Tag Archives: garlic

My New Favorite Sauce!

My New Favorite Sauce!

My Lunch Today – Quesadilla with Zhoug Sauce and Cherry Tomatoes

Ron and I were introduced to a delicious new sauce called zhoug (pronounced zoog) when we were visiting our friends, Bonnie and Don, in Long Beach, California early this year – just before COVID-19 changed the world.

Bonnie is the queen of making fabulous food – FAST! I treat cooking as an exercise in meditation and I putter and play while I create. Bonnie, on the other hand, has learned the art of getting meals prepared quickly so she can move on to do other things she’d rather spend time on. She picked the zhoug sauce up at Trader Joe’s and Ron and I absolutely fell in love with it. We picked up extra to bring home to Mexico, but the supply didn’t last very long. The answer, then, was to figure out how to make it myself!

Zhoug originated in Yemen but is now enjoyed in many other parts of the world (our friend, Henry, remembers having it while living in Israel). I’m a huge fan of chimichurri, but find that zhoug is brighter, spicier, greener and fresher. I use it on and in everything, literally, and it makes the BEST guacamole when mixed into mashed avocado. Using a food processor, this literally takes 10 minutes to make and clean up. Give it a whirl – literally!

Ingredients

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 Serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed and cut in big chunks
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, washed and dried
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried crushed chile flakes
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Instructions

Place all ingredients (except olive oil and lemon juice) into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Add olive oil and lemon juice and blend into a coarse paste.

Store in a sealed, glass jar in your refrigerator for up to a week (if it lasts that long!).

Instant Pot Chili Colorado

Instant Pot Chili Colorado

I bought an Instant Pot last season and brought it down to Cabo. I’ve had a lot of fun playing with it and experimenting with foods and recipes.

Ron has told me often about a recipe he used to make that he absolutely loved called Chili Colorado. The name has nothing to do with the State of Colorado, but rather the color of the sauce (literally colored red). This is a traditional Mexican stew made with either pork or beef and is wonderfully flavored with the combination of dried chiles used to make it: ancho, pasilla, and guajillo. Please note that these dried chiles should be pliable to ensure maximum flavor – if they are dried out, they will have far less to offer this dish.

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken stock

5 ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 guajillo chiles, stems and seeds removed

2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder (beef roast may be used as well), cut into 3/4” pieces

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

8 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp. ground cumin

2 tbsp.  fresh sage, chopped

2 tbsp.  fresh Mexican oregano, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 – 14 oz. can of pureed tomatoes

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 bottle of beer

Method:

Heat chicken stock in a saucepan. When boiling, add the chiles, then cover and remove from heat. Let sit for about half an hour to allow the chiles to soften. Put the chiles and all of the soaking liquid into a covered blender and purée until very smooth.

Season the pork pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in the Instant Pot using the Sauté function. Add the meat and brown. Add garlic, cumin, oregano. bay leaves, tomatoes, brown sugar and beer. Stir in the chile purée, cover and cook for 30 minutes using the Pressure feature and Pork selection.

The first night that we had this chili, I served it over white rice with a dollop of sour cream on top. The second night, I added some cooked kidney beans (many chili aficionados would baulk strongly at that!) and served it over baked potatoes, again with a dollop of sour cream on top. Neither of these treatments is authentically Mexican, as it would be served with Mexican rice, flour or corn tortillas and perhaps some beans a la charra on the side. However you like to enjoy it, this is a delicious dish that is prepared rapidly with the use of the Instant Pot.

From Mediocre to Sublime

From Mediocre to Sublime

We were invited over to our friend Monte’s for dinner last week. Monte, Ron and I all love mussels, so I offered to prepare them as our contribution to the meal. One of my missions on this last trip to New York was to enjoy as much seafood as possible, so buying mussels at Cor-J Seafood (a great place for the BEST fresh fish and seafood in the Hamptons) and bringing them to Monte’s fit in well with my plan.

Steamed Mussels

Steamed Mussels

I’ve prepared mussels a few times and was looking for a new and different way to do them. In a large stockpot on Monte’s grill, I browned a quarter pound of porchetta (which Ron and I had purchased at Scotto’s, the local pork store in Hampton Bays), cut in small cubes, in 1 tbsp. olive oil, then added a generous pinch of hot red pepper flakes, a medium onion, diced, and one large clove of garlic, finely minced. When the onion was cooked to translucent, I added a bottle of beer and the fresh mussels (approximately 3 dozen) that had been thoroughly rinsed in cold water in a colander (be sure to tap any mussels that are opened and, if they do not close, throw them out as they are bad and should NOT be eaten). Once the contents of the pot were boiling, I lowered the heat to medium, covered the pot, and simmered for approximately 7 minutes or until the mussels began to open. I turned the heat off and added 2 tbsp. butter (for flavor) and 2 tbsp. of fresh parsley, chopped fine, for color and garnish.

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Manhattan Clam Chowder

The mussels prepared this way were fine, but I’ve had better recipes. We had a lot of leftover porchetta/onion/beer/mussel broth left over and I decided to make a Manhattan Clam Chowder the next day to use it up. I found a great recipe for Manhattan Clam Chowder by Sam Sifton in the NYT Cooking App and modified it to make the BEST, and I mean the BEST, clam chowder I’ve ever tasted, or certainly made, in the past. Using the broth from the steamed mussels from the night before created the most delicious broth – seriously, like the best bouilabaisse you’ve experienced. Here’s what I did and what I’ll definitely do again:

1). Over medium-low heat, melt 2 tbsp. butter and added 1 large onion, diced, and 2 large cloves of garlic, minced;

2). Once the onion was cooked to translucent, add 4 ribs of celery and 4 large carrots, all diced into small cubes;

3). Stir in 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed, and 1 litre of low sodium chicken broth and bring to a simmer;

4). Add the leftover porchetta/onion/beer/mussel broth from the night before, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp. of dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. of black pepper and a generous pinch of hot red pepper flakes;

5). When the potatoes are tender, add 1 – 28 oz. can of Italian whole tomatoes and, using your hands, squeeze the whole tomatoes into large chunks and add to the chowder with all of the juice;

6). Add 2 small (284 g) cans of chopped clams with their juices and allow to simmer for 5 minutes;

7). Remove stock pot from heat, and remove and discard bay leaves;

8). Let the chowder sit to allow the flavors to blend and reheat to serve. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and garlic toast or, if you’re on the East coast, oyster crackers (traditionally served with chowders and bisques).

Even though the initial mussel recipe wasn’t my favorite, I would make it again in a heartbeat to repeat this Manhattan Clam Chowder. Like any good stew, this chowder got better and better every time we reheated it and was truly delicious!

Gladstones of Pacific Palisades

We had the chance on our drive up the coast to visit an iconic restaurant, Gladstones, situated on the ocean front on the Pacific Coast Highway (Pacific Palisades) and in business since 1972. The view is spectacular and the surfers were out in large numbers – all competing to catch the best waves on a bright and sunny spring afternoon.

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We had a great waiter, Andreas, whose mother was Jamaican and his father, a chef, German Swiss. As a chef himself, he pointed us to some delicious dishes, both on and off the menu. We started with six Kumamoto oysters, small, sweet and delectable, served with a glass of unoaked William Hill Chardonnay from the California Central Coast (Ron) and a Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand (me). Kumamoto oysters originally came from Japan but are now grown along the western coast of North America. Andreas then suggested that we try his favorite oyster from the British Columbia coastline (from Baynes Sound on the east coast of Vancouver Island), Fanny Bay, which are smooth, firm and flavorful because of the cold water they are harvested from. We enjoyed both varieties immensely.

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Another of Andreas’ favorites that we tried were the steamed white clams cooked in an amazing sauce of garlic, shallots, Fresno chile and white wine. The garlic ciabatta crostini they served with it was perfect to soak up and savor the leftover sauce.

Ron and I shared their market catch of basil pesto crusted halibut, served with roasted Brussels sprouts and finished with a bacon jalapeño jam sauce – delicious! With the halibut, we shared a glass of Cakebread Chardonnay from California’s Napa Valley.

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We’d had a decadent lunch that lasted several glorious hours and decided to finish with a cup of coffee and a shared dessert we couldn’t resist: Banana Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce. This was a truly fabulous end to a memorable meal on an absolutely perfect day. Thank you, Gladstones – your well-deserved legend lives on!

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Mother Mary

Our next stop was to stop to visit Ron’s amazing mother who lives in northern California. At ninety-three years of age (and very soon to be ninety-four at the time of this writing), she is an absolute inspiration! She still lives in the family home of over sixty years, drives extremely well (by anyone’s standards!) and takes great care of herself, her younger siblings and her friend and neighbor, also a Mary, who lives across the street.

Although her back is giving Mary some pain and trouble now and she uses a cane for stability if walking far, she is in amazingly good health. She attributes it to fueling her body all these years with great food, of which I’ll talk more about shortly. Her mind is razor sharp and she has a better memory than both Ron and I combined. Her skin is beautiful and she looks twenty years younger than her actual age.

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Mary drives a great distance to do her shopping at many different stores as she knows which markets carry the best lamb stew meat (which is a different butcher than the one who carries the best leg of lamb, by the way!) and which carry the best organic product (this is all that she buys and uses and is, assuredly, what has kept her and the people she loves in such good health). Her preparation of the food she buys and cooks is representative of the care she takes in all things – “anything worth doing is worth doing right”.

Mary is Portuguesa with both her parents emigrating to the Silicon Valley area (when it was all still farming, orchards and dairy operations) before their children were born from the Azores, a group of nine volcanic islands situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and is located about 1,360 km west of Portugal, 1,510 km northwest of Morocco, and about 1,925 km southeast of Newfoundland. Ron and I visited the Azores and the west coast of Portugal two years ago and were very taken with the beauty, tradition and majesty of this part of the world.

Mary is a FABULOUS cook: the food she selects and prepares is her way of expressing love and you can taste the care she takes in every bite. Her food is simple, with very little spice, but her use of the very best ingredients and her preparation makes each meal memorable. Some of the dishes that we have savored and enjoyed in her home are French toast (made with Trader Joe’s cracked wheat sour dough bread and cooked in olive oil – delicious!), rack of lamb, lamb stew, what Mary calls “boiled dinner” (corned beef with boiled onions, potatoes, carrots and cabbage), kale soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup, Portuguese omelet (made with onions, potatoes and parsley) and so many more! I’m starting to take notes and write down her recipes because one day she won’t be here any longer and it would be a tragedy to lose her recipes and reminders of such a great lady. Here’s Mary’s recipe for her famous and delicious roast beef:

Start with a center chuck roast and ensure that there is lots of fat on it for tenderness. Cut slits into the meat and insert chunks of halved garlic cloves. Heat olive oil in an electric fry pan and sear all surfaces of the meat.

Remove roast from pan and deglaze with burgundy wine. Add 6 whole allspice cloves, two smashed cloves of garlic and two bay leaves, add roast and cover with sliced onion (use two onions and let some of the onion cook in the gravy). Cook at a low, steady simmer (~275 to 300F) for 1 ½ hours. Turn the roast, add more burgundy as required and continue cooking. Keep covered to keep all of the moisture in the pan and to add additional moisture to the gravy.

Remove roast, bay leaves, smashed garlic and allspice cloves. Add a tsp. or two of ketchup (only add more to taste) to cut the acid and thicken with arrowroot (buy at a health food store).

Serve with mashed potatoes, green peas or French style green beans and boiled carrots. Simple, but absolutely delicious!

Mary is very particular about how things are done and there is an absolute right way (hers!) and many wrong ways to do things. I had to laugh when I went to cut potatoes when Mary was once on the phone, only to realize that I had done it incorrectly (by Mary’s standard!). It’s that strength that has kept her so healthy and strong all these years – I can only hope to be enjoying life as she is in forty more years myself!

We stop to see Mary to and from New York and try to spend as much precious time with her as possible. Ron is her first-born child of six and she so loves to spoil him and he so loves to be spoiled by her. I’m just grateful to spend as much time with her as possible. We love her very much.