google voice / video chat?

I’m itching to try this out.

google_video_chat

Has anyone else downloaded the plugin yet? I tried in on our Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and it didn’t work – at least not with this cheapo webcam I use. On the Mac, the video test picture as shown in the screenshot above never came in — it remained a black box — though I could right-click on that black box and set some Flash player settings for audio, video, disk space usage, etc., which gave me hope. But either those settings I chose aren’t being committed, or there’s some deeper incompatibility between my SpeedLink 6820 web cam and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and the Google Chat plugin for Firefox/Safari 3.x.

Same camera on Windows seems to work, but I haven’t gotten the chance to test it with anyone yet. Haven’t tried it yet on Linux and I’m not hopeful (still no Google Chrome for Mac or Linux AFAIK).

Anyone? Anyone?

bbq sauce?

I’m getting more adventurous.

My favorite barbecue sauce contains:

  • tomato puree
  • vinegar
  • sugar
  • brown sugar
  • salt 
  • worcestershire sauce
  • molasses
  • natural smoke flavor
  • “spices”
  • food starch-modified
  • dried garlic
  • chili powder
  • mustard flour
  • onion powder
  • xanthan gum
  • sodium benzoate

Except for the preservatives and texture manipulators, I can totally do that. It might take a few iterations, but it’ll work.

How do you make yours? I know I could find all kinds of stuff on the web, but inspire me.

East of the West, West of the East

I’m headed out to Romania again today, this time back to Iași. I found it oddly appropriate that this comic was published today and I’m headed to a place that is straddling geographical and political, historical and present-day definitions of “East” and “West”.


View Larger Map

It’s still not the Eastern-most part of Europe in which my company does business, but I can only think of 3 more European offices or factories further East than Iași.

I’ll be back really late Friday night.

Hot Italian Sausage

After the success of the breakfast sausage patties, I wanted to see if I could make some hot Italian sausage at home too.

Answer: YES.

But not with the recipe I used as a basis. Even with the suggestion to add fennel and red pepper flakes, the ratios there were terribly weak.

So here’s my suggestion:

1 pinch of salt
3 pinches coriander
3 pinches coarse black pepper
3 pinches fennel (I used ground, I imagine whole seed would be nice)
3 pinches hot red pepper flakes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp hot paprika
40 ml water
500 g (about a pound) of ground pork

Note the pinches — nothing more exact than that. I mix the stuff up in a bowl with my best guess, then fry up a silver-dollar-sized patty to check for taste and re-season if necessary. The end result is lovely in a meat-sauce — we’ve proven that tonight. I’m excited to try this out as a pizza topping (I’m looking at you, Matthias) or in a lasagna.

curdish muffins and other culinary day trips

You might think this is another post about Exil based on the title. Not so!

We had a fantastic dinner of tapas at pals An & Alex’s house last night along with pal Matt (who lent us Casino Royale in preparation for tomorrow’s Quantum of Solace viewing) and we brought one of our favorite desserts along to share: Cinnamon Fluff Cake with Lemon Sauce.

But we had two lemons and a cup of buttermilk left over after that. Hmm, what can I do with that? And on a Sunday, without leaving the house?

I recalled a discussion about lemon curd on my favorite old-school bulletin board, found a recipe online that looked doable, and flipped open the old standby for some muffin or biscuit recipes involving buttermilk. I found exactly what I needed pretty quickly and thought I could do a nice wake-up surprise for the better half quickly and easily.

Yeah, in theory.

In reality, I measured out the buttermilk to find I had exactly the amount necessary for the recipe. I thought something must be off while mixing the wet and dry ingredients together, because there was just not enough moisture in there to pour batter into muffin cups. Odd. I thought it must be a typo in the recipe or something, so I just compensated by adding regular milk until I thought it looked OK. Then I was about to get started on the Lemon Curd when I realized the buttermilk had never made it into the mixing bowl at all, and instead regular milk was in there. I really didn’t want to waste the buttermilk, so I dumped it in and added more flour until I thought the texture of the batter was right. And I added another teaspoon of baking powder to make sure I didn’t end up with small-gauge cannon balls. I put it into the oven and crossed my fingers that they would be edible.

I was a little distraught at this point because I thought I could hear Sarah moving around upstairs, and I this to be a breakfast surprise. In my haste to get moving with the curd while the muffins were baking, I neglected to zest one of my two remaining lemons before squishing the juice out of it and discarding the rest into the trash. So I guess the curd is only half as zesty as intended (though I got the juice it called for) — which seems to be zesty enough. Next time we’ll see what it’s supposed to taste like.

The muffins turned out OK, by the way — even in our crappy oven. Because I upped the flour and liquid content without including more salt and sugar, they don’t taste like much, but I’m just glad they baked up nicely despite my mad scientist chemistry meddling. And once you spread the lemon curd on them, you don’t miss any muffin flavor at all.

Later today: continued sausage exploits after last week’s great success.

Lemon Curd

Totally got this wholesale from the wikibooks cookbook, but I managed to deviate accidentally from the recipe and am still quite pleased with the results.

1/2 cup (120ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/3 cup (80g) sugar
3 eggs
3/4 stick of unsalted butter (90g)
Pinch of salt (optional, to bring out sweetness and flavor of finished product)

I goofed in that I only used 1 tablespoon of freshly grated lemon zest. It still turned out great — doubling the lemon zest would make it quite intense, I’m sure.

Grate the lemon rinds to produce two tablespoons of zest. Grate only the yellow zest, avoid the inner white pith which is bitter. Extract the juice from the lemons to produce 1/2 cup (120ml) of juice. Cut the butter into small chunks.

Put eggs, zest, sugar, and salt into cooled sauce pan. Whisk ingredients in pan till frothy and light in color (a minute or two). Add lemon juice and whisk 30 seconds. Add butter chunks. Set pan on stove burner, turn on heat to medium-to-low, and start whisking contents so they don’t coagulate or stick to bottom of pan. Whisk constantly till butter melts and mixture thickens, then whisk another two minutes, but do not let mixture boil – it should be quite steamy (185°F, 85°C).

There’s a spot in the original recipe about here concerning the option to strain the lemon zest out of the gloop before jarring it up and letting it chill in the fridge, but I don’t believe in that. Pour mixture from bowl into jar to within 1/4 inch (0.75cm) from top, taking care not to get mixture on rim, then seal jar with lid. Refrigerate to thicken the product further.