The Land of Enchantment? Indeed!

January 31st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Day after day the weather in HG/BSK’s Pojoaque Valley neighborhood in Santa Fe County remains the same. Vivid blue skies. Bright sun. Pure, clean air with the faint scent of sage and piñon pines. Temperature in the 50’s (gets cooler at night when a blaze in the fireplace is welcome). Sorry to stir up envy. Another great thing about the neighborhood is its astonishing diversity in terms of race, nationality and high incidence of intellectual and/or artistic distinction. BSK was off last night for an evening meeting of community activists trying to block an environmentally destructive power lines project. (Yes, wherever HG/BSK live, BSK is in the forefront of battlers for Mother Earth). Since this was an evening meeting, it was suggested that it be a “pot luck” affair. Reflecting diversity, here were some of the dishes at this casual feast: BSK’s chicken schwarma (middle east shredded roast chicken); spicy vegetable curry; Caesar salad; lentil stew; cucumbers in yogurt; platter of shrimp. The dessert was Tiramisu, prepared by a gifted Italian couple. Thoughtful BSK brought some home for HG. Mind altering. Stupendous. Possibly the best dessert ever consumed by HG. Infinitely better than any Tiramisu HG ever tasted in Italy. While BSK did righteous work (and tasty nibbling) at the meeting, lonely HG had a typical Roman bachelor dinner. Capellini aglio e olio. Besides the oil and garlic, HG added chopped flat leaf parsley, anchovies and some powdered bottarga (Italian tuna roe). Drank red wine. Before BSK arrived with the wonder dessert, HG dipped chocolate covered biscotti in the red wine. A not too shabby meal.

Comice Pears

January 28th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

There is no better dessert than a ripe Comice pear paired with parmesan, roquefort or gorgonzola cheese and paired with a glass of fruity red wine. There is a cynical Italian saying: “Don’t tell the peasants about pears and parmesan.” BSK is expert at picking out the best Comice specimens at Whole Foods and bringing them home to reach peak ripeness. BSK learned about Comice delights when HG/BSK lived on New York’s upper west side more than a half century ago. HG/BSK were steady customers at a Mom-and-Pop fruit stand on 80th Street and Broadway. When shopping there one day, the Mom of the store rummaged around the pears and found a ripe Comice. “You don’t know about Comice pears, young lady. Take this home. Wash it. Eat it. You will have pleasure.” BSK followed the Mom’s instructions. Voila!! Comice rules the fruit world.


January 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

The result is pleasure when HG/BSK cook together. Teamwork is flawless. Last night produced a meal of Salmon A’ L’unilateral (salmon cooked on one side in a cast iron pan), haricot verts with shallots, boiled potatoes with sour cream dusted with zaatar (middle eastern spice). Except in very good restaurants, salmon is overcooked into tastelessness. The first time HG ever tasted properly cooked salmon (reddish pink in the middle and slightly quivery) was at the Cafe Luxembourg on West 70th Street in Manhattan. After that experience, HG/BSK enjoyed proper salmon at Quatorze (closed) on 14th Street and Raoul’s in Soho. HG purchased last night’s Norwegian salmon at Trader Joe’s (splendid fish at a bargain price). Lightly oiled a decades-old cast iron pan. Turned up the heat. Cooked the salmon into the desired medium-rare state and finished with a simple sauce of melted butter, lemon juice and capers. (One of the blessings of cooking Salmon A’ L’unilateral is the delicious crisp skin filled with lush and healthy oils). Meanwhile, BSK boiled potatoes and made magical haricot verts. In Paris restaurants, haricots verts are cooked into mush while steaks are browned but raw (go figure). Trendy New York restaurants serve the vegetable almost raw. BSK steamed the slim string beans to the proper consistency and then finished them in a pan with shallots sautéed in butter. Drank pleasant Spanish red Rioja. After 54 years of marriage, teamwork with BSK remains a joy.

Republicans: “Have You No Sense Of Decency”

January 25th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

June 9, 1954. Army-McCarthy hearings. Sen. Joseph McCarthy had charged the U.S. Army with lax security at an Army base. Army hired Boston attorney Joseph Welch to represent t them at the hearings. The Senator charged that a young colleague of Welch’s had communist affiliations. Welch responded: “Until this moment, Senator, I never truly gauged your cruelty and recklessness.” When McCarthy continued his spurious attack, Welch said: “Have you no sense of decency?” The hearings were on national television. Welch’s comments ended McCarthy’s popularity and influence. He died at age 48. HG asks Republican Senators and members of Congress when they do not respond to Trump’s spewing of racist filth: “Have you no sense of decency?”

Playoff Food

January 21st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

HG confesses. The NFL power structure is vile. Brave Colin Kaepernick has been ostracized for expressing his opinion of police offenses against African-Americans. No real protection for players whose continual blows to the head lead to early dementia and death. Nevertheless, HG’s experience as a Bronx sandlot and college football player (a modestly talented halfback on a poor team), makes HG a confirmed fan of NFL playoff football. HG’s sense of morality is (temporarily) abandoned. While watching the TV games, HG indulges in food and drink. These are some of the dishes. Menudo (HG/BSK’s efficient once-a-week housekeeper gifted HG with a big container of this sublime tripe and posole plus green chile stew). Boiled potatoes with onions and sour cream. Congee. Ramen. Icy vodka and beer chasers are the appropriate beverages. HG/BSK watched the Patriots-Titans game in front of pal David F.’s 70inch TV. BSK made a platter of chicken shawarma (crispy middle east chicken) for this occasion. Slightly boring game as Tom Brady performed with his usual artistry. However, all the other playoff games were nail biters. The culmination was the Vikings win on an improbable pass play. Greatest finish HG ever witnessed.

Instant Pot Brisket

January 17th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Texas barbecued brisket deserves its fame. (On HG/BSK’s annual motor trip to Prince Edward Island, Tyler’s Barbecue in Amarillo, Texas is an obligatory stop). Carolina barbecued brisket (drenched in the unique regional mustardy sauce) is splendid. Calvin Trillin, a favorite food writer, swears by the Kansas City product of Arthur Bryant. However, HG prefers above all others, Jewish style, gravy heavy brisket. Not barbecued but cooked in the oven for lots of hours with onions, garlic, carrots, beef stock and tomato sauce. HG’s late Mom called it in Yiddish: “Gedempte fleysch.” HG called it delicious and that’s what helped HG grow into manhood. (You will find a brisket recipe similar to Mom’s in Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America”, Knopf, 1964). HG/BSK were in the mood for brisket last night but didn’t have the time for hours of cooking. So, BSK used the Instant Pot, and–hurrah!!– in one hour there was brown on the outside, lush in the inside, home style brisket. BSK was disappointed in the gravy. Thinner and less flavorful than BSK’s ideal. HG thought it was fine and it went well with a platter of kasha (buckwheat groats) and fried onions. Thankfully, there’s enough brisket left over for dinner tonight. HG will cook Italian farfalle shaped pasta to add to the remaining kasha converting it into “kasha varnishkes.) With harissa and sour cream on the table, HG looks forward to more meaty ecstasy. (For brisket lovers there is an essential for the culinary bookshelf: “The Brisket Book–A Love Story With Recipes” by Stephanie Pierson. A long time pal of HG/BSK, Ms. P. is witty, erudite and eminently readable. You will be tempted to browse the book at bedtime. But, then you’d have to arise for a quick nosh. That’s what the book does to appetite.)

Santa Fe Noshes

January 14th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, Santa Fe has some very high end restaurants (Geronimo is the best). But, HG/BSK are not customers. The problem is wine (and spirits). BSK is a hearty wine drinker (can knock off more than a half-bottle with a meal). HG drinks much wine but also likes vodka before the meal and brandy after. This amounts to big bucks at a good restaurant. Cost of wine and spirits can be more than a hundred bucks (sometimes $150). And, then there are three courses of food plus tax and tip. Excessive expenditure. So, dinner is confined to lusty home cooking plus wine and spirit values from Kokoman and Trader Joe’s. BSK confines lunch to leftovers but HG prefers noshing at casual, inexpensive eateries. El Parasol (in Pojoaque and Santa Fe) for menudo and tacos; Saigon Cafe (Santa Fe) for chow fun and pho; Whole Foods for a container of jambalaya; Tune Up for a breakfast burrito smothered in green chile. Best of all are the numerous food trucks. One of them serves foot long hot dogs covered in super hot green chile sauce. A happy way to achieve the ultimate in heartburns. Pass the Tums.


January 13th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Spanish creativity and Swiss business acumen are responsible for a year round culinary treat: The Kumato. Kumatoes are reddish brown, juicy, tomatoes. They are a hybrid developed in Spain and patented by Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness. No, you can’t buy Kumato seeds and grow your own. Under a rigorous process, Syngenta sells seeds to one major greenhouse grower in a country. (Kumatoes are now grown in 12 countries. HG/BSK eat Kumatoes cultivated in Canada and Mexico). Kumatoes are very tasty (Okay, not as good as a seasonal New Jersey tomato). HG/BSK enjoy them in a variety of ways. Silced with fresh mozzarella. With Portuguese sardines, slices of sweet onion and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Baked in the oven and topped with olive oil and chopped garlic and parsley. In a BLT. A favorite HG snack: Lightly toasted sourdough bread rubbed with garlic, sliced Kumato, olive oil, kosher salt. And, of course, a glass of red wine.

Gone, Gone, Gone

January 11th, 2018 § 2 comments § permalink

The bustling, noisy, fragrant Fulton Fish Market on Fulton Street and the East River in lower Manhattan is long gone. Together with the produce market that flourished on the lower west side of the borough. Both moved to Hunts Point in The Bronx. Yes, there’s better refrigeration facilities there plus transportation advantages. However, the Fulton Fish Market had a certain ambiance that was unique. Joseph Mitchell, the late New Yorker Magazine writer, liked to hang around there. He captured its essence in “Old Mr. Flood” and “Up in the Old Hotel” (about the building that housed the Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant). Close to Louie’s was the venerable Sweet’s seafood restaurant (Founded in 1845 and closed in 1992). HG dined there often circa 1959-1962 when business brought HG downtown. One dozen oysters on the half shell. Fried smelts and cole slaw. Martini before lunch. Bass ale and Guinness with the food. Cost: Six bucks. Yes. Check out the 1960 menu on the New York Public Library website and be dazzled. Louie’s was plain spoken but not sloppy. (Opened in 1930 and shuttered in 1998). The owner, Louis Morino, served very fresh seafood at low prices. There were some surprises. HG had his first taste of sea urchin roe (Uni) there. Old fogey HG mourns the transformation of the meatpacking district into a high fashion zone. (However, HG loves Daughter Victoria’s Cookshop Restaurant on Tenth Avenue, the lovely High Line promenade and the wondrous Whitney Museum). The gritty Bronx Terminal Market in the shadow of Yankee Stadium still bears the name but has become a vast shopping center with the usual tenants and dining highlights like Subway and Applebee’s. Before its dread metamorphosis, HG was the battling public relations spokesmen for the wholesale fruit and vegetable merchants that occupied sprawling stalls there. The merchants were fighting displacement. HG fought the good fight but dubious “Progress” won out. And, another colorful, lively bit of New York was erased.

A Challenge to HG’s Risotto Supremacy

January 9th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Throughout the 54-year marriage of HG/BSK, it has been HG’s task to cook risotto. And, HG has relished this role. HG is not noted for patience, but HG becomes a paragon of this virtue when making this wonderful Italian rice dish. Yes, it takes time and attention. HG begins the procedure by cooking sliced onions in some olive oil (utilizing a heavy bottomed pot). Then, a cup of Arborio or Carnaroli rice is added and gently stirred until its color slightly darkens. Meanwhile, a pot of chicken broth is simmering on an adjacent stove top burner (HG/BSK like Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth). HG adds a ladle of hot broth to the rice and stirs until it’s absorbed. And, so on and so on. Ladle of broth. Stir. Stir. Minutes before the risotto hits the peak of creaminess and completion, HG adds a minimally cooked vegetable. Asparagus when in season. Chopped baby spinach. Sweet peas. Before it arrives at the table, the risotto gets a good hit of butter and grated parmesan. Voila!! Perfection. Big change last night. BSK made the risotto. Sautéed some onion and garlic plus sliced mushrooms in a deep saucepan. Riced one half a head of cauliflower in a food processor. Added the rice and cauliflower to pan, plus white wine and thyme (and some other herbs). After wine was absorbed, BSK added ladles of warm chicken stock and stirred and stirred. Parmesan cheese at the end. The result was a very comforting and lush dish. Much enjoyed. However, HG (a radical in politics but a conservative at the table) prefers HG’s traditional and time-tested method of risotto cooking.

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