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, August 31, 2011

Ginger Chicken and Chickpeas - aka "Chicken a la Irene"

As hurricane Irene struck the east coast on Sunday, James and I were grateful to have a gas stove, knowing that when the electricity went out we'd still be able to use the stovetop to cook a hot meal. Every report we read indicated that most of our neighbors were without power, and we waited, expected, ours to go out at any time. It never did. Among the lucky few who had power the whole storm, our biggest problem from the heavy winds was losing one big branch from our walnut tree.  Nevertheless, the storm was severe, and we were not about to go out in it to get any ingredients. We chose a recipe that we could make with things we had on hand, or could be easily substituted. From Jane Brody's Good Food Book we selected Ginger Chicken and Chickpeas. We thawed some chicken breasts from the freezer, soaked them in lemon juice and water, and then browned in our indespensible cast-iron skillet. The chicken was removed from the pan, and then it (the pan) was used to sautee the onions. Once the onions were soft we added ground ginger (the recipe called for fresh, but we made do), cumin, cardmom, coriander and a pinch of red pepper flakes. The chicken went back to the skillet along with a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, a cup of water, a teaspoon of cornstrarch, and a few dashes of worcheshire (the last three ingredients were a substitute for broth). After bringging the water to a boil, the pan was covered and set to simmer for 30 minutes.

This was a good, hearty meal on a day that felt more like fall than summer. The chicken had a definite kick, but I think the fresh ginger would have provided the more spicy flavor I prefer. I think I was too parsimonious with the red pepper as well.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Why Our Dog is Not a Fan

Thanks to humorist and fellow dog-lover Mike Peters for illustrating the reason our dog Perry is not an active participant in this blog project. The key is presentation; here (Aug 27, 2011) Grimmy is dejectedly reading the evidence for what our dog has not yet really understood: their culinary lives are boring. Perry has not caught on, because of the enthusiastic way we call out, "Plain brown dog food! Plain brown dog food!" (With credit/blame to Dave Barry.) Also, though her main courses are more boring than wood, she frequently gets chicken-flavored jerky treats that we simply call "doggie crack."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Cross-Blog Site

Should I add this to my "Nueva Receta" blog or my "Library Books" blog? I added it to both. Mary Yogi, The Food Librarian is "librarian by day, baker by night". Read her interview with the American Library Association here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Cross-Blog story

I wasn't sure whether to post this story about a community garden at the public library on City Island in the Bronx here, or on my Library Books blog. A decision had to made, though, so here it is.

Libraries are wonderful places for foodies. Beyond cookbooks, one might attend a good food lecture, gardening advice, or even an heirloom seed exchange.

Coffee Banana Smoothie

The Hayes-Bohanan's have been drinking smoothies since before smoothies were cool. Back before people even used the word "smoothie" to describe a drink made of blended fruits, juices and yogurt, we simply called them "fruit shakes". And of course we were among the generation that made drinking coffee cool (see my coffee story). So when we recently were offered a free download of a Starbucks Coffee Recipe Book, we could hardly turn it down, and when I saw the recipe for the Coffee Banana Smoothie I knew what I wanted to try first.

The recipe calls for two peeled, sliced, and frozen bananas, so one must begin the night before in order to properly freeze the fruit. The bananas go into a blender along with 1 1/2 cups milk, 8oz. of coffee yogurt, 1/4 t. of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg. We did not have any coffee-flavored yogurt on hand so I substituted vanilla yogurt flavored with the morning's leftover coffee. The recipe also calls for optional mint leaves as a garnish. I walked out to my garden in the morning dew to cut same.

This was a refreshing drink for an summer morning. Next time, however, I will use less milk, as the coffee itself provides enough liquid to the mix. I will also blend the mint leaves right in, rather than using as a garnish.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Image: Vegetarians
 in Paradise
Kohlrabi, that's what! Behold, the kohlrabi, a stout member of the cabbage family, also known as a German turnip. Varying from golf ball to nearly softball in size, it looks like a cross between a Brussels sprout and Sputnik.

One of the great things about having a share in community-supported agriculture (CSA) is the introduction to all sorts of foods -- mainly produce -- that may have been unknown. That was certainly the case for kohlrabi in our family. I remember being introduced to it last year by our friends at Colchester Neighborhood Farm, and cooking up a small bit of it with herbs.

One of the challenges of a CSA is learning -- or relearning -- to live with food seasons. It is always harvest season in a supermarket, but that harvest may be thousands of miles away! So a good CSA community provides not only varied foods but also help with figuring out what to do with them. Enter this evening's dinner: kohlrabi and turnip soup, courtesty of a fellow farm-boxer through the Colchester listserv.

The recipe came as a JPG this time, so I've attached it in that form (click to enlarge). By the way, food photography is a rare specialty, so please don't judge this soup by the photo! The accompanying note suggested that this would be popular with fans of potato soup (which we are), and since we had only one kohlrabi (is that a kohlrabo?) and two small turnips, I added a couple of potatoes. I'm glad I did, as the bitter flavors of the other roots were moderated by the potatoes. I also substituted canned vegetable broth for the chicken stock. I did manage to use all the other ingredients as called for, though I did not manage to remove the garlic before hitting puree.

The results? I loved it, which actually surprised me. Pam found it tolerable but bitter. With Paloma, we reverted to bite-counting games more suited to a younger child. Good thing I also made some biscuits!

Cheese Helps

That great American poet Cyndi Lauper memorably exclaimed, "Money changes everything!" So, too, does cheese. In the case of our latest zucchini adventure, cheese enhanced a collaborative casserole without overwhelming the delicious local vegetables.

Just in time for the surfeit of zucchini that arrives each summer, the Boston Globe Magazine featured several recipes, along with directions for desiccating this often water-logged vegetable. I think I had tried this method before -- salting zucchini slices in a colander for an hour or so before cooking. Adapting the second recipe in the article, I errantly ignored the advice to blot the salt from the slices, since the recipe calls for salt anyway. The quantities, it turns out, are not comparable!

Other modifications were more conscious. Careful readers will note that the recipe also calls for olives, which are strictly verboten in family meals at our house. Also, we had Mexican queso blanco on hand, which everybody loves, and though we like crumbled goat cheese quite a lot, this was a worthy substitution. Finally, as careful readers will also notice, Paloma recently prepared caramelized onions as part of her pretzelito feast, and we had some of these savory bulbs left over. I intended to mix these in with the zucchini, but even though they were central to my decision to make the dish, I forgot them until fairly late in the process, so they became part of the topping -- a delicious part!

We were pleased with the results, though the salt in the cheese would have been plenty, and I've learned my lesson about blotting salt when using this drying method. The zucchini was much firmer than in other casseroles, though, and the flavor was quite nice. Paloma's spicy- onions did help to balance the salt, and some cool applesauce completed the meal.

Cooking from scratch - for a crowd

Cafeteria workers in Colorado are will be serving healthier meals, made with fresh ingredients to students when they return to class this week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Taste of Summer - Pasta Fresca

I really didn't like tomatoes at all until I was in my mid 20s. I couldn't stand anything about them - they were too acidic, and the texture made me squeamish. But somewhere along the way I started eating them, and liking them. I have now come to a point that I have a favorite variety: the pineapple tomato. Big, juicy, colorful, and sometimes hard-to-find, I scored some at the Bridgewater Farmer's Market. I selected the biggest one, and used it to make an old favorite - Pasta Fresca from Katzen's Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. The tomato went into the blender along with 6 basil leaves, a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of olive oil. All of this mixed within a matter of seconds, and was poured over 2 cups of cooked penne pasta. Additonal tomatoes were cut up and added to the pasta. This tastes so good it is seems hardly fair that it is so easy to make.

This is clearly not a "nueva receta" for me, but I could hardly have the summer go by without giving it its proper due. I think anyone who does not eat this at least once during the height of the tomato/basil season should be punished.

Pineapple tomato
Post Script - I completely forgot to mention the mozzarella  cheese! 1/2 pound cut into cubes goes into this dish as well! phb 08/22/11

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Guest blogger Paloma Bohanan

The other day I walked into the room and said "I want pretzels for dinner." My dad said no. So I told him that pretzels are no less of a meal than a slice of cheese, a basil leaf and a tomato. He still told me no. My mum walked in and said "What's going on?" to which my father replied, "The girl wants pretzels for dinner." My mum, totally oblivious to what had just happened told us that "We can have pretzels for dinner and you and I can also have a Caprisi Salad." That was lovely. Anyways, that's exactly what we did. I made pretzels from an old children's cookbook called Honest Pretzels by Mollie Katzen. I served them with a variety of condiments: Lay's Ranch Dip, Grey Poupon, bread and butter pickles, and caramelized onions. I didn't use any of the condiments besides the mustard, but apparently the caramelized onions weren't bad. They took about an hour to cook over stove top, and were seasoned with lemon juice, Cajun spice, brown sugar, and roasted ground ginger. You can buy the cookbook on here:

Breaking Dad Stereotypes

Happily, today's Close to Home strip is not close to reality at Casa Hayes-Boh, but we enjoyed the chuckle. Stereotypes are wrong-headed, but sometimes they are reality-based!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pressure Cooker Education

We love to cook, but only as amateurs! A chef is not simply someone who cooks really well; it is a seriously challenging profession, preparation for which is arduous. From various documentaries, I have noticed the great attention paid to planning, organizing, and economizing, with even more attention to training. Culinary students practice cutting, slicing, paring until most regular people would be bored crazy!

As part of our quest to see all things foodie, we were drawn to Pressure Cooker, a film about something even more important to us: education. The film traces a year in the life of the demanding and extraordinary culinary-arts teacher Wilma Stephenson and of the students who rise to the constant challenges she presents. The stakes could not be higher for these Philadelphia high school students: a year-end culinary contest can spell the difference between no college at all and a full ride to some of the best cooking schools on the planet.

Viewers learn quickly that Stephenson pushes her students very hard, brooking no nonsense, laziness, or disrespect. She seems to view success in her class as a matter of life and death, and given the retreat of support networks from American inner cities, that view is well-founded. The students in the middle and end of the year number far fewer than those the viewer sees on opening day. The demands are unrelenting, but so is the love. Better than many films of this kind, Pressure Cooker reveals various dimensions of the lives of the students involved, some of whom do simultaneously pursue excellence in other areas, scholastic, artistic, and athletic.

Throughout the film, students cut an extraordinary number of potatoes into little football shapes and store them  in water so that they will have uniform pieces with which to cook. This combined with many scenes of dicing and sharpening to reinforce our understanding that culinary education has at its foundation the mastery of skills that culinary students think they have already mastered. It is in this context that I was profoundly moved when a contest judge exclaimed that the pieces of a student's diced vegetables looked "like little jewels."

Rote mastery of the basics is not all that is going on, of course; it is the foundation. The teachers (mostly Stephenson but also some of the judges) exude passion for food and a balance of compassion and high expectations for the students. Viewers can almost taste the results!

Culinary students with
good coffee.
Click to enlarge.
What is shown on screen is compelling enough, but we know that much more is going on in the hours that are not shown. We know that the pots and pans and knives and spoons the students use -- much less the cans and bottles and fresh vegetables -- do not appear on their own, and that dedicated teachers all too often use their own time -- and often their own funds -- to make sure classrooms are equipped. This is one of the challenges of teaching any subject, but must be all the more pressing in culinary education.

Pam and I got a brief glimpse of this world a few years ago when we did some coffee education for the culinary students of Bob Buccino at Nantucket High School. Mr. Buccino recognizes that as difficult as it is for non-millionaire families to live on the beautiful island now, it will only be more difficult in the future, and educating students for professional positions in the island's incredible number of high-end restaurants is a real key to Nantucket's social and economic development. Our own small contribution to his work with students was to help them understand the value of pairing good coffee with the good food -- a lesson that had not yet been learned at most island establishments we have visited (even the coffee shops!).

At this point, I have to have a healthy serving of crow, as my only writing about Rachael Ray has been an unfortunate incident with Dunkin' Donuts I describe on my Coffee Hell page. Without backing off from that particular rant, I have to say that she has more than redeemed herself with her reaction to the Wilma Stephenson story. Recognizing the tremendous successes that Stephenson and her students had achieved with a modest investment in equipment and supplies, she invested very heavily in both, and also in the individual students. At a time when politicians across the so-called political spectrum are willing to slash investments in education, Rachael Ray deserves a lot of credit for championing this teacher and her students.

At one point in the film, Wilma Stephenson admonishes a student to improve the presentation of a dish, with an upscale restaurant in mind. By the time I was in high school, I had probably been in only one restaurant that even had upscale ambitions, and none that would really qualify as the kind of place these students are preparing for. It occurred to me that the experiences of Stephenson's students with fine dining would be even more limited. For that reason, it is all the more helpful that Ray invested not only in a glorious new kitchen for the classroom, but also in a "bistro" that now provides an upscale restaurant experience for the students. Alas! I would love to have this kind of immersion in coffee education on my own campus.

The closing credits of the film mention two important web sites. The Pressure Cooker page on Take Part: Inspiration to Action puts the culinary program in the context of other education projects. The CCAP web site provides details about culinary competitions, scholarships, and programs in Philadelphia and other cities.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Very Local Sauce

The better the coffee, the less the need for cream or sugar. When I organize a tasting event, as I did yesterday, I try to balance this fact with the knowledge that for many people, both additives are essential for a variety of reasons. I therefore always provide half-and-half, and often guess incorrectly how much is needed. I must admit that yesterday I even partook of a bit myself, as the student presenting Vietnam coffee suggested -- correctly -- that the Vietnamese add condensed milk to their coffee for good reason. Not having that particular confection, half-and-half was a helpful substitute.

Coffee is just the prelude to this story, though, which is really about basil. When I brought home all the extra dairy product, Pam suggested using it in a recipe she had recently found in one of our shelf's oldest stand-by books: 365 Ways to Cook Pasta. We have had this highly-rated book for over 20 years, but did not use it much at first as some of the ingredients seemed too fancy. Over time, it has become a reliable source of ideas, and Pam had used one of its best features: a thorough index. Unlike many cookbooks that index only by a recipe name and main ingredient, this book indexes far enough down the ingredient list that a reader can find a way to employ just about any ingredients that might be at hand. In this case, we have plenty of extreme-local basil to use, and Pam had found a recipe calling for basil, cream, and not much else. (Extreme-local refers to this basil's "farm" of origin being a series of pots on our front porch!)

A more obvious choice, since we had recently purchased a big block of Parmesan (we never buy the over-priced pre-shredded stuff), would have been fettuccine Alfredo, and our daughter was clamoring for that. I opted for this lighter recipe (#94), simply called Spaghetti with Basil Cream Sauce. I adapted it in the following ways: half-and-half instead of heavy cream (see above) and lemon juice from a bottle instead of fresh. The recipe simply calls for gently boiling 1.5 cups of cream until it reduces by half,  then adding 2 Tbsp julienned basil, a tsp of lemon and a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, I cooked 12 ounces thin spaghetti and tossed together.

The sauce was too thin, which I could have corrected by adding flour (if I had realized it in time), cooking a bit longer (if I had realized it in time), or using heavy cream (see above). All of those options off the table, I simply sliced some Parmesan into the finished dish, and got no complaints.

And the daughter? She went back for seconds. And thirds, fourths, and fifths. She argued that it was only because she took small portions, but I think we can safely add this to the reliable comfort-foods list!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Poupon U

We are a family of mustard lovers. Ten years ago, in fact, we made a day-long side trip from a visit to our wonderful Wisconsin cousins to visit the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum, since relocated to Middleton, Wisconsin and reborn as the National Mustard Museum -- a good excuse for another road trip. A tired joke from that museum is the basis of this post's title.

Anyway, the point is that we enjoy mustard, and although it has become rather pedestrian, we do enjoy Grey Poupon, even if it is now owned by Kraft Foods, one of the apocalyptic Four Horsemen of Big Coffee. Today's dinner centered around a recipe found on a Grey Poupon jar, and though it is not especially "foodie" it was easy and delicious. Here is the meal that I prepared, with Pam's help in the planning:

1. Salmon. Whisk together 1/4 cup of maple syrup (the recipe called for "maple-flavored," but we do not traffic in fake syrup, especially not on Maple Avenue), 2 Tbsp. Grey Poupon (I probably used more), 1 tsp. minced garlic, and 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, and 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper. Chill -- the recipe says several hours, but one hour worked pretty well. Brush oil onto salmon fillets (alas, from Trader Joe's, because our local fish monger was not around last week), grill (I pan-seared) and brush repeatedly with the sauce. Yummy -- I'm sure it would be even better grilled.

2. Potatoes. I simply cut Yukon gold potatoes in half lengthwise, sliced thinly, and sauteed in Canola oil, adding salt, pepper, a bit of oregano and a healthy dose of Old Bay, aka, the national spice of Maryland. I cooked this to within an inch of Cajun, and it was quite nice.

3. Salad. I made a small salad of local organic lettuce and tomatoes from our local farmers market and a bit of a cuke from our farm box, drizzled with a sweet honey-mustard (there's that condiment again) dressing that Pam had made previously. (Much of the honey in our house comes from bees who are known personally by some of our local friends, but this honey came all the way from a Rhode Island farmers market.)

All in all, this was a quick, delicious, healthy meal that did not overheat our kitchen.