Friday, November 21, 2008

History Lesson at Santa Fe School of Cooking

Within minutes after our lesson began at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, Rocky Durham said that, although many restaurants serve 'rolled' enchiladas, many traditional cooks actually layer enchilada ingredients to form a lasagna-style dish. He layered tortillas, chicken, cheese, and red or green sauce in cast iron pans before baking them briefly, and then served us small portions.

The first permanent residents of this area likely arrived 2,500 years ago and, when the Europeans came, they found crops that were exclusively indigenous to this continent, including beans, squash, tomatoes, potatoes and chiles. Native Americans also used corn and, Rocky said, "The corn tortilla is the world's oldest prepared food."

But possession of this crop was considered heretical to staunch Catholics because legend had it that gods from the sky gave corn to Native Americans - who therefore considered tending corn an act of creation - and this flew in the face of their religious teachings. Little did the Europeans know how intertwined Native American and Catholic beliefs and culinary traditions would later become.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

White Bean & Spinach Soup

I have a friend who bought into a CSA (community supported agriculture) this summer and received a huge box of fresh produce, meat, eggs, etc., every week. I thought about following her lead but decided I didn't want to have my weekly menu dictated by somebody else's choice of ingredients. I think I'll join next summer, after an experience I had last weekend.

At our suburban town's recent Saturday 'holiday market,' a few farmers still offered produce. For only $3 I received a full shopping bag of absolutely gorgeous fresh spinach, and learned that fall is actually the best season for this leafy green. After giving half to my friend who had tried the CSA, I started thinking about how to use the rest. This new recipe has spinach as a central ingredient, but with plenty more flavors in the mix:

White Bean & Spinach Soup
Serves 3-4

1/2 pound cooked ground sausage

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 red onion, diced

2 cans Great Northern beans

1/4 cup sherry

1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon coarse salt

2 cups fresh spinach leaves, cut in 1/2-inch ribbons

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

honey to taste

Puree 2 cans of white beans in food processor. Saute onion and garlic in oil and a large soup pot, over medium heat. Add bean puree, onion, garlic, sausage, sherry, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add third can of beans, spinach, and 1-2 teaspoons honey, stirring thoroughly. Simmer 15 additional minutes. Adjust salt, pepper, and honey, to taste. Serve with light rye or sourdough bread, and a crisp green salad.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sedona's Magic

Whether or not you believe in the power of Sedona Arizona's renowned vortexes, there's no doubting the majesty of the red rock vistas in this special spot. Add a cloud-filled sky left over from a brief afternoon downpour, with pockets of blue sky and brilliant sun rays, and you couldn't have a more picturesque landscape. Every shift of light accentuates a different area of the majestic rocks, creating ever-changing views.

At one time, Sedona's natural beauty was it's primary draw. But the tiny town has grown to include more than 10,000 residents and, with them, a thriving arts presence that features more than 70 galleries. In fact, AmericanStyle magazine gave Sedona the third spot in its 2008 Top 25 Arts Destination competition.

Sedona's four vortexes also draw many enthusiasts. These are naturally occurring pockets of subtle energy that come from the earth's surface, across the globe. Spiritualists believe this energy also impacts each individual person who comes in contact with it, causing a positive emotional impact that may last for days after exposure.

No matter what draws you to Sedona the first time, it will likely draw you back.