Saturday, November 15, 2008

puttering

it's the essence of november out there today, in all its abysmal, dreary, grey, novembery-ness, without any of the fecund promise of spring rain.  it's like the whole world has seized up - curled in on itself and seething with a slow simmering sullenness.  this makes being at home puttering very cozy and enjoyable.  

here's a picture of last night's dinner:

the soup was very yum...maybe a touch heavy on the apple perhaps, but i liked the crisp tartness against the smooth, round, velvety butternut squash. i couldn't love that toasted cheese and onion sandwich anymore if i tried. it's the essence of easy, farm food. you absolutely HAVE to toast it in the oven (or a toaster oven). don't think of doing it in a panini press or in a pan...the focaccia like this keeps a nice, airy crunch and the onions get gently coddled by the warm cheese so that they're almost cooked, leaving just the slightest bit of astringent crunch in the gooey middle.

we watched "into the wild" last night, the sean penn penned and directored film based on john krakauer's story about the real life run of christopher mccandless, who turned his back on society and went looking for salvation in nature and ultimately might have found it in his death in the wilds of alaska. if we were to plot the susceptibility to such a story of each of casa de lagerfeld's residents, the roomie would probably be most susceptible, me, with my disdain for anyone who renounces babylon would be the least susceptible, and the dotytron would fall somewhere in the middle. we all really disliked it. the cinematography is quite beautiful but penn is extremely heavy-handed (bordering on immature and amateurish) with its clumsy attempts at drawing the viewers attention to themes and the kind of petulant ranting against "society" and "consumerism" that only the very privileged, college-educated, juvenile knuckleheads can muster.

i can't fault the performances, the acting is evocative and restrained and emile hirsch gives a solid go at making his mccandless a winning, charming, lost boy, capable of engaging with the people he meets and then just as easily turning around and shedding them without a backward glance. i think the movie's failure is in making you feel sympathy or empathy for his experience. you end up really disliking the guy for being a self-indulgent, stupid little brat on an obvious suicide mission and it's jarring because sean penn obviously romanticizes and aligns himself with the character's underlying motivations and sensibilities. it's also over-long and a little meandering. in the end, a story about a rich, wealthy white kid who wants to selfishly test himself against nature because he's tired of being coddled isn't a story that i feel merits telling. the movie is also interspersed with quotes from thoreau and byron and well, we also know how i'm the least susceptible person when it comes to anything to do with the romantics (except for blake). honestly, it's just like, SHUT UP byron you simpering, mooning cad. ease up on the opium and laudanum and DO something instead of waxing poetic about mountains and trees and whatnot and fainting in shelley's arms (this is all speculation but i'm sure we can all agree that i'm 90% right)

anyway, i communed with nature and got myself in touch with my own corporeal sublime today in my own way. i woke up and started day 2 of the 3 day process to make a whole grain sourdough loaf (that's supposed to mimic the famed poilane bread of paris - the dotytron and i had it when we were there...it was pretty fantastic) as per breadtopia. i read through my "breads from labrea bakery" again and it looks like any time you're working with sourdough and you want a good product, you're looking at a 3 day process. active time tends to be around 30 minutes or so, spread out over the three days with the bulk of the time being rising and proofing time.

i really really really want proofing baskets! i've put them on my xmas wish list and the dotytron is on the case (i think, i hope) this is what they look like:

you can get them either lined with linen or unlined (either way you have to flour them...i'm not sure what kind i want yet)...they also come in round and more oblong shapes. i also would like some baguette pans, but those are lower on the priority list:

and i've been hearing about dough whisks for a while now but i was kind of skeptical about how useful they were. after seeing the breadtopia guy use one, i think i'm sold. the wire is sturdy enough to mix things thoroughly, but thin enough so that the dough comes off it and doesn't get caught up in the middle (like in a whisk) or all gummy (like a wooden spoon):

i made a batch of espresso shortbread cookie dough and formed them and froze them. they're supposed to be shaped like coffee beans. i'm either going to bake them and dip them in tempered chocolate and then freeze them, or just freeze them as is and bake them off to put in gift cookie tins this year. pretty handy and they taste good with or without the chocolate coating (chocolate makes them look more like coffee beans, though):

i also made a pineapple upside down cake which turned out GORGEOUS for my contribution to dinner at dr. rei and hanbo's place tomorrow. isn't it lovely?


AND i made a banana pecan upside down cake for our dessert tonight.

i made a bit of a mistake because i didn't let the caramel cool and harden sufficiently before pouring the banana cake batter in. so instead of the topping forming a caramel lid on the top of the cake, i've got caramel ringing the cake...it looks semi-deliberate so i'm okay with it.

anyway, i've been a busy bee. tonight for dinner we're having pork tonkatsu don. basically it's just pork tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet, fried) with a sweet soy sauce and an egg that you top some cooked rice with. i'm using brown rice (that's what we have) and beefing up the sauce with some sauteed onions, garlic, ginger, snow peas and dried shitakes. should be pretty tasty!

now i'm going to do some online holiday shopping...maybe order my cards and some online gifty stuff and then head out and do some errands on the danny. then yoga, knitting, making dinner and there's a slight possibility that we might go see the new bond movie with either some of my dodgeball peeps or C & C music factory.

peeps on the facebook have been asking for the recipe for the tvp and black bean chili and the roasted squash pasta. i'll do one today and the other tomorrow.

fin.

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butternut squash, sage, and brown butter pasta
serves 4-6

this can be made in 30 minutes to 1 hour start to finish (depending on how comfortable you are in the kitchen)

1 medium or large butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, cut into 1" chunks
olive oil
1/2 c. of hazelnuts
1/2 bunch of sage (i like a lot of sage)
1/2 c. of butter
1 lb. of pasta (i used gemelli, but you can use penne...something similar to those two)
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

- take your squash chunks and toss them with 2 T. olive oil and salt and pepper.  put them in a roasting pan and put them in a preheated 450F oven for about 30 minutes (until golden brown and cooked through)

- get a pot of boiling salted water going for the pasta.

- take your hazelnuts, stick them in another oven-save pie plate or pan, and roast them for about 10 minutes (don't burn!)

- take the hazelnuts, dump them into a towel and draw up the corners of the towel around them so you have a little sack (like as if you were going to beat someone with a towel filled with quarters, or you were making yourself a little hobo bag).  when they've cooled down a bit but are still warm, rub the hazelnuts in the towel until most of the skins come off.  take the nuts and coarsely chop - discard the skins.

- in a big pan, melt the butter and cook it over medium heat until it starts to foam and brown...when the butter smells nutty, remove it from the heat and throw in your sage leaves (these can be rough chopped if you like).  make sure to turn the heat off when the butter is caramely/nutty smelling and take the pan off the heat...brown butter tends to burn easily. 

- cook the pasta, drain, and reserve some of the pasta cooking water.

- toss the cooked squash with the pasta, the brown butter sage mixture, and the hazelnuts.  loosen with approximately 1/2 c. of the pasta cooking water.  season with salt and pepper.  top with grated parmesan cheese.

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