Monday, December 28, 2009

Rot Poast

The Brave Astronaut clan is visiting with family today, possibly celebrating with a trip to NYC. We shared a lovely Christmas dinner with C in DC and her family last Friday, with roast beef and all the trimmings. We did not have Pot Roast. Growing up, Pot Roast made an occasional appearance on the table. On one occasion, my father christened it as Rot Poast. We didn't have it that often after that. I might even give this a try. The recipe comes from the Amateur Gourmet.

Lazy Sunday Pot Roast with Caraway and Green Apples
by John "Doc" Willoughby (& his grandmother)
from "How To Cook Meat"

  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 4 to 5 lb boneless cross-rib pot roast or other chuck roast
  • 2 medium onions thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs Caraway seeds
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh marjoram (or 2 Tbs dried)
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 4 Granny Smith apples quartered, cored and peeled
1. Preheat oven to 300.

2. In a Dutch oven, heat oil on high heat until very hot. Pat meat dry and season with lots of salt and pepper. Brown well, 8 to 10 minutes a side. [Note: this is the MOST important step. This is where all the flavor comes from, so really let it get brown like this, ok? Promise?]

3. Remove meat to a plate. Pour off fat or add as needed so there are appx. 2 Tbs in the Dutch oven. Add onions and saute until translucent, 7 to 9 minutes:

4. Add vinegar, bring to boil, scrape up brown bits. Add the bay leaves, the Caraway seeds, the sugar, and the marjoram. Place the meat back in and add enough beef stock to come up the sides of the meat halfway. Bring to a simmer, skim off fat, cover and put in the oven for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

5. At this point, add the apples to the pot. 15 minutes later, the apples will be done. Remove them from the pot and start checking the meat for doneness. Continue cooking, with lid on, until fork tender--15 to 30 minutes more.

6. When finished, remove meat from the pot, cover with foil, and let it rest ten minutes. Skim fat from the liquid and taste: for more flavor, boil it until it coats a spoon. [I did this, and it makes the sauce taste great.]

7. Slice meat and serve with the apples, the liquid and the onions. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I Believe. And You Can't Make me Stop

It's Christmas Eve. Thanks to my president, I have half a day of leave coming to me. The Brave Astronaut clan will share the day with the rest of Mrs. Brave Astronaut's family, before returning to the launchpad to await the arrival of Santa. I have a chimney with a fireplace now (something I didn't have growing up, which led to many questions as to how Santa got in every year) and thanks to a new Christmas special this year, I have a new understanding about how much planning is involved in the yearly sleigh ride.

I am pretty sure that Santa will be by tonight. Because I believe in him. My mother, who loved Christmas, is sure to make sure that my house is on the nice list, despite the kind of year that I might of had, and whatever actions I may have taken that could have put my on that other list. I am sure that I will hear the bell tonight. I am sure that it will continue to ring for me for a long time. If you don't know what I am talking about, go read this book. But here's the quote, followed by one of my favorite Christmas stories and the reinforcement that Christmas will always be what you make of it, and not necessarily something that you buy in a store.

Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth.
At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.
Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
by Francis P. Church

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

About the Exchange
Francis P. Church’s editorial, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” was an immediate sensation, and went on to became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:
“Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

“It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would always say, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,’ and that settled the matter.

“ ‘Well, I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,’ I said to father.

“He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.’ ”
And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents’ favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, “Endeavour to clear your mind of cant.” When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl’s letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O’Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master’s from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Burgers of Ham

It was a Christmas Eve tradition in my house growing up that on Christmas Eve, we would have hamburgers and my father would make homemade potato chips. I have taken to making homemade potato chips and if I do say so myself, they're pretty darn good. It is however, one of the reasons I am not allowed to own a deep fat fryer.

Kottke pointed me to A Hamburger Today's Guide to Hamburger and Cheeseburger Styles listing all the various burgers you can sink your teeth into these days. Shortly thereafter, there was a discussion regarding the Shake Shack burger. Shake Shack is a serious burger joint in New York City. Here's the recipe.

The Fake Shack Burger (Shake Shack Burger at home)

  • 8 ounces beef sirloin, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces well-marbled beef chuck, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 ounces well-marbled beef brisket, fat cap intact, trimmed of gristle, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 Martin's Sandwich Rolls
  • 4 tablespoons Shack Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 4 leaves of green-leaf lettuce, clipped
  • 8 center-cut slices ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 slices yellow American cheese
  1. Place feed shaft, blade, and 1/4-inch die of meat grinder in freezer until well-chilled. Meanwhile, place meat chunks on rimmed baking sheet, leaving space between each piece and place in freezer for 10 minutes until meat is firm, but not frozen.
  2. Combine meat in large bowl and toss to combine. Pass meat through grinder twice. Form into four disks, about 2-inches tall, and 2.5-inches wide. Refrigerate until ready for use.
  3. Open buns but do not split hinge. Brush lightly with butter, then place under broiler or in toaster oven until golden brown, about 1 minute. Spread 1 tablespoon Shack Sauce on top half of each bun (for true authenticity, squirt out of squeeze bottle into three lines, three passes on each line). Place 1 leaf lettuce and 2 slices tomato on top half of each bun.
  4. Using wadded-up paper towel, rub inside of heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet with vegetable oil, then place over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke. Season beef pucks on top side with salt and pepper, then place, seasoned side down, in skillet. Using back of heavy, flat spatula, press down on beef pucks firmly to form 4-inch round patties, being careful not to let it stick to bottom of spatula. Season top side with salt and pepper. Cook until crisp brown crust has formed, about 2-minutes.
  5. Carefully scrape patties from skillet, and flip. Top each patty with 1 slice American cheese. Cook until cheese is melted, about 1 minute longer. Transfer patties to burger bun bottoms, close sandwiches, and serve.
Shack Sauce
(makes about 3/4 cup sauce)

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard
  • 4 slices kosher dill pickle
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth, scraping down sides of blender with rubber spatula as necessary.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

So it would seem the Snowpocalypse is coming the DC metro area. It's been snowing here for about an hour and it's definitely sticking. I grew up in New York, specifically on Long Island, and had my fair share of snowstorms growing up. I would watch and sometimes accompany my mother to the grocery store for the requisite milk, bread, and cat food. Today I ventured out at lunchtime to buy some supplies so we could hunker down and be ready for the forecasted 10"-18" of snow that are being predicted for the area. There is also the possibility for "Thundersnow" for tomorrow's storm.

It never ceases to amaze me, the level of panic the residents of our nation's capital rise to when snow is predicted. This definitely is a Southern town. For me, on what was to be a weekend of getting Christmas shopping done and a birthday lunch date and a movie with Mrs. BA, looks like it will be a weekend making cookies, chili, and keeping warm.

Bring it on! I love the snow and this looks like it will be a record breaker!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

All I Want for Christmas . . .

is to not have to go to the dentist anymore for any of my teeth, let alone my two front ones. But seriously, folks.

I was the beneficiary of Stinkypaw's Secret Santa gift exchange. The first gift of Christmas arrived last week (all the way from Australia!). I took pictures of the package but could not get them uploaded from the camera. Trust me, it was great. I received a CD full of Australian music, which I am looking forward to adding to my iTunes library soon. I also got a hand made bookmark and card. Perhaps the best part of the package was the Tim Tam cookies. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I didn't share. Now, if I could just figure out who sent it to me. In the true spirit of Secret Santa, I don't know who it was. I need to do some investigating of the participants to see who it was.

My own gifts left these shores today, which unfortunately means it may not arrive at its destination before Christmas. My apologies to my giftee, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

So what does the Brave Astronaut want for Christmas? And let's remember that his birthday comes up on Sunday. Remember the rule - birthday gifts must be clearly marked and NOT wrapped in holiday paper. I have a few ideas of things I want. One thing for sure I would like to find under the tree is the new Stephen King book, Under the Dome, not the Dan Brown book (although my father has it and I can probably steal it from him when I visit him at the end of the month). There was an article in Time magazine back in September about the book. In the book, Brown ventures into National Treasure area, as Robert Langdon takes on the Freemasons, whose motto is evidently, wait for it, "Ordo ab Chao." Not up on your Latin? It means, Order out of Chaos. Think I'm in copyright trouble?

It was two years ago this month that I organized the mass movie outing to National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. We were teased in the movie that whatever was on page 47 would lead us to National Treasure 3. Given Nicolas Cage's recent financial difficulties, perhaps the movie will get made so he can pay his bills.

I suppose I should make use of the limited amount of time left to get some shopping done. Otherwise, I might have two very unhappy boys on Christmas morning.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cupcakes vs. Cookies. Discuss

With Christmas a little more than 10 days away, is your holiday baking done? Here's a cupcake recipe, although I still need to get some cookies made. Maybe next weekend will be Christmas Cookie cutout day with the boys.

This recipe comes from the Washington DC Daily Candy blog.

Chocolate Cupped Cakes with Coffee and Chicory
Serves six

  • 2 c. + 2 tbsp. sugar
  • ¼ c. light brown sugar
  • ½ c. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp. room-temperature unsalted butter
  • 1¼ c. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. brewed New Orleans–style chicory coffee (available at Dean & Deluca)
1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Spray the insides of six large oven-safe coffee mugs or 6-oz. ramekins with nonstick cooking spray and place on a rimmed baking sheet.

3. For cocoa topping, whisk ¼ c. sugar, brown sugar, and 2 tbsp. cocoa powder in a small bowl until most of the brown sugar lumps are broken up. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, blend the butter and remaining sugar with a stand or hand mixer on medium speed until the sugar looks like wet sand (about 2 minutes).

5. Reduce the speed to low, add cream and vanilla. Mix until well blended. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.

6. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, remaining cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter mixture.

7. Mix on low speed until a stiff dough comes together then increase the speed to medium and beat for 15 seconds.

8. Divide the batter between the mugs or ramekins, filling each one about half full. Use the back of a spoon to press the batter into the cup.

9. Top each cup with 2 tbsp. of the reserved topping then pour 2½ tbsp. of coffee over the top.

10. Bake until the cakes puff up like a souffle and are dry and crusty with no visible wet spots (about 55-60 minutes). Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake

Sure, I know what you're thinking. I'm questioning it as well. But The Amateur Gourmet swears it's good.

Zucchini Olive-Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze
by Gina DePalma, from "Dolce Italiano"

For the cake:
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 small zucchini)
  • Confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)
For the lemon crunch glaze:
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
To make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 and position a rack in the center. Grease a 10 cup Bundt pan [I just used a regular cake pan] using nonstick cooking spray or butter, then dust it with flour to coat it completely, tapping out the excess flour.

Place the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are golden brown and aromatic, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool the walnuts completely, then finely chop them in the food processor and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl and set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients all at once on low speed until they are thoroughly combined, then switch the mixer to medium speed and mix for 30 seconds. Beat in the zucchini and the walnuts on low speed until they are completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

While the cake is baking, prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and granulated sugar, then whisk in the confectioners' sugar until the glaze is completely smooth.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a wire rack. [At this point, I flipped it on to ANOTHER wire rack so the top of the cake (which was nice and crusty) was the part that I glazed] Using a pastry brush [I used a metal spatula] immediately brush the glaze over the entire surface of the warm cake, using all of the glaze; it will adhere to the cake and set as the cake cools, Allow the cake to cool completely and the glaze to dry completely.

Transfer the cake to a stand or sering plate and, if desired, lightly dust it with confectioners' sugar. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and served the following day.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cold Weather Comfort Food

December tomorrow! Already! Thanksgiving in the rear mirror - so the holidays are upon us. And the cold weather is here. Remember my mother always use to say, the first time the snow sticks on the street, whatever day of the month it is - that's how many snow storms we will have that season.

Here's a recipe that appeared in the Washington Post food section several weeks ago. It might make its way into the rotation. Perfect comfort food for the winter months. Perhaps the chicken could be replaced with some leftover turkey?

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

This gumbo recipe doubles easily; the gumbo tastes better after a day's refrigeration. Feel free to use a food processor fitted with a shredding disk to chop the onions, bell pepper and celery; exact amounts aren't necessary.

Some folks toast the flour beforehand to a light brown in a dry skillet over medium heat or in a 350-degree oven to promote a darker roux. That step is not included here, but feel free to do so.

Serve over white rice.

MAKE AHEAD: The chicken seasoning mix recipe makes more than you need for this gumbo. It can be assembled and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 6 months. The gumbo can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and frozen for up to 6 months. It's best to freeze in individual portions, preferably with 1/2 cup or so of cooked rice placed in the container. 10 to 12 servings

For the chicken seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon file powder (ground sassafras)
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
For the gumbo
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 5 cups)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 ribs celery, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 3/4 cup)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons chicken seasoning mix (see recipe above)
  • 6 1/2 to 7 pounds bone-in and boneless chicken parts, preferably with no skin or most of the skin removed
  • 11 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 pound smoked cooked andouille sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Crystal brand
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon file powder, plus more to taste
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, minced (3/4 cup)
  • Leaves from 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (3/4 cup), for garnish
For the chicken seasoning mix: Whisk together the salt, the black, white and cayenne peppers, the garlic and onion powders, ground bay leaves, file powder, dried basil and sweet paprika in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

For the gumbo: Heat the oil in a large stockpot over high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the flour and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir constantly to form a roux; make sure to keep it moving. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the roux becomes a dark reddish brown.

When the desired color is reached, add the onions, bell pepper, celery and garlic, stirring to coat. Cook for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium.

Use the 2 teaspoons of chicken seasoning mix to season the chicken pieces all over, then add half of them to the pot, moving the roux to the sides as needed. Cook for 5 minutes, until lightly browned, turning the pieces as needed. Transfer to a platter and add the remaining chicken; repeat the cooking process, then return all the chicken to the pot.

Add the broth, stirring until the roux is thoroughly incorporated. Add the sausage, bay leaf, dried basil, garlic and onion powders, the white, cayenne and black peppers, the hot pepper sauce and salt, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Uncover and add the file powder, stirring to combine. Cover and cook for 2 1/2 hours; the gumbo will darken and thicken somewhat and the chicken will be falling off the bone. Discard the bay leaf and any bones that are free-floating or easy to pick out.

Uncover and add the scallions and parsley, stirring to combine. Cook uncovered for 7 minutes; taste and add file powder as needed. Divide among individual bowls; serve hot.

If storing, cool to room temperature and apportion with equal amounts of chicken in several containers with tight-fitting lids. Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or add servings of cooked white rice to each container, leaving an inch of headspace, then seal and freeze for up to 6 months.

Recipe Source: Adapted from "La Cuisine Cajun," by Jude Theriot (Pelican, 1986).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas is Coming

It's Black Friday. I'm off, but not anywhere near a store. I'm home today looking after the boys, as their daycare is closed. Mrs. BA is off at work and I am thinking about getting the decorations out for Christmas. I'll probably hang the lights on the house this weekend. Maybe I'll multi-task and clean the gutters as I hang the lights. I don't know if my house will look like the one on the left, but it surely won't look like the one on the right.

I also have to get out the Christmas card list and get that process started as well. I lost the electronic version of the list when my computer failed earlier this year, but have been able to recreate it from an earlier version that Mrs. BA had on her computer.

The Brave Astronaut clan will likely travel for Christmas, heading for New York to see my father and hopefully my brother and sister, who will travel from their homes. My other sister lives in New York and it hopefully will mark a Christmas where we are all together for the first time in several years.

I have a few gifts to buy for the boys and Mrs. BA. I have one gift for her already but would like to have a few more under the tree as well. Speaking of trees, the Brave Astronaut and the OSG family will go out hunting for a tree next weekend. It's sure to be another great adventure.

I am participating in an Internet gift exchange, courtesy of Stinkypaw. I need to get that wrapped up so my recipient gets their gift in time for Christmas day. As mentioned here previously, Christmas is my favorite holiday, as it was my mother's also. I am looking forward to this special season and wish everyone the very best for this holiday season.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I Am Thankful For

It's Thanksgiving morning in America. My boys were up at a [somewhat] reasonable time this morning, so I am thankful for that. Mrs. Brave Astronaut is sleeping in this morning and I'm pretty sure she is thankful for that. When she gets up, we will have a nice breakfast of pancakes and bacon and everyone should be thankful for that (me, Mrs. BA, LBA and SoBA). I have the Macy's Parade on TV while we wait for Mrs. BA to wake and I'm watching that and looking out at a gray and foggy morning here in the DC suburbs.

A happy and blessed Thanksgiving to all my friends out there on the Interwebs. Special wishes to my family, who I am not with today, but will see most of soon at the Christmas holidays.

I am thankful for:
  • my wife. She is everything to me and there are days, most of them, in fact, where I don't know what I would do without her. She is my love, my life, and my true soulmate.
  • my sons. Despite the chaos they sometimes bring to the household and my concerns about what kind of father I am - I wouldn't trade them for the world and there isn't anything I wouldn't do for them.
  • my father. I spoke with my father last night and he is as well as an 80-year old widower can be. He is spending the day with his girlfriend, who he has been living with for the past year. She is having some of her family over for Thanksgiving Dinner.
  • my mother. My mother passed away three and a half years ago, but in her memory, because she always had to have them (even though she didn't like them herself), there will be pearled onions at Thanksgiving dinner. I miss my mother everyday and as we get into the Christmas season, even more so, as that was her favorite holiday.
  • my siblings. Despite the fact that I will not see any of them today, I will likely talk to all of them at some point. If and when my sisters read this, I was telling someone the story the other day about at least one Thanksgiving dinner started out with sherbet and melon balls in the parfait glasses and served on the horse plates.
  • my wife's family. Because of proximity, I tend to see them more than my own family. I am thankful for their help, their love and their support.
  • my friends. There are a number of my friends that I haven't seen in some time and haven't been in touch with for a while. Christmas card season is quickly approaching and I am hopeful to reconnect with a lot of my friends. I am especially thankful to C in DC (and her family) with whom we will celebrate Thanksgiving with today.
  • my home. Somedays I am not so thankful for it (ah, the joys of home ownership), but there are many people out there who don't have a roof over their heads or having trouble making ends meet and may lose their homes.
  • my job. When I got my job in June 2006, I had been out of work for a few months and was unsure about what would happen next. I was lucky enough to get into the federal government just prior to a hiring freeze and have enjoyed the work and am thankful to have a job in an economy where many are without one.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Turkey Day!

Mrs. Brave Astronaut's family came to the launchpad yesterday for a Faux Thanksgiving get together - as we will all be in different places on Thursday. The Brave Astronaut clan will celebrate Turkey Day with C in DC, with her husband's family, and NJM as well. Mr. C in DC has promised a Turducken in addition to the regular turkey and all the trimmings. NJM is bringing her family speciality, Cranberry Ice and is also making Brussel sprouts, possibly this recipe (hey, it's got bacon in it, it can't be bad), which appeared in the Washington Post last week.

Mrs. Brave Astronaut will make one of her killer apple cakes (I've mentioned to her that she should make that instead of the traditional apple pie). I have volunteered a cranberry relish and pearl onions (a staple that had to be on my mother's table - even though she herself didn't like them - they usually were of the frozen variety and creamed). Here are the recipes I am likely going with (although I am not happy with the pearl onion recipe - suggestions welcome!)

Cranberry Relish
  • 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/4 freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tsp peeled and finely minced ginger root
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries pop open, about 10 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled through, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

Roasted Pearled Onions
  • 1 ½ lbs. pearl onions
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 tbsp. melted butter
Heat the oven to 350°.

Heat 4-6 quarts of water to a boil in a heavy stockpot. Add the onions and blanch them in the boiling water for just one minute. Drain the onions and let them cool slightly.

Using a paring knife, cut off the root end of each onion and gently peel off the outer skin.

Place the onions in a large bowl and add the olive oil, melted butter, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the mixture to combine.

Spoon the onions into a heavy oven casserole dish and roast in the oven until the onions are tender and slightly golden and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Immediately serve the onions hot from the oven.

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Love My Job

Working for the government certainly has its advantages. The pay is good and the benefits are varied. I get to do what I like to do and people pay me for it. Just recently, I was part of an oral history interview where we interviewed a former staff member who had worked at the archives for 40 years (retiring in 1980). Oh, the stories he told.

A week ago, the 10th Archivist of the United States was sworn in. He arrives at the National Archives with high expectations and many of us look for great things from him in the weeks and months to come.

Some time ago, this article came up in my reader. It offered up the seven best places to work. Perhaps our new Archivist could get a few ideas.
  1. Daxko - Birmingham, Alabama - perks include $1500 a year to spend on profession enrichment, a weekly free lunch, and six weeks parental leave.
  2. South Mountain Company - Martha's Vineyard - where all healthcare costs are paid by the company.
  3. New Belgium Brewing - Fort Collins, Colorado - two free six packs of beer per week. And if that weren't enough, every five years, employees have the opportunity to travel to Belgium to learn more about the beermaking process.
  4. Maya Design - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - employees can bring their infants to work, after a six-week fully paid maternity leave.
  5. Clark Nuber - Bellevue, Washington - the accounting firm gave out $500 grants to fund local community service projects.
  6. Seventh Generation - Burlington, Vermont - fully paid sabbatical program, money for making employee homes green.
  7. Badger Mining Corporation - Berlin, Wisconsin - a very progressive benefits package.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Orecchiette with Broccoli & Pancetta

One should begin cleansing in preparation for next week's Thanksgiving bounty, but here's a little pasta recipe that puts broccoli (I hear the boos) and bacon (pancetta) (there, don't you feel better, now?) in your pasta. Enjoy (from the Amateur Gourmet).

Orecchiette with Pancetta and Broccoli

Ingredients (Adam neglects to quantify - so use your judgment):
  • orecchiette
  • pancetta
  • broccoli
  • garlic
  • Parmesan cheese
  • dried pepper / dried red pepper flakes
Put two pots of water on the stove and get them boiling. Add salt to both. Once rapidly boiling, add the broccoli [about 1/2 lb, since I was cooking for 1, the recipe itself calls for 1 lb], chopped into little florets. Cook until soft, or if you prefer it crisper, cook for about 1 minute, then drain in the sink.

Slice one clove of garlic and cut about 2 thickish slices of pancetta into thin matchstick strips.

Add the orecchiette to the other pot of boiling water and pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet. Heat pan and add the garlic and pancetta. Stir it around and let it cook, careful not to burn the garlic. Cook until pancetta is soft, not crispy. When the garlic starts getting golden, add the broccoli and red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few minutes more to let all the flavors meld. You should time it so the pasta is done just when the broccoli's been in there for a few minutes. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet.

Pour into a bowl and cover with freshly grated Parmesan cheese:

[From Adam's post, which mostly appears above: "Well I have to say this is going to be a standard for me now. I loved this dish. It's wonderfully complex and the components are so simple. Here's what you get in your mouth: the smokiness of the pancetta, the flavor-charge of garlic and red pepper, the brightness of the broccoli, the perkiness of the cheese. The textures great too: orecchiette apparently means little ears. It's a nice alternative to your humdrum tubes and spirals. Make sure you only cook til al dente---taste as you go, that's what I do. How, without burning your mouth? Take it out of the boiling water with a spoon, bring it to the sink, run some cold water over it and taste. It should be firm to the tooth (that's what al dente means)."]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Hey Man - Pass that Acid [free Folder] Over!

What is it they say? Even bad press is good press? Earlier this week (on Wednesday evening), Jon Stewart of the Daily Show had a segment that he [ultimately] called, "Want Ads." In it, he discusses a recent job posting for the Grateful Dead archives at the University of California - Santa Cruz. The segment is funny, though Jon Stewart needs some help with pronouncing "archivist." It's a common error. It's ARC-hivist, not ar-KI-vist. He does take a shot or two at the advanced degree that most of us have, not clear on why we need more than a bachelor's degree (of course, there isn't a bachelor's degree in archives that I'm aware of).

The profession (and several of my colleagues) took some offense to Mr. Stewart's comments. OK, people. Let's lighten up. Jon Stewart is a comedian. He makes fun of things for a living. Let's look at it from the perspective that we had a good week and the profile of our profession has been raised. I say, thanks Jon Stewart.

Here's what several of my colleagues had to say on this:
I did send an email to Jon Hodgman (who I follow on Twitter), who frequently appears on the Daily Show to give him an opportunity to chide Stewart the next time he was on the show. I had no expectations that he would actually read the email, which read in part:
I know this is a longshot - but as you are someone I follow on Twitter and also appears regularly on the Daily Show, I though I would take a chance that you might actually read this.

You may have heard that on yesterday's Daily Show, Jon did a segment that he [ultimately] called "Want Ads." In the segment, he featured a current job posting for an archivist for the Grateful Dead papers at UC Santa Cruz.

While making sport of the idea of someone "with good organizational skills" and being a lover of the Grateful Dead was not a good combination in a job requirement, which was funny, he (in the eyes of some of my colleagues) continued to mock our profession by saying we need an advanced degree to do what it is that we do.

Stewart also needs some coaching on how to pronounce the title Archivist. It is frequently mispronounced "AR-KI-VIST", when the better (and more accepted pronunciation) is "AR-KIV-IST." The problem is common as archivists work in "AR-KI-VES."

The Twitterati and Facebook have also been alive with discussion about what to do with Jon Stewart. What can I say, we are an emotional bunch.

I thought you might like this opportunity to chide Jon Stewart for stirring the pot of controversy, although I personally found the segment funny and will continue to be a fan of the Daily Show.
Surprisingly, this morning, I received the following:
Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

I am sure that JS meant no harm. But I think your points are valid.

I am not scheduled to be on the show until next month, so I doubt we'll have a chance to revisit it.

But I shall keep it in mind.

Many thanks indeed.

Watch for yourself and judge the humor. Now if Billy Joel needed an archivist . . . .

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Want Ads - Grateful Dead Archivist
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Parents Lunch Out

Today is Veteran's Day here in the USA. It also marks a Federal Holiday and to "celebrate" Mrs. BA and I, along with a few other sets of parents are going out for lunch. We will have our children looked after by their teachers who don't mind the opportunity to look after our kids even when they have the day off.

We are likely going to a local establishment for some good burgers and beers. We are NOT going to this restaurant and we will NOT wind up with a check like this one. This is making its way around the Internet regarding the rather extreme bill of fare incurred by several people enjoying lunch at Nello's in New York. (seen many places, but captured from here)

Monday, November 9, 2009

On dieting - Try this, It's good for you!

I know I should take better care of myself. My mother suffered from adult onset diabetes and it was that awful disease that took her. Of course, it is my right as a father to liberate certain pieces of candy from my son's Halloween stash, right? I've never truly tried dieting, I do try and cook meals that are better for all of the Brave Astronaut clan, and I read ingredient labels more than I used to. There's always that nagging idea in the back of my head that I should make use of the fitness center in my building (but it's so far from my office).

Perhaps there's hope. There's a new diet out there. I spotted a while back (on kottke) an article describing the Steve Ward diet, also called the Line Diet:
"All that you need for my diet is graph paper, a ruler, and a pencil," Steve would explain. "The horizontal axis is time, one line per day. The vertical axis is weight in lbs. You plot your current weight on the left side of the paper. You plot your desired weight on a desired date towards the right side, making sure that you've left the correct number of lines in between (one per day). You draw a line from the current weight/date to the desired weight/date. Every morning you weigh yourself and plot the result. If the point is below the line, you eat whatever you want all day. If the point is above the line, you eat nothing but broccoli or some other low-calorie food."
As a data geek and lover of spreadsheets, I could get behind this. Except perhaps for the low-calorie thing. I have started wearing a pedometer and it boggles my mind when I look down at it at the end of each day and see that I've walked nearly 5000 steps (or about 2 miles and only150 calories). Well, it's something.

Here's a recipe (from Eating Well) to help you get that waistline looking like you want it to. If you think you need to. I mean, not that you need - never mind, I'm shutting up now.

Grilled Salmon & Zucchini with Red Pepper Sauce
Jazz up simply grilled salmon and summer vegetables with a zesty sauce based on the classic Spanish romesco. Made with roasted red peppers, tomatoes and almonds, this sauce is a great match for any seafood, poultry or vegetables. Using smoked paprika brings out the flavors from the grill. Serve with: Grilled baguette.

4 servings
Active Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers
  • 1/4 cup halved grape tomatoes , or cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar , or red-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, preferably smoked
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 1/4 pounds wild-caught salmon fillet, skinned and cut crosswise into 4 portions
  • 2 medium zucchini , or summer squash (or 1 of each), halved lengthwise
  • Canola or olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley , for garnish
  1. Preheat grill to medium.
  2. Process almonds, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor or blender until smooth; set aside.
  3. Coat salmon and zucchini (and/or summer squash) on both sides with cooking spray, then sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Grill, turning once, until the salmon is just cooked through and the squash is soft and browned, about 3 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the squash to a clean cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss in a bowl with half of the reserved sauce. Divide the squash among 4 plates along with a piece of salmon topped with some of the remaining sauce. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Friday, November 6, 2009

It's Movie Night

Fridays are movie nights here at the Brave Astronaut launchpad. Tonight, we tried LBA out on Raiders of the Lost Ark, but it was a little too scary for him. The fallback position was Bolt.

Here's a little something I found on the Interwebs the other day. Enjoy! Movie clips wherein the title of the movie is spoken in the film.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On the Cusp of History

So here I sit, watching game 6 of the Yankee Game - will they win their 27th World Series? Things are looking up. Mariano's in for five outs.

There are several anniversaries to mark this week:
  • On this date in 1979, the American Embassy in Tehran was stormed, resulting in the Hostage Crisis that lasted until the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in January 1981.
  • This weekend, as was noted by Chancellor Angela Merkel during her speech to a joint session of Congress this week, the world will observe the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of Berlin Wall
  • I previously noted (in a post here in 2007) about the premiere of Sesame Street on November 10, 1969
  • On HBO this week, a new documentary will remember the election of Barack Obama one year ago.
  • One of the more popular songs on the Brave Astronaut iPod is Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a coal ship, which sank in the Great Lakes on November 10, 1975.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The World's Best Food

With Turkey Day looming just a few weeks away, no recipe this week. (I know, I know, it's a huge disappointment to so many of you) - but hey, there's still baseball to watch.

But to keep you informed, here's a list of where to find the world's best foods. From The Guardian, via kottke, of course. So if you've saved any room after Thanksgiving and you've got some travel dollars set aside, get busy. The article contains descriptions of these great culinary finds and strangely, missing number 6).
  1. Best place to eat Oysters - Strangfor Lough, Northern Ireland (Cuan Oysters, Sketrick Island, Killinchy, Newtownards, County Down, Northern Ireland, 02897 541461)
  2. Best place to eat: Aubergines - Ta Kioupa, Athens (Dinokratous & An, Polemou 22, Kolonaki, 11521 Athens, 0030 210 7400150)
  3. Best place to eat Hamburgers - Little Owl, New York (90 Bedford St, New York, 001 212 741 4695)
  4. Best place to eat Zabaglione - La Cinzianelle (Via Lago, 26 Corgeno, Italy 0039 0 331 946 337)
  5. Best place to eat Pho - Pho 24 (5 Nguyen Thiep Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (and other locations). 0084 88226278)
  6. Best place to eat Macaroons - Laduree, Paris (16 rue Royale, 75008 Paris, 0033 01 42 60 21 79)
  7. Best place to eat Roast Chicken - L'Ami Louis, Paris (32 rue du Vertbois, 3e, 3rd arrondissement, Paris, 0033 1 48 87 77 48)
  8. Best place to drink Milkshakes - Fosselman's, Los Angeles (1824 W Main Street, Alhambra, Los Angeles, 001 626 282 6533)
  9. Best place to eat Texas barbecue - Snow's, Texas (516 Main Street, Lexington, Texas, 001 979 773 4640, Saturday only)
  10. Best place to eat Steak - El Carpicho, Jimenez de Jamuz, Spain (Paraje de las Bodegas, s/n, Jimenez de Jamuz, near León, Spain, 0034 987 664224)
  11. Best place to eat Fish and chips - The Wee Chippy, Fife, Scotland (4 Shore Street, Anstruther, Fife, 01333 310106)
  12. Best place to eat Strawberry tart - Restaurant de Bacon, Antibes, France (688 Boulevard de Bacon, 06160 Cap D'Antibes, France, 0033 4 93 61 50 02)
  13. Best place to eat Pastrami on rye - Katz's Deli, New York (205 E Houston Street at Ludlow Street, New York, 001 212 254 2246)
  14. Best place to eat Custard tart - Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, Lisbon (Rua de Belém, 84-92, Belém, Lisbon, 00351 21 363 7423)
  15. Best place to eat Leg of beef - Le Louchebem, Paris (31 rue Berger, Angle 10, rue des Prouvaires, Paris, 0033 1 42 33 12 99)
  16. Best place to drink Tomato juice - Happy Girl Kitchen, California (Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market, One Ferry Building, San Francisco, 001 831 750 9579)
  17. Best place to eat Italian slow food - Coco Lezzone, Florence (Via del Parioncino 26, Florence, Italy, 0039 05 52 87 17 8)
  18. Best place to eat Nordic food - Olo, Helsinki (Kasarmikatu 44, 00130 Helsinki, Finland. 00358 9 665 565)
  19. Best place to buy Olive oil - Turkish embassy electrical supplies, London (76 Compton Street, London EC1, 020 7251 4721) and Manni (Monte Amiata, Seggiano, Italy, 0039 069 7274787)
  20. Best place to eat Tacos - El Pastorcito, Mexico City (4503 Lorenzo Boturini Street, 24 de Abril, Mexico City, Mexico, 0051 55 5764 1185)
  21. Best place to eat Peking Duck - Quanjude, Beijing (Hepingmen Dajie, Xuanwu District, Beijing, China, 0086 10 6552 3745)
  22. Best place to eat Pork belly - Gramercy Tavern, New York (42 East 20th Street, New York, New York, 001 212 477 0777)
  23. Best place to eat Vegetarian Indian - Sagar Ratna, Delhi (18 Defence Colony Market, New Delhi, 110024, Delhi, India, 0091 11 24 33 36 58)
  24. Best place to eat Sushi - Daiwa sushi, Tokyo (Building 6, Chuo-ichiba, 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 0081 3 3547 6807)
  25. Best place to eat Filipino cuisine - Lighthouse Restaurant, Cebu, Philippines (Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad, Cebu city, Philippines, 0063 32 231 2478)
  26. Best place to eat California cuisine - Chez Panisse, Berkeley, California (the article notes, "it is quite simply the best restaurant in the world. Superb.") (1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California, 001 510 548 5525)
  27. Best place to eat Algerian food - Restaurant Gnaoua, Algiers (Cite Sahraoui, les Deux Bassins, Ben Aknoun, Algiers, Algeria)
  28. Best place to eat Classic French cuisine - Close des Gourmets, Paris (16 Avenue Rapp, Paris, 0033 1 45 51 75 61)
  29. Best place to eat Tapas - Cal Pep, Barcelona (Plaça de les Olles 8, Barcelona, 0034 93 31 07 961)
  30. Best place to eat Pizza - Frank Pepe Pizzeria, New Haven, Connecticut (157 Wooster Street, New Haven, Connecticut, 001 203 865 5762) AND Pizzeria La Sorrentina, Via Domenico Pirozzi 37, Fratta Maggiore, Italy, 0039 338 3248615
  31. Best place to eat Thai curry - Krua Apsorn, Bangkok (503-505 Sam San Road, Dusit, Bangkok, Thailand 0066 2 24 18 52 8)
  32. Best place to eat Simple French food - Le Vin et L'Assiette, Besancon, France (97 rue Battant, Besançon, France, 0033 3 81 81 48 18)
  33. Best place to eat Ice cream - Corrado Costanzo, Noto, Sicily (Via Silvio Spaventa 7, Noto, Sicily, 0039 931 835 243)
  34. Best place to eat Kebabs - Bade Miya, Mumbai (Tulloch Road, Apollo Bunder, Mumbai, India)
  35. Best place to eat Ravioli - Babbo, New York (110 Waverly Place, New York, 001 212 777 0303)
  36. Best place to eat Prawns - Casa Bigote, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain (Restaurante Casa Bigote, Bajo de Guia, 10, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Cádiz, Andalucía, 0034 956 36 26 96/956 36 32 42)
  37. Best place to eat Currywurst - Konnopke's Imbiss, Berlin (Schönhauser Allee 44a, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, 0049 30 442 7765)
  38. Best place to eat Ham - Casas, Aracena, Spain (Calle Colmenetas 41, Aracena, Huelva, Spain, 0034 959/128044)
  39. Best place to eat Chocolate cake - Pierre Herme, Paris 972, rue Bonaparte, Paris, 0033 01 43 54 47 77)
  40. Best place to eat Fried potatoes - Bomba Bar Cova Fumada, Barcelona (No 56 Carrer del Baluard, Barceloneta, Barcelona, Spain, 0034 93 221 4061)
  41. Best place to eat Octopus - Tholos, Symi, Greece (Gialos, Symi 85600, Islands, Greece, 0030 22460 72033)
  42. Best place to eat Bouillabaisse - Restaurant de Bacon, Antibes, France (688 Boulevard de Bacon, 06160 Cap D'Antibes, France, 0033 4 93 61 50 02) (that's two on the list from here!)
  43. Best place to eat Steak and kidney pie - The Hinds Head, Bray (High Street, Bray, Berkshire, 01628 626151)
  44. Best place to eat Pasta - Trattoria Caprini, Verona, Italy (9 Via Paolo Zanotti, Torbe di Negrar di Volpolicella, Verona, Italy, 0039 0457500511)
  45. Best place to eat Ceviche - Sankuay, Lima, Peru (Garcia Leon 114 (between block 3 and 4 of Av Canada), Santa Catalina, La Victoria, Lima, Peru, 0011 51 1 470 6217)
  46. Best place to eat Suckling pig - Montimar, Estellencs, Mallorca (Plaça Constitució 7, 07192 Estellencs, Mallorca, 0034 971 618 576)
  47. Best place to eat Curry - Karim's, Delhi (Jama Masjid, Gala Kababian, Old Delhi, India, 0091 11 2326 9880)
  48. Best place to eat Dim sum - Luk Yu Tea House, Hong Kong (24-26 Stanley Street, Central, Hong Kong, 00852 2523 5464)
  49. Best place to eat Ramen - Ramen Jiro, Tokyo (2-14-11 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Highs and Lows - Happy Halloween

Marking a high, 40 years ago today, someone threw a switch and the Internet was born (no, it wasn't Al Gore). So feel free to spend a little time down the rabbit hole today. Have some birthday cake.

As to the lows, today marks the 80th Anniversary of the first Stock Market Crash that sent the nation and the world spiraling into the Great Depression. What is that saying about history? "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it?" Yeah, something like that. Got any money in your wallet? Maybe we could all go trick or treating for money, instead of candy on Saturday. Remember Unicef boxes? If you are of a certain age, I'm sure you do.

LBA and SoBA will celebrate Halloween at their daycare tomorrow with a costume parade and then on Saturday there will a parade in town and later trick or treating around the neighborhood. Coming of age in the late 70s and early 80s, I trick or treated during the Tylenol scare, stories about razor blades in apples, and being forced to give up loose candy (which to this day I am convinced that it was just my parents way of getting the candy they liked - hey that's what I would do).

Trick or treating today is very much an organized, structured event. In my neighborhood, one only goes to lights with the porch light on, only from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, and never alone. It's a far cry from when I would hit the pavement moments after getting home from school and trick or treat on my own (usually covering most of my neighborhood - about 100 houses at least), arriving home at dark with a sack full of candy. Then there was the inevitable sorting, trading with siblings, losses to parents, etc. But I usually wound up with enough candy to survive a few weeks on sugar rushes.

I will take LBA trick or treating on Saturday, while Mrs. BA and SoBA will stay home to greet the neighborhood children. LBA is dressing up as a robot this year (handmade costume by yours truly) and SoBA will parade around as a fireman.

And if you are at a loss for something to do on Saturday and Halloween is not your thing, but lighthouses are, you could take a trip to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cape May Lighthouse (New Jersey). I would go, but I've already climbed that lighthouse. Maybe some of you MARACians returning home from Jersey City will make the climb?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It's Time for the Fall Classic

The great American pastime gets underway tonight. The Fall Classic. The World Series. It should be a great series. Let's see how the two competitors got here.

In the first National League Division Series (NLDS), the defending World Series Champions took the NL East crown and faced off the NL Wild Card Winner, the Colorado Rockies. In the other NLDS, the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers faced off against the NL Central winners, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Dodgers easily swept aside the Cardinals in three games (leading me to the prediction that they would be in the World Series, pitting Joe Torre against his former team, The New York Yankees). The Phightin' Phillies lost one game in the series to the Rockies and won in four games. In the National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Phillies and the Dodgers had several great games, but in the end the Dodgers only managed one win. The Phillies blew out the Dodgers in Games 3 and 5, to win the Pennant in five games, punching their ticket to the World Series for the second year in a row.

In the American League, for the second year in a row, the Minnesota Twins needed an extra game to wrap up a title. In game 163, the Twins defeated the Detroit Tigers to capture the AL Central crown, sending them to New York to face the AL East Champion Yankees in the first ALDS. The Twins were quickly dispatched and swept aside by the Yankees. In the other ALDS, the Wild Card winner, the Boston Red Sox traveled to Los Angeles to face the AL West winning Los Angeles Angels. The Angels overpowered the Red Sox and swept the Sox in three games also. In the ALCS, the Angels took on the New York Yankees. The two teams fought epic battles, including two extra inning games, which each team won a game. The Yankees emerged victorious in Game 6, winning their 40th pennant and a trip to the Series.

My prediction? Would you be surprised? Yankees in 6. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Baked Brain

It's Halloween Week! Here's a special Monday recipe to celebrate the spookiest holiday around! It was forwarded to me by C in DC, who saw it here.

  • Round of brie cheese
  • Mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Bacon
  • Poblano peppers
Dice everything into small dice. I added some pepperoni as well. Pour some olive oil in a saute pan. Saute everything and add some salt and pepper. Let this mixture cool.

For this recipe I just buy puff pastry rather than make my own. Cut the brie in half. Scoop some of the cheese out to make an indentation. Scoop some of the sauteed mixture on to the brie and spread it around. Cover with the other half of the brie.

Fold the puff pastry over the brie. Press all the ends together. Cut pieces from the second piece of brie and roll them into strings. Curl them on top of the brie to look like a brain.

Crack egg yolks into individual bowls and add food coloring. Then spread these mixtures over the puff pastry brain. I used black, red and green. Bake this in a preheated 475 degree oven until brown and bubbling on the edges.

Voila.....baked brain!!! Cut into it and it oozes all over the plate. When serving this at a party bring it straight from the oven to the guests. It makes a wicked presentation. Serve it with crackers. Baked brain might look gross but it is GOOD!!!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Mrs. BA has a rule that you are not allowed to discuss Thanksgiving plans until Columbus Day and no talk about Christmas until Veterans Day. As a result, we have discussed our Thanksgiving plans and it looks like we will be home for that holiday. Christmas plans are only a murmur at this point, but they are likely to involve a trip to New York to see my father and hopefully, my brother, who will make the trip from Maine for a few days.

Well, folks, today is October 25 and Christmas is but two short months away. (You've already noticed the decorations in the stores, right? That started in September, but don't get me started.) The economy is still struggling and people are already bargain hunting for what to buy this year. If you have survived the economic downturn and have a little extra folding money, the Annual Neiman Marcus Christmas Book is out (and even that shows some signs of belt tightening). But there are still those luxury gifts. Feel free to reward the Brave Astronaut in your life.
  • Customized Cupcake Car - put on your matching hat, slip under the muffin top of your Cupcake Car, and let the world figure itself out for awhile. Get (or give) the sheer, joyful chaos of a gift that is mind-blowing, triple-dog-dare, double-infinity forever cool. Make the kids or grandkids literally squeal with joy. Bring it to work and buzz the breakroom. Crash parades! Putter about the ‘hood. Ever had a crowd of kids chasing after you just for the crazy gleeful heck of it? (No worries, the top speed is a comfy-safe 7 mph.) What’s it made of? A 24-volt electric motor, a heavy-duty battery, sheet metal, wire, fabric, wood . . . and mad genius. Launched at Burning Man as a cooperative art car project, the Cupcake Car sprang from the fevered mind of Bay Area artist Lisa Pongrace and her less-rules-more-laughs posse of artists and techno geeks. Yours will be tricked out with your favorite topping, so start thinking flavors. Price $25,000.00
  • Algonquin Round Table Experience - Imagine hosting the brightest minds of modern literature, journalism, and the arts. An exclusive private dinner party of fine food, engaging wit, and sparkling conversation at New York City’s legendary, literary Algonquin Hotel. You and a guest will be part of an extraordinary gathering drawn from this impressive array of literati (possible attendees: Christopher Buckley, Roz Chast, Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Gopnik, John Lithgow, Anna Deavere Smith, George Stephanopoulos, Ali Wentworth). This evening promises to be one for the books. Price $200,000.00
  • Hall Artisan Wine and Art Experience - Kathryn and Craig Hall have spent the past 15 years perfecting precision winemaking using artisan standards, small-vine viticulture, and Earth-friendly practices. For wine and art aficionados, we offer a unique immersion into the art of great winemaking. You and a guest can learn organic, artisan winemaking firsthand, tour the estates, enjoy tastings of exclusive private vintages—and have the singular chance to create your own personal vintage in a private blending session led by HALL Winemaker Steve Leveque. There’s also a personal tour of the Halls’ world-class contemporary art collection with Kathryn as your guide, and in the evening, Kathryn will host a private gourmet dinner and wine event at the winery’s breathtaking Rutherford Estate cave. Your luxury accommodations at the Auberge Resorts Calistoga Ranch will include activities customized for you and your guest. The best part: after your custom blend has aged in French oak barrels, your personal cuvée will be bottled and delivered to you. Available separately: an exclusive selection of handcrafted Cabernet Sauvignons from the Halls’ personal collection, not available to the general public. Price $20,000.00
  • The 2010 Jaguar XJL Supercharged Neiman Marcus Edition - Unveiled to the world this summer, the Jaguar XJ flagship line has been totally re-imagined from the ground up—and is the star of the international auto industry. Presenting the heart-racing mix of next-generation engineering and world-class luxury that is ours exclusively: the 2010 Jaguar XJL Supercharged Neiman Marcus Edition. The challenge: Only 50 will ever exist. The reward: One of them could be yours. Let’s start with the all-new frame. It is pressure cast from aluminum and magnesium to give the XJL a strong, light architecture that improves fuel efficiency and structural rigidity. The new panoramic safety-glass roof provides a tremendous sense of spaciousness in the cabin and an amazing view for every trip. The powertrain? A new third-generation supercharged 5-liter V8 that delivers 470 horsepower. The Jaguar Sequential ShiftTM six-speed ZF automatic transmission adapts to its driver, with wheel-mounted shift paddles and Sport, Standard, and Winter modes. So, let’s give you a taste of the intuitive technology. Instead of dull dials, there’s an interactive 12.3" high-def screen to display all the pertinent info in your line of vision. An integrated navigation and entertainment system is at your fingertips to access audio, Bluetooth, hard-drive based GPS navigation, and climate control systems via touch screen or by speaking your commands into the Interactive Voice system. There’s a media hub with docks for MP3 players and USB devices, a Bowers & Wilkins 1,200-watt premium sound system with Dolby ProLogic IIx Surround Sound and an aural-inspiring 20 speakers throughout the cabin. Let’s see: massaging front seats, electric sun blind, heated steering wheel, four-zone climate control, integrated security system—we could go on forever. Our Neiman Marcus edition also features an exclusive Celestial Black metallic paint outside and the NM nameplate on the custom interior intaglio, of course. Dazzling 20" double-10 spoke polished alloy wheels complete the exterior. Inside, there’s a custom interior of butter-soft navy and ivory leather and Zebrano matte wood accents. Other refined details of our automotive masterpiece include illuminated tread plates and trunk finisher. We’ll even throw in a five-piece set of matching Jaguar luggage, in navy blue leather. Did we already mention that only 50 will ever exist? Just checking. MSRP $105,000.00
  • Maker's Mark Master Distiller Experience - Any whiskey aficionado will tell you it is perfection in amber. Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is handmade in small quantities of just 19 barrels, each batch distilled and aged with the same exacting standards the Samuels family has passed down for seven generations. As Master Distillers for a day, you and a friend will have an all-access VIP experience like no other, with Master Distiller Kevin Smith as your host. You will participate in the unique whiskey-making process step by step, for an insider’s look at how every detail makes every glass a special occasion. This gift experience includes a two-bottle memento of the rarest Maker’s Mark bottles ever: Two golden bottles will be etched with your likeness and dipped in gold wax with 24-kt. gold flecks. You’ll also get to hand dip six of your own 375ml Maker’s Mark bottles in signature red wax and take them home. The experience includes luxury accommodations in Louisville and a gourmet dinner hosted by Bill Samuels, Jr. (the top dog at Maker’s Mark). Price $7,500.00 [the bargain of the luxury gifts!]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Geek Alert: Star Wars Architecture

Yoda: Told you I did. Reckless is he. Now, matters are worse.
Obi-Wan: That boy is our last hope.
Yoda: No. There is another.
As many of you know, Fridays (tomorrow) are movie night at the Brave Astronaut launchpad. Of late, the main movie in the queue is the ORIGINAL Star Wars (as Mrs. BA determined the time was right for LBA to be exposed to Luke, Leia, and Han - he already knows of them from his older cousins and books he has read). Our neighbors very graciously offered us their copy of Star Wars (on VHS - he has the movie on his iPhone) and we have been watching mostly non-stop since then. Our neighbor also reminded us, "he is too old to begin the training," prompting Mrs. BA and I to think of the quote above.

Now don't get me started on the whole Canon of Star Wars. If you need to lose several hours, feel free to consult the Wookiepedia. But let's just say that I haven't ever seen the movies that came out after Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I saw no reason. LBA is still working out that since both Mrs. BA and I saw these movies when we were "young," we "must be experts on them." Well, sure.

Spotted a while back in my Google reader was an article from the Architects Journal regarding the architecture of Star Wars. It listed the Top 10 buildings and structures from the movies.

10. Cloud City, Bespin
9. Senate Building, Coruscant
8. Sandcrawler, Tatooine
7. Bright Tree Village, Endor
6. Echo Base, Hoth
5. Artisanal Dwellings, Tatooine
4. The planet Coruscant
3. Jedi Temple, Coruscant
2. Jabba's Palace, Tatooine
1. The Second Death Star

Thoughts? Will thousands of Star Wars fanatics come out of the woodwork to berate me? Stay tuned.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Being a Regular / Boeuf Bourguignon

There is a man who lives up the street from OSG who embodies the definition of a "regular." Mr. Smith (really, that's his name) eats lunch everyday in the same place. Each evening you can find him and his wife eating at the local diner. Regular as clockwork. Are you a regular? Do you want to be? Grub Street offers some tips on how to be a regular (seen first on Kottke, of course).

I used to be a regular. Every Friday night my friends and I would descend upon the Syosset House diner and have something to eat before heading home for the evening. We had our own waitress (Jackie) and a regular seat in our favorite booth. There was another older gentleman who used to frequent the diner at the same time and we often sat with him while Jackie would take our orders and often talk with us during our stay. We were always greeted by the host with a friendly, "Hi guys!" before he would show us to our seats. Diners are like that, I think, by nature. If they're good, the experience is one to savor.

I would be a regular again. But when you show up now with two kids in tow, there is sometimes fear on the face on the host or hostess and the waitress may become concerned about her station getting disrupted. Not to mention that eating out is something that we do less frequently than when we were all unattached and let's say, more liquid in our assets.

Conference attendance is one of my remaining opportunities to try out restaurants in other cities (often unencumbered by children). Having toiled in the retail trenches and worked a job that also relied on tips (valet parking), I have a soft spot for waitstaff and will usually make sure they know that I will take care of them, provided they take care of me. When visiting a restaurant for the first time (or at a conference, with friends), I have a tendency to reward good service. However, my poor math skills nearly got us rubbed out at an SAA meeting several years ago in Boston. I went out to an Italian restaurant with OSG, Special K and another colleague in the North End. After the meal, the check arrived and we proceeded to divide it up according to what people had eaten and we collected funds to cover the check. We handed over the cash and sent it off. Moments later, the maitre d' / manager showed up at our table, asking, "Was there a problem? Is everything OK?" Confused, I told him there was no problem, we had had a great meal. So he asked, "I ask because you tipped very little on your meal." In doing the math, we had neglected to add a proper tip, coming up with only a few dollars over the check. Duly embarrassed, we all ponied up some more money to make up for our mistake, and left - quickly (so quickly that I seem to recall Special K walking into a tree - but that's a different story).

But enough about me. I know you're all here waiting for Monday's recipe. Here's one that might make an appearance at the Brave Astronaut launchpad this week (from the New York Times):

Boeuf Bourguignon
Adapted from “The Pleasures of Cooking for One,” by Judith Jones.
  • 1 2-ounce chunk bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/4 pounds beef-stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 carrot, from the thick end, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoons flour
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • Herb packet of 1/2 bay leaf; 1 large clove garlic, smashed; a handful of parsley stems; 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme; and 5 peppercorns, all tied in cheesecloth
  • 3 or 4 baby onions or 4 (1-inch) pieces of leek
  • 4 baby carrots, or the thin ends of larger ones
  • 2 or 3 new potatoes
  • French bread (optional)
1. Brown the bacon in a heavy 3 1/2-to-4-quart saucepan. When it has lightly browned, use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a medium bowl, leaving the fat in the pan (ooh, fat, yum).

2. Pat the pieces of beef very dry with a paper towel, then season all over with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil to the pan, and when it’s hot, brown half the pieces of beef over medium-high heat on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the meat to the bowl of bacon. Brown the remaining beef and add to the same bowl.

3. Keep the pan over the heat and sauté the onion and carrot until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Return the meats to the pot, sprinkle with the flour, season with a pinch of salt and pour in the wine and stock. Tuck the herb packet into the pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook at a bare simmer until tender, 2 hours or more.

4. Add the baby onions, baby carrots and potatoes, bring to a boil and simmer, covered, until tender when pierced with a fork, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve yourself 4 to 5 chunks of meat with all the vegetables and a good French bread to mop up the sauce. The dish benefits from sitting overnight in the refrigerator.

Serves 1 or 2.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

Today is Opening Day for "Where the Wild Things Are," a live-action film based on the children's book by Maurice Sendak. The book is one of my son's favorites and it makes an appearance now and then. Sometimes I let Barack Obama read to him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I am so there for this!

Most everyone knows I am a sucker for the disaster flick. This one is from the same director of The Day After Tomorrow. I am so going to see this movie. As with The Day After Tomorrow, I had to go see it by myself, as Mrs. BA passed. Anyone want to come with? The movie opens November 13.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sex and Graham Crackers

You know that saying about someone's desirability being linked to if you would let them eat cookies in bed? Evidently, someone has discovered the original intent of the dry, sweet square that winds up on the bottom of most cheesecakes including my mother's. What's up with this?

Evidently the graham cracker was originally marketed to curb sexual desire, according to this article, the recipe below comes from the article. Go make your own - it's evidently better than a cold shower.

Graham Crackers
Makes about 10 4" crackers or 20 2" ones. The math is easy.

  • 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry or all-purpose flour. Unbleached. Dr. Graham loathed bleached flours, so please bear that in mind.
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
  • 1/3 cup honey (mildly flavored, like clover)
  • 5 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
For the topping:
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Add butter and pulse until mixture is the consistency of coarse meal.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add to the flour mixture and pulse until the dough just comes together. Don't worry, it's supposed to be sticky.
  3. Turn dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch in thickness. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm; anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.
  4. Prepare the topping by combining sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Divide the dough in half and return the unused half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of flour onto your work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle about 1/8" think. The dough will still be sticky, so flour as needed. Trim the edges of the rectangle to 4" wide. Working with the short side that should be facing you, cut the strip every 4 1/2". (I chose to make mine 2" wide, but that is a personal preference.) Place crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with topping, and refrigerate. Repeat rolling and cutting actions with the second half of the dough. If you are frugal and not lazy, gather the remaining dough scraps, re-form, refrigerate and repeat. The crackers should chill to firm for another 30 to 45 minutes.
  6. Preheat your oven to 350º F and adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower positions.
  7. Make a vertical line through the middle of the crackers, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough. Score them. That's the better word. Prick the dough in decorative rows. But not too many. Mine look rather like dominoes.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm-to-tough. Rotate baking sheet (or sheets, depending on how many you are making) half way through baking to ensure an even doneness.

Friday, October 9, 2009

100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

Are these them? I prefer the funniest words, myself. But that's just me. Anna? I'm sure you have something to add. Words like these we used to call SAT words.
  • Ailurophile - A cat-lover
  • Assemblage - A gathering
  • Becoming - Attractive
  • Beleaguer - To exhaust with attacks
  • Brood - To think alone
  • Bucolic - In a lovely rural setting
  • Bungalow - A small, cozy cottage
  • Chatoyant - Like a cat's eye
  • Comely - Attractive
  • Conflate - To blend together
  • Cynosure - A focal point of admiration
  • Dalliance - A brief love affair
  • Demesne - Dominion, territory
  • Demure - Shy and reserved
  • Denouement - The resolution of a mystery
  • Desuetude - Disuse
  • Desultory - Slow, sluggish
  • Diaphanous - Filmy
  • Dissemble - Deceive
  • Dulcet - Sweet, sugary
  • Ebullience - Bubbling enthusiasm
  • Effervescent - Bubbly
  • Efflorescence - Flowering, blooming
  • Elision - Dropping a sound or syllable in a word
  • Elixir - A good potion
  • Eloquence - Beauty and persuasion in speech
  • Embrocation - Rubbing on a lotion
  • Emollient - A softener
  • Ephemeral - Short-lived
  • Epiphany - A sudden revelation
  • Erstwhile - At one time, for a time
  • Ethereal - Gaseous, invisible but detectable
  • Evanescent - Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time
  • Evocative - Suggestive
  • Fetching - Pretty
  • Felicity - Pleasantness
  • Forbearance - Withholding response to provocation
  • Fugacious - Fleeting
  • Furtive - Shifty, sneaky
  • Gambol - To skip or leap about joyfully
  • Glamour - Beauty
  • Gossamer - The finest piece of thread, a spider's silk
  • Halcyon - Happy, sunny, care-free
  • Harbinger - Messenger with news of the future
  • Imbrication - Overlapping and forming a regular pattern
  • Imbroglio - An altercation or complicated situation
  • Imbue - To infuse, instill
  • Incipient - Beginning, in an early stage
  • Ineffable - Unutterable, inexpressible
  • Ingénue - A naïve young woman
  • Inglenook - A cozy nook by the hearth
  • Insouciance - Blithe nonchalance
  • Inure - To become jaded
  • Labyrinthine - Twisting and turning
  • Lagniappe - A special kind of gift
  • Lagoon - A small gulf or inlet
  • Languor - Listlessness, inactivity
  • Lassitude - Weariness, listlessness
  • Leisure - Free time
  • Lilt - To move musically or lively
  • Lissome - Slender and graceful
  • Lithe - Slender and flexible
  • Love - Deep affection
  • Mellifluous - Sweet sounding
  • Moiety - One of two equal parts
  • Mondegreen - A slip of the ear
  • Murmurous - Murmuring
  • Nemesis - An unconquerable archenemy
  • Offing - The sea between the horizon and the offshore
  • Onomatopoeia - A word that sounds like its meaning
  • Opulent - Lush, luxuriant
  • Palimpsest - A manuscript written over earlier ones
  • Panacea - A solution for all problem
  • Panoply - A complete set
  • Pastiche - An art work combining materials from various sources
  • Penumbra - A half-shadow
  • Petrichor - The smell of earth after rain
  • Plethora - A large quantity
  • Propinquity - An inclination
  • Pyrrhic - Successful with heavy losses
  • Quintessential - Most essential
  • Ratatouille - A spicy French stew
  • Ravel - To knit or unknit
  • Redolent - Fragrant
  • Riparian - By the bank of a stream
  • Ripple - A very small wave
  • Scintilla - A spark or very small thing
  • Sempiternal - Eternal
  • Seraglio - Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem
  • Serendipity - Finding something nice while looking for something else
  • Summery - Light, delicate or warm and sunny
  • Sumptuous - Lush, luxurious
  • Surreptitious - Secretive, sneaky
  • Susquehanna - A river in Pennsylvania
  • Susurrous - Whispering, hissing
  • Talisman - A good luck charm
  • Tintinnabulation - Tinkling
  • Umbrella - Protection from sun or rain
  • Untoward - Unseemly, inappropriate
  • Vestigial - In trace amounts
  • Wafture - Waving
  • Wherewithal - The means
  • Woebegone - Sorrowful, downcast