Inspiration Gathering: Casa de Luz

Frankly, I am always looking for inspiration.

When I had the pleasure of eating at Casa de Luz in Austin with Candice and Laura, I found the most peaceful restaurant I have EVER seen. It was a totally and deliciously different paradigm.

The business model of most restaurants is sort of… well… insane. Think about it: you get to choose whatever you want off their menu, customize it to you liking and everyone at your table has the potential to order a completely unique dish. Those who serve the food are almost always overextended. The quality of the food generally suffers, and a lot of the restaurant workers are stressed out to the point of full-blown substance abuse.

Casa de Luz has a completely different approach to the restaurant, and those who serve the food actually maintain a state of peacefulness. Plus, the quality of food is top notch.

The following is from Candice – who ‘excavates beautiful things’ and appreciates all things table. I am profoundly grateful for her incessant friendship.

Casa de Luz redefines the typical eating out experience. Upon entering the walking path towards the restaurants, wild vines climb the walls and arbors, and tuck around sitting areas and into the small pavilions that line the path.

The outdoor atmosphere hints at the days I spent in Oaxaca, Mexico – colors of rust, and earthy greens, textures of tile and wood, and a slow, slow pace of life.

Upon walking in, a guest pays a flat rate for whatever the chefs are preparing that day. “Nature is our menu planner,” says a sign painted over the stove in the oven.

I find a place next to the window and set my purse and keys on a wooden table top.

Casa de Luz’s walls form windows all around, which lets in a tremendous amount of natural light so the restaurant rarely turns on over head lights. Floor lamps stand next to tables in the corners.

I head over to the serving counter to choose silverware and my favorite colored cloth napkin from the community tray; today I selected a sunny yellow. I prepare a water glass and a mug of twig tea a little further down the bar.

The day’s soup is warming in a big pot that customers use to ladle into their bowls. A mix of hominy, carrots in a tomato broth pours thick into my bowl. Fresh herbs, minced onions, and lemon wedges wait to the side to mix in. A salad of red lettuce topped with a seedy dressing and green cabbage slaw is set out.

After returning to my table, I just look out the window and enjoy my food slowly. The tea sipping goes slowly at Casa de Luz. Before you realize, ten, fifteen, and then twenty minutes passes.

I return to the bar for my main course, steamed butternut squash, beans, and rice topped with a mushroom glaze, a pinch of pickled radishes over sautéed kale.

I overhear a pieces of conversation, and notice the beautifully aging women down the table. From the volume of voices to the intentional food, this little restaurant envelops each guest in a haven of peace, even if for just an hour lunch break.

You might expect hippie dads and yogis to be dining here, but businessmen and women, lobbyists, and Austin’s wealthy all frequent Casa de Luz.

Needing to make my next appointment I drink the last of my tea and stack my dishes to be drop off at the kitchen.

A whole hour has just passed and I feel like I truly enjoyed food, had a chance to hear my own thoughts, and stop to enjoy the beauty around me.

The best part?

You get to walk out the same way you walked in.

Candice DePrang Boehm lives and works out of Austin, Texas. With a passion for both style and social causes, she splits her time between curating vintage collections and advocating at the Capitol for quality education. Curious? Visit
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Green Lines and Ham

Spring is in the air, and I have been waiting to share this post with you for an entire calendar year. Could there be a better time to look for lines? I think not.

Line is one of the foundational elements of art. It is a path, defining points moving in space. We engage line everyday. From writing letter forms to traveling, we co-mingle with lines, almost unconsciously.

The budding trees provide linear arrangements. Check out my beautiful indoor arrangement of lines!

There are lots of linear plants in full swing during the spring, and asparagus maybe the most famous spring line of them all. So join me on this path as we explore lines with asparagus pointing the way!

Lines are often one-dimensional, but three-dimensional objects, like asparagus, have overwhelmingly linear qualities. This stalky vegetable will be our line guide for the day.

Lines can be singular.

Lines can be grouped.

There are lines of different lengths… some are short; some are long.

And there are lines of varying weight. Some are thin; some are heavy.

Some lines are straight…

And some lines curve…

Some lines communicate more than others. Some lines are vertical (or horizontal), while others are diagonal. Lines communicate information and stability through character and direction in space!

Lines can vary in color! (Check out this skinny purple asparagus! I love them!)

Would you eat them on a boat? Would you eat them with a goat?

So, now that we’ve talked about lines… would you like to eat some? Here I have a washed bundle of medium weight green asparagus. Even Sam I Am wouldn’t have to convince an omnivore or picky flexitarian to eat these green lines with ham!

I’m peeling the rough exterior to reveal…

a beautiful pattern of tiny-lines beneath the skin. The lines keep on coming! This step is for function and for fun.

Look! Even the texture under the surface is linear.

I’m discarding the skins off to the side as I go.

Dear Asparagus, you now have pinstripes!

I’ve skinned half of the stalks here. Look at the vivid green! What a brilliant color.

And we’re done.

The skins are inspiring. They’re not that rough. Um… I kind of want to eat them. Wouldn’t these curvy lines be beautiful piled on a piece of salmon or mixed in a bowl of greens? Oh Asparagus, you are the mother of linear foods.

The ends are a bit rough, so let’s pop ‘em off.

No knife required on this one! I just pop the stalks between my thumbs and my fingers and the base pops right off!

All right!

Dear asparagus, you look cold. I think it’s time that you get rolled!

Okay! I’ve got my asparagus shaved and popped, a stack of proscuitto and a parchment lined baking sheet.

Would you roll them here or there? I would roll them anywhere!

If you don’t have easy access to prosciutto, bacon or another thinly sliced salty meat would work. (If you don’t eat meat, just drizzle the stalks with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.)

The meat is like glue. It sticks to itself. You don’t even need salt and pepper (if you add it, it will be too salty!) Plus no additional oil is needed. The oil from the prosciutto will keep the asparagus tender and moist. No dry asparagus here!

Once you’ve wrapped and arranged all of the lines onto the baking sheet…

Pop them into the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes (or until the meat is slightly crisp)!

Wow! Can you smell it?

The smell is intoxicating. I popped this set in the toaster oven, and about fifteen minutes later…

Check out these crisp-tender little beauties! Yum!

This line up is the perfect fast food. The tender asparagus of early spring lends itself to the perfect outcome, but you will find asparagus well into June.

I love making these to accompany pizza or as a pre-outing appetizer with drinks. Since the clean up is practically non-existent, this is a go-to recipe when in a pinch!

I hope you enjoy playing with line as much as I do!

Could you eat them on a plane? Or daydream that you’re in Spain?

Eat them here or eat them there, eat them, eat them anywhere!

Special thanks to my dear friend Katy for helping me take some of the photos!

Posted in Color, Complimentary, Line, Recipes, Red + Green | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

A Chapati Chapter

As long as I can remember, I’ve gone through food phases. If you’ve eaten with me in person for any length of time, chances are good that you’ll get a glimpse of my latest favorite food.

And this year is no exception. I am officially in food-love with a round, brown, flat bread and labeling the first three months of this year a Chapati Chapter. I have had so much fun making these little flatbreads of India.

The fact that I’m making these regularly is a bit of a breakthrough. I am an artist; I affiliate with those who love to cook. I am not a scientist or a baker, so baking is a stretch for me! This baking attempt has proven to be nearly effortless and overwhelmingly successful. The entire process is fun.

I’ve made so many batches that I must share it with you!

Chapati (yields 16 flatbreads)

2 cups of whole wheat flour (plus more for dusting)*
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups of water
3 tablespoons oil (olive oil works great)

*The whole wheat flour could be a blend of 50% white (or bread) flour and 50% whole wheat. Unlike other 100% whole wheat breads, this one doesn’t taste like cardboard. So, in this case, I recommend 100% whole wheat flour.

Other Tools

Large mixing bowl (a food processor works, though lugging it out is a bit excessive considering how fast and easy it is to use your hands)
Flour sifter (optional, but makes the flatbreads the perfect consistency)
Measuring spoons and cups
A flat surface for rolling flatbreads
A rolling pin (a large drinking glass or the exterior of a wine bottle or thermos works if you don’t own a pin)
Cast iron skillet, griddle or other pan

My amazing and beautiful grandmother gave me her flour sifter last year. If this thing could talk. It’s an “old-fashioned” sifter that has a measuring cup right on the side. It just so happens that when the sifter is full, it’s exactly two cups. Perfecto.

Ahem. Let’s rap! Shake it. Don’t break it. Took your momma nine months to make it!

Okay, let’s add our teaspoon of salt to the sifted flour.

And a half teaspoon of baking powder…

In goes the three-quarters of a cup of water…

And the three tablespoons of oil (I’m using olive oil).

Now that we’ve got all of the ingredients in the bowl, we can get our hands dirty! Basically, we’re looking for a big ball here. I once watched a man from India make the Chapati, and he used a counter-clockwise motion with one hand to form the ball while using the other hand to turn the bowl. In a under a minute, you should discover a ball of dough. This ball is a natural at picking up most of the sticky bits of dough from the edges of the bowl. If the dough seems too sticky (once the ball is formed), add a tiny bit of flour.

Next, I let the ball rest for fifteen minutes. (I’ve left it for just over an hour before and it’s still great.)

After the ball has rested, I grabbed my rolling pin and I lightly floured a rolling surface.

Now, how shall we get sixteen balls from one giant ball? I will start making the sixteen balls through a process of dividing the dough into two.

Next, I take each ball and tear it in half. Resulting in four balls… (you get the idea).

Eight balls.

Sixteen balls.

I’m transporting my flatbreads-to-be to a plate, so I can clear off my floured surface. It’s much easier to roll out these little beauties one at a time!

Perfect. So I’ve got one of the sixteen on the lightly floured surface. I’ve also floured my rolling pin. These little flat breads become quite thin, so they can easily stick to a rolling pin. If you have a problematic little ball of dough, just smash it back into a ball, re-flour the rolling pin and the board and start again. These are very forgiving!

I’m rolling the ball into a long oval shape. Technically, as long as they fit on your cooking surface, the flatbreads can be in any shape. I’d love to see a Chapati in the shape of a cactus! I wonder if they have cactus in India.

I’m turning the flatbread so I can make my oval a bit wider.

Great. Now I’m patting it slightly to remove any excess flour. When I first started making these, the excess flour on the flatbreads would smoke and set off the smoke detecter. This little step keeps away the beep.

I preheated my cast iron on high heat and I’ve added 1-2 flatbreads per surface. You don’t need any additional oil or anything! They go straight in!

Once you see adequate bubbles (this takes anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute), flip the flat bread and let it cook for another 30 seconds or until you’re satisfied with the level of brown.

I have two surfaces, so I cook them four at a time.

If we don’t eat them all at once, I reheat the chapati over my gas flame on the stove. (The microwave, toaster oven or cast iron will reheat the chapati initially but the little flatbreads will become cool, brittle and hard in a matter of minutes.) I use a wire rack that sits about 6 inches high above the stovetop and place my chapati on the rack. Next, I turn the burner on to medium high until one side is lightly charred. Then, I flip the chapati with metal tongs. The charring usually takes about thirty seconds per side.

While we’re talking about flames, this is a great little bread to earmark if you’re into camping. If you pack the tools before your trip, these are ton of fun to make and eat with a cast iron over a campfire.

These brown, round flatbreads are like a blank linen canvas. Chapati is so easy to make, and the mixing and rolling is great fun for adults and kids alike. I love making a batch for the week, so I can eat them in the mornings with my eggs. They’re also great for a quick accompaniment to soup, curry or a salad.

A big thank you to Mark for helping me take the photographs while my hands were preoccupied!

Posted in Brown, Color, Recipes, Round, Shape | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed
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