Friday, February 27, 2015

Spring break

Friday and spring break upon us! The day started cold, but not too cold, and with sunshine and mounds of white snow. Last meetings to wrap up before everyone disappears, some to Caribbean beaches, some to Europe, and some just wind down and kick up their heels, worrying only about leisurely pursuits for a few weeks.

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How come that lunch pans always look a lot better before they are cooked?

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I feel like jumping in my car and heading out of town, too. Exploring snowy beaches, hiking snowy mountains, cross country skiing frozen lakes, hibernating and drinking wine in sleepy, cozy remote cabins. Ah, winter fun!

Last weekend I started watching “Friends” on netflix, to really for once watch all the episodes in order. “Friends” is still the same gem as it was originally. These guys have such great comedic timing as an ensemble and of course such great personal chemistry. Only, the clothes they wear? Oy vey….

Other recommendable movies:

I’ll have to wait until the end of the month until Imitation Game is released to DVD because I missed it by one day to see it in the movie theater. Nooo!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thinking out loud on a Friday

It is Friday --- the final February weekend. While Boston is digging tunnels through the Boston blitz, the Niagara Falls are partially frozen over, and we are a country divided (by temperatures) there is hope that things will change ---- it is almost March, after all. There will be daylight saving time again, the days get really long and a hope that the snow piles will convert into puddles and then into tulips. There is no hurrying out of February, there are still the Oscars on Sunday, a last school week until spring break, and much skiing to enjoy.

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It really is my kind of February: plenty of snow, cold temperatures so the snow sticks around and I can go skiing every day (if I want to). Based to the map above, Maine is right on track and it is business as usual. In other places? Not so much.  

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People head out over lunch break to skate ski through the marvelous, sunny winter wonderland, just like they would go for a run in the summer. Fresh air, sunshine, and you are back at your desk with a smile and a fresh mind. Bright sunlight and fresh air cure almost everything. What else to think out loud about?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine’s blizzard

Here we are. It is Friday, the 13th, and tomorrow is Valentine’s day, which has as special present another 22inch blizzard for some extra evening coziness. jenniferA

Not that I am much in the mood for heart shaped donuts this year, or any other type of donuts. I have the impression Valentine’s days will go down as most unobserved in history this year. I guess I not only feel drowned in snow but also in love.

I see reports that the National guard was called into suburbs of Boston to remove the snow; this will be just in time for another dump. We are just 2 weeks into February so there is no stopping anytime soon with all that snowy whiteness.

Things I love this Friday:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Farro with roasted parsnips and cauliflower

The other day I had a great farro salad for lunch at Chase’s Daily. It reminded me how much I love the nutty, hearty taste and texture of farro. The salad had notes of of roasted, sweet parsnip pieces and roasted garlic. It was served with a spring green salad with a lemon vinaigrette and some smoked gouda.
I added roasted cauliflower to the original idea. A wonderful dish --- warm, cold, as a side to a main dish, as a main dish with a side of salad or even at room temperature for a salad.

Farro with roasted parsnips and cauliflower. Makes 4 smaller portions, or 2 main courses.
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 2 cup vegetable broth
  • salt to taste (if you use a salty broth, you don’t need to add any).
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into half inch cubes
  • 2 cups of cauliflower florets (I actually used frozen ones)
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Peel the parsnip and cut into 1/2 inch dice. With the cauliflower floret arrange the parsnip on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, sprinkle some salt and some olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 20 min. (You will smell the roasted parsnip).
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In a heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and fry the onion and garlic. Add the farro, and ‘dry toast’ for about 1min. Then add the (hot!) broth, stir, turn down the heat, cover with a lit, and simmer for about 25-30 min.
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Stir, turn off the heat, and add the roasted parsnips and cauliflower, and mix both in. Adjust for salt.
Enjoy!
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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Party on a frozen lake

It was finally a weekend with promised sun and not another foot of snow coming down from the skies (that would start today). Well, the sunshine only lasted half of the day but nevertheless, time for explorations! The Tobbaggan National Championship takes places in Camden each winter, and it is described as “Mardi Gras in the Snow”. It very much is. Camden was my destination for the day, and I stopped by in Belfast and had a lunch at Chases and then I was on to the Camden Snow Bowl. As usual, it was not too crowded, the school buses are used to transport people from downtown Camden to the Tobbaggan race 2 Miles away, and it was indeed, a party. A party on a frozen lake.

The tobbaggan race is down a narrow, iced chute on what can only be described at the most antique, basic sleds, and it sprawls out on a frozen lake at the end of the chute. There is much hollering, whistles, bells and cheering when such a 4-person sleds races down the chute at 35Mi/h, and much laughter (of course) when the riders all fall over each other at the end of it. Most participants are local, but they arrive from all over the country. The spectators have tailgating like tents with open fires and chairs and music on the ice, too, and so it is all a big party. Good fun!

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Like the rest of us, Chase’s Daily also under snow siege

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Open kitchen in Chase’s daily

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The country ketchup at Northwood Gourmet Girl is spectacular.

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Here we are: snowy Camden.

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The chute:

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Two tobbaggans.

The start of the chute

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Under 10 seconds!

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A mini tobbaggan.

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For the hungry..

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For the cold and hungry.

And what is happening on the ice?

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A good finish.

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An assisted finish. And a party for the rest.

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Tailgating on the ice.

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Back in town it was nice and warm in the Owl and Turtle bookshop.

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There were fireworks at 6:30pm but I was already on my way home.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hyderabadi biryani by Chef Harpal

Another Indian dish from the frozen isle section at Trader Joes that sparked my interest in cooking it at home: Vegetable biryani. Biryani is basically a flavored rice dish, more on the  rice side dish than main dish. My Indian friends tell me that the cooking process is similar to cooking risotto --- a layered approach to cooking rice.

Since the way dishes are cooked in Indian cuisine is quite different from Western ones I sought out youtube again for a recipe. And, I wanted a simple one for starters. (I followed this recipe).

The recipe starts out with soaking basmati rice. During the soaking time, marinade the chicken with yogurt, a ton of spices, browned onions (I bought fried onions), and fresh herbs.

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The chicken marinades for about 30 min. During the time the soaked rice is half cooked in a flavored broth with a bouquet garni made of spices; it needs to be undercooked because it finishes cooking with the chicken.

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The semi-cooked rice is ladled on the marinated chicken, which are placed on the bottom of the pan. There is the first layer of rice, which is followed with spices, and I also added vegetables, with more rice, and finished with spices, vegetables and herbs. The original recipe calls for melted butter over the mix, which I forgot, but it would have added to the flavor.

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Cover the pot, and cook for 20min on medium high, and then for 15min on low. This allows for the chicken to be fully cooked and the flavors to infuse and the rice to steam. (In the original recipe, the chef uses raw bread dough to seal the lid so that the steam is captured and used for cooking; I relied on tight fitting le creuset lids).

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Fluff up the rice, and it is ready to serve.

Hyderabadi biryani by Chef Harpal

Ingredients:  (for about 4 servings)

For the chicken marinade:

  • Chicken either 4 drumsticks on the bone or 4 chicken thighs on the bone
  • 3 TB Ginger garlic paste (made from raw ingredients or from jars, jars are fine)
  • 1/2 ts cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 ts ground garam masala
  • 1 ts ground green cardamom
  • 1/2 cup brown fried onions
  • 2 TB melted butter or ghee
  • 2 TB freshly chopped coriander
  • 10-12 fresh Mint leaves (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 hot green green chili (I used jalapenos and finely diced them)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • juice from 1 lime

For the basmati rice:

  • 1-1.5 cups good basmati rice, washed several times and soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 TB black or regular cumin seeds
  • Bouquet garni:
  • In a 4 inch by 4 inch piece of  cheese cloth pack
  • 3 whole black cardamom pods
  • 6 small whole green cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole black pepper corns
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick

For the biryani:

  • 1 teaspoon ground garam masala
  • 1/2 ts ground cardamon powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander
  • 10-12 finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup brown onions
  • 1/3 teaspoon saffron steeped in 1/2 cup warm milk –
  • 2 TB melted ghee

Add all the ingredients for the chicken in heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, massage chicken with marinade and let sit for 1/2 an hour, or marinate longer, covered in the fridge.

Wash the rice 3 times, and then soak for 20min (important!). Add the spices in the cheese cloth in 4 cup water that is set to boil. Add the cumin seeds to the water, and the soaked rice.

When the rice is 3/4 done (ca 10-12 min), layer the half rice over the chicken (and let some of the water come along). Sprinkle some coriander (1 tbsp) , mint leaves (6-8), brown onions (1/8th cup), garam masala (1/2 tsp), green cardamom powder (1/2 ts) over the rice, and then layer the rest of the rice on top after straining it. On top, add rest of brown onions, garam masala (1/2 tsp), and the saffron soaked in milk. Finally, sooon 2 TB of melted ghee on top!

Put the biryani on the stove, and seal the pot. Cook the biryani about 20 minutes on medium high heat. Lower the heat to low, and for another 10-15 minutes. Serve!

The dish is also excellent at room temperature or a side in a salad.

Note: the marinated chicken sears to the bottom of the pan, and it might be better to cook the dish in an oven.