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 30, 2022

Yellow Squash Fritters

At the last Farmer's Market of the season James and I bought some yellow squash. Usually I make a yellow squash casserole with them, but I hadn't tried any new recipes in a long time so I went to the trusty New York Times Cooking Page and adapted the recipe for Summer Squash Fritters with Garlic Dipping Sauce. I actually followed the recipe pretty closely; I just didn't make the dipping sauce, and didn't use zucchini - only the yellow squash I bought. The recipe calls for beer in the batter, which really did enhance the taste. We topped them with sour cream in lieu of the dipping sauce. We liked these and will make them again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Depression Era Spice Cake (fail!)

Although tomatoes are among my favorite foods now, I famously did not like them as a child. Nor did I like tomato soup, so I was surprised once when my mother suggested that we make a spice cake that had condensed tomato soup as one of the ingredients. I remember that the cake turned out moist and tasty which is why I attempted it again for this year's Thanksgiving dessert contribution. Used the recipe I found on this page - the one labeled Tomato Soup Cake (One Bowl Method). It really seemed simple enough, and I do believe I followed the recipe as written, but I ended up with two very thin layers, so thin that when placed one on top of the other and frosted they were barely the same height as one typical layer. I've decided to blame it on old baking powder. I did indeed serve the cake along with the other desserts that folks made. Mine was not a favorite. I ended up throwing most of it away. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Peaches in Red Wine

Yesterday was National Red Wine day, of course as avid Malbec fans virtually every day in Red Wine Day at our house, nevertheless, we decided to celebrate by stepping up our game with a red wine cocktail. I had saved the Peaches in Red Wine recipe from my Facebook feed earlier in the week. It was fortuitous that we had two chilled peaches already in our refrigerator. 

The recipe calls for two cups of red wine for serving 4-6 people. We both had a good laugh about that. Two cups serves two people at our house! I measured the wine into a mixing bowl and added 1/4 cup of sugar, a pinch of black pepper, a shake of nutmeg, and two shakes of ground ginger. I stirred everything together and chilled for an hour. Meanwhile I peeled the peaches and cut into wedges. After the wine chilled I put the cold peach wedges into wine glasses and then poured the wine over them. 

A cool treat for a beautiful day - enjoyed on our front porch.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Not Mrs. Fran's London Broil

 I'll get to the steak shortly -- this is an easy recipe with a very nice result. The title above is the one given by author Kwame Onwauchi. We had flagged the article when we read his Notes from a Young Black Chef. Since that was almost a year ago, I had to skim over the pages just before the article to be reminded of the reason for this unusual title.

It brings to mind Not Your Mother's Green Beans from the mini Moosewood, which is a Hayes-Boh favorite whose title announces a departure from the overcooked blandness typically associated with a particular dish. Onwauchi is indeed offering a recipe that contrasts with the leathery steak served by his family friend Mrs. Fran, but he does so as a reminder to himself that as important as it may be to cook well (and he is OBSESSED with this throughout his life), gratitude for those who cook with great heart is even more important, even if their skills are limited. Read his "Dominoes" for the complete, humbling story.

Herewith, the flavorful approach from the Creole side of his culinary biography. It preparation should start 24 hours before the meal. If the steak is frozen, it should be thawed prior to the first step below.

Whisk together (and do not fret overmuch about exact measures):

  • 3T olive oil
  • 3T balsamic vinegar
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 jalepeño, quartered (or several, chopped coarsely)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup cilantro stems (with leaves)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
Put this in a ziplock bag with a 2-pound top round steak and put it in the fridge overnight. I had an excellent 1.5-pound free-range steak from Crescent Ridge, one of our local favorite sources. I often find some other way to marinate when a bag is called for, but I followed the directions this time and was pleased. It was easy to turn the bag over a couple times during the (almost) 24-hour process.

Onwauchi does not say exactly when to make the salsa -- he vaguely uses the word "meanwhile" -- but to me it made a lot of sense to make it right after the marinade, so that it could meld overnight and also chill. The salsa is most unusual, but also very simple. Mix the following in a bowl, and 90 percent of this meal is done:
  • One pound of cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped; I was lucky to find fresh cherries at the beginning of their season; frozen would have been my other option. This is a bit time-consuming.
  • 1/4 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T cilantro leaves, chopped (I used more)
  • 1/4 jalapeño (I used a whole one)
  • juice of 1 lime (yes, that's 2 limes total)
  • salt (just a bit)
One the marinade has soaked and the salsa melded, the steak should be removed from the marinade and placed on a platter for 30-60 minutes, to reach room temperature. Onwauchi suggests patting it dry, but that seems silly. I just left if on a platter and picked it up with tongs (click-click!) when I was ready to cook. Rather than searing it on a hot skillet (he suggests 7 minutes per side, with a 130F internal temperature), I put it on our Big Green Egg, in which I had been baking potatoes at about 450F for over an hour. (We are all-out potato bakers!) 
My special blogger power is knowing when the final dish is not going
to be photogenic and also when the ingredients will be. These nice
colors all melded together in a tasty but not pretty way.

I did this for 7minutes per side, taking no temperatures. In retrospect, 6 minutes would have been even better, but these results were very good -- medium at the ends and medium-rare in the middle. I tented foil over the steak for 10 minutes and sliced it very thin (on bias, as he writes). I returned this to a clean platter and served with the salsa.

We shared this with friends we knew would appreciate the vibrant flavors and the local sourcing (we buy our best chickens from these same friends). The sweet/spicy, cool/warm contrasts of this meal were amazing. We will definitely repeat -- and we might be doing so with this salsa on their chicken. 

Bonus: this recipe involves a fair bit of chopping on the day before, but almost no work at all on the day it is served. That makes it a very nice thing to serve when friends are coming over.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Chicken with Walnuts

A quick recipe from a classic cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book) this used several leftover ingredients that I had in my refrigerator including two half bell peppers (one green, and one orange) and 3 scallions. 

I started by slicing two chicken breasts into about 20 pieces and then slicing the peppers, and scallions. Everything was set aside while I made the sauce which consisted of what was left in my bottle of soy sauce (the recipe says 3 T), 2 t cornstarch, a bit of port wine (in lieu of cooking sherry), a sugar cube, a bit of ground ginger, salt, and crushed red pepper. 

Using my indispensable cast-iron skillet I first sautéed the chopped vegetables for two minutes on high heat with orange-infused olive oil (I chose this flavor cooking oil because the recipe lists kumquats as an option for serving). The veggies were removed and then a cup of chopped walnuts were given a turn in the skillet for one minute. They were removed and then the chicken strips were cooked in the skillet. Once they were cooked through (it only took a few minutes) the sauce was added and then the vegetables and walnuts were put back in. Everything was covered and cooked together for another minute. 

We had some leftover lemon rice with almonds which we heated in the microwave oven and served with the chicken. 

An easy, delicious, and nutritious weeknight meal.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Blackberry Budín

August 1 is Lammas, so we got out The Wicca Cookbook, and easily determined that we should make Blackberry Pudding. (We call it Budín, as it is called in Spanish, and also makes for a nice alliteration here.)

We have an abundance of blackberry brambles in our yard which did not produce at all last year. I expect they simply needed to be fallow, and chose their own time. This year we are once again enjoying their bounty.

Ingredients listed are as follows:

1 1/4 c. almond milk
1/2 c. ground almonds
1 1/4 c. water
1 pint fresh blackberries
1/3 red wine
2 T. rice flour
1/3 t. sugar 
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
1 T. butter
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. currants or raisins.

I adjusted the recipe a bit. It called for almond milk, but I just used regular old milk. It also suggests using red wine vinegar, but since I had blackberry-ginger vinegar on hand it seemed like an appropriate substitution. I also used regular flour in place of rice flour. I misread teaspoon as tablespoon for the sugar, and even so it wasn't very sweet. I'd add even a bit more next time. I did not measure either of the spices. I simply dumped in as much as I thought would be good. Again, next time I will use even more. I added more raisins than called for as well, for sweetness.

I started by soaking the blackberries in the red wine, meanwhile since I had whole almonds I used the blender to grind them. I then added the blackberries, other liquids, flour, sugar, salt, and spices. Once it was all liquid I poured it into a saucepan and stirred until it came to a boil. I let it boil to thicken for a few minutes, then removed from heat and stirred in the butter and vinegar. I chilled the pudding in the refrigerator for about two hours, and we had it for dessert, topped with some vanilla yogurt. 

It is a bit grainy, and the blackberry seeds got stuck in my teeth, so those who are bothered by these textures may wish to forgo this recipe.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Creative Kimchi

A Nueva Receta Special Mention

We include this recipe for Kimchi fried rice not because we have made it -- and in fact we are not likely to make it ourselves -- but because Noah Conk deserves special recognition for the unique format of his comfort-food recipe.

We learned about his creative project from a brief story on NPR's All Things Considered, in which he explained its importance as part of his personal path as an adopted immigrant. The result is a labor of love -- 3 hours of instructions in the form of song titles in a playlist. 

The NPR story explains how this works; Spotify tells you how to make his ...

The Kimchi Fried Rice Playlist/Recipe