Food is a process

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Hello Me, how about dinner and a movie?

I expect this to be very hot. Serrano and poblano peppers, chili powder, cumin, fennel seeds, and enough cilantro to deodorize an outhouse. But when I bit into my little culinary creations, I soon discovered that yes, the spiciness was clearly there, but enough of a balance with those crucial neutralizing components, such as the soba noodle bed for the tuna and the queso blanco on the stuffed peppers, allowed someone with little armor for heat to enjoy it. I’m referring to the meal I prepared for my date-with-myself night. Since Indre is in Rome, I thought I’d spend the evening cooking, blogging, and watching movie. It was definitely a Woody Allen night, so I checked Hannah and Her Sisters out of the Palo Alto Public Library. Cooking wasn’t quit as fun without my favorite sous chef with me, but I put on some Lester Young, poured the last glass of my week-old Chianti, and got to it. I’m proud to say that I even put out a place mat as setting for my plates and silverware, which I never do normally, but I couldn’t bring myself to light the candles; I’ll save those for Indre. Here’s what I prepared, all of which can be found in a fabulous collection called The Strang Cookbook for Cancer Prevention (reference below). Starters and Sides: Portobello mushroom-stuffed chiles rellenos Black Bean Soup Entrée: Chimayo chile-crusted Ahi tuna with soba noodle-cucumber salad and cilantro-honey vinaigrette Wine: 2003 Bien Nacido Pinot Blanc from Bonny Doon (Santa Cruz Mtns, CA) Some notes on the dishes: As I mentioned above, each of the dishes would be on the spicy side. This I could tell by looking at the recipe. Incidentally, the Portobello mushroom-stuffed peppers is a recipe created by a Miles Angelo from the Cairbou Club in Aspen, Colorado. Nick, isn’t Alex in Aspen now? It got me thinking whether he, the restaurant he works at, you know…..nah… Now, I’ll admit that I don’t know my peppers and chiles. In fact, I don’t know the difference between peppers and chiles, if there is one. Undeterred, I trusted my ability to read the little signs in the produce section and allowed myself one strategic “do you have…” question. I still don’t know what chimayo chiles are, but I came home with some nice poblano peppers (dark green, resemble but are slightly thinner than green bell peppers). One thing I learned is that these peppers are called "poblano when fresh and "ancho" when dried. I bought a few extra so I had the poblanos for stuffing, but also used them for the chile sauce. I particularly enjoyed the method of marinating the Portobello caps in this recipe; just a simple lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper combination, but it tasted fantastic, especially given the wine I chose (see below). What attracted me to the black bean soup was the number of other vegetables included in the recipe. Maybe I’m a little naïve, but I always assumed that black bean soups are essentially all black beans and a little spice. But this one includes many other fantastic ingredients, like carrots, celery, onions, and red bell pepper, which ultimately give the soup a hearty and complex flavor. I may have put a little too much garlic in; it called for three cloves minced and I used three big mofos, so I definitely felt protected from bay area vampires. I took several short cuts with the tuna because I growing increasingly hungry. But I will say that the soba noodles had some heft since they were organic whole wheat noodles from Trader Joe’s. For the cilantro-honey vinaigrette, I used mesquite honey from Northern Mexico (I thought it appropriate, though I had never tried it. I’m a card-carrying lover of wildflower honey). As it turned out, the mesquite honey tasted similar to common clover honey, when tried alone, and was completely inconsequential when pureed with the cilantro. As for the wine, I picked up the bottle when I visited Bonny Doon last year. I hadn’t tasted this Pinot Blanc, but I am very much in love with the Pinot Noirs that come out of the Bien Nacido vineyard. I’m guessing that the wine was oaked for some months, since it had that fatty, buttery side to it, but I may have been misled a bit because I think I took it out of the fridge too soon, so it wasn’t properly chilled. It’s strong citrus bouquet, especially of lemon and honey, made it a surprisingly good pairing. I say “surprisingly” because, well, I chose it. Pensiero, L., Oliveria, S., and Osbourne, M. (1998). The Strang Cookbook for Cancer Prevention. Dutton Books: New York.