Dec 25, 2012
There's nothing like plastic Nativity scene on a green lawn to not get me into the holiday spirit. Not that I ever had a hard time with that. There's still the new year hoopla to get through, but then we can finally get back to our normally scheduled lives.
Nov 28, 2012
Oct 31, 2012
Oct 19, 2012
The first care I ever drove with any kind of regularity was a Ford Thunderbird. That big, blue piece of crap is the source of my hate of Fords since. However, I can admit when something is pretty.
Sep 2, 2012
Jul 2, 2012
Jun 7, 2012
May 9, 2012
Mar 25, 2012
I saw The Galloping Gourmet on PBS many years ago. It was truly bizarre. It was not long after my arrival to the US, and I was already culture-shell-shocked. (It took me a while to wrap my brain around MASH and The Beauty and the Beast being TV shows.) I have no idea why he popped into my head recently. Must have been the booze.
Back in the Old Country we used to bake a certain fruit and nut-studded loaf that had absolutely no relation or resemblance to fruitcake. I went on a hunt for a recipe, found several, in Hungarian and metric. From them I cobbled together my own version. It took several tries till I got everything right.
8 oz butter
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup of brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup dried fruit, chopped
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 tablespoon orange liquor
1 teaspoon vanilla
ca 1/4 cup crystallized brown sugar
Macerate the dried fruit with the liquor for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 350º F
Butter a loaf pan and dust it with crystallized brown sugar. Shake out the excess.
Cream the butter with the brown sugar.
Mix in molasses.
Add eggs one by one.
Mix the flour and baking powder together, add to the egg mixture. Combine well.
Fold in the fruits and nuts, add vanilla.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
Bake for 50 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
· Most recipes will tell you to butter your baking dish or coat it with those suspicious baking sprays. I also dust it with sugar when baking something sweet. It will stick even less. You pour some sugar into the buttered pan, shake it around to coat all sides and shake out the excess. I prefer using brown sugar because it's not as sweet as white, but it has to be the crystallized kind, as the regular one is too moist. Additional benefit is that your baked good will have a crunchy sweet outside.
· Molasses are optional, but they add a deep, rich tone.
· I use dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, mangoes, but anything goes. If you want to get fancy, you might try candied orange peel and candied ginger.
· Hungarian recipes all had rum in them, but I prefer orange liquor. I think Hungarian cuisine developed a reliance on the cheaper and more common rum as an economic necessity.
· I discovered a novel way to macerate the dried fruit: in a ziplock bag! It's perfect, alcohol and fruit are all sealed in together with nothing better to do then soak into each other. No messy tossing required—you just flip the bag over.
Tips and tricks:
Has your brown sugar ever turned into a dry brick? Do not despair, there's a way to fix it. Put the brick in a bowl and cover it with a clean, wet kitchen towel. Leave it like that overnight. By morning your brown sugar will be back to it's moist self.
Feb 17, 2012
I was out snapping pictures the other day, it being unseasonably springly here, and all that, when a green bottle fly landed on the daisy I had in my crosshairs. It wasn't the slightest bit bothered with me gawking at his lunch. Apparently, green bottle flies moonlight as pollinators.
Click on the picture for better view. It's not as sharp as I'd like it to be (no macro lens), but good enough to see the individual hairs on the fly's body. Neato, right?
Feb 14, 2012
I got to Point Dume forty-five minutes before sunset. Back in the Valley the sun glared down from the sky, warming the land and tricking flowers and bees alike into thinking it was spring already. There, at the beach gusts of wind whipped across the sand.
Instead of paying the ten-dollar fee to get into the parking lot, I pulled the car over at the edge of the highway, like everyone else. Grabbing my bag and putting on a sweater, I walked the extra ten feet to the lot, then across it. Once on the other side, I took off my sandals and rolled up my jeans to make my trek down to the water's edge.
The sand gave under my feet, and I sank an inch into it at every step. I waddled my way down to the seashore. All other times I'd been there, a continuous pattern of footprints pockmarked the beach, but now the wind had chiseled them down. Grains of sand bit into my face like multitudes of insects. I turned my back against their flurry and fished the camera out of my bag.
Some people think taking one of those sunset-at-the-beach photos is a matter of timing and a camera. It's a misconception. To take pictures of any sunset that will grab people's attention you need clouds--clouds arranged in a way that the setting sun's rays refract on them and lit up the sky like a bonfire. Most of those pictures you see on stock photo sites are fakes: Frankensteined together from images of sea and sky that had never met before their blind date in Photoshop.
There were no clouds in the sky this time. It didn't matter; that's not why I was there. To tell the truth, I didn't know why I was there, other than having had an impulse to drive across the mountains and down to the beach.
Waves licked at my feet. The ocean was like ice water, yet there were surfers in it, hugging every surge like seals wrapped in neoprene. A couple seagulls stood at the edge of sand and water, picking up whatever morsels the surf washed ashore. I took a few pictures of them, but I had no telephoto lens, and the birds edged away from me at the same pace I tried to close the distance between us.
As the sun drifted closer the horizon, the bottom of the sky began to blush. It contrasted with the pool of ink stretching across the landscape that was the ocean. At the edge of the shore, where the water had soaked it through, the sand was the color of chocolate. I clicked away until the light faded away.
I drove back to the Valley under the darkness. The wind kept hurling itself against the car until I crossed the mountains.