A Little Bit of Americana Deep in the Heart of Texas

Round Top Chili Cookoff
Photo by our friend David

The Grill-Meister and I met some friends yesterday at the chili cookoff in tiny Round Top, Texas (population 90 in the 2010 census). It was overcast and gray and didn’t really seem like a good day for an outdoor festival, but we were committed, so we donned sensible shoes for trodding in mud and brought our appetites. It was a wonderful experience!

The chili was great, but the people-watching was even better.  I didn’t take enough pictures and none of them will win any awards, but I was struck by the sheer Americana of the scene and had to share it.

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

The Chili Bee and Round Top, Texas – A Little Tale of Community, Chili and Small-Town Magic

Headed out to the Round Top Chili Cookoff with friends today, I’m inspired to reblog this post from last year. It’s a tale of a chili cook-off fundraiser in a tiny Texas town, two friends, five gallons of spilled chili, dozens of kind people and a chance meeting with the governor.

Glover Gardens

Facebook reminded me today of an event from four years ago that still brings me joy.  It’s a tale of a chili cook-off fundraiser in a tiny Texas town, two friends, five gallons of spilled chili in an SUV, dozens of very kind people and a chance meeting with the state’s governor.  Just another January Saturday in Texas…

In January of 2013, my friend Theresa and I decided to enter the Round Top Chili Cookoff.  It’s a great event that benefits the public library in this most picturesque of small Texas Hill Country towns.  They have braggin’ rights, too:  Round Top is the smallest town in Texas with a full service public library, and they aim to keep it that way (small and book-lovin’).

Round Top Daytime.jpg The January sky over Round Top, a most picturesque little town

We started planning our cook-off participation by email, first by picking a name.  It had to be something special…

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Haiku: Sleety Celebration

If you’ve been following Glover Gardens this week, you know that it is really cold here.  Freaky cold. Snow and ice and sleet, oh my! It just makes you want to stay inside, drink hot chocolate by the fire and have comfort food for all your meals.  One day I said to the  Grill-Meister, “Wouldn’t tomato soup and grilled cheese be the perfect lunch today?”

Less than an hour later, I got this text and photo from my friend Nancy:

Channeling my inner Kim with grilled cheese with red onion, tomato, and fresh basil— along with tomato/basil soup!
A sleety celebration with jazz accompaniment!

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Photo credit to my good friend Nancy

Can you believe it?! While I was daydreaming about the perfect cold-weather lunch, Nancy was making it, and chilling out (pun intended) with some jazz! The Grill-Meister and I laughed and laughed — and we would have crashed her sleety celebration if it wasn’t too dangerous to be on the roads.

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Nancy and me at Bayona in New Orleans, a handful of years ago (on a warmer day!)

It’s probably obvious that Nancy and I go way back.  Waaaay back, to our days in the Old Sugar Land when we were semi-young moms of young sons, and getting together and talking helped us figure out the world and our places in it.  (Actually, getting together and talking still helps us figure out the world and our places in it.)  One of the many things Nancy and I enjoy together is making and eating wonderful food, and I’m not surprised she knew my perfect snowed-in meal. I celebrate our friendship in this haiku.

Haiku: Sleety Celebration

she’s channeling me
tomato soup and grilled cheese
comfort food friendship

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

 

Perfect for a Cold Winter’s Night: Smooth, Creamy, Wonderful Cauliflower Soup

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My parents’ cookbook, a wonderful legacy

Brrrrr! Extraordinary winter (for this area) continues here at Glover Gardens.  We’re breaking out the soups to warm up from the inside out. I’ve had a hankering to make an old classic from my parents’ cookbook, Cauliflower Soup.

I have great memories of making Cauliflower Soup with my Mom, of developing the recipe together, in fact, but when I looked back at the cookbook she created for my Dad’s real estate company years ago, that version was …  well … unenlightened.  Literally.  It had twice as much cream and half the chicken stock, plus extra butter. As an adult, I’ve been making a lighter version, although not lately, because the Grill-Meister is NOT A FAN of cooked cauliflower. He proclaims that he hates the cooked version of most vegetables, but I’ve been working on him for the decade we’ve been married and we’re starting to see that it is OVERCOOKED vegetables that he hates.

I had all the ingredients for Cauliflower Soup when Winter Storm Inga dropped in on us this week, so I took on the Grill-Meister’s cauliflower contempt as a challenge. This warming soup comes together quickly, so on Sunday afternoon I whipped it up and took him a small portion as a late afternoon snack / taste test (I was afraid to plan on it for dinner in case it got two thumbs down).

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Two ounces of yummy, creamy goodness, garnished with sour cream, nutmeg and green onions and ready for the Grill-Meister’s taste test

He liked it! He told me to be sure and mention that he was a cauliflower hater so you’d understand the significance of his appreciation.  The Grill-Meister’s biggest compliment (in his opinion) was: “It doesn’t even taste like cauliflower!” We had cups of this creamy goodness for dinner the next night with a simple green salad, and I’m pretty sure he had two servings.

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Our warm cups of Cauliflower Soup; “Mema” rolls are the perfect accompaniment

So, now that I have the Grill-Meister’s Seal of Approval, I’m sharing this recipe with you.  Cauliflower Soup is easy and quick, warm and comforting, and yet surprisingly elegant. You can serve it in shot glasses as a fun party appetizer, as a first course for a fancy meal, or paired with a salad and crusty bread for a quick weeknight supper. It can be produced as a vegetarian soup with the substitution of vegetable broth for the chicken stock, and vegan if you do that and also use coconut or almond milk instead of the cream / half ‘n’ half.

Cauliflower Soup (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower, washed and separated into florets
  • 1 bunch of green onions (about 8), chopped into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3-4 cups of chicken stock, preferably homemade (enough to cover the cauliflower
  • and onions in the saucepan but not more)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (substitute half ‘n’ half for part or all of the cream for a lighter version)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible
  • Optional garnishes (you can mix and match)
    • sour cream (dollop)
    • pesto (swirl)
    • green onions, thinly sliced
    • chopped parsley
    • toasted nuts, chopped
    • more nutmeg

Cooking Instructions

Combine the cauliflower, shallot, green onions and chicken stock in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a good simmer for 10 minutes or more, until cauliflower is soft. Remove from the stove, transfer to a blender and purée. You can also use an immersion blender. Be very, very careful with the hot mixture and make sure the lid to your blender is on tight.  The purée should be as smooth as possible.

Place the purée back in the saucepan over medium heat and stir in the cream or half ‘n’ half. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to medium low, cooking at a gently simmer until thickened as desired, for 5 minutes or more.  While it is simmering, add the minimum amounts of salt, white pepper and nutmeg, then taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot, garnished (see options above).  My minimum garnishes for this lovely and comforting soup are a generous dollop of sour cream, some green onions for crunch, and a dusting of nutmeg.

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The vegetables ready to be boiled
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Barely cover the vegetables with the stock
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Cook until the cauliflower is soft
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Puree until smooth
Add the Cream
Put back on the heat and add the cream (I used part cream and part half ‘n’ half, since it wasn’t a holiday)
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After the cream, the soup thickens nicely
Adding the Nutmeg to Cauliflower Soup
Add the nutmeg; freshly grated is best
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Rich and satisfying, this soup is a winter winner

References

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

 

 

 

Sandwich Wednesday: The Grill-Meister’s Tuna Steak BLT Panini (the TBLT)

As I’ve said before, Sandwich Wednesday is a thing here at Glover Gardens.  The Grill-Meister breaks out the panini maker for the midweek supper and delivers deliciousness between two slices of grill-marked bread. Read more about it here.

A recent delight was what he calls the TBLT, grilled tuna steaks nestled in a panini with the traditional BLT ingredients plus red onion and a spicy condiment. Oh yes, this was a wonderful winter Wednesday!

Since we are empty-nesters now, this recipe is for two; you can multiply it if you have a larger crowd.  It saves time and is fun if you let everyone assemble their own.  The Grill-Meister does that and I always have exactly the right amount of each accoutrement on my panini. 

Tuna Steak BLT Panini for Two

Ingredients

  • Two tuna steaks, at least 4 oz. each
  • Your favorite spice mix (we use our Everything Rub or Zippy Southwest)
  • Two tsp olive oil
  • Four slices of sourdough or your other favorite panini bread
  • Butter or olive oil
  • A spicy condiment – your choice!
  • Four slices of thick bacon, cooked the way you like (extra crispy for me!)
  • One medium tomato, sliced
  • Two more big leaves of romaine lettuce
  • Salt and pepper

Cooking Instructions

Gather all ingredients and prepare to assemble them for the paninis.

Pat the spice mix all over the tuna steaks.  Preheat a nonstick pan on high heat with 2 tsp olive oil, then add the tuna steaks and cook for about 2 minutes per side.  Remove from the pan and set aside. (You could also grill the tuna steaks; just be sure not to overcook them.)

Preheat a panini maker to medium.  Spread the four pieces of bread with butter on one side or brush with olive oil and turn over.  Spread your condiment of choice on the inside of the bread, then layer one side with the onion, bacon slices (2 each) and tuna steaks and top with the second slice of bread. Put the sandwiches on the panini maker, close the lid and cook until the bread is nicely toasted, about 7-10 minutes.

When the sandwiches are toasty and warm, with beautiful grill marks, remove from the panini maker. Open them up and add the tomatoes, then salt and freshly ground pepper, and then the romaine. Replace the top piece of bread and serve.

Note: you can steer the flavor profile of your panini with the condiment – we used Pain Train Green Salsa (from our local farmer’s market) the last time the Grill-Meister produced this scrumptious sandwich, but you could substitute a spicy mustard, a pepper jelly, an herb mayonnaise or some other wonderful condiment. Or just go whole hog and use soft, spreadable Boursin cheese – yum!

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Sear the tuna steaks in a hot pan
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Turn and sear for a couple more minutes
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Have all the ingredients ready before searing the tuna
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Condiments and onions go first
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Layer the tuna and bacon atop the onions
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Give the sandwiches long enough in the panini to get a good crust
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Open the paninis for the crisp, fresh garnishes
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First the tomatoes (we like a LOTTA tomato!), which is a good point to add the salt and pepper
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Then the crispy romaine
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And voila! you have a beautiful TBLT panini

More Panini Intel

For more about Sandwich Wednesday and the Grill-Meister’s perfect paninis, and methods check out:

fullsizeoutput_201aIt’s a Family Thing

One of my beloved nieces has a panini maker now (a gift from the Grill-Meister and me), and sent me this photo of a recent success.  I suspect I’ll be posting her delectable panini achievements and recipes as time goes by.

(Especially if y’all encourage her! Isn’t this photo enticing?)

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

Hunkering Down in the Cold and Watching the Birds

Brrrrr!  It’s hunker down time here in Southeast Texas where harsh Lady Winter (actually “Winter Storm Inga”) has found us and seems to be settling in for a good long visit.

We had hail and snow and sub-freezing weather all day today, which is confusing to the plants and wildlife here at Glover Gardens. There were birds we’ve never seen before eating from the feeders: yellow-bellied flycatchers; they are northern birds who should have migrated further south into Mexico by now. Alas, I didn’t get a photo because they scattered when I opened the door, but All About Birds has a nice one.

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Photo from All About Birds / Cornell Lab of Ornithology

But I did catch this cardinal across the yard, using the big ol’ zoom lens on my new camera. What a beautiful sentry he is on that frozen twig.

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Stay warm!

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens