Saturday, January 30, 2010

Bitter-sweet and Savory

john lennon/my mom
students/essay grading/writing
yo la tengo show/disappointment

To Market, To Market 2

1. The produce
2. Ruby hoping for some good [tasty] luck to fall at her feet.

Market buys:
- 2 Daikon radishes

- 4 Heads of broccoli

- 1 Loaf of rosemary ciabatta

- 1 bunch of hydroponic tomatoes
(I will let you know about their texture and flavor. I know nothing about hydroponic gardening. I forgot to include the tomatoes in the photo.)

- 1 head of romaine lettuce
(I also forgot to include this in the photo.)

- Micro greens
(arugula, cabbage, beet greens; The farmer gave us a taste. They were so incredible that it seemed worth the $3. I think I can get two uses out of them.)

Total cost: $19. Expensive or inexpensive? I'll think more about this and offer my opinion at a later date.

Today at the market, the only semi-intelligible thoughts in my head were:

1. Thank you, God, or lawmakers, for banning smoking in bars. I woke up, threw on some clothes and left the house with no stale smoke lingering in my hair, and my body didn't feel as if I'd unintentionally smoked 3 packs of everybody else's cigarettes.

2. When will my coffee kick in? When will my coffee kick in?

3. I must remember every word that came out of the mouths of the old men standing behind us at Yo La Tengo last night. It was like listening to an awesome rock 'n roll version of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show. More on rock 'n roll Statler and Waldorf and the Yo La Tengo show later.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Send Us in Your Letter

Do you have pointers for me?

Is there a vegetable you'd like me to experiment with?
Or a recipe I should try?
A cooking technique that would help me?
Is there an Austin farmers market I need to explore?
A local restaurant I must try?

What albums do you want me to cook to?
Do you know of a radio show worth listening to?
Or a band I ought to give a listen?

Should someone you know see my blog?
Is there a blog that I should see?

With a little help from the Beach Boys, here is my humble request for your requests and feedback.

Can you hear Paul McCartney munching on celery in this song "Vegetables" ?

This Friday, I'm going to a Yo La Tengo show. (The audio tab of their website, which I've linked to, contains songs from the new album.) If it's a really good show, Saturday night I might still be rocking out to them while I cook. Hmm. What meal goes with YO LA TENGO?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Beats and Beets, In Two Parts

ONE  All Songs Lead Home, and to the Kitchen

In Baton Rouge, my husband (hereon, known as Chris) and I were in the habit cooking dinner together on Saturday nights. While we cooked, we listened to Nick Spitzer’s show American Routes that is broadcast out of the University of New Orleans.

Last night I decided to listen to Twine Time, a KUT show hosted by Paul Ray. It’s a decent substitute for American Routes, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Can everyone recall being 18, 19, 20 years young and captivated by exotic knowledge spewing out of a professor’s mouth? (Thank you Gail Sutherland/Eastern Religion, Gregory Veck/Geography of Africa and Asia, Jill Brody/Cultural Anthropology and Matt Clark/Fiction.)

Present day: enter American Routes. While Twine Time plays some decent rhythm and blues, American Routes is like the music appreciation class I never took in college. Nick Spitzer is DJ/professor, and I am student-harboring-a-crush. The show consistently 1) has a theme, 2) makes musical connections between past and present, 3) surprises me with facts I didn’t know (about song origins, musicians, songwriters, etc.) and 4) exposes me to songs I haven’t before heard.

Twine Time was playing Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” and just as I was wondering if Paul Ray includes that song every week (it wouldn’t be the worst habit), I had a remarkably base insight. It occurred to me that the inter-webs might actually contain a site dedicated to American Routes; Herpreet: Meet Google. Chris has rigged speakers in our kitchen so they hook up to an I-pod, a turntable or a laptop; so out of my computer, I was magically, happily turning off Twine Time and listening to the January 6, 2010 American Routes broadcast, Nick Spitzer smartening me up about Hank Williams while I prepped turnip, beet and kohlrabi salad.

As if Spitzer knew that earlier in the day I had been ruminating about life in LA, he opened his segment on Hank Williams with the song "Pan American" (I have heard your stories about your fast train / But now I'll tell you about one all the southern folks have seen / She's the beauty of the southlands listen to that whistle scream / It's that Pan American on her way to New Or-leans). From there, as a set up to talk about Hank Williams' musical ties to Louisiana, he moved into "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," a silly little Cajun song that I learned on violin in the 5th grade. Here is Lucinda Williams' version of the song; maybe not the best version, and she is not my favorite, but people know who she is. (Lala - don't let me down with a 30-second sample. Please give the people the entire song.) My favorite line is: Fontenot, Thibideaux, the place is buzzin.
Jambalaya - Lucinda Williams 
*Photo: Pan-American Passenger Train, taken by Otto Perry in 1933; Denver Public Library 

TWO Eat the Earth

Chris dislikes beets for the very reason that I like beets: they taste like dirt. For me, the taste is like childhood. By 7 a.m. my dad has mowed the lawn, while I tried to sleep through the groan of the motor. Now the smell of grass clippings and dirt are wafting in through the microscopic gap between my window and its sill. Doesn't that smell taste good?

I feel determined to make Chris like beets. It is usually a futile endeavor. But last night, we each experienced a little give and take.

Some kitchen tasks, in my mind, are Chris's alone. Every morning, Chris makes coffee. He grinds the beans, makes shots of espresso, asks me if I want hot or cold coffee, and depending on my response (usually hot), he adds hot frothed milk or cold milk and ice and then shakes it in a shaker. The real cream is that he brings the coffee to me in bed. Every morning. This is a piece of love that I never want to stop receiving, and thus, I have absolutely zero interest in how the espresso machine works, simple as it may be.

Likewise, Chris makes a mean steak. In my entire life, I have never cooked a steak. I didn't grow up eating steak, and for a long time, I was not a fan. But several years ago, our Culinary Institute of America-trained, chef-friend Bobby introduced us to hanger steak. Bobby was working at what is now one of my all time favorite restaurants,  Cafe Degas in New Orleans. The hanger steak Chris ordered that day was so flavorful; it was the first time I got that beef could have flavor. This is a rather abstract assertion, but forever before, cow had tasted to me like nothing but a gigantic chunk of deadness. When I tasted that hanger steak, the juices, something like sugary blood and fresh minerals, came alive inside of my mouth.

At the grocery store the other day, I asked the butcher if he had any hanger. I got lucky. The butcher handed it over and announced: Congratulations. You're a winner. There is only one hanger steak per cow. Something else, when Whole Foods does have hanger steaks, they get them off of locally and organically raised, grass-fed cows. So for about $7 a pound, I brought home one quality steak.

That night:
Me: Will you teach me how to cook a steak on Saturday?
Chris: Smirks. Well, I almost don't want to, it's so easy.

This exchange encapsulates the lesson itself, so I will only offer three details: Chris always quickly browns whole, gently smashed garlic cloves (6-10) in a mix of hot olive oil and butter and removes them from the skillet before he cooks the steak. He will also only cook steak in his well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Finally, just before the steak comes out of the skillet, he deglazes with beer or wine, literally "a couple of sips, no more." I am convinced that these techniques are real keys to his consistent success. Now that I know how to cook a steak, I will feign ignorance for the rest of our days together. [Side note: Dear Bobby, I know it drove me crazy when I invited you to dinner and you gave me elaborate pointers while I cooked, but now I welcome your endless knowledge and comments about the best way to prepare a hanger steak.]

The stars of the show last night were the beets, turnips and kohlrabi. I modified a really simple recipe for beet salad that I found at Here is the recipe as I made it:

4-6 small red beets, stems and root ends removed
4 small turnips, stems and root ends removed
3 small purple kohlrabi, stems and root ends removed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Ground sea salt (to taste)
1/3 cup Maytag blue cheese

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet and turnip individually in foil. Roast until soft, about an hour. While beets and turnips roast, whisk balsamic, honey and oil in a glass/pyrex salad bowl. Toss in the walnuts. When beets and turnips are done, cool slightly. (I plopped them still wrapped into a bowl and stuck the bowl in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes.). While they are cooling, peel kohlrabi and slice into strips or wedges. Toss these into the dressing to keep them from turning brown. Remove beets and turnips from foil and gently rub off skins (they come of fast and easy). Slice into strips or wedges and toss into the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Dish them up and sprinkle each salad with crumbled blue cheese.

The beets were aromatic; the dirt flavor was mild and evenly balanced with natural sugar in the roots; the no-oil, foil roasting seemed to lift out the sugar. The kohlrabi added a nice crunch, and though, when it was not dressed, I got more of a turnip flavor, mixed in with the dressing and the roots, I picked up more of a mild apple flavor. On the whole, the salad had a buttery, but not heavy aftertaste. If I had to make any other modification, I would toast the walnuts over the stove for about 3 minutes and let them cool before adding them to the dressing. I suspect this would lift out even more of a buttery, nutty flavor.

My weak camera skills don't do justice to the salad (the image is not so crisp). I hope to get better with photos in time, and I'm open to tips in that area as well.

Last night, standing in front of the stove, I remembered my first exposure to Hank Williams. In high school, I had a Cowboy Junkies album. It included a cover of "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry." I suppose that I had heard the song before, but hearing this cover and reading the album's liner notes was the first time I became consciously aware of Hank Williams. I think that I searched out and listened to his original. I know that I replayed the Cowboy Junkies' version over and over again.

When I went to the farmers market earlier in the day, I felt a little lonely. Living in a new place, though almost a year and a half has passed, remains an adjustment. You begin to belong without even knowing you belong. When you go back to where you came from, you realize you belong there a little less; this is how you know you belong a little more in your new home. That's not mind blowing, but it's my only food for thought. We subsist on this earth, literally - its plants, its animals, its actual land, and yet sometimes we have a difficult time feeling rooted.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Market, To Market

Market Buys:
- Kholrabi
(This is new to me. Kholrabi looks like a root vegetable, but is actually part of the cabbage family. According to the vendor, it tastes like a cross between a turnip and an apple, is less bitter than a turnip, but less sweet than an apple. It can be peeled and eaten raw like an apple.)

- Turnips
- Beets

- 1 dozen pasture-raised, organic eggs

I have yet to feel at home at the Austin Farmers Market. On the one hand, the vibe is healthier, more laid back and of a generally more progressive food culture than the vibe at the Red Stick Farmers Market. In terms of the atmosphere, women aren’t walking around fully accessorized down to their spring sandals. It doesn’t even slightly feel like social hour for a gathering of the Junior League ladies and their children who are, at the coercion of their mommies, sporting gigantic hair bows overly-matched to dresses and socks. (Sorry young Junior League-ers; this can all just seem a bit type-A for a Saturday morning. Don’t the kids have to do this all over again for church on Sunday?)

At the Austin Farmers Market, people stroll through with their dogs. In a big adjacent park, musicians play, and people sit out on picnic blankets to listen while kids splash in the fountain. But the Austin Farmers Market can also feel too cool for school and less down to earth. Farmers don’t seem as readily eager to talk to customers about the fruits of their labors - a quality that has always marked the Red Stick Farmers Market with a degree of authenticity; before you can ask a question, the farmers will explain away. In BR, the farmers seem less jaded and more thrilled at the idea of talking about their produce, meat, plants or specialty items, thrilled at the opportunity to sell direct to the people. Also, while patron’s here don't have made-up faces that ring the GOOD MORNING siren, big, dark sunglasses say: I’m not chipper yet (which I'm pretty down with). Perfectly scraggly hair suggests: I’m kinda rock ‘n roll. Pseudo hippie-parents’ babies’ arms and legs dangle out of baby bjorns, and fresh-faced athletes who seem to have just come from a run aren’t exuding: GOOD MORNING; they’re exuding: I am fit. I am a doer. I am about to conquer this amazing Austin day. The people surrounding me make me wonder if my bed sheets are trailing behind me, if maybe they accidentally got tucked into my jeans while I was dressing, like a toilet paper accident. Am I the height of uncool, unfit and un-PC? Everyone, and Self, I am just not yet a true Austinite. And while I felt Baton Rougean to the core when I was in BR, I suppose I was utterly comfortable being among the several black sheep Baton Rougeans.

In any case, I rolled out of bed at 10:15 a.m. today, pulled on some clothes (my new Saints T-shirt to be exact) and headed to the market. One aspect I LOVE about the Austin market is that it opens at 9 a.m. instead of at the crack of dawn as the BR market does (okay, 8 a.m., but I think it used to be 7 a.m.), and it stays open until 1 p.m. instead of noon. So if I arrive at 11 a.m., I haven’t necessarily missed out on the good stuff. It’s as if the Austin Farmers Market is saying: Austinites - It’s Saturday. Sleep in. Or, if you’re up early, mull around the house before you head to the market. And on the inside, my heart beams: Thank you. Thank you for not making me feel freakish because I can’t get here at the crack of dawn to buy those farm-raised eggs I so badly wanted. (I know, BR, there's the heat and humidity to consider.)

Today, I spotted lots of kale, carrots, turnips, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, scallions and garlic greens. I was lucky to find the one booth that had beets, and I felt compelled to purchase a bunch. Tonight, these beets will make an appearance in honor of the She Eats Beats kick-off meal.

Stay tuned.

Monday, January 18, 2010

She Eats Beats

I jumped back and forth between the names She Eats Beats and Edible/Audible. Obviously, I've chosen. The new web address will be: This address will become active on Saturday, January 23, at which time will be no longer. So please make note of the new address and visit weekly!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eat This, Too

I am trying a new name. A new look. A new approach. For now, the old posts are still here, the old labels are here and the web address remains the same. All of the changes are under construction, and this will be a work in progress for quite a while.

None the less, welcome to Kitchen Playlist.
Or She Eats Beats.
Or The Kitchen Playground.
Or Edible Audible.
Or Edible Roots.
Can you help me determine the most fitting name?

I will load my first "official" post on Sunday, January 24, the day after I have hit the farmers market for fresh produce and engaged in one of my simplest and most fulfilling Saturday night pleasures - turning up the music and cooking a meal. I plan to share recipes, photos, songs (if I can figure out the right technology) tied together with a few personal musings.

It could be one hot mess, but I hope you will enjoy reading, seeing and listening to what comes. I know that I am eager to start making a mess. Off to spill some milk.

Eat This 1

This blog used to be called A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. Sometimes I loved its content. Other times, I hated its content. On the whole, it has been directionless and unfocused and overly self-indulgent. So, if you mourn blogs, mourn it now: A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud. 8/25/07 - 1/4/10. It looked like this:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

At the risk of seeming like a dork. A cheesy dork. I am completely mesmerized by Alicia Keys. And now this song.

BUT. Clearly, so is Stephen Colbert, my favorite dork.