Diablo Prawn Enchiladas Recipe

On our first date, I took my then future wife Carrie to a place called The Whole Enchilada in Moss Landing. They had a variety of enchiladas, but my favorite was the shrimp. It was a creamy smooth, cheesy dish, the tortilla stuffed with tender shrimp. A culinary delight!
As the years went on and my taste changed, I attempted to replicate the enchilada, only with a spicier flavor.
The following recipe resembles the original only because it has cheese, tortillas, and it’s served on a plate.
This is decadent, rich and not for the squeamish. The sauce is made more for a bunch of chest-butting Navy Seals than your relatives who may believe that flour is a spice.
Heed my warning, this will burn, but it’s a good burn. I serve this dish by itself, and as I add so much heat, I also have to eat it all by myself. The family passes on food this hot.
I brown the tortillas so they don’t break up during assembly or turn into hard crust after baking. I prefer a smooth, soft texture.
The salsa I use comes in a small jar in the Mexican food section at the local market.(La Victoria Salsa jalapeno) I could make my own, but I like the thickness and flavor of this one. Less work, tastes great!

Diablo Prawn Enchiladas Recipe
Note the word “vein” is in quotation marks — you really don’t want to know what it is. I learned this in my college zoology class. Also, I use prawns in this recipe since most markets have already done most of the cleaning, and you have to process fewer than if you used shrimp.
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 12 flour tortillas
• 1 pound prawns, “deveined” and peeled
• 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
• 1/4 cup minced garlic
• 2 jars of salsa, separated (flavor is up to you — this is where the heat comes from)
• 16 oz. sour cream
• 6 large jalapeño peppers
• 2 cups shredded jack cheese
• 8 oz. merlot wine
In a hot pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, which will be enough to brown three flour tortillas. Repeat until all 12 tortillas are lightly browned. Let stand on paper towels; they should not be too oily.
After thoroughly cleaning prawns of all exoskeleton and “vein” (ditch the tail) set prepared prawns aside in ice water. Pat dry before cooking.
Melt half a stick of butter in pan, add minced garlic, and heat about 40 seconds, do not brown or all could be lost. Add prawns, cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add one jar of salsa, 12 oz. sour cream (save the rest for topping), and four chopped jalapeño peppers. (I use only the outside of the pepper in this part, as the seeds contain most of the heat. The outer part has the flavor without the pain.) Stir and set aside.
To assemble, set out tortillas, cheese, prawn mixture and a large greased baking pan.
Put 2 tablespoons shredded cheese and three to four prawns in mixture, then roll up and add to pan. Add a thin layer of salsa (this is to keep it from sticking or burning).
Repeat until baking pan is full.
Add the rest of salsa on top, along with any sauce from cooking the prawns, covering all tortillas so they won’t dry out. Add remaining shredded cheese. Garnish with the last jalapeños, sliced horizontally. These can be removed at serving by those who can’t take the heat.
Cover in foil, making a tent so cheese doesn’t stick, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Let stand for five minutes, then serve. Enjoy!
(You may need 8 oz. of merlot wine by now.)

Autumn in Yosemite

Autumn in Yosemite

Yosemite Valley is in full fall bloom, and promises it will stay that until the leaves fall. Cool nights and warm days in the mid-70s are perfect for a fall color day trip. The oak trees are glowing yellow, with the Dogwood trees brilliant red and others variations in-between.
The water level is very low this year, with Yosemite Falls being nonexistent. There is an age-old expression, used
by age-old people, “I would prefer to view the scenery, not to join it.”
Sage words, probably first expressed by a passenger when the stagecoach or
the later automobile would dangle a wheel or two off the edge of a steep cliff adjacent to the mountain road taken. The road to Yosemite has a few “tight spots” that bring this to mind. Not a totally “white knuckle” drive, but one to be careful.
On this trip I joined the scenery, luckily not in my car. After carefully stopping the car to photograph some spectacular fall-Merced-River scene, I started my way down to the water. So intent on visualizing the “soon to be award-winning image” (yeah right), I had neglected to note that my footing on a rock was as nonexistent as Yosemite Falls. As luck would have it, a boulder field cushioned my fall. My camera
took to the air as I made final impact. As luck would have it, the only patch of sand on the rivers edge, was where it landed. Not a scratch on it, and I believe from the photos taken on this trip, it was in fine operating condition. Whew! I later found sand in my camera bag!
When a Photographer falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Hell yes it does! Something no man should hear!
As I could still walk, I soldiered on to the next “soon to be award winning image.” Not! The photos taken in that location were destined for the “cutting room floor.” All that glitters is not gold. More sage advise.
A morning of photography and falling worked up an appetite.
I had once purchased a gas filled bag containing a Spartan “sandwich” from Curry Village. After finding that the sandwich was prepared in the San Joaquin Valley, and not Yosemite Valley, and realizing that the gas was from elevation difference, not microbial action, I deemed the sandwich fit for purchase and human consumption. It also was tasty.
This time I chose to have lunch from the Village store.
Located in Yosemite Village, offering a full line of souvenirs, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, Junior Ranger accessories and nick-knacks of all kinds of more stuff to dust.
The Village Store also carries groceries, fresh meat and produce, baked
goods, clothing, camping supplies, books, magazines, film, disposable cameras, postcards, ice, wood and an ATM.
I searched for a pre-made sandwich, and a large selection was on hand. The prices were consummate with having someone hand carry the meal to the park from San Francisco. Ham and Cheese, the one I chose, was a mere $7. As it was tasty, and I picnicked under the warm fall sky, towering trees and majestic canyon walls, it was all worth it.
If you go, do not join the scenery.

Florence Italy

Our last stop in Tuscany was the city of Florence. Called “Firenze” in Italian, it is famous for its history and was one of the wealthiest medieval cities of its time. Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.
All accommodations for our Tuscany trip were taken from the world traveler and guide- book author Rick Steves, except in Florence. My travel agent/ wife booked a lovely hotel in the middle of the older part of town through initaly.com, near the train station and walking distance to major sites of interest (La Residenza dell’Orafo, laresidenzadellorafo.it).
The manager, Raffaella, and her assistant Adriana were more than helpful in assisting us with just about anything we needed to know about Florence. They both spoke perfect English, which was a big plus — we actually arrived where we had intended.
There’s so much to see in this consumers’ paradise. Shops with the high-end names such as Armani, Gucci and Dior tempted the locals and visitors alike. This was the source, not a satellite bureau. The mothership of shopping for stuff no man would ever need, or want. As my wife walked mindlessly into the shops like a moth to a flame, I took in the scenery and people watching outside.
After what I hoped was her fill, she enlisted the service of a burro (me) to drag said merchandise through the rest of the city. We strolled by a street artist
named Matteo Appignani, who was literally drawing on the street renditions of Michelangelo’s paintings with colored chalk. His work was beautiful.
We found ourselves exploring deeper and deeper into the streets and alleys.
A young woman looked out from a doorway down a small, cobblestone, alley-like passage.
We were intrigued, and hungry. I asked if this was a restaurant and if they were open, as there were no other customers.
The restaurant, Ristorante Dante e Beatrice (dante beatrice.com) appeared to be quite small from the outside and entry, however, upon inspection, we discovered it was actually very large and could seat about 100 diners. At this time of day they were short about 98 customers, so we had the full attention of a vigilant staff.
Our friendly server, Hisham, suggested the spaghetti bolognese (red meat sauce). He said he had been eating this dish when we came in,  I ordered, and it was excellent!
The spaghetti bolognese was brought out on a large plate, and stacked like a small mountain. It looked like the monolith Richard Dreyfuss was building in his living room in the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
I think it was molded with a bucket. Big and Tall Spaghetti! It was magnificent! Never have I seen the like of this, nor expect to again.
I immediately thought that this would be a major “to go” order, but the flavor was so good that I finished off the whole plate. A meal to remember for sure!
We took the “hop on-hop off” double-decker bus for a city tour. This method of transportation is recommended
by Steves, as well as my travel agent/wife. A day pass will enable you to see the city, get off where you want, wander around and shop and dine, then get on the next bus to see another site, or return to your original location. Our bus arrived at Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence with a splendid view. As there was only one bus after ours, it was a good decision to stay and enjoy the scene. (We did make the next bus.)
Next to the wall of the overlook was parked an Italian taco-truck. No tacos, only Italian fare: pizza, panini (delicious hot cheese and meat sandwich), and bless them, bottled wine. We watched the sun set while drinking local Chianti.
A perfect end to a self-guided tour of Tuscany, and Florence Italy.

Under the Tuscan Sun and Rain

Our first stop after leaving San Gimignano was the medieval town of Montepulciano to the south. The walled fortress-like town featured shops and restaurants open in the daytime, but they rolled up the sidewalk at night. Just kidding; there is no sidewalk. As this is a medieval town, there are only small cobblestone streets. As a note of interest, there are public wash rooms, with no public toilet paper. Bring your own; you will thank me later.
We walked the length of the town, downhill thank goodness, and returned to our hotel by shuttle bus filled with locals coming back from shopping in the lower part of town. A tourist, busy photographing some quaint artifact, was too close to the street, and the bus mirror missed him by inches. This delighted the passengers to no end. Everyone had a good laugh on that one.
Adjacent to one of the town squares (Piazza Grande) is the winery Contucci (contucci.it). They feature free tours of the barrel rooms and tasting of their local wines. Most wineries I have been to in California charge a fee to taste, and give you a thimbleful of each wine, and you may or may not buy one bottle. The world famous Adamo (head wine man on the property featured in magazines and on PBS, as well as a Rick Steves program on the area) has a different take on this. He gives you half a glass, and if you are not drinking it fast enough, he encourages you to drink faster, as there are many more bottles to taste. As a result, you leave smiling a lot, and with four or five bottles in hand. As the tasting room was next to the hotel Meuble il Riccio (ilriccio.net) and there was no driving involved, we totally enjoyed what we remembered of our experience. And the wine was great!
The next day we drove through the countryside, enjoying the view, when we happened on the town of Pienza. In Rick Steves’ guide, it was described as a tourist-orientated (trap) medieval village. Parking again was sketchy at best, and while looking for a spot, we passed right through the place with the non-help of a navigational device manufactured by Satan, installed by the rental agency. (My wife, Carrie, has many pet names for the GPS, none of which can be printed in a family paper.) This modern inconvenience can make you cry.
I kept driving for about a half-mile when we came across a scene that begged to be photographed. It was a small Tuscan home, with the skinny Tuscan trees in front, with a small Tuscan unpaved road leading up to the house. This was as pretty as a postcard! After photographing from a few different angles, we drove back to Pienza, found a parking spot and started to explore the town. At one shop, I noticed a rack with postcards from the area. There, on two cards, was MY little Tuscan home. Not enough to be as pretty as a postcard, it was as pretty as TWO postcards! (I will add that there was a little Photoshop help on those cards, and as art, that made the scene extra attractive. Take note that the power line is still in my photo.)
Night of terror!
On our last night in Montepulciano, the wind and rain really picked up. In fact, it picked up part of the hotel and slammed it on our wall throughout the night. In the wee hours of the morning, when I heard the final crescendo with a sonic boom-like crash, I knew that finally the wind had won! The next morning I looked out our window to see a 20-foot section of substantial rain gutter lay dead in the garden. Good! I had a nap that afternoon to make up for quality time spent awake. Carrie slept through the apocalypse, but I think she could sleep in an active battlefield. All the years of conditioning by my snoring had paid off. She should thank me later. All in all, a great time in Montepulciano and this part of Tuscany, and being under the Tuscan sun and rain