Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An easy and classic Indian meal

Although the prep work involved is, well, involved, Indian food - at least the North Indian type I make - is pretty damn easy.

If you want an un-tricky but tasty and versatile dish, give kheema with fried onions a try. The dish is ground meat (in this recipe, lamb) with many spices and fried (really just sauteed ad nauseum) onions, and while it could be eaten alone, it is a more likely candidate to be served over rice; with naan, pooris or chapatis (these three with kheema would be an alternative to pita-and-hummus or chips-and-dip); or as a filling for samosas (deep-fried stuffed breads) or fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, squash, eggplant and okra all work well).

Unless you're wicked fast at prep, you will profit from doing all the prep work before you turn on the stove. For handiness, I put the three sets of spices into separate little dishes.

Kheema with fried onions

Spice set I
2 bay leaves
1 three-inch stick of cinnamon
6 whole cloves

Spice set II
1 tablespoon cumin, freshly ground
1 tablespoon coriander, freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt (this is a maximum, in my opinion)

Spice set III
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mace, freshly ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

one large yellow onion, halved and both halves sliced into very thin half-rings (this is much easier than trying to slice a whole onion into very thin rings)

one-half of a large yellow onion, finely chopped
five cloves garlic, finely chopped
a 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (if you're planning to stuff tomatoes with the kheema, hollow them out during the prep and use the hollowed out stuff - at least six tomatoes worth - in place of tomato sauce)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1.5 pounds ground lamb

In a large dish, heat three tablespoons or so of oil over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, saute/fry the onion ring halves until browned (but not crispy), about 10 minutes. Remove from oil (if there's any left) and set aside.

Now the part you need to be attentive for:
  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the dish and add Spice set I.
  • When the bay leaves turn brown, add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown at the edges.
  • Add Spice set II and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the yogurt and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the ground lamb and brown thoroughly, breaking up any chunks as you go.
  • Add 1/4 cup water (unless you are stuffing tomatoes and added a lot of watery tomato innards already).
  • Add Spice set III, stir, bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
After the 45 minutes or so, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves (don't bother trying to find the cloves; they're fun to eat anyway!) and stir in the reserved onions.

If you're planning to stuff fruit or vegetables, here's the ones I've done:
  • Squash - Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake uncovered (in a casserole with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water in it) at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the squash reaches your desired firmness/cookedness level. Then scoop kheema into the hollow, bake for 5 minutes and serve.
  • Tomatoes - Cut lids on the tomatoes (like you would for a Jack-o'-lantern) and scoop out the inner membranes and seeds. I use a grapefruit spoon for this task.
  • Eggplant - Just slice off the cap (the stem end), then prepare the eggplant by cooking it in boiling, salted water until it is just tender. Drain the water (duh), scoop out the insides and stuff the eggplant. It won't need much time baking, maybe 20 minutes at 350 degrees. You can affix the cut-off cap with toothpicks if you're tricky.
  • Okra - Use large, fresh okra. Simply (ha-ha) slit the okra with a sharp knife and stuff as full as you can with kheema. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
I like the squash and okra best. The squash is sweet but that's simultaneously offset and complemented by the kheema. The okra is just plain tasty, even better than deep-fried, in my opinion.

The tomatoes are good, but when baked can be almost cloying. Tasty, but easy to get too much of.

The eggplant is also tasty, but a lot of trouble for not much return. Mostly, it is amusing to feel the inside of the eggplant after you have scooped it out and compare it to something else you may have touched in a similar manner.


Peeling back a corner of November's drear,
the ill-tempered sun
offers no warmth,
just harsh white light,
a fluorescent glare to light the way through the freezer-burned city.

The grimy dust of dust, ice, salt and sand,
bleached trash
of yesterday's snow,
litters alleys and gutters,
a vague reminder of delicate beauty.

The arid breeze blows stiffly through the valley,
rushing down from whitened hills and mountains
to push
a few leaves along gray and gritty streets,
a few flakes coaxed from sullen clouds,
a few bundled strangers from here to there.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's on your Christmas list?

Or Hannukah, or Kwanzaa, or just because it is winter and you should have some presents...

I'm crossing my fingers for:
  • Fuzzy socks - snow is falling even as I type. Maybe some alpaca mittens or gloves, too. :)
  • Le Couvent des Minimes honey/shea repairing hand cream - Everybody has their favorite; this one is mine. This outfit has other flavors, too, so their three-piece sampler might be more fun.
  • A fancy recipe box - I'm not choosy, but I would like one that is snazzier than the little plastic job I've got now.
  • A new shuttle for weaving - Webs, for example, carries some pretty snazzy 11-inchers by Leclerc.
  • A new oven & dishwasher - Oh my god, did I just write that? Yeah, I guess so.
I think that my inability to conjure stuff I'd like to add to my life dates to about a year or two after I graduated from college. I like nice/pretty/new/frivolous/useful things, but I have a hard time saying I really need things, so it is hard to come up with a list. My sister thinks I need gear from Chiquita and other somewhat related items.

So there you have it. I can do other lists with greater aplomb. Maybe I should inventory the spice rack for a subsequent post...

Friday, November 24, 2006

An example of cool design

I don't know if The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley is as good as this poster advertising it, but if it is, it is probably worth the $475, plus $250 a night for a nonsmoking, king-size bed. (You're a king you say? Well, you will not believe what I have in store for you. I did not know you guys were all the same size... Speaking of which, the Mitch Hedberg quote page at wikiquote is now severely cut down.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful for peace and love, especially when they prevail.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

CSI: Miami

Maybe the CSI stands for Curiously Short of Interesting.

Assorted thoughts collected while watching an episode of the show last night:
  • If you're going to have a show about a murder, have a show about a murder. If you want one about a terrorist plot to blow up a nuclear power plant, have a different show. If you insist on having both in one show, maybe an hour's not long enough to, say, develop anything.
  • Nobody who really does a job has to define all the tools they use.
    "Quick, Officer Smith, get your shotgun!"
    "I have retrieved my shotgun, which I use to fire shells!"
  • If a truck carrying 10,000 pounds of plastic explosives leaves the docks at noon, what will its location be at 3 p.m.? If you said just outside the nuclear power plant, but close enough to intercept before it does any harm, you are correct.
Watching the show would have been a huge waste of time if it hadn't led to a half-hour of hysterical laughing and fake dialogue at bedtime.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Wicked busy = wicked quiet blog

Not that I have anything super insightful to post...

so I'll leave you with the quote I have posted on my bulletin board at work. It isn't really a quote at all, but a note from a freelancer. I think it might be the beginning of a novel:
There was nothing
else going on at the
- Liz -

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Assorted sights from the path to work

Today, I have seen three accipiters. I assume they were Cooper's hawks, but sharp-shinned hawks are damn near identical, so who knows. I don't think I've ever seen so many of these hawks in such short order: two on the way to work (a 10-minute walk) and one from the window while I got coffee.

Also, two church reader boards (the first is a direct quote; the second might be paraphrased):

"Seven days without prayer makes one weak"

"Blessed it is when brothers and sisters live in unity"

Now, for today's mix-and-match, try to figure out which of the above replaced which of the below:

"God loves variety in autumn leaves and people"

"Life has many choices. Death has only two"

Gee, hmm. Which church would you rather attend?

Monday, November 13, 2006

A tantalizing tidbit

While reading a story this morning about a projected energy surplus in the region this winter, I stumbled on this little detail:
"Since 1999, the region has lost about 10 percent of its demand - largely from the
decline of the aluminum industry."
No kidding? I didn't even know the region had an aluminum industry, let alone one in decline.

Hey, I know the story isn't about aluminum, but now I want to know!

Speaking of unholy baseball-related items (aluminum bats annoy me), I see the Mets plan to sell their stadium-naming rights to Citigroup for about $20 million a year (according to the Associated Press). The AP story suggests the new stadium will be named CitiField. The deal is said to be for 20 years, long enough that maybe people will realize how silly looking two words smushed together with a capital letter in the middle can be.

Especially when one of those words isn't even spelled correctly.

Of course, I think the Mets stink, so maybe the name is a perfect fit!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Oral history project

Saturday is Veterans Day, but our paper doesn't publish Saturdays, so we rolled out our project for this year's observation today.

Over the past few months, we've collected audio recollections from local veterans of their most memorable time from the service. Thirty veterans' memories are presented today, with more to come in what I hope will be a project that is never finished.

On a side note, this project is one of the reasons I work at a community (aka small) newspaper: The reporters and Web content editor have just two managers, myself and the editor, so their good ideas and work aren't spoiled by too many cooks. We have flexibility people at larger papers don't enjoy and a collegial workplace unpoisoned by excessive workplace politics. I wouldn't trade working here!

Anyway, take a listen, if you like...

Monday, November 06, 2006

A thought on elections

While reading the wire today, I came across this line in a Howard Kurtz/Washington Post story about the impending election (and its predicted result, Democratic control of the House and possibly Senate):
"Divided government may or may not be good for the country, but it's great for the Fourth Estate."
He's right, of course, but I think the first clause is a cop-out.

Of course divided government is good for the country! Are you kidding? I'd even go so far as to say we'd be better off with a Congress that meets every two years (like, say, the Oregon Legislature does) than what we've got now. Congress has already found a way to stuff one year's work into several, so why not cut down the time for meddling and mischief even more?

I'm pretty sure the only people who would really be screwed if that happened would be people who get paid to hang around inside the Beltway (and only some of them), not the people whose lives are supposed to be made better by the work they do.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

But on the bright side, the Cardinals did win the World Series!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Emmylou Harris sings my favorite song

She said in a documentary that because she was the first non-Townes Van Zandt person to do "Pancho and Lefty" she thinks of it as her song.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fare thee well, Clifford Geertz

When you're famous in your field, you're not necessarily famous anywhere else.

That's the deal for Clifford Geertz, anyway, who died Monday. I don't fall in with his school of thought (symbolic anthropology, a scientifically suspect point of view), but his book, "Islam Observed," influenced me anyway.

I mostly like his interest in observation and storytelling, which most people who know me would agree are things I enjoy, too. Especially storytelling!