Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lovely Lemon Fish

Lovely Lemon Fish, just in time for spring

I am a true child of the water. Wasn't born near water (I was born here in Austin). Hardly ever lived close enough to water to be in it whenever I wanted. And yet, I am drawn to water. And I truly love fish, shrimp, crab, lobster... When Bonni and I were talking about the Gems newsletter for this month, it seemed a good time to enjoy an old favorite fish recipe to go along with our Lemon Pepper Linguine.  I've called it Lovely Lemon Fish because "oh, you know, that fish thing you make" just didn't seem like much of a name.

You'll need:

2 4-ounce fish fillets. Go for something mild and light, but not too thin

2 teaspoons olive oil

For sauce;
1/2 c salted butter
1 minced clove of garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2-3 drops of Louisiana-style hot sauce
1 green onion, chopped
1 small, fresh, ripe tomato, seeded and chopped 

To cook the fish: rub the fillets with olive oil and lay flat in a baking dish. Bake at 450 degrees until just about done, 15 minutes or so. You really have to judge the time on this based on how thick your fish is. A lot of people will tell you to cook the fish until it flakes. Please don't. Once it's that done, by the time you put it on the plate, pour a hot sauce on it and get everyone seated, your fish will be over-cooked. Have faith in the carry-over cooking that will happen whether you believe in it or not. 

The sauce is too simple: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, stir in garlic, hot sauce and lemon juice and simmer for a minute on medium heat (don't burn your butter!) Just before you pull the fish out, stir in onions and tomato, cook until hot and let it all hang out together. 

Serve your fish on a plate of lemon pepper linguine tossed with olive oil. Top the fish with you sauce. Serve this with a bright spring green salad and dinner is set!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


A tale told not well, but far too often
            As gardeners, Sean and I were, to say the least, enthusiastic. Having not yet acquired any recognition of the concept of simple abundance, we seem to have lived in a world where at any moment there might not be “enough.” So, at one point, we had in our residential backyard nine kinds of tomatoes, three kinds of chard, three kinds of onions, five kinds of lettuce, cucumbers, four kinds of radishes, turnips, pink-eyed purple hull peas, black-eyed peas, green beans, seven kinds of peppers, artichokes, watermelons, cantaloupes, yellow squash and zucchini. Somewhere up front was an herb garden, too. And then there were the volunteers that grew near the compost piles.  We were nuts. Still are. And to this day, I look at zucchini with anticipation and hesitance. Love the first ones. Sick of the last ones. This, then is the tale best called “Gad-ZUKES!”
            Ahh, zucchini. That glorious, messy, profligate producer of thorns, leaves and simple abundance. Again owing to our fears that good enough was not good enough, we lived in a state of heightened alert for any signs of squash vine borers. These are ingenious creatures that do indeed bore a hole into the side of a squash vine and then destroy the vine which leads to the demise of leaves, blossoms and any growing fruits of OUR labors. So, we listened to a radio gardening guru and Sean erected a domed covering to protect our burgeoning babies. The goal: KEEP THE BUGS OUT! The result: THE BUGS STAYED OUT. Even the ones we needed for pollinating!
            So, the covering stayed on. And each morning Sean would go outside, raise the covers and POLLINATE the squash. At times, our garden looked like a high school dance: 15 eager and ready males and not a receptive female to be seen. Other times, it seemed more like a dance at retirement community, where a lone male would be pressed into serving a dozen females. I still have moments of thought when I ponder about the true meaning of the zeal and glee and utter intensity with which Sean went about this routine. And then, slowly, I recall, it WAS a routine and Sean takes to routines like a squash vine borer takes to... well, you get it.
            The result of all this fussing and tending and pollinating was the same each year: A glorious bounty of squash. I love squash, so this is a fine moment, this time of harvesting just enough for a meal. But then the damned things just kept coming…and coming… and coming. Not the yellows so much as the zukes.
            The covering was destroyed by a storm in its fourth season of use, and I never put it back up. Let the borers come. The tortoise and the rabbit had their fill. We had ours, too. The neighbors took to locking their car doors lest we leave zucchini on their front seats in the pre-dawn hours. It was crazy!
            A sign I once saw said “When life hands you lemons, sell them at a profit.”  Son Max actually suggested we allow him to have a zucchini stand in the front yard. We convinced our enterprising boy that folks probably wouldn’t pay for something we were begging them to take from us. So, that took us to that other thought of what to do when life hands out lemons. Since I’m seeing a bunch of zucchini at the farmers’ markets this time of year, I thought I’d share a couple of recipes that helped us maintain sanity in the summer of the squash.

Mock-Apple cobbler
I’m not a big fan of sweets, but Sean is, so I figured making dessert from the bounty at hand (and not telling him, of course!) was right up my alley. I’ve also been known to take this to potlucks and not reveal the star player until pressed. I’m sorry I don’t remember where I found this recipe because I’d give credit where it’s due.


  • 8 cups chopped seeded peeled zucchini (about 3 pounds)
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups cold butter, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


We prefer a pie crust kind of crust for cobblers, but this one needs to be the crumble type because part of the crust goes in with the zucchini to help thicken it up. 

Cook zucchini and lemon juice in large sauce pan over medium heat until the zukes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Stir your mixture to keep it from sticking.  Add the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; simmer another minute and take it off the heat.

For crust, combine the flour and sugar in a bowl; cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  – IF you want super-fast and have someone else to clean up after you, use your food processor for this: A few quick pulses and you’re done. Just don’t get crazy. You’re shooting for crumbly, flour-coated, buttery, sugar love, not a solid mass.

Stir 1/2 cup into zucchini mixture. 

Press half of remaining crust mixture into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Spread zucchini over top; crumble remaining crust mixture over zucchini. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let rest for a few minutes before digging in.

I DO admit to loving seafood but have a bit of an aversion to eating things that swim if there’s no water to be found. It’s a quirk I practiced all those years living in the Arizona desert.
  • 2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot  or onion, if that’s what you’ve got handy
  • 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, eggs and butter. If you feel compelled for any reason to use margarine, STOP IT! You are worth 2 TBS of real butter. Stir in bread crumbs, minced shallot and seafood seasoning. Mix well.

Shape mixture into patties about the size of the palm of my hand. Assuming you’re not exceptionally large or small, your palm could also be an effective measuring tool. Just don’t make them too big or too thick. (If what you make is bigger than your turner/spatula, you might have trouble flipping your cakes.)

Dredge the patties in flour then fry them up in a skillet of medium-hot oil. Get ‘em good and golden. Serve hot and crispy. 

 My granny made a “secret” sauce for dipping fried fish and the like in, and it’s still a family favorite. If I tell you, you have to promise not to let my mom know I gave up the goods. Deal? Deal!  {Granny’s secret sauce: Mix equal parts Miracle Whip with ketchup.}  Remember, mum’s the word.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's yum-time!

Hatching up new flavors

I like to play with my food. Or your food.  Doesn’t really matter to me. Lately, we’re playing around a lot. We’re not going too far from home but stepping out a little bit.

Went to Beaumont a while back and had not one but two people come ask me about an Italian foods operation from Houston that is no longer in existence. Specifically, they wanted jalapeno lasagne. We didn’t make it. BUT NOW WE DO! From those two requests came our limited edition Roasted Garlic & Jalapeno Lasagne. I’ve got to tell you, this one might seem odd but I think it’s got staying power, especially once football season and cooler weather roll in and people are looking for filling, tasty, healthy food.

Because I run around in circles a lot, I completely rely on my amazing mom to be the wizard behind the curtain when it comes to ways to show off our latest creations. This was no exception. We had the lasagne hanging to dry and I told her about it. In less than 30 minutes, she came back with the recipe I’m posting today. I trust my mom more than anyone else in the whole, entire world.  So, when she gives me a recipe to try, you can bet two things as sure things: 1) I WILL try it, and 2) it WILL be good! This is no exception. I made the test batch here in the shop and fed it to the pasta posse. Granted, they like to eat, they love pasta and it was being served to them FREE by their BOSS, but they still ate every bite. They didn’t even ASK if they could have seconds. They polished it off (and Sean didn’t get any leftovers for dinner—so much for my plans of not having to cook that night. Dagnabbit!)

The jalapeno lasagne and linguine have a bit of a kick right now. Most of the time, I’ll put the heat at the middle of the scale, with our Roasted Habanero being at the top of the list, followed by Zesty Cajun and Smoky & Spicy Chipotle. But the intense heat and drought have brought us peppers that are noticeably hotter than those we got earlier in the season.

The extra heat there and the influx of Hatch MILD Green Chiles combined in my little brain to foster the love of our most recent creation. So, as of today, we have Hatch Green Chile Linguine.  This one is MILD, MILD, MILD. It also can carry the Hatch name because we used only real Hatch chiles from the Hatch Valley in New Mexico. (We’re still calling it Gourmet TEXAS Pasta!) I’m such a food nerd that I actually contacted folks IN Hatch to make sure it was OK to use the name. A friendly exchange of emails with Preston at Berridge Farms assured me we were on the right track, so Hatch is right there on the label. We’ll only have this one while it lasts because Hatch chiles are a limited-time thing. While they’re note around, we’ll keep playing with regular chiles to improve on what we’ve started (always looking to be better).
For info on Hatch Chiles from Berridge, go to hatchnmgreenchile.com/
The lasagne recipe is flexible, so have fun. Go play with your food!
Jalapeno Lasagne

1 - 12 oz package Roasted Garlic & Jalapeno Lasagne, cooked according to package       directions
 1 LB chorizo, browned and drained WELL
 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
 2 blocks cream cheese, softened
 2 eggs, beaten
 2 pounds  shredded "Mexican" 3-cheese blend

ALTERNATE: If you can find it, use Kraft Cooking Crème (sort of a smooshy cream cheese) in Original flavor in place of the cream cheese/egg combination
Combine chorizo and tomatoes. (Just stir them in the skillet you cooked the chorizo in)

Stir eggs into cream cheese until smooth.

 Place a thin layer of meat mix in bottom of pan. Add a layer of noodles. Top with small dollops of cream cheese.  Then add a layer of shredded cheese.

 Repeat, ending with a layer of sauce topped with grated cheese. Add on a little asiago for a twist, if you'd like.

   Cover with foil. Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes, until bubbly. Remove foil and cook another few minutes ‘til lightly browned. Rest 15-20 minutes before serving.

Until next time: Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Julia vs well, basically, everyone else

            I LOVE food. You probably guessed that. Love to make it, play with it and sometimes remember to eat it. I also LOVE to read. Not surprisingly, reading about food ranks as one of the greatest pleasures I have in the zoobie-crazy days that define my life. I read Diane Mott Davidson mystery novels, cookbooks of all kinds, foodie magazines. heck, I even have a book titled “How to be a Foodie” as if I might not be heading into my 5th decade of foodie-ness! Lately, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts brought on by reading works by and about Julia Child and books by Michael Pollan and others in that realm.
            Of course, I read “Julie & Julia,” and watched the movie more times than we watched Ratatouille! I’ve read Julia’s autobiography and am thoroughly enjoying her memoir “My Life in France” right now. Reading these works, I feel the joy of cooking. Not in the Rombauer style but with Julia’s voice ringing in my ears and the thought that she really thought we all could do this, and she was right! We CAN make wonderful food for ourselves and our families and those we turn into family through sheer love and willpower. Butter is not a demon and life’s too short for anything less than food that feeds body AND soul.
            I am happy when I read these works.
            At other times, I am reading books such as “Food Rules” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. These books do not make me feel happy. They are important, to be sure, because they condense vast landscapes into digestible snapshots about how the food we eat gets to us. But they do not bring joy.  Perhaps there is something to the bliss of ignorance.
            Those who know me well will smile and nod as I acknowledge the truth that I am a person of extremes. I’m not known for being a middle-of-the-road kind of thinker.  So, I have this challenge: How to bring together the joy of Julia and the thought that my choices of food affect not only me but YOU?
            Happily, I have our farmer’s markets every week!  That means I can eat well, widely and wisely.  Whew!
            I think this week, we’ll enjoy the pork chops Sean picked up at our newest “regular” market, the Farmers’ Market at the Rim in San Antonio.  They look so lean, I plan to cook them in a combination of veggies I picked up from some of the other markets around, including the New Braunfels Farm to Market and the still-growing Pflugerville market on Tuesday. When I’m done, the vegetables and whatever sauce develops will go on top of Roasted Red Bell Pepper Linguine.  Oooh... maybe I should make extra veggies and get a head-start on an amazing vegetarian lasagna using the Roasted Red Bell Pepper Lasagne staring me in the face.   
            So, what’s cooking in YOUR kitchen?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Special request

For Pam O, and others on the Gourmet Texas Pasta Facebook page, here is Mom's cold pasta salad using Zesty Cajun Linguine. (It was called Spicy Cajun until last week, when I realized half of our products were called Spicy or Roasted something or other. I'm a better editor than that, so Zesty Cajun it is!)
Since this is Mom's recipe, I'll let it speak for itself because even as a simple recipe, I can hear my mother's voice in every line and somedays I still need to hear my Mom's voice. 

RAGIN’ Cajun Pasta Salad
1 pkg Gourmet Texas Pasta Zesty Cajun Linguine, cooked, drained, cooled, chopped
hard salami, minced 8 oz
ham, minced 8 oz
provolone/mozarella mix cheese, diced or shredded, 8 oz

Set aside.

1 small jar cheap green olives
1 small jar kalamata olives
1 tiny can chopped black olives
4 or 5 cloves garlic
Whirl through the food processor
Pour on olive oil til moistened

Mix pasta, meat, cheese, tapenade.....chill...serve

Voila:  Muffaletta Pasta Salad!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Attack of the KILLER tomatoes

I love tomatoes. LOVE them. I also love my husband, Sean, who grows me tomatoes (I love him for other reasons, but that never hurts when he's standing in line for the doghouse!) Contrast this with my brother, Stoney, who wouldn't eat an unprocessed tomato (marinara, ketchup and salsa were OK) because he refused to "eat food still in the larval state."

This spring and summer, we've been admittedly neglectful of our yard and garden, so imagine my delight when Sean sauntered in one afternoon with a handful of scarlett red gems no bigger than the end of my thumb. We have no garden growing, but amid a patch of overgrown... let's call it grass...was a volunteer tomato plant creeping across the ground and laden with these yummy jewels. My mouth waters now just at the thought.

Then came the HOT HOT HOT and the teenaged son who cleared the lawn. He didn't touch the tomato plant but without their blanket of protection, they seem to have given up the battle for now. So, we bought farmer's market tomatoes. Good, good, good. And more than we could use in a couple of days so said son put them in the fridge. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Once they've been in the chillbox, 'maters lose flavor. (it's not just my opinion, I swear! Ask Alton Brown. He's on Twitter @altonbrown) So then I had a choice: Whine or recover?  I know when life gives you lemons you're supposed to make lemonade (or Lemon Pepper Linguine) but I had tomatoes and tomato-ade just sounded wrong.
I like the idea of sun-dried tomatoes but other than one version I had a decade ago in London, I've never been impressed with the reality of sun-dried tomatoes.
Brain clicking, I remembered something I read eons ago about preserving tomatoes by slow-roasting them. THAT proved to be a path to pursue. So, I roasted them, using the following recipe. To mock a certain teenager who uses the phrase "killer" to mock me, these are "killer."


Little tomatoes (cherry, currant or grape work best)
whole unpeeled cloves of garlic (NOT HEADS, cloves)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Bake at 225 degrees-- yes, I know it's summer and it's hot. Trust me. It'll be OK.

Halve the tomatoes longway, put them and the garlic in a bowl and drizzle on a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil (I use Texas Olive Ranch oils most of the time. Like the oil and the people. http://texasoliveranch.com/)

---NOTE: at this point, I usually pull most of the tomatoes out and keep them pure. The rest get a dose of balsamic (also from Texas Olive Ranch), a spoonful of sugar and a dash of salt, just because.---

Put the tomatoes FACE UP and the garlic cloves on a wire rack set on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. IF YOU DON'T HAVE A RACK, just put the tomatoes on the paper. Please don't go buy a rack unless you just know you really needed one all this time and this is your excuse to buy one.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left insiden. This could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes and your oven. 

The first thing you're going to want to do it pop one in your mouth. DON'T DO IT. Those suckers are hot. Blow on it first, then pop it in your mouth. Then you can use your tomatoes right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge. Use them with your favorite pasta, topped with just a bit of the olive oil (which is going to pick up incredible flavor), on a pizza, or just as a snack.

Oh, and those cloves of garlic? Squeeze them out, mash them up and spread on toasted French bread. Put one of those tomato halves on top and you've got yourself a fancy little treat.

One great sammich

Max and I went to Dripping Springs for the Dripping Springs Farmers Market yesterday. Taking a teenager to a market is always fun, especially one who has been a foodie FOREVER. Since we were early, we had time to eat. (Teenager, remember?) 

We passed on the usual suspects of fast food and listened to the recommendations of other vendors and the organizers and headed to Cafe 131. WHAT A FIND! The menu was long enough to be interesting but not overwhelming. Max chose a french dip with a Caesar salad instead of a plain green salad (foodie, remember?). I went with the club sandwich because, well, it had bacon on it. 

Max's sandwich was impressive, with real meat and lots of cheese. I guess it was good because I never got a bite of it, or the salad. And I never got a chance to snap a picture of it!

But if this was a competition, I'd be quoting Charlie Sheen: "WINNING!"

My sandwich was, I kid you not, five inches high! The ingredients were spilling out and, even as big as my mouth is, I could barely wedge this beauty in to take a bite. When I did, I knew why Max hadn't shared his sandwich. I knew I wasn't sharing mine, either. (But I did... I'm the Mom.)  I kept sneaking out of our booth to grab bites during the afternoon. I never did manage to finish it off. Max got HALF for dinner and was satisfied, so I guess we all won.

One more thing to note before I encourage you to go see the folks at Cafe 131: Max liked that sandwich so much he went back across the street and asked if they would make him one for dinner (it was still lunchtime, but we wanted to get one to go when we were done rather than let it sit all afternoon.) I'm not sure who "the girl chef" is that Max talked to but whoever you are, Girl Chef, you deserve a cape and kudos. Max's disappointment at not being able to get a late sandwich--thanks for trying--was more than tempered by his dealings with you. If there was ever a super-hero-worthy skill, being able to charm a sometimes-surly teenage boy while telling him you would NOT be feeding him is certainly at the top of my list. THANK YOU.

OK, now the pitch: If you are anywhere near Dripping Springs, or can make up an excuse to be near there, make the stop at Cafe 131. It's seriously worth the effort.

One more toss: Since Max got a salad with his lunch, I got fries. Thanks to our friend Bill from Drippin' Sauce for ketchup with brilliant attitude to go with those fries. 

That's it for now. Going to Williams-Sonoma at Barton Creek Mall in Austin tomorrow (Saturday, June 16) for the Artisans Market. Going to make Lemon Pepper Chicken featuring our Lemon Pepper Linguine and using a bit of Texas Olive Ranch's Meyer Lemon Olive Oil. Come see us.

'Til next time: Enjoy!