Austin Food Bytes – Fast and Easy

Whether it’s a picnic, potluck, or barbecue, everyone needs a few simple, reliable, tasty recipes they can whip up on short notice. This is my specialty.

I come from a family of increasingly rabid foodies. My mother is in cooking school and is an amazing pastry chef. My brother cooked at an expensive resort and been a personal chef in Hollywood. He once spent four hours making a mole sauce. Can you imagine? My dad makes amazing roasts and breads from scratch. I consider myself a good cook, but I cannot compete when it comes to innovative, detailed, elaborate dishes. What I do excel at is fast, simple, easy and tasty ones.

Some families hoard their best recipes, refusing to share them with anyone not related by blood; even then you might have to sign an affidavit promising never to reveal their arcane secrets. My family has no such reservations. We freely exchange recipes, tips, and techniques. Some people call their mothers for advice on how to deal with the kids, I call mine to ask the right amount of time to blanch asparagus. Some people call their fathers for financial advice, I call mine to find out the best technique for roasting sweet potatoes (I actually called him from the grocery store last weekend).

In the tradition of my family, I share with you some of my most successful recopies for flavor, speed and ease of preparation. If you have a recipe you would like to share, leave a comment.

Thai Cucumber Salad

1 large hothouse cucumber (these are the big ones that come shrink-wrapped)
1/3 C boiling water
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C unseasoned rice vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
1 tsp Vietnamese sircha sauce (this is available in most grocery stores in the Asian section, it’s a big plastic bottle with a rooster on it)
1/2 tsp salt

Slice cucumbers thinly and place in large bowl.

In a small bowl, combine sugar, boiling water, garlic, salt and hot sauce. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add rice vinegar.

Pour over cucumbers, toss, and refrigerate for an hour to one day in advance. Serve chilled.
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No-cook Pasta Sauce – this is a great recipe if you have a tomato and herb garden

4-6 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped coarsely
1 large shallot, minced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 C olive oil
2 large sprigs of fresh basil (about 10 leaves), chopped
1 sprig of fresh oregano, chopped
1 C crumbled goat cheese, feta or ricotta salata
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb pasta

Combine all ingredients except pasta, whisk well, and let sit. Cook pasta according to directions for al dente, drain and toss with sauce. Serve.

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