Monthly Archives: December 2014

Recipe: Christmas Pasta e Fagioli, Vegan and Vegetarian Versions.

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Good Evening:

During my Christmas visit to family, it came to pass one evening that we supposedly had “no food” in the house. Rather than order Chinese takeout or pizza, I took a look around and found a few items that I threw together and we ended up having a dinner of equal parts improvisation, vegetarianism, and tastiness. I’ve tweaked my madcap make-do meal a bit to create a Christmas-themed variant of the classic Italian dish Pasta e Fagioli.

Many Christmas Eve traditions include a vegetarian dinner in preparation for the Christmas day feast, making this a good choice for a main course soup. In addition, the bright red and green colors make this meal visually appropriate for the holiday. Although it requires many steps, all are extremely easy. I prepped and cooked the entire dish in less than one hour. I hope you will experiment with it and enjoy!

Christmas Eve Pasta e Fagioli, Vegan and Vegetarian Versions.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of farro pasta, preferably small shells or elbows
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, quarter-inch dice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • One 15-oz. can of garbanzo or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup of chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1-3 teaspoons of dried red pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek seeds (odd but effective)
  • 12 cocktail cucumbers (2-3 inches long, .5 inch thick), sliced into quarter-inch slices. Substitution: 2 Persian Cucumbers or 2 small Zucchini in quarter-inch dice
  • 30 red cherry or grape tomatoes, split lengthwise
  • 1-2 tablespoons of dried thyme to taste
  • 2 cups of julienned spinach leaves
  • 3 tablespoons Pesto Genovese (the traditional basil, Parmasan cheese and pine nut recipe). Vegan: Three tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil.
  • 1 pint vegetable broth
  • Finely chopped Italian parsley and/or basil for garnish
  • Optional Garnish: finely shredded Parmasan and Cheddar cheeses. The Cheddar seems odd, but it worked.

Cooking

  1. Have reading a boiling pot of salted water for the pasta.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat until shimmering.
  3. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium low, stirring frequently, until translucent and soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add salt and pepper, the beans, and the chopped walnuts, stirring until everything is coated. Add the smoked paprika, fenugreek, and red pepper flakes, stirring until everything is coated again. Stir for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the cucumbers and saute for about 3 minutes.
  6. Stir in the tomatoes and thyme; saute for about 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in the spinach and either the pesto or basil.
  8. At this point, make sure the pot of salted water is boiling.
  9. Add the broth to the saute, stir once more, bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cover.
  10. Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente. Drain thoroughly, but reserve one cup of pasta water.
  11. Add the pasta water to the broth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  12. Set forth 4-6 bowls.
  13. Divide the pasta evenly among the bowls.
  14. Divide the broth evenly among the bowls, pouring over the pasta.
  15. Garnish with the herbs and optional cheeses.
  16. Serve with soup spoons, accompanied by a rustic bread and mixed green salad.

The bright red and green colors will lend a festive appearance to the Christmas Eve table. Totally improvised from an “empty” larder but the results came as a nice surprise to everyone, including yours truly.

Vonn Scott Bair

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Houdini & Presto on The Unicorn Throne. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth)

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Good Evening:

These two find both their designated chair and each other very warming.

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Houdini (mostly white) and Presto (orange tabby markings) had led hard luck lives that eventually dumped them into an animal shelter whereupon they simultaneously experienced the incredible good fortune of meeting my human family and getting adopted the same day.

They get along pretty well, given that they come from such different ancestors, but their tails have occasional squabbles when it comes to their shared bed, The Unicorn Throne.

Yes. Their tails.

I believe that many cats do not have tails: instead, they have independent self-organizing symbiotic organisms that attach themselves to cat butts. Especially Houdini. Houdini had occupied the throne first a few mornings ago, promptly going to sleep, but that morning had grown cold, so Presto decided that he wanted to get off the floor and enjoy the warmth of their shared chair.

Houdini didn’t mind; he remained asleep. His symbiote-tail did mind.

And proceeded to slap Presto in the face multiple times. Cat asleep and dead to the world; tail on the defense. Houdini did not move; the tail kept wapping Presto in his face. However, Presto found an effective answer to the tail’s effrontery.

He simply sat on it and went to sleep.

Awakening Houdini.

Yet somehow all three of them–cats and cat’s tail–get along well most of the time.

Vonn Scott Bair

Scooter, San Francisco, California, 29 November 2014 (One Four Challenge, Week 4)

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Good Morning:

One more look at the original photograph, from week 1 of the One Four Challenge:

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The reds in the middle of the shot offer a nice contrast to the overall monochrome look and feel, but the background reds behind the hands are a distraction, as well as the reds on the extreme left and right margins. My final idea for the scooter picture consisted of using a specialized editor called Color Splash Studio to turn the shot into B&W and then restore only the face, hands, and the front wheel of the scooter to color.

Scooter, San Francisco, California, 29 November 2014; Color Splash Studio Edit

Scooter, San Francisco, California, 29 November 2014; Color Splash Studio Edit

Puts a nice emphasis on the vertical composition of the shot. One interesting aspect of the final result (to me, anyway) consists of the hands. In both pictures, it appears that he wears gloves. In any case, I’ve had enough fun with this shot for now. Have a good holiday week, everyone.

Vonn Scott Bair

Office Yellow. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow)

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Good Morning:

The interior design color scheme for San Francisco Public Utilities Commission HQ consists of blue, green, orange, and mustard yellow. Such as this logo for our employee home solar panel program.

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Regular and close up shots of the fabric in my cubicle–more of my Instant Minimalist Art.

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Vonn Scott Bair

Ozomatli @ The Fillmore, 20 December 2014 & The Aristeia of Caipo.

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Good Evening:

I know what you’re thinking–what the heck is a Caipo?

I have written once before on the subject of the aresteia: that brief passage of time during which an individual suddenly, astonishingly, not only performs at a level far above his/her previous best, but actually becomes the best ever. Ozomatli came to the Fillmore Auditorium for their annual Christmas shows this weekend, and as usual they blew the roof off the building, More on that later; the time has come to praise Caipo.

Bang Data: Deuce Eclipse on Vocals, Caipo on Percussion

Bang Data: Deuce Eclipse on Vocals, Caipo on Percussion

Ozo loves to showcase opening acts so good they might make you forget that Ozo even exists: Cumbia Tokeson in 2011, Los Rakas in 2012, and for 2014 they brought in Bang Data, most famous for the inclusion of their song “Bang Data” in a classic scene from Breaking Bad (the one where Gus poisons the entire Mexican cartel–yeah, that classic scene).

Anyway, most everyone I asked didn’t know the name of the opening act: one of the Fillmore employees said “Ben Data,” while another audience member thought it was Deuce Eclipse, actually the name of the vocalist.

But when Caipo hit his bass drum, he got everyone’s attention. Tokeson brought the dance, Los Rakas brought the energy, but Bang Data brought pure power, and that power came from the drummer. Of all the solo drummers I have ever seen perform live (as opposed to teams of percussionists such as Ozo’s), this was the absolutely best performance I have ever heard. Seriously, better than Charlie Watts, Jack DeJohnette or Bill Bruford. Even a song like “Calavera Life,” their best song of the night and normally a swinging dance tune, sounded like the offspring of a happy marriage between rap and heavy metal thanks to Caipo’s thunder. I have no idea if Saturday night was a fluke performance, but Bang Data will perform at The Addition on 1/22/15, so perhaps I’ll visit then.

However, someone else performed at the Fillmore on Saturday night–I have not forgotten about Ozomatli. Unlike the 2012 show, which featured among other things two Wushu masters demonstrating their rope dart techniques and a dancing banana (not a misprint), the men from LA also chose to play a simple, no-frills, pure power sort of show, playing their hits with a quicker tempo and more of a rocking sound than normal–even their famous closing number featured a Chuck Berry riff, something I’ve never heard them do before.

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All these pictures came from my iPhone 4, which theoretically cannot take still photography in darkened concert venues. I prefer to convert the weakness into a strength; please think of these pictures as Instant Expressionism.

Ozomatli chose to acknowledge the holiday by bringing a bare Christmas tree onstage and then inviting a pair of volunteers from the audience to decorate it. They did a good job. Ozo also produced their latest invention–official, genuine Ozomatli Christmas sweaters (not a misprint). I am not making this up, and admit it; until you read “Ozomatli Christmas sweaters,” you never realized that you never realized that you ever realized that you never thought you would ever read the phrase “Ozomatli Christmas sweaters.” Or something like that. In 2012, I stood so close to the stage that the band literally sweated on me, so this time I stood further back. Big mistake; the sweaters they threw into the audience came nowhere near me.

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The band concluded with their famous drumming circle in the middle of the audience; never gotten this close before. They then led the audience in one giant conga line to the bar–very considerate of Ozo, insofar as the fans needed refreshment after all three hours of dancing, and the bar hadn’t sold much beer because of all that dancing (and it was close to the merchandise table). Just another incredible Ozo @ the Fillmore show, and I’d like to thank the band for having the guts to bring in opening acts good enough to challenge them. Especially when that opening act has a drummer giving us the performance of a lifetime.

Vonn Scott Bair

Still Life with Rubber Gloves. (Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow)

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Good Afternoon:

Was cleaning the bathroom today when this happened:

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Completely by accident, I swear. The photograph was deliberate, not the arrangement.

Vonn Scott Bair