Archive | December 22nd, 2012

Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets

Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets

Bacon Candy Canes. Now that’s festive.

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for a foodie on your list, here are a few suggestions of items from local businesses:

  • Finishing oils, pressed from a variety of sources, such as celery, nutmeg, carrot and even radish, can be found at Ali Baba International Food Market, 9307 Wurzbach Road. You’ll find then on an end-cap in the expanding market.
  • Spices from the East from either Himalayan Bazaar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road, or Mustapha Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery, 4081 Medical Drive, are also great for experimenting with a world of flavors.
  • Vinegar may seem an odd gift, until you check out the sweet, tangy vinegars at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and styles. Go for an aged balsamic from Italy or a spicy pecan vinegar from California. You’ll find plenty of other food favorites in both stocking stuffer sizes and jumbo jars.
  • Bacon Candy Canes — but, of course — are available at Leighelena at the Pearl, 202 Pearl Parkway. A six-pack is priced at $7. The neighboring Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocino has begun selling wine and cigars.
  • For the cocktail lover on your list, tickets to any or all of the events during the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference would be just the ticket. The second annual event is set for Jan. 17-20 and features everything from an opening party at the Majestic Theater with drinks and live music from Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval to seminars on tequila, Texas spirits and making cocktails at home. Click here for more information.
  • Shake up some fun at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

    Don’t forget your favorite three-letter grocery store. H-E-B has introduced its new Primo Picks products line, with treats such as Café Ole Holiday Blend coffee, Central Market Olive Oil Popcorn and Central Market Salted Truffle Brownie Mix. The items are specially marked Primo Picks on the shelves. Or ask for help.

  • The farmers markets this weekend are great places to find everything from specialized produce to South Texas Heritage Pork products. Two of the bigger markets are the Pearl Farmers Market, Saturday morning at the Pearl Brewery, and the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, 255 E. Basse Road, on  Sunday.
  • Many of your favorite restaurants are offering gift cards. A few are even offering discounts. Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, for example, is offering two $50 cards for a total of $79.99.
  • Camp Brisket is a two-day intensive for barbecue lovers that’s being sponsored by Foodways Texas. It’s set for Jan. 11-12. As the website for the event says, “Camp Brisket will specifically focus on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over which grades/types of beef to use, types of smokers, wrapping or not wrapping the brisket, and much more.” For more information, including prices, click here.
  • The Culinary Institute of America’s Boot Camps run anywhere from two to five days and cover such topics as Comfort Foods, American Regional Cuisine, Hors d’Oeuvres and Hearth Breads. They are intensive programs for serious home cooks, or “enthusiasts,” as the CIA likes to call them. For more information, click here. The local classes are marked (TX).


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Sour Cream Coffee Cake a Great Addition to Breakfast

Sour Cream Coffee Cake a Great Addition to Breakfast

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This is a great cake for a Christmas breakfast — or any time you need to want something ahead. That’s because the addition of sour cream makes the body of the cake so moist that it’ll keep for days.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to it, which is a hallmark of my mother’s better recipes. That means it’s fairly simple to make, and yet the way the topping and cake complement each other is rewarding.

I didn’t have enough pecans on hand, so I used crushed slivered almonds and added a slash of almond extract to the cake and it worked fine. But read the instructions closely. I didn’t put anything down under my cake rack and a decent amount of the topping crumbled off. Also, you’ll want to get this on a serving plate as quickly as possible so the somewhat fragile top doesn’t crack.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

2 cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup crushed pecans
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons brown sugar

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line tube pan.

Mix flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla.

To make topping, mix pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Put half of dough in tube pan. Then add just a little less than one-half of the topping. Spoon in the rest of the dough and top with the remaining topping.

Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted past topping and into cake comes out clean.

Let cake rest 10 minutes before turning onto cake rack over waxed paper or something easy to clean up, because some of the topping will shake loose. Immediately remove wax paper and turn onto serving plate.

Makes 1 cake.

From Annaliese Griffin

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‘Some Razzleberry Dressing Would Be Nice’

‘Some Razzleberry Dressing Would Be Nice’

Razzleberry Dressing

In “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” one of the brightest animated holiday cartoons ever broadcast, the Cratchit family gathers for a modest Christmas dinner that they dream would be made better by the addition of razzleberry dressing.

Fans of the special, which NBC airs this weekend for the first time in 50 years, have often wondered if there is such a thing as razzleberry dressing and what the sauce tastes like.

Searching the Internet turns up a couple of options, one for salads and the other, well, doesn’t seem to be for folks living England in the 19th century with its inclusion of serranos and cilantro.

What would the Cratchits have enjoyed? We can’t say for sure, but making a sauce in a more traditional style seemed like it would be a good place to start. So, we created a roux with equal parts fat and flour. Goose fat from the holiday bird would likely have been used or leftover suet. Or you could get duck fat from places such as Gaucho Gourmet, 935 Isom Road, or Central Market, 4821 Broadway. If that is too much of a bother, then try butter, as I did, or a neutral-flavored oil.

But what about the razzleberries? What are they? Wikipedia tells us it’s a combination of raspberries and blackberries, as in the razzleberry pie at Marie Calender’s, which perhaps drew its name from Bob Merrill’s lyrics in the show, making the word come full circle.

From there, the rest of the recipe seemed to come together, with a few details allowed for modern tastes and the convenience of getting certain ingredients out of season that Bob Cratchit would not have been able to pick up for the missus from his neighborhood grocer. The way to make this recipe is to experiment with the amounts, adapting it to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry. Think a touch of nut would add flavor? Try using a little almond flour mixed with the all-purpose flour. Want to keep the sauce vegetarian? Use vegetable stock. Make it your way. Just remember: The blackberries and raspberries will color the dressing a reddish purple.

The point is to make a sauce that would complement what you’re serving it with. It’s also important what the animated Catchits hope for during their Christmas celebration: “We’ll have the Lord’s bright blessing/And knowing we’re together,/Knowing we’re together/Heart in hand.”

Razzleberry Dressing

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or 1/4 cup fat (goose, duck or pork)
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup fresh raspberries and blackberries
2 to 4 cups stock (beef, chicken or vegetable, to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more, to taste (raspberry vinegar might also work, but in far less quantity)
Salt, to taste
A generous taste of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raspberry jelly and blackberry jelly
A splash of brandy

Make a roux by stirring the butter and flour together with the fresh fruit, if using, in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly and get the roux to the desired color. Taste to make sure the flour is cooked. Stir in the fresh berries. Add in the stock, at least 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the desired consistency is reached. (I used 2 cups, which made for a thick sauce, almost like a gravy.)

Season with lemon juice or a splash of raspberry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. It should be slightly acidic at this point. Shortly before serving, stir in the jelly and taste again to adjust seasonings. It it’s still too acidic, you may want to add a pinch of sugar to the sauce.

Transfer to a serving dish and top with a splash of brandy, calvados or other fruit liquor.

Serve warm with duck, goose, turkey, pork loin or any other meat you’d like to season with razzleberry dressing.

Makes about 4 cups.

From Cecil Flentge and John Griffin

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