Thursday, July 03, 2014

Easy-ish Hot Night Dinner: Gazpacho!

No, it's not 100% low carb--tomatoes have a lot of sugar in them--but it's fast and doesn't require any cooking and it's FULL of vegetables, and, oh yeah, it's delicious.

I followed this recipe exactly, except I used pre-minced garlic out of the big jar from Costco instead of fresh. DON'T HATE ME. I know. I know how much worse it is. In fact, I'm well aware, because, after tasting the Gaz, I had to add insult to injury and add some garlic salt to the mix, just to bring out the gar. flavor.*

I am deeply ashamed.

What this recipe really requires is chopping. Lots of chopping. If you are a slow chopper, as I am, then this will not be quite so fast. I started at (about) 10:40 and finished at 11:15. And keep in mind: that is WITHOUT cooking.

The Gaz is currently chilling, as am I. Because my kitchen is still cool. BA-ZINGA.**

More seriously, folks, I did a few more things differently from the original linked recipe:

1. I didn't strain anything. As I told my partner, partway through the cooking chopping process: "We're actually having RUSTIC Gazpacho, where 'rustic' means 'eat your own dang seeds'," but the truth is more complicated than that. I tried straining the gazpacho through the fine-meshed sieve, and in fact dirtied TWO EXTRA DISHES to do so, but...stopped. The problem may have been that my sieve was perhaps too finely meshed. I was getting mainly pink-colored water as the result, and my partner and I wanted to consume actual calories at sometime before 2 am this evening.*** So I stopped and tried to mix everything back into the same bowl. This brought on some spills, as every one of my kitchen experiments is wont to do, but nothing that couldn't be cleaned up easily.

2. I used a mix of balsamic vinegar and cooking sherry in place of "vinegar", and didn't measure either element. This "not measuring" thing is fairly normal for me, as is "substituting flavor profiles for other flavor profiles that I think might fit."

3. I didn't measure the olive oil, either. The cool thing about being a chemical engineer is that you get an instinctive sense for when bases and acids mix together to form a cohesive, impossible-to-separate, whole. Add too much acid, and you've got separation. Add too much base, and you have the same problem. The trick is to keep them, [cooking word shoutout!]: emulsified. It's also a lab term. If your acids (the tomatoes, and later the vinegars) are in balance with your bases (oils) then you'll get a lovely creamy, soupy, texture to your gazpacho. You could rub it in your hair.**** Mess up either one of those amounts and you'll have soupy salsa.

Thanks and enjoy your cool kitchens.

*I've been reading a lot of P.G. Wodehouse recently. Mom, this is reference to P.G. Wodehouse's writing gimmick of using abbreviations to get inside the head of Bertie Wooster, which Mr Wodehouse did to great, great affect. It's still one of my favorite writing tricks.

**Mom, this is a reference to The Big Bang Theory, a TV show. There's a character named Sheldon who started off (and still technically is) a sidekick, but has become a fan favorite, and he has a terrible sense of humor, but still manages to prank his fellow nerdy colleagues. When he feels that he's scored one on them, he yells "BA-ZINGA".

***I think all start-up employees would agree with me here that 2 am still qualifies as "evening."

****This is a reference to an old family joke: "That sauce is so good, I could rub it in my hair!" BUT it also has a practical meaning! Everyone is well aware of the futility of trying to mix oil and water, yes? Right. So why should tomatoes be any different--after all, they contain water, right? A LOT of water. And yet tomatoes are well known for their affiliation for olive oil. What gives? Well, the acid in tomatoes makes it possible. Like liquid soap, or shampoo: you need an emulsifier to keep the oil and the water together. In this case, the acid is the emulsifier. Why can't you pour salad dressing in your hair? Well, there's a number of sensible reasons, but mainly it's because the water and the oil will stay separate. You'll end up with wet hair, and then oily hair. Adding an emulsifier to the mix makes your shampoo a homogenous substance, an easily used goop that cleans your hair and washes out with water. This is part 11 in an umpteen-part series on Chemistry.

Monday, March 03, 2014


I was browsing Pinterest this morning and I kept investigating smoothie recipes. Then I realized I had a blender in my kitchen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Today I Learned

That the red chili flakes in Spaghetti Carbonara are there for a REASON. And you should probably add some more pepper, too. Otherwise you're just eating parmesan-flavored egg sauce with chunks of bacon.

Not that that's BAD, necessarily, but it won't be the flavor profile you're expecting. Just sayin'.

Also: I made it with spaghetti squash, not spaghetti. Yay, gluten free.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I Cooked For Myself Today!

Sometimes that's all you can ask for.

(For the curious, which basically means my mom: miso soup made from red miso paste and hot water. And spinach-from-a-bag, well coated with a harissa-cream cheese-champagne vinegar mix that I made up myself.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Notes From An Insomniac (Warning: Possibly Depressing)

Being an insomniac is not as glamorous as it appears in the movies; and although that's true of many things, it strikes me as particularly true about not being able to sleep. 

Sleep seems like a basic human right; something that your brain should do unthinking; and certainly it's possible that we as a species are now so overbred, overfed, overmedicated or over SOMETHING, that really we should feel lucky we can still perform the act of breeding at all, or at least without the constant assistance of our therapists. Still: it seems incredibly rude of mother nature to have yanked the ability to perform this particular physical need. I mean, at least I'm female--and, because my parents read this, I'll leave the rest of that sentence as an exercise for the reader.

After all, you've been up for a dozen hours, perhaps more; you've performed some kind of work; you've run errands and prepared and eaten a few meals and generally taken care of the detritus of the day; you've brushed your teeth and you lay you down to sleep and maybe you DO, at least for a few hours, but then suddenly at 3:30 your eyes slam open and you are well and truly fucked.

Being awake when everyone else is asleep is ostracizing, disorienting, and depressing. It's not as much fun as you think, listening to people snore, even if you love them. It's actually one of the very few things that's MORE fun, or at least more tolerable, if you live alone, because you have no one lying next to you, snoozing peacefully in the arms of Morpheus, unpacking the cares of the day, hammering home the fact that you are broken, that your brain hates you, and that you are completely out of sync with the rhythm of the world. 

And so you decide to get out of bed, because lying there will just make it worse. Maybe you'll get a little work done. HA. More fool you. Being awake when you should be asleep has one defining physical quality: you're out of sync with time, and that means you are FREEZING. (Terry Pratchett nails this in "Thief of Time.") I don't care if it's the middle of summer in Florida with no AC: you are shivering too hard to type accurately.
So you end up, instead, at a diner with the rest of the other losers who have nowhere else to be.

It should be mentioned here that part of the assumed glamor about being up when no one else is includes the idea that you'll meet someone. Maybe not in a romantic way, but that you'll have a deep conversation with someone you've never met before, baring your soul in the way you can only do in the middle of the night with a stranger that you'll never see again, some twisted Puritan version of Confession for the Damned. It seems so romantic, very Casablanca, that of all the hours of the night and out of all the diners in Seattle, you're sitting there, and so is that other person, and doesn't that mean that you and he have something in common, possibly even more so than you do (at least at this moment) with your lucky, lucky, sleeping partner?

No. Because literally no one is at their best in the middle of the night. Not you, not your promised conversational partner, not anyone. The reality of being up when no one else is is more like the jungle: everyone reverts to their basic lizard instincts, like that scene in Mean Girls. You have to physically watch yourself to make sure you don't start grunting and pointing as you hunch your cold body over the counter. And so you try to talk to the waitress, if you can and she has time, and eating greasy food just to have something to do, and re-reading a book you've already read a million times before, watching the hours tick by, wishing that you could have stayed there, with your partner, in the warm and cozy bed, where you thought you belonged.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Strong Father Figure--or, Happy Birthday, Dad! (Early!)

Countless times in my life I have overheard this phrase: "Hey, have you gotten Steve's opinion on this?" Before Google, there was my dad.

He's just that kind of man. People care what he thinks. They come to him with problems or concerns. They ask his advice. He is routinely asked to lead a committee or read the Bible passage at church. He is always the man to lead prayer. He's a Presence, and he has this VOICE. I let him read bedtime stories to me long after I could read them myself, because I liked sitting on his lap and hearing the vibrations in his chest. The Voice says something to people, something they subconsciously and viscerally respond to, something primal. The Voice says, "I have recognized you as a human being. I have really seen you. I have really listened to you. And we are in this together. Have no fear; I got your back. I have the situation under control. This is what we are going to do." People HEAR him. You would probably not be surprised to learn that he is a fantastic salesman.

My dad is the kind of man whom would be asked by a group of COMPLETE STRANGERS to, for example, say the blessing. 

He is exceptionally tolerant. I can still list every single time I have seen him angry; that is how rarely it occurs. He is calm. He treated me, and still does treat me, like he would treat a son. He never told me he was too busy for me; he took time to explain things to me until I understood; he told my favorite stories over and over, upon my request, never telling me that he was tired of them. He never laughed at me for using such big words that my mouth could barely fit around the syllables, and, in fact, he taught me more of them. He never censored anything that came out of my mouth, even if it might make him uncomfortable. My ongoing questions about boys and the universe were never too silly for him; and what's more, he never gave me advice until I asked for it. (I discovered boys very early--it's just that it took a little longer for them to discover me.) When I did start dating, he wasn't one of those dads that sits on the front porch cleaning the shotguns, partly because my peace-loving dad has never owned a gun in his life, that I know of; partly because he's not much of a porch-sitter; and mainly because he trusted me to make my own decisions. He never gave my dates the third degree or played twenty questions with them. He only cared if I liked them and if they treated me well, and since--in him--I had a rather stellar example of how a man SHOULD treat a woman, he probably had some confidence that I knew what it was, to be treated well. (Also, to cement my standard for "good treatment", my dad took me on my first date! I would highly recommend this approach, fathers of the world.)

We disagree on many things, but he is compassionate, non-judgmental, open-minded. We discuss politics, gay rights, religion, and he does not get heated. He doesn't discount my opinions, and he allows facts to influence his judgment, instead of the other way around. (Discovering that people DON'T do that most of the time was a real shock.)

He is, in short, a man who taught me that I had a voice and I should use it, even if that meant I would use it to disagree with him. Incredibly smart leaders all over the world have consistently refused to  wrap their heads around this idea, and my father lives by it every day.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Sniff. Sniff.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Talking About: Surviving the EVIL Frathouse--Or Actually, Escaping The Evil Cathouse

Let me tell you something: no one is prepared to suddenly box up all of their possessions and move overnight.

I had a lot of stuff. It wasn't...a HUGE amount, necessarily, but I was a book lover, and so I had tons of those. CDs? Well, some, although fortunately my years in college coincided with Napster's debut, so I had fewer than I otherwise might. DVDs? Yeah, because it was before the age of Amazon. But not a lot, because I have really never been a TV watcher.

And I had cupboards full of hair product I'd never used. And makeup. (WHEN will I learn my lesson? I never use this shit, like, ever. But I buy it anyway.)

And shoes. OMG THE SHOES. Some of them I still can't find, and I miss them. I'm still missing some items of clothing--seriously, I lost CLOTHES in this move. That just seems wrong to me, somehow. Clothes are not--at least mine are not--expensive, or overall too bulky, but yet I lost key items in this move and I'm still so fucking angry about it, I suspect because I'm still getting over the fact that I suddenly had to box up all of my possessions and move overnight.
The signs had been there for some time, really, this ex-roommate whose girlfriend was the most awful person I had ever known, but since I tend to sit on my emotions, I just struggled through somehow. The yelling. The black eyes on my ex-roommate. The fact that this woman, her girlfriend--did I mention, a twice-convicted domestic violence felon?--would start telling me how awful a person I was, when my ex-roommate wasn't there, because this felon didn't have a home to go to--shocking--and just had to abuse someone, the way an alcoholic will drink hand sanitizer if that's all you've got. And then when I finally had the courage to voice my concerns to my ex-roommate, a woman whom I'd known for 20 years and whom I thought cared for me as a friend, she made it very clear that she didn't care about my boundaries, my safety, or my life. "(Twice convicted domestic violence felon) is my life now," she said.

Well then.

I hired movers and my mother came, gods bless her, and E, who was rather new in my life at that time, also came and actually made things worse, but at the same time I loved that he wanted to stand up for me, was willing to physically approach (Twice convicted domestic violence felon) if she threatened my life, which she ended up doing.
It was Mayday, and so the numerous times that we called the cops--they didn't answer. They never came. I called, E called, and the Landlord of our apartment building called. No cop response whatsoever. So glad I'm paying THEIR wages with my taxes. Being threatened for my life in my own apartment, by a convicted felon. And no response. AWESOME.
The movers almost left, citing that it was too dangerous an environment. Fortunately I convinced them to stay, in the face of (Twice convicted domestic violence felon) who kept yelling at them, telling them that I was a cunt who they should never believe. Yes. Because a sure sign of sanity is yelling violently at strangers. That WAS fortunate because it was literally the only day I had to move--I had taken the day off from work, because I no longer had weekends available. I had been in SoCal the weekend before and I would be in NYC the weekend after, with E. If the movers had left I might NEVER have moved.
It helped, I think, that she was so abjectly crazy--telling me, and my mother, and the movers, that it was HER apartment and she had a right to do what she wanted in it--well, honey, given that my ex-roommate moved you in a week ago, you aren't paying rent, and your name is certainly not on the lease because there's a very strong policy about felons getting leases--honey, it's not actually your apartment. At all.

And then the fun began.

I actually got out of there, leaving behind hundreds of dollars of belongings that I'll never see again, before (Twice convicted domestic violence felon) kicked out an apartment window, which my ex-roommate told me about by phone call. "Landlord was so upset, I just felt so sorry for him," she said. "He was so upset! I felt so sad for him!"

I hung up the phone shortly after. 

And this is not even mentioning the times in which ex-roommate's mother called me, asking my opinion of the recent screaming match that she'd witnessed between ex-roommate and (Twice-convicted-domestic-violence-felon). Each time I had to reassure the mother: Yes, ex-roommate has fallen in love with a violently abusive and crazy woman. She's 28 now. She's still just a barista at Starbucks and she has never taken responsibility for anything, so I can't imagine she's going to start now. And she's 28 now.  There's not much you or I can do about it. I just moved out. Sorry.