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, March 31, 2016

Sublime Eggs

Spring has sprung, and the chickens are laying, and so we wound up with a lot of eggs this week. I could have gone with a favorite quiche or frittata, but decided to find out what the New York Times cooking page suggested. I had sent James to the grocery earlier in the day with a list that included "yogurt, plain and fancy" so when I saw this recipe for eggs with yogurt I knew I'd made my match. When I returned home from work I found the familiar blue and white yogurt container in the refrigerator, but something seemed different. Why was there a flower on the lid. Was that a vanilla flower? Yep. When will Stonyfield ever learn?! This is not the first time we've made this mistake. When James came home a few minutes later he found me in the living room with Deborah Madison trying to find another egg recipe. When he discovered the error of his ways he chivalrously offered to make another grocery store run to procure the proper provisions.

Once I had all the right ingredients I followed the recipe without deviation. This was devine! Creamy with a kick, and it made for a lovely presentation as well. We will definitely have this one again.

Beautiful as well as tasty!

This "gentle oak spice" Chardonnay brought out the spicy notes in the dish. It was almost like drinking champagne.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Fried Sweet Potato, Chili, and Cream Cheese Melt

It has actually been over two weeks since I made this dish, a variation on a favorite potato cheese melt from the Well-Filled Tortilla. Generally busy-ness, as well a trip to Nicaragua prevented me from posting earlier. A quick and easy dish I started by peeling and dicing a large sweet potato and used my indispensable cast-iron skillet to fry them. The recipe called for frying in peanut oil, but I used chipotle-infused olive oil instead. I heated the potatoes until they were soft, then I chopped and added a jalapeño pepper. Four ounces of cream cheese was dolloped on top and melted. We filled two warm tortilla shells with the potato/cream cheese mix and topped them with salsa and cilantro leaves.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Spaghetti of La Mancha

Tonight was a perfect time to try a quick new dinner between my afternoon classes and an early-evening meeting. We were in the same situation a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant. "Nice" and "nearby" are almost mutually exclusive terms when applied to restaurants near our Bridgewater home, but there are a few gems. Still, as much as we like to support the local economy, we also like to cook at home, where a little planning can lead to a lot of thrift.

In this case, the planning involved doing what Nueva Receta is all about -- careful readers will notice we've been pretty good about this lately, and we have a couple more entries along these lines coming up. In this case, we opened up one of our most important cookbooks, which we call the "Mini Moosewood." We purchased it when I was leaving Pam for three months to do dissertation work in the Amazon, and  she was concerned about maintaining healthy eating habits while I was gone. It is hard to cook for one if you are used to cooking for two or more, so we selected this book of "weeknight" recipes from the famous vegetarian restaurant -- what its cooks make in their own homes. This book provides a lot of ideas that do well on the nutritious-delicious-easy-cheap trade-off matrix.

For tonight, I was drawn to a VERY simple recipe calling for just a few ingredients: spaghetti, Pecorino cheese, olive oil, and freshly-ground pepper.

I had never heard of Pecorino (I can be such a Philistine at times), but I looked it up and realized it is generally similar to Manchego, which I discovered only a few years ago as a key ingredient in the extremely decadent champandongo casserole. I had recently purchased a big block of this Spanish sheep's-milk cheese and decided it should work for this dish, which is made by cooking the first ingredient and then tossing it with the rest. That is all.

Results: this is like high-end mac & cheese. One cannot go wrong. We had nothing but sweet wines in the house, somehow, so we paired this nicely with water. We also had a serving of Pam's amazing new carrot salad, which seems to go nicely with so many different foods!

Here is the geography of these cheeses, not that anyone asked. Manchego comes from La Mancha (just like "The Man of"), while Pecorino comes from several different areas of Italy. Since the most common of these is Sardinia, I chose it as the location from which to find driving directions to La Mancha.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Sizzlin' Sesame

Among the most important things Pam and I still have from our four years in Arizona (1990-1994) are an ability to wrap tortillas and a copy of The Well-Filled Tortilla by Victoria Wise and Susanna Hoffman. Frequent readers of this blog will know that we continue to find new treasures in its pages; the latest is a simple recipe we finally got to just last night.

Spicy Sesame Chicken Fajitas begins with flattening chicken breasts with a mallet (or other implement) between layers of waxed paper or plastic wrap, until it is one-half inch thick. This is what makes  allows for rapid, even cooking, and is what makes this a fajita dish. Strictly speaking, fajita is a particular, thin cut of beef, but it has evolved to refer to other meats prepared in a similar way.

I then sprinkled both sides with sesame seeds, cayenne pepper, and salt. Actually, I only put salt on one side of each, as we all have enough salt in our lives. And the little shaker lid was missing from our cayenne, so it was more of a rub than a sprinkle. Fortunately, a love of heat is something else we retain from Arizona days!

I heated a bit of oil in our indispensible cast-iron skillet and added the chicken once the oil was hot and almost smoking. This allowed them to cook pretty quickly, though I noticed one area that I had not hammered quite thin enough was still a bit pink. So rather than waiting to transfer them to a cutting board, I cut them into strips right in the pan so they finished up quickly. (Do not try this with ordinary cookware!)

I heated some tortillas (we wrap in wax paper in the microwave for 30 seconds) and then we assembled the chicken strips with some avocado slices, plain Greek yogurt (the recipe calls for sour cream, but this is just as good), and Newman's Own mango salsa. This Well-Filled Tortilla includes many excellent salsa recipes, but we knew that this shortcut would be good, and was reasonably close to the mango-jalapeño salsa recommended for this dish. The book also suggests lettuce for this and similar dishes, and as we often do, we skipped that part.

This is a simple dish with many sweet and hot notes, and the fats in the yogurt and avocado provide cooling to offset the cayenne. A variety of wines would pair well with this; we chose the mildly sweet Riesling (not cloyingly sweet like most of this variety) from our friends Westport Rivers, and it seemed to love the mango salsa in particular!

Pam's one-word review came at the beginning of the meal: ¡yummmmmm! And our common question about this page in the book - ¿Where have you been all our lives? (Or at least the 20 years we've had this book on our shelves.)