BSK has a way with chicken. Roast spatchcocked chicken. Breaded chicken breast cutlets. Chicken sauté with garlic and rosemary. Chicken sautéed with 40 (that’s right) cloves of garlic. And, more. Last night, there was a dinner party for five and, as usual, BSK rose to the occasion. First, there were toasts with glasses of Gruet Sparkling Rose and nibbles of Feridies Five O’Clock Mix. Everyone took their seats as BSK placed a steaming pot on the table. It contained a new chicken dish: Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Olives (Recipe by Martha Rose Shulman of the New York Times.). Besides the cauliflower and olives, the dish contained crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic and a plethora of herbs and spices including smoked Spanish pimenton. The diners topped their bowls with chopped Bulgarian goat feta and added harissa for further heat. BSK served the savory autumn dish with pearl couscous and accompanied it with a salad of thinly sliced baby turnips, radishes and fennel. All drank much Spanish Tempranillo and Argentine Malbec. The meal concluded with carrot cake (a creation of HG/BSK’s neighbor, Karen K., The Dessert Queen) and vanilla ice cream. HG/BSK and their pals have enchanting meals in The Land of Enchantment (among other virtues, polls indicate that New Mexico is solidly behind Hillary).
Among other advantages, New Mexico smells good. Days are invariably sunny and the air has mingled scents of pine and sagebrush. In the autumn, the air is alive with the scent of roasting green chiles, At night, the air is perfumed by the smoke of piñon logs blazing in fireplaces. When spring comes around, HG/BSK’s oasis compound is fragrant with the scent of a variety of flowers in bloom. In springtime Santa Fe, the predominant smell is the sweetness of lilac bushes. This autumn, BSK is banishing the election tensions with green chile pork stew. This is supreme comfort food. BSK uses a variety of freshly roasted chiles–mild Big Jims and some fiery varieties. The stew contains sliced potatoes, pork, onions, garlic and a variety of spices (cumin, coriander, Goya Adobo, etc.). BSK exercises judicious restraint. BSK tastes as she cooks to achieve the perfect balance of hot and mild. The result is a stew that has hot New Mexican authority but won’t blister your lips. Another BSK triumph.
When HG was news editor at a major photo agency, a person who, for publicity purposes, tried to get into every news photo, was known as a “lens louse.” Later, people who were avid for media exposure were known as “media whores” or “media sluts.” Very unattractive terms (and demeaning). Well, Der Trumperer was mad for media exposure since the very beginning of his career. (HG goes back a long way with Trump. HG was part of the publicity team that ballyhooed his first major venture, the reconstruction of New York’s defunct Commodore Hotel into the flossy Grand Hyatt. As usual, he did it with other people’s money. This time New York taxpayers footed the bill). When Der Trumperer began his (fingers crossed) ill fated campaign for the Presidency, the media felt he was an exciting story. Every one of his outlandish statements made headlines. He was a star on news TV. He didn’t have to spend a dime on advertising. The Mainstream Media did the job for him. For free. Well, there’s been a turnaround.The love affair has ended. And, Putin’s little puppet, is whining and sniveling that the Media has rigged the election against him. Rumor has it that if (HG prays) Trump loses, Derf Trumperer will buy his own television network. His narcissism and egomania has no limits.
That’s how HG’s Montclair, N.J., neighbor, the immortal Yogi Berra, phrased it. And,yes, history does repeat. HG grew up in the United States pre-Pearl Harbor when anti-semitism flourished. The “radio priest”, Father Charles Coughlin railed against the Jews in his weekly radio broadcast and in his newspaper, “Social Justice.” Special targets were “the international bankers.” The “America First” party, headed by Charles A. Lindbergh also assailed “the international bankers” and Jewish “internationalists.” Fritz Kuhn and his Nazi “German American Bund” filled New York’s Madison Square Garden for rallies. The blatantly anti-semitic Christian Front was active in many American cities. Henry Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan, newspaper promoted the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” And, of course, Jews faced quotas in medical schools and Ivy League universities. Major corporations and banks did not hire Jews. Country clubs did not admit Jews. Suburban housing was severely restricted. And, now we’ve got Der Trumperer. Like the Europeans before World War Two and the American anti-semites before Pearl Harbor, Donald Trump is claiming that Hillary Clinton is conspiring with “international financial interests” to rig the coming election and defeat him. His campaign has run an ad picturing Hillary with a load of money backdropped by a Jewish star. Maybe it’s time for Der Trumperer to be a “mensch” (a stand up guy) and stop pussyfooting You’re not fooling anyone, Despicable Donald. Say what you mean: Use the J-word.
Ah, what a joy it is to live in New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment. This week there was another salutary event in the history of feminism: Jocelyn Fernandez, described as a “diminutive wide receiver”, stole the show when she scored a touchdown on a flare pass. Her varsity team, St. Michael’s High went on to defeat Pojoaque Valley by a 55-12 score. She didn’t exactly make New Mexico history — Jocelyn is the 2nd female player to score a touchdown in a New Mexico varsity high school game. In 2003, Vanessa Lucero was the first, scoring against ill-fated Pojoaque. However, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported: “In truth, Fernandez scored twice. Her first trip to pay dirt was nothing short of highway robbery when officials ruled she was down inches from the goal line during what appeared to be a 7-yard touchdown run midway in the first quarter.” Jocelyn also kicked two extra points, and played most of the second half as a defensive back. Said Jocelyn: ” Before the game there was talk from Pojoaque that girls can’t play football and shouldn’t be allowed on the field. This was my game to show everyone that, you know, that I can do it. I came out wanting it and I got my glory.” HG felt Fernandez’s game was an apt response to the denigrating remarks about women by Der Groper/Trumperer and his misguided (deplorable?) supporters. HG celebrated Jocelyn Fernandez’s achievement by an appropriate lunch at Sopaipilla Factory (in Pojoaque, of all places.) Menudo, chicken enchilada and a margarita. Go, Jocelyn! Go, Hillary! And: Go, all American women who are stepping forward to demonstrate their dignity and power !!
One of the many joys of the Santa Fe Farmers Market is the abundance of shishito and padron peppers. These are small, bright green chile peppers. Mild but flavorful taste. However, be forewarned. Every now and then you may encounters a blazingly hot one. BSK did just that at the very good Bones Restaurant in Denver. It was so hot that it took BSK’s breath away and BSK almost fainted. Anyway, take a chance. These peppers are a treat. Shishito peppers are an East Asian variety. Padrons originated in the Galcia province of Spain. HG can’t discern any taste difference (Padrons fend to be smaller). HG/BSK were introduced to fried, garlicky padrons–Pimientos de Padron—at a Galician restaurant in Madrid near Madrid’s museum of modern art (it’s the museum that houses Picasso’s “Guernica”.) HG/BSK relished the peppers as well as tender octopus (polpo de gallego), shrimp in garlic sauce (camarones de ajillo), Spanish saffron rice and a big pitcher of sangria. There are two schools of padron frying. Both call for the peppers to be fried in a very hot cast iron pan. One school calls for the peppers to be cooked in olive oil. The others pours olive oil over the peppers after they have fried. BSK cooks the peppers in oil and adds plenty of minced garlic. Sublime.
Like The Lone Ranger, parmigiano rides to the rescue of modest Italian cooking. Sour cream does the same for Russian cuisine: Borscht and pelmeny are unthinkable without big dollops of sour cream. Ditto blini and red salmon caviar. Most folks find hamburgers inedible without a pour of ketchup. Hot dogs are sad and lonely without a smear of yellow mustard. HG likes shucked oysters au naturel, the better to inhale their briny goodness. This choice is not shared by many people who blunt the oyster taste with lemon juice, horseradish and unspeakable red sauce. Even the French, devout oyster lovers, serve the bivalves with a shallot vinaigrette. Go figure. HG likes rare steak the Tuscan way. Crushed garlic and olive oil atop the blood rare meat. During the PEI summer, BSK serves many a pot of steamed mussels and bowls of seafood chowders. HG enhances them with scoops of a mayonnaise and sriracha mix. At the cocktail hour, HG gives vodka on the rocks a few drops of Regan’s Orange bitters. BSK always adds a splash of Aperol to BSK’s pre-dinner glass of white wine. After dinner, HG makes a snifter of insipid brandy sing with an addition of Peychaud Bitters. When teetotalers are present, HG gives their glasses of sparkling water vibrant life with a few drops of Angostura bitters.
If you love art, food, gardens, farm-to-table eating (as do HG/BSK), then Monet’s Palate Cookbook is a cookbook you must have. You probably have been dazzled by the visual beauty of Claude Monet’s paintings of the water lilies at his pond in the garden of his Giverny home. But, you may not have been aware that, Monet, a confirmed gourmand, had an extensive kitchen garden and relied upon the freshness and flavor of its produce. Monet’s Palate Cookbook is subtitled “The artist and his kitchen garden at Giverny.” The authors are Aileen Boardman, film maker and Monet authority, and Derek Fell, renowned garden writer. There are 60 recipes (all rigorously tested by Boardman), tips on gardens (big and small) by Fell, and beautiful photography by Steven Rothfeld. It is a stimulating book. You will have an urge to plant (even a few unambitious windowsill pots of basil and parsley), race to a museum to view some of Monet’s work (the best are in Paris), or simply prepare a meal of savory treats (the recipes, derived from Manet’s table, will make you ravenous). The introduction to the book is by Meryl Streep. The actress was also the narrator of the PBS documentary by Boardman, “Monet’s Palate: A Gastronomic View From the Gardens.” Viewed on 350 PBS stations, the documentary has interviews with Alice Waters and Daniel Bouloud among other culinary luminaries. Both the documentary and the book are treasures, fitting tributes to a great artist who linked imagination with a love of the earth and the pleasures of the table.
Guacamole is omnipresent in New Mexico. Every supermarket sells a version of the avocado dip. Best of the bunch is the fresh packaged guacamole at Whole Foods. This is good guacamole, not great guacamole. The same could be said about the guacamole served in HG’s favorite restaurants dispensing authentic Northern New Mexican cooking: El Parasol, Sopaipilla Factory and Tia Sophia’s. Great guacamole is served at Gabriel’s, a large restaurant with a spectacular terrace, located 15 miles north of Santa Fe on highway 285. The guacamole is prepared table-side. A cart is pulled up to the table and a server scoops guacamole into a Molcajete (a round, volcanic stone bowl with three short legs). The server adds garlic, chopped onion and tomato, jalapeño peppers, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Pounds the mix with a Tejolote (stone pestle) into a proper consistency. Splendid. Even greater guacamole is prepared Chez HG/BSK. A swift and simple preparation. The Pojoaquë Super Market, a few minutes drive from HG/BSK’s, prepares fresh tomato based salsa, tomatillo salsa and pico de gallo daily (as well as ceviche). All are made by local women and have a down home taste. For a spicy (not fiery) guacamole, HG mixes (to taste) spoonfuls of the two salsas and adds an exuberant amount of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice. Salt and pepper. Using a wooden fork and spoon, HG chops the mix into a smooth but chunky texture. HG serves pico de gallo (heavy on jalapeños) on the side for those who like fire in their mouth.
It’s Monday and HG is enjoying lunch at El Parasol, HG”s favorite dining place for earthy, down home New Mexican food. (Located on Highway 285/84. Pojoaque, N.M., minutes from HG/BSK’s home and 15 minutes driving time north of Santa Fe). El Parasol is presided over by Jose and Alicia Atencio, gracious and welcoming hosts. Customers step up to the counter, order and pay for their food. (Big takeout business). If you are seated at an indoor or outdoor terrace table, a smiling staffer brings the food to your table. All the standards (tacos, burritos, tostadas, enchiladas,etc.) are delicious (even addictive). However, HG’s favorite is the robust green chile menudo (tripe stew). Hot, hearty, spicy bowl of goodness. That was HG”s Saturday lunch (plus a shredded beef taco) when lovely Alicia stopped by HG’s table to welcome HG back after HG’s four month absence enjoying sea and sun on Prince Edward Island. The welcome was typical of Alicia (and Jose). They treat each customer like a valued guest. The customers are diverse–Latino families, Native Americans from the nearby pueblos, farmers, ranchers, artists, bikers, travelers, etc. Everyone is treated with smiles and efficient service. El Parasol is immaculate (including the restrooms). What the restaurant business needs is more Atencios, people who combine human warmth, culinary skills and professional management discipline. Upon leaving El Parasol this Saturday, Alicia presented HG with a bag of fresh produce from her garden as a welcome home gift. Hungry Gerald is also Lucky Gerald.