Archive for July, 2012

July 27, 2012

Queso Fundido

by Kathryn Baldwin


Last week, my family said “see you soon” to our grandfather who passed away watching a Cubs game at age 85. Art Bonwell was the cofounder of the Save Mount Diablo Foundation and also built the foundation my father needed to raise his own healthy family.

This week, my boyfriend’s family said “hello” to four squeaking, new-born puppies. Nala, the yorkie-mix mother, gave birth Monday, right at her favorite part of the day (dinner time, duh), and has been tending to the wobbly crew ever since.

There is something so beautiful about life. Each Good-bye can be soothed by another Hello.

This week of contrasts that left me contemplating the wisdom of old age and the sweetness of youth, led me to the perfect culinary parallel: cheese! After all, what other food is beautiful fresh AND beautiful, if not more so, in old age?

So after the puppies were born, I had the crazy idea to try Marcella Vallodolid’s recipe and MAKE fresh cheese from milk. To make a long story short, I FAILED. Here is the sad story in picture form:

On the way home from work the next day, I went to a local Mexican grocery store (Las Montañas) to buy 5 ingredients from the gods: Oaxaca cheese, Mexican Chorizo, a white onion, fresh garlic, and a stack of tortillas. My mood soared the moment I dropped the ingredients in my basket.

The first time I ate “Queso Fundido” was with my boyfriend’s family in Guadalajara, Mexico. A mini, cast iron dish arrived at the table with steaming cheese, a fork, and warm, flour tortillas. I remember asking what it was called. I also remember immediately responding, “Queso Qué?!”  Queso means cheese, of course (and if you don’t know that, you’re name is Patrick Star and you live under a rock). I know now that the word “Fundido” means melted (although the same word can be used as “molten” or “ruined,” but this isn’t a linguistics blog…).

Mexican Mozzarella from the Oaxaca region:

After the cheese stops bubbling from it’s quick oven bake, you can stick a fork in it and twist the cheese like caramel or taffy. Pull the molten cheese from the hardening puddle and then squeeze the warm glob between a piece of soft tortilla.

Slide the cheese off, as though it’s a roasted marshmallow sliding off of a stick between two graham crackers. In another country, we may call this fondue; In Mexico, it’s Queso Fundido. And remember to indulge in the mess. It’s part of the Mexican way, after all!

Follow Marcella Valladolid’s recipe from “Mexican Made Easy.”

I used more onion because I like it better that way! If you want to make the appetizer a more fun experience for guests, have avocado slices, cilantro, lime, and salsa around to add to each bite. Lead the way: show the crowd how each bite can be just as unique and delicious as it is messy.

Tomorrow you can search for the wiser, aged cheeses of life to learn something new from. Today, we thank the universe for the fresh cheeses of life.

In Loving Memory of Art Bonwell. Thank you for being the link of wisdom that our family needed.

July 20, 2012

Birthday Break

by Kathryn Baldwin

The good news is:

I had a birthday this week.

The bad news is:

It didn’t quite go the way I planned.

 

Then again, what birthday does?

 

I think a week off every six months sounds natural. Don’t you? Stay tuned because I’ve done a good deal of research about Latin America this week and next week is bound to be scrumptious…

Provecho!

 

PS: My friends and I dared each other to have ZERO dessert for 21 days. I’m on day 3. Oh man this is difficult! You should do it with us!

July 13, 2012

Nothing-is-Random Gazpacho

by Kathryn Baldwin

A dolphin showed up in a skinny body of water just north of the San Francisco airport yesterday. Yesterday was the first day in years I wore my dolphin necklace that I bought in Gibraltar when I was 11. Random? Nothing is random.

I’ve been dreaming of water my whole life. As a child, I would dream my house was full of water. I would hover in the middle of the room and then leisurely swim from the kitchen up to my bedroom. Sometimes full scenes would take place where I’d never surface to breathe. Instead, I’d drag in huge breaths of air straight from the water itself, as though my mouth worked like gills. I also had a series of tsunami dreams where a huge wave would wipe out my town. I would let the wave whip me around uncontrollably. Then, I would be one of the only survivors, helping to rescue the rest of the town once the wave went back out to sea. The past few years, I’ve been dreaming of whales: orcas racing around me in water tubes; baluga whales sinking my ship mid sea.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking one of  3  things:

1) This bitch is crazy!

or

2) I wish I had dreams!

or

3) I’ve had dreams in water too! Sweet.

Responses:

1)   Rude!

2)   Everyone dreams! You just have to practice remembering them. Plus, you have to WANT TO REMEMBER THEM REALLY REALLY BADLY!

3)   For me, water in dreams usually symbolizes emotion (BTW, I only know this because my Aunt, Karen Baldwin, is a dream interpreter.) It makes sense that I was always surrounded by water in my dreams when I was young: I was a bucket of endless emotion! (Get it? Water = Emotion.) Sometimes I can enjoy my emotions (water): swimming and breathing through the emotions (water) with leisure and awe. Other times, I get whipped around by my emotions (tidal wave) uncontrollably. Then, once my huge wave of emotion (water) subsides, I’m the only survivor to pick up the mess. (see the connection? And, in case you’re wondering: Yes, my zodiac sign is Cancer). Does water equate to emotion in your dreams?

Right about now, you’re probably thinking one of two things:

1)   Random! What the hell does this have to do with food?

or

2)   I was hungry, now I’m hungry AND thirsty. Great!

Responses:

1)   Nothing is random. That stray dolphin reminded me of my whale dreams. My swimming dreams reminded me of summer. Summer is scorching hot. Scorching heat requires more liquids. See. It’s all connected!

2)  If you’re hot, hungry, and thirsty, you need to make gazpacho (cold soup).

Last weekend, I tested a recipe for my soon-to-be sister’s bridal shower evening …which my sister and I are hosting. I wanted something light, pretty, and easy for self-serve. Those three categories wipe out pretty much every real food imaginable other than raw fruit and veggies. Luckily, I found a recipe in Seriously Simple, by Diane Rossen Worthington, for a chilled soup. Chilled soup quenches thirst, cures heat and anger, and is delicious in the summer!

Chilled Summer Squash Soup with Basil:

-Saute 2 chopped leeks in a few tablespoons of olive oil for 5 minutes.

-Add 6, sliced zucchini squash (squashes?) and sauté with the leeks for 5 more minutes.

-Add 4 cups of chicken broth. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.

-Purée the soup (GOSH I WISH I HAD AN IMMERSION BLENDER!!!!!!)

-Refrigerate this blended mixture for four hours or more.

-Add a squeeze of lemon, a cup of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of chopped chives, and 6 tablespoons of chopped basil.

-Salt. Pepper.

Partition the soup out in cute, little mason jars. Pack the cute, little mason jars for lunch or put the cute, little mason jars in a pretty ice bucket for a sweet little party. Speaking of cute. That poor little stranded dolphin was so cute!

Soup. Liquid. Dolphins. Dreams…. I’m telling you, Nothing Is Random.

July 6, 2012

Summer: Play, Pie, Pacify

by Kathryn Baldwin

My summer laziness is severe. I leave the back door open so that I don’t have to let the dogs in and out. I’ve resorted to checking email only when I feel like it. (Don’t worry though…my motivation to publish KGuac is through the rooof–cough). When I have laundry to do, I visit my mom’s closet. When I’m hungry, I buy food. When I’m tired, I buy caffein.

In fact, I’m damn proud of myself for allowing this summer laziness. Just because we have jobs, car payments, and family event-planning doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tell each other to shut up and slow down!!!!!

Stop running around: let the heat remind you to sit down. Stop wasting gas on grocery runs: pick the apricots out of the tree in your yard. Cut something out of your schedule: construct a rustic pie for your family!

On that note:

My Grandma Charlene taught me how to make her famous pie crust one hot, summer week in Arkansas. I’ve made the crust many times and it never fails.

 

In a bowl gently combine four things until they join together in a lumpy glob:

1) 2 1/4 cups flour

2) a teaspoon of salt

3) 2/3 cup of vegetable oil

4) 1/3 cup of water

The less you mess with your dough, the flakier it will be. (Only the flaky crusts pass Grandpa’s taste test!) Break the glob in half: one half is the bottom crust; the other, the top crust. Place some wax paper on the counter and sprinkle flour on top. Put one of the dough globs onto the floured wax paper. Add a little flour to the top of the glob and put another sheet of wax paper on top.

Using a rolling pin, roll from the center outward, spinning the wax paper sandwich as you go so that creating a circle is easier. If you’re rushing and not careful, your crust will look overly rustic (hence my crazy, awkward-looking pie…). With the dough safe between the wax paper, you can hold the crust over your pie dish to check for size!

Pull one layer of wax paper off, flip it upside down on your pie dish, and then slowly remove the other layer of wax paper. After you position the crust in the pan, poke holes in the bottom so that steam is able to release. Add any summer fruit mixture you can find on the internet. (In a separate bowl, I mixed freshly picked apricot halves, brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a tiny bit of flour. I then poured that fruit mixture on top of the bottom dough layer.) I guarantee if the mixture recipe you find sounds yummy, it will be yummy. Then, top it off with the other glob of dough (which you can roll out in the same way you rolled out the first). No matter how it looks, remember that any home-made pie is a million times better than a store-bought one… right? Haha:

Poke some holes in the top (Grandma Charlene makes a smiley face on the top) and put it in the oven at 475 degrees for 20 minutes. This higher temperature makes the bottom crust crispier!

Change the temperature to 375 degrees for 20 more minutes. If the crust starts to brown too early, cover the pie (or just the edges) with foil.

It’s really a simple, lazy process. If I can make this pie in the middle of a summer day, you can make it with your eyes closed (or after a few beers).

By the way. It’s too late to be writing. I’m exhausted…