Simultaneously training to be a scientist and a crazy cat lady
Oh, hey, are you still here? So I’ve been reading these essays:
They are awesome. I particularly like the ones from John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt.
I have been listening to some of NPR’s coverage of the RNC and 90 days, 90 reasons really helps to stop me from breaking my material possessions.
From what I gather from the internets, I am a slow knitter. One reason for this is that I knit English style, as opposed to Continental which is much faster. Perhaps because of this I’ve been putting more effort into cooking than knitting and sewing. And by cooking, I mean playing a lot of Scramble with Friends.
I’ve tried to teach/make myself Continental knitting. I can actually kind of do it, but because I am such a noob, it’s actually SLOWER than my English style, so it makes me fall back on English style. Vicious circle! I should knit a scarf that is 100% stockinette so that I can practice. Anyone out there want a scarf that is probably going to have uneven stitches??
It’s not that I don’t want to knit. It’s just lost it’s magic or something. Like knitting and I fell into a comfortable groove, but then it got harder and harder to spend time with it and knitting started to take me for granted and bought a red sports car without asking me. Or, more likely, I just got turned off by how slow it is. It takes me forever to finish a project now. I guess I’m hitting some kind of knitter’s block or maybe I’m just bad at knitting or something.
Anyway, like most couples in dire straits, I turned to the internet and specifically shopping to try to reactivate my lust for knitting. I follow a lot of knitting blogs and I saw these hat kits turn up one day in my Google Reader so I bought one. This kit is from one of the kitting world’s most beloved designers so I hope it will do the trick and get me back into the knitting fold. I’ve never used a knitting kit for anything so it’s kind of exciting.
Right now are you wondering why these pictures are so shitty? Well, let me tell you! I took these with my new (used) iPhone (3GS)! Super crappy but soooo convenient.
More on my new (old) phone later. For now, YARN! And not only yarn, but Brooklyn Tweed yarn! If you are a knitter, you should be squeeing right now with me. This is my first tactile experience with his yarn (this is Loft yarn, not Shelter).
And yes, that is an Ikea pillowcase.
If you’ve ever had a latke (potato pancake), you know that as far as potato products go it is tops. So deliciously crunchy, soft and tasty. Although it is not strictly Jewish, it is famously and traditionally eaten at Hanukkah because of the symbolism with the oil used to cook them. A culinary relative to the latke is the rösti (or sometimes spelled roesti). It has an umlaut and everything! You can buy frozen bags of rösti at Ikea (although it is more typically a Swiss food, rather than a Swedish food) and I always assumed it was just a latke, but there are some distinct differences. One major difference is that latkes use egg as a binding agent and rösti do not. Also, latkes are usually potato, whereas there are rösti that can be made with potato and beet or just beets. I love my root vegetables so I made a huge potato and beet rösti. It was SO easy! And unbelievably delicious. I think this can be filed under “delicious stuff to make when you’re lazy and/or pressed for time.”
First you have to grate a couple raw potatoes and few medium sized beets. The first time I made this I did it by hand. This part is NOT fast and easy. But the second time I used the grating function on a new tiny Cuisine Art and that was MUCH easier. Let them sit and then drain them very very well. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Then toss them with some chives, salt and pepper. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan.
Dump the entire contents of the bowl into the pan on top of the hot melted butter. Press it all down with a spatula and cook without moving for 10-15 minutes. While cooking, I use the spatula to press the huge pancake down all over. Once the edges start to brown, start to try to move the entire pancake as a whole by releasing the edges and pushing the whole thing around the bottom of the non-stick frying pan. Once it moves around freely, put a dish on top, flip it over, slide the pancake back in and cook the other side for another 10 minutes. I guess technically you could learn how to flip it over in the air, but the whole thing is pretty heavy (pan + potatoes + beets) so I think it’d be quite a challenge.
Flip it out and serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce! Mmmmm. So good when it’s cold and wintry out. Which is when I made these. Unlike this 85 degree April weather we’ve been having in New England. So. Weird.
It may look huge in the pan, but seriously, the entire pancake was GONE in less than 15 minutes. Make a big one, you won’t be sorry.
Scene: today at work.
We should probably just replace this broken computer with a used one from eBay.
I can try to fix the power supply myself.
BOSS, ME, MDPHD K (ALL)
Oh yeah, he knows that stuff because he builds model planes for his hobby.
What? Really? I want to see.
(Boss goes back to his office, everyone watches the video.)
Wow, I can’t do that kind of stuff.
Yeah, me neither. I know how to install batteries and plug things in to the wall, but that’s about it.
I think if the world ends, you really need someone like that, a person who knows electronics and stuff.
Yeah. At the end of the world, I’ll be totally useless.
Yeah, me too. Oh wait, except I know how to garden and plant things for food.
Oh, that’s good. You’ll won’t be useless. The only thing I can do is tell which direction is north or south from the position of the sun.
Yeah, a lot of people know how to do that, but that is very useful.
Yeah, that’s it, I’m totally useless.
(realizing something is amiss)
Wait a minute, what? But you’re a doctor!
Oh yeah! I forgot!
I’m pretty sure being a doctor is pretty important during the apocalypse. Although he is a cardiologist, so not an orthopedic or a cardiothoracic surgeon, but it’s better than a slap in the face.
As of late last year, I became a paying member to Cook’s Illustrated online, one of the three big online (and print) cooking magazines from the America’s Test Kitchen family (the third one is called Cook’s Country). This allows me access to all kinds of recipes, of which you have already seen some examples (i.e. almost all of my holiday cooking). Don’t you love how I’m talking about my holiday cooking from Thanksgiving and Christmas when Easter is this weekend?
I follow their blog that updates daily with recipes and one of them that caught my attention was brewing ginger beer. And by caught my attention I mean, I was so excited I was hyperventilating. I LOVE ginger beer. Now, I don’t love raw ginger. I know this is kind of strange for someone with a Chinese food heritage, but it’s just a little unpleasant to the palate when it is naked strong and all up in your grill. I prefer ginger to be tempered with sugar or other spices, vegetables or fruit. And when fresh ginger is in gingerbread cookies and ginger beer? It’s tasty to the max. Ginger beer is a delicious ginger treat of which my palate fully approves.
I was introduced to the Dark ‘n’ Stormy by my prep school friend with a background in sailing with her family (mainly from the East Coast to Bermuda). It’s a drink that’s really popular in port cities, the islands and probably most of New England. The cocktail ingredients: ginger beer, rum and lime. It’s so good on a hot Summer day–super refreshing. Ever since I took the British boyfriend down the slippery slope of Dark ‘n’ Stormy drinking, he’s been obsessed. By chance, we happened upon a ginger beer tasting at the local liquor store and we discovered that our favorite ginger beer is Fentiman’s. Sadly, good ginger beer is hard to come by–Fentimans isn’t available everywhere. And when you can find it, it’s expensive since it’s imported from Ye Olde Land. Additionally, if you happen to be British, i.e. a high functioning alcoholic, you will consume lots of drinks meaning you need lots of pricey ginger beer. Lack of good ginger beer availability resulted in his poor man’s Dark ‘n’ Stormy which is comprised of rum and ginger ale. Does that sound gross to you? Totally makes sense because it’s completely disgusting.
Thus the stage was set for my adventure into the land of flash fermentation beer brewing. I made this round of ginger beer back in November 2011. (I’m so top of my blogging.)
I don’t know if I’ve outed myself on my blog about this but…I am a hoarder. A hoarder of bottles and containers. Anyone in my family can tell you that. I have lots and lots of empty containers stored in every place imaginable. I’m vaguely certain that this tendency is genetic because my dad also hoards well designed and possibly useful containers. It just seems very wasteful to throw them away. Knowing this you can imagine my glee when I realized that I had in my house a handful of perfect containers to brew ginger beer in–namely, used but clean Lorina lemonade bottles. I love Lorina lemonades but they are super expensive and I only buy them for parties where I know there will be some teetotalers. I had a couple of clean bottles which I washed again and kind of sanitized/sterilized them with boiling water. (PEDANTIC NERD ALERT: usually in your kitchen you are sanitizing stuff. You area almost never sterilizing anything unless you’re baking something for 8 hours in a homemade autoclave. Sterilization is for manufacturing processes, hospitals and scientific research. Sanitizing glass bottles and jars is what you do when you brew your own beer and can your own tomatoes.) After sanitizing everything, I made up a triple batch of the recipe. Enough to fill three bottles.
Oh, totally easy, right? Follow the recipe but just multiply times 3? Well for those of you in the readership who are indeed the sharpest knives in the drawers you will realize that recipe on the website is for enough ginger beer to fill a 16 oz bottle and those glass mother fuckers that I have are 25.4 oz. I didn’t realize this until after I made and filled them. Luckily, I was both supremely stupid and genius.
Like I mentioned earlier, I like the sharp bite of Fentimans. And because I didn’t know what this recipe would taste like, I decided to make a science experiment out of it and tested out varying amounts of ginger. You can kind of see the ginger concentration in this next picture. The lowest concentration is on the left with a more clear opacity, while the 3x concentration is on the right and it is much more yellow. I only changed the amount of ginger, everything else remained constant and was made from a master mix of lemon juice and sugar water. (Gotta be a responsible kitchen scientist.) It should be mentioned here that you need a lot of elbow grease to grate that ginger root. Whew. What a workout.
I filled them up and because each bottle receives a pinch of champagne yeast for carbonation and a tiny bit of fermentation, I made sure to secure each rubber stopper as much as possible with string. I didn’t want any eyeballs to be damaged in the making or drinking of ginger beer. Then they went up into the spare room (my sister’s old room) for 48 hours because that room is the warmest room in the house, aka incubation chamber.
After 48 hours of fermentation and a chill down in the refrigerator, it was time to taste test the varying amounts of ginger.
Lo and behold what did we find? The recipe that contained the CORRECT amount of ginger for 25.4 oz (aka, 1.5x recipe) tasted the best! So score one for the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated! The next time I made this, which was for a Super Bowl party that I had in February, I made 1.5x recipes in two bottles. It was delicious even though the water I used was too hot and I killed the yeast. The drink was not appropriately carbonated, but it tasted great. Note to self next time: stop being so impatient and let the boiled water cool down! Sorry for killing you, yeast.
Is that a whale measuring cup? Yes. Yes it is.
So there you have it. Delicious homemade ginger beer. Just add rum and lime. I can’t wait to make this in the summer!
There’s food and then there’s FOOD. You know what I’m talking about. Legendary foods. Foods that appear upon high Tibetan mountain tops every 400 years. Foods that can only be created when Neptune is in line with 3 of Saturn’s moons. Foods that can only be eaten after you’ve memorized and recited pi to the 10,000th decimal place without error. That kind of food.
In my family, there are a few foods that fall into this category. And despite my hyperbole, what I’m talking about are foods from closed restaurants or bakeries. Foods from restaurants that have a secret recipe Foods that are only available in far flung foreign places. Or even versions of foods that only taste amazing when eaten at their geographical location of origin. And finally, foods that were made by now deceased family members. (Sad.) One particular food that I tried to share with as many people as possible while it was still available was the storied and fabled EGGPLANT BREAD.
What the fuck is eggplant bread, you ask? Oh, sad and pathetic person to have never experienced eggplant bread, let me tell you what it is. It is eggplant glory. It is the tears of unicorns and the dandruff of angels. It is the most heavenly and delicious thing you have ever tasted. It fills you up, but it is still healthy and light. If there is any cheese, it is minimal. The tomato sauce in it is divine–made from tomatoes picked directly from the Carebear forest, I imagine. Right. So basically it is a type of calzone made of breaded eggplant covered in tomato sauce stuffed into bread and baked. For a vegetarian it is essentially manna, doused in ambrosia, stuffed into Zeus’ stomach and baked.
I have searched the depths of the internet and I cannot for the life of me find a recipe or description even coming close to what I have come to know as eggplant bread. The cute little Italian bakery where my mother first discovered this delicious treat has been closed for years. And unfortunately because of the popularity of eggplant parm, you can’t search eggplant recipes without first going through like 150 eggplant parm recipes. I can’t even figure out what it is called. I mean, I assume it has a specific Italian name? I did, however, find another vaguely local Italian bakery that makes it. But oh, it was so so so very disappointing. It just didn’t taste as good as the original one. Not even close. I guess I could find out the “how” of how they make it, but I really just want to taste the magnificence of that original eggplant bread.
THUS, I have embarked on an eggplant bread making, recipe uncovering quest to decipher the secrets of eggplant bread.
One big quandary was: what is the bread made out of? Is it made of bread? Is it made of pizza dough? Is it made of calzone dough? I remember the dough being inordinately smooth, which to me means that it contained a lot of oil. Also, it was quite bread like–fluffy and most definitely containing yeast. But it wasn’t super thick and bready, it was still thin over the top where it stretched over the eggplant. I decided to go with a pizza dough. I started up a batch of pizza dough so that it could rise while I made breaded eggplant.
Making breaded eggplant:
I sweat slices of peeled fresh eggplant by rubbing with some salt, incubating for 15-20 minutes and then giving all the slices a hardcore pat dry with a frightening amount of paper towels. Then they go into the breading triple crown dipping station of flour, egg yolk and bread crumbs. At this point you can fry them (oily) or bake them (healthier).
After the breaded eggplant comes out of the oven you have to eat 5 of them for quality control. Obviously. Then you let them cool down a bit before making your stuffed bread.
I rolled out the pizza dough and made a mound of breaded eggplant layered with sprinkles of parmigiano reggiano and pecorino romano and generous amounts of THEMOSTDELICIOUSCANNEDTOMATOSAUCEEVAR. Seriously. Best tomato sauce from a jar ever. The Silver Palate brand. On sale now at your local Stop and Shop for $2.50 a jar. Down from $5.00, people! I think at some point I will try to make my own sauce (maybe from my canned tomatoes), but this whole recipe is so work intensive already, I had to make do with jar sauce. Did I also mention that this jar sauce was the most delicious sauce ever? It was. Also, I read the ingredients to see where crack cocaine was listed and surprisingly I didn’t see any but I did see that the sauce contains PEARS. Pears!! Who knew! There must be some kind of flavor and/or manufacturing reason for this. Pear was also the last ingredient listed so it must be used sparingly.
I used about 3 layers of breaded eggplant mixed with sprinkles of cheese and generous helpings of tomato sauce (I used the entire jar). Once the layers were completed I wrapped the dough around the eggplant (making a loaf shape) and then I flipped it over and let the dough proof for about 15 minutes. I brushed it will some olive oil, egg whites and milk. Then it went into the oven for 30 minutes.
Do you see that Silbread sheet under the eggplant bread? THAT THING IS AMAZING. Seriously, it is so awesome, especially for an application like this since it lets the dough bake without getting soggy AND it lets the dough cool without it getting wet from condensation underneath! A friend gave this to me as an (early) Christmas present last year and it blew my mind. It rocks hard and she does too for being so thoughtful with her eagle eyes for new Silpat items.
It took a lot of willpower not to tear into that thing with my face, but I did let it cool overnight.
In the morning I sliced that mofo.
It totally looks like eggplant bread! And it looks super delicious, if I do say so myself.
And you know what? IT TOTALLY TASTES LIKE EGGPLANT BREAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, well, it doesn’t taste exactly like THE Eggplant Bread. What am I, some kind of all seeing, all knowing Kwisatz Haderach who cooks? No. But damned if I’m not pretty shocked at hitting close to the mark. It definitely tastes more like it than the eggplant bread that I found at the other Italian bakery. I think the pizza dough outside might be right. Even though I adore the sauce, it’s not quite the right flavor. The breaded eggplant is delicious but not quite right. I should slice the eggplant lengthwise, not crosswise. I also had to use panko bread crumbs because that’s all I had. Maybe I should make my own bread crumbs? (Omg, MORE work.) I will definitely use fine bread crumbs next time even though the panko tasted good. I will also try to use less parmesan because I don’t remember it ever having a strong flavor of parmesan. After this trial run I’m under the impression that they used a lot more pecorino romano.
I can’t wait to try this again. It’s a lot of work, but obviously I don’t mind that kind of thing. I am fairly proud of myself for figuring it out this far. I hope to solidify a real working recipe within the next 3 or 4 trials. I have some other ideas for the dough. (Ooooh, ominous! You’d better watch out, dough.)
Eggplant bread! Great success! (Borat voice.)