Sorrow Tastes Better with Bread / Las Penas con Pan son Buenas

June has been one very difficult month for me and my family. We have suffered the surprising death of Ray, my beloved brother-in-law, and two weeks later the death of my beloved father-in-law, Meredith, who was a second father to me. And as if that wasn't enough, I almost lost my mother who suffered two heart attacks in one week and was hospitalized while we were on needles and pins.

There's a saying in Spanish that goes, "God squeezes but he doesn't suffocate." I believe it because my mother survived and is recovering at home and I can breathe easier, now. Another saying says, in translation, "Sorrow tastes better with bread." So for my brother- and father-in-law, we will remember them with love while sharing meals of the foods they loved to eat.

My brother-in-law loved Honey Nut Cheerios. He also loved refried beans and guacamole dip. In these last days and weeks I have cooked beans for the family and the other night Rich and I had Honey Nut Cheerios to remember Ray. We ate them from big bowls with milk, in the kitchen, standing up as he used to do. It was a homage to our dearest Ray in the last day that his body was in this world. He was cremated that morning. 

My father-in-law was an expert at preparing pancakes. I have a small recipe book that he wrote including several recipes of pancakes. Surely, Rich and I will enjoy them - while remembering him - for many years at our Sunday breakfasts. In his last months my father-in-law enjoyed desserts very much; sweet dishes were sometimes all he would eat. A few weeks ago Rich and I prepared a cake of crepes with ricotta cheese and a blueberry sauce that he would have loved. We didn't have time to share it with my father-in-law but I am sure that whenever I eat a dessert I will remember him with love.

Thank God my mother and mother-in-law are still with us. But because of her heart condition my mom's diet has to be more strict and she cannot eat too many sweets or foods high in fats or salt. So, I have prepared a very healthy recipe for her that is perfect on these warm summer days. I'm sharing the recipe here.

Tomatillo Salad with Mango and Orange

3 Large tomatillos, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 Mango, peeled and chopped
3 Small oranges, peeled and segmented
1 Tablespoon orange juice
1-2 Tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
2 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl. Serve at room temperature.


Black Garlic / Ajo Negro

I love shopping at my Farmer's Market. I can find new ingredients almost every week. Rich and I have been looking for new foods to try. We have been walking slowly through Farmer's Markets in search of new ingredients and especially a new variety of garlic, the edible bulb that gives so much flavor to our dishes. 

Most supermarkets in San Diego only carry three major varieties of garlic; the white-skinned strongly flavored American garlic, Mexican and Italian garlic, which have purplish-colored skins and milder flavors, and the white-skinned mild flavored elephant garlic, which has very large cloves. Fortunately we can also find these varieties at our favorite Farmer's Market plus, we can find green garlic, too. Green garlic is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. We have tried all these varieties from the Market and I am now growing garlic chives in my garden. I like to eat the young chives and even the flowers. I add them to mashed potatoes and omelets. 

Last week I found a new kind of garlic that I had never seen before - black garlic. I didn't get this at the Farmer's Market though. I got it at a Whole Foods store. It was packed in a see-through plastic bag and it didn't look much different then an American garlic, except that its skin color was darker, not black, just a little darker. It looked interesting so I bought it. I used it for the first time last night. It was very surprising to see that the peeled clove is black in color. I have never seen anything like this before! Black garlic is not strong in flavor or odor as other garlics. Its flavor is sweet like a dried plum and its texture is soft and sticky like a prune. I read that this garlic goes through a fermentation process that changes its texture, flavor and appearance. What is great about this is that nothing is added to it, it just needs a month of fermentation at high temperatures to become this delicious ingredient. Black garlic is becoming popular across the United States but it is still a little pricey ($3.99 for 2 bulbs). It can be purchased in specialty stores or on line. I prepared a lemon-butter sauce for pasta in which I used some of this garlic and I really liked the flavor that it gave to my pasta sauce. 

Pasta with Black Garlic-Lemon-Butter Sauce and Rainbow Chard

1/2 lb. whole wheat angle hair pasta
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter
4 black garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 t. red crushed pepper
1 t. lemon zest
1 T. lemon juice
1 bunch rainbow chard, cleaned and roughly chopped (I picked this from my garden!!)
Salt to taste

In a large pot cook pasta in salted boiling water for 6-8 minutes or following the direction on the box. While pasta is cooking heat the oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the garlic and pepper flakes, cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the rainbow chard and cook for a couple of minutes. Add salt to taste. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, toss to combine. Serve hot sprinkled with parmesan cheese.