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...

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Potato Salad


I see so many good recipes on my Facebook feed that I sometimes lose sight of the original intent of the "Nueva Receta" project - to make good use of my cookbooks. So I went old school with the bag of red-skinned potatoes I bought last week at the Fairhaven Farmer's Market and found a recipe on my cookbook shelf from Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet. I followed the recipe almost as presented. I didn't have any carrots so I skipped that, and I left the sugar out of the dressing. It just seemed unnecessary. As the recipe indicates this was quick to make. The yogurt made it especially creamy and it had a lot more flavor than what one expects in a potato salad. The caraway seeds really seemed to be the key.

Scallion Chicken

The Fairhaven farmers' market features excellent produces, baked goods, and soap. It also features know-your-farmer local meats. Many of the grill items featured in this blog have come from J.H. Beaulieu Livestock, scarcely a mile from our home and from the market.

Instead of beef, this week we purchased a whole chicken, which is something we often roast in our upright pan. I was preparing to do just that when I came upon this video demonstrating splayed chicken at NYT Cooking.
Chef Melissa Clark is sold on the indispensible cast-iron skillet, arguing that it would be worthwhile to purchase on just for this dish. I agree, but careful readers of this blog will know that we already have several, and use them quite often. Fortunately, we have one exactly like the one shown in the video.

I essentially followed this recipe just as shown. The exceptions are that I quartered two small oranges and stuffed them in the cavity with some whole sage leaves, and that I used scallions instead of ramps. I think the difference is trivial, and we had purchased some nice scallions at the same farmers' market. Win-win. I did not use the garlic or capers.

One caveat: our chicken was apparently a bit bigger than the 3-4 pound range Clark mentions. So it took about 20 minutes longer than she allowed, and I had to turn the oven down to 400 as it started to smoke just a bit. Still, the result was DELICIOUS and the cooking time quite fast for a whole chicken this size.

BRINING

I hope you have not started cooking this yet, because you need to know about brining if you want to do this as I did. All of the Beaulieu products arrive frozen, so I used brining both to prepare the meat for juicier, more flavorful cooking, and simply to thaw it. Using a large pasta pot, I followed these directions for simple brining from AllRecipes, except that I used Worcester instead of soy sauce and I did not exactly measure any of the ingredients. I believe this contributed to the fantastic flavor f the meal.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Comportable Compote

Yes, I made up that first word for its alliterative value. Rhubarb is in season, which means rhubarb compote is in season. I purchased two big bundles at the Fairhaven farmers' market last weekend, and envisioned hours of stewing them. Looking at food blogger Aimée's Salute Spring! post on Simple Bites, however, I realized that I have been overdoing it.

She provides 10 ways to use rhubarb, all beginning with a compote, and our first use will be the most obvious one: over ice cream. I made enough to freeze some for use later in the year, perhaps revisiting the delicious dessert that Pam created in April of this year.

Aimée provides two basic recipes: I made the first in a Dutch oven. I rinsed then chopped all of the rhubarb we had purchased. I used a measuring cup to estimate (this is neither baking nor rocket science) that we had about 8 cups of the fruit, so I adjusted the orange juice and brown sugar accordingly.

No photos here: rhubarb stew is more tasty than photogenic. Small samples with the tasting spoons have us looking forward to dessert with a friend later today. Now to prepare brandy sauce for our salmon...

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Key Lime Pops


I really love key lime pie. I also like to have homemade popsicles in the summer. Imagine my delight when I discovered this recipe in The Beach House Cookbook (which of course I prepared in my beach house). These were sweet and creamy. We skipped adding the food coloring as it wouldn't have made any difference to the taste, and also omitted the last step of dipping them in graham cracker crumbs before eating. I imagine that might have made them seem more like pie, but I don't think popsicles really need to have that texture.

Exceptional Picnic Fare


Summertime is Westport Rivers Sunset Music time. Starting our summer weekends with wine, a picnic and an outdoor concert has been a tradition of ours for almost a decade. For the past two years we've especially enjoyed being able to head straight to our nearby beach house after the show, rather than making the almost-an-hour drive back to Bridgewater. This summer we celebrated our first outdoor concert by inaugurating a recent cookbook acquisition: Mary Kay Andrews The Beach house Cookbook . The ham and havarti sandwiches with peach-mustard spread took a bit of planning ahead due to the half-hour cooking time for the ham, but the sandwiches are not meant to be served warm so they were easily assembled once the ham prep was complete and packed for the picnic. They were quite delicious and perfect summer picnic food. I'm looking forward to making these again.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Chili-Blackberry Tenderloin

Sweet-hot is a combination we like, so when looking for something new to try in The Big Green Egg, I opted for the first recipe I found when opening the eponymous cookbook. It has one of those spoiler-alert titles we sometimes find in cookbooks, really outlining our shopping list: "Chili-Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Caramelized Blackberry Sauce."

I started up the Egg so that it could reach 400F when I was ready. Then I went into the kitchen. I selected two pork tenderloins, brushing each with olive oil and sprinkling with chili powder, salt, and pepper. Honestly, I did not use a brush -- I just drizzled the oil on, and then rolled the tenderloins on a large plate, sprinkling as I turned them. Worked fine.

I set that aside and started working on the sauce. I had considered starting the sauce after I put the pork on the grill, but I decided not to, because the recipe is vague on grilling time, but implies (correctly) that it is fairly quick.

I started the sauce by melting 1/2 cup organic, granulated sugar in -- what else? -- a saucepan. As it started to caramelize, I whisked in 1/2 cup each of L.O.V.E. blackberry-ginger balsamic (the recipe simply calls for balsamic, but we knew how to make this even better) and chicken stock, along with an 8-ounce jar of Al's Blackberry Moonshine Jelly we had bought directly from the jellyman at the Coastal Wine Trail Festival just hours before. (Again, the recipe had simply called for blackberry preserves.) I brought all of this to a low simmer and left it on very low heat, covered, for 15 minutes while I cooked the pork.

With the Egg at 375, I put the tenderloins on the cast-iron grill-top for 5-minutes per "side." This was an occasion when I'm really glad that I follow my friend Rob's advice, using tongs for everything. The tenderloins would have been difficult to manage otherwise, but were very easy to turn this way. I mentioned the vagueness of the cooking time, which is something I am seeing more often in recipes, probably for food-safety reasons. It took 15-20 minutes, I'd say, to reach the desired 145F internal temperature. Having never cooked this kind of meat before, I was grateful to have an excellent thermometer (crazy-expensive but worth it for serious cooks), as I would have probably overcooked it otherwise.

Once the meat was ready to rest for a few minutes before slicing, I finished the sauce, which simply meant removing it from heat and stirring in 2T butter and a bit of salt and pepper. We ended up with a small pitcher of sauce -- way too much and way too thin for the purpose. The directions call for keeping it covered during the simmer and do not call for any kind of thickening ingredients. Next time, I think I'll try reducing it just a bit by cooking it ahead of time, uncovered.

Key words: next time. This was delicious, and I'll either try it again or will turn to one of the many tenderloin recipes on the Big Green Egg web site.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Waffle Hashbrowns

Genius, right? Those two words are probably enough to understand the breakfast miracle we experienced this morning, but I will elaborate just a bit. As I am wont to do.

Regular readers of this blog will know that we are quite fond of latkes, a recipe for which I posted back in 2012. This entry turns our blog into a vlog (web log --> video log), since a short video Pam shared with me a few days ago has all the key information. Just do what the delightful Justin Chapple does.

Source: Food & Wine

My elaboration:

We have a Waring Pro Belgian waffle maker, very similar to the one in the video. I sprayed it with Pam cooking spray, as I always do, because our instructions said we should, and in an earlier life we always had waffle problems. Rather than listening for the waffles, I just used the automatic dial. It runs 0 to 6, and I used 4.5 for the first hashwaffle. It turned out really well, but not as crispy as the video. So I went to 5 and then to 6. Potatoes have so much moisture that I could really have left them on a bit longer.

I used only the ingredients he suggested, though I might add a little minced onion and some herbs next time. I might also drain the potatoes just a bit.

When I make regular waffles, I put the batter in the middle, and it moves to the edges. Of course, that does not work in this case, so feel free to spread the potatoes around the whole iron surface before closing it. Experiment with quantities and doneness -- there are no wrong answers!

Monday, June 5, 2017

How a Marylander Makes Crab Cakes

We love crab cakes, but rarely get to enjoy them. We will only order crab cakes when we are in Maryland because Maryland knows from crab cakes. If you are at a restaurant that is not in Maryland and the menu says "Maryland style crab cakes" do not order them. Real Maryland crab cakes are made with lump crab meat, and lots of it. What is generally served in states Other-than-Maryland (OTM) is some kind of soggy cracker slab with essence of crab.

Phillip's restaurant  makes a frozen prepared crab cake available in some grocery stores that is close enough to what we can get when we dine there that we can sometimes enjoy a taste of Maryland without having to travel there. We have also attempted to make crab cakes ourselves from scratch on a few occasions, but were never satisfied with the results. I decided to give homemade crab cakes another try, though, when I saw this recipe from Old Bay. Old Bay is as much a part of Maryland as are crab cakes themselves. And we recently discovered that our favorite fishmonger carries canned lump crab meat (although it is from China, not Maryland). These are really easy to make. Note that the recipe calls for one pound of lump crab meat, and that this ingredient dominates the others. It constitutes not just simply a plurality, but a clear majority of the ingredients.

The recipe makes four crab cakes and calls for either boiling or frying. I made two at a time. For the first meal I used the frying method, and broiled for the second batch a few days later. I had a definite preference for the broiling, and it was quicker (although neither method takes much time) However, both versions turned out a bit drier than I would have liked. More experimenting is in order.




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Birthday leftovers



Some thirty years ago James and I spent our wedding night at a hotel in Columbia, Maryland. The following morning we had breakfast at a restaurant on Main Street in Historic Ellicott City called Side Streets. The restaurant is long gone, but we have a lasting memory of the delicious first meal of our first full day of married life - an Eggs Benedict-esque repast made with crab meat in lieu of ham.

I was inspired by the leftovers of my birthday meal (Oysters à la Gino) to make something similar to our matrimonial breakfast for brunch on Memorial day. All of the oysters got eaten at dinner on Saturday, but there was a fair amount of crab and bacon filling leftover, which James baked in a tiny casserole dish. I spread some of this filling on each of two pieces on Naan bread and broiled for about a minute. Meanwhile I fried two eggs, and then placed one on top of each of the crab/bacon/Naan piles. I added some shredded Parmesan cheese and then broiled again for another minute or so until the cheese melted. Nothing wrong with this meal, except that I wish there were more!


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Birthday Feast: Oysters à la Gino

Careful readers of this blog might remember that last year my birthday gift to Pam was a cookbook by Vincent Price, with whom she shares a birthday (decades apart, of course). He traveled the world as a celebrity, and made a habit of going into the kitchen in many of the world's finest restaurants. So we have a new birthday tradition: something from A Treasury of Great Recipes.

As I noted in last year's birthday post, Price was succinct to the point of being cryptic. His recipe for Oysters à la Gino is a perfect example. Parsimonious with the ink, this is more a puzzle than a recipe. I believe this has to do with the sources of the recipes: note cards from some of the world's most accomplished chefs.

It includes numbered steps, but it absolutely cannot be completed by following these steps in the order presented. Rather, one must read each step and do some preparation work for it before actually executing them.

The first step I took is in the "Presentation" portion of the recipe. Shuck the oysters and place them in a bed of salt on a platter. I filled the platter with about 1/8 inch of salt -- just enough that the oyster halves could be set in without tipping too much. This was my first-time-ever oyster recipe, and I knew I was underprepared. But I did not know by how much! I consulted YouTube, where a pleasant fellow makes it look easy. It is not, but fortunately the first couple went well, so I knew it was possible. I had gotten through about six when my secret weapon arrived -- our friend Rob who grew up in coastal Connecticut, where these things are taught in kindergarten. He managed to shuck the rest, despite our lack of equipment.

Note to self: no more oysters until Tuesday's Amazon Prime delivery.

Similarly, Béchamel sauce is mentioned in the preamble and in the ingredient list, though it is called for in step #3 of the recipe. I made mine at that stage, which was a mistake. It caused me to rush the rest of the steps, combining everything in one pan when the ghost of Vincent would probably still want me to have 3 or 4 pans on the stove.

Another note: the recipe is for 6 oysters. I made 15, applying very loose math to the rest of the ingredient list. The end result, was fantastic: pleasing to the eye and to the sophisticated palates of the entire birthday party. It paired well with our home-brewed IPA as well as Malbec.


Lagniappe

The aforementioned loose math resulted in a lot of extra filling, which I put in a tiny casserole dish with plenty of Old Bay seasoning on top. Stay tuned for Pam's brilliant idea for a use of these leftovers in tomorrow's seaside brunch.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Key Lime Basic

Image: All Recipes
Ours looks just as good!
As I sit down to write a quick post about the simplest of several birthday-weekend cooking adventures, I am surprised to see relatively few earlier posts on key lime pie on this blog. It is one of Pam's favorites, and Key West is among the places I've not been yet that I most want to visit.

Following our household rule on birthday desserts -- birthday person gets whatever they want -- I've taken a few stabs at this pie before. And we have NOT purchased one at the local grocery. This year we agreed on a classic recipe from our mainstay recipe web site. I followed the recipe to the letter, so there is not much to report here. As I write, it is cooling in the fridge, to be enjoyed after a seafood feast in our back garden.

Spatchcocking

Excuse me?

Yes, this is just a cooking technique. It something people do to chickens, and now I am one of them. We have a bit of a feast planned for Pam's birthday, but I also wanted to do something for her attainment day dinner the evening before. It was there that she found a word new to both of us, in the title of a recipe that is also available on the Big Green Egg web site: spatchcocked chicken.

What?

It turns out that this really is a thing. When Pam read that part of the recipe to me, I was concerned that it might not be as easy to do as the blithe description suggested. So she suggested that I do what has become second-nature for all DIY endeavors, and sure enough, I found spatchcock instructions on YouTube, courtesy of Food Wishes, a project of our go-to web page, All Recipes.

So we got a chicken -- rather a big one, contrary to the suggestion in the video -- and set it in the fridge until it was time to start preparing dinner. It was both good news and bad news that I had not actually read the entire recipe before I started. Bad news because I had to skip most of the directions. Good news because had I read the recipe, I would not have tried this at all, and that would have been a missed opportunity.

In the end, I did a very simple version of the original recipe: cleaned and rinsed the chicken, removed the backbone as shown and cut the chest bone (it's a bit gruesome, I have to admit) so that I could lay the chicken flat on a pan. Then I brushed it with olive oil, rubbed coffee on it, and put it on a 300F grill (Big Green Egg). After 20 minutes, I brushed Stubbs hickory barbecue sauce on one side, flipped it with my handy tongs, and then brushed the other side. After another 20 minutes, the thickest parts of the meat read 165F as they should, but some parts were still below 140. So I did not get quite that even cooking that is promised with this method. For food-safety reasons, I let it grill another 10 minutes or so -- still uneven but safe throughout.
Thankfully, the end result was delicious and moist throughout, though not quite as moist as it will be when I try this again. I will do the overnight brining called for in the original recipe, and will make the rub and sauce described. Still, this was very successful and I am encouraged to try again soon!

Those items wrapped in foil are sweet potatoes. As I often do with Russet potatoes, I put a little oil and salt on them and put them in the Big Green Egg ahead of the meat grilling. In this case, that meant cooking them for far longer than I intended, but there was no harm in that! They were quite hot, soft and delicious -- made even more so with a dab of Amish butter.
This paired very nicely with a Cabernet Sauvignon we had picked up from the clearance table at our local wine store.

Irish Coffee Muffins

In her 2011 Eggnog Muffins post, Pam tells the story of how we came to acquire the fun little Granny's Muffin House cookbook, and of her first use of it. From this we learned that author Susan Ashby is a big fan of baking powder, and that she knows her way around a muffin!
When I asked Pam what she would like for her birthday breakfast, she remembered the book and a recent gift of Trader Joe's coffee flour. Yes, coffee flour! It was given to us by our friends Courtney and Warren, two geography alumni who had traveled to Nicaragua coffeelands with me.
Image: Red Rooster Coffee
As the label indicates, this flour is made from some of the outer parts of the coffee fruit, which readers should note has a higher caffeine concentration than do the seeds we know as coffee beans. These parts are removed as part of the pre-export processing of coffee, and rarely seen or used outside the industry itself. The processed version resembles cocoa and does have a bit of a mocha aroma.

The coffee flour includes some recipes on the label, but also suggests improvising with other recipes. So we decided to modify Granny's recipe for Irish muffins, and we are glad we did. I began by setting the oven to 400F and then sifting together:

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup coffee flour
1 tablespoon (!) baking powder
1//2 cup sugar

After sifting, I used a whisk to blend the dry ingredients more fully. I then used a spatula to mix in -- gently:

1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (we could have used Kahlua, but had espresso liqueur on hand)
1/4 cup Irish whiskey (we substituted Canadian, since someone seems to have finished off our Bushmills!)

This was a bit sticky, but I managed to spoon it evenly into 12 muffin cups. I think this is the first time I ever got the quantity right on a muffin recipe! I baked this for 20 minutes while making the rest of breakfast, and served it with Amish butter.

Verdict: delish!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

And Now a Pie

Tonight's dinner was a two-step, leftover invention. A fortnight ago, I had made Chipotle Orange Roast Chicken, which was a sweet-hot, wonderful thing. And despite three decades of Latin and Southwest cooking, it was the first time I had purchased a can of peppers in adobo sauce.

One can; three meals
Even that small can had been more than I needed, so I put the rest in a glass jar in the fridge (this is a much better way to store things than are plastic containers). A week later, I made simple burritos with the rest of the sauce. I boiled some boneless chicken thighs and shredded them with two forks as I cooked them in oil with garlic and onion. I then added a adobo sauce and a small can of tomato paste (to moderate the intense flavor of the chilis) and a bit of water. This made a lovely filling for burritos. I could have included some rice for balance, but it was quite good as it was.

What does this have to do with pie? We -- and especially Pam -- have been intrigued by the Indian flatbread naan of late, and decided that our weekend meals would be small pies made with these breads, a package of which we had purchased at Costco. Pam heated the oven, put two naan breads on a cookie sheet, and divided the leftover burrito filling between them. She topped each with shredded pepper-jack cheese from Cabot (our regional farmer-owned dairy cooperative). This made two delicious and filling pies, which we topped with Cabot sour cream.

The pies paired perfectly with a Merlot made from Long Island grapes and vinted across the Acushnet River from us at Travessia in downtown New Bedford.

Not-ordinary Turkey Burgers

A few years ago, we discovered that mixing in a shredded apple greatly improves the texture of turkey burgers, which can often be a bit dry and crumbly. So I was intrigued by the recipe for Turkey & Spinach Burgers in our Big Green Egg Cookbook. I was even more intrigued by the inclusion of a tomato-based pesto.

Lazy blogger alert: I went to a bit of trouble to photograph the ingredients lists, rather than type them. The basic list is:
I followed this pretty carefully, except that I used one bag of spinach, which might have been 10 ounces, and one pound of ground turkey. I've never seen white and dark ground turkey sold separately. I don't measure salt and pepper, but I'm pretty sure I used a lot less salt than called for. I mixed these, along with the garlic, in a bowl and then formed them into four patties.

I started by lighting the grill, because that takes a while, and then I wilted the spinach. To do this, I rinsed it and then placed it in a large pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Stirring occasionally, the full pot of spinach was quickly reduced to something like a cupful. I used "regular" spinach; next time I will use baby spinach so that it is more leafy and lest stemmish.
I blended the mayo and mustard in a small serving bowl, as this is a topping for the table.

I then started the pesto. so that it would be ready before I began grilling.
The recipe calls for draining the tomatoes, reserving 1/4 cup of oil, and then adding back another 1/4 of oil. I simply used the whole jar (8.5 ounces) and added oil until it looked right. The recipe calls for using a food processor, which we do not have. In such cases, we always use knives or our blender; in this case, the blender did not work very well. Next time I will chop and mix these ingredients in a bowl before smoothing them in a blender.

I cooked the burgers on a cooking stone -- rather than directly on the grill, because I always end up with 1/3 of the burger stuck in the grill. The stone works great -- I just need to be sure it is quite hot when I am ready to put something on it. In this case, of course, it was the patties. I think I grilled them at 450-500 for about 8 minutes on one side, 4 on the other, then another minute or so with swiss cheese on top. I seem to have gotten the doneness right, which for me remains mostly a matter of luck.

I took set the burgers aside on a plate and then brushed the pesto onto each half of the wheat buns (I used large kaiser rolls -- highly recommended for this messy meal), set them on the grill, and closed the egg.

I then went inside to finish up my mac-and-cheese comfort-food side dish. This led to my only real error -- for buns directly on the grill, two minutes was much too much, and they were a bit charred by the time I retrieved them.

The end result, though: absolutely delicious turkey burgers with several vegetable groups well represented!





NOTE: The cookbook is essential for Big Green Egg owners who want to get the most interesting results from their grills; some of its best recipes can also be found on the recipe section of the manufacturer's web site.

Friday, May 5, 2017

You can never have enough strawberry and basil


James' birthday was yesterday, so naturally we celebrated on the day before yesterday. When I asked him what kind of cake he would like he asked if I'd saved any recipes online lately. It just so happened that I had noticed a recipe from the Christian Science Monitor for a Strawberry Basil Chiffon cake with Strawberry Basil Sauce a week or so ago and since we both so love strawberries and basil (although had never thought to try them together) it seemed the time was right to try this recipe out.

The ingredient list calls for seven egg yolks and seven egg whites, which both go into the batter, but the whites have to be whipped first. The recipe says to use a stand up mixer to whip them, but we own no such device. We usually just whip things by hand, but I decided to see if I could get peaks to form by using the immersion blender. Fail. They got very frothy, but never got stiff. I used them anyway, but the cake was probably not as light as it was meant to be. It was, however, still moist and delicious. I used just a bit less sugar than called for as I always want to be able to detect all the other flavors. The result was good. The cake was not too sweet and the flavor of the strawberries and basil were distinct. While the cake was a bit tricky, the sauce was super simple, and only took about 10 minutes. We served the sauce warm over the cake, along with some vanilla ice cream. The moist cake and warm sauce contrasted well with cool and smooth ice cream.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Tea & Crumpets!

In addition to my coffee classes, I enjoy teaching a one-credit colloquium on tea and climate change each semester. It started as a one-semester idea, but the BSU Honors students keep hearing about it and asking that it be offered again. And I so much enjoy working with these delightful, curious students that I keep agreeing to do so.

This semester I invited the students over for an informal gathering at Casa Hayes-Boh on Reading Day. Since I serve tea in class every time, I needed to do something different to make this occasion a little fancy, so I decided on crumpets ... not really knowing what they are. Crumpet is of course the elf name adopted by David Sedaris in The SantaLand Diaries, but that was not helping me as a cook!

Thanks to the Interwebs, I learned that they are something like a pancake and something like and English muffin. I also learned that they are best served fresh off the griddle, and I was fortunate to find a simple crumpet recipe on AllRecipes. (I'm ashamed to admit that I did not even check with Deborah Madison first!)

Because I had never even had a crumpet and would therefore not know how to correct any errors midstream, I followed the recipe to the letter. I even measured the temperature of the water and milk before stirring them into the flour mixture. As with all yeast-leavened recipes, this one calls for storing the dough in a warm place. Our house does not have any warm places between September and May, so I set the oven to 170F and then turned it off, simply to provide warm storage. It seemed to work very well.

Once the batter had risen -- though it was a bit thinner than I anticipated -- I gave it a good stir and then put it in the fridge until the tea was brewing. Next time I will go ahead and start the crumpets before the tea, because keeping them on a rack in a warm oven does seem to be just fine.

I did stray from the recipe in one way -- I had no crumpet rings! I thought that a reasonable substitute would be easy to find in our local grocery, but I was mistaken. So I ordered some online -- and experience my first failure of Amazon Prime. I guess I deserved that for no planning ahead and finding a local shop. So the cookie and biscuit tools I found made for some cute, if slightly untidy, cakes.

Thank goodness for our indispensable cast-iron griddle! 
The result? Scrumptious, spongy little cakes, perfect with local Trappist jams, no butter. Having neither our own cow nor a clue, I was not able to offer clotted cream.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Chipotle Orange Roast Chicken

This roasted chicken was among my most popular recent photos, and it did not disappoint in real life. It was, in fact, among the most delicious chicken roasts I have done. And it was quite simple, thanks to our increasingly favored recipe source, Meredith (Blue Jean Chef) Laurence's Comfortable in the Kitchen. We have cited this book quite a few times since my mother gave it to us, and it is among the first cook books to be added to my virtual Goodreads bookshelf.

As the author notes in the margin above this recipe, this chicken gets very dark on the outside because of the spice rub. Inside -- as she also noted -- it is especially moist.

The rub is made by mincing 2 tablespoon chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (even our rather pedestrian local grocery has this in a can) and mashing it (including some of the sauce) together with 1 tablespoon each of orange zest, ground cumin, brown sugar, and salt. I had somehow forgotten the cumin -- hard to believe, since this is a favorite spice in our house -- when I heard it named on a cooking show that was playing on the radio while I cooked. So I added it to the rub just in time.

The recipe calls for beer, wine, water, or broth to be placed in the roasting pan. Since I was using our upright roaster, I filled the center well with some of our recently-brewed pale ale. This is the main reason we use this funky roaster, and it was Step One in making this an exceptionally moist bird.

Step Two was the Blue Jean Chef's genius suggestion to cut the orange (from which I got the zest) in half and put it inside the chicken. It was a big orange, so I quartered it and put it in the chicken.

I then roasted this in the convection oven, starting at 425 or 450F and then turning it down. This chicken was bigger than the four-pounder called for, so the baking took longer than expected, a bit under 2 hours. As the Chef suggests, I checked it with a thermometer to ensure it had reached 165.

This was every bit as delicious as it looks. We look forward to even better results at some point when we try this in the Big Green Egg.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

An easy (and tasty) dessert

Last spring James made a simple rhubarb compote with rhubarb, sugar, and water. We ate about half of what he made on top of some vanilla ice cream, and froze the rest. I noticed it again recently and then happened upon this recipe from the Christian Science Monitor for a fancier compote, so I took last year's creation from the freezer, dumped it into a saucepan and heated it, then added 1/4 t of cardamom, and some grated fresh ginger. We also had about 2 T. of agave nectar left in a squeeze bottle, so I added that as well, and then a dollop of honey to boot. I cooked it all until the original was completely melted, occasionally stirring. To serve, we mixed the new, improved compote in with some vanilla yogurt. The additional flavors mellowed the tartness of the rhubarb, making an especially delectable seasonal treat.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Balsamic Glazed Caprese Chicken


I love Caprese Salad. The taste combination of fresh basil (my favorite herb) with tomatoes and mozzarella is my favorite thing about summer. Although we are a bit out of season for this one, the recipe looked so tempting I didn't want to wait to try it, so we bought the necessary ingredients from the grocery store and were not disappointed in the outcome. The chicken was juicy, and the glaze made from garlic, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar provided a sweet and sour taste. The recipe came from Café Delites and can be found here. We served this with roasted, seasoned potatoes and paired with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Egg & Bean Soup - A not-as-good variation



This recipe comes from our Extending the Table cookbook. It seemed like a good choice as it comes from one of our favorite countries (Nicaragua) and it looked like a simpler version of the Company Egg Dish we made two months ago. Unfortunately it was not up to snuff. Although I put in more/different spices than called for, including our fail-safe (cumin), this turned out rather watery and bland. James didn't even finish his.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sweet Corn Cake Eggs Benedict with Avocado Hollandaise


Huffington Post says there are Only 40 Egg Recipes You Will Ever Need. This complex dish is one of them. There are several pieces that need to come together, but the end result is indeed sublime. The avocado hollandaise was the easiest part and involved simply putting avocado, lemon juice, water, and oil into the blender and mixing until smooth. I put it on high to create a super creamy sauce.

I cooked the bacon while I mixed the ingredients for the corn cakes. There was a bit of time involved as I had to dice onions, peppers, and garlic. I took the advice provided in the online recipe to cook the cakes in the oil from the bacon. I poached the eggs just as the cakes were finishing. The corn cakes were topped with the bacon and egg, and then the sauce was added. As a final touch dried Chipotle pepper was sprinked on the top. This created an eye-pleasing presentation, especially when complemented with a Caprese salad on the side. The meal was an explosion of tastes and textures and was well worth the time spent to prepare it. It paired well with Chardonnay from Westport Rivers Winery.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Cedar Scallops

Libraries are important. VERY important. See my Just Read post for some thoughts on libraries and civil rights, courtesy of the remarkable John Lewis. See Pam's "Library" Books Blog for her reviews of scores of books that celebrate or at least mention libraries directly. Pam is a consummate librarian, having served in a bilingual environment as a reference librarian in the McAllen (Texas) Public Library and as an academic librarian at the Maxwell Library at Bridgewater State University. Currently, she is a candidate for election to a third term as a volunteer trustee of the Bridgewater Public Library as well.

So when Pam has a library-related achievement, we need to celebrate. And recently we got news of just such an achievement. Starting in 1997 as a part-time, adjunct librarian, she has been promoted through the ranks of Assistant Librarian, Associate Librarian, and Librarian. The recent news is that she will next be promoted to the highest ranks of librarianship in our system: SENIOR LIBRARIAN. This is based on years of active service in committees, public service, outreach, and scholarship regarding information literacy.

This was a big deal, which called not only for a nice, bubbly wine from Westport Rivers, but also for a special preparation of one of our favorite foods: New Bedford scallops from Kyler's Catch. Wanting to take some time with this, I turned to the Big Green Egg Cookbook, where I found a nice recipe that called for wrapping scallops in cedar papers.

Unfortunately, we could not find such papers -- neither at Kylers nor at our trusty Big Green Egg local supplier in Fairhaven, But Kylers did have cedar planks -- which careful readers will remember I used with salmon last year -- so we decided to improvise.

Timing was tricky -- grilling outside while putting together a sauce inside. I soaked the cedar plank a couple hours ahead of time. This is essential unless the cedar is to serve simply as a way of burning the scallops.

Then I started the coals, and after that the sauce. It involved sauteeing shallots, fresh thyme, organge zest and a bay leaf in some butter, then simmering with white wine, and finally adding cream and then reducing. It looks like a fascinating soup is under way, but none of this ended up on our plates. Rather this was sieved and then poured over the scallops (see below).
Meanwhile -- literally running back and forth to the grill -- I planked the scallops. This meant removing the cedar plank from its pan of water, and putting it on the grill for a couple minutes on one side before flipping it and brushing it lightly with oil. I then arranged the scallops on it and grilled for about five minutes on each side -- Big Green Egg lid closed of course -- being very careful with the turning of the scallops.
The result was worthy of such an occasion -- smoky scallops with a savory, complex sauce over fettucine with a nice local bubbly. 

And the best part about Pam's promotion: it is recognition for what she has already achieved: no new obligations attached. Now that was worth celebrating!

Moroccan Braised Chicken Thights

A few nights ago, I realized I would have a bit of time to make a nice mid-week dinner; it seems that this year so far our weeknights have not allowed for a lot of leisurely cooking. Pam found a package of frozen chicken thighs in the freezer, so I asked her to start thawing then, while I committed to finding a new recipe that would make good use of them.

Image -- of a somewhat different dish:
Cooking School of Aspen
I went first to Meredith Laurence's Comfortable in the Kitchen, which regular readers will recognize as a gift from my mother that has proven quite a popular source for this blog. I quickly found a recipe featuring our main ingredient -- Moroccan Braised Chicken Thighs.

Preparation of this dish begins by heating some olive oil in a Dutch oven (or other large pan) over medium high-heat. As I heated the oil, I seasoned the chicken thighs with salt (very little) and pepper (a bit more). I then browned the chicken on all sides, and transferred it to a warm zone on the stove top, using our indispensible cooking tongs.

The recipe calls for pouring off excess fat, but there was none, so I added:

1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diagonal slices

I cooked these a few minutes until tender and then added 2 cloves minced garlic and cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and ground coriander. The book has quantities, but I just applied each liberally. I then deglazed the pan with 6 ounces of beer (always a good thing in a recipe -- cook with half a beer and use the other half as a treat for the chef). I simmered the beer with aromatics and spices for 4-5 minutes and then returned the chicken to the pan.

I then added:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries (not called for in the recipe, but we are in Massachusetts so we always keep some in the kitchen -- NOT Craisins)
16 dried apricots, quartered
28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock

I omitted the 1/2 cup of pitted green olives called for in the recipe, because it is known the world over that PAM HATES OLIVES.

I simmered, covered for a half hour (should have been 45-60 minutes, but we were getting hungry). I then topped this with some fresh parsley and served it with noodles (instead of the called-for rice).

The result was not very photogenic -- hence the photo boosted from a cooking school above -- but it was delicious!

Scallops with Lemon-Basil Sauce

This one showed up on my Facebook feed over the weekend. Since we were at our beach house and, therefore, near our fishmonger, and because basil is my favorite herb, we decided to try it immediately. The FB post had a video with it that made it look super simple, and the written instructions said the prep time was only 3 minutes (with a cook time of twelve) so it seemed like it would be an easy weekend dish. Overall, I would say it was, although the prep time was longer than indicated, and it made a way bigger mess than it did in the video. There were a lot of dishes to wash afterwards as well. It was quite delicious though, and will be worth making again. It also made for fabulous leftovers. Find the written recipe here. I followed the recipe as presented, except I used fettuccine instead of angel hair pasta.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Irish Soda Bread


It has been over a week since St. Patrick's Day and I am finally catching up on my blogging. We eschewed the not-really-traditional corned beef and cabbage and had some truly inauthentic shamrock-shaped pasta instead (purchased from Costco). As suggested on the package I made some vodka sauce to go on top.


However, so as not to forgo an opportunity to prepare a new recipe I decided to make some Irish Soda bread to go with it. I found a good recipe in my trusty Deborah Madison vegetarian cookbook. The recipe is above. I made two changes to the ingredients as listed. I used wheat germ in place of wheat bran, and I added raisins. The bread was just a bit sweet and made a nice complement to the pasta, and made us feel like we celebrated St. Patrick's Day as we should have.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Snow Day...Pi Day!




I recently learned about something called our "aspirational selves". These are our selves who put foreign films and documentaries on our Netflix list, but never feel like watching them; or buy nicer clothes than we would normally ever really hope to wear; or perhaps save that rather complicated recipe intending to make it when you have more time. Your aspirational self really wants to believe that you will watch those cerebral films, and that you will be the sort of person who gets invited to some shin dig where you can don your fancy duds, and just knows that someday you will make that souffle.

Stella (the snowstorm, not character in the famous Tennessee Williams play) hit New England on Pi Day, so we got a day off of work, and I took the time to assess my culinary aspirations. One of the things I notice is that James and I like the idea of fresh fruits and vegetables more than we actually like to eat them. Sometimes I pick recipes based on ingredients we have so that I can use what we bought but didn't eat, and sometimes I pick the recipe and then buy only the ingredients I need so that we don't end up with a lot of stuff we really don't intend to eat. Recently we fell victims to my sister's aspirations. When she arrived for a much anticipated visit we went to the store to buy food she would like -this included carrots and celery. I am no stranger to the carrots and celery aspiration. I have bought both on several occasions with the full intention of cutting them into smaller sticks and then snacking on them, rather than Doritos, when I wanted something crunchy. I have learned my lesson, many times over, that I really just want salty chips when I come home from work. However, these were for my sister and they were purchased and put in the refrigerator where they stayed for the duration of her visit. I ended up using some (but not all) of the celery in the Succotash Chowder and so when I found myself with a "bonus" day off I decided that I would try to make something out of all of the produce I had sitting around. 

First up was carrot/raisin salad: shredded carrots, mayonnaise, raisins, and lemon juice. Prepared on Tuesday and eaten on Wednesday for lunch. I did not use all of the carrots, however. I actually did cut some into sticks to feed my dog who, my sister discovered, would eat them! Who knew? Maybe she won't be so fat now!

I made a Waldorf Salad with the celery and apples that had been waiting too long to be eaten. I used essentially the same recipe from several years ago but with raisins instead of grapes. We had this as a side dish for Wednesday's pizza dinner.

Our Pi Day creation "Pear and Goat Cheese Tart" came from Teeny's Tour of Pie: A Cookbook. We already had some goat cheese and bought some pears the day before especially for the recipe. For good measure I included one of the apples as well. As one can tell from the name of this dish this is not so much a pie as a tart. However it is round, and pie-like (see photo above), so we give it a pass for Pi day. The sliced apples and pears (mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and corn starch) were placed on top of the crust and the crumbled cheese was added, then the edges of the crust were folded up around the fruit and chėvre and baked for about half an hour. Sweet and savory Teeny says this "is one of the easiest recipes in the book". We bought Teeny's book on Pi day a few years ago, but I think this may be only the second time we've used it. My aspirational self will try to use it again before next Pi Day. 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Succotash Chowder



James and I each picked a recipe from the vegetarian classic The Moosewood Cookbook this week. See James' post here. 

Until recently my only experience with succotash was strictly audible as an overused expression (sufferin' succotash) from the Saturday morning "Bugs Bunny" cartoons of my youth. This past fall I tasted a Three Sisters  succotash (made with corn, beans, and squash) for the first time and so this recipe caught my eye as a good nueva receta to try this week. This one uses potatoes instead of squash, and was more of a soup than the other one I had. I liked them both though. This is rather simple and only took about half an hour to make. I made two changes to the recipe: I used frozen lima beans instead of dried (making it a lot quicker than it would have been otherwise); and I used a mix of milk and cream, which made the chowder nicely rich. It made for great leftovers as well.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Crunchy Yummy Spinach Rice


The first thing I need to point out is that the timing estimate at the top of this Moosewood Cookbook recipe is correct, and that it needs to be read carefully 40 minutes PLUS 40 minutes. Brown rice takes the better part of 40 minutes to cook, and the chef needs to spend most of that time preparing the dish. So this is a good weeknight dish if started early in the evening. I ended up rushing it just a bit.

That said, I will jump right to the punchline and say that this is a great meal. It scores very high on the delicious-nutritious-easy-cheap trade-off matrix, scoring high on all four measures. Some time is involved, and a lot of bowls are used, but this still qualifies as easy.

I decided to scan the full recipe, since it has a lot of details but conveniently fits on one page. My variations were two: one intentional and one otherwise. First, the otherwise: I somehow mis-read the rice proportions and only used one cup of dry rice with 2 cups of water. I should have used 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water. I also did the trick we usually use in our kitchen now -- sauteeing the rice in a bit of oil for about a minute before adding the water and bringing to a boil. Incidentally, I used 2, 10-ounce bags of spinach instead of 2 full pounds. This filled our dutch oven at one point, but of course reduced to a manageable amount before I needed to mix everything together.

Second, the intentional: rather than topping this with just sunflower seeds and paprika, I mixed those with about a cup each of shredded cheddar and panko crumbs. This made the best casserole topping I have ever encountered.

The entire recipe -- click to enlarge.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Monger Simplicity

"What's char?" I asked, as I noticed something new in the Kyler's Catch fish counter. The young fishmonger's eyes lit up: "Delicious!" and "I'm not quite sure." She had been asking her manager about it, and could only recall that it is some sort of "cross" between a salmon and a trout. That did not sound quite right to her as she said it, but it seems to be not far from the truth. She could tell me that she had been enjoying a lot of it lately, and that customers to whom she had recommended it had come back happy.
Image: Fish Choice
As she handed me the wrapped fish, I asked how she prepares it. She said that the flavor is so good that she just uses a little salt and pepper. She said perhaps some minced garlic as well, but I decided to try the simplest option first. I even eschewed Old Bay, which I'm usually tempted to sprinkle on everything. I pan-fried the fillet in olive oil, skin-side down until mostly cooked through, and then turning it. The fish is quite delicate, and flaked apart somewhat as I did this.

Last night I looked up char on my phone, learning just enough to confirm that the monger's impression about the fish is generally correct. This morning I took a closer look online and found that Fish Choice describes char as "closely resembl[ing] salmon in appearance, but are closer genetically to lake trout." I also learned that its high fat content means that it is well-suited to broiling, baking, or smoking. I will be exploring these options in the near future.

I will also be exploring the Fish Choice web site, whose goals are similar to the Cod & Country cookbook we have cited on this blog several times. It is intended for the fish industry but is accessible to general readers, providing a good combination of ecological and culinary information.

For a simple, quick evening meal, this basic char was perfectly paired with some Aunt Annie's mac & cheese (made with cream instead of milk) and a nice bottle of, you guessed it, Malbec.

Finally, a word about fishmongers. We enjoy supporting local businesses whenever we can, especially those such as Kyler's that are mentoring young workers who take pride in learning their industry.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Lots of Chocolate Flay-vor


Mmmm...chocolate

My big sister recently came for a visit. I had seen this recipe for Stuffed Mexican Hot Chocolate French Toast with Cinnamon Whipped Cream and Chocolate-Maple Ganache  show up on my Facebook feed just days before her arrival and determined that it would be the perfect sister activity for her stay. The recipe says it takes an hour to prepare, which may be true if only one person is working on it, but we had three very willing participants (my sister, my husband, and me) for this one. My sister prepared the ganache while I made the batter, and my husband whipped the cream and (natch) made the coffee - you will want plenty of black fair-trade, organic coffee to pair with this very rich breakfast. Anyway, we cut the prep time to about 25 minutes by having each of us working on a different part of the meal. We cooked some bacon to go with it so that we would also have a bit of protein with our victuals. This is a fun, dessert-for-breakfast, special-occasion, many-hands-make-light, work repast. 

While we were cooking my sister also informed me that my niece's beau loves Bobby Flay, to which James and I responded "who's that" and she answered that we were making one of his recipes. We do not watch the Food Network (or any other network for that matter).

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Blue Jean Mac & Cheese

Once again, Pam has proven her prowess at finding recipes that can be made with ingredients on hand in our larder. It helps that we keep the kitchen well supplied with a variety of ingredients and very few prepared foods. It also helps that we have a lot of cook books. But mainly Pam is just very good at this.

Knowing that we had some bacon remaining from earlier dishes. Pam looked for a recipe that would make good use of it. She turned first to Comfortable in the Kitchen by Meredith Laurence, also known as the Blue Jean Chef (BJC). I think she might have a television show. The book had been a gift of my mother, and features slightly sophisticated comfort foods, such as the Comfortable Crusty Chicken and ginger salmon we blogged about last December.

On page 80, Pam found Bacon, Tomato and Green Pea Mac 'n' Cheese. The recipe begins with heating the oven to 350F, and then bringing a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. It calls for macaroni or "other short pasta" which in this case meant penne. A couple minutes before the pasta was done, I added 1-1/2 cups of frozen peas. I had never thought of doing so at this early stage, but will certainly do so in future casseroles. When strained, the pasta and peas just rested in the colander while I continued to work with the indispensable cast-iron skillet.

The recipe calls for 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved. At Pam's suggestion, I used a can of diced tomatoes, placing them in a sieve early in the process so that they would be well drained.

There I had been cooking bacon. The BJC called for six slices, chopped into one-inch pieces. I had missed that detail until just now, and failed to chop up the bacon. Fortunately I had gotten it crispy enough that it easily broke into pieces in the mixing bowl. I removed the bacon and then cooked a small, finely-chopped onion until it was translucent and added six tablespoons of flour and one tablespoon of mustard powder (the BJC had suggested only two teaspoons). I then gradually whisked in four cups of milk (not too cold) until a roux was formed, brought it to a gentle simmer and cooked it until thickened.
Photo: Comfortable in the Kitchen
I removed the skillet from heat and then stirred in the grated cheeses. I used a total of about three cups of sharp Vermont cheddar and parmesan, but the BJC calls for 3 cups Gruyere or Swiss, 2 cups cheddar, and one cup parmesan.

Once the cheeses were incorporated into the sauce, everything went into a big mixing bowl for thorough stirring. I then combined panko crumbs (in lieu of the homemade bread crumbs BJC suggests) with thyme and parsley (again substituting dry herbs for the fresh ones called for) as a topping. I put the penne mix in a 9x13 casserole and topped it with the crumb mix. I baked this for about a half hour.

The result: excellent comfort food and plenty of it. It will be a significant part of this afternoon's Saturday linner. The only drawback to this recipe is that it turned what is often a one-dish recipe into an every-dish-we-own recipe. This made me grateful for our dishwasher!

Dos Nuevas Recetas that we invented ourselves

It has been over six years since we started this blog. We usually find our recipes within our collection of cookbooks, although lately we have be finding more on the interwebs. Last week, however, we collaborated on a meal in which each of us created a new recipe, with one shared ingredient. Pam made a pasta-berry salad; James' innovation came in the way of a new steak rub.

I had found a thick, grass-fed sirloin that I wanted to use as a main course. I set it on a plate, and pierced it several times on each side with a fork. Regular readers will know that I frequently prepare a rub based on something I learned from our friends at Equal Exchange -- a mix of black pepper and ground coffee (fairly traded and organic, of course). In this case, I used home-roasted, hand-ground coffee from East Timor by way of our other friends at Deans Beans. Something I learned the first time I used this combination is that the amount of pepper and the amount of time resting with the rub should both be limited, so that the pepper does not begin to pre-cook the meat. In other words, it is possible to over-do this. But using about 1:4::pepper:coffee and resting for 20 minutes or so seems to work well.

Just before grilling -- on the Big Green Egg -- I added a couple of ingredients to the steaks. First, I sprinkled each side lightly with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Then I pressed fresh blackberries into each side, using a fork to get them stuck a bit better. This was a bit messy. I then grilled at about 450. One problem with the coffee rub is that it masks the steak, so there are no visual clues to doneness. I should have used the Thermapen, but instead ended up putting it back on the grill once I had divided it. No harm done.

We had decided to use bow-tie pasta in some sort of side dish with the steak, and Pam remembered that we had previously made some mighty fine fruit-and-pasta dishes (see Pasta with Grapes and Strawberry Pasta). We had just made a trek to Trader Joe's and bought blueberries and blackberries, so we decided try inventing a new recipe. The cooked pasta (about 2 cups) was mixed with a handful of each of the berries, along with a sliced banana. Pam made a dressing by mixing about 6 of each berry, a tablespoon of honey, and a tablespoon of blueberry balsamic vinegar (from L.O.V.E. Oil and Vinegar Emporium), and 2 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves in a blender. The dressing was tossed with the berries and pasta. An eye-pleasing, as well as palate-pleasing dish, and it turned out to be a perfect complement to the steak rub...
Love will keep us together.
But blackberries tied this meal together.
Final verdict: this meal was just a bit different, delicious, and fun to make. And of course it paired well with Malbec.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Company Egg Dish

Last week we wound up with 2 1/2 dozen eggs in our house. Luckily I remembered that I had saved a link some time ago claiming to have The Only 40 Egg Recipes You Will Ever Need. There I found this recipe for Baked Ranchero Eggs with Blistered Pepper Jack Cheese. In addition to a recent house guest who will be with us through the spring, we had invited a friend to join us for dinner as well. Since this called for a dozen eggs it seemed like it would make plenty of food, and use up some of our plethora of cackleberries. The recipe itself was simple enough to follow, although it did take longer to prepare than I anticipated, so I am glad I started the prep work early. It is cooked and baked all in the same cast-iron pan, so fortunately clean up is pretty easy. This was a big hit with everyone, and made for dandy leftovers as well.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Yummy Valentine Fudge

For Valentine's Day, Pam found a recipe by searching in one of our several romantic cookbooks for recipes that would use ingredients we already had on hand. As the book sat open on the counter for a day or two, we each realized that it was a recipe we had enjoyed before -- Grape Snausages. It ended up being a little different this time,in a good way: I had purchased hot Italian chicken sausage without any particular plan, and it made for a nice hot-sweet main course.

For dessert, Pam (the brains of this operation, as careful readers will have noticed by now) suggested a recipe source that has served mainly as a decoration since we received it some while ago. Java Jolt is a cute little box of cards, each with a recipe or two involving coffee.

I looked through the entire box, and found just one that looked feasible for a holiday that was to fall on the busiest day of my week.
The card entitled Avalon Gold Rush begins with a story about real, old-school fudge like we still find here in New England. It then offers quite a simple recipe for a short-cut fudge.
I varied this only slightly. First, I knew that in my hands, the foil-lining method would just be a way to get shreds of foil into the fudge. So I used a silicon pie-pan liner that my mother had recently given us (and that Pam had remembered). Although we actually had Amaretto on hand, I decided to use cherry Schnapps (this was Valentine's Day, after all). We of course do not have instant coffee on hand, so I added about a half cup of coffee left over from the morning. (We usually do not have leftover coffee, but I had reserved some on purpose.)

The result was yummy, soft fudge that is so rich that we have enjoyed the tiniest of servings over the course of the rest of the week. My Valentine pronounced it extremely delicious.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Quesadilla Pie

James and I do love Mexican food, so when I noticed this recipe for Cheesy Chicken Quesadilla Pie on my Facebook feed, and realized that we also had a few chicken breasts just waiting to become part of a nueva receta we starting making our plans.

This simple dish uses one large tortilla shell as the pie crust. It is placed in the bottom of a spring form pan and then toppings and batter are added. Once everything is in the pan it is baked for about 20 minutes. We forgot to get the green chiles the recipe called for when we went shopping, so I substituted a dollop of hot pepper jelly in the toppings, which turned out to be a good idea. This was simple and delicious.We will definitely be having this one again.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Orange-Cinnamon Pancakes

Image:from a Shortbread Recipe on Saturday Evening Post.
Two things readers of this blog might know about me: I am passionate about pancakes, and even more passionate about Nicaragua. And for the past few years my annual visit to coffee lands has included CEN, a cloud-forest research station that is fascinating for its ecology projects, its beauty, and its breakfast! When we are lucky, the research in charge, thespian, physicist, ethnopharmacologist, and all-around genius Dr. Alan Bolt makes us pancakes.

I cannot possibly replicate his pancakes at home. First of all, I am not Alan. Second, I have no cinnamon trees nearby. But this morning I had success with a CEN-inspired adaptation of my usual pancake recipe. In place of a small amount of nutmeg, I used a lot of ground cinnamon -- probably two tablespoons. Instead of a mix of milk and yogurt totalling 1-1/2 cups, I used 1 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of orange juice. I increase the leaving agents (baking powder and baking soda) just a tad. I completely forgot sugar, and I used olive oil instead of melted butter.

The results: light, delicious pancakes. CEN's reputation for pancake mastery is still intact, but this was a fine way to start our snow day!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Shrimp in Tomato Cream Sauce




This recipe comes from the W.I.N.O.S (Women in Need of Sanity) Cook with Wine cookbook. It didn't take long to make, and was quite tasty. Next time I make this, however, I will be sure to prep all the ingredients before beginning to cook. I did some chopping, cutting, and grating in advance, but once the cooking starts on this things move so fast it is best to have everything ready. I did realize that the shrimp (which goes into the sauce at the end) and the angel hair pasta have similar short cook times (about 3 minutes) so I did put the shrimp in at the same time I started cooking the pasta. I think this would also be very good as a vegetarian sauce if one wanted to leave the shrimp out.

Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins



Well, we're finally back in the game for 2017. We had a rough start to the new year and mostly were trying to keep our heads above water in January, so scouring recipe books/sites fell to the back burner (so to speak). This weekend we finally had some breathing room and took the time to get back to cooking and blogging. The recipe for Jordan Marsh's Blueberry Muffins showed up on my Facebook feed on Saturday morning. As luck would have it, James had recently bought some blueberries and they were just waiting to be used. I've made blueberry muffins many times before, so I checked the recipe to see what was special about these. The magic comes from crushing some of the berries and adding the juice to the batter, which gives them a moister texture. They really are good. Also, importantly, I discovered the New York Times Cooking app for my iPad. It is superior to using my browser and going to the New York Times cooking page online because it does not constantly close while I am cooking.