Life of Megan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wegmans gets even better

Everyone who has been to the Wegmans in Ithaca knows how fantastic it is.

For a while, we were concerned. They were reorganizing the store again. In the last move, they made the foreign foods section bigger. Recently, they were moving all the Italian stuff and a few other things around. We were miffed. We'd just gotten used to the new layout.

Well, the changes were for the good.

We now have four dedicated aisles of high-quality beers. It is a thing of wonder and glory.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

We have glasses! (Updated)

When my parents visited us back in June, we made them dinner. Everything was lovely, except that we had to serve them drinks in a weird hodgepodge of glasses. The only glasses we received for our wedding were wine glasses. And while the wine glasses that we had chosen were gorgeous, their long stems made them very susceptible to breakage. We started with a set of four, and we have broken three of them. I have a slip somewhere to replace broken glasses at a reduced rate, but given our (okay, my) clutziness, I'm not sure it'd be a wise investment. I think that to have a homogeneous group of wine glasses, I'll have to buy some simple, heavy ones.

Anyhow, when we helped clear out Judson's grandmother's house, we were able to take our pick of her collection of glasses. We took almost all of them. We now have a set of six highballs, eleven 8-oz juice glasses, six nice beer glasses, four old-fashioneds, and a vast collection of various cocktail glasses.

Update! We found a whole box of glasses that we had forgotten about and gained an extra 12 tall glasses and 12 short glasses!

We previously had mugs and a very nice set of eight Waterford "claret" glasses, but while they are very pretty, they are unfortunately not ideal for wine.

So if you come to our house now, you will be served in matching glasses. Unless we have more than 12 people.

Our glasses neatly filed away in our Butler's Pantry.

And the cocktail glasses we don't quite know what to do with.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Some of you may be visiting us for dinner sometime this year. If the thought of eating steak named after the protagonist in a children's book is even slightly upsetting to you, you may want to skip this post.

As I mentioned in my last post, Judson and I purchased 1/6 of a cow. We ended up with about 75 lb of meat in the form of steaks (you ought to see these porterhouses--I think we'll have to have a dinner party to get them consumed), roasts, and ground beef. It ended up costing us $4/lb.

Our cow grew up in nearby Groton, NY, at a local farm. That's only about 17 miles from us. That is close enough to make Ed Begley, Jr. jealous. Seeing as how, according to the Simpsons, Ed's car is powered by his own sense of self-satisfaction, that's saying something.

Anyhow, because our cow grew up just down the road, and because we have quite a bit of him to eat, I feel like he deserves a bit more respect than your average meat. I mean, we looked at houses in Groton--maybe I saw him as a very young calf!

So I have decided to name him. Ferdinand. I sincerely hope that he enjoyed just sitting in the fields and smelling the flowers. Especially since we will be rewarded for his laziness in the form of more delicious meat.

I will write about said delicious meat as soon as we actually eat it. But this weekend, we're picking up some pork products from the guys at The Piggery, and since it's all fresh (not frozen), we will be eating that first. Wilbur? Babe? You pick.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quick Update

I've been very busy in the last few days. I haven't figured out what I feel like writing about, so I thought I'd do a quick rundown and make up my mind later.
  • I made sour cherry jam using only sour cherries, sugar, and a lemon. I did this because sour cherry jam seemed healthier than sour cherry pie, and I was inspired by an article in the Amateur Gourmet. It actually jelled, and it's tasty!
  • I went down to Lewisburg and helped Judson's family clear out his grandmother's house. This was a little sad and a lot of hard work. We did come away with a lot of cool furniture and silver pieces, etc.
  • I ate moules portugaises, which Judson cooked for dinner tonight and which were delicious. Incidentally, mussels only cost like $2.50/lb and cook in like 5-8 minutes.
  • Our dryer broke, and then was fixed. It turns out that the glowplug was at fault.
  • We bought a 7.2 cu-ft chest freezer.
Right around now, if you haven't left home to buy mussels, you should be wondering why in the world Judson and I would need or want a chest freezer.

Tomorrow, Judson is bringing home 1/6 of a cow, conveniently cut into roasts and steaks and ground into, well, ground beef. Some people in his office wanted to buy a half a cow, but they needed some others to help divide up the meat (newsflash: cows are big!)... So we went in for 1/3 of the half. The meat is from a local farmer/rancher. The steer had a good life and ate good food as part of a small establishment, and then it was butchered locally, and dry-aged for a while, and then frozen. It will be delicious. Yum. And the price is very nice, even after you factor in the cost of a brand new chest freezer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beets: The Verdict (Plus Dinner Tonight)

Beets are, in fact, good eats!

For dinner tonight, I made pork chops with a mustard-tarragon sauce, sauteed swiss chard and beet leaves with garlic, and roasted beets. Everything turned out really well, and I think all the flavors worked together.

When we first bought the beets, we cut the leaves off about an inch from the beets so that the chard wouldn't continue to steal the beets' precious sugar.

With tonight's dinner, I started by preheating the oven to 450 F. I cleaned the beets and wrapped each beet in aluminum foil. Then I put them on a cookie sheet and stuck them in the oven.

About 45 minutes later, I started working on the prep. I cut the stems out of the greens and then put them in my salad spinner and filled the spinner with water. I gave them a good swish and let them sit so that the sand and silt would filter to the bottom of the bowl. I crushed two cloves of garlic for the pork and crushed and chopped two more cloves for the greens. I chopped a small handful of tarragon. I quartered and peeled an onion.

Then I added about 2 tsp. of olive oil to a large skillet and heated it over medium-high heat. I added the chopped garlic. I quickly drained and spun my greens. Then I added them to the skillet with the garlic. I seasoned the greens with a pinch of salt. I reduced the heat to medium-low once the greens started to wilt.

After reducing the heat, I put a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat and added about 2 tsp. of olive oil. Then, as the oil heated, I quickly seasoned my chops with salt and pepper. I added the chops to the cast-iron skillet and browned each side for 1-2 minutes. Then, I turned the heat down to low, put about 1.5 tsp of butter on top of each chop, and scattered the onion and crushed garlic around the chops. I covered the dish and let the chops finish cooking.

Throughout all this, I stirred my greens. Once I covered the chops, I removed the beets from the oven and tested to make sure the beets were done by piercing one with a toothpick (going right through the foil--it went in without much resistance, so I knew the beets were done). I let them cool down on a clean cutting board.

I poked the chops and discovered they were done (at 140 F). I removed the chops to a plate and covered them with a clean towel (normally, I'd use foil, but I ran out with the beets). I deglazed the pork chop pan with some wine (maybe 1/4 cup?), added the tarragon, and then a big tablespoonful of mustard. I whisked (okay, Judson did the whisking so that I could peel the beets) the sauce together. I peeled the beets using an old, clean kitchen towel. I sliced them as evenly as I could considering their super-high temperature. I put them in a bowl and tossed them with a sprinking of kosher salt and about a teaspoon of olive oil.

And then Judson and I assembled the plates and ate! Huzzah!

I suppose over all, there was quite a bit of oil and fat, but sometimes, you just have to make your vegetables taste good. And they did! The beets were delicious, despite their reputation and their somewhat scary aroma.

Beets - A Prologue

Tonight, I will be cooking beets for the first time ever and eating them for the first time in 12-15 years.
  • I will be roasting them, whole, wrapped in aluminum foil. I will then peel them and most likely dress them with some yet-to-be-determined vinaigrette.
  • We'll also eat the greens, which are just chard (and which are known by me to be tasty).
  • I'm also serving pork chops.
Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chemex - A Coffee Maker for the Geeky

A couple of weeks ago, my trusty coffee maker, a Black and Decker I got just before my freshman year in college, kicked the bucket. Judson's (which was a similar age) had broken a couple of months before that. So we spent a couple of weeks making the occasional pot with the French Press and drinking the coffee we have available at work while researching replacements.

Eventually, we opted on the Chemex, a coffee maker that appears to be a favorite of coffee geeks everywhere.

Behold, the Chemex:

Yes, it looks like it's from the 70s, but the Chemex is much older. It was invented in 1941. The Chemex website has a nice write-up of the development of the Chemex device.

So why would we be so excited about an hourglass-shaped glass vessel with a weird wooden handle that requires special filters?

Because the coffee it brews is awesome.

It's a labor-intensive process, to be sure. Boil water. Wait for it to cool down a bit. Pour in just enough to wet the grounds, but not enough to let them float. Slowly add water and wait for it to transform into coffee over the course of the next five minutes or so. Discard filter. Profit. Basically, it's a manual, unheated version of the standard automatic drip filter.

But this is no ordinary coffee maker! It was developed by a chemist. The Chemex is a favorite of coffee geeks and baristas everywhere (just ask or the sites of your favorite baristas). It has won numerous design awards. It is in the permanent collections at MoMA and at the Corning Museum of Glass.

So if you're patient (it really doesn't take much longer than any other coffee maker, but you have to do more babysitting) and are in the market for a new coffee maker, keep the Chemex in mind. It'll give you the best coffee you've ever tasted for a $35 (or less) device.

On a related note, I found a very entertaining web site about coffee here: A Trip Inside Your Coffee Pot.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Farfalle with Summer Squash and Lemon

I'm trying to do more cooking without recipes. The theory is that I know how to cook, and I know what tastes good together, so I should be able to figure it out. Tonight's experiment: a summery pasta dish, still served hot.

Note: I had some cannellini (small white) beans that I meant to add to this, but I forgot them. Judson and I think they'd fit in just fine.

  • Juice and zest of one lemon
  • 2 summer squashes (e.g. zucchini), cut into sticks
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz prosciutto, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 8 oz farfalle or other pasta
  1. While you prep the veggies, bring a big pot of salted water to boil. You want to add enough salt so that the water tastes like sea water.
  2. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When the butter is foamy, add the summer squash, and cook until done (if you're not sure, just taste it!). Remove the squash to a medium bowl using a slotted spoon. By now, your water should DEFINITELY be boiling. Add the pasta to the pot.
  3. Add the olive oil to the skillet. Cook the onions until slightly caramelized. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and cook until you can smell the garlic, and it has turned an almond color. Put the onions and garlic in the bowl with the squash.
  4. Add the prosciutto and cook until crispy. Add it to your veggie bowl.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Reduce the wine by approximately half. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Add the veggies and prosciutto. Add the scallions. Season with a little salt and a lot of pepper. The time it takes to cook the onions, garlic, and prosciutto should be less than the cooking time of the pasta.
  6. Test the pasta. When it is just a little too hard to cook (about a minute before you think it'll be ready to serve), drain it, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking liquid, just in case. Add the pasta to the skillet. Toss well and finish cooking, about 1 minute. If you don't have enough liquid to cover all the pasta, add some of the cooking liquid. Serve!
Serves 2-4, depending on hunger levels. I ate about 1/3 of it; Judson ate the rest.

Sorry that I'm a noob and didn't take a picture.

FYI, I used some sort of yellow squash.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

It's Official!

Yesterday, my MS diploma arrived. It's all official, and it came in a neat Cornell envelope. I can already feel the bitterness subsiding.

Monday, July 07, 2008

My First Real Vacation

Judson and I just got back from our first real vacation. Our honeymoon didn't count. That's not a vacation, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event. Also, when we got back from our honeymoon, we both had to return to our lives as graduate students, which sucked.

This time, we got to go back to REAL jobs that we actually like.

The Setting: Martha's Vineyard. There's a long and somewhat complicated story here, but the end result is that Judson's aunt Dianne owns a guest house (designed to look and feel kind of like a refurbished barn) there, and she leaves time for Judson's family to come stay during the summer.

Activities: Reading, cycling, bike riding, cooking, sitting on the beach, hiking.

We brought along our bicycles. It turns out that you can fit two adult bicycles in the back seat of a Pontiac Grand Am if you take off their wheels. We also brought a small collection of kitchen/cooking essentials (not realizing, unfortunately, that we should have brought along our knives), plus all the normal vacation clothes, books, etc.

While we were on the Island, I managed to read:
  • Lolita by Victor Nabokov (actually, I was more than halfway through when we left, but it's a dense book).
  • Deliverance by James Dickey
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (I had read this one before but thought it was time for a re-read
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Of these, the best book was Lolita, whereas the best beach read was Deliverance.

One of the best things about being on the Island was the proximity to fresh seafood. We had a great time cooking and experimenting with fish, something we don't get to do often since we live so far from the coast. We made three fish dinners.

The first day, we were a bit inexperienced and ended up with red snapper. All of the fish markets had snapper, but I'm not convinced that it was actually local. At any rate, we sauteed it in butter with shallots and then made a pan sauce using white wine and a little more butter. We served it with local asparagus and some crusty French bread. It was all right, but asparagus was definitely the wrong choice for the fish. The snapper itself was good, especially toward the tail end.

We later cooked swordfish with a fresh salsa and bacon. We lightly seared the swordfish, then covered it with bacon and surrounded it with a homemade salsa. Then we cooked it in the oven at about 350 F until it was done (no longer translucent, nice and moist). We served it with a hot corn salad consisting of corn, onions, red peppers, jalapenos, cumin, salt, and pepper.

We also made goujonettes, small strips of fish (we used gray sole) lightly floured and fried. We served that with a salad. It was delicious.

So I've written all I care to write for now. I hope to eventually figure out how to make this more interesting.