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...

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