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, April 30, 2015

Maryland Day 2015

We have a special affinity for the state of Maryland as it is the place where we met and married. We have celebrated the anniversary of day that Maryland became a state for many years, and it was one of the highlights of the year we celebrated all the states' anniversaries. Nowadays, most state anniversaries come and go with nary a mention at our house, but Maryland always gets its due.

This year we made Chèvre Croquettes on Spring Field Greens, a recipe from FireFly Farms found in our Dishing Up Maryland cookbook (which we bought on Nantucket - go figure), and for dessert a Lady Baltimore Cake.

The salad was easy to prepare, especially since we skipped what would have been the most time-consuming part - cooking the beets. Neither one of us is crazy about beets, so we just decided not to include them at all. The Croquettes were prepared using soft goat cheese mixed with a bit of chopped thyme, some garlic salt, and pepper. I formed the mixture into four small medallions and dipped each in a beaten egg, and then corn meal. They were fried in olive oil for 3 minutes and then placed on a bed of greens with chopped red, yellow, and orange peppers and a minced shallot. The vegetables were dressed with a light vinaigrette made from red wine vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard. The salad was quite tasty and was a meal unto itself.

The Lady Baltimore Cake was a much bigger project than the Croquettes. Neither one of us even knew such thing as a Lady Baltimore Cake existed until Pam saw mention of one in Beverly Cleary's book Emily's Runaway Imagination (which takes place in Oregon) earlier this year.

We baked the cake the night before the celebration as we realized that we would need a bit of time for this project. We used recipes we found on the site for the cake and the frosting. This is a triple layer cake, and while we do have three round cake pans, one of them is 9 inches, while the other two are eight. I used all three and then cut off the excess from the larger cake. This gave us a fun taste test. We felt like kids dipping the cut off pieces of cake into the leftover frosting - there was way more frosting than we needed for the cake. One thing about this cake is that it uses A LOT of egg whites (six for the cake itself, and four for the frosting), so if you make it you may want to have some plan for all the yolks. I attempted to make an omelet the next day with all of them, but it was awful - extremely dry, even though I added two whole eggs to the saved yolks before cooking them. The cake though was yummy, and turned out not to be as sweet one might expect when the frosting recipe calls for 1/4 c of corn syrup and 2 cups of sugar.

The dinner -- and especially the dessert -- was perfectly paired with a non-Maryland wine: a Blanc de Blancs from our favorite local vineyard.

Our celebration was muted, sadly, by the unraveling of our beloved Baltimore in the wake of the murder of Freddie Gray, whose memory we toasted at the outset of the dinner.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A little of this and a little of that

Last evening some of James' students were hosting a guest speaker during what normally would have been our dinner time, so we ended up having dinner a bit later than usual. We wanted something quick and easy that would incorporate the one thawed chicken breast we had in our refrigerator.

I started by sauteéing a chopped onion and minced garlic clove, and then added the chopped chicken breast to the pan. I let it heat until the chicken pieces were cooked through. Meanwhile I boiled some water and put in the small amount of tri-colored bow-tie pasta we had. When the chicken was cooked I added some garlic salt, lime juice, and some frozen greens from last summer's CSA and stirred until the greens were cooked. I drained the pasta and put it into the pan and stirred everything to mix well. This dish was pleasing to the eye as well as the palate.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Recipes from The Starving Poets' Cookbook in honor of National Poetry Month

I found a copy of The Starving Poets' Cookbook among late father's things earlier this year. Each entry is a two-page spread that includes a poem about food, a recipe, and an anecdote on how the poet obtained the recipe. My father was a writer and poet himself, but he was no cook, so I imagine that one of the entries in this was written by someone he knew from one of his writer's groups. In honor of National Poetry Month James and I selected two recipes to try from this slim volume. The first was Saffron Seafood which we made with frozen precooked shrimp. First we thawed the shrimp, then removed the tails. The shrimp was then coated with soy sauce flavored with ginger, and corn meal.

The saffron cheese sauce was made by boiling 1 1/2 cups of chicken broth with 1/2 cup of milk, and adding a pinch of saffron (good thing that the recipe called for a pinch, because that was exactly the amount we had on hand). This was poured into a ceramic bowl, and the same saucepan was used to mix two T. of oil with two T. of flour. The saffron broth was poured back in and then I added a bit of cheddar cheese and heated until the cheese was melted and the mixture was smooth.

In another pan I sauteéd a chopped onion and a minced garlic clove and then added the shrimp. This mixture was put into a baking dish, and then topped with the cheese sauce. It was baked at 425 in the convection oven for 15 minutes. It frankly looked unappetizing, but was in fact quite tasty.

The dessert we chose, Banana Coins, was quite a bit easier to make. We melted some Mexican chocolate in a pan, chopped two bananas into 1/4 inch dices and dipped them in the chocolate. They were placed in the freezer for 15 minutes, at which time they were ready to eat.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Cabbage-Apple-Raisin Slaw

We had half a head of cabbage in the refrigerator left from when we made some coleslaw last month. I really wanted to use it before it went bad, and noticed that we also had two apples, so I went to and did an ingredient search for apples and cabbage. There was a fair number of recipes for slaw, so I read a few of them and then, improvising with other ingredients I had at home, I came up with the following:

I chopped most what was left of the cabbage (I didn't do all of it simply because of the sheer volume of it all), and chopped up the two apples and put them in large mixing bowl. Next, I used my immersion blender to mix a dollop of sour cream; two dollops of plain yogurt; about 2 T of honey; the juice of half a lemon; and one T of cinnamon until it was all well blended and smooth. I added the mixture to the cabbage and apple, added some raisins and stirred well. I let it chill overnight. We had some with lunch today. It turned out quite good.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Clean-out-the-fridge Cream of Asparagus and Leek Soup

We still have a few things left in the freezer from last season's CSA farm box, but I used up the last of the leeks on this soup. The recipe is one I created myself after reading several different leek soup recipes in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I started by soaking the frozen leek slices in water, this was both to thaw them, and to remove the sand. I melted some butter in a cast iron soup pot and added the leeks, and then chopped up the half onion I found in the refrigerator and put that in the pot as well. I also found some fresh dill, and fresh tarragon in the 'fridge, so I put that in as well, along with a bay leaf. I added a cup of prepared chicken broth, and then put in the chopped asparagus. I let everything simmer until the leeks and asparagus were tender, then added 1 tablespoon of flour, some garlic salt, and some pepper. Finally I put in 5 more cups of broth, and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes. When it was done simmering I removed the bay leaf, added about a 1/2 cup of half-and-half and used my immersion blender to puree the soup.

We served this with a green salad and some bread for a wonderful early spring dinner.

This can easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock.