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
- 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
- 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.
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.
This has simply been the summer of goat cheese.
I can pinpoint when I discovered how much I like goat cheese to a particular day in April. My college’s Spring Weekend, a time of great debauchery which in fact stretches from Tuesday-ish on through the end of the week, has as its main events two large concerts. My roommates and I didn’t get tickets to the MGMT concert on Friday, so instead we decided to have a classy-ass picnic made up of scavengings from our pantry, cheese, and a cheapish bottle of wine. Chevre was consumed, and I’ve never looked back.
Tree with weird vertical branches at Constance Witherby Park
In a similar vein, one of those VERY ROOMMATES and I just had a light picnic, at which was consumed a delicious organic hard cider, various fruits, and a heavenly lavender-and-honey infused goat cheese. I could eat it with a spoon. It tastes of joy.
There is a cupcake with very similar flavors at the Duck and Bunny, an extremely cute restaurant.
Sara here exemplifies the correct reaction to this cheese:
Sara would also like you to know, dear reader, that she is SOLVING A RUBIK’S CUBE.
I think I’ll kick things off with a food post.
I love food. I was raised to love food. Everyone in my family loves food (more on this later). It should come as no surprise that I am not a size four. I have come to terms with this- I could eat healthier or less, but whatevs. What I made for dinner tonight is pretty good for you, I think:
Recipe inspired by my friend Julie, who made a similar one.
- Preheat oven to 400. Cut an eggplant, a zucchini and a red pepper into thin slices and put on baking pan.
- Drizzle slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip over and do it again.
- Roast in oven until they look like they’re at peak deliciousness, flipping after 15 minutes. I think the zucchini took like 20-25 minutes and the rest 10 minutes more.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and crushed herbs of your choice. Top with dollops of goat cheese, serve with pasta or couscous or on yummy bread.
Not pictured: The fresh ear of sweet corn I ate while the veggies were roasting. SO GOOD. I forgot how great corn on the cob is. IT IS SO GOOD.
So about my family and food- we have the most joyous relationship with it when we’re not busy worrying about our weights. I’ll talk about different relatives as I post more about food, but here’s my momma:
My mother almost always cooked dinner for my sister and myself, and my Pop (stepdad) once he joined the family, usually pretty much from scratch. We always had balanced meals- a protein, grain, and vegetable- and they were generally delicious. We’d (or she’d) get bored of making the same dishes many times, and so we’d pull down the cookbooks and the recipe folder and go through post-it noting everything we wanted to try. I still love doing this with new cookbooks.
My mom also taught me to bake, and to bake well- when I was little we’d make brownies not from a boxed mix but straight from baking chocolate. My mom doesn’t bake that often now, but when she bakes, she bakes HARD! She’ll make 10 or 12 different batches of cookies around the winter holidays, then give them as gifts.
When I was in high school, I was encouraged, nay, forced, to cook dinner when my mom was feeling stressed out. I met this “request” with GREAT RESENTMENT and EMOTIONAL PAIN, for some reason. Hormones, I assume. Now? I fucking love cooking.