Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy 7th month birthday.

tomorrow, this blog will be 7 months old. and what did i learn in 7 months of blogging about food and books?

that I read way more than I formally cook. I'm averaging just over a book a week. . . and formally cooking not that often. So I've decided to unformalize this blog. Instead of posting weekly, with a book and a recipe in each post, I will post whenever I want about what I'm reading, and you'll get a recipe . . . probably not as often. thank god books don't have calories.

alright, into the literary fray. I tried to resist Harry Potter. really, I did. But my friend managed to end up with three copies (yes, three! all from Amazon!), so she lent me one. I read it in 28 hours, my husband finished shortly after I did. And my other friend says she just mailed me her just-read copy! so, I'm going to have two. If I'm a really good friend, I'll give both copies back to their rightful owners, along with a copy of one of my favorite books. . . .

Harry Potter. will i get struck down by lightning if i say i was unimpressed? That it felt like 500 pages of mostly nothing, and 200 pages of confusing choppy, blocky, funky action? will i lose my fictionfan liscense if i say the best part for me was when Neville Longbottom got to swing that beautiful Griffyndor sword? i shan't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, suffice to say it didn't end the way I expected.

I blame really good fracking books for my nonexcitement of HP. not that Ms. Rowling is a bad author, far from it. Just these fellas are way better. Said fellows would inlcude my latest obsession, Scott Lynch, author of The Lies of Locke Lamora. Alliterative titles aside, this is the most fun i've had all year, and i've learned all sorts of new and exciting ways to use the word $^#&! click on the link, read the review, buy the book. suddenly I feel like changing my e-mail signature to "Captain Jack who?" I expect Lynch is hiding in the far corners of Wisconsin to get away from the storm of fangirls this series could ignite.

You heard it here first folks, I may have an internet exclusive on the first online review of Gary Wassner's fourth book in his GemQuest fantasy series, The Revenge of the Elves. I couldn't find any other reviews floating around, and i just got so sucked in, the book wouldn't let me go! Again, go read the reviews (and the reviews of the others), and get the first three books in the series. by the time you finish those, this 4th book should be on bookshelves near you.

I'm about 30 pages into Hal Duncan's Vellum. another one of those books that i kept hearing good things about, that it was surreal, that it was weird, that maybe it was right up my alley. Well, it's weird. I'll check back in another 100 pages.

catch ya later.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I'm not reading Harry Potter.

I'm not reading Harry Potter.

i will, eventually, just not right now. and holy crap it's been three weeks since i posted something. that is totally lame. i know, i'll use the "i was on vacation" excuse! it works everytime!

it's summer. too hot to turn the oven on. but i need something to take to a pot luck. and my friend is vegetarian. a ha! got the perfect thing!

Chickpea Salad

1 large can chickpeas, drained.
3 green onions, chopped
half a cucumber, seeded and chopped
4 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped.
half a bunch of parsley, chopped.
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of sea salt
black pepper

blend all ingredients, and chill a few hours. taste, and add more salt or pepper as needed. Yes, this is very similar to Tabbouli, but i think it's better.

The super quick version of the last three weeks of my life:

I finished Peter Watt's Blindsight, click there for the review. I finished this book in like 3 days, because it was more addictive than heroin, and really frackin' good. (I was reading this book "under the influence", by the way) It's putting me further and further down the path of jaded, i'm afraid. take for example, The Looking Glass Wars, by Frank Beddor. I have no idea if the book was crap compared to Blindsight, or if it was just crap to begin with (i'm going towards the latter). Beddor said he was aiming for young adult, which is fine, but I just don't know how many 12 year olds these days are familiar with Lewis Carroll. I also received my ARC of Gary Wassner's The Revenge of the Elves. Hokey name, great book. The prose is getting tighter, the stakes are higher. We're in the land of Robert Jordan here, but a quicker and slightly less painful payoff.

The Book of Names by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori looked like it would be The Davinci Code for Jews. .. you know, fun and fast? It was fast. but it was also insultingly stupid with characters as deep as a dried up puddle. I want my two days back.

DragonHead is a newish manga from Minetaro Mochizuki, about a train full of kids who are in a tunnel when there is a disaster and the tunnel caves in, derailing the train and killing most of the children. It wasn't drawn very well, but the story worked well. and one of those kids is totally creepy. this is a dark psychological thriller. you know those awful made for TV SciFi Channel movies? sometimes they work pretty well in manga. I'll be looking for more of this series.

Et Cetera is a not so newish manga from Tow Nakazaki. Polar opposite of Dragonhead, this is more slapstick western. not one I'll be looking for more of. I've seen funny western done good, and this wasn't it.

what, no token mention of my obsession, Fullmetal Alchemist, and how many volumes I purchased in the last few weeks? If any of you work in a bookstore, you are sure to have seen those abnoxious teenagers who stand in the graphic novel section, reading their favorite manga, then they put it back on the shelf, and walk out of your store without spending any money. I was that kid. . .er, person. i'm actually pretty impressed with myself, that i stood in the same spot for about 3 hours, and caught up with my dear Fullmetal. He's killing humunculous left and right, he's found his dad, he's growing up, and getting into the habit of running around without his shirt on. Nice. when's the next volume come out?

I got some goodies from the library earlier today. stay tuned till next time, for updates on Hal Duncan's Vellum, China Mieville's Un Lun Dun, Cormac McCarthy's The Road (we had it first, Oprah!) and Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.

and maybe one of these days i'll give up my secret bagel recipe. or maybe not!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

fajita platter

not only has it been a while since I posted, I've also gotten back on the book reviewing bandwagon. and that means lots of clickable reviews for you! as I teased you about last time, there are now reviews up for Ian McDonald's Brasyl, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and Paul Park's The Tourmaline. Go read, and then hit the library or your favorite bookstore. tell 'em skiffy sent you. when the clerk gives you that "what??" look, quickly snap a photo with your handy dandy camera phone, and e-mail me the picture.

The clickfest continues. . . elsewhere in the book world, I've had a few run ins with Reading under the influence, and I've decided Gary Wassner's GemQuest would make an excellent anime series.

new book aquisitions include Food and Wine Magazine's cookbook of the year 2005, and a fun cute read called Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl, a reknowned food critic that I've never heard of. the book is funny, but I bought it for the 4 star restaurant cheat recipes. That cookbook will keep me happy for a long time, not to mention it's got gorgeous photos.

Library aquisitions include Peter Watt's Blindsight, which i kept hearing a lot about online. I'm about 70 pages in, and the hallucinations have begun to subside. it feels little like Charles Stross, a little like the movie Event Horizon, and just maybe a little like Sagan's Contact. The freakishly semi-lobotimized and self-mutilated crew is chatting with aliens, who know the word cocksucker. I'd love to know where aliens with a 200 word vocabulary learned that word. I'm pretty sure I read Watt's Starfish a few years ago, and didn't care for it at all. But this Blindsight things is f'ing addictive. Also in the library bag are Paul Park's The White Tyger, (no surprise there), and something called City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa, by Adam LeBor, which starts in the 1920s and follows families, via interviews, to their present day situations. I do not know yet, if this will be good or not.

I could have sworn I heard someone say Fajitas. oh wait, that was me. This is obscenely easy, and tastes almost like you're at Don Pablos.

Cilantro Lime Fajita marinade for approximately one pound of chicken or steak
2 limes
2 scallions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp coriander

I highly suggest using fresh cilantro instead of dried. it's one of those herbs where it really does make a difference.

cut your meat into 1/2 inch wide strips, and lay in a dish that will hold it all in a single layer. if you want, add some sliced sweet peppers and onions. roll the limes around on the table a few times (it helps loosen up the juice). cut them in half and squeeze the juice into a bowl. mix in all the other incredients. pour the marinade over the meat, and leave in the fridge for a few hours. when ready to cook, remove meat and grill or broil till cooked to your liking. sautee the peppers and onions in as little liquid as possible in a frying pan on the stove. serve with tortillas, shredded cheese, and salsa.

sharp salsa (pico de gallo)
half a small onion, diced, or a bunch green onions, diced.
3 medium to large tomatos, seeded and chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes, or 2 hot peppers with seeds, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
good pinch salt.

blend all ingredients, serve immediately.

ok readers, you got books, you got food. what are you still sitting here for?