Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Going for a walk...

So today is the day.  I'm off on an adventure.  Am walking el Camino de Santiago ("Way of Saint James"), a 500-mile pilgrimage across the north coast of Spain.  This Camino commences in France's Basque country (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, which, by the way, hosts a terrific farmers' market every Monday).  Walking the Camino is something I've wanted to do ever since we drove (and ate) our way across Spain in 2010.

Not exactly sure (yet) why I feel the desire to do this?  I keep telling people it reflects mid-life uncertainty, as I ponder the next stage of my life.  I wavered for a while on whether to embark on this trek across Spain.  But something kept calling to me, take the journey.

First, I bought a pair of trail shoes and broke them in exploring Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Next, a backpack.  And then slowly started gathering other supplies, thinking all the while this stuff could be returned if I change my mind.  I hesitated with the purchase of the airline ticket.  Once that was taken care of, there was no turning back.  In the back of my mind, I knew all along I would make this journey.  If I didn't, I knew I would always think, what if?  Refuse to live my life with what ifs, so here I go.  I'm off...

Look forward to sharing my experience with you along the way (check out my Instagram page for photos) and blogging about it upon my return.

To all my fellow pilgrims who will be making the journey, Buen Camino!  See you in Santiago de Compostela.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Heirloom Bean and Poblano Enchiladas with Guajillo Sauce

Recently discovered Rancho Gordo Beans.  Was curious to try them given all the positive "press" (rave reviews). Were they really that good?  Worth the price, at around $6 for a 1-pound bag? They're just beans after all, right?

To most, a bean is just a bean, but to some a bean signifies so much more.  Rancho Gordo beans are open-pollinated, heirloom beans.  Open-pollinated?  Heirloom? What's so special about that?

Well, choosing open-pollinated, heirloom beans (as well as other plants) conserves genetic diversity and prevents the loss of unique varieties.  Heirloom plants are difficult to grow and generally do not fair well on a large-scale agricultural level.  Rather, it is the small family farm that keeps such traditions alive, with seeds passed from generation to generation, preserving unique and diverse plant genetic traits as well as growing methods.

That's all fine and well, but how do these beans taste?  Creamy.  Luscious.  Tender.  Everything you want in a bean.

Plus, a pound of dried beans produces nearly 7 cups of cooked beans.  That's a lot of beans. That's a lot of bean breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

It's hard to go back to other dried beans once you've tried Rancho Gordo.

Today, I made bean and poblano enchilada using Rancho Gordo Rebosero beans, which they describe as having 'lacy lillac-colored markings reminiscent of a local rebozo (or shawl), hence the name rebosero."

The cooked beans were lightly mashed with some of the delicious bean cooking liquid, along with herbs, spices, and chiles.  You can make the beans in advance and reheat such that preparing the enchiladas is a snap.  Just fill your (corn) tortillas, roll them up, layer in a baking dish, cover with enchilada sauce and cheese, and bake 15-20 minutes.  I garnished the enchiladas with some quick pickled red onions, chopped cilantro, and thinly sliced scallions.  Lime wedges on the side.

Dinner is served.

The orange sauce is a smoked cashew chipotle sauce.  It's my latest addiction.  It's a little smoky and a little spicy.  I want to put it on top of everything....

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Roman-Style Pizza

Fresh tomatoes and basil just SCREAM pizza to me.  Nope, summer is not over just yet.

Even though I live in the land of great pizza (NYC baby), still enjoy making my own.  While I love a slice of New York's finest, I have equal affinity for Roman-style ever since I tasted Gabriele Bonci's pizza in Rome in 2011 (oh yeah, am still dreaming about it after all these years).

Not sure what Gabriele Bonci does to his pizza, but it's damn good.  Maybe it was the fact that I was in Rome on a warm summer's night -- nicely tanned after a peaceful few weeks spent exploring Sicily -- with a glass (of nerello mascalese) from Mt. Etna (albeit, in a plastic cup), sitting on a bench enjoying a simple dinner with Patrick.  Whatever "it" was, it left a lasting impression.

While Bonci stresses using the best quality toppings, his pizza is really all about the dough/crust.  I've been trying to perfect my Roman/Bonci-style pizza for years.  The recipe for his dough comes by way of Elizabeth Minchilli (an American food blogger living in Rome) by way of Bonci himself. While my pizza is good, with its nice crispy crust, soft chewy interior, and super fresh toppings, it will never be as good as his. Bonci is a true master at what he does.

Oftentimes, simple is best.  When it comes to pizza, I like it simple -- good quality tomatoes, freshly made mozzarella (not by me, by someone else; although, making my own mozzarella has crossed my mind, perhaps another time), and basil.

The dough, with a basic tomato sauce and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, is first baked and then the toppings -- a good amount of mozzarella and basil -- are added after the pizza comes out of the oven.  The mozzarella melts a bit on top of the steaming hot out-of-the-oven pizza.

This pizza has a nice crispy bottom with a tender chewy interior.  The key to crisping the bottom is to place the pizza (on a baking sheet) on the floor of your oven for the first 5 minutes, but no longer (in the past I've completely charred the bottom of my pizza when I inadvertently left it on the oven floor for the entire cooking time).

Not certain what variety of tomatoes these are, but they're pleasantly sweet and juicy...

The dough is alive....

To make the dough, you gently mix and fold, and then the dough goes in the refrigerator for a slow 24-hour rise.  The next day, bring the dough to room temperature and you're ready to make some pizza.

Here are a few photos of the process (am still trying to perfect this part)...setting the timer and posing in front of the camera as I'm preparing the dough is not conducive to the process.  But you get the gist.

I like a lot of sauce (and tend to go easy on the cheese).  And a nice drizzle of extra virgin olive oil...