Monday, May 25, 2015

Year's nearly half over, time for bubbly

‘Black Bottle Bubbly’ goes with breakfast

         Tastes mature over time. You may be surprised how a $12 bottle of brut can class up your brunch. Freixenet’s Cordon Negro Brut is a crisp cava (sparkling wine) that makers say is known around the world as the “Black Bottle Bubbly.” 
         If you get bubbly on New Year’s Eve only, note that 2015 is nearly half past, so break out some Freixenet for this light and fruity blend that looks so good fizzing up a tall flute glass. It sounds and smells and tastes like elegance with a touch of ginger, and also pairs with spicy cuisines.
         Why it’s good: Grapes are hand picked and brought to the winery; the first fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures. The secondary fermentation is bugunin the bottle. Cordon Negro is aged for up to18 months in a cave.
         Add a touch of orange juice to make your brunch pop, with something like this:

Almond Toasted Brioche
*Courtesy of Food & Wine magazine
1 and one fourth cups sliced blanched almonds
one half cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
one fourth teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)
one fourt cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
Six 1-inch-thick slices of brioche, cut from a 1-pound loaf
Confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
Berries, for serving
1.       Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, combine 1 cup of the sliced almonds with the granulated sugar and process until powdery, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 2 tablespoons of the butter and the pure almond extract and process until creamy, about 2 minutes. With the food processor on, add the milk and process the custard mixture until blended. Transfer the custard mixture to a shallow baking dish.
2.       Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter evenly on one side of each slice of brioche. Dip the unbuttered sides of the brioche into the custard and transfer to a baking sheet, custard side up. Spoon any remaining custard over the bread and sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of sliced almonds. Bake the almond brioche for about 20 minutes, until the bottom is golden and crisp and the almonds are lightly browned. Transfer the brioche to plates and dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Top with fresh berries and serve.

Viki’s Granola
Can you possibly restrain/reward yourself with just one tablespoon of Viki’s Granola a day? If the original, with pecans, almonds and honey proves too much for you, you may not be able to resist the blueberries, almonds and honey version. It’s 100 percent natural and gluten-free. Why just a tablespoon? I’m topping Greek yogurt desserts with this satisfying spoonful. Oh sure, some people eat granola for breakfast. Fine. Mine will last longer this way. But, you can always get more. of Bethpage, New York is where you can learn more about why “love” is their first ingredient. There’s a heart image where I put the word “love,” but one taste and you’ll know what they mean.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hi, How Are You?

Hi, How Are You?
Do you know the famous frog on Guadalupe, across from University of Texas in Austin?
Daniel Johnston’s painted work with the eyes on stalks and the “Hi, How Are You?” greeting has a great history.
I always check on it when I pass by. Not only is it still there, but the building now houses a restaurant that acknowledges the guy. It’s called Thai, How Are You?
It is seriously fun. I loved the food and also that students filled the place discussing their summer plans. The soundtrack included “Do You Remember” by Earth, Wind & Fire. I was jamming, but I couldn’t help but thinking all these students loved to go there for the “vintage” music.

Museum of the Gulf Coast
What, me worry? I’d never linked Mad Magazine to the Atomic Age. After a lecture highlighting both the fear and humor of the duck and cover age, I learned this attitude fit in during an era where cities such as Houston performed walk outs so office workers could find their way to the nearest fallout shelter. Alert Today, Alive Tomorrow is a temporary exhibit up through May 24.
Visit the fallout shelter mock up erected in the museum for an eerie experience you won’t soon shake. Now, here comes the culinary note: An Atomic Cocktail Hour after the lecture included samples of  ’50s-era concoctions such as the Sputnik, Oppenheimer Martini and the Duck and Cover.
The event was a blast.

How do they shred the Kataifi?
Reading this is not going to that question, but it may introduce you to shredded fillo dough. Don’t worry, Athens does it for you. I cannot describe the flaky, buttery goodness that comes from crunching into a nest of baked shreds.
The box shows shreds wrapped around shrimp. Or think about chocolate, cheese, and anything the Greeks, or you, might like. Make a nest or a wrap, butter it up and bake a bit. Even an inexperienced baker like me can make an impressive showing. I know others could create even more wonders.
Just filling Athens Mini Fillo Shells with cheese has made my family several sets of appetizers and made breakfast special. Those come out of the box ready to fill with sweet or savory goodness.
Look also for Athens baklava, spanakopita and fillo sheets. Don’t be intimidated. It takes just a little bit of skill to get started and your creations get easier and more beautiful and more delicious every time.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Blanco breakfast burger

            After coffee on a Texas Hill Country porch started my day. After a quick drive to the town square I nabbed a table under a glowing Budweiser sign at the Blanco Bowling Club Café. The joint was full of regulars and I couldn’t help but ask if they were serving burgers during breakfast hours. No problem.
            Tourist that I was, I snapped photos through a square in the wall between the front dining area to more tables in a second area. A woman from another table motioned to me and said we were allowed to go behind the curtain to take pictures of the actual bowling alley. Oh, good. I’d wanted to ask what her husband’s T-shirt wording meant, but he’d stepped away and she didn’t recall which one he was wearing. They were travelers, too, from Minnesota, enjoying a spring in the hills. The man came back and showed me his shirt from a nearby craft brewery. He wasn’t quite sure himself what the wording meant, but he’d liked the beer.
            Back at my seat, I noted the table top was printed with area business ads. How vintage. Paneled walls and neon beer/Texas signs gave this café some vintage charm. At the bar I noticed a man with a Mason jar full of red stuff. I sprung up to ask if he had brought his own salsa to the restaurant. He had. He didn’t offer me any, but noted the café had some of their own that wasn’t bad, and I should ask for it. I did and it added to my burger and onion rings experience.
            Then I noticed the two regulars next to me. One was downing a slice of pecan pie. The other just had coffee. The second assured me he had eggs on the way, cholesterol be dashed. Turns out the pie was just a dessert-first technique. He also had eggs on the way. We agreed you ought to enjoy a little pie, because you don’t know what life will bring you. There’s some saying about all the women on the Titanic who did not order dessert.
            I’m usually about salads, protein, Greek yogurt and exercise. All that is so that sometimes you can have your pie. Or, a burger and onion breakfast in downtown Blano.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mom at the hooka lounge


A sampler plate at Al Basha in Beaumont.  Courtesy photo by Darragh Doiron
Mom at the hookah lounge
Lemony yogurt, lamb, roasted peppers, and a falafal “muffin” is a sample of the flavors that danced through our heads at Al Basha in Beaumont. We had a Mediterranean feast, sharing and dipping our bread into a colorful mixtures. I couldn’t resist a Facebook posting tagged Mom’s first course at the hookah lounge, the second function of this establishment. We did peek in the window of that area until someone encouraged us to walk in and tour the spacious lounge with cushy couches as seating. It would get busy later, they promised. We went for the food.
"Later" we were at home watching “The Hundred-Foot Journey,” about an Indian family who opens a restaurant across the path from a swanky French establishment. We actually planned to be savoring the spices of one culture as we enjoyed the movie about two other culinary traditions. We loved it all.

I cannot contain my excitement over the hot news from McCormick Gourmet shakers. In fact, it makes me sneeze. I pulled out samples of jalapeno pepper powder, then got more excited with basically crushed, red chipotle pepper grounds, then yelped over a sriracha powder. My daughter’s going to fight me over that one. I’ve been liberally dusting these blends over eggs and everything else every morning and can’t get enough.
They’ve also got new grinders with smoked, lemon zest, sweet onion and chipotle sea salt blends. Love it times four.
Burger auce mix-ins they offer include Montreal Steak, Brown Sugar Bourbon, Sweet Mesquite & Carmelized Onion and Roasted Garlic & Sauteed Onion.
This spring McCormic has released 21 new products inspired by flavor trends on the rise. You’ll want to play with these.

I’ve got bacon heating very slowly in a covered skillet and plan to rescue the fat for future projects. I’m hoping to spiral partially cooked bacon onto partially cooked sweet potato planks and hope they’ll cleave together for crunchy goodness. Some of that McCormick flavor mentioned above will finish off the flavor explosion.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

And now for some cheese

Brie, baby
Brie is already my favorite. Does such a fine cheese need to be gussied up with more goodies like nuts and raspberry jam?
I had the pleasure of sampling some baked brie with house made caramel, toasted almonds, fresh strawberries on grilled foccacia and crostini. I nearly teared up at the experience. It took me months to play with that notion that something sweet and/or salty would be good on most any white cheese and I did a quick test of microwaving white cheddar in a glass dish and spreading a bit of something like hazelnut spread on top. Again with the weeping. Can’t wait to play around some more.

Blue cheese
A little blue cheese goes a long way. I ‘ve been nursing a block for weeks by releasing a few crumbles onto eggs in the morning or salad for l lunch. I took a hint from restaurants and melted a tablespoon onto a grilled steak. Sometimes we forget about blue cheese until we see it on a menu. Go ahead and go blue right at home in your own kitchen.

Got it
People have been asking if I got my Haggen Dazs because I shared a story about enjoying other frozen treats on the way to tasting this one. I finally did, under unusual circumstances.
I enjoyed a great Orange Community Players’ production of The Great American Trailer Park Musical and after the show we passed a Kroger. My husband and I agreed to share a small carton of coffee flavored Haggen Dazs even though that little container housed 3.5 servings and even though he’d have preferred butter pecan. I wanted to eat it on the garden swing they had displayed in the store but compromised and dined in the deli. There were no spoons so we carved out the hard ice cream with think plastic knives. Awkward, but fun and delicious. That was date night in Orange.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lima bean hummus? It's Southern fresh

“Southern Made Fresh”
Oh my goodness but Daddy loved lima beans. I never did, in the traditional way. I love what Tasia Malakasis has done with them in “Southern Made Fresh: Vibrant Dishes Rooted in Homegrown Flavor.” It’s a Southern Living cookbook, so you know it’s high-quality with beautiful photos. The author also loves the tradition of Southern nibbles and also thinks Brussels sprouts were created as a form of wretched punishment for children. Her traditional and progressive attitudes allow her to keep playing, until she tried the sprouts in a slaw, with honey and mustard. She makes little switches like adding avocado to the already-classic BLT sandwich, and goes ahead and turns bacon into candy. I like her.
This book will help you plan a supper for one or a summer party for the block. I’m pretty sure my dad would have liked what she did to limas, but he’d have had to have also had a little bowl full flavored in the way to which he was accustomed. See, the South is big enough for all of us to get along.

Lima Bean Hummus
1 16-ounce package frozen Fordhook lima beans
2 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
one half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
one half teaspoon ground red pepper
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
Pita bread rounds, cut into wedges
1.   Cook lima beans in boiling water to cover 12 minutes or until very tender, drain
2.   2. With processor running, drop garlic through food chute, process until minced. Add lima beans, salt and next two ingredients. Process until smooth.
With processor running, slowly add oil and lemon juice through food chute, process until blended. Serve with pita wedges.

Angel food
I don’t even know how the angel food cake mix showed up in my pantry. But someone gave me the lemon pudding mix. So I combined the two to make a birthday treat for a friend. I didn’t care for angel food cake as a child, going instead for something more rich. Now I appreciate the subtlety of the sweetness, but it’s easy to kid yourself that it is more healthy and you can have an extra piece or two. So I topped it with the lemon pudding/pie filling I cooked up and enhanced with vanilla and whiskey.
It went well, but here’s another observation. At our ages, I tend to top birthday cakes with one symbolic candle. It’s kind of difficult to decide where to put one candle in a bundt cake. There’s no middle.
Oh well, it worked. There were no leftovers.

Do you blame the sulfites?
I certainly have. Used as antimicrobial and preservatives for bottling and storing wine, sulfites cause a sensitivity in some people. I think I’m one of them. Jean Ishihara used to feel very sick after wine and came up with a Just the Wine, which comes in eye-drop sized bottles so you can squirt a few drops into your glass or bottle. That’s all there is to it, but the story is interesting. Go to for the background. I tried it over the holidays and offer a good report.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Patillo's links diners to tradition

Patillo’s links diners to tradition

Ever since that Texas Monthly barbecue editor spoke at the McFaddin-Ward House, I’ve been on a mission to get to Patillo’s in Beaumont. Saturday, after a meatless Good Friday, my family got coated in sauce. We shared some ribs and a link, with the juicy link being our favorite. It’s just fun to go in and breathe in the aromas, visit with the waitresses and watch everyone else enjoying their food, too. It’s another reason to love Southeast Texas and all we have to offer.
Nappa cabbage
I’m mom has always been an innovative cook, serving things that no other of my classmates had ever experienced. She attempted true gourmet dishes way before there were cooking channels everywhere.
She just mentioned she’d never cooked nappa cabbage or bok choy at home, so I went out and presented her with a head of nappa. Knock yourself out, I told her. I had already sneaked off a few outer layers of this delicately, ribbed cabbage to use in salads before I gave it to her. So she invited me to dinner and it turns out she’d used the cabbage to make into “unstuffed” cabbage rolls, with a tomato sauce and meat.
Of course it was good, but I sure thought she was going to highlight this nappa’s beauty in some Asian dish. When I quizzed her, she assured me the last leaves would swing that way.

Onion tips
Pinterest is great for gardeners. I’ve had a little success snipping off the root end of onions and planting them to grow green onions. Word out is that onions from the store are treated to generally prevent this sort of recycling. If I plan 10 roots, maybe one or two of them will begin to grow. Readers, I’m wondering of you all have any tips on this. Let me know at the contact below:
This column runs in Port Arthur News