True Confessions of a Mid-Life Cook

There's a definite correlation between my profound love of music and how and what I've taught myself to cook. My favorite music to listen to and to perform is soulful, sensual, sometimes funky and always bluesy in nature . . . and that's exactly how I cook. I like to get my hands in the food. I chop, I knead, I stir with my hands. Sometimes I wear my big rimmed cowboy hat, nightie and Old Gringo boots in kitchen, sometimes a coonskin cap when the mood strikes and sometimes just an apron and a smile. Using the freshest of ingredients, I love to bringing a new spirit to old favorites. I am so to drawn dishes seeping in both Texas and Southern tradition,with a special affinity for those authentic old jewels found in South Louisiana.
Because they, too, are so powerfully soulful?

I've discovered being a good cook is a journey and not a destination. (Yes, I stole an over-used corporate slogan and made it my own--but it's still the truth) Every time we screw up, we learn. And in part, that's what this blog is about. Cooking fearlessly. With heart, with soul -- and with some damn good music to inspire. (If your three layer chocolate cake ends up looking like a Jerry Springer rerun or you cut the tip of your thumb off while making New Year's Day gumbo, WHO CARES?Proclaim Francine Reed's "I'm a Handful" your theme song. She would like that.)
We cook because we find ourselves kinda empty if we don't.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Frozen Mango Margaritas

Hello sunshine! The skies have cleared, the sun has made a welcomed appearance, and our neighborhood is abuzz with yard maintenance action following a highly unusual 'monsoon season' in West Texas (or the closest thing I've ever seen to a monsoon season out here.)  Nothing greets a sweaty, weary yard girl quite like a fruity frozen concoction and this frozen mango margarita just may be my personal favorite.  Icy, a little tart, not too sweet.  Truly like biting into a cold, juicy mango.

Frozen Mango Margarita for Dos
Combine . . .
8 oz. 'Finest Call Premium Mango Puree Mix' (comes in a 1 liter bottle)
3 to 3 1/2 oz. 'Margaritaville Last Mango' tequila/mango liqueur

Blend until smooth.
Served in salted or sugared rimmed glass.
Garnish with lime.

Suggested listening: Jimmy Cliff " I Can See Clearly Now the Rain is Gone/Bright Sunshiny Day"

Monday, July 5, 2010

Momma Needs It Quick Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberries. I have such sacred memories of barefoot summers in East Texas eating these little jewels right off the vine. And gathering them in a borrowed apron from my grandmother's kitchen for one of Shirley Collier's unforgettable cobblers. 

Not much has changed for me over the years regarding my love affair with blackberries. I anxiously await their arrival each summer. And although they now make their appearance in the produce section at HEB in San Angelo rather than down a country fence line in Union Grove, Texas, they taste just about as sweet.

My recipes using blackberries are endless.  From golden little fried pies, to blackberry/red wine jam, to protein shakes and yes, of course, cobblers.  Every 4th of July demands a blackberry cobbler at my house.

This year, I was running out of time in the kitchen and decided to simplify things somewhat.  So what do I do? I head to the liquor cabinet, of course . . .where I came across a bottle of mango liqueur, which I knew would make a delightful addition to the filling. And then decided to create a quick crumble crust for a nice crunch. Although I don't have a specific measurement for each ingredient that I used, the end result was, well, "bombs bursting in air" good.  And from now on, this will be my standard blackberry cobbler. 

Five or six 12oz. cartons of fresh blackberries.
Enough sugar to coat well.
1/4 to 1/2 cup of Margaritaville 'Last Mango' Tequila/Mango Liqueur

Pour berries in large mixing bowl and add enough sugar to coat well. Stir GENTLY until berries are coated. Add mango liqueur and stir GENTLY one more time. Let sit for about 15 - 20 minutes while you make the crumble topping and prepare the baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350. Melt a few of tablespoons of butter and coat all sides of an 8"x13" Pyrex baking dish well.

1 cup cold diced butter (2 sticks) (Please use real butter always. No substitutes.)
2 cups white flour
1 cup granulated sugar

Pour flour into medium size mixing bowl.  Work in butter with pastry cutter or your hands until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  (I always use my hands just because.) Add sugar and mix in  well with your hands . . . or even your left foot for all I care. :) Just not an electric mixer. Jill. And Whitney.

Sprinkle a quarter of the mixture on the bottom of the prepared baking dish (you don't have to cover every square inch) and place in the oven for about 10 minutes until light gold.  Remove and then . . .

With a slotted spoon, drain berries lightly and GENTLY and place in prepared dish. (Reserve remaining liquid.) Dot with a little butter and then top evenly with crumbled topping and bake for almost an hour on a middle rack.  The last 2-4 minutes, move to a higher rack and broil until topping is nice and brown. WATCH CAREFULLY not to burn.

Serve with homemade vanilla ice cream and  reserved mango liqueur/berry concoction.

Take a bite and then kiss a patriot. Or whatever is close.  

Suggested listening:  Blackberry by the Black Crowes