Most of my childhood memories of my dad are around our weekly routine. Riding with him to school in the morning, reciting poetry or quizzing him on I-ching hexagrams. Hearing the garage door open at 7pm, signaling dinnertime. Hanging out on the couch together for a bit while he read his newspaper and listened to me read Chinese before he went back to doing some work on the computer (It used to be a terminal. A real terminal.). On Saturdays we’d go hiking in the morning and have dim sum afterwards. On Sundays I’d typically accompany him to his office at Caltech. The afternoons would pass slowly, as I wanted to go home. Oftentimes I would be encouraged to work on math problems or sent to the campus library to confirm bibliographic references (physically going between the 7th, 8th, and 9th floors of the Millikan Library to look up journal article authors, volume numbers, and page numbers). Highlights of the long day would be lunch at Carl’s Jr. and half an hour of kicking a soccer ball around at the athletic fields.
But all of that comes from my memories, and these ones are the strongest because they were enforced week after week. I’m not sure what my dad was like when I was a baby but I got some clues this past year. When Camille cried, he recited Chinese poetry for her enjoyment. He mentioned being more interested in hanging out with her once she’s developed some abstract reasoning powers so that he can teach her math. He didn’t change any of her diapers.
The word routine has all sorts of negative connotations, but ours rejuvenates me. Every morning when Camille wakes up, I am the first person that she sees. I’m not sure which one of us is more excited to be there – her because she can be liberated from her crib or me because she is ready to hang out again. And then there’s the hour or so at the end of the day where we eat a leisurely dinner (Camille doesn’t dine any other way due to her small mouth and passable motor skills), romp around the family room, and read a story together.
The routine is punctuated by exhilarating miniature milestones. Yesterday Camille stood up once while she was trying to get out of my lap. I didn’t think much of it because I don’t really count something as a milestone until she is able to do it repeatedly and deliberately. Today, she kept standing up on the bed (and throwing herself backwards and forwards – we’ll have to talk to her about that), and it was awesome. We didn’t even know this was a milestone; people usually just ask “Is she walking? Is she talking?” No one mentioned the standing, but of course it makes sense in retrospect.
When my parents came to visit over the holidays, we spent an afternoon in Half Moon Bay. Camille and my dad were on the same nap schedule so we left them in the car together while my mom, Wing Ning, Cameron, and I went for a walk. After a while we got an anxious call from my dad. I heard Camille bawling in the background, undoubtedly hungry. I hurried back to the car. When I got there, my dad was holding Camille tight, expertly soothing her, and she was no longer sad.
My dad always knows a bit more than he lets on. I can imagine myself in Camille’s place in his arms over 30 years ago.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say that after all these years I haven’t really had a go-to hamburger recipe. I think I finally found one – this one is a bit more forgiving than others since the burger stays tender even when you cook it to a well-done temperature.
Well-done Hamburgers from More Best Recipes
1 large slice high-quality white sandwich bread , crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons whole milk
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4teaspoon ground black pepper
1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons steak sauce, such as A-1
1 1/2pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
6 ounces cheese, sliced (optional)
4 hamburger buns or rolls
1. Turn all burners to high, close lid, and heat until very hot, about 15 minutes. Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Leave primary burner on high, turn other burner(s) to low.
2. Meanwhile, mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork until homogeneous (you should have about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, and steak sauce.
3. Break up beef into small pieces over bread mixture. Using fork or hands, lightly mix together until mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal portions. Gently toss one portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press center of patty down with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick, creating a slight depression in each patty. Repeat with remaining portions of meat.
4. Lightly dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Grill burgers on hot side of grill, covered, until well seared on first side, 2 to 4 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, flip burgers and continue grilling, about 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. Distribute equal portions of cheese (if using) on burgers about 2 minutes before they reach desired doneness, covering burgers with disposable aluminum pan to melt cheese. While burgers grill, toast buns on cooler side of grill, rotating buns as necessary to toast evenly. Serve burgers on toasted buns.
Served with fresh pasta, and super-garlicky. Pretty fast to make too.
Garlicky Shrimp Pasta from More Best Recipes
5 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 5 teaspoons), plus 4 medium cloves, smashed
1 pound large shrimp (21-25), peeled, deveined, each shrimp cut into 3 pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound pasta in short, tubular shapes, such as fusilli, campanelle, or mezze rigatoni
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry vermouth or white wine
3/4 cup clam juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Ground black pepper
1. Toss 2 teaspoons minced garlic, shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Let shrimp marinate at room temperature 20 minutes.
2. Heat 4 smashed garlic cloves and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is light golden brown, 4 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to remove garlic from skillet; discard garlic. Set skillet aside.
3. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven.
4. While pasta cooks, return skillet with oil to medium heat; add shrimp with marinade to skillet in single layer. Cook shrimp, undisturbed, until oil starts to bubble gently, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir shrimp and continue to cook until almost cooked through, about 1 minute longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to medium bowl. Add remaining 3 teaspoons minced garlic and pepper flakes to skillet and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute; stir in vermouth and cook for 1 minute. Add clam juice and parsley; cook until mixture starts to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Off heat, whisk in butter and lemon juice. Add shrimp and sauce to pasta, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Season with black pepper. Serve, passing lemon wedges separately.
While I haven’t been posting much lately, we’ve definitely been cooking and eating well. I made this one a few times over the winter, once in a Dutch oven in the oven (as specified here) and once in the slow cooker. It freezes really well. Also, not surprisingly, it tastes better if you use twice the specified amount of pancetta.
Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew from Cook’s Illustrated.
1 pound dried cannellini beans (about 2 cups), rinsed and picked over
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta , cut into 1/4-inch pieces (see note)
1 large onion , chopped medium (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery ribs , cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 medium carrots , peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
8 medium garlic cloves , peeled and crushed
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or collard greens (about 1 pound), stems trimmed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 8 cups loosely packed)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes , drained and rinsed
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Ground black pepper
1. Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Heat oil and pancetta in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pancetta is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 6 to 10 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in broth, water, bay leaves, and soaked beans. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Cover pot, transfer to oven, and cook until beans are almost tender (very center of beans will still be firm), 45 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Remove pot from oven and stir in greens and tomatoes. Return pot to oven and continue to cook until beans and greens are fully tender, 30 to 40 minutes longer.
4. Remove pot from oven and submerge rosemary sprig in stew. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig and season stew with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew. Serve over toasted bread, if desired, and drizzle with olive oil.