Inspiration on the 110

I spend a lot of time on the 110 freeway.  My daily commute is 22 miles each way: 40 minutes in the morning, 60 in the evening.   This is a statement of fact, not a complaint.  As La La Land so melodiously exposits: if you live in Los Angeles, you commute (unless you are TD and then you just walk down the hall).

[Tidbit: the opening scene takes place on the 105 E expressway transition to the 110 N which is odd because that ‘aint how you get to Hollywood.  Normally this wouldn’t mean anything except this movie is a tribute to the industry which means everyone included in the homage knows exactly where that scene takes place.  Another inaccuracy: Hollywood peeps don’t slum it in the South Bay–no matter how good the jazz.  LA’s South Bay is to LA’s mid-city as  LA is to New York.  Apparently beach living is too easy for the actor set.  Venice being the exception for some reason. And yes, I realize that I may be the only person in LA…nay…the entire country who isn’t totally gaga over La La. For the record, I didn’t like the English Patient either so, there you go.]

But back to my commute.  On the way in, I listen to the radio.  Usually a combo of KROQ and KCRW.  It’s dark and I want to know what’s going on in the world (okay, KROQ isn’t super great for the latter but it’s an institution).  One the way home I usually listen to audible and podcasts.

I don’t know about you but I categorize my podcasts.  There are the ones to which I subscribe in order to learns new things.  There are ones that entertain me.  And then there are the ones that I listen to when I actually just want to think and there is something about the host’s voice that helps me to tune-out and tune in to my own brain.

One of the things I like to think about are new recipes (I’ve never claimed the thoughts were deep).  I find it very enjoyable to think about flavor and texture combinations.  I’ve come up with some really great ones over the years.  The only problem is that about 90% of the time whatever it is I’ve been thinking about immediately flits out of my noggin’ upon arrival at the gym, or home or wherever my after-work destination that day happens to be.

Luckily, this one stuck: basil and citrus in a cookie.  And then I had to sit on it for four months until I had a kitchen.  Mwah mwah.

The original idea included basil and candied citrus zest.  However, when it came down to it, I got lazy and subbed-in fresh tangerine zest for the candied.  To get the flavors really infused, I added the zest and chopped basil to the sugar and allowed everything to mingle for a couple of hours (this would make a fantastic sugar scrub).

The results were a surprise hit!

Basil and tangerine sables

adapted from the French Vanilla Sables in Dorie’s Cookies

makes about 30 cookies


for sables

  • 3-4 large basil leaves
  • 2 oranges or large tangerines, zested with juice set aside
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, on the cold side of room temp and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 C (100g) sugar
  • 1/4 C (30g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used sea but kosher would be fine)
  • 2 large egg yolks at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C (272g) all-purpose flour

for icing

  • juice from the oranges
  • 1.5 C confectioner’s sugar


  1. Chiffonade (thinly slice) your basil leaves.  In a sealable baggy or small container, combine citrus zest and basil. Close container and shake to combine.  Let sit for at least an hour.
  2. In a standing mixer, cream butter for 60 seconds.  Add-in sugars and salt, beat on medium for 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce mixture speed to low and beat in the egg yolks one at a time.  Add vanilla.
  4. Turn off mixer.  Add flour mixture and pulse on low until the flour stops flying (alternately, cover top of mixer and bowl with a clean dishtowel so that the flour doesn’t fly and turn on low).  Mix on low until the flour just disappears.
  5. Give the dough a few turns with a stiff spatula.  Turn out onto a clean surface and divide in half.  Roll each half into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter.  I find the easiest way to do this is to start the log and then roll it back and forth over a piece of parchment paper by holding the ends of the parchment.  This helps create an even log.
  6. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Remove dough from plastic and cut into disks (I like them about .25-.125 thick but cut to desired thickness not to exceed .5 inches).  Place disks on baking sheets with 2″ distance between.
  9. Bake for 16-19 minutes until they are firm to the touch and slightly golden around the edges.  Be sure to rotate sheets halfway through.  Allow to cool on sheets for a couple of minutes and then transfer to cool completely.
  10. Slowly add citrus juice to confectioner’s sugar until you reach desired consistency.  Above I’ve mixed it thin to cover the entire cookie but icing could be mixed thicker (less juice) and drizzled.  Ice cookies and allow to set-up.
  11. Store in air-tight container.

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