French food! What exactly is crème fraîche? Wikipedia says that it's "a heavy cream slightly soured with bacterial culture, but not as sour or as thick as sour cream. Originally a French product, today it is available throughout Europe." I don't know if it's available world-wide or not, but it's a very useful thing to have. You can add it to soups and sauces to make them extra tasty. Here are a couple of recipes, one very easy, one harder. For those of you who are vegan, you can substitute cashew nut butter and a drop of vinegar to get a similar effect.
Grad student cream of broccoli soup
Optionally sauté onions, optional garlic and optional pepper in some butter or olive oil. If you choose not to sauté, then just put some olive oil or butter in a pan.
Add some dry rice, too much water and some bullion. Optionally add herbs de provence or other spices. Cook the rice until it is nearly done, then add a head of chopped broccoli. Cook the broccoli in the water and rice. After three minutes you have watery cooked rice and broccoli. Then add a spoonful or so of crème fraîche. You now have cream of broccoli and rice soup! This might go well with baked chicken.
There are many options in the above directions, because graduate school is an exploration in options, boundaries and the like. Also, it's cheap, easy and fast.
Soup of Potimarron
Take one small or medium potimarron (a pumpkin or butternut squash may be substituted) and bake it around 175 degrees C (or 350 F) for 40 minutes to an hour. You can tell it's done when you can easily pierce it with a fork (the same is true of the other squashes). At the same time, also bake, in the same oven, a handfull of chestnuts. You can tell their done when around half of them have cracks in the shell. They will take less time than the squash.
Peel and dice the chestnuts and set them aside. Put a lump of butter in a pan and sauté in it an onion, two or more cloves of garlic and a hot pepper. When the onions are getting translucent, add a small amount of rice (a handful) and broth or water + bullion. Also add a tablespoon of herbs de Provence or other european soup spices, two centimeters of ginger root, a pinch of dried red pepper flakes (to taste), and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cover and let simmer.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds, which you should save too cook later. Scoop the squash insides into the soup. Then add the chestnuts. Let simmer until the rice is cooked and the squash is breaking apart. Then add a head of chopped brocoli. Cook that for 3 - 5 minutes. Then ladle the soup into a blender and blend it. Return the blended soup to the pot and put it over low heat. Add 0.5 - 1 cup of soy milk and a few spoonfuls of crème fraîche, until the soup tastes really rich. Salt and pepper to taste. Your soup is done.
Beware if you try to cook the chestnuts in a frying pan or something instead of in the oven. Take them off the heat after most of them crack. The ones that don't crack can explode, which is extremely messy and probably hazardous.
Now take the seeds that you saved from the squash and wash most of the squash goop off of them. Put then in a frying pan with oil that takes high heat (like canola or corn or whatever) and some soy sauce. You can add black pepper and your other favorite spices, like curry powder or herbs de Provence or anything else. Cook them until the soy sauce evaporates away and the bits of squash goop burn to the bottom of the pan. This differs for different seeds. Potimarron seeds take a long time because they're so thick. When you're done, the seeds are a nice browned color and crunchy when you sample them. If they start to explode like popcorn (watch out for butternut squash, esp), they're definitely done. Eat them with salt.