Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Casey's Birthday Risotto

There are only a few things I'm willing to improvise in the kitchen: one is curry, the other is risotto.  My dear friend Jeremy served me the first risotto I've ever tasted, and as he said then, "It's all about the butter and cheese."  

I've stuck with that, and it seems to work. 

Other things about risotto: it takes a long time, you must stir, and NEVER add too much water at once.

Casey loves risotto, so that's what I made him for his birthday. I've tried to write down the recipe because it was such a unique flavor profile, but since my measuring methods consist of "big clumps" and "a couple of squirts of Sriracha" it's kind of hard to write down...

Birthday Risotto

Stuffs ya need:
3 or 4 T Earth Balance vegan butter (yes, regular butter works)
half of a red onion, diced
half of a white onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic (I think...just go for a bunch)
Not Chick'n bouillon cube
almost 2C arborio rice
4 -5 C water, heated in pan
dried marjoram
chili powder
black pepper
almost 1C Romano cheese 
green onion (for garnish)

1. Before you start any burners, chop everything you need.
2. Heat the water in a pan to boiling, then add the bouillon cube and reduce to warm.  meanwhile.....
3. In a large, flat-bottom pan, warm the butter on medium heat until it's runny, then add the garlic and onions. Stir 'em around until they've reduced a little bit. Add some black pepper for good measure. 
4. Sneeze.
5. Add the arborio rice with about a half cup of water. Stir so each grain is soaking through, changing from opaque to translucent. 
6. Once the water is absorbed, add a little more and stir/sit/stir until it evaporates. Continue doing this until you've one addition of water left.

How do you know how much water? Well, it's going to take a lot. You can try the rice - if it's too crunchy, it needs more water and needs to cook longer. SCIENCE.

7. Time for the yummies: add almost one teaspoon of chili powder, a good dash of marjoram, a good dash of cumin, and a couple of decent squirts of Sriracha. We like our food spicy, so this amount is a matter of personal taste.
8. Add the last addition of water; once it's absorbed, add the cheese (as much as you like). 
9. When it's ready so serve, chop some green onions to sprinkle on top. 
10. Pair with dry red wine for a delicious complement. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Splitting Fear and Doubt

I've been talking about doing this since before Thanksgiving.

This post was originally written in early December...I'm just now FINALLY deciding to do what it's talking about...

This time last year I worked through a book called The Artist's Way. It's a workbook (and now an online course) devoted to finding or rediscovering your own creativity. Whether it's doubt, criticism, or fear - or, let's be honest, all three - we artists tend to block ourselves from our own expression.  The book was really helpful, and was honestly something I encountered in grad school a few years ago. I fully intend on working my way through it again.

Something I learned about myself from that experience was how much physical exercise affects my mental clarity.  This is something I've always known, but tend to forget.  When faced with the choice of practice or exercise, I tend to practice, as it feels like a much more urgent need.  We're told constantly how important exercise is, and since much of my practice is rather strenuous I tend to excuse myself.  But, this last week I've tried to revive a modest exercise/stretching regimen.  Unlike in the past, I didn't set unrealistic goals or judge myself if my cardio time was cut short, and as a result I've felt more confident in my practice sessions.  This was a bit unexpected.  More energy? Sure.  More body confidence? Yep. But more confident in my playing abilities? This was new for me.  A lovely surprise and something I want to continue.

Thinking along the ideas of "unlocking" the artist within, I've decided to take an indirect approach inspired by this recent experience.

I want to be able to do the splits again.


I was a gymnast as a kid, and the splits were a normal, everyday occurrence. Now, not so much.

I found a super casual and at times laughable article online that spells out weekly stretches and exercises to be able to do the splits at the end of 6 weeks. You can find it here.

We carry tension in our hip muscles.  We feel threatened and we tighten the muscles that support our bodies: back and hips (and probably the neck, too).  I wondered: what if I work on opening those large, supportive, and fear-holding muscles?  Will it affect how I view myself as a player? the decisions I make? the way I play my pieces?

So, I'm starting an experiment.  I'm going to take myself through this 6-week splits course, cataloging my progress here.  I'll share my discoveries and surprises, and maybe post embarrassing and hilarious photos of each week's attempts.

I would post a laughable photo from Day 1, but instead I'll just post this glorious reaction to what the photo would have been...