“How about this?” I handed Suzen the first recipe I had found thanks to Google.
“No,” she said in a flash. Had she read the recipe? No. Did I mind? No. It was the first one. She always rejects the first one.
“Okay, how about this?” She got the second.
She paused, actually scanning. “No.”
“Well, I think you might like this one,” I said, handing her the third. I always give her the good one third. Works flawlessly.
“No. Get out.”
“What do you mean out?”
“Brian, cooking is a lot like baseball. Three strikes and you are out. Out of the kitchen.”
I left. Humbled. Depressed. I get sent on missions to find recipes for Suzen and I often succeed. Often but not always. I need recipes. I am not a chef and I have never been culinary school. I may improvise in the kitchen, but I need that template, that recipe in front of me, to make sure I have all the ingredients and all the proportions. I simply cannot do it out of my head.
Suzen can. Her cooking school, Cooking by the Book, has had enough students to fill Giants Stadium. Twice. And she tested the 3000+ recipes in that last edition of The Joy of Cooking. All those recipes. And, the thousands more that were tried out but did not make the cut for the book. In all that cooking, she’s become a kitchen ballerina.
The day’s mission for me had been what to do with an abundance of peppers, and onions, and tomatillos. It was the end of the week, classes at CBTB were done, and we had leftovers and a challenge.
Suzen had some vision and she translated leftovers into that vision with immense success. This Southwestern Pepper Medley has a lively tang — from onion, garlic and surely those tomatillos — that makes this a substantial side dish. Pair it with any protein and you’ll be successful.
Or, puree this into a sauce and use to top off a burger than has already been adorned with blue cheese. I guarantee your eyes will pop with the sharp, bright tang of this mixture.
I’m sharpening my google skills. Can I learn how to read her mind? Figure out what she really wants? We’ve only been married for 28 years. I’m just getting started. And Google? They have those glasses and the driverless cars and all sorts of advanced gizmos. Surely, Google can …
No. Strike four. I’m really out.
Southwestern Pepper Medley
Yield: serves 8+ as a side
- 1 pound poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound green bell peppers, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 2 jalapenos, roasted, seeded and sliced
- 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, washed and quartered
- 1 large white onion, quartered
- 5 cloves garlic, roasted
- Lime juice to taste
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup pepper jack cheese, grated
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup chopped cilantro gar garnish
Place a small amount of oil in a cast iron pan large enough to hold all the veggies in a shallow layer.
Heat the oil on medium until hot. Add the spices and cook until they become aromatic. Add all the vegetables and sauté until soft. Season with lime juice and salt and pepper to your taste.
Lower the heat to simmer. Add the cilantro and cheese, mix rapidly to achieve a creamy texture.
Sources: Suzen O’Rourke
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/20th second at ISO-640
“What town?” I was asking a friend for his address. He had moved to California and I was about to visit.
“Camarillo,” he said, but very oddly. Holding a map of Ventura Country, I saw that the city was spelled with two letter “l”s so I repeated the city name but using a long “l” sound, just the way it was spelled.
“No,” he said. “Camarillo is pronounced like the two “l”s are a “y.”
I practiced the sound, traveled to California, stopped at a gas station and asked for direction to Camarillo. But thanks to habit, I pronounced the “l”s. The service station attendant, with dazzling black hair and skin the color of deep pecans, corrected me. The two “l”s were a “y.” I was stranger in this land that belonged to his culture, not mine.
I loved that odd sound and only later discovered the reason. The Spanish alphabet used to have additional characters, beyond the 26 we have in English. One of those “characters” was spelled with two English “l” characters: ll. But it always had a “j” or “y” sound. There’s an ongoing battle within the Spanish speaking community whether it is “j” or “y.” But it ain’t “ll” as in English.
Why the change? Why was the letter “ll” officially dropped? Thank English, the internet, and keyboards. It was just not quite popular enough, not economically powerful enough for Microsoft to incorporate into Word, not easy to make keyboards with an extra key labeled “ll” … There were lots of reasons, but we now have a major language with an oxymoron: it uses a letter that is not officially a letter any more.
But we need “ll.” People still live in beautiful Camarillo, California. And we still eat tomatillos. One of my favorite fruits, the source of that deep sour pitch to salsa verde, a powerful ingredient when cooked and added over chicken or in quesadillas or … It’s wonderful to eat in a thousand different ways.
And, now, you can drink it.
Yes, you can drink a tomatillo. And it’s not a gimmick. It’s a good drink. One that lasts long in the glass, that you can sip for an hour and enjoy how the flavor changes as the ice melts, the mixture warms, and beer and tequila shift in impact.
Yes, again. Here’s a tomatillo based beverage made with both beer and tequila. And you rim the glass with a spice mix based on cayenne pepper.
At first sip, after your lips stop burning, you are going to say, “This is bleeping strange.” But you keep sipping, you adjust to the spices, and over time that unique tomatillo flavor comes more forward and attaches to the beer and tequila. After a while, you are going to say, “This is bleeping lovely.” Fortunately, in “lovely” the two “l”s are not next to each other so you enjoy the “l” sound. If you want the Spanish “ll” sound, just mention the key ingredient: tomatillo.
My friend in Camarillo moved long ago. The two lane highway originally there is now six. The rows of eucalyptus trees, two hundred years old, that lined the original highway are gone. But the air is still California fresh and sometimes I will stop for a beer or a tequila or even a tomatillo. That’s with a “y.”
I found this lovely drink recipe while surfing the web. If you love to drink, you need to visit imbibe.com
Yield: 1 cocktail
- 1 ½ ounces anejo tequila
- ½ ounce fresh lime juice
- ¼ ounce agave syrup
- Dash spice mix [recipe below]
- 1 small heirloom tomato, diced
- 1 small tomatillo, diced
- 2 sprigs fresh cilantro
- 2 ounces light Mexican lager [Yes, I used Corona Light instead]
- Ice cubes
Muddle the tomato, tomatillo and cilantro in a cocktail shaker. Add the remaining ingredients, except the beer, and shake with ice. Double strain in a chilled cocktail glass and top with the beer. Garnish with cilantro.
Optionally, first rim the glass with lime juice then dip it into the spice mix [recipe below]. Warning: this is hot. Just be careful or your lips will burn.
- 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons celery seed
- ½ teaspoon habanero powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and slow whisk to mix. This mixture is devilishly hot. So, do NOT wet your finger, dip it in and taste test. You’ll be screaming and running for a beer if you do.
Source: Imbibe.com which credits Tilth Restaurant in Seattle [please visit titlerestaurant.com to learn more about this exciting New American restaurant]
Photo Credits: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens, shot at F/2.8 for 1/80th second at ISO 2500.