Saturday, April 20, 2013

Foodie Faves: Cast-iron Cookware
What's cooking? Texas Cornbread

One of my earliest cooking-related memories is of my grandmother frying chicken in her cast-iron skillet. She had no air conditioning in that kitchen for years, just a big ceiling fan, occasionally augmented by a small, rotating table fan when the Texas heat became unbearable, which of course wouldn’t stop her from frying chicken. She’d tuck a handkerchief or tissue into the space between her rolled up sleeve and her arm, and periodically would use that to blot the perspiration from her face and neck.

I don’t know what happened to her skillet. It probably got sold in the estate sale. I had developed a real interest in cooking by the time she died, but even then wasn’t interested in frying chicken, and I couldn’t imagine what else you’d use that skillet for. What a fool I was.

Monday, April 15, 2013

When You Hit a Bump in the Road,
Get Out Your Rolling Pin

What's cooking? Key Lime-Berry Napoleon

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across some Key limes in the grocery store, and the evil angel on my shoulder whispered, “Buy these. Make Key lime curd.” I should have known better, but that has never stopped me before, so into my cart they went.

Key limes are smaller and have more seeds than regular (Persian) limes. Also, the flavor is sharper and more bitter. Apparently, they are even yellow when fully ripe, but you and I don’t get to see that color, as the little darlings are picked green for commercial use, and – possibly useful factoid here – citrus fruit doesn’t ripen further after it comes off the tree. It’ll decay, but it won’t get any riper.

In any case, Key lime curd isn’t any harder to make than the Meyer lemon curd I made back in February. The limes are so small, you’ll have to squeeze a ridiculous number of them to get a cup of juice, but TNT now shows re-runs of Castle and Bones in the afternoon, so I tuned in and started squeezing. I used the same recipe and process, adding ¼ cup more sugar to compensate for the tartness of the limes. Same velvety texture, and with a taste much like Key lime pie.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Foodie Faves: Pyrex Custard Cups
What's cooking? Creamy Vanilla Custard

When I was a child – long before I became the Kitchen Goddess – two of the few things my mother would allow me to make in the kitchen were Jell-O® and Jell-O Instant Pudding. I thought it was magic: powder plus liquid equals dessert. Frankly, I also thought it was cooking. And I couldn’t imagine eating it out of anything but those Pyrex® 6-ounce glass custard cups.

I don’t think I had any Pyrex cups of my own until I had children, when they were the best things I could find to hold baby food. (The cups, not the children.) Since that time, I’ve discovered how wonderfully useful those little dishes are for a truly vast number of tasks. Storage, baking, microwaving, heating up small servings, but mostly for assembling my mise en place. Chop the parsley and put it into one of the cups. Measure out the curry powder, and put it in a cup. Mince the garlic, get the idea. Then assemble all those little cups next to the skillet, and you won’t find yourself burning the onions as you scream, “OMG – how much garlic?!”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Turtle Tots
What's cooking? Smashed Potatoes

What a day we had on Sunday. Easter and the end of March duked it out all day, weather-wise, to give us the full range of lions, lambs, and bunnies. We woke to a cool and lightly overcast morning, followed by gathering clouds and eventual rain, then closing with a crystal blue canopy by late afternoon. I took an early morning walk – or at least early for me, which is around 9:30 – with house guests from New Jersey, who were so thankful to have the warm weather, they didn’t even mind the clouds.

We walked the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, where it appeared that much of Austin’s population had the same idea as we did. The lake used to be called Town Lake but was renamed for Lady Bird Johnson after her death, in recognition of her leadership in turning the trail from an overgrown and polluted eyesore into a centerpiece for recreational activity.