Monday, June 28, 2010

Second thoughts on Green Chorizo: Part II

Over time I've eaten less meat, and this hasn't been out of a concerted effort, but more of an organic development. I grew up in Iowa after all, and meat was anything but scarce. The fact that I was two generations away from a lineage of butchers made the staple of animal protein even more prevalent. Knives were sharpened by hand near the butcher block which is a solid cross section of an old growth tree almost four feet across. Out on my own, my cooking often revolved around meat, usually chicken, which I got very good at, especially preparing on the grill. Subtle was the change, though, that meat began to appear less. My pasta sauces began to lack any sausage or chicken, letting vegetables take the center stage in a recipe. Pasta itself has dwindled to almost no presence in my diet. Again, this was not due to any effort to omit it, pasta just got replaced first by white rice and later by brown rice and quinoa.

So with all of those realizations in mind, I approached this subject of making my own chorizo. I love the idea of green chorizo, and it's a flavor combination that I haven't had, at least not in that form. My devotion to simplicity in my kitchen set up has kept me from owning a meat grinder as I am staunchly against owning specialized items like that. My habits hardly warrant something that only has one function. Storage is an issue, but also I can be realistic that I really only need a certain number of staple utensils or tools to prepare everything I will ever eat, though I wouldn't mine having a tortilla press, so it's not a rock hard rule. So I'm limited to store bought ground pork, which I found rather gross, super fatty, and really not tasty in any way. After trying to eat some of this pork in various dishes, I just couldn't bring myself to eat it, so I've been left with this recipe for green chorizo that may be left unprepared. What I turned to was one of my staple grains, quinoa, and I discovered a salad that was rather tasty, and it's resemblance to dip only made it more popular with other Mexican styled dishes.

  • 1/2 cup Tomatillo salsa (see previous post)
  • 1 batch quinoa prepared (1 cup dry cooked in 2 cups water)
  • 1/3 cucumber
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 green onions chopped
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1 avocado chopped
  • 1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • Salt and pepper

*You could also add fresh cooked corn off the cob, beans, edamame, other fresh herbs, or even grilled veggies, chicken, or tofu.

This is simple to prepare, as it's basically chopped up veggies mixed into cooked quinoa. To speed it up, when the grain was done I spread it out on a baking sheet and put it in the freezer while I prepared other ingredients. It cooled in about 15 minutes with a stir every 5 minutes or so. The cheese I added last so it didn't get too lost in the mixing. The dressing was essentially a salsa, so the whole dish had a tangy full-of-cilantro flavor. Very nice with a bean salad, warm tortillas, or grilled vegetables. We dined on this at a back alley barbecue in downtown Kansas City, highrise towers and bad graffiti all around us. I might be living in a very concrete heavy place, but it was nice to see that we weren't deprived of summer flavors and good times.

One last tip in case you have plans to make this and keep it. The veggies, especially cucumber, can be a bit fragile in the presence of lime juice or vinegar over time, so it might be better to use squash or other sturdier options as you might find mushy cucumber just a day away from when you prepared this. You could always keep the ingredients separate and make it to order, or just encourage your friends to chow down at a barbecue so you don't have leftovers. It works for a night, but plans can change and there's no reason it can't be enjoyed for days.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Second thoughts on Green Chorizo

I keep thinking about Rick Bayless, his really good cooking show, and how it reminds me of my work. I don't know a lot about Rick, but his depiction of Mexican culture on his cooking show raises the food and the people to a new level of respect. It falls in line with foodie fresh culture today, "eat local" and all that. From my experience across the border, it seems more a norm to eat what you have on hand, to eat fresh foods, and to eat local. It's crazy that we need a movement in the U.S. to bring this type of food culture about when in so many parts of the globe it's a regular part of life. Think about the salsa bar at a taco joint, and you'll see a perfect sign of this style of eating. Where we might have thought of it as a condiment bar, I think it is a sign of something more than that.

I'm not going to delve into a speech about the China Study, or about vegetarianism, I just love the salsa bar. When I have a taco in front of me and a choice of delicious toppings, a myriad of daily made salsas, green and red, and veggies I might miss on a daily basis like chopped radishes, or marinated parboiled jalapenos, I feel grounded. So this is what brought me to my recipe for today. A really REALLY simple and super good salsa using tomatillos that makes up the base for the Bayless Green Chorizo. I think it does fine on it's own, and it kills anything that comes in a jar, many brands of which I think ruin the profile of tomatillos for me and people everywhere by misrepresenting this tangy little green tomato.

  • 4 green tomatillos
  • 4 seeded roasted green chiles
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 juice of lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 1 tsp mexican oregano
It's simple really. Just throw all these things in your food processor. Fresh, nothing cooked, and blend well. The cilantro doesn't need to be pruned especially well, just grab the leafy top of the bunch, twist it off, and throw it in. I chopped stuff up a bit, but it's probably not necessary.

This stuff is so tangy and good, I could eat it every day. And my next recipe is something I whipped up since I bought ground pork and it kind of grossed me out. I made a salad using this as a dressing, and it really rocked my world. So I'll get to that next, but in the meantime, enjoy this one with some chips or scorched tortillas.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I've been researching Green Chile Chorizo, a recipe originating in Toluca, Mexico so I have read. I want to pair a red, green and white chorizo for a project/tasting coming up. The white recipe may be elusive, since there aren't many white meats, but we'll see. As I've been postponing more and more this cooking venture I've thought a lot about what my last post detailed. I feel it's all based in my inner dialog as an artist, but this attitude also reigns prominently in the art world at large as well.

This argument addresses IMHO art with intention versus making "consensus-friendly decoration", as the Guardian blogger Jonathan Jones puts it. I think that might be the case. I am reminded of what some friends said once, that..."the audience for artists is other artists." In my last post I mentioned Damien Hirst, the quintessential famous wealthy successful artist. I noticed today that he held an actual show of paintings done with his own hand and critics tore him apart. It was partly that he showed his work next to works by master painters, and partly that the guy just doesn't have the talent to make technically skilled art. He even said of his own color spin paintings that they were "basically meaningless." Maybe collectors don't care, but then it's obvious that an investment in art is not in meaningful expression, but in a commodity no different from a credit default swap. It turns out that skill does matter in some cases.

This brings me to other aspects of art as commodity like Jeff Koon's recently unveiled art car.

This is a real car, I think. I actually don't know, but I saw a picture of him sitting on the real thing. Yes he's rich, and yes his work is vapid. These works, Koons' and Hirst's, are signs of how strongly object and commodity are still held together, and how empty they are despite the dollar value. I hear not that MOMA is now collecting performance much like you collect a painting. They collect the instructions on what it is and then re-stage the performance when they like. How strange is that? Something that is temporal by nature is forced to become a commodity. Then they can sell it, even though it's essentially non-existent other than when it took place. It's like the shower you took today becoming art and then someone selling the idea that you took a shower to someone else. Then they pay a young sexy New Yorker to take a shower in the same circumstances and call it equal to the shower you took. Maybe there's some inherent genetic predisposition by humans to need to associate monetary value to each and every thing, but I don't know that I get this compulsion.

Now our art world is blogging/tweeting heavily about a new TV show called Work of Art, which is basically a competition by artists to one-up each other and get a big bag of money for their efforts, and maybe for being a good artist. It's so strange that this is what they claim will bring appreciation of art to the masses, making artists perform akin to fear factor or iron chef. Why not make artists cook against one another and then be forced to eat all the food before running an obstacle course? It makes about as much sense as the real show.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, nor am I sure where to go with art in general. It's not to avoid objects for the sake of it, but more to think about what an expression is at its core and why we need objects to convey that expression. Art objects are great, and you'll see that in my apartment that I surround myself by them. I just like to think about these conundrums, and the daily occurrences in the art world. When I read about ideas about reformulating art in society both within and without capitalism, like in the new e-flux journal 17, it really gets my gears going. This makes me wonder about all this stuff we make and what we do with it. What the value of this stuff is, and what the purpose of over-valued stuff is too. I need to get a few tomatillos and I'm going to make some Green Chorizo, inspired by Rick Bayless. That is something I can put a fork in, tell it's done, and then eat knowing that I enjoyed it because taste-buds lie way less than art does.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Resisting Dematerialisation with Chorizo and Arizona Ice Tea

Over the weekend I spoke with my brother about the direction that my art might partially be moving towards involving potentially performative or interactive aspects of cooking along with more typical art objects. As seen in Marina Abramovic's MOMA retrospective "The Artist is Present", performance is finally blowing up after years of occurring but never becoming mainstream (and I hate to be the one to exemplify this show along with EVERY other art blogger). Just look at the abundance of college art curricula that don't even address performance as a practice. Its specialization, tending more towards theater and dance, have left it in a limbo that many avoid grappling with, and the preponderance of bad performance art hasn't probably helped either.

Abramovic claims that performance art edges on theater, but that it is real rather than pretend. Here's a post-show interview that is kind of interesting. I'm all for it really, despite the fact that I have rarely if ever seen performance art in person. There's an excitement to it; towards it's bold and courageous display in front of audiences who may or may not even understand what is taking place. People probably have trouble with interpreting lots of art, visual, audible, or performance, but that's not the point. I'm eluding to this renewed push for relational art, where experience is the conveyance of meaning, not objectification in a white walled space. Either way is a perfectly fine way of expressing yourself, but there's a growing trend here that I feel compelled to address, and one that ties to many things going on around me.

Art and life is curiously redirecting culture towards limited edition commercial object making (much of traditional art making, ie. prints, paintings, sculptures, etc.) versus the visual and audio culture that we readily consume becoming more and more ubiquitous and available in infinite reproductions on the web. Curiously I see it tying into the financial meltdown, art pricing, and the new wave of young artists finding their way out of school into the marketplace. What I've seen in Kansas City is a young push to capitalize on commodity, to make a screen printing business in basements, or to create objects gallery ready and with that certain glossy presentation that says too clearly that they are completely comfortable with art objects as collector fodder. It seems that art and consumer culture are vying to become one, and it's apparent as well in Hirst's huge self-purposed auction or in Murakami's hand bags. Art is simply business, and ideas can sometimes be subverted in the name of the sellable.

I saw an article from The Telegraph today about an upstart book-on-vinyl production operation. It seemed like a gimmick at best, but note the printed fine art object combined with the irrelevant collector technology. How many times can one listen to an audiobook anyway? When it was done in the past, there weren't cassettes or libraries full of CD's that you can borrow once and return. This is what they claim is the purpose of this,
The Underwood discs, scheduled to appear twice a year, represents part of the growing resistance to the dematerialisation of art. By emphasising tactility, scarcity (each issue is limited to 1,000 copies) and physical beauty, it offers something that can’t be digitally replicated.
Is there truly a "resistance to the dematerialisation of art"? With all innovation there is resistance to some degree. What is the value of continuing to make art objects? Lately I was in a gallery opening and people seemed equally invested in the experience of drinking free beer as much as they were in the art-gazing. What about the value of said objects? When the economy is down, and people can't buy art, should producers of art alter their approach to fit the economic realities? This I haven't seen, and its obviously represented by the multi-thousands-of-dollars that a young person's paintings are marked at here in Kansas City. Artists were taught in recent years a pricing model that isn't relevant anymore in the wake of the financial collapse. People aren't buying art, so should we still be pursuing the showing practice of white walled high-priced art displays? I'm not saying everyone should be producing limited edition stereographs of urban eccentric naked young people (if you want to pursue that idea, you can have it!), but what are we in the art game for? There are angles to pursue to make money, and there are ideas to demonstrate through our actions as artists whatever our practice, and when we go one way in an effort to demonstrate the other, these confused efforts only result in art that doesn't say what it intends, and thus isn't as valuable as something made for more commercial reasons. Is this making any sense?

So I guess where I come to is a place where making food as art has potential to satisfy all parts of the issues that I have addressed. I can offer an experience through eating, something that to me is the most relevant and ubiquitous of all experiences besides death and sex. And if I like I can commodify this approach, but neither arm of this will interfere with the other, I hope.

As for the overpriced art being pumped out across the globe, I hope that part of the education system that guided these artists into the art world has prepared them for the reality of having to fight to survive in a system that pays less and less and supports less of the most valuable expressions being made today.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sometimes you just need a grilled cheese

Yep. Does that count as carbo-loading?

Miga so Hungry

Breakfast is mui importante. With a great deal on my mind today, it's good to have foods that I can fall back on. This weekend is a huge barrage of events including a big art delivery to a gallery in Des Moines, IA, tonight is the big Kansas City First Friday art walk for which I have to hang out all night and talk to people, and on Sunday the Pigman Triathlon is happening, for which I can only hope I'm prepared. I've trained, so I know I'll finish, though my time might not be the greatest. With all of that, it's better for me to just eat what I have, something easy, and today that meal was migas. Migas are many things traditionally, usually leftover bread or tortilla cooked together with egg, pork, or whatever else is lying around. I choose to make a taco version, still keeping with the ingredients, but a bit easier to eat. Mine included eggs, chile, and whatever I had leftover which was a sad looking green onion, some zucchini, and a lump of turkey. Corn tortillas last amazing long in the fridge, so those I try to always have on hand for just such occasions as this.

It's easy really. Chop everything up. Fry up your ingredients starting with peppers, then zucchini, and then the turkey mostly to warm up. When those are looking tasty, crack in a couple eggs and add the green onion. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until done. These days I've begun to cut out the egg yolks. One yolk for two eggs. I read this thing about the naked cowboy guitar guy in New York and he only eats egg whites. He stands around flexing and playing music all day in his underwear and apparently he doesn't eat yolks. FYI I've also cut out half and half for my coffee in favor of 2% milk. If you make gradual shifts you don't even know the difference. Sorry for the healthy talk, but I'm training for a race! Maybe I wouldn't mind a side job playing guitar naked.

Anyway, throw the mixture on some heated tortillas with a bit of cheese. I toast my corn tortillas over the gas flame of my stove which gives nice little char marks, and firms up the little guys so they don't break on me when I'm eating. No fat is required either, so I don't have to dirty up another pan or eat extra butter or oil. Splash with some hot sauce, keep the bottle close because you'll probably want more as you go, and enjoy! It's a filling meal, but when you have too much to do and never enough time to eat, it's worth starting the day with a belly full of damn good tacos.