Archive | November, 2012

Graced!

22 Nov

Pheasant Run Golf Course in California’s central valley, where we are staying over Thanksgiving weekend….and where I experienced a real attitude of gratitude today. Nevermind my score, okay?

Today I played golf as a single (with Eddie as my Caddie Daddy for the first nine holes) and I was paired up with a young college student and her father. The girl looked like she was 15 years old and had an incredible golf swing. Her Dad is a low handicapper, former baseball player and obviously competitive, but he was engaged in his daughter’s game, encouraging her and trading barbs. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Eddie was an excellent companion but he was freezing in the morning valley fog and headed back to the motor home after 9 holes.

At the turn, my golf partners were searching their bags for tees and I offered them some from my bag…apologizing that they were pink and explaining that they were for breast cancer. Dad said,  “We appreciate that. You may have noticed that my daughter has a deep cough. She has cystic fibrosis and we’ve done lots of walks for various diseases.”

I have a friend who lost a child to cystic fibrosis and I know a nurse who treated children with the disease. I was impressed with this young woman, who, in spite of her genetic disorder and short stature, had played softball through high school and is still an outstanding athlete. She and I shared the forward tees, I offered her my sand wedge and a little advice in the bunker, she rode with the old lady on one hole, and I called her Sweetie a couple of times. Rather than shaking hands on the 18th hole, we hugged.

I came back to the motor home and did a little research, which was very uplifting. The life expectancy of CF patients has been increasing over the past 40 years. In the 1980s, life expectancy of people with the disease was 14 years. Ten years ago, the life expectancy of a person with cystic fibrosis was around 18 years. Today it is 35 years and increasing.

Those four hours I spent today with father and daughter on the course was one of the most moving Thanksgiving Day moments  I’ve experienced in a long time…and with complete strangers! To see Dad motivating and inspiring his daughter on the course, knowing full well he might survive her, and seeing this young woman’s detemination and faith in the future reminded me that grace plays a huge part in our lives.

To learn more or donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and search for new treatments and a cure CLICK HERE

Chiles Rellenos ala Consuelo

18 Nov

From daybreak until late afternoon, my mother-in-law’s kitchen in Mexico City was a steaming miasma of spice and sweetness. Although she didn’t do a lot of the actual cooking, she supervised the elaborate meals and taught her cooks exactly how everything should look, taste and smell. She also taught me the basics of Mexican cuisine, and every time we visited she would make one or more of our favorite dishes while I stood by or helped with preparation.

Consuelo liked to get to market early to chose the freshest ingredients and often a bouquet of flowers.  Here she is in the San Juan market in Mexico City, 1987. Great times!

Chiles Rellenos is still one of my favorite Mexican dishes, and after years of making it, my recipe definitely has Consuelo’s “sazon”. The secret to really great Mexican food is time…letting things simmer, reduce and meld. One of the foundations of “comida casera” is a rich tomato paste that is used in sauces, soups, Spanish rice and other dishes.

SALSA DE JITOMATE
1 pound ripe tomatoes, preferably Roma type
1 small onion
3 cloves garlic
½ cup water
4 Tbsp. canola oil

Place tomatoes, onion, garlic and water in food processor and mill gently. Heat oil to high but not smoking. Strain the vegetable puree through a food mill or sieve, to remove seeds and skins, directly into hot oil. Cook on medium heat until mixture is reduced by half. Lower heat to simmer and reduce until the oil is the only liquid in the pan. At this stage the paste should be watched closely. Add oil, if needed, to prevent scorching

Note: I triple or quadruple this recipe when tomatoes are abundant and freeze small containers of the tomato paste.

It may seem silly, but now we are going to add liquid BACK to the paste to create a soupy sauce for the Chiles Rellenos. In a large covered skillet, sauté 1 onion, sliced in thin half moons and 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced, until slightly softened. Add tomato paste and stir to coat vegetables. Add 4 cups chicken broth and simmer for half an hour.

Fire roast chiles over gas range, gas grill or under broiler until blackened. As they finish, place them in a covered dish to sweat.

CHILES RELLENOS
4 large poblano chiles
4 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup flour
1 cup Cotija cheese
1/2 pound Oaxaca cheese (you can also use String Cheese or Mozarella)
1 cup canola oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

When roasting is finished, start with first chile off the grill and, under cold water, slip the skins, trying to leave the pepper intact. Next, make a slit down one side of the chile and carefully reach in and remove the seeds and veins. This is easier to do under running water. Pat dry and stuff each chile with cheese. Be careful not to overstuff as they will leak. I like to leave a little overlap. Close and fasten with toothpicks and set aside.

To make the batter, start by separating eggs and lightly beating egg yolks. In stand mixer, whip egg whites on high speed to soft peaks. Gently fold in egg yolks.

In small bowl dust chiles with flour, then dip in egg batter and place in medium hot oil. (I usually do two chiles at a time, as they must be watched to prevent burning.) Turn chiles once so they are golden on both sides and then place them in the sauce and cover.

Cover and simmer chiles in sauce for 30 minutes, add cilantro and mix in. Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with rice, beans and tortillas.

A dusting of grated Cotija cheese on the beans and lime juice on the rice is traditional.

Since I had harvested the last of my poblanos from the vegetable garden I roasted them all. I used the remainder of them to make pickled pepper and onion…another traditional side dish. Remove the chile tops, tear into strips and slice white onion in thin rounds. Add ½ cup cider vinegar and salt to vegetables. Mix well and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

We will be visiting Consuelo in Veracruz in January and I am really looking forward to getting a tune-up on my sauce and chile relleno recipes. Gracias, Suegrita!

Yazmin and her great grandmother Consuelo in Veracruz two years ago.

A British Tradition: The Sunday Roast

16 Nov

Boneless leg of lamb roasted on the Weber…YUM!

The roots of my mother’s family are in Great Britain, where leg of lamb is the traditional joint for a Sunday roast; yet she didn’t like it and never served it. Most folks either love or hate lamb…not too many “in-betweenies” on the fare. In spite of the fact that we didn’t eat it growing up, I have come to be one of the lamb lovers and am particularly happy with the fact that it is a pasture-raised animal.

We saw some New Zealand lamb at Costco last week and Eddie offered to roast a leg on the Weber. The roast was nearly 5 pounds, so we cut off 2 pounds and froze that to grind later for meatballs.

The boneless leg came neatly packaged in a string “sock”, which Eddie removed to trim the meat and stuff with about 6 cloves of chopped garlic, rubbing it in well with a little salt and pepper.

Then he swathed the roast in fresh rosemary stalks and we squeezed the whole thing back into the sock…a 2-person project. He started the charcoal in the Weber about ½ an hour before putting the joint on the rack and then roasted it for an hour and a half.

Alternately, you can use butcher string to bind up the leg before roasting.

It came out looking beautiful and after a 20 minute rest, he cut off a few thick slices of medium rare, tender and savory lamb, which I served with a brown rice pilaf and steamed brussel sprouts. I also served Gingery Wine Grape Jelly instead of the traditional Mint Jelly…an interesting twist.

Now, an entire roast is a lot of meat for two people and we are not averse to leftovers for a few days in a row, so on Day Two I made a gluten-free brown gravy and we had that with slices of lamb, leftover pilaf and steamed green beans.

On Day Three I added carrots, mushrooms, celery, chopped onion, the leftover green beans and brussel sprouts to the gravy, trimmed and diced the remaining lamb and made a Shepherd’s Pie. Actually, I had so much filling that I put half of it in the freezer, and the other half in a casserole topped with mashed potatoes and baked it for 45 minutes until the potatoes turned golden brown. And, yes, on Day Four we had leftover Shepherd’s Pie for dinner.

Cover the casserole with mashed potatoes and bake until they turn golden brown.

We truly enjoyed this traditional roast all week long, but I think we might be ready for something different this weekend!