Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September 1, 2014 Labor Day Dinner Party Rib Eye Steak, Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed String beans, Cucumber and Shallot Salad, and Sautéed Mushrooms, onions, and Shishito peppers

Mike and Kathryn and Cynthia and Ricardo came at around 6:30.  Cynthia and Ricardo brought beautifully marbled rib eye steaks, a peach tart, mashed potatoes, and wonderful fresh sautéed string beans picked at the garden Cynthia tends in the North Valley.

Here is the rub that Ricardo put on the steaks:
Chile Rub

1T plus 1 t chile powder
2 t ground cumin
2 t brown sugar
1 t dried oregano 
1 t coarse salt

Cynthia also made a fresh salsa from chilis she had raised in her garden and brought corn chips to eat with them as an appetizer.  We also had made a peach tart with zabaglione and we made a cucumber and shallot salad dressed with Rice Vinegar, Aji Mirin and chili sauce, salt and sugar.  I had also sliced for large white mushrooms and about 3 Tbsp. of yellow onion, and chopped about ten cloves of garlic and had bought a about fifteen shishito peppers at Sprouts ($3.99/lb.)  When the steaks were placed on the grill, I started sautéing the onions in 1 ½ Tbsps. of butter and 1 ½ Tbsp. of olive oil.  I added 2 Tbsps. of fresh basil leaves and a dash of Herbs Provence and salt and pepper and sautéed the mixture until the pepper took on color, which was about ten to fifteen minutes.  Suzette boiled corn on the cob and we set everything on the round table in the TV room in a buffet.

We sat under the gazebo in the garden and had a wonderful meal with lots of friendly conversation and wonderful food and wine for over an hour. 
Cynthia with her perfect plate of food

The gang at the beginning of the meal

Ricardo near the end of the meal

the Wines

Wines - Suzette had been given a bottle of 2010 Gérard Bertrand Corbières by Pierre, a luscious Southern Rhone mixture of Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedré.  Karen brought a bottle of 2012 Fighter Pilot Red, a medium zinfandel with a bit of spiciness made by one of their friends. Mike and Kathryn brought a Belleruche Cotes du Rhone white and a 2012 Elio Altare Barbera d’ Alba.

After dinner I made whipped cream with 2 Tbsp. of powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla and Karen made decaf coffee.  Mike served the peach tortes and I fetched a bottle of 1994 Rozès Late Bottled Vintage Reserve unfiltered port.  Everyone agreed the port tasted very smooth until we got to the bottom of the bottle and hit the thick layer of sediment.

At 9:30 we said good byes and by 10:00 everyone had retired to their rooms for the night.


Monday, September 1, 2014

August 30, 2014 Pasta with pesto, shrimp, and fresh mozzarella with white Sicilian Grillo wine

We went to Old Town this evening to hear the music in the band stand and met Steve and Eileen White in front of their stores at 300 Romero and then Cynthia and Ricardo in front of the Aceves Basket Shop on their way to celebrate their first anniversary with a dinner at Antiquities.

We went home without any plans for dinner.  Suzette suggested that we use some of the fresh pesto she had made on the PPI Gemelli pasta and add some fresh mozzarella cheese.  I suggested that we add a few shrimp.  I boiled and peeled ten medium shrimp and cubed them into pieces.  Suzette cubed a squash and 3 Tbsps. of red onion and sautéed them in some butter and olive oil and white wine in a large skillet. When the ingredients had softened and cooked she added 2 cups of pasta and tossed the pasta with some grated Pecorino Romano and then in a large serving bowl with the fresh cubed mozzarella. 

I poured glasses of Sicilian Grillo white wine and we had a delicious and simple meal.

Later, I ate some chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Bon Appétit 

August 31, 2014 Dinner Bobby Flay Chicken with Brussels sprouts, Corn and Asparagus casserole and Braised Cucumber

Suzette’s niece by marriage, Karen, came to visit us for a few days.  Karen is not eating red meat so I thawed out the two PPI Bobby Flay seasoned chicken thighs and two more unseasoned chicken thighs.

In the morning I had halved and peeled the last ten of the peaches Suzette had brought from the prodigious harvest at her Center in Los Lunas.  They peeled and cut cleanly in half with one knife stroke into perfect circles, so I put them into a pasta bowl and covered them with saran wrap and looked for a recipe for custard.   In the morning we had discovered a large cucumber in the garden that must have weighed three pounds. When Karen came at around 1:30 we discussed dinner and Karen found a recipe for Julia’s braised cucumber that was simple to make.  It called for sautéing cucumber cubes in 1 Tbsp. of butter covered for five minutes and then squeezing 1 Tbsp. of lemon juice into the cucumbers and adding a dash of salt and cooking them covered for another two minutes.

At around 3:00 we decided to go to the Hispanic Cultural Center art museum.  When we arrived we found that admission was free on Sundays.  Besides the permanent collection, there were four other exhibits, three cut paper exhibits and the other exhibit was of prints created by the ASAR collective of revolutionary teachers and artists in Oaxaca that rebelled against the government in 2006. 

Getting Up Pa 'l Pueblo: Tagging ASAR-Oaxaca Prints and Stencils features block prints and stencils from the ASARO (Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca) collection in the University of New Mexico's College of University Libraries and Learning Science, Zimmerman Library, Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections (CSWR). "Getting up" is slang for posting and applying images in public places; generally, the expression refers to street art. ASARO is a contemporary Mexican artists' collective working in block prints, stencils, and graffiti murals. The group was formed in 2006 after riot police repressed annual teachers' demonstrations in the state capital of Oaxaca.  We forget how important an art institution the Hispanic Cultural Center is.  My guess is that it enjoys the same status as the National Gallery when it comes to traveling art exhibits, which is that it has first dibs on all exhibits relating to Latin American/Hispanic/Chicano Art traveling to or originated by museums in the U.S.  So the quality of Latin American Art is of the first order.  It also has one of the best if not the best curatorial staff for Latin American Art in the country, so the exhibits are beautifully hung and documented. We loved the exhibits.  No pictures are allowed.

At 5:00 we drove through the Tingley Beach area and Old Town and returned home.  We made ourselves mojitos and sat in the garden and watched the sun send slats of light through the trees and talked.  We made a Brussels sprouts casserole before watching 60 Minutes peeling and cutting in half Brussels sprouts, the kernels of two ears of corn, and the last of the bundle of asparaguses and doussed them in olive oil and salt and pepper and baked it for 30 minutes in a 350˚ oven.

After 60 Minutes Suzette made her, now famous, Riesling pastry dough.  Here is the recipe:

While Suzette made the pastry dough, I made a zabaglione with 4 egg yolks, 2/3 cups of sugar whipped together and then cooked with the addition of 5/8 cup of Royal tokaji.  Tokaji (Hungarian: of Tokaj) is the Hungarian form for the name of the wines from the Tokaj wine region (also Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region or Tokaj-Hegyalja) in Hungary or the adjoining Tokaj wine region in Slovakia; the traditional English form is "Tokay". The name Tokaji (which is of Protected Designation of Origin) is used for labeling wines from the Hungarian wine district; the Slovakian form is "Tokajské". This region is noted for its sweet wines[1] made from grapes affected by noble rot, a style of wine which has a long history in this region. The "nectar" coming from the grapes of Tokaj is mentioned in the national anthem of Hungary.

While we were making the pastry and zabaglione Suzette was sautéing  the thawed Bobby Flay chicken thighs in a large cast iron skillet in a bit of olive oil.  One of the coolest steps in the sautéing is the use of a second skillet of slightly less circumference filled with water to weigh down the chicken and make it cook faster, like chicken roasted under a brick.  After about 8 minutes of sautéing on the top of the stove at medium heat, Suzette put the skillet into the 350˚ oven with the Brussels sprouts casserole.  After another ten to fifteen minutes the chicken and the casserole were ready. 

With about 7 minutes left of cooking time for the casserole and chicken, I cooked the cucumbers.  And we were ready to eat.  I served the last of the Grillo Sicilian white.   We then opened the bottle of Southern Rhone white that Mike had brought with its blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache.

During the meal the timer went off when the peach torte was ready.  The light golden top had turned a dark golden brown, which we put into the fridge for tomorrow evening’ meal.

After dinner as the sky darken we took up our positions in our newly remodeled orhard area and watched the fireworks at the Country Club.

Later we had a slice of the PPI chocolate torte that Charlie had given me after it was served Thursday night at Book Club with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and cups of decaf coffee.

Bon Appétit 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 29, 2014 Appetizers in Garden and La Merienda Dinner at Los Poblanos for Suzette’s Birthday

August 29, 2014  Appetizers in Garden and Dinner at Los Poblanos  for Suzette’s Birthday

Mike and Kathryn were coming by at 5:30 for appetizers, so at 4:00 I drove to Bosque Bakery and bought three day old baguettes for $1.25 each (half price).  Kathryn commented, “Geeks bearing Gifts”, as Mike unpacked the back pack he was carrying filled with bottles of wine.  We stored the wine for Monday evening and opened the can of foie gras and bottle of fig confit Mike and Kathryn had given us at Christmas and plated those with the last of the Le Delice cheese.  I cut and toasted slices of baguette and Bosque’ rye bread that we had bought at the Farmer’s Market last week and took them to the garden.

We sat in the shade at the small table at the east end of the garden, which gave us the longest view of our yard with its new orchard area addition.

I opened a bottle of Guadalupe Vineyards Muscat and then a bottle of Hungarian Tokjai 5 pts. And we nibbled toasted bread slices smeared with the foie gras and fig confit or cheese and talked as we sipped the sweet wines for about 1 hour.

We had made a reservation at Los Poblanos for dinner at 7:45 and since Mike and Kathryn also had a dinner commitment, at around 7:15 we said goodbye and drove to Los Poblanos to celebrate Suzette’s Birthday.

When we arrived we walked through the woods and pond with it huge lotus plants to the dining room in the Inn.  Wednesdays through Saturdays the Inn serves

La Merienda Dinner

Open Wednesday – Saturday by reservation.
Wednesdays through Saturdays we offer our guests the option of ordering evening meals from our La Merienda menu. The menu changes seasonally, and features artisan ingredients from our farm and local growers. In addition, guests can choose from select beverages such as our signature lavender lemonade, Blue Sky sodas, or order from our beer and wine list. Vegetarian friendly.

We were seated in the small but lovely dining room and about ten minutes later were shown to a table on the outside patio as we had requested.  The menu was not very extensive but was interesting.
Suzette chose a bowl of cold corn chowder for her first course that creatively combined fresh kernels of corn and small cubes of potato floating in a creamy amalgam of creamed corn held together with a béchamel sauce or perhaps potato flour or corn starch, garnished with very picante fried strips of Los Poblanos' green chili dusted in flour (Penny Rembe told me they harvested and roasted 1200 pounds of green chili this year). 

I ordered a glass of Meiomi pinot noir because Keith Gilbert recommended it last night at my Book Club meeting.   Here is some information on the wine from the winery:

Our Vineyards
Where does Meiomi come from? Well, it comes from a series of vineyards all selected by Joe Wagner, Winemaker & Viticulturist for Belle Glos and Meiomi. Each vineyard is chosen for its unique flavors, textures and aromas. Bucking tradition, this Pinot Noir is a blend of multiple vineyards stretching along the California coast starting from Sonoma, to Monterey, and last but not least...Santa Barbara.
Each of the vineyards within these three appellations are in Region I climates, designated by UC Davis as the optimal climate to grow this temperamental variety ...we couldn't agree more. Each unique area yields fruit that is distinct in character and style. The individual characteristics of each vineyard combine in one blend to enhance Meiomi's broad flavor profile and allow us to consistently craft a balanced Pinot Noir bursting with aromatics, mouthfeel and depth of flavor, every year, regardless of vintage.

My first sip of Meiomi overwhelmed me with flavors of jammy fruit, a light cranberry acidity and some spiciness.  We both tasted it and our shared conclusion was this was a huge pinot noir, not unlike an Archer’s Summit, which is Keith Gilbert’s favorite.   We asked our waiter about sourcing it and he said it was distributed in New Mexico by National and can be bought at Total Wine, where he used to work.  It is great to have knowledgeable wait staff.  

Suzette ordered a glass of German Riesling.  I took a sip of it with the corn chowder and it had a pleasing lemony citrus flavor and was not too sweet.  The wine menu was very pleasant with lots of good choices of wine as was the food menu.

I selected a smoked pork belly served with spinach on a corn cake and garnished with fresh apricot compote.  We started with a bowl of cold corn chowder, which was a new one on me.  The corn chowder was chowdery with creamed corn mixed with a sauce bechamel garnished with fried strips of fresh green chili that were so hot they were inedible.

 Suzette chose a house special of fresh halibut served with fresh squashes and cherry tomatoes for her entree that looked great and tasted wonderful laid on a slice of sauteed pitti pan squash with a bit of spinach and garnished with a fresh tomato colis.

We both enjoyed our entrees.  I had never had smoked pork belly and found it interesting although the smoking did dry the meat out a bit, which is good or bad depending upon your attitude about eating fat. I had previously eaten pork belly at Suzette’s Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery in Los Lunas that had been cooked with the  sous vide method, which retains all of its internal juices and in Boston Suzette ordered it and it was prepared confit style which makes it very tender and juicy.  The smoking took away some of those juices and imparted a very smoky flavor, which imparted a very different texture to the meat.  

When I tasted the smoky, yet moist pork that I was struck by the realization of the concept behind the food at Los Poblanos; to as closely as possible replicate the foods and styles of cooking of the traditional ingredients found in New Mexico’s Middle Valley using as many of the food stuffs produced at Los Poblanos’ Farm and locally.  For example, smoking pork has been a traditional method of preserving meat for hundreds of years in this area.  It is actually a more challenging task to create a delicious meal using only traditional food stuffs and cooking techniques than to utilize all the fancy new cooking techniques and ingredients.   I realized Los Poblanos had achieved its goal as I examined the plate in front of me, with its combination of smoked local pork belly, served with fresh local greens on a fresh corn and green chili pancake, garnished with fresh apricot compote made from fresh local apricots.  The corn pancake infused with bits of green chili and spinach and fresh corn kernels was wonderful, soft and filled with fresh spinach and corn kernels.

Pork Belly on Corn pancake with spinach garnished  with apricot compote 
I really enjoyed combining bits of the smoked pork with bits of the excellent corn cake, with bits of fresh steamed spinach and apricot compote.   This meal with its traditional food stuffs prepared in the highest culinary order as one can imagine in this traditional setting spoke to the historic position that Los Poblanos  holds in New Mexico’s food tradition.

  It is hard to balance the competing demands of creating interesting modern cuisine with traditional food stuffs and preparation techniques, but Los Poblanos has done an admirable job.  It has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Hotel for Food Loversby Bon Appétit Magazine | 2013 and was selected by diners at Open Table as the diners’ choice winner in Albuquerque.  If you have not been to this historic estate originally built in 1934 by the Simms/McCormicks with all of its own self-contained food production facilities, not unlike Winterthur in Delaware (Duponts) or Stone Barns in New York (Rockefellers) although perhaps on a slightly smaller scale, you owe to yourself to explore its rich history and enjoy the bounty of its gardens in the restaurant.  The Rembe family has done an amazing job of rehabilitating and breathing life into this historic estate, which now contains the 34 acre core of the original 800 acre estate.

Penny Rembe hosted us to the wine and dessert.  After we finished our entrees and sipped the last of our glasses of wine, we were served flutes filled with beautiful buttery smooth Cazanove Champagne with the chocolate dessert we had ordered. 

The dessert is hard to describe, so here is a photo of it.

Chocolate dessert with Bottle of Champagne Cazanove
The Birthday Girl confronting champagne and dessert

The dessert actually was my favorite part of the meal, perhaps because the pastry chef, not constrained by any local food traditions, created a stack of fresh raspberry and chocolate ganache layers with layers of chocolate mousse and strawberries topped with a soft crumbly round chocolate French style macaron/macaroon and held together with chocolate meringue breadsticks on end and supported by a slather of thick chocolate sauce with a crumble of chocolate meringue on the side.  We deconstructed the dessert pretty quickly and enjoyed combining all of its diverse elements as we sipped the lovely richly textured champagne with its lemony notes and strong character.  If you put Dom Perignon with its effervescent nothing texture on one end to the texture spectrum of champagne, the Cazanove Brut would be near the other end of the spectrum; a big rich buttery textured champagne, but with small beautiful bubbles that persisted for as long as we sat and drank it. 

deconstructed dessert
At around 10:00 p.m. we left happy and filled with Los Poblanos’ wonderful food and atmosphere of its historic buildings set so beautifully in its extensive gardens.   Suzette enjoyed her lovely birthday dinner.

Bon Appétit

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 24, 2014 Brunch, Waffles Dinner, Pasta Primavera with fresh pesto and a day of dinking rosé

At around 9:00 we transitioned from Sunday Morning TV News shows and reading the newspaper to check the sales on TV’s, since our TV died this week, to gardening.  After an hour’s work in the garden, we showered and Suzette toasted four of the Belgium Waffles Marie Paul made yesterday at the Center for Ageless Living’s Wafflemania.   Suzette heated syrup and we put Marie Paul’s raspberry, blueberry and strawberry medley and Suzette’s brandied peaches on top of the waffles and drank a bottle of Gruet Brut Rosé for a lovely brunch under the gazebo in our newly cleaned garden.

Around noon we drove to HD for wasp spray to get rid of an unwanted nest of wasps where our hot tub will be placed on Tuesday and then to Costco to look at TVs.  We discovered that Target had the same 55" Samsung smart TV we wanted at a better price, so we quickly drove there and bought it.

Then Suzette went to a lecture about how to deal with the medical effects of aging at UNM and I reconstituted the fish chowder with clam juice and milk and ate two bowls with 2-3 ounces of cubed avocado and toasted sourdough bread (Costco) and worked a bit.

At 5:30 when Suzette returned home, she was hungry so we began fixing dinner.  Suzette wanted to make pesto with the lovely basil growing in the garden.  We decided to make pasta primavera with fresh mozzarella, onion, garlic, tomatoes, and squash.  I cubed an onion, 1 yellow crook necked squash and ½ of a zucchini squash (Sprouts Farm Market at $.98/lb.) and minced about ten cloves of garlic, while Suzette made pesto with fresh basil leaves, garlic from our garden, Pecorino Romano cheese, pinon nuts and olive oil in the Cuisinart.

I asked Suzette what she wanted to drink with dinner and she said, “A light red.”  So, I went to the basement and found a bottle of Toulouse 2010 Anderson Valley Rosé of pinot noir and chilled it in the freezer for about ½ hour.

Suzette boiled about ½ lb. of gemilli pasta (Costco) and tossed it with olive oil.  She then sautéed the cubed onion, garlic, and squashes with olive oil in a pan and tossed about three cups of pasta with the sautéed vegetables and 1/3 cup of cubed fresh mozzarella. Then Suzette toasted two large pieces of Bosque Bakery baguette and put some of the pasta Primavera in a bowl and laid one piece of baguette on each plate.  I poured the Toulouse Rosé and we took our plates and glasses of wine to the gazebo in the garden and enjoyed a fresh light meal.

We were amazed by the 2010 Toulouse Rosé.  It had character and body and age on it that made it a pleasure to drink. I always thought that it is important to drink rosés as soon as possible (within 9 months to one year after bottling), while they still have their fruitiness.  But the 2010 Toulouse Rosé was an entirely different animal; smoothly fruity but with the strength of the pinot noir grape and the nuttiness of age coming through also.  We liked it very much and it only got better as it opened up.  In about 20 minutes we were sipping a really nice glass of wine.  So I guess I now think you can age a Rosé of Pinot Noir into a really good wine.  It reminds me of a bottle of 1957 Beaujolais we drank at Mother’s house around 1978.  I thought it would be vinegar, because they say to drink Beaujolais young.  It turned out to be a memorable bottle of wine, very much like the 2010 rosé tonight. The 1957 Beaujolais was still good.  In fact it was fabulous; without any astringency but still possessing that characteristic gamay grape fruitiness and incredibly smooth without any ill effects of aging, a memorable bottle of wine.  The aged flavor that I tasted tonight reminded me of the 40 year old aged tawny ports we drank in Oporto, Portugal, this spring and that 1957 Beaujolais, a caramel nuttiness that enhances the wine’s flavor.  The only sign of aging I saw in the 2010 Toulouse bottle tonight was a aggregation of reddish pink crystals on the bottom of the cork, no sediment, and the cork was partially dried out and broke as i pulled it and I had to pull the half still stuck in the bottle a second time to pull the entire cork. 

Bon Appétit   

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 22, 2014 Lunch Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ Dinner High County Shell Club

Susie and Dana Finley took me to Mr. Powdrell’s BBQ for a business lunch.  I ordered ¼ smoked chicken with collard greens and beans and corn bread ($6.75).  I loved the fresh smoked chicken and doused it with BBQ sauce from a glass syrup dispenser with one of those sliding metal flanges that you opened by pushing down on a small lever on the top that sat on the table.  The flat quartered round of cornbread reminded me of the Johnny cakes we used to get with the business man’s lunches when I lived in Fort Worth, Texas as a young lawyer.  In the early 70’s many restaurants featured a business man’s lunch that included a salad, a meat, two vegetables, bread and a dessert for $1.39.  My Dad told me that when he worked downtown in the 40’s he used to eat a bowl of chili was $.25 for lunch.  Everything has been kept old fashioned at Mr. Powdrell’s, even though he has now passed.  I loved my lunch and even though it was a lot of food I ate every bit of it.  Dana and Susie had plates with a sandwich and two sides.

I am a member of the High Country Shell Club, whose leader is Tom Eichhorst.  We had a meeting this evening at 7:00 at Tom and Donnie’s house.  I called at 4:00 to see what the menu was and Donnie said they were cooking filet Mignon.  Suzette and I had tentatively decided to take a cucumber and onion salad with fresh cucumbers from the garden.  I decided to take some of the fresh corn from Sprouts that I had bought yesterday and Donnie said that if we had some fresh tomatoes from the garden to bring them. So at 5:30 when I finished working I went to the garden and picked two cucumbers and one yellow tomato.  When Suzette arrived home around 6:00 and we started to prepare our dishes.  It was simple.  Suzette peeled and cubed the two cucumbers and I diced about ¼ cup of red onion.  She then put the cucumber cubes into a bowl and we added the onion and we made a dressing with white balsamic vinegar, red vermouth, sugar and salt and aji mirin and we poured that over the salad to begin to ferment.  I then bagged the two yellow and one red tomato from our garden with a bag of basil leaves I found in the fridge and we drove to the meeting.
The High Country Shell Club is the only shell club in New Mexico and one of the longest existing in the U.S.   The meeting was held on the 22nd because Bruce Neville was visiting from Texas A&M where he is the science library head librarian.  He used to be at UNM, but moved a few years ago.  Bruce and Tom are among the best shell identifiers in the country, so it is always fun to meet and learn about shells and shelling adventures.  Tom is also the editor of American Conchologist,

“American Conchologist is the official publication of the Conchologists of America. It is a well-illustrated quarterly journal of conchology, containing scientific articles, first-hand accounts of collecting spots, books reviews, advertisements, shell club news, COA Trophy winners, shell show schedules, convention news and a wealth of information about mollusks--land, marine, freshwater and fossil.”

Tom had just returned from the Conchologists of America’s Annual meeting (COA), which is usually the largest gathering of shell collectors, shells, and shell dealers in the world.   Next year the COA meeting is in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and we may go to fil in my cowrie collection a bit.  It is always fun and informative, if a bit pricey, due to the cost associated with purchases of shells.  

After examining all the new shells Tom had bought at COA and looking at a drawer of shells Pat (who brought of vegetable platter with Ranch dressing) had given to Tom, we started cooking.  Tom grilled the filets in the rain, which merited battle duty pay, I told him.  Tom’s career was spent flying refueling tanker planes for the Air Force all over the world.

Mike Sanchez, who is on the education staff of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History arrived with a casserole filled with twice baked mashed potatoes, Donnie and Suzette shucked and boiled the corn and I sliced the basil leaves and the three fresh tomatoes and garnished the tomatoes with the thin slices of fresh basil and then doused the tomatoes with white wine vinegar and olive oil.  Then Laura and Bill Krausman (Bill works as mapping director for the Regional Office of the U.S. Forest Service) arrived with a large bowl of salad and two bottles of red wine from her sister’s wine club that markets wines produced by small production wineries in California.  The Club offered three levels of wine, silver, gold and platinum.  The two bottles Laura brought were platinum.  Tom also bought a 2011 Chateau Rochecolombe Cotes du Rhone at Costco that was very smooth and drinkable.  Also he had  
Laura's two platinums 

Tom's Cotes du Rhone with Miss Suzette in the background
 Soon we were ready to eat and we sat at a long table set up in the den area of Tom and Donnie’s house between the mynah bird cage and the large salt water fish take with lots of different types of cichlids.  The conversation at Shell Club always centers on biology.  Mike showed us the diagram he is preparing linking all the genera of sea shells based on recent DNA testing that looked like a broad fan with lots of inner connected ribs.  Bruce made several comments, based upon his research into the age of various genera. 

Although I am not a biologist or even knowledgeable, I asked a few questions and determined that there are many holes and guesses about the links of various genera to each other, due to the lack of a complete fossil record that would clarify the linkage of various genera to each other (many of the perceived links are over 65 million years old).  Bill caught all of our attention as he described the new 3D aerial photography technology he is learning and working with at the Forest Service that can simultaneously look at both at the canopy of trees and through the tree canopy at the ground.

While we were eating Tom showed us that the more brightly colored fish in the big salt water tank were the alpha males.  So there is no problem identifying the leader in each species’ grouping of cichlids.  I guess the evolutionary function of that is that when the fish are schooling, they know who to follow if they are split up.  
I always enjoy shell club meetings because of our little group’s knowledgeable, geeky, interesting and fun people who share my love for shells and because I always learn interesting stuff.

After dinner, Donnie served cookies, fresh raspberries with vanilla ice cream for dessert.  

At around 9:15  after two hours of eating, drinking and discussion, Pat, our oldest member (I think she got the shelling bug, while serving as a WAC in the Pacific in WWII), said she was tired and ready to go home and we all agreed with her and said goodnight.

Bon Appétit


August 23, 2014 New Recipe: Stir fried fresh udon noodles with cabbage, purslane, pork, red onion, garlic, and mushrooms and Dinner Eggplant in Garlic Sauce with purslane

I slept-in today.  Suzette left around 9:30 for a full day at the Center of Walfflemania for brunch, Lunch on the lawn with music by Los Radiators and hamburgers and hot dogs, and a Spa Day featuring the introduction of a new product line.

I had a distinctly quite day.  I lay in bed and finished Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwen, my Last Thursday Book Club selection for this month and the article I have been enjoying in the August 4, 2014 issue of New Yorker about a Lawrence Livermore physicist’s machine that captures the sound from old recordings by scanning their grooves with a computer without playing them with a stylus, which can destroy the recording.  He has made it possible to play the oldest recordings ever made, such as the French inventor of recorded sound, Martindale-Scott’s recording of songs on soot covered cylinders made in  1860 and Alexander Graham Bell’s first spoken works from the 1870’s plus all the old Edison cylinder recordings and the old acetate recordings at the Smithsonian Museum.

Finally at 11:00, after a few moments of not being able to find my wallet, I sat down and meditated about where it could be and got the thought that it was in the car, so I went to the car and found it lodged in the seat well on the outside of the passenger's seat.  I then vaguely remembered throwing it onto the passenger's seat yesterday after lunch.  I guess Suzette pushed it off the set when she sat in the passenger's seat last night when we went to the Shell Club meeting.

I then returned Sweet Tooth to the library, went to the bank and to Birdland to discuss improvements to increase security with Jay, who has been broken into twice recently (I am the kind of landlord who believes that if the tenant has a problem, the landlord has a problem).  Then I drove to Sprouts because I wanted to try making a stir fried udon noodle dish for lunch with the fresh udon noodles we bought at Costco last week.  Sprouts was full of shoppers.  I found a nice 2/3 lb. pork porterhouse chop (2.99/lb.) and then again asked a produce man to fetch more fresh corn and took 6 ears this time (4 ears /$1.00).  I then picked about 1/3 pound of green beans ($.1.50/lb.) and about the same amount of Brussels Sprouts($1.99/lb.).

I arrive at home around 2:00 and, following the recipe on the bag of noodles, shredded ½ lb. of green cabbage, a couple of cloves of garlic, 1 tsp. of fresh ginger, 1 Tbsps. of red onion, and ¼ lb. of pork, some purslane  and 1 large white mushroom.  I first heated about 2 tsps. of sesame oil, 1 tsp. of chili pepper flavored sesame oil, and ½ Tbsp. of peanut oil in the wok.  Then I stir fried the cabbage, ginger and onion for about five minutes.  I then added the diced mushroom and garlic to the wok after another couple of minutes added the udon noodles.  After a minute of cooking I drizzled about 1 Tbsp. of dark soy, 1 Tbsp. of Chinese rice cooking wine, 1 Tbsp. of Aji Mirin, and ½ Tbsp. of Sweet soy to the noodles to try to replicate the seasoning described in my Japanese Cook Book, Japanese Cooking, a Simple Art.

Suzette came home around 3:30 p.m. and we unloaded the steel pipes that will be used to raise the trampoline to make it into a canopy for another seating area and inspected the progress of the new fence being built by Mario to extend the back yard to include an orchard area. Then I rode to Rio Bravo while she rested until 5:00.  I showered and then called Charles’ Place, which did not answer and Los Poblanos, which was full.  I made a reservation on Open Table at Los Poblanos for next Friday night for Suzette’s Birthday dinner.  I asked Suzette what she wanted to do and she said she was tired and did not want to go out, so we discussed dinner.  I suggested that we make her favorite Chinese dish, Eggplant in Garlic Sauce with the fresh Ichiban eggplant from our garden and the fresh pork to which she agreed.
So, around 7:00 I made 1 cup of rice.  Then I sat on the stoop of our back door porch and picked a basket full of purslane growing beside it and Suzette and I picked off the clean larger leaves and threw the rest away, yielding about 1 cup of fresh purslane leaves.  With about five minutes left to simmer, we added ½ cup of purslane leaves to the rice.

Eggplant with Garlic Sauce.

the Sauce:
1 Tbsp. double dark soy sauce
2 tsp. Oyster Sauce
1 tsp. white rice wine vinegar
½ tsp. Shaoxing wine
½ tsp. pepper flakes from hot oil (we reduce this to avoid making the dish too spicy)
½ tsp. of cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. of chicken stock

Then I started slicing the large 1 1/2 lb. ichiban eggplant into 2 inch julienne slices and then chopped up about ten small cloves of fresh garlic from our garden that Suzette brought me, while Suzette combined the liquid ingredients for the sauce.  I then removed the pork from its bone and removed the fat and white skin and sliced it (I should have halved the ½ inch chop and made threads instead of slices) ending up with about ½ lb. of pork slices.

Suzette started stir frying the eggplant slices in peanut oil to soften and cook them. Then she stir fried the pork and garlic and added the eggplant slices back to the wok and after a minute or two of stir frying, made a well in the center and added the other ½ cup of purslane  and the sauce.  After another minute the dish was ready.  Suzette made a special effort to not overcook the dish so it would retain as much freshness as possible.

Suzette Stir Frying before adding sauce

We loved the purslane dotted rice with the fresh eggplant in garlic sauce.  We both agreed that the fresh eggplant from the garden had a firmer, more meaty flavor that complemented the fresh pork texture particularly well.  It is always more fun to cook with fresh ingredients from one’s own garden and this meal was no exception. I drank a black and tan made with Mike Campbell’s great bock beer and a Modelo Especial pilsner.  

We ate under the gazebo looking at our pond and fountain listening to the evening's symphony of sounds.  Suzette decided the solar lighting illuminated the pond and fountain sufficiently, so we decided to move the four original low voltage lights to the orchard area or the new gazebo we were making by raising the trampoline.

Bon Appétit