Illusory Standards

I’ve lost count of how many times recently that I’ve stumbled back into my apartment past 2 am, dazed, tired, hungry, and with sore hands after a three- or five-hour session at the piano. For the last six months I’ve been playing nothing but Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, which makes it, by far, the biggest musical project of my life. Now, I can play it front-to-back from memory, but still I’m so vexed and worn down by this damned piece that frequently I think to myself: “I wish I had a different hobby.”

In its 22-minute expanse, I have an interminable list of details to refine: the smoothness of the cascading double-stops in Ondine, the constancy of the bell in Le gibet, the snappiness of chord pairs in Scarbo, so on. I’m resigned to the fact that I will never play Gaspard precisely no matter how much I practice — it’s just that hard — but now I start to wonder: with these diminishing returns, when should I stop? Continue reading Illusory Standards

Fancy Pants Brussels Sprouts

This is now my go-to potluck dish, because no one ever brings enough vegetables and who doesn’t love bacon bits. Brussels Sprouts get a bad rap with the kids, but I think it holds up to the bitterness of the charring, which brings out the sweetness of the vegetable, all in bite-sized packages. 

Even if you subtract the bacon, nuts, and balsamic glaze, Brussels sprouts still taste pretty great just roasted on their own.

Brussels Sprouts

  • Cook 3 strips bacon chopped until well-browned and fat is rendered. Set aside bacon, chop into bacon bits when cool.
  • Toss 2 lb brussels sprouts halved in the rendered bacon fat, 2 tsp olive oil if needed, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp pepper.
  • On foil-lined baking sheets, place sprouts sliced side down. Roast at 400 F for 25 minutes, shaking on pan 5 minutes before end, until caramelized and tender.
  • Reduce 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1.5 tbsp honey until sticky.
  • Top with bacon bits and 1/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans), and serve alongside the reduction to drizzle over.

med student, photographer, musician, runner, cuber