falafel lessons

falafelsI have made falafel at home off and on at home for a number of years. I had always deep fried my falafel. That’s how you make falafel, of course. But we got an air fryer for Christmas and I shortly thereafter tried falafel in the air fryer. Turned out great. That’s good, because falafel ingredients are, after all, healthy. It’s just the cooking method that isn’t.

Now my falafel making had always been tied to my Vitamix ownership. The problem with that is when you put the garbanzo beans and seasonings into the Vitamix it works for a bit and then creates an air pocket and just spins, mixing nothing. Then there’s the problem of getting the mixture out from underneath the blades. Something of a pain.

So last week when I decided to try a new recipe, I used a totally different technique. I pulled out my KitcehnAid meat grinder attachment and ran the garbanzo beans through that into a stainless steel bowl. I threw in the seasonings, put on a pair of food handling gloves, mixed everything together, and formed the falafel balls. That worked!

Falafel lessons: air fry, don’t deep fry and use the KitchenAid grinder attachment along with that most valuable of kitchen tools, your own hands.


The Seine

The Seine coverThe Seine: The River That Made Paris
Elaine Sciolino
Narrated by the author
Audible Studios, October 29, 2019
$17.47 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

The Seine: The River that Made Paris opens with the author describing how she arrived in Paris, recently divorced, as a correspondent for Newsweek, new to the city with a shaky grasp of the French language. Listening to this book one learns that she matured into a seasoned journalist, mastered French, and built a long-lasting marriage with two daughters.

These things, however, are incidental. The book is about the Seine, and the author describes the river and its history beautifully. She takes one from the river’s source in Burgundy to its mouth at La Havre in the English Channel. She goes back in time to the native inhabitants of Gaul before the arrival of the Romans and takes us up to the present day. Sciolino describes the Seine in books, movies, and song, even including a chapter on sex on the Seine. She shows us the lives of the barge owners, an occupation that no longer exists in the form it once did, and describes the booksellers in their stalls on the banks of the river, while offering a glimpse of what it takes to be in law enforcement on the Seine. She does not hide her love for Sequana, the goddess of the Seine.

There is much in this book that is timely. She writes about cruise companions who are fans of the current occupant of the White House. Sciolino also includes an Afterword describing the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral, after all, sits on an island in the Seine, and Seine water was instrumental in dousing the flames.

The book is ably read by the author. The slightly affected way in which she marks off quotes by others is a bit annoying, but overall The Seine is a delight to listen to.


pots and pans

pots and pansI spent one summer in college working in a local restaurant as a dishwasher. My senior year in college I worked for the food service vendor in a failed attempt to get into food service management. (That is another whole story.) In both cases washing dishes and washing pots and pans were two separate functions.

The same is true here at home. We have the dishwasher for plates, flatware, glasses, and other dishes. Pots and pans we wash in the sink. At our house in Gilroy, both in the original and remodeled kitchen, Terry always seemed to do the pots and pans even when I was cooking. Here in Hemet, I do most of the cooking and I do the pots and pans.

This makes no real sense, but I think it somehow has to do with the choreography and flow from the dining area to the kitchen in our respective houses. And I’m happy to clean the pots and pans along with the associated utensils (the KitchenAid (cheese) shredder attachment, the mandolin, etc.). After all, I got them dirty. I ought to clean them.

I enjoy cooking and am happy taking responsibility for the follow-up.


Ash Wednesday

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. I attended the noon Ash Wednesday service at Good Shepherd Episcopal today. This was especially important to me this year.

Last year I was in the hospital on Ash Wednesday. In 2019 the day fell a week later than it does this year. I experienced a setback after my February surgery. I went into the clinic on Monday of that week simply to have my staples removed, but the nurse didn’t like what I was telling him about what was going on with me. I ended up spending the day in the urgent care waiting room, having blood work done, then a CT scan, and eventually being transported to Kaiser hospital where I remained until Saturday. Of course it took me a few weeks to recover to the point where I could be out and about, so I missed the better part of Lent last year.

This year I decided to be deliberate in marking the change of season and being aware of the space and time of Lent. I phrase it that way because I am not terribly good at implementing or following a Lenten discipline. Nonetheless I want to be aware of where we are on the liturgical calendar. And who knows, perhaps I can coax myself into some kind of Lenten practice.

Awareness of Lent makes for a more joyful Easter, I do believe.


Islands, the Universe, Home

Islands, the Universe, Home coverIslands, the Universe, Home: Essays
Gretel Ehrlich
Open Road Media, 210 pages
originally published in 1991
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $11.64
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $2.99

On the evening that I was ready to start a new book my daily email from Early Bird Books included this title. The summary said that the writing was excellent, so that, of course, caught my attention. Given the price I decided to buy it.

In the time frame that this book covers the author lives on a ranch in Wyoming, and much of the commentary in the essays takes place in that milieu. However, Ehrlich treks distant trails in Japan, explores the Channel Islands of the California coast, looks for cacti on military land in Nevada, and visits the NASA telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Ehrlich does know how to turn a phrase:

quoteSap rises in trees and in me, and the hard knot of perseverance I cultivated to meet winter dissipates; I walk away from the obsidian of bitter nights. Now snow comes wet and heavy, but the air it traverses feels light.

The essays in the first part of the book reminded me somewhat of Loren Eiseley, though not so much later in the book. Nonetheless, Ehrlich’s reflections are engaging throughout.

 

 

 


The Bookshop of Yesterdays

Bookshop of Yesterdays coverThe Bookshop of Yesterdays
Amy Meyerson
Park Row (June 12, 2018), 368 pages
Kindle edition $9.49, Amazon paperback $10.29

The Amazon page for this novel notes that it was included in the summer reading list of a couple of different publications, and that’s really what it is: something of a summer reading title, even though I read the book in late winter.

Miranda, the protagonist whose story is told in the first person, returns home to Los Angeles from her teaching job and boyfriend in Philadelphia when her uncle Billy dies and leaves her the bookstore he owned. Billy loved games and scavenger hunts even when Miranda was a child, and he had set up a scavenger hunt for her before his death to explain to her why he left her the bookshop, and to reveal to her something that she didn’t know about her own personal history. The clues he leaves are quotes from a wide range of literature.

There is a plot twist, which makes perfect sense once you get there, but the book rather falls apart after that revelation. It does recover enough, however, for a fairly satisfying ending.

Nothing heavy or profound here, but an enjoyable diversion.


parsley, sage, thyme, and, of course, rosemary

I have always been serious about spices in my cooking, but when we did our kitchen remodel in Gilroy we added a built-in spice rack and I went ape-you know what. We bought empty spice bottles at Bed Bath and Beyond and filled them with spices from the good folks at Penzeys. At our house here in Hemet we have a spice drawer rather than a custom-built spice rack, but we still have just as many spices. We even have an overflow plastic spice organizer in the pantry.

Penzeys rosemaryThe thyme is in our main spice drawer. The parsley and sage are in the overflow organizer. And rosemary? I haven’t given rosemary proper respect. In fact, when I went to do a recipe that called for rosemary a couple of weeks ago I realized that I didn’t have any. I bought some fresh rosemary from the produce department in the grocery store. A couple weeks later I had another recipe that included rosemary and I used what was left.

I realized I needed to to give rosemary a better spot in my spice pantheon. So I added it to my last Penzeys order, and it now has a spot in the main spice drawer, booting out a rarely used spice. Why it took so long, I don’t know, but the disrespect has been addressed.

P.S. Remember when we listened to music on vinyl in stereo? Remember that you could separately control the left and right speaker volume? You could listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s rendition of the English folk tune independently on one side and their anti-war chant separately on the other. That’s something that we can’t do any longer.