Friday, December 30, 2011

Ice Beach

The days between Christmas and New Year are spent by many people at either one of 2 locations: the cold mountains, skiing, snowboarding, Aspen and the like, or at a warm beach, like St Barts or Miami. Yesterday, I took my last trip of 2011 to the ocean at Mount Desert Island, and I did not have to choose, I had both, the ocean, the beach and the snow and the ice. A beautiful atmosphere.


Vacation includes fine dining. Mine was tapas at the ever beautiful Cleonice in Ellsworth.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hidden Treasures

Today I did something that I normally don’t allow myself doing. Visit the Humane Society. Because one of these wonderful animals always tugs at my heart strings and I end up with a new cat (I have 4). But how can you walk away? So, instead I would like to ask you to visit your local Humane Society and see if you find a wonderful animal who you adopt into your family. Or just go and play with the cats and dogs for a bit, bring them a toy, a treat, make their day.


Here is the first inmate I entertained today. A wonderful 2-year old long-haired gray-white girl. Very smart, very loving. And while I played someone stuck a sticker on her kennel. “I’ve been adopted !”. I am not surprised.


I almost adopted her myself.


And then there was the nursery. With 4 little, 3-months old brothers, 3 orange tabbies and one gray kitten, scared to death. The only place to hide was the litterbox.


Or behind the cushions.


Maybe, the litterbox is better after all.


So, go, and explore and maybe you have room for one more kitten or cat or dog.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Winter in New England

There is some snow, not as much as usual yet, but it still makes for the wintery atmosphere we associate with New England. Looking at the photos it reminds me of the winter scenes of Valley of the Dolls, the 60s movie about three different women. Not much has changed. At least not in the wintery scenes of New England. It is serene, quiet and beautiful.
frozen river
winter NewEngland

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Someone around here asked Santa for a Christmas sweater… doesn’t she look happy?

manols manols2

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures in Nut Butters

This morning, I saw several home-made almond butters as gifts for the holidays. They looked so luxurious and with a texture just like the Justin’s maple almond butter I am out of, so I decided to give nut butter my first try. A cup of raw almonds, mixed with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, a tablespoon of chia seeds and a tablespoon of dark flax seed as well as 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. I mixed it all up, and distributed the almonds on a baking sheet, and roasted them at 300F for about 20min. Now, the food processor got to work. And to work,  it did get.

I poured all the almonds in the food processor, added a 1/2 TB of honey and pulsed the nuts. I scraped down the walls a  few times, and then let it run. And let it run. And let it run. According to the recipe it should be buttery after 10min. But after 10 min it still looked like coarse dark almond meal (center picture). So, I let the processor run for another 5 min, and another 5 min, and another 5 min….. For a while there I suspected that the only thing that would get to a liquid consistency would be the food processor’s motor. But I put faith in those recipes telling me “Be patient!” After about 30min, I gave it a rest (and the food processor a cool down). It looked like the picture in the bottom right, a thick fudge like consistency. After another 1/2 hour I added a tablespoon of sunflower seed oil, and let the food processor do its thing a while longer.

Overall, it took about 1 hour until the almond butter had the required consistency (top right picture). Phew! Tastes good, though. And the food processor survived, too.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cinnamon-Spiced Candied Nuts

I love some crunch on my lunch time salads --- not just simple crunch with healthy nuts, but luxurious crunch with nuts candied in a tad of butter, brown sugar and sometimes a pinch of cayenne pepper. But it is the holidays, and time to change things up: time for vanilla and cinnamon. Delicious (and not just as a salad topping)!

Cinnamon spiced candied nuts

  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup walnut halves, chopped into medium sized pieces (or chopped pecans)
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1 ts vanilla extract
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 ts ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves (cautious, this is a strong flavor, add very little).

In a large skillet melt the butter on medium heat and add the vanilla extract. Turn down the heat to low, and add the nuts, the brown sugar and the spices and salt  (it might be good to premix the spices and the sugar before adding them to the pan). Stir the mixture until all nuts are well coated. Slowly turn the heat higher to medium heat and constantly gently stir the mix. It will take about 2-3 min until you see the sugar melting and becoming candy-like, stir for 1 more minute, turn of the heat and take the pan off the stove. Gently stir the mixture for about 1 min until it is slightly cooled off, and then distributed in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet. Wait about 15 min until the candied nuts are cooled and can be stored in an airtight container.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Post holiday cheer

Starting off the post Thanksgiving week with a light fresh salad --- my favorite combination right now, chopped romaine, waterkress, chopped apple, pomegranate seeds and some dried cranberry and home-made black cherry balsamic vinaigrette.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving palooza

On days like this, when you have deadlines but all you want to do is take a break, relax and spend endless time cooking an elaborate lavish pumpkin pie or infuse the house with the aroma of a perfectly roasted turkey, it is harder to stick to work. When the calls for sales and endless coupon emails start ending up in your inbox already well before Thanksgiving and both Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be lumped into one big holiday season, it is difficult to not be scooped up in the holiday cheer. But then, why not? The bright lights of candles, silvery china and big shiny Christmas trees light up the world when nature is at its darkest. But, it is still back to work, a few more days.

happy thanksgiving break!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon

This a flavorful variation on the butternut squash lemon risotto I cooked the other day. Instead of arborio rice, I used farro. Farro is a similar to wheatberries. Instead of butternut squash I used unpeeled red kuri squash, which has a firm orange colored flesh and rich flavor. “Farrotto” is similarly prepared as risotto but has a more nutty flavor.

Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon (makes 2 serving)

  • 1/2 pound peeled red kuri squash, deseeded
  • about 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1 Tb dried or fresh lemon thyme
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • goat cheese crumbles

Cut the red kuri squash into small dice (1/3 of an inch).

In a small pot, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer. Heat the olive oil in larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute it, stirring them occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook it until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the farro, red kuri squash, and lemon thyme. Stir  for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it cook off for about 2 minutes. Add about a 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring it constantly and making sure to scrape around the sides, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding stock, a 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring almost constantly, until the farro grains are tender with a bit of bite, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Stir in some Parmesan cheese before serving.

red_kuri farrotto

Treasures from the last summer farmers market

We were lucky this year, the weather was mild up until a few days ago but now it is how it normally is nearing Thanksgiving: a chilly cold making everyone bundle up at the farmers market. Today was the last opportunity to stock up on the essentials: sheep’s milk feta, beautiful lacinato kale, kuri squash, macoun apples and celeriac. Among other things,

Luckily, the first winter farmers market is in 3 weeks….


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Let the holiday season begin

It is hard to believe that in less than 2 weeks it is already Thanksgiving. After it, the first real snow and the christmas season are not too far. Nature provides some beautiful holiday decor this year.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Insanely good Turkey Gravy

Not too many more weeks before Thanksgiving, and recipes are abundant. This one deserves extra clipping. Very involved, but it will be really worth it.

Gourmet 2005

Insanely-Involved-But-Totally-Worth-It Gravy (origin)

  • Turkey neck and giblets from your bird
  • 3 additional turkey necks
  • 2 whole chickens (or 8 leg quarters)
  • Aromatics like carrot, onion, leek, etc., to taste (optional)
  • Kombu and/or dried shitake mushroom, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flour, or as needed
  1. A couple of days in advance, make stock using the turkey neck, extra necks and whole chickens. Start by preheating the oven to 425°F. Roughly remove all of the skin and cut off the breast meat. It’s okay to do a quick and shoddy job of both—you're just making gravy.
  2. Salt the breasts liberally and refrigerate for later. Separate the chickens into their parts and cut the necks into 3-inch segments. Place everything in a large roasting pan along with the giblets and skin off to one side.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes or until a little past golden brown. Deglaze the roasting pan, fastidiously scraping all browned bits with a wooden spatula and add the precious liquid to a stock pot along with all the bones, meat and vegetables (if you’re using them) and enough water to cover. Bundle the skins in a cheesecloth and add to the pot. (Feel free to add dried shitake or kombu to the pot if you want extra umami.)
  4. Heat your stock on high until it reaches a simmer, then turn down to low and allow to just barely simmer for about 3 hours.
  5. Strain the stock carefully into a pot with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid—this is your gravy pot. Discard the remaining solids, but reserve your bundle of skin, placing in back in the gravy pot as well. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day, skim off the fat that has congealed on top of your stock and reserve it to make a roux a bit later on. Reduce the remaining stock to the approximate desired quantity of gravy (probably down to 3 quarts, 2 for pouring and 1 for stuffing). Once the stock has come to a boil, add your chicken breasts, turn off heat and allow breasts to poach for 10 minutes. Remove the breasts and wrap them tightly in saran wrap. Resume reduction of stock—the chicken can be used later or as a backup in case you run out of turkey.
  7. Presumably, your turkey is in the gentle roasting process by now. Interrupt your turkey roasting just long enough to obtain the drippings, ideally in something sturdy like a tempered glass measuring cup. Put the drippings in the freezer to separate; you want to keep the fat and trash the water. Fastidiously deglaze the roasting pan, adding the contents to your gravy pot.
  8. Remove the skin bundle and blend with as much stock as needed to get the blender going, probably about a cup. Reserve the resulting skin puree.
  9. In a nonstick pan, warm about 2 ounces of turkey fat (or the skimmed chicken fat) with turkey drippings and once the fat is hot, add 1 tablespoon of flour per ounce of fat. Stir over low heat until golden brown then remove from heat.
  10. Adjust the gravy to your desired consistency using a combination of turkey fat roux and skin puree. The roux will thicken but may take a moment to materialize. The skin will add unctuousness.
  11. If desired, you can puree the giblets into the gravy, or reserve to add to your stuffing. Adjust gravy to desired flavor with salt, pepper and any other accent, like a splash of vermouth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Trader Joes adventure

You probably can relate to the feeling that if you do NOT have a Trader Joes in close proximity but have to drive a few hours: if you are in Trader Joes, you feel like taking everything in the store home. Yesterday was another one of those TJ adventures in Portland. I did not buy all those things, but my camera still took the old favorites and the newbies home.


Some of my favorites: Brussel sprouts on ‘the vine’, liberte red wine and spanakopita. And the newbies: pumpkin cheese cake anyone?  TJ_coll4T

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kale with crocodile

Curly kale sauteed in olive oil, anchovy paste, garlic and white wine. With bbq sauce and feta cheese. Crocodile: Patti Sandberg.


Fall came and went

The fall and the foilage were mixed up this year. At first there were seasonal cold days, then a sudden summer warm weekend; a week later the maple trees took on a red look but also the leaves almost gone instantly with a few days. However, there are still many, many trees with yellow and brown leaves. I miss the red, my favorite dot of fall color.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Easy Italian plum tart

Italian plums are less common in US than in Europe. However, they make for a great, simple,  juicy tart in the fall. Using store-bought pie crust, this tart takes about 10 min to make (+ 30 min baking). Delicious!

Plum tart:

  • 9 1/2 inch tart pan (best with removable bottom)
  • store-bought (or home-made) bake-ready pie crust
  • 1 pound Italian plums, washed, stone removed, quartered
  • 3-4 tablespoon of ground hazelnuts or almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml milk
  • 1/4 cup fine sugar
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract

Preheat the oven for 375 F degrees. Lay the tart pan with a layer of pie crust and press it into the corners and rim of the tart pan. Cut off excess dough. Sprinkle the base slightly with ground hazelnuts or almond meal. Cover it with quartered plums. Sprinkle a 1 TB of sugar over the plums. Mix the eggs with the milk, the sugar and vanilla. Pour the mix over the plum tart and bake for 30 minutes. Let it set for about 30 min for the custard to set and firm before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Not the Maine event

Article of a Philadelphian food critic’s recent family trip to Maine for lobster and other local fare.

“With such natural bounty to work with, food craftsmen with a strong locavore sensibility were everywhere we looked in Maine, from the dome-shaped pizza trucks (Harvest Moon and Uproot) that dotted the farm markets from Damariscotta to Rockland, to cheesemakers such as Seal Cove and Hahn's End, to Mount Desert Island Ice Cream in Bar Harbor, where Ambler-raised Linda Parker draws on local dairies for the ingredients for inventive ice creams with names like Bay of Figs and Blackstrap Banana that are as rich as they are clever. Even Allagash in Portland, the trend-setting Belgian-style brewery that's the national star of Maine's growing craft beer industry, has been using local fruits and wild yeasts to give its coveted barrel-aged sour ales - like Coolship Cerise - a distinctive sense of terroir.

Terroir - French to describe the intrinsic flavor of a place - is a word Maine chefs have been using since the early 1980s, almost simultaneously with Northern California. That's when Sam Hayward began calling himself a "terroirist" at a little restaurant named 22 Lincoln in Brunswick, and the "back-to-the-land" movement had found an inexpensive, rain-rich mecca for independent small farming in a state that now has the highest percentage of organic farms per capita in the nation.”

“There were other heralded Maine tables we didn't quite make, such as the garden-ringed Primo in Rockland and luxurious Arrows in Ogunquit. But there were so many other restaurant highlights, they were hardly missed. At Chase's Daily in downtown Belfast, a market-bakery outlet for the Chase family's 500-acre farm where dinner is prepared only on Friday nights, I ate one of the best vegetarian meals of my life. It was international in inspiration but deeply rooted in Maine produce. We spooned through cob-sweet Mexican white corn soup; a plate of heirloom soldier beans stewed Tuscan style with sage beneath shaved Parmesan; an exquisitely layered lasagna of beets, gorgonzola, and walnut sauce; and an upside-down plum cake that tasted like the caramelized end of summer.”

Click here for the full article by Craig LaBan.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vegan Chili Verde with Hominy

It is chili weather, chilly + chili. The Food Network knows this and Giada di Laurentiis was also prepared with a special cooking different chilis, which all looked delicious and off the beaten path. I made the vegan chili verde which is light and quite different from meaty, heavy and beany chilis, but it does not lack the punch and stewy consistency. Tomatillos add a tart and lemony dimension and it works well with the potatoes, hominy and pureed poblanos.

Vegan Chili Verde with Hominy  (original source): (makes 4 large servings)

  • 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped white onion
  • medium sized Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • medium sized yam (red-skinned sweet potato), peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 3 large cloves garlic, flattened, peeled and microplaned
  • 4 large tomatillos (8 to 9 ounces), husked, rinsed, cored and chopped
  • 2 large poblano chiles (8 to 9 ounces), stemmed, seeded; 1 diced, 1 cut into 4 strips
  • 2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • One 15-ounce can hominy with juices (preferably golden)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • One 7-ounce can diced mild green chiles
  • Garnishes, such as crumbled feta cheese, greek yogurt, chopped green onions, sliced avocados, lime wedges and chopped serrano chiles

    Open the can of mild green chiles  and pour then in a processor. Coarsely chop the raw poblano peppers and add them to the food processor, and puree until smooth. This makes for a nice deep green color of the chili.

    Heat the oil in a heavy, large pot over low to medium heat. Add the chopped onions, diced potatoes, yams, garlic, and tomatillos. Cover and sweat until the onions are tender. Mix in the oregano, flour, and cumin. Add the hominy with the juices and the broth as well as the chile sauce from the food processor. Bring the chili to a low simmer.

    Cover and simmer the chili 20 minutes, but stir regularly because it tends to stick to the  pot bottom because of the tomatillos. After the first 20min, uncover and simmer until the potatoes and yams are tender and the chili is reduced to desired consistency, stirring often again, 20 to 25 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

    Serve with your favorite toppings. I added greek yogurt and avocado slices.


  • Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Roasted Figs with Red Wine, Honey and Greek Yogurt

    The last few of the Trader Joes’ mission figs were more than ripe and baking them in red wine with spices and serving them with Greek yogurt sweetened with honey and cinnamon was the last fig recipe for the season. A luxurious, simple ending to the fig season!

    Roasted Figs   (makes 2 servings):

    • ca 10 fresh Mission figs, halved
    • 1/4 cup cabernet sauvignon
    • juice of 1/2 lemon
    • zest of 1 lemon
    • 1 TB super-fine sugar
    • 3 whole star anise
    • 1 small cup Greek yogurt (like Fage)
    • 1 TB + 1 ts honey
    • 1/4 ts cinnamon

    Preheat oven to 400F.

    Arrange the figs in an oven-safe baking dish. In a small bowl, mix the cabernet, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and star anise. Pour over the mission figs, and bake for about 20 min.

    Mix a small cup of Greek yogurt with honey and cinnamon. Serve 10 half mission figs, still warm, on a plate for each portion, and top with a 1/2 cup of the sweetened Greek yogurt, and a drizzle of honey.


    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Fig pizza

    Fresh California mission figs have not much of a shelf life to speak of. I was in a hurry to try out what I actually bought them for: fig pizza. The real deal  of this pizza is with pizza dough made from scratch, proscuitto, gorgonzola, walnuts, sliced figs, baked and then topped with arugula salad with a balsamic reduction drizzle. Since I had made an apple tart from scratch I was in no mood for all the fuzz. So, shortcut to the rescue. I used a frozen small Trader Joes pizza, removed much of the toppings, and added gorgonzola and goat cheese crumbles instead and topped it with fresh figs before baking. 15 min later, warm, baked and smelling heavenly I added thinly sliced radicchio, pecans and balsamic vinaigrette. Elegance with a shortcut.


    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    Another dose of summer

    There was a 5 day stretch of winter foreboding last week: dark skies, cold temperatures and continuous rain. My body responded as necessary: putting me into a state of winter-ready hibernation. But the sun and even summer temperature came back this weekend. 80s? My body was more than ready to jerk me back into high energy and bright mood, and so I headed to the coast. 

    Belfast, ME, is a good coastal destination, nice old red brick houses town center with amazing stores, and one of my favorite restaurant in Maine, Chase’s Daily. The restaurant is housed in basically one large tall room, with tables and chairs in the front, a cordoned area which separates the restaurant kitchen area, a large old-fashioned counter with the tastiest looking tarts and croissants and a lavish cheese counter. The back area of the restaurants is an empty, hardwood floor lined art gallery space in the winter, but in the summer and fall it is an indoor farmers market. Since Chase’s Daily grows most of their produce on their own farm, and the surplus is sold in the back part of the restaurant. So, you can get bread, cheese and veggies, and before you get ready to labor in the kitchen yourself, you can relax with a cappucino and a plum tart, or a Tuscan bean soup and some Geary’s ale as in my case.

    chases_8 chases_9

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    Foraging and Chanterelles

    This year, September has been a good month to find plenty of chanterelles in the woods. I have been foraging several times and brought home so many wild mushroom I had to freeze a few pounds of chanterelles. The last loot was, however, prepared right away. Chanterelles with 1 Tb of butter, 1 finely chopped shallot, cleaned and sliced chanterelles, salt, pepper, a 1/2 Tb of creme fraiche and chopped fresh parsley. Fall time fare at its best!


    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Apple Olive Oil Cake

    It is apple picking time again! Maybe not today since it rains, so it is more apple cake baking time. This is one of my favorite apple cake recipe from La tartine gourmand. It is not only elegant and tasty, but also glutenfree.

    Apple Olive Oil Cake a la Tartine Gourmande (makes 2 small cakes or 1 large):

    • 1/2 TB butter
    • 5 smaller apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
    • 1/2 cup blond organic cane sugar + 1 TB for the apples
    • 1/2 TB vanilla extract
    • 1 ts finely chopped lemon thyme
    • 4 organic free-range eggs
    • Pinch of sea salt
    • 1/3 cup olive oil
    • 100 g millet flour & 100g brown rice flours*
    • 65 g almond meal*
    • 40 g quinoa flour*
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder

      *Or 200 g (gluten-free) all-purpose flour replacing all the other flours and almond meal combined

    In a sautee pan, heat 1/2 TB butter over medium heat. When warm, add the diced apples with 1 Tb cane sugar, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the apples are softer. Set aside.

    Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray 2 smaller or 1 larger (i.e.10-inch) mold with baking spray (with butter and flour) and set aside.

    In a bowl, combine the flours and baking powder and lemon thyme. In another bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar and a pinch of salt and the vanilla extract. Add the olive oil and mix well. Add the wet mixture to the flours. Fold the apples in the cake batter. Transfer the batter to the molds and bake the cake for 40 minutes for a very small mold and 50 min for a small, but higher mold, or until a sharp knife inserted in the middle comes out dry. Let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding.


    Friday, September 30, 2011

    Hiding away in Hamlin Marina

    I have been waiting for a place like this for a while. A long while. Any desires to sit near the water, watch boats, and have a meal outdoors in the sunset took a drive to the coast in the past. Bar Harbor, Belfast, Castine. Not anymore. Now, it is no more than a stone throw away. 

    A few months ago McLaughlin Seafood opened a restaurant in the Hamlin Marina (formerly the Dana Grill), a quaint place with a beautiful views of the marina, no traffic (besides quiet boat traffic) in eye and hear sight, and a perfect view of the sunset, the river and the boats. The restaurant has a larger new patio area that will be covered with glass windows in the future, and a new deck that is currently built on top of the patio. Nothing better than having a pumpkin ale, sitting outdoors at the end of September and enjoying another day of Indian summer.  Friday nights even with live music.

    Hamlin_marina_3 Hamlin_marina_2
    Hamlin_marina_5 Hamlin_marina_1
    Hamlin_marina_4 Hamlin_marina_6
    McLaughlin Seafood a the Marina, 108A Marina Rd, Hampden, ME, 207-990 1111