Cook with FRIDA

Mary Cassatt wrote that women must choose between Art or Family & Hearth.  That Mind and Soul cannot properly support both. As an early 20 something, I dismissed that as antiquated. Fast forward 20 years, to me as mother, cook, and painter, I understand. How the Heart and Mind struggle to create each side of itself equally.

Frida’s Kitchen, La Casa Azul. Photo courtesy of the Frida Kahlo Museum

Frida navigated these waters herself. As Artist and as Wife, Artist & Homemaker… “We could not have a child, and I cried inconsolably but I distracted myself by cooking, dusting the house, sometimes by painting…” Though she did not have children, Frida’s focus largely orbited her husband, Diego Rivera. For Frida was most prolific as Artist when apart from Diego — and impassioned Wife and Domestic Goddess when together. Painting early, stopping by eleven to cook/bring Diego lunch and ensure a visually vibrant home with fresh cut flowers, indigenous foods, sculpture, art, monkeys, dogs, talking parrots, beautiful tablescapes… For Frida believed in attractive surroundings — starting with her Kitchen Table.  Teaching even her Art students to move servingware and decorative items around the table to find the most “pleasing manner…” From her kitchen (and home) outward, to see “in a way that was much different from the usual.” That enthusiasm for daily Beauty mattered. That Food and Rituals of Eating, mattered. And still does.

Here is where I ask you to join me!  When I wrote about Frida and her Cooking in October, many wanted to read her recipes. But I confusingly learned that Frida loved to cook and that she did not, that she preferred to host parties, decorate elaborately, or that her cook cooked… Regardless, here are a few (of many) recipes Frida’s stepdaughter remembers cooking and eating in their family kitchen. Most of the books I’ve read recently highlight dishes rooted in pre-Colonial, indigenous ingredients but the following recipes, most of us should be able to make from what we find in our shops and market places — swap in what you can’t find or don’t want to use such as butter or avocado oil for Lard, jalapeño for exotic chiles, etc. For Heritage and Traditions played much loved and revered roles in Frida’s (and Diego’s) Art as well as in the elevation of everyday aesthetics. I’ve only cooked her Shrimp Tacos but plan to cook the rest over the coming weeks… including Diego’s beloved Molè.  Join me!

Frida’s last painting before her death, Watermelons titled “Viva la Vida” (1954)

 

SHRIMP TACOS

(8 servings)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 serrano chiles, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons / 65 g butter
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound / 50g cooked shrimp (peeled/deveined)
  • 24 medium tortillas

Sauté the onion and chiles in butter until the onion is translucent. Add tomatoes and salt/pepper to taste.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the tomato is thoroughly cooked. If the sauce becomes too thick, thin with a little chicken stock or water.

Add the shrimp and cook 2 minutes, just until they are heated through.

Fill the tortillas with the shrimp mixture and serve piping hot. Or serve the shrimp mixture with the tortillas on the side.

Note: I’d grill the tortillas and garnish with chopped cilantro and fresh lime.

 

SOPA SECO DE FIDEO

(8 servings)

  • 1 pound / 500g thin noodles
  • Corn oil
  • 10 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt
  • 3 parsley sprigs
  • 2 cups / 500 ml chicken broth
  • Pasilla chiles, fried and chopped, to taste
  • 2 avocados, peeled and sliced
  • 1& 1/2 cups / 375ml heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound / 250g añejo cheese grated (parmesan, queso fresco, or cojita cheese)

Sauté the noodles in hot oil in a saucepan until golden. Drain off all but three tablespoons of oil.

Puree the tomatoes with the onion, garlic, and salt to taste. Add the puree to the noodles and simmer together until the mixture has thickened. Add the parsley and chicken broth to cover. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes, until the noodles are tender and the broth absorbed; add more broth if necessary. Discard the parsley leaves.

Pour the noodle mixture into a heated serving platter and garnish with chiles, avocados, cream and cheese.

 

BLACK BEAN SOUP

(8 servings)

  • 2 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 3 cups / 500g cooked black beans
  • 6 cups / 1.5 l cooking liquid from beans (or water)

Garnish:

  • Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 pound / 250g panel cheese, cut into small squares (or mozzarella, muenster, or quest fresco)
  • 3 tortillas, cut in small squares, fried in oil, and drained (or chips)

Puree the tomatoes with the onion, garlic, oregano, and salt to taste. Sauté in hot oil until thickened. Puree the beans with their cooking liquid. Add the bean puree to the tomato mixture and cook 5 to 10 minutes to blend flavors. Serve soup garnished with oregano, cheese, and tortilla squares.

 

ENCHILADAS TAPATíAS

(8 servings)

  • 24 small tortillas
  • Oil

For Sauce

  • 8 to 10 ancho chiles, roasted and deveined
  • 2 cups / 500ml boiling water
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Salt
  • 1&1/2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 1 cup / 250ml sour cream
  • 1/2 pound / 250g añejo cheese, crumbled (or cojita or parmesan)

To make Sauce: Soak the chiles in the boiling water for about 10 minutes. Puree and drain. Sauté the onion and garlic in hot oil until translucent. Add the puree and salt to taste.  Cook for about 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Fry tortillas very briefly in hot oil. Dip in sauce, fill with chicken, and roll up. Arrange on a serving platter [or on serving dishes] top with more sauce, then with sour cream. Sprinkle with crumbled cheese.

 

SHORTBREAD COOKIES

(25 to 30 cookies)

  • 1 pound / 450g flour, sifted
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons/ 300g lard
  • 1 cup / 190g superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml rum
  • 2 cups / 160g confectioners sugar

Mound the flour on the counter or in a bowl and make a well in the center. Fill the well with the lard, sugar, and rum. Mix well to make a smooth dough. Roll out 1/2 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter of desired size, cut the dough into rounds and place on baking sheets. Bake in a preheated 350’F / 175’C oven until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and toss with confectioners’ sugar to coat well.

 

POTATOES IN GREEN SAUCE

(8 servings)

  • 2 pounds / 1k small potatoes
  • 2 pounds / tomatillos, peeled and scrubbed
  • 1 cup / 250ml water
  • 4 serrano chiles
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup / 100 g coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

Peel the potatoes and parboil them for 1 minute.  Set aside. Simmer the tomatillos with the water, chiles, and salt to taste until tender. Let cool slightly, the puree with the cilantro. Heat the lard in a skillet and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the tomatillo puree and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and continue to cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Note: Find smallest potatoes you can. You may parboil your potatoes 1-2 minutes longer if larger than small.

Serve in shallow bowl pooled with sauce and:

REFRIED BEANS

(8 servings)

  • 1/2 pound / 250g lard
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups / 500g cooked beans
  • 1 cup / 250ml cooking liquid from [Pinot} beans
  • Salt
  • Grated añejo cheese (or parmesan [or Cojita])
  • Totopos (fried small tortilla triangles)

Heat the lard in a skillet. When it starts to smoke, add the onion and sauté until golden. Add the beans and cooking liquid. Mash the beans to make a puree. Season with salt to taste. When the Beans are well fried and pull away from the bottom of the pan when stirred, remove from the heat. Place the fried beans on a serving platter, shaping them into a log. Sprinkle with cheese and garnish with totopos.

Frida Kahlo, “Still Life With Parrot & Flag” 1933

An excerpt from the exterior wall of Frida’s La Casa Azul Kitchen: “This Kitchen contains a typical Mexican hearth. Although gas stoves were commonly used at the time Diego and Frida lived here, they preferred to cook the old fashioned way, with wood, and to prepare pre-Hispanic, colonial, and traditional dishes… “If we are not our colors, aromas, our people, what are we? Nothing.”

BLACK MOLÈ FROM OAXACA

(16 to 20 servings)

  • 1 pound / 500 g chihuacle chiles
  • 1/2 pound / 250g mulato chiles, seeded and deveined, seeds reserved
  • 1/2 pounds / 250g papilla chiles, seeded and devised, seeds reserved
  • 3/4 pound / 375g lard
  • 2 large onions, roasted
  • 1 head garlic, roasted
  • 3 stale tortillas
  • 2 slices egg bread
  • 3/4 cup / 100g blanched almonds
  • 1/2 cup / 75 g shelled peanuts
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup / 70g sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup / 60g pumpkin seeds
  • Pinch of anise seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves
  • 3/4 cup cup / 100g raisins
  • 3 large bars Mexican chocolate (or semisweet chocolate)
  • 4 pounds / 2k ripe tomatoes roasted and peeled
  • 1 pounds / 500g small green tomatoes
  • 8 tablespoons lard
  • sugar and salt
  • 2 guajolotes (small turkeys) or 4 large chickens cut into pieces and cooked in a strong broth with carrots, onions, and herbs ** Reserve the broth.

** There’s a bit of discrepancy between this recipe and others, mostly in terms of herb count. Such as 2 cloves versus 8, 1 teaspoon anise versus pinch, 4 garlic versus one head… So use intuition and cook to taste.

Quickly fry the chilies in hot lard, being careful not to let them burn. Place the fried chilies in a large saucepan in hot water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer until soft.

In the same hot lard, sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the tortillas, bread, almonds, peanuts, cinnamon, reserved chile seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, anise seeds, cumin seeds, thyme, marjoram, oregano, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves, raisins, and chocolate. Sauté for a few minutes. Puree this mixture with the tomatoes and the chiles. Strain the puree and cook in 8 tablespoons lard. Stir in sugar and salt to taste and 2 cups turkey/chicken broth. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the turkey, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes to blend flavors. If the mixture is too thick, add more turkey broth as needed.

Note: Chihuacles are special chiles from Oaxaca: you can substitute cascabel chiles.

Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Select Acknowledgements:

Frida Kahlo At Home by Suzanne Barbezat

Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle (*all featured recipes above)

PBS Documentary (2004) The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo. A Film by Amy Stechler

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait. Intro. by Carlos Fuentes and Sarah M. Lowe.

Once in a Great While, Your Favorite New Dessert Hugs you “Hello!”

And this is that very moment.

Crisps are long time Farmhouse favorites.  Easy to make.  Everybody loves them.  If you char it a touch? Eh, what the hell — Add great quality vanilla ice cream.

Do me a favor? Use Light Muscovado sugar.  It really is a divine supplement to traditional brown sugar…which I find too cloying.  Too sweet.  And that is what makes this crisp so perfect.  It’s a great way to use any kind of berry, any kind of stone fruit, any kind of hodgepodge of fruit left over on your windowsill and without making something saccharin, like cheap drugstore perfumes, create something heavenly that harnesses the very miracle and warmth of sunshine

Crisp in the Works

Crisp in the Works

Abi’s Farmhouse Crisp (made with plums and apricots)

Preheat your oven to 350’F and place rack in the middle of the oven.

To make the “crumb” or “crumble” or the Crisp part of the “crisp” — Melt 2 sticks of unsalted butter on the stove and let it cool for a bit while you measure out the following.  Mix the following into one bowl.  Use your clean hands:

  • 1&1/2 cups all-purpose flour (be partial to King Arthur flour)
  • 1&1/2-2 cups of Old Fashioned Oatmeal (never instant!)
  • 3/4 cups packed Light Muscovado Sugar
  • 1&1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt (look for the fancy jars) or Kosher Salt

Add in the melted butter (all of it) and mix with your hands.  If you like a bit of crushed nuts or dark raisins, add those too.  Take 1/2 of this mixture and press it into the bottom of a roughly 9″ baking pan.  I use something cute like this heart shaped pie pan but a simple square dish is good too.  Anything sturdy.

*Never feel ashamed for spending good dollars on high quality baking dishes (Emile Henry or Le Creuset come to mind).  They conduct heat most evenly, resulting in well cooked dishes versus buying trendy bake ware that murders any crust and leaves centers runny. Ick.

Assembled and ready for the oven: cue Anni's "Happy Dance."

Assembled and ready for the oven: cue Anni’s “Happy Dance.”

Back to this amazing Crisp!

For the fruit part, seriously, use any left over stone fruit or berries in your kitchen, orchard or garden. Do not be afraid to mix and mash any thinly sliced fruits.

For these pictures, I used left over apricots (that the blasted birds hadn’t gotten!) and some dark Santa Rosa Plums. But I’ve made this just as happily with yellow peaches or dark plums from the store.

Mix in one bowl:

  • 1/2 cup of white sugar (**If the fruit is a touch hard, add in +1 tblspn granulated sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (*make this a heaping tablespoon if the fruit feels hard)
  • 2 pinches fine sea salt
  • 10-11 thinly sliced stone fruit (here I used 7 apricots, a handful of small Santa Rosa Plums, and 1 yellow nectarine because I didn’t have enough for the 7 cups needed)
  • Fresh juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of vanilla extract (buy the best friends!)

Let this stand a few minutes (about 5 for ripe fruits or 10 minutes if the fruit is harder) to let the fruit macerate a bit in the sugars and cornstarch.  Pour into the dish on top of your bottom crumb and spread evenly.

Using your hands dribble the remaining half Crumb or Crisp mixture over the top.  Bake for 55-60 minutes (uncovered) or until the crisp is golden brown (I like it a touch brown-brown for crispness) and the fruit comes bubbling up.  Let this cool for at least 25 minutes before serving.  I let it cool almost completely (about 45 minutes) so the juices and fruit congeals better, like a pie.

Sure to be an absolute hit at ANY party or dinner.  ANY time of the year!

Happy eating!

A.

Gingerbread House Adventures – Part I

Friend Maureen convinced me in a less hectic-Holiday time (i.e. 2 weeks ago) to compete in a Gingerbread House Building Competition amongst all of the Wineries.  For the entire Sonoma Valley.  With the confection structures to be publicly displayed at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.  I thought, “sure! why not? Blue ribbon all the way!”  (The Type A in me dies hard.)

With Thanksgiving behind us and several days of rain ahead, toddler Anni and I set forth today to gather ingredients to build a one-of-a kind, never to be beat, amazing, fantastic Gingerbread House.  We’re not sure yet if ‘it’ will be of this old Farmhouse or the 1900s redwood Barn.  But either way, we set out naively armed with my fancy grocery list pen (yes, I’m a nerd) and a web-recipe thoughtfully shared by Taylor, Maureen’s colleague at the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Association.

I thought, “how hard can this be?” But the lovely bakery ladies at Oliver’s Market kindly shared that today, I am an idiot.  And once I got home and looked at my motley assortment of store bought decorative details, I am now inclined to agree with them:

our Gingerbread Farmhouse 'decorations'

Mint M&Ms, a presto-kit for template in case we get stuck, green and red jelly goos surely made in China (I thought for florals and vegetation), pasty white chocolate ‘shards’, and Skittles.  Clearly, the Annadel Estate Winery entry will be intended for Santa’s cross-dressing elves.

The only thing I am fairly hopeful about is the Almond Roca (a total score on Anni’s part) which I plan to wrestle away from her and crush it into ‘gravel’ for the drive.

Apparently, a four year old’s craft-time project at Nordstrom is not for the adult faint of heart.  To build one from scratch, detailed renderings must be sketched out on parchment paper.  Once the Gingerbread dough is assembled and rolled out, the walls, roof, and other architectural elements must be cut with razor sharp precision from the dough not once, but twice.  Then there is the whole matter of the white sugary, pastry ‘glue’.  Too thin, the house will collapse.  Too thick and it will look like maxi-pads are binding your whole house together.  And that is not appetizing.

Back to Pinterest and web browsing, I go.  Wish us luck and I will keep you all posted on our adventures Gingerbreading.

 

Big Swede’s Chocolate Truffle Toffee

Big Swede's Finished Toffee

Every Fall, lovebirds visit us from Texas.  When Sharon and Robert (aka the “Big Swede”) Gustavsson visit, a weekend of fun always unfolds.  Robert and Dean met in some dusty South American town while Dean was on one of his fabulously epic, cross continent motorcycle adventures. Robert was building a power plant. And they have been friends ever since.

This year, the Big Swede cooked a bang up meal in our Farmhouse Kitchen.  The piece de resistance? Dessert.  Or what I hear by dub forever and ever the “Big Swede’s Chocolate Truffle Toffee.’

Dear God was it good! It takes a bit of effort but not bad at all.  And like all good desserts, your house will smell heavenly.  Plus, the toffee freezes well to be parceled out later… With his generous permission, here is the Big Swede’s recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups total nuts (almonds, macademia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans) in halves or whole
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup dark corn syrup (Robert used Karo brand)
  • 2 & 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 11 oz. dark chocolate (PREMIUM quality) — 60-72% Dark Chocolate
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 9 tablespoon butter (softened)
  • 1 cooking thermometer

Recipe:

Toast Nuts: Preheat oven to 350’F.  Working in batches, toast the nuts in the oven on a baking sheet, checking often. Toasting happens quickly so keep watch.  Once toasted, put nuts aside.

Make the toffee:  In a medium sauce pan, bring the 1 cup sugar, 1 cup dark corn syrup, and 1 cup heavy cream to a boil.  Stir mixture regularly until it reaches 115’C or 240′ F.  Test with your thermometer.  Remove from heat IMMEDIATELY and stir in toasted nuts.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.  Paper should come up over sides.  Spread the warm toffee and nuts mixture out in the pan.  Put pan into the freezer to set.  (At least 30 mins).

Toffee and Nuts ready to freeze

Make the truffle chocolate: Chop the dark chocolate and put into into a clean mixing bowl.

Using a clean sauce pan, bring 1&1/3 cup heavy cream to a full boil.  Pour boiling cream over chopped chocolate and stir until smooth.  Quickly add in the 4 egg yolks and 9 tablespoons of soft butter.

Take cold toffee and nut mix out of the freezer.  Once the chocolate truffle mix is soft and truly blended well, pour immediately over the cold toffee and nut mixture and spread out evenly.  Refreeze.  Chocolate will set in 30+ minutes.

Toffee and chocolate will keep in the freezer for a few months.  When ready to serve, remove chocolate toffee from freezer and thaw 15-20 minutes.  Using a sharp knife, cut toffee into bite size pieces.

And according to Robert, “Serve with a single malt whiskey.”

Thanks Big Swede!!! 

The Big Swede, aka Robert Gustavsson

ANNI’S OATMEAL COOKIES

Guaranteed these will be a year-round favorite for all ages.  But there is something heart warming about the scent of cinnamon, spices, chocolate and oatmeal all baking together on a cool and blustery day… Enjoy with a cup of coffee, cider, or hot tea.  Breakfast of champions too!

Preheat oven to 350’F

In a bowl, whisk or beat together:

  • 3 eggs (slightly beaten before the following)
  • 3/4 cup packed Light Muscovado sugar. (Regular brown sugar may be a substitute)
  • 1/2 cup refined white sugar
  • 2 sticks of softened or melted unsweetened butter (cooled)
  • 1 tspn of vanilla extract

In another bowl, sift or mix together:

  • 1/2 tspn of Kosher salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour — Preferably King Arthur brand
  • 1 tspn of baking powder
  • 1 heaping tspn of cinnamon
  • 1 heaping tspn of All-Spice

Blend in the dry mix into the wet and keep whisking or mixing with an electric mixer.  Mix well.

Blend in:

  • 1/2 – 1 cup crushed raw walnuts
  • 3 cups old fashioned Oats or Oatmeal (not instant)
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins — Preferably organic bulk or Paul Newman brand
  • 1/2 cup raisins (regular or brown) — Preferably organic bulk or Paul Newman brand
  • 1 -2 cups semi-sweet or bitter sweet chocolate chips or chunks (to taste) — I like Ghirardelli chocolate chunks for the dramatic flair
  • Note: you may substitute dried currants or cranberries in for regular raisins.*

Drop in rounded soup-spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-15 minutes (depending on your type of oven) or until light brown.

Using oven mitts, remove pans from oven and let cool for 2-5 minutes.  Then remove cookies to a clean counter or cooling rack using a spatula.  Waiting too long may over-cook the cookies.