Category Archives: Projects

2016 Cookery Project — Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

Sausage, Pinto Beans, and Kale

One of the first food blogs I followed, long before I got serious about actually seeing what I could do in a kitchen, was Adam Roberts’s “The Amateur Gourmet”.  He started posting in 2004, and for more than 10 years, he kept me entertained with stories of restaurant visits, notes on the larger foodie scene, details of his life and adventures, and, of course, recipes.  He’s moved on now.  About a year and a half ago, he got a job as a staff writer on the sitcom The Real O’Neals, married his long-time boyfriend, film director Craig Johnson, and stopped updating the blog.

It’s still online, though, and Roberts writes with a considerable amount of charm, so I occasionally go back and read his old posts.  That’s what I was doing when I came across his recipe for Chicken Sausage, White Beans, and Kale.

I’m using the word “recipe” loosely, because he doesn’t follow the usual format of first listing ingredients and quantities, then describing steps and durations.  Instead, he presents it as a narrative, and assumes the reader can fill in the blanks.  I couldn’t have done that when he posted the entry in 2014, but now, after gaining a lot of experience that comes from trial and error, I was able to breeze right through it.  Progress!

I read somewhere that to become truly proficient at something, you need to practice it for 2,000 hours.  I still have a lot of work to do.


2016 Cookery Project — Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Autumn Roasted Veggies with Apples and Pecans

Once again, I turned to Cooking Classy for a recipe, and was sold by the photography on the site.  I followed the instructions, and the results were quite good, but I made a lot of notes on changes I’ll make if when I cook this dish again.  The recipe, for instance, “serves four,” but resulted in enough food to serve eight.  Or 10.

The vegetables were brussels sprouts, red onion, and butternut squash*.  I’d never worked with butternut squash before, even though I’ve become addicted to  butternut squash soup lately, and I was surprised how difficult it was to cut and peel.  To this, I added two sliced apples: One Honey Crisp (sweet) and one Granny Smith (tart).  I spread the ingredients in a single layer on a baking sheet, and topped it all with melted  butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice.  I baked it for 40 minutes—I’ll reduce the time to 30 minutes when I make it again—tossing it once and adding pecans and  dried cranberries a few minutes before I took it out of the oven.

A happy result.  With that combination of colours—orange, green, brown, red—it looks like Autumn, doesn’t it?

*Isn’t butternut squash a fruit, rather than a vegetable?  I’m too lazy to look it up, but I think the seeds-inside = fruit law puts it in the same category as tomatoes and cherries.

2016 Cookery Project — Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Pan Gravy

Damn!  Aren’t they beautiful!  You can almost feel the crunch just by looking at them.

I got the recipe for these Buttermilk Fried Chicken Drumsticks (with Pan Gravy) from a new-to-me website called Life’s Ambrosia, which seems to have some connection with Bon Appetit and Epicurious.

The drumsticks were soaked overnight in a bath of buttermilk, onions, and garlic, then dredged in seasoned flour and fried in canola oil, and kept warm in the oven while I made the gravy.

I had two of the drumsticks for lunch today.  If I only eat two more for late night snacks, I might have one left for breakfast tomorrow, but they’re so good that I wouldn’t bet on any of them lasting the night.

2016 Cookery Project — Angel Hair Pasta with Tuna, Tomatoes, and Olives

Angel Hair Pasta with Tuna, Tomatoes, and Olives

Angel Hair Pasta with Tuna, Tomatoes, and Olives

This was easy, and the meal was perfect for a late summer lunch on the roof deck.  I used a recipe from Epicurious as a starting point, and went from there.

While I was cooking the Angel Hair pasta (aka Capellini), I halved some cherry tomatoes and tossed them in a bowl with some torn black olives, lot of chopped parsley, capers, olive oil, and two cans of Genova Yellowfin tuna.  When the pasta was al dente, I drained it, plated it,  added the other ingredients, and drizzled some fresh lemon juice over the top.  A couple of  twists of the pepper grinder and a scattering of Maldon sea salt flakes, and it was ready to eat.

Even though this meal didn’t require any skills greater than the ability to boil water, I felt good about it.  I’m really beginning to get to where I want to be with cooking, making tasty meals that are outside of my old comfort zone.  Little steps.

An aside:  What on earth happened to canned tuna?  I used to practically live on it, but I rarely buy it anymore.  When I do, it’s the upscale, more expensive kind, rather than the regular Bumblebee or Chicken of the Sea brands I used to get, because the quality of the mainstream brands seems to have nose-dived.  I remember when canned tuna had taste and texture, but the last few cans I bought were watery messes that looked like something I’d feed the cat.  If I had one.

15,000 Dominoes. You Know What Happens Next.

What is it that’s so fascinating about things like this?   I don’t know, but they’re sure fun to watch.

This one was built by Hevesh5, who describes herself as a professional Domino Artist.   (I didn’t know that was a thing, either.)  She designs and builds “intricate domino setups and chain reactions for your entertainment and for commercial projects.”

Building the triple spiral structure in the video took her 25 hours spread over eight days, and used 15,000 dominoes.   Even so, it’s not her biggest solo structure—one of her projects used 22,000 dominoes, and a group effort used 250,000.

She started building dominoes in 2009, after watching videos on YouTube, and posts new videos herself every Saturday at 1pm EST.

You’ve seen the fall of the dominoes .  Now watch them rise again:

2016 Cookery Project — Chicken, Leeks, and Spinach in a Creamy Wine Sauce

Chicken, Leeks, and Spinach in a Creamy Wine Sauce

Chicken, Leeks, and Spinach in a Creamy Wine Sauce

After spending most of August dining out, I’m back to home cooking.  Today’s lunch was Chicken, Leeks, and Spinach in a Creamy Wine Sauce, based on a recipe from the Nerds with Knives website, which features a lot of interesting suggestions.  I sliced some bread and toasted it under the broiler to go with the main.

As part of the 2016 Cookery Project, I always look for recipes that include an ingredient or a technique that I’ve never used before.  This is the first times I’ve used leeks in a dish.

Verdict:  Good, but not great.  I’m saving the recipe, but it won’t wind up in my Classics file.  Still, it was another thing learned.

2016 Cookery Project — Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad

Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad

Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad

Another good one today.  I made Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad, using a recipe from Matt and Emily Clifton’s Nerds with Knives website.

In the 90s, I got hooked on Vietnamese food.  For every burger-and-fries “American” meal I ate, I probably dined on Ga Kho Gung (Caramelized Chicken with Ginger) half a dozen times.  From there, it was a short step to Thai, which eventually replaced Vietnamese as my default quick casual restaurant choice.

I remember tasting cilantro for the first time.  It stunned me!  From its appearance, I’d thought it was mint, so the taste was unlike what I’d expected, and unlike anything I’d tasted before.

Today’s Spicy Thai Shrimp Salad was my first go at using a Thai flavour profile.  The ingredients included lime juice, lime zest, mint leaves, shallot, fish sauce, Sriracha, chopped peanuts, and, of course, cilantro.  And a pound of large shrimp.

I served it with a side of Jasmine rice.

Just a brief side note here.

This whole 2016 Cookery Project thing is giving me more joy than I’d ever expected.   I’m actually learning new skills, and making things that I’m proud of!  Things that taste good.  Things that I’d be happy to find in a restaurant.

It all ties in with the “be the person you want to become” mindset that I’ve often aspired to, but rarely achieved.

The Project has turned into one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in 2016.