Zdir (Tunisian tomato-chili soup)

Cooking, Food, Meatless, Recipes, Vegetarian No Comments

Read this article in the Atlantic yesterday and decided to give it a try. The article doesn’t give a precise recipe, so I’ve deciphered it the best I can below (making a minor substitution and leaving out the semolina). I just made it. It’s really damned good.

I really have no idea whether this can be properly called “zdir” since I’ve been unable to locate an actual recipe (or any other information) about it. Either way, it’s crazy tasty with a good solid spicy punch. If you don’t care for spicy food, skip the harissa and chilis. If you do like spicy food, you have to try this.

  • 2-3 dried red chilis (I used 2 Sanaam chilis)
  • 1 oz olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp harissa (this is a lot, I might halve this next time…it’s potent stuff)
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground caraway
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes + juice (28fl oz)
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 tbsp preserved lemon, chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried mint (or to taste)
  1. Soak chilis in a bit of water for 15-20 mins. Chop finely.
  2. Pour olive oil into a pot and heat over med-low, when warm add garlic + let steep for 5 mins or so. Don’t saute the garlic…just let it warm through and flavour the oil.
  3. Turn up the heat a bit and add tomato paste, harissa, and a bit of the tomato juice. Whisk together well and simmer for a few mins.
  4. Add chilis, caraway, and coriander to the paste. Simmer another few mins.
  5. Pour in diced tomatoes with their juices and the extra 1/4 cup of water. Add chopped sundried tomatoes, and mix well. Simmer over low/med-low for 20 mins or so. Add more water if needed.
  6. Optionally, if you have an immersion stick blender, use that now to chop up the tomatoes a bit. If you prefer a chunkier soup, or if you don’t have an immersion blender, just skip this part.
  7. Quickly rinse the chopped preserved lemon, capers, and olives (just to get rid of the excess vinegars/etc). Stir these into the soup. Let sit on low to heat through for another 10-15 mins.
  8. Remove from heat, stir in dried mint, serve.

Spinach & mushroom frittata with goat cheese & sundried tomato

Cooking, Food, Meatless, Recipes No Comments

Spinach & mushroom frittata with goat cheese sundried tomato
I’m not going to post the recipe for last night’s dinner because it basically amounts to: make an omelette with fewer eggs and more stuff, the end. The sundried tomatoes were disappointingly tasteless, unfortunately. I need to find a new source. Otherwise, yum! Super easy.

On 1:1s

Focus, Habits, Meetings, Mentoring, Mozilla, Productivity, Remote work, Remoties, Work 12 Comments


Photo by chichacha.

One of the most important parts of my week is my one-on-one (1:1) meeting with Dan, my manager. These meetings generally only last around half an hour, and it’s time extraordinarily well spent. In that half hour we catch up, discuss projects and status, review priorities, troubleshoot blockers, checkpoint against our quarterly goals, and use the time to give each other feedback. It might sound like a pretty dense 30 minutes, and that’s because it is. Our 1:1 meeting is a tightly packed conversation that establishes and reinforces my direction, priorities, and motivation. As a remotie*, I would be lost without it.

The actual meeting is only part of the story, however — while the meeting only lasts for half an hour, I do some prep work the day before. This prep work mostly involves reviewing my projects and goals, writing out what I want to talk about, and sending those notes to Dan so he can review them before we meet. I find this process extremely useful.

Over the months I’ve established a more-or-less standard format for my 1:1 prep notes that includes five fairly straightforward sections:

  • Accomplishments & status
  • Blocked/Waiting on
  • To do over the next week
  • Areas to develop
  • Quarterly goal tracking

Accomplishments & status: This is where I do a quick rundown of my current projects, with one or two sentences covering what I’ve managed to get done in the last week and what the current status looks like.

Blocked/Waiting on: This is where I list the projects I’m stuck on and why, or other things that are blocking progress — either waiting on resources, people, feedback, or whatever else. Having this section is absolutely vital — if I’m blocked on something, we can usually talk it through so I get unstuck, or Dan can figure out what he can do to help.

To do over the next week: By writing out a short list of specific things I plan to work on over the next week, Dan and I can make sure that I’m working on the right things and am prioritizing things properly. This doesn’t take a lot of time to go over, and since we checkpoint on this every week there usually aren’t any changes, but sometimes my task list gets rejigged slightly if other things have come up elsewhere in the organization.

Areas to develop: Usually this is a one or two sentence “big picture” sort of thing. Dan and I talk about longer-term career development once every month or two, discussing what I need to do or develop in order to progress, become more effective, and have more impact. In this part of my prep notes I take a few minutes to review how I think I’m doing in relation to what we discussed and jot down what I believe I need to focus on improving the most.

This section gives Dan a chance to do some career development coaching. While we normally deal with this part of the meeting in a matter of minutes, it’s profoundly useful — this is an incredibly quick and easy way for me to get ongoing lightweight feedback from Dan on a regular basis.

Quarterly goal tracking: We establish a set of goals each quarter, and every week Dan and I review progress on the ones I own and am driving. I find this useful because regularly checkpointing against my goals helps me make sure I’m focusing on the right things. By reviewing these weekly, we can also make ongoing course corrections where needed. Life rarely happens exactly according to plan, and priorities and projects can shift. It’s far better to review and adjust things weekly than to do a single review late in the quarter just to realize that things got off track (at which point the panic sets in).

Video chat: Another thing I should mention is that Dan and I have our meetings using Skype video. We used to just use the phone, but Dan talked me into using video chat and it’s really much, much better. As a remotie, being able to get “face time” like this is way more important than I thought — not only is the communication much higher bandwidth, there’s a psychological impact I can’t really explain. I just feel more connected to the rest of the company, which is both surprising and fantastic. If you’re remote, you should really try using video chat for your 1:1 meetings…I can almost guarantee that it’s more useful than you expect.

And that’s about it. Having developed the habit of prepping for my 1:1 meetings this way, it only takes me about 15-20 minutes to write up my notes to send to Dan, and it makes our meetings incredibly focused and useful. If you’re not sure you’re getting the most out of your 1:1s, you might try something like this — a half hour of prep work on your part for a half hour meeting can have a huge impact.

Do you have particularly awesome 1:1 meetings? What makes them awesome? What tips would you give to people who would like their meetings to be more useful?

  • remotie: noun, a person who works in a different geographic location than his/her manager.

Soba noodle salad with grilled tofu

Cooking, Food, Meatless, Recipes, Vegetarian 2 Comments

Soba noodle salad & grilled tofu

Dinner this evening, sticking with the “meatless” theme, is a very simple soba noodle salad topped with grilled tofu.

Grilled Tofu

  • 2-3 1/2″ slices of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp mirin (sweet sake)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • Splash sesame oil
  1. Mix soy, mirin, vinegar, and oil in a shallow bowl. Add tofu slices and marinate for 15-30 mins or so. Note: mirin is optional — it adds a notable hint of sweetness which may or may not be wanted. I’ll probably skip it next time.
  2. Heat a ridged grill pan over med-high heat until hot enough to instantly sizzle water. Grill tofu 3-4 mins per side (it will smoke and should develop good grill marks). That’s it.

Soba noodle salad

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Splash sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 oz soba noodles (uncooked)
  • 1/3 c frozen edamame (out of pods)
  • 1/4 c thinly sliced carrot
  • Small handful baby spinach
  1. Whisk together olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice, and ginger. This is a simple lemon/ginger vinaigrette.
  2. Cook soba noodles in boiling water for 4 mins. Before draining, add edamame and let cook for another minute or so, then add carrot slices and baby spinach and let stand for 20-30 seconds. Drain well and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain for 4-5 mins.
  3. Put salad in a shallow pasta bowl, top with grilled tofu slices, and pour over vinaigrette.

Very tasty and very filling. This is what I made for one (me) and I couldn’t finish it.

Why I love Readability, with screenshots

add-ons, Design & Usability, Firefox, Innovation, Productivity, Reading, Web, Work 5 Comments

Readability is a Firefox add-on that improves the experience of reading long articles in your browser by getting all the extraneous cruft out of the way. I use it every single day and love it to bits.

Here, for example, is a screenshot of what a typical Harvard Business Review article looks like in Firefox (Persona: Save the Bees Plz by monorail cat):

Old Crufty

With the Readability add-on installed, all I have to do is hit a quick keyboard shortcut (alt-cmd-R) and the page will reload and be reformatted by Readability. It looks like this:

New Clean

It’s just so, so much better. arc90, you have made a great thing. Thanks :)

Vegetable Stew

Cooking, Food, Meatless, Recipes 2 Comments

Sort of made this up as I went. Serves four or so? We have leftovers.


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, but tasty)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 med carrots, sliced into 1/2″ rounds
  • 2 lg stalks celery, sliced
  • 6 small potatoes, quartered
  • 1 md zucchini, sliced
  • 1 c cabbage, sliced
  • 1 19oz tin diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 1/2 c water or vegetable stock
  • 1 14oz tin white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 c cooked barley (hulled, not pearled)
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes and saute for a couple of minutes. Add carrots, celery, and sliced cabbage, and saute for a few more minutes. Toss in potatoes, saute for a little longer.
  2. Pour in diced tomatoes and juices, and add water. Heat to just boiling, then turn down to med-low and simmer for 30 mins or so (until everything is cooked through).
  3. Add drained and rinsed kidney beans and cooked barley, stir and leave on low for another 10-15 mins to heat everything through.
  4. Salt & pepper to taste. Optionally serve with freshly grated parmagiana cheese (it’s yummy).

Grocery run

Food, Meatless No Comments

Tylenol Cold & Flu meds got me on my feet long enough to get to the grocery store (Rob’s away, else he would have gone). Figured I’d pick up enough food for the better part of 2 weeks. Unsurprisingly, it’s cheaper to eat like this. Froze the bacon we already had on hand, which was hard. Oh bacon, I’m gonna miss you the most.

Here’s a list of what I bought because I’m bored and cranked on cold meds.


  • Bananas (7)
  • Clementines (2 lbs)
  • Flat of cubed melons + pineapple (on sale)
  • Blueberries, 1 pint

Fresh vegetables

  • Baby spinach (1 lb)
  • Celery (1 bunch)
  • Carrots (organic, 2lb)
  • Leeks (3)
  • Anise (1)
  • Zucchini (3 small)
  • Ginger
  • Garlic (5)
  • Cabbage (1 large)
  • Butternut squash (1 med)
  • Spaghetti squash (1 med)
  • Potatoes (3 lb, small)
  • Eggplant (1 large)

Dairy (and whatnot)

  • Goat cheese (plain)
  • Feta cheese
  • Butter (cultured, 2lb)
  • Milk (2%)
  • Yogurt (1 ltr, plain, 6% mf)
  • Tofu (extra-firm, 2 blocks)
  • Eggs (2 doz)

Everything else

  • Tortillas (whole grain, flax)
  • Bread (whole grain, flax)
  • Crispy flatbread (honey & flax)
  • President’s Choice “Ancient Grains” cereal (2 boxes)
  • Sundried tomatoes (3oz, dry)
  • White kidney beans (3 tins)
  • Red kidney beans (3 tins)
  • Black beans (3 tins)
  • Chickpeas (3 tins)
  • Vegetable stock (Campbell’s organic, 3 tetrapaks)
  • Short grain organic brown rice (best rice ever)

Already on hand…

  • Basically everything else including onions, sweet potatoes, various rices, barley (hulled & pearl), quinoa, dried beans, a plethora of dried herbs & spices, various oils & vinegars, a somewhat alarming array of hotsauces, a big ol’ chunk of 2 year old cheddar, parmigiana cheese, peanut butter, tahini, olives, dried mushrooms, egg noodles, rice noodles, pasta, tomato soup, etc etc etc.

This is gonna be awesome.

Meatless recipes

Cooking, Food, Meatless, Recipes 1 Comment

I just went back through my archives, adding a “Meatless” category to the meatless recipes I’ve already posted. They’re not all mains, but here’s the list:

An experiment in meatlessness

Cooking, Food, Meatless 4 Comments

Picture by karimian.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try an experiment in going without meat for the next two weeks. I say “without meat” rather than “vegetarian” because there are shades of grey in the world of vegetarianism, and I fully intend to cook with animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese, and butter. Just no beef, pork, fish, chicken, shrimp, etc.

The reason for this is simple. We’ve been working on eating less meat on average for the past couple of years, but we still eat more than we should. To eat less, we need to expand our repertoire of recipes for meatless mains. We have the cookbooks, we just need to use them and try more new things.

Two weeks gives me a chance to try around 10-15 new recipes. More if I get inspired and energetic, but probably not because I’ve got a cold and “inspired” is just about the last thing I feel right now. I’ll probably start with some sort of vegetarian stew or chili and go from there. If I remember, I’ll take pictures and blog it all.

If there are particular meatless recipes you think I should try, leave a comment!

links for 2010-02-16

delicious links No Comments
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