Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bill the Wine Guy

I've written about my friend Bill before--he's my Personal Wine Guy.  Bill works at my local Spec's and consistently gives me great wine advice.  He loves to cook, he's a fairly adventurous eater and he enjoys putting great-tasting meals together on the fly for his family.  He's also a frequent guest at my table and I've become friends with him and his family, first through our love of good food and wine and then because Bill and his family are just plain good folks.

Last month, I was at Bill's house for a family meal and to plan a future wine tasting.  Bill had knocked himself out making a great seviche with homemade tortilla chips, some quinoa patties with fresh roasted corn, and among other things, a fabulous sponge cake that he served with fresh berries.  It was a delicious spring meal and full of great flavors.  We sampled several wines, but I thought the star of the show was Bill's seviche.  So I asked his permission to pass on the recipe.

But before I do that, look at the picture below.  It's a picture of seviche.  It's gorgeous.  The colors and textures draw you toward it and if you don't want to taste it after seeing this picture, then you are at least curious about what it tastes like. 

I realize that some of you may either not know what seviche is, or you might be squeamish once you do know.  I'll give you a hint: it involves raw seafood.  So for you non-sushi eaters and those haters of raw anything, it might be difficult for you to keep reading.

I am not, fortunately or unfortunately, in the squeamish camp.  Well, perhaps after realizing how head cheese and Jello are made, just a teensy bit.  But I'm not a bit squeamish about seviche, which I've been enjoying for years in various incarnations, depending on the recipe.  My first experience with seviche--almost 30 years ago--was enlightening.  A friend brought a ceramic dish full of what looked like glistening jewels: thin strips of sweet red pepper, green pepper, red onion and thin rings of squid, all marinated in a citrusy dressing.  I couldn't stop eating it.  Incidentally, it was also my first experience with squid.  Wish I'd gotten that recipe from my friend because it beats the pants off of fried calamari.

Marinating raw seafood in an acidic liquid and adding other ingredients for color and crunch produces one of the best warm-weather salads you can find on the planet.  Seviche is beautiful to look at and refreshingly crisp and tart.  If you read up on the technique, then you'll know that the acid "cooks" the seafood and gives you great-tasting results.  You can find any number of recipes that use any number of kinds of seafood and other ingredients, but the technique is the same.  Let the seafood sit in the acidic dressing for at least an hour to fully transform the raw seafood.  If you're using softer vegetables and fruits (such as avocado, kiwi or watermelon), consider adding these to your seviche last since they tend to break down and become mushy in reaction to the acid.

Here's how my friend Bill basically does it:

Bill the Wine Guy's Seviche

2 1/2 lbs. raw, peeled deveined small or medium shrimp, white fish cut into bite-size pieces, scallops or squid cut into thin rings (or a combination of whatever seafood you'd like to use)
1/2 large red onion, in medium dice
2 or 3 jalapeno or serrano peppers cut into thin rings (Bill uses one with seed and two without)
1/2 small jicama, peeled and cut into small dice
2 medium tomatoes, seeded (allow juices to run into bowl with fish) and cut into medium dice
1 1/2  to 2 cups fresh lime, lemon or Mexican lime juice (you can take a shortcut and use bottled juices, but I think freshly squeezed makes a big difference)
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. oregano
a generous pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
4 kiwis, peeled and cut into medium dice (or substitute 1 to 2 cups diced, seeded watermelon)
1 avocado, peeled and cut into medium dice, for garnish
1/4 to 1/2 cup good quality olive oil for drizzing (my addition)

Combine all the ingredients up to and including the salt and pepper.  Cover and chill for about 1 hour.  Just before serving, stir in cilantro and kiwi (or watermelon).  Garnish with avocado and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve with tortilla chips or on a bed of shredded lettuce.  Serves 6 to 8.

Enjoy your seviche!  And don't forget to stop by Spec's and ask your wine guy what wine he'd recommend for this dish.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mom's in town

I looked at the date on my last post and realized that I have let almost a full month go by with little writing.  No excuses, but life has suddenly become exceptionally busy.  I've planned and carried out a lot of Voluptuous Table events.  In fact, the last four weekends have been filled with one event after another.

There was a rationale behind this kind of entertaining: Mom's in town.

I wanted her to experience what The Voluptuous Table was all about.  So I held lots of events very close together so that she could attend them during her visit.  It's been a lot of fun.  She's been so helpful with little sous chef chores and with being patient while we go to five different stores for just the right flowers.

My husband has been deliriously happy with the food choices made possible by my mom lately: Kraft macaroni and cheese (if you're curious or clueless about this American pantry staple, you'll need the step-by-step directions provided in the link), rotisserie chicken, and Blue Bell ice cream--the ice cream that almost every Texan (and the rest of the world) thinks is the best ice cream in the universe.  In other words, my mother has made possible for my husband to enjoy all the foods his wife doesn't buy and often scorns.  My mother asked him recently if he was going to miss her when she went away.  "Yeah.  Mostly because of the macaroni and cheese," he quipped. 

Image from the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Facebook site

My mother and I usually plan a visit with each other around Mother's Day because it's often very close to my birthday.  In fact, I was born on Mother's Day, likely a very propitious event much like the Ides of March.  My humility astounds even me!  Every so often, my birthday and Mother's Day are on the same day.  So my mother and I have gotten into the habit of trying to be together at that time.

This year, Mom decided to come to Texas for a nice, long visit.  Three weeks seemed just about right to her.  Now, you need to know that after 53 years, sharing my space is still very difficult for me.  In fact, when I got married after a hiatus of 12 years, I went through a kind of culture shock about not only agreeing to sharing my house for a very long time with my husband ('til death do us part), but having to adjust to the fact that he is a man.  EEEW!  Not that it would make any difference in the long run what gender I share my space with, mind you.  It's the concept of sharing that is challenging for me.  Just ask Mom.

Both my mother (and now my husband) will tell you that I am very territorial about my space.  I was reminded of that recently by my mother when she asked if I had made room for my husband to live anywhere in the house besides the 3 square feet of space he takes up in front of his TV.  Why was I annoyed by this question?  Well, because it reminds me of how I suck at sharing.  Remember as well that my house has a rather disrupted feng shui because I am a Taurus and I like my stuff.  I am what my mother tactfully refers to as a "collector," and I suffer from what one of my good friends very lovingly and humorously refers to as "The Disease of More" and from what my husband just plain calls "hoarding junk."  Well, of course he thinks my stuff is junk.  He doesn't know what to do with 3 chafing dishes!

So here comes Mom, and she takes up very little space, but I have such a hard time adjusting to someone else putting their coffee cup right there or moving the cushions on the couch over there or wanting to fold the dish towel before hanging it just to the left of center (that's probably my OCD talkin').  Or wanting to have a conversation with me during a movie, or complaining about leg cramps or hives or heartburn or whatever.  And she's been so helpful to me, trying to keep the house picked up after herself so as to not make any work for me, doing my laundry, washing dishes.  So why do I feel so annoyed with her sometimes?

I realized today like a big smack in the face that I'm annoyed that she's aging.  It's been so hard to watch her do the things she does in the different way that she has now that means she's getting older and is about to leave me and my brothers.  She's slower now, more deliberate, and she has to try harder to speak her thoughts, which tend to leave her rather quickly now.  She needs a cane to help her keep her balance.  She misses points in the conversation and needs to have them repeated.  My mother NEVER acted like this before because she was PERFECT.  She never needed assistance with anything and could do just about everything she had a mind to do.

But that's changed.  And I cannot continue to expect the mother of my childhood to be with me now.  That sweet, patient mother who loved me no matter what I said or did is still there, but that physically invincible, capable mother is slipping away from us.  She still loves me unconditionally, but she is different now.  She is more frail and more forgetful.  And I'm really mad about that.

So I need to practice being very loving and kind to her while she's still here with us.  Because I will never have another mother, especially not this wonderful mother I've been so privileged to have, and I will miss her terribly when she's gone.