Thursday, June 28, 2012

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

I thought to myself, 'self, you write a Maine blog, and sometimes I just can't tell.' So I took out my camera during our sailing race last night (obviously my role on the boat is very critical), and took some photos for the ole Maine bloggy blog. 

We sail on Casco Bay, and last night we headed upwind to a point off the Eastern Prom and then downwind to one near Cow Island. Below you can see Mackworth from the marina just north of Tukey's Bridge in Portland. 

We've had a thunderstorm filled week, but during the sail last night, the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We're forecasted to have a beautiful beach weekend, with temps in the high 80s.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program, in which I discover that the pesto I made is good on everything. Potato salad? Yes. Grilled zucchini salad? Yes. Mixed in with corn, under a fried egg for breakfast? Yes.

Garlic Scape Basil Pesto

Handful of basil leaves
2-3 garlic scapes, chopped
Big chunk of Parmesan
Walnuts or your choice of nut
Olive Oil

Blend first four ingredients in a food processor while drizzling oil in, until smooth. Eat on everything. 

Sorry this isn't more of a recipe, but that's just kind of how pesto is. Adjust things to your liking- you can even omit the cheese. Freezes well in ice cube trays. The pesto will darken during storage, but that's OK.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Grilled Zucchini and Corn Ribbon Salad

Photo by Alexa
We ekked out a driveway barbecue on Sunday in between the weekend's thunderstorms - in honor of new jobs, summer breaks for teacher friends, and finishing the Trek.

The menu was simple: grilled wings, Brats, and some side salads. I wanted to use grilled zucchini in a side dish, so when I found this zucchini ribbon salad, I was tantalized by the thought. I so loved the Zucchini Pasta Ribbons I'd made late last summer.

And while it seemed like a strictly summer meal, I did pick up zucchinis at the Farmers' Market last Wednesday. So I feel justified in veering into summer salad territory in late June.

I sliced the zucchini kind of thicker than I think the recipe specified for, so I left it on the grill a little longer. But really we're going for just past raw here. And grilling the boiled corn before cutting it off the cob added some more smokey flavors.

Just like the Ribbon Pasta dish, there's so many substitutions and add-ins that will play nice with the grilled, salty, lemony, and crunchy going on here.

Grilled Zucchini and Corn Ribbon Salad
Adapted from The Food Network

4 medium zucchini
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 ears of corn
Sliced almonds
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Juice of one lemon
Garlic clove, minced
6-8 big basil leaves, sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 tablespoons olive oil

Wash and thinly slice zucchini. Use a mandolin slicer if you have one and slice to 1/4". If not, just slice thinly with a very sharp knife (admittedly easier with a mandolin slicer). Lay zucchini out on a platter (the same platter you serve the dish on!) and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Heat a grill pan* over medium-high heat and grill the zucchini on both sides for a few minutes, but 3 minutes max.

Move zucchini from heat onto platter and add corn to grill. Grill on all sides until grill marks appear. Remove from heat and let cool. While corn cools, make salad dressing.

Mix together juice of one lemon, garlic, chili flake, and basil in a small container with a lid (I used an 8oz. canning jar) and shake until combined. Taste and add salt if needed.

Cut corn off the cob and sprinkle over zucchini. Scatter almonds and Parmesan slices over top. Pour dressing over salad.

*I used a grill pan, before my guests arrived, but you can make this on the charcoal or outdoor gas grill too. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Trek Across Maine Wrap-up

Woah, woah, where goes the time?? Friday, Friday, here we are. This week was supposed to be quieter after completing the Trek Across Maine, but when it's 90 in June? There's boats to be sailed! Strawberries to be picked! And beaches to lay on.

So yeah, weekends mean nothing when you've been playing hard all week and have to work on Saturday anyways. But I love it!

Last weekend, I rode 180 miles in 3 days for the American Lung Association - and thank you to everyone who donated to my ride! I raised $525 with your help. And when I was grinding up hills, I thought of all the people who donated, my friends and my family, and how they believed in me to get me through that ride. Because there were parts that were tough! (Rule #5 helped too.)

And in the name of making this a food related post, here's me with an animal cracker. I'm at a rest stop on Day 2, somewhere between Farmington and Waterville (60 miles), eating as many snacks as I can. 

I appreciated that the snacks on the Trek were real food - the first charity ride I did had rest stops stocked with Power Bars, gummies, Twizzlers, and fruit. Now aside from the fruit, those aren't things I was particularly excited about. And some of them made me feel kind of ill. Not exactly where you want to be when riding 50 miles in the late August heat. 

But the Trek provided granola bars, popcorn, goldfish crackers, fruit, chips, Fluffernutter sandwiches, and nary a Power Bar in sight. I appreciated that. 

We were also fed each night by the food services of the two colleges where we stayed: University of Maine at Farmington and Colby College. And if you're considering colleges in Maine based solely upon food services, I recommend attending Colby College. Steak tips or salmon? Yes, please. 

Thank you a million times over to those who supported me, monetarily, logistically, and emotionally - and have a great summery weekend! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Carbing Up with Chicken Parm

Oh, joy! There is apparently truth to "carbo-loading," or eating a lot of carbohydrates before a long distance athletic event. I'm participating in the Trek Across Maine this weekend, a charity bike ride for the American Lung Association from Sunday River in Bethel, Maine to Belfast, Maine. One hundred and sixty miles in three days, from the mountains to the sea.

And I'm so full. After giving myself free reign to indulge my naughty dining desires on Tuesday, I've had three bagels, a pasta dinner, sandwiches, and very few vegetables. Oof. Not as exciting as I thought it'd be.

But this dinner was great! I'd recommend it spaced out a little from other carb-heavy meals, however.

Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Alexa

Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Panko bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
One egg
Pasta of your choosing (thin spaghetti recommended)
your favorite red sauce (I used the quick one I made and froze a few months ago)
Slices of Provolone cheese

Prepare the chicken breasts by butterflying so you have two thinner pieces. This will make sure the chicken cooks quickly, staying tender and not drying out.

Boil your spaghetti in salted water, and heat your sauce in a small sauce pot.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and coat with olive oil. Just a healthy pour will do. Heat the broiler on high.

Cover a plate with Panko crumbs, a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Mix together. Scramble an egg with a small splash of water in a bowl.

Dip chicken breasts into egg and then coat both sides with bread crumbs. Fry in skillet until nicely browned on both sides. Cover with Provolone cheese and place under the broiler until cheese starts to brown and bubble.

Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve chicken over pasta. Garnish with more cheese if you're carbo-loading.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Review-O-Rama: Apron Anxiety

It's not a new story: girl meets boy, whirlwind romance ensues, boy and girl move to a faraway town, girl is restless/unemployed, girl learns to cook (ahem, see the onus of this very blog). 

Thus begins Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky with the story of how Shelasky learned to cook as a way to cope with her at-times unmoored personal and professional life. It's a quick, engaging read, with recipes for her sentimental dishes sprinkled in between chapters.

But memoirs are tough to pull off, especially by a women with a star-studded, successful writing career (see multiple dinners at Nobu, vignettes of pre-Gisele Tom Brady and Nick Nolte, covering the Emmys), famous chef fiances (Spike Mendelsohn of Top Chef), and apparently a bottomless savings account (see months of unemployment while shopping at Whole Foods in DC). 

I have enjoyed food, cooking, and farming memoirs before, such as Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter, and of course, Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain.  

But in these books, the authors are undertaking a challenge, like only eating food from with 100 miles of your home or raising pigs in downtown Oakland, or are fascinating, knowledgable and slightly crazy, a la Bourdain. 

Apron Anxiety features the slightly troubled times in a young, upper-middle class, white woman's life, the most challenging being her existential strife over love and work. OK, so not every memoir has to be about war, famine, or poverty, but after a while, the author's complaints become a little grating. 

Just like during my reading of Eat, Pray, Love, I found myself engaged, but in the end wondering, just what exactly are you complaining about? Coupled with her continued cutesy metaphors about just! how! little! she knew about food (Is Tallegio a London DJ? Is Lemon Chiffon a dessert or a porn move? Ha. Ha. We get it.),  I began to begrudge the narrator by the end of the book. 

Verdict: recommended for the beach or the plane, instantly forgettable, contains a good take away recipe: Cream of Tomato soup from when the author worked at Sarabeth's in New York, apparently an unforgettable soup for many. 

Coincidentally, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety on the day I made this soup (thankfully a rarity), and with all its seeming fussiness, this soup only added to my stress. But really, it's just extreme cream of tomato soup, so take it as such. 

Cream of Tomato Soup
From Sarabeth's via Apron Anxiety

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small Vidalia onion, chopped
2 medium shallots, chopped
4 scallions, top green parts only, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 oz. canned crushed tomatoes (if purchasing, use crushed in tomato puree, not juice)
4 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
About 1/3 cup dill fronds, torn into tiny sprigs
2 ounces Goat Gouda, grated, for serving

1.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion, shallots, scallion tops, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and translucent, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture into the top of a double boiler and place over the bottom pot of boiling water.

2.  Using a wooden spoon, crush the tomatoes into small pieces. Add the crushed tomatoes with the puree, milk, and cream and bring to a simmer, stirring often.*

3.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a roux. Cook, whisking almost constantly, for about 3 minutes, being sure the roux doesn’t brown. Whisk about 1 1/2 cups of the hot tomato mixture into the roux, then pour the roux mixture into the pot of soup and stir until blended.**

4.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer about 35 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken. Turn off the heat from the double boiler and add the dill, salt and pepper.

5.  Serve hot, topping each serving with about 2 tablespoons of grated cheese.  (The soup can be prepared up to 2 days ahead, cooled completely, covered, and refrigerated. The soup will thicken when chilled; while reheating, thin the heated soup with milk to the desired thickness. Do not freeze the soup.)

*I abandoned the double boiler at this step and transfered the soup to a large pot. I simmered it over low heat and had no troubles.

**If the dairy should curdle, as it did in mine, use an immersion blender to smooth the soup before serving.

For the collective reviews this month, we bloggers were given a selection of proof copies of cookbooks and food-related books from Samantha and Don at Rabelais Books (thanks!). Read the round up of bloggers' book reviews at Portland Food Map

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kale, Carrot, Walnut, Apple Potluck Salad

I now have two go-to potluck salads! I love go-tos. While sometimes it's fun to think of new things, find new recipes, pour over magazines, blogs, cookbooks to find something intriguing, sometimes you just want tried and true. 

My first go to potluck salad is the fennel, arugula, parmesan salad. It's simple, delicious, and will make lots of people compliment you and your salad - always a plus. It might even win over the most ardent fennel hater (as I thought I was). 

Also discovered at (ripped off from?) a potluck is this kale, carrot, walnut, apple salad.

(Side note: I'm sorry to sound like a pretentious restaurant, just listing ingredients without hinting at their prep. But a cutesy title would just make things worse.)

The thing that struck me about this salad is that it's simple while being interesting enough to make you keep eating it. Just when it the flavors could start to coast, you get the crunch of a toasted walnut or the zing from a slice of green onion.

Also? The potluck I mentioned was an indoor barbecue. Depressing. I hope we see some more of that summer weather again soon.

Kale, Carrot, Walnut, Apple Salad

5 large leaves of kale, washed, deveined and torn into pieces
1/2 head small purple cabbage, finely shredded
2 carrots, grated
4 green onions, sliced
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted*
1 green apple, thinly sliced and then chopped

For the dressing: 3 parts olive oil, 1 part cider vinegar, 1 part lime juice, palmful of sugar, pinch of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper

Combine salad ingredients and dressing ingredients separately, then pour dressing over salad. Toss to coat. Voila!

*Do you know how to toast walnuts? Just in case you don't, I just heated them in a pan over medium heat until they browned. Shake them around every now and then, because browning happens fast. You can also use a toaster oven or your big oven, but regardless keep a close eye on them, because burned nuts are not salvageable.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spring Herb Quinoa Cakes

Quinoa cakes! I know whenever I see or hear about some recipe that involves cakes or patties, I smile and nod, knowing that I'll never take the time to shred, mix, pat, fry, etc. But when my friend LBK described these quinoa cakes as having crispy, fried cheese edges, I knew I was going to make them. 

The other clincher was the addition of mint. Ever since my remake of this Pea, Radish, Mint Feta salad, I am totally intrigued by mint in savory dishes. It's a really unexpected, fresh flavor. (Also taps into my love of Thai food.)

So take the time to chop, mix, pat, and fry! It's not as much work as I thought, I promise. The cakes also freeze really well for reheating later.

Spring Herb Quinoa Cakes
Adapted from Two Tarts

2 cups cooked quinoa
2 eggs
2 Tbsp chopped mint
2 Tbsp chopped oregano
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying

Mix together cooked quinoa, eggs, herbs, cheese, and bread crumbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat a large frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. 

Form quinoa mixture into 2" patties with your hands (try to make them flat). Place gently into frying pan and do not disturb for at least 2 minutes. Flip gently and fry on other side until browned. 

Serve over a bed of veggies of your choosing with extra grated cheese if desired. Also would work in a pita with veggies. 

Makes 8-10 patty cakes.