Wednesday, February 26, 2014

life lately: kitchen therapy

In between moments of dissertation craziness, I've been de-stressing quite a bit in the kitchen.

Loving the fiery red-orange hues of blood oranges
 Isn't it amazing that in the darkest, grayest time of the year we are gifted with these amazing colors in citrus fruit?

Prepping for blood orange marmalade

I can't get over these jewel-like hues.
Sliced blood oranges go into a large bowl, to soak in water overnight

Our apartment smelled heavenly while the blood oranges were simmering down in sugar and water.

I'm not a cereal kind of gal when it comes to breakfast. Though I'd love to have cake for breakfast every morning, I really enjoy the simplicity of fresh bread, good butter (Kerrygold or Lurpak), and jam or preserves of some kind.

No-Knead (!!!) whole wheat bread recipe from King Arthur Flour. Darjeeling tea steeping in my new(ish) favorite mug.

That is all.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

date night pizza

I'm proud to say that A. and I have gotten quite good at making pizza at home. We have a system going: I make the dough, he rolls it out, I put the toppings on, he puts it in the oven and watches the time (it doesn't take long at really high heat!), then I slice it and we both eat. Extra olive oil for me, and extra hot pepper flakes for him.

San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil. Simple and perfect.

I use Ina Garten's pizza dough recipe - it's pretty simple using a stand mixer with a dough hook. Although her recipe says to let the dough rest for 30 minutes before rolling, I find that the taste and texture improves the next day. When I went back to check her recipe and read that it "serves 6", I chuckled to myself. Ummmm.... not in this household. Although it does make enough for us to have leftover dough for more pizzas the following day.

We like our pizzas REALLY thin, and A. is really good at rolling it out. He wishes he could hand toss the dough the way they do in pizzerias. My rolling skills, on the other hand, leave much to be desired. I still can't roll round roti the way Indian women do - the way they let their rolling motions rotate the dough without having to lift it from the surface. I always have to lift the dough every now and then and move it a quarter-turn, the way you would for pie dough. The last time I was in India with A. and his family, his 7-year-old niece was already learning how to roll roti. I thought, "so that explains it...". There she was beside me, a little apprentice standing on a stool to reach the countertop, doing a roti-rolling throwdown with me. I always concede. But seriously, she was getting quite good. I joked to her that between the two of us, she could roll the roundest roti and I could roll out the best rectangular, square, and oddly shaped ones that resemble the map of India more than anything remotely round. 

I'm much better with a mortar and pestle.

Which is why I prefer to make basil pesto this way, rather than in a food processor (especially if it's just for the two of us). I like the rustic, unevenness of the resulting pesto when made by hand - there's just something indescribably satisfying about it. Though I doubt it makes a significant difference on the flavor - I just find it stress-relieving to do manual labor in the kitchen.

basil pesto and fresh mozzarella

So this is what we did for Valentine's day. It was perfect to just stay at home and cook something together. (Although I did make his favorite chocolate chai pots de creme in advance by myself, because it needs to chill for a few hours.)

Then on Sunday we went to see the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra at the Severance Hall. This concert hall is just stunning.
They played pieces from Mahler and Brahms. Actually, Mahler was the reason I wanted to see this performance. After my first exposure to Mahler - it was Ekaterina Gordeeva's first solo skate in 1996 as a tribute to her late husband and figure skating partner Sergei Grinkov in the "A Celebration of Life" show. The music for her program, Mahler's Symphony No. 5, was so haunting, and her skate so heartfelt that it left an indelible impression - it makes me get choked up and cry every single time. Although the Cleveland Orchestra didn't play Mahler's Fifth specifically, I still enjoyed the performance. Symphonies just amaze me, and not just because I can't play a musical instrument to save my life (I had a short-lived piano career when I It's a different kind of energy. It makes me so grateful that there are people in this world who make music.

a postcard from this sweet friend - wise words indeed

Pizza, a concert, A Valentine's day postcard, and yellow flowers to brighten up those long winter days.

Spring will be here soon.

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

excited for olympic greatness

Quick confession: I'm not a sports fan.

Except for a few sports like figure skating, gymnastics, swimming, synchronized swimming and maybe a little tennis (only because my dad and brothers played), I am not one to follow state sports teams.

Ten or so years ago when I moved to the US and heard about the "Superbowl", I would have been inclined to ask if that's a special kind of serveware. Sacrilegious, I know. And fast forward 10 years to now, I still don't quite understand football - and with all honesty, really have no desire to. If I had said that at a Superbowl party last weekend I might have gotten pelleted with hot wings or pretzels.

But... when it comes to the Winter Olympics, you'll probably find me glued to the TV with a bowl of popcorn, nervously chewing on my fingernails.

Particularly because I am looking forward to watching the return of these Olympic greats...

Yuna Kim, 2010 Olympics figure skating gold medalist

I somewhat lost interest in watching figure skating after Michelle Kwan stopped competing. I still watch her Tosca LP from 2004 every now and then when I want a little trip down figure skating memory lane. Then Yuna Kim came into the scene, redefining figure skating greatness.

Yuna's 2009 short program, Danse Macabre, one of my favorite figure skating programs:

The fire and passion in this skate, combined with technical precision and artistic expression... just incredible. And unique choreography that allows her to showcase her skills and artistry - I love how every movement is intentional, including how she moves her head and arms with the music. What's even more impressive is the maturity in her skate - she was only 18. This was pre-Vancouver Olympics, but you could already tell from this skate that she was bound for an Olympic medal. I'm neither a skater (I'm clumsy enough in flat shoes on regular flooring) nor a professional skating critic by any means, but her Danse Macabre in my opinion is one of her best.

And of course who can forget her sassy "Bond Girl" short program of the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver:

So much personality in this skate, along with the usual complex choreography, transitions, and difficult jump combinations that you've come to expect from her. Her speed going into the jumps, and the distance she covers in her triple-triple jump combination is amazing. This New York Times interactive article shows how she covers 25 FEET from takeoff to landing in her triple-triple.

And the brilliance of her Gershwin long program:

It just leaves you speechless. Such elegant skating, and she made it look so effortless. She broke her own personal best and made world records in both her short and long programs.

I love what her coach (at the time), Brian Orser - himself an Olympic silver medalist - said to her at the Olympics: "Appreciate the space we're in. Pressure is a privilege." Now that's Olympic gold-medal attitude.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, 2010 Olympics ice dancing gold medalists

Sigh. These two are just captivating, with their grace, daring acrobatic moves, and on-ice chemistry.

Here's their Flamenco OD from Vancouver:

Flamenco is a complicated enough dance as it is, but to do it on figure skating blades on ice is another story. Virtue and Moir express it so beautifully here with the lines and shapes they create with their movements, without giving up the fiery intensity of the flamenco.

Tango Romantica CD, Vancouver:

And their gold-medal-clinching FD to Mahler's Symphony No. 5, also from Vancouver. I was in tears after watching this.

I read that before they compete, they hug and synchronize their breath. How sweet is that.

What's really remarkable is that Virtue was in great pain during the Olympics due to recurring problems in her shins (for which she needed surgery).

Do I sound like a groupie yet?

I think what lures me to watching these events is being able to witness art in the human form and in movement. It's just amazing to watch these competitors express their craft of combining art and athleticism - and the kind of mindset it takes to get to that level of excellence. It's the kind of experience that gives me goosebumps - in a good way. And I think we all need that in our lives.

Counting down to Sochi!

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