Ahead of her Austin visit, six summertime recipes from Sara Moulton


A nationally renowned chef is coming to town, but most Austinites won’t have the chance to meet her.

On August 1, Sara Moulton is coming to Central Market on North Lamar to talk about her new book, “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101, How to Make Everything Taste Better,” and to demonstrate recipes from it. The class filled up fast.

However, the Central Market cooking school is also hosting an hour-long, open-to-the-public book-signing with the author, starting at 5 p.m. that same day. (Books will be on sale at the event for $26.95.)

Moulton is a trained chef, cookbook author and television cooking instructor in the tradition of Julia Child, her onetime boss. She studied at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in the 1970s, then went on to work in restaurants, stateside and in France. On returning, she took a job working behind-the-scenes on Child’s show, “Julia Child and More Company.” (Her Child impersonation is a delight to behold.)

Later, she worked at Gourmet magazine, first in the test kitchen, then as the head of the magazine’s storied executive dining room. She hosted various shows on the Food Network when it was still a fledgling channel, more focused on teaching cooking than chronicling cutthroat competition. For a time, she was the on-air food editor for Good Morning, America.

Moulton is also a spouse and parent. Her children are grown, now, but while she was working all those jobs, she was also cooking dinner for her family every night in their New York apartment. “Family dinner is our religion,” says Moulton. “It’s a time for everyone to unwind and talk about their day.”

She feels that cooking at home is important, too. “If you start with mostly fresh ingredients,” she says, “you will end up making a healthier meal for your family.”

She knows that this seems an unreachable goal for many people. For decades, she has sought to equip home cooks to meet the challenge. On her live cooking show on the Food Network, she prepared entire dinners, demonstrating every step of the process – in real time.

In her current public television program, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals,” she continues to develop approachable, nutritious meals and teach viewers how to master them, often incorporating non-traditional shortcuts and tricks.

A large of part of Moulton’s appeal is her on-camera demeanor, which is both encouraging and ridiculously nice. When reached on the phone to talk about her new book and the upcoming Austin class, she did not disappoint.

Her new book, she says, is like a “teaching manual” for home cooking. It contains some 150 recipes and more than 200 photographs reflecting all she’s learned in nearly forty years of cooking. “But it’s very personal,” she says.

To start, she shares a list of ten overarching, practical rules for home-cooking, like what kind of knife to use and how to manage leftovers. Then she moves on to recipes, helpfully sorted into chapters like “Quick and Quicker Entrees” and “Cooking When You Have More Time.” She also wrote a chapter on stocking a pantry, a good cook’s “secret weapon,” with everyday essentials like homemade stock and pre-cooked, frozen grains to make weeknight meals faster and better.

I reminded Sara that, in this place at this time of year, cooking isn’t hard only because it takes time and skill. It’s also hard because it’s a hundred degrees every day, with no respite for months. “As somebody from New York, I don’t know that I’m the most equipped,” she was modest enough to admit. But with some encouragement, she made a few suggestions. “Obviously, try not to use your oven,” she said. “Re-think dinner. Do a big sandwich meal as opposed to your usual cooked meal.”

She also suggests a pasta recipe from the book that features a raw sauce comprised of marinated tomatoes, fresh herbs and goat cheese. “Boil up the pasta, just toss it and serve it,” she says. “You do have to boil a pot of water, but that’s it. You sort of dump it on top, and you’re good to go.”

NOTE: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect time for the book signing on Aug. 1.

Zucchini Patties with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

This is a meal in a sandwich – a zucchini burger that’s blended with mashed chickpeas and breadcrumbs and nicely seasoned with spices and fresh herbs. It’s equally appropriate on a summer’s day in the backyard as on a wintry night in front of the fire. The pine nuts add crunch and, well, nuttiness.

The garlicky yogurt sauce is crucial; it provides a tang, creamy contrast. As ever, the zucchini needs to be salted, drained, and squeezed before it’s added to the mix. This will not only rid it of excess water (you’ll be amazed at how much it shrinks down), but also help to concentrate the flavor. As you shape the patties, don’t flatten them too much. They’re somewhat delicate.

Serve these stuffed pita halves with a quick salad of grated carrots made by whisking together 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Add 2 cups coarsely grated carrots and toss well.

– Sara Moulton

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (full-fat or half-fat)

3 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, divided

1/2 tsp. lemon zest, freshly grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb. zucchini (about 3 medium)

1 cup chickpeas, cooked (or drained and rinsed canned chickpeas)

1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1/2 cup minced onion

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, chopped

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped and packed

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped and packed

4- to 6-inch pitas with pockets, halved

Shredded lettuce

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine the yogurt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the garlic, the lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl and set aside.

Coarsely grate the zucchini in a food processor fitted with the medium shredding disk. Toss with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and let stand 15 minutes to drain. Meanwhile, wipe out the food processor, fit it with the cutting blade, and add the chickpeas and 1 tablespoon water. Process until fairly smooth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick or stick-resistant skilled over medium heat, add the onion, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons garlic, the cumin and coriander and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Transfer to a medium bowl and set the skillet aside.

Working with a small handful at a time, squeeze out the zucchini to remove excess moisture; add it to the bowl with the onion mixture. Add the chickpeas, breadcrumbs, pine nuts, parsley, mint, and salt and pepper to taste; combine well, using your hands if necessary. Roll 2-tablespoon portions into balls (you should get about 16) and flatten them into patties about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches wide.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in the skillet over medium heat, add half the patties and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Repeat procedure with remaining oil and patties. To serve, arrange several patties in each pita, top with the yogurt sauce, lettuce and grated carrot salad. Serves 4.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35) by Sara Moulton

Speedy Marinara Sauce

The all-day, slow simmered tomato sauce is an elaborate affair. In contrast, this marinara sauce takes no time at all to prepare, yet it’s very flavorful and the perfect ingredient for a quick pasta dinner, pizzas or lasagna.

— Sara Moulton

2 large garlic cloves, smashes and peeled

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Hefty pinch or 2 red pepper flakes

1 (28-oz.) can plum tomatoes (preferably fire roasted), chopped

Kosher salt

In an unheated medium saucepan, combine the garlic and the oil. Turn the heat to medium and cook, turning over the garlic several times, until it is just golden, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and a hefty pinch of salt, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook at a brisk simmer until the sauce is reduced to about 2 1/2 cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard the garlic. Season with kosher salt to taste. Makes 2 1/2 cups sauce.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35)

Quick Tomato, Goat Cheese and Fresh Herb Penne

How simple is this tasty recipe? Simple enough that you’re done cooking after you’ve boiled the pasta. It’s because the sauce is raw. You combine the ingredients in a bowl while the water is coming to a boil: ripe summertime tomatoes (salted to draw out tomato liquid and concentrate their tomato-y flavor), fresh goat cheese, a bit of Parmesan and some hot pepper flakes. Then dump the finished pasta along with a little of the pasta cooking water on top, toss it all up and dive in. The hot pasta will have melted the cheese, turning it into a creamy sauce. Sprinkle your choice of fresh herbs on top of each portion, and you’re looking at the ultimate summer supper.

– Sara Moulton

3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (cut roughly 1-inch pieces), about 1 1/4 pounds

Kosher salt

2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

5 oz. fresh goat cheese, crumbled

2 oz. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional

12 oz. penne or fusilli

1 cup mixed coarsely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, oregano, mint, dill, chives, cilantro and tarragon)

Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes with 1 teaspoon salt in a large serving bowl and let them stand for 20 minutes. Add the lemon zest, oil, goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano and hot red pepper flakes, if using, and toss well.

Add 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta to the boiling water, stir well and boil the pasta, following the timing and instructions on the package, until just al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta, and add it to the bowl along with 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid.

Toss until the cheese is melted; if desired, add additional pasta cooking liquid to achieve a looser sauce. Add the fresh herbs and salt to taste and toss well. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35)

Pea Vichyssoise with Smoked Salmon

2 cups medium chopped leeks, white part only

1 cup medium chopped peeled baking (russet) potatoes

1 cup medium chopped peeled boiling potatoes

2 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen peas

2 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. smoked salmon, medium chopped

4 oz. fresh goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup wasabi peas

Combine the leeks, potatoes and garlic in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and the stock, bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Add the green peas, bring the liquid back to a boil and simmer, until the peas are tender, about 2 minutes.

Fill a blender one-third full with some of the soup mixture, add some of the buttermilk and puree until just smooth. Repeat the procedure until completely pureed, transferring each batch to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and chill well. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Top each portion with one portion with one-fourth of the salmon, cheese and wasabi peas. Serves 4.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35)

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Watermelon-Cucumber Salsa and Feta Dressing

Here is the perfect summer meal on a plate, refreshing and filling at the same time. I thickened up the feta dressing with some buttermilk. It’s my sly way of creating the creaminess we all want in a salad dressing without resorting to a ton of fat.

Homemade baked pita crisps top the dish. These are so easy to make that I never bother with packaged croutons, with are usually deep-fried and loaded with fat.

–Sara Moulton

1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled, divided

1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup mayonnaise (low-fat if you prefer)

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pork

Freshly ground black pepper

1 (1-lb.) pork tenderloin, trimmed

Kosher salt

1 1/2 cups 1/4-inch cubed and seeded watermelon

3/4 cup 1/4-inch cubed seedless cucumber

3/4 cup fresh mint leaves

3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Pita crisps, for serving

Heat the grill to medium. Set the sliced red onion to soak in ice water for 20 minutes (this will remove their “bite”). Drain and pat dry; set aside.

Combine half of the feta, the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Season with pepper and stir in the remaining feta. Set the dressing aside.

Brush the pork lightly all over with some oil, season it lightly with salt and pepper and grill it directly over the heat, giving it a quarter turn at a time, until a thermometer inserted at the thickest part registers 140 degrees for medium, about 2 minutes per side for a total of 8 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a plate, cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. Toss together the onion, watermelon, cucumber, mint, cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Place a mound of the salsa on each of the four plates. Add the pork juices from the resting pork to the feta dressing, whisking to incorporate. Slice the pork crosswise into rounds 1/2 inch thick and arrange a quarter of the slices on top of each serving. Spoon the dressing on top of the pork and divide the pita crisps among the plates, if using. Serves 4.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35)

Shallow-Fried Beer-Battered Okra

Okra doesn’t always get a lot of love, particularly because when it’s been sliced and allowed to cook for a while, it gives off a uniquely gelatinous slime. In Louisiana that’s considered a good thing: it’s this liquid that thickens the local gumbo. Other folks, less charmed by this dense goo, will have nothing to do with it.

The trick to avoiding the goo is to cook the okra whole and to cook it briefly, as I do in these preparation. To make a smoked paprika sauce to go with it, whisk together 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. hot smoked paprika and 1/4 tsp. cayenne and a little kosher salt.

— Sara Moulton

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour; plus extra for dredging

1 (12-oz.) bottle beer of your choice

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/2 lb. okra (about 20 pods), trimmed

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Vegetable oil, for shallow frying

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Whisk together 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt in a medium bowl. Add 1 cup of the beer and the mustard and whisk until almost smooth with a few lumps still remaining. Strain the batter through a medium-mesh strained into another bowl, cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Reserve the extra beer for another use.

Spread out additional flour on a piece of parchment on the counter and season it with salt and pepper. Check the batter; it should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter. If it seems too thick, whisk in up to 1/4 cup more beer.

Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches about 360 degrees (tipping the pan slightly will make it easier to take the temperature). Working with half of the okra at a time, toss them in the flour, lifting the parchment on both sides to move them around and coat them with the flour.

Transfer the okra to a medium-mesh strainer and shake them to get rid of excess flour. Dip the okra in the batter, letting the excess drip off and add them to the skillet. Cook the okra, turning once, until they are golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the okra to a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

Repeat the procedure with the remaining okra and serve them with the smoked paprika sauce on the side, if using.

— From “Sara Moulton’s Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better” (Oxmoor House, $35)



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