Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What I Would Do for Three Days in Austin

If they let me.  If it were possible to schedule it all (especially the performances... hahaha).  If I can eat all the food I'd like to eat.

Day 1: Thursday
Go to Maria’s and have two migas tacos
Run around Town Lake
Swim in Barton Springs
Have a Farmer’s Breakfast at Bouldin Creek CafĂ© with scrambled tofu, spinach, and rye bread
Get a pedicure at Embellish (pink)
Get drinks with J. at Parkside (also eat fries and oysters)
Do a reading at the Encyclopedia Show (assume they have space for me.  be really funny)
See a late show at ColdTowne
Have cocktails with J.2 somewhere

Day 2: Friday
Have an early vegan breakfast at Casa de Luz
Do some yoga at Black Swan Yoga
Shop at that little store by Blue Dahlia, Strut, Stitch Lab and CoCoCoquette
See a movie with R. at the Drafthouse (eat a spicey blue burger and Guiness shake, if still on menu)
Go to inGredients and have a beer outside
Do a False Matters show.  Hang out at Contigo with cast (drink and eat more)

Day 3: Saturday
Got to El Chilito and eat a potato, egg and cheese taco and a potato, bacon and black bean taco.  .
Go do yoga at East Side Yoga (to balance out the breakfast)
Go to the farmers markets at Springdale Farm, Boggy Creek Farm, and Green Gate (play with the farm animals)
Go to Cherrywood and have lunch with C., A., C., B., and B. (assuming I can eat again) (my initializing is confusing me)
Take a dog to Redbud Island (would need to borrow a dog)
Go to Justine’s and have a burger
See a show at the Hideout
Drink at Easy Tiger (possibly eat pretzel if have not yet exploded)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your Brain is Vanilla Extract

Been building a chicken coop lately.  Get home around 5:45, walk the dog around the block, 6pm.  Work on the coop for a couple of hours, then dinner.  So late!  But, you have to work outside when the sun's out - especially in Seattle - even if it is only two hours on a weeknight.  And then you have to eat, but what's fast enough, filling enough?

I had bought some impulse produce at the farmers' market on Sunday.  At the time I was not sure if I'd even have time to use it, but it's impossible not to pluck something from the piles.  I was tired of the same pink apples, tired of kale and chard that turned up each week without ceasing.  Pale, thin green and white leeks and sprouting broccoli's deep green mix of bits and leaves proved to be the irresistible choices this April in the Northwest.  I'd succumbed to the sprouting broccoli the week before too, and had some leftover hollandaise I'd made for them then, out of 3 tablespoons of butter, a touch of water, an egg yolk, and copious amounts of salt and lemon juice.  Leftover hollandaise, I'd found out, just solidifies back into a near-butter state and keeps in the fridge, just like regular butter but with a superior lemony, salty tang, and can be re-liquified with a little low heat. 

Quick trip to the corner store for some whole wheat rotini and a can of Great Northern beans, for protein, and we're off.  Saute the leeks in butter and garlic, pour over some vegetable stock, pop on a lid and simmer.  Put on a big pot of water with salt and cook the rotini.  Chop a handful of sprouting broccoli and add it to the leek pot (more vegetable broth if it looks like it needs it, and a sprinkle of salt perhaps).  Put the lid back on.  Melt the hollandaise, stir in a little half-and-half.  Pour over the veg and stir in the sauce and the drained, rinsed beans.  Drain the noodles.  Add a few handfuls to the veg and stir.  Eat.  Eat a little more.

This is the kind of cooking I've always wanted to be able to do, drawing on what's around and making a meal that's more than just a starch, a steamed veg, and a protein - something that's actually a meal, pulled together.  Balanced.  With elements.  I associate that a lot with 'having a sauce' but it doesn't necessarily have to.  I like it also because it's useful - it uses what's there; it minimizes waste.  It means that I have some grasp of eating and cooking that goes beyond following a recipe into actually understanding how a food works, and how a recipe is made.

I could write a more exact recipe, but that would conflict with the attitude of the meal, the easy way with which it developed, the intention of this post to encourage creativity and spontaneity.  I love to read cookbooks that are like books with recipes sprinkled in, but in my book group some people said that those books are so hard to go back and cook from.  That's not the point, I think.  The point is that you learn to love food so you learn to improvise.  And it would be just grand to be able to do this all the time, but the truth is, there's a really high rate of failure at the start.  "I'll put these together... taste it... oh and now I'll throw it away and order pizza - that does not go together, nope."  There was a significant amount of time where I thought I just would not get to this point.  But like any thing, any art, any skill - the truth is that when you know how to follow a recipe and you've eaten good food in a restaurant, if you're not a trained chef, it will be a long time before your brain can truly absorb the knowledge enough to have your skills match your taste.  It's like your brain is a tiny bottle of vodka in which you've stuck a delicious vanilla bean - you don't have vanilla extract later that day, or even later that week.  But eventually it gets there.