Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween ! ! !


"Pasole . . ."

When the Autumn chill goes straight to the bone, there's nothing better than an extra-large bowl of "posole" to warm you up.

Standard garnishes, such as, finely shredded raw cabbage or iceberg lettuce (slightly wilts down in the hot broth), sliced radishes, diced onions, chopped cilantro, cubed avocado, wedges of limes, more limes and extra limes accompany the delicious concoction of chiles, savory broth, pieces of pork, pork back ribs, pig's trotters, pig's tails, and/or chicken and the ubiquitous kernals of hominy. Tostadas and homemade chile salsa complete the dish. "Posole" is a traditional Mexican stew from the region of Jalisco and is always served during "Noche Buena" - Christmas Eve. This comforting dish takes its name from the kernals of hominy or "posole", an essential ingredient.

Lola's is a modern "carniceria", a Latino market that has a small 8 table dining area just before you enter the main market. The counter offers a simple menu. It lists the usual tacos, burritos, and chile rellenos. It offers combos with beans and rice. On the weekends you can order menudo, posole or caldo de 7 mares (seafood soup). I've yet to try the "coctel de camerones" (shrimp cocktail).

Here's a simple recipe for "Posole" using pork shoulder, pork ribs and chicken.

"POSOLE" (poh-SOH-leh)


6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 whole ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
4 pounds pork shoulder blade roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
2 pounds pork back ribs, cut into 2-rib portions
1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 quarts posole or canned white hominy, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

2 onions, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, cut into chunks
8-10 limes, cut into wedges
2 bunches radishes, washed and quartered or sliced
1 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
Dried Mexican oregano
Tortilla chips or tostadas
Hot Salsa (optional)


In a large dutch oven or stockpot, heat a thin film of oil over moderate heat. Add the garlic, onions and chiles. Sauté garlic and onions until transparent. Brown chiles on all sides.

Generously season the meat with salt and pepper. Add to dutch oven or stockpot and cook the pork meat and pork ribs until well browned on all sides. Brown the chicken pieces in the same manner. Pour off any excess fat. Deglaze the dutch oven or stockpot with about 1/2 cup water, scraping any browned bits off the bottom.

To the pot, add 5 quarts of water and bring to a simmer. Add posole, oregano, and pepper to taste. Simmer gently, partially covered, about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve the posole in soup bowls with the garnishes in individual bowls on the side.

NOTE: This is not a dish for one! Buen Provecho!

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fall has fallen . . .

"Crush is well on its way ..."

Being right smack in the middle of "CRUSH", I have left my darling, Ander and our humble home to spend some time in Southern California for both business and pleasure . . .I'll be back just in time for the late harvest grapes to start the dessert wines, my forte.

I will be doing research and spending time with one of my little darlings, S.A., just recently turned 4 years old. She is also my lovely God-Daughter and I always look forward to learning some life's lessons from this dear little one. In the mean time, the sun has made his appearance every day since I've arrived and the beaches have embraced me while I admire the beautiful sunsets. They're awesome. So much so, each sunset I've seen gets an ovation from other sunset admirers. It amazes me how Nature can evoke such actions from us. We are truly moved.

My internet connection has been questionable, but my very generous BIL, has loaned me his much needed laptop for the day so that I can reach out to my loyal blogger friends and send lots of love....!!!

I plan to explore new foodie haunts and perhaps meet up with blogger friend, Kim, at Serve It Forth. Our busy schedules may not allow for this, but it's good to know our intentions are with good effort. So far, I've made my rounds to several ethnic markets, Penzey's, Manhattan Beach Bakery, Martha's 22nd Street Cafe, The Kettle, and my favorite teahouse, Jin's Patisserie. I've even done slight damage at Santa Monica's Promenade. I look forward to the Original Farmers Market and exploring surrounding shops on West Third and Beverly.

Until next post, have a good rest of the week!

Life is a banquest, my friends.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Foodblogger Invitation Dinner . . .

Cookiecrumb has tagged me to join in the meme ... Foodblogger Invitation Dinner

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a Rosemary-Garlic Pork Roast today . . .

"Autumn Display . . ."

Today is wet and cold. The rain is only here for the day. Autumn has made her mark.

Le Maison is finally getting back to a regular routine for meals. We're also back to delicious solid foods. We're pacing ourselves, however.

Ander is busy painting away in the studio creating inventory for upcoming shows and sales. He is in a "poppy" mode as well as Colorado scenes. I'm excited to see his new collection. Here's a sample of the gift given to his Cousin Kersti during her recent holiday visit.

"Poppyfield, Oil on Canvas, 20x24" . . .©ander. All rights reserved.

While I was recuperating from "the Bug", Ander was kind enough to make my meals, at the ready, when the hunger pang would strike. Unfortunately, after a couple of spoonfuls and a bite, I'd be full or lose my appetite. I felt bad pushing my bowl or plate away after my darling hubby had put in a considerate effort. In between my waking moments and my Sudafed induced sleep, I made mention of making him one of his favorite meals. I also promised him to open one of our prized Cabernets, 2002 Silver Oak, Alexander Valley.

Last night was the night. Tuesday night dinner, usually prepared on a Sunday night was a Rosemary-Garlic Pork Roast accompanied with braised red cabbage with apples and slow roasted potatoes. Simple, conserved comfort and sublime satisfaction. Since we had the Silver Oak Cabernet, we skipped dessert. What? Yeah, it would have been over-the-top for a Tuesday night. Instead, a nibble of a dark chocolate truffle would suffice. As most of us know, dark chocolate and Cabernet make a fine duet.

"Pork Roast, Braised Red Cabbage, Creamer Potatoes . . ."

I garnered the pork roast recipe many years ago and as in many of the recipes I've collected, has gone through several tweaks and twitches. I won't leave a recipe here as it is common and can be found anywhere. If you really want it, leave me a comment or send me an email and I'd be happy to oblige.

The original recipe calls for a pork tenderloin, marinated in a rosemary-garlic-olive oil mixture overnight. It is then slow roasted in the oven. I also like to use pork shoulder or pork butt roast, smeared with the mixture for a quick fix, if overnight marinating is not convenient. The rosemary bush we have was the first plant we placed in the garden. It was a cutting from our dear friends, K & J. We've propogated the plant and now several scions are strategically flourishing on the grounds. Through the years, we've shared several cuttings with other friends. It is the herb for "remembrance". When I pass a rosemary plant, I instinctively reach over and run my hands across a branch to release the fragrance of summer, friendships and naturally, a familiar, aromatic comfort.

The Lovely, CookieCrumb of "I'm Mad and I Eat", has a "Share Package" project that consists of sharing some extra's you have on hand from the garden or the pantry, ie herbs, spices, etc. CC suggests us to consider sharing as an "act of kindness". Ander's motto, "Sharing is caring." As the garden transitions to the Autumn season, there are remnants of herbs that linger for that one last pinch. I dry as much as I can or preserve them for the winter freeze. I'm happy to share the bounty. I'm not sure how this works, but it seems simple enough. I'll take the cue from CC. Send me an email and we can arrange to send a "Share Package" to you.

Thanks, CookieCrumb for proposing this great idea. Count me in as a participant!

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Technorati Tag:

Sunday, October 01, 2006

An Apple a Day . . . Autumn Comfort to stay . . .

"Snow White's Dream, er Nightmare . . ."

Hello, my friends. Life is a banquet.

When life takes a turn and decides to do the body good, you surrender.

If you noticed the date since my last post, it is evident that I “checked out” for a couple of weeks. Ander’s Cousin K, from Toronto, came for her annual Autumn visit. As she is expecting in December, it was a wonderful time for her to take in a bit of Northern California’s nature before she begins her new life with “little Pumpkin”. Lady A gave Cousin K the nickname “Pumpkin” as she always takes her holiday in California during “pumpkin season”. However, Little P, is being called lovingly by her expectant mother as “Piibe” (PEE-beh), short for “lily of the valley” flowers in Estonian. During her visit, it was amazing to see her move around in swift, graceful strides. Her nimble body, considering her condition, did not show any signs of the upcoming arrival of “Piibe”. Cousin K was in perpetual motion at every waking moment. You could feel her enthusiasm and excitement for what each day could bring. We had a wonderful time together. We enjoyed meals on the veranda. We brought her a taste of our garden bounty. Heirloom tomatoes galore! Lemon cucumbers abound! Sweet bell peppers a plenty!

"Heirloom Tomatoes . . ."

"Garden Harvest . . ."

She brought us baked delicacies from Toronto that specialized in Estonian baked goods. (I’ll have to give Ivonne, our revered Cream Puff, the heads up – Hillside Bakery.) Alas, the baked goods were being rationed and hoarded by Lady A. The prized delicacies, “Kringal” were to be savored, not devoured. Each bite was like a piece of perfect pleasure.

"Estonian Kringal . . ."

A week before this past Saturday, marked the first day of Autumn. It was also the first day of what I have “self-diagnosed” as “when I caught the BUG”. It wasn’t quite the flu, it wasn’t quite a cold, it wasn’t quite a migraine, it wasn’t quite a stomachache. Just some malady of unknown origin. I suspect it was a combination of all the running around and fun with Cousin K, in addition to “dealing” with Lady A. Poor Ander had to suffice to an array of very simple dinners, ie salad, soup, crackers, salad, soup, toast, salad and yet more soup and crackers. Here’s a shout out for “Premium Saltines”! I'm back on my feet and once again, enjoying putting up some of our garden bounty. I've acquiesced to sharing some of the ripened figs with the country creatures of our property. The bluejays have tasted the fruit from the highest point of the lone fig tree. Deer have munched on the unripened fruit hanging on the lowest boughes and Ander caught a rogue raccoon the other night sitting pretty in the center of the tree trunk. Brazen!

When Autumn comes, I go through a type of metamorphous. Not like a huge transformation, but a slight altered state. My being craves “comfort” as much as possible. The wool blankets are brought out of the closet. Selected sweaters are brought to the cleaners in anticipation of the Autumn night suppers. The flip-flops are put in the back row of the shoe rack and the cozy “Thugg” boots (Legitimate knock-offs of the fashion trendy “UGG” boots) come out from their dormant state of hibernation.

"Applestand . . ."

When Autumn comes, apples are a prevalent fixture at every turn. A recent visit to Stanford Shopping Center illustrated a fabulous display of the multitude of varieties available for our consumption. Our neighbor has a generous Gravenstein tree that is plentiful in supply. I search for the “standard” at the farmer’s market. Whether eaten fresh, out of hand, baked, braised, stuffed or frittered, apples carry a distinctive rank in their status within the food groups. Applesauce is a common food given to young babes once they are introduced to “solids” and capable of the fundamental act of “mastication”. It is a first introduction to “natural” sugar to these little tykes. I remember the first apple I held in my tiny youthful hands. It was no longer sliced or cut in half. It was a “whole” full apple. It fit perfectly in the palm of one hand. It was shiny and red. My first bite brought out the sound of this incredible, “crack, snap and crunch”. The flavor was sweet, tart and luscious. The flesh had speckles of concentrated juice pockets and sugar sacs. I also recall wanting another one as soon as I completely consumed this crimson orb. When Autumn comes, I put together a care package of the locally grown “size two’s” and send them to my little darlings. They are the perfect size for the little ones to handle. I also use this size for candied or caramel apples.

"Apple tree in the orchard . . ."

When apples are abound, a Swedish apple cake is imminent at Le Maison. Although I have several apple recipes collected from my travels, I always rely on my “go to” recipe for this simple, comfort cake.

As a “baking’ apple, the venerable Granny Smith, has always been reliable and highly recommended. ( Savy Sam, has another fabulous opinion.) Since Ander and I live a hop, skip and a jump from Sebastopol, once known as the “apple” capital, we are fortunate to have a selection of varieties to cook with. A quick jaunt to Walker Apple Ranch allowed for me to choose the freshest, crispest and scrumptious main ingredient for my Swedish Apple Cake. Lee and Shirley Walker farm over 25 apple varieties on 30 acres. On the day of our visit, their daughter-in-law, Cindy, was graciously offering tasting slices of the different varieties of apples that had recently been harvested and being offered that day. We tasted Baldwins, Greenings, Winter Banana, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Jonathans and Honey Crisp. We brought back a 20 Pound box of our hand-picked choices plus a few pounds of comice pears. If you're ever in the Sebastopol/Graton area, and want to get a real feel for Autumn, Walker Apple Ranch is the place.

"Apples on the line . . ."

Walker Apple Ranch
10955 Upp Road
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Swedish Apple Cake

Makes 15-18 servings



1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
3-1/2 cups peeled and chopped tart, firm fresh apples
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp. vanilla extract


3 Tbls. butter
3 Tbls. light brown sugar
3 Tbls. granulated sugar
3 Tbls. heavy cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract


In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar; blend well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and salt. Add to egg mixture and blend well. Add apples, nuts and vanilla; mix in with a spoon.

Pour batter into a buttered and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake in a preheated 325 F. degree oven for 1-1/4 hours, or until cake tests done.

Remove from oven and let rest in the pan 20 minutes.

While cake is resting, prepare glaze. Combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream and vanilla in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and continue boiling 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Remove cake from pan and put on a wire rack or platter. Spoon or drizzle glaze over cake. Serve with whipped cream and/or fresh berries.

As Autumn comes, I can once again, begin my journey to countless moments in the “comfort zone”.

What’s your comfort food? Feel free to share…

Life is a banquet, my friends.