Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Summer is Sherry Time...

I had tapas with a friend last night at Sangria's--a new tapas place here in Dallas. (For those of you in the area, it's worth a visit. Well-prepared traditional tapas in a great setting. Don't miss the wonderful scalloped potato concoction layered with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. Decadent...)

Knowing it was a tapas evening, I had my heart (and palate) set on a bracing glass of Spanish sherry. I was unimpressed with the list though, so we had some of their quite tasty red sangria. My craving has not been fulfilled though, so I am eyeing a couple of bottles I have in my bar. Sherry will be my drink of choice soon.

I won't be drinking my favorite though. Hidalgo's La Gitana Manzanlla. It comes in a 375 ml bottle with a painting of a gypsy (gitana) on the label. Unfortunately, I can't find a wine store in the area that stocks it. I'm forced to resort to mail-order. And will be doing that soon. A well-chilled glass of that with almonds, Manchego and some Serrano ham is all I need to imagine that I'm on the Spanish shore. It is so tangily delicious that you can almost taste the salty seaside air in each sip.

I have a couple of good alternatives standing by though. Both were recently featured in Wine Spectator.

Emilio Lustau Manzanilla Jerez Papirusa Solera Reserva NV. At $14 dollars a bottle and 90 points from WS, it should be a good one. The tasting notes include aromas and flavors of olive, apple and ocean brine. If it delivers, I'll be happy. Maybe it will be an easier-to-get alternative to the La Gitana.

Bodegas Osborne Fino Jerez Pale Dry NV (87 WS, $10) I must admit I've not always been a fan of Osborne sherries; I like them tangier and drier than what they usually produce. I'm going to try this one though: notes say that it will "leave a tingling around the gums."

If you haven't had sherry in a while, try a glass soon. Well-chilled and with salty snacks, its the perfect summer sip.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mussels with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

If you're family is into seafood, here is a wonderfully simple dinner. Just keep two pantry ingredients on hand: a jar of roasted red peppers and a can of tomatoes. Then stop in and pick up mussels and crusty bread at the grocery store on the way home. After quick assembly, you have a wonderfully hearty meal on the table.

Mussels with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
Adapted from Every Day with Rachael Ray
Makes four servings.

One 12- to 16-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and halved
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
One 14.5-ounce can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
Black pepper
2 pounds mussels, debearded

Using a food processor, puree the roasted peppers.

In a deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the wine and reduce for about a minute, then stir in the pureed peppers and the tomatoes; season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Add the mussels to the pan, cover tightly and cook until the shells open, about 5 minutes (discard any unopened mussels).

Divide the mussels among 4 large, shallow bowls and spoon a little sauce on top.

Serve over pasta or with slices of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Wine Pairing:This is a dish that pairs well with several wines: a tangy Sauvignon Blanc, a crisp rosé, or even a soft Pinot Noir. Try your own favorite and see what you think.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wine Dinner Preview

My brother is coming in town this weekend, so, since all my family will be gathered here in the Dallas area, it's time for a "Wine Dinner." A multi-course dinner pairing wines with food. I've been planning for a month or so now, and I think I have things under control. We'll be having a variety of courses: pork, seafood, lamb and accompaniments. All paired with everything from a rich South African Syrah to an interesting (I hope) sparkling wine from New Mexico.

I'll be reporting on it all (and sharing recipes) in the next several weeks. But, here's a preview. A deliciously tangy and spicy salmon dish paired with a medium-bodied tangy California rosé.

Apple and Horseradish-Glazed Salmon
From Cooking Light magazine.
Serves four.

1/3 cup apple jelly (I found a great apple-fennel chutney at my local gourmet store that worked perfectly.)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine apple jelly, chives, horseradish, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk.

Sprinkle salmon with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add salmon, and cook 3 minutes. Turn salmon over; brush with half of apple mixture. Wrap handle of skillet with foil; bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Brush with remaining apple mixture.

Food/Wine Pairing: I'm serving this with a tangy (but dry) rosé. The Miner Sangiovese Rosato. It has a strawberry component that brings out the sweetness of the fish and glaze, but enough acidity to counter the fattiness of the salmon. Try it, and see if you don't agree that it's a great pairing. (Hint: Any dry rosé would accomplish the same...)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Environmentally-Friendly Tips

As promised last week, here is another installment in the ongoing Wednesday series of simple ways to help keep the planet healthy.

  • Stop drinking bottled water. I saw a great commentary on bottled water recently. The writer said that it was a perfect example of brilliant marketers creating a need. And it's true. Most of us can't really tell the difference between what comes out of the tap versus the bottle. And if you look at the bottles closely, you'll see that most bottled waters are actually nothing more than filtered water from "municipal sources." So, don't be afraid to tell your waiter that tap water is just fine. And if your palate is so sophisticated that you really can tell the difference, buy a filter for your faucet and use a reusable bottle. You're helping to eliminate the plastic used to create all those bottles, and also the pollution put into the air by the trucks delivering them around the world.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. If all Americans would heed the guidelines clearly printed on the outside of their tires and make sure that they stayed properly inflated, we'd use four million fewer gallons of gas and have 30 percent fewer tires in our landfills every year.
  • Turn your thermostats up by two degrees in the summer and down by two degrees in the winter. Go right now to your thermostat and turn it up a couple of degrees. You're not likely to feel the difference, but will see the difference in your energy bills. And try and get in the habit of turning up several more degrees at night and when you're not home. No sense in spending the money on A/C when you're not truly using it.
  • Use fans. You'll notice the thermostat difference even less if you install a ceiling fan or two or put a couple of standing fans around your house. The moving air makes your body think it's actually cooler than it is. Just make sure and turn off when you're not in the room; they're useless unless your skin is there to feel the breeze.
  • Visit a store like this. If you're an advanced student, and REALLY want to make a difference, check out a store like Current Energy here in Dallas. You're likely to have something similar in your hometown where you can get fluorescent light bulbs, books filled with energy-saving tips, or even items like flashlights that are powered by giving them a good shake.

Won't you do your part and commit to adopting one of these this week and beyond?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice

It's hot. So rather than spending time over a scalding stovetop or sweat-inducing grill, why not call on your slow cooker? Plug in the ol' Crock Pot and whip up a hearty Cajun meal that's easy and inexpensive.

Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine.
Serves 4 to 6.

3 cups water
2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 (14-ounce) package turkey, pork, and beef smoked sausage, thinly sliced (such as Healthy Choice)
1 bay leaf
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups hot cooked long-grain rice
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Combine first 12 ingredients in an electric slow cooker. Cover with lid; cook on high heat for 5 hours. Discard bay leaf; stir in salt. Serve over rice; sprinkle servings evenly with green onions.

Wine Pairing:This hearty dish screams out for a bold rustic red. Since Louisiana is not exactly Wine Country, I pour a Spanish red to accompany this dish. For a wine pairing dinner in 2006, I opened bottled of Palacios Remondo's La Vendimia Rioja. Plenty of fruit, but also enough oaky backbone to stand up to the spice of the dish. How do you say "Let the good times roll" in Spanish?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eggplant "Lasagna"

Combine my desire to lose a few pounds with the bounty of vegetables out there and it leads to me trying to have a couple of "vegetarian" days a week. Fruit smoothie for breakfast, big salad for lunch and a yummy vegetarian main course for dinner. This recipe definitely fits with the dinner plan. The eggplant stands in for pasta in a typical lasagna preparation. If you're a fan of eggplant parmigiana, you'll love it. While there's a good amount of cheese in it, use low-fat versions to keep things on the skinny side and South Beach friendly.

Eggplant "Lasagna" with Mushrooms and Red Pepper
Serves 6-8.

Olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
4 ounces sliced mushrooms
1-15 ounce container low-fat ricotta cheese
3 eggs
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
(A grating of nutmeg if you have it.)
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups pasta sauce (I used an organic jarred version.)
2 tablespoons Italian herb seasoning (or to taste)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 ounces low-fat mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease an 8 inch by 11 inch glass baking dish with olive oil.

Arrange the eggplant slices on a baking sheet, season with kosher salt and lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Bake until the eggplant is soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a plate and set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Toss the peppers with a few dashes of olive oil and spread on baking sheet. Toss mushrooms with olive oil and spread on same baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, basil, parsley, nutmeg and a dash of salt until well-combined.

In a large saute pan drizzled with olive oil, saute the diced onion over medium-low heat until just translucent, about 4 minutes. Pour in the pasta sauce and stir. Bring sauce to a simmer and add Italian herb seasoning and crushed red pepper. Stir and simmer until well-incorporated, about 10 minutes.

To assemble lasagna, layer half of the eggplant slices in the prepared baking dish. Top with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the tomato sauce. Layer red pepper rings and mushrooms on top. Spread remaining ricotta mixture over and layer with remaining eggplant slices. Top with mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan.

Bake at 350 degrees until all the layers are heated through and the cheese is melted, about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The New Wednesday Series

There are soooo many ways that we can make small changes in our lives and help protect the environment. And finally people are paying attention to them. So, while I'm not going out and buying a Prius in the next week or two, I AM going to encourage you to help keep this world a beautiful place. Most of the tips will be painfully simple, with a few more advanced notions for the overachievers out there. Every Wednesday for the foreseeable future I'll be posting five or so things to try. If you'll commit to just one a week, we're well on our way to doing our part.

  1. Replace one (or more) of your light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. They cost a little more, but earn their keep in the energy savings you'll reap during their lifetime.
  2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. I KNOW our mothers tried to drill this one into us, but I am surprised how lackadaisical I'd become. Just paying more attention to it has helped me change my habits. Check yourself out and see how you're doing...
  3. Just say "no"...to receipts. If you have a choice, like at the ATM or gas station, don't print out a receipt. You save paper, eliminate a source of litter, and protect yourself from identity theft all at the same time. (Those tiny pieces of paper have plenty of info to get someone started on cleaning out your bank account.)
  4. Use a canvas bag at the grocery store. Paper or plastic? Neither! Over 1 million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide. That's 12 million barrels of oil a year in the United States alone. And many of those bags end up as litter. So take a reusable bag with you when you shop. After you've unloaded it at home, put it back in the trunk of your car so you have it whenever you need it.
  5. Need a vacation? Make it a "green" one. Check out some of your options at globeaware.org. You too could help by clearing trails in a forest preserve in Costa Rica. And it's tax-deductible!

There's a start! How many are you willing to try?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Roasted Halibut with Fresh Herb Sauce

Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but I'm on a healthy eating kick. So, in addition to lots of fruits and vegetables, I'm eating a lot of fish. This one is simple to make and includes the tangy kick of fresh herbs. With couscous and some roasted asparagus, it's quite the summer feast.

Roasted Halibut with Fresh Herb Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine magazine.
Makes 6 servings.

1 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup
plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dry
white wine
1 cup flat
leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup arugula leaves, finely chopped
2 tablespoon
marjoram, finely chopped
1 tablespoon oregano
, finely chopped
2 teaspoons
red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
6 (6 ounce) halibut fillets, skinless

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a medium bowl, toss the bread crumbs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the minced garlic and the wine. Spread the crumbs on a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup of oil with the parsley, arugula, marjoram, oregano, vinegar and the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic. (For quick work, puree in a food processor.) Season the herb sauce with salt and pepper.

Lightly oil a large baking dish. Arrange the halibut fillets in the dish, season with salt and pepper and roast for 8 minutes. Sprinkle the fish with the toasted bread crumbs and bake for about 8 minutes longer, or until the fish is cooked through. Transfer the fish to plates, drizzle with the herb sauce and serve.

If you have any herb sauce left over, save and use over grilled chicken, steamed vegetables or quiche.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Farfalle with Yogurt and Zucchini

Found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine and their roundup of the year's best cookbooks. It's wonderfully easy and might be a good way to sneak vegetables into your kid's meals...or anyone else who usually turns their noses up at zucchini or other growing green things. Yogurt, a surprise ingredient, makes the final dish both tangy and creamy. It's just on the sinful side of guilt-free and healthy eating...make it even better for you by using whole wheat pasta.

Farfalle with Yogurt and Zucchini
From On Top of Spaghetti
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound farfalle
4 medium zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds), coarsely shredded
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the farfalle until al dente; about 1 minute before the farfalle is done, add the shredded zucchini to the pot. Drain the farfalle and zucchini, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, melt the butter. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt and the 1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and season the yogurt sauce with freshly grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Add the farfalle, zucchini and reserved pasta water to the saucepan and cook over low heat, tossing, until the sauce coats the pasta; transfer to warmed bowls and serve with the extra cheese.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cocktail of the Week: Campari Orange Spritzer

I've been eating as healthily as possible the last couple of weeks. Need to lose a pound or two. So I've cut back on my alcohol consumption--avoiding empty calories like the plague.

However, cocktail time is an institution here at our house. So I needed to find something low-alcohol and summery...to fool myself into thinking it was happy hour as usual.

Now the Italians love them some Campari. A red bitter liqueur, it's the basis for the classic Negroni. Or a Campari and soda. I've tried it and just never developed a taste for it. Things can change though...

I recently saw this recipe on Giada de Laurentis' Food Network show. I doctored it a bit...cutting back on the Campari, reducing the level of both the bitterness and the alcohol in the finished cocktail. It's quite refreshing!

Campari Orange Spritzer
Makes 6-8 drinks.

1 (12 ounce) can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 ounces Campari
Sparkling mineral water or club soda

In a pitcher, stir the Campari and orange juice concentrate to blend thoroughly.

Pour 1-2 ounces of the mixture into an ice-filled rocks glass and top with 3-4 ounces of the fizzy water. Stir to combine and garnish with a twist of orange peel.

Hints: If you'd like a higher-octane cocktail, add an ounce of citrus-flavored vodka to the glass before you add the sparkling water. And you can keep the orange-Campari mixture in the refrigerator for several days if you don't use it all up at your first happy hour.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rhubarb Crumb Coffeecake

I am still cooking with rhubarb...that deliciously tangy fruit that looks like red-wine-soaked celery. As long as I can find it at my local Central Market, I'll keep fixing wonderful desserts. This one comes from The New York Times. And as a big fan of traditional crumb cake, I can tell you that this is the best coffeecake I have ever had. Bar none. It reminds me of a great coffeecake I used to have at a deli near Lincoln Center when I would visit New York. The recipe is so perfect that I think it could be adapted for other fruits. I'm betting it would be delicious with blueberries or peaches or (insert your favorite fruit here). Try it and see.

Rhubarb "Big Crumb" Coffeecake
From The New York Times.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.

For the filling:
1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1 3/4 cups cake flour

For the cake:
1/3 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan.

For filling, cut rhubarb into 1/2 inch thick slices and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

To make crumbs, whisk together sugars, spices, salt and butter until smooth. Stir in flour with spatula. It will look like a solid dough.

To prepare cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. In an electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add butter and a spoonful of sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until flour is moistened. Increase speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for twenty seconds after each addition and scraping down the side of the bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about 1/2 cup batter and reserve.

Scrape remaining batter into prepared pan. Spoon rhubarb over batter. Dollop reserved batter over rhubarb filling.

Using your fingers, break topping mixture into big crumbs, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in size. Sprinkle over cake.

Bake cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean from batter. (It may have a little rhubarb on it.) Cool completely before serving.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summer Melon Soup with Crab

I've been buying lots of cantaloupe at the farmers market lately. And while I love it simply (chilled and sprinkled with salt) and have also been throwing it into my breakfast smoothies, I needed a new idea. Here comes Food & Wine magazine to save the day. A deliciously simple melon soup with a fresh and flavorful crab salad to round it out. This was so yummy and elegant that I am going to serve it at a soon-to-happen wine pairing dinner with my family. The wine match? A tropical, yet minerally, Sauvignon Blanc. Maybe Spy Valley from New Zealand. Or the Robert Mondavi Fume' Blanc.

Summer Melon Soup with Crab
From Food & Wine magazine.
Serves four.

1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons snipped chives
3 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups cubed cantaloupe

In a medium bowl, stir the shallot and chives into 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Whisk in the olive oil and fold in the crab. Season with salt and white pepper.

In a small saucepan, boil the water with the sugar. Transfer to a blender and let cool. Add the melon and the remaining lemon juice, season lightly with salt and puree.

Mound the crab in the center of 4 shallow bowls. Pour the soup around the crab and serve right away.

(Hint: You can make the melon soup ahead of time and chill overnight.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Pickled Beets in Spiced Vinegar

To give me some new and original ideas for the bounty I've been picking up in my weekly treks to the Dallas Farmer's Market, I bought a couple of cookbooks at Half Price Books last week. One was The Gardeners' Community Cookbook, a collection of recipes from gardeners across America. The recipes, organized traditionally from salads to sides to main courses, range from the basic (Spinach and Strawberry Salad) to the more exotic (New Mexico Chard Enchiladas).

A section I was especially thrilled to read was one on "Pantry Perks": jams, preserves, and pickles. Now I've always avoided making things like pickles; I never wanted to hassle with jars in hot water baths and checking for proper seals. So I was quite glad to learn that while traditional canning methods preserve foods for up to a year, you can use a simpler method and keep things in the refrigerator for up to six months. Pickles and preserves, here I come!

My first attempt was pickled beets. I wanted something new to do with a gorgeous batch of beets I bought last week. Tried this recipe and they're delicious.

Pickled Beets in Spiced Vinegar
From The Gardeners' Community Cookbook
Makes 2 quarts.

(Note: These are "refrigerator pickle" instructions and must be refrigerated after prepared. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to six months...but once your family gets a taste of them, they won't last that long!)

Prepare four pounds of beets by cutting tops and roots off and rinsing the beets thoroughly. Place them in a large pot. Cover with water and ring to a boil. Simmer for 30 to 50 minutes, until a fork or sharp knife pierces the beets easily to the center and the skins have begun to split. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Remove the skins from the beets with your fingers or a paring knife. Slice the beets into 1/8 inch thick rounds and put in jars. (One half-gallon jar, two quart jars, or 4 pint jars.)

Bring the spiced vinegar (recipe follows) to a boil and pour over the beets. Cool to room temperature, then cap the jar and refrigerate for at least 36 hours before using.

Spiced Vinegar
Makes 2 cups.

2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher or pickling salt
1 tablespoon grated horseradish
1 (1 inch) piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon celery seeds

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and strain. Pour over prepared beets. (I'm going to try the same spiced vinegar recipe with other vegetables as well...cucumbers and onions, maybe even slices of yellow squash.)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth of July!

Sometimes it's good to remember what all the fuss is about...
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Brown Sugar Apple Pie

What is it they say? Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Well, I drive a Honda. It's too hot (and rainy) to hit the baseball stadium, and hot dogs aren't on my (currently) healthy diet. So, to celebrate Independence Day, here's a great, if basic, recipe for apple pie. It cries out for a scoop of Blue Bell ice cream. (It is, after all, the little creamery in Brenham's 100th birthday.)

Brown Sugar Apple Pie

Your favorite dough for a two crust pie. (I always cheat and use Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts. They're quite good!)
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/4 pounds apples, peeled, quartered, cored and cut into 1/2 inch slices (about 7 cups total) (Note: I use Granny Smith apples most of the time.)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon heavy cream (You can substitute milk if you don't have cream on hand.)
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Add apples and lemon juice and toss to coat. Place in dough-lined pie plate, mounding in center. (Make sure and include all the juices.)

Place top crust on top of filling and seal. Brush top with cream. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut slits into top crust to allow steam to escape.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. (Shield top of pie loosely with foil if overbrowning.) The pie is done when the crust is golden brown and the apples are tender.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Wines to Trust: Red Zinfandel

In this week we celebrate the Fourth of July, how about an All-American wine that is sure to set off fireworks on your palate? Red Zinfandel. This is a wine that is brash and aggressive...too often the description that American tourists get when travelling abroad. But I digress...

I was excited to read Wine Spectator's recent article on the 2004 and 2005 California Zinfandel vintages. They say that these wines are continuing to grow in quality. And, interestingly, these two vintages offer a glimpse of the two characters of Zinfandel. There have always been, in my admitedly limited experience, two directions Zins can go: big/bold/jammy or more refined/elegant/spicy. Both have a place in my cellar. Wine Spectator says go for the 2004 vintage if you like your Zins jammy and pick up the 2005 bottlings if you like them with plenty of fruit, but tempered with more of the cracked black peppery characteristics that can be in a truly great red Zinfandel.

There are always a few bottles of Zinfandel in my "cellar." And, quite often, they come from one of the "three r's": Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum. All are dependable year after year, with value bottles in the mix. But there are plenty of good ones out there.

In my continuing series on "Wines You Can Trust," inspired by a list put out by Food & Wine magazine, here are a couple of Zinfandels you should try.

Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel ($11)
This one definitely falls in the jammy category. There's blackberry and boysenberry fruit in there, as well as a tang of pomegranate. Behind it all is a nice touch of vanilla and spicy clove.

Rancho Zabaco Heritage Vines Zinfandel ($17)
This wine is at a higher price point and you get more subtlety for the extra buck or two. It has a nice firm core, suffused with blackberry and dark cherry flavors. And just a touch of that black peppery quality that I think makes Zin a great wine with all sorts of hearty food.

Of course, there are others out there. I suggested the Sebastiani Sonoma County Zinfandel as a great wine with barbecue. Another great match for barbecue or burgers is a wine on our house list: Rosenblum Vintner's Cuvee Zinfandel.

So let the fireworks begin...with a glass of a truly American wine. Patriotism demands it, don't you think?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Halibut with Basil-Shallot Butter

If you're getting as much rain as we are here in North Texas, your herb garden is especially bountiful this year. Here's a great way to use up some of that basil you've been eyeing...

Halibut with Basil-Shallot Butter
From Bon Appetit magazine

1 1/2 cups (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 6-ounce halibut fillet per person

Extra-virgin olive oil

Finely chop basil and shallot in mini food processor. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, and process until blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides. Transfer to small bowl; stir in lemon peel and season basil-shallot butter with salt.

Prepare fish by grilling or sauteing on stovetop. Cook until just opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plates. Immediately spread some basil-shallot butter over fish. Serve, passing additional basil-shallot butter alongside.

The leftover butter is great tossed in hot pasta, on steamed vegetables, or spread on toasted bread. My favorite use so far? Melted and used as a dipping sauce for grilled shrimp.