Br-r-r !! Yes, a very cold night in New Mexico. Usually clement weather is being clutched in the icy hands of Jack Frost. Nine degrees. Time for a super warming dinner. First things first. HG built a mighty blaze in the fireplace. Filled the room with soaring English choral music. BSK chopped two big onions and six cloves of garlic. HG softened the mix in a pot with a goodly amount of Sicilian olive oil. When the onions/garlic became translucent, HG added San Marzano chopped tomatoes plus salt, pepper and a bit of Spanish Pimenton. After cooking it all down a bit, HG added saffron and thyme. Two cups of white wine and a cup of fish stock followed. After simmering, BSK used an immersion blender to puree the ingredients. The result was a thick, spicy flavorful soup. the basis for Soupe de Poisson. HG poached chunks of fresh Cod in the soup. Rubbed slices of toasted baguette with garlic and placed them in the bottom of soup bowls. Mixed mayonnaise with sriracha and filled a bowl with grated parmesan. Poured the Soupe de Poisson into the bowl with a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture and a sprinkle of cheese. Voila !! Frosty blues were banished. Drank much red wine and finished with Manchego cheese and Medjool dates. Perfect dinner.
As HG writes today, a very versatile Mexican handyman is busy repairing many things at HG/BSK’s New Mexico compound. If it’s broke this hard working guy can fix it. At a fair price. With a big smile. This sums up HG’s happy relations with Mexican emigres. Some are citizens. Some are legal emigres. Some are undocumented. And, some can trace their New Mexico residence for some 400 years. There are some with Jewish roots. Their ancestors fled Mexico during the Spanish Inquisition. HG/BSK live in a world dominated by Latinos of all varieties. HG/BSK’s banker, landscaper, plumber, electrician, housekeeper and aforementioned handyman are all Latinos (Most are bi-lingual but a few speak only Spanish). The local supermarket is staffed by Latinos (plus some Native Americans) and carries a stunning variety of salsas and Mexican spices. HG dines frequently at local restaurants (El Parasol and Sopaipilla Factory) that serve Mexican Food (With some unique New Mexican flourishes). These are warm and welcoming establishments. HG/BSK are continually aware of the religious devotion and family love exemplified by their Mexican-American neighbors. So, why is Der Trumperer brawling with Mexico? It all started with his labeling Mexican emigres as rapists and drug dealers. And, his craziness continues to escalate. The Great Wall of Trump will not solve the drug problem. Just part of the futile, expensive “war on drugs.” Americans have a voracious appetite for illegal narcotics. They will be supplied. Drug crimes will continue and more and more prisons will be built and filled. The facts seem simple. Drug addiction is not a criminal problem. It is a medical problem. Treatment and efficient legalization of narcotics is the remedy. There are many troubling racist aspects of our misguided narcotics and immigration policies. Just part of America’s slide into Fascism.
Cod is not only a versatile and tasty fish, it has historic importance. It has been an important commercial fish for six hundred years. Cod fishing has led to maritime strife between nations. It was a food staple of the masses for centuries (Baccala, codfish cakes, fish and chips, codfish chowder remain favorites). Preserved cod (dried or smoked) made long sea voyages of exploration possible since crews could be fed cheaply and nutritiously. You can learn much about Cod by reading “Cod: A biography of the Fish That Changed the World” by Mark Kurlansky“. Sadly, Cod is now an endangered species and its numbers are diminishing daily. Happily, Whole Foods provides a plentiful supply of Icelandic Cod. Relatively inexpensive and very good. When in residence on Prince Edward Island during summer months, HG/BSK sup on Cod caught off the shores of nearby Nova Scotia. BSK is a dab hand with Cod. After marching with a crowd of more than 10,000 in the Women’s March in Santa Fe, BSK picked up some cod at WF. Paused to place it in the refrigerator and then went off to a two hour meeting of environmentalists. Came home to prepare a swift and savory stew of cod, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and fish stock. HG spiked mayonnaise with Sriracha. A dollop in the stew gave it spicy heat. The next night BSK used Cod to make crisp codfish cakes accompanied by a farmhouse onion relish. HG hopes there will be a creamy brandade in the future.
BSK cooked a dinner that was so good it was repeated by BSK (for HG’s delectation) the next night. The centerpiece was boneless leg of lamb purchased at Trader Joe’s for a modest price. BSK butterflied the leg and trimmed away the fat. The result was two long pieces of lamb ranging in thickness from thin to thick. (This insures eaters have their choice of rare or medium slices). The lamb was marinated for hours in a mix sourced from Michael Field, the late, eminent cookbook author. BSK accompanied the beautifully broiled lamb (utilized half the lamb and saved the rest for dinner the next night) with roast potatoes and steamed sugar snap peas. The peas were gilded with a bit of butter. A delicious vegetable, yes, but the true revelation was the potato dish. BSK filled a Creuset roasting pan with tiny potatoes. Doused them with Sicilian olive oil. Adorned them with sprigs of thyme. Broke up two heads of garlic and topped the spuds with the unpeeled cloves. The result of this was a crisp, garlicky, herbaceous wonder. (Yes, the garlic crisps and you eat without peeling). Drank plentiful Argentine Malbec. No dessert. Just a mustardy green salad to climax a perfect meal. And, the repeat was just as splendid.
What a great day. A day unique in American history. Yes, BSK and all of her pals were in downtown Santa Fe for the Woman’s March (the crowd was beyond all expectations). HG, a bit under the weather, couldn’t attend. Watched the Washington march on TV and was moved by the passion and fiery eloquence of the speakers. HG is convinced that the march isn’t a one-shot. There is real commitment to organize, vote, fight and obstruct this swine who has usurped the Presidency with the help of Putin. Typical of this pig on a day of the largest protest in American history, Mr. Oink launched an attack on the media for underestimating his inauguration crowd. And during his CIA appearance, Piggy characterized his deprecation of the intelligence services as as example of media untruth. Will his attacks on the media go beyond words? Let’s not mince words. Trump is a proto-Fascist. And his “Alt Right” supporters are Nazis. As an American Jew my answer to Trump and his Nazi and dictator pals is: “Never Again.” This is a crisis point in American history. Today was heartening. But, this is just the beginning of a fight to save the American democracy. As, HG writes this, HG is suffering hunger pangs: HG’s dinner preparations are delayed as HG waits for BSK to return from a community meeting. BSK is organizing opposition to electrical towers that would injure the environment, create health risks and despoil religious sites. BSK was at Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” historic moment in Washington. BSK picketed, protested and organized to battle the needless, futile Vietnam War. And, there’s lots of fight and smarts left in BSK. And, she’s not the only one. Get Ready Piggy.
Thin rice noodles (often called rice “vermicelli” or “rice sticks”) are a staple of Asian cuisine and an HG favorite ingredient. Thai Kitchen makes a tasty and economical lunch dish—instant rice noodle soup (variety of flavors). HG likes to give the soup protein in the form of sliced tofu. Scallions or a handful of bean sprouts adds crunch. A dinner favorite is a home-cooked version of Pho, the heartening Vietnamese standby. BSK boils Whole Foods Pho broth and adds a plenitude of shredded chicken. HG plunges a big bag of rice sticks in boiling water. Takes it off the heat immediately, and lets the noodles steep until softened (10 to 20 minutes). Refreshes them with cold water while shaking them in a colander. They are added to the broth and chicken. Lots of garnishes on the table: Mint leaves, chopped scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro. HG/BSK like two unconventional toppings: Avocado slices and bean curd. Sriracha and soy sauce to taste. Nice East meets West (or Southwest) dish.
Here’s some New York nostalgia: In HG’s younger New York days, Broadway (between 42nd and 57th Streets) was one of the great eating thoroughfares. HG has written memories of that Broadway (When The Great White Way Was Appetizing and The Roast Beef Sandwiches of YesteryearR). Just off Broadway, on Seventh Avenue, was Heartburn Heaven–the Stage and Carnegie Delicatessens, pastrami purveyors. And, there was the Brass Rail and its fabulous “French Dip” roast beef sandwiches. Sadly, all are gone and so has old fashioned New York, Jewish-influenced restaurant cooking. Turf, Jack Dempsey’s and Lindy’s served sublime cheesecake. Now, if you want traditional high cal New York cheesecake you’ve got to to Brooklyn and Junior’s on Flatbush Avenue. And breaking with the trend, Frankel’s, a new Jewish-style appetizing and deli, has opened up in Greenpoint. Yes, Brooklyn is keeping some of those old time tastes alive.
An early morning errand in Santa Fe gave HG the opportunity to breakfast at Tecolote Cafe on St. Michael’s Drive. Tecolote is open for breakfast and lunch only. And, if you eat one of their chile based New Mexican platters you can skip meals until the next day. Servings are HUGE and tasty. Breakfast burritos are epic. Tecolote is a family owned and run restaurant that has been serving hardworking New Mexicans for many years. HG wanted a modest breakfast–two poached eggs sided with home fries. Plus a basket of home baked products. The breakfast wasn’t modest. The home fries were a virtual mountain of crisp (just greasy enough) goodness. The poached eggs were perfect. The bread basket contained warm biscuits and pleasant muffins. Lots of butter and strawberry jam. Endless cups of coffee. Down home generosity. HG’s dining neighbors were five very mature, large stomached construction guys (there were rolled up construction plans on a chair). The table was buried in big platters of carne adovado (red chile pork stew), posole and beans. Everything was covered in melted cheese and fried eggs. Stacks of tortillas. Pitchers of iced tea. The rugged gourmands were still eating when HG left.
Watched Clemson roll back The Tide in one of the most exciting (and satisfying) football games ever watched. Neighbor/pal David F. watched the game with HG/BSK. David insisted that HG stick to Vodka Viracocha throughout the game. David vouched for the potency and purity of the spirit. No hangover, he vowed. He was right. HG slept like a babe and awakened with a clear head. No need for menudo (the tripe stew that is the traditional New Mexico cure for morning after distress). Yes, New Mexico is famous for Hatch chiles and green chile stew. But, in addition to Viracocha (distilled in Alcalde, NM.) some very good rye and bourbon whiskeys are crafted in the state as well as small batch beers and ales. Gruet produces wonderful sparkling wines. Sacrilege: HG prefers Gruet over most champagnes. Don’t know much about New Mexico still wines. Tasted one. Insipid.
HG/BSK and neighbor/pal David F. (distinguished novelist, educator, historian and former college football star) will be watching Alabama battle Clemson tonight. New Mexican cuisine is being readied. Authentic chile (no beans). Pork tamales with red chile sauce. Two salsas: Fiery jalapeno and mild tomatillo. Garnishes: chopped onions, cheddar cheese, colby jack cheese, smoky chipotle peppers in sauce. BSK will drink a robust Spanish garnacha. HG and David will be bad boys. Two types of potato vodka are in the freezer to be drunk with beer chasers. Vodka Viracocha, an 80 proof spirit distilled in Alcalde, NM, is David’s favorite. HG will be swallowing Karlsson’s Gold Vodka from Sweden (also 80 proof). HG can’t resist the distiller’s claim: The first vodka distilled from “Virgin New Potatoes.” Moderation will not be observed. If there is a hangover, HG will eat a bowl of menudo (New Mexican tripe stew) the next day. This is the traditional hangover cure in The Land of Enchantment. Tastes good and it works.