend this recipe. It was quick to make and really came together beautifully. Definitely a case of the end product being more than the sum of its parts.

Here is the recipe.

I don't think I saw a single firework yesterday, but I still had a nice Fourth of July. I made a big breakfast and then went to the homeless shelter for lunch, where I cooked 240 hamburgers! Andy, who was supervising the meal, put me in charge of those burgers and I took my job very seriously! The cookout at the shelter was really nice -- very traditional: burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, corn on the cob, salad, watermelon, and ice cream sandwiches. The weather was beautiful (at least for that part of the day) and everyone seemed to have a great time!

Later in the afternoon I went with a friend to Walden Pond. It was a bit dramatic. He was running laps around the pond (which is about 2 miles around) and I was walking. At some point we concocted this elaborate plan on how to meet up. But then it started to pour and we both deviated from the plan in ways that were completely logical, but whose success depended on the other person not deviating. So basically we ended up unable to find each other for 45 minutes, standing/walking/running in the rain, both worried that something horrible had happened to the other person. In the end it was fine though - we were drenched, but it's beautiful out there, and it was still a good time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Collard Greens Miniera (Page 540)

  • Date: Monday, June 18, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Tom and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I can't really recall what the logic was behind this choice of side dish. These greens weren't great. Truth be told, I don't particularly like collard greens. But, Tom and Ashley do, and they agreed that this dish wasn't so good, so it isn't just my personal bias talking. Typical preparations of collard greens call for them to be cooked for a long time -- on the order of an hour. In this recipe the greens were cooked for one minute. Seriously, one minute. They were cut in a fine chiffonade to minimize the toughness of the greens. I respected that the greens still had some integrity to them because of the short cooking time, but they also had a strong (arguably unpleasant) bite. The bacon helped a bit, but the greens were cooked so briefly in the bacon fat that they didn't pick up too much bacon flavor. I certainly wouldn't make this dish again, but someone more excited about bitter greens might have enjoyed it more than I did.

Here is the recipe.

My roommate for the summer is presently cleaning like a madman. I am sitting here, typing, having nothing to do with it. I certainly clean, but when the vacuum comes out, I put in earplugs and retreat.

I think I have some sort of post-traumatic stress associated to the vacuum cleaner. Anyone who knows my mother knows that she is more than a little tidy. The woman LOVES to clean. She vacuums every day -- sometimes twice, and when I was growing up it was often rather early in the morning. So I have, in my life, been awoken out of a dead sleep many times by the sound of the vacuum cleaner. On occasion she would even vacuum my room with me still asleep in it. To this day I can't stand the sound of the vacuum. I have been fortunate enough to live in apartments with all hardwood flooring for years now, where it is possible to clean without one.

But sitting here now, surrounded by the sound of the vacuum and the smell of cleaning products, I feel as though I am young, at home in my parents' house. The loud noise and chemical odor make it hard to feel too pleasantly nostalgic though...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Drunken Beans (Page 266)

  • Date: Monday, June 18, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Charlottesville, VA
  • Kitchen: Mike's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom, and Ashley
  • Recipe Rating: B


I made tacos for dinner a couple weeks ago, and I chose these beans to go with them. This dish was ok. I was expecting a lot of flavor from these beans, as they were cooked for hours with bacon, onion, garlic, oregano, beer, and pickled jalapenos. Surprisingly though, they came out pretty bland. They were spicy (too spicy in my opinion) but there was no depth of flavor. I should note that Matt ate them as leftovers a couple days later and said that they were MUCH better then. He said the spiciness mellowed out a bit and the other flavors really came through. So maybe it would be wise to make them at least a day ahead. The amount of liquid also made the beans difficult to serve and eat. In the picture above you can see that they are very soupy, and that was after draining off much of the liquid that was in the dish when it was removed from the oven. Perhaps the flavors would have been more concentrated, and hence easier to detect, if there was less liquid. Overall these beans were fine, but not particularly worth the trouble. Also odd: The Book claims the start to finish time on this recipe is 45 minutes, but the beans cook in the oven for 2 hours!

The recipe is identical to this one, except the one in The Book says that the beans need to soak for at least 8 hours instead of 4.

Matt witnessed my pull-up today at the gym, which makes my goal officially completed! So now I am wondering, what should I try to do next? The pull-up was the perfect fitness goal because it was difficult and required a lot of training, but was also concrete and achievable. Most importantly, it motivated me to go to the gym. I have no good ideas for a new goal though. Thoughts?

I briefly dated a guy a few years back whose older brother was a professional poker player. He also did some proposition betting, and often the bets were fitness related. The details of his bets are now vague in my memory, but as I recall, he bet someone $10,000 that he could learn to do a standing back tuck in a week. He did it, and collected on the bet. He bet a much larger sum of money that in a year he could learn to run a 5 minute mile (at least I think it was 5 minutes...). On that one he did not come out ahead... Occasionally when I think about the random goals I set for myself and the obsession with which I pursue them, I am reminded of this type of gambling. I should have taken bets about the pull-up. I think there are a good number of people out there who would have bet against me!