Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pants Pants Revolution

Favorite fashion moment of Utopiafest:

And what has appeared at Nordstrom: navy polka dot palazzo pants

Paired with either giant floral or teeny floral pattern.  Weekend plans amended to make this happen.

Suggested drink pairing: mint julep.

Other crazy pants by this brand that I enjoy:

Hot pink skinnies  (drink pairing: mimosa)

Ikat tie dye wide leg number (drink pairing: poolside bar, dealer's choice)

graphic via

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Book Reports

The last few weeks have contained more-than-usual downtime and travelling, both instances in which I catch up on my reading list.  Lately this has been headed by recently published works of nonfiction recommended by you, gentle readers, or that I heard about via radio/newspaper/magazine.  All have been superb.

First up, An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler,

a collection of gorgeous essays on home cooking, with emphasis on using everything (no such thing as scraps!) and the emotionality of food preparation and consumption.  One might enjoy this more or less based on your Myers-Briggs type; if you are looking for America's Test Kitchen-style exactitude and scientific rigor, you will not find it here: 
Frying the leaves of parsley, rosemary or sage is a good if messy way of making an especially elegant garnish from something ordinary.  Fried herbs' colors and shapes crystallize.  Fried parsley becomes a little solider.  Fried sage is an exaggeration of the leaf's almost animal curve.  Fried rosemary looks like rosemary would in the realm of ideas. 
                                                     (My italics)
You will find beautiful prose, however, that is substantive and supple, and appreciation for the author's reverential approach to food, eating and entertaining.  The realization that all can be fixed by accompaniment by Parmesan and good olive oil (these words/phrases appear in the book 27 and 100 times, respectively).  And what to do when you are sick of cooking, sick of the neverending hunt for and consumption of food:
There are times when I can't bear to think about cooking.  Food is what I love, and how I communicate love, and how I calm myself.  But sometimes, without my knowing why, it is drained of all that.  Then cooking becomes just another one of hunger's jagged edges.  So I have ways to take hold of this thing and wrest it back from the claws of resentment, and settle it back among things that are mine. 
 This is a lovely book, and very much worth reading if one if interested in home economics, slow food, locavorism.  This book is a book of slow things (intuitive) to America's Test Kitchen fast things (tested and precise), with a common goal of culinary aptitude leading to togetherness and enjoyment.

Swift things are beautiful:
Swallows and deer
And lightning that falls
Bright-veined and clear,
Rivers and meteors,
Wind in the wheat,
The strong-withered horse,
The runner's sure feet.
And slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.

Elizabeth Coatsworth

Next, Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price:

Interviews and photographs of the bookshelves and libraries of 13 writers, plus Top Ten Most Important Books to each.  As the introductions states:

We display books that we'll never read; we hide books that we thumb to death...To expose a bookshelf is to compose a self.
Fabulous, interesting, made me feel woefully under-read.  A wonderful little book.


If Walls Could Talk by Lucy Worsley:

A marvelous book about home life in Britain from the Middle Ages through the present: home design, sleeping arrangements, personal hygiene, sexual mores, childbirth, diet, sewage systems... just fascinating.  Worth a read and a re-read.

Also of interest may be William Broad's The Science of Yoga for you yogis and yoginis out there -- the science, mysticism, benefits and dangers of yoga practice.  You can read and listen to his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air that sparked my interest in the book here.

And The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite by former FDA commissioner David Kessler MD -- I read this book about a year and a half ago, and am re-reading it now after my sister reminded me about it.  Now, unlike at the time of my initial reading, I prepare a much (much) greater proportion of the food that I eat from scratch, and this book (along with recent reads An Everlasting Meal, Ruhlman's Twenty, America's Test Kitchen volumes, Mark Bittman's books) makes it clear why that effort is so very paramount.  The first part of the book deals with the neurobiology and behavior of eating (it turns out rats will work almost as hard for a reward of Froot Loops as cocaine), and the second part the food industry's efforts to design foods that are hyperpalatable, addictive and easy to swallow.  This last component interferes with the recognition of satiety; less chewing means less work means more food gets eaten.  So, of course, there's room for dessert... 

[Another way to tenderize meat] is through needle injection.  Hundreds of needles are used to pierce the meat, tearing up the connective tissue.  "It's been prechewed," said Billy Rosenthal, former president of Standard Meat.

"Processing... creates a sort of 'adult baby food'".

This book enforces for me the importance - perhaps even the health mandate - of eating at home as much as possible.  [It also makes me feel under siege at restaurants, at the grocery store, at the pharmacy checkout].  The third, fourth and fifth parts of the book discuss ways to recognize that we are all rats existing a world of always-available Froot Loops, and how to be cognizant that food and the food industry manipulate the very chemistry of our brains, and how to gain insight and control.

Happy reading, all!

WPA poster (1941), via

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Springing forward

Happy first day of spring!

The most vernal of vegetables, asparagus, nestled in the tastiest of cheeses (fontina and gruyere), spread on the puffiest of pastry, accompanied by a soft-boiled egg [the breakfastlunchdinner breakthrough of 2012].  Hello, spring.

photo via (by Kana Okada)

Asparagus and Cheese Tart (Food Network Magazine, April 2012)

  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (about 1/2 pound), thawed
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup grated comte or gruyere cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

  • Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the asparagus; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Drain and transfer to the ice water to stop the cooking; drain and pat dry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

    Roll out the puff pastry into a 10-by-16-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Bake until light golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet.

    Meanwhile, mix the fontina, comte, shallot, egg yolks, milk, nutmeg and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl until combined. Spread the cheese mixture evenly over the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus on the tart and bake until the cheese mixture is slightly puffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the lemon zest. Serve warm or at room temperature.

                                  Spring is like a perhaps hand
    by E. E. Cummings

    Spring is like a perhaps hand 
    (which comes carefully 
    out of Nowhere)arranging 
    a window,into which people look(while 
    people stare
    arranging and changing placing 
    carefully there a strange 
    thing and a known thing here)and
    changing everything carefully
    spring is like a perhaps 
    Hand in a window 
    (carefully to 
    and fro moving New and 
    Old things,while 
    people stare carefully 
    moving a perhaps 
    fraction of flower here placing 
    an inch of air there)and
    without breaking anything.
    What are your spring plans?  Changing everything carefully - or seismically?

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    South By

    On Saturday we headed to Austin to see a friend from St Louis at her radio station's (the awesome KDHX, you can stream it here) SXSW day party at Jovita's.

    Hi Caron!

    We caught most of Joe Pug's show, a great songwriter.  Eager to hear more of his material -- he is touring now, so if you like this clip, you can check him out soon in a city near you.


    Outside on the patio of Jovita's

    View from the Jovita's patio to other side of the creek
     Then Luke played a show at Sam's Boat, enjoyed a green beer, made some new fans.  If you haven't liked Lucas Jack on Facebook, you should!

    Can you believe all of this fits in a 2005 Equinox?

    View from the front seat (supervisory role).  Bottom half of piano.

    Speaker #1 and top half of piano

    Speaker tripod

    Speaker #2
    Not pictured: bag of cables, keyboard, lights, monitor, et cetera
    As the 'Nox has been slipping in terms of transportational tenability/sustainability, Luke has been shopping for vans recently, an activity we have dubbed:

    Vanity Lair
    Van envy
    and so on.

    Swiss Charred

    If you have read this blog before, you have read about my many attempts to use the Swiss chard that has been a part of my CSA share for the past 15 weeks.  Sauteed, stirred into slow cooker balsamic chicken, folded into enchiladas... this week I wanted to try chard chips, following the logic that everything is better with oil and salt.  I followed the recipe here with the following results:

    So pretty this week: yellow, orange, white.

    Cut into bite size pieces, sprayed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt.

    Swiss charred
    So, yeah... marginal improvement.  Folded into enchiladas and this scrumptious bacon-and-butternut pasta are by far the tastiest ways to employ chard.  (And today I found frozen chunks of butternut squash at the grocery store, so I will make the squash pasta more often.  Prepping the squash is labor intensive and requires a very sharp knife - mine are just too dull most of the time).

    On a sweet note, these pistachio baklava tartlets took 10 minutes to make and have all the salty-sweet goodness of baklava minus the hassle of working with finicky phyllo dough.  Opa!

    photo via


    Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place 15 mini phyllo shells on a baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees F until just golden, 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup chopped pistachios, 1/4 cup each honey and sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon allspice and a pinch of salt to the butter in the skillet; cook, stirring until thick, 5 minutes. Divide among the shells and sprinkle with grated chocolate. Let cool.

    Friday, March 16, 2012

    Feeling Full

    from 'Feeling Full' by Anne Lamott (Oprah, April 2012)

    All I ever wanted since I arrived here on Earth were the things that turned out to be within reach, the same things I needed as a baby—to go from cold to warm, lonely to held, the vessel to the giver, empty to full. You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you're dirty and rattled.

    Sunday, March 11, 2012


    You can freeze buttermilk?  YES.  Another tip: to save bacon fat, strain any sediment and refrigerate for up to 6 months.  Use in place of butter or oil in anything.  (Make the Most of Your Groceries, Everyday Food, March 2012) 

    ... armed with this tidbit, I purchased a little Mason jar of fat from Restaurant Gwendolyn's stand at the farmers' market this Sunday, which the seller/butcher/chef told me was not just rendered bacon fat but fat of  'the whole pig'.  Sounds very Upton Sinclair, but in a good way.  WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

    When using just the white or just the yolk, I throw away the other component.  NO MORE.  Leftover egg whites can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months.  If not using yolks, cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 2 days.  (The Fearless Baker, page 15)
    This gorgeous essay.  READ IT.

    This ATK recipe for lightened-up carrot cake calls for 1 jar of carrot baby food (DUBIOUS) and 1 cup of marshmallow creme (BACK ON BOARD).

    Bless Her Heart blog I read very few blogs (AT ALL) and most are written by people I know. This Austin blog is just lovely - her photography is gorgeous and the author is just so likable. (I understand a personal blog can serve all sorts of purposes- humor, diary, catharsis, cooking, kvetching and on and on) Ms. Blessherheart puts good energy out into the world. Isn't that the highest calling?

    BRANCHING OUT... Today's Letters for a glimpse of a pretty cute couple being adorable.  Maybe too saccharine for daily perusal; save for rescue in straits of emotional hypoglycemia.

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Betsy & The Breakfast Sandwich

    Jeff, Tracie and Betsy just moved to Denver and my mom sent a care package of Wolferman's English muffins to greet them- Tracie posted this photo as a thank-you, saying they made the perfect Betsy-sized breakfast sandwiches:

    And I thought:

    Betsy is so cute!
    I really want a breakfast sandwich!

    I had some sausage patties on hand that I had cooked for breakfast-for-dinner the other day (CSA beef sausage, which renders no fat during cooking and is so flavorful) - next step, biscuit.

    Enter "The Best Buttermilk Biscuits" from America's Test Kitchen Baking Book:

    3-3/4 (18-3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup powdered buttermilk*
    2 T sugar
    4 t baking powder
    1-1/2 t salt
    1 t baking soda
    12 T (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 0.5 inch chunks
    4 T vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into 0.5 inch chunks
    1-1/4 whole milk*

    *you can use 1-1/4 regular buttermilk for the milk and omit the powdered buttermilk, which is what I did.  The authors write that powdered buttermilk imparts the best flavor.

    1.  Place oven rack in middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2.  Pulse the dry ingredients in a food processer to combine, about 3 pulses. Scatter butter and shortening over the top and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, 15 pulses.
    3.  Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in milk (or buttermilk) with a rubber spatula until flour comes together.  Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until dough is uniform, about 30 seconds.  Roll dough into a 10 inch round about 1 inch thick.
    4.  Using a floured 2.5 inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 12 biscuits, reforming dough from scraps as needed.  Arrange biscuits upside down on prepared baking sheets, 1.5 inches apart.
    5.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Rotate pan, reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.

    To make ahead: the cut, unbaked biscuits can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours; bake as directed.

    The verdict: Delicious biscuits with a lean and flavorful sausage patty.  Mmm breakfast sandwiches!  Luke said, Those are really good biscuits, and I don't even like biscuits.

    Breakfast breakthroughs abound  After watching this episode of Cook's Country, I wanted to try the fluffy diner-style omelet, which also appears in the Cook's Country cookbook, of which the Baltimore Sun wrote:

    "The people who worked on this cookbook are fanatics about details, and they are not afraid to use cream."
    Which pretty much falls in line with my personal ethos.

    You'll need:
    3 T heavy cream, chilled
    5 large eggs, room temperature
    1/4 t salt
    2 T unsalted butter
    1/2 cup shredded cheese

    1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle position.  With an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Beat eggs and salt on high speed until frothy and eggs have tripled in volume, 2 minutes.  Fold cream into eggs.
    2.  Melt butter in 10 inch ovensafe nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, swirling to coat sides.  Add egg mixture and cook until edges are nearly set, 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese and transfer to oven.  Bake until eggs are set, 6-8 minutes.
    3.  Remove pan from oven (handle is very hot!)  Sprinkle with remaining cheese and cover until melted, about 1 minutes.  Tilt pan and slide half of the omelet onto a carving board, then use the pan to flip the omelet over onto itself. Cut in half and serve.

    So fluffy

    Luke makes a breakfast sandwich

    Yum.  As Buddhists say, after the ectasy, the laundry.  To the gym! 

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Friday Finds

    Hello, Friday-after-work:

    Little finds from the Interwebs and beyond:

    These gorgeous portraits of Eleanor Callahan by her husband, photographer Harry Callahan

    Cartography, meet Couch: map pillows and other prints (here's the Missouri!)

    Boho forever!  Love this dress.

    Need a gift for the tweens in your life?  High school friend Travis Nichols is a cartoonist and author and you can buy his newest book right here.

    Home scent: water, splash of vanilla, sliced lemon and a sprig of rosemary.  Fabulous.

    via One More Moore

    Bumble and Bumble straight blow dry balm: great scent, tames the hair

    To try: No-Knead Pizza Dough (Jim Lahey, Bon Appetit)

    I have a pile of books, wintry weather, husband making music, sweatpants* warm from the dryer and nowhere to be... heavenly.  Have a great weekend, dear ones!

    *also, no shame