Vacation

zoe cabo

Zoë in Cabo 1988, pastel on paper, 22 x 30 inches

Why do preparations for a journey make home so appealing?  As excited as I was to spend two weeks on a Mexican beach, I felt reluctant to leave our hillside bathed in bright winter sunlight.  I suddenly had ideas for writing and painting and cooking.  But we had tickets and reservations, we were going.  I ordered a slew of books, emptied the fridge and packed.

books

I roasted the peppers I had bought before remembering our imminent trip and stored the peeled strips in the freezer.

peppers roasting

I used other bits and pieces I was reluctant to throw out for our lunch salad ─ a small piece of goat cheese, an unopened package of smoked salmon, the remains of a jar of Marcona almonds, a ripe avocado, the end of a cucumber.  The fridge was empty.

salad

We flew to Cancun where we picked up a rental car and drove south.  Our destination was Nah Uxibal on Bahia Soliman, just north of Tulum, where we rented a studio casita.  Enrique and Kara had recommended the place, a quiet spot on a beautiful, shallow bay.  We made few plans other than to read and walk and swim.  And to eat in restaurants.  I wanted a true holiday, one that freed me from the responsibilities of my kitchen.

 

I resisted the temptations of the market and only prepared simple breakfasts and lunches.  We ate dinners at a fancy hotel just down the beach that served delicious grilled fish, ceviche, and pasta. We had mole enchiladas at nearby Oscar y Lalo’s and drove into Tulum to eat a roasted habañero salsa and fish tacos at La Barracuda.  We had tasty ceviche with apples (!) at Tábano and in Akumal ate Mexi-California style dishes at Turtle Bay. And lots of guacamole and totopos.  Lots.

Of course, the plan was to relax and so I did not take any photos.  Sorry!

We left our little paradise to visit several archaeological sites ─ Cobá, Chichen Itza, and our favorites, Tulum and Muyil. Here is Bud after descending the grand pyramid at Cobá.

Coba

We returned home to cold and snow, the memory of our morning walk along the sunny shoreline hard to recall.  It was late and we were weary so I prepared a supper of grilled almond butter sandwiches ─ one with jalapeño and banana, the other with McNish’s raspberry jam.  And then, happy to be home, we were off to our own bed and dreams of stone pyramids, palm trees and the ever-changing cobalt/emerald/turquoise Caribbean.

IMG-1740

 

Girlfriends

sixth grade friends

Sixth Grade Friends 2003, charcoal on paper, 42 x 50 inches

I am fortunate to have groups of friends who like to eat together. The best meals are those to which we all contribute.  At our house, I am the principal meal planner and preparer, so dinners shared with cooks/friends are a joy.  And not just for the varied dishes everyone brings but for the company.

Six of my art girlfriends came for dinner last week. Sherry, Jane, Jen, Teresa, Ana and Karla. What a wonderful band of artists.  We talked about artist residencies and travel plans, upcoming exhibitions and our children. And we drank wine and laughed.

We each made part of the meal ─ a sort of potluck but with a plan.  I prepared the main dish, smoked salmon, and the others brought veggies, salad, wine, and dessert.  The photos are of the leftovers. I was too engrossed in the meal and the conversation to remember to take pictures.

salmon

With Bud’s  instruction, I smoked 3 ½ pounds of salmon on the Weber.  After preparing the fire and wood chips, it took about 50 minutes to slowly cook the fish.  I did this before everyone arrived so I wouldn’t freak out over the simple but unfamiliar preparation.  I garnished the fillets with chopped parsley and dill and wedges of lime and lemon and served the fish at room temperature, my usual preference.

carrots

Sherry brought delicious braised purple carrots she had made with Jamie.  Here’s the recipe in Sherry’s words:

 Jamie prepares the braised purple carrots in a large saute pan with a lid.  I chopped several tablespoons of slivered ginger with the large pieces of purple carrots.  We put the carrots and ginger in the pan and dolloped several tablespoons of butter on top, and drizzled a couple tablespoons of maple syrup and salt and pepper.  Put the lid on and cook at a high temperature to brown and braise.  Mix it up a bit to coat and cook with the lid on at a high temperature (but not to burn) until carrots are done to your liking.

cauliflower and chick peas

Jane brought a cauliflower and chickpea dish that I remade a few days after our dinner. The recipe is from a book by Gwyneth Paltrow.  A similar cauliflower salad is here ─ Busy day dinner

Toss cauliflower florets from a medium head and 2 cups drained, dried off chickpeas in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  I used cooked Rancho Gordo beans but canned would do. Roast in a hot oven, 400°, until tender and browned, about 35 – 45 minutes.

roasting

Have ready a vinaigrette made with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon rough mustard, the kind with seeds,  2 tablespoons sherry vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil.

vinaigrette

Mix the hot cauliflower and chickpeas with the vinaigrette.  When ready to  serve garnish with a good handful of chopped parsley.

Ana Maria made the salad, a delicious mixture of baby spinach, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds and toasted pepitas.  This is similar to the salad in Soup for a snowy autumn night

salad

And for the finale to a glorious meal with glorious friends, Teresa and Karla brought dessert ─ Teresa’s apple tart served with ice cream.  (Photo by Karla)

apple tart

Stories

Stories 2007, oil on canvas, 18 x 15 inches (Corey and Miya)

As some of you may know, I read a lot. A lot.  As a child I escaped into books, sometimes perching in our crabapple tree until my Mom’s call or a cramp in my leg sent me down to real life.

When we first toured our prospective home on Blue Mountain Road,  where the living room was lined with book shelves, empty bookshelves, I knew this was the place.  The property  had a guest suite for artists, a stable and garage to convert into our studios, and a magnificent view to the west. But those book shelves!

shelves

We’ve been here twenty years and the shelves are full even though I cull them every now and then.  The presence of my books comforts me.  I peruse their spines tightly packed on my shelves and remember the pleasure of reading them.  I may even pull a book out to reread.

Thank goodness, writers continue to write wonderful stories. I wait each year for new volumes in mystery series like those of Louise Penny, Daniel Silva, Laurie King, and William Krueger amongst many others.  I can’t wait to read new books by Paulette Jiles or Lief Enger.  These days I often buy books to read on my Kindle.  The shelves are just too full.

One book I will buy in order to have it in hand, is Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood. I stumbled across this wonderful read and have eaten up the story and the recipes that follow each chapter. This book is similar to mine and I hope my writing has a similar effect on readers.  Hood’s words send me to my kitchen to make the dishes she so vividly describes.  So far, I have made a simple roasted chicken and pasta Amatriciana.

ready to roast

Roasted chicken isn’t a new recipe for me, merely an invitation from Hood I cannot refuse.

Heat the oven to 425°.  Peel, chop or otherwise prepare vegetables of your choice.  I had fennel, potatoes, carrots and onions.  Toss them in a roasting pan and top with a chicken into which you have inserted a lemon, halved, salt and pepper.  Brush with melted butter and roast for an hour and a half or until  cooked and deeply browned.

roast chicken

Another book that  recently lead me to cook a dish is Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, Unsheltered.   Late in this sad, funny, inspiring book about place and home and family, there is a scene where a neighbor concocts a simple dinner with what he finds in the nearly barren fridge and meager pantry, using a camp stove.  He makes corn fritters with cornmeal, sugar and cheese, and tostones with a bunch of forgotten plantains. Read this scene in Kingsolver’s  beautiful prose and you will be off to buy plantains, too.

I immediately had to find recipes for these Puerto Rican dishes. I haven’t yet made the corn fritters.  The plantains I used for the tostones were a bit ripe, so were perhaps not truly authentic, but they were very tasty.  First, I fried 1-inch pieces of peeled plantain in vegetable oil until softened, about 3 minutes a side.

I drained them on paper towels, then flattened each piece with the bottom of a glass, so that the edges broke a little, then refried them until crisp and brown.  Salted them lightly and served.

In all the excitement of frying, I forgot to take pictures.

So I read on.  There are many worlds, and recipes, that I am lead to explore when I open a book.

 

 

 

After the holidays

winter tulips

Winter Tulips 2012, oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches

I’m listening to KGNU radio and watching the snow fall on this last day of 2018.  I wish you all a bountiful, delicious new year, full of art, love and good food.

In the past weeks I’ve baked and cooked many dishes, sweet and savory.

shortbread

Looking for a new festive cookie, I made  Chocolate Chunk Shortbread from a recipe in the NY Times by Alison Roman.  They are a keeper.  Buttery, not too sweet, chocolatey, with a touch of Maldon salt.

forming cuccidati

Bud’s favorite in the holiday canon are Cuccidati,  Italian fig bars ─ packed with dried fruit and nuts, seasoned with cinnamon and orange zest.

cuccidati

Every year I make panettone for dear friends.  These loaves take all day to put together, let rise multiple times and bake, but the feel of the smooth dough, the aroma of baking and my anticipation of the pleasure I hope James and Noriko, Roseanne, or Ana will experience, make it worth the effort.

baking panetonne

panetonne

Hungry for something made with cranberries, I unearthed a recipe in my recipe notebook clipped years ago from somewhere, perhaps Gourmet magazine,  but never attempted.  These Cranberry Pecan Muffins are now permanently on my baking rotation. (email me if you want any of these recipes)

cranberry pecan muffins

I first made mini-muffins for visitors from the Lyons Arts and Humanities Council and they were a hit.

muffins

Most of the sweets have disappeared and we are ready for less indulgent meals. Here is a wonderful grain salad from Yotam Ottolenghi, in Plenty.  Barley and celery salad with pomegranate seeds and herbs, is just right for a winter lunch.

barley salad ingred

Cook 1 cup of barley until tender, then drain and pour into a bowl with 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 2 crushed and chopped cloves of garlic, salt and pepper.  While the barley is hot, add 6 stalks of celery, chopped small.

barley salad 2

When the barley has cooled, fold in a handful of chopped dill, chopped celery leaves and the seeds from half a pomegranate.  The recipe calls for parsley but I had none so added more dill.

barley salad 3

Served on a bed of arugula, our winter lunch is ready.

barley salad4

 

The Little Things

Snow in Arizona 1998

Snow in Arizona 1998, oil on canvas, 30 x 22 inches (Hilary and Mimi)

On a cold Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple hours preparing beets, carrots, peppers, seeds, nuts and quinoa.  We had a busy week ahead with meetings and social events that  would limit my cooking time so I prepared several small dishes to have on hand.  With jars and pots of side dishes in my fresh pantry I will have delicious tidbits to add to our meals.

I have made these marinated carrots for many years since discovering the recipe in a British cooking calendar. They are the perfect accompaniment to a sandwich.

carrots

Cut 5-8 peeled carrots into chunky matchsticks about 1/4 inch across and any length. carrots cooking

Place them in a large skillet and barely cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook for just a minute or two, long enough to slightly soften them.  Drain and toss with a mustardy vinaigrette:  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Store in a jar in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving. Top with minced green onions or chives and some chopped dill. (I used my dried dill.)

carrot salad

Next I steamed yellow beets until tender, peeled them, cut into batons and tossed with a bit of olive oil. I stored these in the fridge, ready to add to a salad, or dress with lemon and anise seed for a lovely condiment alongside a sandwich.

beets

We had some of them to accompany our Sunday soup, tossed with arugula, pistachios and crumbled goat cheese.

beet salad

On to the red peppers.  I roasted them over the flame on my gas range, peeled them, and cut into strips.  Stored in a jar with some crushed garlic and olive oil, they are ready to add to a grilled cheese sandwich or a quinoa salad.

red peppers

Like these grilled cheese sandwiches made with a smear of chipotle puree, roasted red peppers, cilantro leaves, Mexican quesadilla cheese and Catamount cheese.

grilled cheese prep

sandwich

I like to have jars of toasted nuts and seeds on hand to add to a salad or to snack on before dinner.

Toast a cup of sunflower or pumpkin seeds in the toaster oven at 300° or in a dry heavy skillet until fragrant, don’t let them burn. Have ready a bowl with a teaspoon of shoyu or tamari.  Toss the hot seeds in the sauce.  They will sizzle a bit.  Let cool.  If there is excess shoyu, drain on a paper towel.  These have just the right amount of saltiness.

sunflower seedsseeds with shoyu

 

 

 

 

 

 

With my pre-cooked quinoa I made a  salad.  I combined 2 cups of the cooked grain with this vinaigrette: the juice of a lime, 1 teaspoon freshly ground cumin, a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes, salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil.  I added 2 tablespoons of dried currants, chopped roasted red pepper and a handful of picked cilantro. Other vegetables you might include are cucumber, fennel, green onions, cherry tomatoes and avocado.

quinoa salad

Finally, I had a yen for gingersnaps.  They seemed a good match with apples or tangerines for a touch of sweetness after studio lunches this week.  The recipe comes from Marion Cunningham, but I have altered it some. I make this dough in my Cuisinart but it is easy to make by hand.

Cream together 6 tablespoons butter, 3/8 cup vegetable oil and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Add 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses and 1 large egg.  Then stir in 2 cups unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Sometimes I add finely chopped fresh ginger or some crystallized ginger cut into tiny pieces.

cookie dough

Shape into walnut-sized balls, roll in turbinado sugar and place 2 inches apart on a parchment covered or greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350° for 12 minutes.

My Sunday work done, I couldn’t resist a taste.

gingersnaps

 

A taste for corn

Minolta DSC

Apple – Maggie and Lauren 2005, charcoal on paper, 30 x 44 inches

My friend Maggie once told me about her sudden late night desire for corn tortillas. She decided to make a batch to satisfy her craving. I imagine her in her kitchen in the middle of the night,  pressing the masa into tortillas, the limey smell making her mouth water, then savoring the succulence of the finished tortilla.  I bet she ate the second one slowly, smeared with butter and a pinch of salt.

I share Maggie’s love of corn in many forms. One of my favorites is spoonbread ─ soft-centered spoonbread from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking.  I haven’t made it in a while, but remembered how well it goes with many meals. It is the perfect accompaniment to a vegetarian dinner as it provides a dose of protein.

The recipe is very simple but it does take about 45 minutes to cook so I planned accordingly and put it in to bake while I assembled the rest of the meal.

First, I turned the oven to 375°. I  prepared the baking dish, a souffle dish, by putting it in the hot oven with 2 tablespoons of butter.

spoonbread pan

The batter is simple:  1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup unbleached flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk. I used the corn meal that friend James brought me from Aspen Moon farm. It is finely ground but retains the bran ─ the brown flecks in the batter.

spoon bread pan (4)

When the oven and the dish with the butter were hot, I poured in the thinnish batter, then carefully poured another 1/2 cup of milk, without stirring to combine, over the center. This will make the custardy soft center.

batter

Bake for 45 minutes until crusty brown and the center a bit jiggly.

spoonbread

Another quick bread in my repertoire is corn muffins with jalapeños. I serve these with lunch salads, soups, buffalo steaks, grilled chicken, almost anything.

corn muffins

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, (use three teaspoons at a lower altitude), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar. Add 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons safflower (or canola) oil.  Stir in a large chopped pickled jalapeño.  Pour batter into a well-buttered muffin tin.  This makes 10- 12 muffins.  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

muffin

The final dish in my corn marathon was posole.  Bud always smokes our Thanksgiving turkey over coals on the Weber and I look forward to the smoky broth I make from the remains. This year I used it in posole, a New Mexico dish of chile and hominy.

posole

I soaked the dried corn kernels (the best are from Rancho Gordo),  overnight, then cooked them in water to generously  cover.  Once the corn was softened, in about an hour, I added a hunk of onion and an ancho chile and left the pot to simmer, partially covered, until the posole was tender and had ‘bloomed’. This took another couple hours and I added water as necessary to keep the posole covered.

with poblanos

To make the soup, I sauteed a large, chopped onion and four cloves of garlic in a little safflower oil, then added three roasted, peeled, chopped poblano chiles. I  dumped these into the cooked, drained posole, added several cups of my smoky turkey broth and let the mixture simmer.  Just before dinner I added chopped leftover turkey to the soup and prepared the garnishes.

with turkey

I used my mandoline to cut a piece of cabbage into fine shreds, tossed it with the juice of half a lime, salt and a little olive oil.  I prepared cilantro and cut up an avocado and a lime. Other inclusions might be a melty Mexican cheese, slivered radishes, or a salsa. I used what I had on hand.

garnishes

I tasted the posole for salt, stirred in a big spoonful of chipotle puree and served the soup in bowls made by Thea and Lele.

posole 2

 

 

Soup for a snowy autumn night

Phoebe 1988

Phoebe 1988, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches

There are several hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelves.  I have been dipping into some I haven’t used lately, stumbling over recipe gems that I once cooked.

book shelf

On a recent cold afternoon I paged through Poor Cook, a book I used often when we lived in London on a limited budget. I was learning to cook and this little volume inspired my budding interest in cooking and taught me many wonderful dishes.

I wondered if the Pasta e fagioli soup was as delicious as I remembered so set out to make it.  My Rancho Gordo bean club delivery had arrived and I had a pot of flageolet beans cooking with a piece of kombu.  Just right for the soup.

flageolet beans

While the beans cooked,  I chopped a head of fennel, three stalks of celery, four cloves of garlic and some small potatoes.

veggies

When the beans were done I removed about three cups with some of the bean broth (and saved the rest for another dish).  These went into the soup pot with the veggies, a teaspoon of salt and a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes and left to gently cook until tender.

Next, I added several cups of water and brought the soup to a boil, threw in two handfuls of casarecce pasta (about a cup) and cooked until al dente tender.  With a handful of chopped Italian parsley, one of grated parmesan, and a good grind of black pepper the soup was ready.  And yes, it was as delicious as I remembered, becoming creamy and succulent with the pasta and cheese. (I placed a bowl of parmesan on the table to add as we wished.) Served in Thea and Lele bowls.

the soup

To go with the soup I made a salad of roasted butternut squash and pomegranate seeds, lettuce and arugula, a nice contrast to the savory pasta e fagioli.

squash

pomegranate seeds

To the greens, I added the chopped squash and seeds and tossed everything with a simple olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper vinaigrette.  Buon appetito!

salad