101 Things I Want to Cook This Summer

When people ask me if I have any plans this summer, I know they're expecting me to say something grandiose like "Oh I'll be backpacking through Europe or Southeast Asia." But when I tell people I plan to cook, they look at me as if I need to say something more. Don't get me wrong, I do have a few vacations in mind, but the biggest thing on my to-do list is to cook, a lot. Every time I cook something new, it gives me a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. So I thought, why not dedicate my whole summer to cooking new things! I'll make dishes I’ve always wanted to try, use ingredients I’ve never worked with before, and conquer some of my greatest fears in the kitchen. I don't expect everything to turn out perfectly, because after all, cooking is all about trial and error. There will probably be something that doesn't taste quite like I expected or maybe even a few singed hairs after a flambĂ©. As for the worst thing that can happen? Let's not think about that because dear lord, I hope I don’t get botulism (my biggest kitchen fear) from my home fermented kimchi. Speaking of which, anyone want to hold my hand as I make this?

I have a spiral notebook where I jot down my ideas and brainstorm about dishes I want to make, that has been with me ever since I started blogging. As I flipped through the stained and tattered pages scribbled with my seriously crappy handwriting (I swear what they say about doctors and their handwriting is true), I saw all the dishes I haven’t made, ideas unfulfilled, flavor combinations untasted. I began to compile everything unfinished from those lists into one, and then I added some more ideas, and then some more. I could go on and on and easily approach 200 items, but let's face it, this list has to be realistic. There are only 180 days left before classes start and once you factor in the vacations, moving, and orientation, that's only about 100 or so days. So I decided on 101.

I bet you’re all thinking I’m out of my mind. Yes, probably, but I signed up for med school didn’t I? And you're betting that I'm never going to finish everything on this list. Again, yes, probably not, but I sure hope I do. Of course the ultimate goal is to finish everything on this list but the underlying purpose of this ridiculously ambitious project is to go out of my comfort zone and try things I've never tried before or have been intimidated by. It will be an incredible learning experience, one that I'll look back on for a long time and I bet it'll be tremendously fun! When my future classmates ask me "so what did you do during summer?" I want to be able to say "Oh I paid $40 for an ounce of ham, made my own yogurt, and some other stuff." And someday, when I'm buried underneath my books, I want to be able to take a moment and think back to the Saturday I spent making croissants and remember the feel of the dough in my hands, the smell of butter permeating every inch of the house as they bake in the oven, the sound of the shatteringly crisp crust, how the seemingly infinite number of layers soak up hot chocolate just right, and just how friggin awesome homemade croissants taste.

So let's get started shall we?

The Top 5 Must Cook
When I asked myself, what are the five things that I absolutely must make before I start school again, I came up with this list. The items on this list are either time consuming, intimidating, challenging, or all of the above! Who knows when I’ll have a entire day to devote to making just one food item again, so it's now or never!

1. Macarons
2. Puff pastry
3. Croissants
4. Xiao long bao (little soup buns)
5. Caramel

Dishes I've always wanted to make
This list includes all of those dishes in my notebook I never got a chance to make.

6. Thomas Keller's Roast Chicken
7. Jerk chicken
8. Duck confit
9. Pork belly confit
10. Homemade bacon
11. Bun cha
12. Bulgogi
13. Korean BBQ Burger
14. Osso Buco
15. Yang rou chuan (Chinese lamb kebabs)
16. Gyro meat
17. Kebabs
18. Fish burger
19. Gravlax
20. Ceviche
21. Bibimbap
22. Dashi

Oodles of Noodles
23. Pho
24. Udon noodles
25. Ramen noodles
26. Ravioli
27. Tortellini
28. Fettuccine alfredo
29. Lasagne with fresh noodles
30. Marcella Hazan's Bolognese with fresh pappardelle
31. Spaetzle

32. Persian sour cherry saffron rice
33. Something from The French Laundry Cookbook

Baked Goods and Sweets
34. Granola
35. Scones

Rise and shine
36. French bread
37. Foccacia
38. Ciabatta
39. Challah
40. Sandwich bread
41. Pretzels
42. Baked donuts

Piece of cake
43. White layer cake
44. Angel food cake
45. Pound cake
46. Olive oil cake
47. Crepe cake
48. Boston cream pie
49. Strawberry shortcake
50. Madeleines

Fruity tooty
51. Apple pie
52. Crumble
53. Cobbler
54. Linzertorte

Creamy trio
55. Panna cotta
56. Creme caramel
57. Creme brulee

Pastry Shop
58. Sfogliatelle
59. Paris brest
60. Palmiers
61. Chinese pastries (tai yan bing, lao po bing) and 62. buns

I want candy
63. Candied orange peel
64. Candied ginger
65. Candied lavender

And more...
66. Coconut macaroon
67. Green tea tiramisu
68. Tapioca pudding
69. Dulce de leche from milk

Ingredients I've never cooked with before
I have to admit, my culinary repertoire is pretty limited. There are so many things I've never cooked with before or ingredients I had never even heard of, quinces for example, until after I started blogging. Food bloggers are an amazing bunch because they're so in tuned with seasonality. So for many of the ingredients on this list, my ability to cook with them is dependent on their availablilty. I doubt I will be able to get my hands on a quince until, at the earliest, late summer.

70. Scallops
71. Clams
72. Mussels
73. Octopus or squid
74. Halibut cheeks
75. Cornish game hens
76. Saffron
77. Meyer lemon
78. Blood orange
79. Currants
80. Quince
81. Sunchokes
82. Phyllo
83. Quinoa

Things I've screwed up in the past that I want to try again
84. Buttercream frosting
85. Fresh potsticker wrappers
86. Cha shao bao (steamed Chinese BBQ pork buns)
87. Glutinous rice balls (mochi)
88. Cucumber melon sorbet

Things I've been too scared to try
I'm scared of deep frying and I'm absolutely terrified of botulism but I won't let my fears stop me from making fried chicken, kimchi, and yogurt this summer.

89. Flambe
90. Deep frying
91. Fermenting
92. Inoculating

Cool things I want to try
I have the vodka and the beans, so I need to put the two together to make vanilla extract. I'm going to splurge for real balsamic vinegar, the really good, really expensive, authentically aged stuff that's as thick as a syrup. I'll be shelling out the big bucks for the prized Jamon Iberico, expensive? Yes. But still cheaper than a plane ticket to Europe, that's for sure.

93. Homemade vanilla extract
94. Bacon vodka
95. Homemade ricotta
96. Real balsamic vinegar
97. Jamon Iberico
98. Nigiri and sashimi (preparing it at home)

Food combos I still need to try
I really need to see what the big deal is about with these food combos because frankly, they sound a little weird in my head (strawberries and vinegar? what happened to good old fashioned whipped cream?) but hey, don't knock it till you try it right?

99. Prosciutto and melon
100. Baked figs with cheese
101. Strawberries and balsamic