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.
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.
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.
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.
A highlight of HG/BSK’s holiday in Brooklyn/New York/ Rhode Island was a feast hosted by Restaurateur Daughter Victoria (Vicki) at her eponymous Italian restaurant, Vic’s, on Great Jones Street. Vic’s is one of Vicki’s four New York restaurants (the others are Cookshop, Rosie’s and Hundred Acres). Hillary Sterling is the chef at Vic’s and she turns out wonderful, creative, Italian food with an emphasis on local, very fresh ingredients. Comfortably seated in the sparkling dining room, HG/BSK and SJ were regaled with vegetable starters: Brussell sprouts with anchovies,chiles and lemon; squash with schmaltz (chicken fat), golden raisins and garlic; cauliflower with hazelnuts, harissa and bread crumbs. These were dishes that could turn a carnivore into a vegetarian. The veggies were followed by baby squid with pickled peppers (a glorious take on the classic Rhode Island dish) and a roasted duck leg. The pasta tasting course was original: Borsa (“little purses” filled with ricotta; Mafaldi; Tortellini; Spaghetti with clams and green chiles. Wow !! Much splendid wine and a grappa to finish. The next day, HG met Vicki for their traditional three hour holiday lunch at Balthazar. The duo had much to talk about as they dug into a giant plateau de fruits de mer: Oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, ceviche, lobster. Fabulous. Bottles of Balthazar’s very good Muscadet. Vicki made a prior arrangement with Balthazar to pay the bill and then sent HG back to Brooklyn via Uber. Vicki, you are generosity personified.