How It All Started

Bob Phillips

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

Saturday, 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 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?

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.