Over the weekend I had the opportunity to do a cooking demonstration at the Wine in the Pines event in Mt. Vernon. The two-day festival is one of two annual events that showcase the Piney Woods Wine Trail.
The wine trail is made up of wineries and vineyards from as far north as Interstate 30, south to Palestine, west to Canton and east to Naples. There were 22 wineries at the festival — a much bigger number than I would expect from the East Texas area, and that did not include some of the more popular members who were unable to attend, such as Kiepersol, Sweet Dreams and Tara in Athens.
The festival is held every third weekend in May, and the fourth weekend in October. Samples are available from the wineries, and there are plenty of food vendors, shopping and music. Also attending were several ranchers, farmers and independent producers that represent Texas agriculture.
The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is instrumental in supporting and assisting many of these businesses and marketing the growth and tourism of the wine and food industry in Texas.
Go Texan is the marketing initiative sponsored by the TDA and they, along with the Mt. Vernon Main Street Alliance, asked if I would demonstrate a recipe that uses as many Texas ingredients — raised, grown or produced — as possible that would pair well with Texas wine.
The primary ingredient needed to be wild-caught Texas Gulf Coast shrimp. So I did a little research on available products and produce that is available this time of year. I came up with a recipe for shrimp scampi that elevates the flavor in the pesto and showcases all the great flavors of Texas.
The recipe turned out great and I managed to cook enough to serve almost 200 people. It’s called Texas-Style Shrimp Scampi with Sweet and Spicy Texas Pecan Pesto. Here are some of the Texas ingredients I used and information on where to find them.
Wild-Caught Gulf Coast Texas Shrimp: Available fresh or frozen at Brookshire’s, FRESH or Super 1 Foods locations.
Dry Texas White Wine: For cooking with wine I like to use something that is less expensive, but not typically what I would drink. The small bottles that are available in four packs are the perfect size for cooking. Ste Genevieve is a popular Texas brand that is available in the small bottles.
Noonday or Texas Sweet Onions: I use Noonday onions in as much as possible for as long as possible. To be called a Noonday onion it has to be grown within a 10 mile radius of Noonday. The same variety of onion is grown outside of that area and are sometimes called Texas 1015.
Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil: Located south of San Antonio, west of Interstate 35, and north of the Mexico border, the Texas Olive Ranch grows a variety of olive that originated in Spain. They have 40,000 olive trees and produce a variety of olive oils and flavored oils.
Texas Basil: Live Texas basil plants are available at FRESH and some Brookshire’s locations in the produce department. When available they come in a plastic floral bag and are a full plant with dirt in the bottom of the bag. You can also find, near the packaged salad products, Generation Farms organic basil in small plastic boxes.
Texas Cheese: It’s difficult to find a cheese that has similar texture or flavor to parmesan to replace it as an ingredient in pesto. One that I found that is a hard, aged cheese is available at FRESH and comes from Granbury Farms. It is a gouda that is aged four to six months. It has a nice flavor, but because it is made from raw milk, it has a very sharp, tangy flavor that can be overwhelming in large quantities. I decided to stick with the parmesan in the pesto and simply grated the Granbury gouda over the top of the finished dish to add to the flavor.
Texas Pecans: Instead of pinenuts, I like to use pecans in pesto. I think it has better flavor, and although pecans have been expensive the last few years, they are still cheaper than pinenuts.
Pure East Texas Honey: Crosman Bee Honey is made in Tyler by a student at Robert E. Lee high school. He raises his bees in Tyler and makes the honey. It is sold at Sweet Gourmet in The French Quarter.
Something that Go Texan created that helps with sourcing Texas products is a product search that is available with the Go Texan free app and on their website www.gotexan.com . You can use either application to search for products, farmers, restaurants, wineries, farmers markets and recipes that use Go Texan commodities.
Texas-Style Shrimp Scampi with Sweet & Spicy Texas Pecan Pesto
1 pound Texas Gulf Coast Shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt & pepper, for seasoning
4 tablespoons Texas Olive Ranch olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon butter
2 lemons, halved
1/2 Texas sweet yellow onion, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry white Texas wine, divided
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 pound small penne pasta, cooked according to package instructions
Sweet & Spicy Texas Pecan pesto
1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs
Grated Granbury Farms gouda cheese, garnish
Place shrimp in a large zip top bag. Season with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 cup wine & juice from half a lemon. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Heat the remaining oil with the butter in a pan over high heat. Add the onion and saut￩ until soft. Add the garlic and saut￩ for an additional 30 seconds. Pour in the shrimp, along with the marinade liquid from the bag. Add the remaining wine and the juice from 2 lemon halves. Continue to saut￩ the shrimp until they begin to curl and turn pink. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley when cooked through. Season with salt & pepper. Stir in the pasta and enough pesto to coat the ingredients. Squeeze over the remaining lemon half. Transfer to a serving bowl & top with the toasted breadcrumbs and grated parmesan. Note: Make your own breadcrumbs buy freezing leftover bread from loaves, baguettes, buns or rolls. When ready to use, thaw the bread and make into crumbs in the food processor. Add parsley, seasoning, nuts or cheese to flavor the breadcrumbs. For the breadcrumbs in this recipe I added some pecan bits and parsley to the crumbs.
Sweet & Spicy Texas Pecan Pesto
1 1/2 cups packed Texas basil leaves
1/4 cup Texas pecans
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper chili flakes
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
pinch of salt & pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Crosman Bee East Texas honey
1/3 to 1/2 cup Texas Olive Ranch extra-virgin olive oil
In a blender or food processor, add all ingredients, except cheese, honey and olive oil. Pulse until finely minced. Add the cheese and pulse. Drizzle in olive oil and then honey. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and chill. Note: To brighten flavor and preserve the green color of the leaves, reduce the olive oil by 1 tablespoon and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.