Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weekend Edition: Tamales

This is a rather late weekend update, but I just couldn't get these photos processed in a timely manner. So, in the spirit of better late than never, here is a glimpse of last weekend's time consuming cooking project-- red molé pork tamales in banana leaves. As I've mentioned, my mom just came back from Oaxaca City. She usually carries pre-made packages of molé with her, which we hoard for special occasions in our freezer, because nothing can match molé from the source. Unfortunately this year her molé was taken from her at the airport (she didn't check her bag, grr), because the security personnel considered it a liquid/cream. Another guard argued with the first, but alas, the molé was seized. So, back in the states with no molé we ventured out to our local Mexican giant super-market, Pro's Ranch Market. They sell green and red molé in cubes at one of their deli counters. Below is their red molé. It was definitely different than the black molé that Mom would have brought us from Oaxaca, but it turned out to be delicious.

I talked about how I prepare the sauce before cooking the meat in it, here in a comment response to Maggie. After sautéing the onions I definitely mixed the paste into the dry pan and let it cook for a few minutes to darken it up, stirring constantly, before adding broth. In this case I was using thick cut pork chops as the meat, and I had browned them in the pan and then put them aside and used their fat to make the sauce. Adding the browned meat back in, it simmered on the stove top for an hour or so, until the meat was tender enough that it would shred like I wanted it to.

I used this cazuela that my mom had bought on a previous trip to Mexico. Its a very light weight pottery, but it cooked everything beautifully. I hadn't used it before, but I liked it. I'll definitely use it more often.

Once the meat was cooked and shredded I poured the sauce over it and refrigerated it over night. That was just a time saving measure because we were going to make the tamales on Sunday morning, and I wanted to minimize the prep time.

Molé tamales often have a banana leaf wrapper instead of corn husk. The banana leaf adds a different flavor to the tamale that goes well with the rich sauce. We bought ours at Pro's Market. As you can see, banana leaves are huge! They tear really easily though along those ribs, so its easy to get the small size that you need to wrap the tamales. They smelled so fresh, like green bananas, I wish the internet could capture smell.

The leaf has to be heated over a flame or steamed to soften it so that its flexible enough to wrap the tamale.

We used a pre-made masa, the corn dough, bought at Pro's Market.

Then the tamales are cooked over steam for 45 minutes to an hour.

They come out looking like this.

And the best part, they taste divine! We made about two dozen, ate a few, and then froze them in packages of four tamales, to enjoy on weekends over the next couple months along with some champurrado.

Friday, January 22, 2010

If Only

Diane von Furstenberg Irridescent Seersucker Jacket in Bronze, on sale for $128.24 at Saks.

Sigh. If only I could afford this today. Sometimes the need to be extremely frugal doesn't bother me at all, and sometimes it pains me not to be able to buy what I like. Maybe its just that its raining and chilly and a shiny jacket would make everything seem brighter today. Plus it's blazer/windbreaker hybrid cut appeals to me. If only there was a fashion fairy. You could donate clothes to a thrift shop and the fashion fairy would leave something new under your pillow in return.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rainy Morning

It rained all night and has been drizzling all morning. Its not too cold out, so its actually a nice change, but being stuck inside might make for a slightly gloomy day. I'm going to counter act it by having a fire in the wood stove, guaranteed to make things more cozy.

I'm also going to post a photo of a little natural dye experiment that my mom and I took on this weekend. My mom saw a white fuzzy growth on a cactus that someone had thrown out with their trash, and having just returned from Oaxaca where they use cochineal as a dye, she thought she may have found some. We carefully scraped off some of the fuzz, looking for a beetle inside, and crushed it on this sheet of paper, looking for the signature pink red dye. It was there! Then I dissolved some in water, because one of the coolest things I saw in Oaxaca a few years ago was a fountain that spewed blood red water-- the water dyed with cochineal. I ended up with water dyed this lovely rather Barragan pink (above). Totally cool.

Cochineal fountain at Oaxaca's Ethnobotanical Garden, taken in January 2006.

Detail of the red water made from cochineal dye pooling at the base of the fountain.

Rooftop patio at the house and studio of Luis Barragán, taken in January 2006.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Molé Revisited

My tasty lunch on Monday was designed to use up the molé enchilada ingredients. Pinto beans with just a touch of molé added and queso fresco, and quesadillas with goat cheese and more molé as a filling, accompanied by spiced apple cider. Totally simple and spicy. Delicious!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nesso Lamp

This morning the Nesso table lamp by Artemide showed up in two different sneak peeks on Design*Sponge. It reminded me how much I like it. I particularly like it as a bedside lamp, as seen in the image from the Flor catalog down below that has been in my inspiration folder for a couple of years. $360 from ylighting. I don't know if I like the white or orange better.

via the Design*Sponge sneak peek of the home of Rion Nakaya.

via the Flor catalog-- 2007-ish?

A couple of other modern lamps have been in my inspiration folder:

The Toto Cube lamp available at DWR $275.

The Miss K lamp by Philippe Starck for Flos, available at ylighting, $288 on sale.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Overwhelming Sky

One of the good things about having dogs is the necessity to get up early to let them out. Last week I shot this little movie because the sky was just so gorgeous and full-- of color, birds, and airplanes. My speedy camera work might make your head spin, but I didn't want to edit the parts together because it would lose its sense that all of these things were in the sky together. One of my goals for the year is to improve my tiny film editing skills. I know they are non-existent now. I'd also like to get a little HD video camera. All I have now is my point & shoot digital camera. [edited to say that I need to figure out a better way to embed video, this makes it so small and pixelated that you can't even see the birds or airplane plume-- sorry!]

Sunday Morning

So I was just sitting here, at my kitchen counter, where I always sit when I'm online, and I heard a little dog snore behind me. I turned around and saw this.

Gert, the black dog almost never sits in that chair and the fact that she's there now means she must think I'm about to eat breakfast or something, and she wants to make sure Simon doesn't get any tasty morsels while she's out in the other room. Usually she sleeps on the couch in the living room. Simon, the orange dog, is always on the rug behind my chair. Gert will never sit in the other chair, because I never sit in the other chair. Pets. So awesome.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year

Its a new year and with the holidays over its right back to the grind. I was up early to get the dogs fed and the recycling out to the curb before 7:00 am. It was freezing out, and now at 8:30 its only warmed up to 20° F. The thing is, it was gorgeous out, with frost covering the ground and cranes flying west from the river to some of the open fields to graze a little. I said good morning to the neighbor's horses who came to the fence hoping for a treat, and gave them what I could find, a couple of handfuls of frozen wild mustard and some pasture grass that migrated from someone else's field to our acequía. That's the beauty of a new year, it makes the things you see every day look beautiful again because it imbues hope and promise. Here's to the New Year!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Frugal Christmas

This morning I was over at my mom's house and was happy to see that all of our flowers from Christmas were holding up nicely. It made me think that it was an excellent $16 spent. And then I realized that I spent a whole $22 on Christmas decorations this year. Yep, frugality. I love the way it all turned out too.

I bought two "Christmas Bouquet's" from Trader Joes two days before Christmas for $7.99 each, then I took them home and separated each bouquet into individual types of flowers. I reassembled the roses, cedar branches and large white mums into a traditional flower arrangement for the sideboard, then I took the white carnations and more white mums and broke them down into small vases that fit into the all white table setting scheme. I took some garishly green small mums and put them in a matching vase for the bathroom, and finally took the alstroemeria and put it in a plain pottery vase and took it to my house, where its currently looking lovely on my butcher block counter.

I wove small branches from the yard into a make-shift flower frog inside the vase in order to hold the stems up.

Those cut glass votive holders, along with a cut glass plate that I used to hold hor d'oeuvres, were responsible for the remaining $4 of my budget. Purchased for 50% off at a local thrift store on the same day as the flowers, they fit the white and sparkly theme that I settled for.

For the other Christmas decorations I used things I already had--

This mexican tin Christmas tree that was fairly expensive for my post-college budget ten or so years ago, but is easy to store and looks festive year after year. (And becomes multi-denominational since the only candles I can ever find that fit the little holders are for a menorah and usually come in blue and white-- plus, that six pointed star at the top totally makes me think this tree was made by crypto-jews, which many of the hispanic New Mexicans who settled here in the 17th Century apparently were).

The Christmas chandelier, as I dubbed it, cost $2, for the mini-string of lights that I bought at Target. The ornaments were those I already owned, and the tree branch came off the big wood pile on the property.

My favorite decorating idea was to throw a bunch of old photos out on the coffee table for guests to look through and laugh. About half our guests had never met each other, but we've known all of them for years, so I focused on trying to find old photos of everyone who was there. I thought it would be a good ice-breaker. Then I threw in old pictures of my mom and uncle, because Christmas Eve is my mom's birthday and the day has to celebrate both. And finally family holiday photos spanning the decades. (Including me with 90s hair, because if you want people to laugh you have to let them laugh at you too).

This is a better picture of the red carpet that I bought on ebay for $30 (including delivery) a few months ago. It became part of the dining room display by covering part of the makeshift floor in front of the buffet. Not part of the $22, but definitely a frugal purchase.

In my final act of frugality, I'm having a couple of friends over tonight, and am using up some of the holiday groceries by making molé enchiladas with the rest of the leftover chicken.