Pozole for Cinco de Mayo


It’s not a celebration in Mexico without pozole. The spicy, porky soup, laden with tender hominy corn and a fiery chile paste, is perfect for a crowd and just the ticket for a Cinco de Mayo party.

The trouble is it’s hard to find a really good recipe that you can make with readily available ingredients. I mean, who can find pork trotters without an exhaustive search?  Even the Mexican markets in my town don’t carry them.

Then there are the secrets that you’re not likely to know unless you grew up in the culture, cooking at your mother’s elbow. I struggled with the dried corn for which the dish is named through a couple of batches of soup before I understood that even the bags of corn in the Mexican market had to be boiled with slaked lime before washing and cooking.  The pozole tasted good but it was so rubbery and tough it was almost inedible. Cans of white hominy – many cooks’ standby – just didn’t appeal.

Luckily, I found the already treated – nixtamalized – corn at Steve Sando’s great online store, Rancho Gordo. Sando uses small Southwestern corn kernels for his posole (it can be spelled with and “s” or a “z”).  The treated kernels cook up tender and fluffy,  providing the perfect canvas for rich pork, lively chiles and the panoply of toppings that give pozole it’s festive character. Continue reading Pozole for Cinco de Mayo

Asparagus one more time–on pizza


I wasn’t planning on posting another asparagus recipe this spring.  Really, I wasn’t.  But the local asparagus is still so gorgeous at the farmers market that I find myself buying it every week.  Then this recipe landed in my in-box last week in a newsletter from Pizza Antica and all bets were off.

Chef and owner Gordon Drysdale is a pizza genius who’s turned his original pizzeria at San Jose’s Santana Row into a mini-chain with locations in Lafayette and Mill Valley.  I’ll never be able to replicate his thin crust but I’m grateful that he’s willing to give out some of his recipes now that I don’t get into San Jose that often. Continue reading Asparagus one more time–on pizza

Aglio e olio California style


If mention of olive oil turns your thoughts to Italy, it’s time to expand your horizons.  Some of the freshest most flavorful olive oil on the market today comes from California.

For more than two decades the state’s  boutique producers of high end oils have been getting all the attention.  One of the most popular and widely distributed, McEvoy Ranch, commands more than $20 for a 12.7 ounce bottle of its  intense, pungent oils from Tuscan varieties of olives.

Now, California is building a reputation for high quality oils delivered at a more modest price, thanks to intensive planting techniques, mechanical harvesting and a proliferation of high tech mills.   Although many may be familiar with the oils from the mammoth California Olive Ranch, with mills in Oroville and Corning, far fewer are likely to recognize the products of the state’s number two producer, Corto Olive.  That’s because most of its oil production is bottled under private labels for the likes of Zabar’s and Sam’s Club. Continue reading Aglio e olio California style