Butter-Themed Dinner Party, Y’all

I’d been looking forward to it for weeks—no, months.

The butter-themed dinner party.

Inspired by previous loosely-themed dinner parties with a couple of friends, Eric and I headed over to the Windsor Park neighborhood one warm Thursday evening to enjoy a menu of which Paula Deen would most certainly approve.

Our gracious host started the evening off with a round of fancy jalapeño cocktails. While I didn’t take note of his top secret recipe, it was something like this, with rum and sugar. Refreshing, with just a little kick. Okay, okay – so the cocktail didn’t include butter. Stick with me here.

While we settled in for what turned out to be a marathon night of many small, artful courses more worthy of Andalucian lingering than Austin mouth-shoveling, our hostess brought out an appetizer I’m still salivating over: homemade radish butter with pumpernickel. It was rich, fresh, a little salty, and absolutely addictive.

Then we moved on to Eric’s homegrown salad, with freshly-picked mixed leaves, mint, oregano, basil, homemade croutons, cherry tomatoes, and (from Wheatsville) grated parmesan, Kalamata olives, and toasted pecans, all topped with a dash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

This was enjoyed with a cup of my reheated Squash Soup, which included a generous amount of butter.

The next course was the One That Changed Everything. My first serving of fresh, homemade pasta. Yes, I am serious. Luckily for me, the cook is bit of an expert on all things Italian, and Eric and I were happy to reap the benefits of the time he’s spent in both Italy and Sardinia, as well as, apparently, the kitchen. This pasta was amazing. Since it’s about 300 degrees in Texas right now, and the pasta was so fresh and delicate, we didn’t ruin it by drowning it in sauce or weighing it down with heavy meats or strong flavors. Our hosts have the enviable problem of a rather profusive sage bush that’s growing in their front yard, so they just browned some butter, fried the fresh sage in it, and poured that over the homemade fettuccine with a quick shaving of parmesan. Squisito.

I’ve got to make this.

Finally, the main course. Perfect pan-seared scallops with daikon radish, carrot, and leek purée. Just look at it.

For dessert, we had ice cream bars and Scotch on the deck. And, despite all this butter-based indulgence, we weren’t even stuffed; spreading the many small courses out over a whole evening made for a sustained appetite and some great conversation.

I think Lucky Cat was a little jealousl


Pies of the Frisco Shop

The Frisco Shop pie case

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Lockhart, Luling, and the Tiny Texas Houses with some friends. We enjoyed Black’s Barbecue in Luling (warning: they charge by the number, not weight, of sides!), peaches at a roadside farmer’s market, a round of cherry limeades from the Sonic, and a hot but beautiful afternoon on the prairie. We planned to incorporate some pies into our little roadtrip, but when we asked the gentle people of Luling where the best place to get some pie was, they were mostly befuddled and largely unhelpful, suggesting that a “coffee shop” down the street “might” have pies, or that a little cafe had cobblers. No dice.

We ended up calling various places in Austin to ask about their pie selections (in a shocker, Hill’s Cafe also only had cobbler!) before deciding on the Frisco Shop, the Nighthawk spinoff out on Burnet Road. And, boy, did they have pies. A whole case full. Including chocolate and banana cream icebox pies, tart cherry and sugar free peach pie, apple pie with rum sauce, coconut merengue, chocolate meregnue (always my favorite), cheesecake, strawberry pie, pecan pie, and probably several others I’ve forgotten. It was amazing. Pie heaven.

It’s hot out, and I love pies, so here’s a pie retrospective (with some Tiny Texas Houses thrown in for fun).

If anyone wants to meet up at the Frisco, tweet me!

Caldwell County Courthouse

Black’s Barbecue

Brisket, jalapeño sausage, mac and cheese, creamed corn, raw onion, potato salad, cole slaw, yeast roll, Dr Pepper – at Black’s

Tiny Texas House

Upstairs in a tiny house

Tiny Texas Chapel

Friends and pies

Pecan pie, y’all


Chocolate merengue with sprinkles

Coconut merengue

Cheesecake – nom nom nom

The Frisco

See my complete collection of Tiny Texas Houses photos here.

Greek Easter

Χριστός ἀνέστη! It’s Greek Easter!

Alex and I hosted a small but entertaining crowd poolside on Sunday afternoon to celebrate Greek (aka correct) Easter which, somewhat disappointingly, fell on the same date as Western Easter this year. We had a good time nonetheless, enjoying several Greek Easter staples such as lamb (we weren’t ambitious enough to roast an entire goat, sorry!) and red Easter eggs.

Due to the fact that I’ve just changed jobs and have a crazy work schedule, plus that I have a paper due tomorrow in the class I am taking for credit, I won’t be posting any recipes today. But check back later in the week! Or let me know in the comments which ones you’re most interested in making at home.

Greek Easter meze spread

Alex, your fearless host.

Pure Luck Farm Texas Feta, with homegrown basil, olive oil, and cracked pepper

Homemade hummus, using Vefa Alexiadou’s recipe.

Greek Easter eggs!

Lamb skewers with meat provided by Wheatsville Co-op, multi-colored bell peppers, onions, zucchini, and homegrown basil and mint, marinated in olive oil, 25 year aged balsamic vinegar, and garlic.

On the grill.

The cook.  He’s turning Texan!

Kabobs a’cookin’ – with two veggie ones for Eric.

Alex and her delicious Greek village salad.

Delicious charred kabobs.

The dessert table (detail).

Greek Easter cookiesexcellent with coffee.

Strawberries and home-whipped cream, from Mike and Laura (check out her Austin food blog!).  Mmm.

Ruffled milk pie.

Alex’s homemade baklava – made from scratch!  So sweet and delicious!


Alex and I cracking each other’s Easter eggs to see who will have a lucky year!  The winner of each round continues with another person and their fresh egg, going all around the feast, until all the eggs are cracked but one – and the person left with a whole egg at the end is the winner.

The winner.

Kalo Pashcha! Καλό Πάσχα! Happy Easter!

Ruffled Milk Pie

This recipe was the first thing I got excited about when flipping through Vefa’s Kitchen. I mean, look at it.

I finally got around to making it late last night, and it was so easy! I’d never used phyllo dough before, but I will definitely be making more pastries and pies now. The recipe called for six eggs, but I only used four. I’d hate to think how high it would’ve risen with the full six; as it was, it had risen to a huge globe of dough and custard by the time I removed it from the oven.

This is the first thing I’ve made from Vefa’s cookbook that turned out looking exactly like the glossy cookbook photograph, so I was very pleased. It also has an appealing flavor, as it includes not only pastry dough but also sugar, butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla – it smelled heavenly baking. But I think my favorite part is the texture. It’s both rich and creamy, due to the custard component, and warm and crispy because of the baked dough. I thought this might be the perfect dessert when I saw it in the book, but I might’ve been wrong – it’s the perfect breakfast! It was great last night with a glass of cold milk, and it was still pretty good this morning with a cup of coffee and cream. Note that it will be best fresh out of the oven, however; reheated pie won’t be as crispy!

Martha Stewart has posted the recipe here (be sure to check out the video of Vefa and Martha making the pie on the left-hand side of the page!).

Eggplant Moussaka

As promised, here is the first big installment for Greek Food Month!

I tackled Vefa’s moussaka recipe, but gave it a little twist, leaving out the lamb so that my partner could enjoy it (he’s vegetarian). It was a time consuming—but not particularly difficult—recipe, and included the added bonus of teaching me how to make a béchamel sauce. Shockingly, I had never made what the Greeks call “white sauce” – but it will be a regular casserole topping from now on!

I’m not going to post the recipe here, because I don’t want to take away from Vefa’s hard work, and there are many (perhaps thousands) of moussaka recipes on the internet. It’s a pretty standard dish, not just in Greece but across southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and the Middle East. It took three hours in total, from slicing the first eggplant to serving, but it was fun, and we now have enough left over to have moussaka for every meal for the next three days! In fact, we’ve already started planning breakfast (moussaka topped with a fried egg!).

I’ll just post a photo essay memorializing my first encounter with the quintessential Greek dish. But not tonight. I’ve just finished cleaning up and uploading pictures, and it’s already midnight! So, for now, just a little taste… Καλή όρεξη!