Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cold Buttermilk and Shrimp Soup (Page 85)

RECIPE # 1015

  • Date: Saturday, August 22, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Okemos, MI
  • Kitchen: Matty's Temporary Residence
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C

Since we haven't yet succeeded in buying a house in East Lansing, my special gentleman is renting a house from one of the professors who is on sabbatical. I made this recipe on our first weekend in the house, selecting it because it required few ingredients and little equipment, both of which are key when cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen. To start I cooked some shrimp in their shells in boiling water. Then I peeled, deveined, and chopped them. In a bowl I whisked together buttermilk, dry mustard, salt, and sugar. I then added chopped, peeled cucumber. Now here's where it gets a little sketchy. I am reading the recipe now and seeing that next I was supposed to add chopped chives. I remember buying the chives, but I don't remember chopping them. And certainly in the picture above I don't see any chives. What I do remember chopping is radishes. And indeed I see flecks of radish in my picture. Mysteriously, there are no radishes in the recipe. So what happened? Well, I bought ingredients for two recipes that day, and the other had radishes in it. So there were radishes in the fridge and I was thinking they would get used. While I was making this recipe my special gentleman flipped the page back to see the name of the recipe (which was on the preceeding page from the ingredient list). Coincidentally, the recipe before this one (also a chop-it-up-and-stir-it-together cold soup) called for chopped radishes. Not realizing the page had been flipped, I saw the word "radish" and chopped them up. Whoops. So, this recipe didn't end up exactly as it was intended. This fact makes me a little hesitant to give it such a harsh grade, but I feel pretty confident that it would have deserved it in any case. This soup tasted just how it sounds: it was buttermilk mixed with a bit of mustard, with shrimp and cucumbers floating in it. Not my thing. It didn't taste bad exactly, but it also wasn't something I felt compelled to eat. When my special gentleman asked me if I liked it I said, "Well not really, but I don't love shrimp." His response: "I do love shrimp, but this recipe might change my mind." In summary: we didn't love it.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except the one in The Book calls for only 1-2 teaspoons of dry mustard.

On Saturday morning, as I was lying in bed trying to motivate to get up, I was thinking about how it seemed almost too easy to change my name. The process was so streamlined and simple that it made it seem like a non-event to give up the last name I have lived with my whole life and adopt a new one -- my husband's. Or so I thought anyway...

On Friday I had gone to the Social Security office, where I explained to them that I wanted to drop my middle name (Meredith), make my maiden name my new middle name, and change my last name to my married name. This seemed like the perfect compromise. I didn't feel ready to abandon my maiden name (which would be impossible anyway -- I can't change my last name professionally, as I have already published in my maiden name, so my colleagues and students will always know me by my maiden name), but I did want to change my last name legally. It was easy, the social security woman was super friendly. She entered it in the system, told me to wait 24 hours and then change it at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

So on Saturday morning I was trying to motivate to go the BMV when I was thinking about how simple a name change was. Eventually I rallied, and waited in a very long line. When I got to the front, I explained very happily about shifting my old last name to my middle name and changing my last night. The woman paused for a second and said, "I can't do that." It turns out that in order to drop my old middle name I need a court order. So my options were to have two middle names (which didn't appeal to me) or to drop my maiden name entirely (which also didn't appeal). As I stood there, trying to deliberate quickly, as there were dozens of people behind me in line, it occured to me that this was the stumbling block I had asked for -- the event that would make me really think about the gravity of changing my name. So I picked what I thought I would like better, dropping my maiden name entirely, and I left the BMV irrationally frustrated and upset.

Yes, I could get the court order to have my name as I wanted it. But I doubt I ever will. Partly I am lazy -- there are many forms and you have to run notices in the newspaper announcing your name change (so as not to evade creditors...), etc... It sounds like a huge pain. And frankly, having now lived with my new name, Teena Meredith Hedden, for a day and a half, I like it just fine. My maiden name will always be on my office door, in the course catalog, on my research papers, etc... Legally, of course, it is no longer part of my name. But I think that is ok with me.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Santa Fe French Toast (Page 652)

RECIPE #1014

  • Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Most things I see on TV don't stick with me for long, but occasionally something is shocking enough that I remember it for years. Even more occasionally, something is so shocking that I remember not only what was on the television, but also exactly where and when I watched it. One such memory: My parents were visiting me in Boston one fall while I was in graduate school and they were staying in a hotel downtown. My mom and I were in the hotel room, waiting for my dad to get back from a workout, and we were flipping through the channels. We happened upon the Food Network, where Paula Deen was preparing some of her specialties. Now, I have nothing against Paula Deen. I have only seen her show a few times, but it never fails to make me smile when I do watch it. On this particular segment, she was preparing an appetizer. For her appetizer, she started with a can of Pillsbury biscuits. Admittedly, those biscuits are pretty delicious, but they are terrible for you. Typically one prepares the biscuits by putting them on a baking sheet and baking them in the oven. Not Paula Deen! Rather than baking them, she deep-fried them! And if that wasn't crazy enough, once they had been deep-fried, she used a squirt bottle to inject them with honey butter, so that more sugary, buttery goodness would ooze out with every bite. She kept referring to this item as an "appetizer" and I kept thinking, "If that's an appetizer, what will she make for dessert?" The answer: she made bread pudding where the bread was replaced by Krispy Kreme donuts and the milk was replaced by sweetened condensed milk. By the end of the episode I was laughing so hard I was crying.

Why do I mention this? Well, this French toast recipe was striving towards that level of absurdity. The typical method for making French toast is, generally speaking, as follows: take some bread. Soak it for some amount of time in some mixture of milk, eggs, and possibly vanilla. Cook soaked pieces of toast on stovetop in some butter. Serve with syrup. What results is certainly not a health food, but it is delicious. This recipe was like that, except where one would normally use milk, this recipe called for heavy cream. And where one would normally pan-fry the pieces of bread in a bit of butter, this recipe called for them to be deep-fried. Crazy! What resulted was incredibly rich and, not surprisingly, delicious. The French toast came out moist and eggy on the inside, and golden and slightly crisp on the outside. It was very flavorful, hardly needing any syrup (and certainly not needing any butter on top!). My major complaint was just that it was so rich that it was hard to eat enough of this to make a meal out of it. We ate this for dinner, and I could only eat two pieces (each a half a slice of bread) before I was so saturated with cream that I just couldn't eat any more richness. But if you are looking for some ultra-rich special occasion French toast, this is pretty tasty. Paula Deen would be proud.

The recipe is here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Quatre-Epices (Page 931)

RECIPE #1013

  • Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My New Apartment!
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

We were home for one evening between our trip to California and leaving for Michigan. I wanted to cook, but it was essential for dinner to be quick and require only cookware which had already been unpacked at my new place. This recipe fit the bill. I ground white peppercorns, whole nutmeg, and cloves in a spice grinder until finely ground. Then I stirred in ground ginger. That was it! This was certainly one of the simpler recipes in The Book. It's hard to grade such a thing, of course, since it is not meant to be eaten by the spoonful. Rather quatre-epices is a traditional seasoning for pates and sausages. So in order to enjoy and grade this recipe I threw together some quick sausage, which I seasoned only with this spice mix and some salt. The spicing was certainly appropriate for sausage, but I had one complaint -- this mix was much too heavy-handed with the ground ginger. I love ginger, but ground dried ginger has a distinct flavor to it, which in large quantities is not so delicious. In this case the ginger was so pronounced that it completely drowned out the flavor of the cloves (an impressive feat really). With half as much ginger in the mix I think I would have enjoyed the sausage much more.

This recipe isn't online.

What a day! After a fitful night of sleep last night, today my special gentleman and I put an offer on a house! We intially put an offer on a house about five months ago now, but it was a short sale, and the owner's bank never agreed to forgive him the difference between our offer and his debt. In fact, the owner's bank apparently never even got around to looking at our offer. After four and a half months of waiting, we decided to surrender, and yesterday we started looking again. We went through several great houses, and after much deliberation (and a night of practically zero sleep) we decided to do the unthinkable: we put an offer on another short sale! We have our fingers crossed that this one won't include months and months of waiting for the owner's bank to reply. The house we put the offer on is gorgeous, and we are hopeful, but our offer was rather low compared to the assessed value of the house, so it seems like it might be a long shot. This house is also very different from what we thought we would buy (it's bigger and fancier than what we had envisioned for ourselves...), which is part of what kept us up last night. But in the light of day this morning we felt confident that we were making the right decision. And now we just wait...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grand Marnier Souffle (Page 844)

RECIPE #1012

  • Date: Friday, August 14, 2009 -- 10pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Brian, Emilee, Chris, Emily, Alex W, Nick, Alison, and Jamie
  • Recipe Rating: B

I originally suggested Pavlovas with Kiwis for dessert at Emilee and Brian's place last weekend, but that suggestion was not met with squeals of delight. So I started listing various other dessert options. When I hit this recipe it was the clear consensus. It was a good choice too, as Emilee and Brian had the perfect 16-inch pan for the recipe, which I do not. This was a fairly standard souffle recipe. I started by making the souffle base. I made a roux of flour and butter, cooking it for 5 minutes. Then I added hot milk and sugar. I removed the pan from the heat and added egg yolks and Grand Marnier. I then let the base cool to room temperature. Once the base had cooled I beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until stiff, then folded them into the base. I carefully transferred the mixture into a gratin pan, which had been buttered and sprinkled with sugar. I baked the souffle for 25 minutes. Since this souffle was baked in a low gratin dish rather than a more typical high-sided souffle dish, it didn't puff as dramatically as a typical souffle would. It was still extremeley light though, with a perfect souffle consistency. The flavor was nice -- not too eggy -- and the Grand Marnier came through clearly without being overpowering. The recipe, surprisingly, didn't call for any vanilla, and I think it would have been better if it had. The flavor was very one-note. The addition of vanilla would have given it a little more depth. My other issue with this recipe was that the souffle was really calling to have a sauce with it. A nice creme anglaise would have done wonders for this dish. Without a sauce (and because the flavor wasn't so interesting) I found the dish a bit dull. That said, it still tasted good, and almost everyone aroound the table enoyed it.

This recipe isn't online.

Yesterday my special gentleman and I caravaned from Indiana up to East Lansing, Michigan. As we passed the Welcome to Michigan sign at the Indiana/Michigan border, a wave of excitement went through me. For the first time it seemed real that we are moving to Michigan and staying there indefinitely. True, I am not really moving for another 8 months, but my special gentleman has moved, which feels like our officially beginning in Michigan.

We haven't bought a house yet. The house we put an offer on was a short sale which means the owner's bank ultimately has to accept it. Our offer sat at his bank for 4 months and they didn't even bother to look at it. Very frustrating. So we are going to start house hunting again. In the meantime, we are renting a house, which is lovely and huge, with a jacuzzi bath and a big, wooded backyard.

Last night we ate Indian food and went to the movies. I couldn't help but wonder, "How many times in our life will we eat these dishes, at this restaurant?" Or, "How many times will we go to this theater?" We will, most likely, stay in East Lansing for a long, long time, which makes this move extra exciting. It's as though we are slowly unveiling the things that will become part of our everydays lives here. On that note, we have already started the search for a nice place to run. Fortunately, that didn't take much searching. We ran our 7-mile morning run today along the Lansing River Trail which was completely lovely. Around the two mile mark, two deer ran in front of us and then swam across the river. Watching them, I thought, "I think I will like it here." The trail was long and beautifully maintained, every person we passed waved and said hi, and the weather was cool and breezy.

Now that I have a great place to run, I just need to figure out where to grocery shop...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sauteed Purslane with Garlic and Balsamic Vinegar (Page 573)

RECIPE #1011

  • Date: Friday, August 14, 2009 -- 9pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chefs: Matty, Chris, Brian, and Emily
  • Dining Companions: Emilee, Alison, Nick, Jamie, and Alex W
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I was hanging out at Emilee and Brian's place last week, lamenting the fact that I can't find some of the ingredients I need for recipes remaining in The Book. I started listing things I can't find, and at some point I mentioned purslane. Brian jumped in with, "You need purslane? There's some growing as a weed in my garden." I thought he was kidding, but he was serious and I was ecstatic! In the years since I started this project I haven't seen purslane once at a grocery store or farmer's market. Luckily Brian had some Pigweed (aka Purslane) sprouting up amongst his beautiful tomato plants. He picked me some puslane and Matty, Emilee, and Chris helped me prepare it. Picked at a different point in the season I am sure it would have been easier to prep. But as it was, it had tiny seed pods on it which contained very small seeds. For both flavor and textural reasons all those seed pods needed to be removed before I cooked the purslane and that was no small task. Even with four of us working on it, it was time consuming to get off all those little pods. Once the purslane was ready though, the recipe was very simple. I minced some garlic, and cooked it in olive oil. I added the purslane and cooked until it wilted. Then I tossed it with some balsamic, salt, and pepper. This recipe wasn't great. The flavor was ok -- purslane has a slightly sour flavor to it, which the balsamic complemented pretty well. I didn't like the texture though. The recipe said to leave in stems thinner than 1/8 inch, but I found myself wishing I had removed them all. Had I done that, however, there wouldn't have been much substance left to the dish. This dish wasn't any more special than a standard leafy-greens-cooked-in-garlic dish, but with more textural problems than if the dish had been made with, say, spinach. It wasn't terrible, but I wouldn't make it again.

This recipe isn't online.

As I am inching towards the end of this project, people have started to ask me, "Is there anything good left in The Book?" I have made 1012 of the 1293 recipes in The Gourmet Cookbook, and I can definitely say that there are some promising recipes left in the 281 I have remaining. It is also the case, however, that many of the recipes that I have left are recipes that I have put off for one reason or another. A few of those reasons are as follows:
  • Ingredients I can't find. Example recipe: Sauteed Salsify with Garlic. If anyone knows where to get one's hands on salsify I would love to know!
  • Ingredients with very short seasons. Example recipe: Shad Roe with Lemon Butter. Shad roe is only available in a short window of time, and is certainly not available in the small Midwestern town in which I live. This was the second spring in a row when I didn't manage to be in a big city during the shad roe season. Next year!
  • Equipment I don't have. Example recipe: Poached Salmon in Aspic. This recipe required a 24-inch long fish poacher, which I just don't have.
  • Recipes that are crazy expensive. Example recipe: Classic Foie Gras Terrine. Eventually I will certainly shell out the cash for the 1.5 pounds of Grade A foie gras called for in this recipe, but I haven't talked myself into it quite yet!
  • Recipes that don't sound too delicious. Example recipe: Crispy Sweetbreads with Parsnip Potato Puree, Braised Endives, and Port Sauce. Can't you just imagine me inviting friends over for dinner? They ask, "So what are we having?" If the answer, "Thymus glands," alone wouldn't scare them off, the answer, "Thymus glands with parsnips," would be sure to!
  • Recipes I have promised to save for certain friends. Example recipe: Molasses-Cured Pork Shoulder Bacon. Essentially every man I know has requested to be present for the cure-your-own-bacon adventure!
  • Recipes that are ridicuously unhealthy. Example recipe: Santa Fe French Toast. This French toast has heavy cream instead of milk in the soaking mixture, and is deep-fried instead of pan-fried. Crazy! I have put it off due to how insanely unhealthy it is, but I think I am finally going to make it for dinner tonight!
So, yes, many of the recipes that I have left are ones that I have postponed for a reason. But there are also some easy, delicious-sounding recipes on the horizon. For example: Brandied Sour Cherry and Pear Tarlets. I am sure the next year will be just as delicious as the last couple have been!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Panko Scallops with Green Chile Chutney (Page 48)

RECIPE #1010

  • Date: Sunday, July 19, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I made these scallops for the wedding celebration Karen and Dave hosted for us in July. I started by making the chutney. I blended together cilantro, scallions, coconut, serrano chiles, vegetable oil, ginger, lime juice, and water in a blender, then seasoned with salt and pepper. I cut my scallops in half (because they were enormous -- this wouldn't usually be necessary), then seasoned them with salt and pepper. I dipped them in egg, then panko breadcrumbs. Then I fried them in vegetable oil and topped them with the chutney. These scallops were pretty good. The scallops were nicely cooked, and the breadcrumb coating was very tasty. Unfortunately the coating didn't stick to the scallops so well, so some of them lost much of their breading in the frying process. The breading that stuck was delicious though. The chutney was quite nice -- aromatic and tasty, with a bit of a kick from the serrano chiles. The chutney was simple to make and added a lot to the dish. They would have been cuter had I not cut the scallops in half, so were I to make this recipe again I would look for some smaller scallops.

The recipe is here.

I am sitting in the San Jose airport, ready to board yet another flight, just thinking about how crazy this summer has been. Between planning a wedding, getting married, and trips to Minnesota, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Chicago, Germany, Wisconsin, Ohio, England, Norway, and California, this summer has been a little bit busy! There is only one more trip on the immediate horizon: Michigan. Soon I will be home in Indiana, settling into my routine. I have definitely enjoyed the traveling this summer -- it has been pretty awesome. But it will also be nice to be at home, and be able to do the things I usually do: work, cook, run, etc... There are many small things about home that I have missed these last few months: microwave popcorn at night, eating Cream of Wheat for dinner, walking to and from my office, eating a sno cone after a long run, movies at the theater, etc... In a week I will be home again to enjoy all those things. In the meatime, I will have one day at home before we drive up to Michigan to resume our house-hunting, get Matt settled in, attend Michigan State orientation things, etc... What a crazy summer!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crab and Coconut Dip with Plantain Chips (Page 21)

RECIPE #1009

  • Date: Sunday, July 19, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B

I made this crab dip for the party Karen and Dave threw for me and my special gentleman to celebrate our marriage. The dip portion of this recipe was super simple. I blended coconut milk, scallion, jalapeno, and cilantro in a blender. I whisked mayonnaise, lime juice, and chopped cilantro into this mixture. I stirred in crab meat and salt and served with plantain chips. This crab dip was OK. It had a decent flavor to it, but it didn't look too appetizing. It has a greenish color from the blended jalapeno, scallion, and cilantro. Green seems like not such a great color for a seafood dip, as it somehow gives the impression that the creamy mixture isn't too fresh. The dip was also much too heavy for the delicate chips that were to accompany it. The result of those factors combined was that while the delicious chips disappeared very rapidly, not so much of the dip got eaten. It certainly wasn't a bad recipe, but while I will definitely make the plantain chips again, this crab dip will not become a standby for me.

The recipe is here.

We are wrapping up our beach vacation in Aptos, California and about to head back to Palo Alto for another couple days. When my special gentleman was in college he was on the swim team, and he made many close friends through the team. The swimmers that were his year are still very close and the seven of them get together frequently. All of them are married now (or essentially married) and some of the couples are starting to have kids. I find it very impressive the way they still manage to come together as a group several times per year, in various locations around the country. This weekend we were on the beach in California. The last get-together was at our wedding in May, the next will be in Tahoe on Super Bowl Weekend. Not everyone shows up for every trip (this weekend, for instance, 10 of the 15 people in the group came), but each person seems to show up a reasonable percentage of the time. For a group of people that lives in San Francisco, Miami, Denver, Washington DC, New York City, Providence, and Indiana, it's amazing how often they see one another. I am still very close to some of my college friends, but we don't have a tradition of traveling together. I wish that we did -- it means a lot to my special gentleman to see his friends often, and everyone inevitably has a great time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Plantain Chips (Page 22)

RECIPE #1008

  • Date: Sunday, July 19, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Brad, Deniz, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A

In July my special gentleman's parents threw us a party with some of the extended family and friends of the family to celebrate our marriage. I took the opportunity to make a couple of hors d'oeuvres from The Book. These plantain chips went with some crab dip (which I will blog about next). To make them, I scored the skin of the plantains, then let them soak in warm water for 5 minutes. I then peeled the plantains, and used a vegetable peeler to slice them very thinly. I deep-fried the slices in vegetable oil, then sprinkled them with a mixture of lime zest, salt, and cayenne. These plantain chips were AWESOME! I like plantains quite a bit, and plantain chips are always tasty. But typically plantain chips are made by slicing the plantain into round. The method in this recipe, where I used a vegetable peeler to slice the plantains into very thin strips, produced much nicer chips. For one thing, they were very pretty this way. But more importantly, it did great things for the texture. They were super thin and extremely crispy. They were so thin that I think they were a little too delicate for the crab dip they were meant to be eaten with. But for eating these chips on their own, the delicate crispiness was perfect! What really took these chips to the next level, though, was the lime salt. It was a simple mixture of lime zest, salt, and cayenne, but it was wonderful on the chips. It brought out the flavor of the plantains, while giving the chips a bit of a kick. One note: The Book says to use green plantains because more ripe plantains won't work as well. Indeed I tried both, and it was impossible to use the vegetable peeler to get thin strips from the ripe plantains, as they were too smushy. So make sure to buy green ones! In summary, these chips were delicious -- I highly, highly recommend.

The recipe is here.

Last Sunday my special gentleman and I traveled back from Norway to Columbus, Ohio (a trip which took 26 hours -- very painful). We stayed with his parents in Columbus for a day, to recover from our jet lag, then drove home to Bloomington on Tuesday. On Wednesday I frantically worked on unpacking boxes at my new apartment (which we moved into before our three weeks of travel, but didn't have time to actually unpack anything). Then on Thursday we flew out to California. We spent a couple days in Palo Alto with Emilee, Brian, and Sam, and now we are on the beach for the weekend, with my special gentleman's friends from his college swim team. There are ten of us staying in a huge beach house in Aptos, California. It's really nice. Yesterday we spent most of the day on the beach -- swimming, boogie boarding, playing catch, etc... Today there are rumors that we are going kayaking (although everyone but me seems to still be sleeping...). Tomorrow my special gentleman and I will head back to Palo Alto, then on Wednesday we fly back to Indiana. We will stay in Indiana overnight, then head up to Michigan, where we will get my special gentleman settled in before his semester begins. I'll head back to Indiana after a week or so in Michgan, so that I can attend course meetings and get myself ready for the semester. And just like that, summer will be over!

With all the traveling we have done, this summer has just flown by. We haven't been home for more than a couple consecutive days in several months. Crazy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Salmon Burgers with Spinach and Ginger (Page 291)

RECIPE #1007

  • Date: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I completely forgot that I made this recipe until I found the picture of it on my camera, so I am going to backtrack a bit and blog about this one. I started by cutting a piece of salmon into 1/4-inch dice, then stirring it together with chopped spinach, grated ginger, scallions, salt, pepper, egg white, and soy sauce. I formed the mixture into patties, then cooked them in vegetable oil in a skillet. I topped them with pickled ginger and served. This recipe was super quick and pretty tasty. When I formed the patties I thought to myself, "There is no way these are going to stay together." Indeed, they were falling apart as I formed them. But I very carefully set them into the skillet, and very carefully flipped them halfway through the cooking, and they did manage to stay together! These salmon burgers were much better than I expected. They were very flavorful and moist. There was a lot of spinach relative to the amount of salmon, but it worked really well for the dish. The burgers were nice and light -- certainly a healthier alternative to a more traditional burger. I served them with rice and soy sauce, and that seemed to go better with the flavor of the burgers than buns would have. For a simple weekday supper, this was a nice dish.

The recipe is here.

The conference I was attending in Norway last week officially ended on Friday, and most participants left on Saturday morning. For anyone who was interested, though, there was the option of staying an extra day and going for a long hike. When my special gentleman agreed to travel all the way to Norway with me, I had promised that I would attempt this hike with him. My special gentleman and I hike a lot, but this particular hike was certainly more challenging that what we usually do. The hike was essentially straight up, then straight down a mountain. It took about nine hours (5 hours up, a little rest at the top, then 3 and a half hours down). The total elevation change was 1848 meters, which is more than a mile (a mile sounds like not-so-much, but as a change in elevation, it's a lot!). The photo below was taken about halfway up, when we encountered a beautiful lake on the mountain. At this point we were both still feeling pretty good:

The view from halfway up was quite nice. The hotel where we started hiking from is one of those buildings near the water in the valley.

At about 1100 meters, the weather took a nasty turn. It became very cold and very windy. We were certainly not prepared for how cold it would be. As you can see, my special gentleman was hiking through the snow in his shorts. Where it wasn't snowy it was very rocky near the top, which meant that we were climbing more than hiking.

Eventually we reached the top, where we were delighted to find that there was a shelter! Apparently in Norway in very remote places where people like to hike there are often these shelters. The shelter had a wood burning stove and tons of food in it. You could take whatever food you wanted and leave money to pay for it -- honor system style. This shelter also had a second level where people could sleep. And most importantly, it had many, many blankets inside, so we all wrapped ourselves up while we ate lunch and tried to get warm.

The views from the top were spectacular. The pictures don't do it justice, but here are a couple anyway. Here's a picture of me at the top. Standing up there it was hard to believe that we had started all the way down by that lake that you see in the picture.

Here's a shot of me and my special gentleman at the top, trying not to get blown off the mountain. It was windy!

The way down was easier than the way up, although much more painful. Going down very steep terrain is hard on your knees and the muscles in your legs. It also took a lot of concentration climbing down the rocks. I was happy that I made it through the rocks without falling, but then in the last hour of the descent I slipped twice on two steep muddy sections and fell twice on my butt! Whoops!

Overall it was a fun, although challenging day of hiking. The ascent kicked my butt, but when I made it to the top it felt like a real accomplishment! After the hike I sat in the hot tub at the hotel for an hour or so, then ate a huge dinner. It was a nice way to end our Norwegian adventure.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Korean Barbecued Beef in Lettuce Cups (Page 57)

RECIPE #1006

  • Date: Wednesday, July 8, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Mel, Melissa, Donna, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A-

A few days before Melanie's wedding, she had a girls-only luncheon for some of her family and friends. I made the food for this event. Because I wanted to be sure the food would good (it was part of her wedding festivities after all!) I made mostly things I had made before. But I wanted to try one new recipe from The Book, and this was it. Despite not being allowed at this girls-only event, my special gentleman helped me prepare this hors d'oeuvre (Side note: I forgot to bring one of these back for him, so he didn't even get to taste his handiwork! He was not happy!). We started by marinading skirt steak in a mixture of soy sauce, rice vinegar, scallions, sugar, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and chili sauce. I reserved some of the marinade mixture before adding the steak. We made a salad of sticks of Gala apple and mango, and tossed the fruit in a mixture of lime juice, chili sauce, and salt. I cooked the steak under the broiler, then sliced it into strips. I tossed the steak with the unused marinade, then divided the meat amongst leaves of Bibb lettuce. I topped the steak with the apple mango salad. I had concerns about this dish when I tasted the apple mango salad by itself. It was quite spicy! The steak, too, had quite a kick to it. The components were spicy enough that I wondered if The Book had meant sweet chili sauce rather than spicy chili sauce. But, amazingly enough, when the dish was assembled it wasn't too spicy at all. The lettuce really mellowed out the spice of the dish beautifully, so it was a touch spicy, but certainly not overpowering. I thought this dish was very tasty. The beef was delicious -- the marinade and sauce on it had tons of flavor, and the quick cooking under the broiler gave the marinade a nice bit of carmelized crunch to it. The apple mango salad was tasty, and provided good textural contrast. And the lettuce brought it all together with a lovely crunch and a handy way to wrap everything up before eating it. It was a tasty dish that people seemed to enjoy -- I would make it again.

Here is the recipe.

Hello from Norway! I am at a math conference which is taking place in the Nordfjord region of Norway. Often our conferences are held at universities, but this one is being held in a resort hotel surrounded by mountains and fjords -- it's pretty awesome! Plus my special gentleman came with me to enjoy the beautiful surroundings (the math happening here is not so similar to the math that he does!), and it is fun to have him here with me! Here is the view from the balcony of our hotel room:

I gave a talk at the conference on Tuesday. It's always nice to speak near the beginning of the week because I find it hard to relax until my talk is done! I think it went pretty well though. A typical summer conference will run from Monday to Friday with an excursion on Wednesday afternoon. I don't know how this tradition started, but it is very common. So on Wednesday afternoon we had no talks, and instead we took a boat ride out to a glacier, and then went for a short hike. Here's a picture from the boat of the glacier we were headed towards. You can see it in the background, wedged between the mountains:

And here's a picture of the boat we took, which I am adding simply because it captures the incredible color of the water here. It is so brightly aqua colored that it looks fake!

This is definitely a special location for a conference. I wasn't too excited about the last leg of the trip here, when we had to ride a little propeller plane and experience some glacier winds before landing at an airport with just one (short little) runway! But it was worth it. The conference has been interesting, the scenery is incredible, and our hotel has 2 pools, 2 jacuzzis, and 2 waterslides! I can't complain.

We have one more talk this afternoon, then tomorrow we are going for a long hike up a big mountain! On Sunday we are headed back to the States for a few days at home before we head to California. What a crazy, crazy summer!