Science and Cooking at Harvard SEAS, 2015!

It’s been a long while, so I decided it was high time to hang out in lecture hall C of Harvard’s Science Center for the opening lecture featuring Harold McGee and Dave Arnold last night.  Overall reaction?  I still have a nerd crush on Dave Arnold.  He’s like a puppy when it comes to food science and related interests.  How can anyone not like him?

Before the lecture started, the audience was handed plastic packets filled with sugar-related items.

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What the?

I don’t eat a lot of sugar anymore!

Confusion ensued.

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Harvard SEAS lecture 10/17/11, Nandu Jubany and Carles Gaig

(Nandu is on the right; Carles Gaig is on the left.)

It was a quiet evening for a SEAS lecture tonight. I think the room was only 2/3rds full. I suppose it’s because the guest speakers were Nandu Jubany and Carles Gaig, both Spanish chefs without the fame of Jose Andres or Grant Achatz. I say “if you didn’t make it to the lecture, your loss.”

I missed out on Nandu Jubany last year and regretted it. I heard whisperings of his delicious garlic aioli, and when I heard he was returning this year, I was determined to show up.

Recipe #1, from Jubany, milk mayonnaise
**Important – the temperature of your ingredients should be the same.** (since this is a mayo, room temp or slightly colder temps are fine)
300g milk
700g neutral flavored oil (Jubany used sunflower oil)
10g minced chives
10g minced parsley
15g wasabi powder
For hardware – immersion blender and a tall enough container

Throw everything together into your container. In short bursts on low, turn the immersion blender on and off. Gradually, let the immersion blender stay on. Then, you can set it on a higher speed, and slowly move the immersion blender up and down. You want to incorporate the un-blended ingredients sitting at the top at a controlled pace into the blended ingredients at the bottom. When everything is successfully blended, you are done. Continue reading

Cooking from creative, young minds

disclaimer – I don’t know the “who” behind these recipes. All I know is that they were created by young grade school kids (maybe 1st grade?) back in 2000 as a Mother’s Day project.

I was talking about baking with my 7 year old niece in the office building kitchen when a colleague asked me if I wanted to read his friend’s kid’s cookbook.

wha? Ok, I’m game.

Apparently stashed at his desk, Tom quickly produced a stack of photocopied paper showed signs of love and age.

I read every page in “the cookbook.”  And I can’t stop laughing. Here are a couple of my favorites, exactly copied:

RAINBOW ICE CREAM
15 cups of sugar
17 cups of milk
4 eggs
1 cup of red
1 cup of yellow
1 cup of green
1 cup of blue
1 cup of orange
Put in the bowls.  Then you eat it.  First put the ice cream in the fridge then eat it. Continue reading

Pumpkin yogurt, or when experiments go well

I finally got around to making yogurt. It’s pretty easy even though the directions can be lengthy. For little ol’ me, who doesn’t eat a lot of yogurt over the course of a week, making a quart of plain yogurt does not save me any money. Chances are that a quart of whole milk costs the same as a quart of plain yogurt at your local market. Factor in labor and the energy your stove took to cook up the yogurt, you realize that it’s not cost effective at all unless you make big batches of yogurt at once.

You would think that this means that I won’t be making yogurt anymore, right? No, not quite.

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It’s a Boston thing…

… AKA corned beef and leftovers, part 1.

I never had a proper serving of corned beef until I was 23 years old. Before that, I only had a deli version that came in a plastic packet as a kid.  But one of the vendors through my full time job did annual St. Patrick’s Day lunches with real corned beef until the recession hit. I loved it.  The missing ritual became more noticeable when I kept hearing all my co-workers talk about their version of corned beef. (Hey! Even the Italian French woman in my office makes corned beef every year!)  It was driving me crazy.  So, steps needed to be taken.

I wanted to make corned beef last year, but the Alton Brown recipe calls for saltpeter as an ingredient. I’ve been told that there’s one pharmacy in my general area that sells saltpeter, but I’ve been too lazy to track it down. A year later, I’ve learned that you don’t need it to make corned beef. It’s mainly to retain a nicer color. As long as you keep the beef in the refrigerator while it’s brining, there isn’t much chance of bacterial infection.

I don’t have  instructions to use per se, but I was working off of an Alton Brown’s recipe and one of Martha Stewart’s recipes. If you’re using kosher salt, make sure that it’s pure salt, free of anti-caking ingredients. Using pickling salt is one way to make sure that you’re using pure salt. I ended up using fine pickling salt, which meant reducing the kosher salt amounts by half (I think I could have reduced the salt even a little more than that but I wasn’t willing to experiment at the time).

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Modesty forbids

Mikan-san won’t mention that she made an awesome homemade bread so I will: Mikan-san, your bread was MOST EXCELLENT. Thank you for the sample. I om-nom-nom-ed it with great gusto.

Also, Awesomesaucers and attendees. Equinox party. I have no clue what I’m making as I don’t know what anyone else is making, and since no one knows what else they’re making, no one can decide… vicious circle!

So my question is this: does anyone know what ingredients they’re using or what kind of dish it will be –e.g. main course or dessert? I gotta tell you, anything I make for this event will be something totally new to me, so this is all uncharted territory. I feel a little “safer” doing a dessert but I don’t want to have the dinner be dessert-heavy if everyone else is doing a dessert too.

Ahem.

(Also, so we’re all on the same page, “tropical” means, I’m assuming, any of the following: coconut, pineapple, passionfruit, mango…? Anything else?)

Thai night

Asano-mama and I had a hankerin’ for Thai food, so we decided to have a mini Thai food night. The menu was pretty simple: homemade vegetable pad thai with tofu and a fusion-ish chili pork with scallions and sesame seeds.

stovetop cooking

The secret to good pad thai? Two things:

1. Make your own tamarind sauce. If you can get block tamarind pulp from your neighborhood Asian supermarket, do it. Avoid the canned or powdered tamarind ready-to-eat stuff; it’s much more rewarding and all around better flavor to make it yourself using the pulp. Reconstitute the pulp with water and strain the seeds and skin till only liquid remains. Then combine 1 part pulp with 1/2 part fish sauce, 1/4 part sugar, and chili paste to taste. The fish sauce and sugar bring a sweet/sour flavor to the tamarind, while the chili gives it a little (or a lot of) kick.

2. When soaking the rice noodles, only soak them until they start to get soft. They shouldn’t nearly be soft enough to eat. When you’re actually cooking the pad thai in the wok, they’ll absorb the moisture from the other ingredients and cook the rest of the way. I made this mistake so the pad thai came out a little soggy in the end, but it was still yummy.

pad thai closeup

chili beef