- Date: Thursday, August 25, 2011 -- 7pm
- Location: East Lansing, MI
- Kitchen: Our House
- Dining Companions: Matty, Karen H, and Dave
- Recipe Rating: B+
My in-laws came to visit last month, and I took the opportunity to make a couple recipes from The Book. This was one of them! I started by making a horseradish paste. I pureed horseradish and smoked salmon in the food processor. I added butter, mustard, cayenne, and fresh bread crumbs and blended. I seasoned the mixture with sea salt, then refrigerated it for a couple hours to allow the flavors to develop. Meanwhile, I peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced some seedless cucumbers (why they are called seedless when they still have seeds is beyond me!). I tossed the cucumbers with sea salt and drained them in a sieve for a couple hours. I seasoned pieces of salmon fillet with sea salt and pepper, then seared them on one side. I transferred them, seared side down, to a baking pan, then spread the horseradish mixture over each fillet. I sprinkled toasted bread crumbs on top. I then broiled the salmon until just cooked through. I warmed the cucumbers in creme fraiche. I served the salmon on top of the cucumber mixture. To garnish I sprinkled the dish with parsley, dill, chives, and celery leaves and placed some salmon caviar around the plate. This dish was quite good. The salmon was nicely cooked, and the horseradish spread had a lot of flavor to it. It had the bite of the horseradish of course, but also a nice kick from the cayenne. And the smoked salmon that was pureed into it gave it a subtle smokiness that went well with the dish. I had two minor complaints about this dish. One was textural. I didn't care so much for the pasty texture of the horseradish topping. Also, the breadcrumbs on top didn't get as crispy and delicious as one might have hoped. The ratio of horseradish paste to crispy breadcrumbs was too high. My other complaint was that I didn't love the cucumbers. Heating a mixture of cucumbers and creme fraiche sounded like a bad idea to me. While it turned out to be more appealing than I had imagined, I still think the dish would have been better without warm, creamy cucumbers. All that said, the salmon was very tasty, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.
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The last few weeks have been a blur. The semester is in full swing, which means life is hectic (in a good way!). Two weekends ago I flew out to Rhode Island for a couple days to give a talk at a conference at Brown University. It was a large conference (300+ registered participants) with 18 different special sessions, including one in Homotopy Theory (my field!). The unusual thing about this conference was that all of the many speakers were women! It was a celebration of women in math, marking the 40th anniversary of the Association for Women in Mathematics. There were a few men in the audience, but the vast majority of participants were women. It was an amazing sight. I had an absolutely wonderful time hanging out with the women in my field and also seeing women I know from graduate school, etc that are in other fields. There were 8 women speaking in the special session that I was a part of: 4 who are tenure-track Assistant Professors, and 4 post-docs. I really like all of them and it was wonderful to talk to the other tenure-track women about their experiences, and to pass on whatever wisdom we had gathered to the post-docs! We gave talks. We drank beer. We talked about math, and work, and other things. It was the most fun I have had at a conference in a long time. It was also the first time I have ever waited in line to use the ladies restroom at a math conference!
I heard a lot of beautiful talks over those two days, both in special sessions and plenary talks. But as I was listening to them, I noticed a disturbing pattern. A huge percentage of the speakers made a number of apologies or other self-deprecating comments throughout their talks. These negative comments (about their work, or their talk...) seemed crazy to me, as the people making the comments were accomplished women giving beautiful expositions of their work. For instance, one woman, in explaining her important research, said several times, "Sorry, these results might not be very interesting to anyone except me." It got me wondering, why do women tend to apologize for themselves? Someone advised me early on that I should never apologize. (Note: This was a piece of professional advice. It does not apply so well to say, one's marriage!) I wish I remember who said that to me, because it is a piece of advice that I carry with me every time I give a talk, or teach a class. I try not to ever say anything self-deprecating while giving a talk. I don't apologize for myself. This is not a gender-specific piece of advice. I think it is important for everyone to not put themselves down while making professional presentations. It seems, however, that women are more likely to do it. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and I was delighted to find that I am not the only one, when I read this blog post this morning.
The conference was thought-provoking and inspiring in may ways. I certainly have never been in a room with so many female mathematicians! There was even singing (no, I am not in the video!). I hope that I get to participate in such a gathering again!