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, October 11, 2017

Quesadillas de Rajas

I'm leaving the photo for this dinner to the professionals, in this case Fred Thompson, who took most of the photos in this lushly illustrated cookbook.
Our quesadillas tasted great, but did not look quite like this.
I was about to start this post with a few street-food memories, but discovered that I have already told most of those tales when we first purchased Latin American Street Food, in a post I titled Calle to Mesa.

Wanting a quick dinner and knowing that we had plenty of tortillas on hand, I picked two books from the shelf -- the old standby Well-filled Tortilla and this newer volume. We have already mined the Well-filled volume for most of its easy dishes, so I opened Street Food first. Its index listings for "tortilla" pointed mostly to detailed articles on the tortilla itself; it was the "quesadilla" listing that took me to Poblano and Cheese Quesadillas, a title that seems a bit redundant, but that had my attention because I love Pueblo and its namesake chile.

This was simple to prepare. I did some kitchen math to modify the ingredient list, which is indicated for serving 8:

4 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, seeded, deveined, and sliced into strips
8 (8-inch) flour tortillas
12 ounces Muenster cheese, thinly sliced (ours was thick; still worked great)
8 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
vegetable oil
Mexican crema (optional)

Gutierrez begins with a nice description of quesadillas in general and the role of poblanos in particular. She writes that the poblano is "not too spice, although some can be hotter than others." One of the most memorable things I read in preparing for our 1989 visit to Puebla is that the poblano can vary tremendously from mild to hot. When visiting a local student's home for dinner, his mother reminded us of this, and I assured her I would be fine, as I really liked hot food. Of course, I drew the extremely hot one, and could only eat the filling! Modern agriculture has rendered the poblano much more uniform and less interesting.
From a previous post: I've done this exact thing before,
and I have essentially stopped buying roasted peppers.
Alas, I knew that our local grocery was only about 25-percent likely to have poblanos on any given day, so I compromised by buying a red bell pepper and a jalepeño, promising myself I'll go to another store before I retry this dish. I brought them home and roasted both directly on the front burner of our stove, turning frequently with our indispensible kitchen tongs. Once thoroughly charred, I placed them in a tightly-covered bowl; a plastic bag also works. After ten minutes, the peppers were ready to be peeled (most of the charry outer bits removed), cored,  and sliced.

While the peppers were sweating (in the covered bowl), I started assembling the quesadillas -- on one half of each large tortilla (we had the 12-inch kind, so only needed one each), I placed several slices of Muenster, then liberally covered them with peppers, and topped with goat cheese and scallions. I then folded them, brushed on olive oil, and placed on the cast-iron griddle. I had the heat a bit too high -- medium heat would have allowed for more even browning, rather than charring!

Still, our results were quite good, and we topped with sour cream instead of Mexican crema for two reasons: we had the sour cream on hand (from our regional dairy cooperative) and I knew our local grocery would not have it.

It was only on reading the recipe page more carefully that I learned Gutierrez makes several salsa recommendations, including a tomatillo salsa that I could have made with ingredients on hand. Something to remember the next time I make these scrumptious quesadillas!


In 2016, taco trucks became a political buzzword, as a presidential candidate invoked them in a tirade against immigration. His "nightmare" vision of a taco truck on every corner seemed like a dream to me!

Enjoying fish tacos at a family geography night program.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gingerberry Waffles!

When our friends (and fellow foodies) Rob & Lisa were visiting Whaling House a couple weeks back, I mentioned that we would be having waffles in the morning. Without hesitation, Rob started channeling this donkey. We've been doing the same ever since. 
The waffles just keep getting better around here, after years of waffle failures. Although I posted the backstory and recent improvements in Whaling House Waffle Surprise (May 2016), I have done further tweaking of the recipe that warrants and update. Please read that post for the full context of this recipe, and then I invite you to proceed as I did this morning.

Preheat oven anywhere in 250-275 F range and put plates or platter on oven rack just before starting.

Dry ingredients -- in a medium bowl whisk or sift:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur if you can get it)
1/2 cup Johnny Cake corn meal from Gray's Grist Mill (I used the generic term "corn meal" last year, though I don't know what happens when lesser corn meals are used. Treat yourself to Gray's if you can get it. I am lucky enough to get mine directly from the mill -- I recommend a visit!)
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t ground ginger (This provided a mild, savory counterpoint to the sweetness of what follows. I did not add enough to compete with the fruit that follows.

Note on sifting: In my 2016 post, I extolled the virtues of sifting, and still aver that it will yield fluffier waffles. Using the Johnnycake meal, whisking leaves just a trace of crunchitty bits that I think gives these waffles character. But for real indulgence, sifting is probably best.)

1 C frozen mixed berries -- Rinse to thaw in a small bowl, sieved and return to the bowl. Mash with a fork and then transfer to a measuring cup of at least 2 cups capacity.

Wet ingredients
2 eggs (we use organic Country Hen)
approx. 1-1/4 cup milk (we use delicious 1% Crescent Ridge)
1/4 C butter (Amish or regular), melted
1 T vanilla

Beat two eggs in a small bowl.
Pour milk into measuring cup over the mashed berries until the combined liquids (and fruit bits) reach 2 cups. Add to eggs.
Add butter and vanilla; blend well.

Mix wet ingredients (with berries) into dry ingredients, scraping sides of bowl until all is wet. Do not over mix.

1 C fresh berries or strawberries, sliced if appropriate, mixed gently into batter

Following waffle-iron manufacturer's directions, heat waffle iron, spray with Pam cooking spray or brush with oil. Spoon spoon batter onto hot griddle, perhaps enough to cover 2/3 of the center of the iron. Technique improves over time.

Top with pure maple syrup -- we get ours from Hanson Farm -- and enjoy with good coffee!
This pairs beautifully with a good cup (or two) of fairly traded, organic coffee.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spaghetti Carbonara

James and I like to read together, and listen to audio books together when we are in the car. The last time we read a memoir about food Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks her way through Great Books we talked about a lot of recipes we planned on trying from the book, but over a year later we have yet to prepare any. By contrast, we are still in the midst of listening to Guilia Melucci's I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti, and have already enjoyed her recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The recipe is simple. Ingredients include:

3 slices of cooked bacon
3 eggs (lightly beaten)
1/4 c. freshly grated pecorino, plus a little more for passing
1/4 c. freshly grated parmigiano, plus a little more for passing
Freshly ground pepper
Cooked pasta

I think we only used parmigiano cheese, but otherwise followed the recipe which calls for adding the cooked pasta to a warm bowl with the (uncooked) eggs and cheese and letting the hot pasta cook the eggs. She does realize that some may not like the idea of the undercooked eggs, and suggests that everything can be cooked in a skillet on the stovetop instead. We decided to try it creamy the way Melucci intended. The bacon, salt and pepper are added before serving.

This was easy to prepare and good to eat.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

There's The Rub!

The Big Green Egg combines ancient Chinese design with less ancient Southern U.S. enthusiasm for slow-cooked barbeque*. Careful readers of this blog will notice that we acquired our own Big Green Egg about two years ago, and have made extensive use of it as a glorified Weber-style grill. I mean no disrespect: the difference really is glorious!

Still, we have not tapped the full potential of the Egg until yesterday, when I used it for the first time as its developers in Georgia (USA, not Europe) intended. Good friends were spending part of the weekend at our beach-proximate house, so Pam opened Mary Kay Andrews' Beach House Cookbook for something worthy of the occasion.

She found the perfect recipe, with a title almost as long as the cooking time -- Smoked Pork Butt with Beach House Barbecue Sauce. It calls for applying a rub to a 4-6 pound pork butt or shoulder (notice my restraint with the butt jokes) and cooking it low and slow -- roughly an hour per pound at about 250F. She provides a recipe for a sauce to be prepared near the end of this cooking time.

As we made a grocery list, Pam noticed that the rub would be similar to the chipotle rub we recently purchased at Salem Spice -- a place that every serious cook should visit some time! So I set up the Egg with plenty of charcoal, started the fire and then nearly closed the vent to keep the temperature in the 250-300F range. I rinsed the pork butt, placed it in a small roasting pan and slathered it with olive oil. I then rubbed each side with the marvelous chipotle mixture. I then repeated the rub, with Pam's help sprinkling the powder as I turned the butt, as it is a job for more than two hands.
I placed the pan (without water, as would be required in some smokers) in the Big Green Egg and then simply did my best to keep the temperature in range for the rest of the day. This required very narrow openings in the upper and lower vents, and I probably should have checked the temperature a bit more frequently than I did. Still, I never let it get about 350F nor below 195F, and really kept it near 275F for most of the five-plus hours. The delicious rub meant that we were that house that was whetting appetites throughout the neighborhood. Low and slow.

I was proud that I managed to follow the advice in the Big Green Egg cookbook: monitor the temperature but to not monitor the meat itself. I did not open the Egg for more than five hours. When I did open it, the thermometer read exactly 200F in the center of the thickest part, and no more than 208F elsewhere.

Near the end, I whisked together the following over medium heat for about a half hour:

6 cups ketchup
6 cups apple cider vinegar
10 ounce Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup dry mustard
1 stick unsalted butter
6T black pepper
1/4 cup Tabasco (a lesser hot sauce would also be fine)
3T salt

Actually, I did not do this, as it would have made the better part of a gallon of sauce. So math-team James divided each of these items by 6, making plenty of sauce for our purposes.

Results: Everyone loved this. Our friend Rob, who is the most expert grillmaster I know, was astonished that I had done gotten the slow-smoke method down so perfectly on my first try. And our friend Lisa, expert on all kinds of herbs and spices, pronounced the combination of rub and sauce perfect.

Needless to say, this paired very nicely with Malbec, and also with home-brewed American Pale Ale.

Pam followed this with divine apple enchiladas, which she will be posting soon.

Next time: With results like these, we will definitely have a next time. Instead of the perfectly suitable slaw I bought at the local deli, I will prepare -- probably the night before -- my cilantro-lime slaw.

*Note to New England readers: Barbeque (spellings vary) is a word of Taino (indigenous Puerto Rican) derivation referring to a variety of methods of cooking meats over wood or charcoal fire. It is not, as our university uses the term, a word meaning any food eaten out-of-doors.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Cobbler's Helper

(This post jointly authored by James & Pam.)

Pam notices yard sales as she walks the pooch around Fairhaven, and wisely does not try to make purchases with the dog pulling on her leash. At the end of Saturday's walk, she dropped the dog off and popped back out to revisit some treasures she had noticed. Most notable -- especially for this blog -- was this very old-school apple corer & slicer.

If not quite mint-in-box, certainly excellent-in-box. We were excited to have it, but also completely clueless about its use. Fortunately, we both have 2017 information literacy, which suggests only one solution: YouTube. Searching on the brand name (because there are many contraptions of this sort out there), we quickly found all the information we needed in just three minutes:

I (Pam) of course couldn't wait to use my new (to me) gadget, so on Sunday at the Fairhaven Farmer's Market we bought a half dozen apples and got out our trusty Deborah Madison Cookbook (this is so essential we now keep copies both at home and in our beach house). I found a recipe for a simple cobbler, put the sliced apples in a pie tin, topped them with the dough, and baked at 350 for about half an hour for a lovely dessert.

The set up

First apple placed

The spinning starts...

The cores went into the compost bucket

Before baking

Ready to eat! Delicious!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Scallops in White Wine Sauce

We had a bit of old white wine in our refrigerator, that we neither wanted to drink, nor waste. Thankfully we have two cookbooks specifically for cooking with wine: W.I.N.O.S. (Women in Need of Sanity) and the itty bitty Cooking Poultry and Seafood with Wine by Bruce Carlson (the outside dimensions of this one are about the same as those of an index card).

So, for our almost-regular-fish-on-Thursday dinner we picked up some scallops from our favorite fishmonger in order to make the very first recipe found in Carlson's book which is simply called "Scallops in Sauce".

I made the following deviations from the recipe shown: 
  • I did not use the Dry Sauterne the recipe calls for. I really have no idea what kind of wine it was, other than "white". 
  • I most certainly did not use frozen scallops. We get ours fresh from the boat.
  • Nor did I use canned mushrooms, fresh is always better.
  • I did not have any marjoram at the beach house, so that was omitted.
  • I also skipped the last step of putting the scallops and sauce, sprinkled with bread crumbs in a baking dish under the broiler. This was because everything was quite well cooked by the time James came back from rowing, having been stuck at the New Bedford bridge for 15 minutes. Instead, we simply served the scallops in their sauce over some fettuccine, which turned out to be a fine plan. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tomato Pie

When I was a kid I liked to watch reruns of Gomer Pyle: USMC. I remember one episode ("The Price of Tomatoes") in which a tomato farmer comes under fire for growing his crop on Camp Henderson property. The issue is resolved with the base agreeing to use much of the farmer's bounty in its mess hall. Sargent Carter (Frank Sutton) is less than thrilled with this arrangement. This is evident as he recites a list to Corporal Boyle (Roy Stuart) of all the tomato-based recipes to which they will now be subjected. The list ends with Carter saying "and get this...tomato pie"!

I understood where Sgt. Carter was coming from. I, myself, used to truly hate tomatoes, even the thought of eating one could make me gag. And I could not for the life of me understand where anyone could even come up with anything so unappetizing as a tomato pie! Who even ever heard of such a thing?

Sometime during my twenties I started liking tomatoes, to the point that they are, in fact, now one of my favorite foods. So, imagine my delight at finding a recipe for the legendary tomato pie in one of our relatively recent acquisitions - The Beach House Cookbook.  

The recipe calls for a prepared pie crust. Bah! It really isn't hard to make a pie crust. I don't know why people insist on buying them. I used this recipe for Buttermilk Pie Crust to make my own. It is important to note that you do not necessarily need buttermilk to make a pie crust. I used this recipe only because we already had some buttermilk on hand. I brushed some habañero mustard onto the crust once it was in the pan and baked for 10 minutes at 350.

For the filling we started with some big, juicy heirloom tomatoes from the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) Farmer's Market. I made thin slices, sprinkled them with garlic salt, and set them on some paper towels while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.

I next mixed 1/2 c. of mayonnaise, 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, and a few dashes of pepper. I also cooked six slices of thick bacon to perfect crispiness. Finally I mixed 1/2 c. cheddar cheese with 1/2 c. feta (this was a slight deviation from the recipe as written).

Once all the ingredients were ready one layer of tomatoes went onto the bottom of the pie crust with three crumbled bacon slices on top. The mayonnaise/Parmesan mixture went in next, followed by another layer of tomatoes and the rest of the crumbled bacon. The cheddar/feta mixture went on top, and then the final layer of tomatoes. I also sprinkled on some fresh basil leaves. Once this was prepared the pie went into the oven for 30 minutes at 350, then we let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving. As good as this was when I made it on Monday, the leftovers we had for lunch today (reheated in our indispensable cast iron skillet) were sublime.

(See James' most recent post for another yummy recipe from The Beach House Cookbook).

Mmmm...Tomato Pie