Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thunder, tornados, and other adventures on the plains.

This has been an adventurous week for our blogging Oklahoman Swede-Pole. In fact, it could be argued that the beginning of this week was eventful for most Stillwater residents. Here is a quick summary.

On Monday night, a pretty intense thunderstorm swept trough town, illuminating the sky with thunderbolts and featuring plentiful rainfall. As chance would have it, the Thunder (Oklahoma City's NBA team) were playing the Dallas Mavericks that same night. Our postdoctorally employed blogger had made plans to meet up with friends at Finnegan's Public House to enjoy the game over a beer or two, and for a while it seemed like these plans might have had to be canceled. But after waiting on a nearby porch for 30 minutes or so, the rain paused for a couple of minutes, giving the little basketball loving group enough time to bike to the pub. The lightning storm continued, and egged on by this, the Thunder were doing well. Regrettably, OKC ended up losing in overtime despite their initial 15 point lead--a rather frustrating outcome for Oklahoman basketball fans as the team had been doing so well for most of the season. At least the Tallgrass IPA was pretty tasty.

Tuesday afternoon was even more adventurous. Early that day, the National Weather Station in Norman issued a statement advising the state of Oklahoma that weather conditions were currently very favorable for tornados. As the day progressed, it became increasingly clear that the likelihood of very powerful twisters was high. Radio stations were turned on, weather updates were monitored, and tornados eventually did appear south of Oklahoma City. Emergency chocolate procured, our blogging mathematician left his 5th floor office for the safety of friends' basement. A food team was formed, and a quick (but tasty) meal was cooked and eaten. (This meal will hopefully be documented elsewhere. ) Minutes later, Stillwater's tornado sirens went on, and the town's PA system said to take cover immediately. The tornados' progress was followed on the radio in the basement, and after an hour or so, the coast was clear. In the end, Stillwater was hit by an EF2 tornado that smashed a number of houses on the south side of town; downtown Stillwater was spared. Sadly, other parts of Oklahoma and the neighboring state of Missouri were not as lucky, as has been reported extensively in various media.

Of course, today's culinary adventure pales in comparison. But still, this was an exciting meal to cook, and it didn't turn out bad--and the end result was very spicy. In fact, today's dish could be (pretentiously) labeled as "cross-cooking." It could also, less pretentiously, be filed under "the tofu and all the vegetables need to be cooked now!"

1 package of firm tofu

1 zucchini
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow onion

3 cloves of garlic
2 habanero peppers

soy sauce
sesame oil

whole wheat spaghetti

First up is the tofu. Open the package and cut the tofu into medium sized cubes. In a frying pan, fry the tofu with some butter and pepper, until the cubes' surfaces are crispy and golden brown.

Next, remove the tofu and put it aside. Chop up the habaneros and the garlic. Put them in the frying pan, and crisp them up a little. Cut the onion into rings, and add them to the pan, simultaneously turning down the heat. Wait until the onion rings are soft, then chop up the zucchini into cubes and add it to the pan. Add just a little salt and pepper. (Take it easy on the salt, we have soy coming up.)

Cut the bell peppers into strips, and saute them with the other vegetables. When the vegetables are sufficiently soft, bring on the sesame oil and the soy sauce. Don't overdo it with the sesame oil, but do add plenty of soy to the pan. Turn the heat down low, and let the vegetables simmer in the soy filled pan.

In the meantime, attend to the spaghetti. Cook the pasta in boiling water (don't forget the salt) and make sure to avoid overcooking. We want the spaghetti al dente, of course. (I wanted to use soba noodles, which I thought I had--but alas!)

Strain the pasta once it's done, put it back in the pot, and add the soy-drenched vegetables. Toss the mix! Finally, add the tofu and toss again. Invite over friends and serve immediately. Done!

Serving suggestions: "My ____ is pink" by colourmusic on the side, a bottle of chilled sweet tea.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shaker Lemon Pie, Southern railroad tunes, and gunfights.

Lately, this blogger has been feeling a little old-fashioned. He works out math problems with pen and paper and lectures at the blackboard. He does not "tweet." He likes black corduroys, and wearing white shirts and ties. He does not own an iPhone, or any other smartphone.  He dislikes Kindles and electronic reprints of articles, and he maintains an extensive CD collection. He has also taken to participating in the Monday night bluegrass sessions at Finnegan's excellent public house (Main and 7th, Stillwater, OK) and has learned a number of traditional tunes about outlaws (mostly men) "carrying two guns every day," "killing men on the West Virginia line", and lamenting the loss of their old home places due to the twin evil influences of Girls and Booze. Very old-fashioned.

(On a side note, a story in the Daily Oklahoman recently bore the headline "Man shot dead in Lawton bar room gunfight." A drunken patron, coincidentally the ex-fire chief of the town in question, upon being asked to leave by patrons and bar employees due to excessive intoxication, responded by opening fire on the bar with a gun, only to be shot by the establishment's owner with a shotgun. Old-fashioned is one phrase that comes to mind. Wild West another.)

In any case, another feeling our blogging Swede-Pole has been experiencing lately is a strong craving for key lime pie. It is, in his opinion, the queen of pies, and probably his favorite dessert. His friends have heard him talk extensively about this delicious desert, he has lamented his key lime pie deprived state on facebook, and a number of recipes have been suggested to him. Unfortunately, these last weeks have been very busy, and our blogger has not had the opportunity to set aside the time this wonderful culinary marvel deserves.

Then last weekend a fellow food blogger (who, incidentally, lives with Mr. Pie the cat) suggested the "shaker lemon pie"; a sourish pie that was supposedly very easy to make. A google search for recipes revealed that the aforementioned pie was apparently a specialty of, and named after, the Ohio branch of a religious community known as Shakers. It was also considered a little old-fashioned by a number of food bloggers, and indeed seemed simple enough to produce. Perfect!

2 lemons
2 cups of sugar
1 spoonful of honey

4 eggs

2 cups of flour
1 stick of butter
6 oz. of ice water

We start with the lemony filling. It's so easy. Wash the lemons, then slice them very thinly without removing the rind. (The Shakers were thrifty!) In a bowl, add 2 cups of sugar and a spoonful of honey. Mix the ingredients thoroughly, and let the lemons soak for 2-3 hours or so. Read a book. Or surf the internet on your iPhone.

Next, prepare the pie crust. It is not difficult-use your preferred method or consult any of the recipes online. (I usually can't be bothered to follow recipes very closely, so I used about 2 cups of flour, 1 standard stick of butter (cut up), and about 6 oz. or so of ice water for the crust. First mix butter and flour, then successively add the water and mix until the dough has the right "feel". Then roll it.)

Carefully line a pie form with crust (use about 2/3 of the crust at this stage). Then beat the eggs, and add them to the lemons and mix well. You've got your filling!

Pour the filling into your pie form, and then cover the whole thing with the top crust. Turn on your oven, and bake the pie at 450F for about 15 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F. Bake the pie for another  20 minutes or so, check if it's done (insert a fork into it), and then remove it. Let it cool for a few minutes, and you're done.

Serving suggestions: "Smoke ring for my halo" by Kurt Vile on the side, a cup of tea with milk. (I am not familiar with the Shakers' views on brandy and other such pie-friendly alcoholic beverages.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Asparagus in the time of tax returns.

As the readers of this blog may have noticed, our hero, the Oklahoman Swede-Pole, did not spend a lot of time at home during March. Instead, during what me might call the Great Spring Migratory Period, he traveled all across the United States and visited New York (again), Boston (first time, and it was great), Austin (SWSX-a great time), and Denton, TX, (good Indian food) over Spring Break. After a brief two-day stop in Oklahoma, the math guy behind this blog then flew down to Houston to attend the Triannual Ahlfors-Bers conference. His 5 days in Houston were most enjoyable and filled with many exciting math talks (no, really!), delicious BBQ at Goode Co., and almost nightly visits to Hans' Bierhaus with the NY/ WA/TN/OK postdoc/young faculty gang.

This week, post-A/B conference, our blogger had a Swedish friend visit him in Stillwater. (Third visitor so far. Anyone else? Tornado season is approaching...) Cowboy boots were purchased, PBR was sampled, oil derricks were viewed, talk was given, a good time was had.

After this visit, our postdoc was supposed to stay put in OK for a while. But instead, he inexplicably found himself in high demand as a speaker in the western part of the United States, and so will be going to Manhattan, KS, as well as Las Vegas within the next few weeks. This change in travel plans, along with teaching, along with the necessity of filing tax returns (1040NR-EZ? Okla taxes? W2? Etc.) has turned this into a most busy time north of McElroy Rd.

So what does an Oklahoman Swede-Pole do when he is hungry, but also needs to get a lot of things done? Does he go to Chick-Fil-A for a quick meal? Is IHOP getting a visit tonight? Nope. Rather, our blogger cooks all the vegetables in his fridge, in the quickest and easiest way possible.

green onions

olive oil

salt and pepper

Rinse the onions and the asparagus. Peel the carrots. Cut off the top part of the carrots, the bottom part of the asparagus, and the top and bottom parts of the green onions. Turn on the oven, medium heat.

Lay out two sheets of aluminum foil. Pour a little olive oil onto them, sprinkle some salt and pepper on it, and then toss the vegetables in the mix.  Grate a little (hold that thought, I mean a lot of) parmesan on top, and add a little salt and pepper. Wrap the vegetables up in foil and into the oven they go.

Sit back and relax (or read up on IRS tax forms online) for 15 minutes or so. Remove the "package" from the oven and serve this deliciously simple meal immediately, possibly with a slice of bread.

Serving suggestions: "Black Love" by Afghan Whigs on the side, a bottle of Alien Amber Ale from Roswell, NM.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In praise of the pecan; or, sweet addictions.

Anyone who is more than a passing acquaintance of the Swede-Pole (or is that Pole-Swede) behind this blog must have noticed that he is a sucker for sweets. Let's be honest, let's face the facts: he is hopelessly addicted to chocolate. As his travel companions know, our temporary Oklahoman always carries emergency chocolate on him wherever he goes-and it is not a pretty sight when our mathematically inclined chocolate junkie does not get his fix in time. Our hero's health will, in time, no doubt be affected by his chocolate consumption, and interventions and/or rehab should probably be considered.

But now, instead of dwelling on this regrettable chocolate habit, let us instead turn to one of the best features of the South: the pecan! Or, as some call it, the king of nuts. Delicious, whether simply shelled or candied, whether served in a salad or used to flavor coffee, it grows abundantly over large parts of the Southern United States. (But to a Swede-Pole, it is an exotic nut!) Here is a picture of a genuine Texan pecan tree (recognize it, Austinites?):

Our hero has added a pecan addiction to his chocolate habit ever since he bought a bag of locally produced at the convenience store on campus, not too far from his apartment. These cinnamon-flavored candied pecans seem to be popular with other Stillwater residents also, so our blogger is pulling his friends down with him.

With considerable satisfaction, the Swedish-Oklahoman food blog presents its attempt to emulate the cinnamon pecans from Twentysomething. (Yes, that's what the convenience store is called.) Now that he knows how to make this cinnamonesque nutty delight, our hero will hopefully be spared those embarrassing late night pecan runs to said store...


3 cups of shelled pecans from the groves of Oklahoma
1 egg (we need the white)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 spoons of honey produced by the bees of Oklahoma

Turn up the oven up to 275 F (or 135C). Prepare some parchment paper on which the nuts will be baked.

Beat the egg white. Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar and about 2 spoons of honey. Add as much cinnamon as you like; being from Sweden, I used a whole lot. Stir the mix, and then pour in the nuts.

Stir again, until the nuts are evenly coated. Pour the coated nuts onto the parchment paper, and into the oven they go.

Relax for about 10-15 minutes; make yourself some tea or watch the Academy Awards if you have a TV. Turn off the oven, remove the pecans and let them cool off. Try not eating them all at once. This may well prove a hopeless endeavor-they are so delicious!

Serving suggestions: "Live at McCabe's" by Norman Blake on the side, a cup of tea.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Post-blizzard pesto chicken with leek

As the dedicated readers of this food blog (hi mom & dad) have no doubt noticed, it has been a while since this blog was last updated, and this time, our not-so-young hero can't even blame that fact on a busy travel schedule. Apart from a quick trip to Tulsa, which did feature a tumbleweed and a number of dead skunks and possums, he has been staying put in Stillwater. And during these last few weeks, many a Netflix movie has been watched. (Our blogger would like to share the following advice with his readers: if (an undead) Dennis Hopper ever asks you if you like beer, you better say your favorite is Pabst Blue Ribbon; also, when courting pseudo-intellectual college girls, remember that nice guys finish last, and that pharmaceuticals will get you nowhere. )

In fact, our mathematically inclined Swede-Pole (or is that Pole-Swede?) spent about 2 weeks in a state of hibernation while Oklahoma State University was closed due to an abundance of snow following the Great Blizzard of 2011. To get an idea of what has been going on in the Sooner State, take the small town of Nowata, Oklahoma. On February 10,  a record cold of -31F was recorded there, and a week later, the temperature had risen 110F to 79F! (That's -35C and +26C, respectively.) While Stillwater was not quite as extreme, the blizzard closures were followed by 80F-sunshine-cold beer on the patio weather. Very nice, but not at all conducive to blogging.

But now it is finally time for an old favorite to be featured in these pages. To avoid charges of plagiarism, I readily admit that I got/stole this recipe from kajsafs many years ago. (Let me know if you want to be named and duly honored, kajsafs!) In any case, I thought it was charmingly simple to make, and simply delicious when I first had it, and I have been making it ever since.


2 chicken breast filets (organic)
2 leeks
1/2 jar of pine nuts

olive oil
1/2 jar of pesto (I would have made my own, but I don't have a mixer!)
1 carton of half & half

salt and pepper


First, we roast the pine nuts. Do not add any oil or anything like that; instead, pour the pine nuts into a frying pan, turn up the heat, and make sure to stir the contents so that the nuts don't get burned on one side. Nibble on a few pine nuts to make sure they are thoroughly roasted.

Pour the roasted nuts into a bowl. Next, cut the chicken filets into strips. Fry the chicken in the frying pan in a generous quantity of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Make sure the chicken is almost done before moving on, but do not worry too much. And you want it soft, and not crispy.

Next is the leek. Cut off the top part, wash it, chop it, and add it to the pan. Let the chicken and leek fry for a little bit; again, think soft but not crispy.  Then add some half and half (I always follow my intuition as to the quantity, but a little less under a standard half gallon/450ml carton is enough) and let everything cook for a little bit. Finally, it is time for the pesto. Add a couple of spoonfuls of pesto, and stir the sauce. Add more pesto. Add more pesto. Turn the heat down low and let the sauce simmer.

In the meantime, boil the pasta. It is not difficult, just add some salt and make sure to serve the pasta is al dente. Just before you serve the sauce, throw in the pine nuts, and mix it. Done!

Serving suggestions: "Oracular spectacular" by MGMT on the side, and in keeping with the theme of this entry, a Hibernation Ale from Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Waiting for winter to return; or, Mustardization.

Oklahoma weather is crazy.

Our old mathematician-and-occasional-blogger will testify to this oft-repeated statement anytime after having spent 6 months in the Sooner State. (Gulp, he is 30 now-but let us quickly move on.) Indeed, the Oklahoman Swede-Pole recently entertained a visitor from Berkeley in sunny CA, and in order to welcome the Californian-Swede, Stillwater decided to cover itself with a thin layer of ice and a slightly thicker layer of snow on the day of his arrival. The two Swedes felt just like home! Talk in the math department given, Stillwater bar scene and classic beef restaurant in Oklahoma City experienced, our blogging postdoc's visitor departed, and less a week later, summer came to Stillwater.

Believe it or not, our hero spend most of yesterday outdoors, biking around and running errands. A high point of that 77F day was an hour spent in the shade of a tree outside his apartment, playing guitar and remembering those first summer days in Stillwater. So much has changed since then. As always, some changes may turn out to be more permanent than others, and they may not be the changes one would expect. Now a winter storm warning has been issued for tomorrow, so it may be a while before there's another opportunity for this kind of retrospection.

But some things are always present in our blogger's life, whether blogged about or not-music and food, for instance. Then again, a friend claimed that these two things are the only topics present in the Facebook status updates of our Swedish-Poles. (Include coffee in the food category, and this may well be an accurate statement.) In any case, between work and social calls, there has been little time for updating this blog lately, but now that the weather is taking a turn for the worse, it may just be time for culinary writing again.

This blog post constitutes self-plagiarism, in a way. Sitting under that tree yesterday, he felt an inexplicable craving for mustard, and, since it was essentially summer in Oklahoma yesterday, a French-style potato salad came to mind. Today, it was discovered that half a block of feta cheese was also available, and with a winter storm approaching, roasting root vegetables in the oven felt appropriate-again. (See a post from last year's blog.) Out of this confusion was born today's mix of wintry potatoes and carrots and summery capers and mustard.


4 potatoes
1 carrot
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic

1 block of feta cheese

Dijon mustard

baby spinach

olive oil
salt and pepper
pickled capers

Turn on the oven; make it hot. Wash the potatoes and cut them into wedges, leaving the skin on and chop up the carrot also. In a glass cooking pan, smother the potato wedges and carrot sticks in a generous amount of olive oil. Season with salt, ground pepper, and thyme. And then, into the oven the pan goes. (See an earlier blog entry for pictures.)

Now for the mustardy part of our meal. Slice the onion; we want thin rings here. Cut the garlic cloves in half. Then, in a frying pan, caramelize the onion and garlic. Use moderate amounts of olive oil, and try to get the capers a little crispy at the same time.

Once you're happy with the onion's state of caramelization, add a little mustard to the mix. Don't overdo it, two or three teaspoons should do it. Stir gently for a minute or so, and then remove the pan.

Take a little break and pour yourself a glass of wine. Then check on the potatoes; you want them getting crispy before proceeding to the next step. Once this is the case, chop the feta cheese into large cubes, add them on top of the potatoes and grill the mix until the cheese starts going soft and possibly crispy around the edges. Turn off the oven and take out the cooking pan.

Finally, return to the frying pan, turn up the heat, and sautee the baby spinach in the onion/mustard mix. The spinach leaves should be soft, but they should not lose all of their texture. An extra spoon of mustard might be a good idea. And then we're done.

Serving suggestions: Anna von Hausswolff, "Singing from the grave" on the side. A glass of red wine.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lasagna and jazz, all in 2011.

"In these last few days I have thought a little about where things begin and how they end. It seems to me that although things may start and be maintained without too much consideration, they often require a lot of work to complete."

These are the first sentences of the preface of a certain KTH doctoral dissertation in math, written years before this blogger graduated from high school. (Not the kind of source you would have guessed, right?) I have always like this quote a lot, as it seems to apply to many different things. (And this is no doubt how it was intended.) I usually think of something else in connection with is, but it does apply, in a way, to this food blog as well.

Then, at the end of the same preface, the author extends his thanks to the master musicians of the past for composing the music that has comforted him during difficult times. I agree completely with this sentiment, but I would like to add that good music also provides a frame and soundtrack for happy times, crazy times, confused times, and boring times, the year 2011 being no different. This first post will feature this mathematician's humble attempt at music writing, before turning to the food itself. Hopefully, a reader or two will make it through. And hopefully 2011 will be a great year for Swedish-Oklahoman cooking!

In keeping with this blog's sometimes (always?) pretentious tone, I would like to take the opportunity to enthuse a little over music that has made me particularly happy lately: the brilliant work of saxophone great Pharoah Sanders. Take the track called "You've Got To Have Freedom" that I've been playing over and over-so great! Sanders' initial saxophone howls convey a sense of necessity and urgency; he will not be denied. It's a clarion call-we all need freedom, this is important! Sanders playing is often thought of as abrasive and extreme (his early work with Coltrane), but here I feel he is spot-on. Then John Hicks effortless piano playing takes over; fearless and confident, yet laid-back (that recurring but slightly changing falling figure at the end of his phrases!). Sanders then alternates between melodic solos and high-pitched screeches. Add a swinging rhythm section, that beautiful sax riff, and it's impossible not to feel happy and free.

This energetic recording provided the prefect soundtrack for tonight's vegetarian lasagna! It is effortless-try it yourselves.


lasagna plates
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 green bell pepper
1/2 onion

cottage cheese
2 carrots

peppadew jack cheese

olive oil
salt and pepper

First, chop up the (half American giant, whole Swedish regular) onion and the pepper. Then, in a frying pan, sautee the onion and pepper in a little olive oil. Don't forget salt and pepper. Chop up the tomatoes without losing the precious juice. Add the tomato chop to the mix, and let stew for a few minutes.

Next, pour the cottage cheese (I used half a 24 oz. can) into a bowl. Peel the carrots, and let them meet their shredded demise at the hands of the cheese grater over the bowl. Add lots of pepper, and mix it!

Turn on the oven, medium temperature. It is now time for the layering of the lasagna. The experts disagree here, but I do it thus, starting at the bottom of a glass cooking pan:

tomato sauce
cottage cheese mix
tomato sauce
cottage cheese mix.

Once you're done, take out your favorite cheese.  I like something that has jalapeno in it for this; this time
i used peppadew jack cheese. Grate the cheese and sprinkle it on top of the last layer of cottage cheese. Add pepper and thyme, and into the oven it goes.

Relax for a while with some music, preferably jazz but traditional Italian canti might be ok. Check the lasagna with a fork. Once it goes right through without a crunch, and the cheese on top has deliciously melted, it is done! Enjoy.

Serving suggestions: "A Love Supreme" by John Coltrane on the side, a bottle of New Grist, a sorghum and rice beer from Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI.