Community cookbook awards
AVERY ISLAND, La. - "Toast to Tidewater," a cookbook published by the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach, Inc., pays tribute to local food and wine so successfully that it has been named national first-place winner in this year's Tabasco community cookbook awards.
In national second place is "Once Upon a Time," featuring recipes and recollections from the Junior League of Evansville, Ind. "Lone Star to Five Star," a cookbook created by the Junior League of Plano, Texas, is national third-place winner.
Regional winners include:
-"Ode to Joyous Cooking," produced by the Reading Symphony Orchestra, in Reading, Pa., in the mid-Atlantic region.
-"A Taste of Greek Tradition," produced by the Greek Orthodox Ladies' Philoptochos Society, Charlotte, N.C., in the South region.
-"Mad About Food," from the Junior League of Madison, Wis., in the Midwest region.
-"Tuxedoes to Tailgates," created by the Dallas Junior Forum, in the Southwest region.
-"Celebrate the Rain," published by the Junior League of Seattle, in the West region.
The judges did not award a winner for the Northeast region.
The Tabasco awards were established 15 years ago by McIlhenny Co., which describes their purpose as "to recognize the role these books play in chronicling and preserving local culinary traditions, which may have been around for generations."
A service for publishing personal cookbooks
Among the many reasons to want to publish a personal cookbook, one of the most common is to collect, preserve and share family recipes. Personal cookbooks' purposes may also include fundraising, or special-occasion gifts.
Those considering such an enterprise may wish to check out HeritageCookbook.com, a Web site that offers specialized help in printing such personal books.
HeritageCookbook publishers say that with their services books can be printed in five to 10 business days on good-quality paper, and as few as five books may be ordered. Books they publish include the use of photos in black-and-white and color.
Information on the Web:
Asparagus heralds spring
STOCKTON, Calif. - It's no mirage if there's early spring green visible in your market's produce section. The California asparagus harvest begins in February, peaks in March, April and May, then tapers off in June, the California Asparagus Commission says.
The commission estimates that nearly 95 percent of the 200 million pounds of fresh asparagus grown in the United States comes from California. Other U.S. commercial growers are in Washington state, Michigan and the mid-Atlantic states.
Asparagus spears are cut by hand when they measure about 9 inches in length, says the commission. At the market, spear thickness sizes range from standard (5-16th-inch) to jumbo (13-16th-inch). The jumbo spears are just as tender as the thin ones.
When you buy, choose bright green asparagus with compact, firm tips and smooth, tender skin. Tenderness relates to color: The greener (or the whiter, for white spears), the better.
Handle asparagus like flowers: Trim off the butt end, then refrigerate upright, standing in an inch of water, covered loosely with plastic. Or wrap cut ends in wet paper towel and store in a plastic bag with the top left open. Stored this way, asparagus keeps for two to three days in the refrigerator.
The vegetable can be blanched or boiled, steamed, microwaved, stir-fried or grilled - but do not overcook. Cook just until fork-tender, as little as 2 minutes if boiling, or up to 8 minutes for steaming, depending on the spears' thickness.
Vacations packaged with learning about food
Two hotel-resorts that are among many offering food and cooking instruction for visitors differ strikingly in their very scenic surroundings and styles.
-Blackberry Farm, in Walland, Tenn., is a hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains. It offers a series of two- or three-day cooking school sessions, with guest chefs focusing on such topics as cheese, barbecue, the "Smoky Mountain Table" and "Best of France."
Information: (888) 380-9010.
On the Net:
-Il Pellicano, in Porto Ercole, Italy, is a hotel belonging to the Relais & Chateaux group, perched above the Mediterranean coast of Tuscany. Four-day cooking courses based on traditional cuisine using local products are taught by the hotel's chef.
Information by phone: (800) 735-2478 (Relais & Chateaux). For cooking-course details, (39) 0564 858111 (Il Pellicano).
On the Net:
For other cooking-school vacations: