Maine Food Cruises – Veggies and Greens, Oh My!

One of the many questions I get from folks in the cooking realm is what to do with all the veggies that come for their CSAs.  Now that Community Supported Agriculture has taken parts of our country by storm, the questions keep coming.  Among them are… What else can I do with my kale?  How do I use up that ugly kohlrabi that keeps turning up in my box?  Is there a way to combine all of these veggies in a meal or dish?

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On our Maine Gourmet Food Cruises we talk about how to combine veggies, what to do to make them interesting, and how to preserve them if you just have too darn much to use in a week’s time.

Vegetable Tip:  To keep lettuce and greens longer in the refrigerator, wash the lettuce and remove every bit of water that you can and then layer the leaves with a dish towel or paper towel.  Store in a large tub with a lid or in a resealable plastic bag.  I’ve used this technique on long, at sea adventures, on the Riggin and in my home kitchen to great effect.  Another way to preserve hearty greens is to clean and dry them, ribs removed.  Once they are dry, coat them in a thin layer of olive oil.  They will last for at least a week and a half in the refrigerator.

Annie
Thinking about greens galore and our next Maine Food Cruise, July 6 to 9!

 

Maine Food Cruises – Soups, Stews, and Sauces

At first glance, soups and stews might not seem all that glamorous in terms of a topic for a gourmet cooking cruise, however, how to begin and season a soup or stew is the very basis for not only many a diners’ dinner, but also the sauces that can elegantly top a seared tenderloin or grilled salmon.

Lobster and Corn Chowda - Maine-style, Deaha.
Lobster and Corn Chowda – Maine-style, Deaha.

From stock to pistou, we’ll talk about how to make super tasty and healthy soups, stews, and sauces and then sample them for lunch or for dinner.  Perhaps it will be a Coconut Curried Lentil and Potato Soup with Nan or a Pork Loin Roast with a Rhubarb and Red Wine Reduction Sauce.  Who knows, because the menu is different every week on the Riggin, so your guess is as good as mine.

 

Soup, Stew, and Sauce Tip:  The time a cook takes to saute the vegetables at the beginning of a soup, sauce, or stew can not be underestimated.  When the vegetables caramelize a bit and begin to develop a little brown on the bottom of the pan, flavor is building.  To rush this process is to forgo the depth of flavor that is possible forever.

Annie
Come share some super good food with us!  July 6 to 9 is our next Maine Food Cruise, but there are more on the schedule.  Check it out!

Maine Gourmet Food Cruises – Bread Baking

Fresh sourdough baguette straight from a wood fired oven?  Sure!  Off the coast of Maine on an historic sail boat?  Even better.

Gourmet cooking cruises, culinary travel, or Maine Food Cruises, no matter what you call them, they all have the same thing in common – local Maine food, grown sustainably, and served with care and attention on the deck of the Schooner J. & E. Riggin.  We serve what I call swanky comfort food all summer long, but our special Cooking with Annie trips have an additional element – a bit of education.

Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread.  Yum.
Kalamata Olive and Black Pepper Bread. Yum.

We aren’t “in class” all day long, so if you have a spouse or friends that are just interested in eating well while you learn a few more tips and techniques to add to your culinary arsenal, this is perfectly planned.

That said, anyone who wants to spend all day in the galley with me, watching and learning, absolutely can.  From 6am to 7pm, I’m in the galley making breakfast, lunch and dinner, so there are plenty of chances to get your hands doughy or dirty, so to speak.

The first in the series of topics that we talk about during the trip is bread.

Breads – to knead or not to knead, sourdough or quick breads, baguette or stirata, the world of bread is big and the options are many.

Bread Tip:  Did you know that there are two ways to encourage the formation of gluten (what gives a loaf it’s loft and structure) in bread?  Kneading is one and more moisture is another.  So to achieve a similar result, you can either spend 5 to 10 minutes kneading your bread or you can add more liquid to your dough and let time do the work.

 

Annie
Gourmet cooking cruises?  Who doesn’t want to eat well on vacation?  July 6 to 9th is our next Maine Gourmet Food Cruise.

No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread – Easy Peasy

No-knead techniques have taken the baking world by storm, or really been rediscovered by storm, and are a wonderful addition to any bread baker’s arsenal.  Truly, there is nothing I love better than pulling several loaves of freshly baked bread from the oven, whether it’s on the boat or in our home.

For me, the connection of homemade bread to our roots, to our communities, to our families and to our personal nutrition is a tie that weaves beautifully through all of these multi-layered parts of our lives.  I know, I know, there are a number of us that can’t have gluten and even more who shun bread due to the carbohydrate thing, but truly, a kale smoothie just doesn’t make the same heart and soul connection for me.

This bread is wonderful with a bowl of soup on a chilly spring day or toasted for breakfast and slathered with some homemade jam.  It’s a staple on our Maine windjammer and one I make at home all the time too.

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No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread

1 tablespoon unsalted butter for greasing the pans
12 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
5 cups warm water (more or less)

Grease 3 loaf pans and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients and mixing with one hand while turning the bowl with the other, add the water.  When the flour is fully incorporated into the dough, turn out onto a floured counter and cut into three equal pieces.  Press into rectangular shapes and roll the dough gently into a log.  Transfer to the prepared loaf pans, cover, and set aside for several hours until the loaves have doubled in size.   Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown on the outside and the loaves come out of the pans easily. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 3 loaves

Annie
Happy baking to you and to me!

Bûche de Noël – A Traditional Favorite

This recipe is a combination of both a Julia Child and Ellen Barnes recipe.  Julia Child’s cookbook “Baking with Julia” is a classic I enjoy returning to again and again.  Ellen Barnes is a former windjammer owner and one of my mentor’s.  Her cookbook is called “The Taber Cookbook” and the well worn pages of my copy were hand-sewn together once the plastic spiral binding disintegrated.  Clearly a cookbook I treasure.

Bûche de Noël

I began making Bûche de Noël for Christmas dessert over 10 years ago when the girls and I wanted a baking project that was a little less intense than making our own gingerbread house from scratch, an event that will live in infamy in our house for the overwhelm meltdowns this effort produced.  Needless to say, it takes a special 5 year old to handle the construction and then collapse of a gingerbread house.  Maybe a special adult too as ours might have ended up in the trash…

Anyway, that was a long time ago and we have held to our Bûche de Noël making with eager joy.  While it, in our household, is an easier and more welcome project than gingerbread, it is not for the faint of heart.  Also, I would say that if you don’t have all the tools – pastry bag with tips, baking sheet, pastry knife, that maybe you’d just forgo this project.  It’s rare for me to say this, but the tools make this project SO much easier.

Bûche de Noël mushrooms

Bûche de Noël

Bûche de Noël

This cake is inspired by a recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook “Baking with Julia.”

Cake:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus a little extra for the pan), melted
1 cup sifted cake flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Rum Syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons rum

Mocha Cream Frosting:
1 1/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
4 egg yolks
2 cups soft butter
3 squares unsweetened chocolate
2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
4 tablespoons rum

Meringue Mushrooms:
4 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Decorative Frosting:
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Dash of salt
1 tablespoon or more of milk

Pine sprigs
Pomegranate seeds

Cake:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Pour 1 tablespoon melted butter into a 1-quart bowl; set aside.

Put the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the salt in to sifter and sift the ingredients onto a piece of waxed paper; set aside.

Put the eggs and the remaining sugar into the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer.  Holding the whisk attachment from the mixer in your hand, beat the mixture to blend the ingredients.  With the bowl and whisk attachment in place, whip the mixture on medium speed until it is airy, pale, and tripled  in volume, like softly whipped cream, 4 to 5 minutes.  You’ll know that the eggs are properly whipped when you lift the whisk and the mixture falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that rests on the surface for about 10 seconds.  If the ribbon immediately sinks into the mixture, continue whipping for a few more minutes.  Pour in the vanilla extract during eh last moments of whipping.

Detach the bowl from the mixer.  Sprinkle about one third of the sifted flour mixture over the batter.  Fold in the flour with a rubber spatula, stopping as soon as the flour is incorporated.   Fold in the rest of the flour in 2 more additions.  (This is the point at which the batter is at its most fragile, so fold gingerly.)

Brush the extra butter onto a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet that has a rim.  Cover with parchment paper and scrape the batter onto the sheet, smoothing out with the spatula.  Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center and the edges pull away from the sides of the pan.

Dust a large kitchen towel with powdered sugar.  Invert the baking sheet onto the towel and cool slightly.  Before it is completely cooled, roll the cake (with the towel) up into a log.

Rum Syrup:
Boil the sugar and water together until syrupy, about 3 minutes. Cool and add the rum.

Mocha Cream Frosting:
Boil the sugar and water together until 240 degree on a candy thermometer or until the soft ball stage. Beat the egg yolks until fluffy. Add the sugar and water mixture gradually while beating and continue until mixture is cool. Add the butter bit by bit until it has all been incorporated. Beat in the chocolate, coffee and rum.

Meringue Mushrooms:
Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Beat egg whites until frothy. Add the salt and cream of tartar and beat well. Add the sugar gradually and add the vanilla. Continue beating until mixture is glossy and stiff but not dry. Cover a 12 by 17-inch baking sheet with waxed paper and using a pastry bag, pipe the mushrooms tops and stems onto the sheet. Bake about 1 hour or until the meringues are dry. When you are ready to work with them, gently assemble by pressing the mushroom caps onto the stems. Lightly dust the tops with cocoa powder.

Decorative Frosting:
Cream the butter and add 1/2 cup confectioners sugar and milk until fluffy. Add the salt and vanilla and then the remaining sugar and milk, alternating between the two. Beat until frosting stands in stiff peaks. Transfer to a pastry bag.

To Assemble:
Unroll the cake and peel the parchment paper off. Use half of the Mocha Cream Frosting and spread evenly over the cake. Using the towel to help you, roll the cake up snuggly without causing the frosting to squeeze out of the ends. Poke toothpicks into the final edge to keep it from unrolling. Make a diagonal cut about 1/3 of the way down and snug that cut up to the side of the log to make it look like the v in a branch. Spread the rest of the Mocha Cream Frosting on the top and sides, leaving the ends frosting free. Pipe the Decorative Frosting on all of the ends and any place you’d like to make a decoration. Add the Meringue Mushrooms to the sides in clusters. Decorate with pine sprigs and pomegranate seeds.

Annie
Post your cakes so I can see!

Photo credit: Ella Finger

Lemon Curd Cheesecake – A Bake Ahead Holiday Dessert

The tricks to making a successful cheesecake are simple.  They also make sense when you understand the reason behind them.

Lemon Curd Cheesecakes

Eggs, a major component of cheesecakes, don’t like to be heated quickly or subject to high heat.  Instead they like to be handled gently and with a little tender loving care.  They freak out when the heat is too fast or too high, curdling or puffing up, both of which we don’t want in a cheesecake.  This is why having all ingredients at room temperature to begin with helps.  Another trick is some sort of water – either in the form of steam or a water bath, to mitigate the formation of a crust and to gentle the heat.  Lastly, letting the cheesecake cool down in the oven helps gentle the change in heat and prevents those craters we don’t want to see in our cheesecakes.

Lemon Curd Cheesecake

The recipes that ran in the Portland Press Herald today, Vanilla Cheesecake and Lemon Curd Cheesecake, are both favorites in our family.  There I also write about how to freeze and thaw cheesecakes, making them a perfect make-ahead dessert.  The Lemon Curd Cheesecake has been a holiday dessert for years, appeasing those who are done with the chocolate overload.

Annie
Happy baking!

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili

It’s not always practical to follow a recipe, although it may be easier on some fronts.  Certainly, knowing that someone else has tested a recipe increases the chances of success.  On the other hand, when those moments arrive when ‘there’s nothing in the fridge to eat’ but still no space for more food, it’s time to get creative.   Typically, following a recipe is not going to use up the eclectic mix of ingredients found collected in your home and refrigerator.

In these moments, soup is one among many meals that work well for using up odds and ends of things.  However, this needs to be done in a somewhat thoughtful fashion, else the soup becomes a muddy, unappetizing mess – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of mess.  The ingredients should somehow relate to one another.  What I found yesterday in the house were the following… all needing to find a home in a meal.

Red Bean Chicken Chili

Chicken and Red Kidney Bean Chili
olive oil
chicken breast
diced onion
diced green pepper
minced garlic
partial packet of taco seasoning from a taco kit
plus some extra cumin
salt and pepper
salsa
cooked red kidney beans
chicken broth

Heat the oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and peppers and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic, chicken, spices, salt and pepper and saute until the chicken is cooked through.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes and either serve or let sit refrigerated for a day to absorb the flavors of the spices.

Annie
Waiting one more day before I go to the grocery store

Roasted Radishes

Radishes are one of those vegetables that I’ve always wanted to like, but… never have… until recently, when I began growing them for immediate gratification.  The days to germination for radishes is 7 to 10 days, so they have my heart just for the small feeling of success that comes every time a row of baby leaves emerge.

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But roasted — now that’s a different story.  Roasting radishes, just as with any other root vegetable, brings out all of the sugars and softens the flavors.  And they are lovely this way.  They almost taste like potatoes — not quite mind you — but enough to ease any lingering doubt that these “mini root vegetables” can be a star.

Roasted Radishes

2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and then carefully add the radishes.  Sprinkle with salt and cover.  “Stir” every minute or two by holding the handle of the pan and the lid with potholder and shake the pan like your grandmother used to do for popcorn.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the radishes are browned on the outside and very tender on the inside.

Christmas in Spring

They come in brown paper packages, neatly wrapped and packed.  A few of the packages have a fragrance.  I smell cumin as it passes in front of me and then chocolate and chili powder.   I don’t sashay from curtain to curtain singing, “…these are a few of my favorite things,” however, I am filled with glee and anticipation as the waft of fresh paprika crosses with the elegant scent of vanilla bean.

Christmas in May/June 2

Lotta Almonds

Christmas in May/June

A big white truck has just delivered Christmas to my door in May.  The cache is from Morgan Mills, King Aurthur, Mrs. Meyers and a host of others and will be added liberally to our meals all summer long.  Yipee, yea, I’ll be cooking on my woodstove soon!

Who wants to go sailing on the bay with us this year?!  Click here to make your reservation.

Annie
Organizing away my BIG pantry

Annie on TV! – 207 and Rob Caldwell

Once again, I made my way down to Portland through snow and sleet to do a taping of a Mushroom and Chicken Pot Pie for 207’s comfort food segment.  Rob and the NBC affiliate, WCSH6, as always, was the perfect host and here we are having a good time cooking together.

Mushroom and Chicken Pot Pie on WCSH’s 207

Annie
It’s a quick, fun watch.