The Science of Yum

5 Sep

I know that there exists a glut of comparisons between cooking in the kitchen and working in a laboratory, but allow me to add one more: Cooking in the kitchen is a lot like working in a lab. While its prose is not up to my usual, flowering standards (HA!), the sentiment is quite accurate, which could explain the glut. The similarities between these situations run deeper than the obvious: cutting, measuring, mysterious powdery substances, mistakes resulting in minor explosions or fires, Pyrex. It’s about following instructions, and also not following instructions. You can learn a lot from sticking to a well-documented and established procedure, but you can’t learn anything new.

You’ll forgive me for having science on the brain, imaginary-person-reading-this-blog. I’ve spent the past two days holed up in the lab, attempting to create a CSTR from whatever is lying about the barren workspace. Happy Labor Day weekend! I’ve decided to celebrate it literally this year. I’m not sure whether I’ve been having good luck in the kitchen or bad luck in the lab, but I’ve been leaving school in a funk and cooking almost non-stop once I’m in my apartment. I’ve found this arrangement to have multiple benefits: it keeps me from eating continuously as I sit on my ass and watch Criminal Minds. It also keeps me from thinking too much about being alone, and about home-invading sexual sadists (Damn you, CM!).

Here is something I cooked up yesterday, adapted from this recipe. Between the roasting garlic and the charred eggplant, my apartment smelled like heaven. It’s actually lucky that I was called back to the lab mid-cooking or else I may have eaten the whole bowl while it was scalding hot. Yesterday I ate it plain with a toasted brown rice tortilla cut into chips, and today I mixed it with hummus and had it on rye crackers. I honestly don’t know which I like better. I may need to make another batch before I can decide…


Roasted Garlic Eggplant Caviar
1 head of garlic
1 medium eggplant
2 tsp olive oil + drizzle on garlic + drizzle on pan
1/2 fresh lemon, juiced
1 tsp paprika
Few dashes cayenne
Few grates of fresh parmesan (maybe 1 tsp? I didn’t measure.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish of choice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel off the white skin part of the garlic head and cut off the very top of the exposed cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Set timer for 35 minutes. Browse the interweb for ~10 minutes.

Char the eggplant over the flame of a gas burner (just like roasting red peppers). I used a medium-low flame to make sure it wasn’t actually touching the eggplant and just gave it a few minutes on each side until it was blackened and wilty. In the mean time, prep a baking dish with a drizzle of oil and pinch of salt. Once the timer hits twenty, carefully slice the eggplant in half and place it cut side down on the baking dish. Pop it in the oven.

Now go back on the internet for twenty minutes. Oh is that an email from your advisor asking you to meet her back on campus? Dammit. Once the timer goes off grab the eggplant and garlic from the oven. Burn yourself by not waiting before you unwrap the garlic and squeeze all the cloves into a bowl. Scrap the soft part of the eggplant into the same bowl. Add 1/2 lemon, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp paprika, a few shakes of cayenne, some freshly grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse with immersion blender, cover and stick in fridge. Taste what’s left on the blender, and immediately bum rush fridge to try some more. Now trudge off to the lab for another three hours, dreaming of the delicious concoction that awaits you at home.

The first night I ate it I drizzled it with a little sesame oil and sriracha and some red pepper flakes, which I’m fairly certain is the greatest combination of ingredients ever. When I am more adventurous (i.e. have more time), I am going to invent a dessert with sesame oil and sriracha. It will probably be disgusting, but it will at least be new, and isn’t that what working in the kitchen (or lab) should be all about?

…See what I did there?


One Response to “The Science of Yum”

  1. BellaBallestra October 24, 2010 at 9:09 am #

    In short:
    Holy crap that sounds delicious!
    In long:
    I’m glad I’m not the only miserable lab monkey in the world

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