Monday, December 31, 2012

French Onion Soup Noodle Casserole

I have to be crazy to caramelize four pounds of onions on New Year's Eve. But once you taste the result, I'd have to be crazy not to. Lovely supper for two accompanied by a glass of champagne. Plenty of left overs for later 'cause it only gets better.

Ingredients for French Onion Noodle Casserole


8 large yellow onions, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 or 3 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups beef stock
1 pound egg noodles
1-1/2 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


1. Cut off the stem and root ends of onions, halve lengthwise, peel skin and slice finely across the grain.

2. Heat olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-bottom stock pot over medium heat. When oil sizzles, add the onions and garlic, stirring deeply to glaze the vegetables. Add salt to draw out the moisture. Cook until the onions begin to wilt, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes to prevent sticking.

3. After 45 to 60 minutes, the onions will be swimming in their own juices. Add thyme and bay leaves. Reduce the heat and continue to cook, stirring often to prevent burning until they are tan and most of the juice has evaporated.  The drier they get, the more often you need to stir. This batch cooked two hours.


5. When the onions and garlic are tan and nearly dry, add wine and turn up the heat to deglaze the pan. Cook briskly and stir frequently until the wine has cooked out. Add beef stock, reduce the heat again and simmer 15 minutes or so more while you prepare the egg noodles. 

6. Cook egg noodles according to package directions under-cooking them about a minute.  Drain then combine with onions in a casserole dish. Top with both cheeses. Bake 30 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Serve with a salad of bitter greens and a glass of champagne to toast the New Year or raise a glass to the devotedl French cooks who have taught us the rewards of slow cooking with love and don't spare the butter.

~Thanks to Russ Parsons, food editor of the LA Times for a tutorial on how to caramelize onions and to Rachel Ray for the yummy French onion egg noodle casserole recipe.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stocking Stuffers for Foodies

Sometimes little luxuries are the best. Consider these stocking stuffers for the food lovers on your Christmas list compiled by Virginia Wade, Austin Chronicle food writer.

Goat's Milk Caramel from Antonelli's Cheese Shop (4220 Duval). From Blue Heron Farm near Waller, try their cajeta plain or the bourbon-flavored over ice cream or pound cake, or as a dipping sauce for crisp, crunchy apple slices. Also look for the Original Goat's Milk Caramel and Salted Bourbon Goat's Milk Caramel from Fat Toad Farm ( in Vermont.

Seasonal jams and citrus salts by Stephanie McClenny of Confituras.

Chocolate by Cocoa Puro Kakawa Cocoa Beans are roasted whole beans tossed in white, milk and dark chocolate and dusted with cocoa. Get a 12-ounce bag for $28 and 2-ounce elf bags (perfect for stockings) for $7 at the Downtown Farmers' Market on Saturday, Dec. 22.

And if you're looking for kitchen gadgets, have a look at the list I developed last year. Cooks love us some toys!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ratatouille Marinara

Sorry for the prolonged absence. I'm stretched 90 ways from Sunday. This means that Stuart and I are juggling dog care, housekeeping chores and kitchen duty. He whipped up this amazing ratatouille marinara to welcome me home last night. It's not seasonal, but man, is it ever healthy and comforting.

Eggplant Marinara


1 large eggplant, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 can stewed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 4-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces of Greek olives, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon capers
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Tony's Creole Seasoning
Red wine
16 ounces of pasta - penne, spirals or whatever you like
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil or Italian parsley for garnish


1. Peel, slice, salt eggplant for about 30 minutes. Rinse, dry, chop into bite-sized pieces.

2. Saute' onions, garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil until they start to tan. Add eggplant and saute' 10 to 15 minutes until it begins to soften. Add zucchini and saute' another 5 minutes or so, remembering that "ratatouille" is the French word for "toss."

3. Add 1 cup or so of red wine and cook off the alcohol, 5 or 10 minutes.

4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or so.

5. Adjust seasoning to taste.  I'm lavish with oregano, light with other herbs and cautious with spicy creole seasoning. You can always add more.

6. Cook pasta according to directions and set aside.

7. About 15 minutes before you're ready to eat, add a couple hand fulls of chopped olives and a tablespoon of capers.  Simmer until heated through.

8. Garnish with fresh herbs - parsley or basil. Sprinkle with parmesan. Accompany with crusty bread.


(Hint: if you want your companion to cook, it's smart to have all the ingredients on hand. Otherwise, you never hear the end of it.)

~Adapted from Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals (which always take longer than 30 minutes)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bittman Loves Him Some Sweet Potato


Mark Bittman, food editor of the New York Times, extols the virtue of the ubiquitous sweet potato while sharing no little frustration with our national fascination with turkey - the worst piece of meat you can roast according to him.

One word, Mark. It's tradition. But I'm one of those fortunate few that comes from a different tradition.

In my Cajun family, patat douce (sweet potato) was a staple from the fall through the spring.

Oh sure, we often candied it with brown sugar and marshmallows for the Thanksgiving feast. But we also served it baked, no butter, to be peeled and relished like a banana as a side to gumbo, for breakfast or any old meal.

Nowadays, I still eat baked sweet potato for breakfast, but my favorite recipe is coconut-roasted sweet potato served with lime zest or Tony's Creole Seasoning. (When in doubt, add Tony's!)

But its versatility is far greater than this. Roast, bake, French-fry, shred, puree, soup, salad, pie - however you slice it, dining on the humble sweet potato is one of those rare occasions when what's clean, healthy and good for you is also good eating.

So on the eve of the great turkey roast and subsequent coma, I concur with Bittman. Let's eat more sweet potato and leave those poor, tortured birds alone.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Novel Ways to Roast Turkey

I don't roast turkey for Thanksgiving. My companion doesn't eat it. I can roast turkey breast any time. But if I were planning a traditional feast, I'd look at some non-traditional ways to make it easy on me.

This spatchcocked bird from Mark Bittman makes short work of roasting that sometimes takes all day. The time saved gives you more time to play with your friends and family. After all, isn't that what the feast is all about?

Have a look at this and other novel preparations of Thanksgiving turkey or any poultry courtesy of Mark Bittman.

And don't forget the concept of displacement if you're frying turkey this year.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bittman: The Food Movement Takes a Beating

What? We can legally smoke pot in three states but we cannot know the ingredients of our food?!

As he reports in his column today, Mark Bittman, former New York Times food editor, is gobsmacked at the failure of California proposition 37, a ballot measure that would require labels identifying Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) on some fresh produce and processed foods, such as corn, soybeans and beet sugar, whose DNA has been altered by scientists.

On the one hand, this defeat is puzzling.

The public's right to know what's in our food seems like a no-brainer. After all, we're not asking Monsanto and the other chemical companies to stop scientifically tinkering with ingredients. We're not banning GMOs as they have in Europe and widely around the world. We're simply asking them to label ingredients so that we can choose.

On the other hand, it's not surprising.

Opponents of the measure including Monsanto, Dupont, Council for Biotechnology Information, Grocery Manufacturers Association, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods and Kellogg Company to name but few, spent $46 million to shoot down the initiative. See the fully updated list here.

According to the Los Angeles Times, they succeeded resoundingly. Proposition 37 was defeated by 53.1% to 46.9%.

Once again, money trumps the public's desire to self regulate.

Good to remember, that while marriage equality and marijuana made great gains in 2009, they've been advocating for this for a very long time.

This may be our first GMO round-up; it won't be our last.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hill Country Galleria Halloween

All treats. No tricks. Bring the children to beautiful, fun and safe Halloween event at Hill Country Galleria on Saturday, October 27th. Featuring live performers, activities, candy give-aways and live music, the party starts at 3:30pm:

3:30-4:00 Paiyh Dance Studios Performances
3:30-6:30 Free Face Painting,  Bounce House, Bungee Jump
4:00-6:00 Trick-or-Treating at participating stores
7:00-9:00 Live Music: Carson Brock & the Effect

Costumes desired, but not required.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

As Goes California...Label GMO Food

In advance of the California referendum to label genetically modified foods, Danny DeVito, Bill Mahr and other popular celebrities tout "The Right to Know."

Prop 37 affects the entire country, not just California! Their economy is the largest in the nation and the eighth largest in the world. What happens there with food labeling affects us all.

Say "yes" to Prop 37 and make a difference for healthy food consumption across the country!

If you need more information on what GMOs are and how they affect your health and the environment, please take a few moments to view articles on the topic by searching: Michele Jacobson and GMO Blog. Thank you!

Whaddya mean organic food is not nutritionally superior?

When Mark Bittman realized that he could not ignore the recent study conducted by Standford University, he addressed the flaws in its methodology that made its conclusions jaw-dropping to all of us who buy organic food.
The study, which suggested — incredibly — that there is no “strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” caused as great an uproar as anything that has happened, food-wise, this year. (By comparison, the Alzheimer’s/diabetes link I wrote about last weekwas ignored.)That’s because headlines (and, of course, tweets) matter. The Stanford study was not only an exercise in misdirection, it was a headline generator. By providing “useful” and “counter-intuitive” information about organic food, it played right into the hands of the news hungry while conveniently obscuring important features of organic agriculture.

If I may play with metaphor for a moment, the study was like declaring guns no more dangerous than baseball bats when it comes to blunt-object head injuries. It was the equivalent of comparing milk and Elmer’s glue on the basis of whiteness. It did, in short, miss the point. Even Crystal Smith-Spangler, a Stanford co-author, perfectly captured the narrowness of the study when she said: “some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious. We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.” That’s because they didn’t look — or even worse, they ignored.

Read the rest of Bittman's column here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower - Yogurt Feta Dressing

Some recipes are so appealing, you just have to try them right now.
Boggy Creek Farm Cauliflower - Picture courtesy of Boggy Creek Farm


Head of cauliflower
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds or cumin powder
Sea salt
Black pepper
Greek yogurt
Sheep's milk feta
Fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Break cauliflower into bite-size florets. Toss with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper and spread in one layer on a non-stick tray. Roast for 30 minutes or so, until cauliflower is tender and its edges are toasted.

3. Blend 3/4 cup yogurt with feta until smooth. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some chopped, fresh mint leaves.

4. Toss the cauliflower with this dressing. Serve at room temperature.

I'm sure it will keep, but it's so good, you'll want to eat immediately!

~Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to Store Cut Avocado - Cooking Stoned

Love avocados? Disgusted when they turn brown? Try this tip from Cooking Stoned!

Off to the market for avocados and red onion now.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Be There: Hill Country Galleria Concert Series Kicks Off September 1

The Hill Country Galleria in Bee Cave, ushers in the autumn with a series of free outdoor concerns, proving once again, the best things in life are free.
The Hill Country Galleria kicks off its Saturday Night Concert Series on September 1st. Music lovers are invited to enjoy FREE live music while experiencing new additions to the suburban shopping mall with the friendly-village feel.

All shows will be held in the Hill Country Galleria Outdoor Amphitheater behind City Hall on Main Street from 7:00pm to 9:00pm on Saturday nights. For comfort, guests are encouraged to arrive early and bring a blanket or chairs. Ample free parking is available a short block away.

Concert Lineup – Saturday nights from 7pm-9pm:
•       Saturday, September 1st: Aaron Navarro
•       Saturday, September 8th: Kolby Gray
•       Saturday, September 15th: The Vintage 15
•       Saturday, September 22nd: Clay McClinton
•       Saturday, September 29th: Susan Arbuckle
•       Saturday, October 6th: Cody Lawson
•       Saturday, October 13th: Wiretree
•       Saturday, October 20th: Loose Wheels
•       Saturday, October 27th: Carson Brock & The Effect

The series is sponsored by which is a nonprofit community radio station serving Dripping Springs and the Texas Hill Country. Each concert will be aired live on the KDRP airwaves, as well as streamed live on

For more information about the concert series or a complete schedule of events for the Galleria, contact Courtney Bunte at (512) 402-9135 or visit

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be There: Arboretum Farmer's Market on Sundays

Fans of fresh, natural, organic, local, sustainable, artisan crafted edibles have a new destination on Sunday mornings - the Great Hills Open Air Farmer's Market, Crafts Fair and Art Show operates from 9AM until 1PM.

The Farmers Market is located at the entrance to the
Renaissance Austin Hotel and Bandera's Restaurant.

Food and fun. Yum yum.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Be There: Farm and Food Leadership Conference

Why is excitement building for the 6th Annual Farm and Ranch Leadership Conference to convene at the Bastrop Convention Center southeast of Austin, September 10 and 11?

The 6th Annual Farm and Food Leadership Conference brings home to Central Texas the impact and opportunities surrounding hot topics

“For too many years, agricultural and food policy in this country has been made by and for the large corporations,” explains Judith McGeary, FARFA executive director, who is also an attorney and sustainable farmer. “One of the reasons we founded FARFA was to address the threat these policies pose to the ability of family farmers to survive. This conference is an important part of empowering people, both farmers and consumers, to become advocates for local foods and family farms.”

This year’s conference keynote speaker Michael Olson, author of MetroFarm (Ben Franklin Book of the Year finalist) and executive producer and host of the syndicated Food Chain Radio talk show, will explain how individuals can “eat their way to economic and personal freedom” by taking the 2x2 Pledge.

Other speakers include Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch covering the latest news on the Farm Bill, Howard Vlieger of Verity Farms speaking about the problems with genetically engineered foods, and sustainable farmers and chefs discussing what “local” means. The first day’s sessions cover issues such as animal welfare, seafood and our coastal waters, health freedom, and local food initiatives. The second day of the conference features in-depth workshops on activism and how individuals can be effective in impacting the policies that govern our agricultural and food systems.

FARFA’s involvement in training activists has yielded effective results in the past. During the last legislative session, about 80 people from all over Texas attended the Citizens Lobbying Day in Austin to talk with legislators about issues for local farms and local foods. In May 2010, twice the number of people attended legislative hearings on cottage foods and raw milk bills. Ultimately, the cottage foods bill passed the Texas Legislature as SB 81, while the raw milk bill gained significant support from 24 co-sponsoring legislators.

For more information about conference speakers and topics, registration, and volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, visit


Monday, August 20, 2012

Letting Salt Just Be Salt - Amagansett Sea Salt Co. by SkeeterNYC

Letting Salt Just Be Salt: Amagansett Sea Salt Co. from SkeeterNYC on Vimeo.

Call me a sea-salt fanatic. I love cooking with finishing salts. Pink flake from Australia, coconut-lime from Bali, black lava salt, smoked Fleur de Sel from Camargue, each artisanal salt adds a new dimension to roasted meats, fish, vegetables, chocolate, ice cream - a texture, a burst of flavor and a delightful deliciousness that occurs when something new is born of an artful combining.

I'm not the only one.

Meet Steven and Natalie Judelson, a husband & wife team behind Amagansett Sea Salt Co. in Long Island, NY. Long-time sea-salt fanatics, they are New York State's only sea salt makers and one of only four artisan salt makers on the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Over the past ten years, Steven has slowly perfected his artisan sea- salt operation to the point where he and Natalie can share this passion with others.

Amagansett Sea Salt Co. offers 10 different sea salt blends available in various farmers markets out in the Hamptons or at specialty stores including Shelsky's Smoked Fish in New York City.

Video by Skeeter at food curated.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Special Offer from Hillside Farmacy Thanks Austinites


Special offer on Hillside Farmacy "Thank You" Sandwich through August.

Austin's Hillside Farmacy is the place to be for sandwich lovers according to the readers of the Austin American-Statesman.

The unique farm-to-table eatery and artisinal grocery - described as "a cross between an antique apothecary and a Parisian café" by the paper - emerged victorious in the "Best Sandwich" category of Austin360's "A-List" poll.

The East Side eatery boasts an interesting variety of sandwiches with a myriad of delectable ingredients. These include "The Forager" (roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, brie, truffle oil), "Cook's Sandwich" (sliced pate', bacon, mustard, pickles, arugula, goat cheese), "The Peewee" (braised pork belly, house slaw, pickled onions, 77 sauce) and the "Thank You" (roasted chicken, smoked mozzarella, strawberry kam, sprouts) among others.

What better way to say "thanks" to the fans who boosted it to the top of the A-list for "Best Sandwich" than with a sandwich?

Old fans and new ones alike can snag a "Thank You" sandwich at a reduced price through the end of August.

The Hillside Farmacy is located at 1209 East 11th Street

Zucchini Coconut Bread

I have a proportion problem. I buy more or less fabric than any sewing project actually requires. In the kitchen, I almost always have more ingredients than any recipe calls for. And everybody on earth has too much zucchini in the summer. My solution? What else can I make?

Zucchini Coconut Bread


3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups shredded zucchini (squeezed and drained in a paper towel)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons honey
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature (I use the brand with the least sugar)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut


1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together coconut oil, yogurt, egg, vanilla extract and honey.

4. When combined, whisk in sugar, then fold in shredded zucchini.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until moistened. Add shredded coconut last.

6. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Chef's Note: If you prefer to use evaporated cane sugar instead of honey, bake at 350 degrees.

~Adapted from Two Peas in Their Pod

Austin Food Bloggers: Baking a Difference

Hpnotiq Cocktail Cupcakes with Toasted Coconut Buttercream and Pineapple


Austin Food Bloggers Alliance (AFBA) has announced the success of its most recent charitable activity. Aiming to raise funds for a local non-profit group called Bake-A-Wish, the food blogger alliance invited five local bakers to come up with cocktail-inspired cupcakes . Then it invited everybody to partake of cupcakes and cocktails with very satisfying results. Yum.
We raised over $4500 for Bake A Wish, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit which provides cakes and other baked goods to those in need here in Austin.

It was an incredible evening of cupcakes, cocktails, and a whole lot of fun – all for a great cause. Bake A Wish will be using the funds raised to support and broaden their mission to serve more of those in need in the Austin community. The money will be used to purchase baking supplies as well as partially fund technological improvements for the group’s cake request system. Madelyn Varella, director, and Karen Nichols, the founder and president of Bake A Wish, both see the funds raised as an investment in the future.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

France 2012

Is it possible that a year has elapsed since Bea's breathtaking photography of her French vacation set me afire for a similar holiday? Yep. And she's done it again.


If you haven't before, you really should pop on over to her blog. Her recipes are out of this world, but her photography is divine.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Urth Caffe' Gazpacho

A new twist on an old summer favorite from Urth Caffe' Gazpacho. The Basque shepherds reputed to have invented it, call gazpacho "a salad in a cup." So refreshing.Ole'



1-1/2 pounds tomatoes - peeled, seeded, chopped coarsely (4 tomatoes makes about 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups seedless Persian cucumber or any seedless cucumber, chopped coarsely
1 cup diced red onion (about 1/2 a whole)
2 stalks celery, cleaned, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper (about 1/4 of a whole)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 cup tomato juice, more to taste
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive
Creole seasoning or sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Tabasco sauce, or other hot sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chives or a palm full of minced cilantro


1. In a blender, combine the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato juice, vinegar and oil. You may need to do this in batches. Puree, then pour into a medium bowl.  Puree minimally to keep a little texture to the vegetables if you like.

2. Add lemon juice, Tabasco, salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Creole seasoning to taste.

3. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

4. Before serving, dice avocado, mince chives or cilantro and stir into the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serves 6.

Bon appetit.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why Oven Roast Tomatoes?

After reading my very detailed instructions on oven-roasting tomatoes, one of my friends didn't get it.
Can't you just cook and eat them? Do they have to get all shriveled up and dried out? Doesn't cooking this long rob tomatoes of their nutritional value?

All very good questions. But given that line of thought, why cook vegetables at all? The fact is, the vegetable you eat may have less nutritional value than you think.
A broccoli today is worth more than a broccoli tomorrow.   Vegetables have a set amount of nutrients when harvested and begin to lose them the minute they are cut off from their food source  Once harvested, they begin to consume their own nutrients in order to stay alive. This decline is hastened by the things we do to them.

Simply, the farther and longer from field to fork, the less nutrition.

Does this make oven-roasting tomatoes fruitless?

Quite the opposite.
According to an article in Scientific American exploring Fact or Fiction: Are raw veggies healthier than cooked ones,  many  vegetables supply more antioxidants to the body when cooked - carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers among them.

Tomatoes, in particular benefit.

According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, cooking tomatoes actually enhances their nutritional benefit by breaking down the fruit's thick cell walls.

This aids the body's uptake of some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls, particularly lycopene, the red pigment associated with a lower risk of cancer and heart attacks.

So not only does oven roasting tomatoes intensify and preserve the flavor for a later time when tomato season ends, it's also heart smart.

Why do you roast tomatoes?

I'd love to hear why and how you use them.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Now That's a Bagel!

Sunday morning bagels, tomatoes, sliced onion and lox was one of the food rituals I enjoyed in Chicago. I just can't recreate it in Texas.

Photograph by David Liebovitz

Seriously, Texas. There's more to a good bagel than a shiny crust and a hole in the center. The crust needs to be crunchy, the inside dense, moist, chewy and preferably warm. And they're boiled before baking.

I equate pretty much every bagel I've tasted here to Duncan Hines box cake.


I haven't had a decent bagel since my last trip to New York.

Of course, native New Yorkers old enough to remember "real bagels" before 1950 might disagree about where to get the best bagels just like I'd argue with them about deep-dish pizza which is the sine qua non of Chicago comfort food.

So imagine my food lust when I spied this display of bagels photographed by food writer, David Liebovitz, on a recent visit to Tel Aviv.

Pass me the schmear!

I'm not much of a baker, but the memory of a Bronx-worthy bagel may drive me to make them for myself.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Update: Summer Minestrone With Basil Pistou

I most often think of cold soups in summer. But an abundance of zucchini, tomatoes and basil in the garden begs for a summer minestrone. This one is brightened with a sprinkling of green beans and a dollop of pistou, French pesto. Serves six or eight at room temperature or just warm. 

Summer Minestrone with Basil Pistou


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 pound zucchini, diced
6 ounces green beans
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped (or a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice)
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup vegetable stock
Bouquet garni - 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs parsley, 3 sprigs thyme, Parmesan rind tied together or bundled into a piece of cheese cloth
1/2 cup soup pasta such as elbow macaroni or shells
Sea salt
Fresh basil
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup pistou (recipe below)
Freshly grated Parmesan to garnish


1. Heat the olive oil to medium-low in a large, heavy soup pot. Saute' onion and garlic until they start to caramelize. Stir in carrots, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute' until vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Mix in tomatoes, continuing to stir-fry until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant. Add water, stock, zucchini, bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in canned beans. Remove the garnish.

2. While the soup simmers, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the green beans, boiling five minutes until tender and bright green. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Allow to cool, drain and set aside. Retain the cooking liquid in case you want to thin the soup.

3. Add the pasta to the soup, simmering until it is cooked al dente. Stir in the green beans. Add freshly ground pepper and adjust seasoning to taste. Soup should taste savory and rich.


Make French pistou exactly like Italian pesto, omitting the pine nuts.

2 cups basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, blanched if desired
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1/4 cup tightly packed)

1. Grind the leaves to paste in a mortar and pestle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside. Grind the garlic to a paste with salt in the mortar and pestle. When it's well smashed, mix in the ground pesto and slowly work together with the olive oil. When combined, stir in Parmesan.

(You can also make this in a food processor. But fresh chefs swear by the mortar-and-pestle method because it releases the oil in both the herb leaves and garlic. I did a bit of both. There's no shame in this game.)

To serve, stir pistou into the soup or place a spoonful in each bowl before ladling in soup. Serve in wide soup bowls with a sprinkling of Parmesan over the top.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zucchini Primer - Choose, Store, Enjoy!

Ratatouille is an easy and delicious use for the abundance of zucchini at local farmer's markets.


Summer blesses us with a bounty of vegetables, foremost of which may be zucchini. Browse any farmer's market; you'll quickly see that there are many varieties from which to choose.

Russ Parsons, LA Times, Daily Dish offers a brief primer on common varieties, which to choose and how to cook zucchini.
How to choose: Look for zucchini that are small to medium-sized (no longer than 6 to 8 inches). They should be firm and free of nicks and cuts. Really fresh zucchini will bristle with tiny hairs.

How to store: Keep zucchini tightly wrapped in the refrigerator.

Ratatouille Ratatouilleis our favorite way to enjoy zucchini in its season.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Viva la Viande Francais *hiccup*

To honor Bastille Day, here's an interesting tidbit from the village of Lunel-Viel, in the Hérault department in southern France.

In an effort to add flavor to their beef, some farmers are feeding wine to their cattle on the principle that if French beef tastes good now, it can only improve with a bottle of Saint-Geniès des Mourgues.
This was what a local farmer Claude Chaballier fed three animals last year – in a trial run that he's preparing to repeat next month. He says the resulting beef was "lean, marbled and tasty".

Two Angus and one Camargue were given a mix of leftover grapes, barley and hay before about two litres of wine were integrated into their diet.

The only real hiccup, if you will, is the cost. The best cuts of wine-raised beef run as much as 100 euros. That's about $130 for you, America.

And I thought pastured-beef was pricey!

Ah well, a votre sante'.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In A Food Rut? Spice It Up.

Image courtesy of Keres Spices, importing and distributing
a wide variety of organic and fair trades spices from around the world.

If you're like most busy people, you go to the same reliable recipes most of the time. You like what you like. It spares your time. You can count on your family's enjoyment.

Still, variety is the spice of life and spice adds a wholesome variety to all your go-to recipes.

Here's how to take the same ingredients into five different, delicious directions:

1. Shrimp Creole - red sauce spiced with white pepper, black pepper and cayenne.

2. Shrimp Provencal - red sauce spiced with fennel and thyme.

3. Shrimp Espagnol - red sauce spiced with adobe chili powder.

4. Spicy Moroccan Shrimp - red sauce spiced with cumin, coriander and ginger.

5. Jamaican Curry Shrimp - red sauce spiced with curry powder.

Same ingredients - onion, garlic, tomatoes and shrimp. Add spices and imagination. A world of variety at every meal.

Use the Spicepedia by Keres Spices to spice things up in your cuisine.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blackened Fish Tacos

This is such a versatile dish; I was eager to give it another try. This version bakes the fish, a healthier alternative to pan frying. 

Blackened Fish Tacos


3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 pound tilapia filets
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil
10 corn tortillas


1. Combine first 10 ingredients in a Ziploc bag.

2. Cut tilapia pieces into halves and brush with olive oil.

3. Place fish in the bag and shake until all pieces are well coated.

4. Remove from bag and sprinkle with lemon juice.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a shallow baking dish with olive oil.  Bake fish for 10 to 15 minutes - until it flakes easily with a fork.

Serve in warm tortillas with pico di gallo and guacamole sauce. Creamy lime-cilantro cole slaw is also yummy.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why Heirloom Tomatoes Taste Better

Photo courtesy of Stuart Spates, A Clear Image Photography

I have such delicious memories of the first tomatoes of summer - the ones that came from my daddy's garden. Nothing rivals the flavor of home-grown tomatoes. But with the advent of locally grown, heirloom tomatoes, I've been surprised by just how much more flavorful they are than even my fondest memories.

Ironically, according to recent scientific research reported in the New York Times, flavor is the price we pay for those juicy, red tomatoes we crave.
The unexpected culprit is a gene mutation that occurred by chance and that was discovered by tomato breeders. It was deliberately bred into almost all tomatoes because it conferred an advantage: It made them a uniform luscious scarlet when ripe.

Now, in a paper published in the journal Science, researchers report that the very gene that was inactivated by that mutation plays an important role in producing the sugar and aromas that are the essence of a fragrant, flavorful tomato. And these findings provide a road map for plant breeders to make better-tasting, evenly red tomatoes.

The discovery “is one piece of the puzzle about why the modern tomato stinks,” said Harry Klee, a tomato researcher at the University of Florida in Gainesville who was not involved in the research. “That mutation has been introduced into almost all modern tomatoes. Now we can say that in trying to make the fruit prettier, they reduced some of the important compounds that are linked to flavor.”

The mutation’s effect was a real surprise, said James J. Giovannoni of the United States Department of Agriculture Research Service, an author of the paper. He called the wide adoption of tomatoes that ripen uniformly “a story of unintended consequences.”

Breeders stumbled upon the variety about 70 years ago and saw commercial potential. Consumers like tomatoes that are red all over, but ripe tomatoes normally had a ring of green, yellow or white at the stem end. Producers of tomatoes used in tomato sauce or ketchup also benefited. Growers harvest this crop all at once, Dr. Giovannoni said, and “with the uniform ripening gene, it is easier to determine when the tomatoes are ripe.”

If you don't know what you're missing, you'll find heirloom tomatoes at Boggy Creek Farm among other local, organic, sustainable farms.

Friday, June 29, 2012

BLT Quinoa Salad

My consulting work is at a lull of at least a week, so I can turn my attention to fresh, organic, local, sustainable food. Today's experiment? BLT Quinoa Salad.

BLT Quinoa Salad

Sometimes you just gotta have a BLT - bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and two slices of great bread.


That said, I eschew bacon that comes from factory-farmed animals and is filled with additives. Also, I feel better when I limit wheat in my diet. So to satisfy my appetite while guarding my health, I went for the best quality and freshest ingredients from local, sustainable farms mixed with that great, ancient grain - quinoa.


4 ounces Pederson's cherry-smoked uncured bacon
1 cup quinoa, any color
Juice of one lemon or lime
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/4-cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
1 bunch of green onions, finely dice white part only
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, diced and tossed in lemon juice
Hand full of minced cilantro or parsley
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
A chiffonade of romaine lettuce or your choice of salad greens
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare quinoa according to directions - 2 parts water to 1 part grain. When all the water is absorbed, set it aside to cool.

2. Whisk together citrus juice, vinegar and oil - 1:1 acid to oil. Combine with minced garlic, green onion, cilantro and quinoa. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour to let flavors meld.

3. Fry bacon until crisp. Drain. Dice.

4. Mix bacon, tomatoes with quinoa. Then gently fold in the avocado.

5. Season to taste.

To serve, layer a couple of spoons full of salad over a chiffonade of greens. Garnish with extra cilantro and feta.

How well does quinoa substitute for bread?


But it's a lovely salad.

B-L-T Quinoa Salad

Try it for yourself.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Photo courtesy of NY Times

I was without air conditioning all day yesterday and I can't stop whining.

How hot was it?

With the outside temperature hitting 106 degrees, my home grew so hot that my coconut oil liquified. All the better to cook with tonight.

Truth told, I've gone a bit coo-coo for coconut oil. It promises enormous health benefits.  Most of all, everything I cook with it tastes scrumptious!


2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over medium heat. Toss potatoes with oil, salt and pepper together in a large bowl until evenly coated. Spread potatoes in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and toss with lime zest.

~Recipe from Whole Foods

Monday, June 18, 2012

Salade Nicoise Redux

Salade Nicoise is one of the many pleasures of summer, a healthy, easy composed salad of warm-weather veggies.  

Salade Nicoise

And yes, I deliberately undercooked the eggs. We call them oeufs mollets in French. We lived.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Peach Crisp

Quick, easy, delicious, what more can you ask of a summery dessert? Peaches fresh from a local orchard, of course. 



For the Topping

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons water
1/3 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans

For the Filling

3-1/2 pounds ripe peaches
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar


1. Topping: Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in the middle position. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar cinnamon and salt. Stir in oil and water until blended. Topping will look clumpy - like wet sand. Stir in nuts and set aside.

2. For the filling: In a large saucepan of boiling water, working in batches, blanch peaches for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of cold water. When cool enough to handle, peel off skin. Halve, pit and slice into 1/2-inch wedges.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together peaches, lemon juice flour and sugar. Place filling in an 8 inch square baking pan. Sprinkle topping evenly over the top. Bake until the topping turns a deep, golden brown and the filling is bubbling around the edges - 30 to 35 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you wish.

Chef's note: Any stone fruit will work equally well. Also to keep your oven clean, you may want to sit the pan on a cookie sheet to avoid sticky drips.

~Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Peach Crisp.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cabbage Slaw Creamy Yogurt-Lime Dressing

Here's a great side dish for summer barbecues and a wonderful topping for fish tacos.


1/2 head of purple or napa cabbage, about 4 cups
1/4 red onion, minced
1 palm full of chopped cilantro
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Shred cabbage and toss in a large bowl with a hand full of minced cilantro and finely chopped onion

2. Mix lime juice and yogurt to creamy consistency.

3. Combine creamy dressing and shredded cabbage. Season to taste.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hill Country Galleria Celebrates Independence Day

There will be a hot time in the new town on Saturday, July 30 as Hill Country Galleria fills its friendly-village atmosphere with art, performing arts and fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.

More info here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Natural Epicurean Hosts Free Monthly Vegan Pot Luck

Here's a great way to get social, get healthy, have fun, share food and save the planet too!
The Natural Epicurean is hosting a community vegan potluck on June 15th, from 6-8pm!

Cook up your favorite vegan dish and grab some friends-- the potluck is totally open to the public and we have room for about 75 people. RSVP so we know how many to expect. We want to have plenty of vegan goodies for everyone!

The Natural Epicurean is devoted to consciously cooking a health-supportive, plant based diet. We embrace a holistic view of health that takes physical, energetic, mental, emotional, societal and environmental influences into consideration, and believe diet can bolster health on all these levels.

Update: Texas Cottage Foods Fight Restrictions

Austin Statesman staff writer, Esther Robards-Forbes, bakes up a comprehensive report on the ongoing battle between local bakers and state and county governing bodies. Two steps forward, one back.
"After I thought it was all over, that we had won, we had to mobilize again," said Masters, who runs Home Sweet Home Bakery out of her home.

Letters were written, petitions were circulated and a social media campaign was launched.

Just a few weeks ago, the state health services department backed off the proposed labeling plan. Cottage food operators will have to list the name of their business, address, any allergens like milk or nuts, and a statement that the product was made in a kitchen that was not inspected by the health department.

Home bakers are breathing a sigh of relief.

"The way the labeling laws turned out, they've been able to deal with concerns about people's allergies," said Amy Padilla, owner of Bellissimo Bakery, which started in 2009 operating out of a commercial kitchen and became a cottage food producer last year. "I'm very pleased with the way the labeling requirements have come out now."

Now, cottage bakers and food producers are hitting their stride, feeding a demand for locally produced foods and niche products, such as gluten-free pie and vegan cakes. Customers have been enthusiastic, home bakers said, eager to get to know their local food producers and support local businesses.


It just frosts my butt when a state that talks such a big game about "boot straps" and self sufficiency does everything in its power to prevent people from pulling themselves up by their boot straps and making a little money on the side from baking cookies and making jams

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fish Tacos with Creamy Lime Guacamole & Cabbage Slaw

I've been really busy lately so not much cooking on the stove. Tonight, I needed a fer-real meal. Yummy.


1 pound any white fish - tilapia, flounder, petrale sole
2 ripe Hass avocados - halved, pitted, peeled
1 large jalapeno
1/4 red onion, minced
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
5 tablespoons lime juice
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 cups shredded cabbage - napa or red
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
3-4 cloves minced garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons rosemary-infused olive oil
6 soft tortillas
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
Creole Seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Salsa verde


1. In a medium bowl, mash the avocados, yogurt, 1/2 finely minced jalapeño, finely minced red onion, half the cilantro and 3 tablespoons of the lime juice. Season the guacamole with to taste and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface until time to serve.

2. Shred cabbage and toss in a large bowl with a hand full of minced cilantro, finely chopped scallions, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the remaining 2 tablespoons of lime juice. Season with Creole Seasoning.

3. Season the fish on both sides. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat rosemary oil, remaining jalapeno and minced garlic; swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Lightly pan-fry fish in two batches, starting with the largest pieces until done, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer fish to a platter. Discard garlic and jalapeno.

4. Meanwhile, warm tortillas according to package directions.

5. To assemble each taco, spread a dollop of guacamole on a tortilla. Top with a piece of fish, a garnish of tomatoes and a large spoonful of the cabbage slaw. Serve with the hot sauce and lime wedges.

And pass me a cold beer!

~Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart and Food & Wine

Saturday, May 26, 2012

And So It Begins - Tomato Season

Just as tomatoes are showing up at farm stand tables in Central Texas, I used the last of tomatoes from this past summer. We ate them in tomato hummus and pasta sauces all year. Yum.

So oven roasting is the way to go if you want to preserve summer's bounty well beyond the season.

Tomato season is also beginning in Paris.

Sweet chef and blogger from Paris, David Liebovitz offer his take on oven-roasted tomatoes to get you started.

I've been busy with other project so posting to Austin Fresh is sporadic. I'm still eating well of course.

Bon appetit!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Salt Cures Zombies and Other Cultural Imports

As regular readers know, I'm a big fan of using sea salt from a variety of regions in cooking, if for no other reason than the fine distinction it makes in meat rubs and finishing vegetables. Salt turns me on. So I'm tickled by this interview with author, Mark Kurlansky, who has written a book on the cultural and political importance of pork. Who knew it could cure zombies?

H/T: Food and Think, Smithsonian

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nature Packs a Punch

Just in case you doubt the nutritional wallop of organic foods, here's an analysis of mineral values that compares organic-grown food with conventional methods. It was compiled by Firman Bear at Rutgers University for Natural Gardener's Catalog in 1995.  Yes indeedy, fresh, natural, organic packs a punch.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nature Shows Monsanto Who's Boss

Will we never learn?

Marion Nestle, Food Politics reports that GM crops zapped with RoundUp are now plagued with a mutated weed that resists it. Super weeds.


Mother Nature is not an inanimate object to be acted upon. It isn't even a subject for debate. Nature. Field. Food. Energy. Active. Reactive. Interactive. ALIVE.  At its most basic, elemental level, always combining and recombining with one purpose - WHOLENESS.

Any tinkering on our part just mucks things up.

The sooner we get with it, the healthier nature, field, food, WE - all will be.

Like she said: organic, anyone?


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

American Food Writer in Paris

Oh to be a food writer in Paris.

Sweet chef and author, David Liebovitz, takes us along for dinner at Restaurant Alain Ducasse, a 3-star star experience of gastronomical splendor. Please don't eat the pictures.

Maybe it's the bread that arrives in a starched napkin along with a selection of butters. Maybe it's les grenouilles - frog legs accompanied by sorrel sauce. Or the stunning amuse bouches of lobster and caviar. The main plate. The palate cleansing salad. The assorted cheese. And the astonishing array of desserts that top off the meal. Whatever. In my ideal, this is dining in its finest hour.

Compliments of the chef!



Thursday, May 10, 2012

American Hipster @ Thunder Heart Bison Ranch & Trailer

Hip vegan video producers (there's a joke in here somewhere) take a look at locally-ranched bison that make it all the way to Austin farmer's markets and a bad-ass food trailer.

H/T: Addie Broyles, Relish Austin

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pecan Street Festival, Cinco de Mayo: All it needs is you!

What do Cinco de Mayo and Pecan Street Festival have in common this year? A weekend of festivities - art, music, food, fun - on 24 blocks of Sixth Street in Austin on May 5 and 6.
Over 600 artisans and performing artists are tuned up to celebrate the joy of making art, food and music. Among these:

Headlining music acts add the heat to the salsa:

More Kid’s Activities including:

  • Carnival Rides

  • Face Painting

  • A Petting Zoo!

It all happens with you, baby! Admission is free. Check it out.


Monday, April 30, 2012

Peach Flaugnarde

The aroma of fresh peaches called forth a culinary experiment that turned out all right. More than all right. Divine! Serves 6.

Peach Flaugnard


3 cups sliced peaches
Juice of 2 lemons
3 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coconut oil
Sugar for dusting the plate


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees to compensate for the honey which tends to burn at higher temperatures. Heat to 350 degrees if using sugar.

2. Peel and slice peaches; soak in lemon juice to prevent flesh from turning brown.

3. Melt coconut oil in a 9-inch pie pan in the oven. When liquid, remove and dust with sugar to coat the bottom and sides of the pan.

4. Blend eggs, sour cream, cream, vanilla extract and salt until frothy. Quickly stir into flour, careful not to over-work the batter.

5. Pour half the batter in the bottom of the pie pan. Arrange peach slices over this. Pour remaining batter on top. Bake 45 - 60 minutes until the top puffs and turns golden brown.

Dust lightly with powdered sugar or, if too much is never enough, top with whipped cream.  PS It's pronounced flow-nyard.

Andrew Zimmern Addresses The Elephant in the Room

While a privileged few enjoy plenty, Chef Andrew Zimmern, a James Beard award winner and host of "Bizarre Foods," addresses the elephant in the room - food insecurity for too many.

I purposely omitted any advance mention of the Austin Food & Wine Festival. The $250 price tag per person ($500 for a couple) struck me as outrageous. That's a month's worth of groceries! And $850 for a VIP pass? Please. That's a month's wages for the working poor.

Over 3000 people disagreed with me. More power to them.

But I am gratified that one chef also noted the disparity between attendees and reality for a vast majority of our country and the world.
We live in the single greatest country in the history of civilization. Thirty percent of our kids are obese, and 1 in every 6 people in our country is food insecure. Our food system in America has never ever been so good for so few and so bad for so many. There is something very privileged, something very ironic and something almost criminal in a weird kind of way for us all to be talking at an event like this about the type of food that we are talking about without acknowledging all the people in the world, especially in our country, who cannot access good healthy food, who are too time poor to prepare it, and the cost and the lifestyle associated with eating well and healthfully is beyond them.

Thank you, Chef.

Perhaps next year, organizers will consider a "give back," donating a percentage of proceeds to the Austin Food Bank. This would not motivate me to spend $500 for a weekend of drinking and dining with celebrity chefs; it would help me feel more kindly toward the event.

H/T: Addie Broyles, Austin 360

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spinach Avocado Salad - Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette

Having no lime on hand and necessity being the Mother of Invention, lemon cilantro vinaigrette brightens this pretty (and healthy) spring salad of spinach, avocado and black beans.

Spinach-Avocado Salad with Lemon Cilantro Vinaigrette


Juice of 1 lemon
1 ripe avocado, diced
2 cups spinach, washed, drained and sliced into ribbons
1 cucumber, diced
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 can (14.5 ounces) black beans

1. Peel, dice avocado and dress in the juice of one lemon.

2. Rinse and drain a can of black beans

3. Prepare all other vegetables and toss together with dressing.


1 small shallot
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
4 tablespoons lemon juice (2 small lemons)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne


Chop shallot and cilantro and combine with lemon juice in mini-food processor. Add seasonings and process until shallot and cilantro are well mixed. Add olive oil. Blend more. Adjust seasonings to taste and dress salad.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring Clearance on Wine - Austin Wine Merchant

¡ Spring Cleaning Clearance Sale !

Austin Wine Merchant Spring Cleaning Clearance Sale is now in progress. You'll find discounts of 25% and more off the regular per bottle price of selected Champagne and sparkling wines, 25% and more off selected wines throughout the store. Give us a little click here to see what's what.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Shrimp Provencale

Aromatic flavors of Provence meet the first home-grown tomatoes of the warm weather growing season in this scrumptious dish. 

Shrimp Provencale


3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups red pepper, diced
1 large onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoon fennel seed
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine (more if needed)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups stewed tomatoes (14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or dutch oven. Lightly saute' shrimp with a little garlic until they turn pink, but are not cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Add onion, garlic; saute' until it begins to turn tan (caramelize.)

3. While onion and garlic is frying, crush garlic, fennel and thyme in a mortar and pestle; stir it into onion and garlic mixture.

4. When aromatics are lightly tan, stir in white wine and continue cooking until the pan is almost dry. Add tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring until well mixed. Cook on low for about 10 minutes, letting the flavors meld.

5. Add shrimp, stir in and simmer until they are opaque. When the shrimp is done, stir in basil. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over rice. Makes 6 servings.

Chef's note: Smashing the garlic, fennel seeds and thyme with a mortar and pestle makes this a very aromatic concoction before adding it to the pot.

If you're using fresh tomatoes, you may want to add a bit of broth or more wine and simmer a bit longer to ensure that the ingredients are well blended with the aromatics.

This lacks the complexity of shrimp Creole because it uses no roux; however, it makes up for this with lots of aromatic herbs and spices.

~Adapted from Shrimp Provencal in

Oatmeal Pancakes

 Oatmeal pancakes are a healthy go-to breakfast on lazy weekend mornings. 


1-1/3 cups rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
Butter for frying


1. In a blender, grind the rolled oats into a fine powder. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

2. In a medium bowl, whip together eggs and buttermilk.

3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a few, quick strokes. Better to leave some lumps than to overwork the batter. This makes pancakes tough.

4. Heat a griddle over medium heat until a drop of water skitters across the surface. Brush lightly with butter, then ladle pancake batter onto the griddle in roughly 1/4 cup portions. Cook until the bubbles stop rising from the bottom and the top surface looks slightly dried out - 3 to 4 minutes.

5. Flip the pancakes and cook the opposite side until the center feels lightly set when you press on it - about 2 minutes more. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until all are cooked.

Makes about 16 pancakes. Serve with melted butter and Maple syrup.

Optional: Add fresh blueberries individually when the batter first hits the griddle. Or mix in one cup of well drained, dried fruit after it has softened in orange juice for about 20 minutes to the batter before cooking.

~Recipe adapted from LA Times Food.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Want Some Wine With That?

The Austin Wine Merchant is hosting a wine tasting Saturday, April 14, from noon to 3pm at their Sixth Street store. It's followed next week by equally enticing events including dinner at Fonda San Miguel.

Please join us Saturday afternoon the 14th of April, 2012 from 12:00 NOON until 3:00 PM here at the shop when together with our pal Jeremy Parzen and winemaker Dave Reilly we will offer a taste of Duchman Family Winery Texas wines produced at their superb facility in beautiful Driftwood, Texas.

On the following Saturday afternoon the 14th of April, 2012 from 12:00 NOON until 3:00 PM here at the shop we'll offer a taste of the ebullient and delicious Cru Beaujolais wines of Georges Dubœuf.

Then, come Wednesday evening the 25th of April, 2012 beginning at 6:30 PM at Fonda San Miguel along with André Shearer, Founder and CEO of the eminent importer Cape Classics, Tom Gilliland and crew will host a dinner featuring their fine interior Mexican cuisine brilliantly accompanied by a selection from among the finest of South African wines.

One of their new arrivals - Domaine de Fontsainte Rose' - is the perfect accompaniment to crisp summer salads, cold soups, grilled meats or just because.

Friday, April 13, 2012

TEDTalks on Netflix: Chew on This!

Get food savvy on Netflix when you run out of Frazier reruns!

Now streaming on Netflix, a collection of TED talks gathered under the title “Chew on This.” They’ve put together 14 episodes, one as short as four minutes, most 15 minutes or so. Think of them as food shorts.

Talks include Dan Barber's (Blue Hill, NYC, and Blue Hill at Stone Barn) “How I Fell in Love With a Fish.” Mark Bittman lectures on “What’s Wrong With What We Eat,” while Ann Cooper, the "renegade lunch lady"  talks school lunches.

And for sheer entertainment, don't miss pizza-obsessed author Peter Reinhart on “Bread,” and maybe Dan Barber’s “Foie Gras Parable.”

H/T: Daily Dish, LATimes

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Michael Pollan: Real Reason for Food Crisis

This film is the winning entry in the RSA / Nominet Trust Film Competition Award. This entry is by Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle and uses an excerpt from a speech given by Michael Pollan at the RSA in 2010 -- Food Rules: