Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Help me cozify my apartment?

Here's the living room:

There are way too many chairs. I'm not sure what to do with all of them.

Living room & Kitchen - that white thing separating the kitchen from the living room is moveable, but I do like the counter space that it provides.

Another shot of the living room

This is an odd window in the living room, thinking about setting my desk up in front of it:

OK, Please help. Any suggestions are welcome - I'm kind of overwhelmed and don't really know how to make this place feel cozy instead of vaguely dorm-like. What do you think?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Onion & Leek Risotto

On the way here I bought a few magazines to read on the plane, and one of them had a whole bunch of risotto recipes. I've never made risotto before, but there were enough recipes in the magazine for me to recognize a common formula, which is basically: add fat to a pan, cook your onion/garlic/shallot, add rice, saute until transparent, add broth slowly, add other ingredients, garnish, eat!

The article that I read was a little snobby (the author claimed to never order risotto at restaurants because no one could execute it as well as she could) and also overemphasized the importance of stirring (I think the problem was that the restaurants weren't stirring enough). So I got a kick out of this video where Mario Batali basically says that stirring is overrated. Since it's less work for me, I'm going to use the Batali method here!

The leeks looked awesome at the market this week, so I decided to try an onion and leek risotto for my first attempt. Only try this is you really like onion-y flavors (I'm living alone for the next few months, so I don't have to worry about bothering anyone with my dragon breath). You could easily adapt this recipe and leave out the leeks, and reduce the amount of onion - in that case though, you wouldn't want to skip the parm cheese.

Translucent rice, pre-broth.

Onion & Leek Risotto

2 tbsp butter, divided
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large spanish onion
2 medium-size leeks
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cup risotto
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup parmasian cheese (optional)

Add 1 tbsp butter and 1tbsp olive oil to medium-size pan. Dice the onion and leeks - add them to the pan once butter is melted and sautee until translucent. Add diced garlic clove and sautee, stirring, for about 1 minute.

Add the risotto and sautee, stirring, until the risotto is translucent (I like to keep a few raw grains near the pan for reference). When it's translucent, add the wine if you want to use it, then add just enough broth to cover the rice. Let it simmer until the rice has absorbed all of that broth, then again add just enough to cover the rice. Keep doing this until the risotto is cooked through and tender.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the parmasan cheese and tbsp of butter.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I came, I saw, I shopped:

I've been in Leuven for 4 days now, but have just managed to get internet at my apartment (pictured above) today.  I got to explore the entire town on foot looking for a power adapter for my laptop, which was frustrating at times, but now I know where Diestsestraat is, and what they sell at fnac, and I have a store credit at AS Adventure (I bought a bells-and-whistles power adapter from them for 27 euro! And it didn't even work with my laptop.  I was getting desperate).

Luckily I got in on a Saturday, which is when the market is set up in the center of Leuven - unfortunately though, I didn't take any pictures. I did get some nice fresh bread and cheese, and a sausage and some olives, and I've been snacking on those all week.  A pushy French vendor convinced me to buy 3 heads of french garlic, and now I have no idea what to do with them.  I've been a little bit bored living here by myself so for some entertainment I've been cooking and will post some recipes soon.  I've been doing a lot of reading too, but now that I have the computer I'll probably just goof off on the internet most of the time, as is my wont.

Today I found a french press and a nice coffee mug at my new favorite store, Hema (I'm well on my way to outfitting my entire apartment in gear from Hema). And I got some coffee at Koffie Onan, so I am currently enjoying a nice cup of coffee.

Translation update: "onan" is apparently the dutch word for "unacceptable" 

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eating like a Belgian

Well I arrived and was very jetlagged, but luckily it was Saturday and I could go to market! I also went to a bakery and tried to order a Sesame bread in Flemmish - the lady behind the counter quickly took pity on me and switched to English after my first attempted word ('klein' = small). The sausage guy at the market was not so sympatchtic, and abjectly refused to speak anything except French. Luckily my French is better than my Flemmish (which is non-existant).

So, my first meal in Leuven - a salad of goat cheese, fresh basil, sausage, olives and sesame bread.

Friday, June 27, 2008

There's an article over at McSweeney's (one of my very favorite websites) about visiting Brussels, with some useful information, like:

Incidentally, plan on spending a good twelve minutes at the statue of Manneken Pis, a minuscule bronze of a small boy peeing into a fountain, which is the universally acclaimed mascot of the city of Brussels. It seems the little tyke once tried to help put out a fire in this way a couple of centuries ago and thereby saved the city. It's worth a laugh, and it's only five minutes by foot from Le Roi d'Espagne, and if you're lucky he'll be dressed up as anything from a medieval pikeman to Elvis Presley. The residents of Brussels get their kicks as best they can.

Read the whole article: The Spanish King of Brussels

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Breaking news - Leuven has restaurant week!  For some reason this fact makes me very happy, and also makes me wonder about the origins of the wonderfulness that is restaurant week.

I've also learned some bike news - first, it's possible to get a really cool KUL bike (pictured above) if you're an employee of the university (does a PhD student count as an employee?).  

I've also learned that it's possible for students on bikes to receive tickets from the police in Leuven - the students are starting petitions on facebook to protest the superboetes ("super fines" - like 100 or 150 euro!) that are being leveed upon them.  So if I do get a snazzy KUL bike, I'll have to be careful not to run any red lights!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I've found 'the great Belgian novel' - I think - and am planning to read it before I go.  It's supposedly a controversial, very honest assessment of the way that Belgians dealt with WWII, told via an adolescent narrator.  The author, Hugo Claus (pictured left), is also famous for euthanizing himself rather than choosing to live with Alzheimer's disease.  It's called 'The Sorrow of Belgium' - should be a great beach read for summer!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Moving is becoming a  reality!  I've gotten rid of what I think is "lots" of clothes and books, but I know it's just the first round.  I've learned a few phrases in Dutch (there's no free 'Learn Flemmish' podcast, so I'll have to settle for Dutch).  I've set an official date: Dec 1, and I've submitted my application for an apartment (furnished, no less - would be so convenient).