French toast

Citrus French Toast with Brandied Peaches (Inspired by Kathleen Edwards)

French toast

THE DISH
French toast inspired by the flavors in a sidecar cocktail

THE INSPIRATION
Kathleen Edwards’s album Voyageur has held up as one of my favorites this year — I was introduced to and fell in love with her music last fall, and this particular collection of songs came at just the right time. She wrote it while going through a divorce with a former bandmate and then falling in love again not long after (with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who co-produced the record with her). I first heard Voyageur near the end of one relationship, and the songs continued to sink in as I got over that one and found myself in a new one that took off faster than I could have ever anticipated (there’s nothing wrong with that, but it definitely took me by surprise).

The song “Sidecar” is about the excitement of starting a journey with a new partner — going on adventures, learning about their favorite places, and taking on new challenges. Apologies for being a total mush, but now it’s more than half a year into this journey and I am filled with more love than I ever knew was possible. There’s a line in the song that goes, “Sit up, sit up, sit up, I went and made you/ Breakfast in bed, coffee and juice” — so I made breakfast for my “sidecar” on his birthday last Friday, inspired by the flavors in a sidecar cocktail. (I would have made him a cake, but 1) we were traveling and it would’ve been tough to transport and 2) how would I have been able to compete with this?)

The drink uses brandy (traditionally cognac), orange liquer and lemon juice, so there’s lemon in the French toast filling, orange in the batter, and brandy and more orange in the topping. (It wasn’t actually served in bed.)

P.S. Listen to Kathleen Edwards. Her first album Failer is a good place to start.

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Digestive Biscuits (Inspired by Félix)

THE DISH
British digestive biscuits

THE INSPIRATION
Holy Molar, the newest record from British chamber-pop group Félix, has been in regular rotation since my editor recommended them to me a few weeks ago. Frontwoman Lucinda Chua reminds me of a mix of early Cat Power, a mellowed-out Regina Spektor, and the 2006 solo album from Casey Dienel (of White Hinterland). The piano-backed songs are sad, pretty and simple (“Friday night is the worst night to be alive,” Chua sings on “Oh Thee 73”). The last track is called “Little Biscuit,” so I made digestive biscuits, a type of not-too-sweet British cookie that I admittedly am not particularly familiar with, but I went with those instead of American-style biscuits because of the band’s roots. However, digestives actually ended up being more fitting for other reasons: Of course there’s the album’s name, which is a line from a couple of its songs, and digestives require a little more work from one’s teeth than buttermilk biscuits. But digestive biscuits — which, not surprisingly, were first created as a digestive aid, also reminded me of “Hate Song,” which starts with the line “Why is there so much bad stuff inside of you?” This might be stretching it a bit, but songwriting can also be a way to cleanse yourself of the “bad stuff” built up inside. Anyway, I’m not sure how authentic these are, but they were tasty — a bit like oatmeal cookies with a smoother texture.

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Sangria

Mango, Peaches & Lime Sangria (Inspired by Frank Ocean)

Well, hello! Yes, I’m still alive! I know it’s been a while — in short, life has gotten in the way of blogging; I moved to a new apartment at the beginning of the month, and I’ve come to terms with the reality that keeping this up is quite challenging! Anyway, everything seems to have calmed down for a minute or two, I’m finally settled in my new Brooklyn ‘hood (Prospect Heights), and I’m excited to finally dive back into this. Going forward, posts might not be as frequent as they used to be, but I’m hoping there at least won’t be another break as long as this last one… So, let’s go:

THE DISH
White sangria with mango, peaches, and lime.

THE INSPIRATION
Frank Ocean! Are you a fan? Everyone I know is flipping out over the R&B singer/songwriter’s first proper album channel ORANGE; I am admittedly not very well versed in R&B, so I can’t explain why he is quite the genius everyone says he is (though my coworkers have tried), but yes, I do enjoy the record. channel ORANGE is perfect for summer, and there’s no doubt it will be soundtracking most of your backyard barbeques and trips to the beach. So, I made a beverage that will cool you off and it goes down as smooth as Ocean’s voice. In “Sweet Life” Ocean sings about “mangoes, peaches and limes,” so this is a refreshing white sangria with all those fruits, plus some orange juice for the name of the album, lemon-lime seltzer, and some gin and mint because why not?

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Raspberry brownies

Raspberry Brownies (Inspired by The Afghan Whigs)

Raspberry brownies

Earlier this year, my friend Daphne Carr launched a Kickstarter project to publish the Best Music Writing book series independently, through her new music-focused press Feedback Press. (BMW is an anthology of the year’s best conversation about music, in the form of features, essays, reviews, blog posts, etc.) One of the pledge options toward the project’s $15,000 goal was for me to bake treats inspired by the artist or song of the backer’s choice, and this was the second of the two purchased, inspired by Afghan Whigs, baked for one of my favorite pop-culture thinkers/writers (also just one of my favorite people), Village Voice Music Editor Maura Johnston!

THE DISH
Raspberry brownies

THE INSPIRATION
This assignment was a bit daunting, as I hadn’t previously listened to much of the Afghan Whigs (and hey, now this is super relevant because of their recent reunion shows!) — but what I’d gathered in my couple previous run-throughs of their 1993 album Gentlemen was that I love the music — a little rough, dark and soulful — but the lyrics can be quite crass and at times pretty brutal (“Debonair” has the line “This time the anger’s better than the kiss” and later “Tonight I go to hell for what I’ve done to you”).

In the song “Be Sweet,” Greg Dulli growls, “Ladies, let me tell you about myself/ I’ve got a dick for a brain/ and my brain is gonna sell my ass to you/ Now I’m OK, but in time I find out stuff/ ‘Cause she wants love/ And I still wanna fuck.” It’s incredibly sleazy, so my first thought was to find a recipe from a blog that’s also quite sleazy, Cook to Bang, where I found a recipe for “Pinch Your Ass-Berry Brownies.” Chocolate for the darkness, Cook to Bang for the sleaze, raspberries for the blood.

However, part of why Maura decided to back the Best Music Writing Kickstarter with this particular prize was because she’s gluten- and dairy-intolerant, and wanted some kind of treat that she could eat (obviously) and make, and the original “ass-berry brownies” wouldn’t quite work. So over at the all-vegan goldmine Post-Punk Kitchen I found a similar raspberry-brownie recipe that I easily adapted to be gluten-free.

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Kale Salad with Orange-Honey Poppyseed Dressing (Inspired by Sea of Bees)

THE DISH
Kale salad with oranges, radishes, avocados and honey-orange poppyseed dressing

THE INSPIRATION
Sea of BeesSea of Bees is Julie Ann Bee (pictured right), a disarming singer-songwriter from Sacramento, California, who completely blew my mind when I saw her in New York playing with The Loom last week (I was legitimately almost in tears). Sometime after she released her excellent first album Songs for the Ravens in 2009, she came out as a lesbian and began her first relationship with a woman. Thanks to that album’s success, constant touring and presumably just normal relationship things, that particular journey ended, and it makes up a lot of her new record Orangefarben, which was released on Team Love a few weeks ago. “Orangefarben” really just means orange-colored in German, and it’s the nickname Julie called her girlfriend, so the salad I made obviously has oranges in it (and carrots for more orange color); as well as honey in the dressing because of Sea of “Bees.” The kale and radishes are bitter, like the end of many relationships, and the dressing and oranges are quite sweet, to represent the sweetness in the beginning, and the satisfaction from how much we can learn from any relationship, especially a first one. And the avocados are there for Julie’s California roots. Unrelated (but not really because it also has to do with fully expressing yourself!), but, shoutout to my buddy Caroline, whose birthday shindig I took this to — she runs an awesome and inspiring personal style blog called Broadist, and if you’re a body-positive lady, you should probably check it out.

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Sweet & salty bourbon blondies

Sweet & Salty Bourbon Blondies + a few songs by supergroups

Sweet & salty bourbon blondies

THE DISH
Blondies loaded with Momofuku chocolate “crumbs,” caramel, and bourbon

THE INSPIRATION
I recently participated in my first Tumblr Eat Up, in which a ton of Tumblr-ers are assigned a person somewhere in the country to bake and send treats to. My Eat Up buddy Alexis also lives in New York, and happens to be one of the ladies who started the Eat Up, so I couldn’t bake just any treats and throw in a couple of compost cookies from Momofuku Milk Bar to impress her — I had to do something just a little bit over the top. So I combined three elements from New York foodie staples: Momofuku Milk Bar (chocolate crumbs, which are used in several of their desserts), Baked (caramel and the method used in the Red Hook, Brooklyn, bakery’s famous sweet-and-salty brownies), and a recipe for blondies from the great Smitten Kitchen. I’m pairing them with a few songs from supergroups, since the best ones take great pieces from other projects and combine them into something that’s different, but can sometimes be just as special. These blondies are rich and gooey and possibly one of the most amazing treats to come out of this kitchen.

THE SONGS

Wild Flag, “Romance” (from Wild Flag): Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (The Minders). Their self-titled debut was my favorite album of 2011 and this is my favorite song from it. Also, this video rules.

Traveling Wilburys, “Handle With Care” (from Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1): Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty. Can you fit more songwriting legends into one album? This is one of those songs that I’d heard all my life but for the longest time didn’t know who wrote it. Glad I got that figured out.

The Dead Weather, “Treat Me Like Your Mother” (from Horehound): Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, solo), Alison Mosshart (The Kills), Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Raconteurs), Jack Lawrence (The Greenhornes, The Raconteurs). As far as Jack White projects go, The Dead Weather added some fierceness that I think was missing from The Raconteurs, mostly thanks to Alison Mosshart.

The New Pornographers, “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” (from Together): Most notably Carl “A.C.” Newman (Zumpano, solo), Neko Case (solo) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer). Seeing this band live (especially when Case and Bejar are on tour with them, which isn’t all the time) makes me so, so happy.

The Living Sisters, “How Are You Doing?” (from Love to Live): Inara George (the bird and the bee, solo), Eleni Mandell (solo) and Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond). A couple years ago, these three ladies put out out a collection of sweet, harmony-heavy folk songs.

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Mandel bread

Orange Sesame Mandel Bread (Inspired by Mirel Wagner + my mom)

Mandel bread

THE DISH
Mandel bread flavored with orange, sesame seeds, ginger and dried cranberries

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve posted a bit about my mom before, and I’ve also shared her recipe for mandel bread, a biscotti-like cookie with Jewish/Eastern European roots. It’s my go-to for whenever I need a quick host gift, and I’m surprised I don’t know the recipe by heart by now, but someday I’ll get there. I do know it well enough that I can change things in it, usually in the form of different mix-ins or toppings.

In “No Hands,” from singer/songwriter Mirel Wagner’s self-titled album that came out this year, she sings “I’ve been riding my bicycle all day long/ up and down the old dusty dirt road/ Look, Mother, no hands/ See the sun filter through the trees, I am happy/ Feel the wind and the speed, can’t see the danger/ Look, Mother, no hands.”

I’m not sure of Wagner’s intentions for the song — and considering the eerie, sometimes-disturbing nature of some of her other lyrics (“No Death” is a good place to start…), I could be totally off base here — but especially with Mother’s Day coming up, it resonates with me in a couple ways. There’s the quite literal one: that after so many times trying out this particular recipe of my mom’s, I’ve made it my own staple. And in the bigger picture, a lot has happened in the 12-plus years since she died, and of course not all of it has been easy — but despite the bumps in the old, dusty dirt road, I’ve made a really great life for myself, and I know it’s one she’d be really proud of.

The mandel bread I know usually has walnuts and/or dried fruit or chocolate with cinnamon-sugar on top; in this I kept the dried fruit (cranberries), but added orange zest, ginger and sesame seeds, and topped it with more sesame seeds, plus cinnamon, sugar and powdered ginger, which gives it a bit of a kick.

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Sweet tea

Citrus Ginger Sweet Tea (Inspired by The Chefs)

Sweet tea

THE DISH
Citrus ginger sweet tea

THE INSPIRATION
The Chefs were a late-’70s/early-’80s indiepop band in the U.K. fronted by a bassist/singer who went by the name Helen McCookerybook (real name Helen Reddington, but AAHH, I love it!). They split up around ’82, but they just released a compilation of their lovely, albeit small, catalog, Records & Tea: The Best of the Chefs, which I learned about last week because I edited a review of it. The record is so much fun, and certainly a precursor to a ton of the indiepop stuff I listen to today. It was also kind of a goldmine for recipe ideas, but a couple songs in particular stuck out to me — the title track of the compilation, and another called “Sweetie.” In “Records and Tea,” there’s a line in the chorus that goes, “Records and tea are all life means to me.” Then “Sweetie” is a super-cute, totally cheeseball (in the best way possible) love song that starts: “I’ve got a passion/ for sweet things/ That’s why I love you/ You’re my sweet dream/ You’re such a sweetie/ Oh I could eat you/ You’re such a sweetie/ I think I love you.” But the way “sweetie” is enunciated, it totally sounds like they’re saying “sweet tea.” It also happens that my “sweetie” is a sucker for sweet things (as am I, obviously), usually in the form of sugary drinks, so I made a sweet tea with green tea, ginger-basil syrup and citrus (mostly just because those things are tasty).

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find either of the above-mentioned songs on the Internet! Although you can hear samples and buy Records & Tea here. But here’s another track from the record:

It’s also worth noting that Reddington is still playing music today, and she keeps a great blog that I got sucked into this week! She also wrote a book that I need to get my hands on, The Lost Women of Rock Music: Female Musicians of the Punk Era, which has an updated, paperback version being released next month.

Sweet tea

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Portobello nests

Portobello Nests with Pear-Onion Jam (Inspired by Shearwater)

Portobello nests

THE DISH
Roasted portobello mushrooms with greens, goat cheese and pear-onion jam

THE INSPIRATION
I’ve been spending a lot of time with Shearwater lately, which might have a little something to do with the fact that my boyfriend has a huge crush on Jonathan Meiburg, but also because I finally spent a little more time with their album that came out earlier this year, Animal Joy. While Animal Joy got my attention pretty quickly, their overall catalog might take a little more time — a lot of the songs build slowly, like the opener on 2008’s Rook, “On The Death Of The Waters”: It begins with Meiburg’s voice and a piano, then halfway through explodes with heavy guitars, drums, horns and woodwinds.

That album is perhaps their best known, and it combines the dramatic, majestic music with haunting lyrics about life, death and nature — “Rooks” is essentially about a bird apocalypse (side note: Meiburg is an ornithologist), and probably the most relevant to this dish. We made “nests” using portobello mushrooms and cooked kale and arugula, but they don’t have anything in them that resembles eggs because all the birds are gone from their nests (and dead). The pear-onion jam on top takes a long time to cook as the flavors blend together and it gets better with time, and the onions go from spicy to sweet as they soften and caramelize on the stove — not too far off from how it can take a while for Shearwater’s music to sink in, there are so many layers that go into each song, and as a whole, the music has gone from grim to an album that even has “joy” in its title. That’s not to say Animal Joy is a uniformly happy record, but it doesn’t feel so heavy and there are more moments of driving rock. Also, you need to listen to the song “Animal Life,” as it makes my head explode in a way that very few songs have done; kind of like what I felt the first time I listened to Owen Pallett/Final Fantasy.

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Eggs in clouds

Eggs in Clouds with Gabriel & the Hounds (Inspired by Kate Bush)

Eggs in clouds

Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is Gabriel & the Hounds, performing a cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” (download the free mp3 and read my feature on the band here), and here’s the egg in a cloud I made with Gabe Levine. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Cheesy eggs in clouds

Gabriel & the HoundsTHE INSPIRATION
This dish comes from the song “Cloudbusting” on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, an album that inspired Gabriel & the Hounds’ band name (Gabe also covered that album’s title track — download it for free over at Brooklyn Based). I knew I wanted something that looked like clouds, which often, unfortunately, is going to mean egg whites. If you’ve kept up with this site for a while, you know that I’m not very good with egg whites. And I’ll tell you up front: I’m still not very good with egg whites, and this dish was mostly a failure, certainly because of my faulty egg white-beating and not the recipe.

Me: Oh noooo! I think I fucked it up!
Gabe: How is that possible?
Me: I don’t know! I think now they’re over-beaten? Fuck! Fuck, fuck! Nooooo! … I can’t believe this just happened. Actually, I can totally believe this just happened.

Apologies for the foul language, but, that’s about how it went down. But hey, even decent normally-decent cooks screw up, and Gabe made a good point when he said, “I like that it didn’t work. I think it makes a lot more sense to me that way. I love that you took the challenge on. ‘Oh yeah, we’ll just do the egg whites,’ ’cause you needed to do [a recipe] that has to do with clouds. You’ll conquer the egg whites.” He also thinks Kate Bush would appreciate it: “All of her songs are about things falling apart, anyway.” So, many thanks to Gabe for the encouragement!

Anyway, one there was enough successfully-beaten egg white goo to make just one of these little guys, and it turned out perfectly — crispy along the edges, with a runny yolk in the middle (Get it? Cloud-busting? I know, I know).

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