Guest Post: Meatless Mondays
Readers' Favorites on Notes From Maggie's Farm

You may have heard, or seen, me mention my talented blogging buddy, Lisa Rawlinson of Full and Content.  We've had the pleasure of sharing our admiration for the mostly-local BBQ scene for the City Guide 2013, produced by the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, of which we are both active members.  Lisa's work, exhaustive in scope and detail, covers Austin Barbecue, in town, and can be found here.  You may recall our big BBQ pilgrimage east of Austin, which can be found here.  And today's post, in honor of Meatless Monday, can be found here.

But we girls, we just can't live on meat alone.  And if Lisa's like me, my meatier assignments are usually, and necessarily, followed by weeks of meatless meals.  We celebrate this trend on this blog by sharing our favorites on many, many, Meatless Mondays.

How flattered I was, then, when Lisa asked me to share our readers' Meatless Monday favorites in a guest post.  (and how patient she has been as she's waited for my post!  This move has perhaps been the longest and most demanding relocation in history.  But more, later in the week.).  There have been quite a few recipes that seemed to encourage many of you to hang up your carnivorous habits, if at least for a day, and the following have become the five standout recipes you, (and me, too!), return to again and again.

Follow the links below each snapshot to find recipes for our favorites.  Perhaps you'll find a new approach to Meatless Mondays, too.  Enjoy!

Thanks, again, to Lisa of Full and Content, for the invitation to guest blog on her always impressive site.  Please stop in, often, and see what she's up to--always interesting, informative, and completely and utterly hip, this girl, and I know you'll enjoy her work over and over.

(almost) wordless wednesday
austin food blogger alliance photography camp 2013

Only a few short years ago, I was hammering out great dishes, visiting noteworthy food-lover destinations, traveling the culinary byways, and tasting the most delectable bites in regions near and far, but all went unshared, or rather shared rather shoddily, due to my ignorance of even the most basic photography principals. 

I thought it was enough just to describe the goods.

And describing is certainly part of the equation.  But we're a very visual lot, we food loving folks, and Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the thousands of breathtakingly gorgeous food, design, and travel blogs will attest to the fact that we love to share what we're enjoying out there.

Skip forward a bit-- a scouring of the local pawn shops, a score of a decent DSLR camera, a few courses, and paying attention to the wisdom shared by fellow food photographers, (a few even represented in the lineup, below), and I'm joyfully immersed in a hobby that brings me great joy, and, I hope, makes this world from maggie's farm as visually appealing as it is delectably interesting.

I am proud to be a part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance, and thrilled to share with you what we'll be up to this weekend--learning the basics, and beyond basics, of impressive food photography, along with socializing, and, of course, snacking

The best part of it all?  YOU ARE INVITED TO ATTEND.  This event is open to the public and details, and tickets, are available, below. 

Learn more......

Austin Food Blogger Alliance

Photography Camp

Photo by Melissa Skorpil
Are you tired of being rejected by FoodGawker? Do your Instagram pics leave commenters asking just what isthat? Are all your family photos dark and blurry? You’re not alone. Join us for Photography Camp!
Two years ago AFBA offered its first photo class. This year, we’re upping the ante with an all-day event!
Our group of experts, chosen from the Austin food community, will share their knowledge on choosing the right gear, figuring out lighting, styling food, deciding on the best phone app, and more. Whether you’re using a DSLR or a camera phone, you’ll come away with plenty of tips and tricks to make your photos truly drool-worthy.
Saturday, September 28
8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
AOMA campus in South Austin, behind Westgate Shopping Center (map)
Tickets are on sale now! Purchase on Eventbrite.
Your ticket gets you hands-on training and photography best practices, a yummy box lunch provided byPamela Jane’s New England Lobster Rolls (vegetarian and gluten-free options available), morning sips and snacks by Zhi Tea and  Better Bites Bakery, iced coffee by Chameleon Cold Brew, and happy hour snacks sponsored by Dinner Lab.
Food Photography 101 – Melissa Skorpil takes you through everything from how to plan a shoot to setting up lighting and using props.
Photo Editing – Mary Helen Leonard takes you through editing basics.
Don’t Fear the Manual Setting – Chris Perez will help you step outside your autofocus safety zone.
Rig It – Ryan Schierling teaches you how to get the most out of your camera.
Phoning It In – Jane Ko will show that gorgeous photos can come from your phone, too.
All About the Gear – Peter Tsai discusses the best gear for your camera.
plus Breakout Shooting Sessions
I hope to see you there!
For more information about sponsors, and Austin Food Blogger Alliance, please visit the AFBA website.

Losing a Pet
Eulogy for Rudy, August 2013

Last Sunday, Rudy spent the day with me.

Most of his days were spent with me.  From the first day I brought him home from the highway corner upon which his brothers and sisters were being given away, Rudy spent every one of his days, with me, when I was home. Those few days I was away, he spent waiting for my return.

Rudy was intended as a gift for my daughter, who was expected for a rare visit for the holidays. I temporarily named him Rudy, short for Rudolph, in honor of the season. He'd snuggled his little nose into my neck the very moment I picked him from the litter, and he stole my heart. As they so often do, plans changed, my daughter stayed home with her boyfriend for the holidays, and Rudy would stay with me.

Perhaps I'd planned it all along.

I began working on the farm full-time prior to Rudy's arrival, and other than the three days a week I spent in Austin at school, he and I shared most minutes of our life with a menagerie of dogs and cats and chickens and ducks and rabbits and goats.  And as soon as he was able to make his voice known, he let the rest of the world know that he'd rather we all be left alone.

Rudy didn't much like strangers.

Rudy didn't like the UPS man, the FedEX man, the postman, the Pastor and her husband, any neighbor, few family members (some were tolerated.) strange animals, grasshoppers, or chickens rooting about in his feed bowl.

Rudy was not particularly fond of rap music. Rudy liked Pink Floyd. Occasionally, Joni Mitchell. And his mama, singing to the cucumbers at watering time.  He never understood why she sang, but he liked it when mama was happy.  He sat beside her morning and evening in the midsummer, and watched those cucumbers do absolutely nothing in response to her songs.

He didn't like cucumbers, either.

Rudy finds the sweet spot, October 2012
Rudy spent his entire night, every night. laying on his front porch, close to slumber, but always with one ear cocked for danger.  One ear up.  One ear down.  Nocturnal wild animal visits would not be tolerated.  Nor would that strange guy, up the road.  Rudy was the best watch dog in all of the countryside.  I'd never felt as safe as when Rudy was on guard.

This summer has been a little crazy.  In fact the entire last year has been a bit of a roller coaster. There has been much change.  Rudy and I have not spent every day together.  In fact, Rudy was cared for most of the summer in the country while I worked and lived in the city, primarily.  And as soon as there was a place for Rudy in the city, he and Jack, previously a city dog, came to live in Austin.

Now, Jack?  He's just fine with Austin.  He was born in Austin.  He's lived in Austin. And he's changed locales and lifestyles with me for over ten years.  He's a gypsy, that Jack.

Rudy didn't adjust to the city as well.  Rudy was stressed.  There were people and cars and sirens and drunks and buses (Rudy REALLY didn't like buses) and kennels, and, well, noise.  Lots of it.  The city proved to be too much for Rudy. Rudy was clearly stressed.

And without going into the dark details of those days, I'm sad to say Rudy did not survive the move. His last day, he would not leave my side. And I will forever be grateful that he and I spent those final hours, as we did for all those days on the farm, together. Side by side.

Rudy teaches his nephew, March 2012
So, today I sit in this coffee shop, creating a small lake of tears and a bit of a scene, remembering the unparalleled devotion of Rudy. I thought waiting a few days would help me have objectivity. Would help me say the things that others who lose pets need to hear. Would help me be pithy and wise.  Nope.  I'm still a wreck. Rudy deserves a more dignified memorial, but he knows how I am; I don't know how dogs' minds really work, but I'll just bet Rudy knew I'd take this pretty hard. He'd come to be comfortable with all of my moods. I could never be cranky, or goofy, or touchy, or messy, or sweaty enough for Rudy to avoid me. Rudy was there for my dark days, and bright. I know he's cheering me on, still, in the special place our animals go to wait for us.

With one ear up.  And one ear down.

"I'll Always Love a Dog Named Beau" 
written and read by Jimmy Stewart.

(almost) wordless wednesday
the fun starts here

“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” 
― Danny Kaye

special delivery for my mother
texas peach, sweet onion & thyme relish

I'll be on the road this week, and the first stop will be Tyler, Texas, where I'll be seeing my twin brother and his family, and spending some precious hours with my mother. I had hoped to bring a tote-full of magazines for our favorite pastime (as you'll learn, below), but, sadly, we won't be able to do that this trip. 

“I think all of us are always five years old in the presence and absence of our parents.” 

― Sherman Alexie
Twelve months since this post originally ran--a year for the elder and infirm can see significant changes in health and wellness, and this year, no different.  It's during these stretches of challenges that sweet memories sustain, the way that fresh peaches this time of year, make me think of this Texas Peach, Sweet Onion & Thyme relish, and my mother's inspiration.  

Last week, the postman brought me a very special package.

In somewhat faint, unsteady handwriting, it was addressed to me, from my Mother.  It was a manila envelope of magazine articles she had been collecting, it appreared, for the last few years. All clipped together, individually.  Some with faint notes written directly on the pictures--some legible, some, sadly, not.  Perhaps if her daughter's aging eyes could strain just a little harder, the smaller words might be made out.  Every word, precious.  Every article, garden suggestion, relish or condiment recipe, priceless, now.

In my earlier, carefree, somewhat clueless days of youth, a package from the postman would have been fun. We all enjoy getting (bill-free) mail, naturally.  But now, these kinds of packages, well they're all the more special.  And isn't that the way life is.  Back then, we couldn't have even imagined what life truly had in store for us.  Oh, we might have been planning the big stuff-- marriages, homes, children, careers.  But we truly had no clue about real life.  The precious details of living.  The fact they we, one day, would be older, and our parents would be older, too.

And, even with the passing of time, and the trials of aging, there are precious moments, special deliveries, that we, in our youthful, dare I say it, blithe ignorance, wouldn't have even recognized. We recognize them now.

My mother and I have always shared a love for combing through home magazines.  She, for quaint country-style home decorating ideas, me, for anything food-related, naturally, both of us, garden inspiration.  We share a love of vintage anything, and a knack for showcasing the imperfect, in new and lovely ways, whether in people, or things.

We'd spend hours flipping page upon page--stacks of magazines my mother and I, both, had saved for just such occasions.  And, because we lived so far from one another, occasions, rare.

Even more so rare, these days.  Mom has been living with Parkinson's in an assisted living facility, near my brother, who spends a great deal of his time making sure she is well-tended, and all of her needs are met.  I still live quite a distance, and don't get to see her nearly as often as we'd both like. Hence, these occasional surprises become all the more special.  The dementia from which my beautiful mother is suffering is unpredictable, at best.  Her skills and abilities will be stable for quite some time, then, with no notice, she will suffer setbacks, and small parts of her, little by little, will be gone.

In conversation, I try to rush with words, talk over, conceal, cover-up the occasional out-of-place memory or moment or recollection, not because I care that she get it all right, but because I don't want  her to notice.  I don't want her to have that moment in which she thinks, 'Wait. That's not right. Did she/he/they notice that?'. I don't want  her to know that I saw the stare of unrecognition the last time we visited, until I got right to where she sat, looking directly at me, and I started in with a big 'HI, MOM!  You must be waiting for me!' that nudged recollection of what her adult daughter would look like. Like we all do, I want to fix things so she won't have those moments.  But there is no fixing, really.

What there is, though, is fabulous; special moments-- moments that make my heart sing!  And this package in the mail, this was one of those moments.  I've poured over the articles, one by one, time and time again.

I had a bowlful of fresh peaches with which I intended to prepare, and photograph, a peach gallette.  I wasn't pleased with the quality of pictures I'd taken of the first preparation (this, I got from my Mother, too.), so I planned to redo.  But, when I came across a special article from her favorite, Southern Living Magazine that she had included, well, plans changed.  For reasons I'm sure you understand, it had to be made.  Several unique tweaks to the original, because that is who I am, were made, but the end product is special to me in a way that hundreds of other jars of goodies I've put by are not.  Because this is directly a result from my mother's suggestion--an article she included because she knows, she still knows, who her daughter is.  What her daughter loves to do.  Like all of the articles in that very special delivery.

She'll be happy to know I won't let one drop of it go to waste, either.

You could use any relish, chow chow, even jam to dress up a standard piece of meat like this 'South Texas Ribeye' cut of pork from our grocer, as well as chicken, shelffish, a fish filet, sausages, and even a slab of extra firm tofu, if that's your thing.  We've splurged with our Special Delivery Texas Peach, Sweet Onion & Thyme Relish we put by earlier this day. It's pretty simple.

Dredge your chosen cut with a favorite dry rub or seasoning salt and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes. Preheat a small, heavy skillet (I couldn't get buy without my cast iron), and melt about a tablespoon of butter, with 1/2 T cooking oil, until just shimmering.  Place meat in hot skillet, allowing a sear to form, without moving, which should take about 5 minutes.  Turn, sear opposite side.  Pour off all but about 1 T drippings, top with half of a half pint jar of relish.  Toss in the equivalent of 2, seeded and sliced sweet bell peppers. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and allow glaze/relish/chow chow/jam juices to thicken in skillet, and meat to cook to taste. If thickening occurs before meat is done to your taste, simply add a tablespoon of water to the pan to prevent scorching.  When done (Note: Meat will continue to cook; remove from heat when just slightly underdone, say 5 degrees less than the optimal cooking time for your particular meat and cut, if using a meat thermometer.)  Remove meat and peppers from pan.  Splash an ounce or so of white wine in the pan, deglazing and stirring up the sticky bits, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, until slightly thickened. Add meat and peppers back to pan, toss to glaze, and serve.   

Uncover, remove from heat, and serve.  Pairs perfectly with a whole-grain or wild rice, and a crisp, dry, white wine.

"More relishes for you to make & sell."

(almost) wordless wednesday
carnival: lampasas, texas

“A carnival in daylight is an unfinished beast, anyway. Rain makes it a ghost. The wheezing music from the empty, motionless rides in a soggy, rained-out afternoon midway always hit my chest with a sweet ache. The colored dance of lights in the seeping air flashed the puddles in the sawdust with an oily glamour.” 

― Katherine Dunn, Geek Love


The Spring Ho Festival
Lampasas, Texas

tips for tuesday
in season: july

Across the country, the beautiful, fresh, abundant fare you can expect to find in farmers markets, roadside stands, and seasonal markets in the month of July, includes

amaranth + arugula + beets + beet greens + bell peppers + carrots + corn + cucumbers + eggplant + garlic + kohlrabi + okra + southern peas + peppers + radish + rhubarb + squash, summer + zucchini

Fruit and Nuts
apricots + blackberries + blueberries + cherries + figs + lemons + limes + melon + mulberries + nectarines + passion fruit + peaches + plums + strawberries + tomatoes

duck + lamb 


And a couple of great links, with maps, charts, and interactive resources, to keep yourself, and those you love, eating well:

meatless monday
lessons in weight loss: stay off that scale!

So, it's like this.

I know I'm supposed to avoid obsessive scale watching.  In fact, several years ago during the first leg of this fitness overhaul, I weighed exactly once a month.  And every month, for several months, I lost 8-10 pounds. That significant loss fueled my fitness spirit for an entire month, afterwards.  I didn't even OWN a scale.  I was so smart. I was smart enough to listen to the expert tips, and implement them into my fitness lifestyle. It was great advice, and it worked for me.  I lost 50 pounds in six months and kept all but a pesky 5-10 back-and-forth'ers who just didn't get the memo.

I was so, so good.  
Several years later, I take on this second leg of the fitness journey, and get all cocky, like I know everything, a little too confident, because I'd done it before, and I start taking shortcuts.  I, most cavalierly, don't concern myself with those habits that worked before.

Now, it's not that I'm not taking off the weight.  I am. Though achingly slowly right now.  It's much more about the mental challenges of weight loss.  That's what I'm trying to learn to navigate. Case in point--

Now I own that scale. And I am on that scale WAY TOO OFTEN.  I mean several times a day, sometimes.  And, as you'll see below, I see why I shouldn't.

Okay, so maybe I've not been so, so good.  But, oh, was this ALL so, so good!
Last week, after a particularly robust restaurant review/happy hour invitation week, and in the middle of the day, no less, I hopped on the happy little scale, to find, to my horror, that I'd gained 4 pounds. !!!!!  Of course, I rounded that up in my mind immediately to 5 pounds.  And reasoned that it was likely even more (for what reason, I am completely unaware) than those 4, 5 pounds.  I left for the weekend, believing I was a failure. That I didn't know how to eat. That I wasn't fit. That I couldn't do this. That I would never reach my goal.

That I should give up.

I felt old, fat, and ugly.

I'm sure no one else has ever felt that way, huh?

So, I spend 4 days away from that scale.  I can feel those 45, one million pounds. I am sure I am bloated. Am sure those shorts were looser the week before. I don't walk. I don't practice yoga. I don't lift one single pound. I break into tears more than once. I eat Rocky Road candy bars for dinner, because, really, what's the use?

Time to be so, so good, again!
I get back to that scale 4 days later, and find, yep, you guessed it, that all 45, one million pounds were gone. Did I lose those pounds while perched, inactive, like Jabba the Hutt, and enjoying candy bar dinners in the country? Yeah, um, no.

They were most likely the result of a high sodium meal, or some other unexplained cause of temporary water weight gain. And..... I'm still mad about it!  I still feel like I own those pounds even though they are no longer.  What the heck?  A week later, and my ego is still bruised, my resolve, faltering, my mood, oh heavens my mood-- cranky.  Cranky is a kind word for it.

Add to that mood one less-than-flattering picture that popped up in social media, and, well, I'm ready to turn this boat around. Whatever the impetus, whether real dissatisfaction with fitness, or imagined weight gain, I think the best way to approach this odd fitness frustration is with steadfast, razor-sharp focus, and determination.

It is a little more than half way through the birth year that authored this Springing Into Fitness personal challenge.  And my goal of losing 50 pounds?  Well, 35 pounds down, I'm 15 pounds, and 20 weeks away from....

A Fabulous Fifty

Phase II: Doing What Works

Get Moving:  Keeping the Pep in Your Step

The last time I successfully lost significant weight and kept it off, I maintained a vigorous fitness plan including cardio, strength, and flexibility training.  It helped me build confidence in my own abilities, it helped me have energy, it helped me have greater control over my results. endorphins kept me from running to the candy aisle.  So, again, I'll be returning to a more vigorous fitness plan. I'll incorporate cardio, strength, and flexibility training, and I'll be moving 6 days a week.

Habits: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

The last time I successfully lost significant weight and kept it off, I did not obsess over the scales. I will be taking the scale from the bathroom to my closet.  On a shelf.  Under my boxes of shoes. Lots of boxes.  I will give myself one time per week to weigh in--Sunday morning. If that doesn't work, I'll go back to once a month. The goal is to become fit. The goal is not to become crazy. Um, crazier.

Fueling the Machine: Eating Well for Health and Wellness

The last time I successfully lost significant weight and kept it off, I carefully planned, and kept a 1000-1500kc/day meal plan.  I ate 5 meals a day.  I gave myself weekends to relax, but not much. I didn't keep a food diary--the meal plan was complete, cautious, thorough, and a system from which I did not waver.  So, again, I'll be returning to the meal plan.

I think I can speak for a whole lot of people in my world in saying that I hope this intensified focus turns this cranky mood  around. Have mercy, I can't even stand myself.  

How are your fitness plans working out in this sweltering summer heat?  Find a fabulous new lean dish?  Figure out how to tackle that flagging discipline?  Add some new music to your speed walking playlist?  I'd love to hear what keeps you going, collecting your favorite tips for an upcoming blog post, with credit, of course!  Leave your links, your tips, your secrets, your magic, your favorite personal fitness tips in the comments below, and you'll see it show up soon on Notes From Maggie's Farm.

Well I certainly don't want to be known as a Rocky Road.  I'ma turn this thing around.

cupcakes and cocktails 2013
austin food blogger alliance

One of the greatest pleasures I have as a food blogger is working with a community of dedicated, talented, local bloggers of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance.  I enjoy the distinct honor of holding the Development Chair on the board, which allows me to learn from, and alongside, some very sharp cookies, as well as the vibrant Austin food community, at large.  
This week, the Austin Food Blogger Alliance is delighted to utilize our collective voice in support of the ARC of the Capital Area through our 2013 Cupcakes & Cocktails Fundraiser, to be held at Le Cordon Bleu, at The Domain, in Austin.
The event is open to the public, and details can be found below.  Come join us for food, fun, revelry, and perhaps a little extra sparkle.
Dust off your best cocktail duds, and come join in the fun!
Austin Food Blogger Alliance Hosts
Second Annual Cupcakes and Cocktails Fundraiser
Proceeds benefit ARC of the Capital Area
Austin, Texas—The Austin Food Blogger Alliance is hosting its annual Cupcakes & Cocktails fundraiser, this year benefiting ARC of the Capital Area. The event will be held from 6 to 9p.m., Friday, July 19 at Le Cordon Bleu in The Domain.
Samples of local spirits and sweets will be served for a good cause, along with a silent auction of culinary surprises.
Local bakers from Sugar Mama's Bakeshop, SugaPlump Pastries, Delish, Blue Note Bakery, Butter Stick Bakery and Crema Bakery and Cafe will be serving up cocktail-themed cupcakes at the event. Libations will be provided by Treaty Oak Distilling, T1 Tequila, and Hops and Grain. Le Cordon Bleu in The Domain, Google+, and Central Market are also supporting the event.
Since the organization was founded in 2011, The Austin Food Blogger Alliance has given back to the Central Texas community through advocacy campaigns, volunteer projects, and fundraisers.
The group’s previous philanthropic partners include the Sustainable Food Center, The Capitol Area Food Bank, SafePlace, and others. In 2012 the inaugural Cupcakes & Cocktails benefit raised over $4,500 for BakeAWish, a culinary nonprofit that provides birthday cakes to underprivileged children and the elderly in Central Texas.
The event is open to the public; general admission tickets are $35 each and may be purchased at

The ARC of the Arts Studio and Gallery Show
About Austin Food Blogger Alliance
The Austin Food Blogger Alliance seeks to support a local membership of food bloggers and the community through educational initiatives, social events, and philanthropic endeavors. Founded in 2011, the Alliance has over 150 members. The 501(c)7 nonprofit is the first blogging organization of its kind in the United States and serves as a model internationally. The Austin Food Blogger Alliance Cookbook was published by The History Press in 2012. For more information, visit
About ARC of the Capital Area
ARC is a nonprofit committed to promoting independence and choice by providing individualized services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has a wide variety of programs, including: an art studio, case management services, guardianship services and juvenile justice services. Visit to learn more.
Regina shares her artwork, and the story behind it, at the ARC of the Arts Studio and Gallery Show.
Matches adults with disabilities with professional artists in the community.
Provides individuals with developmental disabilities and their families with access to holiday assistance, medical/adaptive equipment and supplies, and crisis assistance to help with housing, utilities, medical payments, transportation and childcare costs.
Coordinates a range of community integration services and supports to help adults with developmental disabilities, many of whom live alone, to achieve and maintain personal independence.
CLASS offers individuals with disabilities who need attendant care an alternative to institutionalization by helping them access the resources they need to live and work as independently as possible in the community.
Includes low or no-cost parent mentoring, special education advocacy, support groups and guardianship services for parents and caregivers of children with developmental disabilities.
Helps under-resourced families to establish guardianship of children with developmental disabilities who have recently reached or will soon reach adulthood (age 18).
Provides educational advocacy and support to help youth with developmental disabilities (ages 11-17) and special education needs to complete school, stay out of the justice system and become contributing members of the community.

Nicole, the talented artist, introduced us to her parents as her benefactors.  She made my day.  And her artwork, an uncanny animal likeness of a certain pair, hangs proudly in my home.  
It is also an honor to have from maggie's farm be a part of the lineup of stellar products and services offered as a part of the evening's silent auction. If blue-ribbon jam,jelly, relish, chutney, marmalade and dessert glazes are your kind of thing, be sure to drop by and throw your hat into the ring for a custom gift basket of from maggie's farm bestsellers.  

We'd all love to see you there!

thirsty thursday
cocktails: the old fashioned

“They say I'm old-fashioned, and live in the past, but sometimes I think progress progresses too fast!”

― Dr. Seuss

I couldn't have said it better myself, and nowhere is this sentiment better evidenced than by the popular cocktail culture of the hipster age.

Deconstruction and reconstruction is the craft cocktail hobby of the moment; what once was humble, simple, and delightfully unfussy is often, now, a mere memory of the cocktail, expensive, and garnished with chicken bone, tropical fruit foam, and vintage swizzle stick.  

In a tiki glass.

And, hey, I'm all for fancy from time to time.  But some things are best left to their brilliant basic bones.  Just don't mess with it.

Say it with me.  Leave well enough, alone.

Take the old fashioned Old Fashioned.

"Its early days, circa 1800, were its most simple: Drinkers added bitters and a bit of sugar to a small amount of whiskey as a morning palliative." (source: Tasting Table)

Along about time of Prohibition, the cocktail became a popular method of obscuring the taste of inferior liquor.  About mid-century, the classic preparation was eschewed for the then-popular trend of adding fruits, and syrup, and perhaps a maraschino cherry or three, and the simple, humble cocktail became a sickeningly sweet caricature of its origin.

The craft cocktail movement of the last decade sought to return to the classics, reviving the art of mixology by perfecting the basics.  Below, find Tasting Table's suggestions for creating a perfect, basic, beautifully simple, old fashioned, Old Fashioned.

And if you're just the kind of guy or gal who can't leave well enough alone (I confess I often don't), find a few newfangled variations on the theme, and a little history of the cocktail, on Tasting Table: Anatomy of a Cocktail.

Keep it classy, cocktail lovers!

blistered shishito peppers with heirloom tomato, red onion, and herbed chevre

Y'all.  These shishito peppers, well they're a big deal.

They are the hipster-riffic appetizer of the moment.
They are on the menus of the places to eat.
They are eaten roasted, grilled, fried, broiled, and tossed with salt, olive oil, balsamic, garlic, maybe covered or tossed with cheese or sausage or almost anything you can imagine-- or nothing at all.
They are in season right now (don't wait much longer!).
They are the bomb.

On a recent trip to one of Austin's local farmers' market, I hit the jackpot.  Johnson's Backyard Garden set me up with the peppers and the onions, to accompany the lovely Indigo Rose heirloom tomatoes I was cradling in my palms as if they were precious treasures.  Because they were.  And their cost was commensurate with their value.  (Let me just say, right here, that heirloom tomatoes cost way more than the conventional mealy, tasteless tomato I'm purchasing for half the price, and less than half of the satisfaction.  In tomatoland, you get what you pay for.)

Shishitos are small Japanese peppers, mildly spicy and sweet, about the size of serrano, but without the assertive heat that hotter chile peppers pack.  Mostly.

Because the fun of shishitos are that about one in ten pack a bit more wallop than the rest.  And no amount of studying will determine which pepper will, um, surprise you, a bit.  Each bite is accompanied by 'is this the one?', and all eyes are on the eater.

Admittedly, even the offender is still much less aggressive in heat as its cousins, serranos, jalapenos, habaneros, and the like.

Simply toasted with a drizzle of oil and tossed with a little coarse ground salt, a bowlful is blissful, shared, with a few ice-cold beers.

But have I ever been known to leave well-enough alone?



one pint of fresh shishito peppers
one pint of heirloom Indigo Rose tomatoes
one red onion

about one tablespoon olive oil

the juice and zest of one lemon
sesame seeds
coarse ground kosher salt
(see optional seasonings, below)

served with herbed chevre, either purchased as is, or home-seasoned, using the herbs with which you've chosen to season the vegetables. (Note:  Chevre can be very soft, or it can be found to be a bit firmer.  I began with a firm chevre, seasoned it as above, added a bit of minced fresh garlic, and enough heavy whipping cream to allow it the softness necessary for spreading, a little more than a teaspoon.)

Serve, plain, as an appetizer, tossed together for a tasty side or lunch, or, if desired, with crostini, or crackers

The Process

Preheat broiler.  (Alternatively, you may grill, or pan-roast in a cast-iron skillet over high heat.)

Wash vegetables and dry thoroughly.

In a small pan, 1. add completely dried, whole shishito peppers.  2.  Add whole, washed and thoroughly dried small, heirloom tomatoes.  3.  Slice whole onion in half, lengthwise, and into bite-sized wedges and toss with peppers and tomatoes.  4.  Season.  For this batch, I drizzled with olive oil, the juice and zest of a lemon, coarse ground salt, and sesame seeds.

On the top rack under the preheated broiler, place pan, and watch closely, with oven door ajar, until vegetables begin to char.  Remove from heat, carefully, toss, and replace, repeating until most sides of vegetables are blistered.

Remove from heat, allow to cool a bit, taste, and correct seasonings.

While the ease of standard prep of a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of good salt makes these little babies so simple and attractive, they are the perfect foil for seasoning combinations that are bit, like me, out of the ordinary.  Sesame oil, either toasted or not, as well as hot chili oil, in combination with olive oil (to lower the smoke point just a bit) lends an entirely different flavor profile, well-suited to seasonings like freshly grated ginger, garlic, sesame seeds, and Asian spice blends.  To go in a Spanish-inspired direction, consider a 'grassier' olive oil, perhaps with sliced Marconi almonds and smoked paprika.  Go oil-less with your favorite vinegar or citrus-based sauces like Ponzu, as well as soy or tamari sauces.  Italian-inspired flavors of garlic and Parmesan cheese, perhaps with coarsely ground black pepper? And then dip them into a golden runny yolk of a poached egg??? Well, you can see how fun these little treats can be.

Play around a bit with your favorite flavors and see what masterpiece you develop!

And feeling a little hot and spicy these days, yourself?  Learn how, and why, to heat up, and cool off, with these, and other nutritional power-packing  peppers.  Visit Tips For Tuesday, Superfood: Hot Peppers! and find scads of delicious dishes, all by fellow Austin Food Blogger Alliance members, in which they are showcased, by visiting the link above, on Notes From Maggie's Farm.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...