Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm Headed To The Austin, Texas Hot Sauce Festival Competition & Food Bank Fundraiser With My Entries!

In years past I've entered my *red* hot sauce and my *salsa verde* (green sauce) in this hot sauce competition, with not even so much as a nod from the judges. Believe it or not, I was surprised. I was also disappointed and heartbroken (I was younger then, okay?), so I decided to not enter for several years. In the meantime, the festival and judging have undergone some much needed changes. Once I learned of the changes, I submitted my entry fee and form, and I leave Saturday morning for the Sunday competition down the road in Austin, Texas.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm not just in it for the possible contract with some big company to make my sauces commercially. Of course, that would be perfectly lovely, wouldn't it? But there is more to this festival than the competition. Proceeds raised from the entry fees go to The Austin Food Bank, as do all the cans of food requested as entrance into Waterloo Park, where it will be held. It is what literally allows the Austin Food Bank to survive yet another year. And, I'm not talking about feeding those in Austin who sell flowers on street corners. Those people have it made. I'm talking about all the families and individuals that have fallen upon hard times due to whatever misfortune has befallen them. They also invited restaurants and those who commercially produce their sauces, made in Austin, to offer mass tastings of their products. Trust me when I tell you that it is Hot Sauce Heaven.

In addition to the commercial producers, there is also a tent where the public is invited to try all the entries into the competition. But, this makes the competition a three tiered affair.

There are categories for home salsa makers (red, green & specialty), a restaurant category, and a commercial hot sauce makers category. This affords the judges a wide range of expertise and tastes. In the midst of all this going on, there are hawt Austin bands playing their music on the stage throughout the day. There are beer and wine vendors, as well as plenty of water and soft drinks vendors. It's a day of great fun and camaraderie among hot sauce fans, so if you live in the Austin area and have nothing better to do, get yourself over to Waterloo Park (located @ 12th & Red River) on Sunday.

The festival opens their gates to hot sauce competition entrants between 10:30 AM and 11:30 AM, when they must drop off their forms and their sauces. The festival is open to the public from 11:00 AM until 5:30 PM.

I've been making hot sauce for Christmas gifts all week, so it just happens to be the perfect time. I visited the organic Farmer's Market and loaded up on tomatoes, habanero peppers, jalapenos, onions, cilantro, and bell peppers. Since there wasn't enough of every ingredient, I also went to Sam's Club to finish getting the ingredients I would need. Throughout the week I've tried different (new) ingredients to enhance my almost perfect sauce, and yes, my friends and relatives will be the *guinea pigs* for all of my experiments this week. They've never yet complained, so I guess it's all good. Although I'd be a complete & utter moron to tell you my recipe at this point, I can show you a few pictures of the process. I'll let you know the outcome when I return.

Meanwhile, please keep your fingers & toes crossed or perhaps send a little prayer my way, if you can. And if you live in the Austin area, then be sure to get yourself down to Waterloo Park for the festivities! Hope to see you there...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rustic Peach Tart... Or Peach Galette

Peaches are at the height of their flavor right now, so we've been making the most of it. It's well known by all our friends that Mr. Snooty is a total peach hound, so I made him this lovely treat on his birthday and he couldn't seem to get enough. Well, he did eat eat the entire thing... This recipe is so easy that it will make you weep for the sheer joy of its simplicity. Some things simply cannot be improved upon. Rustic Peach Tart: Ingredients: For Tart Crust: 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour (with a little extra for rolling out dough) 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons of cold butter, in small pieces 1/3 cup of ice cold water (and more, if needed) 4 - 6 peaches 1 teaspoon of sugar 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice 1/4 cup of slivered almonds, toasted For The Glaze: 1 Tablespoon of butter 1 Tablespoon of Apricot Marmalade (other other marmalade) 1 Tablespoon of sugar Directions: For the tart, whisk together all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Gently incorporate butter with your hands or a pastry blender, leaving some pea-sized pieces. Drizzle water over top of flour-butter mixture, a tablespoon at a time, and work until dough comes together in a ball. Press dough into a disk and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, to peel the peaches, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add peaches and cook for 10 to 30 seconds, depending on the fruit's ripeness. Transfer peaches to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Peel the peaches--the skins should slip right off. Halve them and remove the pits. Slice peaches thinly and toss them with sugar and lemon juice. Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a circular shape about 1/8-inch thick. Gently transfer dough to a baking sheet by folding it into quarters. Unfold dough and sprinkle almonds over it, leaving a 2-inch border around the edges. Pile peaches on top of almonds, then fold edges of dough up over fruit.

To make the glaze, heat butter and apricot preserves in a small saucepan until just melted, stirring to combine. Brush dough with mixture and drizzle remaining over the fruit. Sprinkle pastry and fruit with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake 20 to 25 minutes longer, until dough is golden brown and fruit juices are bubbling. Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Surf And Turf Garden Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette... Snooty Style

Last week was my hubby's birthday so I made the dinner he requested. It consisted of prime NY strip steak, lobster tail, spinach souffle, garlic bread and a rustic peach tart for dessert. Even though we split the steak and lobster, I still had some leftover.

As it turns out, it was just the right amount for this salad. I also had some tomatoes from our *topsy-turvy* planters that needed to be used, so this was the perfect light meal for us. It's basically a I-don't-know-what-the-heck-to-make-so-I'll-check-the-fridge type of dinner. Maybe you'll like it as much as we did!  

Surf & Turf Garden Salad: Ingredients:

leftover steak,

thinly sliced leftover lobster tail,

thinly sliced small package of baby spinach

fresh mushrooms,

thinly sliced 1/2 or 1 whole avocado,

thinly sliced 4 spring onions (green onions),

thinly sliced fresh garden tomatoes,

chopped gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Raspberry Vinaigrette

Directions: 1. Begin building your salad by spreading the baby spinach over a plate. 2. Add sliced mushrooms and the tomatoes. 3. Next, add the sliced avocado. 4. You can now add the sliced lobster and sliced steak. 5. Last of all, sprinkle the sliced green onions, the gorgonzola cheese, topping with your favorite vinaigrette. 6. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cherry Pie Faux Pas... But Looks Aren't Everything

When grocery shopping last week, I was pleased to see a kingdom of luscious cherries as I entered. Now, I love cherry pie but I especially adore homemade cherry pie, so I grabbed up two large bunches with that thought occupying my head. I could hardly wait to get home and get started on what I was certain would be my masterpiece. It would be my loveliest and most delicious pie of the summer. Until I discovered I had no tapioca pearls. Bummer.

Because I refused to return to the market to make one teensy little purchase, I was forced to use my imagination and substitute with something else. Never a good idea when you are me. Anyway, that substitute turned out to be a brand name package of quasi tapioca that required being cooked. I decided that since the pie had to be cooked, this was a marriage made in Heaven. Right? Wrong. The pie turned out all runny in the center. However, it was still more than edible, which Mr. Snooty proved by eating nearly all of it.

So, I will give you the original recipe I started with; just don't use any substitutes unless you actually know what the Hell you're doing.
Cherry Pie
4 c. fresh or frozen pitted, tart red cherries 1 c. sugar 1/8 tsp. salt 3 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca 1 tbsp. cherry brandy (optional) 1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel 1 tbsp. butter Pastry shell for double crust pie.

In a large bowl combine cherries, sugar, tapioca, brandy (if desired), lemon peel and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Let stand 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fill a pastry lined 9 inch pie plate with cherry mixture, dot with butter. Adjust top crust, seal and flute edge. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil, bake for 25-30 minutes more or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.