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, August 19, 2015

Birthday Simplicity

Image: My results were tasty but lacking symmetry.
Among the many things of which we are proud as our daughter becomes an adult is that she has a strong and growing interest in good foods, including fruit. The rule in our house is that a birthday is celebrated with whatever dessert it requested by the celebrant. So when Paloma requested something strawberry-related, I did just a few seconds of "research" to find Fresh Strawberry Cake on

This is a very simple vanilla cake with a simple glaze, except that it includes a full quart of crushed strawberries, divided between the two components. I looked for local strawbs, but we are about 6 weeks late for that, so I went with what I found in the store. I then stemmed and halved them, and used our potato masher to crush them (gently) almost to a liquid.

I used a Bundt instead of the called-for pans, which might explain the much longer cooking time I needed, and the messy outcome. As Pam said, "Cake Boss would not be pleased." But our entire little party agreed it was delicious, and it counts as a fruit serving!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Collaborative Chicken Salad

a.k.a. Tarragone Salad

Determined to do better with finding new dishes to prepare weekly, we took out some cookbooks and found a few new-to-us recipes. We like to start our summer weekends with Sunset Music at Westport Rivers Vineyard. Sometimes we eat some of the local fare from the vendors, but usually we bring our own picnic.

This week we tried Tarragon Chicken Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts from the Dishing Up Maryland cookbook. We took turns doing the various tasks in order to get this ready. James started the night before by boiling some chicken breasts and refrigerating them overnight.

While Pam was home for her lunch break she made the Old-fashioned Boiled Salad Dressing that accompanied the recipe for the salad. The dressing was made by starting with 3 eggs and a cup of milk whisked together. To this was added 2 T flour; 2 T sugar; 1 t salt; 1 t dry mustard; 1 t celery seeds and a dash of pepper. This was cooked on low heat while whisking continuously. Finally 1/4 c of vinegar was added.

Next time we'll make a better effort
 to include this beautiful herb.
But really, this recipe is
delicious without it.
When James returned from work he finished putting everything together. He was, in fact, clueless about the complexity of the dressing, having only read the directions in detail while wrapping up this blog post, to which he added the subtitle. The word "tarragone" refers to the omission of targon, both among the herbs to be added and the vinegar that the recipe calls for.

When James got home, he simply diced the now-cold chicken, finely chopped some celery, and combined both with 1/3 cup sour cream, red-wine vinegar, the dressing Pam had made, and some salt and pepper. He then stirred in a cup of chopped hazelnuts he had toasted for a few minutes in our indispensible cast-iron skillet.

Although preparation was spread over a full day, it took us longer to write this than it did to prepare the dish. It is simple and perfect on a roll for a picnic. It paired well with two different wines of medium dryness - Cinco Cães (Five Dogs) from the site of our picnic, and a more pedestrian Chardonnay from Line 39 a couple days later.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Coming Out of the Cold

As mentioned in the "Cada Mes" post last week, our summer has been blessed with everything but at-home leisure, putting us well behind our usual pace of a new recipe each week. Well behind. As we get back on track, today's post is not only a specific recipe, but some of what we have learned about how to plan meals.

It began with Pam making a list of today's goals that included a freezer inventory. After a morning row and some extreme yard work, we got together at the freezer door and used a cooler so that we could take everything out and put it on a list. We threw out one or two items that were of miniscule quantity or unknown provenance, but otherwise made a detailed list of everything in the freezer before returning it there. (I did generously volunteer to save space by finishing off a small quantity of vanilla ice cream.)

With the inventory in hand, we each grabbed a cookbook to look for something that would be new to us, interesting, and most importantly that would use something from the inventory. Pam found a chicken salad that we will prepare at the end of the week for our weekly vineyard outing -- details to follow.

Because I knew we had a fresh package of tortillas in the fridge, I turned to our bible, a.k.a. The Well-Filled Tortilla. I have to admit I was doubtful. After all, we have used this book many times over the past 20 years, and much of what remains is either grandiose (even for us) or uses ingredients on the no-go list (olives, tripe). But we had a half-bag of lentils ("half" being the most common word on our freezer inventory), so I checked the index for that word.

On page 221 is a recipe entitled "Indian-style lentils." We were prepared to use the second half of our Sunday for something more complicated, but this worked out very well indeed. We went to our local farm stand at Hanson Farms after deciding the recipe, so that we could get the needed tomatoes there. We planned a grocery-store run for after the farm stand, for any items that would not be there. This is always a good order to shop -- home inventory then farm stand, then grocery.

The rest came from our shelf, fridge, or modest garden. (Actually, mint is not a "garden" item. It is something that the previous owner of our house planted, and which we can now retrieve from random spots all over our property.)

Preparation was incredibly simple, halving the recipe as printed. I put 3 cups of chicken stock (could have been any stock) in a stock pot, along with 1/2 pound of lentils and three medium potatoes, diced to 1/2-inch.  I then added plenty of turmeric, cilantro (in place of coriander), ground clove, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. I heated to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes.

I then added a generous splash of lime juice (from a bottle in this case). We then diced tomatoes, tore up some mint, and spooned up a little sour cream that was in the fridge. The only thing missing was something the recipe calls "pickled carrots, optional."

The result; Delicious! I had been skeptical of a dish calling for both lentil and potato, but they worked well together in this case. These tacos paired beautifully with a 2013 Wild Oats Pinot Noir from from San Luis Obispo, California. This is a complex wine with dark fruit flavors and just a bit of spice.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Cada Mes Salad

It has been a busy summer for the Hayes-Bohs, as we prepare to send one family member off to college while also arranging for the purchase of a second home, a small retreat near the sea. We have not managed to maintain any thing like the weekly pace of new recipes envisioned for this blog project, barely managing one new recipe a month.

Despite distractions, we have managed to enjoy our tradition of vineyard concerts nearly every week, though we have wimped out on the picnic preparations, relying on a combination of deli salads and on-site catering most of the time.

Pam saved the day -- and our reputation -- by finding a recipe for a salad that we could bring to the vineyard this week. In the New York Times, she found Mark Bittman's recipe for Corn Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Mint.

This is a recipe whose title is the recipe. James prepared it by simply putting all of the ingredients listed in the title into a bowl, and tossing with olive oil, salt, and pepper. We put it with some ice in a cooler, and had a wonderful accompaniment to the Compton Catering hot dogs and Cinco Caes wine we enjoyed on the lawn at Westport Rivers.

Although we have now skipped from June to August on the blog, we did prepare this dish right under the wire for a recipe per month. Not to worry, though: cada mes is not our new standard. This is still the cada semana recipe blog!