Zihuatenajo

Something about beach life just makes everything slower …. like sleeping 9-10 hours a night …..

The sun slipping over the horizon in Zihuatenajo

The sun slipping over the horizon in Zihuatenajo

In the past we have stayed at Angela’s Hostel – it is now named Angelita’s Hostel – but closed and up for sale. We chose a smaller hotel right down the street – Fiesta Paraiso. The beds are super hard, but otherwise the rooms are comfy and clean – and the pool is delightful. If we only had a kitchen it would be great for a longer stay. And – 400 pesos per night which is pretty close to perfect.

Poolside at Hotel Fiesta Paraiso - pretty easy way to relax after a busy day at the beach ...

Poolside at Hotel Fiesta Paraiso – pretty easy way to relax after a busy day at the beach …

Along with beach towns comes a more limited menu and every little beach palapa will pretty much have the same thing on the menu, so pick the place with the comfiest looking chairs! We did yesterday – at Los Gatos beach and enjoyed a great day in the sunshine, swimming, reading and chatting with Canadian neighbours … yes, only Canadians at our little chosen spot. The couple next to us – Alison and Rauz, are a retired couple from Kelowna and they stated we have given them the encouragement they needed to explore a bit more, in particular Mexico City. No doubt we will get together at home to share a few notes! (and maybe a glass of wine)

The beach at Los Gatos - an easy water taxi ride over from Zihuatenajo - beautiful water, lots of loungers to relax in - just watch out for those guys trying to help you in and out of the boat - they are not official in any way, and will want a tip for helping you!!  (whether or not you need it) :o)

The beach at Los Gatos – an easy water taxi ride over from Zihuatenajo – beautiful water, lots of loungers to relax in – just watch out for those guys trying to help you in and out of the boat – they are not official in any way, and will want a tip for helping you!! (whether or not you need it) :o)

After our return from the beach we wandered up to a place recommended – Taqueria Papas Loca. This place takes baked stuffed potato to a whole new level. They had a whole row of baked potatoes ready to go, which they then stuff with your choice of fillings; I chose bacon, shrimp and tomato, Grant chose tacos al pastor, pork and pineapple. They were delicious! Huge too … we really should have shared!

These guys work crazy fast - choices of toppings go onto the grill surface, cooked up and diced while the other guy opens the potato, stirs in sour cream and butter, mixes it all in together, toppings applied, cheese applied, lid on to steam it a bit, and presto … whew.

These guys work crazy fast – choices of toppings go onto the grill surface, cooked up and diced while the other guy opens the potato, stirs in sour cream and butter, mixes it all in together, toppings applied, cheese applied, lid on to steam it a bit, and presto … whew.

As you can see - you are pretty much sitting in a parking lot.  There is some seating indoors also thankfully under a fan.  This place is crazy busy and the staff work like frantic bees rushing around.  Just as many takeouts as eating in.

As you can see – you are pretty much sitting in a parking lot. There is some seating indoors also thankfully under a fan. This place is crazy busy and the staff work like frantic bees rushing around. Just as many takeouts as eating in.

Today’s activity was much like yesterday …. beaching it! We walked to La Ropa beach and sat ourselves on the lounge chairs, much like the other Canadian and American tourists and sunned ourselves, swam in the waves and read our books – this after a 10 hour sleep!! When we were exhausted form all that activity we dragged ourselves upstairs and enjoyed a massage with the sound of the waves crashing while we had a very therapeutic massage – those girls really knew what they were doing.

La Ropa Beach at Zihuatenajo

La Ropa Beach at Zihuatenajo

ahhhhhhhh

ahhhhhhhh

Walking back we noticed an Italian getting his place ready to go, so ordered a Napolitano pizza (he is from Naples, and this is his specialty), tomato sauce, anchovies and capers. It was delicious, and we ate that as an appie beside the pool.

Tomorrow we are heading out – perhaps to Barra de Potosi, a very small beach town not far from here …. if it has adequate internet access you will no doubt hear from us there!

Mashed Garlic Herb Potatoes

Often I like to do what I call “smashed potatoes” which includes the skin and all … a more rustic look. Tonight I felt like a more refined approach (and had rustic russet potatoes with not very pretty skins..) Try this with a Sunday roasted chicken or beef – or tonight we had it with lamb shanks!

Creamy Smooth, Luscious  Whipped Potatoes

Creamy Smooth, Luscious Whipped Potatoes

Wash, peel and quarter potatoes – cover with water – once water comes to a boil generously season with salt, and add a few garlic cloves. (as much garlic as you are interested in)

Turn heat down to a moderately high heat and cook until potatoes are just tender to a fork.

Remove from heat, drain well.

Add milk (whole milk or cream works best), butter, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher to blend well, and then sprinkle in your herbs – stir in.

NEVER use a food processor. This will turn your potatoes into glue.

A hand potato masher works, as does a hand held blender, or a potato ricer.

Spoon into serving dish, dot with butter and sprinkle paprika over top. Put into a heated oven for a few minutes and the edges will crisp up and everything will just look so luscious … yum yum

Grilled Pizza

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When the sun is shining, and the weather warm I can’t get enough of grilling.  One of our favorites is grilled pizza.  Once you get the hang of it you won’t be happy with doing it any other way.

I’m a bit of a nut – preferring to do everything from scratch – but you could easily purchase any part of these recipes ready made.  We have an Italian Deli right next to my work, and when I am pinched for time I buy ready made pizza dough from them when I pick up the cold cuts. 

If however, you like the process – then go ahead and give the whole thing a whirl. 

One thing I find really helpful is to pre-cook all the toppings.  For example, carmelized red onions taste way better than raw!  Thinly sliced, roasted potatoes make a great topping, as do roasted sweet peppers or sauted mushrooms.  Experiment with toppings you already love and try some new ones.

Pizza dough:

3 cups flour

1 packet instant (or Rapid Rise)  yeast

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 cup warm water

Lightly sift together flour, salt and instant yeast.  Combine olive oil and warm water – slowly pour into flour blend.

If you have a stand mixer, allow it to do all the work for you – kneading for about 10 minutes.  If not, go ahead and dig in there – something therapeutic about kneading dough after spending the day at a desk.

Once the dough has reached a nice soft workable mass (adding either flour if it is too wet or water if it is too dry) allow it to rest for a bit before forming pizza.

SAUCE

I like my sauce simple – toss grape tomatoes (1 packet) with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – allow to roast in a 350 oven just until the skin starts to burst.  Blend well with some olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Adding a bit of tomato paste gives it more body.

To grill pizza, get your grill nice and hot.  Either oil one side of the pizza dough, or your grate.  Cook pizza without touching for 1-2 minutes, then lift and rotate to get great grill marks.  Do not flip.  Once you have rotated, close the lid and don’t peek – let it cook for 2-3 minutes.  This will take some experimenting with your grill to know the temperatures – you want it crispy but not burnt.

Once the grilled side is nicely done, it is time to put it in a cookie sheet, cutting board, or plate to dress.  DRESS THE GRILLED SIDE.  Don’t worry, the uncooked side will not stick to the surface.  Once you have dressed the grilled side, return it to the grill and allow it to cook for another few minutes until the uncooked side is grilled perfectly and your toppings have warmed through. 

A few suggestions for toppings:

Spicy hot capicolla, red peppers, olives, mozzarella and feta cheese

ham, sauted mushrooms, carmelized red onion and applewood smoked cheddar cheese

thinly sliced roasted red potatoes, thinly sliced zucchini, fresh rosemary and mozzarella

(try the potato pizza without the traditional tomato sauce – roast a garlic bulb, add enough olive oil, chili flakes and fresh basil to get a smooth paste – smooth over pizza before adding the toppings

salami, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato and basil

Hand made Gnocchi

These delightful little mini pillows of deliciousness are so fluffy and simple to make – easily ready to become your new favorite recipe!!

Bake 3 russet potatoes until tender all the way through and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.

When cool enough either put them through a potato ricer, or grate them into a large bowl.  Add 1/2 tsp sea salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper and toss lightly with 1 3/4 cups flour and a grating of fresh nutmeg. (don’t worry if you don’t have fresh nutmeg – use 1/8 tsp of ground)

Lightly beat 2 eggs with 2 tbsp olive oil, and then stir into flour/potato mixture.  Mix gently until all is blended, and knead in another 1/2 cup flour.  Your dough should be soft and supple, easy to work with and not too sticky.

If you have trouble either way – just add either a bit more flour if it is too sticky, or a bit of oil if it is too dry.

Divide this mixture into 4 balls.  Roll each ball into a long skinny rope (snake if kids are helping!). Cut along length into pieces about 3/4 in each.  Dust lightly with flour.

Keep a bit of flour handy – continue dusting your hand with it so the gnocchi doesn’t stick.  Take a fork, and dust it with flour.  Turn it upside down in your hand and roll the gnocchi down the tines of the fork.  Set aside until ready to cook.

When you have all the gnocchi rolled out – and remember that they don’t need to look perfect – you are ready to cook them.

Hand made gnocchi – they don’t have to be perfect – just delicious any shape you get – neither Joe Bastianich or Mario Batali are going to criticize your form!!

Boil a HUGE pot of water – when it comes to a boil toss in a generous amount of salt.

At this point drop the gnocchi in the boiling water – it will return to the top when it is ready – let it bounce around for a moment and you are ready.

Really the gnocchi is great to eat just as is – toss it with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper – delish.

HOWEVER …. if you really want to kick it up a level:

In a heavy bottom pan (like cast iron) heat 1 tbsp each butter and olive oil – stir the white parts of 2 leeks, and 2 garlic cloves until just tender.  When the pot is really hot, push the leek mixture to one side, and drop the just boiled gnocchi onto the hot pan in small batches.  As they crisp up push them over into the leek mixture and toss in the pan – using your hot spot to continue crisping up small batches of the gnocchi.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs, salt and pepper and I guarantee you will love it!

Roasted Mustard Potato Salad

Preheat oven to 400

1/4 cup good quality olive oil                    

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

generous handful of chopped herbs – thyme, rosemary

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4 cup dijon mustard

1/4 cup grainy mustard

Toss all ingredients in large bowl until well mixed, and add

3 pound fresh baby potatoes – red or white (I like a combination of both)

If the potatoes are on the large size, cut them up.

Mix well with mustard sauce, then turn onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, trying to not get any extra sauce on the baking sheet.  Do not overcrowd them – having some space means they will get nice and crispy. Reserve the mustard mixture in the bowl.

ready for the oven – no overcrowding allowed

Roast until they are nice and crispy on the outside, and a fork goes into them easily.

When they are out of the oven and have cooled down slightly enough to handle, it is time to turn it into a salad.

In bowl with reserved mustard mixture, add more fresh herbs – adding basil right now is a great idea, along with some freshly chopped rosemary (so fragrant!).

Mix into bowl:

1/4 cup chopped shallots (or green scallions if you prefer)

2 tbsp white vine vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

Mix well and taste – add salt and pepper to your taste.  Don’t be afraid with the salt and pepper, sometimes just a little bit more makes a great dish taste awesome.

Right before serving I squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lemon over top, and toss gently again.

Serve at room temperature.  This is a great dish to make early on a hot day, and just leave it sit – covered – on the counter until you are ready to eat.

Lemon Roasted Potatoes

Your whole house will smell fantastic with these roasting!

Peel and quarter potatoes (if using new potatoes they don’t need peeling)

Cover with watered down chicken stock, a pile of garlic cloves and 4 lemons, quartered, salt to taste.

Bring to a boil and then transfer to roasting pan – only use enough liquid to cover half way up the potato.  Roast until just fork tender – carefully pour liquid off, toss with a little olive oil and continue roasting until they get nice and crispy.

Garnish with freshly ground salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of sliced green onions.

Delicious with greek food! (grilled lamb filet in photo)