Tuesday, September 28, 2010

COTF (Clean Out The Fridge) Dinner

We have been eating out quite a bit, and tonight I offered to scrounge something up with what we've got in the fridge. There were bound to be a few unspoiled gems among the ruins. (Casualties included a half-full bag of pre-sliced baby bellas. That hurts!)

A handful of new potatoes, some eggs, a yellow onion yielded skillet home fries with eggs on top. Nothing green here, and a bit more stove time than I'd like -- but I can handle it thanks to our lovely temps of late.

If I'd been tested on Good Faith Effort, I'd have failed. I was sloppy and impatient. So we got half-burnt bits of onion and runny eggs to go with our potatoes.

Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss. At least we didn't spend money eating out and the fridge is a little lighter.

Monday, September 27, 2010


Chicken with salad and potatoes was a staple growing up in my household. Of course, we used iceberg lettuce and white potatoes. The dish, like me, has grown up a bit. But it's still home.

Spruced up - er, fattened up - our chicken breasts with herb butter for beneath and on the skin:

Roasted sweet potatoes with carrots and yellow onions, smothered in olive oil, fresh rosemary and lemon:

Rounded out with a salad of grape tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, spring mix and homemade sherry vinaigrette:

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuna salad

If you haven't caught on, I'm a big fan of low-carb dinners that consist of a lean protein and some sort of green. Of course, every time I succeed in putting together a lean-protein-and-greens kind of meal, I'm craving kettle corn within the hour. Indulging in pasta or anything with a crust after 3pm makes me feel a teensy bit guilty.

A dinner like this one makes me proud. Proud and happy, because I only dirtied a bowl for the salad, a frying pan for the tuna, and a few utensils. Easy. Breezy. Beautiful.

Tea with Jam and Bread

Smitten Kitchen's dreamy cream scones recipe calls for currants, but I was craving scones and all we had were frozen blueberries.

Turns out, baking can be a flexible sport. These were scrumptuous. And I'm going to be sad when our jar of rhubarb-raspberry jam from Timboon Farmhouse in Australia is nothing but a salad dressing container.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Not your mom's pesto

All right, so my mom never made pesto. My dad, on the other hand ... he would've made this if my mom weren't the kind of eater who thinks ketchup is on the spicy side. (That is not hyperbole.)

So I came home last week with a small tub of hatch green chile pesto from Whole Foods, optimistic I'd get Mike to make a batch of pasta.

He has officially mastered the art of handmade pasta. We stick with wide, thick strands - a cross between tagliatelle and pappardelle - and he likes to mix things into the dough, much like his employment of rosemary bits or red pepper flakes with raw pizza dough. Tonight, he pulled a bag of mustard greens out of the freezer with only about 1/3 of the greens remaining in the bag - and begging for freezer burn. He minced the hell out of them and mixed them in with the pasta.

I love those green specks from the mustard greens; it looked beautiful tossed with the hatch chile pesto, a splosh of cream and some freshly grated grana padano. It was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

(We had a simple salad, too, to make me feel less guilty about my third serving of carbs for the day.)

(Okay, four servings.)

Chili Oil meets Chicken

Take two chicken breasts. Smother in Asian chili oil. Roast in the oven. (Curse Texas summers and your cravings for all food requiring use of oven.) Pair with something green. (Possibly cooked in a little chili oil.) Pile on top of steamed rice. (And dab a bit of chili oil on that, too.)

Dinner is served!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Frisco Shop

The first time I met my former boss, I was an Associated Press reporter interviewing him for an article. The Frisco Shop was one of his favorite restaurants, and it was there that he asked me to meet him on the back patio.

Nearly a decade later, when I was working for him, we'd occasionally meet for a meal. Frisco's was part of the rotation.

I never asked Kinky Friedman why he loved Frisco's so much. I'd always assumed it was the food and ambience.

Frisco's was founded in 1953 by Harry Akin. The diner once boasted Austin's only "corn-fed" burger. According to Frisco's web site:

"A true entrepreneur in every sense, Akin developed innovations such as late night service, and even raised his own corn-fed beef to ensure the quality of food."

But there's more:

The founder of Frisco's "hired women and minorities before it was politically correct to do so. In the turbulent civil rights era, Akin was the first Austin restaurateur to integrate his restaurants."

It's only now that I see how much my former boss had in common with Akin. A politically incorrect progressive himself, Kinky participated in his fair share of marches during the civil rights era. He picketed a couple of segregated restaurants in Austin in an effort to integrate them -- including this one, I believe.

Frisco's was pushed several blocks north of its original location, sometime in 2009, to make way for a Walgreen's.

I don't know what my former boss would say about the new location. It's much more polished than the old one.

The 1950s-style pie case displays have been upgraded, and the waitresses no longer wear old-timey aprons. The rich wood booths and wood accents make the joint much cozier than the laminate table tops and plastic chairs of yore.

But the food ... the food is just as good. Perhaps it's gotten better. (My biscuits and sausage gravy didn't disappoint, and the coffee rivals some of the best I've had on our weekend brunch excursions.)

I can't help but hope Kinky is pleased with the new Frisco's. After all, he knows better than most that change can be a good thing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How Thomas Keller Ruined My Lunch

Remember when I wrote about scheming to eat as many oysters as possible during our trip to the Bay Area?

Well, the oysters were definitely a priority. But making it to The French Laundry, Bouchon or ad hoc - any one of the three restaurants owned by one of the best chefs alive today - was actually the very first thing we began talking about. (Aside from, of course, attending the wedding and meeting Mike's amazing, fun group of grad school friends.)

I became an instant fan of Thomas Keller after reading The Soul of a Chef (thanks to Jodi and our Austin food lover's book club). I have dreamt of dining at The French Laundry and, in fact, for my birthday in 2009, I treated myself to a copy of the book inspired by the renowned Yountville restaurant.

This summer, we honored the man with a dinner inspired by three of his books.

So when we bought our tickets and planned our Napa weekend, we knew a Keller restaurant would be on the menu. What we didn't know was that he'd show up to his own restaurant, sit right behind us and effectively ruin my meal.

I could not possibly eat with Thomas Keller eight feet away from me. Instead, I spent the first half of our lunch freaking out because he was so close, another two minutes actually speaking to the man, and then the rest of our lunch hour freaking out because I spoke to him.

It was impossible to enjoy my food, though I'm quite sure it was tasty. My favorite dish was our appetizer, a caramelized onion tart on the most fabulous flat bread. (It is no coincidence that the dish I enjoyed most arrived before Keller came in to the restaurant.)

We admittedly have some regrets about 'ordering wrong' -- we chose safe dishes, when we should have had offal for lunch. I chose mussels and the lobster bisque, Mike had an open-faced tuna sandwich with fries. There were more adventurous, Keller-branded options, in retrospect.

Still, I wouldn't have noticed if they'd put a BK broiler on my plate. Thomas Keller probably would have ruined that, too.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Corn Pancakes

I love pancakes for dinner, and when I saw these beauties on Deb's site, it was a matter of days before we were feasting on our own.

The recipe is straightforward enough, and though I measured to a T (I'm not the measuring kind; I learned from an 'eyeballer'), they were a bit wetter than they probably should've been.

It would have been easy to add a few more spoonfuls of flour and/or cornmeal, but we were halfway through the batch at that point. Committed - and lazy.

Mike preferred his plain; I doused with syrup and pretended I was at IHOP.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Can you ID this guy?

A couple of weeks ago, we seared some fish in the cast iron and paired it with a salad. The salad was fabulous. A kitchen sink concoction that included chopped macadamias (still in the freezer from our Oz trip), sundried tomatoes, cilantro and spinach.

The fish was perfection, too. But for the life of us, we can't remember *WHAT* kind of fish it was. I know I bought it at Central Market, on sale. And I know it needed nothing but a little kosher salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

Any guesses on what kind of fish we made?