Eric and I have started the process of looking for a house again after putting things on hold for a bit when I transitioned into freelancing. We’ve lived in the same apartment since we got together. I moved in after eight months of dating and this place has been good to us. It has everything we need and is conveniently located within walking distance to Downtown Boston. But because it’s a rental, we haven’t done much to give it any flare. The walls are white, the furniture a mishmash of things from college and hand me downs from our parents. Then there’s the furniture we’ve acquired via Craigslist, which we haven’t replaced because, why would we when we don’t know where we’ll be living? We’ve been saying that for years.I think we’re both ready to start a home together… one that’s decorated the way we want. One that has a yard for a garden and, ideally, a fireplace. At least we have a vision, so I hope it won’t be an arduous process.
It’s rare that I cook with pumpkin. Really rare. Like, once a year… maybe. For a while, we kept canned pumpkin puree around and I would use it to make a quick soup or these brownies, but for whatever reason, we stopped purchasing it. The one time I cooked with fresh pumpkin, it was kind of a process. I roasted the flesh and blended it with vanilla and spices and whipped up what would turn out to be some of the best pancakes I’ve ever consumed. Did I follow a recipe? No. Do I remember what I did? Nope. And I have yet to attempt recreating it.
So, that was the last time I cooked with pumpkin… that is until a few weeks ago when one came in a box from Blue Apron. For those unfamiliar with the company, Blue Apron is a service where people can have fresh ingredients and recipes delivered to their homes. Printed on the recipe cards are step-by-step instructions that include color photographs. I never promote a business without trying out the product first, so I asked to have a box sent to me. Let’s just say that I was impressed.
One of my fears was that everything would come pre-chopped and that all I’d have to do is throw it in a pan and I’d have a meal in 15 minutes. What does that teach anyone about cooking? I was thrilled to find that while ingredients came pre-portioned, there was quite a bit of work that was required. The recipe Blue Apron provided in the shipment, a pumpkin veggie potage, required that I roasted the pumpkin and seeds, toast the farro, chop the onions and garlic, and let it all stew in a pot for a period of time.
The potage is one of many vegetarian recipes Blue Apron has in their database and it’s the ideal meal for a cold fall day. The recipe, which can be found here, includes a “New World Spice Blend” which contains garlic, basil, onion, marjoram, thyme, fennel, turmeric, and cinnamon. The “veggie base” is Better Than Bouillon brand, but it was suggested that veggie broth would work as a substitute (my recommendation is to not use a low-sodium broth as this is main supply of salt in the dish).
Eric and I aren’t ones to bring back souvenirs from our travels. We eat our way through a city and return home with memories and a few extra (happy) pounds. If we do purchase something, it tends to be booze. From our honeymoon in France, we came back with a couple bottles of wine (oh, yeah, and a container of foie gras) and this is how it usually pans out when we go away. Like food, drinking local vino or beer or spirits tells you a bit about the culture and it’s nice to be able to relive that months (or even years) after a trip.
On our second day in Austin, we stopped at a liquor store to pick up some gin to have in the apartment we were staying at for the week. We scoured the shelves for something produced in the area, and that’s when we came across a bottle with a nifty label proudly proclaiming it as a “Texas-style gin.” Ok, we’ll give it a try. Another stop for tonic and citrus and we were on our way home to test it out.
The Treaty Oak Distilling Co. is owned and operated by Daniel Barnes (along with his knowledgable and very friendly staff). Walking in, we weren’t quite sure what we’d find, but the guys there beamed when they saw us and were excited to give some out-of-towners a tour of their operations. The day ended with them lining up bottles on a counter and one of them gestured and said “Ok… help yourselves.” If we must, we will! And we did.
The highlights are their gins… we had already become quite fond of their Waterloo gin, their take on a traditional London dry gin, which is infused with local juniper, lavender, zest from oranges, lemons and grapefruits, rosemary, anise, coriander, licorice root, ginger root and pecans. The real knockout, however, is their newly released Waterloo Antique barrel-aged gin. This is a whiskey lovers gin, not just because of its color, but the smooth, caramel notes that it embodies. We’ve been drinking it straight or swapping out for the whiskey in a Manhattan. I wanted to get a bit playful and thought it might be fun to include a little pomegranate juice into the mix. Sometimes my experiments are less than stellar. This, however, worked beautifully. Sweet, smooth, boozy. What’s not to like?