Tag Archives: love

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.

A Normal Night

Today was a normal day. Dirk was out of the house/office, and I was home pretty much all day.

The rain came down hard and long, for the morning and early afternoon. I tried to placate Shadow from his normal morning run (and myself, honestly)!

Can I live here forever?

This is where we will be in a week.

It worked, until the rain subsided long enough to either get out for an hour, or lose that opportunity.

We grabbed the chance for an hour outside. And it was glorious! We were pretty much the only ones out on the Shoreline Path.

Coming home from our run at 1 pm vs. 10 am was odd, but we adapted. I made a quick lunch of carrots, celery and red bell pepper with roasted pepper hummus. A vegi burger on whole grain bread with tomato, lettuce and cheddar rounded out the meal.

Tonight’s dinner was a new(ish) recipe – roasted potatoes, shallots and garlic. Organic chicken breasts broiled with gruyere and smoked ham proved to be a fine meal indeed. Imagine a deconstructed Chicken Cordon Bleu, enhanced by a shwack of local watercress, tucked in for vegetable goodness, minus all the nasty breadcrumbs, butter and fat.

It worked.

The Sunset on the Pacific Coast

This is something I get to see all the time. I know, I am blessed.

Another break in the weather allowed me to hang out with Shadow for some catch and retrieve. He also got a good brushing, so he looks even more beautiful that usual.

Getting ready to hunker down inside with the furry one(s). Have a great night everyone!

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.

A Weekend of Food.

Most of my days are filled with work, obligations, errands, chores and some fun thrown in between. Meals are planned, shopped for, and consumed.

Some are better than others. The weekends are always met with fond anticipation. Plans (or better yet), NO plans are made, and the basis of the next 48 hours revolve around sleep and food.

Yes, I’m pretty easy. Feed me. Give me some lovin’ and put me to bed. I am a happy, happy girl.

Who doesn't love food?

This stuff is awful. Honestly. Just. Walk. Away.

This weekend was no different. Woke up late on Saturday and ventured out for breakfast at one of my favorite bakeries. Croissant, eggs, cheese and strong coffee were consumed. Oh, and an almond bear claw too. Not a bear. Not a claw. Just pure love.

Lunch a few, meager hours later was at Rose’s Cafe, a local mexican joint on the strip of SB Haley St. Our Abuela usually prepares our food, but I think she must have been away, as the lunch while good, lacked the love. Still, the salsa rocked, the chips were warm, the beer was icy cold.

Home for a long, long nap. Dinner out? But of course.

Meal 3 at a new place, Square One. A new chef, some great wine and food later, we were happy folks indeed. Started with a bit of champagne. Foie and a lovely spring beet dish made us hungry all over again. How is that possible?

Our entrees were delightful. Beef cheeks (yes, who knew beef and cheeks could taste so luscious together?) over house made german noodles… Ding! Ding! Ding! A Winnaaa!

Lamb Ragu with sweet potato gnocchi? Bring it. Good thing we had a full bodied Syrah to wash it all down – otherwise we could have made ourselves sick.

Dessert was the only fail of the night. Rhubarb crisp. Not nearly enough sugar, and not crisp. But, the scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a 10 year old port made up for it.

This is my savior.

If I want to eat like this, I have to run with these... 25 miles a week.

Sunday morning – How can it be I am hungry? Well, I am. So feed me. NOW.

English muffins with fried eggs, ham and cheddar. Salmon Benedict. Hash Browns. Oh, and throw some fruit in there for good measure, toot sweet.

Lunch? Uh, no. Nap? Certainly!

Aged cheeses, Mahon and Wesleydale woke me right up. Oh, and a Mortadella sammie helped the fog clear right out of my head.

Dinner of local Sole, potatoes and greens was a redeeming factor for my dietary journal. Food Journal? Really? Bwahahahaha!! Like I need a written trail of this debauchery to prove I am a food whore. C’mon people.

Fish is lovely.

Sole. With Soul.

Honestly, who do you think you are dealing with?

Okay, off to bed to enjoy a couple of chocolate chunk cookies. I kid. NOT.

The weekends rock.

Love. Loss. Food.

One of my best friends lost his dad this morning.

My heart was heavy with the news. Having lost my own dad, I know there are no magic words I could give him to make the pain go away. After several minutes on the phone, we were somehow able to conjure up some silly moments and have a couple of cathartic chuckles. But, for the most part, our voices were thick with grief, heavy with tears.

After we hung up the phone, promising to talk more tomorrow I headed into the kitchen. Along the way, I took a moment to light some candles in honor of Dale. I prepared a simple meal of pasta, bread and red wine.

Nothing special, but the common movements and surroundings gave my hands a purpose, and my mind gladly followed. The music playing through our speakers, Pearl Jam, U2, Ben Harper and others allowed me to dance, cry, scream and cleanse.

Grief is powerful, a circle of emotions which repeat and renounce themselves over and over again. The hardest thing about grief is riding it out. Just when you think you have it figured out, its rogue wave hits you from behind and under the surf you go.

My grandmother used to heal all wounds with food. I guess I get that from her. I remember her words…

“Are you hungry? Eat!”

“Are you sad? Eat!”

“Are you happy? Eat!”

And she would cook for me. While I sat at her tiny kitchen table, she would tell me a story, a song perhaps would pass between us, music playing in the background.

And I ate. And I was fed. And I was nourished. And then I could rest.

Love is bittersweet. It means we have experienced a love and connection so deep that when it is gone, we are forever changed. Sadness weighs deep. Our hearts bruised in a way we are certain we will never laugh again, unable to enjoy our day to day lives. A shift in the light, the balance disappears.

And perhaps that is true. But I know that at least for me, when I am in my kitchen, my Dad and my Grandma are usually close by, eager to see my latest endeavor, they lead me along.

Most often I am vaguely aware of their presence, too caught up am I in the present. They wait patiently in the background until the right moment comes, and then they are there to comfort me and make me aware.

Love.

Loss.

Food.

And then we eat. And we are nourished. And we rest.

Ghee, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!

In our attempt to eat healthier foods, cut back on saturated fat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables, Dirk and I have made some significant changes in our everyday eating habits. One major change has been to reduce our consumption of the beloved food known as butter.

As a baker, pastry chef and chef de cuisine, my history with butter has been long and faithful. I have worked in restaurants where a case of Plugra was used daily. I think Anthony Bourdain, (one of my culinary heroes), estimated the average person dining out—especially in a French influenced bistro—will consume on average a half cup of butter during the coarse of their meal.

Readers? Meet Ghee. He rocks.

Readers? Meet Ghee. He rocks.

That’s right, a whole stick of butter in one sitting.

Based on my own work in French bistros, I can attest his estimate may actually be on the conservative side. No wonder all that damn food tastes so good.

And, up until a year ago my refrigerator’s inventory would include two different varieties of butter. One for sauces, usually a high quality European style (less water, higher fat content), and an unsalted version for baking or spreading on sandwiches and toast. We even had a butter ‘ramekin’ that was always at the ready, room temperature. If I had to guess, we probably went through at least 1 pound of butter per month, more if I was baking.

Things have changed. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have butter in my fridge. Actually most of it lives in the freezer, except for a tiny knob kept handy for cooking. I haven’t bought butter in 6 months, and there’s still more than a half pound in my freezer.

Until last weekend that is, when I came across a wonderful product called ghee. It’s a type of butter which has been clarified. Here are a few facts:

ghee |gē|nounclarified butter made from the milk of a buffalo or cow, used in Indian cooking.ORIGIN from Hindi ghī, from Sanskrit ghṛtá ‘sprinkled.’

This is India’s version of clarified butter, but it goes way beyond the kitchen in their culture. It is used in religious ceremonies, it aids in the absorption of medicinal herbs, offers healing properties and the spiritual aspect of ghee is recognized as well. Darn smart country. Darn smart.

This smelled amazing. Trust.

This smelled amazing. Trust.

Unlike regular butter, its milk solids have been removed so it has a higher burning temperature and is perfect for sautéing.

Its nutty flavor lends a rich nod to pan cooked foods, so you don’t need much. Simply add a tablespoon to a medium hot pan and sauté some delicate fish filets or chicken cutlets for a few minutes on each side. Toss with some snipped chives or parsley and plate.

If you’re feeling adventurous, pour in a splash of white wine or vermouth and let it cook for another second. You will have a gorgeous pan ‘jus’.

Dirk and I had some fresh trout filets to prepare the other night and they got the ghee treatment. The nutty essence of the ghee was a perfect pairing with the delicate fish, the garden herbs and wine lifted this dish that rivaled any bistro meal.

And I didn’t need a stick of butter to achieve those results. Healing properties indeed.

Need a Lift? Drop Some Acid.

No, I am not tripping, nor am I advocating you do anything similar. I’m talking about using acid as a food enhancer.

I once worked with a very talented chef, who although I suspect was probably high half the time, taught me a few things about acid and flavors.

Chef explained that when food tasted ‘flat’, it could usually use salt or more often than not, a bit of acid. At first I was perplexed by this statement, but I learned what my chef was trying to teach me.

The kitchen crew would be busy preparing dishes for service, cooks heavy with tasks and  items to prep and complete. Chef would routinely come on line to sample the food, sipping sauces, dressings, tasting our recent projects.

Chef would then yay or nay our progress, asking questions about recipes used. Ultimately I would hear the following sentences often enough, I began to understand the process of ingredients, chemistry and their dance together.

“More salt.”

“Needs acid.”

When properly used, acid enhances the natural flavors in the food you are preparing. It won’t alter the dish so much, but it gives it punch. It has this wonderful ability to give foods another layer of flavor. This I learned, could turn a mediocre meal into a party in the mouth.

Let me give you a few examples that will make good foods taste even better. Chances are you already have a few, if not all these goodies in your pantry or fridge right now. The following list is a sample of what I call my “Arsenal of Flavors.”

This is only a sampling of acids I recommend, but this will get you started. They are extremely versatile and demonstrate the beauty of key flavors. Hopefully, they will transform your meals, get you cooking more  and enjoying great food!

  • Citrus juice and their zest (orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Spanish Sherry Vinegar
  • Champagne Vinegar
  • Rice Wine Vinegar
  • Red and White Wines
  • Some liquors and cordials such as Sake, Tequila, Port and Brandy
  • Pernod or Dry Vermouth
  • Mustards
  • Capers
  • Beer!
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Here is a recipe I am using tonight which incorporates acid in a marinade, a great example which will impart maximum flavor versus just throwing the damn bird on the grill. No love or respect. Without further adieu, I give you:

Love and Respect Marinade for Grilled Chicken

This marinade would also work well for shrimp, scallops, various cuts of fish and pork. Tonight I’m using 1 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. This marinate makes about 1 cup, enough for up to 2 or 3 pounds of meat.

Key ingredients for the win.

Key ingredients for the win.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a measuring cup. Stir completely and pour over meat, chicken or seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour, turning halfway if you remember.

Giving the chicken some love.

Giving the chicken some love.

Remove meat from marinade and season with salt. Discard marinade. Grill chicken thighs over indirect heat until cooked through, about 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes.

I am grilling the chicken tonight because it is still hotter than the be-jesus over here. I suppose you could broil the chicken, or saute, but I think a marinade and summer should require an outdoor cooking vessel.

Speaking of which, time to stop blogging, and get cooking.