Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Italian Wedding Soup

Granted the mini-meatballs are in fact meat-less,
this turned our far better than I had hoped.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

RECIPE! White Truffle Oil & Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce

Truffle oil won a permanent place in my heart after our trip this summer to Italy. In Abruzzi and Tuscany, in particular, tagliatelle with white truffle oil and porcini mushrooms was easily found (and frequently ordered.)

I've tried a few variation's on the theme since returning. Sauteing dried porcini in butter and truffle oil then tossing with noodles and sprinkling with shaved Parmesan and black pepper works well enough. This cream sauce recipe owes a debt to my brother, Adam, and his ladyfriend, Elisa; he has more experience that I do with pasta sauce, and she, an Italian, outwits us both.

1-2 oz. dried
porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated
4 tbsp butter
6 tsp white
truffle oil
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, grated
Black pepper

Melt half the butter in a saucepan over medium heat till popping. Strain mushrooms through a filter and rinse; reserve strained broth. Add porcinis to pan with butter and 2-3 tbsp mushroom broth. Reduce heat, simmer till soft, 5-10 minutes.

Stir in truffle oil, remaining butter, cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and dash of pepper. Allow to simmer over low heat, careful to not burn. Taste and adjust with mushroom broth or truffle oil.

We enjoyed this most frequently over thin, broad tagliatelle with shaved cheese, but up in Tuscany came across pinci, a thicker, hollow spaghetti-like noodle. Pinci were usually served with a stewed sauce made from wild boar. But we liked the noodles too much to not try and find them States-side. Here, we've found them called perciatelli, but only in specialty stores or grocery stores with a really big pasta selection.

But whatever noodles you choose, white truffle oil -- admittedly not a budget shopping item -- will wake them up.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google Trends: Where in the World...

Google Trends, the free search tracking tool from Google, drew some attention this election cycle for it's 2008 US Election Trends page. It was even observed a few months back that by tracking Google searches for "Obama" and "Clinton" one might as accurately predict the Democratic primary as a bunch of well-paid pollsters.

I was reminded of Google Trends again yesterday after reading an article about how searches are being used to locate flu outbreaks, and with shocking speed and accuracy:

"Tests of the new Web tool from Google.org ... suggest that it may be able to detect regional outbreaks of the flu a week to 10 days before they are reported by the CDC."

I'm sure somewhere out there entire dissertations are being written on how simple search queries can mine such accurate data. In the meantime, I was inspired check out a few trends of my own:

What's next: Google EKG?

As it turns out, although historically more people search for "WTF" than "OMG" the tide may be turning; vampires are a greater concern globally than zombies (however, zombies are on more people's minds outside of North America); more Americans want to know about wine than beer; and if you're searching for some skin, you're looking for "nude" pictures twice as often as "naked" ones.

But by far the most shocking result was this:

In the summer of 2005, for reasons entirely unknown to me, more people around the world were looking for Carmen Sandiego than Osama Bin Laden.

Seriously, WTF?!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Popular Vote

One of the oft-repeated lines in the wake of John Kerry's 2004 election defeat was that no other presidential candidate in history had received more votes than John Kerry, of course, save for one man, of whom it was said had finally won his first presidential popular vote.

We can mess with these numbers and joke about the popular vote because the Electoral College doesn't mind (a good thing, actually, but more on that another time). Though it does boggle the mind a little that the biggest, most basic approval rating we have isn't really the end-all, be-all of things, not because it offends our sense of popular democracy but because it offends our sense of popular culture.

Voting for the Stars: Can Lance Bass count on your support?

American Idol, The Oscars, baseball's All-Star Game, a new character on Heroes--you get the most votes, you win (the biggest exception being perhaps college football's BCS system, but, again, more on that another time). Not so when it comes to presidential politics. The numbers don't matter as much as a whole as they do in bits and pieces. Kind of like America, one might say.

But as we take measure of Barak Obama's uber-historic victory, it's worth taking one more look at those numbers. We've all heard the pundits celebrating the fact that more people voted this year than in any other, followed by more pundits replying: but there are more people in America this year than in any other, so, duh, more people voted.

As the numbers rolled in last Tuesday night this wasn't entirely clear--the immediate returns had Obama and McCain with fewer total votes than Bush and Kerry four years ago. But not anymore.

The outstanding ballots have continued to be counted and, as of this morning, Obama is just shy of 66 million popular votes, four million above Bush's 2004 total. Of course, the pundits would say it doesn't matter: more people, more votes. But look at McCain's total: just shy of 58 million. That's a million fewer votes that Kerry's 2004 total.

What does it mean? If you're a cynic, it might mean that despite the fattening of the voter rolls a larger part of the population bought the argument that John McCain was George W. Bush's twin brother. If you have, say, the audacity of hope, it might mean that America is not as divided and static in its beliefs as some would have you believe.

Which is more likely? I'd say we have 66 million reasons to hope it's the latter.

Monday, November 10, 2008

'Daily' Schedule

Great article this afternoon in City Room, one of the NY Times blogs, which lays out in detail a day in the life of a 'Daily Show' episode. Some highlights:
7 a.m.: About seven or eight producers start work, culling through video footage and material from the previous day, much of which is stored on a set of 15 to 20 TiVo digital-video recorders.

9 a.m.: “We’re joking around from 9 to 10. Jokes from 9 to 10 frequently end up on the show.”

11:30 a.m.: The production staff members pop in and demand the material. The writers ask for five more minutes — which they are not given, but which they take, anyway.
Certainly interesting stuff, but especially so if you live in the production world and nerd out on finding out how other people go about their jobs doing the kind of stuff you'd love to do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama

I've got a few other stories and observations to share from the past week which I spent canvassing in northeast Philly and generally digesting anything remotely election-related, but in the aftermath of last night's overwhelming win for now-President-Elect Obama I want to pass along this data:

These two maps, courtesy of the NY Times, display Republican and Democratic gains in this election compared to 2004 in all counties across America. If anyone looking at the popular vote map by county can't understand how so much red equals so much blue, this ought to explain it. Senator Obama obliterated the GOP margin of victory in nearly 80% of all counties.