Category Archives: firsts

On a lighter note

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…

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Filed under books, cabbage, firsts, holiday, travel, wine

Prickly pasta

Nettle pasta

The local farmer’s market is always full of pleasant surprises, but I think early Springtime, when everyone wants something — anything — fresh and local to eat, is when I find the most unusual ingredients offered up. It’s funny, because sometimes those running the stands are almost apologetic about their wares. I always try and make a point to go and find something new on these occasions, searching for signs advertising strange, exotic (but somehow local?) ingredients. This week, I came across a bag of incredibly fresh nettles, picked just that morning. See how pretty they are?

Nettles

Nettles don’t exactly sound appetizing. When they get older, they remind you not to go near them if you happen to brush their skin. As I found, the little ones still manage to do the same; pulling them out of their careful wrapping sent little tingles of pain across my fingers, like a thousand tiny splinters. I suppose I’ve done worse when cooking before (and after the aloe vera leaf we brought back with us from the store today, these little prickles were child’s play). I had no idea what to do with them. The girl at the stand just said they tasted incredibly green, like springtime, and so I figured I’d just do something simple. A little lemon, and crushed coriander would make for a subtle and delicious flavor, coupled with paprika, garlic, shallots, and olive oil. Add a bit of pasta, and you have the kind of meal you should be eating after cracking open an amazing triple creme brie in the afternoon, after planting still more vegetables in the garden.

Spices

The pairing was quite good, in fact, and as for the nettles? They cook down into fresh, slightly firm, soft greens, which go nicely with the tang and slightly spicy aftertaste of the lemon and coriander pairing. The girl who sold them to me? She was right on. They taste of spring, just around the corner. And for the skeptics out there, James says they’re better than Brussels sprouts.

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Filed under firsts, flax seeds, lemon, local, main, olive oil, pasta, quick meals, vegan, vegetarian

Ending the suspense, and a few timid steps

Meyer Lemon Shortbread

Can you guess what I have in store now? If you’re still puzzled, Saveur will give you a hint… This recipe was not just chosen on impulse from the pages of a magazine. It was, in fact, the answer to a very long (and yearly) search. And what a good answer it was …

Shaping Shortbread

I had Meyer lemons in my kitchen, just sitting there for days, looking like precious, golden, untouchable orbs of sunlight trapped in an ordinary bowl. I get them once a year — just four, enough to taste — and invariably struggle to find the best way to make their fragrant nature, skin and all, last just a bit longer.  I wanted a tart, slightly sweet, and citrusy bottle of meyer lemon goodness to spread, with something a bit more special than a simple slice of bread to spread it on.

This year, I decided to try my hand at two things that had previously struck me as entirely too mysterious for my hands: making jam, and canning.

How old fashioned do I feel at the moment? (In a kickass, hey, I can do anything sort of way, of course.)

Grating batter

I started with a citrus-derived pectin I found at the local health food store, which is designed for low-sugar jam concoctions. I didn’t want to drown the Meyer lemon in sweetness. Nor did I want my first foray into jam to end in disaster, so I played it safe. I followed the directions.

Meyer Lemon Jam

Isn’t it pretty? It’s a bit bitter, really, as marmalade can be sometimes, so if you want your sweets to be sweet, I’m afraid this isn’t for you. As for me, I don’t mind, but thought something a little sugary might make an interesting contrast. So when I saw this Hungarian Shortbread recipe, I had to play. The sandy, sweet-tart, buttery pairing of grated shortbread batter and tart meyer lemon marmalade seemed like the perfect match.

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Filed under baking, butter, dessert, firsts, Meyer lemons