Come let me make brunch for you – in the evening! Yes, evening brunch is the latest craze; it’s called Drunch. Not really, but it is going to be delicious. I will be making a lime-glazed carrot and ginger bundt cake, potato crust asparagus quiche, cherry-orange zest scones, a fancy mint-infused fruit salad, and citrus blossom gin fizzes. Wow! I have no idea how I will accomplish this in a two and a half hour cooking class! Will I make it, or will I chicken out, grab the pitcher of gin fizz, and run? You won’t know unless you are there.
I just baked this recipe from a past post and was reminded of how much KER-POW it has. So I am dipping into the archives to repost this one. Read it and bake, Eaters.
Since I am a person with a tendency toward melancholy, it isn’t surprising that I love chocolate. I am sure there are even-tempered, sunny people who also love chocolate, and I guess that’s fine. Though, like youth on the young, its mood elevating properties seem wasted there. This week my chocolate fancy turned to that most crucial of meals: breakfast. I thought, if you are inevitably going to have chocolate some time during the day, then why not as soon as you get out of bed?
My sister-in-law, the mad baker, brought this double chocolate banana bread recipe to my attention, along with the wonderland that is the King Arthur Flour website. I have used their organic whole wheat pastry flour for years, and it works well in this recipe in place of all-purpose. Hey, it’s breakfast, so it should involve whole grains.
My husband refused this, since he doesn’t like chocolate at breakfast. Think of the chilling, pregnant silence that followed this pronouncement. This is akin to his nonsense about not liking apricot jam. I know Eaters, what else is he going to say he doesn’t like? Babies? Puppies? Kisses? All I can tell you is that maybe I only dated him three months before we got engaged, but he seemed perfectly fine.
My sil and I agree that half the sugar (use brown for maximum flavor) and half the chocolate chips (the darkest possible) are best here. Yogurt in place of sour cream is fine and yields tasty results. She also turned me on to making this in muffin form. Handheld baked goods are a must, now that my family’s busy Spring is beginning. Soon I will be always in a state of pitching shin guards, and sundry odorous protective gear into my van along with some muffins, and taking off for a soccer game. It’s also running season for me; before or after (also during) a long run, these are just the thing. It’s an activity for your mouth other than complaining that the route is too hilly.
I began my romance with bananas and chocolate the summer before my sophomore year of college when I worked in a catering kitchen. The pastry chef, a talented but mercurial fellow, made a buttery, three layer banana cake alternated with almost black (to match his moods) stripes of chocolate ganache. It was a tall, glossy, gorgeous creature, and I got to bring leftover wedges home to my family. When I tasted that cake I knew, I just knew, I had a future as an Eater. In this area at least, I feel confident that I have lived up to my early promise.
And for the record, I am not saying that chocolate will take all your pain away. I don’t advocate using chocolate to treat melancholy. I advocate using chocolate and bananas.
One of the many delights my husband brought into my life that ranks just below – you know – children, is the Pagliacci salad. On one of our first dates we went to a movie in Seattle, followed by my first trip to Pagliacci Pizza. For those of you who have not sampled its wares, PP is a Seattle-area chain restaurant, and a good one.
Flash forward three years to me as a very pregnant graduate student at the University of Washington. When it came time for my break from a shift on the engineering library reference desk, I would make my ponderous, bulbous way over to the student center where (oh joy!) there was a little Pagliacci outpost where I could get a salad and a slice. I really feel like the final five pounds I managed to acquire just under the wire, (I almost didn’t break 40!) were owed to that pizza and so, to my husband. Thanks honey.
Since pizza is cheesy, I am a believer in coupling it with a large salad. Beer is also good with it, but for different reasons. Last week I had the pleasure of recreating the Pagliacci signature salad to serve with pizza for thirty of my husband’s colleagues. Sadly, there is no PP in Olympia, though Vic’s makes fantastic thin crust pizza. My husband had a hankering for the salad he introduced me to on our long-ago date, and asked me if I would make it for the work party. That night was nineteen years ago, before he knew he would marry me, watch me grow to an alarming girth, and shrink (pretty much) down again -twice – producing charming daughters (and making countless salads).
I think the special flare of this salad comes from basil, garbanzo beans and salami. I have used smoked mozzarella when I omit the salami, which is it just as good, I think. Pagliacci even makes a party size salad for groups, or for one immense pregnant person.
Pagliacci Salad of Destiny
3 hearts of romaine
1 colorful bell pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
half a red onion (diced is preferable, rather than sliced, as pictured here)
5 slices of salami, cut into ribbons
pine nuts (my addition, optional but tasty)
1/4 cup shaved parmesan (my addition, optional)
1/2 cup cubed mozzarella (smoked if not using salami)
1 can garbanzo beans
3/4 cup torn basil leaves
1/2 (roughly) cup olive oil
2 teasoons red wine vinegar (I think a 3:1 ratio of olive oil and vinegar works for most people)
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
small garlic clove, minced
You don’t need much in the way of directions. Assemble salad. Assemble dressing. Combine, and eat with gusto. You may want to set a few of the toppings aside and bedeck the salad after you toss it, so all the pretty bits don’t fall to the bottom before you serve it.
It was a rocky December. Not rocky compared to say, Roy Moore or Matt Lauer’s Decembers, (poor fellas, huh?) but still, not without challenges. One night I realized there was nothing – NOTHING – for it but homemade macaroni and cheese.
I won’t tell you again how to make it, I won’t belabor my opinion about two cheeses, (I vote sharp cheddar and Gouda) and I won’t elucidate – for the 1000th time – the charms of this simple, rich, comforting dish.* I will just say it got me through a trying weekend, and I don’t regret the illicit hours spent in its company. Yes, my husband was away, and no, that’s no excuse. I am much too deep into middle life to give in to such a creamy dish, and I know that propriety and the precariousness of anyone’s BMI after age 45, decrees that I never partake. Nevertheless I did, and I learned something from the adventure: it’s even better with macadamia nuts on it. Mac with mac.
This reminds me of when I learned about croissant bread pudding. Ina Garten, that butter-flogging minx, enlightened me. You thought bread pudding was the apex of yumminess, that it couldn’t be improved upon. Make it with croissants and you will wonder how you ever led such an empty, ignorant existence.
If the winter is testing the limits of your tolerance for dark, for wet, for inept government and incivility at every turn, then Eaters I urge you to double your mac and double your cheese. Someday it will be spring, but for now, grab a spoon.
My friend Jessica urged me to use facebook, and my cooking site, to promote the cooking classes I teach at Bayview School of Cooking. Once again, I have been wise to surround myself with people much savvier than I am.
I will be teaching a winter salads class on February 1. It’s going to be splendid: mango-black rice salad, butter lettuce, persimmon and macadamia nut salad, a pan-Asian crunch bowl and the oddball, (but popular) celery root and apple salad. The school does not have an online sign-up, or I would include the link. The class includes a wine pairing, so you can relax while I cook, like my children do (but with wine).
I was scheduled to teach a holiday desserts class on December 5, but it was cancelled due to low enrollment. Eaters, this won’t due! Here are links to posts on some of my favorite holiday desserts that I was going to make in the class. These include: pomegranate gelato, apple latkes, cranberry-lime pie, and the pumpkin tiramisu which is not my favorite but is a consistent party pleaser.
Hope to see you in February! In the mean time, dare me to use this bundt pan?
Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!
Anyone who has cell phone contact with me knows I was in Austin, Texas the week before Thanksgiving (all those pictures of cupcakes I texted y’all? Y’all are welcome!). When I found out my husband had a conference there, I thought I should go along to keep an eye on him. My sister agreed to take care – excellent care – of my daughters for the week, so I thought I better jump at the chance. I will try to encapsulate my action-packed week untethered from all domestic duties and obligations. As is the case with most good stories, Eaters, (well, most that have me as the protagonist) it begins and ends with food. The middle part is also food.
Austin had been on my must-visit list ever since I saw a picture of Barton Springs in a magazine 3 years ago. My imagination is captured by swimming spots and eateries, especially when they exist near each other. Luckily that old caution about getting a cramp when you take a post-prandial dip is a myth, or I would have fallen into peril much sooner with my eat-swim-repeat lifestyle.
We arrived on a balmy Sunday night and walked from our downtown hotel to the funky South Congress neighborhood, stopping for a photo at Jo’s coffee. We ate at Guero’s, and since I was hungry and elated to be starting my vacation, I enjoyed it, even if it wasn’t the most inspired meal. The Austin Lager was superb though. I don’t have any vocabulary to describe beer, but to borrow from the old saying, it was colder than my ex’s heart (trust me, that could freeze your thumbs off).
On our walk back we passed the Hey Cupcake airstream (can I live in there please?) and though I am a chocolate cake snob, I indulged in a chocolate cupcake because it had cream cheese frosting (so did the carrot cake, but I was wary of the common, white collar crime of cinnamon abuse). It was a splendid little cake, and even better for being consumed while walking on the first warm night of our first vacation without kids.
I was worried about how much stamina/tolerance my husband would be able to muster on this trip (“Look honey! They make Tempeh bahn mi! That’s incredible! Look honey! These Great Tailed Grackles are so charming; I need to photograph them eating out of that garbage can! Look Honey, it’s O’Henry’s actual house! Look Honey! It’s a museum exhibit that will take me 3 hours to experience while you claw out your eyes from boredom! Look Honey! Etc!”). Indeed, on Monday and Tuesday he had to abandon me at some point, to “do some work.” He was actually in Austin for work, but between you and me, I think he just couldn’t look at another bird. He may also have been weary of lashing me to my bicycle mast every time we passed a patisserie. Whatever the source of his fatigue, it’s okay, because we visited the capitol together, (largest in the U.S., because it’s Texas) experienced the awe-inspiring LBJ Library and Museum and, most importantly, he got to watch me eat nachos (from Chuy’s, I recommend them – pickled jalepenos are a must) and listen to me complain about my distended stomach. I walked the labyrinth at St. David’s Episcopal Church without him, but I knew he was there in spirit because the man can’t get enough labyrinths.
The Chuy’s on Barton Springs road is adjacent to “The Picnic” food truck park, the perfect place to enjoy shaded picnic tables and try the local beers (they weren’t serving them; I brought them in my backpack). Have you noticed there are no food trucks created around the cuisine of countries where people are long-lived? Where is the Okanawan food cart where they make you chop wood and carry water before they ladle you up an earthen mug of steaming “Longevity Root Vegetable Broth” and seat you at a bench with centenarians? Nowhere, that’s where. Just as well for me I suppose, since I wasn’t really there to practice austerity, as anyone who saw me practically sitting on a pile of nachos will attest.
Then on the way to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden (oops there goes my husband again! Bye Honey! He’s cycling away awfully fast…) I stopped at Holla Mode Thai Ice Cream, thanks to a tip from a local. This was something utterly new to me and thrilling, since it was 80 degrees and humid that day. This style of ice cream is made to order atop a frozen metal disk. Once the ingredients are amalgamated and smoothed into a thin layer, the cunning creamarista (?) scrapes the mixture up it into tidy rolls and deposits them in a cup. Because I asked for extra lime juice in my key lime ice cream, (and hold the graham crackers because that’s just weird) mine wouldn’t roll up properly and was served to me in sheets. No matter, it was tart and refreshing.
And I didn’t just eat! We were car-free so we walked and biked for miles. I got to swim in Barton Springs* (twice in one day!) and in Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest pool in Texas, which was built in 1936. I kept picturing pre-war bathers there in modest, 1930s swimming costumes. I shopped at Bookpeople, we ate breakfast at the haunted Driskill Hotel, built in 1886, but were unable to contact the spirit world. I waited at sunset on the Anne W. Richards bridge for the largest North American urban bat colony (as opposed to the rural bat colonies who sway elections) to emerge, even though I had already called the bat hotline** (using the bat phone) and found out they all hightailed it to Mexico two weeks prior to my visit. I listened to a little live music, though not as much as you might think, since I go to bed at 9.30. I toured the Prohibition exhibit at the Bullock Museum, and I took multiple pictures of charming turtles lined up on logs.
I had the best time. And I haven’t even told you about the branding irons. Those are big there. Next time…
*In answer to the frequently asked question,”Hot springs?!” No, cold springs. Well, cool anyway: 68 F.
**Yes, that’s real: (512) 327-9721.
I like to take long walks on holidays. I take long walks on regular days, but it feels especially important to me on days that involve feasting. I decided a few years ago that American holidays are just a flaunting of the seven deadly sins. Well, certainly of a selection of them; gluttony, sloth, avarice, despair, and wrath seem amply represented at your average family gathering. So I started taking head-clearing, righteous walks.
Since I was going to pass the Billy Frank Wildlife Refuge on an early Thanksgiving day errand, I thought I should walk the four mile round trip on the boardwalk. I was not entirely well-clad for the weather, but it was just misting as I began. There is often weather here, lots of it, and all of it quite wet. Mist is just the weather taking a moment to collect its thoughts before getting really nasty. I commenced my walk with the utmost gratitude for everything I have (delightful children, loving spouse, charming friends, markets that sell artisanal cheeses, indoor plumbing) and for all that I have not (fallen arches, rats, a failing liver, bedbugs). About seven steps into my walk, the sky opened up.
It seemed to rain from the ground, delivering its waters up my very nostrils. The quilted skirt that had made my lower quadrants feel so jaunty and toasty just a moment before, became akin to a sodden bag of spinach clinging to my thighs. Rivulets of mascara flowed down my coat and into my Wellies. Did I turn back? Of course not. I am a lifetime devotee of the sunk-cost fallacy. I had come this far (that would be 50 yards, approximately, from my vehicle) and I wasn’t going to turn back now. The inside of my raincoat had become wetter than the outside in nine seconds, yet I trudged on. Who do I think I am? Ernest Shackleton?
Out there with me were several other imbeciles, also determined to take a righteous walk and avoid their extended families. I was guilty of a sin they forgot to include in the seven deadlies: marriage to a hare-brained idea. For every hundred sensible ideas I discard, I have a few, cherished, horrible ones I cling to. Why do I do this? Why am I like this?
Well, because I am right of course. Moments after I had my realization that I was just another Thanksgiving fool, that the bloated masses, anesthetized by football and tryptophan on their plaid, scratchy couches, counting the hours until Walmart opened early for Black Friday, were wiser by far, than me, the rain ceased. It was replaced by a gentle breeze. I walked the whole way and took pride (tick off another of the deadlies) in my determination, my grit, my love of the outdoors! It’s so good to be right! Once again I clung doggedly, mindlessly to a ridiculous notion, and it paid off – another life lesson not learned. If I was you, I would want to be me, too.