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Shalom, Y'All!

June 16, 2005 By:
Ethel Hofman, JE Feature
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What do local chefs do when 1,100 international culinary celebrities meet in your home town? If they’re in Dallas, Texas, these chefs pull out all the stops to impress.

And impress they did.

Attendees at the 27th annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals were tempted with a dazzling showcase of the chef’s signature dishes. The venue? A glamorous opening reception at Neiman Marcus’s flagship store.

The conference then continued on at the downtown Wyndham Hotel, where educational sessions ranged from global cuisine to indigenous foods, with time out, of course, for coffee, tea and delectable tidbits from sponsors.

At the final gala — aptly named “Denim to Diamonds” — members in evening dress munched on the fixin’s at a Lone Star Barbecue, and kicked up their heels to toe-tappin’ country music. The conference was dedicated to the memory of Julia Child, who was deeply involved in IACP and, until recently, present at every annual event, always participating with her inimitable enthusiasm.

Texas has existed under six different flags: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederate States and the United States of America — all of which have influenced its food and cooking techniques.

As Texas cuisine progressed into the era of cowboys on the range and giant cattle ranches, chuckwagon cooking spawned dishes such as chili and one-pot meals based on beef. Texas became known as the land of thick steaks, barbecue and beef brisket.

But over the past two decades, savvy chefs have “rediscovered” the larder of all the ethnic groups that settled in the state, and have created a whole host of new dishes, some packing a stylish punch. Ingredients such as chilies, beans and quinoa — an ancient grain — are pulled from cowboy and Mexican cuisine, and jasmine rice from the influx of Vietnamese.

Below is a sampling of dishes from the Lone Star State, originally served to a discriminating crowd. Each has been adapted for the kosher kitchen to retain its veritable “tam.”

Tuna Tacos With Key-Lime/Red-Onion Crème Fraîche (Dairy)

Inspired by executive chef Tim Love of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Fort Worth

1/4 small red onion, cut up
1 Tbsp. key lime juice, fresh or bottled
1 Tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
4 corn tortillas
canola oil for frying
8 oz. very fresh tuna, minced
2 cups arugula, shredded
2 tsps. chopped mild chile pepper

Place the onion, lime juice and buttermilk in a food processor. Process for 10 seconds, or until onion is minced.

Pour into a bowl and stir in the sour cream.

Pour about 1/4 cup oil in a nonstick skillet. Heat over high heat. Fry the tortillas until crisp, 1 to 2 minutes.

Drain on paper towels.

Toss arugula with chile pepper.

To assemble, divide tuna and arugula mixture equally onto the tortillas.

Top with the sour-cream mixture and serve.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 375; protein, 17 g; carbohydrates, 15 g; fat, 28 g; cholesterol, 26 mg; sodium, 77 mg.

Sunchoke Soup (Meat)

Jerusalem artichokes are called “sunchokes.” They are not really artichokes, and have nothing to do with Jerusalem. Instead, they are a variety of sunflower with a lumpy, brown-skinned tuber that resembles a fat ginger root. Buy sunchokes that are firm, not soft or wrinkled. Their white flesh is nutty, sweet and crunchy, and make for a delicious soup. Do all the chopping in the food processor.

2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
2 tsps. chopped garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
1 small bay leaf
2 cups peeled and chopped sunchokes
1/2 cup peeled and chopped potato
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Add the carrots, onion, celery, garlic, basil and bay leaf.

Reduce heat and sauté 10 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.

Add the sunchokes, potato, chicken stock and water. Bring to slow boil over medium heat.

Reduce to simmer. Cook 15 minutes, or until potatoes and sunchokes are tender. Cool.

Remove bay leaf. Transfer to blender, and blend until smooth. Add a little more chicken stock if too thick.

Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 128; protein, 4 g; carbohydrates, 15 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 2 mg; sodium, 66 mg.

Honey-Ginger Baked Salmon With Jasmine Rice (Pareve)

Jasmine rice is an aromatic rice from Thailand. The flavor and fragrance is similar to basmati rice, but at a fraction of the cost. The recipe comes courtesy of Riviana Foods, Inc.

1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsps. light soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
4-5 salmon fillets (4 to 5 oz. each)
1 cup jasmine rice
2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking pan with foil. Spray with vegetable cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, combine the orange juice, soy sauce, honey, garlic and ginger.

Cook over a medium heat for 1 minute.

Reserve 1/4 cup of this marinade.

Cool remaining marinade. Pour into a zippered plastic bag with salmon fillets. Refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.

Remove salmon from marinade and place on prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes.

While salmon is baking, cook the rice. Combine rice with 11/2cups water in a medium saucepan. Add oil.

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Stir and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed. Keep warm.

Return reserved marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to simmer over medium heat, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until syrupy.

To Serve: Divide cooked rice onto four plates. Top with a piece of salmon. Drizzle sauce over and garnish with green onions.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 500; protein, 29 g; carbohydrates, 64 g; fat, 14 g; cholesterol, 84 mg; sodium, 512 mg.

Rick Bayless’ Fried Beans With Onion and Garlic (Dairy)

2 Tbsps. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups seasoned canned beans, undrained, warmed
1/2 cup crumbled farmer’s cheese or feta cheese
salt if desired
handful tortilla chips for garnish

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until deep golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic. Cook for a minute or so, then use a slotted spoon to scoop in about one quarter of the beans, leaving most of the liquid behind.

With a potato masher or back of a large spoon, mash the beans into a coarse purée. Add another portion of beans, mash them in, and continue until all the beans have been added and coarsely mashed.

Add about a cup of bean liquid (or water if you have no liquid) and stir frequently over the heat until the beans are still a little soupier than you’d like to serve them. (They will thicken as they sit.) Total cooking and mashing will take 10 to 15 minutes.

Season with salt, if desired.

To Serve: Spoon the beans onto a warm serving platter or individual plates. Sprinkle with the crumbled cheese, decorate with the tortilla chips, and they are ready!

Serves 6.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories,133; protein, 5 g; carbohydrates, 12 g; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 8 mg; sodium, 626 mg.

‘Sopaipillas’ (Pareve)

This is an airy, hot bread shaped into pillows, triangles or squares. Usually served with honey or rolled in cinnamon-sugar.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. margarine
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup lukewarm water
oil for frying
3/4-1 cup cinnamon-sugar or honey

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the margarine until it resembles fine crumbs.

Stir the vanilla into the water. Gradually add the vanilla water, stirring with a fork. Mixture will be crumbly. Turn onto a floured board and knead until a smooth ball. Divide in half.

Let stand for 10 minutes.

Roll each half into a 121/2 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut into 21/2-inch squares.

Heat about 11/2 inches of oil in a heavy, deep pan over medium heat until 375? on a thermometer. Slip the squares, a few at a time, into hot oil and cook until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towels.

While hot, roll in cinnamon-sugar or drizzle some warm honey over top.

Makes 38 to 48 squares.

Approximate nutrients each: calories, 83; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 10 g; fat, 5 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 72 mg.

Banana ‘Chimichangas’ (Pareve)

Chimichangas are actually burritos — flour tortillas rolled and folded to completely enclose a savory filling. These burritos have a sweet filling, and are fried … thus chimichangas. For a dairy meal, substitute butter for margarine.

1/4 cup margarine
3 firm bananas, sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch ground nutmeg
3 Tbsps. dark rum
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 flour tortillas (10-inch size)
1 cup oil for frying
confectioners’ sugar to sprinkle

Melt margarine in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.

Add the bananas, sugar and nutmeg, stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour in the rum and lime juice.

Bring to boil and cook 1 minute longer.

Spoon half the banana mixture onto each tortilla. Roll up and tuck in ends (like a blintz).

In a separate, deep, heavy skillet, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat to 375 degrees.

Fry chimichangas until golden, turning to cook both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. Cut each in half.

Serve warm.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 340; protein, 2 g; carbohydrates, 50 g; fat, 13 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 274 mg.

‘Mariachi’ Margaritas (Pareve)

1 large ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and cut in chunks
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups crushed ice

Place all of the ingredients in a blender.

Whirl on high for 40 to 50 seconds, or until mixture is smooth and blended.

Pour into salt-rimmed margarita glasses.

Serves 4.

Approximate nutrients per serving: calories, 279; protein, 1 g; carbohydrates, 33; fat, 8 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 6 mg.

Ethel G. Hofman is a cookbook author and a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. “Mackerel at Midnight” is the title of her latest book. Reach her at: www.kosherfoodconsultants.com.

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