Frioles de olla in Tijuana

 

Yesterday, I made frijoles de olla at my apartment in Tijuana. I left early in the morning to walk to the central market across from the church on 2nd Street. There, I bought two dry cured chorizos, a pork shank cut into small pieces, some chicken thighs and some beans.

On my way home I realized that I didn’t have the proper pot for cooking my beans. As I turned into the alley that leads to my house, a man was walking towards me selling earthenware pots or cazuelas. I asked how much for the one hanging over his right shoulder. He said “120 pesos, but you can have it for 80.” I gave him 100 pesos (around $8.00) and told him to keep the change.

I headed up the stairs to my apartment and started preparing my lunch. I first boiled water in the new cazuela to get it ready for cooking. Next, I sautéed onions, garlic and bacon and added the beans. I covered it all with chicken stock and let simmer for about an hour. On the side, I fried the chorizo in a bit of olive oil to bring out some if its delicious, red colored fat. I added the pork shank and the chicken and browned them in the chorizo oil. After browning the meat, I added it to the beans,  threw in a few Serrano  chilies for spice, and let simmer to another hour.

The beans turned out great. The quality of the meats from the small carnicería added a ton of flavor, and the clay casserole was the perfect cooking vessel. I plan on eating this at each meal for the next few days!

—Morgan Walker

Yummy in a pot

(Morgan Walker is on assignment, as we say in the news biz. He is based in Tijuana for a few months, developing recipes for new menus for Ann Walker Catering. And, as you can see, for his own pleasure.)

The Taste of Summer

Gazpacho topped with cheery tomatoes, served with a cheese crisp

Gazpacho. Linger over the word. Taste it on your mental palate. It’s the taste of summer, the taste of ripe fulfillment.  Dip your spoon into the richness of the essence of tomato.

Gazpacho. Nothing like it.

One of my favorite scenes in Pedro Almodóvar’s great film, ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ is when Carmen Maura throws together a kind of kindergarten version of gazpacho—tomato juice, olive oil , a few cloves of garlic and salt in a blender.  Better than a year of therapy for the stressed out Maura.

One of my most memorable gazpachos was at a beachfront restaurant in Sanlucar, one of the sherry towns of Spain. We were having lunch with José Ignacio Domecq, Jr. of Pedro Domecq of the Domecq sherry family.

The restaurant, Mirador Doñana, (www.miradordonana.com)  overlooks the beach and, as the name suggests, the Parque Nacional de Doñana wildlife refuge across the broad, shallow estuary of the Rio Guadalquivir, the ‘big river’ of the Moors.

The Doñana is a major stopover for migratory birds. There are upwards of 125 species of birds that breed in the park, including 17 varieties of duck. The park is also home to the endangered Spanish lynx.

The lunch, which as you might guess featured seafood,  started with a small bowl of Gazpacho, served with a glass of chilled Manzanilla, straight from  the Domecq cellars.

Lovely.

A few days ago, a friend who is a master gardener, brought a generous gift of ripe tomatoes to my kitchen. There was nothing for it but to make Gazpacho, as you can see in the photo.  (Note the frico, an Italian-style cheese crisp, on the edge of the plate.)

Gazpacho can be as simple as Carmen Maura’s in the film but it can be much better with the addition of onion, red bell pepper, maybe a little cucumber, maybe a few crusts of dried bread, some chopped cilantro, a dash of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar. Give it a salsa beat with a Jalapeño pepper. Oh, and good olive oil. You can play around with it to suit your taste. Don’t forget the salt. The taste of summer.

If you want a recipe, just for reference, see “A Season in Spain” by Ann and Larry Walker.

—Larry Walker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Is Everywhere

 

One of the questions I hear from our clients: Do you use local sustainable ingredients?  People in the Bay Area are hip to this concept.  They see it in the local press.  They see it espoused on local restaurant menus.

And, YES we do!  And, we here on the west coast are not alone.

On a recent trip to the Miidwest I saw and tasted the same trend. I spent some time in Chicago, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio and found the same passion and skill that fueled the food scene in California.  I also found that chefs there were looking in their own backyards and local farms to stock their pantries.

Here are a few sample virtual tastes, beginning with Chicago.

Blackbird

(blackbirdrestaurant.com)

We were not able to get a dinner reservation at Blackbird on short notice, but we did squeeze in for a late lunch.  Blackbird is not far from the Lake, on busy West Randolph Street,. It has a sleek almost industrial look. A vibe that says, ‘Hey, it’s happening here.’ We opted for the three course prix fixe lunch. It was about the best $22 we’ve ever spent for lunch.

My meal began with confit of octopus ( the octopus is cooked in buttermilk) with pea porridge and dill seeds garnished with a tiny salty meringue which I didn’t really understand why is was there, but it tasted good.

Then, wood-grilled sturgeon with smoked green cabbage, fried enoki mushrooms and walnuts with a smear of kkaffir lime across the plate.

The enoki mushrooms at Blackbird

My desert was Valrhona chocolate draped Pain Perdu with pistachios buttercream and candied beets. Long plate, of course.  Oh my!

Longman & Eagle

(longmanandeagle.com)

This is a relaxed and easy-to-like take on a traditional Chicago bar-resaurant. Chef Jared Wentworth is passionate in his quest for local ingredients, insisting on  a  farm to table, “nose to tail” approach.  The menu changes with what is available, sometimes daily. If you don’t have a good time here, you have serious problems.

Our server had just returned to Chicago after working in San Francisco for several years.  His heart was yearning for San Francisco but his head knows that working three jobs just to make his rent in this city is a bit crazy.  He can have a job and a life in Chicago.

Slagel Farm Hen eggs featured at Longman&Eagle are what eggs are supposed to taste like.  Slagel meats are on the menu, too.  My asparagus-rhubarb salad with a one hour Slagel egg, pickled red onions, Werp greens and shaved goat cheese makes me want to get my reservations to fly to Chicago next spring.

Oh, and they rent out rooms, too.  Four rooms.  I liked the one with the footed tub in the middle of the room.  Now, that’s sexy.

The Purple Pig

(thepurplepigchicago.com)

The motto at this Near North Side Michigan Avenue restaurant is ‘Cheese, Swine & Wine’ to which I would add, Wow!  It is the place to be after catching the early show at Blue Chicago, a blues club just a few blocks away on North Clark Street.

Fava beans, baby leeks and a hard cooked egg with crispy prosciutto was my starter.  Standots in my memory was the cheese plate: Green Hill Camembert from Georgia, and the 2001 Viña Tondonia Reserva Rioja.

Well, the point is not to urge you to go to the airport and grab the next flight to Chicago, but to remember to be mindful of what’s on your plate, wherever you are eating.  Remember to connect locally, to look beyond the same tired theme chain restaurant and seek out real local food.  Your palate will thank you.

Next time, on to Cleveland and Columbus.

(Ann Walker Catering will never offer you a cookie-cutter menu. We design the menu for your event based on what you want, not what is convienent for us.  We also take into consideration what is in season. We use local and organic ingredients whenever possible.)

—Ann Walker