Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pickled shrimp with lime

When the days are hot and muggy, chilled pickled shrimp is a lush and refreshing way to help you forget you’re roasting in a hard, cement-coated city.

Pickled shrimp, which in Spanish would be called ceviche, is simply lightly cooked shrimp soaked overnight in an acidic liquid—such as citrus juice or vinegar—that’s flavored with herbs and aromatics. Pickled shrimp is perfect for summer. And I had some at lunch recently—a bowl so bright and cooling that if I closed my eyes I could imagine that I was no longer in steamy Manhattan but instead lounging on a breezy beach by the sea.

My dining companion was a New York book editor who hails from Texas, whom I’ve had the pleasure of corresponding with for the past few months. And it was a real joy getting to know her as I always get a kick out of meeting fellow Texans; our shared love of our home state instantly creates a special bond.

Though, truth be told, I was also interested in talking to her about publishing. People have been telling me I should write a book and for someone who has loved writing her whole life, this is all very flattering.

That said, for a long time I’ve struggled with what I’d have to say in a book. Not to mention, if I wrote a book would it be a food narrative or a straight-on cookbook? I’ve been advised to do both, which just adds to my confusion.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Buttermilk dressing

Buttermilk dressing | Homesick Texan

The first time I ate pizza with my New York friends, I learned that Texans have a special relationship with buttermilk dressing. When the pizza arrived, I pulled a jar out of the refrigerator, grabbed a slice of pizza and drizzled some of the creamy, tangy dressing all over it.

“What are you doing?” said my friends.

“You don’t put buttermilk dressing on your pizza?” I said.

“No! That's disgusting!” said my friends.

I shrugged and then continued to eat my buttermilk-dressing soaked pizza. And it was good.

When it comes to buttermilk dressing, Texans don’t just stop at pizza. We, of course, put it on our salads. But we also use it as a dip for our steak fingers, onion rings, fried okra, cheese fries and leftover fried chicken, among many other things.

Buttermilk dressing has long been a popular staple in a Texan’s larder. Its presence harks back to a time when dairy was ubiquitous and cheap, so it made sense to craft a dressing out of buttermilk and eggs rather than oil, which was scarce.

Buttermilk dressing | Homesick Texan

In the 1960’s, buttermilk dressing became branded as ranch dressing, but I prefer to call it by its proper name, especially as the stuff you buy in a bottle has almost no relationship to what you can make at home. And yes, buttermilk is indeed the star.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Guacamole, my way

I’m often asked why I don’t have a guacamole recipe on my site. I reckon the simplest answer is because I don’t have a recipe for guacamole. Instead, I just add some ingredients to a smashed-up avocado and call it a dip.

When my mom was in the liturgical nacho stage of her life (so-called because she made her daily lunch of nachos always the exact same way) she’d whip up a batch of guacamole to go with them. She totally cheated, however, as she mashed an avocado with bottled hot sauce. 

My mom can do many things very, very well, but I have to admit that this guacamole was not the best I’d eaten in my life. (And, for the record, she insists that she no longer makes guacamole this way.)

Guacamole is all about freshness and using a bottled hot sauce is anathema to this underlying principle. While you want the avocado to be the star, the other ingredients need to be heard as well, and nothing is louder than the crunch of fresh chiles, the tang of lime juice and the bite of fresh garlic.

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Saveur, the Texas issue

Do you love Texas food as much as I do? Then check out the June issue of Saveur, a special edition devoted to the Lone Star State.

You’ll find a beautiful portrait of West Texas border food, a convincing argument to eat okra, a history of chuck wagon cooking, stunning photos by Penny De Los Santos, excellent writing by Robb Walsh, Patricia Sharpe and Alison Cook, and recipes galore.

Oh, and there’s also a fine essay (if I say so myself) by yours truly, your favorite Homesick Texan food blogger.

But the most exciting thing for me is seeing my Texas-shaped cake pan in the magazine. My grandma baked a big cookie into this pan and mailed it to me when I first moved away from Texas. She wrote, “I’m sending this to you so you’ll always remember where you came from.” As you can see, it’s an oft-used and well-loved treasure. And I may be biased, but I can think of no better way to illustrate a section entitled, “Twenty-four reasons why we love Texas.” Can you?

So a big hearty howdy if you’re coming here for the first time—happy reading and eating!

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