How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Monday, September 19, 2016

Not so much a recipe as a suggestion - Salmon with Habañero Mango Jelly

While enjoying our breakfast earlier this week we had some English muffins with habañero mango jelly and James read off the label

A medium hot jam delicious served with a variety of cheeses, livens up a sandwich or your favorite grilled fish or fowl

So when we picked up our weekly order of fish at Kyler's Catch I decided to follow the advice. We had a pound of wild salmon which I divided into two pieces and cooked on the stove top with bacon fat in our indispensable cast-iron skillet. It does appear that I am getting better at using the electric stove. I started the fillets on high heat, but turned it down to medium and covered the pan after the first few minutes. I cooked them on one side for about 10 minutes total, and then turned them over, and turned the heat to low. The cooked side was nicely browned and I spread about a tablespoon of jelly on top of each fillet, and continued to cook (covered) until they were no longer pink inside, perhaps five more minutes.

The label didn't lie. This was good. We paired it with a Malbec and had mashed potatoes as a side dish, along with the delicious bread we always pick up at Kylers.

It seems we have officially become regulars at Kylers. The lovely cashier asked after me last week when James went in without me, and likewise asked about him when I went in this week without him.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Favorite Biscuit Variation

It seems that we've mentioned Deborah Madison's Buttermilk Biscuits on several posts, but have been remiss in providing the recipe. This is likely because we've been enjoying these for so long they are hardly "new" to us. However, this week we did a few variations on the recipe, making it new again.

The recipe, as described in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, calls for
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of buttermilk

First, I will point out that we almost never use buttermilk, but substitute plain yogurt instead. Earlier this week when preparing to make these I realized we had only regular milk (no buttermilk, no yogurt). We learned a trick once of making a buttermilk substitute in 10 minutes by adding some vinegar to plain milk. Alas, we had no vinegar either. (Our larder was indeed spare as we had diligently eaten virtually everything in both our houses before taking an eight-day road trip to drop our daughter at college in the mid-west).

However, I was not about to let the lack of necessary ingredients stop me from having my biscuits. I used a substitute for the substitute -a meta-substitute- lemon juice did the same job of curdling the milk as vinegar. I also whisked in a dollop of sour cream. My next problem was that we were quite low on flour, and I discovered we were short by about 1/3 cup. I considered making a smaller batch of biscuits, but then I remembered that James improved on our waffle recipe earlier this year by putting in some corn meal in place of flour (see the entry here) and so I decided to try the same with the biscuits. I sifted the flour and corn meal in with the rest of the dry ingredients, then cut the butter into it with a pastry cutter. The sour milk/cream mix was added to the dry ingredients and mixed. James took over from there.

I believe this is the second time we have used the Big Green Egg for biscuits. Thanks to the innovations Pam describes above, these were delicious! But thanks to my still-limited skills with the kamado-style grill, they were not beautiful. They look lovely in this photograph, taken a few minutes before they were done --
-- but they did not look quite so lovely as I scraped them from the baking stone. I had heated the grill to 500F, but had put the stone in for only a few minutes when I added the dough. I should have let it heat more thoroughly. The result was rather hot knuckles and a fair bit of batter left on the stone. By the time it cooled thoroughly, those remnants were quite charred, and the stone is soaking for a couple days as I write this.

The good news, though, is that the delicious biscuit tops had all the advantages of muffin tops.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

French Toast Variation

Today's post is a recipe of my own creation.

Most weekdays James and I have the same breakfast: one egg, an English muffin, a container of yogurt, and a glass of orange juice (every once in a while we take a walk on the wild side and mix it up with a smoothie in lieu of the yogurt and juice). On the weekends we are more likely to have something that takes more time to make (and eat).Today, being Sunday of a three-day weekend, we had a little bit of leisure this morning to make something special. Pancakes and waffles were out since I'd used the last of the flour making biscuits two days before (stay tuned for recipe) and since we'd been traveling recently, and had not yet fully restocked the pantry we did not have a lot of ingredients. I found half a loaf of whole wheat bread in the freezer though, and we did have some eggs, so I decided to make French Toast (and to experiment a bit with ingredients) so I made some additions to the egg/milk batter. I started by adding ground cinnamon and nutmeg (but that was really not new), and I had also noticed that I had a small container of "pumpkin spice" vinegar in the cupboard, so I added a dash of that as well. I also put in a dollop of sour cream and whisked everything well, then soaked the bread slices. I am still adjusting to using the electric stove at our beach house, but I seem to be doing better. I cooked these on a medium high heat for what appears to have been an appropriate amount of time (but I couldn't say now what that was) as the French Toast came out neither burnt, nor soggy. It also had a a nice little puffiness to it. Topped with maple syrup it was a tasty treat for the first cool morning of the season.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Burgers with avocado and tomato salsa

This is an adaptation of a recipe from our Big Green Egg Cookbook (and web site) We made a few adjustments, mostly because we forgot some ingredients.

This was a collaboration meal. Pam made the salsa and James made and grilled the burgers. 

Our first challenge was finding an avocado. We looked for a long time in the produce section of our grocery store before we found the perhaps two dozen that were there. About half of those were hard as rocks, the other half felt like mush. We selected the least squishy among the mushy bin.

Once we had the avocado Pam chopped it, along with a fresh tomato from our local farmer's market, half an onion, and three slices of crisp bacon. To this mix she added a dollop of mayonnaise, juice from half a lemon, a bit of pepper and garlic salt. Pam also added some chopped fresh cilantro even though the recipe didn't call for it because, really, what is salsa without cilantro?! Once everything was thoroughly mixed, she covered it and placed in the refrigerator to chill.

James, meanwhile, fired up the Big Green Egg (from which we got the recipe), inserting the cast-iron grill recommended for such uses. He used ground turkey that was on hand, mixing it with some Trader Joe's garlic seasoning and a little olive oil that happened to be in the mixing bowl. Something to bind the burgers together would have been helpful. Despite getting the grill to reasonably high heat and spraying it with cooking spray, the burgers sagged in the gaps, and had to be extracted, more than flipped, when they were done. Some delicious charred scraps were snapped up by the chef; others fell into the coals.

The overall result, though, was delicious, and we agree with the #BigGreenEgg web site that this is a perfect burger recipe!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Apple of My Egg

Our Egg, actually....

This is the brief story of a nice desert we prepared on the Big Green Egg. We need once again to promise not to make this blog all about the Egg, while posting yet another item about our use of it.

This time, it was for dessert with friends. We decided to try the manufacturer's recipe for smoked apples, which begins with hollowing out each apple and filling it with a sweet mix of raisins, sugar, and spices. We could not figure out how an apple corer would be of any use -- I simply used a paring knife and a small spoon to turn each apple into a bit of a cup.
I decided to forego the recommended half marshmallow capping each of these, and simply put this entire pan in the Egg, once it had reached 325F. The recipe calls for 60-75 minutes at this temperature; I think I went closer to 90, with no ill effect.

The result looks like a mess, but with all that sweetness, nobody even noticed. Especially since I did follow the recommendation to serve these with vanilla ice cream.
All six of us tucked into our apples with abandon -- the mostly gooey sweetness contrasting with the occasional crusty bit that had gone beyond caramelized. Even our daughter who usually eschews raisins enjoyed every bite!
I have no idea how much the success of this dish was owing to the smoke flavor, nor how similar would have been the results from a conventional oven. But we had a nicely cooked dessert in a small kitchen in late summer, with all the heat being outside in the Egg. So we will do it this way again!

Smoking Ratatouille

This post is not exactly a nueva receta, but rather a small adjustment in a vieja receta. (That is, a modified old recipe, not a new one.)
This lid is much more photogenic than the food itself.
A friend who saw this online assumed I was smoking something else.
 Nope -- just the vegetables!
I have written about the importance of ratatouille in my 2011 Ratatatatouille post (as if the word itself were not difficult enough to spell), which links to the only recipe I have used for it -- Weapons-grade Ratatouille

I saw the first eggplant of summer at the farmers market last week, and even though tomatoes are still on the pricey side (the price will plummet at the end of the season), they are fresh, ripe, and local, so we bought a ton of them, and let them get even a bit riper as we waited for a good ratatouille-making day.

Which was yesterday. The recipe calls for hours of stove-top simmering plus a bit of oven roasting. This has always been a bit of a problem for ratatouille, since the best season for getting the vegetables is the worst season for heating up the kitchen.

This year we were lucky: Big Green Egg to the rescue! It allowed me to do the roasting outside, although the roasting pan wreaked a bit of havoc with the temperature control for which the Egg is most famous. I was caught off-guard, because I used the same baking sheet to roast these vegetables that I had used to smoke apples just a few days ago, and I had not had any problems with the apples.

The difference seems to have been with the temperature I was trying to maintain. For the apples, I was able to maintain the egg at 325 for over an hour, even though the pan was blocking most of the internal airflow. For the vegetables, I had gotten the egg to 500, but when I put the vegetables in, the temperature dropped to about 310 and would not go back up. I thought maybe the potatoes I was baking were part of the problem, but apparently they were not, and there actually was no problem. The vegetables seemed to be roasting just fine -- getting crisper than they should have at 310 -- and when I removed the pan, the temperature immediately went to 450. In other words, the temperature in the bottom half of the Egg had been just fine. Once I removed the pan, the Egg was back to normal, and worked very well for the local, coffee-rubbed steak I made for dinner!

As for the ratatouille, we finished simmering it, mixed the vegetables in, and put it in the fridge, so we are having it cold-only; the perfect summer lunch!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lilith's Lily Fair Soup and Lemon Potato Salad with Mint

Last week I posted about our summer solstice meal with a recipe from The Wicca Cookbook. One of the recipes I wanted to try was the Lilith's Lily Fair Soup, but I had to wait because our day lilies were not yet blooming. Today I noticed the familiar orange color in the garden and bought the rest of the ingredients I needed.


Preparation was fairly simple, but had to be started several hours in advance so everything would have time to chill. Essentially I made two fruit smoothies, and then poured them carefully into bowls once they were chilled. The first round was made from the mango, melon (we used cantaloupe instead of honeydew) and the orange juice. Once that was blended I put it in a bowl which I placed in the refrigerator to chill. I rinsed the blender and then mixed the raspberries, liquor, and sugar in it. This mix, too went into the refrigerator. I let it chill about two hours, and then poured the mango/melon mix into the bowls. Next, the raspberry mixed was poured slowly to one side to create an eye-pleasing soup. One day lily was cut up and sprinkled on top of the soup, and then one whole lily was placed on top. This soup was beautiful, and delicious. And, for me, it was also a bit nostalgic. First because day lilies were the first edible flower I ever learned about (many years ago during an elementary school field trip), and also because the neon orange and bright pink color combination of the soup reminded me of a treat I used to get from the Good Humor truck!


To complement this summer soup I also made the lemon/mint potato salad from the New York Times. Again, the dish was simple, but I had to start it several hours in advance. We enjoyed some Tuscan bread, purchased from the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) Farmer's Market, and some Cinco Cães wine from the Westport Rivers Winery.