Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Family and Food...

"Life is just too short to waste on a bad meal." ~Marie Simmons
The weekend is over, and family members have gone back to their homes in other parts of Oregon. The weather was rainy while everyone was here, so we stayed indoors, but it was fun and nice to be together. The girls went through the stacks of things I had set aside to give away, and they took most of it. The rest will go to Goodwill.

On request, we had lemon-chocolate chip scones and coffee every single morning. Josiah said that they are the best scones he has ever eaten in his entire life (thank you, Josiah). :-) Even Aaron kept wanting to eat them, maybe because I made them with all-white flour and white (organic) sugar rather than our usual healthier, more rustic version made using whole grain flour and rapadura.

(This is our version of the scones made with whole grains and rapadura. The all-white version is lighter and rises higher-- it looks more picturesque, but I don't have a photo to post. Even the rustic-looking one pictured here is very tasty, though.)

The scones really are good, and I have Tonia to thank for this recipe. I've made a few alterations to the recipe, but I haven't changed any of the ingredients or the ratio of ingredients to one another, so the taste is the same as Tonia's. I cut the recipe in half. Tonia's family adds chocolate chips, and I, similarly, chop a bar of Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate and add the whole thing to the scones with half of the lemon zest before adding the buttermilk. I mix the other half of the lemon zest with organic sugar for the top of the scones. When it's mixed, I press the entire batch of dough into an inch-high (or so) disk and cut it in six wedges. I brush milk or cream on each piece and top it with the sugary lemon zest. Then I place the scones separately, spaced a bit apart, on a hot baking stone in the preheated oven. My whole grain version of the scones bakes for 18 minutes, but the all-white version takes 15 or 16 minutes.

We had a really good Mexican food dinner on Saturday evening. Before we started prepping and cooking dinner, Aimee made a small bowl of delicious guacamole, loosely following one of Deborah Madison's recipes, and put it on the counter with some tortilla chips for anyone who wanted a light before-dinner bite to eat. And then we got to work.

My daughters, Aimee, Michelle, and Melissa, and I all shared in preparing and cooking the meal, with various ones chopping things, others sauteeing vegetables and stirring sauces, someone running the food processor to puree the ingredients for the tomatillo sauce, another one peeling and deveining shrimp, and always someone stepping in to clean up along the way. I really enjoyed being in the kitchen with my girls while my grandsons and everyone else were in and out and about.

We ate two things, both from Rick Bayless' book, Everyday Mexican, and both delicious: Seafood Salad Tacos with Tomato, Radish, and Jalapeno ~and~
Tomatillo Sauced Enchiladas with Spinach and Mushroom (and Chicken). The shrimp tacos were really light and fresh-tasting and just right. We had those first, and then we cleaned off the plates and served the enchiladas, which are a lot more delicious than they might sound. I made some of the enchiladas without chicken to serve to Josiah and Aimee, who don't eat meat (except for seafood, occasionally).

Rick Bayless is a respected chef (winner of last year's James Beard award for Best Chef in America), and when I read these recipes and looked at the pictures in Bayless' cookbook, I knew the food would be very good, but I didn't expect it to be as delicious as it was. It was light and fresh-tasting (the kind of eating I like best) and not heavy with cheese or too-creaminess. I highly recommend this book, Everyday Mexican. The flavors of everything I've made from this book have exceeded my expecations. It's key, though, to use really good ingredients.

It was nice to sit and eat and visit with the family. And when the meal was over, and we'd all pitched in to clean up the dinner mess, a few rounds of Telephone Pictionary were played while I brewed and served Mexican Coffee. I topped the coffee with a little bit of fresh whipped cream and a tiny sprinkling of grated Mexican chocolate, and everyone enjoyed it. It was a nice finish to a truly yummy dinner.

I just discovered Mexican Coffee last week, thanks to my son, Aaron. He phoned me and told me that he'd seen Rick Bayless on OPB making "Cafe de Olla" in a French press. He began describing the process and listing ingredients, and it sounded delicious. When we hung up the phone, I went right online to see if I could find a recipe. Indeed I did, but it was an old one by Bayless and was slightly different from the method Aaron described to me. I printed the recipe and gave Aaron a call. He filled me in on the details that were missing from my online recipe, and I made a pot almost immediately. I loved it!

Traditionally, in Mexico, this coffee would be made in a clay pot, and it would actually be kind of fun to try, but I'll go with my French press. It works. Just today, I found a link to
Rick Bayless' French press recipe for Cafe de Olla. I have been making about half this amount of coffee, and I don't make a syrup (so my version is easier, and it tastes good), plus I add whipped cream to mine, which is not part of Rick's more authentic recipe. Here's how I make it:

Put 5 T. fresh-ground, dark roast coffee in the bottom of the press.
Add the zest of about 1/4-1/2 of an orange.
Add two to four inches of cinnamon stick (I chop into one-inch lengths).
Add 1/4-1/2 t. whole cloves.
Add a little less than 1/4 cup rapadura (piloncillo would be more authentic, or use brown sugar with some molasses)
Pour 15-16 oz. hot water (just off a boil) to the pot and stir.
Put in plunger, but don't let it touch the brewing coffee.
After four minutes, press down the plunger and serve.
I made whipped cream and dolloped some on top of the coffee.
Then I grated some Mexican chocolate and sprinkled it on top of the whipped cream (for a garnish).