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...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chicken Catch-all Tore

Over the weekend I picked up some mushrooms for possible inclusion in a salad we were bringing to church. Since the theme of that salad was berries, the mushrooms were not used. I considered a breakfast-for-dinner omelet each evening, but since we have adopted a one-egg-a-day breakfast habit (which I highly recommend), this never seemed quite right.

So at some point during the week, I settled on chicken cacciatore as the best way to use some mushrooms. Unfortunately, the only way I have ever "made" this dish has been to make a drive to our local boate, Crispi's by the train tracks. I had not ever really thought about how to put this meal together, so I turned to our trustiest of pasta volumes. Surprisingly, it does not cover this, which I assumed to be rather standard fare.

Thus it was I turned to Google, which soon landed me at a fine and simple recipe on As I looked at it, I realized we had just about everything it called for, including some leftover bell peppers and more. Not being at all fussy about proportions, I just used what I had on hand of each ingredient. Since I was using boneless chicken breasts, I did not simmer for nearly as long as the recipe suggest.

The result was an absolutely delicious and simple meal, sure to be repeated.

Monday, March 23, 2015


For a dinner at our church this weekend, I had volunteered to make a casserole, with no specific choice in mind. When the time came, I almost reverted to a potato-mushroom casserole with sun-dried tomatoes that I have not made in some while (and which seems to be absent from this blog). In the spirit of Nueva Receta, however, I decided to go to the cookbook shelves, and found a likely candidate in the second book I picked up -- Extending the Table.

The index includes several items under the heading "casserole" and confirms that lasagna can be considered part of the category. I chose, however, to try the Enchilada Casserole, also known as Locro, from Paraguay. As the recipe promises, this is far easier to make than actual enchiladas would be.

As published, the recipe is for a tiny casserole, so I doubled it. The result was still rather shallow in the pan, so I will probably make a larger batch next time. This is not baking, so the proportions need not be exact. For example, the recipe calls for 1/3 cup of chopped green pepper, which I "doubled" to one large green pepper plus two jalapeƱos.

I preheated the oven to 350F and then browned a pound of ground turkey, a chopped onion, the peppers mentioned above. I omitted the salt called for in the recipe because it also calls for tomato sauce, which always has plenty of salt. I did, however, add a lot of chili powder and oregano. I will also add cayenne next time.

The recipe indicates that fat should be "skimmed" at this stage, because it calls for ground beef. The lean ground turkey did not require skimming. I added one can of tomato sauce and 3 cups -- one full bag -- of frozen corn. (The recipe suggests hominy, which we have given an honest try a couple years ago and just don't like, or canned corn, which is just gross. )

I simmered this for just a few minutes and poured it into the casserole, baking for 20 minutes. I then added a generous shredding of pepper-jack cheese and baked for five more minutes.

This was a crowd pleaser: we brought home a clean dish!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Seafood Break and Brunch

The "break" part of our spring break is just the final three-day weekend, which we started with a couple of seafood meals -- a champagne-seabass dinner Thursday evening and a salmon brunch the next morning. We planned these meals when it seemed that Thursday would begin with a return to rowing in New Bedford harbor, where I usually stop by Kyler's Catch on my way.  Our whaleboats were still quite frozen in, but since the menu described below was already set, I took Gretel (our car) out for a spin.
Conditions precluded rowing, but I did go visit our boats on the way to the fishmonger.
For the dinner, we turned to An Appetite for Passion, which regular readers of this blog might recognize for the many Laura Esquivel citations we have made since purchasing it not long ago. For the recipe Sea Bass with Champagne and Grapes, I selected two large halibut filets at Kyler's, since the only sea bass on hand was frozen and rather puny for the price. The halibut was magnificent, though. This recipe requires poaching the fish with champagne (or equivalent sparkling wine), shallots, and lemon.
Food photography is fraught -- poached halibut tastes much better than it looks, but the sparkling wine was in a handsome bottle!
We used a very nice Blancs de Noirs from our favorite vineyard, after checking to make sure that we would not need the whole bottle. Using good wine in cooking is justified if the good wine can also be served with the meal, as it could in this case.

After poaching -- which I should have done for just a bit longer than the indicated 5 minutes, because these fillets were thick --the fish was set aside and some cream whisked into the wine until it reduced to a cream sauce. I used milk (because I had forgotten cream) and a little butter and flour instead. I then poured the sauce over the fish, along with halved white grapes and chopped hazelnut. I broiled this for a few minutes and the result was simply amazing. This paired perfectly with the wine used in cooking it.

We could not find any seafood brunch ideas in our go-to seafood books, so I took to the interwebs, where I found a recipe for salmon hash. We have never been disappointed in a hash recipe (see Franksgiving and Bean Hash, for two examples), so we decided to give this one a try. We followed the latest has recipe essentially as written, and we were not disappointed. We had a little bit of the Blancs de Noirs left over from the previous evening, so that the mimosas tied the two meals together.
Technically, any meal served between breakfast and lunch can be brunch, but the term really does imply mimosas!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Grilled Cheese and Fig Jam sandwiches

Sometime in the recent past I found a recipe on the web for this sandwich. I don't remember now where it came from, but it didn't matter too much as I didn't really need a "recipe" since knowing the the name of the dish sufficed for instructions. I won't explain here what I did either, but I will elaborate to say that I used Fig and Ginger jam, and cheddar cheese to make the sandwiches. We ate them with a side of nachos made from the leftover filling of the sloppy joe's we had the night before. The meal was complemented with sangria. All good.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Eggs

I saved this recipe back in November and didn't think about it again until this past weekend when I was trying to make up for lost time with "nueva recetas". I made this for breakfast on Saturday, and then forgot to write a post about it, even when I was writing posts for Sunday's breakfast and dinner. There are a lot of things I like about being fifty. My faulty memory isn't one of them. Anyway, this was easy to make. We didn't have bacon, so I made a vegetarian version. I baked the sweet potato in the microwave first, it didn't take long (perhaps 5-6 minutes) to become soft enough to slice in half and scoop out the middle. I cracked an egg into each opening, topped with shredded mozzarella, and baked at 350 for 20 minutes. I also put it under the broiler for a few minutes after. We topped these with garlic salt, and fresh basil.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Something like the Ghanaian Spinach Stew posted on the NYT website

I try to read at least some of the New York Times online everyday, and occasionally I try a recipe I find there. The Ghanaian Spinach Stew looked good, and I thought I could probably substitute some of the mixed greens I froze over the summer from my CSA for the spinach. I ended up making a variety of substitutions as it turned out, and in fact, ended up adding an ingredient just because it seemed like a good idea. Ultimately, I wound up with a pretty tasty dish that still had some resemblance to the recipe provided.

Rather than list all the substitutions, I'll describe what I did from the beginning:

I chopped up and sauteed half a medium onion, along with some garlic scapes (frozen from the CSA) and a dried, chopped chili pepper. I followed the recipe's instructions to cook until the onion was caramelized, at which point James and I both started to cough from volatilized pepper. I turned down the heat, and put on the mostly useless stove hood fan. (James adds: Our fan does not have an outdoor vent, so it is essentially a Playskool fan. One of these days...)

Once the air was brought back under control I added a can of tomato paste, some ground ginger, and a can of diced tomatoes. I had planned to used pumpkin seeds (as the recipe called for) but realized the ones I bought were not raw, but rather roasted and salted, so I decided to throw in a can of chick peas instead. Finally I put in some of the frozen greens and cooked until everything was heated. The dish was spicy hot, so it worked well served over some leftover rice and paired with some Long Trail Ale.

A Good Way to Make French Toast

After sauteeing some banana slices last week to go along with the Blueberry-Vanilla Goat Cheese Quesadillas it occurred to me that sauteed bananas and walnuts topped with Dark Chocolate Vinegar might make a good dessert, then I thought it might also make a good topping for French Toast. Turns out I was right.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Creamy Pesto Shrimp

I saved several recipes for shrimp over a year ago, and finally went back and picked one to try. This was simple to make, and prompted me to buy a basil plant so I could make the pesto. We had frozen shrimp, so I didn't have to cook any, I just thawed some and threw it in the sauce for the last few minutes of cooking.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Blueberry-Vanilla Goat Cheese Quesadillas

We have been rather remiss in 2015 with following through with the weekly recipes. I don't feel bad about it. The New Year started with a death in the family, and one snow storm after another, so getting out  cookbooks and finding something to blog about has fallen to a low priority after mourning, traveling, and cleaning up snow.

The dish I made for breakfast this morning didn't come from a recipe book. I was simply inspired to make it when I happened to notice the two main ingredients next to each other in the refrigerator. We bought the blueberry vanilla cheese from Trader Joe's last week. It is something we usually pick up there and I enjoy it on English muffins or crackers, but yesterday I realized it would make a jim-dandy breakfast quesadilla. The cheese is crumbly and hard to spread, so getting it onto a tortilla shell was more a matter or pressing down on the crumbles with the flat part of a knife rather than spreading. I covered one half of a round tortilla shell with the cheese, folded and then grilled it on the stove-top for a few minutes in each side. As a side dish I sauteed some banana slices.

We topped the quesadillas with some flavored vinegars from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium. I took a selection of likely pairings from the cabinet and tried them all. I found the Dark Chocolate to be especially tasty. The Wild Blueberry, and Ripe Peach were also good. James tried Wild Blueberry and called it "delicious". 

These were super easy, and super yummy.