Wednesday, January 6, 2010

getting hammered on a budget

You’re not getting a raise in 2010. Kansas City has also experienced a record-breaking 21 inches of snow, and you’re depressed, anxious, and taking it in the ass from Father Time, a meth-addicted version of Santa who leaves the house shirtless wearing acid-wash jeans from 1987 and brings back a pack of Pall Malls and some circus peanuts from the Shell station.

The good news: though you’re broke, you can still get a bit tight after your three-hour strategic meeting at work or chain-restaurant dinner with your more-successful friends. And because you’re not fermenting grape juice in a trash bag with a piece of moldy bread stuffed in your gym sock, you’ll still be high-class compared to most bums and prisoners.

But if you want to want to poison yourself with what is essentially top-shelf rubbing alcohol, there are a couple of ground rules.

1. You will be massively hungover tomorrow.

2. The booze will not taste good.

In fact, there are no concrete benefits to getting blackout drunk on cheap booze, but if you want to obliterate some intangible, abiding malaise that resides within the thorny depths of your soul, odds are you don’t care that in 12 to 18 hours your brain will try to chisel its way out of your skull and your liver will be the size of a pummelo fruit.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 handle of Viaka, Popov, or McCormick's vodka, $12

1 jug of Carlo Rossi sangria, $10Buying booze on a budget is the same as buying 50 rolls of toilet paper at Costco – the initial cost is slightly more than if you bought, say, a fifth, but you’re damn well not running out of that shit. And when it’s 4 a.m. and you want, no need, just one more nightcap before you stumble to bed, you want a half-full liter of vodka to work with, not the dregs of a sipped-to-death pint.

You want vodka because, unlike whiskey or rum, the difference between well and top-shelf vodka is like the difference between getting arrested on the first day of spring in a dew-kissed meadow or on the coldest day of winter after falling in a five-foot snowdrift – it doesn’t matter, you’re still getting hauled off to the clink. The sangria will be used to chase the vodka. Forget about water and soda. You also will not need shot glasses, as these are for people who have an aversion to sleeping on the rug beneath the futon or puking on the bathroom floor and attempting to clean it up with their socks; in other words, pussies. 

Pour the sangria in cups (for your safety, it is vital they are plastic) and take a hefty swig of vodka straight from the bottle. Have a few swallows of sangria, and repeat until you are sufficiently hammered, though you may not be fully aware of when this occurs.

Suggested listening: Pogues, Violent Femmes, Hank Williams.

Suggested precautions: have a trusted friend hide your cell phone and car keys; don’t walk on wooden floors wearing socks; don’t keep an entire pizza in the fridge; have ibuprofen on hand for the morning.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

curried lentil gloop

I can has basil leaf?

The recipe

Curried lentil soup
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
7 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, un-drained

  1. Sauté onions until soft. Add curry, sauté 1 minute. Add water and lentils; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat. Simmer 40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  2. Place 4 cups lentil mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Return mixture to pan. Add chopped basil, vinegar, salt, sugar and tomatoes; cook until thoroughly heated. Garnish with basil, if desired.
The process

After a particularly difficult zumba class, my confidence is low. I’m beginning to question my ability to build this soup, especially because, when I think about it, I’m not 100 percent sure I know what a lentil is. When I locate them at Sunfresh, I realize they are basically tiny peas. Really, pea soup? But I have committed to making it, so I toss the damn lentils in my basket.

At home I turn on Regina Spektor and drink a glass of cheap cabernet sauvignon, and I feel slightly restored. I am ready to cook.

Chopping the onion, as usual, makes my entire face drip and burn, and I am relieved to get it cooking in the frying pan. The sautéed onion mixed with curry powder smells sweetly dirty and spicy, like what you’d get if you parked a hot dog cart inside a perfume shop in the Shire. And then had sex on it.

While preparing to cook the lentils, I almost immediately suspect “7 cups of water” is a type-o, especially since it wants me to put the “lentil mixture” in the blender; I imagine seven cups of boiling hot lentils and curried onions will destroy the nearly ten-year-old blender I purchased on sale at Wal-Mart when I wanted to make margaritas one night. I text my boyfriend and tell him to come over later than planned so he won’t see me wading in the lentil lake after my blender explodes.

I switch my cooking music from Spektor to Chopin. Feeling immediately smarter, I improvise and add only five cups of water. I also decide to drain the mixture before blending. I am a genius.

While the lentils simmer, I seek the opinions of my colleagues. When presented with a basil leaf, Bubba Kinsey turns up his nose and stalks away. Phoenix, however, tries to snatch it out of my hand. I assume she's jealous because I offered it to Bubba first, but then SHE FUCKING EATS IT. I am reminded of when she stole my fresh cayenne peppers over the summer (and possibly ate them; several are still at large). She is a strange creature, but I’m glad she approves.

After draining the lentils and onions, I pour them in the blender and choose the “blend” option, pausing briefly to consider whether “puree” would work better but outright rejecting “liquefy” and “frappe.” The resulting mixture is green and resembles baby vomit.

Instead of dwelling on its appearance, I dump the green goo back in the pot and add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, salt, sugar and basil. It begins to take on a more soup-like appearance, and I suspect it might be edible. I lean over to inspect it more closely, and a bubble of boiling hot sludge explodes IN MY EYE. Fuck, it burns.

I turn down the heat and plunge a spoon into the mess. Surprisingly it is kind of good.

Still, it’s not fucking spicy enough for me, so I brazenly add a hefty squirt of Sriracha sauce, as well as another sprinkle of curry and a pinch of sugar.

The verdict

The end result is almost too thick to be called soup; it’s more like something you would scoop up with naan at an Indian restaurant. Still, it's rather savory and filling – my boyfriend calls it “hearty” – even though it is allegedly low-fat, and neither the curry nor the spice is overwhelming. It could have used a bit more water, and next time I would sweeten it with honey instead of sugar, but my boyfriend totally went back for seconds.

The score

This time, I made the food; the food did not make me (as in pissed off, dejected, nauseous, etc.).
Angela: 1
Food: 0

Next up:
Spicy mung bean soup