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Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Plaza Blanca, or the ‘white place’, rests protected and guarded in a valley of the Rio Chama hills.  Made famous by a 1940 painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, the sense inside the walls and spires of white sandstone is that it’s been long forgotten; so lonely that it whispers to itself for company. And for the pleasure of an experience like that on a planet with nearly 7 Billion people, the short trek is well worth it.

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Plaza Blanca late day

Having hiked in 3 times during the Abiquiu road trip, if you’re wanting to photograph this place, late afternoon presents the most dramatic lighting.

The White Place

Plaza Blanca, The White Place. Taken at 5:48 pm in November.

The White Place

Plaza Blanca. Taken late in the day, mid November.

Not that a morning hike can’t yield something worthwhile… they just take a little more work in the darkroom.

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Plaza Blanca in the morning, 9:06 am.

The White Place

Plaza Blanca taken at 8:31 am, mid November.

The White Place

Plaza Blanca in the morning.

Now that I see my photos side by side, forget what I said earlier about late afternoon. You can’t go too early or the sun won’t have crested the horizon enough to light the area. Same goes with evening – too late and it’s all shadow.

Carry a small backpack and water. Don’t take too much photography gear else you’ll miss the point of the place.  Which is something you’ll figure out once in there (the important thing to know is that there IS a point).  Me – I thought about dying in there and the tragedy of missing out on another Bode’s green chili cheeseburger but quickly jumped to how hard it is to fix our shortcomings but we can do a darn good job with well placed patches, that my camera gear was a burden, how interesting the miniature spires mimicking the big ones were and that several phallic symbols were prominent, the footprints I keep seeing could be God’s, yikes is that a coyote, look at the rabbit, I need to see the eye doctor when I get home, cursing how hard the rocks are as I lie back while the sun warmed my face and the air tickled my hair, the camera gear forgotten, death replaced by life, tears at the beauty, solitude whispers, the peace and quiet everywhere, including my head.

The White Place

Plaza Peace

Other New Mexico related posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Abiquiu – the Dar al Islam Mosque

The dirt road ripped over time by alternate acceleration and braking was so unrelentingly jarring, the truck protested like a child denied candy in the check out line.  I bit my tongue at 20 mph. A beater truck passed, the crap in the back bouncing higher than the crumpled tail gate. A juggling act of buckets, cans, and other flotsam gained upward momentum as he passed, then slowed with him to a carefree tossing about.  The helmsman fishtailed at the curve ahead. The road as wide as a street through one of the Midwest’s deserted towns on a Sunday afternoon, gave him ample space to bank from side to side and never interrupt the swirling performance in the back.  Spray paint on a trailer house door strapped to a barbed wire fence read “Door Into the Unseen.”  I studied the technique used to secure it to the multi-strand fence as I got out to look about and blot blood from the chomped tongue.

Door Into The Unseen

Door Into The Unseen

Abiquiu, New Mexico

Northern New Mexico, October

In a region devout to the faith of the Spanish throne, driving a washboard rough, chalky road in Abiquiu, New Mexico that snaked up to an adobe structure resembling the mosques of Northern Africa was a behind-the-wheel eureka moment.  It was as startling as gewgaw souvenirs in a high brow Taos gallery. Built by Egyptian architect Hassan Fathi in 1981, Dar al Islam was designed to serve as the fulcrum for a planned community. The village never materialized, but the mosque sponsors educational programs, retreats, and workshops connected to various educational institutions.  And it serves up magnificent architecture on a most unlikely backdrop.

Gawking and stumbling my way to the office for permission to walk about and photograph the exterior, I met Institute Director Rehana Shafi. Graciously he agreed to my no-commercial photography. I’m certain my photographic skill level was unquestionably a non-threat as he looked upon a person powdered with road dust, fighting her tongue to stay put and speaking with a lisp.

There’s not a religious bone in my body.  Spiritual bones, are quite another thing.  I’ve plenty of those. And have found road trips to be chock with moving experiences from one spiritual catalyst or another. Which is the reason I go – to be moved, and healed in the process (and I always return healed).  So on an October day as clearly bright and sensationally pristine as a Wyoming night, no wind, warm in the sun, cool in the shade, with an ultramarine sky streaked by an O’Keeffe flourish of white, I walked the mosque and grounds accompanied only by camera and free-wheeling thoughts.

Dar al Islam

Dar al Islam, Abiquiu

Dar al Islam

Dar al-Islam

Dar al Islam

The Mosque, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Dar al Islam

freewheeling thoughts

Dar al Islam

New Mexico, not Africa

Other New Mexico related posts in this series:

The Abiquiu Inn

Abiquiu – The Penitente Morada

Abiquiu – Plaza Blanca

Abiquiu – The Dar al Islam Mosque

Abiquiu

The Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail

New Mexico Travel Sites:

Hatch Chile Festival – September 3,4, 2011

New Mexico Tourism

Where to buy hatch chiles

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

Caveman Cookery, Meet Santa Fe Cuisine

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Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs – recipe below.

Caveman cookery. I’m partial to it. Recipes that can’t really be overcooked, don’t require a timer, rough chops are sufficient, measurements eyeballed – a dab here a skosh there a smidgen more, consistent outcomes,  served in what they were cooked, ingredients easy to come by and taste divine when served, are a few of my favorite things [recently watched The Sound of Music].

Take Collard Greens – their significance within the Southern culture and their heroic ability to lower cholesterol and fight cancer deserves capitalization. My husband and I love them. Possibly more than any single food item, they define Southern cuisine. Drinking pot likker, the highly concentrated, vitamin filled broth that results from cooking the greens down to a low gravy is a time honored hedonistic act that has resulted in more than one shooting at suppertime.

The reaction to the smell of cooking greens separates true Southerners from the wannabes.  I vote the turbid fragrance of greenery, soil, and spice that fills the house when they cook be bottled to take the place of Febreze.

“But I have never tasted meat, nor cabbage, nor corn, nor beans, nor fluid food as half as sweet as that first mess of greens.  —  James T.  Cotton Noe (1912)”.

I don’t know that guy, but I like him.

We Southerns take it on the chin for the amount of fried foods consumed – check out this technique for fried potatoes.

Oklahoma Fried Potatoes & Rocket Science

But I’m confident the amount of greens we eat counteracts that, since Collards are the undisputed king of all things good for you: read about their health benefits.  I calculate the bushels of Collards we eat in my kitchen every winter more than prepares our bodies for the stacks of hamburgers that fly off the summer grill.

Interestingly, the Greeks grew both Kale and Collards but made no distinction between them (an attempt to elevate collards to the cuisine level they merit).  Collards by the way, are considerably milder than Kale. Many wrongly believe the opposite.

There’s a wide choice of dark greens abundant during the winter months generally extending from December to April. And they’re so cheap you’ll cry.

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Collard greens are my choice green as they fall nicely in the Caveman Cookery Category (CCC) and have a great deal of texture and body; as opposed to Mustards, (from the mustard plant – kale and collards are a cabbage), which are more delicate in texture, and not in the Caveman Cookery Category (CCC). They require a proper cooking time, otherwise they go too soft and can become bitter (although I do love their peppery taste and will throw some in at the end of a collard cooking session). Turnip greens, the tops of turnips if you needed a hint, are the most bitter and chewiest/most substantial body quality of the bunch (too much so for me).

@thehomechef, Steve Collins, a chef in Santa Fe that was introduced to me via a Tweet from @santafetraveler (is that clear as black bean soup?) was gracious enough to give me the recipe for his Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs.  I didn’t tell him I’m a caveman cook or that I’d be serving the chili with Collard Greens. I’ve made the recipe a few times now, the first time I actually followed it. Since then I’ve refined it for the CCC (caveman cookery category).

Which really means that since I have kids in D.C. that are working their asses off in full time jobs during the day and spending nights plying their dream trade of musicians, while simultaneously making a gallant attempt at having normal lives that revolve around a real dinnertime, I took some liberties with the recipe – as in shortcuts.  I hope Steve won’t be offended when I tell him the shortcuts really don’t materially compromise the final product, much.

And in the recipe’s defense, I wouldn’t have experimented with it if it weren’t deserving of the investment in time.  It’s divine and if you wish to have a bit of Santa Fe Cuisine warm up your winter evening, you’ll make this recipe using any of its iterations. More than once.  And since I believe in giving credit where credit’s due, Steve says the original recipe came from Deborah Madison’s Green Restaurant Cookbook. But really, recipes are like stories.  A bit of personal embellishment, an alteration of the characters, a slight change of story progression, a pass on to others, and it becomes your own.   So thank you Steve for this recipe – it’s a wonderful winter indulgence.

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You asked the name of my kids’ band (son and future daughter-in-law might as well be a daughter)?  I thought I heard you ask that.  It’s North Meets South. As in he’s native Texan and she’s native North Dakotan. And they rock.  More people than I have said that (some that know what they’re talking about musically – they do more than simply watch The Sound of Music), so I make that statement simply because it’s true. If you live in the D.C. area, check their schedule for show dates. You could have them playing during your soon to be evening meal of Short Rib Black Bean Chili and Collard Greens. A glass of Italian Barolo would  make a nice accompaniment to the music and the meal.

North Meets South

North Meets South probably appreciates the plug.  Not so sure how they feel about being between a discussion of collard greens and chili.

SO. On with the cooking. Let’s start with the Collard Greens.

The Line Up…

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Put 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add a package of salt pork, or bacon will do  (1/2 lb. –  I like it unsliced, but whatever..), 1/2 tsp. black pepper, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, 1 TBL of seasoning salt, 1 TBL of hot sauce and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic (whole).  Slow boil for about 45 minutes to an hour.  Then add main character.

The Main Character…

Wash. It’s the hardest part.

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Trim off the thickest part of stem. The quickest technique is to fold the leaf and pull away from stem. Don’t bother trying to remove all the stem. Too much trouble and it doesn’t matter.

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Stack them as high as you dare

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Roll ’em…

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Slice like a jelly roll

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Rough chop

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Stuff them into the pot with the reduced broth, sitting on the lid if need be.  They will not be covered by the broth.  Doesn’t matter.  They make a bit of their own juice as they cook down.  And since you’ll cook them at a medium flame for about 15 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes, they won’t burn.  After the 15 minutes, turn down to very low and take a nap.

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They’ll look pale and wimpy after about an hour.  Not to fret, they won’t taste pale and wimpy.

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Besides Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs, these are a few things I’ll serve with and/or on my mess o’greens.

  • olive oil
  • roasted garlic
  • dark sesame oil
  • Tabasco’s Spicy Soy Sauce (always in my cupboard, ordered by the case from Cajun Grocer).
  • cornbread. I don’t like the typically sweet Southern cornbread.  I make it with NO sugar in the batter, lots of butter melted in screaming hot cast iron skillet. Thick, crunchy exterior with the satisfying grit that can only be had from cornmeal. Moist, grainy interior. Yum.
  • hot peppers steeped in vinegar
  • a tomato
  • pinto beans
  • black eye peas

Black Bean Chili with Short Ribs

In a crock pot put 2 lbs of beef short ribs. Season the ribs with salt, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 TBL chili powder, 1 cup of sliced thin red onion, and 1 cup tomato sauce.  Cook on low overnight. Remove from pot. De-bone, removing excess fat. Place meat back into crock pot.

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The original recipe calls for 1) dredging the ribs in a bit of flour and browning before adding to crock pot.  And 2) making your own ancho chile powder. Neither of which are difficult.  I made the first batch of chili utilizing these techniques, then dropped them for the streamlined version – no browning of the ribs and packaged ancho chile powder.

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warming through the dried ancho chiles before grinding them.

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use a blender for making the powder, not a food processor if you decide to make your own ancho chili powder

Back to the streamlined version:  In a large pan, saute 2 cups of diced onions (about 5 minutes) with one chopped Poblano pepper (purchased by accident, but then just decided to throw it in – original recipe does not call for one). Then add 2 cloves finely diced garlic and saute for another minute.  Add 3-4 TBL of ancho chile powder, 1 tsp ground chipotle powder, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 – 16 oz cans black beans and 1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes. Stir to Mix. Add to meat in the crock pot. Cook on low for another 2-3 hours.  Serve with collards – what else?

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Along with the accidental Poblano, this isn’t called for by the original recipe either. But I like using it for chili recipes (1 TBL).

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The Caveman Cook uses all the grease a food emits until the end.  She cooks with it. She doesn’t serve it.  I love this trick from my grandmother. I can only do the 3rd person schtick for so long.

Allow the pot to sit untended (in other words don’t stir for a bit). The grease will rise to the top. Take a slice of bread and toss it on.

It will immediately soak up the grease riding on the food like a stubborn storm cloud over a just cut hay meadow.

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‘Immediately’ means to toss it on, turn it, remove it.  Don’t let it sit. You don’t want it soaking up the liquid goodness, just the grease. If needed toss on another one.

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I also love these – Dingle crystal celtic flame patterned tumbler from Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula – a road trip I’ve yet to write about.  And its contents – vodka tonic, my drink of choice. Which segues into telling you my other favored kitchen trick is putting limes down the garbage disposal (from the vodka tonic). Works better than baking soda. I’m not sure how all that came about but it works.

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Newspapers and crockpots just go together – another kitchen trick.

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If the chili is too thick for your taste or it thickens too much overnight in the fridge,  add a splash of the wine you served, or beef broth.

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If this is the first blog post you’ve read that incorporated collard greens, chili, Italian Barolo wine, Dingle Peninsula hand blown crystal, grease removal, and a band poised for the big time, HONK.

Get your traveling foodie groove on over at Wanderlust and Lipstick, Wanderfood Wednesday.

Join the Road Trip Revolution at the Solo Road Trip Facebook Fan Page, here.

But I have never tasted meat, nor cabbage, nor corn, for beans, nor fluid food on half as sweet as that first mess of greens.
James T. Cotton Noe (1912)
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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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