Friday, January 26, 2018

Fumbling Toward Culinary Talent: Shortcut Lablabi (Chickpea and Harissa Soup)

I got this recipe from the January-February issue of Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Magazine. Unlike my previous post of "Makeshift Lablabi," I had harissa on hand. 

Here's the recipe. I also used a lime instead of a lemon because I like limes better.  

It's called "Shortcut" because I used canned chickpeas and store-bought croutons. 

Olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
2 shallots, chopped finely
6 cloves of garlic, minced
6 tablespoons of harissa
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of ground cumin
3 quarts of chicken stock
2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

For serving
Croutons, homemade or store-bought
Wedge of lime
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Hard-boiled eggs, halved or quartered
Chopped green olives
Capers to suit

Coat a Dutch oven/soup pot with olive oil, heat the oven to medium, and sweat down the onions and shallots. Once they are soft, dump in the garlic and cook it for less than a minute. Put in the tomato paste and cook for approximately five minutes. Add in the harissa and cumin and cook for a few minutes. 

Add the chicken stock and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the chickpeas and simmer for 5-10 minutes. 

When serving, put the croutons in the bottom of the bowl, ladle the soup over the bread, and top with a couple of hard-boiled eggs. Sprinkle capers, olives, cilantro, and parsley atop the soup and then squeeze the lime on top of the soup.

Music Friday: "Inverness" & "Clean Gift"

Two albums that came out today have caught my attention.

The first is Choke Cherry Tree by the Ben Miller Band, an outfit I learned about on a music blog. 

The other is Tenkiller by Marie/Lepanto, which is a collaboration of Will Johnson of Centro-matic fame and his buddy Justin Peter Kinkel-Shuster, who also has been in a number of alternative bands. 

Here's a couple of songs from the latter album, the only videos I could find on YouTube. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Stay Positive: The Eco-Right

Yesterday Grist published an article about the eco-right, a group of traditionally conservative organizers, thinkers, and political candidates who are trying to mobilize the right and the GOP about climate change. 

The article, "Seeing Red on Climate" by Zoya Teirstein, is worth anyone's time. 

Many of them support a carbon tax, which I support. 

One of the movement's leaders, if we can indeed call it a "movement," is Alex Bozmoski, who was once a denier but "when challenged to justify his skepticism, Bozmoski found he had drawn erroneous conclusions fueled by conservative radio shows and Fox News." 

Well, there are a crapload of people like that, unfortunately. 

Here's to staying positive to people who actually believe in science.

Music Friday: "I'm Allowed," "Taillights Fade," & "Sodajerk"

I was reading a post on one of those music blogs yesterday, and I discovered that the band Buffalo Tom will have a new album out in early March. 

I didn't know that they had reassembled. They made their mark in the 90s, then I think they broke up, and then they got together again apparently. I obviously haven't been paying attention. From a simple search on Amazon, it's clear they produced albums in 2007 and 2011. 

Here are a couple of classic tunes from the band. I look forward to hearing their new stuff, however. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Random Notes from a Crank

For years I've been reading reports about how optimists do better in life and live longer. Much to my surprise, the December/January issue of The Atlantic has a uplifting article for we pessimists of the world. Check out "The Power of Negative Thinking."  I'm particularly fond of "defensive pessimism": "Forget about hoping for the best. Instead, focus on preparing for the worst." 

In the same issue, Julia Ioffe's "Putin's Game," aka "What Putin Really Wants," details why and how Russia interfered in the presidential election and why they will probably interfere in future elections. It also details the current state of the country and Putin's popularity. It's a longish article but well worth the read. 

This short article from Deadspin doesn't surprise me at all: "Cops Say an Eagles Fan Punched a Police Horse after Being Ejected from the Stadium."

Which reminds me of Mongo punching out a horse in Blazing Saddles...

Friday, January 12, 2018

Music Friday: "Release"

Today is my birthday. 

Another day closer to death. 

Another day to enjoy my life. 

Release me. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Scouting the 2018 Crimson Tide

With the expected departures of Ridley, Fitzpatrick, Harrison, Scarbrough, and Payne, I'm going to scout next season's Crimson Tide squad. I'll analyze the team by position groupings.

This analysis, of course, does not take into account the incoming recruiting class, so it's quite possible some true freshmen will get significant playing time like they did this season and in seasons past. 

It seems obvious Tua is the starter for next year. Once he was inserted into the National Championship game on Monday, the offensive game plan opened up. The offense took vertical shots at will, which in turn opened up the running game. 

The big question is this: What will Hurts do? 

Does he stick around to be the back-up, a really good back-up quarterback? Or does he consider a change of position (running back?)? Or does he transfer? Mac Jones will be a sophomore and is more of pocket passer, so if Hurts does bail, they have him as back-up quarterback. 

Running Back
I was pleasantly surprised to find out Damien Harris is coming back for his senior year. He's the lead dog of the group, and Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs help create a solid three-headed monster of a running back corps. 

Jacobs is an asset in the passing game as we saw at moments this season, and Brian Robinson is a solid runner. This position group is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, in the SEC and country even with Bo going pro. 

Offensive Line
The line loses senior Bozeman at center, so they need to fill that position. Everyone else should be back. Leatherwood filled in to Williams at left tackle and played well, and Lashley is another lineman who will compete for a starting position I imagine. 

Wide Receivers
I'm excited as heck about this position grouping. The Tide loses Ridley, Foster, and Sims, but Ruggs, Jeudy, and Smith will only be sophomores. They are three solid starters right there, so recruits will fill in for depth along with Shavers, Marks, and Kief. 

Tight End
This is a good group, and as I've said every damn year, I hope they throw to the tight ends more this coming season. Forristall got injured early in the season. He'll join Hentges and Smith. 

Defensive Line
Payne played outstanding down the stretch, and Hand played well too. They both are gone.

Thankfully, Buggs is coming back. Raekwon Davis is a beast. Quinnen Williams, Jamar King, Johnny Dwight, and Phidarian Mathis all should get plenty of playing time. This is a solid group of big men.

Losing Hamilton and Evans hurts, but the cupboard is not bare at all. 

The Tide will return Dylan Moses, Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Mack Wilson, Jamey Mosely, and Anfernee Jennings. They are all solid contributors. We'll see if Mekhi Brown and Ben Davis get some substantial work in 2018. 

Defensive Backs
This is the grouping where the Tide loses a lot of talent and experience. A ton. 

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison, are Hootie Jones are gone. They are all safeties although Minkah can probably play corner. 

Tony Brown, Anthony Averett, and Levi Wallce are gone. They are the starting cornerbacks. 

So the Crimson Tide has to replace its entire secondary. 

I suspect Trevon Diggs will be a starter at one of the corners, and I have read about and seen good things from Shyheim Carter. And Keaton Anderson played some. I can't remember if he plays safety or corner. 

Deointe Thompson stepped in admirably for Hootie Jones after an Auburn offensive lineman did a bullshit block and blew out Hootie's knee late in the Iron Bowl.  

I expect Diggs (corner) and Thompson (safety) to start, but it's hard to say who will emerge as starters after that: Shyheim Carter, Keaton Anderson, Kyriq McDonald, Xavier McKinney, Daniel Wright, Nigel Knott, and Jared Mayden.  

J.K. Scott graduated and will probably play in the NFL, so Alabama used a scholarship on a punter for this current recruiting class. Pappanastos had a bad game in the national championship, but overall he had a decent year. But I suspect Bulovas, a kicker on scholarship, will get the nod as starter if he works on his consistency. 

From a look at the kids who have signed letters of intent (14 of them), Alabama is bringing in four defensive ends, three corners, two all-purpose running backs, one defensive tackle, one center, one wide receiver, one offensive tackle, and one punter.

As we've seen in the past, Saban will start whomever earns it. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Sunday Hangover: Georgia

What a crazy national championship game. 

I was worried at halftime. The Tide offense was bad in the first half. Epically poor. The Tide offense was as crappy as MoscowDon's grandstanding at the national anthem and as anemic as Kendrick Lamar's halftime performance. 

They looked like crap, and the defense was getting tired from being on the field way too long. 

But as Alabama fans are used to, second-half adjustments were made. Despite the huge touchdown pass that Tony Brown got burnt on, the defense played well. They were salty. They played more like they played against Clemson. 

The decision to play Tua paid off. He had an outstanding game. He'll get all kinds of accolades for his performance, but what some observers might not notice is that many freshmen played in that game, especially at the wide receiver position. 

Just like in the State game, Devonta Smith caught the winning touchdown, but what came before all that were great catches by Jeudy, Sims, Ruggs, Foster, and Ridley. 

Calvin didn't have a signature game like I thought he would. In fact, his little brother had the better game from a yardage standpoint  However, he caught four passes for 32 yards with a crucial touchdown snag in the fourth quarter. 

In addition, Alex Leatherwood, another freshman, filled in for Jonah Williams at left tackle. 

Najee Harris, yet another freshman, was on the field late in the game and was the leading rusher for 64 yards via 6 rushes. 

The last time the Tide played Georgia it was a nail-biter with C.J. Mosely tipping a pass at the end to stop the Bulldogs near the goal line. 

Last night was epic. 


Friday, January 5, 2018

Music Friday: "The New Year" & "Brothers on a Hotel Bed"

I've featured "The New Year" before, but I always think of this song around this time of the year. 

The second song is one of the band's that's really grown on me over the years. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stay Positive: More Women Running for Office

I read this in my local paper today. It's an AP article, but online it is provided by ABC News. 

Regardless, the article "US Sees Surge in Number of Women Interested in Running for Office" by Christina Cassidy is worth your time. 

Not surprisingly the party of that supports a pussy grabber is not well represented since "there are 183 Democratic women and 14 Republican women running in primaries to challenge their current U.S. representatives."

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sunday Hangover: Clemson

There was all kinds of hype leading to this game. 

Most football prognosticators picked Clemson based on Clemson's track record as an offensive team and their much vaunted defensive line. All of their starting four will probably be picked in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. 

I suspect that the Crimson Tide used all these picks and all this talk about Clemson's defense for motivation. 

And it showed because Alabama's defense was salty and ferocious last night. 

They kept Clemson to 6 points and 188 yards of total offense. The defense also bailed out the offense after Hurts's stupid turnover. 

It was an old-school win: play great defense, control the ball and clock, and work field position. 

It was a much closer score than the final tally indicates. 

Payne and Wilson had outstanding interceptions, with Mack's going for a pick six. 

Payne won the defensive player of the game, but I think he got that more for the fabulous touchdown catch. One could make the case that Evans, Wallace, Wilson, or Jennings should have won that award. 

But here are some stats to show defensive standouts:
  • Evans: 9 total tackles (5 solo), 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss (tfl)
  • Wallace: 6 total tacles (all solo)
  • Wilson: 6 total tackles (4 solo), 1 sack, pick six
  • Jennings: 5 total tackles (3 solo), 1 sack, 3 tfls
  • Davis: 5 total tackles (4 solo), 1 sack, 2 tfls
  • Hand: 5 total tackles (2 solo), 1 sack, 1 tfl

As much as I want to pump sunshine about this win, I'm still concerned about the offense's performance. Hurts underthrew a pass on flee flicker that could have been a touchdown for Ridley if he would have led Ridley enough. 

The game plan obviously was run-centric, which is fine with me. D. Harris had a great game. He was the standout it the running game. However, I'm still waiting for a stronger passing attack. We've had that at times this season, but it hasn't been consistent. 

I guess the question going forward is this: Is Georgia's defense better than Clemson's? 

I think they are probably comparable, and I am confident that the Bulldogs have a better running game than Clemson. 

What I think we will see in the National Championship is two evenly matched teams that have similarities on both offense and defense.