After5

This past year, I have finally started using herbes while cooking, as in herbs other than the Herbes de Provence mix. I started with dried herbs, then I moved on to spices (other than cinnamon), and now finally I am starting to use fresh herbs (other than parsley). Last week I bought a basil plant, and I think I am in love with it. I put it next to the window in my living room, since my kitchen doesn’t have a window.

Basil

Tangent: did you notice how apartments have no windows in the kitchen? Whatever moron started designing apartments with a kitchen hidden in a walled-in corner of the apartment must have assumed that people who live in the apartments don’t cook. The cooking population lives in the houses, and microwaving population certainly must live in the apartments.

Ok, I am back. So, my basil plant had a little bit of a rough week, and at one point I thought it was going to die on me, but it survived. It is now looking better, much better. And I used freshly picked basil leaves twice this week in the recipes I prepared for dinner. Since I’ve become such a successful herb grower (note the optimism), I am going to buy a mint plant tomorrow. In the next few posts you will find out why I need the mint plant.

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I love looking at the Home & Garden sections of magazines and web sites. Lately, more often than not I come across beautiful modern homes, perfectly decorated in a minimalistic style, that at the same time maintain the appearance of coziness. The last issue of Cookie magazine, February 2009, has one such home built in El Salvador by an architect from El Salvador. When I first looked at the photos of this wonderful house I exclaimed to my husband that someone built our dream home, and he agreed with me completely. I just went on the Cookie web site to see if I can find the link to the same photos and share them with you, but I had no luck. However, there is a consolation prize. Since I am a huge fan of  Home & Garden section of New York Times, I came across another home of my dreams. It is spectacular, modern and full of light.  And the kitchen … oh, the kitchen is something else, very sparse, with a lot of counter space. You can see the slide show here. I hope you enjoy it. I am off to dream of my dream home.

The first reviews of Don Quixote ballet, performed by the Mariinksy Ballet are in. New York Time and Washington Post give reserved praise on technique, but note that artistically the ballet executions came short. They lavish praise on Diana Vishneva, and rightfully so since she is a wonderful ballerina, but they are less forgiving about the rest of the cast. The main complaint is that the ballet failed to show real emotions between characters, and that somehow gave it a very superficial feel. You can read the review from New York Times here and the review from Washington Post here.
Now let’s think about Don Quixote for a moment. We are talking here about Don Quixote, the ballet, not Don Quixote, the groundbreaking novel. The libretto for this ballet was created from a short segment in the novel, so it certainly doesn’t address the whole story. It is a bravura ballet, which premiered in the 2nd half of 19th century, when big lavish productions of ballets were the norm. Granted the version performed by Maryiinsky was based on Gorsky’s revision, but even then, a certain formulaic norm had to be satisfied. It is a happy ballet, full light music, wonderful dancing, and not a whole lot of drama andsoul searching. I do understand the reviewers points about the lack of expression, and certain arrogance especially by a dancer dancing Basilio’s part. I could imagine the regal bearing of the dancer while dancing a part of a young poor barber, and it made me laugh.

In conclusion no one should go to see Don Quixote and expect deep internal struggle and poignancy, or else she/he will be sorely disappointed. Look for great technical bravura, and anything else you get out of that ballet, think of it as a bonus.

I don’t watch TV. I clock maybe 2 hours of television a week. Am I against most television programming? Well, ummm, yes. But this post is not a rant against TV. This post is about watching more TV. You see, my weekly average is going up because the new American Idol season has started tonight, and this show is my super guilty pleasure. Tonight they showed auditions in Phoenix, AZ, and there were some promising young singers there. Additionally there were some seriously funny people too, some very delusional people, and some very sad people. Good television was back. There is also a new judge on the show and I really like her. She is talented and accomplished music professional, and she has attitude. Paula is so sweet, and the new judge puts some sassiness into the show. So I lost spent 2 hours of my precious free time watching TV tonight. I will do that for the rest of the American Idol season. And I am going to love every moment of it.

Last night’s dinner was a simple affair. I was able to get the dinner prepared in about 30 minutes. It was not the most creative or exotic dinner, especially after last week full of interesting spices and flavors, but it was quick and relatively healthy.

1. Pork chops in Gorgonzola sauce, The Silver Spoon, pg. 766 – a very easy, extremely easy recipe, and a very tasty one, especially for the ones who like the strong flavor of Gorgonzola cheese

2. Mashed potatoes – recipe retold from the Whole Foods site here. I skipped on garlic and bay leaf, and mixed the cream with skim milk so it wouldn’t be to fatty.

3. Salad – mixed greens, tomato, cucumber and corn  with balsamico and olive oil

I also realize that I never properly concluded my Indian cuisine week since my last evening of Indian cuisine turned out somewhat disappointing (all my fault of course). Basically, it is a wonderful cuisine, and I will definitely keep cooking the recipes from the two cookbooks. I highly recommend both of them to anyone who needs a nice introduction to cooking Indian food. Here are the links to the two books one more time:

5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate and Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand

For me, a new fiscal week starts on Sunday. I do all my grocery shopping then, and I start executing on the weekly menu. Last week, I experimented with Indian cuisine. This week I will sample the recipes from The Silver Spoon. I’ve had this book for about two years, and I used maybe 5 recipes out of it. The sheer volume of the book is so intimidating; there are 1200+ pages, and therefore tons of recipes to choose from. I was able to narrow it down to a few for sampling this week, and I will post daily updates on how the meals turn out.

So I’ve planned the menu for the week and made a shopping list according to it. I’ve noticed that when I do that, I spend less on groceries. I also try to buy only organic food, and I am convinced that people would spend about the same or less on food if they bought organic because you are limited to buying mostly fresh food which needs to be prepared. I know you can still find organic hot-pocket type food (I love picking on hot pockets since they seem like such a culinary laziness and insult. And I can only imagine the unhealthy stuff in them). If one buys processed food, then one should not complain about the price of food. Yes, preparing food is time consuming, but so is waiting in the doctor’s office when your health goes to hell as you age. So I say eat fresh, so you can stay fresh.

For the past few weeks I have been reading The Idiot. It is a slow progress, slower then I would like, but it is not Dostoyevsky’s fault. I am too tired to read by the time I sit down with the book. However, I am enjoying it so much; every word is right, every sentence is so well constructed. And I love the high drama of every scene. It reminds me of watching a play in a theatre. The characters are acting with intensity so that the person in the last row on the second balcony can feel the full impact of a particular scene. It also brings back memories of watching Russian movies. The same atmosphere of drama prevails in them as well.

I got Ana Karenina for New Year’s gift from my husband, and I plan to read it next. You could say I am on a Russian kick. I read Ana Karenina in high school, and for a 15 year-old girl the only scenes that mattered were the ones about Ana and Vronsky. Tolstoy’s thoughts about the serfdom and other sociopolitical problems in Russia were not of importance to a teenager. So this time I want to appreciate the book in its entirety and I look very much forward to reading it. Of course, I have to put away The Idiot first.

Currently Reading

The Idiot by Dostoyevksy

Currently Listening

Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack
Evaristo Dall'Abaco
Chopin
Mozart

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