Archive | April, 2011

Masterful charcuterie and a chance to compete

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We are lucky in Central Texas to be blessed by three incredible charcutiers.  Dai Due, Kocurek Family Charcuterie and Salt & Time each make lovely sausages, pates, terrines, salumi and condiments available to us at our area farmers markets and, in the case of Salt and Time, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop.

They’ve charmed and wooed us with supper clubs, duck bacon and prosciutto.  We’ve slathered mustard on mortadella hot dogs and fought over who go the last bit of wild boar chorizo.  I’ve drooled over the weekly e-mails announcing what would be at the market that week and immediately started planning the meals for the next week based on the list.

But, I’ve never been so proud of these talented men (Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due, Larry Kocurek of Kocurek Family Charctuerie and Ben Runkle of Salt & Time) than I was at their Charcuterie & Wine pairing panel at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival.  Their combined passion and mutual admiration was apparent as they shared their philosophies on how to honor the animals from which they make their products.

Cheek to Cheek terrine and country pate from Kocurek Family Charcuterie
Cheek to Cheek terrine and country pate from Kocurek Family Charcuterie
Proscuitto and coffee rubbed Lomo from Salt & Time
Proscuitto and coffee rubbed Lomo from Salt &Time
Ham hock terrine & rabbit rillettes from Dai Due
Ham hock terrine & rabbit rillettes from Dai Due

Even The Marquise, Caroline de Roussy de Sales of France gave her nod of approval to the charcuterie saying it was as lovely as what you might find in the French countryside.  Impressive.

I typically buy a package or two of items from one or the other of the charcuterie booths each week. Dai Due’s country pate will be on our Easter dinner table, and I recently bought some delicious pancetta from Salt & Time at their newish booth at the Barton Creek Farmers market and used it to make a tasty zucchini and pancetta pizza.

And,  now we have the chance to support one of our charcutier’s in a different way.  Salt & Time’s master butcher Bryan Butler has been accepted to compete in the Cochon 555 butcher competition. Bryan is one of only 20 butchers in the country invited to compete.   This is a big deal.

You can imagine that as a new business Salt & Time doesn’t have the budget for unexpected trips so they are asking us, their adoring fans and admirers, to help Bryan represent us at this prestigious event.

Join us at a Happy Hour at the Hotel St. Cecilia (112 Academy Dr.) on Wednesday, May 4th from 5:00-8:00 pm. Tasty food will be provided by Salt & Time and Bakesale Austin. Suggestd donation is $20.  You can RSVP on their Facebook event.

I hope to see you there.  We can toast Salt & Time and Bryan with salumi!
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Sustainable Food Center needs our support – Are you up for the challenge?

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UPDATE:  As of Thursday, May 4, SFC has raised $13,129.39 toward the matching grant which means we need to raise another $11,870.61 by the end of the day on Thursday, May 12.  Have you donated yet?  You can donate online today or mail a check to: Sustainable Food Center, 1106 Clayton Lane, Suite 480W, Austin, Texas 78723.  Please note in the comment or memo that you are donating for the Still Water Foundation match. 

Have you ever had $25 magically become $50?  Sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?  What if you could turn your $25 into $50,000?  I’d consider that a pretty great return on my investment.

Fortunately, we each have an opportunity to not only double our investment, but to help the SustainableFoodCenter (SFC) raise $50,000.  You may know SFC best as the organization that runs three of Austin’s farmers markets (Downtown, SunsetValleyandTheTriangle), but you may not know of the other work they do strengthen our local food system and improve access to fresh, nutritious food.

GrowLocal supports our community gardens and gardening classes.  SproutingHealthyKids offers programs to elementary and middle schools to teach kids gardening and nutrition and to bring more local produce into those schools.  And, last but not least, TheHappyKitchen/LaCocinaAlegre cooking and nutrition classes teach people how to prepare healthy meals and snacks for their families, and how to shop with the seasons for whole, unprocessed food.
Luckily, Still Water Foundation believes in these programs and is willing to invest in them to the tune of $25,000.  But, there’s a catch.   Those of us who care about a healthy, vibrant local food community and culture have to match them dollar for dollar.
SFC has raised over $11,000 already and they need our help to raise the other $14,000 by May 12th.   We can totally do this.  In 18 days, we need to raise $778 per day.  If 560 of us give $25,  SFC will reach the goal.
What will they do with the $50,000 they raise?  With waiting lists for most of their program offerings, SFC is in great need of unrestricted funds (individual donations from community members like you!) Demand for The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre far exceeds the 13 sessions currently scheduled on an annual basis.  At the cost of $4,000 per session (6 weeks of classes), SFC could offer another 12 sessions with this funding, for example.
So, do you believe in SFC $25 worth?  Would you be willing to bring your lunch to work a couple of times or skip a night out over the next 2.5 weeks to invest in the food security of our community?  I made some room in my budget.  Won’t you join me?
You can donate online today or mail a check to:
Sustainable Food Center
1106 Clayton Lane
Suite 480W
Austin, Texas 78723
Please note in the comment or memo that you are donating for the Still Water Foundation match.
Please help spread the word, and now go donate!   We only have 559 to go because I donated before I posted.
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Grilled Artichokes

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I love artichokes, but was always a little intimidated by them.  I wasn’t sure if I was cleaning them correctly and the only way I knew to prepare them was the traditional boiling method – not very exciting and messy to eat.  I was thrilled when I found this article recently by Dorie Greenspan in the Wall Street Journal on The Art of the Artichoke.

She not only explains in detail how to properly clean the choke, she also provides several terrific recipes.  I was inspired to grill artichokes for family dinner one Sunday night.  They were a big hit with my sis and brother-in-law – so tender and juicy that we didn’t need any aioli or dip.  We’ll definitely be making them again.

This week I made the baby artichokes marinated in olive oil and they were another great surprise – easy to prepare and packed with flavor.  These will work well in salads or pasta.  They also made a terrific spread for our Easter dinner appetizers when I used the suggested variation of putting them in the food processor.

I’m so happy that I’ve conquered my fear of the artichoke and am looking forward to making the Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata recipe next.

What food(s) are you intimated by?  Maybe we can conquer that fear together.

 Grilled Artichokes

serves 3, 1 artichoke per person

3 artichokes
olive oil
1 lemon, cut in 1/2

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Heat up the grill.

Clean the artichoke by pulling the tough outer leaves off the artichoke, usually a couple of rows. If the artichoke is very fresh you may not need to this.

Using a very sharp knife, cut off  about the top 1/3 of the artichoke – so that you get most of the pointy tips.  You can trim any remaining points with scissors.

Cut the artichokes in 1/2 and trim out the hairy part of the choke.  I ran the blade of a pairing knife in the fleshy part just under the hair then used a spoon to scoop out the hairy part.

If the artichokes are large, you might cut them in 1/2 again so that they grill more uniformly and are easy for your guests to handle.

Toss the cleaned chokes into the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes until the inside of the artichoke is just tender to the touch of a fork.

Drain the artichokes and place on a baking sheet.  Brush olive oil on both sides of the artichoke then squeeze the lemon over the inside part of the choke.

Place the artichokes on the grill, outer leaf side down first.  Cook about 5 minutes to allow the leaves to get a nice char then flip the artichokes.  Cook another 5 minutes to char the inside of the choke.  You should be able to easily pierce the inside of the choke with a fork.

You can serve with an aioli or squeeze a little more lemon over the top after grilling.

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Chorizo & Turnip Tacos

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Last week I found myself staring into a fridge full of food as I thought, “There’s nothing to make for dinner.”  Clearly, that wasn’t true.  There was plenty of food, but none that obviously screamed “make this dish.”

After taking inventory, I started pairing foods together until I fixated on a package of Dai Due green chili chorizo and a bunch of turnips.  I knew these ingredients worked well together because I’ve used them before in  a Portugese style stew, but I didn’t want to make that dish again.  I decided instead to mix it up and make tacos – a picadillo like filling with chorizo, diced turnips and sliced onions.

Chorizo & turnip tacos

When I experiment like this, I’m always a little nervous to take the first bite, but there was no need to hesitate – the tacos were DELICIOUS.  The chorizo and turnip filling was spicy and rich, and the sliced radish garnish gave it a great crunch.  Yum!

The next time you catch yourself thinking there is nothing to cook in your packed fridge, try the matching game to create a new dish.  Create pairs of ingredients that you know work well together in other dishes and figure out how to put a new spin on it.   If you like BLTs, make pasta with bacon, tomatoes and spinach instead of another sandwich.   Don’t be afraid to experiment.  If all else fails, you can always order pizza and at least you’ll have learned something new in the process.

What creative dish have you made lately?  I’d love to hear about your kitchen experiment.

Chorizo & Turnip Tacos
4 servings

1 lb of bulk chorizo – I used Dai Due green chili chorizo, but you can use any variety
4 small turnips, trimmed and diced
2 spring onions, sliced
4 radishes, sliced
8 tortillas

Place the chorizo in a skillet and cook over medium heat until just cooked through (no longer raw.)  Add the diced turnips and onions.  Cook the mixture until the turnips are tender when poked with a fork.

Let the mixture cool for a few minutes, then top tortillas with the filling and garnish with radishes.

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