April 15 is tax day in the USA. This year we get until April 18, Monday. But I put mine in the mail to Uncle Sam today. (p.s.: i file joint-returns w/ my spouse, just fyi!)
Sent to me via e-mail by a friend… how cool is that?!
Chow Time! 10 Spicy, Cheesy, and Fried Tex-Mex Recipes (I suppose I’m not the only one harping about Tex-Mex cuisine!)
Maybe it’s the reports from Austin’s SXSW conference that are still coming in. Maybe it’s the ridiculously warm and welcome weather we’ve been having on the West Coast. (Sorry, East Coast! Come visit?) Either way, we’re craving Tex-Mex and we’re craving it bad.
Tex-Mex is a curious blend of cuisines. You get some truly authentic Mexican dishes and others with distinctly cowboy origins. Throw in a California avocado or two, and there you have it. If this is fusion, we welcome it.
1. Jalapeno Poppers from Gourmet Magazine – Just one is never enough.
2. Acapulco Enchiladas from Sunset Magazine – Almonds and chopped olives give these enchiladas a southwestern twist!
3. Ranch Chicken from Pioneer Woman – Bacon makes everything better. And bigger.
4. Puffy Tacos from Homesick Texan – A uniquely Texan treat!
5. Baja-Style Tempura Fish Tacos from Leite’s Culinaria – Add a Japanese influence to that blend of Tex-Mex cuisines!
6. Texas Caviar from Martha Stewart – Nothing like this blend of black-eyed peas and roasted red peppers to round out a meal.
7. Beef Chili with Sour Cream and Cheddar Biscuits from Smitten Kitchen – Here’s one for those of you struggling to make it through the last few days of winter.
8. 7-Layer Bean Dip from Simply Recipes – A required pre- and post-dinner snack.
9. Skirt Steak Fajitas from Saveur Magazine – You know you want one.
10. Grilled Stuffed Peppers from Epicurious – On the grill or under the broiler, these are make excellent party dish.
“Food, in other words, is a people’s history–and sometimes its unignorable present. Bourdain wraps up his tour of Haiti by visiting Sean Penn, who relocated there with relief organization J/P HRO. But, Bourdain concludes, he has “no happy horse—- assurances” about Haiti’s future. The trip No Reservations takes us on is not about easy answers or giving up. It’s about seeing the world with open eyes, stepping outside your comfort zone and taking the bitter with the sweet.”
Nancy Cardozo shares a house with her friend Aileen Ward in New Milford, Conn.; both are writers in their 90s. “We eat everything we like,” Ms. Cardozo said. “Any kinds of eggs, blini, any good red or beluga caviar with crème fraîche, cheesecake, chocolate soufflé with whipped cream, crème brûlée, filet mignon, pasta with pesto. Aileen drinks Lillet, and I’m vodka and tonic. We drink as much as we can.”
The cartoonist Mort Gerberg, now in his late 70s, went to a bat mitzvah in Denver last year for his great-niece. “Usually at these things they have a table with desserts or chocolate, but at this one they had a sour cream table,” Mr. Gerberg said. “They had all these cockamamie things to put on the sour cream: candies, chocolate. I had heaping portions. It was thrilling. And all I could think was, where are the potatoes?”
It’s a common belief that life as we know it ends in old age. Gone are the little joys that make existence worthwhile — béarnaise sauce, pancetta, cake batter — all subsumed under a banner reading, “Doctor’s Orders.” For older people, the irony of eating is that your metabolism slows down, so you need less food, but your body needs just as many nutrients, if not more.
Declining health and the voices of authority only dampen the proceedings further. The latest dietary guidelines from the federal government recommend that people older than 51 (along with African-Americans, children and adults with hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease) eat only 1,500 milligrams of salt a day. Everyone else can have 2,300.
Constantly badgered by the medical establishment, family and friends to adopt a healthier approach to food, the older gourmand soldiers on anyway. Why? For my mother, it’s the thrill of transgression.
“I’m a sneaky eater,” she told me. “Inside me is a very naughty girl. I like to eat in the privacy of my own room — sticking my spoon deep into the jar of Mrs. Richardson’s caramel sauce so it sticks straight up, maybe sprinkling a little salt on it — and not telling anyone.”
For others, eating well is a way to keep traditions alive. Mary Pyland, 92, of Abilene, Tex., was raised on a ranch. “We had a fried chicken dinner every Sunday,” said Ms. Pyland, who ran a cosmetics store until she was 84. “I lost my husband 16 years ago, and I try to keep up everything we always did. Honey, I just had fried chicken with cream gravy and biscuits and mashed potatoes for dinner last night. And I made a caramel pie that was just about the best thing you ever put your lips around.”
One trope that comes up often in conversations with older gourmands is that eating what they want is, at their age, a right or privilege. For some of these privileged or righteous folks, it’s a question of not curbing one’s impulses.
Larry Garfield, 95, of Key Biscayne, Fla., worked in the carpet industry until he was 83. Asked why he recently ate a rare calf’s liver with mashed potatoes at Joe Allen’s restaurant in Miami Beach (even though he shouldn’t have, given his diabetes), Mr. Garfield said: “You ever walked down the street and seen a pretty girl and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’? Well, I looked at the menu and thought, ‘Mm! That’s for me!’ ”
For other righteous or privileged folk, eating is a reward. Barbara Hillary, who reached the South Pole in January at age 79, making her the first African-American woman on record to stand on both poles, said she ate too much milk chocolate during the trip. “If I had frozen to death down there, wouldn’t it be sad if I’d gone to hell without getting what I want?” she said.
In some cases, this same right or privilege seems to stem from having lived an exalted life. Nancy Cardozo and Aileen Ward met at Isadora Duncan’s school on Nantucket when they were 14. Ms. Cardozo said: “We did Duncan dancing. We flitted on the grass in little Greek dresses.”
Both went on to lead vivid lives. Ms. Cardozo wrote fiction and poetry for the New Yorker in the 1940s and ’50s; Ms. Ward won the National Book Award in 1964 for her biography of Keats, and used to car-pool with Vladimir Nabokov when she taught at Wellesley.
Now, despite some technical difficulties (“There are chewing problems,” Ms. Cardozo said. “That doesn’t sound very attractive, does it?”), they eat luxuriant foods, albeit in small portions. “It feels like entitlement,” Ms. Cardozo explained. “We deserve it because it’s the way we’ve always lived, and we don’t want to change.”
It’s the rare gourmand who, after 60 or so, doesn’t alter the way he or she eats, even in some tiny way. Mr. Garfield, unchanged in his alimentary ways even though he’s had his gallbladder and prostate removed and had a quintuple bypass in 1992, said, not without satisfaction, “The main thing to understand about the people who have constantly warned me about what I eat is that I’m here and they’re not.”
More common is the older gourmand who makes small adjustments. Ms. Hillary, the polar explorer, said, “I read more labels now, and try to reduce the foods that are chemistry sets.” Mr. Gerberg, the sour-cream enthusiast, said: “I eat much more slowly these days. I chew my food. Chewing food is important. My wife swallows food, like a snake.”
Some dietary adjustments come from outside sources: Ms. Pyland, in Abilene, said, “My little cousin Mary Kay Place, the actress, is always telling me not to eat stuff, but then she’ll eat it right off of my plate.”
Or consider Bobby Seale. A founder of the Black Panthers, he wrote a barbecue cookbook in 1988. Now 75, Mr. Seale cooks and eats “Bobbyque” 10 times a year. His lust for animal fat once caused his colleague Huey Newton to ask, when served some food Mr. Seale had made, “Hey, Bobby, how’d you get ham hocks in this chili?” But because he had a heart attack 10 years ago, Mr. Seale now takes precautions that make him sound like someone preparing to smoke an electronic cigarette.
“Now I used smoked turkey parts instead of ham hocks,” he said. “And I do a jalapeño corn bread with Cheddar cheese and crushed bacon bits that’s low sodium. I wash each piece of bacon — there’s loose salt in the fat. Then I microwave the bacon.”
In the end, older gourmands — their doctors’ orders and their bodies’ demands ringing in their ears — are each responsible for themselves.
“Everything is a matrix that you function inside of,” Mr. Seale said. “There’s about 10 miles of atmosphere at the Equator, and five miles at the poles. That’s the matrix we all survive within. You apply your knowledge to that, and figure out how to survive. I’m limited to six ounces of beef that’s 95 percent lean every day. That’s my matrix. But when I barbecue, I want that flavor to go right down to the bone. Down to the bone!”
Having lived in rural Tennessee for many years, I have had my fill of this ubiquitous item found in every home, made from scratch, and served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Incidentally, for my non-American readers, Biscuits are fluffy bun-like things, not to be confused with the cracker-style sweet biscuits that go with tea.
I came across this post in http://thekitchn.com today that made me reminisce about this great southern comfort-food.
Click on that link for the entire post. Or check out the recipe right here:
(makes about 10 biscuits)
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, chilled (plus a little more for brushing the tops of the biscuits)
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss dry ingredients together with a fork. Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry blender. Add buttermilk (don’t stir dough to death). Pour dough onto board and knead using extra flour (the lighter the touch the lighter the biscuit). Roll 3/4 ” thick. Cut out with biscuit cutter (don’t twist biscuit cutter, biscuits won’t rise properly). Brush tops of each biscuit with melted butter. Bake 10 – 12 minutes.