A Recipe, From Our Garden to Yours

Is it just us, or is this a really good tomato year in Texas? Like really good. We’re up to our eyeballs in tomatoes, to be honest. And so it goes with the onslaught of tomato recipes.

A simple gazpacho is the go-to, particularly if your garden is also yielding an abundance of cucumbers. We love gazpacho to cool us off on heat advisory days.

A fancy tomato tart will impress any guest – and guess what? With store-bought puff pastry, it comes together in a snap while making you look like a gourmet hero. Go ahead, take a bow. You deserve it.

When it comes to salads, you can certainly toss them on a chopped salad. If you’re growing the big slicing tomatoes we like to make a balsamic-drizzled Caprese, or simply embrace the tomato itself by slicing and tossing with some S&P, olive oil and a little thinly sliced red onion.

What’s our favorite summer tomato recipe? There is nothing in this world better than a great sauce. While typically ladled over pasta, this particular sauce is pretty versatile. Purée some of it to use with homemade pizza, or even set some simmering with eggs for a makeshift Shakshuka. Whichever way you make it, we like this sauce for three reasons: it uses 2 whole pounds of those homegrown tomatoes, you can freeze it or jar it for use after tomato season, and the mix of fresh and roasted tomatoes really gives you the best of both.

AA’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

2# Tomatoes (preferably Romas or Slicing Tomatoes but really whatever is in your garden)

6 Cloves Garlic (Sliced)

1 Tablespoon Chili Flake

1 Medium Yellow Onion (Medium Dice)

4 Sprigs Thyme

4 Sprigs Oregano

1 Bunch Basil (Chiffonade)

1 Cup Red wine

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut tomatoes in half and take out the core.
  2. Place half of the tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Reserve the other half of tomatoes for later.
  4. Place the seasoned tomatoes on a baking tray lined with Parchment paper and bake at 250 for about an hour and a half to two hours. Tomatoes should not be completely dry but shriveled up a bit.
  5. In a large saucepot, heat about a ½ cup of olive oil and add chopped onion.
  6. When onion becomes translucent add sliced garlic, thyme, oregano and red chili flake.
  7. Sautee on low heat for about 2 minutes and then add the wine and reduce to about a half-cup.
  8. Next, add the Roasted tomatoes and reserved raw tomatoes and simmer for about 2 hours depending on how juicy the tomatoes are and how thick you like your sauce.
  9. Let sauce cool slightly and then blend in a blender or with a stick blender.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and fold in chiffonade basil.

Now, isn’t summer wonderful?

Looking for some great seasonal dishes but don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our meal prep services provide chef-prepared meals from our kitchen to yours every week! All of our menus are custom crafted with your culinary preferences in mind and delivered via no-contact delivery right to your door. If you’re ready to get started, fill out our food profile!

 

Autumn Vegetables to Delight Your Dinners

Autumn in Texas arrives with a tremendous welcome.  It brings the long-awaited respite from a heat-scorched summer, and a season filled with excitement for what’s ahead.  Football, cool mornings, turning leaves, and for me—anticipating the bounty of fall vegetables that The Austin Artisan uses in our meal delivery services: okra, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, beets, patty pan squash, Brussels sprouts, and eggplant, to name a few.  

What’s On Your Fall Dinner Menu?


What fall produce do you like to indulge in? Have you experimented with turnips, squash or figs?  From butternut squash stew and pumpkin risotto to honey roasted carrots, fall vegetables are versatile and bursting with comforting flavors. When planning your fall dinners, incorporate in-season produce. It is fresher, tastier and more nutritious than food consumed out of season.

The Austin Artisan loves to indulge in fall vegetables whether it involves a quick roast in the oven or sautéing with spices and olive oil. We are dedicated to making your meals as fresh as possible—which means emphasizing local foods and supporting nearby farmers and distributors. That’s why our menus constantly change to include fresh, seasonal ingredients originating 150 miles or closer to Austin, Texas. Preparing our meals with fall produce means you can enjoy a greater variety of foods (and maybe introduce some new favorites to your palate!)

Need Help with Fall Meal Planning?

Meal planning can seem a bit overwhelming, especially when you’re just starting a new routine, like back to school. That’s why we offer Personal Chef and Meal Delivery services—to eliminate the stress of planning and make it easier for you to have fresh, healthy meals on the table every night. Visit our Personal Chef page  for more information and to get started!

Here’s a quick list of fall vegetables:

Acorn Squash
Belgian Endive
Broccoli
Brussels Sprouts
Butter Lettuce
Butternut Squash
Cactus Pear
Cauliflower
Endive
Feijoa
Garlic
Ginger
Hearts of Palm
Mushrooms
Ong Choy Spinach
Pumpkin
Quince
Radicchio
Sweet Potatoes
Swiss Chard
Turnips

Cook Summer Family Dinners Everyone Will Love!

Why Family Dinnertime is More Important Than Ever

Growing up, did your mom put dinner on the table five or six nights a week, complete with a salad, place mats and ironed cloth napkins? 

Times have changed.

Today, with working parents, long commutes, and children’s sports and homework that stretch into evening – there is not always a simple recipe for making family dinners work.

In the midst of our hectic lives, numerous studies show that one activity that really unites busy families is dinner time. This precious time together provides families with a break from their fast-pace lives, time to talk, laugh and re-connect after a long day.  Researchers have discovered important science-backed reasons why we need to limit meals on the run and schedule more family dinners at home.

Kids who eat with their families on a regular basis, have been shown to have higher self-esteem, better grade-point averages and larger vocabularies, and lower rates of obesity, eating disorders, and depression.

Family meals offer parents a chance to be role models. They can set an example of healthy eating and polite table manners. Time around the dinner table provide the perfect opportunity for parents to expose children to different foods and expand their tastes. When families eat together, children are less likely to be overweight and obese because they are taught portion control, and how to eat nutritious, balanced meals.

Another advantage of family dinners at home is cost savings.  In 2017 the average spent on food away from home was $4,200. Even more, the average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal. 

If making family dinners seems like another chore on your to-do list, The Austin Artisan provides a perfect solution! Our personal chef-style meal delivery service requires  no sautéing, blending or chopping. Simply turn on your oven and insert your meal. In 5-15 minutes your meal is ready, and you haven’t dirtied a single pot or pan!

The Artisans cook your meals in our certified commercial kitchen and deliver delicious “reheat and eat” foods right to your refrigerator. It really couldn’t be easier. Not only are we dedicated to making your meals as fresh as possible from locally sourced, seasonal ingredients, we personalize each meal to your flavor and dietary preferences. The Artisans pride ourselves on our ability to provide healthy meals to those busy families.  We’re ready to help you reignite family time around your dinner table.

Contact us to complete your flavor profile and get started with The Austin Artisan’s personal chef meal service.

Our Top-Rated St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! I’m dusting off my Irish brogue in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on March 17. In preparation, my culinary team and I have been testing recipes to bring you our favorite Irish-inspired dishes. No matter what your plans are (parades, step dancers, Celtic-music concerts), we recommend serving up a simple, yet elegant feast straight from the Emerald Isle.

First up, we have Shepherd’s Pie—a meat pie topped with a mashed-potato crust. It’s a hearty comfort food that likely developed somewhere in the United Kingdom. Today, however, Shepherd’s Pie has become synonymous with Irish pub-food cuisine. It’s like serving up a bowl full of warmth and comfort, and it pairs perfectly with a pint.

We recommend trying this modern twist from Epicurious.com. It features bison meat and red wine with a thick topping of creamy mashed potatoes. YUM!

Bison and Red Wine Shepherd’s Pie:

St. Patrick's Day: Bison and Red Wine Shepherd's Pie / Lisa Kerezi

No St. Patrick’s Day party is complete without Irish Soda Bread. It’s a quick bread that uses sodium bicarbonate (aka: baking soda) as the leavening agent instead of yeast. This recipe from Taste of Home is lightly sweetened with a touch of sugar and studded with chewy raisins. The flavors are so versatile; we’ll eat this bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner! All it needs is a kiss of butter and you’re good to go.

Best Irish Soda Bread:

St. Patrick's Day recipe

How to Preserve Your Hatch Green Chiles

There are a ton of vegetables in-season right now: eggplant, green beans, okra… but our favorite by far is Hatch green chiles. Named for the region of New Mexico that they’re grown in, these peppers lend their signature heat-meets-sweet flavor to summertime meals.

 

Here at The Austin Artisan, we love using Hatch chiles in all kinds of dishes. Have you tried them in your grilled cheese? Incorporated them into lasagna? Or grilled up some spicy burgers? There are so many options, it feels wrong to only enjoy them for a few months every year.

 

If you love kicking up your dishes, or just want to have the option of enjoying good-quality ingredients all year round, then you should be preserving your Hatch chiles.

 

Heres how:

 

  1. Order a case of Hatch chiles—most grocery stores will take your order. Alternatively, look to warehouse stores, like Costco or Sam’s Club.
  2. Heat up the grill. In small batches, roast the chiles until the skin starts to blister and char. Charring is GOOD!
  3. Immediately upon removal from the grill, place the charred chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooled batch into half-gallon freezer bags. (If you have a vacuum sealer, even better! It’s a favorite gadget of mine. )
  5. Freeze in small batches. (Use your judgment and freeze in amounts you would use in a meal. You don’t want to freeze a large block; because once you defrost the chiles you have a limited amount of time to use them.)
  6. When you’re ready to get cooking, place the frozen bag in a bowl in the sink. Run COLD water over the chiles until they are thawed. This should take about 30 minutes, depending on size of batch.
  7. Once completely thawed, peel the charred skin and remove the seeds. Toss or compost.

 

What is left will surely make any dish a knockout!
Some ideas:

  • Super Bowl chili with Hatch chiles
  • Thanksgiving stuffing with Hatch chiles
  • Anytime scrambled eggs with a little Hatch chile heat

 

Your turn: Let us know your favorite way to incorporate them into your meals, or better yet, tag us in a picture on Facebook! We’re waiting to hear from you…

Turnip Gratin: Your New Favorite Side Dish

Do you turn up your nose when you hear the word turnip? I get it; they’re not everyone’s favorite vegetable. To this I say: challenge accepted!

Turnips are cropping up like crazy right now. As we endeavor to cook locally and seasonally for our clients, we’ve gotten pretty creative with these under-rated veggies. But before we dive into the recipe, I feel like I have to clear up some confusion first:

Turnips and rutabaga are often mixed up. While both are part of the Brassica family, turnips have purple-tinted skin and white flesh. And they’re usually a little smaller than rutabaga. As for taste, they’re slightly bitter, which is why most people are off-put by them. Good thing we have cheese!

Lately, we’ve been transforming turnips into deliciously hearty gratins, made with butter, cheese and lots of fresh herbs. The dairy lends a savory flavor and creamy texture. As the turnips cook, they sweeten and lose a bit of that bitterness.

This dish makes for a nice alternative to potato-based sides that can start to feel redundant. This also exposes your family to more than the staple, go-to vegetables we rely on so much. So take yourself, your kids or a buddy to the farmer’s market and pick up a few turnips.

While you’re there, look for other veggies you don’t eat often. I love getting people excited about food, especially food they’ve never tried before. If you see something you want to experiment with, send me an email and I’ll find you a recipe. Deal?

Turnip Gratin Recipe

Okay, back to the turnips. A side effect of working in a busy kitchen is that you don’t always have time to write your recipes down. But have no fear; this Turnip Gratin recipe by The Pioneer Woman is reminiscent of our version. Gooey, salty and slightly sweet, this decadent dish will make a turnip believer out of you. Try it this holiday season or for a weeknight side…

Better yet, let the Austin Artisans do it for you. The holiday season can get stressful, so leave the cooking to us. Click the links to find out more about our Boutique Catering and Personal Chef Services. What’s the difference between the two? This blog will help you out!

Eat Like a Billionaire (Without Spending a Fortune)

When you think about eating like a billionaire, what kind of images do you conjure in your mind? French wine, foie gras and olive oil dust? Escargot and ice cream with flecks of 14-karat gold? In other words, food that seems too far out of reach?

Well, I have a little secret to tell you… eating like a celebrity or CEO actually has nothing to do with money (or whether or not you can source snails). It has to do with creating an experience—and knowing a few key culinary tricks. As a chef, my mission is to redefine the way people think about food, because (to quote myself) it can set the tone, create the mood and evoke an emotion.

Despite what many believe about Personal Chefs, I actually don’t have a single client who brings in the billions. But my clients surely eat like they do! There’s an art to elevating and enjoying your food, which is accessible for everyone.

Your creativity is actually what enhances a meal and makes you feel like a star! So if you want to eat like a billionaire, here are some ways you can do it without spending a fortune:

Grow Fresh Herbs: Take an ordinary salad. Then add fresh basil and tomatoes from your garden. It totally enlivens the flavors. Grill up a steak and then prepare a simple Basil-Mint Chimichurri to transform a weeknight meal into a fine-dining experience. I’m telling you, it’s all about the right herbs. Read more about Why I Keep an Herb Garden here.

Learn About Sauces: There’s a reason you’re taught to prepare Mother Sauces in culinary school. The 5 French Mother Sauces are the foundation for all other sauces—they also help you raise the bar. Think eggs. Then think eggs with hollandaise sauce. Think lasagna. Then think Northern-style lasagna with béchamel sauce. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?

Experiment With Science: Remember that Olive Oil Dust I mentioned? Well, it only contains 3 ingredients! Sometimes, adding that element of shock and awe is easier than you think. So in addition to sauces and herbs, create a masterful meal with Molecular Gastronomy. Click to get my Olive Oil Dust and Lemon Air recipes.

Set the table: How many of you pull out the paper plates and huddle around the TV? Okay, that’s fun when you’re watching a football game, but see how it feels to set your table with plates, forks, knives and cloth (eco-friendly) napkins. You may even want to pull out the Waterford glasses or champagne flutes that have been collecting dust since your wedding. Might as well use them! Not sure which fork goes where? Check out this blog post on How to Set a Table.

Shut off the TV: Like I said, grub and a game is one thing, but eating in front of the TV night after night distracts from the meal. So do phones, laptops and leftover work. Carve out at least 30-45 minutes of electronic-free time to eat, chew and savor each and every bite. You’ll be amazed at how differently you taste and digest your meals when you’re paying attention to them.

Ready to roll up your sleeves? The Austin Artisan Cooking Classes are coming soon, featuring Private Demonstrations, Interactive Cooking Classes and Cooking Competitions. From fine-dining recipes to mystery baskets, we’ll show you how the pros do it! Perfect for individuals, small groups and corporate team building. Contact us for more information.

Seafood Stew: We Saved the Best for Last

We’re wrapping up Seafood Month and ending with the mother of all recipes: Seafood Stew. In culinary terms, this can be easily defined as a fresh fish and shellfish dish cooked in a flavored broth. Instead of featuring just one variety, a stew utilizes a combination of seafood to create a dynamic and robust meal. Traditionally, the stew is comprised of the “catch of the day.”

Depending on where you live the catch may vary a bit. Inland you might not find as much variety as you would in coastal regions, like San Francisco and New England. But that’s the fun part. You can use what is most fresh and abundant in your area. I always recommend speaking with a knowledgeable fishmonger to help you out.

While the seafood takes center stage, the broth and style also make this meal really standout. Cioppino, which was said to have been made popular by Italian immigrants in San Francisco, is a preparation typically made with a tomato-and-wine-based broth. Of course, you can probably find recipes that are just made with tomatoes and stock, but we recommend this Cioppino from Epicurious (enhanced with dry red wine)  Please note, the accompanying focaccia or sourdough bread is non-negotiable!

Another delicious option is Bouillabaisse—a French preparation, starring seafood, vegetables and Provencal spices, served with rouille or rich sauce. The history is actually pretty cool: “Bouillabaisse was originally a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets.”  In other words, it was (and is) a great way to utilize the less popular fish and turn it into something outrageous. (And you know how much we appreciate sustainable solutions!) Another hit from Epicurious, be sure to put this Bouillabaisse recipe on this week’s menu.

We hope you enjoyed Seafood Month as much as we did. If you missed our previous posts, be sure to check out our Mussel and Shrimp  blogs to learn all of our top Chef Secrets. Then, give these summer Seafood dishes a try and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Shrimp: Everything You Need to Know

In case you missed our previous post, we’re in the height of Seafood Month! Which means we’re dedicating 3 weeks to the best fish in the sea. Today is our second installment, and I’m sharing everything you need to know about shrimp.

Why shrimp? I mean, who doesn’t love it? It’s easy to find, easy to cook and can be enjoyed in so many ways. Think shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole… Bubba Gump would be proud!

How to Pick the Best-Quality Shrimp

  1. Go Wild: Wild-caught seafood is always best. If it’s not available, look for sustainable labels. Ethical shrimp is not only better for the environment, but it tastes better, too. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch offers more information on making choices to promote a healthy ocean.
  2. Size Matters: Shrimp is usually sold by the pound and is measured by how many shrimp can fit into that pound. U15 means that the pound will contain 15 or less (so they’re large), while U51 means the pound will contain 51 or more (so they’re small). Check out this size chart for details.
  3. Keep it Fresh: Shrimp shouldn’t have an unpleasant odor. Nope, seafood should always smell like the sea (for obvious reasons). You should also avoid or toss shrimp that’s slimy, limp or contains black spots.

What else do you need to know? Well, the recipe you select should indicate whether or not you’ll need a certain variety or size, or if the shrimp should remain in the shell or not. So let’s talk recipes. Here are a few we’ve bookmarked for your summer seafood adventures…

Artisan-Approved Recipes

Grilled Shrimp with Garlic: Skip the stove and head outdoors with this Spanish-inspired grilled shrimp dish from Bobby Flay.

Buttered Prawns with Tomato, Olives and Arak: From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, this unique recipe adds intrigue with arak—a Middle Eastern liquor that’s similar to Pernod.

Shrimp Scampi: A light, elegant dish from Tyler Florence, featuring shrimp cooked with white wine and butter and tossed with linguini. It’s the perfect pasta.

Shrimp Creole: From the famed New Orleans Chef Emeril Lagasse, this classic preparation may not be the healthiest, but it sure does pack a lot of intensity.

Which recipe do you plan to try this week? Let us know in the comments below or snap a pic and tag us. Then, check back next week as Seafood Month continues. It’s #betterthansharkweek!