HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Author: Manny Santiago (Page 2 of 22)

Jack DeJohnette - Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago

Jack DeJohnette – Drumming in Chicago


From ECM Reviews:

As the story goes, when legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master and given carte blanche to perform at the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2013, he immediately thought of his old jam buddies from the early 1960s, the founding sessions of which had led to the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), whose most hallowed disciples formed the Art Ensemble of Chicago, resolutely documented on ECM. As Roscoe Mitchell recalls, “Every time I get together with musicians from the AACM it’s like we are just picking up from wherever we left off.” To be sure, the conversation between reedmen Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams, bassist Larry Gray, and DeJohnette himself feels like it’s been going on forever. Despite the fact that these musicians had never recorded before as a quintet, much less played as one, it feels as if they have been plowing through ether on its way to the cosmos all along, and that we can count ourselves fortunate for catching even a snippet of their time on this planet. As if in service of this analogy, the recording is very present in relation to the musicians, while the crowd cheers like some distant panel of stars whose appreciation arrives light-years after the fact.

Mitchell—who plays alto, soprano, and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, and Baroque flute—offers two substantial originals to the stage. “Chant” cracks the concert’s outer shell with a sacred tap. From raw, arpeggiated materials it constructs a body from the ground up and, by addition of instruments, imbues it with consciousness. Likewise, every member knows his place in the larger symphony of his setup. DeJohnette pays off his timbral dues with handfuls of Benjamins, especially in his dialoguing with Mitchell, while Threadgill touches off more angular lines of flight. Gray meanwhile appears, stealthily at first but with increasing conviction, to be the psychological impetus behind it all. But it’s Abrams whose torrent of ideas seems most organic. Like a healing energy itself in want of healing, he plays the all-important trickster as Threadgill curls his fist in staunch refusal of suspension. Thus do we return to the center of the spiral, only to find another waiting to be sung. The aptly titled “This” reveals an adjacent facet, fronting Baroque recorder and Threadgill’s bass flute in an excursion of astute reflectivity. Abrams again proves vital to the physical nature of this sound, his pianism attaining downright Beethovenian proportions.

The bandleader’s “Museum Of Time” fuels the Abrams fire. Spanning a gamut from whirlwind to delicacy, its touch provides spatial reference for the reeds and a still larger context for the slippery groove in which DeJohnette and Gray find themselves. Threadgill’s “Leave Don’t Go Away” flips this approach, beginning in interlocking fashion before spawning a lone piano with a mind of its own. Bass and drums jive their way into frame, while sopranino nears bursting from the strength of its inner poetics. And then there is “Jack 5” by Abrams himself. Light cymbals clear the air before late-night sounds ground an alto and all the soulful things it has to say. DeJohnette then takes the reigns and builds his steed one muscle at a time, each part mutually independent of motion.

(Click to hear samples of Made In Chicago)

Henry Threadgill alto saxophone, bass flute
Roscoe Mitchell alto, soprano and sopranino saxophones, bass recorder, Baroque flute
Muhal Richard Abrams piano
Larry Gray double bass, cello
Jack DeJohnette drums
Produced by Dave Love and Jack DeJohnette
Recording engineer: Martin Walters
Assistant engineers: Jeremiah Nave and Daniel Santiago
Recorded live August 29, 2013 at the Pritzker Pavilion Millennium Park Chicago at the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival
Mixed at Avatar Studio, New York by Manfred Eicher, Jack DeJohnette, and James A. Farber (engineer)
Mastered at MSM Studios, München, by Christoph Stickel
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher

Sushi American Style

Sushi American Style

Saucy and Deep-fried, that’s how I like my sushi.

Sushi’s expensive, so I look for something filling, like the Colossal Roll.

I don’t like the taste of seaweed, and they don’t have soy wrappers here–I don’t know why–so I get the inside-out caterpillar: lots of avocado!

— Typical statements heard at sushi bars all over the United States.

The fact that sushi is considered by many to be a “health food” makes one think about the current state of health in the U.S. Supposing that rice and fish–buried as they are in deep-fried, oil-soaked batter and spicy mayo–are healthier than hormone-filled CAFO-lot raised beef burgers is not completely crazy, especially if it’s the average American middle class citizen making the assumption. Consumers are seeking new food choices and quality appears to be chief among desires. Yet as the desire for better food makes economic headway in the market, we must also look to biological reasons as to why a cuisine as simple and delicious as Japanese style sushi got Turduckened into Franken-roll Sushi American Style.

Sushi American Style

Anago Nigiri - Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Anago Nigiri – Simmered Sea Eel on Sushi Rice with Ginger Shoot

Japanese style sushi is all about the fish. Less about roll-sushi and more about nigiri. Forget the overbearing sauce and taste the subtle flavors of vinegar and fresh raw fish, be they the upfront oily aji to the smooth, buttery sake or the creamy, oleaginous maguro or even the slightly sweet ama-ebi and anago, there are a vast frontier of undiscovered tastes within the world of Japanese sushi, each so exquisitely slight that to oversauce, or in the case of much of the rest of the world–to freeze anything that is harvested from the sea–is to destroy that delicate polish from a discerning palate.

In its own inverse way to the American version, it too is about size. But rather than an 8-piece roll deep-fried and doused in syrupy soy-based sauce, Japanese style sushi, what is called Nigiri-zushi, is really about the process of enjoying life’s small pleasures to the fullest.

Sushi American Style

Bitchin’ Roll – King Crab, Avocado & Cream Cheese – Deep Fried

Bitchin Roll – Deep Fried Sushi

The western most sushi restaurant in North America, Harbor Sushi combines the best of traditional Japanese sushi & pub food with an American edge. The Bitchin Roll–with fresh Alaskan King Crab, avocado, cream cheese rolled up, tempura fried, and topped with a sweet Unagi sauce–is a great example of that.

But let’s not misunderstand what’s going on. We are taking very delicate fresh seafood ingredients, wrapping them up in flavored rice and seaweed, slathering them in a tempura style batter, and deep frying them in 350 degree vegetable oil for 2.5 minutes until the cream cheese starts to melt. I didn’t actually eat one until I was pretty much black out drunk. By that time it was cold. But I ate three. Three Rolls. COld. Semi-soggy. They were still awesome. I did feel guilty the next day when I managed to remember it all.

To be clear, this style of “sushi” represents a kind of life that, despite my past, I no longer lead, so it is hard to come to grips with the shear sales that deep fried sushi generates. My purer inner self wants to take it off the menu and offer a crispy autumn leaf and barley tea instead with a dry winter twig for teeth cleaning. I cannot fathom the kind of person who goes into a sushi restaurant–sober mind you–and orders something like this willingly, thinking that they are getting anything like a traditional sushi experience. But maybe that’s the secret. It’s nothing like traditional. An even if it were, 1) they wouldn’t know and 2) they probably wouldn’t like it at all…So fuck it, enjoy.

Colleen Green Wants To Grow Up

Colleen Green Wants To Grow Up

Colleen Green Wants To Grow Up

Beard Radio – Stoner Fuzz Punk by Beard Radio on Mixcloud

This from her label, Hardly Art:

Growing up.

As a prospect it can be terrifying, sad, and worst of all, inevitable. But on I Want to Grow Up, her second album for Hardly Art, Colleen Green lets us know that we don’t have to go it alone.

This latest collection of songs follows a newly 30-year-old Green as she carefully navigates a minefield of emotion. Her firm belief in true love is challenged by the inner turmoil caused by entering modern adulthood, but that doesn’t mean that her faith is defeated. With a nod to her heroes, sentimental SoCal punks The Descendents, Green too wonders what it will be like when she gets old. Throughout songs such as “Some People,” “Deeper Than Love,” and the illustrative title track, the listener has no choice but to feel the sympathetic growing pains of revelatory maturation and the anxieties that come along with it.

Sonically the album is a major change for the LA-based songwriter, who has come to be known for her homemade recordings and merchandise. Her past offerings have been purely Green; testaments to her self-sufficiency and, perhaps, trepidation. This time, she’s got a little help from her friends: the full band heard here includes JEFF the Brotherhood’s Jake Orrall and Diarrhea Planet’s Casey Weissbuch, who collaborated with Green over ten days at Sputnik Sound in Nashville, TN.

I Want to Grow Up is an experience, not unlike life: questioning, learning, taking risks. And in true CG fashion, a quote from a beloved 90s film seems the perfect summation: “Understanding is reached only after confrontation.”

Seething Clouds on Turnagain Arm

Seething Clouds on Turnagain Arm

Clouds are the essence of balance. They are created from the heating of air and the condensing of water vapor in the air as it rises. As air rises it cools, decreasing the water vapor it can hold. As air descends, it warms and evaporates. Up and down go the countless billions tiny water droplets and ice crystals that make up clouds. Forming and deforming. The chemical process of changing moisture from a gas to liquid is a poetry of motion.

Seething Clouds on Turnagain Arm/h2>

Nowhere is this more spectacular than within mountain ranges. Air blowing over a mountain is forced upward and can develop swaths of clouds quickly, especially where air masses collide. Different air swarming in a valley masses can’t coalesce unless they share similarities in temperature and moisture content. Live Science tells us that “if a cold, dry air mass pushes into an air mass that is warm and moist, the warmer air is forced upward, rapidly producing clouds that bubble up, perhaps ultimately leading to lightning, thunder and showery-type rains. If the cold air retreats, warm air pushing over it can bring a much slower process of lowering and thickening clouds and finally light precipitation in the form of light rain, mist or drizzle.”

In the case of Turnagain Arm just southeast of Anchorage we often see air masses of warm, moist winter air off the ocean meeting the Chugach mountains where it cools, and creates some of the fiercest and fastest cloud formations in Alaska. Formations that, due to their microscopic crystalline composition of billions of tiny water droplets, are reflective as glass beads, scattering sunlight, and most often producing a white color. However they often take on the characteristics of the sun as well, making sheaths of clouds appear pink, orange, yellow, blue and so on.

The road to Kenai is a beautiful yet dangerous scenic byway. You never know what you may run into: a moose, a cloud or even a glacier (or all three). Enjoy the ride.

Cooking with Craft Beer

Cooking with Craft Beer

Let’s get something straight. I am a middle-aged Caucasian American male married with small children. I work for a large corporation. I have a car and a house and all the different kinds of obligatory insurances and a smart phone and I play fantasy football and I drink beer and then instagram photos of the beer. I probably seem like a very typical person who is not very interesting to anyone whom I do not financially support, and even then only peripherally. Even I am mostly bored by me. Pragmatic and realistic, I have been tucking in button up shirts for what feels like years now. Compared to how I used to live–doing freelance photography while traveling abroad for years at a time on a shoestring budget, now writing this is as exciting as it gets. I remember when I was a child I used to get excited by so many different things, and what made me happy most was swimming at the beach amid the daily barrage of everything that felt so new. However fresh things may have been, I was always skeptical. I do remember feeling that the whole Santa Claus / Jesus ruse was always bullshit. The closest I ever got to feeling something about the Hand of God was if I went to the bathroom while watching a Dodger game, I swore that I had affected the outcome of the game (if I do #1 versus #2 will Fernando Valenzuela strike out Mike Schmidt? or will he homer?) Having somehow become a typical middle-aged white dude, I had to ask Well, what else is new?

...caramelized red onion relish with jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Click To Tweet

Cooking with Craft Beer

It’s hard to stay saucy.

The old adage that Time Flies should be prefaced by (The Older One Gets…) Time just flies. This past year(s) has been a whirlwind. It feels as if it has been ages since I actually sat down to write something. All the ideas are still there (I hope…), but actually getting them down on–forget paper–screen, has been something of a challenge. But one of those intangible, foggy challenges one doesn’t realize even exists. You just wake up one day with words spilling out of your head and your fingers itching to get back to the keyboard and well, there you are. What had been (or perhaps it is better to put it, what had not been) happening prior to that could be any number and combination of minute chemical, psychological, or physical factors, which will indubitably go to fill that ever expanding pile of remaining a Mystery For All Time (or my MFAT ratio as I like to say…)

What is worth writing about these days? Wikipedia has cancelled this page, although this page will give you some results. Unique visitors are up but overall visits are down (is that due to actual living visitors perusing and lack of bots or something else…?). Urban dictionary has mixed reviews. There’s all the great music out this year. All the beer and books. But when you really think about what is important, long and lazy Saturday afternoons were born for gastronomic exploration and beer drinking. Experimenting with good food is a great way to please your spouse and avoid watching another goddamned Mickey Mouse video with the kids. Turn on some music, break out the dance moves and teach them how to cook! Cracking a couple of Belgian IPAs and American Saisons along the way not only can’t hurt the experience, but can add flavor to the recipe of life.

Cooking with Craft Beer

The dough:

* 4 1/2 Cups High Gluten Flour (add some whole wheat for roughage)
* 1 3/4 Tsp High Grade Salt (Sel de Mer or Himalayan, Hawaiian, etc…)
* 1 Tsp Yeast
* 1 3/4 Cup Cold Water Beer

Mix the dry components into the flour to distribute well. Please tell me you have a mixer, but if not you will want to add the beer slowly while kneading the mixture (adding a bit more beer or flour as needed) until coalesced into a great big brown lump of raw love. If you do have a mixer, put in the dough hook and let’er rip for 5 minutes or so. If not, I hope you work out ‘cos your forearms are soon to be burning.

Cut into four, knead into pretty balls, oil’em up like your Swedish Masseuse and throw in the fridge. They’ll last for up to week but are best used within two-three days. You use cold beer to delay the fermentation process, which takes place in the fridge overnight. Longer, slower fermentation means a healthier, tastier pie. Just ask the scientists. There are many other recipes in which I use beer to add flavor. In most cases it is best used at room temperature and flat, much like myself.

The sauce I use is a basic caramelized red onion relish with a combination of jalapeños, nonpareil capers, tomatoes, garlic, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and yes, beer, cooked slowly until yummy. Cook ahead of time and let cool to room temp before adding as base sauce to dough. Take the dough balls out at least two hours before using. Once ready to make your pie, press and toss the dough (do not roll) to the desired size, spread on the relish, top with a mixture of cheeses (fresh mozza, meunster, crumbled bleu, brie, et al) and a few flavorful toppings.

So what is worth writing about? Despite not really liking the word itself, happiness, is worth writing about. Or at least writing about what provides that intangible satisfied feeling, when thought passes away and there is just the person and people around you, smiling through faces stuffed with great homemade pizza and homebrewed craft beer. What else is there really, but variations on this theme?

From ocean to table - Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

From Ocean to Table – Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

Fish Tacos make me happy. Halibut, Cod, Monkfish, Blowfish, whatever you got. Bring it. But what about Salmon?

Well-known for its high protein, high omega-3 fatty acids, and high vitamin D content, like most seafood salmon is becoming an increasingly popular food, especially in places that don’t traditionally have access to oceans-going fish. In order to service this demand, an increase in farmed salmon has spread across the globe. 99% of all Atlantic salmon commercially available are farmed (while more than 80% of Pacific salmon is harvested from the wild). While harvesting wild salmon (wild anything really) is more beneficial in terms of nutrient content, sustainable fisheries practices are necessary to maintain a healthy and vibrant population. With the advent of damming rivers and mining activities, logging, et al, the situation for wild salmon migrations has turned political. On the one hand there are many native populations that still depend on salmon for a large part of their diet and economic livelihood, not to mention their millennia-old cultural importance. And on the other hand there are large commercial interests jockeying for access to energy sources, logging rights, mineral deposits, and hegemony over the fish farming industry itself. Who knew a large majority of the world’s salmon supply was farmed in Chile? Which begs multiple questions: 1) is there enough wild salmon to go around and 2) is the proliferation of farmed salmon doing more damage than good in harming the environment, the fish, and we, the consumers, who just want a damn taco?

The NOAA fisheries stat sheet states that “Coho salmon on the west coast of the United States have experienced dramatic declines in abundance during the past several decades as a result of human-induced and natural factors. Water storage, withdrawal, conveyance, and diversions for agriculture, flood control, domestic, and hydropower purposes have greatly reduced or eliminated historically accessible habitat. Physical features of dams, such as turbines and sluiceways, have resulted in increased mortality of both adults and juvenile salmonids.”

The key characteristic of salmon is adaptability. What else would you expect from an anadromous fish? Being born in fresh water river beds, migrating to the ocean to feed, then returning, often to the exact place of their own birth to spawn, and then unceremoniously dying in a heap of stinking fish flesh. What an epic life. Yet one that the farmed variety never gets to experience. It does not hunt, as it is fed fish pellets (a ratio of 1.5 – 8 kilograms of wild fish are needed to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon) and never gets to expire in spawning ecstasy yet rather mills about in its open net pens, polluting the ocean floor and proliferating sea lice.

From Ocean to Table - Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

(Map courtesy of NOAA)

While the majority of coho salmon seem to inhabit the waters surrounding Alaska, they range throughout the Pacific from Japan and eastern Russian, and south all the way to Monterey Bay, California. As baby fry, coho feed frantically on aquatic insects and plankton, as well as cannibalizing their own the eggs deposited by adult spawning salmon. They grow peacefully in the pooling river beds, ponds and lakes, eating and defending their turf from their cousin fish, trout and char. But there is simply not enough food present in fresh water for their growth. So they head out to sea to gorge on all sorts of fish and squid. Yet even as technologically savvy as modern fishery sciences are we know little about the ocean migrations of coho salmon. Tagging has shown that maturing Southeast Alaska coho move northward throughout the spring and congregate in the central Gulf of Alaska in June–probably one final feeding frenzy–until at some point setting off toward shore and reaching their stream of origin. Once the return home begins they never eat again, eventually even dissolving their own stomachs to make room for eggs and sperm. Now that is dedication.

After reentering fresh water the dehydrated salmon change appearance and lose their delicious flavor as the salt leeches from their bodies. Weakened by the long journey and fight to spawn they, and their fresh laid patch of roe are easy pickings for bears, the ecosystem engineers of the forest. It is the bears unique fishing ability that allows them to rely on salmon as a major food source. Once caught the bears transport the fish to the forest where the remains become nutrients for the soil, trees, and plants. The salmon leftovers are scavenged by birds and other animals and eventually feed the forest floor and release nitrogen as they decompose, also feeding the trees. And the cycle continues. Unless you’re a Norwegian farmed salmon. Then it is abruptly stopped.

The Audubon Society reports that wetlands that connect lakes and rivers leading from forests to the open sea are crucial to maintaining a healthy salmon population. Over the last 200 years, the continental United States have lost at least half of all its wetlands. NOAA goes on to say that “Washington and Oregon’s wetlands have been estimated to have been diminished by one third, while it is estimated that California has experienced a 91 percent loss of its wetland habitat.” Human action in wild habitats, once a part of the natural cycle of life, has become an intrusive, destructive and catastrophic to the general welfare of the entire ecosystem. So sayonara wild salmon. Hello farmed fish. Hope you’re happy, people in Kansas, yes now you too can eat salmon.

While farming fish may be an exploding market of potential revenue for investors the larger item at stake here is not just one fish but the entire Pacific ocean coastal ecosystem. There must be balance or we will wipe out a keystone species. That will most likely have devastating effects on a wide range of issues we have no idea the depth of. Let the rivers flow and the wetlands return and their will be fish, wild and healthy, enough for us all who live within reach. Those living in landlocked regions can eat what is available, as their ancestors once did. Keep Salmon wild. And properly labeled. And now, please enjoy what I caught, cleaned, cooked and ate with a deliciously home-brewed double IPA last night.

From Ocean to Table – Wild Alaskan Silver Salmon

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Seafood is the way to go for any and all tacos if you ask me. BBQ Prawns, Baja-style Cod, Roasted Sea Bream, Halibut ceviche, Tempura Blowfish, it’s all good. So that’s what I’ve been doing, testing the waters. The marinade I use goes well with any of the above, but especially Monkfish.

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Monkfish is the New Lobster

Or actually, it has been for a while, but you didn’t know about it. Why? Because it’s ugly as sin! Look at that beast!

When it can be had, Monkfish it’s my fish of choice because near invertebrate is perfect for roasting, braising or pan-frying. Monkfish most likely gets its name from it being an ugly sucker, whose body mass collapses out of water and takes on the characteristics of a slug once taken from its pressure friendly ocean climes. It has one long vertebrae running the length of it eel-like body, with thick spinal offshoots branching out transversely along the way, so once cleaned, cut up and cooked there are no pin bones to be hassled with, making for a quick transition from grill to plate to mouth. Although hard to clean, slippery to handle and the innards tend to stink up your place if not immediately disposed of, the meat has a texture akin to lobster and is a dream to cook and especially to eat. If you can get your hands on the liver you can sell it on the Japanese Black Market and finance your kid’s college education. Otherwise, what Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seawatch says about the tasty monster is good news for North Americans:

Monkfish is the New Lobster

BBQ’d Monkfish in lime chili sauce

Monkfish was once considered overfished. Thanks to improved management, stocks have increased recently to a more sustainable level. Monkfish is caught with bottom trawls or bottom gill nets. Because both methods create bycatch, monkfish is a “Good Alternative” rather than a “Best Choice.” Monkfish is found from the Canadian Maritimes to Cape Hatteras, but this recommendation is for the U.S. fishery only.

  • Juice of 5-10 Limes
  • Garlic Bulb
  • Jalapeños/Serranos/Habaneros/Pasillas
  • Seasalt

After roasting garlic (allow to cool and squeeze out into a paste) and jalapeños (remove skin, seeds and stem and dice) combine the above ingredients and blend until smooth. Marinade chunked monkfish for 10-20 minutes (more than this and you might as well eat it as ceviche), throw on a hot griddle and grill for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately on warmed corn tortillas with fresh made salsa picada and cilantro. Add guacamole. Beer. Mix in stomach. Repeat.

Olé Mole

Olé Mole

Mole (pronounced Mo-lay, gringo) is generally associated with two places in Mexico: Oaxaca and Puebla. Mole Poblano, the national dish of Mexico from Puebla is often incorrectly associated with Aztec cuisine. But the savory brown, chocolate-laden sauce that is infamous for its apocryphal origin story of being thrown together at the last minute and served over turkey to a surprise guest, is a more modern invention. As my ex-girlfriend Maria (not you Maria, the other Maria…) used to say, “Abraza la morena, gringo…Embrace the brown, whiteboy.” I never knew if she was talking about the food or her, so I did both. To more or less great failure. She may be gone today, but I still have Mole and I finally think I’ve struck upon a recipe that works.

Olé Mole

I am a fiend for the spicy, salty, savory, smokey, Picante of Jalapeños, Habaneros, Cascabeles, Serranos, Chilhuacle Negros, Guajillos, and especially the manly yet delicate, earthy yet crisp flavor of the precious Poblano.

So it was with much salivating of chops and rubbing of hands like many a cartoon wolf during that two-hour Amtrak ride from L.A.’s Union Station (a few days in from Hong Kong), that I exited the train station in Oceanside (North County S.D.) to be picked up in my uncle’s 1969 Volkswagon Beetle, blue as the sea at dawn, and told him to stop at the first market we passed. Of course it was some organo-hippy granola-fest mini-market stacked to the ceiling with 22 dollar bottles of Guano Extract Shampoo, Chia-drenched Kombu Hallucinogenics and Non-GMO soybean-based condoms for aisles in all directions.

It was the bright reds and luscious greens of the produce which drew me in first. There after my long journey westward, where I selected 10 poblanos, 15 limes, 20 jalapeños, 4 bunches of cilantro, 2 red onions and a vine of tomatoes, I came to know peace. Shaking now from excitement, I looked down and felt as if I’d been hit by a Vegetable Oil Converted Volvo. Tomatillos! In three years living in the lap of leeks the size of small children, the Okinawan dildo-gone-wrong Goya and the greatest sweet potatoes ever (Praise be to Imo), I’d completely forgotten the little green beauties even existed. Slapping myself, and nearly tumbling over a mountain of melon-sized mangoes, I quickly filled my basket and limped away toward the cheese, tortillas and beer. 20 minutes and one very pissed off uncle later, I emerged in a fugued-out trance of recipe preparation strategies and we cruised the Coast Highway south to Encinitas, where lay the kitchen in which I would hatch my plans of salsa picada and mole poblano, (among other kinds of) world domination.

First:

In your big American oven, roast the peppers, all of them, naked on broil (450°F/230°C), carefully watching and turning them to a insure uniform char. Go ahead and throw in the garlic at the same time, wrapped in foil and well-oiled, along with the dehusked tomatillos, though be wary of the differing cooking times.

After roasting (anywhere from 5-20 minutes) toss your peppers into a bowl, cover with a damp dishtowel for 5- 10 minutes to allow the skin to separate and set aside. Before peeling, destemming and deseeding your chiles, and while you wait for the post-roast steam-a-thon to finish, go get a beer. May I suggest some kind of Saison (a bit more European style), or the HUB Lager?

Though roasting tomatillos is similar to roasting tomatoes, tomatillos are not unripe “little tomatoes” as the name suggests, they are fruits and actually grow in a papery husk which should be peeled before preparation. They are generally of a firmer consistency, have less water and are much more tart than you might expect. This is the prime reason they remain the main ingredient in salsas verdes, salsas crudas and my own roasted picadas as tart mixes very well with heat. Like all my exes and me.

Now finely chop your fatty red onion, a vine-ripened tomato and go ahead and slice a lime up just to have ready. Here’s the fun part: do you want a salsa cruda with its fresh raw feel or a more smooth and traditional salsa verde? The only difference is merely a finely diced former, or a pureed latter. I prefer the crisp and cool texture of the raw cut, the picturesque juxtaposition of your garden’s range of colors, the saltiness of the tortilla chip balanced perfectly with the sour of the tomatillo, the acid of the lime, the heat of the jalapeño, the warmth of the garlic and all of it rounded out nicely by the fortitude of the patriarchal poblano. So for me, it’s la cruda. Pero la verde es muy rico tambien.

I haven’t talked about Cilantro yet. Coriander, Dhania, Ketumbar, Chinese Parsley, Kothamir, Llaksa, however you say it, it’s everywhere. In my 10 or so years preparing Mexican and Asian foods, I’ve found that there are two camps of people: those who love cilantro and those who don’t. Those who don’t are equally as stubborn in their opinions as those who do, though luckily those who do love the fresh citrusy twang of the embattled herb far outnumber any haters. And you haters, would it please you to know that through no fault of your own, but rather due to an enzyme which alters the flavor due to a genetic disposition, you cannot help but hate the plant? Doesn’t that make you feel bad- hating a plant? So, if this is true, it seems your genes just aren’t good enough to like it. You Are Deficient. As a genetically healthy person who should produce cilantro-eating offspring, it remains mandatory for my food, as- in the proper dosage- it is good in almost anything. Just ask Ethiopia!

Cilantro should be shredded or ripped by hand and then ground in a mortar as opposed to using a knife, the steel of which undoubtedly alters its natural flavor. If it were me I wouldn’t even bother making this gorgeous yet manly salsa without cilantro. Like auto-eroticism without the self-flagellation…just not worth it. Now on to the Mole.

Mole Poblano

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground Pasilla chili powder
  • 1 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup Mirepoix
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1.5 oz. Mexican Chocolate
  • S & P

Directions

In a small skillet, toast the cumin seeds, oregano, sesame seeds, and chili powder, stirring constantly for three minutes (or until golden), and then blend, or crush in a mortar with pestle for a more authentically tiring feel. Add the beans, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Mirepoix, honey, cilantro, lime, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth and liquidy brown. Transfer the mole to a saucepan and slow heat for as long as you can stand it. Make sure to stir regularly so as not to scorch the bottom. Serve any number of ways including (but not limited to): dip, topping on seafood, rice, base sauce for Pizza. That or just stand around with Day of the Dead Craft Beer and lick it off your fingers. We will be making fish tacos. Because even though it may be tradition to serve it over fowl, breaking tradition, if done deliciously, can be a wonderful thing.

Finish making the tacos by warming up your tortilla of choice, a bit of guacamole on the bottom for stability, place your protein (monkfish perhaps?) down next, plenty of mole on top, top with salsa cruda, crema and cilantro.

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