Tuesday, August 24, 2010

J-pop anonymous: Sweet Vacation

I love bumming around YouTube when I don't have anything pressing to do. Most of the time I'm on YouTube, I'm checking out the latest in Japanese music and Hello! Project shenanigans, and, boy let me tell you, there's some really great stuff out there!

One of my newest discoveries is electropop duo Sweet Vacation. Not only do they make neat music, but this duo happens to be made up of a couple of really smart people. Hayakawa Daichi, the sound producer, vocoder and occasional backing vocalist, is a graduate student at the very prestigious Tokyo University, and Thai singer May was recently accepted on full scholarship to Waseda University's International School of Liberal Studies.

Sweet Vacation's music is breezy and relaxing, and great to drive to. Here's one of their latest singles, "あいにいこう~I・NEED・TO・GO~"

Mmm...Monday: Chickpea and Barley Soup

Shuttup, I know it's Tuesday :P

I maintain to this day that I have a genetic predisposition to making soup. Growing up, my mom would throw a bunch of things into a huge pot, and somehow they would always turn into a healthy, tasty chili or soup. She did this so much that our next door neighbors used to tease us, asking my mom "You ever feed those kids anything but BEANS?!" (I totally didn't mind!) Then I grew up, bought a stock pot, and am now doing the same thing.

I love making soups, stews, chilis and curries because they are easy to make in big batches without screwing it up. This also is nice because you can freeze them for dinners and lunches at work later--and, as a bonus, doing this is eco-friendly, because it helps your freezer keep stuff cold. (This also makes for less housework for you, as you'll find you have to defrost your freezer MUCH less--the colder it is, the less chance changes in temperature will be enough to allow frost to form on the freezer walls. The only time we ever had to defrost it growing up was when we moved so the next people who used it would have a clean freezer.)

So, ever since I got back from Israel last year, I've been having a passionate love affair with chickpeas and everything they can go in. Hummus is f*ing awesome (especially with garlic and red pepper), but that's far from the only thing one can do with chickpeas. You can put them in soups, stews, casseroles, even deep fry them and serve them with dipping sauce (watching Giada at Home has taught me this). This recipe for wholesome chickpea and barley soup was adapted from Whole Living's chickpea and spelt recipe. I can't find spelt anywhere in Laramie, so I use barley instead.

Chickpea and barley soup

  • 1 cup barley
  • Olive oil for sweating the veggies
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 (or however many you want) celery stalks, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Coarse salt (Kosher salt works well) and ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves (No more than that! Trust me!)
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional--I like a little zing in my soups)
  • 4 cups chicken (or vegetable if you want to go vegan) broth, homemade or canned
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, for garnish

Directions

  1. Place barley in a medium bowl and cover with cold water. Let soak for 1 hour; drain. (DO NOT skip this step, or you'll be crunching on your soup!)
  2. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add bay leaves, paprika, cumin, saffron (if using), spelt, broth, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes or until spelt is tender.
  3. Add tomatoes and chickpeas and cook for 40 minutes or until flavors have blended. Discard bay leaves. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving. I also like to season it with Bragg's Liquid Aminos (Laramie folks can find it at the co-op and the Whole Earth Granary--anywhere else, you can find it at co-ops and health food stores (Missoula, MT has the Good Food Store)--it's getting pretty easy to find). This simple seasoning is a very flavorful soy protein sauce which has a surprisingly low amount of sodium.