Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Day: What to Make?

While that is one of my favorite questions, it's also one of the most difficult for me to answer.  And the problem is not lack of ideas.  Quite the contrary, it is the sheer, often overwhelming, abundance of them.  Do you ever feel that way?  That all your ideas are "good ideas," but you're not quite sure which one will be "the best?"  It's a tricky spot to put ourselves in, trying so hard to make the right decision.  But speaking for myself, when I take a step back and realize that there isn't actually a "right decision" - that any and all food shared in the spirit of togetherness, communion, and celebrating a connection that defies words will already be "right" and "the best" - then I'm allowed to relax and really set my sights on what I feel is the meaning behind the Holidays.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pickled Apple & Carrot Relish:
An Autumn-Inspired Take on a Filipino Classic

Atsara [ahtchah-ra] is a classic Filipino appetizer/condiment that normally consists of pickled green papaya, carrots, ginger, red bell pepper, onion, and raisins.  Served alongside grilled, fried, or barbecued meat, the acidity and brightness is perfect for cutting through the richness of any dish and keeping the palate lively.  As a child, and even into my young adult years, I was never really a fan of pickled anything.  But my Mother, on the other hand, loved pickles.  Cucumbers with white vinegar and sugar was one of her favorite afternoon snacks, and for dessert, she was fond of eating fresh fruit, especially pears, with balsamic vinegar.  [cue flashback to child me wrinkling his nose]

Monday, November 18, 2013

Reflecting, Praying, & Believing

Stained glass window of the Paoay Church before the earthquake.

In November, the question, "What are you thankful for?" can quickly turn cliche.  It's everywhere, from social networks, retail merchandising, ads in the newspaper and on television, to the little known celebration marking the end of the month.  But ironically, with that question saturating our everyday, many of us can lose sight of it.  It's so constant that we forget that it's even there - that there can be a far greater meaning behind the question, beyond pleasantries and politeness.  An unexpected event, whether fortunate or tragic, often serves to take away our blinders and bring a more expansive view of the world into focus.

And the disasters in the Philippines have done that for me - bringing not only the world around me into view, but also my world within, and how it all fits together so delicately.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Creamy Whipped Parsnips

Something I always look forward to during Autumn is the amazing selection of tubers/root vegetables to roast, mash, and make into soup.  From rutabagas, turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, sunchokes, to parsnips, I love them all.  Ideal for warming the body from the inside out, they epitomize comfort food for me as the days grow progressively shorter and the refreshing crispness in the air begins to transition to a more pointed chill.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Red Lentil with Sun Dried Tomato Soup: Celebrating Autumn

It's right around now that I start to believe that there's another season other than Summer here in Austin.  Sure, it happens every year, but with the mercurial nature of the weather worldwide, I figure the only thing that I can be sure of is that there's nothing to be sure of.  But as the days grow impatiently shorter, and the warmth of the sun gives way to a drastic drop in temperature at night, I find a certain joy in the food and the flavors that the cooler months inspire.  To be honest, it's my favorite season of the year to be in the kitchen and at the table.  Roasted vegetables, herbal infusions, warm spices like clove, cinnamon, and turmeric, robust herbs like sage, oregano, and thyme, and of course, hot soup.