So, seeing that it is still summer, and staying with the ethnic food theme this is about one of the many things I learned in New Mexico. I loved living in New Mexico and the food there is quite unique and different from other places in the Southwest. At this time of year the green chili is harvested and the air is everywhere filled with the aroma of roasting green chilies . In every grocery store parking lot there is a big metal mesh drum full of chilies being turned and roasted. If you have never been to New Mexico you may not know how ubiquitous green chili really is. You can buy a green chili bagel, a green chili muffin, and on and on to some very unlikely combinations. In every New Mexican cuisine restaurant you will be asked “red or green?” Which means do you want your enchilada smothered in red chili or green chili and understand that it will be almost a purée. It is a condiment, not a chili Texas or Arizona style.
Which brings me to guacamole, one of my favorite salads, and yes, I mean salad. In New Mexico if you ask for guacamole you are likely to get a purée, a condiment, much like the chili. If you want that wonderful stuff you scoop up with a corn chip you have to approach it with a different mind set. And make no mistake, you cannot use the beautiful large smooth green Florida avocados which taste like butter but are completely inappropriate for guacamole. I take about 3 ripe but not mushy avocados and just put large pieces in a bowl. Dice up at least a half of a sweet onion very tiny and chop a nice ripe tomato, that can be mushy. In a perfect world, scald and skin the tomato. Fresh lime, cilantro, cumin, salt, finely chopped jalapeño (or not) or a dash of Tabasco, garlic. I just cut through it with a small knife until mixed and chunky. To get it totally mixed you can use a spoon but try to keep the texture chunky. [tweetshare tweet=”Once you make a New Mexican guacamole salad you will never go back. You may tweak it and make it your own but you will never be satisfied with the store bought stuff again. Mucho gusto.” username=”@tmeyers”]
So a few weeks ago, we had an Italian night inspired by the over growth of my basil plants and an overpowering need to make a pesto. We cheated just a little on the “Italian” theme by having a fresh gazpacho as a starter and in place of a salad. The recipe is my dad’s who lives on through my collection of his handwritten or annotated print recipes and includes no binding bread as would a classic. We also like it a bit “greener” than the classic with more cucumber. In lieu of the bread binder we top it with homemade garlic croutons and sliced avocado. The secret ingredient is V-8.
Next was the classic pesto with toasted pine nuts and fresh basil over linguine to accompany a nice chicken piccata, a recipe I particularly like that does not have wine but rather chicken broth, butter, shallot and capers. All with grilled asparagus on the side. Mind you I haven’t made pasta in a very long time, it isn’t something we eat often although we love it so this was a wonderful treat; the result of starting a tiny herb garden in my back yard. (if it doesn’t thrive when left in God’s hands, it doesn’t stay).
Dessert was the Cook’s Illustrated Lemon Pound Cake which I love, with macerated mixed berries with orange zest and fresh whipped cream.
So that is the menu, now to the friends. We strive for laughter at our dinners and it is usually in great supply. On this particular occasion, our friend Phil was recounting an encounter he had in the elevator in his building. A woman he had never met or seen asked him if he was single, to which he replied he was. Forward, you say? Keep in mind we are mostly in our 60’s around here. She then asked what floor he lived on, digging further and further for specifics. Ultimately she said something along the lines of “oh my, where has a handsome single man like you been?” To which Phil replied, deadpan I am sure, “Federal Prison”. She thought for a moment and then inquired “what for?” We assume this was to determine whether he was still an eligible catch, depending on the severity of his crimes. He responded “Gun smuggling and money laundering” which ended the conversation.
Feel free to leave me a comment for any recipe that sounds good to you and I will post it. and I obviously need help learning to upload photos to WordPress!