The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Recipes http://www.pressherald.com Wed, 29 Jun 2016 04:28:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.4 Cookbook review: ‘Cooking: How to Make Food for Your Friends, Your Family and Yourself’ and ‘You’re the Chef’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/cookbook-review-cooking-how-to-make-food-for-your-friends-your-family-and-yourself-and-youre-the-chef/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/cookbook-review-cooking-how-to-make-food-for-your-friends-your-family-and-yourself-and-youre-the-chef/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936383 “Cooking: How to Make Food for Your Friends, Your Family and Yourself.”
By Patrice Daniels and Darcie Johnston. $12.99
“You’re the Chef: a Cookbook Companion for ‘A Smart Girl’s Guide: Cooking.’ ”
By Lisa Cherkasky. American Girl. $9.99

Cooking with my 9-year-old is always a hoot. She’s old enough to be genuinely interested in cooking, but too young to work solo around boiling water and too-tall oven racks.

If my son’s eyes are too big for his stomach when it comes to dessert, Vivian’s cooking ambitions are too big for her skill sets. Just this morning she went through 8 eggs trying to make me breakfast, before giving up and waking me at 5:45 to confess.

I blame “MasterChef Junior.”

All of which brings me to a great pair of kid cookbooks, “Cooking: How to Make Food for Your Friends, Your Family and Yourself,” and its companion cookbook, “You’re the Chef,” by American Girl Publishing.

The “Cooking” book is where your child starts – it’s loaded with tips, like how to whisk, what a “flexitarian” is, pictures of various cooking utensils and the do’s and don’ts of handling raw meat. It has some recipes, but mostly we used it for descriptions of cooking terms, how to use a knife, and how fat and salt and seasonings affect taste.

One amusing section on a “safe kitchen” has a picture of two girls – one “don’t” example of a girl wearing loose dangling sleeves, long necklace, flip-flops and loose hair, while the squared-away girl next to her has an apron, tied-back hair, sleeves rolled up and bare wrists and hands.

“You’re the Chef” appealed to my daughter because it’s not a “baby” cookbook, with PB&J recipes and a condescending tone. I like it because it strikes a middle ground, emphasizing that the kid is the cook – but each recipe has an “ask an adult to help” line for some things, like using a grater or handling boiling soup.

The recipes spell out the steps – not just wash the vegetables, but pull off the tough strings and brown leaves. Not just remove vegetables from the stove, but “drain them in a colander in the sink.” The quesadilla recipe notes “if anything falls out, just tuck it back in later.”

The clear instructions in made it easier for Viv to feel confident in knowing exactly what to do – and what to expect – without having to ask. That’s a big plus in my book.

The cookbook, which can work as a stand-alone purchase, also has great common-sense new-to-cooking tips on safety, the value of prepping ingredients, reading the whole recipe before you start, measuring carefully and a section on cooking terms and tools.

Viv devoured both books before picking out her favorite recipes from “You’re the Chef” to try. The 80-page cookbook also has a smart, functional design. Its narrow, tall format and sturdy ring binder make it easy for small fingers to manipulate, and it stays open when propped up on the counter.

The recipes are solid comfort food favorites that appeal to the younger set, but adults won’t turn down the results when they include homemade granola, coconut curry shrimp, a homemade marinara sauce and Italian minestrone. We decided an apple-blueberry crisp would be the perfect dish to warm us on still-cool Maine spring nights. My girl loved mixing up the topping and carefully coring and peeling the apples as she fine-tuned her knife skills.

The final result, she said, was “a little sweet … four out of five stars.”

Just like her.

APPLE-BLUEBERRY CRISP

Makes 6 to 8 servings

½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking or instant)

½ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup (plus 1 tablespoon for the apples) all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

5 to 8 Granny Smith apples, enough for 6 cups when sliced

2 cups blueberries

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Vegetable-oil spray

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

Ask an adult to help with the knives, peeler and oven.

Turn on the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Make the topping. Put the uncooked oats, brown sugar, ¼ cup flour and salt into a medium-size mixing bowl and stir. Cut very cold butter into small pieces, and add it to the oatmeal mixture. With clean fingers, rub the oatmeal mixture and butter together, pressing hard enough to mash the butter into small pieces but not enough to melt it or blend it in. Set aside.

Prep the apples. Peel the apples, cut them into quarters and use a paring knife to cut out the core from each piece. Thinly slice the apples and place them in a separate, large mixing bowl.

Mix and bake. Add the blueberries, sugar, 1 tablespoon of flour and cinnamon to the apples and stir. Lightly coat an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish with vegetable-oil spray, and spoon in the fruit. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, set the timer for 55 minutes, and bake. Perfect crisp has a browned top and bubbling edges. Remove the crisp from the oven, let it cool and serve with ice cream, if you like.

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Marinated scallops wrapped in prosciutto great for grilled kebabs http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/marinated-scallops-wrapped-in-prosciutto-great-for-grilled-kebabs/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/marinated-scallops-wrapped-in-prosciutto-great-for-grilled-kebabs/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936401 I’ve always been a sucker for scallops. They’re sweet, meaty, cylindrical and bite-sized. This particular recipe puts scallops at the center of a skewer’s worth of very tasty kebabs. It requires no more than 15 minutes hands-on time and 40 minutes total from start to finish. And it’s how I spell dinner – and relief – at the end of a long day of work, when I have neither the time nor the patience to make anything more complicated.

First, buy the best scallops available. Sometimes, scallops are harvested, stored in water with preservatives, then kept at sea for days before the boat returns to shore. These are known as “wet” scallops, and I do not recommend them.

Instead, look for “dry” scallops or “day boat” scallops, which are caught and brought to market right away. Of these, you want the biggest, plumpest specimens you can find. Those are the ones that will most easily pick up nice grill marks when you set them down across the grates.

The bright, tangy citrus marinade here is a mixture of lemon juice, orange juice and the zest of both fruits, along with a little olive oil. It’s your choice of herb – sage or basil (the home team liked them both) – after which each scallop is wrapped in a strip of prosciutto.

You want to be careful to fold the prosciutto and herbs around the scallops so they’re flush with the scallops’ edge. That will ensure the scallops cook evenly on the grill after they’ve been threaded onto skewers. How to ensure they don’t stick to the grill? Pat them dry, then brush them with a little oil right before grilling.

The grill must be well heated before you start cooking. Once you’re rolling, don’t turn over the skewers until the scallops are easily loosened from the grill, which is how you know they’ve been properly seared. This will only take 2 to 3 minutes a side.

Give each one a little poke in the belly to see if it’s almost done. You want to pull them off the grill when there’s still a little bit of give, indicating they’re slightly undercooked. The carry-over cooking time will finish the job.

CITRUS-MARINATED SCALLOP

AND PROSCIUTTO KEBABS

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing the scallops

16 sea scallops (about 11/2 inches in diameter, 1 pounds), tough muscle discarded

8 thin slices prosciutto di Parma (about 4 ounces)

16 large basil or sage leaves

Preheat the grill to medium.

In a medium bowl whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, orange juice and orange zest with a hefty pinch of salt until the salt has dissolved; whisk in the 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the scallops and toss until they are well coated. Let them marinate for 8 minutes.

Cut the prosciutto slices in half crosswise and fold them into strips about 11/2 inches wide (the same width as the scallops) and 5 inches long. Arrange the strips on a work surface and place a basil leaf in the center of each strip. Top the leaf with a scallop and wrap the prosciutto around the scallop to enclose it.

Thread 4 prosciutto-wrapped scallops onto each of 4 metal skewers. (If using wooden skewers, soak them for 20 minutes in water before threading the scallops.)

Pat the exposed scallop surfaces dry and brush them lightly with olive oil.

Place the skewers on the grill and cook the scallops for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until almost firm to the touch, transfer to plates and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years. Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

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Paneer turns grilled cheese into a spicy, veggie entree http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/paneer-turns-grilled-cheese-into-a-spicy-veggie-entree/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/paneer-turns-grilled-cheese-into-a-spicy-veggie-entree/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936413 When it comes to cooking, my father has never really strayed into the kitchen.

But the joy of being my father’s daughter is that I know the things that make him stop and smile for a moment. And that thing for him, when it comes to food, is cheese, in particular paneer.

Paneer is Indian unsalted white cheese. It has a mild flavor so takes to marinades really well and unlike most cheeses, it can be grilled without melting so that it softens in the middle and chars on the edges.

This marinade is for the dish known as paneer tikka in India. It gives the paneer an addictive, lip-smacking and savory flavor.

SPICY GRILLED PANEER

The paneer is best served hot with a salad, raita and some Indian flatbreads, like roti or naan. Paneer is more widely available in Asian supermarkets, specialist stores and online. You’ll also need skewers.

Makes 4 servings

4 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 lemon, juiced, plus extra wedges to serve

1 tablespoon chickpea flour

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoons kosher salt

11/2 teaspoons red chili powder

1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil

1 pound paneer

2 handfuls of fresh coriander, chopped

2 bell peppers, cubed

1 red onion, cut into 8

1 small zucchini, thickly sliced

Blend the yogurt, lemon juice, chickpea flour, garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and chili powder together in a blender, then tip the marinade into a bowl. Add a handful of chopped coriander and mix.

Cut the paneer blocks into 9 equal sized cubes and add to the marinade. Stir to mix. Then thread each of your skewers alternately with the onion, pepper, zucchini and paneer.

To cook the paneer, coat griddle pan with oil and heat pan until very hot.

Lightly oil the pan so the paneer doesn’t stick. Place the skewers onto the pan and turn every minute or so until they are evenly cooked and a little charred on each side.

Serve with fresh coriander and lemon wedges.

Meera Sodha is an Indian foods expert and author of “Made in India: Recipes from an Indian family kitchen.” She lives in London and blogs at:

meerasodha.com

Twitter: meerasodha

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Ramen (the real thing) relies on a rich broth http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/ramen-the-real-thing-relies-on-a-rich-broth/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/22/ramen-the-real-thing-relies-on-a-rich-broth/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936440 Egg noodles. I love this innocuous pasta. The rich, tender noodles comfort me when I have a cold, have suffered a challenging day or need to recover from a week of “research eating.”

When they are buttery and cheesy, or topped with chicken paprikash, my childhood feels close. Fried crispy and topped with veggies, my first trip to New York’s Chinatown comes to mind. Brothy and enlivened with bold seasonings, I recall my first Tokyo ramen shop alongside a dear brother.

Perhaps those egg noodles are the reason a great big bowl of ramen proves so appealing. Not the cheap mushy instant ramen of college days; rather, the toothsome noodles nestled in rich broth, alongside chunks of vegetables, egg, roasted pork or chicken. Wow, I enjoy this hearty bowl any time of the day or night, cold weather or warm. Let’s make it at home.

Ramen’s convoluted history encompasses Chinese noodles and Japanese tastes. The story goes that Chinese cooks in Japan seasoned egg noodles in meat broth with soy sauce for a savory snack. The dish gained popularity in the 1950s for its low price and simplicity. Ever since, cooks happily tailor the combo into gourmet bowls with international influences. There are thousands of combinations all captured by the name “ramen.”

These days, many big cities sport ramen shops both plain and fancy. We stop for lunch, pre-theater, post-theater, midshopping and for a savory brunch. At home, a little advance cooking means a weeknight treat packed with flavor, little fat and big satisfaction.

Let’s start with the noodles. Look for egg noodles in the Asian section of most large grocery stores. I like Wel-Pac’s chuka soba just fine. More toothsome are the medium egg noodles sold in nest shapes by Blue Dragon and Sharwood’s. Plan on about 2 ounces uncooked noodles per main-dish serving.

Fortunately, these dried noodles can be kept on the pantry shelf for several months. And they cook fast – three to four minutes in boiling salted water. Working ahead, you can hold back a bit on the cooking; remove them with tongs to a plate and cool. Just before serving, give them a dunk back into the same boiling water for 30 seconds.

Noodles in hand, let’s talk broth. The best bowl of ramen is only as good as the broth.

My favorite way to make a well-seasoned broth is in the slow cooker. I can leave it unattended while I’m working and come home to a house that smells good. The slow-cooker proves especially welcome in warm weather because it doesn’t heat up the house like a stockpot bubbling on the stove.

Diet gurus, health professionals and cookbook publishers rattle on about “bone broth” for good nutrition and hunger satiation. Save for vegetable stock, most stocks are in fact bone broths. The bones add flavor to water. Simple as that. Roast the bones if you like a roasted flavor in your cooking. When it’s really warm out, I skip the roasting of the bones and welcome the lighter-tasting broth.

Chicken wings make terrific broth – they add flavor and body and just enough fat for satisfaction. Ditto for pork neck bones. The combination yields great flavor for little money. You could stop there; simply roast the bones, add water and simmer away. Alternatively, for a seafood-based broth, use fish bones (not roasted) and shrimp shells and reduce the cooking time by half.

When making broth for ramen, I add some dried shiitake mushrooms for their umami quality along with green onion for sweetness and rice wine for interest.

I also like to add a piece of seaweed to my broth. This sea plant adds an intriguing sea flavor. I simmer a small piece in water for a few minutes and then let it steep while the bones roast in the oven. Certified organic kelp from Maine Coast Sea Vegetables, sold at Whole Foods, similar to Japanese kombu, tastes good here.

Broth freezes beautifully. I package it in 16-ounce containers for easy thawing. Reheat the broth and season it highly with soy and/or miso paste before using. The following broth recipes are so good, you can drink them from a mug to help stave off hunger.

For spicy ramen bowls, dissolve a tablespoon or two of Korean gochujang chili paste in the hot broth. It’ll make you perspire on a warm day – trust me, it’s worth it.

I like to add grilled chicken thighs and soy-wasabi cooked eggs to my bowl of broth and noodles. For variety, I also squirrel away bits of roasted meat and vegetables to tuck into ramen bowls. I especially like charred and roasted flavors in my broth. Armed with egg noodles and delicious broth, a custom bowl of ramen is at your ready. At home, anytime.

Here are some other ideas for additions to your ramen bowl:

 Pan-seared, sliced, fully cooked pork belly (look for this in Trader Joe’s refrigerated section)

 Thinly sliced roasted pork or grilled country-style pork ribs

 Grilled or steamed shrimp, peeled

 Grilled or pan-seared pieces of superfirm tofu

 Grilled or pan-charred sliced sweet onion or whole green onions or knob onions

 Grilled or broiled sliced eggplant seasoned with soy sauce

 Fresh mung bean sprouts and bamboo shoots

 Steamed peapods

SLOW-COOKER ROASTED BROTH

No slow cooker? Simmer the bones with the kombu water and remaining ingredients in a large pot, stirring often, with the lid partly covering the pot, for 3 to 4 hours.

Makes about 8 cups

11/2 pounds chicken wings, separated at their joints

11/2 pounds pork neck bones

1/4 to 1/2-ounce piece kombu (kelp), optional

4 green onions, chopped

2 dried shiitake mushrooms, broken

1/4 cup sake or Chinese rice wine (or dry white vermouth)

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put wings and bones on a large baking sheet in an uncrowded layer. Roast, turning once or twice, until golden brown on all sides, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using the kombu, heat 10 cups water and the kombu to a boil in a large saucepan. Simmer about 10 minutes. Then let steep while the bones finish browning. Use tongs to remove and discard the kombu.

Transfer the bones with all their pan drippings to a large (4-quart) slow cooker. Add kombu water (or 10 cups fresh water if not using the kombu) and the remaining ingredients. Cover and slow-cook on low, 8 hours.

Strain broth into a container. Refrigerate, covered, up to 1 week. Freeze up to several months.

SHORTCUT BROTH: Simmer 1 quart of store-bought chicken, vegetable or seafood broth (check out your local butcher’s house-made broth if possible) with 2 tablespoons of mirin or dry vermouth, 1 or 2 tablespoons miso paste, 1 or 2 thin slices fresh ginger and 1 or 2 teaspoons soy sauce in a saucepan for 10 minutes. Strain before using.

Shiitake mushroom caps and soy-wasabi hard-cooked eggs are favorite elements to add to a bowl of ramen noodles.

Shiitake mushroom caps and soy-wasabi hard-cooked eggs are favorite elements to add to a bowl of ramen noodles.

GRILLED CHICKEN RAMEN BOWLS

I like to add a couple of spoonfuls of miso to give the broth body and flavor. Shiro miso is light and sweet – perfect for a weekday bowl of ramen. Shichimi togarashi is a Japanese chili pepper spice blend. Use a combination of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes if it is unavailable.

Makes 2 servings

4 cups slow-cooker roasted bone broth or shortcut broth, see recipes

2 tablespoons shiro miso, optional

1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce to taste

1 to 3 tablespoons chili paste or Korean gochujang, optional

1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh shiitake mushroom caps (no stems)

3 medium egg noodle nests, about 5 ounces total

2 grilled shichimi chicken thighs, see recipe, thinly sliced

1 soy wasabi hard-cooked egg, see recipe, halved

2 radishes, very thinly sliced

1/4 cup sliced bamboo shoots

2 green onions, charred in a skillet or chopped

Small handful fresh bean sprouts

Chopped fresh cilantro

Shichimi togarashi

1. Heat broth in small saucepan until hot. Season to taste with miso, soy sauce and chili paste. The broth should be highly seasoned. Add mushrooms and simmer over low heat.

2. Have all the remaining ingredients ready and near the cooking surface. Fill 2 deep soup bowls with very hot water to heat the bowls.

3. Meanwhile, for noodles, heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop noodles into the water; cook, stirring, until al dente (tender but still a bit firm in the center), about 3 minutes. Use tongs or a slotted wire basket to remove noodles to a plate. Save the cooking water for later.

4. When ready to serve, bring the noodle cooking water to a boil again and dunk the noodles back in to reheat, about 20 seconds. Dump the hot water out of the soup bowls. Divide the hot noodles between the heated bowls. Top each with half of the sliced chicken, egg, radish, bamboo shoots, green onions and bean sprouts.

Gently ladle hot broth over all. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve right away. Pass the pepper blend at the table.

SOY-WASABI EGGS: Mix 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon wasabi paste in a small dish. Add 2 peeled hard-cooked eggs. Let soak, turning eggs often, 10 to 20 minutes until eggs are golden in color. Remove from soy bath.

Shichimi togarashi, a Japanese chili pepper spice blend, is sprinkled on chicken thighs before grilling.

Shichimi togarashi, a Japanese chili pepper spice blend, is sprinkled on chicken thighs before grilling.

GRILLED SHICHIMI CHICKEN THIGHS

Makes 4 servings

4 to 6 medium boneless chicken thighs

Japanese shichimi togarashi

Sesame seeds

Finely sliced green onions

Heat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal grill to medium heat. (Or heat a broiler to medium high.)

Meanwhile, generously sprinkle chicken thighs on all sides with shichimi.

Grill chicken directly over the heat source (or on a pan set 8 inches from the broiler), turning once, until almost firm when pressed with your finger or a spatula, usually 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from grill. Sprinkle generously with sesame seeds and green onions.

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Steve Shaffer’s Ratatouille for Two http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/steve-shaffers-ratatouille-for-two/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/21/steve-shaffers-ratatouille-for-two/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 21:38:09 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=936800 If I had to be honest with myself, Steve could eat mashed potatoes and peas every night and be a happy camper. And I would have a lot more time on my hands. But what can I say, I love to cook, and I love hitting on something that this anti-gastronome will ask for again and again. The following recipe is not the one I made the first night we met, but mishmash of several favorite meals Steve and I have developed over the years. It’s a little time-consuming, but the vegetarians in your life will love you.

1/2 teaspoon salt plus salt for eggplant

1 small globe eggplant, sliced into rounds 1/2-inch thick

1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs

2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons

1 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

2 large eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced on a diagonal 1/2-inch thick

1 medium-sized yellow squash, sliced on a diagonal 1/2-inch thick

1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely

2 green bell peppers, chopped finely

1 teaspoon fresh minced marjoram

1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 (14-ounce) can chopped or pureed plum tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

Hot paprika, to taste

Salt the eggplant all over and allow to drain in colander for a half-hour. Rinse the eggplant and pat dry.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the breadcrumbs, 1 cup of the cheese, and the 1/2 cup olive oil in a shallow bowl. Spread the flour on a plate, and beat the eggs and milk in another shallow bowl. Dredge the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash slices in the flour, then the egg mixture, then the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs in to make sure they stick.

Place the breaded vegetables on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until they are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes.

While the vegetable are baking, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, marjoram and oregano, and sauté until everything begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another minute.

Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and paprika. Cover and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Then remove the cover and cook for 5 minutes more.

To serve, spread a spoonful of the sauce onto 2 plates, add a layer of the baked vegetables and a generous amount of the remaining 1 cup cheese. Repeat with another layer of sauce, vegetables and cheese. Serve hot, alongside a crisp salad of simple, fresh greens.

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Cookbook Review: ‘Cook it in Cast Iron’ by Cook’s Country http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/splattered-page-a-promising-second-chance-for-cast-iron/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/splattered-page-a-promising-second-chance-for-cast-iron/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926492 “Cook It In Cast Iron.” By Cook’s Country. $26.95.

I received my first set of cast-iron skillets as a wedding gift in 1983. But, like two mismatched newlyweds, the pans and I proved to be incompatible; they were unseasoned and I was unskilled at bringing us into some form of working relationship. Following years of avoidance, the skillets and I separated. They ended up with my best friend, and I wished them all the best.

Thanks to Food Network chefs like Ree Drummond, cast-iron cookware has returned to the fore in culinary adventures. So, after years of living a nonstick skillet existence, I decided it was time to give these humble heavyweights another try. Providing sound advise for making the most of my new investment was Cook’s Country’s cookbook “Cook It In Cast Iron.”

The first 15 of 295 pages of this cookbook are dedicated to familiarizing the reader with this weighty wonder of a pan, offering advice on seasoning cast iron, myths associated with its upkeep and tips for using it for varied methods of cooking and baking. Most of the recipes call for a 12-inch cast-iron skillet. There’s a top-10 recipes list for those new to cast-iron cooking and a thoughtful discourse about why this pan, prized for its heat retention, belongs in every kitchen.

The cookbook offers a good selection of recipes to choose from, including an array of appetizers, main dishes, breads and desserts. Since I now own three seasoned 12-inch cast iron skillets, I thought “why limit myself?” I didn’t. I invited some friends to dinner and broke out my pans.

The cookbook offers recipes for many traditional favorites, such as pot pie and chicken with biscuits, but I opted to test recipes I’d not previously made. After all, the folks at Cook’s Country had already spent countless hours in the kitchen experimenting with these recipes to figure out the best way to execute each dish.

My first choice was an appetizer of baked Brie with honeyed apricots. I was not disappointed. The dish took just a few minutes to prepare and looked impressive, and the results were delicious.

While fresh apricots were in season, I used the dried apricots called for in the recipe. They yielded a concentrated sweetness and a dense, chewy bite, reminiscent of baked medjool dates. A tiny amount of rosemary gave this dish a pleasant savory edge. And, using fresh cracked salt and pepper elevated the flavors. Sprinkling a few freshly minced chives on top and drizzling it with a wee bit more honey just before serving only enhanced the presentation. I served it with store-bought bruschettini (tiny bruschetta toasts), which proved to be the perfect foil. Crackers or crusty bread would work, too.

Also on the menu were a caramelized onion, pear and bacon tart, and a skillet apple pie. After my company left, I washed and re-seasoned my pans in anticipation of our next big adventure. I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

– Deborah Sayer

BAKED BRIE WITH HONEYED APRICOTS

1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

1/4 cup honey, divided

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced fine

1/4 teaspoon each, freshly cracked salt and pepper

2 (8-ounce) wheels firm Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, add apricots, half of honey, rosemary, salt and pepper. Microwave 1 minute, stirring halfway through cooking. Add Brie cubes and toss to coat. Turn mixture into a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining honey and sprinkle with chives.

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Tapas: Bigger than just small plates http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/tapas-bigger-than-just-small-plates/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/tapas-bigger-than-just-small-plates/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926501 Spain recently announced that its Ministry of Culture will seek protective status for tapas, its prized culinary ritual.

This protection would come by way of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which aims to safeguard “traditions or living expressions” of cultural knowledge, practices and skills. Flamenco, for instance, is already listed. So is the violin making of Cremona, Italy; Chinese shadow puppetry; Estonian smoke saunas; Slovakian bagpipe culture; and the Mongolian coaxing ritual for camels.

Traditional foodways, to date, have made up only a small part of the UNESCO list: Croatian gingerbread, Armenian lavash bread, cuisine from the Mexican state of Michoacán and the vaguely worded “gastronomic meal of the French” are all recognized. But more and more regions have pushed to list and protect their traditional foods. Naples, for instance, has been aggressively trying to add Neapolitan pizza-making to the list.

“Tapas are the very model of food,” Rafael Ansón, president of the Royal Academy of Gastronomy, told the Local, Spain’s largest English-language news network. Ansón insisted that tapas are not a specific type of dish but a “way of eating” and a living cultural practice that deserves preservation.

Now, I’m all for safeguarding fragile practices and traditions, but this move by Spain sounded like a bad idea. Of all the world’s foods, tapas don’t seem as if they’d need protection. What makes tapas great and strong is that they are so open-source and open-ended, ready to be adapted by any culture.

Several years ago I was invited to be a judge at Spain’s national tapas competition – the Concurso Nacional de Pinchos y Tapas – in Valladolid. Among the judges there was much solemn discussion (some of it in English, luckily for me) of what defined tapas. There was general agreement that they should be small enough to eat in one or two bites and should not require a utensil beyond toothpicks or fingers.

The winner was a young woman from Seattle whose tapa, Delicias del Pacífico, was both Spanish and not. It was a trio of cured fish, skewered with potato spheres, that included traditional ingredients such as bacalao, saffron and anise. But it also invoked the flavors of the Pacific Northwest by using wild salmon, raising a few Spanish eyebrows.

Since that experience, I have been hyper-aware of how the word “tapas” is used at home. Here, it has simply become a synonym for small plates, which years ago became a ubiquitous form of popular dining, even at decidedly non-Spanish restaurants. But real tapas are more than just small plates, and perhaps the Spanish have just finally had enough of the term’s misuse.

Even in Spain, however, there’s disagreement about the origin of the term. Tapa literally means “cover” or “lid.” Some say “tapas” was derived from the practice of covering a glass of wine with a bread slice or small plate to keep out fruit flies. Others say it dates to a 17th-century king who ordered tavern owners to cover wine servings with a snack meant to ward off drunkenness. Still others say unscrupulous innkeepers used to offer strong-smelling cheese bites to cover the smell of bad wine.

I decided to consult with someone who was a true tapas expert: the premier tapas expert in the United States, José Andrés, who once wrote, “I won’t be happy until there is a paella pan on every backyard grill in America.”

At our lunchtime meeting at his restaurant Jaleo, Andrés told me that “UNESCO can try to protect everything, but at the end of the day, what tapas has become doesn’t necessarily reflect what tapas is in Spain. But, you know, Spain as a whole is also still in need of defining itself, too.”

It’s strange to think about how recent a phenomenon tapas are for Americans. In 1993, when Andrés opened his first Jaleo, the word was still relatively unknown, though interest in all things Spanish was growing after the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. “Tapas has been a Trojan horse, bringing Spanish cooking into the mainstream,” he said.

As he and I talked, Andrés really tried to get at the heart of the philosophical question “what are tapas?” He clearly had not been asked the question for a while, and he took a few stabs at a suitable answer. “What is the box where tapas lives? How do you define it? If you ask 50 million Spaniards, they will give you 50 million definitions,” he said. “Is tapas a whole bunch of dishes, or a way of enjoying life? I would say both.”

POTATO-WRAPPED CHORIZO WITH MEMBRILLO AIOLI

Think of these as tapas pigs in blankets, with a luscious dipping sauce.

You’ll need toothpicks and an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the frying oil.

To avoid any possible salmonella risk from raw eggs, use a pasteurized brand, such as Davidson’s.

Chistorra chorizo is a dry-cured, mildly spiced, Basque-style sausage available through various online purveyors, including LaTienda.com and Amazon.com. The links are thin. Or you can cut standard-size cured chorizo links lengthwise into quarters to achieve the effect needed here. Membrillo (quince paste) is available in the cheese department of large supermarkets.

You’ll have leftover aioli, which can be refrigerated for up to three days in advance.

Adapted from “Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen,” by José Andrés (Clarkson Potter, 2008).

Makes 4 or 5 servings

FOR THE AIOLI:

1 large egg (see headnote)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon water (optional)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Kosher or sea salt

6 ounces membrillo (quince paste)

FOR THE CHORIZO:

8 ounces cured Spanish chorizo, preferably chistorra

1 large russet potato, peeled

3 cups Spanish olive oil, for frying

For the aioli: Break the egg into a mini food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil, the garlic and lemon juice. Puree until smooth.

With the motor running, gradually drizzle in the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. If the mixture seems very thick before you begin adding the vegetable oil, add the water to loosen the sauce. With the motor running, drizzle in the vegetable oil, blending until you have a rich, creamy aioli that’s a lovely light yellow color. Season lightly with salt; the yield is about 1 cup. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup; reserve the rest for another use.

Return the 1/2 cup of aioli to the food processor and add the membrillo; puree until creamy and well combined. Transfer to a serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).

For the chorizo: Unless you’re using chistorra chorizo, cut the links lengthwise into quarters, then cut each quarter into 2-inch lengths; you’ll need a total of 20. For the chistorra chorizo, simply cut into 2-inch lengths.

Fill a mixing bowl with ice cubes and water. Use a mandoline to thinly slice the potato lengthwise, transferring the slices to the bowl as you work. You’ll need 20 of the largest slices; reserve the small ones for another use.

Remove a potato slice from the ice water and pat it dry with a paper towel. Lay it on a clean work surface and place a piece of chorizo in the center. Fold the potato slice over it, like a soft taco shell. Pinch the slice closed around the chorizo, and secure it by threading a toothpick or two through the edges of the potato. Repeat with the remaining potato slices and chorizo, creating a total of 20 bundles.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat to 325 degrees. Working in batches, fry the bundles until the potatoes are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer them to the paper-towel-lined baking sheet to drain as you work. Allow the oil temperature to return to 325 degrees between batches.

Carefully remove the toothpicks while the bundles are still warm, to prevent the potato slices from breaking. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep them warm until ready to serve.

Spoon some of the membrillo aioli onto small dishes; serve under or alongside the potato-chorizo bundles.

Smoked salmon and quail eggs always delight; the steaming technique called for here keeps them from being overcooked and makes them easy to peel.

Smoked salmon and quail eggs always delight; the steaming technique called for here keeps them from being overcooked and makes them easy to peel. The Washington Post/Deb Lindsey

SMOKED SALMON AND QUAIL EGGS

This was inspired by pintxos in San Sebastian. Quail eggs always delight; the steaming technique called for here keeps them from being overcooked and makes them easy to peel.

You’ll need toothpicks to hold the small piles in place.

Adapted from a recipe on the BBC GoodFood website.

Makes 6 servings

6 quail eggs, at room temperature

Twelve 1/2-inch slices crusty baguette

3 tablespoons mayonnaise or aioli

6 thin, wide slices smoked salmon, each cut lengthwise in half (5 to 6 ounces total)

6 good-quality anchovies (drained), each cut into 4 equal pieces

Freshly cracked black pepper

Place the quail eggs in a small steamer basket. Seat the basket over a small saucepan of barely bubbling water; cover and steam for 6 to 8 minutes (depending on how well cooked you like the yolks), then remove the basket from the heat. Let cool for 10 minutes in cool water, then peel the eggs and cut them in half lengthwise.

Spread the baguette slices with the mayonnaise or aioli. Top each one with a piece of the salmon, piled to create a kind of nest/platform, then nestle a quail egg half on top.

Garnish each tapa with anchovy pieces and pepper. Insert a toothpick to hold each portion together.

STUFFED CREMINI MUSHROOMS

Those who eschew anchovies, a typical tapas ingredient, will be glad to know the filling here is fish-free – and quite piquant.

Serve with a glass of garnacha.

The mushroom caps can be stuffed and refrigerated a day in advance.

Mahón is a Spanish cheese that tastes like a salty Muenster, with a slightly grainier texture. It is available at some Whole Foods Markets.

Adapted from a recipe at TapenaWines.com.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

12 ounces medium whole cremini mushrooms, cleaned (12 to 16 total)

2 ounces Mahón cheese, shredded (see headnote; may substitute a young Manchego)

2 to 3 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, minced, plus more for optional garnish

1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut off any woody ends from the cremini stems and discard them; finely chop the rest of the stems. Place in a mixing bowl along with the cheese, sun-dried tomatoes (to taste), minced thyme, paprika and bread crumbs. Stir until well combined, forming a mixture that just holds together when pressed.

Arrange the cremini mushroom caps, open sides facing up, in a shallow baking dish. Pack each one with the filling mixture, rounding the top. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until just browned on top.

Drizzle lightly with oil, if using, and sprinkle with a few fresh thyme leaves, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nectarines with anchovies is a twist on a salad. The Washington Post/Deb Lindsey

Nectarines with anchovies is a twist on a salad. The Washington Post/Deb Lindsey

NECTARINES WITH ANCHOVIES

This bite-size tapa is adapted from one of chef-restaurateur José Andres’ favorite salads. Nectarines and anchovies taste wonderful together with the dressing.

Grilling the nectarines first (in a grill pan or on the grill) works best, but you can serve them fresh as well. You’ll need toothpicks for this recipe. If you’re using fruit that’s less than ripe, it may be easier to cut the nectarines into quarters (rather than halves) before you cook them.

Adapted from “Made in Spain: Spanish Dishes for the American Kitchen,” by José Andrés (Clarkson Potter, 2008).

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons minced shallot

2 scallions (white parts only), thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Pedro Ximénez sherry vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing the nectarines

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

4 ripe nectarines

2 cups loosely packed baby arugula

3 to 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, drained

Whisk together the shallot, scallions, vinegar and oil in a medium bowl until emulsified. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Halve and pit the nectarines; brush the cut sides lightly with a little oil. Add them to the grill pan, cut sides down; cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until some char marks form and their flesh is lightly caramelized.

Transfer to a cutting board to cool, then cut the halves into quarters.

Divide the grilled nectarine quarters among individual small plates, or arrange them on a platter.

Top each quarter with a few baby arugula leaves and a small piece of an anchovy fillet; secure with a toothpick. Drizzle dressing over the bundles and serve right away.

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Tangy Buffalo wing flavor translates to tasty potato salad http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/that-buffalo-wing-flavor-translated-to-tasty-potato-salad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/that-buffalo-wing-flavor-translated-to-tasty-potato-salad/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926468 Chicken wings are wonderful, but Buffalo chicken wings are on another level – and that’s thanks to the sauce. Defined by blue cheese, celery and hot sauce, Buffalo sauce could glorify any number of dishes. (Imagine how luscious it would be on a steak!) Looking ahead to the Fourth of July and its picnics, I wondered what would happen if I Buffalo’d some potato salad.

There are two main kinds of potatoes: baking and boiling. Baking potatoes (aka russets, the most famous of which is the Idaho) are higher in starch than boiling potatoes and fluffier in texture, falling apart when cooked. Excellent sponges for such flavorful ingredients as cream and butter, baking potatoes are your go-to choice when the ultimate plan is to mash them. Boiling potatoes, by contrast, hold their shape when cooked. They’re sweeter than baking potatoes and boast a more assertive potato taste.

The best potato for a potato salad? Boiling potatoes are the usual choice. You want a salad with texture and integrity, not a mealy mess. But for this recipe, you also want the russet’s ability to absorb flavor. So I opted for both. As predicted, the baking potatoes fell apart and generously absorbed the blue cheese and hot sauce. Unpredictably, but happily, they also helped make the salad’s texture extra creamy. The boiling potatoes likewise did their part, acting as bricks to the baking potatoes’ mortar.

To “pre-season” the potatoes, toss them with vinegar and salt while they’re still hot, just after you’ve boiled them but before adding the dressing. Fifteen minutes later the potatoes will have fully absorbed the pre-seasonings – and become that much more flavorful – and you’re then free to slather them in the mayo and sour cream.

Potatoes, like pasta, not only absorb liquid, they also keep absorbing it until there’s none left. That means the potato salad that was so nice and creamy when you first dressed it may have dried out 15 minutes later. If that happens, just stir in a little cold water and the silkiness will return.

As is, this recipe may strike some folks as overly rich. If you want to slim it down, swap in light mayonnaise for the regular kind and Greek yogurt for the sour cream. The flavor will still be plenty large and you likely won’t miss the extra calories.

CREAMY BUFFALO POTATO SALAD

Preparation time: Start to finish: 1 hour (30 minutes active)

Makes 6 servings.

1 pound medium boiling potatoes, scrubbed and sliced 1/4-inch thick, preferably using a mandoline (please use the guard)

1 small baking potato (about 1/2 pound), peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick, preferably using a mandoline (please use the guard)

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sour cream or plain no-fat Greek yogurt

2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (preferably the soft creamy kind)

1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce or to taste

1/2 cup finely chopped celery plus celery leaves for garnish

Black pepper

In a medium saucepan combine the potatoes with cold lightly salted water to cover by 2 inches and bring the water to a boil. Simmer the potatoes until they are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar and the salt until the salt is dissolved. When the potatoes are tender, drain and add them immediately to the bowl with the vinegar mixture. Toss the potatoes well with the vinegar mixture and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, blue cheese, hot sauce, chopped celery and pepper to taste to the potatoes and toss well. If the potato salad seems dry, stir in some cold water and toss again. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the celery leaves.

Nutrition information per serving: 215 calories; 124 calories from fat; 14 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 19 mg cholesterol; 655 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 5 g protein.

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Maine Ingredient: A decadent dinner, made on the grill, is a meaty tribute to Dad http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/decadent-dinner-made-on-the-grill-a-meaty-tribute-to-dad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/15/decadent-dinner-made-on-the-grill-a-meaty-tribute-to-dad/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=926483 It is right and fitting to celebrate Father’s Day with a semi-blowout dinner. This is not Stick to Your Diet Dad Day, but rather Once in a While Treats for Dad Day – using from-scratch ingredients to create a well-balanced menu, of course.

We suggest the season’s first grilled steak, topped with a disk of tangy blue cheese and garlicky butter, along with a side of decadently delicious baked stuffed potatoes with minced hot peppers stirred in for zing.

For freshness, color and crunch, add a big green salad with halved grape tomatoes and diced cucumber dressed with balsamic vinaigrette, and maybe chocolate ice cream sundaes for dessert.

GRILLED RIB-EYE STEAKS WITH GORGONZOLA-GARLIC BUTTER

Rib-eyes, with their well-marbled meat, are among the most delicious of beef steaks, but if your meat case doesn’t have them, similar poundage of sirloin or porterhouse will be just fine.

Makes 4 servings

Gorgonzola-Garlic Butter:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese

Steaks:

4 boneless rib-eye steaks, about 7 ounces each

Salt, to taste

3 to 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper

For butter, heat oil in small skillet. Add garlic and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. In a small bowl, mash butter and cheese together; add garlic oil and continue to mash until well blended. Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap well and refrigerate.

To make the steaks, build a hot fire on a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill. If you have them, soak hardwood chips such as hickory in water for 30 minutes and throw on the fire shortly before cooking.

Season steaks with salt and pepper, patting the seasonings evenly onto both sides of the steaks.

Grill the meat, turning once, to the desired degree of doneness, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare for 1½-inch steaks. Transfer to a warm platter. Cut butter into four disks and place 1 atop each steak so it will melt on the hot meat.

GRILLED SPICY POTATOES ON THE HALF-SHELL

They seem to be growing huge one-pound russets these days, but if your potatoes are smaller, allow one per person. The jalapeños add a spicy kick, but since the peppers are also larger than they used to be, adjust amounts to your taste. The potatoes can be reheated in a microwave or in a baking dish in the oven.

Makes 4 servings

2 large (1 pound or more) baking potatoes, scrubbed

½ cup sour cream

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 scallions, finely chopped, or 2 tablespoons snipped chives

1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped, or more or less to taste

1 teaspoon salt, plus additional for shells

Freshly ground black pepper

Olive oil for oiling skins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce potatoes in several places, place on an oven rack, and bake until soft, 45 to 60 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, cheese, scallions, jalapeños and the 1 teaspoon of salt.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out pulp, leaving a ½-inch-thick shell. Add pulp to sour cream mixture and use a potato masher or a large fork to mash until fairly smooth. Season with black pepper to taste and add more salt if necessary.

Lightly season potato shells with salt and pepper, then divide potato puree among the shells. (The potatoes can be held for up to 2 hours at room temperature before reheating on grill or in oven.) Brush outer skins with olive oil. When steaks are on the grill, arrange potatoes around outer edges and cook, skin sides down, until skins are crackly and nicely charred on the undersides and heated through, about 10 minutes.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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‘Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More,’ by Sarah Owens http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/cookbook-review-sourdough-recipes-for-rustic-fermented-breads-sweets-savories-and-more-by-sarah-owens/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/cookbook-review-sourdough-recipes-for-rustic-fermented-breads-sweets-savories-and-more-by-sarah-owens/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 10:54:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=914945 “Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More.” By Sarah Owens. Roost Books. $35

As the name suggests, “Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories and More,” is a tribute to the benefits of using sourdough – and plants – as ingredients for baking.

A self-described gardener-baker, Sarah Owens studied horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture and became the rosarian at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

City living was an adjustment for Owens, who grew up on a farm in the hills of east Tennessee. It was during this period of urban life that she experienced severe digestive distress and began trying to heal herself through nutrition. She found that converting a disease-ridden, chemically dependent rose garden to an organic oasis of insects was analogous to what she needed to do for her own body.

According to her account in “Sourdough,” she healed herself by changing her eating habits: eliminating processed foods, creating recipes with ingredients from her garden and embracing the dynamics of fermentation and microbial communities. She attributes the biggest positive impact on her digestive health to adding sourdough to her diet.

The book, a hardback, contains recipes for baking with seasonal produce and fermented dough to create baked goods that range from artisan breads to pastries. Many of the herbs, flowers and even weeds called for in the recipes, such as Dandelion and Chive Popovers, Salsify Latkes and Geranium-Scented Cake, are unusual in baking.

In addition to the recipes, “Sourdough” has information on baking tools, terminology, techniques and fermentation. Wonderful photographs throughout illustrate the baked goods, the plants used in the recipes and the wide variety of Owens’ baking tools.

Don’t expect to whip up recipes from “Sourdough.” These breads and other baked goods require time to make, both to gather the ingredients and let fermentation take its course.

The book is full of information that is worth taking time to read, absorb and understand before plunging into the recipes. With quotes from Walt Whitman and Wendell Berry, and the Latin names for plants, it is a nature and botanical primer, and it’s a pleasure to read.

The recipes list ingredient amounts in grams, making a digital scale an essential tool for using the book. Without one, converting grams to cups (weight to volume) may be an exercise in conversion frustration – and I speak from experience.

After making approximate conversions to cups and tablespoons for a recipe from “Sourdough” (I’ve included them with the recipe), I’ve added a kitchen digital scale to my wish list of baking tools.

Since we often bake traditional sourdough bread in our family, we opted to try a sweet sourdough recipe that calls for herbs we grow in our garden. The Parsley and Herb Doughnuts were a tasty spring treat. The dough was soft and smooth and had a wonderful fresh scent of parsley and mint. The sweet orange glaze complemented the dougnuts’ herb flavors. We opted to bake the doughnuts, but the recipe has directions for frying, too. When baked, the doughnuts look like health food.

PARSLEY AND HERB DOUGHNUTS

You must have sourdough starter in order to make this recipe. I used my own starter as Owens’ recipe is long and complicated, requiring seven days of attention and tinkering. Also, be forewarned that you must start a day ahead; these doughnuts won’t work for a spontaneous Sunday brunch.

Yields 12 doughnuts

FOR THE DOUGHNUTS:

115 grams unsalted butter, softened (about 1/2 cup)

45 grams fresh parsley (3+ tablespoons chopped)

25 grams whole fresh mint or lemon balm leaves (2 tablespoons chopped)

50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)

1 large egg

45 grams fresh parsley juice (3+ tablespoons, can substitute water or milk if you don’t have a juicer)

45 grams whole milk (3+ tablespoons)

145 grams hydration starter (1/2+ cup)

360 grams unbleached flour (3 cups)

Pinch salt

FOR THE GLAZE:

30 grams fresh orange juice (1/8 cup)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

90 grams confectioners’ sugar (about 3/4 cup)

To make the doughnuts, blend the butter and herbs in a food processor. Add sugar, egg, parsley juice and milk and pulse to combine. Add the starter and pulse to form a slurry.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and salt, then add the slurry mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing with your hand until a soft dough comes together. Cover the dough and allow to ferment for 3 to 4 hours. (I assumed at room temperature, which is what I did, although the directions did not specify.)

On a floured surface, pat the dough into a 10-inch round about 3/4-inch thick. With a doughnut cutter (another tool I don’t have, so I used a 3-inch biscuit cutter and made holes in the center), cut out rounds and shape 12 doughnuts. Place on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight, setting on the counter 1 hour before baking.

To bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then dunk into the glaze.

To fry: Heat at least 2 inches oil in large cast iron skillet over high heat until the thermometer reads 375 degrees F, about 10 minutes. Place no more than 3 doughnuts into the hot oil at one time and fry for 5 to 6 minutes, flipping half way through. The doughnuts will be a deep golden brown when ready to remove. Drain on a plate lined with a paper towel. Allow to cool for 10 minutes then dunk into the glaze. Be sure oil returns to the appropriate temperature before resuming frying.

Prepare the glaze: Put the orange juice and vanilla in a small bowl. Sift the confectioners’ sugar over them and stir to combine. Run through a sieve to remove any lumps.

ANGELA KING-HORNE’S SIMPLE SOURDOUGH STARTER

1 package (or scant 1 tablespoon) dry yeast

2 1/2 cups warm water, divided

2 cups unbleached flour

1 tablespoon sugar

Soften the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Add the remaining water, the flour and sugar and beat until smooth. Place in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Do not use a metal bowl. Cover with cheesecloth or a towel and let stand in a warm place until it begins to bubble, 24 to 48 hours. (Discard the starter and start over if signs of fermentation have not begun.)

Stir well, cover and let stand several days or until mixture becomes foamy. Stir well and place in a glass jar, cover and refrigerate. When liquid rises to the top, the starter is ready to use. Stir well before using.

The starter can be stored for several weeks without using but after that, if not used regularly, add a tablespoon of sugar and stir well every 2 weeks. To replenish the starter, replace what you have used with amounts of flour and water equal to amount of starter you used. When used regularly, the starter will keep indefinitely.

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Pear and chocolate crumble is practically guilt-free http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/pear-and-chocolate-crumble-is-practically-guilt-free/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/pear-and-chocolate-crumble-is-practically-guilt-free/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=914891 My four daughters all have a sweet tooth, and I blame genetics. I can sidestep french fries, chips and salty stuff pretty easily, but chocolate makes me drool. So if you love sweets, at least know you are in good company.

But, healthy-eating friends, let’s have some straight talk about dessert: it’s full of sugar, which means we can’t have dessert every single time we want it.

In our house, we eat (real) dessert only on weekends. During the week, I serve plain fruit or unsweetened yogurt after dinner, saving the sweeter treats for family meals where we linger around the table, connecting.

Even weekend desserts, though, are not a free-for-all sugar-fest. I follow one simple guideline to keep my family’s sugar consumption in check: I make all our own desserts.

There are three major advantages to this rule. First, while sugar can wreak havoc on our health, weird chemicals – fake flavors, colors, preservatives – scare me even more. If I make the food myself, I can skip the strange ingredients I can’t pronounce, and that’s a win for our health.

Second, having to cook my own treats (usually) stops me from mindlessly eating something I brought home from the store. Permission to eat anything that is homemade is simultaneously enough freedom to indulge our cravings sometimes and enough brakes to keep us from scarfing down a random box of cookies.

Lastly, if I make the desserts myself, then I have control over the recipe. Usually, I reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates and add protein and fiber, which all slow down the sugar rush.

For instance, this week’s pear and dark chocolate crumble uses almond flour and oats in a tasty topping that isn’t loaded with empty calories, and a tiny splash of almond extract brilliantly tricks the palate into thinking this dessert is sweeter than it is.

Splurge on some high-quality dark chocolate chips (or just chop up a bar) – you’ll be amazed how satisfying a small bit of dark chocolate can be.

PEAR AND DARK CHOCOLATE CRUMBLE

Makes 6 servings

FOR THE FILLING:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

4 pears, peeled and diced

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

FOR THE CRUMBLE TOPPING:

1/3 cup almond flour

1/2 cup oats

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips (recommended: 63 percent cacao)

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice and almond extract. Add the fruit and toss to coat. Sprinkle the sugar and corn starch on the pears, and stir until mixed in.

Spoon the fruit into a 1.5 or 2-quart baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. In a small food processor, place the almond flour, oats, chocolate chips, sugar, and salt. Pulse once or twice to mix.

Top with the butter and pulse 8 or 9 times until mixture looks like wet sand.

Spread the oat and almond mixture over the fruit and gently press down into the fruit. Spray the top of the crumble with a little nonstick spray. Bake until fruit is tender and bubbling, and topping is golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

NOTE: One Granny Smith apple is used to add depth of flavor and texture, but another pear can be used instead.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.”

Online: melissadarabian.net

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How to get a fresh meal on the table without wielding a knife http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/how-to-get-a-fresh-meal-on-the-table-without-wielding-a-knife/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/08/how-to-get-a-fresh-meal-on-the-table-without-wielding-a-knife/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=914918 Have you ever pulled out a cutting board and sighed? Ever wished you could skip the chopping and go straight to the cooking? After 26 cookbooks, even the two of us can find knife work a hassle at the end of a busy day.

Perhaps you haven’t taken that knife skills class on your to-do list, or maybe you haven’t gotten around to buying good knives. Maybe your ability to chop just isn’t what it once was.

Whatever the reason, we have a hunch that such issues have contributed to the explosive growth of dinner delivery systems such as Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh that provide a box of ingredients.

Let’s face it: Many of us like to cook. And we probably like the honest romance of preparing a meal, a glass of wine or iced tea at hand. We certainly like hot, fresh food on the table. We just don’t want to stand there dicing into the small hours.

That’s why we’ve developed no-chopping recipes that are geared to the wealth of convenience items in your supermarket produce section and freezer aisle.

You’ve probably already seen or used items such as minced garlic and ginger or chopped onion, celery, zucchini rounds or fresh stir-fry vegetable blends. Now you can find minced herbs in tubes in the produce section and even frozen chopped basil, a far better flavor boost than its dried version.

For years, some of us have skipped the prep work and shopped at the salad bar, where you can find grain mixtures as well as sliced radishes, beets, cucumbers and more. They’re a little more expensive per pound, but less than buying a whole cucumber and having what’s left over go boggy. In the freezer case, there are frozen bell pepper strips, broccoli florets and even artichoke heart quarters, among other options.

We found that changing the way we think through recipes helped us modify standard ones into no-knife ones. For example, frozen vegetables and fruits are often picked closer to ripeness than their fresh kin in the produce department. Those are often picked underripe so they’re sturdier for transport. So the frozen versions can end up sweeter on their overall palate.

To use them successfully, we have to pump up the sour, savory or even bitter notes in a dish. To that end, dried herbs are sometimes the best bet with frozen fare because the herbs have a slight, tealike tang – a little bitter muskiness that’s a better foil to those sweeter bits.

What’s more, frozen vegetables and fruits cook quickly. To avoid mush in the pan, we adjusted timings, even the moment when an ingredient is added; sometimes we add them straight from the freezer to the mixture in the pot. Yes, we can make a pretty fine onion soup with frozen, chopped onions. The trick is, we add them twice: upfront for flavor, then later for texture.

At the start of a braise, we often delay adding the frozen bell pepper strips, instead of cooking them earlier with onion and celery. That way, we can preserve the peppers’ texture as well as their slightly grassy flavor.

Pre-chopped garlic and ginger are terrific conveniences. Unfortunately, both lose a little spark in their broken-down state. Using more of them and balancing them with some salty notes elsewhere bring the essential flavors back into play. A little salty Parmigiano-Reggiano rind in a soup makes that minced, store-bought garlic pop.

Some convenience items are just better all around. Frozen pearl onions are peeled, which is a real time-saver. They can be tossed into hot fat while they’re still frozen and often end up with better caramelization than their fresh counterparts – and they’ll hold together better in long cooking, such as in our recipe for Arroz con Pollo, in which frozen artichoke hearts (often already quartered) go straight into the pot.

As a general rule, when we’re cooking without knives we’re looking for boneless this or fillet that in our protein choices so they’ll cook more quickly and more efficiently. But they can be a bit, well, dull, so we bring in more complex notes – as in that chicken-and-rice dish – to make up for loss of bones (read: flavor).

All that said, the two of us don’t want to use any ingredient that increases the chemical signature of what we eat. We’re not talking about making “semi-homemade” fare here; we want to use the best we can for ourselves and our families. And, of course, you can execute the accompanying recipes with knife in hand. We’ve kept them fairly flexible so they’ll work even with the drudgery of chopping.

Another benefit is you can double the recipe if friends drop by or when you want a hearty portion of leftovers for lunches. (Good luck pulling more servings out of a packaged meal box.)

Cooking without knives means you can get a meal on the table with the less-hassle characteristics of a boxed dinner kit, but greater flexibility. And we’re all for that at the end of a busy day.

ARROZ CON POLLO

It’s hard to believe you don’t have to chop or mince to make a pretty fine version of this Spanish classic. If you want to take it over the top, scatter a handful of small clams over the casserole before you set it aside for the final 10 minutes. They’ll open in the residual steam, adding a briny accent to the otherwise earthy casserole.

Makes 6 servings

3 fresh sweet Italian sausage links (9 to 12 ounces total; see headnote)

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 ounces frozen pearl onions (1 generous cup; do not defrost)

6 ounces frozen artichoke heart quarters (1 1/2 cups; do not defrost)

2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano (may substitute 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves)

1 teaspoon mild Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton)

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

1/2 cup dry sherry

1 3/4 cups canned, fire-roasted diced tomatoes and their juices (from one 14-ounce can; preferably the no-salt-added kind)

2 1/2 cups no-salt-added chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio or Valencia rice

3 ounces frozen bell pepper strips (1 cup; do not defrost)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Brown the sausage in a wide, ovenproof Dutch oven, cast-iron casserole or ovenproof deep saute pan over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, about 4 minutes; they will not be cooked through. Transfer to a plate.

Season the chicken all over with the salt and pepper. Add to the same pan you used to cook the sausage; brown on both sides, turning once, about 6 minutes total; it will not be cooked through. Transfer to the plate with sausage.

Add the oil and pearl onions to the pan; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, then add the artichoke heart quarters; cook, stirring often, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, oregano, paprika and saffron; cook until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Pour in the sherry, using a wooden spatula to dislodge all the browned bits in the pan. Once the mixture begins to bubble at the edges, add the tomatoes and their juices, the broth, rice and bell pepper strips. Stir well as it comes to a low boil. Taste and season lightly with salt, as needed.

Return the sausage and chicken to the pan, nestling them into the pan mixture. Cover and transfer to the oven; bake until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 35 to 40 minutes. Let sit, covered, 10 minutes before serving (to blend the flavors).

Jamaican-inspired curry mango shrimp is simple and snappy. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

Jamaican-inspired curry mango shrimp is simple and snappy. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

JAMAICAN-INSPIRED CURRY MANGO SHRIMP

A little fiery, sweet and intensely satisfying, this main-course dish typically involves a lot of chopping – but not this particular version. Frozen mango cubes will hold their shape a bit better than their fresh kin, adding better texture. But use fresh (not frozen) pre-chopped vegetables otherwise for the best texture.

Red curry powder is a blend that often contains paprika; a McCormick brand is available at some large supermarkets. Coconut cream is a Southeast Asian specialty, far thicker than coconut milk. (Do not use cream of coconut, a concoction for tiki drinks. Instead, search for coconut cream in Asian markets or online outlets.) Serve with warm corn tortillas, and consider roasted cashews for a garnish.

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons peanut oil

1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh onion (see headnote)

1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh celery

1/3 cup pre-chopped fresh green bell pepper

1 tablespoon pre-minced ginger

1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon bottled jerk seasoning

1 to 2 teaspoons red curry powder

1 teaspoon pre-minced garlic

2 cups cubed frozen/defrosted mango (from a 1-pound bag; see headnote)

3/4 cup coconut cream (see headnote)

1/4 cup water, or as needed (optional)

1 3/4 pounds medium, peeled/deveined shrimp (about 25 per pound; may use frozen/defrosted)

Kosher salt (optional)

Leaves from a few stems cilantro, torn, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green bell pepper and ginger; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the jerk seasoning and curry powder (both to taste) and the garlic; cook until aromatic, stirring constantly, about 30 seconds.

Add the mango; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Pour in the coconut cream; once it starts to bubble at the edges, cook for 1 minute, stirring often. If the mixture seems too thick, add the water, as needed.

Stir in the shrimp; reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until pink and firm and the sauce has thickened. Taste and season lightly with salt, if desired.

Garnish with the cilantro just before serving.

Red lentil and bulgur mash adds spice to a simple dinner. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

Red lentil and bulgur mash adds spice to a simple dinner. Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post

RED LENTIL AND BULGUR MASH

Here’s a go-to substitute for mashed potatoes when you want something richer and heartier alongside fish, steaks or chicken off the grill.

Makes 6 servings (a generous 41/2 cups)

1 quart no-salt-added vegetable broth

2/3 cup dried red lentils

2/3 cup regular bulgur, preferably whole-grain golden bulgur (do not use quick-cooking)

1/4 cup pre-chopped frozen/defrosted onion (see headnote)

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Combine the broth, lentils and bulgur in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often. All the liquid will not be absorbed at this point.

Stir in the onion, drill, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Increase the heat to medium; cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until thick and rich, about 10 minutes. Taste and add a pinch of salt, as needed. Serve warm.

WHEAT BERRY SALAD WITH CAULIFLOWER AND RAISINS

This lunch-friendly recipe offers an innovative way to keep frozen cauliflower florets from turning into a mash: Let the hot water and wheat berries defrost and blanch them right in the same colander.

The salad can be refrigerated for several days.

Makes 4 servings

1 cup raw wheat berries, preferably spring white wheat berries or kamut berries (see headnote)

12 ounces frozen small cauliflower florets (do not defrost)

1/4 cup store-bought green olive tapenade

3 tablespoons olive oil

11/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried sage, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted (see NOTE)

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Stir in the wheat berries, then partially cover and reduce the heat to low; cook until tender, about 50 minutes.

Just before the wheat berries are done, place the cauliflower florets in a large colander set in the sink. Drain the wheat berries, pouring them directly over the florets. Let stand for 1 minute, then rinse under cool water to stop further cooking. Drain well.

Whisk together the tapenade, oil, vinegar, sage, cinnamon and black pepper in a large bowl until a little creamy and well blended. Add the wheat berries and cauliflower, as well as the raisins and sunflower seeds. Toss well before serving.

NOTE: Toast the sunflower seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned, stirring or shaking the skillet often to prevent burning. Cool completely.

Weinstein and Scarbrough are the authors of 26 cookbooks, most recently “A La Mode: 120 Recipes in 60 Pairings” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2016). Their website is bruceandmark.com and their podcast is “Cooking With Bruce and Mark” on iTunes.

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The Maine Ingredient: Savor beauty and bite of radishes in new ways http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/the-maine-ingredient-savor-beauty-and-bite-of-radishes-in-new-ways/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/the-maine-ingredient-savor-beauty-and-bite-of-radishes-in-new-ways/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903686 Fresh, crisp radishes not only speak of spring, but are one of the season’s prettiest vegetables. They range from small, elongated, pink and white French radishes to common bright red globes (Cherry Belles) and exotic Asian varieties of all sizes and hues.

Their bracing, head-clearing bite is a spring tonic, and their bright color and crunch make them ideal on a crudité platter or in salads. Here, though, we present radishes in a couple of new guises.

CRISPY SESAME CHICKEN AND RADISH SALAD

This salad is a study in contrasts, with warm spiced sesame chicken cutlets resting on a bed of crunchy lettuce and shredded radishes, drizzled with an Asian-inspired dressing and topped with avocado and lime slices. Serve with a side of French bread or biscuits.

Serves 4

DRESSING:

4 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon grated ginger

5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

CHICKEN:

3 tablespoons untoasted sesame seeds

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, about ½ inch thick

3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

ASSEMBLY:

10 large radishes

1 small head romaine lettuce

1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions

1 ripe avocado, sliced

1 lime, cut into wedges

To make the dressing, heat the oil in small skillet. Add garlic and ginger and cook over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add vinegar and soy sauce and cook, stirring, for 30 more seconds. Add sesame oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make the chicken, combine the sesame seeds, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt on a plate. Dredge the chicken in the spice mixture, rubbing it into the flesh. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Cook the chicken over medium to medium-high heat, turning once, until nicely browned outside and no longer pink within, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove to a cutting board.

Meanwhile, shred the radishes on the shredding blade of a food processor or with a box grater. Cut the lettuce crosswise into 1-inch strips. Spread the lettuce out onto a large platter, layer a bed of radishes over and sprinkle with salt. Cut chicken crosswise into ¾-inch slices and arrange atop radishes. Drizzle with dressing, sprinkle with scallions and top with avocado and lime wedges.

QUICK-PICKLED RADISHES

These are great layered on sandwiches (cheese, chicken, roast beef, etc.) or they make a lovely condiment to go alongside anything grilled. If you can’t get large round radishes, use the smaller, slender variety and cut them in quarters.

Makes about 1 cup

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

About 12 large round radishes, trimmed and thickly sliced

¼ cup slivered sweet onion

Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl, and whisk briskly until dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add radishes and onion and stir to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Pickles will keep for several days.)

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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Go wild with toppings and still be true to grits http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/go-wild-with-toppings-and-still-be-true-to-grits/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/go-wild-with-toppings-and-still-be-true-to-grits/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903701 It’s a mystery to Southerners as to why Northerners often call grits Cream of Wheat.

To its devout fans, grits could be endearingly known as the ice cream of the South but it definitely is no Cream of Wheat. Grits is ground hominy, which in turn is dried corn kernels with the hull and germ removed. And Cream of Wheat is made with ground wheat kernels.

The two tastes are way different, says Ann Taylor Pittman, executive editor of Cooking Light, and she knows that only too well having grown up in the Mississippi Delta on a farm. “Cream of Wheat has a toasty, wheaty and nutty flavor. Whereas grits is sweeter and tastes like corn,” she says.

The author of “Everyday Whole Grains” (Oxmoor House, March 2016), Pittman says grits is more like polenta, which is made from ground cornmeal. While both are cooked in a porridge-style with plenty of water, she says, polenta is smoother and finer in texture while grits is coarser.

Pittman swears by whole-grain grits even though it takes about 20 to 30 minutes to cook. “The flavor and texture of instant grits is nowhere near the richness and grit of whole-grain grits (such as McEwen & Sons), which take longer to cook but absolutely worth it,” she writes in her cookbook, which is loaded with creative whole-grain recipes that will convert even the naysayers. The directions are easy to follow and the results absolutely piquant.

“I tried to create recipes that are approachable and easy to work into everyday foods,” she says of her new cookbook. “I wanted to move meals more toward whole grains.”

However, grits still are a regional specialty and not sold in a lot of supermarkets, she says. And that’s the case in Pittsburgh, where it is hard to find whole-grain grits of any brand. So to test the recipes, I settled for instant white grits rather grudgingly after not finding the old-fashioned kind in four stores.

For a perfect bowl of old-fashioned grits, Pittman says, the proportion should be one cup of grits to almost four cups of liquid, which can be a combination of milk and water or stock and water. Start with bringing the liquid to a boil, then season the water with salt before gradually pouring in the grits. The key is to make the grits lump-free, she says, so the mixture needs to be whisked constantly on low-simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Pittman is big on foods with toppings. On Oscar night she would throw a party, having a mashed potato bar with 30 kinds of toppings. That concept came into play when she came up with the recipes for her cookbook. “There is no limit to toppings, and grits is a wonderful canvas that absorbs anything,” she says.

For a Mexicalli grits bowl, she combines homestyle salsa, lime juice and cubed avocado to enhance the grits’ creaminess.

She generally likes the combination of pesto, mushrooms and spinach and so uses cremini mushrooms and fresh baby spinach along with pesto and garlic for an earthy topping.

To keep with the Southern flavor, she combines pancetta, fried eggs and red-eye gravy, which is a play on grits with red-eye gravy and is typically made with drippings from browned pork, tomato juice and brewed coffee.

She has a grits bowl with cheddar cheese, chives and scrambled eggs “just to have an easy, simple and mainstream breakfast idea,” she says.

Then there is the BLT grits bowl where bacon is cooked until it is crisp, and cherry tomatoes are seared in the bacon drippings. The porridge is topped with arugula drizzled with bacon drippings and juice, the caramelized tomatoes and a bacon slice.

There can never be too much corn when it comes to grits, Pittman says, and so she layers corn kernels and turkey sausage over corn porridge in her Sausage and Sweet Corn Grits Bowl. “I double corn; the top layer is crunchy and the bottom is smooth,” she says.

But of course, if you want to have grits with just a pat of butter that’s fine, too, she says.

If you have leftover grits, she says, chill and then cut them into squares. Finally, pan-fry the grit cakes for a crusty outside and a creamy inside. Or make a layered casserole and top it with sausage and sauteed greens.

Feelings run strong in the South that true grits should be eaten only with a fork and not a spoon; the belief is that it should be that thick. But Pittman doesn’t follow that philosophy.

“I eat grits in a bowl with a spoon while my husband eats it on a plate with a fork,” she says. “You should be able to eat it how you want to.”

GRITS WITH PESTO, CREMINI AND SPINACH

If you are looking to have a party in your mouth for breakfast, nothing beats the combination of pesto, mushrooms and spinach served over grits. It’s absolutely delicious.

Makes 4 servings

3 cups water

1 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup instant grits

1 tablespoon butter

10 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms

3 garlic cloves, minced

6 ounces fresh baby spinach

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup store-bought pesto

Bring water, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in grits. Cook until it thickens, stirring constantly so that there are no lumps.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic; saute 6 minutes. Add spinach, tossing until it wilts. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Spoon 1 cup grits into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon pesto and 1/2 cup mushroom mixture.

GRITS WITH CHEDDAR, CHIVES AND SCRAMBLED EGGS

For someone who loves scrambled eggs, the simplicity of this topping bowled me over.

Makes 4 servings

3 cups water

1 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup instant grits

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons 2 percent reduced-fat milk

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons canola oil

8 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons sliced fresh chives

Bring water, milk and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in grits.

Reduce heat, and cook until it thickens, stirring constantly so there are no lumps.

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Combine eggs, milk and salt in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add egg mixture; cook 11/2 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, stirring constantly.

Spoon 1 cup grits into each of 4 bowls.

Top each serving with 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese, one-fourth of eggs and 1 tablespoon chives.

SAUSAGE AND SWEET CORN GRITS BOWL

Ann Taylor Pittman is right when she says you cannot go wrong by layering corn with corn. The crunchy corn kernels complement the smooth grits and turkey sausage swimmingly well.

Makes 4 servings

3 cups water

1 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup instant grits

6 ounces turkey sausage

1/2 cup sliced red onion

2 cups fresh corn kernels

Bring water, milk and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. Gradually stir in grits.

Reduce heat, and cook until it thickens, stirring constantly so that there are no lumps.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.

Add onion and corn; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

Spoon 1 cup grits into each of 4 bowls.

Top each serving with about 1/2 cup sausage mixture.

Recipes adapted from “Everyday Whole Grains,” by Ann Taylor Pittman.

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Grilling seafood: A primer http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/grilling-seafood-a-primer/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/grilling-seafood-a-primer/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903716 Seafood and the grill. A match made in heaven. The ultimate fast food. Everything from shrimp to fish steaks and whole fish welcome smoky tones from one of our summertime pleasures – grilling.

No matter the equipment or the fuel, most seafood takes to grilling. I like to make fish kebabs on the hibachi, soak cedar planks for grilling a slab of salmon, light the gas grill for quick-cooking thin fillets, slow-smoke fresh-caught trout, griddle-grill mussels or shrimp and hardwood-roast meaty fillets for a special-occasion dinner. I love large whole fish skewered on a rod and slowly cooked in the campfire embers. Hobo packs of whitefish chunks, tiny new potatoes and sweet onion slices channel a Wisconsin Door County fish boil.

Before I light the grill, I take time to figure out the acceptable seafood to purchase. In this country, everyone wants to eat the same fish. We’re overfishing the most popular species, and we ignore other delicious varieties. Branch out; try the mackerel, the porgy, the skate and the yellowtail rockfish. All delicious and far less expensive than wild-caught Alaskan halibut.

Here’s my starter guide for successful, flavorful seafood grilling all summer long:

SEASONING

Sustainable seafood can be pricey, so I add herbs and spices judiciously. I want the flavor of the protein to come through. Think salt and pepper, or a rub of herbs, a spritz of citrus or a dash of good quality oil. Then, boost flavors after grilling with a finishing sauce or a small pat of herbed butter or drizzle of aromatic olive oil and a shower of fresh herbs.

Sure, you can purchase bottled fish seasoning, but I have drawers filled with spices and a collection of salt from my travels, so I make my own, such as the all-purpose seafood rub that follows. Store it in a covered bottle, and use it on fish fillets for speedy weekday grilling.

For a zesty touch, try the spicy fish marinade that follows; I especially like it with skewered meaty fish.

For special-occasion grilling, I douse grilled fish and shrimp with a Mexican-style garlic, oil and dried-chili-pepper mopping sauce. Alternatively, a lemon, ginger and chive finishing sauce tastes terrific on most grilled fish. I especially like it on small, farmed Mediterranean sea bass or brook trout.

HEAT

Good heat from hardwood charcoal or neutral-tasting gas is a must. Preheat a charcoal grill 30 minutes before cooking; plan on about 10 minutes for a gas grill. Most seafood cooks nicely when positioned directly over the heat source. Large whole fish or fish fillets weighing more than 3 pounds do better with more moderate heat, so I use the indirect method (not over the heat).

Add soaked wood chips to the coals or put them on a piece of foil set over the heat source if you like a smokier flavor. Always heat the grill grate thoroughly before you put the fish on it. Oil the fish – not the grate – to prevent sticking.

TIMING

Forget the adage of 10 or 11 minutes per inch of thickness – the fish will be overcooked. I leave the fish at room temperature for 20 minutes or so before cooking, then set my timer for 8 minutes per inch. I can always add more time. The fish should almost flake when tested with the tip of a fork.

GRILLING FISH FILLETS

Season the fillets and oil them lightly. Grill directly over the heat. Resist the urge to turn them often; one flip is sufficient. If your grill grates are hot, the fish will release when the protein is set so you can turn it without tearing. Thin fillets, such as tilapia at less than 1/2 inch, cook in 4 minutes total. Fast food, indeed.

GRILLING WHOLE FISH

Make sure the fish is eviscerated, scaled and the gills have been removed. Rinse it well; pat dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper or a seafood rub. If desired, fill the cavity with sprigs of fresh herbs. Oil on all sides, and place on a hot grill, directly over the heat.

GRILLING SHRIMP AND SHELLFISH

Use a heavy, well-seasoned cast-iron griddle or skillet, and heat it on a hot grill until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add 2 tablespoons high heat oil and then seasoned shrimp (peeled and deveined if desired) or scrubbed mussels or clams in a single layer. Cover grill and cook 2 minutes. Stir well. Cover grill again and cook until shrimp are just pink or mussels or clams have opened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove to a platter, and drizzle generously with the some of the dried chili mopping sauce if desired.

PLANK GRILLING

For one of our favorite methods for moist, smoky fish fillets, simply soak cedar grill planks (look for them in large supermarkets, at Williams-Sonoma or hardware stores that stock grilling equipment) in water for 30 minutes or longer. Place a salt- and pepper-seasoned fish steak or fillet (salmon is great, so are mackerel and rockfish), skin side down, on the soaked plank set directly on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the fish nearly flakes, usually 20 to 25 minutes for a 11/4-inch-thick fillet. Do not turn the fish, but baste every 5 minutes with the fish marinade or mopping sauce that follows. Carefully remove the fish (plank and all) to the table.

MAHI MAHI KEBABS

Makes 2 servings

I like to use double-prong metal skewers to prevent the food from slipping all around on the kebabs as I grill. Alternatively, use two bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water at least 20 minutes.

12 ounces mahi mahi, ahi tuna or swordfish steaks, each 1-inch thick

12 or 16 large cherry tomatoes

Half recipe spicy fish marinade, see recipe

Olive oil

Chopped fresh cilantro

1. Cut fish into 1-inch cubes. Alternately thread fish and tomatoes onto 4 double-prong metal skewers. Place skewers on a plate. Coat fish and tomatoes on all sides with marinade. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes, or refrigerate up to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium hot.

3. Spray or drizzle kebabs with oil. Place kebabs on grill directly over heat source. Cover grill and cook 2 minutes. Turn kebabs. Continue grilling until golden and fish is nearly firm when pressed, usually 2 minutes more. Serve hot sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

SPICY FISH MARINADE

Makes: about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 small white onion, finely grated

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, turmeric, ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Use to coat raw fish fillets or skewered cubed fish steaks destined for the grill. Let fish rest with the marinade for 20 minutes before grilling.

ALL-PURPOSE SEAFOOD RUB

Makes: about 1/4 cup

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

2 tablespoons salt

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon each: freshly ground black pepper, dried basil

1/4 teaspoon each: dried thyme, garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon sugar

Crush fennel seeds in a mortar with a pestle (or on a wooden cutting board with a meat mallet or the bottom of a rolling pin). Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and shake well. Store in cool, dark place for up to 1 grilling season.

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Zingy picnic salad makes for a fast, healthy lunch http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/zingy-picnic-salad-makes-for-a-fast-healthy-picnic-lunch/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/zingy-picnic-salad-makes-for-a-fast-healthy-picnic-lunch/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903731 In our small hometown, Sunday evening’s concert in the park is more than just a gathering of locals and tourists. It’s how we mark the passage of time between May and September.

Over the years, we’ve become picnicking experts. My top two pieces of advice on picnic-planning are keep it simple and keep it flavorful. Because the getting ready – packing up a tablecloth or blanket and all the dishes – takes time, I’ve learned to make the menu extra simple. But extra simple doesn’t mean sacrificing on flavor.

My solution is to turn to a trusted supermarket shortcut, the rotisserie chicken, as a starting point for a deceptively simple, yet unbelievably complex-tasting, chicken salad. A very distant cousin to the over-creamy chicken salad grandma used to make, this dish gets its garlicky-herbaceous flavor from pre-made pesto.

A generous helping of lemon zest adds depth and balance. But the secret of this dish is capers added, with the juice.

Pack a thermal container of this chicken salad along with whole wheat pita halves, a head of lettuce for lettuce wraps, raw vegetables and a big bunch of grapes, and you have a strong picnic game for Sunday, or anytime.

LEMON-PESTO CHICKEN SALAD

Makes 4 servings

FOR THE DRESSING:

3 tablespoons prepared pesto

3 tablespoons low-fat plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons capers, brine included (do not drain)

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE SALAD:

rotisserie chicken, cubed (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1 cup cherry tomato halves

1 green onion, chopped

Lemon wedges and parsley for garnish (optional)

To make the dressing, mix all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a spoon.

In a large bowl, place the chicken, celery, tomato and green onion. Spoon the dressing on top and stir to coat. Chill until serving.

Serve with lettuce wraps, whole wheat pita, or tortillas.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/zingy-picnic-salad-makes-for-a-fast-healthy-picnic-lunch/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/903731_894049-salad.jpgThu, 02 Jun 2016 12:50:18 +0000
Layered salad in a clear container tastes as good as it looks http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/layered-salad-in-clear-container-tastes-as-good-as-it-looks/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/layered-salad-in-clear-container-tastes-as-good-as-it-looks/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903740 They say we first eat with our eyes.

Gastroenterologists may disagree, but we know what is meant: The visual appearance of food is part of the experience of eating it. Often, the better it looks, the better it tastes.

And that may be the reasoning behind a tasty new trend of boxing up salads in see-through containers. It’s like a layered salad but in just one portion.

It’s a great way to whet your appetite before you even get your salad on a plate. And there are even some people who just eat the salad in layers out of the container.

The idea of what I call Shake-a-Salad appears to have originated with the folks at Ziploc who, not coincidentally, also developed a clear plastic cylinder in which to put the salad.

But anything clear and tallish and straightish will do – a Mason jar, for instance, though there will be a bit of a bottleneck at the top.

There are only a couple of rules to follow when making a Shake-a-Salad. You want to build it with layers of the sturdiest and heaviest items on the bottom, so they don’t crush the more delicate layers. And because the dressing is obviously going to find its way to the bottom, you don’t want to put lettuce there, which will wilt in the dressing, or items such as grains or croutons that will absorb it.

I made three, just for kicks.

My first Shake-a-Salad makes full use of one of those classic food combinations, beets and oranges. Arugula adds a peppery punch, which is nicely smoothed out by a mild dressing sparked by a hint of orange juice. Walnuts on top keep the salad solid and sophisticated.

When you pull out your clear cylinder with beets and oranges and other goodness, your colleagues or schoolmates will be impressed by your good taste. But even that good taste won’t taste as good as your salad.

Pad Thai salad with peanut sesame dressing, was developed by Ziploc specifically to be used in one of these containers. It was created to have a strong visual appeal, and it’s so beautiful you’ll almost hate to eat it.

Included are all the ingredients for pad thai except the one that actually defines the dish, the rice noodles. But the rest is there: chicken, peanuts, scallions, sesame seeds, cilantro and bean sprouts, plus ingredients chosen as much for the way they look as the way they taste – red cabbage, carrots and red bell peppers.

Still, the real star of this salad is the peanut sesame dressing. Thick, hearty and drenched in peanut-sesame flavors, this is a dressing to remember for any number of salads based on lettuce, kale or cabbage.

Why, it would even be delicious on a salad served on a plate.

My final Shake-a-Salad was a mixture of farro, roasted chickpeas and feta cheese, along with a spicy – but very light – dressing. The genius of this salad is the amazing way the rich nuttiness of the farro becomes instantly enlivened when it meets the briny saltiness of the feta.

The roasted chickpeas are only a crunchy icing on the cake.

But what if you can’t find farro? The ancient grain, which has been around since the time of Mesopotamia, is often absent from supermarket shelves (though it can also be found just as often). If your local store does not carry farro, you can easily substitute brown rice with very similarly happy results.

BEET, ORANGE AND ARUGULA SALAD

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon orange juice, preferably fresh

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large or 4 small cooked beets, peeled and sliced

4 cups baby arugula

1 pound oranges, peeled and pith removed, cut into slices, half-moons or supremes

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (1 ounce)

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and oils.

Taste and adjust the acidity, adding a little more vinegar or orange juice if desired.

Place dressing in 4 tall containers. Portion out beets into each container.

Add layers of arugula, oranges, cilantro and walnuts. Refrigerate until serving.

PAD THAI SALAD WITH PEANUT SESAME DRESSING

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha, optional

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded

4 ounces lettuce

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

1 cup bean sprouts

2 carrots, peeled into ribbons

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil until emulsified; then whisk in the peanut butter, honey, tamari and optional sriracha until smooth.

Taste and adjust if needed.

Place dressing in the bottom of 4 tall containers.

Mix together cabbage and cilantro, and portion this mixture out into each container. Add layers of chicken, lettuce, red peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, scallions, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Refrigerate until serving.

FARRO, FETA AND ROASTED CHICKPEA SALAD

Makes 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup farro or brown rice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) water

1 medium garlic clove, very thinly sliced

1 Thai chile, very thinly sliced (or serrano chile)

6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and toss in a bowl with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and crunchy, about 30 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan.

Meanwhile, make farro according to package instructions, using remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, water, garlic and chile. Whisk well.

If too strong, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Place dressing on the bottom of 4 tall containers.

Portion out roasted chickpeas into each container, and layer farro, feta, carrots and cilantro.

Refrigerate until serving.

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With her youngest daughter headed off to college, an era of baking comes to an end http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/with-her-youngest-daughter-headed-off-to-college-an-era-of-baking-comes-to-an-end/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/06/01/with-her-youngest-daughter-headed-off-to-college-an-era-of-baking-comes-to-an-end/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=903755 It’s 8:30 p.m. on a Friday night and I’m digging through my family’s cookie cutter collection for a goat. There’s a bake sale for the 4-H goat club in the morning, and my daughter Lucia wants to make animal-specific cutouts for their curb appeal. I find the goat and the four-leaf clover – it’s a 4-H bake sale after all – and start gathering ingredients. I don’t need to find the recipe because after making it so many times for the past 18 years, I’ve got it memorized.

Lucia joins me in the kitchen while we roll out the dough to bake the five dozen cookies we need. At 10 p.m. the cookies are cooling on racks. Tired after a busy work week, I leave them to her to ice – with 4-H green, of course. The next morning, I wake up around 5 a.m. to feed our goats, sheep and chickens, and I think about the fact that this is likely one of the last 4-H bake sales my daughter and I will do together.

She’s graduating from high school in two weeks and will be off to college in the fall. In some ways, I am relieved that these late night/early morning scrambles are ending. Yet we have made so many memories in the kitchen while she and her sister, Gaetana, now 20, were growing up.

Our now-expansive cookie cutter collection started with just a few Christmas-themed ones when the girls were preschoolers. I quickly realized that December is a really busy month with kids, and my daughters decided they liked making gingerbread houses more than cookies anyhow. So one year, we put off cookie making until Valentine’s Day and on Feb. 14 we hosted a cookie-decorating party with friends.

I made the cutouts ahead of time – a great time-management strategy, as it turned out – and picked up a variety of sprinkles and candy for the young decorators. I waited until the guests arrived to make the icing so all the kids could make requests for colors.

The girls were 4 and 5 years old at the time, and they enjoyed the cookie party so much we planned another one for Halloween, and that started a tradition. For years, we organized “other” holiday cookie parties, and at the same time we managed to collect a large variety of cookie cutters. Whenever we saw an interesting one, we bought it, whether it was for a specific holiday or just one we liked.

That’s how we came to own 50-plus cookie cutters, the bulk of them animal shapes. Surprisingly, a goat cutout eluded us for years until the girls’ grandma was thrilled to find one online. We now own three of them because it also became another family tradition that whenever we acquired a new (actual) animal, a cookie cutter in its shape was required.

Like the cookie cutters themselves, our cooking-making repertoire expanded as the girls became more involved in 4-H. Cookie parties became less frequent, while gift-giving and bake sales rose to the surface of reasons to break out the cookie cutters. One year we discovered that our gingerbread recipe made excellent sheep cookies. The cracking of the dough made the sheep look woolly, and its brown color looked just like my daughter’s natural-colored Romney sheep. Those cookies were shared widely because boy, were we jazzed about that happenstance!

Wendy Almeida's chickens get a treat every year on Christmas. Wendy Almeida photo

Wendy Almeida’s chickens get a treat every year on Christmas. Wendy Almeida photo

TREAT FOR THE FLOCK

The gingerbread house-building tradition continues to this day not only because we all genuinely enjoy it, but it is also our annual Christmas gift to our flock of chickens. In the days leading up to Christmas, the kids often pick off pieces of candy from their gingerbread houses for nibbling (shhh, I might do this as well). By Christmas Eve every year, the houses look a shambles.

One year, my husband suggested feeding the remnants to the chickens on Christmas Day. They were so well received, it turned into an annual tradition. In case you were wondering, it takes only a couple of hours for a dozen chickens to eat a gingerbread house, whether it is made from graham crackers or has hard gingerbread cookie walls. Their annual treat serves us well, too, because happy chickens produce more eggs.

In addition to bake sales, there have been many late-night baking projects for the Ossipee Valley and Cumberland fairs’ 4-H exhibit hall entries. Cookie, pie and yeast roll recipes have been refined over the years for those blue ribbons – not easy to come by in the baking category at the fair!

My daughters have attended classes to learn cake-decorating techniques at 4-H club meetings and have traveled to the University of Maine in Orono to learn about food chemistry. Two never-to-be-forgotten highlights: using dry ice to make ice cream and a blind taste-testing of Oreos.

But baking is only the half of it. There are the hours my daughters spend every year at the 4-H food booth at the Cumberland Fair taking orders and serving breakfast sandwiches and burgers to the crowds in a fast-paced kitchen. There are the slow-cooker recipes – chili is always a crowd pleaser – that we bring to potluck dinners for 4-H celebrations, school events and whatever else comes up while raising active, involved kids.

Whenever we cook and bake, we use the eggs from our own hens and the milk from our own dairy goats – though the first year we hand-milked the goats we had more hooves in the milking pan than drinkable milk. We learned to make soap!

But by the end of that season, we’d grown proficient at milking, so we taught ourselves to make yogurt – fresh, warm yogurt is amazing! We experimented with soft-cheese recipes, too, and eventually settled on garlic and chives, and cinnamon and sugar (a perfect match for breakfast bagels) as house favorites. Over the years, the girls enjoyed raising animals, and always figured out how to bring their animal-loving ways into the kitchen.

One year, the girls wanted a challenge so they signed up for cooking classes at a “professional kitchen.” At Measuring Up! Cooking for Kids in Scarborough, they learned to make souffles and other fancier, more complicated recipes. That training led to some excellent dinners at our house. But for all the formal classes my daughters have taken, their genuine interest in cooking and baking stems from cutout cookies and gingerbread houses in our own kitchen.

The goat cookie cutters will be sticking around, even if they're getting a little rusty.

The goat cookie cutters will be sticking around, even if they’re getting a little rusty.

LOOKING AHEAD

It isn’t just the girls who are getting older. Some of the metal cookies cutters are getting a bit rusty. Still, I doubt I will ever part with the collection. That bag of metal and plastic shapes holds so many memories.

After the goat-cookie bake sale, I will tuck them away, but come fall, I intend to make a college care package full of cookies for Lucia. I hope they’ll be a conversation-starter with new friends and a reminder of all the love – and silliness – we’ve shared in the kitchen.

And maybe someday, I’ll be using our big bag of cookie cutters again – with grandchildren.

I’ve let my mind wander. Suddenly, I realize the time is late, and we’ve got to get to the bake sale. I hurriedly place each goat-shaped cookie into a plastic baggie. As I seal the bags with green ribbons, I wonder where these cookies will end up; I hope the bake sale customers will enjoy and appreciate them as much as we do. And as my daughters make their own way in the wider world, I want them to find love and appreciation, too, I find myself thinking.

Sending my youngest off to college means a lot of “lasts” for us. But I know we’ve got some amazing “firsts” ahead, too.

For 17 years, Wendy Almeida worked at the Portland Press Herald, most recently as editor of MaineToday magazine. She left to take a new job last week. Her daughters, her baking and her career are in transition. We wish her the best. She can be contacted at: wendyrichalmeida@gmail.com.

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Eggplant parmigiana a natural for the grill http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/eggplant-parmigiana-a-natural-for-the-grill/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/eggplant-parmigiana-a-natural-for-the-grill/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894288 This little gem combines my love of grilling with my endless search for new summer vegetarian entrees. Turns out that eggplant parmigiana is a wonderful candidate for the grill, cooking up quickly and cleanly. And – bonus! – grilling this dish not only requires less oil than the traditional recipe, it ends up imparting a smokiness.

For this recipe you want one of those big old-fashioned massive beauties. At the supermarket, make sure your eggplant’s skin is smooth and its flesh is firm.

You want to cut the eggplant into sturdy rounds about 3/4 inch thick. This allows each slice to hold its shape. A thinner slice would buckle under the weight of the tomatoes and crumbs. The slices also are salted, which seasons the eggplant and eliminates excess water.

Traditional eggplant parmigiana calls for tomato sauce, but here I went with fresh tomatoes to give the dish a fresher, more summery taste. Like the eggplant, the tomatoes are pre-salted to make them less watery and more deeply flavored.

Now, how to add the Parmesan to this grilled eggplant parmigiana? In the traditional recipe, the cheese is sprinkled onto the layered ingredients. But in this recipe there are no layers. Sometimes, however, the traditional recipe is breaded, and that opened up a door. I figured I could swap in panko crumbs for the breading, then add the Parmesan to the panko. Done!

To finish the dish, I topped off my eggplant slices with mozzarella and fresh basil

GRILLED EGGPLANT PARMIGIANA

Start to finish: 1 hour

Serves 4

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds)

Kosher salt

3/4 pound plum or small round tomatoes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on the eggplant

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese

6 ounces mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated

Fresh basil, shredded, to garnish

Peel the eggplant, then slice it crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice, then set the slices aside for 45 minutes. Slice the tomatoes crosswise into 1/3-inch-thick rounds. Salt both sides of each slice and transfer the slices to a rack to drain until the eggplant is ready.

Prepare a grill for medium heat, direct and indirect cooking. For a charcoal grill, this means banking the hot coals to one side of the grill. For a gas grill, it means turning off one or more burners to create a cooler side.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium-low, combine the 2 tablespoons of oil and garlic. Cook, stirring, until quite fragrant. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and panko. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until the crumbs turn golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the Parmesan cheese, then set aside.

Pat the eggplant slices dry and brush one side of each slice with olive oil. Add to the grill and cook over the hotter side until the slices are nicely browned on the bottoms, 5 to 6 minutes. Brush the top sides with more oil, turn the slices over and grill until browned on the second side, about another 5 minutes. While the eggplant is grilling, pat dry the tomato slices.

Transfer the eggplant slices to the cooler side of the grill, then top each slice with enough tomato slices to just cover the top. Top the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of the panko mixture, then divide the cheese evenly among the slices. Cover the grill and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the mozzarella is melted. Transfer 2 slices to each of 4 plates and top each portion with some of the basil.

 

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Bread & Butter: Move from island to Portland leads to rediscovery of dining – and cooking http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/bread-butter-move-from-island-to-portland-leads-to-rediscovery-of-dining-and-cooking/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/bread-butter-move-from-island-to-portland-leads-to-rediscovery-of-dining-and-cooking/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894294 EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

When I moved to Portland from Isle au Haut in June of last year my must-do list mostly consisted of one item: Go out to eat as often as humanly possible. After living in a place for close to 15 years where the only restaurant in town was, well, my own, I felt that even if I ate out every day for an entire year, I’d barely be scraping the surface of my long overdue training as a Maine-centric food lover.

My husband, Steve, and I – we own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut – had the almost unbelievable good fortune of scoring an affordable apartment on Munjoy Hill when we moved here. But its one-room efficiency kitchen – with zero cupboard space – did not lend itself to the elaborate cooking projects I used to like to do in my spacious, fully stocked kitchen on the island.

So I left my library of beloved cookbooks behind, gave away most of the contents of my pantry to island neighbors, and gave myself over to enjoying the experience of other people’s cooking.

It’s not hard to find a fabulous meal in Portland, and I quickly found a few favorite spots: a walking-distance cafe to sip my Saturday morning cup over the crossword puzzle, a comfortable place to enjoy a solo beer, a couple of neighborhood bistros that promised reliably impressive meals when guests were in town.

In early September last year, just as the weather was starting to cool, and Portlanders were beginning to realize that summer wouldn’t last forever, I would come back to my apartment after work to find my upstairs neighbors enjoying evening drinks al fresco on the front stoop. Before long, I was joining them. And not long after that, I started to realize that even after working all day every day in the kitchen making chocolates, and despite access to so many fabulous eateries, I missed the pleasure of cooking in my own home. And I missed sharing my own meals with friends.

It’s no accident that I chose a career in food. I love to cook. I love to feed people. Food is how I move through the world, and in a lot of ways, it’s how I communicate. Steve jokes that he can tell what kind of day I had by what I make for dinner. And it’s a big part of how I introduce myself to new friends. Here, taste this. This is who I am.

By late fall, I limited my eating out to a weekly Friday-night splurge, and I began to instead frequent the neighborhood markets. I found several within walking distance of our apartment where I could pick up freshly baked bread, house-made pastas and super-fresh vegetables from nearby farms.

Shops on the Commercial Street wharves promised varieties of seafood outside my comfort zone of island lobster and halibut. I discovered that the winter farmers market was an easy walk downhill, and that the promise of the walk back uphill kept me from going overboard on too many leafy greens, or tiny potatoes, or varieties of beets and carrots, or fresh cheeses.

I began to train myself not to buy ingredients for a week, or even for the month (as was sometimes necessary on the island), but to buy just enough to make simple meals for a couple of days. Untethered from cookbook recipes and a cafe menu, I picked the ingredients that looked the freshest, or inspired an idea, or lent themselves to my small prep space and limited cookware.

I resisted the temptation to equip my kitchen with more pots and pans and baking dishes (there’s no room!), and instead let the tools I owned influence what ended up on our plates. I developed a system, a tiny mise en place, that both fit on my counter and kept our two kitties out of my prep. The meals that emerged were a new thing altogether, a new experience, a part of myself that I had not yet met.

And, to my surprise, I’m learning to cook. Again.

MELTED LEEKS ON TOAST, WITH CRISPY BACON AND POACHED EGGS

I love Sunday brunch. And, as it turns out, so does the rest of Portland. But if I’m not feeling like braving the lines at one of the city’s fabulous brunch restaurants, I’ll invite a friend or two to our apartment.

The leeks are the star of this dish, and while the bacon and the egg make it a meal, you could omit those, and simply serve the leeks on toasted slices of baguette for a spring appetizer. I use an Italian white for the bread.

Every ingredient in this recipe (except for maybe the wine) can be picked up at a Saturday farmers market, and quickly prepared for a simple Sunday brunch suitable for company.

Serves 4

8 slices bacon

1 pound spring leeks (or 1 large leek)

4 tablespoons butter

Pinch or 2 dried thyme, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

Salt and pepper, to taste

Dry white wine, or water

4 large eggs

4 slices bread of your choice

4 tablespoons chevre (goat cheese)

Parsley, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the bacon on a cookie sheet and bake, turning over once, for 20 to 25 minutes, until it is very crispy. Drain on paper towels.

While the bacon is cooking, halve the leeks lengthwise, and thinly slice the white and pale green parts into half rounds (reserve the dark green tops for stock, if you like). Place the sliced leeks in a colander and rinse away any dirt or grit.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the thyme, leeks, salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir, lower the heat, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, adding a little wine or water to keep the pan moist and prevent browning, until the leeks are very soft – about 20 minutes. Taste them. When they are finished they should melt on your tongue.

Meanwhile, toast the bread, and spread each slice with a tablespoon of chevre.

When the leeks and the bacon are done, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Crack 1 egg into a tea cup, and gently lay it in the boiling water. Repeat with the remaining 3 eggs. Keep the water at a gentle simmer, to prevent the eggs from breaking apart. When the eggs are done (the whites cooked, the yolks still jiggly) lift them from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels.

Spoon the warm leeks on the chèvre toast, top each with 2 slices of bacon and a poached egg. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley, and serve.

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” She can be contacted at: info@BlackDinahChocolatiers.com.

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Cookbook review: ‘Vegetarian India,’ by Madhur Jaffrey http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cookbook-review-vegetarian-india-by-madhur-jaffrey/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cookbook-review-vegetarian-india-by-madhur-jaffrey/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894303 “Vegetarian India.” By Madhur Jaffrey. Knopf. $35.

I like eating Indian food and I like cooking Indian food, so it’s no real surprise that I own three Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and her terrific memoir, “Climbing the Mango Trees.”

Wikipedia credits her for “bringing Indian cuisine to the Western world with her debut cookbook (1973),” and that’s not much of a stretch. If you don’t know Jaffrey as a cook, you may know her as an actress. Her many film credits include “Six Degrees of Separation” and “A Late Quartet.”

Jaffrey’s latest book is “Vegetarian India.” There may be no better world cuisine to explore for interesting, varied vegetarian dishes. Her aim, she writes, is to take readers “on an adventurous ride through India, tasting the real vegetarian dishes that Indians eat in the privacy of their homes, in their local cafes and temples, at the parties they throw for each other, and at their wedding banquets and religious festivals.”

It’s nice to be a guest in Indian homes and at Indian parties, as Americans are unlikely to encounter this food at the typical Indian restaurant in the States. I can’t recall ever having seen beets on the menu of an Indian restaurant here; the book’s Punjabi-Style Beets with Ginger changed my perspective on the vegetable.

And how often have you run into a nice cabbage side dish at your local Indian eatery? Never, as far as I can remember, which is a pity. Jaffrey’s Stir-Fried Cabbage with curry leaves, hot green chilies and mustard seeds is “simple and delicious,” I scribbled in a note to myself on the recipe.

My favorite in the category of Indian Food I’ve Never Eaten Nor Even Imagined Before was the Fresh Peach Salad with lime, cilantro, salt and cumin. Yum! (And tasting to me like Mexico, too.) I paired it with Jaffrey’s Sri Lankan Chili-Fried Eggs, also excellent, on a cool spring morning, but if we get a muggy spell this summer, I know just what dish will revive me.

Shopping for the recipes in “Vegetarian India” may present a challenge to the Maine cook. Jaffrey makes no concessions to the unprovisioned kitchen; the recipes call for ingredients I haven’t found easy to obtain here, for instance poha (flattened rice), urad dal (a type of pulse), rice powder and fresh curry leaves. If I ever do find them (or get around to ordering them online), I will be all over Jaffrey’s chapter on breads and savory pancakes as well as her recipes for poha.

The recipes themselves are not difficult, but many are time-consuming. It’s imperative that you measure out and organize the many spices and chop the many vegetables before you turn on the stove.

With anything, including cookbooks, it’s a special pleasure when the whole package comes together: Good recipes. Good writing. Good looks. “Vegetarian India” hits the mark on all counts. The recipes are clear; the headnotes are practical, informative and interesting; the sidebars are useful. Add to these the beautiful photographs of food and of India, and home cooks are in for an adventurous – and delectable – ride.

FRESH PEACH SALAD

Make the salad just before eating it, Jaffrey says, as it gets watery as it sits. During her childhood in India, it was usually made from starfruit, bananas, roasted white yams or guavas, because peaches cost too much. Since I rarely find decent peaches in Maine, even during the season, and since mangoes were in the markets when I was testing this recipe, I made it with mango and banana slices.

Serves 2-3

2 ripe peaches, peeled and each cut into 10 to 12 slices

1/3 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon roasted and ground cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or more as desired

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste for the balance of seasonings, adding more of anything you wish.

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Cocktail conference in Portland will get down to business http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cocktail-conference-in-portland-will-get-down-to-business/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/cocktail-conference-in-portland-will-get-down-to-business/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894321 So you want to open your own bar? Yeah, you and everyone else in Portland.

“It’s the dream,” says Tawny Alvarez, an associate at Portland law firm Verrill Dana who often works with would-be Tom Cruises. “It’s (the movie) ‘Cocktail’ from the ’80s. Everybody’s going to start a bar, and it’s going to be wonderful living the life.”

Alvarez and some of her colleagues from Verrill Dana’s Breweries, Distilleries and Wineries practice group, along with James Sanborn of GHM Insurance in Waterville – “the beer insurance guy” – will be on a panel at a June 4 seminar, So You Want to Open a Bar? Let’s Talk Logistics! during the New England Cocktail Conference. The seminar will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Place Old Port. Attendance is free.

The conference, which runs from June 2 to 5, was formerly known as Rum Riots, but organizers decided to expand the event this year, adding more tastings and seminars, as well as welcoming bar-industry folk from all over New England.

Classes are both industry-focused (Become a Better Bartender) and designed for anyone who happens to enjoy a good cocktail, such as Hemingway and Rum. The Hemingway event will include Key West-inspired eats, tastings of Hemingway’s favorite cocktails and a talk by Carlton Grooms, head distiller of Papa’s Pilar Rum.

The conference will close with the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild Best Bartender competition, in which eight of New England’s best bartenders will compete for $500 and a Vitamix.

Briana Volk of the Portland Hunt + Alpine Club, who organizes the conference, expects 600 to 900 people who work in the cocktail industry to come in from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Boston and Philadelphia. Volk said she hoped the regional approach would draw national attention to the “great work” that bartenders are doing here.

“Being up here and being a small state, it’s hard to get a lot of attention,” she said. “I like the strength in numbers showing there is this really amazing, flourishing cocktail community, not only in Maine but all around New England.”

Although the event is now called the New England Cocktail Conference, it will continue to be held in Portland every year, just before bartenders’ busy summer season, Volk said. All of the events – including ones on agave, Jägermeister and Glenfiddich – are open to the public. Some require tickets, others don’t.

“With every class we have, I have either the international or American brand ambassadors from those brands to represent them,” Volk said, “so it’s some of the people who are the best in the business and know the thing they are speaking about.”

Industry-focused seminars include High-Volume Bartending and Accuracy – costing just $5 – taught by two bartenders from the Clover Club in New York, “one of the most well-known and respected high-volume bars in the world,” Volk said.

Two sessions may be of particular interest to locals. A June 4 cocktail dinner ($60) called Grandpa Drinks at the Cumberland Club may satisfy the curiosity of anyone who has ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the circa-1877 private social club on High Street. Nibble shrimp cocktails and sip Scotch or some forgotten classic cocktails – Brown Derbies, riffs on Manhattans and Negronis – in the former Men’s Lounge. “Things that are very true to the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s,” as Volk describes it.

Another event likely to capture the interest of cocktail enthusiasts is the $40 seminar on Day Drinking Done Right, focused on lower-alcohol cocktails and drinks more exotic than brunch cliches like mimosas and bloody marys. The event, which includes brunch and cocktails, will be held June 5 at Roustabout on Washington Avenue.

For the bar-envious, though, the highlight just may be the free access to legal help at the seminar So You Want to Open a Bar?

Opening a bar is not the same as opening, say, a shoe shop or hair salon, because it’s such a heavily regulated industry, Alvarez said. The Verrill Dana attorneys serving as panelists will speak about what it costs to open a bar, what to expect in the first year of business and the importance of developing relationships with state and federal regulators.

Alvarez said wannabe bar owners don’t always understand the complicated legal issues involved. What happens if the bartender serves someone who is under age? What if a customer drinks and drives and hurts someone? What if an employee drinks and sexually harasses another employee? What if someone breaks his nose in a barroom brawl?

“We know in this industry the overhead is high and the profit margins are low,” Alvarez said. “It’s our goal that we provide as much information to people as possible so they can make an educated decision about whether this is truly something that they want to invest their time and money into. It’s not scare tactics that we’re employing. We just want people to go in with their eyes wide open.”

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Maine Lobster and Asparagus Salad with Curry Vinaigrette http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/maine-lobster-and-asparagus-salad-with-curry-vinaigrette/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/maine-lobster-and-asparagus-salad-with-curry-vinaigrette/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894396 Primo chef Melissa Kelly’s lobster salad is a definite twist on a classic, as she dresses it with curry-flavored vinaigrette. Make the curry oil for the vinaigrette a day ahead so that the flavors can meld.

1/4 cup Madras curry powder

1 cup light olive oil

3 (1 1/4-pound) lobsters

1 pound pencil-thin asparagus

2 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1 medium shallot, finely chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, very finely diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups mesclun (about 6 ounces)

1/4 cup cilantro leaves

1/4 cup snipped chives

Stir the curry powder with 2 tablespoons water in a medium jar to make a thick paste. Add the oil, cover tightly and shake to mix thoroughly. Let stand overnight. The next day, pour the curry oil into a clean jar, leaving all of the sediment behind.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the lobsters until bright red all over, about 12 minutes. Plunge the lobsters into ice water, then drain. Twist off the claws, crack them and remove the meat. With kitchen scissors, slit the tail shells lengthwise and remove the meat. Discard the vein that runs the length of each tail. Slice the tails crosswise 1/4-inch thick.

Bring a medium skillet of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Plunge the asparagus into ice water, then drain and pat dry.

Pour the Champagne vinegar over the shallot in a small bowl, and let stand for 10 minutes. Whisk in 5 tablespoons of the curry oil until blended. Add the red bell pepper and season the curry vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Toss the greens, cilantro and chives with half of the vinaigrette in a large bowl. Arrange the greens on a platter and surround with the asparagus. Top with the lobster, drizzle on the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Make Ahead

The curry oil can be refrigerated for 1 month. The lobster meat can be refrigerated for 1 day.

Originally published in May 2001 Food & Wine

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Marinated leg of lamb with crunchy crust pleases a crowd http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/marinated-leg-of-lamb-with-crunchy-crust-pleases-a-crowd/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/marinated-leg-of-lamb-with-crunchy-crust-pleases-a-crowd/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=894522 A showstopper on the table, this was one of the lushest and best-received roasts I have made in ages, with the layers of flavor and texture bringing everyone back for seconds.

The meat is seasoned with garlic, orange zest and herbs and marinated overnight. Then the roast is covered in a thick layer of mustardy panko breadcrumbs speckled with fresh parsley, which forms a fabulous crust. The crust falls apart a bit as you slice the lamb, but just scoop up the crumbles and serve them up with slices of tender, pink lamb.

If you don’t have a big crowd, you can definitely make this with a smaller roast – just adjust the rest of the ingredients down proportionately (and don’t make yourself too crazy with the math – the amounts are really guidelines. You’ll want to reduce the cooking time, too, aiming for an internal temperature of about 130 F for medium rare.

Or you can go for the better option: leftovers. We got lamb crostini, a shepherd’s pie and a lamb soup out of our big gorgeous roast. Not a bit was wasted. Just ask my dog.

HERBED LEG OF LAMB

Start to finish: Two hours and 45 minutes, plus overnight chilling

Servings: 12-14

LAMB:

1 (6-pound) boneless leg of lamb, rolled and tied

6 peeled garlic cloves

Zest from 1 orange

1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

CRUST:

1/4 cup Dijon mustard, coarse or smooth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a food processor, combine the garlic, orange zest, thyme and rosemary. Puree, then add the olive oil and blend to make a paste. Smear the paste all over the lamb, place it in a container or deep bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450 F. Meanwhile, let the lamb sit at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons olive oil, mustard and parsley, add the breadcrumbs and use a spoon or your hands to thoroughly blend. Press the mixture all over the top and sides of the leg of lamb, and place it in a roasting pan. Some of the panko mixture will fall off the sides; tuck it in underneath the sides of the lamb.

Roast the lamb for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400 F and roast for another hour to an hour and 15 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the middle of the roast reads 130 F to 135 F for medium-rare.

Let the lamb sit for 20 minutes before slicing and serving warm.

Nutrition information per serving: 371 calories; 134 calories from fat; 15 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 145 mg cholesterol; 754 mg sodium; 10 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 49 g protein.

Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, “Dinner Solved!” and “The Mom 100 Cookbook.” She blogs at themom100.com/about-katie-workman.

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Yes, homemade corn tortillas can be excellent and easy http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/yes-homemade-corn-tortillas-can-be-excellent-and-easy/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/yes-homemade-corn-tortillas-can-be-excellent-and-easy/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884430 You can wrap just about anything in a freshly made corn tortilla, hot off the comal or griddle, and it’ll be wonderful.

Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

In another lifetime, when I was in my 20s and living in L.A., I made fresh tortillas all the time. I had a cheap aluminum tortilla press and a cheap aluminum comal (tortilla griddle); I’d picked up both in a Mexican grocery. You could buy a bag of masa harina (dried, powdered masa) just about anywhere.

I was in a serious carnitas phase: I’d fallen in love with Diana Kennedy’s version in her landmark cookbook “The Cuisines of Mexico,” and I’d make that with salsa verde cruda and guacamole and a big pot of pinto beans to serve on the side.

A few years after that, in the early ’90s, I lucked into meeting Kennedy, and we got into a discussion about corn tortillas. I’ll never forget her expression when I told her I was in the habit of using masa harina to make mine: I might as well have told her I was a regular at Taco Bell. She was scandalized.

She insisted that masa made from nixtamal – corn kernels cooked in a solution of lime (calcium oxide) and water – was the only legitimate masa. I knew all about it from her book, but when I’d gotten to the part of the two-page process that said, “Meantime, crush the lime if it is in a lump, taking care that the dust does not get into your eyes,” I stopped reading.

With Kennedy, I tried to defend my position, arguing that tortillas freshly made from masa harina are way better than anything you can buy at the store. “Better to buy masa at a tortilleria in your neighborhood,” she countered. But I was living in New York City at the time, and there were no tortillerias anywhere near my ‘hood.

The conversation seriously deflated me (this was my Mexican cooking hero!) and I lost some of my joy for tortilla-making.

That’s why last summer, when a review copy of Alex Stupak’s cookbook “Tacos: Recipes and Provocations” landed on my desk at work, I was delighted when it fell open to the following: “In Defense of Masa Harina.”

“A warm tortilla prepared with harina may not hit the same celestial notes as one made with fresh masa,” it said, “but it is still an absolute revelation if all you’ve ever tasted is reheated, store-bought tortillas. There’s irrefutable value in that, so I stand by it.”

Well, of course, I’ve tasted many a fabulous tortilla made from fresh masa, but I still think the ones made from masa harina (all you need to add is water!) are pretty darn good. And once you get the hang of it, making them is easy – easier than making pancakes, in fact, because the dough is just harina and water.

Once again, I’m hooked. Let’s get this taco party going!

CORN TORTILLAS

Makes 12 tortillas

1 cup masa harina

1 1/8 cup warm water

In a large bowl, pour the water over the harina and stir with a wooden spoon until the masa is moistened, then knead it together until it holds in a ball. It should be moist but not sticky; it shouldn’t stick to your hands. If it’s not moist enough, add a little more water and knead again; if it’s too moist, add a little more harina and knead. Cover with a damp towel.

Place a two-burner griddle over both burners, or use two cast-iron pans. Heat one over medium-high heat and the other over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, cut a large piece of plastic: I find the very thin crinkly grocery bags from the supermarket work best. Fold it in half, open your tortilla press. You want it to line the bottom, with the fold lying against the press’s hinge, with the other half covering the top.

Roll a ball of masa about the size of a golf ball (maybe a wee bit smaller) and put it in the center of the bottom of the press. Making sure the plastic will sandwich the ball, close the press and pull the lever down gently. Open the press, lift the plastic with the tortilla, open your palm, lay the tortilla flat in your palm, peel off the plastic and place the tortilla on the less-hot part of the griddle or less-hot pan. Cook it for 15 seconds.

Use a metal spatula to flip it over onto the hotter side of the griddle or hotter pan and cook it for 30 seconds. Flip it again, still on the hot side, and cook for another 10 seconds, then flip a final time and cook 10 seconds more, at which point it may puff a bit. Place it in your tortilla basket if it’s to be eaten immediately or very soon, or better yet, in an insulated fabric tortilla warmer, which can keep it warm for more than an hour.

Soruce: Cooks Without Borders

QUICK TACO FILLINGS

So, what to fold into those warm, handmade tortillas?

Have a couple of good salsas on hand, like an easy-to-make roasted salsa verde, a store-bought salsa roja or homemade pico de gallo (diced onion and tomato, chopped cilantro, minced serrano or jalapeño chile, a little salt, a big squeeze or three of lime).

Set out bowls of any or all of the following: lime wedges, guacamole, crumbled queso fresco, sliced avocado, cilantro leaves, sliced radishes, chopped olives, chopped white onion, sliced scallions, sliced or diced cucumber.

For the fillings, let your imagination go:

 Pick up a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket.

 Stop by your favorite barbecue joint and buy some sliced brisket or pulled pork.

 Use leftover steak. Toss it in a hot skillet or grill pan, then slice it in medium-rare strips for bifstek tacos. They’re great dressed with chopped onion, cilantro and any kind of salsa.

 Boil some pinto beans for vegetarian tacos. Just soak beans overnight, drain, cover with water, toss in half a peeled onion (or a whole one), a couple cloves of unpeeled garlic, fresh thyme or oregano, dried or fresh bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat, then simmer till they’re tender. Add salt to taste when they’re done.

 Pick up some shelled and deveined shrimp from the supermarket and toss them on the grill. Or grill fish fillets.

 Leftover braised short ribs make great tacos, too. So do leftover stews (beef, pork, lamb, veal, chicken), pot roast, chops, leg of lamb.

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At Deering High School, the band plays on with a revived cookbook http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/at-deering-high-school-the-band-plays-on-with-help-of-revived-cookbook/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/at-deering-high-school-the-band-plays-on-with-help-of-revived-cookbook/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884451 In 2010, within the span of three months, three different people gave Gil Peltola stained and spotted copies of a 1947 cookbook called “Cooking to Beat the Band.” One had come from a yard sale, one from cleaning house, and one from a Medford, Massachusetts, woman who had participated in an exchange concert with the Deering High School marching band in 1948.

They were thoughtful gifts, considering that the old cookbook had been a fundraiser for the Deering High School band, put together by the “Band Mothers Club,” and Peltola is the current music director at the school.

“They just thought I would like to have it,” Peltola said, “but by the time I got the third one, I started to think that somebody’s trying to tell me something here, that I probably need to try to do something with this.”

Peltola, with the help of two seniors who are also band members, started working on a new, expanded edition of the cookbook to raise money for the music department. The spiral-bound, revised edition, which sells for $15, has a purple cover in homage to the school colors (purple and white) and contains about 200 vintage recipes, heavy on cakes, cookies and desserts. Whimsical illustrations by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s are sprinkled through the pages. In the back are 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band – including numerous marinades from Peltola, who loves to grill outdoors.

Natalie Veilleux, a member of the band, chorus, jazz band and hand bell choir, launched the project before she graduated last year. This year it was picked up by senior Sophia Morin, a member of the chorus and hand bell choir. Last week, Peltola and Morin met in the Morins’ newly renovated kitchen to make one of the classic recipes from the book – porcupine meatballs, a Depression-era recipe that uses rice to stretch the family meat supply. The rice is mixed into the meatballs and cooked in tomato soup and hot water, and as the rice cooks and expands, it pokes out of the meatball like porcupine quills.

As Morin mixed the meat and rice, and Peltola chopped celery and onion to add to the meatballs, Morin described the challenge of tracking down all the old advertisers – the ones who still exist, anyway – so she could ask them to advertise again in the new edition. Most have gone out of business, but the ones that were still around, she said, wanted to re-run their vintage ads. The ad for Oakhurst Dairy, for example, ran on page 130 of the original cookbook, just beneath a recipe for Lobster Stew, and says “We suggest that you use Oakhurst rich milk & cream in the above recipe.” In the back of the book, where the modern recipes are printed, it runs below a recipe for cornbread. An old ad for B&M Baked Beans includes a drawing of Portland Head Light and a photo of an 18-ounce glass jar of baked beans.

Other 1947 advertisers still in business today are Vose-Smith Florist – whose original ad reads “A good cook deserves the finest/Send her flowers from Vose-Smith Co.” – and Roy’s Shoe Shop on Stevens Ave.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Vintage recipes in the book were illustrated by a teenage girl who would now be in her 80s. They appear in the updated version, which also contains 35 pages of modern-day recipes from parents, teachers and friends of the band.

Peltola and his students have been so busy re-creating the cookbook they haven’t had much of a chance to actually cook from it. They have their eye on many of the old desserts, though, including the Vermont Maple Cake with Maple Syrup Frosting. They chose the Porcupine Meatballs as a demonstration recipe because it was contributed by Esther Huff, one of the women who worked on the original book with Ethel Pettengill, president of the Band Mothers. The two women wanted to use the book to raise money to pay for new marching band outfits.

Peltola said many of the recipes are very like those his mother used to make. “I hope people realize that even though the recipes are 1947, they are still very viable and very good recipes,” he said.

There are classics like Swiss Steak, Lobster Newburg, Potato Pancakes, Salmon Croquettes and Tuna Fish Casserole (made with the obligatory can of mushroom soup and topped with potato chips). Green Tomato Mince Meat sounds interesting, too. And the book is also full of delicious-sounding cakes, cookies and other desserts.

But other entries might give younger generations a stomachache just looking at them. Some call for canned meats and seafood. And oh, the things they jellied in 1947. Jellied Tomato Salad, inexplicably made with both strawberry Jell-O and tomato juice, got its kick from horseradish and onion. Jellied Beet Salad required lemon gelatin, beet juice and canned beets. And then there’s the Jellied Meat Salad contributed by Ethel Pettengill, a shimmering mold of gelatin embedded with canned corned beef or ham, hard-boiled eggs, Miracle Whip and chopped celery, onions and pepper.

The last 35 pages of the cookbook contain the recipes contributed by faculty, staff, students and parents of today. One has to wonder: In another 69 years, will Red Velvet Cupcakes be the Yum Yum Date Roll of 2085?

The 1947 cookbook is written out by hand, most of it by Beverly Pettengill Parsons, who is a member of the class of 1949 and the daughter of Ethel Pettengill. With a little sleuthing, Morin was able to track down Betsy Parsons, Beverly Parsons’ daughter and Pettengill’s granddaughter, who once taught at Deering. “Her mother is still alive,” Morin said. “She said her mother is just so happy (the cookbook) was re-created.”

A page from "Cooking to Beat the Band."

A page from “Cooking to Beat the Band.”

Beverly Parsons is now in her mid-80s and lives in Indiana. Peltola asked her to write an introduction to the new book:

“Long ago high school memories carry me back to gathering around the big dining room table in our Read Street flat and copying my mother’s recipes, among others, while my friend Lois Hunter cleverly created a drawing to accompany. How thankful we are that as our generations delight in the joys of making music, we relish knowing that other parents and loved ones are using this little book and cooking to beat the band.”

Because many of the recipes are written in cursive, Morin wonders whether students of her generation will be able to read it; most students are no longer taught cursive writing. Hunter’s illustrations, on the other hand, are quaint and fun to look at. A Christmas cookie recipe is written within the outlines of a Christmas tree. A queen wearing a crown and ball gown illustrates the Queen Bread Pudding. A little bird sings “Cheerio” next to the English Crumb Pie.

“Look at the picture that goes with this angel food cake,” Peltola said, pointing to a praying angel surrounded by stars. “Isn’t that sweet?”

The introduction to the book notes that the Deering High Band was originally formed in the early 1930s and was made up of 35 “inexperienced students.” The Band Mothers Club was organized in 1936 and raised money for uniforms and instruments so the band could compete in regional competitions. By the time the cookbook was published, the band had grown into a 100-piece unit, including 90 musicians, seven majorettes and a three-person color guard.

Today, according to Peltola, the band is back down to about 30. There hasn’t been a band booster club for years, and Peltola hasn’t done any other fundraising in the 13 years he’s been teaching at the school, but the band has marched along nevertheless.

“Our budget is decent at Deering for the music department,” Peltola said. “I haven’t been able to splurge, but I’ve been able to get certain things that I need to run the program. This is going to help me do some things a little above and beyond.”

That includes buying supplies and taking the kids on a trip to an amusement park sometime next year. Some parks give discounted rates to school music programs that play and sing during their visit, he said.

“I want to try and do something with the kids to make them happy and keep them in the program,” he said.

Peltola ordered 200 copies of the cookbook and so far has reached out only to current and former faculty, staff and students to sell them. They’ll also be for sale at the school’s spring concert May 25, where there will be a special guest. Esther Huff’s son, a 1950 Deering graduate who is now 87 years old, still plays the tuba. He will be in town and has accepted an invitation to play with the band.

The whole project, Morin said, from gathering new recipes to contacting former students, “kind of makes you feel good inside.”

And the porcupine meatballs? They were fine, if woefully underseasoned. Everyone in the kitchen threw out ideas for jazzing them up and bringing them into the 21st century, bridging that 69-year-old generation gap with herbs and spices.

_______________________

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3 p.m. on May 18, 2016 to correct that Betsy Parsons, not Beverly Parsons, once taught at Deering.

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The Maine Ingredient: Find a little love in your hearts for chowder ‘from away’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/the-maine-ingredient-find-a-little-love-in-your-hearts-for-chowder-from-away/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/the-maine-ingredient-find-a-little-love-in-your-hearts-for-chowder-from-away/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884499 I know, these are not Maine specialties, but I recently spent a couple days eating around Rhode Island, and am in love with the delightful and delicious quirkiness of the food.

In addition to red chowder and clam cakes, other idiosyncratic dishes specific to the Ocean State are coffee milk, chow mein sandwiches, “cabinets” (milk shakes), johnnycakes, doughboys (fried dough), fried calamari and pickled banana peppers, and stuffies (baked stuffed clams).

Then there is the whole arcane vocabulary surrounding Rhode Island frankfurter preparations, including “weiners all the way,” a special small veal and pork frank topped with chili meat sauce, chopped onions and celery salt.

ROCKY POINT RED CHOWDER

This recipe is based on the red chowder that was served at Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick, Rhode Island, from about the 1920s through the ’50s. Although the park is long closed, the chowder lives on in the memories of those who loved it. This recipe is a composite of what I found in my research. Don’t turn up your nose at the tomato soup – it’s authentic, and adds not just color and flavor but also some thickening power and a touch of sweetness.

Chopped hard-shell clams can be found fresh or frozen in the seafood section of most supermarkets. This chowder is especially great with fried clam cakes, of course!

Makes 4 servings

4 ounces salt pork or bacon, cut into ½-inch dice or ground in the food processor (about 1 cup)

3 tablespoons butter, plus more if necessary

1 large onion, chopped

2 cups bottled clam juice

1¼ pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3¾ cups)

1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

3 cups chopped hard-shell clams with their liquor

¾ cup condensed tomato soup

1½ teaspoons paprika

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook salt pork with the butter in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp and the fat is rendered, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked bits with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and reserve. If you don’t have 5 tablespoons of fat in the pot, make up the difference with additional butter.

Add onion and cook over medium heat until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add clam juice, 3 cups water, potatoes and Old Bay. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add clams, tomato soup and paprika and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Since the clams, clam juice and tomato soup are salty, the chowder may not need more salt.) Let chowder sit at cool room temperature for at least an hour or, better yet, refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Reheat over low heat, ladle into bowls, and pass reserved pork bits (reheated in the microwave) for sprinkling on the chowder, if desired.

CRISPY CLAM CAKES

Clam cakes (also known as clam fritters) are traditionally served in Rhode Island and South Coast Massachusetts as an accompaniment to that region’s clear or red chowders. This mixture is proportioned exactly right – a high concentration of chopped clams suspended in a batter that fries up light and crispy.

Makes approximately 3 dozen fritters (6 to 8 servings)

1 egg

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

¾ cup bottled clam juice or clam liquor drained from clams

¼ cup milk

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt, plus more if necessary

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 cup finely chopped drained hard-shell clams (½ pint)

Vegetable oil for frying

Malt or cider vinegar or lemon wedges

Liquid hot pepper sauce

Whisk egg and oil in a small bowl until blended. Whisk in the clam juice and milk. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in egg mixture just until blended and stir in clams. The batter should be consistency of thick cake batter. Adjust by adding a little more flour or liquid as necessary.

Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven to 370 degrees F, until a drop of batter sizzles when dropped on the surface. Dip a teaspoon into the oil (I use a long-handled iced tea spoon), spoon out 1 rounded spoonful of batter, drop into the hot fat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, turning once with tongs, until puffed and golden.

Taste this first fritter for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to the batter if necessary. If the fritter seems dense, add a bit more liquid. Continue to fry cakes, a few at a time, until all the batter is used. Drain on paper towels.

Pass vinegar or lemon wedges and the bottle of hot sauce to season the clam cakes before serving.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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Delicate flavor of white asparagus harmonizes well in elegant salad http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/delicate-flavor-of-white-asparagus-harmonizes-well-in-elegant-salad/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/delicate-flavor-of-white-asparagus-harmonizes-well-in-elegant-salad/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884607 Here in America we think of white asparagus as the pink elephant of the vegetable world – not even a rumor so much as a hallucination.

It actually has been a staple in Europe for centuries. These days, happily enough, I’ve been spotting white asparagus more often on our side of the pond.

White asparagus is white because the spears are never exposed to sunlight as they grow. Without sunlight, they produce no chlorophyll. Without chlorophyll, they don’t turn green. White asparagus is a little milder and more delicate in flavor than the green variety. It’s also rich in nutrients and very low in calories.

At the supermarket, the best white asparagus boasts the same attributes as the best green asparagus: a firm, smooth stalk and a tight top. While I am a fan of any kind of green asparagus – be it pencil-thin or thick as a carrot – thicker is better when it comes to white asparagus.

Once you get it home, slice off the bottom half-inch of each spear, then stand the entire bunch up, cut-side down, in a glass or narrow pitcher filled with a few inches of water. Cover the tops with a plastic bag and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them. This little trick, which works equally well with green asparagus, will keep them fresh longer.

White asparagus has a tough bitter peel. Unlike green asparagus (which I only peel when it’s more than a 1/3 inch thick), white asparagus must be peeled. Otherwise, it’s very hard to chew. Because white asparagus tends to break easily, peeling these guys requires a little extra care. You want to lay each spear on the counter. Then, using a vegetable peeler, peel it from just below the tip to the end of the stalk. Also, white asparagus takes much longer to cook than its green cousin.

I tried both steaming and boiling the asparagus and, surprisingly, found no difference in taste. I’d worried that boiling it might leave the spears waterlogged, but as long as you pull them out of the water when they’re tender, that isn’t really a problem. Lightly salting the water is key, though. The asparagus absorbs the salt, which points up its flavor, making it taste more asparagus-y. Salting it after you’ve cooked it will not have the same effect.

Given the relative subtlety of the flavor of white asparagus, I recommend pairing it with similarly subtle ingredients, ones that will harmonize with – but not overwhelm – the asparagus.

For this elegant salad, conceived as a treat for Mom on Mother’s Day, I teamed the white asparagus with an orange vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts and aged goat cheese. If you can’t find white asparagus, don’t sweat it; this recipe will work just as well with the green or purple (but cook them for less time).

ASPARAGUS WITH ORANGE VINAIGRETTE, TOASTED HAZELNUTS AND AGED GOAT CHEESE

Makes 6 servings

⅓ cup orange juice

2 tablespoons finely minced shallots

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 pounds fresh white asparagus, the bottom ½ inch discarded and the spears peeled from just below the tip down the length of the stalks

1 cup fresh orange segments

2 ounces crumbled aged goat cheese

⅔ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

Chopped fresh dill, chives or tarragon, to garnish

In a small saucepan over medium, simmer the orange juice until it is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Add the shallot, vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Whisk until the salt is dissolved, then add the oil in a stream, whisking. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high, bring 3 inches of salted water to a boil. Add half the asparagus and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender (take one out, cut a piece off and taste to determine doneness). Transfer the spears to paper towels to drain, then cook and drain the remaining asparagus in the same manner.

On a large platter toss the asparagus gently with two-thirds of the dressing, then season with salt and pepper. Transfer the asparagus to plates and top each portion with some of the orange segments, cheese, nuts, herbs and a little of the remaining dressing.

Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years.

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Seafood lovers get help finding the good stuff http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/seafood-lovers-get-help-finding-the-good-stuff/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/seafood-lovers-get-help-finding-the-good-stuff/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884388 A new cookbook and an updated guide lead through New England’s seafood shacks and markets.

Just in time for summer, two seafood-centric books are out to help guide you through the crowded landscape of lobster shacks and seafood markets in New England.

Both are by Mike Urban, a food and travel writer based in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

Mainers may think they know the lobster shacks that dot the Maine coast, but the revised and updated version of “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” – previously published in 2012 – will open your eyes to many you may never have stumbled across.

Half of the book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport, where relative newcomer Quoddy Bay Lobster (founded in 2007) makes its own smoked lobster pate.

It’s interesting to read about the history of some of the shacks, and while this isn’t a cookbook, recipes are sprinkled throughout. In the back, an index sorts the shacks into types – most romantic shacks, shacks with dock or deck dining, shacks with great architectural design, and so on.

Urban’s newest project is “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the Best Lobster Pounds, Clam Shacks, and Fishmongers.” The book includes about a dozen Maine seafood markets, including the best-known markets in Portland. The markets and their recipes are not sorted by state, so it takes a little hunting to find those from Maine, but that’s OK.

With this book, availability of ingredients is more important than location. Who really cares if that luscious-looking lobster Benedict recipe originates in Rhode Island, as long as Maine lobster can be used in the dish?

The book is divided into many sections that go beyond Soups and Chowders, Lobster, and Cod and Haddock. Some of the more interesting recipes can be found under Seafood Cakes, Grilled Fish, Flounder and Sole, and something called New England Exotica. That last category includes recipes for Easy Baked Maple-Glazed Arctic Char from City Fish Market in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and Corned Hake and Potatoes from Fisherman’s Catch in Damariscotta.

884388_695222 Lobster Shacks Guide.jpg

Half of this book is dedicated to Maine lobster shacks from Kittery all the way up to Eastport. Courtesy photo

You’ll want to keep both of these books handy this summer – one in your car for when you hit the road looking for a lobster dinner, and one in your kitchen.

BACON-BOURBON SCALLOPS

From “Lobster Shacks: A Road-Trip Guide to New England’s Best Lobster Joints” by Mike Urban

Portland Lobster Company regularly rolls out this tasty dish as a special.

Serves 2-3

1 pound fresh jumbo scallops

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 ounces thick-cut bacon (preferably apple wood-smoked or similar), chopped

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup chopped shallots

3 ounces bourbon

1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

Lightly sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat the butter and olive oil in a pan on high heat until almost smoking. Add the scallops and bacon to pan and sear scallops quickly, about 30 seconds on each side. Do not lift or move scallops while searing. Remove scallops and set aside.

Add garlic and shallots to the now-empty pan, and sauté until they soften. Add bourbon, and carefully ignite to burn off alcohol. Once the flame subsides, add the brown sugar, heavy cream and 11/2 teaspoons of the fresh parsley. Reduce the sauce until the desired consistency is reached. Pour the sauce over the jumbo scallops and garnish with 1/2 teaspoon remaining parsley.

Clam Shack Seafood Market in Kennebunk keeps presidential swordfish stocked and ready for whenever President George H.W. Bush calls. The market has a decades-long relationship with the Bush family and their Walker’s Point staff, who are loyal customers. This recipe was handed down by longtime Bush family chef Ariel Guzman, who adapted it from a family friend’s recipe. Clam Shack Seafood has adapted it slightly.

PRESIDENTIAL SWORDFISH

From “The New England Seafood Markets Cookbook: Recipes from the best lobster pounds, clam shacks, and fishmongers” by Mike Urban

Serves 4

4 swordfish steaks, 6-8 ounces each

MARINADE

1 teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried onion

1/2 teaspoon dried garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 teaspoon dried coriander

2 cups mayonnaise

1/3 cup lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the spices and herbs. In a larger bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Add the herbs and spices to the mayonnaise mixture, and stir until smooth.

Place the swordfish steaks in a large, resealable plastic bag. Pour in the marinade, and move around the contents of the bag to make sure the steaks are covered and coated thoroughly. Refrigerate in the bag on a plate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat the outdoor grill. Grill the swordfish steaks over high heat for about 2 minutes per side, anticipating flare-ups from the marinade. The steaks will be ivory colored and golden brown around the edges when done.

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What can you add to granola? Whatever floats your oats http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/what-can-you-add-to-granola-whatever-floats-your-oats/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/18/what-can-you-add-to-granola-whatever-floats-your-oats/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=884424 Making granola is dead simple and ridiculously satisfying: You mix, bake, stir and then feel terrific about yourself and the pile of crunch you pull out of the oven.

It isn’t the same as hacking Oreos, ketchup or Sriracha at home. That stuff is difficult, and perfection is tough to achieve. But granola? A cinch! What you make at home will not just be as good as what you typically purchase, I can guarantee it will be better. Fresher, too.

And, best of all, it will be exactly what you want. Don’t like raisins? Skip ’em. Love cashews? Add ’em.

Notice, I didn’t say it would be cheaper. Good artisanal granola, made with excellent ingredients and no difficult-to-pronounce additives, is expensive in the stores and only slightly less expensive to make at home.

Savings might not be the prime reason to go DIY, but there are others: Homemade granola is fabulously delicious, pure and bespoke; the process is easy, fun and an all-around feel-good; and the cookielike bites that you can also make from the mix are both adorable and tasty.

Perhaps this explains why, developing the accompanying recipe for you, I worked through what must have been a field of oats and now have six quarts of granola in my pantry.

You probably can make granola with something other than oats, but oats are the usual backbone of the mix. If you are gluten-intolerant, make sure that you buy gluten-free oats.

And everyone should look for old-fashioned rolled oats. Instant or quick-cooking ones won’t produce the texture that’s such a big part of why we love granola.

Takeaway tips:

 The real musts in granola are oats, some kind of oil and a sweetener. For this granola, I use just three tablespoons of coconut or olive oil and a mix of brown sugar and honey. I’ve seen recipes without or with just a token amount of sugar, but I think it’s nice to have something sweet to play off the earthy flavors in the granola and the salt, which I consider a necessity as well.

 Once you’ve got these basics, just about everything else is up to you – the bespoke part. I like granola that has half as much nuts and seeds as oats, so I add pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a mix of whatever nuts I have on hand, which are typically almonds, pistachios and pecans. Although I suggest you chop the nuts, you don’t have to; I’ve seen great granolas made with whole nuts, but I think those are better for snacking than for breakfasting or sprinkling over yogurt.

In the accompanying recipe, I’ve added a few fun ingredients: millet and flax for crunch; wheat germ for depth (if you’re gluten-free, just add more oats); large coconut flakes for beauty, flavor and chew; vanilla to round all the flavors; and cocoa powder for surprise. The combo is great, but you can mix it up by adding spices, if you’d like, or omitting some of the crunches. You can even leave out the cocoa, but why would you want to?

Because I’m a big fan of dried fruit, I add it to the granola, but at the very end, so that it doesn’t get baked. Again, use what you love: snipped apricots, pears, figs, dates or apples (use scissors to cut the fruit into bite-size bits), golden or black raisins, cherries or cranberries. The key is to make sure the dried fruit is moist, which is kind of oxymoronish, but important. Shriveled fruit is hard to eat and harder to enjoy. If yours isn’t moist, give the fruit a good soak in hot water, pat it dry and then stir it into the just-baked granola.

If you want to make my Granola Bites – granola mixed with brown rice syrup, pressed into muffin tins and baked until they’re super-crispy and puckish (think round energy bars) – spoon out the three cups of granola you’ll need to make them and add the fruit to what’s left in the bowl. Fruit baked into the bites has a tendency to harden and get overly browned.

Play with the recipe and let me know what you add – or subtract. This is definitely a make-it-your-own project.

DORIE GREENSPAN’S COCOA CRUNCH FRUIT AND NUT GRANOLA

Makes 14 servings (6½ cups to 7 cups)

To make Granola Bites, you’ll use 3 cups of the baked granola and omit adding any dried fruit. See the variation, below.

Packed in tightly closed containers – humidity is granola’s foe – the granola will keep for at least 1 month. The Granola Bites will be good for at least 1 week.

¼ cup (packed) light brown sugar

¼ cup honey

3 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil

2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

1 cup mixed chopped nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts

½ cup hulled, unsalted pumpkin seeds

½ cup hulled, unsalted sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons wheat germ (may substitute old-fashioned oats)

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons millet (optional, but nice for crunch)

1 tablespoon flaxseed (optional)

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes or shredded coconut

½ cup moist, plump dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries, snipped apricots, apples and/or pears (see note)

Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 325 degrees F. Have two 9-by-13-inch Pyrex baking dishes at hand. (If you have only metal pans, line them with parchment paper.)

Combine the brown sugar, honey and coconut oil or olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, just until the sugar dissolves.

Combine the oats, nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, wheat germ, cocoa powder, millet and flaxseed, if using, and the sea salt in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the warm oil mixture, add the vanilla extract and stir, preferably with a flexible spatula, until everything is evenly moistened. Scrape the mixture into the baking dishes, gently spreading it out evenly. Bake on the upper and lower racks for 20 minutes, then stir, making sure to dislodge any bits that may have stuck to the baking dishes. Rotate the baking dishes top to bottom and front to back, stir and bake for 20 minutes.

Stir once again, but this time stir in the shredded or flaked coconut. Bake for 5 minutes or until the coconut is very lightly toasted; the total baking time should be between 45 and 50 minutes. Scrape the baked granola into a big bowl, then stir in the dried fruit.

Once the granola comes to room temperature, use your hands to break up the clumps that will have formed.

VARIATION: To make Granola Bites, preheat the oven to 300 degrees (instead of 325). Use baker’s spray to generously grease the 24 wells of two standard-size muffin pans. Combine 3 cups of the baked granola (without dried fruit), ½ cup of brown rice syrup and 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a mixing bowl, stirring to coat evenly. Divide the mixture evenly among the muffin pan wells, using the bottom of a jar or glass wrapped in plastic wrap to compact the granola. Bake (middle rack) for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans front to back halfway through, until the syrup, which will have bubbled, has settled down and the bites are deeply golden. Transfer the muffin pans to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then use a table knife to pop the bites out. Place them on racks to cool to room temperature before serving or storing.

NOTE: While the granola is in the oven, check your dried fruit. If it’s not soft and plump, put it in a bowl, cover with very hot tap water and let it soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Right before you’re ready for it, drain the fruit and pat it dry.

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‘Paleo Perfected’ by America’s Test Kitchen http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/cookbook-review-paleo-perfected-by-americas-test-kitchen/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/cookbook-review-paleo-perfected-by-americas-test-kitchen/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874386 “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen. $26.95

I’ve long been conscious of the in-your-face carbohydrates, like rice, pasta and potatoes, but around the beginning of the year I started to make a concerted effort to also avoid the ones that are otherwise considered healthy, like apples, chickpeas and yogurt.

One plus side of a low-carb diet – on top of filling up quicker and feeling lighter – is that you’re supposed to eat more fat, so I don’t have to hesitate before topping something with cheese.

The downside is that it takes a bit more creativity to put together a complete meal. There are only so many times you can eat zucchini “noodles” or cauliflower “rice.”

Luckily, the popularity of the paleo diet – which largely overlaps with a low-carb one – bore books upon blogs of new recipes. “Paleo Perfected” by America’s Test Kitchen is the best compilation I’ve seen, complete with pictures for every recipe.

While it does sport those zucchini noodles on the cover and suggests serving dishes over cauliflower rice, the recipes in the book offer ways to infuse flavor into those foods that I never would have imagined.

Herbs, spices and shallots can turn ground-up cauliflower into a curried version of the fake rice, and zucchini noodles can be used to replace pasta in more ways than under red sauce. With tahini and sesame seeds, they can turn into a Asian noodle salad, or they can take the place of egg noodles in chicken soup.

Soups are one of the meals I found easiest to adapt to a low-carb diet. Usually, all it takes is leaving out an ingredient and, most of the time, I didn’t miss it.

Although I eventually gave up a strict adherence to the diet, that trick has stuck with me.

While many southwestern chicken soup recipes call for rice, black beans or corn, along with tortilla strips on top, the one in “Paleo Perfected” packs all the flavor without the carbs, or corresponding calories. The heat from the spices and the jalapeño is balanced by the toppings – coolness from the avocado, acid from the lime and freshness from the radishes and cilantro.

Since I don’t have a slow cooker, I simply seared, then simmered the seasoned chicken in water until it was ready to shred, then used that water as the base for the soup, with some store-brought broth added. (The recipe calls for the book’s paleo chicken broth, which is just water, chicken, olive oil, salt and bay leaves, all strained.)

Although many of the recipes in “Paleo Perfected” call for ingredients that I imagine only dedicated paleo followers will have, like coconut aminos and tapioca flour, there are many good suggestions, from stuffed mushrooms to garlicky Swiss chard, that would make for healthier appetizers to serve to carb-conscious guests or more well-rounded meals for dieters sick of grilled chicken salad.

SLOW-COOKER SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN SOUP

For the paleo broth the recipe calls for, I used water from cooking the chicken and some store-bought broth. I did not use a slow-cooker. Instead, I seasoned the chicken and seared it in oil in the bottom of a saucepan, then covered it with water and simmered it until it was cooked through. I then added the flavored onion-chile mixture to the pot, and I skipped step 2. On the stovetop, I cooked my soup for another half-hour.

Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped fine

1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded and minced

Kosher salt and pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teaspoons chipotle chile powder

8 cups paleo chicken broth

3 (12-ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, trimmed

1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tomatoes, cored and chopped

2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

4 radishes, trimmed and sliced thin

½ cup cilantro leaves

Lime wedges, to serve

1. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, jalapeño and 1 tablespoon salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, garlic, oregano, cumin and chile powder and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup broth, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the skillet; transfer the mixture to slow-cooker.

2. Stir remaining 7 cups broth into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and nestle into slow cooker. Cover and cook until chicken is tender, 3 to 5 hours on low.

3. Transfer chicken to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks; discard skin and bones.

4. Using wide, shallow spoon, skim excess fat from surface of soup. Stir in zucchini, cover, and cook on high until tender, about 30 minutes.

5. Stir in shredded chicken and let sit until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top individual portions with tomatoes, avocados, radishes and cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

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Bread & Butter: For Black Dinah Chocolatiers, adjustment from island life is under construction http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/bread-butter-chefs-on-the-job-for-black-dinah-chocolatiers-the-move-from-tiny-remote-isle-au-haut-to-comparatively-bustling-westbrook-has-been-continues-to-be-an-adjustme/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/11/bread-butter-chefs-on-the-job-for-black-dinah-chocolatiers-the-move-from-tiny-remote-isle-au-haut-to-comparatively-bustling-westbrook-has-been-continues-to-be-an-adjustme/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=874431 EDITOR’S NOTE: This week, we inaugurate a periodic Food + Dining column in which we ask Maine chefs to share recipes and give us firsthand accounts of their lives in the food business. This is the first of three columns by Black Dinah Chocolatiers co-founder Kate Shaffer.

It’s an ordinary Thursday afternoon in Westbrook. I am sitting at my desk at Black Dinah Chocolatiers’ new facility on Main Street, typing up production notes for the coming week, when a major earthquake startles me out of my chair (and my glass-walled office) and under the nearest door frame.

I’m alone, so am only slightly embarrassed when I realize that it’s not actually an earthquake, but rather the army of road equipment that is tearing up our parking lot, pounding the earth into submission. The corner of Main and Bridge streets – our corner – is undergoing a major facelift, which includes two new bridges over the river, new sidewalks, new roads and a new parking lot. The construction explains the daily flashbacks I’m having to my California childhood, and also why the usual steady stream of customers to our sweets shop, which is attached to our factory, has slowed to a trickle.

I know that it will be over in the next couple of weeks and ultimately that the construction will bring us more business. And in a funny way, the earth-shaking demolition and re-building is an apt metaphor for my own life: I feel blasted from my own foundations, blown away by how much things have changed in the last 10 months.

Our new facility is 4,200 square feet of brand-new, state-of-the-art, squeaky-clean materials, and it’s beautiful. But it’s a far cry from where Black Dinah got its start – my husband Steve’s and my tiny flagship location on remote Isle au Haut, 3 1/2 hours north of here and 45 minutes out to sea. This time of year, a staff member might arrive with heaps of fresh-caught halibut, and we’d share a lunch of it on our café’s sun-dappled deck, serenaded by migrating birds and wood frogs, amid budding maples, the stream burbling behind our café. No matter how shiny and new the stainless steel and copper are here in Westbrook, they can’t compete with that.

I might be romanticizing. Running a growing business from a beautiful but remote outpost like Isle au Haut is no small feat. We started making hand-crafted chocolate confections from our island kitchen in 2007. After receiving widespread press and a few national awards, we expanded our production, moved it to a dedicated facility on our island property and hired our neighbors to work with us. Before long, the business outgrew the new space. And the romance of our location, which sometimes attracted new customers, began to frustrate them, too.

“Why aren’t you in stores in southern Maine?” I can’t tell you how many times I heard this question from someone reluctantly paying shipping on a small order to a Portland address. Or, “Why are you so hard to find?!” from an over-heated summer tourist stumbling through our café door. Not to mention our own island-based frustrations – high overhead, shipping delays because of bad weather, the pure physical stress of lugging our ever-growing number of supplies on and off the mail boat. The move to the mainland last June was the right, the inevitable, decision. Still, my heart aches every day for Isle au Haut.

I am shaken from my thoughts by another round of pounding from the parking lot, and then surprised by a tentative “Hello?” from someone in our retail store. I walk in from my adjacent office, and face what feels a lot like a scene from the past: a somewhat bewildered-looking customer, his face tinged with frustration. He throws up his hands. “You were easier to find on Isle au Haut!”

Shaking off life’s little ironies is second-nature for the small business owner. I fight the momentary urge to sigh, defeated, and instead, smile, and offer my customer a sample. The chocolate placates him as he savors what he has presumably made the arduous journey to Westbrook to find. I apologize for the construction, and 15 minutes later, he leaves like so many of our island customers have in the past: laden with chocolate and proud that he successfully navigated his way to this secret spot in the wilds of Westbrook.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. We want to continue to grow our business, and the new location will let us do that. What took us one, sometimes two weeks on the island, can now be done in a single day. Specialized equipment and much more space account for some of the time savings, but most of it is sheer logistics. In Westbrook, we have easier access to materials, to shipping, to fresh ingredients and to labor. It’s a dramatic game-changer.

After almost a year here, though, I’ve realized that in many ways, we’re starting the business all over again. There’s the expected – dealing with bigger spaces, bigger numbers, new and different challenges. But there’s also this sense of newness, that ever-present parent-of-a-newborn-fear that if you leave your baby alone for even a single second, something is bound to go wrong. The need to constantly nurture, feed and build. And the knowledge that there is, again, a very long road ahead of us.

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers's homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo

Kate Shaffer, in Black Dinah Chocolatiers’s homier space on tiny, remote Isle au Haut. Courtesy photo

Hopefully.

The bewildered customer today isn’t alone. I hear his story several times a month. And when the Fed-Ex or UPS guys chide us for being so hard to get to in the middle of all this construction, we smile and nod, and stop ourselves from whining, “Yeah, but you should have seen where we USED to be!” The truth is, I feel lucky to be here. I feel lucky that our crew takes such care with everything they make. I feel lucky that they, too, recognize the value of the space they work in. Every single one of us knows what it took to get here. But every once in a while, Steve and I come home from work and wonder if we’re up to the challenge. It’s then that I remember the island spruce needles and twigs we built a company out of in the first place, and say, “Hey, babe. We’ve already done the impossible.” Haven’t we?

Kate Shaffer and her husband, Steve Shaffer, co-own Black Dinah Chocolatiers in Westbrook and Isle au Haut. Kate Shaffer is the author of “Desserted: Recipes and Tales from an Island Chocolatier.” Kate Shaffer can be contacted at: info@BlackDinah Chocolatiers.com

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This Mother’s Day, consider an especially delicious roast bird http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/this-mothers-day-consider-an-especially-delicious-roast-bird/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/this-mothers-day-consider-an-especially-delicious-roast-bird/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863915 Ever since my parents came to England in 1972, my mum has had a wild love affair with roast chicken.

The only thing she loves even more is her family and unfortunately for her, my dad is a vegetarian. So for 41 years now, her opportunities to turn the oven on, throw caution to the wind and put a beautiful bird in to roast have been limited. She’s simply too loving a wife to torment my dad like that.

That’s why every Mother’s Day, there is only one thing that we will cook: tandoori roast chicken. But this isn’t just any old roast chicken; it is one worthy of a feast. It has all the merits of a normal roast chicken, flavorful crispy skin, butter-soft meat and largely fuss-free prep, but it is much more elegant and celebratory.

The chicken is made tender with a marinade of yogurt and lemon juice, then enlivened with earthy cumin, garam masala, ginger and garlic. Once the ingredients have been blended into a paste, all that’s needed is a quick rub down and rest (the chicken, not you) before it goes into the oven, leaving you free and out of the kitchen.

It’s the only time of the year we force our father into the kitchen to help with the sides (supervised, of course). But given that there are plentiful greens around this time of year, they are quick and easy, too. We love to serve this with spring’s finest asparagus, peas and spinach, a little lime pickle, toasted naan bread and some crisp white wine.

All of this fuss-free cooking allows us more time for a relaxing family lunch together. Until we need to tackle the washing up, that is.

TANDOORI ROAST CHICKEN

You will need a blender to make the marinade. I like to marinate the chicken first thing in the morning to give it time for the flavors to mingle.

Makes 4 servings

4-pound whole chicken, giblets removed

3 green serrano chilies, roughly chopped

6 cloves garlic

1 thumb-sized piece ginger

1 tablespoon garam masala

1/2 tablespoon cumin seeds

3/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)

2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

Line a roasting pan with foil, then place the chicken in the center.

Combine all remaining ingredients except the yogurt in a blender, then puree until reduced to a fine paste. Mix in the yogurt. Rub the yogurt mixture over all parts of the chicken, then refrigerate and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F.

Roast the chicken, not covered, on the oven’s middle shelf for 40 minutes. Baste the chicken with any juices in the pan, then lightly cover with foil.

Roast for another 40 minutes, or until the meat reaches 170 F at the thigh and 165 F at the breast. Remove the chicken from the oven, leaving it covered, and set aside to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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For Mother’s Day, a chat with mother-daughter Mediterranean cooking experts http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/chop-chop-for-mothers-day-we-chat-with-mother-daughter-mediterranean-cooking-experts-writer-nancy-harmon-jenkins-and-chef-sara-jenkins/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/chop-chop-for-mothers-day-we-chat-with-mother-daughter-mediterranean-cooking-experts-writer-nancy-harmon-jenkins-and-chef-sara-jenkins/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863924 In the case of cookbook author Nancy Harmon Jenkins and her daughter, chef Sara Jenkins, the chestnut didn’t fall far from the tree. Aside from cooking, writing and a deep curiosity about “why food becomes the way it does,” as Sara Jenkins puts it, the pair share a love for their olive farm in Tuscany, especially the picnic table set under two ancient chestnut trees with a view down the valley into Umbria. “We’ve been feasting around it for 40 years,” Sara Jenkins said.

With Mother’s Day on our mind, we spoke with the mother-daughter culinary dynamo, Nancy Harmon Jenkins calling in from Camden, where she lives, and Sara Jenkins from New York City, her home of many years. Mom is a 13th-generation Mainer and an expert on the cooking of the Mediterranean, with eight cookbooks (and two non-food books) to her name. Daughter is the chef of two beloved Manhattan eateries – the sandwich shop Porchetta and the pasta-centric Porsena – and is set to move to Maine next month with her husband and 9-year-old son to open a Mediterranean restaurant in Rockport. She is also the co-author of two cookbooks and a former columnist for The Atlantic website. Mother and daughter recently collaborated on their first book together, “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Our conversation touched on picky eaters, chowder and which of the two is the better cook.

Q: Nancy, was passing on your love of food to Sara intentional, the way my mother wanted her children to learn a musical instrument?

NHJ: No, not at all. I think it came about as a result of our living in so many places. I’ve always had this theory that the way to get into another culture is through its food. We lived in Spain twice. We lived in Paris. We lived in Beirut. And we lived in Hong Kong, all before we ended up in Italy, and in all of those places food was very important. (Her former husband was a foreign correspondent.) Sara and her brother always went out to eat with us. A lot of the time we spent on the weekends was around a big table full of food. That’s just what you do in those parts of the world. She grew up with good tastes in her mouth.

Q: But did you teach her to cook?

NHJ: People always want to think that Sara learned to cook by standing at her mother’s knee in the kitchen, and she didn’t. I think you learned more from Mita than you did from me, didn’t you Sara? Mita was our Italian neighbor and she was, in effect, the Italian nonna, grandmother, of my children.

Q: Did Sara hang around you in the kitchen when she was young?

NHJ: She mostly had her nose stuck in a book. She was a picky eater, we always say that.

Q: Any advice for the parents of picky eaters?

SJ: They should chill out. As long as your kid is eating healthy foods, who cares?

Q: Sara, are you teaching your own son to cook?

SJ: I take a tact with my child that my job is to see what he is interested in and encourage that, as opposed to impose my interest. But he’s a really picky eater. He likes pasta with tomato sauce. He likes fruits of every kind. He did have a Tibetan nanny as a child, so he’s really into dumplings. That’s probably the most exotic thing he eats.

Q: So, Sara, if you were a picky eater, when did you begin to enjoy food?

SJ: When I came back to the States when I was 15 years old. I had never thought much about what was put in front of me. I came back to boarding school in Maine. I was just appalled. I remember ordering a pizza in Bethel and being really puzzled. It wasn’t a pizza the way I thought of pizza.

Q: How was it different?

SJ: I think I ordered tomato pizza and what I got was a pizza with slices of plum tomato. That wasn’t what I meant. I probably meant pizza margherita. It didn’t occur to me that there was any variation on what I ordered. So you’re standing there wondering “What’s the problem? What did I do wrong?”

Q: Had you lived in Maine before?

SJ: No.

NHJ: But they came back every summer.

SJ: My aunt always says we were trained to demand lobster the minute we came over the state border. But when you live in Maine, it’s not as though you eat lobster on a daily basis.

NHJ: Although my mother was a great one for handing out lobster whenever the occasion demanded it. We used to have lobster for Thanksgiving. We used to have lobster for Christmas. Lobster for birthdays. I think my mother just loved lobster and loved any occasion to eat it.

Q: Nancy, were you pleased Sara became a chef?

NHJ: Very much pleased. I was a little bit surprised because she trained as a photographer and worked as a photographer. She really had a natural feel for the kitchen and the restaurant kitchen in particular. She had found her métier. And I think a parent is always happy when a child has found her métier. It means you can stop worrying about them a little bit.

Q: How about your son? Does he cook well?

NHJ: He’s a very good cook, but (disapproving tone) he’s a vegetarian.

Q: So that’s a bad thing?

NHJ: It’s kind of limiting. But he’s a very good vegetarian cook.

Q: What is your favorite dish of Sara’s?

NHJ: I just love the anelloni with lamb sausage and greens. I think it’s a fabulous dish. (See recipe.)

Q: Sara, what did your mother teach you about food and cooking?

SJ: I learned her respect for ingredients.

Q: Did she encourage your love of food and cooking?

SJ: No, not necessarily.

NHJ: You didn’t think I encouraged you?

SJ: I don’t think you discouraged me. But I just kind of took off with it. You were supportive.

NHJ: Yeah, certainly was. Still am.

Q: Do you have a favorite dish of your mother’s?

SJ: Oh yes, her chowder.

NHJ: Clam or fish or corn?

SJ: Lobster.

NHJ: It probably is Sam Hayward’s recipe for lobster chowder.

SJ: No, you’ve been making it much longer than that.

NHJ: That’s true. But Sam has sharpened my technique.

Q: Who is the better cook?

NHJ: She is far and away a better cook than I am. Which is not to say that I am a bad cook. She is speedy in the kitchen. She is focused in the kitchen. Things don’t fail her the way they fail me.

SJ: Honestly, I would agree.

NHJ: That you’re a better cook?

SJ: It’s not that you’re not a great cook and you don’t make fabulous delicious foods, but I have better skills. I do it professionally.

Q: What sparked your collaboration on “The Four Seasons of Pasta”?

SJ: It was (former New York Times food writer) Molly O’Neill. We wanted to do an e-book with her. It never came to fruition.

NHJ: She wanted us to do 25 winter pastas. So we did them. (The e-book) never came to anything, but there we were with these recipes. We thought, why not do spring and summer and fall? And we did, and we sold it to an agent and there we were on the road to fame and fortune. More fame than fortune, I’m afraid.

Q: How did you handle the mechanics of writing together?

SJ: Some recipes were very much mine, some were very much Nancy’s. Some we discussed. I always tell everybody that you didn’t want to make the pasta con sarde with sardines because you didn’t want people having to clean the sardines.

NHJ: I didn’t think you could get sardines. Here even in the capital – what used to be the capital – of sardine country, you can’t get them. But you can get them in New York, I guess. It’s a Sicilian traditional dish, and I think it’s wonderful. I’ve made it in Italy, but I’ve never made it here in the States.

Q: So did you include the sardine recipe in the end?

SJ: Yes, yes, we did.

Q: Sorry, to end with a bit of a snoozer, but I’m thinking readers will want to know. What are your favorite restaurants in Maine and New York?

SJ: I would say Long Grain (in Camden).

NHJ: Yes. Long Grain. And there is Bagaduce Lunch in Brooksville. It depends what you are looking for. Fore Street and Primo are still two great restaurants we have in Maine. My favorite restaurant in New York is, oddly enough, Porcena.

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Maine Ingredient: Be a sweet baby and start Mom’s day with a Dutch treat http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-ingredient-be-a-sweet-baby-and-start-moms-day-with-a-dutch-treat/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/maine-ingredient-be-a-sweet-baby-and-start-moms-day-with-a-dutch-treat/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=863972 A Dutch baby – basically a cross between a pancake and a popover – is such a fun thing to make for breakfast or brunch on Mother’s Day. If breakfast, serve it with some crisp bacon, sautéed Canadian bacon or smoked salmon on the side; if brunch, add a beautiful spring salad to make it a meal.

APPLE DUTCH BABY

Simple and easy to put together, the pancake puffs impressively in the oven like a soufflé. It begins to deflate almost immediately, so serve it quickly!

Makes 4 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cups cored, peeled and sliced medium-tart apples such as Macoun or Gala

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup milk, whole or low-fat

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup all-purpose flour

Powdered sugar for sifting over top

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In an 11- or 12-inch skillet, preferably cast-iron, with ovenproof handle, melt the butter. Spoon out 2 tablespoons of the butter and transfer it to a large bowl. To the remaining butter in the skillet, add the apples. Cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and continue to cook until sugar dissolves and lightly caramelizes and the apples are tender, about 5 more minutes.

Break eggs into the bowl with reserved butter. Add salt, milk and vanilla, and whisk well to blend. Place flour in a sieve, sift over the egg mixture and whisk gently but thoroughly until combined.

Spread apples out in an even layer in the bottom of the skillet and pour batter over. Bake in preheated oven until pancake is puffed and golden and crisp around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes.

Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar and serve immediately, cut in wedges. (Remember that the skillet handle is hot!)

LEAFY GREENS WITH STRAWBERRIES, SMOKED ALMONDS AND CHEVRE

A lovely spring salad combo – leafy greens, sweet-tart strawberries, smoked almonds and tangy goat cheese – that pairs perfectly with the Dutch baby. It’s too pretty to toss, so arrange the salad on a large shallow platter or on individual plates and pass the dressing on the side. Substitute one of the bagged mesclun mixes if you prefer.

Make 4 to 5 servings

WHITE WINE VINAIGRETTE:

¼ cup white wine vinegar

1 medium shallot, minced

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

½ cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:

4 ounces (4 cups) baby spinach

1 small head frisee or other similar greens (about 5 ounces), torn into bite-size pieces

½ cup coarsely chopped smoked almonds

1½ cups sliced strawberries

1/3 cup goat cheese, broken into 1/2-inch clumps

For the dressing, whisk together vinegar, shallot and Worcestershire in a small bowl or plastic container. Whisk in the oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Put spinach and frisee in a salad bowl and toss to combine. Scatter nuts, strawberries and cheese over the top. Serve dressing in a small pitcher on the side.

Brooke Dojny’s most recent cookbook is “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and is on Facebook:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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Cookbook review: “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two” http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/cookbook-review-comfort-and-joy-cooking-for-two/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/04/cookbook-review-comfort-and-joy-cooking-for-two/#comments Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=864026 “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two.” By Christina Lane. The Countryman Press, 2015. $24.95

I had notions of romantic dinners and candlelight when I picked up “Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two,” but as I flipped through it, I had a hard time getting into the mood.

I kept bursting out laughing instead.

Maybe I’ve been cooking for too many people for too long to appreciate author Christina Lane’s niche market of “for two” cookbooks (she also wrote “Dessert for Two”), but I kept thinking these recipes require a lot of time for not much payoff.

And once I saw the recipes that way (16 ingredients, prep and oven time of about an hour – for two carrot cake muffins?) I couldn’t unsee it. “Thanksgiving Dinner for Two?” “Two Mugs of Hot Chocolate?” “Two Mugs of Eggnog?”

Do people really cook this way? Haven’t you ever wanted leftovers to take to work the next day?

And then there was the one recipe where I think I actually snorted out loud: “Baked Bacon,” which is, er, putting four strips of bacon in the oven. Lane’s thoughts? “So meaty!”

I almost felt bad about my cynical take on the cookbook, but I lived alone for decades, so it’s not like I’m unfamiliar with small-batch meals. This cookbook, despite its beautiful pictures and high quality production, takes a decent concept and doesn’t quite deliver. The recipes are either unnecessary (I’m good with hot chocolate and bacon, thanks) a bit too precious (“Homemade marshmallows”) or seem like something you would automatically double even if you were serving only two people.

But I do see the wisdom of small-batch sweets – sometimes cooking dozens of cookies at a time is too much. So I went with the gingersnaps, which Lane says is a favorite family recipe: “I loved anything my grandmother made, but these cookies have to be my all-time favorite.”

The snaps were great, but next time I’m doubling the recipe.

SOFT AND CHEWY GINGERSNAPS

Yield: 1 dozen cookies

1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for rolling

1 large egg white

2 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium-size bowl, beat together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the egg white and molasses and mix well.

Add the remaining dry ingredients on top and beat until just combined.

Have ready a shallow bowl filled with extra sugar for rolling the cookies.

Roll tablespoon-size chunks of dough into 1-inch balls. You should get about a dozen cookies. Roll each cookie in sugar. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes.

Let cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will be very soft, but they will firm up as they cool.

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Dandelion greens are one man’s weed, another man’s treasure http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/green-plate-specialone-mans-weed-is-another-mans-treasure/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/01/green-plate-specialone-mans-weed-is-another-mans-treasure/#comments Sun, 01 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=856916 Monsanto’s Roundup has rendered one of my childhood memories – picking tender dandelion greens with my Italian grandmothers in springtime – a little hazy. The herbicide curtailed the proliferation of this slightly bitter delicacy as so many Americans deem them a menace to manicured lawns.

Before chemist John E. Franz discovered the herbicide glyphosate in the early 1970s, I happily led my mom’s mom along the grassy hillside upon which her house perched, easily finding the dandelions whose leaves were no longer than the 4-inch blade of her pickin’ knife. In her opinion, these smaller, only slightly bitter leaves were best eaten raw in salads (which I love) while the longer, more bitter ones that resemble the cultivated dandelion greens found in grocery stores today, were best simmered slowly with garlic and salt pork (which I loathe). The flowers went to my Uncle John (born Giacomo Luigi Piacquadio) who made dandelion wine with the first pressing of the flowers and grappa with the second. Waste not, eat (and drink) well, was a family mantra.

Dandelions were a delicious stop gap solution in early spring before we could fill our salad bowls with tender lettuce leaves from my mom’s garden. Foraging experts in Maine can name a whole host of springtime salad substitutes found in the wild. Josh Fecteau, who leads weekly foraging and birding workshops in York and Cumberland Counties, says the ones that most often land in his salad bowl are violet leaves, which are smooth and a grassy green and taste like young spinach without the tannic aftertaste. His salads are garnished with their delicate purple flowers whose sweet finish lingers. He’s also a fan of the young leaves of the American linden (aka basswood or the salad tree, heart-shaped, light green, the size of a dessert plate and very lettuce-like.

An early spring foraged green Fecteau stirs into soups are garlic-mustard shoots, whose leaves are shaped like a knight’s shield and whose taste is self-explanatory. Unlike more popular wild edibles like fiddleheads and ramps, whose continued existence is threatened by market demand, garlic-mustard is an invasive species that spreads rapidly in many woodland areas, displacing native wildflowers, tree seedlings and wildlife. Eating them, then, is beneficial on many levels.

Chris Knapp of the Koviashuvik Local Living School in Temple is conducting a two-hour class on Friday, May 13, called Wild Salad for Kids and an all-day workshop entitled Wild Greens for the Common Table the following Sunday, May 22. Like me, he’s a lover of dandelions, and he also favors basswood leaves like Fecteau. But the trout lily, with its picturesque yellow flower, is his foraged ornamental salad ingredient of choice.

When I asked Knapp if his pristine location gave him better access to quality wild edibles than the average Maine resident living in town, he said no. “There really are no truly pristine spots for foraging. You have to take responsible environmental precautions wherever you are,” Knapp said. The best places to find edible greens are in what he called “transitional zones” – the edges of fields before the forest thickens; the banks of streams; along roadsides if you pick up hill from where traffic passes; and, in your neighborhood if you know for certain your neighbors don’t use Roundup. And as a matter of sustainability, never take more than one-quarter of any edible you find in the wild at any one time.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at cburn1227@gmail.com

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Horseradish prepared at home could make you give up the bottled http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/horseradish-prepared-at-home-could-make-you-give-up-the-bottled/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/horseradish-prepared-at-home-could-make-you-give-up-the-bottled/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854051 Horseradish – a member of the mustard family native to Eastern and Central Europe – has been enjoyed by people since antiquity. Even so, when Peter Kump, one of my mentors, wrote in praise of the root in 1992, he argued well that horseradish remained vastly underappreciated.

Sure, we know it as a key ingredient of cocktail sauces and as one of the five bitter herbs served at a Passover seder. But fewer people know it for how well it complements roasted meats, poultry and fish, he said.

If anything, Kump may have understated its usefulness. Food historian Waverly Root wrote that some ancient populations ate copious amounts of horseradish in winter for its warming qualities and that Roman philosophers recommended horseradish to treat all manner of ailments.

Modern chefs have always loved horseradish, but now, increasingly, you can find it in the produce section of the supermarket, making it easy to add it to your home culinary tool kit.

So let’s talk about two kinds of horseradish: fresh and homemade prepared. In search of fresh horseradish at the supermarket, look for a firm, off-white root with no soft spots or cuts.

Peeled, it should appear smooth and white inside. Potent as horseradish can be, sometimes just a hint of it is enough. In that case, peel and grate the fresh vegetable on top of your finished dish right before serving. Raw, it’s almost sweet.

But if you want to make your own prepared horseradish similar to what you’d buy jarred – a fierce batch that will last for several weeks in the fridge – you’ll need to start with quite a bit of freshly grated horseradish. If you try to do the job with a hand-grater, you’ll be sawing away for hours. Here’s a much faster and easier way; cut the root into 1-inch chunks and grind them in a food processor.

However – and please pay attention here – once you’ve ground the root, you must treat it like a dangerous gas.

Horseradish contains strong and volatile oils that are released when it is chopped or crushed. That’s why you need to stand at arm’s length from the processor as you remove the lid, then keep your distance for a few minutes before spooning it out of the processor. If you don’t keep your distance, at least initially, you’ll tear up worse than if you’d just chopped a bushel of onions.

Oddly enough, 10 minutes later all the wind has gone out of this storm. The horseradish becomes quite mild, even boring. What do you do to preserve horseradish’s trademark heat? Add vinegar, and do it quickly, before the flavor starts to fade.

Your homemade condiment will taste sharper and cleaner than the stuff in the bottle and can be used in any dish to which you used to add the bottled stuff.

Here, I’ve combined our prepared horseradish with mayonnaise and mustard to form a super-tangy glue for the crumbs adorning some steaks. It would be equally wonderful with fish. For that matter, it’ll add a nice kick to just about any spring dish you can name.

PETITE STEAKS WITH HOMEMADE PREPARED HORSERADISH CRUST

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (recipe below)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1-1/2 pounds petite fillet or flat-iron steaks or boneless short ribs, cut crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces

Heat the oven to broil.

In a large, oven-safe skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the garlic and rosemary and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until they have turned slightly golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, then add the potato chips and stir well. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish and mustard, then season with salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining oil in the skillet over high heat. Season the steaks on both sides with salt and pepper, then sear for 1 minute per side.

Working quickly, spread the horseradish mixture generously on one side of each steak, then top the mixture with the breadcrumb mixture, pressing it down gently. Transfer the skillet to the oven’s middle shelf and broil until the crumbs are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide the steaks among serving plates, along with any juices from the skillet. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

HOMEMADE PREPARED HORSERADISH

Makes about 1/2 cup

2-ounce piece peeled fresh horseradish, cut into 1-inch chunks

2-1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In a food processor, process the horseradish until it is very finely chopped. Keeping your eyes averted when you remove the lid from the food processor, transfer the horseradish to a bowl and stir in the vinegar and salt. Let stand for 10 minutes before using.

Sara Moulton is the host of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including “Cooking Live.” Her latest cookbook is “Home Cooking 101.”

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Three tips for a better, easier breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/3-tips-for-a-better-easier-breakfast-in-bed-on-mothers-day/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/3-tips-for-a-better-easier-breakfast-in-bed-on-mothers-day/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854057 Breakfast in bed is a love language in our home. Anytime there is a special occasion to celebrate – a birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, whatever – the rest of the family follows an unspoken agreement to meet early in the kitchen to craft a breakfast-in-bed tray. I’m always first to the kitchen, and as I get the project rolling my daughters show up one at a time, bleary-eyed and clutching handmade crafts or cards and some flowers picked from the garden.

As the team leader for many of the breakfasts our family has orchestrated over the years, I’ve developed a few best practices. And my No. 1 tip: Do the bulk of the work the night before. Overnight breakfast recipes are key. The (critical) decorating of the tray with small kiddos sucks up a surprising amount of time, leaving precious little space for complex recipe execution in the morning.

Tip No. 2: Serve something a little special. Stepping outside the routine breakfast menu has incredible power to make the whole morning feel like a party.

Tip No. 3: Keep in mind the logistics of eating off a tray while mostly reclined in bed. Cereal, aside from breaking rule No. 2, is just about impossible to eat in bed without spilling. And while you don’t need to be limited to finger food, think twice before getting too cozy with messy and liquid-based meal ideas. (It takes weeks for the smell of maple syrup to leave a comforter after a serious spill. Listen to the voice of experience on this one.)

So what dish covers all these bases? And is healthy? Egg strata, which layers bread, eggs, meat and veggies all in one dish. I make mine in a muffin tin, which results in perfect portioning, pretty presentation and the flexibility to pick up breakfast with your hands or use a fork and knife. I use white whole-grain bread and a combination of eggs and egg whites to keep the nutrient profile reasonable. So even your morning breakfast party can boost your day with protein and fiber.

EASY OVERNIGHT INDIVIDUAL EGG STRATA

Makes 8 servings

8 slices of white whole-grain bread

2 small breakfast sausage links or 1 large link chicken sausage, mild or spicy (uncooked), casings removed

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped button or mixed mushrooms

4 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and excess liquid squeezed out

1/4 cup (2 ounces) light cream cheese

1/4 cup salsa

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 whole eggs

2 egg whites

3/4 cup low-fat milk

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 8 thin slices

1/4 cup shredded Gruyere, Swiss or cheddar cheese

Cut the crusts off the bread, then cut the crusts into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Use the palm of your hand to lightly press the slices of bread flat, making them thin and a little doughy. Coat the cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray, then gently press 1 slice into each cup, creating 8 little crusts. Set aside.

In a medium saute pan over medium-high, cook the sausage, crumbling with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add the spinach, cream cheese and salsa, then cook for another 2 minutes (the mushrooms will not be fully cooked). Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard. Allow to cool for several minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites and milk until frothy. Add the slightly cooled mushroom and sausage mixture and stir to combine. Season with generous pinches each of salt and pepper. Place a few cubes of bread crust in each muffin cup, then spoon the egg mixture on top. You may not need all of the bread crusts. Lay 1 slice of tomato on top of each tart, then 1/2 tablespoon of cheese over that.

Cover the muffin tray with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 F. Bake for 15 minutes covered, then remove the foil and continue baking until the eggs are firm, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”

melissadarabian.net

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Shrimp pasta relies on orange peel for unique flavor http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/shrimp-pasta-relies-on-orange-peel-for-unique-flavor/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/shrimp-pasta-relies-on-orange-peel-for-unique-flavor/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=853958 Orange peel adds intriguing flavor to this shrimp and tomato pasta dish. Fresh basil and Parmesan cheese add additional flavor. This colorful dish is served over a bed of rotelli (corkscrew pasta.) The shrimp cook quickly in the tomato and orange sauce.

A salad with cannellini beans – large white Italian kidney beans – completes the meal.

BASIL SHRIMP PASTA

Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 cup sliced onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup low-sodium pasta sauce

1 cup water

4 strips orange peel, about 2 inches by 1/2 inch

3/4 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 pound rotelli (corkscrew) pasta, (about 11/2-cups)

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes without browning. Add garlic and sauté another minute. Add pasta sauce, water and orange peel and cook 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add shrimp and cayenne pepper. Cook gently 2 to 3 minutes, turning shrimp over until shrimp are pink. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove orange peel and stir in basil.

While sauce cooks, add pasta to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes or according to package instructions; drain and divide between the two dinner plates.

Spoon shrimp and sauce over the cooked pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.

ITALIAN SALAD WITH CANNELLINI BEANS

Makes 2 servings

4 cups washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad

1/2 cup rinsed and drained low-sodium cannellini beans

2 tablespoons reduced-fat oil and vinegar dressing

Place salad in a bowl. Add the beans and toss with the dressing.

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Cookbook review: ‘Teeny’s Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes’ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/teenys-tour-of-pie-mastering-the-art-of-pie-in-67-recipes-by-teeny-lamothe/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/teenys-tour-of-pie-mastering-the-art-of-pie-in-67-recipes-by-teeny-lamothe/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854009 “Teeny’s Tour of Pie: Mastering the Art of Pie in 67 Recipes.” by Teeny Lamothe. Workman Publishing, 2014. $$$

In the movie “City Slickers,” crotchety cattle-drive trail boss Curly doesn’t share much, but he does share his philosophy of life: “One thing,” he tells the dudes he’s assigned to oversee, holding up one forefinger. “One thing.” They’re baffled, until (spoiler alert) they realize he’s telling them that the secret of a satisfying life is to find and focus on one passion.

Teeny Lamothe is one of the lucky people who knows what her “one thing” is and does it. A woman who grew up making kid-size pies at her mother’s elbow, she returned to pie-making mode in her mid-20s and dived in with a single goal: to become a professional pie baker. She designed a vagabond version of an independent course of study, what she calls her Tour of Pie, a year of apprenticeships at nine pie shops from Washington state to New York to Georgia.

The resulting cookbook is full of her stories from that year, stories that flow easily in a young, friendly and often funny voice. She describes failures as well as successes, and can expand on just about any topic that involves pie creation, starting with tools of the trade, from the traditional ones like rolling pins to items you’d maybe never heard of, like “pie birds” and “pie beads” and crust covers – yes, there actually is a way to avoid the dreaded tinfoil method! (Well, it was news to me!)

I in particular appreciate that this is a how-to book. I did not grow up baking pies under my mother’s expert guidance; I need Lamothe’s “5 Commandments of Crust” and the photos of the crust-crimping process. I need someone to tell me to chill the ingredients before making the dough, and the dough before making the pie. She covers not only the what and the how, but the why, and in a very readable way. Post-it notes throughout offer snippets of pie-baking wisdom.

For those of you who already know these basics, there are the stories and, of course, the 67 recipes. Lamothe offers eight types of crust, from all-purpose to whole wheat to pretzel (!) and gluten-free, as well as crumbles and homemade whipped cream with variations. The pies themselves – some extremely appealing (Blubarb; Zested Lime Curd; Georgia Peach), others a tad outré, like “Bourbon Bacon Pecan” and the somewhat scary “Pickled Beets with Goat Cheese and Candied Walnuts” – are organized by season, to take advantage of fresh ingredients, although no one’s going to grate your knuckles with a zester if you make summer’s Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie in spring, as I did.

Oddly, the first pie I was moved to make was not a sweet, toothsome, bubbling berry pie, but a chicken potpie with kale and cannellinis. Actually, six of them, 5-inchers. I think if I’d used fresh whole-wheat flour instead of the stuff that had been mouldering in my cupboard for, oh, maybe 15 years, these labor-intensive pies would have been really delicious. The filling was great.

My second attempt was the Banana Cream Pie with Vanilla Wafer Crust, chosen mainly to get as far as possible from anything resembling whole wheat. The crust was a snap: crushed vanilla wafers held together with butter. Mmmmm. Who needs a special filling, anyway? I filled it with instant vanilla pudding and enjoyed every bite. So I guess this pie doesn’t really count.

Third was Lemony Blueberry Crumb Pie. This is a “summer” pie that a friend and I made on March 27, barely spring. I refused to make the vodka-infused whole-wheat crust the recipe calls for, opting instead to go tame with a buttery all-purpose crust. Instead of 4 cups of fresh blueberries, which would have cost about $40 at this time of year, we used blueberries we’d frozen from last summer and halved the recipe because we had only 2 cups left. Finally, a pie that was something to rave about.

My one complaint about this cookbook has nothing to do with recipes, but with the Table of Contents. It lists chapters and what page they start on, but not the pies and their pages. I found it difficult to relocate recipes. Yes, the index contains them all, but if you can’t remember the exact name, you have to troll for it. This may sound like a small thing, but it was darned irritating.

So, stir together pretty good stories charmingly told, useful tips, delicious pies, and you’re off on a light-hearted Tour of Pie with Teeny Lamothe. Maybe you’ll be inspired to pursue your own “one thing,” be it pie or whatever else you have a taste for.

— DEBBI HARDY

LEMONY BLUEBERRY CRUMB PIE

Makes 1 (9-inch) single-crust pie, 6-8 slices

OAT-AND-NUT CRUMBLE:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl mix together the flour, oats, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt with a fork or your hands until combined.

Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or your hands until everything is thoroughly combined. The crumble mixture should clump easily when pressed together in your hand.

BUTTERY ALL-PURPOSE CRUST:

2½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

¾ cup (1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

¼ cup cold vegetable shortening

¼ cup cold vodka

6 tablespoons cold water, plus extra as needed

THE FILLING:

4 cups fresh blueberries

1-2 tablespoons freshly grated zest of lemon and 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup granulated sugar

7 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To make the crust, in large bowl combine the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and shortening and cut the mixture together using a pastry cutter until it forms small pea-size crumbs coated in flour.

Pour the vodka over the dry ingredients a few tablespoons at a time while using a rubber spatula to press the dough together. Similarly, add the water and continue to press the dough together to form a large ball. The dough should be fairly wet and sticky; if for some reason it seems particularly dry, add a little extra ice water a tablespoon at a time until everything comes together easily.

Divide the dough into 2 equal balls, press each into a 1-inch disk, wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days before rolling out.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with a rack in the middle position.

To make the filling, place the blueberries in a large bowl, add the lemon zest and toss to combine. In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon to combine.

Add the lemon juice to the sugar mixture along with 1 tablespoon water and whisk until smooth. (If the cornstarch and sugar clump, you can add an additional 1 tablespoon of water.) Pour the mixture over the blueberries and toss gently to coat. Set aside.

Place 1 disk of dough on a floured work surface and with a floured rolling pin roll it into a rough 11-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Lay the crust into a 9-inch pie plate, gently press it in, and trim any excess dough from the edge with a paring knife, being sure to leave a 3/4-inch overhang. Tuck the overhanging dough under itself and crimp. Place the lined pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet.

Pour the blueberry filling into the unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle the crumble evenly over the filling.

Bake until the filling is thickly bubbling and the crust and crumble are golden brown (cover the crimp with foil if it begins to brown too quickly), 45-55 minutes. Let the pie cool before serving.

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Can parsnip “rice” sushi hold its own against the real deal? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/can-parsnip-rice-sushi-hold-its-own-against-the-real-deal/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/can-parsnip-rice-sushi-hold-its-own-against-the-real-deal/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854024 HYDE PARK, N.Y. — As hauntingly good recipes go, anything with parsnips as the main ingredient seems an unlikely candidate. Except for this one.

During a recent meal at Pangea, a “vegetable forward,” student-run restaurant on the campus of The Culinary Institute of America, I was served a sushi roll made entirely from vegetables. The “salmon” was an amazing rendition made from slices of tomato. I know. I was just as dubious. Until I ate it. The rice? Made from finely chopped and seasoned raw parsnips. I know. I was just as dubious. Until I ate it.

Let me put it this way: I’m a happy carnivore and I love real – really good – sushi. But these rolls were so good, I’d gladly eat them at a legit sushi bar. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say, I’d gladly have traded the entirety of the rest of my meal for multiple orders of this sushi. So kudos to the students (and no doubt their hardworking instructors) for nailing this dish.

In the weeks following the meal, I found myself wishing I had more of that sushi. So I decided to see whether it could be reproduced at home. Because as lovely as the school’s campus is, most of us can’t get there just for the vegetable sushi.

After reading the school’s recipe for the tomatoes – a multi-day marinating process – I decided the tomato “salmon” wasn’t in the cards for most home cooks. That’s fine. I like real smoked salmon. And since I’m not vegetarian, who cares? But the rice? That was totally doable. In fact, it takes far less time to whip up a batch of the parsnip rice than it does to prepare true sushi rice.

As long as you have a food processor, the rice can be prepared in 5 to 10 minutes. It then can be combined with nori (seaweed) sheets and whatever fillings you like to make excellent sushi rolls.

SMOKED SALMON AND PARSNIP

“RICE” SUSHI ROLLS

Makes 6 maki rolls (about 8 pieces each)

1-1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled, trimmed and cut into chunks

3 tablespoons tahini

3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

11/2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

6 sheets nori

4 ounces smoked salmon, cut into thin strips

1/3 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into thin strips

In a food processor, combine the parsnips, tahini, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Pulse for 20 to 30 seconds, or until the parsnips are finely chopped and resemble grains of rice.

One at a time, set a sheet of nori on a sushi rolling mat or a sheet of kitchen parchment. Scoop one-sixth of the parsnip mixture onto the nori. Wet your hand, then gently press and spread the parsnip mixture until it covers about 80 percent of the nori, leaving the edge furthest from you bare. On the edge closest to you, arrange strips of salmon and cucumber.

Using the mat or kitchen parchment to help, start with the edge closest to you and roll the nori up on itself to create a roll. Before completing the roll, wet your fingers and run them along the bare nori, then continue rolling. The moisture helps seal the roll. Set aside and repeat with remaining ingredients.

When all of the rolls are assembled, use a serrated knife dipped in warm water to cut each roll into 8 rounds.

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http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/can-parsnip-rice-sushi-hold-its-own-against-the-real-deal/feed/ 0 http://www.pressherald.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/854024_963584-sushi.jpgWed, 27 Apr 2016 12:03:39 +0000
Chocolate, chicken find each other in decadent mole sauce http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/chocolate-chicken-find-each-other-in-decadent-mole-sauce/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/27/chocolate-chicken-find-each-other-in-decadent-mole-sauce/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=854036 Don’t be fooled into thinking mole (pronounced mole-EH) is just a Mexican chocolate sauce. To start with, though it is rich and decadent, it is savory, not sweet. In fact, depending on how it is made, it can pack significant heat. Most varieties involve some sort of ground nuts or seeds, which give these sauces a stick-to-your-ribs thickness that begs to be paired with hearty meats.

There are many ways to make mole. This version uses raw almonds, which are sauteed with onion, garlic, a few spices, a few chili peppers, some orange juice and tomato paste. The result is balanced and rich, and it won’t overwhelm. You will, however, want some warm flour tortillas to sop up the excess. It’s that good.

It’s worth going out of your way to get Mexican chocolate for this recipe. It’s less sweet than most chocolates, and it has a pleasantly grainy texture that – like the almonds – adds body to the finished sauce. If you can’t find it, opt for a semi-sweet dark chocolate.

CHICKEN MOLE

Makes 6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

1/2 cup raw, unsalted almonds

4 cloves garlic, whole

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

2 to 4 Thai red chilies (depending on desired heat)

1/2 cup orange juice

1-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or stock

6 ounce can tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2.7-ounce disk Mexican chocolate (such as Taza)

1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Kosher salt

Cooked brown rice, to serve

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add the almonds, garlic, cumin, coriander and chilies, then cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes. Add the orange juice and chicken broth, then stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a simmer, then stir in the tomato paste and oregano. Transfer the mixture to a blender, then add the chocolate. Blend until smooth, then set aside.

Return the skillet to medium-high and heat the vegetable oil. Season the chicken with salt, then add it to the skillet and cook for 3 minutes per side. Return the sauce to the skillet, stirring gently to cover the chicken. Return to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 165 F. Serve the chicken over rice, spooning mole sauce over the top.

AP Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is on Twitter and Instagram as @JM–Hirsch. Email him at:

jhirsch@ap.org

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Do environmentally conscious habits in our kitchens actually have an impact? http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/green-plate-special-do-environmentally-conscious-habits-in-our-kitchens-actually-have-any-impact/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/24/green-plate-special-do-environmentally-conscious-habits-in-our-kitchens-actually-have-any-impact/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=846965 As I approach my second anniversary writing this column, I’ve starting wondering more and more about whether the baby steps I often suggest will add up in the longterm. Each week in Green Plate Special, I try to break down the process of eating sustainably into digestible chunks. I illustrate each topic with a recipe I hope is tempting enough to persuade readers – you – to make sustainable changes in your own kitchens.

The Pollyanna in me stamps her foot earnestly and says that every little bit has got to help, right?

But the piles of reports digging into how our industrialized food system has overtaxed our soil; the demographic assertions that by 2050 there will be 9.6 billion mouths to feed; the ongoing social and political debate about what role laboratories should play in food production; and, the gobs of data regarding how warming oceans and changing climates are affecting food supplies, can render even those very optimistic voices in my head speechless.

Add to those, your online comments, specifically about columns I’ve written about using fewer paper towels, re-growing scallion bottoms, serving soup to my neighbors made from kitchen scraps, and cutting back (but not eliminating) meat consumption. Some of you have commented that these won’t add up to a hill of beans, further undercutting my inner Polly.

So I’ve been looking for data that will help me answer this nagging question: Do the small efforts made by 10, 25 or even 50 moderately sustainable eaters lighten the footprint of environmental consumption more than, less than or equal to the concerted efforts of a single vegetarian who grows her own food, prepares it without the help of fossil fuels, wastes nary a potato peel, and never forgets to put reusable bags into her panniers before cycling to the (farmers) market for incidentals?

Arriving at an answer to that query is going to take some serious data mining and maybe even some complicated coding. As a physicist friend who studies global warming explained, myriad organizations (like sustainability centers at land grant colleges, environmental think tanks, concerned scientists across the globe and local, state and federal governmental agencies) are tracking the environmental costs of all sorts of food consumption activities. But the trick yet to be pulled off is collating and then correlating them to the various personal sustainable eating habits.

With all these moving parts in play, the environmental benefit realized from how any one eater sources, prepares and conserves food is going to vary. Even Pollyanna recognizes that reality. But I am hopeful that in this Fitbit-toting world (over 21 million of these trackers were sold in 2015), where counting up single paces literally adds up to sustained personal health, we can establish a system to track sustainable eating activities, one that proves that little steps taken by hordes of Americans can foster good habits with long-term benefits for the planet.

Stay tuned for more data. While you’re waiting, make an omelet.

Christine Burns Rudalevige is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at cburn1227@gmail.com

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After maple season is over, birch tappers are bringing something new to the table http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/after-maple-season-is-over-birch-tappers-are-bringing-something-new-to-the-table/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/after-maple-season-is-over-birch-tappers-are-bringing-something-new-to-the-table/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843173 TEMPLE — A mile down a country road wet with spring mud lies a sugar house where Michael Romanyshyn is checking an old milk tank filling up with birch sap.

The machinery makes a rhythmic pumping noise as it carries sap up to the house from the birch grove in the woods below. The steam from nearby evaporators and a finishing tank, where the sap is simmered (not boiled) into syrup, thickens the air with a scent that evokes molasses.

“This is the sap coming in from the woods,” Romanyshyn said as he grabbed a clean glass mug for sampling. “You want to taste a little bit?”

This is nearly midseason sap – the birch syrup season typically begins right after maple season and lasts about three weeks, if you’re lucky – and it tastes like slightly sweetened water. Next came a taste of the syrup in progress. It was surprisingly complex and bright, with strong notes of citrus and earthy undertones.

Birch sap and birch syrup are starting to show up in cookbooks, in artisanal products and on menus at trendy restaurants. Its potential for growth in the Northeast is “very substantial,” according to Abby van den Berg of the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center.

The Romanyshyns have sold some of their syrup to a Massachusetts chocolatier, who plans to make birch truffles. Here in Maine, they’ve sold the stuff to North Spore, a Portland-area mushroom company, for the development of Birch Bitters, which will be made from the syrup and chaga mushrooms.

David Levi, chef/owner of Vinland, once obtained several gallons from a friend on Peaks Island and used it in a few dishes at his restaurant, while Hugo’s once served birch sap tapped by former owner Rob Evans from trees on his own property. The birch sap, served with birch ice, had “a hint of sweetness, but a little bit of earthiness,” said Arlin Smith, one of the restaurant’s current owners, who used to work for Evans. “It was beautiful and cold and clean.” The restaurant stopped serving it because it couldn’t find a consistent supply.

That may change in the next few years.

PIONEER FAMILY

Romanyshyn, his wife, Susie Dennison, and two sons call themselves the Temple Tappers, and they are the first commercial makers of birch syrup in Maine. Birch sap has traditionally been collected in the forests of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Asia and sold as a drink, according to van den Berg, who has been researching the viability of birch syrup production in the Northeast. In North America, most birch syrup is produced in Alaska and Canada.

Van den Berg says there’s no data on the number of people in the Northeast who are gathering sap and making birch syrup now, but she believes it has increased substantially since she first started researching the topic a few years ago.

“You have lots of the resource, especially there in Maine – lots of birch forest – and because this is something that can be picked up by maple producers that use very similar equipment there’s really very high potential for birch syrup and sap production to grow in the Northeast.”

About 30 producers from the Northeast attended the first International Birch Sap and Syrup Conference held in upstate New York last June. (The Temple Tappers’ first-run syrup took first prize in a tasting contest at the conference, beating out even Alaska’s largest birch syrup producer.)

In maple trees, the natural vacuum that’s needed to make sap flow occurs in the branches; in birches, that pressure is thought to be generated in the tree’s roots. For a sap run, birch needs daytime temperatures in the 40s and 50s, and nighttime temperatures in the 30s. Once temperatures start regularly hitting the high 50s and 60s, the sap gets cloudy and it’s spoiled. Romanyshyn said you can tell when the season is over because the sap starts running a reddish color.

The Romanyshyn family makes maple syrup, too, but just enough for their own use. They started tapping birch trees a few years ago when they were looking for something they could do “from the land” that would help them stay on their homestead. The family lives in Dennison’s childhood home, perched on a hill with a stunning view of Mount Blue. (Her father was novelist and short story writer George Dennison, best known for “The Lives of Children,” a best-seller that documented the education of poor children on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 1960s.) A small stream runs from a large pond on the property and flows through the birch grove they tap for syrup.

When a friend gave Michael Romanyshyn a copy of a New Hampshire study on birch, he went right out and tapped a few trees, mostly white birch. Today the forest is interlaced with so much tubing it resembles a blue spider’s web. Last year, the family made about 30 gallons of birch syrup. This year, they tapped 900 birch trees and hope to make 50 gallons.

It takes 40-50 gallons of maple sap to make a gallon of maple syrup. Birch sap contains half the sugar of maple sap, so it takes twice as much – about 110 gallons – to make a gallon of birch syrup.

“The biggest producers in Alaska…they might have 10,000 or 12,000 taps, but they’re only making a few hundred gallons,” Romanyshyn said. “And that’s why it’s so expensive. Every gallon is very precious.”

Van den Berg’s 2013 study estimated that a birch syrup producer with 400 taps would need to charge $170.20 a gallon just to break even. The Temple Tappers charge $3.75 an ounce – it’d work out to more than $475 a gallon – but they aren’t yet profitable because they haven’t paid off the investment they’ve made in equipment.

Last year, the family sold out of syrup quickly by offering it at local stores and the Common Ground Fair in Unity, where they handed out 5,000 samples. This year, they also plan to sell online.

MAPLE IS SO LAST SEASON

Since maple producers already have the equipment, and birch sap starts flowing just as maple season is ending, many of them are considering making birch syrup for extra income, van den Berg said.

Kevin Grant has been making birch syrup since 2003 for his family’s use. At their 64-acre homestead in Ripley, Grant taps a dozen or so birch trees every other year, and they make the syrup in a big pan on top of the wood stove. “My wife, Nancy, can’t have refined sugar, so we look for other things to do,” Grant said. “We have honey bees, and we tap the maple trees.”

Grant describes the taste as “similar to molasses.” Others compare it to butterscotch, and chef Levi describes its flavor as “more bitter and complex” than maple syrup. Grant’s wife makes baked beans with birch syrup, and he uses it to make beer and wine. Van den Berg drizzles it on roasted vegetables, and enjoys it in sauces and baked into bread. But the one thing birch syrup shouldn’t be wasted on, Grant and others say, is pancakes.

Tyler Kirkmann disagrees. He has developed a lighter, pancake-style birch syrup that can also be used on ice cream.

Kirkmann, an engineer who lives on 33 birch-covered acres in Brewer, has been making birch syrup for three years and is now selling it ($25 for an 8-ounce bottle) through eBay and his Etsy.com shop, “The Kirkmann Homestead.”

“I tapped maple trees as a kid growing up in Maine,” he said. “I read about people making (birch syrup) in Alaska, and I thought I would try it out.”

Birch syrup, he discovered, is more difficult to make than maple syrup because it has different sugars in it that scorch more easily.

Romanyshyn doesn’t like it when people compare the taste of birch syrup to molasses because “molasses takes over whatever you use it on,” he said. “Birch has a lot more subtlety to it.”

The Temple Tappers label describes the taste as “woodsy” and warns: “Some people love it, some don’t.”

FEEDING THE CRAVING FOR LOCAL

“You know what it’s really good on? Vanilla ice cream,” Dennison said Friday as she prepared a lunch that featured birch syrup in several ways: salmon brushed with birch syrup glaze, salad with birch syrup dressing, and pound cake that the couple’s 12-year-old son Auley iced with creamy birch frosting. Depending on its use, the syrup’s character changed.

No matter how you serve it, birch sap and birch syrup are poised for growth.

“Around the country there is a huge movement to use and produce more local food,” van den Berg said, “and this is just adding yet another really great ingredient to the suite of local foods that are available.”

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Birch syrup recipes http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/birch-syrup-recipes/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/birch-syrup-recipes/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843206 BIRCH SYRUP GLAZE FOR SALMON OR PORK

1 shallot

Olive oil

Butter

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup birch syrup

1 teaspoon mustard

Finely chop the shallot and sauté in a small amount of olive oil and butter until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and bay leaf. Reduce at a fast simmer by about three-quarters.

Add the birch syrup to the pan and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of syrupy glaze. Cool, remove bay leaf and add the mustard.

Brush onto salmon or pork to glaze.

VODKA TONIC

Serves 1

Put 1 or 2 shots vodka into a glass of ice. Add tonic water almost to fill. Mix in 1 tablespoon of birch syrup. Squeeze in a good-sized slice of lime and leave the slice in the glass to serve.

SALAD DRESSING

This dressing is best with spinach or mixed greens.

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons cider vinegar

2 pinches salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon mustard

2 tablespoons birch syrup

1 1/4 cup olive oil

Pepper

Combine the vinegars, salt and garlic. Whisk in the mustard and birch syrup. Add the oil slowly while whisking to make a slightly thick dressing. Season with pepper.

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Maine Ingredient: Spring has sprung. Celebrate with a menu that sings of the season http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/spring-has-sprung-celebrate-with-a-menu-that-sings-of-the-season/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/spring-has-sprung-celebrate-with-a-menu-that-sings-of-the-season/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843224 This menu fairly sings of springtime. Paillards are thin slices of meat (chicken, in this instance) that get quickly sautéed or grilled – the beauty being that the thin cut can be immersed in and surrounded by a sauce of complementary flavors, in this case the sprightly flavors of lemon, capers, and fresh thyme.

The accompanying couscous pilaf is also light and colorful, and if you add some steamed sugar snap peas, the seasonal meal is complete.

CHICKEN PAILLARDS WITH CAPERS, LEMON AND THYME

This recipe calls for cutting boneless breasts longitudinally into half-inch-thick slices but you could also use chicken tenders, which are available in most supermarket meat cases. Be sure to drain the capers well, otherwise the sauce could end up too salty.

Makes 4 servings

1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, plus sprigs for garnish

1½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1½ tablespoons drained capers

4 thin lemon slices, cut in half

Slice chicken longitudinally into ½-inch-thick slices and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Spread flour out on a plate. Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess.

In a very large skillet or 2 smaller skillets, heat the oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When oil is hot, add floured chicken and cook over medium to medium-high heat, until golden brown on the first side, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn, sprinkle with the thyme, and cook until the second side is browned. Remove to a plate, leaving drippings in the pan.

Add broth to the skillet, raise heat to high, and cook, stirring up browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until liquid is reduced and lightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Add lemon juice and capers and simmer for 1 minute. Cut the remaining 2 teaspoons butter into small pieces and whisk into the sauce.

Return chicken and any accumulated juices to sauce, along with lemon slices, and heat through. Garnish with thyme sprigs, and serve.

COUSCOUS PILAF

I always find it amazing – almost miraculous – that couscous (tiny Middle Eastern pasta) cooks by just sitting in hot liquid for a mere 5 minutes. What could be simpler? And the addition of some colorful vegetables is a lovely enhancement to this delightful, light starch.

Makes 4 servings

3 tablespoons butter

2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large or 2 small stalks celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced

2 cups chicken broth or a combination of broth and water

½ teaspoon salt, plus additional if necessary

1½ cups (one 10-ounce box) plain couscous

Freshly ground black pepper

In a medium-large saucepan, melt the butter. Add carrots, onion, and celery and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add broth and salt, raise heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add couscous, stir, remove from heat, and cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and taste for seasoning, adding pepper and more salt if needed. Couscous reheats well in the microwave.

Brooke Dojny’s most recent cookbook is “Chowderland: Hearty Soups & Stews with Sides and Salads to Match.” She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula. Contact her via Facebook:

facebook.com/brookedojny

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This is the iconic chicken recipe that you need in your life http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/this-is-the-iconic-chicken-recipe-that-you-need-in-your-life/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/this-is-the-iconic-chicken-recipe-that-you-need-in-your-life/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843236 When this recipe was first created by The Silver Palate catering and take out shop on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it earned an immediate following. When the recipe was later published in “The Silver Palate Cookbook” by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso, it was a revelation, mostly thanks to its eccentric ingredient list: Vinegar? Olives? Prunes? Capers? Garlic? Brown sugar? White wine? All in one dish?

Yes! To taste it was to be converted.

And so for a nice chunk of time during the ’80s this dish made appearances on tables all over the country, sometimes for family dinners, but more often for entertaining. I grew up on this dish (my mother was an early adopter of it). It was one of the first “grown-up” meals I served to family and friends as a budding cook, and not too long ago I even made it to bring to a kindergarten potluck for one of my kids.

Of course, I also had a deeper connection to this recipe. My father, Peter Workman, was the publisher of the “Silver Palate Cookbook,” so I really felt like the recipe was part of my family’s culinary history.

And for a long time it was the first dish on my Passover menu every year. Thankfully, this is not a dish to forget, or imagine to be dated in any way. The faultless and brilliant combination of flavors is timeless, the recipe is pretty foolproof, the chicken is unfailingly moist, and it can be made ahead. Make it again, if you have forgotten it for a while. Or make it for the first time, and tell me that you’re not a card-carrying lifetime chicken marbella fan.

CHICKEN MARBELLA

Makes 10 servings

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup (about 8 ounces) pitted prunes

1/2 cup (about 3 ounces) pitted Spanish green olives

1/2 cup capers, with a bit of juice

6 bay leaves

1 head of garlic, minced

1/4 cup dried oregano

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

10 pounds quartered chickens pieces

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley or fresh cilantro, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and a splash of the juice, the bay leaves, garlic, oregano and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 350 F.

Arrange the chicken in a single layer in 1 or 2 large, shallow baking pans. Spoon the marinade evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with the brown sugar and pour the white wine around them. Bake, basting frequently with the pan juices, until the thigh pieces reach 170 F and the breasts reach 160 F, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoons of the pan juices and sprinkle generously with the parsley or cilantro. Serve the remaining pan juices on the side.

NOTE: To serve chicken marbella cold, cool to room temperature in the cooking juices before transferring the pieces to a serving platter. If the chicken has been covered and refrigerated, reheat it in the juices, then allow it to come to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over the chicken.

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‘Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking’ by Darra Goldstein http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/fire-ice-classic-nordic-cooking-by-darra-goldstein/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/fire-ice-classic-nordic-cooking-by-darra-goldstein/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843278 “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking.” By Darra Goldstein. Ten Speed Press, 2015. $40

My sister and I hiked across a small corner of Norway a decade ago, making for one of the most magical trips of my life. In Denmark several years later, I dined so well in a single week, I practically had to be force-marched onto the plane home. But even if I weren’t predisposed to like a cookbook about Scandinavia, I’d prize my copy of “Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking” by Darra Goldstein.

As a professor of Russian at Williams College, the founding editor of Gastronomica, and a frequent visitor to Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark over decades, Goldstein knows her subject cold. Cooks – and anyone curious about Nordic eating (and culture) – will feel in supremely competent hands.

She knows to adjust the recipe for Dill-Marinated Herring to account for “weakling American vinegar.” She relates the place that porridge (gröt, grød and grøt, “cognates of our English word ‘gruel’ with its harsh Dickensian association”) holds in Nordic hearts: “A Nordic Oliver Twist would ask for more gruel not because he’s so deprived but because the gruel’s so delicious.” She leads the reader on interesting detours, relating, for instance, that the log cabin – quintessential symbol of American humble origins – originated itself in Sweden. Her recipes range from homely sounding dishes like Rutabaga Pudding to complicated classics requiring homemade pork shank stock, gelatin and fresh horseradish (Beet Terrine with Horseradish Cream).

And oh those recipes. I lived with “Fire + Ice” for much of the winter, which gave me the chance to test many of them. If you’ve ever been to Scandinavia, you’ll know why the desserts chapter took me hostage. Blueberry Tosca Cake is a keeper. (And when I worried I was misunderstanding the recipe, I tweeted to Goldstein, who sent several encouraging tweets back.) Marzipan Bars brought three requests for the recipe. Whipped Berry Pudding (made with Cream of Wheat) sounds odd to American ears but is a classic in that part of the world; I was thrilled with the light, tart result.

On the savory side, Fish Cakes with Remoulade Sauce were a splendid weeknight meal, Honey-and-Beer Braised Short Ribs warmed me up on a frigid Maine winter’s night, and Root Vegetable Cakes had an earthy and unusual sweetness thanks to parsnips. Spinach Pancakes, which I haven’t yet had a chance to cook, will finally give me a use for that plättlagg (Swedish pancake pan) I picked up at a yard sale for $3 more than 30 years ago.

It’s impossible to review “Fire + Ice” without a shout out to Stefan Wettainen, whose beautiful photos more than do justice to a very beautiful region. The book will live in my kitchen, a bit of a pity, as it is really far too pretty for the cooking smudges and smears that are already accumulating on its pages.

Fish cakes and remoulade sauce are an interesting twist on seafood.

Fish cakes and remoulade sauce are an interesting twist on seafood.

FISH CAKES WITH REMOULADE SAUCE

Serves 4

1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped

1 pound cod or other whitefish, skin removed, and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons melted butter, plus 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 recipe Remoulade Sauce

Process the onion finely in the bowl of a food processor. Add the fish, dill, parsley, flour, egg, 2 tablespoons of melted butter, salt, and pepper and pulse until ground medium fine. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.

Shape the fish mixture into 8 patties. Set them on waxed paper.

Heat the oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a heavy, wide skillet over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the fish cakes and cook for about 6 minutes, until golden, periodically sliding a spatula under the cakes to make sure they don’t stick. Carefully flip the fish cakes, lower the heat to medium-low, and continue cooking until nicely browned, about 6 minutes more, periodically using the spatula to keep the fish cakes from sticking. Serve immediately, with remoulade sauce on the side.

REMOULADE SAUCE

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup minced dill pickle

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon snipped chives

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon

1/2 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Make this sauce ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours to give the flavors a chance to blend and the mayonnaise time to absorb the color of the curry powder and mustard.

Stir together all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Scrape into a serving dish and refrigerate until well chilled.

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Muffins will satisfy zest for lemon – and raspberries, too http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/muffins-will-satisfy-zest-for-lemon-and-raspberries-too/ http://www.pressherald.com/2016/04/20/muffins-will-satisfy-zest-for-lemon-and-raspberries-too/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 http://www.pressherald.com/?p=843407 Fresh lemon – including the juice and the peel – is one of my all-time favorite ingredients, in part because it’s just so versatile. It can be the star of the show (as in this recipe) or a brilliant supporting actor (as in so many of my everyday dishes). It’s indispensable in fish dishes and pairs beautifully with all sorts of vegetables, raw and cooked. I also reach for it regularly to brighten up soups, stews and sautés.

The great thing about lemon peel, also known as the zest, is that it adds intense lemon flavor to a recipe without all the acid that is found in the juice. I use grated lemon zest in scrambled eggs and creamy pasta dishes and combine it with chopped herbs as a finishing touch for braised meats.

Whichever parts you use, it’s important to start with the best possible lemons. The winning candidates will boast a bright yellow color and a thin skin. A thin skin signals more juice and less pith (the bitter-tasting white layer between the peel and the fruit itself). When grating the peel, you want to stop short of the pith. How do you know a given specimen has a thin skin? It will give a little when you squeeze it.

Once home with your lemons, scrub each one lightly under water to remove the edible wax with which it was covered to protect the fruit on its journey to market. If your recipe calls for zest and juice, grate the zest before you juice the lemon. But don’t grate the zest until just before you’re ready to add it to the recipe. Zest quickly dries out and loses its oomph if it sits around for very long.

My favorite tool for grating zest is a wand-style grater. Once upon a time, the tool of choice was the fine-side of a four-sided grater. Unfortunately, this gadget often grabbed too much of the pith – not to mention the tips of your fingers – in the process. I do my grating over a piece of kitchen parchment, which allows me to pick up and measure the zest easily. The yield is roughly 1 tablespoon of zest per large lemon. If your recipe calls for zest but not juice, wrap the unused lemon in plastic wrap when you’re done and do your best to use it up within a few days. A lemon stripped of its protective layer of zest dries out pretty quickly.

There are several ways to make sure you squeeze the maximum amount of juice from your lemon. First, soften up the fruit by rolling it on the counter and pressing down as you do. Second, heat it, either by microwaving it for 20 seconds or so or by stashing it in the oven at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes. Finally, cut the lemon in half crosswise and juice it.

I like to juice using an old-fashioned and brightly-colored Mexican hand press. But there’s also a more unorthodox, if equally effective, way to do it. Place the cut lemon half in between the two arms of a set of tongs, right at the top where the arms are joined. Then squeeze the bottom ends together. I learned this little trick from Ming Tsai, who picked it up from Jasper White, two of my favorite chefs. One large lemon will give up about ¼ cup of juice.

These muffins are quite rich, better suited to dessert than breakfast (though they would indeed be a delightful morning splurge on a special occasion). Made with juice and zest, their deep lemon flavor is complemented by the raspberries. They are a very good reason to be glad for spring.

LEMON RASPBERRY POUND CAKE MUFFINS

Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1 cup (4½ ounces) cake flour (not self-rising)

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ cup grated lemon zest

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons lemon juice, divided

1 pint raspberries

¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 325 F. Line a cupcake tin with 8 paper cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add half the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Beat in the cream and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Add the remaining flour mixture, beating just until combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them halfway. Press 4 raspberries gently into the center of the batter in each cup, then top with more batter, filling the cups just up to the tops of the liners. Bake the cupcakes on the oven’s center shelf until golden on top and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool completely.

While the cupcakes are baking, make the glaze. In a small bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and remaining lemon juice until smooth. When the cupcakes are cooled, drizzle the glaze over each cake.

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