Friday, January 30, 2009

little luxuries.

Pull back, pack in, hunker down, hide out: in times of economic crises, people reduce expenses, eschew society, fret about scarcity and try to survive (preferably without eating squirrel).

So instead I decided to do the opposite, because I'm ornery.

Top of mind because this pneumonia thing made me suffer, mostly from boredom. I consumed three seasons of Lost in two days. (Side note: Sawyer looks haggard!) I posted more than usual to my blog where I post things that tickle my fancy. Through my bedroom window, I watched hawks circle the neighborhood, hunting for pigeons fattened on popcorn and bacon-wrapped hot dogs. I spent a lot of time hating my light fixtures.

In my spare time, I composed mental lists of everything I wanted when I was better. The list included:

Tartine's 5 p.m. bread
Walking more than two blocks without getting winded
My friends (outside of intermittent mercy drop-offs of bacon, juice and Flight of the Conchords)

All seemed luxurious. My most expensive desire costs three clams.

So to kill three birds with one hawk, I set up a sort-of potluck dinner party: I offered to make tomato soup and pick up Tartine bread. My friends are bringing leftover cheese bits hanging about their fridges; we'll grate and mix them together into grilled cheese filling.

I'm hoping a gruyere and fig jam combo is in the works. Then we're going to see the amazing (and free) chamber music Classical Revolution puts on every week in a bar that is bohemian in the best sense. Which, I think, is a very pleasant way to hunker down.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sweet & Bloody: Blood Orange Marmalade

In the last few months, I've been buzzing around quite a bit: traveling across the country or ocean four times, working on a couple big projects, and suffering under the cloud of this unending cold. One day cooped up in bed, I constructed this exciting flesh-eating disease decision tree. You know, for fun:

Trips to the Alemany farmer's market were limited, not that I didn't anticipate it. One night in a fevered state, I woke up hungry at 3 a.m.: the object of my desire was one of Guisell's empanadas.

Saturday morning: success! It's funny that after such a little gap the familiar feels nostalgic. On the way there every weekend, my bus passes this Walgreens sign in the Castro; each time I wonder if Walgreens Corporate has a tag in their photo bank to identify hunky pharmacist images for gay neighborhoods.

Back to the subject at hand: have you noticed a lot of dinner parties lately? One exciting outcome of the recession is that people seem to cook at home more and invite their friends over rather than splitting restaurant checks. In that vein, I was looking for something to cook as a gift. I admit the "Sweet & Bloody" sign drew me in to these blood oranges at $2/lb.

Bloody is right: after hacking through 4 pounds of these with a mandoline, my kitchen looked like a snuff film, red bits pooling on the countertops and dripping down cabinets. For the love of all that is sour, I added 3 Seville oranges, the traditional sour marmalade citrus.

Marmalade is messy and fun. You tear apart the whole fruit, either with a mechanized slicing apparatus like a Cuisinart or a hand-held mandoline or grater. I read a tip to soak the fruit and juice overnight in enough water to cover, so I tried that, then in the morning brought it up to a low, slow boil with 1 part of sugar to four measured parts of the soppy skin-pulp-liquid mixture.

In between all these steps, make sure to swab down your kitchen. A surprise trip from a landlord or friend might lead to the conclusion that you practice small animal sacrifice. The horror!