Shepherd-ish Pie (Cottage Pie)

Oh, I love cold weather foods! Don't get me wrong--I can't get enough of the awesome summer fruits and vegetables, or the grilling. But I'm a baker at heart, so I love being able to turn on the oven and make something really cozy and comforting.

Shepherd's pie is one of those exotic-seeming recipes that no one makes, but is actually super easy to throw together, kind of. I make it with beef (which makes it a "cottage pie), because it's easier and cheaper, but "real" Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb. Or you can make "Shepherdess Pie," which is made with beans and vegetables.

I remember discovering shepherd's pie; I was hanging out at this English bar on Greenville Avenue a lot. My friend Smelly and I used to go there on Wednesdays to have a few beers (me) or a few Pimm's Cups (Smelly) and have pub food. I normally ordered bangers and mash, but Smelly has an English uncle who made shepherd's pie for her growing up, so she would order that sometimes. Then we would play loads of Tom Jones songs on the jukebox and flirt with the bartenders. (Just kidding, honey! I never did. It was Smelly.)

Anyhoo. To the cooking part. If you have leftover mashed potatoes, use those. You could probably even make this with instant mashers if you're in a real time crunch.

And don't feel like you HAVE to use what's here. I've made them with corn, without peas, with celery, without mushrooms... use what you like. Also, substitute other potatoes if you want. And leave the skins on the potatoes, or peel them. Do what you like!

1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/3 cup milk, or as needed
1/4 cup butter, or as needed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 pound ground beef
2/3 cup frozen green peas
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 375°F.

Place the potatoes in a saucepot. Add water to cover and a generous pinch of salt. Heat to boiling, then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and return to the saucepot. Whisk in the milk and butter and mash until smooth (or use an electric mixer).

Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat the oil then add the onion, garlic, carrots, and thyme. Saute until fragrant then add the mushrooms, and and saute until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the beef is browned. Add the peas and cook until heated through. Add the stock, then sprinkle with flour and stir until the liquid has thickened, about 6 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture into a baking dish and spread into an even layer. Spoon the potatoes over the meat, spreading it into the edges. Use the back of a spoon to make swirls, or use the tines of a fork to make a crosshatch pattern.

Bake until the the potatoes are golden and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


tortilla soup

Last week we were both feeling a little under the weather here at chez Krakberry. Not sick, officially, but not 100%. As everybody knows, the best way to get immediate relief from a potential cold is a big pot of chicken soup. But I wasn't in the mood for regular soup; I needed something with a little more oomph. Checking my fridge I noticed a giant package of corn tortillas, then realized I had several chiles I needed to use... tortilla soup it is!

1 quart chicken stock
1 (3-pound) chicken
1 onion, chopped
1 lemon, cut in half
1 jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon creole seasoning
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
3 cloves garlic
2 serranos
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 yellow squash, halved and cut into 1/2-inch slices

shredded queso quesadilla or monterey jack
fried tortilla strips

In a large pot, combine the chicken, chicken stock, half the onion, the lemon, and the jalapeno. Add water to cover and 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and let simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and refrigerate it until it cool enough to handle. Pull the meat from the bones and return the bones to the stock pot. Continue to simmer.

In a second pot, heat a little oil just until hot. Add the remaining onion, the garlic, the serranos, and the spices; saute until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the squash, and 6 cups chicken
stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the chicken meat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the squash is very tender and the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the tortillas into strips. Heat a couple of inches of oil until hot and, working in batches, fry the strips until golden and crunchy.

Check for seasoning and ladle the soup into bowls. Let your peeps choose their own garnishes.


Fresh Gingerbread with Lemon Icing

    • Sweets like this gingerbread held no appeal for me as a child. In my opinion, if there wasn't chocolate, or at the very least, caramel, involved in a sweet, it was a waste of my time. Now, as a grownup (heh), I have expanded my tastes. This gingerbread is so good I don't really make it that often because I can't stop eating it. And it's beautiful too, with the snowy white icing contrasting against the dark cake. But I promise it will not be around to look at for very long. (Recipe based on one by Nigella in How to Be a Domestic Goddess.)

    • Gingerbread
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water

Lemon Icing
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon warm water (if needed)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Measure the flour into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and ginger. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and add the milk, eggs, and baking soda mixture.

Add the liquid ingredients to the flour, stirring until completely mixed (the batter is thin), Pour it into the pan and bake for 45-55 minutes until risen and firm. Be careful not to overbake; it's better a little stickier. Let it cool completely before icing.

In a medium bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the confectioners' sugar. If needed, add the water gradually. It should be thick-ish. Pour over the gingerbread and spread to an even layer with a butter knife or offset spatula. Let the icing set up before cutting the gingerbread.


happy thanksgiving!

i pondered what to post this week and sort of obsessed over which thanksgiving recipe i would dazzle all 9 of you with. then as time wore on, i realized that most people don't really experiment on thanksgiving. i mean, outside of frying the turkey or using fresh cranberries instead of the stuff in the can, most people have to have certain thanksgiving dishes. Mac and cheese is one. My Canadian sister-in-law couldn't believe we had Kraft dinner on Thanksgiving. I have to eat the pope's nose on the turkey (the tail). This will be the first year since 2000 I'll have to fight my brother for it. I make the best stuffing in the world, and my pies have garnered me more than one marriage proposal.

But y'all don't care about what I'm making for Thanksgiving, you're thinking about what YOU have to have. Your aunt's sweet potatoes. Your grandpa's turkey carving knife. Your weird cousin's awful ambrosia that nobody likes or eat but wouldn't DARE leave off the table.

So I'm not going to cook for you this week. This week I'm going express my thanks for some of the people and things that have made 2010 one of the best of my life so far...

this guy, for sure.

and these two, who are the parents of the next two.

these two.


and this.

and last but not least, this girl.


Steamed Buns with Pork Belly

When people find out that I used to cook for a living, they often say something like "Oh, you must eat so well!" And my response is usually to shrug and say "I guess." And we do, I guess. But just like everyone else, there are days when I'm exhausted or working late or just don't feel like going to a lot of trouble. Those days I ask Doodler to cook (he's no slouch, I'm here to tell you) or I kind of throw something together, like chili or mac and cheese.

But sometimes I want to play in the kitchen, and because I share my meals with a fellow adventurous eater, I know that if i create something out of the ordinary it's probably going to make him happy. And who wouldn't want to make this guy happy?

How cute is he? But I digress.

The food I miss most from my time in New York is good Chinese food. You can get pretty good Thai and Vietnamese close by, but to get good Chinese you have to drive kind of far. And while I'm not opposed to that, on a Tuesday night I'm not gonna get in the car and drive half an hour to eat dinner. So I make it myself.

Doodler has never really had food like you can get in Chinatown, so it's fun for me to get to introduce him to things like soy sauce chicken and char siu and steamed buns. It's one of the best things about Canal Street: you can walk into a bakery and get a delicious pork bun and a drink for like $3. It was a favorite lunch when I didn't have a whole lot of money but didn't have the wherewithal to pack a lunch.

I miss those buns, but I haven't had time lately to make them, because while they're not hard to make, you have to start them a few hours ahead so they can rise. And trying to work two jobs, start a business, and maintain relationships with friends and family (not to mention that dreamboat pictured above) kind of eats into your free time.

But for some reason today everything kind of fell into place. I was at Whole Foods early this morning and was able to procure a large piece of pork belly, which needed to brine for 6 hours. That was plenty of time to make the buns and also maybe do my job a little! Serendipity!

These are a little involved to make, I'm not gonna lie. But it's not difficult work; it just requires a little planning. And to get that smile on that face? It is so worth it.

Steamed Buns with Pork Belly*


1/4 cup coarse salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 (3-poundish) piece boneless pork belly


1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Heaping 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or rendered pork fat, plus more for shaping the buns

Hoisin sauce
Kim chee
Pickled cucumbers

Start the pork belly:
Mix the salt and sugar together. Place the pork belly in a roasting pan that just fits it, and pat the salt/sugar mixture all over it. Cover and refrigerate at least 6 hours, and up to 24 hours.

(Start the buns here.)

Heat the oven to 400F. Drain any liquid from the pan and roast the pork fat side up for 1 1/2 hours, or until the top has turned a beautiful mahogony color. Reduce the heat to 250 and roast about another hour until the meat is pillowy soft.

Make the buns! Combine the yeast and the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitting with the dough hook. Add the remaining ingredients and mix on the lowest speed possible (just above "stir") until a smooth, slightly tacky dough forms. Lightly oil another bowl, place the dough in it, cover, and let stand in a warm place (like the oven with just the pilot light lit) for about an hour and a half or until the dough doubles in size.

(Put your pork in the oven at this point.)

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a work surface. Using a bench scraper, cut the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 balls. Roll each of those into logs, then cut off ping-pong ball-sized pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then place on a baking sheet. Cover the balls loosely with plastic wrap and let them rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut squares of parchment, one for each ball. Grease a chopstick with whatever fat you're using.

Flatten a ball with your hand into an oval, then fold it over the chopstick to form the bun. Remove the chopstick and place the bun on a square of parchment. Return to the plastic wrap and let them rest for about 40 minutes. They will rise a little more.

Set up a steamer on the stove (I used an upside-down cake pan set in the middle of my wok). Fill the bottom with about an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, then working in batches, steam the buns for about 10 minutes each. Remove the parchment as the steam. You can hold them at room temp and reheat them in the steamer if necessary.

Remove the pork from the oven and slice it crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. To build a bun, open one up (you may need to cut it), slather it with hoisin sauce, then top with pork, scallions, kim chee, pickles, and sriracha.

Eat many of them. Bask in the glow of happy people at your table.

*If I didn't already have The Best Boyfriend in the World, I would totally ask David Chang if he wanted the job. This recipe is based on his from the Momofuku cookbook.


Just-Woke-Up-Must-Make-Dinner-with-What's-in-The-House Chili

I love a nap. it seems so decadent to SLEEP in the middle of the day. I rarely take them, though, because when I wake up I feel weird and groggy and am generally useless for several hours. (I used to take a nap after work so I could go out and drink at the State Bar. That was a loooong time ago.)


This morning I made a list, like I always do, of things that I wanted to accomplish today. Cut to 2 pm when I can barely keep my eyes open (did I mention I got up at 3:45 this morning for work?) so I decide, even though my list is not anywhere NEAR being checked off, to take a nap.

I wake up at 3:30 and realize that I'm not going to do anything else on the list, including going to the store to get food for dinner. A quick rifle through the pantry reveals spices, a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of hominy. The fridge contains a package of ground beef. Chili it is!

OK. I have to get something off my chest. Lately there's been all this blather about with-beans, no beans, is it real chili if you use (insert ingredient here) but leave out (insert ingredient here), blah blah blah.... and to this I would like to say:


here's the thing: I think my chili is the best, just like my mom thinks hers is the best, just like a million bazillion other people think theirs is the best. Just make it how you frigging like it, people, and stop worrying so much about this stupid debate. You can bet the men on the cattle drives or whatever didn't whine about beans or no beans or what kind of mean or adding coffee or any of that crap. They ate it, and were happy to have a hot meal after a long day.

To paraphrase a wiser person than myself: if it tastes good, just eat it.

Rant over .Thank you.

Now to the good part. I'm not going to say this is how i ALWAYS make chili. It ain't. this is how i made it TODAY. And if I made it tomorrow, it would be different again. (And I don't want any guff about using onion powder. It was what was in the house. Don't use it if you don't like it.) I'm not saying this should the ONLY chili you make, but it's a good one to add to your repertoire.

Just-Woke-Up-Must-Make-Dinner-with-What's-in-The-House Chili

Oil (or bacon fat)
1 pound ground beef
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder.
1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 jalapeno
1/4 cup unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 can hominy (you can substitute beans if you want, or use both)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the beef, season with salt, and brown. Add the spices, cilantro, and garlic and onion and cook until the spices are fragrant. Add the jalapeno and tomatoes and stir to mix. Add the chocolate and season with salt again.

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the liquid is thickened and the flavors have blended, about an hour. Stir in the cornmeal and then the hominy and cook 5 minutes more.


Pork Chops and Applesauce

There are some foods that I'm mildly embarrassed to admit I didn't appreciate until i was in my later 20s. Beets, for one. Brussels sprouts. Good tomatoes. And applesauce.

"Applesauce?" You might ask? "Doesn't every kid love applesauce?"

No. No, they don;t. Some kids hate the gritty, flavorless mush that passes for commercial applesauce. But then I had homemade applesauce. And like so many yummy foods that are not well-represented by their commercial versions, homemade applesauce? Is a whole nother thing.

Commercial applesauce is a waste reducer. All the apples deemed unworthy of your grocer's produce bins are made into applesauce. And that's why it's mealy, flavorless, watery mush that just doesn't do justice to the beautiful fruit from which it's made.

Homemade applesauce tastes like lovely ripe apples. It's smoother in texture and richer in color. It's perfect alongside pork chops (you can be DAMN sure Alice made hers from scratch). And how about topped with some toasted pecans and maybe, just maybe, a splash of brown butter? Sounds like an ideal fall meal to me.

Pork Chops and Homemade Applesauce

For 2

4 apples (I like Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady apples best), cored and
chopped into 1-inch cubes (I don't peel mine, but you can if you want)
1/4 cup orange juice
Cardamom, to taste
Cayenne, to taste
Salt, to taste

Oil or clarified butter
2 thick pork chops
Salt and pepper
Thyme, to taste

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted

Heat the oven to 400.

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples and orange juice. Add water just to the top of the apples. Stir in spices and heat over medium-high heat until the water boils, then reduce the heat and simmer until the apples are soft but not falling apart, about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, in an ovenproof saute pan, brown the pork chops on both sides, then place in te oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.

Drain most of the liquid from the apples, then with a potato masher or immersion blender, mash the apples until they are mostly crushed. Don't go crazy--it won't be perfectly smooth, and a little apple-y texture is nice.

In a small saucepan or skillet, heat the butter until the solids have turned golden brown and the butter smells nutty. Remove from the heat immediately.

To plate, spoon a pile of applesauce at 12 o'clock on each plate. Remove the pork chops from the oven and rest the top edge of each one on the applesauce, but not completely covering it.

Drizzle brown butter over the plate and top with pecans.


Corn Muffins with Bacon and Jalapenos

People that have known me long time might be surprised to discover that I LOVE to go camping. I love everything about it: campfire, sleeping outside, waking up when there's still a chill in the air... we just went camping over Halloween weekend and I think I might want to spend EVERY Halloween this way! People decorated their campsites, and kids dressed up and went trick-or-treating... then we all got to hang out by a fire and grill and have s'mores. Some of us might have even enjoyed a little whiskey after dinner.

I love camping traditions, too. Some people go to the same place for the same weekend every year; some might have a camping shirt or hat that they wear only when they're roughing it. My camping traditions are - big surprise - centered around food.

  • When I go camping, I make a batch of chili to have the first night. It's one of my favorite traditions - such a satisfying way to begin a stretch of a few days outdoors.
These muffins are moist and studded with yummy corn and spicy chiles and smoky bacon, which makes them SUPER tasty.

Another tradition I've adopted is to make these corn muffins to toast in the morning while having coffee. I split them in half and toast the cut sides with butter. It's warm and a little sweet and a lovely way to start the day... even if you're at home! (These also go really well with pulled pork. Just saying.)

1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed, drained
  • 6 slices cooked crispy bacon, finely chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 425°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper or foil liners.

In a small bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients and whisk to mix. In a large bowl, stir together the sour cream, eggs, and butter until blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Fold in the corn, bacon, and jalapenos.

Divide the batter evenly among the cups and bake until the tops are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then let them cool completely on a rack.


As American as...

So I was asked to do a little class on pie crust for North Haven Gardens fall fruit day; I know should have posted a link earlier but I didn't, so there's that. Anyway, if you live in Dallas and like plants or gardening or just going to places that are awesome, check out NHG.

For my demonstration I made a whole-wheat pie crust... it's a little healthier than a regular crust, and I also like the flavor better, especially with fruit pies. Whole wheat flour has a nuttier and dimensional flavor than white flour, and its depth pairs very well with fall fruits like pumpkins and apples.

Apple Pie with Whole-Wheat Crust


2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 cup unsalted butter, frozen (or 1/2 cup unsalted butter and 1/2 cup shortening, frozen)

4 to 6 tablespoons ice water


1 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon gresh grated ginger

Pinch cayenne

7 cups peeled, cored, and sliced apples (I use a mix of Fuji and Granny Smith; you can use whatever you like)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Make the crust:

Sift the flours and the salt into a mixing bowl.

On a box grater, grate the butter into to the flour mixture. (If you’re using shortening, cut it into 1/4-inch cubes before adding to the flour.)

Mix together until the mixture looks like wet sand or coarse crumbs.

Add water by the tablespoon, stirring with a fork just until the dough comes together.

Form the dough into a disk and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Cover your work surface with parchment or waxed paper; sprinkle it and your rolling pin with flour.

Place the dough on the flour, then sprinkle it lightly with flour. Cover with another sheet of parchment or waxed paper.

Roll the dough out into a round, rolling out from the center and turning the dough one quarter-turn clockwise after each roll. Roll the dough out to about 1/16 inch thick.

Lay your rolling pin across the dough and use the parchment to flip it over the rolling pin. Peel the paper off the dough and lay the dough in your pie pan. Press it into the pan and freeze while you're making the filling.

Make the filling:

In a bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and cayenne. Add the apples and toss until they are coated. Pour into the pie shell and dot with the butter cubes. Refrigerate while you roll out the top crust.

Lay the top crust over the the filling. Trim off the excess crust, leaving about 1/4 inch around the edge. Use a fork or your fingers to crimp the edge. Cut vents in the top so the steam can escape while the pie bakes. Freeze while heating the oven.

Heat the oven to 400°F. Bake the pie in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, rotating it about halfway and checking to make sure the edges aren't browning too fast (loosely cover them with foil if they are).

Let the pie cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting into it.


skating into rocktober!!

Don't miss this one; it's the last one of the year!

Saturday, October 2
7 pm


get your seats here

the password is bingo!


Cocktail: TBD

Hors D'oeuvres: Lemon-Thyme Arancini (fried risotto balls)

Salad: Roasted Beets, Pistachios, Homemade Goat Cheese, Orange Blossom Vinaigrette

Main: Skate with Morcilla, Roasted Tomatoes, Celery Root Puree
(Vegetarian Main: Mushroom and Spinach Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes)

Cheese Plate: 4 cheese pairings TBD

Dessert: Warm Apple Crisp, Salted Caramel Ice Cream


my little low country boil

A low country boil, to me, is a party thing. Boil up a bunch of stuff, then dump it out onto newspapers on a picnic table and go to town! Everybody drinks beer and gets messy and it's so much fun.

Sometimes, though, I want a the boil but can only dig up one other person. So I make a little low country boil, cover my dining table with Kraft paper, and have a smaller, somewhat tidier party. It's still pretty dang fun, and pretty dang delicious.

I like to serve a beautiful tomato or 2 on the side and a crusty baguette with lots of butter. Also cocktail sauce and hot sauce for the shrimpies! (And don't forget to put an empty bowl out for shells and cobs.)

2 tablespoons shrimp boil seasoning*
1 pound small potatoes, washed
1 kielbasa, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 ears corn, husked and cut in half
1 pound medium shrimp
Bread, for serving

In a large pot, heat 1 gallon of water and the shrimp boil seasoning to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for 15 minutes. Add the sausage and boil 5 minutes more. Add the corn and boil 10 minutes, then add the shrimp and boil 3 minutes or until they are opaque.

*You can buy shrimp boil, or you can make your own! In a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder), combine the following and grind until it's a powder.

6 black peppercorns
8 cloves
8 allspice berries
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon cayenne


Tomatillo-Poblano Salsa

When I go to a restaurant, the thing that ultimately makes me decide between one dish or another is the sauce that goes on it. I'm pretty open to eating anything, especially if the sauce sounds awesome. And I don't just love EATING sauces; I think in my past life I was a saucier. I love to MAKE sauces too. From Hollandaise to Hot Fudge, from Sabayon to Salsa Verde... I could make sauces all day.

Hey, did someone say Salsa Verde? Oh, right. I DID.

I served this salsa with carnitas tacos (if you ask nicely I'll give you THAT recipe), and plan to make it again for some green chile chicken enchiladas. I also drizzled it on some leftover homemade mac and cheese.

(Now, you'll notice that I have several "or to taste" notes in here. Salsa is a very personal thing, and what I like may not be exactly what you like. So feel free to play around and make it your own.)

Tomatillo-Poblano Salsa
2 poblano chiles
1 pound tomatillos, all about the same size
3 serrano chiles (or to taste), seeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove (or to taste), minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or to taste)
2 tablespoons lime juice (or to taste)
salt to taste

Char the poblanos on the gas burner (or broil them) until the skin is black and bubbly. Put them in a plastic bag and seal the bag to steam for about 10 minutes. Scrape the blackened skin from the poblanos, remove the seeds, and roughly chop them.

Meanwhile, remove the husks from the tomatillos and rinse them to remove the sticky residue. Place them in a saucepan, then add water to cover. Simmer until they are softened but not falling apart, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving the water.

Combine the tomatillos, serranos, poblanos, garlic, and cilantro in blender. Puree, adding tablespoons of cooking water if necessary, until you've got a semi-smooth (but pretty thick) liquid. Pour into a bowl and season with lime juice and salt. Let cool to room temperature and taste again before serving.


Could you pass me that bottle of rosé? Thanks.

Ah, summer. While some look at it as a time for vacations and activity and excitement, I think of it as a time to become a complete slacker. Maybe it's because I grew up in Texas, where the summers are so hot that people actually die, or maybe it's because i was such a nerd at school that sumer was the only time i didn't feel like I needed to achieve... I don't know. But even as an adult, while people around me are planning vacations and projects and all that kind of stuff, I just want to lie back with a cool beverage and enjoy the air conditioning.

Now. I will still hoist myself off the couch to make a delicious meal. The difference, though, is the amount of actual WORK i'm willing to go through. Chopping, peeling, slicing, yes; roasting, simmering... not so much. And recently that I have become COMPLETELY addicted to the roasted chickens at Whole Foods*. I have tried every flavor, and they all taste exactly the same, whether it's "classic" or "vanilla pepper" or "buffalo." So I don't even bother picking a flavor, I just grab one and head to the produce department to get the ingredients for the delicious salad I'm going to make to go with it.

(I used to live across the street from these two lovely Scottish girls who would have me and my roommates over for dinner quite a lot, which was awesome, and they always added fruit to green salads. Now, I'd had salads with fruit dressings, and citrus was nothing unusual for me
in a salad, and there was a time when everyone put raspberries in everything, but I'd never had a spinach salad with strawberries in it. STRAWBERRIES! Blew my mind. Now I love to add fruit to my green salads: blackberries, melon, peaches... and that is why I've gathered you here today.)

Peaches partner ridiculously well with tomatoes, which isn't surprising, really, if you think about it in regard to when they're in season ... and tomatoes are classic on salads, so... why the heck not mix 'em? You could also throw in a little fresh corn if you had it. I didn't, so I didn't bother.

Green Salad with Peaches, Tomatoes, and Feta
(Enough for 2, goes perfectly with store-bought roast chicken)

2 generous handfuls spring mix
1 garlic clove, cut in half
2 tablespoons (give or take) balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup (give or take) olive oil
1 large tomato, cored and cut into wedges
1 peach, stone removed and cut into wedges (peeled, if you like)
1/4 cup (give or take) crumbled feta
Salt and pepper

Wash the lettuce, spin dry or drain really well in a colander (use paper towels on top). Rub the inside of a mixing bowl with the cut side of the garlic; discard the garlic (or use it to make garlic bread, like I did).

Add the vinegar to the bowl, then gradually whisk in the oil until the oil is blended in. Add the tomatoes, peaches, feta, and greens, and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Be excited that you have an awesome meal that took like 5 minutes to make.


Happy Independence Day, I guess.

Here's the thing. I am not so into July 4. I understand it's our nation's birthday and blah blee bloo. I just find the whole day... sad, kind of. I've spent several July 4ths (Julys 4th?) recovering from horrible breakups and a recent one fighting with an airline about losing my luggage.

And I don't really dig fireworks and the pre-fireworks festivities always seem to start at odd times. So you're waiting around all day, then you have to schlep somewhere to sit on a blanket and crane your neck for 45 mnutes. And I can't really stand the "1812 Overture." So, in a nutshell, July 4? Not my favorite.

But. I don't want to be Debbie Downer; A lot of people love the holiday. It's in the middle of the summer, so it's kind of a nice opportunity to have a party, and there's usually grilling and sometimes even swimming and I am a fan of both of those things.

So recently I've tried to rethink my attitude towards July 4, focusing on the part I DO like, which is the food part. I'm not going to make a flag cake or even flag cupcakes (baby steps, people), but I can bring something to the party that is refreshing, a little less sweet than many desserts, and sooooper easy. Seriously, these things take like no work.

I used fresh key limes to make 3/4 cups of juice, and i can tell you that I squeezed approximately 12,000 limes. So save yourself the hassle and use bottled juice.

Key Lime Bars

Brown Sugar Shortbread Base
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Key Lime Topping
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup key lime juice (fresh or from a bottle)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients and mix with your hands until the mixture looks like damp sand (the good kind to build sandcastles out of). Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Press with your hands or a spatula to make
the layer even. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. While the shortbread is baking, prepare the topping.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until combined. Stir in lime juice and flour. Slowly pour the mixture evenly over the hot shortbread. Bake until set, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar before serving.


leftover MELON! sorbet

it's my first summer back in texas! i'd be lying if i said i hadn't forgotten just how very, very, VERY HOT it can get. but what i'm gaining in thermometer numbers is being made up in other ways: no sticky (stinky!) subway ride; no window units (central air, baby!) and (slightly) less humidity (my makeup actually stays where it's supposed to). so it works out, kind of. (and the a/c in my little car gets COLD.)

the one good thing about summer starting in, oh, MAY, is that the season for summer vegetables and fruits starts much earlier. the corn is amaaaaazing right now, like candy. and we've had beautiful tomatoes for several weeks. and the FRUIT! ohhhhh, the fruit. i'm overwhelmed when i go to the grocery store by the sheer volume of peaches and berries and plums and MELONS! (cue joann worley)

while i'm a huge fan of all things berry (i kind of have to be) and stone fruits rock my world... good lord i love MELONS! i can't get enough of them, for REALS. That sweet, heady, almost floral aroma of a perfectly ripe MELON! gives me such a thrill every time!

but if you're like me, you can't finish a whole MELON! in the time it takes for it to go from perfect to grody mush. throwing away food makes me sad for many reasons, but throwing away something like a once-perfect MELON! ... i can't even think about it.

so to avoid drama, i like to make my leftover MELON! into sorbet... it keeps for a couple of weeks (or i guess it does; it's never lasted that long in my house) and the flavor is NEARLY as awesome as a freshly sliced one.

Choose your favorite kind of MELON!; I've been nuts about Galias this year, but i've also made this with honeydew and cantaloupe. Watermelon would be great too, just strain the puree to made sure all of the seeds are gone. I also use white wine or leftover champagne in my sorbets (keeps them from freezing too solid); you certainly don't have to. Brewed mint tea would be a perfect substitute, or just use water.

Leftover MELON! Sorbet
Makes about 1 quart

6 cups MELON! (in 1-inch cubes)
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a blender (you may have to work in batches). Blend to a mostly smooth liquid. Refrigerate until cold (about 2 hours), then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the directions for your particular machine (mine took about 15 minutes). Have some right away, then cover and store the rest in the freezer.


    quick(ish) vietnamese(ish) meatball soup

    listen. this looks like a lot of work. but it isn't, i promise. really. get someone to hep you roll the meatballs and that step will literally take 5 minutes.

    you could also make the broth from scratch to begin with and infuse it with the lemongrass and stuff, then have it on hand to make this soup...

    (and yes, i know it's summer. but sometimes you still want soup.)

    for the broth:
    2 quarts chicken broth
    1 stalk lemongrass
    1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
    1/3 of a bunch of cilantro (about 1/3 cup)
    3 cloves garlic
    3 scallions, roughly chopped
    Sriracha, to taste

    for the meatballs
    1 pound ground pork
    1 egg
    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
    1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
    2 teaspoons minced ginger
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    2 scallions, thinly sliced
    2 teaspoons soy sauce
    1teaspoon shaoxing vinegar (or rice wine vinegar)
    1 teaspoon Sriracha, or to taste

    sliced scallions
    chopped cilantro
    bean thread noodles (about a bundle per person)
    sesame oil and soy sauce

    Combine the broth, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic, in a medium saucepan or pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the scallions and cilantro. Cover partially and let simmer while you make the meatballs.

    Mix all of the ingredients until blended. Grab a little (about half a meatball), press it together, and drop it into the simmering broth. Let it cook and taste the mix for seasoning. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and taste it again. When it's seasoned to your liking, form the pork into 1-inch meatballs.

    Remove the lemongrass, ginger and cilantro from the broth. Working in small batches, use a mesh strainer to lower the meatballs into the broth, swirling the strainer to keep the meatballs from sticking to it (this also helps make the meatballs less shaggy). Cook just until kind of set. (You're not cooking these through, you're just getting them started so they won't disintegrate when you add them to the soup.) Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer while you cook the bean threads.

    Place the bean thread noodles into a large bowl, crunching them a little with your hands. Bring a pot of water to a boil and our it over the noodles, just to cover. Let them soak for about 3 minutes, then strain them and toss them with about 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and a little soy sauce.


    Bring the whole pot of soup to the table, along with the bowl of noodles and the garnishes. Add noodles to each bowl and ladle the soup over. Sprinkle with garnishes and add sriracha to taste.


    MAY 1 MENU!!!

    cocktails and hors d'oeuvres

    chilled honeydew soup with tarragon

    shaved asparagus salad with morels

    bourbon glazed pork belly, sweet corn grits, wilted mizuna

    trio of mini ice cream sandwiches

    seats available here

    (leave a comment and i will email you the password!)


    green chile chicken chilaquiles

    I made these just today (!) for brunch. It's deeeelish and can be made the night before and reheated. You can also use other kinds of meat or protein in place of the chicken or leave it out altogether and use vegetables instead (see below for suggestions). I used mild chiles and salsa, but feel free to adjust the heat to your liking.

    12 corn tortillas
    2 (4-ounce) cans hatch green chiles
    2 cups chunky green salsa
    2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
    8 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
    2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 2 breasts and 2 thighs)
    4 eggs
    2 cups buttermilk
    Salt and pepper

    Heat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan or dish.

    Cut 6 of the tortillas into quarters. Mix the chiles and salsa together. Lay a single layer of tortilla pieces in the pan and cover evenly with half of the chile mixture, then half of the cheese. Top evenly with chicken (or whatever you're using).

    Cut the rest of the tortillas into quarters and make a layer on top of the cheese. Spoon over the rest of the chile mixture, then the rest of the cheese.

    Whisk the eggs to blend slightly, then whisk in the buttermilk until blended. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Pour the liquid slowly over the layers in the pan, being sure to cover the whole thing evenly. Gently shake the pan to distribute the liquid.

    Bake until the cheese is melted and golden, about 25 minutes. let stand 10 minutes and serve, or let cool, then cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours. To reheat, heat the oven to 250°F and heat for about 45 minutes.

    subsititution suggestions (you can also add any of these to the chicken, but adjust quantities to end up with about 2 cups of filling):
    2 cups cooked black beans
    2 cups diced sauteed zucchini or yellow squash
    2 cups shredded turkey
    2 cups shredded brisket
    2 cups shredded pork shoulder