Surprisingly, HG has never had good choucroute in Paris. For the uninitiated, choucroute is an Alsatian dish of simmered sauerkraut topped with a variety of piggy parts: Pork knuckle, smoked pork chops (kassler ripchen); frankfurters, bratwurst, thick cut bacon, sausage, etc. At Brasserie Boulingrin in Rheims, HG was occupied by butter drenched sole meuniere while a waiter walked by with a sumptuous, huge platter of choucroute. HG will certainly order it when (hopefully) HG/BSK get back to Rheims. Choucroute at two Paris stalwarts. Chez Jenny and Brasserie Balzar, lacks zest. Last night was chilly in New Mexico so dinner was hearty. BSK answered the dining challenge by constructing an estimable choucroute. BSK simmered the sauerkraut in a base of olive oil, sliced apples and white wine. Killer kraut. Cut up a Smithfield Farms Polish Kielbasa and let it heat with the kraut. Topped it with boiled all beef frankfurters. Accompanied the dish with small boiled potatoes. Three kinds of mustard on the table: Super hot Keen’s, Maille Dijon, Maille Whole Grain. Kosher dill pickles. Bass Ale. Let the winds blow. All is merriment in the HG/BSK household.
The neo-Nazi regime of Der Trumperer and his guru, Steve Bannon, has given energy to the Alt-Right aka Nazis, America Firsters, nativists and violent haters. An Indian man was killed and another wounded by a crazed bigot recently. Waves of anti-Jewish bomb threats are a daily occurrence. And, a few days ago, a Sikh man was shot by an assailant who told him to go back to his own country. As you may have gathered from a recent post (“Langar”), HG is very fond of HG’s Sikh neighbors who live in an ashram a few miles from HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. Sikhs, for centuries, have combined their spirituality, peacefulness and striving for righteousness with a ferocious fighting spirit. In North America, Africa and England Sikhs have been prominent in providing security services. When HG/BSK resided in Vancouver, B.C., Sikhs guarded all of the fast growing city’s numerous building sites. Sikhs are totally non-agressive and do not provoke physical combat. They operate under three rules. One: Take up arms and resort to physical violence only as a last resort. “When all other means have failed, it is just to resort to the sword” Guru Gobind Singh. Two: Never strike first. Three: Use only proportionate force. Bigots take heed. Sikhs will fight back. Ferociously and effectively.
Whole Foods always has fish specials on Friday. HG takes advantage. Last week HG bought a thick piece of swordfish for Friday dinner and a pound of good looking Pacific sole for Saturday. Total for finny treats was $21. Not bad. HG had the fish clerk cut the swordfish in four thin horizontal slices. HG dusted the slices with flour and sautéed them quickly in olive oil with plenty of lemon juice. When done, gilded them with capers and melted butter (and more lemon juice).BSK stir fried some asparagus and boiled tiny potatoes. Wonderful meal. Saturday the sole was prepared a la Exquisite Maiko, HG/BSK’s talented chef/daughter-in-law. The sole was steamed over baby bok choy in a mix of white wine (BSK sometimes uses sake), sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. This was served with Vietnamese rice noodles flavored with sesame oil and Vietnamese fish sauce. Sriracha on the side. El Yummy.
Fregola Sarda is a Sardinian pasta that is similar to Israeli couscous but with a nutty flavor that has overtones of kasha (buckwheat groats). Fregola Sarda is produced by using semolina flour to make tiny balls and then toasting them. It’s delicious in a variety of breakfast dishes (served with a lump of butter and grated cheese plus a dollop of sour cream) or for dinner. A Sardinian favorite is a hearty soup of fish stock, tomatoes, Fregola Sarda and clams. HG/BSK will prepare this on Prince Edward Island this summer (anticipate digging up the clams in the waters of St. Mary’s Bay). No clams last night. Just Fregola Sarda with onions, mushrooms and a sofrito of olive oil, garlic and chopped flat leaf parsley. A cup of steaming chicken bouillon to moisten. Grated parmesan and fiery red pepper flakes on the table. Sardinian comfort food deluxe. Never find Fregola Sarda on the menus of Italian restaurants in USA. Strictly a home dish. You can find the good stuff at Whole Foods (sometimes) or through Amazon, of course. Give it a try.
HG/BSK and pal/neighbor Karen K. had Sunday lunch at the Sikh ashram in nearby Espanola Valley (a 10-minue drive from HG/BSK’s Jacona home). The lunch is an Indian Sikh tradition called Langar, a meal that is offered free to ashram members as well as outsiders. Sikhs believe it is a blessing to serve good food to everyone–needy or not. HG/BSK and Karen K. were invited to the Langar by Siri-Gian, a resident of the ashram and a very effective member of the activist group (which BSK and Karen K. are part of) that is battling to prevent environmentally destructive electric towers from being built in the the Pojoaque and Espanola Valleys. Sikhs are vegetarians and the Langar consisted of two delicious curries (vegetable and a grain and vegetable mix) plus salad, fruit drink and a dessert of chocolate truffles. Beautiful, serene atmosphere with most of the Sikhs (wearing traditional turbans and robes) dining while seated on floor mats. HG sat on a bench and was joined by Kulwant, a handsome, articulate Sikh woman. Graciously, Kulwant responded to HG’s many questions about the Sikh religion. She was very enlightening. If HG was not a Jew and a confirmed atheist (no, that isn’t contradictory) HG would think about living in a Sikh ashram. Vegetarianism, however, might be a major impediment for gourmand HG.
Always a good move to cook an abundance of kasha. It reheats nicely and can be used in many ways. HG ladles it into steaming chicken broth (sometimes adds a beaten egg). A pleasant winter lunch. Good for breakfast with melted butter and a side of sour cream or Greek yogurt. Last night, BSK served left over kasha varnishkes with fall off the bone short ribs. BSK cooked them with onions and spices in BSK’s wondrous new Instant Pot. The result was lush, savory. The kasha soaked up the juices. HG gave the meal a slightly middle eastern tilt by mixing a bowl of Greek yogurt with garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, sumac and zaatar. Harissa on the side. BSK/HG drank joyously, enjoying a bottle of Argentine malbec. Tequila on the rocks with lots of freshly squeezed lime juice was HG’s pre-dinner beverage. Unconventional post dinner drink: Canadian whiskey with a bit of maple syrup, In his maturity, HG does not ration alcohol.
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).