Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 28, 2012 Lunch – Azuma and Dinner – Poached salmon with a Spinach and Scallop cream sauce

February 28, 2012 Lunch – Azuma and Dinner – Poached salmon with a Spinach and Scallop cream sauce

A day of lavish indulgence.  I have not had sushi in a long time and today was the day because I was not terribly busy.  It takes me about 1½ hours for me to eat sushi.  Azuma serves my favorite sushi because they serve so much of it that their sushi is the freshest.  Also, they are a client and they provide a VIP 10% discount card to repeat customers, if you ask for it, and they cater to one’s wishes precisely.  What I mean when I say they cater to one’s wishes, is they will adjust the menu to your requests.  It seems to me that, more than any other restaurant, they treat their fish as just fish and meeting your requests is most important because they are want you to have a great food experience and feel good and return.  So it is okay to request adjustments to the menu descriptions.     

Even though I had had several slices of toasted whole grain bread spread with cream cheese and white fish salad for breakfast, I ordered Chirachi Donbori.  I always order Chirachi Donbori ($14.95 at lunch) because I like sushi rice with my raw fish and because it is the most cost effective way to get a wide selection of fish.  At Azuma Chirachi Donbori is a small box filled with selected cuts of sashimi (raw fish) plus shaved daikon, two slices of pickled daikon, two slices of egg omelet, two slices of imitation crab and thin slices of cucumber on a bed of sushi rice.  There are generally 14 to 16 pieces of fish depending upon who is slicing it.  Today I requested, as I usually do, that I wanted no red snapper or mahi mahi and more ultra white tuna and yellow tail.  I received two slices of octopus tentacle, four slices of ultra white tuna, four slices of yellow tail tuna, three slices of salmon and two slices of ahi red tuna in the box.  I have an odd way of eating sushi. I cut the rather large sashimi slices into four or five small bite sized pieces and cut the large strips of pickled ginger into small pieces and dip a piece of ginger with a piece of fish into the wasabi and soy mixture.  I also drink lots of green tea.  I probably drink eight to ten cups of tea during lunch. So it takes about 1½ hours to eat the small box of fish and rice and I love it. 

I then went by Sunflower market and purchased chicken sausages ($1.99/lb. on sale) and fresh Atlantic farm raised salmon ($6.99/lb., also on sale) and beautiful fresh mushrooms ($2.99/lb.)  I missed the sale on asparagus ($.97/lb.), which starts tomorrow.

When I returned home, I called Suzette and told her I had salmon and wanted to make my new favorite fish dish, poached salmon with a scallop and spinach cream sauce, so took four scallops (Costco, $13.99/lb.) from the freezer to thaw.

I did not get home from an appointment until about , so we made a quick meal of it.  We heated PPI rice.  Suzette poached the salmon with the four scallops quartered in 1/3 cup white wine (La Montanana Spanish Viura from Trader Joe’s), 1/2 cup vegetable stock (instead of water, made on Sunday) and 1 Tbs. butter, with 1 minced shallot and 1 Tbs. chopped parsley and 1 tsp. of thyme.  Then she removed the salmon to a heated oven and, in a separate pot, heated 2 Tbs. of butter with 2 Tbs. of flour and we cooked it for two minutes to cook the flour and then added some of the poaching medium to the roux and when the roux was creamy enough to pour, poured the roux into the pot in which the salmon had been poached with the rest of the cooking medium and scallops. This made a cream sauce, but it was a little thick, so I added about 2 or 3 Tbs of amontillado sherry to the sauce to thin it to a more creamy consistency.  We then added about two cups of rinsed and spun spinach to the pot of sauce and cooked for a minute to wilt the spinach.

We then plated up each soup bowl with a layer of rice topped with a piece of salmon and covered that with the cream spinach sauce.  We poured glasses of the Viura white wine and ate.  When I tasted the dish I realized I had forgotten to cook sliced mushrooms into the roux and sauce and, thus, the dish lacked a little flavor, so I grated some nutmeg onto the top of the spinach.   I love this easy, healthy, delicious way to eat fresh fish.

Later, I ate the last of the chocolate fondue with cognac and stayed up to watch Terrence? Mallick’s meditation on the horrors of war, “The Thin Red Line”.

 A big food day.

Bon Appètit     

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 26, 2012 Dinner – PPI Lamb Stew with Stir fried Bok Choy

February 26, 2012  Dinner – PPI Lamb Stew with Stir fried Bok Choy

I admit that I made a poor match tonight fixing stir fried bok choy to serve with the PPI lamb stew.  Suzette said I should have done a more Italian like prep, sautéing the bok Choy in olive oil and fresh garlic. 

Instead I stir fried it with mushrooms and a bit of onion using my standard Chinese method; heating peanut and sesame oil and then adding in succession garlic, ginger, the white bok choy stalks, then the green tops with the mushrooms, and then seasoning with mushroom soy, rice wine, a bit of sugar and salt and finally thickening with cornstarch. 

We served the lamb stew and bok choy over rice.  Just okay, not a great meal, but we were more interested in watching the Academy Awards than cooking and just wanted something hot to eat as we watched all the glamour of the Oscars.

To compound the absurdity of the meal, I tried to heat up some two year old punschroller from IKEA that were so old that their marzipan coatings had gone irretrievably hard.  They were beyond rescue.  We will need to go to IKEA when we visit Dallas at the end of March for a fresh supply.

But see what I did with the PPI stir fried Bok Choy tomorrow (February 27, 2012) for lunch. 

Mal Appètit

February 26, 2012 Dinner – PPI Lamb Stew with Stir fried Bok Choy

February 26, 2012  Dinner – PPI Lamb Stew with Stir fried Bok Choy

I admit that I made a poor match tonight fixing stir fried bok choy to serve with the PPI lamb stew.  Suzette said I should have done a more Italian like prep, sautéing the bok Choy in olive oil and fresh garlic. 

Instead I stir fried it with mushrooms and a bit of onion using my standard Chinese method; heating peanut and sesame oil and then adding in succession garlic, ginger, the white bok choy stalks, then the green tops with the mushrooms, and then seasoning with mushroom soy, rice wine, a bit of sugar and salt and finally thickening with cornstarch. 

We served the lamb stew and bok choy over rice.  Just okay, not a great meal, but we were more interested in watching the Academy Awards than cooking and just wanted something hot to eat as we watched all the glamour of the Oscars.

To compound the absurdity of the meal, I tried to heat up some two year old punschroller from IKEA that were so old that their marzipan coatings had gone irretrievably hard.  They were beyond rescue.  We will need to go to IKEA when we visit Dallas at the end of March for a fresh supply.

Mal Appètit

February 27, 2012 Lunch – Bean Thread Noodles with BBQ Pork, Dinner – Sausages with Braised Red Cabbage

February 27, 2012 Lunch – Bean Thread Noodles with BBQ Pork, Dinner – Sausages with Braised Red Cabbage

Simple is wonderful. 

For lunch I made a pot of bean thread noodles.  They come in small packages and are translucent, that I buy at Ta Lin. 

I start with about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of water, to which I add a tsp. of instant dashi (from Ta Lin).  Then I start adding ingredients.  Today I put in a 3 or 4 ounce piece of PPI BBQ pork from the freezer and two packets of bean thread noodles.  After the pork thawed out (about ten minutes), I cut the pork into slices and added the left over stir fried bok choy from last night, with its mushrooms and thick soy laden sauce and a dash of rice wine and sesame oil and ½ tsp of garlic chili sauce and fried dried shallots (Ta Lin).

When the noodles were cooked (about ten minutes) I ladled some into a bowl.  The flavor was thin tasting, so I dissolved 1 ½ Tbs. of Brown Miso (Akamiso) into the soup and that definitely helped give the soup body and eliminated the thin watery taste.  I ate several bowls of noodles and noticed that the longer they cooked up to about twenty minutes the softer and puffier they became, so simmering them longer seems better.

After about ½ hour of simmering my last bowl of noodles was a pile of soft noodles that was very delicious.

In the afternoon iI called Suzette to ask about dinner.  we talked and decided upon a simple standard dinner that we like very much; Sausages with Braised Cabbage.  So I thawed out three sausages (Mild Italian pork sausages from Sunflower Market) and chopped ½ head of red cabbage into strips and diced 1 apple, two cloves, of garlic and ½ cup of onion before Suzette arrived home at around  

After a few minutes of rest, Suzette started braising the cabbage by putting butter and olive oil into a large iron skillet and throwing in the cabbage, onion, garlic, apple mixture into the skillet and heating the mixture to medium high.  After a few minutes she added about 1 Tbs. of ground cumin (Comino) to the cabbage mixture and turned down the heat to medium.  After the cabbage softened somewhat (about twenty minutes), Suzette added ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbs. of sugar and a bit of salt.  Then we cooked the cabbage mixture for an additional ten minutes to make sue it was soft and had absorbed the sweet and sour flavor. 

While the cabbage was cooking, Suzette filled a skillet with water and we boiled the sausages and as they expanded, we pricked their skins to let out the air and fat.  Then we poured off the water and sautéed them for a minute or two to evaporate some of the water in them and then added some of the garlic infused olive oil to the pan and sautéed them in it until they were slightly browned (about twenty minutes) turning them occasionally. 

I broke the ends off 14 stalks of asparagus and filled the steamer and put the asparagus into the steamer.  While the cabbage and sausage were cooking, we steamed the asparagus for about 8 minutes.

After fetching four beers from the basement fridge and putting three different mustards and a bottle of horseradish on the table, we were ready to serve.  We each took 1 ½ sausages, seven stalks of asparagus and a pile of braised red cabbage and a beer.  We dipped slices of sausage into mustard and bits of cabbage and washed them down with beer (Costco’s Kirtland German style beer mixed case $16.99). I found that a mixture of a honey mustard with a bit of mayonnaise we had made for Christmas with a dab of horseradish turned out to be the most flavorful mustard combination for me.

Another wonderful winter meal by the fire place; and wonderfully simple to prepare.

My ancestry is Polish/Russian and Suzette’s is German, so a Northern European dinner like this one is right in our comfort zone.  

Bon Appètit

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 25, 2012 Breakfast – Duck Hash and Dinner –Veal Stew

February 25, 2012 Breakfast – Duck Hash and Dinner –Veal Stew

Suzette was hungry this morning.  I suggested that we still had some duck in the fridge and she decided to make a duck omelet.  She cut up a PPI baked potato, minced some red onion and shredded the duck and I tore strips of Oaxaca string cheese Pro's Ranch Market $3.99/lb.).

Suzette then sautéed the duck, onion and potatoes and decided to make a hash.  So, she layered the cheese on the mixture in the skillet and covered it with a lid to melt the cheese and then she carefully laid several eggs on the top of the cheese, added three Tbs. of water to the skillet and re-covered the skillet with the lid to poach the eggs, while I toasted slices of French baguette and squeezed fresh orange juice. We then got a jar of Heidi’s Raspberry Jam from the fridge and plated the bread and hash and had a wonderful breakfast. 

It seems to me that in the course of a year’s cooking we make about three or four really important discoveries about cooking and the hash today provided one such discovery.  The eggs on top of the hash were cooked perfectly to my liking:  the white was firm on both top and bottom and the yellow yolk was creamy and runny.  I think this was done by Suzette adding the 3 Tbs. of water to the hash filled skillet and covered it to create a steamy atmosphere in which the eggs poached.  This worked better than a poaching skillet because the eggs cooked into the hash and became more of an integrated dish, unlike the usual when you get an watery egg poached in water laid on the top of the hash.

This small but meaningful change in the preparation made a huge difference in the total taste profile of the dish. Voila

I wanted to use up the turnips and PPI potatoes and red and yellow bell peppers, so we decided to make a veal stew for dinner.  We knew that cooking the broth would destroy the integrity of the ingredients, so we decided to use the left over duck bones from the thigh and leg we had just eaten in the stock.

I filled a large pot with water and then added 1 large chopped brown onion, 3 chopped cloves of garlic, 3 stalks of chopped celery, 3 chopped carrots and a few sprigs each of thyme, oregano and sage.. 

We cooked the stock for several hours and then turned it off and went to Costco to buy a container of baby Portabella mushrooms and then on to the Garden Gate Day Spa for treatments.

When we returned home at around , I turned the heat on under the stock again and cleaned and diced 1 lb. of veal stew meat (Alpine Sausage Kitchen $6.99/lb.), while Suzette cleaned and peeled the turnips and minced ½ brown onion and a red and a yellow bell pepper.  I then chopped the five or six turnips, three more carrots, the two remaining PPI baked potatoes and five or six portabella mushrooms.  Suzette then tossed the veal in flour, salt and pepper and then sautéed it in a large pot with about 1 ½ Tbs. of freshly made garlic infused olive oil that had been made and given to us by Chef Eric.  We had gone to the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery after our treatments at about 3:30 p.m. to pick up a fresh fruit strudel baked by the Bistro’s head baker, Armando and Eric surprised us with the olive oil, perfect for dinner.

After the veal had braised, Suzette  added the chopped onion, red and yellow bell peppers.  After it had sauteed for about 3 minutes she deglazed the mixture with about 1/2 cup of leftover German Reisling.  We then started to add the hot stock slowly to the  mixture and it turned a lovely creamy consistency. Very simliar to making a roux.  We then added the turnips and carrots and cooked the stew for about 45 minutes.  At about we added the potatoes and mushrooms.

When our dinner guests Jane Phillips and Max Aragon, arrived at around I went to the garden and picked four or five small sprigs of parsley and chopped it and threw it into the stew pot and fetched the bag of spinach from the garage fridge (a Costco 2.5 lb bag).  Then Suzette spun about three cups of the spinach to clean it and I shredded about 1 cup of Romano Pecorino cheese.

We went to the cellar to fetch a bottle of white wine and a bottle of La Granja Spanish wine (Trader Joe’s $4.99 50% Tempranillo and 50% Granache), we opened the La Granja and had a glass and talked while the stew cooked.  I added about 1 or 1/1/2 cups of water in small amounts to the stew during the hour of cooking and stirred it so it would maintain its light creamy texture and not get thick or gooey.

Then I heated the last half of the French Baguette (Trader Joe’s $2.99) and opened the 2009 Marsanne white (Wellington Vineyards, Glen Elyn, CA  $20.00).

We covered the bottom of a large pasta bowl with a handful of the fresh spinach and about ¼ cup of the grated cheese and then ladled over it about 1 cup of the stew and served the bowls of stew with warm bread and the rich Rhone style Marsanne in front of the fire. We all felt like elegant peasants feasting on the winter vegetable stew on a winter’s night in front of the fire.

After two bowls each of stew, we were so full that we passed on dessert.

The veal stew’s texture was light and creamy and a nice balance of fresh root vegetables (turnips, potatoes, and carrots), flavorful stock, and veal, spinach, bell peppers and mushrooms. 

After saying goodbye to Jane and Max, while we cleaned the kitchen and discussed the day’s cooking.  Suzette said, “I think I am becoming a better cook.”  I agreed with her and emphatically believe that.  One by-product of cooking together and blogging has surely been the strengthening of our bond as we become a better team in the kitchen and work together to streamline the cooking tasks to reduce the time it takes to cook.  The food and recipes show that, I hope.

Bon Appètit      

February 24, 2012 German Lunch and Art Feast in Santa Fe.

February 24, 2012 German Lunch and Art Feast in Santa Fe.

We wanted a small lunch before we went to Santa Fe for the Art Feast, so at around noon I toasted several pieces of whole grain bread (from Costco) and placed the coarse braunsweiger, Genoa, salami and gelbwurst on the table and plated a Rollmops herring with dill pickles and sliced onion and fetched a beer for a German lunch.  I also freshened up the PPI cesar salad with a few more torn leaves of Romaine.

Then we were off to Santa Fe.  The Art feast started at and went to but ended at around for us because of the excessive wind and cool weather and lack of wine to insulate us from the cold.

Next year I hope they will return to serving wine.

The food was interesting, as always.  My two favorites were the Palace Restaurant’s Stephen Wede’s Marlin sashimi and a foraged looking red Belgium endive leave on which was tossed several ingredients with a clear, delicious Riesling jelly and a sandwich made of a rich white chocolate ganache sandwiched between two layers of rich flourless chocolate Delice and Bishop’s Lodge’s offerings which included my favorite dish of a canapé of crab salad garnished with wasabi flavored fish eggs.  Real crab and beautiful light green nearly translucent fish eggs.

We did see some interesting art also.  Three nylon monofilament mesh screen made by a female artist from Colorado named Bolli that re-framed the space of a gallery like a Robert Irwin piece and some contemporary trunkas by a Tibetan artist featuring images of Mickey Mouse seated in meditation like the Buddha, by the name of Gagy or Gaby.

Art Feast is always fun because you get to taste food from restaurants you have never gone to and see art at galleries you do not usually go to.

After two hours of gorging on the food offerings, we drank a hot toddy at the Palace to get some warmth back into our bodies and then we drove back to Albuquerque.

Bon Appètit  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 23, 2012 Lunch – Taj Mahal, Shopping - Alpine Sausage Factory and Book Club

February 23, 2012 Lunch – Taj Mahal, Shopping - Alpine Sausage Factory
 I met my friend Mike Verhagen for lunch at Taj Mahal Restaurant on Carlisle for lunch at .  I have been dining at Taj Mahal for over twenty years and during that time have helped the owners with their Beer and Wine licenses, and love their food because it is so clean and authentic.  For example, Shamiz, the owner who manages the restaurant, told me that the Taj is the only restaurant in the area that does not adulterate its Saag Paneer with other ingredients than the traditional greens, cilantro, garlic, and the paneer cheese and I believe him.  Taj always serves a tandoori dish on the lunch buffet an on Thursday I was pleasantly surprised to find a beef sausage shish kabob roll instead of the usual chicken.  

After lunch, I went by Alpine Sausage Kitchen at
2800 Indian School Rd.
to replenish the meat drawer in the fridge.  I bought gelbwurst (veal bologna), Genoa Salami, chunky braunswieger, a pound of veal stew meat, and a bottle of Marinated Rollmops (5 whole herring filets wrapped around a gherkin in a pickling solution of salt, sugar, onion, mustard seed and pickling spices, for $4.59).  I enjoyed trading stories with the owners, who also vacation on Mexico’s Pacific coast in the Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita, Don Pancho area of Mexico.

Then, on my way home, I stopped at the Flying Star and picked up nine osr ten copies of the February 15 –March 15, 2012 issue of ABQ BITE, our new food magazine in Albuquerque, because it featured a two page spread on this blog and Suzette’ restaurant, the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery, located on the campus of the  Center for Ageless Living.  How fun to see our “Shop, Cook, Eat” logo and website in print.  I realize that there are joys and creative moments involving all stages of the food process; from growing it, to shopping for it, to cooking it, to eating it and to writing about it.  But seeing your words in print always is special for me, perhaps because those events merge several levels of experience that somehow amplifies the magnitude of the emotional content for me.
Instead of cooking dinner, I went to my monthly meeting of the Last Thursday Book Club, The lively intelligent discussion about this month’s selection, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, accompanied by snacks ended with this month’s host, Jack Ferrell, who grew up in Ohio, serving us homemade apple pie, coffee, and a lovely white wine from Ohio.     

One of the comments during the discussion blew me away.  As the token Buddhist, I was asked to compare the concept of “nothingness” in Buddhism to the seemingly meaningless lives of some of the characters in the novel and as I attempted to describe my experience of all inclusiveness of the direct contact with awareness that is at the heart of Buddhist practice, Joel Nash commented, “It is like the Allegory of the Cave”.  It has been almost 50 years since I read the Allegory of the Cave by Plato, so I babbled for a moment incoherently and the conversation passed on to other topics.

The next morning I googled the “Allegory of the Cave” and drafted a belated and a hopefully coherent answer to Joel’s comment.  In summary, I think Joel’s analogy of the Buddhist Principle of nothingness to the “Allegory of the Cave” is exactly correct and brilliant and that Joel put his finger on exactly the correct example in Western thought for the confusion between reality and cognition as created by human thought processes that forms one of the central pillars of Buddhism.  If anyone wants to receive a copy of my analysis, please send me an e mail address and I will send my analysis to you in pdf format.

Some days can be fun even though there is no cooking.
Bon Appètit

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 22, 2012 Duck Quesadillas

February 22, 2012 Duck Quesadillas

Wednesdays are always catch as catch can because I meditate and Suzette often works late or goes out with a group of girl friends for drinks and dinner.  This Wednesday was further complicated by the fact that Suzette is sick with a cold.  So when I returned home from meditating at around I was not expecting much enthusiasm for food.

We had PPI roast duck, braised red cabbage from Sunday in the fridge and a salsa a sour cream mixture in a bottle I had made for guacamole on Tuesday, so I immediately agreed with Suzette’s suggestion that she make duck quesadillas.  Quesadillas are becoming our default dinner for those nights on which we do not wish to cook a full meal, but want something hot and delicious.  Also, this blog refers to leftovers as “Previously Prepared Ingredients” (“PPI”) because Suzette’s friend Debbie thinks the work leftover diminishes the importance of leftovers as a true ingredient and I agree with her.   

Suzette sliced a ripe avocado and shredded a duck breast and we found a container of cheese curds from Old Wind Mill Farm and I fetched the salsa and sour cream mixture and flour tortillas from the fridge.  Suzette then heated some butter in a large skillet and in another smaller skillet sautéed the shredded duck and braised cabbage (the duck and red cabbage recipes are found in February 19’s blog. The red cabbage’s sweet and sour flavor verged on the slightly sweet side).

After heating one side of two tortillas, Suzette flipped the heated side up and laid the duck and cabbage mixture and some cheese curds and salsa and sour cream mixture and avocado slices on the tortilla’s heated side and then put the heated side of the other tortilla, heated side down, on top of the layer of ingredients and then put more butter in the large skillet and browned the outsides of the tortillas by flipping them occasionally, thus producing a large round toasted quesadilla.

While Suzette was making two quesadillas, I made a Cesar salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, small wedges of cucumber and chopped onion slices.  I used a PPI Cesar dressing I had made with some of the lovely white anchovies from Whole Foods, lemon, olive oil and an egg several days ago.

We then cut the quesadillas into quarters and ate the quesadilla with some PPI Fermè Julien rosè wine we had in the fridge.  The dryness of the wine went well with the slight sweetness of the duck and cabbage combination in the quesadilla.

We enjoyed a really lovely, satisfying, healthy dinner made without much effort on a night when neither of us had much desire or time to cook.  This is the essence of how we cook.  We try to keep good ingredients, both fresh and prepared available to create dishes that suit our needs or whim without sacrificing any gastronomic quality.

For those just joining the blog, we hope this type of cooking will inspire you.

Bon Appètit      

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 17, 2012 Bill Ristau’s 71st Birthday Party.

February 17, 2012 Bill Ristau’s 71st Birthday Party.

We were invited to celebrate Bill Ristau’s 71st Birthday at his home in Corrales. 
Choi and Bill had made egg rolls with pork in wheat wrappers and their friend Cherrie who is from the Philippines had made vegetarian egg rolls stuffed with banana and jackfruit in a rice wrapper.  There was also a large baking dish full of delicious thin Vietnamese rice noodles stir fried with shrimp and chicken and wood ear and mushrooms and chunks of egg.  Although tere was lots of other food; I loved these three dishes and kept eating them.  Bill had purchased a case of Corrales Winery wine, including Muscat Cannelli, Sangiovese, and Reisling.  Corrales Winery is located very near to Bill and Choi’s house, so I felt like I was eating off the land as I sipped Sangiovese and nibbled on the noodles that had been flavored dark brown with soy sauce.

The party was fun and I got to talk to lots of folks including Rod Deaguero and his wife about New Mexico and Mexican history and water law. I also talked to Cherrie’s husband, Dean, about his art picking experiences and art gallery in Winslow, Arizona.

February 18, 2012 Tapas de la tarde at “la boca” and Pork and Spinach Lasagna

February 18, 2012 Tapas de la tarde at “la boca” and Pork and Spinach Lasagna

I ate the PPI Fiskgratin with a glass of Ferme Julian rose at around 11:30 a.m. and drove to Santa Fe to spend the afternoon with Dee and Bridgett.  I parked in the 225 lot and met them at a coffee shop at around 200 Canyon Road.  After a few minutes of conversation, I found out that Bridgett is an artist.  After fortifying ourselves with coffee and discussing what art might be interesting to see, we walked up Canyon Road toward the gallery located in the old Gromley’s Market, stopping at Michael Smith, Medicine.Man, Ernesto Mayans, Labrink, Zaplin-Lambert, and several other galleries on our way and at Tibet Project, Darnell, Martha Keats (that had a number of Carol Hoy’s encaustics), Jane Sauer and Eight Modern on our way back down to the car.

We then drove to Peyton Wright Gallery and I talked with John, while Dee and Bridgett looked at the gallery’s huge Spanish Colonial art exhibit.  I then went to Aaron Payne’s and talked to him and looked at his lovely gallery and then met Dee and Bridgett at Owings Gallery. 

After we looked at the art at Owings, Bridgett said she was hungry and since we did not want to walk very far, I suggested tapas at “la boca” which is located on Marcy about one block west of Owings Gallery.  When we arrived at “la boca” it really reminded me of a tapas bar in Spain. I remembered talking to chef/owner james campbell caruso in March 2011 before our trip to Spain in April and his desire to go cook at Arzak for his vacation. We were seated and given a menu (the bar stools by Chef Caruso were all filled).  We are all meat eaters, so we immediately decided to order three hot meat tapas at $6.00 each: spiced lamb kefta with gazpacho salad and spinach-artichoke-manchego flavored yogurt sauce (a tzatziki sauce), Morcilla a la plancha – black (blood) sausage slices served with roasted red peppers served with a puddle of garlic aioli, pincho de puerco (cubes of marinated pork tenderloin grilled on a skewer laid on a sauce made with honey and apricots and sliced small green olives), and  a tapas trio with hummus, a red pepper-almond spread, and a lovely goat cheese with spinach, raisins and capers served with grilled flatbread ($5.00).  Each of the three spreads were served in a small white ramekins on a special plate with a divider in the center with the sliced grilled flatbread on one side and the ramekins on the other side.  We drank a 2009 Ergo Tempranillo from Rioja ($7.00) and loved the food.  Bridgett and Dee asked me where I would go for dinner and I suggested Trattoria Nostrani, which was within walking distance of their hotel on Washington and has a Japanese style noodle shop, connected to the restaurant if they did not wish to eat an expensive Italian meal.

Finally, after finishing our tapas and wine, I called Suzette and discussed with her the fact that I had bought some ricotta style cheese at Pro’s Market *she had it out) and we agreed that a layer of spinach would be a good idea and she said she was starting to make the fresh lasagna pasta, so I bid Dee and Bridget farewell and drove home, full and happy after a real Spanish tapas experience.

When I arrived home, I was greeted by a lovely, large ceramic baking dish of steaming hot lasagna, so I immediately went to the wine cellar and fetched a bottle of La Loggia Barbera D’ Alba 2010 (Trader Joe’s $6.99 imported by Santini Fine Wines) because we had drunk a bottle of chianti reserva with the same basic pork and tomato dish over rice on Thursday night and I wanted something a little more elegant and different).  I was surprised that I enjoyed the dish so much, because I had just eaten exciting tapas, but it was delicious and it had been about 2 hours since tapas; just like in Spain where tapas with wine or beer is a way to end the work day, like our happy hour, and then dinner is eaten later in the evening.

A bit later in the evening I heated up the PPI chocolate fondue from last Sunday’s fondue party and we dipped apple slices, cookies, apricots and pretzels into it and sipped cognac as we watched a re-broadcast of the sixth episode of Downton Abbey and then went to bed happy after a full day of interesting food and activity..

Bon Appètit    

Sunday Feb 19, 2012 Lunch Stir Fried Noodles; Czeck Duck Dinner

Sunday Feb 19, 2012 Lunch Stir Fried Noodles; Czeck Duck Dinner

I really liked the noodle dish served at the 71st Birthday Party for Bill Ristau on Friday evening and we had about a cup of PPI spaghetti and a large mushroom and a head of bok choy in the fridge, so I decided to try to replicate the dish.

I split three stalks of bok choy in half lengthwise and chopped up about two cups of bok choy, separating the white thick portion from the leafy green portions. Then I minced two cloves of garlic and two tsp. of fresh ginger, one stalk of scallion and about four ounces of fresh rib eye steak.

I then heated the wok and added about 2 Tbs. of peanut oil and 1 tsp. of Sesame oil and threw in the garlic, ginger, and white portions of the bok choy and stir fried them for a couple of minutes.  Then I threw in the meat and sliced mushroom (about 2 Tbs.), chopped scallion and 1 tsp. of garlic chili paste and cooked the whole mixture until the meat’s red color turned grey.

Then I tossed in the spaghetti and about 1 Tbs. of rice cooking wine, 2 tsp. of normal soy sauce and about 1Tbs. of oyster sauce.  The oyster sauce is the secret to giving the noodle’s sauce its silky, thick brown texture.  I let the dish cook until the noodles were heated thoroughly and served the plate full of light brown colored dish with a cup of green tea..  The interesting thing is that since the dish is mostly vegetables, you need to make sure that you do not under or overcook the bok choy. When the sauce starts to get watery, you know that the bok choy is breaking down because it is yielding water to the dish.  That is when I stopped cooking it.  I could have also stirred and fried an egg and throw it in, if I had wanted to get closer to Friday night’s recipe.  Also, this is a great vegetarian dish if you just leave out the meat or substitute tofu for the meat.

Before Suzette left for work in the morning, we discussed dinner and tentatively agreed upon grilled steak with asparagus, but as I rode home at the end of an18 mile ride around 3:00 p.m. the wind was blowing about 20 miles per hour and the weather looked as if it would soon snow, which made me think about our visit to Prague in November about ten years ago, so since Roast duck is the preferred Sunday evening dinner in Czeckoslovakia, I decided to cook duck.

When Suzette came home we decided to eat dinner while we watched 60 Minutes, so she made us a small appetizer of avocado creamed with sour cream and chips around and w started cooking about  I had thawed out a package of 2 duck halves (Costco $13.95 for two cleaned and roasted leg, thigh, breast and wing sections with two pouches of duck l’ orange sauce), brought in a head of red cabbage from the garage fridge and a bottle of Cellier du Rhône Chateauneuf du Pape 2007 (Trader Joe’s ) from the wine celler; my favorite wine with roasted Duck. 

I gathered up the bottle of ground cumin and broke off the tough part of the stalks of 14 stalks of asparagus and put them into the steaming basket and water into the steaming pot and put it on the stove. Suzette sliced and chopped up ½ of the head of cabbage and heated olive oil in a large skillet and threw in the cabbage with about 1 Tbs. of ground cumin and braised the cabbage.  She then got out a broiling pan and put the duck on it and pricked the fatty parts of the skin to release its fat and put it in a      °F.oven for about     minutes to heat the duck (the duck halves were pre-cooked).  Then Suzette turned the heat up to     °F to crisp the duck’s skin for several more minutes.  Suzette had added apple cider vinegar and some sugar to the cabbage so that the flavor was both sweet and sour.   A really successful braised cabbage.

After a few minutes of the duck cooking, we started the asparagus were steaming.  I then dumped a 10 ounce bottle of PPI duck sauce into an enameled sauce pan and took one orange and zested its peel into the sauce and then sectioned the orange and put the sections into the sauce with about 1 tsp. of fresh lemon juice and then heated the sauce slowly to a simmer and let it simmer for a couple of minutes. I then uncorked the wine and poured a bit into each of our wine glasses to taste. The wine was smooth and had all the usual complexity of Chateauneuf du Pape, but not much character.

When the duck and asparagus were ready, we plated the duck, asparagus and cabbage and garnished the duck with the Sauce L’ Orange and sat down at to watch 60 Minutes.     We turned on the fire in the fireplace, pulled the table up near the fireplace, poured glasses of the wine and loved our dinner; especially how simple it was to cook.  In about forty minutes of joint effort we had produced a fabulous duck dinner exactly like the one we ate at the Two Blue Ducks in Prague, Czeck Republic with Mimi Montgomery about ten years ago on a cold fall night, just like tonight.

Bon Appètit

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 16, 2012 Dinner – PPI pork in guajillo tomato sauce on Rice

February 16, 2012 Dinner – PPI pork in guajillo tomato sauce on Rice

My old friend Dee Simpson came into town after today.  He was spending the night, so when we discussed what we had to eat we all agreed to eat the PPI Pork with guajillo chili/tomato sauce dish on rice.  I had made 1 1/2 cups of basmati rice by adding about 1/2 tsp. of Knorr dried chicken stock and about 1 Tbs. of fresh parsley to three boiling cups of water.
Suzette then heated up the PPI pork dish and steamed broccoli flowerlets (Pro’s Ranch Market $.69/lb.) and we each filled our pasta bowl full of rice topped with the PPI pork and broccoli and ate hardily.  It seemed to me that the guajillo chili had finally re-hydrated and softened and began to yield its inner flesh to the sauce, so the dish began to take on more of the mild guajillo chili flavor that gave it added richness..

Dee liked the dish and we then watched TV and talked until .

Bon Appètit

February 15, 2012 Dinner – Fiskgratin

February 15, 2012 Dinner – Fiskgratin

We ate leftover Fish au Gratin with lovely fresh string beans I had bought at Pro’s Ranch Market this morning.

I had gone to my monthly meeting of the EF/N/AIOP Business Water Committee and turned right toward Pro’s instead of left toward home where Rio Grande meets
Central Ave.

The reason for going was to buy avocados, which were being featured at 6 for $.99 before ; too good a price to pass up.  I also bought some more ham and four bolillos for $1.00, some beautiful fresh green beans ($1.39/lb.) and some Mexican Ricotta, some tomatoes for lasagna and two bags of corn chips.

At I arrived at home hungry and so I cut a bolillo in half and toasted it and spread it with mayonnaise and then sliced tomato and then sliced avocado and then a slice of ham and topped it with some German Deli mustard.

When Suzette came home we both decided that we wanted more of the Fish Gratin, so we heated plates of it and steamed the green beans and drank the last of the two bottles of white wine that were in the ice box.

Some nights it is just leftovers.

Bon Appètit

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 14, 2012 Food shopping and Valentine’s Day Dinner – Fish au Gratin

February 14, 2012 Food shopping and Valentine’s Day Dinner – Fish au Gratin

Today I got finished with a large project at around and decided to go shopping for a few items we need around the house and go out for lunch.  I went to Costco for gas and then a polish dog and while looking for toilet bowl brushes saw that they had a Seafood Fiesta.  While considering the Seafood Fiesta offerings, I noticed that there were also beautiful fresh, true cod filets on sale for $5.99/lb. and, since I knew we had a bag of fresh potatoes, I immediately thought of fixing my favorite Swedish fish dish, Fish au Gratin, for Suzette for Valentine’s Day Dinner, so bought a 2.5 lb. package of cod.  Perhaps I had started thinking about Swedish dishes after sitting beside Marie Baca (the judge) at the fondue party last night, who told me she had been married to a Swede for over 20 years, and sharing a few Swedish stories.  We both lived in Sweden in Gothenborg and memories came flooding back to me as we talked).

After a short stop at Home Depot for the brushes, I went to Trader Joe’s and found fresh artichokes and two new wines I had not bought before, including a Quincon Cote de Provence Rosè (5.99), in case we wanted a pink wine, and a La Ronescina dry Pinot Grigio ($6.99).  I also bought a bottle of Blason Burgundy sparkling wine ($9.99), just in case Suzette wanted sparkling wine with dinner.  Then I bought capers, canned artichoke hearts in water, a 500 gram dark chocolate bar, a French baguette and a Tom’s deodorant  stick (the reason for the trip to Trader Joe’s).

I then drove home and, after a bit more work, rode 10 miles until and took a shower.  At around 5:45 p.m. I found the recipe in my Swedish cookbook, Swedish Cooking at its Best by Marianne Grönwall van der Tuuk (pages 98 and 99).  The Fish Au Gratin (fiskgratin) is an elaborate recipe with five steps, first you make Duchesse Potatoes, a rich mashed potatoes dish made with butter and cream and 2 egg yolks; then you bake the fish with 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice and 2 tsp. of salt for ten minutes, then you sautè and chop ½ lb. of mushrooms, then you make a cream sauce with 1 Tbs. of butter and 2 Tbs. of flour and 1 cup of the fish stock and 2 more egg yolks and add the sautéed mushrooms to the sauce.  To construct the dish you fill the bottom of a buttered baking dish with the baked fish, then you pour the sauce over the fish and then cover the sauce with ½ cup of shredded cheddar cheese and then drop dollops of Duchesse Potatoes onto the sauce and then bake the dish to heat it throughout and then broil the dish for 10 to 12 minutes to brown the potatoes and cheese.  

Suzette came home about halfway through the process, as I was slicing mushrooms and peeled potato chunks were boiling and asked what she could do, so I asked her to finish the Duchesse Potatoes, while I chopped and cooked the mushrooms and made the sauce and buttered the baking dish. 

Suzette then asked, "What about a layer of asparagus?", so I fetched a bag with about one cup of blanched PPI asparagus and cauliflower flowerlets from Sunday’s fondue party.  We then constructed the dish together, topping the fish with the asparagus and cauliflower before covering the fish with the sauce, cheese and potatoes.

Two things did not go perfectly.  I over-salted the fish.  The recipe called for 2 tsp. of salt and I put on about 1 ½ to 2 Tbs. of salt before baking it, so we deleted the salt from the rest of the recipe but the dish was still a little salty.  The other problem was we did not chop up the spears of asparagus and the long strands of asparagus made it difficult to remove and serve cleanly segmented portions of the dish from the baking dish since the long strands of asparagus kept pulling the dish apart.

Suzette had been hosting a champagne and chocolate covered strawberry Valentine’s Day Happy Hour at the Bistro, so she chose the La Ronescina Pinot Grigio 2010.  It is produced in the Dolegna del Collio DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) within the Fruili Venezia Giulia Region of Italy in the foothills of the Alps north of Venice.  When I opened the bottle and tasted it, it was minerally and dry with just a hint of fruity sweetness. After a few minutes the mineral, tannic flavor subsided and the sweetness shown through that really complemented the rich fish and potato dish.  I think it is the best bottle of Pinot Grigio I have tasted for under $20.00. (One of the benefits of being a “home cooking” food writer is sipping (researching) the wine while writing the review.)

After dinner, my old friend Dee Simpson called and said he would be driving into town the next day (February 15, 2012), which made me recall that the first time I ever made Fish Au Gratin was with him in his house when we both were neighbors living in Fort Worth about 35 years ago.  This dish is best prepared by two persons.  For me, food memories are inextricably connected to friends and social experiences.  

I think it is safe to say that the Swedes have perfected everything one can do with fish and potatoes in the absence of green vegetables and herbs, just like the French have perfected everything one can do with an egg.

Fish au Gratin (fiskgratin) is really one of Swedish Cuisine’s gastronomic triumphs; right up there with Gravad lax and Swedish meatballs.  So great that when you taste it, you will never forget its taste.

Bon Appètit and Happy Valentine’s Day  

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012: Dinner – Pork and tomato sauce over spaghetti with sautèed mushrooms and spinach

February 13, 2012:  Dinner – Pork legs and tomato sauce over spaghetti with sautèed mushrooms and spinach

Last Wednesday I went to Pro’s Ranch Market and found something I have not seen before there.  Pork legs.  They are the upper leg with a lot of meat and a fair amount of bone and they are 9 or 10 inches long.  I bought about seven or eight dried Guajilla chilis and some onions and garlic.

We had eaten a dish in Zacatecas two years ago: pork legs seasoned with Guajilla chili, onions and tomatoes or sofrito and wrapped in aluminum foil and slow cooked, so that when you opened the packet, the meat fell off the bone into a puddle of its own juice.  Finally on Monday, Suzette and I decided to cook them in the crock pot so they could slow cook all day.  Suzette seared the legs while I chopped 1 onion and de-seeded the chilis and sliced 1 lb of carrots and threw all those ingredients into the crock pot with the seared bones.  We decided we needed lots of sauce, so I opened an institution sized can of crushed tomatoes and filled the crock pot almost to the top with tomatoes.  Then I started coking it.  After it heated up, I added about 1/3 cup of black olives and two cloves of garlic. 

When Suzette came home we tested the dish and the meat was tender and fell off the bone, but it lacked a complete and complex flavor, so I added about 1 Tbs. of oregano, about 1 Tbs. of salt and about ½ tsp. of ground pepper. Then I chopped up five cloves of garlic and 1 shallot and about eight baby portabella mushrooms and de-stemmed about 1 Tbs. of thyme and threw all of that into a skillet Suzette had heated with olive oil and sautéed it for a couple of minutes and then Suzette added two handfuls of spinach to the mixture and sautéed all the ingredients while I heated the PPI spaghetti.  This was an adaptation of the sautéed spinach in garlic we had eaten at Mondo Italia in Taos on January 27, 2012.

In honor of our Zacatecas dinner Suzette went to the basement for beers.  We put the heated spaghetti in pasta bowls, then ladled the pork and tomato sauce over it and garnished the top with the sautéed mushrooms and spinach.

We had cooked breakfast burritos with PPI steak and bacon and fried PPI potatoes and eggs for breakfast so by we were hungry and really enjoyed the pork flavored tomato sauce with sautéed spinach in mushroom and garlic washed down with gulps of beer.

And we have about 2/3 of a crock pot of pork and tomato sauce left for further meals.

Do I have a sense that lasagna is looming on the gastronomic horizon?

Bon Appètit     

February 12, 2012 Dinner - Fondue Party

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11, 2012 Lunch – Steak stir fry; Dinner- Swordfish with Asparagus and Fried Potatoes

February 11, 2012 Lunch – Steak stir fry;  Dinner- Swordfish with Asparagus and Fried Potatoes

At around , for lunch I made a dish I have not made in some time.  I chopped up about 1/3 lb. of rib eye steak, three stalks of asparagus, 2 mushrooms, about ¼ cup onion and one clove of garlic.  I heated some olive oil in a wok and then threw in the meat, onion, garlic and asparagus.  I then diced about 1/3 tomato and after a few minutes threw in the mushrooms and about ½ Tbs. of butter and 1/3 cup of chopped spaghetti.  After that cooked for a few minutes I threw in the tomato and a Tbs. of fresh pesto and then two stirred eggs and about 1/8 cup of sliced Petit Basque cheese and let the whole mixture stiffen.  Then I flipped the mixture in sections to cook the other side into a kind of egg foo young.  

After I rode twenty miles I was tired and dirty.  While we watched McLauglin Report, we decided to cook the Swordfish and some potatoes and asparagus.  While I took a shower, Suzette smeared the swordfish I had bought at Sunflower Market on Thursday with some of the fresh pesto she had made and grilled it and steamed ten stalks of asparagus and sliced one of the PPI baked potatoes and ½ of an onion into thin slices and sautéed them in a skillet with olive oil and butter until browned and crisp.  I opened a bottle of Ferme Vielle white from Luberon in the Rhone (Trader Joe’s $4.99), which was light but did not clash with the pesto flavored fish.  The most interesting thing was that Suzette grilled the fish perfectly.  It was firm and flaky but still moist in the center while crisp on the outside.

Bon Appètit.

February 9, 2012 Food Shopping and Dinner-Quesadillas

February 9, 2012 Lunch – La Choza; Food Shopping; and Dinner-Quesadillas

Thursday was one of those strange days with a court appearance in Santa Fe in the morning, then a meeting out of the office at 4:00 p.m. and meditation at so no time to prepare dinner.  We ended our hearing at so I was pleased when Bill Turner hardily agreed to my suggestion that we stop for lunch at La Choza before returning to Albuquerque.  La Choza is a rambling adobe complex near the corner of St. Francis and Cerrillos that is owned by the same family that has owned and run the The Shed for over 50 years. La Choza serves the same prize winning red chili that garners the Shed its perennial Best red chili award in Santa Fe and helped win the Shed a James Beard Award in 2003.  The only difference between the two restaurants is that one rarely has to wait to be seated at La Choza, while at The Shed there is normally a wait for a table.  We were seated immediately at a table bathed in warm sunlight at the back of the last room.  I ordered my favorite: blue corn enchiladas with ground beef, with red chili and extra chopped onions and double posole and a Negra Modelo to drink.  Bill ordered a cesar salad and a bowl of green chili clam chowder and a Santa Fe lager and Sally ordered blue corn soft tacos with beans and posole.  I was impressed when the beers were served in pint glasses from a tap. We rode back to Albuquerque happy and full.

At around 3:00 p.m. I left home; stopping to pick up my billing and go by the post office and then Sunflower Market at the corner of Academy and San Mateo on my way to the State Bar Headquarters for my 4:00 p.m. meeting.  At Sunflower, I bought two Swordfish steaks for $8.99/lb and some lovely large white mushroom caps.  I then saw that Sunflower was still featuring tender thin stalks of asparagus for $.97/lb., so I bought two more bundles of them.

Since we are assigned chocolate fondue for February 12th’s fondue party, I bought dried apples, apricots, and pineapples and some large pretzels for dipping in chocolate.

Since it was Thursday, after mediation on the way home at around , I went to Pro’s Ranch Market for its produce specials to buy oranges (5/lb for $.99) and strawberries ($1.39 per quart).  I also bought a bag of flavored, colored marshmallows for the fondue party and 2/3 lb. of  Mexican Bafar sliced Honey Cooked ham ($1.99/lb.) and Oaxaca string cheese ($3.99/lb).

When I finally arrived at home at around , neither of us wanted to cook or eat a full dinner, so I said I would prepare a quesadilla and Suzette said she would make one also. 

So I sliced an avocado and thin onion slices and tore the Oaxaca string cheese into thin strips and piled some of those ingredients on a flour tortilla in a skillet and threw on a slice or two of the ham and then threw more strips of cheese and avocado on top of it and another tortilla and flipped and sautéed both sides of the quesadilla in the skillet until it was light brown and the ingredients were hot and the cheese melted.

As Suzette was making her quesadilla with a bit of butter in the skillet to butter the tortilla, I fetched a couple of beers from the basement fridge and we had a quick, light and delicious late night dinner made with our wonderful Mexican ingredients.  As I was eating my quesadilla, my déjà vu thoughts switched back and forth from watching the ocean waves from Mexican beach bars to small Parisian bars and cafès that, after the kitchen closes, will heat pre-prepared Croque-Monsieurs late at night with beers and the concluding thought that a fabulous food experience can happen at almost any time.

We went to bed full and happy, rather than hungry and sad.  As Suzette says, “Good food puts you in a good mood”.

Bon Appètit   

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012 Dinner – Valentine’s Day Four Course Dinner at Greenhouse Bistro

February 10, 2012  Dinner – Valentine’s Day Four Course Dinner at Greenhouse Bistro

I took off work early and rode my bike ten miles at and then drove to Los Lunas to the Garden Gate Spa arriving at for a pedicure and then a one-half hour massage at to get the kinks out of my muscles from riding bike.

A little after . I dressed and walked across the parking lot to the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery for dinner.  Suzette was seated, sipping a glass of Gruet Rosè Champagne when I arrived.  The four course meal included an appetizer, a soup or salad, an entrée and dessert and three glasses of wine for $55.00.  We were first served a plate with sautéed fresh spinach topped with a heart shaped slab of seafood patè.  The plate was garnished with two heart shaped crostini and lightly blanched treads of red and yellow bell pepper.  The patè was a combination of crab, scallops and mussels and drizzled with a light butter and wine sauce.  We were served a glass of Rosè with the seafood dish, a very hardy, but light start to the meal.  Let me say that for me the difference between a good restaurant and a great restaurant is often found in the small things, such as the addition of a simple thin butter and wine sauce to the plate of spinach and seafood pate.  That little bit of thin sauce was a brilliant recognition that a warm puddle of wine flavored butter would greatly enhance the cold seafood pate's flavor.   

The next course was a choice of soup or salad.  We both chose the soup when we heard that Chef Eric Elliott Heaslet had made tomato bisque.  We had had Eric's tomato bisque before and it is one of the best, if not the best tomato bisque, I have ever eaten anywhere in the world.  It is made with oven roasted tomatoes and cream and a lovely combination of herbs and garnished with an escutcheon of crème fraiche.  We gobbled up a large soup bowl of it, stopping only long enough for an occasionally sip of  champagne.

Half way through the meal and we were feeling great about the food quality and preparation.

For our entree course, we were confronted by several difficult choices; Beef Wellington or seared Ahi Tuna with a wasabi glaze (pickled ginger and wasabi horseradish garnished with stir fried bok choy in a mandarin sauce using sweetened, thickened chicken stock).  I chose the Beef Wellington and Suzette chose the Tuna.  My Beef Wellington was a slab of tenderloin coated with a mushroom duxelles (a finely chopped mixture of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs sautéed in butter, and reduced to a paste), wrapped in an incredibly light puff pastry and baked to golden brown and then garnished with a Sauce Bernaise (a reduction of white wine and shallots and tarragon and white wine vinegar to which egg yolks are added and then thickened with butter).  The plate on which the Beef Wellington was served also included a pile of blanched and sautéed haricot vert (baby green beans) and three medallions of Potatoes Dauphin roasted to golden brown (mashed potatoes enriched with cream and butter that are pushed through a pastry bag and then baked).  The Beef was served with a glass of Oregon pinot noir from Firesteed Winery and the Tuna was served with a glass of S A Prum German Riesling.

The portions were generous and it took us a while to dissect and digest the tuna and beef Wellington as we savored our delicious wine, but finally we were ready for dessert.

There were several choices.  Suzette chose a cheese and fruit plate with a large fresh strawberry dipped and drizzled with white and dark chocolate.  The cheeses include Goat cheese, cubes of hard cheese like Swiss Gruyere or Jarlsberg or cheddar, brie and Gorgonzola plus several raspberries.

I chose the Chocolate Truffle cake, prepared by the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery’s chief baker, Armando.  The cake was a wedge of rich dark chocolate flour less truffle baked in a chocolate crumb shell flavored with espresso coffee served with a mound of fresh whipped cream garnished with two fresh raspberries.  The truffle cake was world class, like the tomato bisque; as good as you could expect to get anywhere in the world and delicious when combined with bits of the fresh whipped cream and raspberries.  Each dessert was served with a glass of silky smooth, sweet Cockburn’s Special Reserve Port.     

 The meal was elegant, with wonderful fresh ingredients and generous portions; a really good value for $55.00.  Based upon my experience I would expect to pay the following prices for the four courses: seafood pate appetizer - $10.00, Tomato Bisque - easily $7.00 to 8.00, Beef Wellington - easily $30.00 anywhere else (in fact, I have never ever been served an individually hand made portion of Beef Wellington, so having my own puff pastry filled with the flavored tenderloin made just for me was a thrill  [I even experienced a primordial or post-apocalyptic thought of taking my plate and running to a dark corner and consuming this delicious dish in silent ecstasy], and dessert - at least $8.00 at any good restaurant.  There is no other four star restaurant in New Mexico that I am aware of that offers as good a fine dining experience and value with such fine wine for such an inexpensive price.  I am always conscious of food value and in my mind, the food is worth $55.00 and the three glasses of wine are worth $30.00.  

I can hardly wait until summer when the Center for Ageless Living's gardens are producing fresh herbs and produce, because the quality of the Greenhouse Bistro's ingredients and dishes will get even better.

Bon Appètit

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February 5, 2012 (Super Bowl Sunday) Lunch – Spaghetti with Sausage Marinara Sauce Dinner – Steak Cesar Salad and Chocolate Chip/Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

February 5, 2012 (Super Bowl Sunday) Lunch – Spaghetti with Sausage Marinara Sauce  Dinner – Steak Cesar Salad and Chocolate Chip/Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

We had a pleasant morning watching all the talk shows and then some of the Manchester United v. Chelsea soccer match and I did some editing of a document for a case.

By lunch time we were hungry and the meal I had planned for dinner became lunch.  We cut up one of the fresh mild Italian sausages (we had bought at Sunflower Market last Sunday) and ¼ cup of onion, two cloves of garlic and several sliced portabella mushrooms, about ten canned black olives from California, and ½ cup sliced hearts of palm. Suzette sautèed those ingredients in a skillet with one fresh chopped roma tomato and two Tbs. tomato paste while we boiled spaghetti.  We threw ½ cup of broccoli flowerets into the boiling pasta water and blanched them until tender and then threw them into the tomato sauce.

The whole cooking process was pretty quick, probably less than thirty minutes and very tasty with a glass of Chianti (Trader Joe’s $4.99).

We started watching the Super Bowl at 4:30 p.m. and this year it was engaging, so rather than making the Shish Kabob’s we had discussed before lunch, we opted for a simpler and healthier Cesar Salad with steak.  I had made a Cesar Salad dressing several days before, so at half time, after Madonna sang, Suzette spun the lettuce, while I sliced up one of the new boneless rib eye steaks from Lowe’s ($3.99/lb.) and shaved some Romano Peccorino cheese.

While Suzette sautéed the steak in a pan, I poured glasses of the Chianti opened for lunch and set the table near the fireplace and just after the end of half time we were eating our Cesar salads with steak.       

After the game we were hungry for some dessert so I made chocolate chip cookies, but instead of two cups of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips I used one cup of chips and 1 cup of raisins and added ½ cup of barley flakes to two cups of flour.  I also used one cup of brown sugar and ½ cup of white sugar.  The cookies flattened somewhat but did not go completely limp.  They had a good chewy texture and the raisins and barley flakes provided the cookies a texture of both chocolate chip and raisin oatmeal cookies.  Very interesting

Bon Appètit