Sunday, February 25, 2007

holy crap, is winter over yet? i'm getting really sick of this grey, crappy, icy, wet weather. i'm ready for sunshine. i'm sure we'll have a few more weeks of this crap, which means i should make a batch of corn chowder some time. Ok, this isn't really a "chowder", as it's not thick, but it is a cream based corn soup, and one of my favorite comfort foods. and it's really easy to make!

you'll need:
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
4 green onions, chopped
3 tbsp butter
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (2 cans)
3 cups milk
1 can of cream style corn
2 cans sweet corn
salt and pepper

in a large thick bottomed sauce pan or dutch oven, saute the celery 3 minutes. add the green onions and saute another minute. stir in the flour, and stir constantly for 1 minute. add the chicken broth, and continue cooking until mixture boils for one minute. it should noticable thicken. Stir in milk and corn. add salt and pepper to taste, and heat slowly till hot.

this is one of my favorite foods from childhood. it's nothing fancy, but it's the best comfort food in the world to me.

mmmm... now that i'm all happy thinking about soup, i can give you the book news of the week:

Book reviews are up for Albert Dalia's Dream of the Dragon Pool and Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek: An Afterword. If you're going to read only one book this year, make it Vandermeer's. this man is beautifully strange. i wonder if i would like him if i met him? he's somewhere at the intersection of "New Weird", dark fantasy, and steampunk. all of those things at the same time, but also, not them. perhaps i'll start haunting Vandermeer's blog.

other books on the horizon include my newly aquired copy of The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, along with previously mentioned delishious books from the library. The "ARC's expected list" includes Scales, a scifi thriller by Tony Williams, a british military historian of international fame. I hope his fiction is as good as his books on weapons, which i think my husband may own a few. . (the books, not the weapons), and something called Perverted Realities by Jennifer Caress. Perverted? ummm.... ok. . . .

so many books, so little time. so much good food. . . . .

Saturday, February 17, 2007

big news in the household! we have graduated from clunker station wagon to drumrollplease chrysler sedan! it's new and shiny, and everything works! woohoo!

this was the first weekend after we got the car, and where did i go with it? 2 libraries, and then 2 bookstores. i'm such a book-nerd.

i'd gotten Jeff Vandermeer's Shriek: An Afterword out of the library around Christmas time, and instead of realizing it was a "2 week only" checkout because it was new, i started reading it a few days before it was due, and only got 50 pages in. so now i've got it again. only 30 pages in, and i was already overcome with sensory overload: smell, touch, taste, all of it. usually authors go mainly for the visual. Vandermeer writes like someone with bad eyesight.

i can probably blame Stephen Lawhead for me not getting to Shreik on time, Paradise War was so awesome, that now i've got the 2nd book in the Song of Albion trilogy, The Silver Hand. and while i was at the library, i couldn't resist Meiville's first novel, King Rat. I can't wait to get my hands on his newest, Un Lun Dun.

i can't possibly be helpful to my favorite authors if i insist on getting their books out of the library instead of buying them, so i did actually *gasp* spend money on books today. first up, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, for our reading group at Worm's Sci Fi Haven, and i couldn't resist buying the next Fullmetal Alchemist volume. I'm finding if i don't buy them when i see them, i can never find them again. now i'm up to 5!!

ok, on to food!! and holy crap, i made home made pasta last weekend! and turned it into ravioli!

first things first, pasta is way easier than it looks. it just takes a lot of patience.

for every pound of pasta you want to make (i made one pound), you'll need 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs and a pinch of salt. if you're going to make ravioli (i did), you'll want stronger pasta, so use 2 2/3 cups flour and 4 eggs, and another egg for later.

blend the 3 ingredients together until you get a dough. knead for 10-15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. if too dry, add a few drops water, if too sticky add some more flour. wrap tightly in plastic wrap and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature. divide dough into 3 or 4 peices for easier handling. stretch it with your hands, then roll out with a rolling pin until it's so thin you can see your hand through it. if you are not making ravioli, cut thinly, and let dry for one hour before cooking.

i used mashed potatoes flavored with garlic, parsley and rosemary for the insides of my raviolis (so i guess they were closer to perogies?). whatever you put into your raviolis, make sure it is spiced well (the pasta is bland) and has a very smooth pureed texture.

when you have your dough thin enough, cut the edges with a knife or pizza cutter so you have a long rectangle. put a teaspoon of filling down on side of the rectangle, each teaspoon about 1 1/2 inches apart from the next. you don't want your raviolis too big, because they will expand while cooking. brush egg around the filling. this is the glue that holds the sides of the ravioli together. fold the other side of rectangle over, and press down very hard around the filling. you don't want any air bubbles and you want all the seams closed. use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the raviolis apart. cook in boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until done.

the main ingredient is patience. the next main ingredient is time.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

cars, books, and tabbouli, oh my!!!

it's been a stressful week. my car decided that regardless of how much i coaxed in, it just was not going to make it through another michigan winter. as soon as i can convince a bank that i'm not a loser, i'll be the proud owner of. . . something with 4 tires and an engine. until then, i'm begging rides to work at to the grocery store. i better figure something, i got books due at the library next week. maybe i can renew them over the phone?

good new on the book front. i got my advanced reading copy of "Dream of the Dragon Pool", by Albert Dalia. it is Chinese Hero Fantasy based on actual events in the life of historical Chinese poet Li Bo. looks very cool, and his very talented artist wife did the cover art. i know less than zero about Chinese history and myth. . . so hopefully i can keep up. but i did love Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

i finished reading Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles, and if you're looking for a review, here or elsewhere, the next few sentences will have to suffice. this was the most readable Bradbury book i've come across, and Mr. Bradbury is so adorably sexist. really, it's quite cute. the short stories outline our first expedition to mars and first contact with martians, our martian colonies, the death of the martians, and the eventual nuclear death of the earth. parts of it feel like it is paralleling the Europeans discovery and colonization of North America, and how the natives were seen and treated. i wonder how many lit students have done that as a thesis?

what are your thoughts on the Martian Chronicles? i heard there was a movie made. do you know if it's any good?

so, no official review of The Martian Chronicles, but there is an official review of Greg Bear's Blood Music over at Scifi haven. I'd start posting reviews exclusively here, but i'm too busy being an attention whore over there.

time for food, i'm hungry.

Tabbouleh is a great summer salad, which is why i'm posting it in February, when it's getting up to a balmy 20 during the day, and dropping as low as -10 at night. too bad that 20 degrees isn't centegrade. i make as many batches of this as i can in the summer, because it's light, yummy, and pretty easy to make. it's divine in pita bread, as well.

you'll need:
1 cup bulgar wheat
1 cup boiling water
3-4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp dried mint leaves
about 1 cup chopped cucumber
an entire bunch of fresh parsley, chopped as fine as you can (you should have about 2 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper

can of chickpeas, strained.
garlic, to taste

how to make it:
put the bulgar wheat in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. cover, and let sit about 20 minutes. while the bulgar is busy absorbing all the water and softening up, you can chop everything else up. mix all ingredients well in a large bowl, cover, and let chill in the fridge for a few hours.

very easy, very fresh, and is delish in pitas, on crackers, or straight up. the chickpeas and cucumbers aren't part of the traditional recipes, but i love 'em, so i add 'em.