A Little Taste of Tijuana

September 21, 2017

This is my overwhelming image of Baja California: smiling, generous and very relaxed. Also, I must say, very delicious.

That beautiful woman is at Marisco’s Ruben, in Tijuana, just over the border.  Fantastic aguachiles, made to order with raw shrimp, scallops ….

or callo de acha – a scallop that is the adductor muscle of a giant clam (here they are in the fish market in Ensenada).


You will not want to miss chocolate clams which are the most delicious clams I know – crisper than the ordinary sort – and which sadly never make their way across the border.

And while we’re on the subject of clams, an important bit of information.  Should you need to use the restroom, you will need to understand the signage.

This is the lady’s room.

This means men.

In Tijuana I also recommend the tacos here at Fitos.  They’re quickly made, the tacos dipped into the sauce, crisped, then filled with the most wonderful birria of beef.  (I would have liked to try the tripe, but sadly they were out.)

In Ensenada, in addition to visiting the fish market (if only to see the display of shrimp)

You will want to stop in at Tacos Fenix.

A true example of the law of the line: although there’s a similar stand across the street where there’s no wait, the line at Fenix is always long. Join it.

Tomorrow: a visit to one of the most enchanting places in the world, the Valle de Guadalupe where, among other things, you can dine beneath the shade of a century-old oak tree.

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Today’s Perfect Recipe

September 1, 2017

This is one of America’s best-loved fall desserts. And for good reason. Originally published in the New York Times by Marion Burros, it has been tweaked by any number of people. Including me.

Prune plums have a short season, that begins now.  Rather dull eaten out of hand, they positively sing when baked into this sweet fruity cake.

Plum Torte

1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

zest of one lemon

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

12 large or 20 small prune plums, pits removed, halved the long way

4 tablespoons brown sugar, divided

Heat an oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan with high sides. (You really do need the height; a spring form pan is a good option.) Butter the bottom and sides of the pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the parchment paper and dust the whole pan with flour.

Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy in a standing mixer for about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time and thoroughly combine after each addition. If the batter appears curdled, do not worry, it is because the eggs may be cooler than the rest of the mixture, and the butter hardened when the eggs were added. The batter will become smooth with the addition of the flour..

Beat in the the buttermilk or yogurt and add the vanilla and lemon zest, medium speed

Whisk together the flour, the baking powder, and salt, and add to the butter mixture until just combined.

Separate the halved plums into two equal piles.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and level the top with a small offset spatula.

Place the plums, cut side down on the batter, and sprinkle with two tablespoons brown sugar.

Spoon the rest of the mixture over the plums, and place the rest of the plums on top cut side up. Sprinkle with the remaining brown sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden.

Cool the cake on a rack for 5 minutes. The cake will pull away from the sides of the pan.

Run a knife around the edge of the cake. Invert onto a plate, peel away the paper, and invert again onto a serving plate.

Best served warm but delicious at any temperature.

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Chowder is a Murder – and other great old recipes.

August 22, 2017

These recipes are all from the April, 1951 issue of Gourmet.  There’s something winning about each of them. For some it’s the casual way they’re written: I’m especially fond of the quahog cakes.  Some have seductive names: how can you resist a recipe called “lace pantycakes”? And some have adorable technique: simply insert a straw in the pomegranate and drink.

And isn’t it nice to be reminded, in this pomegranate-mad moment, that sixty-five years ago they were already on the menu?


Finally, an ad.  I actually have one of these: ten years ago Kitchen Aid brought them back.  If anyone knows how to use this machine so it doesn’t spit ground coffee all over the counter, I’d be grateful for advice.

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Creamed Tomatoes from the Seventies

August 20, 2017

From my first cookbook (published in 1972; cover art by Doug Hollis), the recipe for creamed tomatoes.  I used to make it all the time – but then again, I was  21 when I wrote that book!

This was the art on the page; it was done by the late, great Chris Frayne.

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