The Buttery Blog

Everything's better with butter.

A Perfect Spring Treat April 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 11:23 am

When it comes to dessert, I am generally a chocolate girl. Eating it, and making it. If a recipe doesn’t have chocolate in it, I will find a way to sneak in some chocolate chips. Recently, however, I was watching Giada on the Food Network and she made these. They looked so light and delicious and perfect for Spring. And just right for a lazy Easter afternoon with friends. They are great with a pot of tea…or, in our case, a glass of prosecco!

Lemon Ricotta Cookies

Ingredients
Cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours.

♦ Buttery B

 

Passover April 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 10:30 am

Passover is my favorite holiday.  I love the Seder, I love the stories, I love the spirit of the holiday.  At Passover, we retell the story of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt. What I love most is that Passover is about remembering, about fighting against tyranny, and helping anyone and everyone in need. From Elie Wiesel’s foreword in the Haggadah I used this year, “I love Passover because for me it is a cry against indifference, a cry for compassion.”

Side note about Elie Wiesel- I had the opportunity to see him speak about 15 years ago. My father got to meet him- the picture of the two of them still hangs on my wall. He is an astounding, beautiful human being. Read his books, if you haven’t.

Elijah's Cup

Growing up, we always had Seder at my Nana’s house.   We sit at this long table in their dining room and everyone sits in the same spot every year.  My Papa sits at the head of the table, I sit to his right.  He is the leader, but pretty much everyone reads.  He just goes around the table one by one.  My favorite thing to read is this poem… I think it’s called “G-d’s Greatest Riddle”.  I almost never actually get to read this- it depends on the number of guests and the order in which people read and all that. Even as a grown woman, I still skip ahead to makes sure the section I get to read is cool. It usually isn’t.

At the end of dinner, we all look for the afikoman (a hidden piece of matzah) and one of us (not me, since I am genetically unable to find things that are hidden) leaves about $20 richer.  There are always chocolate covered marshmallows, fruit jellies, and angel food cake for dessert.  And wine.  Served in tiny glasses for the grandkids.  Note: all the grandkids are now in our 20s and 30s so we also get a grown-up glass. We’re not dumb.

Since I can’t always go back to my family for Passover, I’ve started the tradition of doing it at my house.  I am usually the only Jew or at the least, we are certainly in the minority.  I love having my friends over- I appreciate their generosity, their willingness to participate in a tradition that is not theirs, for their compliments on the food, even if I think it wasn’t so hot…..

Last night we had a small gathering.  Mr. Butterpants made the traditional brisket and I made kugel, matzah stuffing, and for the vegetarians, spinach and matzah pie.  Oh yeah, there were also some vegetables- oven roasted carrots and asparagus.  So here are some pictures and a couple recipes at the bottom.

Kugel

I’ve used Deb’s recipes twice in a row now- I love them!

Spinach and Matzah Pie

This was a repeater. It was so popular last year, I brought it back! I mostly use Amy Sedaris’ recipe for Spanakopita and replace all the phyllo with matzah. All the cheeses I used came from the farmers’ market. I really recommend this when you can. Everything tasted so fresh and was so creamy. Really excellent. Even better the second day.

Matzah Stuffing

For me, it’s not Passover without Matzah Stuffing. This is a bit different from my grandmother’s and it was minorly improvised, but it came out well.

Cake

Another recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I had raspberries on hand from the farmers’ market (yeah, I’m a fan) so I made the frosting with Chambord instead of Grand Marnier and topped the cake with raspberries just before serving. I served the leftover whipped cream with strawberries. I’ll be dreaming about that whipped cream. The cake was good, but I prefer another one I made last year.

Spinach and Matzah Pie
Adapted from Amy Sedaris’ I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence

5 eggs
3 10-ounce packages of frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted (make sure you get rid of all the excess water)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (I bought this in a block and crumbled it myself- save a bit so you top the pie with it)
Olive Oil
2 bunches of chopped green onions, sauteed
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Dill, fennel (optional) – I went with dill here.
3 tbsp of Parmesan cheese
Dash of nutmeg
8-10 pieces of matzah
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a mixer or food processor, beat the eggs until fluffy. Add all ingredients, except matzah and butter.

3. Butter a 9 x 13 x 3 inch pan. Lay down enough matzah to cover the bottom of the pan. I like them to overlap a bit so the spinach mixture doesn’t seep through. Brush the matzah with butter. Spoon about half the spinach mixture on top of the matzah. Lay some more matzah down, butter it and top with the rest of your spinach mixture. Top with the remaining matzah, brush with butter, and top with a bit of crumbled feta.

4. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until top is brown and crispy.

Matzah Stuffing

1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
8-10 pieces of matzah
2 eggs, beaten
olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 350.
2. Saute your onions, celery and garlic in the olive oil until light brown.
3. Break up the matzah and dump it on top of your vegetable mixture.
4. Pour your broth over the top and let the matzah get soft.
5. Transfer to a bowl and mix with the eggs.
6. Dump it all in casserole dish (mine was 8×8) and bake for about 30 minutes or until brown on top.

Whatever holiday you may or may not be celebrating this week, I hope you have a good one.

Be excellent to each other,
Ms. Butterpants

Seder table

 

A Busy Busy Buttery B March 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 7:34 am

I’ve been busy ya’ll. (I think maybe if I start speaking with a southern accent, it will help me slow down!)

I can’t complain really–my time has been filled with a lot of laughter and fierce determination towards my goals. But I recently lamented to my Buttery sisters that I haven’t cooked a real meal in over a month (maybe two).

This past Fall I took a class at Capes Coaching here in NYC, focusing on life goals. One of the aspects I loved most about it was the emphasis on life-work balance. Attaining your goals won’t be nearly as fulfilling if you don’t have the rest of the pieces of your life in place. So every week I check in with myself and ask how I’m doing in these key areas:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spiritual/Personal Growth
  • Home
  • Health/Self-Care
  • Romance
  • Contribution

I ask myself questions for each area. For “Home,” one of the questions I ask is “Have I cooked a meal in my home at least once this week?” Well, you can probably guess the answer. 

“Cooking and eating at home are central to the well-being of an apartment. Using your apartment for daily nourishment connects you to your food and your kitchen…and spreads one of the best smells there is throughout your home.” —Apartment Therapy

I finally decided that no matter how busy I was, it was high-time I give myself and my home some tender loving care. This is not a fancy meal and certainly nothing to write home about. But for the little time I did have, I focused solely on cooking, not letting all the swirling of thoughts and to-do lists take over. I allowed myself to enjoy every minute. Is there one area in your life that needs an extra 30 minutes of tender loving care?

Grilled Salmon and Quinoa with Onions and Red Peppers

  • Prepare Quinoa according to the package (by the way, if anyone has a good trick to cleaning quinoa, please pass it along!)
  • Saute 1/2 onion and one red pepper in about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, until they soften (about 5-7 minutes).
  • Add the onion/red pepper mixture to the prepared quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • For a time-saving measure, I purchased my salmon pre-grilled and then warmed in the oven (hey, I did say I was busy, right?!)

♦ Buttery B

 

Spring is in the Air March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 12:41 pm

This weekend was a glorious one in New York. The weather was a perfect mid-70’s and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I say we deserved it after the blizzards and the crazy ridiculous rain storm we had the previous weekend!

I met a friend in Brooklyn and we took a long stroll through several neighborhoods. There was:

  • a stop at the farmer’s market and apple tasting
  • an iced chai from starbucks
  • a bavarian ham sandwich on “pretzel bread” at cafe peddlar in cobble hill
  • a sample-tasting at union market (my friend even bought the “baconnaise” which we were astounded to find out was safe for vegetarians)
  • a glass of wine and a tomato basil pizza to round out the day

This kind of weather inspires me to eat fresh, simple food. The vegetable of Spring is asparagus. As I wandered into my local grocery store to find that they were all out of asparagus, I realized that I wasn’t the only one with spring food fever!

So, here is my light (asparagus-free) and quick dinner (adjust the amounts to your liking!):

Sugar Snap Peas and Pasta...I just want to eat you up!

 

Sugar Snap Peas and Penne
Boil sugar snap peas for about 4 minutes (or until tender)
Boil pasta as per directions
Toss the pasta, sugar snap peas, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Serve immediately–this is best eaten fresh!

Enjoy!
Buttery B

 

Meatless Monday: Black Bean Chili March 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 10:00 am

So you may or may not have heard of this program, Meatless Monday. It’s an effort to encourage a reduction in meat consumption. I generally eat a vegetarian diet, with an occasional pescetarian day here or there. We’re in favor of whatever keeps us, our kids, and our world healthy so we at The Buttery Blog are giving this one a shot.

So, Mondays will henceforth be Meatless ones.

I’ve had a couple conversations recently about “fake meat” products and vegetarianism. A couple non-vegetarians have said they don’t get the whole trying to ape meat thing. I totally understand and appreciate this viewpoint. After all, why eat fake meat when you have so many amazing vegetables and foods at your disposal? If you don’t want to eat it, why fake it? Fair point. But sometimes, you just want a burger. And sometimes you just can’t eat another piece of tofu or tempeh. And sometimes you have a non-vegetarian in your house and you have to satisfy him too. I don’t use it all the time and I do try to use vegetables as the centerpiece of a dish, but the facts are these: I live with a carnivore. He is picky and not shy about registering his complaints. Fake meat makes him complain less.

In my effort to save money, cook more and help lower the collective cholesterol of the Butterpants household, I’ve forced Mr. Butterpants into a mostly vegetarian diet. It started with this chili recipe. It is super easy, super fast, hearty and great for freezing.

Black Bean Chili
adapted from Southern Living Magazine

3 15 oz. cans black beans
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 12 oz. package meatless burger crumbles (I use Smart Ground)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 14 oz. can vegetable broth
2 14.5 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes with jalapeños

When I can find it, I go for low sodium in any of the above ingredients.

Drain two of your cans of black beans. Leave the third one alone, for the moment.
Cook chopped onion and burger crumbles in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium for about six minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, pepper and salt (I sometimes add a bit of extra chili powder or some cajun spice) and cook for one minute. Stir in all three cans of beans, vegetable broth, and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce to low heat. Simmer for 10-30 minutes. I sometimes just cook it a bit longer…. no particular reason, just do.

Top it with some cheddar cheese or sour cream or gummi bears. I’m not here to judge.

Chili

Enjoy!

Be excellent to each other.
Ms. Butterpants

 

Buttermilk Cookies March 16, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 10:00 am

I’m terribly superstitious. I refuse to say Macbeth inside a theatre, would rather eat my face off than walk under a ladder, and once cried for days over a broken mirror. One of the things I’m superstitious about is flying. Every trip has to be the same. I get there very early (a minimum of 3 hours), buy about 40 magazines, and plop myself directly in front of the gate for the 2.5 hours before boarding. I have a couple rituals on the plane too, but you don’t need to know all those.

So I was flying from Chicago to LA after my BFF’s wedding a couple years ago. I, of course, purchased my $737 worth of magazines. One of those magazines was the January 2008 issue of Gourmet, featuring Edna Lewis’ lovely essay, “What is Southern?” I immediately became obsessed with this incredible woman. I have her cookbooks and I’ve stalked her recipes all over the internet. Her buttermilk cookies have been on my list for ages and this past weekend, I had tons of buttermilk and nowhere to go. So I finally made them.

O.M.G.

These cookies are amazing. I love them so much, I’ll never make them again because I will never stop eating them. Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll make them forever and ever.

These cookies have a lovely cakelike texture and a fantastic flavor. The glaze adds just a touch of sweetness. Even Mr. Butterpants loved them. And he doesn’t love anything except Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs and Transformers.

The glaze in the photo at the link looks thicker than mine. This is probably because I didn’t measure my buttermilk so mine came out a little thin. I loved the glaze, but I’d probably want it thicker next time.

Edna Lewis’ Buttermilk Cookies from Gourmet Magazine

The Cookies

3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2/3 c. well-shaken buttermilk

The Glaze
1 1/2 c. confectioners sugar
3 tbsp well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with your rack in the middle.
Grease 2 large baking sheets. I used my silpat and had a bit of trouble with sticking. I’ll trying greased parchment next time. Whisk together flour, zest, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add your eggs one at a time, letting each one completely incorporate, then beat in the vanilla. Mix in your flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with flour, until smooth. Drop the dough about 1 1/2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Gourmet recommends a level tablespoon, I didn’t level, just dropped what looked to be a tablespoon or so on the sheet. Bake, one sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and the edges are slightly brown, 12 to 14 minutes per batch. Cool cookies on sheets for one minute, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

While the cookies are baking, whisk together your confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and buttermilk until smooth. Brush onto the tops of your still-warm cookies. Let them stand until the cookies are completely cooled and glaze is set.

Cookie Pile


Make them. Make them now.

Be excellent to each other.
Ms. Butterpants

 

A Belated Birthday Post March 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 7:58 pm


My birthday was last month. I turned a number I’m not going to share. This is because I’m in the entertainment business. And vain.

I am at an age where I think it’s a little ridiculous to have big blowouts, but I still believe that the entire month of February is my own personal holiday. So I had a small dinner with my closest girlfriends at my favorite Mexican place in Los Angeles, Gloria’s. Side note about Gloria’s: their food is excellent, the service is fabulous and we eat there so often they know our order and our names. I love it. Check it out if you’re in the area. You might even get served by Gloria herself.

Back to me. I’ve been possessed by the idea of a giant hostess cupcake birthday cake for a while. It just kept popping into my brain and floating there like a beautiful butterfly. A beautiful ganache covered butterfly.

This one was pretty awesome. I found the buttercream a little sweet, so I’d probably go with the marshmallow frosting I’ve seen other places.

Anyway, here you go. Make it for an upcoming birthday. Or Easter. Or Tuesday.

Giant Hostess Cupcake Birthday Cake

The Cake
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. At this point, I carved out a bit of the center and filled it with the buttercream frosting. I don’t know if I’d do this again because it turned out to be a quite a big blob of frosting. But it’s what I did and I feel I must share that with you. Keep a little of the frosting for the swirly design that goes on top of the cake.

4. When the cake is cool, top with the ganache. Pour it into the center then spread so it’s dripping down the side a bit. Let it solidify in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

5. Put the saved buttercream frosting into a pastry bag or zipper bag and make your swirl across the center of the cake.

6. Shovel it into your face and the face of others in copious amounts.

The Ganache from Martha

I can’t find the ganache recipe I used anymore, but I offer this one. It looks pretty much like what I did.

The Frosting from Wilton
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approximately 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk

Cream shortening and butter until smooth. Add vanilla. Slowly add your sugar, while beating thoroughly on medium speed. Add milk and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Be excellent to each other,
Ms. Butterpants

 

a mini travel blog and pancakes…. January 18, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 8:10 pm

So a couple months ago, I was complaining about much I missed New York and trying to figure out a way to get there for a visit. Lo and behold, JetBlue answered my call. A little email about cheap flights appeared in my inbox. Off I went.

Bethesda Fountain


This isn’t much of a travel blog- I was sort of there to reconnect with friends and enjoy the city, but I’ll hit a few highlights.

Theatre:

Our Town
A beautiful production at the Barrow Street Theatre. I love this play, I’ll never not cry at the line, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” But this production made me feel as if I’d seen it for the first time. I heard lines I’d never heard before. The simplicity of the set (almost nothing), costumes (it appeared as though the actors just walked on in their street clothes), and performance created an entirely different experience for me.

In the Next Room or the vibrator play
I bought this ticket immediately after booking my flight. I love Sarah Ruhl and I’ve been a fan of Michael Cerveris since I saw The Who’s Tommy on Broadway at the age of 15. He was so nice to 15 year old me, it made me a fan for life. But he’s not just a nice guy, he’s a fantastic actor. His performance in this play was heartbreaking and beautiful. Quincy Tyler Bernstine and Maria Dizzia were also standouts. Unfortunately, this beautiful play closed the day after I saw it, but if a theatre company does it near you, go.

Food:
My favorite stop was Mother Butter’s house. We sat, had soup, and talked for a long while. It always amazes me how great friends can pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it’s been. Mother Butter and I have been friends, roommates (an experience that should never be repeated), colleagues… she is one of my nearest and dearest. It was so lovely to catch up with her in person. And her soup was excellent, I hope it makes an appearance here.

Katz’s Delicatessen
I always intend to get something other than latkes and blintzes here, but it never happens. Mr. B likes the brisket, extra lean with pickles.

The Stanton Social
One of my favorite brunch places. We used to live around the corner and dropped in most Sundays. This has become a tradition with some friends I met years ago on a trip to Poland and Israel. We usually order one of everything and devour every bit of it.

Clinton Street Baking Company
I don’t know why anyone would order anything but the blueberry pancakes here. I’ve had their biscuits, they were sort of “meh” for me. But those pancakes…… oh man. They’re soft and full of juicy blueberries. And the maple butter syrup thing they serve with it? Heaven on a plate. I recommend a visit on a weekday, if you can. The lines are crazy on a weekend.

Which brings me to today’s recipe…. I don’t normally eat pancakes, but Mr. B loves them and Clinton Street had started me down a terrible path of carbohydrate cravings. I googled for a recipe and came up with this one from Let Her Bake Cake. I used her recipe as inspiration and tossed a few cranberries in as well and added some vanilla, because why not?

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
5 tbsp butter, melted and cooled a little
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 and 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 c. blueberries

Mix flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda in a bowl. Set aside.

Separate the eggs. Yolks in a large bowl, white in a mixing bowl. You’re going to whip the egg whites to soft peaks.

Add the buttermilk, butter, and vanilla in the bowl with the yolks. Beat together. When it’s all mixed, add in the dry ingredients. Whisk together. Some lumps are okay.

Fold in the egg whites to your mixture. When they’re completely incorporated, drop the batter onto a buttered griddle and cook over medium high heat. When the batter starts to bubble, it’s time to flip it. Drop a few blueberries into the batter, then flip. Cook until golden brown. Serve immediately with a topping of your choice.

I loved these- thick, but not dry. Moist and fluffy. A great base for other things- chocolate chips, fruits, whatever you got. I’d probably add a little more vanilla or some sort of flavor to give them a little kick. This recipe is here to stay.

pancaaaaake

Be excellent to each other,
Ms. Butterpants

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

 

Red Beans, Old and New Friends December 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 11:30 pm

Warning- no photos is this post. The food went too quickly to be photographed. Someday, I’ll add one.
 
I spent this past Saturday with old and new friends.
 
My friend M from college was in the LA area and we had lunch at Jin Patisserie. By the by, I recommend the Banana Mascarpone Cake. Highly. I hear they have amazing macarons, though I haven’t had occasion to try them. M and I caught up with each others’ lives and reflected on the fact that it has been 12 years (!) since we met. Hold on, I’m crying.
 
Okay, all better.
 
M was one of the first people I met at college. He is and was a total sweetheart. I remember that we bonded over speaking French and Boone’s Farm at the department’s Getting to Know You Party. We graduated from a tiny theatre department. Several of us lived in a house together (RIP Pflug and Harmon). Aside from the normal drama of a tiny theatre department, our crew had a rough go of it. Lots of changes and painful losses. We fought and yelled and snarked at each other, but there was a fair amount of support and love, when we weren’t in the middle of auditions. We also did a lot of holding back of hair after particularly rough nights. That will bond you for life. I have tremendous love for each of them. Even if we weren’t besties in school, every time I see them, I feel like I’m seeing my family. We’ve all grown up and realized that that part in the mainstage show really has no bearing on our actual lives so the snark and tension is gone and there’s just this shared experience of growing up together. And I’m so thrilled that so many are making amazing careers and lives for themselves, in and out of the theatre.
 
I had to leave M after a lovely chat and walk on Venice Beach (I only take my friends to the nicest places!) because we were having new friends over for dinner. I met ActorFriend a few months ago when we were randomly paired as scene partners for an acting class. In our first rehearsal, we bonded over being East Coast theatre actors in the strange land of LA. After Mr. B and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the home of ActorFriend and his supercool wife, I invited them to dinner at our place. They brought their adorable, hilarious daughter, who at one point in the meal leaned over to her dad to say, “Daddy, can you talk to the nice nice nice girl (me) so I can talk to Mr. Butterpants?” We’re still not sure who she wanted Mrs. ActorFriend to talk to, but I’m not sure she cared as long as it wasn’t Mr. Butterpants. She is way more into him than me. It’s all good. I’m always afraid to talk to children- curse words fly out of my mouth really easily and then I’ve ruined a childhood.
 
I love cooking and I love having people over and feeding them until they pop. That said, I always have a bit of a complex about cooking for new people. Especially when the new people are good cooks. We’d already really enjoyed ActorFriend’s chili and Mrs. ActorFriend brought over what turned out be excellent chocolate bread pudding. And by the way, I ran out of turnip greens. Not embarrassing. Not at all. Ugh.
 
So I went with something I knew was easy, not too over the top and previously successful. Red Beans and Rice.
 
We called my husband’s dad to get some tips, but as with any good Cajun cook, he doesn’t have a recipe. So he gave me some tips and I ended up just flying by the seat of my pants.
 
I think it was successful. The exceptionally critical Mr. Butterpants even ate the leftovers. It’s a good sign, trust me.
 
Red Beans and Rice
I used this recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen as inspiration. The first time I made it, I stuck pretty close to this, but this time I was serving to meat eaters so I used the sausage. And I’ve fallen off the vegetarian wagon as of late. Back on now, though!
 
1 lb. red beans (I used Camellia brand. Anything else is a poor substitute.)
4 tbs. salted butter
1 lg. onion, diced
5 celery ribs, diced
1 lg. bell pepper, diced
3 cloves of garlic
Slap Ya Mama Cajun Spices (this can be replaced with some cayenne, if you can’t find this or something like it)
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1 lb. andouille sausage (I get Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille Sausage)
Salt and pepper to taste
 
Put your beans in a large dutch oven or pot. Cover them with water- about 2-3 inches above the beans. Soak overnight.
 
Again, cover the beans with water about 2-3 inches above beans. Simmer over medium heat.
 
In a saute pan, melt your butter over medium heat. Saute your onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic until soft. Add your spices (start off slow with the Slap Ya Mama/cayenne, you can always add more later). Stir for a couple minutes, then add to your beans.
 
While that’s all getting loved up together, slice your sausage and brown it in a skillet. Once it’s browned, toss it into your red beans mixture and cook over medium-low heat. This has taken me anywhere from 3-6 hours depending on the beans. You want the beans to fall apart and it’ll look a bit like a mash. You don’t want it to become a paste though, so if it starts to look like that add a bit of water. Then add your salt, pepper and any additional spice you might want. I like to go light on the spice because you never know what people can tolerate. Mr. Butterpants can eat fire (it’s in the Cajun genetic code), but I knew that we were serving a kid. Know your audience is all I’m saying.
 
I used Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice because I’m lazy like that. I managed not to screw it up, though it was touch and go for a moment.
 
Serve to a fun crew with something green, crusty bread, and lots of wine.
 
Happy, merry, and all that goodness.
Thank you for being a friend,
Ms. Butterpants

 

Potatoes and Onions December 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — butteryblog @ 5:30 pm

Italy is my second favorite place on Earth. New York wins first prize, in case you were wondering.

My parents lived there before I was even a zygote.   We all lived there for a bit while I was a toddler.  My father spent quite a while there on a Fulbright scholarship.  Imagine my father as a really really smart Bluto (Animal House) to get the full picture.

There is a tape of me at the age of two having a conversation with my grandfather. I have a spectacularly heavy Southern accent and then suddenly I start speaking in perfect Italian. It was impressive for a three year old. Despite living there for a time and my perfect Italian, I remember almost nothing. I have only a memory of a carousel and of my Mickey Mouse sheets. Otherwise, nothing.

I spent my entire life hearing about how amazing Italy was. How gorgeous it is. How incredible the food is. One of my friends in high school went back to visit her family every summer and I burned with jealousy. Probably because she got to go to Gaeta. From her, I pretty much heard how hot the guys were. We were 16. It’s really all that mattered at the time.

I finally got to go back after I was married to Mr. Butterpants. We went on a belated honeymoon and spent time in Rome, Florence, and Positano. Heaven. Heaven.

I have a postcard my Dad sent me from Italy when I was a kid. It’s a picture of a cafe in the piazza in front of Pantheon. When my husband and I went, I took a photo to recreate the postcard. I’m not going to lie. I cried. I was so happy to be there. I was so happy to be in a space that I had stared at for so long. I was happy to be in a place that meant so much to my parents. It felt both unfamiliar and like I was finally home.

Postcard Picture

While we were in Italy, I ate Caprese salad, pomodoro sauce over whatever pasta was closest to my mouth, Paglie e Fieno, and gelato. Look, I’m a simple girl. I have simple needs. These foods are spectacular in their simplicity.

One day in Florence, we were ready for our seventh gelato of the day (I think it was 10 am) and stopped off at a gelateria. There was an osteria right next door so we decided to balance out the sugar with some… potatoes.

Potatoes and onions. Potatoes and onions are on my list of the top five foods I could eat every day and never get sick of.

Recently, I was missing Italy a bit. I kept flashing on those potatoes. So I made some. Man, did they hit the spot. It’s amazing how food can transport you. I was immediately back in that little osteria in Florence, a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed newlywed on my honeymoon. Lovely.

These are great breakfast potatoes, a side dish, dessert. Whatever you need.

Potatoes and Onions

1 large onion, sliced thin
4-6 Yukon gold potatoes (depending on the size), sliced thin
1 tbs. minced garlic
1/4 c.butter (I tend to use unsalted. I don’t know why.)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

In a large frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. I had to use a wok because I had a crapload of potatoes. Dump your sliced potatoes and onions in your pan. Fry for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so the potatoes don’t stick together. Dump in your garlic, salt, and pepper. Continue stirring and frying until your potatoes and onions are tender and slightly browned. Eat.

Here's what they look like on a plate.

Mr. Butterpants is obsessed with cheese and potatoes, so he added cheddar to his. He really liked that. So you could do that, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Be excellent to each other,
Ms. Butterpants