Monday, July 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Meals

Two types of cooking this weekend.  On Saturday we did a group cooking event doing yet another venture in the Italian cooking exploration while on Sunday we showed the value of great ingredients done simply.

Saturday was dedicated to the production of a Sfinciuni - a specialty of the city of Palermo in Sicily - and pronounced like symphony.  It a thin two crusted pizza type product.  I had the whole de-I Sandia Outfitters team on this.  Wild Bill's (trusted Outfitter guide) wife, Wild Jill provided the house, dough, and dessert.  Gauis Derf's (long-time client - he's to Sandia Outfitters what the Washington Generals are to the Harlem Globetrotters) wife Agent W provided the filling.  Wife and I provided various antipasti to keep us through the meal.

First the antipasti

Shrimp butter crostini
(Cooked shrimp processed with butter, parsley, and lemon juice)

Fritatta Salad
(Thin fritatta cut into strips like noodles mixed with escarole, orange slices, olive oil, and lemon juice)

Sweet and Sour Onions
(a repeat from a couple of weeks ago)

Sfincuini Process


Checking progress in the oven





Dessert was panna cotta with fresh berries

After the extensive cooking on Saturday making the three antipasti we went simple on Sunday for our friends B & M from Mexico.  I made some steamed veggies (zucchini, jicama, fennel, and carrots) with a homemade aioli, baked potatoes and steak over the fire.  B brought over a couple of excellent California Syrah.  M brought some plums and peaches from their trees picked just before they came over.  I cut them up, sauteed them in butter, brandy and brown sugar for just a couple of minutes and then served them over some leftover homemade ice cream Wife had in the freezer.  Nothing extravagant but so good because all the basic components were so good.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Little Piece of Paradise

We hear at de-I's Sandia Outfitters (You have nothing to lose but yourself) know that if you want attract the customers you have to have interesting places to go.  So guide Wild Bill and I are always on the look out for new and interesting places we can put in our promotional materials (can't catch bees without honey)

Think of yourself on a de-ISO trip.  You meet your guide.

 "Hi Guide Bill!"
(Looks a bit rough around the edges doesn't he honey?)

Your guide starts leading your through the mountain woods

"Come on wimps.  Keep up the pace!"

Until finally you come to it.

The Lone Tree

You sit under The Lone Tree and take in the panaroma

Then the Sandia Outfitter guide tells you if you climb a bit more you can see the other side looking back over Albuquerque.  You go on up.

Then he says just go a little further out to the ledge

And if you are a faithful reader, you know what happens next.

Another successful trip.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


No few words required

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Watching Weather

When the monsoon comes, I especially like to sit out on our upstairs deck and look out over the city and countryside.  Weather is much more in your face with storms being highly visible, watching them build up and move. 

The other night I was watching this set of storm clouds coming in over the mountain to the north of us.

Then I saw that there was a mass of clouds coming in from the south as well

I love the contrast between what's left of the blue sky and the clouds made darker because of nightfall.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cooking Italiano - Part 4 - Final Prep and Da Meal

Because of my great organization (only has taken me about 30 years to figure this out - I'm a fast study!), there wasn't a terribly lot to do on the Saturday of the meal accept for the final cooking.

I did need to cut up my polenta logs for frying.

And turn my roasted peppers to salad (with sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, capers, and roasted garlic)

So on to dinner

First the Antipasti Course

Our Roasted Pepper Salad and Sweet and Sour Onions

The Primi

Fried Polenta with Strong Tomato Sauce, Pecarino Romano Cheese, and Fresh Basil

The Secundi

Our Pork Rolls with Cheese and Prosciutto, and our Braised Celery Gratinee
A Salsa Verde of garlic, parsley, capers, & anchovies accompanied it
(And Renee Michelle - the celery was terrific!)

Dessert was a Red Currant Sorbet made by Wife (to far gone to take pictures) made from currants she grew.   We had three wines, a Vino Verde from Portugal to warm up, a Rioja Rose from Spain for the first course, and a Croze-Hermitage from the Rhone region of France for the main courses.  Ya I know - What no Italian Wines?  What gives?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cooking Italiano - Part III - Second Recipe

OK, I lied.  Evidently had more energy than I thought.  So here is the other recipe that I had never done and really wanted to try.

Pork Rolls with Cheese and Prosciutto

Our Ingredients - Boneless Pork Loin, Fontina Cheese, Prosciutto, Sage Leaves

Step 1 - Cut your boneless pork loin chops into three pieces.  Put between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until thin.

Step 2 - Put on the sage leaves

Step 3 - Put on the cheese

Step 4 - Put on prosciutto

Step 5 - Roll up tightly and hold in place with toothpicks

All this can be done in advance.  You finish by pan frying them for about 6-8 minutes until brown and cooked through.  Then deglaze the pan with some stock and white wine.

Cooking Italiano - Part II - One Recipe

Looks like this is going to be around four posts after I checked all the pictures.  Doesn't help that I seem to have picked up some kind of food poisoning or intestinal virus from a place I had lunch yesterday which is really sapping my energy.

Today we will examine one of two recipes that got me stoked.  This one was for Braised Celery.  I was excited because 1) I don't think I've ever used celery as a dish before (meaning as the central component of the dish) and 2) it was a very low ingredient number-high technique number recipe that I consider to be the real mark of good cooking.

Step 1 - Clean and peel the strings from the celery, cut into thirds

Step 2 - Parboil for one minute to preserve color

Step 3 - Sweat onions in butter until translucent.  Add some chopped pancetta (Italian salted bacon).  Cook for five minutes to combine flavors.  Add the celery.  Cook for 10 minutes stirring every so often.

Step 4 - Add beef broth and simmer until the celery is just tender, around 30 minutes

Step 5 - Turn up the heat and cook down the braising liquid until is is just about gone.

Step 6 - Put the celery in a baking dish concave side up, and place the onion pancetta mixture on top.

Step 7 - All this can be done ahead of time.  The dish is finished by putting Parmesano Reggiano cheese on top an broiling until brown which is done just before serving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cooking Italiano - Part 1

I did a fairly good job of photo documenting this adventure but not a great one.  Because of all the cooking, I'm going to break this down into two or three posts.  This first has to do with the prep day.

I am getting better and better at organizing my menus so that I do more and more of the work ahead of time so I'm not cooking like a maniac til just before the guests arrive and then collapsing from exhaustion about the time we eat dessert. So on Friday I was cooking up a number of the components of my meal.  Unfortunately, I did these right after work so I was rushing around and didn't take my step-by-step pictures

Roasted Peppers
These are for a salad that is part of the antipasto course


Sweet and Sour Onions
These are small onions cooked in water flavored by vinegar, salt, sugar, raisins, tomato paste, parsley, and bay leaf.
When the onions are cooked you remove the parsley and bay leaf and boil down the liquid until it is just about all gone.

Followed by:

A Strong Tomato Sauce
This is a goodly dose of oil cured olives (maybe 6), garlic (I think 4 large cloves, and anchovies (6 again) cooked in olive oil
Tomato paste (about a half of a 6 oz can) is added and cooked some more
White wine to deglaze
About 2/3 of a large can of imported Italian tomatoes.
Cook for 20 minutes and then blend.

And finally:

The Pasta 
In this case Polenta
One batch of Polenta makes a lot so I put it in little pans so I could freeze some.
You let it cool then cut into pieces and fry it before you serve it.

Next post - some detail cooking pictures.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hang Tight - Super-Cosmic Cooking Posts Coming

Things have been a bit busy with work.  Lot's of writing stuff.  You know.  Real work.  Not the just talking to people that is my preferred work activity.

However, THE COOKING BAN HAS BEEN LIFTED.  I immediately scheduled most of the weekends left in July and into August.  Bwahahahahahahaha.

For my first dinner this weekend, I decided I needed to get out of the comfort zone and try something new.  I was delving into Marcella Hazan's "Essentials of Italian Cooking" and I realized I have barely scratched the surface of Italian Cuisine. 

Hang on tight - the remainder of 2012 is going to be the year of Italy.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Welcoming the Monsoon

When the monsoon comes, it is all of a sudden.  After months of hotter and hotter and drier and drier weather with temperatures hitting a hundred and the forests aflame, there is this shift of winds.  For a week or so there are sporadic clouds that grow over the mountain and then suddenly it happens

The weather is moister - way moister

 The clouds start flowing over the mountains.

And it's cooler.  The high temperature drops 10 to 15 degrees on average.

And we get rain.  Not gently soaking rain.  Down pours.  It can rain a month's worth in one shower (when you only get an inch of rain a month on average)

And it is never predictable.  Yesterday when I took this picture, we ended up not getting much of anything while 7 miles to our west they were having flash floods.

The relative humidity is up and you can feel your mucous membranes again.  It is one of our favorite times of the year.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On the Way Home

With the 4th of July falling in mid week, I decided to take advantage of that non work day to do a quick trip to see Dad.  So I went out Sunday and I'm on my way back today.  No news to report other than he has stabilized.  He has limited energy.  Limited appetite. Hearing and memory issues.  And he and we are just kind of waiting and wondering when it all starts falling off again.  In the meantime, I'm out of 'I need to stress and figure out what to do' mode and back into a more normal living and operating mode.  So this trip was more like just a visit.  Kind of reminds me of when we were on hiatus with my sister when her kidney function plateaued.  You put things out of mind but know that the storm will be arriving sooner or later.

A short note on traveling - the Sunday out everything was packed - lots of families with children and people who don't fly a lot.  Today, the planes were much emptier and very, very few business fliers so I got upgrades all the way back home.