convict lake chickpeas

A couple years ago, a friend and I did a hiking trip of the John Muir Trail in eastern California; the trail is 210 miles, from Yosemite in the north to Mt. Whitney, tallest point in the lower 48, in the south. We originally specced it as a full month, August of 2008, right after I (was supposed to have) graduated and right before she started grad school at the University of Washington, though I ended up punting about halfway through and hitching down to Fresno because of problems with my ankle. Anyhow because commercial backpacking fare is uninspiring as food goes, and often doesn't provide enough calories for the level of activity you're doing, my friend put together a nice variety of meals and dried them, and we ate them happily for the trip. (After our first three days, I bought a salt shaker in Tuolomne Meadows, because we were sweating enough that we needed it. Later on we started adding Crisco to them to bulk up the fat and calories, and I still felt a bit hungry for most of the trip, but they were better by far, and packed lighter and tighter, than anything commercial.) After the trip, I got the recipes from her, and then life happened, and it was only in the past few months that I've started to work them into my home cooking.

The first one such (and only so far) is what my hiking partner called Convict Lake Chickpeas (link for recipe), a simple stewed combination of chickpeas and tomatoes. It is, among other things, vegan, and gluten-free if you make it with quinoa as I do.

Crappy cameraphone picture!

The original recipe was, in its entirety,

2 servings:
2/3 can chickpeas
2/3 can tomatoes
2 tbsp dried onions
1.5 cups couscous

(combine all but couscous, cook couscous separately)

So you can see that I have expanded and elaborated on it slightly. It's simple, fast, and tasty and gives lots of room for experimentation if you want it. I tend to find a whole can each chickpeas and tomatoes makes two days' food for a mostly sedentary coder who tends to eat only one non-breakfast meal a day. It is also excellent cold and/or used as a topping for crackers, which is good since it's summer here in Boston, we have no AC, and cold food is significantly more palatable during the heat of the day.

name that drink! also, carbonated coffee

I've decided to branch out into a new blog genre here at free dissociation — cocktail blogging. Because frankly I'm a bit tired of SF short fiction reviews, even though I still have New Genre #6 and the latest Ideomancer, whatever its number is, to blather about. (Pandemonium got the September Asimov's in finally! (And the October Analog?) In the meantime I read The Art of War on my phone on the T. Make of this what you will.)

Oh yes, cocktail blogging.

So last weekend we had an Iron Blogger Champagne Brunch, instead of getting together for beer. After we tired of the usual mimosas and so on, and having skinned a fresh pineapple, I concocted this rather interesting beverage:

In a wine glass combine:

  • 1 shot Hendrick's Gin
  • 1 shot St. Germain Elderflower Liquer
  • dry champagne

Finish by floating a wedge of fresh pineaple, and possibly garnish with another wedge stuck on the rim of the glass because it looks cool.

I was actually kind of surprised by how well it worked — the Hendrick's is a smoother gin, but it's still got a definite juniper kick, and the St. Germain was really important to blend that flavor into the fruitiness of the champagne. And of course fresh pineapple is always awesome. I think Liz, our hostess, made her own without the St. Germain, so your mileage may vary.

At any rate, it needs a name. The constituent liquors aren't uncommon, at least around here in the craft cocktail scene, and it's not hugely complicated, so it wouldn't surprise me if somebody else has come up with it independently, but whatever. (God, did I really just write "the craft cocktail scene" unironically? That's maybe taking the whole "cocktail blogging" thing a little too far.) What should I call it?

On the other end of the drink spectrum from alcohol, we made our first batch of carbonated iced coffee last night. A friend of mine got tired of paying for seltzer and so bought his own CO2 cylinder and fittings, and so of course the neighborhood has subsequently been trying to come up with interesting things to carbonate. Last night's experiment was:

  • 2/3 of a bag of old Dunkin' Decaf I had lying around (about 2 C dry), cold-brewed with 14 or so C water for 24 hours
  • 1/2 C sugar

Gas solubility in water goes up pretty much right until you hit freezing, so you want your liquid as cold as possible, and the coffee was pretty strong, so I put a couple dozen ice cubes in it and shook them around to equilibrate the temperature before pouring the coffee into a 2L soda bottle and giving it to my friend, who sealed it up, attached it to the CO2 cylinder, and shook it vigorously for about a minute. The coffee took the carbonation really well, the ratio of sugar to coffee was pretty exactly right to offset the acidity imparted by the carbonation, and everyone present was sufficiently weirded out by it that I don't think it will become an overnight commercial sensation. Oh well. I like it. It's really quite tasty!

So I have a liter of carbonated coffee which is coming with me to work tomorrow, because I've got a long week ahead of me and being up this late isn't a great start to it. (Yes it's decaf, but my caffeine tolerance is low, to say nothing of the other alkaloids present that decaffeination doesn't touch.) Plus a second brewing of the grounds sitting in the fridge which I haven't decided whether I'll ask Mark to carbonate or not. Isn't science great? 🙂

Speaking of being up too late, laundry's done! disappears