Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 30, 2013 Dinner – Pork Fried Rice

I thawed out three boneless pork sirloin chops (Costco $2.99/lb.) during the day and planned to cook a simple dinner of grilled pork chops with steamed sugar snap peas (Costco $5.49/ 2 lb.) that we bought Monday night afte meditation.

When I arrived at 8:30 p.m. from meditating, Suzette did not want to cook. I said I would cook the pork chops and sugar snap peas.  She suggested Pork Fried Rice and I agreed, since Chinese cooking in a wok is usually my task.

So I de-stringed about 1 cup of the sugar snap peas, sliced ½ poblano pepper, four shitake mushrooms,  and three large 18 inch long Mexican green onions,  and then minced 1 Tbsp. of garlic and 1 1/2 Tbsp. of ginger and chopped up two pork chops.

I heated up my wok and added peanut oil and sesame oil.  Suzette then rallied and stirred up two eggs and fried them into a pancake in the wok.  After flipping the egg pancake to cook both sides, we removed the egg to a side plate and I poured in more sesame and peanut oil and put in the vegetables.  The pork was in a separate bowl and Suzette fried the pork in a separate skillet.

After the vegetables softened and cooked I added a dash each of Chinese Rice Cooking Wine, soy sauce, and mushroom soy and then added about 1 cup of PPI cooked basmati rice.   After that mixture cooked a bit we added the pork and stirred it in and cooked about 2 minutes more and we were ready to eat.

I asked Suzette if she wanted to add some Hoisin sauce to add flavor and sweetness and she said, “Yes”, so I squirted about 2 Tbsp. of Hoisin into the mix and stirred it in.  Then we spooned a pile of fried rice on each person’s plate.  Suzette drank a beer and I drank green tea.

 A very quick, delicious, fresh, hot meal.

Bon Appétit

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

January 28, 2013 Lunch - Miso Pho Noodle Soup; Dinner - Pizza

January 28, 2013 Lunch – Miso Pho Noodle Soup; Dinner – Pizza

I did not eat breakfast so at 11:00 I made a noodle soup with instant dashi, seshe seaweed, tofu, AkiMiso, Pho flavoring, two beef meatballs, six shrimps, 1 Tbsp. yellow onion, 1 Green onion, two shitake mushrooms sliced thinly, two slices of Lebanon bologna cut into strips, a large handful of spinach and rice wheat and buckwheat noodles.   Amazingly light and yet flavorful and full of noodles.  Quite different from the thin miso soup on finds in Japanese restaurants, more of a noodle shop kind of experience.

I guess David Chang is beginning to influence me from afar.  I am tired of thin watery flavorless soup.

Suzette arrived around 3:30 p.m. but we continued working until after 4:00.  At around 4:15 we drove to the Stihl repair shop and then to Costco where we bought sugar snap peas, coffee, a few other necessary household items, some chocolate covered almonds, bottle of Albarino, and a pizza.  We decided to not cook, but to prepare pizza and drink chianti for dinner.  There are three types of ready to bake pizzas at Costo, pepperoni, pepperoni and sausage, and five cheeses (all are $8.99 each).  We selected the five cheeses one because Suzette said she liked to garnish the pizza with her own favorite toppings.  I told her about how delicious the Lebanon Bologna (sent to us by her parents who live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for Christmas) was in the soup and she said she definitely wanted to use that and some mushrooms.  I said, “We have fresh Portabellas.” I also suggested onions but Suzette was not enthusiastic about onions.  

When we got home around 5:40 I sliced bologna, mushrooms and I told Suzette that we had large Mexican green onions (the Mexican green onions that are sold at Pro’s Ranch market are somewhere between a large green onion and a small onion.  They are about 18 inches long with a bulb at the bottom that is over 1 inch wide in diameter.  Grilled green onions are ubiquitous at taco stands in Western Mexico), which she gladly agreed to add.  After I had garnished the pizza and Suzette had pre-heated the oven to 400˚, in went the pizza.  After twelve to fifteen minutes the pizza was ready, so I went to the basement for a bottle of chianti (Trader Joe’s $5.99).  We got the pizza paddle and removed the pizza from the oven and got the pizza slicing wheel and cut the colorful pizza into eight large slices.  Spread with circles of from green to white onion, irregularly shaped thin slices of dark crimson Lebanon Bologna (that has a slightly sweet flavor and tastes and has the consistency of hard salami but with less fat) and triangular wedges of light brown portabella mushrooms on its white cheese background, the pizza resembled an abstract painting.  
Bon Appétit


Monday, January 28, 2013

January 27, 2013 Dinner – Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Guacamole

As I said in last Thursday’s blog, PPI corn tortillas from Christmas prompted me to buy, chicken, asadero cheese, Mexican squash, and roasted green chili at Pro’s Ranch market on Thursday. I had a stomach ache on Friday and Saturday from the rancid peanuts and 18 mile fast ride with Barry on Thursday, so I ate no dinner on Friday.  Suzette ate PPI curry with coconut flakes.  On Saturday I made Miso soup for lunch and we ate the last of the curry for dinner with pickle, chutney and pickle, and my stomach survived. 

By Sunday my legs were better and so was my appetite, but I still ate yogurt and fruit for breakfast while I watched Suzette make and eat a smoked pork chop and fried egg over easy.  

I ate a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch and rode 10 miles, so by dinner my body seemed to be back to normal. 

Suzette came home dead tired around 3:00 p.m. after a day of training a new cleaning person at her Spa and facility and rested for a while watching “Love it or List it” on the HGTV cable channel; then she took a shower to clean up and, like the super trooper she is, was ready started dinner.

We had invited the Palmers to dinner at 6:30 p.m., so at 4:45 p.m. we started dinner.

Dinner’s menu was exceedingly simple in concept:  Green chili Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Guacamole, but required time consuming and elaborate preparation.  I started by making Guacamole with one chopped onion, 12 small avocados, garlic, ½ tomato, juice of one lemon, 1/3 cup of cilantro, 1 tsp. of salt, and about ten drops of Original Cholulu red sauce.
Shortly after I started the guacamole, Suzette started the casserole, so I thinly sliced a small onion, ¼ cup of fresh cilantro and five or six Mexican squashes for Suzette for the casserole.  She peeled and chopped about 1¼ lb. of green chili and cooked the chili with cilantro and some garlic and then added ½ cup of heavy cream and about 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock and a handful of cheese to the pot and then made that into a thin sauce by pureeing it in the Cuisinart.  She then sautéed the squash slices with the thin slices of onion in a skillet.  I went to the kitchen after I finished my prep and assisted in spirit as Suzette heated a small skillet with chicken stock and dipped and sautéed the tortillas in the chicken stock to soften and parboil them and then constructed the casserole in the layers, as described below.

Casserole – Layers from the top down:

Sautéed squash and onions and cheese
Fresh Spinach
Tortillas on bottom  

When the large 15 by 8 inch by two or three inch deep Pyrex baking dish was filled, Suzette then poured the two cups of green chili cream sauce over the entire surface and pressed the sides in to allow the sauce to sink to the bottom.  By 5:15 we had put the casserole into a preheated 375˚oven/  We baked it for an hour turning down the heat in the oven to 325 after ½ hour because the top had started to brown and the casserole was bubbling.  We turned off the oven after an hour.  Suzette went to the cellar for beers and Willy arrived from Angel Fire and went to bed and we turned on the TV and started watching the Pro Bowl and then 60 Minutes.
I transferred the Guacamole from the large prep bowl to a lotus shaped ceramic bowl and put it in the middle of the table in the T.V. room.  Susan and then Charlie arrived a little after 6:30 with a bag of Tostidos and salad while we were watching an interview of President Obama and Hilary Clinton on 60 Minutes.  I served white wine to Charlie and Susan and we finished watching the 60 Minute interview and then a segment on the history of the anti-doping investigation of Lance Armstrong and nibbled chips and guacamole.  Then, after Charlie assisted Suzette to download a photograph from the State Archives website, we turned off the TV and were ready for dinner.  I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of Spanish La Montanana Viura and poured it for Charlie and Susan. Suzette and I drank beer and Willy woke up and joined us for dinner.
Dinner was simply a wedge of casserole and a scoop of guacamole.  The casserole was cheesy, creamy, tangibly picante and delicious.  The spinach had collapsed and become unidentifiable as a leaf, which was sad, but the squash and onions and tortillas had collapsed into a mush, which was good.  The consistency was that of a layered yet gelatinous whole, which I liked, sort of like a layered French meat and vegetable layered terrine.
After dinner Susan went back to their house and fetched a gallon of Blue Bell Vanilla Ice cream and a box of Florentines from Whole Foods, a DVD of a Robin Williams’ show in New York and two cookbooks, the Time-Life series recipe book for Viennese Cuisine and the Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery Cookbook for  Suzette to look through for ideas for "hors d'oeuvres" for the Palmers’ harpsichord recital.
Charlie gained a love for woodworking at a young age working with his Dad in their shop and has developed a high degree of skill in woodworking and will take on any project, no matter how challenging.  He also learned to sight read music and play the piano as a youngster.  Charlie became interested in making harpsichords many years ago and has made three or four of them.  He just finished his latest one, a reproduction of French 18th century harpsichord, and is planning a recital by Kathleen McIntosh?, who is Santa Fe Pro Musica’s principal harpsichordist, to celebrate its completion. 
After we watched a bit of Robin Williams and Season Three Episode Three of “Downton Abbey” Charlie and Susan left and Suzette went to bed, skimmed through the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook and immediately fell madly in love with baking and the cookbook.  I think we are going to need to finally remodel our kitchen, so we can have a baking area.  Suzette loves to bake and I would love to try to learn.  Maybe it will be like Charlie’s woodworking and turn into a really wonderful skill.

Charlie retired from active practice of medicine 6 ½ years ago and has devoted himself to his hobbies, mainly photography and woodworking ever since. 

Thinking about Lance Armstrong for a minute, a few years ago a fellow Texan and I were discussing the success of Lance Armstrong and he said, “You know, he was just trailer trash.”  
At that moment it was meant as honorific to show the determination of will that Lance demonstrated in overcoming the limitations of his background and cancer to become the best cyclist in the world, but now that phrase reminds me how hard it really is to overcome one’s historic limitations and circumstances, just like Doug Vaughn’s rise and fall in real estate that Barry and I discussed riding on the bike trail on Thursday.
Discerning the balance in life between learning to accept living within one's means and working to better one's circumstances can be confusing and challenging.  Perhaps my cousins, the Daram Damama's say it best, "Let life come to you," which I interpret to mean, "Work hard but don't exert that effort with an expectation of seeking any goal".
Bon Appétit

Friday, January 25, 2013

January 24, 2013 Lunch - Azuma Restaurant; Dinner - Chicken Curry, Rice and Salad

January 24, 2013 Lunch – Azuma, Dinner - Chicken Curry, Rice and Salad

What a great day of shopping at Pro’s Ranch Market.  Lots of things were cheap.  When I went I had an idea to slow cook pork chops or a pork tender with apples and onions in the Spanish tapa manner of José Andres with julienned squash and tricolored peppers but I ended up adding two additional recipes when I saw that there was a sale on 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters for $.59/lb.; chicken curry and chicken enchiladas when I saw that asadero cheese was $1.99/lb., sweet potatoes at $.50/b. for the curry  and roasted green chili was $.99/lb..    

I bought 15 small avocados at 5 for $.99, 2 lb. of Mexican Squash for $.99, a 6.6 lb. log of asadero cheese for $1.99/lb., Roma tomatoes for $.50/lb., milk for $2.50/gallon, my favorite LaLa Mango yogurt was on sale for $2.59 per 32 oz. container, the 10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters for $.59/lb., 2lbs. of roasted green chili for $.99/lb., a package of smoked Hormel pork chops for $3.99/lb. (so Suzette can make her artichoke heart, peas, ham and pepper tapa), and lemons for 3 lb. for $.99.  The only thing not on sale was onions, so I bought a 3 lb. bag of small onions for $1.69.       

After an hour of happy shopping and waiting in line for a couple of ladies with two baskets of food totaling $360 to check out, I drove happily home.  Willy helped me unload and after he took a shower, we went to Azuma for a lunch.  Willy could not decide what to order and finally chose his favorite, Sukiyaki steak with fried rice made on a teppan grill (11.95).  I also chose my favorite lunch, Chirachi Donburi ($13.95), which is 12 pieces of sashimi cut fish in a box with a layer of sushi rice on the bottom garnished with two slices of omelet and two slices of daikon pickle, a decoratively cut shrimp and some fresh shredded daikon.  I positioned us in a booth directly across from the sushi bar, so when our waitress was explaining my order to the sushi chef, I got up and went to the sushi slicing and eating counter and explained my order.  The chef spoke perfect English and said, “I understand.  I will take care of you.”  What comforting words.

He did take care of me.  I had ordered chirachi from this chef before and I knew he tends to cut shorter, thicker slices rather than longer thinner slices, which is okay with me, because I cut each slice into four bite size segments with a knife anyway.  Even with Willy eating several pieces of my raw fish, it took me about an hour to eat the rice and all the fish and trimmings.  I am convinced that Azuma provides the best value in sushi when one considers the totality of freshness, excellent quality of fish, and price.  I have discovered over the years that the sushi chefs and owners’ highest motivation is for you to have a pleasant meal and they do not care what fish you want to select in an assortment.  I prefer the richer, softer fish, such as yellowtail and super white tuna and do not like red snapper and mahi mahi and Azuma always will honor one’s preferences, if asked.  They want to serve you what you want, so you will be satisfied and return.  Of course, it can take a while eating sushi before you discover what you like.  For example I have a friend who loves sea urchin roe and the Japanese Kitchen serves that on its $28.00 dinner chirachi, so whenever we go for sushi, we always go to Japanese Kitchen and order the dinner chirachi.

Yesterday when Mike Verhagen and I went to La Salita for lunch, I invited him for dinner on Thursday.  After lunch I confirmed the invitation and offered him the choice of the three dishes and he said he did not care. So I went for an 18 mile ride on my bike where I met and rode with Barry on the way back home.  Before I had left to ride at 3:45 Suzette arrived and I asked her what she wanted and she said chicken curry, so I asked her to start boiling the chicken.  When I arrived home late at 5:30 because I had a flat, a large pot of chicken quarters was boiling on the stove.  Suzette said she was hungry and asked what she could do, so I said we need to chop up sweet potato, onions and apples.  Suzette immediately peeled the sweet potatoes and I fetched the apples and onions and then chopped up the sweet potatoes, onions and apples as she got out a large pot and heated butter in it and as I finished chopping  each ingredient she added it to the pot and sautéed it.  Then we stopped cooking the chicken and she added enough of the chicken stock to cover the ingredients and I added some curry powder given to us in October by Luke and we started simmering the curry.  While I was chopping Mike arrived with a large bag of salad ingredients from Whole Foods and a bottle of Justin 2009 Syrah.   Mike made salad, Willy made rice, I chopped up the rest of the apples and helped Suzette pluck the meat from the bones of the chicken after it cooled.  Then we threw the chicken into the curry and added salt and some Sun Brand curry powder, because Suzette said, “It tastes like it is missing something.  I could not think of what that ingredient was at the time but I now realize that it was raisins.  After adding more curry powder, I fetched coconut flakes and three types of pickle (an onion, a lime and a 5 ingredient pickle with mango, lime, lotus root stem and carrots) and we roasted some peanuts in a 400˚ oven to golden brown and Willy put out glasses of water and Suzette sett the table.

When the rice was cooked and Mike had finished making the salad, I made a simple vinaigrette with two crushed cloves of garlic, Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard a dash of dried thyme and tarragon and olive oil and Mike dressed and tossed the salad and we poured glasses of the Justin 2009 Syrah that Mike had brought and sat down and enjoyed his salad with two types of lettuce, carrots, green onions, and celery.  Then Willy and I went into the kitchen and we first added two Tbsp. of flour to the curry and after that was stirred that in, we added about ¼ cup of heavy cream to lighten and smooth out the curry.  After another minute or two of cooking Suzette came in and said she were ready to eat, so we took the peanuts out of the oven  and we plated pasta bowls with rice and curry and I put a bottle of Major Grey’s mango chutney and the three pickle bottles, the coconut and the peanuts on the table.  It immediately became apparent to Suzette and me that the peanuts were rancid and should not be eaten, so everyone pushed their peanuts aside and we finished our meal by putting small piles of chutney and pickle on the side of our plates and mixing our curry with them as we wished.

The sourness and spiciness of different pickles is an interesting juxtaposition to the creamy sweetness of the curry.

Per Wikipedia:  
 South Asian pickles (Hindi: आचार, Urdu: اچار‎) are made from certain individual varieties of vegetables and fruits that are chopped into small pieces and cooked in edible oils like sesame oil or brine with many different Indian spices like asafoetida, red chili powder, turmeric, fenugreek, and plenty of salt. Some regions also specialize in pickling meats and fish. Vegetables can also be combined in pickles to make mixed vegetable pickle. Some varieties of fruits and vegetables [edit] Recipe
South Asian mixed pickle, containing lotus root, lemon, carrot, green mango, green chilis, and other ingredients

The most common South Asian-style pickles are made from mango and lime. Others include cauliflower, carrot, radish, tomato, onion, pumpkin, palm heart, lotus stem, rose petals, ginger, Indian gooseberry,[1] garlic, green or red chili peppers, kohlrabi, gunda (cordia), kerda, zimikand (purple yam), karonda, karela (bitter melon), jackfruit, mushroom, eggplant, cucumber, and turnip.

Bon Appétit



Thursday, January 24, 2013

January 23, 2013 Dinner – Sautéed Steak, Mushrooms and Spinach in Cream Sauce and Buttered New Potatoes

January 23, 2013 Dinner – Sautéed Steak, Mushrooms and Spinach in Cream Sauce and Buttered New Potatoes

The lesson from this evening’s meal was a reminder that often times of adversity produce great art.
As I had mentioned in an earlier blog this week, last weekend I saw a cooking show by David Chang on PBS that featured the skillet sautéing of a thick porterhouse steak in butter, garlic and thyme.  The show made is sound like that was the best way to prepare an aged piece of beef.  So, after the show, Friday night, I went the meat drawer in our fridge and slit the top of the plastic wrapper on the two packages of rib eye steaks I had bought on Tuesday at Smith’s ($5.99/lb.) and let them sit open to the air for about one-half day, then I wrapped and froze five of them and left the thickest one in the meat drawer to age a bit more. 

Today was a day of difficulties in business for both Suzette and me, as well as the fact that Suzette had driven to Santa Rosa and back and was tired, so I decided to take the fact that my little truck where I keep my cushions was in the shop as an omen that I should stay home and cook so we could share each other’s company and air our respective difficulties and relax, rather than meditate.  Some forms of practice are of greater importance than others and food was of a higher level of importance for me tonight.

I had the steak and I had bought seven or eight lovely red potatoes at Pro’s last Thursday and we still had over one-half of the bag of spinach and a package of baby portabello mushrooms I had bought at Costco last week and the package of fresh shitake mushrooms I had bought at Ta Lin last Friday, so we decided to prepare the steak in the manner David Chang had demonstrated on TV and make creamed spinach with mushrooms and prepare buttered potatoes.
Suzette was happy to not have to go outside to grill and she suggested that we simply boil the potatoes and then toss them in butter and parsley.  I suggested that instead of making the creamed spinach the way we did last night by simply adding cream, that we make a proper béchamel sauce, so the flavor of the liquid ingredients could mix together better and to produce a more delicate sauce.  Suzette was up for that also. 

So at 6:15 p.m., when Willy left for a dinner engagement, Suzette, who had not eaten lunch, placed a cutting board and my 7 inch Sabatier knife on the table in the TV room where I prep while I fetched the potatoes.  I started by cleaning the new potatoes of all dirt and dark spots and rinsing them in water and then quartered them into triangular wedges and put them into a pot of water and Suzette started the potatoes boiling on the stove. 
Then I went to the garden and picked thyme that turned out to be dead and unusable and to the fridge in the garage for the bag of spinach.  So I went to the basement to fetch the bag of dried thyme I had harvested this Fall from the garden and a bottle of French Médoc (2009 Château Amour, Grand Vin de Bordeaux, from Civrac, Médoc, bought at Trader Joe’s on 12-2-2011 for $7.99) red wine, which Suzette immediately opened to let breath.

Suzette then placed two large skillets (a cast iron skillet for the steak and a non-stick skillet for the creamed mushrooms and spinach) on the stove and heated butter in each, while I cleaned four or five small cloves of garlic and cut them in half to release their oil and threw some garlic in each skillet and two or three sprigs of the dried thyme into the skillet Suzette had placed the steak.
I fetched the parsley and Suzette brought me the mushrooms and we selected 5 baby portabello and two shitake mushrooms and I sliced them and chopped five or six sprigs of parsley which then went into the non-stick skillet. While the mushrooms were sauteeing, Suzette made a béchamel sauce by cooking flour in hot butter in a small sauce pan and then whisking milk into the cooked butter and flour.  She then rinsed a large handful of spinach and placed that on the mushrooms and covered the skillet to steam the spinach.  When the spinach was half blanched Suzette added the béchamel sauce to it.    

In a couple of minutes, as I was chopping parsley to toss with the potatoes, Suzette started yelling that the steak was almost done and we were ready to eat.  So I brought my ½ cup of chopped parsley to the kitchen and she tossed it with the potatoes that she had tossed with butter and removed the steak to a wooden cutting board. 

Here is the secret recipe:  I saw that the béchamel sauce had thickened to a clotted paste and Suzette said, “Do you want to deglaze the pan drippings from the steak with white wine?”  I said, “Yes.” So Suzette asked me to fetch the PPI bottle of Camino Real Reisling in the fridge while she poured off the grease from the steak pan and removed the thyme sprigs and then deglazed the steak drippings by whisking ¼ cup of reisling in the pan of steak drippings to release their grip on the pan and put them into solution.  Then Suzette poured the deglazed sauce into the spinach and mushroom pan and stirred the spinach and sauce and then added a little more 2% milk to bring the béchamel back to a smooth creamy consistency.  This last little step of deglazing the steak pan drippings gave the béchamel a lovely beef and wine flavor that it would not otherwise have had and smoothed the béchamel sauce to a creamy consistency.  I love béchamel sauce, because it will accept any liquid and take on the flavor of that liquid.                         
So while I poured the wine and sliced the steak, Suzette finished the béchamel sauce and warmed two plates on the stove.  We then plated steak, potatoes and creamed spinach and mushrooms and had a lovely dinner. I could not imagine having a better meal in a New York steak house.
We were enjoying this Appellation Médoc Contrôlée wine, which was a smooth, pleasantly light, fruity accompaniment to the heavy buttery meal.  After we had finished, Suzette fetched the blue cheese and cut slices of whole grain bread and toasted them and I sliced blue cheese and ate it on the bread while Suzette spoke on the phone.  When Suzette returned she sliced blue cheese and melted it on the bread which was another great idea.

It seems that out of the adversity of her day, Suzette came up with two great new food recipe ideas that made this meal memorable.  Am I glad I stayed home.

In fact, this meal reminded me of my earliest steak dinners in Austin in 1966 and 1967.  On weekends my brother and I we would go to a grocery store named Kash N Karry around 32nd and Guadalupe that had a full butcher shop and buy a thick rib eye steak or club steak of aged prime beef for about $2.00/lb.  Then we would go to the Bottle Shop on Red River around 15th and buy a bottle of French château bottled haut médoc red wine for about $2.00 and sauté the steak and bake potatoes and garnish them with chopped scallions and butter and boil a green vegetable.   I had eaten great meals at home, because my mother was a gourmet cook, but these steak dinners in Austin were my earliest illumination of how my brother and I could, for not much money (around $5.00), create a dinner with the best beef available to anyone and great wine; and eat just like kings and rich folks.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

January 22, 2013 Shrimp sautéed in bacon with Spinach, mushrooms and garlic in a cream sauce over pasta.

January 22, 2013 Shrimp sautéed in bacon with Spinach, mushrooms and garlic in a cream sauce over pasta.

We still had about ½ pound of large shrimp (Pro’s Ranch Market, $5.99/lb.) that needed to be eaten, so I looked in my Japanese Cooking A Simple Art cookbook and found a recipe for fried shrimp which illustrated a technique for deveining the shrimp and cutting a slot in the center of the shrimp and pushing the tail through the hole to make a flower.  So I deveined and made a deep slit down the length of the shrimp so the two sides could be flattened and cut through the shrimp in the middle and twisted and pushed the tail through the hole.  This changed the shape of the shrimp from flat to a rounded opened up shape like the petals of a flower and the two tail fins of the shrimp sticking through the hole resembled a stamen of a flower, rather lily like.

We did not want to make the recipe with fried shrimp and I wanted to use some of our abundant spinach.  Since I love spinach in cream sauce, I jumped at Suzette’s suggestion that we make a cream sauce for the shrimp and spinach and serve it over pasta.   We had an open bag of Casarecce (two about two inch long tubes joined together) organic pasta made by Garofalo in Italy (Costco), so Suzette started a pot of water boiling and I sliced 5 mushrooms and chopped 2 cups of the spinach and 1 Tbsp. of parsley. 

Suzette melted butter and a dash of olive oil in a large skillet and then squeezed a clove of garlic into the heated oil and added the mushrooms.  When the mushrooms had softened she added ¼ cup of white wine and the spinach and parsley and covered the skillet for a minute or two to steam the spinach.  Then Suzette added the shrimp and cooked them until they turned pink on all sides and then added 1/3 cup of cream and reduced the sauce a bit to thicken the cream, while I chopped 3 or 4 Tbs. more parsley for garnish.  When the pasta had finished cooking I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of Cutler Creek California Pinot Grigio.

Suzette put a new table cloth on the table for our new dish and we filled pasta bowls with pasta and the spinach and mushroom cream sauce and garnished with the fresh chopped parsley and filled glasses with the chilled pinot grigio that was still so cold that it immediately frosted the glasses.  When Suzette tasted the wine she immediately said that the wine tasted oaky, so I tasted it and its buttery taste indicated to me that the wine had been made with malolactic fermentation.   This would be consistent with a cheaper wine that was high in tannins and needed to be softened, but the wine maker did not want to invest a lot of time and money in aging in oak barrels, especially for a white wine that is usually fermented in steel and can be malolactically fermented in the same steel barrel, so the wine is malolactically fermented to soften the tannins.  Malolactic fermentation is often confused with oak aging because both give the wine a buttery flavor.   

Here is the story on malolactc fermentation from Wikipedia:

Malolactic fermentation (or sometimes malolactic conversion or MLF) is a process in winemaking where tart-tasting malic acid, naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting lactic acid. Malolactic fermentation tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel. It has been said that malic acid tastes of green apples. By contrast, lactic acid is richer and more buttery tasting. Grapes produced in cool regions tend to be high in acidity, much of which comes from the contribution of malic acid. MLF is also thought to generally enhance the body and flavor persistence of wine, producing wines of greater palate softness and roundness. Many winemakers also feel that better integration of fruit and oak character can be achieved if MLF occurs during the time the wine is in barrel.

After we finished our lovely dinner, Suzette took another couple of sips of the wine and said, “It definitely tastes better with food.”   

The combination of spinach and sautéed mushrooms with the shrimps in a garlic cream and wine sauce was really delicious.

I loved the new elegant flower shape of the shrimp.  I will definitely add this to my repertoire of shapes for shrimp.

Bon Appètit

January 21, 2013 Dinner – PPI Meatloaf and Baked Potato and sautéed Squash
Suzette had made an extra loaf of meatloaf that we have been eating slowly and so we decided to make a squash saute with a bag of Mexican squash and some of the PPI bell peppers from Christmas, so I julienned the squash, ½ of a red bell pepper and ½ poblano pepper into 1 ½ long strips and Suzette sautéed them in a large skillet with oil and butter and salt and pepper and garlic and we heated the meatloaf and cook the PPI baked potato in half and microwaved them.

I opened the bottle of 2008 Egri Bikavér (Hungarian origine controllee, named Bull’s Blood of Eger) that we had bought yesterday at Trader Joe’s ($4.99), opened a fresh container of sour cream (Crema de Sonora sin sal from Pro’s Ranch Market) and sliced five or six sprigs of chive into 1/16 inch long slices and we were ready to eat. The plates were colorful with the flecks of green in the white potato smeared with crema, the  dark meatloaf and the red, green and white squash.

Here is the story on Egri Bikavér according to Wikipedia:

Egri Bikavér ("Bull's Blood of Eger") is Hungary's most famous red wine. It comes from the Eger wine region of northern Hungary; the Szekszárd region produces a similar wine with similar name (Szekszárdi Bikavér) but with different character.

[edit] Blend

Egri Bikavér is a blend that has varied over the years, although the blend is anchored by the ancient Kadarka variety. Kadarka is believed to have arrived during the Turkish invasion of the 16th century, either by the Turks themselves or by Serbs displaced by them. It is a difficult grape to vinify, and has increasingly been replaced by Blaufränkisch, known locally as Kékfrankos.

Officially Egri Bikavér must contain at least three of the following 13 grapes: Kadarka, Kékfrankos (or Blaufränkisch in German), Blauer Portugieser (Kékoportó), Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Menoire (known as Kékmedoc, or Médoc Noir before), Pinot Noir, Syrah, Turán, Bíborkadarka and the modern Austrian crossings, Blauburger and Zweigelt.

[edit] Origin of the name

According to legend, the name originates from the invasion of Suleiman the Magnificent around 1552.
"To motivate and support the small group of soldiers during the Siege of Eger castle they were served delicious food and a lot of red wine. Among the Turkish soldiers it was rumored that bull's blood was mixed into the red wine, as otherwise the strength and firm resistance of the town and castle of Eger could not be explained. Finally the enemy gave up."[citation needed]

It has been suggested that the term Bikavér was coined by poet János Garay in 1846.

[edit] History

 Under the Turks, the Hungarians' traditional white grapes were replaced by Kadarka and its relatives. In the 18th century German immigrants brought with them the Blauer Portugieser. Hungary did not escape the effects of the phylloxera epidemic in 1882, after which Blaufränkisch and small amounts of the Bordeaux varieties were introduced. At this time the different varieties were often grown together as field blends in the vineyard, and vinified together; towards the end of the 19th century they began to be processed separately into wine and then blended.
Under Communism, Kadarka was largely replaced by the Bordeaux varieties and in particular the easy-to-grow Zweigelt. This and the industrialisation of production saw Egri Bikavér become a much lighter, simpler wine during the 1970s and 1980s.

Following the fall of Communism, much Kadarka has been planted and since the mid-1990s there has been a return to a more traditional, much darker style of wine. In order to eliminate some quality problems, a stricter regulation was planned in the mid 90s. The regulation was introduced in 1997, thus Hungary's first Districtus Hungaricus Controllatus - DHC was created (similar to the French Appellation d'Origine Controllée (AOC) or more like the Austrian Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) system), enacting the rule specifying that Egri Bikavér must contain 3 out of 11 traditional grape varieties.

[edit] Egri Bikavér Superior

In 2004 a new level, Egri Bikavér Superior was introduced. In this case, at least 5 out of the 13 recommended varieties must be used and also a lower yield must be applied (maximum 60 hl/ha). It needs to age at least 12 months in wooden cask and 6 months in bottle before releasing on the market. Regulations on the composition of the blend, the wine making technology and minimum alcohol level also differs from normal Egri Bikavér. All those regulations are aiming for an overall higher quality wine.
[edit] Drinking

Despite considerable investment in vineyards and wineries, Egri Bikavér is still quite variable. The difference in quality between good ones and the cheap mass-market versions can be immense. High-quality Egri Bikavér requires two or three years of oak aging, and is best with game, beef, or other spicy food. Egri Bikavér should be served at 16-18°C.
We first drank and enjoyed this wine in Hungary about 12 years ago.  Since then we have seen it rise in price from around $2.39 to $4.99 at Costco, which still makes it among their cheapest bottles except for $2 Chuck at $2.99.

The squash sautée was delicious.  The hotness of the poblano had been cooked out of it and the dish was infused with a buttery flavor and the texture was soft. Suzette commented that the soft buttery Squash mixed with the flakey potato made a great taste combination.

Another simple and delicious dinner without much effort.

Bon Appètit



Monday, January 21, 2013

January 17, 2013 Dinner- Writers’ Reception by Edible Santa Fe.

January 17, 2013 Dinner- Writers’ Reception by Edible Santa Fe.
Stephanie and Walt Cameron, who are the new owners of Edible Santa Fe, through their new editor, Sarah Wentzel-Fisher invited us to a dinner and discussion about the magazine’s plans for the near future.  Everyone was requested to bring a dish and with over twenty food writers invited, we could not resist.

We had a PPI bowl of fruit salad of cantaloupe, pineapple, orange and papaya to which we added a handful of coconut flakes.  We mixed up a bowl of Greek yogurt, sour cream and honey for a sweetened crème fraîche like dressing and took off.

I do not remember everyone’s names, but there were four Sarahs and four kale salads.  Kale salad I liked the best had strips of chopped kale  and roasted pinon nuts and crumbled manchego cheese, although there was another chopped one with pieces of fried bacon that was great also.

The Kabana jewelry person, Lois?, made a killer hot borsht with shredded cabbage and beets served with sour cream.  There were two other beet salads.  The Alibi writer, Lief?, made a hearty venison green chili stew and Lois Frank who specializes in Indian and indigenous foods and I think teaches food science, made a vegetarian posole with blue corn posole from Velarde or Alcalde and came down from Santa Fe.  The posole was flavored with red chili and the green chili venison stew had a lot of green chili and I could not eat much of either because my taste buds were overwhelmed with the chili flavor.
I tried to sample all the dishes. Stephanie made a spinach and bacon quiche, and there were three loaves of bread, two for dinner and one delicious one with walnuts that was more of a dessert. 

As for desserts, there were several great ones besides our fruit salad.  The two really great ones were an apple crisp made from Manzano Mountains  apples.  I forgot the name of the lady who made it but she said the apples were unusual ones raised near Fourth of July Canyon and included an Arkansas Black apple that I had never heard of before.  The other killer dessert was made Amy White, who has written more than 100 recipes for the magazine and who made grapefruit curd.  I think she said she made the grapefruit curd by reducing grapefruit juice and then adding eggs and sugar and cooking it into a thick cream.  She served it with whipped cream and it was great alone, with whipped cream, or as an accompaniment for the other desserts, especially with the apple crisp or fruit salad.

After a couple of hours of conversation and tasting, we went home happy and full of healthy delicious food.

Bon Appètit

January 20, 2013 Dinner – Surf and Turf with Baked Spaghetti Squash and Green Salad and Coconut covered cookies covered with lime flavored icing

January 20, 2013 Dinner – Surf and Turf with Baked Spaghetti Squash and Green Salad and Coconut covered cookies covered with lime flavored icing

Debbie and Jeff had invited us to their house to watch the sunset and cook dinner.  We agreed that we would bring a couple of steaks and several shrimp to grill and a bottle of wine and they would create the rest of the meal.  So we left home at around 4:00 p.m. on Sunday in order to go by Trader Joe’s to buy a bottle of cognac and a bottle of wine for dinner.  We actually bought nine bottles of wine for less than $60.00.  We find that Trader Joe’s consistently offers the best inexpensive wines.  We took a bottle we had not seen before for dinner, a 2010 estate bottled Terrenal Tempranillo from Yecla, Spain.   Yecla is a hill top town located in the northern part of Murcia Province in Southeastern Spain in the Yecla Denominacion de Origen.  We also bought an Amontillado Sherry, a bottle of Ruby port, a Spanish LaGranja 50% Tempranillo/50% Granache, a bottle of chianti, a bottle of Mucadet, a 2008 Egri Bikavér (Hungarian origine controllee, named Bull’s Blood of Eger) and a bottle of 2010 Chateau Haut-Sorillon Bordeaux Supérieur (the Chateau is in Abzac, 5 km. from St. Emilion, a new to us bottle) and a bottle of La Ferme Julien rosé.

We arrived at Debbie and Jeff’s house, at the top of Glenwood Hills and probably the highest house on side of the Sandia Mountains, at around 5:00 p.m. and after Jeff made us drinks and we chatted a few minutes, I began cooking.  Last night I had seen a cooking show with David Chang, founder of NYC’s Momofuku chain of restaurants and a three time James Beard honored chef, in which the dish being cooked was air aged beef steak.  David and a grill chef cooked a two to three inch thick porterhouse steak in a skillet and basted it with a sauce made in the skillet with fresh thyme and garlic in melted butter.  I shelled and deveined three large Tiger Prawns for each of us by cutting about halfway through each shrimp from the top.  I asked Debbie if she had butter and garlic and she had already made garlic butter for the steak (I may start calling her Debbie Chang).  We added some dried thyme to the butter and garlic and I heated it to melt it and basted the steak and shrimp with the butter sauce and then a dash or two of a Montreal seasoned lemon pepper Debbie had put out.   

Debbie had roasted a medium spaghetti squash seasoned with salt and pepper and butter and there was a platter of freshly baked ice box cookies that had been covered with dollops of a thick lime flavored icing and flakes of coconut. 

Debbie then made a salad with crumbled blue cheese, cranberries, and slivered almonds.

At around 5:30 p.m., Jeff and I walked outside to the deck to watch the sun set over Mount Taylor and watched the Sandias turn bright gold.  It was a clear day so the light was intense and the colors exquisitely clear. 

Jeff heated up the propane grill and grilled the steaks about 8 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other side and the shrimp for about five minutes on both sides.   The steak was cooked to medium, which I prefer, but was a little too well done for Suzette, but the shrimp were plump and juicy.  Both meats were very flavorful due to the addition of the basting and Lemon pepper spice mix.

I sliced the steaks and we poured glasses of the 2010 Terrenal Tempranillo and Debbie plated up our plates with squash and salad and we ate a lovely dinner while we talked and watched the reddish gold glow of sunlight behind the horizon line.  The wine had a flat taste that I now recognize as being associated with grapes grown in warmer climates.  Spain is just like New Mexico in the sense that grapes grow better in the warmer south than in the north, but growing grapes in the northern region puts the vines under stress and that produces wine with crisp fruitiness and character without any baked flavor that must be characteristic of fully ripened fruit.  The Terrenal tempranillo had that baked flattened flavor and we agreed to not buy it again.

After we finished our plates, Debbie filled parfait glasses with layers of honey flavored Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and pineapple and topped each parfait with pomegranate seeds.  We put a pile of cookies on the table and Debbie made decaffeinated lattes with whipped milk and we settled into a pleasant rhythm of conversation and eating as the sky darkened to black.

Bon Appètit    

January 19, 2013 Eggplant in Garlic sauce and Stir fried Chinese Mustard Greens with onions and a Sesame dressing

January 19, 2013 Eggplant in Garlic sauce and Stir fried Chinese Mustard Greens with onions and a  Sesame dressing

Last Sunday with Suzette I had bought sesame seeds at Ta Lin and looked at their suribachis (Japanese grinding bowls) but Ta Lin had only one small one for $7.99 that had irregular grooves that would have defeated one’s effort to grind seeds.  We had not frozen the PPI BBQ pork, so I decided to go buy a large Chinese eggplant at Ta Lin on Friday and I knew that Suzette would like to use up the BBQ Pork by making another great dish of Eggplant in garlic sauce if we had a good eggplant. 
One Saturday Suzette made me get dressed and drive her to an address near San Mateo and Central where it was advertised on Craig’s list there was a free planter, but when we arrived it was gone.   Suzette said we were close to Restore It and so we drove there and then since I needed gas for the Land Cruiser, we drove up San Mateo and as we neared Montgomery, she said, “Why don’t we go to Goodwill.”  I have become fond of shopping for luxury shirts at Goodwill because they are under $5.00 each, so we went to Goodwill and I shopped with Suzette.  We found no monkey pod wood items but she found a lovely covered plastic cake stand and 24 small glass candle holders for outside illumination in the summer and I found a small suribachi exactly like the one I wanted for $.99 and two shirts that I liked for $4.74 each less the 10% (ten percent) discount that Suzette had from her last shopping trip to Goodwill.

So when we arrived home after filling the Cruiser up with gas at Costco for $2.69/gallon I suggested we cook the eggplant and we agreed to freeze the PPI Salmon because we had agreed to cook dinner at Debbie and Jeff’s on Sunday night.  I cut up the large eggplant and minced 1 Tbsp. of garlic from our garden.
I wanted to cook the remaining Chinese Mustard Greens I had bought at Ta Lin last Sunday with some spinach I had bought at Costco on Thursday and remembered a Japanese sesame seed dressing made with a suribachi, so while Suzette cooked the Eggplant in Garlic Sauce using the last 1 ½ pounds of PPI BBQ pork, I cooked basmati rice with a little instant dashi and broken up stems of dried Senche seaweed thirty minutes on low heat and prepared the str fried vegetables.

Suzette again used the Eggplant and Garlic Sauce recipe (page 169) in the new Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking Cookbook she had bought me for Christmas last year.  The author, Eileen Yin Fei Lo, cooks with a style that adds fragrance to the food by adding small amounts of rice cooking wine to many recipes, rather than overpowering them with flavorings. 
Eggplant with Garlic Sauce.

You first make the Sauce (This is the recipe from the book but we doubled this recipe because we had two pounds of eggplant and some other ingredients we were adding to the dish.)

1 Tbsp. double dark soy sauce

2 tsp. Oyster Sauce

1 tsp. white rice wine vinegar

½ tsp. Shaoxing cooking wine

½ tsp. pepper flakes from hot oil (we reduce this to avoid making the dish too spicy)

½ tsp. of cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. of chicken stock
 I sliced the large Chinese Eggplant into three inch by ½ inch strips (about two pounds) and Suzette str fried them in three or four small batches in several Tbsps. of heated peanut oil.  The recipe calls for deep frying all the eggplant strips in 4 cups of peanut oil, but we never use that much oil).

After Suzette had cooked the eggplant, she stir fried the garlic and then added the BBQ pork.  Then she returned the eggplants to the wok and stir fried it with the vegetable and meat mixture for a minute and then made a well in the middle of the ingredients and added the sauce and cooked the eggplant mixture for a minute or two while I was stir frying the vegetable dish.
I had sliced 1 medium onion in anticipation of putting it into the eggplant dish but Suzette said she wanted to keep the Eggplant dish simple, so I decided to use the onion in my vegetable dish.  I chopped and rinsed off three cups of mustard greens and ½ cup of spinach and minced 5 or 6 cloves of garlic and about 1 ½ Tbsp. of ginger and sliced thinly four shitake mushrooms.  I heated about two Tbsp. of peanut oil in the large wok and added the onion, garlic and ginger and stir fried that for about ten minutes until the onions softened and took on color.  When Suzette had finished stir frying the eggplant strips, we fried about ¼ cup of sesame seeds in the remaining hot peanut oil in her wok until they turned golden brown.  I then put the sesame seeds into the suribachi and ground them with a wooden pestle until they were crushed a bit.  I then added a little soy sauce and ground them some more until they were a rough paste.  After the onion strips were soft and had taken on some color, I added the chopped greens and the mushrooms and stir fried them together and added a dash of rice Shaoxing cooking wine and soy and sesame oil and covered the wok to let the vegetables steam, while Suzette added the sauce to the eggplant dish and Willy went to the cellar for beers.

After a few minutes I stirred the vegetables and they had softened and so I added the sesame dressing to the vegetables and gave them one more stir and we were ready to eat the vegetables,  Suzette's eggplant dish and the warm rice with some cold beers.
I loved the dinner and the Suzette agreed that the addition of the sesame dressing was a nice touch.  I am now reading my Japanese Cooking  A Simple Art cookbook at page 253 and seeing that the Japanese method of making the dish calls for parboiling the spinach and then put it into the suribachi and pushing it into the sauce with the pestle.   I can hardly wait until next time to make the dish in the accurate Japanese manner.  I bet the Spinach will pick up the sesame dressing from the suribachi’s grooves, which I did not do tonight.

We watched Friday evening’s broadcast of the Bill Maher show on Willy’s computer and ate dinner.  Willy then found and played the second episode of the third season of Downtown Abbey for us on his computer, which we had missed last week because we went to see Tom Paxton.  
After dinner I ate some fruit cake with tea.

I see the almost imperceptible train of thoughts and actions that clearly led to this evening’s meal.  From the PPI BBQ pork ribs from our Cotton Bowl dinner with Susan and Charlie Palmer, to the need to replenish our larder with sesame seeds and looking at the suribachis at Ta Lin, to the purchase of a bag of spinach to have another green vegetable on Thursday at Costco, to buying the large eggplant on Friday at Ta lin and a fresh bottle of peanut oil, to finding the suribachi at Goodwill on Saturday, it seems I have been subliminally working toward a manifestation of my desire to make the spinach with sesame dressing dish of thirty years ago.  Some of my food déjà vu thoughts amaze me.  For example, I had remembered, without looking at a cook book, that the Japanese recipe called for adding soy sauce to the sesame seeds in the suribachi to emulsify them.   

What a great meal, combining a line of PPI ingredients and a remembrance of a dish I had not made in 30 years from seeing the sesame seeds and suribachi.

Bon Appètit