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The Only Thing Cool About Summer Is The Food

If you know anything about me, you know that I love Texas. I love that I was born here. I love that I was raised here. I love that I am raising my family here. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll die here. (Or Montana, but that’s a post for another day).

It’s not a hard argument to make. 

We currently have an unemployment rate of just over 5%, and the Eagle Ford Shale drilling project is expected to add several hundred thousand more jobs to the already robust Texas economy over the coming decade.  That’s as close to a political rant as you’re gonna get from me on the matter, but do with it as you will.

Aside from THAT, we are blessed with vast, wide open spaces, and just about every type of environment you could wish for. 

Want to live beach front? We have over 600 miles of coastline.

Do you prefer lakeside living? No problem. Texas boasts over 6,600 lakes and 5,000 square miles of fresh water.

Mountains? Check.

Grassy Plains? Check.

Fertile river valleys? Check.

Deserts? Check. Check

Like giant urban sprawl? You can have Houston. No, really, I’d love for you to take it….far away. I prefer clean air and clear skies.

Stars? We can see ‘em. And they’re vaster than all the sand in the Sahara.

And the state is so big, it can’t help but be culturally diverse.  Mexican, German, Czech, French/Cajun, Creole….Whatever you are looking for, you are likely to find it.

Plus, I know Texas is best because all the songs say so….Consider:

Gary P Nunn sang in “London Homesick Blues”……we’ve got ”the friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen”

Gene Autry sung about the stars at night being big and bright Deep In The Heart Of Texas, and Ernest Tubb suggested a Waltz Across Texas…Although, to be fair, that would be a LOT of dancing.

Tanya Tucker begged…..“When I die I may not go to heaven. I don’t know if they let cowboys in. If they don’t just let me go to Texas, Boy! Texas is as close as I’ve been”

That’s not a boast. It’s only a boast when it’s an exaggeration.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Texas is NOT perfect. It would be, except for one thing…..The heat. 

In Texas, we have two seasons. They are called “What The Hell?” and “Hey, Did You Feel A Breeze Just Then?” 

Unless you live on the coast, in which case you have one season. It is called “Oh My God, Who Turned The Sauna All The Way Up?”

Praise God for air conditioning and sweet tea!!

Oh, we also have mosquitos that can carry away small children. I guess that’s two things, but other than those, the state is pretty awesome.

But even then, there is a silver lining or two. The temperate weather is great for crops and personal gardens—and the blackberries that grow wild on the hillside by our lake…..AND, it’s ALWAYS a good time for a cookout. 

Taking advantage of the season, here are some cool new favorites…….

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Pico de Pollo Smoked Chicken

  • 2 split chickens (4 chicken halves)—OR—
  • 8 chicken quarters
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning
  • 2 T smoked paprika
  • ½ cup lemon pepper seasoning
  • ¼ cup pourable brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup beer, in a spray bottle (dollar store)

Salt and pepper chicken on both sides.  Place in a smoker at 275*, bone side down, and smoke for 3 hours.  Combine all of the dry spices in a small bowl.

When chicken is done, place on a large platter and sprinkle both sides, liberally, with spice mixture. Cover with foil and let sit for ten minutes.  Remove foil.  If spice mixture appears dry on chicken, spray lightly with beer.  Serve right away.

 

Blackberry Cobbler Cheesecake

If you take a New York cheesecake, and bake chunks of Texas blackberry cobbler into it, is it still a New York cheesecake?  Discuss amongst yourselves………….

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 oz) butter, cut into 1” chunks
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla  
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 5 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • zest of one lemon
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the pastry:

Place the sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse for 5 seconds. Add the butter, egg yolks, water, and vanilla and pulse until the mixture is the size of peas. Add the flour and blitz 20 or so times, until the mixture comes almost together into a ball. You will need to stop once and scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.

Without kneading the dough, press it into a large disk and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for one hour.

Place oven rack in lower third of oven and heat to 400*. Remove dough from refrigerator and remove two-thirds of it. Keep remaining one-third covered.

Spray a ten-inch spring form pan with baking spray.  Press the two-thirds portion of dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  Bake until just starting to turn golden, about 8 minutes.

For the filling:

Preheat oven to 525*

Place berries, ½ cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon flour into a large bowl. Use a large spoon to stir and mash the mixture, smashing the berries slightly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the remaining sugar, flour, salt, zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and yolks one at a time, only until combined.  Turn the beater to low, and gently beat in the heavy cream.  Set aside.

Remove remaining dough from plastic, and break into grape sized clumps over the berry mixture. Stir gently, so as not to break up the clumps.

Scrape 1/3 of the cheese mixture into the pan.  Drop spoonfuls of berry mixture over it.  Repeat with remaining cheese mixture and berries.

Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 degrees and bake for 1 hour longer; the top will be golden brown.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover loosely and refrigerate overnight.

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Categories: BAKING, dessert, Family, Food, humor, recipes, Texas, writing

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29 Comments on “The Only Thing Cool About Summer Is The Food”

  1. 2013/09/03 at 2:50 pm #

    Yummy!

  2. 2013/09/03 at 2:52 pm #

    I’m trying both recipes ASAP.

  3. 2013/09/03 at 3:18 pm #

    I can think of a few other pretty cool Texas things — high school football (Go Lobos!); no state income tax; Tex-Mex food; Whataburger and 75 MPH speed limits. Also a few things other than the heat (and skeeters) that I’d like to see gone — well… they’re political (mostly) in nature, so I’ll let it be. Your recipes look phenomenal!

    • 2013/09/03 at 3:30 pm #

      Oh, there’s LOTS cool about Texas….just not about Texas summers…..I consider Football a fall thing, even if it is still 146 degrees outside…

      And quit tempting me to wax political…..you know how I struggle with keeping a lid on it.

    • Sharon Johnson
      2013/09/13 at 1:14 am #

      Boy, you hit the nail on the head by listing ‘high school football’. People who are not from or have never lived in TX just flat out don’t understand the popularity of said sport. My husband who is originally from Corpus (now loving life in CO — no offense y’all), has explained or tried to explain that one subject to more people over the last 49 years than any other subject. Outsiders just don’t get it! Pure and simple. We were both in the band in junior and high school so of course we were at the game on Fri nights. Even if we had not been in the band, we would have been there. Everybody was there. We have driven throughout most of TX over all these years including most of the small towns in west TX and the Panhandle. All of the towns have billboards listing what class their team is and how many times they have won championships — be they local or state level. When the series FNL first hit TV, the outsiders just assumed it was fictitious. I, never being one to mince words, had no problem setting them straight — whether they really cared or not. And don’t forget the barbecue!! And the Blue Bell. We have been known to come home with coolers full of both. Oh, and Whataburger. I can pretty much tell you where the closest one is depending on which way we are driving into TX. All three of our kids went to college in TX and two of them live in TX. I, myself, have lived in TX five different times over the years so as you can tell, we still have very strong ties to the state and all that it has to offer.

  4. Big Daddy
    2013/09/03 at 3:31 pm #

    Why don’t you season the chicken before it goes into the smoker?

    • 2013/09/03 at 4:10 pm #

      Because the rub has sugar in it, and it will burn…..That’s why salt and pepper only at first…If you are sure of your smoking skills, and are far enough from the heat source, then you can do it before….But I would still follow up at the end with another dusting because it is freaking amazing!

  5. 2013/09/03 at 3:36 pm #

    Football is a fall thing — except that we’ll be well into district play by the time autumn shows up on the calendar.

    OK.. I’ll put it out there: I wish Rick Perry would move to Arkansas … and take Sen. Dan Patrick and the rest of the Tea Party with him.

    Now, talk amongst yourselves, people. 😉

    • 2013/09/03 at 4:10 pm #

      I freaking LOVE Rick Perry!

      • Big Daddy
        2013/09/03 at 4:54 pm #

        Yup Perry is great considering the Texas governor has less real power then the Lt. Governor. In fact the Texas governor is one of the least powerful out of all the states in the union and is more of a figure head. So Rick Perry is OK, if it were different, sorry I would not want Perry as a governor. Honestly he’s kind of simple minded, harmless in his position right now, he can’t do that much damage.

  6. Ginger
    2013/09/03 at 3:39 pm #

    I agree with Arthur in the garden – yummy!

  7. 2013/09/03 at 5:30 pm #

    Looks Yummy 🙂
    We call it “Dajaj Mudakan”

  8. 2013/09/03 at 7:25 pm #

    I bet Texas doesnot have rainforests …..:-) I went there one time and it is humongous, hot and spacious. Nice food!

    • 2013/09/03 at 10:25 pm #

      No, but hot humid piney woods of east Texas are pretty close!

      • Sharon Johnson
        2013/09/13 at 1:27 am #

        You’re right about the piney woods in east TX. I’ve lived in Houston, I’ve lived in high, dry, hot west TX, I’ve lived in north central TX and I’ve lived in Corpus. And I’ve been caught in a snow storm in west TX as well as a hurricane in Corpus so I’ve experienced just about everything climate/weather wise that the state has to offer.

      • 2013/09/13 at 5:09 pm #

        I was born during Hurricane Beula!

  9. 2013/09/03 at 10:23 pm #

    What time do we eat? Great post!

  10. 2013/09/04 at 4:19 am #

    Great post, you’ve made me want to visit Texas!

  11. 2013/09/04 at 8:00 am #

    now i wanna come to Texas!! lol And oh yeah cookouts are amazinggg

    • 2013/09/04 at 11:27 pm #

      Come on down, Kayle…..you’ve got a place to stay, and a ranch to visit! And the best BBQ brisket to eat EVER

      • 2013/09/06 at 2:45 pm #

        oh man. now I like….REALLY wanna come lol

  12. 2013/09/04 at 2:37 pm #

    mmmmm….i love texas as well.

  13. Mike
    2013/09/07 at 12:21 pm #

    Texas sounds awesome! What part of St Louis did you say it is in?

    I cook brats (not the 2 legged kind) in beer, but what does spraying beer on chicken do? I can think of a better way to ingest beer, and drunk chicken it.

    OK. Sorry for the humor. I realize this is a serious blog with lots of exposure for diverse heritages, so I’ll try to be more careful. (If you believe that, let’s get together and discuss a certain bridge I have for sale.)

    If I visit, will you get that chicken drunk for me and I’ll see if there’s anything I can do about it.

    • 2013/09/07 at 4:38 pm #

      The beer just makes the dry rub stick good if steaming it under foil doesn’t work…

    • Sharon Johnson
      2013/09/13 at 1:20 am #

      Hey Mike — I’ve heard about that bridge of yours! Nice try. Humor is nothing to apologize for — it plays a big part in every aspect of life in TX. Gotta have humor.

  14. 2013/09/09 at 1:12 pm #

    This post is awesome! I lived in Tx when I was kid and again when I got married. We just came back from a 3 week visit. It’s so hard to leave! I love it there and I can see the heartbreak on my dads face when we go 😦 but I’m going to try your recipes when I start to feel homesick. Thanks!

  15. 2013/09/27 at 10:17 am #

    I don’t think I could have summed up Texas better and throw in what Adam and Sharon said you guys have nailed it. You did forget the “Who ordered all this freakin’ wind?” season along the coast, though. The chicken sounds really good. Never seasoned a yardbird after it was done, but makes sense with the sugar in the rub.

  16. 2014/09/30 at 11:53 am #

    Pretty nice post. I jus stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I
    have truly njoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I will be suhbscribing to your rss feed and
    I hope you write agaqin soon!

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