Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pork Posole and Al Green - Let's Stay Together!

Lately I have been obsessed with two things - posole, and Al Green's "Let's Stay Together". Why? I cannot begin to fathom.

Is it some profound revelation about my need to be connected to pork and corn products forever? Is it love? Is it some kind of sickness? Who can say?

I only know that I won't be able to rest until I learn how to play "Let's Stay Together". But life keeps getting in the way. There's a job to go to, and gigs to play, and a floor full of dust bunnies that desperately needs vaccuming, and there are thrift stores to explore and there is shrimp to be barbequed and there are long, hot spring nights to make one feel completely and utterly under the spell of Spring Fever.

And for god's sake, there is posole to make!

So tonight, that's exactly what I did. I made my own version of pork posole, and I made a batch of homemade fresh corn tortillas, and I listened to so much great music as the fat sun slowly faded into the distance and turned the sky a lovely shade of cotton candy pink.

Al Green was in heavy rotation, as was Aretha Franklin, Sly & the Family STone, and Barry White for god's sake! I believe the Barry White songs were a direct response to the Spring Fever!

And later, after the posole, imagine my bliss when a sweet dear friend showed up and asked me to teach her how to play one of my very own songs! Like, someone wants to cover me... how cool is that???!!!

Frankly I don't think I could ask for much more satisfaction in the span of a mere 24 hours. But there's always room for a little more, eh?

Before sleep takes me over, let me attempt to share the posole recipe, as near as my perfectly sated self can possibly bring herself to recall...

Take 1 1/2 pork butt (bone in) and put it in a big stock pot - cover with a combo of chicken stock and water. Add half a red onion studded with 3 cloves, plus two bay leaves, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, and a liberal couples twists of fresh ground pepper.

Bring to a boil and then turn it down and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, till the pork is falling off the bone and tender and delectable. At this point, the house should smell divine.

Now, pull out the pork & bones, separate them, and toss out the onions, cloves, bay leaves and big chunks of fate plus the bones, and put the shredded pork back into the pot. Add 2 14 oz cans drained hominy, 1 finely diced jalapeno, 2 T. oregano, 2 T. freshly ground cumin, 1 T. chipotle powder, the juice of 1 lemon, and about 8 oz crushed tomatoes. Add enough water to completely cover the pork and hominy by 2 inches. Let simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Add plenty of salt and fresh ground pepper, plus about 1/2 bunch finely chopped cilantro.

Ladel into bowls and garnish with crumbled cotija anejo cheese, shredded Napa cabbage, and thinly sliced radishes and scallions and lemon. Serve with fresh corn tortillas. Seriously, just blow off all the other shit you need to do, and put all the love and energy you have left into fresh corn tortillas. YOu KNOW you want to.

Keep the stereo cranked up all along, and shake the booty with reckless abandon. Don't ask why, just do it. You will be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Glazed carrots and quinoa

Ah, sometimes improv can be such a beautiful thing. I'm talkin' food here.

Tonight was one of those nights when things flowed perfectly in the kitchen. I came home exhilarated and starving after an early evening hike in the Redwoods with Ms. Dog, just as the sun was making the sky all swirly pink and silvery blue.

But wait! I had hardly any fresh produce and I had no plan! But I did have carrots, walnuts, and quinoa, plus a few other staples like clarified butter, dijon mustard and maple syrup. And so the kitchen gods smiled upon me, with a little help from Etta James on the stereo.

While I was cooking the quinoa (about 3/4 cup well-rinsed quinoa in enough water to cover, boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes or until tender), I sauteed some minced garlic and diced green onions in some clarified butter for a few minutes till they started to turn golden.

Then I added the carrots I had sliced, turned up the heat a bit and threw in a couple dashes of balsamic vinegar, and a little plop of maple syrup, stirring all along. Sprinkled in the chopped walnuts, added lots of salt and pepper and a little plop of dijon mustard. Kept on cooking and stirring till everything carmelized and the carrots were just barely tender.

Then I drained the quinoa and tossed some of it with the glazed carrots, and I absolutely inhaled it, it was so good! It was also fast and easy to prepare.

Usually after a good hike, I find a vegetarian meal won't feel satisfying enough, but this really did the trick.

As I sat there very content at the kitchen table enjoying my meal, I was pouring over cookbooks searching for the perfect recipe for chow mein noodles in peanut sauce. I think I feel another obsession coming on! But well, I've had much worse obsessions...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Long Live Internet Radio and The Silver Spoon

It's Friday already?! Another week has flown by. And the perks just keep coming! I love these month-long birthday celebrations!

A couple days ago, my pal Jamie gave me a copy of The Silver Spoon. Some claim it's the Italian Equivalent of The Joy of Cooking - and god knows that this is EXACTLY the kind of cookbook I need, seeing as I frequently suspect that I am truly a Mexican trapped in the body of an Italian. Homemade tamales and mole? No problem. But ask me to whip up a pot of spaghetti sauce from scratch, and ya just never quite know what the end result will be. So I'm thrilled to have a guide. Thanks, Jamie!

Have I ever mentioned that internet radio is what gets me through the day? I've always enjoyed listening online to stations like KEXP and KCRW, as well as one of my favorite local stations, Bootliquor. I've also recently discovered Twang City - another great local station, that lo and behold, found ME! Roger Coryall, who programs this most excellent station, was doing a search for soup recipes, and he found this blog, as well as my music. And now, my online listening experience is even more fun because he's got my music in heavy rotation! Thanks, Roger! Oh - and Roger has a very cool blog of his own, dedicated to glorious garlic.

Another delightful recent discovery is Live 365. Holy shit! There are HUNDREDS of stations here, each one dedicated to a specific genre or sound. I'm tellin' you, I cannot get enough of the All Memphis Music station, or Motown 365. You want a station dedicated to French music? How about British Invasion, Neo-soul, Bossa-nova, Southern Gospel, or perhaps Tejano Pop? You'll find it all at Live 365. My god I need to live another hundred years to take it all in!

BUT guess what? Internet radio stations like these are in grave danger of being shut down. And we can't have that, because as I already told you, I NEED this music to get me through the day. So please go here and read more about it, and take action!

Thanks for reading this rant!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Citrus Blossom Honey

Among the many fine birthday gifts I received was a jar of the most exquisite honey, courtesy of my lovely and talented friend Denise. Denise (together with her band-mates Melanie and Jill) not only sings like a glorious song bird, but she knows good food. And she got me the coolest gifts - some lemon infused olive oil, and a jar of citrus blossom honey, made by a company called Branches out of Napa Valley.

Usually, I'm not much of a honey person. Or at least, I wasn't until I tasted this stuff. Ah, so golden and sweet and just perfect. Don't dilute it or put it in your tea! Just slather it on toast, or eat it with a spoon. I brought it to work and Judith and I did exactly that. In fact, Judith squealed with delight because honey is one of her favorite things. I guess I know what to get HER for her next birthday!

Thanks, Denise... your gift keeps on giving! But I have a feeling the jar will be empty before too long!

I'm headed back to Monterey this weekend to both visit the Sea Otters and help my "little" neice celebrate her 21st birthday! I guess I know which one of us shall remain sober tonight ;)

Happy weekend to one and all!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Chez Panisse and Le Creuset

My cup runneth over.


My birthday came and went, but the gifts just keep coming!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I work for and with the coolest people ever. Today, for the SECOND time in no less than the span of three weeks, we were given a VERY generous bonus at work. Suffice it to say that the news of it caused me to get a little teary and nearly pass out, because I certainly have never been treated this well at any job. I swear to god I am the happiest grunt you will ever meet in your life.

And now, I am a grunt who is planning a trip to Europe to play music, because that's the SECOND thing I'm going to do with the money.

The first thing I did was to enjoy the most perfect meal w/ my dear pal Miss NoNo at the upstairs cafe at Chez Panisse.

Uh, I could go on and on about the most perfectly moist and tender halibut, the most delectable asparagus I've ever eaten in my life, and the exquisite arugula salad.... to say nothing of the wine...oh god, the wine. But I think you get the picture. And damnit, I was thankful for every bite of food, every drop of wine.

And if that wasn't enough, I came home and got the package my parents sent me, featuring a brand new, 5 quart blue Le Creuset french oven. Oh, the big pots of deliciousness that await that pot. I feel like a kid in a candy store on Christmas morning multiplied by ten! I'm already bursting at the seams thinking of what I will cook in that pot and plotting my next dinner party.

Seriously - I am full as a tick and happy as a clam. I don't know why clams are happy, but I know why I am!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

I feel so lucky to be able to say that my birthdays get better with each passing year - I guess all of life does in fact.

And DAMN, was that a good party. An amazing celebration featuring my most favorite combination of all times: incredible friends, glorious food (yes there will be a separate entry coming with details on that!) and fabulous live music. Soup and Song at its finest!

I am indeed, the luckiest soul alive. Thanks friends and family. I heart you all.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A few snapshots from the last 24 hours in my kitchen...

Swirling the chocolate into the mole after having spent hours roasting, toasting, and blending the sauce....

Sharpening my knives and slicing blood oranges very thin for the Sangria...dancing around the kitchen laughing hysterically with Miss NoNo with Los Zafiros cranked up loud on the stereo (never mind that the cuisine is Mexican and the soundtrack is Cuban!)....a Friday evening spent in the kitchen...

... these are a few of my favorite things...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Oh yeah, Sangria!

The birthday fun continues and I guess there's no turning back now. After a nice little party at work featuring yet another test batch of Sangria (this one was utterly perfect!), I stocked up at the Berkeley Bowl and bought supplies to make yet more Sangria, tamales, enchiladas, and chicken in mole. Holy mole indeed, I just had to take this picture to convey my contentment with my very well stocked pantry tonight. I think the owl agrees. The plantain and chocolate in the bottom basket are for the mole, and the citrus fruit is for the Sangria, and the peppers are for the salsa.... OH ..... YEAH ...

And for the record, I've managed to squeeze in a little birthday fun every day this week. On Tuesday, Berge took me out for sushi to Sugata, a delightful little place on Solano Ave. in Albany. And I have 7 words for you: Go There And Try The Tennis Roll ! ! !

And also on Tuesday, Miss NoNo told me she's getting us tix to go and see the Be Good Tanyas, a very cool band that she turned me on to. Yep, a good week indeed!

Oh and did I mention that my dad called yesterday to ask me what kind of Le Creuset pot I want for my b-day? Go ahead dad, twist my arm and get me the 5 quart french oven. Please and thank you!

To be continued....

Monday, April 02, 2007

More birthday fun, featuring Johnny Cash and Strawberry-Rhubarb pie

Last night was such a fun way to kick off the birthday week, that I made a mental note to myself to do a little celebrating every day this week, without thinking too hard about how that would happen.

Well today, I didn't have to think. On my way home from work I stopped off at my dear friend Lucio's to pick up our lovely friend Ms. Spider the Dog. And Lucio sent me away with a piece of his delectable strawberry-rhubarb pie; regular readers of this blog may remember that Lucio is quite the pie baker. Perhaps he'll pass along his secret recipe one of these days, eh?

But wait, there's more! He also sent me away with a cool anthology of Johnny Cash; it's called "Johnny Cash - At Sen Quentin (Legacy Edition)". It's a 3 disc set, and it was recorded in 1969, the year of my birth. And of course, anyone who knows me well enough to know my phone number, knows that when you call, you get to listen to Johnny Cash! So, I am happy indeed.

This sweet pic of Ms. Spider was taken by Lucio himself, one fine hot day last Fall.

The week just keeps getting better! I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings. Until then, happy trails!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Homemade Corn Tortillas Kick off the Birthday Week!

So yay!

My birthday is one week from today, and thusly, I've decided it's time to start celebrating RIGHT NOW.

So, I finally bought myself a tortilla press today.

But wait - let's back up. On Friday at work, our CEO announced that on account of our record sales month, we were all getting an extra paycheck this month (!).

I've said it before and I'll say it again - my job rocks! I work for the coolest people ever!

So, since said bonus is arriving conveniently just before my b-day, what else to do but spend the weekend buying presents?

First, I got a bought a copper fire kettle and a bunch of mulch and plants for the back yard, and Miss NoNo did her thang making it all look real purty. We have this arrangement. I buy, she does the work. It's a nice arrangement for both of us.

So then I finally bought the tortilla press, and we called a spontaneous barbeque, and before we knew it, there was tequila and lime marintated chicken, quinoa and black and pinto bean pilaf, homemade fire roasted salsa, exquisite hand-made corn tortillas, veggie kabobs, and lots lots more.....

And there were golden voices singing beautiful songs around the fire, picking guitars, swilling wine, enjoying fine company underneath the light of the full moon.

It was the kind of night that makes me so happy to be alive, so happy to be among treasured friends. So happy to finally be able to make my own tortillas!

Damnit, once you've made your own tortillas, you'll never go back to the store bought kind!

I'm not going to post the recipe because you can find it just about anywhere... it involves masa, water, and salt. So simple. So delectable. So perfect. Such a great way to start the birthday week. I'm starting to come to the conclusion that perhaps I am a Mexican trapped in the body of an Italian.

No matter, whatever or whomever I am... I am just happy to enjoy this perfect evening which comes to me after a particularly stressful and sad several weeks. Tonight is good. And for that, I give thanks. To my wonderful employers, to Miss NoNo and all my other sweet friends. You are what gets me through, do you know that ? ? ?

x o x o x o x o