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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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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Granola bars

Chewy Granola Bars + 10 Bands to See at Coachella

Granola bars

THE DISH
Better-than-store-bought chewy granola bars (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Coachella weekend one (of two) starts Friday, and while I’m not going (totally can’t handle the camping-festival thing…plus that tiny detail that it’s on the other side of the country from me), I thought those of you who are might want an easy-to-make treat for the road, breakfast during the weekend, whatever. These granola bars are simple and filling — great for kickstarting a long day without regularly timed meals (if you’re anything like me at a festival). And you might even be able to make them with stuff you already have stocked in your pantry.

10 BANDS TO SEE AT COACHELLA

M83: M83’s epic Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was one of my favorite albums last year, and I have no doubts that its huge sound would have no problem reaching a massive crowd in the dessert. [Recipe: Funfetti frog cupcakes]

Jeff Mangum: Who could’ve expected that in 2012 Jeff Mangum would be playing Coachella? I’d be a little skeptical about how a performance from the former Netural Milk Hotel frontman would translate to a huge, outdoor festival, but after seeing his breathtaking show at New York’s Town Hall back in October, it actually makes sense. He sang out, encouraged the crowd to sing along, and genuinely looked like he was having a great time. [Recipe: Peanut noodles with edamame, carrots and flowers, inspired by Neutral Milk Hotel]

Bon Iver: The last (and only) time I saw Bon Iver was in July 2008 at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and to hear this band at festivals back then would have been really weird/probably wouldn’t have really worked. Obviously things have changed a bit since then, and I regret not seeing the louder, fuller version of this band last year. [Recipe: Butternut squash pancakes with maple goat cheese spread and candied walnuts]

First Aid Kit: Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg make folk songs with simple instrumentation and gorgeous harmonies. Their record that came out this year, The Lion’s Roar, is lovely. [Featured in beer + music pairings: Fall 2011]

Laura Marling: British singer/songwriter Laura Marling has been a favorite of mine for a few years now — since her first record Alas, I Cannot Swim, written when she was 16, she’s continuously developing her voice, both in terms of her maturing songwriting and the way she sings. The ’70s-leaning songs from last year’s A Creature I Don’t Know, will be refreshing. [Featured in beer + music pairings: Winter 2012]

St. Vincent: Annie Clark’s sound has taken quite a journey since her 2007 debut Marry Me, and her shows have too — though what’s remained constant has been her velvety alto and her status as one of the finest guitarists in recent memory. On stage she gets lost in her guitar, which I’m sure will be especially intense during some of the harder-edged songs from last year’s Strange Mercy.

Tune-Yards: What haven’t I already said about Tune-Yards? Merrill Garbus is powerful enough on last year’s w h o k i l l, but even if you’re not totally into her albums, her live show is a whole ‘nother animal, as Garbus uses looping pedals to build up ukulele riffs, drum beats and abrasive, abstract vocals. [Recipe: Berry-banana muffins + body issues]

Sleeper Agent: Sleeper Agent are a group of sugar-high pop-punk kids from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and their debut album Celabrasion is a total blast.

We Are Augustines: We Are Augustines’ 2011 debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships comes from a dark place (it was inspired by frontman Billy McCarthy’s younger brother James, who struggled with mental illness before taking his own life; which their mother had done years before), but like on the album, the Brooklyn band turns it into an empowering story about passion and strength. [Recipe: Blackberry/peach/ginger popsicles]

Wild Flag: Wild Flag is made up of former Sleater-Kinney bandmates Carrie Brownstein and Janet Weiss, with Mary Timony (Helium) and Rebecca Cole (the Minders) and I wrote about why I love them so much here. They pretty much melted my face off when I saw them live last fall. [Recipe: Whiskey chocolate balls inspired by Sleater-Kinney]

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Whoopie pies

Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies (Inspired by James Taylor)

Whoopie pies

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 first of the two purchased, inspired by James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind.”

THE DISH
Sweet potato whoopie pies with maple cream cheese frosting and candied pecans

THE INSPIRATION
James Taylor grew up in North Carolina and he wrote his hit song “Carolina In My Mind” when he was homesick overseas. I chose sweet potatoes because North Carolina is the No. 1 producer of them in the U.S., so they might help with a little bit of homesickness. And while I was brainstorming for this, my aunt unknowingly (via Facebook — thanks, Aunt Linda!) tipped me off to videos of James Taylor baking pecan pies and maple sugaring, so I made the sweet potato whoopie pies, then rolled them in pecans that I candied with maple syrup and brown sugar.

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Funfetti frog cupcakes

Funfetti Frog Cupcakes (Inspired by M83)

THE DISH
Funfetti cupcakes with water, grass and frogs

THE INSPIRATION
M83‘s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was, not surprisingly, one of my favorite albums last year. In part it sort of fills the void LCD Soundsystem left when they broke up — not so much in the sound itself, but in the huge, euphoric feeling I get when I listen to them. While I love the big hits on that album, the song that’s the most memorable to me is “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” (which translates to “Tell me a story”) — it’s a little kid (a girl, I think) telling the story of a magic frog that, if you touch it, distorts your senses and eventually turns you into a frog, too. She says, “We can be a whole group of friends, a whole group of frogs” and at the end, “The biggest group of friends the world has ever seen, jumping and laughing forever. It would be great, right?” There’s also a line about how the world looks like “a giant cupcake.” The song makes me think of my group of friends, who I’ve mentioned many, many times here, but I think of how even though we’re “adults,” some of our best times involve ridiculous giggle fits and acting like kids, and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.

I made these cupcakes to take to a party to celebrate a few friends who recently started new jobs (pretty badass new jobs, I should add) — in terms of “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire,” I thought they were appropriate for a group of friends who can act like 10-year-olds and do great things professionally. Also, the whole album is about a brother and sister and their dreams, and my friends are taking new steps in following their own dreams and goals, and making some pretty damn-good progress for mid-20somethings. In the song “Steve McQueen,” Anthony Gonzalez sings, “There’s a magic inside/ Just waiting to burst out” and “Nothing can hurt today”; and perhaps the most fitting, in “New Map” he sings, “There’s a hole in your heart, begging for adventure/ Play yourself a new track, set traps for the future.” Lastly, the rainbow colors and purple swirls on the inside are both for the way the magic frog changes your perception, and also for the album’s cover.

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/index.php/kwidget/wid/1_m1jbijsf/uiconf_id/6501231

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Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce + songs for new beginnings

THE DISH
Vietnamese-style spring rolls with peanut sauce (recipe here)

THE SONGS
New York has been feeling like spring, well, throughout most of where winter normally would have been. But this week we finally had the first real day of spring, and to celebrate the beginning of a new season, I made these spring rolls — tasty, refreshing, and uh, springy. Make a few and go eat them in a park (that’s what I did the evening of the spring solstice, and it was lovely). And, since spring is a time for starting over — a new season, new life outside, spring cleaning, etc. — below are a few songs/albums about new beginnings.

Bowerbirds, “Tuck the Darkness In”
The Clearing is a fitting name for Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s third LP as Bowerbirds: A clearing is a clean slate to start over again, and these songs came out of Beth battling an extreme illness, the couple breaking up and getting back together, rescuing a stray dog, and beginning to build a cabin together in the woods. [Recipe: Acorn squash soup, inspired by Bowerbirds]

Edwyn Collins, “Losing Sleep”
On the title track of Edwyn Collins‘s 2011 album, the former Orange Juice frontman sings, “I must believe, I must retrieve/ The things I know, the things I trust.” In 2005, a brain hemorrhage left him at the beginning of a long road to recovery. That he regained the ability not only to speak and walk again but to make an entire new album (and he also finished one he’d started before the hospitalization) is astounding.

We Are Augustines, “Book of James”
We Are Augustines are made up of former members of the band Pela; that band was dissolving, frontman Billy McCarthy’s brother James committed suicide, and We Are Augustines rose from their ashes. This song from their debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, is a tribute to James, with McCarthy singing, “Just know we tried/ You’re forgiven.” [Recipe: Peach-blackberry-ginger popsicles, inspired by We Are Augustines]

Kathleen Edwards, “Sidecar”
Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards‘s recent album Voyageur is, in part, a post-divorce recovery. But the end of that brought on the beginning of a new relationship, this time with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who helped produce the record. Voyageur was also sort of a musical rebirth for Edwards, who traded a bit of her older (and amazing) music’s Americana twang for a little more pop polish. This is a perfect song about a new romance — sharing each other’s favorite places, eating breakfast in bed, getting over monsters from the past and “chasing down the hard stuff” as we go.

Mikal Cronin, “Apathy”
Graduating from college is a monumental time to snap into start-over mode, and that in-between is what fueled California garage-rocker Mikal Cronin‘s 2011 self-titled album. In “Apathy,” he sings about being older and “getting along with my future.”

Great Lake Swimmers, “New Wild Everywhere”
On the title track from Great Lake Swimmers‘ upcoming album, Tony Dekker sings about new life outside: plants rooting, “blooming sounds,” and the sky exploding. Also, this band will always make me think of new beginnings, thanks to my cousin and his wife, who played their song “Your Rocky Spine” at their wedding last summer.

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Lemon blueberry pie

Lemon Blueberry Pie and Blueberry Sauce with Hilly Eye

Lemon blueberry pie

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 Hilly Eye, performing a brand-new track, “Robbie’s Song” (download the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here’s the lemon blueberry pie and blueberry sauce I made with the band. All photos by Dominick Mastrangelo.

THE DISH
Lemon blueberry pie with blueberry sauce and whipped cream

THE INSPIRATIONHilly Eye
When I asked Hilly Eye’s Amy Klein (who you might recognize as the former guitarist/violinist for New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus) what kind of food she wanted to make for BB Songs, she mentioned that a fan had mentioned “Hilly Eye berry pie” on the band’s Facebook page, and neither of us had made pie before, so we decided to go for it. She said the song she and bandmate Catherine Tung would be recording had a lot of triumphant guitar details; triumphant made me think of winning, which made me think of blue ribbons and therefore blueberries. Hilly Eye’s music has elements of sweetness in the vocal melodies (especially in their new track “Robbie’s Song”), but they also make a lot of noise and distortion, hence the strong, sour flavor of lemon that dominates the taste of the pie. Also, can I just say that this pie is amazing?! It tastes more or less like a lemon bar, but with graham cracker crust instead of shortbread. Top it with blueberry sauce and whipped cream, and you’re good to go.

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