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February 2013

January 2013

Chicken Marinade with Banana Vinegar, Garlic and Oregano Indio: One of The Best


A lot of people seem to like our banana vinegar but almost more than anything, we get requests for recipes. So here you go! I had a whole chicken that I cut up that got bathed in the marinade and sat to rest in an airtight container for a day. I have one of those vacuum sealers, which I like fine, but I love the marinade box. You put a tube into the machine and the container and it zaps all the air out. 


You easily could use a plastic bag or bowl. I chopped the garlic very roughly and in my fancy Spanish mortar and then pounded it with our oregano Indio, banana vinegar, salt and olive oil. You could easily do this in a blender as well but the mortar and pestle are much more fun. 


I'm not naming names but someone was in a grumpy mood while we waited for dinner to cook. Maybe it was the homework. Maybe he was hungry or maybe he was tired of me taking so many photos of him to test out my new soft flash. Whatever the reason, he came around when dinner came and pretty much flipped out with joy. This chicken was incredible and I don't say that lightly! The flavor was vaguely tropical but there was no one flavor in particular that popped out. When I told a certain someone that I'd used the banana vinegar, he was very much surprised. 


Here's an official recipe. I'm naming it Chicken Stivalet, after the wonderful family that produces the vinegar. 

Chicken Stivalet
One chicken, cut up into serving pieces
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Oregano Indio 
1/2 cup Banana Vinegar
1/2 cup Olive Oil

Combine all ingredients except the chicken and onions and mix, either in a mortar and pestle or blender. If using a mortar and pestle, start with the garlic and salt and work into a paste, then add the oregano and finally the liquids. Work into the chicken pieces and allow to marinate, at least six hours, preferably overnight in the refrigerator.  

When you're ready to cook, bring the chicken to room temperature and preheat oven to 400F for at least 10 minutes. In a large cazuela or baking pan, arrange onions and the top with chicken pieces. Cook for 30 minutes and then lower the heat to 350. Check breasts and if they're done, remove them and cook the rest of the chicken for another 20 minutes or so, until done. 

Serve from the cazuela and be sure each guest gets plenty of the onions.

Serves four 

Red Recado Chicken with Banana Vinegar

My friends at Semilla de Dioses in Merida make the most beautiful recados. You dilute them with various things like lime juice or stock and rub them over other things like chicken or pork and you get some great meals. If you're in Merida, they have a little tiendita where you can taste and buy things. In Mexico City, you can get some of their things at the famous La Nicolas store, after your comida at Nicos. Stateside, you'll need to wait but in the meantime you can use a brick of the recado you see in many grocery stores and in every Mexican bodega. In desperation, there's always the Internet. 


As head chef this weekend, I decided to take some of the paste and thin it with our banana vinegar. I added some garlic for good measure and mixed it to a thick liquid and marinated a cut up chicken for about 6 hours. 


I cooked the chicken in a pre-heated oven of 400F for about 20 minutes and then turned the temperature down to 375F. You can check and see if the breasts are done and remove them if they are, otherwise, cook for another 30-40 minutes. 


The kids loved it. I decided to serve plain buttered boiled potatoes and simple peas to make sure there were plenty of  bland things to balance out the intense recado. It worked! 


I think there's room for experimentation here. 


Mushroom Quesadillas with Heirloom Corn Tortillas

After a rest, we're back in the Bay Area with our heirloom corn tortillas. We're having them made in nearby Santa Rosa using our corn grown from heirloom Mexican stock (from Jalisco) and from corn we're importing as part of the Rancho Gordo-Xoxoc Project. We only produce them on Thursdays at this point but we're hoping to expand to twice weekly very soon. 

I think one of the best ways to enjoy a tortilla is with a quesadilla. I like them best simple and pan-grilled with no oil or fat. 


I made some this last weekend with simple button mushrooms and good olive oil. If I'd had fresh epazote, I would have added it. 


You can add more cheese, obviously, but I think the tortilla should be the star. 

Our tortillas are available at our store here in Napa, on Thursday afternoons, while supply lasts. We nornally sell out by the weekend. Also in Napa we're at the Fatted Calf. In San Francisco, we're at the Fatted Calf, Bi-Rite Market and Bryan's Meat. In Marin, check the Mill Valley Market and Comforts. 


Hippie-Love-Child Meal No. 2: Quinoa, Summer Squash and Garbanzo Soup

I'm developing a repertoire of dishes that I make myself for meals alone. I wouldn't dream of serving them to company but if it's a weeknight and I just want to eat healthy, why not? I do have an inner Hippie-Love-Child, and he even has a name, but it's going to take more than herbal tea and a clove cigarette to get it out of me. 


Anyway, this dish was chicken stock, chopped zucchini, garbanzos and quinoa. I really prefer quinoa as a porridge like this instead of as a grain. This was delicious. 

Garbanzos in the Pressure Cooker: I'm Almost a Convert

Many of our favorite customers swear by the pressure cooker. I find it too violent and inconsistent. I know I'm irrational but there you have it. 


I was home with a cold and thinking it would be nice to have chick peas to play with. I think the worst part of the pressure cooker is the dead-tasting bean broth. There has been no evaporation and no air and I always feel they are second rate compared to slow-simmered beans in a pot. But with garbanzos, who cares? Even simmered chick peas have an uninteresting broth. So what difference would it make? 


Into my pressure cooker pot, I added about a cup and a half of dried garbanzos (they were Rancho Gordo, so I knew they were "fresh"), some onion and a little bit of oil. I was going to skip the oil until I remembered something about cooking beans without oil can gum up the safety valves or something like that. Old wives tale? I brought the pot up to pressure and then cooked them for exactly 25 minutes and then shut the heat off, allowing them to release naturally. 


I forgot about the beans and when I did remember, I rushed to open the pot. I expected to have to cook the peas for another 20 minutes or so but I was shocked to find each chick pea cooked to perfection! No splitting and no hardness. Less than hour from having the idea to table and cooked beans were mine! 

I made hummus. I made a soup from Mexico with chicken, chipotles and garbanzos and then I even made this little salad with chorizo, roasted red bell peppers, garbanzos and good olive oil and lemons. 


I'm not giving up my clay pots but I am keeping an open mind! 

Zuppa Americana a la Italiana

Gloria was my Italian teacher when I worked at Esprit, just 2 million years ago. We've stayed friends, even as my obsession for Italy waned and my compulsion for things Mexican and New World exploded. She's been experimenting with our beans and recently sent me the following email and her enthusiasm is infectious! 


I just made the BEST winter soup ever and I want to share the recipe with you.

It all starts with LEFTOVERS. It takes just a few minutes of reheating and...ecco, pronto in tavola!

In a couple of  tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil,

  • sautee' for 3/4 minutes: a couple of carrots, one red onion, a couple of celery stalks, all coarsely chopped, and 1/2 inch of anchovy paste (optional).
  • Add about 2 cups of Ayocote Negro beans, previously cooked (I use a pressure cooker) and "finished" in olive oil, garlic, a bit of tomato paste (thinned with the cooking liquor) and rosemary.
  • Thin with good quality, canned, non fat chicken broth to desired soupy consistency.
  • Add about one cup of cooked (oven-roasted) winter squash meat such as Zucca Barucca or Buttercup (any dense, sweet, winter squash will do).
  • Bring to a gentle boil. If you haven't used the anchovy paste, check for seasoning.
  • Sprinkle with chopped, fresh Italian parsley and you are ready to serve it. 
  • Serve with Parmesan Crisps or Parmesan flakes sprinkled on top.

The soup is creamy and satisfying, with the big beans and chunks of veggie providing a pleasant texture. Fantastic with a slice of my rustic bread.
The Indians were well aware of it: beans and squash are truly delicious.

Much love e tanti baci.