August 2008 Archives

Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Sauce

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This is a delicious way to run through some of your in-season eggplants. Roasting them and the garlic adds richness to this thick and hearty sauce. I used tinned tomatoes to cut down on the cooking time, but if you have an abundance of tomatoes on the vine, go ahead and simmer up your own passata. That's definitely better.

Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Sauce
serves 4-6

15 Japanese eggplants (5 American ones)
1 head of garlic
1 can whole tomatoes
3-4 anchovies
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Wash the eggplants, pierce each one with a sharp knife and spread them in a large baking tray (or two). Lightly oil the garlic head and add it to the tray. Roast the eggplants and garlic whole in a 250C oven for 20-30 minutes or until the skins turn wrinkly and brown. Remove and allow to cool.

When they are cool enough to handle, remove the meat of the eggplant (easily done by halving the eggplant lengthwise and scraping with a spoon) and squeeze each garlic clove from its skin. Mix the eggplant and garlic together with the tomatoes and their juice, in a saucepan. Add in the anchovy fillets and oil.

Blend with a handheld mixer (Bamix) directly in the pot until the texture is evenly chunky. Alternatively, you can also use a food mill or even a pair of scissors or your hands to smush everything up. Heat the sauce until it boils, being sure to stir frequently and avoid burning because it is thick and not too liquidy. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over your favorite pasta and garnish with fresh basil and Parmesan, as desired.

Showers

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Why is it that after walking home through a warm summer downpour without an umbrella, the instinct is to take a shower? I was certainly wet enough walking through the door last night - what I really needed was a towel.

Hooping Mania

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I am obsessed by hula hoop dancing. Last Wednesday, I took a hoop dancing class with the most awesome Deanne at Hooplovers. It was so much fun that on Friday I bought myself some hoops. I have practiced 2 hours every day since (yay for the carport on rainy days!) and yesterday logged three hours when I took a second class. I am learning tricks of all sorts but I am clumsy and have bruises to prove it. I will need a lot of hard work before I can run away to the circus.

Today I took my hoops down to the park by the station. Lots of people go there to practice things and play games, so I figured I wouldn't be too out of place. And I thought I'd see how I did under public scrutiny and possible humiliation. I found that I really didn't care. I just danced and practiced my tricks, smiling at people if our eyes met.

This is what it looked like to me:

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Wheeeeeeeee!

And here is what I looked like to anyone who was watching (be warned, I am really dorky):

Non-Imaginary Necklace

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0=1+e^(-pi*i)

Of the necklaces I've made for 365 Necklaces so far, I think this one has been the most fun. It was a request from my friend Moritz to do what I could with the mathematical imaginary unit, i. He made it easy by giving me his favorite equation for i (see caption above) and I turned it into a very not imaginary necklace.

I used a variety of encodings and color codings. The mathematical operators (= + ^ - * )are done in 7-bit ASCII binary in silver beads. The numbers and letters are also ASCII binary, but red. The two constants, e & pi are picked out in numeric form with silver beads for decimal points (and pi is a circle, of course). I hammered some silver parentheses for a change of pace.

There are still some openings for a free necklace of your own, so if you want one, please comment on the offering post before it is too late.

Beet & Walnut Spread

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I can't get enough of beets. I love their earthy flavor, the crispy texture and especially their color. Fresh beets are the best and when we see them in Tokyo, we buy them. This weekend I had a beet in the fridge and a plan for tapas on Saturday night. But how to incorporate the beet into the tapas?

Beet and Walnut Spread
makes about 2 cups

1 large beet, cooked*, peeled, & roughly chopped
3/4 cup walnut halves
1/4 cup verjuice, or somewhat less lemon juice
10-12 fresh basil leaves

Put everything in the food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve on toast, crackers or with vegetables.

*We usually use the pressure cooker, but you could boil, steam or roast your beet.

36 Necklaces (for Free!)

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Waiting to go on Etsy

I am falling far behind in the 365 Necklaces project. If I had followed my one-a-day plan faithfully from March 18th, I should have amassed over 150 necklaces by now. But as of today, I am up to 83.

I will blame the inconvenience of putting things up on Etsy. I love my Etsy shop, don't get me wrong, but it is very easy to procrastinate the product photography, descriptions, pricing, tagging, and the rest. The necklaces pile up and seem impossible to get online.

So I am going to bypass Etsy to try to increase the tally more quickly. Free necklace to the first 36 people who comment. You can even choose your message or mathematical constant and your preferred color (though what you get depends upon what beads I have in stock). In your comment, please include:

1. Message or Mathematical Constant (no more than 10 characters, please)
2. Desired color
3. E-mail (so I can get your physical mail address)

Everyone welcome, so come out of the wordwork lurkers and RSS readers. No strings attached (except for the cord on the necklace) but I've been socking away the profit from my Etsy sales for charity. If you'd like to donate, please feel free to pass me some money via PayPal that I will add to my kitty, or you can donate directly to a charity you care about.

Eggplant & Pesto Gnocchi

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Tod grates Parmesan cheese over the plates before serving

In Liguria, Italy (which is in the cuff of the Italian boot bordering France), there are many interesting culinary traditions. One is that they boil vegetables in their pasta water, serving everything together in one vegetarian feast.

Before harvesting our eggplants tonight, I had a look online for some eggplant pasta sauces and found a Liguarian one that looked interesting. I adapted it a little bit and came up with this recipe. In addition to being delicious, it has the bonus of needing only one pot of boiling water and 10 minutes of cooking time on a hot summer evening...

Eggplant & Pesto Gnocchi
serves 2

2 small eggplants
500 g gnocchi (commercial or homemade)
21 green beans
4 Tbsp basil pesto
Parmesan cheese to taste
3 sprigs basil

Put the pesto in a large bowl, ready to be mixed with the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the eggplant and beans into bite sized pieces. Drop into the boiling water. In about 6 minutes, or when the vegetables are just starting to soften, add the gnocchi. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the pasta is cooked. Remove the pasta and vegetables and mix together with the pesto, adding a bit of cooking water as needed for texture. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Note: our homegrown Japanese eggplant have thin skins. If you are using a thicker skinned eggplant, you may wish to peel it before boiling.

How Clean Is Your Studio, episode 1

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The studio bathroom before I attacked it with vinegar, salt and bleach. This is where Jim & Ben shower. It was filthy when they moved in & hadn't been used in years.

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And here it is after 2 hours and a lot of elbow grease. Now I will shower here, too, when I need to hose off at the studio. It still needs work, but I got it under control.

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This is the toilet after an hour's work. It doesn't look like much, but it is actually better than before and I'll use it without fear of contagion, It is going to take a lot more effort to get rid of the rust and scale in the bowl and the grime in the grout. At least it is well scrubbed and disinfected and though you can't see it in this photo, the rust in the upper basin has been totally scrubbed away.

Cleaning was gross and fun at the same time. I sort of felt like an episode of How Clean Is Your House. There will be more cleaning in the studio as things are moved out to make way for me and my stuff, so stay tuned.

Premium grapes

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News is making the rounds about the bunch of Ruby Roman grapes sold at auction for $910. Many stories quote the price, but fail to explain why they fetched that amount.

It's really nothing to do with the quality of the grapes, though I am sure they are wonderful. It is partially to do with the novelty of them - Ruby Roman grapes are a brand new variety that has been under development for the past 14 years. But mainly the selling price of the grapes goes to two factors: promotion and marketing.

The man who purchased the grapes is an upscale hotelier whose property, Kagaya in Ishakawa, charges up to $800 per person per night and is located nearby the grape growers. He paid a lot for the privilege of promoting the local product and wishing the growers luck and success, but in exchange, he made headlines and the evening news (and a few blogs, too)

$910 might be a lot for a bunch of grapes, but it is darn cheap nationwide (and international) advertising.

Wash and Dry

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Two loads of wash drying on the balcony

After experiencing the joys of the twin tub in Adelaide, I want more hands-on laundering options. I can't buy a new machine (no place to put it) but I did buy a drying rack, so that I can hang my clothes outside in the sun and wind.

Since this is a very common thing to do, even in our urban highrises, the weather forecast includes a drying forecast, too, in the form of a smiling t-shirt. Today's drying forecast isn't ideal, but tomorrow it will be worse so I wanted to get some of the washing done. Plus it is Monday, the traditional washing day.

Cooler, two ways

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I can't stand the heat anymore. I am barely able to think or to do anything when it is 34C/93F inside. So I have finally broken down and turned on the aircon. I know I will regret this in a number of ways but I will do so from the comfort of my 28/82F degree living room.

In addition, I am completely giving up on the dryer for the rest of the summer. I bought a laundry drying rack to set up on the balcony so I can let the sun do some useful work.

Perhaps this will balance out the electrical bill.

Ha ハ 八

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Too Drunk to...

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An Australian standard drink is 10 g alcohol.
An American standard drink is 14 g alcohol.
In Japan it is 19.75 grams (25 ml) alcohol.

Tod suspects that Japan's drinking policies were written at a nomikai (aka a booze-up, kegger, or boy's night out).

So a 750 ml bottle of wine is 5 drinks in the US, 7.5 in Australia, and about 4 in Japan. A 500 ml beer is 2 drinks in Australia. In Japan, 500 ml of beer is 1 drink. 12 oz (350 ml) of beer is 1 drink in the US.

How much alcohol makes you too drunk to do whatever? After 6 American drinks/8.5 Australian drinks/4.3 Japanese drinks (taken in as homemade frozen margaritas) in 3 hours, I am finding it a little more difficult than usual to type, but conversation is flowing nicely and I can still walk straight.

As Jimmy Liggins sang, "I ain't drunk, I'm just drinkin'!" but I'm nowhere near Dead Kennedys levels here.

MORNING AFTER UPDATE: I wronged the math in our frozen margaritas. Tod thinks our jigger is 45 ml, but it is actually only 30ml. So I really had 4.3 American drinks/6 Australian drinks/3 Japanese drinks. Not too drunk after all.

And in case you wonder what our favorite margarita recipe is, it comes from Drink Boy: http://www.drinkboy.com/Cocktails/recipes/Margarita.html To make it frozen, we blend it with ice.

Cloudburst

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Since noon, Tokyo's received 108mm of rainfall, 73% of August's average, and experienced a series of intense thunderstorms. It feels as though the city is going to be washed away.

As the first storm began this morning, I decided to pull up a chair on the verandah and watch it. The lightning bolts behind my building reflected off the glass covered Toppan highrise across the way. Thunder echoed and rumbled and drew louder and nearer. Low yellow-grey clouds trailed scarves of rain in the middle distance. It was beautiful and awesome. Then I watched a bolt hit a lightning rod on a building nearby and scurried inside as the clouds opened up over me.

Not everyone was able to find shelter. Five sewer workers were washed down a manhole earlier today. One has turned up in the Kanda River about 3 km from where he started. I heard the rescue sirens and helicopters a few blocks from here. He didn't live. The other four are still missing.

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