Category Archives: Food

Food, dumbass.

NOMS

Augh. It’s a very good thing I thrive when I’m way too busy, since I’ll likely be way too busy for the rest of my life, but this unfortunately means that I don’t get to make fancy meals as often as I’d like. My meals growing up always had a starch, a protein, and a veggie (or sometimes a veggie and a salad). During classes, I tend not to have the time to make all of these things and end up with pasta and veggies, or mac and cheese. My schedule will be slightly less gross after this week, as I’m dropping a class that will be replaced with Fibers and Dyeing, though that class was the least amount of work.

But anyway, my Thursdays are light, and I made delicious foods: Chicken Pad Thai! It’s a really yummy and easy dish to make, provided you have a few finicky ingredients: rice noodles, bean sprouts, and (cheater alert) Pad Thai sauce. I promise you I’d try to make the sauce from scratch but I have no clue where to buy tamarinds.

Make sure to get the thick-cut noodles.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4-1/2 lb ground chicken or chicken breast chopped small (sub. any protein)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4  package rice noodles
  • 1/4-1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • veg. oil (I used chili oil for some spice)
  • pad thai sauce
  • bean sprouts
  • lime

Recipe:

Fill a bowl with very hot tap water and plop your rice noodles in there. Set a timer for 30 minutes for them to soak. The rest of the prep won’t take the full 30 minutes so feel free to check your email at this point.

While they’re soaking, chop up your scallions and peanuts for later. Then, heat oil in a big ol’ pan or wok, then quickly scramble the egg and remove from the pan. Add more oil as necessary throughout the process. Then cook the chicken or other protein all the way through and remove from pan (little pieces are best). If you coordinated it right, your timer is now going off. Drain the noodles and stir fry them for about 5 minutes, adding the pad thai sauce towards the end. I used about 4 ounces. Then add in the scallions and peanuts, and stir fry another minute or two. Toss in the bean sprouts and serve with lime.

SO GOOD. In the words of Megan, “It’s as good as at a restaurant!” (blush).

Noms!

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Hey there, dumpling.

My Grandma Ruth is an awesome cook. She claims that, as a child, her mother refused to let her in the kitchen because she’d get in the way. Thus, when she married my grandfather, he knew how to cook better than she did (which wasn’t saying much), and over the next few years she taught herself from cookbooks. Remembering her mother’s mistake, my dad and his brother and sister all left the home with a good culinary background.

My grandma cooks less often now that she lives by herself, so when I visit her she often sends me home with some cooking tools or spices that she’s not using. The last time I visited, she sent me home with two volumes of yearly Cook’s Illustrated magazine compilations. I love Cook’s- it’s the magazine for cooking nerds, filled with facts about tools and ingredients, the science behind cooking, and of course delicious recipes. Yesterday was the first chance I had to try one of the recipes, which I loved:

Sesame Beef and Cabbage Dumplings, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Sept./Oct. 1994

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz ground beef
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp chili oil
  • 1 package wonton wrappers- usually in the refrigerated case in the supermarket

Ze  filling

Recipe:

  • I bought the cabbage already cut up, but after measuring it I decided to mince it finer. An easy way to do this is to use kitchen scissors to snip the cabbage while it’s in the measuring cup.
  • Toss the cabbage with the salt and leave in a colander to wilt a bit while you get everything ready- 10-15 min.
  • Mince the shallot and garlic quite small.
  • To toast the sesame seeds, I just heated them in a pan on the stove over a medium-high flame until they browned a bit and started smelling a little nutty.
  • Rinse and squeeze the cabbage out
  • Mix all ingredients (other than wrappers, duh) together in a small bowl. You can use all sesame oil instead of the chili if you don’t like spice.
  • Fill the wontons: moisten any area of the wrapper you want to stick together and pinch well to seal. I made pyramid and purse-shaped dumplings but the POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS!
  • I steamed the dumplings; you can also boil, pan-fry or deep fry. Steaming leaves the wrappers a bit chewy, which I liked.
  • To steam, fill a pot with water to just below a steamer basket. Grease the steamer basket and bring the water to a simmer. Place the dumplings in the steamer at least 1/2″ apart, cover, and turn the burner to high. Steam for 5 minutes.

Dumplings and wonton wrappers, pre-steaming

They were pretty delish, if I do say so.

A ladylike evening.

Tonight Sara and I hung out again. I feel that it is necessary at this point to clarify that Sara and I don’t live together, nor are we dating, and yet we hang out ALL THE TIME. So basically I guess that means we’re friends or something. Like SUPER -FRIENDS! Hay girl!

Anyway, tonight we decided to prepare a delectable, no-cook summer dinner: tea sandwiches!

Ingredients, ASSEMBLE!

  • granny smith apple
  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • Smoked deli turkey
  • hummus
  • garlic and herb cheese spread
  • Dijon mustard
  • Nutella
  • avocado
  • scallions
  • cucumber
  • mixed greens
  • very thin-sliced whole wheat bread

Recipe:

  • Go nuts!
  • Spread something on the bread- hummus, cheese, mustard- to make it a bit moist, and try lots of different combos
  • Arrange veggies/fruits/cheese/meat artfully
  • Cut into fancy shapes as desired
  • Nom with your pinky out

From the top: cucumber/apple/cheese spread, scallion/mixed greens/cheese spread, cheddar/apple/ cheese, apple/cucumber/cheese, avocado/turkey/mustard, Nutella/apple.

Others not pictured.

We may have gone a little overboard. As in, there is nearly a plate full of sandwiches left in my fridge.

And then we played on my new Wii (an early birthday present from myself to myself). As it turns out, two-player New Super Mario Bros. is highly distracting. On the other hand, team Sasa-Wendy is fucking boss on Wii Tennis.

Tea in Providence

I go to a weekly Stitch and Bitch on Wednesdays. It’s a nice place to hang out with actual, non-college-age humans, knit, crochet, or spin, and enjoy a cool beverage. I’ve met some very awesome people at the S’n’B. We usually meet up at Malachi’s on Ives street, but this week we switched it up and went here instead:

It is not, in fact, in Sahara but rather in Fox Point.

Tea in Sahara is a Moroccan-themed café. They also sell a number of products (housewares, clothing, jewelry) imported from Morocco, and they have hookah, but I haven’t actually seen anyone partake while I’ve been there. I tried the zaalouk and the iced mint tea. I really enjoyed the tea- very refreshing, if a little sweet, and overall perfect for summer. The zaalouk, an eggplant-tomato dish served with pita for dipping, was tasty but nothing to write home about. I’ve heard good things about the hummus and the taktouka, a tomato and green pepper salad.

Tea in Sahara is located at Governor and John.

I got some work done on my sweater, though I’m still not done with the back panel.

In other news, I found this compendium of horrifying situations: MFIF, or “My fault, I’m female:” stories of how people can be super-assholes to you simply due to gender. I don’t know why I read things like this, it probably says something about my subconscious. Either way- read if you desire some righteous indignation, or especially if you think you might tend towards sexism without being entirely aware of it.

In that vein, I’ve been reading a book called Silent Racism by Barbara Trepagnier, which deals with the issues of racism among people who identify as “not racist.” She proposes a shift from the idea of a dualistic racist/not-racist approach to thoughts and acts, but rather a continuum between more and less racist. She also discusses racism inherent in institutions, a topic that has interested me since I first researched the death penalty for high school debate.

Her research practices are not entirely to my liking- the book is based on a series of discussions held by small focus groups of white women. This was done in order to facilitate open communication. However, I would have liked to see a larger sample. Either way, so far I find that the book has been useful in helping me address ways in which I can shift myself from the “not-racist” to the “less-racist” mindset.

An example: take a situation in which a peer has just told a racist joke. According to Trepagnier, a “not-racist” person would simply not laugh at the joke. However, the correct response in this situation is in fact to call out the person’s racism; by not doing so, one gives implicit approval. It can be difficult to call out a person on their prejudices, but Trepagnier assures the reader that it becomes easier with practice. Please try to call out prejudice of any kind, wherever you see it.

Wickenden Street…

…truly a garden of earthly delights (only the middle panel, though).

Places I went to today in order to not be in my un-air-conditioned apartment:

Home of the previously mentioned lavender-honey cupcake.

I highly recommend the Duck and Bunny. It’s so cute you could puke, plus there are delicious foods. To be honest, I like the lunch/dinner fare more than the pastry, but that could just be my tendency towards savory foods over sweet. I once sampled an onion tart that was sharing space with the cupcakes and it was heavenly. I find the cupcakes extremely flavorful, although the cake itself can be a bit dry at times.

Wink nudge.

This shop often contains a cuddly English Bulldog. Today it did not; however it did contain Ducky, former barista at Reflections, the coffee shop I frequented until it closed last year. When places I like close it makes me happy to see that the people who worked there are still gainfully employed.

I will trade you this $2.50 for that cup of coffee. Good exchange, no?

Coffee Exchange reminds me of my awesome former roommate Erika (sup Erika!) because she basically lived here for the summer we lived together. Coffee Exchange has all kinds of Fair Trade beans and is always packed, probably due to copious power outlets, air conditioning, and propensity to play Anthology 3.  I’m into it.

Coffee Exchange would also like to inform you:

Snerk.

P.S.: black beans, day two. Honestly, they don’t taste significantly different from yesterday. Still delicious. I shall keep you updated.

A Cuban feast!

I like to check out cookbooks from the library. Public libraries in general have a shit-ton of cookbooks, and the Providence Main Library must have two or three rows of shelves full.

A recent find:

The author, like me, lived in South Florida but is not Cuban herself. She is, however, a restaurant critic so I trusted that the cookbook would be decent. And decent it is!

I decided to make myself a full dinner: Vaca frita, tostones, and black beans and rice.

I’d never made black beans from scratch, only from a can, and usually just got “black bean soup” rather than flavoring the beans myself.

The reason for this is that black beans from scratch take for-fucking-ever. It’s not difficult, and they do taste a great deal better than black bean soup from a can, but goddamn.

Black Beans, recipe adapted from two sources in Cuba Cocina

Simmer those beans!

  • Soak 1 2/3 cups black beans overnight with a green pepper.
  • Toss the green pepper. Dump beans and water in a pot and simmer for two hours.
  • While simmering, chop up 1 large or 2 medium white onions. Take frequent breaks to cry like a bitch and blow your nose because your kitchen is poorly ventilated.
  • Anyway. Chop the onion(s) finely, and mince 2-7 cloves of garlic. Recipes said 2 and 5, but I love garlic more than most people love their own children, so I used 7.
  • Sauté the onions and garlic until tender.
  • When beans are also tender, dump in onion and garlic mixture, 1 tsp each cumin, oregano, sugar, and salt, and 2 bay leaves. Add in a chunk of bacon, salt pork, or ham if you’ve got it.
  • Simmer another 15 minutes. Add in 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro or to taste.

The original recipe specifically forbade me to eat these beans on the same day I cooked them, as the flavors blend better over time. Fuck that, they’re delicious. I will report back on the increased deliciousness of the leftovers.

Rice

If you can’t follow directions on the package of rice, there is no hope for you. Just cook some rice.

Tostones, from Cuba Cocina

Shining and golden, a beacon of hope and deliciousness

Tostones are surprisingly easy to make, and now that I know this, I’ll definitely be making them more often.

  • Peel two green plantains. This is not like peeling a banana. Cut the ends off, cut the plantain in half lengthwise, then use a paring knife to take the peel off in strips.
  • Cut the plantains into slices on the diagonal, about 1/2-3/4 inch thick
  • Fry in vegetable oil until light-gold (see above)
  • Once cool, pat on paper towels or newspaper. Then take each piece and smush it between two paper towels into a patty.
  • Fry once more, lightly. Pat again on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and maybe some lime juice

Vaca frita, from Cuba Cocina

I love brisket (the Jewish version- surrounded with a sauce and cooked on a low oven for hours) so it’s not surprising that I like this recipe as well. You can use either brisket or flank steak. I used flank because it was free range and mad cheap at Price Rite. Who knew?

Prepare to salivate. I wish I could show you the taste instead of the appearance.

  • Last night, I thinly sliced 2 onions and 5 cloves of garlic (recipe said 3, do you sense a pattern?)
  • I sautéed them in olive oil, then added 2 lbs of steak, and 1/2 cup each lemon and lime juice, and some salt and pepper, then flipped the steaks around to coat
  • Since I don’t have a dutch oven (woe is me), I could not properly braise by tossing it in the oven, so I let it simmer on the stove for 2 hours instead.
  • After the meat cools, shred it with your fingers and mix it back up with the lemon and lime and garlic and onion mixture. Marinate overnight.
  • Today, all I did was squeeze out the marinade, then heat some olive oil, flavor said olive oil by toasting and then discarding a clove of garlic, and stir-fry the meat for a few minutes.

Then plate with a cilantro garnish and lime wedge. I like to squeeze lime over everything and add a dash of tabasco sauce to the beans.

That’s some professional shit right there.

Work, and a preview

I’ve been working at the same job for about two and a half years, which is pretty long for a college student. I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, and I’ve certainly become a competent Lab Technician over time.

What I do is sit here:

With a bunch of tiny vials of this:

Which I move around into other vials with these micropipettes:

Then I put the whole shebang into this machine:

Which is a thermal cycler and costs more than the car I drove in high school. The machine heats and cools and heats again, and eventually I get lots of DNA where there was just a tiny bit to start with. Then I run the samples through a gel full of the mutagenic chemical I mentioned a few posts ago, and then I can see which genes the sample contains.

This process is called PCR, and it’s also used for paternity testing and forensic DNA analysis, as evidenced by this delightful song, advertising the cycler above:

Note: it is someone’s job to make up songs about lab equipment.

So that’s that.

“Where’s the preview?” you ask? Oh yes:

Is… is that black beans soaking with a green pepper?

And some flank steak braising on the stove?

I do believe it is. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for the full spread- this is a meal with a 2-day prep period. Get excited.