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!