Coast Monthly sits down with local cooks and food lovers for a chat.
Stephanie Vasut, a fourth-generation Galvestonian, has seen her share of storms. Her island home, which she shares with her husband, Brent, and their children, Alex and Charlie, was flooded during Hurricane Ike in 2008. Hurricane Harvey left many people with badly flooded homes. Vasut, family and friends immediately went to work helping others, whether it was by cleaning out homes, or providing furniture and food.
A flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, Vasut grew up in tight-knit family that gathered around meals.
“It’s not so much about the food, as it is the meal and how it brings people together,” Vasut said. “The meal has always been important in my family. It’s an all-day affair.”
Preparing meals is a stress-reliever for Vasut, she said.
“Cooking calms me,” she said. “And I love watching people enjoy what I made.”
My signature dish is … gumbo.
My favorite kitchen gadget is … No gadgets here. But I could not live without my Yia Yia’s wooden spoon.
My guilty pleasure is … dark chocolate.
Sweet or savory? Savory.
I’m addicted to … sushi.
My favorite restaurant is … Too many good ones on the island to pick one.
My favorite food memory is … my grandparents’ house. It always smelled of something cooking or baking. I learned everything from my Yia Yia, Maria Caravageli. I still use many of her recipes. She taught me to always make plenty “because you never know who is going to stop by” and they always did.
The dish I can’t live without … oysters fried or raw.
Olive oil or butter? Both, of course.
Celebrity I’d most like to cook for … Cooking for family and friends is the best. The kitchen brings everyone together and so many of my friends are great cooks.
My biggest food pet peeve is … when someone salts my dish without tasting it.
My biggest cooking failure … My lamb fell off the spit and into the fire on Easter.
Red or white? Red.
One thing I’d never eat … again … is head cheese.
My favorite ingredient to work with is … fresh seafood.
My favorite condiment is … anything spicy.
My last meal on Earth would be … Willie Mae’s fried chicken in New Orleans.
Vasut shares these recipes:
Crab Cake BLT
Yields: 10 crab cakes
1½ cups soft bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1½ teaspoon Maceo seafood seasoning or your favorite (Available at Maceo Spice & Import Co.)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound of lump crabmeat (drain any liquid that might be in the container)
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh bun, lettuce, tomato and bacon to dress
Combine first 6 ingredients in bowl and then stir in crabmeat. Shape into 3½-inch patties and place on baking sheet lined with wax paper. Place in freezer for at least 20 minutes. (This helps hold crab cake together when frying. You also can prep ahead, place in Ziploc after hard and cook later.)
Melt butter and oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Cook crab cakes 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until browned. Feel free to press softly with spatula to flatten.
My Daddy Van’s Famous Bloody Mary
Glass of ice
Your amount of vodka
Clamato, almost to the top
Juice of ¼ of a lime
2 to 3 dashes of Tabasco
2 dashes of Worcestershire
Dash of celery salt
Mix ingredients and pour in glass filled with ice.