Sunday, December 28, 2008

Furry Portraits

These photographs were taken by Brian Berman, a photographer interested in fan subculture. Like most people, I find the furry subculture terrifyingly odd, but Berman treats them with respect.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CSA Winter Blues

If you're considering joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) group, here's a tip: don't join in the winter. That's because winter is green season. As usual, I've been inundated with tokyo bekana, bok choy, kale, rapini, turnip greens, kolrabi greens, and every other type of green you can imagine. If you're new to CSA cooking, you'll hate it because if you're like most people, you won't know what to do with all that green, it'll go to waste, you'll feel guilty, and cancel your CSA membership next quarter. I've been doing it for years and I'm still learning how to cook all this stuff. But in the spirit of helpfulness, I will be experimenting and posting recipes that use these greens in the hopes that others will get more out of their CSA experience.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash and I still aren't friendly, but we're speaking. I tried this out tonight and it tasted pretty good. Give it a whirl next time you find yourself staring at one of these peculiar cylindrical plants.

one half spaghetti squash, roasted and peeled (see below)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, diced and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 tbsp. red pepper
1 tsp. lime juice
a few sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1/2-1/4 lb. chicken (or miscellaneous chopped vegetables)
salt, to taste

To prepare the spaghetti squash, slice it in half, rip out the guts (save the seeds if you like), rub the outside of both sides with vegetable oil, line a tray with oil, and preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cook the squash until it's soft and yields easily to a fork, flipping each side once (usually about 45 minutes). Remove from the oven, peel off the skin, and then loosely push apart the squash into pasta-like strands with a fork. This can be done ahead of time.

For the main meal, grab a wok or large saute pan and line it with vegetable oil. Turn heat on medium and let the pan heat up for 2 minutes or so. Drop the onions in the pan and cook until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the chicken (or vegetables), ginger, and half a tablespoon of red pepper and cook for another few minutes (or longer, if the chicken isn't precooked). Now turn the heat up to medium-high and add the squash. Toss it around, and add the remaining red pepper, plus a little oil if needed. Cook for another 6-8 minutes. Add salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pirate Radio

So Tucson has a pirate radio station again. It's on 90.9 FM, and it's pretty good I guess, especially if you like hearing "fuck" and "shit" on the radio. The musical lineup is pretty veried, sort of like legit independent station KXCI actually. Which makes me think: do we really need pirate radio in this day and age? Now that everyone and their brother has the means to make their own podcast or internet streaming radio station, where's the driving need for pirate radio? I guess it's kind of neat as a throwback, and there are illicit thrills for those involved to stay one step ahead of the FCC. But beyond that, who really cares?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mini-Review: Burger City

There's an attractive new burger joint on Sixth Avenue, right across from the Ronstadt Bus Terminal and just down the corner from Tucson City Court. It's called, appropriately enough, Burger City. If you choose to stop there for a tasty burger, you'll be supporting the downtown area in more ways than one. That's because all profits from Burger City go to ArtFare, a tax exempt charitable organization devoted to revitalizing Sixth Avenue and supporting local artists. That's a noble goal, but how are the burgers? Read on.

The d├ęcor is rustic and pleasant. Lots of roomy wooden tables wait inside, each of them covered with doodles (upon request, the staff will supply you with pens of your own, to add to the display). Rusted sheet metal lines the walls. Overall, it creates a nice, clean Western steak joint look, not necessarily a metropolitan look as Burger City's name might suggest, but nice. To the right is a fully stocked pickle bar with pepperoncinis, sweet peppers, pickles, gherkins, and pickle slices for noshing. The menu is ambitious, ranging from the simple Naked City Burger to the Mem'fis City (creamy peanut butter with optional bananas) to the top-drawer Sin City (ground sirloin AND pork with braised red onions and sauteed wild mushrooms and spinach, toasted pine nuts, and gruyere). I kept things relatively simple and ordered the Bacon n' Cheeseburger, featuring smoked, peppered bacon, white cheddar, and Granny Smith apple slices, with a side of hand cut fries. The attentive, friendly waiter took my order promptly. While waiting, I snacked on pickles and watched “The Great Outdoors” on the restaurant's flat-panel TV.

My meal arrived promptly, but without the promised apple slices. Fortunately, my waiter corrected the problem with little delay. The bun was okay, but a little too large for my liking. The patty, although serviceable, was not especially memorable; it tasted a little like one of those frozen patties they sell by the bulk at Costco. This is not to say that the preparation of the burger was flawed in any way. It's just that the patty wasn't exceptional, and for a $6.75 burger, that's a little disappointing. On the other hand, the other ingredients brought the burger together nicely. The apple slices added a wonderful, sweet note to the smoky, salty cheeseburger. The fries were decent as well: not too greasy, and cut from quality potatoes.

In sum, it's not my favorite burger joint in town (that would be either Lindy's or In and Out), but the money goes to a good cause, and the pickle bar is genius. I'll probably stop by again soon, just to try that Sin City burger.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Jewish Christmas: 8-Bit Jesus

OK, there's nothing Jewish at all about this, really, but it is 8-bit, and since I have a penchant for all things retro and 8-bit I'm posting it here. Doctor Octoroc has compiled this wicked bunch of Christmas tunes and remixed them in true Nintendo style. Check it out, and maybe shoot him a donation.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Spaghetti Squash

Since joining the Tucson CSA I have developed a deep love for all things squash -- expect for spaghetti squash, that is. No matter what I try to do with these things, nothing seems to work: roasting them, breaking them into strips and serve them spaghetti-style with marinara sauce, putting them in stews, all failures. I've got an entire roasted and chopped spaghetti squash sitting in my fridge just waiting to become another disappointment. Can anyone help me out here?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Jewish Christmas: "Christmastime for the Jews"

A classic Robert Smigel claymation bit in true Rankin-Bass style:

A Jewish Christmas: Guide to Christmas Specials

Courtesy of Slate.

"Who is more of a Grinch than a grumpy old Jew?" And a Jew with a heart problem no less?"

Mini-Review: Tucson Tamale Company

The strip mall at 2545 E. Broadway is a cursed spot for restaurants. Ever since my favorite Chinese-Vietnamese place, Hoa Mai, closed there three years ago, I've seen one restaurant after another move into the area and then fail within six months. Tucson Tamale Company opened last month, in the spot next to the former Hoa Mai (now Sabor, a Mexican seafood place, which is apparently closed as well). Based on some positive press it had received on a local radio show, I decided to check it out.

Inside, the shop is spartan, like a cafeteria. Each table has a special husk bucket for easy husk disposal. There's a dry erase board listing the daily specials. The staff is extremely friendly and enthusiastic; the owner gave up a job in the financial services industry to start this business, and it's clear that he loves what he's doing. I chose the combo meal: two tamales of my choice plus a side for $6.75. I chose a pork tamale with green chile, a shredded beef tamale, a side of spicy black beans, and the hottest salsa available. One of the chefs asked if I wanted to try the OMG Arizona, their hottest tamale, and I acquiesced. Both tamales were perfectly steamed, with a light, sweet masa that yielded gently to my fork. The pork was delicious, but the OMG was the real standout. Filled with chopped habaneros, it was sweet and significantly hot, but not inedibly so. Habaneros have a sweetness that is often overlooked by most chefs, but this tamale really nailed that sweet/hot balance. And the black beans were the perfect side: moist, spicy, with just a bit of sweetness.

Overall, I was very impressed with Tucson Tamale Company, and I hope it lasts longer than its predecessors. I still miss Hoa Mai, but TTC mitigates the loss just a little bit.

Back from Hiatus

Yep, I'm back.

So I didn't make it to 50,000 words last month. In the end, it wasn't even close. But I still think it was an educational and motivational experience, being forced to write each and every day, and to abandon the constant impulse to correct myself. One of the biggest difficulties I have when writing is the need to supress that impulse. Working on a project on a daily basis forces me to overcome that impulse out of necessity. And even though I didn't complete my novel, I'm hoping that the experience I gained will spur me into making more blog posts.

Stay tuned!