Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter brunch with fried eggs, not hardboiled.

Easter Brunch

What better way to celebrate Easter than with a brunch featuring eggs, the pagan symbol of rebirth, and asparagus, the culinary symbol of spring?

This year our household did not celebrate according to the religious tradition of Christian Easter, but we nonetheless shared a very beautiful holiday on Sunday, complete with Easter baskets and a perfect Easter Brunch. I struggle a little bit with feelings of guilt when I celebrate religious holidays without the religion, so this year I put some thought into my personal feelings about Easter Sunday, and Sam and I talked about it over brunch. Together we pioeced together an alternative Easter celebration that has helped me put a deeper meaning to the holiday than just chocolate bunnies. Over brunch we ascertained two themes that we feel comfortable celebrating on Easter, and they have given the day additional meaning and reflection.

This Easter, I recognized the holiday as:
1. A celebration of Spring, and recognition of the seasonal cycle of the earth;
2. and a celebration of the faithful. Easter is a time to feel an appreciation for value-based living and remember our human instinct to strive for peace, humility, and elevated consciousness in our daily lives, whether through religious or personal structure.

Whew. That is the deepest I have attempted to be so far in my public posts. Let me quickly move the discussion to a description of the meal, so we all can go back to our comfort zone of wannabe gastronomist and leave behind the struggling philosopher persona.

As part of our celebration, Sam and created the perfect Easter brunch. The pièce de résistance of the meal was an asparagus and fried egg dish, covered in butter and melted Parmesan cheese. It tasted lovely, both fresh and rich at the same time. I love to assemble dishes that allow each ingredient to flourish on the palate, and this recipe guides each ingredient to a heightened individual flavor when all the ingredients combine.

In addition to the meal, we also drank an entire bottle of champagne in the form of mimosas. Contrary to my expectations and much to my delight, we were not worthless for the remainder of the day due to the booze. Rather Sam conducted a dramatic reorganization of our den, complete with purging old files and hanging photos. I sewed a dress. It was a rebirth of the office and my wardrobe!

The only down side to the meal was that asparagus cost $8.39 for for a little over a pound, which struck me as a very un-Christian price markup on the part of the grocery stores. I think H-E-B bumped up the cost in anticipation of Easter brunch. I mean, come on now, even mangoes imported from the southern hemisphere don't cost $8 a pound...? However, the cost was worth it, and $8.39 ended up a a small price to pay for such a delicious and thematic spring brunch.

Fried Eggs and Asparagus with Parmesan


1 1/2 lb medium asparagus, trimmed and, if desired, peeled
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (2 oz)
4 large eggs


Set oven rack in upper third of oven, then preheat oven to 425°F.

Cook asparagus in a large deep skillet of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.

Generously butter gratin dishes using 1/2 tablespoon butter total, then divide asparagus between them. Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with half of cheese.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then fry eggs, seasoning with salt and pepper, until whites are barely set, about 2 minutes.

Carefully transfer 2 eggs to each gratin dish with a slotted spatula, placing on top of asparagus. Sprinkle eggs with remaining cheese and drizzle with any butter remaining in skillet.

Bake in upper third of oven until cheese is melted and eggs are cooked as desired, 4 to 5 minutes for runny yolks.

Cooks' note: If eggs are served with runny yolks, they will not be fully cooked, which may be of concern if there is a problem with salmonella in your area.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A photographic exploration of whacky glasses.








Things I ate with Claire.

My beautiful sister Claire, a champion eater
and even better house guest!
(...and no, those are not her real glasses.)

Truth be told, I judge a person's character by what they eat. Perhaps saying I judge their character sounds a bit too harsh, but it is certainly legitimate to admit that I determine many things about a person based on what they eat and how they eat it, not to mention how they pursue food in general. My observations on this influence how I feel about the person.

I like big eaters with healthy appetites. I especially like big eaters that enjoy eating. I most especially like big eaters that enjoy eating AND take pride in what they eat by pursuing quality ingredients and notable meals.

For this reason, I can wholeheartedly say that I like my sister Claire.

She visited this week. She is on Spring break from her arduous academic pursuit of a nursing degree, so I wanted to show her a good time, and I think I succeeded. She had a blast, and I loved having her. In looking back at her visit, I realize that it was largely dominated by eating. We went a lot of places, many of which we prioritized because of the food. I think the best way to summarize her visit is by summarizing our eating. Below is an almost complete list of everything we ate, give or take some snacks here and there:

Chocolate Cupcake (from scratch)
Rosario's Top Shelf Margaritas
Rosario's Ceviche
Rosario's Tacos Nortanios
Azuca Mojitos
Guenther House Cinnamon Bun (more than one, actually)
Guenther House Sticky Roll
Starbuck's Honey Lattes (at least four of them!)
Ikea Ice Cream Cone (in honor of Dad)
Trudy's Stuffed, Deep Fried Avocado (yes, such a thing exists)
Hotel San Jose Sangria and Artisan Cheese Tray
Mars Cafe DELICIOUS Asian fusion Dinner
Chicken and Beef Fundito Taco (that means taco fillings served in melted Mexican cheese)
Whole Foods Picnic (the usual bread, cheese, and olives, plus homemade pudding!)
Homemade Granola with mango and plain yogurt
Chris Madrid's Macho Flaming Jalepeno Burger (that macho, not the regular)
Nordstrom Cafe Coffee Beverage
Guinness (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)
Liberty Bar Portebella Mushroom Sandwich
Panchito's Breakfast Tacos
Bread and Cheese with Wine
Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets
Homemade Rice Crispy Treats
Homemade Brownie Carmel Ice Cream
Homemade Fudge topping
Toast with Irish Butter
more Rice Crispy Treats (yes, with breakfast)
Cappyccino's Mediterranean Grilled Cheese an White Chicken Chili

I briefly tried to calculate the caloric value of our eating, but there was not enough space on my calculator for all the zeros, so I stopped trying. Let's just summarize by saying that I ate enough calories to fuel a whole helluva lot of fun. I love my sister, and her champion eating behavior just makes me love her all the more. Awwwww, hugs and kisses sis!

When I started to compile a list of everything we had eaten, Claire exclaimed that "Just because we ate a lot of things does NOT mean we ate huge quantities of it!" She is partially correct. It is true, we did not binge every singe meal. And Claire, to keep up appearances I promise not to tell anyone that I saw you eat three breakfast tacos on Tuesday...oh wait, I just told. Cat's out of the bag on that one. Well, I ate three too, and so did Sam. That's probably why I love these two people so much. They love eating breakfast tacos, and relish the experience enough to eat three in one morning. I also love them because they don't eat breakfast tacos every single morning. Nay, they eat them on special occasions like visits, lazy weekends, and post-party, mid-hangover mornings. They are not frequent bingers. No no, they are selective bingers which are the best type of binge eaters in my book.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Well, it turns out the way to my heart is through your own stomach. Fill it enthusiastically with delicious food, and you will be forever more the object of my affections. I love you Claire!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Great Pattern re-draft of 2008.


For over three weeks now I have been laboring over redrafting the Butterick Walkaway Dress. This dress is the first piece of clothing I have completed for myself... on purpose (I do have several pieces that are now mine by default, because I mistakenly made them too large for the intended recipient, ha!). I have completed three (yes, three) muslin drafts of the Walkaway dress, adding significant inches here, increasing dart size there, and finally on my last draft moving the darts entirely into a new placement. I am tired of trying on the dress in hospital gown off-white muslin (see above). I want a dress that fits in COLOR and in PATTERN. After much labor, I think I have the final draft of the pattern, and I am ready to start the real deal.

It turns out that the trick to making a dress with darts fit a big breasted girl (like me!) is to rearrange the dart placement and make larger darts. The darts were originally designed to gather about 2 inches of fabric from the side center of the chest to a point just off the nipple area. Imagine a perpendicular intersection of lines at the center of each breast, the dart followed these lines. That was the old way.

However, the new dart ignores all the side dart business that resulted in gapage, or "gap-osis" as my momma used to say, and instead utilizes a dart angling down from the armpit to the center of the chest. It is also gathering about five inches of fabric in the dart rather than two inches. The result? None other than a well molded front of the chest that follows womanly curves with minimal gap-osis and puckering. I am excited. I cut the colored and patterned fabric last week and will begin sewing as soon as possible. Progress reports to follow. Wheeeeee.

... and Wear.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus

What isn't good when wrapped in prosciutto and grilled? Figs... good. Salmon... good. Dates... good. Pork... good. Gorgonzola... yep, you guessed it, good. Well, add asparagus to the list, because DAMN is asparagus good when wrapped in prosciutto and grilled.

We had a little dinner party on Saturday night. The main course was a fondue buffet like no other fondue buffet I have ever partaken in, however the appetizer course of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto effectively whet our palates and stands out as the biggest crowd pleasing dish of the night. The recipe is so simple it can hardly be considered a recipe. Wash, trim, and dry a bunch of fresh asparagus. Wrap a thin layer of prosciutto around each individual stock. Grill or pan grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until ham crisps and asparagus are slightly tender. Squeeze fresh lemon on top, and try to grab one before all the guests do. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Polenta Cake, Rosemary Honey Ice Cream's Partner in crime!

Polenta Almond Cake

My first sweet taste of this cake took place at Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, a new and exquisitely good restaruant just inside loop 410. They make a salad called the Burrata Caprese (boo-RAH-tah cap-REE-see) that makes my mouth dance every time I think about it. For those you of you who have not had the pleasure, let me describe the Burrata Caprese. It is in fact a salad made almost entirely of cheese, with a garnishing of tomato and basil. The cheese looks, at first glance, like a large ravioli of fresh mozzarella with the edges crimped together like a pie or pastry crust. But once you cut into it, the center reveals itself as a tangy core of cream and soft mozzarella, all blended with herbs. It oozes onto the plate and mixes with small yellow and red tomatos and olive oil. The result is adicting, and oh so good. In short: It's the molten chocolate cake of cheese. Once you have it, you need to have it again.

The salad is to-die-for, but this post is not about Burrata Caprese, now is it? This post is about polenta cake, which is yet another wonderful menu option at Dough. I am going to admit that polenta cake is not the sexiest item on the dessert menu, which is why it took me several visits before we order the polenta cake. When it comes to desert I sometimes succumb to the glitzy flash and glamor of the more "elaborate" desserts, which is why our first visit to Dough ended in tiramisu. But our second visit ended in polenta cake, and I will never go back.

Polenta cake is a wonderful cake, for me largely because it seems more exotic than your standard cake yet is so simple to bake. Because it is made with both cornmeal and flour, it has a more substantial texture than your average cake, while still remaining "fluffy." The color is beautiful, and the cake remains simple and elegant with powered sugar rather than frosting. My favorite part is the subtle yet rich almond flavor, derived from the almond past blended with the butter. The sour cream and abundant egg yolks keep the cake moist. It saves very well in a tupperwear for late night eating or breakfast. It is the perfect dessert to pair with a strongly flavored partner, perhaps more classically with a cappuccino, or in our case with a scoop of rosemary honey ice cream. Buon appetito!


1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond paste, cut into half-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable spray. An alternative is to butter and flour the cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour and baking powder and set aside.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and almond paste on high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add confectioners' sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined and light and fluffy. Raise speed to high and add the vanilla extract, whole eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time. Mix until well combined. Reduce speed to medium and add the sour cream and dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool. Remove from pan and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rosemary Honey Ice Cream, meet the Dinner Club. Howdoyoudo?

So last week I create what I personally thought was a brilliant, delicious, unique, adventurous, and high-brow Italian dessert for the weekly dinner club, this time hosted by moi. Creating this dessert was an interesting feat, because it was my first time to do many things. It was my first time using our new KitchenAid ice cream bowl, my first time using egg yolk to make a custard, and my first time combining sweet and savory flavors into a dessert. The recipe was an exciting culinary moment for me, and one that I expected to be met with kudos and dinner club acclaim.

Unfortunately, the dessert was not met with the enthusiasm I expected. Rather, the unveiling and first tastes went something like this:

Kate (proudly):
"Dinner club, I have a special guest I would like you to meet. Don't be shy, come on out. Rosemary Honey Ice Cream, I would like you to meet the Dinner Club."

Rosemary Honey Ice Cream:
"(friendly silence)" ...it is only ice cream after all.

Dinner Club (aghast):
"This ice cream taste like... um, like... herbs? This ice cream tastes like ROSEMARY!?!?!?!"
(spoons hit the plate, not to return to mouths again)

Kate (a bit devastated):
"Yes, that is why it is called Rosemary Honey Ice Cream. Don't you like it?"

Dinner Club (averting eye contact):

The silent verdict was actually a loud vote of "no" on the Rosemary Honey Ice Cream. In fact, a number of the diners did not even eat their ice cream beyond the first bite. I was sorely dissapointed. I expected the adventure of a sweet and savory ice cream to be met with greater enthusiasm and perhaps a token bit of gushing compliments. While the response was at best disappointingly, Sam and I covered our hurt feelings by eating their portions of the melting ice cream straight off of their plates to prevent any waste of the precious frozen concoction.

I am resassuring myself that the disappointing response to the recipe is more reflective of the mood of the diners that evening, and not necessarily a reflecting on my menu. After all, we prepared a Gorgonzola and wild greens salad with homemade vinaigrette, wild mushroom and Italian sausage risotto (honestly one of the best things I have EVER put in my mouth, ever), and finally polenta cake with the aforementioned rosemary ice cream. I mean, I know it's not your usual "Italian" dinner of spaghetti and store bought meat sauce, but if wild mushroom risotto and rosemary ice cream doesn't make your inner mama mia salivate, then you must not care for good ol' fashioned Italian food.

Salute! to you delicious custard ice cream.



  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 32 to 42 rosemary sprigs
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar


In heavy saucepan combine the cream, half and half, and the rosemary. Bring mixture just to a boil and remove the pan from heat. Let mixture stand for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey, and sugar. Add the cream mixture in a stream, whisking, and pour the mixture back into pan. Cook the custard over moderately low heat, stirring until it registers 170 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Strain through a fine sieve set over another bowl and let cool completely.

Freeze the custard in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer's direction.

Makes about 1-1/2 quarts

Recipe Source: Charlie Trotter's Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois