Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mediterranean Macaroni and Cheese | Cookout . 4

Mac and cheese is a quintissential comfort food and kid-friendly classic. This recipe takes it on a Mediterranean detour with Parmesan, black olives and hot peppers.

You’ll notice that several of the ingredients in this recipe aren’t quantified but indicated as to taste, a phrase usually tacked on in most recipes after the words salt and pepper. To taste means just that. You taste the food, gradually adding a particular ingredient until it is just to your taste.

Chefs are constantly tasting their food, as chef Gordon Ramsey does and continually emphasizes to the contestants of Hell’s Kitchen must always be done. He sees it as a key to cooking. Home cooks frequently just follow a recipe and first taste the food when it arrives at the table.

To season this recipe to taste start with a small quantity of an item. Whisk a teaspoon of paprika into the cheese sauce - then taste it. If you’d prefer a more pronounced paprika flavor, whisk in another teaspoon - then taste again. Continue this way until you’ve got things to your taste (or perhaps your kid’s). Repeat this process with the hot peppers and salt and pepper.

Ingredients ...
2 pounds elbow macaroni
8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup plus/minus flour
8 cups 2% milk
1-1/2 pounds extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound Parmesan cheese, grated
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with salt
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, steamed
1 6.3 ounce jar black olives, finely sliced
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
paprika, to taste
jalapeno peppers, finely chopped, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups fresh bread crumbs

Preparation ...
1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt 1 ounce of butter in a skillet. Saute the onion over a low flame for 15 minutes or so to caramelize it. Add the garlic and celery, cooking for another 5 minutes or so.
3. While the onion cooks, steam the cauliflower until it's tender but firm.
4. Melt 7 ounces of the butter in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in flour until a thin paste forms, stirring continuously, and cook for several minutes.
5. Gradually whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Gradually whisk in the cheeses.
6. Cook the macaroni per the package directions to al dente firmness.
7. Combine all ingredients, except the bread crumbs, in a large mixing bowl. Transfer the macaroni mixture into two buttered 9-inch by 13-inch glass baking dishes.
8. Top with the bread crumbs.
9. Bake for 30 minutes or so.

Piano Row | On the Cover . 8

Piano Row, Boylston Street. Boston, Masscahusetts.

This is the view to one side of a former building lot on Boylston Street in Boston's Theatre District. The building torn down was called Piano Row. It housed various musical instrument, sheet music and especially piano retailers. It's now an Emerson College dormitory, built after their move from Back Bay down to the Theatre District. Theatre, TV and movies being Emerson's calling card. So I guess that's fitting. It was the site of a terrible crane collapse which killed several workers during its construction.

Observatory | Dot . 10

Astronomical observatory cupola. Dorchester, Massachusetts.

Our office is located on s street in Dorchester, aka Dot, after which this occasional series of photographs is titled. Monadnock, as it's called, is flanked by some classic Victorian houses, each with its own eccentricities and oddities. This is one of the most unusual, a cupola which used to be the 'dome' of an astronomical observatory. The entire turret rotated on a circular track to aim the telescope in the desired direction. My guess is that the little window just below the eaves was the bottom of the opening for the telescope, the roof portion of which was later covered over and shingled. Note the classic lightning rod capping the cupola.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bike Lanes: Promise and Peril | Bikeways . 1

By Michael Felsen

As a Boston resident who’s cycled to work for over thirty years, I'm heartened by all the current interest in, and promotion of, bike commuting in the city. As a mode of urban transportation, it’s fast, efficient, fitness-friendly, and green. And it’s definitely catching on. Two-wheeled traffic on my various routes to my job has notably increased in the last year or two.

One manifestation of the official recognition of cycling as a valid and valued means of transport is the sudden proliferation of bike lanes all over the city. As a bike commuter I appreciate these dedicated lanes, at least in theory. In practice, though, I have a serious problem with almost all of them: the lanes characteristically begin immediately next to the line of parked cars and, hence, leave bikers squarely in range for what's probably the greatest hazard (other than reckless riding) they face: “dooring.” My main concern is that unwary cyclists (and there seem to be many of them) operate as if riding in these bike lanes offers them a measure of safety. Not so: riding down the middle of a bike lane puts the cyclist directly within range of a suddenly opened door.

As most bike commuters can attest, this concern isn’t academic. I’ve been doored twice. Ironically, several years ago I’d just had a physical exam at work, and the attending doctor remarked how I was in pretty good shape, and how I ought to keep doing whatever I was doing. I told him my secret was that I biked to work. The next day, riding to work on Columbus Avenue, I was doored by the driver of a panel truck. I went flying, my front wheel was destroyed, and, thank goodness, I was wearing a helmet. Battered and bruised, I limped back to my office health center, and the physician on duty asked what had happened. I said: “Well, I was just doing what you told me to keep doing.”

Much more tragically, a number of years ago a friend opened his car door and hit a vibrant young woman who was biking, in a bike lane, to graduate school. She was knocked off her bike, slid under an oncoming bus, and died. Devastating, for all involved. Enough said.

Admittedly, many Boston streets just aren't wide enough to allow space for bike lanes that begin at the point beyond the range of a parked car's opening door. But the current practice of placing the lane within range of that door is a dangerous one that will likely contribute to future injuries, and even deaths.

Here's a suggestion: On roads wide enough, full-width bike lanes need to be located beyond the reach of an opening door. On the narrower roads most common in Boston, let’s make the bike lane much narrower, even just a foot wide; brightly mark it "bike lane" still, but make sure its edge that's closest to the line of parked cars is beyond the range of an open door. This way, motorists will still be called on to acknowledge -- and hopefully respect -- a dedicated bike lane; and cyclists riding inside the lane can proceed to work free from the hazard a car door, suddenly flung open, presents.

As an urban cyclist who’s “been around the block” a few times, I ride on the far left edge of existing bike lanes, but I fear for those newer bike commuters who haven’t had the benefit of that experience. Every day I see them riding in the middle of these new bike lanes, well within the span of a car door, and squarely in harm’s way. Realistically, it's going to take years of consciousness-raising before motorists have learned habitually to look for oncoming cyclists before they open their street-side doors. Until that happens, the narrower bike lane beyond dooring range could prove a life-saving alternative to what's out there now.

Images ... Top: Bike lane on Columbus Avenue in the South End, Boston. Bottom: Bike lane in the Phillipines. Courtesy of Vanguard.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beans about Boston . 6

New beans ... are currently being cooked up. Below is the answer to the previous Beans.

Old beans ...

Malcolm X moved to Boston in the early 1940's, a troubled teenager with a tumultuous past, to live with his aunt Ella on Dale Street in Roxbury. Soon after his arrival, his aunt offered him a piece of advice that Malcolm later recalled as being one of the most important he was ever given. What was it?

1. Go see Boston.
2. Get a job!
3. Go to church.
4. Get some sharp threads.
5. Join the Nation of Islam.

Correct answer ... 1. Go see Boston.

Aunt Ella told Malcolm to go see Boston before he became busy with a job and schooling and had no time to wander around the city. He took her advice and was amazed by all the history on view wherever he went, including the Boston Massacre monument featuring Crispus Attucks, the black martyr who helped spark the American Revolution.

Amazingly, no one got this right. 100% of respondents chose 5. Join the Nation of Islam. Malcolm joined the Nation after being introduced to it by fellow prisoners while serving time in Concord and Walpole.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Willow Leaves | On the Cover . 7

Willow Leaves. Lawrence Street in the South End, Boston.
OTC presents the current image on the cover of Roofscape Magazine.

Autumn | Thought . 6

A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.

Eric Sloane. Image: Autumn, Vermont by Eric Sloane.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mallika Sherawat | Twit-pick . 11

Mallika Sherawat
- Bollywood film star with a degree in Indian philosophy - bustin' some serious hip-hop moves in Hollywood.

Comment: Another pic from the dance floor... @unclerush n hip-hop will never be the same LOL ;-)

MallikaLA is a force of nature on Twitter where she tweets obsessively about her adventures in Hollywood. She's just wrapped her first American movie, Hisss. The film, based on the legend of Nāga, is about a snake woman whose mate is captured by an American hunter. The snake woman decides to take revenge on the hunter. Wikipedia.

Twit-pick is our current favorite picked from the public timeline of Twitpic, the new site hosting images for Twitter.