Friday, June 18, 2010

orange soufflé and a burger stray

I remember it like yesterday--
my favorite annual shopping trips to Houston.


I was 13.
Packed with pink braces,
Frizzy, curled bangs,
Too-skinny arms and insecurities galore...

But the trips to visit my fabulous aunt and uncle in their gorgeous West U house were ones to savor.

The weekend always began with:
homemade jarred apple sauce
atop All Bran
(Uncle Kim's Favorite)
followed by a gals lunch at the Houston Galleria Neiman Marcus.
The smells and tastes of these classic recipes continue to resonate with me in fellow Fort Worth and Dallas NM eateries:

Houston NM Cafe-- best-known for their moist and insanely buttery monkey bread, strawberry butter, spiced tea and chocolate-drenched after-lunch mints to bid patrons adieu.

Fort Worthians are spoiled with an airy alternative to the buttery monkey bread delights: dark brown popovers complete with strawberry butter, demitasse glasses of chicken broth to sip, not-too-sweet coconut cake and the perfect lemon bar after a tea sandwich sampler with orange soufflé.

After our shopping binges, the luxury continued with my favorite banana pudding tucked away to chill in a gorgeous trifle dish-- made famous by my aunt.

I became so nostalgic of this comforting dessert--
I had to make it myself.

Aunt Bettie's Banana Pudding
(Shhh...from the back of the Nilla Wafer box)

3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Dash salt
3 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
45 Nilla Wafers, divided

5 ripe bananas, sliced (about 3 1/2 cups), divided
Additional Nilla Wafers and banana slices, for garnish

Mix 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt in top of double boiler. Blend in 3 egg yolks and milk. Cook, uncovered, over boiling water, stirring constantly for 10 to 12 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.

Reserve 10 wafers for garnish. Spread small amount of custard on bottom of 1 1/2-quart casserole; cover with a layer of wafers and a layer of sliced bananas. Pour about 1/3 of custard over bananas. Continue to lay
er wafers, bananas and custard to make a total of 3 layers of each, ending with custard.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Spoon on top of pudding, spreading evenly to cover entire surface and sealing well to edges.

Bake at 350°F in top half of oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until browned. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate to fully chill. Garnish with additional wafers and banana slices just before serving.

In anticipation for a night on the town this past Father's Day weekend, I crafted a sweet cocktail made to tickle my palate before a heavy Southern dinner.

Nectarine Cardamom Syrup with Sparkling Cava

This cocktail is gorgeous-- the blood orange hue of the syrup topped with sparkling wine creates a play on a "Tequila Sunrise" to the eyes.

Makes four cocktails.

Simple syrup:

2 c water
1 c sugar
1 nectarine (pit and all), sliced
1/2 t ground cardamom
1/2 t lemon zest

Combine ingredients and simmer on medium heat until reduced by half (about one hour). Strain and chill*.

To assemble cocktail:

Add 1 part chilled syrup to a champagne flute. Top with 2 parts sparkling Spanish Cava. Garnish with sliced nectarine.
*Morning after tip:
Warmed fruit remnants from syrup would be divine atop morning oatmeal.

After some luscious sips to cool me down, my boyfriend and his sweet family headed to Brownstone, the newest eatery voyage from Top Chef's Casey Thompson, for some made-from-scratch Southern fare, artisan cocktails, and to pay homage to his dear ole' Dad.

Amongst dirty martinis (a Serrano Celery Caipirinha for me) and cold beer we happily anticipated the arrival of our appetizers:

Smoked Beet Hummus with Local Vegetables & Pumpernickel
Chicken Pot Pies in an empanada form
Homemade Biscuits with Venison Sausage & Apricot Preserves

Our appetizers were tasty but our fast-moving group became antsy at the slow-paced vibe of the brand-new restaurant.

Our ingenious solution?
Off to Fred's Texas Cafe for my favorite burgers in Fort Worth to round off the meal.

I paid penace for my deep-fried sins the next noon and prepared a protein-packed meal perfect for a hangover. The nutty brown rice, earthy mushrooms and just-broken yolk are the perfect canvas for the light, herbaceous finishes.

Lunch for One:
Fried Egg atop Roast Creminis & Brown Rice with Grapeseed Oil, Scallions and Fresh Tarragon

1 serving brown rice, warm
1 egg (I use large, organic & cage free)
1 t unsalted butter
1/2 c cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a sprinkling of :
fresh scallions, fresh tarragon, kosher salt & grapeseed oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange sliced mushrooms on pan with a sprinkling of olive oil and kosher salt.

Roast approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. Meanwhile, fry egg in melted butter until white is just cooked through and yolk is runny.

Slide egg atop a bowl with brown rice. Add mushrooms and finish with scallions, tarragon, kosher salt, grapeseed oil and fresh-cracked pepper.

Break yolk, mix bowl and enjoy! If engaged in clean-out-the-fridge mode, sliced avocado would also be a nice addition.
Speaking of avocados...
The Summer Issue of Fort Worth Foodie, All in the Family, is now available at local Fort Worth stores and eateries!

My current article is the second of my Easy Entertaining column--
Summer Spread: Dips, Spreads and Pestos for All Occasions
featuring my tangy Orange Peel Guacamole recipe.

Orange Peel Gucamole
(photo courtesy of the hip Josie Singleton)

Yields 2 cups.

This recipe is the perfect party dip-- elegant enough for hors d'oeuvres but relaxed enough for a laid-back affair. The orange zest adds a citrus-like flavor dimension and olive oil adds richness.

Pulp of three ripe Hass avocados
1 jalapeno, ribbed, seeded and minced
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of two limes
1 T orange zest

Juice of 1/2 orange
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c red onion, minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel to taste

Mash all ingredients together until chunky. Garnish with cilantro leaves, thin-sliced orange peel and fleur de sel.
After noshing this lovely dip (sure to be a hit),

up an issue of Fort Worth Foodie,

with your favorite summer cocktail &

of your local eateries!


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