Claire-Dee Lim

Writer, Content Marketing

Author: Claire (page 1 of 23)

A Gentleman in Moscow: Truly Obsessed!

Have you noticed that everyone on social media is obsessed by something? Whether it’s a raging enthusiasm for beauty products, the latest foodie trends, the Pantone color for 2018 (ultra violet, btw) or politics, the Internet is where we make our passions known. I am no different.

I am obsessed by Amor Towles critically-acclaimed novel A Gentleman in Moscow. While I am late to the party—the book was released in fall 2016—I’m so glad I finally showed up. Set right after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the story is about Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to “house arrest” at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, after writing an incendiary poem which challenges the new Bolshevik regime. What follows is a thirty-year span that skillfully weaves the courtly and intelligent Count’s adventures, and Russian history along with myriad, fully fleshed out supporting characters.  All the threads are beautifully orchestrated and paced, creating an exhilarating literary experience. I was so enthralled and reluctant to leave this rich, detailed and thought-provoking world Towles created, I listened to the audiobook too.

If you’re in the mood for a captivating and brilliantly written novel, check out A Gentleman in Moscow. His first book, Rules of Civility, while entirely different in style and subject matter, is also delightful. More on that book later!

 

Body Hopping in the Fierce World of Altered Carbon

At last … one of my favorite sci-fi books has been adapted into a series. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan arrived last Friday on Netflix. When I first read the novel, I was mesmerized by the world Morgan created: a world where consciousness could be downloaded into a type of chip located at the base of the neck called a cortical stack. It could then be placed in a body (known chillingly as a sleeve). That sleeve could be a real body, a clone or a synthetic.

The ramifications of this concept are dizzying. Say your body was injured or diseased, and you had the money to pay for a new sleeve—because in this world and like most sci-fi, the wealthy have all the options—you could essentially live forever. But if you’re not rich, this world is not your oyster; it’s grim, gritty, ultraviolent and rife with sexual exploitation.

The 10-episode series is also a future-noirish crime story lead by our hero Takeshi Kovacs. Played by Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, RoboCop), who buffed out uber hard to play our conflicted hero, Kovacs is a mercenary who’s stack has been imprisoned for 250 years for crimes against the state. And now’s he’s been re-sleeved by one of the Meths (as old and rich as Methuselah, get it?) to solve who murdered him. Yes, this rich dude (James Purefoy) is alive again! His consciousness was backed up to his personal cloud before his stack was blown to bits. You see, once your stack is kaput, you’re irretrievably dead.

While the series made some dramatic changes to the novel that weren’t entirely satisfying to me, the overall result was thrilling and very cool. Budget was rumored to be around $100 million. Whatever the budget, every cent is evident on-screen. If you’re a lover of Philip K. Dick’s novels and the polluted, ad-fueled and rainy world of Blade Runner—which turned those motifs into sci-fi visual canon—you must check it out!

 

Ode to Joy: Carb Up!

Before my husband and I embarked on a low-carb/Paleo/intermittent fasting lifestyle, I used to bake. A lot. I’d get fixated on a particular recipe and make every attempt to master it. When Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread revolution came along, with the promise of baking a delicious, highly fermented, rustic-style bread boule, I had to go for it. I then tweaked and tweaked the recipe, incorporating some of Cook’s Illustrated adjustments. No surprise— after making loaf after loaf, our waistlines got thicker and thicker!

For the past five years, bread has not been a part of our menu. So for this holiday and new year’s feasting, I decided to bust out the old recipe as a treat. Oh man, did it taste good! I’ll take a hank of this bread with butter over a Christmas cookie any day.

Alas, 2018 has begun and we’re back to low-carbing it (and feeling much better for it). But there’s always next holiday season …

Recipe after the pix.

No-Knead Bread (with tweaks from Cook’s Illustrated)
(makes 1 large round loaf)

3 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp up to (1 tablespoon) salt
1 tsp yeast
1-1/2 cups water

An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but the recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot that can withstand 500 degrees.

1.    Stir flour, yeast and salt in large bowl. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

2.    Lay a 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and brush surface of dough with olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2-4 hours. (Longer time yields bigger, chewy holes. I’ve let the 2nd rise go for 8 hours.)

3.    About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to middle position, place a 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using sharp knife, make one 6-inch long, ½-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees — 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool at room temperature, about 2 hours, before slicing.

Slather with butter and devour!

 

 

 

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