Monday, March 30, 2015

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
with walnuts & asiago
Inspired by Italic, Austin


Last week I had the honor of attending a media preview party for the hotly anticipated Italic, newest culinary child of the ELM Restaurant Group, proud parents of wildly popular 24 Diner, Easy Tiger, and Arro, in Austin.

Everyone was there. All the fanciest foodies and the hippest scenesters were in attendance. The location is sleek and elegant, the staff, friendly and courteous, the food varied and bountiful, the drinks flowed freely. It was a smash of a first taste —Chef Andrew Curren and crew produced a spread that has this food town talking. I can’t wait to go back.


The next day, when my stomach first started rumbling for attention, my immediate thought was—THAT SALAD. I must have that salad. In fact, had Italic been open to the public on Thursday of last week, I’d have happily lined up for a seat for THAT SALAD.  There was not an off note in the entire menu of offerings the night before, but the salad, because I’m definitely a salad girl, left a mighty impression.

I had, fortuitously, what I thought to be the bones of the dish--a beautiful stalk of brussels sprouts from JBG Organics, a handful of walnuts, and though I believe the dish had pecorino cheese,  I had asiago on hand, so that was what I used. I was ready to try to hash it out.  So, inspired by that perfect dish from that perfect evening, and the fruit of a little internet research, this recipe from Sam Sifton editor of the New York Times, I set about to play in the kitchen.

SHAVED BRUSSELS SPROUTS SALAD
with walnuts and asiago


1 healthy stalk of brussels sprouts, with greens (see Notes, below)
1/2-1 cup walnut halves
6 ounces asiago cheese, shaved
4 Meyer lemons, juiced
1/2 t dried chervil
a healthy pour of top-quality Italian olive oil
kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Wash well, trim, and shave brussels sprouts with a sharp paring knife or mandoline. Roll greens into a tight cigar and shred thinly, crosswise. Leave the smallest sprouts whole. Toss in a salad bowl with walnut halves, asiago cheese shards, chervil, and lemon juice. Pour a few solid glugs of olive oil over, and mix well. (I used my pristinely clean hands to massage the sprouts, break them up, and help them wilt a bit. If that's a bit icky to you, mix them vigorously, cover and allow to macerate for up to an hour.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.


NOTES

  • Brussels sprouts-- for four servings, use about 2 pints of sprouts, or more. If the greens are unavailable, substitute shredded collard greens, or finely shredded greens cabbage-- or no greens at all, with a little more shaved sprouts to make up for the absence.
  • Walnuts-- No walnuts? Use chopped hazelnuts. I'll bet those would be good. Almonds in a real pinch. But it's the texture of this salad that really makes it shine, and the walnuts are just perfect, really.
  • Cheese-- No Asiago? Pecorino was the original choice. Any hard cheese, like Parmesan would do. Shave it thinly with a cheese plane or vegetable peeler. Or crumble it from the wedge with a fork
  • Meyer lemons-- No Meyer lemons? Try regular lemons, but pull back a bit on the juice-- they are more sour than Meyers. I'd zest the lemons to add to the salad to more closely approximate the flavor of a Meyer. You could certainly omit the lemon juice entirely. But, really, any excuse for a lemon in my world.
  • Chervil-- No chervil? No worries. Dill might be nice, but use a very light hand. Fresh fennel fronds would be interesting. Maybe even minced celery leaves. Or leave the herbs out entirely. 

Last night, I shared the salad with my girlfriends for Sunday Supper, and it filled us up with nothing more than a highball glass of wine, and great company. So simple. So satisfying. This dish will show up in my salad rotation as long as there are sprouts in season. They won’t be around after it gets hot, so get on it, salad-loving friends.

Happily, Italic, unlike the season for brussels, will be available to us all year long. Do yourself a favor and make plans to visit Italic as soon as they open to the public. Stay tuned!




Friday, March 27, 2015

Farmers Market Favorite
Spring Duck Sausage & Brussels Sprout Salad with Cherry & Pecan


It's always exciting to find new products from my favorite market vendors. Belle Vie Farms, in addition to offering duck eggs, duck fat, and duck charcuterie including pate, rillettes, and mousse, is now selling fresh duck sausages in two varieties-- Italian seasoned, and Spring, with kale and herbs. I couldn't wait to get my hands on these beauties, and this salad, with spring vegetables and fruity flavors proved to be the perfect complement to the salad's bright star, courtesy of Belle Vie's happy ducks. It was a big hit among market-goers-- Belle Vie sold out on Sunday! I'll bet you'll enjoy this quick work of a light meal with a little European flair, too! 

Not in Austin? No worries. I've provided some suitable substitutions for the locally-sourced products in the ingredient notes, following.

SPRING DUCK SAUSAGE & BRUSSELS SPROUT SALAD WITH CHERRY & PECAN

Serves 2 for a full meal


  • BelleVie Farm Spring Duck Sausage
  • BelleVie Farm Duck Fat
  • One bunch kale (B5 Farm), trimmed, stalks removed, chopped finely
  • 2 C brussels sprouts (JBG Organics), trimmed, quartered
  • ¼ C dried cherries (see ingredient notes, below)
  • ¼ C pecan halves  (Yegua Creek Farm)
  • 2 T good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 t honey (Austin Honey Company)
  • 2-4 ounces black pepper cheddar, crumbled (Dos Lunas Cheese)
  • 1 cup stock (duck or chicken stock)
  • ½t dried thyme (or a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, destemmed)


In a heavy skillet over medium high heat, saute chopped kale in 2 tablespoons duck fat. Remove to large mixing bowl. 

Saute brussels sprouts, adding duck fat to pan if necessary, until edges slightly brown. 

Add dried cherries and pecans and toss well with sprouts. 

Drizzle vinegar and honey over and mix well, stirring frequently for about two minutes. Remove to mixing bowl and toss with kale.  Toss in crumbled black pepper cheddar cheese.

To the warm skillet, brown duck sausages on each side. Add stock to pan and simmer sausages until cooked through. Remove sausages, increase heat, add thyme, and reduce stock, scraping bits from the pan, to make about a ¼ cup pan sauce.  Add to vegetable mixture and toss well. 

Divide salad on serving plates, top with 1-2 links of sausage, and serve.



Ingredient Notes

If you have the fortune of living in Austin or the surrounding area, you’ll find the vendor sources listed for all ingredients at the Texas Farmers’ Market at Mueller.

Suitable Substitutions

Spring Duck Sausage-- Any fresh sausage of your choosing will substitute. Skip anything smoked or cured and head to the butcher case. A chicken or turkey sausage, perhaps with the addition of apple, greens, onions, herbs would be good. Try to stay away from heavy-handed seasoning. If links are large, one will do. If smaller, allow 1-2 links per serving.

Duck fat—you could get away with a little schmaltz, or chicken fat, if duck fat is unavailable, but a little extra effort to find ‘duck butter’, as it is often called by chefs is worth the effort. High quality lard (pork fat) could be used as a last resort.

Kale and Brussels Sprouts—if you’re close to a local farmers’ market, you’ll find these in season right now in many areas of the country. Any variety of kale will do, and you can use the brussels sprouts greens, rolled into a ‘cigar’ and sliced thinly, if you have access to a big beautiful stalk like those from JBG. In lieu of that, you can plump up the greens component with collard greens, which have a similar texture, or use all kale. If using baby brussels, halve or leave whole. 

At the market, Yegua Creek Farm offers a trail mix of dried cherries and blueberries, pecans and cashews. It was an easy hack to simply use a handful of this delicious combination. Cherries with duck is a classical pairing, so in lieu of that convenience, use pecans and dried cherries from the bulk section of your local market. Try to find cherries with no sugar added—if that proves fruitless (see what I did there??), omit the added honey.

I used local honey in this recipe, and I recommend you do the same. Local honey has a reputation for keeping seasonal allergies manageable; no small feat in Central Texas or any spring weather location for that matter. It will make little difference with the small amount in this dish, but using local honey to sweeten beverages and more, over time, has shown to be helpful with the sneezy, watery, red-eyed plague.

The Dos Lunas Black Pepper Cheddar is a favorite local nibbling cheese, however should you encounter difficulty finding a black pepper cheddar, any good-quality artisan cheddar will do, especially if it has those characteristic slight salty crystals. Grab a cheesemonger at the market and go with their suggestions. Grind some fresh black pepper into the salad if you’ll miss the pepper, (like I would). 

Stock? Well if you have access to duck stock, by all means use it. The idea, here, is to layer the duck flavors through use of duck fat, duck stock, duck sausage. It lends a kind of European luxury to this simple but refined meal. It might be a little pricey, or a little rare to find in your area. I’ve used chicken stock with success, and should you be unable to find the other duck items, you’ll still benefit from layering the flavors as mentioned by using good quality chicken sausage, chicken fat, and chicken stock.
+++++++

No doubt, some of these items cost a bit more than generic sausage, cooking oil, and less than fresh vegetables, but using them in smaller quantities, and bulking up the meal with extra green is the way I remain within my conservative food budget. Higher quality, full-flavored food is fully satisfying, in smaller quantities. My motto: Eat better. Eat less.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Patika, Austin


Patika, South Lamar
2159 South Lamar
Austin, 78704
HOURS: Monday-Thursday: 7am-10pm, Friday-Saturday: 7am-Late, Sunday: 7am-8pm


Sleek and chic Patika, located on booming South Lamar is light, bright, and friendly, and serves a top-notch cup o' joe.

Located in the redesigned former residence of Gold Creations and Liberty Tax, those of the sparkly signs and dancing Statues of Liberty, Patika lends good taste to a rapidly transforming section of the street formerly known as 'a little seedy', and perfectly funky. Let's just say it's now more uptown funk. The hip new-ish neighborhood coffeeshop and more fits in nicely and nicely.



The perfect satellite office, neighborhood hangout, or light breakfast or lunch spot, Patika offers many features that help it stand out in a jam-packed crowd of independent Austin coffee shops. Formerly operating a popular mobile coffee truck downtown since 2010, their growing reputation for offering a primo cup of caffeine lead to the opening of this airy and hip brick and mortar. It's contemporary interior offers ample natural light (hello, Instagrammers), a peaceful ambiance, and several options for seating including tables, counter seating that looks out on busy SoLa, a cozy little corner for a sip and a visit, and a patio outback perfect for soaking up the sun, or gathering with friends over an evening glass of wine and nibbles.


Patika has recently expanded its menu beyond delicious house-made morning pastries to include all day snacks and upscale bar bites. Beverages range from top-quality coffee drinks to fine craft beers and wines,

As with any trendy business in town, parking can be an issue for this popular spot, Patika offers 10 dedicated parking spots, and 8 spots shared with an adjacent business. As is the nature of the business, many folks come and go quickly, and a quick circle of the block usually is enough time for an opening. Open at 7am, you'll see a steady stream of regulars making this their ritual stop on the morning commute. Learn more about one of my favorite new java spots on their website, Patika, South Lamar  .


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I Hate(d) Vegetables
Recipe: Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables



Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but this former farmer, all e-i-e-i-oh how I love growing my own organic food, currently enjoying a "plant-forward" (that's how they say lotsa vegetables these days) diet, has some skeletons in her pantry. This Little Miss Farmers' Market Chef and supporter used to......shhhhhhhh......

hate vegetables

! ! ! ! ! ! ! {insert horror movie sound effects}


Oh I tolerated a few. I always thought potatoes were pretty cool. I liked canned green beans, cooked to death with bacon and extra sodium, please, and salad. Specifically iceberg lettuce, sliced cucumbers, chopped scallions, and tomato wedges. With dressing. Lots of it. Because that is the salad of my childhood. And those, the veggies.

Of course my mother tried to expand my horizons. There were canned black eyed peas. Canned green peas. Canned corn. Canned hominy-- all enriched with a healthy dose of bacon grease. Frozen broccoli, cooked until limp and yellow, smothered in Campbell's cheese gloop soup. Those were proper vegetables in the sixties seventies.

Occasionally my mother would have some crazy midlife wild culinary hair, and steam a head of FRESH (!!!) cauliflower. TO DEATH. She'd seen the "recipe" in Family Circle. She'd disguise it under a blanket of melted cheddar. I'd eat the cheddar. There was the rare, but equally bland, boiled, TO DEATH but FRESH, squarsh, as my Midwestern mother called it. Apparently salt would have caused disaster for the boiled and steamed. We were spared the pernicious effects of adequate over seasoning.

She'd stuff bell peppers with ground beef and rice and some (canned) tomatoes (gross). I'd eat the stuffing, dragging every little bit of pinkish red flesh from the pile and hiding it under my dinner roll. I was always ready to sacrifice the bread to provide shelter for the undesired. Which took a pretty big dinner roll. I was allowed to eat the stuffing and leave the grey-ish, revolting boiled bell pepper shell, but the edible part, in my eyes, was ruined, still, by the overpowering, overcooked  beyond hope of fresh green bitterness. No worries. Mom would melt some cheddar over it.

No cheddar cheese could mask the childhood horror of stewed okra. With canned tomatoes. None. Not. Enough. Cheese.


My mother was beautiful and kind, devoted and supportive. She was the most fastidious housekeeper I've ever known. She could simply look at a dress in the store, and get home with fabric and notions the very same day to crank it out under the whirrrr of a needle, humming satisfactorily well into the wee hours. She once made me a pale pink crepe-back satin formal jumpsuit with a satin cumberbund for a thespian banquet that I told her about 4 hours before my ride arrived. She stayed up all night hammering out helping with our school projects. Teachers breathlessly praised her our handiwork and called in their cohorts to see what the perfectly tidy twins had accomplished. Her penmanship was the envy of the best calligraphers, she carved a perfect pumpkin, she created AMAZING costumes-- dance recitals, cheerleaders' uniforms, four year old toy machine gun-toting trick or treating Bonnie and Clydes, Living History Days' Clara Bartons and Native Americans, Christmas pageant Marys and Josephs, the requisite get-ups for Y-Indian Guides, Bluebirds, Camp Fire Girls. and later, everyone's costumes for at least one or two of her daughter's frequent theatrics. My mother made June Cleaver look like a grunge rocker. She was impeccable at everything she attempted.

Except vegetables. She'd readily admit that she was not exactly in her happy place in the kitchen. Her utensil of choice was a can opener. That's what I knew of vegetables. I ate potatoes and canned green beans and salad alongside my protein for half of my life. And I liked it just fine.

And then came that crazy experiment. That six-year long farming foray into seasonal eating. I'd eat, I asserted, almost entirely what I could grow or raise with my own Farmers' Almanac clutched in my tight little garden-gloved fist. I hadn't the room to raise cows or pigs, and I had gone and NAMED the goats so that meat was out. (I did eventually name one of the more unlikable goats Sausage. And he was delicious.) I hated plucking chickens. I managed to milk a goat and make some cheese, and eggs were easy and plentiful, but that left a lot of blank space on my plate, and there was a lot of growing going on in, and in spite of, that impossibly rocky soil, and heavens-to-Betsy I was going to learn how to cook, and eat....VEGETABLES.



If you've been following along, you know the rest of the story. The pages of this blog are filled to overflowing with vegetable-heavy recipes. I've flirted with ....shhhhh....veganism! I joyfully embraced a raw foods diet for exactly one month. I've honored Meatless Mondays for months of Sundays, and now, well now I'm amazed at myself to say.....

I LOVE VEGETABLES!

FRESH vegetables. Asparagus and beetroot and parsnips and brussels sprouts and turnips and BEANS and GREENS-- lots of them. And I've learned my favorite ways to prepare them to bring out their best and most flavorful-- simply.

On Mondays, these days, and in the spirit of the Meatless Monday tradition, I prepare a batch of fresh, seasonal vegetables to eat the entire week, following. One of my favorite methods for bringing out the best in these little gifts from the earth is roasting. It's healthy. It's easy. It's delicious. It's like dialing it in, all in one pan. And all of those vegetables I'd simply pass on my way to the canned goods aisle are now the stars of my plate. I think you'll like roasted vegetables, too. Grab a pan. Let's get down to business.



1 bunch each, parsnips, carrots, radishes, red beets, and golden beats,scrubbed clean, greens removed and reserved for later use (try THIS). I leave them unpeeled-- I prefer the texture and the healthy helping of fiber, but feel free to peel them if you choose. Quarter the beets, halve the radishes, slice the carrots and parsnips into bite-sized pieces.

A couple of small apples-- I used the dainty, tart crabapples that a local farmer grew, halved, but any small apple will do, quartered. I also added 2 small sweet onions, halved. Quarter them, also, if any larger than, say, a tennis ball.

Grapeseed oil, to coat the roasting pan, a drizzle of walnut oil, optional, a healthier pour of good-quality aged balsamic vinegar (I used a fig balsamic), and a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a scant teaspoon of dried herbes de provence, or any preferred fresh or dried herbs, a grating of one small finger of fresh ginger, and a few grinds of freshly-cracked black pepper.

Finishing salt-- I used a favorite, Maldon salt flakes, but a simple but coarser ground Kosher salt is a great option, too.

Note: Roasting root vegetables releases their natural sugars-- their inherent sweetness is enhanced by the balsamic, as well. However adding a slight trickle of honey or maple syrup to the mix wouldn't be bad, at all if you're accommodating a slightly sweet tooth.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Coat roasting pan with a light shimmer of grapeseed oil. Toss vegetables together with preferred herbs and seasonings, and dress with balsamic and walnut oil, honey, or maple syrup, if using. (Hint: I separate the beetroot, to minimize "bleeding" onto the remaining vegetables. It works slightly.) Cover pan with lid, or aluminum foil, and roast for about 30 minutes, or until vegetables are just fork tender. Uncover, and roast about 10 minutes longer. Toss, and plate.

Serve as is, or dress things up a bit with a touch of chevre, feta cheese, or a spoonful of labneh (Try it homemade. EASY.). Probably not cheddar.

This batch yields about 4 side servings of vegetables, or 2 healthy entrees.

This is just one of the seasonal assembly of roasted vegetables in my arsenal. I roast everything! I love turnips or brussels sprouts with sweet potatoes, strawberries and black pepper with fennel and asparagus, butternut squash and kale with raisins, boy choy with carrots and shitake mushrooms, roasted tomatoes with eggplant, garlic, and fresh parsley-- really the combinations are endless. A culinary rule of thumb is that vegetables that GROW together, GO together. What are YOUR favorite vegetable combinations?

Friday, March 20, 2015

About Town: Austin
Terry Black's Barbecue


Sometimes you don't want to wait hours for your barbecue. You don't want to fight for a seat at a rickety picnic table under the blistering hot sun. Sometimes you don't want to drive an hour for your barbecue. You want it right THEN. Or at least reasonably close to THEN.

Sometimes you just want to meet your favorite food loving friends for barbecue in a fairly central location, with parking, maybe a patio, a few cold ones-- and you don't want to spend a vacation day or a month's pay to do so.

You're going to like Terry Black's Barbecue for all of those reasons.

I was invited to Terry Black's for an introduction to the newest project, the lineage of which can be traced back to the original, beloved. Black's Barbecue, in Lockhart (find them among the best barbecue we found east of Austin in the 2015 #ATXBestEats: On the Outskirts of Town The Legendary Barbecue Scene East of Austin). "Born and raised in Lockhart, Texas, Terry Black passed down generations of barbecue knowledge learned from his experience in the Lockhart BBQ scene. His twin sons Michael and Mark Black bring their very own style of central Texas BBQ from Lockhart to Terry Black's Barbecue in Austin and now to you and your family to enjoy!" their website proudly boasts, and after my visit, as the affable Mark Black sat and chatted with me about barbecue in general, and my favorites, specifically, I could see that Terry Black's commitment to quality and service is being enthusiastically carried on by his proud and determined sons.


Of and around the building, itself, which has been home to several past Austin restaurants, you might just find a parking spot-- no small detail in this rapidly growing city and in short supply among neighboring businesses. The pit, where the magic happens, is in the rear of the lot. You'll find a welcoming open-air patio from which to watch passing cars and foot traffic along bustling Barton Springs road, directly across from the Palmer Events Center. The dining area is spacious, and heavily accessorized by all of the proper Texas iconography. You'll get a great big welcome from the friendly and efficient hosts and counter staff, ready to share your enthusiasm for Lone Star favorites-- brisket, pork ribs, beef ribs, sausage, turkey, and more. You might even feel comfortable bringing your vegetarian friends along, because they offer an assortment of sides that will keep them eating (while you hide your Tyrannosaurus Rex-sized beef rib from their delicate glance).

I was generously offered one of every side, and Mark Black prepared a sampling of meat including house-made jalapeno cheese sausage, turkey, sliced brisket-- both 'moist', that fattier cut of the brisket that Texans just love, and lean, which while healthier, can often run a little tough on the teeth, and a thickly pepper-crusted pork rib. I'd have loved to sample the beef rib, but these beef ribs are hardly a sampling size, at around a pound a piece. As is standard, you'll find complimentary sliced dill pickles and onions, and sliced white bread just past the cashier, along with iced tea, both sweet and unsweetened, water and soft drink dispenser. You'll have passed a nice selection of iced local and domestic beers as you lined up for your meal. And desserts-- pecan pie, banana pudding, and peach cobbler are offered with the sides, and ice cream, also just past the cashier.

Sides include, from upper left, clockwise, green beans, macaroni and cheese, pickled peppers, creamed corn, peach cobbler, cole slaw, mexican rice, potato salad, and pinto beans, center. Meats, right, include from center, clockwise, turkey, moist brisket, lean brisket, pork rib, and smoked jalapeno cheese sausage. My favorite sides were creamed corn, cole slaw, and potato salad, and my favorite meats were the turkey (I know, right? Turkey? It's fantastic!), and the lean brisket (surprised myself on that one, but the lean brisket is still very tender and not at all dry).
Texas barbecue lovers, a dedicated group of loyal fans of the state's pride and joy to which I claim membership, can be a tough audience. They have fastidious measurements regarding their perfect 'cue, and are typically and fanatically loyal to at least one, but maybe several, local pits. Street 'cue cred is measured by the number of of the moment smoky spots one has visited, and which they call their favorites (and maybe just a little knowledge of the barbecue drama among pitmasters and families over the years). Traditional and long-standing barbecue outposts can be overlooked, in favor of new folks who are making a big splash in the Austin barbecue pool, that splash well-deserved, but there are still some fine, if not flashy, options available to those who prefer their smoky 'cue without the side order of fuss.

Terry Black's Barbecue
1003 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX 78704
p: 512-394-5899

Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11am–9pm, or until the barbecue runs out.

A note from the website:
We occasionally sell out of some or all meat items. The pits are loaded up each morning with briskets for the next day and smoked 14 to 16 hours, soon after they come off the beef ribs, pork ribs, turkeys, then sausage go on. Then it starts all over.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Terry Black's Barbecue by its marketing team, and I was fed generously, on the house.


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