Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Butternut Squash and Shitake Mushroom Risotto

Maybe when you read the title of this recipe, you were like, 'ho hum. Another risotto recipe with a bunch of crap thrown into it.' But if you thought that, you were wrong, my friend.

This risotto is awesome because a) risotto is awesome. Full stop. If you insist on more reasons to make this recipe, then how about b) it uses butternut squash puree, which is whisked in with the stock. So as you stir in cup after cup of stock, you are also infusing the dish with squashy deliciousness. Start with caramelized onions, shitake mushrooms, and finish with sage butter, and you're no longer talkin' grandma's risotto (if your grandma makes you risotto, move over, cuz I'm coming over for dinner).

It is a little time consuming though. So there's that. But you've already got the wine out, so right there is a way to make constant stirring more entertaining.

I originally found this recipe on Mitten Machen, and she adapted it from William Sonoma.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Harvest on the Harbor: El Rayo Demo

I attended a free cooking demo at LeRoux Kitchens Friday afternoon, as a part of the Harvest on the Harbor event. The demo was showcasing El Rayo Taqueria's pimentos de padron and fried plantains.

Here's Chef Cheryl smooshing some plantains to fry up. Co-owner Norine was serving up refresco aka delicious hibiscus punch. The punch is available mixed with tequila out at their restaurant, only increasing my desire to make it over to the tiny taco stand.

Cheryl and Norine have found a local organic source for the peppers they fry up and sprinkle with Mexican sea salt- Sparrow Arc Farm in Unity. These peppers are pretty cool, because you don't know if they're going to be hot or sweet! It's like a delicious version of Russian Roulette. (FYI, I got two sweets and then a hot, but it wasn't too hot for me.)

And who doesn't love fried plantains? Cheryl serves hers with a chipolte mayonnaise, and you know if I can dip something fried and salty into something creamy that I'm sold!

This event, coupled with sampling their delicious Mexican corn at the 20 Mile Meal, made me realize I need to get my azz in gear actually eat at El Rayo.

el Rayo Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Favorite Coffee Spot: Arabica

Arabic is my favorite coffee shop in the Portland area. They have good coffee, the friendliest baristas, and great toast. Plus, it's delightfully cozy in their small shop, if you should choose to stay.

While I am not a coffee connoisseur, I know what I like, and Arabica is it! Their espresso is delicious (I usually get an Americano), but a few days ago I sprung for a cappuccino and was delighted to see this fancy little foam art.

Bagels with lots of cream cheese, ladies with lots of tattoos, and boys who are easy on the eyes... Arabica has all that too.

Arabica Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gourmet Magazine & Little Lad's Popcorn

Yesterday was the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's 5% Day at Whole Foods Market, where 5% of all sales went to support Extension's food preservation programming. So thanks to all of you who shopped at WFM yesterday, whether you knew it was for a cause or not. 

 As a woman said to me, "that makes me feel even better about the wine I'm buying!" Shopping for a cause is apparently a great way to get Americans to donate money.

For my contribution, I bought the last Gourmet magazine *sniff* and a bag of Little Lad's popcorn. I was recently introduced to this stuff by my boss, who has a strong affinity for the locally-made popcorn. And she's right. Although it has been described by some haters as flavored with "textured vegetable protein and Lipton's soup mix," I love its spicy weirdness. You'll have to decide for yourself.

And yes, that is my cat trying to snag a piece. He was successful but just licked the flavor off before losing interest. Smart kitty.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Thai Green Tomato Soup

So many green tomatoes...

So I finally admitted defeat and pulled up all the blight-ridden tomato plants in my garden. I did get a few yellow and red ripe tomatoes from the plants this season, but now the plants are shriveling and blackening, under attack from fungal invaders.

Fortunately, the fruit is fine! I've already put up 8 half-pints of green tomato salsa, with still... more... tomatoes... left over. Someone at work gave me a recipe for Thai green tomato soup, source unknown. And while this soup was good as is, I tweaked it a little to fully showcase those Thai flavors I love.

Thai Green Tomato Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 T. green curry paste
1/2 t. ground cumin powder
3 cups chopped green tomatoes
3 cups peeled chopped potatoes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1-2 T. brown sugar
1 T. chopped lemongrass
1/2 T. fish sauce
1 12 oz. can coconut milk
salt and pepper

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 2-3 minutes. Add curry paste and cumin, and saute one minute more. Add garlic and lemongrass, saute one minute; add tomatoes and potatoes, saute 2-3 minutes. Pour stock over vegetables and increase heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cover. Simmer 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add can of coconut milk, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Blend until creamy (or blend until you're too lazy to go on and then mash with a potato masher). Serve garnished with basil or cilantro.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gourmet Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue

And now for a foray into cooking acorn squash! I found this recipe while listening to NPR's Fresh Air with Ruth Reichl, Editor in Chief of Gourmet Magazine. After hearing her talk about a roast pumpkin filled with fondue, I was sold on trying this recipe.

I used an acorn squash, hollowed it out and filled it with stale bread, cream, and cheese. When it's done baking, the squash is served scooped out over the cheesy, creamy filling.

And what a statement this dish makes! It's so simple, but during its 45 minutes in the oven, it transforms into gooey, creamy, cheesy, squashy deliciousness. You can find the recipe here, and I highly recommend that you add it to your fall repertoire.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kuri Squash Lobster Bisque

Living in Maine is awesome, because it's like, your patriotic duty to eat more lobster. I love supporting this economy!

This soup was born of the desire to try a Kuri squash- a squat pumpkin-shaped red-orange squash. M and I picked one up at the Farmers' Market from Rippling Waters farm. I made it into a bisque by simply peeling and cubing the squash and boiling it in chicken stock. When the squash was tender, I pureed the whole lot in my blender (and almost ended up with yellow baby food on the ceiling!).

I also added in some onions, carrots, and celery and pureed it some more. Then we topped it with some chopped steamed lobster, sour cream and parsley. So great! I'd love to hear anyone's stories of squash cooking experiments, as there are so many interesting types of sqash at the market right now.

Lots 'o Squash

Note: Today is my 100th post! Thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way; it's been a fun ride. Cheers!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Must-Make: BLT Pie

In struggling with what to make for my potluck supper, I thought of Michael Ruhlman's BLT Challenge in which the winner creates a flow chart to describe how he locally sourced all the ingredients for his sandwich. I wanted to use up a great big yellow beefsteak tomato that had come out of my garden and I love bacon, so a BLT seemed like a great potluck dish. Except that it isn't. I didn't even want to think about how to serve BLT sandwiches to fifty people.

But another contest winner, in the category of Best BLT Interpretation, is the writer of Feeding Maybelle. And she had the perfect BLT dish to take to a potluck: BLT pie, a riff on a traditional tomato pie.

Maybelle's mom raves about how good this pie is, and I cannot agree with her enough. This pie is so good, you must make it immediately. OK, just soon will suffice. But it is very rich, so beware the cheese OD!

To begin, make a cheddar cheese crust following Gourmet Magazine's recipe. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.

Slice 4-5 medium tomatoes and place in a colander to drain.

Sautee 4 to 5 slices of bacon and set aside (you may think it's a good idea to cook up 10 pieces, like I did, but be careful. You risk making your dish too rich to eat a lot of - and you'll want to eat a lot of it).

In the bacon grease, sautee until caramelized one medium onion, thinly sliced. Add 2 1/2 cups chopped hearty greens (use your imagination, I had kale and Swiss chard).

Roll our your pie crust into a 9" pie pan, and fill with greens and onions, topped by chopped bacon, and then the tomatoes. Mix together 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, and a handful of chopped basil. Layer on top of pie filling and cover with second half of pie crust.

Cook at 375*F for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling. Cool, serve, and enjoy the heck out of.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Birthday Dinner at Evangeline

ED NOTE: Evanegline closed in November of 2010.

I finally made it to Evangeline! M took me out for dinner at our local fancy French restaurant to celebrate my birthday.

We have been eyeing up this restaurant since we moved to Portland a year ago. M especially, since he read the menu and saw that they serve sweet breads and pressed duck. He was eager to try both, so when he suggested Evangeline for my birthday dinner, I wasn't too surprised by the choice!

To start, we ordered a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and chowed down on their delicious bread and butter (served in a soft-boiled egg cup, cute). M and I developed a plan of attack for the meal and decided to share an hors d'oeuvres and then each order 'firsts' and entrees. Got that? 

Our starter was these tender turnips covered in Mornay sauce, which I've gathered is bechamel with cheese. Yes, please.

It's hard not to lick the plate when you're pretending to be an adult. But we managed, and soon after we were left looking wistfully at our empty plate, the second course arrived.

If you think this picture is terrible, you should have seen it with a flash.

I ordered chou-fleur, a cauliflower soup with browned butter. The goodies came in the bottom of the bowl and then a server drizzled the soup over them and filled the bowl. This soup was so decadent and rich, and I was glad it was a small serving (even though I definitely could have eaten more). M got his ris du veau or veal sweetbreads, and we marveled at how they really tasted like bread.

For our entree, M and I split the pheasant. It was first presented whole to us (by yet another staff member) and then whisked back to the kitchen to be plated. First we had it with a mushroom ragout. I thought my bird was a little dry (gasp!). But you know, great flavor and all that. 

But the second serving of our pheasant was awesome. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the sweet squash and bacon puree was so. effing. good. Really. Afterwards, we reminisced about the puree. Best part of the meal, hands down!

And to close our epic meal, we ordered two cheeses. I realize in retrospect that ordering a cheese course as your dessert when you're celebrating your birthday is kinda lame. But that's how it happened! And anyway, M. made me a Guinness chocolate cake that I'd like to tell you about sometime. 

The cheeses were... a hard cheese and a soft cheese (??). The second one was described by our server as 'barnyard-y,' and we definitely agreed. He also brought us a big spoonful of pot de creme au chocolate. And while we were too full to order a full dessert, we appreciated this taste of such a rich dish. 

I was happy to finally have dined at Evangeline, especially to celebrate my birthday with my honey. Thanks, M!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cultivating Community's 20 Mile Meal

Last Sunday, I attended the 3rd Annual 20 Mile Meal at Turkey Hill Farm in Cape Elizabeth. The event was put on by Cultivating Community, a nonprofit that does a lot of great things with kids, refugees, and farming. This event showcased local chefs preparing dishes using ingredients grown, harvested, or landed within 20 miles of the farm. Most of the produce came from Turkey Hill Farm.

Here you can see watermelon with herbs, panna cotta, and bacon and a wheat biscuit topped with pickled slaw and pork loin, drizzled with a foie gras puree. The second dish was prepared by Stella Hernandez of Bar Lola.

After my plate got pretty full, I kinda lost track of who served what... I know the Mexican corn was from El Rayo and was the highlight of the meal. The little cup of vegetable stew was from Local Sprouts, the orange mussel and gnocchi dish was made by Vignola, and the plate of mussels below was caught by Ocean Approved.

The dessert seen here hanging out with the mussels was a pumpkin pie tart with basil whipped cream and was prepared (and served) by the Cultivating Community Culinary Crew.

Here's M. dutifully running the cider press- he cranked that baby for a good three hours! There was also great bluegrass music and local beer (Peaks Organic Pale Ale & IPA) and wine. The rain held off and everyone ate their fill; the food ran out around 3:30!

I had a great time at this event and even decided that it was worth missing the Ravens/Pats game for.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Otto Pizza Review

I moved my apartment this week (down the street!) and used the opportunity to eat some takeout pizza. Don't mind if I do!

I tried Otto Pizza, the new shop on Congress Street, that served pizza by the slice and whole pies to order. The shop has slices for $3 or a large for $12.99 with additional toppings $1 each. This pie was pepperoni and roasted onions. And I loved it! This pizza is so good, and I am so happy to have found a good pizza in Portland.

While I like Bonobo and Portland Pie Company, I really love New York style pizza. And Otto pizza hit the nail on the head. Everything is good from toppings, to cheese, to sauce, to crust. Usually pizza crust is dry and doughy, but this crust isn't and I ate every bite.

Plus, they are open late night on the weekends!  Hooray for drunk pizza!  So happy over this pizza. Can't wait to go back and try the bacon, mashed potato, scallion slices.

Otto's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 1, 2009

MOFGA's Common Ground Fair

I have actually been waiting 11 months to attend my first Common Ground Fair. When I first moved to Maine in October, one of my friends said, you'll have to go to the Common Ground Fair, it's the best thing ever! And I said, great! When is it? ...September. Doh!

So I was very happy to attend the kamillionth Common Ground Fair on Sunday. Of course, I headed right for the exhibition hall to check out the canned goods. 

And I saw lots of beautiful specimens of home canned goods, some not so great. I was particularly impressed by the produce. Especially the number of beautiful tomatoes, after our blight-ridden tomato season. 

I picked up some Maine made sea salt in the Maine Marketplace area and some aged goat cheese in the Farmers' Market. I also ate some awesome fried shrimp from Finest Fried Maine Seafood (which is the best name ever). All in all, well worth the wait and braving the crappy weather for. See you next year, Common Ground Fair!