Thursday, December 22, 2011

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Texas books round up good reads

Port Arthur naturalist Bessie M. Reid amazed an ornithologist one morning before she even changed from her kimono and house slippers. He witnessed her trained hummingbirds eat from her hand. She used droppers to feed them a brew with honey and meat juice. One-time neighbor Ryle Adamson, who has been a source for my stories, said her yard was a jungle, designed to attract birds. Reid reportedly grew plants to attract lice to feed feathered friends and the Port Arthur News reported when she got her college degree.

These juicy tidbits are from just one of the 850-pages of “The Big Thicket Guidebook: Exploring the Backroads and History of Southeast Texas.” Lorraine G. Bonney’s writings make up the book. I promoted it here in advance after I met one of the editors, Maxine Johnstone. Now that this big-old book is in my hands, I aim to spend 2012 getting to know my area more. It could take that long to thoroughly digest this fascinating book.

True crime

A department of law men figuratively scrambled over a fresh corpse to succeed a slain man in office. Those in charge surprisingly awarded the position to the dead man’s wife, who apparently later had to promote her husband’s killer. “Written in Blood: The History of Fort Worth’s Fallen Lawmen” is Volume II, covering 1910 to 1928. Richard F. Selcer and Kevin S. Foster tell some whoppers in this University of North Texas release.

Just 750 ideas for party time

Happy New Year. A new book, “750 Best Appetizers: From Dips and Salsas to Spreads and Shooters” offers more than a year’s worth of inspiration. I just saw Anthony Bourdain reminiscing of buttered radish slices on “No Reservations.” I’d never heard of this and a week later I find it in this book. They sprinkle the bites with crunchy salt. Grind up your own salt blends with peppercorns or loose green tea. Judith Finlayson and Jordan Wagman offer luscious spreads from chorizo pizza to panko-crusted beef marrow. Here’s a twist on the usual guacamole we Southeast Texans love:

Avocado Ancho Chile Dip

1 avocado cut into chunks

¼ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon cream cheese

1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon grainy mustard

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ancho chile powder

¼ teaspoon liquid honey

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse ingredients until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap, pressing down on surface of dip, and refrigerate for up to four hours. Wonderful with carnitas, tacos or tortilla chips.

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