for most of the day the city maintenance crew were pruning the tall trees lining my street in preparation for the winter (a falling branch heavy with ice can wreck havoc in our densely populated neighborhood). they towed a few cars and then completely blocked off the road from traffic. the sound of chainsaws complemented the snowflakes of sawdust. there was one cambridge cop on duty but once the pruning trucks blocked the roads he wasn't needed and spent most of the time in his car getting paid overtime for doing nothing.

on this official first day of winter the weather felt more autumn with temperature in the 50's. i left the house 3 times, all to super markets. the first was trader joe on memorial drive, to get some cheap wine for cooking (2 buck chunk). the place was unusually crowded for a weekday morning, until i realized most people were stocking up for christmas this weekend. the beer and wine aisles were the most crowded, as there was an almost mad scramble to buy alcohol. my second trip was to market basket, to deposit some cans and to get ingredients for making risotto. i returned again for a third trip after lunch when i remembered i forgot a few things.

we have a surplus of rosemary this year and i've been researching various things you can do with rosemary. i wanted to try infusing rosemary in olive oil, and bought a few bottles of filippo berio extra virgin olive oil (on sale for $3, normally $5 for a 16 oz. bottle). i poured out the oil into a pot and put it on the stove. while that was heating gently, i added sprigs of rosemary, a few garlic cloves, and some peppercorns into the empty bottle. once the oil reached the proper temperature, i poured it back, with a bit left over that i poured into a small jar for future use.

it looked really pretty until it began to cloud up after a few hours. it started at the bottom then eventually affected the whole bottle. i tried to find out the reason online but couldn't get a straight-forward answer. some said it had something to do with the temperature, that the cooler it gets the cloudier it becomes. others said it was because of water or some other contaminants, and the bottle should be thrown out. while doing all this research i came across a startling discovery: infusing herbs in oil might actually be dangerous! the risk is botulism, which thrive on a little bit of water in an oxygen-free environment. rosemary is relatively safe, but infusing raw garlic cloves - which contains a lot excess water and grows in the soil which could contain botulism bacteria - is a recipe for disaster. used right away the infused olive oil shouldn't be a problem, but keeping it for the long term might be harmful.

also on my second visit to market basket i bought a cheesecake, which i've been craving for months now. divided into 6 slices, i ate 2 slices for 200 calories per slice. not the best cheesecake (sara lee brand) but it'll do.

i still had a lot of rosemary left over so i decided to make a no-knead rosemary garlic bread. i chopped a bunch of rosemary leaves into fine bits and added it to the mixture. for the garlic, i chopped up a few cloves and fried them a bit in some olive oil before adding them as well. even though the portions were the same as always (3 cups of flour, 1.5 cups of warm water), the dough seemed stickier than usual, so i kept adding flour until i got it to a drier consistency. i'll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon and to see how it turns out.

chopping the rosemary and frying the garlic left the house smelling super fragrant. once it got dark (on this shortest day of the year) i managed to stay away from the couch and thereby not fall asleep again like the past few days.

for dinner i made risotto. it's actually marco's recipe from that one time i watched him attempt to make risotto with brown rice (it was a failure). since it wasn't an actual recipe but just watching him cook, it gave me a lot of room to improvise, which i think is a better way to cook. still, i did find a recipe online that gave me some idea of the basic steps. risotto is a lot like chinese rice porridge, but instead of steaming the rice with water, the rice is cooked gradually over an open pot and stirred constantly.

marco left a bag of frozen broccoli in the freezer and some arborio rice. all i needed to add was chicken broth, italian sausages, and some white wine. while the broth was simmering, i cooked half an onion with some butter. while the onion was cooking, i also added the italian sausages, squeezed out from their casings and rolled into tiny meatballs. once the sausages was done cooking, i added the frozen broccoli. in hindsight, i should've done this step later, because after 20 minutes of cooking the broccoli lost most of its color. along with the broccoli i added the rice, followed by a cup of white wine. whenever marco made his risotto he never added wine but i think it creates another layer of flavor. i also used canned chicken broth (1 can = 2 cups, plus i added another cup of water) while marco used bouillon cubes (cubes are too salty). then for the next 20 minutes i slowly stirred in the warm chicken broth, half a cup at a time. the final risotto was then doused with a handful of parmesan cheese to make it even more savory.

it felt so good eating a hot bowl of fresh risotto, comfort food at its best, and to think this is only my first time making risotto. later i had another slice of cheesecake. savory food overload!

i finally watched pedro almodovar's the skin i live in (2011). wow. how can i even begin to describe this movie? sexy scifi thriller horror mystery melodrama? one of the best movies i've seen this year though.