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...

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: AllTackle.com

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.