Friday, May 22, 2009
I'm about halfway through Hot, Flat, and Crowded and it is changing my view of the world the same way that I changed when I read (okay, listened to) The Omnivore's Dilemma. I have known for many years that global warming is an issue (second grade is the earliest memory I have that relates to global warming..."I love to save water!") and Scott and I do what we can to conserve. We've installed green lightbulbs, we buy green appliances (and are in the process of purchasing a super-efficient hot water heater and furnace which are NOT cheap), we keep our thermostat set low in the winter, we don't over-water our lawn, we recycle and we compost...you get the idea. But we do it all with a nonchalance that says, "I'm doing this because I know it's important but I don't know that climate change will actually affect me or my children." Halfway through Hot, Flat, and Crowded I'm already convinced that I'm wrong. DEAD wrong. Climate change will affect my children and my grandchildren if we don't, with great urgency, make changes now.
I'm just now getting into the second half of the book which is where Friedman presents his solutions to the problem of climate change. He calls it "Code Green." Just a few pages into his solution, I'm feeling a glow of patriotism that says, "We can do it!" America can take the lead to tackle the problems of climate change. We have the abilities to do the research, to design the systems, and to let China and India make the products that are required to stop global warming at a price we can all afford (giggle...but I'm serious) and we can leave our children and grandchildren with a habitable and...get this...even a comfortable earth.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded is probably one of the best-researched pieces I've read since grad school. I can't remember a time when I read a book or journal article with more references to reliable scientific sources and, when you're talking about global warming, with all of its goofy politics and rhetoric, that means something. This book is not fluff...go reserve it at your library. Seriously. Even if you think Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio are clowns. Just trust me on this one.
By the way...I just want you to know that this post is courtesy of PBS...my children are very quietly watching a PBS broadcast of Romeo and Juliet as presented in ballet form at the Lincoln Center...wherever the heck that is. See how uncultured I am? But my kids are being cultured, care of PBS. They're watching professional ballet, people. Incredible. And that is giving me three seconds to think. Thank God (and all those donors out there) for PBS.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Chocolate craving! Chocolate alert! My chocolate cravings come in waves. And I'm not even pregnant. What was I like when I was pregnant? I can't imagine. I do remember that I drank a few gallons of milk each week...without help. But I didn't need much chocolate. But now my cravings are for chocolate, and today I've got a new antidote. Funny that my children think they'll be getting some of this after dinner tonight. They must be crazy.
Adapted from the Chez Panisse Desserts recipe "Clay's Chocolate Ice Cream with White Chocolate Truffles."
Makes a generous quart:
1 C half-and-half
3/4 C sugar
6 egg yolks
6 ounces chocolate, split between semi-sweet and bittersweet or semi-sweet and unsweetened, depending on how rich you like your chocolate. I did half semi and half bitter. The original recipe calls for 5 oz semi and 1 oz unsweetened.
2 T unsalted butter
2 C whipping cream
1 T vanilla
1/2 C - 1 C of room temperature, natural peanut butter
Warm the half-and-half with the sugar in a non-corroding saucepan until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. You'll know it's ready when it starts to look translucently-milky. Just trust me on that one.
Whisk the egg yolks just enough to break them up, stir in some of the warm half-and half. Return the yolk mixture to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats the spoon. Strain into a bowl. Break up the chocolate and melt it with butter in a small heavy saucepan over warm water, stirring until it is smooth and glossy (or, alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a microwave-proof bowl for a minute and a half to two minutes to melt both). Remove from stove top or microwave and begin to whisk in a little of the warm custard, a tablespoon or two at a time until the mixture starts to thin out. Adding the custard gradually will keep the ice cream from getting little grains of chocolate in it. When all the custard is incorporated, gradually whisk in the cream. Add the vanilla, taste (that's my favorite part) and chill overnight.
Freeze the ice cream according the the instructions that came with your ice cream maker and fold the peanut butter into the ice cream when you remove it from the machine. Freeze for at least three hours before scooping.
Monday, May 18, 2009
The lamb was SUPER easy and delightful, so judged by both Scott and the girls. We had it with steamed artichokes (I steam them in my pressure cooker because it's fast and easy), but it would also be good with roasted spring asparagus or a salad or sautéed spinach. It would also be tasty on a bed of couscous.
I think what makes it soooo good is that it's cooked in the oven uncovered, so the tastes from the veggies, broth, and wine are magnified. The flavor is intense.
Long-Cooked Lamb Shoulder
Season, the night before if possible:
Bone-in lamb shoulder roast (3 to 4 pounds)
Fresh-ground black pepper
In a heavy earthenware dish or roasting pan that just accommodates the roast, combine:
4 medium tomatoes or one 14.5-ounce can organic whole peeled tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
5 garlic cloves
3 savory branches (I didn't have this)
3 thyme branches (I used a few teaspoons of dried time)
7 black peppercorns
1 chili pepper (Oops! Forgot this...and I even had the chili pepper ready to go!)
Put the shoulder roast on top and pour in: 2 cups chicken broth or water and 1/2 cup white wine (I used red because I didn't have any white on hand...scary departure from Alice's recipe, but it came out fine).
Cook uncovered in a 375-degree oven for about 2 1/2 hours. Check the level of liquid every once in a while and add more broth or water if it gets too low. After 1 1/2 hours, turn the shoulder over and cook for another 30 minutes. Turn once more and cook for 20 minutes, or until golden. The meat should be soft and tender, almost falling off the bones; if not, continue cooking, turning the roast every 20 minutes. When done, remove the lamb from the pan and pour the vegetables and liquid into a bowl. Skim off all the fat and discard. Pass the vegetables through a food mill and to the cooking liquid. Taste for seasoning adjust as necessary. The sauce can be with broth or water, if necessary. Cut or the meat off the bones and cut into large pieces. Reheat the meat in the sauce and serve.
Friday, May 15, 2009
As Scott was reading it, he kept saying things like, "You'll love this book," and, "this book is really great." For a man of few words, those two sentences say a lot. Scott, my sweet husband, is not very expressive (well, relative to me...so that might not mean much) and for him to mention a book even a few times should have clued me in. He was right. The book was fabulous. And now I'm annoyed that we have to give it back to his pal at work. It's the kind of book I want to hold on to. Funny but educational, emotional and intriguing. I liked it so much I read the last third of it during our car ride to the Sand Dunes last week. And I DON'T read in the car.
To give you fair warning, the book's author, Doug Fine, has nothing positive to say about George W. Bush. At the same time, I could find little fault with many of the negative things he said, except for when he said that Bush's purpose in starting the war in Iraq was to enrich VP Cheney. That I had to contest, but the rest of it, while harsh, was not untrue. The author's political stance was not the center of this book. Instead, it was his story about moving from Long Island to an old ranch in Southern New Mexico, raising a few baby goats (whom he puts on time outs every time they get into his roses), and getting "off the grid." He was attempting energy independence on his little ranch. He did the whole thing -- drilled a well on his property and bought a big pump and tank to hold the water (and fought rattlesnakes for the water while clad in something like two Carhartt jumpsuits, a helmet, and some kind of sword), he equipped his house with solar panels to take care of his electricity needs, built a huge toaster to heat his water to scalding hot temperatures, bought a huge Ford truck and had it converted to bio-diesel, and grew his own veggies...he did everything he could do to be self-sufficient.
Perhaps the most entertaining side of the book is when he points out the many contradictions of becoming energy independent. Like buying pvc pipes manufactured in China which require thousands of gallons of fuel to be burned as the pipes make their way here from China. Like putting the pvc pipes together with puple goo that is so toxic it requires a breathing mask during application. Like having to go to Wal-Mart because there are some things you can't get anywhere else -- especially in a small town. Like driving his huge truck on bio-diesel and constantly smelling the kung pao chicken grease burning in his gas tank...and knowing that the people driving behind him would be craving kung pao chicken from Panda Express (not the most eco-friendly way to eat).
I cannot do this book justice -- it was SO funny and so insightful and such a fast read. Even if you don't agree with the author's political stances, you've got to admire him. He committed to a project most of us would not touch, even in our imaginations. And along the way he made friends with people who were very different from him -- old school ranchers and blue collar guys. And he won their respect. That has to count for something.
Monday, May 11, 2009
I've been making this pilaf for about a year now and it's become a staple in our house. I do it a bit differently every time, just depending on what I have in the house and how much time I have to prepare it. Here's the recipe I used tonight:
1 1/4 C basmati rice
2 C chicken stock
a tablespoon or two of oil -- I use coconut
a few carrots, diced (although they're great grated)
half a fennel bulb, diced (although I usually use celery)
a few cloves of garlic, minced
an onion, diced
a few teaspoons of garam masala, whole (not ground)
one bay leaf
a handful of cashews (or two handfuls...if you're feelin' nutty)
Soak the basmati in water for half an hour, if you have time. Sauté the veggies until softened. Add spices and rice until fragrant and coated with oil. Add chicken stock and simmer over low, covered, until rice is cooked. There will be steam holes in the rice when it is finished and the whole cardamom and cloves (from your garam masala) will be resting on top of the rice. Pick them out, along with the bay leaf. Add cashews, fluff the rice, and serve. When I want a hearty meal, I top it with dhal like this one.
Lately I've been straying from this pilaf recipe by using my trusty rice cooker. It's become one of my favorite kitchen appliances -- it's like having a sous chef to keep an eye on my rice! Set it and forget it!
Here it is just before putting it in the rice cooker.
And ready to close the lid on the cooker.
And...voila! Yum. Even my kids say so.