Hot weather celery salad

Hot weather celery salad

Climate change is the new black. My peppers and tomatoes are happy; the dog is miserable; the boy has the swimming unit in P.E. this month so he is just fine. Hot days deserve cool meals, you know, so here’s a recipe for a celery and jicama salad that promises to take the edge off the heat.

Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Kid One recently started his First Real Job at a Palo Alto Tech Company, and this was the occasion of meeting him for lunch for the first time. I wanted to choose a place in advance; downtown Palo Alto is chock-full of restaurants and did not want to waste his hour walking around and deciding. Through the magic of Google Maps, I walked around online the night before. Resposado called out to me because we all like Mexican food and I can’t resist queso fundido. I figured it would be fine, maybe even pretty good. I wasn’t counting on it being fabulous.

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Taco soup your way, either fast or slow

Two recipes for taco soup, a dish I had neither made nor tasted, popped up in my inbox recently. The first one is a slow-cooker recipe from Janice Gullett, a Life in the Skillet reader who found me while planning a trip to Loreto, Mexico. The second one, courtesy of one of my lovely sisters-in-law, is a super-fast, super-efficient, 30 minute to the table version. A note: both call for taco seasoning – which is what makes them taco soup. Janice’s for any supermarket brand packet and Rita’s for the taco seasoning from Penzey’s. I always make my own; it’s actually really easy to make with regular pantry ingredients; click here for my recipe. They are both delicious. The slow-cooker version I’ve put here first has quite a bit of spice from the adobo chilies, and the chicken is exceptionally tender. Don’t try and take the shortcut to add the adobos in the beginning or it will be too spicy. I used dark beer and parsley instead of cilantro and served with flour tortillas. Double up on the beans on either recipe to make a vegetarian version. Slow cooker chicken taco soup   Save Print Prep time 15 mins Cook time 7 hours Total time 7 hours 15 mins   This is a spicy slow-cooker meal in a pot. Author: Janice Gullett Recipe type: Entree Cuisine: Mexican Ingredients • 1 onion, chopped 1 (16 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained (or use frozen) 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (12 fluid ounce) can or...

The amazing Loreto tortillas

The flour tortillas in Loreto are wonderfully fresh and moist and seven inches in diameter – larger than the corn tortillas you find packaged in the U.S., but still smaller than our standard flour tortillas. They’re so unbelievably thin – almost transparent – scarred with uneven air bubbles that no assembly line production can ever hope to duplicate.   These tortillas are 10 pesos for a packet of 12, about 80 cents, at the pink cinder block market on Calle Davis that is also the front room of a family home. Glance through the open rear door of the store, and you will not see the expected stockroom, rather, you are peeking into a tidy living room with brown sofa and deep olive throw rug. Three young children ventures in and out, and a grandparent-aged man works the counter. You can also purchase CocaCola, cooking oil, tampons, hominy, and leche, but no bottled water.   Best Thing I Ever Ate: January...
Quick and easy summer appetizer

Quick and easy summer appetizer

Need a dressy appetizer for a summer potluck? Here’s a ridiculously fast and delicious dish to throw together: shrimp and avocado salsa. There’s no cooking involved, so it’s perfect for the heat of a summer kitchen . . . but save it for the indoor parties, since it’s got to stay cold. I originally threw this together only because some out of town friends surprised us at dinnertime. I had a handful of bay shrimp I’d forgotten to add to our Cobb salads the night before, and since I always want to to use seafood within a day or two of purchase, I took advantage of a “use it or lose it” moment. The richness and sweetness of the shrimp and avocado complement each other nicely, and the extra citrus and pepper add the necessary zing. I threw this all together and just served it with a bowl of tortilla chips. Leftovers the next night were perfect in a choppy green salad. This would also be great tossed into an omelet.   Here are the proportions I used: Shrimp and avocado salsa   Save Print A quick and super-easy appetizer. Author: Life in a Skillet Recipe type: appetiser Ingredients 2 cups pico de gallo (I buy it fresh and cold in the produce section) ¼ lb bay shrimp (I buy these already cleaned and cooked at the fish counter) 1 large avocado, cut into small cubes juice of 2 limes (or other citrus as you see fit) freshly ground pepper Instructions All you need to do is rinse the shrimp and toss them on a glass serving bowl with the...
Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

Inspiring street tacos at the Tequila Grille

If you ever discover termites are devouring part of your house, and to fix that problem you must remove all the food, the medicines, the 125-gallon fish tank, the 30-gallon fish tank, the 10-gallon fish tank, and the houseplants – as well as the plants living quite heavily on the outside wooden deck – 11 potted palms, 5 potted citrus, 3 bananas, and a bird of paradise – and for a minimum of 3 days your house will look like this:   I highly recommend this as a place to wait out your banishment:   There’s absolutely nothing wrong with San Diego’s Marriott Marquis. It’s walking distance to Seaport Village, the ferry to Coronado, Gaslamp District, a cool funky shopping mall, the Midway Museum, and the trolley to Old Town and beyond. There’s a Starbucks right there in the hotel to start your day with a venti black tea and a cup of fresh fruit. There’s a big hot tub, in case it’s too cool to swim in the June Gloom. And there’s a nicely groomed lawn right there next to the pool where your kids can practice their diabolo chops.   And best of all, the Tequila Bar & Grille, their house cantina, is completely awesome. The food is interesting and tasty, served piping hot by friendly staff, and with normal restaurant prices – probably because of all the nearby competition. And it totally rocked for an awesome late lunch/early supper after our big Silver Strand bike ride. Kid Two and I ordered too much food, of course – every taco on the menu was a bit much! – but...
One composed bite

One composed bite

Poolside at San Diego’s Marriott Marquis, post Silver Strand bike ride. I pulled together this fetching, perfectly composed bite from our Tequila Grill appetizer selections: a single crunchy tortilla chip, spread with creamy guacamole, layered with a spicy bit of chipotle chicken, and topped with tangy pickled red onion. So pretty and tasty I felt like a Food Network...

Taste memory of Loreto: pineapple and jalapeño salsa

“If we’re in Mexico, does the menu really have to say Mexican food?” This from my very astute Kid Two while reading the offerings at Loreto’s La Palapa, a tourist destination-type restaurant conveniently situated between the ocean and the town square. I had a few menu questions of my own, like why are the chicken fajitas and chicken in mole sauce listed under “Fowls” instead of included with the Mexican offerings? And in that spirit, shouldn’t the beef shish kabob have been more properly labeled as “Turkish” instead of under “Meats?” And why didn’t they get someone to spell-check the English translations? – “garlinc” “snaper” and “chesse” all snuck by, preserved forever under laminating paper.   La Palapa was highly recommended by the expat sitting next to me on the plane, a golf-playing blonde of a certain age on her way back from taking care of some business back in Portland. I can picture her there – sunburned nose on a hot summer night, a table with a pitcher of margaritas and her three best friends – a reliable spot to laugh a lot and sing a little, a place to start the night with fresh ceviche and guacamole and end it with a couple of tacos and a plate of fries to soak up the booze. Anyway . . . I’m being a little snarky, but I get why people like the place. It’s got energy – mariachi music, splashed with color, and an awesome kitschy thatched palm roof – and the food was fresh and perfectly fine. It has to be tricky, trying to stay in business by catering to the whims...
Corn and Poblano Chowder Recipe

Corn and Poblano Chowder Recipe

“Rich, rich, rich, pale green with teeny tiny flecks of carrot and a perfect corn, cream, poblano balance” – that’s what I jotted down about el Papagayo’s crema de elote y poblano – cream of corn and poblano. Of all the wonderful food we ate in Loreto, this is the one I was most interested in recreating as a family meal. It was served topped with fresh diced tomato and had a few discernible corn kernels, but was mostly a lovely, velvety, pureed soup.   I thought it would be nice to recreate as a chowder, but my first try was much more hot mess than chowdery goodness. The first mistake: cutting my carrots and potatoes into stew-size chunks instead of soup-sized nibbles. The biggest mistake: simmering corn on the cob with seeded poblano peppers to make what I thought would be a tasty green pepper-infused corn stock. Fail. Big time. Since I didn’t char the poblano first, the broth was WAY too spicy, and not in a “good burn after the bite” sort of way, just in a “I just bit into a poblano” bitter spice sort of way. Because of the strong raw pepper taste, the corn was lost along with any depth of flavor. Plus, it still wasn’t green. Sadly, though, I’d already added two cups of the mixture to a sautéed onion, celery, and carrot base, so I carried on, simmering the corn cobs in the soup to boost the corn flavor. Then the cobs started to disintegrate, leaving tiny corn kernel casings in the soup. Grrr. I gave up on trying to infuse any more corn taste...
How to stuff a wild zucchini

How to stuff a wild zucchini

The zucchini have gone completely wild this year. It didn’t start out that way; they were actually slow to grow. I planted the 4″ starts the second week of May; by the third week of June they’d barely doubled in size. So I worked a handful of Dr. Earth into the soil and got the drip irrigation going. Drip, drop, drip, drop, 1 gallon psi for 30 minutes every other day. With a week 3 foot high stems sporting dinner plate-sized leaves waved high in the air. One day I found a monstrous 3 pound zucchini I swear hadn’t existed the day before. I went away the second week of July and, returning home, discovered the zucchini had gone completely wild. They’d snuck out of their raised bed, crowded out the cucumber and spinach, and sported platter-sized leaves. Hidden underneath were dozens of tastefully-sized baby zucchini . . . dinner! I’d just been reading the Southwest Airlines flight magazine featuring this recipe for zucchini carpaccio recipe, so we were on. I didn’t worry too much about arranging the thinly sliced squash in lovely pattern on the plate, just sliced, sprinkled drizzled, and ate – and it was so good! Dinner from the garden – a fantasy coming true. We’ve made it several time since, occasionally using white balsamic vinegar and leaving out the olive oil and lemon, depending on what’s handy. Then we started harvesting zucchini blossoms – they’ve starred in over a dozen meals over the last 8 weeks – and they really are the best part of the plant.  We’ve eaten them stuffed with mozzarella and chives, dredged in...
Viva sem fronteras!

Viva sem fronteras!

Having one’s head in the clouds is a evidently a good thing these days. It was obvious from the buzz, if not the signs, at this year’s Cisco Live convention in Las Vegas. Food is fuel for the soul and technology is fuel for the imagination – or is it the other way around? Find out more

Man on wheel

Man on wheel

Have you ever seen the movie Man on Wire? We did, a few months back. It’s a very nicely done 2008 documentary that probably fell under your radar, about Philipe Petit’s 1974 illegal walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Oddly, though, a few weeks later, a friend gave me the book Let The Great World Spin. It’s novelist Colum McCann’s fictionalized account of that same tightrope act. So balancing acts have evidently been working overtime in my brain, Last Saturday, then, when our local paper reported the King of the High Wire Nik Wallenda was slated to perform a stunt at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I knew I had to go. Who’d want to miss the chance to see a man taking a stroll around a 52-foot Ferris Wheel? Definitely not me! The early morning fog was giving way to blue skies as I gathered Kid Two, his Buddy, and a pocketful of quarters. We set out for a bit of morning adventure, and the boys took in a few rides while we waited for The King of the High Wire to begin. When the time came, a crowd of two hundred or so gathered under the Ferris wheel, jostling for position. The wheel s-l-o-w-l-y started to move. Parents and teens brandished smartphones in anticipation. Roller coaster oriented children complained loudly at the interruption. Finally Nik Wallenda appeared, riding s-l-o-w-l-y to the top of the wheel. He summoned his balance pole from the ground, straddled the top of the ride, stepped out to the top, and strolled s-l-o-w-l-y around the wheel as it made a rotation....