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Planning a Children’s Christmas Party 1935 Style

Planning a Children’s Christmas Party 1935 Style

christmas-bookA friend cleaned out her cookbook collection before moving out of town, and she left me with 11 boxes of treasures that I've been going through them now for months. In one was a slender volume with a gorgeous cover featuring a handful of youngsters partying with Father Time, an Easter bunny, jack-o-lanterns, a witch and, of course, Santa Claus. It's called "Children's Party Book: Games, Decorations, Menus and Recipes," and it was written by Cornelia Staley. It was published in 1935, and each copy sold for the then-princely sum of 25 cents. A quick glance through it suggests a much simpler time. Much simpler than I can ever remember. Can you think back to a time when you taught your children how to write their own party invitations by hand, such as this one from the book's premier party girl, Barbara Smith?
Buy tiny horns, attach a tag and write on it: "Blow me at my New Year's Party." I do hope you can come. Wednesday, January 1, at 3:30 o'clock. -- Barbara Smith
Each occasion, from birthday to New Year's,  includes games suggestions far removed from the world of Xbox and World of Warcraft, such as this one for Halloween:
Bowls of Fortune Place in a row an empty bowl, a bowl of clear water and one of milky water. Each child in turn is blindfolded, turned about three times and told to put on hand in a bowl. If the child touches clear water, it means marriage to a bachelor or maiden -- milky water, a widower or widow -- the empty bowl, unmarried.
There are even tips on planning the appropriate decorations, including hanging groups of pastel colored balloons from your chandelier for an Easter party. For the Christmas party, Barbara Smith has learned that "Gay Christmas seals on white, red or green cards will make your invitation gala." And she suggests you use greeting: "School's out! Let's celebrate the Happy Holidays at my house on Thursday from 3 to 5." christmas-pictureIf you can make it, expect as many red and green balloons tied to the Smith home's chandelier. But don't expect Barbara and her party crew to stop there. Here are Staley's suggestions for table decorations:
Cover your table in white, and for a centerpiece dip a fat little Christmas tree in a thin solution of Staley's Starch. While still moist, sprinkle it generously with artificial snow or silver glitter. Hang red and green balls on it. Have a small tree at each place and a suitable gift gaily wrapped and tied to the stick of a lollipop.
Game ideas include Spider Web, Pin a Star on the Christmas Tree, Paper Race and Chinese Tag, in which "any child who is 'it' must hold on to the spot he has been tagged with one hand while trying to tag another child with the other." How that makes it Chinese is anybody's guess. The suggested menu for all this fun includes Minced Turkey or Chicken Sandwiches, Tiny Molds of Cranberry Jelly, Celery Curls, Hot Chocolate, Ice Cream Santa Claus, Snowballs and Lollypops. Yes, you can make your own Lollypops, and Cornelia Staley offers her own recipe, which naturally uses Staley's Crystal White Syrup. In case you can't find that, white corn syrup will work as a substitute. Lollypops 2 cups sugar 1 cup water 2/3 cup Staley's Crystal White Syrup 1/2 teaspoon vanilla Red vegetable coloring Cook sugar, water and syrup until sugar is dissolved, stirring constantly. Then cover and boil 3 minutes. Remove cover and boil undisturbed to 310 degrees or the brittle stage. Remove from heat at once, add vanilla and coloring. Pour into small buttered muffin tins 1/2-inch deep, and when almost cool, insert a wooden skewer in each. Makes 2 dozen, 2 inches in diameter. From "Children's Party Book: Games, Decorations, Menus and Recipes"/Cornelia Staley Serve your lollipops up with the following joke from Staley:
Why are lollipops like race horses? Because the more you lick them, the faster they go.
If that's not enough fun for your Christmas party, have the kids make Dried Fruit and Nut Men: "Funny figures can be made just as easily with fruits and nuts as with candies. Large fruits, such as prunes, are used for heads and bodies, toothpicks for legs and raisins strung on hairpins for arms." As silly as it sounds, I think that's an activity adults would enjoy as much as children. Everyone loves playing with food that they can then eat, even prunes. Staley's goal in Depression America was to show people how their children could have some fun and good food -- and for not much money. It's a goal that carries through to today. After all, it's not the cost of the party, but the good time that people have at it that matters.

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Treat Yourself to an Assortment of Russian Candies

Treat Yourself to an Assortment of Russian Candies

I haven't been to Russia, but I do have some Russian blood in me, thanks to my grandfather, Ivan Woloskiewitsch. Perhaps that's why I fell so hard for the Russian candies that I founds in the markets I visited when I was in Little Odessa in Brooklyn.
Russian candies from Sasha's.

Russian candies from Sasha's.

Or maybe it's because I'm a chocolate addict at heart. Whatever the reason, I loved seeing all the bowls of various candies that you could buy in bulk. All of them come in bright, colorful wrappings that don't always tell you what's inside -- unless you read the Cyrillic alphabet, that is. And I don't. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a store in San Antonio that sells these wonderful treats. It's Sasha's European Market at 8023 Callaghan Road, and I've passed the storefront for months without ever noticing it. The store has been there for seven years, selling Eastern European specialties from ground sorrel and green garlic sprouts to wines from Russia and Georgia (not the state). If you go past the jars of celery salad and marinated pickles with prunes, you'll find the bowls of candies in their bright array of red, blue and green wrappers. Some sport images of Red Riding Hood or bears playing in the woods. Others display pictures of what's inside. One was even called Vodka, which needs no translation, though the actual alcohol content of the candy was fairly low. If you haven't tried these Russian candies before, please don't expect to bite into something akin to M&M's or a Mars bar. Marshmallows are used in some, jellies in others. Dried fruit, including prunes, can be seen on a label or two. Others are complete surprises. You may bite into chocolate-covered wafers filled with hazelnut cream or dark chocolate with lemon. The candies sell for $9.99 a pound and would make a great addition to any St. Nicholas celebration on Dec. 6 or any time of the year. For more information, call the store at (210) 348-7788. Tim's is expanding Tim's Oriental & Seafood Market, 7015 Bandera Road, is getting bigger. The store is staying put, but it's also taking over the space once occupied by Peng's Chinese Restaurant. The work should be completed within the next three weeks. In the meantime, you can still get a roasted duck (just like in the film "A Christmas Story" complete with the head on) for $19. Or you can get live blue crabs, roasted pork belly, yuzu juice, fresh bitter melon or Chinese Oreos, all of the stuff that makes Tim's one of the many unique markets in San Antonio that we return to on a regular basis.
Tim's Oriental & Seafood Market

Tim's Oriental & Seafood Market

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Learning the Joys of Greek Salads Firsthand

Learning the Joys of Greek Salads Firsthand

Horiatiki

Horiatiki (Greek Salad)

HERSONISSOS, Crete -- When a friend with a timeshare calls and invites you to spend two weeks with her on the island of Crete, you don't say no. At least, I don't. So, I found myself on an island in the Mediterranean Sea surrounded by some of the best food I've had in ages.
Tomatoes drying in the sun in front of Marianna, a taverna in Mesa Potami, part of Crete's Lasithi Plateau

Tomatoes drying in the sun in front of Marianna, a taverna in Mesa Potami, part of Crete's Lasithi Plateau

One advantage that Cretans have is that they grow or raise most everything that they use in their diet. Almost everywhere you look, there's food growing, whether it's olives on the many acres of trees that run up and down mountains, grapes in the growing number of vineyards or orchards filled with apples, oranges or pomegranates. We didn't see all of the family gardens bulging with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more; some of those items were just after season for our visit, but we were given freshly harvested grapes, persimmons and walnuts by some of the wonderful people we met. In the mornings, I could hear the bells of the goats roaming through the undeveloped lands nearby, reminding me of how close one source of all the feta and yogurt was. Lambs and sheep often grazed close to the road, while the Mediterranean offered the promise of untold seafood specials. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the eating was built on the numerous herbs that were oh so easy to forage. It seemed that most every time Carol stopped our rental car, I could find something worth taking back to our kitchen, whether it was oregano or mint, dill, arugula or thyme. I used those in the series of Greek salads, called horiatiki (hor-ee-ah-tee-kee), that I made most every day. There is no hard and fast recipe for this beloved dish, and you can make plenty of substitutes to suit your tastes. But the foundation for ours included tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese and olive oil. To that, we added green bell pepper and olives. The first supermarket we went to only sold onions by the large bag, so we used scallions until we found another place where we could pick up a red onion. We also tried lettuce in the mix; it worked, but it wasn't necessary, so we left it out after one or two tries. Cabbage worked much better, adding crunch in a way that was different from the cucumber or the bell pepper. The olive oil was so good that red wine vinegar or lemon juice wasn't necessary to dress the salad with. Plus, if you find the freshest, most flavorful ingredients, especially the tomatoes, you didn't need much oil, either. A little salt brings out the juices of the various vegetables, making it's own dressing that the olive oil only takes to another level.
A Cretan salad with greens and pomegranate seeds

A Cretan salad with greens and pomegranate seeds

We discovered a variation native to Crete. It is, of course, the Cretan salad, and it adds rusk, potatoes, hard-boiled egg, capers and sun-dried tomatoes to the mix. See, even they don't follow a single recipe. And in the case of the rusk, you'll see them using up every last scrap of bread rather than throwing it out. That, to me, has been the secret of some of the best meals I've had in my travels. The third salad recipe you'll find below is for a Socrates salad, which Carol's friend, Clairy Panagiotou, made for us when she joined our group. Clairy runs the Bouradanis Hotel on another Greek island, Kos, where she makes the meals nightly for her 70 guests. On the basis of this salad alone, I am ready to make a trip to her hotel. It's named after the Greek philosopher, Clairy said, because it's supposed to open up your brain cells and make you smarter. I don't know that my IQ shot up any while eating it, but my happiness level certainly did. Again, there is no hard and fast recipe for the dressing or for the salad. Just make it to taste. Just make sure you're using the best ingredients you can find, ingredients that tasted like they were grown in your own backyard and tended with care. You can taste the difference. Horiatiki (Greek Salad) Make this salad to suit your tastes. If you don't like or don't have bell pepper on hand, leave it out. Want to add lettuce or shredded cabbage? Go ahead. I added anchovies and occasionally some slices of radish to mine. Capers would also work.
Horiatiki (Greek Salad)

Horiatiki (Greek Salad)

Tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces Cucumber, sliced Green bell pepper, sliced Red or white onion, sliced Olives Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste Feta, crumbled or cut in a slab about 1/3-inch thick Extra virgin olive oil Red wine vinegar (optional) Herbs, fresh or dried Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion and olives. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, if using. Top with feta. If using a slab of cheese, drizzle olive oil on top. If you're using vinegar with the oil, drizzle these on before you add the cheese. Top with herbs. Herbs both dried and fresh can be used. A few to consider are oregano, parsley, mint and thyme. Or you could serve with the oil and vinegar on the side. From John Griffin Cretan Salad with Rusk Cretans love rusk, dried clumps of leftover bread that soak up olive oil and tomato juice. They serve as a foundation for this salad, a variation on horiatiki that, once again, can be made using whatever ingredients you have on hand. One version we had used various field greens and was crowned with pomegranate seeds.
A Cretan salad with hard-boiled eggs, rusk, sun-dried tomatoes and capers.

A Cretan salad with hard-boiled eggs, rusk, sun-dried tomatoes and capers

Rusk or zwieback Tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces Cucumber, sliced Green bell pepper, sliced Red or white onion, sliced Olives New potatoes, boiled, peeled and quartered Hard-boiled eggs, quartered Sun-dried tomatoes Salt, to taste Feta, crumbled or cut in a slab Extra virgin olive oil Red wine vinegar (optional) Capers Herbs (optional) Place the rusk at the bottom of your salad bowl. Top with a mix of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, olives, potato, egg and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle salt to taste over the salad. Top with feta, then a drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle capers over the top and finish off with a sprinkling of dried or fresh herbs. From John Griffin Socrates Salad Open your brain cells to the wonders of this salad laden with dried fruit and nuts.
Socrates Salad

Socrates Salad

Dried figs, cut into bite-sized pieces Dried cranberries Lettuce Radicchio Pine nuts Tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces Apple, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces Parmesan cheese Dressing: Balsamic vinegar Honey Olive oil Water Salt Toss the figs, cranberries, lettuce, radicchio, pine nuts, tomatoes and apple in a salad bowl. Make the dressing from a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey, olive oil, a little water and salt to taste. Whisk together then lightly toss with the salad. Top with Parmesan cheese shavings. From Clairy Panagiotou/Bouradanis Hotel

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8th Annual Mole Throwdown Set for Oct. 20

8th Annual Mole Throwdown Set for Oct. 20

Get your taste buds ready for one of the most delicious fundraising events you have ever attended. The 8th Annual Mole Throwdown is a culinary, Art-filled experience that blends together our efforts to promote Chicano/Latino Art and Culture in an innovative and creative way that benefits Centro Cultural Aztlan’s year-long programming.
How many styles of mole will be served at the Mole Throwdown?

How many styles of mole will be served at the Mole Throwdown?

Mole is traditionally prepared for special events, which bring together friends and families. Mole a rich tasting delightful dark sauce is infused with the flavors of chili peppers, chocolate and about 25 or more, spicy ingredients, then married with turkey or chicken. This succulent dish will be prepared and generously donated by local restaurants and local chefs for your delicate palate that is sure to ignite the taste buds. Cerveza (beer) will be iced down and served to compliment the meal.  Tequila tasting bar will be provided by Salud Tequila Bar, and Tito’s Handmade vodka will be serving a cocktail to refresh your palate.   First year participant, Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden will be serving a mole inspired cocktail and mole ice cream.  Patrons will be asked to vote for their favorite recipe, and a new winner will be announced!  Participating chefs include: Ana Sandoval & Mario Bravo, The Box Street Social, Veronica Castillo Salas, Cocina Heritage, Colibri Llevando Sabor, Francisco Cid, Jenny’s Catering, Chef Jerry Steakhouse & Catering, Los Laureles Café, Samantha Lopez, Berta Romo-Rios, and Viva Vegeria. In addition to the sampling of mole, there will be a Silent Art Auction featuring the great works of contributing artists that have supported Centro Cultural Aztlan for over three decades. These participating artists’ contribution is their testament of pride and accomplishment, and their way to show their gratitude to an organization, which focuses on promoting Chicano/Latino Art and Culture.  Musical Entertainment and performances by Ghost Tracks, The Berts, Salute, Roger “Rabbit” Garza, Jerry Vasquez and Grupo Folklorico de Bendiciones. The evening promises to be an exciting fundraising event sure to go down as one of the most creative ways to unite Arte, Cultura, Musica y Comida in a venue that truly supports the Chicano, Latino and Indigenous traditions such as Dia de Los Muertos, Virgen de Guadalupe Exhibit and the Lowrider Festival. General Admission tickets for the event are only $40.00 per person. Other donation levels are available. For online ticket sales visit: http://www.centroaztlan.org/8th-annual-mole-throwdown For more information please call the center M-F, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 210-432-1896 or come by the offices located in the Deco Building at 1800 Fredericksburg Road, Suite 103. www.centroaztlan.org  

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Don’t Stop at Cucumbers. Squash Can Make Great Pickles, Too.

Don’t Stop at Cucumbers. Squash Can Make Great Pickles, Too.

I spent some time with family in Louisville recently and had the chance to make some pickles with my mother, using a version of her beloved bread and butter pickle recipe, which I have feasted on since I was a kid.
Let the squash sit in a vinegar solution for 2 hours before canning.

Let the squash sit in a vinegar solution for 2 hours before canning.

The only difference this time was that we didn't use cucumbers. We made them with fresh yellow squash that a friend of hers had given them. The end result tastes almost exactly the same. Both are available throughout the year, so whether you get squash from the market or your fall garden, you can enjoy these year-round. Next time, I'll try them with zucchini. Squash Pickles 2 1/2 pounds yellow squash, sliced thinly 1 small red bell pepper, cut in strips (see note) 1 small green bell pepper, cut in strips 1 large or 2 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced 1/4 cup salt 2 cups white vinegar or apple cider vinegar 2 cups sugar 2 teaspoons mustard seed 1 teaspoon celery seed 1 teaspoon turmeric Note: You'll only need 1 bell pepper of your preferred color, if you're using one of the large ones from the supermarket, In a large non-aluminum bowl, add the squash, bell pepper and onion. Cover with salt and stir together. Let sit for 2 hours. Stir occasionally. While the vegetables are sitting, combine vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, celery seed and turmeric in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the 2 hours are up, squeeze the vegetables dry. Then add the vegetables to the saucepan. Stir to incorporate everything together and let sit for 2 hours more. When the 2 hours are up, bring the vegetables to a boil. Remove immediately and separate into 4 (1-pint) jars. Fill almost to the top with liquid. Seal using your preferred method or top with a jar lid and refrigerate immediately. Wait a day or two before eating.
Seal the jars, if you like, or cover and refrigerate them immediately.

Seal the jars, if you like, or cover and refrigerate them immediately.

Makes 4 (1-pint) jars. (If you aren't sealing the lids, the pickles will keep up to 2 months in the refrigerator.) From Annaliese Griffin and John Griffin  

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A Trio of Bright and Bold Indian Salads

A Trio of Bright and Bold Indian Salads

cucumber-salad My Bible study group recently decided to have an Indian themed dinner, and it fell to my lot to bring a salad. When I started to do my research, however, I couldn't stop at one. So, I made three. Each of these is easy to make, which is always a plus. But their greatness, individually and collectively, lies in the bold, clean flavors that will add to any meal, Indian or otherwise. I have already made the Mango Salad and the Onion and Tomato Salad twice since then. If you're looking for a fresh alternative to a lettuce salad, check out these options. Cucumber Salad 2 cups cucumber, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons cashews coarsely ground (optional) 1 tablespoon mint, finely ripped Dressing: 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 teaspoons lemon juice ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon sugar 1/8 teaspoon black pepper 2 teaspoons ginger juice (see note) 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground For the dressing: In a bowl, mix oil, lemon juice, salt, sugar, black pepper, ginger juice and fennel. Set aside. For the salad: Peel the cucumber, leaving strips of skin. Slice thin, crosswise. The slices should look like half-moons. Toss the cucumber with ground cashews, if using, and mint to coat the slices. Just before serving, add the dressing. Mix it well. Note: To make the ginger juice, shred the ginger using a fine shredder or zester. Squeeze the shredded ginger with your fingers to get all the juice out. Or you can place a piece of peeled ginger in a sturdy lemon juicer and press hard several times. Adapted from ManjulasKitchen.com/Manjula Jain Onion and Tomato Salad (Piaz aur Tamatar ka Salad) red-onion-and-tomato-salad"Marinating the onions in salt and lemon juice reduces the pungency and makes them sweet and tangy," says Madhu Gadia in "New Indian Home Cooking" (HPBooks, $20). 1 medium red onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoon salt, divided use 2 medium tomatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch wedges 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Combine the onion, lemon juice and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a bowl. Cover and marinate for 20 minutes or longer, stirring occasionally. (Editor's note: Having made the recipe twice, I would suggest marinating the onion at least 30 minutes.) Drain and discard the juice. Add the tomatoes and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Toss lightly to mix. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings. Approximate nutritional value per serving: 17 calories, 4 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1 g dietary fiber, 1 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 182 mg sodium. From "New Indian Home Cooking" by Madhu Gadia green-mango-saladMango Salad (Aam ka Laccha) "In season, the swee4t and sour taste of an underripe mango when combined with salt and cayenne peppers adds and excellent taste to any meal. It is eaten more like a pickle, in a small quantity, rather than a salad," writes Madhu Gadia in "New Indian Home Cooking." 1 firm, underripe mango (3/4 pound) 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon salt Wash and peel the mango. Slice the mango flesh into 1-inch strips. Discard the seed. Toss the mango with the cayenne pepper and salt in a bowl. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes or longer in the refrigerator. Serve cold or refrigerate for up to 2 to 3 days. Makes 16 servings. Approximate nutritional value per 3 tablespoon serving: 12 calories, 3 g carbohydrate, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0.5 g dietary fiber, 0 g protein, 0 mg cholesterol, 67 mg sodium. From "New Indian Home Cooking" by Madhu Gadia

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Weeknight Porchetta Is Bursting with Flavor

Weeknight Porchetta Is Bursting with Flavor

This porchetta dish is easy to make.

This porchetta dish is easy to make.

What's in a name? We've been asking ourselves that since Shakespeare proffered the question in "Romeo and Juliet." We asked it again when we spied this recipe for Weeknight Porchetta from the January 2015 issue of Bon Appetit magazine. Yes, it was the name "porchetta" that attracted our attention, but there were so many differences in approach that we were skeptical, despite Alison Roman's introduction: "Sometimes it's OK to cut corners. Here we make the classic Italian dish with bacon and skip the multiday air-drying process. It's not traditional, but it sure is delicious." We gave it a try anyway and was pleasantly surprised at how satisfying the dish was on so many levels. The roasted garlic is perfect by itself, if you want an appetizer to spread on toast; or you could pair it with another cut of meat, such as a juicy steak or a thick slab of prime rib. Roman offers this insight into why you wrap the tenderloin in bacon: "As the bacon cooks, the fat renders, basting the tenderloin with flavor and ensuring it stays juicy (all while cooking perfectly itself). To keep the bacon in place, wrap the slices around the tenderloin, tucking ends underneath each other." One time we made the dish, we varied it by adding slices of apples at the last minute. The slices added to the overall dish; whether you like the baked apple slices depends on your fondness for rosemary, because they absorbed a lot of the herb's flavor. Weeknight Porchetta
Use apple if you'd like.

Use apple if you'd like.

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus 2 bulbs, halved crosswise 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, plus 4 sprigs 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely chopped 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided use Freshly ground black pepper 1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin 6-8 slices bacon 1-2 apples, cored and cut in small slices (optional) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss chopped garlic, chopped rosemary, fennel seeds, salt and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl; season with pepper. Rub garlic mixture over all tenderloin (if you have time to do this in the morning, great; refrigerate pork until dinner). Scatter rosemary sprigs in a large baking dish and set tenderloin on top. Wrap bacon slices around tenderloin, tucking ends underneath, so bacon stays put. Nestle halved heads of garlic around tenderloin and add apple slices, if using. Drizzle everything with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of tenderloin registers 145 degrees for medium, 40-45 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Approximate nutritional value per serving: 300 calories, 15 g fat, 1 g fiber Adapted from Bon Appetit January 2015  

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Chefs for Chefs Rallies for a Great Cause

Chefs for Chefs Rallies for a Great Cause

Mole ice cream from Brindles featured a lively mix of chile, cinnamon and chocolate flavors.

Mole ice cream from Brindles featured a lively mix of chile, cinnamon and chocolate flavors.

San Antonio's top chefs came together Sunday to help one of their own. The fourth Chefs for Chefs was held at Rosario's North as a fundraiser for chef Ana Martinez, who was recently injured in an auto accident. Her appearance at the event was a welcome sign that she is on the road to recovery.
Ana Martinez made an appearance at the Chefs for Chefs event in her honor.

Ana Martinez made an appearance at the Chefs for Chefs event in her honor.

The local chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier also helped one of their members by organizing the event, which offered a host of brunch treats for patrons. Davila's BBQ in Seguin offered barbacoa with Big Red, the Boiler House served up scrambled eggs with veal brains and bacon, Frederick's paired a fish empanada with toasted covered escargots and mushrooms in a cream sauce, who Chez Vatel Bistro . Botika's Geronimo Lopez and Aldaco's both served up different ceviche dishes, while Biga on the Banks used the freshest heirloom tomatoes of the season with salmon. Mixtli offered a corn-infused treat called a chocoyota with menonita cheese. The Grill at Leon Springs offered pork in savory stock, while Jason Dady's group dressed up deviled eggs with jumbo lump crab meat. Those with a sweet tooth had their choice of everything from a doughnut hole flambe from Don Strange to mole ice cream from Brindles. All of treats were all for a good cause, and the audience ate it up with gusto. If you would like to contribute to the fund, mail a check to LDEI (Les Dames d'Escoffier International) and mark Ana Martinez's name on the note line. For the address, click here.
The bar staff from Rosario's North kept patrons happy with bloody Marys and margaritas.

The bar staff from Rosario's North kept patrons happy with bloody Marys and margaritas.

Luke's John Russ served up some mighty fine shrimp and grits.

Luke's John Russ served up some mighty fine shrimp and grits.

Espresso Amore Mio kept coffee drinks brewing.

Espresso Amore Mio kept coffee drinks brewing.

Black Gold Eggs featured a cured egg yolk with a sorrel custard and Black Gold garlic caviar.

Black Gold Eggs featured a cured egg yolk with a sorrel custard and Black Gold garlic caviar.

Cured offered an array of charcuterie along with pickled cauliflower and packages of toothpicks.

Cured offered an array of charcuterie along with pickled cauliflower and packages of toothpicks.

Who can resist raspberry and pistachio macarons from Bakery Lorraine?

Who can resist raspberry and pistachio macarons from Bakery Lorraine?

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This Chocolate Fig Tart Tastes Even Better Than It Looks

This Chocolate Fig Tart Tastes Even Better Than It Looks

Mom's birthday was last week, and I made the trek to Louisville to help the folks celebrate. I didn't have time to work up all the figs from the backyard, so I filled my suitcase with tins of fresh fruit. (In a way, it was like bringing coals to Newcastle, to use that old cliche, because their fig bushes were covered with enormous, juicy figs.) fig tartWhat to do with them? I know she likes chocolate, so I had to include that somehow. That's when I got the idea of making a ganache and serving it with the figs and a crust using my go-to pastry recipe. Here's the end result, which was more beautiful than I had imagined and the flavor was even better. Chocolate Fig Tart Crust: 12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt 1/8 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or your choice of flavoring 1 1/2 cups flour Oven-roasted figs: 12 fresh figs (I have black mission figs) 2 tablespoons honey Ganache: 1 (85 g) bar 70% or darker chocolate, to taste 1/2 cup canned milk, plus more Pinch of sea salt For the crust: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.   In a stand mixer, cream butter and add sugar, sea salt and flavoring on medium. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour to create a dough. Press the dough into a 9-inch circular tart pan. Cover the dough with a sheet of aluminum foil and weight it down. Bake for 8 minutes. Then uncover and bake another 5 minutes or until golden brown. (If you don't want to overbake, turn the oven off 2 or 3 minutes before you think it will be done.) Set aside and let cool. Once it's cool, remove from the tart pan and place on a serving plate. For the figs: Pre-heat the broiler with the rack as close to the top as possible.   Take half of the figs and slice them thinly lengthwise. Quarter the rest of the figs. Place on a rack. Brush them with honey. Place under the broiler and let them roast. Watch closely and remove as soon as the honey on top starts to boil. Set aside and let cool. For the ganache: When ready to assemble, set up a double boiler and melt the chocolate. Stir in the milk at little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Add a pinch of salt. fig tart3 On the crust, lay out the fig slices in concentric circles, starting at the outside and building in until the top is covered. Carefully spread the ganache over the center and out just to the edge of the fig slices. Top the tart with the quartered figs, starting at the center with three fig quarters and working out to the edge of the chocolate. fig tart2 Serve with whipped cream, raspberries or raspberry sauce, if desired. Makes 1 tart. From John Griffin  

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How to Prepare Jackfruit

How to Prepare Jackfruit

Jackfruit at the market

Jackfruit at the market

If you've been in an H-E-B produce section lately, you've probably seen them. They look like something monstrous left over from a 1950s sci-fi flick, such as "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" where enormous pods threaten to take over civilization.
Strands of fresh jackfruit flesh

Strands of fresh jackfruit flesh

The sign up above says it's something called jackfruit. But it might help if you knew what to do with it, even beyond the short list of directions at the market. So, let's start at the beginning. Jackfruit is grown in Southeast Asia, and each fruit can weigh any where from 10 to 100 pounds. A single tree can bear dozens of fruit, which makes it ideal for feeding starving masses, that is, if they know what to do with it, too.
It takes an effort to work up jackfruit.

It takes an effort to work up jackfruit.

If you're shopping for a jackfruit, look for one with no outside bruises or cuts. It should also have a fairly distinct aroma, which will become stronger when you cut into it. If you buy a jackfruit that is too green, it will ooze a sticky latex, according to an Australian group, The Sub-Tropical Fruit Club of Qld: "The quantity of latex decreases as the fruit ripens. Try to cut a fruit that is green and you will have latex all over you. Cut into an over ripe fruit and there is almost no latex.   If you do get the sap on your hands you can easily get it off using lanoline soap, the kind they use in industry."
There's plenty of skin, seeds and core.

There's plenty of skin, seeds and core.

If you have time, cut a few gashes into the fruit a couple of days before you prepare it and let the latex ooze out on its own. It has a rough skin that's fairly solid, so you'll need a strong knife -- or machete -- to break into it. Don't use your best kitchen knife for that job. Once inside, you'll find strands of pale yellow fruit flesh surrounding more rock-hard seeds. An equally hard core can be found at the center. So, you have to skin it, seed it and core it before you can enjoy it. Believe me, this takes a little work. And it creates no small amount of waste. I have to confess that I didn't buy a whole jackfruit. There was a cut piece in the refrigerated section, which still weighed about 8 pounds, which was more than enough for one person. But I learned almost immediately that while you're working up the jackfruit, it has an overripe, almost-fetid aroma -- sort of like durian light, if you've ever smelled that fruity horror. You can eat the fruit raw and some have made jerky of it, but the texture might seem a little tough for either. Unless you're used to it, jackfruit might be best encountered first after sauteing it. In this way,  it can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.
Jackfruit Barbecue

Jackfruit Barbecue

For savory dishes, you could try it in your favorite stir-fry as a substitute for tofu or chicken. You could also try it in a vegan barbecue dish. All you have to do is season the fruit with your favorite barbecue rub and saute it for a few minutes. Then cover the fruit with barbecue sauce and let them cook together over a medium to medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes. The end result was supposed to taste like pulled pork -- at least to vegans. How many of them have been eating pulled pork lately is anybody's guess. It certainly looks like pulled pulled in a certain light, but the end result proved to be incredibly sweet, as cooking released the fruit's natural sugars, but it was also cloy. So, proceed with caution.
Jackfruit cooking in sugar

Jackfruit cooking in sugar

Perhaps you'd prefer to try the fruit in a sweeter context. I first tasted jackfruit back in Port Charlotte, Florida, where a local ice cream maker decided to showcase several flavors of his native land, the Philippines. His menu included a purple sweet potato called ube as well as jackfruit. To get started on this side of the fruit's personality, I sauteed it in sugar (4:1 ratio of fruit to sugar) for about 30 minutes. When I was ready to use it, the fruit went into a food processor where it was rendered into a thick puree. I froze most of it, but I used a cup for jackfruit ice cream. This time, the fruit showed off its best flavors clean and strong. Even a few people who were dubious about trying the ice cream ate their fill after having a taste. Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream 1 cup jackfruit puree 1 cup finely chopped fresh peach 1 cup coconut milk 1 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup sugar
Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream

Jackfruit-Peach Ice Cream

To make the jackfruit puree, saute 1 cup jackfruit with 1/4 cup sugar for over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes or until soft and a syrup forms in the pan. Cool. When ready to make the ice cream, puree the jackfruit in a food processor. Chop the peach and add to the jackfruit puree. Chill. In a saucepan or bowl with a lid, mix coconut milk, cream and sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the jackfruit mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight. Freeze according to ice cream manufacturer's instructions. Makes a little more than 1 quart ice cream. From John Griffin   Save

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