Every time I go back home to my beloved Texas, I get a little nostalgic. My latest trip to Houston was no exception— what hospitality! My cousin by marriage, Deb Greenberg, invited me down to Houston to be the keynote speaker at Beth Yesherun’s Sisterhood Bond Donor Luncheon. We also hosted a Flirting with Flavors cooking party at her house for all her closest friends. It was quite the trip!
When we arrived in Houston, Deb and her husband Adam wanted to show me some of the best food in Houston. We went out to an authentic Mexico City restaurant called Caracol. They’re known for their seafood dishes, so of course that’s what we ordered! We loved the Wood-Roasted Oysters with Chipotle Butter and the “Arroz a la Tumbada” — a shellfish dish complete with frog legs! The real show stopper was dessert— the chocolate bombe. It came out as a spherical chocolate shell filled with coconut meringue and brittle. We cracked into it with a tiny hammer and it was absolute heaven.
The next day we got ready for a fabulous night of cooking by grocery shopping at Houston’s Central Market. What a store! It’s true, everything’s bigger in Texas! On the menu for the evening was: Tomato Artichoke Crostini, White Gazpacho with Cucumber and Almond, Snapper en Papiotte, Wild Rice Salad, and finally our Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecakes. To drink, I used my absolute favorite rosé, Whispering Angel, to make a fruity sangria. Everyone LOVED it, even the guys.
The party was absolutely perfect. Deb’s house is practically MADE for entertaining, with her big open kitchen and patio. Deb’s girlfriends learned to make Snapper en Papiotte with me while the boys played poker. Everyone came together when dinner was ready and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. The night could not have gone better.
In the morning, it was time to give my speech! I’d been practicing for weeks, so I was a little nervous when I finally took the stage. I talked about getting back into the kitchen and how to inspire yourself to want to cook. There may have been a few romantic innuendos thrown in there— after all we were Flirting with Flavors!
The luncheon afterwards was fabulous. I had given their talented kitchen my recipes for the event, and they executed them flawlessly. The chef put out a beautiful spread of Curried Quinoa Salad with Roasted Salmon and Mango Vinaigrette, complete with Coconut Cream Cupcakes for dessert. Everyone enjoyed lunch while watching the beautiful fashion show put on by The Worth Collection.
Before I knew it, I was back on a plane headed to NYC. Even though it was only three days, I feel like I spent a week in Houston with all that we did! Thank you so much to Deb for hosting me and to all the fantastic people I met in Houston. If you ever get a chance to visit Houston, I highly recommend it! There’s great shopping, wonderful food, and the friendliest people. Even though the locals complain about the hot weather, I could use that 95 degree heat right about now!
P.S. I wouldn’t end this blog without a recipe for you to try! Here is our raved-about recipe for White Gazpacho. It’s refreshing and perfect for warm-weather entertaining. Enjoy!
2 cups of crustless stale bread, broken into pieces
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian version)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup slivered blanched almonds (must be blanched, the skins are bitter)
2 cups green seedless grapes, sliced in half
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1-3 chopped garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you want the result to be)
1-2 Tbsp sherry vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Toasted slivered almonds and diced cucumber for garnish
1 Soak the bread in chicken stock until falling apart.
2 Put the almonds, salt and garlic in a high-powered blender (such as vitamix) and pulse until the almonds are pulverized. Add the soaked bread and any stock that was not absorbed by the bread into the food processor, then add the grapes and cucumbers. Pulse until the mixture is a smooth purée.
3 Add 1 tablespoons of the vinegar and pulse a few seconds to combine. Taste and add the other tablespoon if it needs it – grapes can sometimes be acidic enough to leave out the final tablespoon of vinegar.
4 With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil. Blend until silky smooth. Turn off the motor and taste the gazpacho. Add more salt if needed.
Chill before serving, garnish with diced cucumber and almonds.