March 12, 2008

Figs and Bananas

Helen and I were wondering about the comprehensive nutritional value of figs last night, so I decided to do a little research. I used the USDA's nifty nutrient database, which includes everything from fruit and vegetables to Burger King hamburgers (but not Twinkies, apparently).

While looking at information on the fig, I noticed it was remarkably similar to the banana. Which is neat, since I'm allergic to the pesticides used on bananas and can therefore only eat organic bananas, and organic bananas are difficult to find in New Jersey. Super Stop & Shop in Clifton, however, carries organic figs. But not organic bananas.

So, here's my basic analysis of the nutritional content of figs and bananas, normalized by making the mass of the two imaginary samples equal at 100 g. This seems to be about two-and-a-half small figs or a small-to-medium banana.

Energy (kcal)7489
Protein (g)0.751.09
Fat (g)0.300.33
Carbohydrates (g)19.1822.84
Fiber (g)2.92.6
Calcium (mg)355
Iron (mg)0.370.26
Magnesium (mg)1727
Potassium (mg)232358
Vitamin C (mg)2.08.7
Beta Carotene (μg)8526
Alpha Carotene (μg)025

OK, so they're not that similar, now that I'm looking at them side-by-side, but the potassium amounts compare pretty well in terms of the number of figs (seven or eight) versus the number of bananas (maybe two?) I'm willing to eat in a single sitting.

February 24, 2008

Tom Yam Gung

I've made a fantastic tom yam gung twice in the past week, and I'd like to share the recipe I use for this spicy Thai staple soup.

I use Austin Bush's recipe, but I modify it a bit, since some of the ingredients are difficult to find in America.

So, just follow along with Austin, but feel free to use the following substitutions.

  • Galangal: Use ginger root but only about two-thirds of the suggested "thumb-sized piece".
  • Lemongrass: It's difficult to find in American supermarkets, so if you can't find it, you could try a paste, which is what I use.
  • Coriander: Use cilantro, and for the coriander root, use plenty of cilantro stalk.
  • Straw mushrooms: Any small type of mushroom should work well, as long as they're not the ridiculously common white kind.
  • Chili peppers: For two servings, use two medium-to-large jalapeño peppers plus a couple teaspoons of crushed red pepper.
  • Kaffir lime leaves: I just omit these because I don't know what would be a good substitute. Just use lots of lime juice, instead! The juice of two whole rolled limes seems to work well.

Beautiful soup. Read Austin's recipe and enjoy thoroughly!

May 11, 2007

The Organic Revolution

Prince Charles, the stodgy and conservative heir to the throne, as it turns out, is a key figure in the organic food revolution and an outspoken proponent of sustainable agriculture. He has a 15-acre garden at his estate, raises rare breeds of cattle and pigs, and even makes a hobby of hedge laying.

Check out the International Herald Tribune article about him and his views on agriculture and the environment.

November 12, 2006

Kick Your Ass Stew

Kick Your Ass Stew being reheated this morning. Click to enlarge
A couple years ago, when the weather was cold and I had some extra time on my hands, I made a soup that became quite well-renowned among my friends. This happened at a time when I wouldn't balk at the idea of paying $25 or $30 per pound for a special fish and then turning around and giving generous portions of it away to my friends. As such, the first incarnation of this soup was quite amazing and kept people coming back for more.

The soup is very spicy, and I have been known to nurse a bowl of it for an hour, just to keep my mouth from exploding. This particular property of the soup was eventually the driving force behind the recipe's name, kick your ass stew.

The following recipe is more or less what I cooked for a neighborhood barbecue yesterday. I used all organic ingredients, but if that sort of thing doesn't matter to you, then you're welcome to use chemical-laden food, instead.

Yesterday's stew served about 20 people, once each, with almost an entire stew pot left over. I made one pot spicy and one pot mild to cater to the tastes of my neighbors, and, this morning, I combined both pots and added another habanero pepper.

This recipe will make one spicy stew pot worth of glorious soup.

Kick Your Ass Stew

  • 1/4 cup kidney beans, soaked at least 12 hours and drained
  • 1/8 cup adzuki beans, soaked at least 12 hours and drained
  • 1/8 cup black beans, soaked at least 12 hours and drained
  • 1/8 cup red beans, soaked at least 12 hours and drained
  • 1/8 cup anasazi beans, soaked at least 12 hours and drained
  • 1/4 lb. hot Italian sausage, cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1/3 lb. applewood smoked bacon, cut into small squares
  • 30 sea scallops
  • 1/2 lb. swordfish steak, cubed
  • 8 small red potatoes, halved or cut to bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 large Spanish (yellow) onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 habanero pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lamb chop bone (optional)
  • 1/3 cup 12-month manchego cheese, shredded
  • spring water or filtered water
  1. In a medium pot, heat bacon to the point where about 1/8 inch of melted bacon fat appears in the bottom of the pot. Transfer bacon, sans melted fat, to a different pan and continue cooking. Add garlic, onion, and habanero pepper to pot with melted fat. Cook bacon until nearly done and cook vegetables until the onions hint at turning transparent. If the vegetables sear, add a little olive oil to supplement the bacon fat. Add bacon to vegetables but leave fat in pan.
  2. Heat the bacon fat in the pan until it starts to bubble. Reduce heat slightly to keep the fat just bubbling. Slowly add flour while stirring vigorously. You may not need to add all the flour, depending on the amount of fat your bacon produced. This is the roux for the stew. When all the flour is added, turn off heat and wait for pan to cool to a temperature suitable for pouring. Pour roux into pot with vegetables and bacon. At this point, you may store the roux mixture in a refrigerator in preparation for continuing the recipe at another time. Otherwise, keep it around while you follow the next few steps.
  3. In a large pan (or two) on medium heat, combine olive oil, scallops, and fish. Stir frequently for about 10 minutes or until seafood is nearly thoroughly cooked. It will finish cooking after combining with beans later.
  4. In a large pan, cook sausage on medium-high heat for about 12 minutes or until sausage is thoroughly cooked.
  5. In a large stew pot, combine beans with enough water to just cover them. Add lamb bone. Cover and heat on low for 20 minutes. Remove lamb bone to garbage. Add roux mixture and stir. Add sausage, seafood, potatoes, crushed red pepper, rosemary, and parsley. Add water to cover all ingredients. Cover and heat on low for 45 minutes.
  6. Serve each bowl, topped with manchego cheese, with a dark red, spicy wine. Pairing suggestions include Frescobaldi Mormoreto and Château Cabrières. Inexpensive suggestions include Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon, Ravenswood Icon, and Broquel Malbec.

September 21, 2006

29 Sausages

I guess I have to get this post out of the way, despite not having enough pictures to do the event justice.

The story is that, a few weeks ago, I asked my neighbor if he liked sausages. With a puzzled look on his face, he said yes, and in order to answer the question posed by his facial expression, I told him I make sausages and that I was looking forward to the next time I could do so.

Well, word got around that I make sausages, and that fit in quite nicely with the other neighborhood cooks: a Bolivian baker, a Japanese chef, and a good old American house-wife. And, so, I was compelled to order some sausage casings and start thinking about eventually making some sausages and sharing them with my neighbors.

About three weeks ago, one of my neighbors, Yusuke, caught me as I was walking from my car to my back door: "When will you have sausage party?"

It was my turn to display the look of bewilderment, and my only answer was, "What sausage party?"

Yusuke was under the impression I was going to have a full-blown barbecue with sausages as the main course,
Some of my ingredients, about to meet their demise, thanks to my trusty santoku knife! Click to enlarge
and while that's basically what ended up happening, I had no idea at the time that this would be expected of me.

I ordered sausage casings from the usual guy in Georgia, slowly bought and froze a total of about 11 pounds of pork tenderloin, and started thinking about the types of sausage I could make. As the sausage party drew near, I had an epiphany: I would use fruit! I would make peach pork sausage, apple pork sausage, and normal pork sausage! Ah, but it would not end there.

Last Thursday, Yusuke caught me again as I was walking inside, and he wanted me to set an exact time for the party to start. I really hate planning things because it makes me nervous, but I acquiesced to his request and, after some debate, said the party could start around 6:00 on Saturday.
Minced fruit and veggies. Clockwise from top: garlic, peach, apple, pear, habanero pepper. Click to enlarge
This set events in motion, and for most of last weekend, I had one and a half things on my mind: sausages and that pesky photonics homework that was due Monday.

I finished the homework on Sunday with plenty of time to spare, by the way, so that turned out to not be worth the half-worry I gave it.

As Friday wore on, I had to consider everything I would need to make sausages: wet room temperature casings, thawed meat, chopped fruit, meat grinder parts I could find, and so forth. I don't think I actually did anything about these things on Friday, but I certainly thought about them.

But, I had to work those things out on Saturday, and luckily, everything just fell into place. I even had my laptop in the kitchen, belting out songs from Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen that could be heard beyond my open back door.
Eleven pounds of pork, topped with strips of lamb fat. Click to enlarge

Unseasoned pork and lamb, just through the grinder for the first time. Click to enlarge
Before long, passers-by could hear the growl of my meat grinder's too-powerful motor, churning away at the eleven pounds of pork and the lamb fat I added to the mix.

After I ground the meat the first time, I had to consider the question of the day: what kinds of sausage would I make? But, would I even bother with this before actually making them? No way. I flew by the seat of my pants, and when I finished grinding one type of sausage, I washed my hands and looked over my ingredients to decide what I would make next.

Over about five hours, I performed all the tasks associated with the preparation and clean-up of an afternoon of sausage-making and, meanwhile, made the following sausages!

  • 5 x Polish sausage with Turkish aleppo pepper
  • 5 x Garlic, habanero pepper, and basil sausage
  • 4 x Garlic and rosemary sausage
  • 5 x Pear and sage sausage
  • 5 x Apple, chili pepper, and black pepper sausage
  • 5 x Peach sausage with venison sausage seasoning

That's 29 sausages in all, comprised of six distinct flavors.

Some time around 5:30, I had cleaned up as much as I was going to clean up for the evening, and my sausages were nicely wrapped in aluminum foil in the refrigerator.
Everything is ready to go! Click to enlarge
There were about 30 minutes remaining before Steve and Anneli would be over to join in the festivities, so I could relax for a few minutes. Phew, the whirlwind five hours of sausage making had come to an end.

In these 30 minutes, I joined a backyard party's infancy and helped light two charcoal grills (by the end of the night, three grills had been used to cook a variety of meats).

I started cooking sausages, Steve and Anneli showed up a tad late, and the beer and conversation started to flow like water! The peak attendance was somewhere around 15 people, and everyone had a great time, and they all loved the sausage.

Most peoples' favorite seemed to be the Polish sausage with the Turkish aleppo pepper, but those of us who could stand a lot of heat preferred the garlic, habanero, and basil sausage. After a few bites, that habanero pepper really got the eyes watering... amazing stuff. Oh, and the habanero pepper I used was supplied by Katy. Thanks, Katy!

I think I finally went back inside my house during the midnight hour, so the party was a definite success. My neighbors totally get high marks for coolness, and I guess I get high marks for sausage. :)

September 04, 2006

Massachusetts Shellfish

As predicted by Tamara, I ate tons of shellfish while I was in Massachusetts.

It started with a dodgy place in Salisbury called the Olde Town Tavern, that served televised Keno and a casserole of scallops and shellfish, with a side of three lobsters for the price of two. The casserole was, um, "interesting", and somewhere near two-thirds through it, I decided I didn't want any more. But, the lobsters saved the day with buttery goodness, and although I didn't actually order them, my mom did, and she happened to be sitting next to me.

In Newburyport, I ate world famous (partly because I tell everyone about it) clam chowder at The Grog, followed by two heaping lobster rolls. Unlike many places where lobster rolls are on the affordable side of expensive, these actually have lots and lots and lots of real lobster meat in them. I dare say they could even use a little more mayonnaise. They also come with a reasonable amount of French fries, with which I ordered mayonnaise and refused the ketchup. I was feeling a little Dutch, perhaps?

And, to top off the shellfish extravaganza, upon noticing I had a little less than two hours before my flight back to Pittsburgh today, I wandered a few gates over to Legal Seafood and ate their cherrystone clams on the half shell while drinking gin and tonic and reading Stranger in a Strange Land. I don't normally like Legal's fish, but I thought their raw bar would be pretty good, and I was quite correct. What a wonderful way to top off a vacation that had undertones of shellfish!

As for the rest of the trip, it was really great to see Taylor off to college (her dorm room looks really cool), and the family gathering (including Fritz) was wonderful. Hurricane Ernesto also dropped a bunch of windy drizzle on the island on Sunday, so that cooled things down to sweatshirt-wearing weather. Overall, very nice!

August 29, 2006

Five Foods

I have been officially tagged by Katy to create a list of five things people should eat before they die.

  • My last dinner in Buenos Aires earlier this year was at a chop house in Puerto Madero. I can't remember its name, and nothing jumps out at me on the list of gastronomía at that web site. Walking to the table, there were floor-to-ceiling glass windows separating us from the raw meat and the kitchen, and it all looked wonderful. Because the cattle in Argentina are raised without hormones or anything too unnatural and also because the beef is not aged, Argentine beef has a very different taste from American beef. The flavor is so natural that one might think the cow actually grew out of the ground. I highly recommend Argentine beef, especially eaten in Argentina, to the foodies.
  • Since I was very young, one of my favorite foods has been Maine lobster. There's little more enjoyable than sitting in a fireplace-warmed room and gazing out over the Atlantic Ocean while trying to dismember, clean, butter, and consume a boiled lobster that was caught in a trap not far off the frigid coast just hours beforehand.
  • A wonderful thing about enjoying food is the keen ability to go overboard when purchasing it. When this happens, it can often be brushed off, and the purchaser may even swear to never do it again. However, when the groceries are finally put into the cupboards and the refrigerator, the foodie can start thinking of ways to use the new, wonderful items. This is how, one day, I ended up with 250 grams of very nice Russian sturgeon caviar. It was an impulse purchase at a fine grocer in Dallas, Texas, and it felt like velvet on my tongue, with the slightest hint of salty fish.
  • This item in the list is something I actually have not tried, but I understand its consumption is beautiful, and some day soon, I hope to form my own opinions on the matter. The reason I do not have personal experience with this is that it's illegal to import unpasteurized dairy products into the United States. Because of this, the risk of eating real Brie de Meaux here is high, and for a not-very-outgoing person like me, the better option is to simply take a long weekend on the Continent.
  • And, last, but not least, I would like to include a set of foods that has been dear to me all my life. I never miss an opportunity to use them, and they come in many shapes, sizes, and colors. My last recommendation for something a foodie should eat before death is ridiculously hot peppers.

Since this meme is out of foodie-land now, it's difficult to select another five people to tag for it. In the interest of keeping things going, however, I hereby select the following people to compile and publish their own lists of five foods to try before you die.

  • Kari, alongside whom, a long time ago now, my interests in cooking began to flourish
  • Tamara, who enjoys good southern cooking with good southern beer
  • Andrew, whose travels impart upon him knowledge of food all around the country
  • Helen, whom I introduced to sushi just last summer

Regrettably, Tamara and Andrew may not be joining us in this meme for a while, as their blogs are on a web server that is in transit, somewhere between Los Angeles and here.

And, now... I'm hungry.

August 26, 2006

Food Meme

There is a meme circulating the Internet right now that is infecting food blogger's brains. It was started by Melissa at Traveler's Lunchbox and involves a bunch of people stating the five things everyone else should eat before they die. As you can see, the list is already very long, with over 200 entries so far.

Katy, having written her five items, seems to be working on a list of five bloggers to tag, and it looks like I'll be one of them. So, I have to start thinking about what to write. I have some things to say about special kinds of tapas, and it's possible eating a fresh lobster on the coast of Maine will also be one.

This is an exciting exercise, as I don't often think about what other people should try... just what I would like to try and, occasionally, cook for them, too.

August 12, 2006

First Dinner on Phillips Avenue

I cooked my first dinner here for Taylor and Katy last night. It was lamb vindaloo (the lamb was especially good) with rice and raita, accompanied by margaritas. After dinner, we three sat on my front porch until the wee hours. The temperatures were in the 50s, so the ladies had to don sweatshirts, which was sort of crazy, given that it's the middle of August. We had fun talking, and they apparently think it's a really good idea for me to go to Buenos Aires next week. Hmm, we'll see about that.

I think I'm going to move some blogs from my server in Los Angeles to the server on the other side of this room, in order to give them a more permanent Internet up-time. The current situation is getting kind of ridiculous, and Black Sun isn't doing anything to help me, even though I've been a colocation customer there for three years.

Also, Katy is considering getting another cat to play with The Vert. I think Eliza would be wonderful company for him.

July 10, 2006

Another Lamb Vindaloo Success

As the title says, tonight was another lamb vindaloo success. I just can't get this stuff wrong! I also used a rough facsimile of my algebraic raita recipe to keep the curry company on the plate. For those of you keeping track, tonight's value for N was about 1.7. It also had a bit more chili powder and a bit less salt and sugar than previously, and it worked out nicely. You know, I really don't like cooking the exact same thing twice.

Katy and I spent a sizeable chunk of time at the main (Oakland) branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh this afternoon. In one of the opulent rooms upstairs, Katy scribbled some odd modal logic symbols on sheets of coffee-stained paper, and I drank coffee (without staining any paper) and read articles about, among other things, the kidney's glomerular filtration membrane. All the Carnegie libraries boast free wireless Internet access, which, despite the fact that it's really just free web access and not free Internet access, is pretty cool. After all, the motto is "free to the people".

Aside from lamb vindaloo and lascivious Carnegie Library exploits, the days since our dinner at Isabela have been relatively low-key. Although, Katy and I did host a Trivial Pursuit evening, and we also put a lot of time into waging war against Mao Zedong, Otto von Bismarck, and Peter the Great. But, that's another story.

Oh, and I think neither France nor Italy should have won the World Cup. Boo to both teams.

May 28, 2006

Blog Anniversary

A year ago today, I wrote my first blog entry here. The inaugural post was essentially a rant about Lawry's, a steak house with poor service on the Dallas North Tollway.

Katy and I joined Arin at Chamberlain's Steak and Chop House on Belt Line in Dallas earlier this week and were very impressed with the food and the service. The atmosphere was neither as grand nor as formal as Smith & Wollensky, but the quality of the prime rib was far above that of any other prime rib I've eaten. I look forward to returning to Chamberlain's, but next time, perhaps I'll not bother with the jacket.

We are staying with Katy's parents for the next couple days before we return to Pittsburgh... if I survive the combination of high thermostat settings and a new puppy, that is.

Also, through the PayPal dispute resolution process, I got the jerk eBay seller to refund the money he swindled away from me. Now, I just need a new Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 subwoofer. Anyone? :)

May 20, 2006

Algebraic Recipe: Raita

I never directly use recipes because they often disallow the introduction of creativity into a meal. Tonight, I found four recipes for raita on the web, and I didn't like any of them, but after reading them, I had an idea of what to do. So, I present to you a fifth raita recipe.

N cups yogurt
N cucumbers, chopped (shredded, if you like) into really tiny bits
N/2 tsp. salt
N/2 tsp. sugar
N tsp. cumin
N tsp. chili powder

1. Mix everything together in a bowl of appropriate dimensions.

2. Let cool in refrigerator for 3 * [ln(N) + 1] hours.

That should do it. :)

Also, I think I like red wine so much because the histamines induce some sort of feel-good allergic reaction. Tonight's selection: McWilliam's Hanwood Estate Shiraz 2004. It's my fail-safe Shiraz because you can order it by the glass and drink it while you wait at the bar for someone to show up at Sambuca in Dallas. It's not the best, and it's a bit dry. It's Australian. It pairs well with a glass of water and good conversation.

April 23, 2006

Food Futures

Last Saturday, Andrew asked what my dream job is. That's a really interesting question for me, since I want to do everything and nothing all at once.

Assuming I don't win the lottery, buy a yacht, and sit back and read books for the rest of my life, there is a little bit of a plan in place that might be of interest to you.

First and foremost, I need my doctorate. The magic 8-ball says my dissertation will have something to do with medical nanorobotics, and hopefully, that will allow me to settle into a cozy house somewhere near MIT and start working for them as a professor of sorts.

That will continue for an unknown number of years, and presumably, the prospect of opening a restaurant will continue to nag me throughout them. I see two possible avenues for proceeding from this point.

First, I could stop doing nanotechnology altogether and use the money I've saved to start my restaurant. Or, I could take a sabbatical to start the restaurant and, when things are calming down on that front, go back to my tenured position on some sort of a nearly-full-time basis.

The Merovingian
Aside: Wouldn't it be cool if I could do a Merovingian-style trick with the food and use nanobots to make people have temporary extreme sensations of happiness, contentment, delight, pleasure, and so forth?

What is the reason? Soon the why and the reason are gone and all that matters is the feeling. This is the nature of the universe. We struggle against it, we fight to deny it; but it is of course a lie. Beneath our poised appearance we are completely out of control.
The Merovingian

Nanobots or not, however, the restaurant will be magnificent, and it will serve the finest food in the world to customers seated in very opulent surroundings. I can't wait.

Oh, another idea I have for the restaurant is interactive holographic menus that emerge from the middle of the table and can display 3D images of the items on the menu based on where the customer's eyes are focused. It seems doable, if incredibly expensive.

That's pretty much where the plans end. Professorship, nanobots, restaurant, ..., profit. I hope that answers your question, Andrew.

April 15, 2006

First Dinner at Katy's House

I cooked dinner at Katy's house for the first time last night. We had been at the grocery store earlier in the day, and she requested I cook something spicy. So, on the condition that she clean the stove top when we got back home, I was easily convinced to come up with dinner and cook it. I just had to come up with a plan.

Some organic broccoli, jalapeños, heavy cream, lemon butter and dill marinated tilapia filets, and shaved parmesan cheese later, a plan was formed.

Garlic and jalapeño
One chopped large broccoli spear, one thinly sliced jalapeno, and three finely chopped cloves of garlic went into a pan with some olive oil. After they had a chance to get nice and warm, some heavy cream and a small amount of butter were added, and that was followed by a generous helping of the parmesan cheese. Black pepper and basil were also added near the end. This became the sauce for the pasta, which was cooking simultaneously.

The tilapia, for its part, came from the store with the marinade included. All it took was a bit of baking at 400° for, oh, 12 or 13 minutes or something like that.

Anyway, it turned out very well, and it was enjoyed all around. Dorian even got a bite (or two!) of the fish.

April 11, 2006

Top 50 Restaurants

The Sydney Morning Herald is running an article today about a list (second page) of the top 50 restaurants in the world. It's clearly time to start checking some of those off.

Also, it reached 80 degrees here today. Blech, yuck, gross.

March 10, 2006


Katy wanted to eat popcorn last night, and because I do not own a microwave, we had to do it the "old-fashioned" way. She didn't even believe it would work! So, while I wrote a long email to conclude my school activities before spring break, she went to the grocery store and bought popping corn, popcorn salt, butter, and vegetable oil. With those items, I made popcorn, and it turned out to be really tasty.

Of course, I had never made popcorn on the stove before last night, which I suppose is why this is news. Anyway, if you've never done it, you should. It's tons of fun to watch, and you get to listen to your heart scream as you pour a melted half stick of butter over the final product.

January 12, 2006

Food, Fried and Frozen

I much prefer the potato chips from the Cape Cod Whole Earth Collection to the normal Cape Cod potato chips.

Also, the following picture is of the inside of my freezer, as of three days ago. If you've ever seen the inside of a freezer I've had, you may have noticed that it was completely bare or that the only thing inside it was a bag of coffee beans. Not so this time.

Click to enlarge.

I will now be a dork and enumerate the items in the photo, clockwise from the bottom left.

  • Whole, headless rabbit.
  • Bombay Sapphire gin.
  • Villa Massa limoncello.
  • Coffee beans: espresso roast from Giant Eagle.
  • Cooked, deveined shrimp.
  • Paella.
  • Italian bread.
  • Ice cube trays.
  • Organic flax (2) and blueberry (1) waffles.
  • Over 10 pounds of ground beef (more under the paella).

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it: the contents of my freezer.

November 15, 2005

Pomegranate Wasabi

With 15 rather long comments, Spicy Morality Cat is, by far, the most commented blog post I've ever written. The comments raise some very good points and counter-points, and I'd like to see the discussion continue. I expect that later today, at some point after I get back from my VLSI CAD class, I'll be able to organize the issues presented into a coherent summary and post another blog entry about it, against which more discussion will be warmly welcomed.

[ Update (5:32 PM EST): the morality debate is now summarized here. ]

First, however, I must tell you about dinner last night.

I love sushi. Anyone who has ever eaten sushi with me is well aware of this. I have had sushi in many forms, in many places, and under a wide variety of circumstances. I have had bad sushi, good sushi, and fantastic sushi. I have introduced people to sushi and been thoroughly entertained by their expressions after trying each of the fish that particular restaurant had on offer. I've even eaten sushi in Colorado Springs and Vail, hundreds of miles from an ocean.

I know many other people who also love sushi, but I've never known anyone other than professional sushi chefs who have actually made sushi at home. I did that last night.

Step one is to buy a hunk of fish meat that looks particularly nice and put it in the freezer for a few days to kill any nasty stuff that might be lurking in it. Then, thaw it, and you're well on your way to becoming a homegrown sushi chef. I was worried I'd have no idea how to cut the fish to make it the proper shape, but it turned out to be really easy. Diagonal cuts down the bulk of the steak work very well for this. My only problem was that some of the slices ended up being a bit thin. Oh, I'd also imagine it would be difficult to cut a fish steak well without something very sharp. My Wüsthof Classic Chef's Knife didn't let me down.

Step two is to make rice. I bought special sushi rice at Whole Foods Market (for lack of anywhere better), but I think any rice that has a short grain and is really sticky should be fine. Cook to taste, yada yada, you should know how to make rice by now. For the love of Dog, do not add salt. After the rice has finished cooking, it's only necessary to let it cool down to a temperature at which it won't burn you if you handle it with your hands. I was surprised at how easy it was to form the rice so that a slice of fish would fit comfortably on top.

Step three is to make all the other stuff you want. In my case, I wanted wasabi. I would have wanted ginger, too, but I would have had to go far out of my way to get it with such late notice. I bought my wasabi powder at Whole Foods Market, and I made sure to get the kind with the most actual wasabi in the powder (Sushi Sonic wasabi powder has 45% "genuine wasabi"). It seems some brands use a bunch of dried horseradish and mustard but not a lot of real wasabi. The idea is to mix the powder with enough water to make a paste. If you've never actually eaten wasabi before, go do that, and then you'll know what the consistency of the paste should be.

Water, though, seemed like a drag once I caught sight of the pomegranates in my fruit bowl. So, Katy and I painfully peeled one of those suckers, carefully extracted all the stupid little seed things, and juiced them. That yielded about half a cup of pomegranate juice, which was way more than enough for the wasabi I was about to make.

So, we ate a bunch of tuna sushi with organic soy sauce and pomegranate wasabi, and it was absolutely amazing. If you're in the Pittsburgh area and would like to sample pomegranate wasabi, I still have some in my refrigerator, which I may use to crust the tuna steaks I made from the leftover tuna last night (the limiting factor in sushi-making was rice -- I thought I cooked way too much, but I, in fact, cooked way too little). Yum!

September 14, 2005

More Food Success

Last night was another dinner success with Katy. The food was simple but elegant: halves of green bell peppers splayed open so they lay flat and then blackened at the edges on the stove, topped with a mixture of ground sirloin, mushroom, onion, and garlic, then topped again with parmigiano and asiago cheeses.

I think I'm making Mexican food tonight. Hooray. I haven't eaten anything spicy in, like, years or something. Although, my craving for spicy food may be somewhat subdued by lunch at the Indian food van at Pitt, which is going to happen in about two hours.

The forecast still looks good, with rain tomorrow and Friday, a nice but warm weekend, and showers and thunderstorms throughout next week.

"Burn, Hollywood, burn!" -- Open Up, Leftfield.

September 12, 2005

Kitchen, Food, and Weather Together

I have a real kitchen now, as the furniture is set up, the counters are clean, and the dishes are done. Storage is still pretty tight, but I think I can get rid of a few unnecessary things and then have room for everything.

Katy and I had dinner here last night, which consisted of baked, peppered lemon sole fillet, red dolce peppers sauteed with strawberry jelly, pasta with a cheese and cream sauce, draped with garlic, mushrooms, onions, and with thinly sliced tomatoes on top. I think the sole could have remained in the oven for a minute or so longer, but Katy assures me it was fine. Otherwise, the dinner turned out very well, and I think my Pittsburgh cooking debut was adequately impressive. I certainly didn't want to botch it the first time and send Katy away screaming, never to return for food.

This morning's breakfast was poached organic eggs (I figured out how to adjust the flame on my stove, so now I can poach stuff) and some excellent, thick, natural bacon from the Whole Foods Market butcher. My kingdom for a toaster, so maybe next time there will be toast involved, too. Hmm, time to shop for toasters.

Rather, it's time to go to class.

But, first, a weather report from our meteorology department: highs in the mid-to-upper 80s and sunny, with lows in the 60s, until Thursday; some showers expected at the end of the week with highs dropping into the 70s; sunny and warm with highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid 50s for the weekend.

Oh, and the Steelers kicked ass yesterday, 7-34 over the Titans, whoever they are.

July 20, 2005

The Spice Extends Life

The first time I went to Seattle, a little less than two years ago, I learned a trick to making flavored espresso. After putting the grounds in the thing but before tamping them, add the flavor to the top of the grounds. Then proceed as usual.

The El Diablo coffee shop on Queen Anne Hill does this with raw sugar in their Cuban Coffee, and it turns out to be a fantastic drink, despite being inevitably short-lived.

I tried this flavoring method this morning with the cinnamon and created a decidedly more exciting drink than I did with yesterday's cinnamon espresso. I have decided this drink's official name will be espresso melange, in honor of the relationship among the drink, the fellow Mensan, and Dune.

June 28, 2005


I had coffee at Cafe Brazil tonight in anticipation of staying up all night and working, which is, in fact, happening in good form. On my way home, I was litening to KZPS, and they played Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison.

It's not the greatest song. Despite that, its lyrics are the namesake for a wine bar called Mercy in Addison. I've been there rather a lot with Kelly and a couple times with Tamara. I've even been with Arin on at least one occasion, and I've also gone alone once or twice. I love that place.

The atmosphere is relaxed, dark, and soothing. The music and decor are perfect. The wine list is a mile long, and many bottles, even those that are more pricey or relatively rare, are sold by the glass. The dinner menu is also excellent and contains such favorites as filet mignon and lobster; as is their water menu, which includes some of the best in the world, like Voss artesian water from Norway.

But, I haven't been there in months. I've been unmotivated to don the requisite black suit, otherwise very busy, and generally without appropriate company. I miss having the time to go there.

Makes me sad, it does.

Even before hearing the Roy Orbison song tonight, I had been considering going there after my chemistry exam. I decided against it, again, for lack of motivation.

Perhaps I'll set aside a couple hours for Mercy when I get back from Pittsburgh next week.

P.S. I only browsed today because I ran out of BBC News to read. :)

P.P.S. I added a WHOIS nameserver entry through GANDI for That might fix the stupid DNS issues that keep cropping up.

P.P.P.S. I just heard Southern Sun on the Digitally Imported Chillout station. That has to be one of my favorite songs.

P.P.P.P.S. In an opinion regarding the ten commandments today, a Supreme Court justice used the word "decalogue" to describe them. Brilliant!

P.P.P.P.P.S. I wonder how many Ps are acceptable in these postscript things?

May 28, 2005

First Blog

Well, here it is. I finally broke down and started a blog. It's bizarre to know that what I'm writing could potentially be read by anybody.

I decided to do it today because I came up with something that would be appropriate for a blog: dinner last night.

Tamara and I went to Lawry's for dinner last night, and the overall dining experience was largely the same as the other time I visited, several months ago with Kelly. Twice in a row, I'm terribly unimpressed with the service, so I don't think I'll be making a third visit there. Besides, I enjoy the steak and service at Smith & Wollensky much more; they just didn't have a late-notice reservation open last night.

Walking into the restaurant, I engaged the receptionist who said our table will be ready in a few minutes. We went into the bar, ordered a couple drinks (Balvenie 21 year (I would have settled for Glenfiddich 18 year, but their finest was only the 15 year) for me and Grey Goose and Seven for her), and eventually, the receptionist came back and took us back to the receptionist's desk, where waited the maitre d'hotel to take us to our table.

The maitre d'hotel took our drinks and said something to the effect of, "You wouldn't want to ruin your reputation by carrying drinks across the dining room." How absurd! Look, dude, if my reputation is so important to you, you really need to find someone else to stalk. Honestly, I'll carry my drink across the dining room on my own if you're set on commenting on things about which you know nothing. Do a wool suit and a merino wool sweater give off vibes that can be construed as representing a particular reputation? That's all he knew about me at that point, so maybe they do.

We are taken to our table, where the maitre d'hotel again proves himself to be an utter moron. Now, when you go to Lawry's and you sit at a booth table on the wood floor, the maitre d'hotel and waiters will move the table for easier access to and from the seats. Which is great, but apparently before we were allowed to sit down last night, it was necessary to tell us this in a little more detail than was probably appropriate. No big deal. We sit down, and he makes a point of telling us we're allowed to sit wherever we want and that the bus boy will move the table settings accordingly. Well, of course I'll sit where I want! I'm the customer, after all, and I'd better be able to.

So, enough of the maitre d'hotel. He goes away, a sigh of relief befalls the table, and I start looking at the wine list, completely forgetting in the din of the reverberations of the voice of the maitre d'hotel in my head that I still had a bit of Scotch in my glass.

Things proceeded reasonably normally throughout the rest of the meal, which included excellent crab cakes, very fresh salads, premium prime rib, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and the culinary abomination that is Yorkshire Pudding.

There were, however, a couple exceptions. First, before we started eating our salads, the waiter brought salad forks and presented them on folded linen on a plate. That was good, but then she left the plate and the linen on the seat next to Tamara, and they stayed there until she got up from the table. What is that about? Also, after I ordered the bottle of wine (Freemark Abbey 2000; it goes very well with steak but not much else), the waiter would notice our glasses were getting empty and ask if we wanted more. Of course I want more! I bought the bottle, didn't I? Just pour it and quit interrupting me!


Anyway, after we left Lawry's, my stomach was twisted for a good 15 minutes. Tamara said it was because of the bad service, and that's the best reason I could find.

Yes, so, this is my blog, and this is the kind of crap you get to read here. :)