Glover Gardens readers and friends have heard about our musician in college studying jazz composition. More than once. He’s a sophomore at the University of Texas in Austin’s Butler School of Music and is having a wonderful experience in a town that’s well-known for its vibrant music scene. This weekend, he’s in one of the groups playing at the 23rd annual Jazz at St. James festival; the headliner is Diane Schuur. He’s a “side man” (on piano) in the John Mills Quintet (see Meet the Artists). This morning at 11:00, there’s a free Jazz Mass:
The Jazz Mass is a divine celebration of music and the spirit. Two-time Grammy award winner Diane Schuur will be singing and playing piano, joined by the St. James’ Episcopal Church Choir, John Mills, Joe Morales and others. It’s a church service with soul. Don’t miss it!”
Doesn’t that sound GREAT!? I wish I could be there. This is an amazing experience for my son, who will play again this morning at the mass. He was surprised to see his biography in the program when he arrived for the Friday night set.
If you’re in Austin today, this might be a great way to start your Sunday.
Jazz at St. James is sponsored by the Austin Jazz Society. This sounds like a group I should join, post-haste!
I love it when folks reach out to me for advice about cooking and entertaining; it feeds my soul (pun intended).
It also gives me good topics for the blog and the impetus to pull together a post – from memory, experience or my own food mentors.
So, for the friend who asked for input on an antipasto tray she’s bringing to a party, here’s a special treat: advice from my Mom. She was an amazing cook and hostess and antipasto platters were a foundational appetizer for her parties. I am so grateful for everything she taught me about entertaining and cooking. If I’m guilty of ascribing to the “food is love” philosophy, it’s totally her fault.
Mom has been cooking for the angels since September of 2000 and my Dad joined her in heaven this past summer, but they left me with a wonderful legacy: a cookbook they compiled of their favorite recipes, with additional entries collected from friends and family. The Great Tastes from the Texas Coast cookbook project took place in the late 80s and was intended as give-away for clients at my Dad’s real estate office on the beach in Gilchrist, Texas. (Dad was a weekend realtor and a high-tech salesman for Motorola during the week.)
You know the kind of cookbook I’m talking about, paper-bound with a plastic binder, worn and torn, stained with use, stuffed with other recipes from family members on note cards and sticky notes that probably should have been in the cookbook (and probably would have been in the next version of Great Tastes from the Texas Coast if there was one). Oh my gosh, I just got a great idea: that’s the name for my first cookbook, whenever I publish it.
I didn’t realize at the time what a treasure Great Tastes from the Texas Coast would turn out to be, and now feel so blessed to have many of my parents’ recipes at my fingertips. That’s my Mom’s drawing there on the front, too. This bounty of family memories and codified parental cooking advice was the impetus for me to start on the Glover Gardens Cookbook (which eventually became the blog), so that our boys could have the same bounty of family recipes.
While Great Tastes from the Texas Coast is long on value through recipes and their associated memories, it is very, very short on words and and almost devoid of style (other than the cover art). Note Mom’s entry, Antipasto Ingredients, below. No one could accuse her of being verbose or flowery. This was serious business.
But what Mom lacked in creative writing skills, she more than made up for in the cooking and entertaining department. Here’s how she did the antipasto.
See the basket on the wall below, in the repeat of the kitchen picture? It was about 24 inches long, 15 inches wide and 3 inches deep, and was perfect for Mom’s antipasto treatment. I loved that basket and think I might have inherited it, many moons ago. It must have fallen apart, or I would still have it. But I digress. Mom lined that venerable old basket with plastic wrap and then covered the whole thing with overlapping red or green leaf lettuce, or both. (Leaf lettuce is good for lining a platter, because it is easy to flatten.)
After lining the basket, she stuffed it full with ingredients from her list, not neatly in little rows or stacks, but bunched together by type in a way that conveyed a sense of plenty and hospitality. She was careful to distribute the colors – a pile of kalamata olives would never be next to anchovies, smoked mussels or marinated mushrooms because those colors would be too drab together. You could almost see her artist’s mind working while she assembled, taking care to mix the textures, too: the kalamatas would go much better next to bright red roasted and marinated peppers, which in turn would be nestled next to generous chunks of provolone with big, fat, garlic-stuffed green olives on one side and her garlicky, pink marinated shrimp on the other. If there was a dip, it would be in a small ceramic bowl and garnished with parsley or dried herbs. Bunches of sliced mortadella, ham and salami would be strategically placed opposite each other, perhaps next to glistening sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, artichoke hearts or fresh, crunchy, pungent radishes. Breadsticks might be vertical in a pretty glass or two, and whole green onions would cut a bright green horizontal swath across the top. Mom would then drizzle a bit of vinaigrette on her masterpiece where appropriate and call it done.
I wish I had a picture to share – words cannot do justice to the welcome and hospitality that Mom’s antipasto platter conveyed. However, I found a photo in the site Honestly Yumthat gives me the same feeling.
Mom left out a few of the items that I remember from her antipasto, so perhaps they came later: cornichons, grapes, halved cherry tomatoes, pepperdew peppers stuffed with bleu cheese, fresh vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower (although we are moving out of the antipasto neighborhood here and it might be controversial that French cornichons or bleu cheese would even be considered on this originally Italian spread).
If I was doing an antipasto platter, I’d probably add a couple of my go-to favorites, such as my super-easy treatment of grape tomatoes below that provides a composed, bite-sized, super-fresh yumminess.
And the picture below is from a smorgasbord night here at Glover Gardens, which on that night looked a bit like an antipasto platter, although heavy with crostini and bruschetta. Gosh, I’m getting hungry!
And so, to my friend who requested some information about antipasto platters, I hope the advice from Mom with a little more info from me is useful for you. Thanks for giving me a reason to spotlight Great Tastes from the Texas Gulf Coast and travel through the taste memories from Mom’s kitchen.
We clinched it a day after Halloween, but these pumpkins are perfect predictors of the #HoustonStrong baseball victory.
Photo (and carving) credits to my friend and colleague Adrian V., and a shout-out to all of my colleagues who were in this World Series for Our Town journey together for the last several weeks at work. We wrung our hands and fantasized together, every day. One said, “I’m not really superstitious, but I sure hope the series is over soon so I can change my underwear.” 🙂
The Astros were launched in 1962, and this is our first World Series win. As the Tom Petty song goes, “The Waiting is the Hardest Part”. But now, as Queen said, “We Are the Champions”. Woohoo!!!
After all of the trials, tribulation, trauma and troubles from Hurricane Harvey, this victory is really sweet for H-Town. #HoustonStrong, indeed!!!!!
But here’s a shoutout to L.A. – your team was awesome and a formidable opponent. #Respect
My son and I did some reorganization of his room a couple of weekends ago, a natural progression as he moves through his sophomore year in college. At this stage, just as many items go into the giveaway pile as the “must keep memories” box in the attic.
We did find some treasures, though, as we processed a whole chest of drawers bulging with the history of his childhood, the objects providing a physical testimony about his youthful interests and experiences.
There were signed baseballs from his Little League days, those times when he earned the game ball from his coaches, men who seemed like titans to us at the time but were simply eager Dads looking to provide a good experience for their sons. Unbeknown to us, our little one was a “late bloomer” in Little League. The coach called me one spring night back in 2004 to tell me he had drafted Thomas onto his team, and asked me about his experience.
“Experience?” I was confused.
“Yes, what positions has he played?”
“None, this is his first season.”
“Really? He hasn’t played before? He doesn’t know anything about the game?”
“He’s only 6 years old?!” I was still confused.
“My son started just shy of his 4th birthday. We even have pictures of him playing catch in his diapers as a toddler.”
This is going to be a challenge, I realized. Only 6 years old and he’s already behind.
Despite this inauspicious start, Thomas acquitted himself admirably in his 8 years in Little League. A lefty, he became a dependable and sometimes awesome pitcher, and a capable hitter, delivering mostly singles and doubles. He never really mastered the art of stealing bases or sliding, which told us to focus our college scholarship hopes and dreams in other areas. This is why we call him our Musical Millennial rather than our Pitching Prodigy.
We had some really good times during the Little League days. Championships won and lost, good-natured rivalries with his classmates on other teams, frenzied times between the pickup at after-school day care and the 6 p.m. warmup on the baseball field when dinner was a 30-second microwaved “quesadilla” (really just a flour tortilla fold-over with grated cheddar cheese thrown in) eaten in 60 seconds. During the off-season, our backyard was the sandlot, with girls and boys from all over the neighborhood passionately playing their positions and breaking a window or two, just like it would have happened in the movies.
Good times. But I digress. Tonight, we’re watching Game 7 of the World Series, Astros vs. Dodgers. Go Astros!
Back to the treasures. Among all the game balls my son earned in his days as a player, we found other baseball mementos. Two “signed balls” from the Astros, those give-aways with the facsimile signatures stamped on them that you get for being one of the first 5,000 fans at an important game. They’re from the 1997 – 2005 period; the signatures include Larry Dierker (manager), Billy Wagner (pitcher), Matt Galante (coach), Craig Biggio (catcher, 2nd base and outfield) and Jeff Bagwell (1st base). Good times.
There was also a super-special memento from my Dad. He was a junior executive for Exxon in his early 30s, and snagged this commemorative bat back then. It was before the merger with Mobil changed the company name to ExxonMobil, and back in the days when the tiger was the mascot. I loved watching baseball with my Dad. And that carried forward to watching baseball with my son. Memories and mementos…
As I write, it’s the top of the 7th in the 7th game of the 2017 World Series matchup between the Astros and the Dodgers. Of course, I’m rooting for my hometown ‘Stros, but whatever happens, it has been a great ride. Baseball really is the national pastime.
We never get any trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood, so this is our whole Halloween celebration, right here, with you, Dear Readers. No candy, no costumes, no curses, no ghouls. Just a couple of photos and a memory.
This is what late afternoons in Southeast Texas look like; the temperature on Sunday when I took this “spooky” photo was just what you’d imagine from the looks of it, a perfect 68°F. Our sole nod to Halloween this year (other than this post) is the Talavera pumpkin on the table – do you see him? For the rest of the year, we turn him around, and he’s just a big, lovely gourd.
And, just because I found it while going through pictures on my Dad’s computer recently, here’s a Halloween postcard from days gone by, circa…1968? I think I was Orphan Annie, but can’t be sure. No one in my family is left but me from those days.
I still remember how scratchy that mask was (why did Orphan Annie need a mask?!!?). My mother made the costume, as she did every year. I felt inadequate years later as a working mom because I bought my son’s costumes and didn’t live up to her standard of handmade Halloween heirlooms.
I now realize that it is being there, listening, and caring about their Halloween experience that makes the difference for a child, not who made the costume.
What are your Halloween observations this year, or memories?
Dear readers, y’all know I love music -all kinds of music – but I’m the most partial to jazz that is composed or played by my son, our Musical Millennial. I’ve shared his stuff here fairly often, and there’s a ton more to come as he makes his way through the rest of his college career studying Jazz Composition at the University of Texas at Austin and gets out into the big world. Watch this space – he’s going places! (I’m his mom and I can say that, right?)
But my son’s is not the only millennial-made music we’re watching. Here’s another for you: Sleepyheart, the creation of Nathaniel James Goldblatt. We bought a copy of the CD a few weeks ago and I finally had a quiet moment to listen to it (see photo below with the cat). I really like it! The music genre is “alternative,” which I’ve never really embraced as a category because it is so broad and vague, and I’ll admit, there’s just too much going on in the songs for me to feel anything but edgy. But wow, I must have that genre all wrong, because this music is very listenable and accessible, with meaningful lyrics and well-crafted melodies that are lilting in some places and contemplative in others. There is a balance of energetic layers of sound and quiet spaces with just guitar rhythms that give you time to let the meaning sink in. In other words: I like it! I have a new appreciation for alternative music.
Check out a video of the song “Sorry” from Sleepyheart’s Facebook page and let me know what you think. (I think it’s lovely.)
I listened to Just Friends again while writing this post, and realized that I should always listen to music when blogging. It really sets the mood. The CD was also very complementary to the mood the first time I listened to it, by the pool, in beautiful fall weather, with a glass of wine and a good book. And my cat Fiona.
Check out Sleepyheart’s Just Friends EP online at:
The Grill-Meister gave me a great gift for my birthday this year: a certificate for a cooking class date night in which we would learn how to make fresh pasta.
Cooking class for a date night? Really??? Heck, yeah!!!
I’ve been looking forward to this event for six weeks, and it finally arrived this past Wednesday when we sauntered in to the Well Done Cooking Class in Houston, ready to be schooled in pasta.
I’ve never been to a cooking class before, although I was an occasional informal sous chef for a very talented and quite eccentric semi-retired chef when I was a teen (but I digress, that’s definitely a long story for another time). And I’ve never made fresh pasta, either, unless you count one time when I watched, fascinated, as another chef friend did some quick things with his hands and then, voila! – pasta. I didn’t catch anything beyond “make a well with the flour…”
So – this cooking class date night was a welcome new experience that exceeded my expectations and was a terrific birthday gift for a foodie with a gap in her skills. We were too busy cooking to take many photos, but check this out – in three hours, we:
made fresh pasta dough and then put it the refrigerator to rest and chill
made fresh sweet potato gnocchi with a brown butter and sage sauce (photo below)
retrieved our pasta and made three different dishes
ravioli with a squash, ricotta, smoked bacon and basil filling
tortellini with the same filling (who knew that tortellini was just one more twist of the pasta after making the ravioli shape???)
fettuccini carbonara with Italian sausage
Wow! I never realized it was this easy – or quick – to make homemade fresh pasta. As I said earlier, it was definitely a gap in my foodie education.
In addition to learning how to make the pasta dough, it was fun using the pasta roller and the gnocchi board (I never heard of a gnocchi board, but it is now on my Christmas list). The best part of all this is that the Grill-Meister is now all fired up about making fresh pasta, and I suspect he will emerge as the Fresh Pasta Lead here at Glover Gardens. He is already the Pizza Dough Lead and, of course, is out in front when it’s time to grill anything.
You can expect to see some Glover Gardens pasta recipes here soon, once we have it all figured out.