Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Parking tickets and panna cotta

DSC01811 (1300x988)U sliep te laat, observed the parking policeman as I ran up to the car.  I sighed, pulling the ticket free of the wiper.  “Ik heb te lang mijn panna cotta gekookt,”I mumbled, smiling a little. 

‘Not a good start to the week.

In part, I blame working memory: there is just too much going on to keep the morning’s entire sequence of events in mind.  A late night translates to a late morning; a flood of post-Thanksgiving emails meant that I needed a bit of quiet time to organize my thoughts before stating to hammer the phones and keyboards.

What better way to think things through than with a bit of cooking?

DSC01812 (944x1300)I’d been itching to try a panna cotta recipe: an Italian custard made without eggs.  BBC Food had a good basic recipe: sugar, whole milk, cream, vanilla, and gelatine. The latter was a small challenge: gelatine leaves are just blaadjes gelatine, but neither the AH nor the oriental grocer had any.  I finally found a pack of six at Jumbo, thin textured sheets that need a few minutes soaking before use.

DSC01815 (861x1300)While the ingredients warmed, I peeled a dozen Spanish mandarin oranges and started reducing them for the topping.  The sections can have a bitter aftertaste, so I added an extra tablespoon of sugar and, for depth, some sweet wine. The result was grainy even after a good simmer, so I pureed it as though it were a vegetable soup and it settled down nicely to a rich, fruity sauce.

The gelatine folds instantly into the hot milk and the mixture filled four custard cups, ready to set.  As I was wrapping up my list, making notes on “The Most Important Six Things to Finish Today”, the cleaner stopped through for a chat.  The apartment looked good, the plants, I had a few things to bring up from the car still…The Car?!?  10:00: ‘little hope of avoiding a ticket.

And so it was that I trotted across the bridge, just in time to encounter the patrolman.

digital assistantI’m in the middle of reading Clive Thompson’s book, Smarter Than You Think: How technology is changing our minds for the better.  He suggests that three Internet factors are going to enhance our cognitive abilities in the coming years: boundless memory to access facts, associative tools that connect the dots, and dense networks that build audiences.  In the past, he says, we externalized thinking to doodles and diagrams, remembering to our partners who could remind DSC01816 (1152x927)us of important appointments (and expiring parking meters). In the future, digital assistants, an aware and enhanced Google Now, will do that alongside us.

But, not soon enough for this cold morning, I’m afraid…

…at least the panna cotta set nicely, and tasted wonderful.

No comments: