Bourbon and Biscuits (Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuits, that is)

I finally have a plausible explanation for having bourbon with my breakfast.

Our newest culinary departure is a Mesquite-smoked buttermilk biscuit, slathered with salted, sweet-cream butter and Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. It’s even better than it sounds – the kind of flavor combination that makes you rationalize having, “just one more” five or six times before witnessing the unbuckling of the belt, a Terror Squad and Fat Joe ‘lean back,’ and the always-popular, table etiquette-smashing migration of the hand to that spot between your stomach and the fabric of your sansabelt pants.

Heavenly comfort food. Damn the stinkeye my wife’s throwing at me just because her mom is having breakfast with us this morning. Don’t think I didn’t see her butter one up and drop it in her purse beside the table. (Reminds me of the time my cousin Scott, age 5, packed ice cream sandwiches in his suitcase before going home from grandma’s house, but that’s another story).

I don’t hold it against her. If I were at her table, I’d do the same thing – either eat my fill, which would be followed by the hand migration move, or drop a couple of these biscuits in the man purse I carry with me. Have I piqued your interest – in the food, not my table manners?

Homemade Maker's Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I've never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Homemade Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly. I’ve never slapped my momma, but I understand where the expression comes from.

Below, you will find some tips on making a really good buttermilk biscuit (smoked or unsmoked) and, if you are interested in the Maker’s Mark Mint Julep Jelly, you can come see us at Out of Abilene at the Abilene Farmer’s Market or contact me at barton@outofabilene.com.

Mesquite-Smoked Buttermilk Biscuit

Ingredients (makes 8 good biscuits and four or so outliers – explained later)

2 cups mesquite-smoked flour (directions follow)

1t Kosher salt

1T Baking powder

1/4t baking soda

6T frozen unsalted sweet cream butter cut in 1/4 inch dice

1 cup Buttermilk

1. To smoke your flour – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While it is heating, make a smoker out of a disposable roasting pan. To do this, make yourself a “bowl” of out tin foil that covers 2/3 of the pan. Pour three cups of flour in the bowl and smooth it out to a half-inch thick. Place a small stack of wood chips on the outside of the bowl in the remaining one-third of the pan. Cover whole thing tightly with tin foil and shove it in the oven to begin smoking. Here is where your preference and experimentation comes in. If you want just a hint of smoke (a little fragrance and perhaps a tinge of flavor for the most discerning/delicate palates), smoke your flour about 20 minutes, remove it (the top will have started to develop a crust), break it up, sift it and put it back in for another 20 minutes. If you want more pronounced smoke flavor, I have heard of folks going multiple hours. It depends on your palate (or your guests). Smell and taste. Reserve for whenever you decide to make your biscuits. I chill my flour.

2. When you are ready to make biscuits. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Grease a baking sheet or cast-iron skillet. 3. Sift (after smoking, there will be lots of small pieces that won’t go through a sifter – throw them out) two cups of flour. I smoke three cups because there is always a little lost to sifting and the need for to dust your work area/board.

3. Add your dry ingredients. Sift.

4. Add your butter. Do not touch it with your hands. Use either dough blades or forks to work it until you have a mixture that resembles ‘coarse meal’ or your flour-covered butter pieces are the size of small peas.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

Mesquite smoked buttermilk biscuit.

4.5 An explanation as to why we do it this way. If you want flaky biscuits, you want to still have small discernible chunks of unmelted butter when you cut out your biscuits. Making biscuits is much like making a pie dough or pate brisee – the less you work it, the better.

5. Pour your buttermilk into this mixture and work it until it just comes together (preferably with a fork, flat wisk, etc – the heat from your hands will melt that butter in a matter of a minute if you don’t watch what you are doing).

6. Put the dough on your lightly floured workstation and pat it out until you have a half-inch thick rectangle. Fold the ends in to meet in the center and quickly pat to a half-inch thick. Repeat once more. Form a one-inch thick rectangle. (You should be able to see small pieces of butter in your dough)

7. Press a biscuit cutter straight down into your dough. Do not press and twist. You should get 8-10 biscuits without recombining your dough. Recombine your dough and make another couple of biscuits (these won’t be as good).

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, make your biscuits like good Southerners make cornbread. Preheat your cast-iron skillet before setting them to bake.

8. If you want crisp bottoms and soft sides, put one tablespoon of vegetable shortening into the cast-iron skillet and preheat it right to the point that your oil is going to smoke. Roll the oil around the sides of the pan so that it is well-coated and discard any remaining oil. Arrange biscuits and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes.

9. If you want crisp sides, place your biscuits on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 10-12 minutes.

10. If you get to the end of your baking, and your tops aren’t brown enough, change your oven over to broil and place on the top shelf for about a minute to brown further. (keep an eye on them as you can burn them quickly.

11. To reheat (they should disappear during the first sitting even if you are alone – especially if you are alone): five minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven.

To recap:

The secret to a great biscuit, like a pie crust, is all in the handling of the dough. Do not overwork it. Do not overbake it.

The frozen butter and the folding are going to give you the flakiness and layering.

Do not use a rolling pin like you see folks do in the movies. You will overwork your dough and the developed gluten will make your biscuits tough.

This is a purist issue, but press straight down when cutting your biscuits. Again, you are avoiding overworking the dough.

You want a crisp bottom? Make your biscuits by preheating a cast-iron skillet (the same way all good southerners make their cornbread).

Let me know how it worked out for you.

Have questions? Post them here or email me at barton@outofabilene.com

And, in the comments below: Where did you have the best biscuit of your life and how do you prefer it (butter, jelly, honey, etc.)

If it’s ‘yucca,’ it’s got to be good

The flower of the yucca plant is completely edible, but it tastes best with a little bit of preparation.

The flower of the yucca plant is completely edible, but it tastes best with a little bit of preparation.

How is it that I have been on earth this long and never thought of cooking with and/or eating yucca?

You know – that spiny evergreen desert plant that looks like it would rather stab you than nourish you (flashback to several past relationships).

I’ve spent my life walking this earth and putting things I’ve picked up in my mouth – many of them much more menacing than yucca (prickly pear glochids anyone?), but somehow I’ve skipped over this culinary opportunity.

I’ve been missing out and, I’m just guessing here, but so have you (unless you are from El Salvador, Guatemala or certain parts of Mexico).

So, don your chef’s toque (even if it’s the 10-gallon variety), cowboy up and yucca it up with us. We have three recipes for adventurous souls to try.

A couple of notes about the plant and preparation

The yucca chips, yucca mash, yucca this and yucca that you find in restaurants of late don’t come from the yucca that dots the landscape of the southwest (and urban gardens in the last 15 years or so). Those items are cassava/manioc. Don’t, I repeat, don’t dig up a desert yucca, remove its root and try to prepare like the yucca root you find in some markets. You will get sick.

Stick with the flowers of the desert yucca. (Other parts can be used to make everything from shampoo to chord, but they aren’t recommended for eating.)

To harvest:

1. Take a pair of loppers (hedge trimmers, etc) and cut off the flowering stalk of the yucca plant. Choose one that doesn’t look like it has started to wilt. (If the plant is in your neighbor’s garden, or on the other side of a fence line, you might ask first or do your harvesting very late at night).

Remove any yucca flowers that have started to wilt or brown.

Remove any yucca flowers that have started to wilt or brown.

2. Remove the flowers. This can be done by simply pinching them with your fingers. Discard any that have started to wilt. Expect bugs. There are some that are teeny tiny and almost imperceptible unless you have a very white counter or piece of paper that you can put them against. My advice is to pick your flowers on your porch.

3. Prep the flowers. We have experimented with two variations below. The boil and the soak. Eat one petal. At first, it is all about the texture and then a bitter taste follows. You obviously don’t want that bitter flavor in your dish. Some of the resources we have found say to remove the stigmas, pistil, anthers and stamens (reproductive organs in the center of the flower) because that is where the “bitter” really resides. Not from our experience. The petals aren’t any less bitter and, in our opinion, getting rid of those parts negates most of the benefits of the plant – being able to achieve varying levels of crunchy texture.

The boiling method: We like this one for the huevos revueltos (scrambled egg) recipe that follows. Dissolve one tablespoon kosher salt in a couple of quarts boiling water. Boil flowers for three minutes. Strain. Rinse. Repeat as many as two times. Taste the flowers and check for very little or no bitterness.

The soaking method: We like this method for the steak and iguashte recipes. Fill nonreactive metal bowl (stainless) with water. Add a tablespoon of salt and dissolve. Add flowers. Add water to cover (should taste as salty as the ocean). Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. Repeat and leave flowers overnight. Rinse and check that flowers have a very slight, if any, bitter aftertaste. If they have little to no bitterness, put in a plain water bath and refrigerate until you are ready to use. (***This method allows you to really adjust the level of cook on your flowers at a later time. The boiling method makes petals really slack with a slight crunch left in the reproductive organs).

One final note before the recipes

The test kitchen at Out of Abilene (namely Julie and Barton on Friday night) think, after a couple of weeks of playing with the plant, that its strong point is its adaptable texture. It’s flavor is extremely subtle and it will adopt the flavor profile of whatever it accompanies. The way that we have prepared it, and the level of cook we place on it (keeping all of its reproductive organs intact), really reminds us of an artichoke heart. We change the texture oh so slightly depending on the dish/application.

An Anytime Recipe: Flor de Izote con Huevos Revueltos (Yucca Flower with Scrambled Eggs)

Flor de izote con huevos revueltos. (Yucca flower with scrambled egg)

Flor de izote con huevos revueltos. (Yucca flower with scrambled egg)

Ingredients (Serves 2-4)

4 semi-packed cups of yucca flowers

2 medium roma tomatoes

6-8 green onions

One clove garlic

1T olive oil

Salsa ranchera

Tortilla chips or Homemade tortillas (flour or corn)

1. Prepare flowers using the boiling method described above.

2. Seed and dice tomatoes (1/4-inch dice)

Tomato, green onion and garlic. We like approximately equal portions of tomato and green onion.

Tomato, green onion and garlic. We like approximately equal portions of tomato and green onion.

3. Chop green onions (1/8-inch width – using both the green and whites)

4. Mince garlic. (fine mince)

5. Beat two eggs in a small bowl.

5. Heat olive oil in saute pan at medium high heat and saute garlic, tomato and onion for about 10 minutes.

6. Add drained flowers, mix thoroughly, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.

7. Add well-beaten eggs. (This should look like very little egg for the amount of flowers in the pan. The point is to have very little egg. The star is the yucca (see recipe photo). This isn’t a frittata or a quiche where there is usually more egg than filling. There should be just enough egg to fill in the space between the flowers.

8. Season with salt and pepper

9. Plate with some salsa ranchera and eat with your tortillas/tortilla chips.

Iguashte de Flor de Izote (Yucca flowers in a rich, tomato and pumpkin seed sauce)

Iguashtes are Guatemalan dishes that use sauces that are made from a type of pumpkin seed that has been browned, ground and incorporated into the sauce to provide a certain nutty and earthy flavor. We've used pepitas in our recipe.

Iguashtes are Guatemalan dishes that use sauces that are made from a type of pumpkin seed that has been browned, ground and incorporated into the sauce to provide a certain nutty and earthy flavor. We’ve used pepitas in our recipe.

This dish is good as a side or as an individual course.

Ingredients (Serves 2-4)

4 semi-packed cups of yucca flowers

1/3 cup of pepitas plus two tablespoons

1.5 pounds of tomato

1 medium sweet onion

1 clove garlic

2 cups of chicken broth (or water)

1T olive oil

Salt and pepper

1. Prepare the flowers using the soaking method. Rinse, drain, reserve.

2. Brown the pumpkin seeds. Reserve two tablespoons. In a spice or coffee grinder, grind 1/3 cup to a powder, but don’t go so far as to make a paste/nut butter.

Cut your tomatoes in half and your onions in thick rings, roast them and then char them under the broiler.

Cut your tomatoes in half and your onions in thick rings, roast them and then char them under the broiler.

3. Cut your tomatoes in half, your onion in fourths (rings) and peel your garlic. Place them in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Change oven to broil and place them on the top shelf under the elements for 7-10 minutes or until they have some charred coloring.

4. Put your tomatoes, onion, garlic and chicken stock/water or into your blender and liquefy as fine as you can.

5. Heat olive oil in a saute pan on medium high heat and add your sauce. Boil gently for five minutes. Add your ground pepitas and stir well. Continue to cook until it is a thick sauce.

6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Add flowers, stir, coat and cook to desired consistency. (We like the flowers to be slightly wilted, retain some body and have a nice crunch.)

8. Plate and top with remaining two tablespoons of pepitas.

(Thank you Euda Morales at entrecocinasyrecetas.blogspot.com)

New York Strip with Yucca Flower in a Cinnamon-Ancho Adobo Sauce

Mid-rare New York Strip atop a bed of yucca flowers in a cinnamon-ancho adobo.

Mid-rare New York Strip atop a bed of yucca flowers in a cinnamon-ancho adobo.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

1 New York Strip (1lb.)

4 cups of Yucca flowers (semi-packed)

1 large ancho chile (dried poblano)

half pound lb roma tomato (or other saucing tomato)

1 large clove garlic

half of a large sweet onion

half stick of cinnamon

five black peppercorns

2 teaspoons sugar

2T olive oil

1. Prepare flowers using the soaking method. Rinse. Drain. Reserve.

2. Salt and pepper steak and let it sit.

3. Cut tomatoes in half. Cut onion in fourths (rings). Peel garlic. Cook in preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Switch to broil and place under broiler for 7-10 minutes or until you have good color.

4. Grind five black peppercorns and half stick cinnamon in spice/coffee grinder until powdery.

6. Liquefy vegetables in a blender. Add peppercorn cinnamon spice mix.

7. Grill steak to desired doneness. Set to rest for 10-15 minutes.

8. Heat oil over medium high heat in a saute pan. Add sauce. Incorporate with oil. Add sugar a little at a time to taste. Thin sauce as desired with some chicken stock/water. (We like something between sauce and gravy). Salt and pepper to taste.

9. Add flowers. Stir. Cook to desired consistency. (We like petals well wilted with some discernible body and a nice crunch from the center of the flower)

10. Cut steak across the grain.

11. Shape bed of flowers and plate with steak and a few raw yucca flowers as garnish.

We’ve gone a little nuts

Peanut Chewies

Peanut Chewies

It’s been a while since we posted to this page, but we are hoping to change that.

Those who know us well, know that we aren’t big television buffs. Our post-work evenings are largely spent cooking.

Discretionary time is at a premium, but we can generally be found shopping the Abilene Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning.

We’ve decided to have a non-shopping presence – i.e. We are going to have an Out of Abilene table where we have a few items that we don’t believe are available in Abilene and that aren’t being covered by other vendors at the market.

This week we plan to have:

1. New York Style Bagels. High-gluten flour. Malt Barley. Boiled. Baked. Crusty exterior. Chewy interior. Nothing like the round bread labeled as bagels that you can find anywhere else in town.

2. Peanut chewies. Inspired by a recipe from the 1800s. This candy originally was sold on special occasions in the South and was simply made with butter, molasses and peanuts. We’ve added our own zing with a little bit of earthy thyme, nutmeg, red pepper and vinegar. A candy for grownups.

3. D’s nuts. My great grandfather D. Poland was the oldest producing farmer in Texas at one point. He loved pecans. Pecans on oatmeal doused in honey. Pecan saplings planted when he was 100 years old (He was an optimist). Pecans. Pecans. Pecans. Remembering him, we started with Texas pecans and coated them with a mixture that hits almost every note in your mouth – sweet, spicy, savory, salty – and have expanded to include cashews and almonds.

4. Modern Granola, Girl. This isn’t your 1960s granola. Mom used to tell you that it was “good and good for you.” One out of two ain’t bad, but it wasn’t something most people wanted to eat. Our mixture is hiqh quality crack for tree huggers and bambi slayers alike. Pecans, hazelnuts, pepitas, cranberries, olive oil, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon. This is the one Christmas gift we used to give that folks now ask for year-round. (We have a support group for our addicts but our recidivism rate sucks – nearly 100 percent).

Come see us at the Abilene Farmer’s Market, 7 a..m.-noon, N. 1st and Mesquite across from Frontier Texas!

Hum. Hum. Black bean green chile dip.

 

Black bean green chile hummus spread on a toasted bun and paired with homegrown tomatoes, spinach and blue corn chips.

Black bean green chile hummus spread on a toasted bun and paired with homegrown tomatoes, spinach and blue corn chips.

Chickpeas. Tahini. Kosher salt. Hummus.
The foodies in my family dig on any recipe with the name hummus in it. The other half’s eyes glaze over with all that Middle Eastern talk.

Hummus?

Why don’t I just show up at the table wearing a Barack Obama Tshirt and greet them with As-salamu Alaykum instead of the traditional “howdy”?

Like changing any culture, mindset or palate, it’s about small steps, accessibility and tapping into what is familiar.

Hence, we have black bean and green chile dip/spread – referred to (with a wink and a whisper) by family members in the know as black bean, green chile hummus.

Black beans (familiar but somewhat exotic in a region that exists on pintos).
Green chiles (gotta tap into that southwestern need for heat).
Tahini (I had to keep it. I just don’t tell certain people about it, though one friend did suggest subbing Jif and really trashing things up. Yeah baby, spread this spread on Wonderbread with a smear of Miracle Whip. I don’t think so).

Ingredients:

  • 30 oz. of black beans (2 cans drained. I use the low salt version)
  • .5 cup of frozen, hot green chiles (I guess you could use the canned)
  • 3-4 soup spoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from one small lemon
  • 1 large garlic cloves (check twang at end and add second if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • .5 tsp black pepper

Now comes the hard part of this recipe. Put it all in a blender and mix it up. Pause every 10 seconds or so and mix things up with a tamper or a spoon or you will likely burn your blender’s motor up. You could also try blending the ingredients in stages.

Chill and enjoy.

Observation:
I don’t think you get the full flavor if you eat it straight out of the fridge. I let it sit for a few minutes and allow the temperature to drop.

Now that we’ve made hummus more accessible, how do we do something similar with baba ghanoush? Muhammara? Tabouleh? Dolmas?

In the meantime, tell me what you think of the black bean version of hummus, the adjustments you made and any dishes you would like to learn in the future. I’ll be your test kitchen guinea pig and relay everything I learn via this blog.

If you enjoyed this recipe (or the post), please hit “like” below. It helps more people see not only this post but the blog as well.

As a dip, black bean green chile hummus pairs brilliantly with tomatoes, cilantro and blue corn chips.

As a dip, black bean green chile hummus pairs brilliantly with tomatoes, cilantro and blue corn chips.

Black bean green chile hummus atop homegrown tomatoes with a little cilantro thrown in for brightness.

Black bean green chile hummus atop homegrown tomatoes with a little cilantro thrown in for brightness.

Cold comfort. Salmorejo.

Salmorejo, a rustic mixture of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bread,  will make you wonder why you haven't been eating chilled soups (at least this one) all your life.

Salmorejo, a rustic mixture of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and bread, will make you wonder why you haven’t been eating chilled soups (at least this one) all your life.

Cold soups. You mention them in West Texas and you just might get the stink-eye that says, “You must be some kind of commie.” Soup is warm weather food. Savory broths. Hot liquids. Sunshine in a bowl that is meant to warm heart, hands and body.

We need to get over ourselves. We iced tea. Now we won’t drink it any other way. And I’ve seen West Texans galore sneaking iced/chilled coffee for their caffeine fix. (Nobody tells them they are all hat and no cattle just because they sneak off to Starbucks – at least not to their faces).

Chilled soup should be your next frontier. And we’ll start out with one that hopefully doesn’t lead to someone saying, “get a rope.”

Salmorejo. That’s right. It sounds like a dish off a Mexican food restaurant’s menu. We know that isn’t for commies seeing as you can’t chunk a rock in this part of the world without hitting a Mexican restaurant or a barbecue joint. (FYI, it’s Spanish, not Mexican.)

It’s a rustic chilled soup that is a staple in southern Spain, hailing from Cordoba. Rich, creamy (no dairy though) and delectable. I got hooked eating it almost every day from a lunch counter in Sevilla during the summer and convinced some of my language teachers who said they made it on an almost-daily basis to show me how to prepare it. I don’t say cook because all you really need are the ingredients and a blender for the soup itself.

There are four, must have ingredients – tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, vinegar and bread.

Here’s a starting point for one of the quickest, most delicious anytime lunches or light dinners you can make.

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (chopped roughly. I don’t core, seed, half or anything else because I have a good blender that is going to make everything really creamy and what rustic dish requires that much refinement? I do cut off the tops.).
  • 2 oz. of stale bread crust removed (I do prefer using an old artisan loaf, french bread or bolillo – five for $1 like you get at HEB – and not some sliced sandwich loaf). Put the bread in a glass of water and let it soak.
  • 2 medium smashed garlic cloves (You could start with one large and work your way all the way up to as many as three. Garlic is the hardest ingredient to judge in this recipe. Baby steps until you get it right. What you don’t want is a really sharp garlic burn or a garlic taste that overwhelms everything else).
  • 1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar (red wine vinegar if you don’t have it)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (not the cheapest you can find but not the most expensive either. Something that you like its taste)
  • salt to taste
  • serrano ham/prosciutto in 1/4 inch cubes
  • chopped or sliced hard-boiled egg
  1. Put the tomatoes and smashed garlic in the blender. Puree.
  2. Squeeze the water out of your bread. Add to tomatoes and garlic
  3. Add sherry vinegar.
  4. Puree some more.
  5. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the soup while it is blending. Keep going until it is well-emulsified/creamy and, perhaps, a bit frothy on top.
  6. Add salt to taste and adjust vinegar for the amount of tang you like.
  7. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.

A few tips/observations:

I like Salmorejo cool but not ice cold. Think about this before service and judge when you need to remove it from the refrigerator.

Traditionally, Salmorejo is topped with hard-boiled egg (chopped, sliced, grated) and serrano ham (I like it cubed).

Serrano ham is impossible to find in these parts. I have the deli counter cut me a quarter inch slice of prosciutto and then I cube that when I get home. Regular cubed ham could give you that salt and textural change if you had to go that route, but I’d probably opt for crumbled bacon before I did that. Everything is better with bacon.

To me, salmorejo is about like a pesto in that it’s only your own fault if you don’t get the flavor you like. Like a gun with fixed sites, you walk it into the target. Translation for those who don’t shoot guns: Tweak it. More tanginess=More vinegar. More garlic=more garlic. More creaminess=more soaked bread and olive oil.

I’m fortunate enough to have a Vitamix, and I sometimes skip the bread altogether.

It’s unlikely that you will go too far in one direction to save the dish, but it’s not like we’re dealing with high-dollar, high-falutin’ ingredients here like foie gras.

Try it. If you have half a lick of sense about you (and you don’t hate tomatoes), you are going to like it.

Maybe next time we can talk about Salmorejo’s Andalusian cousin, Gazpacho – not to be confused with the Gestapo, although that’s probably the only way you could have forced my grandfather to eat it.

In the meantime, tell me how you liked it, the adjustments you made and any dishes you would like to learn in the future. I’ll be your test kitchen guinea pig and relay everything I learn via this blog.

If you enjoyed this recipe (or the post), please hit “like” below. It helps more people see not only this post but the blog as well.

Somewhere between life and death

Entre el sol y la sombra. A bull passes between shade and sun, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

Entre el sol y la sombra. A bull passes between shade and sun, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

There is little doubt how this will end, but in this moment captured by ones and zeros there is fleeting hope – some time left on the clock, some sun remaining into which the bull may escape before the cape and sword end all pursuits in a final eclipse.

There is fodder here for those who decry the barbarity of the sport and its traditions, and there is a nod to the art that its proponents defend.

It isn’t my favorite peak action shot from my Summer 2014 trip with my sister or an image that romanticizes the event, but it is my favorite image from La Corrida.

For me, it is an image of contrast with little discernible middle ground – a razor thin, tenuous line between humanity and my adoration of art, culture and tradition that I find myself straddling every time I attend these events.

Has anyone else attended the bullfights or encierro? Thoughts? Observations?

Matador Pepe Moral, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

Matador Pepe Moral, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

Matador Pepe Moral, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

Matador Pepe Moral, June 19, 2014, at the Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza in Sevilla, Spain.

Why I leave and why I come back

Children jump into the ocean near the Castillo de Santa Catalina in Cadiz, Spain, July 2014.

Children jump into the ocean near the Castillo de Santa Catalina in Cadiz, Spain, July 2014.

Anyone who has ever spent any time in Abilene (or any other small city or town), knows what it’s like to have a love/hate relationship.

There are certain things that one may only experience if they get Out of Abilene. Those things drive you away – even if it’s only temporarily.
There are other things that could only come Out of Abilene. Those things may bring folks back or keep them here – not to mention provide fodder for Texas-sized braggadocio by our expatriates.
These pages contain meanderings (and maybe even some news) about things that have pushed me Out of Abilene as well as the things that come Out of Abilene and keep me here.
Expect lots of culinary/foodie pursuits peppered with some travel writing and photography (often related to the culinary world), current events and what it’s like to live with nine neurotic bird dogs (another reason I stay here).