Saturday, October 8, 2016

You, Me, and a Big Sexy Bowl of Red Cabbage

Sounds like the title of a romance novel right? Wait, you mean I lost you at the red cabbage part? Now hold on, don’t run off so fast. I know that a bowl of red cabbage elicits images of the scene in Willy Wonka where Charlie walks into the house disappointed by yet another evening of cabbage water soup. But trust me, this cabbage is different. This cabbage is truly sexy.

Imagine, if you will, a vegetable transformed. This one starts peppery and slightly bitter, refreshing and crunchy. But as it spends a good hour in a pot cozying up to crispy bacon and sweet caramelized onions, big chunks of crisp fall farmers market apples and a hefty dose of syrupy balsamic vinegar, things happen. The cabbage becomes tender throughout, staying a little al dente in the pieces closer to its core. All of the flavors condense into this sweet and sour glaze, making the glossy and slippery leaves of cabbage a nearly addicting treat, almost as if it were turned into candy. But there’s a smokiness that hides in the background too, masked somewhat by the sharpness of the tangy residual sauce that bubbles away beneath the cabbage, but rounding out the sweetness that exudes from the onion and apples.

This braised cabbage, in all of its sensual glory is without a doubt one of the greatest fall staple foods for me. It’s quick and comforting. It warms the house, perfuming it with smoky and sweet smells. Not to mention it makes an enormous number of servings. So for me, it was the perfect dish to tuck into the week before my sister’s wedding, a week of cooler temperatures and gloomy rain, a week of practicing my speech and sorting through logistics. In fact, even though I paired it with salt-roasted potatoes and bratwursts, there were several nights where all I managed was scooping some of the cabbage onto a plate, heating it up, and cracking open a beer. Few things are more comforting for me and more exemplary of the Fall season. Simple, yes. Bruise-colored in color, yes. But still hella sexy, definitely yes.

Braised Red Cabbage with Apples, Bacon, and Balsamic
Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side
from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie

Olive oil
½ lb. bacon, sliced thinly crossways
1 Tbs. fennel seeds, thoroughly crushed
1 onion, sliced
2 apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 red cabbage, removed of outer leaves and the core and chopped into large chunks
¾ cups balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley

Pour a glug of olive oil into a large heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-high. Add the bacon and fennel seeds and cook, stirring frequently until the bacon is crisp. Add the onion, stir, and put on the lid for a few minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the apples and the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Add the vinegar and mix well. Put the lid on the pot and cook over low heat for an hour, stirring every now and then. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve with a bit of butter and a handful of the chopped parsley. Even better with bratwursts and these salt-roasted potatoes.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

#Coloradical: A Heady Tale

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the 
East of my youth and the West of my future.”
 –Jack Kerouac, On the Road

What are we if not but a conduit from one experience to the next? And I don’t mean some sort of stationary channel. No, instead one that is freely moving like a sprinkler, one that changes in every moment between which the experience enters and exits, yet is caught eternally in this cyclical space where the ever-growing past shapes this boundless future. With a life that never ends in experience, never refuses to characterize you as those experiences infinitely and ultimately become part of you, is it then possible then to really know yourself?

I had a conversation about a year ago on a first date with someone I met online. With the combination of a few drinks and my ubiquitous nerves, I thought it was a good idea to start talking philosophy and the meaning of life and whatnot, as you do on a date with a stranger.  I forget the context but I know at one point I arrogantly proclaimed to be confident in knowing who I am, what I’m looking for in life. “Well then, who are you?” he asked. And it caught me off guard. Between frantically searching for answers and repeating a cycle of “oh fuck oh fuck…” in my head I eventually, blushing and sputtering, came up with some bullshit response. “Oh, you know, it’s more of a feeling. One that can’t be summarized into words.” Uhhhh, riiiight, I think that’s the point where my “definitely crazy” checkbox was ticked for sure. But I never forgot that moment. When faced with answering what should be the easiest question there is, on the subject matter I thought I knew best, I was dumbfounded.

“Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” says the me now, one year later. Reality check: the me then had no clue. The me then could not have even imagined the ways I’d be stretched and pulled and squashed back together over the course of 365 days. Yes, my essential foundations are the same of course, my morals and beliefs relatively unchanged, but I’ve still not remained who I thought I was then, who I thought I’d still be now. “Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” says the me now, one year later.

This is a thought that went through my head a lot ever since, much more than it really ever used to and especially in the 6 days I very recently spent in Colorado with my three best friends. And I know how that seems, how that elicits a “Damn Katie, how much weed did you smoke in Denver?" sort of conclusion but it’s not like that. Well, not entirely at least. Besides being a celebration of 10 years of our friendship together, this trip from the start was decidedly a “soul search” of sorts. Being in our mid 20s, we’re all at a bit of a crossroads in life, or see that coming shortly. All of us needed that time to go off to the middle of nowhere, with the people who we trust best and start to figure this changing little life out. So that’s what we did. We laughed, we danced, we sang, we hiked, we relaxed, and we ate…a lot.


The trip began as all trips do, by accidentally loading all of our belongings into the wrong rental car and locking the keys inside before even leaving the parking lot. Oh wait, that’s not how they usually start? Well, that’s embarrassing. Anywayyyy… The trip began as all trips do, with lunch. We picked a spot at random, close to where we were planning to get snacks and supplies, and swag near our Denver AirBnB, and Uber Sausage turned out to be a great place to start our several day eating and drinking spree. I went with their Colorado Buffalo sausage, a spicy buffalo bratwurst with berry chipotle sauce, cabbage and queso fresco on a baguette and we all had a round of Upslope beers and tots (their dipping sauces were the bomb!) for the table.

Later that night after seeing a Chainsmokers concert at Red Rocks and burning off mass amounts of energy dancing to 6 straight hours of electronic music we went to VoodooDoughnuts for a 2:00am “snack”. And I mean snack in that way because these doughnuts are enormous and extravagant. Imagine a voodoo doll shaped and decorated doughnut longer than your hand, filled with raspberry jelly, topped with chocolate frosting and completed with a pretzel stick needle through the heart. Yep, it’s a thing. So is it a coincidence that this is what we were eating when we started watching the 5th season of Great British Bake-Off (which we continued to watch and finished throughout the duration of the trip)? I think not.

We started the next day with brunch at Snooze, a restaurant that does breakfast and does it well and knows that every brunch is better when tequila cocktails are involved. From what everyone else at the table was saying, don’t skip the Bella Bella Benny or the Breakfast Pot Pie, and whatever you do, make sure you get an order of the sweet potato pancakes to split with the table. Our server brought us one of these giant pancakes on the house and we were all amazed by it. 

The rest of the day, we meandered around the city, stepping into whichever brewery or bar looked best. First Draft Taproom was a cool spot with a wall of pour-your-own beers on tap using a fancy card reading system that lets you try as much or as little as you like and tallies up your total for when you’re ready too settle up at the end. We made our way over to Our Mutual Friends Brewery afterwards, a quirky little place with some awesome brews, especially their raspberry sour beer. And across the street we stopped at Finn’s Manor for cocktails in their great outdoor seating area.

We ended the night with a fantastic dinner at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a former brothel turned restaurant with so many innovative dishes and cocktails and pictures of boobs on their walls. We started with the fried cheese curds and cream cheese stuffed shishito peppers. For my main I got their special that night, a roasted half chicken topped with paper-thin fried lemon slices alongside braised red cabbage, salt roasted potatoes and a foursome of pickles and relishes. An ensemble of a bit of sweet from the chicken, sour pickles, salty vegetables, and bitter lemon, this was undoubtedly a winner of a dish.

Our last meal in the city was at the appropriately named Four Friends Kitchen for another fantastic brunch. While all of their dishes were great, be certain you get the house made potato chips with pimiento cheese dip to start. They may make you a little more full than you should be before a main dish but it’s worth it. Still hungry? Well, Ice Cream Riot has you covered, that is if ridiculous ice creams flavored like favorite childhood cereals, candies, and snacks between two pop-tarts sounds good to you.

We spent the rest of the trip staying in my cousin’s cabin out near Buena Vista, about 2.5 hours southwest of the city, with the obvious choices of frozen pizzas, mini-bagels, and granola bars to get us through. We may have eaten all of the cheez-its and chips the first night, thereby demolishing 2/3 of our snack supply…whoops! Our days were refreshingly free of too many plans though. While we did splurge on a day at Mt. Princeton Hot Spring Resort, the rest of the time we went on walks and hikes, chilled at a local brewery, sat on the back porch of the deck taking it all in. And by the end it was hard to say whether it was the city part or the mountain part we liked best. The thriving food and beer haven or the brilliance of those views and their majestic vastness. The city, like the past, so diverse and bustling, sometimes gritty and sometimes beautiful. The mountains like the future, upward-facing, the end unknown. They were so drastically different, two ends of the spectrum, but it felt like both were essential to making such a perfectly balanced vacation. Both had their place and we caught that sweet spot in between.


 “Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?” said the me now, one year later. As I continued asking myself this during our time in Colorado, I hit a moment of revelation. Maybe I don’t need to find an answer to this. Maybe it’s less about defining my bundle of experiences that slip through me from future to past into thought or words or trying to force an idea of what my life should be like and more about reacting to experience in the ways that feel right and taking it day by day, minute by minute, and just simply living. Yes, we spent a lot of time talking about our hopes and dreams and ideals and identities, and that's completely ok. We can’t eliminate thought of the future. But, trying to figure out my meaning and purpose did not matter when standing in awe before a glistening lake and the mountains looming ahead of me. It didn't matter when I was in the company of my best friends, together on the couch watching the finale if the Great British Bake-Off. I was surrounding myself with those that don't worry about who I am, with experiences that made me happy, excellent food, gorgeous scenery, moving music. And I figured as long as I'm doing that I'll be ok, I'll be me, and the world will present itself to me as it may.

This realization hit me hardest in a moment during the trip at the Chainsmokers concert. I clearly recall feeling my body as if it was nothing and everything, being aware of the millions of particles that make it up but as though they were all weightless and free-floating and the breeze that washed over me was actually moving through me and I was as happy and as carefree as I think I possibly could be. And then their song "Closer" came on and the lights blindingly danced across my eyes so I closed them and sang along, "We ain't ever getting older, we ain't ever getting older, we ain't ever getting older..." and I was at peace.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Concession Obsession Remix: Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream with Movie Theatre Confections

Everyone has a favorite Ben and Jerry’s flavor whether it’s Half-Baked or Cherry Garcia, or Chunky Monkey. Unfortunately my favorite is one that found its way into the flavor graveyard many years ago. RIP Concession Obsession. This tooth-achingly sweet combination of vanilla ice cream with some favorite movie theatre concessions – nonpareils, crunch bars, chocolate-coated peanuts, and a caramel swirl – does, I will admit, seem like a flavor and sugar overload so I can see how it may have been a less popular choice. But coming from a kid with a life aspiration of one day becoming the next Willy Wonka, this ice cream was perfection. And for the record, this still is my life aspiration. No shame there.

I came up with the idea to recreate this flavor, but with even more of an allusion to it’s cinematic inspiration, after coming across a recipe for buttered popcorn ice cream. I figured this of course would go well with the culmination of candies added to the mix. There are few flavor combinations more classic than that of a handful of movie theatre popcorn quickly followed by chocolate candy or candies of choice after all. And the buttered popcorn ice cream, though odd-sounding at first, really does work well. The flavor is subtle but is undeniably that of popcorn, its salty and sweet flavor buoyed by the rich eggy custard beneath it.

I jazzed up the Concession Obsession remix even more with the add-ins I chose. The nonpareils came from Zoe’s Chocolate, one of my favorite local chocolate shops, and I used chopped pieces of Theo Chocolate’sblack rice quinoa crunch bar. This, combined with pieces of maple-glazed cashews and a thorough drizzle of salted caramel sauce, certainly makes an ultra-sweet ice cream but one that is a true homage to its predecessor. I also discovered that when served in a chocolate and sprinkle coated waffle cone and eaten with some popcorn pieces scattered overtop, some truly magical things happen. So magical that the Ben and Jerry’s masterminds will decide to unearth this flavor from its frozen resting place? Well, we can all dream, right?

Concession Obsession Remix: Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream with Movie Theatre Confections
Ice Cream recipe from The Kitchn
Inspired by Ben and Jerry’s Concession Obsession
Makes about a quart

**Note: The chocolate dipped waffle cones are super simple to make if you want to serve the ice cream in them. See instructions at the very bottom.

For the ice cream base
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 bag popped movie theatre butter popcorn
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped nonpareils
1/3 chopped maple glazed cashews (or any candied nut of choice)
Salted caramel sauce

Chocolate dipped waffle cones, caramel sauce, and popped popcorn for serving

Heat the cream and 1 cup of the milk in a saucepan until bubbles just start to form at the edge. Remove from the heat and add in the popcorn. Stir and set aside to steep for an hour. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on the popcorn to strain out as much liquid as possible. Add the additional cup of milk and return to a clean saucepan.

Heat the milk mixture over a medium heat again until small bubbles just begin to form. While the milk heats, use an electric mixer to whip the egg yolks, sugar, and salt on medium speed for 2 minutes. This will form a light yellow and frothy mixture. When the milk is heated, slowly whisk about 1 cup of the milk into the eggs. Then, whisk the warmed eggs back into the saucepan with the milk.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and continuously stir the custard mixture until it thickens enough that it easily coats the back of a spoon and reaches 185 degrees. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or dish, stir in the vanilla, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, churn the ice cream according to your machine’s instructions. Once churned, stir in the nuts and the two chocolates. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, drizzling in caramel sauce as desired. Let freeze until completely firm before serving.

**To make chocolate-dipped ice cream cones melt chocolate chips in the microwave, swirl the top part of the outside of the cone in the chocolate and let the excess drip off. Pour some rainbow sprinkles onto a plate and roll the cone in sprinkles until it coats all of the chocolate. Lay them on a piece of parchment paper in the freezer until firm and keep stored in a plastic bag in the freezer until ready to use.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bon Appetit’s Iced Coffee Shakerato


What do you get when you cross early-morning marathon training with a need for coffee and only coffee first thing when you wake up? Uhhh, good question, let me introduce you to the answer. World, meet iced coffee shakerato, the revolutionary coffee drink that finds that middle ground between the rushed and convenient coffee and the luxuriously long and slow coffees of my past. And boy is it absolute perfection.

I’ve had coffee in my life for a long time, like since 2-years-old long time, all the way back to the days of stealing sips out of my mom’s cup. I’ve gone from the standard filtered brewer to Starbucks and only Starbucks, from the k-cups of my always caffeinated college days, all the way up to my beloved French press with manually operated bean grinder in most recent history. These have all been fine methods, ones with a time and place in my life (and for some, still a very strong presence in it), but now that I have days that begin with over an hour of running, my lengthy “French press way is the best way” methodology must move aside for a bit.

I recently got a Nespresso machine and I love it! My obsession with it might be borderline unhealthy. But, I also didn’t want to trade in my prolonged coffee mornings for knocking back an espresso shot before hitting the running trails either. So what to do? Bon Appetit or my sister usually answer my distress calls for food and drink related questions. This time it was both.

About the time I got my machine and this month’s issue of the magazine, my sister was emailing me about their iced coffee shakerato recipe. It’s a quick and simple method but the result of its 3 ingredients is something unexpected and luxurious. I mean, did you know that espresso, sweetened condensed milk and simple syrup turn into a creamy and dreamy froth-filled drink when vigorously shaken in a cocktail shaker? Yeah, I was shocked too, almost in disbelief until I tried if for myself and stood there stunned when I strained it out. It almost takes on this latte meets slushy quality and although you’d think it would be excessively sweet, it doesn’t actually seem so. I’m not going to pretend to understand the science and logic (or is it witchcraft?) taking place inside that cocktail shaker but am simply going to give thanks for it in the mornings to come, because I cannot think of much else that will make me so happy when the day must start with 25 200-meter repeats on the treadmill.

Bon Appetit’s Iced Coffee Shakerato
Adapted slightly from this recipe
makes 1 drink

4 oz hot espresso
2 tsp. simple syrup
1½ Tbs. sweetened condensed milk
a dash of coconut or vanilla extract
optional: a shot of Irish whiskey if you’re feeling bold

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the espresso, simple syrup, condensed milk, and the extract. Cover and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Your shaker will become very cold, the ice will be crushed and the mixture extremely foamy. Fill a glass with more ice. Use a strainer to transfer the coffee mixture to the glass, allowing some of the smaller pieces of ice chips to slip through. If using the whiskey, stir in last.