Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Yogurt Chronicle: Fridge Clean-Out Edition

I've found a bunch of stuff in my fridge (and my pantry) over the last month that was sort of sitting around, forgotten or about to go bad or just without enough of it left to do much of anything with... except make yogurt.  Here, the last three or four chocolate coins, stubbornly hanging out since Christmas, made their way into mocha latte yogurt.  I Microplaned the coins and stirred them in along with a spoonful of ground coffee and 2 spoonfuls of sugar.  The taste was among the best of anything I've made so far, though the coffee was a little coarse and I still wasn't happy with the distribution and quality of mixing.  This was, however, the first yogurt I've ever had that woke me up.

 Several months ago, my roommate went on a fruit-preserves making binge, and our apartment ended up with at least five Tupperware containers full of blackberry jam.  It's delicious stuff, though our apartment's demand for preserves never quite caught up with its supply, and now we're stuck in surplus-land.  I attacked the problem by mixing up some blackberry preserve yogurt, with about two heaping tablespoons of preserves, and I was really pleased.  The preserves are already both sweet (so no need to add more sugar) and smooth (so I didn't have any mixing or consistency issues to complain about).  It's not the most exotic thing I've ever made, and I'm sure you can find commercial blackberry yogurt plenty of places, but this is the first one I've made that had the taste and feel of something you'd actually pay money on.

Every trip I take to Berkeley Bowl results in at least fifteen dollars' worth of things I never intended to buy making their way into my shopping cart anyway because they look so delicious.  One late April's result was a bag of cinnamon sugar almonds; once the bag was nearly depleted, the rest got ground up in the mortar and pestle to produce about a quarter cup of ground nuts, which then became candied almond yogurt.  These nuts were delicious, and sweet, anyway, so the resulting yogurt tasted pretty good, but my old enemy texture reared its ugly head again.

A bag of herbs just a few days out from turning brown was the inspiration for southeast Asian herb yogurt.  I chopped up about a tablespoon each of fresh cilantro and fresh basil.  Then, because the "packaged on" date for my tub of honey ended in "2010," I decided to add the rest of it (around 2 tablespoons) to this yogurt, even though that hasn't proven to be the best idea in the past.  It was a better fate for my herbs than throwing them away, though I probably wouldn't try this again--the "herbs and honey" phase of my yogurt never actually became part of the "yogurt" phase, and it had both an odd flavor and texture as a result.

The lovely pink color in this batch comes from fresh strawberries, which I chopped up and mixed into the yogurt without adding anything else.  I thought the natural sugars from the strawberries would sweeten the yogurt enough, but if I try this again, I'll definitely need to supplement it.  The strawberries weren't so finely chopped, but I didn't mind that texture so much because they were already mushy, and it didn't turn crunchy.  Aesthetically, this might have been among my more successful yogurts--it looks nice and smells pleasant too.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Leaving Through the Window: Celebrating Ten Years

Everyone has one, and if you're lucky, you might have more: an album that instantly transports you to a time and place; one that you forget about for months at a time, and every time you remember it, you smile in a wave of nostalgia.  Somehow, it hasn't grown stale through the years.  Even though nobody--no, not even you--would call it truly great music, it's brilliant to you, and that's all that matters.

Leaving Through the Window, Something Corporate's first and probably best-known commercial release, was (astoundingly) released a decade ago today.  It's an album that probably only could have come from the year 2002: some fusion of pop-punk and emo and piano-rock with its roots in every artistic movement popular during my high school years.  Something Corporate neither invented nor reinvented nor dominated the genre; Leaving Through the Window is not what most would turn to when remembering an album that typifies the culture.

But they're the ones who dominated the genre to me, and it's the album that I turn to immediately.  And no wonder--I listened to Leaving Through the Window hundreds of times in high school, in basements with friends playing Nintendo 64, in cars with girls I had crushes on, in living rooms with guys who started new bands every few weeks (where I could always say "you guys should play something by Something Corporate" and look like I knew what I was talking about).

There's a theory that the music you hear at age 14 or 15 is the music you most strongly associate with the rest of your life.  If that's true, it looks like I'm stuck with Leaving Through the Window for a very long time.  I can't imagine a better fate.