Friday, March 27, 2009

Why Does this Man Still Have His Job

I would like to know why he still has his job? I would like to know if he's going to have an audit done. If he's facing insecurity about paying his mortgage? If he's wondering whether there's enough money to fix his teeth or put his kid through school. I'm seriously wondering where the transparency of our behavior comes from - the media? 'Cause that is a dangerous place for us, as Americans, to allow our political, business, NGO, our entire society to remain. I hope that he can believe in the system enough to know that he should step down, because even if he's a nice guy, even if, overall he's an asset to the company, he does not deserve his job. He does not deserve our trust. He made one JUMBO mistake. People have made significantly smaller mistakes and landed in jail, lost their fortunes (not just the fortunes of others), lost their families, their self respect. SMALLER mistakes. Less significant to our entire country. So what is UP with this fella? A NICE guy would make a public apology, and step aside for someone else to pick up the pieces...
About Bank Of America
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Monday, March 23, 2009

Making pizza

I figure we spend somewhere around $700/mo on food in this household. That includes Jerry's lunches out, my soy chais, and sweets and treats for the kids - some of which we make and some of which we buy. Certainly it is cheaper to buy ingredients than it is to buy take out or restaurant food in general (the good news is that my kids are big fans of places like Panera where soup and salad together cost about $6). I make at least one big pot of soup a week, plus a chili, curry, or other stew like product. We have pasta once a week, and at least once a week I let JAC take over the stove and he makes himself and the kids chicken, steak or chops. The other nights we do something interesting with leftovers, or have take out. I have had serious cravings, lately, for pizza. My friend Sandy turned me on to Spinners, which did have good pizza! I LOVED Lou Bea's, which is super garlicky! And Andriano's is a reliable stand by. The biggest thing these places have in common (aside from being slightly grungy and reeking of pizza) is that they all produce a thin crust pizza. I guess I like thin crust pizzas!! So now I need to find a recipe that allows me to do this at home. I am going to try the one below next. Probably on Thursday. It comes well recommended. Wish me luck!

Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough Recipe

Heidi notes: Peter's recipe says the olive (or vegetable oil) is optional. I use it every time - always olive oil, not vegetable oil. I love the moisture and suppleness it adds to the dough, and it makes your hands soft too.

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached high-gluten, bread, or all-purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold (40°F)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large metal spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50 to 55F.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Prepare a sheet pan by lining it with baking parchment and misting the parchment with spray oil (or lightly oil the parchment). Using a metal dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you are comfortable shaping large pizzas), You can dip the scraper into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it, Sprinkle flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, dip your hands into the flour again. Transfer the dough balls to the sheet pan, Mist the dough generously with spray oil and slip the pan into a food-grade plastic bag.

3. Put the pan into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days. (Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. Dip each dough ball into a bowl that has a few tablespoons of oil in it, rolling the dough in the oil, and then put each ball into a separate bag. You can place the bags into the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Dust the counter with flour, and then mist the counter with spray oil. Place the dough balls on top of the floured counter and sprinkle them with flour; dust your hands with flour. Gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil, and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap or a food-grade plastic bag. Let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone either on the floor of the oven (for gas ovens), or on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F (most home ovens will go only to 500 to 550F, but some will go higher). If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Generously dust a peel or the back of a sheet pan with semolina flour or cornmeal. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in flour and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. If it begins to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue shaping it. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss as shown on page 208. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay it on the peel or pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy. The American "kitchen sink" approach is counterproductive, as it makes the crust more difficult to bake. A few, usually no more than 3 or 4 toppings, including sauce and cheese is sufficient.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.

from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press) - reprinted with permission

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wood Smoke

My husband and I were married in his sister's living room on December 31st. Poinsettas were our bouquets, and Christmas Tree lights were our candelabras. We all went out to a Denny's kind of place for brunch afterward, and toasted over the pumpkin pie our Matron of Honour brought us, in place of a wedding cake. It was exceptionally kind of her to do that, given that she and our Best Man had to wake at a god-awful hour to make the ferry that brought them to the Mainland to attend our wedding. After brunch, we went to a bookstore and browsed, perhaps an hour or so, and then ... I can't remember.

The day after our marriage, I we drove up to see his parents, about an hour from his sister's place. We brought with a little cake, to celebrate with them. Their place is an acreage, a bubbly salmon creek runs below the wrap around porch. After cake and beer, we went out to the fire pit, no less than three feet in diameter, and my sweetie built me a fire any good pyro would be proud to call his own. A few squirts of jet fuel, some barely sawed tree stumps, and I could feel my skin tanning in just a few minutes. We stayed a couple of days, and the smell of woodsmoke was strong in his lumberjack style flannel shirts, his baseball caps, his quilted down vest. If the fire ever went out, I didn't notice. There was always one burning when I went out there to warm my toes with him.

Soon after the wedding (bad of me to not remember, I know) my new husband and I went camping. Winter camping. In British Columbia. His first words of wisdom to his new bride - don't get your ass wet. We spent a lot of time hiking around, sitting wrapped in sleeping bags by a (significantly smaller) campfire, snuggled in our little tent, and we kept each other's asses dry.

We've made many visits back to that amazing creek-fed property, and he and his sister co-own it, now that both his parents have passed on. We recently got a phone call from his sister, who related a story - between guffaws and bursts of uncontrollable giggles - how her extremely capable and normally compulsively safety-conscious husband (and my own husband's best friend) nearly burned down the entire compound, leaving the fire to have his supper. It would, in fact, be the way for that lovely place to go, extending the diameter of that fire pit to include the house, barn, garage, the river bank, the woodland to the North and the entire creek and mountain beyond to the West. But it didn't. Clever man figured out how to save us and it and laugh about the story in it's many retellings. The smell of wood smoke is strong there, decades of it. Half a century of woodsmoke curled around the pine branches above the pit, laying like dew between the daffodils in the Spring, and resting on the tidy buildings in all seasons.

Yesterday, after a lovely day off from wrangling and driving our beautiful children, I returned to a monstrous hug from our 4yo boy. I sank my head deep into his baggy hoody sweatshirt, between the soft fabric and his even softer skin, and he covered my face with his startling blond hair. I breathed in deeply, like a yoga exercise, taking in the woodsmoke that hung on him like a cape. I looked at my husband, hauling out the detritus of our back yard in a wheel barrow, and gave up a prayer of deepest thanks. It hasn't been perfect, but the smell of woodsmoke always brings me back to keeping my ass warm, and loving the man who makes my heart sing.

Friday, March 20, 2009

ignoring itself

I have ignored this blog on purpose. no one noticed. that was the idea. My own husband didn't notice. My own mother didn't notice. Not one friend, relation, enemy, or stranger mentioned to me - gee, Andy, you haven't blogged in ages! Months. Many months. A quarter of a year. Well, ok. So this is for me, by me, about me. And I suppose if that's the case, and I write something nasty about YOU, then you can't take me to task for it! So THERE!