Holidays: Houston 2008

In Houston for the holidays this year…the weather has been completely all over the place. 75 degrees one day, 30 degrees the next, and back to rainy, humid and 80 degrees today (typical Houston weather). As my loving sister says, “hope you’re enjoying the holidays in the most polluted city in America”. Correction, CaitO. Though sometimes one can argue it may “feel” like the most polluted, here are the actual most polluted cities, by ozone pollution, according to The American Lung Association’s State of The Air 2008 report.

1. Los Angeles – Long Beach – Riverside, CA
2. Bakersfield, CA
3. Visalia – Porterville, CA
4. Houston –
Baytown – Huntsville, TX
5. Fresno – Madera, CA
6. Sacramento – Arden – Arcade – Yuba City, CA – NV

7. Dallas – Fort Worth, TX
8. New York – Newark – Bridgeport, NY – NJ – CT – PA
9. Washington – Baltimore – Northern Virginia, DC – MD – VA – WV
10. Baton Rouge – Pierre Part, LA

Way off. By three. Anyways while I dearly miss my family in Florida and would do anything to be spending the holidays with them (and lying on the beach), I have been keeping myself busy in the kitchen with holiday cheer plans every evening. A friend of ours had a few of us over last night for a wine tasting party. We were all to bring an appetizer…or two. My fiance’s mother (a fabulous cook herself) always has something [cooking] up her sleeve. She suggested I try these recipes. If she is suggesting, I am trying. Her recipes are always tasty and satisfying.

Bruschetta with Cannellini Beans and Strong Herbs
The creamy texture and mild flavor of cannellini, or white kidney beans for strongly herbal rosemary, thyme and sage. This robust bruschetta is a meal in itself when served with a peppery little salad.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp each of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked cannellini beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained
1/2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste or imported tomato paste
1 Tbsp finely diced red onion
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices country bread, cut about 3/4 inch thick
Olive oil for drizzling

Place the olive oil, butter, garlic, herbs, and hot pepper red flakes in a medium sauce pan. Cook over low heat for several minutes. Add the beans, tomato paste, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to crush the beans. If the mixture seams dry, add a little water or broth to achieve a creamy texture. Meanwhile, grill or toast the bread on both sides. Drizzle the bread lightly with olive oil. Spoon the bean puree on the bread and sprinkle with the red onion. Top with a few drops of olive oil. Serves 4.

Zucchini and Parmesan Salad
Amazingly good combination of raw zucchini and Parmigiano. Simple and light.

8 ounces small zucchini
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano, in 1 piece
1 baguette, sliced on an angle in 3/4-thick slices and toasted (optional)

With a vegetable brush, scrub the zucchini well under cold running water. Trim off the ends. Using a mandoline, slice the zucchini very thin. Arrange the slices in a shallow platter. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste until blended. Drizzle over the zucchini. With a vegetable peeler, shave the Parmigiano into thin slices. Scatter the slices over the zucchini. Serve immediately alone or top over toasted baguette slices.

It was a successful night in the end, and I’ve added a few new recipes to my collection (not to mention another case of wine is on its way to New York). Never can have too much vino on hand!

4 thoughts on “Holidays: Houston 2008

  1. That’s a tasty bruschetta recipe. I’m thinking to add a little Smoked Spanish Paprika to it.

    Thanks for adding us as a friend on Foodbuzz. We welcome you to come visit our site!

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