Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pea, Radish and Feta Salad

Another great recipe from Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, two chefs at the Canadian restaurant Ancaster Old Mill. The book is divided into seasons with recipes for corresponding produce. And since they're in Canada, the season match up with those here in Maine—you know they're not going to try to tell you to use tomatoes in February (damn you, Florida!).

In rereading the recipe, I now realize that I forgot the mint in my salad. I've seen a lot of pea and mint combos, so it must be good. This salad is great even without the mint, so when you make yours, add mint and I'm sure it will be stellar.

Pea, Radish, and Feta Salad
Adapted from Earth to Table

For the salad:
2 cups fresh peas
2 thinly sliced radishes
1/2 small red or white onion, thinly sliced (also can use 1 large shallot)
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta or chevre

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider, red, or white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Combine all dressing ingredients but the olive oil in a small container with a lid. Shake vigorously. Add the olive oil and shake until combined. Set aside.

Combine peas, radish, and onion toss; to combine. Add your chopped mint (don't forget!), pour dressing over salad and toss again. Garnish with crumbled feta. Serves 2.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Chocolate Pavolvas with Mascarpone Mousse

Time for another Daring Bakers' Challenge! And yet again (seems more often than not?), I failed at baking. This challenge didn't even involve that much baking, so I really don't know what the problem was. Probably due to my inability to follow a detailed recipe. We were instructed to make Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse.

And this is what I ended up eating. It's un-moussed mousse over strawberries. My mousse didn't set, my pavlovas didn't crisp. Sigh! I did end up with a bunch of chocolate mascarpone cream though, so all is not lost. Check out some of the other bakers for more successful versions of this month's challenge.

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Strawberry season has finally arrived here in southern Maine. I say 'finally,' but I think it's actually a few weeks early this year. I just have been jonesing for strawberries- especially after reading about other bloggers' delicious strawberry treats. Well, we're finally getting our turn.

I got so excited to hear that Maxwell's Pick Your Own strawberry fields in Cape Elizabeth were open that I drove down the next day. I went a little crazy and picked 12 pounds of strawberries! Rather than decide in that moment what to do with so many berries, I made freezer jam and froze the rest. Now I am ready to make strawberry shortcake, triple berry jam, and strawberry rhubarb pies at my leisure.

I really enjoy freezer jam because it's so darn easy. Freezer jam is cooked less, and so it results in a fresher taste and color. For this recipe, I used Ball no sugar needed pectin. This pectin contains recipes for cooked jams (to be heat processed) and freezer jams, but I didn't like the freezer jam recipe. It called for fruit juice, and that just seemed silly when I had so many strawberries sitting in front of me. So I made the cooked jam recipe and just froze it. Since freezing is always a safe alternative to canning, I knew I'd be alright- maybe even better off, since freezer jam is always more weepy. The cooked jam recipe set up nicely, however.

Low-sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam
Adapted from Ball

4 cups mashed fruit
0-3 cups sugar (your preference- I used 1-1/4 cups)
1 package Ball No Sugar Needed pectin

Wash berries and remove green tops. Place in a large bowl and mash up finely, using a potato masher or a food chopper (if you're fancy). Bring strawberry mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Use a fairly large pot, since the mixture will expand and foam.

When berries are boiling, add powdered pectin and stir until dissolved. Bring back to a boil and boil one minute to dissolve pectin. After one minute, add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and ladle into freezer containers, leaving 1/2-inch between the top of the fruit and the top of the container to allow for expansion. You can buy special freezer jam containers like I did (about $6 for 6), or use any freezer-grade plastic container. You may also use wide-mouth jelly or pint jars. Do not use jars with shoulders (narrow-mouth pint jars), as they can break when the jam expands during freezing. Nothing ruins a good breakfast like glass in your jam!

Keep in the freezer for up to one year. Thaw and store jam in the refrigerator and use within two weeks.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chicken and Veggie Fried Rice

I've been craving fried rice this week, but didn't have all the essentials. I was slowly gathering all the ingredients, like a little fried rice scavenger hunt. I made some rice and let it dry out in my fridge. I already had onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and green onions, but I wanted to include some peas and bacon.

When I woke up Saturday morning, I thought, today is the day. Fried rice is in the cards, and sooner rather than later. Like for breakfast. So I schlepped over to the Farmer's Market (at the ungodly hour of 8:30am), and lo and behold... the first fresh peas of the season. It's like it was meant to be. Some local bacon, and I was good to go.

To start, I sauteed two strips of diced bacon until the fat was rendered (or softening). Then I added some diced chicken breasts and cooked until both meats were browned and the bacon was crispy.

I removed the meat to cook the veggies (onions, peas, and carrots). The carrots were canned, so didn't need any cooking other than to reheat, so I started with the onions. I sauteed them in the leftover bacon fat until they were soft, then added the peas and diced carrots. You can use any vegetables you have, just add them to the pan earlier if they need more cooking (like raw carrots would).

After my veg was cooked and heated through, I added some diced garlic and grated ginger. I removed the whole mess and put it in a bowl with the meat.

I turned the heat under my pan up to high and added two tablespoons of olive oil (you can use canola/vegetable oil too). Then I added the leftover rice and spread it around in the pan and broke up any chunks.

Once the rice was fried, crispy and golden in some spots (about 3-5 minutes), I made a well in the middle and added one scrambled egg. Scramble the egg in the middle of the rice and then stir into rice to incorporate it.

Now you're ready to mix your meat and veggies in with your rice and eggs, garnish and serve! I added soy sauce, fresh squeezed lemon, chicken chili sauce and green onions as a garnish. And it was SO GOOD. Craving fulfilled. I love the little crunch of peas and crispy bacon in with all the hot rice.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blueberry Coffee Cake

For someone who writes a blog called 'the Blueberry Files,' I'm not all that into blueberries. Strawberries, I go crazy for. But blueberries don't make me as excited (and sometimes the things people make blueberry-ified make me downright nauseous). The list of things I think are made better by adding blueberries is a short one: cheesecake (topped with blueberry sauce), pancakes (sometimes), and coffee cake. Otherwise, I'd usually just rather have strawberries, raspberries, or blackberries (in that order).

So why did I buy a ten pound box of blueberries last summer? I don't really know, but since this year's blueberry season is fast approaching, I figured it was time to use up the last of the batch in my freezer.

I set out to make a good coffee cake: moist, lots of streusel topping. But I had it in my head that making one was hard- like involving yeast or lots of waiting or some extensive technique. Nope. Like a lot of things in baking, a good coffee cake just requires following the directions and some patience.

I'm particularly proud of this rendition, because the first attempt turned out terrible (my fault- I didn't follow the directions). The second time around, I consulted Ina Garten who has yet to steer me wrong with a dessert recipe. I used her Sour Cream Coffee Cake and stirred in blueberries into the batter, as well as sprinkling some blueberries in with the middle struesel layer.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten

For the cake:
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups sour cream
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) *Note: to make cake flour, substitute 2 tablespoons of cornstarch for 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour for every cup you use. Sift well.
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the streusel:
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I would reduce this next time; struesel tasted a little flour-y)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

For the streusel topping: Combine sugar, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter. Pinch butter with your fingers until topping looks like a struesel topping. Stir in chopped walnuts.

For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan or a Bundt pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add the vanilla and sour cream and continue mixing.

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine flour, soda, powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients gradually to sugar, egg, and butter mixture, mixing to combine. Finish stirring with a spatula to ensure mixing is complete. Gently fold in blueberries.

Sprinkle half of the struesel topping into the bottom of your pan. Add half of the batter and spread with a knife to level out. Sprinkle the remainder of the struesel topping and any additional blueberries you'd like. Add the rest of the batter and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes in the pan and turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Ina recommends glazing the cake with a syrup of 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar and 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Sounds like a real Maine idea to me!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Veranda Thai Review

Hooray! The eighth round of the Thai-o-rama Project brings us some great Thai food: Veranda Thai. I met up with several other bloggers and food writers and enjoyed a nice night, complete with hula hooping in the parking lot afterwards (don't ask).

I was excited to try Veranda Thai for the first time, as I'd heard they made good food. But I'd never been, since living on the peninsula, I don't make it out to Washington Ave. very often (although you could even walk there from Munjoy Hill if you were determined).

There was some confusion over which Veranda Thai we were going to (turns out your iphone will direct you to the wrong spot), but I initially assumed it was because there are two locations directly across the street from each other—the original Thai restaurant that kind of looks like a trailer and the new noodle bar across the street. There were more people in the noodle bar the night we went- I'll have to make it back to try some noodles too.

I ordered the Thai dumplings to start ($5.95), with a filling of ground pork and chicken. A. from the Portland Food Map ordered some fried dumplings, which it turns out is what I had in mind when I ordered dumplings. These dumplings were good, despite my confusion; it's kind of hard to go wrong with ground meat, a good dipping sauce and some wontons (although many have).

Because my hopes were high about the quality of the food here, I dared order Larb Gai ($10.95).

And I'm glad I did—the ground chicken was spicy (I ordered two stars), full of lemongrass, chilis, mint, and red onion. The ground toasted rice gave it a nice texture, without being overwhelmingly gritty, like I found at Viet Bangkok. Plus, I received a huge portion- certainly enough for a full lunch the next day.

My fellow diners were also happy with their dishes—the writers of Appetite Portland give me their leftover chicken pad thai to take home, and it was great as well (although, Adam had to have a little rant about how Portland Thai restaurants don't serve lime with their pad thai).

Happily, I recommend Veranda Thai for great Thai food in Portland. The decor may leave something to be desired, but who cares when the kitchen is serving such great food? If you're in the mood for some take out (or maybe try the noodle bar for better ambiance?), head over the bridge to Veranda Thai.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Monument Square Market

OK, consider yourself informed. There's a Farmers' Market on Mondays in Monument Square. I thought I was one of the last to know, but I keep running into people who express surprise when I mention the Monday market. (I mean, the Portland Daily Sun, PPH's Natural Foodie, and the Portland Food Map have all written about it). So let's shout it from the rooftops and support our local farmers on Monday morning.

This market is considerably smaller than the Wednesday and Saturday markets, but there are some new faces there. Today I counted eight vendors: Townhouse Farm Creamery, Alewive's Brook Farm, Caldwell Beef, Tulip Bakery, Yoder Heirlooms, Hahn's End, Plainview Farms, and A Good Start Organic Seedlings.

I, of course, bought cheese, cupcakes and strawberries. I got my priorities straight, people.

I haven't yet tried the cupcakes from Tulip Bakery (I'm waiting for my boyfriend—aren't I the nicest girl ever??), but I got a raspberry lemon curd and a chocolate raspberry. The cupcakes are a relative bargain at $2 each. I'm glad they didn't decide to charge a lot for them just because cupcakes are trendy.

I also bought my second batch of strawberries of the season, from Alewive's Brook Farm. He's the only one I've seen with strawberries at the market so far, and I'm looking forward to a little competition, so maybe the price will come down ($7 a quart!?).

While the market is small and we just shopped for our local eggs, meat, dairy, fruits and veggies on Saturday, this Monday market will give you the little boost you need to make it to the Wednesday market.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bazkari Catering Food Cart

Ed. Note: Bazkari Food Cart and Catering closed in the Winter of 2010.

At around 10 a.m. Wednesday, I got the food scoop email from Roomie A. who works on Monument Square: There's a new food cart outside my office. I'll try it today and let you know of its deliciousness. If good, maybe we could meet there some time for lunch. 

My friends are always on the lookout for bloggable ideas—love them. But I figured, hey, why wait for second-hand news. Let's track down this food cart and hit the Farmers' Market too.

Bazkari Catering is one of the new businesses in the Portland Public Market- they are downstairs in the spot formally occupied by the Greek food guy (and when will I be able get my gyro fix again!?). Bazkari is owned by a couple that serves Spanish-influenced food. Their food cart was hanging out down towards the Free St. end of Monument Square, serving grilled cheeses, special rice, desserts, and Pellegrino sodas.

Roomie A. and I split a $5 grilled cheese called 'The Baz,' with Manchego, Serrano ham, and Salmoroja, a cold Spanish soup that was used as a spread in our sandwich. We also sampled their fruit salad, which was delicious. It was saucy, cold, and fresh, with none of the boring fruit that usually makes up the bulk of fruit salads (I'm looking at you, cantelope). 

Our sandwich was good; the ham was salty and the Manchego didn't melt very well, giving it a nice bite. I'm also intrigued by this Salmoroja—I want to experience this great cold soup in its original form. But putting tomato soup on a grilled cheese is pretty genius- it's like it's already been dipped for you.

I'm looking forward to trying Bazkari's Special Rice ($6.50), which I've heard is awesome, a dish of shrimp, egg, green onions, ham, other stuff, and rice. Bazkari has lots of other menu items, so I hope the offerings at the food cart rotate through and I can sample some variety. Because my first impression is that there's some talent in the kitchen.

Update: Ben from Bazkari says the business' new home is the street cart. The Portland Public Market House was a temporary space while they launched their cart. Coming soon: breakfast and snow cones with homemade organic fruit syrup. I'm so excited. The cart can be found across from One City Center Monday-Friday from 11am to 2pm.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


After I first made my own sauerkraut in my Master Food Preserver class, I became kind of obsessed with the stuff. Whereas before I didn't even like it, I now crave it and am extremely interested in all the different local versions of it.

Enter Morse's Sauerkraut and Euro Deli. I first heard of this mythical place in North Waldoboro from my supervisor. I Googled it; I schemed ways in which I could detour to it on a trip up the coast. But after a while, it faded into the back of my mind, relegated to that ever-expanding 'List of things to do and try somewhere in Maine.' 

Then I moved up to Munjoy Hill and discovered all things great about Rosemont Market, including- you guessed it- Morse's pickles. I treasured my $6 quart of sour garlic pickles and portioned them out slowly.

So when I went to visit a West Coast friend now working on a Maine windjammer in Camden, I swerved a little when I saw a sign off of Route 1 that said "Morse's 7 mi." I made the pilgrimage down the long, bumpy back road and was rewarded with the Euro Deli. There's a sit-down restaurant, a store full of European goods, and a cooler full of pickles and sauerkraut.

Yes, I'd like all of those things, please.

I took home a quart of sour pickles and a pint of sauerkraut for $6 (same price as pickles at Rosemont!). Score. Then I realized I had a lot of sauerkraut in my fridge. Y'see, I bought two jars of sauerkraut from Thirty Acre Farm in November, hoping to take it home for Thanksgiving. Then I realized you can't take canned goods on a plane (at least not in your carry-on).

So the most logical thing to do is to have a kraut off. Now this is not a scientific taste test—there's no blindfolds, no multiple testers. Just me, a fork, and two jars of kraut.

The reason I was munching so slowly through the Thirty Acres Farm (TAF) kraut is because it tastes kinda... funky. While I just happened to receive jars with no label, so I can't be sure, I think I bought the regular 'kraut, not the juniper and caraway one (plus I don't see any spices). So I don't know what could be responsible for the strong aftertaste in TAF's kraut. But it takes some getting used to. The cabbage is shredded into very long pieces, so it's kind of like eating spaghetti without a knife or a spoon. And there is a lot packed into the jar.

Morse's sauerkraut is more mild than TAF's version. It is slightly more vinegary, less salty, and doesn't have too much of an aftertaste. It's super crunchy and juicy; very fresh tasting. It certainly doesn't pack the punch of the garlic sour pickles, which get you in the same spot that Sour Warheads candy do.

I'd say Morse's pickles win.

Oh, and TAF's kraut. While it takes some getting used to, I prefer the stronger flavor of the TAF kraut to Morse's. However, the gold standard is the one I made in my food preservation class, from the Nat'l Center for Home Food Preservation. The above two are definitely worth a try, and please let me know where you get your fermented food fix!


25 lbs of cabbage
3/4 cup canning and pickling salt (available anywhere canning supplies are sold)

Yield: about 9 quarts

Use firm, freshly harvested heads of cabbage. Remove outer leaves, rinse heads, and quarter and core. Shred the cabbage into strips the thickness of a quarter. Pack one cabbage into a fermenting container. You can use food-grade 5-gallon buckets (ask delis for their pickle buckets), other food-grade plastic containers, or a special fermenting crock (we got our's from Cabela's). Add 3 tablespoons of salt and mix with your hands until salt draws juice from the cabbage. Repeat process until all cabbage is shredded and mixed in the container. If liquid does not cover cabbage, add boiled and cooled brine (1-1/2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water).

Add plate and weights (a big rock, washed and wrapped in plastic will do). Keep in a cool area (50-70 degrees F) for 3 to 6 weeks. Check sauerkraut frequently- two to three times a week and remove the scum that forms. Fermentation is finished when kraut stops bubbling.

Store in the fridge for a few weeks or heat process in jars (see processing chart on the Center for Home Food Preservation).

Thursday, June 3, 2010

McCormick Spice Mix WTF

I discovered this horror while shopping at the Hannaford recently; it's a prepackaged spice mix from McCormick titled "Recipe Inspirations." Each one comes with the pre-measured spices you need to make a particular recipe (recipe card included!).

Here, you can see "Rosemary Roasted Chicken with Potatoes." The package includes 2 teaspoons paprika, 1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground pepper. The recipe instructs you to mix all of the spices together with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt (I guess McCormick isn't in the salt business), then toss with 2 pounds of skinless, bone-in chicken thighs and 1/2 pound of cubed red skinned potatoes. Then roast for 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

I know what you're thinking. Kate, I want one! What else can I make with prepackaged spice mixes!? So I'll tell you; these McCormick spice blends can also hold your hand while you make Apple and Sage Pork Chops, Garlic Lime Fajitas, and Quesadilla Casserole (eeeew).

I don't even know where to begin. These spice mixes run about $1.99 and make one meal. For about $.50 you can head over to the bulk spice aisle and get the same amount of spices, if not more, and have enough for several meals. So first of all, it's a waste of money (and that's just the low-hanging fruit argument).

Second, it's perpetuating the idea that America is too stupid to cook. Michael Ruhlman sums it up pretty well here, but I'll add an argument made by another Michael (Pollan)—that the marketing of whole foods isn't profitable, and therefore, companies must create more and more value-added products. This spice mix is a perfect example. But in order to sell a value-added product, you first need to convince everyone that making a roast chicken is too hard or too time-consuming and that they should buy your shortcut product.

Plus, who wants to toss their chicken and potatoes in exactly the same spices and roast them for exactly the same amount of time?? Wouldn't everything taste... the same!?

So here's a perfectly roasted chicken (made by M.) to illustrate how easy cooking whole foods from scratch can be.

Roast a 3-4 lb. chicken, liberally rubbed with olive oil, butter, and salt and pepper, at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes per pound (about 1 hour) or until the thickest part of the thigh reads 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Let rest on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, and serve, alongside your favorite roast potatoes. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Radishes with Butter

OK, as promised, I tried serving radishes with butter and salt. And they were great! Although, I had a hard time telling if that was because of the radishes, or great because of the butter, salt, and oil on foccacia. I mean, that's kind of hard to improve upon. But the butter and salt cut the earthy mushroom-iness of the radishes, which I think is a good thing. Maybe that's why you like them, but I just enjoy their crunch and their spiciness- not so much the funkiness.

And for this simple prep, I was inspired by Cannelle et Vanille to add oregano. So many thanks- it was a welcome addition.