Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fall is approaching

There is no denying it, fall is around the corner. We moved on to tomatoes, crisp apples and the first pumpkins at the farmers market. In a while there will only be all kinds of pumpkins and mostly root vegetables. Cheese production will be closed until next year. But then, there are also local melons, yellow and red watermelons, honeydew melons, and all the hot peppers are ready. It is my favorite time of the year at the farmers market.
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Summer Squash and Sweet Corn Soup

It is slowly soup time again, even hot soup if it is not too hot outside, but a light soup with ingredients of the current season: plenty of summer squash and fresh local sweet corn at its peak. I found this recipe from Love & Olive Oil on Pinterest today, and it did pin my interest (summer squash and sweet corn soup?!) so I made it for dinner tonight. It is lovely! And summery light.

(Makes about 4-5 servings)

  • 2 large yellow summer squash
  • 1 ear fresh sweet corn
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 fresh red hot chile
  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 ts vegetable bouillon

Half the summer squash and then cut it crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Remove the hulls from the corn and with a knife cut the kernels from the cob. Reserve the cob. Chop the white onion and mince the garlic. Mince the chile.

In a 5-quart heavy pot heat the oil and add the onion, garlic and chile. Stir and saute for 1-2 min. Now add the corn and summer squash and cook for another 2 min on medium heat. Add the water, the bouillon and the cob, and simmer the mixture until squash is tender, about 15-20 minutes, with the lid on. Discard the cob.

Using an immersion blender puree the mixture in the pot (otherwise wait until the soup is cooled and puree in food processor, but only when cooled!!). Season the soup with salt and pepper if needed. Serve soup and garnish with cilantro, sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil.



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Local freshwater fish with a side of good friends

My friends A. and R. with their daughters V. and A. were in town (or let’s say in the state) and had rented a cottage at Damariscotta lake for a week. The weather was gorgeous for most of the time, allowing for paddling to the little sun deck in the lake with the canoe or getting canoe service by V., hanging out, catching up and getting a serious tan on the side. Lovely day! 

R. had manage to catch some fish in the lake, and so there was dinner. A perch and a bass, carefully prepared and simply steamed by being wrapped in aluminum foil on the BBQ. With it came potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked in the camp fire with a charcoal crust and soft on the inside, sweet corn and steak. The setting could not be better: a lake view and sunset.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Of hikes, food and art

The other day, I put on my new keens and headed out for a hike to Acadia National Park. It was a hot day, and the airy Keens were just the ticket.


After the hike it was time for some food. This time I headed to Southwest Harbor, which is also located on Mount Desert Island, but it is a smaller community, nevertheless with similarly good food and some shopping like Bar Harbor. Signs at the light poles all over the island announced the SW Harbor Art Fair, so SW Harbor it was. To grab some food, I went to the Sawyer market, which is an old fashioned market with hardwood floors and top notch food, a cheese bar and large wine collection. The store’s back area serves as the produce department in the summer, and is housed under a tent.


After some cherries and a slice of pizza from Little Notch Bakery, right next to Sawyer market, it was time for art. Local artists exhibited their work and there were quite a few pieces I liked (but could not afford and so only photographed). (The photo to the right is from the Bar Harbor Art show, on the same day).


After some hiking, food AND art it was time to testdrive the Keens during some clam digging in the low tide. Summers in Maine are just great. Messy, muddy Keens, not so much.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Home-made Storage Magic

I was green with envy when I saw Gina’s new storage containers on her blog. I had seen the chalk ‘thing’’ on glasses and coffee mugs before and just shrugged, but on storage jar? Genius. The World Market website has the jars for sale online, but I have a large number of almost exactly the same storage glasses already (from Ikea), just without the very handy chalkboard.

I scratched my head.

Investing in a new set of storage jars? No. Then I realized that you can actually buy chalkboard paint! Genius II. I scoured Lowes, and they have their own Valspar brand chalkboard paint, but there are also other brands out there.

chalkboard paint 

Paint and brush in hand, I just needed, well, chalk. Today, it seems like you have to get it at a teachers’ specialty store because everyone else has crayons and dry-erase, but, alas there is always the artist’s store with chalk colors.

The project was easy: paint the jar, and keep on writing.


Friday, August 12, 2011

It’s a wrap!

My staycation is slowly coming to an end (sad face), and today’s excursion was more shopping centered. Which better place to head to for some nice shopping and good eats than Ellsworth? (Beats the 2h trip to Portland). This time I was also planning to check out the newly opened sandwich/wrap place 86 this! It is located right smack in the middle between Rooster Brothers and Cleonice, two of my Ellsworth favorites.

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I arrived a bit late and barely made it in time to get food since the store closes at 4:30pm. But the chef was gracious enough to still make me a wrap. I chose the Beet Knick with a spinach wrap. The store is cute, with light yellow colors, wooden tables and chairs and several hanging plants. Fortunately, in preparation for the farmers market, I had cash on me, since currently they don’t take credit cards. Curious and hungry, I walked out of the store with a large, bulky wrap. In green. 

After my first bite, I about died and went to heaven. This is the best wrap I ever had! Perfectly cooked beets with a garlicky dill yogurt dressing, crunchy walnuts, some feta, and lots of baby spinach, basically a salad in a wrap. After eating the entire wrap (and wondering if I was featuring a red stained beet chin) I was a happy camper . Sorry, Cleonice, unfortunately we won’t rendezvous today. You got some serious competition.

beet knick wrap

86 This!    2 State St    Ellsworth, ME 04605     (207) 610-1777   (open 6am-4:30pm)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sushi…… NOW!

Lately, on my bike ride home I have picked up sushi at Sushi Now, the cute little sushi bar that opened last Fall in Orono. It is nestled between a barbershop and the big pizza place on the parking lot next to Verve, and it is easy to overlook it. But then as an old Californian, sushi is the No 1 food next to sandwiches when hungry, and this is the first sushi bar in Orono.


The bar looks small from the outside, but inside it has a cool, elegant decor with earthy tones and black steel tables and stools.


Sushi Now offers a large selection of sushi, maki, miso soup, and salads. Even an Orono roll is on the menu. It is white, with cream cheese and white tuna. I assume someone designed this signature roll in the winter…. Sushi Now does not serve alcohol, but you can bring your own wine, beer or sake.

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Currently, they offer a “buy 2/get 3 rolls“ deal. Well, I am still sticking with.. the California roll.

california roll sushi now

Saturday, August 6, 2011

High Noon

Staycation continued, with another trip to Acadia. I threw my bike in the back of my car and headed to the coast.


Since I had a late start the kale smoothie did not hold me over anymore at 3pm, and a Trenton bridge lobster came before biking this time.


I headed to Eagle lake to bike to Jordan Pond again. Since it is currently high noon of the tourist season instead of eating popovers and drinking coffee in style and on a bench with umbrella and table I sat on the lawn with an ice cream. 

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Yes, napping after a hilly bike ride sounded about right.

I biked back to Eagle lake and took the long route along the lake instead of heading straight back to the parking lot. Clouds come in from the ocean and it became significantly cooler, chilly even if dressed only in an exercise tanktop.


Back in Bar Harbor, I found the brandnew bakery, the Little Notch Bakery, a cute store with a large community table and free wi-fi, pizza, sandwiches and pastries. Nice!

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Dinner was at a beautiful gem that I just recently discovered: the Lompoc Cafe. It is off the main shopping roads, quieter, with a bocce lane, large trees, outdoor seating and with about the best and freshest local fare I have found so far in Bar Harbor. 


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Preserving Basil

It is the time of the year when the fresh basil is plentiful in the garden. I often plant up to 20 plants for the summer, and harvest them several times to freeze basil for the winter. This year the spring was cold and wet, something basil does not do too well with and I just have a few plants. The farmers market to the rescue ….. ! Ever since I discovered vegan pesto, I am one of their biggest basil buyers. On Tuesday, I bought a whole pound of basil for $6 at Peacemeal Farms. A steal! After making a large batch of pesto I still had 3/4 of the basil left, and I decided to replenish my frozen basil stash.

Dried basil is not really where it’s at, but fresh basil can be very expensive in the winter. This is a great way to preserve fresh basil and use it later for pasta sauces. There is almost no difference in taste between fresh and frozen basil.


How to freeze basil.

Special equipment: ice cube tray, sharp knife, freezer

First, cut the basil leaves off the stems and layer about 8 leaves on top of each other and roll them up like a cigar.


Next, take a sharp knife and start from the top of the rolled basil leaves and cut the basil roll into thin stripes or ribbons (technical term: chiffonade the basil).


Typically, one of these small piles can be stuffed into a single ice cube tray pocket. Proceed with the basil until the ice cube tray is filled.

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Now, pour a bit of cold water into each individual ice cube tray pocket; once the water is frozen, it will preserve the basil and keep it stuck together.


Place the tray in the freezer until the water is frozen solid. At this point the ‘basil cubes’’ can be removed from the tray, and stored as individual cubes in a large ziplock back in the freezer.

A ‘basil ice cube’ can be added to a pasta sauce without thawing. The water cooks off and the basil cooks with the sauce like fresh basil. Enjoy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blue Hill and blueberries

Yesterday was my first official day of vacation. Since I am staying home, it is more of a ‘staycation’ and playing tourist in my own state. Having an accent and clicking away with a camera constantly comes in handy to playing this part perfectly ;-)

Yesterday, I was in the mood to just take a drive on the rural coastal Maine country roads, which curve from small town to small town, private, with blistering heat and shaded by large trees along the roads, and not a tourist in sight. For a moment there it felt like being in Provence in August. 

I stopped to pay tribute to the annual blueberry crop, had a lobster roll in Penobscot, my favorite place where only locals end up at, sitting on a large rock on the ocean, and heading over to Blue Hill, a fairly private and artsy community. Good days!

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Playing my tourist part, I also stopped for the first time at the Penobscot History Society's open house at the General Store, and the 1-room school house.
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Blue Hill at low tide.