The “café” was nothing more than a cheap addition to a ‘70’s ranch house on a dirt cul-de-sac. I was in search of much needed caffeine and it was the best I was going to get in little Chimayo, a town without gas station, bank or grocery store.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “can you tell me what those are?” pointing to a plate of thin, simple, cinnamon sugar dusted cookies in the otherwise barren pastry case.
“Biscochitos,” he said with a look of incredulity at my ignorance, “they’re our state cookie.”
I purchased two of the unfamiliar cookies to go with my cappuccino.
New Mexico and I had already become fast friends during my first trip to Santa Fe to experience the Christmas Eve luminarias. My fondness grew this trip during my drive from Albuquerque to Taos to Chimayo – surrounded by stretches of Georgia O’Keeffe painted deserts under infinite azure, cloud-crowded skies.
As I sipped my cappuccino and munched on the crunchy, anise-cinnamon-flavored biscuits, I found another excuse to fall in love. Any state, I mused, that had an official state cookie (the first) deserved my adoration.
Lard isn’t something most of us keep in our kitchen. For the best flavor, it’s worth purchasing lard, but feel free to substitute shortening in a pinch.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon table salt (not Kosher)
- 1 Tablespoon anise seed, crushed
- Zest of one orange
- 1 cup lard (you can substitute vegetable shortening in a pinch)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tablespoon brandy
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk in the anise and orange zest.
- In a separate bowl, beat together sugar, lard and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and brandy and beat until combined. Gradually beat in the flour, a little at a time, just until combined. Dough should be similar in consistency to pie crust dough. Form into a brick, cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for topping.
In between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookies (I used a small 1½” circle cutter). Place cookies on baking sheet and bake until just barely golden and set, about 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool for 1 minute, and then carefully toss them into the cinnamon sugar. Place on cooling rack until completely cooled. These cookies make great coffee dunkers – but are also tasty nibbled plain.
A grey and drizzly day like today calls for a classic, satisfying and hearty stew like this French-inspired chicken version. The best part – plenty of leftovers for lunch this week.
Chicken stew with mushroom & onions
A classic combination of chicken, mushrooms and onions in a hearty sauce.
- 6 strips bacon, chopped
- 1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
- 12 oz. frozen baby onions, thawed
- 3 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tablespoons tarragon, minced
- In a large pot of Dutch oven, sauté bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pot. Add mushrooms and onions and sauté until golden and beginning to brown. While cooking, add a pinch of salt to help mushrooms release their liquid. Once browned, remove from pot.
- Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Brown chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Cook chicken in batches if needed – do not overcrowd pot. Set chicken aside. Add red wine vinegar and butter to pot. Once butter has melted, sprinkle with flour. Cook about a minute until flour begins to brown. Add chicken stock and cook until bubbling, scraping up flavorful browned bits from bottom of the pot.
- Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, add bacon, mushrooms and onions and cook uncovered for 15 minutes more.
- If needed, remove chicken, increase heat and cook sauce until reduced and thickened. Return chicken to pot and season with salt and pepper. Serve stew over egg noodles or rice, sprinkled with tarragon.
In general, I’m not a fancy, foo foo, flavored latte kind of person. Mornings, I prefer a single cappuccino (no messing around with “caff” or “fat” or “pumps” or “Vente”) or, after dinner, a perfectly pulled single espresso with just a bit of raw sugar. When feeling especially indulgent, I may splurge on a true macchiato with an orange twist (Not to be confused with Starbuck’s bastardization, look it up).
These were my go-to hot beverages until, a few months ago, I discovered (gasp!) cardamom rose lattes at my local coffee house. Cardamom? And Rose? Decidedly foo foo, I was nonetheless hooked. If Chai was female, it would taste like this. I adore citrusy-spicy cardamom and use it often in my baking – an unexpected alternative to cinnamon and I’ve always been a fan of those delicate, rose-scented syrupy Indian sweets. Combine these two flavors with creamy steamed milk and a bit of espresso and you have an exotic spicy, floral sweet treat that can only be described as well-being in a mug.
Since returning to work, I’ve taken to making my own cardamom rose latte so I can begin each morning with this comforting, soothing brew. It makes my morning a bit brighter.
To learn more about the benefits of rose, check this out.
Inspired by a latte at my favorite local coffee house.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ teaspoons cardamom
- 2 Tablespoons rose water
- To make syrup: In a small saucepan, heat sugar and water together until sugar is completely melted and mixture looks clear. Remove from heat, stir in cardamom, cover, and let steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Strain through cheesecloth and add rose water.
- To make latte: Make latte according to your machines directions. Stir in one tablespoons of syrup (or to taste) for each 8 oz. of milk. Breathe deeply and enjoy.
I forgot how exhausting it is to be a member of the gainfully employed. I barely survived my first week. If you asked me to recall the high point and low point, I’d say the high point was discovering the twice-weekly lunchtime yoga class in the California sunshine. Sign me up. The low point was waking up in the wee hours at 6:00 a.m. Just one short week ago, I was falling asleep about that time.
I’ve tried to soften my 6:00 a.m. blues by pampering myself each morning with a cardamom-rose latte (my new favorite) and a warm, freshly baked treat, like these remarkably moist banana cherry muffins. They help, but I still miss the warmth of my 6:00 a.m. bed.
Best Banana Cherry Muffins
These exceptionally moist and flavorful muffins were adapted from my favorite banana bread recipe.
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup almond flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup canola oil
- ⅓ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg plus 1 yolk
- ½ cup chopped walnuts, plus more for topping
- ½ cup chopped fresh or frozen and drained cherries, plus 3 more for topping
- 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, almond flour, baking soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, buttermilk, egg, and yolk. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until just blended. Fold in walnuts, cherries and bananas.
- Spoon batter into muffin cups. Top with a quartered cherry and chopped walnuts. Bake 25-30 minutes until muffins are brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool and enjoy.
It’s late Sunday morning and fifteen of us are huddled on the street corner, cameras in hand like a gaggle of paparazzi waiting to catch a celebrity’s morning-after walk of shame. Except this isn’t Hollywood – and we’re not professionals.
This is California Center for Digital Arts and we’re practicing shutter speed priority photography – stop action, blurred action, panning. I learned this long ago – so very long ago – in the days of film and chemical processing and my trusty Canon AE-1. We’re standing on a street corner simply shooting random cars and bicycles passing by.
I’m going back to photography basics because, frankly, I’m bored with the photos I’m churning out these days – and the work of most other amateur food photographers as well. I’m having trouble finding the soul in the ubiquitous bright, side-lit, flat-laid, slightly blown out (IMHO), Foodgawker-esque photographs most amateur food photographers (including me) produce –insipid images devoid of soul.
My food photos may not get better. What I’m currently churning out may be my limit, but the class made me happy, made me remember, just for a few hours, to look at the world with a photographer’s eye.
Did it help? If this photo above is any indication, then, no, it didn’t – same bright, side-lit, flat lay, lackluster nonsense. The pork loins, conversely, were divine – flavorful and mouthwateringly succulent.
This flavorful, garlicy-citrus mojo acts as a marinade and a sauce.
- 6 garlic cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons whole cumin
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- zest from one orange
- zest from one lime
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- ¾ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup lime juice
- ¼ bunch cilantro
- 2 pork tenderloins
- In a blender, puree all ingredients except pork. Transfer a half cup of sauce into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
- Place pork tenderloins in a dish and cover with remaining mojo sauce. Cover dish and refrigerate at least 8 hours up to 24 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat a bit of oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade, scraping off excess. Add pork to skillet and sear until well browned on all sides. Transfer skillet with pork to oven. Roast until meat registers 145 degrees F. Remove pork from skillet, tent with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
- Warm reserved mojo sauce in the microwave. Cut pork crosswise in ½ inch slices, drizzle with warmed mojo sauce and serve.