Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Value of Tests: It's more than just testing!

Since I have some free time, I’ve been catching up on some of the stuff
I’ve been meaning to read. I’ve got a reading list of stuff that I’ve wanted
to look at that were written by other authors with my publisher. Yesterday, I started looking at Cucumber, which is an interesting behavior-driven development tool. This post isn’t really about Cucumber, but about something that Cucumber reminded me of.

When a competent programmer builds software, they write tests. That’s just
a given. But why do we do it? It seems like the answer is obvious: to make sure that our software works. But I’d argue that there’s another reason, which in the long run is as important as the functional one. It’s to describe what the software does. A well-written test doesn’t just make sure that the software does the right thing – it tells other programmers what the code is supposed to do.

A test is an executable specification. Specifications are a really good thing; executable specifications are even better.

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Weekend Recipe: Kinda-Sorta Ratatouille

This is a really fun recipe. I’m calling it a sort-of Ratatouille, because that’s the closest thing that I’ve seen to it.

The way this came about is amusing. My wife and I watch a lot of cooking shows. There’s one on the food network that I really like called “Chopped”. The show is a bit gimmicky, but the basic idea is that it’s a cooking competition. They bring in a group of really good chefs, and then give them some kind of surprise ingredients that they need to use to cook dishes. Then they get judged on the quality of what they made. I enjoy it because you really get to see something about how the chefs think when they create a dish.

When we watch, I frequently tell her what I would do with the ingredients. So this morning, she decided it would be fun to do the basic Chopped thing: she’d go to the local farmers market, grab some nice ingredients, and make me do something with them.

She came home with a wonderful local chevre (fresh goat cheese; in fact, this was the best fresh chevre I’ve ever had), a couple of japanese eggplants, some sweet corn, and a sweet duck and dried cherry sausage. This dish is what I did with them.


  • 1 pound duck sausage. You could use any really good quality sweet sausage.
  • 2 japanese eggplants, sliced into disks about 1/2 inch thick.
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, cut off of the cob.
  • 1 sweet onion, diced.
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced.
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme.
  • 1 cup white wine.
  • 1/4 pound crumbled chevre.
  • A bunch of diced tomatoes. I used some nice fresh local grape tomatoes.


  1. First, poach the sausage in wine. Cook it until it’s just firm. The idea here is that we want to cut the sausage into chunks, and we don’t want those chunks to fall apart. So we’re cooking it just enough to make it firm enough to dice.
  2. Remove the sausage from the poaching liquid. Don’t throw away the liquid – that stuff has a lot of flavor in it!
  3. Put the garlic into a food processor with a bunch of olive oil, and puree it. Then pour that over the eggplant, and let it marinate for a while.
  4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When it’s hot, put the eggplant on a baking sheet, salt it, and roast it until it’s cooked through.
  5. Dice the sausage into largish cubes, and then brown those in some olive oil. Set them aside, covered to stay warm.
  6. In the same pan where you cooked the sausage, add some olive oil, and throw in the onions. Let them cook until they get nice and soft. Then add the corn and tomatoes.
  7. While the corn is cooking, add salt, pepper, and thyme to taste. If it looks a bit dry, add in some of the poaching liquid. Cook it until the corn is cooked however you like it.
  8. Lay the roasted eggplant slices onto the plates. Cover them with the corn and tomato mixture. On top of that, spoon some of the browned sausage. Finally, crumble some of the chevre on top.

I served it with fresh crutons – slices of good french baguette, brushed with olive oil, toasted, and then rubbed with a clove of garlic while they were still hot.

It worked really well. The sausage was a bit on the sweet side because of the cherries, but that and the sweet corn were beautifully balanced by the tartness of the chevre. All of the ingredients were so beautiful, and cooked this way, each of their flavors and textures came together amazingly well. It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever created! So we’ll definitely be doing the chopped thing at home again!