Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where Darkness Meets Light

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go."
- Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)
This week's Slice of Life is Where Darkness Meets Light. There's a very nice poem on Darrah's site here, but the first thing that popped into my mind when I contemplated the poem was Alice in Wonderland. A few months back I read the book for the first time, and I have to say I prefer the animated Disney movie to the book, which I found a bit simplistic, though rife with wonderful quotable passages. I also watched the Tim Burton movie, being both a big Tim Burton and Johnny Depp fan, which was enjoyable and visually satisfying. I think dark and light is a common theme in the story: imaginary vs. real, the Red Queen vs. Alice, the Chesire cat, for example. But its where they meet that makes things interesting.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We're All a Little Special

Poor kitty - she's "mowed" her belly for years now, chewing all the fur off of it. Last week she either went to far or had a reaction to something that came in contact with her bare skin, and has a bunch of red bumps on her belly now. The bumps were itchy, so she chewed them more, which made it all a big mess. I'm treating it with a topical cream and we're keeping her in a cone for a few days to see if it will resolve easily before taking her to the vet. She is very offended by the cone of shame, and was shoving it in my face all last night to share the indignity.

Ayla's also a special dog - half blind, giant goofball, and stymied by a tennis net. Check it out...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"La Fuite de la Lune"

La Fuite de la Lune
by: Oscar Wilde
To outer senses there is peace,
A dreamy peace on either hand,
Deep silence in the shadowy land,
Deep silence where the shadows cease.
Save for a cry that echoes shrill
From some lone bird disconsolate;
A corncrake calling to its mate;
The answer from the misty hill.
And suddenly the moon withdraws
Her sickle from the lightening skies,
And to her sombre cavern flies,
Wrapped in a veil of yellow gauze.
This week's Slice of Life encourages us to choose a poem that speaks to us, and a photo that goes with it. I took this photo today of a giant dried flower on one of the hills I walk. There were a few large stands of these, amid the burgeoning green of spring. I also recently listened to a podcast about Oscar Wilde and would like to familiarize myself more with his work. I see a parallel in the flight of the moon and the starkness of this flower.

See previous Slices of Life here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gourmet Pizza

We've been getting Zachary's Pizza quite a bit lately - its delicious, Chicago-style deep dish with copious amounts of cheese on the bottom and all the toppings on top. But maybe we've done that a few too many times lately, and even though I came home from work tonight exhausted and not wanting to do anything, when Chris said he wanted pizza for dinner and I thought about what I had in my fridge to use, I was ready to get cooking.

I used my standard pizza dough recipe, substituting a cup of buckwheat flour for one of the cups of AP flour, and topped it with Bechamel sauce, fresh mozzarella, roasted butternut squash, Merlot-caramelized red onions, some frozen chopped spinach, and a little Parmesan. And it was quite tasty!

We've got an escapee
For the Pizza Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tsp. coarse kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp. garlic olive oil

Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons of the oil through the feed tube.

Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a tablespoon or so at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch (I haven't had to add any extra water). If its dry, add another tablespoon or two of water (but no more than a total of 1/4 cup in this step) and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the remaining olive oil in a bowl, turn the dough ball in it, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Knead the dough, and let it rest for five or ten minutes. Then roll it out, place it on a cookie sheet and bake in an very hot  (475°F or higher) oven until golden brown and cooked underneath.

For the Bechamel Sauce:
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the milk until very warm but not boiling. In another pan melt the butter on medium heat; do not let it brown. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden. Gradually add the hot milk and continue whisking until the sauce thickens. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.

For the Merlot-Caramelized Onions:
1 large red onion, sliced very thin
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup Merlot
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until starting to turn color. Add the Merlot and brown sugar, cover and reduce heat, and cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper when they are as caramelized as you want, and serve.

Related recipes:
Waffle Pizzas
Cheater's Risotto
Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Garlic
Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ordinary Moments

I recently came across the website of Darrah Parker, a Seattle-based photographer who take some wonderful pictures of people (via The Mrs., another blog I enjoy reading and who takes some lovely photos as well). Darrah has created Slice of Life Tuesdays "...in which I provide a little inspiration and a gentle nudge, encouraging you to find the beauty in your everyday life." This really resonates with how I try to view things, so today I'm playing along.

Today's theme is Ordinary Moments. My day to day generally goes like this: wake up, get ready for work, take care of the pets, commute, work, commute, do something fun with Ayla, make dinner, good off for the rest of the evening (except for Thursday nights, when I have band practice). I've been listening to a lot of podcasts on my commute, since is kind of long, and I've really been enjoying it. Lately its been This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and The Moth. I love that I can turn a very ordinary moment, at least for a Californian, into something entertaining, educational, and just enjoyable.

Another ordinary moment for me, and one in which I find a lot of beauty, are my outings with Ayla. We often hike the hill behind our home, which has great views of the valley; or walk in the neighborhood or on the golf course, where I often find something small that catches my eye; or head to the dog park where I enjoy seeing all the variations in the canine world. A couple days ago we did the hill, and I took a few pictures while we were up there. We saw the turkeys (I love hearing them gobbling around our place), and I snapped a picture of Ayla mid-run, where she just looked happy. These are quite ordinary moments for us, but they always make me smile.