The Kitchen: Expanding my Repertoire

I have come upon a combination of things that have spurred me to really step up my cooking: a beautiful kitchen, an incredible cookbook, fresh ingredients, and food safety concerns of eating out too much. I also haven’t built a deep social network here,  so I have used some of my free time to dive into the kitchen. As my repertoire expands, I am finally crossing the bridge between loving the concept of cooking (e.g. watching a lot of Food Network) and actually loving to cook.

I’ll start off with my most exciting experience in the kitchen: gnocchi. I have never on my own made dough before (for anything), so making the dough for gnocchi, and then actually seeing the final product take shape, was awesome. I realized that the ingredients list is incredibly short: potatoes, flour, and salt. However, execution is important. You can see in pictures here the dough, the pre-cooked gnocchi, and then the final product (I just drizzled some melted butter and used sharp cheddar in place of parmesan).

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I have also branched out some more in the dessert section. I continue to make oatmeal cookies sometimes (I’ve tried a couple different recipes) but have gotten tired of regularly eating them. To that end, I decided to make vanilla pudding (after realizing that one of my favorite desserts, crème brulee, was going to be challenging to pull off). Again, the ingredients list was not long, especially with having a decently stocked pantry. You can see here I added a bit of cinnamon to the top, which was a nice touch.

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I also love the Burmese-style coconut jelly, so I prepared that as well. I tried to make it once before, but the missing piece was the agar-agar, which the local grocery store now has in stock.

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Here you can see a dish that I led with a couple friends helping me out. I bought a couple local fish at the market, descaling and fileting them before giving them a quick fry on the pan. We also made some spagetthi with store-bought tomato sauce, which we added sautéed carrots and fennel to. Finally, after prepping some eggplant with salt to drain out some of the liquid, we sautéed the eggplant and added it to the plate.

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Here is a fresh salad with greens from Shan State with a homemade honey vinaigrette that I’ve come to enjoy. I also experimented with dill potatoes (after watching Taiei, I learned that it’s possible to sauté potatoes and not just either boil them in a pot or roast them in the oven). The fresh dill came in our box of veggies from Shan State.

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A couple quick items to finish off. The first is a cheesy pizza bread I made for a dinner in a pinch, and the second was a tasty stir-fry with pork, onions, and oyster sauce (I like the sweetness that oyster sauce brings to stir-fry dishes). Finally, Taiei made a Chinese stir-fry with sautéed spinach, which was great.

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With all this said, I definitely have room to improve. Most notably I failed to get the smooth textures in the pudding and the dough. I probably could have spent more time trying to work the ingredients with a fork/spoon, but I could also go out and pick up a whisker and/or potato masher, which would probably help.

That’s all for now. In other news, I finally made it out sailing on Inya Lake! For fifteen dollars I was able to take a boat out for an hour, which one of the deckhands rigged and de-rigged for me. It was a sloop (having both a jib and a mainsail), and they let me take it out solo. The wind wasn’t great, but there was enough for me to take a decent lap. The next time I go out on the water I’ll try to take pictures (I didn’t want to risk it on my first outing as I didn’t know what the boats/conditions would be like. Turns out the boats are pretty heavy – if I heard the guy right, they are British from almost 100 years ago – so stability wasn’t a big concern).

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