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    • Meat, bread, and succotash.

Pasta Al Vino Bianco

This is a variation of recipe I’ve been cooking occasionally for a while, but last week I made it again with a few variations that really just made it spectacular, so I needed to write it up. You will notice that a lot of these numbers are not as precise as I might like, that’s because I was really just winging this recipe, substituing ingredients I didn’t have on-the-fly. Regardless, it was a big hit.

The original recipe I followed is quite good, and I still recommend it, but it’s a bit more work than the new recipe I discovered due to not having all the original ingredients around, and I was forced to improvise. The new one, I think, was even better than the original!

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • 150g (or more) Pancetta
  • 2 Red Chilis (chopped) (I used chilis from this plant)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Cheap Bottle of Dry White Wine
  • Fresh Pasta (I used Waitrose Fusilli, but it should work with other pasta types)
  • Double Cream (single cream would probably work just as well)
  • Bag of Spinach
  • Parmesan Cheese

Method

  1. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to large sauce pan or wok, and let it get hot over medium-high heat, then add the pancetta and let it cook til crisp. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the oils behind.
  2. Press garlic to the hot oils and add chopped chilis. Saute for a couple of minutes until garlic begins to brown.
  3. Add about a third of the bottle of wine to the oil/spice mixture and let it reduce down for 5-10 minutes minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, then add the fresh pasta to the pan followed by the next third of the bottle of wine. The goal is to get the pasta to “al dente” in about 8 minutes. Stir to ensure that all pasta gets cooked similarly, and add a bit more wine if its going to dry out too early. It will depend on exactly how much pasta you have, but don’t be afraid to keep it wet until it’s about time. If needed, you can add water as well.
  5. Add about 100ml of the cream and stir to cover all the pasta. Next, add alllll of the spinach. It will seem that you have a ridiculous amount of spinach compared to everything else, but trust that it will wilt and reduce significantly from the volume you add. Dump in the last of the wine or water to give some liquid and then cover over medium heat for just a couple of minutes until the spinach reduces down.
  6. Add about half the parmesan to the pan and stir it in, then dump in the pancetta and stir it all together before serving with the balance of the parmesan for presentation or for people to add on their own.

Variations

This recipe itself is a grand variation on the original, and I suspect that the basics here can be used in any combination with the original that you fancy. In particular:

  • you can use arugula instead of spinach
  • you can add toasted pine nuts, that can’t hurt
  • you can use dry pasta, perhaps pre-cooking it for a few minutes in water first
  • you can use red pepper instead of the chilis
  • you can use bacon cooked til crispy instead of pancetta

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This banana bread recipe has quickly become my favorite baking project, and in fact a full double loaf powered me through my recent run of the London Triathlon (Olympic length!). I haven’t done the extra chocolate topping at the end, and I’ve been doubling it pretty much every time, turning the recipe into:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 100g soft butter
  • 150g plain flour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powde
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Prep is simple: Preheat a convection oven to 160 C, mash the banana, mix int the rest of the ingredients, grease a 2lb loaf pan, add the chocolate chips and put into the oven for 45-50 minutes.

Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup

I recently had a hankering for some lentils, and I found a recipe for Red Lentil and Chorizo Soup.

It was spectacularly good. I took a few creative liberties with the recipe:

  • I replaced the chicken stock with vegetable stock
  • I used both Plain Yogurt and Sour Cream (one dollop of each on top!)
  • I used up all the chorizo on about half the soup, so more Chorizo is definitely desirable
  • I used more generous helpings of the olive oil, spices, and garlic
  • I used ground cumin rather than cumin seeds
  • I avoided the sugar
  • I didn’t blend it at the end at all

This recipe is relatively easy and absolutely fantastic. It’s definitely joining my regular repertoire!

To preserve it for posterity in case the BBC changes its links or whatever else might happen, the recipe is copied below:

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 200g cooking chorizo, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, plus extra for sprinkling
  • small splash red wine vinegar
  • 250g red lentil
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomato
  • 850ml vegetable stock
  • plain yogurt and/or sour cream, to serve

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chorizo and cook until crisp and it has released its oils. Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl, leaving the fat in the pan. Fry the onion, carrots and cumin seeds for 10 mins until soft and glistening, then add the garlic and fry for 1 min more. Scatter over the paprika and cook for 1 min, then splash in the vinegar. Simmer for a moment, then stir in the lentils, and pour over the tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  2. Give it a good stir, then simmer for 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. Can be made several days ahead or frozen for 6 months at this point. Serve in bowls, drizzled with yogurt and olive oil, scattered with the chorizo and a sprinkling of paprika.
  3. Nom nom nom

Iain M. Banks “Culture” Novels

Several years ago, my friend Kansu gave me the book Excession by Iain M. Banks. I very much enjoyed the book, and I ended up reading it a second time a while ago. While it was good the second time as well, I realized that the book was part of a larger series of books Banks has written about the Culture, a future human-machine post-scarcity space-faring race.

Since re-reading Excession, I have purchased and read several more Culture books:

  • Use of Weapons (Finished in Australia)
  • The Player of Games (just finished)
  • Consider Phlebas (about to start)

All of the ones I have read I have very much enjoyed. I would suggest the series to anyone who enjoys Sci-Fi. I’m happy to share the books I’ve finished with friends, as long as I eventually get them back.

Second Bay Ride — Page Mill Road

After watching the Huskies lay down the law against the USC Trojans, I took off on my second “Bay Area Ride” yesterday. I started out on my road bike and headed back to Big 5, where I returned the crappy pump I picked up last week. Then I headed up Page Mill Road, which true to its reputation, offers a difficult hill climb and some stunning views. Fifteen miles into my journey, the sun was getting low in the sky, and I was pretty whipped, so I turned around. No sooner did I start my descent then I head a twang, which sounded a little too familiar. I stopped and checked out the bike, and sure enough, I had lost another spoke on my rear wheel.

I had a long way to go down, with my rear wheel rubbing my brake pads (which I had already loosened) the whole way down. Also, I didn’t know how much lateral stress the wheels could take, so I took it pretty slow around all the curves. It was not as much fun as it otherwise would have been, but at least the bike survived all the way back.

Page Mill is definitely a ride that I’ll want to do again, hopefully to the top soon enough. It is certainly a good way to work on my (rather poor) hill climbing skills.

Bar Area Ride 2

Another Way to Fight the Man

Not long after I received a ticket on my bicycle, I saw a driver get pulled over on Stevens Way, the main drag through UW campus, for momentarily stopping to let out a passenger. This is a road where  buses stop every hundred yards, traffic crawls as students constantly cross streets, and people get dropped off from cars in a similar fashion thousands of times a day.

I was riding my bicycle by as the stop happened, and I decided to do something about it. I stopped where the cop had pulled the motorist over and proceeded to give the officer a hard time for what she did. First I asked if what he did was really illegal. She responded yes and I said “Are you serious?” incredulously. I then proceeded to talk to the driver of the car while the officer was doing something else. I told the driver that I would give him my contact info and I would help him fight the total BS ticket. I said this loudly enough for the cop to hear. I then started writing down my contact info to give to the driver. At this point, the officer returned to the car she had pulled over and told me to give her room to speak to the driver. I backed away to finish writing down my info, but then I learned that the officer had decided not to issue a ticket.

Victory!

The only way we can fight police tyranny is to band together and proactively fight it. If someone had done for me what I did for this motorist when I received my ticket, I may have very well not been issued the ticket, and even if I had been issued the ticket, I would have had the witness I am now going ot have to search for in probable vain.

So here is my charge to all of you: If you see a fellow motorist being pulled over for the inane “crime” of speeding, follow them off the road, encourage them to contest the ticket, and offer to be a witness in their case against the state. Although I haven’t seen it work myself, my guess is that a third party who has nothing to gain or lose through testifying would make a very compelling case against the ticket. The state relies on the fact that most people who contest tickets have only their own word against the officer’s, and the officer’s word is implicitly less tainted since the officer is assumed to have little to gain from the ticket whereas the defendant is assumed to have a lot to lose.

One other person, previously unknown to the defendant, saying, “Your honor, I was behind the car that got pulled over and can testify that the car was traveling at or below the speed limit” would go a long way in getting these travesties dismissed. Do it for others, and hopefully when you find yourself being pulled over by a cop who himself speeds at every opportunity with no repercussions, someone will return the favor.

I certainly will.

Doing Something About the Financial Crisis

My good friend Scott has some good advice on what to do about the financial crisis: vote with your dollar and take your money out of the banks that helped get us into this mess.

Both of my banks (JPMorgan, formerly Washington Mutual, and U.S. Bank) have recieved TARP money, so I will be moving my money out of these banks and into a well-run bank, perhaps Charles Schwabb, following Scott’s lead.