Tuesday, June 30

fig deluge pt. 2 ~ fig preserves

{small green texas mystery figs}

jam is more about technique than fancy, intricate recipes. once the basics are learned, they can be applied to most fruits (excepting some that require extra pectin or acid) without too much trouble. I learned to enjoy "jamming" from step-madre-numero-dos. I learned my fear of microbes (botulism, et al.) from a hard-science-mom/public-health-step-dad combo. scrubbing and sterilizing everything in the kitchen, do I say a little prayer before every batch? yeah, just a little one. but the care that goes into the cleaning and preparation of fruit, sugar, glass gives me a nerdy little thrill. ::sigh:: though I'm still not always sure of the difference between jam/conserves/preserves.

so...part deux in the what the hell does one do with a veritable flood of figs series:

fig, raspberry & vanilla preserves
adapted from christine ferber's mes confitures

2 1/4 lbs [1 kg] fresh figs (she uses bourjasotte...I don't actually have any idea what those are, so we use what's in our yard...probably white texas everbearing?)
3 3/4 c. granulated unbleached organic cane sugar
juice of 1 small lemon


1 1/4 lb raspberries (while inexpensive and in-season)
2 c. sugar
juice of 1 small lemon
1 or 2 vanilla beans

select small ripe figs. rinse them in cold water and dry. remove stems and slice.

{sliced and ready to go}

{vanilla bean}

in separate bowls, combine fruit, sugar, lemon juice and split vanilla bean. cover with a sheet of parchment and macerate 1 hour.

pour both fruit preparations into a preserving pan or wide, heavy pan and bring to a simmer. pour back into the bowl, cover with parchment and refrigerate overnight. while this may seem like a total pain, it prevents fruit breaking down during the cooking process. most of mlle ferber's recipes go to great lengths to preserve texture and flavor.

next day, bring this preparation to a boil in the same heavy pan. skim and continue cooking on high heat for several minutes (mlle ferber says 5-10 minutes, but her stove must be roughly 2ce as hot as my stove) stirring gently to ensure sugar doesn't burn. remove the vanilla beans and place in sterile jars, test the set*, and dispense into jars for sealing and sterilizing**.

{mmm ~ check out the leukonychia punctata marks on my nail...need more zinc!}

*the "wrinkle test" is a quick, relatively easy way to tell if a jam will set. keep a few plates ready in the freezer, and as you think it's near done, drop a blob of jam onto a cold plate. after cooling a second or two, pushing the jam with a finger will either create wrinkles in the surface of the bunched-up jam, or show you that the correct viscosity is still yet to be obtained. many of mlle ferber's recipes site the magic temp of 221° f, where sugar ratio is high enough to set the syrup...this one does not, but it seemed close to done at about 215° f. it's often said that there's a marked decrease in steam when jam nears readiness...something I've never been able to read. it is quite noticeable, however, that the right viscosity creates one helluva spatter fest. consider wearing sleeves.

**many people use the wet sterilization method for jars, boiling for 10+ minutes before using tongs to pull them from the depths of the roiling cauldron. i am far too accident prone to manage that. alternately, they can go in a 275° oven for 10-15 minutes. placing jars in the preheating oven during setup ensures they'll spend at least 2ce that long in the oven before jam is ready to can. also to do during setup: prepare one very large stock pot and one small saucepan for boiling. one will hold the filled jars for final sterilization, the other will boil the lids for sealing jars. it's important to wet-sterilize lids for 10+ minutes because the gum around the edges must be moist to form a proper seal against glass rims. do not touch the inside surface of lids when removing from water or while sealing jars. I use a handy little $2 magnet-on-a-stick gadget that prevents paranoia and burnt fingers.

once jam is ready, work quickly to get it out of the pan and into jars. it will set quickly as it cools. ladle into oven-hot jars and, using a wet paper towel, clean any drips off rims and sides of the jars. carefully place lids on squarely and screw rings on until just tight. place into boiling stockpot (only good for high-acid foods, btw) and add enough hot water (from the saucepot) to cover jars at least 2 inches above lids. boil a minimum of 10 minutes. boiled jars should be placed on the counter while cooling, during which time a vacuum should form, causing lids to loudly "pop." without the pop, jam is not shelf-stable and *must* be refrigerated...in fact, you might just consider storing it in the fridge even if it does properly seal. your prerogative. with proper seal and sterilization technique, jams should keep for 1 year in a cool, dark spot.

so why, with all the precaution and liability, does this sound like any fun at all???
well...because all the cool kids are doing it. or at least the ny times says so.

Thursday, June 25


...when my life quiets down a little, I intend to master screen printing away from maker faire. even if it's via an old pair of nylons (who wears nylons in texas, anyway) and this tutorial:

Wednesday, June 24

happy weekend!

{monterey bay~ calif}

signing out early this week, for seeking cool aquatic relief from the heat wave with lil sis and her beau. we'll be seeking out "the hottest coolest time in texas," a little bbq, some natural springs action, and perhaps a show or two.

pesto potato salad

this recipe is overdue, and especially now that it's become a repeat item. a few weeks ago, when our basil dearly needed pruning, the obvious solution was an enormous batch of pesto. more than half was distributed among friends, leaving us with more than enough for all things pesto that came to mind.

using this recipe as a guideline (yes, the chopping was tedious but mostly worth it—there was only a little cheating involving a prep chopper and garlic), we made a few cups of pesto. initially the rougher chop left the garlic quite spicy (could have just been our local garlic, too. yowza!), but after a day or two it mellowed significantly. it's intentionally denser in texture than most commercial pestos. pouring olive oil over the top surface, after spooning into its storage container and smoothing flat, will keep it from oxidizing in the fridge. let it come to room temp before doling out into recipes, or add a little more olive oil if you portion it while cool (the oil congeals when cool)...just keep it capped with olive oil and it will keep a few weeks.

1 large bunch of basil, leaves only, washed and dried (2 c. or so)
3 med garlic cloves
1 large handful raw pine nuts, walnuts or local pecans
3/4 c. parmesan, fresh grated
1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

begin chopping garlic along with about 1/3 of the basil. once loosely chopped, add more basil, continuing until it's all incorporated. when basil and garlic are a very fine mince, add about half the pine nuts and chop, then the rest. add half of the parmesan and chop, then the second half. in the end the chop should be so fine that, when pressed, it holds together in a basil "cake." transfer to a small bowl (not much bigger than the pesto blob). cover with a few tbsp of olive oil, not much is required, just to cover it.

here's where the potato salad come in:
from smitten kitchen

2 lb small Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, quartered
1/2 lb green beans, cut into one-inch segments
1/2 c. pesto
3 tbsp (to taste) mild vinegar: champagne, white wine, white balsamic (or maybe even rice wine?)
1-2 scallions, chopped
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. add beans; cook 2-4 minutes longer. drain well and cool slightly, then transfer potatoes and beans to a large bowl. toss beans and potatoes with pesto, vinegar and pine nuts, and season with salt, pepper and additional vinegar to taste. store at room temperature until serving.

Tuesday, June 23

mama don't take my kodachrome

...or, actually, if this is the new frontier of photography, then maybe just go ahead and keep my kodachrome. I'll be over here mopping up my own canon 5d drool. holy crap, yo. this short was filmed on a standard digital slr still camera!

this youtube version is not bad, but check out the version posted on the canon site. amazingly crisp.

agua fresca

{aka boozermelon}

saw this recipe here, and knew it would be a summer favorite. it must be said also, that it was indeed lovely with a touch of vodka. the lime juice is a surprisingly perfect addition. it may forever change the way I eat watermelon. ...the lime, that is...not the vodka.

watermelon mint agua fresca
serves 8-10

4 c. diced, ripe watermelon (sans rind, natch)
3-4 c. water
juice of 2 limes
1 c. simple syrup (if even necessary this time of year)
handful of fresh mint leaves

blend together watermelon with 1/2 the water, the lime juice and simple syrup until smooth and frothy. strain through a mesh strainer into a large pitcher. stir in remaining water.
serve immediately over ice and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Monday, June 22

fig, almond & mascarpone tart

jefe, would you say I have a plethora of figs? indeed.

what the hell does one do with a veritable flood of rapidly ripening figs? ...after giving them away to everyone you know? everyone who will take some, that is. Admittedly, I wasn't terribly fond of them myself, for most of my childhood. Some asshole planted a fig tree in the yard, then when he realized the mistake, paved around the roots to keep it from spreading. the fruit would then drop, overripe, onto the pavement on hot san jose summer days. big brother was paid "a penny a fig" to scrape them from the concrete with a shovel and bag them for garbage (what! it was the 80's—only hippies composted!). my tagalong pain-in-the-ass self got to hold the heavy black plastic bag while he scooped up the ::wink:: profits. gross. the nectar scent of a very-ripe fig still makes me throw up a little, so the birds and I have a terrific deal: they take care of the ones we leave long enough to fully ripen, and we take the ones that have a day or two of fridge life left in them. if I have any say, no one will be paving the yard under our tree anytime soon.

{one morning and one evening's gatherings}

so what the hell does one do with a veritable flood of figs? stay tuned.
for now, it's a tart:
original recipe, by the anthropologie imp, here.

1 batch tart dough, recipe here.

3 1/2 oz almond paste, room temp, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 c. mascarpone cheese, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp honey
6 large or 12 small fresh figs, sliced, stems removed
1/4 c. apricot, peach, or fig jam

in food processor bowl, combine sugar, almond paste, mascarpone cheese, vanilla, and honey. blend until smooth.

position an oven rack in the center of the oven, preheated to 400° f.

on a large sheet of parchment, roll dough into 11-inch circle. if not using a baking stone, transfer dough to a large, heavy baking sheet. spread almond-cheese mixture over dough, leaving a 2-inch border. arrange sliced figs on top of the almond filling. spoon jam over the figs. fold dough border over the filling to form 8-inch round, loosely pleating the crust and pinching to seal cracks in the dough. the sin fairy's mama, the queen of clean would define this aesthetic as "rustic."

bake tart until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. place the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, before carefully lifting from parchment.

drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over, just before serving.

Sunday, June 21

weekend piccys

{a favorite vendor at the farmer's market}

{tomato season}

{they mean business}

{see the family resemblance between donkey and donkey-thos?}

{summer fun at redbud}

{wild mustang grapes}

{a good weekend for watching musicals and napping in the sun}

{red yucca with bee}

Friday, June 19

parade raining

juneteenth anywhere in the southern united states: it's a party. rightly so. and our town is one that appreciates a good party. it's one of the most lovable parts of austin culture—always something to do/see/attend, from charity walks/runs to art festivals, modest, respectable music events to superginormous music events...quiet marches and protests all the way to flat out spectacle. our town government, however, is not always appreciative of the fallout associated with these events. at least not to those who live downtown. yes, it's a choice willingly made, living so near the hoopla. but seriously, wtf! the city of austin effectively barricaded us into our neighborhood this morning, with zero traffic direction from the officers seated in their vehicles. the officer who watched our 8 minute attempt to get through a congested intersection just shrugged when I made plaintive eye-contact. really? really. thanks, dude. the regular 5 minute commute required 30 minutes

if I could add any one item to the city's agenda—with all the current emphasis on "urban density" initiatives—it would be enabling folks stranded downtown some sort of strategy during almost-weekly-festival/race season...which lasts as long as the austin summer. only 9 months, or so.

in attempt to prevent the sin fairy from getting caught in the chaos, an informative text was sent--from a stoplight, of course--thus the shameful abbreviated textspeak.

me - "if u r going 2 write @ cafe 2day--avoid mlk [boulevard, near her fav cafes]. juneteenth clusterfuck"
tsf - "?"
before I could reach another stoplight and text a reply, she called, wondering of the connection between juneteenth and *milk*!
tsf - "I thought I might order a mocha, but it's okay if I should get something else today."
mmm...and this is why we shouldn't stoop to textspeak. ever.

Thursday, June 18


last night was movie night at alex's hydepark-chic house: he and the sin fairy hosted dinner and backyard nxnw viewing. I love me some tanorexic cary grant! even on a school night. tsf and alex were quite the adorable hosts, and friends erin and reuben so fun: a perfect balance of art/science/niceness (the icecreamcone cupcakes didn't hurt opinions much). can't wait to check out alex and reuben's t-shirts at storyville.

{ginger rogers would approve}

we were also introduced to alex's specialty, a beverage that he may or may not have totally pulled out of his arse, but was delicious nonetheless...the ginger rogers? gin, ginger ale and fresh mint. it got major (ginger)snaps from all (ugh. sorry. I even hate myself for that one). my contribution to the evening was peach and fig white sangria, of which there are no pics. ah well.

{hippie-friendly fare}

{erin and waylon}

{erin's treats}


Tuesday, June 16

bit 'o' wisdom

it's time for revisiting mark bittman's genius list of 101 10-minute meals. some—no, many—are commonsensical, but helpful in brainstorming meals that require very little stove time. a good reminder, too, that lightness and simplicity rule in summer.

a few highlights:

14 - put a few slices of chopped prosciutto in a skillet with olive oil, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic and a bit of butter; a minute later, toss in about half a cup bread crumbs and red chili flakes to taste. serve over pasta with chopped parsley.

19 - chinese tomato and eggs: cook minced garlic in peanut oil until blond; add chopped tomatoes then, a minute later, beaten eggs, along with salt and pepper. scramble with a little soy sauce.

20 - cut eggplant into half-inch slices. broil with lots of olive oil, turning once, until tender and browned. top with crumbled goat or feta cheese and broil another 20 seconds.

29 - chop prosciutto and crisp it in a skillet with olive oil; add chopped not-too-ripe figs. serve over greens dressed with oil and vinegar; top all with crumbled blue cheese.

38 - fried rice: soften vegetables with oil in a skillet. add cold takeout rice, chopped onion, garlic, ginger, peas and two beaten eggs. toss until hot and cooked through. season with soy sauce and sesame oil.

40 - put a large can of chickpeas and their liquid in a medium saucepan. add some sherry, along with olive oil, plenty of minced garlic, smoked pimentón and chopped spanish chorizo. heat through.

45 - sauté shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. serve over pasta.

60 - peel and thinly slice raw beets; cook in butter until soft. take out of pan and quickly cook some shrimp in same pan. deglaze pan with sherry vinegar, adding sauce to beets and shrimp. garnish with dill.

80 - not-quite merguez: ground lamb burgers seasoned with cumin, garlic, onion, salt and cayenne. serve with couscous and green salad, along with bottled harissa.

90 - thai-style beef: thinly slice one and a half pounds of flank steak, pork shoulder or boneless chicken; heat peanut oil in a skillet, add meat and stir. a minute later, add a tablespoon minced garlic and some red chili flakes. add 30 clean basil leaves, a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon or two of soy sauce or nam pla. serve with lime juice and more chili flakes, over rice or salad.

95 - veggie burger: drain and pour a 14-ounce can of beans into a food processor with an onion, half a cup rolled oats, a tablespoon chili powder or other spice mix, an egg, salt and pepper. process until mushy, then shape into burgers, adding a little liquid or oats as necessary. cook in oil about three minutes a side and serve.

100 - cook red lentils in water with a little cumin and chopped bacon until soft. top with poached or six-minute eggs (run under cold water until cool before peeling) and a little sherry vinegar.

copper river salmon with fresh dill

we are extremely lucky to have an extraordinary grocery store in the area. it's the kind of space grocers fly in for touring before building new facilities in their hometowns. seriously. it's that good (there's a story about the ongoing competition between this local grocer and whole foods, headquartered in town, but who wants to be bored with the details). it's no trader joe's, but we get by. it has created in me the vice of protein impulse buying. most of the small amount of meat we eat comes from the local farmer's market, but sometimes the central market deals are just too tempting. this week it was sustainably fished copper river salmon at $15/lb: impossible to resist, despite the bad carbon karma.

then, you know—since it's past the century mark—just a little dill (sans caterpillars) and garlic, s&p, a teeny drizzle of agave nectar, and 10-15 minutes in the 400° f toaster oven (used mainly during summer months).

a recent discovery for stir-fried veggies: almond oil. it allows the pan to get really hot without smoking, and veggies like snow peas are caramelized and done in under 2 minutes. perfect in the heat, since the only alternative involving less cooking is ordering in.

101 degrees

has it been mentioned that summer has arrived? no? perhaps it was a long weekend in 75 degree weather, but the first day over 100 hurt. bad. 90 degrees and cramped on the flight home and now the a/c seems to have failed in my ever trusty little truckster. even the short commute home had me perilously close to losing my shit. that is, until I got home and found a few figs have just as suddenly ripened. we've also got more tomatoes than we know what to do with.

{thai peppers, as well}

{trimming off a little dill for tonight's supper, a monarch caterpillar made itself known. instant mood remedy}

Monday, June 15

Waiting for October

I do so like this poster (especially the hand drawn type), and am tinkling myself a little awaiting the big opening. seems like el laberinto del fauno without the war/devastating ending. spike jonze, we're counting on you to make this childhood favorite work. ...he might just be strange enough to pull it off, and his sense of humor is pretty well spot on. I mean, who doesn't want to trash the gap every so often?


{from yelp}

an obit for one of my most favorite people, owner of one of my all-time favorite restaurants. it's a relief to know I'm not alone in attempting coordination of flights and little thailand dining (though ian's faaaaar cooler than I). dick simcoe, we'll miss your thai bloody marys, hand-printed signs & bumper stickers, your homemade hotsauce, and hearing the joyful words "hey kids!" upon our arrival from the long trek. ::sigh:: wherever will we find another notary public who serves drinks and makes us feel so much like family?

McLagan remembers Little Thailand owner Simcoe
By Michael Corcoran | Thursday, June 11, 2009, 02:08 PM

Musician Ian McLagan tries to schedule his flights back into town so he’ll arrive during the hours that the Little Thailand restaurant, about seven miles east of the airport, would be open. He didn’t just go there for the great Thai food, but to hang out with jovial owner Dick Simcoe, who had a bar in the back of the restaurant.

“It always felt like you were guests at his home,” McLagan said. “If Dick was in England he’d own the pub that everyone wanted to go to.”

Simcoe passed away Thursday morning from the effects of stomach cancer. His 75th birthday was to be tomorrow.

“I have no regrets,” Simcoe said last week, after doctors told him he didn’t have long to live. “I had a vision and I followed through on it.” The restaurant he owned with wife Surin was the first Thai restaurant in Central Texas, opened in 1981 in a trailer outside the back gate of Bergstrom AFB.

After Bergstrom closed, the Simcoes moved Little Thailand in 1995 to its current location under the Garfield water tank in Del Valle.

“I just love to be around people,” Simcoe said last week of his natural hosting ability. “I feel blessed to have seen the smiles of so many good, good people. That’s what I’ll remember most.”

“He was a remarkable chap,” said McLagan, “with a great family.” McLagan and his late wife Kim were regulars since moving to Manor in 1995. “I wrote a song about coming here with Kim on the drive from my house. The lyrics were all finished by the time I got to Little Thailand.”

That song “Date With An Angel” is on McLagan’s 2004 album “Rise and Shine.”

Besides being a great host, Simcoe was known for his vintage jukebox and his recipe for Thai bloody marys. “I brought a friend there once and Dick made her a bloody mary,” said McLagan. “After she’d had a couple sips I asked her how she liked the drink. Meanwhile, Dick was scribbling something on a piece of paper. She said, ‘It’s the best bloody mary I’ve ever had’ and Dick gave me the piece of paper that said the exact same words. He was such a character.”

Simcoe was surrounded by family in his last few weeks, including daughter Luanne of San Francisco, who had barely left her father’s side in the four months since he had his cancer diagnosis. “He meant the world to me and I will cherish the time I spent with him for the rest of my life,” Luanne Simcoe said.

Simcoe is survived by wife Surin, who will keep Little Thailand open with her sister Malee, and eight children.

Sunday, June 14

homeward bound

{headed into rice country}

{scout: "you gonna' eat that?"}

{my bro's little monkeys undeterred by improper clothing/footwear}

{very monkey-like, yes?
clung to my and b's necks through the entire weekend

{park time with the neph}

{the train museum mail-sorting car: I heart organizational tools}

{and sexist period signage}

{I hate them just a little bit for the ease of cali rose growing}

{the prom queen goes prime time}

we enjoyed fantastical weather: seriously. ever seen a rainbow during a sunset...during a major coming-of-age moment? it was truly magical and quite auspicious.
...unless that was something in the cupcakes...

{lunch with my cousin & fiance before they headed home. can't wait for october!}

{time with cousins, nieces and nephew was so precious:
nail polish drying before more piggyback rides

I wonder how it was possible to miss getting a single pic of beloved aunt lynn. wish we could have stayed longer. especially after that 90 degree plane ride returned us to 100 degree weather we'd yet to experience this summer. let the barton springing begin!