Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spicy Beef and Red Bean Chili (Page 450)

  • Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cutler, Maine
  • Kitchen: Somerled House
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty and Brad
  • Dining Companions: Wes, Karen H, Dave, Deniz, Serrana, Nicholas, and Enzo
  • Recipe Rating: A-


We were serving a crowd up in Maine last week, so Matt and I chose chili because it is easy to make a ton. This chili was quite good. The chunks of beef were very tender from the slow cooking, and the broth had impressive depth of flavor. Layers of flavor were built into this dish, starting from cooking the beef in bacon fat, and building over additional ingredients and hours of cooking. We were a little bit skeptical about the additions of both coffee and chocolate in this chili, but they worked. It was the wide selection of delicious toppings that really made this dish though. Alongside the chili there were dishes of avocado, bacon, cilantro, red onion, sour cream, etc... They cut some of the spice from the chili and provided a lovely counterpoint to the richness of the dish. Plus, it was fun to have so many toppings to choose from, especially with a big group of people around the dinner table.

This recipe is very similar, except the one in The Book is made with beef and has chocolate added.

My exploration of Bloomington continues. I found out yesterday that there is a whole side of town that I didn't know about. So yesterday evening Matty and I took a brief break from our work to drive out there and look around. This evening we did the same, checking out some places we didn't get to last night. I have now found both a big grocery store and a local co-op grocery store that I like -- the former for its wide selection of everything and the latter for its extensive spices, grains, etc... A little internet research also led me to a butcher, which I haven't investigated yet but am looking forward to checking out.

Today was day two of teaching. Back to back lectures are a bit tiring I have discovered. It's going well though and a bunch of students came to my office hours this afternoon, which I view as a good thing. I am getting into the swing of things finally. I have more or less figured out all the beginning-of-the-term organizational things for my class, which frees up a lot of time to do things like my own research! Theoretically it should also free up some time to unpack my apartment, but I have completely lost all motivation to do that. It's a goal for this weekend!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Skillet Corn Bread (Page 600)

  • Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cutler, Maine
  • Kitchen: Somerled House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Wes, Karen H, Dave, Serrana, Nicholas, and Enzo
  • Recipe Rating: B

I have been wanting to make this cornbread for ages (I love cornbread!) but I couldn't because I don't have a big cast iron pan. However, the vacation house in Somerled that we were in last week did! So I made this cornbread, and some chili to go with it, for dinner one night. This cornbread was good, but not amazing. The texture was spot on: moist and a little bit crumbly on the inside, and just slightly crunchy around the edges. I found the flavor a bit lacking though. I like cornbread to have the wonderful, deep cornmeal flavor. I found this recipe to be a little bland. It made me wonder if it just needed a bit more salt to bring out the flavor of the cornmeal. I wouldn't make this recipe again, but I did eat a bunch of it the next day, warmed up and drizzled with honey, which wasn't bad at all!

Here is the recipe.

As I write this, I am making my first recipe from The Book in my new apartment. It's a chicken. Chicken with forty cloves of garlic actually. I have now been to 4 different grocery stores in Bloomington, carefully examining what can be purchased in each one. The one thing I haven't found so far is a grocery store with a good butcher. But, I did find some nice looking chickens, hence the selection of recipe this evening. My new kitchen is fancier than anywhere I have lived before. I am still marveling at having a dishwasher. I can't decide which I like better: the dishwasher, or the crushed ice dispenser on the door of my refrigerator. Probably the dishwasher is a bigger thing, but I love having my beverages really cold, so I am pretty excited about the ice.

If you walked into my apartment right now, you would find that my priorities are pretty clear: the only room in my apartment that is completely unpacked is the kitchen. There are boxes strewn throughout the rest of the place, but the kitchen is completely clean -- dishes in cupboards, food on shelves -- everything in its place. It's important to be able to cook (and eat)! Speaking of, my oven timer is beeping. My chicken is ready to be eaten!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chicory Salad with Oranges and Red Onion (Page 138)

  • Date: Tuesday, August 21, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Cutler, Maine
  • Kitchen: Somerled House
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, Matty, Serrana, Nicholas, and Enzo
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I picked this salad while standing in the grocery store in Machias, Maine, trying desperately to find all the ingredients for some salad or vegetable from The Book. Oddly, though they didn't have a big selection of produce, they did have chicory. So I figured I would make this salad while I had the opportunity. I was skeptical about it -- chicory is a very bitter green, and bitter greens are never my favorite. But actually this salad was better than I expected. Cutting the center stems from the chicory leaves made them less intensely bitter. The sweetness of the oranges also helped offset the bitterness. The dressing was very nice -- it was a simple red wine vinaigrette with mustard, but it complemented the greens quite well. The blanched and marinated red onions were visually appealing, and definitely a better choice than raw red onions would have been, both in terms of flavor and texture. Overall it was a pretty good salad. It was still very bitter -- too bitter for my personal taste -- but for a salad centered around chicory, I thought it was good.

Here is the recipe.

After an inexcusably long silence, I am back. The last few days have been crazy. On Friday, five of us crawled back in the little Honda Civic hatchback to drive the 7 hours from the fabulous house in Maine back to Boston. We arrived late Friday evening. Saturday morning Matty and I took an early flight back to Columbus, where we spent the day attending 10-year high school reunion activities (his, not mine). Sunday morning we drove the four hours from Columbus back to Bloomington. Then I spent the rest of the day taking care of the final administrative details for my class so that I was ready to teach this morning.

My classes this morning went well. In total I have about 130 calculus students, divided into two sections. I have a lot of freshman, and I felt a bit privileged to be teaching them on their very first morning of college.

It was an exhausting day though, between teaching, sorting out various details for the web components of my classes, and trying to find answers to all sorts of administrative questions. Also the unpacking of my apartment continues, seemingly endlessly. I am exhausted in a good way though -- I have that satisfying feeling that I did almost as much today as I possibly could have. I like that feeling. And now for another feeling I like: bedtime!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Birchermuesli (Page 626)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matt
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Ricky, Ana, Wes, Glen, Genevieve, Alex, and Gunther
  • Recipe Rating: B+


This is the last recipe from our brunch a couple weeks ago now. To say that there were mixed opinions about this muesli would be an enormous understatement. When trying to grade this recipe, there was drama. There was yelling, there was swearing, there were almost even tears. Granted most of the drama was a bit faked, but people did strongly disagree. There were two schools of thought. School A (including the loud opinions of Matty and me, amongst others) thought it was a delightful muesli, full of hearty oats, flavorful fruit and fruit juice, and creamy yogurt, all combined together to form something flavorful and delicious. School B (including Alex, Ana, Ricky and others) thought it was a mushy, disgusting mess. Complaints from school B included: there was way too much oatmeal, the fruit being shredded gave the whole thing the flavor of fruit which was eerie and unappealing since you couldn't actually see any fruit in it, etc... In summary, this seemed to be one of those dishes that you either loved or hated. I loved it. I love muesli. I thought this muesli was great. It wasn't visually appealing, I will acknowledge that, but muesli never is. I would have given it an A-, but clearly serving it to company isn't a good idea, since at least half of my brunch guests referred to it as "mush" the whole time, and refused to eat it.

There is no recipe for this one online.

Sorry for the blog silence this week. I am writing this from a beautiful house on the coast of Maine, which (aside from the lack of internet) is pretty much ideal. There is a Dunkin Donuts parking lot 20 miles away which seems to have internet, so I will hopefully make it there sometime in the next few days and post this.

In the meantime, I am sitting on the porch, elevated above the ocean on some enormous rocks, watching the waves crash against the coast. It is gorgeous! Karen commented this morning that looking out onto the ocean it is easy to feel like you are sitting on the edge of the world. The horizon is vast with blue seas as far as the eye can see. The week so far has been extremely relaxing: hiking, cooking, running, watching 90210 on DVD, sitting around the campfire, trying to speak French to 5 year-old Enzo who prefers French to English, sitting on rocks and staring out over the ocean, etc... In summary: it's been very nice. Even the ride up here, where we had five adults crammed into a very small Honda Civic hatchback, was fun. This afternoon everyone is out hiking. I stayed back to work on planning my class (I start teaching on Monday), and being here alone, in a huge house on the ocean, is the most peaceful I can remember feeling in a long time...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Viennese Jelly Doughnuts (Page 623)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty, Matt, Ricky, and Alex
  • Dining Companions: Ana, Wes, Glen, Genevieve, and Gunther
  • Recipe Rating: A-

At the last minute I added these doughnuts to the menu for brunch last Sunday. They were quite good. Some people were extremely taken with them, while others said they would have preferred to have a Krisy Kreme. These Viennese doughnuts, aka Krapfen, are slightly different in nature than their American counterpart. They are more spherical in shape and have a very airy interior, rather than a very doughy one. Luckily, we had a genuine Austrian at brunch to test their authenticity. Gunther's verdict: these were very good Krapfen. I liked the fact that they were easy to make and fried up beautifully -- you know how I enjoy any excuse to deep-fry! The exterior became just a touch crisp after frying, while the jam inside melted deliciously. They were definitely different than the jelly doughnuts most people in the states are used to eating, so if you are looking for that I would recommend trying a different recipe. But for something delicious, and a little different, these Viennese doughnuts are delicious.

Here is the recipe.

The more consecutive weeks that I travel, the more careless I get in my packing. I began to regret this an hour or so ago, when I looked at the weather forecast for my week in Maine. Normally I would have done this in advance, before I packed, but yesterday morning I was exhausted, and we left Bloomington around 8am. It didn't even occur to me to check the weather. So I packed some summer clothes and left. It turns out that it's going to be cold in Maine! It will be in the 40's at night and I brought with me not a single sweater or jacket. Whoops! There is a lesson to be learned there, but I'm not sure if the lesson is to be more careful when you pack, or to stop traveling when you are exhausted.

The upside of traveling exhaustion is that it really alleviates my fear of flying. Yesterday on the plane I realized I was much calmer than usual. I attribute it to two factors. One, it was the third weekend in a row I was flying, and I think I just ran out of the energy that it takes to be afraid. Two, we were flying Jet Blue. For some reason I find those TVs they have in the Jet Blue seats to be very calming. It's not just that they are distracting. Actually I don't think it is that at all. Rather, watching TV makes me feel like flying is no big deal. I am sitting on the airplane, doing the exact same thing that millions of Americans are doing on the ground: watching TV. Plus, since I practically never watch TV (and certainly never watch cable!) it's a small luxury to be able to do so. Whatever the reason, I was calmer yesterday than I have been, which is good because I have to fly again next Saturday!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Baked Eggs and Mushrooms in Ham Crisps (Page 634)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty and Ana
  • Dining Companions: Matt, Ricky, Alex, Gunther, Wes, Glen, and Genevieve
  • Recipe Rating: C+


I chose this recipe to be served as part of our big brunch buffet last weekend. On the positive side, these egg cups were extremely cute. They looked very much like something I wanted to eat. As it turned out though, they didn't taste particularly good. In general I like tarragon, but in this instance it overpowered the other flavors in the mushroom mixture. I would have preferred to taste the mushrooms and shallots more, and the tarragon less. The eggs and the ham were just ok. The ham got a bit tough in the oven, and not as crispy as I hoped it would. Overall, this dish seemed to be more about presentation than flavor. The presentation was indeed nice, but the flavors just didn't come together for me. This was the one dish from brunch that no one seemed to have any strong positive feelings for.

Here is the recipe.

Being in Boston tonight I am feeling surprisingly homesick for my new apartment in Bloomington. I have only slept there for two nights so far, and my bed is still surrounded by boxes, packing material, and various half-unpacked items strewn about, but I really like it there. As soon as I started unpacking my stuff, putting my cookware into the cupboards and my clothes into the closets, it quickly began to feel like home to me. I can't wait to buy some groceries and do some cooking in my new kitchen (equipped with tons of counter space, a garbage disposal, and a DISHWASHER!). My mother is coming to visit me for a couple weeks starting on labor day, so my plan is to try to finish unpacking by then, and have her help me decorate things a bit -- she is excellent at that kind of thing. But that will have to wait until next Sunday, when I return to Bloomington.

Ruth's Pancakes (Page 645)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matt and Ricky
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Wes, Alex, Gunther, Glen, Genevieve, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-


These pancakes were part of our brunch extravaganza last weekend. They were quite delicious -- it would be hard not to be with that much butter! Matt and Ricky did a beautiful job cooking them so they came out slightly crispy around the edges, and perfectly cakey and moist on the interior. The delicious buttery flavor of these pancakes was complemented nicely both by maple syrup and by the blueberry syrup in The Book. I would feel a little guilty making this pancake recipe too often (they are genuinely terrible for you), but for a special occasion, these pancakes are the way to go. Simple, delicious, and of course: buttery.

There is no recipe for this one online.

This evening I am back in Boston. The crazy August travel schedule included for today: a drive from Bloomington to Columbus Ohio (4 hours), a flight from Columbus to New York City, and then a flight from New York to Boston. I am only in Boston for the night, before heading up to rural Maine in the morning. This reminds me: blogging might be pretty sketchy for the next week or so. Apparently the internet hasn't made it to rural Maine yet, so I am told I may have to go without. Craziness! I can't imagine I will survive a week completely without internet, so you will hear from me when I get in the car and drive aimlessly until I find somewhere or someone with wireless access I can borrow! Next weekend it is back to Boston, then back to Columbus, then back to Bloomington, so I can start teaching a week from Monday! When I came up with this plan I was wary that it was too crazy to work, but so far the travels/moving have gone off without any major problems. Hopefully that fine luck will continue!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Baked French Toast (Page 650)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Wes, Matty, Matt, Ricky, Glen, Genevieve, Alex, Gunther, and Ana
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This French toast was part of our brunch feast on Sunday. This recipe was excellent. I was skeptical about this baked French toast -- I worried it would lose some of its deliciousness if it wasn't fried on the stovetop. But actually, I preferred this to any other French toast I have had recently. It came out puffed and golden, with a perfect French toast flavor. One person complained it was soggy, which maybe reflected some uneven absorption (or baking?) because most people commented that it wasn't soggy at all. My favorite touch was the sugar sprinkled on top. It melted in the oven, forming a lovely sugar crust which was crispy and delicious! This was a hit with almost everyone, and was extremely easy to throw together. It was perfect for a crowd since the pieces don't have to be fried individually. This recipe was definitely a winner!

Here is the recipe.

Nothing will make you appreciate your car like driving a thousand miles in a 16 foot truck, towing a car carrier with a car on top of it! Driving that thing was quite an experience. For the first few hundred miles I was terribly worried that either the car carrier would come unhitched, or the car would come off of it. I kept thinking about the disastrous accidents it would cause on the highway to have a car suddenly fall in to the road. In reality, those things have so many safety systems that there is no way that the car was going anywhere, but I was still concerned.

The first night on the road we stayed in a hotel. The area was a little sketchy -- the hotel was across the road from some sort of jail or prison. I was a little worried about the fact that all of my belongings were in the hotel parking lot, so I had a hard time sleeping. In particular, it worried me that my car was just sitting on a car carrier, waiting to be driven off by anyone with a tow hitch. So, in a moment of possibly (slightly) unreasonable behavior, I made Matt come out to the parking lot with me at 1 am and drive the car off the carrier. Needless to say, this was not my most well-received idea ever -- especially since getting the car off the carrier required climbing under the car in the middle of the night.

Anyway, we (the car, me, Matt) made it to Bloomington safely in the end!

Grated Potato Pancake (Page 566)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Ricky, Alex, and Gunther
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Ana, Wes, Glen, Genevieve, and Peter
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I picked this recipe for part of our brunch extravaganza on Sunday. This potato dish was ok. "Hash Browns" might have been a more appropriate name for it. Some people were rather upset by the use of the phrase "Potato Pancake" in describing this dish. (Matty: "If you insist on calling this a Potato Pancake, then I give it a D-. It tastes fine, but it's not a potato pancake. You might as well call it a ham sandwich.") Call it what you like, it was fine. The exterior got fairly crispy, while the potatoes on the inside were nice and tender. Some people found it dull, while others complained that there was too much pepper. I thought the seasoning was fine, although there was nothing terribly exciting about it. I would have preferred a higher ratio of crispy exterior to mushy interior (i.e. I would have preferred a thinner "pancake"). My main complaint though was that it was very unappealing visually. It's hard to appreciate from the picture, but the potatoes turned a nasty grayish-purplish color, that made the pancake look like something you weren't so sure you wanted to put in your mouth.

Here is the recipe.

My apologies for the long blog silence. The last few days have been crazy, but I can happily say that I have made it to Bloomington, along with my car and the rest of my belongings. The move went surprisingly smoothly actually. We had a little bit of a rocky start when the keys to the moving truck got misplaced before we got a chance to pack it, but after that things went as well as you could hope for. This is due, in no small part, to the generous people who helped us on both ends. In Boston Mike, Ricky, Matt, Ana, and Peter helped Matty and I pack the truck. They did such an amazing job packing that after a thousand miles of driving, the inside of that 16 foot truck looked exactly the same as it did when they packed it. Nothing moved! And the only thing that seems to have broken was one small Christmas ornament. Amazing! Speaking of amazing, four graduate students from the department here met up with us yesterday and helped unload the truck in to my new apartment. I had never even met three of these students before, yet they came out in 90 degree weather to help me move in. And they brought homemade brownies! The biggest thank you, of course, should go to Matty, who drove with me all those miles, without complaint, and has spent many hours helping to both pack and unpack my belongings!

So everything I own has been safely transported from my old home in Somerville to my new home in Bloomington, thanks to the help of many very generous people. Thanks!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blueberry Syrup (Page 646)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Ricky
  • Dining Companions: Matt, Matty, Ana, Wes, Glen, Genevieve, Alex, and Gunther
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this syrup to be served with pancakes and French toast at our brunch extravaganza on Sunday. It was very simple: just blueberries, maple syrup, and lemon juice. As you might imagine with those ingredients, it tasted good. The maple flavor was subtle in the syrup -- the blueberries were definitely the focus. But that subtle maple flavor gave the syrup a depth that sugar alone wouldn't have. This syrup also had a good consistency and texture. It was tasty both on pancakes and on French toast. I would certainly recommend it if you are looking for a blueberry syrup.

This syrup is the syrup from this recipe.

Well, the big move is in the morning, so today I ran around like a crazy woman trying to get everything done that I needed to get done. I more or less completed my various checklists. Highlight of the day: fighting with the woman from the gas company over the phone. She insisted that the people who lived in my new apartment last year didn't have gas service (in fact, she insisted that my apartment doesn't exist). I insisted that since the heat is gas heat, they must have, as winter in Indiana without heat would be cold. It went on like this for a while. The disagreement is still unresolved.

I am packed though, and quite early tomorrow morning I will pick up the truck to be loaded and driven to Indiana. Fun, fun!

Tonight, for my last night in Boston, Matty and I went bowling with his brother Wes. I bowled TERRIBLY, but we still had a good time drinking beer and hanging out in the bowling alley. It was a good activity for my last night living here...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Breakfast Pizzas (Page 639)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Gunther, Ana, and Matty
  • Dining Companions: Wes, Matt, Ricky, Genevieve, Glen, and Alex
  • Recipe Rating: B-



We had a big brunch extravaganza today, and this recipe was part of our spread. This recipe sounded really promising: a pate brisee-like crust, topped with cheese, bell peppers, onions, ham, and an egg. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't as good as I thought it would be. This was meant to be a twist on ham, eggs, and biscuits, and I don't think it was completely successful. The main problem was the ratio of ingredients. There was a lot of crust proportional to the other ingredients, which made the dish taste dry. Also, the crust was really rich so having so much of it seemed over the top. More toppings would have been an improvement. Also, the pizzas were cute, but although they were visually appealing some people found the egg in the middle a little off-putting. Overall this dish was fine, but I wouldn't make it again.

There is no recipe for this one online.

The thing about moving is that the To Do lists never seem to end. In Oslo I made a bunch of To Do lists for the days surrounding my move. I have been diligently working on them each day, but the problem is that for every thing I finish, I think of at least three more things to add. I wish I had a few more days. I think it would help tremendously. But, you work with what you've got. I am close enough to ready that I figure my move will go pretty smoothly even if I don't finish every last checklist. I am moving first thing Tuesday morning, so tomorrow I have got to just do as much as I possibly can, and that will be that! Unfortunately a few of the more essential tasks haven't been completed yet. For instance, even though we are driving to Indiana starting Tuesday, I haven't yet figured out how to get there. Whoops! I'll put that near the top of the list for tomorrow. Ok, thinking about this is stressing me out. Back to my lists...

Currant Tea Scones (Page 598)

  • Date: Sunday, August 12, 2007 -- 12pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Matt, Ricky, Ana, Alex, Gunther, Wes, Glen, and Genevieve
  • Recipe Rating: A


Matty and I had a few people over for brunch this morning, and I made these scones as part of our brunch spread. They were a big hit! These scones were delicious and easy, which is a winning combination. My two usual complaints about store bought scones is that they are often dry and/or rock hard. These scones were moist and tender. The flavor of the English Breakfast tea was subtle, but present, and it gave the scones a slightly nuanced flavor. Currants in scones are always delicious, so it's no surprise that they were in this recipe too. The dough was flaky, moist, and simple to prepare. My favorite aspect of these scones though was the sugar sprinkled on top. It melted a bit in the oven, forming a wonderful layer of crunchy sweetness. Yum! These scones were delicious exactly as written, and I imagine that if you omitted the currants and tea, it would make a great base recipe for a wide variety of scones.

Here is the recipe.

I think we set a record today by cooking 9 recipes from The Book for one meal! I had six friends helping cook, which is what made it possible. Since I am going to be moving this week, I doubt I will have the time to cook, so I wanted to get a stockpile of recipes done in order to keep up with my blogging! So we made 9 recipes -- it was fun. We haven't done a big group meal in months. It was nice to be back in the kitchen with lots of people, trying to keep track of 9 recipes at once. It was hectic, and a little crowded, but everything came out really nicely.

It is definitely going to be hard for me, when I first get to Indiana, to be without my cooking crew! On the project index page (link in the sidebar), if you scroll to the bottom there is a list of the various people who have cooked/eaten with me frequently throughout this project. Although certainly there are people on that list who don't live in Boston (Emilee, Brian, Chris, my parents, Mike, Vigleik, Shihchi, Paul, Soren, etc...), most of them do. It's hard to move away and leave behind all the people who have participated in my project so willingly this past year and a half. I appreciate you all, and you are always welcome in my kitchen in Bloomington!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Corned Beef Hash (Page 659)

  • Date: Friday, August 3, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I chose this recipe as part of my ongoing mission to cook as many recipes as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book this summer. This hash was ok. There were things about it that I thought were good, and things that I thought were bad. First, the positive. For one, the eggs were a wonderful addition. They were cooked right in the hash, which was attractive, and gave them a little extra flavor. I also loved the flavors of the potato, red pepper, and onion. And although the potato took longer than the indicated 5 minutes to brown, it came out perfectly cooked in the end. The downside of this recipe: keeping corned beef in "coarsely chopped"-sized pieces resulted in tough little chunks of meat throughout. There was some corned beef that got a bit more finely chopped in the food processor and that was a huge improvement. It dispersed nicely, added flavor more uniformly, and didn't have that really tough feel. I think I would actually like this recipe quite a bit if the corned beef was shredded or finely chopped instead of being left in bigger chunks. As it was, I picked out all the corned beef and happily ate everything else.

Here is the recipe.

I'm back! After a long day of travel yesterday, I fell asleep at 8pm last night, and woke up this morning at the leisurely hour of 6am! It is always shocking to me how the trip home from Europe is so much easier on your system than the trip there. That overnight flight to Europe is killer, and then your schedule is just completely thrown off. I was lucky this trip, and didn't have any real problems with jet lag. But several people had a lot of trouble sleeping, and I remember from previous trips how horrible that feels. The way home, though, is easy. You have one really long day, and the next day you feel fine (although you might be awake at 6am on a Saturday morning!).

Both of my flights were uneventful. The highlight: on the flight from Oslo to Amsterdam, I got up to go to the bathroom, and on the way back to my seat, some guy stopped me and said, "Excuse me, could you get me a cup of coffee?" Apparently I looked like I was a KLM flight attendant. I wasn't really sure how to take that.

Both directions we had fancy planes for the long flight over the Atlantic. The planes had those individual entertainment systems where you could choose your own movie to watch. They also had video games though, which I had never seen before! That was great. I don't like to fly, and I find that movies don't distract me much from the fact that I am flying. Video games did the trick though. I would start playing some stupid game, and then the next time I looked away, an hour and a half had passed. It was awesome!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Whole-Grain Pancakes (Page 646)

  • Date: Thursday, August 2, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


Matty wanted pancakes for dinner last Thursday, so we had pancakes for dinner! These whole-grain pancakes were good. They weren't your typical fluffy pancakes. They were denser and more bread-like. They actually reminded me a lot of a flatbread, and it occurred to me more than once that they would be a nice accompaniment to Indian food. But, they were pancakes, so we drowned them in syrup (Matty) or butter and sugar (me) and enjoyed them! The whole grain gave them a lovely nutty flavor, and the cornmeal added a subtle corn flavor. They were also very moist, which was a plus. I'm not usually a fan of whole wheat pancakes, but these I really liked. The whole wheat also gave the pancakes the illusion of being healthier, which made me feel slightly better about eating them for dinner. They were very tiny, which was a nice change. It was very satisfying to eat a whole bunch of them. Yum!

There is no recipe for this one online.

Today was my last day in Norway. Now I should be packing. My flight is pretty early tomorrow morning. So only a quick summary this evening.

Today:

1. got dressed, ate breakfast, took the train to campus
2. 2 lectures
3. lunch at a vegetarian restaurant we went to almost every day
4. 2 more lectures
5. ate slice of carrot cake
6. one more lecture
7. made dinner of pasta with garlic, salami, and cheese for me and Vero
8. walked through crazy sculpture garden with Grace. saw many sculptures of piles of babies
9. showered
10. wrote in blog.

That's all -- now it's time to pack and go to bed. Goodnight! Tomorrow: back to the US!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wheat Berry and Barley Salad with Smoked Mozzarella (Page 152)

  • Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Richard and Anita's Kitchen
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I have been eying this recipe for some time now, so I made it last week for dinner. It sounded better than it actually was. The ingredients were excellent and it seemed impossible to go wrong by putting them all together. It ended just being way over the top though: too many strong flavors, too many different textures -- it was just too much. The balsamic vinegar was very overpowering in and of itself, but combined with the smoked mozzarella, raw garlic, chives, scallions, etc... it was just too many strong flavors in one place. I would have vastly preferred it if the mozzarella hadn't been smoked, or if there had been less balsamic (or ideally, both). Texture was also an issue. It was chewy, and squishy, and crunchy, etc... Overall this dish was just overpowering to my palate. I liked it, but I wasn't able to eat to much of it.

Here is the recipe.

After a long day of talks, I am sitting in a very comfy chair, listening to the rain, and drinking a horribly overpriced bottle of beer. Ah, Norway. I had some time between talks today to catch up with a variety of mathematicians I hadn't seen in a while, including my advisor, which was nice. Now I think we are going to throw together some dinner in our apartment. It's been fun living in an apartment with a bunch of friends. We have two apartments in the same little building. Six of us are staying in one apartment, and seven in the other. Between the two apartments we are housing most of the young people that are at the conference! I prefer renting an apartment to staying in a hotel room, especially because this way it is possible to cook most of our own food rather than pay the crazy prices at the restaurants. Mike and I are sharing a room in the apartment (as always!). People keep making fun of us that we bicker like a married couple!

Well I must go, it's time to make dinner!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Tarragon Chicken Salad with Walnuts (Page 161)

  • Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+


I chose this recipe to make last week because having some chicken salad around to eat for lunch for a few days seemed like a good idea. This chicken salad wasn't so good though, so we ended up not eating much of it and throwing most of the leftovers away. The main problem with this recipe was that it called for too much chicken. There was not nearly enough dressing for the amount of chicken, which left the whole thing quite dry. Plus, there was so much chicken that the chicken flavor dominated the flavor of the tarragon dressing. It's a shame really because I was looking forward to this more sophisticated version of chicken salad. In fact, I was even looking forward to the lower dressing to chicken ratio that this recipe promised. But I think it overshot in its effort to minimize the dressing, and ended up also minimizing moistness and flavor.

There is no recipe for this one online. No real loss.

Today there were fewer talks (it's very typical for these conferences to give you part of an afternoon off to explore the area), so we went to the beach. Although sitting on the beach probably isn't the first activity you think of when you think of Norway, it was fun! The water was pretty chilly, and rocky, but we had a good time. In leaving the beach I made a couple little mistakes though. For one, I accidentally left my tennis shoes on the beach. Whoops. I really liked those shoes and they have stopped making them. :( Second, when I was leaving I couldn't find Mike. I looked for him, but for reasons that I won't disclose, I didn't look as hard as I might have. Anyway, a bunch of other math people were still around so I figured Mike would just come back with them and it wouldn't be a big deal. Somehow I managed to forget that Mike had put many of his belongings in my bag, including his t-shirt. So, Mike ended up taking the bus back to downtown Oslo, and walking from the bus stop to our apartment without a shirt on. Apparently people stared. Needless to say, by the time he made it back to the apartment he wasn't so happy with me! Whoops!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Grapefruit Ambrosia (Page 806)

  • Date: Monday, July 30, 2007 -- 9pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Richard and Anita's House
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

I chose this recipe for dessert last week because I am trying to finish off the Fruit Desserts section of The Book. This recipe was not nearly as gross as it sounded. It contained the following ingredients: Grapefruit, Coconut, Pistachios, sugar, salt, and Campari, which, although I like all those ingredients separately, did not sound appealing together. As you can see, it was also not terribly visually appealing. But actually, it didn't taste bad. It tasted mainly of grapefruit, but the sweetness from the coconut and the sugar cut some of the tartness of the grapefruit. The pistachios added a bit of texture, and the Campari provided a little kick. It wasn't amazing -- I wouldn't make it again, and I certainly wouldn't serve it to company, but I enjoyed my serving. In fact I had seconds. It was very refreshing, which made it a nice dessert for a hot summer evening.

Here is the recipe.

Hello again from Oslo! Today was day one of the conference. There are a lot of amazing mathematicians here, and many of them are giving talks. So, to fit everyone in, the organizers scheduled six 1-hour talks per day. The talks have been great, but I think six in one day is too many! By the last talk I was completely exhausted (jet lag probably doesn't help...).

I haven't had much of a chance to explore Oslo yet, but from what I have seen of it, it seems like a really nice city. My only complaint is that everything is REALLY expensive. The conference organizers gave us a list of restaurants, not upscale, where we could get food. It said that the entrees at these restaurants cost about $35 each. And these weren't the fancy restaurants! Crazy! So tonight a bunch of us just went to the grocery store, bought some supplies, and threw together a simple dinner of pasta with a quick tomato sauce and vegetables. It was good, and definitely did not cost $35 a person! I have a feeling that this week might involve a lot of food cooked in the apartment. It's too bad I didn't bring The Book with me!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lamb Chops with Mustard Sauce and Fried Capers (Page 504)

  • Date: Monday, July 30, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Richard and Anita's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A


Matty chose this recipe for dinner last Monday. He is such a good sport about always eating whatever I put in front of him, that I figured for once I should ask him what he would like most for dinner. He chose this recipe and it was AMAZING. I actually considered giving this dish the first A+ of the project. We started with some beautiful lamb loin chops and they were cooked very simply on the stovetop to medium rare. They were then covered in a beautiful mustard sauce which was flavorful, creamy, and delicious and topped with some crispy fried capers. It was perfection. The mustard sauce and capers complemented the flavor of the lamb meat fantastically. Plus, the sauce was absolutely perfect in texture and had a nice depth of flavor. We started with great ingredients and we ended up with a great final product.

It is a crying shame that this recipe does not appear online on epicurious.

Hello from Norway! I am so exhausted. Due to my (slight) fear of flying, I find it impossible to sleep on planes. So I haven't slept now for quite some time. It's Sunday night in Norway now, which is confusing on many levels. One, it is 2pm Sunday afternoon Boston time, two, I haven't slept since Saturday morning, and three, the sun is still out like it's mid-afternoon. Apparently Norway gets many hours of sunlight this time of year, which will no doubt be fun every night except tonight, when all of us are horribly jet-lagged and want to go to bed early.

The plane rides were long but largely uneventful. On the second flight I managed to dump an entire cup of Sprite in my lap, soaking through both layers of my dress and the seat I was sitting on. The net results were two very wet, sticky legs, and the appearance that I had peed in my pants. Mike helped matters by telling people that I had. Ah, yes. Anyway, we all made it here safely, and went to a nice reception this evening before the conference starts tomorrow morning.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Roasted Okra (Page 552)

  • Date: Monday, July 30, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Richard and Anita's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I have been trying to make this dish for a few weeks, but I have been grocery shopping mostly at the not-fancy grocery store (READ: Star Market) where they have no okra. Last week I had to go the fancy grocery store (READ: Whole Foods) so I picked up the okra for this recipe while I was there. This dish was ok. Truth be told, I am not a huge okra fan. Luckily Matty likes it, so he ate the entire recipe minus the one piece that I ate. This dish was very simple, so if you like okra you are bound to like it, and if you don't, it's probably not going to change your mind. The okra was tossed with oil, oregano, salt, and pepper and then roasted until tender. Not much to it. Since I am not an okra fan, I will give you the opinion of someone who is: Matt thought it was tasty, and would eat it again, but he wasn't wowed by it.

There is no recipe for this one online.

This evening I am off to Norway for a conference. I have never been to Scandinavia before, so I am excited about my upcoming Norwegian adventure. This conference is big, and many of my close friends are going so it should be fun. The fancy conference participations (e.g. the speakers) are all staying at some hotel. But it was expensive so a big group of us organized to share a couple apartments instead. I'm not sure exactly how many of us are staying in what Veronique has tagged "Commune Vigleik" -- I lost count around 11 or 12. I'm sure it will be crazy!

It's a long trip to Oslo, but luckily Mike is traveling with me. I vastly prefer flying with a friend over flying alone. Honestly, I am still not particularly looking forward to the long flight, but I am sure I will be fine once we get in the air.

If I have internet access I will definitely blog from Norway. I am backlogged by a week's worth of recipes for just that purpose!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Green Chile-Cheese Puff (Page 653)

  • Date: Sunday, July 29, 2007 -- 8pm
  • Location: Southborough, MA
  • Kitchen: Richard and Anita's House
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this recipe as part of my ongoing project to cook as many things as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book. This green chile-cheese puff was delicious. It was almost like a crust-less quiche, loaded with cottage cheese, monterey jack, and roasted poblano peppers. The eggs were beaten for 12 minutes, which gave them a lovely fluffy texture. The cheese puff was moist, but not moist like wet eggs (which some people (understandably) find repulsive) -- moist in a good way. The poblano peppers gave it both nice textural contrast and a little kick of spice. It was suggested to serve the cheese puff with salsa, which I found to be the perfect accompaniment. This was a very strong recipe. The eggs and cheese were in perfect balance to make a dish that was eggy without tasting only like eggs, and cheesy without being overpowered by cheese. It was quite good, and quick to make. We ate it for dinner but it would (obviously) make a delicious breakfast or brunch item as well.

Sadly there is no recipe for this one online.

I injured my knee today in a totally unglamorous manner involving my leg and an open car door. So now I am laying on the futon with my braced knee elevated with frozen peas on top, hoping that it feels significantly better before the long plane trip to Norway tomorrow.

When I was little I always secretly hoped I would break a bone. It seemed so fun: having the cast that everyone could sign, and crutches to walk around with. I was always jealous of the kids with a broken leg or arm. I broke my nose three times, and a toe once, but never anything that got you a big cast.

Now it sounds like a huge pain to break a big bone. After only a few hours of knee pain today I am already frustrated by not being able to move around like I want to. Being stuck in a cast for weeks would no doubt drive me batty!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Streusel-Sour Cream Coffee Cakes (Page 645)

  • Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007 -- 10am
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made these coffee cakes as part of my ongoing effort to cook as much as possible from the Breakfast and Brunch section of The Book. These individual coffee cakes were good. They were made from a very simple, typical coffee cake batter, topped with a very simple, typical streusel topping. The only twist was a bit of orange peel in the batter, which added a nice hint of flavor. These coffee cakes were basic, but the recipe was just right to make a classic coffee cake. The muffin-sized cakes came out deliciously moist, with the perfect ratio of topping to cake. They were rich and lovely, and although I don't drink coffee, I had the feeling that I should be drinking some while eating one. The individual serving size added a bit of elegance to what might otherwise be a rather ordinary brunch item. I liked this recipe. It's nothing novel or innovative, but it tastes good.

Here is the recipe.

It was hot today -- a billboard in Boston claimed 100 degrees, but who knows if that's true. In any event it was hot, and I felt more than a little lucky to be house-sitting in a house with central air and a big swimming pool in the backyard. After a good morning of work I spent much of the afternoon swimming, lounging, and playing in the pool. They have two of those big inflatable loungers, and I have to admit, there are few places I would rather be than lounging on one of those, floating in the pool, on a hot summer day.

House-sitting ended today though, so this evening I am back in the city, sitting in front of a window air-conditioner, remembering what it is like to be a graduate student rather than a business executive. Actually I don't mind so much. I won't lie -- living the life of luxury for a few days was fun. But being in a small apartment, sitting on the futon in front of the air-conditioner is nice in a different way. It feels like home.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bechamel Sauce (Page 880)

  • Date: Friday, July 27, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Kitchen: Matty's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I chose this one because I already had all the ingredients. I find plain Bechamel to be a bit of a bore, so we made the Mornay (Bechamel + cheese) listed as a variation (with half parmesan and half gruyere). As you can see, we then served it over broccoli. It's hard to say much about this recipe. It was good. It tasted like Mornay. Cheese sauce is always delicious. The texture was spot on (smooth, thick) and the cheese provided a lovely flavor without overwhelming the Bechamel base. It was good. If you like Bechamel or Mornay, this is a good recipe to use.

Here is the recipe.

I went to my last Topology Seminar at MIT today. OK, that's not really true. I am sure I will be visiting sometime and attend seminar again. But today was my last seminar as an official MIT topologist. The MIT topology group is big on seminars. We have the Topology seminar, Babytop, Juvitop, and for part of the year: Pretalbot. Today I was trying to figure out how many of such seminars I have attended over the last 5 years -- at least 3 seminars a week, 15ish weeks per semester, 10 semesters (plus the summer seminars). That's a lot of seminars! It has been great to be surrounded by such an active group of topologists. I will definitely miss the many MIT seminars (and the MIT topologists!) when I move.