February 2011


In early February I made a short trip down to Todos Santos, Baja California, MX, to visit my friend Donna who is the artist who works with the art-science fusion entomology course I teach in the fall. Donna has made quite a career out of doing ceramic public art in California and all over the world. A few years ago she bought property in Todos Santos and has built an artist commune of sorts where she has had an artist retreat for two years called Heaven on Earth. This is one side of the little apartment we stayed in and some other photos.



It was one of the most relaxing vacations I’ve ever had. We spent a lot of time doing art in the studio–I painted and Donna worked on ceramic pieces for a fountain she is building. I did a painting from start to finish in just 5 days! I don’t think I’ve done that since high school. It definitely makes me want to do it more often. (Below: my painting and Donna and me in front of a whale statue her son made.)


Besides art, we did yoga, ran a local 5K race, went dancing, drank coffee, and ate lots of tacos, huevos rancheros, and other things involving tortillas. One night we got tacos from the “restaurant” next door to her house and I made salsa verde for them. Ideally I would have used roasted tomatillos, but the oven wasn’t working, so I opted for a fresh tomatillo recipe. Honestly, the fresh version wasn’t as good as the green salsas I had down there, but it was nice and zesty and super simple to make. I’m looking forward to trying the roasted version whenever tomatillos are around this summer!

——————————————–
Salsa verde
from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

I wanted to make the roasted version of this salsa, but the oven wasn’t working, so I opted for the fresh version instead. I included both recipes here.

Ingredients
8 ounces (5 to 6 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
fresh hot green chiles, to taste (roughly 2 serranos or 1 jalapeno), stemmed
5 or 6 sprigs fresh cilantro (thick stems removed), roughly chopped
scant 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
salt

Directions
Whether you choose the verdant, slushy, herby freshness of the all-raw tomatillo salsa or the oil-colored, voluptuous, sweet-sour richness of the roasted version, tomatillos are about brightening tang. The buzz of the fresh hot green chile adds thrill, all of which adds up to a condiment most of us simply don’t want to live without.

For the All-Raw version:
Roughly chop the tomatillos and the chiles. In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos, chiles, cilantro and 1/4 cup water. Process to a coarse puree, then scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

For the Roasted version:

Preheat a broiler.

Roast the tomatillos and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler until darkly roasted, even blackened in spots, about 5 minutes. Flip them over and roast the other side, 4 to 5 minutes more will give you splotchy-black and blistered tomatillos and chiles. In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatillos and chiles, including all the delicious juice that has run onto the baking sheet. Add the cilantro and 1/4 cup water, blend to a coarse puree, and scrape into a serving dish. Rinse the onion under cold water, then shake to remove the excess moisture. Stir into the salsa and season with salt, usually a generous 1/4 teaspoon.

Advertisements


After years of observations and careful analysis I have pin-pointed the major causes of my unproductiveness in grad school: perfectionism and its close relative, the fear of failure. And after a couple of days of wondering why I never write on this blog I realized it’s for the SAME REASONS! Namely, I want every picture of every step of the cooking process to be perfect and for each entry to be clever, poetic, or some other adjective to describe good writing. Well, the real kicker is that, although I’ve been really proud of some of my photographs, it’s really hard to get a nice picture when you don’t have great natural light, aka when it’s dark outside aka when most of us cook. So the only times I get “successful” photos is when I play hookie from school and cook in the afternoon or when I cook on the weekends.

Secondly, I rarely get a photo of the final product when I make something I’ve worked hard on or am really proud of because it’s either for a dinner party or it just disappears too fast. I always feel ridiculous pulling out my big camera in front of people to take pictures of food. I’m even shy about doing this around my roommates. Finally, while I’m a decent writer, I’m not particularly funny in writing. And I desperately wish I was. I mean, why else would anyone want to read this? It’s not like I’m a cooking expert with anything genius to say…

Well, I’ve decided to just get over all of this. I’m going to start writing posts with imperfect pictures and sometimes with very little text if I don’t have that much to say. My main goal over the next few weeks is to get out all of the back-logged posts (imperfections and all!) and share food that I like with whatever people read this. Hopefully there are a few of you…

Today for lunch I made these eggs poached in tomato sauce topped with grated pecorino romano cheese and served on toasted bread. I’ve been making this all the time ever since I found it on smittenkitchen.com about a month ago. It is my new favorite quick meal. It’s so wonderful because pretty much any tomato sauce will work. So you can follow the tomato sauce recipe below or use the leftover homemade mushroom pasta sauce like I did. It’s genius!!!

You’ll notice with this post that I didn’t take any pictures of the process of cooking this. If you want that, check it out here. In the meantime, I’m gonna keep gorging myself with tomatoes and eggs and relish in the flexible grad student lifestyle that allows me to do this on a Tuesday afternoon…

——————————————–
Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce
from the smitten kitchen, inspired there by Martha Stewart

This tomato sauce is pretty good, but if you have another tomato sauce (in a jar, or leftover from another meal) on hand, that will also work. Just reheat it in a sauce pan/ dutch oven and start at step 2.

Ingredients
1 can (14 ounces) tomato puree
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Big pinch of sugar
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Glug of red wine (optional)
4 large eggs
4 slices toasted country bread, for serving
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions
1. In a small skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil; season with sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 to 20 minutes minutes. A few minutes before it’s done, I like to add a glug of red wine and let it simmer for a moment.

2. Gently crack eggs into tomato mixture, cover, and let cook 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, uncover, and let stand 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Transfer each egg to a piece of toast. Spoon over sauce, garnish with cheese, and season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.