And other adventures.

A day on the coast

Friends! I have been doing a whole lot of living since the last time I was here. I can’t believe my last post was nearly two months ago. So much has happened since then, and things were REAL crazy for a few weeks there. I’ve finally settled into summer, and I am so digging it. Last week I stayed home—you guys remember that my office is 1.5 hours from home, so I’m not home during the week? It’s gross—and Kevin and I ate breakfast and dinner on our back patio every day. Last weekend we went hiking one day and surfing the next. It was so great to spend some time with him. He’s the best.

Gotta ogle the guy.

When I wasn’t ogling my husband, I was watching flowers to see what kinds of bees are around our house. I am SO freaking into the bees, you guys. Kevin brought his macro lens home from the lab, and I have been using it to take photos of bees whenever I can. I can’t stop looking at them.

We’re both so busy with work and so into our work lately that food is becoming an afterthought. And…that’s been totally okay.

Bees!

I started this blog during my second year of my Master’s program. I was disenchanted with everything except the guy back then. My research was meaningless, my advisor or my department didn’t give a shit about what I was doing, my social life was a constant struggle…things were pretty terrible. I think it was a fairly typical post-undergraduate experience. And this was my outlet.

But now I’m doing something I am passionate about. I’m working with people who are invested in my work, and if they’re not directly involved, they’re at least interested in what I’m doing. And I’ve accepted the fact that being a PhD student pretty much eliminates any chance at a social life, especially when you live 1.5 hours from work. Thank goodness for my closest friends back home, the internet, and texting. I’m happy. I’m spending more time in the world around me instead of the world at my computer, and I am enjoying the hell out of it.

So where does that leave the blog? I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Switching it up seems to be going around. I’ve become friends with some really great people through blogging, and I don’t want to let those friendships slide. I’ve put some serious thought into expanding the scope of the blog, to make it about more than food. To tell you about my job and other adventures the way Emma does. To make it an unfoodblog. Maybe I’ll do that. Maybe. We’ll see.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Make me, now.

On the menu: Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner. Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner. Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner. Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner.

You know when you’re swimming in a sea of images, tweets, tasks, feelings, and are just generally overwhelmed and overstimulated, and then you see something that just stops you in your tracks?

This is that.

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I think the first time I saw this recipe was as a pin. And I was immediately all “Oh my gosh, I WANT THAT.” Since I follow Bon Appetit on multiple social media platforms and am a fairly new subscriber to the magazine, this recipe proceeded to show up in all aspects of my exposure to culinary inspiration. I was bombarded with it. “Make me, now!,” it said. Which was excellent, because there’s been very little lately that’s made me want to drop everything and get into the kitchen, but also annoying, because I was finishing up my dissertation proposal and then catching up on all the crap I neglected while I was wrapping up my proposal. But I’m over one big hump in my PhD program, which is relieving. Oh, and Kevin passed his comps! So before we get serious about switching places (as in I gotta take my comps this fall and he has to write his dissertation proposal), we had to celebrate. Well, we both have to get through summer field seasons before we switch places, but it’s on the horizon and is something we discuss regularly. No rest for the weary, they say.

We were celebrating a little lull. I was avoiding a final project for a class. I finally just dropped everything, got my ass into the kitchen, and made this recipe. It had been running through my mind for weeks.

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I am so glad I did. This meal, with its oranges and greens, its understated flavors, and its lack of starches, screams spring. By understated, I don’t mean it wasn’t flavorful. It was full of flavor, but those flavors weren’t in your face. Everything was complementary, but also contradictory. It was hearty yet light. It was savory yet sweet. I’m probably not making any sense. I’m still reeling from the fact that I answered a question at my proposal presentation using the (non)word “muchly.” Words and I, we’re having a tough time lately.

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner. Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner.

My only switch here was to nix the pine nuts in the romesco and replace them with walnuts, which probably upped the sweetness factor in this version. I was glad for that, though: carrots and walnuts pair so well, and it was great to give them a savory application. The garlic and Aleppo (Oh, man, the Aleppo was the best part!) upped the savory factor and really held the romesco up against the bold watercress and the pork, which was seared to produce an umami-rich crust, then roasted to hold in those precious porcine juices. Pork tenderloins are my favorite: cheap and easy to cook right. And with these accompaniments, it made a great meal.

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Pork Tenderloin with Carrot Romesco
adapted from Bon Appetit

¼ cup walnuts
1 pound small carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if larger
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pork tenderloin, about 1½ lb.
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1 teapoon Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
2 cups watercress

Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until sizzling and golden brown, 8–10 minutes; set aside in a bowl to cool

Increase temperature to 450°. Toss carrots with 1 Tbsp. oil on the rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and black pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until softened and browned, 15–20 minutes; let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and black pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork until a thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 145°, 8–10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Combine walnuts, garlic, and remaining 3 Tbsp. oil in a food processor and pulse to a coarse paste. Add Aleppo pepper, one-fourth of carrots, 1 Tbsp. vinegar, and 1 Tbsp. water. Process, adding more water if needed, to a coarse purée. Season romesco with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss greens with remaining carrots and remaining 1 Tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl; season with salt and black pepper. Serve pork with romesco and salad.

Posted in Dinner, Meat, Pork, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Ulterior motives.

On the menu: Berry Thyme Crumble Pie

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Kevin took his written comprehensive exams early last week. I made him this pie the weekend prior to get him through the last few days of studying for the biggest test of his life.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Naturally, I had ulterior motives: I was really craving berries. Kevin’s mom makes this killer blackberry pie that I dream about. Being budget conscious, I used half raspberries and half blackberries. Frozen berries, since it’s not their season. And there were a few stray sprigs of thyme in the fridge awaiting their fate, so in they went.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Something about these flavors felt appropriate. The deep, sturdy bitterness of the blackberries was brightened with sweet, soft raspberries and grounded with earthy, lemony thyme. It seemed a metaphor for this long ass winter, hopes of summer, and (maybe even?!) signs of spring.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

To appease the brain-drained guy, I topped the pie with a crumble. Crumble pies are Kevin’s favorite. They save me from having to execute the lattice or demonstrating my impatience with pale top crusts. Crumbles allow all kinds of customization, too; they’re easy to tweak to whatever nuts/spices/dried fruit/herbs you may have on hand.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

The pie tasted like all the feelings of late. I want it to warm up so the bees come out. I want the berries to bloom. I want to see if the thyme plant we left in the ground all winter will come back to life. We’ve had a taste of the warmth this week, and I want to hope it’s here to stay.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie
cobbled together from the Joy of Cooking, Bon Appetit, and My Kitchen in the Rockies

yield: 1 9-inch pie
prep time: 30 minutes
cook time: 65 minutes

One single pie crust (I switched it up from my usual and used half of Hoosier Mama’s All Butter Pie Dough recipe)

For the crumble topping:
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1/3 cup (5 1/2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

For the pie:
2 cups frozen blackberries (one 10 oz package)
2 1/2 cups frozen raspberries (one 12 oz package)
1 1/4 cup sugar, separated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced into 1/4 inch cubes

Preheat oven to 400°F. Prepare the thyme sugar: add thyme leaves to 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl and rub with your fingers to release the oils. Set aside.

Roll out pie dough and place in a 9 inch pie plate. Style edge of crust as you see fit and place in the freezer.

Prepare crumble topping: melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat and let cool slightly. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl and add butter. Mix with your fingers to moisten. Set aside.

Prepare filling: Stir berries, sugar, thyme sugar, and tapioca together in a large bowl. Remove pie crust from freezer and add filling, dotting with the cubes of butter.

Top pie with crumble and bake for 30-40 minutes, watching for the crumble topping to get pretty brown. Reduce heat to 375°F and tent the top of the pie (not the edge of the crust, you still want that to color) and continue to bake for 20-25 until the juices are really bubbling and the crust is well browned.

Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner. Berry Thyme Crumble Pie ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Dessert, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Really gotten into this.

On the menu: Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I feel that I may have misrepresented myself the last time I wrote. Yes, things are cray right now. But they’re also really good. I published my last post after writing a few iterations that I couldn’t stand. I was frustrated and out of words. I’d like to try again.

During the first three semesters of my PhD program, I was constantly looking for other professional opportunities. I never wanted my PhD. I knew early in my college career that I was going to need a Master’s, and I knew then that there would be no more school after that. I mean, seriously. I can’t throw down with the big guys. I’m just little old me, with a simple mind and simple wants. I want to work. I want to have a family. I want to watch shitty TV every night and not feel bad about not doing homework or reading the latest research papers.  I don’t want to push the limits of my brain to their maximum, and then keep pushing.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Last fall I applied for my dream job. I wanted so badly to quit school before it was too late and start doing something every day I was truly passionate about. The opportunity was perfect. It was near the town we moved to last May, so my weeks on someone else’s couch would come to an end. I had an in: I had worked for them before. They knew me. But my professional experience was too limited, and in the end I was passed over. It was a soul-crushing blow. I spent the rest of the semester wallowing in my failures and dreading the challenges ahead.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Well, those challenges are upon me. 2014 will be the year I present my dissertation proposal and take my qualifying comprehensive exams. And I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but somehow I’ve really gotten into this being a doctoral student thing. My thoughts have drifted from “What am I going to cook for the blog this week?” to “How much programming can I finish before dinner?” It’s absurd. I think a lot about my professional identity; how to market myself as a future person with a PhD, what my career opportunities might be, and most importantly, what I should be doing now to get there.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I’ve been making serious effort to improve my biggest weaknesses: productivity, time management, and casual discussion of my work. The improvements I’ve made in just 8 weeks are nothing short of remarkable. It’s not all been great: I’m still recovering from making a complete dumbass of myself to some really important people a few weeks ago. But it’s a learning process, and holy shit, I’m learning. Some days I read so much I swear I can feel my brain expanding to fit all that new information in. Yes, there are still those frustrating moments where I can’t remember things, but all in all, I’m totally thrilled with what I’m doing. So I’m just going to keep on doing it.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Thai Chicken Curry with Potatoes
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, March-April 2014

For the curry paste:
6 dried New Mexican chiles
4 shallots, unpeeled
7 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup water
4 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
4 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

For the curry:
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Jasmine rice, for serving

For the curry paste:

Heat oven to 350ºF. Place chiles on a baking sheet and roast until puffed and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer chiles to a plate and let cool.

Preheat the broiler. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil and arrange unpeeled shallots and garlic on it. Broil on the middle oven rack for 8 minutes until charred and softened.

When cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds from the chiles and tear into medium sized pieces. Grind in a blender or food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute. Peel shallots and garlic and add to the food processor along with all remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, about 2 minutes.

For the curry:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the curry paste (freeze leftovers for later use) and cook, stirring constantly, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, coconut milk, potatoes, onion, and salt, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender, 15 minutes.

Stir in chicken and continue to simmer until chicken is cooked through, 12 more minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in lime zest. Serve with cilantro and jasmine rice.

 

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Meat, Potatoes | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Let me show you.

On the menu: Salty Dog and Candied Grapefruit Peels

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

You don’t want me to say much right now.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner. Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I’m brooding. I’m in this phase of serious self-discovery, pushing my limits, setting goals, and trying to figure out what it’s all going to come to. I’m asking all these ridiculous existential questions. You know, what’s the point? Why does any of this matter? Who am I? I feel like a child.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Didn’t this happen half my life ago? Adolescence was a bitch. And yet, here I am, going through it all over again. I’ve been rebelling against my advisors ideas of what I’m going to do with my dissertation, trying to figure out what I’m going to do more independently. I want to be more sure of myself as a scientist. I’m basically a freaking teenager these days. So I think it’s best for all of us if I keep my mouth shut.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

But I’m eating (And drinking. I can do that this time around.) a lot of grapefruit. Let me show you.

Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner. Candied Grapefruit Peel ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Salty Dog
adapted from The Best Remedy

1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 ounces gin

Place the salt on a small plate. Run the rim of a coupe glass along the cut flesh of a grapefruit, then dip it in salt to coat and set aside.

Mix grapefruit juice and gin in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds until very cold. Strain into coupe glass and serve.

Salty Dog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Candied Grapefruit Peels
adapted from Jacques Torres via Food Network

I only dipped a third of the peels I made in chocolate, so scale up the amount of chocolate if you want all the peels dipped. I would highly recommend that you do that.

2 grapefruits
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided into 1 1/4 and 1/2 cup portions
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Carefully cut the peel in roughly 2 inch sections from the grapefruit and avoid cutting a lot of white pith along with the peel. Cut sections of peel into 1/2 inch wide strips.

Place sliced peels in a small nonreactive saucepan and add cold water to cover the peels by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then drain the peels. Cover with fresh cold water and repeat this process three more times. This removes a lot of bitterness from the peels.

After the fourth boil, return the peels to the sauce pan and again add cold water to cover the peels by 1 inch. Add the 1 1/4 cups of sugar and bring to a simmer over medium low heat. Simmer for 2 hours. The peels will become soft and translucent.

Drain the peels and lay on a wire rack to remove excess syrup. Make sure to put something under the rack to catch the syrup! After three hours, the peels will be firm and tacky. Carefully toss the peels with the 1/2 cup sugar.

To coat with chocolate, melt the chocolate over a double boiler, then dip 1/2-3/4 of a peel into the melted chocolate. Let set on a wire rack. Finished peels will keep at room temperature for three days.

That’s not all. I’ve put grapefruit in salads, made curd with it, turned some of that curd into ice cream, and just plain old cut into the stuff straight up. I’m obsessed.

Posted in Dessert, Drinks, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments