Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Recipe Wednesday: Penne Arrabiata

When it comes to pasta—and Italian food in general—I have a strong preference for the dishes of Southern Italy. (Consider, for example, my love of spaghetti all'aglio, olio e peperoncino.) Conveniently, Southern Italian cuisine, with its holy trio of garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes, is also way easier to veganize than the more meat and dairy based staples of the North.

With summer now officially here, it's the perfect time for a zesty, tomatoey pasta, especially if you plan on spending time in the sun: tomatoes contain lycopene, which helps prevent UV damage to your skin. One of my favorites is penne arrabiata. This simple dish is especially popular in and around Rome. In Italian, "arrabiata" means "angry." Why is the sauce so angry? Because of all the peppers! Personally, peppers make me happy, not angry, but I suppose it would be a bit arrogant to change the name of penne arrabiata to penne contento.

My favorite recipe for penne arrabiata is based on one that originally appeared in an issue of Cook's Illustrated. I've simplified it a bit, making it a quick and tasty meal option.

Penne Arrabiata
(serves 4-6)
1 pound penne pasta
1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup diced pepperoncini
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 15-oz can diced tomatoes with juices
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta until al dente ("to the tooth"). Pass the time with a nice Campari cocktail. Right before you drain the pasta scoop out half a cup of the cooking water and put it to the side.

In the same pot you used to cook the pasta, add the olive oil and reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and stir frequently for about two minutes. Add the pepper flakes, pepperoncini, and paprika. Continue to stir.

Add the canned tomatoes. Use an immersion blender to blend into a smooth sauce.

When the sauce starts to bubble, toss in the cooked penne and the pasta cooking water. Stir and toss until everything is hot and the penne is well-coated with sauce. Be careful not to overcook! Gooey, overcooked pasta is an insult to Italians everywhere. 

Serve the pasta immediately topped with nutritional yeast to taste, fresh ground pepper, and perhaps a nice bottle of Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, one of the world's tastiest inexpensive wines.

There are a few ways to tweak this recipe if you so desire. An easy one: more stuff! More garlic, more pepper, more oil... whatever you want. For a smokier flavor, use smoked paprika instead of regular paprika. Similarly, using fire-roasted tomatoes will give the sauce a bit of smokiness. 

I often listen to one of the excellent Cafe del Mar chillout compilations when preparing and enjoying this dish. Granted, Cafe del Mar is based out of Ibiza, Spain, not Italy, but the mood still matches. There are more than 20 volumes in the series. My favorite is probably Cafe Del Mar - Volume 8, which features Goldfrapp, Dido, and Lamb, as well as this catchy, summery little tune by Afterlife.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Thought of the Day, June 7, 2016: D.H. Lawrence on Religion

“It is a fine thing to establish one's own religion in one's heart, not to be dependent on tradition and second-hand ideals. Life will seem to you, later, not a lesser, but a greater thing.” 
― D.H. Lawrence

Books Read, May 2016

I really fell behind on my reading in May. To some extent I blame a nagging sinus issue that I was dealing with early in the month. It made reading a bit less pleasant than it should be.

  • Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier
  • Tower of Thorns by Juliet Marillier

  • Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War by Andrew Bacevich


  • Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thought of the Day, May 26, 2016: Kierkegaard on Life

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."
— Soren Kierkegaard 

Q&A About FMA

I was recently interviewed by writer Caitlin Basilio for an article about Filipino Martial Arts that appeared in a local newspaper. (You can see the article here.) As is often the case, only a small portion of the interview was included in the finished article. For those who might be interested, the text of the full interview is below. Enjoy!

What are the philosophies behind Filipino Martial Arts?
FMA is all about practicality and flexibility. Methods and techniques are not written in stone. It’s very open ended. You personalize the art and do what works to defend yourself. Adaptability is key. A big part of FMA philosophy is learning to see things as potential weapons. For example, people wonder why bother learning to fight with sticks. Look around you; the world is filled with sticks and stick-like items: car antennas, longneck bottles, rolled-up newspapers, etc.

It’s important to remember that FMA has its roots in warfare. The Philippines consists of over 7,000 islands with countless tribal and ethnic groups who were often in conflict with each other. If the village a few miles away periodically sends war parties to raid your village, you develop some effective, easy-to-learn combat techniques.

When did you begin practicing? What drew you to it and what keeps you interested? 
Ii started training with Burton Richardson about 15 years ago. Even before taking up FMA, I was interested in the art based on what I’d read. The integration of both weapon-based and empty-hand techniques fascinated me. And I’ve always been interested in hand-to-hand armed combat. It goes way back. My father was a fencer, and his dad was a U.S. Marine Corps saber champion who learned machete techniques from Filipino guerrillas while island-hopping across the Pacific during World War II. I was playing around with real fencing foils and quarterstaves from when I was a kid. 

There are all sorts of practical reasons I’ve stayed with FMA over the years, but to be honest a big motivator is the simple fact it’s fun. From swinging a stick solo to going through drills with a partner to putting on helmets and gloves and sparring, I just really enjoy it.

Is there a large community of people who practice here on Oahu? When did you become an instructor? 
There is a decent-size community of FMA practitioners on Oahu. They aren’t as visible as, say, the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu community, but they are there. There are even a few competitions held each year.

I became an instructor in both Kali and Jeet Kune Do in 2010. I am also a purple belt in BJJ.

You mentioned the three main ranges of combat (kickboxing, clinch and ground). Are all three of these used in FMA? 
Yes. Clinch and ground work especially get really interesting when sticks are involved, and really scary when you introduce knives.

Much of the clinch work I do and teach originates from Silat, a martial art that originated in Southeast Asia and is practiced in parts of the southern Philippines. Silat takedowns are particularly brutal, and pair nicely with BJJ groundfighting.

What are some physical and mental benefits to FMA? 
FMA is great for improving coordination and reflexes. Some of the drills require fairly complex footwork and your hands are often moving very fast. There is so much going on your mind has to be fully engaged. The hand-eye coordination and fancy footwork you learn in FMA carries over quite well to other fighting arts, especially boxing.

Who would you recommend it to? 
Anyone interested in practical self-defense should do some training in FMA. If you don’t know how to deal with the presence of a weapon—especially a knife—you have a serious gap in your self-defense skills. Even serious practitioners of other arts can benefit from a bit of FMA.

People who might perceive themselves to be smaller or weaker than others can benefit from FMA because the art relies more on trickiness and “playing dirty’ than brute strength. Antonio "Tatang" Ilustrisimo, Grandmaster of Kalis Ilustrisimo, was sparring with young guys into his 80s and more than holding his own.

What advice would you offer to first-timers?
As with any martial art, be patient and open-minded. Some drills and techniques may seem odd or counterintuitive at first, but eventually they will click and make sense. Equally important is having fun. Learning to fight and defend yourself is serious business, but that doesn’t mean we have to be super-serious all the time. A sense of play will make the process much more enjoyable.

Photos courtesy of Anthony Consillio of Consillio Photography.

Thanks to Albert Cloutier and Kathryn Xian for taking part in the photo shoot!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Me! In a Newspaper! Talking About Filipino Martial Arts!

Yours truly was interviewed for an article about Filipino Martial Arts that appeared in Marine Star, a local newspaper. The PDF is available here. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thought of the Day, May 12, 2016: The Buddha on Praise & Blame

Image via
"Just as a mighty boulder stirs not with the wind, so the wise are never moved either by praise or blame."

—From Chapter 6, Verse 81 of the Dhammapada