That’s right. Whole Foods in Santa Fe no longer carries kasha (buckwheat groats). HG used to find this excellent food in the bulk section, the hot cereal section and the “international” section where Wolff’s boxed kasha would snuggle against vaguely dusty jars of gefilte fish and matzo ball mix. (More woe on the Santa Fe grocery front: Trader Joe’s no longer carries Belgian Butter Almond Cookies.) HG did some Google research and found a Santa Fe kasha source: Natural Grocers on Cerillos Road. Big, well organized market. HG bought two bags of dark brown organic kasha. They also carry white kasha. Have never tasted it but in future will try it as a breakfast dish. Filled the HG cart with many other natural and organic products. Will come back with BSK to examine their wide array of nut butter, jam, honey, granola, dried fruit, etc. Mystery: Why do customers in “health” stores look so unhealthy?
BSK bought an Instant Pot, a miraculous pressure cooker that cooks food in a fraction of the time the food would spend in the oven. And, it tastes good. On Super Bowl day, BSK used the Pot to make savory pulled pork. And, on this chilly New Mexico day (65 degrees yesterday and 35 degrees today), BSK made congee in the Instant Pot. For the uninitiated, congee is Asian rice porridge (also called “jook”). It is a wonderfully soothing comfort food. BSK enhanced the congee with ginger and dried Chinese shiitake mushrooms (they plumped up beautifully). Tossed in a few scallions. When served, the steaming bowls got a topping of chopped scallions, a splash of sesame oil and a scattering of salted peanuts. HG had sumptuous refills. Perfect dining after watching HG’s beloved New York Knicks defeat the mighty San Antonio Spurs. HG still loves Noo Yawk, Noo Yawk. One of Der Trumperer’s lackeys called New York the “people’s republic.” It is, indeed. Long may it reign.
Maple syrup is HG’s favorite sweetener and HG uses it in a variety of ways. Breakfast is a bowl of organic corn flakes and milk enhanced with a splash of the syrup. Best dessert is Haagen Dasz vanilla bean ice cream gilded with maple goodness. HG often adds a bit of the maple to a snifter of bourbon for after dinner sipping. In civilized, inclusive, democratic Canada, chefs use maple syrup in a variety of dishes. An HG/BSK favorite is roast sablefish with a maple syrup glaze, a perfect blend of smokiness and sweetness. On Prince Edward Island where HG/BSK spend four months annually at the HG/BSK oceanfront home, local groceries offer a variety of Canadian maple syrups at very affordable prices. In New Mexico, HG/BSK buy their maple syrup at Trader Joe’s. Recently, TJ offered Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. Great stuff, dark and robust as advertised. Items come and go at TJ so HG/BSK hope the addition of this syrup is a permanent fixture.
HG has often faced moral conundrums. Can HG enjoy cod even though worldwide supplies are diminishing? Yes. Can art be separated from politics and despicable opinions? HG chooses art. HG is transported by music conducted by Herbert Von Karajan despite the conductor’s membership in the Nazi party. HG relishes the short fiction of Roald Dahl despite Dahl’s anti-semitism. HG also admires the prose of the French author and virulent anti-semite, Louis-Ferdinand Celine (“Journey to the End of the Night”.) The philosopher and political commentator Bernard Henri-Levy summed up the contradiction by noting a man can be “a great author” and “a complete bastard.” On a far lesser scale of values, HG is an admirer of Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, despite Brady’s alleged support of Adolf Trump, our so called President. (A President who could talk about the Holocaust and not mention Jews). As an informed long time football fan, HG considers Brady the greatest quarterback in football history. That opinion was confirmed by Brady’s dissection of Atlanta in the stirring Super Bowl comeback. Thus, the traditional Super Bowl viewing and food fest at David F.’s was a joy. Much vodka and red wine. A big sliced ham and all the fixings. BSK’s contribution was pulled pork made in the miraculous Instant Pot pressure cooker. The pork was cooked in an hour and fifteen minutes rather than the hours of oven cooking. Delicious when rolled in a warm tortilla and topped with tomatillo salsa. (Ah, HG’s beloved BSK is the Brady of home cooking).
HG loves grits. There was a time when you had to travel south to get a bowl of grits. Now grits making an appearance on menus all over the USA. Shrimp and grits (An HG favorite) is being devoured at a half dozen Santa Fe eateries. Best ever shrimp and grits were served at Chicago’s Soul Kitchen (closed, alas) and best cheese grits were found up north at the lovely Griswold Inn, Lyme, Conn. HG isn’t snobbish about grits. Enjoys them at Waffle House topped by eggs and flanked by crisp fried potatoes. Quaker Oats Instant Grits provide a quick and pleasant breakfast when adorned with a lump of butter, salt, pepper and a dash of Tabasco. (Don’t sneer. Try it). For some peculiar reason, grits are not sold on Prince Edward Island. Maybe they represent a challenge to the Island’s omnipresent and delicious mineral rich potatoes. So, when HG/BSK voyage to the family summer home on this serene and beautiful Canadian isle, HG/BSK always pack a few bags of Geechie Boy Mill white grits. SJ, a guy who knows what’s good, gifts his parents with this splendid product. Geechie calls its product “Stone Ground Goodness.” Accurate. These grits ascend to heaven when topped by BSK’s perfect poached eggs.
Sunny morning. Warming weather. Senorita A., HG/BSK’s very efficient and hard working once-a-week housekeeper has arrived at HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. Greetings of “Bueno dias !!”. (Senorita A.’s English is limited). In hours, HG/BSK’s home will be sparkling and order will reign. Knowing HG’s love of menudo (Mexican tripe stew), some months ago Senorita A. brought HG a big container of her grandmother’s (“Mi abuela”) menudo. Down home yumminess. Today, Senorita A. brought menudo she herself had made (“Yo!!). Plus some fiery salsa. HG can hardly wait to devour a hearty bowl of this invigorating (hangover chaser) food.
While Adolf Trump and Heinrich H. Bannon (with mouthpiece Joseph G. Kellyanne) usher in America First nationalism (is National Socialism or outright Nazism far behind?), HG/BSK practice internationalism at the table. With a bow to Muslims, there are two Middle East staples: Baba Ghanoush (garlic infused mashed eggplant) and Shakshuka (poached eggs in tomato-onion-pepper sauce) Shakshuka is very popular in Israel, a delight shared by Arabs and Jews. HG/BSK also like Halwa (from Lebanon) as dessert. Asia predominates in many HG/BSK dinners. Oyster (or scallop) pancakes from Korea. Pho and rice noodle/chicken salad from Vietnam. Ma Po Tofu from China. Watercress and smoked ham soup from China. Chicken and vegetable curries from India. Spicy eggplant and pork belly dishes from the Hunan and Szechuan provinces. Steamed sole with bok choy and garlic chips from Japan. A score of pasta, meat and chicken dishes inspired by the late Marcella Hazan’s Italian cookbooks. Soup de Poisson from France. Congee from China and the Philippines. Lamb chops and racks of lamb (imported from New Zealand) and cooked using French techniques. And, yes, many dishes from Mexico including chile and posole. For sheer comfort there is the strange Jewish-Russian-Italian medley, Kasha Varnishkes (buckwheat groats, chicken stock, eggs, mushrooms, onions and Italian farfalle pasta). HG/BSK will eat this tonight with gobs of sour cream. HG will accompany it with iced vodka (from Sweden). BSK will choose a wine from Argentina, Italy, Chile, France or the State of Washington. Hurray for diversity in culture, people, life and pleasure. This is the message fromHG/BSK’s American-Canadian-Japanese-Italian-Jewish-Russian-English-Irish-Welsh family.
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.