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Food Matters: Cookbook highlights Mexican sweet treats; preserve company makes its debut at farmers market

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Cookbook conjures confections of home

Fany Gerson, who grew up nibbling on colorful pastries and candies in Mexico City before becoming a pastry chef in New York, has just released her first cookbook, "My Sweet Mexico" (Ten Speed Press, $30), a playful, beautifully photographed book on the history and diversity of Mexican sweet treats.

"Handcrafted desserts based on oral traditions are being threatened," Gerson says. During a yearlong "scavenger hunt" across the country, she found cooks who were as resistant to sharing secret family recipes as they were to taking shortcuts. "They are still laying the pumpkin seeds out in the sun for five days," she says.

From polverones to pastel-colored jamoncillos, Gerson says the desserts of her native country are unlike any other because of the enormous variety. "When the Spaniards came, they brought with their nuns ingredients like nuts, milks and spices, and recipes, including the Arab recipes." Gerson says she hopes her book will help preserve these unique creations. "When you find these handmade treats, they are incredible," she says.

- Addie Broyles

Gorditas de Piloncillo (Sweet Fried Masa Cakes)

2 oz. finely chopped piloncillo (a cone of Mexican brown sugar available in most Central Texas grocery stores)

3 oz. queso añejo or ricotta salata

1 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1 lb. fresh masa, or 12/3 cups masa harina mixed with 1 cup hot water

Lard or vegetable oil, for frying (about 2 cups)

Combine the piloncillo, cheese and cinnamon in a bowl and knead in the masa until uniformly distributed. Add a bit of water if it feels too dry or a little masa harina if it's too sticky. Shape the dough into 12 even balls.

Place enough lard in a heavy pot to reach a depth of least 3 inches and heat to about 365 degrees. While this heats, flatten the masa rounds between your hands (you can dampen your hands very lightly so they don't stick or press down on top with a piece of plastic wrap) to about 1/8-inch thick. Slide them into the hot fat and bathe them with a spoon so they are covered with fat at all times, and turn often, frying until they are golden on all sides. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan.

Drain on paper bags or towels and enjoy warm. (You can keep them in a warming oven for 15 minutes.) Makes 1 dozen.

- From 'My Sweet Mexico' by Fany Gerson

Teriyaki Turkey Sliders with Pineapple Chutney

2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

4 Tbsp. mirin

4 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated

2 Tbsp. fresh garlic, grated

3/4 cup green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

2 lb. ground turkey

3 cups red cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, shredded

12 whole wheat dinner rolls, split and toasted

For chutney:

4 cups golden pineapple, diced

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1 serrano chile, finely chopped

4 whole star anise

1 tsp. kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, sugar, ginger, garlic, green onions and cilantro; mix well. In a medium bowl, combine turkey and half of soy mixture; gently mix to incorporate. Divide mixture into 12 equal portions. Using wet hands, form each portion into patties about 1/2 inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with plastic and chill for at least 1 hour or up to one day before cooking. Place cabbage and carrots in a medium bowl, add reserved soy mixture; mix well. Set aside until ready to serve. May be made up to 6 hours in advance. While burgers chill, make the chutney. Combine all chutney ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cook, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until thick. (Chutney can be made up to a week in advance. Cool completely, store covered, in the refrigerator.) When ready to cook, heat grill to high heat. Place burgers onto well-oiled grill; cook for 2-3 minutes per side, turning once. To serve, spread buns with about a tablespoon of chutney, top with burger, add about a tablespoon of cabbage mixture on top. Serves 12.

- Yolanda Banks

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Open: Tacos La Güera, the brick-and-mortar incarnation of the little orange taco trailer run by Karina and Alfredo Ballesteros. In the former Red Cap Chick building at 2510 S. Congress Ave. 326-8226. Open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, until 3 p.m. Saturdays.

• Open: Conscious Cravings, a vegetarian trailer with wraps and smoothies at the Longhorn Food Court, 1901 Rio Grande St. www.consciouscravingsaustin.com . Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

• Scheduled to open today : Wurst Tex, a gourmet bratwurst trailer at the food court at 1603 S. Congress Ave. (www.facebook.com/WurstTex ). With sausages ranging from pork to venison to rattlesnake, Wurst Tex is a project from couple Leslie Coffey and Sam Raver. Rock fans might recognize Raver from the band Oliver Future. `Where do you go from rock 'n' roll? I guess grilled sausage is the best answer to that,' Raver said. Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays, until 10 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.

• On the horizon: Cafe Express, an outlet of the fast-casual Texas chain launched by Houston chef Robert Del Grande and his Schiller Del Grande group, at the former La Madeleine site at 3418 N. Lamar Blvd. www.cafe-express.com .

- Mike Sutter

Food and wine briefs

• Austin-based Zhi Tea, right, will host a free End of Summer Bash from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday with live music, tea and tea cocktails and food from Best Wurst, Pie Fixes Everything and Rio's Brazilian Cafe. 4607 Bolm Road. 888-944-4832, www.zhitea.com .

• The Dripping With Taste Wine & Food Festival, benefiting the Dripping Springs Visitors' Center, will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Saturday at the Creekside Pavilion in Driftwood, 18315 RM 1826. The festival includes Hill Country winemakers such as Becker, Fall Creek and the Duchman Family, plus food, art and music. $25 advance, $30 at the gate. Includes wine glass and six wine tastings. $5 for ages 6-20, free for 5 and younger.

• From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday , the city of Caldwell is hosting the 26th annual Kolache Festival honoring everyone's favorite Czech pastry. Learn about Czech cultural traditions, browse the arts and crafts fair and check out the kolache contest at the free event in the city about an hour and a half east of Austin.

• Tipsy Tech, the 12-week cocktail class taught by bartenders David Alan and Lara Nixon, begins its fall semester Tuesday . $375. Registration at www.tipsytech.net .

- M.S., A.B.

Salt Lick cellars opens next to restaurant

If you've been out to the Salt Lick in the past few years, you've probably noticed rows of grapes growing near the longtime Driftwood restaurant. Operations manager Jay Knepp says it'll still be a few years before you can buy wine made entirely from the fruit grown on the 35-acre-and-growing vineyard, but now you can sample local wines at the Salt Lick Cellars, a tasting room and wine shop in a small building next to the Salt Lick restaurant. Maile Roberts, daughter of Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts who runs the shop, says you can buy 14 wines by the glass or by the bottle from area wineries including Driftwood Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Fall Creek Vineyards and McPherson Cellars Winery. (Because the restaurant is still a bring-your-own establishment, you can enjoy the wine you buy with barbecue from the legendary pits next door.) Maile Roberts says the Salt Lick has another venture under way: a trailer serving barbecue sandwiches, nachos and salads at the corner of MLK Jr. Boulevard and Rio Grande Street that should be open in the next few weeks.

- A.B.

Confiture captures essence in jar

A year-and-a-half ago, Stephanie McClenny decided to learn to make preserves, an art she thought was an "arduous skill to master," using cookbooks and online canning communities for tips and recipes. This summer she is debuting her jams, jellies and pickled goods under the label Confituras at the Barton Creek Farmers Market, 2901 S. Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360).

McClenny's preserves emphasize local Texas produce and seasonality, she said. She also found inspiration from the French and Spanish way of preserving. "Traditional families in France (preserve) the produce in France (in confiture), but I put a Texas spin on it," she said. "I loved the idea of reducing something to its essence."

McClenny offers heirloom tomato jam, pickled blueberries, fig preserves and lavender peach butter. Looking forward to the upcoming seasons, McClenny plans to incorporate pears and pumpkin for some of her fall offerings and a grapefruit marmalade with vanilla bean and honey for one of her winter preserves. In addition to the farmers market, Confituras is also sold online at www.farmhousedelivery.com .

- Layne Lynch