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Griffin to Go: When Life Hands You Lemons …

Griffin to Go: When Life Hands You Lemons …

I was reading a cookbook from deep in the heart of Louisiana a few days when I came across a recipe for lemon ice cream pie that made my mouth water.

Top your ice cream pie with crumbs of whatever you have on hand.

Top your ice cream pie with crumbs of whatever you have on hand.

All you had to do was blend vanilla ice cream with lemonade concentrate and pour the mixture into a graham cracker crust. Then freeze and enjoy.

I thought about that simple recipe until I made it to a nearby grocery where I loaded up my cart with pie crust and ice cream. Then, after looking around for awhile, I found the frozen juice section, not a product I buy often. I reached for a can of lemonade and realized why. The main ingredient was high fructose corn syrup, not something I generally bring into the house unless it’s in a bottle of, you guessed it, corn syrup.

I put back the regular lemonade, the pink lemonade, the cranberry juice and every single frozen juice in the case I picked up until I reached the last one, an apple-kiwi-strawberry mixture that was, of course, four times the size I needed. But the there was no corn syrup in it, so I added it to my cart.

And I made the pie.

Enjoy an easy ice cream pie any time of year.

Enjoy an easy ice cream pie any time of year.

I used about 4 ounces of the frozen juice mix with a little more than a quart of vanilla ice cream. I blended both in my Vitamix with a good splash of raspberry vodka for extra flavor, and then spread the mixture into the crust.

The original recipe called for topping the pie with graham cracker crumbs. But the cookbook, “The Cotton Collection” from the Junior Charity League of Monroe, Louisiana, dates back to 1972 when people made their own graham cracker crusts. So, I didn’t have any leftover graham crackers to smash up over the pie. But I did have some brownie crumbs from a care package that my mother sent me recently. Perfect.

And the pie? Well, it wasn’t lemon, but who cares? It satisfied on its own terms, offering a cool and refreshing end to a nice meal.

The moral of the story is an oldie but a goodie: Recipes are not written in stone.

So, what recipe are you going to tailor to your own tastes?

 

 

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Ben Ford’s Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Ben Ford’s Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Local food lovers may remember Ben Ford as the first winner of the annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery. He’s also a celebrity chef, whose Ford’s Filling Station has become a hit in Culver City.

Persimmons

Persimmons

Of course, moviegoers might focus on the fact that his father is the actor Harrison Ford. What they might not know is that his wife, Emily, is a San Antonio native.

All of these come together in the handsome new cookbook, “Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking” (Atria Books, $34.99), which Ford has written with  Carolynn Carreño.

The book covers a host of party possibilities from the whole pig roast to the Hill Country barbecue, but it also impresses with its simple, effective side dishes, such as this Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans.

“When persimmons flood the Filling Station kitchen in the fall, I make this salad,” he writes. “Make this salad with pears or apples when persimmons aren’t in season.”

Persimmon Salad with Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans

Dressing:
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
4 Fuyu persimmons or 1 pound pears or apples
8 ounces mâche or baby spinach
1 head frisée, torn
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup candied pecans (recipe follows)

tamingTo make the dressing, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, salt and sugar together. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to make an emulsified dressing. You can make the dressing up to 2 days  in advance; refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

To prepare the salad, cut both ends off each persimmon and peel with a vegetable peeler, removing as little flesh as possible. Remove the pits and thinly slice the flesh. If you are making this salad with pears or apples, cut then in half to remove the cores; lay them cut side down and thinly slice.

Put the mâche and frisée in a salad bowl. Drizzle with 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette and toss lightly to coat. Add more dressing if desired and salt to taste. Lay the persimmon slices over the salad, crumble on the goat cheese and scatter the pecans over the top. Grind black pepper over the salad and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Candied Pecans

1 cup raw pecan halves
1/3 cup sugar

Adjust an oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Spread the pecans on a separate baking sheet in a single layer and toast them for 5 minutes. Transfer them to a plate to cool to room temperature.

Cook the sugar undisturbed in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar begins to melt, about 2 minutes. Begin to stir the sugar with a wooden spoon and continue to cook until it is light brown, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the pecans and stir to coat each nut with the sugar. Transfer the pecans to the prepared baking sheet. Spread them out in a single layer and use two forks to separate them from one another, working quickly so they don’t stick together. Set the nuts aside to cool completely. You can prepare these nuts up to 3 days in advance; store them in an air together container for up to 2 days.

Makes 1 cup.

From “Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking” by Ben Ford with Carolynn Carreño

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NOSA Fest Gives You a Chance to Help the San Antonio Food Bank

NOSA Fest Gives You a Chance to Help the San Antonio Food Bank

You’ve heard of NIOSA. Now, it’s time to learn about NOSA Fest.

Live music, bull rides and more are part of the Tejas Rodeo fundraiser Sunday.

The initials stand for North of San Antonio, and the fest is an event that’s taking place on Oct. 25 to benefit the  San Antonio Food Bank. It’s happening at the Tejas Rodeo Company, 401 Obst Road, Bulverde, which is off Blanco Road about 10 miles north of Loop 1604.

“The idea behind NOSA Fest was a simple one, really,” says the event’s website, nosafest.com. “We took the two things we couldn’t live without, good music and even better food, and found a place for them to stretch their limbs a little.”

So, the day promises a lineup of music that includes Mingo Fishtrap, Band of Bandits, Octahedron, Fishermen and more. The music starts at 4:30 p.m. and continues until 1 a.m. The usual Saturday night rodeo will also take place at 7:30 p.m. for a little more entertainment.

As for the food, except some offerings from people involved in the Chef Cooperative, which includes Tejas Rodeo’s executive chef, Tyler Horstmann. But more food vendors are needed, he says. “We are asking for a $300 rental fee that will cover space reservation, security, marketing, waste disposal, and high visibility,” he says. To become involved, email info@nosafest.com or call (210) 313-1495.

The organizers are hoping to making this an annual event. The need is great, as the Food Bank serves 17 counties in Texas.

Bonnie Walker and I will be there autographing copies of “Barbecue Lover’s Texas.” And a silent auction is planned to raise even more money for the cause.

Advance tickets are only $12 for adults and $6 for children. To order your tickets, click here. Tickets on the day of the event will be $15 for adults OR $12 with three cans of food per adult; $8 for kids ages 6-12 OR $6 with 2 cans of food per child; and free for children ages 5 and under.

For more about the San Antonio Food Bank, click here.

 

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It’s Ice Cream Without Dairy, Sugar or Soy.

It’s Ice Cream Without Dairy, Sugar or Soy.

Your body is telling you to avoid sugar, dairy, eggs, gluten, soy and all of those ofter ingredients that just aren’t good for your system. But your soul is telling you that you have to have ice cream.

What do you do?

Turn to Kelly V. Brozyna’s “Dairy-Free Ice Cream” (Victory Belt Publishing, $29.95) for some answers.

Dairy-free vanilla ice cream

Dairy-free vanilla ice cream

Brozyna, who blogs at TheSpunkyCoconut.com, has offered up 75 recipes that show it’s possible to nurture and satisfying both body and soul without betraying your taste buds. She uses a basic recipe that includes full-fat coconut milk for richness, Medjool dates for sweetness and often a dose of milk made from almonds, cashews or hemp for additional texture. Don’t use too much of the latter, she says, because each version could easily overpower the ice cream.

She offers two versions for thickening the ice cream, if you choose. One is by using guar gum, the other is with gelatin, which, in case you need to be reminded, is not a vegetarian product.

She also offers some shopping tips, such as how to shop for coconut milk. She advises that you look for the canned Natural Value or Aroy-D Coconut Milk, which comes in a carton, because either of them have the cream that separates from the milk. That allows her to make whipped coconut cream. “Avoid other kinds of coconut milk in cartons, as they are too watery,” she says.

When you get started with Brozyna’s recipe for Vanilla Ice Cream and then move on, you’ll notice that she sticks to the basic outline, no matter the variation. That means the Pumpkin Ice Cream varies only in the addition of pumpkin purée and the spices used, while the Coffee Ice Cream uses a strong cup of java instead of the almond milk.

So, what flavors do you want to try? You can add fresh peaches to the vanilla blend. Or use your favorite sugar-free salted caramel sauce swirled in. Dairy-free chocolate chips, toasted almonds, ground peanuts or strawberries are all easy to make.

I tried the vanilla this week and was surprised at how good the flavor was, though the color was a little darker than might be expected from a vanilla ice cream (that’s from the dates). The texture was also a little thin, even though I had used gelatin to help thicken it. But these are minor problems that will likely be corrected in future batches, which I see happening if only because this treat is dairy-free, sugar-free and everything else, expect perhaps low-carb. But we can’t have everything, can we?

Vanilla Ice Cream

1 (1.35-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup (about 8) soft, pitted Medjool dates
1 1/2 cups almond, cashew or hemp milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Follow your ice cream maker's instructions.

Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Thickener:
1/2 teaspoon guar gum or 1 tablespoon gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water (optional)

Put the coconut milk and the dates in a blender and purée until smooth.

Add the almond, cashew or hemp milk and vanilla, plus thickener, if using.

Purée until smooth.

Freeze for about an hour or refrigerate until cold.

Pour into the ice cream machine and churn per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Eat right away or freeze until hard for pretty scoops.

Makes 1 to 1 1 /2 quarts.

Adapted from “Dairy-Free Ice Cream” with Kelly V. Brozyna

Pumpkin Ice Cream

1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 cup (about 8) soft, pitted Medjool dates
1 cup almond, cashew or hemp milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Thickener:
1/2 teaspoon guar gum or 1 tablespoon gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water (optional)

dairy-freePut the coconut milk and dates in a blender and purée until smooth.

Add the almond, cashew or hemp milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt, plus thickener, if using. Purée until smooth.

Freeze for about an hour or refrigerate until cold.

Pour into the ice cream machine and churn per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Eat right away or freeze until hard for pretty scoops.

Makes 1 to 1 1 /2 quarts.

Adapted from “Dairy-Free Ice Cream” with Kelly V. Brozyna

Coffee Ice Cream

1/2 cup whole coffee beans and 1 cup water (for a French press setup) or 3/4 up strong-brewed drip coffee
1/2 cup (about 8) soft, pitted Medjool dates
1 1/2 (13.5-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla

Thickener:
1/2 teaspoon guar gum or 1 tablespoon gelatin dissolved in 1/4 cup boiling water (optional)

If you’re using a French press, grind the coffee beans and add then to the French press. Add the water, just off the boil, and steep for 10 minutes. Press the coffee grounds down, then pour the coffee into a blender. Or use 3/4 cup strong-brewed drip coffee.

Add the dates to the blender and purée until smooth.

Add the coconut milk and vanilla, plus the thickener, if using. Purée until smooth.

Freeze for about an hour or refrigerate until cold.

Pour into the ice cream machine and churn per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Eat right away or freeze until hard for pretty scoops.

Makes 1 to 1 1 /2 quarts.

Adapted from “Dairy-Free Ice Cream” with Kelly V. Brozyna

 

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Griffin to Go: Judging a Margarita Competition Is Fun, Especially When the Drinks Are Good

Griffin to Go: Judging a Margarita Competition Is Fun, Especially When the Drinks Are Good

The booths get ready for the KISS Margarita Pour-Off.

The booths get ready for the KISS Margarita Pour-Off.

The 32nd KISS Margarita Pour-Off is a thing of the past, but the winner has a whole year to bask in the glory of serving up the best margarita.

Cucumber lime margaritas.

Cucumber lime margaritas.

You may not have heard of this year’s winner, 210 Kapone’s, a new nightspot at 1223 E. Houston St. So, the word is out, and it’s time to head there for a taste the next time you’re downtown. 210 Kapone’s also took the top prize for best decor.

In second place was last year’s winner, Matamoros Restaurant, 12844 I-10.

I had the honor and fun of judging for the third straight year. For the last two years, I judged the finals. This year, I got to taste all 17 entries in the semi-final round.

That may seem like a dream job, but it really is work, especially when you consider that,  of the 17 entries that we judged, I found only five that earned a score of 5 or above on a scale of 1 to 10 from me. In other words, less than one third of the entries made it to an average grade.

What went wrong?

Well, it all depends on what you think a margarita should taste like.

To me, freshness is a key factor. And there were far too many entries that tasted of cans, chemicals or artificial flavors.

Descriptors like “antifreeze” and “tin can” could be heard across the room as the judges sipped entry. Someone said a particularly awful margarita was reminiscent of “bong water,” someone said; I can’t corroborate that statement, but it was so bad that I’ll have to take their word for it.

Be careful of what you add to a margarita. Gummi worms don’t belong, no matter how cute you think they are.

Who made these beauties? The judges don't know.

Who made these beauties? The judges don’t know.

Watermelon was a big flavor this year, and that was not necessarily a good thing. Especially when the watermelon didn’t taste natural or look good. One drink had a chunk of watermelon floating in it that looked as if someone had already been eating it. Yikes.

Then again, I’m a purist. I don’t believe that sugar has a place in a margarita. I’ve never seen it listed as an ingredient in any form in any recipe that dates back more than 20 years. That’s right: No simple syrup, no agave nectar, no sweet-and-sour mix, no Sprite, no sugar on the rim.

Give me the taste of tequila, lime and orange, and I’m all set.

Here’s a version from one of my favorite mystery writers, Randy Wayne White, who writes the Doc Ford mysteries. He has also written a fun cookbook of Florida favorites, “Randy Wayne White’s Gulf Coast Cookbook: With Memories and Photos of Sanibel Island” (Globe Pequot Press, $19.95) and that includes a refreshing margarita.

Randy Wayne White’s Margarita

“I like to serve a variety of drinks in canning jars with lids,” White writes. “It is not just delicious, but it’s also really good exercise.”

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1 ounce triple sec
Juice from 2 fresh limes
Sea salt
Lime slice or mint to garnish

Place tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a canning jar with ice. Tighten the lid and shake vigorously. Serve with lime or mint garnish.

Makes 1 serving.

Adapted from “Randy Wayne White’s Gulf Coast Cookbook: With Memories and Photos of Sanibel Island”

 

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The Cookhouse Opens, Bringing a Taste of New Orleans to East Mistletoe

The Cookhouse Opens, Bringing a Taste of New Orleans to East Mistletoe

cookhouse sign

The revitalization of the North St. Mary’s Street area near U.S. 281 continues tonight with the opening of Pieter Sypesteyn‘s Cookhouse at 720 E. Mistletoe Ave.

Pieter Sypesteyn

Pieter Sypesteyn

The space, which previously housed Carmens de la Calle, will be the home of New Orleans food filtered through Sypesteyn‘s culinary talent.

The restaurant opens at 5 p.m. this Friday and Saturday. Next week, lunch will be added, and the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturday.

Sypesteyn‘s work is known to fans of food trucks in the city. His Where Y’At truck, parked most often at Alamo Street Eat Bar on South Alamo Street, has gathered a host of fans because of his po’boys, including the Peacemaker, which features a winning mix of fried oysters and crisp pork belly.

You’ll find that sometimes on the lunch menu, when the New Orleans sandwiches are offered with such filings as fried shrimp, fried catfish, hot roast beef, hot sauce and cheeseburger.

At dinner, entrees might include Sypesteyn‘s award-winning New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Paneed Pork Chops and charbroiled oysters. The lineup will change regularly with stuffed mirliton, a k a chayote squash and a real NOLA favorite, filled with shrimp and ham; roasted duck and dumplings; hanger steak with bone marrow butter; and, for the vegetarians in the house, tomato artichoke cannoli with handmade pasta.

Turtle soup; Gulf oysters; a wedge salad with bacon, pecans and blue cheese dressing; shrimp remoulade; and smoked duck boudin are among some of the other dishes you might find there.

For more on the Cookhouse, click here or call (210) 320-8211.

With Tycoon Flats, Faust, TBA and Candlelight all nearby (not to mention El Milagrito, which closes far too early in the day), this is a great time for a pub crawl through the area.

Attagirl in the works

attagirlSypesteyn‘s neighboring truck at Alamo Street Eat Bar is Chris Cullum’s Attaboy, known for its hamburgers made from freshly ground beef on a house-made bun and topped with other handmade treats. Cullum is going to be his neighbor again when he opens Attagirl Ice House at 726 E. Mistletoe Ave.

The space once housed Willard’s Jamaican Jerk and still has the barbecue pit out back, which Cullum is planning to put back into use. The menu is still under construction as renovations on the space continue, but Cullum is hoping to have the space open in October.

It’s Cullum’s latest venture after taking over Tucker’s Kozy Korner on East Houston Street, another area that is showing welcome signs of revival.

Carmens wants to come back

If you are among the crowd that misses Carmens de la Calle, the sangria, the tapas or the flamenco, then you may be interested in the fact that the search is on for a new location. To fund the new space, the owners will be launching a Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 17, according a post on Carmens’ Facebook page. Click here for more. (By the way, Sypesteyn used Kickstarter to get Cookhouse funded.)

Posted in Featured, Restaurants0 Comments

Luca Della Casa’s Star Is Shining

Luca Della Casa’s Star Is Shining

Think TV doesn’t change a person? Ask Luca Della Casa, who recently spent a season on the cooking show, “Food Network Star.” He emerged from the show in second place, as the runner-up to cowboy chef Lenny McNabb, and he says the experience has helped him become “a better version of myself.”

It’s not just talk. Those who knew Della Casa before the show can sense a difference in the way he carries himself. There’s a greater poise in his manner as he sits down for a chat or greets his customers. His face is more open and welcoming, as he flashes his now-famous, dimpled smile. There’s more of a connection when he carries on a conversation. And, yes, it’s all because of being on TV week in and week out for an entire season.

Luca Della Casa sits down for a talk at Nosh.

Luca Della Casa sits down for a talk at Nosh.

It wasn’t easy work. Della Casa wasn’t used to being “judged so directly,” as he calls it. When a Bobby Flay or an Alton Brown takes you to task with a camera rolling, it’s tough. So, the Italian chef who runs the kitchens at Silo Alamo Heights and Nosh on Austin Highway had to learn not to take everything on an emotional level. “I learned to accept criticism in a more constructive way,” he says.

He also had to learn how to keep his energy levels up because there might be a long lull between shots. He drank a lot of coffee, which wasn’t always the best answer because “I would get nervous waiting,” he says. That came out when he had to pour a sauce over a dish he had to prepare for the judges, and his hand started to shake so badly that Brown reached out to steady it. “I wanted to stop it, but there was no way,” he says.

Then there is the stress, part of which comes from the whole setup. “TV is unreal,” Della Casa says, adding that during the filming of “Food Network Star” “there were hundreds of people around us at every turn. It was worse at the very beginning because there were so many of us.”

Still, “Food Network Star” fans could see Della Casa’s progress happen slowly but deliberately. It began after he got kicked off early in the process because he had failed to connect with the camera while cooking. His food, as local fans will attest, won raves, but he just didn’t raise his head as he prepared his food. So, he went to the online redemption show, “Star Salvation.” After several weeks of winning those judges over with his panini, his culinary skills and his engaging personality, he earned his way back onto the main show.

More changes began occurring. His first episode back was in Las Vegas, and he found himself surrounded by gorgeous women who had really taken to his charm, his good looks and his accent. It was something that had not escaped the attention of the show’s third host, Giada de Laurentiis. A sex symbol was being born. He looks back on that episode with a sheepish grin. “I’m flattered,” he says of all the attention. “But I didn’t earn it. It wasn’t anything I did.” He credits his parents’ gene pools with the way he turned out and leaves it at that.

Luca Della Casa thanks San Antonio for the support he's received while he was on "Food Network Star."

Luca Della Casa thanks San Antonio for the support he’s received while he was on “Food Network Star.”

Della Casa gives plenty of credit to his wife, Marcella Algarra Della Casa, for the rest of his success on the show. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her,” he says. Marcella is an attorney who spends her some of her time addressing justices and juries, so she knows something about speaking in public. She drew on her background and Toastmasters to help him before more confident. “She told me, ‘You’ve got to get better at speaking in front of people,’” he says, adding that it helped him find himself in a way that made him become relaxed at ease in front of other celebrity chefs, his fellow contestants and the camera.

It helped that Della Casa is “a quick learner,” as he describes himself. His efforts, combined with his culinary skills, propelled him on to the finals, against McNabb and Nicole Gaffney. The outcome was voted on by viewers of the show, not the judges, and no one knew who would be the winner. “I thought Nicole was my first competition, which shows you what I know,” he says with a laugh. “I’m really happy for Lenny.”

This has been the latest chapter in Della Casa’s culinary journey from his hometown in Torino, Italy to the Canary Islands and then to Texas. “I didn’t go to culinary school,” he says. “I use the memory of certain flavors and I learned from other chefs,” as well as the grandmother he referred to often on “Food Network Star.”

“My food is the sum of all of these,” he says.

Ten years ago, he arrived in San Antonio to work for Massimo Pallottelli at Sage in the Fairmount Hotel. From there, he went to work for Andrew Weissman at Le Rêve and Il Sogno, and then Fralo’s before going to work at Silo and Nosh.

One night while visiting Copa Wine Bar on Stone Oak Parkway for a wine tasting, he noticed a woman who had come in to buy a bottle of wine. That turned out to be Marcella, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Luca Della Casa hopes his appearance on "Food Network Star" brings attention to San Antonio's culinary scene.

Luca Della Casa hopes his appearance on “Food Network Star” brings attention to San Antonio’s culinary scene.

When the opportunity to appear on “Food Network Star” arose, Della Casa pursued it vigorously; but he didn’t tell his boss, owner Patrick Richardson, until he had been accepted on the show. The chef was a bit nervous about that, but Richardson was excited for him and offered his support.

Della Casa is repaying that trust by pouring his energies into his work now that he’s back in town. “My first thoughts are about coming back to the restaurant,” he says. Fall menus are being planned and they could include some of the dishes he prepared on the show, dishes that made an appearance at a special meal Silo offered while the chef was still competing. There might even be a collaborative dinner with one of the other contestants from the show.

As if that’s not enough, Della Casa’s also helping local restaurateur and bar owner Chris Erck of Swig Martini Bar and Viva TacoLand, among other ventures, launch Panzanella Pizzeria, which will feature salads and pizza by the slice. The new eatery will open this fall with two locations, including one next to Erck’s Stay Golden Social Club on Pearl Parkway.

Della Casa is grateful for the encouragement he’s received from San Antonio throughout the “Food Network Season” and after it. “I couldn’t believe the kind of support I’ve received from everyone here and on social networks,” he says. “I feel blessed.”

Is there any more TV in Luca Della Casa’s future? “I’m confident that something good is going to come of it,” he says. “Where I am now is just the beginning.”

 

 

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Ask a Foodie: What Is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Ask a Foodie: What Is Pumpkin Pie Spice?

Q.: What does it mean when a recipe calls for “pumpkin pie spice”? Is this something special that I need to buy?

—K.H.

Season your pumpkin pie to suit your tastes.

Season your pumpkin pie to suit your tastes.

Pumpkin pie spice is a seasoning blend that you can buy in the store or you can make using the spices that you like in a pumpkin pie.

McCormick makes a version that features cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice plus some “sulfiting agents” to keep it shelf stable. A 1-ounce container sells for about $3.65 at H-E-B.

If you’re only going to make one or two pies a year, you might as well make your own from scratch. Here’s where you can personalize the blend to suit your taste. Before you start, think about what flavors you like in your pumpkin pie. Ground cinnamon is practically a given, and ginger, too. But what about allspice? Would you rather have ground cloves? And what about using mace instead of nutmeg?

These variations will change the nature of your pumpkin pie (and possibly your warm spiced cider punch, if you want to season that), so the best bet is to taste the blend before you use it. If there’s too much ginger or not enough nutmeg, you’ll notice that even more so when your pie is served.

So, here are a couple of pumpkin pie spice blends to get you started. Make only small batches (you can half these recipes, again adjusting to taste), so you won’t have any leftovers that need preserving. Just remember to be careful with spices such as cardamom and clove, both of which can overwhelm everything they’re in. Start small and build those up.

If you’re looking for a little heat to add to your pie, try a pinch or two of Raz el Hanôut, a Moroccan spice blend made up of warm spices but with a a lively touch of heat on the finish. It’s made from ginger, black pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, mace, cloves, cayenne pepper and turmeric, and just a touch of that will give you a whole new way of enjoying pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend I

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons ground allspice

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes 7 tablespoons.

Make your own pumpkin pie spice.

Make your own pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend II

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes a little more than 5 tablespoons.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend III

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix spices together. Use in your pumpkin pie recipe as directed.

Makes a little more than 5 tablespoons.

From John Griffin

 

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Add a Bacon and Onion Pie to Your Next Brunch

Add a Bacon and Onion Pie to Your Next Brunch

Bacon and Onion Pie

Bacon and Onion Pie

An invitation to a potluck brunch had me searching for something new and fun to try. That’s when I discovered Susan Spungen’s recipe for Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart, which became the basis for this variation. As much as I love making tarts, I really wanted to make a pie instead. That necessitated upping the amount of onions needed, and I increased the amount of bacon, too, for good measure. Plus, I decided to add some oil-cured olives to the cheese base to add a depth of flavor to the cheese base.

Bacon and Onion Pie

1 (9-inch) pie crust
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 small onions, cut in half lengthwise and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped, divided use
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup oil-cured olives, pitted and finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided use

Bacon and Onion Pie

Bacon and Onion Pie

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cover the pie crust with foil and weights. When oven is ready, pre-bake crust for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, remove foil and weights, and let rest until ready to use.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a medium frying pan over medium-high heat until fat is mostly rendered and bacon is crisp around edges. Transfer to paper towels to drain, and set aside, leaving 1 tablespoon bacon fat in pan. You may need to add olive oil if there is not 1 tablespoon left. Crumble bacon after cooling.

Add onions to pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 8 minutes. Turn heat to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon thyme and pinch of salt. Continue to cook until onions are soft and deep golden brown, about 20 minutes more.

Meanwhile, combine ricotta, egg yolks, olives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch of pepper, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme and 1/4 cup Parmigiano in a small bowl. Stir well to combine.

Spread ricotta mixture evenly on the bottom of tart shell. Arrange onions on top of ricotta and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano. Sprinkle bacon over top. Transfer to oven and bake until edges of filling are golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

Adapted from “Recipes: A Collection for the Modern Cook” by Susan Spungen

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Shrimp and Corn Pie:  A Lowcountry Classic

Shrimp and Corn Pie: A Lowcountry Classic

Shrimp and Corn Pie 3A friend at church recently gave me a copy of “Charleston Receipts,” which is the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print and a book that has been praised by several generations of food lovers and writers,  including Pat Conroy, since it appeared in 1950. My copy dates from the late 1970s, which means it’s far from the first edition, but it contains all of the original recipes that are still treasured in the South Carolina Lowcountry, from benne wafers to cooter soup. (The recipe for the latter which begins with “Kill cooter by chopping off head …”)

I may not be making that soup any time soon, but I have been longing to make the recipe for Shrimp and Corn Pie ever since I came across it.

This is a simple side dish to put together, as there aren’t many ingredients. That means you need the finest and freshest you can find. Don’t skimp on either the corn or the shrimp, or you’ll be able to taste it in every bite.

I doubled the recipe, which necessitated a longer cooking time in order for the custard set up. I turned it into a main course with a small green salad on the side.

Since the recipe didn’t specify what size shrimp to use, I used what I had on hand: colossal shrimp (15 to a pound). That was great for a main course. But if I were making this as a side dish, I would probably use something much smaller, maybe medium or medium large shrimp, so you can eat everything together easily without having to cut the shrimp before taking a bite.

The recipe also didn’t specify what size dish to bake this in. I used a small, 10 1/2 x 7-inch casserole dish for double the recipe.

Have fun playing around with the ingredients. Use crab meat instead of shrimp. Kick things up a notch by including 1/4 cup of onion and minced jalapeño sautéed in butter, or perhaps you could use cayenne pepper in addition to black pepper. Try adding crumbled bacon to the mix.

A word of warning: A very little mace goes a long way in this dish. If it’s not your favorite spice, think about leaving it out altogether.

Shrimp and Corn Pie

2 cups corn, grated or cut from cob or 1 (16-ounce) can of corn
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup cooked shrimp
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Mace, to taste

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

To grated corn, add eggs, butter, milk, shrimp, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning. Bake in a buttered casserole for 30 minutes or until the custard sets.

Makes 6 servings.

From Mrs. Rees F. Fraser (Mary Maybank)/”Charleston Receipts”

 

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