Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015 Dinner - Sautéed Pork Chop with Calabacitas

July 31, 2015  Dinner- Sautéed Pork Chops with Calabacitas

I ate lax and cream cheese on French baguette for breakfast.

For lunch I made a salad with PPI Roasted chicken, muenster cheese, fresh tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and basil from our garden, plus a sliced green onion and made a balsamic and Spanish olive oil dressing

Suzette was driving in from Santa Rosa, so I started cooking at 6:00.  I decided to make Calabacitas, so I chopped Mexican squash, ½ small onion, 3 cloves of garlic, the leaves from three stalks of oregano (about 3 Tbsp.) and the kernels from 2 ears of corn. 

When Suzette arrived I asked her if she wanted pork or lamb chops and she said, “Pork.” We decided to drink a rose, so I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of 2013 Vina Rubican from the Navarra region of Spain (Total Wine $7.99 less 15%) and put it into the freezer to chill.  We liked what seemed to be the Grenade and Tempranillo grape blend with the pork but when I went to the web and located the Rubican site found this interesting explanation of how the wine was made that explains its slightly tannic flavor.  I learned something new; How Navarra winemakers process their grapes to make a rose wine with a Tempranillo flavor profile.

Here is what the Winery says about the production of their wine: 

This wine comes 100 % from grapes of the Garnacha variety. It is made in the traditional manner of Navarre rosés, by macerating the must in contact with the seeded and stemmed grapes, then draining off and fermenting it slowly at a controlled temperature that never exceeds 18º.

The result is a strawberry pink wine, more or less intensely coloured depending on maceration time during processing, resulting very brilliant and clean.

The picture below of the plate of food shows the glass of wine and its dark red strawberry color.  

A new and very interesting rose wine experience.

Then we fired up the Louisiana cooker and were able to adjust the flame in such a way that we could simmer the vegetables covered by a wok cover for fifteen minutes.  

I heated 2 Tbsp. of butter and 2 Tbsp. of Spanish olive (Sprouts $7,99 per liter) mixed with the residue of the balsamic dressing I had made for my salad at lunch to flavor the oil and then added the pile of chopped ingredients.

After the vegetables were cooked we put the two pork chops in another smaller cast iron skillet and Suzette sautéed those until their flesh was a light pink.  

The vegetables were sensational, steamed and sautéed to perfection with a very pleasing flavor of oregano.  I learned that a lot of oregano can be a pleasant ingredient and Suzette said it is healthy to eat, so Calabacitas is going on our Summer dinner menu.  The pork chops were also delicious, even though they lacked a sauce.  We enjoyed our Spanish meal.  After dinner I toasted a piece of Fano French baguette, buttered the toasted slices and ate them with slices of Manchego cheese for a nice Spanish touch to finish dinner with the last sips of the Navarra Rose wine.

Bon Appetit 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 28, 2015 Lunch – Café Lush. Dinner – Fried Pasta with Italian Sausage

July 28, 2015 Lunch – Café Lush.  Dinner – Fried Pasta with Italian Sausage 

Today I bought a Birger Sanzen watercolor from Peter Eller and Peter invited me to go to lunch to celebrate the purchase.  

Suzette was still at home working on the kitchen remodel when Peter arrived at 11:30, so Peter invited her to join us.  Peter had said I could select the restaurant but Suzette said we needed to eat Downtown so she could drive to Los Luna's after lunch.  I asked Suzette to choose the restaurant and she said, “What about Lush.”  
We all agreed that Lush was a great idea.  I had gone there with Jim Strozier and Willy before Christmas and had a great salad, so I was up for Lush.  
 We drove the eight blocks over to Café Lush and found it to be relatively uncrowded, so we took a table for four outside shaded by an awning.  We all ordered water and then Suzette ordered a Kat sandwich with bacon, lettuce and tomatoes.  Peter and I ordered the Mango Chicken Salad with grilled chicken slices, edamame and mango, with scallions and fresh basil on a bed of fresh organic spinach dressed with a blueberry vinaigrette and garnished with Lush Bacon.  It my new favorite salad ($9.50).

Here is a bit of information published by Lush on You Tube:

Located in Downtown Albuquerque, Café Lush delivers eclectic contemporary American dining from longtime local Chef Thomas Docherty.

Café Lush was opened in June 2011 by husband and wife team Chef Thomas Docherty and Sandy Gregory and has quickly become a local favorite. With Chef Tom's creative, fresh, healthy fare and Sandy's gift for hospitality, Café Lush has become a beloved fixture in the downtown community.

Café Lush's interior, reflects the hip sensibilities of the surrounding area while also paying tribute to Albuquerque's storied past. The beautiful street corner cafe with its vibrant outdoor patio is now a distinct feature in the downtown neighborhood.

Dinner-  Suzette had thawed out two sandwich bags filled with baked ziti and meatballs and a bag with five Italian sausages from Costco, so at 5:30 I began cooking.  Ricardo and Cynthia had loaned us  their Louisiana cooker that they had used during their remodel on Sunday, so I decided to try to sauté a sauce for the pasta.  I went to the garden and picked chard and parsley and de-stemmed them and chopped them into bite sized pieces.  I then diced ½ onion and 2 cloves of fresh garlic and then sliced 5 mushrooms and two sausages de skinned and broken into small pieces.  

I put all the ingredients into a large cast iron skillet and hooked up our propane canister to the cooker and lit the flame.  The cooker had a huge flame that quickly cooked the ingredients.  Suzette arrived just as I started cooking and we quickly realized that we did not have enough liquid to keep the food from burning, so I added a Tbsp. of butter and Suzette added the thawed pasta and some Chianti and added some canola oil.  I tried to reduce the flame as low as t would go without blowing out in the slight breeze.  Because there was some cheese in the pasta all the ingredients stuck together and onto the surface of the skillet, but I finally wrestled the mass of food into something more like a dish of food instead of a ball of pasta and we served into pasta bowls.  I had cooked my first or second dish of fried pasta without Suzette’s help.

We opened the last bottle of the 2010 chianti superiore and enjoyed a pleasant dinner while we watched Larry Wilmore and Jon Stewart.

For dessert we ate bowls of vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate syrup.

Bon Appetit 

Monday, July 27, 2015

July 26, 2015 Brunch at Linda Thorne’s Coffee House. Dinner at Cynthia and Ricardo’s BBQ’d Pork Ribs, Cauliflower Cole Slaw, mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Black Eyed Peas

July 26, 2015 Brunch at Linda Thorne’s Coffee House. Dinner at Cynthia and Ricardo’s  BBQ’d Pork Ribs, Cauliflower Cole Slaw, mashed Sweet Potatoes, and Black Eyed Peas

At 10:00 we decided to ride the tandem north.  On our way back we took a detour to Linda Thorne’s property for coffee.  When we arrived we noted the extensive gardens and a food truck. 

We parked the bike by a table at a shady spot in the garden and walked to the food truck. We both ordered Gazpacho and water.  I loved the fresh ingredients in the soup, especially the tomatoes.  The lady in the food truck said, all the ingredients are from the garden.  After we ate our soup we walked to the large garden and saw rows and rows of bell peppers and tomatoes inside and outside two long hoop houses.

We returned home and went to the table in our garden where we had stacked the recently harvested garlic and cut off the roots and stalks of each plant so the heads can be stored.  Due to the extensive rains many of the cloves had burst through their skins and we had to shuck their husks to liberate the cloves of fresh garlic. We filled two large bottles with cloves this year, which is more than last year.

After a nap we cooked the pork ribs, by putting them in a plastic bag with ½ of an onion and 5 cloves of fresh garlic and about ½ cup of BBQ sauce and cooked them at a .5 power for  twenty minutes and then grilled them on the grill at a low heat (400 degrees) for about an hour while basting them with the BBQ sauce.

We then grabbed a bottle of La Granja (50% Tempranillo and 50% Grenache, Trader Joe’s $4.99) and drove to Cynthia and Ricardo’s house.  

When we arrived and went to the kitchen where Cynthia had prepared a platter with carrot and celery sticks and a bowl of hummus to dip them into as an appetizer.  Ricardo made Manhattans with a special bourbon and rehydrated maraschino cherries. 

We talked and dipped veggies in hummus and sipped Manhattanswhile we heated the Black Eyed Peas and BBQ’d ribs.  

 Then we served ourselves ribs, peas,sweet potatoes, and cauliflower cole slaw and I poured us glasses of wine.

One of the things we love about eating with Cynthia and Ricardo is that they have a similar attitude about food and Cynthia is a superb cook and Ricardo is a superb mixologist, who studies the intricacies of mixing cocktails, so we always have excellent meals.

I sent Cynthia a message in the morning telling her we were bringing BBQ’d Ribs and Black Eyed Peas and asked her to make an appetizer and dessert.  She instinctively knew that sweet potatoes and a cauliflower slaw would complete a wonderful meal.  For the dessert she prepared brandies fresh plum slices and served them over Haagen Das vanilla ice cream for a simple relatively healthy dessert.

Cynthia’s Cauliflower Cole Slaw

Slice cauliflower flowerets and mix with fresh parsley, 2 Tbsps. of mayonnaise, and a dash of Pendry’s Citrus Lemon Seasoning.  A Simple, healthy, and flavorful dish.  

The mashed sweet potatoes were equally good and complemented the ribs perfectly. 

I kept saying to distraction, “This a perfect Texas meal.”  Because it was.

Bon Appetit 

July 24, 2015 dinner – Lambert’s in Taos

July 24, 2015 dinner – Lambert’s in Taos  

We ate chicken sandwiches at 1:00 p.m. and then drove to Taos.  I dropped Suzette off for her intake interview and then drove to the Taos Gasthaus and checked in.  I selected a room with a skylight and an outdoor patio.  When Suzette called about an hour later I went and picked her up and returned to the room so she could freshen up.  Then we drove to the Taos Inn parking lot and walked to Lambert's for dinner.  Since we were about twenty minutes early we went to the bar for a drink.  Suzette ordered a honeysuckle lemon martini.  It was made with camomile infused organic gin, a lemongrass infused simple syrup and fresh lemon juice.  Well loved it and a ordered one also. Soon we were told  our table was ready and we carried our drinks to our table located in the corner of the outdoor patio.

 We reviewed the menu and wine list and finally decided on a three course meal of grilled Arctic Char with coconut rice and.a medley of marinated artichokes and  cherry tomatoes with a glass each of Laxas Albariño; then a cup each of the chilled fruit soup of the day, which was actually two different soup, one mango and coconut milk. And the other a strawberry in a wine based soup as a desgutive with a shared glass of rose; and for the third course, a daily special of Elk Tenderloin with a glass each of a Southern Rhone blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre by Bertrand, that our waiter suggested.

We loved the Arctic Char, which was grilled to perfection.  It tasted a little like salmon and had the same large flakes, but was more white and not as oily.  We did not like the use of marinated artichokes as part of the vegetables, with fresh cherry tomatoes because they tasted strongly of vinegar and herbs.  Suzette said, “they should have washed the marinade off.”  This is really one of my only criticisms of Lambert’s; they tend to use prepared ingredients as shortcuts in the preparation of their dishes occasionally.  This works great when the other ingredients in the dish are complementary but fails when they clash or are not combined in the correct proportions. That is what Suzette was suggesting when she said, “They should have washed off the marinade from the artichokes.”  She was saying that the vinegar and herb marinade created a harsh flavor that over powered the rest of the ingredients of the dish, including the delicate fish and fresh tomatoes.  The coconut rice was lovely, crisp with a hint of sweetness.  The Laxas was also slightly sweet tasting, which surprised me. 

We were served warm baguette with butter, olive oil and a half head of  roasted garlic in a ramekin.  Suzette did the honors of pushing the cloves of garlic out of their casings and crushing them with olive oil into a paste that we spread on the warm buttered baguette slices to good effect.  I felt like we were in Provence.

Next came the soup.  The-combination of the slightly buttery coconut, slightly sweet  mango cream soup was a nice contrast to the wine based slightly tangy watery strawberry soup.  Suzette liked mixing her soup while tried the soups separately an combined and liked them both both separately and combined.  We were each  brought a ½ glass of a lovely rose wine that we did not get the name of that tasted better than the sparkling rose with 70% Chardonnay we had tasted in the bar before dinner.  This rose was probably Spanish or French with mostly Grenache.  It's lightness went well with the fruity soups.  Let me say a word about our waiter.  He was an older gentleman who knew wine and was really familiar with the wine list.  He was the one who made the switch from the sparkling rose we ordered to the lovely light, still rose, probably because he knew it was a better match.

The waiter also staged the meal more like a French meal than an American meal, leaving longer intervals between courses to allow us to talk, eat bread and sip our wine and digest each course, before proceeding to the next course.  This is one of the big differences between French and American dining and he got it.

Finally, we were served the Elk Tenderloin, two long ewe does of meat sauced with a light brown Demi-glace, cream sauce which clung to the meat nicely but later proved to be a bit indigestible.  The Elk was served with roasted purple potatoes, pomme de terre, and wedges of golden beets that may have been stewed with the elk.  All the vegetables were delicious.  The heavier Southern Rhone wine selected by our waiter went better with the heavy cream sauce than the Grenache I had initially selected, but the Southern Rhone was not on the menu.  A good waiter/sommelier can make all the difference.

The elk was lovely, grilled to medium rare, as we requested and cut in long wedges that allowed its  incredibly long strands of muscle to show.

We loved our three course meal that was satisfying and not too heavy.  We decided to forgo dessert.  I had an idea of buying a bottle of cognac and a chocolate bar and eating it on our patio at the Guesthouse, but Suzette wanted to walk around downtown Taos.  We walked to the square and stopped at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory  store, which had a broad selection of chocolates plus ice creams that the younger set was buying like crazy.  I was immediately attracted to what appeared to be citroned bitter orange peel dipped in dark chocolate.  The attendant allowed us to taste a piece and I bought a ¼ pound of the peel for $7.68.  With our chocolate in hand we proceeded to the Black Mesa Winery’s tasting room at 241 Ledoux Street where there was a trio playing Gaelic and American music.  

We tasted and Suzette ordered a glass of their “port”, which was a blend of several of their grapes with mostly Zinfandel, so it had a slightly spicy edge to it.  We ordered one glass of port and sat on the patio and listened to the music while we enjoyed the cooling night air and starry night sky.  We sipped port and nibbled chocolate orange peel and enjoyed the music for about twenty minutes until the trio took a break.  I was happy that I had my favorite chocolate and found the port a pleasing alternative to a harsher cognac, but with a bit of bite to itthat supplied the appropriate desgutive effect after dinner. 

Then we went back to the Guesthouse and bed.

Bon Appetit 

Friday, July 24, 2015

July 23, 2015 Lunch – Taj Mahal Dinner – Roasted Chicken with Microwave Cous Cous

 July 23, 2015 Lunch – Taj Mahal  Dinner – Roasted Chicken with Microwave Cous Cous

I went with Peter to Taj Mahal today for lunch.  The food was wonderful, as usual.

We arrived before noon, and the food all seemed to be fresh.  I particularly liked the saag today, a vegetable stew with mainly spinach.

We talked about English history and especially the period during the Viking era from the reign of Alfred the Great to the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Peter recommended the movie, “Alfred, the Great”.

When I arrived home at 5:30 Suzette had arrived.  We removed the last of the food items from the pantry and found three bottles corked and sealed in wax that mother had made as Christmas gift to me.  They included:  hot and spicy olive oil, which we suspect my be rancid, and a cranberry vinegar, and a Golden herbed vinegar that looked really good.

I decided to make Cous Cous in the microwave to eat with the chicken. 

Microwave Cous Cous

1 cup water
1 Tbsp. Butter
2/3 cup Cous Cous
1 cup chard
10 cherry tomatoes 
5 sprigs of chives
¼ tsp sea salt

I went to the garden at 6:00 and picked a large handful of chard, five sprigs of chives and eight to ten cherry tomatoes and chopped up the ingredients into bite sized pieces. 

I then heated 1 cup of water and 1 Tbsp. of butter in a Pyrex bowl covered with Saran in the microwave for 2.22 minutes at a power of .9, which melted the butter and brought the liquid to nearly the boiling point.

I then stirred  2/3 cup of Cous Cous into the heated liquid, re-covered the bowl and heated the CousCous for another 2.22 minutes, which seemed to cook the Cous Cous.  

I then added the washed and drained ingredients to the Cous Cous, re-covered the bowl and heated the ingredients with the Cous Cous again for 2.22 minutes.

I then heated two leg quarters of a Roasted Chicken Suzette had brought from her Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery in the microwave covered with Saran for 4.44 minutes until the Saran bulged.  

I then stirred the ingredients into the Cous Cous to break up the Cous Cous and to integrate the flavors of the ingredients with the Cous Cous and placed the covered plate of chicken on top of the covered bowl of Cous Cous Cous and heated them together for 1.23 minutes at a power of .8. This had the added benefit of steaming the Cous Cous in a tightly sealed container, which mixed all the flavors and lightened the texture of the Cous Cous.

I had chilled a bottle of 2013 Mendoza Valley, Argentinean Sauvignon Blanc ( $4.49 at Total Wine) in the freezer at 6:30, so it was chilled by around 7:00, but I added a cube of ice to each glass to make sure it remained chilled.  Suzette noted that this bottle had a noticeable citrus flavor, which complemented the chicken.

I loved the light and airy steamy Cous Cous filled with the garden fresh vegetables and count it among the best Cous Cous I have ever tasted.

Suzette wanted a dessert, so we opened a bar of hazelnut and milk chocolate bar we bought at IKEA last Thursday and I opened a new bottle of Chabanneau fine Cognac V.S.O.P. ($29.99 t Total Wine).  The cognac had a fresh, slightly sweet taste that we both found very pleasing. 

After watching Jon Stewart and Bardet win Stage 19 of the Tour de France on one of the most torturous narrow winding ascents of a mountain I have ever seen, Suzette went out to inspect the garden and came back with a handful of fresh peaches from our new peach tree.  She sliced them and mixed them with Kirtland Greek yogurt and fesh honey from a bottle that Jefferson gave her and we had a second delicious dessert from our newly planted fruit trees.

We also decided upon a reddish colored crusher fines today for the top layer of our bocce court and Suzette ordered them to be delivered on Monday or Tuesday.

Suzette is carry a terrifically heavy load with all of her work stuff plus the bocce court project and kitchen remodel; the least I can do is to keep our gourmet food trip going.

I feel like tonight's meal achieved a gourmet level of cuisine.  It seems that because we are without a functioning kitchen, I was required to improvise my cooking technique for the Cous Cous and doing so created the methodology that achieved a better result than ever before.  It makes me think that I finally got in touch with the essence of cooking Cous Cous that maximizes the benefit of using a Cous Cous cooking pot where the vegatables are stewed in the bottom pot and the Cous Cous is stemed in the top tightly lidded pot that allows the combining of the steam generated from the vegetables to cook the Cous Cous.  The missing factor that prevented me from using that Cous Cous cooker may have been the need to initially cook the Cous Cous in boiling water before putting it into the Cous Cousery to steam. Voila!

Bon Appetit 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 22, 2015 lunch – Five Star Burger’s Fish and Chips Dinner – grilled Smoked pork chop and sweet potato and corn

July 22, 2015  lunch – Five Star Burger’s Fish and Chips  Dinner – grilled Smoked pork chop and sweet potato and corn

Rosemary and I went to Five Star Burger after her court appearance today around 3:00.  We decided to split one order of Fish and Chips and order a side order of sweet potato fries.  The fish was haddock, which really impressed me because I had not had deep fried haddock since we visited Maine two years ago.  The fish fillets were the same might flakey white meat I recalled from two years ago except they obviously had been frozen and lacked that fresh moist component.  The fresh fries were crisp and flavorful and our waiter brought us several containers of catsup for dipping them . The sweet potato fries were a bit of a disappointment because the were limp, as if they had been sitting out got a while but they were served with an interesting sweet, creamy dipping sauce like a sweet Ranch Dressing. Rosemary ordered a red ale and I ordered an unhooked Apple cider than appeared to be unfiltered an had a bitter aftertaste, which I did not like, so I sent it back and ordered a bottle of Angry Orchard Apple Cider instead and it was delicious.  I am not sure if we each were served an order or a ½ order but we were each served four large sticks of fried haddock on a bed of fried potatoes.

Neither of us could finish our plates of food and we each took containers home with fish and potatoes. 

The fish and chips was served with a small ramekin of tartare sauce and a ramekin of cold slaw.  I felt like I was back in Maine and felt like the only thing missing was Willy, who loved fish and chips so much on our trip to Maine that he ordered it everywhere we ate.

After lunch I went to Ranch Market for groceries and went a little wild.  I bought limes, Mexican squashes, green onions, celery, a red bell pepper, crema sin sal, shrimp, country style pork chops, and the item I was sent to get, smoked pork chops. 

When I returned home around 5:30 Suzette had arrived with a roasted chicken and had already eaten some chicken and half of a avocado.  

At around 6:30 Suzette began cooking.  She sliced and grilled a sweet potato, two ears of corn, and two of the smoked pork chops.  We ate the grilled dinner with the PPI green beans and Caprese salad.  The green beans and mushrooms were really delicious, having marinated overnight in the balsamic and olive oil dressing from the Caprese salad.

I finished the bottle of Gruet rose and Suzette her scotch.

We watched President Obama be interviewed by Jon Stewart.  I concurred with the President, when he said at the end of the interview, “You are doing a great thing for America.” to Jon Stewart. 

I know there are only a handful of Jon Stewart shows left, but it will be hard to top this one. Perhaps only the Dali Lama could top the President of the United States.

Bon Appetit 

Bon Appetit 

uly 21, 2015 lun ch – East Ocean. Dinner – Grilled Rib Steak, Mac and Cheese, sautéed Mushrooms with green beans and Caprese Salad

July 21, 2015 lun ch – East Ocean. Dinner – Grilled Rib Steak, Mac and Cheese, sautéed Mushrooms with green beans and Caprese Salad

I met Aaron at East Ocean for lunch.  I ordered my usual scallops in lobster sauce with sweet and sour chicken.  Aaron ordered a wonderful Shrimp Lo Mein with fried shrimp.  East Ocean uses thin Shanghai noodles for its Lo Mein which is rather special.  

I had thawed out a steak for dinner.  I sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and went to the garden and picked about  9 or 10 basil leaves and alternated them.  Then I mixed balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make a dressing and drizzled it over the salad.

I then sliced five white mushrooms, three cloves of garlic, 1shallot and then snapped about ½ lb. of green beans and microwaved them with about ¼ cup of water for 2.22 minutes in the microwave and then added them to the mushrooms. I picked four or five sprigs of thyme and took the leaves off and put it into a steel frying pan with the mushrooms plus a couple of Tbsps. of butter and a Tbsp. of olive oil and put the skillet on the shelf in the grill over the flame.  Soon the butter melted and began to bubble.  Suzette stirred the ingredients occasionally and let them cook for a few minutes after she removed the steak and corn from the grill.

We also heated a container of macaroni and cheese prepared by the bistro for its All American meal.

We ate a fabulous dinner of steak with Béarnaise. Sauce, roasted ear of corn, sautéed mushrooms with green beans, and Caprese Salad.

I opened a bottle of 2007 Summers  Cabernet Sauvignon from Knight’s Valley, near Calistoga, Ca. In northern Napa Valley that Aaron Lohmann gave me several years ago as a Christmas gift.  The red wine was breathtakingly smooth.  It had no rough edges and complemented the steak perfectly.  

When we finished eating all the steak and watching Jon Stewart at 8:25, we decided to go outside to the table in the garden for a cheese course and another glass of wine.  I opened the container of Marin county Brie cheese we had bought at Costco some time ago.  It was decidedly soft with a creamy texture and a buttery taste with just a hint of ammonia in the rind.  We cut two pieces of the thick Fano baguette into thirds and toasted six slices of bread.  I cut the rind off about 1/3 of the approximately 1 lb. round of brie and we poured out the last of the Cab and took that to the garden.  We enjoyed the sunset in the cool evening.  As soon saw we finished the cheese and bread we started picking garlic plants and picked until the mosquitoes drive us inside.

Bon Appetit