Saturday, May 26, 2007

Salmon, the wonder food

We seem to be on a bit of a salmon kick. That might be because it's in season locally, and it might be 'cause it's just so yummy!

Dinner tonight was, yet again, a slab of salmon. This time, I bought fresh local king salmon from Cosentino's market. I marinated it in Veri Veri Teriyaki, and grilled it on a hot fire. Before that, though, I made a pile of veggies. I grilled some zucchini, which is utterly trivial, and yummy according to people that like those nasty green squash. I also grilled some artichokes. There's a bit of a trick to that - I slice medium sized 'chokes in half and remove the bitter choke in the center. (Be sure to rub them well with lemon to keep them from browning.) I brush them with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill them over indirect heat, with the cut side up, and then flip them when they start to brown. Serve with a bit of melted butter. In addition to all of that, we had a bit of fried okra - slice okra pods into small disks, coat them with some corn meal, and fry in canola or soybean oil heated to near smoking. Be sure to not overcook the okra - that's not so delicious.

Okay, we've got the salmon, the zucchini, the okra and the artichokes. Oh yeah - the potatoes. I sliced some red potatoes in half and boiled them. Once cooked, I dropped them into a skillet of melted butter and added some minced savory. Oh, and there was a bit of multi-grain bread.

Finally, there was the wine. We have a small stash of 2001 St. Supéry "Elu". This is their signature red meritage, and is an extraordinary wine. It was a bit tannic on first taste, but opened very nicely. It's full of fantastic berry flavors and toasted oak. The finish is smooth and silky. It's a consistently good wine year to year, and the 2001 is above average. (We have a couple bottles of the superb 2000 vintage, but I'm saving those for a special occasion.)

I would offer pictures of the feast, but we ate all of it before I got around to remembering the camera. At some point, I should be able to add pictures of the wine bottle, at least.

Happy cooking, and bon appétit!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yum yum!

(I neglected to post this previously, but it's from a while ago. Pictures to follow, eventually, perhaps.)

Is there anything so good as a nice slab of fish?

Dinner tonight was miso-glazed salmon over soba noodles. (We seem to be on a soba kick of late.) I made a marinade of 4 tbsp white miso, 3 tbsp sake, 2 tbsp canola oil, 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tbsp ginger, and 1tbsp garlic. The salmon was simply pan-fried on some olive oil in a hot skillet (I used 8 oz filets), and I brushed the marinade on the fish as it cooked. I added the leftover marinade to the chilled soba noodles, along with some scallion.

Instead of wine, we had a nice bottle of sake. This one was a bit sweet, but was very tasty with the miso. The bottle is certainly pretty. The translation of the label is quite humorous, though!

Dessert was some simple mochi balls. These are trivial to make - a bit of rice flour and water formed into balls and dropped into boiling water. Once they float up, they're ready to roll in some brown sugar. Quite tasty, although my wife and stepdaughter claimed they tasted like oatmeal. (I thought they were tasty, anyway.)

After that, we decided we needed a bit more of something to eat while we played a bit of Scrabble. (Yeah, exciting night at our house.) We opened a bottle of 2004 Storybrook estate Zinfandel from their Napa vineyard. (This was actuallythe "eastern exposure" vineyard.) While still a bit young, this was a delightful Zin packed with fruit with a hint of oak. We drank the wine with a few Lindor truffles and some marzipan treats. Very tasty!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Boredom, redux

I was wrong yesterday. New employee training for managers is more boring than the regular sessions.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cool site of the RTI*

Today's random cool site is the Eclipses Online Portal. This is very can search for eclipses that occur on earth between 1501 and 2100, and then display all kinds of cool and useful data about each one. For example, this year has no total solar eclipses, which is mildly unusual. For a sample page, check out the great solar eclipse of 1991 or the next total eclipse in the continental US, in 2017. Oh, and here's a lunar eclipse, too, just to be complete.


Is there anything as boring as new employee orientation?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Music review: SFS/MTT 5/10/2007

One of our little luxuries in life is season tickets to the San Francisco Symphony. The last concert for this season in our series was last night. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted, with Thomas Hampson as the soloist.

The first piece was Aaron Copland's Short Symphony. I'm not overly familiar with this piece, although I know a fair amount of Copland's work. The performance shows that MTT has a deep understanding of American music, and is one of today's foremost interpreters of Copland's work. The intensity of this piece was startling, but it had a distinctively Copland sound. From the program notes, it took Copland two years to write this 15 minute piece. He definitely was aiming for no more and no less than he needed, and succeeded admirably.

The second 'piece' of the night was a set of five songs by Gustav Mahler from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. The performance was recorded, and will be featured on a future CD in the SFS Mahler cycle that is in progress. Mahler's unique style shines through in these short pieces. "Urlicht" in particular has that sound of rural Austria and high symphonic style at the same time. I'm a huge Mahler fan, and greatly enjoyed this song cycle.

After the intermission, the final piece of the night was Also sprach Zarathustra, by Richard Strauss. Strauss is one of the few composers who attempts Mahler's ideal of symphonic works where a piece creates an entire universe of its own. Echoes of this piece continue to appear in music throughout the 20th century. The beginning, of course, has a distinct cultural identity. It's impossible to hear it and not see a black monolith, some out of control apes, and a space station. Still, if you can get those images out of your head, you can easily see the intended imagary: sunrise. There's the first inkling of the Sun, and then first contact as the limb of the Sun emerges above the horizon. As the Sun continues to rise, the intensity of the repeated themes intensifies, until the whole of that giant nuclear fire in the sky is blazing in the morning sky, and the whole orchestra (including the organ) are pumping out maximum volume. (Note to self: make a point of finding an organ recital at Davies Symphony Hall. That instrument is amazing!) After sunrise, the music turns introspective. The string quartet that starts one of the main themes eventually expands to the entire string section, and the overall effect is sublime. Alexander Barantschik, the SFS concertmaster, was featured on all of the solo violin parts in the piece. His playing of the lyrical passages made his violin seem to sing, while other much folksier passages sound like a gypsy fiddle. (It doesn't hurt that he plays a great instrument - a 1742 del Gesu violin named "the David". Still, he has to play it to get those sounds!) The entire piece is, of course, a tone poem based on the Nietzsche text of the same name. After exploring all of the world available in the piece, Strauss wraps up the entire piece with a quiet and introspective coda.

Overall, this was an extraordinary night of music, and the SFS and MTT were in top form.

Coming next: the SFS Youth Orchestra celebrates their 25th anniversary on the 20th of May with a concert featuring some minor works. Yeah, that's it. They're playing Beethoven's Ninth!

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Good food can be simple

I haven't written about food in a while, so I thought I would. Some of the meals I highlight here are notable because I tried to do something a bit out of the ordinary. Sometimes, though, ordinary is exactly what's needed.

Last night's meal is a great example. It's also a lesson in great food, fast. The whole dinner was ready in less than two hours, and consisted of a combination of store-bought expedients and fresh ingredients.

I started by wrapping some russet potatoes in foil, and popping them in the over at 450 degrees. I then started a fire for the grill. (Lazzari mesquite charcoal is wonderful, by the way!) I then put the commercial apple pie I bought into our second oven (you do have one, right? It's hard to imagine not having one!) at about 300 degrees. Next, I wrapped some corn ears in foil. Once the grill was ready, I put the wrapped corn around the edges of the grill. (This needs a big Hibachis, please!) The corn needs about 30-40 minutes, with a turn every 10-15 minutes. As the corn was nearly done, I pulled the potatoes out of the oven, and put a loaf of 9-grain bread (also store bought) into the oven to warm. Finally, I dropped some nice looking New York strips on the hottest part of the grill. Once nicely charred on the outside and medium rare in the middle, it was time to easy! Slice the bread, plate the steaks, potatoes, and corn, and...yum!

The potatoes were actually the odd part of this meal. We often do whole meals on the grill through the summer. I suspect a few more of those will get described here. As a side note, I'd love to have a new and larger grill, except I can't afford the one I want, and I have no idea where I'd put it in our backyard. Shucks!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Daily scary driving experiences

After years of experience, I've come to the conclusion that parents driving their children to school are the worst drivers on the planet. Crazed taxi drivers have nothing on these people.

Over the years, I've seen innumerable near accidents and a few solid hits. I once saw a parent so desperate to get their child to school on time that she jumped a curb and drove at quite a nice clip across the schoolyard to get her child to the door. I'm stunned that no one was killed in that incident.

I now drive our youngest one to high school. That's my daily excitement, and it's usually a great substitute for morning caffeine. Nothing like a little adrenaline poisoning to wake you up! On the rare occasion that there is any enforcement around the high school, they're always forcing people to not stop in what is technically a no parking/no stopping zone to drop their kids off. Instead, they force people to drive into the student parking lot, which just makes the jam and people's nerves that much worse. Thanks, guys. Part of the fun is having drivers with less than a year of experience and cars with waaaaaaay too much power driving in the same lot as parents. Mix in some pedestrians and you have my idea of the fourth circle of hell.

Is there anything we can do about this? Not really. Parents are all convinced that their 'precious cargo' is far more important the the 'precious cargo' of the person in front of them. The only real hope is to reinstate a school busing system. That would be expensive, so it won't happen here. This is one of the few cases where good weather all the time is a serious curse. When I grew up in the upper Midwest, school buses were always available. Indeed, at one point I lived in a place where riding the bus was mandatory, as walking to school, even across a couple of yards, might be deadly.

Perhaps global warming will fix that problem....

Update: It saddens me to see that there was an incident at a nearby school today, just hours after I wrote the above rant. While the circumstances of that specific incident are still unclear, traffic around most schools in this area is a major tragedy just waiting to happen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

College reunion

I went to my mumble-th college reunion over the last weekend. It was a blast!

I had a great time chatting with folks I haven't seen in several years and catching up on all that's going on. There were a couple of folks I haven't seen since graduation, and that was fun.

The best part, though, was getting a chance to stun people. Most of my classmates are off starting families. It was amusing how many people had two kids - one four year old, and one two year old. After getting that piece of information on their families, I took the chance to show off my granddaughter. Yup, that's right. One of my faovrite pictures of the two of us is below - pretty much everyone at the reunion got to see this one!

Anyway, the whole thing was a really fun time. I hope to see a few of those folks, at least, before the next one rolls around. Despite all the conveniences of the Internet, it's hard to keep up on correspondence. Bummer!

If you happen to stumble on this post and were was great to chat with you! If you are a member of my class and didn't make it...I hope to see you next time!