Monday, August 31, 2009

Ratatouille Marathon

I found myself with the typical late-summer glut of veggies: summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. And so my mind wandered to ratatouille! I went looking for a new recipe (as you avid followers know, I've already written about ratatouille), because while it was good, it was also kind of blobby and not very photogenic.

Remembering that a fellow food blogger had recently written about ratatouille, I emailed Erik for his recipe. He sent me a link to the recipe, which turns out to be the one used by the rat (whose name I learned is Remy) in the movie Ratatouille. How funny and kind of bizarre! But the end result is a beautiful rainbow of vegetables over a puree of roasted peppers and tomatoes.

I also made an entire roast chicken... for myself... since M. is out of town! Hence the 'marathon' part of this dinner. I didn't eat until 9pm, which isn't that unusal, except I started cooking at 6pm. And while it's not pictured here, I want you to know that the chicken came out perfect - I was so proud of myself.

Here's my ratata cookin' up- I didn't have the patience to brown it up and evaporate some of the liquid (since I used slicing tomatoes and not Romas, it was a little watery).

Here I served my roast chicken breast over the piperade and then topped it with the ratatouille and balsamic vinaigrette, as per Erik's recommendation. And it was delicious! As they say, hunger is the best spice. And rather than make this post even longer, I'm just going to post the link to the recipe.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Summer Food Showdown

First, let me tell you about my favorite dash-together salad...

A version of a Greek salad: cucumbers, Feta cheese, tomatoes, onion, and Kalamata olives. I dream about this salad, it's crunchy, salty, tangy combo calling to me when I need a fresh afternoon snack to carry me over into dinner. And the tomatoes and cucumbers right now make this salad especially good.

Second, let me tell about the great summer dinner I made. It's a knock-off of 555's Knuckle Sandwich (And a very timely recipe, considering everyone's tomato blight).

Now, please know that I didn't sent out to rip off 555, it's more of an homage to great local ingredients and chefs. Plus, I've made it before, using crab. So, nyah. The dish is fried green tomatoes, stacked with goat cheese, fresh corn off the cob, and a lobster salad with a basil mayonnaise.

I love this dish because it begs for creativity and personalization. Like I said, last time I made it, I used blue crab. But now that I'm in Maine, I thought I would take advantage of our local crustacean. I hope you're enjoying the (long-awaited) benefits of fresh, summer eating, as apparently we're headed into fall already!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fish Tacos With Avocado Cilantro Crema

Tacos (or burritos or Mexican salad or whatever) are always a standard around my house. Chances are I have the staple ingredients in the cabinet, and the dish is a catch-all for any fresh produce I have. Zucchini in my tacos? Suuuure. (Especially this time of year, when zucchini goes in everything.)

 So last night when I thought, well, we can always have tacos, I then thought, why not fish tacos? And then I got really excited, because I love well-made fish tacos.

Now I should offer a disclaimer that the last time I made fish tacos, the fish I used (from an anonymous market in town whose name rhymes with 'Bowl Moods') was terrrrrible. It was mushy, mealy, and fell apart. The mealiness was the most offensive part- it was so bad I didn't even eat any of it. So this time around, I was really looking to get it right.

And we did! We bought cod this time (again from the Market-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named) and M. whipped up a tempura batter for it. I got to work chopping cilantro and avocados for the delicious white, creamy sauce that compliments fried fish so well.

I used a 1/4 cup of both mayo and sour cream, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 1/2 of an avocado, 1 diced clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt. Mix and mash it all together, et voila! I also topped my taco with tomato, green cabbage, and roasted corn.

M. likes cubed cantaloupe on his (blech) and wants you all to know that this is actually a picture of HIS taco. Since I was too hungry and excited to fuss with photos!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pickled Peppers

At the Deering Oaks Farmers' Market this morning, I started picking out sweet peppers, because I was inspired to make this recipe by a recent article in Bon Appetit. Before I knew it, I had a lot of them! I bought 3 miscellaneous peppers, one Cubanelle pepper (which I just learned is the same thing as a banana pepper! Do you think they're trying to make it sound fancy?), and one hot cherry pepper.

I used rosemary instead of thyme and small onions instead of shallots. I also found that the brine did not cover my peppers in the quart jar by about an inch. So I topped it off with some more vinegar and a shot of water. Can't wait to try these babies!

(photo from Bon Appetit)

Pickled Peppers With Shallots and Thyme*
From Bon Appetit 

1 pound sweet or mild mini bell peppers, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, seeded
2 large shallots, thinly sliced, separated into rings
2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
5 fresh thyme sprigs
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
Pinch of coarse kosher salt

Place peppers and shallots in medium bowl.

Mix vinegar and next 6 ingredients in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt. Remove brine from heat; carefully pour over peppers and shallots. Cover bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Uncover; cool to room temperature. Transfer to quart-size jar, pressing peppers into brine. Cover; chill at least 4 hours and up to 10 days.

*Please note that this product is not processed, and therefore, must be refrigerated.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do You Wonton?

Yeah, I know, I was just complaining about the heat in the kitchen, and here I am posting about FRIED wontons. But it's getting better out, right? And after M. and I heated up the kitchen (hubba hubba), we just left and went to the movies! We saw Julie & Julia, which I thoroughly enjoyed (as a blogger and lover of all things food). Meryl Streep as Julia Child stole the show, and I could have just watched a whole movie about her.

Our veggie wontons (served with Chicken Chili sauce, my fave) were delicious, although for some reason, they caused me to burp wonton all night. Probably was all the roughage, but I did *not* appreciate it. We used shredded cabbage, carrots, chives, cremini mushrooms, garlic, and zucchini. Sauteed it all up with some soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, Sriracha, and sesame oil.

Then M. got to work stuffing and sealing the little wonton wrappers. I heated an inch of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet and created a little steamer basket using the mesh colander set over a pot of boiling water.

Once the oil heated up, these babies started browning nicely. I read about a bunch of different cooking methods online, hence the two-part fry then steam. I don't know if the steaming was necessary, but it was recommended in several recipes, so I figured it couldn't hurt. I believe in the past, I've steamed them first and then fried to crisp them up.

But whateva, they turned out great the way we chose to cook them. And like I said, I think my idea to wonton last night really was generated by a desire to put Chicken Chili sauce on something. Yum.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Seared Tuna Salad

You win, Maine! I admit it- it's hot! I've been chuckling all summer as your residents complain about the "heat" when it's 83 degrees out. But this week, Maine called my bluff. It's legitimately hot (at least during the day). And definitely all night in my ventilation-challenged apartment. So a few nights ago, we decided to go with a meal that had little stove participation.

M. and I were pleasantly surprised by how good this tuna steak from Hannaford was. But even a quick sear heated up our apartment! Next time, sashimi over salad. So there, Maine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We Be Jammin': Maine Blueberry Jam

Picture this: you're getting married, concerning yourself with colors, entree options, flower arrangements, reception hall reservations and the like... when you think of favors. Wouldn't it be nice to give each of your beloved family members and friends a little reminder of the happy time they shared with you on a beautiful day in Maine? How about something that showcases the bounty of the harvest in Maine... (no, not lobster, that'd be gross), but blueberry jam!

Never mind the fact that you don't know how to make jam (or can for that matter) - that's where your friend Kate comes in!

So yeah, a marathon jamming session on Sunday, resulting in 79 quarter pints (4 oz. jars) of wild blueberry jam. I'd say sorting the 22 pounds of berries was the worst part... so thank goodness I didn't have to do that!

We made several batches using different types of sweetener, honey, raw sugar, and apple juice. And we used a variety of pectin, as well - Pomona's and Ball's No Sugar Needed. Everything turned out really well (all but one of our jars sealed, no one burned themselves, and all the batches tasted great), and the bride and groom-to-be are very happy to cross that "chore" off their list.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Backyard Locavore Success

Thanks to everyone who attended the Cooperative Extension's Backyard Locavore Tour on Saturday. The tour was a big success - we sold all of our tickets and had lots of positive feedback from all the Locavores on the tour.

I had the pleasure of staffing Old Ocean House Farms in Cape Elizabeth. This is a beautiful property, from the house (mansion, really) to the land, which is being farmed by a young couple (Maryellen and Chad, who now farm Green Spark Farm in Cape).

The landowner has beautiful ornamental gardens around his house, and I it was a pleasure to look at this cutting and propagation garden all morning.

The farmer, Maryellen, was happily escorting groups of Locavores around her fields.

And I got to hang out in the garden house (that's not me), explaining how to make herbal vinegars to those who were interested. A Master Gardener volunteer was on hand to answer any questions.

If you missed the event this year, be sure to look for it next year. Thanks to those who made it a smashing success!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I'm sure you've seen all the recent news about the low prices of lobsters and the resulting turf wars around Matinicus Island. Since lobsters are averaging $4 a pound, we thought we'd take advantage of the low prices, while supporting our local curmudgeon fisherman as well. Everybody wins!

I admit I didn't have much (or anything) to do with the making of this meal. Well, I put the lid back on the steamer after M. dumped the lobsters in, does that count? That's right ladies, I have a man who brings home lobster and then cooks them for me. He used the pasta from Annie's mac and cheese and two cheese from K. Horton's at the Public Market. He doesn't remember the names, but one was gooey and soft and one was a harder Parmesan-like type. Both were selected for their melting properties.

So, I encourage you to buy some local lobster and incorporate it into your daily cooking regime. I think of lobster as a only-when-the-folks-are-in-town treat, but at these prices, there's really no reason not to pick some up even during the week. And then when our demand drives the prices back up, we can go back to not eating them :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Backyard Locavore Tour

Don't forget to get your last minute tickets to the Backyard Locavore Tour tomorrow! I've already made up all the delicious food samples that will be available at each stop. So bring your sunscreen- the weather is going to be beautiful tomorrow- and come see us on the Backyard Locavore Tour. To order your ticket for pick-up call 207-781-6099.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Vegetable Grab Bag

Look at all the veggies I got at the market! This was a $5 bargain bag from the Monument Square market- I got the second to last one at 8:30, so they go fast. I love the idea of a grab bag of veggies!

Stay tuned to see what comes out of it...