Lemon ricotta dumplings

Lemon Ricotta Dumplings (Inspired by Glass Candy)

THE RECIPE
Lemon ricotta dumplings

THE INSPIRATION
I know I’ve mentioned this in probably way too many posts in the last couple months, but…it’s now the last day of February (happy Leap Year!) and we’ve still had only a few days of real winter. I’ve worn my down coat about once in the last couple weeks, and tomorrow is March! These tiny, fluffy lemon ricotta dumplings are inspired by Glass Candy‘s song “Warm in the Winter” — the chorus of which is “We’re warm in the winter/ Sunny on the inside,” which pretty much sums up both the weather here and my outlook on life as of late. I love the cheery, echoing “Wooooo!”s throughout the song, and the line about being “crazy like a monkey” makes me think of the hysterical giggle-fits I’ve found myself in recently, mostly thanks to someone who likes making goofy faces at me all the time. The dumplings are fitting for the song because the lemon and basil are like little bursts of sunshine and freshness; they’re best served warm with butter; and they’re small enough to pop in your mouth like candy.

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whiskey chocolate balls

Whiskey Chocolate Balls (Inspired by Sleater-Kinney)

THE DISH
Whiskey chocolate balls

THE INSPIRATION
Confession: I was embarrassingly late on listening to Sleater-Kinney. As in, they broke up in 2006 and I didn’t get super into All Hands On The Bad One until about four years later. (I will now cover my eyes so I can’t see your totally disgusted faces shunning me. But don’t worry, I got on that Wild Flag record reeeal quick.) Needless to say, they’re on the long, long list of bands I wish someone had told me about when I was in high school. Anyway, it goes without saying that that album is incredible, and these whiskey balls come from a line in “You’re No Rock N’ Roll Fun” about “whiskey drinks and chocolate bars.” The first line of the song — “You’re no rock ‘n’ roll fun/ Like a party that’s over before it’s begun” — hits home for me because when my friends and I go out, I tend to be the one who gets tired super early, and I’m frequently hassled about my inability/refusal to take shots. I also don’t like whiskey! (See? Ms. No Rock N’ Roll Fun over here.) However, now I can say that I sometimes like whiskey: when it’s baked in a cake, then turned into little balls of chocolatey, sugary, walnutty goodness (mixed with even a little more whiskey). These were kind of amazing, and they’ll certainly be replacing any future urge to make cake balls: They’re quite similar, but because these babies use sugar and booze to bind the cake crumbs together instead of buttery frosting, they don’t result in obnoxiously greasy hands, and they don’t feel as heavy to eat.

Unrelated to the great S-K: I took these treats to a super-cool event called BAKINGMAKESFRIENDS — which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Lillie from the gorgeous baking blog Butter Me Up Brooklyn, started this shindig, to which you bring baked goods and friends, and hang at a bar to trade treats and meet new people. Lillie made bourbon blondies (obviously we were on the same page), and among my other favorites were chocolate ginger cookies, poppyseed buckwheat cookies (trust me, they were SO good), cardamom baklava, mustard spice cookies… I could go on and on. Anyway, it was lovely and I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Peanut Noodles with Edamame, Carrots & Flowers (Inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel)

THE DISH
Peanut noodles with carrots and edible flowers

THE INSPIRATION
Perhaps Neutral Milk Hotel doesn’t conjure up images of Asian noodle entrées, but go with us here. Jeff Mangum’s lyrics are at once deeply moving and direct, while also abstract, obtuse and occasionally just plain odd. “When you were young you were the King of Carrot Flowers” is arguably the most memorable line of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and inspiration, it seems, can be incredibly simple. “King of Carrot Flowers” Pts. One-Three was the muse for our dish where carrots take center stage. We tossed in some edible flowers for good measure (more out of aesthetic interests — they were a tad bitter for our tastes) and then scratched our heads for a good while and pondered.

“King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One” rides along on the strength of Mangum’s voice and engaging lyrics. The carrots, cucumbers and edamame are just as simple and as refreshing as the melody. Imagine that the noodles are “holy rattlesnakes” and you’re good to go. Transition into Pts. Two & Three and things get more complicated. After Mangum pronounces his love for “you” (or is it for Jesus Christ? Has anyone figured that one out?), the fuzzed-out bass kicks in and the sound gets nice and muddy, almost as if it were covered in a delicious peanut-based dressing. The curry paste and chili powder kick things up a notch as the band goes wild, trumpets blaring, bass crunching, and drums thumping like angry giants. Still, the real focus is the interaction between the peanut butter dressing and the carrots, which just seem to work well together. We wanted to sneak a few peas into the recipe and make a lame pun involving “A Baby for Pree,” but the edamame fit much more naturally. Anyway, make this at a family gathering and have your mom stick a fork right into it (as opposed to daddy’s shoulder). And that is officially the last bad joke.

The new Neutral Milk Hotel vinyl box set (released last fall) compiles pretty much all of their music, spanning two 12″ records, two 10″ EPs, three 7″ singles and two posters. On top of that, Jeff Mangum has been making more and more public appearances and playing concerts here and there. Anticipation over the band’s prodigal return is quite high (and perhaps far too hopeful), but what better time to revisit some of the best music from the last 20 years? Better yet, what better time to eat some carrots and noodles?

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Blood orange cupcakes

Vegan Blood Orange Champagne Cupcakes (Inspired by Blood Orange)

THE DISH
Vegan blood orange cupcakes with blood orange champagne buttercream

THE INSPIRATION
This one’s pretty simple! Blood Orange is the prolific Dev Hynes (who’s also performed as Lightspeed Champion, and has written and/or produced songs for Solange Knowles, Florence & the Machine and Theophilus London), and last year he put out an awesome dance-rock album Coastal Grooves (think TV on the Radio, Holy Ghost!, ’80s pop). The last song on the record is called “Champagne Coast,” so these cupcakes — which I made for the ETB party last week — are flavored with blood oranges, and the frosting has champagne in it. The actual cupcakes certainly could have champagne in them, too — in fact, the only reason they don’t is because I spaced out and totally forgot about it… (Maybe it was that whole “OMG I have to make a few hundred cupcakes” thing that made me forget…) So, both versions are below.

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Citrus sushi

Crunchy Citrus Sushi (Inspired by Asobi Seksu)

THE DISH
Homemade sushi with crunchy clementine tempura

THE INSPIRATION
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Making homemade sushi makes for a great date. It’s hands-on, you’re teaching someone how to do something new, and, well, can you really go wrong with sushi? Not so much. (Admittedly, this is probably best for a date with someone you are super comfortable with — we all know there is no graceful way to eat sushi!) In this case, I knew it was going to be a great evening when the fella emailed me a few days beforehand with an excellent musical twist to add to our planned sushi-making adventure: a roll inspired by Asobi Seksu‘s album Citrus. In his words: “SO, we’re talking about a roll with salmon (either fresh or smoked), a vertical section of orange (naval, clementine, both?), cucumber, and some essence of crunch, for the loud + discordant factor.” We ended up with fresh salmon, avocado and cucumber, plus clementine fried in tempura batter for the crunch factor. It was certainly a bit different than any other sushi I’ve had, but the citrus worked surprisingly well and I loved it. Also in the spirit of this kinda-silly holiday, it’s perhaps worth noting that the loose translation of the Japanese phrase “asobi seksu” is “casual sex.” Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

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ETB Party Recap + Red Wine Chocolate Cinnamon Cupcakes

Well, you guys are AWESOME. The first-anniversary party on Tuesday night was absolutely perfect. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who came out — I’m still glowing and totally overwhelmed by all your support, not just this week but for the last year. I especially would like to thank Heather and Jeff Pine Box Rock Shop for letting a total stranger throw a party in their bar; Jocelyn, Jeremy and Emily from Pearl and the Beard for picking the tunes (come hang with me at their show on Feb. 16!); my friend Tony for helping me make 300 tiny cupcakes and keeping me sane; and the amazing Missy Kayko for lending her badass design talents to the event poster. Check out a few photos from the party below, and find the rest on ETB’s Facebook page. (All photos here by Evan Daniels except for top photo and the first two after the cut). The bar recreated Jocelyn’s Good Winter cocktail and it was amazing; and you guys made a pretty decent dent in those cupcakes… but I don’t think the eMusic office was complaining about the leftovers on Wednesday!

I’m also sharing the recipe for the vegan red wine chocolate cinnamon cupcakes I made; recipe at the bottom! (Blood orange cupcake recipe coming later…)

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Super Bowl Salsa Trio (Inspired by Madonna, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj)

THE DISH
Three salsas, one each inspired by Madonna, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj

THE INSPIRATION
So, last night Madonna performed the Super Bowl halftime show, with help from M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on her new song “Give Me All Your Luvin’.” I’m not crazy about the song (the chorus sorta makes me want to rip my hair out, to be honest, although I would appreciate it at least a little bit otherwise), but it was awesome to see these three super-powerful ladies sharing the stage for something this huge. And, of course, it was even more awesome to see M.I.A. flip off national television.

Anyway, my friend Eleanor encouraged themed dishes for her lovely Super Bowl party, which I obviously took as an assignment. So, I made three salsas (an easy choice for the Super Bowl), one each inspired by Madonna, M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj. They’re all are quite different but have the same premise: all three of these women have a nice side, but they’re also extremely bold and have a lot of attitude. So, each salsa has a sweet component and a bit of a kick, and they’re all colorful for the women’s colorful wardrobes and uh, colorful language. M.I.A. is mango and pickles for her song “Mango Pickle Down River” (along with shredded coconut, cumin and curry which are used in Sri Lankan cooking, served with plantain chips because of her “Banana” skit at the beginning of Arular). Nicki Minaj has a base of strawberries for her Pink Friday album (with serrano peppers for the kick). Madonna’s is mostly corn and cherries for her Midwest (Michigan!) roots, which she mentioned at least a couple times in a press conference this weekend.

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