November 3, 2014

Roasted eggplant and tomato soup

I know it's fall and eggplant and tomatoes are summer vegetables, but there is something about roasting them together with garlic that turns them into a savory fall soup, especially with the creaminess of a little dairy.

I've made it a few times now and tried it with other seasonal fall vegetables (like butternut squash) - this soup is all about process. You can easily modify it in any number of ways depending on what's in season or in your fridge.

NOTE: I've always made this with chicken stock but you could use vegetable stock to keep this entirely vegetarian and eliminate the creme fraiche to make it completely vegan.

Ingredients -
  • 2 medium eggplants, diced into small/medium squares (unpeeled)
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 6-10 whole garlic cloves, peeled 
  • 6-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4-8 cups, chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • dollop of dairy (creme fraiche or Greek yogurt or sour cream)

Pre-heat oven to 375.  In a large bowl, toss to coat the diced eggplant, the tomatoes, and the whole garlic cloves with the thyme sprigs, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Pour into a rimmed baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Roast for 45 minutes, then remove from oven and move the vegetables around in the pan to prevent burning. Return to the over for another 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are completely soft.

Remove the woody stems from the thyme sprigs, and then place 2/3 - 3/4 of the roasted vegetables in a pot with enough stock to cover the vegetables by an inch or so. Puree the vegetables in the pot using an emulsion blender until very smooth. You may have to tilt the pan at an angle to get to all the vegetables.  Or, place in a regular blender and puree.

Turn the stovetop to medium to heat up the pureed soup and stir in enough stock to get to your desired consistency. When the soup comes up to a simmer, add in the remaining vegetables and recheck for seasoning.

To serve, drizzle a very small amount of olive oil over each bowl and add a small dollop of dairy.

This will keep in the refrigerator for a week. When reheating, add more stock if its too thick.



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August 18, 2014

Steve Jobs on creativity

Maybe varied experience and thinking hard about them matters. It seemed to matter to Steve Jobs:
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.


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January 22, 2014

Why Bitcoin matters

Anyone who has heard about Bitcoin and isn't quite sure what it is or how it's used or why it matters needs to read Marc Andreessen's op-ed piece recently published in the New York Times.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/01/21/why-bitcoin-matters/

It's clear to me now that fortunes will be made on top of Bitcoin that will rival the fortunes made on top of the microchip, the personal computer, and the internet. Bigger fortunes, probably, because it's market is so much larger. And faster, because it'll spread through mobile devices like a wild-fire.



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January 3, 2014

Tuna Carpaccio with Fennel Salad


When you can get sushi-quality tuna, this recipe is a real crowd-pleaser that takes no time to make, looks awesome on the plate, impresses your guests, and most importantly, is simply delicious.

Of course, because the fish is served raw, it takes top-quality tuna to pull it off, so I wouldn't recommend this dish otherwise.

Ingredients (to serve 6/8) -

  • 1/2 lb sushi-quality tuna steak, sliced about 1/2" thick
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • ~ 1 lemon 
  • ~1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ~1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmisiano-Reggiano cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • a pinch or two of large-grained sea salt

To make the Carpaccio -

Put the tuna steak in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to let it firm up to make slicing easier. When cold (but not frozen), take tuna from freezer, and slice into pieces about length and width of a band-aid. A 1/2-lb piece of tuna steak should produce about 8 slices of tuna, though it doesn't really matter or have to be exact.

Place one piece of the tuna between two pieces of wax-paper or saran-wrap, whichever you have on hand, and pound until paper thin. The tuna will expand in area as it gets thinner so place it in the center of the wax-paper. Don't worry about the shape it turns into.  Peel back the top layer of wax-paper and use your fingers or a knife to help scrape the tuna off should it stick. Repeat to scrape the tuna off the lower piece of wax-paper and arrange neatly on a large plate. It's fine if it tears into more than one piece.

Continue in a like manner until all pieces of tuna have been pounded thin and arranged on the plate, leaving a well in the middle for the fennel salad. Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

While the tuna is freezing, make the fennel salad. Trim the stems off each fennel bulb and then divide each bulb into quarters. Using a mandolin, shave each quarter of fennel over a large bowl discarding any hard or discolored pieces. Add the olive oil, the lemon juice, the cheese, and salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Adjust ingredient amounts to produce the taste you want, then refrigerate for about an hour to let the flavors come together.

To serve, take the tuna and fennel salad out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to serving to come up to room temperature - you don't want to serve this cold - and place a mound of the fennel salad in the middle of the plate.

Drizzle a little olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little sea salt over the tuna and serve.



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December 19, 2013

What's your framework for making decisions?

When I look at a person or at a company that has been successful for an extended period of time, I wonder how they consistently make such good decisions. How do they almost always get things right?

Of course, they don't always get everything right - no one ever does - but they get more things right than they get wrong, and the things they get right work out far better on the upside than the things that go wrong hurt them on the downside. Their decision-making seems to lead to asymmetrically good outcomes.

Earlier this week, I watched this presentation Fred Wilson of USV gave at LeWeb in Paris. Everyone knows Fred as the author of avc.com and as being a fabulous investor, but what most people probably don't know, and what I didn't know, is how much time and energy USV spends on their decision-making framework.

If you want to see an example of what a well-developed decision-making framework is and how it leads to good decision-making, watch this video. The subject matter itself is interesting; the decision-making framework on display is even more interesting. No notes, no slides, just a man up on stage talking naturally about how he thinks about things.

Good decisions made consistently over time don't just happen by accident, they happen for a reason. If you want to make better decisions, develop your own decision-making framework. And then be disciplined about following it.



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