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Recipes made with Spring ingredients in Central Texas

Grapefruit and mint sorbet

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I love grapefruit and was so excited when Texas Sweet sent me a half dozen Texas Rio Star grapefruits to cook with.  The challenge was not eating them all plain, peeling them like oranges and devouring the big, tart slices. And, I adore grapefruit juice.  A big glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice is divine in the morning.

As I perused recipes, I was hesitant to apply heat to my beloved prizes.  Then, I remembered seeing a recipe by David Lebovitz for a Grapefruit Campari Sorbet.  The recipe caught my attention because of Lebovitz’s delightful story of finding American grapefruit in the Paris shops.

I opted to skip the Campari so that I could share the sorbet with my nephew who is a devoted fan of citrus ice creams; the kid is nuts for the lemon gelato at Mandola’s Italian Market. To spice up the sorbet a bit, I decided to make a mint simple syrup with some of the bounty from my prolific mint plant. The result was a refreshing dessert with a hint of sweetness and enough tartness to tickle your tongue.  If you prefer sweeter desserts, increase the amount of simple syrup, adding it slowly and tasting as you go until you find the right balance.

As Texas’ citrus season draws to a close, consider freezing up a batch so that you can enjoy grapefruit well into the summer.

Photo by Sandra Ramos

Photo by Sandra Ramos

Grapefruit and mint sorbet

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/8 of cup of fresh mint leaves (do not chop the leaves unless you want pieces of mint in the ice cream)
2 cups of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

A few days in advance, place the cooler of your ice cream machine in the freezer to ensure that it is good and cold.

Combine the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a gentle boil.  Stir to combine the sugar and water, add the mint and lower the heat.  Simmer until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

Strain the simple syrup to remove the mint leaves.  (I had to do this twice.)

Combine the simple syrup and grapefruit juice.  Place in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely.

Place the grapefruit mixture in the cooler of your ice cream maker and follow the instructions for your equipment to whip the mixture.  Place in the freezer and allow to freeze through.


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Pesto to the Rescue

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This summer has been absolutely brutal.  Just about everything has surrendered to the sweltering Texas heat (at this writing, we’ve had over 69 days of 100+ heat in Austin alone).  I finally knew it was time to pull up all but the hardiest of the plants in my garden when my basil started giving out.  I watered like crazy, I even moved the basil out of the direct sunlight, but those plants just weren’t having it.  By late afternoon each day, they were wilted and miserable.  It was time to put my basil out of its misery and make pesto.

I like making pesto because it is simple, versatile and it freezes well.  I tend to use pecans because they are plentiful in Austin and I’ll substitute whatever type of leafy green I think might work.  When mustard greens arrived in my produce delivery last fall, I made a spicy Mustard Green Pesto that turned out to be a terrific way to use greens that I was otherwise lukewarm about eating.

I usually make a few batches at once and freeze the leftovers in ice cube trays so that I can portion out what I need later.  You can also freeze in plastic bags if you want to reheat larger batches.

Sauteed zucchini and mushrooms linguine with pesto

What’s your favorite pesto recipe?  Do you have a creative spin on this classic sauce?

Basil Pesto

2 cups loosely packed cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pine nuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Combine half of the of olive oil, basil, pecans and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Slowly add the other half of the olive oil through the feeding tube of the food processor, combining until smooth.  Add more olive oil as desired to create a thinner mixture.  Add the parmesan and blend.  Add salt to taste.


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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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