Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sorry sorry sorry!

I really don't know where the time goes. One day you are sitting and watching your old computer talk to your new computer, handing over all your precious passwords and bookmarks and putting your preferences back carefully where you like to keep them, and suddenly it is a full week later and you haven't done diddly squat. The days, they are long gone, regardless. Yikes and then some.

I will attempt to make up for that week long silence today with a nice long catch-you-up post, so get comfortable and let's get started, shall we?

I got the new computer to replace the brain dimmingly noisy older model I'd been using. The old computer was appallingly insistent upon conducting freelance experiments into the effects of constant exposure to high decibel fan noise on the Typical American Householder. This may have been early evidence of Skynet's attempted takeover of the BloggerNet, I cannot say for sure. Come the Revolution though, remember you read it here, first. Unless the skinjobs begin slaughtering people and in that case, I've never seen you before.

I'd had a couple of unsettling shut downs, a near brush with the blue screen of death, and it was time to be Good American Consumers and boost the economy by regearing computer wise. Nobody is more patriotic than we are when it comes to buying new gadgets, y'all. We love our country that much. I am a Leo American, so Happy Red White and Birthday to me, I got that new computer.In a move I still can't explain, when the Hub asked me whether I wanted a grande or venti sized monitor, rather than following a lifelong pattern of making do with the least expensive option available, I said I would be thrilled to have me a computer monitor that is larger than is absolutely necessary. Much. Much! Larger. Who says an old lioness can't learn new tricks?

Anyway, that old menace to the hearing world is gone now, history, outta sight and outta ear range for good. And I have a gorgeous new monitor that is large enough I could check my email from across the street if I wanted to. Between this Really Big Monitor and our ginormous TV I may never need my reading glasses ever again. Except for those pesky papery things, what are they called? Oh, right. Books.

Reading this some of you may begin to wonder, "do I, also, need a computer monitor that is larger than the first television set I ever owned?". And my answer to you is "don't you worry your pretty little heads - I am doing research on that for you right this minute - maybe even while you are sleeping". That is the kind of selfless scientist that I am. And if you have been asking yourself "does all the crap on the internet look any better when it is shown to me in a format that is bigger and brighter?". I can honestly say "I'll get back to you on that after I spend another 371 hours scientifically sampling various websites". I wouldn't want to ruin everything with a too early weigh in on the topic.

So yeah, I do apologize for leaving this blog out hanging somewhat in the hot dry summer breeze. There are a lot of fine places with regularly shifting content to click on so I do not want you thinking I take it for granted that you will just keep checking here. We have been cooking and we have been eating, plenty, some of it mighty fine stuff, too. I'll try to do a quickie catch up and then we must never speak again of my poor manners, leaving you alone to your own devices just like you had your own live(s) to lead.

First and foremost, last weekend ChefSon and LawSchoolGirl and I went shopping together for provisions, which is always fun. The two of them are like a finely honed comedy team, riffing off the people, places, and life all around them. Especially the people that is their own personal Mommy.

Momma is so funny, uh huh, she distracts so easily and who knows how she functions day to day without the wryly comedic observations of her offspring as running commentary on her life. (Who am I kidding? I love it when my kids make fun of me because that means we are together. I'd rather be hanging around with my kids making fun of me than hanging without them, any old day.) Delicious as it was, making fun of me was not our purpose for the day, far from it.

We had decided we were going to have ourselves a Seafood Celebration. A Bivalve Bonanza. Which meant in this landlocked burb we needed to buy something fresh, cook it, then eat it immediately if not sooner. And so we did.

Ignoring that it took three trips to find scallops of a certain size that had not been previously frozen, everything else was fairly easy to locate. Once we got our little saltwater friends safely out of the triple digit heat of the day, we cleared the decks and allowed ChefSon room to work. The rest of us assisted as we could, he didn't need much in the way of help prepping dinner for 4 people rather than the numbers he cooks for at work. Mostly we watched and were duly amazed. Here are a few glimpses of what we enjoyed...Scallops nestled on roasted sweet corn atop sunchoke purée, garnished with micro arugula, French Breakfast radish curls and cherry tomatoes. Seasonal pleasure on a plate.

A caveat. ChefSon discovered my skillet's seasoning was out of whack which meant the scallops did not brown the way they were supposed to. That was an equipment failure and totally my bad. The scallops still tasted amaaaazing, so I will simply apologize to the universe for not taking skillet seasoning seriously enough and assure you I have spent hours remedying that unfortunate lapse.

Next up was the wonderful Bivalves in a Bowl.We had littleneck clams and mussels, coaxed into opening up to us in a bath of the most delicious vegetable broth I've ever personally spooned. ChefSon corralled about 38 different ingredients into the stockpot for this richest of stocks, and while I despair at ever duplicating this effort I also celebrate that I have all the leftovers frozen into cubes of golden goodness to be carefully doled out in dinners yet to come for as long as they last. As the stock came up to temperature he added in bits of Spanish chorizo, a special request coming from our having recently watched Anthony Bourdain eat and drink his way around España for the second or third time.

Chefson gilded these sea lilies with more cherry toms, (including a few intrepid sun golds from our sputtering tomato plants), sauteéd leeks, creme fraiche, chiffonaded basil from our garden, and some alder smoked sea salt. A drizzle of Arbequina olive oil on top and we were reduced to slurping moaning machinery. We spent the next half hour or so methodically prying bites of delectable clam or mussel out and then unceremoniously chunking the shells into a growing pile of "what was". "What", was one of the least conversational and yet most satisfying dinners we ever shared as family.

ChefSon's act is impossible to follow but here's the thing about fantastic meals. No matter how spectacular one meal turns out, eventually everybody gets hungry again and somebody has to make more to eat. We are no exception despite our tendency to declare our willingness to sell our clothes and be taken straight to heaven after so much sea bounty in a bowl. Here's a glimpse of a couple of other recent efforts, that while perhaps representing a polar opposite from that handcrafted, everything from scratch feast, were yet pretty tasty.

It seems that discussion of and recipes for various home prepared potato salads were turning up everywhere on the late June and early July internet, and remembering I had some organic green beans waiting for me to appreciate them properly, I decided to press them into service for a summery potato salad all my own. That said, I was trying to finish knitting a prayer shawl that was due in to a glbt rights organization before a certain church denomination's national meeting in August, so I felt I did not have the luxury of the time in the kitchen it would require to prepare one of the many recipes I had seen.(that is my excuse - what's yours?) I decided to pull my own version of "semi homemade". I realize this opens me up to all sorts of serious food hate but hang in while I tell you how great it turned out.I boiled some chopped russets, blanched my beans, and once everything was cool enough tossed them with crumbled toasted pecans, chopped scallions and Mother's Restaurant bottled Cashew Tamari Dressing. I salted, peppered, and threw in a bit more white wine vinegar to brighten the flavors and I tell you what, that may have been the best potato salad I ever made, conveniently dressed with store bought bottled dressing or not. Hub and I were instant converts.

And finally, last night I pulled out a technique that had become a family favorite, updated for slightly more adult palates. I lightly coat chicken cutlets with a mixture of mayonnaise and dijon, dredge them in a mixture of crumbled organic cheese crackers mixed with grated parmesean, and bake them in a cooking oil spray coated pan for 30-35 minutes at 350°. They come out moist inside with a wonderfully cheesy crunchy outside.

This is a delicious alternative to fried or skin on treatments and pulls together easily giving you just enough time while it bakes in the oven to throw together a crispy green salad or whatever side you might want. I don't have a plated shot to share, just a quick glimpse of the one lonely leftover cutlet that I will happily snarf for lunch later. Don't you like that bright color? My HomeEc teacher from middle school would be so proud.

Happily, you are now all caught up. We are settling in for another triple digit weekend, and I have only the vaguest idea of what I'll try to cook next. The heat can do that. Regardless of what I come up with, it'll all be shared right here (sooner or later). I hope you'll come back to see.


Iris said...

Beautiful food and shawls! I'm happy for you and your new schmancy computer, too. In this heat, my cooking creativity level is almost zero.

TexasDeb said...

Thank you Iris. The second shawl I am trying to finish in time is a lovely purple - makes me think of your lovely home and garden! It would fit right in.

I just wish my appetite would disappear along with my ability to think of anything interesting to eat. Unfortunately, that is not so much the case.

Marion said...

If there is a better phrase than "Bivalve Bonanza," I can't think of it. Thank you for this. It's a joy. How you cook in three-digit weather amazes us up here in the NE, but sister we are glad you do. Cook on.

TexasDeb said...

Marion, thanks for dropping by. I am not sure how you can feel you have had a proper summer there in the NE with all the rain and chilly temperatures so I suppose we represent either end of the stick when it comes to Summer Weather We Would Rather Avoid this year. We are all so very brave!