Shrimp and Grits, California-style

Last night I read an article about poaching shrimp in a butter emulsion called beurre monté, in order to impart the richness of lobster. Sounded simple and fun, something I hadn’t done before, so tonight I stopped at the market to pick up half a pound of shrimp and some salted butter. Making the sauce was easy: simmer a few tablespoons of water and then whisk in an obscene amount of butter. Then drop the shrimp in, peeled and deveined, and poach till they turn pink.

Couscous seemed the most natural accompaniment, so I boiled water to rehydrate a quarter cup each. We also had some arugula that wasn’t going to last forever, so I put the good bits in a large bowl along with a handful of pine nuts, and a healthy amount of cheese grated from the ends of two different types. I whipped together a quick vinaigrette with the juice of a meyer lemon, some olive oil, salt, and pepper and combined everything together with the couscous, which had cooled slightly.

I served the couscous salad in our deep plates with a ring of the butter-poached shrimp on top. It looked lovely. They did taste faintly of lobster, but more than that, the dish as whole evoked a lighter, more refined version of shrimp and grits, the classic southern dish. I think it was the grated cheese. Maybe next time lardons?

My first photo exhibition

I wrapped up my final darkroom class last night, and as part of it, we picked some of our photos to hang in the film developing room. These three were mine. I like the juxtaposition.

Black and white prints hanging in the film developing room of the Harvey Milk Photo Center
Black and white prints hanging at the Harvey Milk Photo Center

Warren Buffet’s advice to individual investors in his 2013 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter

One sentence in his 2013 Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter resonated with me. He says that:

The main danger is that the timid or beginning investor will enter the market at a time of extreme exuberance and then become disillusioned when paper losses occur.

It reminded me of my initial foray into investing, which I mistimed right before the housing bubble burst, perfectly captured in my blog post, What a crappy time to have started investing in the stock market. The post has a graph of an S&P index fund from October 2007, when I first started investing, through June 2008, when I wrote that post. At that point, the index was down 17%—and, unbeknownst to me, the bottom of that bear market was still 10 months (and 56%) away.

Compare that graph to now, 7 years on. The S&P 500 index is up 19% from where I started back in October 2007.

Graph of the S&P 500 index from October 2007 through February 2014
S&P 500 index from October 2007 through February 2014

What follows is a meaty excerpt from Warren Buffet’s 2013 Shareholder Letter, extolling the virtues of index funds for non-professional investors.

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Perfecting the breakfast wrap

I heat up two pans over medium heat, one a 10 inch stainless steel skillet large enough to fit a fajita-size tortilla, which in my case happened to be organic sprouted wheat, but really could be anything. The other is a 9 1/2 inch nonstick crepe pan that I picked up at Crate and Barrel ages ago, and which I believe has never met a crepe—but it’s my favorite to cook eggs with, due to its large, flat, non-stick surface. I lubricate the pan with a small pat of butter because even Teflon could use a little help. Meanwhile I beat a single egg in a bowl with some salt (currently Angelo Garo’s seasoned Omnivore Salt) and a few healthy twists of the pepper mill. As it happens, our stove is not perfectly level, so liquids have a slight tendency to roll towards the back of the pan—but I use this to my advantage, as a single beaten egg, without any additional liquid, isn’t enough to cover the entire surface area. So as I pour it in a line across the pan’s equator, it predictably flows towards the back edge, creating a perfect half-circle. Once the egg begins to set, which happens very quickly, I turn the burner to low and position the pan so that the least cooked area is directly over the gas. Meanwhile I flip the tortilla over in the other pan and grate some good melting cheese on top. If I had some ham or prosciutto on hand, I’d add a slice of that here as well, but this morning I did not. Once the egg has cooked just enough to hold together, but still creamy on top, I slide it onto the tortilla, and when I’m ready, I slide the entire tortilla-plus-egg onto a plate. I dress it up with a small bunch of peppery arugula, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. I fold the non-egg third of the tortilla over the egg and arugula, and I fold both sides in towards the center, creating a secure pocket to ensure that none of the creamy, oily, peppery goodness drips down my fingers and onto the plate.

Analog to analog to analog

Last night was my second darkroom class (of the intermediate level), and though we had an assignment to under- or over-expose a roll of film so we could play with push/pull processing, I disregarded it (out of a lack of camera/interest) and simply came prepared to print my own photos, on my own paper (11×14″ matte fiber), to my own specifications.

I decided to continue to toy with the split-filtering technique we were introduced to in the last class, but I’m still a little clumsy around the enlargers, so after I made my test strips and chose my exposures (f/4, #00 8s, #5 12s) I accidentally forgot to engage the #5 filter, so the first two or so seconds of the what should have been the constrast-only exposure were completely unfiltered. I immediately exposed another paper correctly, and then developed them both at the same time.

The “happy accident” had a wonderfully dark and grainy sky, as a backdrop to the birds, shoes, and jump-rope on power lines (that you might recall from seeing the negative-scanned rendition at the top of A study of power lines and pigeons), whereas the sky in the intentionally exposed print was much lighter shade of gray, with less visible grain. It’s worth mentioning that this was a 3:2 vertical crop of a horizontal 35mm frame, so the negative was significantly enlarged beyond the size of the paper, further accentuating the film grain.

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