Archive | July, 2009

Celebrating with Carrots (Soup)

Pin It

I’ve been fortunate this week to have many things to celebrate. I was thrilled and a little stunned to find Austin Farm to Table included in The Austin American-Statesman’s Texas Talkers list of their favorite local blogs. There are some pretty great bloggers on the list and it’s an honor to be included in their company. Thanks Statesman!

My other celebration was equally unexpected. When I decided to strike out on my own, I didn’t really think about the cooking benefits of being able to work from home. And, yet, twice this week, I’ve had a chance to put something on to simmer while I was working and have a nice lunch. Yea! No offense to Jimmy John’s and Chipotle (the default lunch places at my old office), but I’m pretty darn excited about this unplanned benefit of being my own boss.
I love soup, but with the unbearable heat we’ve had, I’ve been avoiding one of my favorite meals.
I made gazpacho earlier this summer, so I decided that it was time to try my hand at another cool soup and picked carrot. I wanted to do something different than the traditional ginger carrot soup and went instead with Cumin Lime. It was really delicious and a great foil to the 100 degree days earlier this week.
For my second dish, I chose to play with the okra I bought at the market last week. I love okra and will eat it just about any way you can cook it. A friend of mine shared that he had roasted okra at a recent dinner party and I decided to give it a whirl. I wanted to spice it up a little bit, so I mixed in some Bellaverdi Farms mustard microgreens at the end to give it some punch. I may have a new summer lunch favorite.
Don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Picnic in the Park on Wed 8/5. Come shop at the Triangle Farmers Market (open from 4-8 pm), then meet us on the lawn for dinner. Bring a blanket and/or folding chair and your beverages.
See you at the market!
073109_1Cumin Lime Carrot Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bunches of carrots, trimmed, peeled & chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin (you can increase this if you like a stronger flavor; I did)
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups of water; 1 cup reserved
juice of 2 limes
2 tbsps sour cream
cilantro, chopped for garnish (I forgot cilantro so my photo is missing a garnish. It would have been really good with the cilantro….)
Heat the olive oil in a pot. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are just tender.
Stir in the cumin, salt and pepper and taste one of the carrots to have the spice level you want. The spice should be on the strong side because you will dilute it when you add the liquid.
Add the 4 cups of broth and one cup of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
Let the mixture cool. Transfer half of the soup to a food processor or blender and puree the mixture. Transfer that half to a bowl and puree the other half. I do suggest using a food processor or blender for this as it is difficult to get the mixture smooth enough using a hand blender.
Stir in the lime juice and taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed. If necessary, add water slowly to
thin the mixture.
Place in the refrigerator for several hours (at least 4) or overnight to chill.
Before serving, take the sour cream out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature. Stir it into the soup to give it some creaminess. Garnish the soup with cilantro and lime.

Roasted Okra with Mustard Microgreens
1 lb okra, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (don’t cut it too early; the longer it sits cut, the
073109_2slimier it gets)
1 1/2 tbsps olive oil, 1/2 tbsp reserved
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 package of mustard microgreens
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place okra in a pan an drizzle with olive oil. Salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring once.
In the last minute of cooking, stir in the mustard microgreens and drizzle with the 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Roast for another minute so that the microgreens are just wilted.
Follow Me on Pinterest

Dining Out Sustainably: Get Sum Dim Sum

Pin It

072409_1One of my challenges when visiting a new restaurant is trying to narrow down my choices. I love Tapas and Dim Sum because you can order several small things and sharing is an understood part of the deal; no awkward sideways glances from your dining partner when you want to try a bit of their dishes. In our family, you can get stabbed with a fork trying to sneak something off of someone else’s plate.

I was excited when I heard that Foo Swasdee, owner of Satay and a longtime promoter of sustainable food, was opening a Dim Sum restaurant. Get Sum Dim Sum is located at 4400 N. Lamar in the spot formerly occupied by Panda Express. (I was delighted to see a sub par chain restaurant replaced by a locally owned restaurant.)
072409_2When you walk in the door, you are greeted by an employee who explains the format. Don’t skip this step on your first trip. You’re going to need the help picking your meal as it might be the toughest thing you do that day.
You can either order one of their combo meals including 3 different choices of their top 10 dumplings, sho mai, baos and specials or you can order a la carte from a longer list of treats. My friend Sandy and I decided to go with the combo meals rather than navigate the a la carte menu on our first visit. Between the two of us, we had 3 different types of dumplings, the pork bun, the Thursday braised pork and tofu special, fried rice and a sesame ball. And, it was all delicious.
072409_3The dumplings arrive in small stacked steamer baskets and were perfectly cooked. I particularly enjoyed the shrimp dumplings. The pork in the bao has a scrumptious sauce with a hint of cinnamon and stands up well to the surrounding fluffy dough.

072409_4I was surprised how much I enjoyed the braised pork and tofu. I was initially hesitant to order it because I’m not a huge tofu fan as it can sometimes have a slimy texture. Not this tofu; it was firm and tasty. I had a hard time sharing it, but I did manage to spoon over a few bites for Sandy.

The only negative thing about Get Sum Dim Sum is that it is way to close to my house. I’m looking forward to my next visit and have already picked out at least two dishes that I can’t wait to try. Thank goodness it’s walking distance so that I can work off my meal on the way there and back.
Follow Me on Pinterest

Life in a Farmers Market-less Whirlwind

Pin It

Phew! The last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. I have struck out on my own as a learning and development consultant and auditioned (unsuccessfully) for the Next Food Network Star. I also kept my niece and nephew for a weekend and helped one of my best friends celebrate her 40th birthday. No wonder I am worn out!

Needless to say, all of this craziness has meant no farmers market visits for the last two weeks and very little cooking. I have really missed the chance to wander through the stalls, visit with the farmers and head home with my overloaded bag of goodies. I cannot wait until Saturday! Not only will it be my first market visit in weeks, but the Downtown Austin Farmers Market is having a Julie and Julia demo and film pass give away.
Laura Kelso, local writer and founder of Dishola, and Alma Alcocer-Thomas of Fonda San Miguel will have a cooking demo inspired by the book and movie. By the way, if you haven’t read the book, it’s quite charming and a fun, light read. It will also make you feel good about your own cooking mishaps. Sounds like a great day to be at the market.
During my market hiatus, I did need to stock up on groceries so I decided to branch out and try The Natural Grocers which has recently opened down the street from me at 3901 Guadalupe. I had high hopes that were quickly dashed in the very small produce section.
I have always struggled with the debate over whether it is it better for your food to be organic or locally grown, knowing that ideally it would be both. Is it better for it to be organic and shipped across the country? Or, is it better for it to be grown locally, but not organically? I don’t have the answer and struggle with this constantly.
I suppose my preference is local (and organic) because I think farmers are an important part of our community and economy and I want our local farms to thrive. Besides, food tastes better if you can buy it closer to the time it was picked and it didn’t ripen in a shipping container. I avoid terms like locavore because I buy my fair share of bananas, but I do try to buy local as much as possible. I’d be interested in your thoughts and comments on the subject.
The Natural Grocers offers only organic food at a reasonable price, but I can tell you without question that very little, if any, of it was local. How do I know? Well, because nothing they were selling is in season in Texas. The broccoli and chard were beautiful, but, as we’d say in Amarillo, “you ain’t from around here, son.” They had no zucchini or okra or anything else that is local and in season.
Hmmm… Since that was my only chance to shop that week, I picked out a few things and was pleased to see the very reasonable prices on things like yogurt and black beans, but I was dismayed that they had so few choices for fresh, local food. Oh well, it would be a great place to buy vitamins.
I did make a delicious grits dish with the chard. The dish was very simple so I won’t bother with a recipe, but I made grits and stirred in a big dollop of the Tomato Basil goat cheese from Made in the Shade. I sauteed the chard with garlic and placed it on top of the grits. It was a rich, flavorful and quick dinner.
I hope to see you at the market on Saturday and don’t forget to mark your calendar for the Picnic in the Park at the Triangle Farmers Market on Wednesday, 8/5 at 6:30 pm.

Follow Me on Pinterest

To Market, To Market in Dripping Springs

Pin It

070809_1I decided to celebrate my independence on the 4th of July by breaking out of my normal market routine and heading to the newly formed Dripping Springs Farmers Market. I know what you’re thinking – why would I head 30 minutes out of the way to go to a relatively small market on the side of the highway? Believe it or not, it was worth the drive.

070809_2The market is located at the intersection of 290 West and RR 12 (in the grassy triangle on the north side of the road). Even though there were only a few booths, they were packed with fresh goodies and there were lines of people waiting to buy. I bought cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, okra, and peppers. But my favorite find was the greens from Bella Verdi Farms. You can’t find lettuce this time of year because of the heat, but Darrell Joseph and his crew grow their lettuce and microgreens indoors so that you can have delicious, locally grown salads all year long.
070809_3The Bibb Lettuce was delicious, but I particularly enjoyed the Meditteranean Microgreen mix. The Arugula gave it some spice and the beet greens give it some sweetness. Darrell said you could use them as a salad topper, but I used them as my salad base because I liked them so much. I marinated some vegetables in a homemade dressing and topped the microgreens with the mix. It was very refreshing during our blazing hot weekend! I might have
mistakenly referred to microgreens as a garnish before, but you can bet I won’t do that again.
The Dripping Springs Farmers Market is every other Saturday (next market is 7/18) from 9-11. Go early, buy some beautiful produce, go for a nice drive and then go have lunch at the Salt Lick. Now that would be a great Saturday morning!
You can also buy the microgreens at Central Market if you need them in between market days.
Marinated Summer Vegetable Salad with

Mediterranean Microgreens
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 small (or 1 large) cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2-3 small tomatoes (I used 2 green zebra tomatoes and 1 red tomato), chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped

1 package Bella Verdi Farms Mediterranean Microgreens


In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing – olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, toss the cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers together and then mix with the dressing. Let the vegetable mixture sit for 30 minutes or so to pick up the flavors.
Place a handful of greens on your plate and top with a large spoonful (or two) of the vegetable mixture on top. Enjoy!
Follow Me on Pinterest