Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine (Page 811)

RECIPE #1175

  • Date: Monday, June 7, 2010 -- 7:30pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Dining Companions: Karen H, Dave, Brad, Deniz, Wes, and Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I made this dessert for dinner with my special gentleman's family a few weeks ago. I started by arranging some mixed berries in a loaf pan. I softened gelatin in a bit of Prosecco. I combined more Prosecco with sugar in a saucepan and brought it to a boil. I removed the saucepan from the heat and added the gelatin mixture, then more Prosecco and some lemon juice. I cooled the mixture to room temperature then I poured it over the fruit. I refrigerated the dish until the gelatin had set. I then inverted it onto a plate and served. This dessert was a little odd. It was sort of beautiful and sort of creepy looking at the same time. Being from the Midwest I am used to seeing fruit suspended in Jello, but this Jello was so transparent that it was a little eerie looking. The dessert had a pretty good flavor. It was quite boozy, but Prosecco and berries go nicely together. The texture was a bit too soft -- the gelatin didn't set up firmly enough to get nice clean slices of the terrine. This dessert was ok, but I would have rather just eaten the berries with some sweetened whipped cream, which would have been less work to prepare.

The recipe is here.

It is the middle of the night and I can't sleep. Tonight is my last night living in Bloomington, Indiana. Tomorrow we will pack the contents of my apartment here into a moving truck and drive up to East Lansing, Michigan. I have been waiting for this day for quite a while. After this move my special gentleman and I will live together, in just one residence! It sounds like a simple enough thing, but after three years of mostly living in different states, living together sounds absolutely divine.

I don't know whether it is the excitement about our arrival in Michigan that has me awake at 3:00am, or whether it is the sadness of leaving Bloomington after three lovely years here. I am sad to leave. I loved my job here, and my friends, and the town. My special gentleman and I got married here. There are a lot of memories. At the same time, I feel ready to move on, and I am very excited about life together in Michigan.

Right now, however, I just wish I could sleep. Actually, I wish we could just start moving now. There are stacks of boxes everywhere, and for whatever reason I am wide awake. If the truck rental place were open at this hour, I would be there picking up the truck right now. I think it is the waiting that is making me uncomfortable, that has me awake tonight. I am ready to get home to Michigan...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Seafood Paella (Page 349)

RECIPE #1174

  • Date: Monday, June 7, 2010 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chefs: Wes and Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: A-

My special gentleman's family likes seafood, so I figured our visit with them was a good opportunity to make this huge seafood dish. First on the ingredient list: two live lobsters, halved lengthwise. The Cook's Note at the end of the recipe says to ask your fishmonger to halve the lobsters for you. So, there I was, talking not to a fishmonger exactly but rather to the woman standing behind the lobster tank at the neighborhood grocery store in suburban Ohio. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "I would like to buy two lobsters."
Fish Lady: "OK."
Me: "Would it be possible to get them cut in half lengthwise?"
(Long pause)
Fish Lady: "Those lobsters are alive."
Me: "Yes, I know. But I would like to have them cut in half. Can you do that?"
Fish Lady: "I don't think we do that here." (turns to a butcher hacking up some beef with a cleaver) "This lady would like her lobsters cut in half. Do we do that here?"
(Long Pause)
Butcher Man: "We can't do that. Those lobsters are alive."

At that point, I assured them that it was fine, I would do it myself, and I took my live whole lobsters away in a box.

And I would have done it myself, except that my brother-in-law Wes eagerly volunteered for the job. Only Wes, my special gentleman, Deniz, Karen, and I were home when the lobster slaughter occurred. Karen left the room as soon as the lobsters emerged from their box -- she was not interested in witnessing this adventure. Deniz and my special gentleman watched from a distance. Wes, however, was not scared of those lobsters. He grabbed a lobster and put the knife straight through its head:


And continued down the length of the body, cutting it in half.


I had done this task only once before, many years ago. And as I remembered it, the lobsters I halved that day stopped moving pretty much as soon as the knife went through their heads. With these lobsters though, that was not the case. What you can't appreciate in the picture below is that those lobster halves were still moving as they lay there on the platter, completely severed.

Indeed the next step was to twist off the tails and the claws, and even once the claws were completely severed from the rest of the lobster, they continued to move. Crazy! Once the lobsters had been reduced to just a pile of tail halves and claws the dish somehow seemed much less daunting. Thanks to Wes for his assistance!

I set a 17-inch paella pan (which was a wedding gift from Grace -- Thank you Grace!!) across two burners. I cooked the lobster tails and claws for a couple minutes in some olive oil, then removed them from the pan. I threw some peeled and deveined shrimp seasoned with sea salt into the pan for a few minutes, then removed them. I cut some squid into rings, seasoned them with sea salt, and stir fried them for a few minutes. I next stir fried some slices of green and red bell pepper. I added garlic which I had minced to a paste with sea salt. I then added chopped tomatoes and paprika, and then rice. (Note: The recipe called for either Spanish paella rice or Arborio. I couldn't find paella rice anywhere in suburban Ohio, so I went with Arborio and it worked just fine.) I next added hot fish stock and a mixture of white wine, lemon juice, and crumbled saffron threads. I added some parsley and a bay leaf and cooked until the liquid thickened and reduced sufficiently. Then I stirred in the shrimp, the squid, some chopped scallions, green peas, black pepper, and sea salt. I arrange the lobster pieces and some mussels on top and baked uncovered until the rice was not-quite-done. I removed the pan from the oven, covered it with foil, and let it steam for another 10 minutes. I sprinkled with parsley and served the paella with the lemon alioli.

This recipe was quite a project, but it turned out well. The paella was flavorful with a nice balance of vegetables, rice, and seafood. Several members of my special gentleman's family pointed out that it wasn't too dry, as paella sometimes is. The seafood was cooked the right amount, as was the rice. And although initially it seemed odd to serve the dish with a mayonnaise-based sauce, the alioli really worked well with the paella. This recipe produced a tasty, beautiful dish that was a crowd-pleaser. It even got a few, "This is better than the paella we had in Spain," comments. It is not the dish to make if you are looking for something quick to put on the table, but if you are looking for a little adventure with lobsters and a tasty dish, I would recommend it.

This recipe isn't online.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Alioli de Limon (Page 351)

RECIPE #1173

  • Date: Monday, June 7, 2010 -- 6:30pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Brad, Deniz, Wes, Dave, and Karen H
  • Recipe Rating: B+

This sauce was a component of a recipe I made a few weeks back when visiting my special gentleman's family in Ohio. The recipe that this accompanied was long and complicated, but this recipe was nice and simple. I just stirred together some lemon zest, lemon juice, minced garlic, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper. That was it! The sauce tasted like garlicky, lemony mayonnaise, which I think was the intent. By itself it wasn't incredibly special, but it went very well with the recipe it accompanied (which I will post about next). Everyone seemed to agree that the dish as a whole was indeed improved by this sauce.

This recipe isn't online.

It has a been quite a while since I have blogged. We are in the process of what will be our last move for quite a long time, and meanwhile my special gentleman and I have both been very busy at work. My special gentleman returns to Bloomington this evening, after having been away all week at a conference in New York. I stayed in Bloomington while he was gone because my post-doc mentor at IU organized a small working group this week. Four mathematicians came from out of town and the six of us had an intense week of meetings and talks. It was fun, but exhausting!

The real reason I haven't blogged though is that I couldn't find the cord that connected my camera to my computer. While packing boxes today I found not the cord I was looking for, but an old one. Close enough. My place is a complete disaster area. When we moved into our house in Michigan in October, we took most of the furniture out of my apartment in Bloomington. In the midst of that very complicated move, which involved the house, the apartment, and several storage units, we didn't worry too much about the small stuff in the apartment. I figured I could always bring small stuff in the car on my many trips from Indiana to Michigan in the fall. And indeed, every time I made that drive I packed my car full of boxes. So if you had asked me two weeks ago what was left in my apartment in Indiana, I would have likely answered, "Not much. Just a few kitchen things." Ha! Today I have a different perspective. There are boxes piled high all over the apartment and looking around it seems that probably half the stuff I have here hasn't been packed yet -- not to mention that I still need to pack my office at the university. Moving day isn't until Wednesday, so I have time. But packing just isn't fun. I keep trying to console myself with the thought: "This is the last move! After this we will live together in just one residence!" And I am super excited about that. Less excited, however, about the next few days!

Back to packing...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Steamed Couscous (Page 214)

RECIPE #1172

  • Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Emilee, Brian, Sam, Matty, and Chris
  • Recipe Rating: B


I like couscous but I have put off this recipe for a long time for reasons which will become obvious in a moment. As Emilee pointed out, the whole point of couscous is that it is fast to make. It's not the tastiest of the starch options, nor is it the most exciting. But it is one of the easiest and fastest to prepare. That is, unless The Book writes the recipe. Start to Finish time on this couscous: an hour and fifteen minutes! For couscous! A dish that usually takes about five minutes to make! The recipe also calls for a couscoussiere, which is a special couscous cooking device which I don't own. Luckily, it allows for an alternative: a steamer basket.

I started by stirring the couscous with some water and then draining it. I spread the couscous on a baking sheet and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then I put a quarter of the couscous in the steamer and steamed it for 5 minutes. I mounded the remaining couscous in, waited for steam to rise through the center of the mound, then steamed it for another 20 minutes. I spread the couscous in a shallow pan and sprinkled with water and salt. Then I raked the couscous with my fingers -- once with dried fingers and once with oiled fingers. I then let it dry for another 10 minutes. I put the couscous back in steamer and steamed it for another 20 minutes.

So how was it? Well, it tasted like couscous. I liked it, but could I have distinguished it from couscous made the 5 minute way? Maybe -- I'm not sure. In any event, I felt that the result certainly wasn't worth the extra effort and all the silliness of moving the couscous from a baking pan to the steamer to the baking pan to the steamer... I have a high tolerance for culinary fussiness but this recipe was a little over-the-top even for me!

This recipe isn't online.

This past weekend we traveled to Los Angeles for my brother's wedding. Their wedding was quite unique. There were about 55 guests I think, and the wedding events went from Friday through Sunday. The weekend started on Friday evening with a rehearsal dinner at the LA River Center. Despite the name there was no river in sight (which is probably good since the Los Angeles river is actually a concrete channel), but there were beautiful gardens. The five course meal was outdoors, in a wonderful courtyard, with everyone seated at two long tables. It was just lovely to be outside in such a gorgeous setting on a summer evening in California.

The wedding ceremony itself was Saturday morning, in a beautiful Episcopal church in Pasadena. It was a lovely ceremony, complete with adorable flower girls and a charming ring bearer. There was a bit of a break following the ceremony, and in the late afternoon the party started again. The next event was a cello concert. One of my brother's closest friends is an internationally renowned cellist and a professor of music performance at UCSD. He performed a solo concert in honor of Spencer and Ellen. He performed both some classical pieces and a more experimental piece. The music was absolutely spectacular. The setting was also incredible. For the concert they rented the Schindler House, a famous piece of residential architecture which was precendent-setting for California architecture. After the concert we all headed over to Osteria Mozza, a Nancy Silverto, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich restaurant. There we had a seven course meal, and wines paired with every course! It was a long, delicious meal!

The next morning we were hardly hungry, but there was more tasty food to be had. Sunday brunch was at the Chateau Marmont, a hotel perhaps most famous for its many celebrity guests and residents. My special gentleman and I only got to enjoy the beginning of the beautiful meal there, as we had a plane to catch. The food we had was very tasty, and we were sad to leave (especially because the last wedding event, which we missed, was a trip to the Dodger game!).

Overall it was a lovely weekend, full of unique experiences and tasty food! Congratulations to Spencer and Ellen!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grilled Chermoula Lamb Chops (Page 505)

RECIPE #1171

  • Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA
  • Kitchen: Emilee and Brian's Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Brian
  • Dining Companions: Emilee, Sam, Matty, and Chris
  • Recipe Rating: A-


I hadn't made these lamb chops yet because we don't have a grill at home. Emilee and Brian do however, so I made these at their place last month. I started by grinding together cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and whole cloves in a spice grinder. I stirred in some sweet paprika and cayenne. I then tossed the lamb chops with olive oil, finely chopped garlic, salt, the spice mixture, and cilantro. I marinated the lamb chops for a couple hours. Then Brian and I grilled them. I have taken a lot of shit from my friends in the past few months for making a few not-so-delicious dinners (shad roe and steamers come to mind...). From these meals they have concluded that there is nothing delicious left in The Book. When I made these lamb chops, though, they realized that I had just been holding out on them! Indeed, there are many delicious things still remaining, and these lamb chops were a perfect example! The spice rub was super tasty and went beautifully with the char flavor from the grill. The meat was flavorful and cooked perfectly. We were all licking our fingers with lamb juices dripping down our faces. Yum! I might have liked this dish even better if there had been some sort of tasty sauce to accompany the lamb (e.g. a yogurt sauce), but as it was it was super quick to throw together and extremely tasty. Definitely a winner!

This recipe isn't online.

It has been more than three months since I have slept in my own bed so right now I couldn't be happier, sitting in my bed, covered in my blankets, relaxing on my pillows. It's awesome! We aren't back in Michigan yet, but we are in Bloomington, where I still have an apartment for a few more weeks. It feels like home and that feels great!

What a crazy few days! My last post was from Ohio last week. We had a great time hanging out with my special gentleman's family, and it was a very relaxing few days. On Thursday night we flew from Ohio to Los Angeles for my brother's wedding! Congratulations to Spencer and Ellen! There were wonderful wedding events on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (more on their wedding in my next post). After a weekend full of celebration, last night we flew back to Ohio. Our flight was delayed, so we didn't get back to my special gentleman's parents' house until 2am. This morning we got up and drove four hours from their house in Ohio to Bloomington. Usually we split drives pretty evenly, and if someone drives more it is typically me. I don't mind driving at all, so I am usually happy to do it. This morning my special gentleman drove first and I slept. I woke up after an hour and a half, and instead of feeling refreshed I felt only more exhausted. I couldn't even muster the energy to lift my eyelids. Within minutes I was asleep again. I stirred a few times throughout the drive, but I didn't really wake up until my special gentleman woke me. We were in Bloomington. After all the travel of the last few weeks (months, years...) I was just exhausted. I felt better after my four hour nap, and my special gentleman and I headed straight to the office. It felt great to be back in my office. I had a lovely afternoon, getting things done, then this evening we had dinner with Paul, Beth, Jeremy, Chuck, and Lynn.

It is wonderful to be back in Bloomington and I am so, So, SO excited that our next stop in this six and a half straight months of traveling is HOME to Michigan!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Babas au Rhum (Page 796)

RECIPE #1170

  • Date: Monday, May 10, 2010 -- 9pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Josh G, and Yanki
  • Recipe Rating: B


My sister-in-law Deniz sent me several gifts from my Gourmet Project Wishlist for my birthday (Thank you Deniz!). The gifts included the molds I needed to make this recipe. I had been wanting to make this recipe for quite some times, but I hadn't been able to find the molds. Once I had the molds in hand, I made it right away! I started by proofing some yeast in milk with a pinch of sugar. Then I added some flour to form a sponge and let it rise. I put the sponge in the food processor with eggs, sugar, salt, more flour, and milk. I added butter and pulsed to combine. I then let the dough rise. I piped the dough into the molds, then let it rise again. I baked the cakes until well-browned. Meanwhile, I made a syrup by boiling sugar and water, removing it from the heat, then adding 3/4 of a cup of dark rum. I soaked the warm babas in the rum syrup. I brushed the babas with a mixture of apricot jam and more rum, then served them with heavy cream which had been whipped with powdered sugar and yet MORE rum.

These little cakes were tasty, but man were they boozy. More than 3/4 of a cup of rum (not cooked) in eight servings. Eating one of them was like having dessert and a drink. It was a bit of overkill to have the cake soaked in rum, then glazed in rum, then served with rum cream. At the very least, it would have been nice if the whipped cream had been without rum. The texture of the cake was very nice though. Since it was a yeast dough, it had a lot of rise to it, and the cakes came out with a bread-like texture. They weren't overly sweet, so it would be a nice dessert for people who aren't looking for a huge sugar rush after dinner. I would consider making these cakes again, but I would definitely cut back on the amount of rum. It was just too much!

This recipe isn't online.

Hello from Ohio! We are visiting my in-laws for a few days at their house. My special gentleman's whole family is here: his parents, his younger brother Wes (who lives in Cambodia), his older brother Brad, Brad's wife Deniz, and Brad and Deniz's puppies: Hanby and Wellie. We have had a mellow few days here, which is just what we needed after all of our travels of late. Yesterday we set up a badminton net in the backyard and played for much of the day. Last night we went bowling. Today I made dinner from The Book, tackling one of the more time-consuming recipes I had left: Seafood Paella. We have gone for several walks in the woods. Mostly though we have just been relaxing and enjoying time with family. On Thursday we will fly from here to Los Angeles, where my brother will get married over the weekend!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Leg of Lamb with Tomatoes and Garlic (Page 499)

RECIPE #1169

  • Date: Monday, May 10, 2010 -- 7pm
  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Kitchen: Our Temporary California Home
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-


I was in the mood for some lamb, so I selected this recipe. I put some chopped plum tomatoes and 8 heads of garlic in a roasting pan. I set a leg of lamb in the pan and arranged some rosemary sprigs on top. I seasoned with salt and pepper, drizzled with oil, then roasted the lamb. I basted the garlic occasionally with more oil as it was roasting. When the lamb had reached 135 degrees I removed it from the oven and let it rest. I served the lamb with the tomato sauce and roasted garlic. I had high expectations for this dish -- roasted lamb with tomatoes and garlic sounds delicious, no? In reality though, it was only ok. The tomato sauce didn't have much depth of flavor to it, and didn't complement the lamb so well. The lamb and garlic were good together, but I can think of many better preparations of lamb with garlic. This dish was on the dull side. There are so many delicious preparations of lamb in The Book that I wouldn't waste my time making this uninspired one again.

This recipe isn't online.

I am truly exhausted after a very long "day" of travel. We woke up on Tuesday morning in Tokyo, packed our things and headed to the airport. Our 9 hour flight left the Narita airport around 4pm on Tuesday and landed in San Francisco at 9am on Tuesday (ah, the wonders of crossing the international date line!). We took the train from the San Francisco airport to Emilee and Brian's place, where we had left our car packed with all of our belongings we brought to California for the semester. We napped on Emilee and Brian's floor from noon to 5pm, then ate dinner with Em, Brian, and Sam. At 8pm Tuesday we hit the road, headed for Wisconsin. We didn't so much have a plan for our drive, other than to try to drive the 2130 miles as quickly as we safely could. Matt's younger brother Wes, who lives in Cambodia, is in the states now and we wanted to get back to the Midwest ASAP to spend as much time with him as we could. So we started driving. It turns out that jet-lag is awesome for road trips. Indeed, we were already so off schedule and tired that we could sleep pretty much any time. So we started by alternating 3 hour driving shifts. While one person drove the other person tried to get at least a couple hours of sleep. We figured we would continue like that until we couldn't any more, then we would stop at a hotel and sleep.

As it turned out, we never reached that point of complete exhaustion, so we ended up driving the 34 hours between San Francisco and Madison straight through. We arrived today (Thursday) very early in the morning. And although it has been more than 72 hours since I have gotten a real night of sleep, I feel pretty good. Definitely better than one would expect after 9 hours on a plane and 34 hours in a car. I wasn't sure if the combination of jet-lag plus road trip would be awesome or a disaster -- as it turned out, it was awesome! Added benefit: after 34 hours of sleeping 2 out of every 6 hours, I don't think I am on Japan time any more. I think I have neutralized my body's sleep cycle -- my body no longer has any idea what is going on! -- so I am hopeful that tonight I will be able to get back on US time pretty easily.

We have been driving my mom's car all semester, so we are dropping it off here in Wisconsin, picking up my special gentleman's car (which my mom has been driving), and tomorrow we will drive another 9 hours to Ohio, where my special gentleman's family lives. I am not super excited to get back in the car, but I am looking forward to getting to Ohio! In the meantime, I need some sleep!