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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Happiness on Hand

If you could look through your computer to see me at mine you'd see me smiling and, let me rush to add, while fully dressed!  No blogging while in pajamas going on over here - no sirree!  Lately I'm smiling a lot because I'm happy for several good reasons.

One large helping of happiness is being served up by our wonderful Fall weather.  We've woken up to temperatures in the high 50s two mornings running. Though that may seem like nothing to you folks living in necks of the woods with four seasons per year, around here we have "Way Too Hot", "Just Right" and "Pretty Chilly" for our weather options.

The weeks of late September - mid November are typically "Just Right" weather and that makes them a local treasure.  For the small subset of us not allergic to anything floating in the air on this side of the calendar wheel, the pleasures of open windows for the few weeks of cooler Fall weather leads to outright giddiness nonTexans might not fully appreciate.  Although California, I am guessing with your current weirdly hot weather you are feeling us a little bit more today, am I right?  I thought so.

Cooler weather here means finally firing up the oven without needing to turn up the air conditioner.  It means appreciating oven hot foods as opposed to sticking with pepper hot foods and their contradictory tendency to cool a body off.

Cooler weather also means football, naturally.  You do remember I am writing this from Texas, yes? Football is an obsession here on every level.  High School, College, Pro teams - it matters not.  If you play it we will watch.  And watching football calls for special comfort foods, especially when the home team sputters.  While I can't recall how it got started, for several years now any list of football season comfort foods pretty much begins and ends with Muffaleta sandwiches.

Muffaleta sandwiches need one crucial ingredient - one I am always happy to have on hand.  Whenever olive spread (or olive salad - it's called different things different places) is in the house, or rather in the refrigerator, I am smiling.  I throw mine together from a combination of recipes - you can find dozens online.
I typically use two parts green olives to one part black olives and then throw in any of a number of pickled pepper pieces, some chopped celery or carrots, roasted red peppers, olive oil, red vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I process it in pulses until it looks just right.

I make olive spread ahead to keep on hand because it always tastes best after it sits around a while. The flavors stick to themselves for starters, sort of like boys and girls at a middle school party, lined up against opposing gymnasium walls.  But you give them some time in the refrigerator, the tastes introduce themselves, get started swapping stories, and before you know it they are all old backslapping friends and the sum is much much greater than the total of the individual parts.

It is that great summed up olive salad more than any other single ingredient that makes a great Muffaleta sandwich.  And it is that great Muffaleta sandwich that transforms watching any football game into a good time no matter how my team is playing.

For non-football dinnertimes, and tonight is one instance of such, I am always happy to have a batch of Pioneer Woman's Buttered Rosemary Rolls cooling on the counter.

This is a do-over. The first time I made these a couple of weeks ago, I botched the rise by waiting too long afterwards to bake them. The poor babies fell and never quite got back up on their yeasty feet.  They were tasty, sure, but not gorgeous like they were meant to be.

This time I baked them promptly with gorgeousness as promised.  I left them in the cast iron skillet and will simply reheat them in the residual heat left over after I finish roasting a chicken.  Er, I will if I can keep from hiding in the coat closet and eating them all by myself that is.  They smell soooooo good.

I used a mixture of mostly rosemary with a little fresh thyme thrown in to echo the herbs I will sprinkle on that aforementioned chicken I plan to roast for dinner tonight.Because as I write this, I have  a wonderfully fresh Dewberry Farms whole chicken air drying in the refrigerator.  Isn't it happy looking?  Looking at it is making me smile, anyway.

I've read air drying encourages the crispest possible skin after roasting.  Friends, I'll be honest.  It's that crispy skin I'm after.  The rest of the chicken will be delicious but mostly it represents what I'll use to fill up on after I've eaten my portion of skin.  The prospect of roasted chicken skin - ohhh baby yes, I am grinning at that.
Finally I am airing out the ivories due to the handful of jalapeño peppers fresh from our garden sitting on the counter.  I'm pretty sure I have enough to put together a new batch of Homesick Texan Lisa Fain's Bread and Butter Jalapeño pickles featured towards the bottom of her post on what constitutes "Texan" potato salad.

This miniature harvest is coming just in the nick of time.  Besides potato salad, I've added pickles from the first batch I made on to every sort of sandwich or burger imaginable.  You can color me S O L D.  I need me some more.  Life is way too short to even try and get by without their sweet heat.

Having all this yumminess on hand is a lot like having money in the bank.  Money in the bank makes you happy, doesn't it?  I say to you "Here!  Here is money for you to put in the bank!" and you smile, right?  Right?

What about you?  Is there an ingredient or the prospect of a particular dish that reliably puts a smile on your face?   What's money in the bank yummy in your book?  Feel free to share in the comments section.  Who knows... your comment may be just the ticket to put a big grin on somebody else's face.  It'll definitely make me smile.


Flapjacks said...

:) black star is open.

Kathleen Scott said...

I can tell you're happy. Your phrases have an ebullient tone.

Lots of great things in this post. The one that grabs me is the olive salad how-to. I LOVE olive salad and have never made it. Your instructions remind me a little of salsa-making...you put in some of this and that and sprinkle the other, wait while magic occurs and then enjoy.

I'm gonna make me some magic olive salad this week.

TexasDeb said...

Flapper: Congratulations! I heard Blackstar had opened. That will be putting smiles on a lot of faces locally. I can't wait for a chance to drop in and sip some.

KS: Not so great home made olive salad is still better than anything I've ever tried from a store, barring a trip to New Orleans, that is. That said, I have no doubts you will put together something wondrous. Do enjoy!

Hee hee - "ebullient tone". You do have a way with words, lady.

Iris said...

Outright giddy here, too! I've never made the olive salad and am intrigued. I look forward to making your recipe!

TexasDeb said...

Iris - To my way of thinking olive salad is more a technique than a recipe. As KS intuits, much like salsa. I am sure you'll enjoy your version and if you don't? Keep playing with it until you come up with something that tickles your fancy! Anybody with your gardening chops will have no troubles at all I figure.