The simplest pleasures! I made a fruit salad yesterday with the freshest and best ingredients – many of which we grew ourselves or that we obtained at the Organic Market just half a block up the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays: papaya, cantaloupe, banana, blueberries, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, orange juice and freshly desiccated coconut from one of our palm trees. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the quality of the food we have access to, how amazing the flavors are and how happy we are to be home in Cabo again!
We are so fortunate to have access to the freshest and BEST produce here. Our breakfast yesterday consisted of blackberries and blueberries grown on the mainland (near where Ron’s sister, Mary, lives at Ajijic, beside Lake Chapala and half an hour from Guadalajara), fresh organic papaya from our friend, Alberto, who lives and has his organic farm just outside of San José del Cabo, fresh whole walnuts from Ron’s Mom that are grown near Santa Clara, CA, and fresh pomegranate, picked in our garden the day before. Add some yogurt and some homemade granola – an explosion of flavor and goodness to start the day!
Neither Ron nor I are lovers of fast food, but we do make one exception when we’re in California: In–N-Out Burger (check out their full story at www.in-n-outburger.com). Ron introduced me to this regional chain three years ago and we look forward to a visit on every trip back to California for one very good reason – they do fast food REALLY well. Several renowned chefs are huge fans of the chain including Mario Batali, Antony Bourdain (who I ran into in Schmidt’s Market in Southampton, New York last summer) and Gordon Ramsay.
This chain was founded back in 1948 by Harry and Esther Snyder with a simple philosophy that lives on today: “Give customers the freshest, highest quality foods you can buy and provide them with friendly service in a sparkling clean environment.” Their first location was in Baldwin Park, California and In-N-Out Burger can now be found in 281 locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah. No location is situated more than a day’s drive from one of their regional distribution centers as they own and operate their own burger patty-making facilities in California and Texas. The burgers are made from fresh, 100% pure beef that is free of additives, fillers or preservatives of any kind and the patties are never frozen or pre-packaged. Every burger is cooked fresh to order, one at a time.
In-N-Out’s commitment to quality doesn’t stop at the burger patties. They bake their own buns and cut their own fries in every location, use real ice cream in their shakes and every burger is dressed with the finest and freshest lettuce, tomatoes and onions. They are an example of doing food right the old-fashioned way and NEVER compromising on quality.
Service is also a very important part of the In-N-Out Burger experience. Their staff is clean-cut, polite and very efficient. They are one of the few fast food chains to pay their employees significantly more than minimum wage and their staff reflects a very high standard.
On our way out to New York last spring, Ron picked up a great black t-shirt with the In-N-Out logo on the front and a classic vintage design on the back. It seems that everyone in the east (and throughout the USA) knows about this fast food chain and commented on the restaurant and the shirt itself.
In-N-Out have done something that few other chains have ever done – they’ve stayed true to their initial commitment and never compromised, despite their growth. Still family and privately owned, we sincerely hope that they never waiver from the standard they have set and firmly maintained since the restaurant chain was founded in 1948. Some things should never change.
When selecting fresh chiles, make sure that the skin is smooth and they are firm to the touch. Once they become wrinkled, they develop an earthy taste and their crisp texture and fresh flavor are gone. Use fresh chiles as soon as possible. They can be kept, however, for up to two weeks if wrapped in a dry cloth or paper towel inside a paper bag in the refrigerator.
Charring fresh chiles enhances the flavor of the flesh. Place the firm, fresh chile directly over an open flame or under a broiler until blistered and charred. Immediately put the charred chiles into a plastic or paper bag and set aside to sweat for about 10 minutes. Peel off the blackened skin (don’t worry about picking off every bit of skin) and use in your favorite recipe.
When selecting dried chiles, buy loose instead of packed whenever possible. Choose chiles that are still a little flexible and not totally dried out. Before using dried chiles, place them in a warm skillet and heat until they become pliable or for about 2 minutes. Store dried chiles in a cool, dry place or keep them in your freezer in zip-lock freezer bags.
To reconstitute, place the toasted, dried chiles in a saucepan and cover them with boiling water. Weight them with a small dish to keep them submerged and let them sit for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft.
The easiest way to control the flavor and heat of dishes containing reconstituted dried chiles is to make them into purées. They can be added to dishes in increments until the desired balance of flavor and heat is reached.