Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Sunday, July 24, 2011
A pink mini donut at Starbucks and an iced Americano to wipe away the last sleepy cowebs in my head. I headed out of town with no clear plan of what do to. Something coastal/South. I had been to Acadia National Park quite a few times already, Portland was too long of a drive, so something else. Once I left town I knew where to head: Camden.
On the way on Highway 1 South, a few picturesque outdoor flea markets line the roadside.
Naturally, a Maine flea market along a busy coastal highway must have Maine-ish things for the tourista. Like stuffed deer, or black bears or a cute moose. Or lobster buoys and cages. Seeing a moose close up like this typically happens only at a fleamarkt. Bears, too. If you are lucky.
Lots of very old books (like law books from 1830) or antique cameras or vinyl records. Rather than enticing me to buy anything a flea market just reminds be of the passing of time. And sometimes we just want a trinket of times long gone. As if we can hold on to it.
Highway No 1 finally took me to Camden, the scenic (and very touristy) coastal town with a harbor full of windjammers, which offer 1/2 day tours, all kind of beautiful private sailboats, and the occasional super-yacht. Good food, nice views, and somehow just too much traffic.
Friday, July 22, 2011
When the scorcher days arrive, and thanks to global warming, there are more and more of those (and we dream of them in the deep freeze of winter), now we actually get quite sentimental about a few feet of snow. That would be nice. Just anything to cool us down.
Thunderstorms had been promised for a few days but nothing happened. I wipe down the cats with ice cubes, and they are cooperative. They try to find any cool surface to lay on. Any personal fury affection is suspended for the time being. We all are on our backs, limps in the air. We are thinking about moving into the unfinished basement, the only cool place in the house.
It also brings back alarming memories of last August’s unrelenting heat wave, and I know there is only one thing to do today: go to Best Buy and get a AC window unit.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Summer is a good time to have a WholeFoods salad mini bar in your fridge: friends come by for a glass of wine and a few tapas plates, lunch and dinner can be arranged without cooking. I have been in the kitchen a lot lately, making dolmades, tomato feta muffins, jam, kale chips with kale from the garden, black bean dip, drying chamomile flowers and catnip… and today I made a batch of curried hummus.
I first had this hummus at the Orono farmers market. They also offer a great hummus with garlic scapes, which I love. My own version of the curried hummus turned out great. It is a basic hummus recipe but with curry powder and a touch of sweetness with maple syrup.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked for 45min with a bay leaf and 3 small garlic cloves (instructions see below)
- 1 TB garlic flavored (or plain) extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 ts salt and some fresh ground pepper
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and microplaned
- 1 1/2 TB tahini (sesame butter)
- 1/2 TB curry powder
- 1 TB maple syrup
- ca 1/4 of chickpea cooking liquid (or water if using canned chickpeas)
Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Start with half of the cooking liquid and add according to the consistency of the hummus you like. I used the still warm chickpeas and it makes an extra fluffy hummus.
Cooking dried chickpeas:
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 2-3 cups of water
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cloves garlic
Soak the chickpeas overnight in a container that is about 4 times as large as the space taken up by the dried chickpeas. They expand significantly when they are soaking for over 12h. Once soaked, rinse and place in a pot.
Cook in 1 1/2 cups of water and add a fresh or dried bay leaf and 2 peeled garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low for about 45min (or until soft). Preserve cooking liquid.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
However, it is only open in the morning and closed 1pm on Saturday and 1:30pm Mon-Friday. After the farmers market I headed over to check it out. It looks amazing from the outside, but even better inside. Marble countertops, recycled old wood flooring, wood ceiling and a wonderfully cheerful staff. Immediately I was asked if I had been in before and since I had not I received a free raviola, a pastry shaped like a ravioli, but it is filled with jam. Off to a good start! The pastry looks lovely, delicate dough and simple fillings and beautiful crostate.
I like more savory food and so I headed over to the other countertop, with authentic pizza Romana, the large slabs of foccaccia like bread slathered with tomatoes (rossa) or with vegetables or plain with olive oil and rosemary (bianca). Again, before I even asked I received a piece to try it out. Even the USPS postal delivery woman on her route checked out the goods and received samples of everything. I ended up buying a wholegrain bread and a (huge) piece of pizza romana rossa. I will definitely back. And tell everyone about this downtown jewel!
The bakery serves also cappucino and paninis besides the bread, pastry, and prizza romana.
Massimos Bakery, 130 Hammond Street, Bangor, ME (207) 659 7575.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
A few weeks ago perusing WholeFoods Market in Portland I saw that they were selling small potted fig trees. Now, a fig tree is something to plant (and sell) in California or Italy, but not in Maine. Nevertheless I was more than pleased that Wholefoods decided to sell them anyhow, and I got one. I have a few plants like hibiscus and oleander which are outdoors all summer, but indoor plants during the winter, and so far I’ve been lucky getting them alive through the winter for several years. The fig tree would just have to have the same fate.
Nevertheless, of course I bought it because I want figs!
Since I have no experience with fig trees I read up on their growing cycle and what to expect (or let’s say hope for!). The literature says, 2 growing cycles per season, preceded by flowering. I inspected the fig tree for flowers, but nothing to be seen.
This morning I checked again, and almost jumped in delight and surprise: a tiny fig is growing!!! :-)
Monday, July 11, 2011
last weekend my conversation with A. went something like this:
S.: “I now grow fresh mint in my garden. When you come visit next time, you can make these killer mojitos again!” (A. makes the best mojitos known to mankind)
A.: “Hmmm, I am kind of mojitos-ed out….” (Instead of a grad student, A. is now a hard working professional.) “…. but you know what? Fresh mint is great in stuffed grape leaves!!!!”
I kind of scratched my head; I had had an attempt at stuffed grape leaves a few years ago but somehow did not prepare the leaves quite right and they were too tough to eat. But, I decided to give it another try, with focus on getting the leaves prepared correctly. And, with the help of google search and online tutorials, success was granted this time!
HOW TO MAKE STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES (DOLMADES):
- ca 25 fresh grape leaves, prepared (click this link)
- rice stuffing (recipe below)
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 TB fresh lemon juice
Preparing fresh grape leaves:
Just for the purpose of making stuffed grape leaves I planted 3 vines in my garden a few years ago. The vines grow new leaves all summer long, so it is easy to harvest them when they are ‘just the right size’ (not too tiny, but also not fully grown because they are less tender). A simple way to prepare the grape leaves is to cut them off the vines, clean and drain them, and then blanch each leaf in boiling water with some fresh lemon juice for about 1 min each. Remove the leaf from the hot water, and layer it on top of the other blanched grape leaves in a plastic container. They can easily be frozen until use. Actually I try to always freeze them at least for a few hours, since it makes the texture more tender. This online step-by-step tutorial is also a great instruction set of how to prepare fresh grape leaves.
Thaw the grapes leaves, and they are ready to use.
Preparing rice stuffing:
- 1 TB extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 TB raw pine nuts, toasted
- 1 medium sized red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
- 1 1/2 cups hot water
- 10 cherry tomatoes, chopped
- 1 TB tomato paste
- 2 small garlic cloves, microplaned
- 1 ts bouillon
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- large handful of fresh mint, chopped
- large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 TB dried dill
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
To make the rice for the stuffed grape leaves, heat a medium saucepan over medium heat, and add the pine nuts; stir and toast the pine nuts for about 1-2 minutes or until they are golden brown (don’t walk away, they burn in a second!). Remove pine nuts from the pan, and cool. Now, add the olive oil to the pan, and heat. Add the chopped onion and fry on medium heat until translucent. Add the rice, hot water, bouillon, tomato paste, tomatoes and the grated garlic; stir the mixture, cover the pot, and cook gently for approximately 15 to 20 minutes (make sure there is enough water!). Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, fresh mint, parsley, dill and add the pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the stuffing cool for about 1 hour before stuffing the grape leaves.
Stuffing Grape Leaves:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To stuff the leaves, do the following (see picts below): take a leaf and carefully flatten it out on a plate or cutting board with the veins facing you. Place ca. 1 TB of the rice filling near the stem end of the leaf (the amount of stuffing has to be adjusted to the size of the leaves). Press the stuffing into a small roll-like shape. Now, fold the stem end of the leaf over the filling, then fold both sides toward the middle, and then roll it up into a cigar shape (it should be snug but not too tight because the rice will expand a little bit more once it is fully cooked; otherwise the grape leaf might burst). The rolls should be cylindrical (about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick). Squeeze lightly in the palm of your hand to secure the rolls. Repeat with the remaining grape leaves and filling.
Prepare a large heavy oven-proof pan with a lid. Arrange the stuffed grape leaves in the pan, seam-side down, packing them close together, arranging in a circle. If you have made more stuffed grape leaves, you can places them as 2-3 layers on top of each other. Don’t place the rolls together too tightly as they won't cook well - also don't leave too much space between them as they will unravel.
Pour the 1 1/2 cups hot water, olive oil, and lemon juice over them (premix them 3 ingredients in a cup ahead of time). Cover the pan with a lid. On the stovetop, over medium heat, bring the liquid just to a boil and move baking dish to the oven and cook approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until the grape rolls are tender and the water has been mostly absorbed. Remove from oven and let cool.
Transfer the stuffed grape leaves to a serving dish. You can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate them first. They can be served chilled or at room temperature, garnished with sheep milk feta cheese, and olives, and white wine!
NOTE: Stuffed grape leaves keep about a week in the refrigerator.
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Saturday are the best days in the summer. The fridge is stocked with fresh fish, sheep’s milk feta, goat cheese, and all kinds of green produce from the farmers market. Mixed greens, rainbow chard, garlic scapes, supersized radicchio, kohlrabi, carrots…. so far. Today’s lunch was fresh cod sauted with garlic scapes, cherry tomatoes, white wine and radicchio with balsamic vinaigrette.
I leave you with some impression from the farmers market..
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
This is a great potato salad to for a potluck BBQ (or your own!) since it is a bit different with sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese. Fresh oregano gives it the extra Greek edge.
- 1 pound small waxy red potatoes
- 1/2 red onion, small diced
- 2 garlic scapes, small dice
- 150g sheep’s feta cheese
- 10 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
- 2 TB fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 TB fresh mint, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- some extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Peel the potatoes, cut them in large chunks and place them on a steamer inset in a pot with a lid. Fill the pot with water below the steamer inset; bring water to a boil, place the lid on the pot, and steam the potatoes for 20 min. Drain the water from the pot, and let the potatoes ‘steam off’ and dry out on the stove for about 5min.
Meanwhile finely chop the red onion and add them to a bowl. Chop the garlic scrapes, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta and the chopped oregano, and mint. Make a dressing with the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Once the potatoes are cooked and cool enough to handle cut them into cubes and add to the bowl. Add the dressing, and mix all ingredients with the dressing and serve at room temp.
Monday, July 4, 2011
Several friends are in town this weekend for July 4th and this leads to almost daily trips to Acadia. What can be better than going on a hike in great weather and catching up, topping it off with eating lobster and ice cream? The find this weekend was Mount Desert Ice Cream, which also recently won a place in Food and Wine’s “Best Ice Cream Spots in the US”. Tasting a scoop of the cardamon cinnamon I can only say, well deserved!
On Saturday, on my quick trip to the farmers market I found several of my favorites: sheep’s milk feta cheese, a huge bunch of crunchy rainbow chard, garlic scapes, and mixed greens. Three of these went into today’s lunch: frying small chopped garlic scapes (think green onions!) in olive oil, adding thinly sliced chard including the colorful stems, and adding fresh ground pepper, sea salt, thinly sliced mushroom, a few cherry tomatoes, and feta, all topped off at the end with some chardonnay. All good!