Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Portuguese White Cornmeal Bread (Page 608)

RECIPE #1038

  • Date: Friday, October 23, 2009 -- 11pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I was in the mood for some homemade bread the other day, and I made this recipe to satisfy that craving! I started by proofing some yeast in warm water with sugar. Then I added more water, melted butter, salt, white cornmeal, and flour. I kneaded the mixture on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Then I let it rise an hour and a half. I shaped the dough into 2 balls, put each of them in a buttered pie plate dusted with cornmeal, and let them rise again. Then I brushed the loaves with milk, cut an X in the top of each of them and baked them until golden brown. This bread was very tasty. It was a simple bread recipe but the white cornmeal elevated it to something special. The cornmeal both contributed nicely to the texture of the bread and gave it a subtle, but lovely, flavor. It was tender but crusty, and held up nicely for sandwiches. This would be the perfect bread to accompany a hearty winter stew.

The recipe is here.

There has been a lot of excitement as of late here at The Gourmet Project! Today a picture of one of my cakes was featured in a photo gallery on the CNN website! If it's still up, you can see it here. It's the third picture in the gallery (the one with the mango ribbons!).

Also exciting: recently I arrived home one day to find at my doorstep a copy of Gourmet Today, signed by Ruth Reichl herself! Gourmet Today is a sequel of sorts to The Gourmet Cookbook. The idea is that this new book responds more to the latest trends in food: quicker recipes, more vegetarian items, healthy options, sustainable ingredients, etc... No, I don't plan on trying to cook every recipe in that book too (although my husband really wants me to!), but I will certainly cook from it. I am very attached to The Gourmet Cookbook now that I am 1038 recipes into it, and I am optimistic that Gourmet Today will also be wonderful!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cosmopolitan Sorbet (Page 862)

RECIPE #1037

  • Date: Wednesday, October 13, 2009 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I picked this recipe because it was quick and boozy, which is just what I was in the mood for last week. I started by boiling sugar and water and then adding cranberries and simmering until the cranberries had burst. I drained the mixture in a sieve, then discarded the solids. I cooled the syrup in the refrigerator, then stirred in vodka, lime juice, and Cointreau. I froze the sorbet in an ice cream maker. This sorbet was delicious! It was certainly an adults-only dessert, as it was very boozy. But it had a lovely cranberry flavor with just the right amount of booziness. The dish was well balanced -- the Cointreau gave the sorbet a subtle orange note, and the lime juice went beautifully with the intense cranberry flavor. This would be lovely served in martini glasses as a dessert or intermezzo as part of a holiday meal.

The recipe is here.

Things lately continue to be busy. On Thursday after I taught my classes I drove up to Chicago. There was a conference over the weekend at the University of Chicago in honor of the 70th birthday of one of the big names in my field. It was a fun conference, but not super relaxing, as I was one of the speakers. There were 130 or so people present, making it the biggest audience I have given a research talk in front of. So, it was nerve-wracking, but I think my talk went well, and the conference was quite interesting.

I drove back to Indiana yesterday morning and now I am trying to get caught up with work. Between buying a house, commuting back and forth to Michigan, having 330 students, and the usual researching and attending conferences, things have been so hectic lately that I have been forced to all but give up some of the things that I love. For instance: cooking. Cooking has definitely taken a back burner this past month, and I miss it. As I eat cereal for dinner every night, while working, I look longingly at The Book. Things are going to calm down in the not-so-distant future, and then cooking will be on my priority list once again. The other thing I have abandoned is running for pleasure. The marathon is less than three weeks away, and I have continued to train of course. But I have so little time to run that I haven't even attempted to find time for shorter runs. So, in the last 5 or 6 weeks, I haven't gone on a single run shorter than 14 miles. Today I decided enough was enough -- I needed to have a nice, short, pleasant run. So I made time this evening to run 4 miles and it was lovely.

I am slowly checking things off my to-do list, and it is my sincere hope that a week from now I will have some time to relax. And in three weeks, once the marathon is over, I will really have some free time again. So, I apologize for my blog silence as of late, and although it will continue in the near future, I hope to be blogging almost daily again very soon.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Watermelon Rind Chutney (Page 905)

RECIPE #1036

  • Date: Sunday, September 20, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B


I had some watermelon in the fridge for another recipe, and no use for the rind, so I figured I would make this recipe with it. I started by peeling the rind. Then I cut it into 1/2 inch cubes. I put the rind in a saucepan with cider vinegar, water, sugar, ginger, serrano chile, garlic, salt, and crushed black peppercorns. I simmered the mixture for about an hour. Then I refrigerated the chutney for a day to let the flavors develop. This recipe was simple to make and tasted better than it sounded. I have only eaten watermelon rind on a small number of occasions and I have never been too excited about it. This version was pretty good though. The texture of the rind turned out nice, and the chutney has a reasonably well balanced flavor. There was the right amount of vinegar flavor and the spicy kick from the serrano was nice. It was extremely sweet -- a touch too sweet I thought. I liked it fine, although I wouldn't make it again. The watermelon rind itself didn't have much flavor to it, and hence didn't contribute much except texture to the dish. I prefer chutneys based around a more flavorful ingredient (e.g. mango) that adds additional depth to the dish.

The recipe is here.

Man, am I exhausted! I am commuting back and forth from Michigan these days. Typically my husband and I alternate weekends -- he comes to Indiana (where I live) one weekend, I go to Michigan (where he lives) the next. But we just bought a house, which means that there has been a lot of moving, unpacking, cleaning, getting settled, etc... to do in Michigan. So I have gone there the last 3 weekends in a row. What that means is that I spend Monday afternoon to Thursday evening in Indiana. Then Thursday evening, after I get done teaching my second class (which ends at 5:15pm), I drive the 5 hours up to Michigan. I stay in Michigan until Monday morning, when I drive the 5 hours back to Indiana, then go into the office to start my week here. It's a busy semester in more ways than one, so the net result of this schedule is that when I am in Indiana, I am always in my office. Today I got home from work at 9pm and that was typical. Tomorrow I will be in by 9am at the latest, and happy if I get home by 9pm. This coming weekend I am not headed up to Michigan, but rather to Chicago (which is almost as far) for a conference. It should be a great conference, although a bit stressful as I am one of the speakers. After that I think things will settled down a bit. I will return to traveling every other weekend, rather than every weekend! Maybe I will even unpack my suitcase for the first time in more than a month!

Truth be told, even though it is exhausting I love going up to Michigan. I am so excited about owning a house! Yesterday I raked leaves. It is a chore I am sure I will tire of in the years to come, as we have many huge trees in our yard. But yesterday I was loving it. They were our leaves! From our trees! In our yard! And I was raking them -- it was such fun. After raking I curled up on the sofa and worked all day. Then in the evening we started our first fire in the fireplace. We sat in front of the fire, peacefully enjoying our new home. It was great -- absolutely worth the long days at the office ahead of me this week!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lady Baltimore Cake (Page 732)

RECIPE #1035

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe had been on the list generated by the random number generator since 2007, and it just didn't sound good to me, so I kept putting off making it. A couple weeks ago though I decided to finally give it a try. And it was much better than I expected! I first made the cake layers. I beat butter and sugar, then added vanilla and almond extracts. I added milk alternately with a mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl I beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until they held stiff peaks. Then I folded the whites into the cake batter, divided the batter among 3 parchment-lined buttered and floured cake pans, and baked the layers. Meanwhile, I made the icing and filling. I boiled sugar syrup until it reached 248 degrees. While the sugar was boiling I started beating more egg whites and salt. When the syrup reached the right temperature, I slowly added it to the egg whites, with the beaters running. I beat in vanilla, then beat the mixture until it was cool. I took some of the icing and folded in chopped figs, pecans, and raisins to make the filling. I assembled the cake by layering the cake and the filling, then frosting the top and outside with the remaining icing. This cake was pretty good. The cake layers themselves were awesome -- they had a great texture and a lovely almond flavor to them. I enjoyed the frosting for the first few bites, but it was rather sweet. The addition of dried fruit made it seem even sweeter, and as a net result the filling in particular was rather cloying. I have a serious sweet tooth but this cake was a little too sweet even for me! My special gentleman and I ended up scraping off much of the frosting and filling and eating the cake layers plain. They were quite delicious. I wouldn't make this whole recipe again, but I would certainly make the cake layers and frost them with a lovely chocolate frosting. Yum!

The recipe is here.

Running a marathon seems a little crazy. It's not particularly good for your body -- in fact the wear and tear can be quite painful. I signed up for this crazy feat solely to prove to myself that I could do it. I always thought of running a marathon as one of those things that I could never do. But after I ran the half, it seemed to me that maybe I could, and I wanted to try! So I started training, and in my training I learned something: there are huge benefits! I didn't see them before because I thought of running as a physical task, and physically marathon running is probably not the best for you. What I neglected to see, though, is that marathon running is not solely a physical task. It is also a psychological one. And the training is not only physical, but also psychological. During every long run, there comes a point when I don't want to run any more. Sometimes that point is a half a mile from the end. Sometimes it is 6 or 7 miles from the end. Getting over that hump is not about whether or not I am in good shape. It's not about my muscles or my endurance. It is completely psychological.

I ran 20 miles on Sunday, and around mile 14 I was ready to quit. I started making excuses for myself (I was too tired, I hadn't eaten enough, I had spent all weekend moving furniture, etc...). I convinced myself that I couldn't finish. I probably would have stopped running had I not been meeting my special gentleman at mile 15. I didn't want to walk before I even got to him, so I pushed through that 15th mile, and at the end of it my special gentleman was waiting for me. I was secretly hoping that he would tell me I should stop running. But instead, he ran alongside me, giving me encouraging words. That was enough to completely change my attitude. Not only did I finish the 20 miles but the last 2 were the fastest of the 20. Apparently I had it in me to finish -- I just needed to find it.

Marathon running is certainly a physical challenge, but it is also a psychological one. And if there is one thing I have learned throughout my training, it is how powerful a little psychological push can be. I have learned how to convince myself to keep running. I think that is the real prize that one gets from marathon training -- the ability to push past uncomfortability and keep going. That's a skill that is useful in many facets of life. I hope that long after the marathon is over, and my muscles have recovered, that I am still able to mentally rally myself to push through my perceived limitations. That is certainly a skill worth the many hours of training that went into it!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Veal Birds Paprika (Page 458)

RECIPE #1034

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: A-

It seemed appropriate on a day like today (see below) to post about a recipe from The Book that came from a long-ago issue of Gourmet Magazine. This recipe was published in the magazine in 1959. My special gentleman and I made this dish together. We cooked chopped onions and mushrooms in butter, then added bread crumbs, basil, salt, and pepper. We then pounded veal cutlets to 1/8 of an inch thickness then spread them with filling, rolled, and tied them. I seasoned the veal rolls and browned them in butter. I removed them from the pan and cooked onions in the pan until golden. Then I added veal stock, water, tomato puree, and paprika. I returned the veal to the pan, covered, and simmered for 35 minutes. I whisked sour cream into the sauce, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and served the veal and sauce with buttered noodles. In a word: Yum! This recipe clearly came out of a time before health-consciousness was all the rage. It had more than a stick of butter and a cup of sour cream -- and although it claimed to serve 6 my special gentleman and I ate most of it in one sitting! So it was unhealthy, but man was it good! The veal was perfectly tender, with a nice brown on it. The filling complemented the meat very nicely both in flavor and in texture. Veal and mushrooms are always a winning combination, and that was certainly true here. At first I wasn't sure that I cared for the sauce -- it was certainly paprika intense. But after a few bites I really came around to it. Ironically the tang from the sour cream seemed to cut some of the richness (although of course the sour cream itself was only making it richer...). It was one of those dishes where it was hard not to make happy noises while eating.

The recipe is here.

Six or seven years ago I was receiving a wide variety of cooking magazines. Each month I got Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Cooks Illustrated, etc... I didn't have time to read them all, so I decided to cut back to just one. The choice was obvious. Gourmet is the premier food and cooking magazine. Long before I started the Gourmet Project, I read the magazine from which The Book was compiled. I don't remember when I first subscribed, or how many issues I have read. But in the pre-project days I would carefully tear recipes out from the magazine, make them, write comments on them, and file the recipes in my special folder. Gourmet magazine and I have a long history. The magazine itself has an even longer history -- dating back to 1941. So I was shocked -- no, completely floored -- to hear the announcement today that Conde Nast is closing Gourmet Magazine. November will apparently be the last issue.

I will (hesitantly) admit that I cried when I heard the news. Not only do I feel a kinship to the magazine, but strangely, I feel kinship with the people who work there. Aside from the people in the Gourmet test kitchen, I have probably made more recipes from their magazine than just about anyone. More than 1000 recipes into this project, I feel a connection with the people who wrote and tested the recipes I cook every day. And now, presumably, many of those people are losing their jobs. Jobs that they were very good at. It's sad. The magazine is an institution in the culinary world. And a couple months from now it won't come in the mail. I can't seem to get my head around that. Of all the culinary magazines, why does it have to be the best one that is closing?

It's just shocking.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Arista (Page 465)

RECIPE #1033

  • Date: Sunday, September 20, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


This recipe was on the list generated by the random number generator. The recipe called for a rib section center-cut pork loin roast, boned, then reassembled with the bones, and tied (I sent my special gentleman to the butcher to ask for that one!). Our excellent local butcher shop happily agreed to do this. I think the logic here is that the roast cooks better with the bones in, but carves better with the bones out. So if you bone it, then reassemble it with the bones, it will cook nicely, and be easy to carve! I made a mixture of garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Then I made a slit through the center of the pork loin (the long way), and stuffed some of the garlic mixture into the slit using the handle of a wooden spoon. I rubbed the remaining garlic paste on the outside of the pork loin, then I let the meat marinate at room temerature for 30 minutes. I cooked the pork in a roasting pan in the oven until it reached an internal temperature of 145. Then I let it rest, then served it! This recipe was super simple and very tasty. The meat was perfectly cooked, and it had a good flavor to it. My special gentleman suggested that it might have been nice to have more than one garlic-filled slit in the pork, and I agree that the dish could have supported more garlic! The exterior of the roast got a lovely flavorful brown on it. I am typically a little skeptical about pork with rosemary, because often the rosemary is very overpowering. Here, though, it was in a lovely balance with the garlic and didn't overpower the dish at all. I would have like to have a nice sauce with this dish, but as it was it was still very tasty!

The recipe is here.

Today, for the first time in a long time, my special gentleman and I are officially not renting any storage units! I am irrationally excited about this fact. More than a year ago we moved all of my special gentleman's belongings to Michigan and put them in storage. He kept his math books and a few items of clothing with him, but everything else we stored. So he has been living more or less out of a suitcase for more than a year. Six months later, when my parents moved out of their house, they generously gave us most of their furniture and we put it in storage in Indiana. Before the wedding we put even more things in Indiana storage (to make room for the ceremony in our apartment!) and when I moved apartments this fall we put even more things in storage! So, by early this fall the vast majority of our belongings were sitting in one of our two storage units. But now, everything is out! Two weekends ago we moved everything in the Michigan storage unit into our new house. Last weekend we drove a moving truck up from Indiana with (almost) everything from our storage unit in Bloomington. Today I drove out to the storage unit to take out those last few things and remove our lock. It's a good feeling to have all of our belongings with us again. It was so exciting to see the furniture we had been storing (Matt was more than a little excited to see the ping pong table we took from my parents' house!). It also means we only have one more move on the horizon -- in May we will move all the things in my apartment in Indiana up to our house in Michigan. And then we won't move again for a long, long time! Yay!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Udon Noodle Salad with Grilled Chicken and Asian Dressing (Page 247)

RECIPE #1032

  • Date: Saturday, September 19, 2009 -- 12pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I made this noodle salad for lunch several weekends ago. To start I marinated chicken breasts in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and rice vinegar. Then I cooked the chicken breasts on the stove in a grill pan. When they were cool, I cut them into thin slices. Meanwhile, I cooked udon noodles in boiling water, then drained and rinsed them. To make the dressing I combined chicken stock, cilantro, parsley, vegetable oil, and soy sauce, and brought it to a simmer. Then I pureed the dressing and stirred in rice vinegar and sesame oil. I tossed the noodles with the dressing and topped with chicken, scallions, and cilantro leaves. This salad was fine, but not great. The marinade gave the chicken some good flavor, which was complemented well by the char from the grill pan. The udon noodles were also very tasty (I do love noodles!). My real issue was with the dresing. I had two problems with it: one, the texture, and two, the flavor. The dressing was extremely thin and brothy. There was no body to it, so it didn't have a good mouthfeel at all. And the flavor was completely dominated by the vinegar. The lovely flavor of the cilantro was completely drowned out by vinegar flavor. Even the sesame oil (which has a strong flavor) couldn't make itself heard past the loud drum of the vinegar. I would have vastly preferred this salad with a different dressing. As it was it was only ok.

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one, but the one in The Book includes soy sauce and sesame oil while the one online does not.

When I was in high school I took some math classes at the local university (UW-Madison). I was always a very respectful student when I was a kid. I listened in class. I never fell asleep. I never whispered with other students while the teacher was talking. But suddenly I was in a huge college lecture, with hundreds of students, and the professor was standing on a stage in front. He seemed so tiny up there, so far away. It didn't seem possible that he would even know if I whispered with my neighbor. A good friend of mine was in the class with me, and she and I occasionally did whisper. Sometimes we whispered about the calculus lesson -- sometimes about other things. We were both good students, doing well in the course, and it never occured to me that the whispering could possibly be bothering anyone. Then one day, a student down the row from us turned to us in the middle of class and said, in a not-so-whispery voice, "Will you just stop talking?!" I felt horrible. I suppose that much is clear since this incident took place 12 years ago and I remember it still. In fact, I feel bad about it still.

Today I was standing in front of my afternoon class, looking out at my 250 students, and waiting for them to stop whispering. That class alternates between being very well behaved and very badly behaved. Today it finally occured to me what determines it. On Thursdays we have quizzes, so almost everyone comes -- including the students who don't think they need to be there. On Tuesdays there are no quizzes, so the people who come are the people who actually want to hear me teach the material. On Tuesdays they are like little angels, taking notes, participating, etc... On Thursdays they whisper and whisper and whisper. If I stop talking for more than 5 seconds, say, to take a sip of water, or erase a board, they start whispering. At 5pm on a Thursday I am never really in the mood to deal with their whispering, and today I was definitely losing my patience. When they start talking, I just watch them in silence and wait for them to stop. This method works, although I feel that I shouldn't have to do it. As I stood there today, staring at them and waiting for silence so I could go on, I wondered if perhaps this was payback. My calculus professor never let on that he even noticed the whispering. But he did. Now I know that he did. The whispers, they carry all the way to that person standing in the front. And even though he never stopped and stared us down, I am sure he was bothered.

All these years I have felt bad about that incident. But I only felt bad for those students near me, who I was disturbing. Now, I know better. Now I feel bad for the professor more than anyone. He was the one standing in the front trying to impart wisdom, trying to be heard. And I was that kid in the back, whispering. That kid drives me crazy, and I if I could go back, I would definitely do things differently.