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Food Matters: The big book of ham, Ski Shores opens Friday, Hill Country wine trails, a cupcake novel by Jennifer Ross and more

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Find a delicious home for leftover ham

In preparation for Easter, it's possible that a ham big enough to feed the cast of "Dancing with the Stars" - or at least your in-laws and the obligatory surprise guests - has taken up residence in your fridge. There will no doubt be leftovers. With help from "Ham: An Obsession with the Hindquarter" by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $29.95), your excess sugar-cured and spiral-cut pork can score a 10. Instead of a dry ham sandwich, try Arugula Salad with Country Ham, Pears and Honey Vinaigrette or a hearty Mac and Ham and Cheese dish. "Ham," written by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough of the best-selling Ultimate cookbook series, is illustrated with whimsical photos and vintage graphics and punctuated with funny stories, educational tidbits (including how to cure your own ham) and more than 100 recipes.

- Emily Macrander

Arugula Salad with Country Ham, Pears and Honey Vinaigrette

1/4 cup walnut pieces

2/3 lb. baby arugula leaves (about 4 cups)

6 oz. cooked country ham, rind removed and discarded, the meat thinly sliced and cut into strips

1 large ripe Bartlett pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

11/2 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. toasted walnut oil

Sprinkle the walnuts around a dry skillet set over medium-low heat. Leave them alone a couple minutes, then stir well and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, just until splotchy brown and fragrant. Pour them out onto a cutting board, cool for a few minutes, then chop into little bits. Mix the arugula, ham and pear pieces in a large bowl.

Whisk the lemon juice, vinegar, honey and mustard in a small bowl, then whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream until you've got a creamy, somewhat thick dressing. Pour the dressing over the arugula mixture, then sprinkle the toasted walnut pieces on top. Makes enough for 2 for dinner.

Mac and Ham and Cheese

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups whole or low-fat milk (do not use fat-free)

12 oz. Gruyère cheese, finely grated

1 lb. smoked, wet-cured ham, chopped

One 9-oz. package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and squeezed of any excess moisture

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. mango chutney

1 Tbsp. minced tarragon leaves or 11/2 tsp. dried tarragon

12 oz. dried ziti, cooked and drained according to the package instructions

1 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, then whisk occasionally over the heat just until the mixture is bubbling and a very pale beige, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and continue whisking over the heat until thickened, about 4 minutes. Drop the whisk and use a wooden spoon to stir in the Gruyère, ham, artichoke hearts, mustard, chutney and tarragon. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cooked ziti.

Pour the contents of the pan into a 3-quart casserole dish, or a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish if you like a crunchier top. Sprinkle the Parmigiano-Reggiano over the casserole and bake until brown and bubbling, about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before serving.

Makes about 6 servings.

What's in your fridge?

Neysa King and Travis Czerw

Neysa King and Travis Czerw didn't plan on becoming farmers.

They didn't grow up on farms, and neither of them studied agriculture in college. But after graduating and fully realizing the importance of food, they left their Boston home for a farm internship in New York. One internship wasn't enough, so they moved to Austin to work at Johnson's Backyard Garden, one of the largest organic farms in Central Texas.

American-Statesman writer Tim Eaton recently wrote about them in a story about young farmers, and you can read almost daily updates about life on the farm for the soon-to-be-married couple on their blog, Dissertation to Dirt (

Inspired by our Fridge Friday posts, Neysa showed off their freezer on her blog earlier this year with an interesting observation: "If our fridges reflect our daily, vibrant lives, full of choice and schedules and spontaneity, our freezers are where we keep the steady comforts and quick fixes."

She and Travis, with a steady stream of fresh produce and a commitment to eating whole, unprocessed foods, don't have much in their freezer, and their fridge, predictably, is full of veggies.

They have a much better grasp on how to coax Texas soil and plants into growing beautiful and bountiful vegetables than I do, and I really enjoy reading their journey of learning how to farm, even though my backyard garden is a fraction of the size of the one they work on.

What three things are always in your fridge? The nonseasonal items: Whole milk (for both of us), a good cheese (for me) and bacon (for Travis).

What's your favorite condiment? Travis - sriracha sauce; Neysa - olive oil (does that count? I have it with everything - I basically drink the stuff).

If you had to eat only one vegetable for the rest of your life, what would it be? Travis - cabbage; Neysa - kale.

­- Addie Broyles

Food and wine briefs

• At 8 p.m. Saturday , the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema's Rolling Roadshow will screen the animated cycling triumph "Triplets of Belleville" with wine and a four-course French dinner at 1305 W. 22nd St. $90, benefiting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. On April 11, the Alamo Ritz (320 E. Sixth St.) will screen the first three "Indiana Jones" films with a six-course feast mirroring the movies' odd culinary choices (snake curry, "eyeball soup" and the like). $96, $121 with alcohol. Tickets for both events are available through .

• Austin-based Dulce Vida Spirits won a top honor at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition earlier this month for its blanco tequila, one of only three out of 62 silver tequilas entered to win the contest's double gold medal.

• Magazine update: Uchi chef-owner Tyson Cole is profiled in the new Oxford American magazine issue focusing on Southern food, and the Good Knight on East Sixth Street gets a nod as one of the "Best Bars in America" in the April issue of Esquire.

• A cooking class with New Orleans chef John Besh has sold out, a clear sign that the 25th Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival is approaching. The fest, April 15-18, includes tastings, chef dinners, a Long Center soirée, a charity wine auction and the Sunday Fair in Driftwood. Details at .

• Looking for Easter brunch options? Check my Forklore blog for an updated list at .

- Mike Sutter

Opening, closing and coming soon

• Open: Courthouse Subs, a sandwich shop at 3415 Williams Drive in Georgetown. , .

• Open: Ilsa's Kitchen, a German restaurant specializing in Bavarian food in Spicewood at 20700 U.S. 71 W. 512-494-4270, .

• Open: Gibson Bar, a cocktail lounge at 1109 S. Lamar Blvd. 386-1345.

• Open: Shed BBQ, a barbecue trailer at 1816 E. Sixth St.

• Opening Friday : Ski Shores Cafe, a dockside restaurant on Lake Austin at 2905 Pearce Road. 804-0326, .

• Closing: Fuegos, a Mexican restaurant on North Lamar Boulevard.

- A.B., M.S.

Go wine-hopping among newly blooming fields of wildflowers

If you're headed out to see the Texas wildflowers this season, consider enhancing your trip with stops at homegrown vineyards. Go Texan Wine,, has created a list of wine-tasting road trips around flower-blooming season. The trips are fairly inexpensive and offer multiday tickets so you can spread the party over a weekend.

• Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail (Saturday and Sunday , plus April 10-11 and 17-18. $25 per person, $45 per couple. .): Each of the seven wineries along the trail will offer two wines and two locally made cheese pairings.

• Texas Hill Country Wineries (April 9-11 or 16-18. $35 per person, $60 per couple. .): The longest trail on the list includes 24 wineries around the Texas Hill Country. Wineries will offer tastings and cheese pairings.

• Way Out Wineries (April 30 to May 2. $20. .): Pick a starting location at one of the eight wineries along the trail and start sipping with a souvenir wine glass. Each winery will serve a pasta dish and wine pairings.

- E.M.

Cupcakes to write about from author

In a new novel by Austin author Jennifer Ross, cupcakes aren't just an obsession for Ansley Waller, a Dallasite who gets dumped by the fiancé everyone thinks is perfect. Waller moves to New York, starts a bakery and whips up more than a new cupcake career. "The Icing on the Cupcake" (Ballantine Books, $15), which comes out today, is Ross's third book, and the former Wall Street Journal reporter will host a cupcake contest and book-signing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. .

- A.B.

Wake Up and Smell the Scandal Carrot Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

11/2 cups sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. finely ground salt, either sea or ionized

6 carrots coarsely grated

1/2 cup dried bing or tart cherries

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and coarsely grated

3 eggs, room temperature

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. softened unsalted butter

4 oz. softened cream cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 18 paper liners into cupcake trays. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir in carrots, cherries, pecans, chocolate chips, coconut and apple. In another bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and vanilla, then add to flour mixture until just combined. Pour batter into lined cupcake tray, filling to the top. Bake 30 minutes, until springy to the touch. Cool in pans for five minutes and then turn out onto a rack. Makes 18 cupcakes.

For icing, cream butter, cream cheese and vanilla together with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes.

- From 'The Icing on the Cupcake'