Archive | June, 2009

Jewish Delis in San Antonio?

Jewish Delis in San Antonio?

Pastrami SandwichQ. Where is there a great Jewish deli in San Antonio like the ones I used to find in New York?

A. Unfortunately, you’re probably going to have to go back to New York for that true Jewish deli experience.

Jewish delis have not been successful here, though there have been numerous attempts over the years. The most recent, Marty’s New York Deli at Loop 1604 and Blanco Road, closed after only a few months.

There are numerous places that use the word deli in their name, but this won’t be the home of pastrami on rye with a dill spear on the side that tastes quite like what you’re hankering for. The same is true of the bagel places in town. The food may be good, but it’s just not the same.

One place you might want to check out is Pita Loca at the Jewish Community Center, 12500 N.W. Military Hwy. at Wurzbach Parkway. When I called over there, the woman who answered had obviously heard the question before and confirmed that she knew of no place, either.

But she did say Pita Loca offered a deli sandwich of the day and that it was open to the public. The eatery is open for lunch and dinner Sunday-Thursday and lunch only on Friday.

Readers, do you have any suggestions? What restaurants in town come closest for you in providing New York-style deli food? Post your answers below.

If you have any dining questions, e-mail

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Daily Dish: Cerroni’s Returns to Austin Highway

Daily Dish: Cerroni’s Returns to Austin Highway

Cerroni’s Purple Garlic is back on Austin Highway after an absence of about 10 years.

It is now at 1017 Austin Hwy., the former home of Billy T’s hamburger stand.

Cerroni’s offers handmade pizza, pasta, sandwiches and more.

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Basil Blast: Verdant and Versatile

Basil Blast: Verdant and Versatile

BasilAs I filled my hands with freshly snipped stems of basil for a sauce recently, a familiar, spicy scent suddenly spoke its name, loud and clear: clove.

I’d thought of basil as a member of the mint family. The two herbs thrive side by side in large pots on my patio. Basil is especially famous as a pesto ingredient as well as a remedy for an upset stomach, as is mint. But the sudden scent of clove gave me another clue as to why basil works so beautifully in a range of dishes.

Here’s one example: In December I prepared one of the dishes from the “Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier” for a function at the Culinary Institute of America. The committee for the event had chosen the appetizer recipe I would prepare. When I looked at Abigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls I was intrigued at the combination of herbs in the ingredient list: fresh basil, allspice and sage.

The resulting appetizer was very good. A filling of the pork sausage (I used Jimmy Dean’s) was seasoned with the above ingredients, mixed with Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella cheese. Then, a pizza crust (pre-fab) was rolled around it and it was baked. The long roll is supposed to be served on a large cutting board, a knife handy, so guests can cut off what they want and move on to the next appetizer. (We cut it into slices and served as a passed appetizer.)

Basil, with its clove-y, somewhat anise-like taste, allspice and sausage, along with a bit of sage, turned ho-hum sausage into a dish with personality. And I now had a new seasoning combination to experiment with.

Basil is so familiar to us, but lovers of this herb might consider its interesting, ancient history. In Italy it is used as a love symbol. When a woman puts a pot of basil on her outdoor balcony, it means she is ready to accept her suitor, according to “Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs”.

The Greek word for basil is derived from the word for “king.” The plant is thought to have originated in Africa, but first cultivated in India. (An in-depth discussion on the origins of the plant and the word can be found on Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages,

Basil, and some of its many varieties (such as lemon basil or Thai basil), is used in many of the world’s cuisines. It marries famously with olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano for pesto. Its deep green, cushioned leaves are perfect for garnishing dishes in which the herb is used. One can add it to sachets or potpourris. It is pretty in a flower garden as well as an herb garden. It thrives happily in a pot on a balcony or deck, contributing lush, deep green color and a warm fragrance.

Use basil for more than pesto. Traditionally used in the Mediterranean and Thailand, warm climates such as ours, many foods and summer dishes will love a touch of basil:

  • Veal, pork and fish
  • Light summery vegetables, such as summer squash, zucchini and eggplant
  • Green salads (Fresh basil is very pungent, so use it judiciously.)
  • Soups, stews and sauces
  • Winter vegetables, such as cauliflower
  • Just about anything that is good with thyme, garlic or lemon juice. Also a natural with olive oil (put some in your bread dipping sauce).
  • Cooked white beans, pasta
  • Omelets (such as a Fresh Tomato and Basil Omelet) (for recipe, click here)

Finally, if you have an abundance of basil this summer, share it. Give it to non-cooks to use as an aromatic in the kitchen or for tea for a stomach ache. Suggest they use the stems, if long enough, to add color and fragrance to a bouquet. If you want to preserve it, chop it finely, add water and freeze it in an ice cube tray. When frozen, pack the cubes into zip-tight freezer bags.

Cooks might also want to add these recipes to their fresh basil repertoire: Abigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls and Fresh Tomato Omelet.

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Recipe: Fresh Tomato and Basil Omelet for Two

Recipe: Fresh Tomato and Basil Omelet for Two

basilandtomatoThis omelet is a flavorful breakfast or elegant, easy supper for two. It tastes of summer, with the freshness of tomatoes and sweet basil.

Fresh Tomato and Basil Omelet for Two

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small white onion, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled (optional) and sliced
Salt, to taste
Pinch black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh sweet basil
1 1/2  tablespoons unsalted butter
5 eggs, beaten
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

In medium skillet, warm the olive oil, then add sliced onion. Turn heat up to medium, let onions sauté briefly until they are limp. Add the tomatoes and let them cook gently (lower heat a little) with the onion until they are heated through, exuding a little liquid. Add salt, to taste, and pepper. Stir a little, making sure tomato slices retain some shape. Add basil, toss gently. Take tomato mixture off stove but keep warm.

In omelet pan, or small, nonstick skillet, warm the butter over medium heat until it melts, then gets hot and begins to sizzle. Turn the pan this way and that so that the hot butter coats up the sides a ways.

Pour in the beaten egg. Sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg across the top. Let the eggs sit a few moments for the bottom to set; then gently lift up the edges, as they are cooked, with a heat-resistant spatula. Let the liquid egg run underneath the cooked egg, doing this all around the edges. You’ll be left with a nice, moist top. When the bottom of the omelet is golden (lift with a spatula and look), put about 2/3 of the tomato and onion mixture in the center.  Lift about 1/3 of the omelet, on the left side, and fold it over the center and most of the filling.  Then, slide the omelet onto a warm plate so that it flips over,  once more, enclosing the filling.

Cut it in half and transfer one half to another warmed plate.  Spoon the rest of the tomato mixture over the two halves and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

From Bonnie Walker

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Recipe: Abigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls

Recipe: Abigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls

basilupcloseAbigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls have a fresh combination of seasonings, sausage and cheese, all rolled up in pizza dough and baked. Let your guests slice their own pieces of this appetizer.

Abigail’s Crusty Sausage Rolls

1 1/2 pounds ground pork sausage
2 cups (about 1/2 pound) coarsely ground mozzarella
1 cup (about 2 ounces) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil OR 1 tablespoon dried basil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 packages pizza dough (2 pounds total), thawed, if frozen
1/4 cup flour
Prepared whole-grain mustard

If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break up the sausage into small pieces and sauté it in a large skillet over medium-high heat until completely brown and cooked through.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to paper towels to drain.

When drained and completely cooled, put sausage in a bowl with the cheeses, basil, eggs, cloves, allspice, sage, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Abigails's Crusty Sausage RollsPlace 1 pound of the pizza dough on a lightly floured board. A small amount of olive oil rubbed onto your hands will assist you in handling the dough. Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour and roll it out to a 10-by-12-inch rectangle, 1/2-inch thick. Once you begin to roll out the dough, you may find that it resists staying in a rectangular shape; rather it contracts like doughy rubber band. The idea is to get the dough to form an uneven rectangle as it is rolled and remain in that shape.

Spread half the sausage filling (about 2 1/2 cups) over the dough, allowing a 1 1/2-inch border of dough on all sides. Fold in the 1 1/2-inch border of dough and press down. As you do this, nudge the dough into a rough rectangular shape with the edges enclosing the filling. Roll the rectangle jelly roll-style, beginning with the short side.

Place the filled roll, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Make the second roll with the remaining ingredients and place it on the same baking sheet about 3 inches from the other roll. Bake the rolls until crusty and brown, about 40-45 minutes. (Do not be concerned about any filling oozing out of the dough.) Cool the rolls on a wire rack. Serve warm on a clean bread board, allowing guests to cut their own slices and spread with the mustard.

Suggested beverages: earthy red wines with a hint of spice and moderately high acidity, such as  Chianti, pinot noir, crianza Rioja, or cru Beaujolais. If you like a white wine, try an Alsatian pinot gris.

Makes 8-10 appetizer servings.

From Abigail Kirsch, “Cooking with Les Dames d’Escoffier”

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Daily Dish: A Taste of Provence

Daily Dish: A Taste of Provence

Monkfish Bourride with potato and tapenade.

Monkfish Bourride with potato and tapenade.

Want a way to beat the heat? Give yourself a night in Provence at Fig Tree Restaurant.

A prix fixe summer menu, A Taste of Provence, presents some of the light, flavorful dishes from the South of France. An option is to have wines from the region paired with three of the menu courses.

Appetizer choices are Lump Crab Stuffed Zucchini Blossom or the delicate Pissaladiere, featuring caramelized onions, olives and anchovies on a flatbread crust. This course is paired with a chilled Chateau Routas Rosé 2008.

A fish course offers Monkfish Bourride or Loup de Mer en Papillote. Monkfish, sometimes called the “poor man’s lobster” comes blanketed in a creamy white sauce. The loup de mer, a type of sea bass, comes topped with vegetables and baked in parchment. The wine offering is a rosé from a famous Côte de Provence producer, Domaine Ott.

Roasted Lamb Chops Ratatouille is the first choice on the meat course. The chops come trimmed, seared, and basted in butter. The mixed vegetable dish, ratatouille, is on the side. The other option is tender slices of Pan-seared Lamb Tenderloin Provençal.  The wine is Domaine Tempier Rouge, a red wine from Bandol.

A Cherry and Apricot Tarte or Chocolate Terrine bring a sweet end to the meal.

This summer offering is $48 per person. To have the wines paired with each course is another $12. The Fig Tree is at 515 La Villita St. For reservations, call (210) 224-1976.

Chocolate Terrine with white and dark chocolate layers.

Chocolate Terrine with white and dark chocolate layers.

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How to Roast a Bell Pepper

How to Roast a Bell Pepper

roastedpepperWhy buy roasted peppers in a jar when you can roast them yourself? There are several easy ways to do this, you don’t need any fancy equipment, and the freshness of the flavor can’t be beat.

You can roast peppers on the grill or in the oven. You can even roast them on top of the oven, if you have a gas stove top and are careful.

If you are using your grill, get it hot before starting. Then just put your freshly washed peppers on and close the lid. Let it set for a couple of minutes before turning. Keep repeating this procedure until all of the sides have been well charred and the pepper has softened somewhat from the heat. (It is only the skin that chars and you are going to remove that.)

Remove the peppers and place in a paper bag or plastic bag with a little air in it. Let them set for at least 10 minutes to let the peppers steam. Then let the peppers cool enough to where you can touch them, so that you can peel them with your fingers. Not every last speck of peeling will come off, and if that bothers you, use a vegetable peeler or paring knife for those tiny spots. Just don’t scrape the pepper away in your AR zeal.

“The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook” — the not-so-new but well-used 1986 edition on my shelf — offers the following tips for roasting green and red peppers in an oven: “Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prick each of the green and red peppers in several places to prevent them from bursting when roasting in oven. Place peppers on cookie sheet, making sure peppers do not touch each other. Roast about 20 minutes or until skin puckers, turning peppers occasionally so they won’t burn.”

“Remove peppers to medium-sized clean brown paper bag; fold top of bag to seal it, and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes (keeping peppers in bag to steam makes it easier to peel off skin). Remove peppers from bag; peel off skin and discard seeds.”

I would also add that you need to remove the veins from inside as well before you cut them into your desired shape.

What is not in these instructions? Any mention of washing the pepper after it is roasted. Do not do this.

So do, but it affects the flavor of the pepper, says Moe Lazri, general manager of Fig Tree Restaurant and Little Rhein Steakhouse. He knows whereof he speaks: He created the most attractive antipasti plate I’ve ever seen, and his roasted peppers were excellent.

If you are using your gas stove top, hold each pepper using a set of tongs directly on top of the flame. I’ve seen cooks place the pepper in the flame; if you do this, make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy, just in case it goes flying.

You can do any of these steps with chile peppers, but adjust the cooking time to fit the different size. And be careful with handling those. You don’t want to peel them with bare hands.

No matter how you have roasted your peppers, you can enjoy them plain or dressed with a  drizzle of olive oil, some salt and maybe a few fresh herbs or crumbled feta cheese. Add them to recipes, garnish your favorite burger or sandwich with them, use them in salads. They can be as versatile as your imagination.

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‘Food, Inc.,’ a Horror Story

‘Food, Inc.,’ a Horror Story

Soybeans being harvested in FOOD, INC., a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Picture

Soybeans being harvested in FOOD, INC., a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Picture

By: Bonnie Walker and John Griffin.

If you’ve read the two bestsellers, “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” you’ll be familiar with much of the information presented in the new documentary, “Food, Inc.”

We read both books. Yet we found the film thought-provoking because of the range of voices heard, from those who have considered the subject extensively and those who are practical, everyday people.

The power of the spoken word mated to the images of sweeping cornfields owned by mega-corporations, not to mention the footage of the stark and troubling condition of animals sent to slaughter, are emotional, to be sure. Emotion, however, means connection — to our senses and other people, animals and our environment.

The introduction to “Food, Inc.” immediately points out that we are disconnected from our food sources. It went on to point out how fewer and fewer companies (growing ever larger) are producing the extensive variety we think we see when we walk down the grocery store aisles.

Yet many of those foods are out of reach for the nation’s poorer folks.  The film shows a lower-income Hispanic family going to a grocery to try to buy healthful foods.  They know they should eat better, but the produce is too expensive, especially when compared with the volume of food they can get from a fast-food establishment’s dollar menu.  Why pay $1.29 for a bunch of broccoli when a burger is only $1?

The mother tells director Robert Kenner she thought her family had been eating healthfully on a diet of burgers and soda, but her husband developed Type 2 diabetes. Now, she says, one of her daughters is showing signs of the disease as well. As the film points out, one out of every two persons born into a minority group after the year 2000 will contract the disease.

Businessmen in FOOD, INC., a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Businessmen in FOOD, INC., a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

According to the film, the dangers have gone beyond the omnipresence of corn-based products, from syrups to preservatives. Huge conglomerates growing massive amounts of corn and soybeans at very low prices are shown as hounding independent farmers out of business. One company is depicted as a sort of modern-day Big Brother, protecting its patented seeds by going after farmers who try to adhere to the ancient practice of saving seeds from one harvest to plant at the next.

None of the mega-agribusinesses mentioned agreed to appear in the film, though some have since used their own media to dispute its contentions. The corporate entities, with names like Monsanto and Perdue, are also depicted as having strong ties with highly placed decision makers ranging from a Supreme Court justice to those in the upper echelons of the Federal Department of Agriculture.

“It seemed to me industry was more protected than my son,” says the mother of one boy who died from an E. coli infection.

The action in “Food, Inc.” is certainly not as scintillating as the latest “Transformers” movie, but a mid-afternoon matinee at the Bijou attracted several dozen viewers who remained throughout the film.

One of them, who asked to be identified only as Christine, was taken with “how powerful these people (running the country’s food industry) are.”

The intermingling of agribusiness and lawmakers in Washington came as a surprise to her. It reminded her of the modern-day Golden Rule: “Whoever makes the gold has the rule.”

After one showing, a customer at the theater’s snack bar was overheard ordering a hamburger, claming it would be the last he would ever eat. That says as much as the movie.

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Daily Dish: ‘Food Inc.’ Opens in San Antonio

Daily Dish: ‘Food Inc.’ Opens in San Antonio

Food Inc. Movie PosterThe controversial documentary “Food Inc.” opens Friday at San Antonio’s Bijou at Crossroads Mall.

This film, featuring food alarmists Eric (“Fast Food Nation”) Schlosser and Michael (“The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) Pollan, takes an unflattering look at how food is processed in our society. Or, as the tag line on the poster reads, “You’ll never look at dinner the same way.”

In other words, this ain’t “Big Night” or “Babette’s Feast,” movies that made you want to celebrate every morsel that passed your lips. You may also want to forgo that box of popcorn in what some have called a true-to-life “Children of the Corn” horror flick.

For the film’s Web site, click here. For a schedule of local showtimes, click here.

Articles and reviews of the film have stated that none of the food giants discussed would comment on film for director Robert Kenner. Yet Monsanto has subsequently launched its own Web site denouncing “Food Inc.” Click here for more.

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Amaretto-Peach Tiramisu

Amaretto-Peach Tiramisu

Amaretto-Peach TiramisuWe may not have had any peaches from the Hill Country this year, but the few freestones I’ve had from my neighborhood H-E-B and the farmers markets have been juicy yet firm. Even better, they have been full of flavor.

The better the peach, the better this dessert is.

In recent years, a growing number of chefs have played with the classic Italian tiramisu recipe, adding fruit and complementary liqueurs while subtracting the cocoa powder and the espresso. This version uses amaretto in both the creamy mascarpone mixture and the syrup. It’s a little sweeter, but the lively combination of fresh peaches and liqueur makes all the difference. (Peach brandy, Frangelico and cherry-flavored kirshwasser are other liqueurs that could be used to good effect.)

I served this at a recent Bible study, and by the end of the evening, only a spoonful was left.

Make sure you make this dish a day in advance to allow the flavors a chance to coalesce.

Amaretto Peach Tiramisu

1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar or agave nectar, divided use
6-7 large peaches, peeled and cut into slices
6 tablespoons amaretto, divided use, or more, to taste
3 eggs, separated
1 pound mascarpone, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
36-40 ladyfingers
2 ounces toasted almonds
Cinnamon, for garnish, optional

Heat water and 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Add peaches and bring back to a boil. If you want the peaches firm, cook for only 1 minute or so. If you want the peaches really soft, cook for at least 5 minutes or until desired texture is reached. Remove from heat and stir in 3 tablespoons amaretto, or more to taste. Strain the fruit, reserving the syrup.

Whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until streaks form. Slowly add mascarpone and the remaining 3 tablespoons amaretto, stirring until all lumps disappear. In a separate bowl,  beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Slowly fold the stiff egg whites into the yolk mixture.

Dip half of the ladyfingers in the syrup and line the bottom of a 9-by-13-by-2-inch pan. Cover with half of the peaches. Top with a layer of the mascarpone mixture. Add another layer of syrup-dipped ladyfingers.  Add remaining peaches, then cover fully with the remaining mascarpone. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, top with toasted almonds and a dusting of cinnamon, if using.

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