Saturday, September 10, 2005

blog comments update

After being slammed by a load of comment SPAM a couple of weeks ago I reset the settings on this blog so that only registered users could comment. This seemed to keep the SPAMers away, but sadly it also meant that some other people, whose comments I value, have e-mailed me to let me know that they don't feel comfortable having to register with Blogger in order to comment.

Since one of the things I really value about blogs (as opposed to personal web pages) is the comments portion where dialogue is encouraged--as a Work At Home Mom I have way too many one-sided conversations with the rug rats--I have changed the settings back so that anyone can comment.

If the SPAM comes back in an intense way, I may have to go back to the registered users setting since I can't stand the idea that anyone who comes to my blog has to wade through a clog of (badly written) ads. My feeling is that SPAM limits dialog even more than requiring one to register with a company in order to have one's voice heard. The only trick I can pass on, if I do have to return to the registered users setting, is one that I sometimes use. I have a "junk e-mail" (mine happens to be through Google G-mail, but a Yahoo or Juno or Angelfire or other free, web-based e-mail works just as well) and I am perfectly comfortable using this junk e-mail that contains little to no personal information when companies require me to register with them.

Anyway, here's to hoping that the SPAMers stay away from this little space in the virtual universe.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I've been holding this in

I know that no one looks to this blog for political opinions or commentary on the state of the world (in fact, I assume most people come here to take a break from the brutal reality), but I just heard an editorial about Katrina and the government that I have to pass on.

The video of the editorial is here at onegoodmove.

I'm trying to find out when Katrina refugees will be arriving in Ann Arbor and settled into the (at least) 100 apartments that McKinly is making available in our area. I know refugees arrived in Battle Creek on Monday and will be dispersed in the coming week. I'm checking this web site regularly to find out when local volunteers will be needed and what we can do.

My response to crisis is always to turn to my kitchen and figure out how to cook my way out of it, or at least to offer food as a comfort through hard times. I may not have lots of money to replace material things that these people lost, (and unfortunately I can't follow Kim's example and volunteer to go where ever Red Cross needs people most for two weeks) but damn it, I can cook. I know that organizations like Food Gatherers and the like will be providing refugees with food so I'm hoping that I can find a way to be involved in that. Maybe I can get together a team of the good cooks I know and prepare large quantities of transportable food to reach out to these people and let them know they are welcome in our community.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Friends from far away

Two of my favorite people in the world, Lee and Patrick, were here yesterday on their cross country drive back to their home in Berkeley. In celebration both of their presence and of the fact that I can (finally) taste again, I made some good food for dinner.

We had
Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Alice Waters's Coleslaw (recipe below)

Buttermilk Biscuits

and for dessert, a Peach-Almond Gratin served with whipped cream.

By far my favorite part of the meal is the coleslaw. The recipe was published in the New York Times Magazine a few years ago (back before Amanda Hesser became the food editor of the magazine and back when, dare I say, the recipes were still pretty usable) and I always forget how much I love it until I make it and can't stop eating it.

The rest of the dinner was good, though the Peach-Almond Gratin, adapted from a recipe in Patricia Wells' The Paris Cookbook for cherries, was too rich. The almond cream that goes over the top of the fresh peaches is a wonderful flavor complement but with a whole stick of butter and a whole cup of ground almonds, I thought it was too heavy. I'd like to try spiking the topping of a regular cobbler (like this one) with a little almond extract and some sliced almonds instead.

Alice Waters's Coleslaw
serves 6-12 (depending on the cabbage lovers among your guests)

1 medium cabbage, outer leaves removed
1 large jalapeno pepper
1/2 a small red onion, cut in half through the stem, peeled
1 C loosely packed cilantro leaves
4 T lime juice
1 T red wine vinegar
1/3 C olive oil
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t fresh ground pepper
large pinch of sugar

Quarter the cabbage through the core; cut out the core. Finely shred the cabbage into a large bowl--I use a mandoline (actually a cheaper Japanese Benriner mandoline look-alike) to get it really thin and fine. It is worth the risk to my knuckles. Finely slice the red onion into half moon shapes (again, I use the mandoline). Cut open the jalapeno, discard the seeds and dice it fine. Chop the cilantro. Add diced jalapeno, onion, and cilantro to the cabbage and toss to mix. Sprinkle with the lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt, pepper and sugar and toss to coat.

You want to make this at least an hour before serving so that the salt has time to wilt the cabbage. Waters likes to serve it at room temperature, but I prefer it gently chilled.

Monday, September 05, 2005

back again

I just got back from the Caribbean--No wait! That wasn't the Caribbean! That was another place that starts with "C"-- Canada!

No kidding. The photo above was taken a couple of days ago on the shores of Lake Superior. Can you believe it? We took the kids canoe camping up at Lake Superior Provincial Park for the long weekend and it was so breath-takingly beautiful I'm still a little stunned. And at this time of year there are (drum roll please) NO BUGS. No black flies, no mosquitoes, nuthin'.

I read the most wonderfully appropriate book before back-country camping. On Thursday afternoon I finished Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness and on Friday morning I was in the wilderness myself.

I approached Into the Wilderness with some trepidation; I knew it was supposed to be a sequel to Last of the Mohicians but not much more about the story. It was the author I was concerned with because Sara Donati also writes under the pseudonym Rosina Lippi and her book Homestead is wonderful--one of the best books my book group has read and one of my favorite books of the last few years. I knew the books written under the name Sara Donati would not be similar in tone and I was worried that I'd dislike her doing historical fiction, and, what's more, historical fiction that is also a romance. But it was a terrific transporting read--completely different from Homestead, but lots of fun and a total immersion.

And I appreciated the story of a woman going off into the bush even more while sitting at my island campsite, enjoying this sunset:
There are three more books in the Wilderness series and Donati is finishing up the fifth one. I've heard a bit about it on her wonderful blog Storytelling--one of my favorite blogs out there (even though she hardly ever mentions food in her blog...thankfully the books have ample descriptions of frontier/Native American foods. I have a strong hankering for corn bread now though I think I'll pass on the rendered bear fat.)

While camping I got a good way into another book, recommended by Ami (and endorsed in its goodness by Annie), Donna Tartt's The Little Friend. As Ami mentioned to me when she told me about the book, the main character Harriet is a lot like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird: a little older than Scout and maybe a bit more defiant, but that same good grubby fearless girl spirit. The comparison with Mockingbird doesn't end here--there is a version of Calpurnia in Harriet's beloved housekeeper Ida, the book is set in the deep South, and the main character is trying to solve a mystery. The writing is really terrific--not at all showy, but really tight and vivid. I haven't read Tartt's debut novel The Secret History, but I'm pretty sure when I finish this one that I'll want to read it soon.