Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Budae jigae: One of the first Korean fusion dishes

When I was teaching in Korea some friends told me about this famous stew called Budae Jigae, which roughly translated means, "Military Soup." Everyone prefaces the description by saying, "It sounds horrible, but," which is a fair assessment. When food was scarce in the Korean War period people improvised and came up with this fusion soup of traditional Korean red pepper broth and added the hot dogs and spam that were readily available. It takes something like this to make me touch Spam with a ten foot pole, but I have to admit, this is pretty good food. The items below are fairly standard, but people have been known to add bulgogi, baked beans and rice cakes. If the idea of spam and hot dogs is too horrifying, one variation is to omit those and use a can of tuna. This is basically called chamchi jigae, and is also very good. It sounds strange, but it is a nice dish. Serve it over rice of course.

3 tablespoons Korean soup stock mix
3-4 cups water
2-3 tablespoons gochujang or more if you like it even spicier
2 hot dogs sliced up
2 slices spam
2 green onions chopped up
3 garlic cloves chopped
1 or 2 packages of ramen noodles
bean sprouts
leafy vegetable like kale
kim chi, of course

Saturday, December 27, 2008

From the Bill Simmons mailbag

Q: How hilarious would it be if President Bush pardoned O.J.???!!! I just think that would be a great ending to a terrible presidency! He'd go out with a bang.-- Gian Gonz, Austin, Texas

SG: This idea slayed me for some reason -- not the premise as much as how everyone would react to the news. I think it would make Bill Maher self-combust. He'd just explode like a hot-air balloon.

Friday, December 26, 2008


I was strolling down memory lane this morning looking at old pictures, and this one struck me. I'd see some awfully strange stuff living in Korea.
Out in the open in one of the most polluted cities on earth, Incheon, it might seem like a good idea to wrap up those chickens sitting quite close to the exhaust fumes on this pick up. It was cold as hell that day, I'm not sure ice was the most important idea to be had.

And how many eggs exactly can fit on one motor scooter, which leads me to the Ja Ja Myeong problem as philosophers call it. In Korea, restaurants will deliver food to your place in minutes, and they'll give you real plates. They come around and collect the plates and silverware from your hallway an hour or so later. Tipping is also forbidden. If you try to tip them, they'll refuse. The drivers take their scooters on snow and ice and take quite a few nasty spills. If you screw up in high school, noodle deliveryman is pretty much your fate. Late bloomers aren't such a huge feature of Korean society. I'd pose the question to my students on whether these guys were nuts to deliver food for little money risking life and limb, or noble servants doing their duty. Most sided with the latter option.
I used to live in this little office tel in Incheon, and I do mean small. I never knew any of my neighbors. I'd just hear the click of high heels late at night. The only people who would live in that place were English teachers, a ubiquitous lot in Korea, and room salon girls, who were equally ubiquitous. Korean businessmen pay a couple hundred dollars to sing karaoke, eat fruit and drink whiskey with young, attractive Korean women. Supposedly that was all that went on. Around that apartment I would see several ajummas, the perm was the telltale sign, carrying off the cardboard in their rickshaws.

Now this is a warning sign. How many drunken, pregnant, old people attempt to ride a roller coaster? Unrelated to Korean experiences, but I took this in the late 90s on the Staten Island Ferry. It still seems like some kind of bizarre movie idea that those towers went the way they did.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peruvian Aji Verde Sauce

When I worked in New York City I used to have lunch as much as possible at a place called Sophies. It's cheap, it's good, and it's different. The key to the whole restaurant was their slightly spicy green sauce they'd offer for most anything. There are a lot of people who have discussed this sauce on the internet. It's killer. I tried to make it many moons ago and failed miserably using green bell peppers. I tried it again today and came real close. It looks and is prepared like a pesto, though cilantro and peppers are the key. Normally I don't go lightly on things like garlic and onion, but too much of either will ruin this sauce. It needs just a touch. Put all these in the blender and puree it all. It's great with rice, chicken, pork or most anything.

3/4 cup of cilantro leaves
1/3 cup olive oil
one garlic clove
2 jalapeno peppers (stemmed and seeded to taste)
1/4 of one green onion
dash of lime juice
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
salt and pepper

I'm going to add Cotija Cheese next time. I think the Cotija is what made the Sophies' version slightly whiter in color. Cotija is salty, which is something to keep in mind.

Santas turn to Civil Disobedience

One of the most annoying features of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is the police state method of having photo radar everywhere. If you are driving more than ten miles over the speed limit, you get flashed by the all seeing eye like Britney Spears tongue kissing Paris Hilton at a paparazzi convention, and a near $200 ticket arrives in the mail. My major beef is that the speed limit keeps changing on the highway, so what is legal on one stretch of highway with the cruise control set, suddenly becomes illegal and expensive. I've not been ticketed, though I got flashed once. Overall, photo radar is not very popular. Some people have spray painted the lenses, taken target practice with paintball guns, simply covered them up, or in this case, knocked them out with Christmas cheer. This state is regressive enough with its obscene 10 percent sales tax, so three cheers for the Kris Kringle vigilantes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mr. October is only a compliment in baseball, not football

Man is it frustrating being a Dallas Cowboys fan over the last twelve years. This team is underachieving and is finding creative and disturbing ways to lose. I invested my Saturday night in the debacle against the Ravens. The Cowboys traded a first and third round pick to the Lions for Roy Williams, then gave him the second largest wide receiver contract and the guy is absolutely no factor at all. I'm so sick of the underachieving and whiny Terrell Owens there aren't words. The rookie sensation Felix Jones got knocked out for the season without even playing. Somehow his hamstring harmed his toe. I don't get that one. The team has a lousy coach, which continues the trend going on since the owner fired one of the best coaches ever in Jimmy Johnson fifteen years ago. Other than Bill Parcells, the Cowboys have not had a competent coach in all that time as it went from Barry Switzer, the worst ever, to Chan Gailey, forgettable but not as bad as others, Dave Campo, a complete disaster, Parcells, did some good things but the team always faded late and Parcells came up with the hair brained idea to make Vinny Testaverde the starting QB at 40 plus, and now the comatose Wade Phillips.

On the baseball front, the Yankees are doing an even better job of giving money to rich people than the Bush administration. A.J. Burnett killed the Yankees, and the Red Sox for that matter, over the last several years, and if he stays healthy will probably be a good signing, but I have to wonder about 290 pounds of CC Sabathia in the August heat at Yankee Stadium. This guy couldn't close out the Red Sox with a 3-1 series lead in the 2007 ALCS and now gets seven years and $161 million. Yikes. I have more faith in Burnett at about half that price. The Yankees are going to be more hated than ever with this over the top spending spree. No one was bidding even close to what they gave Sabathia, and who still wasn't in any rush to be a Yankee and has a three year escape clause in his bloated contract. The ticket prices at the new Yankee Stadium will be completely off the chain.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Black beans and rice with mojo marinated onions

I'm not one normally for vegetarian meals, but this is one I like: black beans and rice with sliced raw onion marinated in mojo, which requires:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 orange
1 lime
1 lemon
4 garlic cloves chopped
ground cumin

To make the marinade, I heated up the olive oil over medium heat and cooked the garlic about 90 seconds. I wouldn't even call it cooking, just trying to extract some of the flavor. I then combined the oil with the juice of one orange, one lemon and one lime and mixed in the cumin and oregano and let the onions marinate in there a couple hours. The marinade takes some of the punch out of the raw onion aspect, and I then just topped them over some black beans and rice, and garnished with a fair bit of fresh cilantro. The extra marinade is good for pork chops as well, which I think work best grilled, and from experience I do not recommend marinating the chops excessively -- just a couple of hours.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting even cuter and showing lots of personality

This sweetie is developing quite the personality now at eight months, moving around quite a bit, showing reckless disregard for her head, which she bumps frequently, and is definitely in the Christmas spirit thanks to mom.
And Alex is now six years old and has quite the keen sense of humor.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Portuguese style chicken in garlic sauce

My second favorite Portuguese dish is chicken in garlic sauce. I've tried it recently in different attempts using white wine, sherry and brandy. The white wine version seemed too conventional, the sherry just didn't catch me in the mood I guess, but the brandy was just right. This dish requires a lot of garlic. I served this with a packaged saffron rice, and to see what would happen, I tried a mix of white wine and chicken stock in lieu of water to cook the rice. The result was damn good. It turned out like a creamy risotto, so that ode to spontaneity worked out well.

2 lbs chicken thighs
splash of olive oil around pan
8-12 garlic cloves
1/3 cup brandy
1/2 cup chicken stock
4 saffron threads
chopped parsley

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook the garlic. Remove garlic from the pan.

2. Cut up the chicken pieces, add salt and pepper, and saute them in the oil. Chopping them up makes them cook faster and throughout.

3. When chicken is brown and cooked through, return garlic to pan, pour in chicken stock.

4. Pour in the brandy. Do not pour brandy into a hot pan or it will flair dramatically.

5. Add saffron threads.

6. Simmer over medium high heat until sauce thickens a bit.

7. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Coldplay concludes U.S. tour in Phoenix

I saw Coldplay in Glendale last night as they concluded their American tour, and it was one of the most creative concerts I've ever seen. It was also the first non-amphitheater concert I've seen in a very long time. I'm guessing U2 circa 1997 was the last one I saw that wasn't in one of those sheds. The show had many highs and a few disappointments. One of the best parts was the spectacular laser show. Short of Pink Floyd and probably U2, I'm not sure I've seen any band incorporate the visual element as well as Coldplay did last night. During the song Lovers in Japan they had tons of butterfly paper cutouts in fluorescent colors come streaming down, which were all lit up. The picture in the bottom gives an idea of what it was like. When darkened in the arena, it created a spectacular effect. They had a series of disco balls with visual images of the performers throughout the arena as well. The whole band walked literally into the crowd, with only mild security really, which put the whole band about 3 feet from me, which rarely happens in an arena concert and was quite cool. They played a few tunes in the aisle right next to the crowd in the cheaper seats, and I mean right there. Chris Martin is a top notch arena rock front man -- personable, talented and energetic. The only real downside to the show is that it was a bit short at maybe ninety minutes, and the ending was sudden and anticlimactic with only one encore. For what concert ticket costs in this day and age, the band should err on the side of pumping out a few extra songs. Their best song Clocks had a new, faster and not improved arrangement, and they didn't play several of my favorite songs like Daylight, Moses and others. Overall, it was a very impressive concert that offered an enhanced appreciation of their latest album.
I'm gone from Saipan, but glad to see not forgotten, as the whole family made the Marianas Variety thankful list for the fourth year. Very cool.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Variations on a theme

I made shrimp fra diavlo last week and it turned out pretty well, so I tried it with mussels tonight and it was even better. Wal Mart sells frozen mussels that are already cleaned and ready to go for about $2 pound, so my mussel consumption has increased dramatically. They're quick, easy and cheap, which is the right combination. I think the key to this dish is a fair amount of spice and not to skimp on the onions. I eased up on the onions last time and regretted it. I served it over linguine. The pic is the one I made.

3 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large chopped onion
1/2 cup white wine
1 12 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1 small can tomato paste to thicken the sauce
1 pound mussels
red pepper flakes
top with chopped parsley and basil

Heat oil in large frying pan over medium heat.
Add the garlic and onions, cook briefly until fragrant
Add the can of diced tomatoes with juices
Add the wine
Bring the mixture to the boil and add the mussels, cook 3-5 minutes
Thicken the sauce with a can of tomato paste. Omit if you like a thin sauce.
Stir in red pepper flakes and some salt.
Top with chopped parsley and basil and serve over pasta of your choice. I used linguine.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Doug Stanhope in Tempe

Last night I caught Doug Stanhope for some renegade comedy at a rock club in Tempe. He doesn't do comedy clubs because he thinks they're, "Adult Chucky Cheeses for all occasions." This was definitely not a sanitized, corporate comedy club experience, there weren't even chairs, which was mostly good. I enjoyed the 75 minutes of vitriol Stanhope offered, and got to chat with him a few minutes after the show, and he was cool. Stanhope had one of his drunken friends open with fifteen minutes of pointless, humorless rambling, which had a certain unintentional Andy Kaufmann make the audience hate you vibe. I also saw Dave Attell at the Tempe Improv a few weeks ago, which started strong but weakened as the set went on and wasn't aided by $8 per drink in this economy. Liked this line from Attell about watching the presidential debates with the sound down: "It looks like a snowman is yelling at very young pharaoh."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quote of the week II

"America is like Jessica Simpson, sometimes it's so stupid it embarasses you, but on the other hand, 'How about them titties.'"

- Bill Maher, in a good mood celebrating the greatness of America and offering the final word for this season's finale of Real Time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Facebook is nuts

I signed up for Facebook the other day on Boni's invite, and I talked to about six people I haven't talked to in five to fifteen years -- including relatives and of course ex-Saipan folks. I found both my old college roommates in about five minutes. The most interesting thing was seeing the people from grade school. The names are a real jolt from the past. From what I can tell, I'm the baldest and the one who has been the most geographically removed. It seems like everybody is on this thing. This internet is quite the invention.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


What a strange and bizarre feeling it is to be back living in a country where I'm again confident the right and sensible thing will be done. How good it feels to know that there is someone with real intellect in charge; someone with wide support who won't pander to the worst, most divisive instincts in people. It is a profound change to no longer expect as the norm wildly irresponsible fiscal planning and globally embarassing public policy positions. How enouraging it is to see someone empowered who will actually go about fixing the enormous real problems that face both this country and this world. I'm proud of this country again for the first time in a long, long time. Kudos to Sen. John McCain for an incredibly noble and not just rote concession speech.

Get out and vote

It takes a lot to get me out of bed at 5:30 in the morning, but I found the will and got down to the polling place at 6:00 a.m. to hopefully not wait in line for hours to vote. Mission only slightly accomplished. It still took an hour in line even at that time. Lots of people won't vote over this common problem and that system needs to be fixed. Regardless, let's hope the polls are right and our long national nightmare of Republican misrule ends today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

In praise of the slow cooker

I'm a big fan of the crock pot. I made a wonderful fresh tomato sauce in it a few weeks ago. It was the first time I made fresh tomato sauce and thought the result worth the extra effort. I've tried a few times and not thought it worth the trouble until now, and I thought the slow cooking process had a lot to do with the improved final results.

My general philosophy of cooking is that too much garlic is never enough. I'm coming around to a similar worldview on that as it relates to basil and shallots, which I used in abound to make that fresh tomato sauce. I used garlic, shallots, basil, parsley, sugar, oregano, red pepper flake, a splash of red wine and of courses seeded roma tomatoes cooked for a long time on low to make a lively red sauce.

The slow cooker is always great for making chicken stock without much skimming required. I regularly also use it for cooking whole brined, chicken with stuffing, pot roasts, sauerkraut and kielbasa cooked a long time on low with some onion and a bacon slice, as well as my favorite Portuguese dish, mariscada, which I continue to experiment with. This weekend I added saffron threads to the broth and a splash of sherry.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The canned hunts - hilarious

This might be a little dated in terms of being "newsy," but it is one of the funniest things I've ever seen in my life.

Matt Taibbi on Sarah Palin

Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.

And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket. And if she's a good enough likeness of a loudmouthed middle-American archetype, as Sarah Palin is, John Q. Public will drop his giant-size bag of Doritos in gratitude, wipe the Sizzlin' Picante dust from his lips and rush to the booth to vote for her. Not because it makes sense, or because it has a chance of improving his life or anyone else's, but simply because it appeals to the low-humming narcissism that substitutes for his personality, because the image on TV reminds him of the mean, brainless slob he sees in the mirror every morning.

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

"It's the ultimate irony: a pin-up girl for people who don't believe in masturbating."

- Dana Gould on Sarah Palin

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The "suns" also rises

My boys are both huge NBA fans. Growing up in Saipan they never had to take their life in their hands by sitting behind an NBA basket while Shaq prepared to clang one, but tonight they took that risk and we all survived and had a great time. First, I had a plan. No one gives a hoot about the preseason in this country, so that's where I step up. I got four tickets for $5 each, which is the right price -- about half of what a movie ticket costs. I last saw Shaq play, for free with student tickets, in Columbia, S.C. against my college team the University of South Carolina when Shaq was a sophomore at LSU circa 1993. He dominated that night. Fifteen years later he's much richer, much slower and definitely the grand poobah on the court. I could see the opposing players sucking up to him during every stop in play. Shaq is still quite the figure, though Suns forward Amare Stoudamire is quite the athlete. He is big and he is very fast. Shaq did play very well tonight and the Suns won in double overtime.Alex also had quite the night. All I could do is proudly claim, "That's my boy," as he was swallowed up by the Suns cheerleaders and put on the Diamondvision. Can't really tell, but he is in the middle of that cheerleader sandwich. Not a bad night for the kid.
Grant Hill also managed to play this entire game and not get injured. He looked pretty good as well.
Larry Brown found time to contemplate what team he will coach next. He has coached the Kansas Jayhawks, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia Seventy Sixers, The New York Knicks and now the Charlotte Bobcats in just what I can remember offhand without googling the complete record. I'm sure there are even more.

Ashley just took in the lights and prepared to eat the tickets. Eating paper is her new favorite pastime. Though waking me up at 3 am -- still -- ranks high for her.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Secret Machines Live

The Secret Machines are my favorite new band to come along in a long while. I love their effects laden guitar and the Zeppelin, Floyd, Rush inspired space jams. I caught these guys in Tucson a while back in a small club and really liked the vibe created with the laser show they also managed to integrate. The band has a self titled new album that was released last week.

Lions and tigers oh my

Ashley turned six months today, so we celebrated her half a year birthday with a trip to the local zoo, which is very close to home. The world renowned San Diego Zoo is also not terribly far, so I'm sure we'll be checking that place out eventually as well. The weather has cooled off and it feels really nice to get the occasional chill in the air after many years without one.

In the news again -- Ron Hodges

I walked into my local Barnes and Nobles, which nicely is just across the street, and was looking at the many new offerings when this book caught my eye. I knew there had to be a Saipan section, and sure enough there is. And wouldn't you know it, the principal source on that chapter was none other than persona non grata himself Ron Hodges, who is quoted rather extensively. The overall mood captures the depressed economic state of the CNMI, but some of it, there were several sources, was a bit exaggerated with suggestions that the place is especially violent playing up the Mafia angles and suggested there are hordes of people with broken thumbs and such from gambling debts. The book does a good job of explaining the depressed pricing of Saipan real estate, and it uses the staggering difference in the cost of building the Hotel Nikko and what it just sold for, it might have been hundreds of millions less I can't recall, to illustrate the point.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The tenets of Scientology

Tonight I caught the new Bill Maher movie Religulous, which is a combination of the two words "religion" and "ridiculous," which does seem to be a reasonable word combination. My favorite scene is this one where he goes to London and starts preaching the tenets of "Scientology." He gets treated like he's crazy because, well, it is crazy, and he makes the point that it only sounds comparatively crazy because it's newer and we haven't heard these stories as often as the ones from the more mainstream religions. Bill's too smug for the dopey masses to even contemplate a lot of what is offered in this movie, but it's nice to see someone putting up the good fight against the forces of superstition, prudism, dullness and dogma.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins Starla

This song is great. It is good to see the Smashing Pumpkins back. I love their moody, atmospheric songs that continue to build like this one.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Good game, lousy ending

I got a good seat to the Dallas vs. Cardinals game today in Phoenix. From my perspective as a Cowboys fan it didn't go particularly well. The current Cowboy coach Wade Phillips is a horrible NFL coach -- maybe as bad as Barry Switzer. The rookie sensation Felix Jones doesn't get the ball nearly enough, the all pro receiver might be slipping and doesn't get the ball thrown to him very often and last year's team was an all time underachiever -- the only number one seed to go one and done in the playoffs. I made the right call to stick to the end of this game and saw a miraculous comeback to tie it up and send it to overtime, but I also saw an atrocious and brief Cowboy overtime performance where they lost in ugly fashion.

The behavior of people at these games confounds. It's like the Ancient Roman Arena only we watch people pull hamstrings and tear knee cartilage instead of slicing off limbs. When I see how kids act in school, today was a reminder of where they are getting it from. It was still cool to see the game up close and personal. I've seen the Cowboys live in three different seasons. In the previous two times they later went on to win the Superbowl. I saw them in Atlanta in 1993 and at Giants Stadium in 1995 when Emmitt Smith ran wild on the night they retired Lawrence Taylor's number.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Market madness

Last night I made the depressing decision to go online and look at my mutual fund account. I rolled over my CNMI retirement contribution in July, and since then, I've seen that money, in a very broad array of mutual funds, crash to the tune of 22 percent -- 11 percent in September alone. I just saw a yahoo story that says retirement accounts have decreased by $2 trillion. That decrease doesn't even factor in today's five percent fall. Finally it seems President Numbnuts has run everything into the ground. He'll leave office with an expensive, endless, unpopular war, an even wider gap between rich and poor aided by his crony capitalism, absolutely no progress on health care, global warming or education, trillions more in debt, an attack on the American homefront on his watch, Bin Laden still at large and a crippled economy, but he went to church and didn't approve of gay people kissing, so no problem. Bill Maher is right, we're too stupid to be governed.

Between the stock market crash, the price of gas -- better but still bad -- the housing crash, which was inflated from the previous years truth be told, I'm not sure I've ever seen the American economy this bad. I also don't see this country having much ability to cope with these problems, either. This country as a whole seems very past its prime and incapable of doing anything other than creating more debt and heading further in the wrong direction -- appealing to the dumbest, most base instincts. Our movies are bad, our music is bad, disgusting fast food abounds, an absolute ditz could end up vice president -- don't get me started on the state of parenting or the raging anti-intellectual attitudes of the youth. It's starting to feel like I'm in Saipan five years ago.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Baby cover model

I've had a very long week of awakening to duck noises at 5:30 in the morning. Fortunately this baby is such a sweetie. My wife is keeping herself entertained with taking or tweaking baby photos.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The man and Bobby Feller

There are going to be two major league teams having spring training in the town I'm living in here in Arizona, the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinatti Reds. The players apparently will be on hand for workouts throughout the off-season. They had the dedication ceremony last night and Hall of Famer Bob Feller was on hand to sign autographs. I got a picture signed of Feller pitching to Joe DiMaggio during a Feller no hitter 1-0 at Yankee Stadium on April 30, 1946. Most people just got a signature and left without a word, but I naturally had a few questions. I just found it really cool to talk to someone involved in so much history and told him so, and he seemed happy to hear that. Watching him put on his baseball Hall of Fame sport jacket I was just in awe, and I really enjoyed chatting with someone in such a cool and exclusive club. I asked Feller's opinion on the classic Joe DiMaggio versus Ted Williams debate, and he gave the fairly traditional appraisal that "Williams was the best hitter and DiMaggio was the best ballplayer." I also asked him who he had the toughest time facing, and he said Tommy Henrich gave him fits. Henrich was known as "Old Reliable" for his clutch hitting. Feller also told me he was part of the Navy unit that shelled Garapan, and I found his choice of the word Garapan, not Saipan, interesting. Alex and Carl had fun running the bases, and I'm so looking forward to spring training next year.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Couple of good quotes

One of my favorite shows of all time is the West Wing. I was reminiscing about that show and read an interview with creator Aaron Sorkin, who had this quote on the internet.

"It’s a bronchial infection on the First Amendment. Nothing has done more to make us dumber or meaner than the anonymity of the Internet."

And on the topic of interesting quotes, I loved this quote from Bill Maher on last week's Real Time:

"It seems like our society has two reactions to problems: paralysis and panic. Paralysis would be big long term issues like social security, immigration, health care, energy, the environment. Nothing ever gets done, paralysis. Panic is our other response. 9/11 would be a good example of panic. Attack the wrong country. Start torturing people."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Caption Contest Four

The only downside to my buddy Brad Ruszala being happily involved with a wonderful young woman in Kathy is that I have to feel a bit guilty about caption contest four, so this is purely in jest. My entry is below. Feel free to chime in.
Brad Ruszala runs out of women to woo in Saipan, and moves on to new species.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Laugh until you cry

Has anyone noticed that with this bailout plan for the Masters of the Universe currently being discussed, the responsible idea of setting up a tax to actually pay for this Christmas present for bankers hasn't even been considered. If taxpayers actually got a bill for it, or even a reduced service, there is no way in hell this plan would fly. By adding onto the incomprehensible debt, the impact is more abstract. Also much like the Iraq War cost, which has been put on the credit card entirely and is completely ignored in the budget process, this plan to wipe out the bills of banks that made high risk/high return loans to most anyone to buy or borrow against obviously overvalued assets, adds $2,300 in debt for every man, woman and child, but in reality the burden will be shifted once again onto the younger generation. What is so hilarious, if it weren't so sad, is that these same people scream and moan for deregulation, but as soon as times get bad, their tune changes. After 9/11, the airlines received hordes of corporate welfare, and they responded by charging passengers for a second piece of luggage or for that threat to mankind, water. This situation makes me ill. My friend Shelly, an erstwhile Mt. Carmel teacher and the embodiment of the word itinerant, has a great take on this issue in her blog.

As for something more pleasant, the town I live is opening a spring training facility for the Cleveland Indians. I don't know why they're doing this now, but tomorrow they're opening it up to residents and Hall of Famer Bob Feller will be there to talk baseball and meet the fans. That sounds pretty cool to me. I'll be there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cooking up a storm

Having a baby and supporting a family of five on one teacher's salary has ended my restaurant faring days for now, so I'm making up for it by cooking a lot, which is more rewarding.

This dish is inspired from something my father used to make when I was a kid.

Chicken with ham and mozzarella in a lemon sherry butter sauce

I pounded thin and sauteed a package of chicken breasts after dipping them in egg and Italian bread crumbs. I then put a slice of deli ham on top and covered it with lots of fresh mozzarella. I then baked the chicken ham and cheese combination for about 8 minutes at 375. I made a pan sauce with 1/4 cup of sherry, 1/4 stick of butter and the juice from one lemon and reduced it. Dad's version, as I recall, used prosciutto and was rolled up with a tooth pick to keep them folded and was called Chicken Pillows. I just used regular ham and didn't bother with the rolling. It turned out real well.

Fresh mozzarella is one of my favorite ingredients to now have access to again. I made an omelet with pico de gallo, deli ham, sauteed garlic and fresh mozzarella this morning, which was a great combination.
I also winged a tilapia fillet dish. I sauteed the tilapia fillets in butter with garlic and shallots, deglazed the pan with a splash of wine, and served them topped with chopped tomatoes and olive oil bruschetta style with lots of chopped, fresh basil. It worked well and tasted healthy also.
Last night I had colleagues over and concluded dinner with Bananas Foster, which has always been a hit. I sliced four very ripe bananas, sauteed them gently in butter, added a splash of banana liqueur and vanilla extract with brown sugar to make a paste, added cinnamon, splashed in some rum, ignited the rum to let the alcohol burn out, and then dropped in some cinnamon, which sparks up and is called Voodoo Dust. It's a New Orleans dessert after all. I then draped the bananas over some french vanilla ice cream. I've also used bread pudding in the past. Yes it's a caloric disaster, so I don't make it as much as the kids demand.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The magic of Google

I found out today that this blog is a first page google search for the term Cilantro Erections, and I just wanted to thank the good people of Google for that promotion.

I also found out today out that there is apparently a positive side to global warming: archaeological discoveries in the melting ice.

In matters of my erstwhile home, Harry Blalock is joining the long list of folks exiting Saipan. My buddy Zaldy Dandan is always spot on in assessing the nonsense of CNMI life, but Harry has also been quietly doing amazing spot on analysis in his Food For Thought blog. How much longer until the only two people left on Saipan are Bruce Bateman and Lil Hammerhead? How sad things have become in my former home. At the same time, the people got what they voted for -- no accountability as they cling to the stubborn hope that it will suddenly be 1992 again and the same old nonsense will work.

Locally, I've written before about what a bunch of mindless ninnies this country has become, but I've noticed a new piece of evidence that is worse in some ways than the no water on airplanes thing and the five shoe checks. I've been carded every time I've had a drink here. I went to watch the Thursday night NFL season opener with some colleagues and they carded me. I bought a margarita at the DMB concert and the same thing happened. If you look less than forty, you get carded in Arizona. The waitress told me that the alcohol board comes in regularly and checks if they actively card 36 year olds who just ordered the first round. What a silly, silly country we have become.

In October, I get some time off from school, and I may make a journey to Sedona and Las Vegas. Vegas is about a five hour drive from Phoenix, and there are other stops on the way like Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon to break that up. I found a couple of cheap Vegas hotel deals on Expedia. There really is so much to do out here that it is amazing. Tomorrow we're heading out to see an Imax film on the Grand Canyon after the NFL season kicks off. The football schedule is much more convenient here, and especially nice on Pacific Time.

In local culinary adventures, I made a lobster ravioli in a sherry cream sauce that disappointed. I wasn't satisfied with the Chicken Marsala I made with it, either. I did make a fabulous turkey dinner last weekend, which now only costs ten bucks being back in civilization. I also made a pasta with squid and mussels in a marinara sauce that rocked, and a pizza with fresh mozzarella that was damn good with my new pizza stone. Trader Joes is another sight for sore eyes. I got fresh mozzarella on the cheap there, some organic french roast coffee and some Thai and Indian curries in a bottle that were both good.

Access to events is also getting me excited. I've seen Dave Matthews and Bill Maher since I got here. I'll catch the Dallas Cowboys here in October. Coldplay comes in November, as does Doug Stanhope. If there is a dive spot in Mexico I can drive to, I've heard Rocky Point is weak, I'll really be happy. Since I may not dive for almost a year, I'm going to try to make up for it and go on a Red Sea liveaboard off Cairo when school lets up. I've been reading a lot of Egyptian history and am really eager to see Egypt. Anthony Bourdain has a great travel/food show on and did a piece on Egypt that intrigued.

On the local level, my kids have adjusted real well to a new school in a new country. Carl, despite being by far the smallest kid in his class, is apparently the top basketball player, and Alex is drawing raves for his artistic ability as a kindergartner. My beautiful daughter continues to get more animated. She moves around more and more. She makes cooing duck noises for about 30 minutes when she wakes up each morning, and I've already come to loath Barney with a degree of intensity normally reserved only for George W. Bush or the Boston Red Sox.

Finally, I found it beyond revolting that people who should be voices for the environment and marine conservation, Sylvan Igisomar and Dr. John Joyner, are out whoring for an incompetent, unpopular moron like Ben Fitial in this idiotic stand against a marine monument in the Marianas. Sometimes I am amazed at how cheaply people sell themselves out. I must, however, give props to that outfit John Joyner is wearing in this video.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Rice with cilantro and lime.

I tried Marascada for the third time and it was indeed the charm. I revised my recipe. It takes longer to make, but is no more difficult and completely rocks. I'm doing all kinds of cooking given that I have access to real ingredients for the first time in a while.

Chipotle is a fabulous Mexican chain restaurant out here. I inquired and got the simple scoop on how to make the delicous Mexican rice they serve.

Cook 1 cup basmatti rice according to directions.
Squeeze in juice from one lime
Add lots of cilantro

That's it. Simple and good. There is a green hot sauce Cuban style I used to eat over rice and beans at a place called Sophies in New York that is my next project.

Me and Elwood

We're putting the band back together!