Archive for ‘World Cuisine’

March 4, 2013

Taking Tea | Afternoon at the Harrison House

I see why they do it in the south and of course, it goes without saying, in the UK.

Taking time for afternoon tea is an immeasurably nice way to spend an hour or so in the afternoon.  And if you’ve got a girlfriend to catch up on some gossip, all the better.  The Harrison House, right now, kind of has a little secret.

But the scones and tea are so nice, it won’t be secret for much longer.

If you’re looking for an exceedingly quiet place to take tea, a few scones (good ones, with the exception of how they are cut, according to a very knowledgeable British source), some savories, some fruit, and a gorgeous dessert, let me recommend them.  No hustle and bustle here, just attentive service and the charm of a Victorian Village house.

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The afternoon tea service run by Savvy Spoon Tea is a pop up of sorts, taking advantage of off time in the Harrison House kitchen and its cozy parlor in which to serve it in.  All the better for us, who get to enjoy the scones that pop out of the oven as you’re arriving and being seated.  The tea menu is varied with all good selections, I chose the rose black.  The scones were marvelous with a little lemon curd and I was completely enamored with the mushroom pasty.  The pear cake was moist and a real treat.

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July 24, 2012

Despite the Heat | Tortilla Soup

Eating soup when it’s hot out can strike people as odd.  But think French-inspired Pho in steamy Vietnam, or British-influenced Mulligatawny in India.  There’s a point to eating something hot and spicy when it’s hot out: it makes you sweat (I glow).  And that helps you cool off.  So while it may seem counter-intuitive, now is certainly the season to give some spicy soup a go.

It’s always hot in Texas.  So it’s not surprising that tortilla soup is on just about every menu you peruse in San Antonio.   There’s something about it that San Antonians can’t seem to get enough of, no matter the season.   Perhaps it’s the mix of textures, but like Pho and Mulligatawny, it’s spicy and hot and a treat to eat.  (It also happens to the be the exact thing I was eating when Hades first fell in love with me fifteen years ago.  I even spilled it all over myself and he still loved me.  Magical stuff this is.)  And summertime is when the produce that comprises the bulk of the ingredients for tortilla soup are at their peak.

I like to play around with ingredients: if there’s corn, add some, if there’s not, no worries.  Zucchini and summer squashes work wonderfully, too.  Tomatoes, however are a requirement. 

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June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

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June 4, 2012

Two Light and Easy Nights | Summer Miso Soup

This past weekend the most recent Top Chef winner Paul Qui was in town at Market District to do a demo and answer questions.  Honestly, I don’t think there has been a nicer, more unassuming winner of that crazy show.   He’s just such a humble, talented guy.  His dishes were lovely light versions of chicken rice (his with lots and lots of a lemony ponzu) and a summer miso soup.  Things, he says, are his comfort foods.  I can completely see why.

His cooking got me thinking about dishes I had made in the past but could bring together for the perfect, almost no effort summer dinner.  Granted, you’ll have Asian food a couple of days in a row, but I don’t think that ever hurt anyone.  Plus, this is the time of year that you can gather just about everything locally, aside from the kombu, katsuobushi and a couple of pantry items.

But perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about this kind of dinner is that since everybody gets to choose what to include in their bowls, it’s lots of fun for Cherub.  She amazed even me tonight by her choice of tofu, zucchini, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts and snap peas.  But she passed on the fresh sweet corn.  (What kid does that?)  And she even had seconds.

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March 17, 2012

It’s Not Just for St. Patrick’s | Scratch Corned Beef

When we visited our farmer friend Dick Jensen a few weeks ago for maple tapping, we picked up some of his lovingly raised and delicious grass-fed beef.  We blew through the short ribs (I still owe you some posts on those, two ways) but we also bought a brisket with the full intention of having it as corned beef.

And everyone loves it for St. Patrick’s Day.  But consider it as something you could make anytime.  It makes enough for leftovers for a couple of days.  Turn it into amazing sandwiches with a little Russian dressing and coleslaw.  Add some leftover potatoes that you par boiled and then roasted in fat and turn it into hash.  This is not your out of the can variety.

It’s worth the effort.

There is a bit of wiggle room just how long you choose to brine your brisket. 

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January 29, 2012

Moms’ Recipes from All Over the World | Taste of OSU

This past Friday was the 2012 Taste of OSU.  Hosted by the OSU’s Office of International Affairs, the event brings some 4,000 guests to the Union to experience food and culture from all over the world.  More than 30 student groups provide the recipes, do the cooking and share a bit from their home countries.  Even more share cultural performances, from dragon dances to Bollywood showstoppers.

I love this event because people from all over the world who have joined the OSU family, come together to cook food that says, “this is what it tastes like in my country,” “this is what my mom makes on my birthday,” “this is the food that we have when we celebrate.”  These are moms’ recipes.  Moms that may be many thousands of miles away.  But at this event, it’s a chance to share a taste of something that reminds these students of home.  Proust’s madeline.

I had the good fortune to be asked to judge.  I was very excited.  Not only would I get a chance to sample a good variety of the entries from the 30 plus international student groups, but I got a chance to see some of the recipes.  Imagine my delight at being able to peruse the Russian Club’s beef stroganoff and blinis!  The Thai Student Association’s Green Curry Chicken!  The Somali Students Association’s rice!

The six finalists were the Russian Club, the Somali Students Association, Habesha Student Organization, Lebanese Student Association, the Organization of Arab Students and the Sri Lankan Student Association.  They all produced delicious dishes.

But the standout for us was the Habesha Student Organization.  And they won it with their lentils.  I scooped up some lentils with injera bread.  My eyes lit up.  This is something special.  Savory, perfectly seasoned.  Delicious.  Greedily, I flipped through the half-inch thick book of recipes.  Searching, searching.  I found the list of ingredients.

Crestfallen, I knew in a moment that there were not just three ingredients in that amazing lentil dish.

I knew Mom didn’t share her secret spices this time.  She didn’t share what makes her lentils better than anyone else’s.  Because sometimes, you have to grow up with her to be given the secret.  But if anyone asks her what makes it so special, I’m sure she’d smile and tell you it’s love.

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January 17, 2012

Best Topping for Tacos | Cactus with Prickly Pear Vinaigrette

I was recently forwarded this Nigel Slater article that really drives home the importance of doing some big cooking on the weekend (such as this roast pork shoulder in the article) so that you have enough for several meals that require minimal prep for the rest of the week.  I love cooking in this way.  And pork shoulder is literally one of the most cooked cuts in this house.  It’s economical and super, super flavorful.

Our leftover roast pork was converted into tacos one night.  And one of the things I often find elevates the humble taco is the quality of the crispy cold salad on top.  At good taco stands, you’ll find some cold radishes, or perhaps some chopped onion and cilantro, maybe a bit of lime to squeeze on top of that rich carnitas or barbacoa.  I love the contrast in flavors, textures and temperatures.

This quick cold salad is tasty enough on its own for lunch, but is fantastic on some of that pork.  You can sub some radishes and apples (add lovely sweetness) for the cactus or jicama, if you have trouble finding them.   But the cactus is so full of gorgeous green flavor, and the jicama so sweet and crunchy, do make an effort to stop in a reputable Hispanic market with brisk turn over in its produce department to track some down to try.  Next time I make this, I might also toss in a green onion thinly sliced and perhaps some pomegranate arils for extra crunch.

Nopales and Jicama with Prickly Pear Vinagrette

For the salad:

1 small cactus pad, carefully trimmed well of all spines, rinsed, then cut into small batons

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