Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sausage and Goat Cheese Pizza, with Balsamic Onions and Fresh Figs

Right now, I am back visiting my family in Ohio.  As I am writing this, it's nighttime so it is quiet, but I can still hear crickets chirping outside and other night critters making their evening noises.  Back where I live in San Diego, there isn't enough grass or trees or forests to even house these insects, so I miss out on their soothing chorus.  Here, the cool air is floating in through the window, and there are no fast cars or loud freeways or other disturbances.  The calm is wonderful.

When the sun comes up tomorrow morning, the light will touch each blade of green grass, each leaf on every tree, and the noise from the nighttime crickets might be replaced with morning bird songs or buzzing cicadas.  But fall is here and rain is always a possibility (unlike San Diego, there is actually weather here in Ohio), so the cool breeze might linger, and if I am lucky, we might even get a thunderstorm.  If we do, I am sure my mom and I will sit on the porch and listen to the rain pouring down while the wet air mists around us.  These are some of the best feelings of home. 

Sliced black mission figs.

I am sure it comes as no surprise when I say that one of my favorite things to do when I am at home is to cook for my family.  My dad is a budding chef himself, so he always likes to get in on the action, and we usually have grand plans.  This time, I went to the Westside Market with some friends, and picked up all the fixings for a fantastic fall-inspired pizza.  I found black mission figs, earthy sage leaves, local meats, and I got a great deal on a log of fresh chevre. 

Cut the goat cheese into medallions easily using a thin piece of thread or wire.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Holding on to Summer: Easy Pickled Radishes and Pickled Green Beans

I refuse to believe that summer just passed me by this year.  In the blink of an eye, I missed those bright sunny days, sandy trips to the beach, and backyard barbecues.  I could tell you that I don't know how it happened, but really it was just my all-consuming dissertation; I dug in to get the job done, and when you are glued to your computer and working night and day, you barely notice the happenings in the outside world.   

Looking back, it seems a small sacrifice to completely give up one summer of my life in order to close the door on my PhD.  But that is my rational mind speaking - my heart is trying to do the impossible by tugging me back to mid-summer.  It aches for long days without a care, backyard grilling with friends, and plump heirloom tomatoes.  These days, my poor little heart seems surprised to notice that the air is cooler and the days are shorter.  The summer vegetables are beginning to be in scarce supply at the farmers markets as everyone snatches up the last summer corn or brightly colored zucchini.  And since my heart is stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the arrival of fall, I think I can indulge it for just a few more weeks and try to hang on to the last remnants of summer as best as I can. 

So I have been eating ungodly amounts of sweet tomatoes; I grilled corn when I went camping with my sister; and I baked sugary treats with the remaining summer berries.  None of those meals or desserts ended up here on The Cilantropist, because I needed some time to myself to get back in touch with my kitchen, and just cook.  It is so therapeutic and relaxing for me.  But then I decided it was time to grab some of these bright summer veggies and pickle them, and I knew I had to share these with you.    

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Individual No-bake Chocolate Cakes for a Celebration

Hi guys!!!  Wow, did I miss you, did you miss me too?  

It was a long time away and a lot of hard work, but now I am back, and better than ever, because now I am a PhD!  After 6 years, 225 pages of a dissertation, and too many days to count when I thought I had lost my mind, I am FINALLY finished.  There are not words to describe how relieved and happy I feel, but just check out this big smile on my face!

It felt great to show my family and friends my more professional side, and to demonstrate to the scientific community what I have accomplished.  I could literally feel my heart swelling with pride as it dawned on me just how big of an achievement this is.  I actually think I surprised myself with how much I know, and how far I have come.  It's funny, when you work on something for so long, and hold onto it so tight, sometimes you miss the big picture.  And the big picture here is that not only am I amazed to have been blessed with the talents and determination to earn a PhD, but I am also immensely lucky to have have family, friends, and co-workers that have supported me, encouraged me, and always believed in me.  They are my heart, and without them, none of this would have been possible. 

The entire day of my defense was more than I could have hoped for - my boss said my talk was excellent (which is high praise), and I felt like it was hands down the best presentation I have ever given.  My family and almost all my friends were there, and after everything was done, we popped open bottles of champagne to celebrate.        

Can you tell how excited I was to be done?  

My lab did a fantastic job of organizing food and drinks for everyone to enjoy, and my good friend Marie came with a special surprise - a lab-themed cake from Jenny Wenny Cakes!

Yes, I am a complete nerd because I totally loved this.

We relaxed, drank wine, ate lots of food, and generally were happy.  Of course, the best part for me (aside from the huge weight lifted off my shoulders) was to be able to celebrate the day with my Mom, Dad, and my sister.

After everything was done, my family and I spent the rest of the weekend lounging at the pool, going to the beach, and eating amazing food.  Because what is a celebration weekend without a little sunshine and good eats? 

At the end of the weekend, my sister and packed up the car and headed up to Sequoia National Park for a few days of camping.  After writing 225 pages for my dissertation, all I could think about was unplugging and getting away from the computer, and some time in the fresh air of the mountains was just what I needed.  The weather was perfect, we saw tons of wildlife, and definitely had an adventure driving into Mineral King.  (Has anyone else been there?  Soooo beautiful, but seriously - that road?!  Holy shit.)  I have tons of photos and can't wait to tell you more about our vacation, but that is for another post and another day.

For now, I can't leave you with out a recipe, and I felt like I needed to celebrate my PhD here on The Cilantropist with a little dessert.  

So of course, I turned to chocolate.  Pure and unadulterated, these Individual No-bake Chocolate Cakes are the epitome of effortless indulgence.  Basically just a combination of chocolate and heavy cream, you can make these in under 10 minutes and they are sinfully good.