Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bacon on the brain

My mom tried a recipe for this Dijon mustard spread that you bake onto a head of cauliflower. She added a bacon weave, so the finished work looked like a brain with a bacon cap. We called it Bacon on the Brain. The spread had seemingly-flavorful ingredients, but didn’t taste like anything, so the bacon did become the star. In thinking about people who love vegetables, we thought this would make a great presentation for vegetarians, before remembering that of course, they don’t eat bacon. This is like trying to turn on the lights to find the candles because the electricity is out.

Hominy salads are there?
My husband needed a covered dish for work so I thought about what I had on hand: Rice and hominy. How about a salad with that? I Googled it, it’s a thing. Closer to the event, I didn’t have the time to make the rice, so it became a straight up hominy salad. I snagged some for my lunch and found my mixture of red and green onions, chipotle seasoning and fresh oregano leaves with vinegar and oil to be quite refreshing.
When the subject of hominy grits comes up, my husband invariably  asks “I don’t know? How many grits are there?”
There was apparently only one hominy salad at the covered dish.

The all-day tea bag
There’s something beyond my frugal nature (thanks, Dad) that drives me to employ the all-day tea bag technique. We’re supposed to drink lots of water, and I genuinely feel better when I do. So when I pull out one of my favorites, Tazo’s Passion flavor with hibiscus, I drop it in a pitcher of warm water and let it do its thing. So the first glasses are a deep red, and I keep adding water throughout the day until it’s a still-tasty light pink and I have drunk as much as I should to stay rehydrated in a Southeast Texas summer. I don’t consider that I’m drinking tea so much as delightfully flavored water.
Readers, do you have any tricks for flavored water? Send to me at:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lunch with Lucy at Kirby-Hill House

I’m guilty. I have heard about about this “treasure of the Big Thicket waiting to be discovered,” and I have not discovered it myself. I have met people who represent the Kountze spread and they are persuasive. One of them gave me “The Kirby-Hill House”cookbook, one of those spirals where the community shares their favorites. There’s a lot of soup offerings under the Lunch with Lucy section, and I think the lemon soup sounds like a great summer offering, It actually is written to add three teaspoons of rice. That seems miniscule, so I assume it’s a thickener. The other one I’m sharing is Love Soup. It sounds more like fall fare, but I just liked the name.

Lemon Soup
4 12-ounce cans chicken broth
3 teaspoons uncooked rice
3 eggs, beaten
3 teaspoons lemon juice
Cook the broth and rice until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Beat the eggs until light and gradually add lemon juice, beating until blended. Pour part of the hot soup slowly into the egg mixture, then return to the remainder of the soup. Do not heat further and if it should begin to curdle, beat with a rotary beater. Serve at once with lemon zest and curl on top. Serves six.

Love Soup
One third cup beef bouillon granules
One fourth cup dried minced onion
One half cup dried split peas
One half cup macaroni
One fourth cup barley
One half cup lentils
One third cup long grain white rice
1 cup tri-colored spiral pasta
1 pound ground beef, browned and drained
Place all the ingredients except the pasta in a large soup pot. Add 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add pasta and simmer 15 minutes more. Put cooked pasta into a bowl and add soup.

No. 23
For months I’ve kept No. 23 in my head for the date I return to Pho Ha on Nederland Avenue. Some one took me to lunch there and I saw two other culinary thrill seekers on my way in the door for the first time. They told me I’d love No. 23, but it was a Friday in Lent and I was going meatless. I enjoyed the meal I did have, but vowed to return for a bowl of vermicelli noodles topped with char-grilled meat, crispy bits, chopped nuts and fresh vegetables.
That day came and I also had the pleasure of introducing my mom to this aspect of Vietnamese food. She also succumbed to the No. 23 and, since she had phoned a friend for advice, asked for a side of spicy chicken sauce to go with it. While my husband enjoyed his lemon chicken over rice, he also kept his eyes on our No. 23 orders.
Our waiter must get asked how to pronounce the restaurant’s name daily. I’m still working on the concept that “pho,” the soup, is pronounced something like “fuh,” as in “fuhget about it.” The “Ha” comes from the owner’s wife’s name, he said.

Nuts about it
Taking my cue from Asian restaurants I have loved, I often use peanuts and other nuts as “croutons” on my salads. Nuts are good fats, the only problem is many of us can’t eat just a few. If you’re taking a salad to work, measure out a portion and that’s all you get. Add them at the last minute, after your simple-yet-complex vinegar and oil dressing you’ve created. Now you salad is healthy, classy and different from the usual fare.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The flavors of Southern Summer Night

Last year I danced with a priest. I might do that again, but I’ll also be into the beef teriyaki satays with honey sriracha dipping sauce and cheddar crab-stuffed jalapeno poppers with ranch cream cheese.
It’s time for Southern Summer Night, the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce night of food and music that will also benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center. If you know about their good works, you can probably guess which priest and I cut a rug.
J.A.G. will return to the stage and Longneck Road will also play at the Carl A. Parker Multipurpose Center, with the fun going on from 8 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, July 19.
The heavy hor’ dourves menu has more surprises from Golden Triangle Chef’s Association and Christus St. Mary.
Some of the night’s proceeds will benefit the Port Arthur International Seafarers’ Center, an outreach for mariners calling on Port Arthur area docks. The Center hires drivers and provides a welcoming “home away from home” for mariners who can shop; get to church, hotels, airports and doctors; and communicate with their families.
Visit or call 409-963-1107 for your tickets.

One-stop yummy shop

Phoenicia Specialty Foods of Houston has received my summer business and admiration again. I returned to the big one at 12141 (way out) on Westheimer and took my husband to experience huge warehouse displays of jams, pickles, beans, tins of fish, oils, crackers and other staples from around the globe. There’s also the bread that comes from the sky, or at least the conveyor belt from the second floor. We ate lasagna and octopus salad at the deli and left with a cart full of culinary adventure. The store management posts the phrase “one stop yummy shop,” but I won’t disagree.

Frigidaire means professional
To have so much power in your hands is heady. Be careful where you point the Tri-Blade Immersion Blender/Mixer because you’re in business, now. The 10-inch wand is extra long and the dual-whisk mixing attachment is going to town for you and your dinner. Summer is the time to play with this very powerful package that will crush ice, turn your garden bounty into soups and transform fruits into cool beverages for the family. Frigidaire has rights to brag on this Velouté knife with vortex power. They’re also proud of the “extra large chopper with no mess.”
Right before I wrote this, I just silently buzzed some fresh jalapenos and red onions into a pico de gallo for my Tex-Mex breakfast. I’m planning to keep this beauty on my counter all summer. Best Buy and Lowes are among listed providers.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Do you need Southern cooking lessons?

Say yes, and you’re in for some temptations by studying Johnnie Gabriel’s latest book, “ How to Cook Like a Southerner: Classic Recipes from the South’s Best Down-Home Cooks.
Gabriel’s bakery and restaurant in Marietta, Ga. Is where you can just show up and enjoy the food, but this book is where she shares her family’s ways.
Along the way pick up four tips for cleaning mushrooms, some ways to enjoy a bounty of zucchini, how a tad of sugar brings out the best in roasted broccoli and a method for cutting corn from the cob. You are saving your bacon grease, right? You know how to make fried green tomatoes?
Southern cooks need to know these things. And by the way, Texas gets some good publicity in this book.
Gabriel is also author of “Second Helpings.”
Many of the recipes are very quick and/or easy to assemble. Here’s one that combines cheese and bacon in a very Southern way:

Hot Pimento Cheese Dip
This goes on sandwiches and is sold by the pound at Gabriel’s:
Three fourths cup mayonnaise
1 pound sugar
 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese (grate your own as pre-shredded will change consistency)
1 2-ounce jar diced pimentos, well drained
6 to 8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and chopped
1 to 2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Pita chips for serving
In a medium bowl whisk the mayonnaise and the sugar. Add the cheese and the pimento, combining well.
Preheat the oven broiler on low setting.
Spread the desired amount of pimento cheese one half to 3 fourths of an inch deep onto an ovenproof serving plate. Sprinkle chopped bacon and tomato to taste over the top of the pimento cheese and plae under the broiler until the mixture is hot and beginning to bubble. Serve hot with pita chips.
* Try substituting carmelized nuts for the bacon and tomato

Breaking the rules cooking
Did you get to enjoy the Rotary fish fry? The slaw was good by itself, but I ended up with more little containers than I could eat at once. I minced fresh jalapenos, shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes, then mixed in a container of slaw. It made an new salad that was creamy, with lots of textures, colors and crunch.

July is National Ice Cream Month
Ironicaly,  I’m observing this with DF MAVENS, dairy-free ice cream.
You’d never know that soy, coconut and almond makes this rich, gluten-free and kosher goodness. They may be in New York City, but I’m here to say they got New Orleans Salted Praline just right. Alphonso Mango and Key Lime Crème are other really amazing flavors I’ve tried.
I remember an aunt who topped her ice cream with a little banana. These days I go for a big bowl of healthy fruit with a dab of the frozen stuff on top. This is the best way to make sure your cartons of DF MAVENS last as long as possible. Also, you may want to tuck it in the freezer way behind the spinach so no one else knows it is there.

Coconut and what?
When Carrington Farms sent me two samples of flavored liquid coconut oil, in rosemary and garlic, all I could think about was breakfast for the next two days. I wanted to cook an egg in each flavor and had a tough time deciding which to try first. I won’t even try to decide which was more delicious. I wouldn’t have thought of these combos, but I’m glad Carrington Farms did.
Here’s why makers say coconut oil is trending:
Great for Sautéing - Coconut Oil has a higher smoke point than traditional olive oil
Chock Full of Nutrients - Rich in Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT's) which promote an increased calorie burn
Heart Health Benefits: Can improve cholesterol levels
   Brain Power: Fatty acids found in coconut oil can boost brain function
There’s a spray, too: