Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grocery gardening fits the flavor bill, budget
Imagine the freshest rosemary for a black bean dish, sugar snaps for your pasta and goat cheese and fresh grapes for dessert. “Grocery Gardening” is just right for Southeast Texas. Jean Ann Van Krevelen never even met the three other contributors to this book in person, but they’ve created a picturesque, practical guide for getting the best bang for your garden buck. Make trellis, pot and window plantings and you’ll have something growing every season. The recipes here are easy and fresh. I already love the following. In fact, this blend finally made me realize I like cucumbers. Try the salad and try this book:

Asian Cucumbers
3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, sliced lengthwise and then sliced crosswise in thin slices
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hot, red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet until golden brown
Toss the cucumbers with the sea salt and place in a colander in the skink. Place an ice-filled bag on the cucumbers to drain for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (The ice bag will weight the cucumbers to help their liquid drain.) Whisk the vinegar, sesame oil, sugar and hot pepper flakes until blended and the sugar is dissolved. Rise the cucumbers and pat them dry with paper towels Toss the cucumbers with the dressing. Top the sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Grape leaves
The above book got me onto grape leaves, which I found on vines taking over my mother’s back yard. I plucked some perfect ones and arranged them on a plate, like a charger. Then I plopped down a sort of black-eyed-pea “hummus” I made, and ground up additional leaves into that blend. I also wrapped pork bites in additional leaves.
My daughter says I’m addicted. I’ve learned how to blanch and store them, and I aim to grow my own vines at home.

The right pinch
Potatoes were my testing ground for new McCormick blends, but first let me clarify. I recently sent readers to learn more about the Perfect Pinch line by sending them to perfect.pinch, and the company ask that I make a correction, by sending readers to for the right address. Goodness knows what kind of pinching the other place could be discussing.
Cinnamon and coffee is my pick of intrigue in the McCormick Flavor Forecast 2010 grilling edition, but let it be known that spice folks have new ready-to-use blends on the market, including Lowry’s Szechuan Sweet & Sour BBQ and Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato marinades and Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon and Mexican Fiesta Marinades, Applewood Rub and Smokehouse Maple Seasoning Blend. I couldn’t wait to fire up the grill and fried up some potatoes in olive oil and some of these blends for a flavorful dinner.

Do you have Paula Deen in a box?
We let her out for Mother’s Day, preparing Southern-Style Buttery Beer Bread, Homestyle Moist Yellow Cake Mix and Homestyle Sugar Cookie Mix. I ordinarily pass on sugar cookies, but the family seemed to concur these were the best ever. My mom voted the cookies as her favorite even before she tried the cake, but she also loved the cake’s texture and flavor. No one could have a problem with this beer bread. Designed to go quickly to the table, the Paula Deen line ranges from $.69 to $2.49, which makers say appeals to the increasingly cost-sensitive consumers today and still offers them a quality brand.
The roll outs also include Homestyle White and Chocolate Cake Mix; Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix; Blueberry, Corn and Raspberry Muffin Mix; and the spice grinders and shakers I shared with you earlier.

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