It Happened to Me Life

Tonight’s dinner: Mapo tofu!

Photo: Cast iron pan full of ma po tofu (Cut-up tofu, ground pork, and spicy chili sauce, garnished with sliced green onion).
I love this stuff. Tap the photo to see it at full size.

One of my favorite Chinese dishes is mapo tofu, a Sichuan dish whose name translates as “pockmarked grandma’s tofu”. It’s a nice, high-protein dish as it’s made from ground pork and cut-up firm tofu, and it’s also a high-octane dish thanks to its use of Sichuan peppercorns. It also calls for lots of garlic, ginger, and green onion.

I was out of that really red Chinese chili oil that always ends up on whatever white that I’m wearing. I replaced it with a mix of Chinese chili sauce (not sriracha — this is different stuff), Sichuan pepper flakes, and sesame oil, and it still came out pretty tasty.

Here’s the real deal recipe, if you’re interested.


Jeff “Cooking for Geeks” Potter’s Book Tour

Jeff Potter poses with his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO

Last night, I caught Jeff Potter’s presentation in support of his book, Cooking for Geeks, at HacklabTO, a hackerspace in Toronto’s Kensington Market. Like most authors, he’s been touring around, promoting the book, but unlike most authors, he’s avoided the usual venues. Rather than talking at bookstores or pubs, he’s been holding his book gatherings in cosier settings such as living rooms and spaces like the Hacklab.

Cooking for Geeks is written with a specific sort of person in mind: one who likes to know how things work. It’s for the science buff who wants to know more than just how to cook the perfect steak, but why that method works. It’s for the tinkerer who wants to convert ordinary kitchen instruments into really cool cooking devices, either because s/he can’t afford those devices or because s/he’s driven to tinker. It’s about giving people the right mental models to understand the processes that happen when we take ingredients and turn them into dinner.

Jeff opened his presentation with a “What Type of Cook are You?” test borrowed from Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, which help you better understand the way you see food and your approach to cooking. It turns out that I’m a hybrid of Type A (the “comfort food” sort of person) and Type D (the “experimental” sort of person). I’m the sort of person who often – but not always — follows the “Law of the Precious and Rare” at restaurants, ordering the thing I can’t get or make at home, or the dish that I haven’t had in ages.

Jeff’s presentation was eye-opening and even inspirational. Leigh Honeywell, who was also there, was so inspired by the part about sous-vide cooking and how you can put together your own immersion cooker by hacking a slow cooker’s thermostat that she’s sourcing the parts as I write this. Perhaps we’ll have tasty sous-vide steaks at Hacklab next week! Thanks, Jeff!

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"If you missed last night’s presentation and you’re in Toronto, you’re in luck. Jeff’s doing his presentation today (Tuesday, September 21) in two places, and he’s got books for sale as well. He’ll be at:

Bonus! I bought an extra copy of Cooking for Geeks and had Jeff autograph it. I’m going to give it away in a contest of some sort – I just haven’t decided what sort of contest, Watch this space!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Tonight at HacklabTO: Cooking for Geeks!

Cover of "Cooking for Geeks"

If you’re in or around Toronto’s Kensington Market area tonight, you might want to drop by the Hacklab (170a Baldwin Street, above Graffiti’s) to see O’Reilly author Jeff Potter as his book tour for Cooking for Geeks stops at Toronto’s downtown hackerspace. He’ll be there, talking about his book and possibly treating us to a demo or two, and I’ll be there, helping to host the event. Jeff says he’ll have a number of books on him for sale – but note that it’s first come, first serve, and I’m buying one!

Here’s a video of the author showing you how to make ice cream in 30 seconds (with liquid nitrogen!):

The event starts tonight (Monday, September 20th) at 7:00 p.m. – be there!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Your Gordon Ramsay Fix

For the past little while, Monday has meant a good evening of Gordon Ramsay on TV. First, the American edition of Hell’s Kitchen, which has become a little too cartoonish, followed by the British edition of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, which gives you a better idea of Ramsay’s skill as both a chef and a restaurateur. The latest season of Hell’s Kitchen ended a couple of weeks ago, and so few Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares have been made that I’ve seen them all already.

Until the American edition of Kitchen Nightmares airs (it premieres on Wednesday, September 19th at 9pm on Fox), here’s a little Ramsay fix for you in the form of YouTube videos…

Sublime Scrambled Eggs

These are pretty rich scrambled eggs (he stirs in some creme fraiche), but they do look tasty. A pity my wife hates scrambled eggs…

Broccoli Soup

This soup looks pretty good, considering it has only two ingredients: broccoli and water.

Teaching Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson How to Cook a Lobster Lunch

This is from an episode of his cooking show The F Word in which he teaches one of the hosts of Top Gear (probably the best TV show about cars and driving out there) how to cook a lobster lunch. Gordon and family visit Jeremy and his family at Jeremy’s “decidedly penis-shaped house” on the Isle of Man.

Gordon Ramsay’s Real Kitchen Nightmares

What are Ramsay’s real nightmares like? The people at the BBC sketch comedy show Dead Ringers take a stab at it.