Tag Archives: photography

HEART OF PALM PUFFS – A GALLERY OPENING

A few weeks ago I had what I thought was a wonderful opportunity. I was invited to show some of my photographs in a nearby artists’ cooperative gallery. I put together about  half a dozen of my favorite images, framed, and matted them. Along with oils, watercolors, pottery, and jewelry from other artists, the photos were arranged for a show.

As is the local tradition, the new show was inaugurated with a Friday evening opening complete with sparking water, wine, and appetizers. Each artist was asked to bring some kind of food, so that set off a perpetual struggle in my mind – what to serve? I found a recipe for chorizo tapas that sounded delicious, but I worried that gallery visitors might get grease on one of the oil paintings. Then I thought of empanadas filled with hearts of palm. I had first tasted them forty years ago at a party held by one of our Brazilian friends.

The bonus that moved me toward this option  was that I had a can of hearts of palm in the pantry. At the same time, making the dough for empanadas seemed like more effort than I wanted so I decided to use frozen puff pastry. The end result turned out to be these heart of palm puffs.

Heart of palm, also called palm heart or palmito, can be harvested from the growing tips of nearly all palms, but  this may destroy the palm. The commercial variety comes from the peach palm, a plant from the Amazon that now is grown throughout Central and South America. It is sustainable without destroying the palm for future growth.  Supposedly you can find fresh palm hearts in gourmet grocery stores, but I have only seen the canned variety.

The gallery opening was crowded, and the puffs disappeared. So did the gallery. What the reader needs to know is that nearly every person who lives in Santa Fe considers himself/herself to be an artist. The other factor is that there may be more galleries than residents. That is a certain formula to assure that many galleries disappear quickly amidst the competition. That was the fate of our co-operative, and my first show did not survive for this post.

RECIPE

Heart of Palm Puffs

Ingredients

  • 1 can (14 ounces) hearts of palm
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup parsley, minced
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Method

  1. Drain the hearts of palm, slice them into ½ inch coins, and marinate them, covered, in the refrigerator, with a little of the liquid from the can, a good sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper
  2. Combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
  3. Thaw the puff pastry according to package instructions. Then on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough so that it is about 1/16 inch thick. It should be large enough that you can cut 40 2 inch squares.
  4. Working quickly so that the pastry does not dry out, place a heart of palm disc in the middle of half of the pastry squares. Top with a ¼ teaspoon of parsley and Parmesan cheese mixture.
  5. Dab the edges of the square with the egg yolk mixture, top with another square, and press the edges together with a fork.
  6. Place the puffs on a Silpat-lined baking tray. Brush the tops with the egg white mixture.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of an oven preheated to 400° F.
  8. When golden brown, remove the puffs from the oven, and cool them on a cooling rack.

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TOSTONES AND GUACAMOLE

When our son, Peter, was in graduate school, he stayed in a run-down house with a number of Colombiano students. The house was on Hillmont Street, so they named the house “Casa Hillmont”. During his time at Casa Hillmont, Peter’s Spanish skills improved markedly, but he also learned to cook Colombian comfort food. One favorite was and is tostones. Tostones are the one way I know of to use plantain. This banana relative usually sits neglected in the produce section of the grocery store. Neglect those plantains no longer because tostones are easy to make,  delicious as a snack, and a great substitute for corn chips with guacamole.

Plantain slices ready to fry

First frying of plantain slices

Smashing a cooked plantain slice with a can

Tostones ready to serve

Guacamole is a Central American dish which has been imported to the American Southwest and eventually to the whole world. Probably that’s because it is easy to make The mellow flavor of the obligate avocado balanced against citrus and chile accents is hard to resist, especially with a corn chip and cold margarita in hand. According to Diane Kennedy, the legendary Mexican cookbook writer, the word comes from two Nahuatl (Aztec) words, ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (mixture). Other authorities say that the word ahuacatl actually means “testicle” referring to the shape of the fruit and its tendency to grow in pairs. More than that, the Mesoamericans reportedly believed that eating the fruit contributed to sexual prowess. Those interesting facts aside, it is easy to eat a bowl of fresh guacamole by oneself.

Ingredients for my version of guacamole

There are probably as many recipes for guacamole as there are cooks who make it. Most traditional recipes include chopped tomato. For me, the version which tends to be favored in Santa Fe is the best. It uses coarsely mashed avocado, lime juice, a little chopped onion, salt, and pepper. Garlic and cilantro are acceptable additions, and chile depends upon your tolerance for heat. I do balk at one addition that you sometimes see – mayonnaise. The Aztecs never used mayonnaise! Honestly, I prefer guacamole with a kick, but because my wife has zero tolerance for chile, I make it without any zest and then sneak a little chile into my portion.

Guacamole in a molcajete ready to serve

The recipes to follow should be enough for two people. For larger groups, just increase proportions accordingly.

RECIPES

Tostones

  • cooking oil
  • 1 ripe plantain, unpeeled and cut in ½ inch  slices (about 12 slices)
  • salt
  • Add the oil to a ½ inch depth in a heavy pan and heat over a medium-high flame. Do not let it smoke
  • Peel the plantain slices and place them in the heated oil. Brown lightly, turn, and brown the other side
  • Remove the slices to absorbent paper, and using the flat end of a large can, smash each of the cooked slices
  • Immediately return the slices to the heated oil and continue frying them until they are browned on both sides
  • Remove again to the absorbent paper, sprinkle with salt, and serve while still warm

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • juice of 1 fresh lime
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and chopped finely
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped (optional)
  • cilantro leaves, chopped (optional)
  • hot sauce (eg Tabasco or Cholula) to taste (optional)
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped (optional)

Method

  • Place the avocado flesh in a medium bowl and mash coarsely with a table fork
  • Add the lime juice and combine with the mashed avocado.
  • Stir in the chopped scallions, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve
  • Add optional ingredients according to your own taste

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LEFTOVER LAMB SHANKS

The day after our farmers market feast, Sarah went off to the restaurant where she was working. Evan slept in after his last night cooking at the restaurant where he worked. Around noon, he volunteered to make lunch and headed out to the kitchen. There were lots of leftovers from the night before, but when he had finished you would not have recognized at all that they were leftovers.

He whipped up a fragrant pasta dish which included the leftover lamb shanks, a reduction of the cooking liquid,  freshly cooked pasta, mushrooms, and some wilted baby salad greens.

Uncooked campanelle pasta

The pasta he chose was campanelle which  with its bell shape and fluting was a perfect choice to hold the sauce. This unusual pasta shape was listed in a catalog of Sicilian pastas at the end of the nineteenth century. You can read more about it in an interesting book,  Encyclopedia of Pasta, written by Oretta Zanini de Vita and translated by Maureen B. Fant (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2009), which describes the history and  making of Italian pasta.

Lamb shanks, campanelle pasta, mushrooms and wilted greens

RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 2 cups leftover lamb braising liquid, strained and de-greased
  • 1 cup campanelle pasta
  • 1 cup leftover lamb shanks, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup baby salad greens
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Bring the braising liquid to a boil and add the campanelle. Boil until the pasta is al dente.
  • Add the lamb  and warm over low heat until heated through.
  • While the pasta is boiling, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes.
  • Stir the mushrooms into the lamb and pasta.
  • Add the salad greens, toss lightly, correct the seasoning and serve immediately.

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CUCUMBER-NORI-SESAME SALAD AND SAUTÉED ROYAL TRUMPET MUSHROOMS: THE FINISHING TOUCHES

Just two more dishes to finish the description of the celebratory meal we had from foods we collected at the Ferry Building Farmers Market. Both are easy to make but surprisingly unique.

Cucumber-nori-sesame salad

The first was a refreshing salad made with amazingly crunchy and green baby cucumbers and fresh salad greens accented with bits of nori and toasted white sesame seeds.

Royal trumpet mushrooms

The second was a delicate sauté of royal trumpet mushrooms with scallions.

Scallions

Sautéed mushrooms and scallions ready to serve

As a bonus not from the farmers market we had a fresh loaf of home-baked Tartine basic country bread made from the recipe in Chad Robertson’s elegant and detailed cookbook, Tartine Bread, Chronicle Books, Ltd, San Francisco, 2010, pages 41-79. (Yes, that’s a long recipe. I plan to post an abbreviated version soon. That should enable you to reproduce the absolutely best home-made bread I have ever tasted).

Fresh loaf of Tartine-style bread

RECIPES

Cucumber-Nori-Sesame Salad

Ingredients

  • 4 small, firm baby cucumbers cut crosswise into ½ inch slices
  • 2 Cups mixed baby salad greens
  • ½ 7 inch sheet of nori cut into ½ inch squares
  • vinaigrette (home-made is the best, but use your favorite)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Procedure

  • Combine the cucumbers, greens, and nori in a serving bowl.
  • Dress lightly with your favorite vinaigrette. If you like, add the optional sesame oil. Toss.
  • Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Should serve four

Sautéed Royal Trumpet Mushrooms with Scallions

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (use EVOO – extra virgin olive oil – if you like)
  • 1 small basket (about 2 Cups) fresh royal trumpet mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 bunch (6 to 8) scallions, trimmed and cut crosswise into ½ inch pieces, including the green tops
  • salt and pepper

Procedure

  • Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and scallions and sauté until cooked through.
  • Correct seasonings with salt and pepper.
  • Serve immediately.

Table set with sweet peas

We set the table with the bouquet of multi-colored sweet peas bought from the flower stall, plated up the feast, and enjoyed it while Evan finished his last day at the restaurant.

Ready to eat

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