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...

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My First Turnovers

James recently discovered a Greek grocery store and picked up a tub of feta cheese and then suggested that I find a recipe with which to use it. Deborah Madison to the rescue! The first thing in the ingredient list is Galette Dough, and refers the cook to p. 696. The recipe for the dough was quite simple with ingredients of 2 cups flour; 1/2 t salt;  2 t. sugar, and a bit of water. Once the dough was combined it was placed in the refrigerator while I prepared the filling (goat cheese, feta, scallions, dill, thyme, and pepper.

After preparing the filling I divided the dough into four more or less equal size pieces and rolled each into a small circle and placed 1/4 of the filling into each and pinched the edges closed.

Each turnover was brushed with a bit of beaten egg, and sprinkled liberally with sesame seeds. Then baked at 375 for 35 minutes.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Chili Verde

Southwestern Cooking 1992, no author
Assembled by committee
This cover reminds me that I
sure miss saguaros!
On a very cold afternoon last week, I decided it would be a good day for an "original intent" recipe for this blog. That is, I would take take an actual cookbook from one of our shelves (we have a few shelf-fulls by now) and find something we had not prepared before.

Many of the recipes in this book are for dishes we have already prepared, either from similar recipes or from our own experiments born of seven years living in the Southwest.

I selected Chili Verde because it uses pork -- an ingredient we do not use very often -- and because it seemed perfect for fending off the cold winds of late January.

I began by cutting two pounds of lean pork shoulder into 1-inch cubes, and browning them in oil. I did this in two rounds to take advantage of our indispensable cast-iron skillet, transferring the browned pork to a deeper pot for the rest of the cooking.

I then added mild and hot peppers (seeded and chopped -- I use a variety of colors), cooking a few minutes to soften, and then scallions, and minced garlic. 

I then added cumin, coriander, and oregano -- if you are measuring these, you're not doing it right -- a can of chickpeas, and 3 cups of low-sodium chicken stock. (Beer or water are offered as alternatives). I cooked this for an hour (60-90 minutes recommended, but I had not started the recipe early enough to keep it lingering) and then added 2t corn starch dissolved in a small bowl of water, cooking for a few minutes further as a thickener.

The result was a thinner soup than any chili I have had, but it was delicious -- I credit the herbs. I chopped an avocado in 1/2-inch dice, tossed it with lime juice, and we used this to top each bowl. Avocado is notoriously quick to discolor, but the lime juice and a tight glass jar allowed us to keep half the avocado for leftovers the next day. Pam made delicious skillet cornbread for the second round.

This is a delicious, nutritious, easy, and cheap meal we will try again. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Green Chicken

Regular readers will know that The Well-Filled Tortilla is a well-worn cookbook in Casa Hayes-Boh.  This volume by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman is one of the first cookbooks we purchased, at a wonderful independent book store in Tucson over 20 years ago.

The contents are as varied as the taco genre itself. Some recipes -- such as one featuring squid and olives -- are never likely to emerge from our kitchen, but this book remains one that allows us to carry out the original mission of this blog: using the many unused pages of cookbooks that were already on our shelves.

Noticing that I had both a bit of spare time and a few tortillas available, I thumbed through this familiar volume and found a title I had not read carefully before: Red or Green Chicken.


It turns out, the colors do not refer to the chicken, nor to nautical channel markings. Rather, the authors refer to salsa options within the recipe. I chose green, in the form of a commercial tomatillo salsa, because a decent homemade salsa verde is way out of season around here.

This was a fairly simple, if messy, recipe. I opted for working with boneless, skinless chicken, which I simply boiled until cooked through and then shredded. (To shred chicken Mexican-restaurant style, simpy place it in a bowl and tear at it with two ordinary forks until it is course or fine strands.) Meanwhile, I chopped a couple of onions and cooked them -- in our indispensable cast-iron skillet -- in olive oil with plenty of oregano and a little salt until soft and translucent. I then mixed in the shredded chicken thoroughly over low heat.

I then rolled about 1/3 cup of this mix into each tortilla. I followed the recipe's instruction to soften teach tortilla with a little oil on the griddle first. This made rolling them up rather more messy than need be, and a little painful. In future I'll revert to one of two other methods we use for softening tortillas: microwaving for 30 seconds while loosely wrapped in a paper towel or heating for a few seconds on a hot but dry griddle.

In any case, I placed the rolled-up tortillas (now known as enchiladas) into a baking pan. Six of them fit nicely. I then covered with a cup of the aforementioned salsa verde, followed by a generous cup (maybe close to two) of shredded cheese. I used (Monterrey) pepper jack with a little sharp cheddar, both from our favorite farmer-owned cheese company.  I baked at 350F for 12 minutes.

The result: mildly piquant, slightly complex, creamy, filling, and delicious. Not photogenic, but delicious. We will definitely be making this again!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Chipotle Chicken Improv

Many thanks to our friend Fernanda for inventing this dish and posting it online. Pam's response as soon as she saw a photo of Fernanda's invention was "James, we're making this!" Fortunately, we had all of the ingredients on hand, except a butternut squash. Here is how I proceeded, modifying our friend's recipe only slightly.

I began by hacking apart a large butternut squash -- I think we're a bit out of season, so it was harder than I remember in the past -- and cubing it. I then sauteed onion and garlic in some olive oil until translucent and added the squash. I continued on medium-high heat until all was fairly soft.
Meanwhile, I cut a package of Free Bird chicken breasts into big chunks, 3 or 4 per piece. I browned these in a large pan, adding a little salt and a half a package of chipotle rub from the inimitable Salem Spice.
At this point, the whole house was already smelling delicious! I poured the vegetables into the pan with the chicken and added about 2 cups of low-sodium, free-range chicken broth. I covered and simmered for about 15 minutes, and then continued simmering uncovered until the broth had reduced. The result was not as photogenic as what Fernanda had posted, but it was delicious, more like a stew, perhaps because I had gone farther in softening the squash.
We garnished with cilantro and enjoyed this, paired with tap water (we had Malbecked for lunch) and found it to be delicious! The sauce was more like a gravy, though it had no flour in it. We will definitely be repeating Pollo la Fernanda!


Fernanda's more visually appealing original version, ready for a cookbook cover.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Bourbon Turkey Bourbon

After a weekend of somewhat adventurous cooking, I decided to try something simple for Monday evening. A green bell pepper in the fridge got me started on a plan, along with Bourbon Street Style marinated turkey tips that I had added to our weekly dairy delivery.

The first step in this non-recipe recipe was to start thawing the turkey tips as soon as they arrived. About an hour before dinner, I put the tips -- with their brine -- into a small bowl. The print was too fine on the ingredients label for me to be certain, but the brine has little if anything to do with actual bourbon. Fortunately, this is Casa Hayes-Boh, so I reached into the Gilligan (our kitchen island cum liquor cabinet) and grabbed the bourbon I had picked up at Stroudwater Distillery last summer. I poured this over the turkey and brine, and topped it off with a few tablespoons of (Saint) Newman's Own honey barbeque sauce.
Not a green bell pepper.
Photo credit: this very blog!
Once the enhanced marinade had been underway for about a half hour, I started to heat a pan of water for pasta and then started to fire-roast that pepper. (See my Busy Kitchen post for details.)

While the pepper was sweating, I heated olive oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet and chopped an onion. I sliced up the pepper and added it to the onion, simmering (med-high) until the onions were translucent.

Meanwhile, I put penne in the boiling water and shredded some parmesan.

I then used tongs to remove the turkey tips from the marinade and added them to the hot pan. Some of the "tips" were about double the size of others, so I cut them in half right in the pan. I continued cooking until browned, adding a bit more of that honey barbecue near the end.

The pasta was al dente just as the turkey was cooked through and the sauce slightly reduced. The result was a very nice sweet-and-sour entree that paired well (as we often notice) with Malbec.
It tasted far better than it photographed.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Yashim Weekend (a Two-fer)

If you look to the right of this screen and scroll down a bit, Dear Reader, you will encounter the archive summary that I have captured and included to the left. Each triangle opens the months of a given year, with additional triangles revealing our individual posts. The parenthetical digits are a tally of our posts for each month and year.

The earliest years were our most active, with a brisk pace of two posts a week in 2011 and one and a half for a few more years, and averaging the titular one post per week for a few years after that. In 2018, alas, our pace has fallen off. With the holidays (which include a lot of comfort food and little time for experimentation) behind us and my sabbatical ahead of me, I decided that this weekend was my chance to build on last weekend's success and try to establish a stronger pace for the new year.

I was ambitious enough to bring Jason Goodwin's Yashim Cooks Istanbul: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen to our weekend house, and lazy enough to select two of its easier (or so it seemed) recipes.

I did not realize until after the fact (thanks to my favorite librarian) that January is National Soup Month. I am glad that my choice for a simple dinner Friday evening was a lentil soup, perhaps the simplest recipe in the whole book and ideal for Friday evening. It is the first recipe attempted by the fictional detective Yashim in the mystery series that led to the creation of this most unusual cookbook.

For this I sautéed onions and garlic in a mix of butter and olive oil (decadent!) and then added a potato (peeled and hand-shredded), red lentils, vegetable stock (in lieu of the called-for chicken stock), and a few spices.

This simmered for about a half hour; in the final few minutes, I prepared the soup's topping. I heated olive oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet and stirred in mint leaves and a combination of crushed red peppers and paprika. This was the perfect compliment to the rather subtle flavor and creamy texture of the soup itself. Next time I'll search look in different grocery for the pul biber Turkish pepper and I will use more of the mint, since it shrivels.
Yashim Cooks
Buoyed by the success of the soup, I tried something a bit more ambitious on leisure-cooking Saturday. Chicken with pomegranate and walnut seems to be among the simplest recipes in the book, and though it was not complicated, I should have started it a bit earlier in the afternoon than I did. The first step was to prepare a pomegranate syrup. Since I could not find it in our local grocery, I followed the simple recipe that Goodwin provides on the page before the main recipe.

This is really just a simple syrup -- he calls for 1.5 pints of pomegranate juice, 1 cup of sugar, and the juice of one lemon. He cautions that this is more of an activity than a recipe, and advises "vigorous and relentless stirring" for up to an hour. So I turned on my WBUR app and settled into my whisking zone. At the time I made the video above, all was going well, though I was beginning to wonder about the crucial word "until" in the directions, as in "until it reduces to a syrup."

I have made other syrups, and used what has worked before, which is simply a wild guess that when the volume had been reduced by about 2/3, it would be close to ready. I was, in fact, afraid that it might be a bit thin. My relentless vigor, it turned out, was for naught. As soon as I removed the pan from heat, the syrup began to adhere to the sides, quickly dry out, and smoke. I tried to salvage what was left by pouring it into a bowl, but the physics were still operating the same way. When I got back from disarming the smoke detector in the hallway, there was just a couple ounces of syrup, rapidly reducing. I poured it into yet another bowl, forming a perfect hard shell.

An hour into the process -- but all caught up with the TED Radio Hour -- I turned the page to the recipe at hand. Fortunately, I had prepped a few things with my non-whisking hand. This dish begins with browning chicken thighs, and then removing them to a plate. In the same pan, I sautéed onions until translucent and then returned the chicken to the pan, on top of the onions. I added water (broth was another option) and later finely chopped walnuts (Goodwin suggested a mortar or electric blender, but I just minced madly for a while), turmeric, a few other spices,

At the end, I generously garnished with the seeds of one pomegranate. The result was quite delicious, despite the absence of pomegranate syrup, and I will definitely try this again. But I will leave the question of "until" to the professionals by purchasing the syrup somewhere.

Watch this space for more Yashim cooking. We have been in Istanbul only once, during a layover last year on our way to Jordan.  Our experience -- though quite brief -- of food in that part of the world is my motivation to delve more deeply into this volume!

Lagniappe: I am posting a teaser here about National Clam Chowder Day -- February 25 -- in hopes that readers will help me remember that one a couple days ahead of time (as I will need to plan a visit to the fishmongers).

Friday, January 4, 2019

A tasty combination

Knowing how much we enjoyed cooking seafood, for Christmas our thoughtful child went to an olive oil and vinegar shop and asked the proprietor what to recommend for cooking fish. They walked out having purchased some Baklouti Green Chili Pepper Olive Oil and Alfoos Mango White Balsamic Vinegar. But that's not all they did. They then went to a Spirit shop and showed the condiments to the shopkeeper and asked what wine to pair with them. A 2016 Poully Fuisse from the Maison Louis Latour was the answer.

Last night we stopped at our favorite fishmonger and picked up some haddock. While James went rowing Pam stayed at the beach house to prepare the fish. It was simply cooked in plenty of the olive oil then drizzled with the vinegar before eating. The spicy-sweet combination of flavors did indeed blend exceptionally well with the wine. 

So glad we raised our child to be a food and wine snob. And happy that we did not use all of the oil and vinegar so we can enjoy this dish again!