Back to the Future, Harbor Branch, Dolphins & Me


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I was just accepted as a volunteer working on the Dolphin Photo ID Program at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. Yippee!

Since attending David Starr Jordan Junior High School in Palo Alto which had a marine biology emphasis based on the donation of Jordan’s ichthyology library to the school, I have had an abiding interest in ocean science.

I learned to SCUBA dive in 1962 at age 13. In high school, I pursued science fair projects involving detecting electrical impulses from fish in a free swimming environments. I was also part of the team that designed and installed a 1500 gallon splash-zone salt water aquarium in our high school biology building entrance in 1966/67. (You can just buy these now!)

I was educated as a Chemical Engineer at Texas A&M University and specialized in ocean sciences and microbiology. There I taught SCUBA to university marine sciences personnel to include black water and recovery diving. I was part of the group that enticed Jacques Cousteau to visit A&M. As a graduate student in desalination thermodynamics, I sub-specialized in hyperbaric physiology (and was a guinea pig). During this time I also acted as an engineering diver for a Hydrolab habitat project under the auspices of Sea Grant and the NSF. My career vector toward oceanography seemed set, and then my very low Draft Lottery Number came up. [This was not a lottery you wanted to win.]

In the military, I supervised recreational diving in Florida for a few years, but my duties and post-military careers moved me away from the ocean for nearly 40 years. Retirement to Vero Beach has returned me to it.

I in-processed yesterday with Harbor Branch, so now it appears I am back to the future as I saw it in 1970. As I said, yippee.

Mole Poblano con Cerdo

Recently I made about 7 quarts of chili for a charity event (along with 12 other cooks of various concocti). Fortunately, Janet and I snuck a couple of dinners worth out of the pot before attending the event. There was none left, especially after some folks came back for seconds.

The chili was good, but for competitive reasons, it was beef based, and we prefer lighter meats these days. So, I dragged out my much tweeked Mole* recipe, but I didn’t want chicken, so we stopped by the mobbed Fresh Market (Tuesdays are sale days.) where we bought a four pound Boston Butt.

At home I deconstructed it, removing about 10 oz of fat, and cubing the meat. It went into the following preparation:

4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil (Potent)
1/6 cup + 1 tbsp Chili powder (11 tsp)
2 4 oz cans Chopped Green Chilies

Mix into meat and let work 6 – 12 hours in a refrigerator in a zip bag. Massage the mix a few times through the period.

1/4 cup White rum
1/4 cup Sultanas (Golden Raisins)
2 Cloves garlic, minced roasted
1 Sweet pepper, chopped
2 tsp Agave Nectar
2 – 4 tsp Soy Sauce
Micro-planed rind of 1 orange (Softball sized)

Mix and cover for 6 – 12 hours in reefer. Stir occasionally.

Dry spices
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Ground Cloves
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
Bloom all together in hot saute pan

Sauce Base
3 Yellow Onions, (tennis ball size) chopped
1/2 tsp Salt (adjust later)
1.5 boxes Pomi brand finely chopped tomatoes or equivalent
2+ oz bitter chocolate, chopped (86% cacao, wax free, or 3 oz 60% cacao)
1/6 cup + 1 tbsp Chili powder (yes, again)
1 cup Chicken stock
1 cup Hot Coffee, black
1/4 cup finely ground unsalted toasted almonds (also provides some thickening) [From a cookie sheet full of raw almonds toasted at 325° F for 23 minutes. Must be room temp for grinding.]

[Additional Thickener
1 can drained rinsed pinto beans pureed — only if feeding a crowd. (Pureeing with a ladle of tomato sauce speeds the process and evens out the texture.)]

Putting it together.

  • Brown marinaded meat in large kettle with olive oil. It will be too damp for a deep browning. Stir from time to time.
  • While meat is browning, saute the onions to translucent.
  • When meat is browned and onions are ready, pour the sauce base ingredients into the kettle.
  • Wipe the saute pan dry, and bloom the dry spices per above.
  • Add these to the kettle along with the macerated ingredients.
  • Simmer for an hour or two, lid-on, stirring from time to time. Drain water from inside lid each time before recovering the kettle.
  • Transfer solid ingredients to crock pot.
  • Continue to simmer sauce in the kettle until reduced by half then add to crock pot.
    Crock Cook for 6 – 8 hours before serving, stir from time to time, skim fat.
  • It’s done when the meat falls apart as it sees a spoon coming.

*When I was a tween (do we still use that portmanteau word?) my widowed Grandmother, who was quite the traveler, took me and my brother to Mexico — Mexico City, Taxco, Cuernavaca, Guadalajara et. al. We binge-toured museums, climbed pyramids, hitchhiked, and hung out with a plain clothes Federale who found her interesting. The real revelation was Mexican cuisine. I was used to, and liked Tex-Mex, or Mex-Tex depending on whether the Rio Grande was west or east, but I had never had the pleasure of the symphony folklorico of flavors we encountered deep in the country.  One such symphony was my first taste of Mole Poblano. I liked it so much I asked what was in it. The adults looked embarrassed on my behalf; one simply did not ask that question. To their chagrin (I guess) I was invited into the kitchen where I was shown what went into the Mole. I snacked on fried grasshoppers while I watched a woman older than my Grandmother, with a face off a pyramid, pound and grind the ingredients while she spoke a language I could not fathom. When I asked her in Spanish, she said, “La lengua de los aztecas,” and tapped her chin.  I was hooked — on Mole and Aztec history… I had met one!

What’s Cooking?

CauldronA good friend commented this blog was morphing from a cruising blog to a food blog. Not really, we are just mentally anchored in a food lagoon right now, thanks to hurricane season.

We have posted 848 times. Of those 116 posts have been tagged “Food/Drink.” 13.6% overall. Of those tagged Food/Drink, 20 have been posted since we moved into this house or 17%. During that time there were 16 non-food posts. So 54% were about food.

We sacrificed the last sailing season to getting the house the way we wanted it before other demands on our time made that difficult. But cruising or not, one has to eat and eating well is not that much more difficult than eating like a dorm rat in college. It just takes imagination and enthusiasm, that’s what we have sought to convey.

The latest additive to the bread recipe — 2.5 oz smoked white cheddar — oh wow!

There is another recipe coming. Mole Poblano Con Cerdo

Quid Agatur??? (“Whazzup,” circa 500 BCE)

FlamingosAt a recent social event, someone asked why we even bothered to have a boat given Florida weather, poor water quality, and shallow depths, etc.


Weather. On the Chesapeake we winterized from December through April. With upkeep visits through the period, that’s five months. Here we “hurricanize and lightningize ” July through November with a lot more flex on the ends depending on tropical realities (with marina socializing year round). That’s five months, and they are generally better weather than up north in sailing season. I think what surprises people is we actually leave this little bit of paradise during The Season.

Water Quality. In forty plus years, we have rarely, rarely gone swimming off our boat. Too many localities use coastal sailing waters as the final dilution phase for sewage treatment. Underwater maintenance we have contracted out for a couple of decades now. Vibrio vulnificus and mycobacterium marinum infections are the local bad actors.

Shallow Depths. Aye, and there’s the rub, literally. For deep water, we go to the Bahamas. Admittedly, that leaves us figuring out what “sailing” means for the other months, but that is more a matter of which boat rather than why boat. When we consider the number of hours motoring in the last three years of cruising compared to those sailing, there may not be that much difference unless we go offshore locally.

What, No Cod ?!?! — Faux Bacalaitos

From Wikipedia

Salt Cod (via Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I decided to try a Cuban recipe for Bacalaitos (salt cod fritters).

Well, it turned out we had used our cod and not replenished it. So I decided to use smoked trout instead. Turned out we only had half the 2 cups needed. We had some left over crab cake casserole (ala Janet) from the night before, so I decided, deconstructed with a vigorous fork, it would become the faux salt cod.

As I assembled the dry ingredients, I discovered I had exhausted the self-rising flour and not replenished it in favor of making my own. So I whisked some together from 1 cup bread flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt.

But the recipe called for a fish fume from cooking the multi-rinsed dried salt cod. Oops. So I made a faux-fume from chicken stock and fish-sauce (nước mắm). Be very careful with the fish sauce, it is a strong flavor. Don’t pour it over the mixing bowl.

The onions were buried in the reefer, so I used an easier to reach shallot. I whisked all of the ingredients (below) into a crepe-y (not creepy) crab laden batter that promised good things to come. I wanted to let the batter rest, so I turned to the cabinet for the canola oil I would use to pan fry the fritters. 1/4 cup was all we had left. We had lots of extra virgin olive oil, but that’s too heavy and flavorful for what I wanted.

So I made faux cod crepe-y pancakes. This meandering recipe made 12, 4.5 inch cakes using a non-stick skillet at 360° F (three at a time).

They were delicious with a Cesar for an early dinner, but they needed a sauce. We daubed a bit of salad dressing on them, but knew we could do better. They were tasty and filling. We had half left over.

This morning, I nuked just the chill out of the leftover cakes and popped them in the toaster. At the same time I made an Aoli of mayo, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and Wye River Red seasoning. This I nuked just enough it wouldn’t cool the cakes off. A little cooked around the edges, and I just whisked it back into the rest.

This was the way to serve and eat them. They are Faux no more. We’ll still make the Bacalaitos some day, but these cakes are now a standby. Comer bien!

Cake Recipe.

  • 2 cups lump crab
  • 1 cup self rising flour (1 cup bread flour, 1.5 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 tsp salt)
  • 1 cup chicken stock — fish sauce added to taste (Remember 1/2 tsp roughly equals one anchovy fillet.)
  • 2-3 tbsp finely chopped shallot
  • 2-3 tbsp finely chopped scallions
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp table salt.
  • For a thinner batter, add room temperature white wine to the desired consistency.

Sauce Recipe

  • 3-4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • ~2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ~1 tsp soy sauce (low sodium)
  • Wye River Red seasoning to taste (or Chipofi*, or any seafood seasoning blend.)

*Chipofi = 7 Badia Redfish Blackening Spice + 1 oregano + 1 ginger + 1 basil +1/4 cayenne

Bean Zapped

pintoThe Red Sausage needed something to go with it. Later, the flounder Janet cooked in salsa, en papillote, did too. We have been cooking the pantry down to late Hurricane Season levels, so a sauce for the mix of 1 can Pinto and 1 can Cannellini beans had to be built from scratch. The idea is to make just enough to coat and marinate the beans for a couple of hours before heating and serving. Bean Zap takes:

  • 2-3 Tablespoons Ketchup*
  • 3 Teaspoons Agave Nectar
  • 2 Teaspoons minced roasted garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Red Chili powder to taste
  • Heavy Splash red wine vinegar
  • Heavy Splash Soy Sauce

Whisk until blended, taste and adjust and fine tune, fold into the drained, rinsed beans. Chill for a couple of hours, refold the mixture a couple of times to bring the sauce up in the container. Works for a cold bean salad as well.


*If you use sun-dried tomato ketchup, you won’t need the red wine vinegar.