Third stop: Morocco (lamb tagine)

A tagine is an earthenware pot which, if you tried to purchase one made by Le Creuset, you’d think you could never own one and maybe even mistakenly think that you could never prepare a dish like Lamb Tagine. You’re lucky you don’t actually need one.

Will it turn out differently? Absolutely. Although, that doesn’t mean it won’t be close “enough” to the real thing. It might require a little more patience (I’d put money on the line that tagine always involves a lot of waiting) and a little more attention (because the heat will not distribute as evenly in a standard pot or pan), but it’s well-worth the effort.

The above link to BonAppetit is the actual recipe I followed. It’s incredibly easy. Just remember that you have to start the day before and soak the dried chickpeas overnight. I used lamb shoulder chops, because I’m a strong believer that bones impart more flavor in a dish. Besides, it’ll sit in the pot long enough for the meat to fall off, so it’s really win-win!

Also, if you’ve got good tomatoes, don’t skimp on it and used canned – fresh is always better – and add more than one cup. It’ll reduce beautifully. If your stock isn’t enough, adding water is not a sacrilege. It’s probably just a little better for you, anyway.

I’d say it turned out quite nicely for a first in this kitchen.


Runners As Dancers

Wright Brother's Memorial

Wright Brother’s Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, NC

Reproduced from my post on Medium.

This will sound silly and you don’t have to agree, but I’m convinced that runners are a lot like dancers. Needless to say, I do run a lot and I pretty much dance whenever the opportunity presents itself. If I could put the two of them together and execute it gracefully — with my sneakers on — that would be ideal. Of course, that’s not the case.

So why are runners like dancers? Let’s start with rhythm.

As a runner, cadence is everything. Improving cadence is about becoming a more efficient runner and reducing chances of injury. Runners often recognize it as the “180 rule”, wherein you’re supposed to take approximately 180 steps per minute and, just so you know, wedo follow it.

For dancers, it depends on the music, but there’s always a pattern that you have to follow to be able to perform a particular movement. In Salsa, it’s the clave. I’m sure you’ve heard it in the past. Knowing the pattern tells you where to start counting so you don’t step on your partner’s foot or faceplant in the middle of a salsa rueda.

Let’s talk about form.

It doesn’t matter what type of runner you are, you’ve got your own unique form. Your gait, foot strike, posture, and cadence define your form. With dancers, some types of dances require more form than others. Anything ballroom is pretty strict but, the hustle? Not so much.

There’s also a lot of repetition.

I only started running about four years ago. On December 30, 2011, I decided I’d run everyday until I didn’t feel like it anymore… so I’m still running. I’m sure you’ve written, coded or designed something repeatedly over long nights and/or weekends just because you knew it had more potential. That’s how I feel about running.

The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life. —George Sheehan

As a dancer, it was perfection that consumed me. I got it into my head that if I heard my dance instructor tell me one more time that it’s the leader’s job to make my falls look good, I was going to volunteer to lead next time. Besides, why should he be the only one capable of making someone look good when they mess up? So I spent weekends staring at myself in a dance studio to learn both steps, because I needed to be both the guy and the girl.

So there you have it, my two halves in one. Oh, and in case you’re curious… runners may not be as graceful as ballerinas, but try watching Tirunesh Dibaba sprint (at 25:36) in the final stretch of the 10,000 meter run during the London Olympic Games and finishing 50 meters ahead — it’s a different kind of gracefulness, altogether.

May 2013 Virginia Beer Fest

Last weekend was the 12th Annual Virginia Beer Festival in Norfolk. For anyone who appreciates good beer, attending festivals like these is a great way to discover both imported and local brews that are not quite mainstream.

Here are the new finds:

  • Ommegang’s Fleur De Houblon: Seasonal summer ale, 6.8%ABV. Whole-cone Bravo hops give it a more spring-like than summery aroma. Neither sweet nor tart, Belgian-style. Subtle complexity with a bit of spice. Very enjoyable. I wish it were an Ommegang staple but, sadly, it’s limited edition.
  • Finch’s Fascist Pig: American amber ale, 8%ABV. Very malty. Dry-hopped with Palisade and Zythos. It’s better as it warms up, although it sort of reminds me of really good canned beer like Brouwerij Het Anker’s Lucifer. It hides its alcohol well.
  • Beach Brewing’s SeaDevil: Imperial stout, 10%ABV. Chocolaty, roasted malts, tasted a little like coffee with a slightly bitter finish. I remember it being a little on the thin side for an imperial stout, but would definitely repeat.
  • Kronenbourg Blanc: Witbier, 5%ABV. A little cloudy, pale yellow, smells citrusy with a little zest, weird carbonation but, overall, pretty mild. This is a summer beer. Pool-side or on the patio, but not a standard bearer.
  • Sixpoint’s Apollo and Spice of Life: A summer ale, 5.2%ABV and a changing series of single-hop IPA’s. The Apollo poured like a standard wheat beer, but lighter in taste and clearer than most, very grainy despite being a Kristalweizen. The Spice of Life we had, presumably, had Cascade hops. It didn’t showcase much personality for an IPA, very mild hops, bready – I think it might have been a bad keg.

Second stop: Mali (a very different Maffe)

Peanut sauce is not uncommon in the Philippines. I grew up eating oxtail peanut stew, Kare-Kare, and one of our more traditional eggrolls topped with peanut sauce, Lumpiang Sariwa, so when I took on the challenge of cooking Malinese food, I didn’t think twice about Maffe.

Much like most other dishes I make, I read a few recipes (this one made me laugh) to get a feel for the usual ingredients and then I make a few changes to make it my own. The key to Maffe seems to be the thickening of the sauce so accidentally “puréeing” the vegetables because they cooked for a little longer than expected is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also preferred that you use ground peanuts so if you can find some, all the better.

My ingredients were garlic, yellow onions, lots of tomatoes, carrots, rutabaga, sweet potatoes, bay leaf, cayenne, natural (unsweetened) peanut butter, tomato paste, beef stock, salt and pepper, and beef for stewing.

Maffe Ingredients

Cooking Maffe is pretty similar to most other stews you might make at home. All the ingredients sort of just sit in the same pot for a long time (at least until the beef is tender). The only difference is when the peanuts or (2 tbsp) peanut butter goes in – I’d suggest waiting until the last 15 minutes of cooking!

Serve it with a side of couscous (or bread) and some Alicha for din din. No sweat.

Third stop: Morocco.

A Culinary Trip Around the World

I’ve always been lucky with planning other people’s birthdays. Making a party happen isn’t magic, it’s just logistics. Friends are in town, a mid-week Happy Hour is approved, there’s transportation, live music, good food and great beer. A few of those components may present a small challenge every once in a while but, it’s never impossible. Until this year.

So, to mitigate my inability to make crazy ridiculous endless party plans for Chris’ birthday this year, I instead asked him for a challenge. A trip around the world, seven stops, one dish for every country over the course of a week. You ready for this? Here’s our itinerary: Brazil, Mali, Morocco, France, Germany, Turkey, and the Philippines. Chris initially threw in Sweden and Vietnam, but I guess German Schnitzels and Chicken Adobo beats Swedish meatballs and pho.

For our first stop, I defaulted to a dish I first had at Esperanto Cafe on Avenue C in Manhattan called Moqueca de Peixe. It was my last meal in NYC before I moved to Sydney for work and it obviously made an impression. I’ve only had it once again at a small Brazilian restaurant in Buenos Aires and, while that preparation was dramatically different from Esperanto, it left me in an equally great mood. It’s pretty mind blowing if you’ve never had it before (assuming, of course, that you like seafood). The coconut milk sits well with the lime juice and cilantro and, adding a spicy kick to it is always a good call.

I think I cross-referenced four different recipes, because it seemed too simple to be true. I even made a sad attempt at trying to translate a portuguese recipe, because I figured… it had to be authentic. Sort of.

In the end, my ingredients came down to green peppers, red peppers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, ginger, thai chile peppers (for the heat), clam broth, stock, coconut milk, lime juice, sea salt, crushed black peppercorns, mahi mahi, and shrimp.

Moqueca Ingredients

Prepping the seafood required half an hour of sitting in lime juice, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Everything else started reducing in a pot (it’s a time like this I wish I had a dutch oven).

Moqueca Soup Base

Then you put all of the half cooked vegetables into a blender (which sounds a little bit like sacrilege to me) before putting everything back into the pot and adding the coconut milk and cooking the seafood. Look how tasty!

Moqueca de Peixe

Brazil: check. Next stop: Mali.

Google Fonts can now be downloaded to your desktop. Awesome.

Design options overload.

Check it out here on Google’s developer blog.

April 2013: end of month running report

Speedwork. I pretty much have always hated it and this month was the first time I actually stuck with the turnover drills, the tempo runs, and the track repeats. Coincidentally, I also started running with a foot pod in the beginning of the month so I finally had cadence data I could use to help improve my running efficiency.

Here’s what worked:

  • Whey Protein supplementation seems to shorten my recovery time.
  • Taking Creatine has some positive effects on overall endurance – noticeably, with speedwork.
  • Taking a multivitamin keeps my energy level more stable throughout the day.
  • Putting easy runs after tempos seems to be better than a recovery jog.
  • Doing regular long runs off road (on trails) actually strengthens my legs.

Here’s what didn’t work:

  • All of my recovery jogs were way too fast. Part of it was just discomfort – the pacing felt weird. The slow running would also draw attention to minor aches and pains from previous runs and that just made me dislike it even more.
  • My turnover drills aren’t really getting me anywhere. Part of it stems from the fact that I don’t really know what I’m doing. The other part is that I have no easy way of keeping myself within my “appropriate” cadence range. First, I should probably figure out that range.
  • My lack of sleep is wreaking havoc on my easy run days. They’re supposed to be easy, but my legs are always dragging because I’m too tired. This one might just be a draw since working on a startup isn’t particularly conducive to seven hours of sleep.

We’ve also been working pretty heavily on Smashrun PRO this month and I’m beta testing the heck out of it. We’re lining up all the relevant stats you’d normally want to see to gauge performance: pace/speed buckets, heart rate zones, elevation, steepness/grade, cadence range. It’s mildly addictive. Err… no… it’s actually pretty insane. I haven’t been able to stop staring at some of my runs because I feel like there’s always some piece of valuable information I’m missing that I could otherwise use to structure my training schedule. It’s all progress! All good stuff!

This month’s verdict:

I’m running faster short distances. I’ve still got the endurance for 10K – 10 miles. I seem to have a recurring tension or dull pain on my right knee. It’s a little disconcerting, but it hasn’t bothered me walking up and down stairs, or just walking on it, in general. No shin problems to speak of. Still cross-training at least 3x a week. I’d say April was pretty much a success!

On Medium

Sharing ideas and experiences moves humanity forward. –Medium

It’s really hard to keep up with the rest of the world, but there’s something I really love about the chase.

When I left my first job out of college, I did so because I felt like I wasn’t learning enough. The notion that repetition creates perfection is fundamentally flawed. Doing the same thing over and over again will only make you good at doing that one thing over and over again. Now the prospect of doing something that requires adaptability by virtue of its technical complexity or reliance on creativity – the kind of thing that renders you expendable because you forgot to keep up with your industry’s trending news – that’s just so much more fun.

I’m cursed with an insatiable appetite for acute stress. I’m lucky that researchers have just found out that some stress is apparently good for you, because there’s no shortage of stress from the steep learning curve of becoming a designer.

If an article or blog post is design-related, I tend to read it. If it’s running-related, I read it. Of course, they have to be well written, occasionally humorous, sincere, and maybe even humanistic, which isn’t always easy to find.

Then I discovered Medium. It reminds me of all the great things that people are capable of doing and suddenly… short essays have made a comeback.

Prosciutto Pesto Pizza

I have the worst cravings for carbs. I’d eat rice and potatoes everyday if it was good for me. Luckily, I have options. Of course, I suck at measurements and I always cook like I run – everything is by feel.


2 slices of prosciutto (torn to pieces)

a handful of cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp of pine nuts

sweet basil

half a roasted red pepper

2 tbsp pesto

a mixture of asiago-parmesan-romano cheese


1 head of roasted garlic

3 asparagus tips

1 Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough

Flour for rolling out the dough

You’ll need to roast the head of garlic ahead of time and leave the dough at room temperature for 20 minutes.


Then prep the prosciutto, slice the cherry tomatoes, separate out the basil leaves, tear the roasted red pepper to pieces, and cut the asparagus tips into 1″ pieces.


Preheat the oven for 350°F and prep the pizza dough after it’s rested at room temperature. Prettify your pizza with toppings!

Before the cheese.


After the cheese.


And here’s the finished pizza! It took about 20 minutes from start to finish once the pizza was in the oven. Pretty!


Sprints for quicker turnover

Today’s speed workout was a success! I wasn’t really in the mood to do it, because I wasn’t having the most productive work day. Lots of content work and research this afternoon and I didn’t feel like I had the energy to get moving…. but move I did!

It was pretty cloudy so GPS wasn’t the best, but the pace buckets look awesome.

Trying to get to a certain speed within 15 seconds is pretty tough, but it didn’t feel uncomfortable today.

I’ve been doing Nike+ Kinect’s Training program for 2 months now and it’s probably doing me some good. Who’d have thought that throwing in a couple of high knee drills, butt kicks, lunges, and squats throughout the week would make me feel less miserable with my running?