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...

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 Gew├╝rztraminer 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 Wisconsin 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


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!