Friday, December 31, 2010

To end ... to begin

Closing a decade
Our evolution continues…..
A hoppin’ New Year

Black Bean and Posole Stew – yields approx. 8 servings
12-ounces dried posole
2-cups dried black beans
2-large onions – chopped
3-garlic cloves –chopped
2-Anaheim peppers – seeds discard; chopped
2-poblano peppers – seeds discarded; chopped
1-jalapeno chili – diced
3-medium carrots – peeled and chopped
3-celery stalks – chopped
1-tablespoon achiote paste
1-tablespoon smoked paprika
28-ounce canned tomato
1/4-cup Italian parsley – roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In separate bowls soak the posole and black beans in three times their volume of water for 8 to 10 hours. Drain the posole and black beans, and cook two different pots covered with 6-cups of water for an hours.

Drain the posole and black beans, reserving three cups of the black bean cooking water.

Heat an 8 to 10 quart pot over a medium heat, and add the onions. Cook the onions, cooking until the onions have started to brown. Then mix in the garlic, peppers, chili, carrot and celery. Continue cooking until the carrots and celery start to soften. Then stir in the achiote paste and smoked paprika. Cook for a minute.

Into the pot add the cooked posole, black beans, canned tomato and 3-cups reserved cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, and then return the heat to low. Simmer the stew for 2-hours, covered.

Season with salt and pepper and mix in the Italian parsley. Cook for a half-hour longer.

Serve with lime and diced avocado if desired.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

And to all,,,,,,,

T’is the season to live in wonder and hopefully experience the grounding effect of loving and being loved. It is a time when the hope of a child with their wish list sends us scrambling and the over-indulgence of family members can send you to the brink. However, for me in those wide eyes lives the anticipation of a moment – an un-jaded yearning of dreams to be fulfilled.

I don’t want to ever lose that innocent belief that all things are possible, and it is part magic part paternal elfing that makes it happen. Every spring when the first verdant tips of asparagus pierce the newly re-awakened earth I re-chant the mantra, I do believe, I do believe. The custodial guardianship of the earth by the many farmers I have come to know allows me to have faith in the amazing.

I am all-thumbs when it comes to bringing the corners of wrapping paper to a point to seal in a gift. Following the mysterious and wondrous arrival of winter’s first blood orange; spring’s alien-like fiddleheads; summer’s luscious everything, and autumn’s tough-skins within me speaks the understanding of a judicious dusting of a spice or a rough chop of an herb as an instinctual flourish for nature’s gifts.

So, may the time of year when the land is at its stillest not lose sight of the gifts that are bound to come as we frolic in the joy of now.

Roasted Cauliflower with Zatar and Lemon – yields 6 servings
3-tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion – sliced into strips
5 large garlic cloves – peeled and cut in half
2 heads cauliflower (approx. 1-1/2 pounds)
Zest of one lemon
1 scallions – sliced
2-tablespoon zatar spice mix
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4-cup lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into florettes, and toss with the oil, onion and garlic, lemon zest, zatar, salt and pepper.

Lay cauliflower mixture onto a baking tray, and place in the oven. Cook the cauliflower for 30 minutes. Toss with lemon and serve warm.

Zatar Spice
1-tablespoon ground cumin seed
2-tablespoons sesame seeds
1-tablespoon dried mint
2-teaspoons dried thyme rubbed
1-teaspoon dried oregano rubbed
2-teaspoons sumac
1/2-teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Love and Comfort

Baby it's cold outside….and the urge for comfort has come on strong. It is not just enough to slip my feet into a pair of cashmere socks or welcoming the off-timed hiss of the radiator. No, I also need the radiant heat that will emanate from a long cooking stew or batch of baking cookies as I remember from my mother’s kitchen.

The cold weather elicits some of the strongest memories from my childhood. I am not sure why for I am not one who loves this weather, and have always professed to not being that sophisticated I only need one season – summer. And, my mother could be found in the kitchen at all times of the year preparing dishes of love. But I find myself in a climate that keeps me indoors for a few months at a time.

I have vivid images of my mom sitting at the kitchen table with a five-pound bag of usually walnuts or pecans to one side a kitchen towel in front of her and a large glass jar to her other side. In her hand, a hammer whose red handle was nicked by years her of tapping on the shells of nuts. She would bake and cook with walnuts, pecans, almonds, and pistachio nuts strewn freely into her foods – there was no concept of “nut issues” in our house. That was until my brother-in-law entered our family. Not only did he not use salad dressing he did not eat nuts. This was a shock for all of us, and hoped we could find the reason my sister was smitten. His rejection of my mother’s love of nuts was eventually forgiven and we came to recognize a life is still full even without embracing these tree born gifts. My mother never stopped freeing nuts from their natural casings into the bell jar that would be their wanting room. One family dinner there was placed on the dinner table the expected excess of desserts, a favorite of each family member, and a new platter – a nut free platter.

My mother passed this year and I was able to rescue that red hammer from oblivion and now it rests in my kitchen, and will never know a nail. Along with the old nut chopper whose wooden disk is so smooth and velvety due to decades of crushing blows. The manual labor employed is not as easy as a purchased cellophane bag of shelled nuts or as quick as a pulse in the food processor, but then I would not find comfort in those actions.

Sandwiched Cookies – yields approx. 2-dozen
8-ounces unsalted butter
3/4-cup brown sugar
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
2-cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8-teaspoon salt
1/2-cup chopped pecans
1/2-cup chopped blanched almonds
7-ounces guava paste
2-ounces white chocolate – chopped

Whip together the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then beat in the eggs one into the butter mixture to combine – the butter will look slightly curdled. Mix in the vanilla.

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt together to thoroughly combined. Then stir the flour mixture into the butter. Then stir in the chopped nuts.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each in wax paper into about a 12-inch log. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least 1-hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and slice logs into 24 rounds that are about 1/4-inch thick each.

Place a bit of the white chocolate on the bottom of one slice then some guava paste. Place some white chocolate on top of the guava. Cover with a slice of the cookie dough. Continue in this fashion with the remaining dough.

Place on a parchment lined cookie tray giving the cookies about an inch spacing.

Bake in the oven for 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely.