Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mint Chutney (Page 907)

RECIPE #868

  • Date: Monday, November 17, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

(In case anyone is paying attention: No, I didn't accidentally skip recipe #867 -- I intentionally skipped a number because it turns out I had two recipes labeled #848. I'm too lazy to go back and relabel everything since then so I am skipping a number here to make up for using the same number twice earlier.)

Anyway, I would have made this recipe much sooner had I realized what it was. For some reason I mentally pictured a "mint chutney" to be something chunky and reminiscent of English mint sauce, rather than this lovely condiment which I know and love from Indian restaurants. I had always labeled that delicious green sauce that I smear on naan and everything else in sight as mint raita, but apparently it is mint chutney, and here it is in The Book! The recipe was super simple: I toasted some serrano chiles, fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and unsweetened coconut in oil, then ground it all up in the blender along with fresh mint, fresh cilantro, yogurt, slivered almonds, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and salt. The result: deliciousness! Beautiful, green deliciousness! I'll tell you the truth: because I had pictured something totally different (without every reading the ingredients list or the recipe...), I had planned to hate it. So I hadn't made any accommodations to actually eat this. I figured I would try it, and then probably let it sit in the fridge until my special gentleman gets back. But, it turns out I loved this stuff! So I dug some homemade pita out of the freezer and I had pita with mint chutney for lunch all week. Yum! This chutney was beautifully balanced, and very tasty. If I hadn't made it myself I am pretty sure I wouldn't be able to identify half the ingredients just from tasting it, but they worked together really well to create something quite delicious. This one was a winner.

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one, but with about half as much mint and about twice as much cilantro. The one in The Book also calls for only about half as much lemon juice as the one online.

When I was a college student I had very little sense of what life was like for a college professor. I had no grasp of the kind of academic achievement it takes to end up tenured at Stanford University. I certainly knew my professors were smarter than me, but I had no concept of just how insanely smart one has to be to get a permanent job at a school like Stanford. I couldn't have told you how many classes they taught per quarter. I wouldn't have guessed how much they travel. Basically, I knew very little about the job of math professor. In retrospect this seems odd, since clearly it was the job I was training for. In my own defense, I think if you had asked me when I was 19 years old what I wanted to be when I grew up, I'm not sure what I would have said. I hadn't really thought far past graduate school. I knew I wanted to do a PhD (what can I say? I love being in school!) but it wasn't until graduate school that I was really sure I wanted to be a math academic. I didn't give it a lot of thought as an undergraduate, and consequently, I understood very little about the life of a math professor.

I do distinctly remember, however, sitting in a physics final and thinking to myself, "Wow, it must be really hard to write exams." I don't know what it was about that particular exam that prompted the thought, but it dawned on me at that moment that writing exams might actually be worse than taking them. So while I understood practically nothing about an academic life, I did have the right impression about one thing: writing exams is miserable! Both my classes are taking midterms tomorrow afternoon, so this week I had to write 2 exams. It sounds easy, but exam-writing is really a challenge. If the exam is too easy the scores are too high and it's hard to assign grades. If it's too hard, you can curve the grades up, but the students are still demoralized. Plus, writing exams requires prioritizing what you think is most important, which isn't an easy task. It always takes much longer than it seems like it should... I am told this gets much easier later in your career. After you have written 20 calculus exams you have a lot of problems to chose from to construct the 21st exam. I'm new at this though, and still learning! The exams are done now though, and only time will tell if they are of an appropriate difficulty!

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