Monday, November 30

weekend piccys ~ gratitude

{we spent thanksgiving in the traditional texan way}

{stoking an old rivalry}

{... did I mention the "traditional" part??)

{... and the rivalry part??}

{with a lovely, traditional toast}

{I may have forgotten to mention they're big on tradition in these parts ...}

{... but it's cool, 'cause I'm pretty big on pie}

{giving thanks for a great game}

{then for an austin tradition ~ the city's first integrated restaurant still serves a great breakfast}


Sunday, November 29

how texans do cranberries

texans love football almost as much as they love putting things on corn chips (especially when the chips are shaped like texas). and what comes along seasonally, as reliably as thanksgiving, every year? college football. coincidence that our team color is burnt orange??? maybe.

last year was the first in a decade that the annual texas/texas a&m rivalry was skootched back onto the actual day of thanksgiving. and since we were going to be here anyway, a holiday tailgate seemed the natural treatment for the traditional meal. we made (frankly, awesome) turkey chili for frito pies, sweet potato wedges, caramel-apple empanadas, and cranberry salsa. lefty brought chairs, dt brought her fantastic sweet potato gnocchi, and e-who? contributed a kick-ass from-scratch greenbean casserole. the salsa, as the simplest of the recipes, has been most-often repeated of the bunch (though I wouldn't mind having dt's and e's recipes). in fact, a certain co-worker requested last year, in lieu of any sort of holiday or birthday gesture, more salsa.

{who knew these two could get on so well?}

cranberry salsa

adapted from the mystery post-it note above my counter

1 (12 ounce) bag cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 bunch cilantro, washed, stemmed and chopped
1 bunch green onions, cut into 3 inch lengths
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 limes, zested, then juiced
1 tbsp. orange liqueur
3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt

combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until broken-down but not liquefied. it's almost easier than opening a can!


Monday, November 23

weekend piccys

{a technically challenging piece meant not much time for anything but music}



{about prodigious scissors, and the like ~ page eight of eleven in the translation booklet. it required some occasionally ridiculous diction}

{and then (after the party), recovery}



{and some dim sum}

{quite a bit of dim sum}

{and just a tiny bit of garden time}


Friday, November 20

quelqu'un m'a dit

this morning john aielli was in fine form, without any forced thematic playlist. this song, by france's first lady, mellowed an otherwise dreary day, and germinated into a quiet, moody iron & wine/carla bruni pandora channel.

parfait. just the thing to get through a long morning of excel drudgery.


Tuesday, November 17

I can't. I have rehearsal.

{spotted at the dt farmers market}

bumper sticker pretty much sums up the week for me. it'll be a sandwiches-on-the-go and standing-around-in-black-satin kind of week.

catch y'all after the standing o!

butternut squash caramelized onion tart

since the whoopie pies were so much easier than expected, ambition got the best of me. so we brought both sweet and savory to double & mike's thanksgiving supperfly potluck. and this improvised recipe was the natural choice, because ... well, mike put it best while describing his recent brush with a temporarily stupefying dinner in paris, "because everything's just better with caramelized onions."


{okay, so it's sort of a ridiculous video of the neapolitan style pizzas we shared. consider it a teaser to the rest of the story, for which the moral is posted above}

a variant on the flavor profile of a martha stewart risotto recipe, from my very first out-in-the-real-world-first-apartment cookbook (a little over my head at the time ~ "is parchment paper the same as notebook paper?"), and it's one of my most favorite fall-ish flavors. at first I had planned to use sage, but after foraging around the rose beds, sweater snagged on thorns, and emerging defeated, I recalled how great rosemary is with these ingredients. though potent on its own, added to the other ingredients it's not at all overpowering.

butternut, caramelized onion and gruyere tart

1 batch tart dough

1 egg yolk or a little cream/milk (for brushing on dough before baking)
1 large sweet
onion, sliced

1 lb
butternut squash (half-rounds, in 1/8-inch slices)

1 tbsp
2 tbsp
olive oil, divided
sea salt & pepper
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1/2 - 3/4 tsp rosemary, chopped, to taste (plus a little for garnish)

preheat oven to 400°f. while oven heats, toss squash slices in a little oil, salt and pepper, and roast in oven for 2o minutes. while squash bakes, in a large pan over med-low heat, saute onions in mix of butter and oil. after coating them and seasoning with a little salt and pepper, let onions cook undisturbed for several minutes, stirring only occasionally, to prevent burning. it should require almost no effort, but don't wander too far. let them take on some color, to taste (I love them deep mahogany, and very flavorful). toss with roasted butternut squash and let cool, at least slightly.

on lightly floured counter top, roll dough to about an 1/8 inch thick, 9-inch round. in a small bowl mix cheese and rosemary with cooled onions and squash. spread filling mixture onto the base of the tart, to within an inch (or so — more, if there's quite a lot of filling) of the edge (optional: arrange prettier slices of squash on top), and fold dough edges back in toward the filling (an inch or so). brush exposed dough with egg yolk and bake for 30-35 minutes or until tart shell is golden. serve warm.


Monday, November 16

pumpkin whoopie pies

in the midst of a pretty nutty few weeks, came an invite to attend a thanksgiving-themed potluck among the most wonderful of friends. and since it's the only night off in the next 7 days — with hosts' permission — we sat on the rsvp, allowing for most of the bases to be covered. but really, it allowed for the traditional, family recipes to be grabbed by people who feel strongly about stuffing or yams or pie. while my family has some terrific recipes to contribute, mostly with pride (don't forget that tomato-raspberry aspic debacle), the host and I had a terrible horrible no-good very bad idea. to quote her g-chat, "OHDEARGODYESYOUMUSTMAKETHAT."

and so, though there was little time to spare during an 13-hour-work-event weekend, we set about on a two-step (ack! actually three-step) cookie adventure, making whoopie pies. I may be totally off base, but it seems whoopies might be the new cupcake (unless it's donuts). originally from the Maine area, they're more or less just cupcakes with more assembly required; made from the muffin-top part. the finger-friendly version of cupcakes, with icing neatly stashed in the center, they ensure a little icing in every bite. they were surprisingly easy to make, once investment was made in the spring-trigger ice cream scoop for dispensing batter. it would have been an entirely different experience, attempting to match up misshapen, oddly-formed whoopies for assembly. with consistently sized cakes, it was a breeze, frosting single-handed, while catching up with family on the phone.

so now, with almost two dozen of the little buggers lying around the kitchen (in the fridge, mister health inspector), we will most definitely be attending "thanksgiving" dinner. we're going to need some help dispatching the whoopie pies.

{I love the slogan: "we'll always be your sugar"}

pumpkin whoopie pies
from matt lewis' baked
makes about 2 dozen burgers or about 40 sliders -

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cloves
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin purée
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

preheat oven to 350°f. line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

in large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves together and set aside.

in separate bowl, whisk together brown sugar and oil until combined. add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. add eggs and vanilla and combine.

sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.

using a small ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto prepared baking sheets, about one inch apart. bake 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cookie comes out clean. remove from oven and cool completely on the pan while making the filling.

3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces (1 block) cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or the innards of 1/2 vanilla bean

sift confectioners' sugar into a medium bowl and set aside.

in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter until it's completely smooth, with no visible lumps. add cream cheese and beat until combined.

add confectioners' sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth. do not overbeat the filling, or it will lose structure. filling can be made one day ahead and stored, covered tightly, in the refrigerator. soften at room temperature before using.

assembling the whoopies

turn half of the cooled cookies upside down (flat side facing up), and pair them with similarly shaped mates.

using an ice cream scoop or pastry bag (I highly recommend the bag option), dollop filling onto the flat side of the cookie. place other cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges of the cookie. repeat until all the cookies are used. store whooopie pies, covered, in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm up before serving.

they will keep for up to 3 days chilled, on parchment-lined baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.

weekend piccys

{a working weekend}

{deep in the heart of texas}

{texans love stars}

{we try to treat them right, when they drop in ~ a list for a visiting food blogger, complete with distance key}

{but everyone deserves to be treated like one ~ quinceanera photo shoots marched through the capitol all day}

{except that kitten}

{we're all rainbow fishes ~ spotted on sunday walk ...}

{... near this cruciferous standout on a neighborhood curb ~ wish we could take credit, but I don't think our collards have known birds nor bees}

{no stars here ~ just a lovely place for catching up with brilliant sirena}

{a gorgeous, if abbreviated weekend}


Sunday, November 15

incidentally, fuck this guy

yes, that's a white lotus elise parked in the designated motorcycle section of the flagship whole foods, and he's taking up 1...2...3...4...5...6! parking spots. photo of driver was unintentional, but it doesn't actually appear to be john mackey (because he owns the place, not because it would be expected). as I was headed over to key his caa—errr — take a photo, he returned. if you happen to recognize this guy, please tell him I said hello. and that he is a total asshat.

ha! hooray for passive aggression!


Thursday, November 12

je t'aime ... moi non plus

photo: cinema france

this could be interesting ... hrmm ... or not. why would they leave out all the juicy, scandalous stuff from the 80's? he-llooooo! lemon incest!

from cinema france (please forgive my butchered translation):
the author of the rabbi's cat will thus put on film a biopic in actual shots (idiom, anybody??) devoted to the man with the cabbage head. joann sfar presents it like a fable recalling the life of the composer-songwriter from the second world war to the eighties. halfway between pure and imaginary biography, some supernatural creatures should be part… the same special effects team as pan's labyrinth will have the job of giving them life.

in addition, olivier daviaud was selected to compose the original soundtrack. he collaborated in the last albums of dionysos, bénabar, sanseverino, olivia ruiz or abd al malik. eric elmosnino will interpret serge gainsbourg in his first big role, having previously been confined to supporting roles, while the musician, gonzales will lend his hands for the musical portions...

imaginary biography? pan's labyrinth??

chinese shitake cabbage soup

this soup was a delicious penance for our octoberfest sins (why on earth did we have the potato pancakes, sweet pretzel, fried jalapenos, fried pickles, and the fried cheesecake???). it's light, but hale, and very very healthy. the only oil to speak of is a spritz for sauteing onions and the drizzle of sesame oil. the evening we dined, it was accompanied by a crispie treat appetizer, and was perfectly satisfying. the next day for lunch, it pared well with buckwheat soba, dipped to moisten, just before eating. the recipe calls for a cilantro garnish, but as a fairly recent cilantro-convert, it was a little powerful (read: soapy) for my palate. another lead could come from the pho playbook, with basil instead. or a little japanese shiso, if it's handy.

we assumed by "4 heads bok choi," it meant baby bok choi. so instead we purchased the equivalent in mature bok choi. the asian lady sorting through the same assortment of greens asked about our plans for it. when I answered, simply, "soup," she nodded approvingly. don't be tempted to sub out the rest of the napa in place of bok choi, as the textural variation is subtly, delicately imperative.

in fact, the greatest challenge of the entire affair is deciding on a purpose for the other 3/4 heads of cauliflower and napa. consider asking your grocer/farmer about splitting a head. do not attempt adding the additional 3/4 cabbage unless you're actually feeding an army. a healthy army. or a penitent one.

chinese shitake cabbage soup
adapted from central market recipe card

1 large sweet onion, chopped
2 qt chicken or veggie broth
1/4 head cauliflower, split into florets
4 heads bok choi, chopped
1/4 head napa cabbage, chopped
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, reconstituted (reserve juice)
1 lobe ginger, peeled (with a spoon) and crushed with flat side of knife
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped

heat broth while sauteing sweet onions until soft. add onions, reconstituted mushrooms and crushed ginger to broth and let simmer for 20-30 min. add soy sauce and sugar, taste, then season with salt, pepper and sesame oil.

add cauliflower and cabbage, cook 5-10 minutes, until tender. serve hot, garnished with scallion and a little cilantro, basil or shiso.

extract ginger from leftovers before chilling, as the flavor becomes much spicier the longer it steeps.

Wednesday, November 11

speaking of marshmallows...

here's the long overdue marshmallow delivery system from jean georges' terrace on central park west. one of the trip highlights, it seemed the cart carrying an apothecary jar and surgical implements might bring us a jaunty after-dinner ether (or some equally obscure high-brow tradition like snuff).

but noooooo ... check it out!


salted brown butter crispies

seriously y'all. if you haven't already made these crispies from deb's recipe, it would be best to stop off for a bag of staypuft and some fresh sweet-cream butter on the way home. they were, quite literally, the only thing I ::air quotes:: cooked last week, and we've since made a second batch (to generously share, since b and I polished off the first pan with very little assistance). what else were we supposed to do with the rest of the box of cereal?

half of the second batch, we drizzled with chocolate. I liked it, but b thought the chocolate distracted from the nutty, vanilla tinged flavor. perhaps next time a milder chocolate would be more complimentary than the fruity 63% chips in the cupboard.

the only addition to the stock original is a thimble-full of salt, and a minute or two added to cook time. oh yeah. and about twice the butter. they come together remarkably quickly, since the mallows melt so easily in the hot butter. there's almost no need for heat once the butter is ready. also, if uncoated parchment is available, use it to press the gooey mass into form. waxed parchment stuck fast to the surface, and silicon spatulas don't create quite the same perfectly uniform surface as pressing with fingers. but if messy hands make you squidgy, go for the spatula.

b, who's no fan of marshmallows (except the crunchy ones shaped like pink hearts, yellow moons, green clover...) and is generally ambivalent to regular crispies seemed pleased, mumbling, "(crunch crunch crunch) what's in these? ::inspecting the specks of browned butter:: they're good! (crunch crunch)"

salted brown butter rice crispie treats
ripped off from smitten kitchen
makes 16 2-inch squares

4 oz (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter
1 10 oz bag marshmallows
heaping 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt6 c. rice krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

butter (hack off a small corner of the stick before it goes in the pot) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

in large pot (or smaller pot with light-colored bottom), melt butter over medium-low heat. it will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to brown and smell nutty. stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom. do *not* walk away from the pot, or that moment is the one it will turn and then burn. the difference between perfection and starting over is about ten seconds.

as soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth and as much of the butter as possible is incorporated.

remove pot from stove and stir in the salt and cereal (tossed together in a large bowl). quickly spread into prepared pan and smoosh into shape.

cool, and cut into squares.

veterans day

this afternoon b sent an email that reduced me to sniffling quietly, laughing and wiping away the tears at my desk. they're all heartbreaking, but buddy, in the clip below does the same crazyrun as that dog (distressed by the audio while previewing just now) who is so dearly loved. oh god -- now I'm sniveling again ... just watch the damned video.

it's nearly impossible to imagine being away from home long enough to receive this kind of welcome. just for that alone, our service men and women deserve our sincerest thanks.

so thank you.


Monday, November 9

weekend piccys

{graduation portraits at sarah's alma mater}

{a very pretty backdrop for a very pretty girl}

{mike found an exceptional specimen}

{freakish, even}

{and it was an exceptional day for photos, just before the weather turned}

{had to get that dog to the p.a.r.k. before the rains returned}

{it's a very different place when there's no swimming to be done}

{when it's fall...}



{so we went to celebrate the season}

{in the traditional way of central texan germans}

{really traditional}

{where the weather made almost no difference at all}

~happy fall, y'all!