Friday, May 17, 2013
I’ve been checking out the red berries, strawberry and raspberry, in the market over the last few weeks. There is that one moment during the season where they go from “not ready” to I want to buy every container because the scent and flavor are just perfect. Well, I think that time is here; at least in ATX. The strawberries smell so good and their fruity perfume catches you as you walk by the display. The raspberries are plump and super sweet, not too tart; and just the way I like them. So this “parfait” is a little ode to my red berry passion. Enjoy!
2C of Greek Yogurt - Vanilla (or your favorite flavor)
1C of Raspberries
4 large strawberries, sliced in half (w/stem) + 1 large strawberry cut in circles 1/8” thick
4 - 1/2tsp of candied ginger, minced
In a 3”x3” ramekin place yogurt in one half of it. In the other half gently arrange berries so they butt up against the yogurt and side of the yogurt. Get creative you can arrange in any way you like.
Garnish the yogurt with candied ginger. Serve immediately. Great for a Valentine’s day treat, snack, dessert or breakfast.
Yields 4 portions.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Put yourself behind the wheel and slowly drive down a slightly hidden road. All along the way bursts of red, orange, purple, blue, white and every shade of green almost blinds you angling your head side to side not wanting to miss one bit. These are the colors of petals, leaves, grass, butterflies and much more. What we natives call a Texas springtime. And there’s no other place you can see and experience it so prolifically other than a Texas State Park.
And today, I did just that! You see, Texas State Parks and Wildlife is looking to the month of May as their premier “Picnicking in the Park” month. To kick it off they hosted a wonderful luncheon at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, TX. While I’ve been to several state parks over the years this one was new to me. It was the perfect setting for our civilized indoor/outdoor picnic.
Cecilia Nasti, Producer & Host of Passport to Texas radio series (and KUT’s Field & Feast) asked several food bloggers from the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and others to provide recipes and or food for the event. Each recipe is one that is simple and can be made specifically for a picnic.
As you can see we had a veritable feast! Check out the recipe I made Sugar Snap Peas w/ Basil; an especially great side dish for grilled meats.
To my suprise, after lunch and a meandering walk through the color-raging wildflowers, I was met in the parking lot by new friends. They wanted me to have a left-over, just harvested watermelon from the Texas valley. How could I refuse? I didn’t. Thank you to the folks at GO TEXAN!
So, now it’s your turn. Pull the the family together, make a simple picnic, put yourself behind that wheel, drive to the nearest Texas State Park and enjoy your day. Texas State Parks rock!
Friday, April 12, 2013
When it comes to pizza I’m pretty much a purist. So when my husband called me last night to say he was bringing home a few slices of a Bahn Mi pizza I was alot curious though a bit ambivalent.
A Bahn Mi is basically a Vietnamese sandwich. Traditionally a breakfast food, it is a combination of meats, pate, pickled vegetables, herbs and a some heat usually in the spread. It’s all placed inside a beautiful crusty, soft-on-the-inside baby French baguette. Believe it! The Vietnamese make some of the most delicious bread I’ve had. It is the French influence, of course.
After the last trip to Vietnam we picked one up on our way to the airport. Here’s what we knoshed on for only $.75.
Mike walk in the door and said, “Babe, you gotta try this pizza!” So I did.
It was really divine. The combination of little salty bites of sausage, briny pickled vegetable, fresh cilantro, heat from jalapeno and the mildly sweet bready crust made for one flavor and mouth sensation. I couldn’t believe it; a bahn mi pizza? But it really worked.
I finished off the last piece today for a lunch left-over and it was just as good.
As you can see I’ve eaten this pizza second hand. I didn’t go to the actual house in which it was made. And my husband had it catered. That said we’ll be on way to have some again and you should too.
You’ll just have to hop in the car and drive on out to Pinthouse Pizza Craft Brewpub in North Central Austin.
Here’s to the Bahn Mi; my Friday Food Find just for you! Enjoy.
Monday, April 01, 2013
How many of you have heard about farro? I first heard about it while traveling through Tuscany a few years back. We had stopped for lunch at a country villa. A salad of farro, tomato and parmesan with their house olive oil was one of our luncheon dishes. It left a lasting memory. So, when I saw that Tuscan Fields was sponsoring a scholorship to one of my favorite food blog conferences Eat, Write, Retreat I was all in. All I need do is tell you about this new product being imported here to the U.S., write a fabulous recipe that the judges will find irresistible and WIN!
With thoughts of a memorable Tuscan Fields Farro dish, new relatiionships and having a winning recipe here’s mine. Enjoy!
1 1/4C Tuscan Fields Farro, cook according to package directions
3/4C of fresh mint & basil, julienne (hit julienne for a how-to lesson)
1C of sweet baby tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1/2C of Parmesan Lemon Vinaigrette (see below)
Kosher Salt - to taste
Freshly ground pepper - to taste
Once Farro is done, drain in a sieve and run cool water over it to stop the cooking.
With a small spoon gently move the farro around to cool all the way through.
Let the farro drain in the sieve for up to 10 minutes.
Take the farro and place it into a medium size bowl with all other ingredients. Mix thoroughly until herbs, tomatoes and vinaigrette are combined. Taste for salt and pepper and add to your own distinct taste.
Place salad on a large platter and serve family style.
Yields up to 8 side servings.
*Great with chicken, fish or just as a side salad.
*Perfect for a summertime picnic dish too!
Parmesan Lemon Vinaigrette
1/2C of freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4C of extra virgin olive oil
1C of parmesan reggiano, finely grated
1/2tsp of freshly ground pepper
Place all ingredients into a plastic or glass container with lid. Seal tightly and shake vigorously until all ingredients are incorporated. Pour half over your farro salad.
*Can be used for any type of salad and or as a dipping sauce.
*1-week life in refrigerator tightly sealed.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Easter is just a few days away. One of my favorite parts of the day is planning brunch. I go for simple ingredients and even easier cooking methods.
The truth is you can plan a fab meal with a few simple steps and here’s one: a quick recipe of Sugar Snap Peas with Basil.
This year I’ll be driving back from Big Bend in the West Texas desert. I wanted to leave you with a little something. So here it is!
8 C of water
1/4 to 1/2 C of kosher salt
1 lb of sugar snap peas, stemmed
1 Tbls of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C of fresh basil, julienne
Sprinkling of salt & pepper
Pour water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1/4C of salt (it will dissolve, have a bit of a taste - water should taste like salt. Add more salt if needed). Add sugar snaps and bring heat down to medium high/medium.
Cook for 3 minutes. Pull one sugar snap out to test. If it has a slight crunch it’s done. Scoop peas out with a colander and pour into the well of another colander that has been outfitted into a bowl of iced water . Swish peas around in cold water until cool. This will stop the cooking process. Pull colander (w/peas) out of the cold water. Over the bowl gently shake off excess water and place peas on toweling to dry. This process is a technique called blanching.
Pat excess water off the peas. Place peas on a a beautiful platter, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with julienne basil, salt and pepper. Serve!
This is a perfect side dish for ham, beef tenderloin or a roast chicken.
Serves 6 side servings.
Here’s a cool picture to show you the basics of how to julienne. Which means to cut into thin or matchlike strips.
1. Pile basil leaves one on top of the other.
2. Roll leaves into a “cigar”.
3. Turn so that the roll is horizontal.
4. Begin slicing, with a rocking motion, from one end to the other - very thin slices.
5. With your fingertips undo strips from roll.
6. Sprinkle julienne strips on peas.
This technique should be done right before you are ready to eat your dish. Because the basil is so delicate it will bruise and brown easily.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
One of the best ways to cook vegetables is by blanching them; and using a colander.
Simply put, blanching is the technique of cooking your vegetables in super hot salted water. Then placing them in an icy cold water bath to stop the cooking process. The objective is to have a perfectly cooked “crisp & tender” texture.
An iced water bath is all well and good. However, if you dump your vegetable from the hot into iced water it will mix. Inevitably chunks of ice will come out along with your perfectly cooked vegetable.
To prevent this add a colander to your bowl of iced water. The colander must be submerged. You’ll want to find one that fits into the bowl you are using for your iced water.
Use the same motion of adding the cooked vegetable from the hot water to your iced water, only put the vegetable inside the well of the submerged colander. Swish your vegetable around to cool. Lift the colander out of the water, shake gently to remove excess water and place vegetable on toweling to pat dry.
Now you have your vegetable ready to go; and without excess ice melting away.
That’s your Tuesday Tip; a colander just rocks!
Friday, March 22, 2013
I wish I could say I made this dish myself; but I didn’t. It is a frittata with baby arugula and a citrus vinaigrette.
Recently I met my sistah-friend Kelly at 24 Diner in ATX. It was her birthday and she wanted to eat somewhere close to our ideal shopping destination, Anthropology; which was just across the street.
Not wanting to get too full (we were going to try on clothes afterall), I decided to order the Feta and Tomato Frittata.
Let me just say it was fluffy, salt and peppered perfectly and had slight crispy edges. Just on top and in the center lay a few handfuls of baby arugula that had been dressed with a tart lemon vingaigrette.
The combination of flavor and texture exploded in my mouth like dynamite; bite after bite.
While chatting away between explosive mouthfuls I wondered aloud, “How may eggs are in ths frittata?”
So I asked the waiter. He said, “I think six.”
“Whaaaatttt!” we exclaimed. Both Kelly (who had also ordered a frittata) and I looked down at our almost empty plates, looked back up at each other and said, “OMG!”
Kelly said, “Why did you have to ask?”
Let’s face it, six eggs is a shitload - in one sitting and for one person.
Needless to say, we did try on clothes with tummies a little fuller than anticipated.
We both agreed, though, that our frittatas were some of the best we had ever tasted; and almost finished.
Thank you 24 Diner for provided my more than ample Friday Food Find.
p.s. Notwithstanding, Kelly found a most flattering, rockin’ body birthday outfit.
p.s.s. You know, us girls, always do!
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
A quick photo share with you celebrating the first Spring daffodils.
Happy Springtime from ATX, the Hill Country.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
This week I’m having my last affair with our garden’s edible flowers. And not just any flowers; but the flowers that come from lettuce & greens.
They are simply, from left to right:
Red Leaf Lettuce - Pak Choi - Broccoli Rabe - Arugula
While the Red Leaf flowers closed after one day the others still stand on my supper table. Their delicate nature is leaving them a little worse for the wear.
But they’ll be there for a few more days so that I may enjoy and pick a flower to pop it into my mouth.
Simply for the pleasure of tasting the end of a lettuce and greens Winter season.
Friday, March 15, 2013
While SXSW 2013 is going on I’m basking in the great weather here at the casa and pondering all the different ways I can use arugula flowers.
That’s right arugula flowers. It’s what happens when you let your home-grown arugula go to seed - then flower.
Right now the bees are surrounding the flower tips. With their droning bzzzz it sounds like they are warning me off this long awaited treasure.
And a treasure it is; I won’t be detoured.
I took some scissors out to the garden this morning and playing nice with the bees I had my share of flower pickings.
The arugula flower flavor is much like it’s leaves; a bit of spice with a lingering sweet note.
With a winter white color and aubergine veins flowing throughout, it’s a perfect accoutrement to a salad, protein (meat or fish) or garnish.
Using arugula flowers in any number of dishes just makes me happy!
Enjoy your Friday Food Find!
p.s. Arugula is also called rocket or roquette. So our arugula flowers could then be named rocket or roquette flowers. Your choice!
Friday, March 08, 2013
Recently I found myself walking around the market perusing the produce. I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and saw a person with a huge orangy & bumpy piece of citrus in hand. “Miss, would you like to try a piece?” he said. But of course, I chimed back. He handed me a segment. I took it, placed it in my mouth and bit down. Immediately there was a burst of bright sunshine; rays of sweet juice exploding in my mouth. I think I may have found nirvana.
Who knew that it could happen with a sweet not so little piece of citrus: the biggest madarin in the world.
It can be found in local markets such as Whole Foods and Central Market. Check it out because they won’t be in the markets for long.
If you are feeling a bit daring and rather than going for the easy peel, slice the Sumo and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the flesh. It’s delish.
Friday, February 22, 2013
Enough said! Well, maybe…
The first time I tried Cadbury chocolate I was backpacking through Europe. I had the most insatiable desire for chocolate. With a 40lb backpack on my back and a 10 pounder on the front side I sidled through a small convenient store door on a London street corner. Walking up and down the aisles I found my chocolate destination in a small bag of Candbury chocolate discs.
I tore open the bag and slipped the first sweet chocolate disc into my mouth. It touched my tongue and melted into creamy goodness. It was an instant love-affair; and it hasn’t abated since.
In fact, it’s been a lesson in discipline having to wait for my special Cadbury Chocolate Mini Eggs (and I don’t mean the Cadbury Cream Egg); which come around only for Easter.
These chocolate eggs with the speckled candy coating are my all-time favorite. I stock-pile packages, place them in the freezer then take them out sparingly for a few months enjoyment.
They are my Friday Food Find! You can find them in most markets along with the big box stores that carry any number of seasonal candy items. They come out several weeks before Easter and usually sell out by that time.
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I’m sitting here wondering if I should tell you about the wonderful travel stories I have that involve saffron; traversing through Morocco, Spain and Italy? But that would force me to going through piles of pictures, that I in turn would need to scan and tidy up a bit, then thread them into a visual story. Perhaps another day…
Today I’ll share the best way to bring the flavor, scent and color out of a saffron thread. It is your Tuesday Tip.
Place your measured saffron threads into a small bowl. Take very warm water (not boiling) and pour over to just cover. Let stand for up to 15 minutes. Now you may use the “saffron water” and threads for your recipe. It can be in addition to or as a substitute for water, stock, extract, wine etc….
If you would like to learn more check out Wikipedia’s information about the flower, saffron crocus, from which this enticing “thread” comes from.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I LOVE cookies. I’ll pick a cookie over cake or chocolate anyday. Anytime a restaurant menu has “assorted cookies” on the menu I’ll order those. So, when a holiday like Valentine’s Day comes around my inner Martha starts channeling. I get so excited as I plan out my cookie. What kind of dough? What flavor will the dough be? Which cookie cutter to use? How many colors of icing? Should I use sprinkles? I mean, it just goes on… I keep having visions of those beautiful Martha Stewart cookies; decorated to perfection. And I know mine will turn out just the same.
Oh, I do this everytime, at least once a year when I get that what I’m now calling “The Martha Cookie Bug.”
Look, I’m a pretty good baker. I’m fast and thorough. But here’s the truth, I don’t think anyone can create cookies (the decorated sugar) like she does unless you are a professional pastry chef or bake & decorate cookies repeatedly. I know it’s a challenge for me.
So, once again it’s Valentine’s Day and I find myself in the Martha Cookie Bug haze of my own making. I made these special for all my Jazzercise peeps. And no matter the level of excellence, I have a feeling they’ll enjoy them.
After all, I’m no Martha - I’m just a cookie lover, a pretty good baker and a less than perfect cookie decorator. Have a happy V-Day!
You can find your cookie recipe on Nancy Baggett’s blog Kitchenlane.
I did use Martha’s recipe for royal icing. You can purchase it nowdays but I always make it from scratch. It’s super simple. Here’s your link at Martha Stewart Recipes.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
The most memorable words my culinary chef/instructor said to me was the evening we were introduced to shellfish; oysters to be exact.
With a shucked oyster in his hand, he said, “Beth this is nectar of the Gods.” He then brought the shell up to his lips, tilted his head back, sucked in and slurped it right down. Finished he looked me straight in the eye and said,
“It’s better than sex!”
I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas; which is North Central. You could only get oysters at a little place called J&J Oyster Bar. They served Gulf oysters (Texas Gulf) and my Dad loved eating them; and still does. I on the other hand watched my dad slurp those bad boys down thinking, gross! How can he eat those slimy, sandy and musky smelling globules? I couldn’t stomach it. Plus, there was always a lot of condiment action involved with eating the oysters; hot sauce, tarter sauce, horseradish and lemon. Seemed to me they were just a vehicle for the extras. That was my first introduction to the oyster.
So you could imagine my trepidation when I walked into my culinary class and oysters were on the menu. Even though Chef Pascal professed his undying love, I still didn’t try one; not in class anyway.
I finally had the courage to try an oyster in my first line cook job. We would occasionally have oysters on the menu. Since we were encouraged to try everything it was pretty much a given that I would have to suck it up and eat one. Well, the Executive Chef was very kind to me. She really gave me a lesson on the differences between cold and warm water shellfish; such as the level of brininess, size and texture.
To this day I will never forget the first time I tried an oyster while working at the restaurant. It came from the Atlantic Ocean. It was called a Moonstone; icy, sweet, briny and a little magical. I’ve tried many oysters since; mostly from cold waters (I just think they have a better flavor). Never do I have anything but a little mignonette splashed on my oyster - if that.
So, I’m not going to say if an oyster is better than sex or not. I will say that eating the right oyster, at the right time and with the right condiment (or not) lends itself to something quite remarkable - if not just delicious!
Here’s your recipe.
1/4C of shallot, peeled & minced
1/2C seasoned Rice Vinegar
2tsp of fresh coarsely ground black pepper
6 shucked oysters - half-shell
Several hours before serving oysters, combine shallot, vinegar and pepper in a container with a lid. Tightly seal, shake vigorously and place in the refrigerator to store until ready to use.
Pour crushed ice into a 2” deep dish spreading around so that the ice comes up right below the top of the rim. Take the oysters on the half-shell and arrange them decoratively around the outer edge of the dish.
Take mignonette (vinegar mixture) out of the fridge and pour into a small ramekin. Place ramekin in the center of the pan with a small spoon. Serve.
Tips & Techniques
To store whole oysters buy fresh as possible, place in a stainless steel container and put them into your fridge.
Many fish markets will shuck the oysters for you. Although it may be a few extra dollars it’s worth it. If you are not familiar with shucking an oyster it’s the safest and simplest way to go. I recommend it.
Mignonette is a traditional French sauce used on oysters to compliment the brininess of the oyster.
For a comprehensive introduction to types of oysters check out Rowan Jacobsen’s blog The Oyster Guide