March 31, 2009

Best Cabbage Recipe So Far

We've been getting quite a bit of cabbage (repollo!) from our CSA these last few weeks.

Tonight's recipe was by far the best (sauteed cabbage with bacon, onions and capers):

-1 head small red cabbage
-1 yellow onion, chopped
-Approx 5 oz. bacon, chopped
-3/4 a 12 oz. jar of capers with brine/vinegar
-white wine
-black pepper

1. Cook Bacon over medium heat in a sauce pan until light brown (almost done). Pour out 3/4 of the grease.

2. Add onions, sautee for 2 minutes. Add cabbage, capers, salt and black pepper to taste stir and continue to cook on medium-high.

3. Add 1/2 to 1 cup wine and continue stirring.

4. Serve outer leaves with some of the onions, bacon, capers immediately. Cover and allow the remainder of the inner core of the cabbage to steam in the wine with the rest of the onion, bacon, and capers.


Being a lawyer is hard.

I could not imagine doing it if you didn't love the work.

I love the work.

But right now, I'm not in love with being a lawyer. I'm tired. I want to have one night without dreams about work. I'm frustrated with the amount of work and how it doesn't stop coming.

I think I need a vacation.

March 30, 2009

If you need a tear-jerker

And you are the like me, the un-abashed-movie-crying-type.

Then, speaking from tonight's embarrassed that I cried because it was so corny (it had JACK BLACK & CAMERON DIAZ!!!) experience, you would probably do well to watch

The Holiday.

In my defense, while it is corny, and predictable, and I cried in response to the stimuli they presented -- I will say that this movie is great in that it covers the basics:

-death (one main character is a widower)
-children, and the demands thereof
-unrequited love
-sibling love, and the shit we put up with therefor (what's the point of the legal education if you can't throw a little "therefor" around every once in a while?)
-old folks (I mean, how can you *NOT* love old folks, but this movie was clearly written by someone who didn't just love them but appreciated them and cared for them and wished that they had more in their life like I wish for in mine)
-trouble, and the response of hiding behind alcohol, briefly, and the immense *wake-yo-self-up-you-fuck-head* results (if nothing else -- always a good story)
-lonely immediate *I-must-change-my-life-this-instant-actions* to which I and many of my friends can relate (also a good story)

You see what happens?

Baby Tomatoes, if cared for, will grow into adolescent tomatoes.

Saturday, a tomato-lovin' friend came over (thanks J!) and we potted up our 219 tomatoes of 34 varieties (including 2 husk tomatoes).

It's a fairly time intensive task, but I find it very relaxing.

First, you separate the plants from each other (because their roots have grown together as they've outgrown the tiny cell where they were planted):


Then, you dig a small hole in the cup of dirt, add a tiny bit of tomato plant food, drop the roots into the hole and add potting soil to fill up the rest of the cup. If possible, it's best to bury the stem with dirt up past the seed leaves, and if you want, you can even remove them if the plant has enough true leaves.

At the end of the day, we had a front yard full of plants:


Anyone need a tomato seedling or 10?

March 26, 2009

Roasted Pork Chops over Braised Cabbage

In fairness, this is just a modification of the Herbed Pork Chops over Brussel Sprouts recipe I rely upon to keep E happy.

But, this time, we had savoy cabbage, red cabbage, no brussel sprouts, a white onion (instead of red), red wine (because several recipes suggested it), sage, lemon thyme, marjoram, and more.

I actually thought this recipe was better than the pork chop brussel sprout recipe. E claims that it's sacrilege to hold that opinion. I'm waiting for the lightening strike.

Herbed Mustard-glazed Pork Chops over Braised Cabbage Mix

-1 small head savoy cabbage sliced thinly and chopped
-1 small head red cabbage sliced thinly and chopped
-1/2 bottle red wine (for cooking -- if close to vinegar (because it was a gift that a partner at your firm threw out at the move to the new offices and you kept to cook with despite the exploding cork of dryness), no problem)
-1 yellow onion, diced
-1/3 stick butter
-4 large sprigs marjoram, leaves removed, stems in the trash/compost
-2 medium sprigs rosemary, leaves and flowers removed, stems in the trash/compost
-3 small springs lemon thyme, leaves removed, stems in the trash/compost
-1 T horseradish
-2 T mustard (including seeds)
-2 large boneless pork chops, defrosted

1. Melt butter in a large casserole over medium heat.
2. Add onion, saute´e until light brown.
3. Add chopped cabbage, stir.
4. Add wine. Cover. Cook on med-high for 5-10 minutes.
5. While cooking, blend herbs, olive oil, mustard in cuisinart.
Remove cover and place 2/3 of cabbage mixture in a baking pan.
6. Cover both sides of pork chops in cuisinart mixture. Place on top of cabbage and put into pre-heated oven.
7. At the 15 minute mark, turn pork chops. Return to oven. Allow to cook 10-15 more minutes based on how dry they look.
8. Serve to bowls -- place cabbage mixture on the bottom and place pork chops on the top. Allow to cool 5 minutes.
9. Enjoy.
10. Save remainder of cabbage mixture for future meals (soup bases, side dishes, etc.)

March 25, 2009

Making the Best of It

Every once in a while, I am reminded that whatever my personality flaws (and trust me, I've got a TON), one of my good qualities (or annoyingly pollyana qualities, depending on your perspective) is that I can't help but make the *best* of a situation that others would consider ridiculous.

Today, for example, I picked up our delivery from our local CSA (we've subscribed for a box for 9 weeks 'til the tomatoes are in full effect), and realized that our harvest was mainly leafy greens.

"No Problem," I think, pretending I don't have a husband who hates leafy greens. That is, until I show up at the house with the big bag of vegetables including parsley, escarole, red cabbage, large leaf lettuce, turnip greens, Orach, and Mei Quin Choy (not to mention the head of savoy cabbage from last week's box that we haven't used and the garden's vigorous heads of various greens).

Yeah, it wasn't a problem, but only because E is awesome.

I started with a plan of making Saag with a collection of the Orach and other leaves. But, then, halfway through, I realized we had leftover roasted vegetables from last week: parsnips, beets, carrots, and onions from the oh-so-modifiable-roasted-winter-vegetable recipe. And, why not add them?

You see where this is going?

I realized the *best* of this situation involved the combination of roasted winter vegetables combined with Saag ingredients.

So that is what I did. And that is what we ate. And it was delicious.

March 22, 2009

Pasadena's Good Eats

R, J & I had the pleasure of a celebratory meal at Bistro 45.

We showed up at 5:30 -- they weren't really ready to seat folks but treated us extremely graciously and made us comfortable until our server was ready for us.

We all had salads, each of which were delicious, 2 house salads, and my beet and goat cheese salad (mmm... I swear, I order at least one of these each week during spring... I love beets, and I love goat cheese, how can I resist?)

R loves rose´s, and since it was her big day, we ordered one of their inspired selections, The Jacaman 2006 vin gris de pinot noir -- probably my favorite rose that I've ever tasted (of course, it's sold out!).

Our entre´es were all amazing. J is a vegetarian, so he ordered the Baked Polenta with Fennel ratatouille, fondue of spinach and Sonoma goat cheese. We were blown away with the presentation (of course, J is throwing signs, perhaps to compensate for his non-blood-thirsty vegetarian ways?):


R ordered the trout, and it came so delicately prepared that I couldn't believe it was the same fish I ate growing up camping -- not a single bone to be found, so moist, so well-pared, and, most-importantly, so not-fishy.

I ordered the ahi and salmon tartar. It was excellent and had the extra-special bonus of being the right size to leave room for dessert.


For dessert, R ordered the crème brule´e en cage. Damn. First, it came with a celebratory message on the plate for R's graduation and a candle -- such adorable service on a Saturday night for under-dressed patrons without a reservation.

Plus, the cookies with which the dessert was served were so good that R later admitted she almost didn't share. It wasn't 'til the final bite of the oatmeal flour cinammon heaven cookie that she finally realized she wanted to *talk* about how good it was, and in order to do so she'd have to let us have a bite, so she grudgingly handed us each a small morsel. Amazing!

The only slightly below-average offering was the cheese plate. The blue cheese was a huge ball of salt. The cow's milk cheese was just okay, as was the sheep's milk. But the dessert was amazing and the coffee was perfect, so just skip the cheese and you'll be thrilled with the entire experience.

Overall, I was very impressed and sincerely enjoyed the meal: ambiance--great, service--friendly and excited to share the celebration for R's graduation with us, wine selection--impressive, food--delicious, pricing--great value (approximately $77/pp including generous tip for a leisurely meal of 2 amazing courses each, a shared dessert, a cheese course, an excellent bottle of wine, and 3 coffees).
The Beautiful Moment

Last weekend, I went to central California (pismo beach, arroyo grande, and san luis obispo) for a wonderful weekend with E to celebrate our anniversary and to visit my grandmother. This weekend, I visited R, in beautiful Pasadena.

Both trips, I was reminded of just how breathtakingly gorgeous California is in the spring.

As R put it, "for just a minute" each year all of the hills and mountains of California, all of the trails, all of the weeds, basically everything, sprouts a gorgeous lush green with blooming wildflowers, cultivated flowers, blossoming fruit trees, and more.

On a clear day, against a bright blue sky, with the sun beaming down upon you -- this verdant version of California is around 70F, and something out of a dream.

No doubt, in 2 to 3 weeks (if not less), the hills will begin to turn golden (or "brown" as R reminded me, while pointing to the green hills between West LA and Burbank).

This short green phase is nature's way of reminding me to savor the moment. Time moves quickly. When, like this weekend and last weekend, I find myself in a moment of true beauty (be it a solo run on a new-to-me trail in nature, shared meals or discussions with my grandmother and/or husband, or the celebration of R's graduation through shared walks, wine, and sharing plans for the future) I should (and did!) take the time to breathe deeply, to look and fix the visual image in my memory, to listen and fix the sounds in my memory, and to just be, happy and alive in the beautiful moment.

March 16, 2009

Crazy Day

I had a day that was full of drama. Sibling drama. Legal drama. Work drama. Friend drama.

I was thrilled at the opportunity to make dinner:

Spaghetti squash topped with cabbage tomato sauce

-1 spaghetti squash
-1 small cabbage from the garden, sliced thin
-1 medium yellow onion, diced
-2 T butter
-white wine
-1 can stewed tomatoes
-4 T garlic, minced

1. Pre-heat oven to 400F. Puncture holes evenly around the squash with a steak knife.
2. Melt butter over medium heat. Place squash in oven for 45 minutes.
2. Saute´e cabbage, onion, 1/2 of the garlic in butter until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup white wine, continue to stir.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir and simmer 2 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes and remaining garlic, continue to stir on medium until cabbage is tender.
5. Remove sauce from heat and cover and keep warm.
6. Remove squash from oven at 45 minutes. Slice in half & allow to cool for 5 minutes.
7. Spoon out seeds from each half and transfer the meat of the squash between the halves so that it is evenly oriented.
8. Serve half of the cabbage tomato sauce over one half of spaghetti squash and the other over the other.
9. Eat immediately and enjoy.
Winner of the Mac and Cheese Taste Test

About 6 months ago, E and I hosted a Macaroni & Cheese night in honor of D's birthday and the fact that P, a Singaporean national, had never had Mac & Cheese until his recent introduction to the The Cheesiest.

I made a traditional baked penne with sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, and fontina, the best recipe for stove-top mac and cheese I could find on the Internet (thanks Barilla!), and I topped the stovetop version with bread crumbs and parmigiano and baked it for the third entrant.

The baked stove-top version topped with bread crumbs was a huge winner.

Best Home-Made Mac and Cheese Ever


1/4 cup butter
1 cup onion, chopped (optional) [a shallot is excellent]
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups milk
1/2 box (8 ounces) elbows
1 cup (4 ounces) Fontina cheese, shredded
1/2 cup fresh Parmigiano cheese, grated and divided
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 450F.

Melt butter in 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onions/shallot; sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour and salt. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add milk, stirring to blend. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add Elbows; cover. Continue to simmer over low heat for 8 to 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Mixture will thicken as it cooks.)

Remove from heat. Add Fontina cheese and 1/4 cup Parmigiano cheese; mix gently. Pour into 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and place in oven.

Bake in the oven until the top is browned to your liking. Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.


March 10, 2009

Unexplained Insomnia

Generally, when I wake at 3:30 and cannot go back to sleep, I have a good idea of what's bothering me.

Often, I even know what I can do to address it (for example, if I am stressed about work, it is best just to work if I haven't fallen back asleep by 4 AM).

This morning, however, I'm just in a general state of malaise -- I'm frustrated with a few things but if you had asked me before I went to bed if I was particularly stressed, I would have said no.

And yet, I laid in bed awake from 3:30 'til 5:15 and finally got up to try to distract myself into a state where I can fall back asleep.

Maybe I'll do a little work, but only 'cause I can't sleep -- not because I won't get it all done if I don't do it now. I don't mind the early hours when I have to put them in, but when I don't have, this sucks.

I do hope my subconscious finishes processing whatever is bothering it and lets me get back to a regularly scheduled sleeping program. Wish me luck.

March 7, 2009

Planning the Tomato Madness

Today, we had several big garden milestones.

First, day 13 after potting, we finally got one sprout of Aunt Molly's Husk, the last of the 35 varieties to sprout. Somehow, we managed to germinate at least one seedling of every variety we tried to grow (keeping the seedlings alive, of course, is another matter, but still).

Technically, Aunt Molly's Husk is a husk tomato or ground cherry (like a tomatillo, which we are also growing), so it's not a true tomato, but once we were growing 33 varieties of tomatoes, given that the cheery tomato seeds I ordered over the internet came with tomatillo seeds and Aunt Molly's Husk seeds, well... who are we to resist? Salsa verde, here we come!

Second, the tomato seedlings were allowed outside for their first exposure to the real world today. It was only 2 hours, but they seemed to like it and rewarded us with 8 new sprouts between last night and tonight.


Third, at tonight's 13-day post seed-potting count, we are at 199/257 seedlings sprouted, for a germination rate of 77.43%.

Fourth, and finally, we got the busted concrete debris removed, cleaned up a bit of the winter garden, purchased some redwood bark for the walkways between the garden, and started the final transition to this year's garden madness, aka The First Summer of Tomato Madness.


And yes, in case you were wondering, that is a very dead Christmas wreath hanging to the right of our front door. Perhaps we'll take it down tomorrow...

March 6, 2009

Equal Pay

I've read several articles on how the oft-cited women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes statement is extremely misleading.

Last night, in an attempt to clarify why, I found the Bureau of Labor Statistics Highlights of Women's Earnings 2007. If this sort of thing interests you, the report is fascinating -- so much data.

The numbers definitely help support the idea that the pay gap is at least partially explained by lifestyle and career choices, and is not necessarily entirely gender-based pay discrimination. One thing the data cannot address, however, is time off. Women who take time out of the workforce to have children re-enter this data solely based on their age, and, from this data, there is no way to know just how many years of experience they have at that age.

What the numbers can tell us, however, is that unmarried women without children earn almost as much, on average, as unmarried men without children (96%) (table 8), and the median hourly wage for women with more than a bachelors degree is 95% of the median hourly wage for men with more than a bachelors degree (table 9).

The hours worked is a big factor -- for full-time positions requiring between 35-39 hours per week of work, women make 103.3% of the average male weekly wage (Table 5). For positions requiring over 40 or more hours per week, however, women's average weekly wage compared to men working similar hours hovers around 88%. (Table 5)

Interesting as well is part-time work, which no one ever talks about in terms of pay discrimination, despite the fact that women earn 108.3% of the average male weekly wage for part-time work (Table 5).

I suspect that if you accounted for the type of jobs selected, experience, and education, these disparities would start to make some sense. Of the full-time workers women hold 69% of the jobs requiring between 35-39 hours per week, 46% of the jobs requiring 40 hours per week, 30% of the jobs that require more than 40 hours of work per week, and only 22% of jobs that require more than 60 hours of work per week (Table 5). It seems appropriate to me, then, that when the numbers are averaged solely against age, women are earning less than men -- at least part of the pay gap can be (and should be, in my opinion) attributed to the fact that, as a group, women are working less hours.

The largest disparity in pay for full-time workers between genders occurs in two groups:

1. Between men and women with school age children, whether married or single. There's no getting around it, these women make *much* less than their male counterparts (table 8). In our society, more women play the caretaker roll than men -- that is another fascinating conversation, but I don't believe it belongs in the mathematical discussion of whether women are actually paid less for the same work (with the same level of experience) done by their male counterparts. Instead, I think we need to look at the reality that much of the pay disparity occurs when women are most likely to be making decisions to focus on children instead of career.

2. Married women working full-time make significantly less than married men working full-time. I've blogged about this topic in the past. Certainly, it doesn't explain all of the pay gaps in this group, but I do believe it is important to consider the reality that many married women opt not to be the primary bread-winner so that they will have the flexibility to be the primary supportive spouse, home-labor-specialist, and/or caregiver to children. Yes, we are moving to a model where some men are opting to do this as well, but I do not believe the decision to be a supportive spouse with a flexible career is evenly distributed across gender lines today.

Basically, I am troubled by reference to data and facts on gender that makes the situation appear to be much worse than it likely is. It is hard to have an intelligent conversation on a sensitive issue if the position you start from is slanted. I am not saying that pay discrimination on gender lines does not exist -- I am certain it does. But what I am saying is that it is much less pervasive than a quick look at the average earnings for all full-time workers would indicate, and it's not fair to ourselves as a society to ignore that reality.

Okay, now I can actually go get some work done.

Update: I started down the rat-hole above because I recalled but could not find the Study that found that young educated women in metropolitan areas actually earn more than men in their same demographic. But, I finally found it, so you can click the link too, if you like.

March 2, 2009

Tomato Seedling Update

Day 8 after potting I am proud to report that we have 60.46% germination!


That's 153/256 tomato seeds (the total is an estimate -- you shoot to put 3 seeds in each cell, but if you accidentally drop one, you only find out when your yield is > 100%).

I am excited to see what the final germination rate is -- in the last 24 hours we got 28 new sprouts, and I can only hope for a similar increase tomorrow between day 8 and day 9.

March 1, 2009

Our Babies

Well, as I said, E and I are committed to the garden this year.

And, I'm a tomato-lovin' fool.

So, I'm trying to grow several varieties of tomatoes from seeds.

Basically, I've got a *grow room* in our garage:


And, it's so cool.

When they first sprout, they look like this:


And, then, less than 24 hours later, after exposure to the one cool flourescent and one warm flourescent bulb, they look like this:


In the interests of safety in numbers, I planted roughly 250 seeds of somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 breeds of tomatoes and tomatillos. Even with the new construction, this summer, we have space for maybe 20 plants of this type if we want to have a summer garden with vegetables of any other type. It should be interesting to see how this plays out...