Gina Hyams Author

Category Archives: cooking

Daydreaming about the Wonders of a Vintage French Café au Lait Bowl

Vintage French cafe au lait bowlMaybe stuff can’t make you happy, but this morning I’m quite convinced that if I start drinking coffee out of a vintage French café au lait bowl, everything will be better, and that this is an achievable goal.

I saw this bowl on Etsy. It’s close, but not quite the one for me. The quest is on…

Author Seeks Tanglewood Picnic Photos for Book

Author Gina Hyams is creating a book titled The Tanglewood Picnic: Music and Outdoor Feasts in the Berkshires. The gift book will celebrate the tradition of picnics held on the Lawn during concerts at Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer campus in Lenox, Massachusetts. The book will be both a charming historic document and inspiration for over-the-top picnic style. It is scheduled for publication summer 2015.

Hyams seeks photos of Tanglewood picnics (both lavish and modest), favorite picnic recipes, outdoor dining tips, and related picnic ephemera (such as invitations and menus) from all eras of the festival’s eight-decade history. Submissions of multiple images are welcome. She is particularly interested to hear from people who have made a beloved tradition of picnicking on the Lawn.

Due to print quality restrictions, only high-resolution images can be considered for inclusion (300dpi+ — either scanned or photographed with an iPhone or digital camera). If you have prints and don’t have access to a scanner, Gina will be happy to scan images and return the originals. Email her at the address below and she’ll send you her snail mail address.

Please note caption information, including as much of the following as is known: date, occasion, names of people in the image, types of foods pictured, the name of the photographer, and estate to credit as necessary.

Please also answer this question: What do you love about Tanglewood picnics?

Include your name, address, and phone number.

Submissions will be considered for both print publication and posting on the project’s blog: TanglewoodPicnicBook.tumblr.com.

Deadline for submissions: September 30, 2014.

Email submissions to:

tanglewoodpicnic@gmail.com

Gina Hyams is a Berkshire-based writer and editor who specializes in food, travel, and the arts. She has published eleven books, among them Country Living Decorating with White (Hearst), In a Mexican Garden: Courtyards, Pools, and Open-Air Living Rooms (Chronicle Books), and Pie Contest in a Box: Everything You Need to Host a Pie Contest (Andrews McMeel Publishing). Hyams was a contributing editor to Berkshire Living and a correspondent for Fodor’s Travel Publications. Her essays and articles have appeared in Huffington Post, Newsweek, San Francisco, Organic Style, Ideal Destinations, Healing Lifestyles & Spas, and Salon, as well as broadcast on National Public Radio. For more information, see www.ginahyams.com.

Interview with Author Andrea Lawson Gray about “Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes”

Andrea Lawson Gray

San Francisco-based author and chef Andrea Lawson Gray collaborated with Adriana Almazán Lahl on a wonderful new book titled Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions, and Recipes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013). It delves into the foods of Mexico’s many holidays, each chapter featuring historical and cultural background information, along with recipes and photographs. This comprehensive volume explores both major and lesser-known fiestas, as well as rites of passage celebrations, such as quinceñeras, weddings, and funerals.

 

Andrea is the proprietor of Tres Señoritas Gourmet, a caterer specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine and Una Señorita Gourmet, a private, in-home culinary service. She writes a column on Mexican cuisine for the Examiner.com and a blog on food in San Francisco’s Mission district, My Mission: Tastes of San Francisco. A single mother of three children, she also volunteers at International High School of San Francisco, working on diversity and social justice issues. She is building a small hotel and cooking school in Tenango de Valle, Mexico, called Casa La Tia that she hopes to open in the summer of 2016.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Gina: What are the roots of your passion for Mexican cuisine and how did you learn to cook it?

 

Andrea: My passion for Mexican cuisine really comes from my passion for Mexico, its people who are just so hospitable, noble, and humble at the same time and value the land and their traditions in a way that I think we have forgotten here. The cuisine is such a natural extension of all this that I actually had a yearning to become immersed in the cuisine as I became more and more immersed in Mexican culture. It really drew me in.

 

Gina: How did Celebracions Mexicanas come to be and how long did it take? Had you written much before?

 

Andrea: I had been writing a column for the Examiner.com for several years on Mexican food and Mexican restaurants. I had planned to write a book when I moved to Mexico; I wasn’t sure what exactly it would be about, but as I tracked the interest in my columns I found that whenever I wrote about Mexican food for a specific Mexican holiday, I attracted the most readers. So it came to me that I had the topic for my book, but I still planned to write it when I moved to Mexico (which will be in 2016).

 

Then I received an email from Ken Albala, who was to become my editor— he was looking for a writer for a book on Chinese cuisine. I never let an email go unanswered, so I replied, almost as a joke “I actually don’t know enough about Chinese cuisine to take on your project (even though I did own a Chinese restaurant in NYC…but I was the frontend person, not in the kitchen), but if you ever want to do a book on Mexican cuisine, I’m your gal.” He replied that I should submit a book proposal. I had never done one before. The rest, as they say, is history! I had NO idea that my book was the first of its kind until I read the description on Amazon: “the first book to bring the richness and authenticity of the foods of Mexico’s main holidays and celebrations to the American home cook.” I couldn’t believe it!

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Gina: How did your collaboration with Adriana work?

 

Andrea: As soon as I got Ken’s email, I knew I needed a collaborator to provide recipes. I am well-versed in Mexican cooking, but I wanted someone’s family recipes. All my Mexican friends, well, at least the women, have notebooks of their mother’s and grandmother’s recipes. I met Adriana and (several other amazing Latina ladies who cook) when I interviewed her for a piece I wrote for my column on La Cocina, the business incubator that gave her her start. Of all the women I had met for my article, Adriana was the first to come to mind. When I approached her, she said, “I have been waiting my whole life to write a cookbook!”

 

Almazán Family Cookbook

Gina: What did your research for the book entail?

 

Andrea: I began by locating original texts. Fortunately, there are several really wonderful sources, starting with Bernardino de Sahagun’s Florentine Codex, recorded between 1545 and 1590, when he first met the Aztecs right after the Spanish landed. There has been lots of scholarship on the subject, so many of the more important texts, like the Florentine Codex, have even been translated into English. My Spanish is good, but reading Spanish as it appeared in the colonial era is a bit of a stretch for me. There are wonderful texts from the height of the Spanish occupation, written by women with a great eye for detail, and these are widely quoted in the book. Fascinating material! And in December of last year, Adriana went to Mexico and was able to go to several libraries…that was invaluable.

 

Chile en Nogada

Gina: How did you source the photos?

 

Andrea: Everything about this project was blessed! First, Adriana not only had the culinary education and recipes to make the book really shine, she also minored in photography at the University in Mexico City, and is an excellent food photographer and stylist. I also have a food styling background from a previous career as a creative director (something I never imagined I would be tapping into again).

As for the amazing in-country photos of Mexico’s indigenous people, Jorge Ontiveros, our photographer, has a passion for this and was excited about the opportunity to share his work in this country, where it had never been seen before. Many of the photographs in the book were from a collection he already had, and he was able to take other photos we needed for the book, for specific holidays.

 

Gina: How did you find a publisher? Did an editor there help shape the development of the book?

 

Andrea: Our editor, Ken Albala, already had a series with Alta Mira Press, the Food Studies and Gastronomy arm of Rowman & Littlefield. He presented the proposal to the publisher for us. He was also invaluable in guiding me in terms of voice for the book, recommending sources, and across the board. We were just so lucky…we couldn’t have wished for an editor more versed in our topic!

 

Gina: What’s your favorite Mexican celebration and why? Please share a related recipe.

 

Andrea: My favorite time of year to be in Mexico is for Dia de Los Muertos, as the altars start to appear in the pueblos and the puestos (market stalls) sell special chocolates and alfreniques (sugar skulls). I love Adriana’s recipe for pumpkin mole, made with chiles, chocolate, and pumpkin purée, but my favorite from our chapter on Day of the Dead is for Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew, because this is not something we really cook with here, marigold petals (cempazuchil), the traditional Day of the Dead flowers. Their bright orange-yellow color represents the brightness of the sun, and their aroma is believed to attract the souls of the dead to the altars prepared in their honor.

 

Marigold Patties in Tomato Stew

Tortitas de Cempazuchil en Caldillo

(SERVES 6–8)

 

1 lb chicken breast, cooked and shredded (see recipe below)

1 egg white

10 cempazuchitl flowers, petals only (edible marigolds, should be organic)

1/2 cup Mexican sour cream

1 sprig epazote

1/2 tbsp Mexican oregano

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

2 cups of Tomato Caldillo (See recipe below)

2–6 tbsp oil

MIX shredded chicken with egg whites and the petals of 4 flowers, finely chopped. Add cream, epazote, oregano, salt, and pepper; mix well. Form 2-inch patties. Chop the remaining flower petals and cover patties with the petals. Prepare Tomato Caldillo.

Add oil to a sauté pan and fry patties (you will need to continue adding oil, 2 tbsp at a time, as you remove cooked patties and add new ones to the sauté pan). Cook 2 minutes on each side. Drain well on a paper towel and add to Tomato Caldillo. Serve with rice, beans, and warm tortillas.

 

Chicken Stock, plus Shredded Chicken

(MAKES ABOUT 1 GALLON OF STOCK, 5 POUNDS SHREDDED CHICKEN)

 

1 ½ gallons water

6 chicken legs and 6 chicken thighs, with skin and bones (about 4–6 pounds)

1 head garlic, roasted

½ onion

½ tsp whole black peppercorns (or 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper)

2 carrots, peeled

1 celery stalk

1 sprig fresh cilantro

1 bay leaf

1–2 tbsp salt

If time allows, first roast chicken in a pan in the oven at 350° for 30–45 minutes to get a stronger flavor. Bring the water to a boil and add the chicken. As it returns to a boil, skim the foam and particles that rise to the top with a slotted spoon and discard. Add the garlic, onion, peppercorns, carrots, celery, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Lower heat to medium and simmer for 30–45 minutes or until the chicken is tender. (If chicken has been previously roasted, remove after 30 minutes.) Remove the chicken and cool. Strain the stock and reserve. It will keep for 2–3 days in the refrigerator, up to 3 months in the freezer. For convenience, you may want to reduce stock and freeze.

When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken by hand—not with a knife. The meat should not be too finely shredded.

 

Tomato Stock / Caldillo de Tomate 

(MAKES 4 CUPS)

 

¼ cup minced onion

1 garlic clove, puréed

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup tomato purée (see below)

3 cups chicken stock (see above)

1 large sprig of cilantro

1 large bay leaf

Salt to taste

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil, add tomato purée, and cook for 12–15 minutes on medium high until it changes color and volume is reduced by half. Add chicken stock, cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Allow to boil for at least 10 more minutes to season well. Your stock is ready to be used in any recipe. Use it within 48 hours or freeze for up to 3 months

 

Fresh Tomato Purée

(MAKES ½ CUP)

 

3 small tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

½ onion

Blend all ingredients until smooth; strain and reserve. Use immediately or within a day. Or keep refrigerated for 2 days. You can also freeze for up to 1 month


Gina: I understand you’re building a home in Mexico. Please tell me about it. How far along are you? What are your hopes for the property?

 

Andrea: Yes, about seven or eight years ago, I went to visit friends in Tenango de Valle, in the state of Mexico, about half an hour from Toluca. I arrived at the Mexico City airport and we drove through an area known as La Marquesa on our way to Tenango and I instantly had this feeling of familiarity—that I was taking a trip that I had been preparing for all my life. When I arrived, I knew this was where I wanted to live.

 

Casa La Tia Kitchen

The idea of opening a casa de huesperas or guest house, and cooking school came later, as I thought about how I would earn a living in Mexico. This also seemed like a great way to share my love of Mexico and Mexican cuisine with many of my friends here in the U.S. The area where my house is doesn’t have a significant American population, at all. I like to say that if you ask where “la gabacha” (the foreigner) lives, people just point to my neighborhood. I began construction of Casa La Tia in what was just a cornfield five years ago, and now we have plumbing, electricity, and the house is almost complete. All five bedrooms and four bathrooms are done, as is the kitchen, which is colonial style and has a parilla instead of a traditional stove. The entire kitchen is covered with hand-cut hand-painted Talavera tile produced in Metepec, about a half an hour away.

 

Gina: Do you plan to write another book?

 

Andrea: Yes, I am working on the proposal as I write this. It’s a book more specific to sustainability and using all the parts of the plant, animal, or even seeds in some cases, but through the lens of Mexican cuisine. The topic was actually recommended to me by one of my readers! I think the timing is perfect, and there should be a lot of interest!

Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili by Hester Velmans, Plus Her Daughter’s Fabulous Pie Wedding

Hester Velmans

 

Berkshire Grown board member Hester Velmans contributed a delectable Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili to the Share the Bounty Chili Contest. At the event, she told me about her daughter’s pie-themed wedding held at the family’s barn in Sheffield, Mass. last summer. A friend had given my Pie Contest in a Box as a wedding shower present, which of course I was delighted to hear. Here Hester shares both her chili recipe and photos of the wedding pies – guests brought some 70 pies to the celebration!

 

Beef, Bourbon, and Roasted Tomato Chili

by Hester Velmans

Here is the unscientific chili recipe (a pinch of this and a pinch of

that…)

(8 servings)

 

First, braise the beef:

1 1/2-2 lbs cuts of beef, eg. strip steaks (whole)

1 tbs olive oil

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1 large roasted red pepper, peeled, diced

1 onion, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 large can crushed tomatoes

4 tbs molassses

2 tbs Bourbon

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground pepper

3 tbs ground cumin

1 tbs smoked paprika

1 tbs cayenne or chili powder

Sauté the vegetables in olive oil until soft, add other ingredients, place

beef in roasting pan and pour the sauce over. Cover with foil and roast in a

325 F oven for 2 1/2 hrs or until you can pull the beef apart with a fork.

 

Cool beef and then shred it with a fork into small pieces.

 

Second, make roasted tomatoes (can be done ahead of time):

10 ripe tomatoes, sliced horizontally into thick slices.

Olive oil

Coarse salt, pepper

A few cloves of garlic, not peeled

 

Place tomato slices and garlic on rimmed baking sheet, dribble with oil,

season and bake in 350 F oven 30 minutes to an hour (check!) until tomatoes are

getting caramelized. Cool, then press soft garlic out of garlic skins;

process everything (scraping up caramelized bits) either in food processor

or through a food mill.

 

Third, make chili:

1 or 2 tbs olive oil

2 large onions, diced,

3 bell peppers, any color, diced

1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes

1 tbs chili powder (check seasoning)

1 tsp each of dried oregano and sage

Salt, pepper to taste

1/2 cup Bourbon

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (to taste)

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 can garbanzo beans, drained

1 ear sweet corn, (cut corn off cob)

 

In a big pot sauté vegetables (except for corn), add Bourbon, cook for

about 5 minutes to reduce liquid by half, add beans, beef mixture and

roasted tomatoes, cook for about 10 minutes, then add the corn and adjust

seasoning. If too thick, add water or some orange juice.

 

Best if reheated the next day! Enjoy!

 

* * * Photos of Hester’s Daughter’s Wedding Pies * * *

Seafood Chili by Laury Epstein

Berkshire Grown board member Laury Epstein contributed an extraordinary seafood chili to the Share the Bounty Chili Contest. She graciously shares the recipe below.

Laury Epstein

Chili of the Sea

by Laury Epstein

Hosteria Fiorella was a wildly popular restaurant  on Third Avenue and the mid-60s, near where we lived in New York City.  This dish was so popular that in the 1980s New York magazine printed the recipe, as found below.

3 slices pancetta, roughly chopped

10 T olive oil

1 c finely diced yellow onion

10 cloves garlic, crushed

3 fresh chili peppers, seeded and thinly sliced

¾ c white wine

Approximately 6 oz. each fresh chicken and turkey link sausage, precooked for 7 minutes and then cut into ½” slices*

3 c chopped tomatoes

2 c plus 6 T canned tomato sauce

2 ½ c canned Great Northern white beans, drained

¾ lb fish fillet (such as flounder), cut in small cubes

¾ lb calamari, cut in rings

30 littleneck clams, minced

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined and cut into 2 or 3 pieces

2-3 t cumin powder

Salt to taste

2 T cracked black pepper

If desired, sprinkle chopped parsley, basil, and/or cilantro just before serving**

In a good-size pot, sauté pancetta in olive oil until crisp.  Add onion, garlic, and chili peppers, and cook until tender.  Deglaze pan with wine, then add sausages, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans, and simmer over moderate heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  Can make chili up to this point well ahead of serving.

Add fish, calamari, clams, and shrimp.  Season with cumin, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes.  Stir in fresh herbs and cook for 1 minute longer.

*I was in a minor car accident on my way to Guido’s to get the chicken and turkey sausage, but never got there so to mimic their flavor, I added 2 t dried fennel.  But I’d rather have used the sausage.

**Same excuse for not including the fresh herbs.

Mango and Jicama On-a-Sticks, Fresh Garbanzo Beans

Last week in San Miguel: mango and jicama carved into flowers, dusted with chile pepper, and served like lollipops, plus a mound of fresh garbanzo beans.

Painted Tortillas and Capilla San Isdidro in Cruz del Palmar

Yesterday our friend Judith Roberts drove us out into the San Miguel countryside to the village of Cruz del Palmar. We visited the newly resorted 18th century Capilla San Isdidro, which is one of six chapels on the Ruta de  Capillas de Indios. On the church ceiling, there’s an “orchestra of angels” mural. I only half-understood the guide…the history involves Otomí and Chichimeca tribes, a lightning strike, something about witches hopping from mesquite tree to mesquite tree, a river, and a guy who stole silver.There’s a little restaurant set up at the chapel, where they served “painted tortillas” with lunch. Judy explained that the charming tortillas are a specialty of this village, made for fiestas with vegetable dyes and woodblock presses.

Chili Cook-off in a Box Mention in Women’s World

It’s exciting to see Chili Cook-off in a Box start making its way into the world. My husband is amused by the ambiguous grammar of the magazine deeming me an “entertaining expert.”

 

 

United Bank Team’s Wild and Wonderful Game Chili

In researching Chili Cook-off in a Box, I’ve been struck by how chili’s appeal transcends politics. Republican golfers love it and anarchist vegans do, too.  Here is a game-based chili recipe that United Bank employees cooked up to win the Chamber of Commerce of the Mid-Ohio Valley‘s Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Commercial loan officer  Lindsey Anderson kindly gave me the scoop.

United Bank employees Lindsey Anderson, Rita Dotson, and Chad Mildren

Gina: Who were the members of the team and what are their jobs at the bank?

Lindsey: [Me, plus] Rita Dotson (loan document specialist), Chad Mildren (regional president), Stewart Powderly (commercial credit analyst), and Bonnie Rice (external accountant).

Gina: How did the team go about deciding on the recipe?

Lindsey: The recipe was Rita Dotson’s with a little twist.

Gina: I understand that someone at the bank hunted for some of the ingredients. Please tell me that story. 

Lindsey: Chad Mildren took the deer last October with his bow on his farm in Ohio. It was an 8-point that field dressed at 190 pounds. He took the front roast to the butcher who mixed in some cow and pork fat into it as he ran it thru the grinder. [The deer] had soybeans, clover, turnips, acorns, and browse for his main diet. Chad always hangs his deer at 36 degree temperature for 7 to 10 days in a cooler before cutting up. This makes the meat tender and takes the game taste out of it.

Gina: How many chili cook-offs have your team members entered and won?

Lindsey: This was our first cook-off.

Gina: Do you have any tips for chili cook-off competitors?

Lindsey: If you operating in a team, choose your strongest chef, and stick to one recipe.  However, do not be afraid to make some small adjustments to the recipe.

Gina: What do you think makes the difference between a good chili and a great one?

Lindsey: When the heat from spices doesn’t overwhelm the flavor and let it set overnight so the ingredients will blend. If someone wants it so hot it will bring tears, then have a side bowl of jalapenos, habaneros, and a bottle hot sauce or red pepper flakes.

Gina: Lastly, can you say why you love chili?

Lindsey: It warms you up and is a GREAT comfort food served with oyster crackers and sides of peanut butter or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Bonnie Rice and Stewart Powderly at the Great Bowls of Fire Chili Cook-off in Parkersberg, West Virginia (photo by Jill Parsons)

United Bank Team’s Wild and Wonderful Chili

By Rita Dotson

7 pounds elk and deer blend with 1 pound pork

5 pounds ground chuck

3 very large onions (chopped)

4 large green peppers (chopped)

5 tablespoons Tone’s Chili Powder

5 tablespoons Kroger Dark Chili Powder

1 package Mesquite chili seasoning

1 tablespoon pepper

1/4 cup sugar

3  6-pound cans tomato sauce

4  28-ounce cans petite diced tomatoes

5 – 10-ounce cans RO-TEL Original

4 – 52-ounce cans light red kidney beans

Salt

This recipe makes approximately  7 to 8 gallons. Use two (2) roasters. Put half of everything in each roaster.

Fry meat until almost done, then add onions and green peppers. Onions will become translucent, at this point add seasonings.

Salt to taste after all ingredients are added and has simmered for a short time. If you want more spices, add more to your taste. Some people like mushrooms added.

Lindsey says, “This is a recipe you can ‘have it your way,’ but this way is a WINNER.”

Mother-Daughter Spa Day at Hotel Matilda in San Miguel de Allende

My mom and I checked out the Hotel Matilda Spa this week. The Matilda, which opened a year ago, is located in the charming neighborhood near Parque Juárez on the site of the former Hotel Villa Jacaranda.

Gina and Leigh at the Hotel Matilda Spa. The artwork in the background is titled "Aránea" by Angelo Musco.

The property has been completely transformed from its Colonial roots. It’s now sleek and modern, decorated in a subtle palette designed to showcase the hotel owners’ serious collection of contemporary Latin American art, along with San Miguel’s brilliant blue sky.

Leigh enjoying lime tea and cookies in the spa relaxation room.

The intimate spa has a Zen-Mex-Moroccan vibe to it. We were treated to side-by-side pedicures in a private room that looked out on a rock garden planted with cacti, wild grasses, and bamboo. While our feet soaked in hot water, therapists Alma and Esther rubbed camellia-scented avocado oil into our hair and massaged our scalps. The spa offers many scrubs and wraps that utilize indigenous ingredients, such as nopal, coffee, and coconut.

After the pampering, we enjoyed lunch on the terrace. The restaurant has a new chef, Jorge Boneta, whose upscale menu riffs on Mexican street food. It’s a winning concept that feels just right for the Matilda, which is about world-class, yet unpretentious hospitality that’s steeped in the flavors of 21st century Mexico, as opposed to generic fancy “continental” cuisine and style.

We shared four appetizers: Yucatecan suckling pig tacos cooked in banana leaves, spicy sea bass ceviche topped with a tangle of cucumber ribbons, Zihuatanejo shrimp cocktail, and chopped salmon served in lettuce cups with garlic sauce and crispy fried leeks.

Pickled onions and steamed tacos

Shrimp cocktail

My mom and I agreed that it was the freshest seafood we’d ever tasted in San Miguel. The shrimp cocktail, in particular, was transcendent. The succulent shrimp were served in a dark beer-hot pepper sauce on a bed of citrus with whisper-thin slices of radish. My mom said, “This shrimp cocktail is so good, it makes me forget every shrimp cocktail that came before it.”

Leigh at Hotel Matilda

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