No matter where I go, my cooking life is easily inspired.
My husband and I took a little 24-hour vacation this weekend and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico. If you haven’t been there, it is nestled about an hour north of Albuquerque and has an altitude of about 7,000 feet which makes it a cool relief on a hot weekend. Being true blue to you, my blogging friends, I always have my eye out for something good to write about and I certainly found some things!
I can always count on Santa Fe to surprise me! Last time I was there on a warm, spring weekend, this happened:
But this time, we were surprised by one of the Santa Fe shops we found instead of by the weather. We discovered a shop called “Oleaceae” which sells olive oil, balsamic vinegar and sea salt from around the world. Not much of an inventory you say? Think again! This store had dozens and dozens of plain and flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
The oils were incredible extra virgin olive oils and the flavored ones were infused with wonderful things that sent my imagination out-of-this-world with culinary ideas. What would you make with Blood Orange Olive Oil? Olceaceae suggests using it as a substitute for shortening in brownies and cakes or to pair it with Cranberry Pear, Dark Cocoa, Pomegranate or Fig Balsamic Vinegar. Or how about making your hummus with Harrisa Olive Oil that is infused with cumin, coriander and garlic?
All the oils were available for tasting and the staff at Olceaceae can suggest the most outrageous pairings of oil and vinegar for you to try. I found an oil there that was not an olive oil and it is one I have only heard of but never found available anywhere: roasted pumpkin seed oil! This was a very intense, rich unrefined seed oil made by roasting pumpkin seeds and then crushing them to extract the oil. This is the one I purchased!
I understand that pumpkin seed oil is used in Austria on just about everything and I will be experimenting with my precious find and sharing what I come up with.
All the balsamic vinegars were aged for at least eighteen years and all imported from Modena, Italy. There were two main types: dark and white balsamic vinegar. And these came in a myriad of flavors! My favorite dark balsamics were Lush Black Cherry–which you could actually drizzle on ice cream or mix with sparkling water with a slice of lime; the Cafe Expresso Balsamic, and the Blackberry Ginger. Even the plain dark balsamic vinegar was divine and it was so sweet and delicious, you wouldn’t even need oil in your salad dressing. And it could definitely be an ingredient for either savory or sweet dishes.
The white balsamics–which I’d never tried before–were wonderful too! Mmmmm . . . what could you do with Island Coconut Balsamic or Fragrant Oregano Balsamic? Tasting these was better than any wine tasting! I know I have a whole new world of variations ahead of me using these beautiful condiments.
This company does mail order through their website, which is Oleaceaeoliveoil.com.
Having tasted more than a dozen oils and vinegars, we wandered out to the Santa Fe Plaza and decided to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. I hadn’t known much about Georgia O’Keeffe before, except that she spent quite a lot of time in New Mexico painting the mountains, mesas, flowers and desert landscape. The museum was very worthwhile and included a great selection of her work as well as fascinating insight on her philosophy of life.
She said, “I simply paint what I see.” And she said, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”
Of course we went into the gift shop and having been thoroughly impressed with the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe and the fact that she lived at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico for years communing with nature and painting it, I was drawn to two particular photos of her.
In her kitchen, of course, where I imagine she was also quite creative.
When the day was about over and we sat in the historic Santa Fe Plaza as the shops began to close, we met the apparently extremely popular “mayor” of the Santa Fe Plaza. He was very friendly and very hip at the same time.
Back home, I’ve already opened my toasted pumpkin seed oil and savored the aroma again and again. I’m dreaming of roasted vegetables with pumpkin seed oil, a lovely quinoa whole grain summer salad and a pumpkin seed with lemon zest dressing for tomato salad. You will be the first to know!