Monthly Archives: November 2007

Remarkable people

I don’t have lots of links to other sites as I visit, but many of them are friends. A few that aren’t are personally interesting (comes close to admitting a fascination for shiny new stuff) to me. One of them (Presentation Zen) recently focused on a video of a 12 year-old, Severn Cullis-Suzuki speaking at the plenary session of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is worth watching not only for the quality of her presentation (how she does it), but also for what she says. Amazing what someone can do when they decide (at age 12 she decided to raise enough money to send a group of children to Rio to speak on the environment) to dedicate their life to something beyond themselves. She is now an environmental activist, has worked with Kofi Annan on a UN Special Advisory Panel, created an Internet think tank project, gotten a masters, hosted a science show on the Discovery Channel, and written a book.

It’s only a parking ticket

Washington, D.C., the center of law and freedom, is trying to stem the loss of revenue from people successfully protesting parking tickets. It seems that out of the 1.6 million tickets that get written by automated street sweeper ticketing gadgets, Rather than allowing its guests and citizens the access to due process by going into administrative court and getting out of their criminal ways, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will not allow anyone who believes he unfairly received a citation to have his day in an administrative hearing. They will have to send in an email or a letter (remember snail mail) with their complaint so their protests can be conveniently ignored by city employees, in bulk no less, with no further recourse. Link.

Oh, yeah, more on pasta

If you want your pasta in colors, you can substitute 4-5 spinach leaves (or other green leaf) for the water to make green pasta, seeded and peeled (small) tomato for red, or (it’s not as bad as it sounds) a tablespoon of cocoa for brown. if you use the cocoa, you still need the water (by the way, it doesn’t taste chocolate – it’s just brown). The spinach may not make the mixture moist enough (or the tomato too moist), so be willing to add a bit of water. We made green and brown in the class years and years ago. I’ve never done more than plain.

As far as a sauce is concerned, I also have the same chef’s recipe for alfredo sauce. Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in the skillet (low temperature – I use simmer or warm in the electric skillet). Add a little half & half (I use a half-pint for 4 people) to mix with the butter then add the pasta to the skillet and stir it a bit to wet the pasta. Now put parmesan cheese (4 to 6 ounces of shredded although grated works ok, too) scattered on top of the pasta and add the rest of the half and half. Stir as the half and half melts the cheese and begins to coat the pasta (I use a pasta fork to lift the noodles as I stir). It will start to get thick. Your goal is to keep stirring without breaking the pasta or making clumps of cheese.

Serve garnished with parsley. You can use heavier milk products but not lighter ones very well. There seems to be some relationship between the fat content in the milk and the ability of the milk to help the cheese melt nicely. This is guaranteed to clog arteries.

Homemade pasta

Claudia, over at Cook – Eat – FRET, recently posted a pasta recipe and mentioned she’s used pasta she bought somewhere (and it is probably definitely –after all, it is a link at Claudia’s– the best you can find commercially) but since I have a recipe for pasta that is homemade and very good, I thought I’d pass it on.

This recipe came from a cook named Giuseppe, who used to have a wonderful restaurant in Madison. He started out by taking over a former burger joint and turning it into nirvana. You had to make reservations – it only had 12 tables – but the food was great. Anyway, we were in a (now closed) cooking store in Goodlettsville when we noticed they had a kitchen. On further investigation, we learned that Giuseppe was going to teach a pasta class there, so we signed up. It was great fun for us and him but the egg noodle recipe is simple and easy.

You need a pasta machine (we’ve got a manual one that I hand-crank and clamp to the counter), a drying rack (ours disassembles and goes in storage, and a food processor. This recipe can be doubled, halved, tripled, etc., to your hearts content. Two cups of flour, two eggs and two tablespoons of water. That’s it. You can go all out and use semolina flour or Gold Medal. It doesn’t matter. It still is like nothing ever bought in a store. If you have small eggs, try three. Process in the food processor until it looks like little crumbs of flour. It will be moist when you grab a chunk of it, but not tacky wet. Add more flour or water if you need to get away from tacky or away from it won’t stick tgether.

Take a handful of it and pat it out until you’ve got something that you can run through the rollers on the pasta machine. The machine has a dial with numbering from 1 to 7. Seven makes angel hair, six is for most pasta. You start at one and crank the dough through. I run it back through at 2 or 3 and get it a little flatter. At this point, you have something with irregular edges. Fold it up in thirds or quarters from the short sides inwards so you end up with a folded edge on each side. Drop the pasta machine dial down a number and roll it back through. Do it again on a higher setting until you get to 6. You’ll crank with one hand and pull the pasta out with the other. It will stick together if you just let it pile up under the machine.

Once you have it to the desired thickness, run it through the cutters. We have 2 different pasta machines. One has removable cutters and one doesn’t. I prefer the one with removable cutters but if you only plan to make spaghetti and fettucine you don’t need it.  As you cut  bit of dough, hang it over the drying rack until it becomes dry (and brittle. Clean-up will be involved.) When you are ready to cook it, drop it in boiling salted water just like store bought pasta. I add a bit of olive oil to my water. When the pasta floats to the top of the water, it’s done. That will be very, very quickly.

TED

TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. It is an annual conference that brings together some of the most fascinating thinkers and doers in the world. The conference people then post the talks (all have to be under 18 minutes in length).

In the post I’m going to try to put in the blog, a lawyer and Stanford professor, Larry Lessig (no, really, it’s ok. He’s good.) talks about new media and copyright ownership. This is topical partly becaise of all the RIAA lawsuits against music downloaders and the writers strike currently going on. He brings in John Philip Sousa, celestial copyrights, and the ASCAP vs. BMI duel to build a case for creative freedom. This also contains three of the most hilarious remixes I have seen.

OK, that was the absolute slowest loading video ever, so I’m just going to post a link to the video.

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/187

Targeted ads

You’ve seen them – online ads that are targeted to you based on the site you’re visiting or the email in your inbox if you use some online email vendor. My favorites are Gmail in the SPAM mailbox – they are always for things like imperial tortilla spam sandwiches or something else using Spam, the canned meat. It’s the typical dichotomy of the Internet – we use computers and they (try to) use us.

It was a good weeekend after all

Where I work they have a “use it or you lose it” attitude on days off. They give us lots but things at our house haven’t been conducive to a vacation this year so I still have a boatload of time left and I’m now taking every Friday off. I love me some three-day weekends.

This Friday we were going to spend the day with old friends. They’ve retired now (a little envious, yes, thank you) so there was no schedule, but we planned to just do stuff, visiting a few places in Springfield and near home. So we started out at a restaurant in downtown Springfield for lunch. Since the server didn’t mention bacon as an ingredient when we asked, and we didn’t say there are allergies, we also decided to take a couple of hours off and visit the hospital for lots of steroids and benadryl to stop the reaction in its tracks. Lessons of the day: always specify your allergies in restaurants and as soon as you know you’ve eaten something you shouldn’t, head for the hospita immediately so the reactions can be stopped before the symptoms arrive. After that, we did go back to shopping and visiting. We got lots of ideas for Christmas decorating (as if we need more decorations for Christmas).

I tried a new recipe on Sunday. It was a wild mushroom ragout served over polenta. Since we had no yellow corn meal on hand I tried orzo pasta instead. It was really easy to fix. Cook the orzo and let it drain. Add to the pasta 4 oz of shredded parmesan and set that aside. Clean the mushrooms and slice them thinly. Saute them 7-10 minutes in olive oil and set the mushrooms aside. Then add a can of chicken broth and a cup of heavy cream to the skillet and cook that down. (You can thicken it with cornstarch & more cream to get it done a bit faster.) Put the mushrooms back in the sauce and serve with the pasta. It was very good.