Coleslaw and spicy avocado dressing

Jalapenos and cilantroBarbecue is serious business down home in Texas and bringing meat to the fire is a task trusted only to masters of the pit.  The story behind a classic Texan barbecue involves a number of essential and in many ways, secret cooking methods. The first step in the process involves marinating the meat with the right mixture of dry herbs and spices. The second step requires choosing the perfect blend of local firewood from Mesquite, Oak, Pecan or Peach trees. The pit, a customized pot-bellied drum with a built-on chimney is then filled and set on fire. Once the wood has burnt to embering coals, the meat cooks low and slow in a perfumed smoke bath.

The smell of  roasting meat and smoking wood is irresistible even for a vegetarian. Just how pit masters make the sacred Texan brisket, German style sausage or glazed baby back ribs, remained a mystery this summer. But thanks to my brother’s excellent suggestions I visited some of the best locations for barbecue in San Antonio and the surrounding hill country.

Continue reading

Grilled okra gumbo

The decorative wrought-iron gates marking the entrance to distinctive Texas ranch houses can be easily overlooked while passing through Kendalia. Before you know it, you simply miss its post office, established in 1895. There’s not much to see in this settlement or so it seems. With about 350 inhabitants, Kendalia is located in the midst of the generous landscape of the Texas hill country. On a lazy Saturday morning, I slowed down at the sight of a watermelon painting along the dusty Farm Road 3351 from San Antonio in the direction of Fredericksburg. Just around the corner, I happened upon an even larger sign leaning against a parked tractor, with the hand painted promise of “Sweeet Watermelon”.

Under the shade of a Texas live oak tree stood Richard, the proud owner of beautiful vegetables and fruits from his own garden. As Richard told me about the laid back lifestyle of his small town, my plans for the day slowly changed. An enjoyable conversation later, I left with a paper bag full of fresh green okra, beautifully ripened tomatoes, jars of salsa and of course a huge watermelon.  Filled with the perfume of the garden, I rode back home along the winding country roads to cook a Texas-inspired gumbo for Saturday supper.

Continue reading