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, March 29, 2013

Another Ish Turkey Dish

Earlier this week, Pam made one of our comfort foods, known as Crusty Mexican Bean Bake. It is essentially a Sloppy Joe casserole on a biscuit-like base. Sometimes we make it with just beans, but since #1 Daughter was enjoying the Big Apple without us, we splurged and used a half-pound of ground turkey along with the kidney beans in that recipe.

Which left us with the second half-pound and several options on Wednesday night. On the short list was Turkish Turkey Taco, a favorite from The Well-Filled Tortilla that is emblematic of the situation that gave rise to this Nueva Receta project in the first place: at least 50 percent of our use of the book was that one recipe. Because we had all we needed for that recipe except tortillas (we've found somewhat reasonable tortillas for sale locally) and a jalapeño, we were about to follow that tried-and-true path again, when Pam decided to open the trusty tortilla tome in search of something a little different.

She found Spanish-style Ground Beef and Pork on pages 84-85, the name similarly connoting a dish that is probably as Spanish-ish as its precursor is Turkish-ish. No matter, it seemed -- and turned out to be -- both simple and delicious.

One adjustment I made was to heat olive oil infused with Persian lime, in place of ordinary olive oil, simmering onion, bell pepper (we used a frozen medley of this), pine nuts (the real deal this time), orange zest and thyme. I then added the ground turkey and a small amount of frozen breakfast sausage to get some of the mix intended in the recipe without buying more meat. Of course this was all browned in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, after which I added a generous pour-over of our home-vinted Chardonnay.

The result: warm and delicious! The next time I try this, I would avoid pre-cooked sausage, though I managed to chop it in pretty well. I would either use just turkey or perhaps a mix of ground turkey and Italian-style turkey sausage.

Cook Book Nook

My high school friend Joe Duley is not just the ultimate class clown. He is a gifted video producer who brings all of his wit to bear in promoting a local business in his adopted home town of Portland Maine. His tastefully ribald exploration of LeRoux Kitchen (with stores in Portland, Portsmouth, and Martha's Vineyard) is also a heartfelt celebration of a local institution.

The store's cookbook vault is enticing, though to Joe's obvious disappointment it is not age-restricted. His play with the Spanish and French language adds to our interest, since this blog may have been born in Spanish class but was conceived in French class!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Peppery Pairing

While we were in Trader Joe's yesterday (see our Comfort Pizza post for other results of that outing), Pam was looking through some of the higher-quality frozen fish selections, suggesting that we try one. I told her that whatever one she chose, I would have a look in our new book Cod and Country to figure out how best to use it. I was already on thin ice, as it were, because the whole point of that book is to be a bit more careful than this in selecting one's fish.

That proverbial ice broke when I searched the index of the book for what I might do with the two tuna steaks we purchased. Author Barton Seaver considers most tuna harvesting operations to be inherently unsustainable, and therefore provides only one tuna recipe, and that is for canned albacore caught under a particular harvesting regime. For this reason, I simply searched All Recipes, and liked the first entry I found -- Grilled Jalapeño Tuna Steaks.

I modified the recipe in a couple of small ways. First, since we had lime-infused olive oil, I used that instead of oil plus lime juice. Second, since it is spring only in the technical sense, I did not put this on the grill. I simply cooked it over high heat in our indispensable cast-iron skillet. These steaks were thick, so I eventually became concerned about drying them out by the time they were cooked through. I covered them with the pan lid, and got a reasonably good -- if slightly dry -- result in terms of texture. In terms of flavor, these were really quite excellent.

Those who have not used jalapeños recently might not have noticed that they have gotten quite large and relatively mild, so a full pepper added zest without an unreasonable amount of heat. (Full disclosure: my cooking preferences were shaped more by the Southwest than the South Shore. Still, hot peppers are not what they used to be.)

I also concocted a side dish that was simple, nutritious, delicious and cheap, and was made a better pairing through the sharing of a couple of ingredients. Once I started marinating the tuna, I sauteed a small onion and a second jalapeño in our second indispensable cast-iron skillet, using a bit of butter and a bit of that lime-infused olive oil. Then I added one medium sweet potato, peeled and cut to quarter-inch dice. I cooked this until the whole mixture was a bit of a caramelized mess, eventually covering it to preserve moisture.

The pairing was actually a very nice-- well, whatever a pairing of three would be -- with the addition of a Hungarian Pinot Grigio that had been the gift of family friends.

I look forward to further experimentation with lime, jalapeño, and fish, though I will consult Seaver's work before the purchase next time!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Comfort Pizza Variations

Advisory: Today's post is more about a comfort food with modest flavor improvements and only modest nods toward health and sustainability. The usual obsessions of this blog will return shortly.

In the Hayes-Boh house, a "usual" pizza order is one cheese -- for our vegetarian daughter -- and one pepperoni and mushroom for us 'rents. This order is placed on average once a month or so, when both our menu planning and our good intentions to cook at home fall short. We've actually resorted to this much less than usual in recent months, proof that the Nueva Receta mindset is taking hold.

Courtesy 123RoyaltyFree
Preparation for this evening's meal began in the early afternoon, when Pam put ingredients for pizza dough in our bread machine. If you have such a machine, it must have a setting and recipe for dough. This is useful both for pizza and for bagels; we make the former fairly often and have prepared the latter only once or twice. As is our wont, Pam modified the standard recipe by adding a little wheat germ (we pronounce that with a hard G in our house) and substituting whole wheat for the portion of the white flour. We then set off on some errands, which included dropping off said vegetarian daughter and stopping by Trader Joe's on the way home.

While at TJ's, we looked for our usual and finding no pepperoni, took a walk on the wild side. We picked up some Canadian bacon, prosciutto being out of the question for its strong saltihood. We also picked up a package of white button mushrooms. (See above note about today's entry not having gourmet pretensions.) I always buy them whole, since slicing is good (if minimal) exercise and pre-slicing simply multiplies the surface area for spoilage.

When we got home, we started heating up the oven and Pam rolled the dough out on the slightly warm baking stone. Meanwhile, I started shredding the mozz (also from TJ's), of which we used about 2/3 of a pound. Not a fancy cheese, but a bit more flavorful than the usual from our local grocery. I also removed about half of the Canadian bacon slices and cut them into quarters (a total of three ounces).

I then sliced all of the mushrooms and cooked them in a little butter on medium-high heat. When soft, I added a generous splash of wine and cooked until reduced. I usually would use sherry, but we had none. We consolidated partial bottles of our home-made wine and commercial cooking wine, and I added this, cooking on high heat until greatly reduced.

Meanwhile, Pam build the pizza (on the baking stone) with organic commercial sauce, the shredded mozz, and a sprinkling of feta cheese (we keep a big container on hand for just such opportunities), We added the Canadian bacon and the well-cooked mushrooms. We baked at 425 (convection) for 18 minutes, and it turned out perfect!

Here is the real comfort-food portion of the meal. As much as we love fresh fruit, with pizza we enjoy jarred peaches from Costco, in little cups with a dusting of cinnamon. We served this alongside the pizza, which we sprinkled liberally with pepper flakes. This all paired beautifully -- if modestly -- with a Little Penguin Shiraz, which has lasted just long enough for me to complete this post.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Skillet black beans with potatoes and tortillas

You'd think with a geographer in the house we would use a cookbook written by someone named Nava Atlas a lot more. But, in fact I don't remember the last time I had The Vegetarian Family Cookbook out. I was actually looking for a recipe with squash (one of the few things we still have left from last summer's CSA) but didn't find anything that I could make with the rest of the ingredients we already had. I did find this recipe though, which I was able to make with some creative substitutions. I put 3 small potatoes in the microwave for about 5 minutes, until they were "done but still firm" and let them cool while I prepared the rest of the food. I sauteed the onions and garlic in lime-infused olive oil, and then added some frozen tri-colored peppers. The recipe then called for mild chiles. We had neither mild nor hot chiles on hand, so I added a few tablespoons of salsa instead. Next a can of diced tomatoes, and a can of drained and rinsed black beans, and 2 t. of cumin. While all of this simmered I peeled the now cooled potatoes and diced them. Once the potatoes were prepared I added them to the skillet along with a bit of lime juice and some corn chips. The recipe called for corn tortillas cut into strips, but I had none, and this worked out fine.

A simple and hearty dish. Next time we will use a bit less cumin.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Poached Salmon

While we were at Kyler's Catch purchasing our lobster for Pi Day we also bought a salmon filet for Friday's meal. I used Bruce Carlson's Cooking Seafood and Poultry with Wine to find this simple recipe. The filet was place in a foil wrapper along with 3/4 c.of white wine, one smallish chopped onion, some dried parsley, and a bit of butter. The foil was double folded around the fish to keep all the liquid inside. The package was placed in the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes. Once the fish was cooked through I used the liquid in the package as a base for the sauce. Three tablespoons of flour were added to the baking liquid in a saucepan along with 1/2 c. light cream and mixed over a low heat  The fish was then placed on a platter and topped with the sauce, and shredded parmesan cheese. The fish was then placed under the broiler until the topping was just brown. This made for a succulent, and juicy meal. Three people ate this dish, and all three earned their clean-plate-ranger badge.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


(This is co-written by Pam and James, using the royal "we" throughout, even though we each took the lead in both baking and writing different parts; sorry if that causes confusion!)

We awoke this morning with the zymurgy doing the real work -- Barolo fermenting profusely in the parlor and ginger-wheat beer just getting started in the conservatory. After a bit of FTO Colombian (already fermented at a wet mill somewhere in the Andean foothills), we decided to take on the day. Pi Day, that is.

(The digits used above extend to 27 in honor of Pam's upcoming birthday (that's the date, not the age!); you can get all the digits you need at Pi Day.)

A little math was in order. Our Pumpkin Cookbook (purchased at a genuine clearance sale at a funky old book store in Stoughton a few years ago) calls for six ounces of ginger snaps in the crust of the cheese cake we are making. (See Pam's Eggnog Pumpkin Pie post for more from this little volume.)

Our first inclination was to guesstimate, because this did not seem like a job for which it would be worth going to campus to get a precision coffee scale. But then we decided to honor math day by figuring this out. we said we would need three-fifths of the 10-ounce bag of cookies, so we simply counted them into bowls -- two in the small bowl for every three in the big bowl. Broken cookies ended up in both bowls, resulting in minimal, offsetting errors that are presumed to be within the tolerance limits of this recipe. We are building a pie, after all, rather than a watch.

After sampling a couple from the small bowl for safety and efficacy, we returned them to the bag for future use. Each being round, we may use them to calculate circumferences if things get really crazy later in the day. (Pi Day never ends, after all!) The other small bowl contains raisins soaking in Triple Sec. The half stick of butter is the other half of a stick that was melting in the plate warmer at the time of the photo. That other half is still half a stick in a mathematical sense, but not a stick at all in appearance.

A great thing about this recipe is that we got to use some kitchen instruments that don't get very much employ (Bill Murray fans contain yourselves; this is a family blog) -- starting with our marble gourmet rolling pin (and we know it is gourmet because it is labeled as such).  The pin was used to crush the ginger snaps which were placed in a large ziploc bag first. The crumbled snaps were then mixed in a bowl with the melted butter and then used for the crust at the bottom of a springform pan (another seldom used item). The recipe called for the pan to be oiled. The decision of which oil to use could not be taken lightly, of course. After careful consideration, we settled on the blood orange olive oil.
The main supporting actors in today's blog.
Once the pan was ready, it was time to start on the filling. We started with 1 lb. of cottage cheese which was put in the blender and mixed until smoooooth. Then 1 can of pumpkin was added, along with the last bit of ginger syrup leftover from our Valentine's day ginger cake. When all of this was well blended we added two eggs, 1/2 c. of light cream, and 1/3 c. of sugar, and blended some more. Finally the juice of half an orange was added, giving us the chance to use our manual juicer. When all of this was completely mixed, the nicely plumped raisins were sprinkled on top of the ginger snap crust, and the pumpkin mix was poured over.  We worried a bit when we saw the pan leaking, but once we placed it onto a cookie sheet, and into the oven it was fine. We love our convection oven, but as with everything we bake, the baking time in the recipe had no bearing on reality. Forty minutes turned into about 70 minutes.

Pie for Real Men

Back in the 1980s Bruce Feirstein wrote a book called Real Men Don't Eat Quiche, though in our house we know that quiche is usually made by the resident man- he will make his quiche, and eat it too.

Quiche -- a savory, eggish pie -- is the perfect meal to complement the pumpkin dream described above. We made a standard crust from Deborah Madison, using 1-1/2 cups white flour (plus a dusting of wheat for the counter), 1/2 teaspoon of salt, one stick of butter, and ice water added by small spoons until the dough would just form. The only departure from this standard recipe was the addition of a bit of Old Bay with the dry ingredients.

The filling was made with eight eggs (it is an egg dish, after all) from the happily husbanded hens of Hanson farm, two miles from our house, about a cup of light cream, a dash of Tabasco, and a splash of sherry. This was prepared while the crust crisped in the oven. About 2/3 of a pound of Swiss cheese was cut into small slivers, and a half pound of lobster from Kyler's Catch in New Bedford was cut into chunks and tossed with ... of course ... more Old Bay.

This was all baked at 425 for 40 minutes, which made it beautiful but not quite done. Another 20 minutes at 350 (with paper atop to prevent burning) made it perfect!

Between the morning and afternoon baking sessions, we visited New Bedford, where nautical interests are drawing us with greater frequency. There we had lunch at a tapas bar -- James' first visit to one -- but had no tapas. Rather, at Cork Wine and Tapas on the waterfront, Pam had a delightful sangria and James a leggy, complex Malbec. We shared a flat bread with pear, arugula and goat cheese; and a chicken and cabbage empanada. That's right: meat pie. The highlight, though, was the dish that had caused our daughter to recommend the place: a heaping pile of fries prepared with herbs and truffle oil that might be the best fries on this planet. Just go and find out.

Pi Day Film Festival
We began our preparations for Pi Day by moving the film Humble Pie to the top of our Netflix queue so that it would be here in time. The producers of Napolean Dynamite have created a similarly enigmatic film centered around a young man who seems uncomfortable in his own skin. The connections to food were uncomfortable as well, as the protagonist's eating disorder plays out between his dysfunctional household and the grocery store that is his professional world.

And, although it will not be released on Netflix until next month, Life of Pi was cleverly made available at the cash/warp for an impulse purchase at Target on this auspicious day. Our usual steely sales resistance was quickly overcome, and we are the proud new owners of the DVD.

To summarize the day: Our enjoyment of two pies was sandwiched (as it were, between two pi/pie films, all of which followed a lovely trip to New Bedford and one incidental meat pie.

Beverage pairings, by the way, were a nice Chardonnay from just about as far away as wine can be brought and an OFT decaf from Chiapas. Both were lovely.

Piem (See if you can figure out the formula for writing your own).

Pie I made: a round sweetness of squash purée.
The slab's triangle perfectly adheres;
Sensually it's on the pleasure spot, giving us ...
Hmmmmm, good pie.

The lagniappe has us: AUREOLE.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pasta with Greens and Ricotta

There are just a few more baggies of frozen veggies left from last summer's CSA. Atlthough at one point last  year it seemed like we were drowning in greens, and I wondered if we could possibly ever eat them all, when I prepared last night's dinner I found only two servings left. I used one of these to make a recipe from an old favorite: The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. 

I minced and sauteed a clove of garlic, then added the slightly thawed greens, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. I kept the saucepan on low and occasionally stirred the mix to keep it from sticking while the pasta water boiled. Once I put the pasta into the pot, I put the ricotta (about 1 cup) into the blender along with the greens and garlic mix. It was difficult to blend these two things together, even though the greens had been chopped before they were frozen. I had to continually stop, stir, and remix. Even so, I ended up with more of a blob than a sauce, which was very tough to mix with the cooked pasta. Eventually, I gave up trying, and just served it. I ended up with a great green glob with a few penne pasta noodles stuck to it on my plate. It might have worked better to have added some of the pasta liquid to the blender to make the mix smoother and more like a sauce. We topped our pasta with some diced tomatoes and shredded parmesan cheese. We had some fresh baked Italian herb bread as a side, and enjoyed some of our homemade Chardonnay with it. We have noticed that the Chardonnay really did get better as it aged in the bottles. The first ones we drank several months ago were not nearly as good as the most-recently opened ones.

This seemed like more of a summer meal, as the "sauce" was not hot, and the food really cooled down once it was served. It wasn't bad tasting, but given the effort, and poor results for texture and mixing, I doubt I will try this one again.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Did we get English Muffins?

The titular question is one I pose every Monday after our milk delivery. Our standing order from the dairy includes a six-pack of English muffins. As much as I enjoy experimenting with food, and trying new recipes, I have the same breakfast almost every day - a toasted and buttered English muffin and a container of yogurt. However, when I found this story from the Huffington Post which has ten different recipes for things you can do  with and English muffin, I decided to take a walk on the wild side and try the ricotta, banana, and honey muffins. The name says it all - a sweet and creamy treat to begin my day. Perhaps I will try some of the other suggestions as well.

One Pound of Ground Turkey - Four Meals

On Monday night this week James and I made spaghetti with our favorite no-recipe sauce which we developed over years of trial and error. We begin by mincing and sautéing a clove of garlic and a small onion in a sauce pan, then add 1/2 pound of ground turkey until it is browned. Next a can of tomato sauce, a can of tomato paste, and healthy doses of dried basil, oregano, and parsley (we never measure these) and a bay leaf. This heats while we cook the spaghetti, and we end up with a thick, flavorful sauce. Of course we top our spaghetti and sauce with fresh shredded parmesan cheese. We had purchased a pound of ground turkey, and since we only used half of it on Monday, on Tuesday we made thick, juicy turkey burgers. Combining favorite bits of different turkey burger recipes we like we mixed the ground turkey in with a shredded granny smith apple, and a bit of horseradish sauce. Once the burgers were formed we cooked them on our indispensible cast-iron griddle, and added cheddar cheese slices and bar-b-que sauce. We made homemade french fries to go along side. We had some leftover sauce, so on Wednesday we added a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans to it, and some chili powder, and had sloppy joes. And, even after this meal, there was still about half a cup of the sauce and kidney bean mix, so for lunch on Thursday we heated it up, and put it on top of some corn chips, added some shredded cheddar, and voila! Nachos!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Carrot Wraps

I sometimes like to challenge myself to see how long I can go between food shopping trips while still enjoying  a good variety of recipes. This requires that I take some stock of I what have on hand, and to be creative with substitutions. I had three raw carrots in my refrigerator, which I had planned to just turn into carrot sticks for snacking, when I noticed this recipe in the New York Times which not only called for carrots, but also for dried apricots, which I also had. I had to reduce the recipe quite a bit to account for my meager carrot count, but I was eating alone that night anyway (James was enjoying a "rubber chicken" meal at the University). I started with one small garlic clove and a handful of walnuts which I chopped by hand, then placed in the blender for further choppage. Meanwhile, I soaked 5 dried apricots in boiling water. When the apricots were softened (about 5 minutes) I chopped and added them to the blender. At this point the recipe calls to add olive oil and vinegar. Having recently become fans of flavor-infused vinegars and oils, I  checked my stocks for some interesting flavors to add, and settled on Blood Orange Olive Oil, and Honey-flavored vinegar. Also added at this time was a pinch of chili pepper and a splash of the water the apricots soaked in. After a bit more blending, this formed into an easy-to-spread paste.

Oh yes, the carrots - these were peeled and cut into sticks, then blanched for about 5 minutes. The sticks were put tossed into a bowl with lemon juice, a bit more olive oil, and some dried mint.

The recipe calls for lavash bread, but I used a soft tortilla shell. The apricot paste was spread onto the shell, carrots were added, then the shell was folded in half and grilled on the indispensable cast iron griddle.

I must say that I made wise choices with my vinegar and oil flavor choices. All the flavors blended well, and made for a satisfying meal. James, who is no fan of carrots, tried one the next day for lunch and declared it "surprisingly good" (although we both agree that we would have preferred the carrots softened just a bit more). I think the paste could be used as a good dip for a veggie relish tray, pita chips or crackers.

A bigger carrot fan than James