Monday, August 31, 2009

Five more minutes, Mom

After Busy Season, my firm has a really great summer perk with Every Other Friday Off (EOFO). It’s actually an Every Other 4 Day Work Week (we end up working 80 hrs over two weeks), but EO4DWW just doesn’t have the same acro-ring to it.

A couple Friday’s ago, on my 2nd to last EOFO, I decided to check out Penzeys Spices. WHAT?!?! You’ve never been or heard of Penzeys Spices??? The only reason I had, is my Mom and sis had mentioned it to me in Memphis, but I didn’t realize there was one in Bham, literally 5 minutes away from our house!!!! The great thing about Penzey’s is you can buy a little or a lot of fresh, exotic spices for a reasonable price. Here’s what I picked up:

Ever since hitting up Silver Coin and Taj India, I’ve been looking for a good (i.e., quick and easy) Indian Recipe web-site. Quick Indian Cooking is a very well organized site with recipes that are easy to follow* (and also categorized for Indian cooking novices like myself). A few Sunday’s ago, the LOML went to see the Jonas Bros. with her sister and nephews, so what did I do on my night of Bachelorhood??? Put on some Mastodon and Lil Wayne and cook me some INDIAN FOOD!!!!

I thought I would start my Indian culinary adventures with the Simplest Chicken Curry. Here's what I needed:

6 skinless chicken thighs (bone in)
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 and a half inch stick of ginger
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp garam masala
2 T oil
Pinch of sugar

The first thing I did was “blitz” the onion, ginger, and garlic in a food processor. How much ginger is in a 1.5 in stick of ginger?? I didn’t want to over-ginger this dish, so I gave it my best guess (maybe 2 T “blitzed”). Also, I’m not really sure what Mallika meant by a “pinch” of sugar (I think I used about a tsp).

After my sugar (kinda) caramelized in a non-stick pot (trusty Le Creuset), I added the onion mixture, and OH MAN, THAT’S A LOT OF ONION!! I cooked it on high heat until it started to change color (I dunno, maybe 10 minutes). I was starting to freak out, b/c I had one hot Le Creuset, and the onion mixture wasn’t turning, but we made it through alright. Next, came the turmeric and chilli powder, and five more minutes of high heat. Then came the chopped tomatoes, and yet another five minutes of high heat (!!!). Alright, after all that, I finally could put it on simmer!

I was supposed to be looking for little holes of oil to appear, and that meant, yep, 5 more minutes, until I could add the chicken! I stirred the chicken “vigorously”, and . . . after five minutes, added a little water to cover the chicken, lowered the heat, and stirred from time to time until done.

I think I cooked the chicken for 30 minutes or so. One thing that tricked me with the chicken thighs was the dark meat. I thought I was seeing “under done” chicken, but it was really just dark meat. Oh well, I don’t the extra time hurt. After everything had finished cooking, I stirred in the garam masala**, and BOOM, it’s Darjeeling Limited time!!! (I didn’t have any coriander leaves to garnish).

I don’t think there’s a proper way to eat chicken thigh meat off the bone. You just have to lean over your plate and start picking. This is how I knew this was one authentic dish. No Miss Manners here. Just tasty Indian cuisine, like Gandhi used to make.

Oh yeah, I had the leftovers 2 days later, and dare I say, they were tastier than the original?? Definitely tender.

* As you can see by my griping, I do think this website could do a better job with measurements and cooking times. I was able to feel myself through this recipe, but it may be a little intimidating to other culinerds (did I just make up a term????).

** I also entertained the idea of making my own garam masala from scratch, but after weighing the cost/benefit, decided to get the pre-made stuff for $3.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Give or Take the Subject or the Verb

So I was browsing around the interwebz this week and saw HOLY MOLEY, Corey Branan (sic) and Jon Snodgrass just released a split EP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I could wax nostalgic about Cory Branan for 2000 + words, but what else is there to write about him. He’s a brilliant word-smith. He’s half bat-s*** crazy (have you seen him perform live?). His debut propelled him to semi-stardom (Dave Letterman, Rolling Stone, the Playboy mansion, etc.), but his oft-delayed follow-ups have him slipping back into obscurity (I think he likes it like better that way). Anyways, if you haven’t heard his music, you should, and if have, but don’t like him, why are you blog-stalking me?!?!?

Jon Snodgrass is one of the vocalists for Drag the River, a fantastic “” band from Fort Collins, Colorado, who are “bad at breaking up” (they love to announce the band is calling it quits, only to reunite some odd months/years later). The first time I saw DtR was at the P&H CafĂ©, opening for you know who (Lucero), ummmmmmmm, 7 years ago?? I’ve seen them a couple more times since, but their Live @ the Starlight** has been on steady rotation of my life since. Lucky for Birmingham, Jon will be here this November, as part of the Revival Tour.

Well, Cory and Jon teamed up this summer to release this SWEET 7 song EP on Suburban Home records. You can get it on vinyl or cassette, but don’t worry; each comes with an instant mp3 download. Oh, and you can stream the entire thing here or below.

** Suburban Home is also offering a FREE download of Live @ the Starlight (WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?? You should be downloading this!!!!!). George Jones, Steve Earle, and the Misfits (in addition to Drag the River originals) never sounded so good!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

You know, like a cow’s opinion

Do any of you read Seth Godin? If you haven’t heard of Seth, he is a very successful entrepreneur/marketer, who along with Malcolm Gladwell, is one of today’s socio/psycho-behavioral experts (the Alabama, to Gladwell’s Auburn, if you will). He’s written some pretty neat books (Purple Cow, Tribes, etc.), and everyday he posts some very interesting thoughts on his blog (If you’re in Sales, PR, Marketing, etc., I don’t see how you can’t be reading his (FREE) daily advice).

Well today, he
posted a pretty thought provoking question:

Let's say your goal is to reduce gasoline consumption.
And let's say there are only two kinds of cars in the world. Half of them are Suburbans that get 10 miles to the gallon and half are Priuses that get 50.
If we assume that all the cars drive the same number of miles, which would be a better investment:
Get new tires for all the Suburbans and increase their mileage a bit to 13 miles per gallon.
Replace all the Priuses and rewire them to get 100 miles per gallon (doubling their average!)
Trick question aside, the answer is the first one. (In fact, it's more than twice as good a move

Being the auditor I am, I had to know how he came to such a bold conclusion (what were his assumptions??). So I e-mailed him to ask for his formula.

First, I’ve got to say how impressed I am, that Seth replied (on a SATURDAY morning) within 1 hour!!! Seth, you’re a gentleman and a scholar.

But his reply didn’t really answer anything. He just said “assert 1000 cars and 1000 miles driven per car and use excel. you'll see”

Hmmmmmmmmmmm, ok. Maybe, he was trying to be the wise teacher that encourages his students to try out various formulas on their own???

I’m no car expert, but let’s say it costs $500 (?) for a new set of tires, and $5,000 (??) to re-wire your Prius (I realize this is probably WAAAAAAAY under-priced, but I had to start somewhere).

Click to Enlarge)

Sure enough, it does cost LESS to get new tires on your gas-guzzling Suburban, than re-wire your green Prius, but it’s really a moot point. In both situations, you’re better off (financially) BEFORE these improvements????

So, if you’re goal is to reduce gas consumption (AND you want to save money), you really should just be riding a bike??

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Photo Booth

Well, get me a domain name, and call me Bryan Johnson! Last weekend, I took some picts of Chris and Kitty for their “Save the Date.”

Last year, I told the LOML that an (un-official) goal of mine for this summer was to start taking photos of our friends and/or friends’ kids (if they were interested). Well, I have not done a good job following through with this . . .

So, if any of you want your picture taken, please let me know. You can e-mail me (check my Blogger profile) if you don’t want to leave a comment . . .

I also want to give a shout out to my talented and dear wife who did a great job helping color/exposure/saturation correcting these!

Friday, August 14, 2009

(clever title involving Artichokes, Mushrooms or Shrimp)

You all know I’m a big Google Reader fan, and this week, I finally decided to “clean up” my subscriptions (there were WAY TOO many food and photography blogs). For those of you who aren’t using Google Reader (WHY AREN’T YOU USING GOOGLE READER?????), one of the great features is the “Star” function (similar to Gmail) where you can dog ear an item, if you want to remember it for later (like this or this). Before deleting all these extra blogs, I wanted to go back and see what I had starred the last few months.

One item was this Shrimp, Artichoke & Mushroom Pasta from Coconut & Lime. Looked tasty and simple enough at the time, and this week the LOML and I finally got around to making (or “adapting”) it for dinner.

Before I write anything else, I have to say I think the author made a typo with the 2 TABLESPOONS of Red Pepper Flakes. I started off with maybe ¾ Tbs of Red Pepper Flakes and that looked like a TON, so I stopped there. And that was HELLA spicy!

Shrimp, Artichoke & Mushroom Pasta
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ lb pound peeled shrimp
8 oz (can) whole artichoke hearts (sliced in half)
6 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 C white wine
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs skim milk (organic!)
¾ Tbs red pepper flakes
1 Tbs capers
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
salt / pepper
(Didn’t have/use any shallots or parsley)

First thing to do is sauté the artichoke hearts, red pepper flakes, mushrooms and garlic for about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp and cook for another 3 minutes or until the shrimp just start to turn pink (It was hard to fight the urge NOT to cook the shrimp all the way through).

Next, pour in the wine, lemon juice, zest, salt, pepper, and capers cook for an additional 3 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and the shrimp is cooked through (I forgot to heat to boil then reduce!).

You know the LOML and I are HUGE oenophiles, so we chose the Chablis. I heard 2003 was a splendid year for the vineyard . . . actually, it was the only thing we had on stock, and, umm, it was “flinty” and “steely” and “robust” (I don’t know what I’m talking about)

Stir in milk (cream). Toss with pasta (oh yeah, you should have cooked your pasta ahead of time, according to box directions) and Boom, classy dinner is served!

Tasty but CALIENTE!!!!!!!!! We’ll be making this one again!!

(PS - do these pictures look a little pixel-ated???? Sorry about that!! I did figure out (thanks, Sarah!!!) how to add pictures you can click to enlarge . . . Enjoy??)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Think Globally, Eat Locally

So last night Stephen and I went to see the other “foodie” film that opened in Alabama this weekend, Food Inc. The film looks at the business of large-scale agricultural food production (“farming”) in the United States, and the effects it has on the product (chicken, beef, pork and produce), the environment, and the consumer (you and me). Currently, there are a handful of HUGE multi-national corporations (Tyson, ConAgra, Smithfield, Monsanto, etc.) that dictate what we eat, and how it is grown and/or processed. You would hope the USDA and other regulatory agencies would do their best to protect the American public from potentially dangerous food productions methods (all in the name of efficiency and/or profits), but viewers find out that most of our government officials have ties (BIG SURPRISE) to the BILLION dollar companies they are supposed to regulate (that’s what we in the accounting industry would call an impairment of independence).

The film consists of interviews and “behind the scenes” footage from various food-processing facilities in the U.S (depressing, but not vomit-inducing). One of the most interesting characters of the film was a farmer named Joel Salatin (Polyface Farms), who apparently is a “celebrity” among the sustainable farming movement. The self-described "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist farmer" has written a handful of books, and according to Wikipedia, spends a hundred days a year lecturing to colleges and other environmental groups. Listening to Joel gives you hope for the future of food and also makes you want to quit your day job and become a farmer (Oh, to only have 500+ acres of farm land in your family!!).

Watching a film like this sure can leave you depressed, but luckily Food Inc. give you some ideas of how YOU can make a difference (remember, we vote with our wallet and mouth three times a day). I wish I could have written them all down, but I know they say you can/should support your local Farmer’s markets and plant a garden. Other ways to get involved are found here.

After the film , Andy Grace (Eating Alabama) led a panel discussion that included Edwin Marty (Jones Valley Urban Farm), Sara Fuller Brown (Fig Leaf Farm), David Snow (Snow’s Bend), and Jean Mills (Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group).

Someone in the audience asked about the requirements for labeling food as “organic.” Most of the panel agreed that those requirements (documents that number in the hundreds of pages) were too complicated to summarize, but that consumers should focus more on eating “locally” and getting to know your farmers or other food providers. They also noted that most small farms do not have the resources to pay the licensing fees and other related costs it takes to be labeled “organic.” I asked the panel if consumers could assume farmer’s markets do a good job of “self-policing” themselves to ensure that each vendor is supplying the “good” food that we need to be eating. Sadly, they said YOU have to ask the questions and inform yourself, because not all farmers are created equally (for instance, sometimes farms will buy produce from others, just to pass it off as their own).

So, the big question is, did I do anything different today for lunch? No.

Will I visit Pepper Place or Finley Avenue this weekend? Yes.

Food Inc. is showing at the Bama Theatre in Tuscaloosa through Wednesday, August 12th.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

He's Going the Distance

Have flourless chocolate torte’s always been popular, or has anyone else noticed they’re kind of the “hot” dessert item at “higher end’ restaurants now?? I told you I was gonna try out (and post) one of Molly “Orangette” Wizenberg’s recipes on here before the summer’s over and last Thursday night, I made her “Winning Hearts and Minds” chocolate cake for the LOML (Yes, I’ve taken a (three?) week break from P90x, but I promise I’m getting back on the wagon soon). This recipe has a Tbs of flour, so technically it can’t be called flourless, but it definitely has the consistency, and dark, rich flavor you’d find at Hot & Hot or Bottega. I’d also like to dedicate this recipe to Wellmamma, because I know how much she loves her some chocolate (lava) cake.

Orangette's Chocolate Cake
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1.75 tbs butter
5 eggs
2 C 2Tbs sugar
1 TB flour

Molly writes that this is a pretty easy recipe, and she is right. First pre-heat your oven to 375. Next, melt (in the microwave or double-boiler) the chocolate and butter together in a bowl. Does anything look better than melted butter and chocolate (sorry Daniel)? Hmmmmmmm, calories!!

Next, stir in the sugar, and let cool the mixture cool for 5 minutes or so. After it’s cooled (you don’t want scrambled eggs in your chocolate), mix in the eggs on at a time. I found that the eggs really stiffened up the batter, but I just mixed until everything was incorporated. Then add your one Tbs of flour and mix some more.

Line an 8 in round cake pan with parchment paper and butter the pan so your cake won’t stick. Pour in the batter and bake for 25 minutes. Molly writes to check on it after 20 minutes or so to make sure it’s cooking properly (you want the center to “jiggle slightly,” but not too much). The sides of the cake will rise (and crack slightly) and the center will stay pretty low, but I found that 25 minutes was right on the money. After taking out of the oven, let it cool on the rack for 15 minutes before plating.

You want to plate the cake with the baked side facing up, so you have to flip it onto one plate, and then flip it back onto whatever you want to serve it on. I know that probably sounds a lot harder than it is.

We served this with good ole Vanilla ice cream and it was AWESOME!!

PS – Did any of you photo geeks notice my (parchment paper) white (semi) seamless?? I’m so DIY . . .

PPS – Yes, the LOML updated her blog tonight! (and she loves to give me a hard time, since I don't link to hers!!)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cleaning Out My Closet

This week, I was home on “stay-cation” and doing random tasks around the house (mostly yard work, cleaning out our storage shed, and de-cluttering closets in anticipation of the baby). Thursday I was working on our (home) office closet and found all these old framed posters/autographs I had from back in the day. There’s a (personalized) Bryan Adams autograph from the first time I saw him in concert (I’ve seen him three times). I also had (generic) Galactic and Medeski, Martin & Wood autographs and a framed Widespread Panic poster from their Thanksgiving 2000 shows at the Mid-South Coliseum. I’m planning on giving those away (possibly through BHAM.FM) to anyone who wants them, but there was another framed poster I was sure no one (outside of Memphis) would be interested in.

In high school, some of my good friends were in a band called RETROSPECT. They were really good (seriously, I’m not just saying that). They went through a “jam-band” phase, and then settled on straight ahead pop-rock (Big Star is so hot right now). I know the music industry is tough (darn near impossible), but I really thought they could have “made it” had their music fallen into the right hands.

The New Daisy Theater (was) a pretty “hot” venue back in the day, and would book RETROSPECT with other local (high school) up and coming bands. This was a good business move on the Daisy’s part because it brought in tons of high school aged kids when there weren’t any other shows going on. One band RETROSPECT would often get booked with was Accidental Mersh. They were a bunch of punk MUS/White Station kids and they were awful!!!! Seriously, they were so annoying and played the crappiest cover songs and all their preppy/snobby East Memphis friends would pack out it out!!!!!! As a “real” music fan, it was just annoying (and confusing) watching all these kids rock out to such crappy music. Even today, I can still picture their dopey bass player singing the “Owwwwww” part to Elastica’s “Connection.” Lucky for Memphis, the Mersher’s eventually graduated high school and went on their separate ways (and the RETROSPECT fans rejoiced!).

A few years later, I heard one of the Mersher’s started a band at UGA called the Whigs. They were getting a lot of buzz, but I was reluctant to give them a chance. Then I heard them on-line, and I couldn’t help myself. I felt like Rob Gordon after hearing those punk skater kids (the Kinky Wizards) outside his record shop. I didn’t want to like them, but I couldn’t help it. I bought Give Em All a Big Fat Lip and it was really good.

So I found an old concert poster from a Big Ass Truck show that RETROSPECT and the Mersh opened for (B.A.T. was an awesome local band from Memphis that “almost” made it - I think they had a video on MTV at one point, and had some college radio play, too). I was dropping off a load of old clothes and other sundries at Goodwill and threw the B.A.T. poster in for good measure. Before I left, I took a pict on my phone and sent it to N!ck and Harden for a good laugh.

“Some kid at Goodwill is really gonna be pumped when they find this,” I wrote.

N!ck replied, “CAN YOU BELIEVE that the lead singer of Accidental Mersh is now in MGMT?!?!”

WHAT?!?!?! Are you serious?!?!?! I quickly Googled (I’m already addicted to my iPhone) “MGMT Accidental Mersh” and sure enough there was an article in the Commercial Appeal last year about how this Mersher was now hitting it big. I’m sure you’ve heard their song “Kids” on the radio (I still think of Lil Kim when I hear it – thank you Hood Internet). Not only has MGMT signed to Columbia Records, but they’ve played the Late Show with David Letterman, and OPENED FOR RADIOHEAD!!! Holy Crap!!!!

So yeah, if any MGMT super-fans are living in Birmingham. Head on down to the Goodwill on Green Springs and pick yourself up a framed poster from Andrew VanWyngarden’s high school band Accidental Mersh (opening up with RETROSPECT for Big Ass Truck). I’m sure it’s a one of a kind!!!