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...

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.