Monday, December 31, 2007
Hola from Puerto Rico! I must say, this place is awesome -- great weather, nice people, and fried plantains. Oh, and today I had two free rum drinks thanks to the nice people at Casa Bacardi. We've been doing lots of sightseeing and lots of relaxing, and I am working on a nice tan.
It's really amazing how consistently nice the weather is here in San Juan. In fact, we were kind of surprised that the Weather Channel was on the hotel cable, because when the weather is the same every day, why bother watching a forecast? Yeah, yeah, hurricane season is five months out of the year, but right now is around 80 and sunny every day. When it rains, it lasts about ten minutes, and then it goes right back to being sunny. Pretty great, considering I was shoveling snow a week ago.
In any case, I must go back to my relaxing. Happy and healthy new year to all, or as a guy on the city bus said loudly earlier this afternoon, felicidades por el mundo! I told you people are nice here.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
As for me, I am digging out my sandals and bathing suits and shorts and tees, stuffing said items in suitcases, and charging all of my portable electronic devices. Why? Because tomorrow we're flying to Puerto Rico for eleven -- eleven! -- days of warmth and relaxation. It's our honeymoon, and I cannot wait to be lounging on the beach with a fruity rum drink. My goal is to write a few updates, but if I'm too busy relaxing or too tanked on cheap rum, we'll be back soon enough.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
And the cooking -- my god, the cooking. We wanted some treats to give to our neighbors, but after last weekend's fudge disaster, we had nothing. So on Friday night, I assembled, rolled, and baked eight dozen (yes, eight dozen!) chocolate-raspberry rugelach. Not a lot of people out here know what they are, and they look nice, and they're Jewish, which I have to say, I get a little kick out of, especially since we give them out as Christmas presents. Yesterday I put some in little bags, tied them with curly ribbon, and we passed them out to our neighbors. Everyone really liked them (and one of our neighbors said I should set up a stand on the main drag in town and sell them, because people are in a shopping frenzy these days and will buy anything for ten bucks), but we got the best response from our older artist neighbor, who got so happy, hugged us both at the same time, and wanted to write down exactly what they were so he could write about it later. Talk about good cheer.
And then today we had some friends over for dinner. It was a lot of fun, and I was glad that we had a clean house, since one of our friends let her baby crawl around on the floor. But of course, it was exhausting. I think I need to lie down for a while.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A few years ago, I tried making fudge from the recipe on the jar label of marshmallow fluff. After years of snorting at that recipe whenever I held a jar of marshmallow fluff in my hand (and usually a spoon in the other hand), I had tasted the fluff-recipe fudge at a party and decided it was really good. So I went home and tried to make it and failed. But I chalked that up to not having a candy thermometer at the time and just not knowing what the soft-ball stage of sugar looks like. That time, the fudge didn't set up right; it was too soft and not very fudge-like in consistency. But the resulting goo tasted pretty good, and when I was invited to a last-minute party the night of the failed fudge and needed to bring something along, I rolled the mixture into balls, coated the balls in hot cocoa powder, brought them to a party, said they were truffles, and everyone loved them. That was possibly my best recipe-gone-wrong food salvage ever, but I digress.
But this time, I wasn't so lucky. I decided to try Alton Brown's recipe for chocolate fudge, because Alton's recipes have always been excellent. (Well, with the exception of the incredibly infuriating butternut squash dumpling recipe that took four hours, but I digress again.) I usually make something to give to friends and neighbors this time of year, and fudge seemed like a nice option. Plus, I had seen Alton do it on tv, and I was pretty sure that I could replicate his results. So I took the recipe and I followed it to the letter. I measured and stirred and timed and everything. Plus, this time I used a candy thermometer and waited until the temperature of the fudge reached the soft-ball mark. And, I even used some good, expensive Ghirardelli chocolate so that the fudge would taste extra special. I got my mixture boiling and bubbling and up to the designated temperature, pour it into my prepared pan, and waited. And then...it didn't set up. It was sludge. And, it was grainy. And, even more shocking, it didn't even taste good! I mean, this was sugar and butter and half-and-half and chocolate, and not just any cheap-o baking aisle chocolate, but good San Franciscan Ghirardelli chocolate! It just tasted bad. I can't even explain how, but needless to say, I couldn't even salvage it by making make-shift truffles. The whole batch was bad. It killed me, but I pulled it out of the pan (easily, because I followed Altons advice and made a little parchment-paper removal device in the pan) and dropped the whole thing in the trash. It made a loud thunking sound when it landed.
I think that was my last venture into fudge-making territory. From now on, I will eat fudge made only by others and made by rip-off seaside shops. Which is actually the only fudge I've ever really eaten anyway, so I guess it's not a huge deal. But I can't understand why I can't make it. Oh, and the neighbors? I'm making rugelach for them. I know how to make those, and everyone says they're good. And, they say "happy holidays" without saying "Merry Christmas." Because, you know, they're Jewish cookies.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
This week, for example, our friend Mr. Bittman makes ganache truffles for us. Look at this video -- look at how easy he makes it look! Don't you want to go to your kitchen right now and whip some up? The Barefoot Contessa never makes it look this easy. To make her truffles, you need imported espresso powder and small-batch brandy. Those things are nice, but I sort of don't have them just sitting around the house waiting to be stirred, a tiny bit at a time, into some complicated recipe. And even if I did have them, they'd probably be stale or rotten from having sat on my shelf for so long, because let's face it, how often does one use imported espresso powder? Unless you're the Barefoot Contessa, not much. (Please note that I do actually like the Barefoot Contessa, and I think her recipes are delicious and more or less fool-proof, but she does have high expectations of her readers and viewers. A Hamptons mind-set, I suppose.) But back to The Minimalist - he makes smoothies! And glazed carrots. And delicious barley made with leftover Thanksgiving turkey. (Or at least it looks delicious.) And it's all so easy! Go watch them and tell me you don't want a smoothie right freaking now. Can you tell me that? Can you? No, of course you can't.
I will admit that sometimes his recipes are a bit too simple. He does sometimes focus too much on the ease of preparing a difficult dish and forget to add the little things that make it so delicious (just one measly teaspoon of tarragon and no other herbs in an entire dish of stuffing?), but it's easy enough to adjust the recipes with your own preferred herbs and spices. And he does have the shiny, powerful, and new (and, in all likelihood, free) small kitchen appliances and pots and pans to do his cooking with, making all that chopping and slicing and dicing easier than it probably is for most people. But still, he's fun to watch and he makes good food and I can usually make his recipes without making an unscheduled trip to the store.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Girl I go to school with: What's today's date?
Me: December 4.
GIGTSW: Wow, tomorrow's my birthday.
Me: Happy birthday.
Me: How old will you be?
Me: How old?
Me: Oh. Well. That's old.
(And I'm not sure what all I said after that. I might have looked at someone who overheard our conversation and tried to raise an eyebrow. I say tried because I can't really raise my eyebrows. Not one at a time, anyway. Whenever I try, I just end up squinching my face into a stupid expression. So I probably should have just written, I might have looked at someone who overheard our conversation and squinched my face into a stupid expression.)
So yeah, if 26 is old, I don't know what that makes me, but I turn 33 tomorrow. And I'm okay with that. I don't feel particularly old, but then again, I haven't had much time to think about it.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I remember back in college -- in real college, not this crazy, last minute, No Child Left Behind grad school deal to keep my job kind of college -- at the end of the semester, my friend Jay would invariably finish all of his exams and papers before I would, and he would come over to where I was furiously typing up a ten-page something or other, and say, Hey Scoop, guess what I'm reading? And I'd say, What? And he'd say, Whatever I want! I'm kind of looking forward to saying that next week, except there's really no one to say it to. I haven't seen Jay in a long time. Well, maybe I can say it to the people I'm taking classes with. Some of them might appreciate it.
AOL Instant messenger: DasScoop