Green Chile Stew

DSC_0114I have an overly romanticized view of New Mexico…this I know.  When I think of this state/region, I picture towering mountain ranges, deep shadowed canyons, unimaginably vast open spaces, and near perfect solitude.  While I’m sure that this fine State has such qualities, our friend Star’s stories help bring it back to reality a bit.  While it isn’t all John Carpenter’s Vampires or anything like that, the reality is quite a bit more gritty than the dream.

I am very clear that the vision in my head is a blending of my experiences in the Basin and Range and also my experiences with one dish; Green Chili Stew.  More than any other food that I ate during my Southwest American days, this dish ensnared me.  It is hot, make no mistake, but any damage incurred is worth it due to the onslaught of flavor you will experience.  The version that we make uses smoked paprika to provide just a little bit more depth to the not quite smoky taste of the roasted green chilies.  The remainder of the spices would seem understated if it weren’t for how they conspire with the blend of fats in the meats and butter.  The end result is undeniably tasty and will comfort even the most downtrodden soul…. 

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Razor Clams, Shrimp, and Cod with Curry and Lemongrass

Clam Shrimp and Fish CurryWith clam season upon us here in the Pacific Northwest, there is more than a little pressure to get rid of the clams that I hoarded through the summer.  When frozen properly in water, these suckers can take up a considerable amount of room in the freezer.  As summer wears on and freezer space becomes more of a commodity, there comes a dawning realization that you really need to start cooking some clam-involved dishes.  Clam chowder is the standby, but one can not live on clams chowder alone…and if you did, you would either be the size of a walrus or simply dead.  It isn’t exactly low calorie or low fat.  When preparing such dishes, I have hear whispers in the dark recesses of my brain reminding that heart disease is still the number one killer the United States.

This seafood curry is my attempt to incorporate clams into a tasty, yet reasonably heart-healthy main dish.  Heck, there isn’t even any coconut milk in it.  The formulation is somewhat Thai is style but probably pulls in more variety in fish than would be considered common.  The yellow curry is slightly more mild and a bit sweeter than its green or red cousins and lines up well with the clams, which are also quite sweet.  Fragrant notes are provided by the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  Turmeric and a bit of garlic provide some additional depth…. 

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Baked Figs With Greens

DSC_0065This is really just a simple salad that is topped with some lovingly prepared figs.  The figs are marinaded and then baked in a fluid that will, after it is reduced, become the dressing for the salad.  This simple, sweet and sour glaze sets off the intense rich flavor of the baked figs.  We typically top this type of salad with either some really sharp blue cheese or Gorgonzola.  Almonds provide a great addition, particularly if you take the time to dress them with salt, oil and dried rosemary.

I hate to write and dash, but there is really not much to say about this one.  One piece of advice is to use cast iron to bake the figs; you will get a little bit of char and caramelization…perfect.  Also make sure to reserve the liquid at each step (marinade, then bake) so that you can reduce it into a lovely glaze later on.  In order to reduce the liquid, transfer it to a sauce pan and boil the crap out of it.  When it starts to thicken, remove it from heat, transfer it to another bowl and let it cool.  No sense in wilting your lovely salad by being hasty.  Well, there is one last piece of guidance I can provide; cook this, then eat it…it’s really, really good.

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Baked Figs With Greens
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Ingredients
  • 6 figs, halved
  • ½ cup cider
  • 2 Tsp. Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Mixed greens, such as spinach, leaf lettuce, mizzuna
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • ¼ sweet bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • sliced almonds for garnish
  • 1 oz. Gorgonzola, crumbled
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, honey, and salt. Pour over halved figs and set aside to marinade for 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Coat medium cast iron skillet with the olive oil and place figs, cut side down, in bottom. Pour marinade over figs and bake in a 425 degree F oven for 8 to 12 minutes.
  3. Remove figs from skillet and allow to cool.
  4. Reduce marinade fluid over high heat until it forms a thin syrup. Set aside to cool so it can be used as a dressing.
  5. Using remaining ingredients, prepare individual salads and arrange figs on top. Drizzle with thickened marinade and garnish with almond and Gornonzola.

 

Dolmas – Grape Leaves stuffed with Lamb and Dried Cherries

DSC_0029One of the better things about summer and early fall in the Pacific Northwest is that this is the time that grape leaves finally get big enough to use in cooking.  That means that it is time to make dolmas …or at least my version of it.  And if you have your own particular version of this dish, you are not alone.  As it turns out, the idea of stuffing grapes leaves with various spices, dried fruits, grains, and meats is wildly popular.  Although the term is Turkish in origin and also refers to hollowed out and stuffed vegetables, stuffed vine leaves fall under the umbrella term.  I make mine with lamb, dried cherries, and rice and spice them pretty conservatively with allspice, cinnamon, and paprika.  Tomato and lemon juice are there to sharpen the flavors somewhat and mint provides a nice aromatic touch.  Although dolmas are commonly baked as a casserole, I prefer mine steamed so that the texture is firmer…. 

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Tagine of Chicken with Figs and Dates

Tagine of Chicken with dates and figsSummertime is tagine time at our house because summer is when laziness rules supreme.   Tagines are a lazy cooks sort of dish; you heat the tagine, add the first group of components, wait, add the second group of components, wait some more, and then eat.  This is perfect for those summer days where you really have more pressing things than cooking on your mind (such as yard work or laying in a hammock).  If you have a side burner on your grill, you get the added benefit of not heating the house up when you cook.

This particular tagine is a thing of spiced, fruity glory.  The onions are cooked, together with a pile of spices, long enough to caramelize them.  I can promise that soyou will not be left wishing you had more richness in the dish.  The chicken, once added, is cooked together with chicken stock, and the figs and dates.  The end result is a sweet, but not cloying concoction that goes great with some Basmati rice or other similar pilaf.  After everything is in the pot, all you need to remember to do is periodically ladle out some of the excess liquid and reduce it on the stove.  Once thickened to the consistency of thin gravy (or you get tired of reducing it), return it to the tagine as you continue cooking.… 

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