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...

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cooking with Wine

This post is a two-fer. This week I found two recipes from two different recipe books that called for wine, and prepared them over two days. One was from a cookbook called Cooking Seafood and Poultry with Wine, so I was certainly not surprised by the use of the ingredient. 

The recipe actually calls for Vermouth. I knew we had a bottle of such at our beach house, and since that is where we generally prepare any kind of seafood, this recipe for Salmon Steaks seemed like a good one to try. We bought a pound of fresh, wild-caught salmon from our favorite fish-monger Kyler's Catch in New Bedford, Massachusetts  and assembled the rest of the ingredients. Then I read the instructions, which said to marinade for four hours. It was already six o'clock p.m. and we were not going to wait until after ten to eat, so I made an adjustment and put all the ingredients into a pan making the following variations - I used scallions instead of chives, and also added lime juice, and a few red pepper flakes. Once the liquid was simmering I added the salmon, turned down the heat and covered the pan for about 12 minutes (turning once about half-way through). The fish was perfectly cooked, and the flavors were all evident. I've learned a lot about cooking since I started this blog. The most important thing I've learned is that just about any recipe can be adapted to just about any situation.

The other wine recipe came from an old favorite cookbook - The Well-Filled Tortilla. This may very well be my favorite cookbook. We prepare many of our favorite recipes from it, and still find new ones to try even after two decades of use. I don't know how we never noticed the "Good and Plenty Wine-Simmered Vegetables" before. This was easy, and relatively quick and made for perhaps the best veggie wrap I've ever had. The recipe calls for a dry white wine, so I used a Sauvignon Blanc. I used about 1/2 cup to start and added 2 chopped potatoes, a small chopped yellow squash, one chopped tomato, one sliced jalapeno, and a half of a chopped onion. The recipe also called for frozen lima beans, in lieu of which I put in a small amount of mystery beans from a CSA that I found in the freezer labeled simply "Beans 8/14" in my own handwriting. They were fine and I was glad to finally use them. I also added a bit of dry oregano and some garlic salt. Once everything was in the pan, I splashed a bit more wine in and simmered for about 20 minutes. When the potatoes were soft I declared it done and warmed two tortillas on the stove top. We filled the tortillas with the vegetables and added some fresh cilantro and sour cream. Quite delicious and easily made vegan by skipping the sour cream.

Flaming Flapjacks!

To be honest, the flapjacks themselves were never on fire. But flames were involved in their preparation.

Readers of this blog will know that pancakes are important in Casa Hayes-Boh. We have written about several pancake variations over the years, all based on my version of the Deborah Madison pancake recipe that has appeared on my web site since long before this blog (or any blog, for that matter).

On Friday mornings during the academic year, I am usually out of the house quite early for Project EarthView, leaving time only for the traditional Hayes-Boh weekday breakfast (one local egg, English muffin, yogurt, exquisite coffee), if that. But I have a very rare free Friday morning (because of a special program I'm doing in the afternoon), I decided to do pancakes, and to do something special with them.

So I prepared the batter as usual (using a bit of half-and-half in lieu of yogurt, and then added some apples. Simply slicing up the apples works fine, but lately I have enjoyed cooking the apples first. And by "cooking" I mean chopping them up, frying them in a bit of butter and cinnamon. When they have just started to crisp a bit, I pour whiskey or rum (in this case, Scotch) into the pan and lighti a match -- amateur flambe! Having only two hands, I did not manage to get a good photo of this, but there is a bit of orange flame visible in the left side of the pan.

I am not sure if the flame makes any difference, but the whiskey flavor certainly does!

In this case, I had more batter than we had appetite, so I carefully stored the batter in a glass jar for a weekend treat.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Said Chowder

Herewith, the recipe for the chowder I made from ingredients left over from Pam's excellent clams-and-linguine dish the night before. Somehow the 2 pounds of clams recommended at Kylers ended up being more than 3, which was more than plenty for the excellent pasta Pam prepared.

We had plenty of broth (wine, EVOO, onion, garlic) and plenty of clams remaining. So I consulted the basic chowder recipe on AllRecipes. We decided not to purchase bacon for this, but did begin by sauteing a small, finely-chopped onion in a bit of bacon fat reserved from recent cooking. Although there were already onion's in the broth Pam had prepared, this allowed for some newly caramelized flavor to begin the dish.

Once the onion was slightly browned, I added Pam's broth, instead of the water called for here, and some diced red-skin potatoes. While this was cooking, I removed the clams from their shells and trimmed them. When the potatoes were tender, I added about a pint of half-and-half, the clams, and the butter.

As this was gently heating, I whisked a tablespoon of flour into a small dish of water, and added it for thickening. Clam chowder comes in two kinds -- Manhattan (red) and New England (white). And the New England kind comes in two sub-kinds -- authentic (thin) and delicious (thick). I actually enjoy the authentic stuff when expertly made, but for my own purposes, the thick stuff was perfect. I did not, however, overdo it -- this was still a chowder, not a solid object!

Final verdict: this turned out quite well -- wine, bacon, butter and cream each playing a key role, I suppose, and we will be back to Kylers for more clams soon.

Zucchini Lime Drizzle Cake

I saved this recipe on Facebook over the summer during the prolific zucchini season. I had shredded and frozen some zucchini from the farmer's market in August and I bought the limes several weeks ago. I had hoped to make the cake last week, but we ended up making a not-entirely-unexpected trip to Virginia for the James' grandmother's funeral. I'm sure Grandma would have laughed at the fact that there is a rather unappetizing ad in the middle of the instructions!

I enjoyed baking this simple cake, and tasting the batter. It is a good thing I did, because I hardly got to eat any of the cake at all! I got to eat two pieces and James had one before Perry the Min Pin got into it! Talk about a bad dog! 

Any way, I used a bit less sugar than the recipe calls for (1/2 cup instead of 2/3). It turned out quite tart, and only a little sweet, which is how I prefer baked goods. Apparently it is how Perry likes it too.

Spaghetti with White Wine Clam Sauce

I declare that this Baby Boomer has officially entered the 21st century. This photo taken of page 165 of the 365 Ways to Cook Pasta cookbook (this may well be the first cookbook we bought after we were married) was not only used to share on this blog, but also was sent to James via Messenger so that I could first get his opinion on whether he would like to try it, and also so that we would have a shopping list. 

Our first stop, of course, was Kyler's Catch for the clams. This would be our first foray into preparing clams ourselves, although as New Englander's we've enjoyed them many times before. It has been almost six years since I started this "nueva receta" project, and one thing I can reflect on now is that I have become fearless about trying new foods, cooking techniques, and flavors.

The knowledgeable young woman at Kyler's counter suggested two pounds of clams for two people, and provided us with some tips for soaking and steaming them as well. Next we stopped at the grocery store for the linguine, and parsley. We had everything else we needed at the house.

I followed the recipe mostly as written, except I only used half a pound of pasta since there was only two of us. The clams were super simple to steam, and it was very clear when they had "popped".  It turns out that two pounds of clams is really a lot. we only used about half of what I steamed to top the pasta. And, as is obvious from the picture below it completely covered the pasta. The dish was tasty, but we still had plenty of clams left over. Stay tuned for James' post for homemade clam chowder!

Monday, September 19, 2016

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

While enjoying our breakfast earlier this week we had some English muffins with habaƱero 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.