Tag Archives: pico de gallo

FAJITAS – HIGH SEASON IN SANTA FÉ

It is clearly high season in Santa Fé. Nearly everyone has visitors, and tourists jam the Plaza. Our own first visitors were two of our grandchildren, and so we tried to have kid-friendly meals that they could help make. When their parents came to visit and pick up their kids, we planned an easy meal for their arrival. We needed something that could wait in case their plane was late. Fajitas came to mind, so I started getting them ready the day before their arrival. The first thing to do was to trim and marinate the skirt steak. Skirt steak, called arracheras  by Mexican cooks, is actually the diaphragm muscle which separates the chest and abdominal cavities. It is well-flavored but tough, so it has to be prepared to make it tender. The first thing to do is to strip off the pleura and peritoneum (the linings of the chest and abdominal cavities respectively). That is an easy but necessary step, using a sharp, pointed knife to cut at  the demarcation line between the steak and the fibrous linings. An overnight soak in marinade, followed by grilling over hot coals are additional steps to create a tender meat for the fajitas. I got the recipe for the tequila marinade from The Sunset Southwest Cook Book (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, CA, 1987, p. 45). If you don’t want to use tequila, just substitute more lime juice.

I had to deal with some of the food dislikes within the family. Some don’t like onions or even things that touch onions. Some can’t tolerate piquant chiles because of food sensitivities. Some don’t like avocados. Because of all these variables, I grilled the onions separately from the meat. Instead of classic pico de gallo (rooster’s beak), I made what I call pico de gallina (hen’s beak) without the jalapeños. I omitted the guacamole, but I would encourage you to include it in your choices of fillings.

In the end, everyone seemed to enjoy the modified fajitas.

The next day  we became inveterate tourists, trying to pack in as many events as possible.

There are lots of things to choose from: the Santa Fé Opera is high on the list, the Chamber Music Festival, dancing on the Plaza, riding the Rail Runner train, visiting the Bandelier ruins, hiking in the mountains, visiting the Shidoni Foundry, swimming at the community center, visiting the many museums, and eating, eating, eating.

The first day of the visit we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana, a quirky place away from town with great Cuban food. My daughter and I went to Whole Foods for the picnic for our tailgate dinner that evening at the opera. The opera tailgate is totally unlike the ones you may have attended at a football game. People show up in tuxedos and long gowns with candelabra, white tablecloths, fancy silver, and elaborate food on tables in the middle of the parking lot. Years ago we spent hours getting ready a fancy feast, but we now just go to the market for wine and food.

Following our festive meal, some of us went to the opening of La Traviata. It was our twelve-year-old granddaughter’s first opera and she was excited. She watched intently to the end and shed a few tears when Violetta died.

The next day my wife and I visited the Opera Ranch, the grounds of the Santa Fé Opera where singers, musicians, and technicians gather, practice, and enjoy the beauty of the area. Afterward we had lunch at the Tesuque (Te-su’-kay) Village Market, a combination country store, wine shop, gourmet bakery, and rustic café serving typical Northern New Mexico meals like huevos rancheros and green chile cheeseburgers.  It is very popular with locals.

The kids enjoyed the Shidoni Foundry where bronze sculptures are cast on commission from all over the world. The sculpture garden is filled with some amazing, interesting, and beautiful pieces. The foundry is near the end of Bishop’s Lodge Road, named after Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy, a Frenchman who built a French-styled cathedral on the plaza of very Spanish/Mexican Santa Fé. He had a beautiful summer retreat along the road; the retreat has subsequently become a posh resort.  The archbishop was also the model for  the protagonist in Willa Cather’s famous novel, Death Comes for the Archbishop.

The kids and their parents rode the Rail Runner train. We shopped on the Plaza. We took a short hike in the mountains until we retreated in a thunderstorm. We had another great meal at another favorite restaurant,  Taberna La Boca. Finally my daughter made her famous “Law School Chicken” at the kids’ request. My granddaughter specifically forbade me from writing about “their secret family recipe.”

Then time ran out, and the visit was over.

RECIPES

Tequila Marinade

Ingredients

  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup tequila (may substitute lime juice)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
  2. Set aside until ready to marinate skirt steak

Pico de Gallina

Ingredients

  • 2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1-2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and chopped (optional)

Method

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use

Fajitas

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of membranes
  • 1 batch tequila marinade (recipe above)
  • 3 bell peppers (red, yellow, or green) seeded and sliced into strips
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced into strips
  • 1 dozen large flour tortillas
  • 1 batch pico de gallina (recipe above)
  • sour cream

Method

  1. Combine the steak and marinade in a plastic zip bag. Refrigerate overnight, turning frequently to coat the steak on all sides.
  2. When you are ready to cook the fajitas, prepare a hot fire in either a charcoal or gas grill.
  3. Place the steak over the hot fire.  Grill for about 7 minutes. Then turn over and grill for an additional 7 minutes. Baste frequently with reserved marinade.
  4. Meanwhile, place the sliced peppers and onions in a fire-proof grilling basket and place on the grill. Stir or turn occasionally until caramelized on all sides.
  5. When the steak is done, transfer to a cutting board. Arrange the grilled vegetables in a serving bowl.
  6. Rest the steak, covered with aluminum foil for 5 minutes before slicing thinly on the bias.
  7. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas.
  8. Invite each diner to make his or her own fajita with sliced steak and grilled vegetables on a warmed tortilla. Add pico de gallina and/or sour cream as desired.
  9. In a group that is not avocado-averse, fresh guacamole is a welcome addition.
  10. Roll and eat.
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HAUTE CUISINE IN THE WILDERNESS

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

Cooking

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

Tabbouleh

RECIPE

Tabbouleh

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

  • 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.

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