Saturday, September 14, 2013

la paloma rosa

often in a relationship you're exposed to new things because of your partner's enthusiasms. i'm pretty sure that without me, mike would not have acquired quite so much information about weird animal facts, food, or health care policy (and he might have been better off for that). 

similarly, i wouldn't know as much about the horse-race intricacies of local and national politics or the publishing world, and i certainly wouldn't be watching football on a saturday afternoon. yet here i am. 

i grew up in small-town/rural texas, where high school football really does rule the scene on friday nights (surely you're familiar with Friday Night Lights, right? if not, FIX THAT IMMEDIATELY. you're welcome.). as a disaffected and contrarian teen, i only went to one football game in my entire high school career, and spent plenty of time bemoaning football's prominence and the lack of local culture (i was kind of a jerk about my hometown. although i live 30 minutes from it now and haven't been there in like 10 years, so i guess i haven't really changed my mind about it, actually. see you in hell, bastrop!). my undergrad years were spent at southwestern university, which at the time didn't even have a football team. it just reinstated football this year, actually, which is weird but i'm getting used to the idea.

anyway, my point is that despite being a native texan, i'm not much of a football person. but mike went to texas a&m, which has a ... robust football heritage. they take it seriously and they're very good at it. so thanks to his influence, i've started semi-watching games once in a while. i still don't really know what's going on (really, soccer's more my thing), but i'm happy to hang out and cheer when the aggies score and yell at the tv when the other team does something mean.*

*technical term

of course, all this moral support is thirstifying, so it's never a bad idea to have ingredients for a paloma rosa at hand. palomas are gaining a following here, after long enjoying popularity in mexico. they're dead simple and very tasty and just might become your favorite refreshment in the waning days of summer (at least, i really hope they're waning. it was like 100 degrees yesterday. IT IS MID-SEPTEMBER, WEATHER. COME ON.).

the paloma rosa differs from the original in that it includes pink grapefruit soda and some fresh grapefruit juice, instead of the regular grapefruit soda (squirt, fresca, etc) that normally goes into it. i found this pink ting (!) at our local liquor/food/awesomeness center, spec's, but i think similar things are found pretty much wherever. or use fresca, etc! then it wouldn't be rosa, but it would still be a paloma. 

and that's the important thing. that and spending quality time hanging out with your loved ones and learning more about the things they like. or at least getting more adept at nodding sagely when people talk about "incompletes" and "sacks."

** i had to include my la paloma magnet, which my friend beth gave me years and years ago and which to this day i cannot look at without saying out loud, "que maravilla de tortilla!" which i think is the best slogan ever. 

also, you may have noticed the ro*tel, velveeta, and chips in the background. i may not be as football-crazy as some, but by god i'm a texan and i know how to make queso. 

-ingredients- one drink
  • 1/2 - 2/3 bottle pink ting (!) or 6 oz or so of your grapefruit soda of choice
  • 3 tbsp or so fresh pink (or other) grapefruit juice
  • 1-2 ounces tequila (i don't know much about tequila aside from that you absolutely have to get one that's 100% agave. i used a blanco one, but probably the more aged ones would be good, too - maybe a little more intensely flavored?)

stir gently, add plenty of ice and maybe a curl of grapefruit zest, if you think of it. 

listening to: explosions in the sky, now that i started thinking about Friday Night Lights. also lots of yelling from kyle field. gig 'em! i don't know football, but i  know that much.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

israeli breakfast salad

we've already established that salad for breakfast is totally delicious and great, right? right.

this israeli salad is my new favorite weekend breakfast, though i also sometimes bring it for lunch. it's versatile like that.

it's also cold and refreshing, which is nice since texas hasn't gotten the message that it's supposed to cool off post-labor-day. stupid texas. when it's 100 degrees one doesn't necessarily feel like having a hot plate of migas. oh, who am i kidding - one always feels like having a hot plate of migas. but alternating them with breakfast salads will make you feel extra virtuous and clever.

anyway, it's stupid-easy and you get to practice your knife skills (which is why i usually make this on the weekends - it's a lot of chopping for a weekday morning when you haven't had coffee yet). you want to make all of the pieces as close to the same size as is reasonably possible, so a little concentration pays off.

for two largish servings, just cut up some cucumber, sweet onion, tomatoes, herbs, and any color of bell pepper except green because they are disgusting. toss them with some lemon juice or vinegar, salt, and pepper and ta da! you can also add bits of cheese (feta, goat cheese, or manchego are all good), other vegetables (grated carrot, some zucchini, maybe jicama??), spices (sumac is good, and/or za'atar) or a bit of olive oil. it's good with toasted pita or flatbread, which you could also add to the salad itself to make an ersatz fattoush (that's a freebie for those of you who are always on the lookout for good band names, by the way). the only rule is that there are no rules!

actually, i think there are some rules (the main vegetables, the trying-to-make-them-all-the-same-size), but perhaps you're the type for whom rules were made to be broken, in which case do whatever. i'm no snitch.

the last warm weeks of summer are when this salad's ingredients are at their best, so make sure to try this before we're all bundled up and talking about roasted squash soup or whatever. jk, it will never again be cold enough to turn on the oven. we are doomed to eternal summer - might as well roll with it.

there are probably a million versions of this and i've never been to israel. this is just how i do it.

  • 1 large or 2 or more small cucumbers (those little persian ones are good here)
  • 1 red, orange, etc bell pepper
  • 1/2 a large sweet onion (like 1015, vidalia, etc)
  • 1 large or several small tomatoes (i used two big romas this time, but the fancy heirloom ones would be aces)
chop all of the vegetables into small and similar-sized bits (i usually try to a fairly small dice, like 1 cm or less). toss together with
  • 1-2 tbsp sherry vinegar, lemon juice, or other mildish vinegar (probably not a strong balsamic, for instance) - start small and taste until it's to your liking. i like it pretty tart.
  • a handful of herbs, chopped (parsley, basil, oregano, mint, tarragon and other more exotic herbs are all good in here. today i didn't have any parsley and my herbs aren't doing that well, so the pictured salad is not as herby as i would prefer)
  • salt and pepper to taste (maybe 1 tsp salt, but start smaller)
optional: sumac, za'atar or other dried spices, to taste (maybe 1 tsp?), olive or maybe some kind of nut oil (i don't care for oil here, but some do!)

i like this best right after it's made, but it will keep for several hours in the fridge just fine.

listening to: songs mentioning john berryman - okkervil river's "john allyn smith sails" and the hold steady's "stuck between stations" (i think the hold steady is tied with yo la tengo as the band that looks most like they could your high school science or english teachers)

looking at: this "romantic real life comic" is adorable. also this tumblr is great for finding new art if you enjoy modern stuff but are lazy about seeking it out, as i am.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

double apricot & yogurt cake

well, it's been a difficult week and it's hard sometimes not to feel powerless and afraid of where things are going. i try to remember that worrying doesn't help unless it's accompanied by some kind of action. since i can't personally do anything right now about my great state's legislative war on women's bodies, and i certainly can't solve america's race problems, for now i'm baking a cake.

that's not to say, of course, that baking will solve anything of importance. as a lawyer, i do feel like i have some responsibility to use my training to work on some of those bigger issues. i'm currently working in the area of mental health, which could obviously use some improvements. i'm also trying to figure out where i should start volunteering my time. i'm thinking about The Innocence Project.

but in the meantime, closer to home, our dear neighbor had to put her house on the market and put her sweet elderly dog to sleep on the same day. i'm sure it's been a roller coaster for her and it's hard to deal with the open houses and having to be out somewhere while strangers tromp through your home, especially if you're missing your little furry companion. 

so, i decided to make her some cake. it's apricot season and i got a bunch recently. unfortunately, though they tasted good, their texture left a bit to be desired. luckily, any slight mealiness disappears when you bake them, leaving only soft jammy fruit. i also added chopped dried apricots to boost the flavor even more. 

to chop the dry ones, i piled 3-4 on top of each other and cut them into 5 or 6 sections, then turned them and cut again, leaving them in a small dice. the fresh apricots i just cut in half and then into wedges - maybe 5-6 per half. 

the rest of the cake was based on this one from Dorie Greenspan (although i actually have that cookbook, so i could have just used that). i brought the sugar down a bit, added a little ginger and left out the lemon zest, but otherwise mostly left it alone. i didn't have almonds for almond meal, which is offered as optional, but i think it would be good here, as almonds and apricots go well together. 

this is almost a one-bowl cake, which is my favorite kind. as it is, it only used two and required no mixer, so that's pretty good. just whisk the dry ingredients, mix the wet, add the dried apricot bits to the dry ingredients, using your fingers to separate the little stickies a bit so they don't clump together, then add the wet. mix until just combined and add the fresh apricots. fold them in gently so they don't go to pieces.

then just bake in a loaf pan buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper. mine took about 45 minutes or a bit more, but i also was using a 9" x 5" pan instead of the 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" that the original calls for. so just keep an eye on it. let it cool for maybe 10 minutes in the pan, then take it out to cool fully on a rack. it will be tempting, but i wouldn't cut it before it's cooled if you can help it. 

obviously cake's not going to solve any of the major problems facing the world today, but it can make your friends' lives a little brighter and sometimes that's all you can do on a weekend afternoon.

*double apricot & yogurt cake*
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's French Yogurt Cake

preheat the oven to 350.

5 small apricots (280 g/ almost 10 ounces)
9 dried apricots (100 g/ 3 1/2 ounces)

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (i would actually use more next time - it doesn't show up too much - maybe 1 teaspoon instead?)

whisk dry ingredients together and add the dried apricot pieces, using your fingers to get them incorporated so they don't form a big lump

1/2 cup plain yogurt (i used 2%, but you can probably use whatever, honestly)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar (you could probably use 2/3 cup - it was still pretty sweet)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup mild oil (i used canola)

whisk wet ingredients together and add to dry or vice versa. mix gently until just combined, then add the fresh apricot pieces and fold in, trying not to break them up too much. in the original recipe, you're supposed to add the oil at the end, but i forgot and put it in too early and it was fine.

put in 9"x 5" loaf pan that's been buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper. bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, or until it's a nice dark toasty brown and a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean. let it sit on a rack for 10 minutes or so, then remove from pan and let cool on rack.

this would be really good with some ice cream or some barely sweetened whipped cream, but is perfectly nice with some coffee or tea as well. it's the little things...

*i should probably also note that i didn't give her quite all of the cake because i had to cut it and then we had to eat a little to make sure it wasn't gross. luckily, it wasn't.

listening to: ravishers - portland, poppy, boy-girl harmonies - what more can you ask for?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

rye thyme for a collins

the name of this drink is further along the spectrum of ridiculousness than i'm normally comfortable with, but after a weekend which included the unwelcome discovery of a discomfiting little visitor from the past in our car's a/c vent, it seemed fine for now.

after all, it's after 5 on a hot summer sunday - it IS high time for a drink of some sort, and it might as well be this.

i usually think of whiskey as more of a fall/winter drink, but when you add citrus and herbs and sparkling water, all of a sudden it makes sense as a summer pick-me-up+cool-me-down. a tom collins typically uses gin, but all we had was rye and silly old texas doesn't allow one to purchase liquor on sundays. 

other things that were handy included thyme and grapefruit, whose bitterness made it seem like they would go together. i've since looked up the combination and both marcus samuelsson and martha stewart have cocktails that use it, so i'm in illustrious company, i guess? the peppercorns were an attempt to complexify it and respond to the pepperiness of the rye.

just peel a grapefruit, taking care not to dig deeply enough to get the extra-bitter white pith with it. i ended up using maybe 15 sections that were about 3/4" x 2" or so, but it's not an exact thing. then add it and some thyme and peppercorns to 1 cup each of water and white sugar and bring to a boil. let it boil for 3 minutes or so, then turn it off and let it cool. 

i like making simple syrups with lots of things in them. i think it gets to the same childhood idea of cooking that making chicken stock brings out - just toss things in a pot with water and voila! it's magically something much better. 

once the syrup is cool, strain it and mix a couple of tablespoons with an ounce of rye and 1-2 tablespoons of grapefruit and/or lemon juice in a short highball or old fashioned glass. as per usual, this is all to taste. then add a couple of ice cubes and fill the rest of the way with sparkling water or club soda. we often get that water that has pink grapefruit flavoring (it's not sweet - just grapefruity), so if you have that you might as well use it. 

then just kick back with a magazine and let your cares lift away. try not to think about how hot it is or how gross that mouse in your a/c vent probably definitely was. 


grapefruit/thyme/pepper syrup
peel from 1 medium grapefruit
7-10 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons dried (my thyme plant is a bit sad right now, so i augmented the 5 or so fresh sprigs i had with a couple of large pinches of dried lemon thyme)
12-15 whole black peppercorns (just grab a large pinch. sichuan pepper might be really interesting here, too, though i'd probably use less)
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar

rye thyme, etc., collins
2 tablespoons syrup
3 tablespoons rye whiskey (we usually get old overholt or bulleit rye)
2 tablespoons grapefruit and/or lemon juice
sparkling water or club soda

listening to: beirut

Saturday, June 15, 2013

vegan coconut ice cream with mango swirl

our friends recently purchased a house, which seems like such a big commitment it gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it. i know it makes sense in a lot of ways, but i'm just not there yet. also i'm not really a DIY person, so i like being able to call our landlord when something goes wrong. 

but their house is super-cute and they have a backyard and a grill, so clearly a combination cookout/housewarming party is in order. i waffled back and forth for a little bit about what to make - i thought about lime-vanilla icebox cake, or some blackberry-lime cobbler, or a rhubarb and pineapple crumble...

ultimately, though, i figured out that i didn't want to turn on the oven and i DID want to make some ice cream (although someone needs to have another party soon so i have an excuse to make icebox cake). the thing with ice cream is that it's best to start a day before you need it, so you can make sure all of your ingredients are cold enough to freeze well.

mangoes have been really great lately, and we already had one in the fridge. i thought about just making a vanilla ice cream base and adding mango to it, but then i started picturing a swirl of mango going through it and then i thought a coconut base would be good for some tropical charm.

also coconut milk ice cream sounded more refreshing in this texas humidity. 

i mentioned the easiest way to cut up mangoes previously, but here it is again - cut along the flat sides of the pit, then score it into rough cubes (it can be particularly rough in this case, because you're going to cook it down anyway). then push the skin up so that it inverts and you can cut the mango away easily. ta da!

then just cook it over medium heat with sugar and lime juice. while it's cooking, mash the pieces a bit with a fork or similar. after 5 minutes or so, you should be left with a thick, slightly chunky jammy kind of mixture. let it cool for a bit and maybe add a bit more sugar and/or lime juice, to taste. 

then just pop it in the fridge to cool.

i was a little concerned that regular coconut milk would be too watery and that the result would end up missing something, texture-wise.

i was thinking of getting coconut cream, which is more concentrated, but the place i want to didn't have any. being lazy and unwilling to go somewhere else, i did some reconnaissance and found some "coconut butter." the packaging is a bit silly and has a lot of stuff about it being raw and whatever. also it seems to be a big part of all of that dumb paleo stuff. don't get me wrong, i think the food eaten on the paleo diet mostly seems like good things for people to eat, but the "science" behind it regarding human evolution is just baseless. but whatever. i guess everyone has weird diet superstitions and whatnot? i will get off my evolutionary high horse.

i decided to try blending some coconut butter into the coconut milk to thicken it and increase the coconut flavor. it seemed like a good point to add the sugar, too, so it would mix in better. then i whisked it with the rest of the can of coconut milk plus another can and put it in the fridge overnight.

this morning i got out the trusty ice cream maker and churned up the coconut mixture. it took a little over 20 minutes in my kitchenaid attachment thingy. you can tell it's done when it pulls away from the walls of the bowl and you can lift the beater out with the ice cream clinging to it. 

then layer it and the mango in whatever you're going to keep it in (i put them in a metal bowl that i'd put in the freezer while the ice cream was churning). put down a big dollop of ice cream, then spoon the cold mango over it and stir slightly to swirl the mango through. keep alternating and swirling, but you want to work pretty fast so it doesn't start melting. 

then just freeze for a couple of hours and enjoy! i think we're having ours on mini sugar cones, which are somewhat cute and, because they don't hold much, save everyone the embarrassment of licking melted streams of ice cream from their arms.* 

though that might still happen. just because i know people who buy houses doesn't mean we're all suddenly turning into brooke astors (or insert whatever current reference you like - kris jenners? countess luanns? the latter has, after all. taught us that Money Can't Buy You Class). 

*update - we did not have ours in cones, as it was pretty solidly frozen. it was still good, but next time i would add a tablespoon or two of rum to keep it from freezing so hard. 


mango swirl
1 large mango, cubed
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice (~1/2 a lime's worth)

cook over medium heat for ~5 minutes, mashing with a fork. adjust sugar and lime to taste and refrigerate for at least several hours, preferably overnight.

coconut ice cream
2 14oz cans coconut milk (i wouldn't use the light kind here)
3-4 tablespoons coconut butter (available on amazon and in hippie stores. or you could use coconut cream for some of the coconut milk)
6 tablespoons sugar (3/8 cup - you could also probably just use 1/3 - 1/2 cup)
*optional - 1-2 tablespoons rum (this will keep it from freezing as hard)

blend ~ 3/4 can of coconut milk with the sugar and coconut butter until smooth, then whisk together with the rest of the coconut milk. chill for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight. freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions, then layer with the mango mixture, swirling together. freeze for another couple of hours (or eat immediately!) and enjoy with good friends and tiny cones. it does freeze pretty hard, so make sure to let it sit out for a bit or maybe add a tablespoon or two of rum when churning.

*this isn't the coconuttiest ice cream ever - it's fairly low-key. you could amp up the flavor by adding some toasted coconut or by steeping toasted coconut in the coconut milk before doing the rest. but that seemed like too much of a hassle, so just FYI.

listening to: Beck - Tropicalia (he looks so young in this video!). also, on repeat, Daft Punk's Get Lucky, aka the official song of summer 2013. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

3-2-1 pomegranate!

the pet gods have not been smiling upon us here at chez livingawesomely these past few months. first maeby decided to eat something she shouldn't have and ended up in a cone of shame, then the dogs en masse decided to attack their cat housemate, which resulted in a cone for her PLUS a feeding tube and wired jaw (Not Fun + Very Expensive). finally darwin, above, has developed his first hot spot of the year and requires his own much larger cone.

so i guess basically if you need to borrow an elizabethan collar in any of several sizes, we've got you covered. also, we will be paying off vet bills for the foreseeable future. but i guess it'll still be cheaper than college, etc., for a kid, so i shouldn't complain.

to help me refrain from boring complaints about the pets and the weather (which, OH MY GOD it's so hot and humid already), i have taken the liberty this Memorial Day to fix a drink before the socially-accepted hour of 5 pm. but what's the point of having a monday off if you're not going to have a drink during the day? (aside, of course, from thinking about the sacrifices people have made for our freedom and other solemn and important things)

pomegranate molasses is what happens when you boil pomegranate juice down with some sugar until it's quite thick. it's not really molasses - it's more like cooked-down grenadine (real grenadine, not that fakey pink stuff). it isn't that sweet and definitely has a molasses-y rich flavor that i find very appealing. you can use it in any number of things - last night we had some in a dressing for grilled eggplant and zucchini and it was quite good.

i've never really seen it in drinks, but i try not to let that stop me. this is a very simple cocktail that i like to serve in a tall glass with lots of sparkling water - this makes it refreshing and not-too-strong, which is perfect for when it's hot.

which it is. TEXASSSSSSSS

i used tangelo juice, as this tangelo has been lumping and bumping around in the fridge for a while now. oranges or grapefruit would also be good. or maybe meyer lemon, although i don't think it's currently the season for those. something fairly sweet and citrus-y is what you want.

then it's really a 3-2-1 kind of deal - mix 3 tablespoons (aka 1 shot) gin, 2 tablespoons juice, and 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, then fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. get out a straw, if you have one, and sip up while trying not to think of going back to work tomorrow.

at least it's a short week! (if, of course, you're in america. if not, you're probably going about your monday as per usual. sorry.)

you can also do a little folderol of citrus zest if you feel fancy.


1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons citrus juice (if you want to use lemon or lime, they'd prolly be fine, but you might want to add a little sugar or honey or simple syrup to taste)
3 tablespoons gin (1 shot/1.5 ounces)
sparkling water to fill

listening to: oh god, i love aesop rock so much and was moderately excited about his new album with kimya dawson (of moldy peaches fame-ish), but i tried to listen to it and it was not my thing. for instance, there's a song that just lists a bunch of sandwiches - Turkey! / Montecristo! /  Grilled Cheese! / Meatball! / Liverwurst! / Shrimp Po'boy! / Fluffernutter! / Shawarma! / Reuben! / Cuban! / BLT! / Eggplant parm! / Chicken! and etc. ad infinitum.

Friday, May 3, 2013

coconut-curry and other popcorns i have known

i don't know if people with kids can get away with this, but sometimes we just have popcorn for dinner. i'm no nutritionist, but i figure that when combined with bourbon, popcorn would pass muster with even the most strident of food pyramid (or i guess now it's a plate?) hustlers. 

what if i eat a salad for lunch? that evens out, right?
yes it does.

when i was growing up my dad had a gross pan that he only used for popcorn. it would build up layers of grease seasoning, never introduced to soap and water, and then sometimes when it all got to be too much he'd sandblast it (he worked in a bronze foundry) and start all over.

my parents weren't overly prescriptive with meals and i'm sure we sometimes had popcorn for dinner, but the main thing i associate with childhood popcorn experiences is my deep and abiding embarrassment when they would sneak homemade popcorn (doused in nutritional yeast, no less) into the movie theater.
it was mortifying.
they still do it.
and fair enough, to a certain extent. that movie stuff is the pits.

but! i have no nasty old grease-pan, which is good because i don't work in a bronze foundry and have no access to or knowledge of sandblasting materials and principles. instead i have the somewhat-gadgety Whirley-Pop, which you use on the stove and which has interior things that turn as you turn the handle and keep the popcorn moving around. it's pretty fun and it works well with not much oil. it is kind of big, though, so if space is an issue you might want to try the paper-bag-in-the-microwave trick instead (though i haven't tried that, so can't vouch for it! also i learned from this that brown bags might not be microwaveable and national popcorn popping month isn't until october, so luckily you have time to plan your celebrations).

so i think at this point we can all agree that 1) kids are easy to embarrass, 2) popcorn is a good dinner, and 3) it can be made using any of several methods, some of which might kill you. 

but then what to put on it? some people go with regular old boring old delicious old salt and butter. that's totally fine! it's a time-honored combination!

sometimes i like to mix it up a little, though, and that's where japanese curry powder comes in. japanese curry powder is the best. i use it in everything - eggs, curry (duh, though i didn't always), and popcorn. everything.

it's hard to describe the flavor of a spice mix, but japanese curry is kind of sweeter and milder than some indian curries. it has a distinctive flavor and comes in a cute tin, though, so it's worth seeking out (you can buy it on amazon or at some grocery stores). you could also use whatever other curry you wanted. 

for this batch of curry-corn, i used coconut oil to pop the kernels (about a teaspoon or a little more) and 2 small handfuls of popcorn (maybe 1/3 cup?). once it was done popping, i sprinkled it with maybe a teaspoon of salt and the same of curry. this is totally to taste, though, so i can't be too prescriptive. start small and see what happens. finally there's the slightly weird but delicious addition of a handful or two of sweetened shredded coconut. you can use unsweetened, of course, but the sweet, salty, spicy combination really hit the spot for me. try it! you'll like it*!

other popcorn flavors that are good: 
  • smoked paprika
  • butter, sriracha, parmesan 
  • garlic, butter, thyme
  • chili powder, butter, lime zest
  • various seasoning mixes - experiment with your favorites

anyway, long story short, we might be having popcorn for dinner tonight.
because we are grown-ups.

songs about popcorn:
Popcorn Song (from Gershon Kinglsey's 1969 album, Music to Moog By**)
that may be all the songs about popcorn.

*maybe you won't like it
**good album title, or best album title?!

Friday, March 15, 2013

gin z'herbes

it's almost 5 on a friday here and after the week we've had in casa livingawesomely, it's not strange that one's thoughts turn to cocktails. 

this one could be celebratory or sorrow-drowning, which not-coincidentally makes it perfect for a week of ups and downs in which i finally got a job (!) and our darling pug maeby had to have emergency surgery to remove the felt furniture floor-protector thing she appears to have eaten (dogs will eat the stupidest things, honestly).

luckily she's fine (staples and sad-face aside), the job will help pay for her $$$ surgery, and i don't start til monday so i can be home with her for a few days as she recuperates. i'm also extremely lucky in that the job is basically my dream position and i will be able to do a lot of good for the community while putting my legal training to good use. so, overall we're ending the week on a high note.

i'm also a bit surprised to note that the ol' herb garden is still going strong. i haven't been doing a lot of cooking over the past couple of days while the pup was in the hospital, so i've been craving green things and freshness. we already had some gin in the freezer and simple syrup (1:1 sugar:water, boil, let cool) in the fridge, so making this was a snap.

i wanted this to be extra-herby and i like a little salad in my drinks, so i just muddled mint (a couple of sprigs each of chocolate mint and orange mint), mexican tarragon, pineapple sage  basil and italian parsley in the glass with about 1 tablespoon of simple syrup. it was maybe 1/4 cup total herbs, not packed down. you can of course use whatever you have handy, but i like a mix of at least a couple of things so you get the variety of flavors - some savory, some less so.

then just add some gin (more or less a shot, depending on your week!) and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. you could also use tonic instead, and leave out the simple syrup. but i really like not having other flavors (like bitter quinine) getting in the way of all those herbs. you could also muddle and then strain out the leaves, but as i said, i like the swampy gardeny aspect of it and i enjoy eating the different leaves as i come across them. as ever, go with your lights.

so cheers to everyone surviving this week and let's all cross our fingers that next week and the weeks after that give us some more normal old boring wonderful times to be grateful for.

*ingredients* (roughly)
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs - mints, thyme, parsley, cilantro, basil, sage - whatever you've got
1-howevermanyyouneed shot(s) gin
1 tablespoon (or to taste) simple syrup
sparkling water to fill the glass

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ginger chocolate pear bread cake

i was initially going to introduce some punctuation into the title of this post, but in fact i actually think of this as if it was all one word, like GingerChocolatePearBreadCake, so i decided to leave it punctuation-free. 

it's dangerous, though, if you already don't really use capital letters as you ought and then you start flouting the rules of punctuation. you could go off the rails really quickly, is what i'm saying. but. BUT. i was almost an english minor, so it's like one of those "learn the rules so you can break 'em" things. 

or not.

pears and i have a moderately complex relationship. i kind of dig fake pear flavoring (though it's uncommon to find in candies, etc., i like it when i do) and my favorite kind of skyr when i went to iceland was pear-flavored. too often when i buy pears, though, they start out hard, enjoy a brief 30 second interlude of flavor/texture perfection, and promptly melt into the crisper drawer.

that's essentially what happened with these pears mike bought, but i found them before they were quite destroyed and decided to put them to use in a sweet quick bread. there aren't a lot of pear bread recipes out there, but i found this one and modified it to my mental image of the pear bread-cake i sought.

to that end - chocolate. also much more pear and ginger, including a hefty dose of finely grated fresh ginger. nuts would be a good addition, too, but we didn't have any because we used the last of the pecans for the beet and blue cheese salad (aka Beets of the Southern Wild) we made for this year's oscar pun dinner (see previous offerings, Midnight in Pears and Precious: Based on the Liquor Gin by Bombay Sapphire, whose recipe has sadly been lost to the mists of glorious memory).

the great thing about quick breads is how quick they are (!). the main work involved in this is the messy (for me) peeling and cutting-up of the very-soft-at-this-point pears. as shown above, just cut them in half after peeling, get the core out, and chop them thinly one way and then the other. you don't have to be overly fastidious about this - they kind of meld with the rest of the bread anyway.

other than that, it's a typical one-to-one-and-1/2-bowl affair - the wet ingredients (including sugar. sugar usually counts as wet in baking) get mixed together and then you add the dry ingredients. probably the best thing would be to mix the dry ingredients separately and then add them, but i'm congenitally unable to dirty more dishes than necessary, so i always mix the leaveners in the measuring cup with part of the flour, add that, add the rest of the flour, and mix everything gently together. then fold in the pear and the chocolate. i used some dark chocolate discs, but you could also cut up a bar or use some chocolate chips.

i buttered the loaf pan (9"x5") and made a little liner out of parchment paper. you don't necessarily have to do this, but the paper or a liner of aluminum foil will make the bread easier to remove from the pan later. a stitch in time, etc.

then just bake it for 45-50 minutes or so, turning it around mid-way through. i let it cool in the pan for awhile before taking it out, which was a good move because this stuff is super moist (though not dense!) and it really wanted to fall apart at first. once it cooled down, though, it made for a rich, gingery afternoon treat that stayed lushly soft for several days. it's particularly good with a strong cup of tea, but would also work as a more dessert-y course with a scoop of ice cream.

ginger chocolate pear bread cake
(heavily adapted from this ginger pear bread recipe)

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 packed teaspoon grated fresh ginger (i used a microplane over a cup to make sure to catch all of the ginger juice, which contributes a lot of flavor)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten

mix separately, then add
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

fold in
2 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears

1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate

bake at 325 (although i actually started at 350 and turned it down to 325 after 10 minutes or so) for 45 minutes or until a toasty golden brown

listening to: yo la tengo

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

moroccan carrot salad with citrus and spice

oh hey, look, it's almost march. time flies when you're unemployed! (no it doesn't) 

i've been trying to make the most of this interlude of working part-time. i tend to be one of those people who really doesn't do that well with enforced time off (i get antsy), but it's been nice to have time to do various cooking-related projects (i seasoned a new wok!), take the dogs on long walks, and finally get around to planting a small herb garden. actually "herb garden" sounds fancier than it is - it's just a couple of plastic bins, really. but i'm super-excited about the culinary possibilities of my new endeavor - now i'll have italian parsley, basil, oregano, chives, orange and chocolate mints, pineapple sage, and mexican tarragon (aka mexican mint marigold) at my fingertips. 

unfortunately the garden came about after i made this moroccan-y carrot salad, or i'd definitely have used some of the orange mint in it. even sans orange (or any) mint, though, it was well worth making and it brightened up an otherwise dreary february day with its citrus-spicy carrot ribbons and non-homegrown herbs.

i tend to keep a lot of dried spices around, as they're easy to get in small amounts in the bulk section of our fancy local supermarket. if i could only get whole bottles at a time, i'd probably have fewer. so if you don't have some of these, nbd. just leave them out or add more of what you do have, to taste.

here i used about 1/8 of a teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and coriander and perhaps 1/4 teaspoon each of za'atar and kosher salt.

then i added juice from 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 a small orange and a couple of teaspoons (aka a "glug") of olive oil and maybe a teaspoon each of honey and pomegranate molasses. ta da! dressing! it's totally to taste, though, so play with it a bit.

you could cut the carrots in whatever way you prefer. i was going to grate/julienne them with my mandoline, but i can't find it and now i'm not sure if i've even seen it since we left portland. it's possible that my mom threw/gave it away, as i'm not sure she's forgiven it for chopping the tip of my finger off a couple of years ago (lesson: be so SO careful with those things. they WANT to hurt you. also brussels sprouts are hard to cut on a mandoline.). 

so i used a peeler to cut them into long ribbons instead. because pretty!

a little bit of chopped shallot or scallions wouldn't be out of place here in addition to the herbs, but not having any, i just tossed in a big handful each of chopped parsley and cilantro. because in adversity we make do. just like the pioneers.

this will keep well in the fridge for at least a few days. the dressing pools in the bottom of the bowl a bit, but you could add some chickpeas or other beans or some chicken or hard-boiled eggs  or feta and make a very pleasant little lunch for yourself.

*ingredients* for maybe 4 servings
4 large carrots
1/8 teaspoon or so cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, sumac
1/4 teaspoon or so za'atar and kosher salt
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
juice from 1/2 lemon and 1/2 small orange (~1/4 cup or less total)
1 teaspoon  honey and 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (or just 1-2 teaspoons honey)
1 handful each chopped parsley and cilantro (and/or mint) - maybe 1/2 cup total

listening to: a pandora station for MIA's paper planes, so kate nash, lily allen (wow, do not cross that kid) and (perhaps inevitably) MIA herself.

Friday, February 1, 2013

breakfast salad - kale, avocado, bacon & egg

i'm basically endlessly interested in what people are eating at any given time. i was actually excited when people initially thought that twitter was just going to be a bunch of people yapping about what sandwich they had for lunch. 

especially interesting to me are regional differences in what's considered "breakfast food." in the united states in general, we tend to think of things like omelets, pancakes, or oatmeal, but here in austin, breakfast tacos or migas are among the most popular ways to start the day. when i lived in portland, we swooned over wild salmon hash. i guess in pennsylvania they eat scrapple? etc, etc. and of course outside the united states there are as many favored breakfasts as there are people - kaya toast in singapore, ful medames in egypt - you get the idea.

all this by way of saying that it's not totally out of the bounds of normalcy to eat salad for breakfast. personally, i can't handle sweet or overly bread-y-based breakfasts - i like protein and savoriness to start my day. this salad hits all the right breakfast buttons for me, with a creamy avocado and yogurt dressing, vibrant raw kale and a bit of bacon and a fried egg to keep you sated and happy until you have a sandwich to tweet about.

kale kale kale. everyone's talking about it. i like it in salads mostly, though sometimes i cook it like other greens - with olive oil, garlic and chili flakes. for this iteration i used the regular curly kale, though the flatter darker lacinato kale would be good as well. just take the stems out by holding the stem end in one hand and running your index finger and thumb along the stem to the top of the leaf - the non-stem part should come off pretty easily. then pile the leaves up and slice very thinly - as thin as possible. this keeps it from being too tough.

put the leaves in a large bowl, add two tablespoons of olive oil and massage the oil into the leaves. the oil apparently softens the cuticle of the leaf, making it more tender. i don't really find tenderness to be a problem with the lacinato kale, but with the curly stuff, you definitely want to do this step.

the dressing comes together quickly in a food processor - half an avocado, 1/4 cup of greek yogurt, the zest of 1/2 - 1 whole lemon, the juice of same, a teaspoon or so of salt and a small-medium clove of garlic. you want to cut the garlic up a bit so that it blends in nicely. or you could use shallot. or regular yogurt. it is, after all, your thing. do what you want to do. once the dressing's nicely blended up, you might as well use your hands again to make sure that each leaf-bit is coated. it's messy but effective.

you can eat it like this and it's a good salad. it'll last for awhile (~4 days, at least) in the fridge with no ill effects. i like to dress it up a bit for breakfast, though, with the addition of some turkey bacon and a fried egg. clearly one could also use regular bacon. i just don't dig on swine, that's all (though because of their cuteness and intelligence, rather than their apocryphal filthiness).

surely everyone knows how to make bacon and a fried egg, but just in case - i like to cut the bacon up into little pseudo-lardons, then cook over medium-high heat until cooked through and crispy (it should take perhaps 5 minutes or probably less). then you can cook the egg(s) in the bacon fat! yeah! i like to put the egg in an already-hot pan over medium heat and salt and pepper it well. then put a lid on it so that the yolk cooks as the bottom is getting all frilly and crisp. different people have different fried egg preferences, so just cook as you see fit. i like it when the white is fully opaque and the yolk is still runny.

then just add the bacon to the salad, slide an egg on top and you're golden. if you're not eating all of the salad immediately, you could keep the bacon and kale separate until you're ready for it. it might stay crisper. and i would only do the egg when you're just about to eat. no one wants cold old eggs.

this also makes a fine dinner or lunch salad, if you roll like that.

*ingredients* makes 3-4 servings, depending on how much kale you want

1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large avocado
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
1 small-medium clove garlic
1/2-1 teaspoon salt
3 or 4 strips of bacon (i used turkey bacon) *optional
eggs (probably like 1 per serving, so 3-4 total) *optional

listening to: my main jams these days are kishi bashi and the new st. vincent and david byrne album. lots of strings and horns (respectively) get me every time.