cinco de mayo

Cinco de Mayo is an American holiday. Most of us seem to think it’s about the Mexican Revolution, Mexican Independence Day, or the Day of the Dead (not naming names, but someone I polled actually said that.) It actually happens to be a largely military holiday in Mexico, commemorating the army’s victory over the French in the 1862 Battle of Puebla.

That said, who doesn’t like tacos and Corona? Especially in the middle of the workweek, just when the weather’s starting to get nice. No wonder Americans co-opted it. Can you blame us? So, moving right along. My attempts to be culturally accurate this Cinco de Mayo included buying Manchego (which is Spanish), using taco shells with only three ingredients (corn flour, salt and coconut oil) rather than the partially-hydrogenated-corn-syrup variety, and - yep, that’s about it. The rice in my rice & beans was left over from Chinese food yesterday, and I incorporated both basil and garlic tomato sauce and Trader Jose’s taco seasoning. Full disclosure. 

If nothing else, Cinco de Mayo is a good opportunity to start using some early summer produce. The avocado and tomato in the guacamole were pretty decent, and I made some sauteed zucchini and onion on the side. The burritos were ground beef and Manchego, the beans and rice included tomatoes and jalapeno, and I did some spicy sauteed chicken too. 




Yesterday was potluck lunch day at work: my first one, my duty to organize, and, feeling a little sure of myself my first day on the job, I’d suggested Italian food as the theme. I’m lucky enough to work with some serious foodies - professional chefs, people who cook for a living, and eat like it’s their job because it is - so it was understandable that I felt a little intimidated. I refused to give in and do pasta salad. I wanted to impress people. So I got up at five thirty to start the dough for bread: focaccia, full of oregano and basil and garlic, chewy and hearty and moistened through with olive oil.

I used this recipe, but gave the dough an extra rise, which made the finished crust airy even though I rolled it out thinner than the recipe instructed. Topped with olive oil, a thinly sliced tomato, spinach, chopped yellow onion, and garlic, the focaccia still didn’t seem quite right. It was missing something. So, at eight a.m., I ran down the street to Luca’s for a quarter pound of mozzarella. Perfect. The focaccia stood on its own, beside the professionally assembled tiramisu and polenta and finocchio casserole and the frittata that could’ve been on the cover of Martha Stewart. There were no leftovers. I was proud. 



braised chuck roast with kale and cannellini beans

After a few days without doing any cooking, I was feeling a little twitchy and my wrists were on the verge of involuntary chopping motions, so I made time tonight to put together dinner. At Whole Foods yesterday I’d purchased a two-pound chuck roast out of habit, not quite realizing that I wouldn’t be home for four hours to cook it. An overnight marinade helped to soften the meat, which was tenderized further by a pan sear followed by an hour and a half of oven braising. Served over some sauteed dinosaur kale, cannellini beans, onions and garlic, the roast made an impressive meal that almost fooled me into thinking it’d taken all afternoon.

I marinated the meat overnight (and most of today) in a mixture of ketchup, stoneground mustard, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and herbs, then pan-seared it to form a crust on each side. I popped open a PBR that I’d found in the fridge (from St. Patty’s, I’m assuming) to braise the beef in, along with some more garlic and a healthy sprinkling of salt and black pepper. A chopped onion and five minced cloves of garlic went into the searing pan, followed by a drained, rinsed can of cannellini beans and two large bunches of kale that I pre-steamed with salt until it was beginning to wilt. 

I left the roast in the oven at 350 degrees for a little over an hour, but it might have been even better at just forty-five minutes, when the inside still showed more pink. Nevertheless, for my first effort in a while at cooking on a work night, this was a heartening experience.