Another ugly, but delicious dinner

Before we start, Happy Birthday to my dear mother! Go read her brand-new baby blog!

I got this great present for Christmas
- my mom and I both have copies of 660 Curries and I was lamenting just before the holidays that I wanted to cook more things from it, but I never have the right spices on hand (or enough cash in hand to stock up). So my parents made a list of all the spices I could need, went to Penzey's and stocked up for me. It was a truly inspired gift.

Anyway, this gift was given to me on condition that I start cooking more of the curries, so over the last month, Dan and I have been cooking our way through the book, trying at least five new curries since we got back early this month. All the recipes have been delicious (with one notable exception, where I somehow went awry with the salt, but we won't get into that), but the most interesting thing has been getting more familiar with the taste of all the spices and how they fit together.

Last night we found ourselves in a bare-cupboard situation and I decided to make our traditional bare-cupboard dinner of lentil stew. We did, luckily, have beautiful vegetables that arrived in our Boston Organics box yesterday, so I threw in a few of them and let myself be sort of inspired by a recipe in the Curry Book. I didn't follow the recipe completely, as I didn't think to consult a recipe until after I started the lentils.

The result was a very delicious spicy, curry-y lentil stew which stood on its own and satisfied both of our very hungry stomachs with aplomb.

So far, I've used prepared spice mixes for most of the curries (I have three different garam masalas that I've been using), but I think this weekend I'll be spending some time making my own ginger paste, grinding up some of my own spice mixes, and maybe even making some spiced tomato sauce, so that I can actually sample the precise flavor profile of some of these recipes. I used to be so intimidated by cooking curry, but this book makes it totally manageable. If you're at all remotely inclined to cook curry, buy this book.

Spicy Indian/American Lentil Stew
Inspired by Five-Lentil Stew with cumin and cayenne - Panchmela Dal in 660 Curries by Raghavan IyerI call it Indian/American because I started off with the onion/carrot/celery combination that I would use to start any old American soup or stew, but ended with an Indian-inspired spice profile. I say spicy because I added cayenne twice. I'm not sure that was necessary. Feel free to dial it back to 1/8 t both times or just 1/4 t in the butter sauce at the end.

For the lentils
  • 1 small red onion, chopped finely
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
  • about a cup of dried lentils
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 t ground turmeric
  • 1 t grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 4 fingerling (or 1 large) potatoes (I used purple ones!)
For the baghaar*
  • 2 T butter (ghee if you have it)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 t garam masala (I used the garam masala I bought at Christina's)
  • 1 t cumin seeds
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  1. Heatsome olive oil in a Dutch oven. When it's shimmering, add the onion, celery, and carrots. Saute until vegetables soften.
  2. Add the lentils (washed and picked over) and broth to the vegetables and bring to a boil.
  3. Stir in a little salt, the turmeric, ginger and cayenne.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
  5. When the liquid is mostly absorbed and the lentils are mostly softened, start the baghaar.
  6. Melt 2 T butter (or ghee) in a small skillet.
  7. Add cumin seeds, bay leaves, garam masala, and cayenne pepper.
  8. Reduce heat to medium and stir while the spices sizzle. When the cumin seeds turn dark reddish brown and start to smell toasty, remove from the heat. (Be very careful - it is EASY to burn the spices, which causes an unholy stink. Trust me.)
  9. Stir this mixture into lentils, add salt to taste and serve.
*my Curry Book tells me this is what it's called when you sizzle spices in ghee (butter in my case) to add to the dish at the last minute.


Good morning - and a new addiction


I've always loved breakfast food - pancakes, waffles, scrambled eggs (as a kid, less so as an adult), muffins, bagels, and I've documented my deep love of biscuits and gravy more than once. Oatmeal, however, is a pretty new addition to my breakfast routine, but, oh, it's entrenched. It's not going anywhere.I enjoyed oatmeal for the first time in college - it was one breakfast food that never went wrong in good old Tyler House. Add some raisins, a little butter, some brown sugar and sometimes a tiny squeeze of lemon and it's delicious.
Last winter I lapsed into instant oatmeal. It's quick, but it's pretty nasty. Done with that.

Anyway, this is how we do oatmeal around here lately. It's good.

To-die-for Oatmeal
  • 1 c Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1 c milk (I use 2%)
  • 2 c water
  • 2 t butter
  • 1/2 t salt
  1. Melt the butter in a pan. Throw in the oats and toast them until they absorb the butter and begin to brown and smell nutty.
  2. Just before the oats start to burn, add the milk and water to the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat way down.
  3. Go take a shower. Or check your email. Or read the front page of the newspaper.
  4. Come back in 15 minutes. Add the salt, stir.
  5. Go away for another 5 minutes. Then you'll want to be near the stove to be sure you get your oatmeal just the right consistency, stir it frequently so that it doesn't burn or stick, and smell the lovely, oaty scent of breakfast.
  6. When it's done (or when you can't wait any longer), plop some oatmeal in a bowl. Garnish with your choice of toppings. I usually go for another little pat of butter (obscene, I know), a sprinkle of cinnamon and a spoonful of brown sugar. Or occasionally I just plop in some of my favorite preserves (lately, home-canned apple/pear butter or spiced plum jam). Or top it with raisins and nuts.
  7. Eat. This recipe should serve two people rather large bowls of steaming happy.


Cook once, eat twice: Chinese dumplings and fried rice

It's cocoon-busting time around here at Darby O'Shea. Sure, January 1 was the beginning of the new year and September is really the beginning of the new School Year, but January 25 is the beginning of the new Semester. I've been holed up for the last few weeks, all but hiding from the world and recharging before things get started next week.

The break between semesters
has been lovely as just that, a break, from everything. I've been reading trashy novels (and good ones), watching movies, hanging out with the pup, and trying to pull myself out of the lingering end-of-semester and holiday coma - too much food, too many people, too much laziness for too long.As it is, I haven't been lazy about cooking, as such, but I have been exceedingly lazy about recording what I've cooked, how I've cooked it, and what it looked like. In the effort to shake off work-related laziness and get back in the swing of things, here we go.

We had my dear friend Liz (home from school for a break) and her other half, Mike, over last weekend and I got all excited about showing off some wild cooking. I settled on a menu of salt-crusted Bronzini (that's a story for another day), roasted veggies with a sweet and spicy glaze, and Chinese dumplings as a starter. As soon as I saw the recipe for these dumplings in my latest issue of Fine Cooking, I knew I had (HAD) to try them.

The dough didn't come together *exactly* like the recipe said it would
(in fact, it was a mess, but that could be due to my poor effort at precision), but it worked in the end. I started with the mound/well of flour and discovered that not only was it a little difficult, but I didn't have enough water. I put the flaky badness in a bowl and very aggressively forced some more water into the dough. After some frustrated kneading and letting the dough rest for the prescribed thirty minutes, I was pleased to see that it looked more or less like it was supposed to. The cutting and rolling of the dough went surprisingly well and proved to be a lot of fun with all four of us pitching in (even the boys, who aren't especially enthusiastic about kitchen matters, but who ended up up to their elbows in flour just like me).The filling I came up with was an amalgamation of the suggested fillings from the magazine. A little of this, a little of that, and the result was a tangy, hearty, delicious lump of joy wrapped up in tender, elastic dough. Combined with the soy dipping sauce recommended by the magazine, this was one of the most satisfying recipes I've ever tried.

The dough recipe is here and there are also videos showing how it's done. We followed the instructions for pan frying the dumplings, which was delicious. Highly recommend. Here's my filling recipe:
Pork and Shiitake Dumpling Filling
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 8 shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and sliced thinly
  • 6 oz. spinach
  • 3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 T Mirin (I couldn't find the recommended Shoaxing)
  • 1 1/2 T grated ginger
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 2 t toasted Asian sesame oil
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • pepper
  1. Combine 2 T water and the sugar to a boil in a skillet over high heat. Add the spinach and cook until wilted (about a minute). When the spinach is cool, squeeze the excess liquid from the leaves and chop finely.
  2. Mix the pork with the garlic, Mirin (or Shoaxing), ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and pepper.
  3. Add mushrooms and spinach to pork mixture and combine well.
  4. Chill filling mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
In my effort to Cook once and Eat twice, I used the cup or so of leftover dumpling filling to make a delicious pork fried rice (a rather brilliant suggestion from Liz). Here's a recipe.

Pork Dumpling Fried Rice
  • 1 c cold rice, preferably cooked the day before (I use brown)
  • 1 c leftover pork and shiitake dumpling filling
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • leftover soy-scallion dipping sauce (or plain soy sauce to taste)
  1. In a hot wok or large pan, heat vegetable oil, then saute pork dumpling filling until no longer pink.
  2. Add onion, pepper, carrot, and scallions to pork filling, saute until vegetables begin to brown.
  3. Add rice and saute all ingredients until everything browns and begins to crisp.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the beaten egg to the middle of the pan. Stir as it begins to scramble. Before it sets completely, stir into the rice. Cook until egg is completely cooked through and begins to brown.
  5. Just before serving, add the soy-scallion sauce to taste. Thoroughly incorporate, stirring constantly to avoid burning.


Liveblogging the Golden Globes: Red Carpet Edition

11:01: And with that, good night, lovelies.

11:00: The show ends on time for once. All in all VERY bland. No one too excited or too funny or anything. Meh. The Oscars will be better. They have to be.

He's like James May crossed with Mrs. Bates.


10:56: ARE THEY FREAKING KIDDING ME? I thought it was pretty generally accepted that Avatar is a kind of bad movie with good effects... surely the Academy won't do this too... right? RIGHT?!

Also, I didn't think that's where Julia Roberts's McCartney joke was going...

10:55: Dan thinks Precious. I think Up in the Air.

10:54: ROD BLAGOJEVICH (sp?) is going to be on the CELEBRITY APPRENTICE? The world may end.

Which film is going to win!? Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, or Up In The Air?

10:50: Colin Farrel's eyebrows are related to Martin Scorsese's. Perhaps they're Scorsese's eyebrows' illegitimate Irish eyebrow-children.

10:49: Aren't they all supposed to be sloshed by now?

What a great category! I'm a little surprised by Jeff Bridges's win, but he's great.

10:46: Kate Winslet! Another classic asymmetrical dress.

In case you weren't properly in awe:
  • Streep holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor, having been nominated 15 times since her first nomination in 1979 for The Deer Hunter (12 for Best Actress and 3 for Best Supporting Actress).
  • Meryl Streep is the most nominated performer for a Golden Globe Award (she has 25 nominations as of 2009) and is also tied with Jack Nicholson and Angela Lansbury for most Golden Globes overall by an actor or actress (seven wins). Streep has received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • In 2003, she was awarded an honorary César Award by the French Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. In 2004 at the Moscow International Film Festival, Meryl Streep was honored with the Stanislavsky Award for the outstanding achievement in the career of acting and devotion to the principles of Stanislavsky's school.In 2004, Streep received the AFI Life Achievement Award.
  • In 2009, she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by Princeton University.[40]
  • In 2010, She was awarded A Golden Globe for Best Actress in Julie and Julia
10:40: RDJ! Huzzah! He forgot his tie.

This is seriously a parade of "I wanted to see that movie." I need to make a SERIOUS new year's resolution to see more MOVIES for goodness sake.

Sandra Bullock. Yay happy for her but that dress is HEEEEEDIOUS. Oh, and I wanted to hear Gabourey Sidibe's acceptance speech.

10:35: Best Actress, DRAMA. We're getting serious now, people.

Arnie is plugging some movie called Abida. Sounds good.

I want to see The Hangover. ANDY IS SINGING.

10:13: My current celebrity top-5 (provisional, in no particular order): Johnny Depp, Colin Firth, Robert Downey Jr., Ralph Fiennes, Bradley Cooper. What's yours?

I love how the TV crowd always dresses like this is the Oscars. I guess it is the Oscars of TV. But still.

Glee. I guess I have to watch it now?

Of COURSE James Cameron calls his wife baby.

10:16: Could they not get Celine Dion to sing the Avatar song too?

That was a FUNNY Mel Gibson joke. Though Mel Gibson actually drunk is funnier than Mel Gibson pretending to be drunk.

Jodi Foster. She also chopped her hair.

Commercial Break. Dan's current celebrity top-5 (provisional, in no particular order): Christina Hendricks, Helen Mirren, Gillian Anderson, Thea Gilmore, Jennifer Connelly.

10:07: George Lucas, you are not as good as Scorsese. That's what that closeup was saying. "SEE! You're sitting down! He's getting a prize!"

Seriously, I hope RDJ isn't back on the coke.

It's handy when they incorporate a trailer for your new film into the montage for your lifetime achievement award.

Scorsese looks like he might cry. As usual. Also, his eyebrows have a life of their own.

Leonardo DiCaprio is taller than I thought/Robert DeNiro is shorter than I thought.

Ent ve hafe anozer Tscherman. This one doesn't have a ridiculous accent though.

I'm SO glad Halle Berry has that amazing hot short hair again. Not sure about her dress, though.

Ricky Gervais is still drinking that beer. He's not as drunk as he promised.

Chloe Sevigny's dress is wackadoo crazy.

I'll say it again: I don't care about Taylor Lautner.

And The Hamm is on stage too! AND PETE HAS MAD ROOTS! Bad orange highlights!

So many good dramas nominated. I don't get House being perpetually nominated... Mad Men is okay by me! And we get to see Christina Hendricks again!

Amy Poehler is lovely. Nice dress, too.


Ze Tschermans are vinning zis price. "Wis my liddle English and my chetlack..."

Sophia Loren! May we all age with such grace. (Even half as gracefully.) (Of course, if we could all say "Thank you so much" with that much SEX in those few words, then we wouldn't have to be graceful.)

ANNA Paquin! What is GOING ON with your feet?! I secretly love your Blanche Devereaux-style, shiny dress, but I cannot ABIDE those shoes!

9:28: I love the Ernst & Young dudes. Most glamorous accountants in the world.

What previously scheduled charity event was Alec Baldwin at? The Snowball's Chance in Hell Annual Dinner?

That's settled. Jennifer Garner NEEDS to gain some weight ASAP.

Dan says I'm the diesel for his creative SUV.

So will Up in the Air take this as an opportunity to run away with all the rest of the awards or will they be cursed with "Great screenplay, but we're not going to give it the other awards?" I don't KNOW!

Gerard Butler is foxy. And You can see Jennifer Aniston's WHOLE LEG UP TO THE HIP in that dress.

Ricky Gervais is back again. And the camera crew is having ISH.

Cameron Diaz is NOT traditionally my favorite. But that's a pretty dress and I like the accessories.

Drew Barrymore: Adorable, kind of crazy dress, as usual. At least she did her hair this year.

Kevin Bacon! At least it wasn't for Hollow Man.

I was on the fence about Zoe Saldana's dress earlier, but think I might love it now.

I still haven't seen Precious, but need to, clearly.

Helen Mirren is so absurdly, ridiculously hot.

Meryl Streep (and Julia Child!) win! Hooray! "I want to change my name to T-Bone. T-Bone Streep." I think she was more like her real self in the dial tone scene of Adaptation than in any other role.

9:00: I almost choked at the sight of Marion Cotillard's diamond ring. Is she engaged? Married? Holy crap six carats.

And Ricky Gervais has gotten to the "Is it hot in here" phase of intoxication.

I am in love with Stanley Tucci. Also, Meryl Streep looks divine!

8:56: Hooray for talking over the play-off music. At least they're not lowering the mic this year.

Grey Gardens for the win! Boring acceptance speech, though. They should always let the actors do it.

8:53: Let's settle this once and for all - Amy Adams's dress? Green or black?

Seriously, that is a crazy corset under Cher's crazy-ass dress. Of course it's not this, but it's still wacky.

The Edge! The Edge is there! Related reading: http://bit.ly/5ZbZ49

Me: I think Cher is actually a drag queen.
Dan: She's going to end up looking like Michael Jackson.
Me: But she still looks like herself. She has good doctors.

Oh, Paul McCartney, you asked for it.

Tracie over at Jezebel says, "Not that she cares, but I like when Julianna Margulies wears her hair curly." Me too, Tracie.

Juliana Margulies stopped to kiss Dr. Ross. (And, Yeah, that dress will rip.)

I love January Jones, but WHAT is she wearing. That is not a question.

Aww, Michael C. Hall... I like him so much and his cancer makes me so sad. But he wins! Yay! It's PREPOSTEROUS that he didn't ever win for Six Feet Under. Also, I would have committed murder to see him in Cabaret.

Now we're drinking cocktails made with cranberry goop, pureed clementines, and champagne. Delish.

Felicity Huffman is all verklemmt. But her dress is kind of amazing.

Coraline! Coraline Coraline Coraline! That's my vote. Yeah, but no. It's Up.

Paul McCartney is wearing a weird scarf. Also, you'd think in between all his eyebrow lifts they would have done his jowls.

I guess John Lithgow was the killer on that season of Dexter. Hm. Wait - he WON something for Third Rock from the Sun?

They do get those first couple awards out of the way very quickly. I also love the schmoozing shots when they go to commercial.

Best actress in comedy TV: I want Tina Fey to win, but.... it's Toni Collette.

8:09: Looks like Gaby has those cool foil nails.

Mo'Nique wins... do we see big things for Precious? As long as Gabourey Sidibe wins and we get to see her do an acceptance speech I don't care about the others.

Nominations, in case you missed them.

8:05: Nicole Kidman is wearing a pale flesh toned gown, as always. At least she's got red hair.

Shame Angelina isn't there to glower.

8:02: Cue penis jokes.

8:00: Switching to NBC, show is starting right on time. Does anyone know what the Golden Globes music is? They always play that tune. Bracing myself for Ricky Gervais to say something embarrassing.

Courteney Cox with an exposed zipper! I kind of like it!

Can someone tell me how Guiliana Rancic (Dan says rancid) got famous? Her wikipedia page doesn't help me understand.

7:53: Jane Krakowski is Jenna.

7:52: Pregnant Amy Adams is lovely.

Christina Hendricks is wearing CHRISTIAN SIRIANO! Happiness explosion! I love her red hair, I love her red lips, I love her peachy dress. I'd also get a little wild with Meryl Streep. Christina, please invite me to that party.

Oof. Jezebel has an image of Jennifer Garner where you can see ribs above boobs. SO thin.

Guiliana's "George, I have Anna Kendrick" is the new Ryan running down the carpet after Brangelina. P.S. Anna Kendrick's Marchesa is crazy, but kind of fun.

Ryan Seacrest is talking to Tobey Maguire, who is VERY SKINNY. All these skinny men. On a brighter note, Dan said menwholooklikeoldlesbians.com when Paul McCartney came on camera. Hilarious.

Tracy Morgan apparently "broke away from the black." Thank you, Mr. Jay.

Did Heidi split the seam in her dress? Why is she holding on to her butt otherwise? Also it's not Klumm. It's Klooooom. Oh, she's so German! "I'm not going to tell you! People have to follow along for themselves!"

Had everyone else already forgotten about the Writer's Strike and the year of No Golden Globes?

Kate Hudson always wears white. I think there's a joke about being always a bridesmaid, etc... in there.

Courteney Cox is skinny. Love her earrings. Hate the word cougar. Cougar cougar cougar.

I don't care about Taylor Lautner.

Jon Hamm continues the publicity tour to prove to us that he's actually fratty. I like the beard. Manly. Like Darwin. http://bit.ly/7NBTZt

Looks like Keith Urban borrowed Nicole's straightener for tonight, as always. I'm afraid he's going to turn into Billy Ray.

7:27: Ryan, the rain is not causing havoc. And yes, Jennifer Garner looks fit and fabulous.

Reviewing what I missed while cooking: I long to ask Quentin Tarantino about the "trip" he "took" with Brad Pitt, but off camera.

Memo to Ryan Seacrest: Harvey Weinstein wasn't that into that hug. That can't help your career, buddy.

Toni Collette = gorgeous. Mr. Jay and I disagree about Emily Blunt's gown, however.

I love Amy Adams's shoes with her dress, but prefer her hair when it's curly.

I understand Robert Downey Jr. got really buff for Sherlock, but isn't he getting a little thin?

If I drink Angel Rose, will my boobs get bigger?

Mariah Carey brought her boobs. Did she get implants? I mean, she's beautiful, but something is very ... top-heavy about her. I think maybe the shoulder scaffolding might be throwing it off, somehow, but wow. Just wow. Maybe the shoulders are actually for support.

7:14: Tonight can't be just about the movies. That's right, Penelope.

To return to our normal programming for a moment, the fried rice we're eating is delicious and was made (thanks to a brilliant suggestion by Liz) from the leftover filling from the dumplings I made yesterday. Look forward to a big Asian-ish blog post soon.

"I'm not like Puff Daddy. I hold my own umbrella." Penelope Cruz, you SLAY me. Also, ballsy enough to pin the Haiti ribbon on her dress. Not that any designer is going to get pissed at Penelope freaking CRUZ.

Ok, I just saw the bottom of Marion Cotillard's dress. I most emphatically do not approve. Also, RYAN is letting us DOWN not asking abou tthe dresses.

Ryan Seacrest is with Tina Fey now! Tina Fey Tina Fey Tina Fey! She's rooting for Glee. Like everyone.

Chloe Sevigny does not disappoint. Big freaking ruffles and crazyface.

TINA FEY. IT's like LAUGH IN! But I love that she's carrying her own umbrella.

Steve Carrell is a little bit more earnest than his English counterpart.

Marion Cotillard - lovely as always. (And we're back from our dinner-cooking break! We're eating fried rice!) Also, Stephen Moyer and Anna Paquin, SO CUTE! To think I was only about ten feet away from her once and didn't manage to meet her. - P.S. HOW did Ryan not ask about Anna Paquin's dress?

Do we have time for Emily Blunt?! YES! Ooh, not so sure about the dress, though.

Sandra bullock looks exactly how you'd expect. Christina Hendricks looks SPECTACULAR, though the color of her dress is a little clashy with the fair fair skin.

Neil Patrick Harris is adorable. What he really wants to do is direct. Also, E! needs to figure out their cameras. Too many different shots and too many shots of CAMERAS.

I kind of love Glam Cam 360. Kyra Sedgwick does look really good in that dress.

The big love girls clearly didn't want to talk to Giuliana, so they talked to each other.

So many people in dresses they can't walk in!

Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) has bangs! And is wearing Amsale! Wedding chic. Aw, and cute story about meeting her husband on SNL.

Mickey Rourke is there, with a young Russian woman and a weird Cowboy-Fedora. Ooh, and snakeskin lapels. Also, Maggie Gyllenhaal has arrived and is wearing a beautiful color!


Ricky Gervais has ARRIVED. He seems determined to get in trouble. I hope he's not bluffing.

Did Jane Lynch just say "Where is that fucker?!"

Jane Lynch, very PRETTY! But what gives with the wrinkles! Also, where is her girlfriend? I want to see!

Giuliana has an eating disorder, right?

Brief glimpse of Glenn Close! She looks so good! And of course there's a ribbon to remember Haiti. Thanks Lisa Edelstein.

If you feel like opting out of the commercials provided to you, join us watching The Most Interesting Man in the World: http://bit.ly/2D1xN1

Commercial break: here are some other live blogs to follow, if you don't find me entertaining enough: http://bit.ly/5fIGrt, http://bit.ly/5fIGrt http://bit.ly/4pGJ6r

Jennifer Morrision: your boyfriend did NOT get you a good Christmas present. SERIOUSLY.

: "We're not M&M's... we're not gonna die! Sofia Vergara. I don't know who you are, Sofia, but I love you

It's RAINING in LA. Just discussed with my sister how it must be the hardest job for a PA - "hold my umbrella, but stay out of the picture!). Also, looking forward to another brilliant performance by Ryan Seacrest (If you don't know why I'm looking forward to him making an ass of himself, look here: http://bit.ly/7q6NSx). I'm with the Fug Girls, hoping he chases someone down the red carpet.


Clip Show: Old-school photos

My lovely husband bought me a scanner for Christmas. This means that I can finally dive into scanning my old negatives (a project I started back in Summer) at home! It also means that I can take, develop, and scan all my own black and white photos. It's awesome. This means that I've gotten to revisit some delicious old images and I thought I'd share some with you. The image above is one of my favorites ever - a photo of my old friend Anna tentatively dipping her feet in Paradise Pond. The water was very still that day. (Kodak TMY 400, on a Yashica Mat)
Here, the window at Leavitt & Pierce, one of my favorite sights as I walk from the T to the office every day. I love the juxtaposition of toys and the creepy stuffed, dead-looking bird. (Ilford HP5, on my Mamiya 645e)
Wiebke's birthday, 2004. Sparklers were a good idea. (Ilford XP2, Canon EOS300)


2010, with a bang

Bear with me, this is going to be a long one.

Another new year, and so many new projects I want to undertake. Being still in school, the January to January calendar doesn't mean a whole lot to me. However, I like the chance at a second chance, midway through the academic year. As you may have noticed, I like taking stock and making grand plans - regardless of whether I live up to them or not.

This year, I find myself in an interesting position, both professionally and personally. In my work-life, I'm at the beginning of the big crazy research phase, and am in the process of hacking, warrior-like, into that hulking monolith of work. In my free time, I have finally harnessed some excess energy to be creative again. This is a welcome change and has both lifted my mood and given me a steady sense of accomplishment I haven't had in a long time. To take nothing and make something beautiful of it is a particular kind of excitement. (If only I could muster that kind of excitement for my research!)And, as you all know, cooking holds a similar position in my life these days. I've become enamored of the ingredients, the subtle, but flexible chemistry of combining them to create fluffy, puffed, creamy, or dense textures. The play of spice against sweetness against salt and soft textures against crunchy ones. And this blog has gone from a hodge-podge of more or less private thoughts to a much more public exploration of the things that fire my passions. It's been very exciting, making this little place grow and meeting a few of you readers as a result.Anyway, enough navel gazing.

This year, I'm going to try a few new things: I'm going to bring in more non-food photography. I may write about non-food things as well, if anything moves me to. On the food side, I'm going to look in some new directions. It turns out that I'm very very interested in heritage recipes - lost recipes, old recipes, recipes that aren't written down. After all, I'm always plumbing my own personal history, looking for recipes, finding anecdotes that associate with whatever I've just cooked. Part of that impulse surely comes from a Proustian search for the half-remembered, but unnamed taste of something from childhood, but part of it comes from a more academic interest in things past. Anyway, I've started rather aggressively buying old cookbooks and while I was home I spend a few hours copying recipes out of the old church cookbooks (bless you, United Methodist Women everywhere).
The other thing I'm going to do this year is bake more. I'm mystified by the way in which flour, eggs, and butter come together and make so many different textures and flavors and shapes. As well as baking more regularly, I'm going to do a monthly cake feature with recipes new and old.

And the bang that I mentioned at the top was the first of the cakes: A Chocolate Little Layer Cake. I was inspired by the New York Times's article a few weeks ago about cake culture in Alabama. While the writer's style (as is so often the case with Yankee papers visiting the South) was a little condescending and leaning heavily on the exotic, the stuff of the article was very familiar and homey to me. I don't come from The South (or at least not that far South), but I grew up surrounded by those ladies. Granted, in my particular corner of the not-south, they all had German names and maybe made more pies than cakes, but the competition, the battle for bragging rights, the preposterous quantities of baked goods, all hit quite close to home.

And coming, as I feel like I do, from that tradition, I am not to be outdone. So I baked the biggest and most ridiculous of those cakes, the 15 layer behemoth of the Little Layer Cake.It wasn't easy. Oh, it wasn't hard to make the batter (which was airy, fluffy, soft and beautiful - easily the nicest cake batter I've ever made), bake it (though juggling the hot pans was difficult), and make the icing (oh, it almost boiled over, but that doesn't count), but assembling it (Those little layers are about 1/4 inch thick and fall apart if you LOOK at them, much less try to flip them out of the pan, move them, and ice them while they're still warm.) to be anything better than hideous took time, nerve, and a little patchwork (ten layers in I had two major craters developing around the edges of the cake and I had to sacrifice a layer in order to patch them). The end result wasn't beautiful, but it was delicious and intimidating enough to make its point. Do not mess with this baker, it growled from its cake stand, too precarious to shout. This baker has no fear. This baker will eat you for breakfast.I particularly recommend this recipe for gatherings of more than ten people. Otherwise you'll have leftovers longer than you should. I should think it would also be good if you're having a new Southern mother-in-law over to dinner or looking to deeply impress someone equally important. Or, you know, for a Tuesday, because this cake, as well as being over-the-top and showy, is delicious! The layers are spongy and not too sweet, while the icing sets up to be something resembling fudge. Slicing the cake produces a little cracking feeling not unlike cracking a creme brulee (although the icing is not nearly as strong as that caramelized crust) and I've found little that will parallel the joy of smooshing crumbs of the cake into the icing that cracks off onto the plate. Oh, yes, it's a good cake.

Tips from my experience with this recipe, which I did not adapt at all.
  1. Do your best to spread the cake batter evenly on the bottom of your pans. It does not spread out and you will end up with holes in your layers if you miss spots. This becomes very difficult after you've baked one set of layers and your pans are hot.
  2. Use a bigger pot than you think you'll need for the boiled icing. It expands when it's boiling and has the potential for enormous mess.
  3. When assembling the layers, move quickly, with confidence, and try to line up the layers as precisely as you can.
  4. When icing the cake, be sure to completely coat all the layers. If you use too little icing, the layers won't adhere properly and you'll end up with big gaps around the edges.
  5. When icing the sides of the cake, the method I found most successful (as the edges are quite fragile) was to pour the icing over the top and drag the pools from the bottom up the sides. Don't think that you'll be able to spread icing around the sides. You won't.
  6. Don't worry about the number of layers you end up with. I ended up with 13 (I think), even though the recipe supposedly produced 12. The lady who provided the recipe ends up with 15. I don't know how.
(Also, welcome to the new www.darbyoshea.com! We're all official now! Update your bookmarks! Thanks for sticking with me!)

Other resolutions this year:
  • Project 365 - you can see what I'm up to every day over here.
  • Also, obviously, lose thirty pounds and make a million dollars.