Cornflakes give this cereal-inspired peach pie extra sweetness, crunch

You can learn a lot about a family from its peach pie. My family’s peach pie will forever be connected to my grandmother, who died last year but taught me how to make a peach pie for one of my very first columns.

This cornflake-topped peach and raspberry pie is a throwback to Brittany Bennett’s father’s childhood, when he ate a bowl of cornflakes with peaches and sugar nearly every day after school. Contributed by Morgan Ione Yeager

Brittany Bennett’s cornflake-topped peach-raspberry pie is a nod to her dad’s childhood love of cereal. When he was a kid growing up in Virginia, he could come home from school every day and eat a bowl of cornflakes with peaches and lots of sugar, she writes in her new book, “The Taartwork Pies Cookbook: Grandmother’s Recipe, Granddaughter’s Remix” (Page Street Publishing, $19.99).

Cornflakes are an old-school way to add crunch to all kinds of casseroles and desserts, and if you bake a pie like this for a summer get-together, such as the Fourth of July, the cornflakes add a sentimental touch that will appeal to different generations and might inspire conversation among guests. Feel free to mix up the fruit combination; peaches and raspberries work well together, but you could use only peaches or peaches and another pie-friendly fruit, such as blackberries or cherries.

Peach-Raspberry Pie with Cornflake Crumble

When picking peaches to bake, Bennett uses fruits that aren’t oozing with ripeness. “A firmer fruit is a pleasure to work with when slicing, bakes well and maintains the juicy sweetness of what would be its future ripe self,” she writes. “Leave the skin on, after a good wash, to reduce food waste. The slices will be thin enough to go under the radar.” If you want to use Bennett’s family’s traditional Dutch taart crust, an all-butter dough that’s kneaded by hand and pressed into a pie plate, you can find the recipe and technique at Bennett does not blind-bake the pie shell before filling, but you could pre-bake the dough for 10-15 minutes if you want to ensure a golden crust on the bottom of the pie.

— Addie Broyles

3 large peaches, sliced 1/4-inch thick
11 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) raspberries, divided
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon tapioca starch flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
For the cornflake crumble:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cups smashed cornflakes

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a prepared dough in a 10-inch pie pan. (If using a smaller pie pan, you’ll have extra filling and topping, or you can make two smaller pies in two smaller pans.)

Combine the peach slices with 2 cups of raspberries in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl, mash the remaining 1/2 cup of raspberries with the back of a fork. Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla, tapioca starch flour and cinnamon until fully incorporated. Stir in the brown sugar.

Pour the mashed raspberry mixture over the peaches and raspberries, mixing together with a wooden spoon until all the fruit is covered and glistening. Transfer the filling to your prepared pie shell.

To make the crumble, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together until unified. Add the squares of butter and press flat into petals. Mix using your fingertips until the butter is worked into the flour and varies in sizes from peas to quarters. Toss in the cornflakes and ornament the top of the filling with the crumble.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the pie to cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing in. Makes two 8-inch pies or one 10-inch pie.

— From “The Taartwork Pies Cookbook: Grandmother’s Recipe, Granddaughter’s Remix” by Brittany Bennett (Page Street Publishing, $19.99)

Oma’s Dutch Taart Dough

Oma’s Dutch Taart Dough easily doubles to make three 9-inch pies or one 9-inch pie with enough dough left over to make a lattice and design for eye-popping embellishment, but instead of doubling the butter, use 1 cup and 6 tablespoons (or two sticks plus 6 tablespoons). To make a lattice in the way Oma prepares it, take a handful of dough and roll it into a ball. On a clean work surface, roll the dough into logs. Place one dough log on top of the pie filling, starting in the center and working your way out, forming crisscrosses as you go. If one log breaks, fuse it back together and keep going.

— Brittany Bennett

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cups granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 egg

To make the dough, combine all the ingredients except the butter, or coconut oil for vegan dough, in a large mixing bowl. Toss until the ingredients are uniform. Add the butter and mix with your hands. Scoop the flour in an upward motion with your fingers formed like claws and clench the mixture, pushing down with your palms to smash and morph the butter. After about 5 to 7 minutes of kneading, the dough should start to come together. Continue until it’s in a ball and few crumbs fall off.

To press the dough into the taart pan, break off pieces of the dough and flatten with the palm of your hands. Press the dough into the prepared pie pan and spread it out with your fingers as far as it will stretch without breaking. Continue to do so, morphing together until the sides and bottom are lined in dough.

Whisk an egg in a small bowl and add a touch of water. With a pastry brush or your very clean fingers, wash the top of the crust with the egg. If you’re making vegan dough, you can substitute the egg wash for olive oil or melted coconut oil diluted with a little bit of water.

— From “The Taartwork Pies Cookbook: Grandmother’s Recipe, Granddaughter’s Remix” by Brittany Bennett (Page Street Publishing, $19.99)


Plum cake, pineapple coconut ice cream and other July Fourth treats to make this weekend

No matter if you’re celebrating Independence Day this weekend, next weekend or all next week, you’re going to need some sweets to go with your celebration.

Fresh pineapple and shredded coconut are in this bright yellow ice cream. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I’ve been making a bunch of ice creams for a story coming out on July Fourth, but I wanted to share one of my favorites a little earlier. Below, you’ll read why I grew up eating a pineapple coconut soft serve and how to make a similar treat at home.

In the face of triple-digit heat, I’ve also been baking a little because I love summer fruits, such as peaches, blackberries and blueberries, in baked goods.

This plum cake is from a recipe recently published in Milk Street Kitchen magazine. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The Austrian plum cake recipe (which you’ll find below the pineapple ice cream recipe) is a recent discovery in Milk Street Kitchen. The European-style cake was a little on the dry side, but when I thought of it like a sugar cookie, it made more sense. One coworker thought it would have been improved with some almond flour or allspice. “Something to give it a hint more complexity,” he wrote.

I’m inclined to back off the baking time a minute or two and serve with powdered sugar on top, but even without any changes, it’s a gorgeous cake that shows off those beautiful summer plums.

RELATED: How to make no-churn blueberry, Confetti cake ice creams

With fresh strawberries and vanilla, this French butter cake is dreamy

If you like the Dole Whip at Disney World, you’ll love this pineapple coconut ice cream. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Pineapple and Coconut Ice Cream

If you’ve ever been to Disney World and tried a Dole Whip, you already know what this ice cream tastes like. I grew up eating Pineapple Whip, a Springfield, Mo., soft serve specialty that predates Disney’s Dole Whip by about a decade and is credited with saving the local county fair. A traditional dairy-free Pineapple or Dole Whip is made by freezing about 1 pound of pineapple chunks and blending them with a little pineapple and lemon juice, as well as about 1/2 cup coconut milk and only a tablespoon or two of sugar.

This French recipe is more of a traditional ice cream, where the pureed fruit and coconut mixture is mixed with whipped cream before churning in a machine. I preferred straining the fruit-and-coconut puree for a smoother ice cream; some of the coconut lovers I served this to liked the little chunks of pineapple and coconut in an earlier batch, so it’s up to you.

This version has quite a bit of sugar, so use the frozen pineapple and coconut milk method if you want a less sweet dessert. It also makes a lot of ice cream; you could cut this recipe in half, but I would use the same amount of coconut for the full effect. For even more coconut flavor, skip the heavy cream. Instead, chill a can of coconut milk and whip the coconut fat that solidifies at the top and fold into the pineapple puree before freezing.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, place the pineapple mixture in a metal bowl in the freezer. When it has hardened a little, remove from the freezer and whisk in the whipped cream. Return to the freezer until it has hardened slightly, then whisk again. Repeat this once or twice until the mixture is too hard to whisk. Store in a covered container in the freezer.

— Addie Broyles

1 (2-pound) ripe pineapple
1 cup sugar
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup shredded coconut plus 1 tablespoon extra, for garnishing
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

Peel and trim the pineapple. Cut it into quarters and remove the hard core. Cut the flesh into cubes. In a food processor, blend the pineapple, sugar, orange juice, lemon juice and coconut to a puree. Strain, if desired.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. Churn until the mixture begins to harden, then add the whipped cream and churn until the ice cream is firm. Transfer to a container, cover and store in the freezer. Serves 6 to 8.

— Adapted from “So French, So Sweet” by Gabriel Gaté (Hardie Grant, $19.99)

Fresh plums are a beautiful addition to any cake or cobbler. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Austrian Plum Cake

1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds ripe but firm medium plums, pitted and halved, cut into 3/4-inch wedges
Powdered sugar, to serve

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat the bottom of a springform pan with cooking spray and then dust with flour. (You can also use a cake pan.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer or large bowl, whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt until combined. Add the butter, one piece at a time. You can leave the mixer running if using a stand mixer. Combine until the mixture resembles moist sand, about 2 to 3 minutes total. Add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Beat on medium high until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl, as needed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Place the wedges on their side on the top of the batter. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove the outside ring of the springform pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

— Adapted from a recipe in the July-August issue of Milk Street Kitchen


Larry Butler, co-founder of Boggy Creek Farm and local food champion, dies at 70

Larry Butler, one of the pioneering farmers behind Boggy Creek Farm and a well-known figure in the local food community, died Thursday of liver cancer. He was 70.

Larry Butler loved working with Carol Ann to preserve the history of the property, collecting every scrap of evidence they could about East Austin historical farms, including Boggy Creek. American-Statesman 2016

In the early 1990s, the former TV repairman and his wife, Carol Ann Sayle, started one of the country’s first urban farms, located on a historic East Austin property along Boggy Creek, and for more than two decades, they ran a farmstand that continues to have a dedicated customer base of families, neighborhood residents and the city’s top chefs.

Sayle and Butler met on a sidewalk in Oak Hill in 1973. She was moving her art studio into a row of businesses where he had a TV repair shop. With three children from previous marriages, they married in 1976 and blended their families easily with the former spouses, Sayle says. “Larry would go hunting with Wayne,” her ex-husband, who died last year, she says. “They coached Little League together.”

In 1999, Larry Butler and Carol Ann Sayle were already established in their second careers as farmers, operating Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin. American-Statesman 1999

In the 1980s, they wanted to embark on a new career of growing food. Butler had grown up in Gause, where Sayle says he rode a horse named Palm to and from elementary school, so that’s where they looked for land to get started. They found 45 acres to start an organic farm, and a few years later, the couple bought the East Austin property and continued to farm at both locations.

They first started selling their produce in 1991, from a card table set up in front of Wiggy’s on West Sixth Street. Later that year, they had a bumper crop of tomatoes, which they sold to Whole Foods, a relationship that lasted until the drought of 2011. After two years of selling produce in front of the liquor store, the Boggy Creek farmers started selling at the Sustainable Food Center’s first farmers market at the corner of East Seventh and Robert Martinez Jr. streets. By the late 1990s, Butler was a fixture at the Westlake Farmers Market on Westbank Drive across from the high school, Sayle says. He moved with the market when it went to Sunset Valley, but then they decided to focus all their sales efforts on the East Austin farmstand.

Larry Butler became an advocate for organic farming, speaking out often about his opinions on USDA regulations and standards. American-Statesman 1998

More time at the farm meant that Butler could pursue another passion: food preservation. Butler loved to can, smoke, jar and otherwise preserve the food they grew, and he was known in particular for his smoke-dried tomatoes. He sometimes taught classes in the farmhouse kitchen, and in 2002, he appeared on a Food Network show that featured his jams and sauces.

Larry Butler appeared on a Food Network show in 2002 that featured their home-grown products. He made many kinds of jams, preserves, sauces, pickles and his famed smoke-dried tomatoes to sell at the farmstand and in local stores. Also on the show was Marta Guzman, owner of Marta’s Desserts, and Jonathan Pace of Smokey Denmark. American-Statesman 2002

Butler’s aging father lived on the property for a number of years, and to make him more comfortable before he died, Butler built a dogtrot-style house behind the farmhouse. A tireless extrovert, Butler loved to give tours, explaining the historical architecture of both the new and old homes, why the soil needed the kind of compost they used and what the government should or shouldn’t be doing about subsidies.

The couple meticulously researched the history of the farmhouse, which was built in 1841 and is as old as the French Legation. Butler loved to tell customers about the letter from Sam Houston that indicates he ate dinner in the house they lived in, located right next to the farmstand.

RELATED: 175 years of Boggy Creek Farm, French Legation

After the drought in 2011, customers’ habits started to change, Sayle says, especially as food delivery options increased. “He was worried about the future of the farm,” Sayle says. “We spent our last week reassuring him that everything was under control and that we loved him and that everybody’s OK.”

Butler’s son, Tom Butler, is now overseeing the Gause farm, and Sayle’s daughter, Tracy Geyer, is helping with operations at the urban farm.

Butler died Thursday at home. Sayle says they are planning a wake from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 15 at the farm, but until then, the farmstand will have regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. “The farm is a beast of its own and has to be fed. The farm goes on,” Sayle says. “It’s open right now.”

Paula Foore, co-owner of the nearby Springdale Farm, called Larry a “wonderful mentor.” “He was always so generous with his farming information and tips. A true legend. He will be sorely missed by our entire community.”

Eden East chef Sonya Cote, who has cooked frequently at Boggy Creek, said that the week before he died, Butler was giving tours at a fundraiser to replace the farmhouse’s windows. “We lost our patriarch,” she said. “Just last weekend, he got to tell us about everything he built. I was humbled by the experience.”

“(Carol Ann and Larry) have been the center of the plate, the heartbeat of the local food scene,” former Statesman food writer Kitty Crider said on Friday, just a few days after stopping by the farmstand to buy tomatoes. “Quiet celebrities, they opened their farm to tours, to fundraisers, to national chefs. On my kitchen counter sit four varieties of their tomatoes. I think I will go eat one — standing over the sink — in memory of Larry.”

Larry Butler, left, and wife Carol Ann Sayle hosted many community events at their Boggy Creek Farm in East Austin. This 2014 event was a fundraiser for Hugh Fitzsimons, second from left, who was running in the Democratic primary for agricultural commissioner. Also in this image are Jim Hightower, second from right, and Texas state Rep. Elliott Naishtat, right. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014
Larry Butler of Boggy Creek Farm sells produce in 1993 at one of Austin’s farmers markets.  American-Statesman 1993

Let’s have a steak, mate: Five grilling tips from the Longhorn Steakhouse hotline

Janet Dickey, who is a manager at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Round Rock, knows that Texans grill year-round, but for many Americans, the summer holidays are when folks first break out the grill.

Don’t forget to clean the grill before cooking on it! Experts from Longhorn Steakhouse answer questions on a grilling hotline that’s open on the major summer holidays. One local manager shared some grilling tips ahead of July Fourth. Contributed by Longhorn Steakhouse.

Dickey is one of a handful of Longhorn staffers who answer calls on the restaurant’s holiday grilling hotline, and she shared tips so you don’t end up with a charred or underseasoned steak on July Fourth or any day. If you have grilling questions next week, you can call the Longhorn Steakhouse hotline at 855-544-7455. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 4.

RELATED: 10 patriotic things to do with kids in Austin this Fourth of July

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Fire up the coals or turn on the propane early, and don’t skimp on the heat. Dickey says the ideal time of the grill for a steak is 550 degrees, so don’t skimp on the charcoal. Use a charcoal starter and put the charcoal in the grill once they are blazing red and start to turn white on the edges. If using propane, turn on at least 10 minutes before you plan on cooking.

Clean your grill, every time. Buy a cheap plastic spray bottle and put canola oil in it. Spray on your hot grill. Roll up a kitchen towel and dip it (or spray it) with oil. Use tongs to rub the towel on the grate to clean it.

Thick steaks only need a dry seasoning on the outside, not a wet marinade, according to Longhorn Steakhouse manager Janet Dickey. Contributed by Longhorn Steakhouse.

Marinade thin steaks; season the thicker ones. Dickey recommends using a marinade for thin steaks, such as flank or London broil, which benefit from a wet marinade. (Italian dressing is a quick marinade that many cooks already have in their fridge, Dickey often will tell callers.) The marinade itself will tenderize the steak, so no need to use powdered meat tenderizer. But for  thicker cuts of steak, skip the marinade and using a hearty seasoning of salt, pepper and garlic powder — not garlic salt, which will make it too salty. “When you’re seasoning your steak, you want to create a crust. You should see enough seasoning to think that’s it’s too much,” she says. Some of the seasoning will fall off when you cook the steak.

Know and love the five-finger test. This is the touch test to determine if a steak is done by pushing on your palm. Here’s how to do it: With one hand open, use your other hand’s index finger to press the pad at the base of your thumb. That’s what a raw steak feels like. When you bring your thumb and index finger together on the open hand, the pad firms up a little, which is what a rare steak feels like. When you touch your middle finger and your thumb, that’s a medium-rare steak, and the ring finger and thumb feels medium-well. When your pinkie and thumb touch, the base of your thumb is much more firm, just like a well-done steak.

Flip the steak every 3 to 4 minutes to ensure even cooking and then let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Keep an eye out for hot spots on the grill where some of the meat might be cooking faster than the rest. Cutting into the steak too early will cause the juices to flow out. If you’re really trying to re-create the Longhorn experience at home, top each steak with a splash of lemon sauce and a pat of butter and serve immediately.

Longhorn Steakhouse employees cook steaks every day, not just on the big grilling holidays, so some of their employees answer grilling questions on a special hotline the restaurant has set up for Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. Contributed by Longhorn Steakhouse


What’s for Dinner Tonight: How to make buttery, Pizza Hut-inspired breadsticks in about 20 minutes

I recently stumbled upon a recipe in Cook’s Country that will add a key layer of buttery deliciousness to any of your favorite everyday weeknight meals, but especially Your Favorite Pasta.

Butter and herbs give these breadsticks lots of flavor and make them easy to adapt. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

(What’s Your Favorite Pasta? You know which pasta dish I mean. The one you make on a weeknight when nothing else sounds good and whose ingredients you always have on hand. Mine is boring — buttered pasta with steamed broccoli and, if I’m feeling like meat, sliced, sauteed kielbasa — but boy, does it do the trick to feed me and the kids with very little effort.)

Alli Berkey, one of the magazine’s recipe developers who worked on this dish, doesn’t use the words “Pizza Hut” anywhere in her article in the April/May issue, but the mega pizza chain is the elephant in the kitchen. Their breadsticks look identical to the ones in the photos, including the cinnamon sugar ones.

I have a strong flavor memory of Pizza Hut’s herb-crusted breadsticks because I grew up eating them when we’d go to the Sunday buffet after church or when we ordered take-out (We didn’t get pizza delivery in my small Missouri hometown until I got to high school.)

However, I hadn’t tried to recreate these breadsticks at home until I saw the Cook’s Country tutorial. I try to keep a ball of the frozen pizza dough from H-E-B in my freezer at all times, so this was an easy side dish to make once I remembered to take out the dough early enough to thaw before dinnertime. They baked to golden perfection because of all that butter, and even though I didn’t have any fresh thyme, the breadsticks tasted close enough to the real thing for us to almost eat every last one of them.

Garlic and Herb Breadsticks

You could use all kinds of different spice mixtures to season these breadsticks, including cinnamon and sugar for a dessert-like breadstick. Many grocery stores now sell balls of frozen dough, which you can thaw in the refrigerator or on the counter until room temperature. Other stores, including Trader Joe’s, sell pizza dough in the refrigerated section, and some pizza restaurants will also sell you dough to bake at home. As the editors at Cook’s Country note, however, don’t use Pillsbury Pizza Crust dough here, even though it’s widely available. It doesn’t quite have the same texture and crumb as the Pizza Hut breadsticks you’re hoping to recreate at home. I served these with marinara sauce, which sufficed for dinner last night for one of my children and greatly enhanced how much the other one liked the pasta dish that I made.

— Addie Broyles

1 pound store-bought pizza dough, room temperature (not Pillsbury Pizza Crust)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.

Divide the dough in half and, using your hands, stretch one piece of dough into a 9-inch-by-5-inch rectangle. You might need a little flour for your hands or the countertop if the dough is sticky. Place the rectangle on the baking sheet and repeat with the other half of the dough.

Mix the spices together in a small bowl and set aside. Brush the melted butter on each of the dough halves. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and then flip the dough to repeat on the other side.

After both sides have the butter and spice mixture, use a bench scraper or a chef’s knife to score the dough, crosswise, into 1-inch strips. Don’t cut all the way through the dough or separate the breadsticks yet.

Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before pulling the breadsticks apart at the seams. Serve with marinara sauce.

— Adapted from a recipe in the April/May issue of Cook’s Country magazine

Want to learn how to make pickles, pâté? Check out these Adult Summer Camp cooking classes at Confituras

Confituras Little Kitchen, the biscuit-and-jam shop at 2129 Goodrich Avenue, is hosting a series of Austin Summer Camp cooking classes in July and August that will teach artisan culinary skills, such as how to make pâté or pickles.

Pickled green beans are one of the things you can learn how to make at Confituras’ Adult Summer Camp classes. Contributed by Confituras

On Thursday, Pure Luck Farm & Dairy owner Amelia Sweethardt will teach a sold-out class on making cultured butter and buttermilk. Next week, Jackie Letelier, who formerly ran a pate and terrine company in Austin, will teach a class on July 12 at 6:30 p.m. on how to make those European meat spreads.

ON STATESMAN.COM: Nominate your favorite people and places in Austin for our inaugural Best of the Best Awards

On July 15, the co-founders of Lick Honest Ice Creams will teach a class on making summer ice cream flavors, and on July 19, Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny, with an assist from Revolution Spirits, will show students how to make cocktail shrubs and fruit syrups.

Shrubs are the vinegar-based preserved fruit that you can use in cocktails and other summer drinks. Contributed by Confituras

Preservation guru and “Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen” author Kate Payne will teach a class on July 26 about making your own salt-brined pickled green beans, and on August 2, Dolce Neve owner Marco Silvestrini will teach a class on making homemade granita, a cousin to the popular gelato sold at his South First shop.

The classes, which cost $45 or $55 each, include samples of what you’re making and a small batch to take home, as well as instructions and recipes. You can bring your own beverages, including wine.

Dinner in the dark returns with The Blind Cafe on July 12 and 13

The Blind Cafe has been hosting dining-in-the-dark experiences in Austin for nearly a decade.

The Blind Cafe, a traveling dinner and music experience founded by Brian Rocheleau in 2010, invites guests to eat a meal and listen to a concert in complete darkness. Photo from The Blind Cafe.

Its founder, Brian Rocheleau, who goes by “Rosh,” is a musician and community-builder who travels around the country to host dinners where guests eat and enjoy a musical performance in complete darkness. The servers are legally blind, and diners are encouraged to ask questions about their experience in a world where most people can see and share about their experience not being able to see the food in front of them or look at the other people at the table or their cell phone.

According to a release: “The aim is to inspire and initiate positive social change in the lives of everyone involved in the experience, using the concept of darkness to break down societal norms that typically exist as barriers.”

More than 20,000 people have experienced The Blind Cafe since its inception in 2010. All the food is vegan and gluten free.

At The Blind Cafe, servers and hosts are visually impaired, but many of the guests are not. Contributed by The Blind Cafe.

The next Austin dinners are scheduled for July 12 and 13 at American Legion Travis Post 76, 404 Atlanta St. There are two performances and dinners each night, 6 and 9 p.m. You can find more details about the event at and tickets (suggested cost is $85) are available through AirBnB experiences.



Narrated, co-produced by Natalie Portman, ‘Eating Animals’ hits Austin theaters this week

“Eating Animals” was the name of novelist Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2010 non-fiction book about vegetarianism and industrial agriculture.

‘Eating Animals’ profiles several farmers and ranchers who raise animals outside the industry norm of CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations. Contributed by Eating Animals

This summer, a documentary inspired by the book — co-produced and narrated by Natalie Portman and directed by Christopher Dillon Quinn — is hitting select theaters. After a special screening on Thursday, the movie will be in Austin’s Regal Arbor 8 and Violet Crown theaters starting on Friday.

Quinn will be in Austin on Saturday for two post-film Q&A sessions, one after the 6 p.m. screening at Violet Crown and another after the 7:20 p.m. screening at Regal Arbor.

MORE ONLINE: Nominate your favorite people and places in Austin for our inaugural Best of the Best Awards

At 6:45 p.m. Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller, you can watch a screening of “Eating Animals” and listen to a panel discussion afterwards with  Brittany Illescas of Central Texas Pig Rescue, naturopath vegan doctor Lauren Sanchez, Britty Hamby of ATX Vegans and Jessica Morris, co-author of “The Taco Cleanse.”

Seating is first come, first served until all the seats are full. You can RSVP at this link, but that doesn’t guarantee a seat. If you want to catch the movie later this week, it opens for regular showings at Regal Arbor 8 on Friday.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Tamar Haspel has already seen it and fact-checked the movie for the Washington Post.


Think grilled chicken is boring? Try this recipe from Bittman’s newest book ‘How to Grill Everything’

Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” books are reliable, creative and, most importantly, useful.

This grilled chicken breast from “How to Grill Everything” by Mark Bittman is anything but boring. Contributed by Christina Holmes

Why are the recipes that fill those books so well-loved and easy to adapt? Because Bittman knows, perhaps more than any cookbook writer today, how we cook. Sometimes, we start to cook with nothing more than a craving — a fruit cobbler, a potato salad or a grilled chicken — so he starts with a basic recipe for each and then offers up to a dozen ways to adjust the recipe to fit your palate or your pantry, as well as your schedule and skill level.

For example, in the latest book in this series, “How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30), Bittman starts the chapter on chicken with a basic grilled chicken breast recipe that includes alternative cooking times and methods for chicken thighs and turkey cutlets, as well as nine variations on the flavor profile (curried, Thai, North African, Mediterranean, etc).

RELATED: Fresh corn adds a summer spin to this (Instant Pot-friendly) clam chowder

Ready to fire up the grill for July Fourth? Here’s a recipe for tacos al pastor to feed a crowd

Mark Bittman is the author of several books in the “How to Cook Everything” series. Contributed

After a recipe for crunchy breaded chicken cutlets on the grill — yes, you read that right, breaded chicken on the grill — he shares this recipe for chicken in Mexican-style escabeche. Knowing that a Chinese-inspired sweet-and-sour sauce serves a similar culinary function, Bittman includes that variation, as well as a Jamaican-style escovitch and a whole fish en escabeche, a traditional dish in South America and the Caribbean.

Oh, and he reminds us that you can make the original dish with turkey cutlets, salmon, tuna or swordfish and that you can turn it into a main-course salad by serving it over baby spinach and adding sliced peaches, mango or grapes. As if we needed another reminder that Bittman really does know how to cook everything.

Grilled Chicken Breasts and Red Onion en Escabeche

1/2 cup good-quality olive oil, plus more for brushing
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon minced seeded jalapeño, or more to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 red onion, cut into small wedges

If you’re using bamboo or wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, start the coals or heat a gas grill for medium direct cooking. Make sure the grates are clean.

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the 1/2 cup oil, vinegar and the orange and lime juices together in a small bowl until thickened. Whisk in the garlic, oregano, cloves, cinnamon and jalapeño, if you’re using it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then pound the breasts to an even thickness if necessary. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Skewer the onion wedges and brush with the vinaigrette.

Put the chicken and skewers on the grill directly over the fire. Close the lid and cook the chicken, turning once, until the breasts are no longer pink in the center, 3 to 8 minutes per side depending on their size. (Nick with a small knife and peek inside.) Cook the onions, turning the skewers several times, until they have softened and taken on some color, even some char, 8 to 10 minutes per side. As they finish, transfer the chicken and onions to a deep platter or shallow bowl. Let them rest for 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick and return it to the platter. Slide the onions from the skewers and scatter them over the chicken. Pour the vinaigrette over all and serve. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 12 hours and serve cold or at room temperature. Serves 4.

— From “How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food” by Mark Bittman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

Con Olio launches kids’ culinary camps at the Arboretum

Con’ Olio & Vinegars, the popular olive oil-and-vinegar shop with several Austin-area locations, is now hosting kids’ culinary camps at its Arboretum store.

Con’ Olio’s new culinary camps for kids are from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday several weeks in July and August. Contributed by Con’ Olio.

The camps started a few weeks ago, but there are several that remain for children ages 7 and 11 and another for those ages 11 to 15. Each class costs $200 and ” focuses on fostering independence, creativity and courage in the kitchen.”

RELATED: Looking for more summer camps? Check out our Austin360 Camp Guide

The classes, which run from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, start with an introduction to basic culinary skills such as safety, cleaning and choosing menu ingredients, and then participants use those culinary skills to make snacks, meals and desserts. You can view the menus and sign up for classes at