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Thursday, March 23, 2006

food porn and social psychology on TV

This is the breton butter cake I made last night. I have gone back and forth about posting this next picture of the breton butter cake... because it really is... food porn.

And yet, I still like the picture a lot! For those of you who own ervy and my first "tried and true" recipe compilation, this recipe is in there. For those of you who don't own that, the cake, is more of a layered pastry. Originally found in food & wine.

Breton Butter Cake

pizza dough
1 stick cold butter
3/4 C sugar plus some for sprinkling

You start with pizza dough, roll it out into as flat a rectangle as you can. Using 1 stick of butter cut into 16 pieces, scatter 5 pieces over 2/3 of the dough with 1/4 C sugar.

Fold unsugared part over the center and over once again, like you're folding a business letter. Roll out into a thin rectangle again and repeat the process. Do this one more time, then fold the ends in to the center to make a dough pouch.

Place dough pouch upside down in a buttered cast iron skillet. Cover and let rise for 40 min.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Cut 2" slices all the way through the pastry in a star burst pattern. Bake in 450 degree oven for 25 min.

The Breton Butter Cake was really just a great finale to a wonderful meal last night. Having eaten simply and cheaply the past few days, I thought I'd make something a little nicer for the erv and myself.

Last night I went all frenchy, and made a quick Coq Au Vin, a delicious potato and cream gratin, and an endive & walnut salad with a dijon mustard vinagrette and crumbled blue cheese.

I've never made Coq Au Vin before, and I found in my Saveur french cookbook a recipe that took a day in advance of preparation. Luckily, I'm an avid food blog reader, and I had saved the KQED Bay Area Bites recipe for fast Coq Au Vin. Wow was that good! Evan and I were seriously sucking the chicken bones like gluttons! I used four free range whole chicken legs from whole foods, and I was peeved to see that the chicken actually cost less than the two bell peppers the recipe called for! That's what I get for eating bell peppers out of season...

I mean, do these look like they should cost almost $8???!!

Admittedly, the are rather large... but I just didn't think they would be that expensive. lame.

Anyhow, the gratin I made turned out beautifully. And I got to pull out my pretty red Zyliss mandoline which honestly sees way too little use.

Gratin Recipe

2 1/2 large organic russet potatoes peeled & sliced 1.5 mm thick
2 C heavy cream
2 C whole milk
freshly ground pepper and nutmeg

layer potato slices in a 2Qt baking dish. Mix milk and cream together and pour over the potatoes. Bake at 275 degrees for 1 1/2 hrs. Make sure you have a pan under this as the cream mixture can boil and spill over the dish sides. Take gratin out and season with salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg. Crank the oven up to 400 degrees. Bake gratin for 30 more minutes.

Next time, I may try to make each person a single serving of gratin in small ramekins. This gratin has no cheese, and so no binding to keep the cream together. But if kept in its own little dish, it would be perfect, as it is so rich and delicious that it doesn't need cheese.

Psychology on TV

So I caught the first episode of Unan1mous on tv after American Idol (yes, I admit, I can't tear myself away from the singing... Mandisa, your voice astounds me!!). I kept thinking throughout the episode, "Man, if this were a psych experiment, this would never ever make it through human subjects protocol." In fact, it brought to mind ideas of Zimbardo's prison experiment, and whether it was ethical to treat people this way for entertainment's sake.

If you didn't watch the show, or haven't seen the previews, the premise of the show is that there is 1.5 million dollars to give away, but all the participants have to decide to give it to one person. The people are stuck in a windowless bunker, and told when to sleep. With no idea of time, the producers could be majorly messing with these people biological rhythms to induce higher stress levels. Man, I just don't know, but I kept thinking... this show is really really wrong. Why should we get entertainment value out of suffering?

Anyhow, another social psych reality show I've been following avidly is Black. White. Those of you who know me probably know that I study issues of race and prejudice, so I HAD to TiVo this show. The premise of this show is that they take a black family and make them up to look white, and they take a white family and make them up to look black and then they follow them around in their interactions. The funny thing, is I was just thinking about studying something similar, but in a totally different way. At the Society for Personality and Social Psychologists Conference this year, I met someone at Columbia University who had done something very similar using Virtual Reality (a technology that I've been contemplating using).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

neglected things

As my life seems to charge full speed ahead, several things I love are silently standing by, waiting to get attention again.

There's my knitting of course. This poor scarf was started right after Valentines Day with the wonderful pink yarn Ervy got me from Full Thread Ahead. I decided I wanted a long narrow scarf, and I based it off the stitch pattern for Sheep in the City's My So Called Scarf.

Ha, you can't tell how short it is from this picture. Notice how I slyly cut off the ends of the picture so you can't see just how little work I've been able to do on it. It could be miles long.... you just don't know!

Now, I am disturbed that I seem to have some sort of ridge/space that has formed in the scarf... What am I doing wrong?

And then, there's my neglected garden. What do you suppose this is?

Why it's broccoli, can't you tell? Of course it looked more like broccoli before I forgot to harvest it. All the green florets sprang to life with pretty yellow flowers. I did get to eat the first harvest. These were from the second set of offshoots.

And here's my poor cabbage that has yet to ever make it into cabbage form for some reason... but they're like pretty purple flowers anyway :)

Of course I also have some neglected spinning that's still on the Wally the Wheel. Wally has been almost permanently shuffled to one corner of my living room, right next to my neglected drum carder :(

At some point, my life will return to normal (or will it?). For now, I at least know I don't neglect my cats :) In fact, Nikko would often like it if I left him alone more... like this morning, when he was obviously perturbed by the camera shoved in his sleeping face...

For good measure, here's a photo I had meant to put up when Skittle was visiting our house. All three cats, asleep on the futon. I love that Nikko and Asha are butt to butt.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

simple eating

It's been odd getting back into work after all my visits. I'm currently having a lot of fun using ipums to look at census and cps/acs data. It just astounds me how much information is at a person's fingertips nowadays! It's actually quite exciting.

Anyhow, I'm mostly working from home on these analyses, so I get to fix myself simple food for lunch or dinner. One of my FAVORITE simple foods to do is just go to Whole Foods and pick up a roast chicken and roast up some veggies to go with it. But really, it's the next day that I LOVE even more! You see, after evan and I have eaten most of the chicken, it becomes... CONGEE DAY!!!

Congee day Recipe

1 left over roast chicken (bones and all)
1 C rice
6 C water/or broth from bones
1 t sea salt

handful of sliced mushrooms (I used some leftover portobello slices)
1 century egg cut in quarters

chopped scallions
chopped cilantro
cooked egg
pork sung

1. If you have time you can make a broth from your chicken bones first instead of placing the bones in the slow cooker. I find it easy to throw the bones into the slowcooker too, just make sure you watch for bones when you're eating the congee.

2. Place bones or broth from bones, rice, salt, century egg, and mushrooms in your slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 hours or so.

Garnish and enjoy for an easy tasty meal!

In other news, Jess Dang (in my year at Stanford) apparently didn't make it through the premiere of the Next Food Network Star. On her blog,, she discusses the show.

My favorite bit has to be this:

"what did morimoto say to you?:
"i would not serve your food to human beings." no joke. but believe me, when someone like morimoto talks to you even if it's completely negative, you just smile. he's morimoto after all. what a culinary god. did you see what he did to that cucumber?"