Tag Archives: Durham

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies

These cookies were responsible for my desperate desire for a stand mixer.

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies.

They look simple enough. And they are – if you don’t mind beating butter and sugar together for a loooong time.

I like these cookies. They have some zest to them (pun intended) but all of the comfort of a traditional shortbread. I remember the first time I made these cookies. It was while I was in graduate school and my parents were visiting Durham, I think over 4th of July. I decided to have some people over to my place on Oakland, despite having my living room ceiling cave in just days before, to prove to my parents that I had friends or something silly like that. We drank mojitos and ate these cookies. And as with most parties, the sexes segregated but interestingly the females gathered in the living room and the males in the kitchen. I think it’s because that was where the drinks were being made…

And I vowed never to make them again until I had a stand mixer.

Which I do now.

(Thank you mom, once again for the best birthday present ever)

Lime Pecan Butter Cookies

From Williams Sonoma

Makes ~35 cookies
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup chopped pecans
1 lime (zest and juice)
3/4 cup butter
1 egg white

Beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until really light and fluffy, ~ 5 minutes.

While the butter and sugar are beating (and this is the beauty of the stand mixer), sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Set aside.

Back to the stand mixer and the butter and sugar. Add the lime juice, the zest and egg white. Beat until really really light and fluffy, ~ 8 minutes (this is what killed me last time with my hand mixer).

While this is beating, dig out the food processor and combine the pecans and 1/4 cup sugar. Pulse until uniformly pulverized. Set aside.


Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.

And then gently mix in the pecan mixture.

Now take a spoonful of dough, roll it into a ball, set in on a cookie sheet and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake at 350º for about 23 minutes.

To be enjoyed immediately. Or set aside for other uses … to be described later.

A Fed-worthy salad

Bear with me for a moment. Scott is back in Durham right now and I am being eaten alive by jealousy. There are the obvious reasons – seeing old friends and colleagues. But what really gets me is the Federal. I am pretty sure he has eaten there at least three times since last Thursday. I can’t really blame him – it is the Federal after all. Not only do they have a regular menu, they also have daily specials that change every single day. And always on that specials menu is a salad. A huge plate with some fruit, nuts and cheese all on a bed of perfectly dressed field greens. When the irresistible pork belly is not on the menu, without a doubt I would get the specials salad (or the grilled cheese – but let’s not get started with that).

I don’t often make salad dressing. In fact I only have two that I make: balsamic vinegariette and a sesame and poppy seed dressing. The latter pairs wonderfully well with strawberries and is my current obsession, given how incredibly sweet the strawberries are right now.

Sesame and Poppy Seed Dressing

makes about 2/3 cup

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a jar combine oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika, poppy and sesame seeds.

Shake vigorously.

As for the salad I tossed some baby arugula, strawberries, goat cheese and roasted walnuts.


It’s almost like eating at the Federal.

Except not at all. I still wish I was back in Durham with Scott and company.

There (and over there) and back again

I have been traveling (and not blogging) a lot lately.  In the past three weeks, I don’t think I spent more than 4 days in any given place.  First was the visit to Orlando, which I’ve already shared with you.  Then there was a brief stint back in Minneapolis  (mostly to check in on Puck and Kudzu), which lasted all of about 12 hours before I was back at the airport.  Then it was off to Durham, NC to spend a few days working on experiments those fickle reviewers like to ask for – and of course to see near and dear friends.  Next was a couple of days in Minneapolis and an attempt to get some work done, but mainly consisted of more edits and resubmission of the manuscript.  And then I was back on a plane, heading south to Gainesville again, to celebrate an anniversary.  Finally, I am back in Minneapolis and have no plans to get on an airplane again until Thanksgiving.  My mentor, and my cats, are thankful that my traveling days are behind me.

But let me share some highlights of the past couple of weeks.

First, Duke and Durham.

Working in a lab where it is not forbidden to drink coffee or have an afternoon treat.  Not to mention, a place where you know everybody’s name (and the people you don’t know – know your name), you know where everything is and how to do everything – and the data speaks for itself.  Man, I miss knowing what I am doing.

A dinner, or two, at The Federal.  I don’t even know what else to say about this – anyone who has eaten at The Federal understands what I am talking about . Those who haven’t been has fortunate – if you ever find yourself in Durham, North Carolina – get yourself to The Federal and order anything from the Daily Specials menu, especially if it has anything to do with pork.  The fates were smiling upon me during my visit and pork belly was on the menu (and a steal for only $8).  I had nearly licked the plate clean before I thought to take a photo.

And savoring quiet moments in a cozy home, discussing things monumentous and trivial, as good friends are inclined to do over a cup of coffee.  It did my heart good.  The list goes on and on: wine bar, trivia at The Joyce and backyard BBQ’s.

Now on to this past weekend in Gainesville.

I may have gone into domestic overdrive.  Boxes (from over a month ago) unpacked, broken down and put away.  Furniture arranged.  Photos hung on the wall.  Loads (and loads) of laundry.  I think the place now feels more like somebody lives there, rather than somebody just moved there.  I do admit to indulging in some fantasies about painting the walls…but managed to restrain myself.  I even made it to one of Professor Scott’s math lectures.  But it wasn’t all work.  There was lazy weekend mornings, complete with blueberry pancakes (alas, no syrup…the kitchen isn’t completely stocked yet) and cuddles on the couch.

There may have been a number of sporting events on the TV, but an equal amount of Food Network viewing.  I may have even fallen asleep watching Mad Men – which has nothing to do with the show (which I adore) but speaks to how relaxed I was.  A fancy anniversary dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Gainesville – which sadly isn’t saying much.  At least the company, if not the food, was good.  I think that the food scene in Gainesville is trying really hard to sound delicious and be community minded, with local, organic foods – but isn’t doing much to actually taste delicious.  It’s not all bad.  There is some decent BBQ at Adam’s Rib Company – but I think they key is that they aren’t trying to be pretentious and ultra foodie. (I mean, how can you be when you serve a plate of cream and brown food?)  But it’s tasty.  And it works.

We even got the screened-in porch in order.  A good place for a shared dessert, a game or two and even some work.  If only it weren’t so hot outside…

Now I am back in Minneapolis and there are things that are only here that I appreciate after spending time away.  A decent bowl of grilled pork vermicelli noodle salad (I am realizing I may have a serious pork addiction).  Crisp, cool mornings and bright afternoons.  And snuggles with the cats, who are justifiably attention-starved.