Archive | May, 2010

WalkerSpeak: Loss and Redemption at the Grocery Store

WalkerSpeak: Loss and Redemption at the Grocery Store

My husband wanted a steak for dinner Sunday night after listening to me raving about Steven Raichlen’s Caveman T-Bones. So, I went to the closest super-store grocery and the grumbling began.

Steaks there were, but trimmings were another story.

There were no poblano chiles. Not a one.

I could find no yellow onions and the white ones were so expensive my eyes popped out. I picked up some Green Giant bagged green onions to throw on the grill instead.

(While one might say I was shopping a little late on a holiday weekend to get the best picks in produce, the onion situation we can blame on the heavy spring rains in Texas and Mexico that devastated onion crops. California crops should be helping the market soon.)

There were no bags of hardwood lump charcoal, just briquettes, along with bags of the charcoal that you light with just a match. I don’t want to toss steaks directly onto briquettes, which are full of filler. And, you don’t need to pay more for match-light charcoal if you have a good charcoal chimney in which to get your coals started.

An aside here: Those metal canisters with handles on them are the most efficient way to light coals I know of, aside from an M2 flamethrower.

Long before you could buy these charcoal lighting canisters, my mother was making her own version. She would save the big Campbell’s tomato juice cans, take the ends off one and stand it up on the grill. Then, she’d drop in crushed newspaper and top it with coals. She’d stick a long match down in the can to light the newspaper and soon the tomato can was shooting out sparks and we’d end up with a batch of glowing coals.  She called it a “funicular.” I don’t know where she read how to do this, but that was fully 40 years ago.

I finished the shopping and headed for the cashier. I joined the shortest line, but didn’t do my usual reconnaissance. While the line was short, the only person in that line had an enormous cartful of stuff that she proceeded to divide into groups on the conveyor belt: food, toys, household goods. Then, she pulled out a half dozen or so cards of one sort or another to be presented and logged in by the cashier, one by one. All of this before she finally pulled out the charge card.

At one point I turned to the people who had now collected in line behind me to make a quiet apology. This being something along the lines of:  “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have stood behind me in line because I will always be standing in the slowest moving line in any store.” I once said this to a woman in line behind me at an H-E-B and she stared at me wide-eyed for a moment before saying, “Oh … I thought it was me!”

But I didn’t say a word. The family behind me wasn’t restless or peevish or gnashing their teeth, as I was. They were having a very good time. The two young girls, I’d say about 7 and 8 years old, were talking to their dad, and he was listening carefully to each word they said and responding in a kind, conversational and interested manner. He did the same thing when his wife joined in.  They laughed a lot. This pretty much changed my mood.

There was one more thing.

As I drove out of the parking lot I decided to take from one bag the 3.6-ounce, single serving of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream I’d picked up. I figured I could eat it on the way home by squeezing it directly into my mouth, sort of like we used to do with those push-up ice cream sticks when we were kids.  Then, I noticed that a wonderful person involved in packaging these baby ice cream cartons had seen to it that a little plastic spoon was included. In case you haven’t noticed, these are affixed to the inside of the lid.

Though I’d relinquished my good mood to the usual grocery store annoyances, it was nice to know that it didn’t take much to salvage it in the end.

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A Stone-Ground Cornmeal from Converse

A Stone-Ground Cornmeal from Converse

The folks behind Lamb’s Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal don’t go in for fancy packaging. It’s sold in a plain white bag with a no-nonsense label that announces in small print what it is: “Always all natural, no preservatives added and gluten free. Same great product since 1968.”

Yet this local cornmeal, made in Converse, is perfect in your cornbread, in hush puppies, in a batter for seafood, in anything that calls for cornmeal. The texture is rustic yet fine, and the flavor is purely of corn.

Store it in the freezer and it will last up to a year.

But why stone-ground cornmeal rather than regular? Here’s an explanation from

“Dried kernels of field corn (different from the sweet corn we eat fresh) are ground into meal for baking. When metal grinders are used, as they are for commercial brands, most of the hull and germ is removed, and the meal emerges fine-grained but without much characteristic flavor. Stone-ground cornmeal (the corn is literally ground between two slowly moving stones) retains some of the hull and germ, so it’s coarser in texture and lends a more interesting flavor to baked goods. Still, the two types can be used interchangeably. Likewise, choosing yellow or white cornmeal (they’re ground from different varieties of corn) affects only the color of the finished product.”

You can find Lamb’s at H-E-B for about $2 for a 2-pound bag. Lamb’s is owned by Home Grown Design, which offers numerous recipes on its website, hgdfoods, including the following for a gluten-free cornbread:

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup Lamb’s Stone Ground Cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free flour (or you can use corn flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/3 c sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a metal pan and spray with cooking spray.

Mix cornmeal, flour, salt, eggs, oil, baking powder, sugar, milk and buttermilk with a mixer in a large bowl for about 5 minutes to make sure every thing is blended. Then dump into the pan. Put in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Check it at 20 minutes to make sure it is not getting too brown on top. If it is, lower heat to 375 degrees. When it is done, it will be cake-like and spring back to the touch in the center of the bread.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: HGD Foods

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The Pomegranate Set to Open Mid-July at Artisans Alley

The Pomegranate Set to Open Mid-July at Artisans Alley

Nancy Fitch, former chef at Rosario’s Café y Cantina and owner of The Peach restaurant in Boerne, says she’s excited, but a little scared, too, about the debut of her new restaurant this summer.

The Pomegranate is taking shape in roughly the space formerly occupied by Apple Annie’s Tea Room at Artisans Alley, 555 W. Bitters Road. Apple Annie’s has moved to 2177 N.W. Military Hwy.

The name denotes a “pretty, healthful fruit,” says Fitch.The menu at The Pomegranate is fresh, affordable and contemporary and reflects Fitch’s personal taste. “I have put all the things I’d eat on one menu,” she says.

Fitch (right) was at the space in Artisans Alley recently, meeting with her decorator and picking colors. The walls were stripped back to the studs, but the kitchen area and dining room spaces were taking shape. The restaurant is across the hallway from where the Apple Annie’s dining room used to be.

Fitch says there will be a punched tin ceiling in one of the three dining rooms, while another will be small, with a high ceiling and view out to the patio. The restaurant will be able to seat more than 120 people.

At the beginning, The Pomegranate will be open for lunch from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. From 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.  It will have desserts, coffee and tea. The lunch menu will have three soups and 10 salads, she says, including a Niçoise salad with grilled tuna, and a contemporary take on the popular Cobb salad. There will be homemade bread and “lots and lots” of desserts,” Fitch promises.

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Restaurateur Eva Voelkel Dies

Restaurateur Eva Voelkel Dies

Eva Voelkel, owner of Voelkel Wood Crafts, Gifts & Eats, has died at age 57.

The restaurant and gift shop at 317 Probandt has been enjoyed by many for its home cooking – fideo, burgers, chalupas, grilled cheese and daily specials – as well as the house-made ranch dressing that she used on her salads.

The restaurant was also filled with plenty of gifts as well as family keepsakes that gave the eatery a friendly atmosphere. But it was Eva Voelkel, ever smiling and cordial, who made the place special.

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Happy Burger Day: Check Out Our Favorites

Happy Burger Day: Check Out Our Favorites

A burger satisfies the primal hunger pangs I get more completely than most foods. I love the tactile nature of picking up the bun and feeling it give a little at the touch. I love the aroma of freshly cooked meat that greets me before I bite into a sizzling patty. I love the layering of pickles, onion, tomato and lettuce piled high, adding textures and flavors, and I love a smear of mustard and mayonnaise on both sides.

Big Bob's Burgers manager Joe Balderas flips burgers over a steaming heat hotter than the thermometer has been reading outside.

But there the generalities end. Each of the following burgers is unique in its own right, and yet all five make me feel glad to be alive.

  1. Bunsen Burgers, 5456 Walzem Road, 210-590-6066.  What a burger! Start with the beef, ground in-house, then move on to the flaxseed bun, also made in-house, and crown it with a series of crazy good toppings. The Stehling Experiment, a take on the bean burger, is a personal favorite, but I also have a soft spot for the Bikini Atoll, with its teriyaki pineapple ring. The batter-dipped sweet potato fries are spectacular.
  2. Bracken Store Cafe, 18415 Bracken Drive, 210-651-6515. It’s worth the drive. Seriously. The menu isn’t greatly varied. There’s a plain burger, a cheese burger and a bean burger, that’s it. But it’s the flavor of the patty that makes this a real winner. Each big burger is made to order, so give it some time. You’ll be richly rewarded. Go at lunch or on Friday, the only evening it’s open.
  3. Big Bob’s Burgers, 2215 Harry Wurzbach, 210-832-8885. The building is nothing to look at, from the inside or the outside. But that doesn’t matter one bit. The secret here is the flame-broiling, which adds texture and flavor. So, grab a beer and enjoy a messy burger heaped high with your choice of toppings. An order of the crisp onions rings with a touch of caraway seed in the batter are great to share with a friend.
  4. The Lord’s Kitchen, 118 Seguin St., 210-354-3888. This is the place to visit if you want ground sirloin in a hand-formed patty, whether you only want one that’s a quarter pound or you are in the mood for a hefty three-pounder. And talk about juicy. The many choices includes the winning Ghetto Burger, with its winning mix of chili, cheddar cheese, mustard and pickles. A turkey burger is also available.
  5. Casbeers at the Church, 1150 S. Alamo St., 210-271-7791. The music in the church feeds the soul, while the burgers feed body and soul. The King William is topped with Swiss and ’shrooms. The Lavaca-Guaca has cheddar and guac. Both excellent, but the real winner is the Utopia Kinky Burger, far more successful than the namesake’s political career with its heavenly mixture of cheese, grilled onions and Jewish rye.

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Caveman Cooking Courtesy Steven Raichlen, King of Barbecue

Caveman Cooking Courtesy Steven Raichlen, King of Barbecue

From the man who wrote the “Barbecue Bible” comes a new-old style of grilling steaks.  Caveman cooking, where meat is laid directly on burning hardwood embers, isn’t for the faint of heart, but we’d expect it to catch on like wildfire in Texas.

Steven Raichlen checks his ingredients as his grills heat up for KLRN's Monday night Chef's Series event.

Steven Raichlen was at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort Monday night, the latest appearance in the KLRN-TV Chef Series. The author and television personality demonstrated his primordial Caveman T-bones, and made a multi-course meal on two trusty Weber kettle grills.

With Memorial Day weekend and Father’s Day fast approaching, his tips were timely. The audience not only liked their food, prepared by the staff at the Hyatt, but were obviously curious about Raichlen’s methods and theories of live fire cooking. The show was set up under the air-conditioned pavilion at the Hyatt, with the author’s food, grills and other equipment set up on a platform, safely just outside the front of the tent.

He also promoted his latest cookbook, “Planet Barbecue” (Workman Publishing, $22.95). In it he mentions the traditional Texas “barbecue” as being pit smoked meat. His book, though, focuses on direct grilling over a hot, live fire — the way that most barbecue is done in the rest of the world.  In addition to having more than two dozen books to his credit, he has won five James Beard Awards and hosts “Primal Grill” and “Barbecue University” on PBS.

The meal was a global feast. The Coconut Grilled Corn came from Cambodia. Grilled Potatoes with Herbed Cheese were smoke-roasted and topped with a German cheese called quark. Grilled poblano peppers were seared, then scented with sesame oil for an Asian flavor. The stars of the show were the right-on-the-embers-roasted Caveman T-bones. The romance here was that this could very well have been how early man, some 1.8 million years ago, might have cooked an (early) steer. A spit-roasted whole pineapple was dessert and was credited to Brazil.

Raichlen tossed out three initial tips from his PBS show, “Primal Grill.”  “First, you have to keep the grill hot,” he said. Raichlen held his hand a short distance above the grill and said, “San Antonio one, San Antonio two … ouch!” As he pulled his hand quickly away, he added that the grill needs to be scrupulously clean, brushed well before the grilling begins. Finally, “Keep the grill well oiled or lubricated.” He demonstrated by drawing a thick, oiled pad of paper towel over the grate.

“Barbecue was the first brain food,” Raichlen said.  When early men had to eat raw meat to get their protein, it involved a lot of heavy chewing. Their jaws were huge; their brains small. Cooked meat allowed them to attain maximum protein intake in a shorter time, hence encouraging the growth of the brain.

Cooking was also the beginning of man’s socializing, of eating together around a fire. It marked the beginning of the division of labor, he said, as some went out to hunt for meat and others kept the fires back at the cave burning. The way we eat, preparing food, seasoning it, is what separates us from other animals, he says.

“Why do we have such a passion for barbecue?,” he asked, rhetorically. “Because we remember, in some primordial way that this is what made us human.”

Grilled corn, done directly over the hot coals and basted with unsweetened coconut milk.

Other tips from Raichlen’s appearance:

  • Keep part of the grill coal free. This is the safety zone (place to pull food that is in danger of overcooking).
  • Don’t crowd the items on the grill. “Every grill has hot spots and cold spots. You gotta keep the food moving.” Also, you need to leave room for maneuvering.
  • Turn steaks once. When little pearls of liquid begin to appear on top, it’s time to turn.
  • Raichlen uses lump charcoal. It’s made from whole trees and branches that are partially burned.
  • When broiling, have a three-zone fire: hot, medium and the safety zone.
  • Give meat a rest. After it is cooked to the doneness you desire, set it on a plate and cover with foil, and let it rest a couple of minutes. The juices redistribute and won’t all flow out when you cut into the meat.
  • When grilling corn, he doesn’t enclose it in the husks — this way it steams rather than grills. He puts it directly on the grill, pulling the husks up above the corn and tying them to form a handle. For the Coconut-Grilled Corn grilled the corn partway before brushing it with unsweetened coconut milk.
  • The best way to start the fire? Use a chimney, a cylindrical metal canister with a handle that holds the coals while they catch fire. These are sold with most grilling equipment.

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce

Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce

As Steven Raichlen describes these in “Planet Barbecue,” Caveman T-Bones represents “The ultimate primal grilling — T-bone steaks charred directly on the embers and topped with an incendiary sauce of jalapeños, cilantro and garlic.”

Steaks cooked directly on the coals give new meaning to the word "charred".

Caveman T-Bones with Hellfire Hot Sauce


4 T-bone steaks (each about 1 1/4 inches thick and 12-to-14 ounces)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
Cracked black peppercorns

Hellfire Hot Sauce:

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
10 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced crosswise
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


You’ll need an 8 to-10-inch cast-iron skillet

To grill the steaks: Build a charcoal fire (with hardwood charcoal) and rake the coal into an even layer (leave the front of the grill free). When the coals glow orange, fan them with a newspaper to blow off any loose ash.

Generously, and I mean generously, season the steaks on both sides with salt and cracked pepper. Place the steaks directly on the embers, about 2 inches apart. Grill steaks until cooked to taste, 4 to-6 minutes per side for medium rare. Turn once with tongs. Test for doneness.

Using tongs, lift steaks off the fire, shaking each to dislodge any embers. Using a basting brush, brush off any loose ash and arrange steaks on a platter. Cover steaks loosely with aluminum foil and let rest while you make the sauce.

For the Hellfire Hot Sauce:

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet directly on the embers, on the side burner of a gas grill or on the stove. When the oil is hot, add the jalapeños, garlic and cilantro. Cook the sauce over high heat until the jalapeños and garlic begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Immediately pour the sauce over the steaks and go for it.

From Steven Raichlen, “Planet Barbecue”

Photo by Bonnie Walker

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Weekend Calendar: Celebrations, Specials and Fine Eats

Weekend Calendar: Celebrations, Specials and Fine Eats

“Somewhere lives a bad Cajun cook, just as somewhere must live one last ivory-billed woodpecker. For me, I don’t expect ever to encounter either one.”                           — William Least Heat Moon, Blue Highways

Tost BistroBar, Ladie’s ‘Only’ Night Out, Thursdays

A night out for women at Tost BistroBar tonight, 6 p.m. to late night. Enjoy drink specials all evening on Thursdays,  $4 martinis, shots, wine and Champagne cocktails. DJ entertainment by Seven. Pampering by Folawn Day Spa from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  Shades of Love, 10 p.m. – midnight. Tost BistroBar is at 14415 Blanco Road, one block south of Bitters Road. (210) 408-2670.

Summer wine tasting series in Gruene

Every Thursday through July 15, 5-8 p.m., enjoy wine tastings in the garden at The Grapevine in Gruene. Tonight, sample wines from Three Dudes Winery, then head over to Gruene Hall for a free show by Jason Eady, until 11 p.m.

Crumpets celebrates 30th anniversary with prix fixe dinner

Crumpets, at 3920 Harry Wurzbach Road, invites you to come and celebrate their 30th year in San Antonio.  A special prix fixe meal will include an appetizer, house salad, main course with vegetables and dessert. The entrée choices are a Grilled Veal Chop, Rack of Lamb Provençal, Fresh Tuna Steak with Lemon Butter, Beef Tenderloin or Fresh, Wild-caught Salmon, charbroiled. 30$ per person plus tax. No coupons or discounts may apply. For reservations call (210) 821-5600.

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Summer Means Peach Ice Cream

Summer Means Peach Ice Cream

When I was growing up, my family would make ice cream the old-fashioned way, with me freezing my tail as I sat on the ice cream maker while my parents and sisters would take turns cranking the handle. The flavor was always the same: peach. It was— and is—my dad’s favorite. It’s become one of mine, too, as the years have past and I have gotten my hands on fresh peaches, especially those from Fredericksburg.

I now have an electric ice cream maker that spins up a quart in about 20 minutes. And Fresh Peach Ice Cream is a perfect treat. Gild the lily some and put a scoop of this on top of a peach-blackberry cobbler or a strawberry-peach pie.

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

2 cups peeled and finely chopped ripe peaches
1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup heavy cream, divided use
4 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or hazelnut extract

Place the peaches in a large, heavy saucepan, Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and the corn syrup and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar melts and the peaches are heated through, about 4 minutes. Pour into a large bowl and set aside. Add the half-and-half and 1/2 cup of the cream to the same saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat.

In a metal bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining sugar until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually pour the hot half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spatula, until the custard thickens and leaves a path on the back of the spatula when a finger is drawn across it, about 5 minutes; do not allow to boil.

Pour the custard through a medium-mesh sieve into the peach mixture. Transfer three-fourths of the peach mixture to a food processor fitted with the metal blade or to a blender and purée until smooth. Pour the purée back into the remaining peach mixture. Add the vanilla and remaining 1/2 cup of cream and whisk to blend. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Transfer the peach mixture to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container; cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or for up to 3 days.

Makes about 5 cups.

From “Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Ice Creams & Sorbets”

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Ask a Foodie: What’s the Best Way to Freeze Peaches?

Ask a Foodie: What’s the Best Way to Freeze Peaches?

If you’re going to take advantage of the bounteous crop of Texas Hill Country peaches this season, but don’t want to can them all, freeze them instead. Peaches frozen this way will taste just like fresh, say the authors.

Here’s how, from Taste of Home magazine:

1. Use whole, unblemished completely ripe peaches.

Freeze peaches whole to keep their flavor and freshness.

2. Arrange whole peaches on a cookie sheet and place in freezer (they did not wash them first).

3. After peaches have frozen solid, place them in a plastic bag.

4. When you are ready to use, removed the desired number of peaches from the bag, run cold water over frozen peach and slip off the skin.

5. Microwave for 10 to 15 seconds.

6. Slice peaches to use as you desire for cereal toppings, pies or cobbler, ice cream, or simply slice them, add a little sugar if needed and enjoy.

From: Taste of Home

Recipe for Peach Ice Cream

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