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?
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.
Dukkah is an Egyptian nut and spice blend. Composed of almonds, sesame seeds, fennel seeds, coriander, anise seeds, coarse ground salt. These ingredients are mixed into a pleasant consistency. The result is addictively delicious. It can be found in Middle Eastern groceries. (It is also carried at Trader Joe’s). HG tears off small chunks of Ciabatta bread. Dips them in Sicilian olive oil and then in Dukkah. Great with red or white wine. A favorite HG meal is Dukkah, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, sliced sweet onions and Kumatoes (ripe heirloom tomatoes when they’re in season); anchovies and capers; Greek yogurt. HG adds grated garlic and a splash of olive oil to the yogurt. Dusts it with Zaatar, another sprightly herbal mix from the Middle East. Zaatar is made of ground thyme, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Not as assertive as Dukkah but equally delicious. Good Lebanese restaurants in London and Paris often pour olive oil on pita bread and then cover it with Zaatar. Though much splendid bread is baked in New Mexico, the pita available is a supermarket product, tasteless and insipid. HG sticks with Ciabatta from Whole Foods.
Not everyone loves kimchi, the Korean fermented cabbage that is a staple of Korea’s cuisine. Some find the fragrance and the tingly taste a bit too challenging. Not HG, a dedicated lover of kimchi. Trader Joe’s sells a 10.6 ounce bag of Korean kimchi for $1.99, a true bargain. HG always has a few bags in the fridge. For a favorite lunch, HG adds kimchi to a steaming bowl of Korean Shim Ramyun (spicy and hot) or Jin Ramen (mild), both Korean instant ramens. HG sometimes follows the lead of Roy Choi, Food Truck entrepreneur, restauranteur, chef and author of L.A. Son, and adds some slices of of supermarket American cheese to the ramen. Choi grew up in a rough and tumble neighborhood of Los Angeles. That’s the way his Mom served him ramen. Try it. Surprisingly and oddly tasty.
Ompa Lomps. Yes, that’s what cute little HG called lamb chops when he was a wee, wee lad. Okay. No more cloying baby talk. HG loved lamb chops back then and still loves them. Best lamb chops in the world were served at the Coach House, Leon Lianides’s legendary restaurant in New York’s Greenwich Village. (The space is now occupied by Mario Batali’s Babbo). The Coach House chops were about two inches thick and incredibly juicy and succulent. Lianides said the secret of his great chops and racks of lamb was to cut away all of the fat. That’s what BSK does when pan broiling delicious little chops from Trader Joe’s. TJ’s chops are from the Atkins Ranch in faraway New Zealand. The logistics of getting them from that distant land to HG’s knife and fork boggles the mind. Last night, BSK broiled last of the season heirloom tomatoes. Grilled tiny Japanese eggplants. Boiled fingerling potatoes. HG mixed Greek yogurt with lots of crushed garlic, some olive oil and a dash of Spanish smoked paprika. (Love to dip potatoes in that mix). All splendid accompaniments to the pink chops. And, where there is lamb there is fruit forward California cabernet sauvignon. Happy dining indeed.
HG/BSK are mushroom lovers and a favorite is the oyster mushroom sold at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. BSK uses a plentiful amount of these in BSK’s creative variation of David Tanis’ fresh and wild mushroom stew recipe (Tanis writes for the New York Times Wednesday Food & Wine section. HG/BSK are Tanis fans). In creating the mushroom stew, BSK adds dried porcini mushrooms, the broth in which they have been softened and some good chicken stock. BSK’s choice of a cultivated mushroom is the brown cremini. BSK is generous with her use of herbs–namely fresh sage, rosemary and tarragon. BSK makes life simple by purchasing a polenta loaf at Trader Joe’s. BSK browns slices of the polenta. Tops them with a ladle of mushroom stew. A dash of red pepper flakes. Accompanied by a fruity red wine and followed by a green salad and cheese, you’ve got a festive autumn dinner.
Some years ago, HG was lunching at a restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown. Grilled octopus. A tasty slab of sauteed pickerel with garlicky greens, okra and orzo (the Greek version of Jewish farvel, a small pasta shape also called “egg barley.”). Retsina wine (admittedly, an acquired taste). For dessert, my companions (all of Greek origin) ordered yogurt for dessert. Didn’t sound promising. Sounded like a bad health food restaurant option. It proved to be a revelation. Thick, really thick yogurt, topped with walnuts and fragrant honey. Delicious. Remains one of HG’s favorite desserts. Greek yogurt was hard to find then. HG managed to source some at a Greek delicatessen in Vancouver where it was scooped out of a big tub. Now it has become omnipresent. Even Dannon has a version. But, as far as HG is concerned, only the Fage brand has authentic Greek texture and taste.
In Trader Joe’s spice department you can find a nice melange of spices labeled “Tsatziki Mix.” Add it to plain Fage yogurt. Make some Keftas (Middle Eastern lamb burgers utilizing garlic, cumin, mint and grated onion). Tuck a Kefta into a warmed pita with a dollop of Tsatziki-spiced yogurt and a few slices of raw onion and tomato plus a squirt of Sriracha for heat. The burger from heaven.
Yes, ’tis the season to be jolly and adding to seasonal merriment is Panettone. The Italian sweet bread, which originated in Milan, makes its annual holiday appearance in an oddly shaped box. The bread is yeasty, fragrant and studded with raisins and candied fruit. Delicious. Like a fruit cake that is actually good to eat. It is a Christmas staple not only in Italy, but also in Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Italians like it for dessert (topped by a scoop of mascarpone) with a glass of sweet wine like Moscato d’Asti. HG likes it for breakfast. Gently warmed and served with marmalade or a drizzle of maple syrup. Good for dessert with vanilla ice cream. You can buy the Bonifante imported Panettone at Zabar’s (expensive); a cherry Panettone at Dean &Deluca (very expensive, naturally); a tinned one with glazed chesnuts at Williams-Sonoma (expensive) and the house brand one at Trader Joe’s (very cheap). Penny pinching HG goes for TJ’s version.
Lesley R., gifted daughter of HG and BSK, has spent much time living in Italy with her family. When HG has visited them (in Bologna, Venice, Siena) meals often started with a platter of Bresaola (thinly sliced, air dried beef). Lesley covered the beef with fresh, baby arugula, good olive oil and shards of Parmesan. Splendid dish. HG hasn’t encountered Bresaola in the USA and feared an Italian trip was the only way to access this delicacy. Well, happy news. Trader Joe’s is now carrying Citterio’s Bresaola and it’s mighty good. Had it last night with arugula fresh from the Farmers’ Market.
Some more nice taste news. When HG and BSK lived in their Vancouver loft, they often enjoyed Black Cod (also known as sable — when smoked it is that lush stuff found at Russ & Daughters, Zabar’s and other New York smoked fish specialists). Vancouver chefs sometimes prepared it with a maple syrup glaze or sauce. The sweetness complemented the richness of the fish. Well, don’t want to sound like a Trader Joe’s press agent, but TJ is now carrying frozen Black Cod filets. HG has sourced a nice recipe for Black Cod with “maple syrup gastrique” — a fancy way of saying maple syrup sauce. HG is not a fan of frozen fish but HG’s had a good experience with TJ frozen sole. So, the Black Cod may be a winner. Will keep you informed.
Have always found caramels too sweet. But, a few years ago HG discovered, in Paris, of course, caramel ice cream enriched with sea salt — fleur de sel. Super yum. Trader Joe’s now carries fleur de sel caramel candies. A treat. Haagen Dasz has a nice Dulce Con Leche ice cream. Give a bowl a sprinkle — a very modest sprinkle — of sea salt. An ice cream surprise.