30 October 2010

Pro Tips from a Pro

I'm spending the first part of halloween weekend writing up my Ph. D. Thesis proposal. I might post parts of it here later if it gets approved. If it doesn't get approved, I just might quit astronomy and open a food truck. I don't see how I can lose.
So before spending the next half hour proofreading and just finishing the damn proposal, I've decided to bestow upon my awesomely large readership of like 2 people some life lessons (that they probably have already figured out).

Pro tip #1: Turning the slow cooker *ON* is a crucial step in making slow cooked anything.

Pro tip #1.1: Plugging it in also helps.

Pro tip #2: Just because you can make a plot (oh snap, it's an infographic... run and hide!), doesn't mean you should include it in, say, your PhD proposal

Pro tip #3: Feeding your dog ice cubes as treats == giving your dog excessive amounts of water returns true.

Pro tip #3.1: You have to expect peeing on the carpet to follow.

Pro tip #4: The only thing on your computer that works with the emacs command system is... dun dun dun... emacs.

Pro tip #4.1: ctrl+x ctrl+s will cut whatever you have highlighted and then save it in most text editors... unless you're in emacs. Remember this.

Pro tip #4.2: ctrl+k usually does nothing.

Pro tip #4.3: but no matter what emacs >> vi.

Pro tip #5: When choosing a wedding band, the prettiest is usually the most uncomfortable.


Pro tip #6: Just because you can add in white space with abandon in LaTeX, doesn't mean that you can do that with any other text publishing software you want. *ahem*

28 October 2010

my dog is brilliant, my tummy is not, and heyyy here's a recipe

Sometimes I think that my real calling in life is to cook professionally. And then I get a terrible stomach virus and food sort of seems like a cruel joke. I've spent much of the past day and a half curled up on my couch, hoping that the babydog doesn't do something stupid again.

Like this:

Usually she'll just curl up on the couch and nap with me, which is infinitely preferable to finding her attempting to get her head out from under the gate. I think she is totally surprised by the fact that she's still growing.

And here's a totally unrelated recipe from my dinner party:

butternut squash gnocchi
2 lb butternut squash
1 T butter
1/2 t nutmeg
2 t kosher salt
1 t black pepper (or white if you have it)
3-4ish c flour
1 egg

Split the butternut squash in half, scrape out the seeds, rub with butter and then season with 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper. Roast until it's soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Scoop out the insides and puree in a food processor with the remaining salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Or you can mash it by hand if you're a masochist.

In a huge bowl, add the egg to the squash and gently combine.

Stir in the flour a cup at a time for the first 3 cups and then see if you need more. Add a 1/4 cup at a time from there. The gnocchi needs to be able to stay together, but you don't want to put too much in because they turn into mini rocks if it gets overworked. At some point I read that if you do this while the butternut squash is still hot, you can get away with using less flour, but it also depends on the humidity. The best way to test is to roll out a little piece and then boil it and see if it stays together.

Once you've incorporated the flour, grab tennis ball sized chunks and role into tubes on a WELL floured surface and cut off the individual pieces. Roll with a fork for the cute little grooves.

To cook, boil in salted water. You'll know that it's done when the pieces float to the top.

Serve with sage brown butter sauce:

1 stick butter
2 T fresh sage, minced
juice 1/2 lemon

In a pan, heat butter and sage over medium heat until the butter browns (~3-4 minutes). Take off heat, strain, stir in lemon juice. Try not to eat it all.

18 October 2010

Dinner Party Menu

I can't focus to save my butt right now, but that's probably because I have so much to do that I'm trying to do everything at once. It turns out that this doesn't work so well, so instead of making progress on any of my work-related things, I'm going to share the menu from the fantastic dinner party that we threw last Friday.

first course
apple - cheese pairing:
granny smith - blue cheese
Cox's orange pippin - moses sleeper
pink pearl - tomme crayuese
sweeTango - dante

One of the biggest reasons why I wanted to have this menu was to convince everyone to eat sweeTango apples. They're a cross between the Zestar and everyone's favorite, the honeycrisp. We got the cheeses from Antonelli's Cheese Shop in Hyde Park. That store is dangerous for waistlines and wallets. They were super awesome and helpful when we came in there with newbie cheese questions.

second course
chipotle sweet potato soup
fig, prosciutto, Lincoln Log goat cheese pizza
butternut squash gnocchi with a sage brown butter sauce
We also go the goat cheese for the pizza from Antonelli's. Lincoln Log is a bucheron-style cheese that's made at Zingerman's Creamery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ew. I mentioned Ann Arbor on my blog. My inner Spartan feels icky.

third course
roasted chicken with sage butter
mashed potatoes
green beans with shallots and lemon (recipe below)

I wanted to get fancy with the second course, but it's usually the simple foods that are the most delicious if they're well prepared hence the main course is pretty much a really nice home-cooked meal.

fourth course
pumpkin pie with sweet cream ice cream
maple cupcakes with a maple cream cheese frosting

This is the pumpkin pie that I've made a zillion times before and it never disappoints. I wanted to do something different than the standard whipped cream for the pumpkin pie, so we made sweet cream ice cream that was tasty, but didn't have competing flavors with the pie. The maple cupcakes were made from a recipe from the new book Baked Explorations by the same guys who wrote the Baked: New Frontiers in Baking book.

I'll be posting the recipes for most of the rest of the stuff later, but here's a really nice, simple way of making green beans less boring.

Green Beans with Shallots and Lemon (serves a lot... like 20 if you're doing a 4 course meal... so you might want to quarter this)

2 lbs green beans, trimmed, cut in half and blanched
1 large shallot (or two medium ones), chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
3-4 T olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

Heat up oil in a large frying pan. Add in shallots and cook until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add in green beans and cook until warmed through. Make a small well in the center and add in garlic and stir until fragrant (~1 minute or less). Remove from heat and add lemon juice. Toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

12 October 2010

Chipotle sweet potato soup

Yeah, I know, I need to post about the cheese-beer-food pairing dinner, but I've been busy measuring how much iron exists in the outer layers of some of the oldest stars in the galaxy. (Wow, that sounds so much more interesting than it actually is.) For now, here's a recipe for chipotle sweet potato soup. I started with the Homesick Texan's recipe and modified it slightly. I'll be serving this at a dinner party I'm throwing on Friday, but more on that later.

chipotle sweet potato soup
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 t ginger, minced
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t smoked sweet paprika
6 c stock (chicken or vegetable work well)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2-3 chipotles in adobo, diced
2 1/3 T brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lime
evoo, salt

1) Heat evoo in stock pot over medium heat.
2) Add in onion, celery, carrots and a pinch of salt. Sweat.
3) Add in spices and stir to coat vegetables.
4) Add in garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant (~1 minute).
5) Add in stock, sweet potatoes, chipotles and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.
6) Stick blender it.
7) Add in brown sugar and lime juice and stir until dissolved.
8) Taste for seasoning

Serve with honey butter croutons* and a sprinkle of sea salt.

The chipotles are a bit smoky, but they're way hotter than they are smoky. I think that the sweet potatoes match well with spicy, smoky flavors (see Thanksgiving 2008) but too much chipotle renders the soup inedible to delicate tongues, thus I added the smoked sweet paprika. I played with adding fleur de sel at the end, but it melts really quickly (and it's really freaking expensive) so I found a smoked sea salt to finish that doesn't dissolve so fast.

*Honey butter croutons= Bake[Toss[Mix[1/2 T honey+1/2 stick melted butter + 1/8 t vanilla extract + 1 t smoked sweet paprika] + Drizzle[extra virgin olive oil]+ Cube[day old bread]],350,~10 minutes]

and if you can't read the Bakematica scripting language:

mix 1/2 T honey+1/2 stick melted butter + 1/8 t vanilla extract + 1 t smoked sweet paprika. combine with evoo. toss with cubed bread. bake at 350 for about 10 minutes. :)

04 October 2010

more menu madness and tortilla soup redux

So last week I went to this fabulous dinner, but I never ended up posting pictures or a review because life got busy. Not soul-crushingly busy, but "why isn't my science making sense" busy. I'll post about it this week, though. As for now, I just wanted to post another set of menus. We've been eating in a whole lot lately, so I'm trying my hardest to keep it interesting.

For lunch this week, I made tortilla soup. I've made it before, but in the most horrible cheater-y way possible.

Tortilla Soup Part Dos:
4 chicken thighs
15+32 oz chicken stock
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
2+ T adobo sauce
1 ear of corn, kernels stripped and "milked"
1 zucchini, chopped
0.5 c tortilla chips (or you could use corn tortillas.)
juice of 1 lime
oregano, cumin, s+p

In a large sauce pan, place chicken thighs, 15 oz of chicken stock, and water to cover. Bring to a simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Shred said chicken meat and reserve. Put the bones, skin, bits of chicken still stuck to the bone back in the pot and continue to simmer. In a dutch oven or stock pot, saute onion, carrots, and celery and about a tsp of salt in olive oil until the veggies are softened. Add in jalapenos, garlic, and whatever amount of cumin that you're using and stir until fragrant (like 30 seconds). Add in canned tomatoes, adobo sauce (which is hot! so adjust accordingly) and oregano and let that cook for ~10 minutes or so to let the flavors meld. At this point, turn your attention back to the stock and skim the fat off the top. Add the skimmed, strained stock to the soup, as well as the additional chicken stock, and crushed tortilla chips and bring back to a simmer. Add in the corn and zucchini and cook until soft. Add in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with cheese, sour cream, avocado, more lime.

lunch: chicken tortilla soup
dinner: old bay shrimp, mushroom* risotto, green beans

lunch: chicken tortilla soup
dinner: mustard dill salmon, wilted spinach+roasted garlic, quinoa

lunch: quinoa+veggies
dinner: Slow-cooker Texas chili

lunch: chili
dinner: habanero chicken, jalapeno mac'n'cheese, carnival squash

lunch: chili
dinner: homemade gravlax, prosciutto, goat cheese, capers, olives, crostini

*The mushroom part will be sauteeing a bunch of wild mushrooms that need to get eaten and then the addition of truffle oil at the end that I really need to use up.