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...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gotta Love This! La Cocina Historica

My American Libraries Direct e-mail included this tidbit about "La Cocina Historica" a blog that features recipes from The University of Texas San Antonio's Mexican, Southwest and Texas cookbook collection. I really have no choice but to prepare one of these recipes for my "nueva receta" this week. Stay tuned!

What I especially loved was discovering this blog post from the Bilingual Librarian = Bibliotecaria Bilingüe.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hazelnut Espresso Bread

We have had our bread machine for over 13 years. I know we used it a lot when we first got it, but over the last years it has taken up a disproportionate amount of "kitchen real estate" for the occasional use it has seen - mostly for making pizza dough, or "company bread". Last Sunday, when I made yogurt bread for the red pepper, bacon and jelly sandwhiches (see my sauteed jerusalem artichokes post) I decided that I would make bread every Sunday. I have a Gold Medal New Bread Machine Recipes cookbook on my shelf - the kind you pick up at the grocery store check out line - which I don't know if I have ever used, and from it selected the Hazelnut Espresso Bread. I had to do some kitchen math in order to adjust the ingredients for my 2 cup maker, as the recipe had proportions for 3 cup or 4 cup makers. This was made with 3/4 c.strong coffee, 1.5 T butter, 2 c. flour 1.5 T dry milk powder, 2 T. sugar, 1/3 c. hazelnuts (or filberts as they are called in Oregon), 2/3 t. salt and 2 t. yeast. The result was flavorful, and crunchy. We could definitely taste the coffee in it. We enjoyed it last night with our dinner fresh from the machine smeared with cream cheese, and this morning with our breakfast lightly toasted with butter.

Monday, May 23, 2011

50 food festivals

We usually do not read the "Parade" magazine in the Sunday paper, but this week couldn't help but notice the "Eat Your Way Across America" cover story about food festivals in each state. If one wanted to do all 50 celebrations they are listed chronologically, although some overlap, and might it require some sort of control over the space-time continuum. They are also listed regionally, so one could select just one section of the country at a time and spread it out over several years. This is a fun read that celebrates local foods.

Sautéed Jerusalem Artichokes with Sunflower Seeds

Earlier this month we began picking up our annual CSA farm box from Colchester Neighborhood Farm. This week we received Jerusalem Artichokes (or Sunchokes). We had never had these before and looked to Deborah Madison, author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for guidance. Her cookbook is over 700 pages long and has recipes for every kind of vegetable you've never heard of. I decided to try the sautéed with sunflower seeds recipe for the jerusalem artichokes. This root vegetable looks a lot like ginger, but is bitter in flavor. I cut the 'chokes into rounds and sautéed in canola oil. I added salt and pepper, then topped with toasted sunflower seeds and parsley and some other herb (the parsley and unknown herb also came from our farm box). James pointed out that I should have shelled the sunflowers first. Well, yes. I was so glad to be using the sunflower seeds that have been in our cupboard for over a year that I didn't think about this part. Mostly we ended up eating around them. I was glad to use the ingredients from the farm box, but I have to say I wouldn't buy jersusalem artichokes on purpose. This was used as a side dish to an old favorite - grilled cheddar, bacon and red pepper sandwiches. We got the recipe from the newspaper a few years ago. We were glad to find it as we were not sure what to do with the red pepper jelly we got in the big basket of  homemade jellies we won at our church auction that year. We ended up liking these sandwiches so much that red pepper jelly has become a "staple on Maple". Of course we made the change of grating the cheese this time! And prepared them on fresh yogurt bread, still warm from the bread machine. We paired this with sweet pineau de pinot from from Westport Rivers vineyard.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Beans for the Birds

My contribution to Nueva Receta this week was a simple and satisfying bean dish, based on a recipe for Bird-Style Beans (Fagioli all'Ucceletto) from page 208 of Aliza Green's comprehensive classic, The Bean Bible: A Legumaniac's Guide to Lentils, Peas, and Every Edible Bean on the Planet! (Note: the exclamation point is part of the title.) It is appropriate that the author of this book is named Green, an aptonym given the prevalence of vegetables in the book!

This recipe calls for dried borlotti (or cranberry or pink) beans, chicken stock, olive oil, plenty of garlic, sage, fresh plum tomatoes. I chose the pink beans (from Goya -- similar to pintos), because I had no idea how to find the other two. I used vegetable bouillon in honor of our resident vegetarian, and I used "fresh" regular tomatoes from the grocery store. I will be sure to try this recipe again when local tomatoes are available. I also used minimal salt, rather than the two teaspoons called for. I found that a dash of Tabasco sauce worked very well in place of excessive salt. When I prepare this next, I will try to find a way to avoid using both a stock pot and a Dutch oven, as this created more dish-washing than seemed warranted.

The result was a warm, satisfying, if very simple meal. I dipped a bit of tortilla in mine, and would have welcomed some more substantial accompaniment, but it did work well with a salad for a light meal. After we ate it, I noticed that the author recommends serving this with grilled meat or poultry -- something we will definitely be trying. It is worth noting, though, that the Tuscan originators of this recipe apparently prepared it as a substitute for game birds that they could not afford.

This was a perfect book for our project, as it has been displacing significant shelf space without inspiring a proportionate number of meals. Using our underused cookbooks is precisely what this blog project is about, and now that I've used the book (not for the first time, but for the first time in a long while), I expect to be tucking into it again and again. It is interesting that one of the reviewers notes that she purchased this book after borrowing it from the library and determining that she would actually use almost all of the recipes.

The same reviewer notes something else interesting: no pictures accompany any of the recipes in this volume. We had just noted the exact opposite phenomenon in our newspaper, which sometimes includes photos of dishes for which it does not include recipes. The most recent example was in the grilled cheese article that Pam reviewed recently, which included a photo of a decadent grilled cheese dessert with no clue as to its contents.

Aliza Green has done just the opposite: providing text that so fully prepares a cook that no images are needed.

Don't cut the cheese - grate the cheese!

Each Wednesday The Brockton Enterprise features a "Good Taste" section which highlights food and recipes. The May 18th edition included a story called "Grilled Cheese Grows Up", which originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as "Grilled Cheese: What's Old is New Again". I did not specifically prepare any particular recipe that the article provides, however, I did follow this advice from Laura Werlin, author of Grilled Cheese Please! 50 Scrumptiously Cheesy Recipes, whose book according to the article, "is full of good ideas, starting with her time-tested tips on making the brest grilled cheeses, such as always grate the cheese." On Friday I made myself a grilled cheese, fried egg and tomato sandwhich for lunch (what we call in Brazil a "mixto quente") and grated a mixture of mozarella, cheddar and monterrey jack. I must say, Werlin was dead on. The result was one of the creamiest, evenly melted grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever had. I will never go back!

BTW - This is not our "nueva recipe" for the week. James will be posting about the Bean Bible for that one!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lemon-Pepper Shrimp and Strawberry Salad

In honor of our 24th wedding anniversary last Monday, James and I revisited our Intercourses cookbook. This spicy/sweet recipe was perfect for the warm spring day. The shrimp was grilled with lemon-pepper seasoning and then served on a bed of mixed greens, then topped with a sauce made from fresh strawberries, canola oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar. I mixed the dressing in my blender and it came out smooth and creamy, then poppy seeds were added. Served with the bewitching Sweet Tooth Mead from Isaaks of Salem,  purchased in Salem earlier in the day, this was a perfectly romantic meal.

Plus, after I was so successful at making the strawberry dressing in the blender, I tried my hand at honey mustard, and again, I was not disappointed. I may never buy dressing again.

Friday, May 6, 2011

At the Beginning, After Many Years

This has been a great week for Mexican food at our house, culminating with some nice leftovers Friday evening. Monday we had sweet-potato quesadillas, with a smoky, spicy filling brimming with cumin and various peppers but topped with a cool sour cream. For my birthday on Wednesday we had the luscious rose-petal chicken that Pam mentioned in an earlier post. This was all the wind-up for the perfect pitch on Cinco de Mayo.

This blog is all about using recipes that have been sitting on our shelves, sometimes for years, in books we use for only a recipe or two each. The recipe we chose for 5-5-11 was a special case, coming from a book we are pretty sure we have not used at all. Ironically, Helene Siegel's Mexican Cooking for Beginners had eluded us in part because its most interesting recipes looked too complicated.

I chose -- from page 64 -- chiles stuffed with chicken, raisins, and nuts. This was another dish-intensive dish: in addition to chopping surfaces and bowls, it required a skillet, Dutch oven, and baking pan. And I had actually skipped a step by using canned tomatoes, since local tomatoes are not yet in season. The intimidating part for me, though, was roasting the chiles. This is what has kept me from making my own mole poblano, even though I fell in love with it during our summer in Puebla (where the dish was prepared for me in an Aztec home).

I should have taken a photo of the unusual site of bright green peppers being charred directly on our stove-top, but this was so successful that I am sure I will do it again soon. It was a bit tricky to be sure, but Siegel's words do not just direct the reader: she is more like a coach than an author, and I was made confident enough to pull the dish together and knowledgeable enough to do it a bit better next time. (Pam helped with the spices, but mostly with getting the rest of the house in order while I was absorbed in this preparation.)

San Andres Cholula
This dish reminded me very much of the first chiles rellenos (literally: stuffed chiles) we had -- again in Puebla, but not with Aztecs -- in our visit during the summer of 1989. The mother of our friend Homero made them in the authentic style, meaning that the chiles themselves varied from mild to hot to impossible. I had a hot (which I liked) and then an impossible, from which she encouraged me to scrape the sweet/savory stuffing. What I made yesterday was not exactly the same, but it was very similar. Now that I am somewhat familiar with the roasting, I will try Siegel's recipes for both the the rellenos (as with most restaurant versions, hers is filled with cheese) and the Holy Grail of Mexican cooking: the mole (pronounced moh-LAY) itself!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Not exactly "nueva" but worth mentioning nonetheless

James turned 48 on Tuesday, which means his birthday was on Wednesday (to find out more about that please see my Attainment Day page). To celebrate this auspicious occasion we made one of the most romantic dinners ever invented - Quail in Rose Petal Sauce. This recipe was made famous by Laura Esquivel in one of my favorite books: Like Water for Chocolate, and movie by the same name. Anyone who has seen the movie will not forget watching the lovely, naked, Gertrudis riding away on horseback with a revolutionary after eating the dish that her sister Tita prepared to inspire the passion of her unrequited love, Pedro. We have made this recipe before, although we have never actually used quail, but chicken instead. There are many flavors, and textures, and a special sweetness that comes from the honey. It is really not that hard to make, although be sure you have a clean kitchen to start, this will generate a lot of dishes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast-Go for the chicken pie!

When I worked at the McAllen (Texas) public library in the mid 1990s we were working on indexing articles from the local paper, The Monitor. Using a simple database software we created entries for local stories, skipping the AP and wire stuff, which would  be included in other national and commercial indexes. Some of the stories were more newsworthy than others of course; nevertheless, entries were made for all local stories. I began referring to the "feel good" stories, that seemed to exist only so a person could see their name in print as the "chicken pie" stories.

Here in small town New England I find there is plenty of chicken pie to go around. Whenever we go to a local fundraiser, town clean up or other local event we say we are going for the chicken pie. I have become a lot less cynical about having my chicken pie, and this morning we attended the annual Rotary Club pancake breakfast. Here we can talk to neighbors we don't often see, hobnob with local business owners, and have some fabulous homemade sausage, from the last working farm in Bridgewater, Hansen Farm. We enjoyed being in the company of our community as much as we liked eating the blueberry pancakes. For $20 the whole family had breakfast and we got 7 raffle tickets. We'll keep our fingers crossed in hopes of winning the wine and liquor gift basket!

Sesame Noodles with Asparagus Tips

This tasty recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone was easy to make, and had sweet and spicy flavors, as well as a host of textures. A marinade was prepared with sesame oil, Worcheshire sauce, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt, ginger, garlic and cilantro. This was tossed with noodles, sliced scallion, sesame seeds, and asparagus. We strayed a bit from the recipe as written, as we did not have chili oil, and I used regular egg noodles, rather than thin Chinese egg nooodles. We had this on Thursday night while it was still warm, but it was also good as cold leftovers on Saturday. We still have a bit left which we will finish up today for lunch.