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, November 25, 2015

Cranberry Gingerbread

James' post about the Cranberry Noir describes how he got the fresh cranberries from a former student. Said student actually brought so many cranberries (6 cups!) that not only was he able to make the sauce that we'd been salivating over, there were still plenty of cranberries so that I could make the Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread recipe I found in the New York Times. Sticky is definitely the right adjective to use when describing this gingerbread. These adjectives are also appropriate:

  • Spicy (I used even more spices than the recipe called for including fresh ground cloves and allspice)
  • Sweet
  • Yummy

It took longer to bake than the 50-minutes indicated in the recipe (more like 75) and it stuck badly to the parchment. Next time I will just grease a pan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cranberry Noir

Teaching is a great job because of the students. We gain at least as much as we give them. I learn something from a student every day, and because on Fridays my students are usually in elementary or middle school, I gain even more fresh ideas than the average university professor.

Photo: Leah Nash for NYT. Food photography is definitely best left to the professionals, especially for a dish like this.
And sometimes what I get from students is not just fresh ideas, but actual cool stuff. In this case: very fresh cranberries. A few years ago, I played a small role in a student getting an internship with a major cranberry grower. She is still with that grower, and this Thanksgiving I am thankful that she has brought us berries!

She did so just as I learned of a recipe that calls for Pinot Noir and cranberries. I was prepared simply to put equal amounts of each in a pan and cook until it was sauce, but I found the actual recipe is a bit more interesting, full of spices.

I used a spice grinder rather than a coffee grinder, because spices would definitely taint coffees. I also used vanilla extract because our local store did not carry vanilla pods. I then heated all of the ingredients in an indispensable cast-iron skillet. I cooked it for a bit longer than called for, but otherwise stuck pretty close to the recipe.

When Pam walked in the house she exclaimed, "It smells like Christmas!" Which of course it did.

We are going to let this chill overnight and will pair it with another Pinot Noir, but for now we can rely on taste tests of the warm sauce to confirm that this is delicious!

  • 10 whole allspice berries
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cups fresh or thawed frozencranberries
  • 1 ½ cups Oregon pinot noir
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1 cup clover or wildflower honey
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 strips orange zest, about 1 inch by 3 inches, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 (4-inch) sprigs rosemary
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod

    1. Combine allspice, cloves and peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground.
    2. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, wine, brown sugar, honey, orange juice, orange zest, rosemary, cinnamon stick and ground spices.
    3. With the tip of a paring knife, split vanilla pod lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape seeds from pod. Add seeds and pod to pot.
    4. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring often, until cranberries have burst and liquid thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and discard zest, rosemary sprigs, cinnamon stick and vanilla pod. Transfer mixture to a bowl and let cool.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mint Chocolate Chip Glazed Popcorn

I love the color combination of light green and brown. Ever since I first saw a house painted with this fun mix I have always wanted to live in a "mint chocolate chip" house. A few years ago when we did a small renovation on our house and added a half bath and I was able to at least have it painted in my dream colors, but it wasn't the same as having a whole house with the hues I sought. This summer when we bought our beach house (aka "whaling house") James suggested that I could finally realize my dream. And so it came to fruition.

Last week I found this recipe when I Googled "healthy popcorn recipes" and I knew it would be the right thing to try at our whaling house. It takes a bit longer than standard salt and butter popcorn, but with about 20 minutes more time you can have a much superior snack. This wasn't too sweet even though it used both chocolate chips and honey and it has a wonderful melt-in-your-mouth quality. James immediately dubbed it the "official snack of whaling house".

Roasted Potatoes with Figs and Thyme

I really like the New York Times cooking section for suggestions of food combinations I wouldn't have thought of myself. This recipe for fingerling potatoes with figs was a prefect example. The figs were seeped in tea before being cooked in with the potatoes. Although I didn't let it sit overnight as the recipe called for, by pouring hot water over the figs along with three tea bags and letting it seep while everything else was prepared the subtle flavor of the tea came through. Otherwise we followed the recipe as written and had it as a side dish with some haddock cooked in lemon oil. A wonderful meal with leftovers to boot!

Mini Thanksgiving Feast

Cover art from a taste of cranberries and some tales too ....
We've been cooking new recipes at a cada semana pace lately, but have fallen a bit behind on the blogging thereof. It has been about a fortnight ago that I prepared Chicken Cape Ann, a stuffed chicken breast preparation from P. Ann Pieroway's delightful little book of cranberry recipes.

We are not quite sure how long we have had this book or where we got it. Living in the erstwhile cranberry capital of the world, we could have found it in any number of shops in our region. The author is from Cape Cod, where the berry still grows wild (if you know where to look), and has a number of food and non-food books about this corner of the world.

We chose this recipe because we happened to have most of the ingredients on hand -- that is the nature of our kitchen. It turned out not to be quite the quick dinner we anticipated, but it was delicious and rewarded the small bit of work it entailed.

I began by sauteeing the first three ingredients in 6 T of butter (I know, that's decadent and could probably be reduced):

1/2 yellow onion, diced (we did not have the called-for celery)
1/2 C fresh cranberries
1 ounce chopped walnuts

To this I added two ounces each of chicken stock.and cranberry juice. Here the recipe called for poultry seasoning and white pepper -- I used black pepper and a few herbs. I tossed this with about 8 ounces of bread cubes, and then chilled it while preheating the oven to 350.

The chilling is the time-consuming part I had not noticed when scanning the recipe prior to making it. In future, it would be good to do this part of the recipe the night before or morning of....

The recipe calls for 10 chicken breasts -- I think I used two, so there was plenty of stuffing for each. I could have stuffed a total of four, but stretching it out to 10 would be a bit thin. I split each breast and wrapped it around some stuffing, and put both breasts in a baking pan, along with the remaining stuffing.

Then came the somewhat tricky part. I heated two cups of chicken stock and 6 ounces of sparkling wine in a pan. I then stirred in one cup of light cream and continued to heat. In a separate bowl, I whisked 1 T of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of water and added it to the mixture, along with 1/4 cup of butter, cut into small cubes. I then stirred constantly as the butter melted and the sauce thickened and reduced.

When the chicken was baked through - about 30 minutes -- I plated it with the sauce.

A bit tricky, but a nice mini-feast that we will try again some time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


Today's post will be a bit odd. Many entries in this space follow a by-now familiar pattern -- a recipe is described or summarized, and then we describe any deviations from the recipe before describing (or bragging about) the results. 

For this entry on mole, I will follow the pattern; what is odd is that the recipe from which I deviate is one I created myself as I was preparing the meal. The deviations are small, however, and as is often the case simply have to do with what ingredients were readily available.

The recipe calls for several of the ingredients from Equal Exchange, for two reasons. First, it is an excellent company committed to just treatment of farmers worldwide. Second, it was having a recipe contest.

Equal Exchange is best known for its coffee, and in fact its coffee director Rodney North is in large part responsible for the way in which coffee has taken over my life. It is now also importing fairly-traded chocolate and more recently tea, as well as some domestic products such as cranberries and raisins.

Because two of its most important products are coffee and chocolate, I decided that I should create some sort of coffee variant on mole. And because the unconventional use of a balsamic from Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium had helped me to win a recipe contest before, I decided a L.O.V.E. potion would be on the agenda again. The recipe calls for some of Lebherz vinegars and is also modified from a mole recipe that we first included on this blog as Mole L.O.V.E. in 2012.

For further good luck -- and just because we enjoy their company -- we reassembled the winning team from that 2012 Bob Marley Coffee recipe contest to share this meal with us.

Before going on I should clarify that mole is a Mexican sauce more properly known as mole poblano, after the state of Puebla where it originated, and where Pam and I spent the summer of 1989. It is pronounced "MO-lay" and has nothing to do with those mouse-like critters. This blog now has several mole variations. 

Here's the newest one. It cites EE and L.O.V.E. ingredients, though substitutions can be made.

One red chili pepper or one small jar roasted red pepper
One cup dry, finely ground Equal Exchange coffee, preferably a Central American blend (NOT brewed)
¼ cup brown sugar
4 T chili powder, divided
1 T paprika
Zest of one orange, divided
1 t black pepper
1 t salt
Whole chicken in pieces or equivalent of chicken, bone-in preferred
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Chipotle-infused olive oil
One onion or two shallots
1 t cumin
1 t cinnamon
½ t nutmeg
4-6 cloves
½ cup Equal Exchange raisins
½ cup slivered almonds
1 T Lebherz espresso-flavored balsamic vinegar
1 T Lebherz chocolate-flavored balsamic vinegar
1 Equal Exchange dark-chocolate candy bar, either strictly dark chocolate or with nuts
2 ounces espresso-infused tequila or Kahlua, optional
2 T sesame seeds, for garnish
Corn tortillas
Equal Exchange English Breakfast Tea (because it is smoky), Sangre de Toro, other Spanish red wine, Negra Modelo beer

If using a fresh chili pepper, place it directly over flame on a gas stove, and turn with tongs until well charred. Remove from flame and place in a small zip lock bag or plastic-covered bowl for 10 minutes. Then remove stem, outer skin and seeds, and cut into small pieces. If using jarred peppers, simple cut into pieces and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine dry coffee, sugar, 2 T chili powder 1 T orange zest, pepper, and salt
Roll each piece of chicken in the coffee mixture until coated.
Photo: Ashley Costa
Heat chipotle oil in skillet, cook garlic so that the oil absorbs its flavor
Heat brown chicken pieces in the oil, 3-4 minutes per side; work in rounds if necessary
Transfer chicken to baking dish
To the oil, garlic, and residual chicken fat, add onion or shallot and roasted peppers; cook until onions are translucent
Add spices, tomatoes, tomato sauce, raisins, and almonds. Simmer on medium-high, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.
Continue simmering, uncovered, and preheat oven to 350 F
Pour in the vinegars and optional liqueur
Place entire candy bar in the center of the skillet. Feel free to take a photograph at this point!
After one minute, or when the candy bar has melted sufficiently, stir to blend vinegars and chocolate into the rest of the sauce.
Pour sauce mixture over chicken and bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes or until done and tender.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and allow to cool for ten minutes.
While chicken is cooling, warm tortillas in a dry, cast-iron skillet on high heat for a few seconds each. Place in tortilla warmer or cover with a towel.

Serve with a favorite beverage. Use tortillas to enjoy all of the sauce!

Normally I would roast a red pepper on the stove top, as shown in my Busy Kitchen post. In our Whaling House, however, we have an electric stove, so I used red peppers from a jar.
The coffee rub shown is not quite the one described. It was a rub we had on hand, and we did not have Equal Exchange coffee on hand (even though we live near the headquarters, we can only get the coffee online. So rather than use another brand of coffee, I used the rub. The description above approximates the ingredients on the rub.
We faced a similar predicament with the chocolate. EE was once sold in our local grocery store, and I discovered too late that it no longer is. So I got another brand (the name escapes me) of organic chocolate. It includes some pasilla pepper and cinnamon. Assuming such chocolates are hard to find, I recommend cayenne and cinnamon be added to the sauce.

We did -- thanks to friend and photographer Ashley -- have both of the recommended wine with this. The Toro is definitely the best pairing.
The overall outcome was a sauce that was a bit chunky for mole, but highly delicious. 
Verrdict: Eight Thumbs Up!