Friday, August 3, 2012

Best laid plans...

When we bought our first sailboat a good friend commented that, for me, it would be "yet another venue for fine food and entertainment."
Unfortunately for the the Captain, that turned out to be true.  When I think about heading off sailing for an hour or a week my mind goes to what food and books to bring instead of how I will pit myself against the elements come what may.  I am happiest as ship's cat - curled up on deck with a book or happily docked awaiting the sunset with a drink in my hand.  As we headed off last Sunday with friends for a daysail I had prepared what I believed would be a lovely summer meal.  The Farmers' Market had provided me with Olde Oak cream-stuffed camembert which I planned to serve with a baguette and some sugar-snap peas.  I found gooseberries (!) at Schartner's.  I had thought that gooseberries were banned in the State of Maine because they hosted white pine rust.  I remember my mother-in-law saying that gooseberry bushes were ripped out of farmyards all over the state.  Herb Schartner explained that the beautiful mulberry-colored ones he had were a new variety that didn't have the problem so I brought them home and turned them into 3" gooseberry tarts.  I quartered the berries and cooked them briefly with some sugar, lemon balm and tapioca.  Once cooled this mixture filled the tart crusts and then a circle of crust was placed on top with a sprinkle of sugar.  For a hot-weather entree I made a salade nicoise using fresh greens, small boiled new potatoes (chilled), hard-boiled egg quarters and some blanched thin green beans (also chilled).  I picked up a slice of fresh tuna from The Lobster Shack on Saturday and "butter-poached" it in white wine, butter, lemon juice and water.  I put a round of parchment on top and brought it just to a boil and then turned it down immediately to simmer.  When I could see that the center was still pink, I turned off the burner, covered the pan and let the fish cool in the poaching liquid and then packed the fish and the liquid in a covered container and chilled. I also made a batch of lemon-herb muffins.  I thought all I would need to do was open the covered bowl of of greens, arrange the potatoes, eggs, beans and some nicoise olives around the edges, flake the tuna on top and toss with a mustardy garlic vinaigrette made with a handful of herbs from the garden and voila!   What I didn't count on was the wind.  We sailed out of the harbor and tacked awhile down the bay at a pretty good speed with the wind coming straight at us.  Somewhat splashy but pleasant.
Our plan was to tuck into the dock at Holbrook Island, explore a bit and
then have lunch on the boat.  By the time we got into the passage on the inner side of the island, we were moving at about 6.5 knots.  The Captain would have preferred to tie up on the windward side of the dock so we could make a quick getaway but the dock was full on that side.
We docked on the other side (no problem staying at the dock there!) but
getting off would be trickier.  I tried to serve up lunch.  Forks were really superfluous.  All we really needed to do was hold the plates in front of our mouths and let the wind blow the salad in!  Tasted great - so did the tarts - but there was much evidence of lunch in the scuppers by the time we finished.  All hands (plus a couple of nice folks on the dock) helped us get back underway without too much scraping of paint and we ended our day laughing and eating Bagaduce oysters at Dennett's Wharf.  Now if that nice lady just hadn't backed into Margo's car!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Orono Local Buying Club

Thursday afternoon was the bi-weekly pickup for the Orono Local Buying Club.  The Buying Club is similar to a co-op in that we do order from a wholesaler - in our case it's United Foods - but the original purpose was to support Maine food producers year-round.  Our major supplier, in addition to several local farmers, is Crown of Maine Cooperative.  These folks work exclusively with Maine producers of food and food products and distribute to stores and coops throughout the state. Started in the "crown' of Maine, Aroostook County, COMOC now has a distribution center in Norridgewock.  Products include produce, dairy (milk, cheese, eggs, etc), legumes, grains and flours, oils, meat, fish and value-added products such as jams, syrups, etc. The list is quite long and especially in the summer the choices are spectacular.
We also order from three local farms including the organically-certified
Stone's Throw Farm in Newburghas well as E-I-E-I-O on Pushaw Road in Bangor and Living Land in Winterport.  These folks keep us going with eggs and root vegetables for much of the year.  This week my order included fantastic big white onions from Stone's Throw as well as their
crunchy, delicious sugar snap peas and cucumbers and a dozen orange-yolked eggs.  E-I-E-I-O provided two beautiful heads of new garlic and also had sugar snaps and braising greens available. Many members ordered big bunches of lacinato kale as well.   I  got 6 heads of perfect radicchio from Smith Family Farm in Hull's Cove who provide us with with great plain and flavored yogurts as well.  Flying Pond Farm was offering arugula and I mistakenly thought I was ordering two bunches and ended up with two pounds! (See further!)  Other COMOC farmers provided escarole and summer squash that looks like it came from a food magazine.  From Echo Ridge Farm came a camembert and a coulommiers, again proving that you don't have to go to France anymore to get great cheeses in the State of Maine. From United I ordered an 88 oz can of Zoe organic olive oil so a great meal was in the making.  We bought a quarter of an organic beef critter this year.  Just a small fellow but very tasty and I'm told that Harrington Bros is very careful with the organic side of their abattoir.  One pound of ground meat feeds four very nicely as simple grilled burgers topped with tangy slices of onion.  We ate the snap peas with the cheese instead of bread as some among us are mostly gluten-free. Just wash them and zip off the tough little strip from the stem end.  I washed and quartered a radicchio and let it drain on a kitchen towel.  When the burgers were finished we brushed the quarters with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and very briefly grilled them - just until grill-marks started to appear.  Grind of pepper and yum!   I had made most of dessert earlier. I crushed up some leftover sweetmeal biscuits (use vanilla wafers or graham crackers if you like) with some sugar, cardamom and melted butter.  Pressed it into a tart pan and baked at 375 for about 15minutes in the convection oven.
I let that cool and whipped together some mascarpone (or cream cheese) with a bit of creme fraiche (or sour cream or yogurt) with a taste of honey and some grated lemon rind.  Let that chill.  When it was time for dessert I spread the cream into the pie shell (just about a half-inch) and topped it with the raspberries my friend brought from her garden that I macerated with a bit of sugar while we ate the main course.   Cookie, cream, fruit, quick!
Now about that arugula.  Of course there is salad but lots of other things as well.  I think I will make about 4 cups of it into arugula pesto - replacing the basil with arugula and - since I left the pine nuts on the boat - some pecans.  Other ingredients are the same: garlic, parmesan and olive oil.  This could be spread on grilled bread or tossed with pasta.
I might make a potage vert (green soup) with sauteed onion and garlic,
arugula, peas, celery, parsley, basil and anything else green I can find.
I blend this with my vertical stick blender (use some vegetable or chicken broth) and you will think you have a cream soup but it is dairy-free.  Serve hot or cold with a squiggle of that pesto.   I might make a frittata with Stone's Throw eggs and a few cubed new potatoes, arugula and some romano. Salad of escarole with a yogurt blue cheese dressing on the side? Folks, there is A LOT of arugula in two pounds.  BTW, you can find info about joining the Orono Local Buying Club at The Store/Ampersand in Orono.  We encourage new members and you can save the surcharge by volunteering for one of the many jobs that need to be done to keep us going.
Next up: lunch on the boat.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I promised I would let you know about Orono Farmers' Market finds from Saturday.  OFM also holds market on Tuesday afternoons from 2pm to 5:30pm with many of the same vendors and a few who only come on Tuesdays.  Lobster Shack had some fresh bluefish that we grilled  brushed with olive oil and lemon.  Fresh dill from the market blended with creme fraiche (or sour cream), horseradish and a bit of mayo made a great sauce for both the fish and some lovely new red potatoes.  High Lonesome farm had thin green beans that asked for nothing more than a quick steam to keep them crunchy.  I wandered the market planning dinner for friends arriving Sunday afternoon.  I bought fresh peas, yummy cherry tomatoes and Mark Guzzi's (Peacemeal) sharp arugula.
I also bought a combination of squash - zucchini in three varieties, pattypan and bright yellow summer - plus a plump eggplant from Kousky and fresh garlic from Peacemeal.  These I made into classic ratatouille by layering the cubed eggplant overnight with salt, adding it to the cubed squash, two medium onions, chopped and about 6 (yes, 6) minced cloves of garlic.  Saute these in good olive oil until tender but not mushy and add lots of freshly ground black pepper, salt if needed and handfuls of chopped parsley, basil and oregano from the garden and a bit of tomato sauce or paste.  Claire Ackroyd gave me a "conical" basil plant with small leaves that is the best ever.
Don't worry about how many herbs you add - just go for it.  This can be served hot or lukewarm but on these hot summer days I opt for ice cold.
Made a salad with arugula, cherry tomatoes and shaves of parmigiana reggiano dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.  The maple syrup man at OFM sometimes has rabbit for sale ( please don't stop reading! ) Italians love their coniglio and for Sunday I made coniglio pepperonata.
Make a "soffrito" of finely diced carrot, minced sage and minced rosemary and saute in a combo of butter and oil until lightly browned.
Add the rabbit cut into about 8 pieces and brown on all sides.   Add 6 Tbsps water and 6 of white wine vinegar and simmer on low for about an hour until the rabbit is tender.  In a separate pan, saute red and green pepper slices until just tender and add some chopped tomato or passata.  Add to the rabbit, mix gently and season to taste.   Bring up to heat and serve. I served this with a chilled French rose`.
For dessert I made tiramisu but not the normal chocolate, coffee, marsala version which I find too heavy.  I make mine by dipping the
savoiardi in a simple syrup made with orange liqueur.  The filling is fresh farm eggs separated, yolks beaten with sugar and mascarpone with a touch of vanilla.  Beat the whites with some sugar and fold into the yolks. Spread half over the savoiardi and then add Schartner's sliced strawberries and raspberries macerated with just a touch of sugar.  Top with remaining mascarpone, cover and chill.  Before serving add shaves of chocolate and sliced almonds if you like.  Light and cool.  The Captain snapped a picture of the table.  See what you think.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Maine Vacation

We are just back from almost two weeks of vacation on and near the ocean.  We spent the first week in SW Harbor as we do every year.
Lots of company, lots of good food.  Then a few days on our sailboat to Roque Island and back again to spend a couple of days with friends on Great Cranberry Island. Packing and planning meals for this combination was fun and challenging.  It's not that we spent a great deal of time out of reach of good markets.  The challenge is to pack a few good food "tools" so that whatever comes your way can be turned into dinner for two or twelve on a moment's notice!  So I baked before going to SW - lemon yogurt poundcake, an apple pie for Miss Amelia even though apples are not in season, piles of chocolate chip cookies and a Maine blueberry pie from the last of the frozen organic blueberries.  Those went pretty quickly!  I made a batch of barbecue sauce with my own frozen passata
(unherbed thick tomato puree), mustard, brown sugar, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and bit of peach preserves to be used on baby back ribs and chicken wings.  I froze small containers of "pate pas raffinee" for cousin Eike, carrot-cashew pate and provencal tapenade to stave off hunger while dinner was being prepared.  I went to Sawyer's Market and Little Notch bakery for good greens, vegies and ciabatta.  Add some great prosecco from State Street Wine, a couple of batches of gin punch
and some homemade strawberry lemonade and everybody seemed pretty happy.  We didn't dine out too often.  However, if you are in SW and headed on 102A towards Bernard and West Tremont (the really quiet  side of the Quietside) do not fail to stop at the food truck called Keenan's Kitchen.  Best fried clams ever as well as incredible fish tacos and a Greek-street-worthy gyro.  Prices are extremely reasonable and the food is worth waiting for the owner/chef to make everything to order.  Fish tacos were crispy bites of fish deep-fried with homemade salsa, guacamole and sour cream along with a portion of smoky rice and beans and crunchy coleslaw - all for $8.95.  We also snuck in for a late dinner at the bar at XYZ.  Janet and Tom have been serving authentic Mexican (forget chips and salsa) for years in Manset and on the night we went they were incredibly busy.  The margaritas are legendary.  Entrees come with warm soft tortillas, an array of hot sauces and a Triple Chick Farm lettuce mix with olive oil and lime to add yourself.  I had my customary chiles rellenos - anchos filled with corn and cheese and cooked in cream and The Captain chose chicken mole. Watch out for the dot of red sauce on your plate - this is the real thing!  Thanks for squeezing us in.  There is a Farmer's Market in SW on Friday mornings and one in NE Harbor on Thursday morning.  Naturally, I went to both.  We saw old friends (Farmer Bob and Schartner's).  Young Mr. Will is partial to chocolate along with little cousins Adam and Garland.  I bought some North Star sour cherries from Schartner's and made them into a quick sauce with turbinado sugar and a bit of lemon rind.  I had made chocolate sauce to bring and baked up two my-mix chocolate cake layers.  Cutting each layer in two, I put a slather of chocolate sauce on the top and bottom of each layer and filled the middle with the cherry sauce.  Chilled the whole thing for a couple of hours and added a dollop of whipped cream for serving and there's dessert for 12 that encourages children to each their vegetables.  At NE I picked up merquez sausage and Farmer Bob's lamb chops to cook on the boat grill.  Roque is a private island off of Roque Bluffs State Park - between Jonesport and Machiasport.  The owners are protective of their environmentally fragile island but allow boaters to visit the unbelievable powdered sugar beach on the outer shore of the island.   I thought I was in the Caribbean and so did the dog who breaded himself in sand every time we went ashore and then wanted to sleep in my berth!  Sailed back to Great Cranberry to stay with friends and cooked up some wonderful meal thanks to the Great Cranberry General Store.  Home on Friday and I was off to the Orono FM today!
We'll talk about that tomorrow.  Let me know if you ever have questions
or comments - especially the person who is reading from Indonesia!

Friday, June 29, 2012

This past Tuesday I helped out at the Orono Public Library by showing the teen group how to make video book trailers using Animoto.  Great group of kids who caught on very quickly and really enjoyed the pizza afterwards.  It got me thinking about pizza (surprise, surprise).  My Swiss Italian grandmother didn't learn to make pizza until she came to the U.S. and hers was very different from any I've ever had.  I have tried to reproduce the soft dough with a topping that was shy on tomatoes but included lots of sausage, fennel seed, rosemary and parmesan cheese.  Italians think American pizza has way too much cheese although you will see blobs of great fresh mozzarella on the famous "pizza margherita" named after a queen.  I usually make this on the grill in the summer.  I have my husband, Mark, (hereafter referred to as The Captain) start a charcoal fire on the old Lodge hibachi.  I roll out small, misshapen pieces of dough and oil one side with olive oil.  Lay it out on the grill, oil the top and turn it over in less than a minute - just as soon as you see grill marks.  Lay it off to one side of the grill and turn quickly a couple more times.   I use a plain passata (unherbed tomato puree) that I make with fresh tomatoes in the summer but you can use Pomi tomato puree or even fresh tomato slices.  Top with some great farmers' market mozz or slices of Italian burrata and some fresh basil.  Let the cheese just begin to melt and there 'ya go!  There is a great new cheese shop in Belfast called "Eat More Cheese" and they have burrata.  Appleton Creamery makes fresh mozz and Olde Oak has both regular and smoked mozz so stock up.  Olde Oak is at the Bangor Thursday market as well.   COMOC (Crown of Maine Organic Cooperative) now makes a frozen organic pizza dough which you can order if you are member of the Orono Local Buying Club but you can use any dough or make your own. I'll try to get a picture before I post this.  May not be my own if the weather doesn't cooperate!

On Sunday we are off for a week of vacation in SW Harbor.  For someone like me, the packing of foodstuffs is always a problem (well not really as much for me as for The Captain)  but since we go from SW directly on to our sailboat for a few days the dilemma is expanded.  How much to take?  How much to buy there?  What will the markets have?  What about our favorite quietside restaurants?  Will a gallon of olive oil be enough? I'll visit local farmers' markets and be on the lookout for great food everywhere.  Tough job but someone has to blog it.   Stay tuned for the play-by-play.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My love affair with the OFM

The Orono Farmers Market always makes me happy.  I think I was one of their first customers back in the day and, at one time, I had a booth with baked goods and appetizer spreads.  The fantastic array of locally grown and produced goods brings together friends, kids and dogs in a weekly celebration of community.  I always arrive with a feeling of expectation.  What new crops have ripened in the gardens of hard-working vegetable farmers.  What cheeses have been produced by our fantastic cheesemakers.  Chicken, eggs, meats, flowers, bread, milk, yogurt, maple syrup - I hardly ever go to the grocery store this time of year.  Well, maybe for toilet paper!  As I wander the stalls, menus begin to form in my mind.  Steak salad with Grassland flank, Peacemeal's greens and Appleton feta?  Pate with Mainely Poultry's chicken livers (never buy chicken liver in the grocery store!) on crusty french bread with a side of unsalted butter and radishes?  What's the weather going to do?  Should I make a rich chowder from Perley's beautiful white cod and  a few scallops or bake the cod with a buttery scallop and garlic scape
dressing on top? Kousky has greenhouse grown zucchini and Snakeroot has cucumbers.    I could slice them thinly lengthwise, spread with Olde Oak chevre mixed with dill and fill  with julienned carrots, green onions and radish. Roll it up for a vegetable sushi.  For dessert I could make another lemon cheesecake like the one being served at the Orono Public Library tonight for Artsapaloosa.  I used cream cheese from Tide Mill Farm purchased through the Orono Local Buying Club (more on this later) with farm fresh eggs, Olde Oak yogurt and lemon peel.  Schartner's strawberries mixed with a touch of limoncello on top?  Evermay Nursery still has beautiful plants and hanging baskets on sale.
I'll ask Kathryn what I should put in that shady bed I dug out next to the garden shed. It's going to be a great day regardless of the weather.  Better get cooking!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberries are early this year.  I have a few plants in the garden.  I just learned that in addition to getting slugs drunk in a dish of beer, I can spray the plants with a hot pepper solution to keep the slugs away.
Supposedly, it will also work on my sunflowers and eggplant, etc.  Yet another use for sirachi!  I found great, overfilled quarts of low-spray strawberries at the Central St. Farmhouse in Bangor for $4.50.  I also admired the hops growing up the ropes in their garden and was told that they will have hops plants in the near future.  I think I will put up a small trellis in the garden and plant some.  The flowers are quite lovely and I remember seeing them in the garden at the Page Farm and Home Museum.  I turned some of the strawberries into a cool summer mousse.  Just blend four cups of cleaned strawberries with about a third of a cup of sugar in the processor.  I added a third of a cup of my homemade limoncello but you can add a quarter cup of lemon juice a couple of tbsps of any other liqueur.  Some recipes call for marsala but I think it takes away from the strawberries.  I mixed 1 1/2 pkgs of unflavored gelatin with a quarter cup of hot water and whisked it into the strawberries.  Then I whipped about 3/4 cup heavy cream and folded it in.  I put it in dessert cups and let it chill for about 5 hours.  You can put the filling into a prepared pie shell (regular or graham cracker) for a strawberry "chiffon" pie.  Add more whipped cream and few strawberry slices for an easy, elegant, cool dessert on hot summer nights.