Monday, May 30, 2011

Finally. A day of summer.

May consisted of 3 1/2 weeks of rain and temperatures in the lower 50s. Last week brought the first days of sunshine, which I used to finish the garden, and today, finally abundant sunshine, temperatures in the upper 80s, a good degree of humidity and a holiday. I packed up my bike and headed to Acadia National Park. Acadia NP is located on Mount Desert Island, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge in Trenton. Mount Desert is how everyone imagines Maine: beautiful fjords, coves, white cottages and an expansive terrain of mountains with hiking trails, carriage roads, and lobster places.

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My bike ride took me to Jordan Pond house via the carriage roads. My plan was to have lunch at the restaurant, outside on the lawn with a beautiful view of the pond and the ‘bubbles’ and a popover. But alas since it was still raining until yesterday the lawn area was too soggy, and the benches and table had not been placed on the lawn yet. Bummer. So, I biked back to my car, and went to option 2: Bar Harbor.

jordan pond maine   (see the bubbles?)

Bar Harbor has beautiful shops, great outdoor restaurants and many old-fashioned ice cream parlors. First order of business was stocking up on olive oils and balsamic vinegars at Fiore! Fiore is a store with a large selection of artisan olive oils, vinegars and other specialties likes sea salts and dips. What I like most about Fiore is that I can taste the different varieties, and I think especially with olive oils you never know if you like it if you don’t taste it first. This time I got a Garlic Olive Oil, Herbs de Provence EVOO and Meyer Lemon olive oil, and a fantastic new Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar with quite a bite to it. Looking forward to grilling with these!

 fiore Bar harbor maine fiore Bar Harbor

Walking off the olive oil samples and up an appetite I took a stroll through the main shopping street. One of my destinations is often a wood store, which sells only items made from wood like decorative ducks, beautiful salad bowls and kids toys. How adorable are these ‘prehistoric pull toys’?

prehistoric wood toy wood toy

And then it was finally time for ‘lunch’ at 4pm: a golden and red beet salad with goat cheese at Rupununi. Looks like they still had to break in the chef, because the beets were undercooked, and no goat cheese to be found. Quite disappointing. Well, it was the first good day of the summer, and all the waiter/waitresses were on summer jobs and new, too. Anyway, sitting in the warm sun after a satisfying summer day ? --- priceless.

rupunini beet salad

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fiddlehead Arugula Salad

After 3 warm, humid days it is cold and overcast again today. Nevertheless, it is a holiday weekend and many people went to open their camps located on lakes and the ocean, and the farmers market was quite empty today. I snagged some fiddle heads and they became part of  lunch. Fiddle heads are native to New England, and abundant in early spring. They have a light crunchy bite and nutty flavor, and taste similar to green asparagus.
Fiddlehead arugula salad: (2 portions)
  • 1 cup of fiddleheads, cleaned
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1 cup arugula salad
  • blue cheese crumbs
Heat the olive oil on medium and add the fiddle heads. Saute for about 1 min, and add the garlic, saute for another min. Now add the white wine and salt and pepper and saute for another 2-3min. The fiddleheads should be slightly cooked but still crunchy, and the wine mostly cooked off.
Prepare a plate with arugula, some of the sauted fiddleheads, drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and top with goat cheese or blue cheese crumbles.
Note: The prepared fiddleheads can be store in the fridge for a few days, and add to sandwiches and wraps.
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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vegan Mushroom Soup

The consistency of this mushroom soup reminds me of the Campell Creamed Mushroom soup, however, it is made from scratch, only with healthy ingredients and it is vegan. And delicious.

  • 1 white onion, small diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TB grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup of fresh mushroom (e.g. portabella mushroom, shitake, oyster, etc.), cleaned and sliced
  • 1 cup of dried mushroom (e.g. shitake, porcini, and/or oyster)
  • 1 spring of thyme
  • 1/4 cup unflavored almond milk
  • 1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 ts vegetable bouillon
  • optionally: more water, depending on wanted consistency
  • salt, pepper to taste

For garnish: more fresh mushroom sauteed in olive oil, salt and pepper and some feta crumbles.

Reconstitute the dried mushrooms in 2 cups of boiling water for about 10min. Heat a pot with the grapeseed oil and fry the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the fresh mushrooms. Saute the mushroom until they are slightly browned. Now, add the dried mushroom with the soaking liquid. Stir and combine well. Bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat to a medium-low simmer. Add the thyme, bouillon, almond  milk and the chickpeas. Simmer on medium-low for ca. 30min. Let it cool, and then puree in a really good blender (e.g. vitamix) to get a creamy, smooth consistency. Reheat, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with sauteed fresh baby bella mushroom and feta crumbles (optional).

mushroom soup

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Duly noted


Why do blueberry smoothies look like the weather?

Somehow, gray. But they taste good!

Vegan blueberry smoothie:

all into the blender, and there we go!

blueberry smoothie

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hickory Smoked Tofu and Tempeh Bacon

On the weekend, I had finally the chance to taste the original Lightlife Smokey Tempeh Bacon, after already making my own. Although my own was good, this one blew me away: a much smokier flavor and stronger, steak-like taste. It screamed “I taste like A1 Steak sauce”. Quite ironic, isn’t it? So, I gave it another try using my stovetop smoker. Since smoking is always an adventure (a.k.a. mess), I decided to both smoke tempeh and tofu. This time, I used the Nagoya Light Tofu, which has half the calories of regular tofu, and a Trader Joes all-grain tempeh. The results were well worth it!

Smoked tofu, dry rub:

  • 1 TB paprika
  • 1 TB smoked paprika
  • 1 TB grill seasoning
  • 1  ts garlic powder
  • 1 package Nagoya light tofu

Prepare tofu: cut the block into 8 slices. Place a towel on a surface, line it with a paper towel, arrange the tofu on the paper towel, top with another paper towel and a dish towel. Top the dish towel with a heavy object (a really big cook book!), and drain for about 30min.

Prepare a dry rub with the ingredients above, and rub into the tofu slices. Smoke (see below!).

Smoked tempeh bacon:

  • 1 package tempeh
  • 1/3 bottle of A1 Steak sauce
  • 3 TB sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 4 TB maple syrup
  • 1 TB paprika
  • 1 TB garlic powder (fresh would be great, too!)
  • 1 ts spicy sesame oil

Slice the tempeh into really thin slices. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a large ziplock bag and add the sliced tempeh. Marinate the tempeh for at least 30min.

Smoking (for each batch):

  • 2 TB hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 5 min
  • stovetop smoker
  • tongs

Pour the hickory chips in the center on the bottom of the smoker. Place the little pan and rack directly on the chips. Arrange the tofu or tempeh on the smoker rack. Close the smoker with the lid, and start the heat on medium-high underneath the smoker. After about 2min, smoke should develop. Now, close the lid, and smoke the tofu for about 10min, and the tempeh for about 6min. Turn off heat, open the smoker, and serve smoked tempeh/tofu hot, or cool and serve at room temperature. Personally, I will fry the smoked tofu for more crisp before serving it.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Changing Scenery

May is a beautiful time in Maine to make the first trip to the coast. The weather is warm and sunny, all the non-bare-survival stores open again for the season, restocked with new items, nature is in sweet green, yellow and white bloom, and yet the tourists have not arrived and will not until Memorial weekend. I headed to Belfast to carouse in some of my favorite stores and restaurants: Chase’s Daily with its James Beard Foundation nominated vegetarian dishes, fresh from their own garden, the Belfast Coop, where I finally located the Smokey Tempeh Bacon, and a beautiful kitchen store (among other things). The tarts at Chase’s Daily looked and smelled extra good today.
Next stop was Castine, a quaint harbor village that was found in 1637, and is home to the Maine Maritime Academy which keeps the town busy in the winter. Once the students leave for the summer the rich people move into their ocean-side summer houses with a landing for their sail boats. I often come to Castine to sit at the ocean and take home some mussels that I plugged myself from the stones on the beach. This time I only found a handful, but appropriate, I guess, once you are vegan.
One of the characteristics of coastal Maine are also the many road-side antique and flea markets, great to rummage and find out about anything, probably rusty. Old bath tubs with claw feet, lamps, lobster buoys, records, paddles, and and and…
My final stop was Ellsworth with the ever well-stocked kitchen emporium Rooster Brothers and their selection of high end foodie items, and finally a dinner a the lovely Cleonice, where I had, appropriate for the season and local, a fiddlehead salad tapas. Headed home in the evening sun, with a first taste of the summer to come. Can’t wait.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Feta Pumpkin Spinach Muffins revisited

It was a warm sunny day, the regular Orono farmers market had restarted with its wonderful mix of produce, artisan cheeses, free range organic eggs and chicken, fresh pressed wheatgrass, fish from the coast, and bakery items. Last fall I had tried the Appleton Creamery feta cheese for the first time, and it is undoubtedly the best feta I ever ate outside of Greece. Strong, creamy, tart, salt, strong rich flavors. Last fall I made feta spinach pumpkin muffins with the feta, and I waited all winter for the feta to be available again to make these muffins. They are delicious, and freeze well.
horseradish thai orchid
Pictures from the farmers market.
 halloumi cheese appelton
Appleton Creamery Halloumi and Feta.
feta cheese appleton
Feta Pumpkin Spinach Muffins
  • cooking spray (for the muffin pan)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 255g cubed butternut squash, cut 1/2-inch cubes (I buy peeled butternut squash)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large handful of fresh baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds kernels, roasted, unsalted
  • 100g cubed feta (full-fat)
  • 2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 180 ml non-flavored almond milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 4 teaspoons aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.
Sprinkle the olive oil, salt and pepper over the cubed squash. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for 15-20  minutes so that the squash is mostly cooked, but not mushy or dry. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl beat the eggs and almond milk together. Sift the flours and baking powder onto the mix, add in some salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, and mix until smooth. Fold in gently the spinach, sunflower seeds, feta, and all of the mustard. At last, fold in the baked squash.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. 

muffin dough feta pumpkin dough feta muffins

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Slow-cooked Beef Stock a la Julia Child

It was Marcella Hazan, the godmother of Italian cooking in the US, and Julia Child, who got me into home-made broth, slow cooked for 5-6h on the back burner of the stove, flavor infused by bones, shells, and herbs. The long harsh winter in Maine as well as the relentless academic year left me with a cold to cure, on the couch, with old shows on netflix, and well, a lot of hot beef soup. The plants are slowly bursting to life in the garden, and the lovage plant is one of the first to grow in the spring. Lovage is a leafy green that adds a celery-like flavor to soups or broth, but has a much stronger, sturdier flavor, so the perfect ingredients to stand up to some slowly cooked broth with beef bones. Lovage is also a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory being second only to capers with regard to quercetin. Not that we care too much, but it would be nice to shake this cold!
Slow cooked beef stock:
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 3-4 large beef bones, mostly without meat
  • 1 carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 lovage stems with leaves (or 2-3 celery stalks)
  • 1 red onion, peeled, cut in large slices
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 juniper berries
  • 1 TB pepper corns
  • spring of thyme
In a large stockpot, add the cold water, and all the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, and then keep the broth simmering on ultra-low for about 5-6h, covered with a lid. Remove any foam that develops. Strain, discard the vegetables, herbs and bones (a dog might be happily chewing on them!), and cool the broth. If you cool it in the fridge, the fat will solidify and it can easily be removed.
beef soup
Beef soup:
  • home-made broth
  • handful of edamame
  • handful french beans
  • some carrot slices
  • handful of dried porcini mushroom
  • salt, to taste
Heat the broth with the vegetables, and simmer for about 10min until the vegetables are tender but not mushy. The porcinis adds a wonderful extra flavor depth. Serve!
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