Saturday, January 31, 2009

Linzertorte (Page 787)

RECIPE #928

  • Date: Thursday, January 22, 2009 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom M, Chuck, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Anne L, Daniel L, Kent, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, Chris C, Prudence, Kate, Jonathan, Marlies, and John B
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I hadn't made this recipe yet because it didn't really sound that good to me. I was worried it was going to come out like the Raspberry Jam Tart with Almond Crumble which was disappointing at best. But the day of our dessert party a couple weeks ago I started worrying that we didn't have enough desserts for the number of people coming. So I threw together this tart at the last minute because it was quick. I first made the dough. I beat together butter and sugar, then added egg yolks and lemon zest. I then beat in flour, salt, and hazelnuts which I had toasted, skinned, and ground. I refrigerated this dough until firm, then pressed half of it into the bottom of a springform pan. I spread raspberry jam over this crust. Then I rolled out the remaining dough and cut it into strips, which I used to form a faux-lattice on top of the jam. That step was a pain, as the strips were very fragile and kept breaking. But eventually I got the lattice assembled and I crimped the edges with a fork. I baked it until browned and then cooled it completely. Before serving I dusted around the perimeter with powdered sugar. I liked this tart a lot. It was very simple -- tasting essentially like raspberry, hazelnuts, and butter. But those are three great flavors, and great together. The almost shortbread-like texture of the base was lovely, and it had a rich buttery flavor. The fruit from the jam cut the richness of the dessert nicely, providing necessary contrast. In some sense this was more like a huge cookie than a tart. The base definitely had a cookie-like quality to it, and the jam added to the effect. I don't think anyone else was as taken with this tart as I was. But the day after the party, when there were many choices of dessert leftovers in the fridge, this is the dessert I found myself going back to. It wasn't anything fancy, or unusual, but I liked it!

This recipe isn't online.

I went to the mall today, for the first time in a while, because I needed to do some errands. On the top of my errand list was to find a bra to wear under my wedding dress. I have my first dress fitting next weekend, and I am supposed to wear my wedding bra to said fitting (which makes a lot of sense). But I hadn't gotten around to finding one yet and I don't own one that will work under a dress cut like my wedding dress. So I went to Victoria's Secret this afternoon on a mission. I had been there about 5 minutes when, of course, I ran into one of my students. Not one of my current students -- that would have been pretty unlikely since rthis semester I have only 14 students and only 2 of them are women -- but rather one of my many undergraduates from a previous semester. I run into my students all the time. It is simply a reality of living in a relatively small town and often teaching relatively large undergraduate classes. Running into my students at the grocery store or at a restaurant doesn't bother me at all, but in Victoria's Secret? Awkward. To add to the moment, my student was apparently buying a whole armful of really skimpy lingerie. So there we are: me holding a half a dozen different bras on my way to the dressing room, and her on the way out of the dressing room, armed with lots of lacy things with hooks and straps. I am sure this particular student is at least 20 years old, but my undergraduate students seems so young and innocent to me when they are in my classroom. So I was shocked. Shocked and uncomfortable. But I continued on my mission nonetheless, and now I have acquired a bra that, hopefully, I can wear under my wedding dress!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cinnamon Chocolate Cigarettes (Page 668)

RECIPE #927

  • Date: Thursday, January 22, 2009 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom M, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Anne L, Daniel L, Kent, Chuck, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, Chris C, Prudence, Kate, Jonathan, Marlies, and John B
  • Recipe Rating: B



I made these cookies as part of the dessert spread for a party that we had last week. The Book claims that these cookies are "similar to tuiles, but easier to work with." It turns out, that is a damn lie. I made the coconut tuiles from The Book just a few weeks ago, so they are fresh in my memory for a comparison. The tuile recipe was WAY less annoying than this one. I am a patient person when it comes to cooking -- I have a high tolerance for repetitve and/or difficult tasks in the kitchen. But this recipe drove me to madness! I cursed at these cookies more than once while making them. That is not to say that they didn't turn out delicious -- they did. But it wasn't worth it.

First, the method: I whisked together egg whites, powdered sugar, flour, melted butter, salt, and cinnamon. Then I dropped teaspoonfuls of batter onto a buttered baking sheet and spread each dollop out into a 3-inch round. I put 4 such dollops on one baking sheet, then baked them until golden. Up to that point, it was a piece of cake. When I took the cookies out of the oven I immediately used a metal spatula to loosen them from the pan, then one at a time rolled the cookies around a pencil to get the cigarette shape you see above. Sounds easy enough, right? The difficulty was, these cookies hardened almost immediately, and then cracked when I tried to roll them. The solution to this problem was to put the baking sheet back into the oven until the cookies softened again. So making these cookies basically went like this: Bake 4 cookies on a baking sheet. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Use a spatula to loosen the 4 cookies from the baking sheet. By that point they were hardened and brittle so put the baking sheet back into the oven for a minute. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Roll one cookies around a pencil to form cigarette shape. By that point, the other three cookies were brittle. Return to the oven for one minute to soften. Remove from the oven and wrap the second cookie around a pencil. Continue. Nothing about the process was difficult, but it was so aggravating. And often a cookie would stick to the pan for no apparent reason, which meant it took longer to get under it with the spatula, which meant that by the time I had loosened that one cookie all the others on the sheet had hardened. In summary, these cookies took forever. The recipe made 24 cookies, which had to be baked in batches of 4 (that's 6 batches!), and then each batched needed a lot of personal attention to be shaped. Once all my cigarette cookies were done, I dipped one end of each of them in melted chocolate to give the cigarettes some "ash".

I was so annoyed by this recipe that I would love to say that they were terrible. In reality though, they were delicious. I won't make them again. I can guarantee you that. But that's only for my own mental health and not because they weren't good. The cookies were buttery and perfectly brittle (which was an annoying thing while making them, but a delicious thing while eating them). The chocolate end was a great complement to the buttery cookie. I could hardly taste the cinnamon, so it seemed odd to me that they had the word cinnamon in the title of the recipe, but the flavor was still great. In summary, they were lovely, but I just can't recommend that you make them yourself. I would hate to see you driven to madness as well!

Here is the recipe.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Russian Tea Room Cheesecake (Page 755)

RECIPE #926

  • Date: Thursday, January 22, 2009 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Tom M, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Anne L, Daniel L, Chuck, Kent, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, Chris C, Prudence, Kate, Jonathan, Marlies, and John B
  • Recipe Rating: A-



My special gentleman and I hosted a reception last week for some of the topologists and geometers in my department in honor of our visiting colloquium speaker. This cheesecake was part of a rather lengthy dessert menu for said get-together. Cheesecake is great to make for a party because it is quick to throw together and you can make it in advance. For this party, when I knew I would be preparing 6 or 7 different desserts, having some that could be made in advance was a necessity! The only tricky part of this recipe was preparing the pan. I took a springform pan, buttered the bottom, then covered the bottom in parchment and buttered again. I then took a long strip of parchment, buttered one side of it, then pressed the unbuttered side against the side of the pan, circling it around. This strip extended several inches above the top of the pan, creating a collar of sorts. I then wrapped the outside of the pan in several layers of aluminum foil.

Having made all the preparations for the pan, I moved on to making the cheesecake itself. I beat together cream cheese, butter, sugar, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, orange-flower water, and almond extract, then beat in a bit of cornstarch. In a different bowl I beat 8 egg whites with sugar until stiff, then folded them into the cream cheese mixture. I poured this into the pan, then put the pan into a roasting pan and filled the roasting pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the springform pan. I put this whole contraption in the oven and baked for about an hour. Then I refrigerated the cheesecake overnight. This cheesecake was very tasty. I had been putting off making it because of the presence of orange-flower water in the ingredients. I hate that stuff. It tastes like perfume. But in this case, the combination of the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, orange-flower water, and almond extract gave the cheesecake a very aromatic flavor to it, without any one of those flavors being too identifiable. It was lovely. Very well balanced. The most unique quality of this cheesecake was its texture. Cheesecakes are typically super dense, but this one was incredibly light. The 8 egg whites caused the cheesecake to rise tremendously (hence the collar on the pan) and although it fell a bit as it cooled, it was still wonderfully airy. The flavor and texture together made this one very refined cheesecake. My only complaint was that it didn't set well enough to slice neatly. It's hardly a complaint -- it was worth having it look a little messy to get that great texture. But if you want to serve perfect looking slices of cheesecake, this isn't the best recipe for that. Otherwise, go for it. It's very yummy!

Here is the recipe.

I woke up this morning at 6:30am to the sound of my phone receiving a text message. In my experience, early morning phone calls and text messages often contain bad news, so in the moment between waking up and checking my phone, I experienced a bit of panic. The panic quickly faded when I realized that the text message was from the university, saying that today was a snow day! I usually teach on Wednesdays, but my course (along with all the others!) was canceled, so I rolled over and went back to bed, sleeping in a little later than usual. Of course, I still had plenty of work to do, so I went into the office anyway later in the morning. On my walk to the office, Bloomington was like a ghost town -- totally deserted. Walking through downtown was eerie -- even though it was the middle of the morning, most of the shops and restaurants were closed because of the weather. And on campus there was no one around. It was just me and the snow. The funny thing was, there wasn't even that much snow! Now, I grew up in Wisconsin, where the winter weather is serious business. And I lived in Boston for 5 years, where it's not terribly cold, but the city can get absolutely dumped on with snow. So I was not terribly impressed by the snowfall we had today. I doubt high schools would have been canceled, more or less universities, for this kind of snow in Wisconsin or Massachusetts. But I suppose it is all about what you are used to. Southern Indiana isn't equipped to deal with too much snow, so the roads weren't cleared, etc... I'm not complaining -- I enjoyed a quiet snow day, even if I did spend it at work.

Buttery Croissants (Page 620)

RECIPE #925

  • Date: Monday, January 19, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Terry, and Teri
  • Recipe Rating: A

My special gentleman is a huge fan of croissants. I admit, it's hard not to love them, but he is just over the top crazy about them. He has been very patiently waiting for me to make these croissants from The Book, and finally a few weekends ago I got around to doing so. I started by making the croissant dough, which I wrote up in the post below, and letting it chill overnight. Then I cut the dough in half, left one half in the fridge, and rolled the other half out into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. I then cut that in half lengthwise, and put one half of it in the fridge. With the remaining piece, I cut it crosswise into thirds, then I cut each of those smaller rectangles diagonally in half. So from that half of the half of the dough I started with, I got six triangular pieces. I gently stretched each of these triangles, holding the short side in one hand and the tip in the other. I then rolled each stretched triangle to form a croissant shape. I repeated this rolling, cutting, and shaping process with all the dough, ending up with 24 croissants, which I put on parchment-lined baking sheets. I slid each baking sheet into a garbage bag (no, not to throw them away!), which I propped up with inverted glasses to keep the bag from touching the croissants. I let the croissants rise in the garbage bags for two and a half hours.

Then came the baking. I preheated the oven to 425. Right before putting the baking sheets of croissants in the oven (without the garbage bags!) I generously sprayed the inside of the oven with a spray bottle filled with water, then quickly shut the oven door. I put the croissants in, sprayed the inside of the oven with water again, then reduced the oven temperature to 400. After 10 minutes of baking, I reduced the oven temp again -- this time to 375 -- and continued to bake them until they were golden brown.

So how were they? Well let me just say the following: My special gentleman said that these croissants were the best thing I have ever made for him. That is high praise coming from someone who has eaten more than 560 recipes that I have made from The Book, and countless other things. These croissants were EXCELLENT. They were flaky, and buttery, and delicious. Their texture was perfect. Their flavor was great. These were probably the best croissants I have ever made, and maybe even the best croissants I have ever eaten. They were that good. Croissants don't stay fresh long, so we froze all of them that we didn't eat in the first few hours they were out of the oven. We have been reheating them from the freezer and they are still excellent! It is a bit of process to make croissants, but this recipe is worth every minute of effort. Yum! Yum, yum, yum!!!

Here is the recipe.

A quick shout out to my dear friend, college roommate, and blog reader, Rachel, whose birthday is today! Happy Birthday Rach!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Croissant Dough (Page 621)

RECIPE #924

  • Date: Sunday, January 18, 2009 -- 5pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Terry, and Teri
  • Recipe Rating: A


Strangely enough, The Book has the Croissant Dough recipe as a component of the Buttery Croissants recipe (which I will blog about next). So the only ingredient on the list for the Buttery Croissants is one recipe of Croissant Dough. That would almost make sense if the Croissant Dough was an ingredient also in another recipe, but it's not. So the reason they did this must be that they were worried that if they put the steps for making the dough and the steps for forming and baking the croissants in the same recipe people would be intimidated by how long the recipe was. That may be true, but it's pretty clear even from looking at either of the two recipes that there are going to be a lot of steps. In any event, this was the dough that I used to make the croissants which I will blog about next.

I haven't made croissants in quite a while, so I was eager to make this recipe. I love homemade croissants, and I enjoy the somewhat lengthy process of making them. To start I proofed some yeast with brown sugar in warm milk. Then I added flour and salt and kneaded for 7 minutes in my KitchenAid. I kneaded by hand for a couple minutes, then formed it into a rectangle and refrigerated for an hour. After an hour, I took 3 sticks of butter and using a rolling pin I pounded them together and flattened them into an 8 by 5 inch rectangle of butter. (I have to admit, pounding out the butter is my favorite part of making croissants -- it's a great way to vent any aggression you may have stored up!) I took the dough out of the fridge and rolled it out into a 16 by 10 inch rectangle, then I put my butter in the center of said rectangle and folded the bottom third of the dough up over the butter, then the top third down over the dough. Then I rolled out this butter and dough package to a 15 by 10 inch rectangle, being careful not to let the butter break through the dough. Then I folded it in thirds to form a 10 by 5 inch rectangle. I put it in the fridge for another hour. After it had chilled I rolled it out to a 15 by 10 inch rectangle again, and folded it in thirds again, and chilled for an hour again. Then I repeated the process of rolling, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Finally I refrigerated the dough overnight before forming and baking the croissants. You are probably thinking, "That's a lot of steps." Yes, it is. But remember that in the beginning I started with a layer of butter sandwiched between layers of dough. By carefully repeating this process of rolling out and folding up, I created thinner and thinner layers of butter sandwiched between dough. It is these many, many layers that create the wonderful flaky texture of croissants. So, yes, it is a bit of a pain, but it is totally worth it!

These croissants were awesome, but I will post more about that in my next post. For now I will just say that this dough must have been awesome because it produced awesome croissants. Making this croissant dough is a great rainy day project. If you have never made homemade croissants, I promise you won't be disappointed!

Here is the recipe.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pineapple Habanero Salsa (Page 897)

RECIPE #923

  • Date: Sunday, January 18, 2009 -- 5pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-
(imagine picture of pineapple salsa here)

I admit, I have a few times forgotten to take a picture of a recipe I made from The Book. So, there have been some picture-less posts now and again. If I had forgotten to take a picture of this salsa, I would happily admit it. But I didn't. I swear. I remember taking the picture. I remember when I took the picture. I even remember exactly which bowl I put the salsa in to take the picture. I remember having some salsa from said bowl right after photographing it. I remember what my special gentleman was doing while I was taking the picture. I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that these events happened. Yet, there is no picture of this dish on my camera. I have a perfectly reliable digital camera which has never spontaneously deleted anything. And the pictures of the dishes before and after this one are there. I can't imagine that I accidentally deleted it, and my special gentleman has no interest in my camera whatsoever, so he certainly didn't touch it. So maybe I am losing my mind. Maybe I never took a picture and all those memories of doing so are false... I have no idea. But there is no picture. It's ok -- it wasn't that cute anyway.

I did, however, make this salsa. I have proof that I wasn't imagining that too because my special gentleman remembers eating it! This recipe was very simple. I chopped a half of a pineapple and stirred it together with pineapple juice, lime juice, molasses, chopped scallions, minced habanero pepper, fresh thyme, salt, and allspice. The result was ok, but not fantastic. The salsa came out rather watery, and the molasses gave it a rather unappetizing brown color. The flavor was... well... odd. The pineapple -- lime -- scallion -- habanero combination worked for me. But the molasses -- thyme --allspice addition was a little weird. The combination reminded me of this truly bizarre alcoholic beverage Vero made for us once called Sunday Ham (or something like that). This salsa didn't taste bad, but I didn't love it either. It's not one that I would make again.

Here is the recipe.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Char Siu (Page 478)

RECIPE #922

  • Date: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 -- 11pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this recipe a couple weeks ago and threw it in the freezer to be used as a component for another recipe in The Book: Chow Fun with Barbecued Beef and Snow Peas. I made the Chow Fun tonight, and I will write that up soon, but for now I will post only about the pork. To prepare this, I started by cutting pork shoulder into strips and marinating the strips in a mixture of hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sake, honey, ginger, garlic, and salt. I marinated it for a day, then removed the pork pieces from the marinade and laid them on a rack set over a roasting pan partially filled with water. I boiled the marinade in a saucepan while the pork roasted for 15 minutes. Then began a long sequence of basting, and roasting, and flipping, and basting, etc... The pork got basted 5 or 6 times, which was a bit of a pain, but it was worth it. The meat came out tremendously flavorful. The marinade turned glaze had a great flavor to it, and that flavor permeated the meat wonderfully from the hours of marinating. This pork would be tasty in all sorts of dishes, and it was certainly delicious in the chow fun we ate tonight. Mmmm... barbecued pork!

This recipe isn't online.

We eat a lot of bread in our household. I crave carbs all the time, and I find bread totally irresistible. I pack my lunch every day and more often than not it consists of some kind of soup and some kind of bread. Yum! My special gentleman eats even more bread than I do. One of his staple foods is a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter and honey on it. He consumes that item at least once per day. So we go through a lot of bread. I make homemade bread occasionally, but with my book project, those occasions have become fewer and farther between. So when Christmas rolled around this year, I bought my special gentleman a bread maker and a cookbook of whole grain breads. The gift wasn't meant so much for his use, but rather for me to use so that there would be fresh bread around the house for both of our consumption! I have to admit, I never used to take bread machines too seriously. I suppose it seemed like cheating or something. But this summer I spent a lot of time with my dear friend Rachel, who makes fresh whole grain breads at least once per week, in a bread machine. She and her husband love it, and I had some of the bread she made -- it was great! Now that we have had our bread maker for about a month, I have come to the conclusion that I LOVE that thing. It's amazing. You just dump in a bunch of ingredients and 4 or 5 hours later it beeps, telling you that it is done making your loaf of bread. It kneads, it bakes -- it does everything! My special gentleman and I have already made 6 or 7 different kinds of whole wheat bread, all with lovely results. Bread machines seem to be out of fashion these days -- many people I know admit they have one that they never use. But I am pretty sure there is no turning back for us. The loaves we have made have been both better and cheaper than the ones we used to buy at the store. And it takes at most 10 minutes of effort. Speaking of yummy bread machine bread, I might go grab a slice of the Norwegian Wheat I made last night...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lamb Shank Stifado with Sauteed Potatoes (Page 511)

RECIPE #921

  • Date: Saturday, January 17, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I try to always make a special dinner for my special gentleman whenever he returns from one of his trips. I made this lamb dish to welcome him back from Korea last weekend. To start, I melted sugar on the stove, to form a golden caramel, then added red wine vinegar to it. I added chopped canned tomatoes, red wine, rosemary, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and brought it to a boil. Then I added the lamb shanks and braised it in the oven for several hours. In the meantime I cooked and peeled pearl onions (cursed pearl onions!) and steamed red potatoes. After they had steamed I browned the potatoes in butter and garlic on the stovetop. When the meat had finished braising, I removed it from the braising liquid then added the pearl onions to the braising liquid and boiled to form a thickened sauce. I served the lamb topped with the sauce, accompanied by the potatoes. I had high hopes for this dish -- braised lamb is typically delicious -- but this rendition was a bit disappointing. I had a couple small complaints (pearl onions annoy the crap out of me, and the garlic burnt while the potatoes browned) but my main issue was the flavor of the lamb. It was really sweet. The recipe had a quarter of a cup of sugar in it (which isn't a lot, but is quite a bit for a savory dish). The sweetness of the sugar was very much intesified, however, by making a caramel sauce from it. So there was this profound sweetness to the dish. The dish also contained a cup of red wine, which is quite a bit. I like caramel, I like red wine, and I like lamb, but I didn't enjoy these three flavors together so much. It seemed like it had the potential to be tasty, but the flavors were somehow out of balance. In a different ratio it might have worked. In any event, the recipe certainly wasn't bad, but the leftovers also didn't fly off the shelf of the refrigerator as braised meat leftovers usually do. Neither my special gentleman and I were too taken with it.

Here is the recipe.

My special gentleman skis well, and enjoys it. Throughout the almost two and a half years we have been together I have insisted on several occasions that I would be happy to go skiing with him. However, I hadn't worn a pair of downhill skis in probably 16 years, and 16 years ago, when I was 12, I hated to ski. So although I was happy to try it if my special gentleman wanted me to, I never pushed the issue too much.

Yesterday I was trying to figure out what we should do for Special Saturday today -- we try to do something fun on Saturdays, typically going places we haven't been before. I casually glanced at the website for the nearest ski hill and they had a special deal today: wear pink and get $12 off your lift ticket. So we decided to go! This morning we got bundled up, adding whatever pink clothing we could find in the closet, and headed to Paoli, Indiana. It was a strange experience in a lot of ways. It was chilly today, but it has been 50 degrees the last two days in Southern Indiana. So there is absolutely no snow in sight on the way there. The ski resort makes its own snow of course, but standing on the top of the "mountain" you could see this big snowy area surrounded by green and brown fields as far as the eye could see. Very weird.

The morning didn't go so well -- it took me a while to feel comfortable on the skis, and using the ski lifts, etc... My special gentleman showed me how to slow down while skiing, but at first I couldn't turn, which led to me almost running over some innocent children in pink snowsuits. After lunch (french fries with nacho cheese sauce, one of those big soft pretzels, and some yogurt), with renewed energy we hit the slopes again. By the middle of the afternoon I was starting to get the hang of it, and in the end I even had fun. I am looking forward to skiing again, and hopefully getting increasingly more comfortable with it. The last part of the day I sat in the ski lodge and drank hot apple cider while Matty did some real skiing (I myself never made it off of the green slopes, but he can do the black diamond ones). It was a good day! It didn't seem to me that skiing would be nearly as tiring as it was though. When we got home I meant to take a twenty minute nap and woke up nearly two and a half hours later. Whoops!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Lemon Meringue Ice Cream (Page 857)

RECIPE #920

  • Date: Saturday, January 17, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Mike M, Teresa, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I was in the mood to make some ice cream last weekend, and this is one of the few I had left in The Book. I started by making meringue. I whipped egg whites with a touch of salt and some suagr, then spread the stiff egg whites on a baking sheet. I baked the meringue in a 250 degree oven for an hour, then let it stand in the oven, with the oven off for another hour. When it was done, I broke it into pieces. Meanwhile, I made the custard by combining cream, milk, sugar, lemon zest, and salt, and bringing it just to a boil. I tempered this into some beaten egg yolks, then cooked the whole mixture to 170 degrees. I strained it then chilled until very cold. When it was sufficiently cold, I froze it in the ice cream maker, then stirred in the pieces of meringue. This ice cream was pretty good. The lemon flavor was extremely intense -- so much so that I can imagine some people not liking it for that reason. The meringue pieces were very crunchy the first day, but by the time we brought it to Mike and Teresa's house the following evening, they had lost a lot of their crunch. They still gave it some contrast, but if you want crunchy meringue, you best eat the ice cream the day it was made. One critique, which my special gentleman pointed out, was that the ice cream was so intensely lemon flavored that it somehow gave the impression of being low fat. It's hard to explain, but it felt like you were eating lemon sherbet rather than ice cream It was certainly creamy in texture, but it wasn't creamy in flavor, due to all the lemon. So, it was hard to appreciate the richness of it. This seemed like a bad thing -- if you are going to have all the fat that's in ice cream, you might as well be able to appreciate it. That said, it tasted good, and I enjoyed eating it.

Here is the recipe.

I have eaten so much sugar in the last 36 hours that I can hardly look at that ice cream picture... Often when a professor comes to visit our department from another university, someone will throw a little party in his or her honor. This week a professor from MIT was visiting. I had a course from him years ago, and my special gentleman worked closely with him when he was at MIT. He's a great guy, so my special gentleman and I offered to host a little shindig in his honor. Said gathering took place last nice. About 30 people (mathematicians and their families) came over, and my special gentleman and I made some desserts. OK, we made a LOT of desserts -- all from The Book. We made Coconut Cake with Raspberry Coulis, Chocolate Truffles, Chocolate Cinnamon Cigarettes, Burnt Orange Panna Cotta, Carmelized Pear Tart, Linzertorte, and Russian Tea Room Cheesecake, plus a few savory things. And of course because I have to grade them all, I had to have some of each! So I ate a lot of dessert last night! Most of the dessert got eaten at the party, but of course with that many desserts there was a bit leftover. So today I had Linzertorte for lunch, and a bit of cheesecake (and panna cotta...) after dinner! I am so saturated with sugar right now, but I am still considering a little slice of coconut cake before bed. Mmmm.... coconut!

Hot Cross Buns (Page 617)

RECIPE #919

  • Date: Thursday, January 15, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+


When I was in fourth grade, and had just started playing the violin, my "strings" class would play the Hot Cross Buns song over and over and over again. Our teacher would sometimes sing along as we played: "Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns." That was the extent of my knowledge about these mythical Hot Cross Buns. So when I noticed, years ago, that there was a recipe for them in The Book, I was intrigued. But when I saw it required making a yeast risen dough, and a pastry dough, I was a little put off. Eventually this recipe appeared on my list generated by the random number generator. Yet, I still couldn't motivate to make them. So the recipe had been sitting on the list since May 20, 2007. These past few weeks I have been trying to cook more from said list, and slowly the 20 items on the list are becoming more and more undesirable to make. In comparison, the Hot Cross Buns started sounding like a piece of cake. So, a couple weeks ago, I finally made them! I put off this recipe for quite some time, but never because I thought it would be bad -- in fact, though, this recipe was quite disappointing.

I started by proofing yeast in warm milk and sugar. Then I sifted together flour, allspice, cinnamon, salt, and more sugar. I added butter, carefully incorporating it with my fingers. Then I added some egg and the yeast mixture, then currants, golden raisins, orange zest, and lemon zest. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, then let it rise. In the meantime, I made a batch of pate brisee (aka pie crust) and put it in the fridge. After the dough had risen I formed it into balls, and let the balls rise again. Once they had doubled in size I brushed them with a mixture of egg and sugar. Then I rolled out the pastry dough, cut it into very thin strips, and used the strips to form a cross on each bun. I baked the buns until they were golden.

I have three complaints about this recipe:
1. Flavor
2. Texture
3. General Absurdity

Let's start with flavor. I was skeptical when I saw that this recipe called for one and a half teaspoons of allspice. Allspice is powerful stuff. You rarely see it appear in a recipe in a quantity greater than 1/4 teaspoon. One and half teaspoons? That's craziness. And indeed, these buns were like little allspice bombs in your mouth. I didn't like that.

A much bigger problem though was the texture. When I read "bun" I expected something fluffy and tender. These buns had a very dense texture. I think the dough was too dry perhaps, and it didn't rise well at all. The buns had hardly any oven-rise to them, and they came out as dense as a bagel -- definitely not the right texture for a sweet bun.

And finally, general absurdity. Pie crust on top of a bun? Keep in mind that my buns tasted like allspice bagels (which you will note is not a popular bagel flavor). So this recipe made allspice bagels with pie crust on top. Did the pie crust hurt anything? Well, no, not really. But it was so absurd! And it didn't contribute positively to the buns so it was extra work for no real reward.

I have faith that hot cross buns can be delicious. There are some delicious looking pictures online. But this recipe did not produce delicious results.

Here is the recipe.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Coconut Tuile Cones (Page 667)

RECIPE #918

  • Date: Saturday, January 10, 2009 -- 4pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator. I hadn't made these cookies yet, despite my love of coconut, because it sounded from the recipe like they might be pretty fussy. In fact, they were no trouble at all and very tasty. I started by boiling butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup on the stove, then adding flour and then sweetened, flaked coconut. I let the mixture cool to room temperature. Meanwhile I fashioned a cone out of aluminum foil and buttered a baking sheet. Once the batter had cooled I dropped two 1-tablespoon mounds of it on my baking sheet, and used my fingers to pat each one out into a big circle. I baked them until golden, then let them sit on the baking sheet for two minutes. At that point I quickly flipped each cookie, then rolled one of them around my foil cone, holding it there for a few seconds before removing the cone, to allow the shape to set in. I then rolled the other cookie on my cone to shape it. I repeated this process with 3 more batches, to form a total of 8 cones. These tasty cones were almost more like candy than cookies. They were very sweet, and wonderfully brittle. The coconut wasn't too intense (it was drowned out a bit by the overall sweetness) so even people who dislike coconut might enjoy these. My picture didn't capture it well, but they were extremely elegant looking. The cones came out absolutely beautiful, and would have been very elegant served next to a scoop of ice cream.

Here is the recipe.

One thing that is a little bit curious about this project of mine is that it sometimes necessitates making recipes at completely inappropriate times. If I waited until I had the perfect occasion to make every dish in The Book, this project would take decades! So sometimes I just make things, even if they aren't particularly appropriate for the occasion. Take these cookies, for example. I made them because they were on the list generated by the random number generator, and I make a couple recipes off that list every week. It wasn't until after I made them that I realized that these cones, paired with some homemade ice cream, would have made a lovely dessert at a dinner party. But I had no dinner party planned. And since I had pneumonia when I made these, I wasn't about to throw one. In fact, even my special gentleman was away. So the majority of these very elegant cookies got eaten by me, in my pajamas, sitting on the sofa. Don't get me wrong, they were good -- I was happy to eat them! It just seemed like a bit of a waste, going through the work to shape them so elegantly only to eat them at home alone. After eating half the batch I decided they were too pretty not to share. So I froze a few of them for my special gentleman and he ate them when he returned from Korea. He ate them in his pajamas, sitting on the sofa! So they never lived to see the elegant dinner that they would have fit beautifully into, but at least my special gentleman and I enjoyed them quite a bit!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Buffalo Meat Loaf (Page 449)

RECIPE #917

  • Date: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator. I initially found it odd that this recipe was in the Beef, Veal, Pork, and Lamb section of The Book, filed under Beef. But (if Wikipedia is to be trusted anyway) apparently beef is the right term for any meat from bovines, and bison are indeed bovines. (It is my impression that most meat labeled "buffalo" is really bison, even though those aren't really the same thing.) When I was an undergraduate at Stanford the dining halls must have been in bed with the bison industry or something, but they were all about putting bison meat in everything. We had bison burgers instead of hamburgers. Bison lasagna, bison meat loaf. Bison, bison, bison... Maybe it was for health reasons -- bison is indeed much better for you than beef from cows -- much lower in fat and calories. It was all the same to me since I was a vegetarian at the time, but it certainly gave me the impression that bison was becoming a big thing. Then I left college and haven't seen much of it since. So I was happy to see that there was a bison recipe in The Book.

To start I cooked a mirepoix of onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in some oil. Then my special gentleman mixed that together with fresh bread crumbs, parsley, egg, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper, then he added the ground bison, mixing gently with his hands. We formed a loaf on a baking sheet, then surrounded it with pieces of tomato and shallot. We then baked it until cooked through, then removed the meatloaf and the vegetables and deglazed the pan to make a sauce. This meatloaf was tasty. It had an excellent flavor to it, and was nice and moist. It was less fatty with the bison than a typical beef meatloaf, but that lack of fat didn't seem to hurt the flavor or texture any. My only complaint about the recipe was that it had extra components that I don't think improved it at all. For instance, I don't find that the tomatoes and shallots contributed anything to the dish. I would have prefered it without them. Also, the sauce wasn't too impressive. The pan was just deglazed with water, so the sauce was essentially bison drippings in water. It didn't taste bad, but it wasn't visually appealing, and didn't add any new flavor to the dish. That said, I enjoyed eating this meat loaf quite a lot, and my special gentleman and I both thought that the bison was an excellent alternative to cow beef.

Here is the recipe.

A huge congratulations to Rachel, one of my nearest and dearest, who gave birth to her first child on Friday! Her son Justin weighed in at 9 pounds 11 ounces! Congratulations to Rachel and her husband Eric!!!

Riesling-Braised Sauerkraut and Apples (Page 575)

RECIPE #916

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

Karen made sauerkraut on New Year's Day, which reminded me that there is a sauerkraut recipe in The Book. Since this recipe was on my mind, I made it when we came back after the holidays. This recipe started with packaged sauerkraut purchased from the store. I soaked the sauerkraut in water, then drained it, then repeated the soaking and draining. In a big pot I cooked onion and shallots in butter, then added sliced apples, bacon, Riesling, chicken stock, thyme, juniper berries (many thanks to David for sending me those!) and a bay leaf. I added the sauerkraut and braised it in the oven for an hour and a half. At that point there was an optional step of adding 2 cups of cream and some apple schanpps. I let my special gentleman decide if he wanted this dish with or without the cream. He chose without so that's what we did. The cream might have had a nice mellowing affect on the strong flavor of the sauerkraut, but 2 cups of cream for 6 serving is a heck of a lot of cream. It sounded too rich for us! As we prepared it, this sauerkraut was pretty good. The apples gave it a nice flavor and sweetness, and the Riesling also contributed a sweet note to the dish. This recipe was a bit fancier than typical sauerkraut preparations, but as with most sauerkraut dishes, it mostly tasted like the storong flavor of sauerkraut! This dish was fine. I probably won't make it again, but we enjoyed eating it well enough.

Here is the recipe.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Grilled Lemongrass Beef and Noodle Salad (Page 165)

RECIPE #915

  • Date: Monday, January 5, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I picked this recipe because I made one of its components, the Toasted Rice Powder, more than two months ago, and I figured it was about time I used it. I started by making a marinade for the beef. I ground lemongrass stalks and garlic in the food processor then added fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, vegetable oil, and sesame oil and blended. I marinated the steak in that mixture for 4 hours. As the name of the recipe suggests, the steak was meant to be grilled. We don't have a grill though, so we used the alternate option which The Book provided, which was broiling the steak. The Book said to broil the steak for 3 to 5 minutes, although for the piece of flank steak that I had, that wasn't nearly enough time. I probably ended up broiling it about 8-10 minutes total, and resorted to butterflying it so that it didn't end up raw in the middle. Meanwhile, I soaked rice noodles in warm water for about 20 minutes. Then I drained them and cooked them briefly in boiling water, then drained them again. Here I was meant to run the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking. More on that in a second. I tossed the noodles with mint and cilantro (and basil -- except not really -- more on that in a second too) and some of the nuoc cham (see post below). Then I put some seedless cucumber slices in the bottom of each of our bowls, topped them with the noodles, then some of the toasted rice powder, then some sliced beef, then some thinly sliced serrano chiles. I served it with the remaining nuoc cham on the side.

By the time I finished cooking this dish I was totally disheartened. I sometimes make mistakes in the kitchen, but usually they aren't of the variety: Teena can't read. But the day I made this, I was apparently just totally illiterate. I could blame it on the fact that I was coming down with pneumonia at the time, but really I doubt that had anything to do with it. I just didn't read carefully. First off, I forgot to buy one of the ingredients. I am very, very careful when I make my very long grocery list each week. This is, in fact, the first time I have ever accidentally left an ingredient off the list. The forgotten ingredient: basil. So I sent my special gentleman out to the neighborhood grocery store while I was cooking, but they didn't have any basil. So the dish went without. Then, while I was cooking, I prepared my noodles and tossed them with the herbs (cilantro and mint) and the nuoc cham, like I read that I was supposed to. When I looked at it I thought, "Man, that's odd to toss herbs in hot noodles like that. All the herbs have wilted." So I referenced The Book again, and indeed I had totally missed the part where it said, "...rinse [noodles] under cold water to stop the cooking." Ah, the noodles should have been cold when I tossed them. These were both relatively minor mistakes, yes, but they affected the outcome of the dish, and that frustrated me.

So by the time I took my first bite, I was already a little pissed off. Luckily, this dish was excellent and it turned my mood right around! The beef was tremendously flavorful from the marinade, and the noodles were delicious tossed with the nuoc cham. The chiles gave the dish a bit of heat and crunch, and the toasted rice powder provided wonderful textural contrast. It was a very solid dish. It tasted fresh, and flavorful, and healthy even. My special gentleman just kept saying, "Wow this is amazing. I love this dinner. This is amazing." This was his favorite meal that we have had in quite some time, which is saying a lot, as we have had some pretty good food lately. Even with my slip-ups this recipe was awesome, so I can only imagine how good it would have been had I prepared it correctly!

Here is the recipe.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nuoc Cham (Page 165)

RECIPE #914

  • Date: Monday, January 5, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This Vietnamese lime sauce was a component recipe for a salad which I will blog about next. This recipe was super quick and super simple. I just stirred together some fresh lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, warm water, minced garlic, and finely chopped serrano chiles. That was it. It's a little bit silly to grade something like this. I certainly wouldn't recommend eating it on its own, by the spoonful, but it did good things for the salad that it was a part of. I thought this nuoc cham was well balanced. Sometimes the fish sauce in nuoc cham is a bit too much for me, but in this recipe the lime juice held its own against the fish sauce, providing a contrasting flavor. The serranos gave it a bit of heat, without being overwhelmingly spicy. As I said, it was quite good on the salad.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except it calls for 3 tablespoons of sugar and 3 tablespoons of water, rather than the amounts listed in the recipe online.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shrimp in Coconut Milk (Page 323)

RECIPE #913

  • Date: Sunday, January 4, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

By the time Sunday a couple weekends ago rolled around, I was already starting to get sick with pneumonia. I was painfully tired and refused to make dinner. I suggested we have oatmeal for dinner, but my special gentleman offered to make this recipe instead. So while I did help a bit, he did most of the work on this one. I peeled the shrimp, putting the shells in a saucepan of salted water. The shrimp got combined with lime juice and salt and refrigerated. My special gentleman boiled the shrimp shells for 20 minutes to form a shrimp broth, then strained it and discarded the shells. He then cooked garlic, red bell pepper, and onions in vegetable oil, then added flour then chopped tomatoes, coconut milk, and shrimp broth and simmered for about 20 minutes. He then drained the shrimp and added them to the simmering mixture, cooking for about 3 minutes until the shrimp were cooked through. He seasoned with salt and pepper and served the dish over rice, topped with scallion greens and cilantro. This dish was pretty good. Our main complaint about it was that it was very one-note. It tasted like coconut milk. The addition of any of a number of things: some curry paste, some more lime juice, some fish sauce, etc... would have given it a more interesting flavor. As it was, coconut milk is so rich that it was hard to eat too much of it without feeling overwhelmed. That said, the flavor certainly wasn't bad. It was just disappointing in that the recipe was somehow very close to being a delicious shrimp curry dish, but it lacked the two or three more ingredients that would have gotten it there. The blurb before the recipe seemed to indicate that this dish was supposed to be more Brazilian than Southeast Asian, but it's dangerous to create a dish that is so close to something well known and delicious, but not as good! I think there was no way to eat this without thinking, "This would have been a really nice curry. If only it had a few more ingredients..."

Here is the recipe.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hungarian Chocolate Mousse Cake Bars (Page 749)

RECIPE #912

  • Date: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, Wes, and a bunch of other partygoers...
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I offered to make a dessert for Karen and Dave's New Year's Eve party. Since I was on vacation I figured it was a good time to tackle one of the more time-consuming recipes in The Book. This thing had a lot of layers: a layer of chocolate cake, topped by a layer of apricot glaze, topped by a layer of chocolate mousse, topped by a layer of sweetened, stabilized whipped cream, topped by another layer of chocolate cake, topped by a layer of chocolate glaze. I won't drag you through the exact details of how I made each layer. I will note that although it was a bit time-consuming to do all those layers, nothing about this recipe was particularly difficult. The general overview is as follows: I baked the two layers of chocolate cake on 10 by 15 inch baking sheets. I topped one of them with a glaze of apricot jam, and the other with a chocolate glaze. Then I made the chocolate mousse and spread it over the apricot jam on one of the cake layers. I put that in the fridge while I made the whipped cream, then I spread the whipped cream over the chocolate mousse. Then, I cut the layer of cake topped with chocolate glaze into rectangular pieces, then reassembled the pieces into a sheet on top of the whipped cream (This step initially seemed really silly to me -- why cut it up and then reassemble it? Why not just put that cake layer on top of the cream and then cut the whole thing into pieces? Well, The Book knows what it is doing. Once it was all assembled it would have been impossible to cut through the top cake layer without forcing the whipped cream and mousse layers to squish out, so cutting that layer before putting it on was essential.) I chilled the whole sheet of cake for a few hours, then following the cuts in the top layer, I cut through all the layers to form the rectangles of cake.

Was all that work worth it? Indeed. This cake was good. For one thing, the pieces of cake looked very elegant, and having it pre-cut into pieces made it very easy to serve in a party setting. The layers were individually very tasty, and the flavors and textures went beautifully together. The cake layers had a nice texture, and they were substantial enough to provide structural integrity for the cake, but thin enough that the recipe showcased the mousse and cream layers. The apricot jam layer was very thin, but added quite a lot to the recipe. The other layers were not very sweet at all, so the jam layer provided a welcome burst of sweetness, as well as a flavor to contrast all the chocolate. The mousse was lovely -- it had a nice texture and a strong chocolate flavor. The whipped cream was exactly as it should have beed: creamy, sweet, scented with vanilla. And the chocolate glaze on top made the pieces look nice and added yet another burst of chocolate. Overall though, the cake was more than just the sum of its parts. It was very tasty, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Two small comments: one, I cut it as directed in The Book. Although the pieces were pretty small, the cake was so intense, that I wished I had cut it even smaller. I think cutting it into 36 pieces rather than 30 would have been perfect. And two, the recipe indicated to refrigerate right up until it is served, but the cake was at its tastiest after it had been out of the fridge for a few minutes. Certainly with that much cream you don't want it sitting out too long. But 10 or 15 minutes at room temperature did good things for this cake.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except the one in The Book calls for 2/3 cup apricot jam rather than 1/2 cup.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Miniature Crab Cakes with Tomato Ginger Jam (Page 47)

RECIPE #911

  • Date: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Karen H, Dave, Wes, and a bunch of other partygoers...
  • Recipe Rating: B+



I made these crab cakes for Karen and Dave's New Year's Eve Party. I started by mixing together mayo, egg, mustard, Old Bay Seasoning, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Tabasco, and jumbo lump crab meat and letting the mixture sit in the refrigerator for several hours. Meanwhile I crushed cornflakes into small pieces and spread them in a shallow dish. To form the crab cakes I took a very small (heaping teaspoon) amount of the crab mixture and dredged it in the corn flakes, then put it on a baking sheet. I baked the crab cakes in batches until they were crisp and golden, then topped each one with a bit of tomato ginger jam (see post below). These crab cakes were very different than what I typically think of when I think "crab cake." For one, they were much smaller than the typical crab cake, which was perfect for an occasion like this one where we served them as hors d'oeuvres. Also, before it was baked the crab mixture was much looser (i.e. more liquidy) than a typical crab cake mixture. This made assembling them extremely messy (but in a fun way!), and it made the baked crab cakes a bit fragile. They were challenging to eat with your hands for that reason. A third difference was that these crab cakes were baked, rather than the more typical method of frying. I liked that they were baked, both because it was easy, and also because it made them less greasy. The cornflakes that they were coated in contributed a nice crunch, so I don't think the texture suffered at all from baking them rather than frying. I am not a huge fan of crab cakes in general, but I thought these were pretty good. They had a nice flavor, and the tomato ginger jam made them a bit fancier than just a plain old crab cake. They were well received at the party. Overall it was an easy hors d'oeuvres to make for a crowd and a nice change from a typical crab cake.

Here is the recipe.

Well I made it through day one of the semester. Starting the semester with pneumonia wouldn't be my first choice, but the day went ok. I taught my class and spent the rest of the day relaxing and trying to get well. My antibiotics seem to be working, as I am already feeling significantly better than I did yesterday. Still not great, but it's an improvement! I am hoping that in a couple more days I will feel more or less like normal. One difficult thing about being so sick is that even things I normally take for granted as simple parts of my life are suddenly difficult. For instance, I walk to my office every day from home. It's less than a mile, so it would be silly to drive. In fact I have never driven, so I have no idea where I would even park if I did! Walking less than a mile is a trivial thing under normal circumstances, but it's a bit harder with pneumonia. By the time I made it to work this morning I was exhausted. I had to take a good long breather when I got to my office. The last week has been like that -- everything I try to do is followed by a long rest to recover! Hopefully in the near future life will be back to normal.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tomato Ginger Jam (Page 47)

RECIPE #910

  • Date: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Brad, Deniz, Wes, and a bunch of other partygoers...
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I offered to make an appetizer for Karen and Dave's New Year's Eve Party, and of the choices from The Book I presented, Karen chose crab cakes. This jam was the topping for said crab cakes. I started by cooking shallots, ginger, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in butter, then added sugar and chopped plum tomatoes and simmered until thick. Once the jam cooled to room temperature, I stirred in some lime juice and cilantro. It was as easy as that. The jam had a good flavor to it, and was well-balanced. It wasn't super delicious to eat by the spoonful on its own, but the point of the recipe was to make a topping for the crab cakes and it served that purpose extremely well. This jam definitely added to the crab cakes in a positive way.

Here is the recipe.

After being sick for seven days, and spending most of the last five days laying bed, I finally did the unthinkable: I went to the doctor! I am not doctor-averse really, I just don't go unless I feel really, really bad. Today I reached that point. So I went to the doctor and it turns out I have pneumonia. Awesome.

So it looks like I will be spending a few more days in bed, except for the time it takes to teach my class. What a way to start the semester!

I always have this idea that if I was sick, and had to stay in bed, that I would get a lot done. There are lots of things I need to do that could be accomplished from bed. But somehow, when I actually am sick, I get nothing done. This week, for instance, I have been so exhausted that all I can do is lay there and watch movies. Or sometimes I just lay there and stare at the wall. It hasn't been a particularly productive time! Speaking of laying in bed and staring at the wall, I think I will get back to it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Roasted Pears with Hazlenut Syrup and Candied Hazelnuts (Page 809)

RECIPE #909

  • Date: Monday, December 29, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, Dave, Wes, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: B+


At some point, a while back, I had cooked a much higher percentage of recipes from the Fruit Desserts section of The Book than from any other section. So I stopped cooking from it for a while. Now, several of the other dessert sections have caught up and surpassed the Fruit Desserts section, so I returned to it with this recipe. I started by making the candied hazelnuts. I boiled sugar water, then stirred in toasted, skinned, and chopped hazelnuts. I then transfered the nuts with a slotted spoon to a baking sheet (reserving the cooking syrup for later) and baked the nuts for 15 minutes, then tossed them with a bit of butter and set them aside. I took a thin slice off the bottom of each Bosc pear so it would stand up, then dipped each pear in the reserved syrup. I stood them up in a buttered casserole dish, then sprinkled them with sugar. I poured the reserved syrup, along with Cognac, lemon juice, and vanilla into the casserole, then baked the dish, uncovered until the pears were tender. I served the pears with the syrup they cooked in and the candied nuts. This dish was pretty good. The pears came out tender, with just a bit of sweetness from the sugar coating. The candied hazelnuts were very delicious. The syrup was also tasty, with a nice Cognac and vanilla flavor, but in my opinion it was a bit too sweet. In combination with the sugared pears and the candied nuts, the whole thing was a little sweet for me. I think just a touch more lemon juice in the syrup would have provided enough contrast to balance it out a bit. That said, it was very tasty, and everyone at the table seemed to enjoy eating it. For a simple fruit dessert, this recipe was not bad at all.

The recipe in The Book is the same as this one, except the one in The Book calls for Cognac rather than hazelnut liqueur.

Butternut Squash, Sage, and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Hazelnut-Brown Butter Sauce (Page 236)

RECIPE #908

  • Date: Monday, December 29, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Wes, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-


This recipe came off the list generated by the random number generator. To make these ravioli I started by preparing the filling. I split and seeded a butternut squash and then roasted it in a hot oven until very tender. Then my special gentleman scooped the flesh of the squash out of its skin and mashed it with a fork until smooth. Meanwhile, I cooked onion, sage, salt, pepper, and garlic in butter, then added it to the squash. To finish the filling I added some grated aged goat cheese and seasoned it with more salt and pepper. Instead of calling for homemade pasta, this recipe instead called for wonton wrappers. So, using the wonton wrappers, I formed about 30 large ravioli, being careful not to trap much air inside the ravioli with the filling. I cooked the ravioli in gently boiling water until tender, then topped them with a sauce consisting of chopped hazelnuts cooked in brown butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. I admit, I didn't have tremendously high hopes for this recipe. I usually am not a fan of the wonton wrapper substitution for fresh pasta. Yes, it makes ravioli much faster to prepare, but the wonton wrappers can sometimes have a bad (often slimy) texture when boiled. In this case, though, I had no such issues. The ravioli were quite delicious, and they held together well when boiled. The filling was flavorful and smooth (Note: whenever you are seasoning ravioli filling, it is important to be generous with the salt to bring out the flavors of the filling. If the filling is even the slightest bit bland, when it is paired with the pasta the ravioli will seem terribly bland. You really want your filling to pop in order to get flavorful ravioli). I loved the squash and goat cheese pairing, and the sage was a nice complement without being overwhelming. To top it all off, the hazelnut brown butter sauce was rich, but mild in flavor, which worked quite well with the dish. I am sure these ravioli would have been even better with homemade pasta, but as they were, I was very happy with them. For filled pasta, this was a relatively quick recipe, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Here is the recipe.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Grilled Portobello Sandwiches with Sweet Peppers and Onion Relish (Page 181)

RECIPE #907

  • Date: Monday, December 29, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Wes, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-


My special gentleman and I made this for dinner at his parents' house since they have a grill and we don't! I started by making the onion relish. I cooked thinly sliced onion in balsamic vinegar and a bit of sugar for 30 minutes. Then I marinated quartered bell peppers and portobello mushroom caps separately in a mixture of garlic, oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper. After an hour of marinating, my special gentleman grilled the mushrooms and peppers until they were charred and tender. He then grilled rolls split in half. Meanwhile I sliced the mushrooms and tossed them with basil and parsley. The picture above is of the unassembled sandwiches. Everyone constructed their own sandwiches with the rolls, peppers, mushrooms, onion relish, arugula leaves, salt, and pepper. This dish was excellent. It was flavorful, well balanced, fun to eat... just a great sandwich. I am always a fan of using balsamic vinegar with grilled food -- the smokiness from the grill goes so well with the balsamic flavor. Here it was extremely well executed. Every component on its own tasted good, but they came together to be much more than just the sum of the parts. Both texturally and flavorwise there was a lot going on, and it absolutely worked. My special gentleman's younger brother Wes just kept saying, "This is amazing" over and over as he was eating. That pretty much summarizes it. I don't think you are going to find a better grilled mushroom sandwich than this one.

This recipe isn't online.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Grilled Leeks with Romesco Sauce (Page 546)

RECIPE #906

  • Date: Monday, December 29, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Karen H, Dave, Wes, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: B+

My special gentleman and I made dinner one night while we were at his parents' house over the holidays. I chose these leeks to make because they require a grill. We don't have a grill (one downside of having lived in apartments for so many years), so I try to make the grilled recipes in The Book when I am cooking away from home. I started by making the romesco sauce, which is a sauce from the Catalan region of Spain which is often served with fish or chicken or, as in this case, vegetables. I soaked a dried New Mexico chile in red wine vinegar, and meanwhile cooked almonds, then bread cubes, then garlic, then onion one after another in a skillet of olive oil. Once the onion had softened I added the almonds, bread, and garlic back to the pan, along with the chile and vinegar, a peeled and chopped tomato, paprika, and salt. I cooked the mixture for a couple minutes and then pureed it in a food processor. That formed the sauce. To cook the leeks I started by boiling them in water until tender, then my special gentleman finished them on the grill. Once they had nice grill marks we served them topped with the romesco sauce. The dish turned out pretty well Grilling is a nice way to prepare leeks -- the smoky charred flavor from the grill is a fine complement to the oniony flavor of the vegetable. The romesco sauce was also quite nice. With both ground up almonds and ground up bread in it, I was worried it was going to have a grainy texture, but it really didn't. It had a nice texture and a good flavor to it. I liked having a very substantial sauce with the leeks. A thinner sauce would have made this dish all about the leeks. While leeks are indeed tasty, I don't think leeks are vegetables that are great to eat in large quantities with no accompaniment. In this recipe, though, the hearty texture of the sauce made it a big component of the dish. It complemented the leeks well, and made the dish seem complete.

This recipe isn't online.

Now that we are quite a few days into the new year, I think it is about time that I make some resolutions/goals for 2009. So here goes:
  • Run a marathon. My plan is to start training at the beginning of March for a marathon in the fall.
  • Have fun planning our wedding, without getting stressed out or worrying about things that don't really matter.
  • Get a tenure-track job. My post-doc will be over in the not-too-distant future, so it will soon be time to start looking for a more permanent job!
  • Keep in better phone contact with my friends. I am not good about calling people, but whenever I do talk with people on the phone, I am always glad I did. Something to work on!
  • Appreciate the many blessings in my life.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Keep my mathematical life better organized (my offices, both at work and at home, are a bit of a disaster!).
  • Be a good friend.
  • Make 350 recipes from The Book!
That's a good start for now! I think 2009 is going to be a great year!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie with Bourbon Cream (Page 769)

RECIPE #905

  • Date: Wednesday, December 24, 2008 -- 2pm
  • Location: Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Teri, Terry, Spencer, Ellen, Ellie, Sue, Anne, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A

I love pie. Absolutely love it. If I had to give up all but one genre of dessert, I am pretty sure pie is the one I would keep. So the fact that there are any pies left in The Book is a bit curious. This one was left because every time I went to make it I would think, "That seems like the kind of pie one should make for Thanksgiving, or Christmas." But the last few years we have celebrated Thanksgiving with my special gentleman's family, where there is a designated pie lady (or two). We celebrate Christmas Eve every year with my mom's family, and for that gathering I am the pie lady (and the cake lady!). But every Christmas I worry that maybe sweet potato pie is a little too weird for my mom's family to enjoy. So year after year I don't made this recipe for Christmas, even though it screams, "Christmas!" to me. This Christmas, though, the pie situation from The Book was dire. I could either make this pie, or one with raw egg whites (Yeah, the salmonella risk is small, but do I really want to risk poisoning my grandpa? Nope.), or one that I can't find the right size pie plate for, or a grapefruit and coconut pie (which, frankly, doesn't sound that good). So my choices were either: A) No pie for Christmas. B) Make a pie that's not from The Book. C) Repeat a pie from The Book that I have already made. D) Sweet potato pie with bourbon cream. Now those of you who know me could probably have guessed what decision I would make. No pie on Christmas would just be craziness. And choices B and C? Well, I am a girl on a mission -- I cook new recipes from The Book whenever I can. So, sweet potato pie it was! It sounded good to me, I was just worried that the words "potato" and "pie" in the same phrase would make my mom's extended family a little wary.

In retrospect, I don't know why I was worried. This pie was AWESOME! Yeah, I love pie. But I think my love of pie makes me only more likely to be critical of it. In this case, though, I wouldn't change a thing. Let me back up. So, to make this pie, I made a standard pie crust, and blind baked it. To make the filling I roasted sweet potatoes until they were tender, then peeled them and pureed them. I added brown sugar, eggs, salt, nutmeg, milk, cream, bourbon, and vanilla, and blended it all together. I poured this filling into my pie shell and baked it. I served it with whipped cream, flavored with brown sugar, bourbon, and vanilla. The result: Yum. Yum, yum, yum. Sweet potato pie looks so much like pumpkin pie that I think the two are often compared. I do love pumpkin pie, but this was easily better than any piece of pumpkin pie I have ever had. Roasting the sweet potatoes really brought out their flavor, and the other flavors of the filling: the sugar, the bourbon, the vanilla... were perfectly balanced. One thing I was worried about was the texture of the filling, since sweet potatoes can sometimes be rather fibrous. There was no need to worry though. It was wonderfully smooth. And to top it all off, some boozy whipped cream. Delicious. It wasn't the best looking pie I have ever made, but I didn't even care. It was tasty enough to make up for it. My criterion for giving an A grade is that the recipe has to be so good it is craveable. I have definitely been craving this pie for the last 2 weeks. Yum, yum, yum!

Unfortunately, this recipe is not online.

Creme Caramel (Page 833)

RECIPE #904

  • Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Terry, Spencer, Ellen, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator, so I made it for dessert to go with our family Christmas dinner. Creme caramel is one of those desserts that is fun to make because it is just so cool. I started by cooking sugar in a dry skillet to form caramel, then quickly pouring the caramel into a pie plate, turning to coat the bottom and sides. Then I whisked together eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, then tempered in a hot mixture of cream, milk, salt, and sugar. I strained the custard and poured it into the pie plate. I then set the pie plate in a roasting pan, poured boiling water in the roasting pan until it reached halfway up the side of the pie plate, and then baked it until the custard was set. I chilled the pie plate of custard for several hours, then inverted it onto a serving dish. The result: perfect! It came out of the pie plate beautifully, and the caramel sauce ran down the sides of the custard and onto the serving dish, just as it should. One of the amazing things about this dish is that when you originally make the caramel and pour it into the pie plate it immediately hardens into a brittle candy. But somehow after its time in the oven and the refrigerator, that caramel becomes a perfectly lovely sauce, which coats the top of the custard beautifully and then runs over onto the serving platter. Magic! The sauce was not the only highlight of this dish. The texture of the custard was just right -- smooth and creamy -- and its mild flavor was complemented nicely by the rich, sweet flavor of the caramel. Creme caramel is a super-simple dessert that always (at least in my experience) seems to come out beautifully. As far as creme caramel goes, this is a great recipe. I had no complaints about it.

This recipe isn't online.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Crown Roast of Pork with Apple Stuffing (Page 474)

RECIPE #903

  • Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Terry, Teri, Spencer, and Ellen
  • Recipe Rating: B

My mother had never had crown roast of pork before so of the options I presented her, she chose this recipe for our family Christmas dinner. The recipe called for a 9-11 pound crown roast of pork, and when I called the butcher to order it, I didn't even think about how huge that might be. When I got to the butcher though, and saw what a ginormous piece of meat it was, I suddenly thought maybe I had read the recipe wrong. I stood there thinking, "Maybe I was meant to have ordered 9 - 11 ribs, not 9 - 11 pounds." I knew that the recipe was supposed to serve 8 - 10 people, rather than just the 6 people I was making it for, but still -- it seemed impossible to me that even 10 people could east a roast that big. I deliberated about what to do and finally I called Chris, from the butcher, to check the recipe in his copy of The Book. It was right though -- the 10 pound crown roast the butcher had prepared for me was just what the recipe called for. Wow was it huge!

To prepare the crown roast I started by making an apple stuffing. I first dried out some bread squares in the oven. Then I cooked onion and celery in butter, and added sliced Granny Smith apples, sugar, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, nutmeg, and cinnamon. I cooked it until the apples were tender then added the bread squares, parsley, and chives. I then seasoned the crown roast with salt and pepper and spooned the stuffing inside. I wrapped the tips of the bones in foil, then wrapped the outside of the roast in strips of bacon. I roasted this (now even heavier!) piece of meat in a roasting pan, covering the stuffing with foil after the first 30 minutes. Once the meat had reached 150 degrees, I let it rest while I made a pan sauce, deglazing with water then adding red currant jelly, salt, and pepper.

Glazed Apples (Page 475)

RECIPE #902

  • Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Spencer, Ellen, Terry and Teri
  • Recipe Rating: B

These apples were a component of a crown roast of pork recipe I made for our family Christmas dinner. This recipe was simple enough. I boiled sugar water, then added wedges of Gala apples and cooked them until they were tender. Then I removed the apples from the syrup (reserving the syrup) and places them on a baking pan. I sprinkled the apples with sugar, then broiled them, basting twice with the poaching syrup, for about five minutes. The idea was that all that broiling and basting would glaze the apples in a sugary glaze. That didn't actually happen though. The apples were nice and tender, and they were sweet from the sugar, but there was nothing glazed about them. In fact, the broiling step didn't seem to contribute much to the recipe at all. That said, apples cooked in sugar water are tasty, and these were no exception. I liked eating them just fine. However, if you are looking for a delicious accompaniment to roast pork (as this dish was meant to be) I think a good homemade applesauce would be better.

Here is the recipe.

After several weeks of holiday travel, I am back home in Indiana! My special gentleman and I were gone for 15 days, so it's nice to be back home. The way the timing worked out this year with the holidays and my teaching we got to spend longer than usual with my special gentleman's family. This year we spent 11 days with them in Columbus. We stayed so long partly because my special gentleman's younger brother Wes came back for Christmas. Wes lives in Myanmar, so we don't see him too often, and it is unusual for him to come back to the states for Christmas. (Side note: Wes brought amazingly funny gifts from Southeast Asia. For me and my special gentleman he brought a poster titled "The Food That Shouldn't Eat Together." It has pictures of food pairings that apparently can hurt you. With some pairings there is the warning "It will cause you die," while others seem to be less dangerous, with the warning "Some of the pairs cause you directly and some are not but it will largely affect your body resistance. So please be careful." [It's possible that might have made more sense before it was translated into English!] Some of the pairings to avoid: Meat(rhino) and fishes, coffee mix and jelly, sword bean and meat(goat), and my personal favorite: diamond and lime. Now, I have done a lot of cooking, but never have I seen a recipe call for diamonds! If I do though, I will know to avoid pairing them with limes!) Anyway, Wes was in town so we stayed in Columbus quite a while to see everyone, and in particular Wes. It was quite nice to be there for an extended time. We usually make short trips there -- four to six days. But with a more extended stay we got to see a lot of people, eat tons of good food, play a lot of games, etc... It was really fun and very festive!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Gnocchetti all'Amatriciana (Page 238)

RECIPE #901

  • Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mom's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Teri, Terry, Spencer, and Ellen
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I picked these gnocchetti to make with dinner for our family Christmas meal. I started by making a simple tomato sauce with pancetta and onion. I then boiled some Yukon Gold potatoes. Once they had cooled a bit my special gentleman and I peeled and riced them, then added flour and salt to form a dough. We kneaded the dough lightly, then divided it into 10 pieces. Using our hands we rolled each piece into a long rope, then cut it into small pieces. We formed these tiny pieces into little gnocchetti. This process took quite some time, and in the end we had easily 150 little gnocchi. We cooked these gnocchetti in a pot of boiling salted water, then served them topped with the pancetta sauce and some pecorino Romano cheese. This recipe was pretty good. The gnocchetti weren't quite as light as they could have been, but they were still tasty. One common problem with gnocchi recipes is that the gnocchi will disintegrate when they are boiled. I was a bit worried that this would happen here since the recipe didn't have any egg in it to bind (which is a bit atypical). They held together just fine though. The sauce for the gnocchi was ok -- not exceptional, but it tasted good enough. I love gnocchi, so although these weren't the best gnocchi I have ever made, I still enjoyed eating them.

Here is the recipe.

Happy New Year!!! We are still in Ohio, enjoying the holidays with my special gentleman's family. His parents hosted a New Year's Eve party, which was really fun. We ate, we drank, we danced -- it was a good time! I laughed so hard I cried more than once during the evening. It was also a good chance for me to do a little cooking from The Book. Typically New Year's Eve is not my favorite of holidays, but I had a lot of fun this year.

We went to bed late so no one was too chipper when we got up on New Year's Day to run a 5K. My special gentleman's brother Brad had signed me, Matty, himself, and Deniz up for this run. It didn't start until 11am, and I hadn't had too much to drink the night before, so I would have been totally on board for this except that it was a very chilly 20 degrees outside. Brrr... Plus, the first half of the run was directly into a strong and chilly wind. Not pleasant at all. The half-marathon I ran in November was the first race I had ever run in, so I had never run a 5K before. The nice thing was that it was a much shorter run than I am used to! The race went fine -- I was perfectly happy with my time. But I did learn an important lesson: Running outside in the winter is not for me!

Asparagus Soup with Parmesan Custards (Page 97)

RECIPE #900

  • Date: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Kitchen: My Mother's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Terry, Teri, Spencer, and Ellen
  • Recipe Rating: B+


My immediate family celebrated Christmas a few days early and I chose this soup to make as part of that Christmas meal. I started by making the Parmesan custards. I infused cream and milk with grated Parmesan cheese, then added the cream to a mixture of eggs, egg yolks, salt, and pepper. I poured the custard into 2 oz ramekins, and baked them in a water bath until set. Meanwhile I cooked leeks, shallots, salt and pepper, then added asparagus, chicken stock, and water and boiled until the asparagus was tender. I pureed and seasoned the asparagus mixture. To serve, I inverted a custard into each bowl and then poured the asparagus soup around it and garnished with shaved Parmesan and blanched asparagus tips. This dish was pretty good. The custard had a lovely creamy texture and a good Parmesan flavor to it. It was definitely the highlight of the dish. The asparagus soup was only ok. It had very little depth of flavor. The recipe as written desperately needed some acid. We wanted to add some lemon juice, but since it wasn't in the recipe I hadn't bought any lemons. There was a lime in the fridge, so we added a bit of lime juice to the soup and that improved matters tremendously. You couldn't taste any lime flavor, but the acid gave the soup a better flavor profile. As written this recipe was decent but not great -- with additional acid it was pretty good. I think the custard part of the recipe was a keeper, but there are certainly better recipes out there for asparagus soup.

Here is the recipe.

This is the 900th recipe I have made from The Book! The Book has 1293 recipes total, so I have only 393 to go. For the first time, I really feel as though the end is in sight. With 900 recipes down and only 393 left to go, I am almost done! If all goes well, 393 recipes will take less than a year and a half! I really am in the home stretch.

I sometimes mention on this blog that I have a list of recipes generated by a random number generator. I try to cook at least one recipe off that list per week -- it forces me to choose recipes that I might otherwise put off. The other day I had made a recipe or two off the list, so I pulled up some random numbers on the computer to replenish my list with. I use the random number the computer generates as a page number, and add one of the recipes from that page to my list. I had to keep moving further and further down the page of random numbers though -- the first 15 or so that I got led me to pages where I had already cooked all the recipes. I still remember, not so long ago, when it was a big accomplishment to have finished all 2 or 3 recipes on one page of The Book, and now many, many of the pages are complete! I'm making progress!