A: Huevos Rancheros, Faux Pho & Chocolate Chip Cookies

Q:  What are three things I made last week?

Ciao Readers!  After my unsuccessful attempts to do something productive, I thought I’d get back to something I know – cooking!   While we have been enjoying all of the wonderful Italian food here, I like the challenge of trying to “recreate” familiar dishes.  So, I set about making huevos rancheros, pho and chocolate chip cookies (not all in one day mind you).

In all fairness, I cheated a bit on the huevos rancheros (pictured in first row) as the New Mexican-made tortillas and green chile sauce arrived in a care package from my folks (thanks!).   The cheddar cheese came from Pegna, and of course potatoes and eggs are no problem.  They were missing the taste of freshly roasted green chiles (as opposed to jarred sauce), but they were pretty darn close!

I also made what I am calling “faux pho” – real pho being our favorite Vietnamese dish we would get back at May Cafe in Albuquerque.  I actually managed to create this dish (rows 2 into 3) entirely from ingredients sourced here (or grown on our roof terrace).  I got the pho paste and noodles (though I picked the wrong kind and these absorbed ALL the soup liquid) at Vivi Market, the small hot chili (was like a cross between a serrano and a jalapeno) and the Sriracha sauce from the lady at Sant’ Ambrogio market, and (surprisingly enough) accidentally came across the bean sprouts at Conad.  It definitely didn’t taste like the “real” thing, but was spicy and yummy nonetheless.

The most spot-on thing I made was chocolate chip cookies (balance of row 3, duh!).  Again, I cheated a bit with chips sent from home, though I have since seen a variety in the stores here.  The rest of the baking ingredients were sourced from various places (and I apologize for the atrocious photo on the vanilla extract, but this is THE only vanilla extract I could find and it took some hunting).  I wasn’t sure what kind of flour to buy and I had to play with ratios (and use walnuts as there are no pecans here, which I usually use), but they came out PERFECT.  They were yummy and delicious and warm and crispy but gooey and all the things chocolate chip cookies should be.  I was so proud I wanted to share, so Steve brought some downstairs to the guy who owns the Rosticceria (he’s always so nice and rounds down, so I wanted to say “thanks”).  When I passed by the next day he went on and on about how delicious they were; I asked him if he had ever had them or knew what they were and he hadn’t/didn’t.  Interesting to think that a regular ol’ chocolate chip cookie can be an exotic treat!

Next time we talk food….seafood and gelato in Bologna, then an Italian meal in at our neighborhood Osteria Cocotrippone (complete with photos)…  Bon Appetit!

Ode to Our “Old” Home (Albuquerque)

Since this blog is entitled “New Mexico to Italy,” I thought it was about time to give a shout-out to the place we’re leaving.  I also thought you readers from abroad would appreciate a view of this side of the pond (on a semi-related aside, my assignment for Italian class this week is to present this post in Italian – gasp!).   This is specifically about the place and not the people (you know who you are and that we’re gonna miss you!).  Here are just a few of the cool things about our current home we’re going to miss:

International Balloon Fiesta – this is the largest balloon festival in the world, with upwards of 800 balloons coming from all over the world each year (for 9 days in early in October).  In the morning they take off and in the evenings they stay tethered to the ground for a “balloon glow.”  Balloons are pretty common here (when the winds are calm I can always see at least few on my morning run) and we have been up in one a few times (the unwritten rule is that you “crew” – help man the balloon – to earn a flight).  I have no idea how we got on the topic of balloons in my school in Italy but everyone seemed amazed when I said they could come visit and go up in one – reminding me how truly special/unique the experience is!  Here are just a couple of the many hundreds of photos I have take over the years…


                                           

Sandia Mountain – this is the beautiful mountain that turns “sandia” (watermelon) colored in the evening.  It is great for hiking and skiing.  It is also the way I have not gotten lost for the past 18 years (you can see it from everywhere in town so you always know which way is East).  A couple of years ago I hiked up to the top (9 miles total, to over 10,000 ft.) and then took the tram down (the signs claim it is the world’s longest tram, but I have seen similar claims at other trams…).   (you can read more/see more photos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains).

The Fiery Food Show – this is the HUGE spicy food festival here that we have been attending for most of the past 17 years (first weekend of March).  There are hundreds of booths where you can taste-test the latest in spicy foods – some are so hot that you get a sticker or some-other trinket if you can actually stand to try them!  Here I am with my sister-in-law a few years ago (and here she is after tasting something VERY spicy!):

Run for the Zoo (and other runs) – I really love running in New Mexico.  Except for the middle of summer, it is almost always perfect weather here in the mornings for a run and there are so many cool organized runs.  I started off with 5k’s, then after many years worked up to 10k’s, then finally to half marathons.  The biggest and most fun is the “Run for the Zoo,”  where you actually run both for the zoo (it’s a fund-raiser) and through the back of the zoo (in how many 10k’s do you get to wave to elephants?!).  Just ran this year’s on May 6.

 

Huevos Rancheros (and all other Mexican, Tex-Mex and New Mexican food!) – It’s always about the food with me!  The best thing about food in New Mexico is the Hatch green chile.  Every year at the end of the summer, the chile is harvested in Hatch, NM, and brought to groceries and stands all over the state.  The tradition is you buy a huge sack full and then wait in line outside to have it roasted in a big roaster (you can pick from gringo mild to HOT – we like it HOT!).  You bring it home and peel it (an all day affair, and one which we learned the hard way our first year here requires wearing gloves!), then bag it up and freeze it to see you through the year of green chile stews, huevos rancheros, green-chile-cheese fries, and just about anything else you can to add green chile to.  YUM!

There are many more great things about Albuquerque – the nearly perpetual sunshine, rollerblading along the Bosque (nature area that runs along the Rio Grande), our very cool Zoo and BioPark, funky Nob Hill where you can stroll and shop and eat outside (closest thing we have to a European city center).  And, yes, there are also not-so-great things we won’t miss… hearing about yet another visitor having their vehicle/belongings stolen from a motel parking lot, the fact that police have shot and killed dozens of people in the past couple of years, Walmart (and the other Walmart, and the smaller, but no less annoying Walmart), the spring winds, and having to drive almost everywhere!  But, as with most things, I am sure we will look back with rose-colored glasses and miss the balloon-filled sky come October…

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