Weird Dinner

Back in college, after I learned how to make a white sauce, I started calling the concoctions I’d cook “weird lunch”.  “Wanna visit?  I’m making weird lunch.”  It was generally palatable enough; the weirdness was mainly the feeling that I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.

Last night I started with the plan of doing simple pasta with tomato sauce (which I do know how to do) and ended up with weird dinner.  It went something like:

“I need to cook something.  All I really know how to do is pasta and tomato sauce.  But I have Mizithra cheese and could find out how to do browned butter.  Oh, this browned butter instruction page mentions chicken and linguine.  Say, I have chicken (frozen) and linguine.  What else do I have?  Oh, here’s some really ancient cottage cheese that miraculously is apparently still edible…”

The result actually was tasty enough to be worth documenting, so here we go.

  1. Browned 1 stick unsalted butter in a saucier.  Spoiler: I didn’t actually taste it in the final dish.  Probably should’ve browned it more, but was worried I’d end up with blackened butter and erred on the side of unburnt.
  2. Put 2 frozen chicken thighs to thaw in bowl of cold water, and started pot of salted water to boil for linguine.
  3. Put cottage cheese (about a cup?) into bowl for later, and mixed tarragon, fresh-ground nutmeg, and a bit of light soy sauce in it.  (The nutmeg is because the person who taught me how to make lasagna used to mix it in with the egg/ricotta.  I never taste it in the lasagna, but I figure there must be some reason she put it in.)

    spiced cottage cheese 2017-08-15 20.50.07
    The cottage cheese had a date of Sep 07 on it.  While I know the 07 is a day rather than the year, I’m pretty sure the year isn’t 2017.
  4. Spouse came home so I asked him which oil to use for browning the chicken.  Then he exited to go to Home Depot to buy a ladder.
  5. Started tomatoes in saucier: olive oil, 4 largish cloves garlic, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, 1 can diced tomatoes, bit of soy sauce.  Usually I’d do two cans of tomatoes to one pkg pasta, but since I was adding the chicken and browned butter I stuck with one.  In future will probably do more, or add something else; we felt that more tomato taste or some other more intense flavor would have been good.
    tomato sauce and linguine 2017-08-15 20.52.20
  6. Linguine now in water.
  7. Pulled out chicken thighs, which were nearly thawed, after putting latex gloves on.  Patted dry with paper towel, then removed right glove to salt them.  Called spouse to ask whether it was better to brown them whole and then cut up, or cut them up first (with slight preference to latter because they were already on the cutting board and I’d need to use a different board or wash this one if I planned to cut them after cooking.  Turns out spouse was still at home because Prius’s battery was flat and that’s the car that would fit the ladder.  He decided to skip the ladder and just go to Target for some other stuff.  Also concurred that cutting up chicken first would probably be fine.
  8. Cut up chicken.  Because I am mostly not an idiot I kept my left glove on (for holding the chicken).  Because mostly != totally, this still happened.
    chicken cutting oops 2017-08-15 20.59.39
    After taking picture, I promptly lost track of the piece with the dot of latex.  Found it later but then couldn’t be sure at first that I’d actually removed the latex because it was invisible against the rest of the glove.  Spouse comes in at this point to bear witness to this and starts to give me a lesson on how to hold food for cutting safely, until I point out that the problem was that the glove is just a bit too big, not that I was holding it carelessly.  (My fingers were in no danger of being cut.)  Spouse agrees that that’s just bad luck with extra glove material, then departs for real this time, after helping me drain linguine.
  9. Mix tomato sauce and doctored cottage cheese in with pasta to get it out of the way.
  10. Pour teaspoon of oil from nearly-empty bottle into pan, then way more than that from nearly-full bottle.  Shout “WAH!” which is Robin for “HELP I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING THE HOUSE IS GOING TO BURN DOWN” and then get on with cooking the chicken anyway because there doesn’t seem to be much choice.  (Considered pouring some of the oil out of the pan, then concluded that chances of making a slippery flammable mess that way were higher than just going with the amount in the pan.)
    chicken in too much oil 2017-08-15 21.18.19
  11. Call spouse to request some sort of sparkling juice while he’s at Target, because I don’t like wine but feel like classy fruit-derived beverage would be appropriate.  Meat starting to brown at this point.  Reassure spouse that house will probably not be burned down by the time he returns.
  12. Chicken successfully burned, I mean browned.  Use slotted silicone spatula to transfer into pot of pasta. Mix in browned butter.  Grate a small mountain of mizithra cheese.  Start transferring pasta to serving bowl, sprinkling cheese after each tongsful of pasta.  Put remaining cheese on top.
  13. Spouse calls. Instead of hello, I greet him with “ON TOP OF LINGUINE, ALL COVERED WITH CHEESE. GOOD THING I HATE MEATBALLS, ‘CAUSE THEY MAKE ME SNEEZE. …I mean, yes?”  He’s calling about fruit beverage.  We settle on Izze blackberry sodalike liquid.
  14. Send photo of pasta to family, with slightly improved lyrics.
    mount linguine 2017-08-15 21.31.24
  15. Spouse returns. We dine. Spouse incredulously asks what the thing he’s tasting that seems almost like tarragon is; I inform him that it is in fact tarragon.  Later, I mention the nutmeg, which gives him a bit of a duh moment since it’s suddenly very obvious.  Incidentally, he added a bit of fish sauce to his, for real.

Overall verdict is that it’s a decent effort that could use some stronger flavoring, perhaps tomato paste or red wine.  I am not a wine aficionado even in cooking, but it probably would work here.  The recipe that reminded me that I have chicken included fresh spinach and pine nuts, which have some possibilities.  Overall I feel like it was a bit too oily, which leads me to the odd conclusion that actually the butter was unnecessary in this case.  Don’t know if I’m tasting the mizithra explicitly.  The cottage cheese presence is fairly minimal, but worked well as a carrier for the tarragon and nutmeg, and I think those were successful (spouse thought it was just enough tarragon, which worries me a little as I didn’t measure it).  Fresh mozzarella, burrata, or ricotta might also be good choices.  Spouse thought shiitake mushrooms would be good.  Now that I’m typing this, I think maybe I would’ve liked it better with white meat (I had the thighs because I wanted to try making karaage, which is better with dark), which is somewhat unusual for me.

Izze was good too.  Unfortunately, later in the evening I started feeling unwell, but I’m pretty sure that’s from motion sickness watching spouse play FF XII and running around at double or quadruple speed.

But yay!  I cooked!  All by myself!

Sorry there is no cat picture here.  I should’ve taken one of the audience I had, probably attracted by the chicken cooking.  Moonstone had the roundest, most dilated eyes ever.  She seems to have figured out that that’s the way to look especially pleading and hopeful when requesting food (which she does by purring affectionately while rubbing her face on my elbow or whatever she can reach).

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Two Hamburgers

Spouse suggested that we eat at The Counter, which he had been to previously and I had not.

His burger:

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My burger:

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I may be a little unclear on the concept.

Thematically related (in that there are his and mine), here are desserts we ordered at a different place:

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His, in back, is cheesecake “spring roll” (rather like a blintz) with vanilla bean ice cream, and mine is pineapple upside-down cake with coconut ice cream.  Both with caramel sauce.  Rather to my surprise, I liked the coconut ice cream best of all of these sweets.

 

A Dream Come True

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A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I had a two-pound box of See’s chocolates.  It was really that specific.  Most of my dreams can’t come true (and a lot of them I wouldn’t want to), but this, I could do.  Mmm.  (And yes, it’s a two-pound box.  The other things I like are in the first layer.)

Changing Lightbulbs

Our house is largely an A-frame, and came with a chandelier to match.

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(The thing hanging from it is a glass art piece, not part of the chandelier itself.)

We don’t use the chandelier often because it puts out a lot of heat and consumes a lot of electricity, at least compared to other lights in the house.  It’s a shame, because the room does get dark and the two lamps to either side of the couch don’t do much for the other half of the room.

So spouse replaced all 25 25-watt bulbs in it with 40-watt-equivalent LED bulbs.  And since he was up there on the ladder anyway, we decided to dust all 104 pieces of glass hanging from it.

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(When we first looked at the house, I asked if the chandelier came with it, and the previous owner said, “Yeah, you get to clean it yourself!”  Of course, this had never occurred in the 4 years since then.  Fortunately, since the glass is vertical, there actually wasn’t much dust on it.)

The end result:

chandelier-on-2016-11-20-15-48-19

It’s now on, and the room has a comfortable lightness that isn’t actually that bright at the couch.  It’d be enough light to knit by and maybe read by (haven’t tried yet), and is definitely enough for laptopping.  And, of course, the two floor lamps are still on either side of the couch for when more light is needed.  Where it will really help is in playing games, because from where I sit the lamp at the other end of the couch reflects onto the TV and renders the upper-right corner very hard to see, which has actually made a difference at times.

I’m pretty happy.  It’s really nice to have light in the rest of the room, without guilt or overheating.

A Four-Year-Old’s Drawing of Trump

amiras-drawing-of-trump-2016-10-15-17-42-23
“Trump should be LOCKED in a BOX and sent to MARS!”

I visited my friend K and her daughter A a couple of weeks ago, and K told me that A had watched the (second?) debate with her father and did not like Trump at all.  So she drew this picture of him being locked in a box with eight locks, two on each side, and sent to Mars.  Why Mars, I have no idea.

Music Everywhere

Just after making the previous post, I happened to hit the armrest next to me with my ring. The resulting tone was surprisingly musical. (I’m waiting at a gate in the Melbourne airport, and the seats are the usual rows separated by metal armrests.) I noted this to spouse and he rang the two on either side of him. They were close in pitch, though sharp to the one I rang.

If I had something like a mallet I might well check the rest of them. They’re presumably close in pitch since they’re basically all the same size.

Just now we were informed that our gate was changed. Since I was standing up anyway, I rang a few more armrests. They probably all would be considered the same note (D, says spouse with perfect pitch), but not in tune.

I do the same thing in restaurants with nice glasses sometimes. And I can pretty much never drink a bottled drink without playing it like a flute. Straws in drinks sometimes too.

A couple of weeks ago when my lungs were x-rayed (not x-rated, thank you phone autocorrect) the machine made sounds like the first three notes of a piece I knew. Eventually I remembered it was the Army of the Nile March by Kenneth J. Alford, which I played in 11th grade. I spent the entire ride home reminding myself how the piccolo part went.  I also remembered noting how the various start-up sounds of my grandfather’s computer and printer made were kind of musical, which is probably why I still remember them 20 years later.

Found music. If it’s not a thing it should be.

The Fun Never Stops

Last Thursday I went to the doctor about the on and off cough I’ve had for several weeks.  The exam revealed nothing, so she ordered a chest x-ray — which showed I have pneumonia.

On Saturday I was eating some nice, soft dim sum and suddenly felt something hard in it.  It was the crown for my backmost tooth.  Fortunately, I was able to reach my dentist and she said to come in Monday morning for it to be recemented.

Monday (yesterday) I went to the dentist and had the crown put back in.  My dentist also noticed I had a cavity in a front-facing tooth and filled it.  With my face all numb, I backed out of the rather tight parking space and into a van that hadn’t been there when I got into the car, with the driver about five steps away.  She was much calmer about it than I was, possibly because she was on the way to pay a $1200 dental bill for her son’s retainer.  Don’t know whether she’ll follow up on it or not, as she seemed inclined to wave it off after verifying that the sliding door still worked, but I insisted that she get my insurance information.

Did I mention that this Saturday I’m leaving for Australia for two weeks?  I can hardly wait to see what will happen to me tomorrow.

I’m not the only one with dental woes this week.  I took Velcro to the vet for a dental cleaning this morning.  Poor guy was not happy about the car ride, and also not happy about being shut away from food last night, but was very happy that I stayed the night in the guest room with him.  I hope that was enough compensation for forty minutes of rush-hour car travel.