Categories
Cooking Recipe

Simplest split pea soup

This is the simplest main dish I know. Two dry ingredients, that’s all. And it has all the benefits of bean soup: extremely healthy, my kids love it, vegan & gluten-free, easy to make, etc. Here’s my recipe.

Time: 60 minutes. Serves: the quantity I have below feeds about 8, but you could cut that in half – just keep the 1:3 ratio of the two ingredients. While this cooks, prepare some rice to add at the table. Add a vegetable and you have your meal (plus leftovers for another).

Ingredients

  • 1 qt split peas, rinsed if you feel like it
  • 3 qt vegetable broth (or 3 qt water + 4 bouillon cubes, added directly to the pot)
  • (optional) Hint of smoke (smoked salt or smoked paprika, to taste)

No chopping. No fresh ingredients. This can be underway in five minutes or less. Bring to a boil (if you have the lid on, this will make a mess), stir the foam back in, cover and simmer until split peas are soft (~45 minutes).

At this point I puree it, either with an immersion blender (easier) or in a blender. (If you have never pureed boiling soup in a blender, read up on it and take safety precautions). You could probably eat it unblended or just whisk it.

Serve with a scoop of rice in each bowl as a main dish. Based on the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Tip to Ann Arbor friends: Argus Farm Stop sells locally-grown split peas.

One weird thing to know if you’ve never cooked split pea soup: the leftovers thicken as they cool. To the consistency of Jello. You can carve it with a knife. It’s not a problem, though. When warming up leftovers, just scoop some into a soup bowl, add water to thin it out, microwave it, and stir it to a uniform consistency.

Categories
Local reporting Parenting ruminations

Let’s plan now for COVID-resilient school next year

In July I predicted that there would be no in-person instruction for Ann Arbor Public Schools this entire school year. Unfortunately, that prediction is looking accurate. Let’s start planning for September 2021.

The discussion among the district, board, and parents seems focused on reopening this year. At what level of disease activity, and which safety precautions, would be enough for kids to begin going to school? At least, that seemed to be the discussion a month ago, when disease levels were lower and other districts in SE Michigan (including some in Washtenaw County, like Saline and Dexter) were sending kids to school.

Especially with the current COVID surge now shutting down those other districts, it seems likely that reopening this year is not in the cards for Ann Arbor Public Schools. Given that, I fear we’re wasting precious time and energy debating possibilities and metrics for reopening this year. It echoes what happened this summer, when time spent considering possibilities for in-person instruction would have been better used on improving systems for remote instruction.

Categories
Biking Data analysis Local reporting

One Year of the William St. Bikeway

A year ago, Ann Arbor opened its first protected bike lane & cycle track: the William St. Bikeway. From my individual perspective, it’s been a huge hit. My family bikes on it to reach the downtown library, NeoPapalis Pizza, and the university. I see it used by other cyclists, skateboarders, and scooter-riders, snow clearing was decent last winter, and it’s only infrequently blocked by parked cars or trucks. Car traffic on William is calm and not noticeably backed up.

Construction of the city’s next protected bike lane is well underway, on First Street. And the city experimented this fall with temporary bike lanes around downtown, some of which have been great. The Division St. Cycle Track provides a divided, protected two-way bike highway without affecting car travel and it intersects conveniently with the William St. Bikeway, opening up travel in all directions. The William St. Bikeway was the proof point that made these other installations possible.

So it improved my family’s experience biking downtown and paved the way for other infrastructure. Did it change people’s behavior? In my post last year about the Bikeway, I displayed a snapshot of the Strava cycling heatmap that I took on November 1st, 2019. I grabbed one today, November 2nd, 2020, to compare. Here’s last year (see the old post for interpretation):

Categories
DIY

Hosting migration complete

For a couple of years, I’d meant to migrate my domain name and host to better companies. Now I have! I think everything on my blog made it through: posts, comments, images, subscriptions. Please let me know if anything seems off. Feeling proud of myself for navigating nameservers, file permissioning, etc.

The only intentional change is that I’m trying out the latest theme from WordPress, “Twenty Twenty.” Plus I have the latest versions of WordPress and PHP and my site now supports https.

After surveying my options, I went with A2 Hosting (that’s my referral bonus link, why not). They had good reviews from friends and reasonable pricing. As a bonus, my blog is now locally-hosted: A2 is shorthand for Ann Arbor, looks like they’re based over on Hogback Rd.

Categories
ruminations

Celebrating Eyedea, the greatest to ever freestyle

Today I remember Eyedea, aka Micheal Larsen, who died ten years ago. “Who’s the best rapper ever?” is an unanswerable question, but when it comes specifically to freestyling, Eyedea is the Greatest Of All Time.

As a hip-hop-loving teen in the early 2000s, I traded Eyedea’s mp3s on peer-to-peer sharing services like Napster and KaZaa. He was only two years older than me and yet by 18 he had already vanquished all comers to become the undisputed champion of battle rap. He got bored of battling and moved on, but his freestyles never got old to me. Here are some of my favorites, both battles and whimsical freestyles. If you never heard them, you’re in for a treat. Even a layperson can appreciate the greatest of all time putting on a master class, in anything.

Battles

CityPages has a list of five great Eyedea battles, with embedded videos. The first one listed, from HBO’s Blaze Battle tournament in 2000 (which Eyedea won), is a classic. When his opponent starts dancing to distract him, Eyedea immediately builds his final rhymes around that: “this cat wants to be my backup dancer!”

This is the best part of Eyedea’s freestyles: they’re so clearly extemporaneous. So many recordings and appearances billed as “freestyles” are obviously pre-written. No surprise, as even skilled rappers struggle to make up decent rhymes entirely on the fly. Eyedea’s flows are indisputably improvised, as shown by his ability to respond to opponents in battles (and friends in cyphers).

Friendly freestyles

The greatest freestyle session ever recorded is also a settled matter: the 2000 KFAI Orphanage freestyle. Here’s Blueprint’s description of the legendary session, but more importantly here’s the recording: 45 glorious minutes of freestyles, as indie rap icons trade the mic back and forth.

Categories
Cooking Recipe

The essential lentil stew

This is the recipe I’ve cooked the most times in my life and my comfort food. It is the perfect bean soup, which is the perfect food. I’m amazed how flavorful this dish is despite being virtually unspiced.

Time: 55 minutes. Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery (optional), chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, 14.5 oz, including the juice
  • 1 lb regular brown lentils
  • 8 cups vegetable stock. For me, that’s 2.5 bouillon cubes from Edwards & Sons + 8 cups of water, thrown directly in the pot.
  • A dash or two of smoked paprika or smoked salt (optional)

Saute the onions in ~4 tbsp (1/4 cup) olive oil for a few minutes. Add carrots and celery, cook for a few minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils, stir, add the stock, add the smoke if desired. Cook until the lentils are soft, check around ~30 minutes but it may take more like 40-45. Adjust levels of salt, pepper, smoke. The smoke is optional, skip it or keep it very light – it’s just providing a faint background note.

Optional additions that work well at the table are parmesan cheese and lots of black pepper. Freeze the leftovers.

Notes & Tips

This was a standby of my mother’s. She got it from Marcella Hazan and when I first lived on my own she photocopied the recipe for me:

Categories
Cooking Parenting

An Ode to Bean Soup

Fall in Michigan means it’s soup weather! I make a lot of bean soups (and related soups). I think I’ll write some of them up on this blog. It’ll be a reference for me, at least, when I can’t decide what to cook next. Maybe others will find it useful, perhaps even my kids someday.

Bean soup is the best genre of food. It’s not close. It checks every box:

  • Tasty. My reasons below are practical, but they would be for naught if the soups weren’t delicious.
  • Easy. They usually involve little or no chopping, few ingredients, and a single big pot. Add an easy carb like bread/rice/ pasta and a vegetable side and it’s a meal.
  • Kid-friendly. My kids like or love most of my bean soups and they make a great early food for babies.
  • Scales up. Because there’s little chopping, it’s as easy to make 2, 3, or 4x as much at once. That gives you 1, 2, or 3 bonus nights where dinner is already in the fridge, ready to go. And it…
  • Keeps well. It’s as good days later as fresh, and freezes perfectly. When I want to bring a meal on short notice to someone ill or grieving or celebrating, I grab a couple of quarts of frozen soup.
  • Healthy. They’re low in fat and carbs and high in fiber and protein, which is nice because they’re also..
  • Vegetarian or vegan. These are protein-heavy, savory, rich dishes that won’t leave omnivores feeling like the meat is missing.
  • Gluten-free. If you’re serving a crowd whose dietary preferences you don’t know, like at a potluck, it’s inclusive to make a dish that is vegan and gluten-free without compromising.
  • Made from nonperishable ingredients. Most soups are made from things that last indefinitely in the pantry. And when you don’t have something, they’re..
  • Forgiving. You can skip a vegetable, use powder instead of fresh onions, and change spices or even the legume. And the cooking techniques are hard to mess up – it’s hard to burn a soup, even if you’re not paying attention (though I’ll tell that story when I get to that soup).
  • Cheap. About as cheap as good healthy food gets.
  • Local. I can get Michigan-grown beans and lentils. And even if beans aren’t local to you, growing and transporting dried beans is very climate-friendly.

Bean soup may be the best class of food, but even it has a few limited downsides:

  • Not great in summer. People don’t want to eat hot soup when it’s sweltering out. Summer is the off-season for me, when I cook solid food. Fortunately, I live in Michigan, where it’s soup season from September until May.
  • People sometimes want solid food. I can eat soup every night when it’s cold, but I find that I can only cook soup so many consecutive days before someone in my family says they miss the sensation of using a fork and chewing their food. So I take care to throw some non-soups in the mix regularly.

Even in writing this I remembered more soups I’ve not cooked recently. Let’s see how many I can catalog as I cook my way through another busy soup season…

Categories
Gardening ruminations

Invasive plant sukkot

I write this during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. “Sukkot” is the plural of sukkah, the temporary hut that Jews construct for the fall harvest holiday.

I had an epiphany this year: build the sukkah out of buckthorn! Common buckthorn is an aggressive invasive species that plagues the city of Ann Arbor, the state of Michigan, and the Great Lakes region. Since a friend showed me some growing near my house, I notice it everywhere and take pleasure in removing it, as outnumbered as I am in that fight. I’ve cleared it at my previous home in Scio Township, at my in-laws in East Lansing, and now pull it from city parks.

A sukkah needs a roof of s’chach, or cut plant matter. Buckthorn is perfect for this: it’s slender, long, and leafy. In fact, it could do double-duty: it’s ideal for the roof but larger, thicker specimens could also make up the frame of the sukkah (which can be reused from year to year). At the end of Sukkot, the buckthorn can be disposed of in municipal compost carts, where any berries will be destroyed in the heat of the city’s compost piles.

Categories
Beer Homebrew Recipe

Batch 83: Barrel-Soured Witbier

I took a pause both from brewing and keeping up with my notes.  This batch I brewed the last week of December 2019.  It was the eleventh batch of the Knob Creek barrel project.

Barrel participants all brewed different witbier recipes.  Mine was a 22 gallon batch – one share each for me & Spencer, a bonus one for the angel’s share, and one to bottle and drink clean.  Recipe:

Categories
Jokes Writing

Hamilton walks in the woods

Alexander Hamilton finished writing his paragraph, drained his water glass, donned his top hat, and stepped out of the door. He checked his watch – he’d be late to the gala, even if he hurried. He walked quickly, resisting the urge to run. He wished to show up composed and if he went too fast, he’d sweat through his finery. And he was wearing his best summer suit.

Halfway there, all the water he’d gulped while immersed in writing caught up with him. He stepped to the side of the road and gingerly waded through the bushes, only going far enough off the path to attain the privacy required for a gentleman to relieve himself. He carefully picked his way back out to the road and brushed himself off, as to leave no trace of this errand.

Much relieved indeed, Hamilton picked up his pace and arrived at the ball only a little later than was fashionable. He had flushed cheeks and rapid breathing, but was pleased not to have made a scene by being any later.

Thomas Jefferson spotted him: “Mr. Hamilton!” Jefferson walked over to shake his hand. Hamilton apologized for being late, admitting that it was hard for him to take a break from writing. Jefferson looked him over and winked, remarking “oh? It looks to me like you were enjoying a walk through the woods on the way here. Perhaps you had more urgent business to attend to?”

Hamilton was aghast. He’d stepped with such care! He blurted out, “whatever gave me away?”

Jefferson chuckled and pointed to Hamilton’s ankle: “Your undoing? Why, an errant burr, sir!