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Fried Okra

During state fair season, fried food always assumes its exalted status in the culinary world: Tempting otherwise healthy eaters with crunchy textures and nutty aromas. Or, making headlines with the latest and greatest experiments in greasy goodness. Fried Pineapple Upside Down Cake anyone? You can still get your fill of wacky fried foods at the ultimate in competitive frying, the State Fair of Texas. The Big Tex Choice Awards for 2011 Most Creative goes to Fried Bubblegum.

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Strawberry Saba Sorbet

Just as Florida's Strawberry Royalty packs up their crowns and sashes to make way for the Tomato Queen, weather's starting to warm up in the opposite corner of the country. And so, the west coast picks up where Florida left off -- in praise of the sovereign strawberry.

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Carolina-Style Deviled Crab

Deviled crab is a popular Lowcountry dish, especially in South Carolina. Deviled refers to spicing up a dish with one or two ingredients, such as hot sauce, mustard, or red pepper flakes. We've used a sweet and tangy hot sauce from NW Elixirs for a flavorful heat, but any hot sauce can be substituted. Add a few extra dashes according to your heat preference. I like extra spice against the rich and creamy crab.

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Spaghetti In Tuna Sauce With Spicy Breadcrumbs

You may not recognize this dish. Look closely -- canned tuna, pasta, crispy bits on top -- it's starting to come into focus now, isn't it? No matter the amount of kitchen wisdom gathered throughout the years, I remain steadfast in my love for tuna casserole. I chucked the canned soup ages ago, replacing it with homemade Mornay sauce instead (so much better). Then one day, in need of a quick food fix, and yearning for my old standby, I dreamt up this iteration: Spaghetti, slicked in a simple tuna sauce, sprinkled with crispy spicy breadcrumbs. The tuna casserole of the 50's was revered because a delicious meal could be put together in 30 minutes. This new version promises all the same comforts in less than 20.

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Russian Dressing

Sure, you could have a pastrami sandwich without the creamy pink sauce referred to as Russian dressing, but why would you want to? The classic sandwich, generously topped with a pile of brined and hardwood-smoked meat is made infinitely better with its addition. And while it may be tempting to buy it by the bottle, it takes less time (and tastes way better) to simply make it at home.

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Bizcochitos

The power of a recipe to connect you to the past is potent. Unlike a single keepsake, its power lies in its equality: Anyone and everyone who cooks an heirloom recipe can savor the joy of a beloved place, a missed loved one, through a single bite. This recipe for bizcochitos comes from my great grandmother, who made them each year during Christmastime. All the kids, my mom included, would hover around the kitchen, eager to steal the first bite as they came out of the oven.

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Dilly Bread

Years ago, I would've shared this recipe with you thinking it was from our family vault. It is, in a way. We've made it for decades, through generations, starting with my Nana. Then, a year or so ago, I ran across the identical recipe in an old copy of the Austin Junior Forum's Lone Star Legacy: A Texas Cookbook. And again, I found a variation in the pages of another cookbook, From Amish to Mennonite Kitchens. Clearly, we weren't the only family breaking Dilly Bread every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. And, I discovered, we have a Mrs. Leona Schnuelle from Crab Orchard, Nebraska to thank for it. In 1960, she took the blue ribbon prize for her Dilly Bread recipe in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Since then, it's been baked in American kitchens across the entire country. There is a reason for that. It's good. Really good.

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Caramelized Onion Dip

I have a serious culinary soft spot for onion dip. I'd venture to guess many of you do too. If you appreciate those flavors, it's a hard task to step away from the bowl. I grew up eating a lot of onion dip and potato chips (with ridges, of course) at every sleepover, birthday party, camping trip, and late-night movie marathon. But I'm happy to leave that plastic tub in the past in exchange for a new, much improved version of my old-school favorite.

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Savory Farro Pie

We cook with farro often on this site: as a twist on the traditional Mexican stew with Farro Pozole, in a variation on the classic insalata caprese, or in our favorite saffron-tinged Warm Farro Salad. Tender-chewy, nutty, and sweet, farro is a brilliant companion to a full pantry of flavors, yet as you can see, our applications of this whole grain are generally as a happy substitute for pasta and rice dishes.

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Green Gazpacho

I've always considered gazpacho a hot weather respite. Yet, as that warm weather turns cold, there remain a lot of green tomatoes tugging at the branch, deprived of summer's dog days. Lucky for us, under ripe tomatoes are hardly a settling prize -- they make a dashing debut in their most popular form, fried. They also inspire a gorgeous cold fall soup, bright with acidity, and surprisingly mellow paired alongside almonds, grapes, cucumber, apple and pear.

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Salmorejo

Few people are familiar with this derivation of Gazpacho.  With late summer tomatoes ripening on the vine, there are few better ways in which to enjoy them.  Salmorejo is nothing more than a thick gazpacho, full-bodied from the addition of more bread and without the companionship of peppers or cucumber.  It's simply bread, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Ya está. The oil emulsifies the ingredients, suspending the bits of bread and tomato meat into a velvety texture, and the vinegar, garlic and salt jump forward to refresh.  It's absolutely brilliant on a warm day.

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Fresh Mozzarella, Strawberries, Mint & Saba

I couldn't have imagined that these ingredients would be so well-suited. The combination was spontaneous — one of those, 'cook with what you've got' scenarios. Having just picked up strawberries from the market and a handful of mint from a neighborhood stroll, I glanced over at a bottle of saba standing on my counter, and fresh mozzarella getting too comfortable in the fridge. Delicious ideas began to take shape.

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Coffee Cocktails

Coffee cocktails rouse visions of soft whipped cream melting into piping hot glasses of dark brew, caramelized sugar rims and the dazzle of tableside fireworks. They're the classic warm-up on a winter's day. But, with summer right around the corner, I set my sights on cold and dry libations, truly showcasing the flavor of good coffee. Creating an original drink that would come across as rich and sumptuous while steering away from the sweeter-style of traditional coffee cocktails was my guide.

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Chorizo Puffs (Buñuelos de Chorizo)

Before Elias Cairo of Olympic Provisions was a charcutier, he was a chef. He worked in kitchens all over Europe and trained among some of the best. But much of his training was done in restaurants and street stalls in big cities and small villages, eating traditional foods in their hometown. In Madrid, that meant late night eats. Exit a bar in the city's wee hours and you're in a good eats wonderland. I asked Eli about some of his favorite late night Spanish bites, and his enthusiasm was contagious. These buñuelos de chorizo were among the top. 

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Benne Seed Cookies

In Joseph Dabney's, The Food, Folklore, and Art of Lowcountry Cooking, he spends a chapter on the legacy of benne seeds (pronounced bennie). Bene means sesame in Gambia and Senegal and they were brought to the Carolina-Georgia coastal plain with slaves from Africa in the colonial era. The plants grew so well on the slave plots that Lowcountry farmers quickly realized their humidity and fertile soil were perfect grounds for planting the oily, nutty benne seeds.

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Dark Rye Crackers

It's been a while since I last made crackers at home. Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks reminded me how easy it is and invited a new appreciation for making them. Her basic recipe for a thin olive oil cracker is an absolute gem. It's right up there with Jim Lahey's no-knead bread and Kim Boyce's whole wheat chocolate chip cookie (more on that soon). One of the greatest attributes of her recipe is its adaptability. Think of it as a base from which limitless departures can be made. I chose the route of rye, using Bluebird Grain Farms Dark Northern Rye flour instead of semolina. Its sweet and malty flavor proved to be perfect in cracker form.

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Pan-Roasted Turnips in Duck Fat

Duck fat is a staple in my kitchen and I always keep a tub of it on hand in the freezer.  It has a quality that other fats just don't.  It tolerates a high temperature, sears ingredients to a lovely golden brown and renders them miraculously grease-free. And yes, all of these reasons are legitimate ones for its use, but the single most beloved feature of duck fat is the sumptuous umami flavor it imparts. There's no other ingredient like it.  I use it exclusively for my Roasted Potatoes, but I also use it for meats, seafood and roasted root vegetables.

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Cold Claret Punch

In The Punch Bowl, by Dan Searing, Chapter 5 features wine punches, both hot and cold. We like that wine punches are appropriate year-round depending on what base wine you begin with -- think sweet Sauternes for spring and summer, or full-bodied Bordeaux for fall and winter. We love the dark and fruity profile of the Cold Claret Punch that hails from Chafing Dish Recipes from 1896. Claret is the British term for Bordeaux wine, known in the U.S. as Meritage. The blend is usually comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. If you have a hard time finding either of those, select a Bordeaux-style, jammy, full-bodied red wine.

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Lacinto Kale Salad with Chorizo, Pecorino & Smoked Paprika

Kale is one of the brightest seasonal ingredients of winter - especially lacinato or black kale. While tubers, onions and potatoes stare you back in the vegetable aisle, lacinato kale shimmers a steely, deep dark green - it's winter's prize. I love adding lacinato kale to soups and stews, but my favorite way to eat it is raw, dressed simply with good olive oil and lemon juice and tossed with smoked paprika, chorizo matchsticks and bits of pecorino. It makes a radiant winter salad.

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Warm Farro Salad

Combining olive oil, anchovies, fennel, pine nuts, golden raisins and saffron is a classic Italian move. A couple of really talented Italian cooks introduced it to my world years ago and I've made riffs off of it ever since. Classically, it's used as a sweet, savory, briny sauce in which to bathe fresh sardines. It's also commonly slicked onto warm linguine strands - so good. But it occurred to me after noshing on just-cooked sweet and chewy Bluebird Grain Farms Emmer Farro, that the two would get along brilliantly. A little bit of tinkering confirmed it - the sweet, nutty Emmer grains are a perfect compliment.

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