Friday, November 30, 2012

November in Instagram

This was our only fall color until just this week!

Taking photos on the Riverwalk was how I justified a break from running.

More Riverwalk.

The Bay Bridge during the day.

Celebrating the turning on of the Christmas lights at Incarnate Word.

Happy Birthday, Mike!

Getting ready for Christmas!

I made the softest tagged blanket as a baby gift.  Congrats you guys!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Giving Thanks

After a lot of travelling this fall, staying in San Antonio for Thanksgiving was a welcome opportunity to relax and give thanks for wonderful friends.  Summers in south Texas are miserable, but it means that we can eat Thanksgiving dinner outside!  I baked a large, braided loaf of cranberry-walnut celebration bread from the Bread Baker's Apprentice.  Between the enriched dough and the sweetened cranberries, it's a rich bread fit for a feast and delicious toasted.  We had the leftovers for breakfast on Black Friday.  Then we sat on the couch through three James Bond movies, far from the maddening crowds!  I hope you all had restful breaks spent with loved ones.  Now here comes Christmas!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Seven Sad Samurai

(Geoff takes a bite.)
"This is the best Japanese curry I've ever had."
(Second bite.  Puts down fork.)
"It might be the best dinner you made since we moved to Texas."
(Picks fork up again.)
"People would pay for this."
(Doesn't say anything else until his plate is clean.)

I tried my first Japanese curry in May at a second-floor restaurant in LA over the karaoke room we were about to occupy for five straight hours.  If you haven't had it, this curry shares very little with its Indian cousin.  The basis is a nice, dark roux that gets sweetness from a grated apple and spice from garam masala.  I started with this basic recipe from serious eats and added edamame and more carrots for some vegetables.  This would certainly be a satisfying vegetarian meal, but I have a serious weakness for pork tonkatsu.  It's just boneless pork cutlets dredged in flour, egg, and panko bread crumbs before lightly pan frying.  It's fantastic with this sauce, but just about anything would be.

The meal was served alongside Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, just the sort of cultural touchstone that I've felt left out on.  And I'll continue to.  I didn't want to admit this, but I turned it off less than an hour in.  It was just a bunch of people being mean to old Japanese men and I wasn't in the mood for three hours of crying.  I would be a terrible movie critic, but life is too short!  So my recommendation?  Make this curry, pull up some youtube videos, and karaoke at home.  You may even want to start with the Bare Naked Ladies, who probably didn't really watch Seven Samurai either.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope all of my American readers are enjoying time with family or friends following a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  Now that all the dishes are done and the leftovers stuffed into an overflowing fridge, those of you hosting should put your feet up and relax.  If you have house-guests, though, they might be expecting breakfast tomorrow.  Sure, you could make a turkey omelette or a sweet-potato hash, but I'd recommend that the morning after this quintessentially American holiday, you should make a German pancake.  This "dutch baby" bears little resemblance to the American flapjack, but it has two big advantages - you can dump all of the ingredients in the blender and it all cooks in one big skillet.  The result is a lemony, slightly eggy pancake with a great texture.  I topped mine with some truly excellent Ginger Pear Butter made from The Kitchenette's recipe, but you might consider topping it off with leftover cranberry sauce.  You'll want that fridge space back eventually.

Dutch Baby
Adapted from Gourmet

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
2/3 cup skim milk
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 lemon

1. Place all ingredients except butter in the blender and blend until smooth and light.
2. Place 10" cast iron skillet into oven and heat to 450 degrees.
3. Once oven reaches temperature, add butter to skillet and swirl.
4. Pour in batter and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
5. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice (it forms light glaze where the two meet).
6. Cut into wedges and serve with jam, syrup, fruit butter, or cranberry sauce.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bun with Pork Belly

Those of you who are Facebook friends of mine may have heard me mention the little boy who came to our house to trick-or-treat and asked if we were having hot dogs for dinner.  I said yes, rather than try and explain what pork belly is to a four year old.  The inspiration for me to make my own bun (the Vietnamese noodle "salad") came from a dinner we had in California. I mentioned at the time that "I had the bun with char-grilled pork and the pork was basically bacon" and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

I bought a 2 pound pork belly (it shrinks a lot when you cook it) from our local heritage pork purveyor.  Fair warning: it comes with the skin on.  Also, some hair.  But this, my friends, is the omnivore's dilemma.  I forged ahead with an overnight brine and braise with Ming Tsai's recipe. After it came out of the oven and it had cooled a bit, I cut off the skin and (are you still with me?) sliced the meat as thinly as possible.  To crisp up the meat and render the remaining fat, I tossed the strips into a hot skillet.

This is more of a salad than you usually get with lots of lettuce, cucumbers, and whatever else you might want.  Whatever you include, you should top it with vermicelli noodles and positively drench it in this fish sauce (nuoc mam cham).  I got this recipe from my brother and it is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, and pungent with a good bit of heat (the way I made it).  You can even use it to pickle some carrots and onions to add some color.  So the verdict?  The bun itself was pretty easy to make, but I'm going to leave pork belly to the pros.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

2978 + 13.1 miles

I did a lot of traveling last week - by plane and by foot!  The American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting was held last week in San Francisco.  I went to a few really interesting talks which sparked some new ideas to investigate in my own research.  I'm looking ahead to starting several projects in the new year that I am really excited about, which is a delightful place to be.  It's always fun to go to these huge meetings (>4000 talks and poster presentations) and get a feeling for what is going on the zeitgeist, even when it isn't really related to your own work.  For example, my friend Melissa gave a fantastic presentation on the evolution of the Y-chromsome which made it into the Huffington Post today.  I've been travelling so much the last month that I am looking forward to getting back to the office and really focusing on my research. These conferences always have that effect on me.

One of the best parts of any conferences is, of course, catching up with friends.  I roomed with my grad school friend Jen and got to see lots of friends from Pennsylvania and Kansas.  We also had a meet-up of anthropological geneticists which is a great way to find each other in the huge conference.  We met in a bar high over the city.  The art-deco windows and the view made me feel like we were in Bruce Wayne's loft apartment.  Seriously, check out this view.  You can see the lights on the bay bridge.

I flew back Saturday night in plenty of time to go to bed and toss and turn with nerves before getting up at 5am for the ROCK'N'ROLL HALF MARATHON!!! 25,000 of my closest friends and I ran all over downtown including through the Alamo Plaza which was packed with cheering supporters.  This was an amazing first half-marathon because I was never running alone and never out of sight of a fan (among my favorite moments, was the women around mile seven who yelled "you all smell fantastic!").  We ran through residential districts where neighborhoods were having cookouts, past assisted living facilities where older folks in wheel chairs clapped and waved as we passed, and by churches where entire congregations had gathered after services to cheer us on.

On top of all of this were the bands playing throughout the race.  I won't pretend the miles flew by (around mile 11, I was cursing these two lovely people who talked me into this), but all of these distractions and the amazing support of the people on the course and all of you out there made it a fantastic experience overall.  I'm already thinking about doing another one in the spring.  A special thanks to everyone who donated to Spina Bifida Texas.  Our team raised $3,000 for their programs!

I've tallied up the raffle and winner of the hand-knit hat is Holly!  Thank you again to everyone who donated.
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