A day in the life of a grad student foodie

Fair warning: I am taking the piss out of myself and myself alone. If you see a few similarities here or there, you’re either my long lost good twin or in serious need of counseling. Or both? Anyway, hang in there. There’s a recipe for squid ink, fennel, and leek pasta to reward you for your efforts at the end…

7 am. Alarm sounds. Smack.

7:05 am. Alarm sounds. Smack…

7:30 am. Alarm sounds. Sma… Shit, what time is it?

7:30 am and 30 seconds. Sound of someone stumbling out of bed, half asleep. I thought I was finished with this whole getting up at a decent hour thing?

7:35 am. Patch together clothes and stumble out the door… But not without making a fresh mocha, featuring fresh local milk, fair trade/organic beans (freshly ground, of course), and Green and Black’s Organic cocoa powder with a touch of organic agave nectar, of course. You expect me to to drink Folger’s? With milk from Stop and Shop??

8 am. Arrive at the lab, fill detectors with liquid nitrogen, and fix breakfast of homemade strained yogurt, homemade blueberry and pumpkin seed granola, and Western Australian redgum honey from our last trip over. Listen to the girls in the office talk about how “healthy” everything I eat is. Yes, I even make myself sick sometimes.

9 am. Start fitting peaks (mundane, tedious, boring peaks). How long until lunch?

12 pm. Bake a sandwich with homemade French bread, locally produced aged goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto frozen from the last surviving basil plant in the toaster oven I brought in for lunch. Pair with organic earl gray tea with organic milk and agave nectar. Office begins to smell like the interior of a somewhat queer pizza shop, triggering others to look up from their computer screens and wander off in a daze, in search of food. I like to think I’m at least partially responsible for the healthy break room snack box sales.

12:15 pm. Head to the break room with lunch, where the NY Times Dining & Wine section awaits. Dawdle for an hour, figuring out what recipes to adapt for dinner next week, and trying to think of a potential source for forbidden rice.

1:30 pm. Go keep undergrads from eating radioactive sources. Err … Instill in them a sense of awe for science.

4:30 pm. Head back to the lab and read food blog entries posted in Google reader. Decide on a vague plan for dinner. Squid ink pasta, leeks, and fennel … Yum?

5:30 pm. Stop by The Wine Thief for a bottle of white wine for cooking. Ask for a recommendation even though $10 is the high end of my budget and I have no idea what I want to make, much less drink. The Graves looks like it’ll do. Sweet — $10 on sale!

6 pm. Realize I’m out of both lemons and cash. Decide it’d be cool to try baking the pasta, without cooking it first, and use the emergency supply of lemon juice in the back of the fridge. Which was such a mistake. Preheat the oven, and start chopping up leeks and fennel. Hmmm… This pasta is a bit too green. Take copious amounts of pictures, documenting each stage of the project.

6:20 pm. Throw all the ingredients in a Le Creuset pot (a gift) and stick in the oven. Start to panic when I realize I have a meeting at 7. A dinner meeting. Featuring Subway.

6:45 pm. Call James in a panic. When are you getting home? I need you to watch the oven…

6:50 pm. Leave for meeting, after giving James explicit instructions to take it out when the pasta is soft but still firm. Hope for the best.

7:15 pm. I wonder if he waited long enough?

8 pm. Go back to the lab. Fill the #$%@#$ detectors again.

8:30 pm. Arrive home. Realize the pasta is very, very al dente. But I liked the crunch! Fiddle with the pasta a bit more, and take enough pictures to let the food get cold. Eat. Finally. Hmm… This would have been just fine without the squid ink. What’s up with the lemony fresh aftertaste?

9 pm. Think up a silly, excessively long entry to post on my food blog. Write it up anyway.

Green Sea Pasta

Serves 6.

Remind me to stay away from my computer when I haven’t slept enough in the future. Oh, and enjoy the recipe. As you can probably tell from the little story above, it’s a formula, and is begging to be tweaked. Though I admit it was pretty satisfying, even without the fresh lemon juice.

  • 5 servings squid ink pasta. Use regular pasta if you prefer; I used a cheap brand, which was fine, but didn’t really contribute to anything but the color of the dish.
  • 2 leeks, chopped and rinsed (white parts only — save the rest for stock). Leeks caLeeksn be sandy; chop in half lengthwise, as shown to the right, slice in half-circle pieces, and then throw the whole lot into a colander (see picture below right). Rinse thoroughly, breaking up the leek pieces with your fingers, and drain.Leeks 2
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into pieces. I usually cut the feathery and stalk-like parts off of the bulb and store them in the freezer until I have enough bits and pieces to make vegetable or chicken stock.
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  • 3 T. olive oil.
  • 1 tin sardines.
  • 4 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced.
  • Red pepper, cayenne, salt, pepper, to taste.
  • 1 c. white wine.
  • 2 c. water, vegetable stock, or fish stock.
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice, preferably fresh.
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan or table cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat oil in heavy oven-proof pan with lid over high heat. Add leeks and garlic, and sauté for a few minutes, until the leeks are sweating and fragrant. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne (start with 1/2 t. each), and cook for one minute more.

Leeks 3

Add chopped fennel to the pot, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring continuously. Throw in the remaining ingredients except for the cheese, stir until the pasta is thoroughly coated, cover, and put in the oven.

Wait. Probably for 30-40 minutes. Go do something else, but check back every so often to add a bit more water, stir, and check the pasta for doneness.

When the pasta is done, adjust spices (I like mine spicy; I think it balances the flavors in this dish quite nicely), and plate each serving. Sprinkle with cheese, and enjoy, with a nice glass of white wine and some crusty, satisfying bread.

Oh, and if you’re in a rush, go ahead and cook the pasta in boiling water, as you normally would. I think this dish might actually be the better for it.

Leeks and Pasta

1 Comment

Filed under fennel, leeks, main, pasta, sardines, stories, sun-dried tomatoes, wine

One response to “A day in the life of a grad student foodie

  1. Liz, I am laughing right now – not only are twins in being science grad students with an insanely obsessive love of good/organic/local food – I made squid ink pasta this week too. The same night you did.

    Send me an email! my address is rachael . sirianni at guess-what-research-university.com . I pick up the boar at Bishop’s Orchards in Guilford. As I mentioned in my post, the boar roast was really really tough. But the sausages and bacon are quite excellent, and I think the D’Artgnan chickens are close to pastured (pastured!!)… at least, they come from an Amish farm, so how mechanical could that possibly be?

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