Sunday, February 28

nearly here

today was so gorgeous, it's hard to imagine it snowed just tuesday. yep. it snowed giant, sloppy flakes for several hours. but none of it needed shoveling the next day.
... when it's 97 degrees and not-quite-june and I hate my life, please remind me I've never owned a snowshovel.



Tuesday, February 23

snowbody said it was easy

in my whole time in this town — holycow, almost 14 years — it's snowed just a few times. mostly big nighttime flakes, gone by first light. today we finally got the substantial kind of snow people around here will remember their entire lives: two whole inches! ::ducks:: okay, okay ... sorry! It's nothing like what denver or lansing has accumulated this year ... but it's notable down here, where the average annual temp is probably somewhere around 73 degrees.


it started with sleet in the early morning (that dog required an umbrella'd escort outside to get his morning business done), tick ticking on the windows. but just as I arrived at a meeting, the glassy beads of ice turned to huge snow amoebas.


that sound is snow. this was no light, sound-dampening snow, but the slushy kind that soaks you from head to toe. but pretty, anyhow.

{dusted miller}

{needs salt}

{about the best we can do in these parts}

Monday, February 22

parlez vous ~ farmer?

"good morning — I'll take a dozen eggs, please," I said to sebastian, local farmer/purveyor of poultry and rabbit.

"sheeken or dook." he stated

"hmm? oh ... mmm ... chicken, please."

he reached into his cooler, drawing out a crate of eggs, which he opened to inspect. he lifted an exaggerated ellipse from its compartment, and pronounced nonchalantly that one egg would contain a double yolk.

in an (apparently) lame attempt at small talk, I proclaimed "hey! some people say that's good luck!"

silence. followed by an exasperated look, just short of an eye roll. "why on earth would anyone say that."

I heart french people. but lucky or no, my double-yolk egg was delicious.

weekend piccys

{a gorgeous weekend ...}

{... for getting things done ...}

{... before all eyes will be on deb}

{but, you know ... not in a creepy way}

{spring is on the tip of each branch}

{nearly bursting forth}

{nice weather for gardening, too ~ snowpeas}

{and a belated birthday get-together}

{for a dear, sweet friend}

{all in all, a very happy weekend}


Thursday, February 18

la boîte cafe

one of the newest additions to the local mobile trailer-food scene ... doesn't actually have wheels.

la boîte is just a humble shipping container, converted into an airy, modern spot for locally roasted coffee, pastries and sandwiches. but the pastries ... my god. and the macarons.

just go. that's all there really is to say.

ohyeah, and that the amazing baker responsible for these miraculous feats of flour and butter has a wickedcool web presence.

her process page includes a slideshow of beginning-to-end croissants. gorgeous.


Saturday, February 13

valentine cookies

linzer cookies adapted from kate zuckerman's the sweet life
makes about 12 large 3 1/2 in cookies

5 ounces almonds (or 1 1/2 cups almond meal)
2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp baking powder

8 ounces (226 g) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (156 g) sugar
1 egg, room temperature
zest from 1/2 lemon, scrubbed
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raspberry jam
powdered sugar for dusting

place almonds and approx half of the flour in a food processor, and process until the nuts are ground into a fine powder. combine with the rest of the flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and baking powder in a bowl and whisk together.

put butter into a large bowl and cream on medium speed for about a minute. add granulated sugar and beat for several minutes, until mixture is very light colored and fluffy. add in egg, lemon zest and vanilla, and beat until combined (2 minutes or so), scraping down the sides as necessary. add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined, again, scraping sides as necessary. continue beating for a couple minutes until the dough starts coalescing into a ball. dump dough onto a parchment-lined surface and flatten into an inch-thick rough rectangle, then wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (up to 3 days).

when it's time to bake, preheat oven to 350°f and line baking sheets with parchment. remove dough from refrigerator and let rest at room temp for 10 minutes to soften some (but not too warm, or this dough becomes sticky). roll dough out to about 1/16" thick before cutting alternating hearts, placing shapes on baking sheets with at least an inch between each. any scraps can be re-rolled and cut again, chilling dough again if it becomes too soft to work with. use a smaller cutter to make a second heart in half of the cookies. bake the little hearts as well, or combine scraps for re-rolling.

bake cookies for 10-14 minutes. cookies should turn lightly golden, and the whole house should smell like toasted almonds. cool on wire racks before removing from baking sheets.

these cookies are similar to cannoli, in that assembling them too far ahead allows them to soften, as they absorb liquid from the jam (but I like them a little soft). when nearly ready to serve, spread the flat side of solid hearts with warm jam, sift powdered sugar over the cutout hearts, then sandwich together with jam in the center and sugar on top. if there's any jam left, fill the heart-shaped recess, as well.

{sunlight through buttery parchment}


Thursday, February 11

thrift thursday ~ stir it up

in what seemed like a brilliant stroke of luck, I finally spotted a vintage stand mixer (or 4) at my neighborhood op-shop. it's a well-kept secret that many goodwill shops save the best stuff tucked in a corner for saturday auctions. it's all official and such, with a caller shouting "going once — going twice," and convenient silent bidding during the week. but to ensure a "win," it's important to show up on saturday afternoon. that, and it's an economical way to get your adrenaline pumping. ::grin::

so after stalking the bid book all week, checking back once or twice to see about competing interest, I made my way over to the auction. my eye was on on the kitchenaid (item number 55), but the $14 vintage sunbeam was a backup plan (item number 54), with no paper bidders. somehow, I won both quite easily (again ... always go to the auction) and collected my very heavy, very redundant winnings for $60.63 total. with tax.

um, yeah. except that I think I've discovered the reason for the generous donation: someone out there is mixing concrete in his or her stand mixers. although each electric item is tested prior to reaching the sales floor, their testers have clearly never smelled a dying motor. in fact, on lower speeds, the kitchenaid sounds a bit like the gears are slipping. not good.

so now we're talking:
one mixer - $40
plus bowl - $30
plus whisk- $15
plus repair- $???
equals not such a great deal after all. ::sigh::
time to see if they'll take back bad merch.

and yet ... how can I stay terribly upset in the face of disappointment, with this view from my office, in the gray and dismal weather?

I tiptoed over – past the barbed-wire – mission-impossible-style to get a gander ( ... ooor the gate was open and the research staff quite friendly).

some sort of experimental, man-eating superplant, no doubt.


Tuesday, February 9

super commercial

call me a dirty hippie, but I'm not sure there's anything wrong with the apocalyptic scenario audi lay before us sunday night (that's right — I'm from cali).

... except the part about checkpoint vehicle searches performed by an aardvark. no really. go check it — 41 seconds in.


Monday, February 8

weekend piccys

{gathering inspiration into little piles ~ planning a shower,
just a few weeks away ...}

{... try and guess the theme!}

{a favorite vendor has returned to the farmer's market, under their own marquis}

{their onion and bleu cheese quiche makes my knees a little weak}

{so we fortified ourselves with lots of belgian at the market's annual beer sale}

{a walk in the beautiful weather reminds us baseball season begins soon ~ field practice}

{and spring will bee returning any day now}

{looks like it will be a terrific year for spring blooms}

{a sunny souvenir for the inevitable shift back to wintry weather ~ texas weather is totally schizo, we're due for sleet and/or snow this week}

just warming up for the superbowl, the usual brunch bunch demolished an unbelievable amount of szechuan food ...}

{... at our favorite, very authentic, spot ~ absolutely no sweet and sour chicken here}

{a little pre-game homework ~ did you guess right?}

{I wish you all could come ~ it's coming together to be so lovely and (hopefully) fun}


Saturday, February 6

citrus upside-down cake

if memory serves, my mom's favorite cake is of the upsidedown pineapple variety. and today, if memory continues to serve, is her birthday — so without further ado, let's get the party started!

about a million years ago, or what seems that way, she introduced me to the star-fruit, purchased at a fruit stand in hong kong. we dove into into it immediately with a pocket knife (remember when it was still okay to travel with a swiss-army on your key ring?). it was surprisingly tart and juicy, and a truly unforgettable travel moment.

this is a seasonally appropriate version of a cake that I probably would still prefer with sweeter, caramelized pineapple or mango (or even — dare I say — stone fruit??). which begs the question, when exactly is starfruit in-season in this hemisphere? lately, many exotic tropical fruit varieties have been cultivated in florida — not exactly local on the same scale as the valley, but it's a heckuva lot closer to texas than sri lanka! the meyer lemon, while delicious, becomes more bitter the longer this cake stands, a consideration if make-ahead is a standard m.o..

citrus upside down cake
from america's test kitchen's patently elitest baking illustrated

4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 star fruit (carambola), cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 meyer lemon, sliced paper-thin crosswise, seeds discarded

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tbsps cornmeal
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 tbsps unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (plus 2 tbsps — reserved) granulated or turbinado sugar
1 1/2tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, separated
2/3 cup milk

for topping:
preheat oven to 350° and set rack to lower-middle spot. grease a 9-inch nonstick cake pan. in saucepan, over moderate heat, add 4 tablespoons of the butter and, when melted, stir in brown sugar until pale and foamy, about 4 minutes. remove from heat, and arrange fruit slices in the melted brown sugar.

for cake:
in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. in a large bowl, with an electric
mixer, cream the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter with sugar until light and fluffy. beat in vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. at low speed, beat in dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.
in a stainless steel bowl, beat egg whites with 2 tablespoons sugar, at high speed until firm peaks form. fold one-third of beaten whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.

scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. let cool in the pan for 2 minutes, then invert onto a plate. serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Wednesday, February 3

weekend piccys

{did someone say ph? ~ perfect for a cold winter evening }

{that happened to be a holiday}

{then tea with a beloved friend}

{and also a newfound friend}

{at a favorite spot ~ blue dahlia bistro}

{the wolf moon watched from above}

{perhaps as reminder to watch your back ~ it's girlscout cookie season}

{as if there weren't enough sweets around, a little baking rounded out the weekend}