How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, 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.


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.