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, December 29, 2014

Kitchen Sink leftovers

Last night's dinner was put together with a variety of leftovers, combined with some of the vegetables I froze over the summer from our CSA.

I started by sauteeing an onion and some garlic scrape (CSA), in a large cast iron pot and added some ground beef. Once the beef was browned, I added some diced celery (CSA); parsley (CSA); and dried basil. Next I added a 6 oz. can of tomato paste, and 12 oz. of water. When everthing was mixed I added some kale (CSA) and leftover rice. Upon taste testing I found it a bit bland, so I added some red pepper flakes and a tablespoon of the mole leftover from James' adventure a few weeks ago with Champandongo which gave it just the right kick. We topped our servings with shredded cheddar.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

First Longer Day

THE REASON FOR THE SEASON
Image: Dreams Time
Followers of this blog will know that we often choose our foods to mark special days, including those marking the changes of seasons. And between the latkes of Hanukkah (this year they were even better than the "best ever latkes" of 2012, greatly assisted by our home-made mead) and the lobster of Christmas Eve, we turned once again to Jamie Wood's The Wicca Cookbook.

During the shortest day of the year, we were still enjoying food from the day before, so we actually waited until the day after the longest night to celebrate solstice. This seems more fitting, actually, as it is the first in a string of 182 days of increasing light.

When I made cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving this year, a friend had actually given me two bags of the precious berries, directly from her work at Ocean Spray, so the Chakra Cranberry Sauce recipe (pp. 180-181) was an obvious choice. I heated one cup of water in an indispensible cast-iron saucepan, and added one cup of organic granulated sugar. When it was boiling and the sugar dissolved, I removed the berries from the freezer and poured them in. I added one orange (pureed with our immersion blender), a diced apple and a diced pear. To this I added a cup of raisins (the recipe calls for any dried fruit) and a cup of chopped pecans. I omitted the 1/2 teaspoon of salt the recipe calls for, but did include plenty of ground cinnamon and freshly-shaved nutmeg. I simmered covered for the  recommended 30 minutes, but kept it going afterward, as it was a bit too liquidish. The trade-off here is that it did not have time to cool very much. I recommend making this at least a few hours ahead if you want it to set up right, but it was delicious warm, served with a slotted spoon.

Our main course was stuffed turkey burgers (p. 188), which were similar to one of our staple dinners. In this case, to a pound (or so) of lean ground turkey, I added breadcrumbs, a tablespoon (or so) of dried thyme and the juice of half a lemon. I then made two very thin patties for each serving, forming a kind of pocket that I filled with a small amount of cheese. The recipe calls for bleu cheese, but nobody in our house eats that, so I used two cheeses we always have on hand -- aged Vermont cheddar for Paloma and me, and feta crumbles for Pam. I pressed the edges of each double patty together and put them on a plate in the fridge for a couple hours before cooking them up on our griddle.

I had been unable to find fresh thyme -- the recipe calls for 1/2 cup -- and our front-yard crop is way out of season; This was so delicious that I look forward to trying this again in the late spring, perhaps on Beltane.

The "perfect pairing" for this was to have been Glüwein (mulled wine - p. 194), but I completely forgot. As it was, we were quite satisfied to pair this meal with water, and will make the wine on some frostier day. We will compare Wood's recipe with the TasteFood version.

As always, Thank the Farmers!
Image: Ocean Spray Cooperative

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Champan-Hayes-Boh

For a small honors seminar this semester, I decided to hold the final exam as a discussion over food at Casa Hayes-Boh. I decided to make champandongo the main course, as I have been thinking about this mole-based (MOH-lay) dish ever since we had it here with a group of Pam's students here three years ago.

In that case, Pam had made the food of Coma Agua Para Chocolate a major theme of her Spanish course, and had secured an undergraduate research grant to facilitate having the class make most of the dishes from Laura Esquivel's book (see my posts on its revolutionary context and on Latin American films).

We have cooked several of the dishes from Esquivel's work before -- most notably chicken based on her quail-and-rose-petal recipe, but Pam's class project was far more ambitious, especially since it involved students, many of whom had little if any cooking experience. Working in pairs, students created both a fabulous meal and a permanent record of their culinary efforts. Each post on the CAPCR blog explains how a dish was prepared and how it is connected to the story. All of the dishes were shared at our house during this 8:00 a.m. class. Most were then served again -- either remade or thawed from leftovers -- at an undergraduate research colloquium open to the entire campus.

I must admit that I know the movie far better than the book, and so was unaware of champandongo prior to this adventure with the students. I have been a huge fan of mole -- a complex chocolate-chile sauce usually associated with poultry -- since Pam and I spent the summer of 1989 in Puebla, Mexico. The sauce is properly known as mole poblano, meaning "sauce of Puebla" and represents one of the several ways cacao was used for centuries before people thought of it as a candy. Its use in this lasagna-style dish was simply amazing, and it is hard to believe I have not yet attempted it myself.

In planning my own version, I of course began with the description by Sullivan and Laura. (Incidentally, Sullivan is the only student in this class who I knew previously, both as a student and a long-time family friend.) As complex as the dish was, however, I knew that authentic mole is much more complicated: Campbell's soup, for instance, was rarely available to the ancient Aztecs. I turned to the Hispanic Kitchen blog for more authentic versions, and quickly found an impressive recipe for chicken mole.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Beef-Barley Skillet

From perhaps the most-used cookbook in our collection - More-with-Less Cookbook - comes this simple, yet filling, dish that used a bunch of the things I froze over the summer from out CSA.

I began by sauteeing some onion, and browning about 3/4 pound of ground beef in our indispensable cast-iron skillet. I took some garlic scrape, and chopped celery from the freezer and added a handful of each to the skillet. Next I added a dollop of salsa, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, a dash of marjoram and parsley, a bit of pepper, and threw in some frozen greens for good measure. Finally I added 1 1/2 c. of water and 3/4 c. of barley. Once this was all brought to a boil, I reduced the heat, covered and let cook for 50 minutes.

A tasty, and  hardy winter meal.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Butterbeer

Earlier this year when I prepared Pumpkin Pasties in honor of  Harry Potter's birthday, I also considered making some Butterbeer but the least-sickeningly-sweet recipe I found was for a hot beverage, and it was beastly hot outside, so I decided to wait for a more appropriate season. A cold and rainy St. Nick's Day seemed the right time. The recipe was simple calling for just milk and butterscotch chips. I put some chips in the bottom of some mugs, filled with milk and put them in the microwave, stirring every minute for 2.5 minutes. The chips melted nicely, and the milk was heated without being scalded. I have seen some question as to whether the Butterbeer in the Harry Potter books is an alcoholic beverage, but I think it is made pretty clear in Book 4 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - that Winky the House Elf gets completely soused on the stuff, so with this in mind I added a shot of vodka to each of the mugs. The beverage was hot and creamy, if perhaps a bit too sweet. If I make it again I will use fewer butterscotch chips.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mashed Potato Pancakes

We brought home a bunch of mashed potato leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner. Fortunately, the Huffington Post provided this list of 19 things to do with mashed potatoes just in time for the holiday. I wasn't even sure which one to prepare as so many of them looked promising, so I began at the beginning and made the Cheesy Pancakes. It was pretty simple as the potatoes were already mashed all I had to do was add some shredded cheddar cheese and some chopped scallions and form them into patties. They cooked quickly and easily, and were quite tasty topped with some sour cream.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Feast with Friends

Cranberries (James)

The day before Thanksgiving, as an icy drizzle began to fall on our town, I called a friend a few blocks away, to let her know I would be driving to her house. She waited at the door, so that she would be ready to trot out with a precious cargo -- a large bag of large cranberries -- so that I could rush them from her freezer to ours.

During this year's harvest, she had been moonlighting in quality control at Ocean Spray, the grower-owned cooperative that markets our region's most important crop. Work in QC means taking samples that cannot be put back into the commercial supply chain, so our friend has more delicious cranberries than she can handle, and she rightly surmised that we would put some of them to good use. 

Image: Chiltepin was Chile of the Month last April for the World of Chiles online chile club.
Rather than our usual rum-based preparation, we decided to try something from our previous home in Arizona, from a survey of Thanksgiving culinary traditions recently published in the NY Times. Of course cranberries do not grow in Arizona, but chiles do, so this would be another entry in our sweet-hot series.

I made a few substitutions in the recipe; if it is successful, I'll invest some time next year in getting it right. First, whereas our local grocery store in Tucson had an entire aisle dedicated to chile peppers, here our options are much narrower. I am certain I could have found the chiltepin called for in this recipe, but used some dried peppers of unknown provenance we keep on hand for just such emergencies. Two other omissions I cannot blame on geography: I simply forgot to put a lime and an orange on my shopping list, and decided four grocery runs in two days would have to be my limit. So I omitted the lime-zest garnish and substituted a splash of Triple Sec for the orange zest.

Preparation was quite simple, actually: I brought everything (including the cranberries directly from the freezer) to a simmer in our indispensable cast-iron skillet and then kept it on a very low simmer for about 20 minutes. I then transferred it back to the fridge.

I am especially intrigued by the chiltepin, which resembles both coffee and cranberry fruits. We have a good location for chiles in the sunny front yard of our house, so hope to have some harvested and dried by this time next year.

The Bird (James)
As we have for the past couple of years, we purchased a free-range turkey from Misty Knoll Farms in Vermont, delivered as part of our regular dairy order from Crescent Ridge. Among the many things for which we are thankful are companies such as these, and our financial ability to support them. One should not ask why ethical, healthy food is so expensive, but rather what corners are cut to make so many other foods relatively cheap. A few years ago, we learned that we could free up room in the ovens -- and have better turkey -- if we prepared the turkey outside. Rob began preparing the coals in an ordinary grill early in the morning, and when we arrived he put a pan on them to hold some white wine and to catch drippings. I had rubbed the turkey with a paste of paprika, garlic, and olive oil, and we set it right on the grilling surface, but over such low heat that it just roasted in a winy mist. As it neared the safe-food target temperature, Rob added a couple of slivers of milled oak for smoking. (Stuffing, by the way, was prepared in separate baking pans.)
Roasted, not grilled.
Beets from the Farm Box (Pam)
Our last farm box pick up for this season was several weeks ago. We had eaten and/or frozen most of what we had from this year's "harvest," except for the last of the beets. We are not crazy about beets, and have tried all manner of ways of preparing them to hide the flavor. Some recipes have turned out better than others. I ran a search on allrecipes.com for beets to see if there was something new to try and found a recipe actually called Thanksgiving Beets which was pretty simple, and made use of a lot of spices. so I figured it would do a good job in covering the bitterness that we don't like. Although there were not a lot of beets, and there was a fair number of people (13) at dinner, only about half of this dish was eaten. We did have one true beet lover at the meal though, who was happy to take all the leftovers.

Dessert (Pam)
One of the special things about Thanksgiving dinner is that there are so many desserts to try. This year's options included homemade double-crust apple pie; homemade pumpkin pie; homemade bread pudding; homemade Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake with Bailey's Cream Cheese Icing (Pam's contribution). I emphasize that all of these are homemade because virtually all those who partook in yesterday's meal also had a hand in preparing it.

We got the Bailey's Bristol Cream a few months ago from an estate sale (the same one where I got the biggest bottle of wine. Ever. Which was also enjoyed at yesterday's dinner). The cake was rich, but not too sweet, and appeared to be a bigger hit than the beets.

It was a feast of foodies, with many of the victuals grown locally, in some cases at the same house where they were prepared.

Franksgiving Follow-Up

Thanksgiving is the holiday that keeps on giving -- in the form of leftovers -- and as we continue to reflect with gratitude on our many blessings, we also continue the feast, beginning with our Franksgiving hash.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Great Pumpkin Cookies

I'm not sure how I found this recipe, but I remember noticing that it called for one cup of pumpkin, which was the amount I had leftover from some other recent baking project which I cannot now recall. In fact is has already been over ten days since I made these cookies, it's a wonder I even remember making them. I know that I forgot to add any spices to the batter, even though I intended to put in cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Nevertheless, the cookies were enjoyed by all. That is because I did remember to bake a batch without raisins and nuts for my daughter, who eschews such things. James and I preferred the ones with the extra flavor and texture.

11/28/14
I also forgot to mention when I first posted this that the recipe called for 2sticks of butter. That seemed like a bit much, so I used one stick of butter and one banana.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chicken Rendang

Map: Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge
Almost 2/3 of the population lives on the Malay Peninsula,
with most of the rest occupying northern Borneo.
For this evening's dinner, I had decided yesterday to return to the core purpose of this blog, which is to encourage us to take a fresh look at the familiar recipe books in our kitchen. It was to be our first unscripted Saturday in our own house in a couple of months, and there was no excuse not to pull a book off the shelf and look for something new. It was also our first Saturday after the end of our farm-box season, so local vegetables, though they could be involved, would not dictate the menu.

I opened Extending the Table, an excellent collection of recipes from throughout the world, and started scanning the index for the main ingredients we had on hand. We quickly settled on chicken rendang (rendang ayam), which I later realized would be my first foray into Malay cooking.

I began by finely chopping an onion, one dried chili pepper and three garlic cloves. I grated  hunk of ginger root with our microplane and tossed all together in a small bowl. Once I had heated olive oil in our indispensable cast-iron skillet, I added these and sauteed gently until the mix was golden brown and beginning to caramelize. I then added one pound of chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces, 1 cup of water, half of a 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk, and about a tablespoon of lemongrass paste. We were looking for fresh or dried lemongrass, but when we found the paste and neither of the other forms, we declared our quest successful enough. I heated all of this until boiling, and continued for just a few minutes until the chicken was nearly cooked through.

I then added the rest of the coconut milk and a tablespoon of sugar, returned to boil briefly, and then I lowered the heat and simmered for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, I sliced a cucumber (diagonally, as the recipe suggests, and with "racing stripes" as I always do cucumbers) and put it in the fridge. Near the end of the simmering, I cooked rice in a separate pan. At 90 minutes, the chicken was extraordinarily tender and the sauce greatly reduced, but still like a sweet gravy. We served it over the warm rice, with cuke slices on the side.

This paired very well with the lemony 2012 Rkatsiteli from our friends at Westport Rivers.

Where to find many of our cookbooks ...

Most of the cookbooks mentioned in this blog can be found in the Cook Book section of the online book store I helped to set up for our church. I encourage readers to do the opposite of what often happens -- use the online store to learn about books, and then buy them locally if you can. But if you are going to buy online, doing so through our store does return a small kickback to our community.
Sreenshot: First Parish Online Book Store

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hearty Asian Noodle Salad

Our CSA passed out copies of this recipe to its subscribers last Saturday. Of course several of the ingredients where in the weekly pick-up, and the rest I already had at home, so it made perfect sense to try it.

I started by chopping a small head of cabbage, which of course grew exponentially when cut and almost completely filled the salad bowl before I could add any other ingredients. I added shredded carrots, a shredded turnip, a bit of grated ginger, 4 minced garlic cloves, and some cooked egg noddles (the recipe says any kind of pasta will do) then mixed in some rice vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce. It was hard to mix together because the bowl was really overfull at this point. I really should have put it into a bigger serving bowl, but I have a thing about making too many dirty dishes.

The dish was tasty and filling, and made for good lunchtime leftovers. It is also super easy. The only real cooking involved was boiling the noodles.

The recipe comes from Red Fire Farm

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chemex Crucible

We actually used our Coffee Love book as recently as Valentine's Day of this year, but it seemed longer. Over the past few days we discussed it, and finally got organized for a post-work, pre-lecture experiment.

The lecture in question is a presentation on coffee at the local public library, so this seemed a great time to try something new in coffee.

Author Daniel Young introduces this concoction:

The French word brûlot, from the verb brûler (to burn), can refer either to a small fire ship with enough fuel to incinerate an enemy position or a sweetened, flambéed brandy. In New Orleans, the café brûlot is pretty much both those things. 

I have never been to the Big Easy, though I have visited vicariously through Pam's visit, films, and food. Our success with this little beverage makes me want to get there all the sooner.

We made our café brûlot essentially the way Young describes it, except that he calls for orange peel and we had none. As readers of this blog well know, lack of orange is a good excuse to get out the Triple Sec, which I did. I later learned that a variation by Melissa Roberts on Epicurious does exactly the same thing.

Essentially, I made coffee in the Chemex (I'd make it a bit stronger than usual next time) and meanwhile gently heated some courvoisier with sugar, cloves, and a cinnamon stick. Once the coffee was brewed and the sugar dissolved, I lit the liquid on fire, and then slowly doused it with the coffee (which amazingly did not splatter anything) and continued pouring it in. Then I poured the whole concoction back through a sieve into the Chemex.

The result: smooth, spicy, and delicious -- and definitely on the list for next Valentine's Day.

Now that we have proven this recipe (or more precisely, proofed it) we will work on our technique so that we can try it table-side after a nice meal.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mollie Katzen's Savory Fruit-Stuffed Squash

I got out the classic Moosewood Cookbok to find a recipe for the acorn squash that we'd gotten in our CSA farm box. There were a few choices, but James and I settled on the fruit-stuffed squash. This was a bit time consuming as it required me to cook rice, and to pre-bake the squash halves, and to cook the filling all before filling the squash and baking for 30 more minutes.

The filling was made by sauteeing chopped onions, minced garlic, diced apple, a sectioned navel orange, and adding some cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and a bit of honey. This was mixed in with the cooked rice and then used to fill the baked squash halves, which were then topped with sliced almonds. Everything was baked for half an hour at 350.

While the squash was baking I made the Orange-Ginger Sauce topping. It was a simple recipe using corn starch, orange juice, garlic, fresh ginger, soy sauce and dry sherry cooked over a medium heat.

Once everything was ready it was served, along with plain yogurt for an additional topping. Paired well with Rkatsiteli

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two Simple Dishes

Huffington Post shared a link recently of the "Easiest, Fastest, Tastiest Meals You Never Make" from which I tried two last week. The first "Chicken with Apples and Carrots" I was able to prepare all in one skillet. And, with the exception of sour cream, I was able to prepare it with ingredients I had on hand. I did also substitute dried thyme leaves for the fresh thyme sprig. A winning fall recipe.

The other recipe Tomato and Chard Bake (the doughless pizza) should have been prepared all in one indispensable-cast-iron skillet but I forgot to bring such a skillet with me with we drove to our weekend "autumn house", so I had to use one skillet for the stove top, and then place everything into a cake pan when it was time to bake it. I used the remains two-day old baguette which I sliced and placed in the bottom of the pan with some olive oil and minced garlic. I did not have enough bread to place another layer on top of the tomatoes, mozzarella and chard, but it turned out fine anyway. I think I should have let it sit out a bit longer before serving, as I found the second helping to be better than the first. I think if I make it again I will also use a bit more olive oil and let the bread soak in it a bit longer.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Getting A Head in the Cabbage Game

When I arrived at Colchester Neighborhood Farm yesterday, the farm manager noticed my skeptical look at the huge red cabbages that were first in line for the weekly produce pickup.

Fortunately, CSA is not just about getting a good deal on local, organic vegetables. It is about being part of a community committed to good food. As regular readers of this blog know, sometimes enjoying what is local and good takes a little effort. Most of us have gotten so accustomed to foods that are easy, comfortable, and tasty in a very generic way. A subscription to a CSA puts us in touch with the rhythms of the land around us, and connects us to the foods that are best suited to each season. And it takes a little help to enjoy that sometimes.
Unfortunately, I did not slice across our cabbage to see if it had a spiral like this. It was, incidentally, a deeper purple than any red cabbage I had seen before.
In this case, manager Maryann was ready: she handed me a sheet of paper with three recipes, one of which was Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage. She was so confident that I would love it that we simply put it on the menu for tonight's dinner. It is now among our two favorite cabbage recipes (the overall list is quite short), the other being our famous lime slaw.

The recipe is simple -- simple enough that we were able to pull it off in a kitchen other than our own. Herewith, the details:

Heat 2 T oil, then add 1/2 diced onion and 1/2 diced apple (peeled and cored), sauteing until golden brown. (In reality, I used a whole onion and a whole apple -- we had cabbage to cover I mean enhance.)

Add four cups thinly sliced cabbage. Of course, I did not measure this; I was going to use all of this except the tough outer layers, and I was certainly not going to go buy more if I was a 1/2 cup short! I think slicing the cabbage thin was key, as was reducing the heat so that it did not cook too fast. I added 1/4 cup (or so) apple cider vinegar and 1/4 cup sugar. I actually added all the sugar we had in a little dish, and it was actually brown sugar. This was another key to the success of this dish, I'm sure.

I could not find any celery seed, so in place of 1/4 t of this, I added a liberal sprinkle of dried basil. I simmered for 10 minutes, mixing frequently and thoroughly. I then added 1/4 cup diced Canadian bacon. (Again, the measurement was imperfect -- it was one small package, minus a thick slice for the dog's dinner.)

I sauteed for just another couple minutes, until the bacon was heated through and the whole thing was nice and glazy. I have been careful not to overcook cabbage ever since I heard one of those food-chemistry discussions of how it can go quite quickly from raw to crisp to tender to sulfurous nasty mush.

Fortunately, this reached desired sweet-and-sourness as well as desired tender-crispness in less than a half hour start-to-finish, earning its honored place in our cabbage repertoire!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mulled Mead

To celebrate the first chill of autumn (and the fact that we'd been married 10,000 days!) James and I decided to try Mulled Mead using some of our own homemade Mead. We adapted this recipe we found online. 

We started by heating up the Mead in a saucepan, and then added two cinnamon sticks, a few whole cloves, a couple of whole peppercorns, a whole nutmeg (cut in half), a pinch of ground ginger, a dash of cardamom, and a splash of Triple Sec, we let the concoction boil, and then let it simmer for about 25 minutes. We removed the whole spices with a strainer and poured the Mead into two glasses along with a shot of Amaretto and a tablespoon of honey.

A great celebratory drink!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sweet Potato Almond Butter Muffins

I got out my jar of Almond Butter again to try another recipe from the 19 New Recipes to Make with a Jar of Almond Butter list I found a few months ago from which I made the Almond Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie. I'd been intrigued by the muffins, and with the weather getting a bit cooler I was prepared to do some baking. I also had a lot of time for baking over the past weekend, as we rented a beach house and since James didn't return from a trip to Brazil until Sunday I had Friday evening and all day Saturday for baking. I made a few changes to the recipe, so mine was not vegan. For starters I used a  real egg, rather than a flax seed substitute. I have tried flax seed as an alternative when baking, and it worked out well, but I just took what was easiest when I packed up food for the weekend, and I was already bringing eggs. I also used regular milk instead of almond milk. The recipe calls for oat flour and whole wheat pastry flour, but since I noticed some unused almond flour in our cupboard when I was packing I decided to just try baking with that instead. I used allspice in place of cinnamon. The recipe was easy to follow, even given that I was in an unfamiliar kitchen, and I was working with some substitutions. The muffins were really tasty. The only sweetener, was 1/3 c. of brown sugar, so all the other flavors were evident, and the almond butter gave it a wonderful creamy texture, though they didn't rise as much they might have with a grain-based flour.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Turkey Reuben

One of James' favorite sandwiches is the Reuben - pastrami, Swiss, sauerkraut,  and 1000 island dressing on rye. He orders it almost anytime we are in a restaurant that has it on the menu. Pam is not fond of pastrami, nor 'kraut and therefore does not share James's affinity for said sandwich. She does however enjoy a similar sandwich made with turkey and cole slaw (the Turkey Reuben, also known as the "Rachel"). We were invited to a cookout on Sunday and told the hosts on Friday that we would bring something made with ingredients from our farm box, which we would be picking up on Saturday. Saturday's bounty included a head of cabbage, so James made some of the tasty lime cole slaw he made for my birthday last year. We had some slaw left over after the cookout so Pam got a bee in her bonnet about making Rachel sandwiches. We seldom would have reason to eat 1000 island dressing, so we didn't want to buy a whole bottle to make the sandwiches. Fortunately it was pretty easy to make a small quantity using roughly equal parts mayonnaise, ketchup, and pickle relish.

To prepare the sandwiches Pam heated the indispensable cast-iron griddle, and melted some butter onto it. Meanwhile she spread some mayo on each of four slices of marble rye bread,and placed the slices mayo-side down onto the griddle. Next she spread a bit of the dressing onto two of the slices, and put a slice of Provolone cheese, and two slices of turkey onto the other slices. Once the cheese had melted a bit she put a spoonful of slaw on top of the slices with the dressing. The turkey/cheese slice was then paced on top of the dressing/slaw slice and the sandwich was removed from the griddle, sliced, and served. These were just as good as anything we've been served in a restaurant, especially when paired with some ice-cold home brew.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

L.O.V.E. the Fruit

Where wine- and music-lovers gather
This one will be short and sweet. Well, short and sweet and tangy. One of the things we most enjoy about South Shore summers is the picnics we take nearly every Friday evening to the Sunset Music series at Westport Rivers. It is a great way to begin a weekend, bringing food (some great food is also for sale there), enjoying the wine and beer for sale there, listening to live music, and supporting a family business that is deeply dedicated to the protection of coastal open space.

We decided to include a fruit salad in the picnic we would share with friends who were meeting us at the vineyard. I cut up some strawberries, a banana, some apples, and a mango -- and put them all in the fridge to chill. I was not quite sure what to do about a dressing. A salad like this needs some kind of acid -- perhaps lime juice -- to deter browning, and something for sweetness as well. I had a few ideas, but decided to wait until Pam got home in case she could come up with something better.

And indeed she did. She went immediately to our Treasure Island (the kitchen island that contains all manner of potions and libations, from Triple Sec to infused olive oils), looking for just the right vinegar. That's right ... readers of this blog will know that we are smitten with L.O.V.E. -- a small business operated by a fellow UMBC graduate that introduced us to the magic of infused oils and balsamics a few years ago.

In this case, ripe peach white balsamic was the perfect dressing for the fruit I had prepared. The result was gobsmacking!

Cooking in the Car

Although it was published -- by Miramax Books, of all things -- almost 20 years ago, we only recently learned that Laura Esquivel has a cookbook. We have cooked so many great things from her novel that an actual cookbook is very promising indeed!

I learned of the book when showing the film version of Like Water for Chocolate to my Geography of Latin America class this summer. Searching for other books by the author whose work inspired the movie, I found An Appetite for Passion (Note: IMDb users have given this film only 7.3/10 stars, proving that there is an exception to the general idea that crowds get things right. But I digress.)

We have loved Como Agua and its food since we saw the film in its original art-house run. Pam even participated in a class about the book and its food at our church back in Tucson, and a few years ago incorporated the food into her university Spanish class. The results of this creative undergraduate-research experience are on the CAPCR blog she created with her students, and which we consult frequently.

For this project, Esquivel collaborated with cookbook author John Willoughby and translator Margaret Sayers Peden to put together a volume dedicated to the enjoyment of food with all the senses.

So much for the appetizer -- on to the main course! For our first foray into this volume, Pam suggested a salmon dish, and since I was headed out for my weekly "whaling" voyage in New Bedford, I knew it would be convenient for me to pick up something fresh at Kyler's. I had also come to the market prepared, because I had read the recipe carefully before setting out. I don't always remember to do this, but this story is a lesson in why it is a good idea.

The recipe entitled Marinated Salmon with Warm Leek-Ginger Vinaigrette calls for imbuing the salmon with ginger in two stages, implied by the title. It is to marinate in a concoction of ginger, garlic, soy sauce, orange juice and brown sugar for 2-4 hours before broiling. For the broiling itself, it is to be coated with a vinaigrette -- more like a relish -- of ginger, shallots, leeks, lime, vinegar and soy. (See page 44 of the book for all the details.) Based on this description, I selected a wild-caught salmon with a gamy flavor that would stand up to the ginger. Knowing that we would not be eating until midnight if I followed the recipe after getting home, I prepared the marinade and vinaigrette beforehand, and brought the former to the fishmonger, along with a glass dish and the cooler I always bring. It was then a simple matter to put the fish in the marinade right there in the parking lot, so it could meld while I rowed and drove. When I got home, I put the vinaigrette on, and we enjoyed this along with some home-brewed pale ale and a delicious salad Pam had prepared.
What our "prep kitchen" looked like 187,000 miles ago.
Our 2004 LW300 may have been the very last wagon
sold by Saturn in southern New England.
The results: extraordinarily delicious! The whole family enjoyed this, and Pam found the one leftover fillet to be even more delicious two days later. The recipe calls for far more vinaigrette than is actually needed, so I am saving that for use with chicken in the next couple of days. I think it will be fabulous.

The introduction to this recipe describes the global infatuation with ginger and its association with passion, fecundity, and Paradise. It also makes for a simply delicious dinner.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Patty Pan Potatoes -- Day 2

We often remember the wisdom of Mrs. Poole once said on Valerie, mac & cheese is best on the third day ... with milk. (Quote is inexact, as this show predates social media, so I would have to watch the whole series to figure out exactly what she said.) We can picture her saying this -- and hear Edie McClurg's distinctive voice in our heads -- any time we have a simple dish that seems to improve with a little melding. The most recent example was this evening's side dish of roasted potatoes and squash, which I prepared last night to go along with some fresh salmon.

Putting the kitsch in our kitchen
I had prepared this because I was going whaling for the evening; and would be bringing back a late dinner from Kyler's Seafood. Since I had some leisure in the afternoon, I wanted to prepare a side dish that would require minimal effort from Pam. At this time of year, we also endeavor to use something from our farm share every day, and so far all we had used was the veggies from leftover ratatatatouille. With the bounty of vegetables coming in from Colchester Neighborhood Farm this time of year, we need to do something original every day! It is one of the challenges but also one of the chief benefits of eating locally -- readjusting our food calendar to include more of what is available nearby at any given time of the year.

What came to mind was a simple modification to an old standard of mine -- in fact, when Pam suggested blogging about it this evening, I was confused, because I hardly think of this as a "recipe" at all, much less a "nueva receta." But I do not think I have posted this handy dish before, and certainly not the modification.  I started with a few small potatoes, partly peeling each with our handy monkey peeler. (We usually refrain from peeling potatoes, and if we do, we usually remove only about half the skin.) I then peeled a patty pan (UFO) squash, and diced both to about half-inch cubes.
I put all of this in a casserole dish and added a generous dollop of olive oil and thoroughly dusted the vegetables with paprika (lots and lots), oregano, and pepper. I mixed it all thoroughly and left it for Pam to bake (about 375 for close to an hour) in time for my arrival with the fish, which I simply pan-fried with lime-infused oil and Old Bay. It was very good, served with our home-vinted Gewurztraminer.

But none of this is what inspired us to write this up. It was this evening, when we were putting together a quick dinner of organic hamburgers that we realized this would be a good side. I reheated the roasted potatoes and squash in the indispensible cast-iron skillet, alongside the patties (which included a healthy dose of Worcestershire sauce). The result was simply amazing -- overnight the olive oil had worked its Mrs. Poole magic on the vegetables, and refrying them worked just beautifully. (We did not, as we sometimes do, top this with plain yogurt.) This evening's pairing also worked very well -- our home-brewed Chinook pale ale.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Pancake Bush

When I got home yesterday afternoon, I was proud to find that our daughter and a visiting friend had made themselves a brunch of pancakes. We do not keep a lot of "food" in the house, though we keep a lot of "ingredients" and fortunately Paloma has been raised to know what to do with them. Our indispensable Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison (aka Hayes-Boh Family Bible) was on the counter, opened to the page that is the basis of my James' Famous Pancakes (Readers of this blog will know that we have a favorite approach and many other quite-nice pancake recipes.)
For breakfast this morning, I offered to make pancakes, using the batter leftover from the efforts of our young chefs the day before as a starting point. There was not enough for the whole family and guest, so I augmented it with the ingredients from my own version of the recipe. This time I used 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose, as I sometimes do. I used a spatula to alternate dry and wet ingredients (yogurt, vanilla, milk) and beat in one egg and a little canola oil.

Then came the fun part. Last year I had planted a blackberry bush, and in recent weeks had noticed it already starting to bear fruit. I had nibbled a few directly from the bush, and decided it was time to cook with them. We also had a few blueberries on hand and some butterscotch chips. Rather than mixing in any of these ingredients, I simply scattered them onto individual pancakes, so that we ended up with three different choices, all of which proved to be quite popular, especially when served with warmed, genuine maple syrup.
The blackberries were so big that I had to press them down a bit into the cooking pancakes.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Texican Squash

We are deep into our CSA season when we try to use something each day from the box. Part of our pick up last Saturday was one yellow squash. We have a favorite yellow squash casserole, but I decided to try something new with it this time. I found the Texican Squash recipe at Allrecipes.com. It looked simple enough, and we had everything else needed to make it. I made a few substitutions - using crumbly Mexican farmer's cheese in place of Monterrey jack, and a chopped fresh jalepeño pepper in place of the canned chili peppers. I also noticed that the recipe did not call for onions, and this just seemed wrong, so I added a small chopped onion.

This has a good "zing", though my daughter didn't care much for it (at least she tried it).

I noticed today that the picture on the website has it topped with salsa. When we had the leftovers for lunch, we tried it that way. It is definitely better with the salsa!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

One Day, Two Sexy Cookbooks

On Saturday we picked up our fresh produce from our CSA and began looking for recipes to use some of the bounty. For lunch we selected cucumber sandwiches from the Intercourses Cookbook. The recipe was really for the seasoned mayonnaise because we actually do know enough about food to figure out how to slice up a cucumber and put it between two slices of bread without further instruction. To 1/4 cup of mayonnaise I added a dash of red wine vinegar; a bit of chopped fresh basil, parsley, and rosemary; and a dash each of garlic salt, chili powder, and cumin. I used a blender to mix and to ensure optimal creaminess. We turned an otherwise bland lunch into something rather special. We had a side of seasonal fruit salad (blueberries, peaches, and bananas - Pam's favorite mix)!

For dinner we selected a recipe from BootyFood - Five-Spice Jerk Chicken Breast

We started the sauce by sautéeing diced onion and garlic, than added diced jalapeño pepper. In a separate bowl we mixed a bit cayenne pepper, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and salt and pepper, then added 1/8  c. each of orange juice and mango juice, and a dash of red wine vinegar. This mix was added to the onion, garlic and pepper mixture and simmered for 20 minutes. The sauce was then cooled and most was then poured over two chicken breasts (a bit was saved out for basting). We let it marinate for about four hours, then baked in the oven. We served this over some leftover rice, and had a side salad, also made with ingredients from our farm box.

Friday, August 1, 2014

A-a-anything from the trolley?

Yes!
Pumpkin pasties, please!

Harry Potter fans are well aware that yesterday, July 31, was Harry's birthday - a day I usually celebrate by blogging about one of the HP books. I decided to add to the festivities this year by preparing a favorite food of Harry and friends. I chose pumpkin pasties because we had the ingredients on hand. The pasties were dessert following our early Lammas feast.

I did not actually use pumpkin, but rather a squash that looked like this


Received in this week's CSA pick up

Inside the squash is very light green, almost white, rather than orange. I cut it into pieces and roasted it until it was soft, then pureed. Once I added the spices (way more than the recipe calls for) it didn't matter that it wasn't pumpkin.

This was rather time-consuming, as I had to made the pumpkin custard filling and the pastry dough (the recipe said store bought pie crust pastry could be used - I think not!). Neither the filling or the crust was really that difficult to prepare but cooking time was quite long as the filling had to bake first, then was placed into the pastry, and then everything went back to the oven again. The recipe also said not to bake for more than 10 minutes once the shells were filled. I had to bake for about 25 minutes before I saw any kind of crustiness that I was satisfied with.

These were sweet and creamy - like single-serving pumpkin pies. We had some vanilla ice-cream with butterscotch chips along with it.

Yum!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lammas, Not Llamas

For the holiday we celebrate with this meal, we double the "M" not the "L" -- that would be a meal we had two months ago in the Andes.

Image: Earth DNA
Lammas is one of the cross-quarter dates, August 1 being halfway between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. We are celebrating a day early because, frankly, we are heading to our favorite vineyard for music on the actual date. Our celebration coincides, as many are aware, with the shared birthday of J.K. Rowling and her famous protagonist.

Traditionally, its celebration involves a lot of grains, as observers contemplate the work they have done in the summer and the harvest yet to come. For our celebration, we turned to the pages of -- faithful readers have already guessed it -- The Wicca Cookbook, choosing a recipe that looked appealing, and pairing it with something we could make with food on-hand from our CSA.

What appealed to us was Grilled Trout, on page 124, which the authors suggest we associate with the sacredness of water. The recipe is somewhat vague as to how the fish should be used, though in retrospect it seems a whole, cleaned fish for each diner was intended. After going to the sea this morning, I worked in one of my favorite cafes until my favorite fishmonger was open, knowing that I could get trout or something like it, along with some advice.

I settled on a one-pound fillet of striped bass, and modified the recipe accordingly. I started by whisking together a half cup each of corn meal and wheat flour; the recipe calls only for flour, but elsewhere the book extolls the connection between corn and lammas, so we decided to use both. I added a tiny bit of salt (we usually do not use any, but we have learned that if a recipe calls for salt, we should use at least a pinch), pepper, marjoram, and finely-minced parsley. I divided the bass steak (it was not really even, so I later gave Pam some of my over-sized "half"), brushed it thoroughly with melted butter, and dredged it in the flour mixture. I then placed it on a cookie sheet and broiled it in the oven (mid-level rack, not top) for six minutes.

We drizzled this with fresh lemon and enjoyed it alongside Pam's famous Not-Your-Mother's Green Beans and a glass of our recently vinted Cloverfield Gewürztraminer 2014. We followed this with Pam's rendition of a favorite from the Hogwart's Express.

So for this recipe we wanted trout but used bass; at the end of 2012 we wanted bass to christen our Maryland cook book but used haddock. On Maryland Day the following year, we prepared a shrimp dish that reminded us of Dan Akroyd's approach to fish preparation 
(The link above has the full transcript; only a portion of the skit is available as video).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pigs in Blankets


This week we've been enjoying a visit from some Wisoconsin cousins. Extending our table with friends and family makes mealtime an especially relaxing part of our day. 

We revived an old favorite recipe at the request of our former vegetarian daughter. The last time we made this kid-pleasing dish was probably almost a decade ago, and we surely used Pillsbury refrigerated crescent dough. I wasn't about to do that at this point in my cooking journey, so I got out Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (with emphasis on Everyone) and prepared some biscuit dough. 

I sifted together 2 c. flour; 2 t. baking powder; and 1/2 t. each baking soda and salt. I cut in 6 T. of butter, and then stirred in 1 c. of plain yogurt. I rolled out the dough and cut it into strips. My cousin assisted with assembly by slicing the hot dogs and wrapping a slice of cheese around them. We then wrapped a strip of dough around each dog. There was just enough dough for one pack of 8 hot dogs. I placed the wrapped hot dogs on a baking stone and baked for 16 minutes at 400 degrees  They turned out perfect! I put out some mustard and ketchup for dipping the "pigs". The adults enjoyed this with sangria.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Uncooked Tomato and Mint Sauce with Poached Eggs


Photo from New York Times
A winner recipe from the New York Times. This is a simple summer dish with a good texture and flavor.

We made this one together - James grated 5 plum tomatoes while I chopped the garlic cloves. All of this went into our blender along with some olive oil, mint leaves (from our garden), and a bit of black pepper. We set the blender to puree until it was well mixed. I then followed the recipe instructions for egg poaching, which involved boiling the water for four minutes before adding some vinegar (we used red wine vinegar) and then adding the eggs and boiling another four minutes. I must admit they turned out better than any other poached eggs I've ever made before. James charred two tortilla shells over the flames of our gas stove and two eggs and some sauce we placed on top of each. This was quite good. The mint gave it an unexpected sweetness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tutti-Frutti-Ice-Sparkle


Things that come from the house I grew up in are referred to as "Crosby road relics". Such things are now scattered across at least four households. I was delighted to learn on a recent visit with my sister that a relic I believed to be long lost was in fact shelved amongst the cookbooks in her kitchen. The Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook ("for the Hostess & Host of tomorrow") was used a lot when I was growing up, but mostly for the same three or four recipes. As this photo demonstrates the page with the Eggnog recipe was well used (those are vanilla stains, folks).


Wooden fruit is another Crosby Road relic!
  
We made this recipe quite often. It is for a single-serving of 'nog and we generally had all the ingredients needed on hand. We really had no idea that most people thought of eggnog as a Christmastime treat. We drank it. All. The. Time. Readers will note that just beneath the eggnog recipe is a recipe for a very beautiful beverage called "Tutti-Frutti Ice Sparkle". We could only dream of making this as it required three different favors of "summer drink" as well as a lemon-lime carbonated beverage - things we might have had one of at any given time on Crosby road, but certainly not all four. We also knew better than to ask. 

So, it dawned on my sister and I that we were grown ups now, and could make whatever we darn well pleased. So off I went to buy several flavors of "summer drink". Luckily, my sister already had a case of Sierra Mist on hand. 

I wound up purchasing these little "Happy Drinks" because they were cheap, and came in lots of colors.



The "Happy Drinks also allowed us to step up the original recipe by making four different colors of ice cubes. The drink did look pretty, but my sister pronounced it "vile" upon tasting. Not even our children would finish their servings. Granted, her children are 23 and 21, and mine is about-to-turn-17. They, like us, probably would have been thrilled to drink this if their ages were still in the single-digit range.

Although ours did not turn out quite as beautiful as the pictures in the book, adding a mint sprig gave it a bit of class.

We also tried putting the colored ice in sangria. DO NOT try this! You will absolutely RUIN your beverage.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Haddock from The Sea! The Sea!

Tonight was a quick meal and therefore a mercifully short Nueva Receta entry. As readers of this space might have noticed, I often stop at Kyler's Catch when visiting New Bedford as a participant in Whaling City Rowing. Often I quip that I'm going whaling -- which of course I would never do, though that is what our hobby looks like -- or that I'm headed out to The Sea! The Sea! I have become only slightly nautical rather late in life, so I'm making the most of it.

Similarly, I am sharing a fried-fish "revelation" that is probably knowledge real New Englanders are born with, but it came together today in a way that was entirely new to me.

Anyway, I often bring back cod, which is delicious but breaks apart the way I usually cook it. Until I find out what that is -- I have a whole book on the subject, so it should not be hard -- I have tried halibut a few times. Just for the halibut. (Sorry about that one; you saw it coming.) I choose this because I sometimes see it on the menu if an actual species is offered for fish 'n' chips (as opposed to scrod, which is New England for "whatever we got the best deal on today.")

At Kyler's this morning -- after a 6 a.m. row around the hah-buh and an exploration of the magnificent Charles W. Morgan -- I stopped in and took my number. I asked the fish monger for "about a pound" of halibut and we were both impressed when the filet he chose for me weighed in at 1.00 pounds. Close enough. I put it in the cooler that I always take with me this time of year, and brought it home.

I've had some success with halibut, but today a lack of preparedness led to even greater success. I usually start by beating and egg and mixing it with a little water and Tabasco, because I had a recipe (from our friends on Avery Island) that suggested this is a way to wetten the fish before dredging it in flour, and it has worked pretty well. But I had no egg, so I just used a little local, organic milk, with a healthy dash or three of the splendid hot sauce.

I had already whisked together about (meaning I did not measure at all) 1/2 cup white flour, 1/4 cup corn meal, one teaspoon baking powder, and a vigorous dusting (Maryland-style, meaning overhand) of Old Bay. I heated enough olive oil to have about 1/8 inch of oil puddling in the indispensible cast-iron skillet and got it hot. Then I cut the fillet into two fillets (doubling the dinner!), drenched the fish in the wet bowl, dredged it in the dry bowl, and plopped it -- with a bit too much splatter -- into the pan.

Once cooked almost through, I turned each fillet, and found that the batter had a wonderful texture, something I had never managed at home. I served it up with a salad built mostly from our CSA farm box and a red wine that was not an ideal match but that worked very well because it was chlled and we were not. We both agreed that it was the best fried fish I had made so far, and that I should write down how I did it!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cab Coolers


We'd been planning on making Cabernet Sauvignon Coolers for a few months, and decided that this would be the weekend for it, when serendipitous-ly, I found two bottles of Charles Shaw (aka three-buck Chuck) "Cab" on a wine rack of what was otherwise empty wine bottles on Saturday when I cleaned out the basement. How lucky is that? It was like finding money!

The recipe comes from our Intercourses cookbook and is pretty simple, although it is not something that can be whipped together at the last minute as it needs several hours for cooling and freezing. I started by boiling together 3/4 c. Cabernet Sauvingnon and 1/2 c. each of water and sugar in a saucepan. After it boiled I put it on simmer for a few minutes, then took it off the heat to cool a bit. Next I added 3/4 c. white grape juice and 1/3 c. lemon juice and put the mixture into the refrigerator to cool completely. Once cool it was poured into ice cube trays and then frozen. Once frozen, the ice cubes were removed from the tray and put into our blender and pureed. I needed to add a bit more wine to the mix to get it moving in the blender. I divided the frozen treat into two bowls, and garnished with mint (from our garden), and grapes.  A refreshing dessert for a summer evening.

Bonus! This recipe filled two ice-cube trays, and we only needed the cubes from one for last night's fare, so we will be able to enjoy this treat again this summer with only a minimal of prep time!

I must say Intercourses sure doesn't fail to please!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Solstice Supper

It being the first day of summer -- and the longest day of the year -- Pam made two good suggestions. The first was to look for solstice recipe ideas in our Wicca Cookbook. The second was to enjoy the resultant feast-for-two outside. It was also the first day of the new CSA-farmbox season at Colchester Neighborhood Farm, so her third suggestion was a a very fresh and local salad!
Stonehenge solstice image lifted from Pixie Campbell.
Not sure whether or where she lifted it!
 Cherry Pottage

I begin this post at the end of the meal. Because this dish required heating and then considerable cooling, I started it first. In fact, because we selected the menu after doing most of the day's chores, we procured cherries rather later in the day than would have been ideal. This should ideally be prepared very early in the day.

Before getting into the preparation, I should address the question on everyone's mind: what the flaming heck is a pottage? Is it just a misspelling of porridge? Well, yes, basically. I thought of it as an archaic form of the word porridge -- which I associate with oatmeal -- probably owing to its use in archaic biblical translations as in "Esau traded his birthright for a mess of pottage."

Our Friend the OED tells us that the word is indeed an archaic (as early as 1225) form of "porridge," further defining it as 

A thick soup or stew, typically made from vegetables, pulses, meat, etc., boiled in water until soft, and usually seasoned
Which raises a further question: What does this have to do with cherries? The cookbook includes a narrative ahead of each recipe, so I turned to this, hoping for clues. Not a word! The authors do, however, ruminate on the value of "special" meals and other things that we use only on certain occasions. In this case, the white sugar used in this recipe meant that it would only have been served as part of a celebration. As with fine silver or china, such a use presents an interesting paradox. We bring out our "special" items in part to show off -- and show thanks for -- our prosperity, yet we have to use these things sparingly, for we are never quite that prosperous. And once we are, the specialness is gone. White sugar is a perfect example; I think of the cherries as a special splurge, but white sugar is about as ordinary an ingredient as we can have.

I hand-pitted an entire quart of fresh cherries with a paring knife (a better tool is on its way for next time) and placed them directly into the blender, with 2/3 cup of red wine and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. The wine was from a partial bottle of our home-made Barolo that we had set aside for cooking. I pureed this mixture until smooth. Then I melted about two tablespoons of butter in our indispensable cast-iron saucepan and poured in the fruit along with an additional 2/3 cup wine and 1/3 cup sugar.

Meanwhile, Pam cut up a few slices of wheat bread to provide what the recipe calls "soft bread crumbs" because we had no idea how else to do that! We added these and continued heating until bubbly. The recipe calls for "low heat" but also bringing this huge mixture to sufficient activity to reduce and thicken it. So I turned up the heat a bit and stirred this continuously for approximately ever. It was not reducing, so we added one teaspoon of cornstarch (dissolved in a little hot water) to thicken the mixture.

We cooled this on the counter and then in the fridge for a couple of hours, until well after dinner. This definitely falls in the category of a "better on the second day" food. We have not (yet) tested the theory that it also falls in the category of a "better topped with vanilla ice cream and/or cherry liqueur" but odds are high.

Midsummer Ale Bread

This brings to mind another question: "Where have you been all my life?" For several years we used beer as an ingredient in our bread-machine pizza dough, until we realized that it made it too doughy, and that the entire family prefers crustier crust. I had not thought of ale as a main leavening agent, though perhaps I should have. This was amazingly simple: I whisked together 3 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar (which I took for granted, until reading the discourse on pottage, see above). To this I mixed in 12 ounces of our special Scotch ale, making a thick dough.

I then turned this into a 6x9-inch pan and drizzled 1/2 cup (one stick) of butter over it. Actually, I could tell that was WAY too much butter, so I used some of it to brush the bottom of the pan, and still had plenty to drizzle and plenty more to reserve for the main course (see below).

The directions called for three smaller pans, which would have had the advantage of even more buttery-crusty goodness, but the single pan worked great -- 350F for 50 minutes, plus just a few minutes once I tested it. This was a very easy, delicious bread. A bit crumbly, but designed to break apart for sharing. The authors recommend it for housewarming parties, since a blessing can be said with each piece that is shared, and love will fill every room of a house. We ate it outside -- the longest day of the year and all -- but still blessed our house!

Noodles Della Italia

For the main course, I cooked fettuccini in one pot (this did not make it pottage!) while re-using our indispensable cast-iron saucepan to saute onion, garlic, red bell pepper, sliced mushrooms, and fresh oregano and basil from our front yard. When I read this recipe, I thought it would be rather like pasta primavera, but it had no tomatoes, and I had caramelized the vegetables just enough to give this a much earthier feel and sweeter taste.

What does this have to do with solstice? I'm not sure, except that we do have oregano and basil this time of year. The authors cite Stregheria, the Italian earth-based religion, but the opportunity to share a family recipe that is light and suitable for summer cooking seems to be the main motivation.

Salad

As mentioned above, Pam put together a delicious salad with local Romaine and other leafies, along with a couple kinds of berries. This went very well with a Maine blueberry vinaigrette, and the whole meal went very well with Westport Rivers Pinot Noir, one of the very few good red wines from our region.

Friday, June 13, 2014

12-Clove Garlic Chicken

I adapted this recipe from the Jane Brody's Good Food Book "40-Clove Garlic Chicken" recipe. We didn't have 40 cloves of garlic, so I just worked with what I had. I used our super-cool pottery dish for baking a whole chicken.

 

I filled the bowl with one chopped onion, 12 garlic cloves, 4 pieces of cut celery, some parsely, garlic salt, pepper, nutmeg, and tarragon. There is a tube in the middle of the bowl upon which the chicken sits - this was filled with vermouth, and yet more vermouth was added to the bowl. The chicken was placed over the tube and then brushed with olive oil and additional vermouth. I covered the chicken with foil and placed it in a 325 degree oven for 1.5 hours, as indicated in the recipe. The chicken was not nearly done at that point, and James advised me to remove the foil. We also bumped the oven up to 400. After about 30 more minutes the chicken was done. It was juicy and full of flavor. We enjoyed this with a crusty multi-grain bread, some baked potatoes and some Pinot Grigiot.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Best Chicken Made Even Better

Image from eBay
The main purpose of this blog has been to motivate us to dig deeper into some of the many cookbooks from which we had been using only one or two favorite recipes. Readers will know that this has helped us to tread many new culinary paths over the past several years, finding dozens of new food ideas.

Today's installment is not such a story. Rather, this is the story of a slight adjustment to an old favorite, as far as we know the only thing we have ever prepared from one of the smallest books on our cookbook shelf.

Before explaining what I prepared and how, I should share a few things I learned about this book. It is the 12th printing of a booklet of recipes -- called receipts -- from a restaurant with several outlets in the Kansas City area. I once lived on the Missouri side of the city, so I assumed this came from  my family kitchen somehow, though I remember neither the restaurant nor such a theft. And it turns out my assumption has to be wrong, since this was printed in 1987, seven years after I left KCMO.

Before today, I had never noticed that the booklet title refers to restaurants in the plural, a reference to three similar operations -- all of which resemble large-scale apple stands. More importantly, I had never noticed that this is a book of receipts -- more like the Spanish title of this blog than the English word. Or at least the most common English word. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the 14th (out of 17) definitions of the word receipt is a "statement of the ingredients and procedure required for making a dish or an item of food or drink" -- that is, a recipe. Citations for this usage are found from 1595 all the way into the 20th Century, but it is now considered archaic or even historic. It adds to the extreme quaintness of this little volume.

One more note about the book is that the original restaurants seem to have gone out of business, though the son of one of the founding brothers did try to revive the apple-themed family business. Restaurant critic Charles Ferruzza reveals his disdain for the effort in a review entitled Frittered Away. What do you really think, Mr. Ferruzza? Don't hold back!

World's Greatest Chicken

We made the Baked Chicken 'n' Butter and Cream fairly often before our daughter became a vegetarian. In our own defense, I must stipulate that it calls for milk, not cream, though there is no pretending that this is a lean recipe! Because she called it the "world's best chicken" back in those days, we decided to try it again last night.

The recipe appears at the link above an in the scanned page below. Rather than cut-up chicken pieces, we have usually used strips of chicken breast, as I did last night. One very unusual feature of this recipe is that it calls for powdered milk. This was a staple at Ten-Fourteen Crosby Road (the old Hayes Homestead), but I almost never had it as a kid. We keep it on hand for precisely two purposes: bread-machine recipes and this chicken dish.

To go with this ultimate comfort food, I also made my standard oven-roasted potatoes. I partially peeled a few potatoes (meaning that I left about half the skin on, a compromise) and cut them into cubes of a bit less than an inch. I then tossed them with about a glug of olive oil and then mixed in salt, pepper, and oregano. And here is the big difference: I usually add a lot of paprika to the potatoes, just as I was called upon to do for the chicken. Instead, I added a generous dusting of Old Bay to both, in a sense tying the two dishes together.

I cooked both at 400 using convection, putting the potatoes in first while I prepared the chicken. Once I added the milk to the chicken, I reduced the temperature to 350, and the overall time was a bit less than the recipe calls for, because the strips were smaller than chicken pieces. At the table, we topped the potatoes with cool, plain yogurt (which we often use in place of sour cream).

The verdict: Paloma found she is no longer "into" this kind of chicken, but Pam remarked that Old Bay had made the "world's best chicken" even better! My only real error was to pair this with a Muscat white wine, which is sweeter than I realized. An IPA or a dry wine would have been much better. Leftovers went very well with Pam's fresh-squeezed lemonade this afternoon!

Scanned from our copy. Notice that this "receipt" was always on the Stephenson's menu.
 BONUS:  Ham Roulade receipt, showing that these folks had no hesitation to bring a full range of dairy products to bear in any situation.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Almond Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie

Recently my FaceBook feed featured a link from the Huffington Post for "19 New Recipes to Make with a Jar of Almond Butter." I have had a jar of almond butter in my refrigerator for quite a while now. I occasionally use it instead of peanut butter when making a sandwich, but it really never occurred to me to try to find a recipe to make with it. There are actually several on this list of nineteen that I might try, but I started with a rather simple one. The recipe provided is for a vegan smoothie using vanilla almond milk, but I made a non-vegan version with vanilla yogurt. I started by grinding 3 T. of oatmeal in the blender until they were finely ground. Then I added one chopped banana, a handful of ice cubes, 1/2 c. vanilla yogurt and a bit of agave nectar and blended until mixed well. I was a little concerned about the texture of this, and I was right to be. It was a bit grainy for my taste. It was just the right amount of sweet though. It wasn't bad, but I doubt I will try it again. There are plenty of other kinds of smoothies I like better. I do not plan on trying the Almond Butter Spinach smoothie (no. 11 on the list) at all.