Did something today I haven't done in a long time: cooked a complicated dinner because it felt like the only pleasant thing I was capable of doing.
Waah. My back has been hurting for a couple weeks now, but last night's sleep was foiled by not only that but a plague of additional hostile entities: silent, thirsty mosquitoes; unsilent, mysteriously motivated cats; and this wicked, throbbing shin injury that I must have picked up during Rotterdam's post-gig shenanigans.
So today I was just barely functional, but there were some projects in store for us. One positive, constructive project, and one destructive project. The positive one is pictured above in an unfinished state: new shelves in the kitchen (hopefully the first of several planned kitchen modifications). They're really more integrated than they look. If you know Mara's work, you'll agree that none of the following facts are surprising: 1) the materials used are scraps from the backyard, costing zero; 2) the entire project was finished in two hours; 3) I had nothing at all to do with it.
My contribution to the team's achievements came in the form of Complicated and Sloppy-Looking Southwestern Cooking.
In 20th-century menuspeak this would be something like Red Chile-Pesto Shrimp with Fresh-Roasted Red Peppers, Guacamole and Black Bean-Goat Cheese
Really just a lot of sub-recipes: an ancho chile sauce with (subtle) cinnamon and marjoram, a basil-pine nut pesto (which was already lurking in the fridge), a black bean and roasted garlic puree, and a chive oil. And a guacamole, which I bought, and which (though expensive) is real guacamole, from De Avondmarkt.
Pesto sounds like a fusion-y bit of overkill in a Southwestern context, but it's really not: basil and pine nuts are perfect complements to the main players here...but they do work best when they don't dominate the proceedings, and when combined with the earthy notes of the darker dried chiles like ancho (not pasilla as described here earlier...in my weakened condition I'd forgotten about the West Coast predilection for calling things pasilla that ain't).
With that in mind, I would call this successful because it tasted simple...if I'd been served this in a restaurant I would've said "Hmmm, darn tasty, but I could cook that." And in fact I'd be totally correct, which is rare for me. Today's recipe was based on several things out of a new cookbook sent to me by my lovely parents, Richard Sandoval's Modern Mexican Cooking.
The first of these several things was a huarache, which I somehow hadn't realized had become a easily findable edible in America these days (more info here and here, still looking for a postable recipe). But: when I went to make some masa for my possible huarache, I discovered that (cue foreboding music that introduces our destructive project for the day)...
...our pantry moth problem is out of control. You can read about other unfortunate victims' tales of woe on the eGullet Pantry Moths thread, but it suffices to say that we threw out just about every dry good we had at home, with the exception of the newest shipment of chiles and Mexican herbs from Phoenix. These went into the freezer. This process of retaliation and, yes, destruction made it look like we were just moving in instead of moving someone else out...