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 shared a lovely dinner and stayed overnight with David and his gorgeous girlfriend, Jake, at his newly and beautifully renovated home in Santa Barbara on our way south. When we got back to David’s after a delicious dinner downtown, we found a note on our car that had been left by one of his elderly neighbors to apologize for hitting and damaging the front end of our car which we had left parked on the street. Ironically, we had just had body work done on the BMW convertible in New York and the car was in perfect condition when we started our road trip. We were leaving early the next morning for San Diego, so Ron had to get a repair estimate as quickly as he possibly could before we left the area.
We had picked up a new used car (a 2002 Lincoln LS sedan) in Santa Clara to drive down to ensure that my Mom would be as comfortable as possible as she’d been having recent back issues and we knew there was no way for the three of us and all our “stuff” to comfortably fit and travel in our little BMW. The Lincoln needed a new air conditioning compressor, which our friend, Stretch, had ordered and it was to be waiting for us to pick up in San Diego.
Ron and I fired up our walkie talkies and got our damaged little caravan on the road to San Diego as soon as he was able to get a repair estimate in Santa Barbara. I was really anxious to ensure we got to the airport on time as my amazing little 83 year-old Mom was making her first solo trip – flying from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to meet us in San Diego to drive the Baja to Cabo San Lucas.
We got to the airport a little late and I was panicked. Ron found parking first and went in to find her at the luggage carousel while I found my way back to the airport and eventually secured parking. Ron found her there, as calm as could be, after having made friends with the airline escort who took her by wheelchair to the carousel area and, of course, several other people. Whew!
Ron needed to pick up the part for the Lincoln, so we took Mom to a nearby park and had an impromptu picnic (with the delicious sandwiches and food that we had prepared at Ron’s Mom’s home) and Mom and I had a chance to catch up while Ron was gone. We found a well-kept and clean motel for us, the Best Western Seven Seas (http://www.bw7seas.com), that had adjoining rooms for peace of mind. We had originally planned on crossing the border that day, but Mom seemed a bit tired, so we thought it best to let her get a good rest and we’d go into Mexico the following day.
Mom wasn’t terribly hungry that night, so we got her some soup and brought it back to her room for her. Ron and I headed to Old Town in search of Italian food as both of us had been craving it for some time. We wandered around to check out the sights and settled on Jack & Giulio’s Italian Restaurant (www.jackandgiulios.com) for dinner. The meal (we split Angel Hair Mediterraneo and Scampi Alla Giulio) and the bottle of 2009 Castello di Meleto Chianti Classico were great, but the absolute stand out of the meal was the basil orange vinaigrette they used on the salad we started with: an Insalati Cuere di Palma with hearts of palm, greens, tomato, and avocado. We almost licked the plate it was so good (Ron actually ordered more bread to sop up every drop of the dressing). Here is the closest re-creation of that dressing that I have been able to come up with so far:
Basil Orange Pesto Vinaigrette
½ cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
Add first 7 ingredients to your blender and pulse to chop and blend. Gradually pour in olive oil from the small opening at the top of the blender lid until mixture is completely blended. Chill 2 hours in the refrigerator and serve over greens or use as a dipping sauce for seared scallops or grilled shrimp.
We were really sorry that Mom hadn’t joined us for such a great meal, but she needed her rest after her first solo trip ever and all the excitement of the day. We shared many more great meals with her in the month she spent with us, however, and made some wonderful memories with her.
Although I haven’t finished telling our story about the trip to Cabo, I wanted to write about a fabulous recipe that I tried today (after walking to the top of the Pedregal) from the New York Times.
Here in Cabo, Ron and I have access to the freshest and most amazing ingredients – it really is a cook’s delight. We have an organic market just half a block up the street from us that offers a gorgeous selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, fish, chicken, goat milk dairy products, breads and take-out foods every Wednesday and Saturday. I noticed that one of the vendors, Juan Carlos, had some beautiful fresh sage the other day. I managed to track down some Italian sausage (it can be a bit of a challenge to find some ingredients down here, believe me!) and prepared this dish that we recently found in the New York Times archives:
It was absolutely delicious! I served it with tender mixed lettuce and frisée, diced avocado, toasted pine nuts and a very simple vinaigrette of white wine vinegar with tarragon, olive oil, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
The wine I chose to serve with it was a 2009 McKinley Springs Cabernet Sauvignon from the Horse Heaven Hills of Prosser, Washington. The description on the bottle says:
Working with old vines and newer vines, this cab shows the earthy sage of the old vines and the smoky fruit of the new. Complemented by ripe raspberry, dark chocolate and a hint of spice.
Last year a lovely young couple, Davy and Diana, came into Pancho’s and Ron and I enjoyed some wonderful conversation with them. They contacted us after their visit and said that they wanted us to try some of the wines that they are producing in their small town, Prosser, in Washington state. We were delighted, of course, to try some of the wines that they recommended, and they sent them to friends in Palm Springs so we could bring them back when we were up for the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament in March.
We never did have a chance to try a bottle before we left Cabo last season, so today was the day that we opened one of the four precious bottles that Davy and Diana sent to us. The wine was delicious and paired well with this dish. I selected the wine and worried that a cabernet might be too big for this cream based dish, but the Italian sausage and sage were delightful with this choice.
This is a dish that I would definitely serve to guests and look forward to enjoying again soon (thankfully there are leftovers from this lunch!). Buen provecho!
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.
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.
- Hot sauces are excellent in sauces and stir-fry’s, make quick and handy marinades before grilling food, and are always welcome condiments on the table.
- Research has proven that adding hot sauces to your foods can help your body burn calories faster (up to 45 calories more per meal than if you eat bland dishes).
- When people eat hotter sauces, they experience pain in their mouths and throats. The nervous system reacts to the pain by releasing morphine-like endorphins. Endorphins create a sense of euphoria similar to the “runner’s high” that some people get from exercise. People who regularly eat hot sauces and chiles will find that they develop a tolerance to the heat and will have to eat increasingly hotter sauces to get the high.
- Hot sauces are North American’s favorite way to turn up the heat and add some extra flavor and spice to their food. Most hot sauces are a blend of chiles, vinegar and salt, but many are variations that may also contain ingredients such as carrots, onion and papaya.
- By adding lots of flavor to food with hot sauces, chiles and spices, you can reduce the amount of fat, oil and salt in your diet.
- The stinking “rose”, otherwise known as garlic and a common ingredient in hot sauces, is an excellent antioxidant that can help reduce free radicals that exist in the human body. Garlic reduces cholesterol, clears arteries and helps maintain healthy blood circulation.The true hot sauce collector and aficionado looks for several qualities when evaluating a new sauce: appearance, originality, aroma, heat and flavor. Why not invite friends over for a hot sauce tasting party with evaluation forms for the sauces you’ll be trying? Try each sauce on unsalted crackers or tortilla chips and have some fun.
- Half the fun of collecting hot sauces is laughing at the names that their creators give them. The names are as original as the sauces themselves and range from reference to fire and explosion, animals, religious, crime and punishment, controversial, erotic, naughty, mental health, and western themes. The names and labels make us laugh and represent much of the fun that enjoying hot sauces bring us.