I figured I’d share a few favorite things I’ve discovered since I last posted on something other than current events. In no particular order, here they are:
- If you are trying to decide between the 20 million charities that are currently asking for donations for Haiti right now, consider Partners In Health. They have, thus far, been making the best use of funds donated for disaster relief in Haiti, have an established network in the country, and are a pretty fantastic organization all around. If you want to know more, go check out their website, or read this book by Tracy Kidder, which is well written (as are all Tracy Kidder’s books, but that’s another story). They are one of those organizations that actually has an effective, efficient, sensible plan for accomplishing their mission, which is one of the main things I look for when I’m choosing an organization to donate to, and they’ve been working in Haiti for decades.
- The White Mountains are amazing, especially in winter. We just made our second trip up there, and managed to summit Mt. Lafayette. It was worth every bit of muscle pain. I only wish we had summit pictures to show you; we’re still waiting on those from friends, as our camera did not like the cold one bit. The photo above is from the Falling Waters trail in Franconia Notch, which I highly recommend, but only if you have the gear. If you go up Brindle Path and down Falling Waters during winter, you can slide down the mountain most of the way!
- Snow is actually pretty fantastic if you take full advantage of it.
- Radish kimchi goes with EVERYTHING (er… maybe not chocolate, but that’s another experiment). If you haven’t tried it, go! Now! You don’t know what you’re missing. I had a breakfast burrito with kimchi, New Zealand cheddar, and fried eggs this morning, and have been known to put kimchi on nachos after a late night at the lab…
- If you’re stuck in a wine shop trying to decide between the cutesy lizard label and the adorable kangaroos, ask if they have a rioja. Spanish wines are cheap for the quality, and I think they’re worth trying at least once. Reservas are even better, if they are in your price range. Barring that, try a Malbec. These are Argentinian reds that are also generally pretty good for the price, though they aren’t quite as reliable as the riojas seem to be, in my experience. Reservas are also a good bet for Malbecs.
- Steep and Cheap is worth checking out if you’re interested in mountaineering gear.
- The CSS upgrade on wordpress is worth it. If you’ve noticed (aka still don’t read blogs in some sort of RSS feed), my site has gotten somewhat ugly since I got cheap on you and stopped paying the $15/year upgrade. I may have to do something about that one of these night shifts.
- Two tv shows I really should stop watching on netflix but cannot: Spooks / MI-5, which is a BBC series, and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. Clearly I’m about the last person on earth to start watching the second show, but having watched some horrible cooking shows and the shows he’s featured on places I’ve actually lived, I really think he actually tries to treat each place he visits with respect. That’s hard to find on television these days.
And that’s all for now. I have an experiment setup to supervise next week and a life to sort out, so we’ll see when I return…
As much as I dread winter, I tend to do my best cooking then, when the warmth of the oven is welcoming, and work keeps my fingers warm and occupied in the long months before spring arrives and frees me from the cold. When a snowstorm hits, and all the town is back from scavenging like madmen for food to sustain them through the long hours before the streets are cleared, I tend to choose something warm and spicy and new to spend an afternoon making. On such days, I don’t mind grinding a thousand spices by hand, or trying out something that just might work, if only I give it a try.
These afternoons are more fun when I don’t have everything I think I need. When I’m missing a few ingredients, I’m forced to improvise, to think about what each ingredient does to the dish, and to figure out how to achieve the same effect with what I have at hand. I get to have taste tests, and run around the kitchen, searching for some forgotten spice or obscure ingredient that all of a sudden seems essential to the finished dish. These eureka moments are quick and satisfying, unlike science, and that, perhaps, is why such experiments are so frequent in our household. James and I both come home after a long struggle with some obscure problem or another, and create new ones: ones we can discard or change as we see fit, with only the judgement of our tastebuds to concern ourselves with.
This meal is the outcome of one such experiment, and was my first attempt at cooking Ethiopian food at home. An impending snowstorm cut my shopping trip short, so I made do with the ingredients I had at hand, and was mostly happy with the results. My mock injera was a semi-disaster (though edible enough), so I won’t share the recipe here, but the chicken stew (doro wett) was spicy and complex, without being overwhelming, and the cabbage dish was sweet and subtle. The pair complemented each other surprisingly well, balancing sweet and spicy, rich and wholesome. Both are worth trying out, especially if you’re craving hearty winter fare like I am. And yes, you can skip the berbere. It won’t be quite the same, but I think the stew and cabbage will be satisfying nonetheless.
Recipes after the jump.
Filed under cabbage, chicken, chili, comfort, Ethiopian, lentils, main, onions, soup, squash, stew, Uncategorized
Inspiration comes from the oddest places sometimes. A flicker of memory, a random happenstance, or the simple fact that you have something that needs to be used up in the fridge. This soup is a confluence of all three events, spaced over a few procrastinatory days. A half head of cabbage, begging to be finished, beautiful pictures of red lentils spotted in various corners of the web, and a random “One year ago” reminder from Smitten Kitchen all came together to bring me dinner.
This recipe tastes like a somewhat more substantial version of my favorite Indian restaurant’s lentil soup. I call it Comfort Soup because its smooth, slightly spicy temperament perfectly accompanies a hot mug of tea, a warm blanket, and some good company—all of which were part of my grand plan tonight.
This soup is simple enough for a weeknight dinner, even if it does take a little time to stew. You’re well rewarded in the end with the consistency of a pureed soup without all the fuss involved in rummaging through the cupboards for the blender.
What’s your favorite comfort food?
Mashed potatoes + cabbage sautéed in butter = GENIUS.
Ok. Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. But it’s creamy and a bit crunchy and savory and … have you smelled cabbage when it’s cooked in a bit of butter, and mixed with a bit of salt and pepper? After the first minute or two (when cabbage-haters will ask whether you really plan on feeding them that stink), it transcends its humble reputation and smells warm and golden, somehow. Pure heaven, I say. But maybe it’s just the red hair talking.
The dish I’m talking about is called colcannon. It’s a traditional Irish dish, which can really be made with kale or cabbage, and is filling enough to serve as dinner if you have a bit of bread and cheese on the side. I’ve strayed a bit from the traditional recipe here, with some sautéed onions, garlic, and paprika, and some leftover whey to cook the potatoes in (thanks for the tip, Dad). Either way, it’s worth a try.