Monday, May 31, 2010

Sculptural Disaster

I think I got a degree in 'sculpture' a while back -my memory's not clear. I've been trying to make this hanging/rotating sphere for over a year now out of a couple different materials, but for now, I'm back at square one. (Maybe a degree in engineering would help.) Who knew there were so many types of plaster? It turns out that what they call "dentist's plaster" is the strongest and whitest.

Some studio shots.
I've developed a new strategy that involves bouncy-balls and making a mess. No doubt the final product will be nothing like I envisioned and hopefully way better. Vamos a ver...


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mindscrapers: El Chopo

This building was designed by Gustave Eiffel -of the Eiffel Tower- and for many years served as the city's museum of natural history. (More proof of Mexico's obsession with all things French.) It re-opened last week after years of renovation as a cutting-edge contemporary art museum. We checked it out and agreed that the building felt like a cross between a Gothic cathedral and a train station.

Friday, May 28, 2010


We're continuously intrigued by what we find between the sidewalk and the street in Mexico City. There could be a wild patch of roses, a carefully manicured zen-garden, or a jungly mess. Here are some examples:

This is a popular look.

Not sure what the white paint does, but it looks like the tree was sculpted with plaster on this pedestal.

This was from our trip to the business district, Santa Fe.

Corn on the sidewalk. We also have avocado trees on our block. I wonder who's gonna harvest the goods...

These rubber trees have bulky and shallow roots that tend to bust up the sidewalks around here. We've noticed that the city has developed a method to try and contain the chaos. They build a concrete box around the base of a young tree, and the roots grow to fill the box and eventually crack it open. They remove the concrete chunks, and what remains is a controlled cube-root-unit. At least that's our theory.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

dear food blog community

PJ and I went through a period of eating tacos de carnitas and al pastor from street vendors almost everyday. We were accustomed to the greasy, salty, deliciously seasoned meats packed with flavor. I'm not a big carnivore, but I didn't want to miss out on the taco fun. Also, before school everyday, we would stop by our favorite tamale cart for a guajolota which is a tamale in a torta roll (starch on starch). We weren't getting much variety of color, texture, or fiber in our food except for the usual dinners of lentils and brown rice, but even they were getting tired. Now that school is out we've had time to shop at the markets and cook all our meals at home.

Maybe I'm missing the carnitas because lately I've been chasing an earthy, meaty umami flavor in my cooking. I've been trying to maximize richness and complexity in things like mushrooms and leeks and its been working pretty well. I'm not talking hen-of-the-woods or even crimini, I use the plain white button mushrooms, champi
ñones, that are so common here. Button mushrooms have a high water content and when sliced and sauteed they lose most of their juices and mass. Lately I've been searing them halved or whole on a very hot comal til they even blacken. I avoid moving them, only once to flip them really. The result are plump, juicy morsals with a complexity of flavor so much more intense than what I was used to from them. For one dinner, the seared mushrooms joined roasted leeks and fat french fries over brown rice for a hearty steakhouse meal. The most satisfying to me is getting amazing flavors out of the humblest ingredients, which, given my economic status, has become my specialty.

Another trend going on here is the hard boiled egg thrown on the plate of every meal. This is mostly due to a new cooking technique thanks to PJ. I always thought the best way to hard cook an egg was to put it in cold water, bring it just to a boil, then take it off the heat and cover it, letting it cook gently for 11 minutes in just hot water. Thats how I learned at a restaurant. "Never boil a protein!" as the sous chef threw the egg on the floor (it happened). But the problem with this method, even after shocking in ice water, was that the shell was always so difficult to remove, and would rip the fragile egg white with it. PJ's method for medium-boiled eggs: bring water to a boil, gently lower eggs in, and simmer for 8 minutes. They're perfect. I also really like how they look on the plate.

spinach with balsamic caramelized onions, mushrooms, fries, avocado, egg, brown rice

The variety of items on the plate, as you might have guessed, is another major theme this season. Lately I've been enjoying up to six components on one plate, which is double the usual amount, commonly a legume, grain, and green. Really its just the addition of small things like an egg or avocado but they make an impact. Having several components is nice because it offers many combinations of flavors, temperatures, and textures to provide new experiences within one dinner. I enjoy the challenge of maintaining harmonious flavors while increasing the number of colors and shapes, but its important to me that there's enough raw or barely worked items to maintain a certain level of simplicity. I'm citing Korean food as an aesthetic influence on this presentation. Actually, I want to start making colorful quick-pickles to go with some meals as well.

black beans, brown rice, squash, avocado, egg, spinach salad with carrots

The new experimenting might come from simply having more time, but it has definitely reinvigorated my home cooking. Its nice to enjoy eggs outside of a tortilla española, which became an everyday norm, but I imagine the bonus medium-boiled egg trend will have to fade sometime as well. As for the tacos, we had some al pastor last night at 1 AM and they are still delicious.


plant store on wheels

Sunday, May 9, 2010


A comal is a thin, flat griddle used frequently in Latin American cooking. It took some getting used to, but now its my favorite way to start a meal. Lately I've been enjoying chunky vegetables seared at a very high heat with little to no oil used in the cooking. The exterior of the squash is pleasantly charred while the interior remains sweet, springy, and full of juice. Tomatoes are greatly improved by charring on the comal. The soft meat slips from the skin and has a beautiful caramelized flavor.

I tossed the veggies in a quick dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh oregano and thyme.
They're sitting on top of wilted spinach.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010