Tuesday, July 24, 2012

July 23, 2012 Dinner - Duck and Cous Cous Hash

I had only thirty minutes between trial and a meeting to prepare and eat dinner, so I went to the fridge and got out the two PPI cous cous dishes and PPI roast duck and stripped the meat off two wings and sautéed it in a skillet with the PPI duck fat from the roasting pan and threw in a cup of the cous cous, tomato, carrot, onion, garlic and kale mixture and sliced up three fingerling potatoes and as put in as much of the butter and parsley and chives as I could dig out of the duck meat PPI container and sautéed that for about five minutes until the duck skin began to crisp and the potatoes became slightly browned and we plated it up and drank beer with it for a quick 10 minute prep time dinner.

We ate PPI Clafoutis for dessert later in the evening.

Bon Appetit

July 22, 2012 Dinner – Roast Duck with caramelized white onion and lavender and boiled new potatoes

Suzette bought baby fingerling potatoes and onions at the Farmer’s Market.  We had thawed out a package of two duck halves from Costco ($13.95).  Suzette roasted the duck but she put water into the roasting pan and the duck was a little tough.   She boiled potatoes and I chopped chives and parsley and Suzette rolled the potatoes in some butter.  I sliced the onions thinly and Suzette sautéed them in butter and lavender.  

Suzette steamed snow peas and then tossed them with the lavender and onions.

We drank a bottle of Napa Cellars Napa valley Pinot Noir.  It had that heavy Napa body instead of the delicate, feminine northern California pinot noir body, but it went well with the strng herby flavor of the fresh lavender.  

Bon Appetit   

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 21, 2012 dinner - Stuffed Squash Blossoms and Corn on the Cob

We went in different directions today. Suzette went to the Farmer’s Market while I prepared for a trial and lunched on chirashi at Azuma with Karim Kassam  Karim and his wife are the leaders of the Ismaeli community in Albuquerque so I was pleased to learn a little bit about that sect of Islam.
After lunch I went to The Center for Ageless Living for a massage.  Suzette was preparing the pool deck for re-painting at 5:00 p.m, after which she was dirty and did not wish to eat at the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery, so we drove home.

When we got home Suzette said that she had purchased a bag of squash blossoms and ears of fresh corn at the Farmer’s Market an she suggested stuffing them and frying the squash blossoms and boiling the corn for a light dinner.
Suzette quickly found a recipe for stuffed squash blossoms on the internet.

The Batter

1 cup flour

½ cup cornstarch

½ tsp. salt

1 cup fat free chilled milk, beer or water (we used 2% milk)

Cheese-Mushroom Stuffing

¼ cup ricotta (we used California Goat cheese)

1 clove garlic (we used  fresh cloves)

¼  tsp. each salt and pepper

2 Tbsp mushrooms, finely chopped (we chopped 4 Tbsp.)

1 Tbsp. fresh basil, or parsley, minced

16 squash blossoms, washed

Canola oil for frying

Batter – sift together dry ingredients, whtn whisk with milk, beer or water until smooth.  Cover and set in fridge for 30 minutes.  Can be kept up to 2 days in fridge.
Stuffing – combine cheese, garlic, salt pepper, mushrooms and basil.  Open blossoms and spoon about 1/2 tsp. (we put about 1 tsp. in each) of mixture into center of each.  Avoid over filling the blossoms. Twist the top of each blossom together to close.  Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Pour oil into skillet to a depth of ½ inch. Heat over high heat until a small cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown within seconds.

Briefly dip each stuffed blossom into the batter, then carefully slip into the hot oil.
Cook until golden on all sides, about three minutes total cooking time. Add only as many blossoms at a time as will comfortably fit in the skillet.  Transfer with a slotted utensil to paper towels to drain briefly.

While  the squash blossoms were cooking I gathered a handful of basil leaves from the garden and sliced fresh yellow and red tomatoes that had been grown in Suzette’s garden and she bought at the Farmer’s Market and made an arrangement of eight slices of tomato on a plate with a basil leaf on each.  When the 16 squash blossoms were all cooked we put a squash blossom on each leaf of basil and then Suzette drizzled them with balsamic vinegar like a caprese salad with 8 per plate and put an ear of corn on each plate.  I cut a few slices of apple to garnish each plate.
I opened a bottle of Toulouse Rosé of Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, California and we enjoyed an elegant vegetarian meal.

Bon Appétit


July 19, 2012 Dinner – PPI Veal Stroganff and Kale on Spaghetti

            We were both tired so Suzette made a simple sautéed single dish by combining PPI Veal Stroganoff with the PPI spaghetti and three cups of fresh kale from the garden.

            We drank a bottle of California Fog Head Pinot Noir, which was a big wine, which I do not think worked that well with the cream sauce of the stroganoff, but was great with the brie on bread after dinner.

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

July 17, 2012 Dinner – Veal Stroganoff with Spaghetti

        Another night with no prior plan for dinner.  At around 6:30 p.m. we started to put together a dinner plan.  Suzette had bought fresh oyster and button mushrooms at Ta Lin and so we decided to thaw out a lb. of veal stew meat and make stroganoff. 

1 lb. veal stew meat (Alpine Sausage Kitchen $6.99/lb.) in ½ inch cubes
2 Tbsp. olive oil and 2 Tbsp. butter

½ medium red onion, diced

5 cloves of fresh garlic, minced finely

¼ cup sour cream (crema sin sal from Pro’s Market)

¼  cup of heavy cream

¼ cup of Chicken stock

¼ cup of white wine (Chardonnay)
1/3 cup of sliced oyster mushrooms

1/3 cup of button mushrooms
1 medium tomato, chopped.

6 large Italian basil leaves, sliced thinly
5 leaves of sage, sliced thinly

Salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. PPI Spaghetti

The veal stew meat was end cuts, so many pieces had silver skin and tendons in them and had to be butchered to remove those unpleasant bits from the meat.  I did that and then diced the onion and minced the garlic and diced the tomato as Suzette chopped the mushrooms.
After we both diced and chopped the ingredients, Suzette first sautéed the veal with the onions and garlic in 1 Tbsp. each of butter and olive oil in a large skillet and then added all the other ingredients to the skillet while I heated the spaghetti in the microwave and went to the garden to pick the herbs and then slice them.  When the stroganoff had cooked for about fifteen minutes and the sauce thickened somewhat, I went to the fridge in the basement to fetch a bottle of wine.  We did not have a chilled bottle of Austrian white, so I selected a California Gnarly Head 2010 Pinot Grigio.
We then plated the pasta in large pasta bowls and spooned the stroganoff mixture over the pasta and garnished the plates with the sliced fresh herbs.  The sage was a little tough until the heat of the sauce cooked it a bit and softened it, but the fresh basil was lovely.
The wine had that slightly musty California grape aftertaste, but also that slightly fruity brightness that is common to Pinot Grigio.  The wine well suited the dish well and was probably the closest choice we had to an Austrian white. 

For dessert I had Rocky Road ice cream with the last of last year’s fruit cake with whip cream and a dossing of rum and orange liquor. Suzette had fresh green figs stuffed with goat cheese and a dossing of Balsamic Vinegar.

Bon Appétit

July 16, 2012 Dinner - Surf and Turf Burrito

We have not been to the store for days and there were not a lot of new ingredients, so while I was working with a client until after 7:00 p.m., Suzette went to the fridge and put together a PPI masterpiece; as often happens in such circumstances.
She sautéed the PPI steak, Mexican squash, onion, garlic, oregano and verdelagos sauté dish with about ½ lb. of PPI grilled Halibut from Friday’s dinner and flavored it with about 1 Tbsp. of Cervantes Red Chili Sauce, then heated flour tortillas and stuffed them with the mixture to make two delicious Surf and Turf Burritos. 
We opened a bottle of La Ferme Julien Rosé 2010.
La Ferme Julien is one of my favorite rosés.  It was on the Wine Spectator top twenty rosés list a few years ago and sells for about $6.00 at Trader Joe’s.  It is a Rhone Valley Appellation Ventoux Contrôlée blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah grapes grown in the vineyards of the famous Perrin Family holdings high on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, where some of the best wines in the Rhône are produced.
So, Suzette did what she usually does so well, which is to cook the food, making a quick, tasty dinner without having to do any of the prep functions that I usually do by combining two PPI’s.
What a pleasant experience to stand up from my work area, say goodnight to my client and walk to the dinner table to be welcomed by an interesting new dish, a grilled steak and halibut filled burrito.
When combined with a great bottle of wine, it made a memorable dinner. 
Thanks to Suzette for seeing the possibilities of amplifying a Mexican influenced dish with fish to create a great Mexican dish.

Bon Appétit

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 13, 2012 Anatolia Doner Kebab House; Dinner - Grilled Halibut and Cous Cous with vegetables

July 13, 2012 Anatolia Doner Kebab House; Dinner - Grilled Halibut and Cous Cous with vegetables

I went to the Anatolia Doner Kebab House for a late lunch.  It is the new Turkish restaurant in downtown Albuquerque located at 521 Central NW, actually one-half block north of the north east corner of 6th and Central.  The entire menu consists of kebabs and side dishes and several sandwiches made with kebab.
I sat in a comfortable booth where I could observe the kitchen action and noted on the chalk board of daily specials that a plate of Adana Shish Kebab (Spicy Ground Beef) for $5.99 instead of the usual $7.95 

Since I had never had Adana, I ordered it.  After a few minutes I saw the chef in the kitchen take two  balls of meat and a sword and impale the meat balls on the sword and then watched him shape the balls into long flattened shapes that paralleled but covered the sword’s blade.  In another fifteen or twenty minutes a platter was served with the two elongated adanas on a bed of rice with salad and a small plastic dish with cacik (yogurt sauce or tzatziki in Greek) with almost the same pronunciation as the Greek sauce).

The first bite of the Adana Shish Kebab I got imparted a powerful spicy taste of red bell peppers and chili, so I was glad to have a dish of cacik to cover up some of some of the spiciness of the meat.  The meat was cooked on the outside to a dark brown as if grilled over live coals but the center of the meat was red and tender and looked uncooked but it was cooked because of the heat transfer through the sword.  The salad was also pleasant to eat with bites of the meat.   I really liked the dish and it was a wonderful way of cooking like the new method of cooking lamb chops we recently adopted to cook the chops on the flat bone end first, that transmits heat into the center of the chop through the bone.   Also I was amazed that Turkish Cuisine still honor the tradition of shish kebab of cooking the dinner on a sword over an open fire.  My prior meal at Anatolia was a special of a flattened grilled Chicken breast.  Try Anatolia.  You will like it.

Dinner – When I talked to Suzette in the afternoon, she said she was going to Costco, so I suggested that I would like something fishy for dinner.  When she arrived at home, she had two large halibut steaks and a bag of New Zealand cockles (small clams).  We decided to fix the halibut for dinner. 

When I asked Suzette what she wanted for a vegetable, she suggested cous cous with carrots and a tomato.  I suggested that we add a shallot to the cous cous for a bit of onion flavor.  So I started dicing two carrots and a large shallot and a medium tomato.  I put 2 cups of water in a pot and threw in the shallot.  I did not sauté the shallot and carrots in butter, as I usually do, because I was trying to reduce the butter in the dish.  I coked the shallot and carrots at medium high heat for about thirty minutes before adding the diced tomato and 1 cup of cous cous.   I simmered the cous cous for ten minutes at low temperature.   Then I threw in two Tbsp. of butter and turned off the heat. 
We melted two Tbsp. of butter in a pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then added 2 tsp. of fresh lemon juice that Suzette brushed onto the halibut steaks.  We then placed slices of lemon on the halibut and Suzette grilled the halibut until the meat was just opaque but still flaked.

I then flaked the cous cous and sit was cooked and little moist but still delicious.  We drank glasses of Seaglass Pinot Gris from Santa Barbara County, California.  The slightly sweet wine went well with the heavy grilled flakes of halibut and buttery cous cous.

I loved the moist halibut flakes with the moist cous cous.

We saved one-half of the halibut steaks for a fish soup using the clam broth we planned to cook on Saturday evening.

Bon Appétit        

July 14, 2012 A magical day of food

July 14, 2012 A magical day of food    Breakfast – Greek yogurt with white grapes and strawberries, Lunch – Book Signing and Georgia O’Keefe luncheon, Dinner –Cockles with herbs and kale and spaghetti

I rode 18 miles and tired but not sore, I gobbled a bowl of strawberries and white grapes and Greek yogurt.

I then showered and dressed and drove to the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery at the Center for Ageless Living for Margaret Wood’s book signing and lunch commencing at 10:30 a.m.  When I arrived I was amazed that the Bistro was full of people.  There were 27 reservations.  At the table with Margaret was Wanda, her friend who had worked for Georgia O’Keefe in 1978 and also wove with Margaret for Janusz and Nancy Kuzikowski’s tapestry workshop in Santa Fe for several years.  If we think in terms of degrees of separation, suppose I have four degrees of separation from Margaret.  I was married to Amy, who was best friends with Marilyn Maxwell, who had a house on Canyon Road in Santa Fe and was friends with Ernesto Mayans and collected and was friends with David Barbero, the artist, whose partner was Margaret Wood, with whom we would socialize when we were in Santa Fe in the late 70’s. 

Margaret is now a speech pathologist in Santa Fe and Suzette and I met her at an opening at Andrew Smith’s Gallery about 6 months ago and she mentioned that she had written a new book titled “Remembering Miss O’Keefe”.  When we knew her in the 70’s Margaret had previously given Amy and me a lovely cookbook she had written titled “A Painter’s Kitchen” with recipes from her five year period of being Georgia O’Keefe’s cook and companion from 1977 to 1982 in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. 

So when Margaret mentioned her new book Suzette mentioned the possibility of hosting a book singing and luncheon at the Bistro and viola, here we were.  Margaret spoke and then we sat down to lunch.  The first course was a salad made with a unique fresh beet and string bean salad dressing the combined a large array of herbs, including dill, basil, tarragon, and several other herbs.  The salad was delicious.

Margaret and Ann Setler, the Executive Chef of the Bistro, spoke before the courses.  Margaret said that Miss O’Keefe allowed Margaret to prepare all the recipes except for one of O’Keefe’s favorites, fresh garlic sandwiches, slices of freshly baked whole wheat baguette, slathered with butter, and then covered with thin slices of fresh garlic.

The second/main course was a plate with a wedge of twice ground beef meatloaf, with a twice baked potato stuffed with cheese and chips of crisp bacon and a pile of fresh steamed spinach.

I sat at the table with Margaret and Wanda and Margaret’s comment when she took her first bite of the steamed spinach was, “This is perfect.  Exactly like Miss O’Keefe liked it.”  A lovely compliment to the Bistro kitchen.

Dessert was a scoop of ice cream using O’Keefe’s recipe, cream, sugar and egg, stirred and then frozen.  It was not cooked and was both extremely rich and delicate.  It was served with a small mound of cooked Rhubarb, the way Miss O’Keefe liked it.  Miss O’Keefe liked fresh food, simply prepared.  Perhaps that is how she lived to be 96.

After dessert and introducing the Bistro staff and Margaret did her book signing, and then, since Margaret had described in detail the extensive gardens that Miss O’Keefe maintained in Abiquiu,  Wanda, Margaret and I joined Suzette for a tour of the facility including the new certified organic garden.

I consider this a rare and wonderful event, joining the recognition of Margaret for her work and experiences with Georgia O’Keefe and her capturing for us all her remembrances of that time in well done job of writing with the fruition of Suzette’s vision of a sustainable community for ageing with its extensive gardens including an emphasis on delicious food prepared with fresh ingredients from the garden.  Margaret told Suzette that there had been a similar, but more expensive lunch and book signing in Santa Fe, at which the food was not as good or as true to the spirit of cuisine that Miss O’Keefe adhered to.  Margaret mentioned that Miss O’Keefe adhered to the principles of Adele Davis and others who emphasized fresh natural ingredients.

When Suzette arrived at home around five we were still confronted by a large bowl of cockles that had to be eaten.  We cooked one of our favorite recipes, cockles on spaghetti.  I fetched an open bottle of Pinot Grigio and chopped up about two Tbsp. of fresh garlic and 1 Tbsp. of thyme and 1½ Tbsp. of fresh basil and 1 Tbsp. of tarragon and two cups of kale from the garden.  The Suzette steamed open the cockles in a broth of water, wine and butter, and then added the herbs and kale to the broth and cooked that while we boiled ½ lb. of spaghetti. 

When the spaghetti was cooked to soft and the vegetables cooked in the broth we plated up pasta bowls with spaghetti and then covered the spaghetti with clams and the kale herb broth.

In honor of our impending trip to the Loire region of France in August I opened a bottle of 2007 Chateau de La Fessardiére Muscadet “Climat” that we had bought at Kokoman in 2011 ($14.95).  The wine was tangy and dry and perfect with the delicate clams and kale in the lightly herbed broth.  I can hardly wait to taste the seafood along the Atlantic coastal where the Loire empties into the Atlantic with the fresh Muscadet of that region.

Bon Appétit 




July 15, 2012 Dinner – Apple Tree Strawberry Soup with La Chiripada Embudo Blanc Apple Wine

After prepping for the Garden Tour at around 9:00 am for breakfast, I made open faced sandwiches on slices of German Sourdough Rye bread toasted and smeared cream cheese and then slices of gravad lax and red onion and garnished with capers.  Suzette added slices of tomato to hers.

After we hosted a garden tour of our new garden today, at around 2:30 p.m. we went to Anatolia Doner Shish Kabob Restaurant at 521 Central N. with Max and Jane Phillips for a late lunch.  We shared a plate of delicious house made dolmas having a core of firm olive oil soaked rice.  Max and Jane shared a vegetarian plate loaded with hummus, Greek Salad, dolmas, olives, falafels, a spinach pie and cacik and Suzette and I shared a chicken shish Kabob platter with rice, salad garnished with marinated red onions and cicak (yogurt and cucumber dressing).  The chicken had been rubbed with a spice mixture and then cooked on the grill under some weight because the chicken meat seemed pressed and the herbs driven into the meat. 

After 6:00 p.m. when Suzette suggested that she make cold strawberry soup for dinner I was happy to not have to cook and to not have a big meal.  She used the now closed Taos restaurant, Apple Tree’s, recipe, blending in a Cuisinart strawberries, crème fraise (actually crema from Pro’s Ranch Market), apple wine, ground pecans, and triple sec liquor.  We garnished the bowls with fresh mint leaves.

Suzette said, “How about some cheese?” and I gladly agreed.  So she brought a loaf of blue cheese to the table with the bowls of soup and slices of toasted bolillo, that we smeared with butter and blue cheese and drank glasses of apple wine.  After she finished her soup, Suzette finished her last bite of cheese with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.   

Just another day of exceptionally delicious food.

Bon Appétit

Friday, July 13, 2012

June 11, 2012 Hamburger steak with blue cheese and sautéed onions

June 11, 2012 Hamburger steak with blue cheese and sautéed onions
I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely cooked hamburger coated with blue cheese in a skillet with a mound of soft carmelized onnions awaiting my arrival from meditation at around 8:30 p.m.   Suzette plated the hamburger steak garnished with the sauteed onions with a pile of salad garnished with a scoop of tabouli and tomato slices.  We each crumbled a little more blue cheese on the top of the onions and ate heartily with glasses of Stewart Nomad Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.   
Bon Appétit

July 12, 2012 Dinner – Mexican Beef Stir Fry with Verdelagos

July 12, 2012 Dinner – Mexican Beef Stir Fry with Verdelagos
With the start of the Monsoon Season, the verdelagos is starting to grow outside by the air conditioner again.  I told myself I would try to use it when it was fresh this year, so I diced three small Mexican squashes, one medium white onion, a handful of oregano sprigs, 2 to 3 Tbsp. of fresh garlic and picked a small handful of fresh verdelagos leaves.  I then cut a boneless rib eye steak into ¼ by 1 inch cubes.  This is a dish similar to the one I cooked last year form Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen cookbook that combined green chili, onion and tomatillos with verdelagos into a stew.

I like Verdelagos because it is a member of the arameth family and full of nutrients.
I heated 2 Tbsp.  of Canola oil and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a wok and then put in 1 Tbsp. of garlic to release its fragrance and cooked it for about 1 minute, then I stir fried the meat in the wok with the garlic and hot oil for about 2 or 3 minutes until it began to brown.  I then removed the meat and left as much garlic as I could and put the vegetable mixture into the wok to cook over medium high heat.  After the vegetables had cooked for about twenty minutes or until they had softened and began to give back moisture, I added 2 to 3 Tbsp. of Victoria Green Taco Sauce and 1 tsp. of Chulula red chili Sauce to the vegetable mixture and covered the wok and let cook another ten minutes.  Then I put the meat and some more verdelagos and 1 tsp. of salt and a dash of fresh pepper on top of the vegetable mixture in the wok and  let that cook for five more minutes, while I heated 1 ½ cup of cooked rice in the microwave.  When the ice was hot, I stirred the meat and vegetable mixture together and put rice into bowls and then covered it with the mixture.   Suzette had just bought a lovely slicing tomato at the Nob Hill Farmers' Market so she sliced the tomato and we had a lovely nutritious dinner.
I was hot and steamy today and I had sweated some so I wanted a cold red wine.  I went to the basement and found a bottle of Nozzole Chianti Classico Reserva 2008 that I had bought at Jimmies in Dallas for $19.99 in our wine refrigerator.   The label indicates that the Nozzole vineyard is located in the heart of the Chianti wine district and has been in production since the 1200’s.  The Reserva wine is aged sangiovese and had a firm smooth taste.  Suzette drank it cool, but it was not cold enough for me and I added a cube of ice to it, which did not diminish its strength and aged character dramatically.

The cool wine with the hot food and rice was a nice combination and I ate a big bowl of food.

Later in the evening we scooped Rocky Road ice cream and fresh sliced strawberries into a bowl and drizzled it with chocolate syrup and whipped cream and poured glasses of cognac (with Cointreau for me) for dessert.  I am looking forward to visiting the Cointreau plant in Angers, France in August.
Bon Appétit

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 9, 2012 Dinner – Eggplant with Garlic Sauce and Steamed Snow Peas

Suzette gave me a lovely cookbook for Christmas, “Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo.  We have come to love her recipe for Eggplant with Garlic Sauce on page 169.

Most of her recipes involve adding a delicately flavored sauce to cooked ingredients and this recipe is no exception.


1 Tbsp. dark Soy Sauce

2 tsp. Oyster Sauce

1 tsp. white rice vinegar

1/2 tsp. Shaoxing wine

½ tsp  pepper flakes from hot Chili oil

2 tsp. sugar

½ tsp. of cornstarch mixed with  2 tsp. Chicken Stock

¼ tsp. salt


1 lb. of eggplants (if using large Western eggplant with thick skins, peeled) cut into ½ inch wide strips)

2 tsp. mince garlic

2 - 3 Tbsp. of peanut oil (the original recipe calls for 4 cups of peanut oil)

Our adjustments.  

We had 1 ½ lb. of small thin skinned Ichiban Japanese eggplants (Ta Lin - $1.49/lb.), so we left the skins on.  I chopped 2 Tbsp. of fresh garlic from our garden.  I reduced the amount of pepper flakes and I roughly estimated, rather than measured, the sauce ingredients as I mixed them in a bowl.  We had PPI roast chicken from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery, so I sliced about 1 lb. of chicken. 

Preparation – (paraphrasing Lo) We do not like a lot of oil so Suzette stir fried the eggplant strips in about 2 - 3 Tbsp. of peanut oil until they softened and were cooked.  When they were cooked she removed the eggplant and drained the grease from them on a paper towel laid in a bowl.

When the eggplant was cooked we added enough oil to make 1 ½ Tbsp of oil in the wok and heated it and then added the garlic and cooked it for 35 seconds to release its fragrance.  Then we returned the eggplant and the chicken to the wok and stir fried it for another 1 ½ to 2 minutes until it was well mixed with the garlic.

Make a well in the center of the mixture, stir the sauce and pour it into the well.  Stir the mix well for about 2 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

The recipe calls for serving with steamed breads, but we made steamed basmati rice, instead.

This is currently one of our favorite Chinese dishes.  If you like eggplant and spicy flavors, you will love it.

I buy all the Oriental ingredients at Ta Lin.  It took a while to figure out the dark soy sauce, but I finally settled on Lee Kum Kee’s Premium Dark Soy Sauce, which a helpful oriental woman at Ta Lin said was the correct thickness of soy for the recipe.

The aspect of Lo’s recipes that I like the best is their delicate fragrance.  They seem to be more aromatic and taste lighter and cleaner than other Chinese recipes I have cooked in the past.   I highly recommend her “Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking” cookbook, although she has authored several other cookbooks, which I have not tried yet.

We steamed Snow peas and, when the eggplant had thickened we plated up the dishes with rice covered with the eggplant dish with a pile of steamed snow peas on the side and drank beer with the really delicate and delicious, yet spicy, dinner.

Bon Appétit    

July 10, 2012 Lunch - Tabouli Salad; Dinner - Avocado stuffed with Lobster and Smoked Salmon Salad

For lunch I filled a pasta bowl full of organic baby greens and then put the PPI steamed Snow Peas on top with 1 tomato diced and three Tbsp. of diced white onion and 2/3 cup of tabouli and three Tbsp of olive oil and juice of 1/2 lime and about 8 dried Moroccan black olives and one scallion.  I then sliced and laid several slices of Manchego cheese on a slice of toasted German Sourdogh Rye bread and toasted it again in the microwave to melt the cheese into the bread for an interesting and healthy lunch.
We had 1/2 cup of PPI lobster and about 1/3 lb. of Smoked Salmon (Gravad Lax).  Last Thursday I bought two large avocados ($.89 each)  and bolillos (4 for $1.00) at Pro’s Market.  Also, last Friday I purchased a 1 lb. container of organic baby greens at Costco ($3.79) and we made PPI basil infused olive oil, finely sliced fresh fennel slices, and an orange juice and mayonnaise dressing for the appetizer for Mike’s BD Party.   So we did not need to do anything to prep for dinner tonight except peel the avocados, dice a tomato and section an orange, to make new orange slices, for our fabulous dinner salad tonight.

Suzette assembled the salad plates by first laying a bed of organic greens on a plate and then a one half and a ¼ wedge of avocado on each plate.  Then she tossed the lobster and salmon in the orange mayonnaise dressing with a few squirts of basil olive oil and laid that on the wedges of avocado and garnished with cubes of diced tomato and slices of fennel and orange.

We ate warm toasted slices of bolillos and drank glasses of 2010 Doña Paula Estate Torrontés from Valle de Cafayate-Salta, Argentina, a clean, slightly sweet and very fruity white wine with the salad.  

After dinner while Suzette watered the garden, I split open 8 green figs we had bought at Trader Joe’s 10 days ago by cutting off their stems at the top to expose their soft white flesh and making two crisscross incisions deep into the flesh and stuffing them with bits of fresh California goat cheese we purchased at Costco ($4.89).

I fetched a chilled 375 cl. bottle of White Port from Wellington Vineyards that we must have purchased at least ten years ago.  After the plants were watered we sat in the garden and ate the goat cheese stuffed fresh figs and sipped glasses of white port.  The port was a little over the hill, which means that some of its overt sweetness had turned into a sherry like nuttiness.  It was interesting but a little bitter on the back of the tongue.   Suzette suggested we use it to cook a fruit, which I agreed was a great idea, although we  drank about half of the bottle of port as we sat and enjoyed the cool evening as darkness fell over the garden.

 Bon Appétit

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 7, 2012 Lobster Bisque with toasted cheese sandwiches

We are into our lobster cycle.  That starts with one large lobster.  In this case a 3 lb. lobster from Ta Lin.  The first night, July 4th, we broiled the lobster with butter and lemon slices and each ate one-half of the tail.  The second night, July 5th, Suzette and Mellissa, ate the large claws with tabouli salad.  The third step is that I picked the meat out of the smaller claws and removed the hairy gills and I then  made a stock with the shell and meaty scraps that were left.  I left out two critical steps this time, which was to roast the shell parts in the oven and to put some white wine into the stock.  Instead  I made the traditional mirepoix, slicing up one medium onion, two cloves of garlic, three carrots and  about ½ cup of fennel bulb and simmering that mixture with the lobster shell parts for about 1 ½ hour. 

 The lobster bisque we used is a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook.  The body of the soup is a cream sauce made with 6 cups of lobster stock and a roux made with 4 Tbsp. of butter and ½ cup of rice or potato flour.  Since our stock did not have as much flavor because of the lack of roasting and white wine, we improvised by adding only 5 cups of stock and then adding about ½ cup of amontillado sherry and salt and white pepper and a dash of nutmeg and a dash of paprika.  After about 45 minutes of constant stirring the soup base thickened and we added 1/ 3 cup of lobster meat and ¼ cup of heavy cream and 2 Tbsp. of cognac.  Finally, the soup tasted delicious.  So I opened a bottle of Wellington 2009 Marssane and made toasted cheese sandwiches with Dubliner Cheddar Cheese on slices of German Sourdough rye bread.

Later in the evening I ate a slice of BD cake with Rocky Road ice cream.

We still have about 1/3 cup of lobster meat for a lobster and salmon omelet and ½ of the stock, so the general rule that one can make four meals from one lobster is still correct: roasted, salad, bisque and omelet, which makes that $35.00 price tag look a lot better.

Bon Appétit

July 6, 2012 Dinner – BD Party at Lisa and Mike’s Gravad lax salad and Vegetarian penne pasta

It was Mike’s BD on Friday and we had discussed having a party, especially since Kipp and Jean Claude were in town from France.  As it turned out another friend of theirs, Michel, was also visiting the States with them and there was a total of 10 around the dinner table in the garden. 

We brought lovely wines, a Chateau Ott and an Elk Cove Pinot Gris.  The Chateau ott is a rose from Bandol and considered one of the best roses in the world.  The Elk Cove was amazing; crisp and fruity with no residual bitterness or tannin after taste.  Kipp loved it.

The French guys liked the smooth Chateau Ott also.  Jean Claude brought a small vineyard mixture of sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and chinen blanc from Tournaise; the region his family is from and where they retain their family home.  I had forgotten that the French are always connected to the their family’s region of origen although they often work and live most of the time in Paris, as do both Jean Claude and Michel.  So when Michel invited us to visit him if we visit the south of France, he means that his family was from the South of France and they have retained their family ties to that region and they spend their weekends and holidays in the South of France the way Lisa and Mike maintain a house in Taos.   

 Others brought wonderful wines, Lisa and Mike opened a magnum of premier Cru Chablis and for dinner Lisa opened a number of great reserve Rioja reds from Ray Vigil’s Iberian Imports. 

The diner was quite simple.  Lisa had coated three logs of goat cheese with coatings like blue berries and red chili and there was a plate of shrimp.

Then Suzette and I made a salad appetizer with baby greens from Costco on which we laid slices of gravid lax and orange and fresh thinly shaved fennel and then we drizzled the salad with basil infused olive oil and an orange and mayonnaise dressing.

This salad was discovered by us in Chicago at a wonderful Italian restaurant across the street from the Drake Hotel called Spiagia.  I had made the gravid lax with the King Salmon from Ta Lin ($5.95/lb.), so it was soft and tender and we had zested orange peel into the sugar and salt mixture. 

Gravad Lax

1 3 lb. piece of fresh never frozen salmon, fileted with the skin on and descaled

2/3 cup salt

½ cup sugar

1 tsp. finely crushed fresh black  pepper

2 bunches fresh dill weed

Zest of one orange

Remove the back bone and flippers from the fish.  Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl

Use  a  pyrex dish that will hold it snuggly and is deep enough to hold the fish and all the liquid that will be produced.  Lay a layer of fresh dill in the bottom of the dish.  Then coat the outside of one of the two salmon filets with dry mixture and lay the outside side down on the layer of dill.  Then coat the inside of that filet with the mixture and a layer of dill.  Then coat the inside of the other filet with mixture and lay it on the filet side already in the dish so they are mirror images of each other then put the rest of the mixture on top of the second filet and add a layer of dill.   I usually cover the dish with saran and then weigh the salmon down with bricks to compress the fish into the mixture.  I put it in the fridge for 12 and then turn it and let it sit for an additional 12 hours so both sides will be submerged in the liquid produced by the curing, although you can cure for longer periods of time.  I actually did the salmon for this dinner party 36 hours.

When the fish is cured, I washed the curing medium and dill and pepper off the fish, patted it dry and wrapped it in saran and kept it in the fridge.

Dressing -  the traditional dressing is Swedish mustard and olive oil and a bit of sugar to taste.

In this dish we made a basil infused olive oil by blanching fresh basil leaves for a couple of minutes and then processing them in a Waring blender with olive oil for a few seconds until the leaves had been slashed into thin pieces.  We poured the infused olive oil into plastic bottles with spouts, so we could squeeze it out easily.

Suzette did the same for the orange/mayonnaise dressing.  She squeezed fresh orange juice and mixed it with mayonnaise into a smooth, creamy consistency and put it into a plastic squeeze bottle.  We bought a plastic carton of fresh fennel bulbs at Trader Joe’s on the Saturday before the party, so I simply cut the leaves off the base of one of the bulbs and thinly sliced the leaves into thin strips with a vegetable peeler.  

Suzette sliced one of the cured salmon filets into slices a little less than ¼ inch in thickness by placing the skin side down on a wooden board and slicing  through the meat to the skin and then turning the knife and  pushing the flesh away from the skin.

We assembled the dish by laying a mound of fresh baby greens on each plate, then four slices of salmon and three or four slices of orange, then five or six slices of fresh fennel and then a drizzle of orange mayonnaise and a drizzle of basil olive oil.

I drank Elk Cove Pinot Gris with my salad and loved it. 

Lisa made the main course which was Penne pasta tossed with a vegetable mixture that included red chard, pesto, mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers and small tomatoes that she had sautéed.  The dish was amazingly delicious.  Lisa is what I call a natural Italian Cook.  Her lineage is Italian on one side of her family and she has an instinct for cooking Italian that one who is not raised in an Italian family will never have.  She continues to amaze me with her skill and dexterity.  This meal for example was cooked after a day of hard work as a lawyer,  she had the ingredients prepped and just threw them into a pan and cooked them quickly and tossed them with the penna for a hot fresh delicious pasta diah.

The light but earthy red Rioja tempranillos went well with the vegetable mixture.

For dessert we had a Costco Apple pie with Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream.    Costco Apple pie seems to be the dessert of the season.  Lisa and Mike served the dessert with Chevaulier? Sauternes from Trader Joe’s ($12.95). This meal is a great example of how one can create a delightful dinner party without spending hours in the kitchen.  It takes some shopping and prep time, but the final cooking time is quick and easy.

The secret to the fun of this evening was the wide assortment of lovely wines and interesting people.  Another friend named Janet also had a BD, so three of the 10 people were BD celebrants.

A fun evening dinner party in the garden with pleasant talk and wine and food that was not at all heavy.

Bon Appétit

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 4, 2012 Broiled Lobster with Creamed Spinach and Mushrooms

Suzette bought a 3 lb. lobster for my BD, but we grilled lamb chops for Charlie Palmer last night.  We boiled the lobster on Tuesday and put it in the fridge.  Today I split the lobster open from head to tail and we stuffed slices of butter and lemon into the crack in the middle and broiled the lobster in a 500° F. oven about three inches from the overhead heat source.

I stemmed about three cups of spinach and sliced three large white mushrooms and a large shallot and 1 clove of fresh garlic and we sautéed the shallot and garlic and mushrooms in a couple of Tbsp. of butter and olive oil.  After the mushroom and shallot mixture had cooked for a few minutes to soften, we threw in the washed spinach and covered to steam the spinach   Suzette made a roux with 2 Tbsp. of flour and three Tbsp. of butter.  We then added the roux to the skillet with the vegetables.  It was a little thick so we added about 3 Tbsp. of  Amontillado Sherry.

When the Lobster had broiled about ten minutes, we plated up one half of the tail section of lobster and a puddle of the creamed plates on each plate and opened a bottle of Wellington Sauvignon Blanc 2008.  Wellington is the only Vineyard we are members of, because all of their wines are well made and they have a good variety of wines.  I am particularly fond of their Rhone style whites, like Rousanne and Marssane.

After Dinner we went to Marble Brewery to hear the Rio Grande Family Band.  Suzette is looking for a band to play at her 25th Anniversary celebration in September.  The evening was cool and we enjoyed a glass of pilsner ($4.00/pint).

After we arrived home we watched the amazing Macy’s Fireworks display and ate BD cake with Rocky Road Ice Cream.

Simple, but festive.

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

July 2, 2012 Dinner - Sauteed Italian Sausages with fresh corn and sliced tomatoes and artichokes

July 2, 2012 Dinner - Sauteed Italian Sausages with fresh corn and sliced tomatoes and artichokes

I went to Pro’s Ranch Market for eggs and milk and yogurt and bought beautiful large slicing tomatoes ($.89/lb.), large limes ($.50/lb.), Mexican squash ($.50/lb.), fresh red cherries ($.99/lb.) and bolillos (4 for $1.00).

I called Suzette and she agreed to let me cook sausages. It was still around 100°F. at around 6:00 when Suzette arrived home, so we fired up a pot of water and dropped the sausages into the water with the three ears of white corn I had bought at Pro’s.  When the sausages were cooked, we put them into a skillet with olive oil and sautéed them until they took on color. 

I made a simple sauce for the artichoke of mayonnaise, juice of ½ lemon, a Tbsp. of fresh chopped tarragon, 1 tsp. of dry dill weed, a dash of tarragon vinegar, and a dash of olive oil. We served the artichokes with the mayonnaise sauce and then served the sausages and ketchup and mustard and dipped the tomatoes into the mayonnaise sauce with ketchup added and ate the corn laced with butter and drank beers for a cool Summer picnicky meal.

We had cooked the artichokes for only 1 hour and we both agreed that they were much more tender when cooked for two hours.

Bon Appetit

July 1, 2012 Dinner – Shrimp Etoufee on PPI Penna Pasta

July 1, 2012 Dinner – Shrimp Etoufee on Penna Pasta

We had worked in the yard and then went to Trader Joe’s and bought glove artichokes, a bottle of cognac, and toiletries for the trip.

When we got home I boiled the artichokes.

With the temperature around 100°F at 6:00 p.m., we were not excited to cook a big multicourse meal.  We had lots of great vegetables that needed to be cooked, so I made a mild version of Paul Prudhomme’s Shrimp Etoufee. 

2 tomatoes, diced
¾ cup red bell pepper, diced
¾ cup celery, diced
¾ cup onion diced
3 cloves of garlic finely minced
½ cup of fresh kale

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter

1 1/2 cups of white medium shrimp, peeled

2 Tbsp. flour

4 Tbsp butter

dash of salt

18 to 22 ounces clam juice

white pepper to taste

paprika to taste

1 Tbsp. fresh thyme

1 cup of penna pasta, boiled

I sautéed the tomatoes, onion, celery thyme, white pepper, paprika and garlic in olive oil and butter.  After the vegetables had softened (about fifteen minutes) I added the 11 ½ cups of shrimp to the vegetables’ skillet and cooked until it turned from translucent to white/pink. 

Then in another pan Suzette made a roux with the 2 Tbsp of flour and 4 ounces of butter.  When that had cooked a minute or two and taken on a bit of color, we added the clam juice slowly while stirring to avoid lumps and more white pepper.  When the sauce was smooth and hot we added the shrimp and vegetable mixture and then stirred in the kale to cook lightly.

We served the one dish meal over microwaved PPI penna pasta and drank glasses of Gott Napa Valley Riesling for a fresh seafood pasta dinner.  If I had to do the dish again I would have added saffron and made it more Spanish.  It lacked a spicy zip, so we should have tasted the vegetable mixture and added more paprika or some cayenne as Prudhomme does to his dishes.  As it was, it was rich and creamy like a good pasta dish with a French mousseline sauce.

Bon Appétit

July 3, 2012 Grill Lamb chops and tabouli and BD cake

Suzette took me to lunch for my BD at Chez Alex.  The restaurant serves a luncheon special of an appetizer or salad with either a quiche or crepe for $9.99.  I ordered the cold carrot soup had the salmon crepe.  Suzette ordered the hot fresh green pea soup and crab quiche.  The green pea soup was the best dish.  It had a goodly proportion of leek and the peas had a little grit and bite on the tongue.  Suzette celebrated the approach of our trip to France with a glass of Vouvry and I had a glass of Rhone rose ($8.00 each glass).  The meal was just okay, but better than a hamburger and fries.  My salmon was overcooked and grey in color.  The crepe was soft and the Swiss cheese melted on top just okay.  The carrot soup was watery and without much flavor.  I had a Cuisine Minceur déjà vu moment as I spooned it into my mouth.

I went to an appointment and on the way home stopped at Pastians to buy a loaf of German sourdough rye and a 9 grain loaf and saw a lovely chocolate cake that I just had to buy for dinner.  I then stopped at Lowe’s market for tomatoes (vine ripe clusters for $.69/lb.) and powdered sugar.

When I got home around I had another litigation related emergency that I had to take care of that took until

We had invited Charlie Palmer down for dinner at so I started making tabouli when I returned home.

Tabouli recipe

1 cup #2 Bulgur wheat, covered with water in a bowl for 1 hour and then drained

1/3 to ½ cup of olive oil, Nomads’ Moroccan

1 large lemon, juice

1 bunch, parsley, chopped finely

¼ to ½ cup fresh mint, chopped finely

2 medium tomatoes, diced 

1 cucumber, peeled and diced

3 green onions, minced.

1 clove garlic, pressed

½ tsp. salt

Making the tabouli is a cumulative process.  After draining the excess water off the bulgur after it soaks for one hour, add the olive oil and lemon juice and then add the other ingredients.  Mix and serve.

We grilled the lamb chops using the Mike Verhagen method of cooking them on the center bone side first and then on each side for about 4 minutes per side.  The result is a more uniformly cooked meat that is moist and tender.  Suzette is not sold on this method yet, because she likes to see a line of red in the middle and that does not occur with this method.

We drank Burgess Merlot with the dinner and cabernet sauvignon with the chocolate cake.

I loved my simple, fresh and wonderful BD dinner.

Bon Appétit   

Monday, July 2, 2012

June 30, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Chicken, asparagus, roasted minted potatoes and Moroccan melon salad

June 30, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Chicken, asparagus, roasted minted potatoes and Moroccan melon salad

Max worked on the house most of the day.  At around 5:00 p.m. we decided to prepare dinner.  I had purchased Moroccan semi dried black olives at Istanbul Market on Thursday, so we decided to make a melon salad with mint and black olives.

Suzette had brought home a roasted chicken from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery and I had a hankering for roasted potatoes, so I cut up four Russet potatoes into large cubes and peeled and sectioned five or six shallots and about five or six cloves of garlic from our garden and put those into a ceramic baking dish and Suzette tossed them with Moroccan olive oil. And we baked them in a 375˚F oven for 1 hour. 

I then cut up and balled honeydew melon and watermelon and we tossed it with chopped mint and ½ cup of black Moroccan semi dried olives for the melon salad.

We then snapped the ends off about fifteen asparagus and steamed them.  When the potatoes were cooked (soft to the touch of a fork), I chopped up about ½ cup of fresh mint leaves and Suzette tossed the potatoes with the mint while I sectioned and heated the chicken in the microwave.

We plated up and had a great meal with glasses of a really delicious Fog Head Sauvignon Blanc. 

Bon Appétit