New Mexico Sunday

October 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK’s home is set in a historic farming neighborhood bordering a Native American reservation. No garbage pickup. This means a trip to the dump every Sunday. Fortunately, the dump is nearby and is set in a beautiful area of high desert and rolling hills. Makes dumping garbage an aesthetic (almost) treat. HG times the chore as to enjoy a post-dump lunch at El Parasol, the plain spoken, friendly, soulful restaurant dispensing New Mexican treats at its highway location in Pojoaque. Sunday lunch at El Parasol is a treat. The room is jammed with happy Hispanic families, at least three generations at a table. Love for children and respect for elders reverberates. Lots of laughter as kids dig into big bowls of French fries drenched in green chile sauce and melted cheese. The older folk are knocking off immense burritos, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas plus brimming bowls of menudo, posole and arroz con pollo. Diets? Health food? Cholesterol? As they say in HG’s native Noo Yawk: Fuhgeddaboutit!! There’s no alcohol at El Parasol. The strongest drink is iced tea. So the joy and merriment is solely fueled by family and food. HG worked off lunch with a long swim in HG/BSK’s sun drenched indoor lap pool. Then, off to Santa Fe to see Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” a very dark movie for a very dark time in the USA. Liked the movie but was annoyed at Allen’s portrayal of ordinary working people. As is inevitable in Allen movies,they come across as crude Neanderthals. A far cry from the working people, New Mexican and otherwise, that HG knows and admires.

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Finding the Good (and Reasonable) at Whole Foods

October 11th, 2013 § 4 comments § permalink

HG is ambiguous about Whole Foods. The produce is very good but is madly expensive as is almost everything else in the store. Whole Paycheck, indeed. But, there are values to be found. Whole Foods sources great, and very affordable, chicken. Their bread is very good. And, in landlocked Santa Fe, WF is HG/BSK’s only viable source for seafood. Oddly, it turns out that WF makes very good, robust, fairly priced sandwiches. And, today WF gave HG a very welcome surprise. The hungry old guy moseyed around the Japanese carry-out food section and ordered a bowl of “Spicy Chicken Noodle In Broth.” It was a very big bowl by any standard and filled with cellophane noodles, juicy dark meat chicken, straw mushrooms, baby bok choy, lemon and lemongrass. Slices of jalapeno pepper added heat. The broth had taste and body. The big meal in a bowl was totally hearty and delicious. It cost $7.99. Yes, Exquisite Maiko and fastidious SJ would sneer at this quasi-Japanese dish. But, HG intends to get back to WF at least once a week to slurp down this treat.

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A New Mexico Treasure

October 9th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The Santa Fe Farmers Market in autumn. Heaven. All the best organic produce: Japanese eggplants, turnips, beets, shishito peppers, tomatoes, radishes, varieties of tiny potatoes, fresh garlic, scallions, cauliflower–and more. Much, much more. Cheese. Bread, Jams, Mustards. Pickles. Herbs. Etc., etc., etc. A virtual cornucopia. HG/BSK bought just picked escarole (this meant escarole and bean soup like that served at Frankie’s Spuntino in Brooklyn), frisee (for the poached egg and bacon salad like that served at Chez Georges in Paris) and a mix of delicate lettuces for mixed green salads. BSK has a deft hand with salad dressings and soups involving greens. Healthy stuff never tastes so good as it does when it gets the BSK touch. The Market air is fragrant with the scent of roasting chiles, the surest sign of autumn in the Land of Enchantment. BSK bought roasted Big Jim peppers (Flavorful but not overwhelmingly, mouth numbing hot. Left those super picante guys for the masochists). The Big Jims went into BSK’s incomparable green chile pork stew. The Market isn’t only about food. People watching at the market is a wildly entertaining past-time. The crowd is diverse: Movie stars (active and retired–hey, there’s Ali McGraw and Shirley McLaine); hipsters and ex-hippies; eccentrics and just plain folks in all sizes and colors smiling and having a good time. There’s music. A perpetual enetertainer is a colorful woman who does the entire Edith Piaf songbook accompanied by a young woman on cello. Also mariachis, jazz, country, folk all take a turn serenading. Happiness reigns.

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Hey, Salmon Have Eggs Too

October 7th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Have you looked at caviar prices recently? Only Russian oligarchs, New York landlords and unindicted hedge fund operators can afford the Russian-Siberian-Iranian sturgeon eggs. Long gone are the days when HG bought a pound of beluga for Christmas Eve feasts. However, salmon have eggs, too. And, red salmon caviar from Alaska is affordable. Zabar’s in New York sells the good stuff for $70 a pound and a pound goes a long way. Salmon caviar is versatile. Great with softy scrambled eggs topped with sour cream or Greek yogurt. Wonderful in a baked potato with an exuberant amount of butter and sour cream. Splendid when topping SJ’s state of the art potato pancakes. Best of all: With blini or crepes fresh off Gifted Daughter Lesley R.’s Rhode Island griddle. Grandson Haru (now in the picky picky eater stage) becomes a boy of appetite when confronting a bowl of red caviar. Gobbles it au naturel. Cheapo caviar — herring, cod and whitefish eggs — are horrid. Stick to salmon.

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Conservatism My Ass. Racism. Pure Racism.

October 5th, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

HG is just too angry today to write about food and the wonderful life HG shares with BSK and their loving family. It seems to HG that a cabal of racist pigs, protected by gerrymandering, are in the process of destroying our democracy. The Tea Party hides under the cloak of “old fashioned conservatism.” A distinguished Emory University political scientist has used a variety of research disciplines to analyze the last Presidential election. Looking at Tea Party supporters, he found “racial resentment and dislike of Obama” overrode every other factor including church attendance and party identification. “These results clearly show that the rise of the Tea Party movement was the direct result of the growing racial and ideological polarization of the American electorate. The Tea Party drew its support very disproportionately from Republican identifiers who were white, conservative, and very upset about the presence of a black man in the White House –a black man whose supporters looked very different from themselves.” Well, these voters and their representatives now control Washington. The Civil War goes on. Let there be no compromise with these swine.

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Homage To Marcella

October 3rd, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

BSK made a pasta dish last night that was an homage to the memory of Marcella Hazan, the woman who revolutionized Italian cooking in America. As HG noted in a previous post, Marcella introduced Americans to the simplicity and freshness of Italian cooking. With that in mind, BSK glanced at a clump of almost over-ripe tomatoes in a kitchen basket. They had to be used. Like Marcella, BSK respects food and abhors waste. The tomatoes were chopped with fresh basil and parsley. Tossed in a bowl with a goodly pour of Sicilian olive oil. Not cooked but allowed to macerate at room temperature so the flavors of tomatoes, herbs and oil married nicely. This uncooked sauce, heady with garden flavors, was poured over al dente DeCecco fettucine (yes, Marcella would have suggested a thinner pasta). Then, BSK added a creative Greek touch (maybe in memory of the glorious Grecian temples HG/BSK visited in Sicily many years ago): A shower of crumbled feta cheese and slivers of Kalamata olives. Absolutely delicious. Rest in peace, Marcella and thank you for the inspiration.

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Marcella Hazan

October 2nd, 2013 § 3 comments § permalink

Marcella Hazan died last week at her Florida home. She was 89. Remarkable woman. She changed the way America thought about, cooked and ate Italian food. When Marcella began her American career a number of decades ago, Parmesan cheese came in cans (and it wasn’t really Parmesan) and American Italian cooking was based on spaghetti (even the word pasta was alien) and meatballs plus hefty cream, garlic and tomato sauces. Italian restaurants were described as “red sauce” joints. Through her cookbooks, cooking classes and cooking demonstrations, Marcella opened up the eyes of America to the reality and vibrancy of true Italian food: simple, fresh, healthy, ingredient-driven and, most of all, delicious. HG/BSK have relied upon Marcella’s recipes for pork roast braised in milk; vitello tonnato; pureed chickpea soup; Bolognese ragu; mushroom pasta sauce (Marcella’s recipe takes supermarket, bland mushrooms and invests them with torrents of earthy flavor)–and much more. Some 30 years ago, HG/BSK conducted a public relations campaign for one of Marcella’s books. In connection with this, HG/BSK visited Marcella and her husband, Victor, in their Venice apartment. It was a marvelous space with a beautiful kitchen tucked under ancient wooden beams and windows that looked upon scenic vistas of La Serenissima. The terrace contained a magnificent barbecue. HG/BSK accompanied Marcella on a shopping tour of the markets beneath the Rialto Bridge. She selected the freshest fish and crustaceans; vegetables, fruit, cheese, bread and charcuterie. Back in the apartment, Marcella created a meal that was simple — but, like all wonderful food, complex in that simplicity. The centerpiece was a zuppa di pesce, the best fish stew HG/BSK ever tasted (or will ever taste). BSK took scores of photos. As a person, Marcella was talented, imperious and not very likeable. For instance, she was without a shred of sympathy when she learned that BSK was allergic to shrimp; and was furious that she had to eliminate them from her fish stew. The dining group drank a very good Pinot Grigio during the meal (husband Victor was a noted wine writer) but Marcella stuck to her pre-dinner beverage (Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey) much to Victor’s annoyance. The next day she was on better behavior at a business lunch in the nearby industrial city of Mestre. HG has a vivid memory of the tender poached baby octopi devoured at that meal. Alas, the public relations campaign (for a variety of complicated reasons) did not turn out well and HG/BSK’s business relations with the Hazans ended abruptly. Though HG/BSK did not have a happy personal relationship with Marcella, HG/BSK admired her. Marcella was a brilliant woman. She had great honesty and integrity and did not believe in cooking shortcuts. BSK recalls a visit to Marcella and Victor’s Manhattan apartment. Marcella presented BSK with a tomato and an old fashioned vegetable peeler and suggested BSK peel the tomato. Peel a tomato? BSK had never done such a thing. Marcella was exasperated but, with painstaking care, she demonstrated how to swivel the peeler so as to remove the skin and not harm the fruit. Marcella did not pander or attempt to become a loveable television “personality.” She loved Italy and its culture and brought that passion to America’s kitchens and tables. While stern, Marcella was not rigid. She told BSK: “A recipe is not carved in stone. It is a suggestion. Use it and make it your own.”

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More Wit

October 2nd, 2013 § 2 comments § permalink

A few weeks ago, HG discoursed on the subject of wit (lots of funny around but little wit) and gave some pithy (if familiar) examples. Here are two more, utterances, both by English writers. W. Somerset Maugham, who lived to be very old, was honored at a dinner celebrating one of his numerous birthdays. Maugham, like King George VI, was a lifelong stammerer. At this dinner, he arose to respond to praise.”There are consolations in growing old,” he said. Then, to the discomfort of the audience, he began to stammer for a number of minutes. When the stammer ended, he said: “I’ve been trying to think of one.” Brought down the house. At a significant literary dinner in London, distinguished writers were each assigned a topic and asked to speak on it. The topic given to George Bernard Shaw was “Sex.” Shaw arose. Bowed to his audience and said: “It gives me great pleasure.” Then he sat down. Five words. Best speech of the night.

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Anarchy In Washington / Peace At Chez HG/BSK

October 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, the United States is beginning to resemble the middle east these days as intransigent ideologues seem bent on destroying the government. However, here in the historic Jacona/Pojoauque neighborhood of New Mexico {the site of HG/BSK’s oasis) all is calm and peaceful. With Mozart’s chamber music wafting through the open doors, the fortunate duo strolled their green meadows in the early evening sun, admired the changing colors of the trees while sipping cold New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Dinner was a bow to the middle east. Lamb kefta (grilled cigar shaped patties of ground lamb mixed with onion, mint, cumin, garlic). Couscous. Grilled Japanese eggplant. Khrug (a fiery Yemenite/Israeli condiment). Salad of thinly sliced fennel, radish, baby turnip and parsley (all sourced from the Santa Fe Farmers Market). A bowl of Greek yogurt spiked with crushed garlic, olive oil and Spanish smoked paprika. Drank an Italian red, Salice Santino. Anarchy may be on the way but HG/BSK continue to sustain civilization (at least at the dining table).

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