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My Great American Road Trip – New Mexico

September 3, 2020

I was only in New Mexico once. It was like twenty years ago when my eldest niece was still fresh and new. Sister, brother in law, and their new little monster darling drove from LA and my mom and I flew in from the Eastern side of the country to celebrate Christmas in Santa Fe, which if it isn’t already the title of a Lifetime TV movie, I would like to claim it. I’m sure I can bang out the script this weekend.

We were in Santa Fe before there were cell phones and the last avid photographer in my family was my grandfather Doc Smith (or Bubba as he was know to my generation). Bubba was rarely without a camera and is the eye behind nearly every photo from my youth.

Without Bubba, and before cell phones, we relied on disposable cameras. And half the time, we’d forget to develop the photos, so we’d have to rely on our memories. I was only able to find a couple photos from that trip. One of us all in a restaurant that could be anywhere, but trust me was Santa Fe, and one of our stockings all hung by the kiva fireplace with care.

My talented sister embroidered all those stockings herself. Mine is the one that looks like an LLBean boot (the biggest, natch). Her’s is the odd one out, the red one, which is the first stocking we ever had and, as much as I love my boot, the stocking I intend to use for the rest of my life. Don’t believe me?

I loved Santa Fe. The whole town, the whole pueblo, smells like piñon, which is hard to explain, but it a little smokey and warm and forest-y. It is from the piñon pine that grows in the area and it is my most vivid memory of being there. Even now, a whiff of it brings me back to us walking along the streets of adobe houses, twinkling lights, and big sky. Magic.

A lot of the food in New Mexico is inspired by the food in Mexico. Because I value comfort food above all else, I decided to make posole (or pozole). Posole is a stew that is used in celebrations like New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and Mexican Independence, as well as an easy weeknight meal. It has two essential ingredients – hominy and meat – and it can be prepared rojo (red), verde (green), or blanco (white). I went for rojo, but instead of meat (I’ve had SO much meat) I used pinto beans.

This is a super easy, and super delicious meal, with such depth of flavor even without the meat. In a large pot you warm up some olive oil. When it hot, sauté one chopped medium red onion until it’s translucent. Then add 2 chopped poblano peppers (please be careful of your eyes when chopping peppers – don’t be like me), one chopped zucchini, and three, you guessed it, chopped carrots. Cook those til they’re golden and throw in a cinnamon stick, 1 tablespoon (that’s a lot, its spicy) ground chipotle pepper, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 teaspoons ground cumin (the miracle spice), and 1 teaspoon ground coriander. In about 30 seconds you’ll be overwhelmed with the fragrance which is like, I imagine, walking into your abuela’s cocina.

Next you add 2 cans of hominy and two cans of pinto beans, one can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, and 4 cups of veggie broth. Bring the whole thing to a boil and then let it simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or so.

When its done you top it with cilantro and squeeze of fresh lime and serve it with rice or, as I did, flour tortillas. It was so delicious and warm. The hominy had almost a potato like texture and the spices were just enough to tickle your nose, but subtle enough for each flavor to still stand out. And it was the perfect thing to eat as I did my Duolingo Spanish homework.

Yo queiro viajar, otra vez…..

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