Saturday, September 29, 2007

Baltimore Tango Festival Notes

Super convoluted notes that ran through my head after classes. These were made for the sake of jogging my memory later. I'll probably still think "WTF?" when I read them later.

Classe 1: Altas - High sacadas

- contrabody
- practicing having weight stable on one foot.
- practicing contrabody torsion in chest both rotationally and linearly
- practicing swinging free foot without affecting balance
- having partner swing your foot up with momentum and releasing
- gyros around each other with sacadas feeling the rounded motion
- gyros with sacadaing foot aimed more towards follower's stable leg and high on her thigh

Class 2. Hooks and catches

- rounded movement
- as follower takes front step of gyros, leader hooks her foot with his back foot
- hooked ankles should be very tight together.
- keep pivoting follower until her hips are facing away from you
- straighten hook leg for a leg wrap while moving circularly
- can also do a hook and then a circular side step

Sat Class 1: Movement by induction
- two step gyro
- first take a side step with toes pointed in direction that you want to go
- bring back foot to front foot, change weight, change weight again and back cross
- pivot follower (notice how the level of your hips affect this)
- lead a circular side step

- circular side step involves moving butt in an arc but keeping your upper body stable on your hips and keeping your spine straight as you twist your torso around it.
- sacadas in the two step gyro

Class 2: Boleos from nowhere

- start a circular movement around follower like you are stalking her but keep her from stepping at all. she should look like she is on two feet. however, the direction that you go around her will dictate which foot/leg she'll have more weight on (again contrabody feeling). When going around her, drop hip of free leg and face her. Turn her upper body without her stepping by leaving her where she is or grounding her. There should be no tension created between you.

Class 3: dynamics

- adornment for followers. 'tak' (quick foot in front before linear steps)
- going to cross -> instead of crossing normally, open away from leader and cross. tap floor, step step 'tak' in front... god this doesn't make any sense. anyways this class had lots of great exercises.

Class 1: enrosques

one major idea: in tango you walk and pivot. when walking you are pushing of the ground. grounding feet, pushing with feet against ground but extending upper body. all of upper body should be sitting straight on top of your hips. in the contrabody, there is stretching along diagonal from bottom of ribs to opposite hip. Think of taking a shot in the bottom of your ribs.

for the enrosque, lead the follower around you and build torsion (contrabody). Then move from one diagonal to the other by pivoting your hips.

Class 2: turns in close embrace

again contrabody. when stepping back for follower, keep sacrum and pubic bone perpendicular to the ground. For leader to start the turn, there needs to be induction or contrabody. M and C teach not the A frame but that each person is perpendicular to ground so back isn't bent.

Stepping on the half beat

Class 3: Leg wraps

- relaxed and lazy
- standing at bus stop
- recoiling away from an enemy --> idea of contrabody
- when sweeping foot for leg wrap, think circular, not linear
- when there is contact and understanding between points of contact, in this case the ankles, then can move that point wherever you like/is possible.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Contrabody workout

Last night in class we went over many exercises to improve awareness of the contrabody movement in tango. Some good tips were:

- standing with feet shoulder width apart, rotate torso around spine, keeping the torso in one complete block (ie. not pushing shoulders, keeping shoulders same distance from each other, not bending at the waist). Repeat with feet and lower body by sliding one foot past the other one like a scissor.

- take one half step back and look at the back foot over the opposite shoulder. Repeat without looking but with the same contrabody feel. Repeat with both forward and backward steps.

- feel contrabody while walking backwards, remembering to keep the side of the hip that is connected to the foot going backwards level with the direction you are facing. In other words, don't let your hips swivel when reaching back with your leg. Also, imagine that the ball of the foot is always in contact with the floor when you are reaching backwards. To do this, you need to not bend from the waist but rather swoop down with your whole body (bending your knee and reaching with the leg).

- with a partner, not in any particular embrace, take slow steps back and forth while being aware of the contrabodiness.

- step, collect, step, collect, repeat ad infinitum.

- to make a good connection, expand chest and then keep chest expanded by breathing with the diaphram and belly rather than your upper lungs.

Mille Feuilles

We went apple, grape and raspberry picking this last weekend at Milborn Orchards. The grapes were phenomenal! And I came home with a beautiful box of raspberries.

The first thought that ran through my head was "Napoleons!!!"

It was my first attempt at puff pastry and mille feuille, aka Napoleons. I clearly remember the first time I ate a Napoleon. I was in 10th grade, sleeping over at a friend's house and her parents had just returned from NY city bringing back a big boxful of pastries from a fancy shmancy bakery. I got to have the Napoleon and oh my god, it was one of the most amazing things I've ever eaten. I continued to have an obsession with Napoleons and came across this intriguing recipe on Tartlette's blog last week. I took it as a sign and I gave it a go.

I was up at 6 am, translating grams into our silly english measurements and measuring out crazy shit like 3/4 cup + 1 T + 1 t butter and 2/3 c - 1 T flour, etc. Maybe it's time to get a scale?

Rolling out the dough encased in butter block wasn't intuitive to me. The butter block softened much more quickly than the dough block so whenever I rolled it, the butter block would all squish to the edges. Maybe that's why it's usually the inverse of this inverted recipe. I probably should thrown it in the fridge to firm it up a bit too. But after the 4th hour of rolling, folding and chilling, I had a nice looking dough:

I baked it according to directions by sandwiching the dough between baking sheets to keep it from puffing up. My result was a somewhat heavy and dense puff pastry. It's probably how I rolled out the dough or that the dough got too warm or that my pan was too heavy but the pastry wasn't fall apart flaky bits of heavenly lightness which was disappointing. I decided to cut each piece in half thickwise to lighten it up a bit.

I whipped up some heavy cream with sugar and got out my lemon curd and proceeded to layer. It was good but, again, not the light airy pastry orgasm I had a long time ago. I'll have to fiddle around and maybe get a book out on puff pastry. Note to self: here's a nice video, showing a logical way to make it and here is an illustrated recipe.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Comme Il Faut Disastor!

The heel tips on my cute CIL's were getting worn down and uneven so I thought I would take them to a local shoe repair shop (Abbott's Shoe Repair in Newark, Delaware) to have them changed. Mistake, mistake, mistake! I got the shoes back and the heels were so ugly! They had scratched up and dented the end of the heel, put on heels tips that were too big so the line of the heel was broken and did not put the heel tip on all the way so that there is a big gap between the heel and the tip. I'll post pictures later when I've stopped crying. From now on, I'll only replace my heel tips at a store that has high satisfaction with many tangueras. This might mean going to NYC or B.A. Ugh. So mad at Abbott's!!!

***Update*** Armed with a tough looking male friend, I went back to Abbots to tell them about their shoddy work and ask for a refund. When I showed them the heels, they started to take them to the back while shouting "These shoes are real problems for us," as if it were the stupid shoe's fault not theirs. We prevented them from doing more work, they got super angry at us for telling them that they scratched up the heel (as if it weren't true and right before their eyes), some money was thrown at us and basically we were told to leave the store. Yeah, they could work on their customer service...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Saucy Apple Tofu

In celebration of fall and apple picking time up here in the Northeast.

Saucy Apple Tofu

1 lb tofu

2 hours before cook time, press tofu (between a cutting board and baking sheet with a big book on top) for an hour. After pressing, cut tofu into 1/2" thick slices. Make the marinade in a rectangular dish or tupperware:

1/2 c soy sauce
3 T apple cider vinegar
1/4 c apple cider
2 cloves garlic grated
1/2 in. ginger grated

Mix it up well and layer in the tofu slices. Marinate for 1 hour, turning tofu slices so they all get their fair share of marination time. Now go prepare:

3 T oil
2 T good mustard
1/2 c apple cider
1/2 apple, sliced thin
1/4 c raisins, dried cranberries or dried cherries
6 scallions chopped
1 T arrowroot or cornstarch mixed into 1/4 c water
3 T brown sugar

Whisk mustard and cider together. In a large pan, heat oil over med-high heat. Take tofu pieces out of marinade (keep the marinade!) and add to the pan in one layer (do two batches if they don't all fit in the pan). Pour in the mustard cider. Cover and cook until golden on both sides, about 3-5 min each side. Turn heat down to medium. Pour the marinade over the tofu and add in apples, dried fruit and scallions. Cover and simmer for 5 min, turning the tofu slices over halfway through. Take tofu and fruit out of pan and add in the arrowroot slurry. Mix until glazy and thick. Pour over tofu, sprinkle with brown sugar and y voila.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Naming a Title

From Japanese Death Poems:

Since time began
the dead alone know peace.
Life is but melting snow.

Kanete naki
mi koso yasukere
yuki no michi

No, I'm not morbid or obsessed with death. Rather, melting snow has some personal significance to me and I like finding poetry that mentions it. Rumi also has a poem that includes the line:

Totally unexpected my guest arrived.
"Who is it?" asked my heart.
"The face of the moon," said my soul.
As he entered the house, we all ran into the street madly looking for the moon.
"I'm in here," he was calling from inside,
but we were calling him outside unaware of his call.
Our drunken nightingale is singing in the garden,
and we are cooing like doves, "Where, where, where?"
A crowd formed: "Where's the thief?"
And the thief among us is saying, "Yeah, where's the thief?"
All our voices became mixed together and not one voice stood out from the others. "And He is with you" means He is searching with you.
He is nearer to you than yourself.
Why look outside? Become like melting snow; wash yourself of yourself.
With love your inner voice will find a tongue growing like a silent white lily in the heart.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rosewater Pistachio Cake

A blog! Yes, a place to spout about some of my baking and tango adventures.

I always loved putzing around in the kitchen and I seem to go through phases. For example, it was the winter of my discontent and Amy's Bread book. Spring found me focused on simple vegan cooking. Summer was cookies and tomatoes. In August I got an intense desire for homemade ice cream after eating some at a friend's house so I bought a nice Donvier (the environmentalist that I am) and made a batch of peach ice cream with fresh Delaware peaches. The second batch was vegan chocolate ice cream made with cashews which was amazingly creamy and chocolately. Then Cupcake Bake Shop inspired me to try my hand at cupcakes.

The first batch I made was pistachio cupcakes with rosewater cream cheese frosting. They were very yummy and even a pal who is not so fond of desserts gobbled it down.

Pistachio Cake (adapted from

1 cup pistachios shelled
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if pistachios are salted)
1/2 cup whole milk (I used soy milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs

A couple hours before baking, take out butter, eggs, cream cheese and milk and bring them to room temperature (this is a reminder for me).

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cupcake liners.

Pulse half of the pistachios in a food processor until finely ground (be careful not to overprocess into a paste). Sift 1 cup flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt into a large bowl. Mix in ground pistachios. Coarsely chop remaining pistachios and add them to the flour mixture.

Combine milk and vanilla in a measuring cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add pistachio flour and milk in batches, beginning and ending with flour, and mix at low speed until just combined.

Pour into cupcake liners and bake for 20 - 22 min.

Rosewater Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 t vanilla
1 t rosewater
3-4 cups confectioner's sugar

Blend cream cheese and butter until fluffy and smooth. Blend in vanilla and rosewater and half of sugar. Slowly blend in rest of sugar.