From March 6th ā€“ 21st, Iā€™m down in the bay area looking for work as a social interaction designer. I thought it would be fun way to meet people, while down here, to cook for a bunch of Hacker News folk. This is a recording of those dinners.

Tonight, I cooked for Jaisen Mathai, a software engineer at Yahoo who is also trying to bootstrap a textbook and online learning startup, Ash, a friend of his, also at Yahoo, Piaw Na, a Google engineer working on the street view team and his lovely girlfriend, Lisa. Piaw is also the publisher of the fascinating An Engineer’s Guide to Silicon Valley Startups and it was a stroke of luck that I met Piaw at the time I did because this book is exactly what I needed, I ripped through it on the cal train back and it’s thin and packed full of content with zero fluff.

The Plan

I was looking forward to a fairly relaxed dinner after the hectic craziness of the weekend and the weather conspired with my goal pretty well. It was a glorious day down in Sunnyvale (I’ve learned enough about the Bay Area to know the answer to any question about the weather is “microclimates!”) and I wanted a relaxed, backyard style affair.

When we got to the grocery store, Jaisen said he loved lamb (so he is obviously a cool guy) and the ground lamb looked like a fun product to play with so I instinctively went to kofta, a spiced, ground lamb dish popular in the Middle East & India. After confirming that Jaisen’s first childhood memory was not of his dying grandmother feeding him his first bite of kofta and that his family decided to honor their dead grandmother’s wishes by making her traditional kofta recipe on the anniversary of her death every year (always worth checking these things), kofta started sounding pretty good and the dish came together pretty easily.

From kofta, kulfi also popped into my head because it was another funny word starting with k. Kulfi is a traditional Indian style ice cream made without churning and from reducing down milk rather than using cream or eggs. Also like kofta, kulfi was another dish I was making for the very first time. Jaisen also said he loved pistachios so, after confirming the dead grandmother blah blah, pistachio kulfi was the dessert.

Kofta, Kulfi, Ceviche. From the exact other side of the planet but another funny word food. Sure, why not.

First Course

Red Snapper Ceviche with Grapefruit & Avocado

(PS: Thanks to Jaisen for owning a much better camera than I do. The difference really shows!)

The snapper seemed like the freshest ceviche friendly fish at the market and grapefruit and avocado seemed like it would make a good pairing. Normally, at this point, I would make up some post-hoc justification about how the richness of the avocado blah blah but, really, it never got that complex, it was just gut instinct this time around.

Ceviche is the art of marinating raw fish in acidic liquids so the acid cures the fish. In this case, the acid was lime juice and the little bits & bobs were olive oil, garlic, salt, honey, green onion & red onion.

Second Course

Lamb Kofta, Tzatziki Sauce, Salad & Pita

Man, a better camera really does make food look more delicious. There’s really not much more to say about this, standard recipes for all these components can be found on the internet.

Third Course

Pistachio & Cardamom Kulfi

Man, kulfi is delicious, I don’t know why I never made it before. I’ve never owned an ice cream maker so I’ve become somewhat specialized in sorbets instead of ice creams but a sorbet is generally a 2 day affair so I haven’t been able to make one this trip. It was only after I decided on kulfi that I realized it was, also, typically a 6 – 8 hour process. However, with clever application of thermodynamics, we managed to get the entire process done in 2 hours. Ash said my kulfi reminded him of his childhood which I take to mean it was a success.

It was nice to shift gears a little bit and go back to doing more simple food. The shift in pace has definitely recharged my batteries somewhat.

  • jmathai

    Thanks for the eventful evening. A great time was had by all!

  • Danielle Fong

    How did you cook the Kulfi faster?

  • Hang

    Wide, non-stick pan to maximize evaporation. Pre-chilling by stirring it in a bowl set in an ice bath & freezing in a large, shallow, metal pan.

    It's all about the thermodynamics :).

  • snunes

    Could you suggest books or websites to read?
    I would love to improve my skills at cooking. Thanks!

  • Mukta

    Have been following ur blog since quite some time now…
    You often discuss interesting stuff
    It was lovely to read about your Indian Food experiment šŸ™‚
    Would love it if you could hold one of ur dinners here in India šŸ™‚

  • Dead Sea Mineral Cosmetics

    The second course makes one dare not stop eating.

  • adamgollam

    As I see in the pictures you provided I am sure that the one you have cooked for were satisfied and much more.I would! I wonder how did you make that Lamb Kofta, Tzatziki Sauce, Salad & Pita because I didn't find anything on the internet that looks just like what you have in your pictures.

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  • apteka online

    Thanks for the review. I think that successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”