Tag Archives: carrot

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.

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I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).

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Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!

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Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!

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Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!

Until next year, precious friends! xox

Sweet and Spicy Roast Chicken

In my last post, I was telling you how much we enjoy Melissa Clark’s recipes and videos. She is an absolute delight and her recipes are fresh, fun and fabulous. The recipe that I’m going to introduce you to here is a prime example of what we’ve come to expect and enjoy from what she’s creating.

Many of the ingredients in this recipe we sourced from our local organic market which is located just half a block up the street from where we live in Cabo and is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings. A fresh, free-range organic chicken, organic lemons, Mandarin oranges, honey, carrots, onion and green onions all combine to make this a truly delicious and flavorful dish. A few steps outside the front door is where I have fresh herbs growing, and I cut some fresh thyme and Italian parsley for the recipe as well.

I highly recommend that you watch Melissa’s video to get a sense of who she is and the fun she’s created with this dish. You can just link to the recipe, but you’ll miss her delightful personality. This dish is described as a “chile-flecked, honey-imbued marinade spiked with fresh citrus juice that gives this chicken its fiery, syrupy character. Dates and carrots give the sauce texture and additional sweetness while a garnish of fresh herbs and pistachio nuts lends freshness and crunch.” This is a really fabulous dish that can be prepared a day in advance, making it perfect to warm up in the oven for a dinner party. Serve with rice or something else to soak up and savor the sauce with. This is absolutely a five-star dish that I highly recommend!

Cataviña and Cabañas Linda (NOT!)

Back in November, our little convoy of two vehicles (Ron in the lead and Mom and I following behind) left Ensenada in the cool of morning.  The air conditioning was working in the Lincoln now, so Mom and I knew we would be comfortable as the day progressed and the heat of the desert intensified.

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Driving the Baja can be extremely treacherous as shoulders don’t exist and the road is extremely narrow.  Highway 1 is the only highway that connects the US to the southern tip of the Baja, so there is a lot of tractor/trailer traffic combined with passenger vehicles.  Defensive driving is absolutely required as you take the winding roads and twist and climb through the mountains.  We travel using walkie talkies, and there have been many situations when Ron has told me it is clear to pass when any sane person wouldn’t even consider it!  Mom was a great sport and never showed any nervousness or concern – bless her for her faith and confidence in both of us.  The many white crosses and memorials along the way are vivid reminders of the inherent danger this highway presents its travellers.

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The beauty of this desert landscape is awe-inspiring.  The variety of cacti and scenery will surprise anyone visiting this apparent “last frontier” for the first time and I am amazed and thrilled every time we have the opportunity to see it.  There are so few people to have actually driven the Baja, and my precious Mom is now among them.  It is an incredible experience and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to share it with her.

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One of the contests that Ron and  I play when we drive the Baja is “Who Can Spot The First Boojum”.  This is what  CaboBob.com says about the boojum (otherwise known as cirio):

“The boojum looks like nothing else.  It is often described as a giant carrot growing upside-down, with its root sticking up to fifty feet in the air.  It has a trunk and leaves, but o branches until it’s at least a hundred years old, when the trunk divides into two of more whip-like tops.  A fifty year-old specimen might be a foot thick at its base, and less than five feet tall.  It’s one of the slowest growing plants in the world, at a rate of a foot every ten years, which means a mature fifty-footer may be more than 500 years old. 

This photograph by Eliot Porter, entitled Cirio Near Las Tres Virgenes Volcano, Baja California (1966) is from the archives of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

After plentiful rainfall, the boojum “candle” sprouts a flame of yellow blossoms at its tip, and its trunk is covered with small green leaves.  When water is absent, it sheds all its leaves to preserve moisture within the trunk.  The boojum is abundant in this two hundred mile strip of desert, but the only other place it grows is a small patch at the same latitude across the Sea of Cortez, in the State of Sonora.”

Ron sees people and families when he looks at boojums and I see dancers.  They are rare and special and no two specimens look alike.  Mom enjoyed them immensely as well as the elephant trees, the cardón (the largest cactus in the world that can grow to over sixty feet tall – often mistaken for its northern cousin, the saguaro), and the hundreds (literally hundreds!) of other cactus varieties found throughout the Baja.

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Mom and Alberto beneath a massive cardón.

We’d had a long day driving and it was starting to threaten sunset.  We’d planned on getting to Cataviña by nightfall as the last thing you want to do is drive the Baja at night.  We caught a glimpse in the twilight of the Boulder Field of Cataviña, sorry that we’d missed them in the last light of afternoon but excited to know that we would instead see it in the early morning light the next day.

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There is a charming hotel, the Desert Inn, just off the highway that we’d planned on checking into.  It is an identical twin to a hotel in San Ignacio to the south and both form part of a group of six hotels from Ensenada to Loreto that were formerly called La Pinta.  We should have called ahead – the Desert Inn was fully booked as the Baja 1000 was well underway.  Lots of racers, chase and support teams and had taken up all of the rooms.   We quickly got back into our cars and raced back up the road to secure a room in the only other motel in this little town called Cabañas Linda (not the kind of place that you want as a namesake, believe me!).

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The word “linda” in Spanish means beautiful and, believe me, this motel was FAR from that description!  Other than driving on to Guerrero Negro, we really had no other choice unless we wanted to sleep in our cars.  Since that wasn’t an option, we secured the last two rooms available.

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The rooms were princess pink – from floor to ceiling – PINK!  We were laughing with some racers that were staying in a room next to our two rooms – a double bed and bunk beds that were top to bottom princess pink.  Hilarious!  Doors that wouldn’t lock, furniture that was picked up, we’re sure, at roadside flea markets, bedding that you definitely wanted to keep your clothes on to lay upon, and bathrooms fixtures that you stood well away from!

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Mom was a great sport about it all – in fact, far better than her daughter.  It was her first truly authentic Mexican experience outside of the tourist destinations that my parents traveled to over the years.  She said it reminded her of a story that my Dad told of staying somewhere once where he listened to the sound of beetles falling from the ceiling all night.  Sometimes you’re tired enough that you can sleep anywhere – literally!

At eleven o’clock, the motel turned out the generator that ran the lights and power and I worried that Mom would have trouble finding the bathroom when she got up in the night.  I thought knocking on her door to tell her what happened would scare her even more, so trusted that she would be careful and find her way safely.  Lesson learned: always have a small flashlight in your travel bag!

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The motel knew what they were doing as no one would stay there past day break and they had ample time to turn the rooms over.  They had a café on site that only served instant coffee, so everyone staying at the motel headed south to the Desert Inn for our cup of java instead.   We drove a short distance north again to take in the Boulder Field in the morning light.  Boulders as big as large buildings and cacti growing out of nothing but rock – absolutely amazing!

Cataviña Boulder Field

Cataviña Boulder Field