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.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


If you've read much here you may already be aware. Me and my people are wordy. In every sense of the term.

Heck, even our cat uses a dictionary to bird watch through the window.

My wordiness was not entirely by choice. I was raised by a university professor/[unpublished] novelist and a registered nurse. My mother spent only slightly more time reading and working word puzzles than she did writing for various nonprofit venues.My father spent every spare moment in his study, reading and writing to prepare for classes or alternately, working on his version of the great American novel.

I was steeped in reading and writing from the get go. No shock then I grew up a reader. Fascinated by words, when I ran across anything unfamiliar, I would ask whichever parent was close by for help with a definition.

And it never failed.

Me: Mom, what does "ubiquitous" mean?
My Mom: Look it up for yourself. You know where the dictionary is.
Me: Mom, I will. But I'm in the middle of reading something and I don't want to stop. Could you just tell me what it means and I'll look it up later.
My Mom: No you won't.
Me: Mom, I will!
My Mom: OK. Read it to me in the sentence.
I would heave a dramatic sigh, roll my eyes surreptitiously and read her the sentence, only to hear:
My Mom: Good. Now look it up!

Back then "looking it up" meant a trip to the dictionary on my Dad's desk. It was a behemoth, a Webster's unabridged. It had been an anniversary surprise from my Mom to my Dad some years earlier. And that sums it up pretty well I guess, that a huge dictionary was one of my father's most treasured gifts from my mother.

Somehow when I was a parent rather than relieve my own children from the burdens of my obviously tortured beginnings I rather morphed into a version of my own parents. (HOW does that happen!?). Whenever my kids absent mindedly asked my husband or I the meaning of a word (or how to spell it), they would inevitably hear the same reply. "Go look it up for for yourself."

As I grew I developed a reliance on the precision of a dictionary definition to get me properly oriented when considering a topic to write about or simply mulling something over. Without a dictionary to guide me it was disconcerting to discover how often I'd layered a word with unwarranted content in the instances in which I would stubbornly define an unfamiliar term from its context rather than making that quick trip to the reference book.

And now there is the interweb. It has not replaced the dictionary certainly, but it has expanded my tendencies to seek reference materials for any foray into new territory. Which is what happened recently with, of all things, the radish.

Oh the radish. I have a long term happy relationship with this common garden plant. My mother loved radishes and we had them on hand nearly year round. As a child I grew to appreciate their crisp peppery taste, preferring them trimmed and salted.

As a young adult, my father in law grew not only the first, but the best icicle radishes I've ever eaten in his amazing garden. I tried to grow radishes in my own gardens over the years in Utah, California, and finally in Texas, with mixed results.From Webster's New Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe Second Edition, Dorset and Baber 1979

n,[Fr. radis, from L. radix, a root.]

1. a plant of the genus
Raphanus, particularly Raphanus sativus, a common garden plant with an edible red or white root.

2. the pungent root, eaten raw as a relish or in a salad

Store bought or garden fresh, there was only that one way I'd eaten every single radish in my lifetime. "Raw as a relish or in a salad".

Until last week that is. I'd been reading about roasted radishes and once they caught my interest, as these things go, it seemed recipes for roasted radishes were cropping up everywhere. When I spotted the stacks of organic radishes at Wheatsville Coop recently, I knew it was time to finally expand my radish repertoire.

So I turned to the internet and discovered this great recipe courtesy of Kalyn's Kitchen, for Roasted Radishes with Soy Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seed.

To follow is the the recipe almost as featured on Kalyn's wonderful site, but I urge you to make your own visit to the source. Kalyn's blog is ostensibly about eating well using the South Beach Diet, but you won't need to be on any particular diet to appreciate her recipes. Her photos of the process and finished product will not be improved upon by me certainly, and this great radish recipe is only one of dozens you'll want to try.

Kalyn's Roasted Radishes with Soy Sauce and Toasted Sesame Seed
(Makes 3-4 servings, recipe only slightly adapted from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop.)

20 medium radishes, trimmed and cut into fourths (use all red, or a mixture of red and white) {I used all red}
1 1/2 T roasted peanut oil {I only had grapeseed oil but that has a high temperature tolerance, so worked fine in the oven}
1-2 T soy sauce (I used about 1 1/2 T) {so did I}
2 green onions (scallions) sliced thin
1 T sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan {I got in a hurry - didn't toast my sesame seeds just sprinkled them on - still delish!}

Preheat oven to 425 F. Wash radishes, trim ends, peel if needed, and cut into same size pieces. I cut the white icicle radishes into diagonal pieces, and the red ones into half or fourths, depending on how big they were. Cut green onions into thin slices.

Toss radishes with peanut oil, then roast about 20 minutes, stirring one or two times. When radishes are tender and starting to brown, remove from oven, toss with soy sauce to coat and mix in green onion slices. Put back in oven and roast about 5 minutes more.

During final five minutes roasting time, put the sesame seed in a dry pan and toast over hot stove for about 2 minutes, or until starting to brown. Remove radishes from oven, place in serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serve hot.

Now consider yourself poked, prodded, encouraged to get out there and try roasted radishes, whether or not you like them raw. Once roasted, eating radishes is a whole other enterprise. Slightly sweet with a great texture totally unlike their raw crispiness, roasted radishes are a wonderful, and for us, novel side dish.

Taking into account their low calorie count and glycemic status, radishes are perhaps just the right accoutrement to those eaters resolved to spend 2010 eating light. And fortunately, they are delicious. Satisfying. And now? Versatile as well.

So there you have it. With roasted radishes tasting this good, it is inevitable. Eventually the dictionary people will have to amend their definition to "often eaten raw, or roasted". You read it here first, folks.

OK now we got the culinary obligations duly disposed of how about a little wordy fun? What is the last word you recall having to look up in a dictionary? Online or in a book, either way. For me it was "pulchritude". It was what I thought it was, but honestly, until I looked it up I couldn't be sure.

Oh wait - you don't know for sure what "pulchritude" means? Well then, LOOK IT UP!

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's What's for Color

So long to 2009's Mimosa (14-0848). Buh-bye 2008's Blue Iris (18-3943). Adios '07 Chili Pepper (19-1557). It is 2010 and you can relax because the suspense is over. Pantone has announced our latest color of the year and it is....TURQUOISE (15-5519)!

Be the first on your block to celebrate. Impress everyone with your fashion forward thinking and haul out everything you've got in shades of turquoise (remember to lift with your knees!).

This being a some of the time cooking blog I even found you a recipe for making your own (color) turquoise.

Essentially, turquoise is one part green to two parts blue. Play with the ratio a little if you want to, just don't tell Ruhlman. Only Pantone has to get that color right in a specific way every time.

According to my (superficial/arbitrary) research, turquoise gemstones range in colors depending on how much copper (blue) there is compared to the iron (green) in the soils in which they formed. Turquoise gemstones are attributed with all sorts of healing properties (especially on websites that offer the gemstones for sale. Charming coincidence!)

Stymied as to how/where you'd use Turquoise, the Color? No worries, Pantone has this from their press release announcing the color choice:
In fashion, Turquoise makes a statement that can look elegant and dressy in fine silk and gemstones, or casual and fun in cotton and athletic apparel. Because of its versatility, Turquoise is a great accent color in jewelry, purses, shoes, hair accessories and even nail polish for women, and ties, shirts and sportswear for men.
Because after all, (again from the press release so caps all theirs)
Turquoise Transports Us to an Exciting, Tropical Paradise While Offering a Sense of Protection and Healing in Stressful Times
Protection and Healing? Who doesn't want that!?!If asked, (go ahead, ask, I'm waiting) I would not have said I liked turquoise per se all that much as a color, but when I started looking around my house, I've got a bit showing here and there. Apparently I may be prescient, fashion color wise (which may come as a shock to those who know me well).Don't let that throw you. Take a look around, somewhere in your stuff is hiding that perfect example of turquoise something or other to casually display as a bit of color I-told-you- showmanship. Wait, showomanship? Showpersonship? Whatever, showoffyship.

Find that turquoise accent in your own belongings. Put it out artfully, all casual like. If you have lots of turquoise (really, why!?!?) try displaying in groups of three. If you have a house full of the stuff then I'm not sure what to say, except perhaps, "Enjoy 2010! This must be YOUR year!".

Then rest, basking in a growing sense of protection and healing, knowing you are safe from the Color Police for at least another year.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Triple Threat

When most folks have already put themselves on some sort of purification regimen, or at least instituted a cream and butter taper, we are still rocking the rich foods.


Because is it the Hub's birthday on the third day of each new year.Cognizant of a lifetime of anti-climactic celebrations with a natal observation following so closely on Christmas and then New Year's Eve, I have made it my goal, nay my QUEST, to assure my husband gets a full on, pull out the stops birthday.

This year we knew we would have a scattered series of celebratory events throughout the season, and all for the same reason. Folks in our family work in health care and the food service industry, neither of which automatically takes a day off. Ever.

So between a several day to week run of broken up holidays, this season we ended up trying out not one but three new appetizers. Beating the odds, every one of them was a smash hit in its own way.

For those of you who are tantalized by the zesty and offbeat? I offer you the Rustic Rosemary Lemon Tart from the folks at Fine Cooking.A compilation of Meyer Lemon zest, goat cheese and fresh rosemary leaves (all but the cheese and pastry sheets coming from our own gardens), it is fresh and rich without being heavy. I was concerned the rosemary would be overwhelming but such worries were totally unfounded. Turns out fresh rosemary leaves baked on top of a bit of goat cheese are wonderful and rosemaryish without being at all boorish about it.

Next up for those who are more into mushrooms, I suggest creamed mushrooms from Smitten Kitchen.We made a half recipe so as not to end up with too many leftovers, and once we'd tried these, were disappointed in our supposed foresight. These are easy, quick, and yet offer a satisfying flavor that would suggest more time and attention went into them.

Finally, we had a slight redo of a walnut pesto recipe I'd spotted, also from Smitten Kitchen.

I know folks are firm walnut fans and they have their reasons, but being a Texan through and through I remain firmly convinced that just about anything a walnut can do, a pecan can do better.

With a large bag of toasted organic pecans already in the refrigerator, it was a no-brainer I'd take this cinchy pesto and do it up Lone Star style.A processor does most of the work and about the only effort you'll put into this one is restraining yourself from finishing it all up before you offer it to friends or family as originally planned.

Or hell, post-holiday restraint be damned, just make a batch, toast up a baguette, open a bottle of white wine and settle in for a truly palate pleasing evening all by yourself.

Aside from my stubbornly substituting pecans in for walnuts in the pesto, we prepared each recipe as is. I gave you links to the original posting sites so you can travel over and enjoy the ambience while picking up the instructions for these road tested goodies.

I promise you, the most difficult thing you'll clear for any of these three treats is to share them generously. They are that good. And that easy. Win/win.

Bye for now. I hope you are enjoying these first few days of the year and if you are not? Then run to the kitchen and make yourself something wonderful. And that's an order!