Sunday, February 26, 2012

Salad, the restaurant edition

The other day I drove to Belfast and had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Chase’s Daily, which again has been nominated for Best Chefs, Northeast by the James Beard foundation this year. Chase’s grow their own produce and they often have openings for helpers in the kitchen and on the farm. I had the roasted beet salad, made with garlic vinaigrette, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. Interestingly, the side salad was (rare) mixed greenhouse greens stretched with the more winter-friendly white cabbage. Great idea!

At home I roasted the 2 large beets I had bought at the Belfast Coop to prepare my own roasted beet salad for the week. I cut up the beets, arranged them in a ovenproof ceramic form, drizzled some Fig Balsamic vinegar and added some vegetable broth, covered the form with foil, and baked at 400F for 1h 15 min. I sliced them into smaller pieces and drizzled them with balsamic vinaigrette. 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vegan Chia Waffles

With spring approaching it is time for brunches and…. waffles. I bought this great all-clad waffle maker a few years ago that makes thin, crispy waffles. This is a very basic vegan recipe that tastes fantastic -- a slight sweetness to it, crisp and tasty. It can be altered with walnuts nuts, blueberries or cacao nibs  (mixed in the dry ingredients). They also freeze well. 

Vegan Chia Waffles (makes 6 waffles)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 TB chia seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1/4 ts liquid stevia
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix the wet ingredients in a different bowl. Combine and mix until the waffle dough is without lumps.

Preheat waffle iron (typically, a green light goes on). Now spray with nonstick baking spray (it has some flour in it) (or wipe down with some oil). Cook waffles according to the waffle maker's instructions, which usually means putting about 1/4 cup batter on the iron, closing, and waiting for a light to go out. I baked mine longer than the light signal (about 4 min altogether so that they are on the crispy side). 

Make 6 waffles using 1/4 cup of waffle dough. 1 waffle, 90kcal.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Congratulations to the 2012 James Beard Foundation Semi-Finalists in Maine

Best New Restaurant: Petite Jacqueline, Portland, ME

Outstanding Chef: Melissa Kelly, Primo, Rockland, ME

Outstanding Restaurant: Fore Street, Portland, ME

Best Chef: Northeast

Monday, February 20, 2012

Roasted plum tomato soup

Tomato soup. One of my all time favorite soups. There is only a handful ingredients, but there are so many ways to get it right or not so right. The preparation of the ingredients makes all the difference between a so-so dish and a smack your lips gourmet soup. This is definitely the way to ‘do it right’. All the steps and the order are very important: plum tomatoes (out of a can, at this winter season) roasted in the oven with fresh carrots, shallots and a dash of brown sugar to get the deep, caramelized flavors, and starting the soup base with a tablespoon of butter (vegan or not, this is a must!), red pepper flakes brought back to life in the bubbling butter, garlic caramelized  in the heated butter, all mixed up with some tomato paste and then thinned out with a jigger of lemon flavored vodka. The rest is easy. Salute!


Roasted plum tomato soup (makes 3 medium or 2 large servings):

  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained of their juices (I used Trader Joes unsalted plum tomatoes)
  • 1/2 TB light brown sugar
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 shallots, chopped into large pieces (or 1/2 red onion)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBs tomato paste
  • 2 TBs of lemon flavor or regular vodka
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 TB sour cream or creme fraiche (or heavy cream)

    Step1: Preheat oven to 400F. In a bowl, mix the plum tomatoes from the can (without their juice, save those juices for the soup or later!), the carrots, shallots, and brown sugar with a dash of ground black pepper, and arrange in a flat spread-out layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat (or aluminum foil). Place in the middle of the oven and roasted for 30 min. The sugars likely caramelize not only on the tomatoes but also on the mat.


    While the tomato mix is roasting, prepare the soup base. In a large pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Stir in the red pepper flakes, before the butter turns it color (it should NOT get brown). Now, add the micro planed garlic, and constantly stir. The butter and garlic will get slightly brown, but only saute for about 1 min and then add tomato paste and mix in until it  is all combined (it probably comes together in a tomato paste ball). Cook it like this for about 1 min, constantly stirring and breaking it up. Take pot of the heat (you don’t want the vodka to suddenly ignite), and add the vodka, stir it in the sauce, and bring the pot back to the heat, constantly stirring and mixing, for about 1 min.

    Now, add the can of crushed tomatoes (crushed, not diced! If they diced, puree them first). Mix it all until the butter-garlic-tomato paste-vodka mixture is well combined with the crushed tomatoes. Add 1 cup of water with some bouillon (or 1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock), and bring it to a simmer.

    Once the roasted tomatoes are ready, add all of them and the onions and roasted carrots to the soup, and simmer for about 15min (last picture below).

    Now, you can use an immersion blender and blend the soup or let it cool, and puree it in the vitamix, and then reheat. Once the soup is blended, stir in about 1 TB of creme fraiche or vegan sour cream or heavy cream. Serve with a dash of creme fraiche and pepitas.

    Finest tomato soup, EVER.


  • Thursday, February 9, 2012

    The PawPad

    Is your cat a game mouser? He/she might if you give them free reign to your IPad and load the Affection Collection cat app, which is supposed to keep cats entertained while you are detained otherwise (at work, for example). My mom told me about it and those kittens on youtube seem to have an awful lot of fun chasing the virtual mice. So, of course I had to download it and try it out on all of my kitties. Although, they all were enticed by the mice and the virtual yarn balls, only one was excited enough to actual try to paw-chase them. Maybe, it works better for kittens. At least, my IPad is still scratch-free.


    Wednesday, February 8, 2012


    Beatrice Peltre’s La Tartine Gourmande blog was the 2nd blog I ever read (the first one was 101 Cookbooks), and I am still especially mesmerized by Bea’s food photography. Her whimsical, playful food styling with the use of bright clear colors (and also good dose of pink) still fascinate me. I also have made several of her recipes (like the tea almond cakes, and her apple olive oil cake) and she basically got me into gluten-free baking, not because I need gluten-free but because the gluten-free flours such as quinoa flour, rice flour and almond flour are so much tastier than regular flour.
    Since 2009 she has been working on a cookbook and I was sure this would be one I’d buy without having ever looked into it. – yesterday, it was finally released and arrived. Can’t wait to explore the recipes!

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Cozy Sunday

    Sunday! The official day off. I already went for a very chilly and icy walk, bundled up in my most serious winter clothes (almost floor length thick down coat, fur lined winter boots). The woodstove now is roaring hot and brings a cozy warmth to  the living room and the kitchen. Chanelle relaxes on a whicker chair not far from the woodstove and takes in the warmth. Baby Cat snacks on organic, free range, freshly roasted chicken legs (and purrs while eating). The sun is slowly setting behind the trees, the TV is on and New England is ready to get game on.