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Archive | July 1st, 2009

Daily Dish: Pearl Market Closed for July 4

Daily Dish: Pearl Market Closed for July 4

The farmers market at the Pearl Brewery will not be open this Saturday because of the Fourth of July.

It will reopen July 11.

Other farmers markets in the area will be open Saturday. For a full schedule of markets throughout the week, click here.

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Recipe: Barb Price’s Fatoush

Recipe: Barb Price’s Fatoush

fattoushThis variation on the Lebanese salad favorite includes the freshest foods you can find, including tomatoes, avocado and garlic as well as mint.

Barb Price’s Fatoush

2 cloves of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 handful of grape tomatoes, cut into thirds (1/3 third off the top and then the remaining part, halved lengthwise)
1/4 -1/2 cup cut or chopped mint
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 avocado, diced, or more, to taste
Diced cucumber, to taste
1 bunch romaine lettuce
Toasted pita chips (optional)

Dressing:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

In a bowl, mix garlic, tomatoes, mint, parsley, avocado and cucumber. Top with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Over the top of the salad, tear romaine leaves (“We like salad, so I use at least one full heart of romaine bunch,” Barb Price says.) Do not toss the salad at this point, but put it into the refrigerator for anywhere from 20-60 minutes to chill and then toss just before serving. Everything is sort of marinating at the bottom, blending together, and the lettuce stays crisp.

If you are making hours ahead, cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Just before serving, stir in pita chips, if using.

“The Lebanese friends we knew added toasted pita bread leftovers just before serving — used as croutons would be — onto their salads,” Price says. “Here again, this gets left off of our salads, but it is a nice added crunch.”

4 salad servings.

From Barb Price

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Recipe: Chilled Seafood Salad With Herbed Olive Oil

Recipe: Chilled Seafood Salad With Herbed Olive Oil

scallopThis cool summer salad was adapted from a recipe on Epicurious.com with additions from Mario Batali and others. Feel free to modify it to your own tastes.

Chilled Seafood Salad with Herbed Olive Oil

1 pound cleaned squid
1 pound sea scallops, tough muscle from side of each discarded if attached
1 to 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp (about 21-25 count), shelled and deveined, leaving tail intact
1 to 1 1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced vertically in half
Olive oil, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh arugula for salad
Fresh lemon slices for garnish, if desired

Herbed Olive Oil:
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, your very favorite
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and thinly sliced on a mandolin or in food processor with appropriate blade
2-3 scallions, chopped
3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley leaves (wash and dry  before chopping)
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint (wash and dry before chopping)
Coarse sea salt, to taste, plus additional for serving
Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon or more, to taste, optional)

Remove flaps from squid sacs, if attached, reserving them, and cut sacs crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Cut reserved flaps into 1/4-inch-thick strips and halve tentacles lengthwise if large. Remove tough muscle from side of each scallop if necessary.

Have ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook shrimp 1 minute, or until pink and just cooked through, and transfer with a slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking.

Add scallops to boiling water and cook at a bare simmer 1 minute, or until just cooked through. Transfer scallops with slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking.

Add squid to boiling water and cook 20 to 30 seconds, or until just opaque. Drain squid in a colander and transfer to ice water to stop cooking.

Drain seafood well in colander and transfer to a bowl. Chill seafood, covered, until cold, at least 2 hours, and up to 1 day. (You can do this at the last minute if you chill the seafood on your ice.)

About 1 hour before assembling, drizzle oil, lemon juice and salt, to taste, on top of tomatoes. Set aside.

To make herbed oil: To olive oil, add lemon juice, fresh fennel, scallions, parsley and mint. Toss. You can mix this up to 2 days in advance.

Place seafood in large serving bowl and toss with dressing, to taste. Garnish with tomatoes piled on top of salad; drizzle extra oil on tomatoes, if  necessary.

Divide arugula on six plates. Place a generous ladle of seafood salad on top of greens. Sprinkle salads with sea salt and red pepper flakes, serving each on the side.

Serve with a pinot grigio or  sauvignon blanc as well as flatbread or any French or Italian loaf.

Serves 6.

From Nancy Scott Jones by way of Epicurious.com, Mario Batali and others.

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Recipe: The Original Mojito

Recipe: The Original Mojito

mojito“There are countless recipes for the Mojito (pronounced moh-HEE-toh), but this version is for the one Hemingway himself enjoyed at the Mojito’s place of birth: La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba,” according to www.tasteofcuba.com.

The Original Mojito

4 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish
2 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1 sprig of mint
2 ounces Havana Club white rum
Splash of club soda, or more, to taste (optional)

Place the mint leaves into a long mojito glass (often called a Collins glass) and squeeze the 2 ounces of lime juice over it. Add the powdered sugar, then gently smash the mint into the lime juice and sugar with a muddler (use the back of a fork or spoon if a muddler isn’t available).  Add ice (preferably crushed) then add the rum and stir, and top off with a splash of club soda, if using. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Variations:  While the following isn’t the authentic original Bodeguita del Medio Cuban recipe for a mojito, some people will take half of the juiced lime and cut into into four wedges to add to the glass.  Another variation is to add Angostura bitters to cut the mojito’s sweetness, which is a popular version in Havana hotels although not the true Bodeguita recipe.  Some Cubans also use “guarapo” in place of the powdered sugar, which is a sugar cane syrup available in the Latin groceries (typically sold in 12 ounce cans just like soft drinks).

Some who want the drink even sweeter will use 7-Up or Sprite instead of club soda.

Adapted from www.tasteofcuba.com.

( Photograph: Thomas Weiß )

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Freshly Minted Summers

Freshly Minted Summers

Mint carries with it the taste of summer, whether you’re kicking back with an icy mojito or tossing a few fresh leaves into a dinner salad.

It’s also easy to grow, if you keep it watered in this blazing heat, which means you can experiment with it to your heart’s content.

Noted cookbook author and culinary shopkeeper Melissa Guerra, who has a store at the Pearl Brewery’s Full Goods building, remembers her grandmother adding mint to iced tea, a true summertime favorite.

An adult variation that reminds me of my childhood in Louisville, Ky., is, of course, mint juleps with sweet bourbon splashed over crushed ice and a tangy drizzle of minted syrup gently stirred in.

For several years now, I have shared mint from my yard with Barb Price, a retired missionary, who uses it as the basis for her version of Fatoush. She has shared her recipe for the Lebanese salad that also features tomato, avocado, garlic and toasted pita chips. (Click here.)

Jason Dady uses it in various ways in his restaurants. “I use it in a soft shell crab dish right now” at the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, he says. “We use it frequently at Tre Trattoira for our spaghetti dish with braised duck, English peas and ricotta salata.”

Foodie and public relations specialist Nancy Scott Jones grows her own year-round. “I love it in fresh green salads almost more than basil,” she says. “Somehow, it adds so much more to a salad than using basil only.  I love a basil-mint pesto. Basil alone is bitter, the mint balances it. And sometimes I’ll use mint alone with tomatoes-olive oil and lemon or wine vinegar.”

She recently served a Chilled Seafood Salad with an herb-infused olive oil that had an extra brightness from mint in the dressing. (Click here for the recipe.)

You have an option when it comes to growing mint: Keep it in a pot or let it take over your backyard.

As local food writer Chris Dunn phrases it, “In this climate, mint grows so easily that it often becomes a victim of its own success. If planted in the ground, it will quickly take over an entire bed (or yard) and choke out all the other plants.

“I prefer to corral my mint in a pot, but it needs to be a large one to accommodate mint’s  tendency to rapidly become root bound.  It performs best when grown in sun to part shade, in moist but well drained soil, and cut back often. Periodically, it is good to take cuttings from a mature plant, root them in water, and start over again with new plantings.”

I am one of those who chooses to let it take over the backyard. From one spearmint plant, put in the ground about 8 years ago, I now have a patch that measures 4 feet by 10 feet. I don’t have to mow it, just keep a few grass weeds pulled. That way, I have more than enough. I can make pots of mint tea, which is pure refreshment in this heat. I can hang bouquets to dry, giving the kitchen a heady aroma. I also use it as table decorations with a few pieces of rosemary.

“There are many varieties available, from chocolate mint to apple, banana, and even pineapple mint,” Dunn says, “but spearmint is my favorite for all around use both in savory and sweet applications.  In addition to being the ubiquitous garnish for desserts ranging from sorbets to fruit tarts, it is also the perfect complement to many Middle Eastern savory dishes, such as roast lamb with mint sauce, tzatziki yogurt sauce used as an accompaniment to gyros, and the summer classic, tabbouleh.

“The ingredients in tabbouleh are what make it so seasonally perfect, featuring mint, parsley, and tomatoes tossed with bulghur wheat dressed with olive oil and lime juice (I like to add sweet basil right before serving).  You can also create variations on classic tabbouleh by substituting other prepared grains, such as farro wheat (from Italy), barley, or kasha (buckwheat).”

Another way Dunn likes to use mint is in Shrimp Brushetta Limoncello (click here for recipe).

Harvest mint with a pair of scissors snipping off only as much as you need. “In cutting mint, I like to treat it more gently than parsley, either using small whole leaves or only coarsely chopping it with a sharp knife to avoid bruising them,” Dunn says.

You can also cut them cleanly with scissors. Cut some and sprinkle it on watermelon. Let the two set for a few minutes before serving, and taste yet another way to enjoy summer.

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A Fresh Treat at the Botanical Gardens

A Fresh Treat at the Botanical Gardens

Farmers' Market at the San Antonio Botanical GardensEarly every Thursday morning, a handful of vegetable vendors gather in the shadiest part of the parking lot at the San Antonio Botanical Garden to set up their booths.

The backs of their cars and trucks are filled with the freshest fruits and vegetables to come from their farms. Tomatoes, okra, red onions, candy corn, potatoes and more line their tables as they wait for folks to come by.

The scene is nothing like the Saturday markets at the Olmos Basin, Leon Springs or the Pearl Brewery, where dozens, if not hundreds, of people come out in search of something to cook up fresh.

In fact, there are no lines at the Botanical Garden booths despite a steady steam of moms with children in strollers and senior citizens. Everyone is busy, but nobody is harried. And both customers and vendors like it that way.

The lax pace lets people on both sides of the table get to know each other as well as the produce being sold. That way, if you find a basket of new potatoes that reminds you of some joyous childhood memory, you know exactly where to return the following week for more of the same.

“We should have tomatoes through the fall,” said Celia Rios, who was helping her sister, Dora Peralta, run one booth. Peralta owns the farm in Natalia where most of her food originated, though they admitted the cantaloupes were from further south.

Okra will also “stay all the way through,” Peralta said. This green vegetable, so perfect in gumbo or fried to a deep brown, is a big hit with the customers.

“The biggest seller for me is okra,” she said. “I sell a lot.”

sabotmarket6It’s also a favorite of hers. Peralta loves to stir-fry her okra in a little olive oil with some salt and pepper added to taste. “Just cover and let it cook,” she said.

The booths offer their customers plenty of information, from the fact that they accept WIC and senior nutrition vouchers, to simple cooking tips or recipes on how to use the produce being offered.

Peralta loves to grill her corn after soaking the unshucked ears in water for 20 minutes. “Then just put ’em on the pit,” she said.

Pickling cucumbers are better than the large, seed-filled ones you might pick up at the supermarket. Even the skin adds to the great crunch they have. “Once you eat these, you don’t want to go back,” she told one shopper.

Peralta likes the Botanical Garden stand as well as the one at Olmos Basin, where she can be found on Saturdays, because “they have the trees,” she said. The heat this year has been crazy, forcing the sisters to bring lots of iced tea and water with them to keep them hydrated.

The same is true of her crops, which had good rains this spring but now need irrigation, she said.

Chris George operates one of the other food booths. The produce is from his fiancée’s farm in the Fredericksburg area, Oma Engel’s. The family produces preserves under that label and you’ll find a few jars of blackberry and peach for sale alongside the squashes and tomatoes.

The family had to buy peaches this year for their preserves since a late freeze wiped out the Hill Country crop, but that didn’t stop the family from getting a few to sell from a farmer south of San Antonio.

It’s something people visiting the market expect to buy, and vendors like George are happy to oblige.

George stocks up on ice water and Gatorade to make it through the long, hot days. And he appreciates the shade of the lot while it lasts.

His favorite among the foods he sells are the squashes and zucchini, which his fiancée sautés in a winning mixture of butter and bacon. “You can’t go wrong with that,” he said.

The only non-food vendors at the market are the volunteers from the Botanical Garden, who sell a host of plants grown from cuttings of plants.

“We have a lot of plants in the greenhouse,” said volunteer Liz Malloy, as she rearranged a few to make sure all were as much in the shade as possible.

Customers love anything with flowers on it. “If it blooms, it’ll sell,” said Beth Wrockloff, who organizes the weekly sale.

That includes salvias, lantanas and other bloomers, as well as one or two herbs and a papaya that was quickly snapped up.

Prices now are reduced, Wrockloff said, “because we want to cut down on inventory.”

She did advise shoppers to look for low-watering plants because of drought restrictions.

Many of the plants moved quickly last Thursday, both because of their beauty and because, as Malloy said, “You’re carrying home a little of the garden with you.”

The farmers market at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston, runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays through early December.

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Recipe: Shrimp Bruschetta With Limoncello and Mint

Recipe: Shrimp Bruschetta With Limoncello and Mint

154812_1264This summery appetizer combines a perennial favorite, shrimp, with lemon and mint.

Shrimp Bruschetta with Limoncello and Mint

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 medium shrimp, peeled
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup limoncello (Italian lemon liqueur)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
8 slices ciabatta bread, grilled or toasted
Large handful of coarsely chopped mint
Zest of 1 lemon

Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet.  Add the garlic and sauté until golden.  Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes.  Turn the shrimp and cook for 1 more minute.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.  Add the lemon juice and limoncello to the skillet.  Deglaze the pan and reduce the lemon juice and limoncello mixture by 2/3.  Put the shrimp back in the pan and coat with the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon onto the ciabatta toasts, garnish with mint and lemon zest.

Makes 8 servings.

From Chris Dunn

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