Yesterday I got caught up in some neighborhood drama (spent 4 hours helping a neighbor pack up for a last-minute move, or rather a move he'd left till the last minute) and I have no idea what I ate, though I have a distinct memory of being annoyed that I had neither bread nor time to bake it. I remedied that today.

I grilled a hangar steak on a no-stick pan with just a tiny bit of butter, plus salt and pepper. I am very good at making steak if I do say so myself, and that was an extremely fine steak. I had it with mashed sweet potato and the inevitable pickled daikon.

Click for photos! Read more... )
Urban fantasy, but old-school (magicians in New York) not "hot woman slays things." The snobby secret society of New York magicians is organized into Houses, and ruled by one of them; which one is chosen every 20 or so years in a ritual called the Turning, a series of magical duels. The system has worked for hundreds of years, but this Turning is different…

I feel that it is not spoilery to say that the magician society is not only awful on the face of it, but their power is based on a dark not-really-secret which is revealed quite early on to the reader. Early on, it seems like one of those books where everyone is horrible and that's just the way it is, but it turns out to not be that at all—the society is awful, but the story is about the people trying to fix or overthrow it. A lot of the characters are surprisingly nice; the heroine, an escaped slave who wants to free the other slaves and end slavery, is pleasingly ruthless in pursuit of her genuinely altruistic goal.

There are tons of great female friendships and a couple of nice male-female ones too. There’s lots of trauma recovery, and a really good take on PTSD that's not at all the cliched one. (I was very amused to realize that one plotline more-or-less fulfills a prompt I saw in Hurt-Comfort Exchange, “Haunted House/New Tenant (both hurt).”) The magical duels are inventive and beautifully described.It was all way more up my alley than I thought it would be based on the first few chapters. It’s also extremely page-turny, which is why I kept reading past the first few chapters, and I’m glad I did. It’s the first in a series, but has a reasonable ending.

There’s not a big focus on graphic violence, but there are some gory moments and torture (the latter mostly referred to rather than happening on-page), a serial killer, and child harm (again, mostly just referred to rather than shown.)

There's some plot/information-revealing issues—some things are kept from the reader that would have been better revealed early, others are revealed early when they would have been better as surprises, and I was often a bit puzzled over issues regarding who knew what. I also didn’t quite buy the main sexual relationship as a romance (oddly, I did buy it as a friendship, which is not how that usually goes). But overall it was very good and I really look forward to the next book.

Spoilers! Read more... )

An Unkindness of Magicians

rachelmanija: (Dollhouse)
( Mar. 17th, 2019 02:06 pm)
KatMari has been quietly continuing behind the scenes, bit by bit, as I transform my apartment into my ideal living space.

I now have a second dollhouse, also tin but this one from the 1950s, next to the first. I unpacked all the little animals I made when I was a kid from Fimo (and a couple from clay) and which have been in boxes for ten years, and gave them a home:

Yesterday was effectively skipped, as Sherwood and I went to a restaurant for lunch. I did feed her some homemade toast first.

Today I made kamut (Khorasan wheat), which is sort of like farro, in my rice cooker. I had intended to use it as a salad base, but 1) my remaining kale had gone bad, 2) it took approximately three times longer to cook than I expected so I ate my composed salad ingredients (carrots, salmon collar, pickled daikon, parsley, olives, eggs) separately while waiting the eternity it took for the goddamn wheat to cook.

Salmon collar, carrots, pickled daikon, kalamata olives

And then the bottom burned, which is not a problem I have with rice. What was not burned was actually very nice and tasty with just some salt and butter (it's a bit buttery-flavored by itself, which adds to the effect), as I'd already eaten the intended toppings, but obviously needs to be cooked on the stovetop rather than in a rice cooker.

Bow before my perfect soft-boiled eggs though!



(I didn't eat two separate helpings of salmon - the top image is the meat still attached to the bone, the bottom is the salmon pulled off the bone and sprinkled with parsley. I also had some elderflower cordial and Melba toasts with garlic-herb goat cheese (not pictured.)

Lessons I have now learned from this experiment:

1. Salad greens are better from the local Japanese market than the farmers market. Farmers market baby kale, arugula, etc, is cheaper but very prone to going bad quickly and/or having bug issues, so it's not actually a savings as I repeatedly have had to toss part or all of it.

2. Smoked fish is better from Santa Monica seafood than any farmers market vendor I've found yet. Their prices are jaw-dropping for a reason.

3. I am never buying supermarket carrots again. The little spring farmers market carrots are crisp and delectable, like carrot-flavored ice, and can be eaten with pleasure all by themselves.

4. I am never buying supermarket yogurt again, either. The kefir lady's kefir is way better.

5. I am never buying bread again unless due to time pressure and an urgent need for sandwiches. I like my bread better than even the farmers market bread lady's, and mine keeps better, too.

6. Whole grains are a pain in the ass.
I used to rock climb a bit. I enjoyed it but did not care for messing around with ropes, and also tend to stick better to activities I can do solo.

Yesterday I took a bouldering class at a local climbing gym that rejoices in the name of The Cliffs of Id.

Speaking of excellent names, not to mention a canny sense of their clientele, it had the Huitlacoche Taco Truck parked in the parking lot.

I was in a class with two girls of about 10-12 who just flew up the routes, plus the mom of one of them who had an easier time than me as she had a longer reach. For a while I thought the other girl was also her daughter, while the mom thought she was mine; we eventually discovered that she was a very self-possessed person who had come on her own. I used to climb and scramble a lot at that age, alone and on local easy low cliffs and crags. I could really see the advantage of being extremely flexible, extremely light, and apparently composed almost entirely of muscle.

I made it up one V0 and fell off the next two tries, the second time because it was a different route that I struggled with and the third time on the same route as the first and because my muscles completely gave out halfway up. So this is exactly what I was looking for: something extremely strenuous that I can actually max out my strength on without (too much, hopefully) risk of back injury or repetitive strain, self-directed, something I can do by myself, engrossing, absorbing, and not prohibitively expensive or prohibitively far away.

Also hopefully I will get better at it with practice. I had thought I was pretty physically fit in the sense of "can lift a fair amount of weight, can do very strenuous hikes, etc" but I nearly fell over after completing that one climb. (And today I feel like I got hit by a truck.)

I invite anyone who'd like to geek out in comments with any advice, helpful links, personal experiences, etc. I'd be particularly interested in tips on avoiding joint injuries, which I am extremely prone to no matter how careful I am with form. At the moment my knees, ankles, wrists, and elbows are the problem areas but I have had past trouble with pretty much every joint in my body.
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I had a lot of stuff going on the last couple days, so no photos.

I squeezed passion fruit juice/pulp through a colander on to my apricot kefir. It was divine, but the kefir is also divine all by itself. Will not buy passion fruit again unless I have a specific plan for them.

I baked the wonderful bread again, this time with 3/4 flour, 1/4 cornmeal. It is delicious but less versatile; not a good pairing with black sesame, for instance, which is obviously a problem. It goes well with honey, brown sugar, and apricot preserves. I gave some away to neighbors (not because I disliked it, but because people are so thrilled to receive homebred bread) and will go back to all flour for my next try. I will also invest in two one-quart oven-safe bowls so I can do one loaf plain and one flavored, perhaps with the Kalamata olives I have on hand.

The California macadamia nuts are absolutely fantastic: sweet, nutty, slightly chewy, less rich than the ones I've had before, and perfect without roasting or added salt. I love them so much that I am going to either make special trips to that market just for them or, if possible, order them by mail.
Yesterday I made this salad suggested by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks: One of my favorite salads of all time is dark greens (raw kale would work, and I'd suggest either shredded or de-ribbed) with pitted kalamata olives and oranges (peeled, pitted, cut in rounds not segments). Combine the ingredients, drizzle with a little olive oil, and, and this is key, sprinkle with slightly more salt and fresh-ground black pepper than you were originally intending. Best salad.

Kale salad with olives and oranges

It was indeed the best salad. I used those amazing mandarin oranges and baby kale, flat leaf variety. Seriously, it was so good I will probably have a reprise tonight.

This morning I visited the Wednesday Santa Monica farmers market. It's much more famous than my regular one but I like mine better, though I met some lovely friendly vendors who admired my hair and matching sweatshirt. Very few vendors took credit cards, and while there were a lot more vendors, the variety of produce was only somewhat better. (The really unusual stuff tends to get scooped up by chefs and is gone by the time I get there.) Also I like having both produce and ready-to-eat food, which the Santa Monica market does not.

I stopped at a stall which had a sign advertising miner's lettuce, but it turned out to have been bought out by chefs.

"But I have stinging nettles!" the greens lady said, in a tone the opposite of the one which people normally use to tell you stinging nettles are in the vicinity. She picked up a bunch with her bare hands.

"Are they... de-stung?" I asked, wondering if there was a way to do that other than the one I knew of, which is to cook them.

"Oh, no," she said cheerfully. "I like getting stung! It's very healthy! Good for arthritis!"

I am definitely coming to an understanding of where all the stereotypes about California come from. But hey. We have great produce.

I bought apricot and strawberry kefir (thick, eat with a spoon style) and cultured butter from the same kefir lady as at the Mar Vista market, as I'd polished off her apple kefir. Also carrots, flowering Chinese broccoli, orange blossom honey, bacon, eggs, and macadamia nuts (grown in California! they had photos).

Today I am baking bread again, from the same recipe I used last time. I have a feeling that will be the best thing I get from this whole experiment. Home-baked bread is the greatest.
James Kettleman, a successful financier with no friends and in a loveless marriage, is told by his doctor that he’s dying of cancer. Leaving his wife behind, he returns to the west of his boyhood, where he’d been an abandoned child raised by a gunslinger assassin named Flint, to die in peace. However, he gets drawn into some bad guys moving in on a woman who owns a ranch, and finds himself drawn back into life at the worst possible time.

Spoiler: Read more... )

This premise is so good! And I generally like L’Amour. Unfortunately, the book didn’t do much for me. By far the best part is the atmospheric description of Kettleman finding Flint’s old hideout in a maze of solidified lava, complete with a herd of horses who’d been living there, unable to get out without human help but with everything they need, for seventeen years.

Kettleman plans to catch up on his reading before he dies – an obviously excellent plan, and one which endeared him to me. Alas, it was the only thing that did. He’s so cold and unlikable that it sucks the life out of the book, and his reawakening to human feelings – possibly my all-time favorite plot – was told in such an unemotional way that I never really believed in it or cared. Not a favorite.

Note the ominous "A Novel." Flint: A Novel

Yesterday I had this for dinner:

Scallops, rice, pea greens, Chinese sausage

It's scallops, Chinese sausage, pea greens, and rice, from this Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, freely adapted as I didn't have all the ingredients. That was a mistake. His recipes are very precise and come out delicious if you do them exactly as written, which I didn't do. And while I can perfectly sear a scallop (yes, even a tiny bay scallop) normally I cook scallops extremely simply so I can focus my entire attention on getting the sear right. Instead, I was juggling multiple steps, and the sear suffered along with everything else. It wasn't terrible but it was nowhere near as delicious as you'd expect from the ingredients.

While I was at the Japanese grocery buying the ginger and pea greens for the scallops, I spotted the first sakura mochi of spring! Naturally I had to buy them. If rules would stop you from eating sakura mochi, you must break the rules.

Sakura mochi and blueberries
Bow before my beautiful composed salad!

Composed salad with golden beets, burrata, blueberries, kale

I'll have the scallops tonight. If I feel sufficiently ambitious I'll duck into the Japanese market for some ginger and try saute them with Chinese sausage and greens. I may have to buy some greens from the market as well, as the kale is too tough for what I'm thinking of. But hey, I'd rather break my self-imposed rules than have an inferior dinner, and I do need to eat those scallops tonight.
Today I went to my usual farmers market in Mar Vista. I'm going to give you the list of what I bought/already have and am looking to use, and you can suggest things for me to make.

You can assume that anything I can eat as is, I will also eat as is; I'm looking for suggestions for actual recipes, even if they're as simple as "roast beets, slice, drizzle with garlic olive oil, top with crumbled goat cheese." In fact I generally prefer simple.

You can assume I already have unmentioned basics like rice, eggs, onions/garlic, etc.

I now have in my possession...

Acini de Pepe (YES STILL)
Beef, ground
Black lentils
Blueberries
Bread (homemade country white, go me)
Burrata
Calamari (pre-pounded steak)
Chinese sweet sausage (lop cheung)
Coconut (fresh; I do NOT have coconut milk)
Cod (ling)
Goat cheese
Hangar steak
Kalamata olives
Khorasan wheat (never used this before, but was encouraged by pastina experiment)
Kale
Lemons
Mandarin oranges
Oaxacan cheese (like string cheese but round)
Parsley (fresh)
Passion fruit (bought on whim - would really like suggestions)
Raspberries
Scallops
Sweet potatos
Thyme (fresh)

Foods I do not like; please don't suggest them as ingredients: avocado, bananas, cilantro, squash except acorn, tomato in giant chunks (sauce or little bits is fine), zucchini.
I made bread from this recipe: My Mother's Peasant Bread. It was so easy, not a hassle as I wasn't planning to go anywhere anyway, and quite fascinating to do. I used a single two-quart bowl as I didn't have a one-quart. (The recipe says that's fine.)

Risen bread dough

After the second rising, it felt resilient, elastic, almost velvety, and somehow alive when I poked it, like some sea creature. Only dry rather than slimy.

It was a little doughy when I first sliced it, so I popped it back in the oven for five minutes and then it came out perfect:

Baked round loaf

The inside is light and fluffy, the crust is chewy, and the flavor is a pleasant, non-tangy bread-flavor. And that is exactly how I like my bread. I had some with butter, and some with browned butter/brown sugar.

I slice bread with butter, one with brown butter/brown sugar

It was so good that I had another slice with black sesame spread, and that was AMAZING.

I slice bread with black sesame spread

I may never buy bread again.
Yesterday I defrosted some of the leftover acini de Pepe and tossed it in a frying pan with the leftover beef soboro, then topped with a farmers market fried egg and ate with daikon pickles.



Also had a reprise of the sliced roasted golden beets with goat cheese and garlic olive oil. What can I say, if something is good I don't get sick of it. Today I'll try something a bit different with the remaining beets, though.

Also snacked on farmers market carrots and mandarins, and had some more black sesame spread on toast (defrosted store-bought emergency bread that's been in the freezer for God knows how long.)
Just posting for the record as I wasn't having a good day and that tends to affect my appetite/level of interest in food. 2 slices of cider bread toast with butter and honey (also brought one to a neighbor who's moving and who I'm helping to pack up/dispose of 60 years worth of accumulated stuff), some snack tempeh, some Coolhaus ube ice cream from fridge.

Last slice of cider bread for breakfast today. I'll try actual baking with yeast next.

ETA: Today's breakfast: cider bread toast with butter and black sesame spread. A+

I did not get to the farmer's market yesterday, for the same reason I did not get to the gym the night before: we had a rainstorm. Last night was a very dramatic lightning storm, with visible bolts splitting the sky and brilliant flashes turning the whole sky white. I decided I did not want to drive in that, even for five minutes, and I wanted to walk in it even less. So I stayed in and ate what I already had.

For breakfast, I had apricot kefir from the farmer's market. It's not a drink, it's the texture of very thick yogurt, only the most delicious yogurt you've ever had, flecked with bits of apricot. I tried a sample at the market, then asked the seller what the difference was between kefir and yogurt.

"Kefir is much healthier!" she exclaimed. "It's full of probiotics, nutrients, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin X, Y, and Z!" (Not an exact quote - my brain turned off at some point. She might have said it prevents or possibly cures cancer, I'm not sure.)

Me, interrupting because I had to: "I meant, literally how is it different from yogurt? Not in terms of healthiness, in terms of how it's made."

With a "Son, I am disappoint" look, she said, "Yogurt is made by heating milk. Kefir uses cold fermentation."

A+ cold-fermented cancer cure, would eat again.

For lunch, I had a slice of cider bread toasted with butter and honey, and a slice toasted with melted farmers market garlic jack. While eating, I roasted some beautiful farmers market golden beets according to this recipe. They were so lovely straight out of the oven, glistening and caramelized and sweet-smelling, that I sliced one up on the spot and ate it with some chèvre and a drizzle of garlic olive oil, both from the farmers market. It was absolutely delicious.

Sliced golden beets with goat cheese

For dinner, beef soboro from this recipe. Beef and pickled daikon from farmer's market, rice from pantry. Very tasty and satisfying on a dark and rainy night, especially since it was post-gym and weightlifting.

Rice with ground beef and daikon
I just finished gobbling a slice of just-out-of-the-oven cider bread spread with maple butter, as per this recipe. It was definitely gobble-worthy. Grade A, would bake again.

ETA: Just finished gobbling second slice.

Just-baked bread

For lunch (and forthcoming dinner) I had a slight variation on yesterday's lunch/dinner, fried "rice" with acini de Pepe, the rest of the Chinese broccoli, the rest of the kimchi including its brine, Chinese sausage (pre-steamed), and hoisin sauce. It was just as good as Take 1.

Stir-fry with yellow flowers

Tomorrow I am getting up early to hit the Santa Monica farmers market and be back in time for the plumber.
rachelmanija: (Challah)
( Mar. 5th, 2019 01:54 pm)
So, it turns out there's not a great selection of beers if you don't want a six-pack that's all the same kind. However, I discovered a shelf of random beers where you can mix-and-match a sixpack. I tried to get beers I thought might make a nice bread and which I'd probably enjoy drinking if they don't. (I like Sapporo, I like cider, and I like Stella Artois. The others I haven't tried.)

Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 41


I should bake bread with this beer:

View Answers

Golden Road Pineapple Palisades (American Wheat Ale with Pineapple and Apricot)
11 (30.6%)

Santa Monica Brew Works Inclined IPA (India Pale Ale)
13 (36.1%)

Sapporo
8 (22.2%)

Sierra Nevada Sierraveda Lager
15 (41.7%)

Stella Artois Cidre (European-Style Cider)
10 (27.8%)

Wailua Wheat (Ale brewed with passionfruit)
11 (30.6%)

I should drink this beer

View Answers

Golden Road Pineapple Palisades (American Wheat Ale with Pineapple and Apricot)
19 (54.3%)

Santa Monica Brew Works Inclined IPA (India Pale Ale)
9 (25.7%)

Sapporo
9 (25.7%)

Sierra Nevada Sierraveda Lager
3 (8.6%)

Stella Artois Cidre (European-Style Cider)
15 (42.9%)

Wailua Wheat (Ale brewed with passionfruit)
15 (42.9%)

Your taste is beer is THE WORST

View Answers

Yes
4 (10.0%)

No
5 (12.5%)

Everyone is different and that's okay
30 (75.0%)

Actually, I'd love to grab a beer with you
21 (52.5%)

I got some boxes in the mail today. Here’s what I bought at Bookman’s:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal), by Kelly Barnhill. A fantasy that looks surprisingly non-depressing despite having won a Newbery medal.

The Private Worlds of Julia Redfern, by Eleanor Cameron. Sequel to A Room Made of Windows, which is itself in a four-book series – huh, I had no idea! It’s about a girl writer.

Big Red , Outlaw Red, and Haunt Fox, by Jim Kjelgaard, who cornered the rather specific niche of exciting kids’ fiction about Irish setters.

Forest, by Janet Taylor Lisle. The back cover promised a pastoral fantasy about a girl and a forest, but I just now realized that it’s by the author of Afternoon of the Elves, possibly my all-time least-favorite Newbery book. I thought it would be about elves. There are no elves. Elves are a delusion. The heroine’s friend who says there’s elves turns out to be living with a mentally ill, abusive mother. When the heroine tells her own mother in the hope of getting her help, her friend is taken away and she never sees her again or learns what happens to her.

Message: Elves aren’t real. If you ever tell anyone a friend is being abused, they will disappear and you will never know if you did the right thing or made it worse. Also, everything is terrible.

Message of almost every Newbery book before about 1990: Your pets will die. Your grandparents will die. Your parents will die. Your best friend will die. Mentally ill or abused or disabled people die, are institutionalized, or disappear. (You may learn later that they died.) Social workers lock up your mentally ill friends, take away your abused friends, and step on your kitten. Magic isn’t real. All attempts to do the right thing lead inevitably to misery. Everything is terrible.

Meanwhile, Layla bought a book at Bookman's that she thought would be a heartwarming story of kids making friends while rescuing stranded narwhals. No One Expects Surprise! WWI.
I had blueberries and acini de Pepe, heated with butter and maple syrup and a little milk, for breakfast. It was fine but I prefer rice for that sort of thing.

For lunch, I stir-fried more acini de Pepe with green garlic/garlic sprouts (green shoots and immature heads), Chinese broccoli, kimchi, steamed Chinese sausage, pickled garlic (sue me, I like garlic), and soy sauce, with flowers from the broccoli sprinkled on top. That was delicious, and I will have the leftovers for dinner.

Stir-fry with yellow flowers

After all that, I still had about eight cups (dear God!) of acini de Pepe left, so I individually bagged and froze the rest. You certainly get a lot of bang for your buck with that stuff.

I also had some juicy, sweet Mandarin oranges, so bright and glistening that I have immortalized them.

Sliced oranges
Sherwood and I have regained the rights to our book Stranger and have reissued it at a more sane price ($2.99 for the ebook, as opposed to the previous $11.99) and with new covers by [personal profile] telophase for the entire series.

If you've already read it but haven't written a review of it on Amazon, I will love you forever if you do so. Even a 1-2 line one would work. (We need more reviews to be able to do certain types of advertising on it.) They don't have to be raves, just any honest review is fine.

We are about 2/3rds of the way through book four, Traitor, and hope for a release date this year. If you like Paco and Felicite, you are in for a treat because they have especially awesome storylines in the final book if I do say so myself.





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