Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pastured Turkey vs Factory-Farmed: What's the Difference?

Here's a short primer for friends and family making the switch from store-bought, i.e. factory-farmed Thanksgiving turkey to pastured birds.

Your locally raised, pastured turkey will be leaner, have less breast meat and cost more. If you've been eating factory-farmed turkey for 30 or 40 years, you may be even be disappointed.

Here's why:

1.  Pastured birds generally eat a diet rich in protein but supplemented with grain (usually corn.) Since flavor comes from the bird's diet, this will impart a different flavor to your Thanksgiving turkey.

Conventionally-grown turkeys eat nothing but corn-based feed and could not live long at all in typical factory conditions without massive doses of antibiotics to keep them alive. The antibiotics then become part of your feast.

2. Pastured turkeys often range freely - even flying to roost in trees as wild turkeys do; the exercise makes the texture of the meat firmer.

Turkey farm birds never go outdoors, never see the sun, have no pasture in which to roam. Instead, they are packed in cages body to body and cannot move, even to escape their own waste. To prevent injury to other birds in such cramped space, factory turkeys not only have their toe nails cut off but part of their toes as well. Their beaks are also clipped and often their wings.

3. Pastured birds have less white meat.

Factory-farmed turkey is engineered to produce huge white-meat breasts. These disproportions prevent it from walking. It cannot fly. It could not reproduce at all except through artificial insemination. Furthermore, its musculature is so weak, a few days outdoors would probably kill it.

4. Pastured turkeys are older than factory-farmed birds; it takes longer to raise a bird of comparable size. Age too will change the texture and flavor of the meat.

Because time is money, growth hormones are administered so they will grow fast and grow fat to be slaughtered while still adolescents, typically in 42 days. Compare that to 28 months at a heritage pasture operation.

5. Pastured birds won't come with a pop-up button to signal when it's done.  Pastured turkey? Two words: meat thermometer.

Some people don't care where the food animals came from and care even less whether they were happy before they were slaughtered. And some people on the opposite end of the spectrum won't eat animal meat at all no matter how it is ethically husbanded and humanely killed.

Chacun a son gout. Each to his own taste.

At my Thanksgiving table, ethical tastes better no matter how different it is from my family traditions.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Poulet en Cocotte de Bonne Femme

An old favorite of roast chicken and fresh, organic root vegetables results in "comfort food" that's a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite. Golden-brown and moist chicken accompanied by colorful, flavorful vegetables that almost melt in your mouth. It's the perfect supper for a February evening that promises snow.


3-4 pound pastured chicken
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, cut in eighths
3 carrots, cut in 1/4-inch julienne strips
1 cup celery, cut in 1/4-inch julienne strips
2 cups new potatoes, cut in eights
4 slices bacon
4 tablespoons butter
Bouquet garni made of parsley and a bay leaf
Salt & pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash the chicken quickly under cold running water and dry it thoroughly inside and out with paper towels.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven. Dice the bacon into 1 inch pieces and fry it in the butter. When crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

3. Brown the chicken in the butter and bacon drippings, breast first, then both sides and back. When the chicken is nicely browned, remove it from the pan and discard the fat.

4. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in the pan. To prepare for roasting, saute' the vegetables in butter for a few minutes, stirring often to ensure they are well glazed, i.e., coated with fat.

5. Remove the vegetables. Return the chicken to the pan, breast side up. Arrange the vegetables around it.  Scatter the crispy bacon over the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, add the bouquet garni and cover the pan. If the cover isn't snug, drape a piece of foil over the chicken before putting on the pan lid.

6. Cook on the middle shelf of the oven, basting occasionally. Start testing for done-ness after 1-1/4 hours. The chicken is done when the juices run clear from the breast when it is pierced with a fork and the drumsticks easily pull away. (This is over 165 degrees with a meat thermometer.)

7. To serve, transfer the chicken to a warm platter, arranging the vegetables attractively around it. You can reduce the juices in the pan a bit and serve on the side if you wish. The chicken can be carved at table.

Chef's note: when the chicken is almost gone, the carcass makes a lovely soup stock.

~Recipe adapted from Cooking of Provincial France. Time-Life Foods-of-the-World

Friday, May 17, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Gratin with Herbs and Cream

Thanks to Farmhouse Table for this delightful recipe and reference to its author, Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of a former slave. According to her 2006 obituary in the New York Times, Edna's cookbooks "revived the near-forgotten genre of refined Southern cooking." harrumph These simple, flavorful, comforting dishes may have gone out of favor in New York and other far-flung places. To those of us who were born to this place and time, they are the essence of home and unforgettable.

Eggplant Gratin with Herbs and Creme Fraiche


2 medium to large eggplant, sliced 1/2″ thick
Salt & pepper
Olive oil
1 quart simple tomato sauce
3 tablespoons minced chives
3 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons thyme leaves
12 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 375.  Season eggplant slices with salt and pepper.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  Roast until starting to tan lightly. Turn and roast a few minutes more until both sides are golden.

2. While eggplant is roasting, prepare the cream sauce. Pour cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Reduce volume to about 1 cup, then stir in half of the grated parmesan and all of the chopped herbs. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

3. Oil a 9″ casserole or gratin pan and place eggplant inside in a single layer.  Cover with a thin layer of simple tomato sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Make two more layers of eggplant and sauce, covering the top with tomato sauce.  Ladle over the reduced cream and sprinkle on a final layer of parmesan cheese.

4. Bake uncovered until browned and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.  Let rest briefly before serving. Also delicious at room temperature.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Is it tomato season yet? When plum tomatoes are not yet available or gone for the season at the farmers' market, this easy, delicious basic sauce (sugo di pomodoro semplice) fills the bill. Use superior-quality canned tomatoes and good olive oil for best results.


2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
Two 28-oounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
Kosher or fine sea salt
5 large fresh basil leaves, shredded or torn


1. Warm the garlic in the olive oil in a large saucepan placed over medium heat. Use a wooden spoon to press down on the garlic to release its flavor and then swirl the pan to infuse the oil.

2. When the garlic gets fragrant and begins to "speak," i.e., sizzle, but before it starts to brown, carefully pour in the tomatoes to avoid oil spatter and stir to coat with the oil.

3. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the tomatoes to a simmer. When the juices start bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let the tomatoes simmer uncovered, stirring from time to time, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the oil has separated from the tomatoes.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.

This chunky tomato sauce may be stored in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Excerpted from The Glorious Pasta of Italy by Domenica Marchetti

Local Farm Bills Need Your Support

Time is running VERY short for these bills! They MUST be voted on by the Senate by Wednesday, May 22...or they die.

ACTION #1: Call your State Senator to vote “YES” on HB 970, 1382, and 1392. Find your Senator: 512-463-4630 or

ACTION #2: Call Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst 512-463-0001 & urge him to bring these bills to a vote ASAP.

More info on the bills & *sample message* you can use when you contact your Senator and the Lieutenant Governor:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

OT: Update on West, Texas Recovery

This is off topic but since many Fresh fans contributed to Austin Bakes for West, Texas, I thought you'd be interested in this report from WTAW News Talk radio in the Brazos Valley.

In a May 5 Town Hall, survivors of the West explosion were told that 100 tons of debris was taken away last weekend by 600 volunteers putting in a combined 4,000 hours.

Mayor Tommy Muska added the city council has approved the use of trailers as temporary housing for one year, until May 2014. Muska says West “is not turning into a trailer park.”

Muska was among many people who stressed that residents take all assistance available from FEMA. “Don’t be shy and don’t let pride get in the way here. If I can sign up with them you can too. Promise me that because this is not the time to be proud.”

Survivors also heard from those still involved in recovery efforts from wildfires in Bastrop County nearly two years ago.
Bastrop resident, Paige Webb, gave advice intended to help West residents clear hurdles learned the hard way in Bastrop. Among them, keep receipts for everything, “including Taco Bell”. She said her Bastrop neighborhood qualified for a HUD grant to build 121 houses. But only 17 would be built because of a lack of receipts and mortgages that were paid off instead of using settlement checks to rebuild.

Muska says the city council is working with the Waco Foundation and Catholic charities to develop a formula to best distribute money coming from private and individual donations.
Stay strong, West. Keep on keeping on. It gets better. 

Austin Bakes for West Fundraising Soars Past $18,000

Image courtesy of Melissa Skorpil of Skorpil Photography

Austin Bakes for West, Texas cooked up donations of over $18,000 and counting from the sale of cookies, pastries and other goodies on Saturday, May 4 at various locations around town.

Thanks to the organizers, bakers, candy-makers, volunteers, sponsors, host sites and everyone else who helped to make this a sweet surprise for residents affected by the explosion of a fertilizer plant, the town's largest employer.

Funds are being distributed through AmeriCares, a top-rated non-profit that supports diverse agencies working on the ground in West. If you missed the sale in person and you would still like to contribute, you may do so securely online.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be There: Love Beer Benefits Tree Folks, Meals on Wheels and Others

Mark your calendar now to attend the Love Beer Fundraiser, an intimate event happening on Saturday, June 15 from 4:00P to 9:00P at the historic Browning Hangar at Mueller in Austin. Suds will be provided by Texas small-batch breweries. Live music by various Austin artists including Monte Warden of the Wagoneers and Lazy J and the Dirty Shuffle will add to the fun. Proceeds from Love Beer go to Tree Folks, Meals on Wheels and More and HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.

Guests will get a souvenir tasting glass to sample the delicious local brews and chatting about hops, fermentation times and all the intricacies that make artisan-crafted beers the superior choice of discerning beer lovers.

You know who you are.

Among the Love Beer brewers you'll meet are Adelbert's Brewery, The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., Austin Beerworks, Black Star Co-op, Circle Brewing Co., Live Oak Brewing Co., Hops & Grain, The Infamous Brewing Co., Jester King, Pedernales Brewing Co., Real Ale Brewing Co., Saint Arnold, South Austin Brewing Co., Thirsty Planet and others. 
The donation for admission is $55 for one or $100 for two. Space is limited, so make plans now. Sponsorships are also available. To purchase tickets or more information about the Love Beer fundraiser, visit

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ag-Gag Laws Rolling Across United States

Here a factory-farm worker stands on a piglet for fun. The pig doesn't seem to be enjoying it. Is it any wonder that Big Ag wants to suppress this kind of exposure? Wouldn't it be better if they STOPPED THIS INHUMANE CRUELTY!?

Gagging on ag-gag laws is an enlightening post from my buddy, Jim Hightower, on the push across factory-farm country to prevent consumers from seeing the conditions in which meat animals are raised. 
This is Jim Hightower saying... The only thing that will gag you worse than viewing the gross animal abuse taking place in these factories is to look at the grossly-repressive and aptly-named "ag-gag" bills moving through the legislative sausage mills of various states. The bills are ridiculous – but so are some legislatures, where corporate money trumps both common sense and the Constitution. Six states have passed ag-gag laws, and six more are moving toward passage. To see what's happening in your state, go to
Learn more:

"Silencing Witnesses to Animal Abuse,", April 15, 2013.

"Eating With Our Eyes Closed,", April 10, 2013.

"Gag the Whistleblower: 6 States That Might Criminalize Taping Animal Cruelty,", April 8, 2013.

"Five More States Consider 'Ag Gag' Laws Making It Illegal to Report Factory Farm Abuses,", February 27, 2013.

"Outlawing exposes of factory farm horrors,", February 7, 2013.

Be There: Austin Bakes for West on May 4

Get ready for some sweet deals on Saturday, May 4, at various locations around Austin as the all-volunteer group, Austin Bakes for West, raises funds for the village of West, Texas with a bake sale.

Here's a preview to whet your appetite!

These bluebonnet cookies by Capital Cake Chick will be available at the South Austin Bakes for West sale site. Capital Cake Chick is one of over 40 business sponsors donating baked goods to Austin Bakes for West.
Bluebonnet cookies by Capital Cake Chick, one of 40 businesses
participating in the one-day bake sale for West, Texas.

Find all eight sweet spots to make your donation on this convenient Google Map. They are:

Bee Cave: Whole Foods Market Bee Cave
12601 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave, TX 78738

Central Austin: Foreign & Domestic
306 E. 53rd Street, 78751

Central Austin: Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
6610 N Lamar Blvd, 78757

Downtown Austin: Whole Foods Market Lamar
525 North Lamar Boulevard, 78703

East Austin: Springdale Farm
755 Springdale Road, 78702

Northwest Austin: Whole Foods Market Gateway
9607 Research Boulevard, #300, 78759

Round Rock: Round Rock Market Days
221 E. Main St., Round Rock, TX 78664

South Austin: Crema Bakery & Cafe
9001 Brodie Lane, Suite B, 78748

All eight bake sale sites will be open from 10 AM – 2 PM. Goods will vary at each location, so if you really want to indulge that sweet tooth as well as help out the tiny Texas town so damaged by a fertilizer factory explosion, go to all of them!

If you can't make the sale but want to contribute, go to Austin Bakes' online giving page.  None of the items at Austin Bakes for West will have price tags. Instead, our cheerful volunteers will take your gift for AmeriCares and encourage you to shop accordingly! Bring cash or a check made out to AmeriCares at the bake sales. If you’d prefer to pay by credit card, please make your gift online and take the receipt to the sale.

What a yummy way to start a Saturday!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chemicals in Poultry Processing Raises Health Concerns

According to this report in the Seattle Times, U.S. Agriculture Department health inspectors say poultry-processing plants are increasingly turning to potentially toxic, bacteria-killing chemicals to remove contaminants that escape notice in faster processing times approved last year by the government agency.

This means that rather than actually inspecting poultry for contaminating material like fecal matter, they are upping the use of chemicals to kill off bacteria. Chlorine and peracetic acid are two of the most common. This is causing respiratory distress - possibly death - for workers in poultry processing factories. And it's going on your dinner plate.

While procedures vary among plants, in a typical scenario, high-powered nozzles first shoot water and chemicals into the interior of a bird and along its surface. Next, the bird moves through one or two spray cabinets, where it is showered with other chemicals. Finally, it is chilled and soaked, usually in chlorine and water.

The USDA does not conduct research into possible health risks that chemical treatments pose for consumers of the poultry products. Instead, it relies on the chemical review and approval process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA also does not research health risk, but relies on data provided by the chemical manufacturers.

Would they obfuscate?
So let's get this straight.

Poultry processing time has increased to as many as 140 birds a minute. Since inspecting them at that speed is impossible for factory workers and USDA inspectors - if they were available, birds are sprayed with an increasingly exotic array of chemicals to remove bacteria. Then they are soaked in chlorine water before packaging in BPA plastic. Finally, no one really knows the short or long-term health effects on consumers.

What could go wrong?

I also write a blog about ways to keep family pets healthy - Aimee's Law. In fact, my attention to my pets' health led me to the benefits of fresh, organic, local, sustainable food.

The conditions that factory-farmed food animals endure before slaughter are bad enough. But giving your Thanksgiving turkey a soak in your swimming pool before cooking is too much. I wouldn't feed factory-farmed poultry to a dog, much less my family.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tell TX Senate to OPPOSE SB 1233

The Animal ID bill, SB 1233, has been scheduled for a vote by the Senate this Thursday.

If passed, the Texas Animal Health Commission would be authorized to adopt federal regulations, including requiring every chicken to have a permanent leg band with a unique identification number when it is sold or moved to a new location. The agency would also be authorized to adopt whatever federal animal ID regulations are created in the future, including new regulations on horses, sheep, goats, cattle, bison, and more.

The passage of this bill would create a substantial time and cost burden for small farmers, ultimately making it more difficult for them to remain viable sources of local food for the community. 

Please call your State Senator to oppose SB 1233! Click on the post for more details.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bakers, Start Your Ovens to Benefit West, Texas

Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens! The same caring Austin crew who baked their hearts out in 2011 to benefit Japan and Bastrop, Texas are organizing once again to bake for West, Texas, the village of 2,000 people that was engulfed in disaster after a factory caught fire and exploded on April 17.  

After raising over $11,000 for Japan tsunami survivors and nearly $13,000 for survivors of Bastrop,
Texas wildfires in 2011, the group will bake up a storm to aid the community of West, Texas, where a fire and explosion has so far claimed the lives at least 14 people and injured more than 200 residents.
Austin Bakes for West is scheduled for Saturday, May 4th. The bake sale is modeled after Austin Bakes for Bastrop and Austin Bakes for Japan. Proceeds from the sale of cakes, pies, cookies, candy and other baked goods will go to AmeriCares‘ relief efforts in West, Texas. Everyone is invited to participate however you are able.
For complete details on the bake sale and to keep up to date on locations and logistics, volunteers and promoters can link to the group's online giving page here, or to You can also find Austin Bakes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at #AustinBakes.

Kathryn Hutchinson, Austin Gastronimist

Austin Bakes is organized by Kathryn Hutchison, a well-known foodie, writer and photographer, with plenty of assistance from other big-hearted Austinites. For more details or to help, email Austin Bakes.

To help West, Texas in advance of the sale, you can make a gift to AmeriCares relief efforts via Austin Bakes secure online giving page. You can also schedule an appointment to give blood at the Blood Center of Central Texas.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Love Me Some Anchovies - LATimes

Okay, so you leave them off the pizza, but can you imagine Caesar salad dressing without them? Me either. So here's how Sang Yoon, chef and owner of Lukshon and Father's Office, creates tantalizing dishes that star anchovies.

My absolute favorite anchovy product is known simply as fish sauce. If you're a fan of southeast Asian cuisine, you know what I'm talking about. Fish sauce is a pretty basic ingredient. Anchovies fermented with salt and water. But the resulting liquid is a clear, amber-hued complex flavor bomb from heaven. Rich with natural glutamates, fish sauce transcends the humble ingredients from which it's made and becomes a versatile and important flavor-building block.

The amazing thing about fish sauce is that it can be incorporated into many recipes without adding a "fishy" flavor. It's that unsung hero role. Think about the flavors of yam neua (Thai beef salad). Tart, spicy, salty. A perfect example of fish sauce bringing intensity and flavor depth without showing its oceanic roots.

Think of an intensely flavored yellow or green Thai curry -- the flavors of coconut, lime and spices all in harmony. Taste any fish? Probably not. But fish sauce is probably in there, and you probably didn't notice it. That's the beauty of fish sauce. You wouldn't know how important it is until it was missing.

But fish sauce can also play the lead. A perfect example is a classic green papaya salad, made with a dressing that is just a careful modulation of fish sauce, sugar, lime and chiles. In a dish like this, the salty anchovy component is simply playing off the unripe fruit but is powerful enough to shine against the tartness of lime and searing heat of bird's eye chiles.

And despite the salt-curing, anchovy is one of those fatty fish such as salmon and tuna that are good sources of EPA and DHA. Heart smart.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Roasted Tomato Hummus

Once you make this recipe your own, you'll make it all the time.


Juice of one lemon
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame oil)
2-3 roasted tomato halves
2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning


Peel, smash and mince garlic. Combine with lemon and garbanzo beans in a food processor. Puree beans, garlic and tahini.. Drizzle in olive oil until smooth. Season to taste. (If it's too thick, loosen it with a tablespoon of water.)

Serve with pita, raw vegetables or rice crackers.

~Recipe adapted from Slow Roasted Tomato Hummus by Andrea Meyers

Friday, March 1, 2013

Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes is one of the sweetest treats of summer, concentrating the flavor, preserving them for later and, oh, the heady aroma when you add garlic to the pan. Pure indulgence!


Roma tomatoes
Rosemary oil
Garlic, smashed and sliced
Thyme, oregano or other herbs

You'll find many recipes for oven-roasting tomatoes. Personally, I like to keep it simple.

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Add oil to the bottom of a non-reactive baking dish along with smashed, sliced garlic and herbs. A couple of turns around the pan is more than sufficient.

2. Halve the tomatoes and place them cut-side down. A little oil over the top if you like. It's not necessary. Roast until done.

 3. Slip off the skins after roasting. You get about two cups from two pounds of Roma tomatoes.


4. When cool enough to handle, transfer individually to a flat plate or pan covered in wax paper or parchment, then stash in the freezer for a few hours.

5. When frozen solid, transfer all halves to a freezer bag. This lets you take out only as many as you need for any one dish. Freezing keeps them at least six months. (I just used my last few tomatoes roasted last summer a couple months ago. Barring freezer burn, they last.)

If you're short of time (or don't want your oven on all day,) roast at a higher temperature - 275 or 300 degrees. Watch the pan. I roasted the first batch at 325 degrees. They were sufficiently reduced in two hours to eat, but to preserve, I wanted to reduce them further. So I reset the oven to a lower temperature, roasting for another hour or so.

I roasted the second batch at 200 degrees for eight hours.

There is a marked difference in the intensity of the flavor. Lower, slower roasting results in a flavor that's so concentrated, it's almost plummy.

It's an art, not a science.

You can also preserve them in oil and store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks.

The biggest challenge? Resisting the temptation to eat them immediately.

Well, of course, who can?


So I slathered fresh-from-the-oven roasted tomatoes on French bread brushed with good olive oil and toasted in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. I topped the crostini with warm tomato, basil, black salt and feta. Divine with a glass of wine.

Next I whipped up a batch of tomato hummus served with black sesame rice crackers and vegetable crudite'.

Obviously, they make an awesome pasta sauce.

Summertime. Tomato time. Sublime.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The secret sauce that makes Americans hungry and fat

NY Times unveils the secret sauce in junk food that keeps Americans hungry and fat - The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food. It's a look inside the hyper-engineered, savagely- marketed, addiction-creating battle for American “stomach share.”

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pasta Puttanesca

No one exactly knows where this quick and tasty pasta sauce was born. But the name - which translates in English to "whore's pasta" - conjures images of a woman too tired at the end of the day to cook. She uses whatever ingredients she has on hand to make a quick marinara sauce. It comes together in about an hour. Works for me.


1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5 or 6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can of stewed tomatoes
1 6-ounce can of tomato paste
1/2 cup kalamata olives
4 anchovy filets
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red or white wine (or to taste)
1 pound penne, spaghetti or other pasta of your choice
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan


1. Saute' onion in oil until it begins to tan. Add garlic and saute' until very fragrant.

2. Add wine and cook briskly until nearly dry. Add tomatoes, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. (You can add more wine if you like. Be sure to let the alcohol cook out.)

3. Add 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt to a mortar. Smash anchovies and olives to a chunky consistency with pestle. Add to marinara sauce with the other seasonings. Simmer on low for 30 minutes or so while the pasta is cooking.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions. When al dente, drain and rinse. Add it to the marinara sauce and toss to coat the pasta. Slice the fresh basil into ribbons. Add basil and cheese to the pasta. Serve in pretty bowls with garlic bread and a glass of wine.

Makes 8 servings.

Chef's note: If you're eating in season, use fresh cherry tomatoes or roasted tomatoes instead of canned. As always, season to your taste. I'm heavy-handed with oregano and wine, light on the salt because of the olives and anchovies.

~Adapted from a recipe by Ree Drummond

Fettucini, Chard, Walnuts and Brown Butter Sauce

Cool weather Swiss chard co-stars with walnuts, currants and brown butter sauce in this easy and elegant pasta dish. 4 servings.

Rainbow Chard


1/2 lb fresh fettuccine
1 tbsp dried currants
2 tbsp golden raisins
8 - 10 cups packed Swiss Chard leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced - about 1 cup
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/3 cup brown butter

Brown butter
Melt 1/4 lb. butter in saucepan letting the solids settle to the bottom. When it reaches a dark amber color and begins to smoke, strain through cheese cloth or remove the solids with a spoon.

Plump the currants and raisins in a small bowl covered with 1/4 cup hot water. Trim the stems from the chard and slice across the leaves to make 1 to 2 inch ribbons.

Boil 1/2 lb fettuccine in water with 1 tsp Kosher salt. When the pasta is tender, drain in a collander, shake excess water, toss together with the other ingredients when they are cooked.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Saute' the onions over medium heat until they just begin to caramelize (dark tan but not burned.) Add garlic, chard and 1/4 tsp salt. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes, until the chard is tender, reduce to low heat. Don't over-cook. It should be tender, not mushy.

Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan

~Annie Sommerville, Fields of Greens

Swiss Chard Feta Quesadilla

A trio of farm-fresh and artisan crafted foods from Saturday's Barton Creek Farmer's Market makes a healthy and tasty Sunday afternoon snack. Makes 6 quesadilla.

Swiss Chard - Feta Quesadilla


Blanco Valley Farms organic white corn tortillas
1/2 cup French sheep's milk or goat's milk feta
6 - 8 cups Swiss chard or other dark, leafy greens, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
6 diced garlic cloves
2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp Tony Chachere's Cajun Seasoning


1. Saute' onion and garlic in EVOO until they start to caramelize.
2. Add greens and saute' until soft.
3. Season to taste.

1. Lightly oil and heat a griddle.
2. Heat tortillas on one side, flipping when they start to toast.
3.  Add one tbsp of greens to the center.
4. Sprinkle with feta.
5. Fold when the cheese starts to melt.
6. Flip and toast on the opposite side.
7. Helps to hold in a warm oven until you're done.

Chef's note: Chard turns out to not only taste good, but to be good for you. The amazing variety of phytonutrients in chard is quickly recognizable in its vibrant colors. Virtually all of these phytonutrients provide antioxidant benefits, anti-inflammatory benefits or both. In addition, phytonutrient benefits of chard are believed to support the body’s blood sugar-regulating system. It also provides a good supply of calcium, an excellent supply of magnesium and the vitamin K from eating chard provides stand out bone support.

May I have some more, please?

Help Us Fix Broken Links

 If you're wondering, posts to Austin Fresh have been sparse and sporadic because I am immersed in another writing project. To simplify publication while I complete this work, I have moved Austin Fresh to Blogger.

Same great content. Simpler administration. No cost.

You can still read all our past posts. I've uploaded pictures to most of them. However, all the links within the site are broken.

I'd be very grateful if you'd report broken links as you find them.

You can use our contact form which is available at the top of the blog. Or simply leave a comment below the post where the link is broken. I'll fix it when I moderate comments.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Spinach and Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers

Thanks to Whole Foods for this delicious comfort food dish. Serves 4 to 6.


4 large yellow, red or orange bell peppers, halved
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 slices of bacon
1 large onion, diced
3 cups cooked brown rice (1 cup raw)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
3 tablespoons whole wheat bread crumbs
Mist of extra-virgin olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray olive oil lightly on the bottom of a baking dish or large stainless steel pan. Size will vary depending on the size of the bell pepper.

2. Halve bell peppers. Remove seeds. If necessary, trim off a sliver of the bottom to make sure they sit level. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Spray lightly with olive oil. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake until the peppers are just this side of tender when pierced with a fork. From 20 to 35 minutes.

3. While peppers roast, fry bacon in a large skilled over medium heath until brown and crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

4. Saute' onions in bacon grease until they release their juices and look transparent - about 15 minutes. Add spinach and continue to saute' until hot and any excess liquid from thawing has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl, stir in drained bacon bits, shredded cheese, pepper and Tony's Creole Seasoning to taste.

5. Spoon mixture into the bell pepper halves - about 1/2 cup each. Sprinkle the tops bread crumbs and mist lightly with olive oil.

6. Bake uncovered until peppers are soft and bread crumbs brown, about 30 minutes.

 Chef's Notes: 1) A light misting of olive oil in the pan and on the peppers before roasting helps to soften them. Lightly. Lightly.

Misto Olive Oil Mister

2) For more texture and flavor, add one cup of chopped shitake or other mushrooms after the onions have been sauteed and before the spinach. Glaze well with pan drippings and saute' for about 5 minutes. Then continue stir-frying with spinach.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Farm to Disco Fondue Dinner Benefits Sustainable Food Center

What do farms, fondue and disco have in common? Nothing but a night of fun for a charitable purpose.
On Monday, January 14, Austin non-profit organizations The Homegrown Revival and Sustainable Food Center will present "Farm to Disco; A Night of Glitz, Glam and Fondue" at the Swan Dive (615 Red River Street).  Featuring a menu created by Chef Sonya Cote' inspired by '70s culture created from local meats, bread, veggies and cheeses, the "Farm to Disco" dinner will benefit SFC's Capital Campaign.

DJ Chino Casino will deliver a disco-definitive soundtrack at the dinner, which will also feature creative cocktails courtesy of Dripping Springs Vodka.  Tickets are $60 a person and are available for purchase now at this location.

Disco dress is encouraged!

"All of us at The Homegrown Revival are hoping to take farm fresh food to an unlikely place in an effort to create an appreciable vibe to our movement," commented Cote'. "If you can enjoy locally sourced food at a disco dance party then you can have it anywhere!  Plus, I love wearing bell bottoms and the Swan Dive is an amazing location. Hope to see you there."

"SFC is thrilled to be partnering with Chef Sonya Cote, who is not only a longtime supporter of our work in the community, but a committed advocate for local farmers, food artisans and the traditions native to our place in the world, Central Texas," adds Susan Leibrock, Community Relations Director for the Sustainable Food Center.

Be there or be square.