This week, the FDA released a report detailing the dangers of eating uncooked flour, telling consumers that they need to be on alert for raw flour of any brand. They went so far as to tell parents and caregivers not to allow children to play with homemade Play-Doh.
From the report:
Flour, regardless of the brand, can contain bacteria that cause disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials, is investigating an outbreak of infections that illustrates the dangers of eating raw dough. Dozens of people across the country have been sickened by a strain of bacteria called Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O121.
The investigation found that raw dough eaten or handled by some of the patients was made with General Mills flour produced in a Kansas City, Missouri, facility. Subsequent tests by the FDA linked bacteria in a flour sample to bacteria from people who had become ill.
Now that we’re in the thick of summer, that’s a question that gets tossed around in my head (and house) as we juggle camps, vacations, work-with-mom days and the like.
If you are looking for some ways to keep your kids’ brains stimulated and entertained this summer, you might check out a couple of historical cookbooks from Austinite Daniel Barnekow, who works in textbook publishing and runs a company called Sunflower Education.
A few years ago, Barnekow published two books, “Cooking Up Some World History” and “Cooking Up Some American History,” which teach American and world history through food — not just historically accurate recipes, but lessons about how the availability of ingredients changed as America grew or the role hardtack played during the Civil War, for instance. He says the books introduce students to the idea that food is an ever-evolving aspect of culture that is influenced by geography, science, technology and the movement of people.
Barnekow says that the books are particularly popular in the homeschooling circle but that teachers in traditional schools teach from them, too. You can order and learn more about the books, which cost about $15 each, at cookinguphistory.com.
This fall, Austin might be getting another farmers market. The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center is reaching out to local farmers and vendors who might want to participate in a market the center is hoping to start later this year.
The market will have a focus on ethnic diversity, says organizer Vanessa Castro, with an emphasis on preserving and promoting Latino culture and foodways.
For more information on becoming a vendor, contact Castro at 512-974-3728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In many ways, produce boxes paved the way for meal kits.
Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes have been around for a few decades now, but it’s only been in the past five years that they’ve gone somewhat mainstream. Customers buy boxes of vegetables, herbs and fruit — usually recurring through a home delivery subscription and directly from a farm — without much say about what goes in them, but that’s part of the appeal. Instead of picking out the same four vegetables from the grocery store, CSAs force you to try new ingredients and can really help you break out of a cooking rut.
For seven years, Austin-based Farmhouse Delivery has been selling CSA-like bushels of produce that it sources from a number of local farms, including Rain Lily, the East Austin farm where the company started. Last year, Farmhouse purchased Greenling, a competitor in the food delivery space that offered a similar service as well as meal kits, which include all the ingredients you’d need to make a certain dish at home.
After the acquisition, Farmhouse Delivery decided to reconfigure those meal kits so that they complement the bushels that the company was already selling to hundreds of cooks throughout Texas. (Farmhouse operates in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.) Instead of packing up every single grain of salt and ounce of vinegar, Farmhouse would prepare some of the components of a meal, including the sauces, rubs, marinades and dressings, at a commercial kitchen, which not only cut down on packaging — all those little plastic containers of ingredients has been one of my complaints about meal kits from the beginning — but also the amount of work the cook has to do at home.
Farmhouse hired Ren Garcia, a chef and butcher formerly of Kerbey Lane, Vespaio and Dai Due, to oversee what they are calling the Farmhouse Supper Club. The four dishes that are available every week change with the seasons and are developed to incorporate whatever produce is available at that time of year. Last week, they included pork ranchero enchiladas, lamb-stuffed summer squash, jerk grilled chicken and caramelized onion and blue cheese burgers. A few weeks ago, I got to try cheese ravioli with corn and basil that also came with a tomato bisque.
Instead of having to make the ravioli, pasta sauce and bisque, all those elements arrived on my doorstep ready to heat-and-eat. All I had to do was cut the corn kernels off the cob, chop the onion, chiffonade the basil, boil the pasta and heat the bisque. The ravioli, it turns out, are from Pasta & Co., the fresh pasta shop at 3502 Kerbey Lane that I don’t visit nearly as much as I should, and it was really nice to already have a high-quality creamy pasta sauce that I didn’t have to try to whip up myself on a weeknight. The tomato bisque was a good complement, especially because I didn’t have to dirty up my food processor to make it.
For the most part, Farmhouse sells these meal kits as add-ons to their weekly bushels, but you can also buy them separately for a slightly higher fee. The meals cost $10 per serving if you already buy a bushel, and $12 per serving if you don’t, with a minimum order of four servings, which is in line with the per-serving cost and minimums from national companies such as Blue Apron and Plated. For more information about the meal kits, bushels and other proteins and prepared foods you can order through Farmhouse, go to farmhousedelivery.com.
Cheese Ravioli with Corn, Squash and Basil
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, small diced
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1-2 small summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
8 oz. store-bought creamy pasta sauce
1/2 lb. Pasta & Co. cheese ravioli
3 oz. grated aged cheddar
Fresh basil, stems removed, chiffonade
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until onions are translucent. Add corn kernels and squash and continue to cook for 4 minutes. Add creamy pasta sauce and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.
Drop raviolis into the boiling water and stir. Boil for 5-6 minutes and drain.
Bring your cream sauce mix back to a simmer and add raviolis and aged cheddar. Toss gently to coat raviolis with the sauce, roughly 1 minute. Divide raviolis with sauce onto two plates, topping each with chiffonade basil. Serves 2.
— From Farmhouse Kitchen executive chef Ren Garcia
Tzatziki is such a refreshing dip, and with all those cucumbers, it’s perfect for summer. Jason Donoho, the culinary director at Verts, isn’t content to simply serve tzatziki with pita bread and call it a day.
In this new dip he’s serving at the restaurant, which has more than half a dozen Central Texas locations, you’ll find minced beets, which add color and an earthy aroma to the plain white yogurt.
It’s more pink that red, but with enough beets, you could turn it into a patriotic dip worthy of this weekend’s festivities.
2 pints plain yogurt
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and minced
1 cup cooked beets, minced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped fine
1/4 cup dried spearmint
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Chill for two hours and serve with warm pita bread and vegetables for dipping.
With an Irish mother and a Canadian father, Deb Roberts didn’t grow up with what she calls the “typical American family.”
They were living in Massachusetts and didn’t have much family in the States, so they adopted their neighbors. “They were quite worldly,” she remembers, and as Roberts grew older, she and her family started to travel more and more; as her world grew, so did her definition of “food.”
Roberts, who has lived in Texas for seven years, continues to cook from all the places she’s visited. “I fall back on French and Italian recipes because I’ve traveled there and they are classic,” she says. “But I enjoy worldly cuisine, and I try to adapt cuisines to our area.” It wasn’t long after living in Central Texas that she noticed the similarities with parts of France, especially with the wines and what kind of herbs and ingredients grow well here, including lavender.
Earlier this month, she made a Provençal Wine-Brined Beef Roast inspired by those connections and posted photos to Instagram as @the_domistress. (That’s the name of a food blog she hopes to launch this summer.) The dish calls for a 24-hour brine in white wine and Provençal aromatics — marjoram, rosemary and thyme — from her herb garden.
I love her technique of broiling the meat and vegetables just before serving, not only to reheat them but also to form a nice little crust on the top. It’s a farmhouse dish that works just as well here as it does in Provence.
Show us what you’re cooking by adding #Austin360Cooks to your posts on social media, or you can email me at email@example.com.
Provençal Wine-Brined Beef Roast
This is my recipe for a Provençal-style oven beef roast, or pot roast, that is the result of years of tinkering with flavors and methods. It may take some time, but that’s half the fun and can be prepared well ahead and reheats very nicely.
Here, I used a simple chuck roast, but a bottom round produces equally excellent results. When selecting your cut, be sure to check that it has some nice fat veining as this will ensure a moist roast. I employed classic French brining and braising techniques that encourage both a flavorful and tender result. In keeping with the theme, I used a dry French-style white wine, a sauvignon blanc that I purchased locally from Fall Creek Vineyards.
The roast can be brined for several days, if you have the patience, but I have found, however, 24 hours is perfectly sufficient. Should you choose to brine it any longer than 24 hours be sure your meat is fully submerged in the brining solution as this will help impede it from becoming spoiled through the introduction of bacteria formed from exposure to air. I often weight the top of the roast with a heavy lid that fits inside the circumference of the pot.
— Deb Roberts
For the brine:
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1 bottle (about 3 1/2 cups) dry white wine, larger the roast the more wine necessary to submerge it
1/2 cup olive oil
2 yellow onions, quartered
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh marjoram
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. whole peppercorn
1 tsp. whole allspice
2 bay leaves
3 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 (5 to 6 lb.) chuck or bottom round beef roast, trimmed
For the roast:
3 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup dry vermouth
3 to 4 cups beef stock, enough to cover roast half way up
2 yellow onions, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lb. whole fingerling potatoes
4 large carrots, cut into 2-inch segments
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 sprigs each, fresh rosemary, marjoram and thyme
2 to 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup leaves of fresh flat leaf parsley to garnish
In a deep casserole dish or a vessel that will adequately submerge the meat within the brine mixture (a brining bag or oversized heavy duty zip bag works also) mix ingredients of the brine mixture and add the roast. Submerge the roast beneath the surface of the brine. Refrigerate for 24 hours or up to 3 days. There is no need to turn.
To cook the roast: Heat the oven to 285 degrees. In a small bowl, blend together flour, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Set aside. Remove roast from brine and discard liquid. Pat dry roast. Evenly coat the beef with the flour mixture.
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the roast to the pot and sear each side about a minute. Remove roast to a plate to rest. Add quartered onions to the pot and cook for an additional minute.
Add the vermouth and about 3/4 cup of the stock to the pot and with a whisk, deglaze the bottom of the pot making sure to lift all the yummy goodness. Carefully add your roast back into the pot. Add remaining vegetables and herbs and cover with enough stock to go half way up the roast.
Cover and cook for about 4 hours or until fork tender, check the status 30 minutes prior. Each cut is slightly different,; so start checking after 3 hours.
Once appropriate tenderness is achieved, remove pot from oven and with a slotted spoon remove roast to a board to rest. Fish out the vegetables and place in a shallow roasting pan and set aside. If desired, pour the juices from the pot into a pitcher-type fat separator, drain excess fat and return the liquid to the pot. This step is advisable, but not necessary.
(Hint: If you do not own a fat separator and if time allows, transfer the liquid to a casserole dish and place in freezer for about an hour at least; the fat will rise to the surface and can be easily removed.)
After about 30 minutes or sufficient time to allow roast to be handled, cut out and remove any excess fat and sinewy membranes, even if it means dismantling the roast some. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add equal parts cold water and cornstarch and stir with a fork forming a slurry. Return pot and liquid to stove top and over medium-high heat reduce until the juices are rich and emboldened, if they are not already.
A few tablespoons at a time, add cornstarch to the gravy liquid while whisking vigorously, allowing it to boil between additions and until desired thickness is achieved. Gravy will continue to thicken as it cools. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off heat and return the roast to the pot. Heat oven to 550 degrees or broil. Place both roast and gravy pot under the broiler alongside the pan of vegetables. Watching continuously, allow the vegetables to turn golden brown and the surface of the roast to form a toasty top, about 2 to 4 minutes depending on the heat of your oven.
Remove vegetables and roast from the oven. Transfer roast to a deep serving dish and ladle in vegetables and gravy. Garnish with parsley if desired.
The London-based cookbook writer Diana Henry, who is also a food writer for the Sunday Telegraph, has written nine cookbooks in the past 15 years.
Like most Brits, she’s been mulling last week’s so-called Brexit on Twitter, where she posts as @dianahenryfood and posts all kinds of cool insights into her cooking.
It’s always a joy when one of Henry’s books hits my desk. She tends to write single-subject books, based on an idea or a general subset of flavors, not a fixed dish such as soups or desserts.
Each is more interesting than the last — her most recent book was called “A Bird in the Hand” and made chicken the most intriguing protein in the world — and it all started with “Crazy Water Pickled Lemons,” which focused on the lush, rich tastes and aromas of the Middle East, Mediterranean and North Africa.
The book, originally published in the UK in 2001 and out of print for a few years, has been re-released in paperback, and Henry continues to write a food column for the newspaper.
Of this lavender, orange and almond cake, she wrote back in that debut book: “I love the very idea of this cake, never mind its taste. The mixture of lavender flowers with oranges and almonds just reeks of picnics, hot sun and fields of blossom. Making it really lifts your spirits.”
Use fresh lavender if you can, and yes, you should use a different coffee grinder from the one you use to grind your coffee.
Lavender, Orange and Almond Cake
4 tsp. dried lavender buds, or flowers (or about 8 sprigs fresh)
1 1/8 cups (9 oz.) superfine sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (9 oz.) unsalted butter
Juice and finely grated rind of 2 oranges
4 eggs, beaten
1 2/3 cup (7 oz.) self-rising flour, sifted
2/3 cup (2 oz.) blanched almonds, freshly ground
For the icing:
1 1/4 cup (10 1/2 oz.) cream or ricotta cheese
2/3 cup (2 1/2 oz.) powdered sugar
Finely grated rind of 1 orange, for garnish
Sifted superfine sugar, for garnish
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line and grease a springform cake pan.
Put the lavender and sugar in a coffee grinder (or a food processor if you don’t have a coffee grinder, though you won’t get such a fine powder) and process to a powder. Cream the butter and lavender sugar together until light and fluffy and then add the orange rind and juice and the eggs. Beat until well-combined, adding a spoonful or two of the flour if the mixture begins to look curdled. Fold in flour and ground almonds.
Pour batter into springform cake pan and bake for 40 minutes. Test if the cake is cooked by piercing it with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean it is ready. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn it out on to a wire rack.
To make the icing, mix cream or ricotta cheese with powdered sugar and orange rind. Set aside. Use a zester to remove the rind from the oranges and mix together in a small bowl with a little superfine sugar.
Top the cake with the cream cheese or ricotta icing and garnish with a sprinkle of the orange rind and sugar mixture. Serves 8 to 10.
Nola McKey wants you to cook like your grandmother.
As much as she loves the way American food has matured over the past few decades, there’s something to be said about old recipes, even if they aren’t as new and shiny as what you might find all over the internet.
McKey, a former senior editor at Texas Highways magazine, has been collecting family recipes from all over Texas for her new book, “From Tea Cakes to Tamales: Third-Generation Texas Recipes” by Nola McKey (Texas A&M University, $29.95). McKey and several of her recipe contributors will be at BookPeople at 3 p.m. June 26 for a book signing and talk.
“Heirloom recipes have an amazing power to link us to past generations,” she says. She recalls a time when her son was in elementary school and, at 7:30 p.m. one weeknight, he announced that he needed a traditional family dish to take to school the next day. “My grandmother’s tea cake came to mind,” she says, but she hadn’t ever cooked it. She dug up the recipe from her collection, and as she started to prepare the cake, memories started coming back to her.
“When they came out of the oven and I tasted them, I could almost see my grandmother standing there in the kitchen, with her long braid coiled at the back of her neck, wearing a long-sleeve print dress and an apron. It was like bringing my grandma back,” she says.
Making those tea cakes 20 years ago prompted her to start collecting other heritage recipes from Texans of all ethnic backgrounds all over the state. When she retired from the magazine a few years ago, she started compiling those recipes and the stories that came with them in a book that not only preserves the more than 100 dishes but also inspires cooks to embrace their own culinary past.
She wants to encourage people to ask their relatives as many questions as possible about favorite family recipes so the dishes don’t get lost in time. In the book, she includes a chapter about what kinds of questions to ask and how to convert recipes that were written a century ago into language and measurements that make more sense today. (“Butter the size of an egg” is about 1/4 cup, for instance.)
“Recipes that have lasted this long are usually good recipes,” she says. “They usually have good stories associated with them, too.”
Grandmother’s Creamy-Sour Potato Salad
This potato salad recipe is from Alpha Mae McLendon Amerine Stone, who lived from 1889 to 1981 in Milam and Dallas counties. It was passed down to her granddaughter, Jan Pritchett Litvin. “Grandmother continuously told us that the recipe had been in the McLendon family for nine generations,” says Litvin, “all the way back to the late 1600s in (what became) Anson County, N.C., where our ancestor Dennis McLendon was a judge.” According to Litvin, the recipe originated with Dennis’ family and has been passed down through the generations.
McKey says that the timing is important when making this salad because once the potatoes are cooked, you have to work quickly. Make the sauce first, and be sure to have the pickles and onions chopped and the eggs boiled and peeled ahead of time, too. If you use commercial pickles, consider omitting the salt since they’re often saltier than homemade.
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. prepared mustard
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
5 lb. red potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium sour pickles, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 boiled eggs, peeled
Mix first six ingredients together to make the sauce and refrigerate.
Boil potatoes until fork-tender. Immediately drain and then mash potatoes thoroughly, using the same pot. Quickly stir in half of the refrigerated sauce while potatoes are still hot. Gradually add enough of the remaining sauce until mixture resembles a thick cake batter. (Discard any remaining sauce.) Stir in pickles and onions and pour mixture into a large bowl. Grate boiled eggs over the top. Refrigerate salad overnight, or at least 6 to 7 hours until thoroughly cooled. Salad will thicken as it cools. Makes 8 large servings.
The James Beard Foundation announced today the recipients of the sixth annual JBF Leadership Awards, an honor the organization gives out every year to acknowledge the important work that happens outside the restaurant world.
(The Beard Foundation, you’ll remember, honors the country’s top chefs in a ceremony every May. In recent years, Aaron Franklin, Paul Qui and Tyson Cole have all taken top honors in the Best Chef Southwest category.)
This fall, Austinite Raj Patel, who teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, will be one of six people to win a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, which spotlight the important and complex realms of sustainability, food access, and public health.
The other winners this year are Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitez, Co-founders of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, National Black Farmers Association president John Boyd, Jr., Small Planet Institute founder Anna Lappé and Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern. The honorees will be featured at a dinner ceremony on Oct. 17 in New York City.
In 2009, the early years of the Austin food blogging community, I met Ryan Adams and Paul Czarkowski, two tech guys by day and food bloggers by night.
They bonded over a love of sous vide and nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson, and though they know far more about poaching eggs in a vacuum seal and how to cook offal, they let me tag along and ask lots of questions at the feasts they would host.
Seven years later, both Adams and Czarkowski have transitioned out of traditional food blogging, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped cooking. Czarkowski posts lots of great cooking pictures in our #Austin360Cooks social media project, including a recent brisket that was nearly too big for his Big Green Egg, and cheese and Vegemite rolls from his native Australia.
Last week, Czarkowski (@paulczar on Instagram) posted a few photos of a bacon peach cobbler that caught my eye. I’ve been looking for peach cake recipes for the next installment in our Year of Baking project, and his cobbler looked a lot like some dump cake recipes I’ve found. I asked him where the recipe came from, and he sent a link to a 2009 blog post that Adams wrote not long after his grandmother died.
Ruby Lee Adams lived in Dallas and loved to cook. “She was an important influence on my life and my cooking,” Adams wrote, reflecting on her life as he shared her tried-and-true recipe for cobbler. “I suppose it’s easier now that some time has passed, and writing about some of her beloved recipes helps as well. I have fond memories of watching cobblers bake in my grandmother’s oven, enjoying the kitchen magic when the batter would rise and encompass the fruit. This might be my favorite recipe of all time.”
Ruby Lee Adams used to make it with blackberries, cherries and peaches, or pretty much any frozen fruit she might find at the store. But bacon? That was Czarkowski’s twist. He baked a few sheets of bacon and then crumbled some of the pieces in with the batter. What would Grandma Adams think of this 21st century adaptation of her dish?
“She’d find it hysterical,” Adams says.
1 stick butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/2 cup sugar to toss with fruit
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup milk
2 cups any fruit, fresh or defrosted
Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and pour into an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish. Set dish aside.
Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar and baking powder. Add the milk and mix until everything is blended together evenly. If you find that you need more milk to achieve a decent batter-like consistency, just add a little at a time.
Pour the batter into the baking dish over the butter. Do not mix the batter and the butter. Combine the two cups of fruit with the 1/2 cup of sugar and pour that into the baking dish on top of the butter and batter, but do not stir. Place the baking dish in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.