Monday, January 21, 2013

Go Niners!

pavement, cake
Yesterday I was downstairs reading and I heard Mark shouting at the TV. I  came up and he said, "The 49ers beat the Falcons." I said, "So they won the Super Bowl!" Ha ha ha, except I wasn't joking. I know about as much about sports as he knows about Texas sheet cake. And yet somehow it works.

Such great and interesting comments on the last few posts I'm going to address some of them here.

1. A commenter and now a friend have asked whether The Homesick Texan is a reasonable book for vegetarians and the short answer is, not really. You'd be stuck cooking around the edges of the book. There are some cheese dishes and one enchilada recipe featuring mushrooms, ricotta, and spinach (although it also calls for chicken broth.) It's a pretty meaty book.

2. I can't wrap my head around this vegetable oil pie crust. Why aren't we all using this recipe all the time? Is it because of the unappealing words "vegetable oil?" That seems possible. Anyway, I just mixed up another batch, this time adding sugar, and the oily doughball is resting in the refrigerator prior to being employed in Lisa Fain's grandmother's chocolate pie, which is Fain's favorite dessert. Tonight.

Also, I pulled out my copy of Cooking for Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser on the recommendation of witloof, because it contains a similar v******** o** tart dough.  As soon as apricots come in season, I'm making this tart. Flipping the pages I remembered how much I loved this book when I acquired it back in 2003. For about 6 months the only salad I made was Hesser's refreshing romaine, arugula, and dill chopped salad. Meanwhile, my friend Amy became fixated on the walnut cake.  Every time we went to her house, there would be the walnut cake. She fed it to her kids for breakfast. Once we went over and she couldn't get it out of the pan so she scooped it out in ragged chunks and served it with whipped cream and it was delicious. I think of it as Amy's cake and always will.

3. I have enjoyed having a big pot of chili around. Friday night Mark went to a basketball game, Isabel went to babysit, and I heated up leftover chili and Owen and I ate in front of the TV. We watched Queen of Versailles. I won't say much about this bizarre and improbably moving documentary because A.O. Scott already said it all better than I ever could. In fact, all I will say is that you should see it. Chili and Queen of Versailles. They kind of go together. A perfect Friday night.

4. The best fish tacos I've ever eaten were at Tacos Baja Ensenada in Los Angeles. They had crunch (unhealthy coating on deep-fried fish?) and a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce. Crunch and creamy mayonnaise are now my personal preferences in fish tacos. The Homesick Texan's fish tacos, which I made the other night, satisfy with the creamy sauce, but aren't crunchy enough. You marinate tilapia (or cod) in a chile paste, quickly saute, and fold in tortillas with cole slaw. If you want to see a picture, they are on the cover of her book. They were good, just not my ideal.

5. Yesterday morning I made her pecan coffee cake (Mickey cake).

deck railing, cake
It's a very standard streusel coffee cake baked in a cast-iron skillet, fluffy and delicious. Her mother called coffee cake "Mickey cake," an allusion to Maurice Sendak's phenomenally creepy In the Night Kitchen, which Fain loved as a child. Fain: "I'm pretty sure In the Night Kitchen influenced not only my desire to live in New York City but also my love of cooking. A most significant coffee cake indeed!"

6. Yesterday afternoon, I baked her Texas sheet cake and even as I was mixing it knew I wasn't going to like it because it contains one of my least favorite combinations of flavors: chocolate and cinnamon. Strictly a matter of taste. I took the cake to my sister's house for Sunday dinner and the others scarfed it up with enthusiasm, so if you like chocolate and cinnamon, give the cake a shot. Recipe here. I prefer the Pioneer Woman's chocolate sheet cake, which is almost identical, minus offensive cinnamon.

7. Finally, before we got to the cake, my sister served a stupendous kale and brussels sprout salad. I ate fourths even as Mark was muttering, "brussels sprouts are not a human food." Like I said, somehow it works! The recipe for the salad is here


  1. This crust has me totally intrigued, I am going to try it. But don't we often make things more difficult than they are? Perhaps we listen too much to "experts" about what is the appropriate way to prepare food just like some listen to "them" about 6 inch heels and kabuki makeup. A pot of chili does seem the perfect cold weather food. My husband would happily eat it every day. The only problem is that I MUST have vegetables, so I am going to try and sneak in this salad. I will have to sneak it in as my husband agrees with Mark about brussels sprouts. There aren't many things he won't eat, but that is one of them. Could I substitute cabbage?

  2. Here's a brussels sprouts recipe that makes them easier to go down: cut them in half and toss them with oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed cookie sheet, then add a few tablespoons of water. Bake them at 400 until they're quite dark and soft. Meanwhile put a handful of dried currants into enough vinegar to cover them {I use muscat but you could use any sweetish kind like champagne or apple} and simmer them until they are plump and the vinegar is a little syrupy. Pour over the sprouts.

  3. this post is an 11! Soph and I watched Queen of V. and had a similar reaction. The coffeecake picture is stunning, the natural light is perfect :) I try never to make Texas sheet cake unless I have a hoard of people coming over because I will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until it is gone. Now I know what to do with the kale and Brussels sprouts languishing in the fridge (neglected due to Burma)...I think I am on call SuperBowl weekend and couldn't care less :)

  4. If someone doesn't like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower , broccoli please don't waste a lot of time, energy, or really wonderful veggies cooking them this way or that so they will suddenly become that persons favorite thing to eat. It isn't going to happen. It is a genetically determined preference and short of Genentech therapy, which really hasn't reached its full clinical application as yet, you are not going to change anything except their aggrievation level. For the worse. For those of us who love the sweet almost nutty taste of brussel sprouts any way you fix them is good. My mother used to show off to her friends by asking me, age five and younger, if I would like some raw broccoli . I always said yes and I always ate it. It may well have been the only thing I did in my life that always made my Mom happy. So what do you do when you husband gags at the smell of cooking sprouts when he walks in the door? I chow down on them when he is gone or at lunch in my house when no one else is around. My special treat, a wicked indulgance, quiet time. Some fights aren't worth fighting and are in fact, you can't win. Enjoy what you enjoy but don't force it on others. Kind of like me and martini type drinks,,,save the liquor and give me champagne .

  5. I feel like I would miss the butter flavor in that crust. What if you substituted melted butter for the vegetable oil?

    I really want to try that coffee cake. In the Night Kitchen was a favorite of mine. I even had a version that was a coloring book. Milk! Milk for the morning cake! I loved the illustrations, and as an adult I love that the buildings in the background skyline are not really buildings but kitchen staples like corn starch and flour (I think I'm right about this, but don't have my copy to hand.)

  6. I have been using Penzeys Spice's oil crust recipe for years - they have you just mix it in the pan and press it out, and it's fantastic for one crust pies. So now, is she saying that if you roll it out you can use it as a top crust? I assumed that wouldn't work so I've never tried it!

    And Kristin - I use 1/2 oil and 1/2 melted butter in mine (all butter wasn't as good).

  7. RE Pie crust. I am a lard fan myself.

  8. currently reading your book, it is wonderful. will be considered essential reading here..not sure which catagory--cooking lit/cookbooks/fun reading. think i will shelf it along side ruth riechl's fab cooking/memoir triology, amanda hesser's "cooking for..." and, one of my all time fav's, betty macdonald's "onions in the stew".

    speaking of hesser, do you have her new york time's essential cookbook? it's great. it looks like just a run of the mill compendium of tested recipes. but, it's so much better than that. not only did hesser test all of the recipes, she includes charming & funny anticdotes about many of them. think the joy of cooking or the new basics cookbook with some really fun stories. it's worth buying just to read in bed at night.

    so excited to have found your blog!


  9. Nannie -- Another Betty MacDonald fan!! Oh, I love her work so much. I have all her books, including the Mrs. Piggle Wiggles, on special shelf. I can't decide if Egg and I or Plague and I is my favorite, but I love them all.
    I also love the NYT cookbook by Hesser. It would be my desert island cookbook if I could only have one. Because the headnotes are so excellent and the selection of recipes so appealing, varied, unexpected.

  10. Egg and I and Plague and I are my two Betty MacDonald favorites too. I loved Egg and I 1st, but I think now I like Plague and I best.

    I've loved most of the recipes I've tried from the Hesser NYT cookbook, but don't always like her comments. Perhaps it's because the book is arranged chronologically, but it seems to me she has an odd attitude towards formerly faddish ingredients; I understand being interested in and commenting on food trends, but I don't share her apparent view that food and recipes are ever-advancing so the things we used to like are somehow déclassé.

    I read Mr. Latte years ago but never tried the recipes. Now I want to make the salad you described and the walnut cake ASAP.

  11. if betty macdonald was alive & writing today, she would have a great blog, cookbooks, maybe her own magazine, a show on food network, maybe a talk show, and, could take martha stewart in a cage fight! :)


  12. Betty MacDonald is beloved all over the world.
    Betty MacDonald fan Club got fans in 40 countries.

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