Merry Christmas – 2011

Posted in Christmas on December 24, 2011 by debord

After watching A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sim last night, this scene between Scrooge and the charitable men always strikes me. It feels very relevant in our social and political climate right now. I seem to repost it somewhere ever year… and once again, here it is.

A Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

“Both very busy, sir.”

“Oh! I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,” said Scrooge. “I’m very glad to hear it.”

“Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,” returned the gentleman, “a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?”

“Nothing!” Scrooge replied.

“You wish to be anonymous?”

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides—excuse me—I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

Hummus Recipe

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2011 by debord

And now, for the first time in a very long while, I post to my personal blog. Where I mostly talk about cooking.

Well made hummus is a favorite of mine, and always sort of resent paying a premium for it in stores. A couple of years ago, Cooks Illustrated printed a great recipe for the stuff, and I’ve made some tweaks and adapted it over time. What follows is my version.

Heed the warning of the recipe – either rinse the canned garbanzo beans thoroughly or cook ’em fresh yourself from dried beans. I wondered for a long time why my hummus tasted like dog food and it was because I was making the stuff with un-rinsed canned beans.

By the way, I use al-wadi brand tahini, which is delicious and really cheap when you buy it in bulk from Amazon.

Enjoy!

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Hummus
(adapted over time from Cooks’ Illustrated magazine)

2 15 oz. cans chickpeas
2 (or more) smashed garlic cloves
½ tsp ground cumin
pinch cayenne
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup lemon juice, preferably fresh
½ cup water
½ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Thoroughly rinse the canned chickpeas. Do not skip this step.

Combine lemon juice and bean cooking water in small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together tahini and 2 tablespoons oil in second small bowl or measuring cup.

Process chickpeas, garlic, kosher salt, cumin, and cayenne in food processor until almost fully ground, about 15 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. With machine running, add lemon juice-water mixture in steady stream through feed tube. Scrape down bowl and continue to process for 1 minute. With machine running, add oil-tahini mixture in steady stream through feed tube; continue to process until hummus is smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl as needed.*

*Note – following a friend’s advice, I leave the hummus on the processor to whip for at least a full minute – maybe 2. It seems to beat air into it and break down the ingredients to a truly silky consistency.

Morning Coffee.

Posted in coffee, cooking, food, Uncategorized on January 29, 2010 by debord

I love coffee. I stopped smoking years ago, but my caffeine addiction remains in full force, and my preferred delivery method is a cup of fresh-ground drip coffee. I’m relatively finicky about how I make it, and what I brew, though my standards are probably bourgeois by many coffee aficionados’ standards. Here’s my daily coffee liturgy.

Beans

I use good, fresh ones, but am a complete cheap skate; that’s why I order them from Coffee Bean Direct. They roast and pack your beans immediately before shipment – and are a local business to me, so I get fresh-roasted beans delivered within 24 hours.  The difference is palpable. I buy my whole beans by the 5 pound bag, and pay about $6/lb., including shipping, for a wonderful city roast Columbian. You’ve got to keep the beans air tight after you open them; I have one counter-top canister that is airtight, and put the rest in a ziploc in the freezer.

Grinder

A burr grinder is de rigueur. I use the Baratza Virtuoso and have zero complaints. It’s not the fastest grinder in the world, but that prevents the burrs from getting too hot and screwing up the flavor of your grind. Regardless of which burr grinder you use, always ‘brush the teeth’ of the burrs with a small wire brush (usually included) every few pound of beans you grind; the oils from the coffee buildup become bitter over time.

Coffee Maker

I use a Cuisinart 12-cup Brew Central. Yes, in an ideal world, I’d love to get a Technivorm, but I haven’t got an extra $275 sitting around at the moment. The Cuisinart gets the water hot enough, and is the best mass-market machine I’ve used. I do turn off the maker shortly after the brew has finished, as the warmer gets waaay too hot and cooks (and therefore bitters) the coffee. I still need to get a thermal carafe to keep the joe hot.

Misc.

  • Yes, those gold filters do produce a better flavor than paper filters. I recently switched back to them and truly notice a difference in the depth of my brew. Paper filters, no matter how well made, don’t brew as flavorful of a cup. (Note: my brother mentioned to me after reading this that there are compounds in French Press/Gold filtered coffee that raise cholesterol by up to 20%, and are removed by the use of a paper filter. I’m defering to the paper filter.)
  • Wash, wash, wash your coffee equipment after every use. Thoroughly. I put my carafes and filter baskets (I have two) as well as the gold filters through the dishwasher. If you don’t have one, use hot water and plenty of Dawn detergent (cuts oils better than other brands) to thoroughly clean your gear. Years ago, an innkeeper told me the secret of his great coffee was the cleanliness of the equipment that allowed him to make a delicious brew with even cheap beans.
  • Though I’m pretty thoughtful about how I make it at home, I still can deal with the down-and-dirty “we are happy to serve you” bilge from an NYC deli when necessary. It’s like being into home brewing but still liking the occasional PBR.
  • I love espresso, but it ain’t the same as good ol’ drip.
  • French press doesn’t do it for me. I don’t know why, I just don’t like it as much. It’s probably psychosomatic.
  • People rail on message boards about how you much grind within minutes of brewing. They’re right, the flavor is better; but if I have to get up at some unholy hour (i.e. before 8am), nothing helps to lure me out of bed than the smell of the coffee brewing. So, sorry folks, I’m grinding the night before, setting the timer and not missing my train.

Smoky Pintos

Posted in cooking, pressure cooker, southern on January 23, 2010 by debord

Adapted from this recipe I found at cooks.com. Don’t add salt while cooking! This was plenty salty on its own from the turkey wings. You can omit the beer and use water instead, but I thought it was pretty damned tasty.

3 smoked turkey wings
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, coarsely minced
1 lb. pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 12 oz. bottle of lager beer

Place turkey wings, garlic and onion in pressure cooker. Add water just to cover. Bring to high pressure and lower heat just so pressure is maintained for 15 minutes. Quick-release pressure under cold running water according to your pressure cooker’s instructions.

When pressure is released, remove lid, avoiding the escaping steam to prevent burns. Remove the turkey wings from the pot and set aside. To the cooker, add beans and beer. If necessary, add enough water to cover the beans by 1″.

Replace lid and return to high pressure for 4-6 minutes. Quick-release pressure once again. If beans are not done, replace lid and simmer (without bringing to pressure) until they are tender. Chop desired amount of reserved smoked wing meat and stir into beans. Use caution – the meat is salty!

Jekyll

Posted in television with tags , , , on January 21, 2010 by debord

James Nesbitt

I’ll be honest, a miniseries called ‘Jekyll’ is not something I’d normally expect to see toward the top of my Netflix queue. But thanks to some spare time on my hands and a recommendation from a friend, I was hooked and streamed through all 6 episodes in a couple of days.

Great storytelling, great use of misdirection in the writing, and James Nesbitt is *fantastic*. Highly recommended.

Welcome to Night Flight.

Posted in television with tags , , , , on March 2, 2009 by debord

Today’s blast of nostalgia from Metafilter? Night Flight. Oh, how I loved this show – hanging late with friends and watching the funky shorts, videos and movies. And miracle of miracles, you can get recordings of the show from this enthusiast! I want the whole set. And a calzone from Mt. Etna pizza on El Cajon Blvd.

Here’s another Night Flight tribute site (abandoned?) and a Night Flight Yahoo group.

Charter for Compassion

Posted in Uncategorized on March 2, 2009 by debord

My good friend Michael Minarik turned me on to the Charter for Compassion, a group that is drafting a manifesto for the worlds’ religions stating that everyone can sign on to the concept of the Golden Rule. It’s a movement that rejects fundamentalism, regardless of its stripe. Check it out.

Meanwhile – it’s snowing here in Mercer County, big time. The sky is white at midnight from the falling snow. Beautiful.