Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 25, 2014 Sayulita Day 2 Lunch Jackal and Dinner Baked Red Snapper topped with Chorizo and Panko

November 25, 2014 Sayulita Day 2 Lunch Jackal and Dinner  Baked Red Snapper topped with Chorizo and Panko

We started the day by making an omelet of smoked tuna, machego cheese, and onions, topped with slices of avocado and eating it under the palapa by the beach with cups of honeysuckle tea.

Then we walked the three blocks to the town center and went to a new fish store and our old favorite grocery store.  The new fish store had large red snappers and fresh head on shrimp, so we said we would return.  We then bought string beans, a pineapple, two bananas, 1 kg. of sugar, and four squashes at the grocery store.  We still needed mint to make the sugar water for our mojitos, so we walked to the square to the super mini grocery store.  Amazingly, the lady who owned the store had a bag of fresh spearmint in the small refrigerator he kept beside the cash register and we bought a large handful for $.50. 

We walked around the square and down the other one way street back to the fish market, stopping to check out the Le Gourmet French Bakery and to buy two glasses of fresh squeezed orange juice just beyond the bridge.  Suzette picked the largest red snapper and we determined it was 85 peso per kilo (about $3.00/lb.).  We also bought 1 ½ lb. of heads on shrimp for about $5.00/lb. and then carried all of our provisions to the room. 

We had read Trip Adviser reviews of restaurants in Sayulita and fund that the highest rated restaurant was just across the street from the villas where we were staying, so after walking the beach to the main beachfront area and taking a short nap, we walked across the street at 2:30 for a late lunch.  We both ordered a seafood tostada for 30 pesos each ($2.35) to go. When we arrived the cooks in the kitchen were making a chorizo and potato dish for the staff’s lunch and I asked if I could try the dish.  

Soon we were brought a small plate filled with the chorizo and potatoes with a bowl of tostados and two types of salsa.  Tostados appear to be the all-purpose delivery system for chopped foods and salsas. They are thinner, more delicate and less oily than the typical chips in the states.  The chorizo is died red and imparts a red color to the grease, which colors the food.  When the tostados were delivered In a to go bag, we walked back across the street to the compound, grabbed two beers and walked to the palapa by the beach that has become our dining room and enjoyed our fresh tostados, with octopus, marlin, bay scallops, and shrimp in its appealing matrix of micro chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, cilantro, Serrano chili, and onions balanced delicately on a tostado with an extra tostado to spread out the pile of seafood salad.

We loved the dish and will return to El Jackal.

We fetched our cameras and went to sit on the veranda overlooking the beach and snapped pictures of the sunset.  Finally around 6:00 we noticed a group of people a ways up the beach where they incubate the sea turtle eggs and walked over to see if they were letting loose turtles.  We met a lady on the way who said the days release had just ended.  We were saddened that we missed the release and determined to see the next one, which is highlight of the trip usually.  
looking south earlier

looking north with Suzette
a panorama of the entire beach from southern to northern headlands

 a little later looking south
We went back to our condo unit and cooked dinner.  I chopped up about 2 oz. of chorizo, quartered three potatoes and minced about 1 Tbsp. of cilantro, while and Suzette snapped about 1/2 cup string beans and split one of the red snapper filets in half, sautéed the chorizo and piled it and some panko onto the filets and then broiled it in our tiny toaster oven for about twenty minutes. While the fish was baking Suzette boiled the string beans and then sautéed them with the potatoes, while I opened a bottle of Côtes de Provence rosé. 

For some reason, I had thought the wine was a Coteaux de Provence, which is usually a slightly sweet and fruity wine.  The Côtes de Provence was an entirely different animal; bone dry.  We were hungry for a good wine and did not mind that is was not perfect.  In fact the chorizo was not picante and so the dry wine went well with the fish to moisten the toasted panko and chorizo.  The fish could not have been fresher.  It still had that internal inter-cellular moisture of sea water, just like the seafood in the seafood tostado had had earlier.

another view of dinner
the ceiling of our dining room

red snapper with smashed potatoes and green beans

After returning from food shopping this morning I had cubed one of the bananas and eaten it with some yogurt and the banana was fabulous, because it seemed to be tree ripened.  

After dinner we made honeysuckle tea and heated the PPI brownie from yesterday’s pasta lunch and had a small dessert course to complete our meal.

One of the things I like the best about Sayulita is the availability of really fresh ingredients. Although limited, the ingredients that are available are plentiful, cheap and at their maximum freshness or ripeness.  Most people shop daily, so are used to freshness as the rule.  And sometimes we are surprised like today’s find of fresh mint.

We have enough food now for several meals. Tomorrow morning we will make a shrimp omelet and Oaxacan mole for dinner. The next day, Thanksgiving Day, we will make fish and shrimp soup for dinner.  After that perhaps one of our lunches will be BBQ tuna and shrimp on tostados.

In two days we are planning to take a boat ride to Yalapa for lobster on the beach for our Thanksgiving Dinner with a bottle of the Chenin Blanc champagne we bought in France last year.


Bon Appétit


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 23, 2014 Kimbell and Amon Carter Museum and Roasted Boneless Leg of Lamb with Camargue red rice, cabbage and string beans

Billy, Suzette and I left Dallas shortly after 11:00 so we would arrive at the Kimbell at 12::00, when it opened.  We arrived at about 12:05 and found folks streaming into the museum, so we walked briskly to the Piano Building where the Impressionist Portraits organized by the Musée d'Orsay (a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900; Wikipedia) exhibit was hung.

When we entered the exhibit we were immediately confronted by self-portraits by and portraits of many of the greatest impressionists, like Monet, Caillebotte, Renoir, and Manet.   There were two large formal group portraits of groups of artists, one in Monet’s studio and the other by Maurice Denis of a group of the Nabis painters looking at a Cezanne?  still life on an easel.  Besides many portraits of the greatest Impressionist and post-impressionist painters (the Musée d’Orsay website categorizes its collection as “Toward the New”), the exhibit included some of the greatest works of impressionist and post –impressionist art ever made, some of the strongest works in my opinion were Edgar Degas’ “Absinthe Drinkers” and Paul Gaugin’s “Self-portrait with Yellow Christ” and Odilon Redon’s hauntingly mysterious portrait of Paul Gaugin in profile with a darkened face juxtaposed by a curtain of gold leaf.  

There was also a lovely Renoir of a young woman bathed in the same sun light and apparently sitting on the same patio where he painted his Boaters Party (at the Phillips Gallery in Washington) above the Seine.  Suzette’s favorite was a portrait of a woman with a green shawl by Camille Pissarro.  I loved a Woman with a black shawl by Renoir, perhaps for the same reason; the shadow of light both piercing and falling on the head of the person from the shawl is rendered beautifully.  The artist that I was most impressed by was Edgar Degas, perhaps because there were lots of his portraits in the exhibit, from one of his first portraits painted of his grandfather, to a young woman in profile painted in 1865 and a fabulous portrait of the orchestra in the orchestra pit at the Paris ballet with his first rendering of ballet dancers in 1870.    

After the exhibit Suzette shared a glass of pinot grigio and a chocolate biscotti as we waited for Billy to finish viewing the exhibit. 

We then walked up the hill to the Amon Carter Museum, where we were met at the door by a gentleman docent who was a retired college professor, who invited us to a lecture tour of the Bingham Exhibit.  This is apparently the largest exhibit of George Caleb Bingham works, ever assembled.  I don’t want to go into too much detail, but all his greatest works, including Fur Traders on the Missouri from the Metropolitan Museum were in the show.  The only major picture not included was his “Lighter Unloading Goods” because it is hung in the White House, although there was an interesting vintage daguerreotype of it.

Suzette finished early because she also wanted to see the American woodblock print show also, I found outside the Bingham exhibit sitting in front of a new Agnes Pelton painting I had never seen before.  Here it is:

We went to the woodblock prints, which prominently displayed  the works and techniques of Gustave Baumann and a wonderful Howard Cook of a biplane flying over a city dated 1931 that we had never seen before.  I ran back to another gallery with Texas portraits in it, including one of Bill Bomar by Dickson Reeder.  Billy and I worked with David Reeder, Dickson’s Brother, at Pier I.

Finally around 3:30 we were finished with art and Billy drove us back to his home in Dallas.  When we arrived Rebecca was starting on dinner.  
Here is the marinating boneless leg of lamb roast:

I watched some football on TV and by 6:00 we were ready to eat.  The meal was predictably wonderful.  Rebecca had marinated a boneless leg of lamb overnight in olive oil and fresh rosemary from their garden and made a carmelo sauce with fresh parsley and garlic chives.  The hit of the meal was the red rice from the Camargue, which is a relatively new variety of rice cultivated in the wetlands of the Camargue region of southern France. It is a short-grained and unmilled variety of rice and is therefore quite sticky. It is a brownish-red colour. It has an intense somewhat nutty taste and a naturally chewy texture. Cooking time is generally 35–45 minutes depending on the amount of "bite" desired after cooking. It is best cooked like a risotto rice, i.e., sautéing in butter first, then adding small amounts of water or stock until absorbed and repeating for the duration of the cooking time. It is generally much more filling than white rice, so less is needed per person (Wikipedia). She also included PPI string beans and cabbage from last night’s meal for a hearty Fall meal.

We drank the E blend from Spain and liked its clean flavor,complexity and hearty tannins, although we were not blown away by it.  

Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit

November 24, 2104 Dallas to Sayulita Roasted Chicken tacos

I got up around 4:00 and blogged for a bit and said good morning to Elaine who had gotten up to drive Rebecca to the airport to return to NYC and her job at Goldman Sachs.

I went back to bed and we got up at 6:30 to shower, eat and leave for the airport.  We ate most of the rest of the gravad lax on Einstein bagels Elaine brought home from her trip to the airport with Rebecca.  Then at 8:15 Billy drove us to DFW for our 10:15 flight to Puerto Vallarta.  

When we arrived in Sayulita, we made it with some difficulty past the time share salesmen to the rental car area and checked in with Europcar.  After we picked up our rental car we drove the one block to Marina Plaza and decided we wanted to at lunch first.

We parked at the Lloyd’s end of the Plaza where the Pasta Restaurant is located and went into Lloyd’s and exchanged $300 (the exchange rate was 13.05 pesos to the dollar so we got 3,915 pesos).  There is a small pasta restaurant that we like just in front of Lloyd’s, so we ordered lunches of ravioli, salad, a drink and a dessert for 79 pesos each.  Suzette ordered ricotta and spinach ravioli with pesto and I ordered ground beef filled ravioli with Bolognese sauce.  We both liked our dishes and love the fresh pasta that this small restaurant and pasta shop serves and sells.
I did not know what I was doing but pointed to a stack of bottles at the bottom of the cooler and when we opened the bottle of water found that it was a lovely carbonated mineral water.  We were satisfied with our lunch, so we took the desserts with us.

We then walked to the other end of the Plaza to the Pelican Supermarket and bought 780 pesos of groceries, including chorizo, smoked tuna, avocados, a cucumber, peach marmalade, limes, onions, grated manchego cheese, milk, natural yogurt, Castillo Anejo Rum, soda water, a 1 pack of Noche Buena, a loaf of onion bread, black beans, etc.  The most fun we had was tasting the different fresh mole concentrates that the store offered.  We had no trouble deciding on the Oaxaca black mole and bought about ½ lb. for 17 pesos.

We usually buy honey, but did not like the commercial stuff they offered in the store. But when we walked outside we saw an artisan foods stand with goods from Michoacán that had whipped fresh pure honey, so we bought a small container for 45 pesos.

We then walked around the corner to our favorite chicken rotisserie shop and bought a whole chicken dinner with four roasted jalapenos, an order of rice, an order of roasted potatoes and seven tortillas for 120 pesos.

At around 3:30 we drove out of the Plaza Marina and north out of PV and, without much congestion on the national highway, and made it to Sayulita in about 25 minutes, even though our small Dodge car did not have much power.

It took us a while to find the Villas Miramar at 11 Palmar Street, but we finally did and were settled into our apartment by June and David and Terry.  After changing clothes and unpacking our grips and food, we walked on the beach at sunset and felt that we had made a good choice of places to rent. 
The villas are arranged in a two sided walled compound running from the ocean to Palmar street, just north of the rocky outcropping in the middle of the small bay about a mile from the main part of town, which is now the new hot area in Sayulita, perhaps because it more quiet but still has a good view of the southern half of the bay.  Unfortunately, because the bay at Sayulita is bounded on the South by a high headlands, you do not get a sunset over the water, just the headland, so our location is better because it gives you a wider view of the sunset over the ocean, which was deeply pink this evening.

After our walk we went back to the apartment and Suzette heated up the two thigh quarters of the chicken, two jalapenos, slices of roasted potatoes and the seven tortillas, while I sliced threads of fresh onion, avocado and slices of cucumber.  We filled plates with chicken and the other ingredients and took them with a Noche Buena beer to the palapa at the beach and filled the warmed tortillas with the ingredients and enjoyed a great hot chicken taco dinner with a wonderful view of the town of Sayulita in the waning sunset.  I noticed that my nose was beginning to open up from the change from city smog to salt ocean breezes.   

We went back to the room and I went back to bed, sleeping soundly from 8:30 to 4:00.

Bon Appetit

Bon Appétit     

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 22, 2014 Thanksgiving Dinner in Dallas and “Dirt Road to Psychedelia”

We missed our 6:00 am. flight this morning because I forgot my passport and I had to return home to fetch it, so we had to pay $75.00 each to re-book onto the next flight three hours later.  We made it to Dallas by 11:45 instead of 8:45.  I had packed bagels smeared with goat cheese and garnished with capers, onion slices and gravad lax, so after the 6:00 flight left and we had re-booked onto the next flight, Suzette and I sat in coffee ship area and drank cups of chai and ate our breakfast bagel sandwiches.

Elaine picked us up at the airport and after I fetched our bag from the first flight drove to theDallas Simon's house, where we found Billy cooking green cabbage in a sweet vinegar sauce and mashed sweet potatoes.  I handed Billy the bottle of 2013 Archery Summit rosé and gravad lax, which he put it in the fridge to chill.

Rebecca was at home for the holidays and at around 2:00 Rebecca began blanching haricot vert and made a light caper, parsley and shallot sauce to garnish the beans.

Also, Elaine also began cooking a dish of sautéed apples and onions.

Around 2:30 Jerry and Marion and their daughter, Celia, and Marion's mother Jessie, arrived bearing a roasted turkey, a big bowl of dressing, brown gravy, a bowl of cranberry sauce and a bowl of cranberry chutney.  Jessie, brought a bottle of 2012 Edna Valley Chardonnay.

Then Sandy and Rita Holsweig, Elaine and Jerry’s Dad and Mother, arrived.  Rita is a world class baker and this year she baked four pies; an apple, a pumpkin, a pecan and a chocolate pecan.  

Jerry sliced the turkey and by 3:00 we started putting food on the table and assembling around the table.  We were ten counting Celia, who was enthralled with a book didn’t join us until the pies were served at the end of the meal.

I picked up the dark meat platter and took a thigh and slip it in half and served Suzette ½ of the thigh.  Then we passed the food bowls and platters and each took portions of Marion’s cranberry sauce, Bill’s sweet and sour cabbage, Rebecca’s string beans lightly garnished with their shallot, parsley and caper sauce, Elaine’s sautéed onions and apples, Marion’s dressing and Jerry’s roasted turkey and the brown gravy and Bill’s sweet potatoes. It soon became apparent that over the years of joining together for Thanksgiving dinners that every member of the Holswieg/Simon/Sackler family unit had self-selected to cook their best dish.

Rebecca made a similar string bean dish for our Christmas party when they last visited a year or two ago.  Rita baked and Jerry made his wonderful roasted turkey as he did for last year’s Thanksgiving dinner at their house and Marion made lots of things again this year as she did last year.  It seems that the host and hostess fill in any gaps and this year that meant that Billy did the sweet potatoes, the cabbage. and a lovely appetizer of chopped chicken liver with egg and chopped onion and slices of French baguette.

We opened the wines and soon found that the 2013 Archery Summit rosé was not chilled enough, so we added cubes of ice to it.  The rosé tasted slightly dry at first.  As we ate the rosé opened up in our glasses and soon took on a really strong character and tasted fruitier and more full bodied. Billy, Suzette and I mainly drank it and Billy agreed that it tasted great (Jubilation’s $30.00).

After the meal Billy served Armangac, Calvados, and two Piere William brandies and we all took slices of Rita’s pies and Elaine served tea and coffee.

After everyone left, I took an hour nap and awoke at around 7:00 to find that  Elaine and Rebecca had gone shopping and Suzette resting beside me in the bed.  Suzette would not budge, so I left her and went to see what Billy was doing. 

When I told Billy that I wanted to go buy a bottle of wine to take to Mexico, we discussed the 2011 Domaine de Gueneau Sancerre of which he had an empty bottle of on his counter.  Billy called to find if it was in stock and then drove us to their nearest Central Market.  When we arrived at the Central Market wine department, I went a little crazy.  A young man who was very knowledgeable about the wines helped me.  It seemed that he had drunk all the wines and had a lot of favorites he could recommend.  There was also a table with several wines and champagnes for tasting.  After we tasted and talked and he found out that I like dry white wines and needed something that would complement shellfish, he recommended an Austrian Grüner Veltliner white for a dry wine to take to Mexico.  Since we already had a Sancerre in the grip, I chose it, as well as a new bottle of E red, which was a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo, Grenache and Carignan grapes rated over 90 points ($17.99) for Rebecca’s roasted lamb dinner tomorrow evening and bought the Sancerre for Billy to replenish his cellar. 

When we arrived home we found Rebecca and Elaine playing Scrabble and sipping small glasses of the Spanish liquor made at the Monastery in the Rioja that we almost visited when we all traveled to Northern Spain several years ago with its distinct European juniper flavor that we found in many other liquors in the Basque region that I generally think of as falling within the 1000 flowers of the Pyrenees category.

I took a glass of the liquor and Billy and I retired to the TV viewing area and Billy put on a CD he had bought called “Dirt Road to Psychedelia” by Scott Conn, which chronicled the folk music and hippie cultural scene in Austin in the 60’s which was when Billy and I went to UT,  I attended from 1964 to 1970 and Billy attended UT from 1966 to 1970.

As the movie soon proved, those were not only formative and momentous years for us, but for lots of other people who attended UT and was the period that gave birth to the Austin music scene, that has only gotten stronger over the years.

We saw lots of people we knew back then, including a credit to David Ambur, who was the younger brother of Karen Ambur, who I knew because she was a friend of my then housemate Steve Salinger, from Houston.  I recall that David was really taken by the counterculture and also liked photography and must have taken lots of photos and footage in that era. 

Billy and I agreed that we were not into the Hippie movement because we were in Jewish fraternities and those two groups did not mix until around 1968/1969, when the hippie psychedelic culture became dominant.  Billy and I were actually a bit ahead of the curve because we moved out of the fraternity house and world and lived at different College Houses starting around 1967, which was a much more unstructured and more countercultural environment. 
I remember lots of stories from that era, such as hanging out and playing volleyball at College House with Bill Bennett, who was a graduate philosophy student at UT under John Silber who taught an Ethics course that  I took one semester.  I still find it ironic that Bill Bennett taught me ethics. 

Another story that demonstrates an aspect of the nascent hippie culture is that I met a girl once who was attending UT on what she called a $200 per semester budget. She obviously came from a poorer family and her entire budget for the semester, besides books and labs, was $200.00.  A friend let her stay at her house and she bought one five lb. bottle of peanut butter at the beginning of the semester and bought a loaf of white bread every week and ate only peanut butter sandwiches every day.  In those days people could still do that.  

Billy and I were in a different world; but in some respects just as insular a world.  For the first two years of our stay in Austin, we lived and took our meals and partied at our fraternity houses with the sons and daughters of mostly Texas Jewish families (Billy was an AEPi and I was a ZBT/Phi Sig), but we would buy prime beef steaks and good French wine on the weekends, when the fraternity house kitchen was closed, and cook simple but great French meals with asparagus and béarnaise sauce and baked potatoes and go see visiting folk singer like, Doc Watson.  After I left the fraternity world I was invited to join a small group of people who were addicted to or sought to be addicted to French food and culture, who got together on Friday nights to cook meals.  When I earlier complained about the lack of inspiration in the food served at the fraternity house to Mother, she gave me a copy of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child and a  Sabatier cooks knife with a 7 inch blade and said, “I guess you will have to learn to cook, darling.”    The only member of the cooking group I recall now was Carolyn Brooks from Port Arthur or Beaumont and of course Terry Teague from Fort Worth, who may have invited me into the group.

The point is that the dirt road is quite descriptive of the lack of resources that many students at UT faced and the irony is that because of their reduced circumstances many of the poorer students gravitated to the folk music life style and that group included several musically talented persons who became some of the icons of the psychedelic rock era like, Chet Helms and Janis Joplin and Johnny Winter and Freddy King. 

Of course, many members of the folk music scene did not suffer from a lack of resources, like Cary Marcus of the Neiman-Marcus family, who was a folk singer, who I used to go see play at the Rubaiyat folk club on McKinney Avenue in Dallas.

We were attracted to the folk music scene through our association with Boy Scouts and Explorers where we had a strong group of musicians and singers and liberal thinkers.  I recall going to a New Lost City Ramblers concert at TCU in 1962 or 1963, promoted by Heard Floore, Jr. and others associated with our Explorer group.  Billy also reminded me tonight that two of our Explorer advisors, Louis Page and Dink Starns, had opened the first beatnik coffee house on Camp Bowie in Fort Worth in 1959 and 1960 called the Black Beret.

After watching “Dirt Road to Psychedelia” and talking with Billy and our wonderful Thanksgiving Day meal, at 10:30 we all turned in.

Bon Appétit                       

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 17, 2014 Sautéed Chicken in Mole Sauce

We had decided to make chicken in mole sauce for dinner with the dark mole cube we bought at Altos Ranch Market on Saturday.  The recipe called for boiling a chicken but Suzette likes sautéed chicken better, so she made about three cups of chicken broth while she sautéed the chicken.  We then emulsified one of the cubes of dark mole we had bought at Altos Ranch Market yesterday in a skillet filled with chicken stock (Altos sells cubes of fresh made mole concentrate that are not in bottles in oil, so they make a much cleaner tasting less oily mole.  The mole went into solution quickly but did not thicken.

Suzette had also selected a fresh pumpkin recipe from Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto cookbook, so Suzette roasted the pumpkin we had bought at the Farmers’ Market for Halloween that was still out on our porch in the morning and I spent about an hour peeling and cubing about ½ of the pumpkin.  When Suzette returned home from work at 5:00 she peeled and cubed the rest of the pumpkin and bagged most of it for our Christmas Eve party.  She decided to cook about three cups of the fresh pumpkin.  The recipe called for sauteing the pumpkin in fresh garlic and serrano chili and then garnishing with fresh cilantro and mint.

Suzette had brought a handful of fresh mint from the Center and I went to the garden and lifted the plastic covering one of our raised beds and selected three or four sprigs of cilantro.

We also made two cups of rice.

After we both tasted the mole sauce and decided it did not have as good a flavor as we wished and was too thin and needed some other ingredient.  We decided to add sugar and cook it about thirty minutes longer.   The sugar helped and I have since read on pages 275-276 of Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen Cookbook that tourist restaurants in Mexico often make mole from a commercial mole paste and add sugar to make it more palatable to tourists.  I felt like we are on the right path of research that will hopefully lead us in Mexico to real mole.

I wanted a green vegetable so I snipped flowrets from two stalks of broccoli and we steamed them.  

After we cooked the pumpkin and the mole a few more minutes, we fetched two beers and were ready to eat.

Bon Appétit

November 16, 2014 New Recipe Tapa Omelet and MaPo Dofu

November 16, 2014 New Recipe  Tapa Omelet  and  MaPo Dofu

We wanted to use of some of the food in our fridge because we are travelling next week.  We decided to use the PPI Spanish artichoke heart, ham, green bean and pimiento tapa to make an omelet.  Suzette mixed three or four eggs and sautéed the tapa to heat it while I sliced about five slices of Swiss Gruyere cheese and two green onions (scallions).  After the egg was poured over the heated tapa and the egg began to set, we lay slices of cheese and the chopped green onion on the pan and after a couple more minutes Suzette flipped one side of the omelet onto the other and in another minute we were ready to eat.  I toasted slices of bagel and spread Goat cheese on them, to make a tasty bread accompaniment without any sugar.  Suzette made her usual Bloody Mary and I drank some of her newly acquired honey suckle tea.

At 5:00 I started making Mapo Dofu.  I cubed about ¾ lb. of pork tenderloin and the ichiban eggplants from our garden and 1 shallot and about two Tbsp. of garlic and 2 Tbsp. of fresh ginger and then diced ½ of a pasilla chili and 1 green bell pepper.  I stir fried all of these ingredients in a large wok with for about twenty-five to thirty minutes to make sure the ingredients were thoroughly softened.  I then added re-hydrated about 2 Tbsp. of strips of wood ear and three or four shitake mushrooms with the two cups of their soaking liquid and an additional 2 sups of chicken stock made from dehydrated Knorr chicken stock and about 10 oz. of cubed medium firm tofu.  I also added about 16 oz. of PPI roasted vegetables.  The trick is to cover the ingredients with enough water to let their flavors mix.   

I covered the wok and let it simmer for about fifteen minutes and mixed up a thickening sauce of 1 Tbsp. of Tamari, 1 ½ Tbsp. of Chinese Rice Cooking Wine, 1 tsp. of sesame sauce, 1 tsp. of hot chili oil, 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch and ¼ cup of water.

I added the thickening sauce to the wok and stirred it in and let it cook for about five more minutes.  The mixture did not thicken much but it did thicken a bit, so we decided we were ready to eat.  We heated some PPI rice and spooned it into pasta bowls and then ladled a pile of Map Dofu on the rice.

We fetched beers and ate a hardy meal s the first winds of winter blew outside.

Bon Appétit      

November 15, 2014 Shopping for Mole and Dinner at the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery

When I awoke this morning, I found Suzette researching recipes in our Diana Kennedy Oaxacan cookbook, Oaxaca al Gusto.  She had marked about ten recipes to consider including a yellow, a green and a black mole.  We decided to go to Altos Ranch Market to see if we could find costeña chilies, chicken, achiote, Mexican oregano and a few other items on our list,

When we arrived at Altos Ranch Market I bought a few limes ($.79/lb.) and three avocados.  We then went to the deli and bought crema sin sal ($2.29/lb.) and went back to produce and bought 1 pasilla/poblano chile but found no costeña chilis or dried avocado leaves.  Then we looked for chilis in cans and found no costeña chilis in cans either, so we returned to the deli counter and bought cubes of fresh made black and green mole concentrate.  Then we went to the meat department and bought 6 chicken thighs.  I now saw Suzette’s plan, to see what ingredients we needed to buy in Mexico next week for our Holy Mole party on Christmas Eve.   We now have a partial list of ingredients.
After we got home we made open face sandwiches by spreading mayo and liverwurst on German Ry bread and coating with Dijon mustard and slices of salami and gelbwurst.  We drank a beer with the sandwiches and Suzette went to work.

At 3:00 I drove to to the Center for Ageless Living in Los Lunas to meet Suzette.  My planned treatment did not materialize, so we soaked in the large hot tub at the Garden Gate Day Spa until around 4:45, when we steamed, showered and dressed and went to the restaurant for dinner.  We met Haley, the new waitress, and discussed wines with her as we tried to decide what to order for dinner and which wine to drink.  I decided upon the lamb shank Special three course prix fix dinner and Suzette wanted to try the new item on the menu, gnocchi in brown butter sauce.  I actually had difficulty deciding whether to drink the Drouhin Beaujolais or the Cline Pinot Noir for my wine.  Since I had tasted the Drouhin before, I opted for the Cline 2012 Sonoma County Pinot Noir.  Suzette had Haley aflutter with tasks so I opened the bottle of Pinot Noir and poured a glass.  Soon, Executive Chef Devven arrived with an small plate holding a ramekin filled with an olive tapenade made with Kalamata olives, olive oil, herbs and the secret ingredient, creamed goat cheese to help bind it accompanied by a pile of warm pita bread toast points.  I loved the creamy tapenade and smeared it on the warm pita slices and sipped pinot.

Soon Suzette returned from her training session with Haley and finished the tapenade and pita and then Haley brought us our dinners.  My lamb shank was sauced with a thick tomato, Kalamata olive and carrot puree dotted with rounds of potato gnocchi.  My first taste of the sauce told me that it had a fair amount of black pepper, because it had a noticeable pepper flavor and a slightly tart flavor of the fresh and canned tomatoes and olives, rather like hot and sour soup but without the strong sour flavor of vinegar (sort of a hot and tart puree).  I loved the carrots cooked into the sauce and told Devven.  I also explained to him that the sauce had a distinctly peppery flavor to me but that on the entire spectrum of black pepper flavors, this sauce was probably near the middle; but I, unfortunately, am on the outer edge of the black pepper spectrum, at essentially no black pepper.  I use a little white pepper when dishes call for black pepper, unless the pepper is cooked into the dish.

The lamb shank was succulent and so tender that the meat literally fell off the bone. Chef Devven said he had cooked the lamb shanks for 7 to 8 hours.  I found the use of fresh cherry tomatoes from the Center’s garden in the sauce refreshing on what would turned out to be the last evening of Indian Summer.  I loved Devven's gnocchi because it was not doughy.  Chef Devven offered his recipe for his gnocchi.  Here it is:

Gnocchi with sauteed fresh tomatoes in brown butter sauce 

Lamb shank with gnocchi in tomato, olive and vegetable sauce

Devven also offered his secret, which is to stir the potatoes in the pan until they get smooth just after they are cooked, while they are still warm.

I loved my dinner.  I traded bites of lamb for Suzettee's gnocchi and I liked hers a bit better than mine because it had a buttery flavor and less pepper.  My ideal dinner this evening would have been gnocchi in butter sauce with the roasted lamb shank.

Next we were served a small plate with a blintz on it (a warm crepe rapped around some ricotta cheese mixed with lemon peel and a bit of sugar and garnished with dabs of raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries; very tasty.

After dinner at around 6:00 we were walked outside to park area to the newly installed circular labyrinth made by stringing Christmas lights in a series of interconnected concentric circles between the stage and the Spa.  A round sitting area had been arranged at the center of the labyrinth with benches and large rounds of wooden logs for seats.  There were also freshly cut bamboo stalks and marshmallows and at the very center of the labyrinth was a metal fire pit with a fire set in it ready to be lit.  A large wooden drum was set on a stand near the first turn in the labyrinth.  Suzette took over the drumming duties and l walked the labyrinth to the center and took over the fire and marshmallow duties.  I lit the fire and soon folks began to show up, a few residents of the assisted living facility and families with small children.  Suzette directed them into the labyrinth and when they finally arrived at the center, I offered them a bamboo stick and marshmallows.  I seemed that for several of the small children, this was their first marshmallow roasting experience.  It was fun to see them enjoying the fire and the roasting of their marshmallows and the expressions on their faces as they bit into the hot gooey masses of burned/toasted sugary marshmallow.  After a few minutes Suzette went to take pictures of the labyrinth and I took over the drumming duties.  At around 6:30 Suzette and I carried the drum back into the Spa and we left around 7:00.

We had planned to go to Birdland’s 20th anniversary party at Low Spirits, but I took a little nap and did not awaken until 11:00, which we decided was too late to go out again. 

Bon Appétit