Archive for August, 2011

I’ve realized what has driven me to enjoy cooking and baking in the past few years, and it came as a little bit of a surprise: science. Although a lot of people get great satisfaction from successfully reproducing a recipe developed by someone else, I prefer stumbling my way onto something delicious by throwing together ingredients that I suspect complement each other.

I am aided in this exploration by sharing my experiments in the kitchen with someone who’s not afraid to eat something that only qualifies as “pretty good” or even “okay.” This means even my weaker efforts are still appreciated as supplying essential vitamins and minerals, and I can use such failed attempts as lessons learned without depriving anyone of nutrition.

I cannot do this at work. Science requires meticulousness and austere attention to detail. Science requires skipping lunch to do 20 five-minute washes in a row; waiting eight days for results; doing something until it works, even if you have to do it fifty times and the one time it works you followed exactly the same protocol as the previous thirty failed attempts; wearing long pants and close-toed shoes all summer; and keeping REALLY good notes regarding every single move you make in the lab. I find these things comforting about science, because that’s how I think science should work. And because when I’ve had to perform other people’s experiments, I’m glad they abided by the extremely-detailed-note-taking rule. But when I’m cooking… sometimes I just want to throw stuff together and see what happens. Wearing flip flops.

All of this explaining (read: stalling) has led me to present you with the following picture, preceded by an apology: I am sorry I am showing you these cookies. I cannot transmit smells over the internet, but even the morning after I baked them— well, you can imagine. The reason for my apology is simple: while I can tell you every ingredient contained within these little delights, I certainly cannot indicate, aside from butter and flour, the amount of any of them. If you are bold, daring, adventurous, or willing to accept the possibility of failure, you will delight in trying to recreate them. If you are a recipe follower, then you will never attempt to make these. Please forgive me.



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Gesundheit, you say, because you’re a polite and considerate person. But you don’t need to, because curtido is not a sneeze, but a light, refreshing slaw originally made in El Salvador. At least, that’s what my tamale lady says, and I never question Pilar.


1 small or medium head of cabbage
2 medium-sized carrots
3 scallions, diced

2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 C lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 C water
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp fresh-ground pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

I discovered curtido thanks to aforementioned tamale-and-papusa-making exemplar about three years ago, and even though it seemed simple enough, I never considered making it on my own until a dinner party I hosted last year. And there’s a good reason NOT to make it unless you’re having some kind of celebration or gathering: the recipe calls for a head of cabbage. Shredded. That’s a LOT of cabbage. A serving of this is probably about 1/2 a cup, so you’re looking at approximately a thousand servings. (more…)

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Smoothie Cheesecake

Cheesecake (find recipe here)
3-6oz not very acidic 100% fruit smoothie

I realize that I only posted my cheesecake recipe a couple weeks ago and you are probably bored of it and longing for something meaty or carb-y or otherwise interesting, but this… this was just too good. I feel I have (almost inadvertently) stumbled upon something that will change the lives of many of my friends, most of whom aren’t yet aware of the future landscape of their cheesecake-eating endeavors.

This adventure began when I realized it was my turn to bring a snack to my weekly meeting. I think I enjoy baking more than the standard colleague, so I usually try to bring something tasty that I make at home (plus, cheaper usually, although not necessarily in the case of cheesecake). But I also like to mix it up, because (1) mundane is, well, mundane, and (2) I get bored easily. So I experiment on people (sometimes, yes, without their knowledge) by giving them things that I have never made before and have not tested before sharing. There have been some pretty pathetic failures—I like my brownies a little undercooked, but there are limits—but there have also been some fantastic successes. One of which I am about to share with you because it’s REALLY easy and also refreshing and delicious. (more…)

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