Friday, March 27, 2015

March 25, 2015 The Re-birth of Los Altos Ranch Market, New Recipe: Avocado stuffed with Curried Chicken Salad

March 25, 2015 The Re-birth of Los Altos Ranch Market,  New Recipe: Avocado stuffed with Curried Chicken Salad

Yesterday I filed a Motion to extend the deadline for filing my brief, so this morning when I received an order from the 10th Circuit extending the filing date, I felt like I could get out of the house.  This was good news because the flyer in the mail from Los Altos Ranch Market looked promising.  I arrived around 10:30 and the produce department was humming with activity.  Guys were dumping large produce boxes of vegetables onto the display areas and there were lots of folks there roaming from fresh pile to fresh pile to pick up the specials.  Here are a couple of pictures of the specials.  As you can see there are five Day Specials, Wednesday and Thursday specials and there are also 2 day specials on weekends.  Wednesday and Thursday are the best days for produce.  I immediately noticed that the variety, quality and number of produce attendants had increased dramatically.  It was like the produce department had been resurrected.  

I started filling my cart: first 14 avocados for me and 14 for Suzette’s restaurant (7 for $.99), then about 6 or 7 red Roma tomatoes (2 lb. for $.99), then a large bag of small ripe navel oranges for juicing (3 lb. for $.99), a large bag of yellow onions (7 lb. for $.99), three Manila mangos (Altaufo) for $.50 each, a pineapple (2 lb. for $.99), an eggplant for $1.29, a fresh celery root for $3.00/lb., bananas (2 lb. for $.99), an acorn squash for $.69/lb. and 5 pasilla chiles for Chile Relleno (2 lb. for $.99).  I was in a food frenzy, so I pushed my, by now rather full, cart over to the fish department and found an even better value, Large head on shrimp for $5.99/lb.  I bought 3 lbs. and as an afterthought bought three sierra filets for $1.29/lb. just because the price was so good.  As I was looking for the 14 oz. bag of chips for $1.39, which I now realize is a Friday Special, I saw and bought a 2 liter bottle of Senorial Sangria for $.99 to be mixed with fruits, such as orange and pineapple and red wine for sangria.

I was in heaven as I pushed my cart toward the checkout counter.  There were some issues at the checkout counter: the computer price on the acorn squash was wrong (the supervisor sent the checkout attendant to check the price and I went with her to direct her attention to the item and code number).  When we returned to the checkout counter and she entered the Code No. 4750, which appeared on the label for the acorn squashes, the item name and price came up different from the label in the produce area.  As a growing line of people were waiting, I engaged in a philosophical discussion with the cashier.  I asked her if she believed her eyes or the computer. She could not answer that question, but the supervisor returned and gave me the acorn squash for $.69/lb. and said, “I will report that to the proper person.” 

We went through a similar experience with the celery root which was lovely and beginning to sprout a green shoot, so I might try to plant it.  I must have been the only person in the store who knew what a celery root was.  The cashier was completely flummoxed by now, because after she and I and the supervisor each examined at all the items in the 30 to 35 page code book with pictures, we all agreed; there was no listing for celery root (Sort of an Alice's Restaurant moment, when you realize that all of the systems created to deal with the problem, only expose some greater problem).  Rather than again ordering the cashier to go check the price, the supervisor finally asked, “How much was it?”  I answered, “I think $3.29/lb.”  She rang the price up as $3.00/lb. and I was thrilled.  

Finally, around noon I paid and headed for the parking lot in a glorious mood, leaving a long line of angry customers glaring at me.  I hate to seem callous but this was one of my greatest food shopping adventures ever; right up there with my ultimate food shopping experience.  We were staying at the condo at Conchas Chinas Beach in Puerto Vallarta about twenty years ago.  Scott and I went to buy some groceries at a small neighborhood super mini up the hill near the river.  When I checked out, bells rang and lights flashed and I thought I was being detained or deported for some reason, Scott, whose Spanish was better than mine, told me that the cashier had told him that I was the 1,000,000th customer and I had won a 50 lb. bag of avocados. I remember saying "muchas gracias" to everyone and Scott helping me drag my 50 lb. bag of avocados out of the store because I was still in a total daze from that surreal shopping experience.   That is how I felt today as I left the Ranch Market today; exhilarated by a surreal food shopping experience.   

When Suzette got home around 6:15 she was tired and I had to go to meditation until 8:15, so we agreed to not cook a big meal, but instead she would make a chicken and egg salad with the PPI chicken breast while I meditated, stuffing one of the medium avocados I had bought at Sprouts on Saturday and chopping Romaine lettuce to make a salad.  As I left I asked, “Can you add some curry to make a curried chicken and egg salad and got her the bottle of curry powder Luke had given us for Christmas.

When I arrived home the salad was ready and Suzette had diced one of the fresh mangoes into chunks to sprinkle over the salad.  The only thing Suzette thought were missing were razor thin slices of Roma tomato like those surrounding the Chopped kale salad we had had Friday a week ago at dinner before the Sofia Rei concert at the NHCC.  I took a Roma tomato and tried to cut thin slices, but the tomato was more ripe and softer than those served at the dinner at the NHCC, but with a sharp knife I did pretty well and the visual effect was the same,  

We enjoyed our curried chicken and egg salad stuffed avocado with sips of a wine spritzer we made with a sweet wine we bought in Pennsylvania last spring named Spring Fling with a splash of Framboise Raspberry liquor over ice in the garden.

During dinner, Suzette made two related announcements.  Since this was the beginning of Spring, she did not want to cook many more hot meals and since she will shortly be fully engaged in the re-modeling of the kitchen at the Center for Ageless Living, she would not be able to cook and I would need to shoulder the primary responsibility.  Both suggestions suit me fine; if I can get my brief done soon.

Sometimes responsibility gets in the way of the pleasures of food, but hopefully there will still be those little experiences like shopping for food that can turn into a memorable adventure. 

Can BBQ'd shrimp be far away.

Bon Appétit  

March 23, 2015 Marrakesh Stew with chicken and Couscous

March 23, 2015 Marrakesh Stew with chicken and Couscous

I have been working on a brief for my water case and have not had a lot of time to think about food or shop lately. 

Today I went into the kitchen at around 5:00 and looked in the fridge.   We had the turnips and carrots Suzette had picked in garden yesterday, an acorn squash, and PPI roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and couscous.  For some reason I immediately thought, “Chicken Couscous with a vegetable stew.”  I went on the internet and found a recipe for Marrakesh Stew by Martha Stewart.

Here is the recipe:

I had started cooking the onions in a large enameled casserole with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and almost finished prepping the vegetables when Suzette arrived and took over for me in the kitchen.  I then shredded the chicken into large chunks and we added that when we added the chick peas near the end of the cooking.  The only thing we did not have was an eggplant, so we substituted turnips from the garden.  The result was wonderful.
I drank mint tea with my dinner and Suzette drank a beer.
We both agreed that the stew would have been better with some raisins.
Footnote from March 26, 2015:  I bought an eggplant at Los Altos Ranch Market on March 25, 2015 and we still have lots of stew, so I might rejuvenate the dish with raisins and eggplant and replicate Martha Stewart’s actual recipe, even though I do not recall seeing any eggplant in the vegetable stew we ate in Marrakesh last year.
Bon Appétit 

I have been working on a brief for my water case and have not had a lot of time to think about food or shop lately. 
Today I went into the kitchen at around 5:00 and looked in the fridge.   We had the turnips and carrots Suzette had picked in garden yesterday, an acorn squash, and PPI roasted chicken, roasted vegetables and couscous.  For some reason I immediately thought, “Chicken Couscous with a vegetable stew.”  I went on the internet and found a recipe for Marrakesh Stew by Martha Stewart.
Here is the recipe:

I had started cooking the onions in a large enameled casserole with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and almost finished prepping the vegetables when Suzette arrived and took over for me in the kitchen.  I then shredded the chicken into large chunks and we added that when we added the chick peas near the end of the cooking.  The only thing we did not have was an eggplant, so we substituted turnips from the garden.  The result was wonderful.
I drank mint tea with my dinner and Suzette drank a beer.
We both agreed that the stew would have been better with some raisins.
Footnote from March 26, 2015:  I bought an eggplant at Los Altos Ranch Market on March 25, 2015 and we still have lots of stew, so I might rejuvenate the dish with raisins and eggplant and replicate Martha Stewart’s actual recipe, even though I do not recall seeing any eggplant in the vegetable stew we ate in Marrakesh last year.

Bon Appétit 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

March 20, 2015 Roasted BBQ Chicken, Couscous with Arugula and PPI Roasted Vegetables

March 20, 2015  Roasted BBQ Chicken, Couscous with Arugula and PPI Roasted Vegetables

Tonight I had to work on my water case, so I asked Suzette to being home a roasted chicken from the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery.

Suzette arrived shortly after 5:00 with a roasted BBQ chicken and a hunger, so we decided to do a make a quick dinner.

We went outside and picked fresh arugula from our garden and I prepared couscous with 1 ½ cup of water, 1 Tbsp. of butter and 1 cup of couscous.  When the couscous had cooked for a couple of minutes we put the arugula into the pot and covered it again to steam anc cook the arugula. 

Suzette also microwaved the PPI roasted vegetables I made a couple of days ago.
The chicken was still warm, so I took of the hind quarters on each side and put them on plates and Suzette divided the warmed roasted vegetables and we scooped out ladles of fresh hot couscous with arugula and were ready to eat.  I poured out the last of the PPI bottle of Concannon Sauvignon Blanc White wine and we had a lovely meal.

After dinner we took a walk and enjoyed the twilight sun set.  Then I worked a few minutes more and we watched Washington Week in Review and I ate chocolate ice cream

Later we watched “Angriest Man in Brooklyn”, which must have been Robin Williams last movie.  It was rather sad to see him in his last movie and the theme of the movie was rather sad, a man with a angry personality diagnosed with an aneurism who is given 90 minutes to live trying to come to terms with those who he is nearest to in his family. 

Bon Appétit

Thursday, March 19, 2015

March 19, 2015 Lunch Azuma New Recipe Dinner Poached Little Neck clams in pasta and asparagus

March 19, 2015  Lunch Azuma   New Recipe Dinner Poached Little Neck clams in pasta and asparagus

I went to lunch with Suzette today at Azuma.  We ordered Chirashi Donburi (boxes filled with 12 pieces of seafood laid on a bed of sushi rice, $14.95).  I always order the same items: 2 pieces each of salmon, octopus, aji tuna and ultra white tuna and 4 pieces of yellow tail.  Suzette also ordered a hand held roll of unagi rolled in a piece of toasted nori ($5.75).

After lunch I drove to Albertson’s and went to the Butcher’s Block for the weekly special of jumbo 16 to 20 count shrimp for $6.99/lb.  When I arrived at the Butcher Block I saw one of my favorite items mahogany clams for the unbelievably low price of $1.99/lb. I have bought these clams before and they are wonderful.  About two inches across, the clam inside is about to 1 to 1 1/2 inches across and makes a perfect bite full of rich clam meat.

We were not hungry but finally at around 7:15 I asked if we could cook the clams and Suzette agreed, perhaps because it was a wet cool evening.  We thought about just cooking then for a PPI for tomorrow night but I was getting hungry and I asked if we could cook some spaghetti to add to the clams.  We looked for stock and I found about 24 oz. of the over salted leek and potato broth I had made two weeks ago.  We added to it 8 oz. of butter, a cup of white wine and about 1 Tbsp. of roasted garlic preserved in olive oil.  Suzette heated this poaching medium and put in the clams, while I started boiling water for the spaghetti.
When the water boiled I broke about 1/3 lb. of spaghetti into thirds and put that into the boiling water for about ten minutes.  I then snapped the ends off 6 or seven stalks of asparagus and cut them into 1 inch sections and put them into the poaching broth after most of the clams had opened and been removed. 

I ran to the basement and fetched a bottle of Concannon Sauvignon Blanc from California and put it into the freezer to chill.  After another five minutes we drained the spaghetti and put it into the poaching medium, which had now become our main dish.  After the clams were all shucked and the spaghetti had cooked about five more minutes in the medium, we added the clams back, added ½ cup of heavy cream to thicken and give the soup a milky flavor and cooked the soup for a minute. 
Suzette sliced 6 pieces of French baguette and toasted them.  I poured the wine and we were ready to eat.  We filled pasta bowls with the clam, spaghetti, and asparagus soup/stew.

the one pot dinner

Hot clam broth is one of my favorite accompaniments for fresh poached clams and this dish had the light clam broth flavor and milky texture I love, while also having threads of spaghetti and pieces of asparagus floating around in the milk and broth soup.  We dipped toasted baguette into the soup and sipped white wine and had a great meal. 

On nights when we do not like to cook an elaborate dinner, it is fun to fix a simple one pot dinner.  Tonight’s meal was the perfect answer to that urge toward simplicity while still enjoying the richness of fresh clams.

Bon Appétit

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

March 17, 2014 Sautéed Italian Sausages with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Root vegetables and chocolate baked pudding and crème anglais

March 17, 2014 Sautéed Italian Sausages with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Root vegetables and chocolate baked pudding and crème anglais

I stopped at Lowe’s on my way home from court today and bought 2 red new potatoes ($.50/lb.), a head of green cabbage ($.17/lb.) and an about 1 ½ lb. package of short ribs ($5.49/lb.).  When I arrived at home, I decided to cook short ribs and roasted vegetables.

I called Suzette and she reminded me that she had bought a bag of Brussels sprouts that was in the garage fridge.

I braised the short ribs in olive oil and put in ¼ cup each of sliced carrot and carrot and some garlic stalks.  I initially burned the vegetables, but then removed the offending vegetables that were delicious.  After braising the meat for about fifteen minutes I added 1 cup of Spanish red wine, 1 cup of water 1 sliced carrot, ½ sweet onion, and three or four sliced garlic stalks to the meat.  After about another ½ hour, I added the other potato diced, another carrot and and then in fifteen minutes more ab out 5 mushrooms diced and a beef bouillon cube.

I then filled the ceramic baking dish with 1 turnip, 3 medium carrots, 1 small onion, about ¾ lb. halved Brussel sprouts, about 5 halved cloves of garlic, 1 stalk of celery and covered the baking dish with aluminum foil and roasted it for about 1 hour.

Suzette came home around 6:00 and stirred and finished cooking the roasted vegetables.

By 7:00 it was apparent that the short ribs were hours away from being ready to eat, so we decided to cook Italian Sausages instead and eat them with the roasted vegetables.

Suzette has a special way of cooking sausages that we like a lot.  She puts them in a skillet with about 1/3 inch of beer and simmers them turning them to cook evenly.  When the beer evaporates the sausages get braised in the skillet and their skins turn brown and crunchy.  This produces a sausage with a soft flavorful meat center and a crispy slightly charred skin, which we like a lot.  We usually drink beer with the sausages.  Tonight was no exception.  We make a dipping sauce for the sausages with various amounts and mixtures of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, and horseradish.

We watched Larry Wilmore, Rachel Maddox and John Stewart while we ate.

A little while after dinner, Suzette wanted to eat some of the PPI baked chocolate pudding with crème anglais sauce I made last weekend.  I drank a cup of tea with my dessert and sipped a bit of Calvados as we reviewed and discussed the proposed Spring menu for the Greenhouse Bistro and Bakery.

Bon Appétit

March 15, 2015 Dinner at the Palmer’s Sous vide steak, with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Sautéed spinach, Pan Roasted potatoes, and chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

March 15, 2015 Dinner at the Palmer’s Sous vide steak, with asparagus, Brussels sprouts, Sautéed spinach, Pan Roasted potatoes, and chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

Suzette had to drive to Santa Rosa today, so Susan Palmer and I made arrangements to dine with the Palmers to avoid Suzette having to cook when she arrived home from her drive to Santa Rosa and back.

After Suzette arrived and had a short scotch we took the chocolate cake I bought at Pastian’s Bakery yesterday, caraway seeds and a bottle of the 2010 Marchessi Monasterio Chianti Superiore over to the Palmer’s.

Susan had everything pretty much ready. There was a platter of fresh vegetables was a bowl of Ranch dressing as appetizers.  Charlie was grilling the sous vide steak on their new gas grill to add a little char broiled flavor to it.

Susan had baby organic spinach from Costco that she thought might be make a good salad, but I suggested we sauté some of the spinach in olive oil with fresh garlic.  Susan said, "Go for it!”, so I heated a large skillet, put about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil into it, squeezed two cloves of garlic into the skillet and filled the skillet with spinach leaves.  It took a couple of minutes for the electric stove to heat up, but soon the spinach was sizzling and cooked rather quickly as I stirred it constantly.  Suzette came over and we tried to stop the spinach’s cooking process before the spinach completely collapsed like Mondo Italiano in Taos does it (sort of a warm Italian spinach salad).

We were then ready to eat.  We served ourselves roasted potatoes, spinach, roasted Brussel sprouts with caraway seeds, steamed asparagus, and steak and drank red wine with it.  Susan loves vegetables and Charlie does not, so dinner parties are an excuse for Susan to make lots of vegetable dishes.  I could not finish my plate of food, perhaps because I wanted to leave room for cake.

After a few minutes of sipping the last of the red wine, we decided to serve dessert.  I had bought a ¼ sheet chocolate cake with chocolate icing.  We made up plates with scoops of Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream (our collective favorite ice cream) and cake and Susan made a lovely pot of ginger and peach herbal tea.

It was a lovely evening of food and conversation.

Suzette and I decided that sous vide solves the basic question of how to get the meat to the right temperature or done perfectly, but does not address the issue of flavor, so it actually requires two steps to get a completely satisfying dish.  Charlie’s lightly grilling the steak solves part of the flavor issue but Suzette and I do not believe it fully satisfies the flavor issue.  Suzette did believe that sous vide is a great way to have properly prepared meat ready for final prep at a restaurant, but we both agreed that the char grilled heavy beef we had prepared on Saturday night had a far superior flavor.  My fear is that in trying to replicate that level of char grilling with sous vide would destroy the benefit of sous vide.  More research is needed on this topic.

I saw recipes on the internet and my friend Dee Simpson sent me a recipe for the perfect steak, which recommends cooking the steak in a very hot iron skillet (over 500˚ is preferable) and turning the steak often, like every 15 to 30, which the recipe says cooks the steak more evenly and breaks down the collagens better.

Alas, we are still in search of the perfect steak cooking method.

Bon Appétit 

March 16, 2015 New Recipe Sautéed Frog Legs in a white wine, lemon, garlic and parsley sauce with penne pasta and string beans

March 16, 2015 New Recipe Sautéed Frog Legs in a white wine, lemon, garlic and parsley sauce with penne pasta and string beans

I had bought four sets of large frogs from China at Los Altos Ranch Market for $4.99/lb. about two weeks ago that I wanted to try, so after lunch I thawed them
When Suzette arrived home we decided to sauté the frog legs in parley, lemon and garlic with a white wine sauce (butter/olive oil and white wine).  I picked about five sprigs of parsley from the garden.  Suzette had picked about five stalks of garlic on Sunday from unwanted places like in the tarragon.  
So I chopped up 2 stalks of garlic, plus 2 cloves of garlic rounds and the parsley and cut a lemon in half.

Suzette then floured and sautéed the frog legs in olive oil and butter.  After the frog legs had been turned and seemed to be cooked evenly on both sides, the flour and butter in the original sauté burned, so Suzette removed it and washed the skillet before adding the lemon, garlic, parsley and white wine to make the sauce.

After Suzette added the garlic, parsley, the juice of ½ lemon and white wine to new butter and olive oil, she covered the frog legs and allowed them to steam about ten minutes more.

While the frog legs were cooking Suzette steamed the string beans (Costco $4.99? for 2 lbs. for trimmed haricot vert) and boiled about 1/2 lb. of penne pasta.

When the pasta was cooked Suzette drained it, removed the frog legs to a 300˚the oven to cook a bit more and put about ½ of the pasta into the skillet with the white wine, lemon, parsley and lemon sauce and sautéed the pasta for a couple of minutes to coat it with the sauce.  I had chilled the bottle of Riesling in the blue bottle I bought at Total Wine last time.  It was slightly sweet but also had a very lively fruit flavor that I thought complemented the frog legs.  Suzette thought it was too sweet but we finished the bottle. 

I loved the dish. We especially liked the pasta in the white wine, parsley, lemon and garlic sauce 
although we were a bit ambivalent about the frog legs.  I liked them but Suzette worried that they were not cooked well enough and so she microwaved her frog legs for a couple of minutes.

I thought the larger frog legs were tender and very flavorful.  Next time I may drink a French or Italian white to see how that goes with them.

Bon Appétit

Monday, March 16, 2015

March 14, 2015 Grilled Steak, Sautéed Mushrooms, Roasted Kabocha Squash, Kale Salad and Chocolate dessert

March 14, 2015 Grilled Steak, Sautéed Mushrooms, Roasted Kabocha Squash, Kale Salad and Chocolate dessert

We invited Ricardo and Cynthia over for dinner tonight.  I asked Cynthia to prepare a Kale salad.  I thawed out one aged rib eye steak and one non-aged bone in rib steak overnight.

During the afternoon we also made

Chocolate Baked Pudding with
8 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 oz. Maas Brothers Baking chocolate
1 oz. Dutch cocoa
½ lb. of butter
½ cup of sugar
7 eggs separated and the whites whipped into light peaks
1 Tbsp. of flour

Melt the chocolate and butter and then add the sugar

In a separate bowl you stir the egg yolks with the flour until they are mixed well and then they are added to the chocolate mixture.

You beat the egg whites until they are soft peaks and then you fold the egg white into the chocolate mixture and put into a collared bowl that has been greased with butter and bake in a 350˚ oven for 50 minutes to 60 minutes until firm.

This is really a chocolate soufflé with a bit of flour to hold it together.

I had PPI crème anglais from last Saturday’s meal in the garage, so did not need to make the pouring custard.

I baked the Kabocha squash in the oven with the Chocolate Pudding.

Kabocha Squash

I cut the squash in half at its widest circumference, removed the seeds and laid about an oz. of butter and about 1 Tbsp. of light brown sugar in the cavity of each half.

At 6:30 Cynthia and Ricardo arrived with the kale salad and a bottle of Griffone Reserva chianti (Trader Joe’s ?).  As we inspected the garden, we drank glasses of Amaro di Toscano produced by Knight Gabriella in Tuscany.  It had a bitter taste of the 27 herbs it is made with and the twist of lemon peel recommended by the Asst. Manager at Total Wine ($17.99), where I bought it last week, helped ease the intensity of the herbs. 

We then went inside and I sautéed the brown mushrooms that I had sliced around 6:00 in butter and olive oil with 1 tsp. of fresh thyme and about 1 tbsp. of garlic chives from the garden and about 2 Tbsp. of Amontillado sherry and opened the bottle of Griffone Reserva Chianti and heated the squash while Suzette salted and peppered the steaks and grilled them.

the sauteed mushrooms

the Kale Salad

Cynthia and Ricardo in their Pi shirts

grilled red bell peppers, steak with mushrooms, kale salad and roasted Kabocha squash

In about fifteen minutes when the steakswere cooked to medium rare and red bell peppers steamed , I sliced each of the steaks and separated them on the board so we could tell which we selected an sliced a bell pepper.

Cynthia placed her kale salad on the table and I plated each plate with ¼ Kabocha Squash and each person served themselves steak and mushrooms and salad and I poured glasses of the Griffone Chianti.  I liked the wine a lot and will buy it next time.  It did not have the bitter peppery taste that Griffone’s primitivo has.  It was a medium bodied chianti that went well with the steak.

Cynthia’s salad included chopped curly kale, julienned almonds, and chopped radish, cucumber and a couple more ingredients.  She made the dressing with white balsamic vinegar, which lightened its flavor, so the flavor of the ingredients stood out.  Cynthia said she found a bag of curly kale at Smith’s for $.99.

After dinner we sat and talked for a few minutes and then I poured glasses of Nue Grapefruit vodka and then served the chocolate Baked Pudding with the PPI crème anglais and glasses of Knight Gabriello Grappa de Brunello (Total Wine $39.95).

the chocolate baked pudding with creme anglais
Katie,, who hosts the children's show on KUNM and in whose guest house Cynthia and Ricardo are staying while their kitchen is being remodeled gave them shirts celebrating the only day of the century with all of the digits of Pi in its correct order (See picture above) 

I thought dinner was wonderful with just the right amount of food.

The comparison of the aged versus the non-aged steak was interesting.  We all preferred the aged over the non-aged because the non-aged was a little more chewy and not as dense as the aged beef.  It appears to me that aging breaks down some of the cartilage in the muscle of the beef and the salt it was aged on drew out some of the liquid in the steak over the 18 days it was aged.

Bon Appétit  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

March 10, 2015  A PPI Dinner,  Stir fried pork, string beans and eggplant and Bananas Foster

Some nights I do not plan a dinner menu in advance and those are often the most interesting dinners.  

I had thawed out two pork chops today, but when Suzette arrived she said, “We need to use up the PPI eggplant from Sunday, so she devised a stir fried dish utilizing the PPI eggplant, ½ of an onion, some string beans, a quarter sized piece of ginger, two cloves of garlic sliced in thin rounds and one pork chop diced.  Suzette made the sauce from the Mastering the Art of Chines Cooking by Fei that is used with the recipe for garlic eggplant.  We threw in the ginger and garlic first and then all the other ingredients into the wok at the same time.  After everything was softened and cooked, Suzette added the oyster sauce mixture and we served the simple dish over PPI rice that we heated up and drank tea with the meal.

After this light dinner, we wanted something special for dessert and again Suzette came up with a brilliant PPI suggestion.  We had an old brown/black banana and Suzette suggested making Bananas Foster.  She made it by slicing the banana in half and then sautéing the two halves in butter and brown sugar.  Then she added some rum and lit the mixture with a match and it burst into flames and burned for a couple of minutes.  Suzette put two scoops of vanilla ice cream into each of two bowls and we spooned the Bananas Foster over the ice cream and ate a delicious dessert.

Bon Appétit 
March 12, 2015  Lunch  Azuma at Wyoming and Paseo Del Norte  Dinner poached Salmon with clams on pasta with a Cranberry Pecan Cream Sauce and Asparagus

I went to lunch at Azuma today with Ioanna, who lives near the new Azuma at Wyoming and Paseo del Norte.  The restaurant is lovely with real tatami mat rooms with a sunken area under low tables with wonderful embroidered seats that look like stadiums seats that have rather rigid backs that provide support but can be moved easily in which you can sit comfortably and let your feet hang down even though you are eating at a rather low table.  We sat at a booth, so we could talk European style, since we had business to discuss.

Ioanna and I agreed to order my usual Chirashi Donburi. The box was decorated with a lovely butterfly carved out of fresh daikon root, which was fabulous. We loved lunch and I will go back any time although the slices of sashimi are thicker and thus more generous at the old Azuma on San Mateo near Montgomery.

New tatami mat rooms with new chairs
Butterfly carved from a daikon root

Chirashi and Tea pot upside down
After lunch I googled Albertsons and found that there was one at the corner of San Antonio and Wyoming, so I stopped and bought three filets of fresh farm raised Atlantic salmon for $4.99/lb.  

When I arrived at the Butcher Block I saw they also had fresh littleneck clams, so I bought ½ lb. of them ($4.99/lb.) which was 8 clams to steam for dinner to make a quick seafood stock that could be used to make a cream sauce.  There were also King Crab claws that looked great but I passed on them.

I also bought a plastic container with about two ounces of fresh dill planted in dirt in a pot, so it could be planted after using the dill for $2.49, so I had everything I needed to make gravad lax.

At 5:30 a began soaking 1/3 cup of dehydrated cranberries in white wine.

When Suzette arrived from Santa Rosa around 6:00 she did not want to cook but I talked her into poaching the salmon when I showed her the fresh salmon fillet.  I chopped garlic and a bit of onion and Suzette poached the salmon, cranberries and clams in a water, white wine, butter and garlic broth.  When the clams and salmon were poached, we made a cream sauce using about 2 Tbsps. of butter,  2 Tbsp. of flour and added 1/4 cup of diced pecans and cooked the flour and toasted the pecans.  After three or four minutes, we added added 1 cup of the seafood stock and when the sauce thickened beyond creamy, we added abut 1/2 cup of milk until it turned back to creamy and even slightly runny.  We heated some PPI pasta casarecce pasta and we steamed the asparagus and I found a bottle of 2008 Belleruche from Appellation Côtes-du-Rhône Controlle produced by M. Chapoutier in Tain, France. According to the back label, M. Chapoutier has been producing wine in France’s Rhône Valley since 1808, and interestingly, the wine label is also printed in braille.

Salmon Filet on pasta with clams and Cranberry pecan Cream Sauce
 The wine had a strong character that went well with the pecan and cranberry cream sauce and fish; not a mellow soft wine, but a strong heavy white.  Suzette liked it but I found it a bit too strong for my taste, perhaps the biggest Rhône white I have tasted in a very long time, almost as if during the five years it has spent in our cellar its fruitiness had dropped out.

Suzete called the sauce Meunière because it reminded her of a pecan Meunière Sauce made by Paul Prudhomme, but I think that is not technically correct.  Meunière sauce is typically made when fish filets are coated with flour and pan sautéed.  Almonds are often added to the butter and sauteed and then cream is then added to the browned butter and flour that comes loose from the fish filets and is whisked into a sauce to which usually capers or lemon juice is added.  Tonight’s sauce was actually a Béchamel Sauce, made with a roux and seafood stock and a bit of milk.

Bon Appétit

Friday, March 13, 2015

March 13, 2015 Lunch Asian Pear Dinner M’Tucci’ Kitchina Argentinian Dinner

March 13, 2015  Lunch  Asian Pear   Dinner  M’Tucci’ Kitchina Argentinian Dinner

                Today I started working on my brief for the 10th Circuit but took off a couple of hours to have lunch with Bill Turner and gather some evidence at his office.  At around 1:30 we walked to several restaurants that were not open and finally went to Asian Pear, thinking it was the old Teriyaki Chicken Bowl.  As soon as we arrived, we discovered that it was a new Korean fast food restaurant located at 508 Central Ave. SW with a rather limited menu.  Basically you can have one of three meat choices [BBQ Chicken cooked with a teriyaki sauce (Dak Gul), BBQ Beef marinated with a special house sauce (Bul Gogi), or Thinly sliced Pork marinated with a Korean spicy chili paste (Daegi Bul Gogi) with one of three choices of starch, boiled rice, fried rice or Chan Chae (Korean bean thread noodles tossed in a dark soy based sauce with green onion on a bed a fresh cabbage, lettuce and carrot salad.  These combinations come either in a bowl or as a plate.  As far as I could tell on my first visit the only difference is whether you receive your food on a plate or in a bowl, although plates are $.50 more, with all choices priced between $6.99 and $7.99, plus all dishes are offered with Kim Che.
As an introductory offer we were served a small plate with a tempura fried onion ring and slice of sweet potato and a fried ½ shrimp.

Three other choices include a Fried Crispy Pork Cutlet with Curry (Don Kasu) plate or a Korean Vegetable with curried rice bowl and a Mixed Vegetable Rice Bowl topped with a poached egg (Bi Bin Bob).

a complimentary vegetable pancake

the house kim che

Bul Gogi with cellophane noodle plate on lettuce

I enjoyed my meal and would go back for a quick flavorful meal.  Both the marinated beef and sautéed, sauced noodles in my Bul Gogi were delicious.

Suzette arrived at 5:45 just in time to go to the National Hispanic Cultural Center for the 6:00 sitting of the new concessionaire in its kitchen M’Tuccí serve its 6:00 sitting of an Argentinian Dinner and then the 7:30 p.m. concert by Sofia Rei, an Argentinian diva.

M’Tucci’s dinner was delicious, a well prepared three course meal with a first course of a mixed salad (Ensalada Mixta) combining organic greens, julienne squash threads and bitter greens including curly kale, resting on shaved slices of tomato garnished with crumbled feta and dressed with a rather acidic shallot vinaigrette dressing.  I liked the salad a lot.

There were three entrée choices, Grilled short ribs, green chimichurri sauce and herb roasted potatoes, which I chose (Asada de Tira), Grilled vegetables and a red chimichurri sauce (Verduras a la Parilla), and (Locro) a creamy Argentinian stew of braised pork, beef, hominy, chorizo, fava beans, squash and chili garlic oil and hominy stew, which Suzette chose, served with a piece of M’Tucci’s homemade Ciabatta soaked with garlic and olive oil. I liked both dishes, but was most impressed with the butchering of the short ribs across the bone in thin slices like a Mexican steak Milanesa, instead of between the bones like in the U.S..  The chimichurri sauce was redolent with garlic and fresh parsley and provided a striking contrast to the grilled beef.  The Locro was also delicious, a rather interesting take on posole, with lots of meat and the added slightly bitter flavor of fava beans.  The only problem was the outer husks of the fava beans were not removed leaving thick husks in the stew that had to be chewed and to remove the soft center and then discarded.

Dessert was a fixed item also, but lovely  parfait glass filled with with three layers: on top was a frothy head of whipped cream, in the middle was a dark chocolate mousse and at the bottom was a layer of caramel crema (dulce de leche).  The dessert (Dulce de Leche Pot au Créme) was terrific.

After dinner we then walked across the Plaza Mayor to the Roy Disney Auditorium for the Sofia Rei concert. She and her sextet were wonderful musicians and we enjoyed the evening even though I did not recognize many words of the Spanish.  Cynthia and Ricardo sat near us and we invited them to dinner tomorrow evening for grilled steak, squash, mushrooms and salad.  I may make my chocolate dessert, because we have PPI crème anglais from last Saturday’s meal at their house that needs to be used.

We made Gravad Lax with the two salmon fillets I bought on Thursday at Albertson's for $4.99/lb. when we arrived at home at 10:00.

Bon Appétit

Monday, March 9, 2015

March 8, 2015 Breakfast (new Recipe) Avocado and Tomato Omelet Dinner Eggplant Parmigiana and spaghetti

March 8, 2015  Breakfast Omelet  Dinner  Eggplant Parmigiana and spaghetti

I bought 28 avocados at Los Altos Ranch Market at their Lenten Produce Sale on Friday.
Small avocados were on sale for 7 for $.99.  I also bought a lovely large eggplant for $.99 and a few other items, such as 7 lb. of onions for $.99, corn chips for $1.69 for 15 oz. and cluster vine-ripened tomatoes and a few serrano peppers each for $.99/lb.  I looks like the new owners of the Ranch 
Market are finally re-grooving the produce section.  There were fresh bunches of dill for $1.29 per bunch, for example.

We took several avocados to Cynthia and Ricardo’s last night, but we still had a couple of dozen this morning, so I remembered my Mother’s wonderful avocado and tomato omelet.  When Suzette asked me what I wanted for Breakfast I said, “An avocado and tomato omelet."

So I sliced Manchego cheese and cubed 2 avocados and minced 1/3 of a large shallot and a tomato.  Suzette sautéed the shallot and added the eggs and then the tomatoes and made the omelet.  As it cooked on the top of the stove I added the slices of Manchego cheese and then the avocado and flipped one side of it onto the other side, a little before it completely set up and broke the edge at the middle of the omelet, which did not bother me at all but received a bit of criticism from Suzette.

We ate a lovely breakfast and then went back to bed for a nap until 3:00 and then rode the tandem to the Nature Center at Candelaria on the river side bike trail.

When we returned I made guacamole with eight or nine avocados, ½ onion, 1 serrano chili pepper a dash of salt and Cholulu hot sauce, a clove of garlic and lime juice.  We ate guadamole with the chips and drank Mexican cokes.

Then at 6:00 Suzette started planning dinner and discovered the eggplant and suggested that she make Eggplant Parmigiana because we had PPI Italian spaghetti sauce with mushrooms and Italian sausage and spaghetti.

So I sliced the eggplant into ½ inch thick slices and Suzette made bread crumbs with the PPI oyster crackers that Debbie had brought for the Valentine’s Day dinner of oyster soup, dipped the slices of eggplant into an egg wash and then the breadcrumbs and soon was frying them in olive oil.  When the eggplant slices were fried to soft, Suzette arranged them in a ceramic baking dish and laid a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese on each and coated them with the tomato sauce and I then grated Parmesan cheese on top of the dish and she baked them in a 350˚oven for 45 minutes. 

I fetched a loaf of Fano French baguette from the garage freezer and put ½ of it in the oven with the Eggplant dish to toast and fetched a bottle of Griffone Primativo (Trader Joe’s $4.99) and opened it to allow it to breath.

We decided to steam broccoli, so I cut the flowerts from a stalk of broccoli I had bought at Sprout’s Farm Market on Saturday for $.99/lb. and we steamed them.

In about another ten minutes everything was ready.  The Eggplant Parmigiana was bubbling merrily and the bread was warm to the middle, so Suzette heated the pasta in the microwave and then ladled slices of eggplant onto the pasta and I sliced the baguette and poured the red wine and we enjoyed dinner.  The freshness of the eggplant made the dinner delicious. Cutting ½ inch slices made kept it from being hardened when fried and gave it a more toothsome texture. The fresh mozzarella melted into puddles that coated the fried breaded eggplant slices in a creamy mass of flavorful cheese that complemented the firm yet tender fried eggplant.  This one of our favorite vegetarian dishes.

I did not like the peppery edginess of the Primativo, a relative of Zinfandel, but Suzette liked its assertiveness.

Joyously, we have enjoyed three really good dinners in the last three days.

Bon Appétit  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

March 7, 2015 Dinner Party with Cynthia, Ricardo, Andrew and Katie Crab Cakes, Okra Succotash, Salad, Remoulade Sauce and Papaya Salsa and Italian Meringue Cake

March 7, 2015  Dinner Party with Cynthia, Ricardo, Andrew and Katie   Crab Cakes, Okra Succotash, Salad, Remoulade Sauce and Papaya Salsa and Italian Meringue Cake

Cynthia and Ricardo are staying at Andrew and Katie’s casita while their house is being renovated and they invited us over for dinner tonight for crab cakes.
I finally enjoyed one of my usual Saturdays; office-work in the morning, lunch of Bun Cha Gio (No. 21) at Vietnam 2000 and a bit of grocery shopping.  Today I bought green grapes, a bunch of fresh cilantro ($.50), broccoli ($.98/lb.), and green beans ($.98/lb.) at Sprouts Farm Store and then drove to Total Wine to buy some Perrin Reserve.  I got a little carried away at Total Wine, perhaps because of the 10% discount on wines and the three tables of wine and spirit tastings or just because I needed to replenish our wine cellar and get ready for summer, I bought a 1.5 liter bottle of New Amsterdam gin rated 95 pts. by Wine Enthusiast ($15.99), a bottle of Depreville Rosé Brut champagne for $8.09 to drink with the dinner’s crab cakes, a 2009 Quinta des Carvahhas Late Bottled Vintage Port ($16.19), a bottle of Knight Gabriello Grappa Brunello for $34.99, a Nue Grapefruit flavored Vodka from Texas that I tasted to drink with dinner’s dessert, a Salmon Sancerre ($117.99, 2 bottles of 2013 Santiago Station Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon ($3.49 each), a Blue Vin Reisling that was being tasted ($8.99), 2 bottles of Perrin Reserve Rouge ($8.09), a bottle of 2013 D-Autrefois Rosé ($10.79), and then I got a little crazy and bought a bottle of Quinta das Carvalhas 20 year old tawny port ($44.99), and Knight Gabriello Amaro Di Toscano to replace the Vya Vermouth ($17.99).

I then went home and since Suzette had returned from yoga, we decided to make the Italian Meringue Cake.  She made the cake and then I helped her make the pouring custard (crème Anglais). The cake recipe requires 15 egg whites and we used all 15 yolks to make a triple recipe of custard with the addition of 2 cups of 2% milk, 1 cup of half and half and 1 cup of whipping cream and 1 cup of sugar in the large Le Creuset enameled casserole.  When the custard was ready Suzette added 3 tsp. of vanilla and filled the blue ceramic pitcher with a portion of the custard to take to dinner.

After a nap, I got up around 5:00 and we made a papaya salsa with a shallot, the juice of 5 small limes, ¼ of a red pepper, 3 avocados (I bought 28 avocados yesterday at Los Altos Ranch market because they were 7 for $.99), a slice of fresh papaya and about 2 Tbsp. of cilantro, all finely minced.

At 6:00 we packed up the papaya salsa, the pitcher of custard and put the Meringue cake into cake holder and we took a bottle of Anjou white plus the bottles of Depreville Rosé Champagne and  Nue Grapefruit vodka and black berries and some green grapes I had bought at Sprouts Farm Market and Total Wine today and drove to the casita that Cynthia and Ricardo are staying at while their kitchen is being re-modeled.

The casita was built by Andrew on property he and Katie own, located in Albuquerque’s North Valley bosque. Katie hosts the Children’s Hour on KNME on Saturdays.  The casita is a two story, mostly handmade house with lots of lovely wood elements.  The dining/kitchen and high ceilinged sitting area and a bathroom with a sunken bath are on the ground level and there are two bedrooms on the second level.

When we arrived we sat and talked in the sitting area nibbling artichoke dip and red pepper hummus with slices of red pepper, carrot, cucumber and celery, and olives and a German brie style cheese with mushrooms (Champignon) and crackers with glasses of Marble Brewery’s prize winning Imperial Red Ale and later glasses of a Depreville Brut Champagne that Ricardo bought at Total Wine.

Then Cynthia sautéed the crab cakes and heated the okra Succotash and dressed and tossed the salad (Cynthia is now using Sprouts' Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil) and then we each served ourselves a crab cake, some remoulade sauce Cynthia had made with Andrew’s homemade pickles, some papaya salsa we had made plus salad and Succotash and sat in the dining area on the banco and on chairs around the lovely elliptical shaped table Andrew had made.  When we finished the Depreville Brut, Ricardo opened and served the bottle of Depreville Rosé Brut.

We talked and enjoyed dinner and then, after a few minutes, while I halved some of the green grapes and poured small glasses of the Nue Grapefruit vodka, everyone was ready for dessert.  I put 5 or 6 grape halves and 4 blackberries and a puddle of custard on each plate and Suzette cut and laid slices of the Meringue cake on each plate.  The Meringue cake was welcomed with excited exclamations and compliments from the group.  Ricardo even went so far as to say it was the best dessert he had ever tasted.

We enjoyed a lovely evening of food and conversation until 10:00, when we said our good byes and drove home.

Bon Appétit

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March 6, 2015 The Greenhouse Bistro’s New Lenten Menu Amazing Food, Chemistry and Price

March 6, 2015 The Greenhouse Bistro’s New Lenten Menu   Amazing Food, Chemistry and Price

I was amazed tonight by the quality of food, prices and creative culinary chemistry at The Greenhouse Bistro.  Chef Derren’s food is an undiscovered gem that merits close attention.
I chose the three course prix fixe Lenten Special menu priced at $19.95, which will be served until through the first week of April.

The meal started nicely with wine service.  I chose a glass of Cline Vineyard’s Viognier; fruity, light, and with a hint of acidity, perfect for seafood.  Soon after our glasses of wine were filled a bowl of New England Clam Chowder arrived. 

I love clam chowder, but am usually disappointed because so often it has a caustic chemical flavor due to the use of a pre-packaged soup mix or is cloyingly thick with the addition of flour and salt to stabilize the milk or cream and "enhance" its natural flavor, probably so it can be held in thick suspension for days in the kitchen.

This soup was neither; it was a true fresh New England Chowder made by the sous chef, who grew up in New England, with a milk, minced fresh celery and onion and hand cut pieces of potato and clams in a deliciously light milk broth flavored only with a bit of salt and fresh thyme leaves grown in the Bistro’s kitchen garden. The interplay of the clam juice and the milk and thyme was Amazing!

New England Clam Chowder
 The next course was even better; Seafood in Croute or a fresh salmon filet and sautéed shrimp baked in the largest, most incredibly flaky, freshly baked puff pastry shell I have ever seen.

The Seafood Croute was cut in half diagonally, revealing the pink fish filet and sautéed shrimp inside and set beside a puddle of locally grown Jerusalem artichoke heart cream sauce that was slightly tangy and divinely smooth.  The cream sauce was decorated with a swirl of bright red chemically created tomato vermicelli. Wow and Wow again.  

Seafood en Croute with sauteed asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke cream sauce and Tomato Vermicelli 

I cannot describe how delicious this dish was; the warm pastry and fish and shrimp dipped in the warm tangy cream sauce was delicious beyond words.  The portion of fish, shrimp and pastry was so generous I had to request another glass of Viognier and a heated container of cream sauce in order to wash it down in style. 

After being blown away a second time I was ready to be disappointed by dessert but when the chef and the waitress appeared with small rectangular plates streaked with red raspberry coulis garnished with two sprigs of baby thyme in the middle and a small tall cup containing a column of strawberry panna cotta on one side and a sphere of liquid strawberry balanced delicately in the well of an ice tea spoon leaning on the tall cup of strawberry panna cotta on the other side of the plate both garnished with baby thyme leaves, I was blow away a third time.  

The strawberry liquid sphere shimmered in the light and, when placed in the mouth and allowed to rest against one’s upper palate as Chef Derren recommended, the delicate membrane surrounding the liquid evaporated filling one’s mouth with a rush of fresh fragrant strawberry liquid. Amazing!

The chef told us the strawberry sphere was made with reverse spherification.  According to Wikipedia, Spherification is the culinary process of shaping a liquid into spheres which visually and texturally resemble roe. The technique was originally discovered by Unilever in the 1950s (Potter 2010, p. 305) and brought to the modernist cuisine by the creative team at elBulli under the direction of executive chef Ferran Adrià.

There are two main methods for creating such spheres, which differ based on the calcium content of the liquid product to be spherified.

For flavored liquids (such as fruit juices) containing no calcium, the liquid is thoroughly mixed with a small quantity of powdered sodium alginate, then dripped into a bowl filled with a cold solution of calcium chloride, or other soluble calcium salt.

Just as a teaspoonful of water dropped into a bowl of vegetable oil forms a little bubble of water in the oil, each drop of the alginated liquid tends to form into a small sphere in the calcium solution. Then, during a reaction time of a few seconds to a few minutes, the calcium solution causes the outer layer of each alginated liquid sphere to form a thin, flexible skin. The resulting "popping boba" or artificial "caviar" balls are removed from the calcium-containing liquid bath, rinsed in a bowl of ordinary water, removed from the water and saved for later use in food or beverages.
Reverse spherification, for use with substances which contain calcium or have high acid/alcohol content, requires dripping the substance (containing calcium lactate or calcium lactate gluconate) into an alginate bath. A more recent technique is frozen reverse spherification, which involves pre-freezing spheres containing calcium lactate gluconate and then submerging them in a sodium alginate bath. All three methods give the same result: a sphere of liquid held by a thin gel membrane, texturally similar to roe.

Strawberry reverse spherifiction spheres stored in apple juice
Chef Derren said he can make liquid filled spheres with almost any liquid, even with Coca Cola. As I enjoyed the delightful fresh strawberry dessert and we conversed, I discovered that Executive Chef Derren Ridder has been experimenting with culinary chemistry and when he invited me into the kitchen, I gladly followed.  He showed me his culinary chemistry kit that is quite extensive, including a culinary chemistry instruction manual.

He let me take pictures of the manual and several of the chemistry ingredients and let us taste small balsamic pearls also made with reverse spherification and showed us a bowl of green basil vermicelli.

This incredible restaurant, 25 miles south of Albuquerque, deserves to be discovered.  We were the only one’s eating on this Friday evening in a 30 seat restaurant that should have been full of foodies, relishing its amazing food quality, creativity, and prices. I guess foodies find it hard to imagine that the same modernist culinary wonders served at elBulli are being served in a small bistro in Las Lunas or that the Greenhouse Bistro is preparing dishes at the cutting edge of the world's most innovative cuisine. This bistro deserves its five star rating.  

Bon Appétit