Thursday, October 30, 2008

Toasted Rice Powder (Page 166)

RECIPE #854

  • Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I chose this recipe last week because it was super, super fast. This recipe had just one ingredient: rice. Typically, the recipes in The Book that only call for rice (and, usually, water) tend to receive some mockery from my friends (see, for instance, this). However, this recipe called for the rice to be prepared in a way that was completely new to me. I took the raw rice and put it in a dry skillet, carefully toasting it until it was a deep golden. I let the rice cool and then ground it in the blender. The result: toasted rice powder. You might ask, "What would one do with such a thing?" Well, this recipe is a component of a beef and noodle salad I haven't made yet, and the idea is to sprinkle the rice powder on top to give the salad some crunch and nuttiness. Indeed, this powder is crunchy. It's hard to imagine, actually, that powder could be this crunchy -- it's pretty cool actually. And the toasting did add a wonderful nuttiness to the rice. I liked this powder a lot -- enough that I ate some of it plain after failing to think of anything quick I could serve it on. I think salad is probably the way to go with this stuff -- if you are looking for a unique way to give your salad some textural contrast, give this rice powder a try!

Here is the recipe.

After six months of training, it is now T-minus two days on the half marathon! Today was my last day of training -- Yay!! I am feeling optimistic about my ability to finish the half marathon on Saturday. I ran 12 miles last week and felt pretty good, I am hoping I can pull off 13.1 miles with no problems. The one thing that has me a little concerned is the weather. It has gotten quite cold here. I ran five miles last night in 45 degree weather and I realized something: I don't like running in the cold. I trained mostly in the hot and humid Boston summer, and I learned how to deal quite well with the heat. But the cold is a new thing for me. It's unpleasant, and I haven't yet figured out the right amount of clothing to wear to be warm enough without being too hot (layers seem like the answer, but then what do you do with them when you take them off?). The weather forecast predicts it will be a chilly 46 degrees Saturday morning at 8am when I start running. Brrrr.... On the other hand, the real problem last night was that it kept getting colder as I ran. The sun was setting, and it was rapidly getting chillier and chillier, which was offsetting my body's ability to warm itself. At the half marathon it should be getting warmer and warmer as I am running, which sounds much more appealing!

In any event, I am looking forward to it. I am also looking forward to it being over -- after so many months of training, I am eagerly anticipating having a couple weeks with no running at all!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hard-Boiled Egg Dressing with Tarragon and Cornichons (Page 174)

LinkRECIPE #853

  • Date: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I chose this recipe to make last week because it had an Active Time of only 15 minutes (In case you are wondering if I am ever going to stop only cooking the 15-minutes-or-less recipes, the answer is yes -- tonight I made a real recipe: Robiola Pizza. And there are more real recipes to come in the near future.) But last week I was much too busy for my own good, so I was sticking with the quick recipes and this was one of them. This salad dressing was very simple: smush together 1 hard-boiled egg and one additional hard-boiled egg yolk. Whisk in mustard, tarragon vinegar, olive oil, chopped cornichons (tiny gherkins), minced fresh tarragon, salt and pepper. That's it! What you end up with is a very strongly flavored dressing. This would be too powerful for salad greens -- it is really meant to dress meat, or a hearty vegetable. I served this over steamed green beans, and that was quite tasty. I enjoyed the dressing. The egg gave it a lovely richness, and the cornichons added textural contrast and a bit of pickled flavor. I thought the tarragon was a bit too strong, but I often prefer a mild tarragon presence over a powerful one. Overall I thought it was a good dressing, and I would be interested in trying it served over some chicken, for instance.

Here is the recipe.

Today I voted! I found it very encouraging that I had to wait 30 minutes in line to vote at 9am a week before the election. Hopefully that means a lot of people are voting! Early voting is great. I don't know if the states I have voted in before didn't have early voting, or if I just didn't know about it, but it is a great way to make sure that you are able to vote. You never know what crazy circumstances could arise on election day, making it potentially difficult to vote, and I feel better knowing that I got my vote in early! I feel more invested in this presidential election than I have in any others (it seems like a lot of people feel that way actually). I donated money to the Obama campaign, and I have been trying to volunteer to help out on election day. I have filled out every web form there is and they haven't called me (so maybe I am a reject volunteer!), or maybe they will still call. I would like to be useful if possible -- especially since I have the privilege/responsibility of living in a swing state. (Side note: it's amazing actually that Indiana is a swing state in this election. That hasn't been true about Indiana in a long, long time. But this previously solid red state is now light pink or neutral on most of the electoral maps!) I am so excited (and cautiously optimistic) to see what happens next week!

If you live somewhere where you can vote early, and you haven't yet, you should do it!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rum Currant Ice Cream (Page 856)

RECIPE #852

  • Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

I have been all about the really fast recipes these last few (crazy) weeks, so I picked this recipe because it was fast. It's also nice, when one is more than a little stressed out, to have a big container of homemade ice cream in the freezer! This rum currant ice cream was pretty good. This was a take on an old classic: rum raisin ice cream. I have never much liked rum raisin ice cream, but within that genre this is probably about as good as it gets. The texture was awesome -- very smooth and creamy. Mmmmm... The flavor was good, although it was too boozy for me (Yeah, yeah, boozy is a good thing, but I felt drunk just eating this stuff. It really had a lot of rum in it!).The ice cream base was just a simple custard base (yum!) with some rum and currants stirred in, so the end product was a tasty homemade ice cream, strongly flavored of rum and studded with currants. If you are a rum raisin ice cream lover, you are sure to love this. If you aren't, you might want to try a different ice cream from The Book.

Here is the recipe.

My apologies for the ridiculously long blog silence. Here is my list of excuses for why I haven't blogged since last Wednesday:

1. On Thursday my special gentleman flew in after being away for nearly three weeks. I picked him up at the airport after work, then we met up with Melanie and Daniel (who happened to be in Indianapolis for an FFA conference) for a drink. We got home late and I crashed into bed.

2. Friday I got up early to get some work done before my classes. I gave a midterm in one class, taught a review session in the other class, then rushed home, packed, and drove 7 hours by myself to Alabama for a conference (leaving my special gentleman, who had just arrived, at home alone). I arrived in Alabama late in the evening, just in time to sit in the hot tub with Mike for a few minutes before heading off to bed.

3. Saturday: An entire day of talks. Vigleik and I tried to squeeze in a little work, and in the remaining few minutes of free time I frantically tried to grade the 70 calculus exams I brought with me. I finished the day with another soak in the hot tub and then some grading in the hotel bar, with the "help" of Mike and V.

4. Sunday: A morning of talks, ending with my own talk. Immediately afterwards I hit the road for the 7 hour drive home (again, alone). I got home around 8pm, ate dinner, and graded until midnight, at which point I crashed so I could get up at 7am, finish grading, do my mid-semester course grades, and plan both my lectures before noon.

5. Today: Did all of the above, taught my classes, met with Mike (a different Mike), went to seminar, worked a couple more hours. Came home. Grocery shopped. More work. And now, blogging.

Those are my excuses. Basically, things have been crazy! But now I am home for the next few days, so hopefully things will settle down!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sichuan Pickled Cucumbers (Page 909)

RECIPE #851

  • Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe didn't quite meet the Active-Time-of-15-minutes-or-less criterion that I have been using the last couple weeks, but with an Active Time of 20 minutes, I figured I could make an exception. To start this recipe you take either Kirby cucumbers or a seedless cucumber (I used the latter), cut it into wedges and remove the seeds. You then salt these cucumber wedges, let them sit for 20 minutes, then rinse. The cucumbers are then tossed with a mixture of sugar and rice vinegar. To finish the preparation, you then heat sesame oil in a wok until smoking, toss in some grated ginger, dried and seeded hot chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns, and stir fry for one minute. After this oil mixture has cooled, it is tossed with the cucumbers and the whole thing marinates for up to 4 days. The pickled cucumbers were prety good, but quite different from what I expected. With all the hot chiles (and the warning in The Book that the longer they marinated the spicier they would be) I figured that after two days in the refrigerator these would be too much for my sensitive-to-spice palate. But in fact, they were hardly spicy at all. Perhaps the hot chiles I used weren't the right variety, but my suspicion is that seeding them just took most of their kick away. I didn't mind the dish not being spicy, but if spicy is what you are after you may want to leave some of those seeds in. In fact, the flavor of the dish was rather mild in general. Despite the strongly flavored ingredients -- rice vinegar, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns -- the dish mostly tasted like cucumbers in sesame oil. I like cucumbers. I also like sesame oil. And the two flavors go together nicely. So, I am not complaining, but I had expected a dish with more complexity and punch to it.

This recipe isn't online.

Today was a big day for me -- my doctoral thesis was published! (Well, not my thesis itself, but a paper I wrote based on my thesis work.) I got my Ph.D. in June 2007, and I submitted this paper for publication last fall. These things take awhile though (at least in math...) so a turn-around of a year between submission and publication is actually pretty fast. The title of my paper: The R(S^1)-graded equivariant homotopy of THH(F_p). (If you have ever wondered why I don't talk more about the specifics of my research on this blog, perhaps that title will give you a hint!). In any event, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into that project (ok, maybe not blood...), and even though I moved onto other research projects long ago, it still feels good to have that project done and the paper now published! Yay!

It's funny how calm I feel about it now -- when I was in graduate school there was certainly a period of time when I worried that my dissertation would never get done, my thesis would never be published, etc... I think these feelings/concerns are not uncommon for Ph.D. students. But here I am, happily on the other side: Ph.D. in hand, and now my thesis in print! That's worth celebrating -- I think I will have a beer!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sicilian Tomato Sauce (Page 538)

RECIPE #850

  • Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

This recipe was selected because it had a 15 minute Active Time. It is actually a component recipe to an eggplant dish that I will make when I have some more time -- so I made this sauce last week, tasted it, then threw it in the freezer to store until I get a chance to make the recipe that contains it! This recipe was simple enough. I cooked some tomatoes in a small amount of water until they were soft. Then I forced them through my food mill into a saucepan. I added garlic, basil, and olive oil to the pan, then cooked until it thickened a bit. I removed the basil sprigs and garlic cloves and seasoned the sauce with salt and sugar. The recipe was quick and easy, but it just wasn't that good. I was deeply optimistic -- with those ingredients how can you go wrong? Well maybe you can guess just by looking at the picture -- can you see that layer of oil sitting on top? This sauce was incredibly oily. I like oil as much as the next person -- more probably -- but when it separates out from the dish and just sits on top, it isn't so appealing. This recipe made 4 cups of sauce, and to make those 4 cups of sauce it called for 1/2 cup of olive oil. Excessive, no? I make homemade tomato sauce all the time, and a few tablespoons of olive oil goes a long way. There is no reason to bog it down with 1/2 cup of oil. Other than that the sauce was pretty good. It had a very tomatoey flavor. There wasn't a lot of depth of flavor to it, and it was very thin, so in some ways it seemed more like a thin tomato soup than what you would normally think of as tomato sauce. Overall though it was fine, and with half the oil (or less!) it might have been good. As it was though, it wasn't the best use of 4 pounds of ripe tomatoes.

This recipe isn't online.

I have to admit -- I am exhausted. I was in Michigan for the weekend, at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society. It was fun -- my talk went well, I enjoyed hearing the other talks, and I got to see some friends that I hadn't seen in a while. I drove back to Bloomington on Sunday afternoon (luckily my friend Andrew drove back with me -- I have been doing so much driving alone lately that it was a welcome change to have company!), arriving in time to plan my classes for Monday. Now I am trying to get tons of stuff done before I head off to another meeting of the American Mathematical Society this coming weekend (this time in Alabama). I will drive down there after I teach Friday afternoon and drive back to Bloomington on Sunday afternoon. It will be a fun trip but I am sure it will also be exhausting! In the meantime, I am trying to use my four days at home to their fullest advantage -- I have lots to do and traveling 4 weekends in a row makes it tough to stay caught up. I never really think about just how much work I do on the weekends until suddenly I don't have them available! So tonight, on this fine Tuesday evening, I am still in my office at 9:06pm. I don't mind working late in my office actually -- I really like the office space I have this year. It's a very comfortable space (with a sofa and all!). Plus, when I spend more than 12 hours a day at the office I bribe myself with take-out for dinner! I rarely get take-out under normal circumstances, since I have so much food at home, so a trip to Chipotle is a welcome treat!

Now, though, I am about ready to head home. I hardly made a dent in my to-do list for the week, but I did as much as I could reasonably fit in the work day, and that's worth something! Maybe I will do some more work after I shower and put on my pajamas!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ashkenazic Haroseth (Page 902)

RECIPE #849

  • Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B-
I chose this recipe because it was super quick. The directions: chop up some apples and some walnuts, stir them together with cinnamon, salt, and Concord grape Manischewitz, and let the mixture sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Then, spread on matzos and eat! I didn't dislike this fruit and nut mixture, but I also wasn't wowed by it. My fundamental complaint is that the flavor of the Manischewitz was completely overpowering. Maybe it is an acquired taste, but I have never really come around to Concord grape Manischewitz. It tastes to me like a cross between wine and grape cough syrup, and I just don't like it. So, although apples and walnuts are both delicious, I didn't find this apple-walnut mixture terribly appealing. I have had haroseth which I like much better than this, so I won't be making this recipe again.

This recipe isn't online.

If you had told me 8 months ago that I would be capable of running for two hours straight, I would have laughed. And then paused. And then laughed some more. But today was my last long run before the marathon, and I ran for 12 miles, which at my slow pace took a bit more than 2 hours! Even more shocking was the fact that it felt pretty ok. I won't lie: miles 9 and 10 were more than a little unpleasant, but the first 8 and the last 2 were just fine. I carefully plotted my run so that it would end at the Chocolate Mousse, a fantastic little ice cream shop that has delicious cherry sno cones -- the perfect post-run treat! The Chocolate Mousse is just a few blocks from my apartment so I planned to run the 12 miles, end at the Chocolate Mousse, and then walk the few blocks home, yummy sno cone in hand. Unfortunately I got a little distracted while I was running and I didn't turn around exactly when I should have. So my 12 miles ended when I was still more than a half a mile from my sno cone, and almost a mile from home. In theory it seems like it should be no big deal to walk one mile, having just run 12. But walking is incredibly painful after a long run. Running that extra leg would have been less painful, but I just couldn't rally to do it. By the time I got home my feet hurt tremendously. I was sitting on the sofa, eating macaroni and cheese and thinking, "Man, what I wouldn't give for a foot rub," when I suddenly realized: you can pay people to rub your feet! In particular you can pay people to put your feet in hot bubbly water while you sit in a chair that massages you. Then they rub your feet and your legs -- ah the wonders of the pedicure! Luckily there is a super-cheap and really nice pedicure place a half a block from my apartment. So I dragged myself over there, plopped down in a massage chair, and thoroughly enjoyed being pampered. It was awesome -- exactly what I needed after traveling two weekends in a row, coming home barely long enough to teach my classes during the week, working a lot on my research, and trying to fit in some seriously long runs. I sat in that massage chair, reading trashy bridal magazines, and didn't feel one bit guilty about the fact that I wasn't doing anything productive. I needed a little break!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ghee (Page 577)

RECIPE #848

  • Date: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I chose this recipe last week because it fit my 15-minutes-or-less criterion that I am using these days. This is actually a component recipe for an Indian spinach preparation I will make as soon as I have more time. Luckily, this ghee keeps for a while, so it will still be good in a couple weeks when hopefully my life calms down a bit. It's hard to really grade this "recipe." It had one ingredient: butter. The method: cook the butter, then pour through cheesecloth into a jar. That's it. The point of clarifying butter is to get rid of the milk solids, which burn at a pretty low temperature. Then what is left can be heated quite hot without burning. There are two methods of clarifying butter. One is to just melt the butter, let the milk solids settle, skim the froth, and carefully pour the clarified butter off the top. The other is to cook the butter until the froth cooks off and the solids brown a little and then pour off the clarified butter. The latter technique takes only minimally more time and gives the butter a bit of a nutty flavor which you may or may not want, depending on what you are using it for. So basically what you start with is butter and what you end up with is slightly less butter; it's a bit hard to assign a grade to that. I like butter, so I'll give it an A-.

This "recipe" isn't online.

My apologies for the blog silence over the weekend. On Friday afternoon, after teaching my classes, I drove up to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a meeting of the American Mathematical Society. It was a 5-hour drive, and although I kept meaning to stop for dinner, I just kept driving along. Finally I found myself in Battle Creek, Michigan, only a few miles from my final destination, and STARVING! There was a Cracker Barrel there, and that sounded really good at the time. My special gentleman and I often eat at the Cracker Barrel while on the road, and I always order the same thing: a big bowl of grits with maple syrup and some cornbread. Mmmm... multiple forms of corn! I had never really thought about how much this meal costs until I ate there on Friday. I was eating alone and I drank water, so the above meal was my entire bill. How much did my sit-down dinner cost? $1.79. I felt a little embarrassed actually. Also, a little unsure how you tip on a bill of $1.79. It seemed awful to leave a 30 cent tip. The waitress was nice, and she paid attention to me... she even called me "sweetie." So I left her $3.00. I'm pretty sure it's the only time in my life that I have left a tip larger than the bill. In any event, it was a very tasty dinner and definitely worth more than the $1.79 I paid for it!

The whole experience was strange. I wasn't quite done with my slides for my talk on Saturday, so I had my laptop out while I ate and I was working. This is apparently uncommon behavior -- for someone to sit alone at a Cracker Barrel on a Friday night, eating grits and typing on her laptop. Several people stared at me. I, however, was perfectly content!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Asian Barbeque Sauce (Page 899)

RECIPE #848

  • Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I chose this recipe because it met the 15-minutes-or-less criterion I am using these days. This barbecue sauce was easy to make. I cooked some sugar in a saucepan until it was a deep caramel color, then I added hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, shallots, garlic, minced ginger, and Chinese five-spice powder. I cooked it until the caramel dissolved, and then let it cool. While I was making this I thought of many delicious possible uses for it. I'm sure one could do fantastic things to chicken, or pork, or shrimp, with this fine sauce. But I am all about the no-fuss food lately, so I looked fussy preparation in the face and I turned the other way. What was the least fussy way I could think of to use this sauce: broiled tofu. I put some slabs of tofu under the broiler, basted with this sauce, and it was delicious. I love tofu. I love meat too, of course, but tofu is near and dear to my heart. This sauce served my tofu well. The sauce was quite sweet, but the sweetness was balanced well by the saltiness from the soy and fish sauces. The rice vinegar gave it a nice acidity and the remaining ingredients contributed to a lovely, deep flavor. If you are looking for a sauce with some Asian flare to it, this one is a winner.

This recipe isn't online.

Wedding planning is officially in full swing. That's not to say that I am actually doing much planning at the moment -- we decided to have a very small, very low-key wedding -- but I am trying to do some of the minimal planning that needs to get done! Today I went to Indianapolis to meet with the woman who is making my dress (yes, I am having my dress made -- it was a scary decision in a way, but I think it is going to turn out well). She's a fun person, and I think she understands very well what I want in a wedding dress -- something fun, different, and not too formal. On the drive up to Indy, I did some menu planning in my head. I am still undecided about one of the choices for one of the courses, but other than that, I have a good idea of what the food will be like!

The wedding is going to be in May, in Bloomington. We had originally planned to have a relatively big wedding -- with 150 guests or so -- but we looked at the list and felt totally overwhelmed. So we decided to down-size! We cut a lot of good friends off the list, which was sad, but I am much more excited about our small wedding than I was about the idea of having a big one! The wedding is going to be so small, in fact, that we are having the ceremony in our apartment! That sounds crazy, I know, but we have a really beautiful, open, well-lit space with hardwood floors and high ceilings. We love it so much, it just seemed perfect to be married here. The reception will be at a lovely restaurant, just around the corner from where I live. The food there is excellent, and I trust them completely to create a wedding dinner I will love (which is saying a lot -- I am usually deeply skeptical about wedding food!). Then there will be dancing, and other typical wedding fun! We booked out a whole bed and breakfast for the weekend (also only a couple blocks from my apartment) so that everyone can stay together, eat breakfast together, etc... I think it's going to be fun! I am really excited! There's not much more major planning left to do -- which is great! My plan is to just relax and enjoy the party!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poppy Seed Dressing (Page 175)

RECIPE #847

  • Date: Friday, October 10, 2008 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: C+

I chose this recipe to make last week because it met the criterion for the week: an Active Time of less than or equal to 15 minutes (in the case of this recipe: 10 minutes). I have a friend who is strongly opposed to sweet and savory combinations. In general I think he is wrong: Nutella on pretzels? Caramels with a touch of sea salt? Candied roasted and salted pecans? Yum, yum, and yum! But the example he always gives of the kind of thing he hates most is sweet salad dressing. I'm pretty neutral on that front. I don't dislike all sweet dressings, but I would certainly always pick oil and vinegar over that bottled sugar-laden French dressing. This dressing, too, was much too sweet. It had 1/4 cup of sugar to 1/2 cup white wine vinegar and 1 cup of oil. That's a lot of sugar, but I didn't imagine that even that much sugar would make the dressing as sweet as it was. The other ingredients: dry mustard, water, garlic, poppy seeds, celery seeds, salt, and pepper. The Book makes many serving suggestions for this dressing; one suggestion was serving it on iceberg or romaine (which both seem like terrible suggestions to me -- the dressing was much too sweet for that). Another suggestion was serving it on melon -- The Book claimed it would take the melon "in a savory direction." So I tried it on some cantaloupe. The dressing didn't taste terrible on the melon, but the melon was better without it. I would recommend passing on this recipe unless you like really sweet dressings. Even then, I would probably pass -- it was extremely oily, even for salad dressing, and it didn't emulsify well which made it rather unappealing.

This recipe isn't online.

I am back in Bloomington this evening after my trip to the Chicago area. I gave my seminar at Northwestern yesterday, which went just fine, and it was fun to talk to the people in the department there. This morning I went to Vigleik's place to meet Henrik, Vigleik and Shihchi's baby! He's super cute, and it was great to see the new parents too. While the baby slept V and I did some work. It was a fun morning. I drove back to Bloomington this afternoon, and I seriously struggled during the drive. I was so tired I was worried I was going to fall asleep behind the wheel. I resorted to a desperate measure and drank some Diet Coke. I am usually caffeine-free but I figured the caffeine was justifiable, since if I dozed off while driving that could have disastrous consequences. I was so exhausted though that even the Diet Coke couldn't keep me awake. Finally I pulled over and took a nap in a McDonald's parking lot. When I woke up I bought myself a vanilla milkshake. I don't know if it was the nap or the milkshake, but I was much more alert after that!

In any event I am happy to be home for a few nights before I head up to Michigan this coming weekend. I think I am going to get pretty exhausted of driving by the time this month is over!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hot Bacon Dressing (Page 174)

RECIPE #846

  • Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 -- 11:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I chose this recipe to make last week because it was super fast. When I made my recipe list and grocery list for last week, I picked recipes using my usual methods. But then I looked at the list and realized I just didn't have the time to make what I picked. I have been so busy lately that I actually considered taking a little hiatus from this project. I just couldn't imagine how I would be able to fit in the time to cook the recipes I had listed. I realized, though, that the problem was really just that the recipes I had picked took a long time. Lately I only have time to make really quick recipes. So I scratched the list I had made and replaced it with a list of recipes which all had an active time of 15 minutes or less. There are a limited number of such recipes left in The Book, but I am hoping there are enough to get me through the next three weeks or so. In any case, there were plenty for last week. Still, it was hard to find time to make them. So I ended up making this hot bacon dressing very late one night. My special gentleman called while I was cooking and we had the following conversation:

Him: "What are you doing?"
Me: "Cooking."
Him: "What are you making?"
Me: "Hot bacon dressing."
Him: "Salad dressing?"
Me: "Yeah."
Him: "That is supposed to be served hot?"
Me: "Yeah."
Him: "So you're making bacon salad dressing that needs to be served hot at midnight?"
Me: "Yeah."

Ok, I admit, it's weird. But that was the first chance I had to make it, and I wanted to get it done that day. As you can see, I put my bacon dressing on some steamed cauliflower. I ate some of the cauliflower that night, and I reheated the rest for lunch/dinner the next day (which, by the way, I do not recommend -- the crumbled bacon got pretty gross in the microwave). The night I made it though, this bacon dressing was pretty good. And it was super simple to make. I cooked some bacon until crispy, removed it from the pan, then added cider vinegar to the hot bacon fat. I then crumbled the bacon into the dressing and seasoned it. That was it. The cider vinegar went quite well with the bacon, resulting in a nicely balanced dressing. As you might imagine, this dressing was not too mild in flavor, so it is best served on something that can stand up to strong flavors. It was good on the cauliflower, and I can imagine that it would also be pretty tasty on broccoli. There was nothing subtle about it, but it tasted good. For a super fast recipe, it didn't disappoint.

Here is the recipe.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Marchand de Vin Butter (Page 894)

RECIPE #845

  • Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A

I picked this recipe to make last week because it was super-quick. The Book has a lot of recipes for compound butters (i.e. butter with stuff smushed into it) and this was the last one I had left to make. In general, I am pretty neutral about compound butter. Often it tastes good, but butter all by itself tastes good too, without all the smushing. This compound butter, however, was AWESOME. It was very simple. I cooked minced shallots in red wine until the red wine was reduced and the shallots were soft. Then the red wine shallot mixture was smushed into a stick of softened butter, along with some parsley, salt, and pepper. The result: deliciousness. Those red wine saturated shallots were incredibly good. I ate this butter spread on some bread, and it was so much better than regular butter. The red wine flavor was spread throughout the butter nicely, and then the delicious, delicious shallots provided both bursts of flavor and good textural contrast. Awesome. Seriously. So while usually I would never tell you to go smush things into your butter, this is the exception. Yum. One comment: I couldn't get all of the red wine mixture to incorporate -- some of the liquid kept separating out. It didn't matter though. Even with not all of the mixture incorporated the butter was still delicious.

This recipe isn't online.

I drove up to Chicago yesterday. I am giving a seminar at Northwestern tomorrow, but yesterday and today I have been hanging out with my special gentleman's brother Brad and sister-in-law Deniz. Yesterday afternoon we went apple-picking and wandered through a corn maze. I had never been in a corn maze before. When we entered they handed us maps, which seemed like cheating until we realized how huge and hard to navigate this corn maze was! We ended up relying on the map -- Deniz's sister Tulin and I were the official map readers (even following the map wasn't too easy, so it was safer to have two people figuring out which way we should go!). We had a good time.

This morning the Chicago marathon took place. So at 8am we went to the marathon course to cheer along the runners. Where Brad and Deniz live is near mile 11. It was really fun to be out there cheering. We got to see the elite runners (Man, are they fast!) and then we stuck around a couple hours to watch the regular runners go buy. Many people wrote their names on the front of their shirts so that as they run by you can yell, "Go [insert name here]!" We cheered a lot! I had never watched a marathon before, and it really motivated me for my upcoming half-marathon. Later in the day Brad and I went running ourselves. We ran 11 miles, which is my new record! Brad is training for the Las Vegas marathon, so he can run much farther (and faster!) than me, but he ran with me today, which was great. I recovered from my long run better than I usually do, and now I am feeling pretty good!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tomato Barbecue Sauce (Page 898)

RECIPE #844

  • Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this recipe because it was super fast and I am super busy lately. An active time of 15 minutes was about all I could handle this week. I had hoped to save this recipe for sometime when I was going to make some good barbecue chicken, or pork, to make the most of the sauce. Instead, I have been eating this sauce on my Chik Nuggets (fake soy chicken nuggets -- yum!). Actually I love Chik Nuggets, and this sauce was AMAZING on them. Yum. Yum, yum, yum. This sauce was extremely simple and very tasty. There was an optional dried ancho chile in the recipe, which I omitted and I didn't miss it. I cooked some onion with garlic and ginger, then added dark brown sugar, soy sauce, orange juice, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, tomato paste, dry mustard, and pepper. Doesn't that sound like something nasty a kid would stir up by adding a little bit of everything in the fridge to a big bowl? Well it was delicious. I cooked the whole thing for a few minutes, strained it and it was done! The sauce was tangy, flavorful, and a little bit mysterious -- everything you would want from a barbecue sauce! If you are going to make homemade sauce next time you are craving barbecue, give this recipe a try!

This recipe isn't online.

I am trying to prepare myself for the next few weeks. It is going to be crazy. Tomorrow morning I am headed to Chicago where I am going to hang out with Brad and Deniz over the weekend, give a seminar at Northwestern on Monday, meet up with Vigleik on Tuesday (to do some work and meet his baby!), then head back to Bloomington Tuesday afternoon. Next weekend I am going to Kalamazoo, Michigan for the weekend to speak at a meeting of the American Mathematical Society. The following weekend I am headed to Huntsville, Alabama to speak at a different meeting of the American Mathematical Society. The weekend after that I will be in Indianapolis to run the half marathon I have been training for. The weekend after that my special gentleman is speaking at a conference at Notre Dame, so I will probably go there with him. That week I will be at the University of Illinois for a few days to give a seminar. The following weekend I am going to Boston to throw Rachel a baby shower with Emilee. And the weekend and after that I will stay home (at least that is the plan so far)! Somehow I thought this semester wasn't going to involve much travel. It didn't exactly turn out that way! The only question is: when am I going to have time to get anything done?!?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Cappuccino Gelato (Page 859)

RECIPE #843

  • Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 -- 9pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This is the type of caffeinated recipe that I can't eat much of (since I am caffeine-free!), so I made it while my special gentleman was in town last week. The recipe was incredibly simple. Instant espresso powder, cornstarch, sugar, and salt were mixed with hot milk. This mixture was then chilled in the refrigerator and then frozen in the ice cream maker. The flavor of the resulting gelato was excellent, but the texture could have been better. Often homemade ice cream is made with either whole eggs or egg yolks. The eggs give the frozen dessert a creamy, custardy texture. In cases like this, where the recipe is made without eggs, it is more prone to freezing with some small ice crystals in it. So instead of the rich, creamy texture one might hope for, this recipe was a little bit icy. That said, the flavor was fantastic. The gelato had a great coffee flavor, and just the right touch of sweetness to balance it without it being overpoweringly sweet. Although it is possible to make a better coffee-flavored ice cream than this one, this is still a great simple recipe, which produces a tasty frozen treat.

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one.

It never ceases to amaze me how fast technology changes. I took calculus about 10 years ago now, and I remember being assigned problems from the textbook. I wrote solutions on notebook paper, submitted them to my teacher, and they were graded by hand and returned to me. Times have changed. My business calculus students do online homework. I choose problems from a bank of problems, and each student gets slightly different questions (to prevent copying). The students can attempt to answer the questions as many times as they want, and each time they submit an answer they are told if it is correct or incorrect. If it's incorrect they can try again. As long as they submit the right answer before the deadline, they get full credit. This type of homework system was totally new to me when I started teaching at Indiana University last year.

This semester I have one student who brings his laptop to class every time and does his Webwork during lecture. It doesn't bother me -- he's a good student and if he wants to get his homework done during class that's ok with me. Sometimes he asks Webwork problem-inspired questions during lecture to confirm that he is working on his homework and not just writing emails. After class a few weeks ago I had a student come up to me and say, "I have a question about my Webwork, will you look at it?" He was clearly not carrying a laptop, so I said, "Do you have it printed out?" He looked at me like I was from the stone ages and responded, "I have it on my phone." Indeed, he was holding an iPhone, with his Webwork assignment on it. It was very convenient (aside from the fact that the screen was so small it was hard to see the whole problem at once!). I helped him with his problem in a few minutes after class and he went on his way.

It's crazy though, right? So much can change in such a small amount of time. I wouldn't have believed, a decade ago, that calculus homework would be done through a system online and someone would be carrying a tiny phone in their pocket that could access it. Craziness!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Shrimp with Corn and Basil (Page 322)

RECIPE #842

  • Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

As I have mentioned before, I am deeply skeptical about buying seafood in land-locked Southern Indiana, but I have bought shrimp here before and they were tasty, so I decided to make this shrimp recipe from The Book last week. This recipe was incredibly simple. My special gentleman cut the kernels off of 2 ears of corn. Then we heated some butter, added the shrimp and corn, and cooked until the shrimp were cooked through. We then stirred in some chopped scallions and basil and seasoned with salt and pepper. That's it! It was a very nice summer recipe. The corn and the shrimp went well together, and in the time it took to cook the shrimp, the butter browned a bit, giving the dish a nice brown butter nuttiness. The basil and scallions were very tasty, and worked well with the simplicity of the dish. This was a simple 15 minute meal that my special gentleman and I both enjoyed. If you like shrimp and fresh summer flavors, you are sure to like it.

Here is the recipe.

A funny story I was reminded of today:

I grew up in Wisconsin, and when I was a child there, all the ATM machines were made by a company called TYME ("Take You Money Everywhere.") Their slogan was "TYME is money." We referred to these cash machines as "TYME machines," and I had never even heard them called anything else (the name ATM was completely foreign to me). I was totally oblivious to the fact that TYME was a brand of machine unique to Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I went to college at Stanford, and on my second day in sunny Northern California, I decided I needed to get some cash. So I asked some of my new college friends, "Do you know where the nearest TYME machine is?" My question was met with a terribly confused look. It had never occurred to me that "TYME machine," sounds just like "time machine," and it didn't occur to me at that moment either. So I had a conversation with this group of new Stanford friends that in my head translated to:

"Do you know where the nearest cash machine is?"
"The nearest what?"
"The nearest cash machine."
"Seriously?"
"Yeah, I haven't seen one. Do you know where one is?"
"No..."
"Oh, OK. I just need some cash."
"From a cash machine?
"Well, yes."

but to them sounded more like:

"Do you know where the nearest time machine is?"
"The nearest what?"
"The nearest time machine."
"Seriously?"
"Yeah, I haven't seen one. Do you know where one is?"
"No..."
"Oh, OK. I just need some cash."
"From a time machine?"
"Well, yes."

Confusion abounded. It turns out, I am not the only person from Wisconsin who has ever had this problem.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Summer Vegetable Succotash (Page 582)

RECIPE #841

  • Date: Tuesday, September 30, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


Last weekend before I made the grocery list, I asked my special gentleman, "What do you want to eat this week?" He replied, "Vegetables." I chose this recipe to accommodate that wish. I expected to like this recipe a lot. It contains only things that I love: potatoes, butter, oil, corn, squash, edamame (or lima beans) red onion, and chives. The Book says this is an atypical succotash recipe because it calls for edamame as an alternative to lima beans. The recipe still gives the option of using the more traditional lima beans however. I, for one, love lima beans, and they were easier to find, so I opted to use them instead. I also used yellow squash rather than baby pattypan because baby pattypan was nowhere to be found. The squash substitution worked out fine, but choosing lima beans over edamame may have been a mistake. I do love lima beans, but my main complaint with this recipe was that it was overwhelmingly starchy. Between the lima beans and the potatoes it tasted less like a fresh summer medley of vegetables and more like a bowl full of starch. The Book claims that using edamame rather than lima beans would have cut back on this starch overload, and that certainly would have been preferable. As it was, it was still fine. I enjoyed eating it, but I wouldn't argue that this is the best thing you can do with the aforementioned ingredients.

Here is the recipe.

My special gentleman left this morning to go back to Boston for three weeks, so yesterday we decided to do something fun! He let me pick the fun activity of the day, and I picked setting up our wedding registry! I am 28 years old, and my special gentleman is 29, and independently we have already acquired most of the things we need. As you might imagine, my kitchen is already pretty well-equipped (The registry lists in the wedding magazines all tell me things like, "You should buy one whisk for your new kitchen," and I think to myself, "If I already have 5 whisks, maybe I don't need to register for another one!"). We had planned to register at Crate and Barrel for all our kitchen/dining needs (and we did register there for many household items!) but it turned out they don't sell a lot of the kitchen equipment I need. In particular, I wanted to register for some of the items on my Gourmet Project Wishlist. Paella pan? Baba molds? Brioche molds? Not at Crate and Barrel. Most things, surprisingly, not even at Willams-Sonoma. But, then I had a thought: Sur la Table. I love that place, and they tend to have more obscure cooking equipment.

So yesterday my special gentleman and I headed up to Indianapolis, and went first to Crate and Barrel and then to Sur la Table. Scanner gun in hand we registered for all sorts of fun things! It was a blast! We had also intended to go by an REI, where we are registering for outdoor equipment (tent, sleeping bags, etc...), but it turns out there isn't a single REI store in the state of Indiana! So we did most of our REI registry online, and we will add the stuff we need to try on (e.g. backpacks and ski pants) when we go to Wisconsin before Christmas.

It was a fun day! It may have been a bit too much shopping for my special gentleman though -- before we left the mall he sat in one of those massage chairs at Brookstone for a half an hour! I was a little worried he was going to want to register for that chair too!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Sultan's Delight (Page 509)

RECIPE #840

  • Date: Sunday, September 28, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This recipe was part of the effort to make more meat from The Book. I had so much work last weekend that I stayed in on Saturday night and worked all evening. Since I was going to be home for hours and hours, it was the perfect opportunity to braise something! So I picked this lamb recipe and braised the meat Saturday, then finished the dish quickly on Sunday after my run. I would have made this dish earlier -- I love braised meat! -- but I was skeptical about the eggplant. I am not opposed to eggplant, but it's not my favorite. Given the choice between eggplant or no eggplant, I would usually choose the latter. In this preparation though, it was very tasty. The dish had two components: one, the chunks of lamb, which were braised for more than 3 hours on the stove top, and two, a mixture of bechamel sauce with some sheep's milk cheese and smushed up grilled eggplant. (Note: The Book gives broiling as an alternative to grilling the eggplant, and that's what I did since I don't have a grill. The results were quite good.) The lamb was served over the eggplant mixture. The braised lamb was awesome! It was flavorful, and tasty, and falling apart tender. Excellent! The eggplant mixture was also delicious. My hesitancy about eggplant in general is a texture issue, not a flavor issue, so in this preparation, where the eggplant was smushed up anyway, I liked it quite a lot. The bechamel style sauce surrounding the eggplant gave it a nice creaminess and richness, and the sheep's milk cheese contributed an excellent flavor to the dish. Overall, I was extremely pleased with this recipe. The meat was absolutely delicious, and the eggplant went very well with it!

Here is the recipe.

I am sick. Still. It has been more than four weeks now of up and down illness. Some days I feel better. Some days I feel worse. But I haven't yet gotten well. This week, after another steady decline, I decided to take extreme measures. Today I did something I never do: I didn't set an alarm. I slept until I woke up. Unfortunately, when you consistently get up at 7:30am, it's hard to sleep past 7:45am, even without an alarm! I worked from home for most of the day, in my pajamas. I also haven't run since Sunday in an attempt to rest my body. My special gentleman has suggested that perhaps it is about time to seek the help of a medical professional, and I am considering it. But I fear they would just tell me what I already know: I have a nasty cold that would probably get better if I rested more. So I am trying to rest... But this semester so far has not been terribly restful. And I am not seeing a lot of rest on the horizon. But for now, maybe I should go to bed!