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Austin singer-songwriter Michael Fracasso tells his story through food in new cookbook

By Addie Broyles, Austim-American Stateman, June 18, 2013
Michael Fracasso remembers what he ate the night after the Beatles performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
It’s not that the noted Austin singer-songwriter can remember every meal he has ever eaten, but the following day was his 12th birthday. To celebrate, his parents got a copy of “Meet the Beatles!,” which they listened to while eating polenta and homemade sausage.
In the 50 years since, not a day has gone by that Fracasso hasn’t thought about making music, and these days, he’s thinking about food as much as songs.

Upcoming June Dates with Betty Soo

I am excited to be performing later this month with the talented Betty Soo! Make sure to check out the show dates below and head over to www.bettysoo.com to  learn more about the incomparable Austin-based singer/singwriter, Betty Soo!
Thu Jun 27
The Blue Door – Oklahoma City
7:00 pm – 12:00 am

Fri Jun 28
Poor David’s Pub – Dallas
7:30 pm – 12:00 am

Sat Jun 29
One 2 One Bar Show – Austin
8:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Upcoming Food Events with Michael

“In a city renowned for it’s original music, Michael Fracasso has distinguished himself as “an artist of uncommon brilliance” says Robert Fraser of Texas Monthly. Michael Fracasso not only has a distinctive tenor and writes compelling songs but is also the author of some tantalizing Italian dishes. This Austin, TX songwriter has toured throughout the US, Europe and Japan and now he has taken his show to cooking schools where he demonstrates his twist on traditional Italian dishes and also sings a few songs as a bonus. He has recorded 7 CDs of his own music and is set to release his cookbook, Artist in the Kitchen: A Brief History in Food. There will be a book signing at Book People on Thursday June 20th at 7 PM including an appetizer and few new songs. A cooking class is scheduled at Central Market Cooking School on Friday June 21 at 6 PM. where he’ll be demonstrating: Green Bean & Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Toasted Walnuts & Raspberry Vinaigrette, Risotto with Lemon & Asparagus, Lamb Chops with middle eastern spices, Fig & Blue Cheese Crepes with Orange Sauce & Candied Almonds. Also scheduled: Tuesday, June, 18: KUTX with John Aielli, 10:00 am. Wednesday, June 19: Fox 7, 8:45 am (arrival time)  –    Wednesday June 19: KOOP FM, 7:00 – 8:00pm.

“He cooked for our Anniversary dinner party, and it was incredible! Everyone should download his cookbook, I’ve used it several times and they’ve all turned out great!”

-Lori LeRoy Wyssmann – OKC, OK

Fig & Gorgonzola Crepes with Orange Sauce & Candied Almonds

Crepe Ingredients:

1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for cooking
pinch of salt

Filling:

12 fresh figs (or substitute dry figs)
8 ounces soft goat cheese (or substitute Gorgonzola for a richer taste)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 sugar
3 oranges, zest and juice
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter, the almonds, and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a heavy skillet and cook at a very low temperature until the almonds brown (this may take up to 30 minutes).

Remove from heat.

In a heavy pan over medium heat, combine the orange juice and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Stir until the sugar melts and the juice begins to thicken. Add the zest and cook a few minutes more until it becomes syrupy. Remove from pan and reserve. Slice the figs in half and place face down in a pan with the remaining tablespoon of butter and cook for about 4 minutes.

Pour all the crepe ingredients into a blender, mix and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Using a small crepe pan, add a little butter and heat to medium. Pour in a 1/4 cup of batter and swirl in the bottom of the crepe pan until the thickness is reasonably even. Allow to cook for a minute, then begin to peel it from the sides with a spatula. Flip and cook a few more minutes.

Place the figs in the crepes, sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles and fold. Top with orange sauce, candied almonds and fresh mint.

Nicolina’s Classic Pizza

My mom made this pizza quite often in the summer. She would make enough to feed all the kids in the neighborhood, who willingly carried buckets of water to her garden that was situated at the bottom of a steep hill. They happily did this for Nicolina’s pizza.

1 pizza crust, rolled out on a cornmeal-dusted paddle
8 fresh garden tomatoes (preferably Roma)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup of basil leaves, torn
fresh ground salt & pepper
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

Heat a pizza stone in an oven set at 500˚ for about a half an hour.

While it is heating, bring a pot of water large enough to safely hold the tomatoes to a boil. Add tomatoes and remove with slotted spoon when they begin to split (after about 2 to 3 minutes).

Place them in a bowl and allow to cool. Cut off the stem end of each tomato and peel off skin. Then, mix in the basil.

Pour a generous amount of olive oil onto the pizza crust and spread over surface. Take a handful of the tomato mixture and spread evenly over the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the pizza stone (remember to tilt it before you put it into the oven to make sure it will slide off of the paddle) Bake for 3 minutes and remove.

Top with more olive oil and slices of mozzarella. Bake for another 4 to 5 minutes until done.

How to Make Pizza Dough (and Be a Good Catholic)

Early in our marriage, my wife, thinking that she could bond with her mother-in-law through food, asked her how she made her pizza dough. My mom thought for a few minutes and began: “First you take a bowl and fill it with water.” “How much water, Mom?”  My mom opened a kitchen cabinet and reaching under, grabbed a bowl. “This much” she said. “Then you take some yeast.” “How much yeast?” implored my wife.  So my mom folded her fingers underneath her thumb, except for her pinky. “About this much” she said, shaking her pinky, “and you let it sit.” “How long?” my wife once again interrupted. “About five minutes,” she continued. “Then you take some flour.” “How much flour, Mom?” my wife asked in utter frustration. “Five pounds.” “FIVE POUNDS!!?” “Well, you got the oven on,” my mom answered calmly. “Then you mix it up until it’s soft as a new baby, and you let it sit.” “How long?” my wife asked, dejected now. “Well, you go to Mass, and by the time you come home, it’s done.” And this is how my mom gave my wife a lesson on cooking and being a good Catholic.

Roasted Italian Summer Vegetable Pasta

Heard Greg Trooper play twice this week, he’s really great song writer and performer. This past Sunday at a house concert where I prepared the food.

This was the big hit at the house concert:

Roasted Italian Summer Vegetable Pasta

When my parents’ garden started producing it’s bounty in late August, they had to be clever about what to do with all of the vegetables. I was always made to bring a sack of tomatoes, peppers, corn and zucchini to our welcoming next door neighbors, but canning was in full swing, too. My favorites were the charred vegetables packed in oil. My dad had made a little gas grill, and he and my mother would sit outside in the shade and char bags of peppers, then clean and jar them in a light oil mixture with garlic and parsley. When we ate them in winter, they always reminded me of a beautiful summer day. All the vegetables in this recipe can be cooked on the grill and the bits of char only add to the flavor of the dish.

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Lamb Chops with Middle Eastern Spices

If you don’t feel like making a leg of lamb (red wine, garlic, salt, pepper and rosemary) then try these easy lamb chops from my cookbook:

Lamb Chops with Middle Eastern Spices

12-16 lamb rib chops
1 heaping tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh pepper
1/2 cup demi-glace* (this can be purchased as a finished product) Peel of one lemon cut into thin slivers

Spice Rub:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom

With a small, sharp knife scrape the chop bones clean, then wrap them in foil, leaving the meat portion of the chops exposed.
Heat a dry cast iron skillet over high heat. Toast the cumin seeds until aromatic, just a few minutes. Then, powder the cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Mix the cumin, salt, pepper and remaining spices together in a small bowl and rub some of the mixture on both sides of the chops. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for several hours.

Grill the chops about 6 inches from the coals 4 to 5 minutes on each side or oven broil about 4 inches below source for 3 minutes on each side.
Pull off foil, arrange on plate and spoon a little demi-glace over each chop and serve with a sliver of lemon.

*To make Demi-glace

3 pounds lamb bones, cut into 2 or 3 inch pieces 2 large onions, unpeeled and quartered
2 large celery ribs, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup water
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup parsley sprigs with stems 2 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon of black peppercorns 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 cup white wine
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 bay leaf

Preheat the oven to 400 ̊. Place the bones in a heavy roasting pan. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning occasionally until lightly browned.

Add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic, stirring until well mixed. Continue roasting until vegetables are browned, about 45-50 minutes. Be careful not to allow anything to burn as that will add a bitter taste.

In the meantime, toast the cumin seeds in a dry skillet for about 4 minutes. Grind the cumin seeds and coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

When the vegetables are done, spoon the bones and vegetable into a heavy soup pot, add water and place over medium heat. Add the tomato paste, parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and all the remaining spices. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 4 hours, adding a cup of hot water every 30 minutes or so as the liquid boils away. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

With a slotted spoon, lift the bones and most of the vegetables from the stock and discard. Strain the stock through a colander lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth into a large bowl. Chill until the fat rises to the surface and congeals: lift off and discard.