Don Roberto

December 23, 2006

It’s rumored there’s a wise man who lives on the shores of the Southern Yucatan in a modest palace of driftwood and stone. The locals and tourists flock to this man for his potions and advice on all matters of life and death. I traveled by kayak to meet this one affectionately known as Don Roberto.

When I arrived, he was at the end of a consult. He told the young man to go home, sweep the floor three times, then kneel upon it and pray. Meanwhile, his wife would need to remain with him to develop a poultice.

After the young man had left, Don Roberto whipped up a green concoction, tossed it with the most succulent shrimp and perched them atop an ice cold Tecate. The wife’s clothes peeled like banana skin and Don Roberto shooed me out the door.

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Coctel de Camarones con Salsa Tomatillo

Make the Salsa
10 tomatillos
2 serrano peppers, deseeded
1/2 yellow onion, cut into chunks
1 tsp raw sugar
Juice of one lime
2 Tbs cool water as needed

Simmer the tomatillos in water for 10 minutes until soft and the skins are peeling. Remove, drain and cool. Blend all ingredients minus the water on low. If the salsa is too thick, add the water. If stored in the refrigerator overnight, the salsa will thicken. Don Roberto doesn’t have a refrigerator, but he always has plenty of clients waiting on the beach.

Steam the Shrimp
1 can of Tecate
1 jalapeno pepper, halved and deseeded
8 large shrimp, preferably with heads

In a saucepot, bring the beer and the jalapeño to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the whole, unpeeled shrimp. Cover and steam for about 3 minutes until pink. Don’t overcook as it reduces the clothes peeling power. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the heads, peel and de-vein.

Assemble the Coctel
2 cans ice cold Tecate
2 pinches of salt
Squeeze of lime
8 large steamed shrimp

Toss the shrimp with the salsa. Wash and open two cans of ice cold Tecate. Sprinkle a little sea salt and squeeze the lime over the top of each. Arrange the shrimp on top of the can and pour a teaspoon more of salsa over each. Feed her the shrimp like grapes then pour the beer into a tall glass. The salsa, salt and lime mixes with the beer to make magic. Serves 2.

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Your Sensitive Side

December 20, 2006

A few foods have a remarkable quality that makes a person feel safe, secure, comforted. Mashed potatoes are definitely one of those, but they also say, “eat, eat, you’re too skinny. I’m your mother, I should know.” This dish, on the other hand, says “I’m a sensitive, caring man, who know’s that G marks the spot.” It will make her feel like you’ll be there until her dying day, or until she gets bored with your dinner conversation, which ever comes first.

Serve this as a second course, right after the oysters topped with creme fraiche and caviar.

Miso Lemon Soup

What’s really important with this soup is the 4 simple, bold flavors. Your stock should be simple and pure.

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Simple Fish Stock
The correct way to do this involves a visit to your fishmonger. Ask for 3 small fish heads, preferably fileted carcasses. I like to use sea bass, flounder and weakfish, but just about any light-fleshed fish will do. Cut the gills and the guts out with your heavy duty shears. Put them in 10 cups of fresh spring water with a bay leaf and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the bones, strain the stock and add another bay leaf, 1/2 tsp of salt and 5 sprigs of thyme. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 20 more minutes. If you’re in a pinch, you can skip the fish heads and use bonito flakes.

Assemble the Soup
Juice of half a lemon
2 cups fish stock
2 heaping teaspoons of white miso
2 pinches cilantro, finely chopped
1 scallion, finely sliced

Put the miso paste in a small metal or glass bowl. Add 2 Tbs of the hot stock and mix the miso into a thick rue. Add the lemon juice, the remaining stock and stir. Ladle the soup into teacups and garnish with scallion and cilantro. Sip it like a tea with your pinky extended.

Pumpkin Sage Risotto

December 4, 2006

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There are hordes of wayward young ladies who don’t have family to share a Holiday meal with. Where’s your sense of charity, David? Invite them all over to your pad and start your own Holiday traditions. Start with the oyster cocktail, then a little ceviche and follow it up with this velvety number. Finish the evening with home made ice cream and black ginger cookies. Save your receipts, I think this meal is tax deductible. Serves 4

The stock
If you don’t have all these ingredients, use what you’ve got. The important ones are the apples and the herbs.

3 carrots cut into large chunks
2 apples, cored
1 bulb of garlic separated, but not peeled
12 cups of water, plus more as needed
2medium potatoes cut into 1/4s
3 onions cut into 1/8ths
1/2 bunch of parsley, stems and all
5 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
20 leaves of sage plus stems
1 tsp coarse sea salt
10 white peppercorns
1 bay leaf
scrapings from the pumpkin

Sautee the onions in 2 Tbs olive oil until translucent. Add the water, turn up the heat to high and add all the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Strain the stock, transfer to a smaller pot and simmer for 10 minutes more.

Saute the sage leaves for garnish

1 Tbs butter
13 sage leaves

Heat the butter over medium heat until bubbling. Add the sage leaves and sautee until crisp, about 3 minutes per side.

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Saute the pumpkin

1/2 small cheese pumpkin (save the rest for soup) or 1 medium butternut squash
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
pinch of fresh or dried cayenne pepper, deseeded (easy here, it shouldn’t be spicy)
1/2 cup dry white wine like a French Chardonnay or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
1/2 cup stock
3 sage leaves
pinch of salt

Peel and clean the pumpkin, reserving the scrapings for the stock. Cut the pumpkin into small cubes. Saute the garlic on low heat for about 2 minutes. Add the pepper and saute for a minute more. Add the cubed pumpkin and saute for 2 minutes more. Add the white wine and the sage, simmer and reduce slightly, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and the salt and simmer until the pumpkin is tender, but not too soft.

Stir the risotto

4 shallots minced
1-1/2 cup of carnaroli or arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
5 cups of stock
2 Tbs olive oil
10 sage leaves, chopped
Sauteed pumpkin from above
1/2 grated Parmigiano
salt to taste

Saute the shallots in olive oil until translucent. Add the rice, stir to coat and saute for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook uncovered, stirring often until liquid is reduced by half. Add 1/2 cup of stock and continue the process for about 20 minutes until the risotto is almost al dente. Add the pumpkin, the chopped sage and cook for a few minutes more adding stock as necessary. The risotto should be firm, not soft. Stir in the cheese, garnish with crisp sage leaves and serve immediately. If it’s a particularly lovely Holiday, stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream before you stir in the cheese. Serve with prosecco.