Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tea time

Yesterday I was watering my garden. The neighborhood recently added a few more little kids, and since it is a mostly car-free neighborhood, the little ones play across gardens, form friendships, hang out in troops, with all their little adventures. I held the shower head over the summer squash plants and the herbs, and the little girl, maybe 4 years old, came across the lawn and asked “What are you doing?”. She was wearing a sparkling tiara, a blue bathing suit, a red floor length cape and little white cowboy boots. “Are you a princess?” She nodded. Then she paused. “I am wonder woman.” --- 

For some reason, I was happy that she choose to be wonder woman instead of a princess.

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Today, the sky was dark gray and looked like November, but the temperatures were like the middle of summer. I mostly hung out at home, watched some movies, drank tea, and ate cake. BabyCat decided that was a good plan. She took the cat walk around the chair’s rim and head-butted me, then wiggled herself into the big chair with me.

She slept, I worked on the computer. Took selfies with cat. Lazy Sundays….

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I remember nothing

Yesterday, the ipod hooked up to my car sound systems finished with an audiobook on “Wallander” and started a new audiobook on its own, Nora Ephron’s “I remember nothing” which is also narrated by her. It kept me chuckling all afternoon. I had listened to it before, but for some reason I must have jumped to the middle of the book back then since it started with a piece on food writers. But now, there it was, the beginning. “I remember nothing”. She wrote this book in her 60s and although very few people knew then that she was sick it was her farewell book. Her gleaning through the things she actually remembered from her life and the things she did not was as usual honest and witty.
Nora Ephron was never quite on my radar as a person when she was alive. I had seen, of course, all her icon movies from When Harry Met Sally, to You got mail……, to Silkwood, Heartburn and Julia and Julie. For some reason, I mixed her up with Ephraim Kishon, another (male!) Jewish comedic writer and film maker. I thought Nora was actually a man. Isn’t that terrible? …..that in your subconscious you think that such a prolific, successful, productive comedic writer and filmmaker must be a man, someone you heard about before and thought, it must be the same person. Obviously I also remember nothing.
Her telling the story of her life on “I remember nothing” makes this almost understandable. She talks about her college years at Wellesley, and then deciding to become a journalist. She gets hired at Newsweek in the beginning of the 60s, but, as she said, at that time, women did not become journalists. They were mail girls, clip girls, researchers who verified facts on stories written by male journalists. Due to a newspaper strike, when all things haywire and unorthodox for while, she was asked to write a parody on a New York Post daily column. First the NY Post wanted to sue, but then they hired her. And so, she became a journalist, in a time where all journalists were men.
She had indeed a very illustrious career, was married three times, had 2 kids, many successes, a few failures, and is very honestly reminiscing in the book, with her thoughtful, witty observations, because the inside is always different than the outside. I remember the story she tells about Christmas dinner, that they always got together with many friends, and kids, and cooked Christmas dinner together over the years. She was responsible for the dessert and made 2 cakes. Another friend also made several cakes. They were the dessert team. When the friend passed away, there was shuffling on the dessert routine, and she was asked to bring the potatoes. Only then she realized no one ever liked her cakes, and only liked the friend’s ones.
Her Six Stage of Email is also a classic.
Nora, thank you for talking to me in car every day and making me laugh about the idiosyncrasies of life.
NORA EPHRON (19-05-1941 - 26-06-2012)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ratatouille in a Tagine

It probably was last really hot summer day today, and so I made the best out of it. Time allowed it and I headed to the coast. The summer visitors seem gone by now and it is the time when people come for the weekend. The produce section at Chase’s Daily was overflowing with vegetables, and I bought some wonderfully firm and fresh eggplant for a retake on the ratatouille, but this time making sure there would be steam and bubbling sauce, and the answer is ---- a tagine.

Lunch at Chase’s:





The retake on the ratatouille: Only difference is making it in a covered dish with enough space to develop steam from the vegetable juices. --- A tent-like tagine.

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After 40 min in the oven, the ratatouille was bubbling in its  own juices.

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Ratatouille in a Tagine:
for 1-2 people
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • garlic powder
  • 1/2 summer squash, thinly sliced
  • Small eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • fresh herbs (thyme, savory, mint)
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • parmesan cheese from serving.
  • Special equipment: small tagine
Preheat oven to 375F.
Spread the tomato paste on the bottom on the tagine. Add the garlic powder, and arrange vegetables in round pattern, top with herbs, black pepper and some olive oil. Cover with tagine lid, and bake for 40min. “The vegetables should be bubbling in the tomato sauce.” --- which they do --- serve with fresh grated parmesan. 

Stretching the last days of summer

The summer is presenting us with an end of summer heatwave, but the other signs point towards back to school.

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Instead of shorts and tees and sandals, there is a necessity to wear real clothes again. Some cities and states have already started with school, but we have another few days left, including a long weekend. I put on the blinders and try to hold on tight to summer.

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…wanting to make it stretch into another endless summer. Why did it go by so fast anyway?

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But then, it is all about the work/life balance: should we work to live, or live to work? Or… just live…

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ricotta Cinnamon Plum Cake (Gluten-free)

The season for Italian plums is short around Maine. A few weeks, maybe. Some old fashioned farmers sell them at the farmers market, sometimes they are available in the grocery stores. I have a plum tree in my garden but that will take a while, it is still a baby tree.

But you see, I love plums.

Every year I try a new cake, like the Swiss plum tart (“Waehe”), last year or this Italian Plum tart before. This year I tried something more German with an Italian twist.

It all starts with these plums.

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They are depitted and sliced into three slices per half plum. Mixed with some brown sugar, rum and cinnamon.
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The dough is a basic ricotta cake, which makes sure it will be moister, and a bit richer than a regular cake. Not much cake dough needed, just for a basic layer, spread out in a springform pan.
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The rum-marinated plum slices are arranged in a circular pattern, and sprinkled with some more brown sugar.
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Baked at 350F until the sugar and plums are slightly bubbly and the cake browned and risen.
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Best with whipped cream and maybe a caramel drizzle. Bon Appetite!
Ricotta Cinnamon Plum Cake (Gluten-free)
ca. 10 inch springform pan
  • 1/2  stick unsalted butter (if from the fridge, microwave for 15 seconds)
  • 3 oz whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1  cup all-purpose glutenfree flour (I used King Arthur Flour’s GF flour)
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/3 Teaspoon Salt
  • ca. 10 relatively firm Italian plums
  • 1 TB rum
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the springform pan with baking spray.
  2. Slice the plums into half, remove the pit, and slice each half into thirds. Place in a mixing bowl and mix with the rum, sugar and cinnamon, and let marinate while making the cake.  
  3. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla extracts and cinnamon and mix until fully combined.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller portions, mixing just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon (or fingers) as needed.
  7. Arrange the plum slices on top of the cake in a circular pattern and pour the remaining rum and sugar on top. Sprinkle with 1 TB of brown sugar.
  8. Bake 45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  10. Serve with whipped cream or caramel sauce.

Tomato red hot summer

The summer is back in high gear. How wonderful for the last week of summer break. Maybe, I manage to finally go swimming today…. Lunch with the seasonal tomatoes from the farmers market. So good when tomatoes finally taste like tomatoes (and are inexpensive!) ! Other goodies: home-made hummus, kale pesto, roasted beets, and balsamic vinaigrette!

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Lebanese Tabbouleh

The parsley in my garden grew bigger and bigger, and when I came across a recipe of Tabbouleh I knew what to do.

I bought finely-ground cracked wheat in the bulk section (also called #1 cracked wheat).

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The cracked wheat is soaked with water to softened, but not cooked.
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The fastest way to chop the herbs and scallions is to use the food processor.
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Finely dice the cucumber and tomatoes, and mix with the chopped herbs.
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Add lemon juice and olive oil --- this is the authentic recipe. But I add some gherkins which give it a nice sweet and sour tang.
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Lebanese Tabbouleh
  • 1/2 cup fine cracked wheat (called #1)
  • a large bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 10 to 12 large mint leaves
  • 3 scallions
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • 3-4 small gherkins, finely diced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 TB gherkin brine
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Put the cracked wheat in a bowl, cover it with an inch with water (it will double in size), and let it sit at least 20 minutes.
Wash and dry the parsley and mint. Remove the stems, finely chop the herbs together (or simply chop in a food processor), and put them in a large mixing bowl.
Peel and deseed the cucumber half. Slice it lengthwise into thirds, then chop. Chop scallions and tomatoes and  add them to the cucumber, parsley, and mint.
Squeeze any remaining water out of cracked wheat and it to the vegetables.
Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well, taste, and adjust seasoning and olive oil as needed. 

A good summer Saturday in Maine

It was a good, end of summer hurray Saturday at the farmers market.

Starting the day with cinnamon rolls….

plenty of different vegetables

Plums for a German plum cake

The first apples (with a price hike of $7 per bag, what’s up with that?)

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flowers and bread, especially cute 1 pound loaves

and, of course, wild Maine blueberries.

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It was also the second day of the folk festival in Bangor, which this year featured pleasant, not to hot or humid weather.

Great international folk music at 5 different outdoor stages, and plenty of food, and chinese drums and dragons, and being sure to run into everyone you’ve ever known.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Mushroom quinoa

It’s the weekend, the summer is back on, one week until school starts (from kindergarten to university), and the hustle and bustle had definitely picked up with getting ready for a new productive season. At the same time, everyone holds on tight to summer, although the signs are definitely towards fall coming.

One of my favorites of the season ahead: it is Apple picking time! The next 2 months will be overflowing with juicy, tart, crisp, ripe, red faced apples! Among other abundance at the farmers market, there will also be big bags of inexpensive beets, potatoes, tomatoes, ah…. the fall bounty.

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The dinner here was a double pairing: cooked quinoa with sauted mushroom with a dash of worchestershire sauce for the earthy flavors, and summer squash from the garden and the ever inexpensive grape tomatoes from trader joes with some olive oil and rosemary for the summery lightness.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

I love lists Friday!

Everything you ever wanted to know about taking foot selfies.
























Funny article about a kitchen makeover or quitting the Tyranny of Trend
















This place would put me in the poor house. Fortunately, it is in Sweden.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Hemp summer squash cakes

It was 7:40pm and dark outside. It was still a warm August night, and I walked in the lawn barefoot, cutting some herbs for dinner. Later, I watched August: Osage County, a Oscar nominated movie that made it to my house now thanks to Netflix scheduling a long time ago. Baby Cat squeezed herself next to me in the big arm chair. August: Osage County is a movie with big names, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliet Lewis, Sam Shepard, …but most of them in rather unappealing roles, especially Meryl Streep, but she is fearless, finding this mean, old, pill popping, cancer ridden matriarch in herself when she convinced us with endless movies that she is graceful, elegant, funny, sexy, can sing and dance, and cook, and all the good stuff.

Dinner was summer squash from the garden --- this time grated, mixed with herbs, panko, hemp seeds, peas and an egg and fried in the pan.

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Hemp Summer Squash Cakes

  • 2 large summer squash (or zucchini)
  • 1/2 ts salt
  • fresh crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 TB hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas (or corn)
  • some fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, thyme, savory)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil  or butter (for frying)

In a large bowl, lined with a clean kitchen towel, grate the summer squash. Mix with the salt, and let sit for 15-20min. Twist the towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can.

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Put the squished, dried summer squash in a bowl, add the other ingredients, and mix well.

In a pan, heat a teaspoon olive oil until very hot. Now, lower the heat to medium. Take about 1/4 cup of zucchini mix, pour in pan, and squish flat to a patty with a spatula or large spoon. Form a patty.

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Add 2 to the pan, and ldon’t disturb the patties. Let fry one side until the rims start to brown, then turn over. Cook on the other side for about 10min to really cook the zucchini and soften it.

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Serve immediately, or keep warm in the oven at 300F.  --- Serve with red pepper spread and hummus or greek yogurt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mexican Summer Squash Pan

Summer made a reappearance. This is good although vacation is over. Warm, sunny weather just puts everyone in a so much better mood, no one moping around. Since it’s the last few weeks of summer, everyone is letting their hair down, throwing parties, having invites. Nice!

For tonight’s dinner I brought out the spiralizer and spiraled a large, fresh summer squash from the garden. It made a large amount of thin half moons, which I sauted with olive oil, pickled jalapenos, salt, pepper, oregano, red pepper eggplant spread and crème fraiche with some cooked pasta. Delicious!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Red lassi

The weather recently has cooled. It is gray, rainy and makes me want to wear jeans, dark sweaters and think about Fall fashion. It no longer inspires wearing white jeans, and so I packed them away, similar to the maxi dresses, bathing suits, and the window AC unit. Target is swarmed with packs of ‘back to school’ shoppers. In Dick’s Sport dads fit Nike shoes on their 8 year olds, and contemplate the over $110 running shoe section with their 15 year olds. 

Oh well, it’s back to work anyhow!

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Red lassi

  • 1 cup of yogurt
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of red fruit (strawberry, raspberry)
  • stevia or sugar to taste
  • whirl in mixer til frothy. Enjoy cold!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Cross country trip in Maine–Damariscotta

The other day I set the car navigation system to Damariscotta with a vista point of Morse’s Sauerkraut. The car navi took me over deserted, hilly, blueberry barren lined country roads, much like in Europe, in the South of France, just much less discovered yet.

The first stop was Morse’s Sauerkraut in Waldoborough, a store not just for a German heart’s delight. There is a tiny restaurant serving German breakfast and lunch, and a large enough store selling exclusively German products like dumpling mixes, Dr Oetker pudding and Knorr soups, with a large deli counter for those German cold cuts. Delight, as said. They are also very liberal with samples. The store originally started almost 100 years ago when German immigrants made barrel-fermented sauerkraut, and they’ve been famous for it ever since. (The sauerkraut IS very good).







Next, I entered new territory for me: Damariscotta.

Damariscotta is a scenic little historic village off Rt 1, close to Portland. The street off Rt 1 is long, narrow and winding, and I worried if I might miss the town center. But it became clear when I enter it: a tight collections of historic houses, little stores, restaurants and plenty of tourists walking around. And, with scenic Maine town in the summer: a little bit of traffic shuffling through.



The town center is right on the ocean, with a large wharf and pier for launching kajak trips and ocean cruises, and pier parties with live music.
Damariscotta offers an eclectic collection of relatively high-end stores,  with a hand-made bag studio, jewelry stores, and other design stores. (I had my eye on this handbag, but it was more expensive than a Kate Spade bag).




(check the cat!)

Reny’s, probably the only inexpensive, bargain hunter place in the village, has two stores, and one is in the historic Rexall Soda Fountain with the old school Soda Fountain from the 30s still in tact (and serving soda!)






I was starting to get hungry and looked behind the main street to find this little gem: the Weatherbird store. It is a combination of bakery, deli, wine store and kitchen store (do I need to say more).


Stainless steel Le Creuset, anyone?




The historic and beautiful King Eider Pub.


Concluding with Maine ice cream.