My Kusa challenge

In 2010 I set myself several food "challenges"--attempts at recipes that are a bit more difficult than usual or that I'd just resolved to try sometime SOON. I think it's time for the 2013 edition! Here's what I tried during the first round of challenges:

January 2010: Banh Mi
February 2010: Kouign Amann
March 2010: Croque Monsieur
April 2010: Sourdough bread
May 2010: Chop
June 2010: Samosas

My first challenge of 2013 is Kusa! This is a Lebanese squash dish to which I have added lamb. The story of this new challenge starts in part with an article from Bon Appétit. "The Vegetable Butcher" is about René Redzepi, who is the chef at Noma, currently considered the best restaurant in the world (it's in Copenhagen). Redzepi thinks vegetables are the most important part of a meal, and recommends finding what is fresh and attractive and then improvising to bring out the complex and delicious qualities of our plant friends. The article blew my mind. I am someone who has often said, "Salad is what food eats." Yet I was inspired to start buying lots of different vegetables--beets, butternut squash, baby bok choy, kale, chard, jalapeños--that weren't even on my shopping list. I just waited to be inspired, and it worked.

Last week I grabbed two yellow crookneck squash, and they sat in my fridge languishing. I finally decided to try another kusa, something I last made in January 2010. Sarkis Market on Elliot Street is the other part of my kusa inspiration. It closed a while ago (I think they still sell wholesale), but I still want to eat their food!

  • 2 yellow crookneck squash
  • ghee/olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced into strips
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • generous shake of ground allspice
  • generous shake of ground cinnamon
  • sprinkle of garlic powder
  • water to almost cover
  • salt

Assembly, told in pictures

Also I added the garlic powder at this point.

Cook for about an hour.

Here it is Paleo Style with cauliflower rice! Also great with normal rice.

Notes: This was a savory treat, so good and so easy. The smidges of cinnamon and allspice are a nice twist, and you can't go wrong with ground lamb. Lamb is SO DELICIOUS. If you like lamb, adding a bunch of summer squash is really a great way to stretch it out without any compromise on flavor or richness. Kusa!

Santa Fe Photo Essay

Adopt a Yak campaign at Project Tibet

Sausage case at Whole Foods

Dragon sculpture on Canyon Road

Dark and Lavender Leaves, Georgia O'Keeffe

Photo of Georgia O'Keeffe hitching a ride, 1944

Indoor farmer's market takes place every Saturday


Strawberry Jalapeño Blue Corn Donuts

This is just part of the boot selection at Double Take,
an amazing and huge consignment store

Crosswalk art

Landscape: low trees, mountains in the distance, scrubby sagebrush, blue sky

Streetscape: adobe, snow, blue sky

Tesuque Glassworks and "Dedhead" license plate

Glassworking in action

Sculpture at a gallery on Canyon Road

My Santa Fe Birthday & Other Foods

The last time I was in Santa Fe was 1993 I think. My mother lived there at the time, and I went down to stay after completing my BA. I applied to graduate schools and took the GREs. And I fell in like with the city. Even though I'm not a big fan of constant sunshine (it turns out), there was something winsome about the low adobe buildings, the ubiquitous kiva fireplaces, the smell of piñon smoke in the air, the low riders, the cultural tapestry that is Indian and Spanish and Tibetan and hippie and whoever else, the delightful New Mexican food featuring tamales and chiles and lots and lots of cheese. Santa Fe is a great place to visit. With amazing family support, that's just what I planned to do for my birthday this year when my mom would be there once again for a short time. I would visit, and we would connect for an action-packed celebratory weekend! We stayed at the Hotel Santa Fe, which I highly recommend. It's in a great location with a fitness room and spa and lovely staff and more.

This post is going to be about my birthday (yay!) and other lovely things that we ate and drank in Santa Fe.

My Birthday YAY

First thing on my birthday, I did a 41-item bootcamp workout in the hotel fitness room. The 41st item was 41 sit-ups. For each sit-up starting at about 28 I thought about what had happened to me that year while I did the sit-up. On my way back to the room I discovered the hotel served free coffee in the elevator area of every floor. YES.

Birthday breakfast was veggie omelette with hash browns and coffee at the Zia Diner.
This was a great spacious diner and our home away from home for 2 mornings.

After breakfast we headed to the Ark bookstore to look at New Age and Hindu and Buddhist and Celtic and all manner of wise and thoughtful books and items. Then we went to a bead store where I purchased a super-cool batiked banner from Bali for my kids.

Next we went to Downtown Subscription, a café and magazine shop.
I had this mochaccino and discovered the kickass magazine Meatpaper.
Garcia Street Books next door is also a treasure. I wish it was my living room.
After coffee and books, we wandered around Canyon Road for a bit, which is a crazy art-centric part of town full of galleries and their eager owners. I had vowed to have a salad each day for lunch, so we were thrilled to find Cafe des Artistes with bright French colours and a chalkboard sign boasting "Fresh Salads."

My excellent salad, see top left for hunks of brie.

I saw a book about Hemingway at the bookstore earlier, which reminded me that
it's OK to have rosé with lunch. Note wine map of France in background.
Ganesh at Project Tibet, also on Canyon Road.
I love Ganesha.
Outside of Project Tibet lives this goddess and chorten.
Check out that intense blue sky!

After lunch we went to more galleries as well as to Nathalie, which was some kind of cowgirl boutique full of sequins and leather. Then I insisted we visit a local running store at a local mini mall so I could find out if they carry the Brooks Pure family. While browsing flimsy running shorts, my family called to sing my happy birthday. So glad to hear from them! Then I dragged my mom to various boutiques such as J. Crew and Lululemon.

Sparkling wine and chocolate strawberries that I ordered on a whim back in Sept.
We consumed them while watching the Full Monty (again), which was somehow perfect.

One of my favorite parts of this trip was our Friday night visit to the New Mexico Museum of Art. It was "Free Friday," with lovely Celtic harpists. What truly thrilled me was the current exhibition of 14,000 years of New Mexican art. Man, what a fabulous way to get a basic grounding in the scene. I feel extremely lucky just to have stumbled upon this exhibition. I think it was my birthday present from New Mexico.

A big birthday present from my mother was a much-anticipated dinner date at Geronimo, one of my favorite restaurants in the world. Yes, I only ate there once before in 1993... and I think they've changed chefs since then. But it really was phenomenal. I'm not a high-end person, but Geronimo lets you feel as fancy as you want to be with zero awkwardness. Plus the food is amazing. The wine is amazing too! I had some kinda Pinot Noir and we shared the crabcakes appetizer. Then I got one of the house specialties, a fabulous elk tenderloin. (THANK YOU MOM!)

This elk tenderloin from Geronimo was really, really, really, really good.

I took this picture to show how close the little fireplace was to my left elbow.
The edge of the table is touching the edge of the fireplace... you can see my plate there.
Yes it was a gas fireplace, but also damn cozy.

Other things we ate/drank in Santa Fe

Santa Fe brewery IPA at the La Fonda hotel
I had this beer with a Cobb salad as my first meal in SF

Combo plate at Tomasita's. I have been looking forward to this for years.
I ordered one of the largest plates to get both the tamale and the relleño. Holla.

La Posada hotel has some seriously delicious margaritas.

La Cumbre IPA at Cowgirl BBQ. They carded me, bless them.

Still at the Cowgirl BBQ, this was a local yak burger with sweet potato fries.
Kind of paleo!

One of the best breakfasts of my life at Cafe Pasqual's: a potato-gruyère galette
topped with hunks of smoked trout, two eggs, and green tomatillo salsa.

This is the Cafe Pasqual's ceiling with long ristras of red chiles. GO there!

Chicken involtini over a bed of greens at Il Piatto, part of a 3-part prix fixe menu.
Lots of veggies under there.

Last breakfast: fruit cup from Whole Foods. Getting ready to return to my
usual strange diet of fruits, veggies & meats.

Santa Fe Farolitos

This is the first GIF I've ever made. It's of the Hotel Santa Fe, where I spent my 41st birthday on a whirlwind New Mexico adventure with my mother last weekend! So fun! (The trip, not the annoying day-night GIF, haha)

In Santa Fe at Christmas-time, they put up "farolitos" on rooftops all around the city. Farolitos are supposed to look like lines of paper bags with lit votive candles inside, but of course they're actually electric lights. Nevertheless, they're quite beautiful and something I remember well from Christmas seasons past when my mother used to live in Santa Fe and I'd come down to see her during college breaks. I was so glad to find that the farolitos were still up in early January.

My mother has her own blog post about farolitos over at Door Number 8.

More on Santa Fe to come!

More fashion decisions with Stitchfix

Recently I got a new box of stylish clothing and accessories from Stitchfix, which is kind of like the Netflix for fashion. I had to decide what to keep and pay for (so I could use the $20 non-refundable "styling fee" as a credit) and what to send back in the giant prepaid envelope.

Will it be the grey cowl-neck-on-crack that looks like a thneed and that I'm not even sure how to wear?

Will it be the prison-stripe-weave tunic with the raw edges?

Will it be the super-soft silk dress with giant side-slit pockets and a retro tulip cut?

Will it be the gorgeous deep purple cardigan that costs NINETY DOLLARS for some reason?

Will it be the these pretty gold swoop dangly earrings?

UPDATE: I picked the earrings. The two tops were too odd. The cardigan was awesome but out of my price range. The dress was gorgeous. I kept trying it on to reassess. In the end I felt the cut was just not my style, particularly in the poofy belly area. Not what I want to accentuate. The earrings were $35. I'd never pick them out for myself, but once I had them on I kept wearing them and they kind of made the decision for me!

If you're interested in Stitch Fix, use this link and I'll get a referral reward! Then you can pay it forward!?

I do like Stitch Fix and recommend it especially if you don't mind having to spend at least $20 every time, and don't have time to leave the house to shop yourself. My next fix comes in February!