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...

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.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A delicious accident

Today we received three bottles of flavored olive oils from LOVE emporium in the mail. James had placed the order when he discovered an olive oil emergency which would have prevented me from having exactly what I wanted for my birthday dinner (stay tuned for that post early next week). I decided to use the lemon fused oil in place of  the vegetable oil and lemon juice in this recipe for honey mustard dressing.

I did a few other adaptations as well. First I cut the recipe by a three quarters as I can't imagine how long it would take for us to eat four cups of dressing. I also added a tablespoon of Honey Serrano vinegar from said Emporium. Once the honey, olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard were ready I put them in a blender on high until well emulsified. We put this very smooth dressing on top of a chicken salad I picked up from the leftovers of a meeting that took place near my office. My, but it was zesty! Just about the best honey-mustard dressing I could imagine. Where did that pep come from? While cleaning  up the kitchen after dinner I discovered the answer. I had not, in fact, used the lemon flavored olive oil, but rather the Chipotle flavored such. Well, there is no going back now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

One Bobotie, Hold the Ball's

This Nueva Receta concept must be working: a quick search in this blog on the title Extending the Table reveals about a half-dozen uses of this handy little book so far. For those wishing to diversify their cooking to what real people around the world might be cooking at home, this volume is a great investment.

One of my closest friends and colleagues is a geographer who moved to the United States from South Africa many years ago (he is there on a visit as I write this). Whenever an occasion calls for a potluck contribution, he brings what I always call "South African meat loaf" because I can never remember the name -- bobobtie (boh-BOH-tee). It is sweet, mildly spicy, and just delicious. He does not share the recipe, which is how he keeps getting invited to dinners. (Just kidding!)

I thought that the recipe was some very local specialty, and so had never thought that it might be sitting on our very own cookbook shelf, until I noticed it while browsing for something else in Extending the Table recently.

The recipe calls for curry powder, which we tend to avoid. It also calls for soaking a slice of bread in 3/4 cup of milk and then squeezing the milk out of it -- using the soggy bread and the breadish milk separately.

Essentially, the recipe has three steps, once that bread is soaking and the oven is on 350 or so.:

First, saute a small, diced onion (I will dice it more finely next time) in butter, adding 1 T curry powder, 1t turmeric, 1/2 t sugar, 1/4 t salt, a dash of black pepper (a large dash in our case) and 1 T lemon or vinegar.

Second, mix one pound ground beef or turkey, one beaten egg, the wet bread, and the cooked onion in a bowl, thoroughly until it is a consistent mass. (We used 1.3 pounds organic ground beef.)

Third, put the mixture in a loaf pan or casserole (the recipe says "well-greased," but I did not prepare the dish, since the beef has plenty of fat). Beat together another egg and the breadish milk with a dash of salt and pepper, and pour this mixture over the meat.

The recipe suggests serving this with rice and chutney. I made rice with Persian-lime-infused olive oil, but alas, we have no Mrs. Ball's. For this is what South Africans mean when they say Chutney. And in my experience, they enjoy mentioning the brand name as much as they like to share the Ball's itself.

Verdict? We both loved the flavor, and it went well with the lime-infused basmati. Lacking Ball's, I tried one small serving with no sauce and another with ground red pepper (the kind like relish, served as "hots" in some delis). It was good both ways, though I am hoping to have some Ball's in the kitchen soon.

The texture was not quite as fine as my friend's more expert preparation, and I did not realize until I made it myself that the "stuff" on top is really a kind of custard. His is full of spices, and mine will be too the next time. Still, at least until we perfect this recipe, he will be welcome at all potlucks!

The dish went well with a recently-acquired bottle of 2011 Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa by way of Stellar Organics.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dippy Signature

Readers of this space know that we love to cook all kinds of things, some of which are quite fancy. It is a bit funny, then, that my signature dish is just a dip. I had not made it for quite a while, but brought some to a party recently, to rave reviews. When looking up the recipe -- James' Killer Queso Dip -- on my web site, I was reminded that this dip actually brought me temporary fame in the online recipe world, as it made me the Featured Chef on for a week or so several years ago. I had not heard of the site, but its managers found my dip and liked it!

Pam and I cannot remember where we originally found the recipe, but we know I have been making it since our Texas days in the mid 90s, if not before. The original recipe called for one cup of salsa, leading me to make the double recipe my standard dose, since salsa usually comes in a 16-ounce jar. The real key to the dip's success, though, is that I do not use ordinary salsa -- I always get something a bit more complex and smoky, usually a chipotle salsa, and usually as local as I can find.

This weekend I have made the dip twice, with a new variation. Rather than using roasted red pepper from a jar, I roasted my own. After years of being intimidated by this process, I tried it about a year ago (as I describe in detail in Busy Kitchen). It is actually easy and quite rewarding. For the dip, I used a very large, mild red pepper that was being sold as a red bell pepper but was deep red and shaped more like an oversized poblano. I charred, sweated, peeled, seeded and chopped it, stirring it gently into the dip. (I use a silicon scraper rather than a spoon, with low heat to get this dip smooth.)

The roasted pepper is not only better flavor, but it avoids the use of a glass jar, so this is a "greener" red pepper. Realizing that the dip might benefit from the residual oil in which peppers are packed, I added a tablespoon or two of my own. We are way beyond ordinary olive oils at Casa Hayes-Boh, though, so I used some oil infused with Persian lime. I think this moved the dip to a whole new level!

All this use of lime-infused oil created a potential crisis. Next week, the comestibles for Pam's birthday will be lime-themed, so I called our friends at Lebherz to ship us some more, along with some chipotle-infused oil, which might be added the next time!

(December 16, 2016)

We forgot to mention beverage pairings! At my department meeting yesterday, fellow geographers enjoyed this with freshly roasted coffee from Jinotega, Nicaragua. (Incidentally, if six professional geographers bring lunch together, it is going to be varied and delicious!)

For adult-beverage pairings, we recommend Malbec or a pale ale.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Closer to Heaven

I start this post with a stock photo of a microplane because I like to include a photo, but today's entry does not photograph well (as demonstrated by the vomitrotious photos on the original recipe page) and I cannot think of an excuse to include pop-culture icons as I did in my recent Ginger post. We have a microplane (a.k.a. little tiny cheese grater) because we used one at our friend Susan's house last year to grate horseradish and found it so very handy. It works well for the very small amount of very sharp cheese needed in the brunch dish I prepared for last night's dinner -- Antoinette's Eggs in Purgatory.

Pam found the recipe for us, and I prepped it while she was at her recorder rehearsal. Because the recipe calls for eggs to be cooked two different ways but not overcooked, I did not actually begin the cooking until our trusty hound alerted me that Pam was at the door. From that point, this took only a few minutes.

Although I found it difficult to discern what this would look like by reading the instructions,  is essentially a fried-egg pizza. Thankfully it bears no resemblance to the egg-pizza catastrophe currently offered by Papa Gino's, which I recently tried at a highway rest area.

Rather, this ends up being a crusty slice of buttered bread topped by a fried egg, a ricotta mixture, and red sauce, topped off with a bit of extra cheese and basil. The comments section on the recipe page includes the suggestion of salsa, which I think would not work as well as the marinara. This is an Italian dish that might resemble huevos rancheros, but I would suggest going all the way with one or the other, rather than hybridizing them.

The recipe calls for "imported provolone" cheese, which was unfamiliar to me; I only knew of the sliced variety in the deli section. Looking through the specialty cheese section of the local grocery, however, I was aided by a big black-and-white label on a small wedge of cheese that simply read


I figured it was the right stuff. It is great -- almost as hard as Parmesan and extremely sharp. Our basil recently died and our front-yard parsley is not in yet, so I bought a small plant of each in our produce section, and snipped off a few leaves. We had grocery-store cage-free eggs at home, though this would have been even better with the fresh, local eggs we usually have on hand. In no circumstances would I prepare this with "regular" eggs.

After reading the recipe a few times to see how simple it actually is, I followed it essentially as written. The recipe comes from a television program and includes a video link that promises to show how it is made. I tried to watch, but it is an entire episode of daytime television, and the quotient of vacuous banter to actual instruction is simply too high! I did watch just long enough to learn that competitor chef Antoinette named the recipe because others already had applied "heaven" and "hell" to egg dishes.

My only modifications were to use no added salt, along with unsalted butter. I only used salt called for in recipes if it is clearly part of baking chemistry; otherwise I know there is plenty in the other ingredients. Where it calls for an oven-safe pan, of course, I used our indispensable cast-iron skillet, to great effect.

Bottom line: On the flavor-nutrition-value-convenience trade-off matrix, this is an all-around winner. Delicious, nutritious, cheap, and easy. Just don't photograph it.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Attaining Ginger

Three years ago, when I was a younger man, my sweetheart noticed that my birthday is not just the birthday of Miss Audrey Hepburn and Randy Travis and anniversary of Kent State and other events both notable and regrettable. It is also National Home Brew Day, which inspired her to gift me a starter kit from Northern Brewer. We have since become home brewers and also home vintners, creating a variety of beers and wines in batches of 48 bottles of beer or 30 bottles of wine every couple of months. We still enjoy beer and wine from other sources, but this has come to provide about half our wine and most of our beer, at a relatively low cost for relatively high quality.

I do not think of myself as a real brewer yet, however, since most of these projects are essentially the paint-by-number equivalent of what really is a complex craft. We simply follow directions from kits, and we do not even usually need to measure anything. My first venture into a more creative beer was about a year ago, when I made a raspberry-wheat beer. In that case, a former student working at The Homebrew Emporium in South Weymouth advised me to use a simple wheat-beer kit and a raspberry flavor concentrate. The idea was to use a simple beer as a "flavor base" (a term I am borrowing from the coffee industry) so to avoid competition with the fruit flavor. Though I am not a fan of fruit beers -- this was mainly brewed as a gift to Pam -- I think the result was quite good.

I was reminded of this a couple of months back, when someone shared a ginger ale with me. I do not mean ginger ale in the common sense, or even ginger beer in the common sense, the latter seeming to mean simply ginger ale with real ginger. Rather, it was a beer with ginger flavoring. I realized that I might be able to use the same strategy that had worked for the raspberry ale, and I further realized that if I acted with alacrity, we could have some ready in time for my fiftieth birthday.on May 4.

I am from a demographic group that cannot hear the word "ginger" without thinking of that age-old question: "Ginger or Maryann?" Although I am not averse to the piquant root and agree that the fictional starlet was easy on the eyes, if pressed, I would side with my island colleague, the Professor, on this one. The famous pair are rendered here by artist Natalie Lynn Cunial, whose work is also rife with mermaids.
I picked up a True Brew American Wheat Kit and a knob of ginger. I followed the directions, putting in the rather generic bittering hops at the beginning of the boil. The recipe does not call for flavoring hops -- those distinctive hops that are put in the brew just a minute or two before the boiling stops and yeast is added. I decided that a couple tablespoons of minced garlic would serve as the equivalent of flavoring hops. A few weeks later, on bottling day, I took one more step to ensure some ginger flavor. When bottling beer, a small amount of sugar -- five ounces for five gallons -- is added just before filling and capping the bottles. The idea is to give the yeast just a bit more flavor, so that a small amount of carbon dioxide will be released within each bottle. Without this step, the beer is flat. I always dissolve the priming sugar in boiling water to make sure it is distributed evenly among the bottles, and having made a ginger syrup for our Valentine's dessert this year, I knew that I could infuse ginger into this priming-sugar mix.

Knowing we would have a few friends over for a birthday dinner, we decided to give the new concoction a try on the day before, which is known as Attainment Day. These are celebrated in our house, and according to the federal government, I was already 50, so it was a good excuse to try a special beer anyway. Mainly, to be honest, I wanted to make sure it was drinkable before springing it on company. Readers of this blog know that we are not always so cautious, often serving guests food we have never tried before, and in fact we would do that on my birthday itself -- stay tuned.

Results -- this wheat-ginger ale is a winner! It is lighter than most of our home brews and had just the right amount of zing!


Lest folks think that only hetero men who grew up in the Golden Age of U.S. sitcom television waste their time on shallow, binary choices between the Gingers and the Maryanns of their imaginations, I recommend Dona Flor, her two husbands, and the various remakes of this Bruno Bareto tale.

Fortunately, as the New York Times recently reported on our own marriage, neither of us had to choose between sizzle, as it were, and steak.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cream of Squash Soup

We used up the very last of last year's CSA bounty with the squash we still had in the freezer. I adapted a recipe from Jane Brody's Good Food Book to make just enough soup for the two of us to have with our grilled salmon.

I started by chopping half an onion, and mincing a clove of garlic and sauteing these in some butter in a saucepan. Fresh ground pepper was added, then a cup of organic chicken stock. The rather small portion of squash we had was added next, and everything was simmered for a few minutes before one cup of milk and a dash of nutmeg were added. Everything was then placed in the blender to puree. Then back to the saucepan to heat before serving. This was a good, easy soup to make and can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.