Archive | May, 2010

Seasonal Fruit Desserts with Deborah Madison

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My favorite part of summer is when you bite into your first peach of the season and the juice drips down your chin. Bliss.

I don’t have a big sweet tooth – I can pass up most desserts without a second thought – but I love fruit. When I was offered the opportunity to interview cookbook author and chef Deborah Madison about her newest cookbook, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, I jumped at the chance.

As we visited on the charming porch at Boggy Creek Farm, I asked Deborah why she chose to write a book about fruit desserts.

“I love desserts.” she said. “I worked as a pastry chef and have included desserts in my other books. This is a nice conclusion to years or writing primarily about vegetables.”

She continued, “Fruit is special because it so much more fragile than vegetables.  It’s meant to be attractive so that we will eat it.”

She noted that much of the fruit in our stores is picked too early so that it can be shipped and tastes terrible. With the exception of citrus, which travels well, it can be difficult to find delicious fruit unless it is picked close to home.

Deborah said her husband Patrick always insisted that he didn’t like strawberries. She continued to buy berries for herself and, one week, bought strawberries from a farmers market in Santa Monica.  He tried one of the market berries and loved it; he couldn’t believe that it was the same thing he had eaten before.

“With fruit, the dessert doesn’t have to be complicated,” Deborah said. “In a recipe like the white peaches in lemon verbena and lavender syrup, the fruit is the star.”
And fruit is definitely the star in this cookbook.  In addition to everyone’s favorites like peaches, plums, apples, pears and cherries, the book includes less commonly used fruits like bronx grapes, lychees and persimmons.  She even profiles the no longer commonly used paw paw.  (You remember the paw-paw patch song from childhood, right?  Those are real.) 
Deborah told me that paw paws, which grow in 26 states, have a tropical flavor somewhat like a mix between a mango and a banana.  When the banana became so prevalent, the paw paw fell to the wayside.
Many of her recipes incorporate several local ingredients so that the final dish represents a sense of the place.  The Wild Rice Pudding, for example, includes wild rice from a Michigan farmers market, maple syrup, maple sugar, and dried cherries cooked in red wine – all local ingredients in Michigan.

In an effort of full disclosure, I admitted to Deborah that I don’t cook many desserts because I don’t like to bake and am not that fond of sweets. She assured me that this cookbook includes many recipes for the pastry impaired, lending themselves to the feeling you get when you are cooking rather than baking. 

Recipes like the Red Berry Soup and the Silky Tart Dough give me hope that even I can pull off a great fruit dessert.  Silky Tart Dough is only two steps and makes more of a batter than a pie pastry.  Even I, a baking challenged individual, should be able to pull this off.
Deborah described several delectable recipes for when fruits are not available, a problem during our extreme heat in the summer.  The cookbook includes custards, Swedish creams and a winter squah cake with dates.  She even recommends Pure Luck Dairy’s Hopelessly Blue in the cheese section.
As we were finishing our morning together, I asked Deborah what was the most important thing you could do to cook great food.  
“That’s easy,” she said. “Be involved in your food.  Start to ask the names of the fruits and vegetables you buy.  If you can’t ask for something by name, then we lose the culture of it. There are hundreds of varieties of peaches, plums and other fruit, and it is helpful to learn the difference. When you ask for things by name then the farmer knows what to plant more of and what consumers like.”
Deborah’s enthusiasm for fresh food is contagious, and, for the first time ever, I’m excited to have new dessert recipes that I can’t wait to make.  I guess there’s a first time for everything!
All photos by Jenna Noel.
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Local food events to fill your summer calendar

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Summer’s almost here and there are plenty of fun ways coming up for you to celebrate food in Central Texas.

Urban Roots is having a terrific season on the farm and needs help harvesting their crops.  You can lend a hand on the farm over the next week on the following dates:

Tuesday May 25: 8:00am-12:00pm
Thursday May 27: 8:00am-12:00pm
Friday May 28: 8:00am-12:00pm
Tuesday June 1: 8:00am-12:00pm
Thursday June 3: 8:00am-12:00pm

You can register to volunteer on their website or if you would like to volunteer during a time that is not listed above, contact Leigh Gaymon-Jones at (512)-324-0424.

Nourishing the Soul Dinner from the Victory Grill and Salt & Time, Friday May 28th 

Salt & Time, a new artisan salumi maker in Central Texas, recently made their retail debut selling two types of salumi at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

On Friday May 28th, they are partnering with the historic Victory Grill to host a Farm to Table dinner as part of the East End Fourth Fridays. Nourishing the Soul will feature Richardson Farms Pork, Thunder Heart Bison and produce from Johnson’s Back Yard, Animal Farm, Fruitful Hill Farms and others. The meal will be accompanied by a wine pairing from East End Wines. Following dinner, Soul Kitchen will perform. Tickets are $30 for an individual, $100 for a table of four and $175 for a table of eight.

Menu
First Course:
Frito Misto – battered and fried
seasonal vegetables
Fresh Chicharrones – Richardson Farms
Pork Skins fried and seasoned

Second Course:
Pickle Plate – Animal Farm Carrots,
Fruitful Hill Beets, Hillside Farms Brussel Sprouts and more

Main Course:
Pancetta Wrapped Mortadella Link –
Salt & Time’s mortadella made from Richardson Farms Pork and
Thunder Heart Bison in sausage form, wrapped in our pancetta, served
on a Barrie Cullinan Baked Goods roll and accompanied by Tuscan
Baked Beans
*Vegetarian Entrée available upon request

Dessert:
Seasonal Fruit Tart

Tickets are on sale now at www.historicvictorygrill.org and seating is limited. We hope to see you there!

Sara Moulton Cooking Demo and Book Signing at Faraday’s Kitchen Store, Saturday June 12th, 11:00-1:00 pm.

Celebrity Chef Sara Moulton is doing a FREE cooking demonstration of two of her favorite recipes from 11-12 on Saturday June 12th at Faraday’s Kitchen Store (1501 Ranch Road 620 N). She’ll be available to sign copies of her new book, Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners from noon to 1:00 pm.  This is her only Texas appearance.

See the Faraday’s Kitchen Store blog for more details. 

Saving the Maize through Art and Dinner; Art exhibit thru 6/7; dinner on Monday, 6/14

El Maiz es Nuestra Vida / Maize is Our Life is a traveling contemporary art exhibition of women who are concerned about Mexico’s native maize seeds. Through their artwork, the artists narrate the history of maize throughout the Americas, demonstrating its fundamental role in providing nourishment to innumerable societies. The fact that maize is in danger of extinction due to the arrival of genetically modified seeds and the global economy’s demand for maize for uses other than nutrition are alarming, as are their effect on cultural memory and biodiversity.

Conceived by Marietta Bernstorff, Director of the MAMAZ Collective (Mujeres Artistas y el Maiz/Women Artists and Maize), El Maiz es Nuestra Vida / Maize is Our Life debuted in Oaxaca City in March of 2007. Austin resident and UT scholar Claudia Zapata curated the latest incarnation, currently showing at the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) until June 7, 2010.

In conjunction with the exhibit, there will be a dinner on Monday, June 14th, 6-9 pm at El Sol y La Luna Restaurant (600 E 6th St. 444-7770) featuring guest chef Pilar Cabrera from Oaxaca City, with proceeds benefiting MAMAZ outreach programs. Tickets are $35 and on sale at El Sol y La Luna.
The Mexican American Cultural Center is located at 600 River St. Austin, TX 78701.

Slow Food Austin Texas Artisan Showcase, Saturday, June 26th, 4:00 – 8:00pm, Space 12

Take part in this delicious revolution while sampling palate pleasing artisan foods that are all “good, clean and fair.” Enjoy what makes our state taste great: from beers and breads, cheese and charcuterie, to coffee and tea! This family-friendly event will feature live music, a marketplace, silent auction, educational producer demos and a live auction finale by Dai Due Butcher Shop’s Jesse Griffiths you won’t want to miss!

For $60 ($55 for Slow Food members), you’ll get a total of 18 punches on your ticket: use them however you wish, but we suggest a visit to all 12 tasting stations, plus 6 more chances to revisit your favorites! Each station will serve a small “flight” of samples.

Budget-conscious Slow Foodies have the option of a 12-punch ticket for $40 ($35 for Slow Food members). You can buy tickets on the Slow Food Austin website.

Phew!  And you thought you were going to sit around in the hammock all summer.
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Celebrating Texas’ Best at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival

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It may have been over a month ago, but I’m still musing about the great finds this year from the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival which brings together some of the best chefs from around the state for a weekend of festivities.  If you haven’t been before, it’s like a statewide holiday for foodies full of cooking classes, tastings, dinners and tours of the Hill Country Wineries.  It’s enough to overwhelm the best palates.  I was fortunate enough this year to participate in the Stars Across Texas event on Friday night at the Long Center and Sunday Fair at the Salt Lick.

At the Stars Across Texas event on Friday night, we tasted lovely bites from our Austin favorites, but I was most excited to talk to chefs from other cities who were cooking with local ingredients. Chef Jason Dady who has five restaurants in San Antonio (The Lodge RestaurantBin 555Tre TrattoriaTwo Bros BBQ Market and Restaurant Insignia) spoke with enthusiasm about integrating local ingredients in his menus.  Whether its the game at The Lodge or the market pizza at Bin 555, he’s doing his best to work farm fresh produce into his dishes. 

Also in San Antonio, the Omni’s La Mansion del Rio  is working with local farms to provide produce to their kitchen.  Chef John Brand says he likes to work with the freshest ingredients from area farms as they plan their menu.

Of course, nothing topped the news that Chef John Besh, the famed Executive Chef and owner of August, Domenica, La Provence and others, is opening Luke in San Antonio this fall.  Chef Besh and Chef Stephen McHugh represented the new restaurant with enthusiasm throughout the festival.  

Chef McHugh, who has already moved to San Antonio and will be running the new spot, has already started working with San Antonio farmers to source the best meats and produce for their dishes.  At Sunday Fair, Chef Besh showed off his Shrimp & Grits skills at his cooking demonstration;  giving us all a little taste of what we can expect to find at Luke.  
In addition to Chef Besh’s delicious dish, Sunday Fair offered tastings from dozens of food artisans, restaurants, wineries and distilleries from around Texas and several chef demos.  I was particularly delighted with the locally sourcing food artisans profiled in the Whole Foods Market tent with the help of our friends at Edible Austin.  
I tried a number of new products including cupcakes from Blue Note Bakery, the flavored Reel Popcorn, Hail Merry Vegan, Raw and Gluten Free snacks, and Aurelia’s Chorizo, which was my favorite new discovery in the tent.  I’m a big fan of Cookwell and Co.’s Green Chile stew and was delighted to see that they have added a number of products to their line.

Delysia Chocolatier made their wine and food festival debut as well, profiling their award winning chocolates, particularly their chocolates made with Texas wines.  

The day was brought home by a cooking demo from Chef David Bull, who has most recently been working with Bolla in Dallas, and is enthusiastically opening two new restaurants this fall at the Austonian.  As he prepped his Texas quail for the Sunday Fair audience, he reminded us all the home cooks of the importance of using fresh local ingredients to capture the best flavor in the dish.  He definitely brought the flavors home with his Green Chili Buttered Bandera Quail with Corn & Monterey Jack Fondue.  It was beyond finger-licking good.

As far as foodie holidays go, the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival definitely fills the bill.  I better mark off the days on my calendar for next year.  Don’t you want to join in on the fun?
Click here to view the full photo set for the chef demos.
Click here for the full photo set of food artisan products.

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New Location for the Wimberley Farmers Market

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The Wimberley Farmers Market, founded in 2003 and held on Wednesdays from 3-6 pm, has moved to a new, higher profile location outside of the Community Thrift Shop at the intersection of RR 12 and River Road.

I recently stopped by on my way back from San Antonio and found about 6 booths with local produce, honey, bread and other goodies.  Montesino Ranch has a stand and offers pick-up for their CSA members at the market.  They said that they are hopeful that the new location off of a major thoroughfare in Wimberley will increase traffic and encourage additional farms to participate.

Following are a few of the vendors you can expect to find at the Wimberley market:
Bell Springs Bath Bars
EIEIO Farm
Harvest Time Honey
Montesino Ranch
Wholesome Harvest Farm

If you happen to be in Wimberley, or just need a good road trip, on a Wednesday afternoon, stop by and fill up your market bag.

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