The Daring Cooks: rice with cuttlefish, artichokes, and mushrooms
In many ways, my job is a lot like cooking. In both cases, I take different ingredients, put them in a container, and heat them up while stirring, ultimately leading to a new and better product that is quite often superior than the sum of its parts. (I’m a grad student in materials science…)
There are many differences, though. The obvious difference is that if I ate the ingredients from work, very very bad things would happen to me which are not fun to discuss. So I won’t. If I eat the ingredients from home, happiness occurs, but oddly enough in both cases loosening of tight clothing might be necessary (yes, that’s what it says on my material safety data sheet (MSDS) for those who care).
Why am I bringing this up now? I could not help but ponder the similarities as I slowly made my allioli, a garlic/olive oil paste that is part of this month’s Daring Cooks recipe.
To make the allioli, first you mush up the garlic using a mortar and pestal until you get a paste. Then, continuously grinding in a circular motion you add the olive oil drop by drop for about 20 minutes until you have a mayonnaise-like consistency and a truly delightful taste.
So there I was, alone in my kitchen grinding my garlic when I let go of my stabilizing hold to reach for the olive oil, and of course, the mortar slipped. This was obviously a job for three hands! But I, being merely a girl of two hands did what I think anyone would do in such a position. I sat down on my kitchen floor, holding the mortar between my feet. Don’t worry: (a) I had just showered and (b) they never came close to the food. Except when I accidentally missed the bowl and got my toe. My apologies to anyone who has a feet thing.
It was at this point that I started thinking about work. Why? At work, I also have reactions where one ingredient must be added drop by drop over the course of an hour. But at work, I get a really nifty little gadget that I just put my syringe in and it slowly squeezes! Come to think of it, I also get a clamp for my bowl and a magnetic stir bar. “Look, ma! No hands!!”
Fortunately, I enjoy cooking, so I don’t mind occasionally sitting on the floor because I’ve run out of hands. That’s all part of what keeps it fun, right?
The sad part of this story comes when I sat my allioli down because some bread that I had in the oven was done. I pulled it out, and bam! My allioli broke. As Olga said, “heat expands oil and gives it a very liquid consistency, so if you had it near the oven when you stopped pulling it’s probably the reason why your allioli broke.” Of course! But don’t worry! Even though the texture of the allioli was a little off the flavor was still spot on.
Not just the allioli though–the whole dish was delightful. It wasn’t too complicated either–mostly just a lot of chopping and simmering. I substituted squid for cuttlefish and I used canned artichokes (I checked several grocery stores and there were absolutely no fresh or frozen artichokes–even the nice grocery stores let me down.), but I did rinse them several times so the canning juices didn’t overpower the dish.
With my newfound knowledge, I will definitely go back and remake this dish both by the recipe and with a little more experimentation. For such a fancy (and often quite pricey on a menu) dish, it wasn’t terribly expensive to make. The sofregit, a tomato and vegetable sauce, yielded plenty of leftover that is easily incorporated into other weekday dishes. I even used a little to make some stuffed peppers which were delish!