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...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bean Hash

For this week's new recipe, I returned to Extending the Table, which really is proving the point of this entire project: a cookbook we had scarcely opened is proving to be a font of many excellent meals! This evening it was picadillo de vainica, a Costa Rican dish known in English as "green bean hash" and found on 177.

The book mentions that any of the vegetables in the recipe can be substituted, but I am glad we used all of the vegetables and herbs mentioned (I went a little heavy on the herbs -- both parsley and cilantro). The vegetables included onions, garlic, green beans, carrots, and potatoes. All were chopped fine, in order to speed the cooking and minimize the amount of fuel consumed.

In addition to the herbs, the recipe called for a small amount of ground meat and bullion. I used soy crumble and vegetable bullion, adding water even though the recipe did not call for it. The meal needed about 15 minutes of active cooking on the stove top (in the indispensable cast-iron skillet) and another 20 minutes covered on very low heat.

I served it over some fluffy basmati rice, and it was delicious. (I had slightly overdone the black pepper, which I did not think was possible, but we all still enjoyed it.) "Costa Rican shepherd's pie!" I declared. Another item for the household repertoire: delicious, nutritious, easy, and cheap!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Like You, Too, Amy

Although my lovely daughter will not eat spaghetti with any kind of tomato sauce, insisting that she does not like tomatoes, she reguarly will eat other types of pasta with tomato sauce. This has been pointed out to her, on numerous occasions, but she is sticking with her beliefs. We learned a few weeks ago, at an event I don't now remember, that she liked baked ziti (in tomato sauce) and I told her we could make it at home sometime. So, this week when I pulled out Amy Sedaris's I Like You (Hospitality Under the Influence) and discovered a baked ziti recipe I knew the time was right. Sedaris's irreverent look at entertaining is really funny, and includes some good recipes. The Pastitsio (meat pie) turned out to be a rather big project for a Monday after I had worked all day. This recipe is neither easy nor quick, and creates a lot of dishes to wash. When I was done my pasta pot, sauce pan, indespensible-cast-iron skillet, cheese grater, mortar and pestal, and several other dishes were all dirty. Alas, Paloma had not emptied the dishwasher before I started, so I was not able to do CAYG (Clean As You Go). If she had, I would have, and she would have had a much easier time with the dishes at the end.

Anyway, in addition to ziti, this dish calls for butter, eggs, parmesan cheese, nutmeg, red wine, parsley, ground beef (we substituted Morningstar soy crumble), onion, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, broth, milk, flour, sugar, salt and pepper (I actually did not use those last three).

The sauce was made with the crumbles, onion, garlic, olive oil, tomato paste, parsley, broth and wine. I knew that James had recently bought a few bottles of inexpensive wine and put them in our wine rack, so I grabbed one and added the 1/2 cup called for. Shortly after, we both noticed a smell of chocolate in the kitchen, at which point James indicated that the bottle of wine I used was called COCO. Well, it was red in color. This is one of the reasons I skipped the sugar. The sauce turned out really good though. It did have a definite chocolate undertone, which we decided to call "Aztec flavor". Part of the cream sauce (made with butter, flour, milk, and nutmeg) was added to the meat sauce. The cooked ziti was mixed with egg, cheese and butter, and layered on the bottlom of a casserole dish. The meat sauce was added on top, followed by another layer of ziti, then the rest of the cream sauce. This was baked at 350 for 45 minutes. A yummy, rich dish, that tasted really good when paired with the COCO wine we used in it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

It has long been a tradition in the Hayes-Bohanan house to have mashed potato casserole on St. Patrick's Day. This easy-to-prepare dish is simply mashed potatoes mixed with cooked spinach in a casserole dish, and topped with cheese. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbly. This year, after hearing this story on NPR, James suggested we have some traditional Irish Soda Bread with dinner. I had made what I believed was Irish Soda Bread before, but it turns out I was very wrong indeed. The stuff with raisins, and icing, is not real soda bread. I followed the recipe for the Traditional White Soda Bread which required getting my fingers sticky with dough. The instructions call for putting the dough in a round cake pan, and putting a second cake pan on top. I almost used the lid from my indespensible cast iron skillet instead, but I am glad I didn't. The bread rose quite a bit and would have stuck to the lid. This turned out fabulous in my convection oven. A great addition to our meal, right from the oven.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Faux Valenzana Success

In choosing this week's recipe -- for a dinner with friends who dine with us frequently -- Pam and I grabbed a few of the cookbooks that have worked well in recent weeks, and started browsing. This time, Pam was the first to find something that was both appealing and new to us. Coincidentally, it comes from the same "flexitarian" swath of the Moosewood oeuvre that Pam mentioned just two weeks ago in her fish is not a vegetable post.

What she found -- on page 183 of Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home -- has a name whose geographic significance we did not recognize. Pasta Valenzana is a linguine dish with a savory sauce that is named for Valencia, Spain. The word "faux" in the title of this post refers to the fact that I did not take the time to recognize the geographic reference and its culinary significance, which I now see plainly in the marginal note next to the recipe! The word "success" refers to the fact that the dish was a tremendous success anyway.

We were able to find most of the ingredients in our house, from a green bell pepper to shrimp. We did not have linguine, and I refused Pam's suggestion to substitute spaghetti, because I know each holds sauce a bit differently. I did however -- perhaps arrogantly -- make a few other substitutions. Where the recipe calls for scallions, I used a bit of finely chopped onion. Where it calls simply for diced tomato, I could not resist adding a bit of tomato sauce to give the dish more body. And most arrogantly of all, I omitted the saffron, as I almost always do. Although I'm often a bit of a spendthrift in pursuit of culinary integrity, I've never been able to justify the expense of saffron. I understand that it is delicate and that it needs specific conditions and intense labor, leading to a cost -- in the hundreds of dollars an ounce -- that is difficult to fathom for a product that can be grown legally. Since it is both the most expensive and the most subtle of spices, I never have seen the point. But now that I have realized -- belatedly -- that this recipe is actually named for Valencia because this Mediterranean port city is the hub of saffron production, I will try to include the saffron next time.

And there will be a next time! This dish -- even bastardized -- was delicious. Everyone who tried it loved it! (Our daughter is a real vegetarian, so she had stripped-down linguine instead of the Valenzana dish.) Reflecting on the dish later, I think what distinguishes this dish is that the garlic is cooked first and allowed to caramelize with the crushed red pepper, then quenched with sherry before the onions are added, and the onions do not get a chance to sweeten in the same way. The dish also includes peas, which seem an odd element, but they are always a welcome source of fiber and vitamins. Paired with a local Chardonnay and served with a rustic, crusty bread, this was an savory and popular meal.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

I am not afraid

I selected Crisp Potato Balls, or Perkedel, an Indonesian recipe from the Extending the Table cookbook for Friday's dinner. It looked simple enough. The written recipe is only about 2 inches long. I think that might have been what made James so nervous about it. He didn't think it had enough detail in the instructions, which are basically to make some mashed potatoes, and add cooked ground beef (we substituted ground turkey) with onions, 2 beaten eggs, and leeks. (We had no onion or leeks, so we used garlic and mushrooms). Form the mixture into balls and deep fry. James could not figure out how we were supposed to make balls out of ingredients that were already cooked. I assured him I was up for the task. It really wasn't hard. Since I intended to pan fry them, I really should have made them more like pancakes though. Mostly we ended up with a crumble of all of the ingredients. It tasted good though. James and I both had second helpings. This one falls squarely in the "comfort food category." I heated up the leftovers with some rice for lunch today.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fish is not a vegetable... what is it doing in a Moosewood Cookbook? The Moosewood Cookbook, and its spinoffs - The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Sundays at the Moosewood Restaunt, and The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home among others, are classics of the vegetarian cooking genre. Fifteen years ago James bought me the Cooks at Home Cookbook before he left on a 3-month sojourn to the Amazon. Knowing that I did't like to cook just for myself, he selected it because it featured good meals that could be made in 30 minutes or less. Like the rest of the Moosewood series this is a vegetarian cookbook. There is not much of explanation in the book as to why fish recipes are included, except to say that some vegetarians will eat fish.

This week our family decided to eat what we had on hand,before doing more food shopping. I knew we had fish fillets in the freezer so we decided to find a fish recipe that incorporated ingredients we already had, or that we could easily substitute and selected Asian Fish in a Packet. Ingredients include:
Scallions - we substituted the rest of the baby onions we had left from our Julia Child recipe.
Garlic - good thing I still had some frozen cloves from the CSA farm box
Fresh Ginger- bought recently for another recipe
Dark Sesame Oil - I had light Sesame Oil, although I can't imagine why.
Bok Choi - There was probably some of this in the frozen mixed greens I still had from last summer's CSA farm box.
Soy Sauce - Worcestershire sauce was substituted
Rice - Always on hand at the H-B home.

The fish was layered on top of the cooked rice and greens, then a mixture of the rest of the ingredients was spread on top of each fillet and everything was wrapped into a foil packet, and cooked for 20 minutes at 450 in our new convection oven. These turned out perfectly. Delicious and tender. We opened a bottle of sparkling white wine to pair with this spicy meal.