Monthly Archives: June 2012


I am sure that my UK blogger friends are looking at this thinking, “What in the hell does he know about shepherd’s pie?” They are probably right even though this is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. Detractors should be aware that the US Southwest is sheep country, and we eat a lot of lamb. It is also true that we have a hard time resisting putting green chile in just about everything. I suspect that someone has even made green chile ice cream.

Cooked lamb ready for the pie

Canned chopped green chiles

Chopped potatoes

I have tried to be true to the basic recipe while making it a uniquely Southwestern (USA, that is) by using local ingredients. That means roasted Hatch green chiles, asadero cheese ( a cheese that is made with a method similar to that used for mozzarella. Curds are cooked gently in hot water and then stretched. It is popular in Mexico and the southwestern United States, but if you can’t find it you can use mozzarella or even Monterrey jack.)  You could also use the Mexican cheese, queso fresco, and if you can’t find that, fresh farmer’s cheese will do.  As with real shepherd’s pie, the main ingredient is lamb.

Ready for the oven

Americans often like to douse their shepherd’s pie with ketchup (I hear another UK shudder), but this version seems to cry out for pico de gallo. This is a salsa made with fresh ingredients. The name means “rooster’s beak” in Spanish. There are several explanations for how the name came to be, but none sound very likely.

Baked and ready to eat


Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 8 ounces, green chiles, chopped (fresh, frozen, or canned) Heat according to your preference
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, shredded between your palms
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup water or vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup asadero cheese, chopped or grated
  • ¼ teaspoon Cholula hot sauce (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted, for top


  • Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it shimmers. Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent, stirring frequently to prevent browning.
  • Add the ground lamb and continue to stir until the lamb is lightly browned
  • Stir in the  green chiles, cumin, oregano, and garlic. Continue to cook for a few minutes until the ingredients are well combined. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the flour and stir until everything is well coated. Cook long enough (5 minutes or so) so that the flour loses its raw taste.
  • Add the water or stock and stir until the gravy thickens. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Add more water if you want a thinner gravy. Set aside for final assembly
  • In the meantime, peel and cube the potatoes. Put them in a medium pot with salted water. Bring to the boil and boil for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  • Drain the potatoes and pass them through a potato ricer. Stir in the butter, cream, and grated cheese. Add a dash of hot sauce if you wish and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Butter the insides of an oven-proof casserole. Pour the meat mixture into the prepared dish, top with the mashed potatoes, and paint with melted butter
  • Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 325° for about 60 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo


  • 1 large, ripe tomato
  • ½ yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 green onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped, including the green tops
  • 2 fresh Anaheim chiles, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • A generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped coarsely
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Blanch the tomato for 10 seconds in boiling water. Then peel, seed, and chop coarsely
  • Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust the seasoning, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Serve like any other salsa. Use generously on the Southwestern Style Shepherd’s Pie.

Southwestern style shepherd’s pie with pico de gallo on the side



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


A few weeks ago, that great blog, Baking with Sibella, featured a beautiful rhubarb and strawberry galette. More recently, Sibella has shown us how to make a rhubarb and strawberry sauce. Such inspiration!

I remember days in my grandmother’s back yard in the spring. She had three very old and very large rhubarb plants growing under a huge cottonwood tree. The leaves of the rhubarb were enormous – and of course inedible – but the children would pick a stalk, pull off the outer rind, sprinkle a little salt, and then pucker up our mouths from the sour-salt taste. That was fun while we waited for the sweet rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb has been a feature of our local farmers market for several weeks, and strawberries are just now becoming available. It’s the beginning of summer, and I think of rhubarb as a harbinger of spring. Never mind that my seasons are messed up, rhubarb and strawberry pie seems like the perfect thing to bake right now, so here goes:


Pie Crust


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/3 cup ice water


  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Then cut in the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles fine crumbs
  • Stir in the ice water using a fork to combine. Pull together any loose crumbs, and pat the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Pie crust mix after cutting in the vegetable shortening

Rhubarb and Strawberry Filling

Stalks of rhubarb

Diced rhubarb


  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups rhubarb (6 to 10 stalks, depending on siz), cut crosswise in ½ inch pieces
  • 1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled

Fresh strawberries

Sliced strawberries


  • In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, salt, and vanilla extract.
  • Add the rhubarb and strawberries. Mix well

Final Assembly


  • pie dough and filling from above
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons turbinado sugar

Baked pie on the cooling rack


  • Preheat oven to 450°
  • Remove the prepared pie dough from the refrigerator. Divide in half.
  • Roll out one half of the dough into a circle large enough to line a 9 inch pie pan
  • Roll out the remaining half of the dough for the top crust.
  • Transfer the rhubarb and strawberry mixture to the empty pie shell.
  • Dot the top of the filling with the butter and cover with the top crust. Crimp the edges of the pie and cut off any extra dough.
  • Cut several vents in the top crust. Paint the top lightly with the egg white mixture using a pastry brush. Then sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
  • Bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 350° for 40 minutes longer or until done. Be sure to have a pan on a lower shelf of the oven to catch any drips. If the edge of the crust gets too dark before the pie is baked, shield it with a ring of aluminum foil.
  • Cool on a baking rack.

Ready to eat


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


The other evening we had some friends over for dinner. I had tasted a bottle of Spanish granacha, Cruz de Piedra, at our neighborhood wine tasting the week before, so of course I thought of making paella in our back yard over our open fire pit. It turned out to be Spanish night with manchego, membrillo, white anchovies, paella, and chamomile/lime flan with home-made cajeta. I was pretty proud of the result, and then I discovered that our friends’ daughter, who runs the first food truck in our town, serves paella on a regular basis. Not only that, she writes a food blog where she has done a very complete and scholarly description of the history and traditions of paella. You can read all about it on her blog,

Paella on the fire pit

We still had a good time at our gathering, and cooking the paella over an open fire was the hit of the evening.

We enjoyed some of the Cruz de Piedra, along with some vinho verde in deference to the Portuguese and a warm evening. Our friends brought a tasty green salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette along with a crusty batard of farm bread.

Dessert was a classic flan except that it was flavored with chamomile and lime. I served it with the traditional caramel topping but along with cajeta made with fresh goat’s milk.

As evening came, we just relaxed on the patio and watched the sun go down.

Paella is one of those things where you can just do whatever you please except for the required rice and saffron. The recipe that follows is the version I chose for the evening.

Ready to eat




  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 2 chorizo sausages, one diced and one sliced crosswise
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into ¼ x 1½ inch strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2½ cups Arborio rice
  • 2½ cups fish stock
  • 2½ cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon Spanish saffron (no other)
  • 8 clams
  • 8 mussels
  • 8 large shrimp, shelled except for the tail and deveined
  • ½ cup fresh or thoroughly thawed frozen green peas
  • 4 medium squid tubes, each cut into 4 pieces


  • On the stove, heat half of the olive oil over a medium high flame. When it is just shimmering, add the chicken thighs, skin-side down. Brown the chicken until the skin is crisp and brown, turning frequently so the chicken cooks through completely. Drain the chicken on paper towels and set aside. You may want to refrigerate if dinner is a long way away.
  • Add the sliced chorizo to the hot oil and chicken fat. Turn frequently until lightly browned. Drain the cooked chorizo on paper towels and set aside.
  • Add the pancetta and diced chorizo to the still hot pan. Stir frequently until the pancetta is just slightly browned but not crispy. Then add the onion, tomato, pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are well wilted, liquid has boiled  off, and the mixture is a thick sauce. This is the sofrito. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • About an hour before you plan to start the paella, build a fire in the fire pit. Although a wood fire is traditional, charcoal briquettes are perfect.
  • Back in the kitchen, pour out the oil and chicken fat from the pan. Add the remaining olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Then add the rice, stirring frequently until it is well coated.
  • In the meantime, combine the fish and chicken stock in a large pot and bring to the boil.
  • When the rice is evenly coated stir in the sofrito, salt, and saffron. Then pour in the boiling stock, and bring it back to the boil.
  • It is now time to take the pan out to the fire pit. Be careful not to spill.
  • When the pan is firmly set on the grate, make sure it is bubbling gently. From now on, don’t stir.
  • Now it is time to add the other ingredients. First arrange the chicken thighs around the outside of the pan. Then put in the sliced chorizo. After a few minutes, place the clams, hinge side down, deep into the rice. Next add the mussels, and then the shrimp.
  • Sprinkle the peas over the top. Then check to see how everything is going. Add more water if needed. Stir only if the bottom seems to be burning.
  • Cooking should take around 20-30  minutes, depending upon the heat of your fire.
  • Just 3 or 4 minutes before you think things are done, bury the pieces of squid in the rice. They will get tough if you cook them too long.
  • Serve immediately.

Chamomile/Lime Flan


  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 bags pure chamomile tea (some have mint or other herbs)
  • rinds of 2 limes
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 quarts boiling water


  • Preheat oven to 300° and set out 4  6-ounce ramekins
  • In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir but continue to boil until the mixture is a light amber color.
  • Working quickly, pour some of the caramelized sugar into each of the ramekins, turning them so the caramel coats the bottoms and sides. Set aside.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan,  heat the cream to a simmer along with the added tea bags and lime rinds. Heat for about 10 minutes. Then stir in the sugar, and remove from the heat.
  • Let steep off the heat for another 10 minutes. Then strain into a bowl.
  • In the meantime, combine the eggs and egg yolks in another bowl, using a whisk. Make sure that they are very well mixed.
  • Whipping constantly, Pour a small stream of the heated cream into the egg mixture/ Not too much so that the eggs don’t scramble. Add a little more of the heated cream to temper the eggs, and then pour that mixture into the cream, whipping to combine completely.
  • Pour the egg and cream mixture into the prepared ramekins.
  • Arrange the ramekins in an oven-proof pan which will hold them comfortably.
  • Pour the boiling water into the pan ust to the level of the tops of the flans, being careful not to get water in the ramekins.
  • Transfer to the middle of the preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. The centers of the custards will still be soft.
  • Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the flans to cool completely in the water bath. They will finish their cooking as they cool.
  • Cover the cooled ramekins with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour and even over night.
  • To serve, run a thin spatula around the edge of each flan. Invert over the serving plate. The flan should slide out easily. If it does not, twist gently and it should come free.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants


Beginning of small rapids

Running the rapids

This last weekend we spent three days on a raft trip down a wild part of the Rio Chama in northern New Mexico. The trip was sponsored by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance., who are working to preserve the river.  The river and its immediate environs are currently a federal wilderness study area. If the Congress approves the plan, this beautiful river and the surrounding mountains will be designated a Federal Wilderness Area which will ensure protection of the unique, fragile, and beautiful environment. We tagged along for the adventure and to see the scenery The Wilderness Alliance is working hard to obtain wilderness designation, so their staff also wanted to look at the river.

The raft trip was run by an outfitter from Taos, New Mexico, named Far-Flung Adventures.They brought a virtual flotilla for our trip, including three paddle boats, a supply boat, and four inflatable kayaks. There were three boatmen and a single boatwoman, all of whom were extremely friendly, helpful, and competent. The trip was filled with relaxing floats, shite water rapids, sunny skies, and spectacular scenery.

What we were not expecting was the food. All of the supplies, including the food itself and the portable kitchen had to be carried with us on the river and through the rough water. Our anticipation was that we would get a lot of cold sandwiches, hot dogs, and hamburgers. Wow, were we in for a surprise.

Our first lunch was a delicatessen spread just an hour or so after we first boarded the boats. That evening we had a wide selection of cheese and dips to go with wine or beer. Then there were grilled chicken tacos with fresh-made pico de gallo along with fresh spinach, almond, and mandarin orange salad. To top it off, there was a chocolate cake with icing, baked in a three-legged Dutch oven.

Big steaks ready to grill


Then there were tabbouleh, pasta salad with artichoke hearts, tender steaks, grilled salmon, and a cherry cobbler – again done in the Dutch oven.

Ingredients for the cherry cobbler

Brent ready to serve the cherry cobbler

I wound up gaining 3 pounds on what I thought was a wilderness expedition.

On top of all that, we had live music and poetry recitations from the multiple-threat boat crew.

Brent playing his guitar

This turned out to be a memorable trip, and one that I would highly recommend. You are pampered as much as you would like, or you can be strenuous in the kayaks to work off all those good calories.

Fresh fruit

Vegetable garnish





  • ½ cup bulgur
  • 2 cups fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • ½ large red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Cover the bulgur with boiling  water and let stand for ½ hour until soft. Place the soaked bulgur in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze as dry as possible
  • Combine the bulgur with all of the remaining ingredients, adjusting seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and serve.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes