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Leave the Potato Out of the Potato Salad

Leave the Potato Out of the Potato Salad

Let’s face it, diabetics love potatoes like everybody else, but potatoes love our blood sugar levels way too much for our good. Mashed cauliflower has proven effective as a low-carbohydrate substitute for mashed potatoes, but would the same substitute work in potato salad?

The answer is a solid yes.

This No Potato Salad recipe mixes the best of cold potato salad — celery, onion, hard-boiled egg, mayonnaise and mustard — but uses steamed cauliflower instead of boiled potatoes. The idea came from Elena Amsterdam’s Paleo-friendly website, Elena’s Pantry, with a few adjustments for my tastes. You can adapt the recipe how you’d like, using dill pickles or leaving out the parsley. Just watch the added sugar, which is why I use Duke’s mayonnaise.

I took this to an office potluck, and it was a winner. The co-worker sitting next to me didn’t even notice that there were no potatoes in the mix. You can’t ask for a better compliment than that.

No Potato Salad

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/4 cup minced onion
1 generous tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more more garnish
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped, divided use
1/8 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons yellow or Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

You can make most of this salad ahead of time.

Steam the cauliflower florets for 7 minutes or until just tender. Shock in ice water and let dry.

Mix the cauliflower, celery, onion, 1 chopped egg and parsley. If making this salad in advance, cover this mixture and refrigerate until ready.

You can also make the dressing advance. Just refrigerate it until about 20 minutes before serving.

For the dressing, mix together the remaining 2 eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and black pepper until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Spoon half over the salad. Taste. Add the rest as needed and adjust seasonings. Garnish with more chopped parsley. 

Adapted from Elena Amsterdam/Elena’s Pantry

 

 

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Who Can Resist Some Liquid High-Jinx?

Who Can Resist Some Liquid High-Jinx?

If you’re throwing a cocktail party, don’t forget the High-Jinx.

High-Jinx

That’s the special cocktail created for this year’s San Antonio Cocktail Conference, which continues through Sunday.

In a sea of cocktails, why does this potent potable stand out? Imagine the smooth, silky nature of Monkey Shoulder Scotch mixed with the brightness of Solerno blood orange liqueur, lemon juice and grenadine balanced with sweet orgeat before being finished off with a fresh slice of orange. 

The cocktail is a bright pinkish orange that glows when served on the rocks.

You can make the High-Jinx as a punch to serve your party. Just remember to vary the proportion of the ingredients you use. A little orgeat goes a long way, and you may want to hold off on the club soda until you ladle up each serving.

High-Jinx

1 1/2 ounces Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky
1/2 ounce Solerno
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce pomegranate grenadine
3/4 ounce orgeat
Club soda

Stir together and pour over ice. Top with club soda. Garnish with orange.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From the San Antonio Cocktail Conference

You can make High-Jinx as a punch.

Posted in Drinks, Featured0 Comments

Restaurant Week Returns!

Restaurant Week Returns!

You made a New Year’s resolution to eat better in the new year? Well, Restaurant Week is ready to help you.

The winter version of Culinaria’s Restaurant Week runs Jan. 16-28. As you can see below, there’s an extensive list of participating restaurants, who are offering a diverse array of prix-fixe menus – encompassing three-course lunch and dinner menus within two different pricing tiers: 

  • Tier 1 establishments will offer a three-course menu and will cost $15 for lunch and $35 for dinner 
  • Tier 2 establishments will offer a three-course menu and will cost $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner 

Here’s a list of the participating restaurants:

Biga on the Banks

TIER 1

Acenar Mexican Restaurant, 146 E. Houston St., San Antonio, TX 78205 210-222-2362  http://acenar.com/downtown/ – Make a Reservation

Alberico Fine Wine, 5221 McCullough Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212  210-320-8466   – Make a Reservation

Aldaco’s (Dominion Ridge), 22211 Interstate 10 Frontage Rd, San Antonio, TX 78257  210-698-9700  http://aldacosrestaurants.com/

Aldaco’s (Stone Oak Pkwy), 20079 Stone Oak Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78258  210-494-0561  http://aldacosrestaurants.com/

Asado Seafood & Grill, 611 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78216  210-377-4640  http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/texas/hilton-san-antonio-airport-SATAPHF/dining/index.html – Make a Reservation

Asado Urban Grill, 3233 NW Loop 410, San Antonio, TX 78213  210-377-3900  http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/satnw-san-antonio-marriott-northwest/

Betos Alt-Mex, 8142 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-930-9393  http://www.betosaltmex.com/

Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., Suite 100, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-225-0722  http://biga.com/ – Make a Reservation

Bin Tapas Bar, 511 E. Grayson, San Antonio, TX 78215  210-994-8099  facebook.com/thebintapasbar/

Bite, 1012 S Presa, San Antonio, TX 78210  210-532-2551  http://www.biterestaurantsa.com/ – Make a Reservation

Bliss, 926 S. Presa Street, San Antonio, TX 78210  210-225-2547  http://www.foodisbliss.com/ – Make a Reservation

Bite

Bob’s Steak and Chop House, 5815 Rim Pass Dr., San Antonio, TX 78257  210-222-2627  http://www.bobs-steakandchop.com/locations/san-antonio/ – Make a Reservation

Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden, 312 Pearl Pkwy, Building 3, San Antonio, TX 78215  210-354-4644  www.boilerhousesa.com/ – Make a Reservation

Botika, 301 Pearl Pkwy #111, San Antonio, TX 78215  210-670-7684  http://botikapearl.com/ – Make a Reservation

Boudro’s Texas Bistro, 421 E. Commerce St. San Antonio, TX 78205  210-224-8484  http://www.boudros.com/

Chart House, 739 E Cesar Chavez, San Antonio, TX 78205  210 223-3101 http://www.chart-house.com/ – Make a Reservation

Chez Vatel Bistro, 218 E Olmos Dr, San Antonio, TX 78212  210-828-3141  http://chezvatelbistro.com/

Cooper’s Meat Market, 6002 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-820-3838  http://www.coopersmeatmarket.com/

Cover 3, 1806 North Loop 1604 W, San Antonio, TX 78212  210-479-9700  http://cover-3.com/

Cypress Grille, 170 S. Main, Boerne, TX 78006  (830) 248-1353  http://www.cypressgrilleboerne.com/ – Make a Reservation

Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, 6989 Blanco Rd, San Antonio, TX 78216  210-979-6565  doughpizzeria.com – Now taking reservations by phone.
Dough’s Lunch and Dinner Menu

Frank, 1150 S. Alamo, San Antonio, TX 78210  (210) 265-5292  hotdogscoldbeer.com

Grayze, 521 East Grayson Street, San Antonio TX 78215  210-481-8776  http://www.grayzeongrayson.com/home.html – Make a Reservation

Grey Moss Inn, 19010 Scenic Loop Road, San Antonio, TX 78023  210-695-8301  grey-moss-inn.com

Hotel Havana – Ocho, 1015 Navarro St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-222-2008 http://havanasanantonio.com/restaurant-and-bar/ocho/
Ocho’s Dinner Menu

Houlihan’s – Blanco , 938 N Loop 1604 West, San Antonio, TX 78232  210-494-3371  http://www.houlihans.com/

Houlihan’s – Live Oak, 14601 IH 35 North, San Antonio, TX 78154  210-651-4744  http://www.houlihans.com/

J-Prime Steakhouse, 1401 N Loop 1604 West, San Antonio, TX 78258  210-764-1604  http://jprimesteakhouse.com/

Kimura Ramen Shop, 152 E Pecan St #102, San Antonio, TX 78205 210-444-0702  http://www.kimurasa.com/

Kirby’s Steakhouse, 123 N. Loop 1604 E., San Antonio, TX 78232 210-404-2221 http://kirbyssteakhouse.com/locations/san-antonio/ – Make a Reservation

Kona Grill, 15900 La Cantera Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78256 210-877-8355  http://www.konagrill.com/ – Make a Reservation

La Cantera Resort & Spa – Primero Cantina, 16641 La Cantera Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78256  210-558-6500  https://www.destinationhotels.com/la-cantera-resort-and-spa/dining/primero-cantina-restaurant – Make a Reservation

La Cantera Resort & Spa – SweetFire Kitchen, 16641 La Cantera Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78256 210-558-6500  https://www.destinationhotels.com/la-cantera-resort-and-spa/dining/sweetfirekitchen – Make a Reservation

La Fogata, 2427 Vance Jackson Rd, San Antonio, TX 78213 210-340-1337  www.lafogata.com

La Frite Belgian Bistro, 728 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-224-7555  http://www.lafritesa.com/

Landry’s Seafood, 517 N Presa St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-229-1010  http://www.landrysseafood.com/ – Make a Reservation

Las Ramblas at Hotel Contessa, 306 West Market Street, San Antonio, TX 78205 210-298-8040 http://www.thehotelcontessa.com/las_ramblas/ – Make a Reservation 

Liberty Bar

Liberty Bar, 1111 S Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78210 210-227-1187  http://www.liberty-bar.com/

Luke, 125 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-227-5853  www.lukesanantonio.com/ – Make a Reservation

Mariposa at Neiman Marcus, 15900 La Cantera Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78256 P 210-694-3550  http://neimanmarcus.com/ – Make a Reservation

Market on Houston, 205 E Houston St, San Antonio, TX 78205 P 210-554-1721  http://www.marketonhouston.com/ – Make a Reservation

Max’s Wine Dive, 340 E Basse Road, Suite 101, San Antonio, TX 78209 P 210-444-9547  http://maxswinedive.com/ – Make a Reservation
Max’s Lunch Menu / Max’s Dinner Menu 

Mimosa Restaurant and Lounge, 14415 Blanco Rd, San Antonio, TX 78216  210 408-2670  www.MimosaSA.com – Make a Reservation
Mimosa’s Dinner Menu 

Mokara Hotel & Spa – Ostra, 212 W Crockett Street, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-396-5817 W http://www.mokarahotels.com/sanantonio/dining.html Make a Reservation

Luke

Morton’s Steakhouse, 300 E Crockett St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-228-0700  http://www.mortons.com/sanantonio/ – Make a Reservation

Nao: Latin Gastro Bar, 312 Pearl Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78215  210-554-6484  http://www.naorestaurant.com/

Nectar Wine Bar and Ale House, 214 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-375-4082  http://www.nectarsa.com/
Nectar’s Dinner Menu (Weeks 1 & 2)

Omni Colonnade – Bolo’s Rotisserie Grille, 9821 Colonnade Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78230  210-699-5864  http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/san-antonio/dining/bolos

Omni La Mansion del Rio Riverwalk – Las Canarias, 112 College St. San Antonio, TX 78205  210-518-1063  http://omnihotels.com/ – Make a Reservation

Paesanos Riverwalk, 111 W Crockett St #101, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-227-2782  http://www.paesanosriverwalk.com/ – Make a Reservation

Piranha Killer Sushi, 260 E Basse Rd #101, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-822-1088  http://piranhakillersushi.com/

Reds, Whites and Brews Restaurant, 15614 Huebner Rd. Ste 116, San Antonio, TX  210-493-7599  http://www.redswhitesandbrewssa.com/
Reds, Whites and Brews’ Dinner Menu

Ruth’s Chris

Restaurant Gwendolyn, 152 E Pecan Street, #100 San Antonio, TX 78205  210-222-1849  restaurantgwendolyn.com/ – Make a Reservation

Rossini Italian Bistro, 2195 NW Military Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78213  210-615-7270  http://www.rossinibistro.com/

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Concord Plaza, 7720 Jones Maltsberger, San Antonio, TX 78216  210-821-5051  http://www.ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/san-antonio-north-airport – Make a Reservation

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – La Cantera, 17803 La Cantera Pkwy #8110, San Antonio, TX 78256  210-538-8792  http://www.ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/san-antonio-la-cantera – Make a Reservation

Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Riverwalk, 600 E Market St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-227-8847  http://www.ruthschris.com/restaurant-locations/san-antonio-riverwalk – Make a Reservation

Saveurs 209/La Boulangerie, 209 Broadway St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-639-3165  Laboulangerie.com

Scuzzi’s Italian Grill, 4035 North Loop 1604 W, San Antonio, TX 78257  210-493-8884  http://www.scuzzisitaliangrill.com/ – Make a Reservation

Oysters at Shuck Shack

Shuck Shack, 520 E Grayson St, San Antonio, TX 78215  (210) 236-7422  http://www.shuckshack.com/

Silo (Alamo Heights), 1133 Austin Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-824-8686  www.silosa.com – Make a Reservation

Silo (Terrace Oyster Bar), 22211 IH-10 West, San Antonio, TX 78257  210-698-2002  www.silosa.com – Make a Reservation

Silo (1604), 434 N. Loop 1604 W, San Antonio, TX 78232  210-483-8989  www.silosa.com – Make a Reservation

Southerleigh, 136 E Grayson St, Suite 120, San Antonio, TX 78215  210- 455-5701  http://southerleigh.com/ – Make a Reservation
Southerleigh’s Lunch and Dinner Menu 

Sukeban, 1420 S. Alamo St, San Antonio, TX 78204  (210) 562-3231  Facebook.com/sukebansushi

Supper at Hotel Emma, 136 E. Grayson, San Antonio, TX 78215  210-448-8351  http://www.supperatemma.com/

Sustenio, 17103 La Cantera Pkwy, San Antonio, TX 78256  210-598-2950  http://eilanhotel.com/dining/dining-rooms/ – Make a Reservation
Sustenio’s Lunch and Dinner Menu

Southerleigh

Texas de Brazil, 313 E Houston Street, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-299-1600  www.texasdebrazil.com/ – Make a Reservation
Texas De Brazil’s Dinner Menu

The Clean Plate, 1022 N. Main Ave, San Antonio, TX 78212  (210) 229-9866  thecleanplatesanantonio.com

The General Public, 17619 La Cantera Pkwy Ste 102, San Antonio, TX 78257  210-920-1101  thegenpublic.com – Make a Reservation

The Melting Pot, 14855 Blanco Road, Suite #110, San Antonio, TX  210-479-6358  meltingpot.com/sanantonio – Make a Reservation

The Well, 5539 UTSA Blvd, San Antonio, TX 78249  (210) 877-9099  thewellsanantonio.com

The Hoppy Monk, 1010 N Loop 1604 E, San Antonio, TX 78232  210-545-3330  http://www.thehoppymonk.com/

Tiu Steppi’s Osteria – Braun, 9910 W Loop 1604 #123, San Antonio, TX 78254  210-688-9885  http://www.tiusteppis.com/braun-location.html

Wildfish

Tiu Steppi’s Osteria – Bulverde, 17230 Bulverde Rd Suite 110, San Antonio, TX 78247  210-592-8645  http://www.tiusteppis.com/bulverde-location.html

Tony Roma’s – Rivercenter Mall, 849 E Commerce St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-225-7662  http://tonyromas.com/location/san-antonio-rivercenter/

Tre Enoteca, 555 W Bitters Road, San Antonio, TX 78216  210-496-0555  http://treenoteca.com/ – Make a Reservation

Tre Trattoria, 4003 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-805-0333  http://tretrattoria.com/ – Make a Reservation

Westin Riverwalk – Zocca Cusine de Italia, 420 W Market St, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-444-6070  http://www.zoccariverwalk.com/ – Make a Reservation

Wildfish Seafood Grille, 1834 North Loop 1604, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-493-1600  https://www.wildfishseafoodgrille.com/ – Make a Reservation

Zinc, 207 N Presa, San Antonio, TX 78205  210-224-2900  http://zincwine.com/ – Make a Reservation

5 Points Local, 1017 N. Flores St, San Antonio, TX 78201  210-529-0830  http://www.5pointslocal.com/

El Machito

18 Oaks at JW Marriott, 23808 Resort Parkway, San Antonio, TX 78261  210-491-5825  http://www.marriott.com/hotel-restaurants/.com – Make a Reservation

TIER 2 RESTAURANTS:

Alchemy Kombucha and Culture, 1123 N Flores St, San Antonio, TX 78212  210-320-1168  http://www.alchemysanantonio.com/ – Make a Reservation

Chris Madrid’s, 1900 Blanco Road, San Antonio, TX 78212  210-735-3552  http://www.chrismadrids.com/

El Jarro de Arturo, 13421 San Pedro, San Antonio, TX 78216  210-494-5084  http://www.eljarro.com/

El Machito, 7300 Jones Maltsberger, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-314-3971  http://chefjohnnyhernandez.com/elmachito/contact.php
El Machito’s Lunch and Dinner Menu

Embers Wood Fire Grill & Bar, 9818 W IH-10, San Antonio, TX 78230  210-562-3075  http://www.emberssa.com/home

Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill, 11075 IH10 West, Suite #306, San Antonio, TX 78230  210-572-4382  eatgarbanzo.com

Il Forno

Il Forno, 122 Nogalitos, San Antonio, TX 78214  210-616-2198  www.ilfornosa.com

La Botanica, 2911 N St Mary’s St, San Antonio, TX 78212  619-886-2594  http://vivalabotanica.com/

La Marginal, 2447 Nacogdoches Rd, San Antonio, TX 78217  (844) 663-6646  http://lamarginalrestaurant.com/

Larder at Hotel Emma, 136 E. Grayson, San Antonio, TX 78215  (210) 448-8355  http://www.larderatemma.com/

Nosh, 1133 Austin Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78209  210-826-6674 www.noshsa.com

Paloma Blanca, 5800 Broadway St #300, San Antonio, TX 78209  210 822-6151  http://www.palomablanca.net/ – Make a Reservation

Red at The Art Institute of San Antonio, 10000 IH10 W Suite #200, San Antonio, TX 78230  210-338-7445 http://red-at-aisan.com

SA Fresh, 1015 Rittiman Rd., San Antonio, TX 78218  210-829-4446 http://www.safresh.com/

Thai Topaz’

Texas Meat Co., 1101 S. Main, Boerne, TX 78006  830-331-1116 txmeatco.com/

Thai Topaz, 2177 NW Military Hwy, San Antonio, TX 78213  210-290-9833 http://thaitopaz-sat.com/ – Make a Reservation

The Fruteria, 1401 S. Flores, San Antonio, TX 78204210-251-3104 http://chefjohnnyhernandez.com/
The Fruteria’s Lunch and Dinner Menu

With each meal ordered for San Antonio Restaurant Week, participating restaurants will donate $1 from each lunch menu and $2 from each dinner menu ordered to benefit The Culinaria Farm, which should open in the spring. 

Visit www.culinariasa.org for updates. 

 

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A Slice of Pie from the Past

A Slice of Pie from the Past

Last month, I was reading through the 1945 “Fireside Book of Christmas Stories” and came across a reference to a “Grandma Nadeli’s famed onion custard” pie in Jake Falstaff’s nostalgic “Merry Christmas.”

Onion Custard Pie

What exactly is that, I wondered.

The internet, of course, offered the answer. It was once an American winter favorite that predated the introduction of quiche to our culinary vocabulary. Softened onions were loaded into a prebaked pie crust and then topped with a delicious mixture of eggs, cheese and cream.

I wasn’t able to try the recipe until this week, but the end result was a rich treat, substantial enough to be a main dish, if you’re looking for a meatless alternative, one that’s perfect with a garden salad on the side. Or it could be a warming side dish with almost everything, including steak, chicken, fish and pork chops.    

I did have one problem with this recipe, which I found on Serious Eats, and it was a good reminder that recipes are guidelines, not written in stone. The original called for 4 onions without mentioning size. I somehow knew that those gargantuan yellow onions in the supermarket were too big, so I only softened three. Even that was way too much. So was the egg filling, which I made with Swiss cheese instead of Gruyere. I had enough of both left over from a deep dish pie to make a second pie.

A slice of crustless Onion Custard Pie

I did make one modification for the second pie. I omitted the pie crust and baked the remainder in a 7-by-11-inch casserole dish for a lower-carbohydrate alternative. It worked perfectly.   

What the internet did not have was a wealth of information on the author, Jake Falstaff. It seems that Falstaff was the pen name of Herman Fetzer, a Cleveland newspaperman who died in 1935. Yet the story, “Merry Christmas,” wasn’t published until 1941 as part of “The Big Snow: Christmas at Jacoby’s Corner.”

Fetzer, or Falstaff, if you will, never knew what that mere mention of Grandma Nadeli’s famed onion custard pie would result in 75 years later.

Onion Custard Pie

10 ounces pie dough or 1 pie sheet
4 tablespoons butter
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced thin
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or heavy cream
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Roll the chilled pie dough into a 12-inch round. Line a 9-inch pie pan with the dough, folding the edges in to make double-thick sides. Press the sides in well and prick the bottom all over with a fork. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Crustless Onion Custard Pie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. To keep the dough from shrinking while it bakes, line the shell with a piece of foil or parchment paper, then fill the tart with a layer of dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly golden around the edge. Take the tart out of the oven; remove the foil and the weights. Return to the oven and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes, until the pastry is an even light golden brown.

In a heavy bottomed skillet, melt the butter over a medium flame. Then add the onions and cook until soft and golden, 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Taste to make sure the onions are already delicious by themselves. Cool.

Mix together the remaining ingredients. When the onions are cool, spread them in the baked tart shell, pour in the custard mixture, and bake at 375 for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden brown. Let the pie sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so to firm up before you cut into it.

Makes 1 or 2 pies.

Adapted from www.seriouseats.com

 

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Hospitality Adds the Right Seasoning

Hospitality Adds the Right Seasoning

Raise a toast to hospitality.

In looking back over the past year, I have found myself reliving more than a few outrageous food memories, which run the gamut from shucking oysters at a gin tasting party to standing in line with the guys from Naughty by Nature to get pulled pork sliders at Rachael Ray’s annual SXSW house party. If there’s a common thread running through all, it is that each involved sharing time with friends old and new.

The most spectacular event of all was one that I wasn’t originally supposed to be at.

Moutsounas Cafe in Zenia

I had been staying on Crete with my friend, Carol, at a resort high above the northern coastal town of Chersonissos. Every day we would hit the road, driving across the island, watching the landscape change every few moments as we passed olive orchards on one side of the road and vineyards on another with mountains stretching straight up from beaches. Windmills in the Lasithi Plateau made way for rockier climes echoing with the sound of goat bells. Oranges, apples, persimmons and walnuts all seemed to grow within reach of each other while wild herbs were easily scavenged if not trampled under foot.

Whenever we started to hanker for something to eat, we were suddenly on the lookout for an open taverna or cafe. We weren’t always in luck, as we were visiting in early November, which is after the tourist season has come to an end and many places were closed. But we knew this would be our largest meal of the day, and wherever we landed, we enjoyed sampling as much as we thought we could eat, which sometimes amounted to six or seven dishes.

Manolis Farsaris (front) and a friend tend to the annual raki making.

Early in our trip, we passed through the tiny village of Zenia, and we made a beeline for the Moutsounas Cafe, a massive tourist shop, restaurant and museum that was shaded with an arbor of grapevines extending the length of the building. We parked on the other side of the highway, in an area festooned with a lively assortment of signs and tableaux designed to catch your eye and invite you in. A small patio looked out over a dramatic gorge that swept between mountains on the way to the sea at the southern side of the island.  

Before we sat down, we met Manolis Farsaris, the owner and jack of all trades around the place, which seemed to become more baroque and diverse every moment. Every way you looked, there was something new to catch your eye. It could be a shelf of icons with a Pieta of Mary cradling the post-crucified body of Jesus, a naked Hercules or the mother goddess of Crete all occupying the same shelf. In the largest space, you could find olive wood dishes next to barrels of homemade wine and raki, the local firewater. 

At one of the few indoor tables, Carol and I found ourselves feasting on warm dolmas, grape leaves stuffed with rice, and tzaziki sauce, yogurt and cucumber with plenty of garlic, when Manolis returned to our table with a surprise, a dish of the eggplant and potato stew that his mother had brought to him for his lunch that day.

Making sure the barrels are clean

He didn’t seem to have time to eat with his family as a few other customers appeared on the scene, but he did take the time to explain one of the more intriguing signs in the room, which was taped to a barrel: “Raki with honey no doctor.” It seems that his grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 107 without having to see a doctor because, according to family legend, he drank his homemade raki mixed with honey every day of his life. (That honey, by the way, came from bees living in boxes on the mountainside above the cafe.)

It’s a tradition on Crete to make guests feel at home by offering them a little something, like Manolis did with his mother’s stew. But he didn’t stop there. He also brought out the shot glasses and poured us a taste of his raki, which I discovered had nothing to do with the Turkish liqueur of the same name. The Turks make something that is akin to ouzo and is marked by its strong licorice flavor, while Cretan raki is more like vodka in that the clear liquid is flavorless but has a potent effect.

How does he make his own raki? When does he do this? How much of his honey does he use?

Rather than provide us with answers directly, Manolis simply invited us to join him the following week when he made his annual supply. He didn’t know the date, but he said we could always contact him to find out. So phone numbers were exchanged and a new friend was made on Facebook. We were all set. 

Coals go from the still to the grill.

Word came in the following week that the raki making was going to be held on Saturday at a house nearby. That was the day I was supposed to fly back home, leaving Carol and her friend, Clairy, visiting from Athens, with the chance to go to the party by themselves. Then my flight home got canceled. After days of wrangling with airlines and ticket companies that didn’t care where I was or when I was flying out — at least until I shelled out a few hundred more dollars — I finally got things worked out so I wouldn’t leave until Sunday. And that meant I could attend the raki making, too!

We returned to Zenia early Saturday afternoon and were directed to a house that sloped up the side of a mountain. We scaled the steep driveway to a patio entrance on the side that let us know we were in the right place, thanks to the sight of an enormous double-columned copper still with a raging fire underneath the larger unit. The still was so close to the steps that you had to watch your step climbing onto the patio.

The grill is perfect for lamb and potatoes.

But there was Manolis with a host of friends and family tending to the fire as the alcohol from the mash was apparently siphoned from the main chamber through an overhead coil into the neighboring column still, out of which came the raki. The precious liquid was filtered through a mass of cotton before ending in a pot below. Firewater, indeed.

The mash had been made using potatoes as well as the leftovers from the previous weeks’ wine-making efforts. Skins, seeds and stems hadn’t been wasted; they all made their way into the mash for the elixir. Who knows if they had another use for them after the raki making? They didn’t merely discard the used mash. It was tossed the back of a truck, possibly for use as compost. Nothing on the island went to waste.

Who can resist lamb, potatoes, olives and raki?

Whenever the fire burned down a little, one of Manolis’ friends would take a shovel and move the burning coals to one of several nearby grills where food was being prepared for all to enjoy while the hours passed. Marinated lamb, thin slabs of potatoes and thick cuts of bread all made it to the grill, where Manolis and his sister tended the food. When the potatoes were done, they were drizzled with the family’s own olive oil and lemon juice before being finished off with a sprinkling of salt. Other potatoes were buried whole in the coals to roast until they were finished.

Manolis’ father savors the lamb. (Photo courtesy Carol Yeager)

A plate of olives, picked from a nearby tree no doubt before brining, appeared. So did a basket of apples from the year’s harvest, which our host peeled and cut up into pieces that he handed out. Everyone was soon handed a shot glass so that we could toast this year’s raki with some of last year’s. Our glasses were refilled several more times, and I was glad I wasn’t driving.

Not much English was spoken, except by Manolis and a friend who had once lived in London. Clairy translated a few questions that we had, but even that wasn’t always necessary. The hospitality transcended language, so did the raki.

At last it came time to head back to reality and let these people continue their work, which would likely last into the night. We thanked them  for their hospitality, which had helped make the day perfect for three visiting food lovers. 

I had taken more than 150 photos over the two hours or so that we were there, images that captured the scope of the enterprise, the serious nature of their work and the joy they derived from it. I also brought back a bottle of that handmade raki, which I plan to share with friends in the same spirit that Manolis and his family showered on us during our visit.

The outdoor operation

The still in operation

The raki is filtered after leaving the still.

Carol takes a picture of our new friends, including Manolis, his daughter, his sister and his brother-in-law, plus Clairy on the right.

 

 

 

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Give Your Holiday Brunch a Sweet Touch

Give Your Holiday Brunch a Sweet Touch

Chocolate Candy Cane Doughnut Bread Pudding

What did we do before Mint Twists came on the market? We tried crushing our own candy canes or peppermints, of course. And if you’re like me, you always made a mess of things. But now that you can find bags of the already-crushed candies in the aisle near the chocolate chips, you can make you’re own treats — and not just at Christmas.

This dish came about when life handed me more doughnuts than I could eat. At a recent office meeting, very few people touched the two dozen Krispy Kremes that someone had brought. Leftovers included a healthy mix of regular glazed and chocolate-glazed, which had me thinking about bread pudding.

But what would make it more holiday friendly? Chocolate and peppermint, of course. I’m obsessed with dark chocolate-coated peppermint bark, so it only seemed right to add it to the mix, especially when some of the doughnuts already had a little chocolate on them.

Enjoy this at your next holiday brunch with hot chocolate, egg nog or even an Irish coffee on the side.

 

Chocolate Candy Cane Doughnut Bread Pudding

Let the stale doughnuts soak for at least 10 minutes before baking.

10 to 12 stale doughnuts, with regular glaze or chocolate glaze

3 large eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips, preferably dark chocolate

1/4 cup crushed candy canes or Mint Twists, or to taste

Hard Sauce (optional)

Cut or tear the doughnuts in small pieces. I use a pair of kitchen scissors. Spread out in a 9-by-13-inch dish. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the eggs slightly. Add milk, heavy cream, vanilla and salt, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Pour over the doughnut pieces. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

While the doughnut slices are soaking, heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the doughnut slices and stir once or twice to make sure all everything is moist.

Shortly before you put the dish into the oven, sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the top to taste.

Bake for 30 minutes. Check to see if everything has a come together. You may need to bake up to five minutes more. If you do, turn the oven off and let it sit in there.

Serve warm. Top with Hard Sauce, if desired.

Makes 12-16 servings.

From John Griffin

Hard Sauce

This is a variation of Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s recipe.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Kahlua Peppermint Mocha or whiskey, or to taste

In your mixer, whip the butter for a couple of minutes at medium speed. Add the sugar slowly and scrape down the sizes so everything is thoroughly incorporated. Then add the liquor and mix for a minute or two more. Use at room temperature. (If you make this in advance, refrigerate until about an hour before it’s needed. Take it out, so it can warm up.)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce.

Adapted from Ree Drummond

 

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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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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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