Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 27, 2013: Lunch – Azuma Restaurant; Dinner – Braised Smoked Pork Cutlets and Cabbage

February 27, 2013: Lunch – Azuma Restaurant; Dinner – Braised Smoked Pork Cutlets and Cabbage

I have been thinking about eating sushi for several days, so today I finally made my mind up to go to Azuma for sushi.  By 12:40 I was seated in the sushi bar side of Azuma and ordered what is now my favorite dish: Chirashi Donbori on the lunch menu for $13.95, which includes 12 pieces of sashimi cut fresh seafood.  The restaurant provides a sheet with all the sushi choices and a pen , so you can pick what you want.  I took the sheet and in the space provided for other choices wrote:
4 yellowtail, 2 salmon, 2 octopus, 2 super white tuna and 2 maguro (red) tuna
and asked my waiter, Chong, to give my selections to my favorite sushi chef who has prepared this assortment for me previously.
After about ten minutes, during which I read the new “New Yorker” and enjoyed washing my hands with foaming soap under the wonderful cascading fountain faucet in the Men’s room, my box of chirashi arrived.

As you can see from the picture, Chirashi is usually served in a box layered with sushi rice on the bottom and fresh fish and assorted other delicacies such as omelet and pickled daikon atop the rice.

I moved a few pieces of fish around so I could grab a bit of the sushi rice with my chop sticks.  It tasted deliciously vinegary and slightly sweet.  The best sushi rice I have tasted in years.  So we were off to a great start.
I usually get a knife and cut the larger, thicker sashimi cut pieces of seafood and thin sheets of pickled ginger served with the fish into smaller pieces so they form a small packet because I find that that makes the fish and ginger easier to handle and to get into my mouth, which makes the experience more pleasing and palatable for me.  It took me about one hour to cut and eat my way through the box of chirashi.

I then went to a client’s for a meeting and home to ride my bike ten miles.
I arrived at home from my ride at 6:00 p.m. and Suzette arrived around 6:15 p.m. and suggested that we prepare a simple meal of smoked pork cutlets and braised cabbage.  I had purchased the pork cutlets at Pro’s Ranch Market last Thursday (Hormel, 2.99/lb.) and we purchased a large head of green cabbage at Sprouts last Saturday ($.33/lb.).

So I cut ½ of the head of cabbage into thin strips and then thinly sliced a small onion and cored, sliced and diced a Fuji apple into ½ inch chunks.  Suzette put the cabbage, onion and ½ of the apple chunks into a large skillet with some olive oil and butter with a generous dash of ground cumin and began to braise those ingredients.  After about fifteen minutes Suzette fetched the pork cutlets and put two of them into another skillet with a bit of butter and braised them with the remaining chunks of the other ½ apple.
We had Marble Brewery beers in the fridge left over from the Marble Brewery Beer Tasting held at Suzette’s Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery last Friday evening.  I chose a bottle of Wildflower Wheat and Suzette chose Amber Ale. 

After about thirty minutes of cooking the cabbage was braised to the point that most of it had wilted and some strips had taken on a darkened color in places and the pork cutlets were heated through and their edges darkened and the apples softened.  So we were ready to eat. 

Suzette put a pork chop on each plate and covered the chop with a large scoop of braised cabbage.  We enjoyed eating our hearty simple dinner with gusto.  I always feel that we are eating true German or Central European food when we eat this dish.

We found this recipe for the braised cabbage in a regional cuisine restaurant in Budapest, Hungary.
After dinner I felt completely full and did not want to eat anything else and that made me remember the Canadian Air Force Diet that Alan Torgerson used to eat because the core of that diet seemed to be to eat as much cabbage as one could.  I guess because cabbage has lots of fiber and bulk but few calories.  Suzette says that eating cabbage burns calories

Anyway I fell asleep at around 9:00 and slept like a baby, perhaps even a German baby, until around 4:30 a.m.
Bon Appétit

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 2013 Dinner- PPIs Lamb Chops, Eggplant Provencal and Cauliflower with Hollandaise Sauce

February 26, 2013 Dinner- PPIs Lamb Chops, Eggplant Provencal and Cauliflower with Hollandaise Sauce

Tonight I worked until 7:15 p.m. and Suzette arrived around 7:30 p.m. after a 12 hour day of work, so we were into an easy dinner.  We had discussed eating PPI’s yesterday and this was the perfect time to do it.  We had beautiful PPI eggplant Provencal and Grilled lamb chops and Hollandaise Sauce, so the only thing we had to prepare was a vegetable.
We had purchased a head of cauliflower on Saturday at Sprouts Market that Suzette said would be perfect draped with a coat of Hollandaise, so I cut the flowerets from it and put them in the steamer with a bit of water and started the heat under them while Suzette was heating the eggplant and lamb.  Then I ran to the basement for a bottle of wine.  I decided that a Spanish Rioja would be nice with the lamb and eggplant, so I fetched a bottle of La Granja from the Rioja regioin in Spain (50% Tempranillo and 50% Granache, $5.99 at Trader Joe’s).
While the cauliflower steamed for about ten minutes, I slowly heated the hollandaise sauce by putting the plastic container in which it was stored on the lid of the steamer to give it a little indirect heat. Hollandaise is so delicate that it can be broken by putting a match under it.  All you want to do is take the chill off of it.  A hot vegetable like cauliflower will do the rest.  When the cauliflower was cooked, we were ready to eat and enjoyed a lovely dinner prepared with practically no effort and few dishes to clean.  We watched a great PBS two hour program on the women’s movement and I got the opportunity to brag about attending Texas Law School with Sarah Weddington, who in 1972, two years after graduating from law school made the winning argument in the case of Roe v. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court.  We had a little wine left, so I fetched a chunk of manchego cheese from the fridge and we nibbled slices of it with the last of our wine for a pleasant end to an evening of light cooking and good food and memories.
Bon Appétit

February 25, 2013 Italian chicken stir fry over Penne Pasta

February 25, 2013  Italian chicken stir fry over Penne Pasta

Suzette came home around 5:30 p.m. and seemed to be ready to cook.  She wanted to sauté a mixture of vegetables with some of the roasted chicken she had brought home on Friday and serve it over pasta.  She started boiling water for the last ½ lb. of penne pasta and then diced 3 Tbsp. of onion and several stalks of asparagus.  We then peeled three small cloves of garlic from our garden and Suzette chopped up about 1 lb. of chicken breast and, since she could not find a fresh bell pepper, she cut up a canned pimiento from Spain ($1.45 for a 7 oz. can at Ta Lin) and a PPI baked sweet potato from last night’s meal.
After adding the pasta to the boiling water and started another pot of water on to boil and added the chicken carcass and a chopped up carrot and onion to the pot to make chicken stock.  Then Suzette started sautéing the onion in 1 Tbsp. of butter and 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and pressed in the garlic and then added the chicken, the asparagus and the sweet potato and about ½ cup of white wine and 1/2 cup of the chicken stock and sautéed them for at least twenty minutes (I am not sure how long the mélange cooked because Suzette took a call and I was in the other room shelling fresh fava beans and watching the news on T.V.).  When the fava beans were shucked Suzette put them in a small pot of water.  When she started talking, I took over in the kitchen and drained the penne pasta into a colander in the sink and put the fava bean pot on the pasta burner and brought it to a boil. 
I went to the basement and found a chilled bottle of MacMurray Ranch 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Gris that had been given to me by Ashara, one of my Westland work mates back in 2007, in exchange for helping her with some small legal matter.  I opened the bottle and tasted the wine and it tasted tart at first but after a minute of warming in open air its fruity texture began to show.  I put our new pouring stopper on it and put it in the fridge. When Suzette was finished with her call, we discussed finishing the chicken dish with crema or cream or cheese and decided to grate some cheese.  So, I grated 1/2 cup of Swiss Gruyere cheese while Suzette filled pasta bowls with the penne and then topped it with a mound of the chicken mélange and a handful of cheese.  
I filled glasses with the Pinot Gris.  The wine was a beautiful balance of tart minerality and apricot fruitiness that complemented the light clean tasting Mediterranean style dish.  Pinot Gris may be this year’s newly discovered wine, like Chenin Blanc was last year’s wine of the year.  We will need to drink several more before we make a determination but we are on our way because at the manager’s recommendation, we bought a bottle of Kudo’s Pinot Gris from Oregon at Total Wine yesterday.
After dinner as we watched the second segment of Antiques Roadshow from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, while I de-husked the fava beans.  I have discovered recently that fava beans are covered with not only a thick peel, but also a thick husk around their soft center.  For example, I have made the mistake before of not parboiling and de-husking dried fava beans' husks  and they remained tough.  The center of the fava bean was so soft that it crumbled to the touch if not handled with care.  I put them in a container and into the fridge for later use.
Bon Appétit

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 24, 2013 Shopping - Total Wine and Dinner – Grilled Steak with Provencal Eggplant, Broccoli and Baked Sweet Potato

February 24, 2013 Shopping - Total Wine and Dinner – Grilled Steak with Provencal Eggplant, Broccoli and Baked Sweet Potato

I forgot to mention that yesterday we took my new Obama portrait made by Chuck Close to be framed at El Mirador Fine Framing.  I have not mentioned yet the saga of the Chuck Close lithograph.  One Sunday morning last September when the mud slinging of the Presidential election was particularly intense, I read a Talk of the Town article in the New Yorker that Chuck Close had painted a portrait of Obama and a limited edition of prints and tapestries of it were being produced to aggregate $3,000,000 of art to raise money for the Obama campaign.  I loved the idea and was very interested in having a Chuck Close image in my collection, so I went to my computer and found the webpage with the information on the Chuck Close Portraits.  The large tapestries were priced at $50,000 and the large lithographs were priced at $25,000, but the smaller portraits were priced at $5,000.00.  I immediately filled in the on line form and donated $5,000 for a small portrait.  Then after I sent the form I realized I had not saved a copy of the form and in a few weeks after hearing nothing from anyone I became concerned that I had thrown my money into a massive re-election rat hole.  I wrote letters without much success except for one or two notes from Adia Smith and Meagan Budick, who said the prints were not going to be shipped until after the election.  I heard nothing more until I received a call on February 18th or 19th from Ed at an art shipping company in NYC saying that they had received the pieces and they were being packed for shipment and he wanted to check my address and delivery instructions.  I told Ed that I would not accept the piece if it was not signed with an original signature by Chuck Close.  Ed said, “I will check and get back to you.”  He called the next day and said, I have checked and the portrait is signed by Chuck Close and do you want to sign for it.”  I said, I most certainly do.” Ed replied just as tersely, “Fine, it is scheduled to arrive by Fedex on Friday.”
So on Friday a couple of hours after a pleasant lunch and tour of the art in my home with old friends Nancy Scott and Marty Newhouse, the door bell range and it was a Fedex delivery person holding a 3’ by 3 ½‘ wide flat plywood box.  I asked if I could check to see if the item in the box was in good condition and she said, “No, you must accept the delivery by signing and then you will have to take up any deficiencies with the shipper.  So I gathered my courage and signed and took the print into the house and un-taped and opened the box and then the inner cardboard sleeve and "voila", there was a beautiful portrait of Obama that Chuck Close had numbered 130/200, dated 2012 and signed. As good as I could ever imagine.  So I am thrilled and have begun to have thoughts of a descendant of mine a hundred years from now at something like the Antiques Roadshow showing this print and the appraiser saying,  “This piece appeals to many different collecting elements of the market: presidential memorabilia, art collectors of Chuck Close and American Black History collectors.  You have a great piece of American History.”   A happy ending with a great addition to my collection. 
One of the reasons why I am so thrilled is four years ago we were in Seattle and saw that there was an opening of Chuck Close portraits, so we walked to the gallery where we were surrounded by larger lithography portraits than the type I had bought that were priced to up to $140,000.00.  So this donation to Obama may have been the only way I could ever acquire a signed portrait by Chuck Close for $5,000.  Was it idiocy or genius?  Only time will tell?  The good news is I felt like I did my bit to re-elect Obama, at the very least.  Thank you Adia and Meagan and all the other people in the trenches who helped Obama get re-elected.

After El Mirador we went to Sprouts Market and bought 6 lbs. of chocolate covered raisins for $1.99/lb. using my rain check, an eggplant, three sweet potatoes, hot house raised tomatoes ($1.50/lb.), and a few other items. 
In Sunday's Journal we saw an ad for the grand opening of Total Wine, the new mega liquor store, so we decided to kill two birds with one stone because Suzette needed to stop and buy a vacuum cleaner at Sears at Cottonwood Mall.  Even with the map in the paper it took a few minutes of orienteering to find the store.  When we walked in we were greeted by a tasting bar tasting BV Cabernet Sauvignons, including its Tapestry meritage.  The store was huge, probably over 20,000 square feet and over 10,000 different items.  We took a map and started pushing our way through the huge crowd that also had been attracted to the grand opening of Albuquerque’s first liquor megastore.

Total Wine sources many of its own products and its items carry a yellow card on the front of their rack.  The highly rated items all carry a magenta card on their racks and some of those are also sourced by Total Wine.  We made a promise to ourselves to only buy 6 bottles, although we ended up buying seven bottles: a Le Pont Bandol Rosé for $17.99, a Bougrier Les Martinieres Muscadet for $6.99, a Chateau du Retout Haut Medoc for $10.95, a Judos Pinot Gris from Oregon for $12.99,  an Eguren Tierra Castilla Red from Rioja for $6.99 (We had eaten a lovely lunch with Billy, Elaine and Rebecca in April 2011 at Eguren Vineyard near Laguardia, so we were thrilled to find it in Albuquerque.), a bottle of Chateau Megyer Tokaji Furmint from Hungary for $11.99 (the bottle of furmint we bought in Budapest had gone bad after ten years and we wanted to try the real thing again.), and a Bougrier Loire Sauvignon Blanc (Bougrier must be Total’s private label for French wines)  We met the manager in the cognac and section and he recommended a small production family owned calvados, so we bought a Berneroy XO Calvados for $29.99.  With the grand opening coupon for a $10.00 discount for six bottles, our purchase came to $104.76 and we had found a new source of wines, not previously available in Albuquerque. Yeah.
I had thawed out two rib steaks.  At 5:30 p.m. we turned on the Red Carpet pre-Oscar Awards show and discussed dinner.  We looked at our russet potatoes and they were soft and starting to sprout roots, so we decided to throw them out rather than plant them.  We then decided to bake the sweet potatoes we had bought at Sprouts and I wanted to make Eggplant Provencal with the fresh eggplant and tomatoes we had bought at Sprouts Market yesterday.  We either collaborate in designing menus or trade off designing menus. Tonight's menu was designed by me.  As you will see tomorrow's menu will be designed by Suzette.  Because I shop, I usually determine the available ingredients, so Suzette's menus often utilize PPI ingreients in a more creatve way as you will see tomorrow.

The Palmers could not make dinner because Susan is still getting over the flu and Willy was eating  with friends.
First, we worked togethr on the eggplant dish, I sliced the eggplant into 2/3 inch slices crosswise, then Suzette brushed the slices with our new California virgin cold pressed olive oil (Trader Joe's $5.99), while I sliced enough slices of the hot house tomatoes from Sprouts to cover each slice of eggplant with a slice of tomato.  Suzette sliced Mexican white cheese slices with our Norwegian slicer and we covered the tomato slice with cheese.  Then we drizzled panko onto the cheese and baked the covered eggplant slices in a  325 degree oven for 30 minutes until the cheese melted and became toasted golden brown in places and the eggplant and tomatoes cooked.

After ten minutes of baking the eggplant, Suzette lit the grill and heated it up for ten minutes and I  de-stemmed a stalk of broccoli and put the flowerets in the steamer with water and placed it on the stove.  After twenty minutes of baking Suzette put the steak on the grill and flipped it at after about ten minutes, which is when I started steaming the broccoli.  When she flipped the steak I checked the eggplants and turned up the heat to 350 degrees to make sure they were fully cooked.  After 8 minutes I turned off the heat on the broccoli and when Suzette brought in the grilled steak in another couple of minutes, I turned off the oven, sliced the steak into lengthwise 3/4 inch slices and we plated up our plates with the beautiful food and ate a lovely dinner.  The steak was delicious cooked to medium rare (white on te edge and pink throughout the rest of the meat).  

I opened a bottle of 2007 Chateau de Seguin Bordeaux Superior, I think I bought at Trade Joe's or Costco, that was very smooth but lacked character.  We decided we should have allowed it to open up for a couple of hours to see if it would gain character.  It is a bit better the next night after sitting corked overnight.

We ended the meal with chocolate raisins and calvados for me and cognac for Suzette watching the Oscars for a lovely day of shopping and a lovely evening of food.

Bon Appétit

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 22, 2013 Roasted Chicken with stir fried Baby Bok Choy and mixed rice and Bulghar wheat

February 22, 2013 Roasted Chicken with stir fried Baby Bok Choy and mixed rice and Bulghar wheat

Another simple, easy meal.  Suzette brought home the largest roasted chicken I have seen in quite a while from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery around 7:30 p.m. because she stayed for the Marble Brewery beer tasting.
I cut up the last half of the bag of baby bok choy with three cloves of garlic and about 1 ½ Tbsp. of fresh ginger with two shallots.  I separated the leaves from the stalks and other hard vegetables and then threw a handful of brown beech mushrooms in with the stalks.
When Suzette arrived I started stir frying the stalk mixture in about 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil and Suzette heated up the PPI Bulghar wheat and rice in the microwave.  When the stalk mixture had softened (about ten minutes), I added a little Chinese rice cooking wine and about ½ tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. of sugar to the vegetables, tossed them a few times and covered them with a wok cover to steam a bit.  I did not add any soy sauce to the mixture to keep it from having a Chinese flavor, so it would complement the chicken better.
We cut the leg quarters off the chicken and heated them in the microwave.  After a couple of minutes when the vegetables were cooked and chicken and rice mixture hot, we plated up dishes and poured out the last of the Vouvray and ate our quick delicious meal.
Bon Appétit

February 21, 2013 Grilled Salmon with Asparagus and Cous Cous

February 21, 2013 Grilled Salmon with Asparagus and Penna Pasta tossed with Pesto

We are trying to lighten up our meals so we can lose some weight before summer, so the reviews may get shorter and less complex.  I hope they do not become less interesting.
Yesterday I bought a 1 lb. salmon steak at Ta Lin and we still have some asparagus from our trip to Sprouts on Sunday.  suzette suggested that we serve the salmon over pasta.  I said I thought there was a jar of fresh pesto Suzette had made with the fresh basil from our garden last fall.  So we decided to make penna pasta with pesto. 
We boiled 1/2 pound of penna in a pot of water until soft and then Suzette spooned the 4 ounce jar of pesto onto it and tossed it.
Suzette fired up the propane grill and grilled the salmon while I de-stemmed 14 stalks of asparagus and put them in the steamer.  When Suzette turned the fish, we started the asparagus.  Then I went to the basement to fetch a bottle of Chenin Blanc from Vouvray, 2011 Lacheteau ($6.99 Trader Joe’s).  The bottle said it was semi-dry and it was correct.  I would guess that it was about 8 to 9% sugar by volume.  Chenin Blancs run from 0% sugar to over 20% sugar.  We visited the Loire Valley and went to a wine tasting in Vouvray last August and drank a lot of Vouvray.  I would say that we prefer chenin blanc still wine that is between 2½% to 4% sugar, which is usually called “sec”.  We tasted several sparkling Vouvrays that contained between 1 ½% and 2% sugar that were called “quarter sec” that were fabulous wines.  Much of the Loire’s chenin blanc’s sweetness is based upon the weather that nature provides in any one year.  In cool years the wine is usually less sweet and in warm years the % of sugar is higher.
Suzette cooked the salmon to rare and when we saw that the center of the filets were still uncooked and red, she put the salmon back on the grill for an additional minute to push it to medium rare, pink in the middle and white on the edges; perfect.
Dinner was simple and very pleasant with a good glass of French Vouvray.
Bon Appétit

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 20, 2013 Lunch – Café Trang; Dinner – Chinese Stir Fry with Baby Bok Choy and Frog Legs

February 20, 2013 Lunch – Café Trang; Dinner – Chinese Stir Fry with Baby Bok Choy and Frog Legs

I did not eat any breakfast so when it became necessary to meet Nizar to discuss the land in California, I called him around 11:00 and he said we would need to go to lunch early because of a doctor’s appointment with his wife at 12:45 p.m.  So I drove to Café Trang but was run into by a car turning left from the right lane at Buena Vista and Coal.  Thankfully, the damage from the hit was light only breaking the front right headlight, so I still made it to Café Trang ahead of Nizar, who arrived about four or five minutes after me.  We each ordered our usual; Nizar ordered chicken soup with vermicelli rice noodles and I ordered No. 21 Pho with rare beef and beef meatballs.  We had a good meeting.  It seems that large hedge funds are vying with each other to acquire leases on telecommunication towers and we have one on our land in Green Valley in California that they want, which may allow us to sell our lease and pay off most, or all, of our mortgage on the land.  Yeah!
As I paid for the meal I noticed beside the cash register a posted newspaper article listing the best oriental restaurants in Albuquerque that had awarded Café Trang first prize for Pho that made me feel even better about my $7.50 medium bowl of Pho.
After lunch I went to Ta Lin to buy a few things.  There was fresh Atlantic farm raised salmon, so I bought a 1 lb. steak ($5.95/lb.) from a large king salmon.  I also bought a bag of baby bok choy (now $1.39/lb.), several nice looking shallots (now $1.49/lb.), two fresh ginger root stems (still $.99/lb.) and a package of brown beech mushrooms ($1.79).  Unfortunately, what I really needed was peanut oil and its price has gone through the roof.  I finally decided upon a 5 liter bottle for $43.85.  Yuuch! I bought it anyway, because I would not know how to make Chinese food without it.
Suzette chose not to drive to Santa Rosa because of the winter storm forecasts and she returned from her trip to Edgewood and Moriarty to market the upcoming quilt show in Santa Rosa at around 4:00, which is when Willy returned from work.  Suzette had not eaten lunch and was hungry so she heated the PPI Scallops in chayote, tomatillo, and Mexican squash stew with the last of the PPI Bulghar rice.  Suzette said that it reminded her of real Mexican food, so I tasted the dish and it was wonderful, creamy from the pureed tomatillo with great squash flavor. 
Willy toasted Kommisarbrod and spread peanut butter and honey on the toast for a light snack.  I joined him and had one also. 
Neither Suzette nor Willy was hungry or wanting to cook dinner, so at 8:00 p.m. after a fascinating PBS Nature program on the cleverness of crows, I decided to make a light dinner.  I saw that we had PPI rice, so I decided to make a light stir fried dish like I used to make when I lived alone from 1971 to 1975 in Fort Worth.  I used to section and freeze individual portions of meat and make a pot of brown rice once a week and buy fresh vegetables as I needed them; ginger, onions, and garlic not so often and other vegetables fresh every few days. 
I realized that is what I had done at Ta Lin today.  I had bought fresh baby bok choy, ginger and shallots and mushrooms.  So I minced two shallots, 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger, three cloves of garlic and cut up three baby bok choy, separating the white portion from the green and putting the white portion with the shallots, ginger, and mushrooms.  I then deboned about 3 Tbsp. of frog leg meat and put it with the green leaves of the bok choy.
Then I heated the wok with 1 ½ Tbsp. of peanut oil and a dash of sesame oil and put about ¾ cup of rice in a pasta bowl and heated it in the microwave, which was a bad idea, because the soft earthenware bowl cracked from thermal shock.  I also heated some water.
When the oil was hot I added the hard ingredients and stir fried them for a few minutes until they began to soften.  Then I added the green leaves and frog legs and added 1 Tbsp. of rice cooking and 1 ½ tsp. of mushroom soy and stirred the ingredients and covered the wok, so things could steam.  I fetched the heated rice and brewed a cup of green tea with the hot water from the kettle and then ladled the stir fried dish over the rice.  I had not added any thickener because there was so little liquid in the dish that it held together quite well.  If I had wanted to make a saucy dish I could have added more liquid such as chicken stock and then thickened the dish with cornstarch, but that was two additional steps that I did not care to take, because speed and ease and fresh was my goal tonight.
I was full after eating about ½ of the dish, so I put the rest in the fridge for my morning breakfast or lunch.  One of my favorite dishes is to make a kind of fried rice egg foo young by adding egg to fried rice and a stir fry dish, which is aided by the lack of a thickened sauce.  The beauty of this dish was that I already had the first two steps completed: the fried rice with the stir fried rice so I only had to add the egg whisked with a little soy and cooking wine for a quick delicious egg foo young.   The beech mushrooms are fun to cook because they hold their shape and are small and give the dish a beautiful appearance with small mushrooms sticking up everywhere.
I lived on this type of diet for several years and was in the best shape of my life, so I recommend it; especially for a professional person with a demanding work schedule living alone.
Bon Appétit

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 19, 2013 Dinner – Scallops in Chayote and tomatillo sauce (Guiso de vieiras) on cous cous with Asparagus and Fried avocados with crema

February 19, 2013 Dinner – Scallops in Chayote and tomatillo sauce (Guiso de vieiras) on cous cous with Asparagus and Fried avocados with crema

Tonight’s meal was created in an impromptu moment out of PPI.  Suzette and I had decided that she would bring home a roasted chicken from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery, but when Suzette arrives she had no chicken, because the Bistro had sold out of chickens.  We had thawed out a chayote and tomato sauce from the freezer and Suzette saw that the small avocados I had bought last Thursday at Pro’s Market (5 for $.99) were ripe and ready to use.  So we changed the menu to Fried Avocados with something in the Chayote sauce.  When I suggested that we had scallops, Suzette agreed and also to using some of the fresh PPI tomatillo sauce in the fridge.  So off we went. 
Scallops sauteeing in tomatillo/squash stew

I chopped 2 tsp. of garlic and about 3 Tbsp. of fresh cilantro and got out the crema, scallops, panko and Chayote sauce while Suzette peeled three avocados and thawed the scallops in water and then the microwave on low heat and then sautéed the garlic and scallops in a large skillet.  Then she added the chayote and some tomatillo sauce to the skillet.  In another smaller skillet Suzette heated canola oil in a skillet (about 1/2 inch of oil deep) and dusted the avocado halves in panko in a plastic bag and fried them quickly and removed them to paper and then to a warm oven.
Then I snapped the stalks of about 14 stalks of asparagus and put them into the steamer and went to the basement for two Noche Buenas (Costco now sells 24 packs of Dos Equis Amber and Pilsner and Noche Buena beer for $16.99) and heated the PPI tomato flavored cous cous in the microwave for a couple of minutes (We had boiled rice, which is what would have been served in Mexico, but I thought the tomato flavored cous cous would complement the dish better and taste more like Spanish rice).
Suzette steamed the asparagus and when the asparagus was ready, we plated each dish with two fried avocado halves filled with crema, a pile of the steamed asparagus stalks, cous cous and then the scallop stew on the cous cous.
The dish was interesting.  The sauce had a creamy texture and the chayote sauce had slices of Mexican squash and tomatos in it but the constituent ingredients had lost their individual flavors and had merged into a kind of creamy vegetable stew, especially when it merged with the pureed tomatillo sauce.  What was good was that the scallops and sauce complemented each other, so that when one cut the scallops into pieces and ate a piece of scallop with the stew, they took on a stew-like texture and flavor and lost their individual character.  I had never thought to make a Guiso de Vieira but we had just made it.  A new dish for us.  The only thing we did not do was add lots of chilis to make it more of a diablo style of stew that is so common in Mexico.
The avocados were not our creation.  We first had them at El Farol in Santa Fe and then at the El Farol restaurant in Albuquerque when it existed.  El Farol fills their fried avocados with pico de gallo, but we used Mexican crema (Pro’s Ranch Market $1.99/lb.).  The avocados needed a little chili zip in my opinion, so I fetched the bottle of Cholulu original hot sauce and drizzled a few drops on the crema and avocado, which did the trick to heighten the picante flavor sufficiently for me.
We loved drinking the Noche Buena beers with dinner.  It made us feel like we were in Mexico, because Noche Buena is exactly the beer we would have choosen for this dinner; especially since Moctezuma only makes Noche Buena in the winter. 
From a non-event (the missing chicken), we had conjured and created a fun dinner with a new dish.
After dinner we watched the last episode of season three of Downton Abbey that we had missed last Sunday and ate chocolate covered almonds and Suzette sipped cognac and I sipped Trimbach plum brandy and then retired to bed full and happy.
Bon Appétit

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 18, 2013 ***Dinner – Grilled Lamb Chops, Eggplant Provencal, Bulghar Wheat risotto, and Sugar Snap Peas

February 18, 2013 ***Dinner – Grilled Lamb Chops, Eggplant Provencal, Bulghar Wheat risotto, and Sugar Snap Peas

I asked Suzette what she wanted to eat for dinner this morning and she said, “The fresh lamb chops.”

So at 5:00 p.m. I decided to use the eggplant we had bought last Sunday at Sprouts Market and make my Mother’s best eggplant dish, which she had called “Eggplant Provencal”.  I also wanted a different type of starch so chose to use up the last of a bag of No. 4 Bulghar wheat (Istanbul Market $1.49/lb.) and make it my favorite way: sautéed in butter with onions, garlic, raisins and almonds.  Suzette had also mentioned that we needed to use up the last of the sugar snap peas.  So we had created a menu with a slightly Middle Eastern feel to it.

We took a short nap from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. and then I started by mincing 3 Tbsp. of red onion, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 ½ handfuls of roasted salted almonds (Sprouts $3.99/lb.) and about 1/3 lb. of bulghar wheat.  I sautéed those ingredients in 1 ½ Tbsp. of butter until they took on a golden brown color.  Then I added about ¼ cup of raisins and filled the mixture with hot water to a level of 1½ times the volume of the solid mixture and covered the pan and lowered the heat to a low simmer and cooked the bulghar like rice for 30 minutes.

I then sliced the about 1 1/2 /lb. American eggplant crosswise into ¾ inch thick round slices and laid the slices on a cookie sheet.  I then opened a bottle of Trader Joe’s Extra Virgin California Estate “New Harvest” 100% Arbequina cold pressed unfiltered olive oil ($5.99 for 500 ml.) that I had bought at Trader Joe’s last week and poured the olive oil onto the slices of eggplant and spread that which did not sink in immediately with a brush to try to coat the entire surface of both sides of the eggplant.  I then sliced a tomato and put a slice of tomato onto each oiled slice of eggplant and then covered the tomato with thin slices of Mozzarella cheese and then panko.  Suzette put the eggplant into a 325-350˚ oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Near the end of the cooking time, when the bulghar and sugar snap peas were cooked and the lamb chops grilled, I turned up the heat to slightly more than 350˚ to make sure the cheese melted and the dish was cooked thoroughly (Suzette thinks the eggplant dish tasted better with thirty to thirty-five minutes of baking because it was crisper and better integrated when the boys arrived after it had been put back in to the oven for an additional period of cooking, see below.

Suzette then heated up the propane grill and slathered the lamb chops with the lovely crabapple glaze she made from our crabapples last year and salted and peppered them and grilled them to perfection on the grill to medium rare.

I fetched the peach basil compote Suzette had made last year with peaches from Ed’s trees in Los Lunas and fresh basil from our garden and the bottle of mint jelly from the fridge.

We then de-stemmed the last two cups of sugar snap peas that were starting to get a little old and tossed them into the steamer and steamed them for 8 to 10 minutes.  

I had a tough time deciding which wine to use for the dinner.  I initially wanted to use the new Chateauneuf de Pape that I had bought at Trader Joe’s last week ($18.99) but it was a 2011, so clearly not ready to drink.  I finally settled on a bottle of 2008 Handley Cellars’ 14.5% North Coast “Ranch House Red” that we had bought at Handley last May for about $8.50.  It is their artisanal blend of mostly Pinot Noir and had that lovely soft Anderson Valley California texture to it and since it was a blend, not unlike a Chateauneuf de Pape, with a bit of age on it and having benefited from being cellared for over six months.

Suzette yelled that the food was ready so I ran upstairs and Suzette opened the bottle.  We were a little surprised when we saw that the bottom of the cork had a lot of solidified tannic acid hanging from the cork, but when we poured the wine it was clear without any sediment.

We each plated up a chop, a slice of eggplant provencal, a scoop of bulghar and a scoop of sugar snap peas.  

The dinner was great.  It was the first time the night air was warm enough to allow for grilling comfortably.  This is the start of Spring, as far as I am concerned.  

 In fact, we started watering the lawn yesterday.  Soon we will start getting the yard ready for summer and the beds ready for planting the new seeds Suzette ordered.  We even spent a little time with Willy in the garden yesterday and removed the netting covering the pond and disassembled the fallen gazebo, so it can be repaired.

As we were starting to eat Willy called and said that he and Eli were thinking about getting something to eat.  I encouraged him to bring Eli to our house for dinner, because I knew that Eli is a vegetarian and I think the Eggplant Provencal is one of the very best vegetarian dishes, and a perfect vegetarian meal with the bulghar wheat risotto and a fresh green vegetable.   

This was one of those meals in which each of the elements was so flavorful on its own and yet complementary to the other elements, that the meal was totally satisfying; completely unlike last night’s meal at the Bull Ring in Santa Fe, where it was impossible to put together a complete meal for a reasonable price.  Suzette said she liked the new olive oil.  Olives are picked in the late fall in the northern temperate zone, so if the olive oil was from the new crop it was picked only a couple of months ago, probably in October or November

Suzette put the Eggplant Provencal back into the oven to keep it warm and soft and when Willy and Eli arrived they took plates of food.  Willy’s with two chops and Eli’s with no chop but extra sugar snap peas.

I think Willy and Eli liked the dishes because they each took seconds, so I got boastful and told the guys that I thought the dinner was the best vegetarian dinner available in New Mexico this evening, because I believed it and Suzette agreed.

Later Drew came over but did not eat.  After we retired to bed around 9:00 p.m. Willy baked chocolate chip cookies from the dough he had stored in the fridge, as I discovered when I returned to the kitchen to make a hot cup of tea a little later.  The guys graciously gave me the last two cookies, which made a perfect finish to the meal with the hot cup of cardamom flavored black tea (Istanbul Market).

What a great evening of cooking and eating!

Bon Appétit

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 17, 2013 Dinner- The Bull Ring, Breakfast – pork and sweet potato Burritos

February 17, 2013  Dinner- The Bull Ring, Breakfast – pork and sweet potato Burritos

Sunday morning Suzette wanted her usual Breakfast Burrito and Bloody Mary.  We had PPI ingredients that included ½ of a baked sweet potato, a small bag of cooked pork and her lovely tomatillo sauce, so that was the basis of the burrito.  The flavor of the sauteed sweet potato and pork doused with the flavorful lightly picante tomatillo sauce was a delicious combination.
After we made our first ride of the year ten miles on the new bike trail to Rio Bravo on our tandem, I made myself a tapa of a toasted slice of whole grain bread with Mexican white mozzarella style cheese and three slices of Genoa salami and a small glass of Barbera de Asti red wine.
Then at 4:00 p.m. Willy and we were off to Santa Fe to join Joe Bova and his wife Linda, Amy and Vhal, and Amy's old friend Nancy Scott and her husband, Marty Newhouse who had just arrived from Boston.  Marty is a lawyer at a Boston firm who was taking a break to travel with Nancy, who came to Sant Fe to do research at the O'Keefe Museum for an article she was writing for publication in England.  I had made reservations at La Taberna for dinner at 5:30 p.m.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at La Taberna, we discovered that Miguel the maître de with whom I had made the reservation on Wednesday had not conveyed it to the Taberna or the Taberna maître de chose not to hold the reservation for our nine seats at the community table so Vhal ran over to the Bull Ring across the patio and they said they could seat us and so we went to the Bull Ring.  Perhaps the failure of my reservation was my fault for failing to use a credit card to secure the reservation with a potential $10.00 per person penalty for failing to show up; something I shall consider more carefully next time.
I had not been to the Bull Ring since it moved to Roger Ressler’s old Ogilvie’s location  in the courtyard area between Palace and Marcy and Washington and Lincoln streets around ten or fifteen years ago.  Suzette and I sat beside Joe and Linda.  I found Joe to be fascinating.  A potter by education and vocation, who was about my age and had grown up in Houston, studied ceramics at UNM, then taught ceramics at LSU for twenty years and then served as director of the art department at Ohio University before retiring to Santa Fe in 2004.   Joe opened up his smart phone and showed us several ceramic sculpture pieces that were free standing or wall mounted.  Linda works at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum as a grant writer.
When Marty and Nancy showed up, we were given menus and they were interesting.  I immdeiately remembered why I had not been to the Bull Ring in such a long time.  It is mainly a steak house that serves very predictable food.  The menu was dominated by grilled meats and high prices.  The cheapest steak was a petite filet for $39.00.  Everything was a la carte.  So if you wanted a baked potato ($5.00) and a Caesar salad ($8.95) your meal was over $50.00 and the cheapest bottle of wine I saw on the wine list was $34.00 for a restaurant production bottle of Rosenblum Zinfandel, which I ordered.  The Rosenblum California zinfandels are really good and this bottle was no exception, even though it had a slightly murky monople taste that is not present in their more lively single vineyard offerings.
I ordered a bowl of the soup of the day, Clam Chowder ($6.95) and a Caesar Salad with anchovies ($8.95).  Actually I loved the soup.  It was made in the Northwest style I found in Seattle with a milk base with large pieces of potato and lots of fresh clams.  Suzette ordered a cup of the soup ($4.95) and a vegetable side dish of grilled tomatoes.  Willy ordered the cheapest entrée, a plate of roasted chicken which was served without any vegetables ($27.00).  Most of the others saw the design of the menu and adopted a strategy similar to me and Suzette, ordering salads and appetizers.  The salads with meat, such as the lovely summer salad with a blackened salmon filet that Joe ordered was $18.95.  Appetizers were mostly around $10.00 each.  Linda ordered the calamari and she said the large plate of fried calamari was excellent, garnished with its drizzle of a tomato dressing.  With the automatic 20% gratuity for parties of over 8, Willy, Suzette and my dinner with the bottle of wine was around $120.00.  Although the preparation was adequate, my take on the Bull Ring is that it is too expensive for too little food with no creativity.  I guess the reason it appeals to politicians is taht it has a great bar and because the politicians are usually are from rural settings and The Bull Ring's plain food of steak, potatoes and fresh vegetables is the type of food they grew up on.
So, by 7:15 we had finished dinner and walked the two blocks to the Convention Center to hear Bill Maher do a 1 ½ hour comedy rant on the current politics in America.
Then home to bed by 11:00 p.m.

Bon Appétit      



February 16, 2013 Dinner Frog’s Legs in parsley, garlic butter with asparagus with hollandaise sauce and Cous cous with tomato; Belated Valentine’s Dinner

February 16, 2013  Dinner Frog’s Legs in parsley, garlic butter with asparagus with hollandaise sauce and Cous cous with tomato; Belated Valentine’s Dinner

Suzette worked at the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery for their big Valentines Dinner on Thursday evening and we did not cook Friday night, just heated up the last of the PPI Ma Po Dofu and rice.
So Saturday we decided to cook a nice dinner of Frog Legs with champagne or a belated Valentine’s Dinner and cook.   So I thawed the frog legs out [Pro’s Market ($4.99/lb.)], while Suzette was attending the Annual New mexico Organic Growers’ Conference.
When Suzette arrived, we found that we did not have any parsley, so she drove to Lowe’s and bought some.
We opened the other bottle of Henriot champagne “Le Souverain”, Suzette had bought and added a bit of the rose flavored wine we had bought at The Line Camp tasting room of Don Quixote Winery .  The rose wine had a rather bitter taste that overpowered the delicate French champagne’s almost non-taste, so we decided to not flavor the champagne with the rose wine and put it back in the fridge.
I then chopped up 1 Tbsp. of garlic and about three Tbsp. of parsley, three small shallots and a tomato for the cous cous.  I divided the shallot between the garlic and parsley mixture for the frog legs and the tomato for the cous cous.
I made the blender recipe from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1, which is simple. It calls for 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice and three egg yolks placed in a blender and then slowly adding 1 stick (1/4/lb.) of heated butter.  I fetched the egg whites that were left from the Hollandaise sauce and Suzette placed them in a shallow baking dish and then crushed some panko and flavored it with salt and dipped the frog legs in the egg and then coated them in the panko mixture.
While Suzette was sautéing the garlic, shallot and parsley in a large pan with butter and olive oil for the frog legs, I made 1 cup of cous cous by bring 1 ½ cups of water and the tomato and shallot mixture to a boil with 1 Tbsp. of butter and then adding the cous cous and reducing the heat to a low heat for five minutes.  At the end of five minutes I tossed the cous cous with a fork and turned off the heat. 
We steamed seven asparagus each in the steamer and then when everything was almost done, I heated the butter until a froth appeared on the surface in the microwave and drizzled it through that opening in the top cover into the egg and lemon juice in the blender while the blades were spinning at high speed.
When the frog legs were sautéed, Suzette deglazed the pan with more butter and a bit of white wine and we served dinner by plating the asparagus and drizzling hollandaise sauce over them, scooping a pile of cous cous onto the plate and making a pile of three sautéed frog legs on the cous cous.  See Picture.
When we started eating the frog legs we discovered that they were not fully cooked so Suzette removed the egg wash from the steel baking dish and cleaned it and placed the frog legs in it in the oven and baked them for an additional twenty minutes while we sipped Henriot champagne from beautiful handmade and decorated champagne glasses Suzette had bought at Murano, Italy and discussed the best strategy for cooking frog legs.  She said that they needed to be baked or roasted like chicken.  After the frog legs had been baked in the oven for an additional twenty minutes, we re-plated them and when we tasted them again, we agreed that Suzette’s decision to bake them like chicken was correct.  The frog legs had a much better, more cooked and less elastic texture after they had been roasted.
The frog legs in the butter, parsley, shallot and garlic sauce tasted wonderful and the hollandaise sauce was right on.  Unfortunately, my stomach reacted to the abundance of butter early Sunday morning, so I ate a bowl of LaLa Mexican Mango yogurt mixed with Pace Greek strained yogurt and read my new Book Club selection, Barney’s Version by Mordicai Richler, the quasi-autobiographical journals of an older Jewish man living in Montreal, Canada discussing his life, his three wives and his life in Paris in the 50’s.
Bon Appétit  

Friday, February 15, 2013

February 14, 2013 Lunch – Vinaigrette; Dinner - PPI MaPo Dofu and Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli

February 14, 2013 Lunch – Vinaigrette; Dinner - PPI MaPo Dofu and Stir Fried Chinese Broccoli

Willy and I met my old boss, Mrs. Barbara Page for lunch at Vinaigrette.  I realized that it was Valentine’s Day when we arrived at noon and found the restaurant filled with people.  After ten minutes we were seated and ordered lunch.  Barbara ordered the Mushroom Stew and Willy ordered the combo of an avocado salad and a sandwich.  I ordered my usual French Bistro Salad with frisée and extra lardons (fried julienned bacon strips) topped with a poached egg. 
Unfortunately, today the bacon used for the lardons was exceptionally fatty.  I did not know what to do.  I would have normally sent it back for proper bacon, but the restaurant was so busy that I could not in good conscience do that, so I surgically removed most of the fat and ate it, even though the extra bacon grease made the salad overly fatty.  I asked for the elimination of the $2.00 charge for extra lardons, but the staff only reduced the bill by $1.00.  Alas, too many people to get good service from the kitchen and wait staff.
Suzette was late because the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery was full for dinner also, with two seatings; one at 5:30 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m.  Willy and I nibbled on baked tortilla tostados I had made and PPI guacamole as I prepped three cups of Chinese Broccoli (Gai Lin?) I had bought at Ta Lin last week.
Chinese Broccoli has a smaller head, more leaves and a thinner stalk than our American variety.  I made a cup of rice and quartered the stalks so they could be stir fried while placing the leaves and heads into a separate colander so they could be introduced later in the cooking process.  I also minced and added 1 Tbsp. of ginger, 1 Tbsp. of garlic, 3 Tbsp. of sliced red onion and two sliced shitake mushrooms to the stalks, so they would cook longer and flavor the entire dish.
Suzette came home about 7:30 p.m. and we began cooking.  I heated the wok and added 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil and a dash of sesame oil and then stir fried the broccoli stalks.  When the stalks and onions softened, I added the leaves and heads and then poured some rice cooking wine, soy sauce and sesame oil and threw a ½ tsp. of salt and ½ tsp. of sugar into the wok and stirred it and covered it so it could steam.  Suzette heated the Ma Po Dofu in the microwave while I made a thickening sauce of 1 Tbsp. of soy, 1 Tbsp. of rice cooking wine, a dash of sesame oil, 2 Tbsp. cornstarch and about 1/4 cup of water.  After the vegetables had steamed for a few minutes and softened, I poured in the thickening sauce and stirred the vegetables.  The sauce was too thick and clotted into a sticky mess, so I added more water, a little at a time, until the sauce was loose and shiny.
We then plated up rice, MaPo Dofu, and Chinese Broccoli.  Willy and I drank green tea and Suzette drank a beer.  We all liked the dark green Chinese Broccoli in its velvety light brown sauce.
Bon Appétit

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 10, 2013 Dinner – High Noon Restaurant and Saloon, Lunch – Ma Po Dofu

February 10, 2013 Dinner – High Noon Restaurant and Saloon, Lunch – Ma Po Dofu

We went to see the new Japanese Deco Exhibit at the Albuquerque Museum at around 11:30 am because admission is free until noon on Sundays.  The exhibit is exceptional in two respects.  It includes items I have never seen before and they are of very great beauty.  I had never even thought about a Deco period in Japan, but the exhibit included a treasury of beautiful items of exquisite refinement.
Before we left the house, we had prepped all the ingredients for Ma Po Dofu, I diced two Chinese eggplants, 2 green Anaheim chiles, and a small onion and deboned and diced six pork chops, and minced two Tbsp. of ginger and one Tbsp. of garlic and sliced five or six portabella mushrooms and several shitake mushrooms.  Suzette made pork broth with the bones from the pork chops and a diced carrot and ½ onion.
The reason we went shopping was for me to buy a set of bamboos sheets for Suzette’s Valentine’s Day gift.  Then we stopped by Bob Moon’s because he graciously allowed me to borrow his copy of this month’s book club selection, “Barney’s Version”.  Finally we stopped at Sprouts Market (See February 11, 2013 for shopping details) where we also bought a 14 oz. tub of soft tofu ($1.49).
We had been invited to go to dinner with Josefo and Davida at 7:00 p.m., but we were really hungry, so  when we arrived home at 3:00 p.m. we cooked the Ma Po Dofu and a cup of rice with lilly pods, since we knew Willy would be hungry after his soccer game.
Suzette and I stir fried the pork in 2 Tbsp. of heated peanut oil in a wok with half of the minced ginger and garlic.  Then I removed the pork from the wok and added the vegetables and the rest of the garlic and ginger and stir fried the vegetables until they were soft and added the mushrooms.  After the mushrooms took on color I added about 1 Tbsp. Chinese Rice Cooking wine and 1 tsp. of mushroom soy and 1 tsp. of sesame oil and then the diced 14 oz. of tofu and then the pork broth to cover the ingredients so they would cook into a stew.
After about more 30 minutes of the stew's simmering, I made a thickening mixture of 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch and 1 Tbsp. each of cooking wine and soy and a dash of sesame oil and about 2 Tbsp. of water to liquefy the mixture and added that to the wok.  There was still a lot of liquid in the stew, but it thickened slightly, which is enough for us.  I usually add chopped green onions and crushed Szechuan peppercorns but, we were too hungry for those niceties today, so around 4:00 p.m. when Willy arrived we piled the Ma Po Dofu onto a scoop of warm rice and dug in.  The sauce was a little less thickened than I like, but it coated the rice nicely.
Then at 6:30 Josefo and Davida arrived.  They first showed me a new watercolor Davida is painting of a stallion she named Fire.  Then we went to High Noon Restaurant in Old Town for dinner.  The restaurant was not very full but we loved the over 200 year old adobe building and the accents, such as wagon wheels and harnesses on the walls.  Suzette and I were not terribly hungry, having eaten three hours before, so we split a dish of beef short ribs served with a cherry flavored demi-glace and Davida ordered the same dish ($22.00), three chunks of grilled beef served with a pile of mashed potatoes and asparagus.  Josefo ordered the Bourbon Roasted Chicken, one-half of a roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes and baby carrots ($23.00).   The table setting and service were excellent.  Suzette and I each drank a Monk’s Ale brewed on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico or in Moriarty, New Mexico.

We all loved our meals, so we tried the tres leches cake and it was delicious also.  A square of sponge cake served in a bowl on a bed of custard and drizzled with a caramel sauce.  A lovely dessert.  We went home happily full and arrived just in time to watch Downton Abbey.  

I have known Charley and Shirley Villa for years and am happy to say that their daughter Carla is doing a great job running the restaurant.   If you want a great steak or a restaurant in Old Town that serves a lovely dinner, it is well worth a visit to High Noon located in its elegantly converted historic home.

Bon Appétit  

February 11, 2013  Dinner – Mahi mahi baked in aluminum, Sweet potato, and asparagus
Breakfast – granola with ½ of a fresh kiwi and mango yogurt and milk

Lunch – PPI sushi cooked in dashi and aka miso broth with Vietnamese rice vermicelli, fresh spinach, daikon slices and minced fresh shallot.  The PPI octopus, salmon and tuna may have been a little old because I am having a bit of a stomach ache at 3:00 am.
Dinner – Mahi Mahi baked in aluminum foil with diced red bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and onion and drizzled with a little white wine and 2 or 3 small pieces of butter.

This is one of our favorite fish dishes that I experienced for the first time when I visited Harold and Suzette in Puerto Vallarta around 1996.  It was a specialty at Roberto’s Restaurant, located a block west of the bus station near the national highway at the south end of town on the main road out of the center of town.  Roberto’s would use whatever fish was fresh that day, usually red snapper, mahi mahi or dorado.  I have always loved the dish and it is similar to techniques found in French and Swedish cuisine for baked fish.  If the pocket is properly sealed the fish is always tender and fragrant with the flavor of the vegetables and white wine.  In this night’s dish the white wine we used was Spanish Viura.  You can add vegetables to your liking.  Suzette did not include mushrooms in her packet, for example.  The vegetables and wine and butter make a delicious sauce as they combine with the juices of the fish as it bakes.  Suzette baked the dish for 45 minutes in a medium oven.  It is always fun to open the sealed aluminum and smell the aroma/bouquet of the ingredients when the steam is released.
Suzette also baked the two organic white sweet potatoes ($1.29/lb.) we bought at Sprouts Market yesterday, where we also bought two bundles of fresh asparagus ($1.49/lb.), the 1 ½ /lb. of fresh Mahi Mahi ($5.99/lb.), granola, eggs ($1.49/dozen), and a bundle of green onions ($.79).   We only used 1 lb. of the mahi mahi, so we have enough for fish tacos on Tuesday evening.
We also steamed seven slender fresh asparagus stalks for each person and after slathing our potatoes with butter, we ate a delicious hot dinner.

We drank the rest of our open bottle of Cameron Hughes Rosé (Costco $9.99), a French Rosé from Nimes, that is light on fruit flavor but long on that elegant refined absence of flavor that is so characteristically French.
Bon Appétit

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 9, 2013 B.J. Jones book signing Luncheon and Charles Palmer Harpsichord Recital

February 9, 2013 B.J. Jones book signing Luncheon and Charles Palmer Harpsichord Recital

A pretty big day.  We drove to the GreenhouseBistro and Bakery at the Center for Ageless Living at around 9:45 a.m. after dropping off more folding chairs at the Palmers.  The dining room was set up and Suzette told me that there were 13 reservations for lunch for B.J.’s book signing for her new cookbook "Food, Fun, Family and Friends Cookbook".  B.J. and her friend Pauline arrived at around 10:30 and started setting up for the book signing.  As it turned out there were about four or five attendees who had heard about the book signing from the Center’s advertisements and the rest were family and friends of B.J and Orlando Lucero, her husband.  I met Orlando’s Dad and Mom and aunts.  I sat with two friends of B.J., Terry Jiron Gordon and ________ Molina.   Although there was a smaller crowd than that for Margaret Wood’s signing lunch, it was an enthusiastic, chatty group of mainly friends and family and BJ gave a wonderful presentation about the history of her journey to cooking and how she came to write the book and its publication.   I was inspired to think about self-publishing a cook book.

The other thing that made the lunch wonderful was the execution of the recipes by the Bistro.  The lunch was a February meal from B.J’s cookbook with an antipasto plate, a salad with a creamy balsamic dressing, spinach lasagna and a cream puff filled with chocolate ice cream.

Here are the pictures of each dish.

The special dish was the spinach lasagna.  It was a lot like the pastitcio at last night’s Greek meal at the Bistro, a pan layered with lasagna noodles, chicken, spinach, herbs, sweet red peppers, and cheese and smothered with a Sauce Béchamel.  The big difference in today’s preparation was that the kitchen could not find spinach lasagna noodles, so Suzette made fresh spinach lasagna noodles yesterday.   So the dish was more alive and fresh tasting than the pastitcio with its store bought dried noodles and less sauce. 

As you can see the sauce and cheese are flowing all around the lasagna, so it is incredibly creamy.  A very different dish than the cakelike pastitcio in both texture and effect although using similar ingredients.

 After lunch and a tour of the spa, we loaded a full sheet cake and chocolate coated strawberries and delivered them to the Palmer’s house on our way home.  Probably the neatest part of the day was watching Charlie apply gold leaf to the top of the shiny chocolate fondant on the chocolate sheet cake made by the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery when we delivered the cake at 2:00 p.m.

At 7:00 we walked over to the Palmers’ house for their first harpsichord recital.  Chairs were set up in his shop where the harpsichord was sitting.  Charlie was doing some last minute tuning of the harpsichord when we arrived, so I busied myself in the kitchen and checked the wine situation.  Susan and Charlie had arranged a huge spread of mostly cheeses and breads and crackers on the kitchen island and the dining room table was filled with desserts including the gold leafed sheet cake, petite madeleine, lemon bars, brownies,  and green and red grapes and pear slices.

Charlie bought a case of lovely wines at Costco that included reds such as Maison Jadot’s Beaujolais Villages, Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 2010 Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rosenblum’s Old Vines Zinfandel.

The white was Maison Jadot Fouilly-Fuissé, les Petites Pierres and there were several champagnes, including Gruet Brut, a Henriot Brut Souverain that we brought and a lovely Kirtland French Champagne from Sezanne, France.  There were other soft drinks. I tried to serve wine and keep wine glasses filled during the evening. 

The cheeses were lovely also, brie and English cheddar, and smoked gouda and regular gouda and even a wedge of one of my new favorites, Cabrales, and on and on.

After everyone had a glass of wine or other beverage and a few nibbles of cheese, we were directed out to the shop for the recital.  Charlie introduced Kathy Mcintosh and Susan Patrick, the two performers.  Charlie said they were considered the two best in the State of New Mexico.  The music was fabulous and I was taken back to the 1700’s by it.  Spanish, French and German pieces were played and the harpsichord’s sound was terrific throwing out cascades of notes as the performers’ fingers raced across the keys.  Something I learned was that the harpsichord had three different settings that could be adjusted to create three different timbres (tone qualities).  The other thing I learned from Kathy Mcintosh was that Charlie had come to her house to measure the weight required to depress the keys on her harpsichord so he could get the feel of the keys just right.  That gives you an insight into the degree of care to detail that Charlie used in making the harpsichord.

After the recital we returned to the house for more wine and cheese and desserts.  I loved spreading herb Boursin on WASA whole wheat crackers dotted with oat flakes.

Finally at 10:00 we went home.  Susan was lovely and gave us the Bouchon Baking Book by Thomas Keller, which Suzette promised to use at the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery.

Bon Appetit