Sunday, April 24, 2011

20 Before 20

I live by goals.

Make a list, write down the goals, accomplish the tasks, erase the goals (such a sense of accomplishment), repeat as necessary. Short-term or long-term—it doesn’t really matter. Especially when the sheer number of things I need to accomplish becomes overwhelming, my little system of short, doable tasks makes the big picture more easily visible.

Coming up on the beginning of Dead Week, I am simultaneously overwhelmed by the studying in my immediate future and the reward that awaits come 11 AM on May 3rd.

The thought of my ongoing to-do list becoming, miraculously, blank is somewhat exhilarating. No Physics homework to do, Calculus tests to study for, English papers to write, CS codes to construct. Whatever will I do with all my time over my long (and well-deserved, if I do say so myself) summer break?

Well, I do have a summer job, but I’m looking forward to the comparatively abundant free time I’ll enjoy on nights and weekends. Naturally, I’ve thought of all the things I can cook and bake. After a year of limited chances to cook and bake in my dorm, I’m eagerly anticipating my opportunities to do just that this summer and next year in the kitchen of the apartment I’ll share with my three other roommates. 

Partly for fun, and partly to expand my own culinary experience, I’ve constructed a grand “to-make” list. I call it 20 before 20 – 20 things to make in the kitchen before my 20th birthday this November. Some are things that I’ve never had but have always wanted to try and some are things that I love eating but have never attempted myself. All are things that I have never made before. As I take in the finished list (and it’s of course subject to change, as my interests and inspirations adapt from now until November 4th), I am utterly overwhelmed, but in the best possible way. I can’t wait to dive into these mini culinary projects, and I also can’t wait to share them with you.

Without further ado, the 20 Before 20 List:

1. A savory tart: I come across recipes for savory tarts all the time and am itching to try one. I have my eyes (er, stomach?) set on one with sweet caramelized onions.
2. Polenta in any form: The one time I attempted this was a lumpy disaster. I've since read everything I could about the types of cornmeal to use and cooking methods to employ.
3. Something grilled: Summer is the perfect season for grilling. I don't necessarily have to use an outdoor grill (we do own a grill pan), but I do want to employ this cooking method.
4. Spaghetti and meatballs: This is absolutely one of my favorite meals of all time. I don't eat a lot of meat, but this and meatloaf are two of my favorite comfort foods.
5. Macaroni and cheese: I find it so amusing that the most popular recipes on cooking sites are invariably some form of mac and cheese. I'm looking to take on a simple yet delicious recipe that uses tasty cheeses like Gruyere or Fontina (swoon).
6. Something with poached eggs: Since my first experience with poached eggs and that irresistible runny yolk, I've wanted to recreate the magic in the kitchen. As with polenta, I've searched for every tip and trick I could in order to make the perfect poached egg.
7. Chicken chili: I'm a total soup person. I've had my eye on this recipe from Martha Stewart since I first saw it back in October.
8. Risotto without Arborio rice: By this I mean with another grain like farro or barley. I love the nutty taste of these grains, and I have wanted to try the risotto method with them, too.
9. Something with wild mushrooms: Whenever I try wild mushrooms at a restaurant, I'm wowed by their - excuse the pretentious "foodie" term - umami flavor. They're expensive, but a little bit goes a long way and I could easily knock out two birds with one stone by using them in a savory tart, risotto, or poached egg dish.
10. Something with tofu: The only time I'd ever tried tofu before this year was some sort of barbecued offering from the Whole Foods salad bar, and I was, to put it plainly, quite disgusted. However, I tried it again this year and was taken by its versatile ability to soak up the flavors of whatever you pair it with. I really want to try this crispy tofu recipe from Daily Garnish.
11. Chicken or vegetable stock: If it's good enough for Ina, it's good enough for me.
12a. Savory yeasted bread: By this I mean a crusty, European hearth-style bread. Of all the things on this list, this might be the one I'm most excited and motivated to tackle.

12b. Sweet yeasted bread: Pumpkin brioche. Cranberry walnut bread. Cinnamon rolls. How could I not?
13. Macarons: I finally want to see what all the fuss is about. (I have tried macarons from Dean & Deluca in New York before, but I want to see what all the fuss about homemade macarons is about.) Plus, the notion that they're a challenge to make naturally makes me even more motivated to try them.
14. Homemade granola: I should be more specific - I want to make a healthy granola. I bookmark just about every granola recipe I come across, and I finally want to take the plunge. Bonus since it'll be so much less expensive than the Kashi granola bar habit I've acquired.
15. Homemade Do-Si-Dos: This is very specific, but I really want to make a homemade version of my favorite Girl Scout cookie. I have very little desire for any other Girl Scout cookie, but Do-Si-Dos are too good for me to pass up.
16. Something with frangipane: OMG, frangipane. I have a true love for this stuff. Try it and you'll understand.
17. Chocolate chip cookies: There's something so alluring about this most simplistic of treats. In particular, I'd like to try either the Cook's Illustrated or New York Times version of the "best" chocolate chip cookie.
18. Something with coconut: I actually really love coconut but hardly ever use it in sweet desserts. Perhaps I'll find a way to incorporate it into a granola.
19. Rice pudding: As with granola, every time I see a rice pudding I bookmark it. Ina Garten even has a rum raisin version, and we all know how I feel about rum raisins.
20. Successful pie crust: It will happen.

Tell me: What's something that's on your "to-make" list?


  1. This is a good list! You better send me the recipes for the savory tart, macaroni, and "risotto." :) To make for us: healthy fruity nutty bread; something pickled; non-pasta pasta dish, like an eggplant lasagna or cooked zucchini as spaghetti; something with beets & something with rhubarb - these are scary vegetables; healthy pot pie!

  2. I love to make goals and to-do lists. Checking off the items on the list is so much fun. Sounds like you have a great list of things to make on your "to-do" list! :)

  3. um, I think your list looks great - and I am really excited you'll be making a lot of these things in our kitchen so I can try them, too! (good luck on finals!!)

  4. yummy list-let me know if you need someone to taste test. i've done quite a few things on your list, and i know if i can-you'll definitely be successful. look forward to reading what you've marked off your list. good luck with finals.

  5. great list ! diana and i have tried to make macarons before, and ours did not come out as delightful as we had hoped; so hopefully yours come out better, and you can give us tips! :)

    on my list of things to make is gnocchi. after having batali's lighter than air gnocchi, and watching burrell make it today on food network, i am inspired!

  6. Nice list, I had a beautiful risotto made from finely diced calamari at a restaurant in Sydney. That seemed to be something different and exciting than the usual arborio rice.

  7. This is a great list, and great idea. I wonder if I could come up with 34 things for a 34 by 34 for my fall birthday. I am also *really* looking forward to school being out for summer. But in my case it's my kids being out of school... and dance... and Girl Scouts... and all those things that keep me constantly running around.