The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

September 14, 2013

COOKING WITH SIMON: Good food for a great cause

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — This week I had the chance to appear on KYTX-CBS19 in Tyler to talk about the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala & Auction. It’s a privilege to be one of the chefs cooking for the event, and also have the opportunity to prepare on television the recipe I will be offering on the night of the gala.

This will be the fourth annual East Texas version of the Signature Chefs Gala & Auction and the March of Dimes will also be celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the organization.

The event will be held Monday, Sept. 23 at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler and the menu features recipes from 12 other East Texas chefs. The evening will offer guests an opportunity to enjoy a great night out while raising funds and increasing awareness of the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies.

Another Palestine chef that will be participating is Jackson York from the Lakeview Methodist Conference Center. It should be a great evening and I am hoping to see some Palestine folks at the event. It’s a chance to get out for some great food that supports a great cause.

Funds raised will support lifesaving research and educational programs right here in East Texas. Six hospitals in Texas partner with March of Dimes to offer the NICU Family Support Program. The program addresses the needs of the families during their NICU hospitalization and their transition home. It also offers professional education opportunities to the NICU staff to support the care for families centered around their needs and experiences.

Premature birth is the most serious infant health problem in the United States today. It affects more than half a million babies nationwide each year, with one in every eight babies born premature in our community. Babies born too soon are more likely to die or have lifelong disabilities. March of Dimes is committed to reversing this trend by funding research to find the causes of premature birth and developing strategies to prevent it.  

In addition to all the great food the chefs will be preparing, there will also be some unique auction packages and opportunities to mingle with the chefs, ask questions and learn more about the March of Dimes mission.

My dish will be a New Zealand lamb chop served on top of a polenta crouton and topped with a red onion sauce. What’s unique about the sauce is that the onions are caramelized in a jelly that was made with Lomanto red grapes from my vineyard.

My good friend, Linda Walton made a large batch of jelly with some of my grapes and it is some of the best jelly I have ever had – plus the most brilliant shade of purple you’ve ever seen.

Funny thing, I call it jam, because in New Zealand what we call jelly is actually what Americans call gelatin or Jell-o.  Sometimes, even in English, things get lost in translation.

Other chefs participating in the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala include Glen Terrell of Brookshire Grocery Co., Bernard Gautier of Bernard Mediterranean Restaurant, Whit and Lisa Bowman of Adalante’ Catering and Events, Carlos Villapudua of Villa Montez, Cedric Fletcher of Fat Catz, Tony Barrera of Lago del Pino and Dion Emanuel of Willow Brook Country Club.

Also, Bettie Smith-Desha, of Village Bakery, Rick Neal, of Eagles Bluff Country Club and Jack Lewis, of Rick’s on the Square in Tyler.

Hope to see you there. Come say hello, if you do.

For ticket information, contact Vicki Hargrove of the March of Dimes at 903-707-3584, or

And be sure to go to to watch the video of me cooking the lamb chops on CBS19. It’s a lot of fun to watch and might answer a few questions about cooking lamb at home.



1 rack of lamb

salt and pepper, to season

1 cup quick cook polenta

1 cup water

2 cups milk

1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 red onions, sliced thin

3 tablespoons oil, divided

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup red wine vinegar


Season lamb with salt and pepper and set aside. Combine the milk and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the polenta. The mixture will begin to thicken within a couple of minutes. Add the parmesan and stir to combine. Using an oiled spatula, spread the polenta into a shallow baking dish to about 1/2 inch thickness. Refrigerate until firm. Begin the red onion sauce by heating a sauté pan to medium. Add a tablespoon of oil and the sliced red onions. Sauté until soft. Add the butter and brown sugar and continue to sauté until brown and caramelized. Add the red wine vinegar and let reduce to a syrupy consistency. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Remove the polenta from the refrigerator and using a biscuit cutter, cut the polenta into small rounds. Brush the polenta rounds with olive oil and grill on each side until crisp and toasted. Heat an ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil and sear the rack of lamb on both sides for about two minutes per side. Place the skillet in a preheated 350 degree oven for twenty minutes. Remove the lamb from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the lamb between the bones to separate the chops. Place the polenta croutons on a large serving platter. Top each polenta crouton with a lamb chop and then add a spoonful of the onion sauce.


Recipe by Simon Webster. Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to or call 903-729-9500.