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You Don’t Have to Sing for Your Supper

By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

The amount of artistic talent that is available for our enjoyment is amazing and also available without having to travel to New York City and the Metropolitan Opera House, or England to the Royal Opera House in London, or Australia to the Sydney Opera House, or even Russia to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.  Right down the Interstate in Dallas, The Dallas Opera has been bringing world-class talent to our area since the moment on the evening of November 21, 1957, when Maria Callas stepped onto the stage of the State Fair Music Hall.  Since that time, The Dallas Opera has earned the bravorecognition of being of the premiere opera organizations in America, featuring such artists as Joan Sutherland, Placio Domingo, and Beverly Sills.

As a fundraiser to help support the work of The Dallas Opera Guild, which at that time provided financial support for their Student Performance Program, Bravo, Chef!, a 397 page cookbook, was published in 1983 by Wimmer Brothers Books.  Filled with more recipes than you can shake a baton at, this cookbook contains, not only a history of The Dallas Opera, but also a list of the operas that have been presented by them since 1957.  With unique section headings such Prologues (appetizers), Zarzuela (Mexican food), Couplets (vegetables), and Valhalla (desserts), this book not only features recipes contributed by Dallas Opera volunteers, but also by some of the luminaries that lit up the stage with their amazing voices.

Whether or not you are a fan of opera, Placido Domingo’s (who made his North American debut in Dallas in 1961) recipe Scampi A La Domingo, sounds amazing.  Luciano Pavarotti shared his recipe for Pasta Fredda A La Pavarotti, and José Carreras (known particularly for his performances in operas by Puccini and Verdi) contributed several recipes, one being for Lamb Stew that sounds fairly labor intensive and involves frying garlic, but I would bet yields a great stew.

If you’re looking for a cookbook that has lots of food photographs in it, this one isn’t for you, but let me add that in the center of the book are several very nice color photographs of some of the operas presented by The Dallas Opera.  I’m so glad to have received this cookbook from my cousin Mara for Christmas this year.  I must admit I personally really didn’t know that much about The Dallas Opera, and although I know there is so much more to find out, this book not only gave me a jump start on learning, but also provides me with yet another set of great recipes that I can read through, assimilate, and execute.

I really do like the disclaimer printed at the beginning of the book. “All recipes have been tested and The Dallas Opera Guild has no reason to doubt that recipe ingredients, instructions and directions will work successfully.” You don’t often find something like this in a cookbook, and I can’t help but wonder if someone on the committee had learned a publishing lesson the hard way!  They go on to say “the cook should not hesitate to test and question procedures and directions before preparation.”  That being said, let me say, I have not yet prepared Scampi A La Domingo, but because I have made scampi, I’m pretty sure that the addition of a couple of ingredients that I haven’t tried before will make this a great tasting dish.  If you’ve not made scampi before, it is definitely a great way to prepare shrimp – and so easy, too.  Placido’s recipe is:  Combine one 14 1/2 ounce can Italian tomatoes, 4 tablespoons olive oil, 2 basil leaves, 1 large, minced garlic clove and a pinch of red pepper in a saucepan and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, shell and devein 7 scampi (now here’s where it gets a bit vague and I encourage you use your judgement here.  Perhaps large shrimp or prawns would work well) leaving the tail attached.  Rinse and pat dry.  Coat with olive oil, dust with salt and pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, sauté in a skillet with 3 tablespoons butter, 1 large, chopped garlic clove, and 1/4 cup dry white wine.  Add the tomato sauce and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Garnish with chopped parsley or basil.  This may be served over spaghetti or linguini.  I would say, if you are using shrimp, you should be able to omit baking in the oven because shrimp cooks very quickly.  But, all and all, not only does Placido have a wonderful voice, but he certainly knows his way around a kitchen.  Bon appetito!


A Good Pounding!

By Gini Rainey

Good grief, that’s exactly what I deserve.  I have been so over-whelmed with life in the past few months – okay, this year – that I have neglected to do what I love doing – writing!  So, apparently it took an email to our editor/publisher to get me off high center.  She forwarded this email to me on June 24th and it comes from an editor named Jess Miller who just happens to be associated with  Jen Reviews is the authority on everything food, fitness and home and has been featured in some mind-blowing (my mind, anyway!) publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Greatist, Reader’s Digest, MindBodyGreen, Livestrong, Bustle, Lifehacker, Wikihow, and oh my goodness, many many more. 

Jess email says “I was doing research on pound cake recipes and just finished reading your wonderful blog post: In that article, I noticed that you cited a solid post that I’ve read in the past:  We just published a delicious cranberry pound cake with orange glaze recipe complete with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. It is completely free and you can find it here:  If you like the recipe we’d be humbled if you cited us in your article.” 

The gauntlet was thrown and I tried it.  I baked it last night and it is yummy.  Of course, knowing me, you know I have to pull in a cookbook of some sort, and for those of you out there who don’t know where the name “Pound Cake” comes from, I pulled out my earliest reference that I have, which is a replica of “American Cookery” written by Amelia Simmons in 1796. It’s really interesting to leaf through this book and try to read some of the recipes.  It is actually a photocopy of the original and along with various spots and stains, the letter “f” is used in place of the letter “s.”  Originally, a pound cake called for one pound of sugar, one pound of butter, one pound of flour, one pound or ten eggs, one gill of rose water and spices to your taste. (Hence pound cake!) We are told to watch it well (remember – wood burning stoves/ovens back then) It will bake in a slow oven in 15 minutes. 

The recipe referred to by Jess is a bit different and perhaps produces a much lighter version than the 1796 version.  What you will need to do to make Jess’s recipe is to begin with a 350° pre-heated oven and a lightly greased and floured 12×4 inch loaf pan.  Then in a bowl, whisk together 1 ¾ cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and ¼ teaspoon salt.  In another bowl, cream 9 ounces of softened butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon orange zest until light and fluffy.  Then slowly add in 4 eggs plus 2 yolks (at room temp), followed by 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar. Then alternating between the flour mixture and ¼ cup room temp milk, gradually add to the sugar/egg mixture.  Lightly dredge in flour 1 ¼ cups of washed and dried fresh cranberries (because fresh cranberries aren’t on the market at this time, I substituted rehydrated dried cranberries and I think they did well) and gently fold into the mixture.  Pour into the pan and bake for 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  For the glaze, combine 2 cups of powdered sugar with 2 ½ tablespoons of fresh orange juice, and using a small spoon, drizzle over the completely cooled cake. 

This is one yummy cake – the unexpected tartness is a wonderful compliment to the buttery richness of the cake and would serve you well at a winter holiday meal – or even right now in the middle of the hot Texas summer along with a bowl of home-made ice cream! 

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Smith’s Bar-B-Que Opens in Jacksonville

Smith’s Bar-B-Que had a great Ribbon Cutting on Friday, April 5. Smith’s Bar-B-Que is owned and operated by Gary Smith and has been in business for 11 years. They started in the Exxon parking lot but has now found a home at the Travis Towers parking lot at 558 S. Ragsdale. They serve ribs, brisket, sausage, pulled pork and their famous stuffed baked potato. You can also add beans, potato salad and peach cobbler. They also offer catering with no event being too big or too small. Gary Smith is a culinary school graduate, food service manager and the 1st to obtain his vendors permit from the City of Jacksonville. Hours are Friday and Saturday 11 am until…..

They are at 558 S. Ragsdale in Jacksonville, Texas and can be reached at 903.944.0036.


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Artists in the Kitchen

By Gini Rainey

I have many passions in my life, mostly leaning toward my right brain, but after working for over 25 years as a business manager/owner, my left brain seems to have shoved a lot of those passions to the side, but trust me – they’re still there!  So, when I come across a cookbook that has wonderful recipes that are paired up with amazing works of art from the National Gallery of Art, you can be sure this is one book I had to have. 

With notable chefs such as Julia Child, Jeremiah Tower and Alice Waters creating dishes and menus to compliment the art of Matisse, Pissaro, and Gauguin, to name a few, you can only imagine what a lovely and creative book this must be. 

While using paintings of the obvious subjects, such as Vollon’s Mound of Butter and Jean Simeon Chardin’s Still Life with Game for inspiration, I think the recipes that truly intrigue me are from the chefs who viewed such paintings as Raoul Dufy’s The Basket and Mary Cassatt’s Afternoon Tea Party, let their imaginations run wild and came up with what might have been in the basket or what Cassatt might served at her Tea Party. 

Pablo Picasso’s Le Gourmet was the inspiration for Nancy Silverton’s Butterscotch Sauce that would make a delicious topping for a bread pudding or a dish of Blue Bell’s Homemade Vanilla ice cream. To make the sauce, combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 ½ tablespoons light corn syrup, and 2 ½ tablespoons Scotch whisky in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally until the mixture just begins to smoke and turns an amber color.  Meanwhile, place 1 ¼ cup heavy (whipping) cream in another large saucepan, split a vanilla bean in half lengthwise, scrape its seeds into the and then add the pod.  Add 1 cup of butter and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and set aside until needed.

When the sugar mixture reaches the proper color, immediately stop its cooking by whisking in the cream mixture in small amounts, waiting a few seconds between additions to prevent it from boiling over.  Once all the cream mixture is incorporated, simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.  Whisk in ½ cup of butter until combined.  The sauce will keep for several weeks in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  To reheat, place the sauce in a bowl over simmering water.  If desired, add some toasted pecans or add a dash of sea salt to taste, and wow, you have got something really yummy going on there. 



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