A few years ago, I found myself climbing El Cuauhcalli, an Aztec Temple of Eagle and Jaguar Warriors. They called it a pyramid but it was really a series of narrow steps and terraces carved into the mountainside built on the Cerro de los Idolos’ ceremonial – now archeological – site in Malinalco, a small town southwest of Mexico City. The security guard at the entrance swore it would take a brisk 2o minutes to climb the 400+ steps. I still don’t know why he lied to us. We’d arrived late and the ferocity of the midday sun almost stopped us before we began, until we saw a group of pilgrims, dressed completely in white, who were doing the same hike, singing and blissfully barefoot. There was no turning back – we followed the ghosts.
Posts from the ‘Soups & Stews’ Category
A couple of months ago, I was asked to do a small write up on Felipe Rojas-Lombardi for the launch of the Celebrity Chef stamps series. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know very much about him when I started. Though he was famous for his work with James Beard, was the founding chef of Dean & Deluca, and introduced countless Spanish and Latin American food traditions to New York’s culinary scene at his Chelsea restaurant The Ballroom (tapas for a start and quinoa no less), his career predated the chef as celebrity phenomenon and it was sometimes hard to pull up information. Still when I did find articles, some scanned into pre-Google archives, I found some answers to things I’d always wondered about. For one, it explained why gourmet prepared food counters (like the one he developed for Dean & Deluca) are essentially Peruvian though they would never fall into the “ethnic” food category (he predated those facile distinctions as well). Read more
When I’m asked how I decided what to post, I always say that one recipe leads to another. But that’s only half a truth. More specifically, it comes down to what was left and what I can make of it. This chowder, for one, started with a recipe for quinoa croquettes. With the croquettes done and quinoa to spare, I started looking for more ways to use it and came across this recipe in Jose Garces’ Latin Road Home. I was most drawn to the ingredient list featuring staples I always have but never seem to use completely – heavy cream, parsley, the odd potato. This also meant picking up a few extras quarts of vegetable stock and pulling fresh corn from the dwindling piles at the market. I followed the recipe as closely as possible the first time around including the fried potatoes, and crumbled bacon. When it was finished, I realized I had a almost enough left to make a second batch. I was going into a busy week and knew I’d be rewarming it over a few nights, so I made a vegetarian version. Also, I was out of bacon. Instead of using the achiote paste that’s been living in my refrigerator for years with no expiration in site, I used the last of my achiote seeds to make the oil. The chives became scallions, and I added the cream at the end to finish off the pint. The one thing I didn’t get to was the fresh ají costeño pepper sauce Garces suggests, but that will have to wait for the next round.
I think my relationship with New York is steady enough that I can admit we’d recently hit a rough patch. I’d spent so much time away last year that it felt like I was living consecutive winters. It wore me down and I took it out on the city that had become all work. Now that we’re having this beautiful summer, every day comes closer to New York’s song-and-dance ideal and I’m in love again. I even gave in and bought a new bicycle -albeit one that is technically older than I am – a copper colored Schwinn Suburban step-through with an honeywood basket. It’s heavy, impractical and my favorite thing in the world right now. Read more
I first met Leticia Moreinos Schwartz at a seminar at the International Culinary Center. Perched in the front row with a well-prepared list of questions and samples for the class, she would have been intimidating if she wasn’t so incredibly nice. We’ve stayed in touch since and she’s always quick to answer my questions and offer much needed guidance and advice. Her first book, The Brazilian Kitchen, is full of unfailing recipes and her personal insight into Brazilian cuisine and has become a favorite. Less familiar to me than other Latin American traditions, Brazilian food has been a blind spot though I’m always happy when I make the effort. Her latest, My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook, tells an even more personal story of both the carioca home cooking she grew up with and the contemporary Brazilian cuisine she encounters on frequent trips home.
I was very late to try it, but this week I finally made Jim Lahey’s now famous no-knead bread recipe. I’m not sure how it came to mind, but around 6 o-clock one evening, I decided that I absolutely could not go another minute without digging it out from a stack must trys I’d had going for a couple of years. After looking at the online video Mark Bittman created with Lahey, I bundled up and headed out for the ingredients. By 7, I was mixing up the dough and setting it in the oven for the initial long slow rise. The next day, after a few turns and second rise, it was in the oven pre-heated to scorching hot. I was cautiously optimistic. Read more
Lately, in my heat-addled mind, the most satisfying meals can be summed up in two words – cold and simple. Though gazpacho meets both criteria, I’d yet to make it this summer. Looking for a new variation, I tried this popular recipe for gazpacho al estilo de Patricia by Spanish chef José Andrés. Having experimented with pale ajo blanco, deep pink gazpacho with strawberry and fennel, and classic red with tropezones, it was time to go green. Read more