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!