Herbed Feta Cheese

Herbed Feta Cheese

This recipe is only practical if you grow your own herbs, otherwise it gets to be pretty costly.  But maybe you have a friend who would be willing to have you raid his or her herb garden for, say, a lovely wedge of herbed feta cheese?

This recipe also makes a wonderful summertime appetizer.  Instead of making the Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad, use whole Kalamata olives and tomato and lemon slices to decorate a platter.  If you’ve got extra herbs use them too.  It’s a beautiful presentation with all the different colors.

 Marinade:

1 pound piece (or several large chunks) good quality feta cheese
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1 small handful fresh dill sprigs
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 small bunch Greek oregano
4 sprigs of Italian parsley
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil as needed

To serve:
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Sprigs of herbs for garnish

Place the cheese, herbs, spices, and lemon slices in a Ziploc bag.  Add olive oil until the cheese is covered (you’ll use less oil if you squeeze out air as you add oil).  Seal the bag and refrigerate at least 6 hours (24 hours is even better).

To serve:

Remove the cheese from the bag, reserving the oil.  Cut the cheese into bite-size slices and arrange the slices on a platter with the sliced lemon.  Drizzle with the reserved oil and garnish with herbs.

Serve at room temperature with crackers or pita bread.

Serves 6-8

Signs of Spring – Maine Windjammer Style

Ahh, the sounds, sights and smells of spring – Maine windjammer style.  The constant drone of a sander, the bustle of crew trekking into the house on a cloud of sanding dust and the pungent odor of paint thinner wafting through the air.  Blowing paint dust buggers, chapped and hardened hands, Carharts so dotted with paint that it obscures the original color and honor of all honors, so well-worn that they sport a hole or two in the knees or butt.  Rainy days spent in the barn with the music cranked while telling stories of our winters.  Sunny days spent down on the schooner, warm under the cover, sanding and sanding and sanding.  Sanding until your brain turns to mush and your arms, even after the sander has been turned off, still feel the vibration.  Hands that are temporarily set in a claw shape that looks normal when holding a sander but appears either gruesome or intimidating when you’ve put the sander down.

This is the time of year when I’m just as likely to yearn for something grilled as something simmering on the stove top all day long or baked in a warm oven, sometimes feeling the exuberant energy of spring and sometimes still hankering for a good cozy on the couch.  It all depends on what the weather is doing outside, what I want inside my belly.

Today it’s a breezy, bright but chilly day and I made these scones for the crew when they took a break from the drone of the sander.

Stilton Blue Cheese, Canadian Bacon and Chive Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
5 ounces crumbled stilton blue cheese, about 1 1/4 cups
6 ounces diced Canadian bacon, about 1 1/4 cups
1/2 cup minced chives
3/4  cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 450°.  Combine the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Use a pastry cutter or your hands to cut the butter into the mixture until it resembles a fine meal. Do the same with the cheese.  Mix the bacon and chives into the mix.  Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk and eggs into flour mixture just until the dough binds together.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently until combined, about 10 turns.  Pat the dough out to 1-inch thick round.  Cut into 8 wedges and transfer  to an ungreased cookie pan.  Bake until golden brown and firm to touch, about 20 minutes.

Makes 8

Annie
Dusting off flour dust and sanding dust…

French Onion Soup

In the spring, one of my favorite people gifted me with her mother’s french onion soup crocks and while I was excited to share about it then, it was too close to summer for anyone but me to be all that jazzed about French Onion Soup.  Only in Maine would someone find a day cool enough in June to still be wearing a sweater and thinking something warm and cozy for dinner.  SO, here we are in October and I managed to wait.  Yeah, me.

French Onion Soup

This is not the most traditional way to make French onion soup, but it sure is tasty and it doesn’t take four hours to sweat the onions.  Dawn, a galley colleague, makes it this way every week on her boat.  She made it for us one night and it was so yummy I had to develop a recipe for it.

Now, with the proper bowls and an honest to goodness salamander (restaurant broiler), I make crostini instead of croutons and melt the cheese the traditional way with the crostini floating as a raft in the soup and the cheese a generous mound on top.  Only a minute or two under the broiler produces bubbly, melted goodness.

This soup is infinitely better when made with homemade beef stock or broth.  I know it adds to the time factor but if you make the stock in batches to have on hand, it’s so worth the effort, and so much better for you.

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
5 cups onions (3 to 5 onions)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine
6 cups beef stock
5 oz. grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cups diced country or French bread

Preheat oven to 400°.  Melt butter in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sauté for 15-20 minutes or until all of the onions are soft, translucent and golden brown.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Stir in flour and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.  Add wine and then the beef stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for at least 1/2 hour.  Meanwhile, toss bread cubes with butter and spread onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the croutons are golden and crispy.  Serve the soup with cheese and croutons on the side so your guests can add the amount that they like of each.

Serves 4-6

Annie
Comfort Food Fan

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Cook the Book – Warm Cheddar and Horseradish Dip

I love this dip.  Mostly because I’m a sucker for most anything with cheese that ends up bubbly and gooey with a edge that’s darkened to brown and a little crispy.  It’s one I use all the time on the Riggin.  Sometimes I serve it with crackers so that folks can scoop.  A more festive way to serve the dip is to dig out the center of a round loaf of bread and cut the center into 1-inch cubes.  Warm the dip in a double boiler and pour it into the center of the bread and serve with the bread cubes.  Usually I make my own bread, but if it’s the first night of a trip, I do myself a favor and buy a few good loaves at Atlantic Bakery in Rockland.

Warm Cheddar and Horseradish Dip

4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tablespoon grated onion
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons horseradish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.  Combine all the ingredients by hand or in a food processor.  Spoon the mixture onto an ovenproof platter.  Bake for 20 minutes until the dip is bubbling around the edges.

Annie
Ooey, gooey and cheesy, hmmm.

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Tomato and Avocado Quesadillas with Mango and Red Pepper Salsa

Love, love, love quesadillas and salsa.  Easy, forgiving, zingy, sloppy, cheap, pretty and the girls like them.  What more could a person ask for?

Wait for them to cool a bit before slicing as it gives the cheese time to set up and not ooze out the sides.
You can hold these in the oven at 200º for up to one hour.

Tomato and Avocado Quesadillas

8 plain flour tortillas, 8-inch
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 tomatoes, peeled pitted and sliced
3 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
Pinch of salt for each quesadilla, use sparingly as the cheese is also salty
3 tablespoons olive oil, approximately

Prepare the quesadillas by laying out four tortillas and dividing the avocado, cheese and tomatoes evenly between  them.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place the other tortillas on top like a sandwich.  Heat a 10-inch skillet over medium  high heat.  Add a tablespoon of the oil and carefully place one quesadilla into the skillet.  Cook for 2 minutes  on one side or until golden brown and flip.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool on a cutting board or hold in the oven on a cookie sheet at 200º.

Repeat with the other three quesadillas adding oil to the pan at the beginning as needed.  Cut into 6 or 8 pieces each.

Serves 4-8

Mango and Red Pepper Salsa

1 mango, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 red pepper, diced
2-3 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 to 2 limes
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon minced jalapeno pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients together and serve.

Makes 2 to 3 cups

Annie

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Cook the Book – Summer Vegetable Strata

Summer Vegetable Strata

 

12 slices of day old or dry French or Italian Bread, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1 clove garlic, slightly crushed
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup loosely packed fresh chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 medium summer squash or zucchini, washed and cut into quarters lengthwise, then cut into pieces about 1/2-inch thick
2 tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.  Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Rub the top of each slice of bread with the garlic clove. Lay the slices in the dish in one layer, cutting them into pieces when necessary. Season lightly with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs then whisk in the milk, half of the cheese, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Add the basil and stir gently.  Set aside. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and colors lightly. Stir the squash into the onion, spread everything in a single layer, and let it sit undisturbed for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage browning; turn and continue cooking another 1 to 2 minutes until browned. When the squash is lightly browned on both sides, stir in the tomatoes, stir to toss, and remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to drain off any excess liquid and spread the vegetables evenly over the bread. Give the milk and egg mixture a stir and gently pour it all into the dish. Top with the remaining cheese. Bake until the milk and egg mixture sets, about 40-45 minutes. Cool at least 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve.

Serves 6-8

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Cook the Book – Mom’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

Mom’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette

This dressing will hold in the refrigerator for two weeks.

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 to 4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup salad oil

Pulse all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor. With the food processor running, gradually add the oil (this doesn’t need to be slow, just don’t dump it in all at once).

Makes approximately 1 cup

Replacing White Flour with Whole Wheat in Recipes

Stromboli was lunch today for a group of Waldorf kids on their 8th grade trip adventure.  What a terrific group!

As it was a PPH column first, the previous post only included a link, but now can include the whole recipe.  After it ran, a reader asked this question about replacing white with wheat flour and I thought it was a good one to share:

I always enjoy your column; my husband’s favorite French Onion soup is the one you printed a while back. Now I would like to give your stromboli a try, perhaps for Valentine’s Day. I was wondering what you thought about using whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, and if I did, whether there are any adaptations I should make. I already plan to try a new brownie recipe from the most recent Cook’s Illustrated magazine, so I figured the stromboli would be fun too. Why not break the caloric bank in the name of love??? (I guess that is why I might feel better using whole wheat flour!!!)

Thanks and I look forward to reading more of your recipe suggestions!

Mary G.

And my response:  That French Onion Soup is my husband’s absolute favorite recipe too (which I will post on a future date.)  I love your phrase about ‘breaking the calorie bank’!  As for using whole wheat, I have two thoughts.  One, don’t replace more than half of the white flour with the wheat, any more and you’ll have to adjust the gluten content or it won’t rise as well.  The other thought is to use whole wheat bread flour, which has more gluten in it, and rises better.  Even so, for the first time, I wouldn’t replace all of the white flour with the wheat. On another note, I read that brownie recipe a couple of days ago and thought to try it as well.  I really love the one I already use, but it’s more fudgy than anything else, which has only seemed a very good thing.

Happy caloric eating to you and your husband!

Stromboli Dough
Stromboli is similar to a pizza or a calzone.  While a pizza is flat and a calzone folded over itself once, stromboli are rolled into a loaf with the toppings inside.

This dough is easily doubled or tripled to make stromboli for a crowd or for any of the above mentioned uses.  Of course you can always knead this dough by hand, but I’m assuming that only the purists among us will do so when a dough hook is readily available.  If you don’t own a dough hook, no worries, our foremothers (and me all summer long) just kneaded the dough for 10-15 minutes by hand.  It’s a meditative and energetic exercise all at once.

3/4 tablespoons dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water, reserve 1/4 cup and add as needed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus a little for the top of the dough
Cornmeal for dusting

Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl.  With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed.  Add 3/4 cup of water and olive oil.  When the dough begins to form a ball, add more water a tablespoon at a time until the little bits of flour on the bottom of the bowl start to work into the dough.  Knead on medium low speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the surface of the dough begins to be very smooth and the dough is elastic.

Oil the top of the dough, cover with either a plate or plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.  Dust a baking pan with corn meal.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.  Lay out ingredients over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed.   Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal.  Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about 1/2 hour.  When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.

Place the baking pan in the oven, throw 1 cup of water into the skillet on the bottom to generate steam and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and an internal read thermometer reads 210°.

Serves 4-6

Fillings:
Ricotta and Genoa Salami
1/2 pound sliced Genoa salami
1 cup ricotta cheese
3 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, about 1 cup

OR
Mozzarella with Parsley and Arugula Pesto

1/2 cup pesto (recipe below)
6 oz. grated mozzarella cheese, about  2 cups

Parsley and Arugula Pesto
1/2 packed cup parsley leaves
1/4 packed cup basil leave
1/4 packed cup arugula leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the leaves are finely blended.

Makes 1 cup (I know the stromboli recipe calls for only 1/2 cup, but if you are going to clean the food processor anyway, why not make extra to go in a pasta dish or a dressing on salad?)

No-Cook Tomato Herb Sauce
The stromboli is nice on it’s own, but traditionally it has a sauce to go with it.  I discovered this summer that even canned crushed tomatoes make a flavorful sauce that doesn’t need cooking when the bright flavors of parsley and basil and the zip of fresh garlic are mixed with the tang of red wine vinegar.

1 14oz. can crushed tomatoes, about 2 cups
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced basil
1 teaspoons minced garlic, about 1 clove
1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon balsamic
1/8 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in small bowl and set aside until ready to serve.  This sauce benefits from 20-30 minutes of just sitting to allow the herbs and garlic to soften and the flavors to combine.

Makes 2 cups  (again, you’ll have extra, but why not?  With the extra pesto above you’ve got the beginnings of a great pasta dish.)

Annie
Our first days on the bay are always so sweet!

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Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Peas with Penne

“Mama, WHY are we the only ones who take care of the chickens?” say the girls one morning. (They aren’t but who’s counting.)

“I tell you what, I’ll do the chickens both morning and evening if you cook dinner tonight,” I say with complete certainty that they’ll choose chickens.

“DEAL!” they say.

So then goes the conversation about what they’ll make and how they’ll make it all by themselves. Admittedly, they did ask questions and I did hang around the kitchen to field them, but I didn’t touch a pot or a pair of tongs once.

They served it with asparagus from the garden and even figured out how to use the pasta water to blanch the asparagus. The amounts of the peas and the cheese are approximate as I wasn’t in there measuring, but the creme fraiche and the salmon are exact.

It wasn’t just edible; it was GOOD!

Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Peas with Penne
1 pound package of penne
4 oz. creme fraiche
1 1/2 to 2 cups peas. The girls used frozen, but if you have fresh peas? Heaven.
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese. I was skeptical but it was great!
salt and pepper
4 oz. smoked salmon

Asparagus with Lemon
If the asparagus you find is skinnier than what I’ve listed, reduce your blanching time accordingly.
1 bunch thick asparagus (about 3/4-inch diam.)
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta for 5 minutes in boiling salted water. Add the asparagus for 4 more minutes. Remove asparagus with tongs to a platter and add the peas to the water for 1 minute. Drain and return to the pasta pot. Add the creme fraiche, cheddar cheese and smoked salmon and stir until the cheddar is melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze half a lemon over the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Serve the pasta with the asparagus and a lettuce and vegetable salad.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie

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Wilted Brie Salad

This recipe was inspired by Kerry Altiero, chef and co-owner of Café Miranda’s in Rockland, Maine.  If you haven’t eaten there yet, it’s a palate’s delight.

This is a perfect last minute meal for greens that you might find popping up in your garden (or under the cold frame).  If you don’t have time to make the pesto or the crostini, just skip it and buy both.  This salad also makes a great sit down appetizer for a dinner party.

Wilted Brie Salad
8 cups mesclun mix, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 oz. brie cheese, cut into four wedges

Preheat broiler.  Mix all ingredients except for the brie and divide evenly onto 4 plates.  Place wedge of brie on top of salad.  Place under broiler for 2 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Annie
No longer looking for a quick dinner tonight

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