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 20, 2013

Merlot, Cravo e Canela

Each week, the Boston Globe Magazine presents a trio of recipes around a common theme. As winter draws nigh, the theme this week was warm, mulled wines. Of the Gluhwein, Glogg, and Elderflower options, I chose the first, simply because I knew I could find the ingredients handily.

Once Pam's annual lasagna was in the oven and the kitchen was clear, I began preparing the grog. Since we had no guests for dinner, I halved the recipe, using just one bottle of Merlot. I used the juice of five clementines along with a couple strips of the rinds. I heated the juice with brown sugar, cloves and cinnamon (hence the Sonia Braga reference in the title of this post).

I then added the Merlot and simmered it for an hour, so that the syrup would combine with the wine, and the wine would be infused with the spices and fruit. I then fortified the mixture with cherry schnapps (brandy or kirsch would have been fine as well), and removed the solid infusants.

I placed just a bit of rind in each of two warmed mugs, and filled them up with this perfect winter warmer. A more soothing beverage would be difficult to imagine.

Now if only Netflix carried Barreto's classics!

Hot Sweetness or Sweet Hotness?

One great thing about living in Massachusetts is the availability of fresh cranberries. Through the fall and early winter, we buy them frequently and try various preparations (as a search of this blog for the word "cranberry" reveals).
Andrew Sorivani, NYT.
The latest variation is from David Tanis, as published in the New York Times. His Spicy Red Pepper Cranberry Relish is easy to make, especially in our indispensable cast-iron saucepan. We printed the recipe before his correction, which advises the addition of a half-cup of water, but it worked fine without it. The only other change we made was to use Anaheim peppers, since our local market did not have any red jalapeños. (The cranberries themselves came from nearby Hanson Farm, natch!)

We are about to put this in the fridge so it will be well-chilled in time for dinner, but a sampling of the warm relish suggests this will be amazing, as suggested by the title of this post!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pan d'Nog

Pam and I met in French class, as the world knows, and though she was about 100x the French student that I was, I do like to dabble in the cuisine and language when I can get away with it, and therefore took the liberty of creating the faux French title for this post.

Crescent Ridge ...
But, of course!
This evening's breakfast-for-dinner dinner did not rely on any books. Yesterday I made a large loaf of French bread in our bread machine ("French bread" -- especially when it is shaped like a cinderblock rather than a torpedo -- being American for "white bread for snobby grown-ups"). Even with the help of our dinner guests (delightful BSU students), we had half a loaf remaining. Pam almost toasted some of it this morning, but decided to save it for a French toast evening.

All of our indispensable cast-iron pans (except for the one we reserve for coffee-roasting emergencies) needed cleaning, as did much of the kitchen. So I eased into this meal by doing some cleaning and some pan-reseasoning. The griddle had last been used for cod, so I decided desperate measures were called for.

After scrubbing it a bit, drying it, and seasoning it in the oven with olive oil, I could still make out the cod. I love cod, of course, but not in French toast. So on top of a hot stove, I cooked about a quarter cup of Triple Sec orange liqueur. (I first checked to see that it was 15 percent alcohol, or 30 proof; this is well below the 100-proof level, at which flash fires can occur.) As the liqueur evaporated (and started making the kitchen smell really nice), I added a bit of butter, and got ready to cook.

What I cooked was a modification of my usual approach to French toast. Since we had eggnog in the fridge, it made little sense to mix together its components (eggs, milk, vanilla). It could be used alone as a batter, but I could not resist a couple of small modifications: to a shallow bowl full of nog, I whisked in a glug or two of Triple Sec, a dusting of freshly-shaved nutmeg, and a teaspoon of baking powder.

I then dredged one-inch chunks of the French bread, filling the already-hot griddle with the pieces. I cooked cooked them on medium-high heat, turning a few times. Because I was not certain I had soaked the batter in, I did something a bit unorthodox -- I used a small spoon to poke divots in the bread, and then to spoon leftover batter over each slice. This helped to ensure a nice texture throughout.

Served with local maple syrup, this was a very yummy treat.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Starbuck's Spiced Holiday Coffee

I took this recipe from a free download called Christmas Gifts for Coffee Lovers. Since I am married to a coffee lover, I figured it was at least worth a look. There was nothing in it that I could imagine I would spend any money on that we did not either already own. However, it did include a bonus coffee recipe which I made over the weekend.  I played with the proportions a bit since I was making only two mugs-full.

Below is the recipe as it appears in the Guide:

2/3 Cup ground dark roast coffee beans
4 cinnamon sticks, crushed or broken into small pieces
6 Cup water
1/2 Tsp. ground cardamom
2/3 Cup honey
Half-and-half or milk

Mix together the coffee and cinnamon
sticks. Using the coffee-cinnamon mixture and
water, brew coffee by your customary brewing
method (we strongly recommend using a French
Press). Add the cardamom and honey to the hot
coffee and stir until the honey dissolves.
Serve warm. Pour about 2/3 cup coffee into each glass.
Pass the half-and-half or milk.

I used two cinnamon sticks, and considerably less honey. I did put in the full amount of cardamom. This was warm, creamy, and spicy. It tasted like Christmas. A good treat for a snowy day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Shrimp, pasta, pesto

Over the summer I made, and froze, some pesto made with basil from my garden. I also had some shrimp in the freezer so after poking around on the website I adapted a recipe I found there to make pesto shrimp with fettuccine. I put the frozen pesto into a saucepan and heated on low until it was liquid. I was going to add some milk to make it creamy, but when I open the refrigerator I found some sour cream and decided to experiment. I added a dollop of the sour cream in lieu of milk and continued to heat and stir. It looked a bit funky, but a taste test confirmed that I had made a good choice. I let it heat slowly while the pasta cooked, and added the thawed shrimp to the sauce as the pasta cooking was winding down. The fettuccine was divided onto two plates, then topped with the pesto/shrimp sauce. This had a good mild flavor, and was an easy prep for after work.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Chinese Thanksgivikkah

Lovely Lilly offers insistent
affection throughout
the day. She is also
the chief tripping hazard.
Thanks to Yaqin Sun
for most of the photos
in this post.
Where to begin? Thanksgiving is always a special day for us, but this year was unusually bounteous, and we are especially grateful. We were fortunate to layer many new elements on a day already full of fond traditions around food and friends.

The tradition has developed over the past decade or so, with the day spent at the ancient, rambling home of friends along the Matfield River a few miles away. Since our doglet would pose a choking hazard to their dog -- and she would also be an annoyance and a flight risk -- we leave little Perry at home. We always plan a mid-afternoon respite trip back to our house, because this is a dinner that we know will be hours in the making and more hours in the enjoying.

The turkey arrived at our house on Sunday, a special addition to our weekly milk delivery from Crescent Ridge in Canton. No thawing questions arise, as we simply keep this very fresh turkey well chilled in a picnic cooler until we are ready. One of this dairy's many regional partnerships is with Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont, which provides delicious, free-range turkeys while caring for the land in northwestern Vermont. As in the past, we bring the turkey early, to roast in a standard charcoal grill. The turkey is first rubbed with a paste of finely minced garlic, olive oil, and paprika -- something we have done for years at the suggestion of Jane Brody's original Good Food Book.
Overlapping pans and dishes were a hallmark of this day; a kitchen both vast and cozy was the stage for a dance of cooking, cleaning, tasting and serving throughout the day. 
The stuffing also follows Brody's recipe in a very general sense, and preparations began early. James put two loaves of whole-wheat bread in a large bowl some time Monday, leaving it out to stale. On Thursday morning, the slices were cut into cubes, to which was added chicken broth, chopped celery, local cranberries, chopped walnuts, a couple of local eggs, and a package of sweet Italian sausage. Although this decadent concoction is called "stuffing," it is baked outside the bird, in two large casserole dishes.

Although we were aware that Hanukkah and Thanksgiving would overlap this year, it was not until we heard a Thanksgivikkah story on NPR last weekend that we realized just how rare this would be, why it was happening, and best of all -- the culinary opportunities presented by this coincidence. We opted not to brine the turkey in Manicevitz, but we did try two other recipes.

The first of these was a sweet-potato noodle kugel; we have often made kugels with apples, and were intrigued by this variation. I neglected to buy cottage cheese (and would not dream of buying any on Thanksgiving Day itself), so substituted a package of cream cheese. In place of a food processor, our trusty potato masher made quick puree of the softened sweet potatoes, with virtually no cleanup required. We also substituted Honey Bunches of Oats for corn flakes in the topping, combining them with finely chopped pecans. We wish we had remembered that one of several vegetarians at our feast is also highly allergic to nuts -- we will make this dish a bit differently next year so that this is a vegetarian option for all present.

The other Hanukkah-related addition was latkes with cranberry-apple sauce, inspired by the menu mentioned above, but using our own recipes. For the latkes, we beat two eggs in a bowl, then simply peeled and coarsely shredded in a couple of pounds of potatoes in. Adding a half an onion, cut into fine, long slivers and a bit of flour, it was easy to toss together a batter. Rather than squeeze the water our of the potatoes using a sieve, salt, or other method, we simply squeezed each patty as it was formed , before dropping it onto a cast-iron skillet with hot oil, and pressing it a bit to flatten. The sauce was a variation on what we call "recipe" cranberry sauce, though I have learned to use a small amount of good, aged rum rather than a large amount of cheap rum. With a bit of cardamon, this was a very pleasing brunch item, popular with the entire crowd.

Of course no Hanukkah celebration would be complete without a menorah, which burned brightly through the meal and beyond. Keeping with tradition of course, the candle was small and specially designed so that it would need neither trimming nor extinguishing.
No Thanksgiving feast is complete without a "kid's table," a tradition I would rather have avoided if we could, especially since one adult was at that table, which we preferred to call the "youth table." James felt a bit guilty about this, but remembered that we were both at a kid's table as recently as our 40th year! In any case, the young ladies at that table did very much seem to be enjoying themselves.

Local seafood prepared by our hosts helped to fill the middle of the day, as we nibbled on bacon-wrapped scallops and clam pizzas, along with the latkes and delicious Chinese snacks. Rob had also prepared a special polenta, in recognition of the fact that the main dish at the first Thanksgiving was probably corn mush.

Those snacks were part of the other special dimension of this year's celebration was the participation of two students from China. Yaquin is a BSU student who has studied both coffee and tea with James, and who has been in the United States just over two years. Jane is our daughter Paloma's roommate at CSW, who has been here for just a few months. Since Paloma has been to China and is learning Mandarin, it was especially good that they were able to join us. We enjoyed their company and they enjoyed being part of this very American experience.

Shopping together on Wednesday, we had gathered ingredients for delicious egg rolls (much more flavorful and healthy than anything I have had in restaurants), stuffed dumplings, and rice pudding. Their food and company will stand out as a special Thanksgiving memory for many years to come. And because it is 2013, very traditional scenes such as the one below are already circulating on the Chinese Internet. It is a small world, after all.
But wait! Don't forget dessert(s)!

Earlier this year this image of a "piecaken" went viral on Facebook.
Pam was intrigued, and is always up for a challenge, but something just didn't seem right about this. When a recipe online was found that began with store-bought pie (what!?) she began brainstorming and recipe searching in order to make a piecaken from scratch that would also include traditional Thanksgiving flavors (and wouldn't look quite so gross). The quest ended with this recipe for a pumpkin spice cake and this one for a no-bake pumpkin pie. Both were made with pumpkin puree from a pumpkin, not a can. Two layers of the cake were baked, then the pumpkin pie (without the crust, so it was really pumpkin custard) was prepared using the same size pan. Parchment paper was placed inside the pan first to make removal easy. The custard was kept chilled until just before serving time, then was sandwiched between the two layers of cake. Finally the homemade cream cheese frosting was added to the top. It was one of several dessert choices, including traditional pumpkin pie, apple pie (pictured below with the piecaken) and bread pudding all made by our favorite teen baker, Clara; as well as a rice pudding brought by Yaquin and Jane. The piecaken was delicious! Flavorful, full of texture, and not too sweet, but still decadent enough for a special occasion dessert. All other desserts were also given high praise.

All in all an especially memorable Thanksgivikkah feast with fabulous food, and wonderful company.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Two course dinner

Sometimes in our CSA farm box we receive food that we haven't heard of/wouldn't normally buy/don't like. Kohlrabi fits into all three categories. We do our best to find a recipe for anything that shows up in the farm box, and sometimes we really have to work to find something that covers the taste. We first encountered kohlrabi two years ago from which James made a soup, and we blogged about it again earlier this year when we prepared this salad. A final kohlrabi for the year had me once again looking for a recipe, and I settled on kohlrabi and apple slaw. It was simple to prepare, and the host of other flavors canceled out the bitterness of the kohlrabi. It was prepared as a side dish to some baked pasta with cheese. We adapted a recipe from our 365 Ways to Cook Pasta Cookbook - Three Color Twists with Mozzarella - in order to use the rest of the fancy pasta we used for the Exotic Mushroom Pasta Alla Mamma. The cooked pasta was mixed with a white sauce made from 1 1/2 T. butter, 1 1/2 T. flour, and 1 1/2 c. milk (this was whisked together in a sauce pan over heat for about 10 minutes, until thick). Shredded mozzarella was added to the mix and then placed in a greased baking dish, along with some chopped tomatoes. It was topped with additional mozzarelli and baked at 350 until the top turned brown (about 20-25 minutes).  We dubbed this one "comfort food for snobs". All in all a successful meal.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

According to the Food Librarian last Friday (November 15) was National Bundt Day, so I had no choice but to find a good recipe and make dessert. After looking a several choices, I settled on Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake. I could tell once I mixed up the batter that I was going to have a rather small cake, so I doubled everything (except the sugar, which I always use less of than the recipe calls for), and still wound up with a short cake. It was quite dense, and very good though. I used flax seed in place of the eggs. I don't know if eggs would have make the cake much taller or not.

Roots II

More turnips last week. We still had two turnips from our final CSA farm box pick up so I found a recipe for creamed turnips flavored with spices. After peeling and chopping the 'nips I boiled them with three whole peppercorns, three whole cloves, and a bay leaf until they were tender. I removed the aromatics, drained, and then mashed with a bit of milk and butter. Finally I added fresh grated nutmeg. This turned out to be a good way to completely hide the flavor of the turnips. We had these as a side dish with some salmon.

Monday, November 11, 2013


We have a few turnips from the final CSA farm box pick up, so I checked to see if there were any recipes that called for turnips and leftover rice. The pickings were slim, and there was no recipe for which I had all ingredients, so I adapted one that I seemed do-able with what I had on hand. I started by sauteeing a small onion and then adding one chopped turnip, and three rather small chopped potatoes. I added a cup of water and waited until it started boiling. I let it all boil for about 1/2 hour until the turnips and potatoes were soft. When they were cooked, I drained the water and then put everything back in the sauce pan along with some black truffle infused olive oil, and the leftover rice, garlic salt, pepper, and cumin, and cooked until everything was heated through. This was served as a side dish with some cod James picked up and cooked with some lemon and herbs. I found that I liked the rice dish best when I mixed it together with the fish. All the food was white in color, so although it looked a bit bland, there were a lot of flavors in this.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Exotic Mushroom Pasta Alla Mamma

We stopped in Williams Sonoma yesterday because we were out of filters for our Chem-X (which is really the best thing for making coffee - we've been making due with our French Press) and I was taken in by this incredibly overpriced, yet fun-looking pasta. It was packaged so nicely, too. Tough to admit that even I can fall for food-porn marketing.

Anyway, our daughter is home for the weekend, so the time to celebrate was right. I asked her to help me pick something from the 365 Ways to Cook Pasta Cookbook. She said she really wanted something with mushrooms, so we selected the exotic mushroom pasta alla mamma. It was quick and easy to prepare, and yummy. 

After melting 4 T. of butter in the cast iron pan, I added an 8 oz. package of chopped mushrooms, and sauteed for about 5 minutes, then added one minced garlic clove, 2 T. chopped parsley, and a bit of dried basil and oregano and stirred some more. The pasta cooked while I did all of this. Once the pasta was cooked drained it was added it the pan. Next I added 4 beaten eggs and stirred until the eggs began to set. Just before serving, put in some grated Parmesan cheese.

Everyone enjoyed this. Paloma took a picture of her plate before eating, but as we have learned from our almost 3 years of food blogging, food photography is usually best left to the experts. The picture above is simply the dry pasta.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Samhain Supper

I pulled out my Wicca Cookbook for Halloween (or Samhain - pronounced SOW-en - as the pagans call the holiday that takes place from the evening of October 31 through November 1). I found two recipes that I was able to make with ingredients I already had: Chicken-Barley Stew with Herbs; and Eclectic Eggplant, and I managed to time them so that they were both done at the same time!

Using my indispensable cast-iron pot, I sauteed 3 garlic cloves and some chopped scallions in 2 T. of butter, then added cut pieces of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and cooked until brown on all sides. Next I added 3 3/4 c. of water, 3 T. of red wine vinegar, 3/4 c. of barley, and two crushed bay leaves. This was left to simmer for about an hour. I started the preparation of the eggplant about halfway through the cooking of the soup. The eggplant was cut into slices, coated with flour, and then dipped into a mixture of egg, olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper, then coated with bread crumbs. They were placed in a greased baking pan and baked (covered in aluminum foil) at 375 for 15 minutes; then removed from the oven, and topped with tomato slices and shredded mozzarella cheese, then, back to the oven (uncovered) for another 10 minutes. Just before ladling the soup I added some minced fresh sage to it. Everything was served at once and looked gorgeous on our fall-themed table, presented along side some of our homemade mead.

Our first trick-or-treaters arrived just as we were sitting down to enjoy the meal, but it was still plenty warm when we got back from dispensing the candy.  James deemed the soup one of his top five favorites. The red wine vinegar gave it a good tangy taste. This turned out to be a good way for the us to prepare eggplant, too, as we are not big lovers of the purple plant, but occasionally get some in our CSA farm box. All the other flavors worked together to camouflage the taste of the eggplant and next time I would even cook it longer, as we prefer our eggplant really mushy.

A hearty warm meal for the start of the Pagan New Year.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fresh Tomato Sauce with Ricotta

I went looking for a recipe that called for ricotta, as I did not want what I had left over from the Caprese Lasagna Roll Ups to go to waste. I found a super quick and easy recipe that, as a bonus, used only ingredients I already had on hand!

The green tomatoes I brought in from my garden earlier this month are slowly ripening, so I had two fresh ripe tomatoes, plus about 10 "snack size" tomatoes from my CSA to use for the 1 1/2 c. of fresh tomatoes the recipe called for.

I began by mincing and sauteeing a clove of garlic in olive oil, then added the chopped tomatoes. This mixture simmered for about 10 minutes while the pasta cooked. During the final minutes of pasta cooking, I added basil, parsley, thyme, and oregano to the tomatoes and garlic, and finally, one cup of ricotta. The pasta was drained and then the sauce was mixed with it. We topped it with crushed red pepper flakes and shredded cheddar cheese. Quick, easy and delicious.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Beet soup

James and I are not a beet-loving people. When we get beets in our farm box we do a bit of head-scratching to figure out what we can do with them that we will like. Last year we found several recipes that satisfied. Earlier this year I spotted a recipe in my Dishing Up Maryland cookbook that had me salivating for beets - Sweet and Savory Beet Soup with Orange Juice and Yogurt. Just the name of the dish had me anticipating the beets we were sure to get in our farm box. I could just see the beautiful red color, and taste the tangy-ness. But we never got beets. I waited all season, and finally this week my patience paid off. There they were - beets. But wait, those aren't red. Is there such a thing as white beets? Yes, there are. And I used them to make this simple soup.

I began with the three beets. I removed the leaves, and cleaned them, and put them in a soup pot with 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 1 cup of orange juice, one diced onion and a bit of garlic salt and pepper. Everything was brought to a boil, then simmered for an hour so the beets could cook. After about an hour I removed the beets, and took the skin off them, then cut them up and placed in a blender and poured in the rest of the ingredients to puree. I divided the soup into two bowls and added a dollop of yogurt. This was really tangy. Even more so than we expected. It was served with a green salad (made also with ingredients from the farm box) and home made biscuits. A lovely fall meal.

Whistle Stop!

The tomatoes in my garden took an incredibly long time to ripen this year, a problem shared by many of the backyard gardeners I spoke to in southeast Massachusetts this year. The wet June, followed by the way-too-hot July did not make for a good tomato year. I was able to harvest about a dozen ripe ones, a few at a time, during late August and September, and I left the remainder on the vine as long as I could, but fearing an overnight frost as October waned, I finally picked them all and brought them inside to ripen. Little by little they are turning red, but I did not wait for all to ripen before enjoying them: I selected four of the biggest ones to make fried green tomatoes. I poked around on the web, and in some cookbooks, and in the recesses of my memory to find a recipe that would incorporate the bacon fat I'd saved recently, along with some of the other farm ingredients I had, and finally just took several different ideas and created my own recipe.

I began by heating the bacon fat in the indispensable cast-iron skillet, it didn't look like enough fat to fry up the tomatoes, so I added some canola oil to it, and one diced banana pepper. I cut the tomatoes into thick slices and coated them in a mixture of corn meal, rye flour, salt, pepper, and fresh, minced basil leaves (also from my garden). The tomato slices were placed in the hot oil and fried for a few minutes on each side until they were a golden brown color. Once they were cooked I removed them from the pan and placed them on a paper-towel lined plate, and served immediately, along with a fresh green salad and some home brew beer. James declared that the tomatoes were perfect - "sweet, tart, hot, and crisp" (he added that those same words could be used to describe his sweetheart). Couldn't have asked for a better review of the meal, and the bacon fat did a wonderful job re-seasoning the skillet. It is slicker than Teflon.

Friday, October 11, 2013


Like my last post this recipe was one I printed out and found on my desk while cleaning my office recently (my office, by the way, has already returned to a state of utter chaos). I probably intended to make this cold soup one of the especially warm days we've been experiencing this fall, but when I finally got around to it last night the temperatures had dropped into the 40s. It was still tasty, and filling, especially with some good bread.

I started with about half a dozen medium tomatoes from a few different gardens (all local and organic). The tomatoes were cut and then placed in a blender and pureed. They were moved into a bowl so that one cucumber, 1/2 a medium onion, and two small garlic cloves could take thier turn in the blender. Once everything was in the bowl in a chunky-liquid state I added 2 cups of commercial tomato juice, a dash of red wine vinegar, and a pinch of garlic salt and mixed well. Finally I whisked in about 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt and chilled for a few hours before serving. This had a pleasant sweetness to it. James especially liked it more than he expected to.

Caprese Lasagna Rolls Ups

I do not remember how I came across this recipe on the internet, but I do know I love lasagna, and Caprese salad, so however I found it, it would have caught my attention. I printed out the recipe some time ago, and found it while I was cleaning my office last week. It was fortuitous since we had a good selection of fresh tomatoes from our farm box, a friend's garden, and our own garden to use. We also had fresh basil from our own garden.

I make a lasagna at Christmas time every year from a recipe in my 365 Ways to Cook Pasta Cookbook. It takes 3 1/2 to four hours to prepare all the ingredients cook the sauce and the pasta, assemble everything and bake. This recipe, while not speedy quick, took considerably less time (about an hour).

If you click on the link above you will see some rather pretty pictures of the lasagna being prepared, and how it looked afterwards. I did not see any reason to make the inside of the noodles look good so mine did not look like that while preparing. Furthermore, I did not "garnish with plenty of basil ribbons". There was plenty of basil in the sauce, as well as fresh leaves rolled up right inside the noodles. I also diced my tomatoes, rather than using slices. I modified the "Simple Marina Sauce" by simply sauteeing some onion and garlic, adding a can of organic tomato sauce, some diced tomatoes and some basil, oregano, and parsley. Ultimately, though my roll ups looked a lot like the "finished" picture (except without the basil ribbons) and they were mighty tasty.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Winter Squash Stuffed with Apples and Cheese

We've gotten several butternut squashes in our CSA box over the last few weeks, so I reprised last spring's Cream of Squash soup, as well as trying our a new recipe. This delightfully autumnal meal took a bit of time, but was not especially complicated. The squash was cut in half lengthwise and seeds were removed. The two halves were baked, cut side down, in a 350 degree oven on a greased baking sheet. While they baked I put together the stuffing which consisted of sauteed apple and onion (one each), two big dollops of cottage cheese and about 1/2 c. of grated cheddar cheese, a squeeze of lemon juice, a tablespoon of raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon. The stuffing was placed into the squash cavities and then everything was put back into the oven, covered with foil, for about 20 more minutes.

I got this recipe from Jane Brody's Good Food Book. Brody's note says she got it from The Moosewood Cookbook.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Not entirely unlike Jane Brody's Tricolored Chickpea Salad

When we made our meal plan at the beginning of the week, we had several onions, but had used them all by Thursday when I planned to make the chickpea salad from Jane Brody. It seemed silly to go to the store just for onions so I made due with what we had. Two carrots were sliced and boiled in our indispensable cast-iron dutch oven. To these I added some smallish potatoes, cut in half, and a handful of string beans, which were a substitute for the green peas the recipe called for. I cooked everything until the potatoes were soft, then added a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas. Here the recipe calls for sauteeing onions and garlic, and instead I just threw in a few pinches of garlic salt. I then added a dollop of apple cider vinegar and some fresh herbs. All was tossed together and then divided onto two plates. It was topped with feta cheese (in place of the Swiss Brody calls for). This was really good, and was paired well with our homemade Pinot Noir.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Variations on a Bean

The September 8 issue Boston Globe Magazine included some recipes for green beans, which we are finding an abundance of in our CSA farm box the last few weeks. I selected the "Bacon Braised Green Beans with Potatoes" for our Sunday meal. The beans were straight from the farm, as were the potatoes, albeit a different farm than the beans. I cut the recipe by about a third, since there were only two of us. I began by browning four slices of bacon, then removing them to drain on a paper towel. I removed some of the bacon fat from the indispensable cast-iron dutch oven, but left enough to use to sautee two sliced onions. To this I added one clove of minced garlic, and a bit of fresh thyme. Also added into the pot was some prepared, organic chicken broth (about 1.5 cups) and 1/4 t. baking soda. The beans were added next and simmered for about 10 minutes, then a can of tomato paste. One piece of the bacon was broken into two pieces and added back to the pot, along with the potatoes. The potatoes were small, and cut in half. Everything was cooked, covered for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes were soft. The remaining bacon pieces were chopped into smaller pieces, as were some scallions. I divided the contents of the pot onto two plates, and topped with the bacon and scallions. It was a good fall dish. I did notice that the sliced onions seemed to have disintegrated into the rest of the cooked food. The flavor was definitely there, but the slices were not to be found.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Local Tostadas

They were not nearly from scratch, but this evening's tostadas were immensely satisfying, and I do think that the extra care taken is partly responsible, along with many local or regional ingredients. Previous tostada efforts have begun with store-bought corn tostadas, which are usually available in little bags of about a dozen, stacked in a rather fragile pile in the "international" section of the larger grocery stores. These are not bad, but they are not a great beginning.

Here is what I did this evening, drawing very loosely on the introduction to the tostada section of The Bible, also known as The Well-Filled Tortilla. Yes, it has an entire tostada section, which is yet another reason that you should go get a copy if you have been putting this off.

I started by boiling a couple of chicken breasts that were in the freezer. While they boiled -- which did take a while -- I chopped a small onion, a couple cloves of garlic, an Italian pepper, and one red-hot serrano pepper, all from this week's farm-box share at Colchester Neighborhood Farm. Once the chicken was very tender, I lifted the pieces into a medium bowl, where I used two forks to shred them. I then heated the last remnants of a bottle of Persian lime-infused olive oil from Lebherz (time to re-order!) in an indispensable cast-iron saucepan. I then browned the chicken in the oil, and added the aromatics, cooking until all of this just looked and smelled wonderful.

Meanwhile, I heated some refried beans (Trader Joe's Salsa Style) in a small, indispensable cast-iron skillet. Then I stirred a bit more EVOO and some chili powder into the chicken mixture. I turned both pans to very low heat and heated a goodly amount of EVOO (about a 1/4-inch deep; we never do this) in our large, indispensable cast-iron skillet. I then placed a store-bought, eight-inch, flour tortilla in the pan and heated it until the edges began to brown. I turned it over with tongs (our friend Rob insists this is the most important tool in the kitchen, and today he was right), cooked for another minute or so, and then placed it on a plate. I repeated with a second tortilla, being careful not to allow the oil to smoke, and to allow the tostadas (the first I've ever made!) to drain just a bit. When they got a bit puffy, the tongs proved useful in bringing them down to size.

With everything done at the same time (one of the toughest parts of cooking, in my book), we assembled by spreading the beans on each tostada and topping with a generous helping of the chicken. We then topped it with sliced, luscious tomato (also from Colchester), plain Stonyfield yogurt (healthier than sour cream), and a chipotle salsa from Green Mountain Gringo.

What could be better than all this, besides delightful company? The perfect pairing with Original Recipe Pale Ale from our friends in Westport.

UPDATE: The panic about Persian lime-infused olive oil was premature. Pam remembers an additional bottle, purchased for our Lime Jubilee in May. I know readers were worried!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rustic Enough?

During our most recent stay at the fabulous Golden Stage Inn, we found our way to a Vermont attraction that we had missed previously -- a cooking demonstration at the Hidden Kitchen, which is attached to the Inn at Weathersfield, another B&B in the area. (Stay there if the Golden Stage is full -- it seems quite nice!)

Although we lived for a stint in Texas, where all things Bar-B-Q are decided, the iron-lung sized grill many of our neighbors there owned had nothing on the true open-pit roast we experienced right here in New England -- a real hole in the ground filled with vegetation and coals, and a lamb from the nearby Newall Farm. We had no trouble finding the pit once we arrived at the Inn: we simply followed the wonderful scent of smoke and roasting meat. We were a bit early for the class (unless one counts coffee, this was actually our very first cooking class, at least since junior high school in the 1970s!) and we were graciously greeted by the Inn proprietors and offered a beverage while we waited.

At the appointed time we were joined by other class members and taken on a tour of the gardens and the open pit roast procedure was explained to us. Here the term "field to fork" is measured in dozens of steps. This quartered lamb had been in the pit for about 8 hours, on coals that had taken a dozen hours to prepare prior to that! We then went into the kitchen where the rest of the demonstration took place.

We started with learning how to make Native American Fry Bread, and Pam took a turn hand-forming and frying a piece, which turned out the be the puffiest one made that day! Next we we shown how to make a super-simple blackberry jam (no pectin needed since we would eat it right then) and a roasted corn salad. The fry bread was then topped with everything else we made (the lamb, the jam, the salad) and then folded over so that it looked not entirely unlike a taco. We also had a delicious fruit punch based on a fortified apple cider from the very same farm as the lamb itself.

It was Pam's first time eating lamb, and probably the second ever for James. My, it was good!

Instructions for building the open pit, selecting a lamb, and all the recipes were provided to us and can be found in this document.

Ice Cream and Vinegar? Yes!

When we first found out about Lebherz Vinegar and Oil Emporium we learned that the proprietress used blueberry vinegar straight from the bottle on ice cream. Taking her lead we have discovered that not only does blueberry-flavored vinegar taste good on vanilla ice cream, so does ripe peach, espresso, dark chocolate, and blackberry ginger. Any of these will provide a wonderful tangy-ness to the creamy frozen confection.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fresh Al-Fresco

This evening's version of surf-and-turf involved a vegetable stifado created almost entirely from our Colchester Neighborhood farm-box share and seafood that is as local as possible here in Bridgewater.

First, the seafood: James spent much of the day as a spectator at a regatta on Clark's Cove in New Bedford. The Azorean Maritime Society had brought together -- for the first time ever, as far as anyone knows -- Azorean and Yankee replica whaleboats for rowing and sailing races (these boats do both). Only rowing nerds know the differences, but this was a great day to be a rower, if only from the sidelines, and cheer on folks representing Whaling City Rowing and the New Bedford Whaling Museum, as well as meeting Azoreans from both sides of the Atlantic and media from as far away as South Korea.

Although no seafood was caught in all of this nautical activity, it seemed an ideal day to pick up some local fare, so a stop at Kyler's Fresh Catch was essential on the way home. James got just one large filet of cod (for which we have some local real estate named, as well as a ceremonial carving in the State House). Once Pam prepared the stifado (see below), we were hoping to get the fish plated as quickly as possible, so James did his simplest preparation yet (regular readers will know that seafood has been a sort of final culinary frontier, so it has taken some time to get to this point). He simply heated the stove-top griddle, added perhaps two tablespoons of Lebherz lime-infused olive oil, and heated until the edges were opaque. Meanwhile, the upside was brushed with a bit more oil and Old Bay seasoning (more a Maryland thing than a local tradition) was liberally applied. The fish was then turned and cooked until fully opaque, but not a bit more!

The fish was prepared in addition to an old favorite from the Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home Cookbook, Vegetable Stifado, a vegetarian stew/soup which Pam took the lead in preparing. The recipe calls for several vegetables that are in season at this time of year in New England including eggplant, squash (yellow or zucchini), peppers, tomatoes and onions. also included some greens - everything came from our CSA farm box, although the dish was topped with some store bought feta.

Sacred Cod

Monday, August 26, 2013

Romantic Farm Box Fare

With the parental visit over, and our daughter away on a sleepover it seemed the time was ripe to for a "nueva receta" from Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook. I had spotted the recipe for basil-eggplant soup when browsing the cookbook earlier this year and marked it with a plan to make it whenever we got some eggplant in our farm box. As it turned out this week's pick-up included just about all the ingredients we needed to make this delicious soup. I started by boiling and peeling some of the fresh tomatoes, and then peeling, dicing and boiling the eggplant. While the eggplant was cooking I sauteed some onions and garlic (also from the farm) in olive oil. I then added the tomatoes and eggplant to the pot with the onions and garlic, and then added 1 3/4 c. chicken stock, a bit of cayenne and some pepper. This was simmered for about half an hour. While the soup cooked I made the basil paste with 2 T. olive oil, 1 c. fresh basil (from the farm) and some feta cheese. These were put in the blender until a well mixed. The soup was then ladled into bowls with a dollop of the basil paste. Paired with some of our own IPA homebrew, and served some bread on the side it was a filling meal. It was a beautiful evening so we ate al fresco.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Have Some Mead, Honey!

It has been well over a year since we wrote about mead in this space, when the original fermentable (predating coffee, beer, wine, and perhaps even tea) was paired with both dinner and dessert for Pam's birthday. A year prior to that, we had shared some over our 24th anniversary dinner.

Mead goes way back!
Cambria Griffith, edibleWESTSIDE
Many bees had contributed to that birthday dinner, which included honey in just about every bite and sip (since Pamela means honey). We had found a wonderful mead to accompany each of these meals, but toward the end of the latter one, we had pretty much decided we needed to make our own, and started the process shortly thereafter.

The process began, of course, with a little bit of reading. All of our zymurgy projects to date have involved kits -- from places such as Beer Wine Hobby in Walpole -- that required very little research. We have been the paint-by-numbers artists of the beer and wine world so far.

I was attracted to Ken Schramm's Compleat Meadmaker, whose title is a meme based on a classic VW hippie owner's manual, the original "idiot" book. If Muir and Gregg could get me through the rebuilding of a 1965 Vee-Dub, surely Schramm could get us through our first batch of this ancient, golden elixir. It was from Schramm that I learned just how long mead has been around -- predating most world religions -- and just how simple the ingredient list is.

All that is needed for mead is honey, water, yeast, and patience. A lot of each, except for the yeast! But where to get 15 pounds of honey? That's right, for a 30-bottle (5-gallon) batch, we would need almost enough honey to balance the family doglet on a scale. One approach would be to get several big jars at Costco, but that did not seem right at all. Why make mead at home without any local ingredients? So I turned to my friend Lori of Moonsong Farm, about two miles from our house. This allowed me to support a local business and would justify the commitment to the local community of pollinators through our modest efforts in the NWF Garden for Wildlife program.

Details are in the book, but the process essentially involves careful heating and cooling of a honey-water mixture in a sterilized vessel, the addition of a small amount of yeast, and closer with a water-locked lid. Following that, we simply waited, and waited, and waited before transferring the solution to bottles. For a small portion of the batch, we added priming sugar (adding sugar to honey sounds strange, but it was necessary), and using beer-bottling techniques instead of wine, to contain the resultant pressure. In this way, we created about two cases of "flat" mead and a half case of carbonated, "sparkling" mead.

After a lot more waiting -- a total of about ten months -- we slightly chilled and then opened a bottle of the wine-style mead. At first we both noticed a bit of astringency at first, but the flavor seemed to mellow and improve with each sip. We certainly look forward to the rest, and to sharing it with friends!

These very bees may have been involved!
I look forward to the advice Schramm offers on other fruits, as we recently enjoyed more the wines of more than a dozen fruits (small samples of each!) at the inimitable Kerrigan Brothers of Appleton. For future batches of straight mead or mead-fruit blends,, we may also use a pump-operated wine filter to reduce cloudiness and bring out the terrific colors of honey and fruit wines!

Friday, August 9, 2013

A simple summer dish

Our CSA sent us an e-mail earlier this week with an update to their blog that contained some new recipes. There were several things we would like to try but the Cumin-Spiked Shrimp with Summer Bean Salad was the one that we could make without having to go to the grocery for additional ingredients. Since we are getting ready to go on vacation we are trying to eat what we have on hand, rather than shopping.

I began in the morning by putting the frozen, pre-cooked shrimp into the refrigerator to thaw. About an hour before we ate I began mixing the other ingredients. One can of black beans, rinsed and drained, was added to some diced zucchini (a substitute for fresh corn, which we did not have). I also substituted a small chopped onion for the scallions. I added some sliced cherry tomatoes, 2 small, minced garlic cloves and then added some lime infused olive oil, a splash of lime juice, and a bit of cumin (I didn't measure, I just eyeballed it) and mixed well. I topped it with the thawed shrimp and placed everything back in the refrigerator to meld for about 45 minutes. This was refreshing and tasty. I think it would make good picnic food.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Flavors from summer's bounty

On Maryland day this year I made basil-corn muffins from a recipe in the cookbook Dishing Up Maryland, explaining at the time that I did not have the fresh corn kernels that the recipe called for, and I would try them again in late summer when such would be available. Since our farm box this week included four ears of corn on the cob, and we still had some fresh basil from the previous week, it seemed the time was right for a do over. The corn was exceptionally sweet and made for some delightfully moist and tasty muffins. Also in this week's farm box were some of those most ubiquitous of summer veggies - zucchini, and it so happened that on the opposite page of the cookbook from the corn muffins I noticed a recipe for zucchini fritters. This was a simple recipe that complemented the muffins well for a wonderful dinner. I started by shredding and draining 2 medium zucchini. While that drained I mixed 3/4 c. flour with 1 t. baking powder. To this I added 2 beaten eggs and 1/4 c. milk. The recipe called for fresh thyme, but I used parsley, basil, and cilantro instead, since that was what was in my herb bundle from the farm. Once the herbs were added, also threw in 1 t. of pepper flakes. Once this was ready I added the zucchini and mixed well. I heated our indispensable cast-iron griddle and poured some vegetable oil onto it. The batter was dropped onto the griddle and then cooked on each side for 4-5 minutes. The hot peppers gave these an unexpected kick.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hymn Number 313

Those who follow Nueva Receta -- especially if they read the first post -- know that getting us to dig deeper into the unused pages on our cookbook shelves is the main purpose of this project. Our posts have indeed included an average of one new recipe per week, probably divided evenly between those shelves and online sources. It is still the case, however, that we have also shared a few of our standards. The arrival of tender asparagus in the store this week brought us back to two of those.

When I came home with asparagus this weekend, my idea was to use about half of it on a simple recipe from Mini Moosewood (as we call the indispensable Moosewood Cooks at Home) that sounds rather odd but really is quite nice. I trimmed the thick ends from about half a pound (they were so tender that I did not have to trim much) and steamed them for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I fried four local, fresh eggs over-easy in one of our indispensable cast-iron skillets, with plenty of black pepper. I then divided the asparagus between two plates, carefully topped with the eggs, and sprinkled freshly-grated parmesan cheese on top. This is quick, light, balanced and delicious.

This left open the obvious question of what to do with the rest of the asparagus, and Pam suggested an old stand-by that combines asparagus, penne or ziti (does anyone know the difference) and chicken. Since we happened to have one chicken breast also left over from weekend cooking -- and the ancillary ingredients of fresh thyme and a couple of scallions -- this was the obvious choice.

As with any couple who cooks, we each have recipes we consider our own. "Would you like to have ______?" is synonymous with "I will cook" or "Could you cook?" -- depending on what is in the blank. In this case, though, Macaroni with Chicken and Asparagus from 365 Ways to Cook Pasta (see all of our entries that reference this book) did not have that effect. For a while it was such a standard with us that we each thought of this dish as our own. 

I did volunteer to prepare it, while Pam took the lead in readying our outdoor dining space -- it was a beautiful evening for enjoying our yard -- with plenty of citronella going, that is. 

It has taken me longer to write this preamble than it did to cook the dish. If you are still reading, here are the simple instructions, modified slightly from the book.

1. Start boiling water in a large pot, with a little olive oil.
2. Heat 2 T oil in skillet -- I used Lebherz lemon-infused oil, but ordinary oil will do. Cut asparagus into two-inch pieces, slice scallions thinly, and stir-fry at medium-high heat for two minutes.
3. Put about one pound of penne or ziti into the water.
4. Add one chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook until browned, adding a little salt, a lot of black pepper, and plenty of fresh or dry thyme as it cooks.
5. Meanwhile, grate enough parmesan to make you happy. I included some Cabot's very sharp cheddar as well.

When the pasta is done, drain it and toss with just a dab more oil and the cheese. Separate some for any vegetarian diners (as I did for our wonderful daughter) and then add the chicken mixture.

Serve with fresh bread and very cold Chardonnay.

PS: Why the reference to hymns? The 365 Pasta book does include 365 recipes, most of them quite distinct, some of them crossing over pages, others grouped on pages. They are numbered just like the hymns of a hymnal. For the two decades we have had the book, however, the index has been a mild annoyance, as it references the otherwise pointless page numbers, instead of the recipe -- or "hymn" -- numbers used in the rest of the book.

Simple Summer Supper

A friend posted a recipe on Facebook for avocado chicken salad. Since we already had all of the ingredients it seemed like a good day to try it. I grilled one boneless, skinless chicken breast in lime flavored olive oil, shredded it and added it to a mix of one mashed avocado, 1/2 a chopped medium onion, 2 T.  lime juice, 2 T. fresh chopped cilantro and a bit of salt and pepper. We warmed some soft tortilla shells and made burritos out of it. Yummy.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sputnik II

Careful readers of this space may recall my introduction to the vegetable kohlrabi (COAL-ROBBIE or COAL-RABIE) two years ago, in a post entitled Kohl-whatee?, in which I compared the German turnip (as it is also known) to the Soviet satellite that scared the Eisenhower generation into raising taxes for NASA and that was nearly as edible.

When our orbit crossed that of the cabbage's humble cousin this year, Pam went to the shelves and found two possibilities, suggesting that I choose one to prepare. The winner -- as she often is -- was Jane Brody, whose Good Food Book includes a kohlrabi salad on page 544.

NOTE: This recipe calls for two hours of chilling time.

This is quite a simple salad, which calls for 2-1/2 pounds of kohlrabi bulbs and 2 small white onions. Since I had just one medium kohlrabi (it seems like the singular should be kohlrabo -- like biscotto -- but it is not), I used just a quarter of a medium yellow onion. I chopped the onion finely and put it in a bowl and then trimmed and peeled the kohlrabi. I sliced it into 1/4-inch sticks about two inches long and put them in boiling water. The recipe calls for boiling at one minute; I accidentally left it a bit longer, but no harm was done. Since this is related to cabbage, I can imagine over-boiling would release unpleasant sulfurs. I then rinsed the kohlrabi under cool water in a sieve.

In a separate bowl, I whisked together the dressing. The original proportions are shown -- I used about half and could have done with a bit less.

1/2 c tarragon wine vinegar (I used red wine vinegar and 1/2 t of dried tarragon)
1/4 c sugar
2 t sesame seeds
1/2 t minced fresh ginger (this was the exception -- I used about a teaspoon)
1/2 t hot red pepper flakes
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/4 t salt

I tossed this together with the vegetables and then realized that the last step was to chill. We were ready for dinner when I noticed this, so we settled for 20 minutes or so. More would have been better.

Readers of this space also know that we are fans of elaborate oils and vinegars from our friends at Lebherz in Frederick, Maryland, but I used a generic wine vinegar in this case. I am looking forward to recommendations from L.O.V.E.

The intention of this recipe, is to use hot spices and cold temperatures to help the diner forget about the kohlrabi. It actually works pretty well,  and the result reminded me of a hot slaw I made a few weeks ago with actual cabbage. This was a decent side dish for our crab cake sandwiches; the pairing with a semi-sweet wine was not ideal, though I am not sure what I would recommend -- perhaps a peppery Cabernet Sauvignon will be in order next time.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Scallop Fettuccine

Until a couple of years ago, scallops were something I only ate if I encountered them by chance -- usually a small scallop wrapped in bacon as a passed hors d'œuvre, or part of a medley seafood chowder. Then a student whose father catches scallops from Gloucester for a living brought me some fresh from the boat, along with a couple of recipes. It was then that I learned that if the decadence had already reached the level of scallops wrapped in bacon, then genuine maple syrup might as well also be involved.

Anyway, the succulence of those scallops set rather a high bar, so I have done very little with scallops since that first bout. Yesterday, though, I bought some along with the sockeye salmon, from the same seaside source.

For a going-away dinner this evening (Pam is off to Saskatoon for a week), I decided to make a nice Fettuccine Alfredo with these. I know I have done so a couple of times before, but I went online to look for some advice on just how to do it. I was very pleased to find My Food Adventure Book, a blog quite similar to our Nueva Receta -- foodie, but low-key.

Ours looked pretty much like this.
Photo: My Food Adventure Book
I enjoyed blogger Laura's Jumbo Scallops recipe, and will be modifying it just a bit this evening, to use a slightly different assortment of ingredients we have on hand. As we did last night, of course, we also had a Colchester salad.

I won't re-create Laura's instructions here; but will just mention the modifications I made. My usual approach to Alfredo is found in 365 Ways to Cook Pasta, which asserts that the use of cream is not authentic, and that butter and Parmesan are plenty. I accept the concept, but usually compromise with a little bit of cream. This evening I followed the Food Adventure approach -- itself a compromise with heavier versions, but instead of heavy cream, I used half-and-half.

We had no lemons and have depleted our second bag of limes, so I used commercial juice in the sauce, and I used Lebherz lemon-infused olive oil to sear the scallops. The last, most decadent adjustment: freshness is the name of the scallops game, so we divided a full pound!

We had the last of the 2011 Cinco Cães (Five Dogs) from Westport Rivers -- a bit fruity to be a perfect pairing, but quite a welcome accompaniment.

The family verdict: Delicious! -- though Paloma would have cut back on the lemon.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Really Red Fish

One advantage of my new rowing habit is that it has given us better access to fresh seafood. We remain fans of Fresh Catch, whose Mansfield store is a convenient source for both fresh seafood and quality meats. Being in the most active fishing harbor in the United States on a regular basis, however, means that we can have fish for dinner that may have been swimming under my boat earlier in the day.

Not literally, of course: by the time the boats come into the harbor, the fish are already on board, and only the harbor seals are likely to snack on those swimming under our whaleboats. Still, a geography student who grew up on the edge of the harbor has introduced me to two seafood markets -- Kyler's and Fisherman's -- where the fish practically swim up to the counter.
Sockeye image:

Before I went seafaring this morning, Pam browsed Barton Seaver's Cod and Country -- the bible of sustainable seafood and the inspiration for our Peppery Pairing post back in March. On page 153, she found Warm Poached Salmon in Red Wine Sauce, clearly a good reason to look for salmon when I arrived at Kyler's after my row. For some reason, the wild, red sockeye was the same price as farm-raised pink salmon, so I went with the "fishier" option. On careful reading later, I saw that Seaver recommended pink salmon, but I think he would still have favored the wild over the farm-raised.

The recipe calls for heating the oven, only to 200 degrees, and then heating a thinly sliced shallot and a couple of sprigs of thyme in two cups of red wine. The wine should not be generic "cooking" wine in his view, since the cooking -- especially with the dramatic reduction used in this recipe -- would accentuate any flaws. We considered our home-vinted Pinot Noir, but decided to go all in, and I chose a Beaujolais. Specifically, I got two bottles of 2011 Beaujolais-Villages from Louis Jadot (est. 1869), made in Beaujolais -- bien sur! -- from Gamay grapes.

The two bottles were distributed as follows -- one half of the first bottle for poaching and one half for the chefs (Pam made a wonderful salad that had really been in the field at Colchester hours earlier); the second bottle was served (by and to us) to accompany dinner and a movie. Even in more usual circumstances where we just a more modest amount of wine in the cooking, I recommend cooking with something that can be served proudly with the meal.

Seaver is very specific about the heating and poaching -- the liquid in the pan should be maintained at 170 degrees (which I did) and the salmon should be cooked in 12 minutes (which it was not). I eventually realized that the problem was my lack of attention to one detail. Seaver specifies the use of a saucepan barely big enough to hold the salmon. I had one large piece, cut in two, but only occupying about 2/3 of our large, indispensable cast-iron skillet. I should have used a smaller pan, so that the fish would be entirely in the steaming wine.

Eventually, then, the fish was cooked through, and I transferred it to a warm platter in the oven. Then I turned up the heat on the remaining wine and shallots, until the two cups was reduced to two tablespoons. (I was reminded of a Northern Exposure episode in which Maurice did something similar with beef, at great expense.) Once the wine was reduced, I removed the thyme sprig, and melted two tablespoons of butter into the sauce. I then poured this over the fish and served it with some fresh bread and Pam's wonderful salad and a slightly-chilled second bottle of Beaujolais. Because the tasting notes from Louis Jadot mentioned strawberry as a major part of the flavor profile, I put a few strawbs into the salad, to good effect.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Grapes rolled in ginger and almonds

Stormy weather, and our daughter is gone all day and all night. Seemed the time was right to break out the  good old Intercourses cookbook.

These took longer to make than I expected, but it was worth it. Eating them was a completely sensual experience. I started by chopping some candied ginger and some roasted almonds. The ginger was then put in the blender with 3 oz. of cream cheese and mixed until the ginger was well chopped and the cream cheese was especially creamy. Red seedless grapes were rolled in the cream cheese mix and then in the chopped nuts and placed on waxed paper. The grapes were then chilled for several hours. They turned out sweet, creamy, and crunchy. A wonderful ending to our stuffed pepper dinner. Delightfully paired with some "3-buck Chuck" Pinot Grigot.
Once again we learn that food photography is a special skill. They were much better than they look here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Nachos Flambés

Tonight was another double-leftover success. This happens at Casa Hayesboh when we use leftovers from one meal to make another, and then do it again. Like a game of "Telephone" the third meal has little resemblance to the first. Pam gets credit for executing stages one and two in this case, and for suggesting the third, though James executed it. As you will see below, that might be an especially apt choice of words.

Image from
Flambé Gourmet,
which I am not!
This began two days ago, when Pam made spaghetti with an excellent marinara sauce, using some organic ground beef as the base. To the leftover sauce, she added some kidney beans yesterday and -- voila! -- delicious Sloppy Joes! After two servings of that, however, we still had a bit of the hybrid filling. Pam suggested nachos, which is one of our guilty pleasures when out and about. In fact, we should have mentioned nachos at the long-gone Pargo's in suburban Baltimore in the recent New York Times article about the success of our marriage.

I am a good critic of nachos, but realized only this evening that I have not actually prepared them much, at least not lately. But lack of experience has never been a deterrent in our house, so I plunged right in to the preparations.

I started by putting the leftover Sloppy Joe filling in one of our indispensable cast-iron skillets; noticing that it had thickened, I added some plain tomato sauce -- we usually have some in a glass jar in the fridge. In another indispensable cast-iron skillet, I heated some lime-infused olive oil from Lebherz. Regular readers of this blog will know that this oil is becoming as indispensable as the pans themselves. I sauteed some sliced, white mushrooms, and then poured over some Cuervo. I often do this with butter and sherry, but lime-oil and tequila seemed more appropriate.

The Cuervo was only 80 proof, but somehow the pan quickly became involved. I was flummoxed for a moment, because I have never had anything like this happen in my cooking. Fortunately, I reached for the knob rather than a camera, so I have no photo of the flare-up, which ended -- with cool, blue effects -- as quickly as it began. The photo above is from the web site of someone who does this kind of thing on purpose.

I gave some thought to broiling the assembled nachos, but it has been a muggy week, so we opted for the microwave. I covered a plate with organic tortilla strips, spread over the meat/bean/tomato mixture, and topped with a generous layer of freshly shredded mozzarella and very sharp cheddar. I sprinkled liberally with the mushroom slices and canned sliced jalapeños. I microwaved the entire dish for 90 seconds and placed it in the center of the table.

The trickiest part of this meal -- aside from kitchen safety -- was getting all of the cool parts of the meal ready at the same time as the hot parts. I put together a simple salad with fresh greens from Colchester Neighborhood Farm and a bit of tomato and cuke from Hanson Farm (yes, friends, Hanson already has tomatoes!)  With the healthy part taken care of, we felt free to dig into the nachos piled between us.

Drink pairing? Frozen margaritas with some fresh lime, of course. The perfect end to a summer's day.
We still have not seen this film, though nachos were mentioned
in the opening scene of our evening selection,
Parker Posey's Price Check.  

Syrian Rice

From dinners last week, we had a bunch of leftover rice, and an uncooked, but thawed, portion of ground beef so I started looking for a recipe that would use both these ingredients. I found this Lebanese dish in Melange (an international cookbook) which was put together with recipes from international students at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The dish was pretty easy and quick to make, although I adapted it a bit since my rice was already cooked. I eschewed the "stick of butter" that the recipe called for in favor of a generous portion of olive oil in which to brown a handful of pine nuts and the ground beef. Once the ground beef was cooked I added 1/2 t. of  allspice and 1/2 t. of cinnamon. I added some more olive oil, and then put in the rice and stirred until everything was well mixed and cooked. I made a separate pan using soy-based crumble for our resident vegetarian. The dish was accompanied by a lovely mixed green salad from our CSA farm box, and paired well with our home-made "Cloverfield" red wine.

Everyone seemed to like this, including our daughter's teen-aged guest. All diners were clean-plate rangers for this one.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Banana Rhubarb Crumble

Ahh...the first farm box pick up of the season. We got a lot of leafy greens, a jar of honey, and a bundle of rhubarb. I turned to Jane Brody's Good Food Book to find the recipe I had made once before for a church supper. I used the two especially ripe bananas we had on hand (cut into slices), and two big stalks of rhubarb. Each of these were chopped into bite size bits. The fruit was mixed with 2 T. sugar and a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg. This mixture was placed in a pie pan and then topped with the crust mix which consisted of 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. oatmeal (substituted from the graham crackers called for in the recipe) 1/4 c. butter (cut in), one egg and 1/4 c. milk. I sprinkled a bit more sugar on top of the crust and baked in the convection oven at 375 for 25 minutes this turned out to be a wonderful combination of flavors and other sensations. The sweet bananas were a perfect complement to the tart rhubarb. My idea to top it with vanilla yogurt was inspired. I loved the contrast of warm and cold, and the variety of textures.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Patos Supremos

During our time in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas James and I both worked in offices that had "Pato runs" on Fridays. Pato is the Spanish word for duck, and also the name of some fantastically delicious stuffed tortillas from the small restaurant chain of the same name. The tortillas were hand-made and were available in both flour and corn varieties. The flour tortillas were loaded with fat (from lard) which made them especially tasty. I always ordered mine with potato, egg, and cheese. I have never quite succeeded in replicating the special taste of a genuine pato, but over the weekend I came closer than ever.

I diced half an onion I had left over in the refrigerator and sauteed it along with one cubed and par-boiled potato in Chipotle olive oil from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium. Once the potatoes and onions were well cooked I shredded some cheese on top of the mix and turned down the heat. Then I scrambled two eggs in the same flavored olive oil. I stuffed the mix into 2 flour tortilla shells from Trader Joe's and topped them with some Pico de Gallo salsa. Delicioso!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Soup Fritter

A couple of weeks ago, Pam wrote about a soup enjoyed by all, an improvisation involving beans and potatoes that pleased the entire family. We had it and we had some leftovers as well, but we've traveled quite a lot since then (10 states in 10 days), so there was a bit leftover still when we got home this evening.

Our fridge works very well, so the soup was still good in the food-safety sense, but as Pam offered to reheat it (adding water, as we often do in such situations), I thought that the texture would not be quite right, so I made a counter-offer, which I had considered a couple of days ago. I turned the soup into fritters.

I began by pouring the soup into our wire-mesh sieve, shaking it gently over the sink so that I mainly had beans, onions, and potatoes to put in a large bowl. There I mashed the mixture as much as I could with an old-school potato masher. I did not succeed in mashing the beans very much, but in the end this was okay.

I added about 3 tablespoons of King Arthur whole-wheat flour and one egg (beaten) that we had just purchased from Hanson Farm. I mixed this all with a spoon and then heated our indispensable cast-iron griddle, to which I applied about one tablespoon each of lime-infused and chipotle-infused olive oils from L.O.V.E.

Once the oils were hot, I spooned the mixture onto the griddle, forming two fritters. I heated them through, and turned, browning thoroughly on both sides. Even though I had sieved the original soup, I wanted to ensure thorough cooking, especially since texture had been a main concern.

I took this disgusting photograph on purpose, because it beautifully illustrates something I learned when I toured General Mills headquarters back in the 1970s: food photography is a specialty. Even food that looks good in real life often fails in photographs. Food that looks awful in real life -- as this did -- therefore looks truly unpleasant in photographs.

Do not be deterred, though: this was proclaimed "not bad" and even "pretty good," especially when topped with cool, plain yogurt from Stonyfield. The contrasting textures worked well, and the spices in the original soup came through to the final meal.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Avocado Lime Popicles - (a.k.a. Oobleck on a stick)

While I was looking for recipes using lime for my recent birthday celebration, I came across this one which seemed a bit weird, but  I really felt the need to try it anyway. I didn't make it for my birthday, but kept it in mind for possible "pops on the porch" enjoyment this summer. Made with agave nectar, water, 2 avocados, and the juice of one lime it turned out to be a delicious sweet and creamy treat for a summer eve.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A soup enjoyed by all

I happened across this recipe for Andalusian Chickpea and Spinach Soup in the New York Times yesterday. The description says it is a "comforting soup this is still suitable for a late spring/early summer meal. With heavy rains, and cool temperatures, it seemed like the perfect day for a hearty soup. And although I had no chickpeas, figured I could adapt it with some other kind of bean. My daughter, now home from boarding school for this summer, doesn't like garbanzos in any case. I used some dried black beans instead which I was able to begin soaking when I was home for lunch, so they'd be ready when I came back from work. I followed the directions for cooking the soaked beans, and then after they'd cooked a bit over an hour, began the other preparations. I used our indispensable cast iron cooking pot to sautee the onion and garlic, then added the canned tomato and paprika, Once this cooked down a bit I added the potatoes, beans, and cooking wine, and let simmer for 1/2 an hour. Before serving I added the spinach (less than the pound called for in the recipe, but it was what I had frozen from a previous meal) and a pinch of saffron, some garlic salt, and pepper. Everyone liked this, especially served with some warm yogurt bread from our bread machine (which I was also able to start during my lunch break - living next to work sure has its advantages). Yogurt bread, by the way is about the simplest recipe found in my bread machine recipe book. Yogurt, brown sugar, flour and yeast are the only ingredients.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lime Jubilee

(written by James, May 25)

For Pam's Jubilee Birthday (that number is biblical -- look it up) she wanted a lime variation on the coffee-infused cake she made for James' Jubilee Birthday (biblical types differ on how to count the Jubilee years -- this May we covered them both).

As we sometimes do, we got a bit carried away with a theme, so that the menu now reads:

Beer-Lime Grilled Chicken 
Lime Biscuits 
Cilantro-Lime Slaw 
Lime Sherbet, natch, as our only store-bought offering
A Lime Variation on our Award-Winning Mocha Cake

Margaritas may also be involved, and perhaps Corona, which is only palatable with a wedge of lime.

Lime Cake
(written by James, May 26)

Of course it is appropriate to begin the preparations for Pam's Big Day on her Attainment Day, when she has already attained her newly-earned aged. After preparing some famous queso dip for an unrelated event this afternoon, we prepared two items that are best completed a day ahead, both to clear the kitchen for other activities and because neither of these has any last-minute steps.

The first of these is Pam's kidney bean salad -- a gift to herself each birthday. No limes are involved. Then James began the lime cake, varying the Molly Katzen pound cake that has become our standard. I followed the recipe in the original Moosewood Cook Book, using Katzen's suggested variations for a lemon cake as a starting point to create a raspberry-lime cake.

Rather than using butter and flour on the Bundt pan, I prepared it with lime-infused olive oil (brought in from Lebherz just for the occasion) and flour. I replaced the vanilla extract in the original recipe with raspberry extract, adding the freshly-squeezed juice of three limes and the zest of two. After the batter was prepared, I gently mixed in a small package of fresh raspberries.

I usually do not sample batter, but if it is any guide, this is going to be a really nice cake!

(written by James, May 27)

I started the slaw -- perhaps only the second I have ever made -- fairly early this morning so that it could chill and the flavors could meld. I must confess to cheating, using one of those ubiquitous bags-o-veggies that have taken over produce shelves recently. Perhaps a bit later, when our CSA presents us with actual cabbage, I will do this again with fresh ingredients. But on a busy cooking day early in the season, I was happy to have the shortcut.

Since the bag had about 6 cups of cabbage rather than 4, I increased the ingredients in rough proportion -- lighter on the mayo and heavier on everything else. I could not imagine what I would have done with a partial bag of shredded cabbage, so I used it all. I also made a few minor substitutions, as described below.

I used one cup of Light Hellman's, the only mayo that crosses our threshold. It has 60 percent of the calories of regular. We tried Lowfat Hellman's once, which is 50 percent, and learned our limits! We had scallions on hand, so I used these for a very mild onion taste, rather than buying red onion. I used a serrano-honey balsamic in place of the rice vinegar, and probably used more than was called for. I have no idea what "sweet chili sauce" is, so I used deli-style crushed red peppers. I whisked all of this together before stirring in the vegetation (using our silicon scraper-spoon to good effect).

The result was a nearly perfect slaw -- not too creamy or too vinegarish, and just tangy enough for a nice late spring meal outdoors.

(written by James, May 27)

Speaking of which, after a few days of unseasonably cold, windy, and wet weather, the skies lifted, the sun came out, and the angels sang off in the distance, for the occasion of Pam's birthday. This meant that recent landscaping preparations were worthwhile, and that grilling outside was part of the festivities, rather than a frozen exile. I prepared the marinade just as directed in the aptly-named Beer Lime Grilled Chicken recipe,  except that I used some flat pale ale from the back of the fridge rather than the light-colored beer it calls for. (Those who are not hop-heads might be surprised to learn that "pale ale" is actually much darker than most mainstream beers.) The extra flavor certainly did not harm the outcome -- the pre-packaged, boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts turned out moister and more delicious than would have been thought likely.

(Incidentally, neither margaritas nor Corona were involved after all -- each diner enjoying some combination of limeade, ginger-ale, and home-brew.

Limeade and Biscuits
(written by Pam, May 28)

I adapted a favorite recipe for ginger-lemonade I clipped out of a newspaper years ago to make mint-limeade. I started with making a mint-infused syrup with chopped fresh mint from the garden, 1/4 c. of water, and 1/2 c. of sugar. All of this was heated until boiling, then removed from the stove top to steep. While the syrup cooled I juiced 9 limes. The lime juice, 4 cups of water, 1/4 of sugar and the mint syrup all went into a pitcher and were stirred until well mixed. Our friends brought over some lemon-lime seltzer water which when mixed with the limeade made a refreshing spritzer.

The lime biscuits were pretty simple -- much like other biscuit recipes I used, but with added lime zest and a bit of lime juice. I did think that the 10 tablespoons of butter the recipe called for seemed like overkill and used about 7 instead. They were plenty buttery, and quite tasty with just a hint of lime.

To round out the meal we also had some macaroni and cheese, and Tostitos Hint-of-Lime chips which were delicious with the leftover dip. Everyone was well satisfied when the meal was done.