A good Friday

If you’re a Christian observing Good Friday, or a tree-hugger celebrating the earth, or a caffeine fiend who lives for free coffee, or maybe just a sucker for chocolate bunnies, chances are you agree with me that it’s a good Friday indeed.

I’m guessing every day is a good day for this guy:

Image courtesy of Flickr user cav

For others of his kind, the future looks, well, not so cute. Word of warning: the last couple minutes of that video are graphic. But I couldn’t tear my eyes away, inspired to continue watching by the expertise with which the rabbit is stripped of its fur and gutted. In the States, rabbit meat is an under-appreciated source of lean protein. It tastes like chicken and can be substituted for the latter in most recipes. It also works well in stews; in my basic skills class at CSCA, we cooked rabbit en blanquette, a classic French treatment of meat. I would imagine that, as with most animals, the flavor of rabbit depends on the conditions in which they are raised and improves with the quality of their diets.

In case you didn’t notice (or haven’t gone food shopping this week), we’re also in the thick of matzo season (who said carbs aren’t seasonal?). I experimented a bit this week with the delicate kosher crisp, making the kitchn’s chocolate toffee matzo candy (aka “matzo crack,” for obvious reasons) and some Mediterranean matzo pizza — matzo topped with diced fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and feta. Doesn’t hit the spot like real pizza, but a strange sort of satisfying nonetheless.

Happy [insert occasion of choice]!

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fasting, or not

According to one authority, to fast means:

1.a. intr. To abstain from food, or to restrict oneself to a meagre diet, either as a religious observance or as a ceremonial expression of grief.

b. with mention of the kind of spare diet permitted. Const. on; †formerly also in, to, with, and quasi-trans. in phrase to fast bread and water.
2.a. gen. To go without food. †Also (contextually) to go without drink. Const. from.
b. Irish Hist. to fast against, upon (a person): said with reference to the custom of sitting without food or drink at the door of a debtor, or any person who refused to satisfy some lawful demand.
c. quasi-trans. in various nonce-uses.
d. trans. To cause to fast or be without food.
3. trans. To pass (time) fasting; to keep or observe (a day, etc.) as a time of abstinence. Also, to fast out. Obs.
According to another trustworthy authority: “The Church defines this [fasting] as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.” The Church doesn’t approve of liquid dinners, though this article rightly points out that while there are guidelines for fasting during Lent, there isn’t a cookie cutter mold or one right way to do it. The practice is contextual, not absolute; “good fasting” will look differently from person to person. If you’re wondering whether you’re doing it right, I like this baseline rule: “If you feel as if you are cheating, you probably are.” Guilt is a powerful, revealing thing.

Last year, I observed Lent for the first time by giving up processed foods. I wrote a few entries on the experience, which ended up being a mixed bag. It got off to a rough start, as Lent apparently started before I realized it had. But I valued the opportunity to re-establish some of the connective tissue between myself and the natural products I consumed, and I was grateful for the excuse to struggle with what “processed foods” means in the first place. In the end, though, I questioned the idea of “giving up” something in favor of the inverse notion of “giving toward,” and wondered whether framing my Lenten resolution around the latter would have led to a more fulfilling, less frustrating experience.

At any rate, I’ve decided not to abstain from anything this season, and will content myself to continue pursuing the paths of mindfulness, happiness, and creative expression that I’ve recently discovered. In reflection, I think a lot of my life thus far has involved abstinence of sorts, and I’m willfully shunning that mindset for the time being. So, bring on the Girl Scout cookies — I have 18 years worth of catching up to do. 😛

Valentine’s Day poem

For readers who don’t also follow my friend A’s charming blog, The Endless Potluck, I’m obliged to share with you the poem found in her latest post.

Heart Beet

Do you carrot at all for me?
My heart beets for you,
With your turnip nose
And your radish face.
You are a peach.
If we cantaloupe,
Lettuce marry.
Weed make a swell pear.

Indeed. Hope you enjoy plenty of heart-shaped goods today, whether they be pizzas, meatloaves, or plain old cookies and chocolate. Or, if you’re feeling a little frisky, try these sweet things out on your loved one.

Lamb in honor of the Lamb: braised lamb chops

I cooked dinner for my family on Christmas Eve. When I’m home for the holidays, I try to spend as much time in the kitchen as possible. Of course, I have nothing against my apartment’s kitchen in Cambridge, but it’s a luxury for me to cook with sharp knives and enough counter space, so I like to take advantage of it when I can.

Plus, during the holidays we tend to go out for every other meal, to celebrate this or that or gather among the parade of family members that populate the tri-state area. That’s what the holidays are for, at least that’s part of it, but I do often end up craving a home-cooked meal.

For the lamb, I used David Lebovitz’s adaptation of a David Lieberman recipe as my guide, as I happened to have the same amount of meat the recipe calls for, if a different cut. The chops were marinated overnight with salt and pepper, then given a good sear. After deglazing the pan and cooking some garlic and ginger in there, I transferred those bits along with the meat, Chinese rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and stock, into a 325F oven for 3 hours. It was impossible to escape the smell of lamb in the house; I wouldn’t be surprised if our neighbors were subject to it as well. I tossed in carrots along with a couple heaping tablespoons of soybean paste for the final 30 mins. The recipe calls for 1 cup of hoisin sauce, which sounded excessive to me.

As hoped for, flavorful, fork-tender meat appeared after 3.5 hours in the oven. My brother is a picky eater, so I was content to hear him bestow a favorable verdict on the lamb, even if it took the form of: “yo, sis, baller.”

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Christmas treats

Today was our company holiday party, which featured plenty of booze and catered food. It’s nice seeing coworkers decompress outside of the workplace, especially after a somewhat challenging year at the Press. The catering service was provided by Chez Vous, which is pretty popular in the area. There were hors d’œuvres of cheese “marmalade” on toast, chicken quesadillas, Asian-style duck wraps, and corn fritters; a lunch buffet of beef tenderloin with shallot sauce, salmon with tri-mustard sauce, sauteed vegetables, roasted tomato and spinach quiche, and a fresh salad of lightly dressed greens, diced butternut squash, asparagus, and parmesan; and a selection of coffee, cookies, and things for dessert. The quiche was my favorite dish; the concentrated sweetness of the tomatoes made for some seriously bright, piquant bites.

I don’t much to add of food porn this time, but I did manage to capture some of the more festive culinary creatures from the event:

Chocolate-covered cheesecake lollipops and holiday cookies:

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A slice of some chocolate mousse cake-roll concoction–I passed, having had two robust servings at the buffet–but saw lots of happy faces over empty plates of this stuff:

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Have a kick-ass last weekend before Christmas!  Still no sign of snow in Boston, but the forecast says Sunday night.  Until then I’ll be holed up sipping a cup of cocoa between bated breaths.

Lent: Day 1

President’s Day has apparently thrown me for a loop, as it wasn’t until I was on coffee break with someone and informing her of the homemade brownies that someone else had brought in (and her subsequent response that she was going vegan for Lent), that I realized Lent had begun.  I quickly backtracked through my meals up to that point.  My peanut butter and maple-pumpkin-butter sandwich passed; the half and half in my coffee definitely did not.  The orange and homemade brownie were fine; the coffee-flavored yogurt was not (it was also off-tasting.  I do not recommend coffee yogurt).  I am already down 2, and the game is just underway.  Not good.

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First meal of 2010

Mine took place around 230am after a night of lighthearted revelry spanning two house parties, an ill-fated trip to penn station, and a sojourn along the upper east side. Twas a half-decent slice of tomato and onion pizza at an east 70’s joint in the company of a trio of fellow ephs, two of whom unknowingly doused their own pizza slices in salt while thinking it was parmesan cheese, to the hilarity of us all. The entertainment of watching them employ various strategems to maximize the edibility of the pizza was priceless, especially in our inebriated states. We robustly cheered the inaugural meal with the remains of our pizza crusts, and even as the food itself was unmemorable, the moment spoke fondly to me and is sure to summon a hearty laugh for some time.  As I hope this picture of me in my festive glasses does, too.  Happy New Year’s!

Snow and things

Woke up this morning like many on the eastern seaboard to the blanket of whiteness draped across everywhere. Trudged out for a poppy sour cream muffin from 1369 and ingredients to make a massive batch of granola for the co-workers, oats, brown sugar, applesauce, butter, shredded coconut, honey-roasted peanuts, and craisins. A good tip — toast the craisins with the oats instead of adding them at the end b/c they take on this sticky, chewy texture that room-temp craisins do not have, adding nice textural contrast to complement all of that crunchiness.

Goodie bags!

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Shredded coconut is a treasure trove of deliciousness in granola, methinks, so much so it may be a permanent addition to the Top Granola recipe by David Lebovitz that I cop.