Why Deb O’Keefe loves probiotics and Prince Harry but won’t be watching the royal wedding

In yet another example of why I love Austin, radio show host Deb O’Keefe didn’t hesitate to say yes when I invited her over to my house to try a jackfruit.

We didn’t end up trying one of those large, green spiky fruits on this week’s livestream, but she was also down to taste whatever I showed up with, so we ended up with a slate of vegan products, including the Austin-based Celeste’s Best vegan cookie dough, Lisanatti almond “mozzarella,” The Honest Stand’s vegan nacho cheese dip and Wheatsville’s spicy buffalo popcorn chicken, which O’Keefe, a longtime ovo-pescatarian, had amazingly never had.

In the video, you can see how she reacted to these popular tofu bites, which I discovered are now sold hot and in small containers for easy-to-go snacking at the South Lamar location. I was surprised by how good the almond “mozzarella” and cashew-based nacho dip tasted, and it was fun to hear the native Brit’s perspective on eating raw cookie dough, her love of anything and everything with probiotics and the global status of the princess-to-be and her (surprisingly handsome) prince.

She won’t be watching the big event this weekend, however. She’s training for a body building competition later this year and has a workout already on the schedule. Will she watch the highlights? Of course.

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You’ve heard about slow food, but what about ‘slow money’? Find out at dinner, talk with Woody Tasch

Slow food inspired an entire generation of eaters and food businesses, but about 10 years ago, influencers in the financial world started picking up on the locavore ethos.

Woody Tasch is the founder of the “Slow Money” movement, which aims to bring the ideals of the local food movement into investing. Contributed by Slow Money.

One of them, Woody Tasch, coined the term “Slow Money” in his 2008 book on a more organic way of funding food startups, and since then, more than two dozen investment clubs and networking groups have started across the country.

With two events in Austin this weekend, Tasch will be sharing about ideas and concepts from his newest book, “Soil: Notes Towards the Theory and Practice of Nurture Capital.”

The first is a free book signing at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 20, at the Central Library downtown, and the second is a dinner at Eden East and Springdale Farm on Monday, May 21.

​Austin Foodshed Investors is hosting the dinner, which will bring together food entrepreneurs and investors to learn about the personal impact investing and the Slow Money ideals, as well as the local community that has sprouted up around them. According to AFI, which has grown significantly in recent years, local companies that have benefited from Slow Money investments include Richardson Farms, Cat Spring Yaupon, Eden’s Organic Nursery and Bola Pizza.

Tickets to the Slow Money/AFI dinner on Monday night cost $150, and you can find them at afidinner.eventbrite.com.





Up your picnic, potluck game with this pimiento cheese pasta salad

If death is unavoidable, so is funeral food.

The desire to make food for a grieving family is embedded deep within us, especially if you live in the South, says cookbook author Perre Coleman Magness. The Memphis, Tenn.-based author recently published “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist” (Countryman Press, $22.95), which honors the long-held tradition of bringing food and comfort to people who have lost a loved one.

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In her research, Magness found out that fried chicken is still the granddaddy of funeral foods and that plenty of cooks, however well-intentioned, are still dropping off Jell-O salads for friends in grief. This pimiento cheese salad would be a welcome sight on many potluck tables and picnic blankets, not just a memorial service.

Pimiento Cheese Pasta Salad

I never really thought of pasta salad as a funeral food until I was attending a wedding at a very, very small church in a very, very small Mississippi town. As I was waiting in the vestibule to be ushered down the aisle, I glanced at the church bulletin board and saw a sign-up sheet for the funeral reception of a congregation member. Three people had signed up to bring macaroni salad.

— Perre Coleman Magness

10 strips bacon
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons cider vinegar, divided
7 green onions, white and light green parts only
3 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
2 (7-ounce) jars diced pimientos, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over medium-high heat until very crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of water with 2 tablespoons vinegar, according to the package instructions, until cooked through. Drain the pasta, rinse it with cool water, and drain well again. Return the pasta to the pot and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and the 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. Stir to coat the pasta well and leave to sit for 15 minutes.

Place 4 of the green onions, the chives and the parsley in a food processor or blender and pulse to chop finely. Add the buttermilk, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper, and blend until smooth and combined. Pour the dressing over the macaroni and stir gently to coat. Add the grated cheese, drained pimientos and cooked bacon and stir to distribute.

Finely chop the remaining green onions and add onions and celery, if using, to the salad, stirring to combine. The dressing will absorb and thicken as it chills, so don’t worry if it looks a little loose. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Cover the salad and refrigerate until chilled. The salad will keep for three days covered and refrigerated. You can stir in a little more buttermilk to loosen the salad up before serving. Serves 10.

— From “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist” by Perre Coleman Magness (Countryman Press, $22.95)

James Beard-winning Alon Shaya to talk about new cookbook at Central Library on Monday

We’re seeing more and more chefs and cookbook authors booked at the downtown library, and tonight, food lovers have a chance to hear from  esteemed chef Alon Shaya.

Chef Alon Shaya will be in Austin on May 14 for an appearance at the Central Library downtown. Contributed by Rush Jagoe.

The James Beard-winning Shaya, who was born in Israel and immigrated to Philadelphia when he was four, gained U.S. fame in New Orleans, where his restaurant Shaya, won the Beard award for Best New Restaurant in 2016, a year after his 2015 award for “Best Chef: South.”

But these days, Shaya has pivoted away from New Orleans after a trademark dispute with the Besh Restaurant group left him without a job at his eponymous restaurant. (Shaya has said he was fired after speaking out about sexual harassment allegations within the Besh group, which also fired its namesake chef John Besh, amid the allegations.)

Even though there’s a trademark lawsuit pending over the use of his name at the New Orleans restaurant, Shaya is keeping his eyes focused on the future with a new restaurant in the works in Denver. He’s also in the middle of a book tour for his debut cookbook, “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” (Knopf, $35), which includes a stop today at the Central Library downtown, 710 W. Cesar Chavez St.

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At 7 p.m., Shaya will chat with CultureMap writer Adam Boles about what modern Israeli-American cuisine looks like and Shaya’s journey from Israel to Philadelphia, Italy, back to Israel and then New Orleans. Before opening Israeli restaurants, Shaya specialized in Italian cuisine, which is why you’ll find this recipe for gnocchi and tomato sauce in the new book. It’s the perfect way to use up some of those summer tomatoes that are starting to show up at the farmers markets and in CSA boxes.


Despite my angst over the failed gnocchi in St. Louis, I did eventually learn how to make them well. The lesson I took from them is: face your fears and conquer the food that intimidates you most; you may not win the first battle, but you’ll win the war! The key is to commit to the process. Be precise about the weight of your peeled potatoes (too much or too little will alter the final texture); use a potato ricer or food mill, and work rapidly, while everything is warm, since the starches get gummy if you beat them up or allow them to cool. Therefore, it’s crucial to get your ingredients and equipment ready to go before you start. Take those little steps, be sure not to overwork the dough, and you’ll get the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi you’ve ever had.

Because time is of the essence whenever you cook potatoes, you get the best results when you make a relatively small batch — this recipe makes four portions. But because the gnocchi can be made in advance, you can make two or three batches, then sauce them all at once. Each batch will get easier, as the process becomes more intuitive. For all that focus, I like to pair this with something effortless that allows the gnocchi to really shine. Look no further than my fast tomato sauce (recipe follows). Other great options would be brown butter or even a really good olive oil.

— Alon Shaya

This gnocchi in a fast tomato sauce is from “Shaya” by Alon Shaya. Contributed by Rush Jagoe.


1 gallon plus 2 quarts water, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, divided
2 or 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes (18 ounces peeled)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 egg yolks
1 1/3 cup all- purpose flour, preferably White Lily, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 recipe fast tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Fill a pot with 1 gallon water and 2 tablespoons salt, and let it come to a boil. Cover the pot and leave it on low heat, so it’s ready when you need it.

Peel the potatoes, and measure out exactly 18 ounces. Cut them into eighths, place them in a large ovenproof pot or saucepan, cover them with 2 quarts cold water, and put the pan over high heat. Once the water boils, decrease the heat to medium, and simmer until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, 10 to 12 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place them back in the ovenproof pot. Bake until they’re rid of excess moisture, 4 to 5 minutes. While they bake, use a fork to beat together the butter and yolks until they’re as smooth as you can get them; set the bowl aside.

As soon as the potatoes are out of the oven, pass them through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl, making sure you scrape the bottom. Fold in the butter mixture until it’s incorporated, then add the flour, nutmeg, and last
1⁄2 teaspoon salt all at once, using your spatula to cut these ingredients in with minimal stirring. It’ll look crumbly, almost like pie crust.

Generously our an unrimmed baking sheet and your work surface. Dump the dough onto the surface, and gently press it into a ball. Cut it in quarters, and work with one piece
at a time, leaving the rest covered with a dish towel to stay warm.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, skinny log, about 3/4-inch wide; dust with our as you work, to prevent it from sticking. With a floured paring knife or bench scraper, cut the dough into 3/4-inch dumplings, keeping the blade clean as you work. Add all the dumplings to the baking sheet, and repeat with the rest of the dough, working quickly so the potatoes don’t get too starchy as they cool.

Shape the gnocchi, one at a time, by pressing the dumpling between the pad of your thumb and a gnocchi board or the back of a fork. Roll it steadily, parallel to the board’s ridges or the fork’s tines, so it curls around itself.

Gently drop the gnocchi from the baking sheet into the boiling water. A bench scraper or wide spatula can help you make sure they aren’t misshapen in transit. Watch for them to oat—should be about 1 minute—then cook for another 30 seconds. They’re done when the centers resemble pound cake, with the same consistency throughout. Drain, and toss with the olive oil.

At this point, you can add the gnocchi to the sauce and eat them, or refrigerate them in an airtight container for a day or two. To reheat: Drop them into boiling water for about 20 seconds, just until they’re warm all the way through, before adding sauce; reheating them this way restores the light, fluffy texture. Top with plenty of Parmesan to serve.

Fast Tomato Sauce

This is my go-to pasta sauce, as fast as it is delicious. Make it with the best in-season tomatoes you can find—the screaming-hot oil allows you to hold on to their fresh, raw sweetness and acidity while concentrating them into a thick sauce. Needless to say, this sauce is good on any pasta you feel like making, so don’t limit it to showstoppers like gnocchi. Just be sure you wear an apron, so you don’t get tomatoes and oil splattered on your clothes!

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
9 fresh basil leaves, torn
3/4 teaspoon Morton kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet with high sides or a Dutch oven over high heat, and cook until it’s smoking-hot. Being extremely careful, add the tomatoes and garlic; they will give off a lot of smoke as soon as they hit the oil, so it’s easiest to have the tomatoes on a flexible cutting board or in a bowl that you can dump from.

Use your spoon to spread the tomatoes in a single layer, then add the basil, salt, and red pepper. Give everything a good stir, and cook another 4 to 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. 
Serves 4.

— From “Shaya: An Odyssey of Food, My Journey Back to Israel” by Alon Shaya (Knopf, $35)


‘Wicked Healthy’ author to host plant-based cooking demo at new library

In 2008, brothers Derek and Chad Sarno, who grew up in New England, founded Wicked Healthy, a website with recipes and videos for making their signature “80 percent healthy, 20 percent wicked” lifestyle. They are “plant pushers, not meat shamers” with years of chef experience in restaurants and global grocery chains.

Derek, ,left, and Chad Sarno are brothers and chefs who work in the grocery industry, and they have a new plant-based cookbook called “Wicked Healthy.” Contributed by Eva Kosmas Flores

Derek Sarno, the former senior global executive chef for Whole Foods who is the director of plant-based innovation at the U.K. grocer Tesco, has also farmed and worked at a Buddhist monastery, and Chad Sarno, who is based in Austin and also used to work for Whole Foods, is the VP of culinary at Good Catch Foods, a plant-based seafood line that will launch later this year.

These “scallops” from “Wicked Healthy” are made from king oyster mushrooms. Contributed by Eva Kosmas Flores.

Chad Sarno had previously written a cookbook, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen,” with Kris Carr, but “The Wicked Healthy Cookbook: Free. From. Animals.” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30) is the first Wicked Healthy book. The book is a compilation of somewhat sophisticated recipes for chef-worthy vegan dishes, like king oyster mushroom “scallops” with shaved asparagus or these corn dumplings in a coconut corn broth (recipe below), but the authors and editors tripped up by including “Crack Corn,” an insensitive play on the addictive nature of the infamous drug.

Chad Sarno will be hosting several local book events in the coming weeks, including a cooking demo at the Austin Central Library downtown at 6:30 p.m. May 21, a book signing at BookPeople at 7 p.m. June 5 and a Father’s Day event from 10 to 3 p.m. June 17 at Skull and Cakebones Craft Bakery in Dripping Springs. (Tickets to the Father’s Day event cost $20 for adults and $10 for kids ages 5 to 12.)

Corn infuses the dumplings and the broth of this summer dish from “Wicked Healthy.” Contributed by Eva Kosmas Flores

Corn Dumplings in Coconut Corn Broth

Dumplings are hands-down my favorite finger food. They’re also perfect as a first course in a small bath of flavorful broth. Save these dumplings for the height of summer when sweet corn is super fresh. Some fresh corn shows up in the creamy filling and some in the corn broth, which you make by simmering the corncobs in coconut milk with lemongrass and other aromatics. When you nestle the dumplings in a small bowl of broth with a few drops of chile oil and some Thai basil leaves, they make a sensual little starter.

A tip: When the corn on the cob is tender, after 10 to 15 minutes of simmering, you could just take the cobs out of the broth and gnaw the corn off the cobs. But you want the naked cobs to go back in the broth for more flavor. So…if it’s all in the family and you don’t mind re-using the gnawed-down cobs, give them a quick rinse, then add them back to the broth. Or simply cut the tender kernels from the cobs as directed and serve the corn as loose kernels. You’ll get about 5 cups corn kernels. You can keep them in the fridge for a few days or cool completely and freeze them for several weeks.

Look for freeze-dried corn in the grain aisle of your market. We’re partial to the taste and texture of Karen’s Naturals freeze-dried corn. If you can’t find it, the recipe works fine without the freeze-dried corn—it’s just a little lighter on corn flavor.



1/4 cup raw cashews
2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen sweet corn
3 tablespoons plant-based butter
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 cup freeze-dried corn (see tip in headnote)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1 teaspoon minced or thinly sliced red chile
2 teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 to 1 1/2 packages (12 ounces each) round eggless dumpling skins, about 3 1/2-inch diameter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Spray oil for steaming, or cabbage leaves or bamboo leaves
1 1/2 to 2 cups Coconut Corn Broth (see recipe below)
Chile oil, for garnish
Several small Thai basil leaves or more sliced green onions, for garnish

 To make the filling, soak the cashews in water to cover at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Drain and rinse. You’ll add these later to the filling.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Set up a bowl of ice water. Drop the fresh or frozen corn in the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. Use a spider strainer to transfer the corn to the ice water. Let cool for a minute or two, then transfer 2 cups of the corn to a blender (set aside the remaining 1/2 cup kernels).

Add the butter to the blender and blend until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the drained cashews and garlic and blend until smooth. The puree should be nice and thick. Scrape it into a mixing bowl.

Grind the freeze-dried corn in a clean spice mill or coffee grinder to a somewhat-coarse texture, similar to cornmeal. Add to the cashew cream in the mixing bowl along with the reserved corn kernels, green onions, lemongrass, chile, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

To assemble the dumplings, set the bowl of filling, a small cup of water, your dumpling skins, and a baking sheet on a work surface. Scatter some cornstarch over the baking sheet (to help keep the dumplings from sticking to the pan).

For each dumpling, mound about a tablespoon of filling in the center. Dip your finger in the water and moisten the entire edge of the dumpling skin. For a shumai-style fold, bring all the sides up to the top and twist gently to make a small round purse. Pinch just under the top opening of the purse to gently close it. You should have enough filling to make 30 to 40 dumplings.

These dumplings are best steamed: Spray a steamer basket with oil or line with cabbage leaves or bamboo leaves to prevent sticking. Put the dumplings in the steamer in batches, place over simmering water, cover, and steam until the dumplings are tender, about 3 minutes.

Gather 6 to 8 small serving bowls and place 4 or 5 dumplings in the center of each. Pour about ¼ cup broth around the dumplings in each bowl so a little broth comes up the sides of the dumplings. Anoint each bowl with a few drops of chile oil and a couple of basil leaves (or sliced green onions).

Coconut Corn Broth

6 large ears corn, preferably organic and in season, shucked
3 quarts water
1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk or coconut cream
1 jalapeño chile, halved lengthwise (remove the seeds for less heat)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
1/4 cup garlic cloves (8 to 12 cloves), crushed with the flat of your knife
10 fresh mint sprigs, stems and all
1 bay leaf
1 star anise, optional
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 lime, juiced

Snap or cut the ears of corn in half. Bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the corn and everything else except the lime juice. Cut the heat to medium, then bring the liquid to a slow simmer. Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the corncobs and cut the kernels from the cobs (see headnote). Return the naked cobs to the broth along with the lime juice. Continue simmering gently over medium heat for another 30 minutes. The liquid will reduce in volume by about one-fourth, which is fine. Shut off the heat and let everything cool down a bit in the pot. Strain the warm broth through a fine-mesh strainer into quart containers, then use immediately or refrigerate for a week or two before using.

— From “The Wicked Healthy Cookbook: Free. From. Animals.” by Chad Sarno and Derek Sarno (Grand Central Life & Style, $30)

Farm-to-table dinner to feature the reveal of a tiny house made from a dairy truck

Green Gate Farms has always been known for the historic farmhouse that sits on its far East Austin property, but now its River Farm, located at 176 Howard Lane in Bastrop, has a unique home that is literally one-of-a-kind.

Green Gate Farms, which recently celebrated 10 years in Austin, has a second River Farm property near Bastrop that will host a farm-to-table dinner on May 12 that includes the reveal of a tiny home created from old dairy trucks. Contributed by Green Gate Farms.

This weekend, the farm will reveal its new tiny home, which was created using repurposed dairy trucks for a television show called “You Can’t Turn That into a House.” The solar-powered, off-grid home will be part of a larger farm tour that takes place before a farm-t0-table dinner on Saturday night. They will also screen part of the TV show.

The event is from 5 to 9 p.m. and tickets cost $100. To purchase tickets or learn more, visit the event page.

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit New Farm Institute, Green Gate Farms’ educational non-profit organization, and the farm dinner is in partnership with Escoffier Culinary School, Native Solar, Hannah Bakery, Copper Shot Distillery and other local food artisans.

“Red Arrow Productions did an amazing job creating an innovative, sustainable tiny house that we want to share as part of our new farm-based education programming,” says Green Gate co-founder Skip Connett said in a release. “Escoffier’s Farm-to-Table Program has been a long-time partner in our farm-based education efforts and we are excited to celebrate this five-year relationship with a unique culmination dinner prepared by the school’s chefs and students using Green Gate products.”

Concha feel the love: Where to find a heart-shaped pan dulce for Mother’s Day

Heart-shaped foods aren’t only popular around Valentine’s Day.

For Mother’s Day, Fiesta is selling these heart-shaped pan dulces, also known as conchas or, as Fiesta puts it, “corazonchas.” Contributed by Fiesta

To celebrate Mother’s Day this week, Fiesta is selling heart-shaped conchas — those colorful pan dulces found at Mexican bakeries and many everyday grocery stores alike — at both its Austin locations along Interstate 35, one near 38th Street and another at Stassney.

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Starting today through May 13, you can buy these “corazonchas” for 65 cents each or an 8-pack for $2.99 at all the Fiesta stores in Texas. You’ll remember that Fiesta got a new owner a few months ago, and this is the latest in a series of new marketing initiatives to expand the supermarket’s consumer reach.

Contributed by Fiesta



Applesauce muffins, chicken soup and turnip greens: What’s your mom food story?

In today’s food section, we celebrate the many ways we love our moms through food.

Nothing beat mom’s chicken soup, but how do you learn how to make it when you’re in the middle of the grocery store trying to buy the ingredients? In Lee Stokes Hilton’s case, her son simply called her up to ask. Contributed by Lee Stokes Hilton.

Maggie C. Perkins tells a funny, poignant tale about the turnip greens she and her young daughters couldn’t bear to eat, and Lee Stokes Hilton shares what goes through her head when her son calls from the grocery store to ask how to make chicken soup.

RELATED: What moms really want for Mother’s Day can’t be bought

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Canned turnip greens weren’t Maggie C. Perkins’ favorite food from the food pantry, but she found a way to make them taste good. Contributed by Maggie C. Perkins

Memories are as comforting as the food itself, but in Shefaly Ravula’s case (you can read her story below), her mother wants to bond over the comfort food itself. Particularly, her favorite Tex-Mex and Indian comfort food, dishes Ravula doesn’t usually make. Now she wants to learn how. Below, you’ll find Shef’s story, in her own words, one of four Mother’s Day pieces we ran in the paper today.

The fourth was a love note to my own mother, who is caring for my dad, her husband of 46 years, as cancer ravages his body. Through applesauce muffins, I could tell you about the painful yet resilient year she’s had since losing her own mother last fall.

With the bitter comes the sweet, and Shef’s story encompasses both, as well. Everybody has a mom food story to share, and I’d love to read yours. Email me at abroyles@statesman.com or share it in the comments.

RELATED: 20 favorite TV moms and what they’ve taught us

New book ‘The Stepmoms’ Club’ reminds us: Don’t forget stepmoms this Mother’s Day

My mom and sister make applesauce muffins with me last month in Missouri. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman


Heading back into Mom’s kitchen to learn her favorite foods

My mom’s brother passed away last year in India. Ceremoniously, as part of our family’s Hindu tradition, a dinner is hosted a few days after a death and the family members cook all the favorites of the deceased. In Houston, where I grew up, my mom and aunt hosted this dinner and cooked his favorite dishes from Gujarat, the region where my parents are from.

After some time passed, my mother was visiting us in Austin. While we were in the kitchen and I was making a light lunch for us, a simple potato leek soup and an avocado and heart of palm salad, my mother turned to me and asked me to visit her.

Shefaly Ravula and her mother, Aarti Shah, have always cooked together, but now Shefaly wants to learn her mom’s favorite comfort foods, which include nachos and dhokla, a specialty from Gujarati, India. Contributed by Shefaly Ravula

She specifically wanted me to come to apprentice to learn how to cook. Totally caught off guard, I said to her, “Um, Mom! I already learned everything I know about cooking from you when I was 10!” She said to me, “You learned your favorite comfort foods, not mine.”

That gave me pause. As the primary cook in my family’s life, I’ve chosen to not cook or serve some of those foods that I ate growing up for various reasons, mostly because I want improved nutritional value. The Indian foods she taught me turned into recipes I wrote for my initial cooking classes, but when it comes to her comfort foods, I likely am not an expert. My mom loves my cooking, which is a variety of global foods and learned American food, but she wants to make sure I’ve learned her comfort foods, too.

When I’m sick, I might prefer a brothy, briny soup, or a ghee-laden khichari, or a bowl of resplendent pasta oozing with cream and butter, all comforting either because of the warmth and fattiness of the food, or because of the nostalgia the food brings me in times of illness.

Comfort to one generation is not necessarily comfort to another, so, as part of an ode to Mother’s Day, I’m going to intern with her this year and learn her favorites: starchy Gujarati favorites like dhokla, dal dhokli and khichi (not to be confused with khitchari), but also Tex-Mex dishes such as nachos and tostadas, and baked potatoes done her way, twice-baked and smothered in hot butter and cold cottage cheese. I won’t adapt these recipes to my taste. I’ll write them as she likes them, so I can recreate them in her time of need.

— Shefaly Ravula, Shef’s Kitchen

New Austin dinner club features wild edibles (not those edibles)

Barr Mansion hosts dozens of weddings, parties and even a festival or two at its stunning property in Northeast Austin.

Jessie Ximenes, left, will prepare the meal for Barr Mansion first dinner series, Tastefully ATX. She’s seen here with Barr Mansion farmer Eli Young. Contributed by Barr Mansion.


But starting this month, Barr Mansion, 10463 Sprinkle Road, will launch Tastefully ATX, its first dinner series to benefit Austin-area nonprofits. The series starts on May 17 with a dinner from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. featuring food from Barr Mansion chef Jessie Ximenes.

RELATED: With tacos, lucha and live music, Taco Libre returns to Austin on May 12

Best part of this 5K on June 23? The food stops along the way!

The theme is Flower Power, so Ximenes will be sourcing many of the flowers and other edible plants from Barr Mansion’s sprawling organic garden. She’ll also have special guest Scooter Cheetham, president and founder of Useful Wild Plants, to share some of his wit and wisdom on the power of plants.

Tickets cost $125, and you can find them at barrmansion.com.







Joanna Gaines’ cookbook outsells Barefoot Contessa, Pioneer Woman in first week

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week around these parts, and it’s also “Magnolia Table” season.

“Magnolia Table” is the new cookbook from Joanna Gaines, and it sold 169,000 copies in its first week, more than recent books from Ina Garten and Ree Drummond. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Of course, that’s the name of Joanna Gaines’ debut cookbook, which is flying off shelves at a rate we haven’t seen in recent years.

According to Publisher’s Weekly, Gaines’ book sold 169,000 copies the first week, topping bestseller lists. For comparison, “the bestselling cookbooks of the last two years, 2017’s ‘Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It’ by Ree Drummond, and Ina Garten’s 2016 book ‘Cooking for Jeffrey,’ sold 100,000 and 110,000 copies, respectively, in their first weeks on sale.”


I’ve been cooking from “Magnolia Table” ahead of a livestream on Wednesday, where I’ll explain the story behind her mom’s bulgogi, one of dozens of Texan-Korean-Midwestern recipes you’ll find the book.

As I’ve mentioned in previous coverage, Gaines’ Instagram-friendly book hits a sweet spot between Texicana and what we might call the Anthropologie aesthetic. Gaines’ food brand is less “down home” than Ree Drummond’s, but I’ve been enjoying her family friendly recipes, including this banana bread I made over the weekend.

I made it to send to school with my kids for their teachers, but I had to sample some first. Because, quality assurance.

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How family poppyseed loaf became ‘moosebread’

The cinnamon sugar on top added just the right texture to keep the bread from being too soft and squishy. That leads to another revelation from Gaines’ recipe: Serving banana bread in brownie-like squares from a brownie-like pan. With a stick of butter and a cup of sugar, these treats are more like blondies than a breakfast bar, but they are an irresistible snack, no matter the time of day.

Banana Bread with Pecans and Sugar on Top

1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 to 5 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, for topping (optional)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray or parchment paper. (You can use a loaf pan or muffin tins, but the baking times will vary.)

Using an electric handheld mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until well mixed. Add the bananas and mix until just combined. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until just combined. Stir in the nuts, if using. (You can substitute chocolate chips.)

Spread the batter in the pan and sprinkle with the additional sugar, if using. (This adds a sweet crust to the top of the bread, but it is optional. I used leftover cinnamon sugar for toast.)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool to the touch and then cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature, with additional butter, if desired.

Store, covered, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Serves 9.

— Adapted from a recipe in “Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering” by Joanna Gaines (William Morrow, $29.99)