Meatless Monday
Savoring Summer: Grilled Summer Vegetable Pizza

As summer winds down, we're all looking for any opportunity to steal away to the porch, or the patio, or the poolside (if you're lucky) for an early supper al fresco.  

A great way to keep ourselves, and the heat, out of the kitchen, firing up the grill is this girl's late summer modus operandi. This Meatless Monday, celebrate late summer by piling on the garden or market bounty atop a toasted crust, top it with a summery-seasoned chevre, and enjoy this easy Grilled Summer Vegetable Pizza. 

Want to know my favorite thing about this pizza? Vegan, Vegetarian, Meatless, Low Fat, doesn't matter. I don't give those details one thought when I'm digging in. It's not almost as good as its less-healthy cousins.  It's just gooood.

prepared pizza crust
roasted red pepper sauce (recipe below)
prepared vegetables (This summer harvest includes red and yellow onions, red, green and golden sweet peppers, crimini mushrooms, yellow, orange, and red pear tomatoes, and fresh sage leaves.)
herbed chevre (see note, below)

Scrape grill to clean and brush with oil.  Preheat to around 500 degrees.

This particular pizza was built upon a  Udi's brand gluten-free pizza crust. You can use your own homemade crust, or any other pre-made crust you prefer. Brush one side with olive oil. Place it, oil side up, on the grill and close the top. Cook for 5 minutes, turn, brush opposite with light film of oil, close the grill and cook for 5 minutes longer. Why are we cooking it before topping it? It seals the crust and keeps it from getting all soggy and yuck when the toppings begin cooking and releasing their juices.

Remove crust from grill and spread roasted pepper sauce, below, around top of crust. Top with fresh, seasonal vegetables of your choice. We've used red and yellow onions, red, green and golden sweet peppers, crimini mushrooms, yellow, orange, and red pear tomatoes, and fresh sage leaves. This pizza was topped with housemade from maggie's farm Lemon Herbed Chevre. You may use any soft, creamy goat cheese you prefer 

Note: You say you don't have time to make your own chevre? On a Monday? The day school starts? Okay. I get that. Tell you what-- let's pull together an easy substitute. Using a store-bought plain soft and creamy chevre, combine about 2-4 ounces cheese in a mixing bowl with the zest of one lemon, and minced fresh herbs of your choice: parsley, chives, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, or any combination thereof. Stir to combine, allow to come to room temperature, and then dot the top of the pizza with delectable dollops. I'm not encouraging dishonesty or anything, but, hey, you combined all of this in a bowl didn't you? Why not call it your own housemade chevre? None will be the wiser. (wink, wink.)

Note: For a vegan version, leave the chevre in the case, prepare roasted red pepper sauce employing vegan substitutions, or use a vegan pesto (most pestos are, indeed, vegan, but read your labels for certainty), then proceed with grilling as below. 

Transfer pizza to grill. Notice all that stuff on the pizza peel? It's cornmeal, and it will make that pizza glide off with ease. Some of it will stick to the bottom of the pizza...and that's good. It adds a tiny bit of crunch to the bottom crust.  

Close the grill top and let pizza roast until the cheese is lusciously melted, and vegetables are browned to your likeness. The more they cook, the softer they'll become. I like mine a little crispy, with the edges browned, cooked a total of about 15 minutes.  

Grill peppers like the Hatch chiles we roasted in this recent post. Peel, (perhaps leaving some skin on for a smokier flavor) to yield approximately two cups of cored, seeded pepper halves. Transfer to a food processor bowl, add 2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, 1T herbed chevre (or substitute silken tofu for vegan version), season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Process in quick pulses until thick consistency is achieved. 

Note: After processing, you may find that peppers have released more juice than you expected-- Mother Nature is not exact-- and it may be too thin to spread consistentlyTo remedy this, I often add a little parsley, Parmesan cheese, or even nutritional yeast if I'm teasing myself that I'm vegan that day, week, occasion, to acquire the thicker paste we're going for here. You can even use walnuts or almonds, too. Kind of like a pesto with no oil, and no basil. Okay, not much like a pesto, but the consistency of pesto.
A unique base for pizza, this roasted pepper sauce is quite versatile, too. Toss with warm pasta, dress up a simple chicken breast, dip toasted baguette slices in a bowlful. Use to perk a plain-jane dish, and keep a jar refrigerated (for up to a week), to dress up dinner when you are all out of creative food thoughts.  

Yeah, it happens sometimes, doesn't it?  Even to me.


Join Notes From Maggie's Farm tomorrow, on Tips for Tuesday, when we'll extend the grilling season using the freshest of flavors to complement both meats and vegetables-- the Argentine specialty, Chimichurri

Savoring Summer
Indian-spiced Grilled Okra

I am not going to lie.  I hate okra.

Or I used to hate it.

Okra will break an adolescent heart.

When I was young, my mother regularly made a big pot of stewed okra and tomatoes for.....herself.  I mean she certainly didn't cook it for me. OR my brother. WE HATED IT.

But those early stages of stewed okra preparation were the cruelest. When Mom sauteed the chopped onions and celery, it smelled DIVINE. I'd get quite excited. That aroma rarely meant anything but delectable. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's simply one of the finest fragrances to emanate from the kitchen.

And then....THEN SHE'D GO AND RUIN IT!  She'd add canned tomatoes and frozen okra to it. Two of the most detested foods of my youth. I daresay everyone's youth! (Okay, not everyone, but c'mon. Did you really crave stewed okra and canned tomatoes in your younger days?)

So back to the beginning-- I hate okra.

Unless it's roasted or grilled.  Then, oddly enough, I LOVE okra.

What's that about??

Well, it's about that slime. Properly roasted or grilled okra is not slimy, especially if tackled whole. Okra becomes slimy when those funky little seed balls within the pod are crushed. That's the primary source of the mucilaginous goooooo. Using a very sharp knife to slice okra (avoiding pressing heavily on the pod) can eliminate some of the issue. Leaving the pods whole can eliminate almost all of the issue. And a third tip towards desliming came from a friend from India-- he always soaks his okra in vinegar before cooking.

No slimy okra?  Sign me up!

So, I made an Indian-spiced marinade, let the pod-babies soak in it for a few hours, drained, patted (mostly) dry, and grilled it directly on a clean grate. I like mine almost blackened-crisp, but you may adjust the grilling time to your own preferred doneness. Over a medium-hot flame, I cooked these pods on an open grill for about 4 minutes, flipped them with the aid of a large, heatproof spatula, then about 4 minutes on the remaining side. Naturally, grill times will vary with the temperature and location of the heat source. Keep an eye on them.

1/8 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
2T garam masala spice blend
1t kosher salt

Prepare about a pint of okra by wiping pods with a dampened towel.

Toss okra pods into a large plastic storage bag with marinade. Allow to marinate 2 hours or more, frequently turning the bag to cover okra. Remove from marinade, drain, and pat lightly to remove excess marinade.

Over a medium hot fire, grill okra directly on a clean grate, turning once, for about 4 minutes on each side, until moderately crisp. (see note above for adjusting cooking time, temperature, and placement on grill to reach your desired degree of doneness.)

Remove from heat. Season to taste with kosher salt. Serve.

Now I love this whole pod grilled okra, and I think you will, too, so much that it rarely reaches my plate. I manage to polish off whole batches while the rest of the meal finishes its grill time. But should patience be your virtue, you might like to try it with this Smoky Roasted Garlic & Red Pepper Sauce, on another post about my previous hatred distaste horror mild disfavor of okra.

Read More:
Ode to Okra Virginia Willis, Southern Foodways Alliance
Growing Okra The Old Farmers Almanac
Okra: A Savor the South® Cookbook Virginia Willis
Grilling Veggies and Fruits Whole Foods Market

And more from this Savoring Summer series:
Grilled Peaches with Pesto & Chevre

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Fresh from the Market

“At home I serve the kind of food I know the story behind.”
Michael Pollan

 Asian Pears from Bernhardt Farm

 Clemson Okra from Bernhardt Farm

Assorted Hot Peppers from Johnson's Backyard Garden

 Berries from Engel Farms

 Sweet Potatoes from JBG Organic

 Heirloom Tomatoes and Brussels Sprouts from Engel Farms

 Heirloom Eggplant from Johnson's Backyard Garden

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes from Engel Farms

Thank you to the vendors of the Mueller Farmers Market for providing their ridiculously photogenic farm fare for photographing. The Mueller Farmers Market is open from 10am to 2pm, Sundays, under the Browning Hangar, in Austin, Texas

Savoring Summer
Grilled Peaches with Pesto & Chevre

Dust off the barbie and join me as we get down to the nitty gritty of summer-- Grilling!

Y'all.  It's HOT out there. In my neck of the woods, it's typically still in the upper 90's late into the evening, and dinnertime can see some of the hottest temps of the day. Certainly, August is no time to heat things up in the kitchen. I step in there primarily to stick my head in the freezer. Maybe make coffee. Otherwise, the appliances are used less frequently than any other month.

The relative ease of pulling off the grill cover and lighting up, whether over coals or gas, makes grilling a natural method for bringing out the best of summer-season harvests, without heating up the house. This week on Notes From Maggie's Farm, we'll be grilling both fruits and vegetables.

Today, a simple dish that promises a lot of bang for your buck, prepared in scant minutes. My friends love these grilled peaches, and beg for repeat appearances. As a testament to our enthusiasm for them, notice that the finished dish photos on this occasion are none too artfully arranged. Our little crowd was too eager. Solo, I enjoy this as a full Meatless Monday meal on many summer nights, slicing the warm, juicy gems, nestled in a plateful of arugula, letting the chevre and pesto mingle with the sweet fruit nectar for a dressing whose vibrant flavor no bottle could contain.

A few tips for making your fruit-grilling experience successful:

1. Begin with a meticulously clean grill. Use that wire brush and a little elbow grease to eliminate any burnt on crud from marring your meal.

2. As a rule, let peel remain on fruit.

3. Lightly coat fruit with grapeseed oil, or any other oil that has a high smoke point, and neutral flavor.

4. Use slightly under-ripe fruit for best results

5. Cook fruits directly over moderately hot coals, rotating, turning, or moving them to cooler parts of the grill as necessary.

For more grilling tips, refer to this Tips for Grilling Fruit video.

Ingredients and Assembly for 4 servings

8 grilled peach halves
8 teaspoons of soft chevre
about 1/4 cup prepared pesto 
(Note: I purchase both pesto and the soft chevre from vendors at my local farmers market, when homemade is not practical. Monday evenings are especially not practical. However if you'd like to spend a bit more time, consider making your own pesto, and chevre.)

a handful or two of arugula lettuce, per salad plate (substitute any firm lettuce if you're not a fan)

Optional: a faint drizzle of pecan or walnut oil
cracked red or black pepper, to taste

Place warm grilled peaches atop bed of arugula, fill peach center with soft chevre, drizzle with pesto, and season with cracked red or freshly-ground black pepper, to taste.

I occasionally serve this with a homemade country pate made of chicken and rabbit. It's a chunky, rich combination of rabbit, duck and pork, and a little goes a long way towards satiety. I've also found a great source for pates and charcuterie from vendors Belle Vie Farm and Kitchen at my local farmers market.

If you're going meatless, on this Monday, you'll be leaving well-enough, alone.

TaDAAAH!  You're done. Dig in, knowing that clean-up is a breeze. Now you can take a stroll when the sun goes down.

It should be a chilly 98 degrees by then.

Roasted Hatch Chile & Smoked Cheddar
Blue Corn Grits with Bacon

Earlier this week, I got busy roasting, peeling, chopping, and freezing Hatch chiles for use in favorite chile-enhanced dishes all year long. If you missed it, you can learn more about roasting peppers, here. Today, I share a family favorite.

Christmas morning, for the past 30, 20, several years, have seen various casts of characters and settings, from the big, boisterous, wrapping-paper strewn living rooms of small children and big Santas, to the quiet Christmas morning of an empty nester and faithful dog, and every imagined scene between, one thing has remained constant. 

Cheese grits.


They began, in the early days, much like my mother's traditional cheese grits. A tube of processed garlic cheese, a tube of processed pepper cheese, butter, and grits. They morphed into grand sausage-laden, garlicy, oniony casseroles. They made their way through, meatless, vegan cheese and field roast versions. Some years, when money was tight and the cupboards, close to bare, they were as simple as a little processed cheese thrown into a package or two of instant grits. On the rare, glorious occasion that I found myself flush on the holidays, they'd be accompanied by shrimp, or grillades, veal medallions in gravy, both regional traditions.

For the past few years, I've settled on a favorite.  

The memory of summer is celebrated on those colder Christmas mornings, by pulling out the frozen stash of roasted Hatch chiles and combining them with superior ingredients: farm-fresh eggs, the very best smoked cheddar cheese I can get my hands on, home-cured bacon, and stone ground grits. My favorite grit, grits, are, is the organic stone ground blue corn grits from the mill of Homestead Heritage in Elm Mott, Texas. Learn more about grits, below. 

First, a reminder about roasting Hatch chiles. You'll find various methods at this link, from earlier in the week. Today, we're using the broiler to make quick work of a small batch.

  1. Wash and dry peppers.  Lay them flat on a silicone pad-lined baking sheet pan.  (Alternatively, foil-lined, or even silicone sprayed or lightly oiled sheet pan will do.) 
  2. Preheat oven broiler and adjust grate to just under the heating element.  Place peppers under broiler, utilizing exhaust fan, because the aroma can be overpowering, and, sometimes, irritating to eyes and nose. 
  3. Broil for about 8-10 minutes, or until skin is blistering and blackened.  Remove from heat.  
  4. Turn peppers, handling carefully to avoid burns, and return to broiler.  Char peppers on opposite side.  
  5. When fully-toasted, remove from oven, and carefully transfer all to a large bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to steam and 'sweat', for about 30 minutes.  
  6. After steaming, skin will be easy to remove simply by 'pinching' the charred skin, and pulling away.  (While many suggest running peppers under a stream of water to easily remove skin, we recommend not using this method, as it washes away precious flavor.) 
  7. Remove stems, stringy pith inside, and seeds, if you like your peppers mild.  We retained some of the seeds, 'cause that's how we roll.  
  8. Peppers may remain whole, sliced, or chopped for freezing.  Slice into thin strips, then slice crosswise for uniform pieces for this dish.
And now, let's get down to cheesy, gritty, business!


2 cups cooked stone ground blue corn grits, prepared according to package directions with 4 cups of water, 4 cups of whole milk, and 2 tsp of salt (we used stone ground grits for the health benefits of whole grains, as well as their superior texture and taste.  Feel free to substitute prepared stone ground yellow or white corn grits, hominy grits, quick-cooking grits, or instant grits, as well, cooking according to package directions.)

1 cup (about 8 large peppers) chopped roasted Hatch chiles (Can't find Hatch chiles? Substitute Anaheim, or  other varieties of New Mexico green chiles, instead. Don't have time for roasting chiles?  Use canned--there are even roasted green chiles in cans available these days.)

8 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (Want these really cheesy-gooey fabulous?  It would not ruin them to as much as double the cheese suggested here. I love cheese, too!)  Reserve a little for garnish. Or double the amount and use a lot for garnish. C'mon. It's Christmas! It's August!

8 slices thick-sliced bacon, prepared by broiling 5 minutes on one side, flipping, then 2 minutes on the additional side (see note, above, on the bacon, too.  We fried the whole pound, reserved some for garnish, then nibbled as we cooked, because that is also how we roll.)

4 whole large eggs

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a lightly oiled casserole dish, combine eggs, cheese, bacon, and green chiles.  Stir in hot, prepared grits, (being careful not to come in contact with grits, which will be the approximate temperature of molten lava) and combine well. Correct seasonings. Cover, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove cover, (add additional cheese, if using), and bake 10 minutes longer, or until top is bubbly and browned. Allow to cool before serving. Garnish with reserved crumbled bacon, and, heck, maybe even more cheese.  

Chives are a nice, healthier touch, too.

About Grits
Grits are cooked, milled corn, made into a porridge or cereal product, much like oatmeal. Part of the beauty of grits is the variability in texture, color and taste. The final taste of grits is unique to the corn variety and farm where the corn was grown, the milling process, and the unique cooking process and ingredients the cook uses to impart flavor. 

Grits are made from yellow, blue and white corn; blue and white being preferable to yellow, as they are less starchy. The corn is dried and processed with lye or ash. Whole processed corn is often referred to as hominy, ground hominy as grits.

Instant grits, available everywhere, have had the germ removed to speed up cooking time. Stone ground grits remain whole grains, thus healthier, and can be eaten as one of the three recommended daily whole grain servings

Expect stone-ground grits, available at small mills, health food stores and some supermarkets, to simmer about 40 minutes.  One cup of stone ground grits should be cooked in 4 cups of liquid; the addition of whole milk as part of all of liquid yields a creamier result.  Add additional liquid at end of simmering time if grits are too thick or dry. Consistency should be about that of oatmeal, or thin mashed potatoes.

Learn more about grits:
Video: What's So Great About Grits?
Grits: This Southern Staple Isn't Just For Breakfast
World Grits Festival 

Tips for Tuesday
Roasting Hatch Chile Peppers

It's a busy week, what with the back to school rush, and its end of summer urgency, but August, for the southwestern foodie, is all about one thing:  HATCH!

I'll be roasting a bushel-full, myself, this week, and I'll stash all of the pretty green bags-full in the freezer, to use year round. In New Mexico and neighboring states, all the markets will be overflowing with the babies-- in stores right now in Central Texas. If you're out of the region, and low on sources for procuring the current culinary darling of the pepper world, you can even order Hatch chiles online.

Hatch chiles, a variety of New Mexico green chile grown in the valleys around the small town of Hatch, New Mexico, are at peak, 5-8 inch, bright green commas, mild, typically, with a heat profile between the mildest bell pepper, and the more fiery jalapeno. Chiles that are left on the vine eventually turn red. Grown where the days are HOT and the nights are cool, they have a unique smoky, sweet flavor that complements the many sweet and savory preparations that boast them, especially popular this time of year.

Hatch are harvested for about four weeks, culminating in the Labor Day, Hatch Chile Festival, in New Mexico. Read more about Hatch Chiles, the Hatch Chile Valley, and the Hatch Chile Festival, here.

Hatch chiles can be used fresh off the vine in any dish, but their unique flavor is especially complemented by roasting.  Below, a quick video teaching how to roast any type of pepper, in the oven, on a gas stovetop, and on the grill.

For more delicious dishes featuring Hatch chiles, check out the Pinterest board my friend, Lisa, of Full and Content has curated.  You might even see a few familiars, if you've been following along.

Later this week, I'll share the recipe for a Notes From Maggie's Farm favorite-- Roasted Hatch Chile & Smoked Cheddar Blue Corn Grits with Bacon.  And if you're a 'pepper-head' like myself, you might also find the following links to be peppered with spicy ideas.

and from deeeeeep in the vault, Some Like It Hot: Roasted Tomato Salsa

Farmers Market Favorite
Watermelon Summer Salad

This month as the Guest Chef of the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers Markets, I had the support of scads of budding sous chefs, as we combined the Guest Chef Demo with their monthly Market Sprouts! activity, and a big, happy salad was prepared.

You can find the complete recipe by visiting Texas Farmers Market Recipes.

We had a few stations working all at once to combine efforts, and ingredients into one sweet marriage of the season's finest:

  • We had chefs digging in-- creating perfectly pleasing bites of these watermelons, donated by Tecolote Farm at the Cedar Park Market, and by Johnson's Backyard Garden at the Mueller Market.
  • We had chefs chopping San Saba Homemade pecans with the assistance of a handheld grinder.
  • We had chefs shredding Bernhardt's Farm fresh basil with the assistance of kiddie scissors
  • We had chefs crumbling Pure Luck Goat Feta, drizzling Round Rock Honey, and dribbling Texas Hill Country Olive Co's Balsamic Vinegar.
  • And we had a bigger chef, namely me, mincing sweet onions and cucumbers with the big chef's knife, giving hints and suggestions, and giggling with her "staff" of talented helpers.
Market Sprout chefs learned that an entire meal could be prepared that included no meat, was exclusively sourced from the farmers and vendors of these local markets, and that many fruits and vegetables that are in season at the same time, complement each other well.  

They may have learned that laughter was the sweetest ingredient when cooking with friends. They may have learned that working together gets the job done well. And they may have had as much fun as this former elementary school teacher, whose newest classroom for the day was particularly meaningful.

Thank you, Market Sprouts!  You did a GREAT JOB!

And if watermelon is your thing, you might enjoy a few more Watermelon Ways for these Watermelon Days, you'll find by following the links, below.

"The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a Southern watermelon that Eve took; we know it because she repented."
Mark Twain (1835-1910)

In the Garden: August

How sociable the garden was.
We ate and talked in given light.
The children put their toys to grass
All the warm wakeful August night.
-  Thomas Gunn, Last Days at Teddington

True to form, August rolls in with a heat for which no civilized words can be tendered.  Despite the tireless daily watering efforts, many gardens are simply dried and done for. Though it may seem that all is over but the canning, it's time to prepare for, perhaps, the most pleasant season of gardening in Central Texas--Fall.  

We're lucky, here, to have an autumn so temperate as to provide a second lease to vegetable and flower life. A little preparation and planting now, especially when spent in the cooler earliest daylight and late evening hours, will have you reaping a glorious harvest in more pleasant months, ahead.

Fertilize fruiting vegetables after first fruit set for higher productivity. Feed chrysanthemums every 2-3 weeks until buds appear, then weekly until buds show color. Fertilize roses for fall bloom. Feed berries and fruit showing poor color/vigor.

Water all planted areas deeply but infrequently during dry periods. Outdoor container plants need daily watering. Keep azaleas and fruit trees watered well because spring blooms are developing. 

Discard faded annuals and refurbish soil as needed. Prepare loose, well-drained beds for fall bulb planting. Clean up established garden beds. Turn compost pile. 

Lawn Care
Mow every 5-7 days and leave the clippings on the lawn. Set mower higher in shady areas to promote denser turf. Avoid weed killers whenever temperatures are above 85°.

Diseases/Pests to look out for
Watch for cutworms on new tomato transplants; protect with paper collars around base 1" above and below ground. Watch for grub worms, chinch bugs and fire ants in lawns. Check for borers in peaches, plums and other trees. Look for aphids and powdery mildew on crape myrtles.

Prune roses back by 1/3. Deadhead spent blooms and seed pods from crape myrtles for continued blooms. Trim photinias for red fall color. Remove dead and damaged wood from shrubs and trees. Pinch chrysanthemums for the last time.

Things To Plant In August

Flower Plants
ageratum, ajuga, wax begonia, blue daze, boltonia, cockscomb, impatiens, gloriosa daisy, salvia, sedum, shasta daisy, stokes' aster, zinnia.

Flower Seeds
ageratum, alyssum, amaranthus, balsam, bluebell, calendula, candytuft, cleome, coreopsis, cornflower, castor bean, cosmos, cockscomb, four-o'clock, gerbera, hollyhock, impatiens, linaria, french marigold, moonflower, morning glory, petunia, portulaca, sunflower, tithonia, flowering tobacco, zinnia.

autumn crocus, hardy cyclamen, Louisiana iris, liriope, lycoris, and monkey grass.

Early—Mid Month---Corn, Eggplant, Pepper, Southern Pea, Tomato, Winter Squash
Mid—Late Month---Potato
All Month---Cucumber, Summer Squash

Courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002, via Central Texas Gardener.

About Town: Austin
Gilmore Family Chefs Mentor Urban Roots Interns

This summer’s Community Lunch series hosted by Urban Roots kicked off in early June amongst shade-dappled, tablecloth-draped picnic tables full of enthusiastic diners. In its third year, the series of seasonal Friday lunches features meals prepared and served at the Urban Roots Farm by youth farm interns under the tutelage of area chefs.
Recently, lucky guests were treated to the inspired creations of Urban Roots youth farm interns under the guidance of Austin's famous father and son chef team of Jack and Bryce Gilmore.

Urban Roots Farm interns and the chefs who mentored them
Among the supportive crowd of community partners, board member and State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), founder and chair of the first Farm-to-Table Caucus of the Texas House of Representatives, was in attendance, briefly addressing the audience. He followed Max Elliot, Executive Director of Urban Roots, who introduced guests and humbly thanked attendees. The attention was then turned to the real rock stars of the day – the enthusiastic team of interns who grew and harvested produce for the multicourse lunch they prepared that morning at Jack Allen’s Kitchen, under the direction of chefs Jack Gilmore and son, Bryce Gilmore, owner of Barley Swine and Odd Duck.
Urban Roots Executive Director Max Elliott addresses the guests
It was evident the ensemble cast had enjoyed their hard work as the team and its mentors traded broad smiles, and playful jabs. After warm, poignant, and sometimes funny presentations by each of the interns – brief introductions and explanations of their role in preparation of the meal, the team prepared for service. The dishes were presented proudly, and healthy spoonfuls were accompanied by friendly exchanges with each guest as we offered our plates.
Chef Jack Gilmore, of the popular Jack Allen's Kitchen, with two locations in the Austin area, and another slated for later this year, has been involved with Urban Roots’ community lunches each year since inception, offered hearty handshakes and plentiful praise to each of the interns. The affable Gilmore thoughtfully attended to the meal service, taking a supporting role to the chefs of the day.
In the culinary hotspot scene of Austin, it would seem a tall order to stand out in an already star-studded, be-ribboned crowd, but for chef Bryce Gilmore, owner and executive chef of farm-to-table, trailer-to-brick-and-mortars Barley Swine and Odd Duck, the accolades just keep coming. Formerly recognized as Food & Wine's Best New Chef 2010, the second-generation Chef Gilmore is a recent James Beard Award finalist as Best Chef – Southwest for the second year running. His restaurants frequently land on best-of lists, and a seat at his table, as the frequent, artfully Instagram’d proof of one’s presence attests, is among the hottest tickets in town.
Roasted potatoes with grilled shrimp and peppers
This day, however, both Gilmores focus the limelight on the precious resources of time, talent, enthusiasm, and raw ingredients – all the product of Urban Roots. They proudly stood by as their team of interns served grilled squash salad with sun gold tomatoes and goat cheese, roasted potatoes with grilled shrimp and peppers, Killer Meatloaf with okra and tomato gravy (and it was!), tomato and basil salad, and peach cobbler. Not one dish was short of delicious, and the congratulatory hums of approval around each table as diners fell almost silent over their plates were well-deserved.
Though the final sold-out Community Lunch of the summer with chef Jam Sanitchat of Thai Fresh has come and gone, it is possible to become involved with Urban Roots through volunteer opportunities at the farm, and by visiting their booth at the SFC Farmer’s Market Downtown every Saturday morning from 9am to 1pm, April through August, and again from October through December, where the young interns answer questions about the program and proudly sell what they produce. Visit their website at
This article was originally published in the Austin Chronicle.
Urban Roots
7651 Delwau Lane
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