Sweet Potato Gnocchi

 

Yeah, I tried to come up with a title that punned on the word gnocchi, but really couldn’t come up with anything that great.  Anyhoodle, last week’s winning Demand-A-Dish was Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage, from the Gourmet recipe archives. I have never made gnocchi before, so I was a little apprehensive. But one of the things I find so wonderful about Gourmet/Epicurious – and one of the reasons I am so sad to see it fold – is that the recipes are very easy to follows AND it gives you as much information as you need to make a dish you have never made before – even if it is pretty complicated (coq au vin, anyone?).  

And people?  I have to say the gnocchi was a rousing success.  First, make the sweet potatoes…

 

Nice Yams!

Nice Yams!

Then add the ricotta, parm, flour, etc…

 

Making gnocchi

Making gnocchi

My mis:

 

Gnocchi mis

Gnocchi mis

Then make the brown butter sauce:

 

Brown Butter and Sage

Brown Butter and Sage

Then sit down and tuck in!

 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage

Can You Spare Some Barm?

Hola people.  The leaves are beginning to change color, the temperatures are starting to drop, and I think it is safe to say that autumn has made her way down here.  Well, as much as we get that favored season down here. I don’t know about you, but as soon as our heater kicks on for the first time, I inevitably start thinking about bread.  Warm fresh bread and the whole house smelling of homey yeasty goodness.  Last year, I embarked on a sourdough journey, and cultivated a seed starter, which sadly did not make it through the summer.  

For those even newer to the world of sourdough than I, here is a quick and dirty primer on sourdough home-baking.  First, sourdough, unlike most other yeast breads, uses what is called a starter.  The starter is essentially a living creature – a baby made of flour and water (and sometimes other things, depending on your inclinations as a parent), that feeds, ferments, and grows.  Some people will jumpstart a starter by adding commercial yeast.  However, most sourdough folks prefer the wild yeast method, whereby you put out some flour mixed with water (and perhaps some honey, or molasses) and this mess will attract wild yeast spores.  Yes, believe it or not, there is wild yeast floating around in the air.  And it differs from location to location.  One of the reasons San Francisco sourdough is so prized is that San Fran is viewed as having “special” local wild yeast.  

So, your flour and water mess will collect wild yeast.  The starch in your flour will also attract lactobacilli, a good bacteria. Just a note, a starter won’t typically attract undesirable bacteria due to the fact that the starch in flour is a little hard for most bacteria to handle.  Over the course of a few days or weeks (depending on the method you use), will “grow” as you feed it additional flour and water, and will produce carbon dioxide, in addition to alcohols and lactic acid that will ward off “bad” bacteria.  When you feed your starter, you will also divide it and toss some.  Eventually, however, you have something that is ready to be used to make actual bread.

There are all sorts of crazy feeding schedules and rules out there, so you can get as mystic or as simple as you want in your quest to birth the perfect starter.  Some methods in involve a seed, then barm, then starter method, that I think of as a 3-step method, which is the method I have been working with.  Trust me when I say I could have chosen far more complicated methods.  Basically, you mix the flour and water and wait for the yeast to come – at this point, you have your “seed.”  You feed and reduce on schedule for the next few days, checking to see how much the seed rises in between.  When your seed triples in under 12 hours (again, this is according to just one of countless methods), then you have achieved “barm” state.  Barm is what hangs out in your fridge, scary off visitors and family alike. You can feed your barm or not; it basically “sleeps” while in the fridge.   When you want to make bread, you scoop out some barm (much harder than it sounds, since barm basically has the consistency of a 3 year old’s snot), let it get to room temp and away you go.  Barm can last for years – many many years – as long as it doesn’t get contaminated.  Like mine did. So…     

Are there any other sourdough bakers out there?  Anyone local who might have a cup of barm to spare?

 

Sourdough Baguettes

Sourdough Baguettes

Adventures in Appellate Law

So, I recently had the dubious honor of presenting oral arguments before the Federal Court of Appeals.  I say “dubious,” because how fit I was to the task remains unknown. I was both extremely thrilled and anxious to tackle this. I have some experience with appellate work, mostly the briefing parts, but this was the first time I have appeared to argue at this level.  Needless to say, it was a little nerve-wracking.  

The case involves a 1983 claim based on excessive force.  Long story short, a police officer pulled a man over, claimed the man exited the car wielding a knife, at which point the officer shot and killed the man.  The officer later admitted to planting a knife at the scene. We represent the surviving family members. Our argument is predicated on the assertion that the municipality involved failed to train and supervise the office, in violation of the decedent’s Constitutional rights, and that this failure resulted in the death.  The defendants had moved for summary judgment at the trial level and lost, at which point they appealed it.  

We were later in the docket, so I got to sit through several other cases – which gave me both the chance to see what to expect and the chance to get increasingly nervous. It was awesome to watch the judges work – they were all very well prepared and the questioning was just amazing. For my case, the other side went first.  The panel began questioning me before I even reached the podium. I had hard arguments to make based upon submission of evidence and evidentiary burdens. The legal arguments were a tad tricky, as there isn’t very much case law that fits the corners of our case facts and legal arguments. All in all, though, I think it fared well.  My fifteen minutes went by very quickly; I think there is something inherently unsatisfactory about being the appellee in that you do not get rebuttal time.  

Things I have learned? One, that I will always be extremely well-prepared on issues the judges have no interest in discussing.  Two, there is nothing more important in appellate work than a strong familiarity with precedent.  And three, I will always need to wear the highest heels I own and can stand in, otherwise I will need a box to stand on.  

 

10 Commandments - Random Courthouse

10 Commandments - Random Courthouse

Demand-A-Dish – Special Gourmet Recipe Edition

So, I am still recovering from the news that only the best food magazine in the history of EVER is folding.  So, in honor of Gourmet and all that it has given me over the years, this week’s Demand-A-Dish consists of recipes from Gourmet that I have never gotten around to trying.  Vote early and often!

Time to Make the Appellate Donuts…

Just a heads up.  Not that I am the most prolific poster, and I certainly don’t post everyday, but I will be on the road for the next few days.  I am off to argue in one of our esteemed Federal Circuit Courts of Appeals.  Exciting stuff – a first for me and I will be flying utterly solo.  I will post some very redacted and vague reactions, comments, and tales when I get back, or possibly when I can no longer bear to flip through my argument binders anymore. Until then, have a lovely Monday, think happy food thoughts, and be decent.

 

Pie makes everything nice

Pie makes everything nice

Let’s Talk About Privilege

I just posted a comment on Facebook in response to a comment made by someone I don’t know to a link posted by someone I do know. To summarize, the comment made by the person I do not know stated that a white person not voting for someone who is black is the same thing as a black person voting for someone because they are black.  The direct quote was “racism works both ways.”  I cry bullshit.  It certainly does NOT “work” both ways.  How can a minority oppress a majority? How can a group with so little power have any control over a group with almost all the power?  And how in the fuck is it “racist” for a member of a marginalized group to want power when they have so very little? 

I have seen serious racial discrimination in school and in my careers. Being white, I have no experience with being at a disadvantage based on the color of my skin. In fact, I have no doubt that I have received better treatment in all aspects of life simply because I am white.  I also know that I have been more poorly treated for simply being female. And sexism, in case you didn’t know, is still very much alive and kicking. 

It is all well and good to say, ‘well, we have laws against discrimination now, so everything is equal.’ Well, again, I cry bullshit. So fucking what if you ‘allow’ everyone theoretical access to the same things.  That doesn’t do shit.  How can you be an “equal” when you had and have no input in how the system works? How much access do you truly have?  Let’s look, e.g., at the basic structure of a law firm. Law firms were basically created by white males, with education and money and connections and stay-at-home wives. Women have been graduating from law school in equal or greater numbers than men for almost 2 decades now.  More than long enough for us to trace career trajectories. And yet, 20 years later, the partners and shareholders of law firms are almost entirely white and male. People bitch about affirmative action, but tell me how equal “access” has given us substantive equality? It hasn’t.  And let me tell you – it is so SO easy to hide discrimination.  If a company or school does not want “diversity,” it has an infinite number of ways to keep diversity at bay. And it will continue to do so until it is forced to do otherwise.

So don’t give me this crap about “reverse racism.” White males created the power structure. They wrote the rules, crafted the procedures, and STILL hold all the reins. The fact that we can all go in the front door now doesn’t mean that we can all get in the elevator and make it to the proverbial corner office. And if you DON’T think there is a white male privilege, just take a look around you. Look at the distribution of wealth.  Or land ownership. Or incarceration. Does our Congress reflect our various racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, and gender demographics?  Hell no.  Until our positions of power are held with a diversity that reflects the diversity of the citizenry, privilege will continue to exist.  And though we are equal, we will not have substantive equality until that happens.

 

The Lady's Not For Burning.  Or For Racism.

The Lady's Not For Burning. Or For Racism.

ObAmaretto Tiramisu

The polls are CLOSED and the official winner is:  AMARETTO TIRAMISU!  Or, as I am calling it, ObAmaretto Tiramisu.  I think I have figured out a recipe, and will be making the tasty treat tonight, so that it has sufficient time to get all good and soaky before dinner tomorrow night.  No stores around here (that I know of, comment if you know of one) sell ladyfingers anymore.  And I didn’t have sufficient time to make my own, so I will be trying this with a combination of ladyfingers and almond biscotti.  We will see…

 

tiramisu!

tiramisu!

Hate Begets Hate

So, I had a pretty heartbreaking conversation with a stranger today and thought I would share it with whomever reads this blog.  Maybe it will do some good.  Or raise some hell.  I don’t know, but I do know that I have to get it out.  I was at Old Navy, perusing the uber-clearance racks for a flowy pirate shirt for Offspring #1 to wear for Halloween.  He is going as Labyrinth-era Bowie, but I digress.  There was a woman next to me and I asked her opinion as to whether a particular shirt was sufficiently piratey.  We got to talking and immediately recognized that we were both midwestern transplants, which inevitably lead to a conversation about culture shock. As most liberals down here know, it is both rare and wonderful to encounter a previously unknown and like-minded person.  And you have that moment where you think to yourself – ‘Just how liberal is this person? Will they freak out if I mention how much I hate the homophobia? Can I safely make fun of the idiots who are afraid of Obama?’ You know what I mean. So when you make such a comment, and they respond with a big ‘No SHIT!’ you breathe a sigh of relief.  There aren’t that many of us, so anytime I meet another person of liberal persuasion, it does my heart good.

But then she told me that they were leaving. They have a young child and just couldn’t bear the thought of their child growing up in this sort of cultural environment.  See, as it turns out, they saw a lot of ugliness during the 2008 campaigns.  I think most of us did.  But the straw that broke their hearts was when they were at a local flea market  [EDIT:  a reader has clarified that that is not the farmers market in Jonesborough, rather it is the flea market on the way to Greeneville on 11-E] and there was a vendor there selling Klan material.  And as it turns out, this woman and her family are of a group that is frequently targeted by the Klan (I don’t mean to be obtuse, I just don’t want to give out any personal information on this woman or her family).  And, to make it worse, the Klan asshole had a young child with him.  And as the woman said, how can I allow my child to go to school here, knowing that kids like this one are pretty damn likely to my child’s classmate?  

Just writing about this makes me cry again.  I am all about 1st Amendment rights, but this is about something more than that. How in the hell can we ever move forward as a people when there is still so much hate and anger and violence?  When wonderful people are effectively driven out of communities because they are not the same? Where supposed “godly” people threaten to “get rid” of people that dare to stand up for their Constitutional rights? Where gaybashing is considered an appropriate recreational activity?  How do we fight this?

 

The Raciest

The Raciest

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