30 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 30: Last Day Off

Today is my last without a job, for now. This evening i'll be hopping a plane to California, and tomorrow is my first day with the new gig.

It's been great having an entire month off work, but i've learned that i'm just as lazy without a job as with one. I got basically nothing accomplished other than power-relaxing. C'est la vie!

Blissful Unemployment, Day 29: Again with the Kaddo

Saturday night we made dinner and Keith and Beth came over. Last week's kaddo was so good i decided to make it again, along with a new biryani recipe. My Better Half decided to break out the china, just for fun. And this time, i got pitchas!

The pumpkin, all covered in sugar:
The pumpkin, fresh from the oven:
A big bowl of vegetable biryani (much better than last week's):

A place of delicious food (my culinary skills are surpassing my photographic capabilities):
And, MBH made cupcakes for dessert!

25 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 21: Pumpkinarrific!

If you live in the vicinity of Cambridge or San Francisco (or maybe Baltimore?) and you don't know the Helmand restaurant, then you should familiarize yourself with it immediately. Helmand makes Afghan food that is unbelievably good. It's one of the things i miss most from my time in the Boston area; there's good Afghan food to be had in New York, but so far i haven't found anything like Helmand.

Whenever i visit Helmand, i make sure to have at least a little bit of kaddo ("kadoo"), a sweet pumpkin dish served with a yogurt sauce and optionally a meat sauce. It is a strong candidate for Most Delicious Thing There Is To Eat. (After all, it is orange in color, and we all know the simple rule that Orange Food Tastes Good.)

My Better Half got it into her head that i should try to make kaddo at home, which proposal immediately was seconded by myself. It didn't take much searching to find this recipe, which claims to have originated at Helmand itself. I stopped at Whole Foods to get some sugar pie pumpkins, filled a couple holes in our spice collection, and got to work.

The hardest part was peeling the pumpkin pieces, but it's the kind of task i'll get a lot better at with practice. (I used a vegetable peeler; i'm not deft enough with a knife to do that kind of work without losing too much delicious pumpkin.) Covering the pumpkin with oil and then a small mountain of sugar feels somewhat silly the first time (as the linked recipe implies), but if you've ever eaten kaddo you know it'll be worth it.

We didn't have any dried mint (even after the Whole Foods trip), so i used dried basil in the yogurt sauce, figuring that Fage is good enough to accommodate substitutions. Olive oil worked fine instead of the corn oil the linked recipe calls for, though i wouldn't necessarily use one that smells/tastes overpoweringly of olives. MBH strongly prefers ground turkey to ground beef, so i used that in the meat sauce.

(I paired the kaddo with a biryani recipe that wasn't very good, so i'm not even going to link it here.)

Everything came together incredibly well, and on the dinner table the pumpkin, yogurt, and meat sauce looked, smelled, and tasted like heaven. Not quite as good as Helmand's, but easily the most delectable thing i myself have cooked so far. I was going to take a picture to see if i could capture the visible waves of pure deliciousness for this blog, but the camera's battery was dead, and i sure wasn't going to wait.

22 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 17: Picklicious

Hey, do you like pickled beets? What? "No"? What do you mean, "no"? Go climb a tree, you communist. Mr. D and i will eat 'em.

Anyway, did you know you can make delicious pickled beets in just a few hours? Me neither, until recently. While looking up zucchini bread in the Bittman, my eye happened on something called "Quick Pickled Beets", which of course i filed away for immediate follow-up. On the 17th, it was time to boil some beets. They aren't quite the same as actual canned/jarred picked beets, but they are indeed tasty.

Even if you don't like beets, you should boil some up at least once. Once they've boiled for a while, the water is a beautiful, natural red, absolutely spectacular. And of course you can make dye from it, if you're so inclined. Not me, i'm just in it for the food.

Blissful Unemployment, Day 16: The Nosebleeds, Revisited

On the 16th, My Better Half and i returned to the land of enormous street numbers to visit friends Ann and Frank, who live near Columbia. (Ann is studying urban planning at Columbia, and Frank is a chemist there.) We walked around their neighborhood for a bit, and saw that Columbia has a very nice campus -- a respite from the metropolis, but not apart from it.

Dinner was at a friendly neighborhood place that Ann and Frank like: Pisticci. Figs stuffed with goat cheese and roasted -- uff-da, that's good eating.

Blissful Unemployment, Day 13: The Nosebleeds

Our friends Brian and Lindsay lived in our Brooklyn neighborhood for a while, but then moved back to Washington Heights, where they had lived previously. On the 13th, My Better Half and i finally hopped into Keith and Beth's car to head up there, and the six of us had dinner in B&L's new apartment up near four hundred eleventy-ninth street. Their new place is nice and roomy, and they're well on their way to having it fully furnished. A good night was had by all!

Blissful Unemployment, Day 12: Home Cookin'

On the twelfth day of Christmas unemployment, a simple-looking recipe caught my eye on a local blog, so i whipped up some pasta with red lentils and spinach when My Better Half got home from work. Our sketchy neighborhood grocery store didn't have any red lentils, so i used yellow split peas, figuring that a little color was more interesting that any specific beany flavor. We both liked it a lot, though MBH pointed out it could use more spinach. (Also, i made it with half butter and half olive oil, which was just fine, rather than an entire stick of butter.)

Then, i whipped up some zucchini bread, using the recipe from How to Cook Everything. Delicious! MBH pointed out it could use more zucchini, so we'll use at least half again as much next time. Thanks again, Mr. Bittman! (And Dorilona and Michael, who gave us that book.)

19 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 11: Yay Airports! Part the Second

Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've had a sort-of-job-interview-slash-business-meeting at an airport. This fellow Dmitry, who is the Vice President of Something at the Silicon Valley outfit, wasn't there on the 7th and wanted to meet me face-to-face. He had a layover at John F Kennedy International Airport, so we met there and talked over lunch in the food court. Dmitry's a nice guy.

I'm a little concerned, though, that willingly visiting JFK three times in the span of a week may be a sign of mental instability.

18 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 7: Yay Airports! Part the First

A period of unemployment, however blissful, raises an important question: when will it end? Rather than put it off too long, i decided to go to California to investigate the Silicon Valley outfit that several former colleagues have signed onto.

Forty hours on the ground makes the two transcontinental flights seem even longer. (I'm sure my friend Phil has flown longer for shorter stays, though.)

Anyway, i came back with the feeling that this gig will work for me.

17 September 2007

Blissful Unemployment, Day 6: Serrated

On Thursday the 6th i finally went to see the Richard Serra show at MoMA, first thing in the morning. Early on a weekday morning is the ideal time to visit the museum, which is great if you're unemployed. (Though not if you're broke -- $20, ouch!)

The focus of the show of course is the main gallery of gigantic steel sculptures, which are amazing. I'd seen several of Serra's sculptures in this vein at Dia Beacon and Gagosian, but it's always a pleasure to see them again and again -- especially in a museum setting, where even the teenagers who normally wear "i could do that" sneers are enthralled.

For me (and, i assume, for most of us) the materials and curves evoke naval vessels -- but i feel like these pieces can be appreciated and enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, without requiring any awareness of the history or vocabulary of contemporary art. Some of the spaces created by the works feel like temples or grottoes of steel rust.

Another gallery held a retrospective of the massive (but smaller-scale) sculptures Serra created throughout his career, largely made of big lead plates. I hadn't seen any of these in person before, but i was less enamored of them -- probably one should start here and move on to the ginormous steel pieces after.

The one piece in this section that completely blew me away was the 1967 "To Lift". I kept coming back to it on several passes through the gallery, and each time it almost made me laugh out loud at how much it packs into the pure simplicity of its presence. It really is the immediate physical evidence of a single bodily action of the artist, a raw artifact that is its own description, an object that is exactly how-it-was-made and nothing else. It melds the aesthetics of both mathematical curves and the human body and its scale in a way that i, at least, have never noticed before. It must have been an awesome thing to see in '67.

Unemployed on Labor Day

Friday, the 31st of August was my last day at the old job. This had been in the cards for a while, though without meaning to i managed to celebrate Labor Dabor by being newly unemployed. It's been a while since i've been without a job, so i couldn't pass up the opportunity to kick back and do a whole lot of nothing for a few weeks.

I headed up to the Boston area at the end of August to wrap up the job thing. Spent a couple nights with friends Fargo and Caroline, which was a pleasure as always. Also found the time to spend a night out with Fargo and our old pal Matt, which doesn't happen often enough any more. Had some drinks with my old office-mates, said my good-byes, and closed that chapter.

By sheer coincidence (seems to be happening a lot this year), My Better Half had reason to be in the Boston area for her job. This segued nicely into a Labor Day plan, which was mainly hanging out with friends Geech and Maggie and their two chilluns. The six of us headed over to friends Bill Mr. Swanky and Robin's awesome house for a cookout with them and their son. A good time was had by all.

Of course, no visit to the Boston area is complete without meeting up with lots of old friends, so we saw as many folks as we could without turning the weekend into a stress-fest. And, we ate at the Watertown Diner not once, but twice. Mmmmmmmm.

Playing Catch-Up

Yeah so anyway, i haven't blogged in a while, obviously. I'm'a try to catch up over the next few days.