I have not been in the kitchen since last Friday… Actually I am lying there as we were invited by some neighbors to an outdoor Mother’s Day bash on Saturday. The men were preparing various fish dishes for the Mothers and after sitting around for a while sipping wine I decided to help with the prep-work as I did not want to interfere with the cooks. The did a huge salad with octopus, battered deep fried fish filets and shrimps, deep fried fish, grilled fish, grilled stuffed fish in aluminum, dried shrimp soup and all kind of other fishy things. It was an afternoon meal and we returned home past midnight well fed and well drunk. Luckily we live walking distance from there.
Sunday was spent visiting my mother in law for Mother’s Day, which is actually on the 10th here, thus yesterday, but the family got together on Sunday instead. We had a light meal of ham and cheese sandwiches and salmon sandwiches, followed by gelatin and cake. We returned home early and yesterday was spent trying to resolve some emergencies so we really did not have much time to cook. Normita prepared a nice chicken noodle soup with chipotle this time, and with the cooked chicken breast she made the soup we had some nice chicken tostadas. For those who do not know tostadas are corn tortillas that are fried or oven baked until crisp. For the sake of healthy living we have been buying the oven baked ones for years now.
They can be used as a side dish, or as we did as the main fare. They are normally topped with a variety of things and what we did is butter them with cream, followed by a sprinkling of salt, then a layer of shredded chicken, some avocado, a bit of grated Parmesan and some Valentina hot salsa. Very nice and tasty and we had the same again today as we both had soup and chicken left. We will see what we do tomorrow depending on if we have time to go food shopping or not. Since things have been hectic for the past few weeks and we have not had time to go shopping, we may need to improvise again…
After I wrote the previous post about inspiration I hit the kitchen directly to prepare the tomato salad as I wanted it to cool down a bit once prepared and it could do so while I took my shower. I looked into the larder and found 4 small tomatoes that were good, a small bag of olives and I collected other assorted ingredients including some fresh basil from the plant growing wildly in Normita’s office. Starting with these ingredients I assembled the salad.
I have been doing those kinds of salads for over 25 years and I love the basic combination of tomatoes, basil, and olives. I normally prefer something like a Kalamata olives, but the only thing I found was a small bag of Spanish olive filled with peppers. They are overly salty so I rinsed them a few times in water to tame the saltiness. Assembling a salad like that is very easy, as you just make layers of ingredients starting with the thinly sliced tomatoes. Thus went it the tomatoes followed by cubed apples, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, shredded Oaxaca cheese, grated Parmesan cheese, the fresh basil, ground coarse salt, a fresh grind of black pepper, some balsamic vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.
You the build the salad layer by layer until you have no more tomatoes. The process is simple. The salad that it yields is very tasty and I like to return it to the refrigerator for a while so the flavors gets well blended and that it gets very cold. I like fresh tomatoes to be very cold. I remember in another life when I was young and handsome, that often during the hottest part of summer when I was working on afternoon shifts from 2pm to 7pm. Before I left for work I would prepare a similar salad to that one with Kalamata olives and feta cheese to keep with the Greek olives, and I would put it in the refrigerator and eat it when I returned home after work. By that time it was ice cold like I like it and the flavors were blended to perfection.
Once the salad was ready I put it in the refrigerator, did the dishes, and I then hit the showers. We sat down and relaxed a bit in front of an electric fan as it is still like a furnace in here. We had this cold refreshing and tasty salad and all of the problems of this stressful weeks we just went through just disappeared.
When we sat down to eat Normita reminded me that I had forgotten to put some walnuts in the salad, so I added a handful of them in each of our plates over the salad. It made a nice addition to the salad.
The heat wave that has hit central Mexico in the past week has debilitated us completely. People think about Mexico as a very hot place with beaches and jungles, but actually here in the center of the country the average temperature is nice and pleasant all year long without any extremes of heat and cold. You have to remember that the center of Mexico is a very high altitude plateau and that Mexico City is at around 7500 feet and where we live is closer to 8200 feet. We even have an active volcano within 25 miles that is close to 18000 feet, the PopocatÃ©petl. Thus we are accustomed to temperatures in the mid-70’s at midday almost all year long, and when it raises to over 90F our systems do not cope with it. I am from Quebec where I was used to extremes of temperature from -45F in the winter to over 95F and humid in the summer, but after living here for over 7 years you lose your adaptation to those extremes.
What does that has to do with inspiration? I have been cooking since I was a little kid when I started baking cookies with my grandmother when I was probably 4-5 years old. Being in a kitchen are amongst some of my earliest memory, and I have a sense of piece and accomplishment when I am working in the kitchen. I am used to the extreme heat of a working kitchen, but when I sit in my office trying to accomplish some work, concentrate on something, or plan what we will eat next and it is over 95F like it is now, my inspiration dies instantly with my transpiration. When you are in the eat of the kitchen you have a task and a goal, and you concentrate to reach it no matter how uncomfortable you get. Here in the office I am slowly dripping bit by bit to the floor, and creating a big puddle under my chair.
Yesterday we did not publish a Daily Express column as Normita was out at a school event with our nieces, and she had something to eat there. It was so hot that I did not even eat anything as I was not hungry. When Normita returned we decided to wait until it cooled down at night and see what we would eat. By 9pm we finally relented and went to eat something and she had the little bit of leftover chicken salad, and I had cold leftover rice from earlier in the week or last weekend. We had a few bites and that was it.
We both woke up starving and had some of the nice banana bread I baked earlier in the week and a nice grapefruit. Now it is getting late again and I have no real inspiration to prepare anything. The heat is not helping, but the fact that it is so hot up here that we do not have the energy to drive down the hill to the store where it must be over 110F in the sun is killing my creativity. Since we did not go shopping we have nothing fresh in the refrigerator. I looked around in there for inspiration earlier, and found a large moldy onion that was starting to sprout, a few old tomatoes, some limp radishes, and some potatoes. Not a great source of inspiration for a great meal.
As I am sitting here I am wondering what I will finally prepare and at least I do not have to prepare a “Menu du Jour” for a restaurant today, as I would simply tell people that the kitchen is closed for the day. I am sure I will figure out something in time. Normita is currently in the shower to refresh herself and I will go do the same soon. After that, refreshed, I am sure that the inspiration will come. Even just thinking of cooling down is helping a bit.
Let’s see… Since I have nothing fresh except those tomatoes, what could I do with them? If they are still firm and nice maybe just a simple tomato salad. Sliced ice-cold tomatoes with some fresh basil, bits and pieces of nuts, some olives, cheese, a sprinkling of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and whatever else the inspiration brings when I get into the kitchen.
See? It was not that difficult. When I cook for ourselves or invent new recipes I let inspiration direct me. Cooking for others is a different thing as some experiments are better left behind the kitchen’s door. Do you hear that, young chefs of the world who are dying to cook something different? There are some reasons that after thousands and thousands of years that some things are not combined in strange ways that are not pleasant. Probably millions of chef trying to do something different tried those combination and found out it did not work, and left it at that…
Sorry about the digression, I did not want to turn this into a rant. Getting back to the title of this post, I found my inspiration just by focusing on this post and letting my mind drift away from the heat, and something interesting came out of it and hopefully the tomatoes in the fridge will be nice enough for what I have roughly planned for them. If not I will be mighty disappointed and there will probably be another post about it…
One last word, as strange as this may sound I actually just planned today’s meal as I was writing this using a technique I developed when I was still a kid. It is somewhat related to directed dreaming, where you focus your mind on something and let your subconscious work the details out. It is a great method to find inspiration and also to find solutions to complex problems. I normally do it very differently, but since I wanted to post about finding inspiration I decided to try the method in finding a solution to my dilemma while I posted about it. It did work remarkably well and if people are interested in hearing more about this technique please let me know and I will elaborate more.
Until then, the shower awaits me and after that it will be the kitchen…
Estamos orgullosos de anunciar una nueva fecha para nuestro curso Una IntroducciÃ³n al vino en el Ã¡rea de la ciudad de MÃ©xico.
El curso se llevarÃ¡ a cabo el dÃa 15 de mayo, 2010, los detalles estÃ¡n disponibles AQUÃ. Durante el curso aprenderÃ¡n las cosas bÃ¡sicas que necesitan para desmitificar el maravilloso mundo del vino. Al final de la parte teÃ³rica del curso, hacemos una degustaciÃ³n formal de 7 vinos diferentes. Todo el material del curso estÃ¡ incluido en un CD, incluyendo nuestro software profesional de cata.
El costo del curso es de $1,350.00 y requerimos un depÃ³sito de $350.00 para reservar su lugar. Reserve pronto ya que los lugares estÃ¡n limitados.
AquÃ un pequeÃ±o extracto de lo estÃ¡ reservado para usted:
Por cierto, este curso serÃ¡ en espaÃ±ol, pero si existe demanda tambiÃ©n puedo impartir este curso y todos mis cursos y conferencias en inglÃ©s o francÃ©s. TambiÃ©n puedo viajar alrededor del mundo o a su localidad para dar mis clases y conferencias en una variedad de temas. Por favor contÃ¡cteme directamente para mÃ¡s informaciÃ³n.
We are proud to announce a new date for our Introduction to Wine course in the Mexico City area. The course will be held on May 15th and all the details are available HERE. During the course you will learn all the basic things you need to demystify the wonderful world of wine. At the end of the theoretical part of the course we do a formal tasting of 7 different wines. All the course’s material is included on a CD, including our professional wine tasting software.
The course’s price is MN$1350 and we require a MN$350 deposit to reserve your spot. Reserve early as spaces are limited.
Here is a short excerpt of what is in store for you:
BTW, this course will be in Spanish, but if there is a demand for it I can also give this course and all my courses and conferences in English or French. I can also travel worldwide to your locality to give classes and conferences on a variety of subjects. Please contact me directly for more information.
After lunch today, at the end of the afternoon and neighborhood friend came to visit us to chat a bit. In the past months we have been a bit reclusive as we are working all the time to prepare a lot of new project. It was nice for a change to sit down and relax and chat of other things. Luckily I had prepare two loaves of banana bread this morning as I had some leftover bananas and with the high heat we are experiencing they would not have lasted much longer.
Our neighbor’s husband came to join us a bit later and I prepare a pot of coffee and we enjoyed that with the bread while chatting. It was a relaxing late afternoon. early evening and changed our minds from our regular concerns.
It is now past 9pm here and it is still over 90F in the office. Outside it is around 70F, but even with wind no fresh air is entering. The chicken salad we hate earlier was just what was needed on such a hot day. It is a bit cooler in front of the house, but not by much. We enjoyed the nice light salad and even have a bit left for tomorrow. We will see what we will recycle then…
It is over 90F in the office today and we are just melting on the floor. We still have half of the roasted chicken we bought yesterday and in our traditional way of not letting anything go to waste we are going to prepare it as a nice chicken salad. It is about the only way I would get it down in this heat. We will dress the chicken with a bit of mayonnaise and cream, herbs and spices, some frozen peas and carrots, and some little cubes of celery. Normita disinfected a head of romaine lettuce and we will serve the chicken salad over a bed of fresh lettuce. With a tall glass of ice-cold water it should just hit the spot…
In our new found quest for everything leftovers I thought that we would have a leftover free day today as we bought a roasted chicken, but of course when we started to prepare the sandwiches we ended up as usual using a lot of odds and ends we found around the kitchen. First the bread, then Normita found some leftovers pickled chiles in the refrigerator and I found some pickled ergh… pickle slices… We also found an avocado and some cheese slices. so we had some nice sandwiches on small French rolls with cheese, roasted chicken, a touch of mayo, avocado, pickles for me, and chiles for Normita. They turned out great.
When we arrived home I noticed that the roasted chicken was “Ranchero” flavored. Since Ranchero roughly means farmer or ranch owner, I was hoping the the flavor was not sweat and dust, or worse sweat and manure… Luckily it was neither and it tasted to me like any supermarket roasted chicken I ever ate.
I guess that by now most of you who are following us daily are starting to see a trend evolving over the last week or so. It seems that we never have time to do much cooking as we are rushing all over the place trying to put together some big projects on many front. Today is the same as we needed to go out this morning for some business meeting, and we were delayed as the neighbors on one side who are building a house came to visit with their little kids and 3 puppies. Of course a bunch of screaming kids and yapping puppies did not go well with our dogs who joined the fun, the the kids humans and animals on the other side of the fence were just running back an forth raising a huge cloud of dust. Since we cleaned the hose yesterday, that made us both very happy as there is now a huge amount of accumulated dirt everywhere.
I then had to go talk to the owners to convince them that it would be a good idea to finish building the huge wall they started to build and abandoned with the section still open being the center of a huge pile of dirt that the workers are sending to us daily. We have been living in a dust storm for over 2 months now and hopefully they will soon finish they wall so we can breath a bit of clean air once in a while. While we were driving to our meetings we both realized that once again we had forgotten to plan something for lunch. We finally stopped by on the way back to a supermarket and bought a cooked rotisserie chicken and some bread, so I guess we will now go make some chicken sandwiches. I will report later on how they turned out…