Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Recipe: Cinnamon and Raisin Tamales

It wouldn't be Christmas in New Mexico without some sweet tamales on the breakfast table. These are traditional holiday offerings - not limited to Christmas alone! These can be frozen and then heated... just add another ten minutes to the steaming time.. I always tell the folks that rave about these unusual offerings, that the best way to make these is to make them in bulk. Gather a few friends together, pop open a bottle of wine, and have a tamale making party! Towards the end of that bottle, the last few tamales may not be the prettiest, but you will have a damn good time!

8 Tablespoons butter
8 Tablespoons Lard
3/4 cup chile honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cups masa harina
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
8 large, dried corn husks, soaked in hot water until pliable

Whip together the butter and lard until fluffy. Continue to whip while adding the honey, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Gradually add the masa, continuing to beat until fluffy. Fold in raisins and walnuts. Divide the mixture evenly between the corn husks. Fold tamales lengthwise, one side over the other, tying ends with slim strips of pliable corn husk. Steam for 15 minutes and serve.

Note: To serve, I will usually slice open the tip of the tamale with a sharp blade and press the tamale open. I serve two at a time, drizzling them with a mixture of 1/2 cup sour cream and 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate. It's a fantastic, simple sauce that gives the dish that extra oomph! Put a little bowl of it on the side in case anyone wants more.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding Santa

When I was a little girl I was as certain of the existence of Santa Claus as I was that my dad was bigger than everyone else’s.  It was a given. I grew up in Europe where Santa came and presents were exchanged on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day. In the dark of night with only the Christmas star to shed its light on any mysteries, the ruse that was Santa could have been low maintenance but my parents went all out.  After a typically overindulgent family dinner at which every known relative was present, my parents would give each other a wink. “Isn’t it about time for the girls to go upstairs?” my father would hint - the cue for my sister and I to retire to our room to sit and wait for the impending arrival of Saint Nick. 
Sitting in our bedroom waiting for Santa was like waiting to be paroled from prison; it always took a long time and sometime within the interminable pregnancy of anticipation my father would appear to regale us with the Story of Christmas - the real story – with the birth of Jesus and the star and the wise men. “You know that Christmas isn’t just about presents?” he would ask. 
“We know!” my sister, Grace and I would reply in unison, wondering, almost visibly ‘Where is Santa Claus? ’ Eventually my father would leave us alone again, temporarily humbled. But it wouldn’t be long before the sound of sleigh bells would draw us from our pious reverie.  We could hear them clearly approaching from far up the road – actual sleigh bells – jingle-jangling their way to the house next door and then, as we held our breath, stopping somewhere out on our front lawn. We could never see anything; we lived in the country and it was too dark but one time there was a blinking red light that was a ringer for Rudolph’s red nose. When the sleigh bells stopped there would be a bang, bang, bang on the front door. “Ho, Ho, Ho!” we would hear outside and then the door would open and my mother’s voice, so welcoming and friendly would chime, “Santa, come in; have some cookies with us!”
 Grace and I would sit quietly wide-eyed on our beds, shaking with excitement, listening to my parents, my aunts and uncle and grandparents all carrying on with Santa like old friends. We would never meet Santa ourselves; we could not go down until he left and my father turned off all the lights except for the lantern at the bottom of the stairs and the sparkling garland of blinking bulbs that wound around the fat, green tree.  Then he would put on a recorded version of ‘The Church Bells of Europe”  and it would be, to the chiming of those bells, that Grace and I would descend the long flight of stairs, entering into the living room to view the tree sparkling in a nest of presents. It was magic.
Grace and I believed in Santa Claus long after our school friends had undergone the metamorphosis into non-believers. We knew that Santa Claus was real. He was at our house every year – in person. There was no doubt. 
Until the year that Santa was welcomed into our home twice within ten minutes. Someone just got sloppy.  Santa had supposedly come and gone; Grace and I were waiting for the bells. And then there was another knock on the door “Ho, Ho, Ho!” 
“What the..?” we heard my mom exclaim as she pulled back the dead bolt.
“Ho, Ho, Ho-o-o!” Santa retorted, a little too happily. Everyone sounded confused.
“Santa,” my mom remarked pointedly, “you already came!” Grace and I looked at each other. Something was definitely not right.
Many years later I had become a mother myself and was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first year that my son, Chance was really capable of fully experiencing Christmas, my husband  and  I chose to enlist the help of my father , hoping to recreate the wonderful Christmas experience that I had enjoyed for the large part of my childhood.  That year on Christmas Eve, I sat in the guest room of my parent’s home holding my three year old boy in my arms; while my husband remained out in the living room with the other adults  I felt again the same excitement that I had when waiting in my own room with my sister some thirty years prior. 
“Do you know what Christmas is really about?” I asked my cherubic child, as he stared wide-eyed through the window that revealed nothing but darkness. 
“Santa Claus?” he questioned, innocently.
“No.” I corrected, unfolding the story of the baby Jesus as one would an ancient scroll.
 I caught my breath somewhere between ‘wise men’ and ‘frankincense and myrrh’. Outside sleigh bells rang in the distance.  As the jingling came closer my husband sneaked into the room with us, pulling the door closed quickly behind him.
“Do you hear that, son?” he urged. “It sounds like Santa Claus.”
The sleigh bells were upon us then, circumambulating the house.  And there was another sound… the sound of laughter. Maniacal laughter.  Out of the clear blue, right outside the window,  a voice somewhere between a growl, a cackle, and near hysteria,  exclaimed “Ha! Ha! Ha!”
 We all jumped a foot into the air. My husband and I pressed our faces to the window just in time to catch my father shuffling around the corner of the house, his silver hair blowing wild in the windy night, shaking the bells like a madman.
“Is that what he did when you and Grace were kids? “  my husband exclaimed. “I’m surprised you weren’t scarred for life!”  My son burst into tears and wet himself for the first time in four months. That was the last time my father was asked to play Santa Claus.
It was shortly before Christmas the following year that the real Santa showed up at our farm – oddly enough to erect our tipi. A beautiful, elfin woman had accompanied him as his assistant- not that he seemed to need one… the tipi went up almost magically. As I watched him chortling his way through what seemed like a daunting task - his belly shaking, his blue eyes twinkling - I exclaimed to her “Doesn’t he look just like Santa Claus?” 
“But … don’t you know…?” she inquired incredulously, as if there could even be a question, “he IS Santa Claus!” 
I watched as he tugged at his white beard, admiring his handiwork. From far away I could hear his satisfied laughter, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Santa has become our friend, visiting us at our home every Christmas Eve since for ten years.  We even get to see him in the off season during which he lives quietly in Ojo Caliente where his kind countenance brings people to tipi living. It turns out Santa’s a big fan of the Green Life. 
So we know Santa’s real. When their friends say ‘there is no Santa’ our kids just nod and laugh. They know the truth. Santa lives here, in New Mexico. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recipe: Crustless Zucchini Greens 'Pie'

1 1/2 pounds combination of chard, kale, collards, mustard greens of choice
1/2 pound spinach
1/2 pound dandelion greens OR arugula
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
2 small zucchini, grated
1/3 cup chopped, fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Trim all greens, discarding stems and chopping the leaves.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat one tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion; cook 1 minute. Add the garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the pepper, all the greens including spinach, arugula etc., zucchini, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Cook, covered over medium heat until very tender, about 15 minutes. Remove cover and cook, stirring often, until all liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs into the greens and pour the mixture into a buttered 9 inch glass or ceramic quiche pan or a 12 by 9 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with the cheeses.

Melt the remaining two teaspoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the bread crumbs and saute until golden. Spoon crumbs evenly over the top of the pie. Bake for 25 minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Note: When the Kings stayed  stayed in September for 8 nights, they had a different breakfast every day but this one was their absolute favorite! When we said our goodbyes on the last day of their stay, Larry said they would love to stay forever... on two conditions: 1. That I would continue to serve them breakfast everyday and 2. that, although they would eat lunch away from Crystal Mesa, they would like me to serve them dinner at night as well! We talked about food often and expansively and they were eager to try any recipes I might have up my sleeve! This recipe works for breakfast, brunch, lunch or even a light dinner. I make it for my family all the time! And please know that you are not limited in any way to any specific combination of greens; use what's in season or what's on hand!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Recipe: Blueberry Brûlée

This is a simple side dish that could very easily be a desert! It's a big favorite here at Crystal Mesa and super easy and quick to make!

1 pint of blueberries
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
light brown sugar

cooking spray

Preheat oven to Broil.

Spray a small baking dish or two ramekins with cooking spray. Put in blueberries, spreading them evenly on bottom of dish (or divide evenly among ramekins). In a small bowl, mix together vanilla extract and sour cream. Use a spatula to spread mixture over the top of blueberries. Cover the sour cream mixture with a coating of brown sugar; it should be thick enough to cover completely. Broil for 4 minutes or until sugar is melted and bubbly. Do not let it burn. Let cool and serve. Serves 2.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bobcat scare behind us; ducks and geese at long last free to enjoy these last days of summer.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Recipe: Sun-Dried Tomato, Mozzarella and Spinach Strata

This recipe emerged as an answer to an overload of sun-dried tomatoes in my pantry. Obviously have been stocking up for some kind of emergency or something - although in what emergency sun-dried tomatoes constitute a food staple, I have no idea! A strata is also a great way of dealing with dried up bread... as they say Waste Not, Want Not.  It makes a beautiful presentation for a fancy brunch and is assembled in advance making for an easy, stress-free morning. Oh! And sometimes I substitute steamed asparagus for the spinach... equally wonderful!

2 loaves stale french bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3 cups skim milk
1/4 cup sour cream
8 eggs
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
2 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/4 inch diced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
dash of salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
cooking spray (olive oil or canola)

Combine milk, sour cream and eggs in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Add half the tomatoes and the garlic, stirring with a whisk.  Add the bread and stir gently so bread absorbs the liquid. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a skillet on medium heat, heat olive oil to just hot, coating pan. Saute spinach until slightly wilted.
Remove skillet from heat.

Pour half of bread mixture into a 13 by 9 inch baking dish, coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with 3/4 of remaining tomatoes,  3/4 of the spinach and 3/4 of the mozzarella. Cover with remaining bread and top[ off with the rest of the tomatoes, spinach and  mozzarella, poking the spinach into little holes between bread. Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

In the morning heat preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Uncover dish and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.
Bake for 40 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting into square portions to serve. Looks beautiful served own a plate dusted with parmesan cheese. Serves 6-8.