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, December 21, 2012

Solstice celebration

As promised, when I wrote my "best latkes ever" post, today I tried the Bourbon - Rosemary. Almonds from the Wicca Cookbook.

Today is the solstice, the shortest day of the year, a time to celebrate the return of the sun with family and good food. My daughter is home from boarding school and the family is enjoying some quiet time together before becoming busy with visiting and travel. My husband and I especially miss her at mealtime when she is away and savor her company as much as the food when she can join us. What would have been a simple dinner today (store bought frozen crab cakes and baked potatoes) was made into a celebratory meal with the addition of the sweet and savory almonds. They were rather easy to make. The whole almonds (one cup) were toasted in the oven for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Meanwhile I boiled together 1/3 c brown sugar, 4 T bourbon, and 1 tsp of water. Once this mixture was thickened I added the almonds and a mix of 1 T dried rosemary leaves, a bit of cayenne pepper, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of cumin. Once everything was mixed thoroughly it was placed on a buttered baking sheet to cool off and served. James and I loved them. Paloma ate one to show that she was adventurous.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

RomCom without a Recipe

This evening, after a wonderful pizza that Pam made without a recipe (and a side of applesauce that I had made without a recipe), we watched the delightful film Today's Special. It is a romantic comedy that does not follow the usual recipe (spoiler: there is no "boy loses girl" scene), about a chef who learns how not to follow recipes.

It is a most enjoyable food movie and romance and growing up. Watch it just because. And if you have Netflix, it is available streaming.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Shrimp Taco

As Pam mentioned in recent posts, this has been a week of returning to the original mission of this blog: delving into our ample collection of cookbooks! As readers will notice, we sometimes simply search a few popular recipe sites (I'm loving Hispanic Kitchen, and All Recipes never fails to match available ingredients), rather than using the books. Not that there is anything wrong with it!

Still, going beyond one or two well-worn pages in our existing books is part of the project, and we've been rewarded with a couple of good meals recently, and tonight we continued that trend, dipping into one of the first cook books we purchased, The Well-Filled Tortilla As a search of the word tortilla on this blog reveals, we have hardly neglected this family friend, but we did find something new in its pages this week. It was about a year ago -- in my Landlubber Arrives post -- that I decided not to be intimidated by seafood.

Tonight's dish (well, last night at this point) was so easy -- despite having to make a few judgment calls -- that I really could have tried it years ago. The title on page 195 is practically an ingredient list for a dish that I prepared in less time than it has taken me to write about it -- Shrimp with Lemon-Chili Cream Sauce. I will describe it as made, which is with smaller portions and a couple of slight adjustments to the recipe. I did prepare all of the chopping of things ahead of time, because this is cooked so fast that the sauce and the filling need to be ready at about the same time.

For the sauce: Into a saucepan (aptly named), I put 1 cup of light cream (instead of heavy), a half of a finely minced Hungarian hot pepper (in place of a yellow wax chili pepper), the juice of half a lemon, a dash of salt, and a tablespoon or so of chili powder. I then had this handy to heat up and whisk with one hand as I cooked the shrimps with the other.

Preparing the tortillas: I rolled two large, store-bought tortillas in a sheet of  waxed paper and microwaved them for 30 seconds. This is our default method for softening tortillas, and it works really well. I also sliced half of a yellow bell pepper into thin strips, and then cut the strips in half. I skipped the shredded lettuce.

The shrimp: Here was the judgment call. First of all, we love shrimp but know a bit too much about the damage done in harvesting them, so I regret not finding a better source than the large bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer. We had about a pound of already cooked shrimp, and the recipe called for raw shrimp. So I was really just heating them. I thawed them first, of course, removed the tails, and drained them. Then I heated Canola oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, as I also started heating the sauce (above). I tossed the shrimp in with some salt, and stirred until they were hot. If I were starting from raw shrimp, I would have cooked them until they were opaque, but they started out that way. In either case, it takes no more than 3-5 minutes to cook shrimp.

I removed the shrimp from the heat and continued whisking the sauce. We noticed that it was pretty thin, so added a sprinkle of corn starch, which thickened it right up. We then divided the shrimp and sliced peppers between the two tortillas, spooned over the sauce, and folded them up in the expert fashion of former Arizonans. Still, the sauce oozed out a bit.

This was, I have to say, spectacular. The magic was in this sauce, which authors developed specifically for shrimp (so as not to overwhelm its delicate flavors), but which they recommend for other shellfish, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, duck, and even blanched vegetables. I can certainly see this easy sauce complimenting a nice fish fillet.

We paired these tacos with the some 2006 Brut RJR from Westport Rivers, a "91" and a Gold Medal winner. Rather than wait for a special occasion for champagne-style wines, we keep them on hand, and turn good meals into special occasions when the pairing seems ideal. Beer is a natural choice for a dish like this, but sparkling wines also go quite well with Mexican or Mexican-inspired fare.

Dessert: We do not usually have dessert, but we had something handy that was well paired with the bubbly. A friend who now lives on the Left Coast brought us an assortment of excellent chocolates today (in recognition of our upcoming chocolate course), and we opened the first one this evening. The Cherry & Chili Dark Chocolate Bar from Theo and the PPC Farmland Trust was an obvious choice, and we were slaked with 1/4 each of the three-ounce bar. With the Brut, of course!

The best latkes - ever

Every year in honor of Hanukkah we make latkes. We have progressed in our 25 years together from a box mix, to actually shredding our own potatoes, and this year I serendipitously noticed a recipe in a never-before-used cookbook: The Wicca Cookbook: Recipes, Ritual, and Lore by Jamie Wood and Tara Seefeldt. Divided into nine sections (one each representing the 8 pagan holidays, plus an extra one for cooking with children) I happened upon a latke recipe while looking for something I might prepare for the upcoming Winter Solstice (stay tuned later this month for Bourbon-Rosemary Almonds!).The latke recipe is similar to the one we've been using for years from Deborah Madison, but this one includes apples in the mix. We peeled and grated 4 potatoes and two small apples and mixed them together. To this we added half  of a medium chopped onion, one egg and a dash of salt. We had recently read an article explaining the importance of the oil when cooking latkes, so I heated more than usual in my indispensable cast iron skillet, then added the the batter by large spoonfuls into the hot canola oil. I had to sacrifice the first pancake (but isn't that always true) while I was learning how to make sure they stayed crispy and didn't become an oily mess, but the rest turned out great. A perfect combination of textures - crispy, creamy (from the sour cream topping), and chunky (from James homemade apple/pear sauce). These were sweeter than our previous recipe, and required a bit more patience while cooking. These were so good, James even ate the "sacrifice" pancake. He asked afterwards if the recipe included flour, at which point I told him that I thought it did, but I  forgot to put it in! We enjoyed our homemade Chardonnay with this meal.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A maiden voyage into a new cookbook

Last summer while visiting Nantucket, we spied a cookbook called Dishing Up Maryland, and even though we already had so many cookbooks we knew we could never possibly exhaust all the recipes waiting to be prepared, we, nevertheless, could not resist purchasing this one from our home state. And then it sat on our cookbook shelf for six months. So, in the spirit of actually using my cookbooks (which was why I started this blog in the first place) rather than looking up a recipe online, I took it off the shelf and picked a recipe. The cookbook is divided by the four seasons, and although the calendar, and quite frankly, the warm temperatures, still say it is fall, I selected "Rockfish in Tomato Saffron Cream Sauce over Rice" from the "Winter" section.

We began our preparations at Fresh Catch in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The cookbook said that rockfish is also known as striped bass, which was what we expected we might find at the fishmonger, but rockfish was not to be had by any name. We were advised that haddock would be a good substitution, so we bought that, and it was not cheap.

Back at home I got out my trusty indispensable cast-iron skillet, and melted 3T of butter, to which I added 3 small chopped shallots. After these were sauteed, I added a stalk of celery (cut into 8 pieces); a large pinch of saffron threads, 1/3 c. of white cooking wine, a pinch of garlic salt, and a one-quart baggie of frozen tomatoes. The recipe said to use a 12 oz. can of tomatoes, but we hardy New Englanders know to freeze or can some of our harvest if we don't want to eat tomatoes that taste like wood later in the year.All of this was cooked down for about 10 minutes. The fish was then added to the skillet, which was kept on a low simmer for another 10 minutes. The fish was removed and set aside, covered, on a plate, while the sauce cooked down some more, and rice was cooked. When the rice was ready, I removed the skin from the fish, cut it into small pieces, and put it back in the pan along with 1 cup of heavy cream. This all cooked for about 5 minutes more.

The result was exquisitely tender fish in a delicious and savory sauce. The sauce probably could have cooked down a bit more, as it was very watery, which was why I did not see any need to puree it as the recipe suggests.

Friday, December 7, 2012

All Pesto All the Time

Earlier this week I made spaghetti with my favorite ground-turkey/tomato sauce. Since I did not use all of the ground turkey that I thawed in the sauce, I had just enough left to make two turkey burgers last night. I usually like to put some kind of fruit (apples and/or cranberries) in my turkey burgers, but we were out of both, so I went looking online for some other ideas. I wound up adapting a recipe I found at to use some of the pesto sauce I cleverly froze this summer (made with the basil from my garden, and garlic from my CSA). I had just under 1/2 pound of turkey to which I added a small handful of breadcrumbs, about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese, a small minced garlic clove, and about a tablespoon of pesto sauce. I formed two patties and cooked on the stovetop until they were no longer pink inside. I also cooked a small serving of spaghetti and mixed it with the most of the rest of the pesto sauce, leaving just enough sauce to drizzle on of top each of the burgers. The burgers were eaten on buns, with a side serving of pasta with pesto. This was a delicious and satisfying meal, made complete with a bottle of our homemade chardonnay.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Green Potato Soup

As described on my
Geography of Food
page, 2008 was YOP.
It is over, but we still
The soup is green, not the potatoes!

(If Dan Quayle could have done what I just did -- spelling the spud as singular and plural -- he might have been an ex-president by now.)

This evening we have a gratuitously non-vegetarian dinner because we are being thrifty with our Thanksgiving turkey. After the main meal, the sandwiches, the hash, the stuffing-egg cups, and the amazing turkey-rice soup, we still had broth. I am sure this evening's recipe could be made with a vegetable-based broth just as successfully. We we would never have found this recipe without broth, however, because it was broth that led us finally to open Jean Childress' little Soup Cookbook from the Country Kitchen Collection.

This booklet combines the author's interest in simple dishes, drawing, and calligraphy -- each of its 32 recipes is hand-lettered. She published a few dozen thematic booklets, mainly in the 1980s, and they seem to be out of print these days, though circulating among used-book shops. We have no idea where or when or how we received our copy.

I began the green potato by peeling and cubing six medium potatoes (the recipe calls for four large) in four cups of broth. After 15 minutes, I added one medium onion, finely chopped, and two bags of greens frozen from our summer farm share. The recipe calls for one pound of kale, and this seems to be roughly equivalent. Throughout the summer, Pam would blanch and freeze any greens we did not use, so that we could do exactly this with them in the winter. I added another four cups of broth and salt and pepper to the soup, though not the 2 teaspoons of salt called for!

After cooking another 20 minutes (extended by 5 because the greens were frozen), I ran all of contents in a blender and returned it to the cooking pot, where I added one half cup of light cream and blended through. In retrospect, I should have baked some bread to go with this. In the event, we had it with "liquid bread" in the form of our home-brewed English Ale.

Verdict: YUM! The broth actually makes a difference. Thanksgiving Day, we slowly roasted our free-range, Vermont turkey from Misty Knoll, between two small piles of briquettes in an old-school Weber grill. Near the end, we put in hardwood to make this a smoker, and the flavor combined well with the garlic-paprika-olive oil rub I had applied hours earlier. Now weeks later, we got a creamy, delicious, and smokey potato soup with plenty of nutrients.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Saucy Vegan Sauce

Image: Mass Dept of Agriculture
Pick-Your-Own Page
Today's entry is about making quick use of a lot of apples purchased a week or more ago that I wanted to use while they were still decent. And a couple of pears.

I took the lot of them -- about seven smallish apples and two big pears -- and cut them down to small bits. I normally leave skins on apples when I cook with them, but I felt like trying to make a saucy sauce, so I peeled them. Also, I usually employ a handy apple corer to start the job, but these were small enough that I thought I should avoid the wastage by taking a couple extra minutes to make and trim small wedges myself.

The assembled bits covered the bottom of our indispensible cast-iron skillet. Over them, I sprinkled about a quarter cup each of granulated white (though the organic stuff is not really that white) and brown sugars, along with a generous sprinkle each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Without stirring, I covered the pan and put it in the oven at 250 for over a couple of hours. (I turned it off when I realized I had to leave the house for a long while; it did not seem to hurt anything.)

Then I added about a half cup of Nicaraguan rum (any rum would do, I'm sure, though I'm fond of the brown, aged rums). I left it uncovered for another hour or two, using a potato masher to squish the fruit after much of the liquid had evaporated. I let it cook down a bit more, and then put it in the fridge until dinner time.

Careful readers of this space will realize that this apple recipe bears a striking resemblance to the Cranberry "Recipe" Recipe (that's not a typo) we posted in October. The differences are that I cooked this a lot longer, and that I eventually did stir (even crush) the sauce. More importantly, I reduced the sugar because apples are sweeter than cranberries and I reduced the rum because I realized that two cups worth required a lot of time to evaporate, and was a bit of a waste.

When cooled, the sauce was a good side dish for our standard sweet potato quesadillas (which do not really need a sauce), accompanied by our White House Honey Brown Ale. I was able to cook the vegetables for the quesadillas in the same pan as the cranberries (barely wiped clean), adding a bit of sweetness to the savory main course.

The sauce itself was deliciously cool, sweet and spicy, though with enough body that it might have served even better as a pie filling.

Friday, November 23, 2012


Those of us who, thankfully, do not have to work, and don't cotton to the shopping madness on the day after Thanksgiving (we call it Buy Nothing Day) enjoy a morning to sleep in, linger over our fresh brewed coffee in a real mug (not brown slop in a Styrofoam cup) and welcome the sun in the warmth of our own homes. I find it ironic that today's Boston Globe website uses the word "savvy" to describe those who wake up early (or don't go to bed at all) in order to wait outside in the dark and cold so they can spend money. Which is not to say the Globe is all bad. Last Sunday's Boston Globe magazine included some simple breakfast recipes to be made with the leftovers from Thursday's bounty. Since we only ate about half of our delicious homemade stuffing, I decided to try making Baked Eggs in Stuffing Cups. The directions begin by instructing the cook to preheat the over to 425, and  to "butter the the cups of a nonstick jumbo muffin tin". The preheating presented no problems, but my rust-stained muffin tin is not "jumbo" and if it was ever nonstick, it is not part of my memory bank, the problem was solved with paper liners, and the recipe does provide adjustments for non-jumbo tins. Once the muffin tin was lined I filled the cups about 2/3 up with stuffing, and then put them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, took it out and cracked one egg into each cup. These went back into the oven for about 8 minutes, but the eggs were still too runny for my taste. The recipe says to cover loosely with tin foil for 5-10 minutes to firm up the yolks, but I did my usual egg-cooking trick of putting them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. I think I left them perhaps a bit too long, as the yolks were completely solidified when I took them out. They were very easy to remove from the tin, however, and the paper peeled off easily for serving, and turned out to be an easy and delicious way to prolong the Thanksgiving celebration.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Food Thought

For generations of North Americans, knowledge about the sources of our food diminished even more rapidly than agricultural employment. Fortunately, a growing number of young  people are learning to cook, to farm, and to rebuild local food systems, and higher education is responding to the growing demand to learn more.

A recent graduate of my geography program -- who has experience on his family's organic farms -- shared a list of such programs, courtesy of the blog Sustainable Food Jobs.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beetloaf, Again?

Nov 18, 2012 FoxTrot by Bill Amend
Click to enlarge
Bill Amend is now this blog's straight man. As former beet skeptics, we have had a number of successes. Click on the beet search to scan all of our solutions for this misunderstood root vegetable. Warning: Bad puns ahead!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Completing Team Pancake

Pancake accomplishment is now part of the portfolio of all three cooks of Casa Hayes-Boh. James has tinkered for years with variations of Deborah Madison's buttermilk pancakes, making his yogurt-based version locally famous. Just last week, Pam delivered a scrumptious stack of maple-pecan pancakes to our table and this blog.

Photo: All Recipes
Paloma's pancakes looked
much better!
Today, Paloma rounded out Team Pancake with an incredibly fluffy stack of eggnog pancakes, using her smart phone for in-kitchen access to a popular recipe on All Recipes. We enjoyed the rich flavor of these cakes, which do not require toppings. Paloma did find them to be a bit "chunky," and might thin the batter with a bit more milk next time.

One tip: the recipe suggests pre-heating the griddle before starting to prepare the batter. This might be rushing things just a bit, though it is good to have the griddle hot before heating any cakes.

The griddle, by the way, is really key. We are very fortunate to have a cast-iron griddle and a fifth gas burner that makes it easy to heat it evenly.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Local Endowment

Wikimedia image of butternut squash
We ended our farm box season with a few squash on hand, and turned to Jane Brody for guidance on something new to do with the butternut -- that large, sweet, vaguely obscene member. Of the squash family. In searching for an image, I learned the local geography of the butternut's most common variety, the Waltham butternut, which was developed in Stow, Massachusetts and then introduced at the Waltham Field Station.

Looking in Brody's Good Food Book, we found "winter squash stuffed with apples and cheese" on page 401 -- these were all good ingredients we had on hand. (See all of our Jane Brody posts.) The recipe calls for two small acorn or two small butternut squashes, but we had one large butternut that was enough to feed us both.

I split it in two (as in the photo above) and scooped out the seedy part. I lightly oiled a baking sheet and placed the halves on it, flesh side down, in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. Then I sauteed a chopped apple and onion in butter. I then mixed these with ricotta cheese (replacing cottage cheese in the recipe) and some very good cheddar from Cabot. To this I added dried cranberries in place of raisins or currants. I pressed this filling into the pockets of the squash and baked another 20 minutes, flesh side up.

Pam liked this better than I did. I could see room for improvement. First, I did not cut the squash quite evenly, so taking the larger side meant that I took the somewhat half-baked side.More importantly, I do not think the ricotta cheese worked for me. It would have been better to use just the cheddar, or perhaps a mix of cheddar and Monterrey Jack. Most importantly, I used a red onion when I should have used yellow, and I should have cooked it a bit longer to caramelize and sweeten a bit.

I will definitely try this again -- either waiting for next year's harvest or perhaps with a store-bought squash. The meal fits in a good spot on the nutritious-delicious-easy-cheap trade-off matrix.

Maple Pecan Pancakes

I was tempted by this recipe  a few weeks ago when I saw it in the New York Times. The combination of nuts, cranberries, and maple syrup was just too much for me to resist, so I made it for my family for our Sunday breakfast. I had never used almond flour before, but when I discovered that it was simply ground up almonds, I figured I could make it myself using the "mix" feature on our blender. And I was right. The almond flour was combined with the whole wheat flour, baking power, baking soda and salt. Then I mixed the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. The contents of the two bowls were mixed together, then chopped pecans and dried cranberries were added.

I used plain yogurt rather than buttermilk, which made the pancakes very thick, and so they took a bit longer than usual to cook. James usually uses equal parts yogurt and plain milk when a recipe calls buttermilk. I may try that next time. Nevertheless, everyone found these very tasty.

Green Beans Simmered with Tomato

I made this recipe several weeks ago, but just never got around to writing the blog post.

Just before our first frost (about a month ago) I picked all the unripe tomatoes from my garden and wrapped them in paper to ripen in our basement. Over the past few weeks I have been able to "harvest" the ripe tomatoes little by little. I was happy to use some of them in this simple recipe, from the ever popular Deborah Madison. Sliced onions were sauteed in olive oil for about 5 minutes, to which I then added a pound of frozen green beans, 2 diced tomatoes, a minced garlic clove, and a bit of water. This was simmered until the beans were just cooked when I added some fresh sage and parsley. Everything was simmered a few minutes more and served as a savory side dish to the rather salty and completely vegetable-less frozen chicken pie we had as our main dish. We rarely eat commercial frozen food, and this was a good example as to why.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Even Better Leek & Potato Soup

A month ago, Pam made a leek and potato soup that we both enjoyed, though I enjoyed it more than she did. Even the cookbook author had deemed it "meager," and Pam agreed. We both decided that we would try it again "some time" and we had some ideas to, well, soup it up a bit.

To the sauteing leeks and potatoes at the early stage of the recipe, I added about half of a small, very hot pepper, finely minced (from Colchester Neighborhood Farm, as were the potatoes and leeks). For the liquid, I used three cups of commercial vegetable stock and four cups of local, organic, low-fat milk from Crescent Ridge.

These small changes made for a truly delicious and satisfying meal on this cool evening. The mildly piquant soup was perfectly paired with "liquid bread" in the form of home-brewed IPA.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self-Shredding Fritters

This evening's dinner drew heavily on our farm box, so credit for its deliciousness goes to the farmers and their care of the soil. After a couple of heavy, meaty (though free-range) entrees, this evening's dinner was all veggie. It was about 1 percent away from vegan, and could probably be made entirely so without any loss of flavor. Deleting the egg might, in fact, make this dish a little less gooey.

Image and more information
from Grasshopper
I started by putting a large spaghetti squash in the oven at 325 (convection) for about an hour. I then split it lengthwise, discarded the seeds, and scooped out the flesh. For those not familiar with this kind of squash, the inside is very stringy, making it ideal for fritters.

I prepared this with loose adherence to what I could remember of latke recipes, without actually looking one up. I had already skipped the one difficult part of latke preparation -- shredding the potatoes. Spaghetti squash is pre-shredded!

To the warm pile of squash, I added a couple of very small, very finely chopped onions and a small, very hot minced pepper (something like a Scotch bonnet). I then liberally applied Old Bay, black pepper, and cumin. I beat one egg in a separate bowl, and mixed it in thoroughly. To this rather wet mixture I added one cup of flour and a teaspoon of baking powder.

 I then heated our indispensable cast-iron griddle and added olive oil (repeatedly), spooning the mixture to form cakes. I kept the heat fairly high (just shy of smoking), but still these had a tendency to be wet. I cooked each one until it was sufficiently seared to turn, and then again to transfer to a platter in the still-warm oven.

The result was a bit messy but quite tasty, especially when topped with cool, organic applesauce. Home-brewed IPA was a perfect pairing for these spicy cakes. And as I write this, the satisfaction of a filling, nutritious, and flavorful meal puts us in a good mood for greeting our trick-or-treaters.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Colonel's Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops, adapted for Sandy

About a year ago I wrote a post entitled "Oddly, I'm looking forward to reading this..." about a (then) forthcoming "food autobiography" of Colonel Sanders (of KFC fame). Last week I remembered the post, and did a bit of internet searching to find out if the book had been published yet. It had. Online. And for free. The catch is, you have to "Like" KFC on Facebook to get it.  I am pretty selective about what I like on Facebook, especially anything corporate, especially corporations I don't actually like. I was given the option, though, of making my "like" not visible to others, and so I downloaded the book (184 pages, including about 50 pages of recipes). I have not yet read the autobiography part, but I did browse through the recipes and noticed Apple-Stuffed Pork Chops, and we had recently ordered pork loin chops from Crescent Ridge Farm, which delivers our milk each week. We could not even remember the last time we had pork chops it is such a rare meal in our house, so we knew we had to make it good. We also have had a lot of apples lately, delivered in our CSA farm box this month, so this recipe was a good match of our local farm deliveries. We also knew that Hurricane Sandy might have caused our power to out at any time, and the recipe calls for cooking the chops for an hour in the oven. We decided to use our covered indispensable cast-iron skillet and cook on the gas stovetop instead, which was good, because our power did go out in the middle of cooking. These did not take long to prepare, and James and I working together had them ready for cooking in about 20 minutes. I chopped the apples and onions and cooked them in butter to soften. James mixed bread crumbs and fresh parsley (he braved the storm and got it from our garden!) and cut pockets into the chops. We then combined the bread and parsley mix with the apple and onion mix and added a bit of apple sauce (the recipe called for apple juice, but we didn't have any, and were not about to go out in the storm for that.) and stuffed the chops with it. The chops were then coated with flour and placed in the hot skillet and browned on each side. Then we turned down the heat, added more apple pieces and let them cook, covered, for about an hour.  Perfect. These were tender, and tasted like autumn. Eaten by candlelight, while the winds whipped and the rains came down, and paired with a South African Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon "Le Bonheur" this meal was cozy and romantic.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Lots of almonds

Over the summer we purchased a few more cookbooks which sat on our shelf while we gave Deborah Madison a workout with our farm box fare. The farm box season is almost over, and our penultimate (I love that word!) delivery had the pleasant surprise of three kinds of lettuce. I decided to check out one of our unused cookbooks for a salad recipe, and couldn't resist looking in Jaqui Malouf's Booty Food: A Date-by Date, Course-by-Course, Nibble-by-Nibble Guide to Cultivating Love and Passion Through Food for an appropriate recipe to celebrate the mimosa tree that James had planted for me in our front yard. I found a recipe called Boston Bibb Salad with Almonds, Oranges, and Parisian Mustard Vinaigrette. Malouf explains that there is "no lettuce more sensual as silky as Boston Bibb." I have to say here that I have never heard of Boston Bibb lettuce, nor do I know if any of the kinds I used was Boston Bibb, but I live near Boston, so that should count for something, anyway.

I arranged the lettuce pieces onto two plates, and to each of these I added some almond slivers that had been toasted in butter for 3 minutes, and also divided one large peeled, sectioned, and de-membraned  orange between the two servings. The dressing was rather simple: 2T each of Dijon mustard, olive oil, and red wine vinegar, along with a bit of salt and pepper placed in a blender and mixed until creamy. This was drizzled over the salads.

We also prepared some date and almond pilaf from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home to complete the meal.

To cap off our meal we toasted our newly planted mimosa tree with some champagne mimosas. James knew I have wanted a mimosa tree ever since I was a little girl. He had to ask at quite a few nurseries before he was able to score one. He is quite romantic.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eggplant, again?

Yes, like beets, James and I have discovered a special fondness for what we previously considered to be the Rodney Dangerfield of our farm box. From James' exceptional Ratatatatouille, to our tasty eggplant/squash/tomato stifado from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and our daughter's delight at Eggplant Paremesan we now look forward to getting this funny purple vegetable in our weekly haul. Our latest  recipe discovery comes once again from Deborah Madison: Eggplant with Feta Cheese and Tomato. The name says it all. There aren't many more ingredients than what we find in the title of the recipe. The eggplant was sliced in half lengthwise, scored and fried in olive oil, cut-side down, in our indispensable cast-iron skillet until a nice golden color, then flipped over for frying for a few minutes on the other side. Removed from the pan and placed in a small casserole dish they were sprinkled with the garlic salt provided in the season's first farm box delivery (this was not called for in the recipe, but when you cook a lot, you just know what will be good!) and topped with feta. Finally, I skinned, peeled, and cooked down two large tomatoes into a chunky sauce, which was spooned on top of the feta.The eggplant was then cooked for about 40 minutes at 350 in the convection oven. These turned out to be a delightful, crispy, flavorful, and satisfying meal.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lively Green Beans

Image from The Captain's Vintage, via eBay.
See note below.
This recipe is hardly new to us, but it has been new to every person with whom we have shared it -- as we often do at potlucks. In fact, we have finally posted it here for the benefit of old and new friends who enjoyed it at the Colchester Neighborhood Farm annual potluck.

Not Your Mother's Green Beans is one of our standards from the "Mini Moosewood" which is the second-most important item on our cookbook shelf. (See our Moosewood explanatiblon or a complete list of Moosewood mentions on this blog.)

The title of the recipe refers, of course, to green-bean comfort food with which many people -- especially Southern people -- are familiar. If any vitamins, crispness, or vegetable flavor remains in traditional green beans, it is because there were not enough hours to finish cooking them -- preferably in salt and fatty bacon. The result was often welcome in a guilty-pleasure sense, but it is just not right to have green vegetables more fattening than burgers, which is where Mollie Katzen's crew comes in.

On page 82 of the Mini Moosewood is the following simple recipe.

  1. Toast 1/2 cup pine nuts (we usually use chopped walnuts) and steam 1 pound of green beans.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 large shallot or 1/4 cup chopped scallions (Pam used a leek yesterday) with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix in 2 tablespoons parsley or basil.
  3. Drain the beans, toss with dressing and nuts, and top with salt (minimal) and pepper.

This can either be served warm or chilled for at least 20 minutes. We look forward to sharing this with our friends at Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium, to see if they can recommend special suggestions for the dressing. We will post ideas here.

Now for that image: when I was about 10 or 12, my grandmother bought me (and I think my brother) a t-shirt with this design. For some reason, I loved it and wore it as often as I could for far more years than I should have. The best part: it was scratch-and-sniff. That's right; years before being a genuine foodie, I willingly walked around smelling like green beans.


Just in time for Thanksgiving 2015, NPR reported on the origins of the more traditional, gloppy version that originated 60 years ago in a lab in New Jersey, and on the academic scholarship that explore its cultural geography.

Truly Tender Chicken

For some reason, large chicken nuggets are called "tenders," no matter what their actual texture. Yesterday we prepared a roasted chicken that was truly tender. So tender, in fact, that it was easily cut with a fork.

We started with a kosher chicken from Trader Joe's. I did not take note of the weight, but I think it was about five pounds. We used the vertical roaster (about which we wrote previously in our Just Peachy post). When we bottled Baralo a few months ago, we had more wine than corks, and decided just to store the excess in the fridge as cooking wine, though it would not age properly. We filled the center chamber with some of this wine, and placed new potatoes and a chopped onion from our Colchester CSA around the sides of the pan.

Then I chopped parsley from our garden and dried sage from Colchester, whisking both into a basil olive oil, which we had also received in our farm share recently. I simply rubbed the now triply-infused oil and herbs onto the chicken. We then put the pan in the oven at 375 (convection). After an hour, the internal temperature was only 110, but after another half hour, the chicken was beautifully roasted with internal temperatures from 190 to 200.

The result was complex -- both sweet and savory -- and incredibly tender. Of course we found that properly-bottled Baralo was a perfect pairing for this light and simple meal.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Something you can do with all that squash

Once again, we turn to Deborah Madison for help in finding out what we can prepare with our farm box bounty. We received a variety of different squashes this week, including a spaghetti squash. Adapting a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone we selected a recipe that called for parsley (still growing fresh in our garden), garlic (also still have plenty from previous farm box hauls) and cheese. We began by simply putting the whole darn squash into a 375 degree oven. After one hour, we took it out and cut it in half lengthwise. The flesh was soft, and the seeds spilled out easily. We scraped the flesh out and added it to a heated pan with some butter, along with the minced garlic and parsley, as well as a red bell pepper (not part of the original recipe, but another fresh offering from our farm box.). To this we added some shredded asiago cheese, then we scrambled up some eggs to serve on the side. James and I both agreed that the garlic was a bit over powering, and the squash probably would have been better if we'd used sauteed onions instead. The dish was colorful though, and not unpleasant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Taste of Lemon

The Bridgewater, Massachusetts One Book One Community selection for the fall 2012 is The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan, the story of and Arab and a Jew, and the home they each lived in in Israel. On Saturday the One Book Steering Committee hosted our fall kick off event at the Bridgewater Public Library featuring a belly-dance performance and lesson by "Amar", and a host of tasty victuals made with lemons. My contribution was the lemon poppy treat Munn Cookies. Made with lemon juice, lemon zest, and half a cup of poppy seeds it is probably best not to try these before taking a drug test! However, for other times they are a light, crispy, and easy-to-make dessert.

Autumn Stew

We have no photo of the meal itself (beef stew is delicious but not photogenic). Instead, I staged the items that were on the table for our meal, as a reminder that centerpieces are not just for weddings! In fact, however, this lantern is repurposed from the wedding of a friend last year. We usually have a candle in it, but for the season we have filled it with miniature pumpkins from Hanson Farm  The tea lights are indeed resting on coffee beans.

Our plans for a stew on Sunday evening were delayed by an historic opportunity -- the last day of the premiere of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation in his home town of Lowell. It was an enjoyable bit of time travel -- followed by a foliage-rich and sunny drive home along I-495 and the outer western suburbs of Boston.

It meant for a somewhat rushed (two hours instead of three or four) preparation of beef stew, based loosely on a recipe by Amy Sedaris. Yes, the twisted sister of David Sedaris has a cookbook -- more of a lifestyle book -- entitled I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, and its recipes are actually safe to use!

Page 254 features "What's Your Beef, Stew?" I started by not using a pound of sirloin steak tips from Northeast Family Farms in place of the cubed chuck. This grain-fed beef arrives marinaded in ginger and teriyaki, providing an exceptionally tender and flavorful base for the stew. I browned it in olive oil as I added  several table spoons of flour (less than Sedaris called for), skipping the shake-and-bake method she suggests as well. I sauteed an onions with the beef and then added water to simmer for an hour. (Sedaris calls for more and she is correct, but we did want to eat while we were still awake!)

Then I added potatoes, more onions, and carrots, and simmered for another 45 minutes. Actually, I failed to turn down the stove, so it was more of a continued boil (covered, thankfully) than a simmer. The result, however, was a rich, flavorful broth infused with ginger and the added pepper and paprika. Pam made delicious biscuits (see our chicken chowder post). Pam used a 50/50 mix of white and wheat flour, which was perfect!

Speaking of perfect, both the biscuits and the stew were very happily paired with our own baralo, a red wine that is maturing beautifully in our basement. The pairing was made even more perfect by the fact that I included about a half cup from the wine we had set aside on bottling day. Anytime we can cook with the beer or wine we are serving, we do so. We have never regretted it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fresh Counts

Because we believe fish and meat should be eaten sparingly, we prefer to eat them -- especially fish -- less often but of really good quality. And since we have figured out how to care for fish (basically, concentrating on not drying it out), we use simple recipes that allow the quality of the fish itself to dominate.

Today Pam found a simple tuna-steak recipe on the Old Bay web site. We have been checking lately because a friend of ours does promotional work for this venerable company whose product is the national spice of Maryland. (Massachusetts might be the "Bay State," but the real Bay is the Chesapeake, as we all know).

As we've mentioned before, "fresh fish" equals "drive to Mansfield" in our house, where Fresh Catch, Inc. never fails to live up to its name. I did a few errands in the area (such as getting a PFD for my new whaling hobby), making the fish catch last so I could bring it right home to refrigeration.

When dinner time came, we combined 1/4 cup olive oil with a generous dollop of Old Bay (true Marylanders do not need to measure such things), some parsley from our garden, and the juice of two limes. I marinaded a large, fresh swordfish steak in this mixture, after piercing it a few times so that the flavor would permeate.

Then Pam began to cook potatoes from our farm box, giving just enough time for the flavors to meld. The recipe calls for use of a grill, which would have been nice in better weather, but I used our indispensable cast-iron skillet with a little bit of chipotle olive oil from our favorite oil and vinegar emporium (in Maryland, natch).

Cooking it for about 10 minutes over high heat with this simple preparation allowed the fish itself to dominate -- as tender and flavorful as it was nutritious. As I let the fish rest, Pam had mashed the potatoes with regional butter and local milk, and then remembered to retrieve the local cranberries I had prepared with decidedly non-local whiskey last week.

We very much enjoyed the meal with our home-made Chardonnay. We have recently decided, by the way, that although we very much enjoy our red wine, we are going to leave whites to our local experts.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Leek & Potato Soup

I took advantage of the leeks that came in our weekly farm box delivery to try a soup that I had been curious  about for a while. I turned to our mainstay for vegetarian cooking - Deborah Madison - for the recipe, which was so simple I felt the need to embellish it a bit. With just seven ingredients listed (in addition to water): leeks (white part only); potatoes; butter; salt and pepper & and milk. I replaced half of the water with vegetarian soup stock to give this a little more body. Madison actually uses the word "meager" in her own description. This was very easy to make. I cooked the chopped leeks and potatoes in butter for about 10 minutes in the soup pot, then added the liquid (2 cups of soup stock + 2 cups of water) and simmered for about half an hour. Then added some milk and heated again before serving. While I wouldn't exactly use the word meager, it did seem to be lacking in flavor. Next time I will use a higher proportion of soup stock, more milk, and add garlic and a few more herbs. I did learn something very important in preparing this meal: the instructions said to "set the leeks in a bowl of water to soak while you prepare the potatoes, then lift them out with a strainer, letting any sand fall to the bottom". Good thing I followed that. I had no idea. I would have been pretty disappointed if I'd ended up with gritty soup. James made some potato bread in our bread machine to go with this, which made the meal more hearty.

Milk is optional in this recipe, so it can easily be made vegan.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cranberry "Recipe" Recipe

I was about to prepare a pound of fresh cranberries that I had picked up from Hanson Farm, but I could not find any rum in the cabinet. That's right: we usually use rum. What qualifies this as a new recipe is a substitution I used for one of our standards. I also changed the preparation methods a bit, to accommodate other things I was cooking for the same meal.

The original recipe -- in the first of our two big binders of recipes -- is as follows:

  • Place one pound of fresh cranberries in your indispensable cast-iron skillet, along with two cups of sugar (brown or white). Cover with foil or lid and place in a 250-degree oven for 1 hour.
  • Add 2-1/4 cups of rum and return to oven uncovered until evaporated.
  • Stir minimally, if at all.

Lacking rum, I opened a recently-purchased bottle of Seagram's 7. For sipping, we usually have something a bit more rarefied, like a Scotch or brandy, but we keep the Seagram's around for mixing or for less refined moods.

The whole category of distilled spirits is known as "recipe" in our house, after the moonshine kept for medicinal purposes by the Baldwin sisters on the Prohibition-era television show The Waltons.

What I actually did yesterday was:

  • Placed one pound of fresh cranberries in our indispensable cast-iron saucepan, along with one cup each of brown and white sugar. Covered with lid and placed in a 300-degree oven for 30 minutes.
  • Allowed to rest on stove top for about 45 minutes while the rest of the meal cooked at a higher temperature.
  • Added 2-1/4 cups of whiskey and cooked, uncovered, on stove top until it was evaporated, or nearly so.
  • Stirred almost not at all.
Had I to do this over again -- and I will! -- I would use a bit less whiskey, as the evaporation took far too long, and was not complete at serving time.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stirring Up Mocha Cake

This week's recetas nuevas are variations on two favorite recipes of long standing, made all the better with secret ingredients from our friends at L.O.V.E. -- the Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium in Frederick, Maryland. As regular readers may know, this culinary treasure was recently established by a fellow alumna of UMBC, where Pam and I met a few years back. And don't worry: the "secret" ingredients are about to be revealed!

The first modification was a simple one. We were pleased to get some late-season eggplant, so of course made a bonus round of ratatouille (we thought we had put the season finale in the freezer a couple weeks ago). By adding a small hot pepper from our farm box and chipotle-infused olive oil from L.O.V.E. and cooking for four hours, this weapons-grade tomato stew was even more scrumptious than usual.

The genius part of the evening was the addition of dark chocolate balsamic vinegar -- along with a few other modifications -- to our favorite pound cake recipe. Our new creation is based on the Mocha-Swirl Pound Cake on page 191 of Mollie Katzen's classic Moosewood Cookbook (just try to find another two-word title with eight Os!). The result is a perfect use of Marley Coffee from Jamaica!

Our modified version requires
  • Butter (or Crisco or Pam) and flour for a Bundt pan
  • 1 pound (hence the name) of butter, softened. Yes, that is four sticks. I'm going rowing in the morning.
  • 2 cups unbleached, granulated sugar, preferably fair-trade organic, which is available from Costco, believe it or not!
  • 6 eggs, preferably from a local chicken. Ours were from Hanson Farm.
  • 4 cups white flour (use the healthy stuff on another recipe)
  • 1 Tbs. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup Buffalo Soldier Marley Coffee, strongly brewed. I used medium-roasted La Orchidea from my friend's farm in Nicaragua, because I did not have time to order the Marley Coffee, but I think the medium-dark Buffalo Soldier would be even better for this recipe! (Reserve the rest of the pot of coffee -- I used a Chemex -- to serve with the cake.)
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla (also available from Costco, by the way)
  • 1/2 of a 3.5-ounce Ibarra Mexican chocolate disk, which lends just a hint of cinnamon  The next time I plan to use exotic pepper from Madécasse, which I happened to try the day after making this, and I think it would be even better. Melt the chocolate in microwave or on stove top.
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs. dark chocolate balsamic vinegar (see above)
To prepare, first make the batter:
  • Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat eggs into mixture, two at a time.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Alternate mixing dry ingredients and coffee into the butter mixture, until blended. Do not beat or over-mix.
Then prepare to swirl:
  • Separate one-third of the batter to a small bowl, blend in melted chocolate.
  • Prepare Bundt pan with butter and flour and pour in plain batter.
  • Dollop chocolate batter in clumps onto pan, and then use a knife to swirl gently into the plain batter. 
Bake and glaze:
  • Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes, or less if using convection. Remove to wire rack to cool, and overturn gently onto a plate, using a spatula if necessary.
  • Meanwhile, sift confectioners sugar and whisk in 2 Tbs. chocolate vinegar. It will be difficult at first, but avoid the temptation to add too much liquid. Eventually, a thick glaze will form, which will drip off the whisk. Use this to drizzle glaze onto upright cake.
  • Use bread or cake knife to slice modest servings -- this is rich cake!
  • Garnish with espresso beans and/or mocha chips (ours were from Hilliard's)

Serve with Marley Coffee and try to contain yelps of true bliss, as the tart glaze melts perfectly into the rich mocha cake!

UPDATE: Having a professional photographer involved in the baking means a lot of cool shots of Stirring Up Mocha Cake in progress. Enjoy!

FURTHER UPDATE: We actually won this contest!

We were modifying a fairly complicated recipe, so all members
of the team had to study the original version!
Yes, a pound cake does have a full pound of butter.
But not in each slice!
It's all about Jamaica.
Jamaica, coffee, and chocolate, that is!
The chef hat does not help the coffee,
but hand grinding does!
While going to the trouble of baking
from scratch and using good Marley Coffee,
one might as well use a Chemex or
other pour-over brewing method.
Two hats are better than one for adding the coffee!
Coffee-infused batter!

And the cocoa batter

Swirl the two batters -- with and without cocoa.

Dark Chocolate Basalmic Vinegar glaze is the secrete ingredient.
The final presentation -- with espresso and mocha chips!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A tale of two salads

The type food we get in our farm box haul varies quite a bit as the season moves along, and changes from year to year as well. We are still occasionally getting beets, and last week also received some peaches and pears, things we had not gotten in previous years. I did some searching on to find out what I could build with these ingredients and found two delicious salads.

I made some changes to the, Roasted Beet, Peach, and Goat Cheese Salad, to incorporate ingredients we already had on hand, but was pleased to be able to use the beets and the peaches in one dish. I followed the instructions to roast the beets until I could easily remove the skin. I used more than the recipe called for as ours were rather small, ditto for the peaches, which I cut into small chunks. I added these to a mix of farm greens, lettuce, and herbs from my garden. I substituted a diced onion for the shallots, and included the feta and pistachios as suggested. Rather than make the vinaigrette recommended, I simply sprinkled some of our peach balsamic vinegar from the LOVE Emporium. It was a perfect use for it. A wonderful salad with ingredients I would not have thought to put together. And it tasted great paired with a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Milbrant vineyards of  the Columbia Valley of Eastern Washington.

The pears were well used in the Curried Cashew, Pear, and Grape Salad. After toasting the cashews I mixed them with the melted butter, curry powder, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. I did not have fresh rosemary, so a used dry, which worked out fine. Again, I used a mix of greens and added the seasoned cashews, the cooked bacon, sliced pears and grapes. I tossed it all with the honey/mustard dressing included with the recipe. This was sweet, tangy, and salty, with a rich variety of textures.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Parm Perfection

Nueva Receta has been a bit quiet of late, as our late summer has had us enjoying some familiar recipes and more than our usual amount of dining out, during a lot of short family trips far from our recipe shelf. But now we are back in our culinary groove, and our attention returns to, yes, eggplant.

Over the weekend, we enjoyed a terrific end-of-summer party with friends who shared all kinds of local bounty. Our contribution included our raspberry whitbeer and the first bottle of our Barolo -- which turned out very well indeed, and is expected to get even better --  any my second batch of weapons-grade ratatouille of the year.

Because our daughter became very fond of eggplant Parmesan, my attention the next day turned to that vegetarian mainstay. I have seen her enjoy it at quite a few restaurants and though my previous attempts have been less than stellar, I decided to try again, with particular attention to texture. As regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn, I turned once again to kitchen goddess Deborah Madison, only slightly modifying her recipe on page 279 of Vegetarian Cooking for All.

I do not want to give the impression that cheese is always the route to bliss in Madison's pages, but it did once again contribute to the success of this dish.

I started with one large eggplant from Hanson Farm -- about as local as possible. It was fresher than anything from the grocery store would be, but it did take me a couple of days to get to this recipe. So where Madison writes that the slices (1/3-inch) should be salted for 30 to 60 minutes unless the eggplant is farm fresh, I decided to compromise. I very lightly salted the slices on both sides and left them out for 15 minutes while packing up the car for said daughter's return to school (this was to be a farewell dinner).

I then blotted them, remembering an overly salty try at this recipe last year, and brushed both sides with olive oil. I placed them under the broiler, first a bit close, then a bit far, then back close, until both sides were browned, almost charred. It is the nature of eggplant that they never got crisp (as they might if I had let the salting go longer), but I got them to a nice, caramelized state.

Meanwhile, I had mixed a small can of tomato paste with a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce, in lieu of the fresh tomato sauce that Madison calls for. As this heated, I stirred in slivers of basil cut directly from our garden. I then brushed a very small amount of oil into a baking pan, spooned in some of the sauce, and layered the semi-charred eggplant -- I had just one layer, but more would have been great. Over this I sprinkled shredded mozzarella (Madison recommends slices of fresh mozz if available) and spooned over the remaining sauce.

And then, of course, I sprinkled some cheese from our friends in Parma, grateful that the earthquake earlier this year did not get it all! I then baked for 25 minutes at 475 (convection), so that the sauce itself became sweet and sticky, along with the cheese. I had managed not to exceed the recipe's cheese parameters -- as I am often tempted to do -- but the meltiness made this dish just perfect for our daughter's sendoff.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Fitting Celebration

On this day 10 years ago the Smithsonian Institution opened a new exhibit - Julia Child's kitchen. This week (on August 15) the original television chef (and master of slow food) would have celebrated her 100th birthday. Restaurants and foodies around the world celebrated with good food and good cheer. For our part, we prepared Coulis de Tomates À La Provençale (Tomato Sauce with Mediterranean Flavors) which was shared in the New York Times article "The Gifts She Gave".

I followed the recipe with a few substitutions. I used the herbs that came from our farm box, which may or may not have included everything called for in the "herb bouquet," (I do know for sure I used a bay leaf because I took it off my spice rack) nor was my bouquet tied up in cheesecloth - I simply picked out the herbs after cooking. Neither did I use sugar or an orange peel - I figured a dash of Triple Sec would suffice for both. I also opted not to use the tomato paste. It seemed silly to use canned paste when almost everything else I used was fresh. I don't imagine Julia would have thought much of the store-bought spinach /cheese ravioli we put the sauce on, but the pasta really turned out to be just a vessel for getting this rich, savory, sauce to our taste buds.

Today is also an important milestone for our family: it is our daughter's 15th birthday. There is no celebration here, however, as our progeny is away from home is exploring China this month. We look forward to learning about her travels when she returns at the end of the week.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


"Hello, professor," I heard over my shoulder as I walked into the new Homebrew Emporium in Weymouth. I have learned not to be too surprised at being recognized when I'm out and about, but I really did not expect to encounter a student in this little warehouse of a store. When I turned around, I recognized a student -- don't worry, well into his 20s -- from a class I had taught last fall. And I remembered that the student and I had traded -- not in class, again don't worry -- bottles of our home-brewed efforts. He is a bit more accomplished as a brewer than I am (this is not coffee, after all), so it all made sense, once I got my bearings.

Perfect timing, as we just
saw Blueman Group
on Sunday!
And I was glad to find him there, because I was on a bit of a mission. More than a decade ago, our first visit to Firefly's Bodacious BBQ (a regional chain with fiery food that we do not often find in New England) was also Pam's first encounter with Wachusett Blueberry Ale -- from a relatively new microbrewery near the center of our adopted state. We were delighted at the simple innovation of putting blueberries (known in our household as blubes) in the beer, where the rising bubbles rolled them like little lottery balls or some kind of strange aquarium.

Although that beer is still made, it is off the menu at Firefly's. I am not really so much a fruit-beer person, but since my sweetheart -- and brewing assistant is -- I decided this spring that it was high time to try my hand. So I entered the warehouse with a vague interest in making some blueberry beer, but no clue how to do it. After talking over some options with my former student, we devised the "recipe" that follows.

We started with a Witbier kit from Brewer's Best, which the manufacturer describes as "A classic white ale brewed with wheat, barley, orange peel and coriander. It is lightly hopped and fermented with Safbrew WB-06 resulting in a fruity, spicy, refreshing beer with a dry finish." I must admit I used a standard yeast in place of the Safbrew because I once ruined a batch with fancy yeast, and though I understand why, I'm still a little cautious.

So, I brewed this, adding four ounces of blueberry extract along with the priming sugar when we bottled about three weeks ago. For the premiere, I went looking for local blueberries, which I've seen recently, but which are starting to be in short supply. I was pleased, therefore, to get some blueberries from Hilltop Farm in Blandford, Massachusetts.


I had written most of the foregoing when I started to have a little tickle of a doubt in the back of my mind. After all this great, blog-worthy prelude, was I brewing with the wrong berry? Just before we opened the first two beers -- with the blubes on the table next to a local farm-box dinner -- I mentioned that this might in fact be raspberry beer. We dumped the blubes in anyway, and got to watch them swim around. Then we tested, and I had my doubts. Pam -- who has better taste than I -- both literally and figuratively -- confirmed that in my indecision back in that warehouse, I had gone with the raspberry extract..I think I did so because a four-ounce bottle would be about 2/3 the recommended strength, which sounded like a good compromise.

The outcome was all good -- the beer was perfectly conditioned and delicious. Sometimes even a successful beer has not developed enough pressure by the first time we open it, but this was just right -- a good head of foam and a sweet/tart flavor that made a nice berry medley!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Yet another way to prepare beets

The beets keep showing up in the CSA farm box, and we keep finding uses for them. This weeks "nueva receta" is Beets 'n' Sweets ("sweets" refers to sweet potatoes, which we had to buy, the rest of the ingredients we had on hand). We used onion and garlic salt from the farm box, and used up the chipotle olive oil from L.O.V.E.  Once again, the roasting did a good job carmelizing the beets (as well as the onions and sweet potatoes) which made them sweetly satisfying.We served this over brown rice.One review of this recipe on says "If you think you don't like beets, you're wrong!" This is now the third time in a row I have been proven wrong.

I must say that yesterday was not really an especially good day to have the oven on for almost an hour, though.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

More about beets (and shrimp, too!)

Last week's farm box pick-up featured more beets. As James tells us in his We Got the Beet post, finding recipes for beets that are pleasing to our pallets can be a difficult test for us. Rising to the challenge, however, I found a recipe for Roasted Beets with Feta on It turned out to be a perfect recipe for us in several ways - first we had all the ingredients (once we substituted a farm-box onion for the shallot, and improvised with the variety of herbs we got from the box as well) second, it was quite tasty! Roasting the beets gave them a nice caramelized sweetness. And they were such a beautiful shade of deep red. We ate this as a side dish to our main course, Shrimp Cake Bites which was posted by Old Bay Seasoning on Facebook. I used way more than the 1 t. of Old Bay called for though. I just added until I thought it seemed like enough. The cilantro came right from my garden. I also had no idea what almond flour was, but it seemed to work fine to just put slivered almonds into the blender with the rest of the ingredients. I also used chipotle olive oil (from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium) to fry, rather than coconut oil. The cakes turned out very spicy, which is just the way James and I like our sea food. Regular readers of this blog know that I do not have a food processor, and instead use a blender whenever a food processor is called for. I will admit that this combination of food did present a challenge for our blender, but undaunted, I kept mixing the concoction in short bursts and stirring until everything was mixed to the right consistency for making the cakes.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's all about the blender

A few days ago my friend Nikki posted a recipe for Cucumber Gazpacho with Spiced Croutons on Facebook, and since it is cucumber season (see my previous post) I decided to give it a try. I made a few adjustments to the recipe as posted. I peeled and diced four small cucumbers, added the juice of one lime, one peeled and diced avocado, one small diced onion, some garlic scrape I had frozen earlier in the CSA season, one seeded and chopped jalapeno pepper, and a bunch of fresh herbs (I don't know what they all were, they came in a bundle from my CSA farm box - I am pretty sure it included parseley, mint, and sage, but I don't know what else), and finally some olive oil. All was placed in the blender and set to "liquefy". I let is mix for quite a while, scraping the sides of the blender occasionally, and added more olive oil, but it never did become "a liquid". Eventually I figured it was good enough and put it in the 'fridge to chill for about an hour. We skipped the croutons, but did top it with some plain yogurt and garlic salt. It was velvety smooth, and loaded with flavors, but was more like eating dip than soup. Something I noticed in both of the cold cucumber soups I made was that "the total time" given in the recipes for preparing these dishes don't seem to account for actually doing the seeding, dicing and chopping called for in the recipes. For those who don't have a prep chef working in their kitchens, you will need about 20-25 minutes for this step.

For dessert we made the Raspberry Key Lime Cheesecake Milkshake. I cannot remember how we found out about this, but have been waiting for when we could find some good, fresh raspberries to make it, which we did (this along with the fact that we already had some vanilla ice cream in the freezer made it a good night to try it). I got to use the special "milkshake" attachment for our blender for the first time, and used the "milkshake" button. I pretty much followed the recipe as written for this one. All the flavors came through, and it was perfectly mixed, thanks to the proper devices! Smooth and creamy with a bit of tang. Yum.
Milkshake attachment

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mole L.O.V.E.

During a recent visit to Frederick, Maryland, we found ourselves slurping vinegar straight from little sample cups -- a lot of them! What inspired such strange behavior? The delicious balsamics and infusions of L.O.V.E. -- The Lebherz Oil & Vinegar Emporium, that is.

We learned of the shop from our UMBC alumni magazine -- the shop was founded by the delightful Maggie Lebherz, a recent graduate of the Spanish program from which Pam graduated a few years back. Our visit was even more enjoyable and interesting than we expected. We learned that -- as with coffees and teas -- oils and vinegars can be special either because of special origins and preparation or because they are infused with other flavors.

Samples in the Emporium are free but fine oils and vinegars are expensive, so we had to choose carefully. Fortunately, Maggie mentioned a tantalizing recipe that employs the most decadent vinegar in the shop: 12-year-old dark chocolate basalmic. The recipe in question is Lebherz' own version of chicken with mole (MOH-lay) sauce.

As I mentioned in my Champandongo Magic post last November, I have been a sucker for mole poblano, after first having it in the summer of 1989 on the flanks of Popocatepetl, near its birthplace. "Poblano" refers to the Valley of Puebla, arguably the hearth of mole and of maize. I use "arguably" because the neighboring state of Oaxaca has competing claims on both, and according to a food-travel article in today's Boston Globe, it is home to at least seven kinds of mole!

A few restaurants in our area serve mole, but always as an enchilada sauce or over boneless chicken breast, rather than the bone-in turkey or chicken that Moctezuma intended. For me, that original mole was served over a turkey I had seen wandering around the kitchen only hours before, prepared by ladies who spoke only Nahuatl!

In gathering ingredients for the Lebherz version of mole, we were fortunate enough to have cooking chocolate from Castillo Cacao in Matagalpa, and we were even more fortunate that Pam remembered this fact.

Moles vary, and mine varied even a bit more, with thees slight modifications to the recipe:
  1. Because almonds are mentioned in the directions but not listed in the ingredient list, I guestimated that 1/3 cup of slivered almonds would work. 
  2. The biggest gumption trap that led me to delay making my first mole sauce by two decades was the need to roast peppers. This should have made the listing of one ordinary green pepper welcome news, but instead I was determined to employ this new skill. I was therefore pleased to see passilla chiles in a local grocery, even though I had to go to a separate store for corn tortillas. I roasted them according to the method I mentioned in my Busy Kitchen post last month, along with a half of a jalapeño we had on hand.
  3. The recipe calls for olive oil, for which I substituted Chipotle Olive Oil, also from L.O.V.E.
  4. Finally, the recipe calls for light rum, which we do not usually keep around. I almost substituted aged, dark rum from Nicaragua for a bit more complexity, when I had an even more brilliant (in my mind) idea: Kahlua.
I did not take any photos of the final product -- I expected it to taste much better than it looked, and I was correct -- but I did make a little still life of some of the more colorful ingredients (including the oil and vinegar and a beautiful onion from Colchester) during preparation.

I increased everything in the recipe slightly by about half, both so we could be sure to have enough for guests and so that we could have leftovers. I think I added more broth than necessary; in any case the result was more like a stew than a sauce -- a happier spot along the mole continuum for Pam, but thinner than I would have preferred.

The result was not as photogenic as the tableau above, but it was certainly delicious, served with rice, warmed corn tortillas, and of course beer. It was even better on subsequent days. We finished the chicken but have some sauce left over (yes, leftovers of leftovers), which I hope to fashion into some sort of champandongo.

If I ever find a source to a proper assortment of fresh chiles, I will try the Puebla-style recipe on Epicurious, perhaps modifying it to include the Lebherz secret ingredient. The sad assortment of peppers in our local markets make this highly unlikely, unless I treat the ingredients list as a shopping list for next winter's seed catalogs.

Which I might just do.