Saturday, June 25, 2011

Liberal amounts of food

Rainbow cakeIt’s a foodie entry! I haven’t done one of these in ages. Before I get to that, some news of note.

Yesterday started out pretty sad. I cried over the story about the young Emperor Penguin who lost his way from Antarctica and ended up on a New Zealand beach. The hope was that he’d head home as soon as possible, but instead he (the gender is arbitrary, as they haven’t determined that yet) stuck around. He began eating sand, apparently thinking it was snow, and became lethargic. Finally, the authorities intervened and popped him into an ice-filled cooler and carted him off to the zoo in Wellington. They’ve been trying to flush the sand out of his system, and have him hooked up to an IV to rehydrate. A friend of mine from New Zealand sent me a link to a story that said the young penguin (They’re calling him Happy Feet. Awww!) was doing better. He’s not out of the woods yet, but I remain hopeful that he will be okay. The attention this story is getting shows that people love penguins. How can you not? They’re adorable! I’m wishing for your speedy recovery, little friend!

Then came the news of the death of Peter Falk. I had heard that he was in poor health (it turns out that he had Alzheimer’s), but it was still sad news. Everyone loved his Columbo character, but one of my favorite comedy movies is “The In-Laws.” I started watching it again last night (I’ll finish it when I eat dinner tonight). He was a wonderful actor, and he left a legacy of many great performances. He will be missed.

I needed some good news after such sadness. The first of it came in the form of a federal judge saying that Indiana’s defunding of Planned Parenthood is illegal. YES! The state says they will challenge the ruling, but Governor Daniels has said that he will abide by the court ruling. So what are you going to do, Mitch? I’m sure this isn’t the end of it. But today Planned Parenthood began treating Medicaid patients again. This is a temporary victory that I hope will be made permanent.

Next was New York’s historic vote to allow same sex marriage! And there was much celebrating! The vote passed with several Republican votes, so maybe, just maybe, we’re finally on the right track in allowing equal rights for all of our citizens. We’ve got a long ways to go, but New York is a biggie. Congratulations, New York! Let’s keep it going!

Then in today’s paper, I saw that Indiana’s immigrant bill was also blocked as illegal (so to speak). I’m happy to see some pushback against these laws, and I think there are several states (including my own) that need to go back and read the Constitution again. I suggest paying special attention to Article VI, also known as the Supremacy Clause. It’s kind of a big deal.

Okay, on to the food part! Ken was on a business trip this week, and not only did I get busy and get a lot of cleaning and projects done, I got to cook some eggplant! Many of you know that when Ken goes on a trip, it’s my chance to cook myself some eggplant. I love the stuff, but Ken...not so much. (That’s putting it mildly!)

I had found a new recipe on the Hunts website: Eggplant Parm Rolls, and I was looking forward to trying it. (In the interest of not making this too long, I’ll just provide the link to the recipe. There seem to be a lot of other good ones there.) Here are some pictures and commentary, followed by a few things I did differently.


You have to slice the eggplant lengthwise into quarter-inch slices. It went pretty well until the last couple of slices…that was hard!


This is the start of the sauce. Onions (Vidalias…yay!), garlic, and sliced zucchini. I also tossed in a few scraps of eggplant that were left over from slicing them (sans skin).


Tomatoes added, along with salt, pepper, and a little sugar.


Grilling the eggplant. You could probably broil or fry the slices, too, but I recommend grilling for that sort of charred taste.


My wine choice. I usually prefer Cabernets, but I decided to go with this Merlot because…yes, the bottle was pretty. Not an expensive wine, but reds can be stashed away for a few years, and they just get better with time!


The cheese filling: ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, and fresh basil.


The assembled eggplant rolls. I had a little extra cheese mixture, so I just put it in the middle of them.


Then you spoon the sauce over the rolls, and put mini-marshmallows on it! No, that’s actually perline fresh mozzarella, and that was my mistake. I was thinking that the mozzarella went in the filling, so I thought the tiny balls would be better. I should have gotten the big ball and sliced it for the topping. It was still tasty, though.


Out of the oven and melty. Sitting for a few minutes to get a little more “solid.” This was initially a little juicy. I don’t know if it was because of the zucchini, or what. It specifically says to not drain the tomatoes, but I might drain at least one of the cans in the future.


Chow time! (Pardon the cord at the top of the picture. That’s my Rock Band microphone.)

Okay, here is where I strayed from the recipe. It calls for two large eggplants. I decided to cut the recipe in half, so only got one. It still made eight rolls, and I realized early on that I was still going to need the full amount of cheese filling and sauce. It calls for a can of stewed tomatoes, and I only got one of those, so I used an additional can of diced tomatoes. I didn’t use a full cup of fresh basil, maybe only a half a cup. I think a full cup would have made it even more flavorful. I used a slightly smaller dish than called for in the recipe, and it was pretty full. I really think two large eggplants is too much for the sauce and filling amounts provided in the recipe.

My assessment: very good, but not quite as good as Eggplant Parmigiana (still my favorite). Next time, I think I will peel the eggplant. The skin adds a nice color, but it was a little on the tough side, and I think I would prefer to not have that toughness. I peel it when I make Eggplant Parmigiana, and I think this dish would be a little better with the eggplant peeled (although perhaps less visually appealing). Also, I sprayed the eggplant slices all at once with cooking spray, before I heated up the grill pan. I should have known better, because I know how eggplant soaks up oil. By the time I got ready to put the slices on the pan, the spray had completely absorbed! I had to spray them all again before I put them on the grill pan.

I had it again last night, and I think it was better than the night I first made it. Sometimes it seems like flavors blend better together after sitting for a bit. I’ll be eating it again tonight, so maybe it will be even better!

There is nothing complicated about this recipe (I don’t think so, anyway), but it does take a little time. Probably the most strenuous thing was hand-grating the Parmesan cheese. But DO use real Parmesan, not the Kraft grated stuff, as well as fresh mozzarella as opposed to the block stuff. The flavors are completely different and so much better.

Will I make this again? Yes! Highly recommended if you like eggplant and zucchini. It’s a meatless dish, but I kind of like that once in a while, and the cheese should give you plenty of protein. If you make it, let me know how yours turned out, and what you think. Or what your family thinks, if you dare to make it for them!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pledge is for furniture

DustingCan someone explain to me why or how it has become some sort of litmus test for a candidate or legislator to sign a pledge?

The latest one has been issued by the Susan B. Anthony Foundation, an anti-choice group. Several of the Republican candidates signed it, but Romney and Cain refused. Cain cited his reason as that as President, he can’t advance legislation. Romney said that the pledge itself was flawed, with unforeseen consequences; that it’s one thing to defund Planned Parenthood, but entirely another to withdraw federal funding from hospitals all over the country for providing abortions to victims of incest or rape.

You all know me well enough to know that I am firmly and irrevocably pro-choice, and that I find the defunding of Planned Parenthood here in my state and in others to be harmful to women’s health (especially low income women). That is not the purpose of this entry. It’s no surprise that both candidates were attacked for their refusal to sign it, particularly Romney, considering his past pro-choice stance. It’s also no surprise that fellow candidates attacked him. That’s politics. I get it.

The other pledge that has been out there for some time is Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. Norquist must have one hell of a blackmail file on all sorts of legislators, because over 200 Congressmen and 41 Senators have signed this agreement stating that they will not raise taxes unless such raises are accompanied by tax cuts in other areas. First of all, who the fuck is Grover Norquist? (That was a rhetorical question. I know who he is.) And why are so many people kowtowing to him and his stupid pledge? He doesn’t seem to have ever held elected office, and he is basically a conservative lobbyist. Yet somehow he twists enough arms (With what leverage? I have no idea.) to coerce people to sign his little pledge, and vilifies them if they don’t.

Senator Coburn of Oklahoma actually had the guts to stand up to the guy recently in a showdown over ending ethanol subsidies. Norquist had the nerve to say that ending $6 billion in ethanol subsidies amounted to a tax increase, and called for tax cuts elsewhere. The subsidy repeal passed the Senate, with 33 Republicans going against Norquist and voting yes to repeal. Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end of Norquist’s bizarre stranglehold over so many legislators.

Why anyone would commit to signing some sort of pledge (pushing ANY sort of agenda put forth by any group) is beyond me. We are in dire straits at the moment, and the unrealistic and illogical Republican adherence to no tax increases is incomprehensible. Every analysis I’ve read shows that the deficit can only be reduced with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. BOTH. We’re not talking hiking the rates up to 90% (like they were under Eisenhower). Let’s just hike them on our highest earners by about 3%, okay? Let’s all have a dose of reality and understand that compromise happens in politics. It must, if anything is going to get done.

And jeez, grow some balls, politicians. Grover Norquist is not the boss of you. He’s a freakin’ lobbyist. I’m really amazed that I have to point this out to you. Your pledge is to uphold the Constitution, not to kiss the ass of a dude with a Muppet name.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It’s poetry in motion

Blinded me with scienceFirst of all, I wish a happy Father’s Day to all those good dads out there. I’m missing mine quite a bit today, and I feel especially for all those who have lost their fathers. My Dad’s birthday is coming on up Tuesday, too, so I’m feeling his absence rather acutely at the moment.

A week or so ago, I posted a Pew Research Center quiz about science knowledge on Facebook. I took it and got 12 out of 12 questions right (same for Ken), but of course if I hadn’t, I would have had to turn in my scientist card.

Several of my friend took the quiz, and all of those who commented got either 11 or 12 answers right. I understand that that is far from an accurate assessment of how all my friends did; perhaps some took it and chose not to comment or share their score. As one friend pointed out, the questions didn’t seem to be difficult, but that was kind of the point. It was designed to test for familiarity and knowledge of basic scientific concepts. What was astounding to me is that if you got 11 of 12 right, you did better than 90% of those Americans who took the quiz.

Although I also lament a general lack of knowledge about art, literature, and grammar, I find a lack of knowledge about science especially disturbing. In our current culture of embracing inadequacy and thinking that a good education somehow equates to “elitism,” I fear that we will soon fall behind the rest of the world in innovation and technology. What am I talking about? It’s already happening. Other countries are embracing alternative fuel sources, investing in their development, and pumping money into things like high speed rail. We are dropping the ball.

It’s not just that we need those with higher educations to do research and find innovative solutions. We need to train people for high-skilled manufacturing jobs, because there is an increasing gap between jobs that require little to no skill and those that require extended training. An effort to increase vocational tech colleges would help in this regard, and highly skilled manufacturing jobs are a crucial part of the success of a country like Germany. We could learn much from them.

Agar platesI’ve been accused in the past of being some sort of know-it-all when it comes to science. (Not that the source of such ignorance and shortsightedness was credible.) I’m the first to admit that there is much out there that I know little to nothing about. I have a good working knowledge of microbiology, and a passable knowledge of other laboratory and medical disciplines, but don’t bother asking me about string theory or quantum physics! However, ridiculing others for their knowledge, for obtaining a good education, and for working for many years in a field that is there to help a patient get better seems to me to be the height of stupidity and pettiness. Those throat cultures you keep having your doctor run on your kid don’t just read themselves, you know!

Anyway, I don’t know what is going on with our country right now that it seems that ignorance is seen as some sort of virtue, or that a lack of knowledge somehow makes you a “regular person.” I don’t know about you, but if I ever have to have to have brain surgery, I don’t want my neurosurgeon being a “regular person.” I want one smart son of a bitch drilling into my skull. Michele Bachmann recently said that she thinks intelligent design should be taught in schools. She thinks all science should be put on the table and then let the students decide. No, you idiot. Intelligent design is NOT SCIENCE. It’s a religious belief, and science is not taught by raising your hands and voting on it. If we want to attempt to make a comeback and be globally competitive when it comes to science, we need to tell ignorant assholes like Bachmann to at least attempt to understand something about science. I know that’s not possible, but those of us that get it can make sure that such stupidity doesn’t pervade our education system.

I think I have smart friends. Our goal should be that everyone understands the basic principles of science, not just some of us.