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:

Inspect 175 Chickens in 1 Minute?! ROTF Wait. It's Real.

I wrote about the cut-backs at USDA that are pushing food inspections onto the producers. What a swell idea that is! Not.

It gets worse. Hand-picked Nation explains.
Right now, the USDA inspectors (who are independent, don’t work for the chicken companies, and aren’t driven by chicken company profits for holiday bonuses) inspect 35 chickens a minute for lovely things like bile, feces and random spare parts that got through processing.

That’s a chicken every two seconds.

Should you so desire, take two seconds to inspect the next chicken you see at the store. It’s really not a lot of time, but with some practice you could get pretty good at it – which is a nice thought because you are essentially performing the task that stands between me eating a relatively clean chicken or a feces- and bile-covered chicken. (There is a difference Mr. USDA, trust me on this one.)

Well, under this new program, the chicken companies will rubber stamp, I mean inspect, 175 chickens a minute. 175! That’s just under three chickens a second.

Are you thinking, “Wait a minute, 175 chickens a minute, that’s IMPOSSIBLE!” Well, congratulations, you are now ahead of 100,000 USDA employees in the class on food safety.

I have a little test for you and the USDA: if you can even count to 175 in sixty seconds, I might reconsider my opposition.

If you can’t, you need to sign this petition, share it with the world, put it up on Facebook.

Even better, if you know anyone at the USDA, send it to them and ask them to see what they can do for you, for me, and for everyone who prefers their chickens to be properly inspected, let alone inspected at all.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Local Businesses Give 5% to Mother Earth

Whole Foods leads over 100 local companies who have pledged to donate 5 percent of gross sales to nature conservation on Earth Day, April 21.

Take your business to these businesses on Earth Day to help. Locate participating businesses by clicking here.

Donations benefit the Hill Country Conservancy, Texas Land Conservancy, Sierra Club, Tree Folks, Friends of Barton Springs Pool, and Clean Water Fund.


Pink Slime Haters Hit a Nerve

The idea that consumers should know what's in our food has struck a nerve among political puppets ... er ... proponents of "pink slime."

Marion Nestle, Food Politics, spotlights some of the more unsavory aspects of their reaction to calls for honest labeling. Here's a taste:

According to the Sioux City Journal:
Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday called for a congressional investigation into the source of what he called a “smear campaign” meant to discredit the Lean, Finely Textured Beef made by a Siouxland company.

“Clearly, this is a safe product, it is a lean product, it helps reduce obesity, and there is a spurious attack being levied against it by some groups who are against it…And you can suspect who they might be — people who don’t like meat.”

Helena Bottemiller of Food Safety News reports that Branstad’s colleague, Steve King (Rep-Iowa) explains how the hearings will work:
Witnesses would be under oath and they’re of course obligated by law to tell the truth, those who have been the ones who have perpetrated this smear campaign against one of the stellar companies in the country…I think they’ll have an obligation then to explain themselves why they could not base their allegations on facts and what they’ve done to damage an industry.

Perhaps King will call on Representative Chellie Pingree (Dem-Maine) who has submitted a bill calling for labeling of LFTB. The the Sioux City Journal quotes Branstad’s comments about her:
Pingree is guilty of spreading “bogus misinformation” about lean, finely textured beef along with celebrity chefs and “media elites.”

Pingree should have no trouble explaining why she wrote the bill:
Consumers have made it pretty clear they don’t want this stuff in their food…If a product contains connective tissue and beef scraps and has been treated with ammonia, you ought to be able to know that when you pick it up in the grocery store.

Soylent Green, anyone?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Yeah, Sure Poultry Producers Will Self Regulate

...and if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

After tough negotiations between the Obama Administration and a mean-spirited and stingy Congress that cut USDA budgets to unprecedented lows, the agency is handing oversight of poultry to the producers in order to live within its anorexic means.

As Dana Milbank of the Washington Post puts it, this is
a proposal to allow chicken slaughterhouses to inspect themselves — eliminating those pesky federal monitors who have the annoying habit of taking diseased birds out of the food supply.

Even if the Obama administration were inclined to bring down capitalism with an orgy of overregulation, there isn’t enough money in the budget to enforce the rules on the books.  That’s what the chicken fight is about: Spending cuts…are a form of de facto deregulation (my emphasis).

But that's not a half of it.

The New York Times account of this policy change notes that inspectors:
had observed numerous instances of poultry plant employees allowing birds contaminated with fecal matter or other substances to pass. And even when the employees try to remove diseased birds, they face reprimands….

The Agriculture Department proposal allows poultry plants to speed up their assembly lines to about 200 birds per minute from 140, hampering any effort to examine birds for defects.

Marion Nestle, Food Politics reports:

The U.S. poultry industry raises about 9 billion chickens and 80 million turkeys for human consumption each year.  Meal made from their feathers is commonly added to feed for chickens, pigs, cattle, and fish.  This could be a reentry route into the human food supply for such drugs.

Nicholas Kristof explains in the New York Times that these studies also found feather meal to contain
an antihistamine that is the active ingredient of Benadryl…[and] acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.  And feather-meal samples from China contained an antidepressant that is the active ingredient in Prozac.

Poultry-growing literature has recommended Benadryl to reduce anxiety among chickens, apparently because stressed chickens have tougher meat and grow more slowly. Tylenol and Prozac presumably serve the same purpose.

No ethical physician would prescribe a drug for prophylactic use in humans. Yet these drugs and others are routinely fed to food animals in order to reduce the cost of growing them and increase profits.

I have to agree with Marion:
I don’t know what the best system for inspection might be, but I’m quite sure that leaving food safety oversight to the discretion of the packers is not a good idea.  Neither is speeding up the line.  And neither is feeding chickens drugs that can affect human health.




Quick Takes Before Easter Sunday

Stop by Edis Chocolates today for hand-crafted Easter chocolates and the to-die-for chocolate truffles so beloved by her fans. Grab freshly baked croissants or a French baguette while you're there. If you miss her at the shop, you'll find Edis at Barton Creek Farmer's Market on Saturday.

Antonelli's Cheese Shop "just got a big fresh batch of local cheesemaker CKC Farms Jalapeno & Artichoke Chevre Spread in, and it's rocking."

The Austin Wine Merchant just received a new shipment of Domaine de Fontsainte Rose', a "stunningly balanced, extremely appetent wine! Ideal as an aperitif with toast and crushed olives, or with wok-fried vegetables and garlic mayonnaise, grilled fish, lamb tajine, finely roasted guinea-fowl with rosemary."

If you're cooking for a crowd, pick up a magnum of La Vielle Ferme Recolte 2010, AOC Ventoux, Luberon.

Super cheap price but great balance with a beginning, middle and end worthy of much higher priced wines. It's great when you're throwing a party or just want a glass of wine.

Happy Easter!

Paul Qui - Nice Guys Finish First

The City of Austin fetes Paul Qui today as Mayor Lefingwell and the City Council convene "Paul Qui Day" in honor of his exciting Top Chef win earlier this year. Tomorrow, Qui goes to the White House to help the Easter-Bunny-in-Chief pull off the annual Easter Egg Roll.

The report by Addie Broyles here.

Who sez nice guys finish last?


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Remembering Winter 2011 at Boggy Creek Farm

From Dirt to Dinner from Paul Sokal on Vimeo.

What a difference a year makes. Just a few weeks ago, before the end of February, Austinites were already wearing shorts and flip-flops. This was in sharp contrast to last year.

In February 2011, an Arctic blast roared through Central Texas, threatening the crops at Boggy Creek Farm and other organic farms in the area with below-freezing temperatures and high winds.

As temperatures dive-bombed to a frigid 18 degrees and the wind roared into Central Texas at 50 MPH, Carol Ann, Larry and all farm hands struggled to respond. They harvested whatever in-season vegetables were ready - cauliflower, fennel and greens. Then they fought gusty winds with numb fingers to cover starts still in the ground.

Arriving before 9AM, shoppers, dressed atypically for Austin, in down-filled jackets and woolen hats, shopped the freshly picked produce inside the salad shed. It was too cold to display the produce outside. Before noon, the hastily harvested vegetables made their way to Wink, a popular restaurant known for using fresh, local, organic, natural ingredients. Within 12 hours of leaving the frozen soil (and farmers,) the produce was cleaned, prepped, roasted and portioned onto the plates of diners unaware of the dramatic effort that had produced it.

Thanks to photographer Paul Sokal and our friends at Boggy Creek Farm for beautifully-crafted photo journal of this extreme weather event in February 2011.

Thanks for the memories. Now where are my flip-flops?

Curried Deviled Easter Eggs

Curried Deviled Eggs

It's that time of year. If you have children or grand-children, you are about to have more hard-boiled eggs than you know what to do with. Break out of the deviled egg rut with spicy curry paste. 


Hard-boiled Eggs
Curry paste
Dijon mustard


1. Boil and peel eggs.

2. Spit lengthwise, turning the yoke into a separate bowl.

3. Mash yokes with a fork. Add Mayonnaise, curry paste, Dijon in a ratio of 2:1:1. Blend with the yokes. Add more of flavorings to your taste. You want a loose but not runny consistency.

4. Spoon or pipe the mixture into egg-white halves. Sprinkle liberally with paprika.

Garnish with chives, chervil, chutney. Let your imagine run wild! Voila'! All those extra eggs vanish like magic.