Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sauteed Salsify with Garlic (Page 574)

RECIPE #1090

  • Date: Saturday, January 23, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home!
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Josh G
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I have been looking for salsify since the day I started this project, more than four years ago now. I was worried about my ability to find a vegetable I had never even heard of, more or less seen in a store. After a couple years the salsify recipe became a joke. We referred to the salsify as the unachievable dream. Our friend Phil suggested that salsify made a better verb than noun, as in, "I'm going to salsify that burrito." That fine suggestion made salsify part of our standard lingo, but I still couldn't locate any. Recently I got serious about finding the salsify. I tried, without luck, to order it online. I could order salsify seeds, but no actual grown salsify. Every time I saw a root vegetable I didn't recognize at a market I would get all excited -- perhaps it was salsify! -- but I had no luck. The Book suggested a substitute -- if I could't find salsify I could use scorzonera instead. That made me feel like The Book really didn't understand my problems. My brother's girlfriend Ellen assured me that salsify isn't that hard to find in California, so with renewed hope I started hunting for it in Berkeley. But after visiting 4 different grocery stores, I still hadn't found salsify. So, I wasn't too optimistic the day I went to Berkeley Bowl. Granted, Berkeley Bowl is known for their produce selection, and in particular they are known for carrying obscure produce. But still, at that point I had all but given up on the salsify.

So there I was, pushing my way through the crowds in the produce section of Berkeley Bowl, when I saw it! Salsify! There it was, on the shelf, imported all the way from Belgium. When my eyes landed on it I gasped. The people near me turned to see what was so shocking. I carefully picked up the salsify and looked at it with wide eyes. This project wasn't hopeless! It would be possible for me to someday finish! I had found the salsify! Hoorah!

To be entirely honest, at that point I didn't care whether the salsify was delicious or inedible. I was just so glad to be able to prepare it and check the recipe off in The Book. I peeled and sliced the salsify, letting it sit in lemon water so it didn't brown. I cooked the salsify in boiling water until tender. Then I cooked garlic in butter and oil in a skillet and I added the salsify and cooked for a few minutes. I seasoned with salt and pepper. That was it! After all the effort to locate the salsify, the recipe was incredibly easy. And how does salsify taste? Delicious! Supposedly salsify tastes like oysters, hence it's nickname: oyster plant. I thought it tasted more like an artichoke heart however. It also had a texture not totally unlike that of an artichoke heart. I liked the salsify a lot, but the preparation didn't seem ideal. This dish could have supported more flavor -- perhaps just a bit more garlic would have done the trick.

I am so delighted to have found the salsify! Now if I could only locate shad roe, quince, pea shoots, zucchini blossoms, etc... Luckily those things are not as hard to find, I just need to be careful not to miss them when they are in season! Give me a holler if you see any of them at a market so I can be sure to start looking!

This recipe isn't online.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Panfried Red Snapper with Chiptole Butter (Page 286)

RECIPE #1089

  • Date: Friday, January 22, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home!
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B

This recipe was part of my All Fish All The Time plan. I started by mashing together butter, chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo, adobo sauce, and salt. Then I seasoned and halved some snapper fillets then dredged them in flour. I cooked the fillets in hot oil, turning once. When they were cooked through I topped them with the chipotle butter and served them with lime wedges. It was as simple as that! Start to Finish time: 15 minutes! Awesome! This dish was pretty good. The chipotle butter had a nice flavor to it. This recipe didn't have a lot going on -- it was just fish and chipotle chiles. The chipotle butter melted over the hot fish, creating a nice sauce. The dish tasted very fresh, with clean, simple flavors. I thought the dish was a little too simple -- right on the edge of boring -- but my special gentleman disagreed. I ate one serving and he happily ate the other three! He liked the dish quite a bit.

The recipe is here.

My husband and I have more or less lived apart for the last two and a half years. For a while he lived in Boston and I lived in Indiana. Recently he lived in Michigan and I lived in Indiana. and now he lives in Berkeley and I live in Indiana. I have to admit, this week I am struggling. All last semester we spent most of every week apart, and it was easy. Now, I have been home by myself for four days and I feel really down. I think there is something psychologically very different about a California-Indiana separation than a Michigan-Indiana one. In the fall I had the reassurance that if one of us had some sort of emergency the other person could be there in less than 5 hours. Granted, no one needed to make an emergency trip, but we could have. There is no way to get from Bloomington to California in 5 hours though and all trips are limited by the whims of the airlines. Somehow being off by three time zones is also distancing. When I am getting ready for bed my husband is heading out for the evening. And when I wake up in the morning, it is the middle of the night for him. I love being in Bloomington, but right now I am really hating the distance. My special gentleman and I spent over 2 months together this winter, and now I am readjusting to the realities of living apart.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fish Stock (Page 930)

RECIPE #1088

  • Date: Friday, January 22, 2010 -- 8pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Josh G
  • Recipe Rating: B-

I made this stock last week in California because it is the base for several other recipes from The Book. I started by buttering a heavy pot. Then I added heads, bones, and trimmings from two snapper. I added onion, fennel, parsley, lemon juice, and salt to the pot and I cooked it covered for a few minutes. I added water and white wine and simmered uncovered for 20 minutes. Then I poured my stock through a fine mesh sieve. This fish stock was ok. It had an intense fish flavor. I thought it could have used some more vegetable flavors though: for instance some celery, carrot, mushroom, etc... would have been nice. The stock tasted strongly of wine and fish, but there wasn't much depth to the flavor. My stock also came out quite cloudy. The recipe says to bring the stock to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Boiling fish stock often results in a cloudiness. It probably would have been a better idea to just bring the stock gently to a simmer. This wasn't the best fish stock I have made but I used this stock as the base for a sauce the next day and the sauce came out lovely, so this recipe is definitely usable!

The recipe is here.

This was the last recipe from the Basics section in The Book. The Basics section is the shortest of the 21 sections in The Book, with only 17 recipes. The recipes in this section were very difficult to grade, as they were mostly component for other things (e.g. how do you grade clarified butter?). Typically when I finish off a section I list my top 5 recommendations from that section. In this case the section was so short that there weren't 5 recipes that stood out as amazing. There were a couple stand-outs though:
  • Veal Stock -- This stock was just lovely. It had a wonderful mouthfeel and a rich flavor. I used this veal stock as the base for several sauces and it did not disappoint!
  • Jerk Marinade -- This recipe had a fantastic balance of flavors. A long list of ingredients (scallions, garlic, onions, Scotch bonnet chiles, lime juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt, brown sugar, thyme, allspice, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon) came together is perfect proportion to create something delicious! I used this as a marinade for chicken and it was great!
One more section down! That's 5 sections down, and only 16 sections left to finish!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sauternes-Soaked Cake with Candied Kumquats and Toasted Almonds (Page 715)

RECIPE #1087

  • Date: Saturday, January 23, 2010 -- 4pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Josh G
  • Recipe Rating: B


Kumquats are in season and I spotted some good looking ones at Berkeley Bowl, so I decided to make this cake. I started by beating eggs and sugar until tripled in volume. Then I beat in some vanilla. I sifted a mixture of flour and salt over the batter (in three additions), folding each addition in gently. Then I took 3/4 of a cup of the batter and stirred it together with some melted butter. I then gently folded the butter mixture into the batter. I gently poured the cake into a pan which had been buttered, lined with parchment, and buttered again. I baked the cake until it was set in the center. Then I candied the kumquats. I boiled water, sugar, and salt, then added halved, seeded kumquats and cooked them until tender. I removed the kumquats, reduced the syrup, then added the syrup to the kumquats. I then made a second syrup by boiling Sauternes (a sweet wine), sugar, and kumquat zest. I pricked the slightly cooled, inverted cake all over with a skewer, and brushed the cup of Sauternes syrup onto the cake, waiting for it to absorb after each addition of syrup. I cooled the cake completely, then mounded the kumquats on top, and topped them with toasted, sliced, almonds. I served the kumquat syrup on the side.

In some ways this cake was very successful. This was an example of a genoise, which is known for being a tricky type of cake to make. Genoise has no chemical leveners (like baking powder or baking soda) so the levening is due to the eggs. Thus, if you lose too much air in the eggs, by overfolding for instance, the cake will not rise properly. Genoise will also sometimes fall when it comes out of the oven, which is a sad sight to see. This genoise, however, came out perfectly. The cake layer rose wonderfully and didn't fall in the slightest. Genoise is a dry cake, which is meant to be soaked. In this case it was soaked with the Sauternes syrup. The cake itself had a good flavor, and the syrup only improved it. I liked the soaked cake quite a lot. The kumquats on top, however, were disappointing. I cooked them as instructed -- I boiled them for the indicated time and they were indeed tender. But they weren't really candied as they should have been. The texture of the rinds was unpleasant to eat, and kumquats are mostly rind. My special gentleman and I both ended up removing the kumquats and just enjoying the cake with the kumquat syrup drizzled on it. That made for a lovely dessert!

The recipe is here.

This was the last recipe in the Cakes section of The Book! Whoo hoo! Four sections down, only 17 more to finish! [Actually, truth be told, I have already finished a fifth section, but I haven't gotten around to blogging about the last recipe in it yet!] I am a little sad that there are no more cakes left to make, but I am quite happy to be crossing off some whole sections. In no particular order, here are my favorite five of the sixty four recipes in the Cakes section:
  • Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake -- This cake was moist, flavorful and delicious. I love cakes with fruit in them and this recipe was a wonderful example!
  • Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting -- I wasn't such a fan of the cake recipe that this frosting went with, but the frosting was AMAZING. I have already returned to this recipe many, many times. It is super simple to make, easy to pipe, and delicious! This is my go-to chocolate frosting.
  • Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting -- This was just a wonderful carrot cake recipe. It had everything one would look for in carrot cake: moistness, a great flavor, an interesting texture... And the frosting complemented the cake beautifully.
  • Chocolate Roll with Cappucino Cream -- This rolled chocolate souffle with espresso cream filling was fantastic! Texturally it was excellent: the layers of souffle were light and airy, complemented perfectly by the soft, fluffy cream filling. And the classic flavor combination of coffee and chocolate was executed perfectly in this recipe -- just the right amount of bitterness, just the right amount of sweetness. Yum!
  • Russian Tea Room Cheesecake -- This cheesecake was texturally extremely unusual. It rose tremendously (from 8 egg whites folded into the batter) giving the cheesecake a fantastic airy texture. The flavors of lemon, vanilla, orange-flower water, and almond made the cheesecake extremely aromatic. I was skeptical about this recipe, but it definitely won me over!
What a fun section to cook through! Now there are no more cakes left in The Book, and no more cookies (I finished those long ago). Fortunately I still have a few pies left, and some puddings, and some frozen desserts!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Crisp Red-Cooked Bass Fillets (Page 293)

RECIPE #1086

  • Date: Thursday, January 21, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Josh G
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This recipe was part of my All Fish All The Time plan for when I am visiting California this semester. I started by whisking together soy sauce, medium-dry sherry, fresh ginger, sugar, cornstarch, crushed anise seeds, cinnamon, and water in a saucepan and simmering for a few minutes. Then I rubbed some sea bass fillets with cornstarch and put them skin side down in a skillet of hot oil. After a few minutes I turned them over, and poured the sauce through a sieve into the skillet. I simmered the fish in the sauce until it was cooked through. I removed the fish, simmered the sauce until thickened, and served the fish topped with the sauce and green onions. This dish was pretty good. I liked the Asian-inspired flavors of the sauce and I thought they went nicely with the fish. The sauce could have used even more ginger, anise, and cinnamon though. As it was those flavors were slightly overpowered by the soy sauce. This was a simple dish that made for a nice weeknight dinner -- I served it with rice and broccoli and it was a healthy and tasty meal.

The recipe is here.

It feels good to be back in Indiana! Today I went into my office. After nearly 6 weeks away I hardly remembered what state I had left my office in. But I was greeted by huge stacks of business calculus exams on my desk, papers everywhere with lists of students taking the alternate exam, or the extra time exam for students with learning disabilities. My chalkboard was covered with problems on future and present value of an income stream. And much to my surprise there was a Christmas card under my door from one of my students! I took it all in for a minute, and then I packed it all up (except the Christmas card which I left out on my desk!). I filed away the exams and the grade sheets, the answer keys and the old quizzes. I took a whole semester of business calculus and put it into my filing cabinet. And then I just sat in my chair and did a few spins. Putting away all those lecture notes and quizzes and exams, I couldn't help but realize that it had been a lot of work having 330 students last semester! And now I have a semester with no students. It felt good to replace those stacks of exams with stacks of work for various research projects I am working on. I love to teach, and in a way I miss my 330 students, but I am very much enjoying having a few months with more time to work on my research!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grouper with Tomato and Basil (Page 287)

RECIPE #1085

  • Date: Monday, January 11, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


As soon as we arrived in Berkeley I was eager to cook some seafood from The Book. This was the first of several seafood dishes I made while I was visiting my special gentleman in California. The Book says that red snapper can be substituted for grouper in this recipe and that is what I did. I coated the snapper in olive oil, then put it in a skillet with a bit of olive oil, skin side down. I seasoned with salt and pepper, then topped the fish with a mixture of chopped tomato, minced garlic, sliced basil, oil, and more salt and pepper. I covered the skillet and cooked until the fish was done. This recipe was super fast and quite tasty. The dish was simple and fresh, and the fish came out beautifully cooked and flavorful. The tomato topping was ok -- it could have used a bit more pizazz, but it tasted good. Were I to make it again I might reduce the pan sauce with a bit of white wine, and give the topping a splash of balsamic. But as it was, this recipe was tasty and quick -- a nice fish preparation for a quick weeknight dinner.

The recipe is here.

Today I had one of those moments where I got exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. I flew back to Indiana today from California. I used to be terriblly scared on airplanes, but I have gotten more used to it and now I generally do pretty well. But before today I hadn't flown in 5 months -- the longest I have gone without flying in years and years -- and I just wasn't looking forward to it. Plus I generally do worse on trips that involve leaving my special gentleman. And to top it all off, I was flying in the morning. I have found that I mellow out throughout the day, so I am a much calmer flier in the afternoon. But it was 9am and I was on a plane, and there was this guy a few rows ahead of me who was clearly experiencing withdrawal symptoms from who-knows-what (to the extent that the flight attendants were standing next to my seat strategizing about how to deal with this guy). He was fidgeting like I have never seen, pouring sweat, standing up, sitting down, standing up, etc... He was stressing me out.

My fight had the mixed blessing of being more than half empty. One the one hand, this was excellent for in-flight comfort. I had 4 empty seats next to me so I had plenty of room for me and my belongings. On the other hand, my strategy for staying calm at the beginning of flights is to talk to the people near me. Yes, I am that woman who strikes up conversations with total strangers on the plane. But there was no one for me to talk to! So, right as the plane took off, my eyes started tearing up. I was stressed and upset to be leaving, and just all around not coping like an adult. It was at that point that my purse fell over, dumping its contents. With all the noise of take-off, I didn't even notice this, except that the guy behind me tapped me and said, "I think your phone just slid by." Indeed, my phone, wallet, pens, chapstick, receipts, etc, etc... were sliding towards the back of the plane. And suddenly not only was I distracted from my irrational fear of fiery plane crashes, but I had made a new friend. The guy behind me (totally nice guy from Florida -- likes national parks, and is a calm flier) helped me collect my belongings. We talked for a few minutes, and I felt 100% better. After that the trip was a breeze. It was just what I needed, my purse falling over. Go figure.

Now I am back home at my apartment in Bloomington. I have been away so long I couldn't even remember where I keep the silverware. It's nice to be home.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Choucroute Garni (Page 497)

RECIPE #1084

  • Date: Friday, January 1, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Dining Companions: Dave, Karen H, Deniz, Brad, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+

It is a tradition in my special gentleman's family to eat pork and sauerkraut on New Year's Day. I happily volunteered to make this recipe from The Book to fulfill that tradition. I started by soaking the sauerkraut in cold water, changing the water once. Then I drained and squeezed it. I cooked some bacon in a pot, then removed the bacon and browned some smoked pork chops in the bacon fat. I then removed the pork chops and cooked onions and garlic in some of the bacon/pork chop fat (reserving the rest of the fat for later). I added sauerkraut, bacon, carrots, Riesling, chicken stock, juniper berries, bay leaf, caraway seeds, and pepper. Then I nestled the pork chops in the sauerkraut and covered the pot. I brought it to a simmer, then put it in the oven to braise for a while. Meanwhile, I boiled some bratwurst until they were cooked, then browned them in the bacon/pork chop fat which I had reserved earlier. I nestled the bratwurst in the sauerkraut, then braised the whole thing some more. I peeled some Yukon Gold potatoes, halved them, and boiled them until tender. I served the potatoes with the meat and sauerkraut. This recipe made a ton of food. It claims to serve 6 to 8, but there were 6 of us and we barely made a dent! With five and a half pounds of meat in it, it was a lot for 6 people! The dish was pretty good. The sauerkraut had a nice flavor to it, and the meats complemented it well. The potatoes seemed out of place in a way, since they weren't really incorporated into the rest of the dish. I couldn't muster too much enthusiasm for this dish, but my special gentleman thought it was great. Indeed he says if we had some in the fridge right now, he would eat some (despite the fact that we ate dinner an hour ago!). I enjoyed eating it, but I am unlikely to come back to this recipe again.

This recipe isn't online.

After more than a month away, I am heading back to Indiana this weekend. It is hard to believe that it was less than 6 weeks ago that I left. We have been so many places and done so many things since that that it feels like I have been away for months. I took a few pictures during my travels. Below is a picture of me with a huge petrified log in the Petrified Forest National Park. I read all the material they handed out at the park but petrification still seems like magic to me. It's crazy how the organic materials in the wood were replaced by things like quartz, while still retaining the exact shape of the wood. Wood turned into stone! Magic!


The Petrified Forest National Park was magical, but the Grand Canyon was spectacular! Here's a picture of my special gentleman on the trail we hiked down at the Grand Canyon. It was very shady and snowy along our hike, but we had lovely views of the sunny side of the canyon!


Taking a little break while hiking at the Grand Canyon:


When we went to Tahoe last weekend we were staying very near to the Squaw Valley Resort. Indeed that is where the skiers among us were skiing. One afternoon Emilee, Sam, and I took a walk over to the resort. We found this enormous chair. Sam looks a little skeptical...


The evenings in Tahoe were spent hanging out in the house, sitting on the huge sofa! Sam looks so tiny compared to the size of that couch!


Next stop: Indiana! I am looking forward to being back in Bloomington for a bit: sleeping in my bed, working in my office, reading my mail, cooking with my equipment etc... And most of all, I am looking forward to meeting Irene, Mike and Teresa's baby, who was born while I was away!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dacquoise (Page 848)

RECIPE #1083

  • Date: Thursday, December 31, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Deniz, Brad, Karen H, Dave, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I made this dessert for a New Year's Eve dinner with my special gentleman's family. I started by making the meringue layers. I ground almonds and sugar in a food processor. Then I added cornstarch. I beat egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in a stand mixer until the egg whites held stiff peaks. I then folded in the almond mixture. I spread the meringue into three large circles on parchment-lined baking sheets. I baked them until they were dry and golden. Then I made the buttercream. I beat yolks with sugar, then I added hot cream and sugar, beating. I added espresso powder and salt and cooked in a saucepan until it reached 170 degrees. I beat the mixture until it was cool, then beat in a lot of butter. I refrigerated it briefly to firm up a bit. Then I layered the meringue circles with the buttercream, and pressed toasted sliced almonds on the sides. I chilled it for a few hours, dusted it with powdered sugar, and served. This dacquoise was pretty good. The meringue layers had a great almond flavor to them and a lovely texture -- crispy on the outside with a bit of chewiness on the inside. I wasn't as crazy about the buttercream. In very small quantities it was tasty. But it was incredibly rich. I found it to be too rich to pair well with the light meringue. Plus, it had so much butter in it (two and a half sticks!) that the taste of the butter almost overpowered the coffee flavor of the buttercream. I think a slightly lighter, fluffier filling would have served this dish well. As it was it still tasted good, and texturally the dacquoise was very nice. I would definitely make the meringue layers again with a different filling.

The meringue layers are the same as in this recipe, but the recipe in The Book has coffee buttercream filling instead of strawberry ice cream.

This morning I woke up at Emilee and Brian's place in Palo Alto. I have slept on their floor more nights than I can count in the 6 or so years that they have lived in that apartment so I feel very at home there. I spent the day working on a research project with my friend Chris. On the way back to Berkeley in the late afternoon, stopped in traffic on the 880, I thought to myself, "I can't wait to get home." The "home" I was thinking of was the house in Berkeley where my special gentleman is living this semester. It struck me as strange that after only a couple weeks there, I thought of that place as "home." So now I wonder, where is my home? Is it the house in Berkeley, where my husband is living? It is my apartment in Indiana, where all my clothes and kitchen supplies are? Is it our house in Michigan, which is the only of these many places that we own, and the place where we will soon settle? I just don't know. It is hard to think of Berkeley as home since it is so temporary. And it is hard to think of Michigan as home since I haven't ever really lived there. I suppose I think of Indiana as home -- particularly because that is where I am currently employed -- but it seems sad to think of home as someplace away from my husband.

I am loving being in California, and I love living in Indiana, yet I find myself looking forward to this summer when we will really move into our house in Michigan. We will pack up the things we brought to California and drive back to this Midwest. Then we will pack up my apartment in Bloomington. And we will bring everything to Michigan, where we will live, together, for the first time in a long time. And we will be home. It sounds just lovely.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Coconut Shrimp with Tamarind Ginger Sauce (Page 46)

RECIPE #1082

  • Date: Thursday, December 31, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Deniz, Brad, Dave, Karen H, etc...
  • Recipe Rating: A

My contributions to our New Year's Eve dinner this year were hors d'oeuvres and dessert. This recipe was the hors d'oeuvre I chose to make. I started by making the dipping sauce: I whisked together tamarind concentrate, lime juice, mayonnaise, honey, Dijon mustard, grated fresh ginger, and salt. Then I dipped peeled and deveined shrimp in a batter of flour, beer, baking soda, salt, cayenne, and egg. I then dredged the shrimp in sweetened flaked coconut. I deep-fried the shrimp in batches, cooking them in 2 inches of 350 degree oil. I lightly salted the shrimp and served them with the dipping sauce. Generally speaking I don't get too excited about shrimp, but oh my gosh, YUM! These coconut shrimp were awesome! The beer batter was delicious and the coconut added a wonderful sweetness and crunchiness. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the coating was a lovely golden brown. I was a bit skeptical about the mayonnaise-based dipping sauce (mayo and tamarind seemed like a strange combo to me), but it was so, so tasty. It really went beautifully with the shrimp. I have had many a coconut shrimp in my life and these were hands down the best I have tasted. This recipe is definitely a winner.

The recipe is here.

I drove from Berkeley out to Palo Alto this evening to hang out with Emilee, Brian, and Sam. I left Berkeley a bit earlier in the day than I had planned because a big storm took the power out in the house where we are staying. No power meant no lights, no heat, and no internet. I worked next to the window for a while, but eventually I was terribly cold and I decided I would just head to Palo Alto. My early arrival in the South Bay gave me some time to drive around a bit. So I took a little tour through the Stanford campus. I visit Stanford at least once a year and every time it makes me incredibly nostalgic. It's funny -- I feel much more nostalgic on the Stanford campus that I do when I visit Madison, where I grew up. I'm not sure why that is. In a lot of ways the four years I spent at Stanford were very transitional for me. If there was one period in my adult life when I changed the most it was certainly when I was in college. California was so different from where I grew up in the Midwest, and my friends in college were so different from my friends in high school -- my college experiences really challenged the things I believed growing up. And maybe that type of growth and transition would have occured anywhere I had chosen to go to college. But in my memory it is so tied to Stanford -- tied to the people I met at Stanford -- that it is hard to imagine it happening anywhere else. So I do feel nostalgic when I visit Stanford, as though I am seeing the place where I really became who I am now. Visiting Stanford brings to mind the many people I met there who prompted that growth, some of whom are still close friends (e.g. Emilee and Rachel), but some of whom I don't really see any more.

It's always nice to be back in Palo Alto. I have a lot of great memories here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lemon Parfaits (Page 839)

RECIPE #1081

  • Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Dining Companions: Dave, Karen H, Matty, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this dessert for dinner with my special gentleman's family some weeks back. I started by cooking lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolks and sugar to 170 degrees, whisking constantly. I then let the mixture cool. Meanwhile, I beat egg whites, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. In theory I was supposed to beat them until they held stiff glossy peaks. However, I was using pasteurized egg whites (which the recipe indicated were an acceptable alternative) because I am quite paranoid about food safety and I didn't want to take the tiny chance of poisoning my in-laws with raw egg whites. The downside of pasteurized egg whites is that they don't whip up very well. After trying a whisk, an electric mixer, and an immersion blender with a whisk attachment, I gave up on my dream of stiff peaks. At that point I feared that the recipe was doomed. Instead of fluffy peaks, I had very soupy egg whites. But I plowed on! I folded the egg whites into the lemon mixture. Then I beat heavy cream to stiff peaks and folded the whipped cream into the lemon mixture. I spooned the mixture into glasses and froze them. Before serving I garnished with lemon zest. I was worried after the egg white snafu that this dessert was going to be a disaster. But, much to my surprise, it was delicious! Even the texture (which was certainly affected by my soupy egg whites) turned out lovely! The dessert was cool and creamy with a fantastic lemon flavor. Maybe it would have been even better had my egg whites whipped, but as it was it was a very successful dessert.

This recipe isn't online.

This weekend my special gentleman and I went to Tahoe with my best friend Emilee, her husband Brian, their toddler son Sam, my friend Chris, and his girlfriend Emily. We had a great time! It was intended as a ski trip, and my special gentleman did ski three days in a row. I am not much of a skier though -- I skied on Friday, but on Saturday I spent the day wandering around Tahoe with Emilee and Sam, and on Sunday I watched Sam so that his parents could go cross country skiing. It was a lovely, snowy weekend, and I enjoyed both being in the wintery wonderland outside and cozying up near the fire indoors. In the evenings we cooked dinner, ate together, and played games. It was a very relaxing vacation! Plus, Sam is endlessly entertaining -- he is about 22 months old and is talking in sentences, which is incredibly funny. His grammar is funny, his pronunciation is funny, the things he says are funny. It's impossible to spend 5 minutes with him without laughing. It was lovely having the whole day with him on Sunday. It was easy too -- he practically provided a babysitting instruction manual. At some point he delared, "I'm poopy. Change it." Then he marched into the room where the diapers were. After I changed him, he announced, "Wash hands," which I dutifully did. He also has excellent manners. At lunch I heard, "More beans please," "More chicken please," and my personal favorite, "Chocolate please."

After a nice weekend we are back in Berkeley, where we are still settling into a routine. Today I met up with my friend Mike to get some work done. We had a productive (and fun!) day. Now, it is off to bed!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Seared Sea Bass with Fresh Herbs and Lemon (Page 284)

RECIPE #1080

  • Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Dave, Karen H, Brad, and Deniz
  • Recipe Rating: B+


I made this recipe as part of my effort to cook more seafood from The Book. I started by patting 6 ounce fillets of sea bass dry and cutting some slashes through the skin. I then cut each fillet diagonally in half and seasoned with salt and pepper. I cooked the fish in oil and butter until cooked through. Then I removed the fish from the skillet and deglazed with white wine. I then added lemon juice, parsley, chives, dill, butter, salt, and pepper. I served the fish topped with the sauce. This fish was quite tasty. The dish was so simple that it was all about starting with some good pieces of fish and making a nice sauce. I liked the sauce quite a lot. It was buttery, but the lemon cut some of that richness. And the wine and herbs gave it a great fresh flavor. My only complaint about this dish was that the cooking instructions were very odd. In particular, The Book said to slice the fillets in half diagonally to make them easier to turn. My 6-oz fillets were already rather narrow (as the fish itself was pretty thick), so cutting them in half diagonally made them very precariously balanced. Indeed, they toppled over in the pan as they cooked. Plus, they were quite hard to turn because of their instability. I foresaw that this would be a problem, so I didn't cut some of them (for instance, the one in the picture above was not cut). The ones I left un-halved were easy to cook properly, but the ones that were halved were a pain.

The recipe in The Book is very similar to this one, except the one in The Book has less wine per fillet than the one online.

I am feeling very disoriented this week. It's the first week of the semester... but I'm not teaching. And it's the middle of the winter... yet it is 56 degrees and sunny here in Berkeley. And I don't have an office here, so I am working from home. But it's not really my home -- it's the home of some lady I have never met. So I am sitting on a stranger's sofa in my pajamas in the middle of the day, rewriting part of a paper, and feeling a little bit out of sorts. Last semester I spent long, long hours in my office, and now, at the start of the semester, it feels odd not to be there. I am headed back to Indiana next week though, where I will resume my usual life again. For now I will enjoy my time in sunny California, where it feels more like May than January.

Back to work!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Shrimp Bisque with Pernod (Page 102)

RECIPE #1079

  • Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Deniz, Brad, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman and I made this recipe for his family a couple weeks ago as part of Mission: Cook More Seafood. We started by peeling and deveining a whole bunch of shrimp, reserving their shells. Then we cooked the shells in butter until they were golden. We added Pernod and boiled, then added water and bay leaf and simmered for 20 minutes. At that point we were a little afraid. The stock was the color of Mountain Dew (from the Pernod) and smelled unbelievably strongly of black licorice (also from the Pernod). Very frightening. When the stock was done simmering we strained out and discarded the shells. We cooked the shrimp in butter until cooked through and set them aside. We then cooked carrots, celery, and onion in butter. We added rice, tomato paste, cayenne, salt, and the shrimp stock and cooked for 20 minutes. Then we added all but 12 of the shrimp and pureed it with an immersion blender. We added heavy cream, lemon juice, and salt, and served the soup topped with the remaining 12 shrimp, diced. I was deeply skeptical about this recipe, particularly after smelling the Pernod and seeing that the recipe called for a half a cup of it. But when the bisque was done the anisey flavor of the Pernod was just barely detectable, and the scary Mountain Dew color had transformed into a lovely bright orange. This soup had a smooth texture and great depth of flavor. Seafood bisques aren't really my thing, so I couldn't get too riled up about this soup, but everyone else at the table seemed to very much enjoy the intense shrimp flavor of this soup.

The recipe is here.

When I have had a chance to cook lately I have been doing a decent job of focusing on getting through some of the seafood recipes in The Book. This has its upsides and downsides. On the downside, seafood really needs to be fresh, so making a lot of seafood requires almost daily trips to the store. Also, although I like fish, it is not something I ever crave. I would usually prefer to eat something else, so it is hard for me to get too excited about this seafood theme. On the upside though, yesterday we made dinner and it took fifteen minutes. FIFTEEN MINUTES! There are quick non-seafood recipes in The Book, but I made most of them long, long ago. The days when dinner could be thrown together at the last minute were long gone I thought. It wasn't until yesterday that I realized just how many recipes I have left that take 30 minutes or less -- lots of them! They are mostly of the form: "Cook piece of fish (or shellfish). Top with sauce." There are also labor-intensive seafood dishes left of course -- Poached Salmon in Aspic comes to mind -- but there are enough quick seafood recipes for many weeknight dinners. So, in these next 5 months, when I will be frequently in Berkeley where fresh fish and shellfish easy to find, I plan to cook a lot of seafood!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Chestnut Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter (Page 69)

RECIPE #1078

  • Date: Wednesday, December 30, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Deniz, Brad, Karen H and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman and I made this dish as part of a dinner for his family a couple weeks ago. He started by cooking chopped pancetta in butter, then adding chopped onion and a smashed clove of garlic and cooking some more. He added chopped bottled chestnuts and water, and cooked for a few more minutes. We then transferred the mixture to a bowl (discarding the garlic clove) and mashed the chestnuts with a fork. I stirred in some chopped, peeled Granny Smith apple, some Parmesan, parsley, salt, and pepper. We then formed ravioli with the chestnut mixture as the filling and wonton wrappers as the pasta. We cooked the ravioli in boiling salted water until tender. Meanwhile, I cooked chopped sage in butter until the sage was crisp and the butter was browned. I seasoned the sauce with salt and pepper. I transferred the ravioli to the sage brown butter sauce and tossed, then topped the dish with diced apple and sprinkled with ground pepper. This dish was wonderful! This was a dish that not only tasted great, but was also very unique. I would never have thought to make chestnut apple ravioli, but it totally worked. The filling had an awesome flavor and the apple provided a nice crunch which contrasted the pastey texture of the mashed chestnuts. The filling was a touch too dry, but this small flaw was easily overlooked because it tasted so good! In general I don't love using wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta for ravioli, but in this recipe it worked quite well. The sauce for the ravioli was also delicious -- I love browned butter, and the fried sage was a lovely addition. Topping the dish off with diced apples brought it all together. Filling ravioli is a bit labor-intensive, but in this recipe it was more than worth it -- definitely a keeper!

The recipe is here.

After traveling for three weeks, today I felt like doing nothing but sitting in the house, working, and eating healthy food. We are settling into the house in Berkeley where my special gentleman will be living for the next five months (and where I will be living when I am not in Indiana). There are tons of people in the area I want to see, and dozens of places I would like to go, but today I just felt like staying in and getting some work done. Even more than that I felt like eating some real food. My special gentleman and I eat reasonably healthy foods when we are at home, but on the road it is tough. We ate Taco Bell more times than I would care to admit in the last week. And when we weren't eating Taco Bell we were taking advantage of the local fare: barbeque in Texas, taco trucks in Los Angeles, etc... It was all quite delicious, but by last night I was seriously craving some healthier food. I have a saturation point for restaurant food, after which I just start to feel gross. So today I had muesli and cottage cheese for lunch and I made a dinner of red snapper and broccoli. It was exactly what I needed! I am looking forward to taking advantage of some of the great restaurants in the Bay Area, but for now I am more than content to eat some simple foods at the house!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pavlovas with Kiwis (Page 846)

RECIPE #1077

  • Date: Monday, December 28, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Dave and Karen's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I made this dessert for my special gentleman's family a couple weeks ago. I started by making the meringue. I beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar, then added sugar and beat until they held stiff peaks. I beat in white vinegar, cornstarch, and vanilla extract. I spread the egg white mixture on some baking sheets lined with parchment to form 6 rounds. I baked them in a low oven until they were crispy on the outside but soft in the center. I then let them cool. To assemble the dessert, my special gentleman and I topped each meringue with some sweetened whipped cream, pieces of kiwi, and fruit sorbet. I have had pavlova before and was never too taken with it, but this dessert was awesome! It was texturally interesting and had a great combination of flavors. The crispness from the meringue was wonderful with the cloud of whipped cream, and the cool smoothness of the sorbet. The meringue had a great subtle flavor to it too, which was enhanced by the fruit and the sorbet. I wasn't sure how well this dessert would go over, but everyone seemed to love it. If you are interested in making pavlova (an Australian classic) this is a good recipe to try!

The recipe is here.

Hello from Berkeley! After 2900 miles on the road, we have arrived in Berkeley, California!

Over the weekend we were in Los Angeles visiting my brother and his girlfriend. We had a great time in LA, eating delicious food and seeing various parts of the city. On Saturday Spencer and Ellen took us to the Deep Creek hot springs in the San Bernardino National Forest. It was a great day trip -- only a couple hours drive from the city. We drove to what seemed like the middle of nowhere in the dessert. There was a trailhead, and we hiked about an hour down a relatively steep hill. At the bottom was a river with icy cold water. We crossed the thigh-high river (which was a challenge -- it was hard to keep walking through the water once your feet were numb!). On the other side of the river were the hot spring pools. The water in these pools was between 100 and 115 degrees or so, heated by the natural hot springs. We changed into our swimwear and lounged in the various pools -- climbing the rocks from one pool to another -- for quite awhile. It was shocking to me how few people were there given how spectacular it was to be sitting in a natural hot spring in the middle of the dessert. I think some people are dissuaded by the remoteness of it (and it was a pretty steep hike on the way out), but we loved going there. Perhaps some people are also discouraged by the nudist culture at these hot springs. If you are in Southern California and don't mind a some nudity though, it is definitely a great place to go.

This morning we got up early and drove from LA to San Francisco just in time to attend a party celebrating the baptism of Cate, our friends Brenda and Scarecrow's baby. We had a fun time with them (and Cate is looking so adorable!), then we drove to Berkeley. Now we are getting settled in the house where my special gentleman will be living for the next five months. We had a great trip but it felt nice to unpack the car and buy some groceries!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Linguine with Shrimp and Scallops in Thai Green Curry Sauce (Page 244)

RECIPE #1076

  • Date: Monday, December 28, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Deniz, Brad, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: B-

Of the 215 or so recipes I have left to make from The Book I would venture that at least 60 of them contain seafood. Finding good seafood in Southern Indiana has been a problem, and since there are many other things I like better than seafood, I haven't made much of an effort. But now the end of the project is rapidly approaching and I need to make some seafood dishes so that at the end I am not eating fish for every meal. So I made this dish last week for my special gentleman's family. I cooked a sliced red chile and some scallions in oil until browned. I then set them aside. I patted scallops and shrimp dry then seasoned them with salt. I seared the scallops in a bit of oil, then cooked the shrimp in the same oil. I removed the shrimp and scallops from the skillet then added coconut milk, green curry paste (see post below), chicken stock, brown sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice to the skillet. I simmered the mixture for a few minutes. Meanwhile I cooked some linguine. I added the shrimp and scallops to the sauce and simmered until the seafood was cooked through. I added the linguine to the sauce and tossed, then topped with the seafood, the chile-scallion mixture, and some scallion greens. I thought the same thing while eating this dish that I thought when I read the recipe: "Linguine? Really?" This dish is cleary meant to be Asian-inspired and the linguine just didn't fit. I can see using linguine if you are trying to come up with a recipe for which the ingredients can be found at even the most basic market. But any grocery store that sells fish sauce is also going to sell some type of Asian noodle. So the linguine was a mystery. My other complaint about this dish was that it didn't have enough flavor to it. It could have easily supported twice as much curry paste as it called for, and that would have made a more flavorful, more interesting dish. As it was, the most predominant flavor by far was that of the coconut milk. Of course that wasn't a bad flavor, but with all the ingredients that went into the green curry paste, I had hoped to taste those flavors more. On the upside, the seafood was nicely cooked and the chile-scallion mixture was super tasty. I wouldn't make this recipe again, but it was perfectly fine for a casual dinner.

The recipe is here.

After a long drive (which didn't actually feel very long) we have arrived in California! We are staying with my brother and his girlfriend in Los Angeles for a few days before heading up to Berkeley on Sunday. The weather in LA right now is amazing. It seems that winter in LA feels a lot like summer in Michigan. The weather is so nice in fact that it motivated me to go running. True confession: I haven't run since the marathon, over two months ago. I ran so many miles every week for so many weeks and then I just stopped. In November my excuse was that I was "recovering," from the marathon (although to be perfectly honest my body felt completely fine -- I just didn't feel like running). Since then my excuse has been the weather -- too cold to run. But this morning in Los Angeles it was warm and sunny, so I had no excuse. And I ran. We went to the Rose Bowl to run, and it was quite nice. I ran 3 miles. It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning, but at the end I was startled by the fact that I was done so soon. After running such long distances, running 3 miles feels a bit like walking around the block. It was good to put on my running shoes again though, and now that I have gotten out there once I hope to get back into the habit of running regularly.

Our time in Los Angeles so far has presented exactly what one would expect: excellent weather, excellent company, and excellent food!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Thai Green Curry Paste (Page 934)

RECIPE #1075

  • Date: Monday, December 28, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Deniz. Brad, Karen H, and Dave
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This curry paste was a component for a curry dish (that I will blog about next) that I made when we were visiting my special gentleman's family last week. I started by toasting cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet. I then ground them in a spice grinder. In a food processor I combined a serrano chile, lemongrass, garlic, shallots, fresh ginger, and salt. Then I added the ground seeds, some cilantro, Asian shrimp paste, and lime juice and blended. This is the sort of thing that is very difficult to grade. The way to judge a curry paste is by whether it produces a good curry dish. I didn't particularly like the dish that this went into, but the flavor issue in that dish was more that there wasn't enough curry paste in it rather than any particular problem with the paste itself. The curry paste seemed to have a good green curry flavor to it. I thought it was a little cilantro heavy but other than that it seemed well balanced. It would be nice to try this curry paste in a dish other than the one I made with it and see if it could produce better results.

This recipe isn't online.

I am tremendously prone to nightmares. I have bad dreams (scary or just stressful) most nights. I have since I was a little kid. I also remember my dreams very vividly. I have nightmares anytime I sleep in any position other than on my stomach. So, for instance, I have bad dreams when I sleep sitting up in the car (but I love to sleep in the car!). And hotel beds always cause me to toss and turn a bit in the night, often resulting in me sleeping on my back and having nightmares. We have been traveling this week (hence hotel beds and naps in the car) and I have had a whole slew of crazy dreams. Last night I dreamt that while hiking on a steep trail at the Grand Canyon I slipped on some ice, fell on my butt, slid down the trail and over the edge. This was not good. Today we did hike at the Grand Canyon (which was awesome!) and the trail was indeed steep, and covered in packed snow and ice. But I was very careful to make sure that my dream didn't become a reality. Actually I learned long ago that my dreams are not predictive. I often have dreams about the people I love the most dying and I used to worry that it meant that something bad was about to happen to them. Years of experience have taught me though: I have no psychic powers. My dreams never come true -- thank goodness! Knowing this also makes the nightmares less bothersome. When I was young the dreams really bothered me, mostly because to some extent I thought they could come true. Now that I know they have no correlation with reality they rarely trouble me at all.

I have had a much less scary, but still stressful, dream a few times this week. In the dream it is the first day of the semester and I find out I am teaching a lecture class with 350 students and the first class is in 30 minutes. That in and of itself would be overwhelming enough, but the class I am teaching is not, say, business calculus (which I could pull off at the last minute) but rather French 1. I took a few years of high school French many years ago but I am far, far, far from qualified to teach French to college students. Needless to say, the class goes badly. The funny thing is that there are all these random familiar people in the class: friends I haven't seen since high school, professors from MIT, the cast of Glee... The students yell. They throw things. They sing show tunes. In the dream I am very upset but when I wake up I can't help but laugh at how ridiculous it is!

Well, we had an exhausting day today of hiking and then driving, so I am off to bed. Hopefully I will have pleasant dreams! Goodnight from Kingman, Arizona!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Maple Syrup Pie (Page 773)

RECIPE #1074

  • Date: Saturday, December 19, 2009 -- 8pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Phil O.
  • Recipe Rating: B

I would have made this pie sooner but the recipe called for an 8-inch pie plate or a 9-inch tart pan (both of which are unusual sizes). Lucky for me, I got such a tart pan as part of a wedding gift from Vero and Philippe, so I had what I needed to tackle this recipe! I started by making a pie crust, rolling it out, and fitting it into the tart pan. Then I whisked together brown sugar and eggs. I added heavy cream, dark amber maple syrup, and melted butter. I poured the filling into the shell and baked until the filling looked dry but still trembled. I let it cool then served it with creme fraiche. This pie was pretty tasty. It had a rich maple flavor. It was ridiculously sweet, so serving it with the creme fraiche was essential. The sourness of the creme fraiche balanced the extreme sweetness of the pie nicely. I had two minor issues with this recipe. One, I think even with the creme fraiche it would be too sweet for some people. Two, the filling didn't set up quite right. I took the pie out of the oven exactly when The Book directed: when the pastry was golden and the filling was dry but still trembled. However, even after letting it cool, when I sliced into the pie it was clear that the filling in the middle below the surface hadn't set. This liquidy filling also made the bottom crust rather soggy. It was unappealing. It needed another 5 or 10 minutes in the oven, but there was no way to know that from the instructions in the recipe. That said, it was still tasty, and it made a nice dessert for a cold winter night.

The recipe is here.

There is a certain kind of childhood where every summer you pile into a mini-van with your parents and your siblings and you drive throughout the country visiting national parks and monuments. I didn't have that kind of childhood. We didn't have a mini-van. And my brother hated family road trips with a passion. So at age 18 I had never been to a national park. (To be fair, I grew up in Wisconsin, a state with no national parks). Then I went to college in California, a state brimming with national parks, but somehow it never occured to me to visit any of them. Three or four years ago a friend of mine started teasing me about this. He was shocked that I was taking a trip to Las Vegas with a friend and we weren't going to visit the Grand Canyon. He's not American -- he moved to the States around age 26 I think -- and he had still been to a half a dozen national parks. At the time I didn't understand his surprise -- I had been to plenty of state and county parks and I just didn't understand what the big deal was about the national parks.

This summer my special gentleman and I went to Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Canyonlands, and Arches national parks and I learned something: the national parks are amazing! And suddenly it does seem crazy that I lived just a few hours from Yosemite for four years and I have still never been there (soon to be remedied!). What was I thinking?!? Today we went to the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona (awesome!) and tomorrow we are hiking at the Grand Canyon. I am already plotting which parks we will be able to get to this semester in California... and on our drive back east in June... Fun, fun!

On an unrelated note, my friends Teresa and Mike had their baby today -- it's a girl!! Everyone is healthy and I am super excited to meet baby Sami when I go back to Bloomington in a couple weeks. Congratulations to them!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya (Page 369)

RECIPE #1073

  • Date: Saturday, December 19, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Phil O.
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this jambalaya for dinner one night when Phil was visiting a few weeks ago. I started by browning some chicken parts in oil. Then I removed the chicken from the skillet and browned slices of andouille sausage in the rendered chicken fat. Then I removed the sausage from the skillet and cooked onion, celery, and green pepper in the rendered sausage/chicken fat. I added garlic and cooked a bit longer. Then I added chicken stock, cooked it briefly, and transferred the mixture to a pot. I put the chicken, some water, canned tomatoes, cayenne, and more stock in the pot. I simmered it until the chicken was cooked through. I removed the chicken from the pot, added rice, arranged the chicken on top of the rice, and put it in the oven, covered. I baked until the rice was cooked. Then I stirred in scallion greens, the sausage, and salt. This jambalaya was delicious! The chicken was falling-off-the-bone tender and tremendously flavorful. The rice also had a great flavor to it. The approach of the recipe -- building flavors by cooking the ingredients in the fat from the previous ingredients -- really paid off. There was great depth of flavor. The sausage added wonderful textural and flavor contrast. This was a very solid dish, and it was wonderful reheated the next day (which was good because it made a ton!). My only complaint was that the skin never got removed from the chicken. Chicken skin is delicious if it is crispy, but since the chicken got boiled, whatever crispiness the skin may have had from browning it was long gone. So there were these soggy pieces of skin in the dish which were unappealing. Aside from that, though, it was delicious and I would certainly make it again.

The recipe is here.

Hello from Amarillo, Texas! Leg number two of our trip out to California went smoothly. We started this morning from Lebanon, Missouri and drove about 600 miles to Amarillo. I was determined to keep driving until we found some warmer weather, and we did! When we left the hotel this morning it was a frigid 7 degrees, but somewhere in Oklahoma we hit 32 and by the time we got to Texas is was a balmy 41 degrees. Practically tropical! I had never been in the state of Oklahoma before today, or the state of Texas (other than in the airports), so it was pretty exciting! Texas in particular was extremely flat and unpopulated along the road. My special gentleman kept saying, "I love Texas." It was tremendously peaceful. When we arrived in Amarillo though, we felt like we were truly getting the Texas experience. We were greeted by a gas station named the "Jesus Christ is Lord Travel Center," and a huge steak house with flashing lights and ginormous billboards advertising that if you could eat a 72 ounce steak in an hour it was free. Ah, Texas. Instead of attempting the 72 ounce steak, we opted for some barbeque for dinner -- the restaurant we got it from had a signed picture of Bush on the wall. Now that we are stuffed full of ribs, pork, Texas toast, onion rings, baked beans, potato salad, and cole slaw, we are relaxing before another day on the road tomorrow.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Page 221)

RECIPE #1072

  • Date: Friday, December 18, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Phil O.
  • Recipe Rating: B+

I made this for dinner one night when Phil came to visit a few weeks ago. I started by cooking pancetta until it rendered its fat, then I added chopped onion and cooked until golden. I added white wine and reduced. Meanwhile, I cooked spaghetti in boiling water. I drained the spaghetti, added it to the onions and tossed. Then I added eggs, Parmesan, pecorino Romano, salt, and pepper, and tossed to combine. This dish was easy and pretty good. It had the flavors of a classic carbonara, which are of course delicious. It had a creaminess to it which was surprising as there was no cream. My only real complaint was that it was a bit dry. Otherwise this dish was satisfying, and one that I would make again for a casual weeknight dinner.

The recipe is here.

Hello from Lebanon, Missouri! My special gentleman and I are well on our way to California. When we headed out from his parents' house in Westerville, Ohio this morning, the temperature was 6 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrr! So rather than set a mileage goal for the day, I set the goal of driving until we got somewhere where the temperature was above freezing. We drove southwest all day so I figured the temperatures would rise quickly. Unfortunately, 500 miles later the highest temperature we had seen was 19 degrees. At least up to that point we had beautiful clear weather. After we had driven about 550 miles the weather took a nasty turn, and we ended up in the Ozarks in Missouri with terrible road conditions. There was black ice on the road and blowing snow. And mysteriously enough the cars that had spun into the ditch and the many electronic billboards telling people that the roads were terrible didn't convince people to slow down. I was crawling along at 40mph, but people were flying by me. It was terrifying. I would have been happy to pull over as soon as the roads got bad and stop for the night, but unfortunately we weren't in a very populated area so we needed to drive about another 30 miles to get to the nearest hotel.

After that white knuckle driving experience we pulled off in Lebanon and found a hotel. Then we walked to the Waffle House for dinner. I admit, I had never been to the Waffle House before. The first thing I saw when I walked in was the waitress, sitting at the counter, smoking. Haha! Ah, Missouri.

In the morning we will hit the road again, and we hope to make it at least another 600 miles tomorrow. I have my fingers crossed that the roads will be better and that we will be able to reach a place where the temperature is at least 32!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Salad Nicoise (Page 154)

RECIPE #1071

  • Date: Friday, December 18, 2009 -- 1pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companions: Matty and Phil O
  • Recipe Rating: A-

I made this salad for lunch a couple weeks go when Phil was visiting us in East Lansing. I started by making the dressing. I blended shallots, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and pepper in the blender, then added olive oil, then parsley. I then boiled fingerling potatoes until tender, and drained and peeled them. I boiled green beans until crisp-tender. I tossed the potatoes, green beans, and some strips of green pepper in some of the dressing. I then tossed Boston lettuce in dressing and spread it on a platter. I topped it with the potatoes, green beans, and bell pepper, then topped that with quartered hard-boiled eggs, wedges of tomato, and chunks of tuna (from a can of tuna in oil). I drizzled more dressing on top and sprinkled with olives, capers, and parsley. This salad was awesome! It was huge (indeed it claims to serve six as a main course), but the three of us managed to almost finish it off in one sitting. My special gentleman described it as "Intimidating but delicious." The dressing was lovely, and really complemented the vegetables nicely. There was a great balance of ingredients, and it had so many components that there were many flavors to discover! This was perfect for a lazy lunch with friends.

This recipe isn't online.

Well, tomorrow we will hit the road for California! We are driving from my special gentleman's parents house in Columbus, Ohio out to California. Our ultimate destination is Berkeley (where my special gentleman will live for the next 5 months), but we will head first to Los Angeles where we will visit my brother. It should be a fun (but long!) drive. We are taking a southern route, to avoid bad winter weather as much as possible. We will leave Ohio first thing Sunday morning and aim to arrive in Los Angeles sometime on Friday. Ideally, that will give us enough time to spend a day at the Grand Canyon. Neither of us has ever been there, and many, many people have recommended it to us!

Between me and my special gentleman we have own two cars, neither of which is in sparkling new condition. We took my car out west for our honeymoon but after much deliberation we decided to take my special gentleman's car on this trip. His car is the less reliable of the two however, and it is incredibly uncomfortable for long trips (the seats are painful, there's no cruise control, etc...). We had our reasons for choosing his car over mine, but given its poor condition and less than reliable status, neither of our mothers were too excited about our choice. Indeed, my mother actually insisted that we take her car instead. So we switched cars with her. We left her with my special gentleman's beat up car with a hole in the side, and we are taking her nice, barely driven car out to California. She insisted! So whereas before we were dreading the long hours of being uncomfortable, now the drive seems like a tremendous luxury. Her car has leather seats with seat warmers! Seat warmers!!!

The car is mostly packed, and we are ready to head out first thing tomorrow. I am excited about seeing states I have never been to before (e.g. Arizona and New Mexico), and even more excited about seeing Spencer, Emilee, Brian, Sam, Chris, etc... It should be a fun trip!

Friday, January 01, 2010

Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches (Page 186)

RECIPE #1070

  • Date: Thursday, December 17, 2009 -- 6pm
  • Location: East Lansing, MI
  • Kitchen: Our New House!
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B+


My special gentleman and I had these sandwiches a few weeks back. I started by combining thinly sliced white and red onions, olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper and squeezing them with my hands for about 5 minutes. Then I added canned tuna in olive oil, lemon juice, more red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. I split two rolls in half and put some lettuce and tomato on each roll. I topped it with some tuna and some hard-boiled egg. I laid anchovy fillets on top of the egg, and sprinkled some olives, scallion greens, and sliced radish over the top. I drizzled more olive oil on the sandwiches then put the other halves of the rolls on top. These sandwiches were quite tasty, but nearly impossible to eat. With every bite the contents of the sandwich would tumble onto the plate. With the assistance of a fork and knife it was definitely possible to enjoy them though. I thought the balance of ingredients was a little off -- for instance, there was too much tomato in proportion to the other ingredients. But the tuna mixture was super delicious, and I loved the combination of tuna, onions, and egg. I wouldn't necessarily serve these sandwiches to company, but I definitely enjoyed eating them myself!

The recipe is here.

Happy New Year! We had a fun New Year's Eve with my special gentleman's family -- we cooked up a big dinner, drank a lot, and played games! Now it is the new year and time for some resolutions!
  • Be a good homeowner and neighbor -- My special gentleman and I definitely have a lot to learn about owning a home (lawn care, for instance, is a complete mystery to me!). In this coming year I plan to learn what I can about maintaining our home and property.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables -- I say this every year, but it is good to remind myself to make more of an effort.
  • Eat less processed food -- I was so busy these past 4 or 5 months that I ate more ramen and boxed mac and cheese than I would care to admit. In the new year I am going to try to cut back.
  • Finish the Gourmet Project! -- I am aiming to finish this project in the year 2010!
  • Run five 8-minute miles -- I set this goal several years ago but then became distracted by my half-marathon and then marathon training. Now I know I can run long, long distances, but I am slow! I would like to be able to run five consecutive 8-minute miles!
  • Do 20 consecutive real push-ups -- This was a suggestion from my sister-in-law Deniz. I have always hated push-ups, and I am so weak that I usually do them with my knees on the ground. But I am going to attempt some real, no knees on the ground, push-ups. Deniz tells me that they won't be so awful if I learn to do them right. We shall see!
  • Get a lot of research done in my semester of not teaching -- I am not teaching between now and September, so I am aiming to get a lot of research done!
  • Bring a lot of energy to my new job in the fall -- I am excited to start my new job and I would like to kick it off with a lot of commitment and energy.
  • Be a good wife and friend -- Always an important goal to keep in mind!
  • Put effort into meeting people and making friends in East Lansing.
That seems like plenty! Wish me luck!