Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's just my job.

I am a lancing device. My job is to wound.

You probably shouldn't know my name, but I'll tell you anyway: it's Vlad. They tell me I was named after Vlad the Impaler, thought to be the historical inspiration behind the Dracula legend. They tell me that's supposed to be funny -- I wouldn't know. I don't have a sense of humor. In my job, I don't need a sense of humor.

My job, as I said, is to wound. The purpose of the wound is to produce a drop of blood for a glucose test. They tell me I help this guy stay healthy, but I don't care whether he's healthy or not. Either way, the pay's the same.

Most of the time, they tell me, I don't hurt this guy much. Other times, he hurts like blue blazes. Whatever it is, it doesn't hurt me. I don't have a conscience. In my job, I don't need a conscience.

It's a living.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Non-recipe: Tomatillo Salsa

One of my goals in my efforts to teach myself to cook is to have a bunch of "recipes" that aren't recipes at all, but just things I know how to do.

I have made "green salsa" from tomatillos using recipes two or three times. Yesterday, I just threw one together. It was really good. Here's what I did.

1. I cut three or four Anaheim peppers in half, lengthwise, and removed the seeds and white "ribs" - the seeds and ribs have most of the heat. Chiles seem to be named inconsistently: the chiles that supermarkets here call "Anaheim" are 4-6 inches long, pretty narrow in shape, and light green in color. Except for bell peppers, they're the mildest variety I know.

2. I peeled the papery husks off of five or six tomatillos and washed off the sticky gunk that holds the husk on. I cut each one in either two or four chunks to make them approximately the same size.

3. I cut a big tomato into quarters and lackadaisically removed most of the seeds.

4. I tossed the veggies in a bowl with some olive oil and salt to coat, then put them on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and then put the sheet in the oven. I was cooking something else at 350 degrees: had I been roasting the veggies by themselves, I would have gone to maybe 400. I roasted them for maybe 20 minutes, then threw some thinly sliced onion on top, then gave it maybe 10 minutes more. The tomatillos need to be soft. Had I been roasting at a higher temperature, I would have wanted some color as well.

5. After letting things cool a bit, I put everything in my food processor and pulverized it, then added a slosh of corn syrup. (Tomatillos are quite acidic. I would have used honey, but couldn't quickly find it.) I think I added some more salt as well, then chilled it.

The result was a lovely light green, and quite flavorful but not at all chile-hot. Next time, I'd leave some of the seeds in. Nonetheless, it was really really good.

Give it a go. Not counting cooking time, I suppose I spent about 15 minutes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Grains Three Ways: Quinoa

Quinoa is a grain (actually, according to Wikipedia, it is "grain-like") with an interesting history. It is very high in protein, and is apparently very close to a complete protein for humans, and appears to be low on the Glycemic Index for those who pay attention to that.

Uncooked quinoa is very small-grained, looking a bit like couscous (which is a pasta rather than a grain.) Cooked, it has a mild, nutty taste, and I read that it can be substituted for rice in many recipes.

As it comes off the plant, quinoa in covered with a bitter-tasting substance which must be washed off. When I first experimented with quinoa, I found that washing it is a total pain, so I'm glad that most quinoa is now sold pre-washed. (But, if you choose to try quinoa, which I encourage, check the package to make sure it's pre-washed.)

The first way I cooked quinoa was to do it in my rice cooker, using chicken stock as a cooking liquid. It was okay, but a little uninspiring. A few tablespoons on a plate as a side dish would be fine.

The second quinoa recipe I made was Quinoa with Tofu and Asparagus. (I used chicken stock rather than vegetable stock.) I liked the basic method of throwing some quick-cook veg on top of a cooking grain shortly before it's done, but this particular dish was too lemony for my taste. You may also note that the recipe doesn't call for any salt to be added: for me, the end product was almost inedible before salting.

My third dish was Fiesta Quinoa Salad. This was quite good. The friend I shared it with thought that a little more olive oil might be good, and I'd be tempted to add some tomato.

Next grain in the project: bulgur.

(This is the second grain covered in my "Grains Three Ways" project, described here. You can see my post on pearled barley here.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Confessions of a Lapsed Techie

Once upon a time, I was a pretty techie guy. I taught computer classes for a living, and in my own use moved seamlessly between MS-DOS, Windows, Macs, Vax/VMS, and Unix. (Except I could never keep straight which way the slashes in directory paths went in MS-DOS and Unix.) I'd been an Internet user for several years before most people had ever heard of it. (And we had to walk to the Internet in the snow! Uphill! Both ways!) I was never a hardware guy or a programmer - I just had a very strong set of user skills. Not an expert, but the most expert person a lot of people knew.

But that was a long time ago. My fringe IT job gradually morphed into an HR job. (Long story.) Technology moved forward, and I wasn't able to keep up. The scope of topics about which I was genuinely knowledgeable got smaller and smaller, and is now almost gone. (I can still say that my knowledge of the 2003 versions of Outlook, Word, and Excel is pretty strong - but that was two versions ago.)

All this makes me a little sad. Having that set of skills made me a little bit special, at a time when those skills were pretty rare. Those skills got me a graduate assistanceship and the respect of my grad school classmates and even the faculty. But time moves on, and I'm just as befuddled by a lot of the new technology as folks who have little of the background I do. I have other strengths, of course - having fallen off the leading edge hardly renders me worthless.

Still, though, I do miss it.
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T Minus Two by Bob Pedersen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.