Monday, April 1, 2013

Musings on cooking

I cooked last week on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights. And I realized something kind of profound. I like to cook. But only when it turns out well. And it only turns out well if I have the time and concentration to devote to enjoying the cooking AND a) I have a recipe OR b) I've made it so many times that I have a feel for it and can pretty much make it up as I go along.

I made hummus and tabbouleh, followed a recipe for the tabbouleh and made up the hummus, and it was delicious. Perfect. Honestly. I don't say that very often about my cooking. Whereas the fried chicken that I ad libbed for my parents was just barely edible. Maybe not that bad, but certainly not tasty. They were happy for the company, at least. And the recipe that I followed, barely, for Lara's kale and bean stew, ended up in a flavorless concoction that we all ate because it was clearly good for us and had tasty croutons stowed at the bottom of the bowl.

Friday's dinner of roasted asparagus, grilled salmon with salt and dill and super-buttery garlic bread just taught me never to cook if I don't feel like it. At this point in my cooking education, I rarely make disasters anymore- most things are palatable- which is a nice change from before, say, co-habitation with Alex. But if my heart isn't in it, it will taste uninspired and all I will get from it is some sort of moral satisfaction that I used the asparagus before it went bad in the veggie drawer. And these days, satisfaction comes much more easily from smaller efforts.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


Still trying to cook good food and enjoying it most of the time. Do not have time to blog about said food. Perhaps in the future. Signing off for now...


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Venison and the New Year

It has been a couple of months since anything has been posted here... in the meantime, Atticus turned 1, we had lots of visitors and Christmas and New Years. So lots of good food and lots of changes, but little time to write. But now halfway through January there's a little break so here's a list of two weeks worth of fun in the kitchen and how our 2013 has started out.

I started off the New Year by killing something. I think that this is the first year I can say that. I'm sure I have killed a spider or two in the past, but this time it was a large, breathing thing that was not bothering me in the least. I killed Bambi's mother.

It was actually a very worthwhile and interesting experience. The idea was that my father-in-law has not been hunting in a while, and so Erin and I decided to go with him as a Christmas present. We got the guns ready, went out to the blind and waited. It was a cold but beautiful January 1 and we had spent the night at the ranch the night before so not crazy partying or anything and everyone was feeling good. First the turkeys showed up, and I proposed to shoot one of those. Bill vetoed that idea secondary to the painful plucking process. After about an hour, we saw a couple of deer but they quickly scampered off. But then a little bit later, a couple more creeped into view and then came right out of the woods and started eating. Shortly after that, one of them fell to the ground with a bullet through her heart. I don't hunt much, but I do eat meat. So I'm glad that I actually shot, killed, and field-dressed a deer. It definitely gave me more respect for the animal and made me think actively about what eating meat means. And they are apparently over-populated.

All that to say, the venison has been great. Have had a roast and burgers so far and looking forward to lots more. So here's the menu for the last week and the upcoming week. Thank you deer.

Mussels, carrot, celery and mushroom with linguini
- simple recipe: saute carrot, celery, onion with plenty o' pepper in large pan, add mushroom at end, then deglaze with white wine and reduce, then add mussels, cover for 7 minutes and serve over linguini

Bambi burgers, onion rings, broccoli
- lovely, burgers take much less time with venison
Margherita pizza with spinach salad
Blue corn tamales with spicy corn 
Roast venison, acorn squash and potatoes
- the venison I cooked like any roast - browned, then in oven for 20 minutes on 450. The key was the overnight with salt, pepper, lots of thyme and allspice; cooked in over with cranberries and carrots which made for good bites
- the acorn squash was stuffed which I haven't tried before. Just cooked a chopped apple in butter with pecans with some onion over the stove for a while to soften everything up, then mixed in some acorn squash after half cooked, blended with hand blender and back in remaining squash to bake until done
Paalak paneer and chicken masala
- Erin made a great chicken masala, Atticus loved it too - ate his peas!

Next week:
Grilled chicken, asparagus, couscous
Fish tacos with beans, corn
Spaghetti with venison meatballs, salad
- this is solid recipe from a Tex Mex cookbook we have
Curried kale, vegetable korma, rice

Monday, November 26, 2012


Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday. I don't think the commercial interests have yet found a way to monetize it in a way which creeps into its wonderfulness. Eating lots of food and spending time with family or friends without having gift giving or hunting for eggs or setting of explosives... all in the context of giving thanks for what we have and giving back to others. Lovely.

Erin pulled off this year's fest basically by herself. Turkey, stuffing (the fennel, pear, sausage variety), cranberries, potatoes both sweet and Idaho-ish, and a great gravy to boot. She did a fantastic job and we had good company to boot. The night ended with Erin's Aunt Linda and I playing a guess what I'm describing in words type game versus Erin and her cousin Helena. Lots of wine, no clear winner. 

Atticus and I had just gotten back from a quick trip to Hawaii which I will memorialize on this blog with this photo only and have enough be said:

I took a brief hiatus from cooking which was a welcome respite in some ways though the rhythm of cooking can be peaceful for sure. Without further ado, the menu for the week:

Prosciutto-wrapped cod with lemon and parimgiano piselli and bread
- have to keep the salt down on the cod since the prosciutto has a bit but otherwise wrap, pepper and garlic and in the oven with a little olive oil, lovely
Two beans and a turkey stew with salad
- gonna wing (no pun intended) this one from the leftover turkey and some pinto and kidney beans along with onion, a little cilantro, some tomatoes and we'll see what else
Grilled catfish, potato cakes and broccoli
- catfish is a staple in Texas now, will transform the leftover potatoes from T-day with some chives, green onions and sour cream into fried cakes of goodness
Garden burgers with sweet potatoes and okra
- Atticus loves these things - the garden burgers. Will not touch mushrooms any other way that I know of
Gas station tacos and kale
- have grown to love kale (thank you Oregon); the gas station tacos lit my mouth on fire last time, so less chipotle, same pineapple and cloves though with a pit of pork braised and delicious! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

My sister

Who made this?
Lily has an amazing set of projects related to food going on in Mexico City. I had a chance to go down there this past weekend and see some of what she's been up to... I've grouped our outings by food in no particular order.

She has a few different collaborations with restaurants in the burgeoning Mexico City food scene. We visited one such place with a bee theme - Bresca. Very welcoming atmosphere, subdued but elegant decor and of course Lily knew half the staff which didn't hurt. The roof is outlined like a honeycomb, the menu pattern is an artist's rendering of a bee's honey dance (pretty cool in real life if you've ever see it), and there are a few other tips of the chef's hat to the producer of honey. The food did not disappoint even though they've only been open a couple of months and are staffed by a young group from the CIA.

Lily's influence was throughout the menu which made her brother oh so proud. I started with an arugula and tomato salad - grown from the garden Lily designed and maintains in part in the restaurant space and in part in the back. Tomatoes done three ways - gelatin, candied and fresh. She had a pair of solid ravioli with a sage sauce (also from the garden), and the kitchen sent out a lovely braised fish dish with three different carmelized veggies. My main was interesting though not mind-blowing - pork belly, but the dessert made up for it and the Pinotage from South Africa was a great selection as well. All in all, it was a lovely meal with a brilliant gardener (she has some other great projects too).

Made of seeds of some kind!
Mexico City surprised in other ways too - beautiful city scape downtown especially now that it's all prettied up for the day of the dead (see pics).

Otherwise, I had some of the better tacos of the last year on this trip... both in the city and when we went outside for a day trip on Saturday to Tepoztlan. I'm not sure why the tacos were so good but they are amazing! Had some solid nopale, zucchini flower and roast chicken tacos but I think a big piece of it is the fresh tortillas and the amazing salsa more than the filling. Something to aspire too. Missed the boy and Erin but a good trip with excellent food was had for sure! 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Floore Country Store

Erin gave me a wonderful birthday present last night... slightly belated.

We went out to Floore's Country Store for a Willie Nelson show and had BBQ before. Best time I've had in Texas so far! In part because had some quality time with Erin which seems rare these days but also just very Texas.

First, to Rudy's BBQ, marketed as Texas' worst BBQ while at the same time being ranked by various diner polls and votes to be in the top 5 pretty consistently. We were behind a German tourist family in line and the dad was so excited, the mom seemed just weirded out by the whole thing and the adolescent children were feigning indifference as they do so well. Anyway, between Erin and I, we split 3/4lb of brisket, three sides and a sausage link. Plus of course the requisite white bread, pickle and jalapeno.
It's a dangerous thing for me to order by weight. Much better when it's such a sandwich because I inevitably will order more than is good for me. Or Erin should order. Two people should not eat 3/4lb of meat and then sides... oh but we did. I had the leftover brisket on the car ride home and it was even better then - more smoky and flavorful somehow (perhaps the beer helped). The creamed corn was delicious, the potato salad neither here nor there and the coleslaw pretty good. Darn good food in a perfect Texas atmosphere - view of the freeway and a beautifully huge Texas sky.

Then off to Floore Country Store in Helotes. This place used to host Willie Nelson every Saturday night when he was up and coming. It's a country dancing hall with an outside venue for bigger stars. But the place is still pretty darn tiny. Inside it's got tables that get moved out of the way for dancing and the outside area has trees and maybe space for 1000 people or so. Pretty intimate setting. He opened with Whisky River (as Erin predicted) and just kept going for a couple hours with his own stuff, some blues and everything from BB King to Dylan to his recent stuff (which I'm much less familiar with). We danced and enjoyed the hell out of ourselves... 

Monday, September 24, 2012

breakfast tacos

It's been a wild couple of weeks getting more settled into a routine of cooking with Texas ingredients and doing medicine Texas style (think guns being one shocker - you can't bring your gun into the hospital - sign at front informs you of this and plenty of kids shot accidentally most of the time). Anyway, one of the newer discoveries and habits is breakfast tacos. They are a staple down here. For better or worse.

My main interaction with said breakfast taco is picking them up for the residents on call over the weekend - a gesture more than anything but still. I've been going to a place that is on the bike ride to work that sells both tacos and doughnuts (see pics) and is chock full of Mexican-American grandmas making tacos from scratch. I go early enough that you can see them rolling out the dough and cooking the tortillas as they're made. While these probably have no small part in San Antonio's obesity epidemic as the majority of customers make apparent, they are delicious. So my hat (or helmet) off to the breakfast taco!

(While doing research for this blog, I actually found a news article on someone who saw the face of Jesus in his breakfast taco's tortilla and stopped eating it)... which is the blasphemy?

Without further ado, the menu for both last week and this:

Last week: 
Sirloin steak tacos, avocado, corn - great steak with lime, cumin, cilantro served with BBQ'd corn, avocado
Fusilli with veggies - as described (alla arrabiata sauce)
Vietnamese catfish sandwiches with kale - these were good, fried the catfish, made the sandwiches with french bread, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro with braised kale as a side
Chicken quesadillas with squash - speaks for itself
Pork kabobs with carrots and couscous - Erin's time to shine, she made a delicious version of this with a rosemary-orange marinade for the pork and carrots!

This week: 
Burgers, onion rings, fried zucchini - onion rings are a tricky business to make a batter stick, I had to improvise last minute with some sweetened condensed milk and regular milk but it came out ok
Teriyaki salmon, rice, chard - some excellent steelhead salmon on sale (so not really salmon)
Red lentil soup with mustard greens, garlic bread - basically cook the lentils down in water for 30mins, then add mustard greens cooked in whatever spice you like - cumin and mustard seed will work
Tomato soup with grilled cheese - may have to pick up some gruyere for this one and add some milk to the tomato soup with thyme from the garden
Enchiladas - have gotten better at a green sauce now, going to have a go at it and roast the tomatillos first for a smokier flavor (and some garlic) since what's going inside is pretty earthy - mushrooms, chicken, spinach, cheese
Fish tacos - we love this if you can't tell, always a winner with a good homemade pico de gallo and a coleslaw (use mayo + lime and you can't go wrong)

That's that!