Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Round Up.

Since the minute i finished the recipe round up, I've been thinking about the book round-up, curious to see how it would turn out. So here goes:

1. Blame!by Tsutomu Nihei Volume I (Manga)
2. Psychic Power Nanaki Volume 1 by Ryo Saenagi (manga)
3.St. Lunatic High School Volume 1 by Majiko (manga)
4.The Family Trade, by Charles Stross
5.Last Call, by Tim Powers
6.Ugly Stores for Beautiful People, by James Burr
7. St. Lunatic High School , Volume 2 by Majiko (manga)
8.Paraworld Zero, by Matthew Peterson
9. The Hidden Family, by Charles Stross
10. The Clan Corporate, by Charles Stross

11. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
12. Edward: Dancing on the Edge of Infinity, by Bruce Taylor
13. Voices From The Street ,by Philip K. Dick
14. Whitechapel Gods, by S.M. Peters
15. Strangers in Paradise, Volume I by Terry Moore
16. City of Saints & Mad Men, by Jeff Vandermeer
17. Accelerando, by Charles Stross

18. The Elric Saga, part I, by Michael Moorcock
19.Halting State, by Charles Stross

20. Glory Road, by Robert Heinlien
21. Elric Saga, part II, by Michael Moorcock
22. The Book of Jhereg, by Steven Brust
23. Jumper, by Steven Gould
24. Elric: the Making of a Sorcerer, by Michael Moorcock and Walter Simonson (graphic novel)
25. Jhegaala by Steven Brust

26. Action Philosophers #1, by Fred deLente and Ryan Dunlavey

27. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch
28. The Sun, The Moon and the Stars by Steven Brust
29. A Game of Thrones, by George R R Martin

30. A Clash of Kings, by George R R Martin

31. A Storm of Swords, by George R R Martin
32. The Servants by Michael Marshall Smith
33. The January Dancer by Michael Flynn
34. Someplace to be Flying by Charles deLint

35. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
36. Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

37. Sundiver by David Brin
38. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
39. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon
40.Startide Rising, by David Brin
41. Between the Rivers, by Harry Turtledove
42. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
43. Deathnote volume I, by Tsugumi Ohba (manga)
44. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire

45. A Journey Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz
46. Mindscan by Robert Sawyer
47. Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
48. The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines

49. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
50. The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick
51. Case of a Lifetime, by Abbe Smith
52. Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
53. Mind the Gap, by Christopher GOlden and Tim Lebbon
54. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
55. Passive Agressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings, by Kerry Miller
56. You Can Get Arrested for That, by Richard Smith
57. With Liberty and Justice for Some, a A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court, by David Kairys
58. The Scar by China Mieville

The Quick Breakdown:
Manga/Comics/Graphic Novels: 9
books about manga/comics/graphic novels: 1
Non-fiction books: 7
Charles Stross books read: 6
Charles Stross books enjoyed: maybe 3-ish
Books read in the winter: too many
books read in spring/summer: not enough.

China Mieville

Do you remember the Perdido Street Station craze? everyone who was anyone was going ape-ship over 700+ pages of dreamshit, non-communicative cactus people, and freaky cocoons? authors and literary magazines were blurbing the book every which way till sunday, claiming it's earth shatteringness.

I remember the Perdido Street Station craze. the book? it was long. oh so painfully long. and it was good, but not that good.

It's too bad all those blurbers spent all their blurbs on Perdido, because it's Meiville's The Scar that really deserves that kind of praise. This was a really freakin' good book. It must have been good, as I couldn't stop biting my nails for most of it.

I've written this next paragraph about 4 times, and deleted it, trying to tell you about this book in just a few sentences. Time to bite the bullet and write a longer review. Not like I got anything else to do the next few days, so stay tuned!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ye Olde Roundup.

mmmm.... december. vacations from work, cookies, new years party, presents, all the good (and awful) movies on tv, the sounds of the snowplow in the morning. does life get any better?

maybe it does, but not today. time to round up all the tasty stuff from the last year. and it makes a handy directory when i'm looking for stuff too! There are probably some duplicates from last year (or recipes that look like duplicates, but are either improvements, or totally different), but i'm cool wit that.

1. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
2.Ginger Snaps (scroll way down to the bottom)
3.Mexican Sweet Pork Stew
4.Caper Chicken (not caper as in 30's style crime movie)
5.Mom's Lukshen Kugel
6.Lentil Barley Stew
7. Barley Chorizo Pie
9. My favorite tuna salad
10. Forgotten Cookies
11. Marinated Mushrooms
12.Zucchini Gratin
13.Matzah Ball Soup
14. Egyptian Rice/Tasty Mud
15.Fruit Tarts
17.Carrot Salad with Olives
18. Summer Pesto Pasta
19. Chorizo Beefaroni
20. Turkish Lamb Pilaf
21.Peach Cobbler
22.Mushroom Barley Casserole
23.Green Jumbalaya
25.Corn Salsa
26.Corn Chickpea Salad
27.Vegetable Potato Soup
28.Zucchini Bread
29.Almost Awesome Focaccia
30.Mom's Apple Crisp
31.Corsican Beef Stew
32.Risotto Primavera
33. Better Mac and Cheese
34.Fettucini alla Papalina
35.Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roll Part of the Thanksgiving extravaganza!
36.Corn Pudding
37.The Best Pumpkin Pie
38.The Best Pumpkin Apple Bread
39.Chicken 'n Chickpeas (I loves me some chickpeas!)
40.Turkey Schnitzel (I loves me some fried anything!)
41.Caper Lemon Salsa

Wow, i did a lotta salsas. and a lot of chickpea stuff.

So that's ye olde yearly round up. I met my goal, which was to post more recipes than last year (only 34). Maybe next year, i'll actually rate the recipes, so you can know which ones are good, and which ones to skip because they need major improvement. In the next few days i'll do Ye Olde books Round Up, and the blog turns two years old on Jan 1st! yay!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Nerd.

my current job leaves me plenty of time to read, which is, well, fabulous! been reading a LOT, and I couldn't be happier. i'm a happy nerd.

Still on the law kick, we've got one serious book, and one not so serious book:
With Liberty and Justice for Some, a A Critique of the Conservative Supreme Court, by David Kairys could more accurately be called "I hate William Renquist", which is okay, since the guy sounds like a total jerk. This short but heavy read offers a few supreme court cases over the last hundred years on the most controversial topics, such as privacy, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and discrimination. I haven't yet got the education or vocabulary to understand everything Kairys was saying, but I enjoyed what I got out of it, and it's whetted my appetite to learn more about the Supreme Court, and how their decisions affect our futures. and i think, that was the point of the book.

You Can Get Arrested for That, by Richard Smith, is about two very bored Brits who come across one of those "dumb laws across America" books, and decide to break some laws! These two men are a far as it comes from being criminals, except if you include all of their illegal orange peeling in hotel rooms, and fishing while wearing pajamas, and whale hunting in Utah. it's a funny book, but I found myself skimming along quite a bit, waiting for them to break the next law. the book probably would have made a better blog.

and speaking of blogs that became books, check out Passive Agressive Notes: Painfully Polite and Hilariously Hostile Writings, which really is all the images from Kerry Miller's blog. Now if only the chick from Cakewrecks, or the dude from xkcd would make a book, my life would be complete. But the Passive Agressive book is very funny, i'm sure everyone either knows someone who has left a note like that, or is guilty of doing it themselves. and it's all pictures, you'll get through the entire little book in like an hour.

only one fiction book today, that's odd.

Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which is simply put, about a little orphan boy who is adopted by some ghosts, and they raise him in the graveyard where they live. Not having much experience with living children, the ghosts do the best they can in raising. I vaguely recall this book getting less than stellar reviews from book snobs when it first came out, and i think that critics will no longer accept bedtime stories from Gaiman. and this is a lovely, simple, elegant bedtime story about a little boy. I really like it.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Adventures in Hummus, and Fried Turkey. Also, starring hot pepper flakes.

I love chickpeas. delicious hot or cold, they are full of nutrition, easily accessible, and cheap. Right out of the can, or mashed with garlic and salt into hummus, what's not to love?

Since I almost always have a can (ok, maybe a few cans) of chickpeas on hand, this recipe is especially easy. it's saucy, so make some rice or mash potatoes to go with it.

Chicken 'n Chickpeas, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

approx two pounds chicken parts, cut up (chop a thigh in half, or a breast in thirds)
1 tbsp butte
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 green onions, chopped
one 15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup water or broth
1/2 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ginger
salt & pepper
heaping 1/4 tsp cinnamon
generous pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

melt butter in very large skillet (i LOVE my new dutch oven!!). over medium-high heat, brown the chicken quickly on all sides, in multiple batches if you need to. remove the chicken, and add onions and green onions to pan, adding a bit more oil if you need to. cook until onions are tender, then add chickpeas and all spices (not the parsley). stir until well mixed, and add the chicken back in, stirring to coat. bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer until chicken is tender, 30-40 minutes. before serving stir in the parsley, and more salt/pepper if needed. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes. Your kitchen will smell like the best North African travel channel show while you are cooking this.

Hubby and I had no idea this dish would be so saucy, so after eating all the chicken and as much chickpeas as he could stomach, we were left with about a cup of sauce. I couldn't let it go to waste, and it did have all the required ingredients for hummus - chickpeas, garlic, oil, some salt, some spice. Into the blender it went!

Lesson learned: sometimes sauces just don't taste good all by themselves. No matter how tasty the bread or crackers or whatever. . . . my improv hummus is still sitting in the fridge, and next time i look at it, it's going in the trash. the hummus disaster was a big gross.

ahh, now on to my husband's favorite food ever: Schnitzel. raise your hand if you, like me, thought that schnitzle was some kind of pastry. Such a long word with so few vowels has got to be some kind of pastry, right? well, maybe it is somewhere, but the kind i'm talking about is made of turkey, and it's breaded, egged, breaded again, and fried. and I make a funky citrus spicy salsa to go with it.

Turkey Schnitzel, adapted from Faye Levy's 1,000 Jewish Recipes
approx 1 1/4 lbs turkey slices, about 1/4" thick (feel free to pound 'em thin)
good pinch hot pepper flakes
1 cup matzoh meal (or a little more)
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil

Season turkey slices with salt, pepper, paprika and hot pepper flakes. You will need 2 large plates, and one good sized bowl. in the bowl, beat the eggs. On each plate, put about 1/2 cup matzoh meal. for each turkey slice, dip it in the first plate of matzoh meal, pressing so the meal sticks. then dip gently into egg, then dip in the second plate of matzoh meal, again pressing so the meal sticks. after all your slices are prepped, heat the oil in a very large heavy bottomed skillet. you need enough oil to cover the botton of the pan, and slosh around a little. We're not going to deep fry the turkey, but we're not shallow frying it either. somewhere in between. Get the heat cranked up, and very gently slip a few turkey slices into the pan. Fry about 2 minutes each side, or until cooked and golden brown.

While one person is frying, the other person can make this insanely easy crazy sharp relish, also inspired by a recipe from the same cookbook:

Caper Lemon salsa
1 lemon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
3 tbsp capers, rinsed
good pinch hot pepper flakes
splash olive oil
few tbsp chopped parsley

peel the lemon, and using a sharp knife, get as much white pith off as you can. Chop the lemon flesh, removing any seeds and stringy pithy bits. Add lemon to bowl with onion. add all other ingrediends, and mix well. let sit 5 or 10 minutes before eating.

sharp as hell on it's own, this salsa went incredibly well with the turkey schnitzel. No clue as to why they played together so well, but they did, and it was awesome.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching up on the books.

last time i did a library run, I came up with 8 books. granted, 2 of them were comic books, and then i purchased 3 more comic books, but still, that's a lot of reading. here's the quicky, reader's digest version of what i've been devouring these last few weeks:

Mind the Gap, by Christopher GOlden and Tim Lebbon - a pulpy yet surprisingly fun ghost story. Suddenly orphaned, Jasmine flees her home from the gangster-like uncles who haunted the lives of her parents. Finding her way to an underground band of merry little theives, she becomes of the star pickpocketing pupil of their leader. Down below the tube stations, where a ghostly feeling might be a short tingle on the spine of a co-conspirator, for Jasmine it's a screaming, wailing, powerful sound beyond her comprehension. What are the ghosts trying to tell her, and how can she escape them? Part pickpocketing orphan adventure, part Neil Gaiman ghost story, this story was much funner than I expected. highly recommended.

Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan - futuristic noirish murder mystery. One part bladerunner, one part old school Asimov's "Robot's of Dawn", another part "Minority Report", Morgan's got the mystery twists and turns down to a science. As soon as indentured detective (it's work the case or head back to prison) Takeshi Kovacs thinks he's go things figured out, here comes another twist to knock him back a few days. and when you can just download your brain into the body of your choice, things can get even more confusing. The only negative thing I can say about this novel is that it is graphic. graphic violence, graphic sex, a little too graphic for my tastes. it would make a great action flick.

Case of a Lifetime, by Abbe Smith - I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this was 100% worth the read. As a law student, Abbe Smith meets Kelly Jarrett, who has been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit, yet cannot prove her innocence. Jarrett is given the option to plea bargain, but doesn't take it, because that would require her to plead guilty to yet another crime that she didn't commit. Smith is involved with Jarrett's life behind bars for the next 25 years. The book is about Smith and Jarrett and it isn't. It's mostly about how our current criminal law system fails innocent people, beacuse it is designed to believe that if you are in a criminal trial, or are already serving time behind bars, you must be guilty of something, or you wouldn't be there. a powerful book, I'm looking forward to reading the works of some of the attorneys and judges that Smith talks about.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter, by Michael Swanwick - a nice mix of fantasy and contemporary fiction. a bit like Harry Potter meets Trainspotting meets Tolkien meets and standard coming of age story. Beyond that, all I can is that the story is discongruous - things just don't fit. (is that a word??). After escaping slavery in a factory, young Jane makes a life for herself in a small village and signs up for high school. A great student (because she learned so much slaving away in the factory??), college is definately in her future, and she studies industrial alchemy. A college experience rife with abusive instructors, casual sexual relationships and drugs . . . I'm three quarters of the way through the book, and I'm still not sure what the main conflict is. I don't know why I should care about Jane or what she's going through. Jane seems like a pathetic, naive idiot who is incapabale of standing up for herself or saying no to any guy who reminds her of her first lost love, and then discarding him, or passing on the hash or cocaine. Maybe the conflict is between Swanwick not being able to decide if he wants a magical fantastical story with fairy creatures, or a sad pathetic little girl who through the drugs and manipulation might just figure out what she wants to do with her life? I've seen fantasical worlds and fey creatures live happily in modern times, but in this book, they are just fighting for attention. this is supposedly an award winning author, but I just don't see it.

and, saving the best for last:
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini - It thrills me to say that this book won so many awards because it deserved them, and more. You know how when you read a non-fiction book, it has a certain weight to it, because you know it really happened? and when you read a fiction book, it has a lighter weight to it, because even though you care deeply for the characters, and don't want harm to befall them, you know it's just a story, and it's not real? While reading this book I kept having ot remind myself that it's a novel, as in fiction. it's got that weight. Not an easy book to read, Hosseini intimately visits the horror of Taliban ruled Afganistan, what you and i just saw as green and black blips on CNN. this is not a book about the Taliban, it is not a book about Afganistan, it is a book about two friends who grow up, and part ways after something terrible happens. Amir lives his entire life with the guilt of what happened, while Hassan is eventually able to get over it, and get on with his life. Haunted by the phone call of his late father's friend, is there really a way for Amir to "be good again", after so much time has passed, and so much pain pushed down into his heart? the only think harder than reading this book was putting it down.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

thanksgiving, parts III and IV

I really just don't want thanksgiving to end. It's like autumn Passover for me, except you can eat anything you want. I didn't make any desserts for our actually thanksgiving meal, but have been doing the pumpkin thing since. If i was a real foodie, I'd have gone out and bought a bunch of expensive sugar pumpkins, and roasted and pureed them myself. apparently i'm not a good foodie, since i buy canned pumpkin. it's good and available. and it's time for dessert.

a few months ago a friend brought this to a potluck, where I begged and pleaded for the recipe. Yes, it's that good. and easier than it looks to make. I lowered the sugar a little from her original recipe, and upped some of the spices.

N's Pumpkin Apple Bread
makes 2 loaves

3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp allspice
1 can pumpkin puree (about 16 oz)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 eggs, lightly beated
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large baking apple (such as gala or granny smith), peeled, cored and diced

cinnamon sugar topping
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter, room temp
2 tsp cinnamon

for the topping combine all ingredients with a fork to form a crumbly mixture. set aside.

preheat oven to 350. grease and lightly flour two 9x5 loaf pans. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt and allspice. In another large bowl, mix the pumpkin, sugar, eggs and oil. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and blend well, then fold in the apples. The batter should be very wet. Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans, and smooth the tops flat. sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture on top. bake at 350 for about an hour. when a knife or toothpick comes out clean, it's done. let cook in pans for about 15 minutes, then finish cooling them on wire racks.

We've been using the Joy of Cooking Pumpking Pie recipe for years, and I was never quite happy with it. the custard never seemed to firm up quite right, and it was just too much pumpkin puree to not enough flour and egg binder. Martha Stewart dot com to the rescue! Again, i upped her quantities of spices, and used my brand new, totally awesome ceramic pie weights for the best crust ever.

Better Pumpkin Pie
Makes One Pie

one pie crust fitted to a 9" pie plate
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 can pumpkin (15-16 oz)
1 cup half and half

form crust to pie plate, and refridgerate for about an hour. preheat oven to 350. Line pie crust with wax paper or foil, and gently fill with pie weights or beans. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350. Remove crust from oven, and carefully remove lining and pie weights.

in a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt spices, and pumpkin. when well blended, add half and half, and mix again. pour into warm pie crust, and bake till set, about 1 hour. Cool on wire rack at room temperature, and do not refridgerate until fully cooled.

this recipe is simpler, faster, and better than the joy of cooking. Joy of Cooking, you make me sad!

Been getting a LOT of reading done lately, but I'll torture you with that another time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving AAR part II: Barbara Kingsolver

I got this super easy Corn Pudding recipe from Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal Vegetable Miracle. Made a few changes based on what I had in the house and flavors I like, and it was scrumptiously delicious, and as I mentioned, crazy easy.

Holiday Corn Pudding, adapted from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle.
3 cups corn kernals (frozen is fine)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese (anything that melts is fine)
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried herbs de provence
salt & pepper

combine all ingredients in a big bowl, then pour into a greased, shallow baking dish. bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes until top is puffy and golden.

This was so tasty I think i might make more in a few days.

If Barbara Kingsolver isn't careful, she's going to have quite the cult following. oh wait, she already does. For anyone who enjoys eating, living, being outside, breathing, and generally being satisfied with their life, I can not recommend her book Animal Vegetable Miracle enough.

the book, simply enough, is about her and her family moving to some property her husband owns in Virginia. the property had been a farm at one time, but the Kingsolver family had only used it as a vacation cabin for many years.They sell their home in the American southwest, and move out to the farm permenantly, with the family promise they will subsist on what they can grow, or get locally. Luckily, they have experience with chickens and vegetable gardens, and both parents agree quickly that coffee and olive oil will be exceptions to the rule. For those of us with minimal vegetable gardening experience (me), and no animal experience (me too), this could be a little harrowing.

non-fiction books aren't supposed to be this good. they aren't supposed to be this inspiring, they aren't supposed to make you want to change your life and start next years lettuce seedlings even though it's only November.

This book never tells you to start your own farm. it never tells you you need to buy some chicks and do an acre of potatoes and onions to feed your family through the winter. it's just one family's farming adventures. it asks one question: don't you want to know where your food comes from? and it gives an answer: buy local whenever possible. it supports your local economy, doesn't require as much energy to get to you, and usually supports varieites and breeds of food that are dying out.

I really didn't expect to have a religious experience reading a book about a farm. and the turkey sex chapter? priceless. the biggest problem with the book is the same problem I've had with every Kingsolver book i've read: that it had to end.

Friday, November 28, 2008

thanksgiving after action report, part I: The Turkey

i love thanksgiving. I get to hang out in my happy kitchen and play with food, all day long. I'm sure plenty of people would see that as drudgery, boring, dumb, waste of time, etc, but I see it as therapy.

What I'm so proud of this year is that a)nearly everything I cooked was a new recipe for me, and b)dude, I pulled a raw turkey apart! my late grandfather the butcher would be proud.

the menu:
Bacon wrapped Turkey roulade with figs, cranberries, feta and apricots, adapted from Bitchincamero
Barbara Kingsolver's Corn Pudding
Scalloped Potatoes
Zucchini sauteed with greenbeans

as there were only two of us, this was plenty of food.

Can I please tell you about my raw turkey adventures? How i wish i had photos, because this was totally cool, and totally gross. Ok, so the recipe called for a butterflied turkey breast. I had a whole turkey breast, with breast bone, ribs, and all (no wings or legs). where in my little kitchen was I going to rip this thing apart? a ha! in the sink! nice and big, and easy to clean.

First, the skin came off. pretty easy, actually. while flipping the bird over, I heard a few audible crunches. that would be the itty bitty ribs. ick. back to the top of the bird. There were some breaks in the breast meat, and slipping my fingertips in there, the top layer came clean away on a seam, (breast meat, slipping my fingertips in? sounds dirty) leaving the tenderloins underneath and still attached to the breastbone. keep in mind, i haven't even touched the knife yet. this is all finger tearing. so I've got the rib cage with tenderloins still attached, and big hunks of breastmeat attached at one seam, almost looking like overly heavy wings. ripping gently with the knife (finally!), the breast meat came away from the breastbone/rib area. breasts in hand (still sounds dirty), the carcass went into the freezer for future soup making use.

while "debreasting" the poor tasty bird, i'd seperated the tenderloin from the breast, so not so much butterflying was going to be happening (it should really be attached if you're going to butterfly), so I just pounded the things between some saran wrap a few times. now it's time to make it pretty!

Bacon Wrapped Turkey Roulade (adapted from Bitchincamero.

two turkey breasts, pounded, weighing about 2 lbs each. (If you can get one giant one, that's even better, but i had two smallish ones)
6 cups water mixed with 1/4 cup salt

Brine the turkey in the salt water for about an hour. while it's brining, do the next steps:
Into a skillet over medium heat, add
2-3 tbsp butter.
when melted, add
1 onion, sliced finely
2 shallots, sliced finely
Let carmelize for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. you want them to get brown. if they start to stick/burn, add more oil, or lower the temp. when carmelized, add
2-3 tbsp water
3/4 cups chopped dried figs (found in the baking area of the grocery store)
stirring often, carmelize figs for another 10 minutes. Everything will get brown and sticky. This is good.

remove turkey from brine, discard brine, rinse turkey, then wrap in paper towels to absorb remaining water.

preheat the oven to 325. have ready:
greased foil lined rimmed cookie sheet
unrimmed cookie sheet
butcher's twine, cut into 8 peices, each about 8-10 inches long (trust me, don't skip this step!)
salt & pepper
your carmelized onion/fig mixture in a bowl
20 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon, but pork bacon would probably work better)
6-8oz feta cheese
about a 1/2 cup cranberries (I used frozen, worked great)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup apricot jam

on the unrimmed cookie sheet, lie down for pieces of butchers twine. put 8 slices of bacon on top, going the same direction. the bacon slices should over lap slightly. put one turkey breast on top of the bacon, crosswise (you want the bacon to wrap around the breast when you roll it up), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle, but don't skimp. put half the onion mixture evenly on the breast. now put some cranberries, feta, and pecans down. with the help of a friend, roll the breast over the filling, and pulling the bacon around. use two more slices of bacon to cover the gap over the crease. tie with butchers twine, stuff in any stuffing that fell out. Put stuffed breast on the foiled greased rimmed cookie sheet, seam side down. slather half the apricot jam over the bacon.

now do the same with the other breast. this is the messiest thing i've done in a long time. It was even messier than ripping the turkey apart in the sink.

Once your breasts are prepared, and well slathered in apricot jam (damn, that sounds dirty!) pop into the oven for one and a half hours. remove from oven, and let sit for 5-10 minutes before cutting twine off and slicing.

I would absolutely make this again. the one mistake that I made was neglecting to line my rimmed baking sheet with tin foil. any jam that dripped off the turkey burnt to the pan, and i had to soak the thing 3 times to get the burntness off. next time, I will use foil!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seriously, does any part of this animal not taste good?

don't tell my kosher-ish parents, but I have yet to discover any part of a pig that doesn't taste good. Picked up a fantabulous cookbook at the equally fantabulous Kazoo Books last week, called All the recipes Pasta of Italian Cuisine. The front cover notes that this is the "English Edition", with a pretty little British flag. English? yeah. everything is in metric with abbreviations i've never heard of, the entire seafood chapter is a little scary, and there are recipes that call for wild boar. yeah, this book was never supposed to be available in the US! we found something (many things, actually) that looked tasty and do-able, and went to our local fancy pants gourmet meat/cheese/wine shop. converstion went something like this:

us: do you have, um, something called Parma Ham?
shop: yes, it's called Prosciutto. Would you like some?
us: Yes!
shop: don't you want to know how much it costs per pound?
us: No!

I can honestly say I have never seen meat sliced so thin. it was truly a work of art. then we ate it. it tasted even better than it looked. again, is there any part of a piggy that doesn't taste good?

adapted from All the recipes Pasta of Italian Cuisine:

Fettuccini Alla Papalina

1 lb fettuccini
1/4 lb prosciutto, sliced thin, then sliced again crosswise.
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 large onion, chopped
olive oil
2 eggs
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

start pasta water boiling on the stove. in a heavy skillet, saute the onion in some olive oil over medium heat. Stir the peas into the onions with some salt & pepper. Don't go nuts with the salt, as the Prosciutto is pretty salty. lower the heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, and lay the sliced Prosciutto over the peas and onions, but DON'T stir the ham in!! just let the meat sit there, and watch the fat slowly melt as you cook your fettuccini. in a small bowl, beat eggs, and stir Parmesan Cheese. When Fettuccini is tender but still slightly firm (that's called al dente), drain and put into large serving bowl. Pour the eggs over, and quickly stir. When well blended, stir in the meat and onions mixture.

This is unbelievably good. it's not kosher, it's not Passover friendly. And it is the most incredible home cooked pasta meal I have ever made.

Other than that, made a batch of Olive Chicken the other day, which came out as deliciously yummy as usual, and pot of Mushroom Barley soup, which somehow was not at all improved by the addition of shitake mushrooms. This weekend promises my husband's award winning chili, cornbread, and nefarious culinary plotting for thanksgiving.

Books, books, books galore! had WAY too much fun shopping at the infamous Kazoo Books, and came home with the following:
The Anubis Gates by Tim Power- one of my favorite steampunk/horror/adventure books EVER
Gloriana, by Michael Moorcock - Very much a satire of Queen Elizabeth. Humorously erotic, erotically humorous. I'm highly entertained, as usual.
Brokedown Palace, by Steven Brust - appears to be in the world of Vlad Taltos, but without Vlad. Brust has never led me astray before. No, it's not the Claire Daines Brokedown Palace, or at least I don't think so.

Received my ARC of The Stepsister Scheme, by Jim Hines. Looks cute, looks like lots of grrl power.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mac and Cheese redux, a.k.a. Bacon makes everything better.

I would have sworn by my old Mac and Cheese recipe. Macky, cheesey, vegetably, crumbly crusty, what's not to like? the only thing that could possibly be missing starts with "b", and ends with "acon".


Better Mac and Cheese
4-5 slices bacon (turkey bacon is OK)
olive oil
1 lb shell pasta
6-8oz Muenster cheese, sliced very thin (use that Mandolin!)
1 cup shredded mixed cheese (it's ok, buy the bag of mixed shredded cheese at the grocery store. I did)
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 bunch of green onions, sliced thin
6-8oz mushrooms, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Start salted water boiling for pasta. Cook bacon in a skillet with a little oil till crispy. Remove and chop. Cook pasta until just al denta, drain and leave it in the colander in the sink. in a big soup pot, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium-low heat, and toss in chopped bacon. slowly wisk in the flour. keep stiring! don't let it burn! the mixture will start to turn brown. this is good. slowly whisk in the milk, then add the green onions, bay leaf and maybe 1/2 tsp paprika. let this mixture simmer and thicken for about 10 minutes, stirring often, as it will form a skin otherwise. It will thicken, and get a slightly foamy look to it. turn the heat off, and stir in the shredded cheese. Stir in all your cooked pasta. Stir in mushrooms and peas, and season with salt & pepper.

Grease a 9x9 baking dish, or other shallow caserole of similar volume. Spoon in enough of the cheesy pasta mixture to just cover the bottom of the dish. now put down a layer of thinly sliced muenster cheese. Spoon in another thin layer of cheesy pasta, and cover with a layer of sliced muenster cheese. Continue till you are out of cheesy pasta and muenster cheese. Remove the bay leaf when you find it.

Put another tbsp of butter in a microwaveable dish, and melt in the microwave. stir 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs into the bowl until well blended with the melted butter. sprinkle this mixture as evenly as possible on top of the pasta. bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Let sit for about 5 minutes before you eat it.

you will never want baconless Mac & Cheese again. and let's not even talk about that blue box abomination.

If it makes you feel better, just go read that whole passage again. i think i will.

On to some books, that are nearly as yummy, but with less saturated fat. Been getting a lot of reading done lately - blew through volumes II and III of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics. I know he's putting together some epic plot line, but after volume one, it's kind of going down hill for me. Read volume III of Deathnote, and Yup, still morbid and fascinating. Should have been embarassed that I could identify the black and the white shinigami action figures that were on sale with the anime at Best Buy? If i think about it, the best part of this series is the sweet nearly loligoth fashions of the Shinigami. Maybe i should go get Paradise Kiss or Gothic Sports. Same fun fashions, less death.

Picked up my first Robert Sawyer book, Mindscan. I'm about half way through it, and definately enjoying it. Kind of pre-Stross-singularity, when the technology to copy your brain has just been invented, and it marketed to eldery people who don't have much time left. Copy your brain into a younger mechanical body, and let your old body life out any life it might have at the nicest retirement home ever on the far side of the moon. Kind of six million dollar man with a twist. But what happens when your old body doesn't die? which one is the real you? You both have the same memories up until the moment your brain was copied, you have the same fingerprint, the same genetic code. Most of the book deals with the philosophical definitions of personhood, through a legal battle. Double fascinating.

Finished Tony Horwitz's A Journey Long and Strange. Was really good, and I like his spry writing style. If all history books were this sarcastic and humorous, I would have been a history major. I suddenly have the urge to hop in my car to road trip to all the places mentioned in the book. If that's not a sign of a good regional history book, than I don't know what is.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beef stew that even I'll eat. between comic books, that is!

i better write it all down, so i don't forget something. . .
beef stew
adventures in risotto
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
A Voyage Long and Strange (non fiction! Can you believe it?)

and i have to introduce a new member of our adventuring kitchen family:

Our lovely Calphalon non stick dutch oven! Recipes that call for a large heavy skillet or dutch oven will no longer daunt me!

Ok, so the beef stew deal. was unlike any beef stew my Mom ever made me when i was a kid. the cookbook, my everpresent Meditteranean cookbooks calls this Corsican Beef Stew. i did alter it some, for ease and convenence.

Corsican Beef Stew
1 lb stewing beef, cubed
4 or 5 sliced bacon (I used turkey bacon)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine - we used a Riesling, was excellent.
1 can diced tomatoes, drained over a colander
6-8oz mushrooms, sliced or chopped
pinch cinnamon
1 tsp rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound penne, or other pasta of similar size
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

in dutch oven, cook bacon. I used turkey bacon, so i had to add some olive oil. when bacon is cooked but not crispy, remove and chop. season beef with salt & pepper, and add to pan with 2-3 tbsp oil. brown meat on all sides, don't worry about cooking it all the way through. if you need to do the beef in two batches, that's fine. remove the beef to a plate and set aside. add onions to pan, cook till slightly browned. mix in chopped bacon, garlic, wine, tomatoes, mushrooms, cinnamon, rosemary, and bay leaf. cook for about five minutes to soften the mushrooms, then stir the beef back in. cook gently for 20 more minutes, stirring often to keep it from sticking. Now, add enough water to nearly cover, and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat down to simmer, and simmer for 2-3 hours or until beef is tender.

when it's nearly done, cook your pasta, being careful not to over cook it. To serve, put pasta down on plate. put parmesan cheese on top of your pasta. put beef stew on top of that. is super good.

Adventures in Risotto! thank you cute teeny weeny little Rice and Risotto by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen! now i just need to find a good bulk source of arborio rice.

again, i adapted this recipe to include veggies i had on hand.

Risotto Primavera
2 tbsp olive oil, you might need more.
1 small zucchini, quartered and sliced
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup frozen peas
small can mushrooms
approx 1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups arborio rice
6 and 1/4 cups simmer chicken stock (i used 4 cups stock, the rest water)
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp butter
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
2 tbsp chopped basil

first things first, set up your stove. because once this gets started, you can't stop for anything. on the stove, have your lovely dutch oven, and a sauce pan that can hold all your broth (i learned the hard way my sauce pans hold exactly 6 cups). have handy ALL ingredients you need, a large spoon, a ladle, and another large bowl.

start the broth heating up on the stove. i had the head up to medium, then i turned it down a little. you want it simmering gently, not boiling. saute zucchini, carrots, and peas in dutch oven with some oil. when they are nearly done, add the mushrooms. season with a little salt & pepper. when they are done, remove to a bowl. make sure nothing is left in your dutch oven. put a little more oil in the pan, and add the onion. stir and cook till it's turned a little clear. now stir in the garlic. add the rice, and stir constantly until it is coated with rice and oil, about a minute or two. now, add your first ladle full of broth. it will bubble all over the place in the bottom of the dutch oven. stir that rice and broth baby! this is the point where you can't walk away until the dish is done. when the broth has been absorbed by the rice, add another ladleful. after this, it's pretty easy. stir till absorbed, add more broth, stir, repeat. takes about 30 minutes. when you're about to add the last of the broth, put all the sauted veggies in, the raw scallions, the butter, the parmesan cheese, some salt & pepper, and the basil into the rice. now pour the rest of the broth on top of that, and stir and stir and stir. you've also got to get that butter and cheese melted and mixed through.

i'd make it again. requires some concentration, but easier than it sounds.

Finished Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Greg Maquire. Was surprisingly good. i shouldn't say "surprisingly", but i was happily surprised and satisfied at how nice this book was. good tempo, great characters in intense states of denial, no slow bits. the book is about a lower class Mother who wisks her daughters Iris and Ruth away from England to a loving yet estranged family in Holland. they arrive, no family to be found. Mom manages to marry a very recently and suspiciously widowed local merchant, and moves her family in with his sullen and beautiful daughter Clara.

this book never tries to be something that it isn't, and i can't tell you how much i appreciate it. it isn't Iris's fault she's not beautiful. She does her best to befriend Clara. when Clara and Margarethe fued, Iris is stuck in the middle, and ready to break away from her mother. And Ruth, no one even pays any attention to her, why should they? she's metally retarded, and couldn't possibly have anything to say about anything.

my friends are always askind me for book recomendations, but i read so much SF, that i don't know what to recommend to friends who aren't into SF. now i've got something that no one won't like.

I'm also reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. started this a few years ago, couldn't get into it. but now that i'm all into comic books, i'm totally into this. i'm highly entertained that Dream looks just like Gaiman's picture in the back of the book. and Dream's sister is fricken hilarious!! between the two libraries that i frequent, they've got all the issues between them.

Deathnote - ummm, it's about a bored teenaged boy who kills people? morbid, but rather comic. absolutely addictive.

also reading Tony Horwitz's A Journey Long and Strange. my first Non fiction in a while. it's about what happened between (and before!) Columbus screaming "Land Ho!", and the british colonists showing up for the first thanksgiving. fascinating because it's funny. i'd read more history if it was written this way. Horwitz doesn't pull any punches about idiotic explorers and their patrons. the etymology is fun as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

books first today.

Between the Rivers, by Harry Turtledove - great historical concept - a fictional ancient city called Gibil(Ur, perhaps?) that has just discovered metal smithing and writing. Each local city has it's own patron God who lives in the city, and has the opportunity to control the people. Engibil allows his people to do what they want, so long as they bring him tribute. The other Gods think he is lazy, and doing dangerous things, allows smithing and writing. all actions have a patron god (give thanks to the god of libations before drinking, the goddess of growth before eating bread, etc), but smithing and writing are such new technologies, they don't have any patron gods. what's a smith or a scribe to give thanks to before smithing or scribing? his own brain or ingenuity? couldn't that be taken as an insult to the Gods?

as I mentioned in my last post, what God would want stupid followers? long story short, the book has a great concept, but the execution is sluggish and bordering on boring, and the dialogue is awful. I'm assuming Turtledove did what he did in an attempt at imersion in ancient languages and styles of speech, but the novelty wore off in the first 10 pages. Would I recommend this book? if you don't mind slow and sluggish, you'll enjoy it, but expect anything earth shattering.

New from the Library:
The Stone Gods, by Jeannette Winterson. robots? spaceship? it must belong in Sci Fi! checking out the authors website, i find that she does a lot of contemporary literature exploring gender, non traditional relationships, artistic stuff, etc. ahh, that would explain the lesbian robot sex scene right at the beginning of Stone Gods. Before you scream "bigot!" please understand i've got nothing against lesbian robots, i'm just not in the mood for that right now. especially after reading Stross's Saturn's Children, where the main character (a hot female robot) screws anything that speaks binary. it wasn't the hot lesbian robot that turned me off to Stone Gods, it was the contemporary, surreal, dream state, exploration style of the literature. all good things, just not what i go for. is there any way to say "i hated this book" without looking like an anti-feminist xenophobic bigot?

currently reading (and enjoying!) Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, by Gregory Maguire. Far better than I expected. After the murder of their father, Iris, her slow sister (retarded?) Ruth, and their mother Margerethe flee to Holland, in search of Margerethe's estranged family, who have all since died. homeless, Margerethe takes work as a housekeeper. the small family moves in with her employer, a wealthy business man and his wife, and their beautiful cloistered daughter. Ok, so if this is giong to be a Cinderella tale, Iris needs to be come a stepsister, how are they going to get rid of Heer Van den Meer's wife, and then convince him to marry an ugly, widowed Englishwoman? oh. Oohhhhh.. i am highly entertained, and it's a fun, easy read. and one of these days, Iris is going to realize the boy she has a major crush on isn't interested in girls.

food - made the first beef stew of my life earlier this week. i don't eat a lot of beef, it doesn't taste like antyhing to me. and beef stew doesn't have a recipe! you just toss stuff into a slow cooker and make it! well, i didn't know what i was doing, and i used a recipe, and it was very good. and it didn't have no stinkin' potatoes in it! maybe later, if i don't feel so stupid about needing a recipe for something so easy, i'll psot it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

i love apples.

have you been to your local apple orchard yet? no? why not? apple orchards are fun, and filled with apple trees, which are in turn, filled with apples and soon to be apple cider. and all sorts of other yummy things you can make with apples. and when the weather starts to turn cold, and you get your winter coat out of the closet for the first time in 6 months, and you put your sandals away for the winter, what's better than warm apple anything? hmmm. . . not much.

Mom's Apple Crisp (with minor modifications made by yours truly)

5 crisp apples (I like Gala)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) cold butter
1/3 cup oatmeal (not the instant kind)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

preheat oven to 350. peel and core apples, then slice thinly. layer the apple slices with half the nuts in a greased 8x8 baking dish or other caserole of similar volume. sprinkle lemon juice on the apple slices as you are layering them. the layers should come about 3/4 up the sides of the dish.

in a bowl mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. cut the cold butter into small peices, then cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender. cut until coarse crumbs form. gently mix in oatmeal and remaining nuts. sprinkle mixture over apples. bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until apples are tender, and topping is crisp.

apple crisp, like many other foods, go well with a good books. goes even better with books, plural.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay - not at all what I expected, but incredible, and well, amazing. Teenaged cousins Joe and Sammy start out as many teenagers do - convinced that they are invincible, and that their dreams will come true. well, dreams do come true, just not the way you expected. and what you thought you wanted isn't really what you want. This happens to be a book about two Jewish cousins in New York City in the 1930s, and the next 15 years of their lives. but that's not what it's about at all. I don't mean to be vague, and any readers who enjoy the surface story for what it is will enjoy their time, but if you can see just a little deeper in the kaliedescope, you'll get knocked on your ass before you know what hit you.
i need to write a better review. . . . something more substantial.

these next two are MUCH easier:

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman - very cute, very quick. the "we only have time for a short bedtime story because my TV show is starting" version of Meiville's Un Lun Dun (which I enjoyed more). I give Gaiman credit for the buttons thing, that was beautifully creepy. . . but the rest? I've seen him do better, so this kind of felt cheap and lazy.

Deathnote volume I, by Tsugumi Ohba - this series has been out for a few years ago, so i was happily surprised to find it in the library. Basic plot is creepy, but fun - a death god accidentally drops his notebook, his "Deathnote" on earth, where it ends up in the hands of Light Yagami, a typical high school student (Ok, what's with all the Japanese characters named "Light"?). Light now has the power of the book - if he writes a name in the book and thinks of a person, the person dies. Excited about the idea of a new world order, Light goes about killing criminals and terrorists. When the police catch on that something funny is happening, famed Detective L is put on the case. Light is oddly nonchalant about his killing spree abilities, and Ryuk, the original owner of the deathnote is entertained and amused by the whole situation. Seriously, something this freaky should not be this entertaining.

Currently reading Between the Rivers, by Harry Turtledove. I was sitting in on a Sunday School class the other week, and the teacher was talking about the Garden of Eden. God made Adam, Adam was lonely, so God made Eve. He told them they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of Knowledge. they could do anything but seek knowledge? What kind of a God wants stupid followers? that's when my husband put this Harry Turtledove book in my hands.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The first step towards awesome Focaccia

the first step towards awesome Focaccia is to make almost awesome Focaccia, and then try to improve it. done!!

adapted from Paul Hollywood's 100 Great Breads:

Focaccia, makes one loaf.
2 cups flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 packages active dry yeast (each pkg is 15g)
1/2 cup water + some
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, drained of oil/brine but not rinsed
3 tbsp dried basil, or a handful of fresh basil leaves, torn in half

salt water - 1 tsp salt dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
oil for brushing

1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
small palm full of pine nuts (how much is a palm full? i dunno, do you like a lot of pine nuts, or a little?)

put flour, salt, half the oil, and 1/2 cup water into a bowl and mix well. be prepared to add another tbsp or two of water if the dough is wet enough to pick up all the flour. flour your hands, and knead the dough for 6-8 minutes. you can add more flour if it's too sticky, but you want it to stay as sticky as possible. put a few drops oil into the bowl, turn the dough to cover, and let rise at room temp for 2 hours.

grease a baking sheet, then mix the olives and basil into the dough. flatten the dough out into a round on the baking sheet, about 14" across. brush the dough with olive oil, and make little indentations all over it with your fingertip. let rise one hour.

when the hour is nearly up, sautee the sliced onion in some oil. when the onions are nearly done, turn the heat down to low and toss in some pine nuts so they get covered in a bit of oil. preheat oven to 450.

brush the top of the dough with the salt water, then with oil. put the onions and pine nuts on top of the dough, and brush again with oil. bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden around the edges.

OK, so the original recipe didn't call for any onions or pine nuts, but it sounded so good! how to make this bread one step closer to awesome focaccia? don't cook the onions so much on the stove. . . they got so dried out in the oven that they all burnt to a crisp. also, next time i will flatten my dough out more, and maybe blend the pine nuts right into the dough, because like the onions, they didn't stick to the top of the bread very well.

a note on Mr. Hollywood's cookbook: lots of beautiful pictures and inspriring recipes, but too many ingredients that my local grocery store has never heard of. maybe i'm not as much of a foodie as i thought.

the focaccia might not have been perfect, but it was better than the books:
Saturn's Children, by Charles Stross. Even more rediculous than the cover image. i'm really hoping this was satire, and that I just didn't get it.

Startide Rising, by David Brin. Not as good as i'd hoped. Superb over arching ideas, detailed execution, not so much. also, dolphin TMI.

currently reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. You know, the Yiddish Policeman's Union dude? I'm enjoying the snippets of yiddish in the story, reminds me of my Bubbie and Zayde

Sunday, October 5, 2008

long time no blog.

Looks like it's been a while since I posted anything here. Sorry about that. Means we've got plenty to catch up on!

A handful of new book reviews up:
SunDiver by David Brin
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
January Dancer by Michael Flynn

I wrote the January Dancer review for SFRevu. . and I need to decide if I'm going to continue writing reviews for them. The editors strongly prefer to only publish positive reviews, which puts me in a bad position when I choose a book from the shopping list that turns out to suck. my reviews just end up flat and superficial.

reviews in the works include Startide Rising, by David Brin, and Saturn's Children, by Charlie Stross. I have major issues with both novels, so i promise those reviews will be neither flat, nor superficial, although perhaps biting and just plain mean, due to dissapointment.

the last few weeks have had plenty of food adventures, both good and bad. i'm not going to subject you to the failures, the internet isn't that big. but here's some yummy stuff, and it's seasonally appropriate, at least where i live!

Zucchini bread, make 2 loaves
adapted from The Breadwinner's Cookbook

3 cups flour
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 butter, melted and cooled (or you can use one cup butter, melted and cooled, and skip the olive oil)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups shredded raw zucchini
1/2 cup chopped pecans or 1/2 cup raisins, or 1/4 cup of each (I don't suggest going over 1/2 cup of added fruit or nut extras)

preheat oven to 350, and grease 2 loaf pans. mix flour, honey, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a big bowl. Add everything else except the nuts and/or raisins, and mix well. when well blended, mix in the nuts/raisins. pour into loaf pans and bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. the bread will still be raw in the center, and will continue to bake as the bread cools, but be very, very careful when removing the loaves from the loaf tins.

i still have one more zucchini in the fridge, so i think later this week i'm going to cut this recipe in half and make zucchini muffins.

Yet again, i've managed to catch whatever crud is going around town, making everyone sick. if the Food and Drug administration was watching our city, they would think that everyone is making meth in their basements, due to all the cold remedies being sold in the drugstores. it's just a cold, i swear! and the magic over the counter medicine is. . . Mucinex! disgusting commercials, miracle medicine. so i've been sick the last few days, and wanting soup. nothing chowdery, and i made mushroom barley soup a few weeks ago. Chicken noodle soup is kind of boring, and I need something with more nutritional value than the lemon tea i've been living on for the last few days. that in mind, i give you Sick Soup! if i can make this while sick, then anyone can.

Sick Soup
adapted from a minestrone recipe off cooks.com
2 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
one baby zucchini, quartered and sliced thin
a few red new potatoes, cubed
2-3 celery stalked, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
48 oz chicken broth
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried basil
salt & pepper
one can northern white beans
about one cup elbow macaroni

sautee onion and garlic in butter for a few minutes. add zucchini, potatoes, celery and carrots, and saute over low/medium heat until veggies have started a soften just a little. Stir in the parsley and basil, and add the broth and at least 3 cups water. salt and pepper to taste. simmer until the veggies (especially those potatoes!) are nearly done, about 15 minutes. add the pasta, and boil for 6-8 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. let sit off the heat for a few minutes before serving. be careful not to overcook the pasta, because it's just going to get squishier and squishier as the leftovers sit in the fridge.

makes a good, easy to digest "sick soup". nice and squishy. In fact, i'm going to go have some right now, which i try to survive a few more pages of Stross's Saturn's Children. this won't be the first Stross book that i returned to the library unfinished. i either love his stuff, or think it sucks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

we made scones. and i bought too much corn.

I've had plenty of bakery scones over the years. one bite reminds me why I don't buy them that often - they are dry, crumbly, and usually don't taste like anything. then i found this recipe for scones that promised "moist, biscuit-like texture". flour, eggs, cream, dried cherries . . dude, i want some!!

Scones - slightly modified from The Joy of Cooking
makes 12-15 scones

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 dried cherries (or other dried fruit. chop it up real small)
1 egg
1/2 cup heavy cream (we used half & half)
1 tsp grated orange zest
a few more tsp cream

preheat oven to 425. blend flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. cut in the butter with a pastry blender. keep the butter cold until you are going to use it. the idea is to slice it into smaller and smaller peices that can be coated with the flour mixture, not to smush them together into a greasy paste. gently fold in the dried cherries. now, add the egg, cream and orange zest, and mix with a rubber spatula. you want to moisten all the dry ingredients, but don't overmix.

(this is where the recipe said to knead on a floured surface, but as the dough was the consistency of really wet oatmeal, we actually skipped that step. maybe that's how the bakery scones i've had in the past got all dry and bleh?)

drop onto a greased cookie sheet. you should get 12-15 scones, and they will spread when you bake them, so don't put them too close together. brush the tops with the additional few teaspoons of cream. i was worried the cream would all pool down to the cookie sheet and burn there, but the unbaked scones were all nooked and crannied (like english muffins!), and so the cream didn't go anywhere it wasn't supposed to go. if you want, shake on some cinamon. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 12-15 minutes. cool on a rack. make sure to eat at least one warm, because they are never going to taste this good again.

I dare you to find a more delicious marriage of sconey, biscuity goodness!

Also, sweet corn was on sale at the farmers market. i bought a half dozen ears, and seriously, how much corn on the cob are my husband and i really going to eat? Still not sure what I was going to do with it, i cooked up three ears, then scraped the kernels into two bowls. one was going to end up a salad type thing, the other would become salsa of some kind.

Corn Salsa
1-2 ears corn, removed from ear of corn
3 green onions, chopped small
good pinch hot pepper flakes
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
salt & pepper
1 tbsp fresh chopped cilantro

in the bottom of a bowl, put the green onions and the hot pepper flakes. pour the lime juice over the top and let marinate a few minutes. then add the corn, tomato and cilantro. season with salt & pepper and enjoy.

Corn Chickpea salad (i loves me chickpeas!!)
1-2 ears corn, removed from ear of corn
1 can chickpeas
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp mint
salt and pepper

mix all ingredients in a large bowl, and chill for a few hours. mix well again before serving.

Book News - am working on reviews for Sundiver and Cryptonomicon. If you don't see them soon, feel free to harass me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

random bits, and Google Maps

my review of Michael Marshall Smith's The Servants has been published here. Great book for pre-teen readers. my biggest complaint is that the book is so short! kids who are at the reading level for this have probably just finished the first or second Harry Potter book, i worry they would be bored with a book that just over 200 pages. so my message to Mr. Marshall Smith? you're not half bad, now give me another hundred pages!

Another short but incredibly satisfying and smart read is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, which is available via creative commons, here. I've been reading Mr. Doctorow for a few years now, and I religiously follow his stuff on Boing Boing.net (and if you go that site, today, right now, the top article is about guess what? Little Brother!!). More on Little Brother in a bit, but Since Cory Doctorow is now my favorite person of the day (go Canada!), i found myself studying his "suggested reading list" down at the very bottom of the Little Brother page. this is how I found myself reading Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. I might suck at math, but i really enjoy reading about it. In the first hundred pages of Cryptonomicon, the story takes you to Pearl Harbor, Shanghai, various neighborhoods in Manila, Corregidor, Cavite, Gaudalcanal (where's the canal?), and other famous WWII pacific theatre locations. The only thing worse than my history is my geography, and I'm embarrassed to say I couldn't find most of these places on a map, or tell you why they are important (even more embarrassing is how many americans suffer from the same problem, and don't realize it's a problem).

i might not know where Manila is, but Google Maps does. with the high rez photography, i can even pick out the shipping containers, cranes, churches, plazas, and slums. Google maps gives me a whole new way to follow characters and stories. I'm sure Google Earth would even give me a orthogonal view of the exact hotel mentioned in the book.

Maybe tonight i'll map out all the places mentioned in Little Brother, in and around San Fransisco. See? the internet isn't all crap!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inspired by recipes, but not really following them.

recipe, schmecipe! i don't need no stinkin' recipe! but a list of ingredients would be nice, and maybe a clue about the proportions. .. . . and i'm missing some ingredeints on the list, and i got some stuff in the fridge that needs to be used, like right now.

summer must be almost over because although i never thought it could happen, i'm actually kind of sick of tomatoes, and i'm starting to crave warm winter grains like barley. and i'm always craving rice.

what to do with a pantry full of staples, a barley craving, and a rice craving? and i'm too lazy to take on something overly ambitious, so i'll pull out some recipes, and well, fake it.

Mushroom Barley Caserole (sort of, kind of, based on Mom's mushroom barley caserole)

4 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
6 to 8 oz mushrooms (i used canned, eek! but fresh would be better)
3/4 cups pearl barley
1 can chicken broth
salt and pepper
a few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

preheat oven to 350. in heavy skillet, cook the bacon over medium high heat. when it's done, remove and drain on paper towels, then chop. cook onion in the bacon grease, adding butter or olive oil if needed. after a few minutes, add the carrots. when the onions are getting brown, stir in the mushrooms. add the barley, and stir to coat. season with salt & pepper and stir in the parsley, and stir the chopped bacon back in. when the barley has darkened slightly, pour in the chicken broth. turn the stove off, pour everything into a greased 9x9 baking dish (or shallow caserole of similar volume), cover, and bake for an hour. check the barley for done-ness, it might need to cook for another 15 minutes, and it's better slightly undercooked than overcooked.

Green Jumbalaya (I did briefly glance at the recipe in Joy of Cooking. it called for basil. odd. but tasty. i skipped all semblence of tomatoes. thus, the name "Green")

4 chicken or turkey sausauges (buy some with some flavor. please)
one onion, chopped
one green pepper and one sweet pepper, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
salt & pepper
1 tbsp dried basil
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 cup rice
2 1/4 cups water
good pinch red pepper flakes

cook sausages on the stove. chop them up first if you want, because this is their chance to cook. once cooked, remove the sausages. hopefully there is some grease left behind. if not, you'll need to some oil or butter. put the onion, peppers, and celery in the skillet, and cook over medium heat till the onions cook down a bit, 5-10 minutes. season with salt and pepper and other spices, then add one cup rice, and the water. stir the sausage peices back in. bring the whole thing to a boil, then cover, and simmer on low heat until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. i suggest checking the skillet every 5-10 minutes, to make sure your rice isn't burning on the bottom.

i'm actually eating another bowl of the Green Jumbalaya right now. For a weeknight dinner, i wasn't look for something spectactularly culinary, just something easy, fast, and good. it's spot on enough for me!

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Dance with Dragons

My husband and I are both reading George R R Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series (are you sick of hearing me talk about him yet?). Now that we own A Game of Thrones (book one), A Clash of Kings (book two), and A Storm of Swords (book three), we are racing through them, and I am proud to say I'm a book ahead of my husband! Although this time, I'm not going to deal with the frustration that is A Feast for Crows (book four) until I have A Dance With Dragons (book five) firmly in hand.

I just finished book three, he just finished book two. I'm enjoying the books for what they are, he is analyzing them. It's easy to go crazy with the analyzing while reading book two, because in my opinion, that is the weakest novel in the collection.

The analysis is going something like this so far: The good guys keep getting screwed! The Stark family is awesome, how come members of the family keep getting killed and there aren't enough brothers and sisters around to do anything? Why do our favored characters come from small, insular families with little ties to power, and the bad guys have unlimited families, unlimited influence and power, and seemingly unlimited gold? Why should someone who is a “good guy” do the right thing, when doing the right thing will could get them demoted, banished, or killed?

What is Martin trying to tell us? Is he giving the message that it's not worth it to be a good guy and do the right thing, because they only get screwed in the end? I don't think so. I think he's telling us to be a good guy, and do the right thing. Because it's the right thing to do. And bad guys aren't anywhere near as smart as they think they are.

However, now that I'm done with book three, and trying to remember what happens during the frustrating book four, I'm starting to reconsider my strict lists of “good guys” and “bad guys”.
Should you find out when A Dance with Dragons is really supposed to show up, please let me know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


i lied. i do have some booknews.

review of Charles deLint's "Someplace to be Flying" is here.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

peachy deliciousness!

it's that time of year when the last of the early summer crops are coming in, and the bulk of the summer crops are coming in, and the beginnings of the late summer crops are coming in. What does all that mean? unusually good prices at the farmers market, and the prices will only get better as more crops come in. this is good, as my tomato and pepper plants doesn't get anywhere enough sun.

and i just can't say no to peaches. they're just so deliciously peachy. but what to do with a dozen peaches???

i'd never made a peach cobbler until last weekend, but i do remember thinking "how hard could this possibly be?? you dumb all your fruit in a pan, put some dumplings over it, and poof, cobbler!" and yes, it really is that easy.

the dumpling dough recipe is the one right out of joy of cooking:
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp cold butter, cut into peices
1/2 cup milk

mix first 4 ingredients in a bowl. then cut in butter with a pastry blender. when it looks like coarse breadcrumbs, slowly stir in the milk until the dough comes together in a biscuit dough like consistency.

now for the fun part! i used peaches and pecans because it's what i had, but use what you have on hand. preheat oven to 350.

pit and slice 6 or 7 peaches. roughly chop about 1/2 cup pecans. put half the peaches in a greased square baking dish, then half the pecans. sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on top. put the rest of the peaches, and the rest of the pecans on top, again with a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar. now spoon the buiscit dough on top. it doesn't need to look pretty. leave about 1/4 inch at the edges, so it doesn't bake over the edge of baking dish. bake at 350 for 45 minutes, then let cool for about 10 minutes.

nothing much new in book news, i'm too busy peachgasming.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Meat, Meat, and more Meat.

Vegetarians need not read.

My husband has been cooking for me all week. What did i do to deserve this honor? I think he's a little sick of all my mostly vegetarian cooking, because it was a week of meat. i think i still have some heartburn.

we did lamb, we did chorizo, i went to ribfest and got a bucket of ribs that i couldn't finish (ok, that one was my fault). Our buddies at the butcher counter have never wrapped up that much meat for us, nevermind the pound of tuna steaks that are thawing the fridge.

i'm sure some cookbook has a fancy name for this, but the first adventure of the week was what i'm calling Best Beefaroni EVAR. also, probably the most expensive beefaroni you will ever make.

one pkg chorizo (2 sausages)
one onion, chopped
approx 8 oz fresh mushrooms
approx 1/2 lb penne, or other pasta of similar shape.

put water up to boil for pasta. meanwhile, in large skillet, cook the chorizo, breaking it up as much as possible. when it has given up some fat, add onion. if pan seems dry (it shouldn't!!), add some olive oil. Once the onion has cooked down a bit, add the mushrooms. just before straining pasta, add about a ladleful of the pasta water to the meat mixture. strain pasta, then toss with meat mixture. Enjoy!

now for something slightly different - divine, delicious, incredible lamb. Proof that the cutest, cuddliest animals taste the best (although rabbit fits that bill too).

Straight out of my well loved and well used Mediterranean, a Taste of the Sun, by Jacqueline Clark, is her Turkish Lamb Pilaf recipe. Lambiness, Ricyness, Nuttiness, Tomatoeness, what more does one need? the approx measurements are because, well, i don't measure real well.

few tbsp butter, margarine, or oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb lamb, cubed
1 tsp cinnamon
3-4 tbsp tomato paste or puree
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
3/4 cup pistachios, chopped (i didn't have a pistachios, but i did have Pecans. note to self: go buy some darn pistachios already! )
1 1/2 cups rice
salt & pepper
a little more parsley, to garnish (optional)

melt butter/oil in pan, add onion, cook till soft. add lamb, and brown on all sides. stir in the cinamon, stirring well. season with a bit of salt & pepper. cover and cook gently for 10 minutes. add the tomato paste and chopped parsley, and enough water to cover the meat. bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 45 min - 1 hr, until meat is cooked through and tender. add apricots, nuts, and rice, and about 1 1/2 cups water. stir and bring back to a boil, and simmer, covered, until rice is cooked. check periodically to see if you need to more water, otherwise your rice will burn (yes, this happended to me!). Serve hot or warm, garnished with parsley.

this dish was divine the night we ate it, full of incredibly lamby happiness. the nuts and the apricots melted into a sublime sweet blanket for the cinamon scented rice. apricots, cinamon and meat play very well together, like an ensemble of flute and bassoon (yes, i've heard that before. it's strange, but mesmerizing). This is a one skillet dish, and it pretty much takes care of itself. could be a good, if odd, thanksgiving side.

This weekend is Ribfest in town (it's exactly what it sounds like, a bunch of independent rib restaurants vying to become the cities favorite ribs place, loud country music, beer, and a good time), so we went there for lunch from work on friday. Having spent nearly 15 years of my life as a "no red meatetarian", i don't remember the last time i had ribs, i don't know if i like them, i don't know what they are supposed to taste like, and i sure as hell don't know how to eat them with out making a total mess on my nice work clothes. When a co-worker said "this place does a really good job!" i got in line with her, and randomly picked some rib tips off their menu. I'm still not sure if I like ribs. Sure, when ribfest comes along next August, i'll go, and i'll spend my $10 on something random and slathered in sweet bbq sauce, but i don't know if i need to eat them any more often than that. I brought the leftovers home to the husband, who said they were just average on his rib-meter.

tonight he's making me something with Tuna. i'm on side-dish duty, which is going to be something pearl oniony / italian beany, cuz that's what i got.

Books? finishing some stuff up and writing some reviews for SFRevu, as i mentioned in a previous entry, George R R Martin's 3rd Song of Ice and Fire novel is my reward for getting through all this other stuff, and writing reviews that i'm actually proud of.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

my basil plant is naked.

first things first, the massive "to be read pile" from last week has diminished, magically, somehow.

Kitchen Confidential - after reading about 20 pages, i realized i've read this before! got it from the library a few years ago! it's still as funny, irreverent, and probably frightenly honest as before. My husband is reading it, and froths at the mouth at how much of an asshole he thinks Bourdain is. well, the guy admits in the introduction that he's an asshole, and that being on all those drugs probably isn't a good thing anyway.

Action Philosophers - doesn't take long to read a comic book. Although my brain melted around Sartre, and never recovered. Good book, but not as good as volume I. i may be thinking twice before buying volume III.

The Servants, by Michael Marshall Smith - was shorter than i expected. review forthcoming on SFRevu. eventually.

Soul Catcher - by Frank Herbert - not as bad as i feared, but not as good as i hoped. More a treatise on Stockholm Syndrome than much else. It also felt very much like Herbert's The White Plague, which wasn't written until a few years later, i think. Angry protaganist is going to teach the world a lesson! and does it, but spends the whole book trying to justify their decision. it's like watching a old skool slasher film through the eyes of the bad guy. It's also very strange reading a non-SF book from an SF author. you keep expecting something SF'y to happen, and then get all dissapointed when it doesn't. like reading Voices From the Street, by Philip K Dick, i was weirded out by how relatively normal it was.

I'm a little leery of the Michael Flynn book, The January Dancer, because i was so dissapointed (and bored!!) with his Eifelheim of a few years ago. So hopefully this one will be better, and different.

Martin's A Storm of Swords will be my reward for getting through the Flynn book.

So, by now you are wondering "why is her basil plant naked????" well, cuz i cut nearly all the basil off, to make pesto!

basil? check!
pine nuts? check! (wow! who actually has those?)
parmesan cheese? check!
garlic? duh!
olive oil? check!

everything you need to make pesto! well, except the food processor, which i don't have. Here is how people without a food processor make pesto: put 1/2 cup pinenuts in a ziplock back. push the air out, zip up, and roll over with a rolling pin a few times to mush the pine nuts. put chopped basil (about 2 cups loosely packed leaves), 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and 2 minced cloves garlic in ziplock bag, close up, and roll over with the rolling pin. every few rolls, mush it around the bag. you want it blended as good as possible. when you're sick of mushing it around and rolling it, scrape it into a bowl. add some olive oil, and mix with a fork. add more olive oil, and mix with a fork. add some salt and pepper. mix in more oil (up to a 1/2 cup, total), till you get the consistency you want. be aware, it will dry out over time, so if you're going to keep it in the fridge for a few days, you might have to mix in a little more oil to get the consistency back to where you want.

now you can make my super duper Summer Pesto Pasta!
8 oz Penne or small Shells
small sweet pepper
two small zuchinni
salt & pepper
your awesome homemade pesto

while water is boiling for pasta, saute peppers & zucchs in some butter in a skillet. season with salt & pepper. make pasta. just before draining pasta, add a ladleful of pasta water to your veggies. drain pasta and mix with veggies. Stir in Pesto. enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Joy of too many books to read

My parents were visiting this weekend, which means they brought me my favorite things: books, and then bought me my favorite things: books. was a very enjoyable weekend hanging out with the 'rents.

the now out of control "to be read" list looks something like this -

The Servants, by Michael Marshall Smith
The January Dancer, by Michael Flynn
A Voyage Long and Strange, by Tony Horwitz
Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
A Storm of Swords, by George R R Martin
Soul Catcher, by Frank Herbert
Action Philosophers, Volume II, by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey
Rice & Risottos (cookbook), by Elizabeth Wolf Coren

Not to mention that I'm desperately trying to finish "Someplace to be Flying", by Charles deLint, which i am happy to say i am in love with. Many years ago, i read most of deLint's discography, till i realized he only had maybe a story and a half to tell. I'm thinking Neil Gaiman and deLint had a sit down one day, where Gaiman said to deLint "what the hell are you doing? Can i show you how it's done?" and he did. and it was. review forthcoming. . . eventually.

That said, where did all my time to read go? I work less hours these days, have fewer obligations, yet i barely get through 50 pages a day, when in previous years, i could easily get through 150 pages a day. What's the most tactful way of saying to a loved one "leave me alone so i can finish this damn book!"?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Finally! Carrot Salad Success!

AC has been blasting non stop for a few weeks, the dog days of summer are here, husband and I haven't been very inventive lately. we're cooking old standbys, not cooking at all (tabbouli or tuna salad anyone?) or not having success with new creations.

101 Cookbooks to the rescue. Ok, so everything she does is vegetarian, and there's a little too much tofu for my tastes, but can i tell you that her website is the best thing to keep me from falling asleep during a slow day at the office? then i hit on the idea of blending two different Carrot salad recipes that i found there. the results were heavenly, easy, vegetarian friendly, and probably passover friendly. thank god for that last one, i don't ever want to have to choke down another overly sweet carrot tzimmes again.

here is the easiest, and only Carrot Recipe you will ever need:

Carrot salad with olives

1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup pine nuts
olive oil
1-2 lbs young spring carrots, skinned and sliced thin on a mandolin *
1 tbsp honey
lemon juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, each olive cut in half
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp chopped mint

* what the hell is a mandolin?. Or, you could use an uber sharp knife, or put the carrots through a food processor for a more slaw type texture

put the orange juice in a small sauce pan, and simmer till reduced to 1/2 cup (this takes about 15 minutes). meanwhile, toast the pine nuts by putting them on a foil lined baking sheet in your toaster over, and using a medium "toast" setting. When toasted, set aside to cool.

put a little olive oil in a skillet, and gently saute the carrot slices until they have lost most of their rawness. the center parts will turn a yellowy color when they are done. put carrots in a bowl with any oil remaining in the pan and add a few good pinches of salt (don't skip the salt. seriously. don't do it.). add honey, lemon juice, olives, reduced orange juice and cumin, and mix well. Just before serving mix in the cilantro, mint, and pine nuts.

is excellent served over lettuce, or with couscous, or with anything, or straight. the pine nuts are awesome. and i was able to get the most awesome baby carrots at the farmers market.

I haven't made a salady type thing that i liked this much in a really long time. the carrots and honey are sweet, the citrus juice and olives are twangy, and cumin and pinenuts are earthy. it's just super good. and good for you! now i'm starting to sound like the 101 Cookbooks lady!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Too hot to cook

it is really, truly, too hot to cook. 80 degrees outside, 80% humidity. I was at an outdoor bridal shower last night and got eaten alive by bugs at the hosts house (her backyard garden looks like a gardening magazine!!)

home made salsa to the rescue. i shouldn't even have to post a recipe to this, because not only is it that easy, but everyone makes it different, so your favorite recipe is bound to be different that mine (also, see above:too hot to cook, so i ain't got nothin' else going on right now). but this did come out mighty tasty, and only burned my mouth off a little.

3-4 large tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced, with seeds
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
good pinch black pepper
am i missing anything?

put chopped tomatoes in a colander to drain some of the juice out. blend all ingredients in a bowl. chill for about an hour. enjoy! is beyond excellent in an omelet. in fact, i think that's what i'll have for lunch today.

books!! getting through Martin's 2nd Song of Ice & Fire book, and if it's taking me this long to read it, that means i liked the first book better. The first book flowed easy, because it focused mainly on the Stark family and Danearys. 700 pages in which to develop those characters, and mainly the development of the children. A good balance of action and "coming of age". One of the best books i've ever read.

but now that i'm slogging through book 2, i feel like i'm in for 1500 pages of build up, build up, and more build up. As the series progresses, i know i'm in for the introduction of countless new characters that will take pages away from the characters i've grown to love and fear for. Maybe i'm just getting cranky waiting for book 5 to come out? Or maybe i need to take a break from this series, wait for Martin to FINISH the DAMN THING already, then read all 9? 10? books and not have to worry about waiting. i hate waiting.

the only thing i hate more than waiting is being itchy. which i am, from the swarms of mosquitos last night. i am a bucket o' itch.