Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Tamales

So many tamales to make, so little time. On Saturday we hosted our annual Tamale Fiesta. Starting early in the week, we shopped for our ingredients, prepared many of the fillings and strategized how best to coordinate the production of so many deliciously wrapped packages. Setting aside the time to be together and work cooperatively towards a common goal is a rare occurrence for me these days. So when the work was over and we all sat around a table piled high with five different types of tamales, big heaping bowls of Arroz & black beans and home brewed beer, it all seemed such a blessing.

I won’t go into detail about recipes. I will say I’ve never attempted such a variety at one time. We made the usual pork with red chile-California, chuck roast with chile-ancho, duck with sour cherries, green chile and cheese and for dessert, chocolate ginger tamales.

Using two steamers and a pressure cooker helped a lot to get it all ready at the same time. Otherwise I’m pretty sure we’d have been eating at midnight.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Chile Rellenos is one of those dishes I can always go back to if I need a burst of flavor on a cold night. The recipe here is based on Zarela's Poblanos Rellenos. Thanks Zarela!

Buy a dozen or so fresh, large poblano chiles. Wash them thoroughly and pat dry. Roast the chiles on the stove top or under a broiler. I've roasted them on a barbeque when space is tight in the kitchen. Place the roasted chiles in a closed container to let them steam. When cool, peel off the skin and set aside.


Into a large skillet melt 3/4 stick of butter. Add a medium onion and two garlic cloves, chopped and and cook down for about three minutes. Add 1/2 cup each of chopped dried peaches, apricots, prunes and pimiento stuffed green olives (the ones in the jar). Stir and cook for another three or four minutes. Add the following ground spices: 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves. I grind this in a coffee mill. Finally add about 2 cups of cooked, shredded chicken and stir together until everything is cooked through. Salt to taste


In a large saucepan heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream until reduced to about a cup. Roast 8 large garlic cloves, 1 onion and four tomatoes under the broiler until they are all charred and softened. Leave the skin on the garlic tomato and onions. After the vegetables cool, peel them and place in a blender. Puree together. Add the cream and return to the saucepan to simmer for about 10 minutes. Salt to taste.


Cut a small slit in the chiles and remove seeds. Stuff all the Poblanos with the chicken mixture and place in a buttered baking pan. Bake for about 15 minutes in a hot oven. Serve with the sauce.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Be a cook

Time seems to have disappeared. How did I manage to cart the daughters from here to Canadia during hockey season, bake cakes, skim coat cracking plaster walls and maintain a running schedule for all those years? And now, I can hardly make it from the subway to my door at night without pining for the big bed as soon as I arrive home.

It’s getting so I can hardly put two carrots together for dinner any more. Granted, the weekends still provide opportunity for slow roasted short ribs for Rosa’s enchiladas and I can still furnish sweet, moist, chocolaty cake for far away college girls. Yet, the weeknight dinner scramble never seems to work itself out without real planning and craftiness.

Take two packages of chicken thighs. Liberally rub the meat with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place thighs in a shallow baking dish and bake at 375 until almost done. At the same time the chicken goes in, place two or three sweet potatoes in the oven. When the chicken is just about cooked, broil it to crisp up the skin to provide crackle. Serve with the sweet potatoes and a fresh green salad.

Take one pound of spaghetti and drop into lots of salted boiling water. Meantime, in a large skillet sauté one onion, two or three par boiled and sliced beets, some garlic and red pepper flakes. When the vegetables begin to wilt and steam, add a cup of stock and cook uncovered until the stock reduces and the sauce turns a bright pink. Turn off the heat and add two or three teaspoons of butter to finish. Serve over the spaghetti.

Finally, cook like a bastard all weekend so your freezer is full of sauces, roasts, stews and reheatable dishes. Turn on the oven, insert pot and drink beer until ready.

When the family arrives expecting a meal, you’re a hero. Everybody wins.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Beer Fermenting

Having tasted home brew, I started making beer recently. With every intention to just try one kit, I'm now hopelessly falling head over heels with the process. This is my third batch - a Pale Haus Ale. There's magic to it. It's alive. I wanted to just post a picture but it's way more interesting to watch the fermentation happening live. As I get deeper into the craft I'm learning way more than I ever wanted to know about hydrolics, physics and plumbing. I've even made a bottle or two of very drinkable India Pale Ale. With any luck, I'll live long enough to gain a certain proficiency at this so I can move on to making my own scotch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Comfort Food

How could so much time have gone by? I’m two years older, I have a daughter about to graduate college and the world’s economy is on its ear. Alas….

We carry on.
Too assuage my anxiety about the world’s condition, I cook. I sauté, I bake, I broil and ferment.
In addition to savory’s, I prepare sweets, salty types and braced beer. It all contributes to a better frame of mind and a safe place.
Why do I keep mason jars on the counter filled with sourdough starter? Why do I maintain a 5 gallon bucket of India Pale Ale conditioning in the basement?
It’s to combat the uncertainty. It’s to shout out to the Jim Cramers of the world, “You aren’t the Boss of me!!!!!
But I digress.
Preparing food settles the soul and mends the heartbreak.
Here’s to food and the people who prepare it!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Defending your food

Michael Pollan is a journalist who teaches at Berkeley. His recent work, In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto, takes a fresh approach in addressing American eating and what he calls nutritionalism. Basically Mr. Pollan breaks it down to this: eat food, not too much, mostly plants.

No secret I like food. What I learned in Defense is that I like the right food, that is, food without process, food that’s out of a vegetable bin, not out of a box. By eating less of the boxed types of food product, Mr. Pollan says, we can eat better. Eating processed food leads to loss of health and weight gain.

He does not suggest a strictly vegetarian diet, and I liked that; instead he suggests, as Thomas Jefferson did, that we treat meat as a condiment rather than a main course.

All good sound advice, if you ask me.

Let’s eat just food, not a whole lot and maybe eat more leaves than flesh.

And cake, so long as it’s good cake, just a small slice and not too sweet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Holy Bakeoff

Big, fat baking weekend. Don’t know what got to me…maybe the failed golden butter cake. I pulled up my boxers, laced on my oven mitt and stormed into the kitchen for three holy days and dusted the shit out of the house with flour.

Friday was Banana Tea Bread from the Times Cookbook to regain my form.

In the afternoon, I hooked a wad of sweet, egg dough and made hot cross buns.

Saturday, as long as I was still lousy with Fleishman’s yeast I made Cinnamon buns.

While enough to make most people tear up just smelling them – I actually got to eat them. They’re good for about three minutes, of course, then they start to go south. With a shot in the microwave though, they resurrect just fine and well, you know.

I know... way too much time on my hands? Saturday I'm scrambling together a Red Velvet Cake for another lucky birthday girl.