By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 24 May 2014.
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 23 May 2014.
Posted in WalkerSpeakComments Off on ‘Chef’ a Feel-Good Film for Foodies
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 10 April 2014.
Tagine Recipes:What I also learned -- it takes more time to do a stew in this clay pot when it's done in the oven as the pot can only handle up to about 350 degrees, according to the information that came with it. Fortunately, I was making chicken, not lamb or beef, which would have taken longer to cook to tenderness. The bright side of long cooking, too, is that the incredible aromas have that much more time to perfume the whole house. While I made Chicken with Cracked Green Olives and Preserved Lemon, John assembled a savory stew of Beef Short Ribs with Cauliflower. My husband, David, prepared couscous with help from guests Linda Perez and Kathleen Kelly. Two cats and a dog sniffed around for treats, but we're pretty sure the powerful spice aromas didn't appeal as much to them as they did to us. Sandy, who owns Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf, had put together her tagine the day before. That dish of beef with pumpkin (or in this case squash) had had time to rest overnight. "The flavors really were so much better the next day," Sandy said. She had also added honey, white raisins (which she prefers for the most flavor) and currants to add a touch of sweetness. Since this was party among friends, not a tagine cook-off, we didn't need to decide whose was best. And in fact, we all agreed later that it was pretty much a draw -- and each dish was enjoyed on its own merits. The flavors of the beef and pumpkin were spicy, but really offered a comforting umami from well-blended flavors and tender beef. The chicken and green olives was a bit more spiky than sweet, with the preserved lemon and salty olives (though they were soaked in water for awhile which toned down the salt). The tagine pot imparted a mild, earthy flavor all its own, which is an expected part of the flavor profile. Beef short ribs are always delicious -- add chopped fresh tomato and warm toasted cauliflower, along with the chopped fresh herbs and you have one great stew. John mentions that Paula Wolfert's "The Foods of Morocco" offers several dozen recipes for tagine, including one that is demanding to be made next -- Lamb Tagine with Pears and Green Apple. A look around the Internet brought some interesting options, too. One, Camel Tagine, we doubt we'll make any time soon. Couscous, the tiny, grainlike semolina pasta, is good with this dish as is rice. Sandy also mentions that cauliflower, too, can be processed and steamed to make a couscous-like side dish. Take your time with tagine. Whether you get the pot with the same name, or use a Dutch oven, the reward will be one of the most delicious stews you've ever made. Beef with Pumpkin Tagine We don't have a recipe as such for Sandy's dish, as she put the dish together after combing through a number of recipes. It could be easily duplicated, she says. Braise 3 pounds of beef, cut into chunks; brown/sauté chopped onion, garlic and three peeled and cut up carrots with a blend of Moroccan spices (ground cumin, cinnamon and ginger). Add to the ingredients a peeled and seeded 1-2 cups of diced squash, honey (perhaps a tablespoonful) as well as a handful of white raisins and currants. Add beef stock to cover and simmer until the beef is tender.
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 23 March 2014.
Most exciting moment: With fewer than 10 seconds left to get his product to the judging table, one cooker raced through the entrance to the Atascosa Show Barn, his entry of barbecued ribs clutched in his hand, listening to a crowd chant a countdown. He made it with milliseconds to spare -- and earned a hearty round of applause.The Turn-N-Burn Cook-Off (actually its full name is 4th annual Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and Western Premium BBQ Products (W3) Turn-N-Burn Barbeque Cook-off) was third in a series and sanctioned by the International Barbecue Cookers Association. Previous events in this year's series were in Gruene and Helotes. Why do so many compete? First, there's the fun of it all, the thrill of competition. Then, there's the money. The series grand champion will get a prize of $5,000, with prizes of $1,000 going to the winners of the pork ribs, brisket and chicken categories. The total payout, however, was to be much higher. At the Pleasanton Turn-n-Burn competition alone was a payout of $35,000, plus the winners of the series finale and a custom barbeque pit trailer by One Man Pits (valued at $9,600) would place the event payout at just over $50,000, according to an article in the Pleasanton Express. John Griffin and I sat through two preliminary rounds of judging (chicken first, then ribs). There were a few shouted instructions, then numbered boxes were set before each of us at a table for five. It was cut off a piece, taste, pass the box to the next judge, repeat -- and there was no fooling around about it. And, no using your fork to take a taste, then use it again on the next entry -- the barbecue judges' brand of double-dipping. We used plenty of plastic forks, paper napkins and sliced dill pickles for palate cleansers -- a perfect touch. Judging an event like this isn't necessarily a task to be done if you're hungry. No, the monitor told us -- we each didn't get to pick up a whole rib and dig in. We got to cut off a slice and that was it. And it was enough when you were judging 14-15 entries at your table alone. Naturally, some barbecue got lower marks than others. Others, we found it tough to pass along a few of those boxes. A certain lush, somewhat mustardy sweet-tangy sauce on the first pork rib entry we tasted was the one we still remembered lovingly at the end of the (preliminary) judging. We wouldn't find out whether this was the winner -- but for us, it was. Sauce on pork ribs, some of it generously slathered, did seem to be far more a popular treatment than dry rub. By mid-afternoon it was time for the brisket prelims and we considered it. That is, until we saw the long line of prospective judges waiting for what apparently was the main event. Not sure that we'd make it back to the judging table, even if we stood and waited in line an hour, we ducked out. It was not just a beautiful day for cooking outside, but fine weather for the cowboys, horses and long-suffering calves racing around for the roping event. That morning, as we wandered in the general direction of the show barn to judge, one of those horses got away from its rider and romped past us, kicking up plenty of dirt and enjoying a few moments of freedom. At the end of the day, it had been a real taste of South Texas for us -- even if we didn't stay for the dancing. (Or the results. This hard-won battle will probably be posted on the Turn-n-Burn website Sunday or Monday. ) Photographs by John Griffin and Bonnie Walker
Posted in WalkerSpeakComments Off on Turn-N-Burn: BBQ Action Heats up in Pleasanton
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 08 September 2013.
We shared dishes ranging from the traditional eggs Benedict with a couple of custom touches to Happy Daddy, a petite beef filet rubbed with chile along with potato hash and chorizo coins for a spicy take on huevos rancheros. (The dish got its name as a particular favorite on Father’s Day.)The Arcade burger, which is rapidly becoming one of the city’s favorites, was also brought out, inspiring as much comment as did Perez’s take on Chicken and Waffles (boned chicken, pounded out ‘Milanesa’ style and then breaded) or the luscious, multilayered red velvet cake. Burgers are beloved. That was true long before I began my food-writing career. While we don’t want burgers for every meal, we’re still excited to find one that is exceptional and inspires questions ranging from what is the meat used in the grind, fat-to-lean ratio, and of course, what’s in the ‘secret sauce.’ But our demands have changed over the years. Secret sauce better have some pretty good secrets in there – and in Perez’s burger, the only secret he would divulge was the dash of blood orange vinegar. His sauce also has a bite – Sriracha? He wouldn't tell. In the old days, I don’t recall that we discussed the provenance of the beef, or what cuts were used in the grind other than the occasional reference to a “sirloin burger” on a menu. Perez uses ground chuck and brisket, a combination that I’ve found to be one of the tastiest – and he uses a lean-to-fat ratio of about 70-to-30. Generous on the flavor, but not greasy. The cheese is American – and I’d guess that is a nod to the country’s tradition, but a good natural cheese such as cheddar would make me happier. But the browned “soft” onions, as the menu describes them, seem to melt right into the beef and they just about cancel out the sticky cheese. So, as things change, things remain the same. That cliché does apply to our appetite for burgers -- as well as for Saturday and Sunday brunches, for finding food with the best flavor and always looking for an element of discovery. And, may it always be so. Arcade Midtown Kitchen 303 Pearl Pkwy. (210) 369-9664 arcadesatx.com
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 01 July 2013.
This fancy fungus is in season now, and chefs around town have been featuring them in menus over the past couple of weeks.Our friend and SavorSA colleague John Griffin had kept eggs packed with truffles in a sealed jar for several days, and had pronounced them ready to eat. He also baked and brought a fresh Ginger-Pear Quick Bread, a Rebecca Rather recipe that promised and delivered on the tempting flavors of the fresh fruit and fresh ginger. It isn't cake, but the sweetness and rich, buttery texture served nicely as both a breakfast bread and light dessert. David and I contributed a lively cava, Poema, chilled down and full of sparkle, fresh-squeezed orange juice and a brown-and-serve baguette. We pressed fresh minced rosemary, thyme and sage into the tops of breakfast sausage patties before grilling them in the oven, and put together a fruit salad of sliced strawberries and cantaloupe, garnished with mint and doused with a few ounces of Triple Sec. With the table set, a fan blowing fresh air into the dining room from the shady back yard, we celebrated the Saturday-after- the-Fourth of July. Here's the menu, with a link to the Fresh Ginger-Pear Quick Bread, should you want to make it. Make up your own easy brunch, fancy it up a little and enjoy -- there are quite a few Saturdays or Sundays left in this summer! Menu:
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 21 June 2013.
Pickles are good; pickled almost anything is good, especially freshly made and marinated overnight in the refrigerator, perfect for piling up on a chalupa or nibbling with smoky barbecue or eating out of the jar while standing in front of the refrigerator.
But I live with a pickleaholic. David eats pickles like popcorn. He likes pickles alone or with anything. Be it raw oyster kimchee and hot mango pickle, jalapeño escabeche, pickled eggs, onions, cauliflower, cabbage, he loves it.
At Christmas, he and John Griffin (pickle fanatic No. 2) present each other with gift baskets loaded with pickles. They are equally as excited to paw through their gifts to see what treasures the one found that the other did not.
What could be wrong with such a harmless addiction?
Pickle storage. When one person has a mania for pickles, it can take over more space than it deserves in the communal refrigerator and cupboard shelves. My jar or two of kosher or half-sour dills, a tub of mixed, expensive olives and maybe a jar of roasted red peppers or pickled baby tomatillos stand inoffensively at one side of the top shelf. His jars and cans and tubs and plastic snack bags take up the rest of the room, then elbow their way down to the next shelf and migrate over to the shelves on the door.
The cupboards are open territory for cans of pickles from Ali Baba International Market and other prime pickle pushers. When I pull out a rolling shelf of canned goods, often a heavy jar or can of parched pickled melons or pickled baby eggplants will fall on my toe.
While not a marriage buster, this collection could be annoying in that minor but nagging way. One day, a solution presented itself. He needed his own pickle fridge. Some men build additions onto their house so that they can put in a pool table and bar or a media room. Dedicated pickle storage: why not?
I didn't have to look far, as a cube-sized fridge that formerly resided in his office was stacked away in the garage. I could move this into the house and offload jars of salted cassia flower and giant capers from main fridge to pickle fridge.
I formulated my plan. One day, when the coast was clear I found and dragged the small (but heavy) fridge out of the garage. I planned to put it in the dining room, but doing this meant going up three steps and over three door jambs and through two rooms. Our dolly had a broken wheel, which meant the appliance had to be muscled along the journey by sheer brute force -- and I knew just the brute to do it.
The fridge had been stored for some time, so I took it through the kitchen first and gave it a good scrubbing. Then it resumed its journey across another floor, over another door jamb, to the dining room. A couple of whole-bottle wine cubes that were unused made a sturdy stand when pushed together.
Then -- and I don't recommend anyone over the age of 45 do this -- in one mighty swoop I hove the thing up off the floor and placed it on top of the stand.
And there it stood, a white elephant in the dining room. As out-of-place looking as a blender in the bathtub. Snuggled up next to my late mother-in-law's antique writing desk-turned-china cabinet, it deeply lacked in aesthetic appeal. The mahogany desk looked embarrassed.
"Well, too bad," I thought. "I'll disguise it and be done with it."
Pressing on with the project, and before my husband got home I went out and fetched a few jars of exotic pickles and a nice smelly cheese. I added a couple of micro-brews to place invitingly in the cube.
And then ... it was time for the presentation of the fridge. Which was anticlimactic. David came home, he wandered around awhile, he looked at his mail. He changed his clothes. He refused to notice it. (How could he not?!) When I finally couldn't wait another minute and introduced to him his very own pickle fridge he seemed dubious. But more or less accepting. That is, not exactly rolling around on the floor in throes of gratitude. But, he was sympathetic a few days later when my back gave out.
My reward is -- he uses it. Going into the dining room just now, I made a list of what is in that fridge: a tub of mixed grocery store pickled vegetables and two of olives; a wedge of Spanish cheese, a can of pickled baby eggplant, another of baby melons, some Sriracha sauce, capers, an unopened can of pickled cassia flowers and a beer or two.
It's all delicious stuff, and even more agreeable now that it has a home of its own.
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 05 May 2013.
Posted in WalkerSpeakComments Off on For National Burger Month, Check Your BQ
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 29 January 2013.
By Bonnie Walker
Posted on 09 December 2012.