Friday, January 27, 2006

Oh golly, things have been really busy around here and I haven't been keeping up my New Year's Resolution to write more regularly AT ALL. I suck.

I'm not going to complain about all the things I'm doing (although it's a lot - it would probably singe your eyebrows off!), and I have to go catch a bus in a few minutes (note the timestamp on this post. You may offer your sympathy in comments.) so I can't make up for it now.

I will just say that work/social events that are supposed to be "fun" are mostly just awkward and weird and pretend-fun. I'd rather really cut loose with people I can safely be an ass around and remain professional at work than try to combine the two. (Can you tell that there's a work social event tonight? and *I* have to plan it!!)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Carrot-Orange Bread

It's cold. I'm in my reading chair huddled up under TWO blankets - a wool one and a down one. And I'm still cold! So I made Carrot Tea Bread (also because we had two bags of carrots in the fridge that look ready to sprout - I'm still looking for something to do with that second bag of celery...feel free to post any ideas, though I did find a celery soup recipe that isn't creamed and that looks interesting.)

The original recipe is from Farm Journal Baking Book, but of course I messed with it some.

4 large carrots, peeled and grated (I used 5 to get rid of an extra one!)
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 - 1 tsp orange oil (or you could use the zest of 1 orange - I didn't have one)
(Original recipe called for 1 tsp cinnamon in place of ginger and orange)

Sift dry ingredients together; beat eggs with oil and stir in carrots. Mix gently until just combined and bake at 350 for about an hour. Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out.

The whole house smells like oranges now, and I left the oven door open after I pulled the bread out and turned it off, so at least the kitchen is warm. I'm going to close all the curtains, snuggle up under the blankets, have a cup of tea and a slice of carrot bread, and read about the Victorians to while away this dull, grey, cold day.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


It's beautiful out today, cold and windy and bright bright sun in a really high up blue sky. The perfect day for a monstrous (and monstrously needed!) spring cleaning. Robert dusted EVERYTHING in the living room, cleaned windowsills and baseboards, moved everything and vacuumed behind it (with smelly carpet sprinkles, natch!). We took down the Christmas ornaments and rearranged some. I scrubbed the kitchen floor on my hands and knees (with a kitchen scrubby sponge - apparently we used the actual scrub brush for some project that I suspect involved car tires and it's nowhere to be found.) I also cleaned the bathroom right down to the shine, as they say in commercials.

All that's left is to finish drying and put back up the shower curtains, and then finish the laundry and the bedroom. (Of course, then I need to tidy my office, and at some point I have to wash out the kitchen cabinets, but that's labor for another day.)

I need to do reading most of the day - I also need to do a couple of errands and head the library to pick up some books for the semester, but Robert has a student coming at 4:00 and I don't want to go by myself. Maybe I'll read a while and then go out and do errands and spend tomorrow in the library (even though it's MLK day - I *think* the library will be open.....)

I'm boring today, I know. (Most days, really.) I made this odd hybrid spinach alfredo pasta for dinner last night with every kind of cheese known to man - odds and ends of blue cheese, havarti, sharp cheddar, asiago, and goat cheese. With lots of spinach and chunks of ham. I baked it with garlic breadcrumbs atop, and it was darned good for using-up-leftovers food!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Well, apparently we're going to have a baby.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Good Lord, there's a lot of big putzes in academia.

And that's all I'll say about THAT.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shrimp with Lemon, Chili, Garlic, and Feta

Oh my god. We made this Shrimp with Lemon, Chili, Garlic, and Feta - and it was fabulous. I found it over at the Traveler's Lunchbox. Here's how I did it (not exactly as directed):

1 1/2-2 lbs raw shrimp, peeled, tails on (we tried it all the different ways, and tails on but otherwise peeled was the best)
1 stick butter
10 cloves garlic
2 lemons
1/2-3/4 cup feta
something hot and spicy: I used a combo of chili powder and flaked red pepper (the original called for piri-piri, but I don't even know what that is, much less have any)

Cut up the butter and put it in the bottom of your huge new Dutch oven that your sweet husband who is being a little bit of a grouch tonight bought you for Christmas. Layer the shrimp and the garlic on top (they all fit in one deep layer in my amazing pan! The original had you making 3 layers of butter -> shrimp -> garlic) and sprinkle with the hot stuff of your choice. Cover and turn heat on high. Cook 6 minutes - it will start to smell awesome. Squeeze in the 2 lemons and stir in the feta and cover again (salt if you think it will need it - mine did, b/c the feta I used wasn't that salty.) Cook 6 more minutes. Struggle to dump the HUGE, HOT, HEAVY Dutch oven full of shrimp into a serving bowl. Call for help from husband. Pour into bowls and pig out (with crusty homemade sourdough and a simple salad of spring mix and tomatoes and black olives with a splash of olive oil and balsamic.)

Now, finish transcribing your FIFTY PAGES of notes from the MLA.

Eggnog Rice Pudding

I just completely made up a recipe for rice pudding - here it is in case it's good (we had an assload of cooked white rice left over from Chinese takeout last night.)

Rice Pudding:
5-6 cups white rice, cooked (!)
1 cup cream
3 eggs
6cups or so milk
1/4 cup or a little less Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum (I don't know why, it just seemed apropos)
splash of lemon oil
healthy dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg
about 1 to 1 1/3 cups brown sugar (which I forgot to put in until just now, when I was typing it out! I had to pull it out of the oven to add it.)
And also I sprinkled the top with white sugar in hopes that it would get a little crusty and nice.

And it's in the oven at 300. I didn't bother with no stinking bain marie, so I'm just going to bake it for 1 - 1 1/2 hours in there. Sure does smell good.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I'm a bit of an asshole. I am really having a hard time not being compulsive about the house stuff and not getting resentful that I do a lot of it, though there are many times that I do NOTHING and R. totally takes care of me to let me work. I'm not sure how to adjust my attitude on this - mom is so like that, and it seems to have seeped into my very bones. But I know that so much of the world is in your perception of it, and I don't want to be resentful and grumpy with R.!

I've been reminding myself over and over while I clean or whatever how much he does for me and how much I want to do things for him, to be as generous as he is.

Surprise snowfall.

This morning we awoke in the cold half-light of dawn covered in a snowfall of feathers. The seam of one of the down comforters had split during the night and feathers were everywhere - in our hair, clinging to our pajamas, drifting in the sheets, eddying in every corner of the room. We had to go outside and shake ourselves off, shake the bedding out (leaving, of course, the offending item outside!) - and now I have to wash ALL the clothes (that's what I get for leaving clean laundry sitting around in the basket, and leaving dirty jeans and socks on the floor!) We've vacuumed once already and we might have to do it again when all is said and done.

And my head hurts, and I don't know why, and tea didn't help. And also, it's cold in here. I'm curled up under a whole bed-comforter in my reading chair, with a hot water bottle in my lap, and I'm finally getting warm. My hands were numb!

We have so much stuff in the fridge to use up (and we need to make space in there!) - tons of fresh spinach (like 4 lbs worth), some beef, some chicken stock (I can totally freeze that, but I think all my freezer containers are in use right now), and still a ton of heavy cream. And a pot of white beans cooked in smoked turkey stock. Any suggestions, anyone?

Friday, January 06, 2006

Naps and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It's a very nappish day here - cold and grey, with a very low sky. I walked out to get the mail, but other than that I've been mostly curled up in my red armchair with the curtains closed and lots of lights on. (Of course, I also took a hot bath and then a two hour nap - I'm taking full advantage of the last few days of sloth before the semester starts again!)

I was in the mood for comfort food, so I made a recipe of chocolate chip cookies from Small Batch Baking. So far the things I've made from there have been really good, and chocolate chip cookies are a personal thing (I like mine on the chewy crispy toffee-ish side, NOT pillowy and cakey: typical Tollhouse style) but these are a little crazy! Maybe I did something wrong. They're flat with bumps where the chips are and they look like they're going to be exceptionally crispy. Perhaps I overbaked them.

In any case, if you'd like to try the recipe and tell me where I went wrong, here it is:

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs all-purpose flour (Oh, maybe that was it: I forgot the extra 2 tbs of flour. Pretty important ingredient in a cookie.)
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbs plus 1 tsp butter at room temperature
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tbs granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs plus 1 tsp well-beaten egg
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter with the sugars; add the egg and beat to combine. Stir together the flour, salt, and soda and add to wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips and bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

(Oh, the verdict? Ugly, but delicious. Too crispy, but not by much - and the butterscotch/toffee thing that you get in the best chocolate chip cookies comes through loud and clear. So, make it with all the flour it calls for, and enjoy!!)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Lantern was awesome, btw. I had some tea- and spice-smoked chicken (DELISH!!) and some scallop and tuna sashimi and a Hibiscus Blossom cocktail (I have no idea what's in that) and roasted banana ice cream with caramel and salted peanuts. Robert had pho. I can't remember what everybody else had but it was ALL GOOD. (Sorry I'm a super-lame restaurant reviewer. I was too busy eating and having fun.)

Scones and eggs with Londoners.

We had a couple of friends over for brunch this morning. I made oeufs en cocottes and cheese grits and cranberry-orange scones. They were all really good, and I feel boring (I'm watching 10 Things I Hate About You - boring enough for you?) so I'm just going to post the recipes (we didn't take any pictures.)

Oeufs en Cocottes:
Butter 2 ramekins and break 2 eggs into each one. Mince up some fresh rosemary (or whatever, though rosemary is my favorite, basil is also fantastic in the summertime) and sprinkle on top of the eggs; pour a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream over it and cover in freshly grated parmesan. Put into a bain marie of boiling water and bake for about 8-16 minutes (the timing is different every single time I do them, but they WILL still look jiggly when you move them, b/c of the cream.) (This is also good with a slice of prosciutto under the eggs, but the lady guest was a non-mammal eater, so I didn't.)

For the grits I just made them like normal (1 cup of well-salted boiling water to 1/3 cup of regular-cook grits; simmer for 20 minutes or so, put in a knob of butter or a splash of heavy cream and about 1/2 cup of grated extra sharp cheddar and a dash of texas pete or mustard.) Serve with more butter and plenty of salt and pepper.

Scones: (this is based on Mark Bittman's Cream Scone recipe in How to Cook Everything)
2 cups soft wheat flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
4 tbs baking powder
2 tbs sugar
5 tbs cold butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dried cranberries
dash of Boyajian orange oil OR a couple tablespoons of orange zest, minced very fine
1 tbs water
1 egg
1 tbs water

Proceed as for biscuits or piecrust: mix the dry ingredients together and cut in butter; beat eggs with cream and mix into dry ingredients along with orange tasting items of your choice. Knead VERY gently (only about 10 strokes - it will still be sticky and wet, b/c it's a very tender dough), kneading in cranberries. Cut into scone-ish shapes (I use a knife and make retarded triangles, but Mark recommends cutting them into rounds like biscuits) and brush with the last egg beaten with the tbs water; sprinkle with the last tbs of sugar and bake for 20 minutes, till well browned. I make orange butter (moosh butter with orange zest and a little orange oil and chill for a little while) to serve them with.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Change in plans - we're going to Lantern instead. I've never eaten real dinner there - only appetizers and delicious cocktails (lychee-nut hibiscus martinis!), so this should be a treat.

I'm not taking pictures, y'all - that's just too obtrusive for me when we're not at home!

Sourdough and The Metaphysical Club

Robert's endoscopy turned out fine! (He's all groggy and woozy and kind of stoned-ish now from the Demerol - it's actually kind of funny.)

I got about 2 hours of solid reading in on Sion and I canNOT face it any more right now, so I've switched over to the Menand. It is VERY INTERESTING, and I recommend it highly to all of you fans of 19th century American literature, culture, and ideology. (Also if you're interested in the Civil War at all it would probably be gripping to you.)

The sourdough, as usual, turned out really effing good. I was thinking it might not b/c I let it rise all night in the pans on the counter instead of in the fridge, and it was warm-ish, and they looked a little fallen - but they're exceptionally tasty and the flavor is really well-developed.

Here's the recipe I usually use (which I modified slightly from the one King Arthur sends with the little jar of starter):
1 cup starter made into a sponge with a cup of water or so and about 2-3 cups of flour. Let it work overnight, then add 3 or so cups more flour, salt, and I put in a healthy dash of olive oil b/c sourdough seems to get stale extra fast to me if there's no fat in the dough. Knead, let do a long slow rise in a cool-ish place; punch down, shape, and let cool rise again in pans (either baguette pans or regular loaf pans - I happen to love sourdough as sandwich bread, so I usually make it in the loaf pans.) Bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes. Eat with a little butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt (am I the only one who prefers buttered bread with salt instead of sweet things?)

I think tonight we're going to have dinner at the Magnolia Grill in Durham with 2 friends of Robert's who are here from England. I am VERY excited about that - I ate there for my birthday this year and it was quite possibly the best restaurant meal I've had. Very interesting, innovative, but solid flavor combinations - the appetizers and desserts in particular were fabulous. (I can't stop thinking about my goat cheese crepes with figs and thyme for dessert.)

I'll report on the deliciousness tomorrow (if we go - we haven't heard from Angus and Elizabeth yet to know whether they could get reservations or not.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

Homemade limoncello + cranberry juice and a splash of soda = good. Add Rock Hudson and Doris Day in Pillow Talk and you've got a winner of a Monday night.

Aged (!) beef - how very English.

Mmm. Dinner was good - I was worried about the beef, because it "hung" (ok, it sat out on the counter) for about 24 hours thawing - and it did have a little gamey flavor, but it was kind of awesome, actually. (And hey, the English prize half-rotten meat, right?)

So we grilled it and I made a pan reduction sauce (sort of like a gravy - just made a roux and put in the rest of the red wine, garlic, and herb marinade and let it boil till it degermed itself and thickened up. We (R, I mean) took some pictures, which I will edit in once we download them.

And the brussels sprouts were good. (Especially the turnips!!)

Clean out the refrigerator.

Today is a very piddly food day - I've been messing about with a sourdough sponge (now dough, in its second rise); defatting and straining chicken stick (DOUBLE chicken stock, mind you - TWO carcasses!); cooking navy beans with onion and lots of garlic in the stock I made from the home-smoked turkey we had at Christmas; marinating two HUGE top rounds in red wine and herbs and garlic, etc. (I'm trying to use up a lot of things in the fridge that were on the verge of undeliciousness, and also to make room for the shitload of stuff we hauled home from Costco and Whole Foods yesterday.)

I'm not sure about the giant hunks of beef - I've never messed much with top round - they look like caveman ribeyes, though, so I marinated them all day and then grilled them over a low fire (as low as our fire can get, which admittedly is not very low.) I figure if it's tough and yucky, well, it was about to get freezer burned anyway - this way we can slice it or chunk it and freeze it again and use it for stirfries etc over the long haul.

I'm also taking a page out of Stephen's book (again - the man is a genius!) and doing a very modified, lazy-man's version of his brussels sprouts with bacon, onion, apples, and balsamic glaze. (I shouldn't even compare the two dishes - I'm really just roasting brussels sprouts with slices of crisp tart raw apple and half-moons of white onion and a couple turnips that I happened to have in the fridge diced up - I tossed it all with olive oil and salt and peppered it, and tossed it in the oven at 350 for about 25 or 30 minutes. But it smells good!)

I'm also boiling some potatoes that were getting soft to make mashed potatoes with a little cream (also have a TON of heavy cream to use up for some reason) and trying to figure out how to make that super-yum spicy sesame kale they have at Whole Foods. My guess is steam and toss with sesame oil and rice vinegar and hot pepper flakes and maybe a teaspoon or two of (brown?) sugar?? Any ideas?

P.S., I've never had a comment that wasn't A) spam, or B) me pathetically leaving myself a comment to be sure the darn things worked. So leave me a comment, you know, if you feel like it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

OK, it's yum. VERY yum.

And also, I think I figured out how to post a picture. (It's down there.)

I have to use Firefox to do it, though.

Small Batch Baking

I got the book Small Batch Baking recently (I read about it on Joe's blog [he is the baking master!] and thought it was a fantastic idea for a family of two, so I one-clicked it off Amazon.) (Damn you, one click! I've spent probably $200 on there in the past few weeks!)

Anyway, we're trying out our first recipe from it tonight. It's still in the oven, so I'll report later on the taste, but making it was so fun! It's like....taking pictures with a digital camera: the stakes are so low that you aren't stressed about possible failures!

We made the Mixed Berry Cobbler with Cornmeal Crust, and as per resolution (see earlier post) I will type it out for you here.

For the filling:
1 cup mixed unsweetened frozen berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries (thank you, Costco!)
1 tbs sugar
2 tsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

For the topping and for serving:
1/4 cup ap flour
1 tbs + 1 tsp sugar
1 tbs yellow cornmeal
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda (which I just realized I forgot)
pinch of salt
2 tsp cold butter, diced
2 tbs buttermilk

Preheat to 400. Toss berries with other stuff in filling part of recipe (I'm paraphrasing here, obviously.) Put berries into 2 greased ramekins or one tiny souffle dish. Put the dry topping ingredients into a bowl and mix; add the butter pieces and combine to the coarse meal stage in whatever way seems good to you. Mix in buttermilk and spread over filling; bake about 15-20 minutes and nosh.

(We still have some cranberry ice cream in the freezer from a week ago - maybe I'll try it topped with that!)

And I'll edit to let you know whether or not to bother to C/P this recipe.

I have to say, I prefer reading the food blog posts that have actual structured recipes, but I prefer writing posts that have a narrative style of recipe telling. (Because I am lazy.)

But perhaps I should start doing it the way I like to read it, so I will. (We'll call that one of my New Year's Plans [not resolutions, but plans. I feel like the implications are better.] - along with the one about learning to do tasks a little bit at a time instead of in huge gluttonous binges. (namely writing, but other things too, like housecleaning and cooking and working out.)

Y'all, I've had my ears pierced since I was wee (I think about 11 or 12? AT LEAST 20 years) and I haven't worn earrings regularly in so long that I had to repierce them myself to go to dinner the other night! (Ow, by the way.)

And now I'm having to go through that whole dimly-remembered routine again of wearing stud-type earrings all the time (including when sleeping) and taking them out twice a day to clean ears and earrings with alcohol and twisting them so they don't scab into place.

The most embarrassing thing in this litany of indignity is that the only thing close to stud earrings I have are huge fake diamonds. So I'm sleeping, eating, showering, in huge fake diamond earrings. I am sitting here right now in glasses and sweatpants and slippers...and huge fake diamond earrings.

MLA was FANTASTIC, btw. Walter Benn Michaels is so vivid, so ferociously smart, so combative without being an asshole - he was amazing. And Gayatri Spivak was an absolute juggernaut, just rolling one with more and more astounding stuff with barely pauses to breathe, much less to explain her incredible intellectual leaps. Eliza Richards's paper was FABULOUS - I'm really looking forward to reading her book! I was so impressed with her - such elegance of reasoning and her interpretations were lovely and extremely penetrating. Gregg Lambert was also dizzyingly good - and I understood a lot more of what he was saying than I did last time I heard him give a paper. (So that was gratifying. I went from understanding about 1/8th of what he said to about 1/2. Progress, people! Progress!) There were tons of other really good things that I heard but I don't have my notes to hand (I need to go through and type them out soon, before I stop being able to interpret my own chicken scratches) and I'll leave that post for another day.

Overall, it was a great experience. I got a lot of ideas, and I really enjoyed the collegiality - I can definitely envision myself having a place within that, and so it really helped me begin to "write myself into the university" in a very real way.

I also got my copy of Professors As Writers the other day and am really excited about implementing the techniques Boice proposes for more writing productivity. So all in all I'm very much looking forward to the new semester!

Mmm. We made one of our favorite breakfasts this morning - breakfast burritos with italian sausage and mango salsa. Just make mango salsa (dice up 2 fresh mangoes, add about 1/2 of a diced red onion, a generous handful of chopped cilantro, and 1/2 to 1 whole minced habanero, depending on the size of your cojones) and serve it over scrambled eggs and hot italian sausage, crumbled and cooked with the eggs. The fennel-y, sweet, hot italian sausage is great with the sweet and spicy and oniony and clean, green tasting salsa, creamy eggs, and floury neutral tortilla. (It's even better with sour cream and a little queso fresco, but we're trying to be a little virtuous.)

We also had some leftover balsamic and molasses mashed sweet potatoes, so Robert made potato cakes out of them (smooshed them up with an egg, dipped them in egg and breadcrumbs, and fried them up.) They were also super yummy - light and sweet and crispy.

I have to say that EVERYTHING looks fabulous on our new colorful and gorgeous fiestaware! And we bought one of those sets of brightly colored nesting melamine mixing bowls from Costco yesterday, (the last set, so we got it for $8.97 instead of $19.99 - hooray!) so that makes everything even MORE cheery. I want to set up a little cot in the kitchen and LIVE in there now.