Category Archives: Memories

Christmas in September.

No, I’m not talking about the holiday itself. I’m talking about the reference to red and green chiles in New Mexican cuisine.

When dining in New Mexico, one can order a number of dishes prepared with red or green chile sauce, such as enchiladas, stuffed sopapillas, burritos, etc. If you wish to get both green and red chile sauce, you simply order ‘Christmas’. And since I’m still undecided which chile I prefer, I usually order my dishes this way. I get the best of both worlds.

New Mexico Red Chile

This is where the love starts.
Just don't breathe in too deeply.

I was lucky to make a quick visit to Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago, just in time for Hatch green chile season which I blogged about here. But red chile gets its due now.

When I first moved to Santa Fe over 20 years ago, I got a job working the ‘front of the house’ at the Ore House on the Plaza. This is where I met my husband. He was the cute bartender I gazed upon as I came into the bar seeking employment. I told my friend Maggie right then and there, “I’m going to marry him.”

And I did.

key ingredients for perfect pesto

KISS - Keep it simple, stupid. Stupid is me, not you.
Just so we're clear. Duh.

I also met some of the best people around. Many are still dear close friends, even though some of us have moved around, moved back, moved to other countries. We still have solid ties and relationships that allow us all to hook up. Once we get together, it’s like no time has passed. We pick up where we left off. There are never odd moments of uncertainty. There is trust. Love. Respect.

The Ore House will always hold a special place in my heart. Even the friends who have come and gone from our lives are revered and remembered.

ready to blend

Have I mentioned how much I love K&K for the Cuisinart? Again...gracias.

As is the Ore House’s Red Chile Piñon Pesto. This signature recipe was developed by the original chef of the Ore House, and despite my insider contacts, no one has the recipe. For years, this was not an issue, as anyone could wander on up the white staircase to the second floor of the restaurant and simply purchase large mason jars of the adored pesto to take home and enjoy for many, many meals.

But alas, some good things come to an end. After over two decades of success, the Ore House on the Plaza will close its doors. In an attempt to gain a surplus of pesto bliss, my amigo Cristòbal made a run out to the restaurant recently and discovered that our beloved pesto is no longer available. Not on the menu, not in jars.

¡Que lastima! When Chris broke the news to me, I nearly wept. Honestly. People who are ‘in the know’ about this pesto will verify its magic. There is something medicinal about it. You eat it, you sweat. Your tongue begs you to stop, begs you for more. Slather it on a burger, and I swear you’ll never eat a burger any other way (unless it’s already covered in green chile. Then you are forgiven). Combine it with butter and add to seared shrimp or scallops? Died and gone to chile heaven, my friends. You’re just a better person after eating it.

Jar O Love

If you're lucky, you have one (or two) of these in your fridge.

Just knowing I have a jar or two in my fridge just makes me sleep better at night. I know, it’s really absurd, but there you have it. So I knew I had to find a way to keep me and my familia in the red, with the red. I’ve been playing around with the ingredients – chile, cheeses, oil, and nuts for a while now.

And I think I’ve got it.

Now, I am not going to be as selfish and elusive as the original masters. Oh no. I think great food should be enjoyed, not hoarded. I gladly share my recipe with all of you, and encourage the Red Chile Piñon Pesto diehards to give it a try. All of the ingredients can be found easily in your own home towns and cities. Except perhaps, for the red chile pods. But that’s okay, because I can hook you up, my compadres. Just email me and I will be happy to send you some of the good stuff. Soon, you too can be putting up jars of ‘liquid gold’.

And, if for any reason you just don’t have it in you to whip up a batch, you can always wait until Christmas. The actual holiday this time. I think I may be making up a shwack for gifts. Just stay on my good side, and all good tidings will come.

Red Chile Piñon Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound dried New Mexican red chile pods
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cups grated parmesan and romano cheeses (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  • Spread dried chile pods on a large baking sheet and heat in a 300 degree oven for 3 minutes. Remove stems, but do not seed.
  • Combine all ingredients in food processor, except for oil and salt. Add 1 cup of the oil, and then pulse to combine. Slow stream the additional oil as needed to form a chunky ‘pesto-like’ mixture. Taste for seasoning, and add up to 1 teaspoon of salt as needed. The cheeses are naturally salty, so you want to be careful with this. I did find that despite the cheese, a teaspoon of kosher salt was helpful. Be careful if you are using regular table salt. If you are, perhaps half is fine.
  • Store pesto in a mason jar (preferred), or covered container and refrigerate. Mixture will keep for several months. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Go Green.

Last month I was lucky enough to arrange a quick, last-minute get away to Santa Fe for 4 days. A cheap flight, an open schedule with friends and familia and some fall sunsets were just in order. Oh, and green chile season is in full force right now. Bonus!

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to sample this beloved fruit, I will pray that you, one day can experience a true New Mexican crop. And yes, chile is a fruit:

Chili pepper (from Nahuatl chilli, chilli pepper, chilli, chillie, chili, and chile) is the fruit of plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family, Solanaceae.

New Mexico grows the best chiles, hands down. The tiny town of Hatch, located approximately 200 miles south of Santa Fe, produces the ever popular green chile, named after its place of origin. The flavor is smoky, slightly sweet and pungent. Its heat is undeniable. It is not for the faint of heart. It’s also highly addictive. Once you give in to the pain, the pleasure is so keen and sharp; there really is no way to describe the feeling.

You want more. Now. Then, later. The next hour. The next day. Next week. Oh yeah. You have a green chile monkey on your back, big time. And the only thing you can do, is feed it. More chile.

The best chile. Ever.

Green chile can be red too. Who knew?

During the few short weeks of chile season in Santa Fe, you can drive through town and stop along the roadsides, the sights (and smells) of heavy iron roasting barrels, filled with bushels of freshly picked whole green chile. As the barrels spin and turn, the aroma wafting through the air is a cross between a crisp fall leaf and some stinky uh… leaf. Honestly, when I first moved to Santa Fe over 20 years ago, I moved up on Zozobra weekend, a ritual of burning “Old Man Gloom” and I swore every neighborhood I drove through was burning some seriously stinky bud. Turns out, this green crop is way better, more profound; much more coveted.

And, it’s actually good for you. Chile is high in Vitamin C, boasts a hefty dose of anti-oxidants, and has been proven to ward off irregular cell production and cancers. And, the Capsicum levels in chiles encourage the brain to release endorphins, nature’s pain killers and mood enhancing chemicals throughout the body. So you see, I’m not kidding when I talk about the addiction part. But it’s a good addiction, understand?

While in Santa Fe last week, my familia and I sat down to peel, seed and bag 2 beautiful bushels (about 40 pounds) of chile. This has become somewhat of a tradition at the Casa de Pearson-Kramer. This year the crew were few (perhaps the party the night before which ended at 4am had something to with it), but hey – if you can’t run with the big dogs…. then get off the porch.

More chile for us.

chile mis en place

No glove? No love. Well, love in all the wrong places. Cuidado my friends, cuidado.

Fortified with some blazing Bloody Marys (thank you Julie!), latex gloves and endless ziplock bags, our newspaper lined table quickly filled with bowls of charred skins and seeds, whole chiles for rellenos later, and 40 precious bags of MH and H (medium hot and hot) love.

The process isn’t rocket science. Don your gloves, have a bowl to dump the unwanted seeds and skins, a bowl for the cleaned chile, a plate for the large, pristine chiles which will become rellenos if desired, and another bowl of cool, clean water. Occasionally dip your gloved hands in the water to keep the seeds at a minimum.

At no time, ever, should a chile pass through the said water bowl. This is known as a dipper, or a dunker. It is wrong, wrong wrong. It’s like drowning your food before you eat it. I mean, honestly, would you drop a steak in a tub of water after throwing it on the grill? I didn’t think so. It’s really the same thing. It drowns the poor chile of its flavor, its zip. I know perfectly sane folks who will go ballistic if they witness this heinous practice while in their presence. I mean, I would never lose it like that. No way. Not me, uh uh. I am way too Zen for that.

But please don’t be a dipper. I beg of you. Thank you.

Green Chile. Bagged and Tagged.

Green Chile. Bagged and Tagged. That's wrong, huh?

After all the chile has been cleaned, bagged and labeled (remember, you have a bushel of both medium hot, and hot. It is very important to keep these separate and correctly labeled). This way, you can mix the heat up a bit, depending on what and whom you are cooking for.

However, it does appear that this years roasting party may be a mix of proper and improper sorting. Both Lori and myself have been privy to ‘medium hot’ chile that nearly blew our pants off, so I am actually a little afraid to try the hot. I’ll report back when I get the nerve to open one of those babies. Chris on the other hand, dove right off the high board and piled the ‘hot’ onto some cheese quesadillas the other night and is still here, so who knows. But, this guy is a die-hard chile pro, for reals. Tread lightly new chile fans. Tread lightly.

Now, what to do with said chiles you ask? First, put all those lovely little bags in your freezer. Then, when your craving for chile hits, you are locked and loaded my friends. I have been successful with freezing my chile for over a year, but at the rate I’m going, the freezer longevity test will be unnecessary.

In the next few days, I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes using the beloved pod, such as Green Chile Sauce, Green Chile Stew and more. But you don’t need a recipe to use these lovely little bags. Simple thaw, chop some chile on a board, and tip them into a flour tortilla with eggs and cheese. Or slide a mound of chile on top of your next grilled burger. Grilled cheese and green chile sammies? Si, claro!

The possibilities are endless. Too bad the supply of Hatch Green Chile isn’t.

Camping Food 101

As I mentioned in this post, Dirk and I are going camping this weekend up the California Coastline, via Highway 101/1. We look forward to this trip for many reasons:

  1. We need a break from work and responsibilities.
  2. We love the rugged beaches of the Central and Northern California Coast.
  3. We love to camp.
  4. We can’t afford NYC right now.
  5. We love to eat.
  6. We like fires. Fire! Fire! Fire!
  7. Sometimes not showering for a couple days and wearing the same favorite hoodie and silly hat is really fun. And totally acceptable when you are camping.
  8. Stabbing food with a stick and cooking it over an open flame is cool.

I spent a good part of an hour this afternoon planning out some menus and food lists, and I’m pretty sure we will have lots of yummy treats to fuel our bodies as we burn endless calories sitting in our beach chairs by the fire. So, I thought I might share a recipe or two with you.

These dishes don’t have to wait for camping – they make mighty fine eats under normal eating and cooking conditions. But they work great for camping because a lot of the actual cooking and prep is done before you leave, so you can enjoy great food while you gaze at the glowing embers of your campfire while sipping a beverage of your choice and concurring with your significant other that life indeed, really is, quite lovely.

Look Ma, no butter! No really, I didn't use it. Be proud. Please?

When I was a little girl, my Grandma would make these tasty potato parcels as a side dish around the holidays. Of course, she used lots of butter, sour cream and whole milk, which made them heavenly. I have tweaked this recipe over the last couple of years to incorporate healthier options, while still ensuring the cheesy, creamy factor of these babies. The recipe below makes 4 stuffed potato halves, but you can easily double (or triple) the recipe.

My Grandma’s Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes

  • 2  potatoes, russets work best
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 ounces cheese, about 1 cup grated (I like cheddar and gruyere), use your favorites
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

    All this high tech equipment is money people. MONEY.

Bake potatoes in oven until tender and cooked through. While potatoes are hot, slice horizontally in half, and scoop out the flesh of the potato into a mixing bowl, leaving the skin in tact. Set skins aside.

Mash potatoes with milk, then yogurt. Stir in grated cheese; season with salt and pepper. Place mixture back into potato shells. Sprinkle with paprika, if desired.

(At this point, the potatoes can be refrigerated, up to 3 days, or frozen up to 2 months.) Thaw frozen potatoes before proceeding with next baking step.

These are the best potatoes. Eveh.

I. Want. One. Now.

Arrange stuffed shells in a shallow casserole dish and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about 30 minutes (if preparing immediately after stuffing the shells, reduce cooking time to 15 minutes.) Or, for camping purposes, wrap potatoes securely in foil, and heat through on a grill over indirect heat, turning occasionally until hot.


Camping? Cooking? Yes!!!

Vacation options are lurking over here at the Casa Reynolds, and one of our favorite things to do is camp. We are definitely NOT talking about hiking in, hiking out camping. Car camping is more our style, although I really think (perhaps, hope is a better word), I can eventually convince my better half to try extreme camping at some point. We shall see.

The Boys in the Forest

Dirk and Shadow were born to be wild. In the forest.

Next weekend we are heading north for our first camping trip of the season, to our beloved area of Big Sur. We are going to take Shadow, the trusty wing puppy for his first camping adventure. I have no doubt he will love it. He loves road trips. As soon as we start packing anything, he knows we are going somewhere, longer than a few hours and insists on getting in the back of the car. Unless we relent, he is a pill.  This is regardless whether he comes with, or he goes to his own camp. As long as he is in the car, he knows an adventure awaits.

At this point, we can pack, clean and cook. Hell, we could probably go back to bed for a couple hours, and he would be just fine and dandy in the back of the Volvo. We even leave the back hatch open. He won’t budge. Good boy.

On to our camping needs. Pretty easy too.

Wine and herbs are lovely

You can't pack enough of this.

We are happy to load our gear, and head out. Sounds simple. Pretty much is, but of course it requires food for thought. Or rather, thought for food.

Camping sustanence needs to be easy. You are limited with space, time and cooking equipment. And as much as I love to cook, when enjoying the great outdoors, there are more important things to focus on; like staring at the beautiful ocean, mountainside, camp fire and bottle(s) of wine. Seriously. Priorities, people.

However, since so much energy and thought goes into a trip, you should have some rocking food to go along. You are worth it.

I’ve camped enough to find through trial and error what works wonderfully and what truly is a pain in the butt. Packing enough food items that are ready to serve or need minimal prep, will help you tremendously. A few kitchen tricks can prove to be the difference between a fantastic vacation, or a lesson learned that a camp full of hungry, cold campers is not a happy campground. Indeed. And, it will allow you and your cooking buddies to concentrate on one, incredible dish that will be remembered and discussed around future campfires for a long time.

That said, with proper planning and smart cooking, one can enjoy dishes such as Whole Grilled Fish, Twice Baked Cheese Potatoes, Crispy Baked Chicken, Chile Dry Rubbed Tri Tip and more.

How about Drunkin’ Cheese Dip? Grilled Breakfast Quesadillas? Yogurt with Spring Berries and Homemade Granola?

Oh, and don’t forget the dessert! Brownies, S’More bars and Fruit Cobbler anyone?

Dinner al fresco

Eating by candlelight? I could get used to this.

This week, I will be posting some of my favorite camping food recipes. Hopefully, they will ensure you work less in your outdoor kitchen and eat better than your neighbors, (who are struggling to light their campfire in the dark right now. Maybe you should bring them a few S’more Bars for strength. Oh, and some fire sticks).

You may find yourselves eating so well in fact, that frequent camping and culinary adventures could become a regular part of your schedules, allowing you and your family to come together under the big, open skies and land we are so blessed to have privy to. And that is truly the definition of a real vacation.

Best of 2009

2009 was a great year for many things. Food was no exception. Dirk and I are blessed to share a love and affinity for all that is um, food.

Since our lives revolve around breakfast, lunch, dinner and all in between, it seems fitting to come up the Best of List. This was a joint effort for sure. There are a good dozen plus catagories included. One of each won our hearts; the other a close contender. Here is the list:

1) Best Sandwich – First Place:

Katz’s Deli – NYC, Pastrami on Rye.
This was a beauty to behold. Hand carved, spare no fat, an equal amount of well seasoned and finely shaved meat melted in the mouth. The hearty rye, with its firm crust and fine crumb, needed nothing else. A small smear of mustard and crisp pickle on the side left us speechless.

Heaven on a plate

If any of you are vegan... Well, my condolences.

Runner Up:

Renaud’s Patisserie – Santa Barbara, Croque Monsieur.
In case anyone doesn’t know what this sandwich is made of, it’s a glorified ham and cheese. Layered between two slices of handmade bread, slathered with bechamel and gruyere cheese, it’s then  tucked under a broiler till crispy and brown. The raw talent of this local french bakery is really astounding. Good thing we aren’t within walking distance of this place, because it would be downright dangerous.

2) Best Street Food – First Place:

The Recession Special

I love dogs. All kinds.

Gray’s Papaya – NYC, The Recession Special.
Two hot dogs and a papaya juice for $4.99. Nothing else be said. Dirk likes his with mustard and sauerkraut, I prefer mine with red chili onions. Sublime either way.

Runner Up:

Loteria – Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, Chorizo Fundido.
Imagine a booth in the infamous market that’s been around for 70 plus years. You sit down, order a Hibiscus iced tea and wait for a blistering hot plate served from the broiler with nothing more than a pool of mexican cheese and chorizo sausage. Sop it up with handmade tortillas and weep a little when it’s all gone.

3) Best Cocktail – First Place:

Morton’s Steak House, Charlotte, NC, Sazerac.
I can’t even begin to tell you how lovely this was. I could have had many more of these, but I’m sure it would have been dangerous. Like, on a now you’re conscious and now you’re not level dangerous. Here is the recipe because you may very well need to make one (or two) yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz rye whiskey
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • Peychaud bitters to taste
  • absinthe
  • lemon twist for garnish

Directions:

  1. Chill an old -fashioned glass by filling it with ice and letting it sit while preparing the rest of the drink.
  2. In a separate mixing glass, muddle the simple syrup and Peychaud bitters together.
  3. Add the rye whiskey and ice to the bitters mixture and stir.
  4. Discard the ice in the chilled glass and rinse it with absinthe by pouring a small amount into the glass, swirling it around and discarding the liquid.
  5. Fill the rinsed glass with crushed ice.
  6. Strain the whiskey mixture from the mixing glass.

Sterrelaan Gals

These Gals LOVE a good Dark and Stormy. True Story.

Runner Up:

Dark and Stormy, Goleta Beach House, CA.
This drink proved to be a hit day in and day out when our dear family and friends of Sterrelaan came to visit last summer. Again, here is the recipe because it has great merit in lifting the body and mind.

Ingredients:

  • In a collins glass filled with ice, add:
  • 2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal rum
  • 5 oz ginger beer
  • Garnish with lime and serve immediately.

Since I know that you now have a cocktail or two to mix, I will conclude this first installment of the Best of 2009. Each and everyone of you should now get yourselves into the kitchen or bar to prepare some love for you and yours.

All this talk of great food and drink suddenly has me hankering for something to nibble and imbibe on and well. I may not have a Gray’s Papaya in the neighborhood, but I do believe I have some great cheese handy.

And a bottle of Gosling’s Rum.

Cheers!

Farewell 2009.

Happy New Year Blog Friends and Family!

During this long holiday weekend, I will be recapping my favorite bits of 2009. They are many and I fear I will fail to mention some, so my apologies in advance. Most will be related to food of course, but travel plays a role as well, which just happens to be my second favorite thing in the world to do. Eating and traveling are great companions!

New York and the big guy

Smiling is fun. Let's all try it!

Although I didn’t take any transatlantic vacations this year, I was lucky enough to have four groups of friends and family visit from across the pond, and a couple trips we met somewhere in between. You know those experiences are at the top of my list!

Just the memories of 2009 give me a reason to smile, and to be grateful for all the love and joy I experienced.

Not all was fine in 2009 (sorry, I couldn’t help that), but life rolls like that. Living well is a goal I wish to achieve, and I’m not referring to drinking find wine and eating organic foods (although that does sound pretty good to me).

As I grow older I wish to grow wiser, with modesty and respect for life. This truly is a gift here folks, we don’t have infinite time here. We can spend it lamenting about what is and isn’t. We can habitually moan and groan about the injustice of life and how rotten things are going…

Or, we can sing when the sun shines, and dance when it rains.

May 2010 be a year of growth, knowledge and celebration for us all. Happy New Year!

No Christmas Tree????

The Christmas holidays continue over here at Casa Reynolds, another fun filled day decorating the house, pulling out all the Christmas ornaments and lights. The big difference this year?

Gift wrap. Christmas gifts.

Traditional.

No Christmas Tree. I know. It’s weird, it’s wrong, it goes against all that is Christmas.

But it just didn’t happen this year. Dirk and I both had appointments and commitments that didn’t allow us to get a tree like we usually do, the first week of December. No problem. We will postpone the event until the following week. Oops, sorry. That’s not a good time either.

Okay, fine. The next weekend. Done.

So last weekend we set out to get us a tree. Granted, it’s only the 18th of December, but most of the trees have been bought. No worries, there are still beautiful pines to be had. We walk along the paths and I casually look at the price tags.

$70 for a tree!

Are you kidding me? For a tree. That’s dead. Dirk and I were just not feeling it.

Actually, I wasn’t feeling it. Because Dirk knows my sincere affinity for Christmas trees, I truly believe he wouldn’t have blinked an eye if I decided I must have had that tree.

But at that moment, I knew the Christmas season would still live in my mind, heart and soul. Without the overpriced, dried out, dead tree.

So we left the lot.

Only problem is this:

We have a vast collection of Christmas ornaments and decorations. We love opening the boxes of holiday glitter every year, remembering holidays past, smiling as we fondly hang our ornaments, retelling stories and memories. The nights that pass allow us to admire the tree, reflect and enjoy the warmth of lights and memories they hold.

Umm, Kley?

NOT Traditional

Yeah, we don’t have that this year. But, I did still ask my gorgeous and strong husband to bring out the heavy Christmas boxes stored up in the closets. I slowly unwrapped the decorations and ornaments, coveting their history and memories as my hands anticipated the treasures I would find after freeing them from their annual blankets.

I found new homes for most. Our mantle became not only a make shift for the Christmas stockings, but also some fresh garland, holly and ornaments. Our Christmas tree angel is now resting atop of the said mantle as opposed to the top of the tree. She still looks glorious.

A beloved glass pitcher now adorns our glittering bulbs, surrounded by many strands of silver pearls.

Other ornaments are finding their way into different rooms and areas of the house. Look closely, or you might miss them!

Tomorrow I will decorate a fresh pine wreath with a few more gems. I’m not sure where I will end up hanging it.

But I have a feeling it will find its right spot, creating a new Christmas tradition.  Which feels absolutely perfect.