How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spaghetti with tomatoes, bacon and onions

Last week we bought some bacon in order to make some of our favorite sandwiches (bacon with cheddar and red pepper jelly). Since we did not use all of it, I thought about making another round of Spaghetti with Butter, Parmesan, and Browned Bacon which I remembered enjoying last summer, but then it occurred to me that the 365 Ways to Cook Pasta cookbook probably had more than one recipe that called for bacon. And it turns out I was right (but who's surprised?). Listed in the "Emergency Dinners" portion of the book, which has recipes that can be made in 30 minutes of less (as long as you have everything on the "staples" list on hand) I found Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Bacon and Onions. I wasn't really in an "emergency" situation, but I was in the state commonly known as "pretty tired", and this recipe wasn't too taxing, and didn't take very long. I started by cutting the bacon into small pieces and cooking it in the indispensable cast-iron skillet. When it was brown, I removed the bacon, and left just a tad of its liquid into the indispensable cast-iron sauce pan. To this, I added one small, chopped onion, one minced garlic clove, a can of organic diced tomatoes, and a bit of fresh ground pepper and cooked over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile I cooked the spaghetti, and grated some Parmesan cheese. When the spaghetti was cooked and drained it was placed on our colorful dishes, and topped with the sauce and cheese. This was simply scrumptious. We enjoyed this dish with "The Other" wine - a blend of merlot, shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon.The delicious smell of this dish is still lingering in my house almost 24 hours later.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bottling Baralo

Just over two months ago, we embarked on what is probably our most ambitious new recipe yet. After nearly two years of brewing beers and ales, we decided to try wine. In one sense, it is easier, since no cooking is involved, but the stuff is rather more finicky than beer, so I was nervous.

As with the beer, we work from a kit, so this is really a paint-by-number activity for us so far. Mostly care in cleaning and measuring are needed, along with a tremendous amount of patience. After all, what is technically wine today will not be ready for real enjoyment for three to six months. For our first batch, we prepared Baralo from a kit from winexpert. We did not know this grape, but it had many positive reviews, and I later learned from a local wine seller that it is considered a fairly high-end wine. I hope our effort does it justice.

We followed a kit recipe, variously blending, racking, and storing the liquid as it was transformed from juice to wine. Tonight, we siphoned the wine out of a 6-gallon carboy, filling 30 bottles and sealing them with our new floor corker. Cleaning bottles was the most difficult part, as the labels were often much harder to remove than beer labels. We managed to fill all the bottles with very little spillage, and learned some tricks that will make it a bit easier next time, when we put up some Chardonnay. As a white wine, we expect it to develop more quickly than the Baralo once it is bottled. It also will not last as long, so we might have used -- and shared -- much of our second batch before this first batch is ready to enjoy late in the year.

Those interested in either hobby will find a lot of support from fellow enthusiasts, as home production of both kinds of beverages seems to be growing, and the experienced folks are generally quite willing to help novices. Local supply shops are a great source of information, ingredients, and the various tubes and buckets that make it all work. I also like two of the major online suppliers -- Northern Brewer and Beer & Wine Hobby. Each offers a number of books and magazines, their own know-how and of course those ingredients and supplies. The warehouse for Beer & Wine Hobby is just north of Boston in Woburn, Massachusetts, and I had a very enjoyable visit there last week to buy a wine rack and the juice for that next Chardonnay.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Simple Adobo

I've been confused about the word "adobo" for a while, and I still am. I do now at least realize that it seems to be two completely different things. I had noticed something in the grocery aisles by this name, but also noticed some dishes resembling stews using the same name. The former is available in several varieties from Goya and Badia. The latter is appears to be an entire category of Filipino cuisine. I'm still not sure whether there is a direct connection between the two, but I did manage to make a simple chicken adobo for this week's nueva receta.

This was a week in which our blog project really did push us forward a bit. We were not as crazy-busy as we had been the week before, but we did get to the end of the week before realizing that we had wimped out quite a bit, and had not yet cooked anything new. We turned once again to Extending the Table, which we have cited at least five previous times. It seems to have the right balance between diversity and adventure on the one hand and a reasonable level of simplicity on the other.

On page 227 is a recipe that calls for simply boiling the following together in a pot:
A three-pound chicken, cut up
1/2 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup vinegar (not specified -- I used apple cider vinegar)
1-2 cloves crushed garlic
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper corns

Being only two diners, we used two chicken breast fillets -- just under a pound -- and reduced the other ingredients by half. I brought all to boil, covered, and then simmered until cooked through. I then continued simmering, uncovered. I was supposed to let the sauce reduce by half, but toward the end I underestimated how quickly it was reducing, and ended up with something more like a paste than a sauce. We served this with plain, hot basmati rice. The result was quite savory, especially given the simplicity of the ingredient list, and the chicken relatively tender. I think it would have benefited from using bone-in breasts to add a little fat to the sauce, and even more important would have been to stop the cooking a bit earlier.

Simply Scrumptous

This hardly qualifies as a "nueva" recipe, but it is one of those Hayes-Boh staples that the rest of the world should know about. And of course there is a little story. Last night I was wondering -- hoping -- if today there might be a pancake breakfast. As we wrote just about a year ago, we love these local fund-raisers that put us in touch with neighbors and support good causes near and far.

This morning over our morning coffee I reported -- and lamented -- that my late-night perusal of local news sources revealed that my hopes had been misplaced. And our kitchen was too full of wine bottles -- we are hoping to bottle our first batch later today and need thirty sanitized bottles -- to even contemplate my own famous pancakes.

Pam saved the day by offering to make French toast. We have published a few variations on this throughout our blog, but today she whipped up one of our old favorites. Each serving consists of two slices of cinnamon-raisin bread, held together with cream cheese. This is dipped in the egg/milk mixture and cooked like a very thick piece of French toast. It is quick and just delicious!

Lagniappe (June 24, 2018)

Our local farmers market in Fairhaven (at the high school, this year on Saturdays 10-4) has reopened for the season, so we stopped at one of our favorite tables, that of Cyd's Creative Kitchen. This morning I used Cyd's raisin sour dough and some Greek Cream Cheese for a most delicious version of the French-toast sandwich described above. In the egg mixture, I had added a bit of cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder, and Triple Sec. While the toast was cooking on the first side, I gently stabbed each piece a few times and even more gently poured some of the remaining batter into the toast, allowing to cook in some before flipping. Waste not, want not!
This went very well with rolled butter, genuine maple syrup, Greek yogurt, and of course fair-trade, organic coffee from Colombia by way of Dean's Beans.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

I thought of using a clever title that refers to this being an Old Faithful recipe on our Nueva Receta blog, but I chose a simple title in hopes that people can find this, one of our very favorite recipes. It is healthy, high-fiber, vegetarian, and easily made vegan. It comes -- as so many good things do -- from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast and Easy Recipes for Any Day, which visitors to our home know simply as "Mini Moosewood."

I have prepared this so often that I cannot even be sure how far it may have departed from the original in its details. I can tell you that it requires an indispensable cast-iron skillet and a cast-iron griddle or large pan.

It works like this, in two stages.

First, peel and then shred some sweet potatoes (or yams; please tell me if you honestly know the difference) as you heat up some oil in the pan. A serious shredder such as the one I mention in my "Gratin" article will pay for itself with this dish. Quantity? Whatever makes sense, plus a bit. I usually do one fairly large one for the two of us. Add to the hot oil and then add a diced onion. Add minced garlic if you are not forgetful (as I was this evening, but accidentally compensated with a garlic salsa). Add cayenne, chili powder, and cumin in abundance (all three, that is). Mini Moosewood says to cook it in one flat layer and scrape/flip it only once to avoid absorbing too much oil, but with a good olive oil, I don't see the point.

Second, assemble this with on the best tortillas (one big one each, or a couple of small ones) as you heat a small amount of oil on a griddle or in a large skillet. Having rinsed and dried the shredder (or using another face of it), shred a generous helping of cheese. I use the sharpest cheddar at hand (usually from Cabot cooperative in Vermont) and sometimes a bit of Monterrey Jack (also usually from Cabot). This evening we used aged Lite Sharp Celtic Cheddar and Monterrey Jack, both from Trader Joe's, to very good effect. With the sweet potato mixture on one half of each tortilla and the cheese on top of that, fold each one over and put on the hot griddle, flipping when browned. Top with a good salsa (we used Green Mountain Gringo garlic this evening, but any good salsa will do) and either sour cream or plain yogurt.

As if this were not enough, tonight we added a third step, which was Pam's brilliance: sangria. I once scoffed at sangria as too sweet, but in the right circumstances, it is amazing -- and thrifty! Tonight it was Madria Sangria ("Tradicional/Fresh Citrus") with a chopped apple and a bit of Triple Sec. It was a good excuse to bring out our sangria pitcher and matching mugs (from Nantucket's best thrift shop) and the first outdoor dining of the season at Casa Hayes-Boh.
Yes, our sangria kit matches our cookie jar.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Coffee Sirloin

We are always busy during the academic year, but the past week has been busier than usual, with outreach programs on many subjects for many audiences. Still, we eat dinner at home almost every night. Readers of this blog will know that we are not "box food" people, and will not be surprised that we do our best to avoid fast food, especially if we are at home. (We do sometime cheat and order a pizza, and did so once during the past week.)

Knowing the hectic schedule, we made a simple plan for quick dinners this week, and that plan involved Fresh Catch in Mansfield, a choice we find ourselves making a bit more frequently since this project began. Oddly enough, we visit this meat and fish store as part of our effort to reduce our consumption of meat, both for our own health and that of the planet. We sometimes skip meat for days or weeks (Pam does not eat it with breakfast at all), but we do not see ourselves giving it up altogether. We have decided to make it count when we do have it, which is why this blog from a low-meat family has a lot of good meat recipes on it.

On Tuesday I picked up locally-caught cod (real cod, not "scrod") for quick, simple, and delicious pan-fried fillets. I simply dipped the cod in a mixture of egg, milk, and Tabasco and then dredged it in a mixture of flour, corn meal, and Old Bay. At the same time, I got two small, thick sirloin steaks, with the intention of using a recent gift from my mother -- Cowboy Blend with Coffee Steak Rub from Rancher's Reserve (a private label of Safeway).

Between classes, advising, and our huge Kony 2012 event last night, there was just enough time to steam some frozen green beans -- the last item from our 2011 Colchester farm box -- and prepare the steaks. This was simple -- just brush on olive oil and rub in the mix. A grill would have been nice, but starting with high heat and reducing to medium-high, these steaks were done very nicely in about ten minutes. I err on the side of well-done, and I did not give these the rest time that they deserve. But for stove-to-plate timing, this was quite savory, and sustained me through a bit of a hectic evening in the public arena.

I had prepared coffee steak in the past, trying to replicate something the former chef at Westport Rivers had demonstrated when she hosted a special dinner with Equal Exchange. That evening a few years ago, she used very dark coffee and black pepper, and I believe the steak was paired with a stainless-steel Chardonnay. On my previous attempt, I used too much pepper, partially curing the meat before grilling, so it was very dry. This time the commercial rub was more sweet than spicy, and the coffee not nearly so dark. Still, we paired it with the biggest red we had in the house, a 2010 Pinot Noir we purchased last year at Travessia in New Bedford. This region is not known for reds, as the growing season is too short, but this one has reasonably good body and complexity, and paired nicely with the mildly spicy and sweet steak.

What to do at the end of a hectic week? At the time of this writing, there is no plan. As she left the house to celebration National Library Week in Boston, Pam said something that we almost never say around here: "There is almost no food in this house." We are grateful that this was not literally true, of course, but it does mean that dinner tonight will require some quick thinking -- or a bit more cheating!

A bit of wine haiku by Marco Montez appears on the Pinot label:

Parker sips my red
light body low alcohol
spits, screams: fifty points!


Monday, April 9, 2012

Pasta with asparagus, lemon, and herbs

Last Tuesday James posted Class of Ambition in which he recounts having his students over to our house to cook and dine with us. I noticed we still had aspargus in the refrigerator, leftover from this lofty endeavor, and set out to find a recipe to use them up before they spoiled. Once again Deborah Madison to the rescue! Not only did this recipe call for asparagus, also listed among the ingredients were scallions, another vegetable that was waiting to be used in our refrigerator. This dish was a bit complicated. There were a lot of ingredients and I needed to do a bit of chopping, sautéeing and boiling. Scallions, lemon zest, and herbs (including dried thyme, and sage) were sautéed in butter and olive oil. Meanwhile, the asparagus was cut and placed in boiling water for three minutes. Then the asparagus was added to the skillet with the scallions, etc. and the spaghetti was put into the same water the asparagus came from. Chopped walnuts, along with fresh parsley and chives (from my yard!) were added to the skillet while the pasta cooked. Once the pasta was ready, it too, went into the skillet. I did not drain the pasta thoroughly as the recipe said to "add it to the pan with some of the water clinging to the strands." All was mixed together, divided onto plates and topped with parmesan cheese. This was very tasty, and the nuts added a good texture as well as some extra protien.

To completely complicate things, I also prepared fettuccini alfredo while I was making this. My daughter was unwilling to try this one.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Know Your Breakfast

Today started off with a cup that was hardly local, but whose producer is well known to us and many of our friends. I have visited the biodynamic farm of Byron Corrales several times, including this January. When I purchased his Maracaturra coffee for yesterday's coffee tasting on campus, I got some extra for home -- a perfect way to start the day.

Not just some hens --
THESE hens!
When it was time for breakfast, I toasted some apple bread I purchased yesterday, directly from the proprietress of Great Cape Baking in nearby Plymouth. She had been one of about twenty vendors on the Just Trade side of our event.

Then I cracked some eggs from Hanson Farm, a couple miles from our house. Every egg we purchase there helps to conserve open space in our town, as this hard-working family has chosen to farm rather than to sell out their land. The farm also hosts the town's interfaith Easter sunrise service, so my band will be singing there bright and early on Sunday morning.

I started an omelet -- cooked in butter from the Cabot cooperative in Vermont, and shredded some cheese from the same group of family farms that conserve rural open space to our north. I did so in an indispensable cast-iron skillet from Vermont Country Store, which also does a lot to protect the rural landscape which we occasionally visit to enjoy and study. I did not get the timing on the omelet quite right, so ended up doing exactly what our nephew does in this breakfast video, only with better ingredients and a better pan.

At our house, eggs that do not come from the hens at Hanson usually come from our friend Lori -- well, her hens. Lest we sound too pious, not ever meal or every morning turns out to be this idyllic; and it is a perfect opportunity to poke a little fun at our own earnestness, courtesy of Portlandia. Two different friends mentioned this scene to us recently, purely a random coincidence, I'm sure:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Super-Talented Nephew Strikes Again

Our nephew, Joe, co-wrote the lyrics and stars in this fun food/music video: Omlet in the Pan

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Class of Ambition

Each spring semester, I teach a course called Geographic Frameworks for future teachers of geography. I treat the course as an adventure in learning how to find geographic lessons in just about any context. To help keep variety in the course year to year, connect the students to the broader community, and ensure some depth in the conversation, I usually build the course around the current selection of the One Book One Community program that takes place twice each year in our town and campus.

This semester, the book chosen is Ben Hewitt's The Town that Food Saved, about efforts to promote local and regional food in a northern Vermont town. The book itself would not really be suitable for the students these future teachers hope to work with -- mainly elementary -- but it explores many interesting aspects of the geography of food that are ideal for teaching students of any age.

In our conversations about how we would involve children in lessons about their connections to food, the idea of preparing food with students has been a recurring theme, so we decided to try it as a class. Fortunately, the class is small and -- more importantly -- has great camaraderie. So I was willing to suggest bringing the entire class of five to our house to prepare a meal together. (It is also fortunate that Pam had already undertaken something similar with a larger group in the winter -- they ended up creating an entire blog about the experience at Como Agua Para Chocolate Recetas

Since our class meets only twice a week and since we put this plan together rather hastily, menu planning was not as integral as it probably should have been. I did bring in a few of our many cook books for some preliminary discussion. We identified a few kind of dishes we were interested in trying, and figured out foods we needed to avoid. But in the end, I hastily chose three dishes, consulting a bit with Pam. The students then arrived a bit ahead of the official 3:20 start time and stayed a bit past the 4:35 end time, so that we prepared and enjoyed the meal in about two hours.

The students arrived with a mix of nerves and curiosity, and a range of cooking experience. We started with popcorn from Hanson Farm (an ear of corn, microwaved in a paper bag), and then got to work. Every student jumped right in to the process, however, dividing up to concentrate on the three recipes I had chosen -- a warm pasta salad, a grilled-cheese sandwich, and a frittata. I mainly provided tips on where to find things, and answered a few how-to questions along the way. Each dish ended up having one or two students who focused on it, but students also helped with other dishes, especially as some required a bit more time than others. Over all, though, the timing of the meal worked out amazingly well!

The recipe for Pasta Salad with Grilled Marinaded Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas comes from 365 Ways to Cook Pasta, which followers of this blog will recognize as a favorite stand-by in this house, though we had not tried this recipe before. This book must have the longest titles of any cookbook we own -- more an ingredient list than a title! The delicious grilled cheese is The Wisconsinite (in honor of our Cheese Head cousins) from grilled cheese, please!, another new recipe from one of our household standards. We found the frittata recipe in the Brockton Enterprise, our regional daily newspaper that is a remarkably good source of recipes.

(Note: My students are not fuzzy, though my camera phone is!)

The Wisconsonite grilled-cheese sandwich includes Colby cheese (the recipe calls for this plus blue cheese, but we all agreed to skip the latter) and a blend of cranberry sauce and Dijon mustard. Marbled-rye and shredded cheese were used, to delicious effect!
The frittata was a bit unusual, calling for a base made of potatoes. The Gruyere  cheese  was tart, contrasting with the smoked ham and asparagus.
The pasta salad called for pasta, marinated chicken strips, and steamed pea pods. We used pea pods from last year's CSA -- the last bit was in the freezer -- and hormone-free chicken from Paula Dean (of all people). Reading the recipe this morning,, I could see that the marinating process was a potential bottleneck, so I prepared that part of the meal ahead of the students' arrival. That one piece being completed allowed for the entire meal to come together at roughly the same time, though the frittata took a bit longer than the other two dishes.
The result: Some good lessons about teaching and cooking ... and a very satisfying meal. In fact, the students were so full that they refused the offer of dessert from nearby Peaceful Meadows.


Just before the students arrived for the meal, I noticed this photo online -- sorry, no location or citation at this time -- and I offer this colorful "tire farm" as a lagniappe to the students who participated. The week before, they had enjoyed the many varieties of small gardens that appear at the end of the delightful film Truck Farm.