Friday, May 20, 2011

GDLicious: Dip de atun

Once I got over my obsession with the salsa that comes with Juanito's roast chicken (Providencia between Labrador and Alberta, take out and delivery, tel. 33.1149.4005), I moved onto a new fixation, the chipotle tuna dip served with totopos at Santro Pez, also on Providencia but on the opposite side between Labrador and Virginia. The restaurant is really more of a watering hole. You ask for a drink and two or three always arrive, as the place thrives on specials and a very lengthy happy hour. The food's decent and not very expensive, with the quesadilla de camaron and the doradito de marlin being favorites in our house. There are better and cheaper fish taco places in town, but this place is a real restaurant rather than just a tent or a stall, and in their favor, they play truly decent music. No classic rock, no pop, just burning salsa most of the time. Anyway, to get back to the dip, the stuff here solved one of the mysteries of Mexican cooking for me. While Mexico was recently recognized as a world cuisine by the UN, and certainly deserves the honor when one thinks of regional cooking in Oaxaca or the Yucatan or a few other places, one walks into most grocery stores and is struck by the enormous variety of two products, to which entire sections of each store are devoted. First, you've got the salchicha section. What on earth do they do with all those hot dogs? I still haven't figured that one out yet. Second, the tuna section is usually pretty massive too, along with a whole variety of olives, pickled veggies, and other kinds of canned and often smoked seafood. Some of this you can chalk up to the Spanish influence, as throw together a plate of that stuff with some jamon serrano, a little cheese, some bread, and you're good to go for a light cena. And I haven't touched tuna in years, given the overfishing issues and the fact that they scare the daylights out of you about eating it when you're pregnant. In fact, I hadn't had any in so long that I didn't realize what the dip was made out of when I finally asked the waiter for the ingredients. It's not exactly a healthy recipe, but is it ever delicious with some chips or even better yet, the tostadas found in every little tienda or super too. All you need is a can of tuna, drained, some chipotle peppers (adobados), a ton of mayo, more than you would really think is reasonable or smart so that it takes on a more dippish rather than sandwich spreadish consistency, a squeeze of lime juice, and then whatever else you might want to throw in, like cilantro, to brighten up the flavor. Whip it into a consistent paste, chill, and then serve. Provecho!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Missing the swamp fan

Hindsight is 20/20, and nothing could be a truer truism for that moment in the foreign service when you finally get all your stuff and start cursing for having given this or that away, or sent this or that box to storage. The cursing is not all self-directed, as there are often plenty of other people to blame along the way too, like those in charge of pulling or placing all this stuff in and out of storage somewhere in Maryland. I've gotten over the fact that we did not get our Christmas ornaments but did get somewhere in the ballpark of a couple hundred pounds of docs, pics, and the minutiae of the past that we really didn't want to see for a decade or so. Recently, I've been doing some belated mental self-flagellation for not having held on to a certain appliance that was indispensable at the height of the Ellensburg summer: the swamp fan. I have to admit, purchasing it was a serious leap of faith for a midwesterner who had never really cared for the humidity of southwestern Michigan as a child and spent most of my grad school summers in Pittsburgh holed up in the library, an air-conditioned cafe or office, or in my bedroom with the window unit cranking. The idea of simply blowing water into the air seemed pretty crazy, but lo and behold, it worked. And get this--I was at the fancy mall the other day, and they've essentially installed the equivalent of a grocery store produce section mister system for people. You walk under these little metal hoops and they squirt a fine mist out from time to time, which is refreshing but pretty short-lived in terms of providing relief, unless you plan to just stand under the jets. The heat index also explains why the mall that was formerly the nicest one in town still does at least a brisk pedestrian business, as it has central air. The heat is not unbearable, but it is enough to make people jockey over shaded parking spaces and hot enough to keep the kids inside most afternoons and hot enough to require some serious watering to keep the garden from turning to dust in the matter of a day or two. The one rainfall we had, heavy enough to fill our lidless recycling can with a good six inches of water, made me feel like the bubble boy the next day for what it did for the air quality. So while I'm not complaining (we have friends in Oman who are helping me keep a little perspective on the matter), I do kind of wish I hadn't ditched the swamp fan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Gaga

This is what happens on weekend mornings while I sleep in (or try to anyway). It's a coffee and snack cup fueled dance party downstairs. And all of you who were at Old Jack's last weekend know where she gets it from, and yes, you should start inviting him to all the crazy concerts you go to for a good sideshow.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The cheese series

 Iris, who has recently approached near calm on the teething front, seems happily disposed to display the full set of choppers at the "cheese" command in front of the camera. Here are some before and after pictures displaying the effect of this simple and magical word on her demeanor. We start with some sisterly photos, with princess balloons, of course, in the first set. And for those of you in the FS, yes, I really do need to do something about those couches.

 Now witness the magical effect of the word with Mugga, who braved all the hype of the US news media to make the journey here (and guess what, she didn't even hear a gunshot, let alone get caught in a firefight!). We had a lovely time between swimming at the club and staying out of the heat at our place and just generally enjoying the grandma magic that she knows so well how to turn on for our girls. They were completely enamored of her, to the point where Ruby's masterpiece pictured above, which could rival some very fine cave paintings in France, I believe, figured Mugga as the central stick figure.

 Here's a little before and after during the horse show with Daddy. It's a good thing she doesn't sustain this grin, as it hurts my face just to make it for a few seconds.

 And finally, we have "las hermosas," as they are frequently called, at home and enjoying themselves, with lovely smiles that morph with the first "cheese" and then into even more hilarious grins with a double dose of the "cheese" effect.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hammock angel at Hacienda El Carmen

We joined friends outside of town this Mother's Day afternoon at Hacienda El Carmen for a leisurely meal and some rambling around the grounds. We did a terrible thing and abandoned Iris with the babysitter at home, which did mean we actually sat through most of our meal and Mike was only called upon for some minor child-chasing with his fellow father, while I and my fellow mama killed the obligatory Mother's Day bottle of wine under a jacaranda tree in full bloom. It was a treat of a cloudy day out there, as full sun would have made for a scorcher. We didn't explore much of the interior, but the patio spaces abound and the greenery was nothing less than spectacular.

Ruby especially enjoyed the hammock under the mango tree. She's just a joy these days, whispering, "Mommy, I love you more than outer space" and other such hilarious endearments not only on Mother's Day but all days. She's pretty civilized too, about trips to the bathroom (which used to instill such terror in her), eating in a restaurant without causing a scene (which used to instill such terror in me), and just generally acting like a pretty lovely little human being. Iris, by the way, was no worse for wear for having been left behind, as she is rather enamored of the babysitter at the moment, and got in a nice three hour nap which made our abandonment of her seem all the more sensible.

And, since it was Mother's Day after all, a rare photograph of the elusive subject herself, who is usually behind the camera rather than being sought by its lens.