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...

Friday, May 22, 2020

Creamsicle Dreamsicle

And is that with a Y or an I? So many questions, but they are not important once we have this in front of us, to start the birthday weekend festivities.

For those playing along at home, yes: the second full month of social distancing has included a birthday, and anniversary, and another birthday. Numbers adding up to, well, a number.

Pam found this delish recipe on delish, instigating a little panic when we realized we had not done anything about our lack of Triple Sec (I've somehow been making waffles without it).

We gathered the ingredients this week -- using appropriate Covid-19 protocols, strictly enforced. And I followed the recipe exactly, using one-half of each ingredient to provide a moderate serving for each of us. Minor chores and further celebrating are on the agenda, after all!

This was very easy and as delicious as it sounds.

Yet another frittata

On one of his early pandemic shopping trips James brought back a big tub full of fresh baby spinach expecting that we would find some uses for it. He was right, and it has since become a staple of his biweekly grocery runs. We have not only been looking for recipes in which to use it, but have also started putting it by the handful on our sandwiches in lieu of lettuce.

I originally found the recipe for this frittata from Food52 on a listicle from Huffington Post called "The Only 40 Egg Recipes you'll ever need" (I have prepared some of the others which you can find here).  The frittata called for chorizo but I just used regular sausage because it was what we had. I used canned chickpeas, and didn't roast the red pepper (even though James actually kind of likes to do that). I sautéed the pepper instead along with the onions and garlic.

The meal was quick, relatively easy, filling and delicious.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Cod Cakes - NYT

Today's linner began with what looks like an extremely austere soup. I put about one inch of water in a pan and brought it to boil with two bay leaves (because one seemed a very sad start), a squirt of lemon juice and several glugs of Tabasco. These were Coronavirus-related substitutions for the 1/8 of a lemon and 4 peppercorns called for. It sounds more like a scene from Grimm's Fairy Tales than the start of decadent recipe from New York Times Cooking, but this is how Sam Sifton begins his recipe with the equally austere title Cod Cakes

Of course, this recipe is not really austere at all; rather, it is subtle. Sifton calls for poaching cod (or other white fish) in this most subtle of broths so that the flavor of the cod itself prevails.

At this point, I should back up and explain how I ended up poaching cod on this lovely afternoon. It started about a week ago, when our friend Andrea posted photos of cod cakes she was preparing with a family recipe. Since she is from New Bedford, where these things are decided, we took notice. We  had everything needed for Cod Cakes a la Andrea, except for the salted cod, which she has been able to get at our favorite (really only) fishmonger -- place with customers in the front and boats in the back. The place is always sparkling clean, and has taken extraordinary public-health measures in the current pandemic, so I was comfortable heading over there yesterday afternoon. Alas! No salted cod was on hand. Andrea had suggested some alternate sources, but I decided to save those for another day; there must be a way to make cod cakes from fresh cod.

So I bought some VERY fresh cod and headed home to find a recipe. I pulled with the hefty volume Of Cod and Country from the cookbook cabinet, only to be reminded that author Barton Seaver is concerned mainly with reducing the use of cod, so his book is good for many things other than cooking cod. Turning to the interwebs, I of course landed on New York Times Cooking, and the fairly straightforward recipe I began describing above.

Once the fish was cooked through (that is, opaquely white), I removed it carefully to a plate to cool. I then minced onion and garlic (we lacked celery, so I added celery seed at a later stage). As I sauteed the aromatics, I crushed some croutons we had on hand, to substitute for the crackers or panko crumbs. I used a potato masher and a pastry cutter, alternating these ill-matched tools until I had something like bread crumbs.

I then placed the vegetables in a large bowl, while in a small bowl I mixed the eggs, mayo, mustard and Old Bay (some lesser seasonings are mentioned, but Old Bay is something we are never out of). All of this got mixed in a large bowl, along with the crumbs. Then I flaked the cod into the mix, preserving the structure as Sifton suggests. This became kind of a mushy mess, but I gathered it into balls as he indicates and managed to form some patties. I then followed his crucial advice of chilling these thoroughly. I can imagine they would not have held together had I tried to cook them right away. After more than an hour, I heated olive oil (we have no "neutral" oil like canola on hand) and cooked these up, covering one side in additional Old Bay for good measure. 

I cooked these until quite crispy, and we enjoyed them with some leftover vegetarian lasagna roll-ups that Pam had made yesterday. Regular readers will understandably assume that we opened some Malbec for the occasion, but Pam suggested something a bit lighter that worked out very nicely: Farmer's Fizz from our friends at Westport Rivers.

We thank Andrea for starting us on the path of making cod cakes at home for the first time, and we look forward to trying her recipe next time!


This very legitimate cod purchase took place a few feet away from the dock where the feds continue to impound a remnant of the fleet of the infamous Cod Father.

Do the crime and your boats will do the time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Anniversary Dinner

I suggested to James that perhaps as a treat for our 33rd anniversary we could place an order for carry out or delivery since we had not taken advantage of either of those options during our eight weeks of pandemic stay-at-home orders.He pointed out that we would likely be disappointed in anything that we would be able to get here on the south shore of Massachusetts, and we'd be lucky if it were even served at the proper temperature. I had to concede on all points. So instead we decided to prepare some dishes that we knew we liked.

James made a trip to our favorite fishmonger Kyler's Catch and picked up a salmon filet from which I prepared salmon with blueberry sauce based on this recipe from The New York Times. I used blueberry vinegar from L.O.V. E. (our favorite oil and vinegar emporium) instead of white wine vinegar. I prepared rice with lemon and almonds as a side dish.

This paired perfectly with the Peach Bellini we've been waiting to enjoy

For dessert I reprised the sensual Grapes Rolled in Almonds and Ginger from our Intercourses Cookbook.

Both of these have been featured on this blog before. The salmon is from earlier this year and the grapes from this July 2013 post.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

As Goddess is my witness I will never buy granola again!

Well, I can't believe it took a pandemic for me to make this simplest of recipes. I frankly was always in awe of people who made their own granola (or granilla as it is called in our house) but now I know my fascination was unwarranted. I don't know why I expected this would be some big kitchen-based project. We ran out of our store-bought granola this morning, so I did have some motivation to get on with this but honestly, it was so easy I'm embarrassed that I never made this myself before. It took less than 30 minutes to gather the ingredients (all of which were already in my pantry), mix them, and bake. I used this recipe from Cookie and Kate which calls for oats, sea salt, coconut or olive oil, nuts and/or seeds, cinnamon, maple syrup or honey, vanilla extract and optional fruits or chocolate chips. I opted out of the last two, used honey rather than maple syrup, and used chopped walnuts. I also used the last of our blood-orange infused olive oil from L.O.V.E.  Good thing they have shipping to anywhere in the U.S. This is super tasty, and not too sweet. I think next time I will use a higher ratio of nuts though.

This can easily be made vegan by using maple syrup rather than honey.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Birthday Cake

May is usually a time of celebrations for us. Both of our birthdays and our wedding anniversary fall in this merry month. While we don't typically have big parties for any of these events, we do generally have a few friends over for a nice dinner and some cake. We understood that for the greater good even our low-key celebrations would have to be toned down this year, so yesterday James' birthday was recognized with a favorite dinner and a small birthday cake for just the two of us. I made what our family refers to as "The Best Chicken in the World" - so named by our only child many years ago. The recipe comes from a small plastic spiral-bound cookbook that I got as a thank-you gift for doing a slide-presentation about Puebla, Mexico to a group in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas about 25 years ago. We blogged about this recipe 6 years ago. You can find the post here.

The "nueva receta" part of this post comes from the infrequently used Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook which has nice divider tabs like we used to use in our loose-leaf binders.

I found the tab for "Cakes" and selected "Busy-Day Cake", although yesterday wasn't so much a busy day, as a we- have-all-the-ingredients-for-this-and-we-ain't-going-to-the-store-day.

The only change I made to this was that I used a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9-inch square pan. We apparently do not own the requisite square sized pan.

I also made cream-cheese frosting from the same cookbook, under the same tab.

I should also point out that both of these recipes call for the use of an electric mixer. We still don't own one, so the cake and the frosting were mixed using the energy from my arms. 

For a final festive touch I added some multi-colored sprinkles I found in the cabinet. There were no candles though.

A perfect cake for two people. We also still had some ginger ice cream in the freezer which tasted divine with this otherwise basic cake.

Simple recipes from a classic cookbook.

And now, a rant.
When we moved into our house 18 years ago all the houses on our street were occupied by either single people, couples, or families. Now we live between two student rentals. The level of aggravation in dealing with this changes from year-to-year as new students come and go. As it turned out one of our next-door neighbors also had a birthday yesterday and decided to have a biggish party in the backyard complete with ignoring of social-distancing guidelines, loud music, and no masks. They did provide paper party hats to their guests though. The party went on for hours. Police were called. You'd think a house that had a drug bust not so long ago would try to keep a low profile, but you'd be wrong.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Pairing Malbec

Frequent readers of this blog will notice that the end of many entries contains a note about wine pairings. We learned the potential of good pairing from What to Drink with What You Eat by Dornenburg and Karen Page before we started this blog. The right wine really can make food more enjoyable, and the same can be true of coffee, beer, and other beverages. We also learned that the color of a wine is far from the most important characteristic when making a pairing.

Careful readers will notice that we often cite a Mendoza Malbec as the perfect pairing. This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but Malbec from the Argentine region of Mendoza is so good that we are confident pairing it with almost all foods. The Malbecs vary a bit from each other (during our Mendoza visit we learned that over 250 vineyards produce that grape varietal in that small region, each with its own cultivation and vinting nuances). But they all have in common a complexity that allows for many different flavors to be brought out. And the wine is good enough on its own that a second glass after dinner will always be enjoyable.

"Which Malbec?" one might ask. We have enjoyed dozens of different Malbecs, and all of them from Argentina or Chile have been splendid. We often buy Trapiche, which comes in several different preparations. It is one of the biggest vineyards, but we like it anyway. We recently had the Broquel, and found it to be extraordinary.

One time I (James) was in a restaurant where the only Malbec on the menu was from France. I had read that although the varietal was developed in France, its perfect expression was found only in the high deserts of the Andes, and this glass proved it. "Muddy" is the term sometimes used, and I concur.

The cartoon above is almost true, but we have not yet become quite that ridiculous. I write this one day after having made a special trip to our favorite local vineyard -- Westport Rivers, whose varied offerings we do enjoy year round -- and in fact enjoyed a Westport Dry Riesling with this evening's dinner.


From Dornenburg and Page we learned something valuable about wine serving temperature: avoid the extremes: the rule of fifteen. A wine that is being kept in the fridge should be removed about 15 minutes before serving; a wine stored at room temperature should go into the fridge for about 15 minutes prior. When we remember either of these tricks, we are glad we did.