Recipe: Roasted Tomato & Vodka Pasta

It's funny how long some things take to settle. Jacob and I have now lived in Vienna for over six months, and yet parts of our daily routine are just now falling into place. You may have noticed that my recipe posting over the past several months has been painfully nonexistent. Sure, I could excuse myself by saying that I've been busy - but that isn't the full picture. 

The truth is, Jacob and I moved to Vienna and forgot all about what we used to cook. Suddenly everything was different: the stores, the ingredients, the prices, our kitchen, our second-hand pots and pans that are lacking proper lids. My immersion blender broke the first time I used it, and the extent of our counter-top appliances is a toaster (also second hand). We boil water in a saucepan, and heat leftover food in the oven or a skillet. 

You know what though? We are happy. Yes, I look forward to collecting all the gadgets that make cooking easier (though I'm just fine without a microwave, thanks), but we have managed to gather everything we need and make do with the rest. That does mean, however, that nearly every time I asked Jacob what he wanted for dinner he would stare at me blankly and ask, "what did we used to make?".

To which my answer would be, "I have no idea". 

It was as if the Austrian supermarkets had knocked us over the head and washed our memories clean of everything except the ingredients we could no longer attain - like Poblano peppers. Slowly, ever so slowly, our cooking amnesia has been fading as our growing familiarity with our life in Vienna opens our eyes to details we passed by before - like avocados. Last weekend I knew the amnesia had finally passed when I walked into an Asian supermarket for the first time and walked out with frozen shrimp, cilantro, mung beans, and rice noodles for Pad Thai. 

While it may seem like an insignificant thing, for me, the passing of that forgetfulness was a bit of a revelation. Food is important to me. Meals are my favorite part of each day. Cooking is my preferred way of unwinding after work, and my most natural expression of love towards those I care for. So not knowing what to cook? Well, that's just unacceptable. 

With that, I am happy to resurrect the recipe portion of this blog with this little "let-me-dump-some-stuff-into-a-pot-and-see-what-happens-OMG-this-is-amazing" recipe. Disappointed with the anemic winter tomatoes we currently have available, I opted to oven-roast the tomatoes until they became concentrated and nearly caramelized in their own juices. Pair that with cayenne infused olive oil to balance the sweetness, a generous dose of creme fraiche, and a couple dashes of vodka to cut the richness...and let the feasting begin!

It's good to be really cooking again. 

Recipe: Spiced Chai Vodka Cocktail

And just like that, autumn has arrived. 

Autumn has always been my favorite season for all the clichés - scarves and boots, pumpkins and comfort foods, air that is simultaneously crisp and warm, changing leaves, and the promise of the holidays on the horizon. When my family moved to Southern California however, autumn disappeared. The first day of fall was just as hot as any other summer afternoon. My longing for crisp weather meant that anytime the thermostat fell beneath 60 degrees I dusted off my parka with glee. 

Here in Austria however, autumn kicked off well before it's time. After years of missing cool weather, I am not disposed to complain...but maybe you should ask me again four months down the road. 

Jacob dreamt up (or as he would say, "skillfully mastered") this cocktail in honor of fall and all the flavors that make food-lovers sing for autumnal joy.

Vodka has never been my favorite of the spirits - I love my drinks with deep, complex flavors. As it turns out however, throw a couple of bags of chai tea into the vodka and surprise!, a couple of hours later you have gorgeously flavored vodka with the taste of chai front and center. Dress it up a bit - bitters, some citrus and sweetness to balance the spice - and soon you will be trading in your afternoon pumpkin spice latte for one of these.