Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Potato-Leek Gratin

Cool-weather leeks and buttery Yukon gold potatoes make a mouth-watering and memorable impression on the Easter menu.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing the pan
2 large leeks, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1-1/2 pounds peeled Yukon Gold potatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 thyme sprigs
1 cup heavy cream
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup Gruyère cheese, grated.

1. Heat oven to 350F degrees and butter a 2-quart gratin dish. Wash the leeks to remove any
grit and slice thinly crosswise.

2. Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the potatoes into rounds, 1/8-inch thick. Toss with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Layer the rounds in the gratin dish.

3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add leeks, remaining salt, pepper and thyme. Cook, stirring, until leeks are tender and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Discard thyme and scatter the leeks over the potatoes.

4. Add cream, garlic and bay leaf to the skillet, scraping up browned bits of leeks from the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir in nutmeg.

5. Pour the cream over the leeks and potatoes and top with the Gruyère. Cover with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, uncover and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden, 15 to 20 minutes longer.

6. Let cool slightly before serving.

Serves 6

~Recipe from The New York Times

Monday, April 25, 2011

USDA Updates National Farmers' Market List

USDA is updating its National Farmers' Market Directory. They report that the markets listed in the directory have skyrocketed from 1,755 to 6,132 since 1994. The new listing is expected to be released in August 2011.

Update under way for USDA National Farmers Market Directory - New Philadelphia, OH - The Times-Reporter

Friday, April 22, 2011

Fresh, Artisanal Easter

Well, it's Easter. You know what that means!

Deviled Eggs

Spring Asparagus Salad

Potato Leek Gratin

Honey Baked Ham

Eggs Benedict

Edis Chocolate

Excuse us while we go dark to enjoy a few days with great food, friends and lots of chocolate.

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gardener's Feast Tamales - Tomatillo Salsa

Bean and goat cheese tamales and tomatillo salsa make a fast and fresh supper when you're too tired to cook (and Dancing With the Stars is about to start.)

Bean Goat Cheese Tamales - Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillo Salsa

2 lbs fresh tomatillo, husked, rinsed and quartered
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
6 cloves cleaned garlic
3 jalapeno peppers
2 tbs fresh cilantro, largest stems removed
Splash of EVOO
Sprinkle of salt

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Toss all ingredients except cilantro, in a rectangular baking pan that will hold tomatillo in a single layer.
3. Roast 20 or 30 minutes until very soft, stirring once so they cook evenly.
4. Pour tomatillo slop into a blender.
5. Add cilantro.
6. Blend lightly.
7. Salt to taste.

The Gardener's Feast Tamales are a smooth blend of black beans cooked with epazote and amazing locally-produced goat cheese.  All natural, gluten free, no lard or trans-fat oils, no preservatives or food additives.

Both freeze beautifully.

Save on Texas Medicinal Tinctures

Our Store

If you were thinking to try Texas Medicinals for allergy relief, all tinctures are 25 percent off at Plum Blossom Wellness Center, which is closing. Alas.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Marshall Wright, Foodie Hunts for Food

I'm not a fan of hunting by any means, but I definitely applaud the dedication to food Marshall Wright - - shows by learning how to shoot. The result? He brings home a mess of ducks for a gumbo. (Hush. We won't ask him what that gumbo cost.)

Video by Texas Parks & Wildlife.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Texas Medicinals - Backyard Medicine

The same skepticism that motivates people to look for trustworthy local food sources also clouds conventional medicine. So many good drugs have such bad side effects. Imagine our surprise - and delight - when we learn that many natural, organic, safe and effective alternatives are just outside our back door.

You can find herbal tinctures, remedies and natural teas made by Ginger Webb at Wheatsville Co-op, Whole Foods Market, La Botanica Green & White, Cafe Mundi, Whip in, Plum Blossom Wellness and at . For a consultation, contact Ginger Webb at 512-476-8422.

Action Alert: Raw Milk and Local Foods Bills Go to Hearing


Ask youself why the same Texas legislators who think it's a good idea to raise the speed limit to 85 MPH on some Texas highways want to put the brakes on fresh, organic, local and sustainable food from family farms, small ranchers and artisan crafters? If you agree it ought to be otherwise, take action!

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance urges Texans who want more access to fresh, organic, local and sustainable food to attend a public hearing on raw milk, cottage foods and local foods bills at the State Capitol Building on Wednesday, April 20 in Room E2.012 at 8AM.

Here's what's at stake:
• Improving access to raw milk: Grade A licensed farmers can sell raw milk in Texas, but only “on farm,” i.e. consumers must drive out to the farm.  HB 75 and SB 237 would allow licensed farmers to sell at farmers markets and make delivery arrangements with their customers.  You can read our fact sheet about raw milk

• Promoting “cottage foods”: The costs of a commercial kitchen can be prohibitive for start up businesses and small-scale producers.  HB 1139 and HB 2084 would allow small-scale producers selling low-risk foods, such as jams, jellies, baked goods, and dried herbs, to sell their products directly to consumers without needing a commercial kitchen.

Local Foods Omnibus: In addition to promoting cottage foods, HB 2084 would lower fees on small-scale cheesemakers, enable electronic food stamp benefits to be used at farmers markets, and identify the barriers to fair property tax treatment for organic, urban, and sustainable farms.

If you can't make the meeting, call your State Representative and Senator to urge them to co-sponsor the bills and help move them forward. You can find out who represents you at or by calling the Texas Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630.

After calling your own legislators, reach out by email to all of the Committee members to urge them to approve these bills as soon as possible with “Support HB 75, 1139, and 2084” in the subject line.


Below is a list of the House Committee members and their emails.  If you cannot come to the hearing in person, you can email each Committee member to express your support for the bill.  Be sure to put “Support HB 75, 1139, and 2084” in the subject line of your email.

Chairwoman Kolkhorst:
Vice Chairman Naishtat:
Representative Alvarado:
Representative Coleman:
Representative Davis:
Representative Gonzales:
Representative King:  
Representative Lobenberg:
Representative Schwertner:
Representative Truitt: 
Representative Zerwas:

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance is a non profit organization that represents non-corporate agriculture and animal owners, from homesteaders to horse owners to full-time ranchers,


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Farm Eggs and Herbes de Tejas

Fresh eggs from Richardson Farms make a spectacular omelette. In the absence of herbes de provence, I substituted herbes de Tejas, a blend of thyme, lavender, basil, sage, savory, rosemary, garlic, chives, jalapeno crafted by Lake Travis Lavender.

Pretty, isn't it?

Unexpected Visitor

Grey Fox

I wasn't expecting to see this guy at my front door this morning. "Hello." And away he ran.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thai Pesto Noodle Stir Fry

Sunday night. What's in the vegetable bin? We started with Thai Pesto from The Austin Pesto Company and took off.

Thai Pesto Noodle Stir Fry


1 lb. Bay scallops
1 cup red or yellow onion
1 cup Julienne-cut carrots
1/2 cup Julienne-cut red or yellow pepper
1 cup French green beans (haricots verts)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 14 oz package udon noodles
2 tbsp peanut or canola oil
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 8-oz container Austin Pesto Company Thai Pesto

1. Cook noodles according to package directions. When done, rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
2. Steam green beans until almost done. Set aside.
3. Heat oil in Dutch oven or wok
4. Add onion and stir fry until it starts to caramelize
5. Add carrots; cook until slightly tender
6. Add pepper; cook until slightly tender
7. Add green beans and veggie stock
8. Simmer until beans are heated through
9. Add scallops; cook 2 or 3 minutes until done
10. Add pesto to noodles and toss until evenly coated.
11. Add stir fry, toss
12. Garnish with cherry tomatoes.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Funky Chicken Coop Tour Tee

Strut your stuff in this handsome four-color silk screened short sleeve tee-shirt commemorating the Funky Chicken Coop Tour scheduled for April 23.  Available now through Buck Moore Apparel. Purchase online. Pick up.

Funky Chicken Coop Tour Tee

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Make Your Own Take-out with Organic Herbs & Spices

Turkish Spice Market

Yesterday I was inspired to answer the question: what herbs and spices do you need on hand to transform ordinary fresh, natural, organic ingredients into take-out you make at home?

Now I feel like Marco Polo. What started as a lark has become a journey of 1,000 miles.

I began on the premise that every regional cuisine has a predominant flavor.

Chinese - ginger and garlic. Mexican - chili and cumin. Indian - curry. Italian - oregano or basil. Cajun - salt and cayenne. By the time I got to France, I realized that seasoning is more art than science and everybody's taste is subjective.

Take Cajun. Cayenne is the first thing that comes to mind. But Cajun seasoning is not just hot, it's a blend of herbs and spices that balances the base note of salt with the piquancy of cayenne. It has a roundness of flavor that feels like a party in your mouth. Too much cayenne simply destroys your taste buds.

Seasoning is supposed to enhance food, not camouflage it (though salt has been used for just that purpose since time immemorial.)

I can give you a recipe for Cajun seasoning, but this is just a place to start - how much salt or cayenne totally depends on what you like. (Or in the case of regional cuisine, Cajun is like your Momma or Daddy made it.)

I can give you a list of the most useful herbs and spices to have on hand; finesse comes from experimentation - much trial, many errors.

And what do herbs and spices, especially packaged blends, have to do with local, organic, sustainable food anyway?

Fresh for one thing; you can grow many of the most useful herbs in pots on your balcony, patio or backyard.  Freshly harvested rosemary, thyme, bay leaves; freshly ground cinnamon, cardamom, dill, chili peppers - all bring a bonanza of flavor to food. The others you'll want to source in small quantities that you can use within six months or so; they lose potency after that. Words to the wise: dried is more potent than fresh, so use half as much.

Organic is another: spices in the field can be tainted by any number of contaminants: insects, molds, yeasts, even pathogens, like salmonella or E. coli, the virulent bacteria linked to scores of outbreaks of food-born illness. To combat these, most conventional food manufacturers in the United States sterilize spices with toxic chemicals. The most common is ethylene oxide, a gas that can leave residues on spices that may be harmful to human health and cause cancer in workers who have prolonged exposure to it. The
chemical has been banned in many European countries and Japan.

Fair trade is the final factor: a number of organic spice companies go the extra mile to produce a high-quality product in an environmentally friendly manner; they pay growers more than they'd receive for conventionally grown crops.

All that said, here goes:

Salt: Kosher salt, sea salt. Use Kosher salt to cook in a dish. Use sea salt to "finish" it. A very light sprinkling of sea salt on freshly steamed vegetables, divine.

Peppercorns: black, green, white, red peppercorns to grind as you go.

Chinese: Ginger, chili, garlic powder, Chinese Five Spice Powder. Splash with soy sauce. Dash with toasted sesame oil.

Mexican: Chili, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano. Chili - more chili powder. Tacos - more cumin. Ancho chili is milder. Chipotle chili explodes your head. Cilantro is a great garnish.

Cajun: salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, dried oregano, ground black pepper. And of course, no gumbo is complete without a dash of file' (fee-lay), ground sassafras root. Garnish with parsley.

Italian: garlic, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper flakes, parsley.

Indian: curry, chili powder, garlic powder, cardamom, clove, black pepper, tumeric, coriander, saffron.

Middle Eastern: chili powder, garlic powder, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, tumeric, mint.

French - Fines Herbes: chives, chervil, parsley, tarragon.

French - Bouquet Garni: marjoram, tarragon, thyme, parsley, bay leaf.

French - Herbes de Provence: thyme, basil, savory, fennel, rosemary.

As I said, seasoning food is more art than science. And everyone's favorite flavors are subjective. So this is just for starters.

What have I omitted? What's your favorite blend? And where do you source organic herbs and spices in Austin?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Austin Bakes for Japan Donates $11,540


According to Kathryn Hutchinson, blogger and organizer, 'Austin Bakes for Japan” a citywide bake sale in support of AmeriCares’ humanitarian relief efforts in Japan raised $11,540.07 in support of AmeriCares efforts in Japan.

We've all heard the saying "her eyes are bigger than her stomach." In this case, Austin hearts are bigger than the Pacific ocean.

Donations are still being accepted for disaster relief online.

Read more at Austin Bakes for Japan

Monday, April 4, 2011

What to Do With Leftovers

Try as I may, I have not yet mastered the art of buying just enough fresh, natural, organic, sustainable produce to make it from Saturday at Barton Creek Farmer's Market to Wednesday at The Triangle or Round Rock. Nor am I very talented at judging how much is enough for this dish or that. Comes the day when the vegetable bin contains too much left of this and not enough of that. It's Sunday night. What's for supper?

Brown Rice Vegetarian Dressing
Ingredients vary depending on what's in your vegetable bin. Here was mine last night.

1 cup brown rice, toasted
2.5 cups vegetable stock
Diced Onion - whatever is left over
Minced Garlic - as many cloves as you like if you've got them
Diced Red pepper - even if it's a little soft, cut away the bad parts
Diced Green pepper - same as red pepper
Diced Celery - never ever ever run out of celery
Sliced mushrooms - use 'em or lose 'em
Spinach - damn I really intended to make that omelette
Seasoning to taste

1. Toast brown rice, add stock and simmer with the lid on until almost all the water has evaporated

2. Sautee onions, garlic until caramel color

3. Add celery, peppers, mushrooms; stir fry until slightly tender

4. Combine rice, sauteed vegetables and cook uncovered until all the liquid is absorbed and the flavors meld.

5. Slice spinach into ribbons and fold in rice and veggies until slightly wilted

6. Season liberally.

I love Cajun seasoning so I use Tony's Cajun Seasoning. Want Chinese? Use Chinese 5 Spice Powder and Soy Sauce. Prefer Indian - tumeric, cumin and curry powder. Italian? Oregano, basil and tomatoes. A lust for Provence - fines herbes. Variations are endless.

Voila. No waste. Very tasty. Serve as a side dish or entree.

PS. I'd make a picture but we ate all of it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dog Whisperer: Dog vs Chicken

See how Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, tames one family dog's prey drive to chase or kill backyard chickens.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Backyard Chickens and the Family Dog: BFF?

The rise of urban farmers in Austin who are raising backyard chickens for fresh, ethical, sustainable food is phenomenal.

The Austin Poultry Meetup Group boasts over 800 members, second in the United States only to Atlanta, GA.

Ask any member.

An air of joyful anticipation surrounds chicks and hens from the day they move in to the first omelette. But along with the pride, satisfaction and fun of raising poultry for fresh, local, ethical, sustainable food also comes an unexpected struggle.

There's always someone else in the neighborhood who loves your chickens more than you: hawks, gray foxes, coyotes, raccoons, opossums. And the family dog.

Kerry Rogers & Skye

Kerry Rodgers, a computer programmer who lives in Georgetown, TX with her husband, Bryan, and three boxers, answers the question: are backyard chickens and the family dog destined to be BFF?