Friday, August 25, 2023

Home Away in Santa Fe!

Entrance to my charming adobe on Canyon Road!
I just returned from a spectacular visit to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico! I started my visit with a walk along the historic plaza with it's overpriced and mostly imported goods for sale. I then strolled along the Palace of the Governers, which is the oldest continuously occupied government building in the US, built 1609-1610. The Palace of the Governers is your best bet to purchase authentic Native American jewelry, which is strictly regulated by law. Along with visits to the St. Francis Cathedral, the Loretto Chapel with it's magical staircase, the Santa Fe School of Cooking, the Blue Mesa Alpaca Ranch, endless art galleries, and a road trip to Taos, my favorite part was staying in a hundred year old adobe on Canyon Road! Not only did it provide very comfortable accommodations for my family of four, having a kitchen provided a nice respite from what I felt were some pretty disappointing restaurant faire, except for The Teahouse, which was the best meal we had and steps from my adorable casita! 

After returning home with a heavy heart, a Navajo bracelet, and ristras in tow, I wanted a delicious meal that payed homage to the vibrant colors and flavors of my beloved Santa Fe. I searched through my spiciest cookbooks and decided to make "Seared Salmon with Spinach and Creamy Roasted Peppers" from Mexican Everyday, by Rick Bayless. While this recipe utilizes delicious roasted poblanos, it is the surprising addition of spinach that makes it truly spectacular! Rick suggests serving this with roasted potatoes, but I feel a light salad and baguette is all that's needed for a vibrant meal that echoes the Santa Fe experience! If I had a restaurant in Santa Fe, I would serve this!

Seared Salmon with Spinach and Creamy Roasted Peppers

Serves 4

2 fresh poblano chiles
10 ounces cleaned spinach (about 10 cups)
3 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1-2 tablespoons masa harina (Mexican corn "flour" for making tortillas) (or all-purpose flour)
1 1/2 cups milk, plus a little more if needed
Four 4-5 ounce (1-1 1/4 pounds total) skinless salmon fillets (snapper, halibut and catfish are also good here) (I didn't bother removing the skin.)
Salt and ground black pepper

Roast the poblanos over an open flame or 4 inches below a broiler, turning regularly until blistered and blackened all over, about 5 minutes for an open flame, 10 minutes for the broiler. (See Techniques for more information.) Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel (or plastic wrap) and let cool until handleable.

Place the spinach in a microwaveable bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, poke a few holes in the top and microwave on high (100%) until completely wilted, usually about 2 minutes. (If your spinach comes in a microwavable bag, simply microwave it in the bag.) Uncover (or open the bag) and set aside.

Turn the oven on to its lowest setting. Heat the oil in a very large (12-inch) skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium. Add the garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until soft and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the garlic into a blender. Set the skillet aside.

Rub the blackened skin off the chiles and pull out the stems and seed pods. Rinse the chiles to remove bits of skin and seeds. (Fyi: I was taught to NEVER rinse the chiles under water, so I never do!) Roughly chop and add to the blender, along with the masa harina and milk. Blend until smooth.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat. Sprinkle both sides of the fish liberally with salt and pepper. Lay the fillets in the hot oil and cook until richly browned, about 2-3 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the fillets, and cook until the fish barely flakes when pressed firmly with a finger or the back of a spoon (you want it slightly underdone), usually a couple of minutes longer for fish that's about 1 inch thick. Using the spatula, transfer the fish to an ovenproof plate and set in the oven.

With the skillet still over medium-high, pour in the poblano mixture and whisk until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes to blend the flavors. If the sauce has thickened past the consistency of a cream soup, whisk in a little more milk. Taste and season with salt, usually a generous 1/2 teaspoon. Add the spinach to the sauce and stir until it is warm and well coated with sauce.

Divide the creamy spinach among four plates. Top each portion with a piece of seared fish. (Or, if it seems more appealing to you, spoon the sauce over the fillets.) Serve without delay.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

What I want to eat when it's freakin hot outside!

Today it's 99°, with a heat index of 110°!!!! Ick!  I'm so sick of the heat and the dreaded question of "What's for dinner?"  At times like this, I immediately think of the ultimate, quick, hot weather food from Rick Bayless's Mexico One Plate at a Time. Black bean-chicken tostadas with salsa and tangy romaine makes a perfect dinner that no one in my family will turn down. My version simplifies things by buying packaged tostada shells, a rotisserie chicken, using my favorite salsa, and a couple more tweaks. In fact, this is so fast that I pull this out when I'm in a pinch for time.

Black Bean-Chicken Tostadas with Salsa and Tangy Romaine

One package tostada shells
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1, 15oz can black beans or frijoles negros, drained
Kosher salt
2 cups shredded chicken (use a store bought rotisserie)
3/4 cup mexican crema or sour cream (I can find crema at my local mexican market. It's awesome and worth looking for!)
1 cup or so of your favorite salsa (I like a tomato/jalapeno type for this recipe)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, cotija, or even shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups loosely packed, thinly sliced romaine
chopped tomatoes and cilantro for garnish

For the beans:
In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat.  When the oil is shimmery, add the onion and cook until golden, approximately 7 minutes.  Add the garlic until you can smell it (about a minute, no more).   Then add the beans.  Using a potato masher, mash the beans until they are soft and creamy.  Add a little water, if necessary.  Don't worry about lumps.  It should be lumpy but still smooth.

For the tangy romaine:
Toss the romaine with the vinegar and olive oil and about 1/4 teaspoon salt.

To serve family style (or you can plate to make it more special):
Put out the tostada shells, bowl of shredded chicken, bowl of beans, the tangy romaine, crema, salsa, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, and cheese. 

To assemble:
Take a tostada shell and spread the bottom with the delicious black beans.  Top with some chicken, romaine, salsa, crema or sour cream, and cheese.  Garnish with the tomatoes and cilantro.  Enjoy and don't forget to tell your kids to lean over their plate!!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Who are you calling Shrimp?

People have been eating shrimp since prehistoric times. There are recipes from Apicius, an ancient Roman author, in his cookbook of the same name, compiled in the late 4th and early 5th century AD. Clay vessels with shrimp decorations have even been found in the ruins of Pompeii, from the 1st century AD. "Squilla" is the Latin word for shrimp, while the word "shrimp" is derived from Middle English "shrimpe," meaning "puny person." Don't let these little guys scare you! They may have high levels of cholesterol, but only 1/3 of that compared to an egg. In addition, they are an excellent source of low calorie protein, selenium, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are all very good for you!

I love shrimp, especially grilled! This recipe for "Grilled Herb Shrimp," originates from the New York Times Cookbook. It is so easy and absolutely delicious! First you marinate the shrimp in an herby mustard marinade, then grill it up in a matter of minutes! In addition, any leftover shrimp are delicious cold as a snack,  perfect for jazzing up any salad, or for whatever use you may want! You can skewer the shrimp, as I did here, to make it easier to grill. If you don't have a grill, you can broil them, 3 inches from the flame about 2 minutes a side.

Grilled Herb Shrimp

Serves 6


3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 lbs shrimp, peeled (tails left on) and deveined (For information on peeling and deveining shrimp, click my Techniques tab for a very helpful video!)


Combine the garlic, onion, parsley, basil, mustards, salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice in a non-reactive (glass) dish. Add the shrimp and allow them to marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. (I marinate them overnight.)

Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals, and brush the grilling rack with oil to prevent the shrimp from sticking. Grill the shrimp for 1 1/2 minutes on each side, or until cooked.

Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!, by Ina Garten.