Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuned and ready...sort of.

Okay. So my winter bike is all tuned up and I even upgraded the rear wheel from a 3-speed to an 8-speed internal. At the first sight of snow the studded snow tires go on it. This will be the third Buffalo winter with this bike (last year was trying to say the least), and it of course replaces my beloved Mule which was nicked from my ex-wife's garage a few years ago. At any rate, the bike seems ready (just had the new rear wheel and internal 8-speeed put on today and love it) but I'm not sure I am. Last Winter was exhausting. Hopefully this one will be a bit milder.

Urban Simplicity.

Where's Bixby?

So this is pretty cool. I don't know Bixby or her human, Mike, but came across their website last week and thought I'd give them a shout out. They are riding a Yuba Mundo all over the country to bring awareness in supporting animal shelters. Nice. I'm jealous to say the least. Bixby, if you happen to read this, tell Mike that if you guys happen to roll through Buffalo, NY I would love to meet you; I'm sure the pugs that own me would as well. Ride on. Peace.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tofu Souvlaki! first...yup, tofu souvlaki. Don't mock it 'till you've tried it. And also, I have to qualify this by stating that I am not a vegetarian (as people often think I am), it's just that I do not eat a great deal of meat and find meatless foods just as enticing as those otherwise. This said, I hope you'll try this. And I have to finish by saying what has become a sort of mantra for most of the recipes I is really delicious and easy to make, too.

Tofu Souvlaki
Serves 2-4

1 (14 oz.) package extra-firm tofu

1 cup virgin olive oil
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup water
¼ cup minced parsley
3 cloves minced garlic
2 teaspoons Greek oregano
½ teaspoon crushed hot pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt

Drain the tofu and remove it from its package. Set the tofu on a plate with two or three additional plates resting gently on top to release some of it's moisture. Allow the tofu to be pressed at room temperature for 15 minutes, then cut it first into quarters, and then oblong slices. Lay the slices in a shallow pan the is just large enough to hold them. Make the marinade/salad dressing by combining the remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisking together. Pour half of the marinade over the sliced tofu and allow it to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat an oven to 375F. Remove the tofu from its marinade and lay the pieces on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled. Bake the tofu for 20-30 minutes, turning as necessary, or until lightly browned at the edges and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Urban Simplicity.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A few things I've seen while walking or riding my bike recently...

Urban Simplicity.

A Parable from Kahlil Gibran

Said a blade of grass to an autumn leaf, "You make such a noise falling! You scatter all my winter dreams." Said the leaf indignant, "Low-born and low-dwelling! Songless, peevish thing! You live not in the upper air and you cannot tell the sound of singing." Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again -- and she was a blade of grass. And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, "O these autumn leaves! They make such a noise! They scatter all my winter dreams."

Sunday, October 26, 2014


It's only four minutes and fourteen seconds long, but it is a moving video that speaks many truths. I hope you watch it.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some like it hot!

If you've been to this blog prior then you know that I have been somewhat fascinated with the art of fermentation for sometime (click here), so this recipe should not come as a surprise. I initially got the idea when I came across a recipe for brussels sprouts kimchi at the website of Bon Appetite. Intrigued, I tried it but changed it up a bit to fit my tastes. Anyhow, it is really good (and really spicy) and easy to make. If you like fermented foods I hop you try this recipe (which is below).

Brussels Sprouts Kimchi
Makes 1 gallon

4 pounds brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half
7 ounces kosher salt
4 quarts water

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
8 scallions
4 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup gochugara (Korean crushed pepper) or Aleppo pepper
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup Sriracha
8 slices peeled ginger
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 quarts water
1½ ounces kosher salt

Place the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, dissolve the 7 ounces salt in the 4 quarts water and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Allow them to soak for one hour, then drain and rinse them, discarding the water.

Combine in a blender, the onion, scallions, garlic, crushed pepper, soy sauce, Sriracha, ginger, coriander, and fennel. Then puree until smooth.

Pour the spice mixture over the brussels sprouts in a large bowl, combining throughly, then transfer them to a gallon-sized glass jar. Mix the remaining 2 quarts of water and 1½ ounces salt together—allowing the salt to dissolve, and pour it over the brussels sprouts. Gently press the brussels sprouts to release any air pocket, but making sure that the vegetable is covered by an least a half-inch of liquid. Put a small plate or other object on the vegetable to keep them submerged. Cover the jar with a lid. Either leave the lid ajar or poke a small hole in it to allow the release of pressure and bubbles as it the kimchi ferments.

Leave the jar at room temperature for about 5 days, or until it is bubbling and tastes slightly sour, then refrigerate. The brussels sprouts kimchi will keep for months in refrigeration.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A time for everything...

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens
 Ecclesiastes 3:1

So this is interesting. At least I think it is. It's about change but at the same time staying the same. Growth, I suppose. In the spring of 2004 I co-lead a small book group at my church. I know when it was because I often date the inside flap of a book when I purchase it (this of course was before kindle). The book is the one pictured, and I highly recommend it (here's a direct link at Amazon). Anyhow, I re-visited this book just today because I am taking a continuing education class of sorts through the seminary from which I recently graduated and this is the text we are using. Tonight at dinner I re-read the prologue and the first chapters. And what I am finding interesting are what I found interesting in 2004....what I underlined or highlighted nearly 11 years ago. Most of what I originally underlined is still important to me, but now as I read it I find myself underlining sections that I didn't in 2004 because they may have not interested me. Maybe if I read it again in another ten years the entire book will be underlined. Anyhow, I just find it interesting how a person (me, in this case) can be the same person but also change a little. Growth happens, I suppose. Little by little. Baby steps. This also happens naturally, I suppose, as a person progresses through their life (gets older). And as I've said before--and I've come to fully believe this--it is not necessarily abut the destination as it is about the journey itself. Happy traveling.

Urban Simplicity.

Bird(s) on a wire...

I was in my backyard this evening and heard some birds (crows) squawking and I looked up and they were on a wire just above me. They seemed to be having some sort of domestic dispute. It was evening, and it was beautiful to watch. So I took their photo.

"Oh like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free."
~Leonard Cohen

Urban Simplicity.

Fortune Cookie Philosophy...

More Fortune Cookies.
Urban Simplicity.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Before the onion and words

So first a few things. I am not a preservationist in that I chain myself to buildings before they are torn down (though a few people did to this one). Nor do I want to get in the way of "progress" or have a decrepit and unsafe building fall down on its own. But I am someone who has a keen interest in the rich history of the city which I call home. And I am also aware of the many (many many) old houses of worship that are vacant or falling down (though the national movement called Mass Mob may help some of this and in fact originated here in Buffalo and has made headlines in the Boston Globe and most recently the NY Times). This said, when I saw this article in Buffalo Rising this past Saturday as I sat sipping coffee and checking my email I put down my cup and made a b-line to our city's east side. I had first seen this building many years ago and was struck by its unique appearance, but what I didn't know is that it was our city's oldest standing synagogue (the image below shows the building in 1903 and again just before it was demolished). And for the last few decades it has been used as a Christian church. When I arrived I was standing out front and talking to a few others and then I heard the crunching sound. So I locked up my bike and walked to the side of the building. It looked to me as if some sort of ravenous mechanical monster was consuming the building...but did they have to start with the sanctuary?  Was it on purpose...I know nothing about demolishing a building but it seemed even more sad that the very center of the building--where so many generations of both Jews and Christians worshiped--was the first to be eaten. There were still curtains on the windows as the mechanical monster chomped and chomped away. There were maybe a dozen or so people there besides the workers and everyone just sort of stood in silence. And I am not one of those people who sees Jesus in a slice of burnt toast, but I couldn't help notice that there was a distinct cross--part of the debris--hanging from the rafters as the machine chomped (see inset second from the bottom). I had to leave before the onion fell as I had to work that evening, which was fine as I really didn't want to see its most distinctive feature come crumbling down. But this morning I had a doctor's appointment before work which was also on the east side and thought I'd stop by to take a look at the rubble. It was pouring rain and I was soaked (I had my camera wrapped in a plastic bag). I was surprised to see some of the facade still standing (see the very bottom photo). So I parked my bike and took a few photos. As I was walking back across the street to my bike I half-heard someone saying, "who are you?" Not thinking they are talking to me I kept walking. By now the rain is teeming and I am soaked. Then I hear the same question again. Turning, I see a guy with a hard hat and a coffee cup had followed me and was standing in the pouring rain asking who I was. "What, I mean, excuse me," I say. "Who are you," he asks again. " name is Joe, who are you?" He then went on a mini-rant of how he was the foreman and that I needed permission to take photos, etc. I was standing on a city street well beyond the cordoned area, I said, and taking photos of a building that was owned by the city and commissioned by the city to be demolished, and that I didn't think I was doing anything wrong and meant no harm. It looked like he was about to blow a gasket. He told me I needed permission to take anyone's photo. I felt bad for him because I'm sure he's been dealing a lot with local preservationists and the press (there were two TV stations there on Saturday). I assured him that I "was nobody" and that I just like architecture and wanted pictures of the building being demolished not the people demolishing it. He seemed a little calmer after that. But as I rode my bike away in the pouring rain I could still hear the monster crunching eating the building--and part of our local history--into oblivion.

Urban Simplicity

Friday, October 10, 2014

Something to look at...

I took this photo in my backyard last night. I took about ten, actually, but this is my favorite. Pretty cool, right? And no, before you ask, I do not have a crazy expensive or powerful camera...entree level in photography world, actually. The main camera I shoot with is a Canon t5i, which was a gift to myself for completing seminary training this past summer. And if there are any camera geeks reading this, these are the setting I used...first, of course, I cropped the photo after uploading, and when I shot the image I was using a 75-300mm lens zoomed in to 300mm. I used a 1/10 second shutter speed,  F/20 aperture and an ISO 100. And yes, being taken last night, I also realize that this is not a 100% full moon, but a Waning Gibbous at 97%. The moon is 238,900 miles or 384,400 km away from where I stood last night while I shot this photo with a glass of wine in my hand and shoeing away my two crazy pugs, less they shake the tripod. But still I was able to capture it. And it looks so beautiful to me...just hovering there all desolate while all the craziness on earth continues to happen. And it really is something to look at.

Urban Simplicity.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A few things I saw while riding my bike this evening...

It was chilly and blustery this evening. Really blustery. I had gotten out of work early and then abruptly invited to an impromptu bachelorette party (yup) and when it ended just as quickly as it began I found myself a few beers in and it was only 5pm. I couldn't just go home, I thought. So despite the chill and the wind I packed up my camera gear and rode down to Canalside.With the summer season being over it was essentially empty, and it was truly beautiful. Anyhow, I took a bunch of photos at dusk and and then early dark. Theses are a few of my favorites. Click any for a somewhat larger view.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Kibbet Batata (a variation on a variation)

Okay. So first of all...yum! These are really good, and good for you. They are also really easy to make. Recently someone said to me that I always say my recipes are really easy to make...well they are if you read the directions through. My thoughts on recipes on this blog are that I like to post recipes that are (a) really delicious, (b) good for you, and (c) simple enough to make that you will actually make them. This said, this is a variation of the vegetarian version of kibbeh, which in itself can be served in many forms, but usually contains ground lamb and bulgur wheat mixed together, and is said to be somewhat of the national dish of Lebanon. A vegetarian version is one that replaces the meat with potatoes, and this recipe replaces the potatoes with sweet potatoes. Hence the variation on a variation. Anyhow, this is really easy to make and really delicious (there, I said it again), I hope you try it. Eat it as a snack, an accompaniment to a vegetarian main course, on a salad (as I did with the below dressing), or as a sandwich such as a falafel. For additional Lebanese inspired recipes, click here. Accompanying recipes are below as well.

  Sweet Potato Kibbeh

Makes about 2 ½ dozen 1-ounce patties

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup medium bulgar wheat
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sauteing
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon seven spice mix
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup whole wheat flour
pine nuts for garnish

Place the diced sweet potato in a small pot with enough water to cover it. Boil it for about 10-15 minutes or until very soft. Drain the sweet potato and transfer it to a bowl. Add the bulgar wheat to the bowl and mash it into the hot sweet potato. Cover the bowl and set aside for at least 10 minutes. Heat three tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet, when it is hot add the onion and saute for a few minutes or until it is lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute, then stir in the seven spice mix, turmeric, and Aleppo pepper. Cook the spices for about thirty seconds, then add this mixture to the bowl with the sweet potatoes along with the sea salt and whole wheat flour. Mash the spices and flour into the sweet potatoes and bulgar wheat, cover the bowl again and allow it to rest for another 10 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat is soft. Shape the kibbeh into 1-ounce portions, pressing pine nuts into the patties. Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the kibbeh to the pan—in batches if necessary, and cook on both sides until lightly golden brown and cooked throughout.

 Lebanese Seven Spice Mix

Makes about ¼ cup

1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container, or use as needed.

Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce and Dressing

Makes about 3 cups

4 cloves garlic
2 cups Greek yogurt
½ English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced (about 1½ cups)
½ bunch Italian parsley, washed, stems removed
½ bunch mint, washed, stems removed
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.