Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Art of Squeezing a Lemon

There are some tasks in the kitchen that happen all the time, and it is good to have a simple, effective, all-around efficient way of doing it. For example, grating garlic, chopping onions or squeezing a lemon. Since I get all my culinary knowledge from FoodNetwork and the Cooking channel, I do whatever Giada, Ina and Rachael are doing. Giada must do regular strength training because she squeezes a 1/2 lemon with her bare hands. I need tools.

You would think, well, that is easy, you just use a juicer. An electric juicer is very good for squeezing, but way too much work for clean up. A manual juicer is similar, less cumbersome for the clean-up, but still many parts and it ends uo in the dish washer. A fabulous tool is a reamer, which is very easy clean up, just rinse it, and it is also good for getting the juice out. However, what about the seeds?!

There is on to the next cue: Ina! She is like me, no upper arm strength, she also uses a reamer, but….. to catch the seeds she reams the lemon over a sieve, and that is the best of both world: easy juicing the lemon, without the seeds. Both the reamer and sieve can easily be cleaned.

Today’s lemon juice went into a lacinato kale salad with yellow watermelon, feta and beets. 

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No-Knead Bread

Years ago, when everyone was baking the New York Times no-knead bread, I tried it out and the only thing that happened was that I ruined a perfectly fine le creuset and generated inedible bread. Not sure what made me try it again (I used the already wrecked le creuset) but this time it worked out beautifully. Maybe, I understand bread a little bit better. Also, I used the kitchenaid standmixer for some good kneading, which allowed the dough to rise in record time (a few hours). Once the bread was baked, it was perfection! This is a really simple recipe with few ingredients; however, the salt should be added late in the process (salt and yeast don’t work together that well during the initial rise process). The trick with the preheated cast iron dutch oven creates a very crusty bread. It is like fresh French bread.   (The recipe is actually very similar to the NYTimes recipe, a bit less water and more yeast, anyway it worked!)
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Minimally kneaded bread:
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ts yeast
  • 1 ts bakers milk powder (King Arthur Flour website) (optional)
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1-1/2 cups warm water
  1. In a standmixer bowl with the kneading hook attachment, whisk together the flour and yeast. Slowly add the lukewarm water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Knead for about 5-10 min., Add the salt, and knead another 2 min. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 6-12 hours (up to 24h if you knead by hand) at room temperature. 
  2. Preheat oven to 450F. Place a cast iron dutch oven with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the risen dough onto a floured surface (mixture will be sticky) and lightly shape into a round loaf.
  3. Remove the hot cast iron pot from the oven and carefully place the dough into it. Cover with a lid and return to oven for 30 minutes. Then, remove the lid and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove bread from oven and from pot and place on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Zucchini Carrot Bread

It is the time of the season when the reliable production of zucchini in the garden leads to.... zucchini bread. I made this recipe with lower calories by adding kidney beans instead of half of the canola oil, and the NuNatural Stevia based baking mix instead of a 1/2 cup of brown sugar. You'd never know -- it tastes great!




 

































Zucchini Carrot Bread
1 loaf (22 servings)

Ingredients 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
  • 2 free-range eggs 
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup cooked kidney beans (rinsed, no-salt) 
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup NuNaturals baking mix 
  • 1 TB vanilla extract
  • 1/2 ts salt 
  • 1 3/4 cup grated zucchini (squeeze out excess moisture) 
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 8x4 loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
In a larger food processor, whisk oil and the kidney beans, until smooth. Add eggs and mix until well blended.  Add brown sugar, stevia baking blend, vanilla,  and salt, and puree until smooth.  Pour mixture into a mixing bowl, add grated zucchini and carrot, stirring gently until combined. Add flour mixture to zucchini mixture, folding until just combined. 
Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes and then move to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Maine Fashion Inspiration: JCrew

After Gap kids and Levis, J.Crew (now with a brandnew store in the Maine Mall in Portland!) also used a Maine backdrop for their 2012 fall catalog.



Creamy Fig Dressing with Greek Yogurt and Feta

Today, I finished my last portion of mache from Whole Foods, and I like to eat it as it is, no other vegetables, but with a creamy yogurt dressing and some toasted hazelnuts. I don’t buy dressing in a jar, so I whipped one up, inspired by the fresh figs. A fresh fig, a bit of greek yogurt, some feta cheese, a few herbs, salt and pepper and the perfect creamy dressing is ready. The fig adds just the right amount of sweetness.

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Creamy Fresh Fig Dressing (makes 1 generous portion):
  • 1 fresh fig, quartered
  • 1/4 cup of greek yogurt (I like Fage)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1 square inch cube sheep milk feta
  • 1 TB of feta brine (sheep milk feta typically comes with a brine, @ FM, Trader Joes or Wholefoods) – if not using, add some salt to taste
  • 1  ts dried or fresh rosemary
  • a few fresh basil leaves or 1-2 springs of savory
  • 1/2 ts of dijon mustard
  • fresh ground pepper
  • optionally: 1 ts olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor (vitamix!) and puree until smooth consistency. Fill in a small jar for serving or directly on the salad.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Maine Fashion inspiration: Levis

Levis is also looking to Maine for a Fall 2012 fashion inspiration.... my beloved Maine.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fresh figs and cherry tomato salad

Buying fresh figs, one things is important: eating them fast or freeze them because they go bad quite quickly. This is a great salad to combine figs with more vegetables: cherry tomatoes or other seasonal tomatoes, feta cheese, some fresh herbs like savory, thyme or basil and a light vinaigrette such as a 1/2 TB olive oil, 1 ts of raw honey and 1 TB of a white balsamic vinegar and some pepper, some toasted almonds would be good, too. A tasty combination!

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The Maine Collection

Maine becomes fashionable…. --- GAP named a fall collection for kids 0-24month for boys and girls the Maine collection. Absolutely adorable, my favorite being the long sleeved body double with a seagull wearing a red white scarf. Lots of little boys out there for this cute collection!
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Art at the river

It is the time of the year again when I am ready to pay prime money for locally grown tomatoes. Tomatoes seem to come out better grown by other people rather than by me. I only do well with cherry tomatoes, but the rest…. the plants get too large, too heavy, fall over, the tomatoes fall off before they mature, or look all heirloom and taste like nothing, and all that for a whole summer full of love…. So, the farmers market it is (and my favorite farmers marketista).

For the last month, right next to the farmers market’s summer location on the big empty university parking lot an art exhibition has been taking place. Around 6 international artists started working away with large, loud, dust producing power tools on huge blocks of Maine granite to transform them into art sculptures. Mostly, it feels like visiting a dentistpaloozza with the drill noise and the dust, but it is interesting to see how the sculptures emerge from the granite with 8h/day of power tools. Of of my favorite sculptures is almost finished, as I saw today getting some tomatoes.

 

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Spanish Rice

Yesterday, as I was browsing through the current issue of Saveur, which features Mexican cooking, I came across a recipe of Mexican rice, which inspired me enough to try it out. However, after following through with the recipe I seriously doubted that it was correct since it requested 2 cups of long grained rice to 1 cup of water and 1 small can of tomatoes, a recipe that  likely asserts a heavy dose of nighttime upper arm exercise involved scrubbing a burnt pot. Also, I thought about adding this and that, and in the end it was a delicious red rice but had very little to do with the Saveur recipe. Nevertheless, delicious is key, right? Since I added saffron, I call it Spanish rice, not Mexican rice, since it reminds me more of paella.

Check out the other recipes in the Saveur issue --- the mole dish looks scrumptious!

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Spanish rice (make 2 larger portions):
  • 1 cup long grained rice
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 small white (sweet) onion, grated (!)
  • 2 garlic cloves, microplaned/grated
  • 1/2 red sweet bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cherry hot pepper, diced
  • 1 pickled jalapeño, diced
  • 1 small can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • good dose of saffron strands, diluted in some 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 TB chicken bouillion
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
Puree the canned tomatoes with the hot water until smooth, set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pot, and sauté the grated onion, until the liquid is evaporated (it is recommendable to use a non-stick pot for this recipe). Add the garlic, the peppers (hot, regular, and pickled) and the rice, and sauté dry for ca. 3-4 minutes (toasts the rice, similar to a risotto, and add more flavor). Then, add the tomato/broth mixture, heat through, and then turn the heat to low, cover with a lid, add the saffron/water, and cook for 20 min. Stir frequently. Add the corn and peas, cook another 2-3 min, and cook --- serve.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Back to an organized life

I am easing back into work life with getting organized, making plans, print out stuff, etc. The last hurray of vacation was a trip to Portland yesterday, I was finally in the mood for it, driving on a sunny interstate I-95, with significantly more traffic than usual. Freeport, the closet place to find a Lindt chocolate store, was packed and parking was hard to come by. Portland was emptier, probably everyone was at the beach and a short trip to Trader Joes revealed: California black figs are back! Yeah! They made it immediately into today’s lunch salad, together with some TJ grape tomatoes, and home-cooked chickpeas and greens from the farmers market.

Other interesting things:

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

End of the vacation

Today is the last day of my vacation. It was another staycation but the weather was so-so half of the time, and I could not come up with any new things to do. Ok, I came up with ideas but then I was too lazy to execute or the weather did not play. It was one of these vacays that are characterized by laying low on a chaise (or couch), and read a book, and just veg for an extended period of time, which is rare for me. Looks like I also did not have a lot energy to blog either. Gotta go with the flow, right?
I had 2 nice hikes in Acadia, a trip to Belfast. visited one of my favorite cats on Acadia, just to hear he has passed away, hit by a car since I last saw him in May. His brother picked up the slack of greeting any visitor friendly and rolling over right away for a belly rub. I had a serious talk with him, saying “Do NOT cross that street, hear me?” ; he was comfortable in his shady retreat. I was so sad to hear about Scruffy, and I still am.
Bar Harbor and my hike around Jordan Pond was overrun with tourists. Many young families this year, even with tiny infants, taking the 2h round trip around the lake, balancing on the elevated trail on one side of the lake, and the wait at the Jordan pond lawn restaurant was too long for my hunger. So, no popovers this year, just a sandwich from the JP store. Oh well. Good for the economy, right?
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Fall practise

Yesterday was another vacation day, it started off with the rain drops loudly dripping into the window AC unit, and the cats not even wanting to blink an eye to welcome the new day – it was so dark outside. The entire day stayed dark, rainy, and I ended up on the couch catching up on new episodes of Breaking Bad (season 4) on netflix, cats curled up and taking a nap next to me. It was also a day that made me practise my soup cooking skills for the fall to come, lobster broth was on the menu and a delicious black bean soup.

Today, the sun is back, temperatures in the upper 80s, to stay so for the remainder of the vacation, so I better snap up the opportunity!

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Roasted eggplant dip with saffron, caramelized onion and walnuts

The other day on a trip to Belfast, I stocked up on the vegetables at Chase’s Daily again. There was so much to choose from, and the quality is exquisite. Eggplant of all different shapes, sizes and colors was one of the vegetables I bought. Now, what to do with it? I made a delicious eggplant dip with caramelized onions, garlic, some saffron, mint and creme fraiche. Best with crackers or pita chips!

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Roasted Eggplant dip with saffron, caramelized onion and walnuts (makes 2 servings)
  • 1 large eggplants, roasted & mashed
  • 2 TB olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoons dried mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 2 tablespoons of hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • garnish with chopped walnuts, caramelized onions & fresh chopped mint
Preheat the oven to 400F.  Cut the eggplant into quarter, coat it with some olive oil, place the eggplant skin side up and roast the pieces until the skin is charred and the eggplant releases liquid. Remove from the oven, and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Heat a saute pan and add 1 TB olive oil. Add the thinly sliced onions (best with a mandoline) and caramelize the onion on low to medium heat. It will take 5-10min. Continue stirring. Now add garlic & mint and saute for 2 minutes.
Place the cooled eggplant in a food processor, and chop (or smash by hand with a fork). (Note: I left used the eggplant skin on since it was not charred very much, and chopping it in the food processor was easier). Add the roasted eggplant mixture to the caramelized onions {save some for garnish}, saffron liquid, lemon juice, turmeric powder and some salt and pepper. Saute for few more minutes.
Mix the creme fraiche with 2 TB of hot water to dilute it, and add to the eggplant mix.
Serve the dip on a plate, and garnish with caramelized onions, toasted chopped walnuts, and  chopped fresh mint.

Garden, the August version

Finally, a rainy day interrupting my summer staycation. Time to catch up on home errands and some blogging. August fills me with a sense of light melancholy as in “this is the last month of summer”. The last month of summer break, of searing hot temperatures, long days without a chill in the morning, summer as it should be. The garden is in full bloom and the various squash plants take over everything. The first home-grown cherry tomatoes, the first ever home-grown radicchio salad which looks more like art than the red radicchio I know from the store. Also, my first home-grown kuri winter squash is doing well and starts to look like the red ones from the farmers market. This plant, grown from a single seed, saved from a kuri squash I bought last fall at the FM, is making its way across the garden. Ah, August.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer fun?

While you guys have summer fun, somewhere, with lakes, oceans, the pool, BBQs, watch the Olympics, and all the good things of a hot August summer day, I am working away at a deadline again, on the weekend. Oh well. .... At least, we have Maine coast crackers to keep the energy up. Now, how about that glass of wine? 






Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Drought me not.

It is one of these days again when I did not catch enough sleep, because my cat woke me up again, at 4:30am because she was hungry. She is on a diet and I lock away her food. When she gets hungry, she miouws in my ear, and if I pretend I have not heard it she tickles my ear with her paw. That basically happens every night; I am ready to give up on her diet so I can sleep again!

I read that the midwest has a severe drought this summer and that all the corn for the chickens and cattle is not growing. 1000 things go through my mind of “cattle should not eat corn in the first place” and “you shall not eat cattle in the first place” and so on, but I leave it at that. Looking out the window this morning, it rained and rained, so no drought at least in Maine for the day.

Doesn’t look salad even better with a close-up? All those chickpeas, cranberries, the  puddles of balsamic vinaigrette, and the crisp bip salad leaves? Lumps of roquefort?

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