Sunday, May 31, 2009

finally some food for thought.

i accidentally made crossiant bread. the recipe was for baguette, but some how i ended up with crossaints. maybe it was the half stick of butter? okay, so not what i wanted, but it was easy, smelled divine, and tasted really good too. and it was my first successful overnight rise!

twas the night before:

in a large bowl mix 1 and 1/3 cup flour, a packet of yeast, and enough warm water to form a very thick batter. cover and leave at room temperature overnight for 10 to 14 hours. it will be bubbly and gooey in the morning, and smell like you just walked into panera.

you just made a starter!

the next morning add 2 and 1/2 cups flour, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tbsp sugar and 4 tbsp room temperature butter to the batter and mix well. add enough water to make a soft dough, and let sit for one hour. after an hour, form into two baguettes and let rise for another hour on a greased cookie sheet. preheat oven to 425. brush loaves with ice cold water and slash with a sharp knife. bake at 425 for 25-30 minutes.

I've never made better smelling bread, but it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a bread or a crossaint, which wasn't what i wanted. i think i'm going to try this recipe again but with half the butter, and see what happens.

a while ago, my husband made me the best Fried Rice I have ever had in my entire life. i could eat this stuff every day for the rest of my life. it's got all my favorite stuff - rice, veggies, pork, shrimp, how can you go wrong? and it avoids the soy sauce disaster of our last attempt with fried rice by not using any soy sauce at all.

The best fried rice

1/2 lb thick cut high quality deli ham, diced
1/2 lb ready to eat shrimp
2 tsp rice wine
1 tsp tapioca starch (we used corn starch because that's what we had)
1/2 tsp salt
6 dried mushrooms, such as porchini or shittake
bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, snow peas, up to a cup each
3 green onions, chopped
4 cups cooked rice
2 eggs
6 tbsp oil
dash of salt & pepper

mix wine, starch and salt in a bowl, and marinate shrimp in this mixture for 15 minutes. soak dried mushrooms in hot water for 15 minutes,then chop them, removing any tough parts.

heat 1 tbsp oil in wok, and scramble eggs until they are dry. remove them from the wok. add a few more tbsp oil and add onions, mushrooms, ham, shrimp and veggies. stir fry for a few minutes and then remove it all from the wok. add any remaining oil and the rice to the wok, along with a little salt & pepper, and stir fry the rice until it is covered in oil and beginning to color. mix everything else in, stir well, and enjoy!!!

not at all related to much of anything, but the library book bag is out of control. bets on weather i can read all this in 3 weeks? sure, the manga goes quick, but i'm betting against myself on the rest.

REvolutionary Girl Utena volumes 3 & 4
Et Cetera volumes 1& 2
Nodame Cantabile volumes 1 & 2
Iron Council by China Mieville
Sackett's Land by Louis Lamour
Unruly Americans by Woody Holton
Artificial LIght by James Greer

Saturday, May 30, 2009

too many books, not enough time, part 12

i should really just rename this blog too many books and not enough time

Archibald Cox – I finally, finally finished his Court & Constitution book. Some of most challenging and inspiring reading I have ever done. Next time I’m at that library, I’ll be looking for some of his earier works. Cox is quickly turning into a personal hero of mine. I hope I don’t come to discover he was actually a jerk.

Michael Chabon news – one of his lesser well known works is Gentlemen of the Road. I’m about half way through the book, and still getting used to it. In approximately the year 1000, two Jewish soldiers for hire are haunted by the deaths of family members in the Khazarian Empire. Living as mercenaries with the occasional con job, they end up as hired gaurds for Filaq, a dethroned prince looking for revenge. I’ve gotta say, the biggest culture shock for me while reading this book was the idea of Jewish kingdom. And it’s not just an idea, around this time the state religion of the Khazar Empire really was Judaism. A bit of culture shock to me. The Sunday school story I learned was one of the horse warrior kings said to the Jewish sage Hillel – tell me everything about Judaism while you stand on one foot, and perhaps I will convert. Hillel stood on one foot and said “Do as to others as you wish them to do to you”. The Warrior king was so impressed that he converted on the spot and his kingdom followed. I just never thought it really happened.

In other Michael Chabon news, I picked up a few more issues of his Dark horse comic The Escapist. Very good, and very fun. Highly recommended. sure, they are obviously contrived and more a fan "project" than an actual series, but that doesn't bother me. I’m hoping I can convince the library to buy this for their graphic novel collection.

Fullmetal Alchemist #18 is out, and I have a copy!! I’ve read it twice now, and things really are starting to come to a head. All the pieces are in the right place, if you know what I mean. Kimblee is politely holding Winry hostage, and offers Ed the philosophers stone in exchange for Ed becoming a human weapon. Kimblee is the perfect sociopath, no wonder the homunculi support him. Speaking of, how is Riza going to share her secret? Perhaps little Hayate may be of some help.

I just can't get enough manga. my house will be full of it, and i will still be aquiring more.

Revolutionary Girl Utena – the best way to describe this is pure zany. Tomboyish Utena is raised by an aunt who lets her get away with just about anything, including designing her own fuschia colored school uniform in a boys cut. Every year, Utena gets a rose scented letter from a mysterious man. Each letter is written on the back of a picture, and the final picture is of the wealthy prep school Ohtori Academy. Utena is accepted into the school, and immediately, accidentally picks a fight with a member of the school council. The fight turns into a duel, and as winner of the duel, Utena “wins” a young woman named Anthy, who is the “Rose Bride”. Anthy becomes Utena’s personal servant, and “belongs” to her. As melodramatic and somewhat sexist as this sounds, it really is a comedy, with Utena constantly questionting the sanity of everything going on around her. Determined to meet the mysterious sender of the letters and protect Anthy from abusive members of the student council, Utena stays at the academy. I’ve read two volumes, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

Blame . . I'm slowing purchasing this series as I can find it. It's out of print, and i'm pretty sure i'm the only one who enjoys it. Killy is working his way up through abandoned cities, where humans have been wiped out by the machines (think the matrix meets terminator, plus insane AIs?). I really enjoy this manga for the artwork and the cyborg designs, and pretty much the design of the whole thing. Sure, there isn't much said, but it's mostly just Killy and his gun, so who is he gonna talk to anyways? he's a pretty shy, quiet guy. Not a series most people will gravitate towards, but i like it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

omg becky, look at her. . . .

omg becky, look at her lemon chicken. that is like the best lemon chicken i have ever had in my entire life. and i've not had good luck with lemon chicken, they are usually so lemonny as to be gross.

but this? this was heaven on a plate.

Lemon Chicken with Garlic, out of the Mediteranean cookbook with all the pretty pictures

6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
8 chicken thighs
one lemon, sliced thin
2 tbsp flour
2/3 cup white wine
salt & pepper
few tbsp freshly chopped parsley

bring the chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan. add the garlic, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. after 30 minutes, remove it from the heat and remove and reserve the garlic cloves.

preheat oven to 375.
melt butter with oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. add chicken and brown on all sides. as soon as chicken is golden brown, remove it to an oven safe dish that can hold all chicken peices in a single layer. scatter the garlic peices and lemon slices over the chicken. turn heat under frying pan down to medium low, and add flour to hot oil. stir quickly and constatnly for one minute, it will thicken quickly, and you don't want it to burn. after one minute add wine and reserved chicken stock, and keep stirring. when smooth, remove from heat and pour over chicken pieces. cover and bake for 40-45 minutes. garnish with parsley.

this is a very saucy dish, and i roasted up some red skinned potatoes to go with it, and it was perfect. I've never had a gravy thicken up as smoothly and beautifully as when I made this dish. it was truly heaven on a plate. Don't like potatoes? no problem, sauce would go great with rice too.

Not too much to report in book-land. the good book I'm reading is intensly dry, and the supposedly exciting book i read sucked.

Remember John Case from the 90's? Genesis Code, First Horseman, etc? suspenseful, smart, like Dan Brown only better. So when i saw a copy of his The Eighth Day, i grabbed it! Wow, what a disappointment. If early John Case was like smarr Dan Brown, then this was like crappy Dan Brown. Danny Cray is a part time PI, who accepts a job from a wealthy lawyer who plies him with lots of cash. The job is to investigate a smear campaign against a secretive eastern european business mogul. When innocent people start turning up dead, Danny realizes he's on the wrong side. Danny has got to be the stupidest 20-something i've ever met. he's henchman stupid. Case's writing is lazy, sloppy, and just awful. even as far as religious conspiracy theories go, this book was overly pulpy.

Boring book news, i do adore the law library at WMU. I love everytime i read a book from that library, i want to read stuff that is mentioned in it's bibliography, e-mail the author thanking them for their book, or find everything else by that author. oh, and Constitutional Law? still totally cool and rocking my world. Archibald Cox's Court and Constitution gives and excellent overview of constitutional law, and unfortuantely, how arbitrary it can be. the book is dry, boring, and plain fascinating. Drawing from chronilogical historical examples, Cox explaines in terms the layman (i.e.: me) how we got to where we are with large government ruling over areas the seperate states used to have power over. Now i want to get the rest of what he's written. Cox was the special prosecutor during the Watergate scandal, and was forced to resign afterwards. such a fascinating person.

garden update!!

a few tomato seedlings have their first "true leaves", and should be ready for transplant in about a week. the basil had 100% germination rate, the tomatoes about 75%. i only need two seedlings for each tomato variety, what am I going to do with the rest of the seedlings?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A little late for Talk like Pirate Day, but so what?

speaking of guilty pleasures, here's my review of Scott Lynch's Red Seas Under Red Skies. damn i loved this book. Some day soon, i hope to be Mr. Lynch's official stalker.

I usually hate, hate, hate anthologies, but I couldn't resist Fast Ships, Black Sails, an anthology edited by Jeff (who I adore) and Ann (not so much) Vandermeer. A few stories in so far, and I'm not blown away, but it doesn't suck either. This is a vast improvement on the Vandermeer edited Steampunk anthology, which probably turned more people off to Steampunk than on to it.

I finished John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and it was not what I expected, but it was very, very good. So good in fact, that I finished it in 4 days. Dripping with mystery, lies, and southern Savannah charm, I challenge anyone to read this book and not like it. Considered true crime, I've got to wonder how many of the details Berendt changed, to protect the innocent and the guilty. But now I do need to see the movie again (saw it as a kid and don't remember a thing), and the Civil War movie Glory, because parts of it were filmed in Mercer House, a central stage of Garden.

Also filed under “like” is Katsuhiro Otomo's 80's epic manga Akira. I have found one library in the county that owns all six volumes, and I am checking them out as often as they will let me. Known as one of the best, most famous, most influential mangas of all time, Akira never gets old. The artwork is dated and low tech, and while the NeoTokyo panoramas are amazing, some of the character artwork is just plain bad. But the story never gets old: secret government experiments that create weapons no one can control, terrorist resistance groups, religious cults, a handful of high school drop outs who get in way over their heads and a boy named Akira who can destroy the world.

All you little manga lovers out there take note: your favorite manga-ka was most likely influenced by Otomo, so get with the program and go to the source.

Don't have the patience for 6 full length manga volumes, or can't find them? Don't worry, the movie Akira is a good substitute. Directed by Otomo, it covers the first two volumes, with a more definitive ending. And the soundtrack is superb.

Darkhorse comics did a reprint of all 6 volumes in the early 2000's, but other than that, this gem is out of print.

The lettuce seeds spouted nicely, and last time I checked one of the tomato seeds had sprouted. Or maybe that's just a weed? The goal this week is to clean out all the nasty planters, fill 'em with new dirt (I can't believe I pay for dirt!!), and put in the seeds for the rest of the herbs. And if nothing germinates, i'll just buy some plants. As it is, there is no such thing as enough basil.