Friday, March 27, 2015

March 25, 2015 The Re-birth of Los Altos Ranch Market, New Recipe: Avocado stuffed with Curried Chicken Salad

March 25, 2015 The Re-birth of Los Altos Ranch Market,  New Recipe: Avocado stuffed with Curried Chicken Salad

Yesterday I filed a Motion to extend the deadline for filing my brief, so this morning when I received an order from the 10th Circuit extending the filing date, I felt like I could get out of the house.  This was good news because the flyer in the mail from Los Altos Ranch Market looked promising.  I arrived around 10:30 and the produce department was humming with activity.  Guys were dumping large produce boxes of vegetables onto the display areas and there were lots of folks there roaming from fresh pile to fresh pile to pick up the specials.  Here are a couple of pictures of the specials.  As you can see there are five Day Specials, Wednesday and Thursday specials and there are also 2 day specials on weekends.  Wednesday and Thursday are the best days for produce.  I immediately noticed that the variety, quality and number of produce attendants had increased dramatically.  It was like the produce department had been resurrected.  

I started filling my cart: first 14 avocados for me and 14 for Suzette’s restaurant (7 for $.99), then about 6 or 7 red Roma tomatoes (2 lb. for $.99), then a large bag of small ripe navel oranges for juicing (3 lb. for $.99), a large bag of yellow onions (7 lb. for $.99), three Manila mangos (Altaufo) for $.50 each, a pineapple (2 lb. for $.99), an eggplant for $1.29, a fresh celery root for $3.00/lb., bananas (2 lb. for $.99), an acorn squash for $.69/lb. and 5 pasilla chiles for Chile Relleno (2 lb. for $.99).  I was in a food frenzy, so I pushed my, by now rather full, cart over to the fish department and found an even better value, Large head on shrimp for $5.99/lb.  I bought 3 lbs. and as an afterthought bought three sierra filets for $1.29/lb. just because the price was so good.  As I was looking for the 14 oz. bag of chips for $1.39, which I now realize is a Friday Special, I saw and bought a 2 liter bottle of Senorial Sangria for $.99 to be mixed with fruits, such as orange and pineapple and red wine for sangria.

I was in heaven as I pushed my cart toward the checkout counter.  There were some issues at the checkout counter: the computer price on the acorn squash was wrong (the supervisor sent the checkout attendant to check the price and I went with her to direct her attention to the item and code number).  When we returned to the checkout counter and she entered the Code No. 4750, which appeared on the label for the acorn squashes, the item name and price came up different from the label in the produce area.  As a growing line of people were waiting, I engaged in a philosophical discussion with the cashier.  I asked her if she believed her eyes or the computer. She could not answer that question, but the supervisor returned and gave me the acorn squash for $.69/lb. and said, “I will report that to the proper person.” 

We went through a similar experience with the celery root which was lovely and beginning to sprout a green shoot, so I might try to plant it.  I must have been the only person in the store who knew what a celery root was.  The cashier was completely flummoxed by now, because after she and I and the supervisor each examined at all the items in the 30 to 35 page code book with pictures, we all agreed; there was no listing for celery root (Sort of an Alice's Restaurant moment, when you realize that all of the systems created to deal with the problem, only expose some greater problem).  Rather than again ordering the cashier to go check the price, the supervisor finally asked, “How much was it?”  I answered, “I think $3.29/lb.”  She rang the price up as $3.00/lb. and I was thrilled.  

Finally, around noon I paid and headed for the parking lot in a glorious mood, leaving a long line of angry customers glaring at me.  I hate to seem callous but this was one of my greatest food shopping adventures ever; right up there with my ultimate food shopping experience.  We were staying at the condo at Conchas Chinas Beach in Puerto Vallarta about twenty years ago.  Scott and I went to buy some groceries at a small neighborhood super mini up the hill near the river.  When I checked out, bells rang and lights flashed and I thought I was being detained or deported for some reason, Scott, whose Spanish was better than mine, told me that the cashier had told him that I was the 1,000,000th customer and I had won a 50 lb. bag of avocados. I remember saying "muchas gracias" to everyone and Scott helping me drag my 50 lb. bag of avocados out of the store because I was still in a total daze from that surreal shopping experience.   That is how I felt today as I left the Ranch Market today; exhilarated by a surreal food shopping experience.   

When Suzette got home around 6:15 she was tired and I had to go to meditation until 8:15, so we agreed to not cook a big meal, but instead she would make a chicken and egg salad with the PPI chicken breast while I meditated, stuffing one of the medium avocados I had bought at Sprouts on Saturday and chopping Romaine lettuce to make a salad.  As I left I asked, “Can you add some curry to make a curried chicken and egg salad and got her the bottle of curry powder Luke had given us for Christmas.

When I arrived home the salad was ready and Suzette had diced one of the fresh mangoes into chunks to sprinkle over the salad.  The only thing Suzette thought were missing were razor thin slices of Roma tomato like those surrounding the Chopped kale salad we had had Friday a week ago at dinner before the Sofia Rei concert at the NHCC.  I took a Roma tomato and tried to cut thin slices, but the tomato was more ripe and softer than those served at the dinner at the NHCC, but with a sharp knife I did pretty well and the visual effect was the same,  

We enjoyed our curried chicken and egg salad stuffed avocado with sips of a wine spritzer we made with a sweet wine we bought in Pennsylvania last spring named Spring Fling with a splash of Framboise Raspberry liquor over ice in the garden.



During dinner, Suzette made two related announcements.  Since this was the beginning of Spring, she did not want to cook many more hot meals and since she will shortly be fully engaged in the re-modeling of the kitchen at the Center for Ageless Living, she would not be able to cook and I would need to shoulder the primary responsibility.  Both suggestions suit me fine; if I can get my brief done soon.

Sometimes responsibility gets in the way of the pleasures of food, but hopefully there will still be those little experiences like shopping for food that can turn into a memorable adventure. 

Can BBQ'd shrimp be far away.


Bon Appétit  

March 23, 2015 Marrakesh Stew with chicken and Couscous

March 23, 2015 Marrakesh Stew with chicken and Couscous

I have been working on a brief for my water case and have not had a lot of time to think about food or shop lately. 

Today I went into the kitchen at around 5:00 and looked in the fridge.   We had the turnips and carrots Suzette had picked in garden yesterday, an acorn squash, and PPI roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and couscous.  For some reason I immediately thought, “Chicken Couscous with a vegetable stew.”  I went on the internet and found a recipe for Marrakesh Stew by Martha Stewart.

Here is the recipe:


I had started cooking the onions in a large enameled casserole with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and almost finished prepping the vegetables when Suzette arrived and took over for me in the kitchen.  I then shredded the chicken into large chunks and we added that when we added the chick peas near the end of the cooking.  The only thing we did not have was an eggplant, so we substituted turnips from the garden.  The result was wonderful.
I drank mint tea with my dinner and Suzette drank a beer.
We both agreed that the stew would have been better with some raisins.
Footnote from March 26, 2015:  I bought an eggplant at Los Altos Ranch Market on March 25, 2015 and we still have lots of stew, so I might rejuvenate the dish with raisins and eggplant and replicate Martha Stewart’s actual recipe, even though I do not recall seeing any eggplant in the vegetable stew we ate in Marrakesh last year.
Bon Appétit 

I have been working on a brief for my water case and have not had a lot of time to think about food or shop lately. 
Today I went into the kitchen at around 5:00 and looked in the fridge.   We had the turnips and carrots Suzette had picked in garden yesterday, an acorn squash, and PPI roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and couscous.  For some reason I immediately thought, “Chicken Couscous with a vegetable stew.”  I went on the internet and found a recipe for Marrakesh Stew by Martha Stewart.
Here is the recipe:

I had started cooking the onions in a large enameled casserole with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and almost finished prepping the vegetables when Suzette arrived and took over for me in the kitchen.  I then shredded the chicken into large chunks and we added that when we added the chick peas near the end of the cooking.  The only thing we did not have was an eggplant, so we substituted turnips from the garden.  The result was wonderful.
I drank mint tea with my dinner and Suzette drank a beer.
We both agreed that the stew would have been better with some raisins.
Footnote from March 26, 2015:  I bought an eggplant at Los Altos Ranch Market on March 25, 2015 and we still have lots of stew, so I might rejuvenate the dish with raisins and eggplant and replicate Martha Stewart’s actual recipe, even though I do not recall seeing any eggplant in the vegetable stew we ate in Marrakesh last year.

Bon Appétit 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 20, 2015 Roasted BBQ Chicken, Couscous with Arugula and PPI Roasted Vegetables

March 20, 2015  Roasted BBQ Chicken, Couscous with Arugula and PPI Roasted Vegetables

Tonight I had to work on my water case, so I asked Suzette to being home a roasted chicken from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery.

Suzette arrived shortly after 5:00 with a roasted BBQ chicken and a hunger, so we decided to do a make a quick dinner.

We went outside and picked fresh arugula from our garden and I prepared couscous with 1 ½ cup of water, 1 Tbsp. of butter and 1 cup of couscous.  When the couscous had cooked for a couple of minutes we put the arugula into the pot and covered it again to steam anc cook the arugula. 

Suzette also microwaved the PPI roasted vegetables I made a couple of days ago.
The chicken was still warm, so I took of the hind quarters on each side and put them on plates and Suzette divided the warmed roasted vegetables and we scooped out ladles of fresh hot couscous with arugula and were ready to eat.  I poured out the last of the PPI bottle of Concannon Sauvignon Blanc White wine and we had a lovely meal.

After dinner we took a walk and enjoyed the twilight sun set.  Then I worked a few minutes more and we watched Washington Week in Review and I ate chocolate ice cream

Later we watched “Angriest Man in Brooklyn”, which must have been Robin Williams last movie.  It was rather sad to see him in his last movie and the theme of the movie was rather sad, a man with a angry personality diagnosed with an aneurism who is given 90 minutes to live trying to come to terms with those who he is nearest to in his family. 


Bon Appétit

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19, 2015 Lunch Azuma New Recipe Dinner Poached Little Neck clams in pasta and asparagus

March 19, 2015  Lunch Azuma   New Recipe Dinner Poached Little Neck clams in pasta and asparagus

I went to lunch with Suzette today at Azuma.  We ordered Chirashi Donburi (boxes filled with 12 pieces of seafood laid on a bed of sushi rice, $14.95).  I always order the same items: 2 pieces each of salmon, octopus, aji tuna and ultra white tuna and 4 pieces of yellow tail.  Suzette also ordered a hand held roll of unagi rolled in a piece of toasted nori ($5.75).

After lunch I drove to Albertson’s and went to the Butcher’s Block for the weekly special of jumbo 16 to 20 count shrimp for $6.99/lb.  When I arrived at the Butcher Block I saw one of my favorite items mahogany clams for the unbelievably low price of $1.99/lb. I have bought these clams before and they are wonderful.  About two inches across, the clam inside is about to 1 to 1 1/2 inches across and makes a perfect bite full of rich clam meat.

We were not hungry but finally at around 7:15 I asked if we could cook the clams and Suzette agreed, perhaps because it was a wet cool evening.  We thought about just cooking then for a PPI for tomorrow night but I was getting hungry and I asked if we could cook some spaghetti to add to the clams.  We looked for stock and I found about 24 oz. of the over salted leek and potato broth I had made two weeks ago.  We added to it 8 oz. of butter, a cup of white wine and about 1 Tbsp. of roasted garlic preserved in olive oil.  Suzette heated this poaching medium and put in the clams, while I started boiling water for the spaghetti.
  
When the water boiled I broke about 1/3 lb. of spaghetti into thirds and put that into the boiling water for about ten minutes.  I then snapped the ends off 6 or seven stalks of asparagus and cut them into 1 inch sections and put them into the poaching broth after most of the clams had opened and been removed. 

I ran to the basement and fetched a bottle of Concannon Sauvignon Blanc from California and put it into the freezer to chill.  After another five minutes we drained the spaghetti and put it into the poaching medium, which had now become our main dish.  After the clams were all shucked and the spaghetti had cooked about five more minutes in the medium, we added the clams back, added ½ cup of heavy cream to thicken and give the soup a milky flavor and cooked the soup for a minute. 
Suzette sliced 6 pieces of French baguette and toasted them.  I poured the wine and we were ready to eat.  We filled pasta bowls with the clam, spaghetti, and asparagus soup/stew.

the one pot dinner



Hot clam broth is one of my favorite accompaniments for fresh poached clams and this dish had the light clam broth flavor and milky texture I love, while also having threads of spaghetti and pieces of asparagus floating around in the milk and broth soup.  We dipped toasted baguette into the soup and sipped white wine and had a great meal. 

On nights when we do not like to cook an elaborate dinner, it is fun to fix a simple one pot dinner.  Tonight’s meal was the perfect answer to that urge toward simplicity while still enjoying the richness of fresh clams.


Bon Appétit

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 17, 2014 Sautéed Italian Sausages with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Root vegetables and chocolate baked pudding and crème anglais

March 17, 2014 Sautéed Italian Sausages with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Root vegetables and chocolate baked pudding and crème anglais

I stopped at Lowe’s on my way home from court today and bought 2 red new potatoes ($.50/lb.), a head of green cabbage ($.17/lb.) and an about 1 ½ lb. package of short ribs ($5.49/lb.).  When I arrived at home, I decided to cook short ribs and roasted vegetables.

I called Suzette and she reminded me that she had bought a bag of Brussels sprouts that was in the garage fridge.

I braised the short ribs in olive oil and put in ¼ cup each of sliced carrot and carrot and some garlic stalks.  I initially burned the vegetables, but then removed the offending vegetables that were delicious.  After braising the meat for about fifteen minutes I added 1 cup of Spanish red wine, 1 cup of water 1 sliced carrot, ½ sweet onion, and three or four sliced garlic stalks to the meat.  After about another ½ hour, I added the other potato diced, another carrot and and then in fifteen minutes more ab out 5 mushrooms diced and a beef bouillon cube.

I then filled the ceramic baking dish with 1 turnip, 3 medium carrots, 1 small onion, about ¾ lb. halved Brussel sprouts, about 5 halved cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of celery and covered the baking dish with aluminum foil and roasted it for about 1 hour.

Suzette came home around 6:00 and stirred and finished cooking the roasted vegetables.

By 7:00 it was apparent that the short ribs were hours away from being ready to eat, so we decided to cook Italian Sausages instead and eat them with the roasted vegetables.

Suzette has a special way of cooking sausages that we like a lot.  She puts them in a skillet with about 1/3 inch of beer and simmers them turning them to cook evenly.  When the beer evaporates the sausages get braised in the skillet and their skins turn brown and crunchy.  This produces a sausage with a soft flavorful meat center and a crispy slightly charred skin, which we like a lot.  We usually drink beer with the sausages.  Tonight was no exception.  We make a dipping sauce for the sausages with various amounts and mixtures of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and horseradish.

We watched Larry Wilmore, Rachel Maddox and John Stewart while we ate.

A little while after dinner, Suzette wanted to eat some of the PPI baked chocolate pudding with crème anglais sauce I made last weekend.  I drank a cup of tea with my dessert and sipped a bit of Calvados as we reviewed and discussed the proposed Spring menu for the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery.


Bon Appétit

March 15, 2015 Dinner at the Palmer’s Sous vide steak, with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Sautéed spinach, Pan Roasted potatoes, and chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

March 15, 2015 Dinner at the Palmer’s Sous vide steak, with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Sautéed spinach, Pan Roasted potatoes, and chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

Suzette had to drive to Santa Rosa today, so Susan Palmer and I made arrangements to dine with the Palmers to avoid Suzette having to cook when she arrived home from her drive to Santa Rosa and back.

After Suzette arrived and had a short scotch we took the chocolate cake I bought at Pastian’s Bakery yesterday, caraway seeds and a bottle of the 2010 Marchessi Monasterio Chianti Superiore over to the Palmer’s.

Susan had everything pretty much ready. There was a platter of fresh vegetables was a bowl of Ranch dressing as appetizers.  Charlie was grilling the sous vide steak on their new gas grill to add a little char broiled flavor to it.

Susan had baby organic spinach from Costco that she thought might be make a good salad, but I suggested we sauté some of the spinach in olive oil with fresh garlic.  Susan said, "Go for it!”, so I heated a large skillet, put about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil into it, squeezed two cloves of garlic into the skillet and filled the skillet with spinach leaves.  It took a couple of minutes for the electric stove to heat up, but soon the spinach was sizzling and cooked rather quickly as I stirred it constantly.  Suzette came over and we tried to stop the spinach’s cooking process before the spinach completely collapsed like Mondo Italiano in Taos does it (sort of a warm Italian spinach salad).

We were then ready to eat.  We served ourselves roasted potatoes, spinach, roasted Brussel sprouts with caraway seeds, steamed asparagus, and steak and drank red wine with it.  Susan loves vegetables and Charlie does not, so dinner parties are an excuse for Susan to make lots of vegetable dishes.  I could not finish my plate of food, perhaps because I wanted to leave room for cake.



After a few minutes of sipping the last of the red wine, we decided to serve dessert.  I had bought a ¼ sheet chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  We made up plates with scoops of Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream (our collective favorite ice cream) and cake and Susan made a lovely pot of ginger and peach herbal tea.

It was a lovely evening of food and conversation.

Suzette and I decided that sous vide solves the basic question of how to get the meat to the right temperature or done perfectly, but does not address the issue of flavor, so it actually requires two steps to get a completely satisfying dish.  Charlie’s lightly grilling the steak solves part of the flavor issue but Suzette and I do not believe it fully satisfies the flavor issue.  Suzette did believe that sous vide is a great way to have properly prepared meat ready for final prep at a restaurant, but we both agreed that the char grilled heavy beef we had prepared on Saturday night had a far superior flavor.  My fear is that in trying to replicate that level of char grilling with sous vide would destroy the benefit of sous vide.  More research is needed on this topic.

I saw recipes on the internet and my friend Dee Simpson sent me a recipe for the perfect steak, which recommends cooking the steak in a very hot iron skillet (over 500˚ is preferable) and turning the steak often, like every 15 to 30, which the recipe says cooks the steak more evenly and breaks down the collagens better.

Alas, we are still in search of the perfect steak cooking method.


Bon Appétit