FARMERS MARKET FAVORITE | Persimmon Winter Salad | Chèvre Citrus Balsamic Dressing

Some days at the market the sun is shining, the temperature is moderate, the harvest is abundant, and the PERSIMMONS ARE RIPE. Today was that day!

Rare, these days, as the persimmon season is short, and persimmons, like avocados, seem to be perfectly sweet, slightly firm but with give, and without that pucker-causing characteristic they sport when under ripe, for oh, say 3 hours, roughly.

Okay, I exaggerate. But not by much, so when I bit into a sweet sliver of Engels Farm fruit from this weekend's Texas Farmers' Market sample table, I was gleeful. Made a beeline to their stand. I even asked for the seconds--those with maybe a soft spot or a blemish of some sort, but there really weren't any. The table, and the boxes behind, all filled with the shiny orange globes of perfect persimmons.

Armed with inspiration, finding the supporting players for an explosion of color in a salad platter, I stopped by friends Belle Vie Farm for their premium ham, nabbed the original award-winning chèvre of Pure Luck Dairy,  collected Mandarin Balsamic and local olive oil from Texas Hill Country Olive Company, a hearty, flavorful Hot Shot mix of greens from Bouldin Food Forest, and pomegranate, fennel, and purple cabbage from JBG Organic. I wanted a little sweet, salty, crunch to top it off, so I grabbed a little package of my favorite keto-friendly Original Nut Crunch from Jake & Jubi's.

Now there's no question that these farmers, artisans, and food producers are among my favorite friends and most respected vendors at the market, but I've to to say their produce and products are some of my favorite as well. I was giddy with glee at my treasure, and I was pretty sure that they had all provided the elements of a pretty darned impressive winter-season salad.

Y'all! I was right.

Let chèvre soften at room temperature for about an 30 minutes.

Tear Hot Shot Mix greens and young purple cabbage into bite sized pieces. Rinse well and drain. Wrap to dry in paper toweling. Set aside.

Pare persimmons by slicing thinly from bottom to top, stopping short of top cap. Discard cap.

Shave young fennel bulbs with a sharp knife. Chop tender fronds and set aside for dressing.

In a small skillet over medium heat, warm ham slices until slightly crisped. Remove from pan and slice into lardons.

In a large mixing bowl. Toss greens, cabbage, and shaved fennel with approximately 2 T extra virgin olive oil. Remove to layer greens on salad platter.

In same bowl, add 2 T mandarin balsamic vinegar, 2 T water, and 1T chopped fennel fronds to softened chèvre. With a wire whisk, combine ingredients vigorously until all combined, adding water as necessary to yield a pourable dressing. Season to taste with a dash of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Top greens with ham lardons, nutty crunch topping, and persimmon slices. Half pomegranates with a knife, and squeeze halves, juice and seeds topping persimmons.

Plate individual salads and serve with side cups of Citrus Chèvre dressing.

If you find yourself in the Austin area this Wednesday, December 5, please stop by the Texas Farmers' Market at Mueller for their mid-week market, where I'll be stirring up the Seasonal Best from 6:00 to 8:00pm. 

Farmers Market Favorite | Holiday Market Stovetop Dressing

While any dressing/stuffing that includes the name stovetop more often than not conjures the box-mixed shortcut we alternately groan or rave over, this stovetop refers to the quicker, easier way to prepare our holiday meals' must-have side dish. I prepared this on the fly, without a recipe in mind when I arrived, but simply inspired by the embarrassment of riches of market vendors and the freshest ingredients in season and available at the Texas Farmers Markets this weekend. It was a big hit. You may be here after finding my website address at the market, in fact, and if you did, thank you and welcome!

Regarding the dressing/stuffing controversy-- in my mind, dressing is any bread or grain-based side that is served with the meal in a separate dish, and stuffing is the same preparation, used to stuff a bird. I like my dressing a little more 'crusty', so I skip stuffing the bird with it (using apple, lemon, onion, and fresh herbs for that 'stuffing' in the internal cavity), and let it crisp up a bit in the pan. For an extra crisp on top, prepare your stovetop dressing in an ovenproof skillet, and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes just prior to serving.

Have you a vegan or vegetarian coming to the holiday dinner? This is easily transformed to a meatless choice by using a good vegetable broth as a substitute for the turkey bone broth.

Want to skip the big bird altogether, or simply add more meat to the meal? A pound or so of good, thick cut bacon or smoked pork could be added. Simply render the fat from either choice in the skillet, reduce or skip the olive oil altogether according to the amount of fat rendered, and proceed with the recipe as written.



2T extra virgin olive oil
1 small bulb fennel, sliced thinly (see notes, below)
1 bunch scallions, sliced thinly
1 small sweet potato, sliced thin, skins on (yield about 2 cups slices)
1 cup firmly packed shiitake mushrooms, caps sliced (stems reserved, see notes, below)
1 cup Buster's Smoked Maple glazed pecans (see notes, below)
1 bunch fresh sage, leaves removed from stems (see notes, below)
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, de-stemmed, chopped fine
4 cups Miche Malt ROW bread, sliced, toasted, then torn into 1" chunks
1 pint Fond Bouquet Garni turkey bone broth tonic
 Hill Country Salt 'Texas Wine Salt', or salt and pepper, to taste (see notes, below)

In a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat, bring oil to a shimmer. Add fennel, scallions, sweet potato and shiitake mushrooms, one at a time, stirring frequently to brown. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, about 5 minutes, or until sweet potato is slightly fork tender. Add mushrooms, pecans, sage and parsley, tossing to thoroughly mix. Toss in bread chunks, then add bone broth, stirring to incorporate all. Cover, cook on medium heat until all is well combined and stock has reduced and been absorbed by bread and vegetables. Season to taste with seasoning salt, or salt and pepper, as desired.

Optional: For a crusty top finish, slide the pan, uncovered, under the broiler until tops are crusty and browned (but just a few minutes!)


Today's Farmers: Vegetables and herbs were procured from JBG Organics, Kitchen Pride Mushrooms, and Bernhardt Farm.

Get out there and go hug a farmer, y'all. Gently, because they'll be a little sore from all that planting and harvesting, you know.

I used Buster's Smoked Maple pecans and it added so much holiday flavor to the mix that the final product would be quite different without them. You can use any pecans you wish, but I encourage you to seek them out! In a pinch, plain pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup could be substituted, and the smoky flavor might be duplicated by a little smoked pork of some sort, added at the beginning when browning the vegetables.

I keep a container in my freezer for odds and ends I'll collect for stock-making. These shiitake stems are a little tough, so I'll reserve them in that bag, along with many of the fresh herb stems, the fennel stems, and sweet potato and onion ends. The fennel fronds are too delicate to freeze, but they can be dried and used for a delicate tea or stored to use as a substitute for anise in baked goods.

I love the smell of sage. Instead of tossing those sage stems out, I might simmer them in a pan of water to fragrance the kitchen, or toss them into the warm oven for a few minutes between dishes. They are strong, so a little goes a long way, but they might be a nice addition to your stock making, too.

Miche Bread is a local community-supported bakery using the heirloom flours of local Barton Springs Mill to create veritable bread artistry. I used their Malt ROW (rye, oat, wheat flours) bread which utilized spent hops in their mix. While any good, whole grain bread will do in a pinch, do search for the best, chewy crusted artisan loaf you can find, if you're not fortunate enough to have Miche Bread available. I try to include a piece of crust with each large cube when I'm tearing the loaf for dressing/stuffing.

I cannot say enough great things about Fond Bone Broth Tonics. Besides the soul-satisfying, health-supporting habit of consuming these flavorful tonics daily (anti-inflammatory! digestive support! bone building! all the good things!), I've come to rely on them for the best kind of kitchen shortcuts due to their delicious flavor profiles. Later this week, find my recipe for a delicious gravy created from the same savory herbed variety I've used here, Bouquet Garni turkey bone broth. They are available by mail order, too. This is one amazing kitchen trick to keep up your sleeve, friends.

I keep bout a half dozen Hill Country Salt varieties in my spice cabinet and rely on them heavily to keep my food perfectly seasoned. They are available by mail order, and would make an excellent hostess gift or stocking stuffer for your favorite chefs (hint, hint).

Later this week, I'll be making quick work of delicious gravy and a root vegetable melange on the blog for last minute holiday dinner prep because IT'S NEVER TOO LATE FOR GRAVY.

FARMERS MARKET FAVORITE | Eggplant Provençal | Maggie Perkins

A perfect example of what grows together, goes together, this dish demonstrates why cooking in season will set you up for success simply by pairing the vegetables harvested at the same time with herbs and flavors that are natural partners. It’s the finest way to eat.

Eggplant Provençal
Maggie Perkins

Serves 4-6

Prepared for Texas Farmers' Markets with vegetables provided by market farmer Johnson's Backyard Garden

Autumn arrived at the market this weekend in the form of a slight and promising breeze, and farmers' fields' harvest still abundant from recent rains. And rains. Then some rain.

And one more day of rain. Oh, did I mention HUMID?

But still, the high temperatures remained in the mild mid 80s and we Texans gave a collective sigh of relief. Summer can be rough on us.

The change in climate motivated me to get cooking, (I'm salad'd OUT!) so I collected seasonal vegetables, and inspiration, from the bounteous tables of Johnson's Backyard Garden.

More than one market-goer came around for seconds, and even more became acquainted with a vegetable or two they previously would not eat...

And even asked for the recipe! So for those intrepid augbergine/squash/sweet pepper newbies, and YOU, try this easy dish and reintroduce yourself to early autumn fare.


  • 2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil (grapeseed or avocado oil is recommended) 
  • 4-5 baby new potatoes, sliced thin 
  • 2 baby zucchini, sliced
  • 2 yellow summer squash, sliced
  • 1 medium to large eggplant, sliced thin, then quartered (skin on)
  • 1 pint sweet peppers, stemmed and sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced, whites and greens separated
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, leaves stripped from stems
  • 1 tsp + Herbes de Provence

In a large skillet over medium high heat, bring neutral cooking oil to a shimmer. Add sliced potatoes, and brown on each side, tossing frequently.

Add zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and sweet peppers to pan, adding oil if necessary to keep vegetables moving freely in the pan. Toss frequently, cooking until limp. Add tomatoes and whites of scallions. Toss well and cook for 3 minutes, or until tomato skins begin to break and release tomato juices. Add broth and oregano, bringing to a rolling simmer, and cover. Cook about 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender to preference. Add Herbes de Provence, salt, and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand for 5 minutes covered, off heat, prior to serving. Garnish with sliced scallion greens.


A crusty baguette with a smear of salted butter, maybe a chunk of your favorite cheese, or for meat-eaters, sautéed scallops, firm white-fleshed fish, or a poached chicken breast might be just the thing to round out this early fall vegetable dish into a hearty meal.

Wine Pairing: Once home, I recreated this dish for myself with a few tweaks, and pulled out a orange-sized ball of whole grain bread dough to bake off dinner rolls to serve alongside. This overcast, slightly cooler first of Autumn afternoon seemed like the perfect setting in which to pair wine with the quick dish, so as the dough rose prior to it’s baking-stone cook-off, I uncorked a hostess gift graciously given by a student, recently, Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone  2016 Rose, from M. Chapoutier winery in France. It’s an economical bottle, usually found around $10, made with Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah grapes, and paired perfectly with the complex marriage of late summer vegetables.

If you're in the Austin area this weekend, please stop by the TFM Lakeline from 10-12 on Saturday, or the TFM Mueller from 11-1, Sunday, for a taste of the the Season's Best! I'll be happy to see your smiling face! It's really the best part of my job.

FARMERS MARKET FAVORITE | Seared Duck Breast & Grilled Peach Summer Salad Platter

As I've likely mentioned before, my gig as Market Chef for Texas Farmers' Markets has me visiting the market with no recipe in hand, but a simple and delightful task; to find the best and freshest the market has to offer that day, and create a recipe then and there that is inspired by the task at hand.

Some weekends are easier than others. Some seasons, in fact, are easier than others.


ALL of my favorites are in season, y'all. June in Texas, especially this year, is hot as blue blazes. Farmers can barely keep up with their bountiful and burgeoning fields, and the market benefits from their sweaty hard work. Perhaps, because I've been a farmer, I am that much more appreciative of the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor. But friends, get thee to the markets because it's ALL GOING DOWN-- peaches and plums and blackberries and blueberries and tomatoes and peppers and basil and onions and potatoes and eggplants, and, and, and.....ALL of my favorites.

Even okra. I've become a fan of peak of the season OKRA. But I digress....

Along with tables and bins and buckets lush with ripe, fragrant produce, this weekend saw the debut of FRESH DUCK from Belle Vie Farm.


I love a perfectly seared duck breast and Belle Vie Farm was generous enough to allow me the honor of preparing it for market goers this weekend. It was a huge hit.

A fan of Fried Green Tomatoes? Find a recipe for the most traditional preparation here, and stop by my Instagram feed to see how Gray Gardens inspired an even simpler way to eat them. With vegetables at their peak, the simpler the better to help them shine brightest. Why gild the lily, after all?
Now I'd certainly make this for myself-- just one of me, and nibble on it for several meals, but where I think it particularly shines is as a light, impressive dinner for a small gathering. It's a beauty-- and don't we love our pretty foods (check out my Instagram feed for pretty food from every corner of my world, in fact).

Peaches pair particularly well with the richness of duck, and basil pairs particularly well with peaches. I truly adhere to the 'what grows together, goes together' principle of seasonal eating, and it serves me well both at the markets, and in my home kitchen, and you'll see in this salad that the main characters, as well as the supporting cast prove the maxim spot on.

Below, find the processes for creating a memorable summer salad that will have your guests returning for more. The addition of a crusty loaf of fresh bread and the best butter you can lay your hands on, accompanied by a thoughtfully chosen bottle or two of wine-- try Gewürztraminer, a lovely pairing with the savory peach components of the salad as well as a great non-red choice for the rich and complex duck breast, and impress your guests, as well as yourself, with a simple, yet far from ordinary summer meal.



1 bunch amaranth greens (Johnson's Backyard Garden)
3 small cucumbers, sliced (Flintrock Hill Farm)
Several sprigs of basil , destemmed (Johnson's Backyard Garden)
3 small red onions, peeled and quartered and seared (Johnson's Backyard Garden)
4-5 small mild banana peppers seared (Johnson's Backyard Garden)
4 small peaches, grilled (Engel Farms)
1 whole fresh duck breast, skin on, seared to medium rare, and sliced (Belle Vie Farm)
Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette


Prepare ingredients as noted below. On a bed of well washed and dried amaranth greens, compose salad by grouping components and arranging on platter as shown. Dress with Lemon Pesto Vinaigrette, and season with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.


Halve unpeeled peaches and remove pit. In a dry cast iron skillet over high heat (alternatively on a cast iron griddle on a pre-heated grill or directly on clean, oiled grate), place peaches, cut side down. Leave untouched until seared fully (either grate marks or seared surface, depending upon method of cooking), then turn and brown on opposite side until peaches are tender. Remove from heat and reserve to assemble salad.


In 2 tablespoons reserved duck fat in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat, brown vegetables on one side until well charred, then turn and repeat with opposite side, until vegetables are tender and browned fully.


3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2  cup lemon infused olive oil (I used Texas Hill Country Olive Co olive oil)
2 tablespoons prepared pesto (I used Kala's Kuisine Basil & Walnut Pesto)
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a wide bottomed mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar and dijon mustard. Continue whisking while drizzling in olive oil in a thin stream. When fully blended/emulsified, stir in prepared pesto. Correct seasonings to taste.

courtesy of Serious Eats

With a sharp knife, gently score duck breasts in a tight crosshatch pattern, keeping the scores 1/8 inch apart. If you prefer a little fat left on the breasts after cooking, just barely score the skin; to render more fat, score more deeply, taking care not to expose the flesh.

Season duck breasts with salt, heavily on the skin side and lightly on the flesh side.

Place duck breast, skin side down, in a large, cold sauté pan. Place pan over low to medium-low heat. To keep the edges from curling up, press duck breasts down with the help of a smaller sauté pan. After about 5 minutes, the fat should begin to gently bubble. If the fat is either silent or spitting, adjust heat accordingly. Maintain the gentle bubble of fat, pouring out excess rendered fat throughout the cooking process, (RESERVING!) until much of the fat has rendered, skin is golden brown, and duck's internal temperature is 125°F (52°C), about 15 minutes.

Increase heat to medium and further brown skin if needed, about 1 minute, before flipping and cooking on the flesh side. For medium-rare meat, cook until breast registers 130°F (54°C) on an instant-read thermometer, about 1 to 2 minutes. Continue cooking until duck registers 140°F (60°C) for medium or 155°F (68°F) for well-done. Remove duck from pan and set aside to rest. When cool enough to handle, slice thinly to arrange on salad platter.

I'm looking forward to my next visit to the BRAND SPANKIN' NEW Wednesday market at the Texas Farmers' Market Mueller location, on June 13, from 5-7pm. If you're in the area, do stop by to see all of the exciting things in store, including live music, Wednesday-only vendors, and a chef demo by your's truly showcasing seasonal fresh vegetables and the handcrafted sausage of Taylor Farm.

I would like to see people more aware of where their food comes from. I would like to see small farmers empowered. I feed my daughter almost exclusively organic food. -- Anthony Bourdain

STAY COOL out there, friends, and thank you for letting me be a part of your eating lives. Your support has encouraged me to follow my passion, and that has made all of the difference.

Feed yourselves well, rest when you need it, buy yourself fresh flowers, and love life fiercely,

CLASSES & EVENTS | DATE NIGHT | Hands on Pasta Making with Italian Mother Sauce

Grab your MOM, your girl, your guy, your BFF, or just come on solo to this hands on class where you’ll join with fellow foodies to master an Italian favorite— Fresh Homemade Pasta with a quick an classic Italian Pomodoro Mother Sauce. You’ll create your entire meal from flour to finish, with a few extra flourishes thrown in for delicious delight, and enjoy it at the end of class. You'll also take home the fruits of your labor— a batch of dough to keep your skills fresh in your own kitchen.

Friday, April 27-  6:30-8:30  BYOB (your favorite Italian vino, maybe?)

Class will be held at a private kitchen in the Bouldin Creek area of South Austin. Address will be provided 24 hours prior to class.

GRAB YOUR SPOTS ---->  Kitchen Underground

Classes & Events | Cinco de Mayo Taco Blowout (and Jack's 18th!)

Come celebrate Cinco de Mayo (and sweet Jack, My Dog’s 18th birthday!) with a proper taco spread!

In this combination demonstration and hands-on class, learn how to make classic golden crispy-edged Pork Carnitas, and roll up your sleeves to prepare toppings and create traditional favorite salsas, with a few new twists, too!

WE: Create the setting and space. Collect all manner of toppings. Provide recipes for hands-on preparations. Demonstrate classic Pork Carnitas. Have a fantastic time celebrating Cinco de Mayo (and the most awesome dog that ever lived, JACK)!

YOU: Bring a spirit of culinary adventure and a healthy appetite! Celebrate with a community of like-minded taco lovers, fill your belly and soul, and make some cool new Austin foodie friends in the process.

Bouldin Creek/South Austin area
(address provided 24 hours prior to class)
Water will be served. BYOB is allowed (and even encouraged 😉).

This fun and economical class is filling up fast. Don't miss it! Grab your spots at Kitchen Underground.

Classes & Events | It's coming! Ms. Maggie P.'s Afternoon Tea

Working on a little dream, over here.....

Ms. Maggie P (that's me!) has been pining for tea. A formal tea, that is. With all of the fancy teapots and china cups and tiny cakes and biscuits and tea sandwiches and more. Once a month. Every month.

With a carefully selected playlist, a menu of sweets and savories, hats, if you'd like, and your favorite Spring dress, or your well-worn jeans and boho finery, or your grandfather's pocket watch, or your 3-piece searsucker's like a French salon meets British hotel lobby all at once in funky South Austin. 

3-4:30 PM
Let's get fancy!

Treat yourself to a sweetly civilized and tasty afternoon.

In this special Saturday class, learn by demonstration, sampling, and example, to host the perfect Afternoon Tea. 

Enjoy sweet and savory nibbles like biscuits, jams, tea sandwiches, petite tartines and more, and learn the dos and don'ts of a perfectly prepared pot of tea. 

Naturally, we'll explore the proper etiquette of the afternoon tea, as well. In fact if you've yearned to some day pull out those white cotton gloves tucked in the back of a drawer, or hoped to find a reason for wearing your mother's pillbox hat or your father's pocket watch, this is the perfect opportunity! 

We'll even get a little crafty, pulling out our favorite scrapbooking supplies to create pretty little tea cards designed to keep up with your favorite blends, as well as creating a "frequent drinker" record. Attend 5 monthly teas, and the 6th is on me!

Hoping to teach a young lady or lad some manners? Perhaps consider a special Saturday date for two. 

Not a tea drinker? No worries. We'll have a French Press with coffee, and pristine citrus and herb-infused ice water as well. Fancy a more adult beverage? It's BYOB so bring along your drink of choice!

While tickets must be purchased for each guest, all ages are welcome. Guests under 18 accompanied by adult, please. 


Headed to the Farmers' Market this weekend? Here's your buying guide for In Season | April

To get the most bang for your buck at the farmers' market, familiarize yourself with what is in season, and you'll be certain you're getting the freshest from the field.

You'll find the guide here, as well as linked to on the right side bar of the desktop version of the blog. There is an updated monthly guide posted every month, in fact.

Find all the fruits, vegetables, and proteins available at markets throughout North America in the month of April and more. Stymied by kohlrabi? Not sure the best method to cook cod? Need some inspiration for cooking eggs? Click on the link for EVERY ITEM-- I've updated the guide to provide a little nudge towards healthy, wholesome, simple meals you'll enjoy any and every night of the week.

If you're in the Austin area, stop by the Texas Farmers Market at Lakeline on Saturday, 10-12 noon, and at Mueller Lake on Sunday, 11-1pm where I'll celebrate Earth Day with marketgoers and share how to turn oft-discarded scraps into glorious stocks, while saving nutrients, dollars, and our Mother Earth.

I'd love to see you there!

Hey, y'all. I made something new | Maggie Perkins | April 2018

A sneak snippet of this month's inaugural issue, be sure to check out the full issue here,  
and sign up to keep it coming to your inbox, here
So.......I did something.

I'm so excited to share with you a project a long-time coming. A MONTHLY NEWSLETTER.

Monthly, and occasionally more often. Maybe. We'll see. But for certain, whenever they go out, they'll contain information about classes, events, occasional free promotions and discount codes for classes, favorite recipes, monthly gardening guides, and more.

Let's dish about delicious, y'all!

Thank you for your encouragement and support over the years of this blog, and for following my real-life food adventures in the form of exploring, teaching, and writing, as well. It is all a lot of hard work, a mix of sweat, salt and laughter, and a big dream come true, and none of it could have gone anywhere without you.

Check out the link to this month's newsletter, and be sure to sign up so you won't miss a thing From Maggie's Farm!

Thirsty Thursday | Leftover wine?

Leftover wine lingering in your fridge? Some $4 bottle collecting dust in the pantry? 

Or maybe a red leftover from a party, but you like whites, or a white brought as a host gift but you like reds?

Seems like some great ways to get rid of them. And a super excuse for a party! Waste not, want not you know. 


Farmers Market Favorite | Oyster & Mushroom Spring Stew | Market Chef Maggie Perkins

Well the lion was back this weekend in Austin, Texas.

If March can be said to come 'in like a lion and out like a lamb', then April got a surprise re-visit.

Friday night was quite humid, and when I finally hit the hay sometime after midnight, it was still in the mid-70s, 60+% humidity, with an impressive light show in the northern sky but no real (promised) rain. Much lower temps had been promised. I had my doubts.

Shame on me! Because despite my distrust, the weatherman was redeemed, storms did arrive, I slept through most of the theatrics, and awoke to temps in the 40s. Upon reaching the farmers market in Cedar Park, I was met with a morning so blustery that outdoor cooking was, well, fruitless. It was cold, getting colder, windy, getting windier, rainy and getting rainier. The chef's demo was cancelled.

Sunday proved to be, while chillier than usual, clear, and at least a little warmer than the day before. I headed out to Mueller Lake and summoned Spring with herbs and shellfish, while accommodating a little late last taste of winter with a soul and tummy-warming stew.

The flavors are bright and crisp like spring-- the waters still cool enough to promise fresh, briny oysters and slightly cool nights still kissing greens and sweet onions to promise bright, but not bitter, herbal hints. Earthy mushrooms, each variety lending it's own unique note to a symphony-- yield layers of taste. Garnishing bowls with Cajun-spiced pecans added another texture, and a hint of peppery salt that enhanced but did not overpower the bowl. It was a big hit.

While it tastes as if the flavors have unfolded gradually in an all-day simmer, you can actually pull this together pretty quickly. Grab the ingredients, below, pick up a freshly-baked baguette and good quality unsalted butter, and maybe add a lightly dressed salad, and we'll have dinner in less than an hour.

If you like a glass of wine with your meal, I'd go with a Chardonnay or white Burgundy. If you're a fiend for bubbly, Champagne is always a safe choice as far as I'm concerned. Always.

Oyster & Mushroom Spring Stew
Serves 6


1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
1 bunch spring onions with green tops, sliced
1 cup assorted mushrooms, caps and tender stems, sliced & divided
1 quart chicken stock, low sodium
1 pint oysters with liquor, divided & reserved
4 sprigs thyme
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves only, separated

1 pint whole milk
salt, cayenne & black pepper to taste
Cajun-spiced pecans, optional garnish

In a medium pot over medium high heat, melt unsalted butter. Stir in flour, 1/4 cup at a time, incorporating with butter fully before adding the next 1/4 cup. Stir constantly until it reaches a nutty fragrance and a tan color. Reduce heat and stir in onions and mushroom stems. Stir frequently, cooking until white onions are transparent and greens, limp.

Return heat to medium high. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring thoroughly to combine with roux. Bring to a boil to facilitate thickening. Add the liquor of oysters, only, thyme, and half of parsley. Bring all to a boil, then reduce to a rolling simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat for 5 minutes.

Remove thyme stems. With an immersion blender. puree soup. (Alternatively, use a blender or food processor, in batches, adding back to a clean pot cupfuls at a time.) Return to a low burner, add sliced mushroom caps, season with salt, cayenne, and black pepper to taste. (Alternatively, Creole seasoning can be used as a substitute or in conjunction with salt and peppers.) When soup reaches a full, rolling simmer, add oysters and milk. Cook about 3-5 minutes, or until warmed through, oysters are opaque and edges are curled. Correct seasonings again. Remove from heat.

Garnish with remaining parsley and spiced pecan pieces.

Texas Farmers Market vendors and farmers that provided food free of charge for this chef demonstration, upon request, include K&S Seafood (oysters), Hi-Fi Mycology (mushrooms), Yegua Creek Farms (Cajun-spiced pecans), and JBG Organic (onion, thyme, parsley).

Looking for another healthy version of Oyster Bisque?

For additional information about this gluten-free, low(er) fat, low(er) calorie favorite with all of the richness of its decadent parent, including local Texas Farmers’ Market vendor and farmer sources, see this link.

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