Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moving On!

In the unlikely event anyone has noticed, there’s haven’t been any recent posts here.  The reason for that is pretty straightforward: I’m now just a few months from retirement and preparations for that event have occupied pretty much all my blogging time.

From now on I’ll be posting entirely on Cum Voluptate Otium, the blog that until now has been focused principally on retirement finances.

Obviously I’ll have loads more time in the immediate future so there will be more El Bulli, Tickets, and even some Atelier Crenn posts. Gardening season is about to start, we've got some more low budget bathroom work to do, there's another Las Vegas vacation scheduled and of course there will be a bit on financial matters.

Thanks to everyone who’s taken time to read and comment here!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Weekend with Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking

Hummus, Twice cooked Eggplant and Harissa Pargiyot

A few weeks back the long awaited Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking finally arrived! Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook have delivered an absolutely wonderful book of (mostly) easy to reproduce recipes that any reasonably well equipped home cook can make. So when the weekend arrived I was geared up to try as many as possible (with more to come!).

Recipe 1: Basic Tehina Sauce

This is the foundation of a number of recipes including the famous Zahav Hummus so it's the obvious place to start.

Lemon juice and garlic get chopped together, rest for a few minutes to take the harsh edge off the raw garlic.

The mixture is strained and the garlicky lemon juice added to a whole jar (16 oz) of Tehina, water, and a little cumin.

The Thermomix makes quick work of this phase but a high power blender or food processor will work too.

You end up with an almost pure white sauce, most of which will go into:

Recipe 2: Hummus Tehina

The full recipes for these two and a length interview with Solomonov can be found here: For Israeli-Born Chef, Hummus And 'Tehina' Are A Bridge To Home. 

I just cooked up the chickpeas in my Thermomix and saved the cooking water.

And dumped in the tehina. And the processed the heck out of it. I probably had about 20 cl. of the saved water to make the hummus smooth and creamy.

Recipe 3: Crispy Halloumi

Dates and walnuts go into the Thermomix with a little Sherry Vinegar.

Halloumi (no substitues) fries quickly and holds it's shape.

Onto the puddle of date sauce with a few slices of apple and you're ready to go!

Recipe 4: Hummus Pitryot

This is just mildly spiced mushrooms (any kind will work, though Zahav uses Hen of the Woods) fried in a very hot pan so they crisp up and served on top of Hummus Tehina. Super easy and delicious.

Recipe 5: Twice Cooked Eggplant

Slice, salt and drain the eggplant.

Fry the crap out of it

Red Bell Pepper and Onions are diced and fried in the pan. Then toss in the eggplant and some Sherry Vinegar and break up the eggplant and cook until the vinegar evaporates.

Recipe 6: Harissa Pargiyot

First we make Harissa (or buy it) and marinate a couple pounds of cut up chicken thighs, thread 'em on skewers and grill.

Hummus, Twice cooked Eggplant and Harissa Pargiyot. Yum!

What's it all mean?

Honestly, if I hadn't had a bunch of football to watch I could easily have done all these recipes in one day. Almost anyone could easily assemble a very impressive dinner party without amazingly little planning. Just remember to make pickles 2 days ahead, soak your chickpeas and marinate meat (if any) the night before and you're good to go.

Zahav will probably gather quite a few comparisons to Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem. We've cooked quite a bit from Jerusalem and while there are similarities, I'm finding Zahav more practical as a "home cooking" source.

Not ready to buy the book? There are the recipes for Yemenite Beef Soup and Lachuch here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Medical Issues: We go to the Emergency Room: Part 1

So, late in July Beth had what we were pretty sure was a gall stone attack. She went to work the next day, but the pain reoccurred and she headed down to the local ER to get checked out. Although she was pretty sure it was gall stones the pain is not too dissimilar from certain types of heart attack and who the heck wants to drop dead at work?

She got herself checked in and the rather lengthy process began including and MRI, ECG, and a long list of blood and other fluid tests. You won't have to imagine what it all cost because I'm going to lay it all out as each billing unit (there are 5) comes in and gets resolved. Our insurance company, Cigna,  processed all the claims within about three weeks and we began to receive bills from the hospital's processing company at about the 4 week point.

Important Lesson #1:

Print out all the documentation from your insurer. You'll need it when the bills start to arrive.

These two screen grabs show how our insurance company processed and paid the first set of charges:

Pretty easy to understand, just two line items and it's fairly clear what we should expect to pay. In fact, the company included an easy to read breakdown as well:

Pretty cool. We only owe $56.32! But wait! The actual bill hasn't arrived yet. Which it did just last week:

How could this be? The insurance company paid nearly all of this! The answer lies in the dates. The bill was printed on August 21. The insurance company processed the claim on August 17. I don't have an exact date, but it's pretty easy to believe it took more than 4 days for the payment to make it into the billing system and be credited.

My first step was to figure out which set of charges this bill referred to. That was made easy by the fact that the insurance company itemized the charges in a way that matched that used by the billing company. Once I had the right insurance company statement in hand I called the billing company to find out if the payment had arrived. In fact it had and not only did I not owe $563.20, I didn't even owe the $56.32. The $38.00 "not covered by [my] plan" was apparently waived and I ended up paying only $18.32. Yea!

Important Lesson #2:

Call the billing company before you pay! It's very likely your insurance company's payments have already hit the system.  

Well, in the end it turns out Beth does have gall stones but nothing was blocked. That probably means we'll have another episode some time in the future. I can only hope we'll have medical insurance as good as what we have from Cigna when that happens.

After this episode, we still have four more "billing units".  I'll save 'em up for the next post.


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