How It All Started

Bob Phillips

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

Wednesday, 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.