Wich, Please is De-Wich-ious

There’s a new sandwich gig in Rocklandtown and it’s delightful.  Malcom and Jillian Bedell, of From Away fame, have joined the corps of high-caliber restaurants in town with their food truck, Wich, Please.  This tiny kitchen, serving breakfast and lunch sandwiches such as a swanky BLT built on sourdough bread, with frisee, confited tomatoes and crispy bacon, began with a Kickstarter campaign and the faith of several hundred fans and supporters.

Tomato Confit BLT at Wich Please
Tomato Confit BLT

That belief has paid off and the food truck is open for business beginning this week.  Set up to handle two cooks max, Malcom and his assistant have very little room to maneuver in this small food truck.  Actually, the space looks pretty familiar – a lot like my galley.  No jumping jacks for those two, just the dance of two chefs moving from one place to the next weaving in and around each other to reach for the next ingredient. Cassie, my assistant cook, and I get this all too well.

Malcom Bedell
Malcom Bedell

My Rubenesque, a vegetarian Ruben made with roasted beets and Morse’s sauerkraut, was a well-balanced blend of texture and flavor.  The crispy bread off-set the crunch of the kraut and the easy bite of the beets – the flavors all complimenting one another.

The Reubenesque and The O.D.B. Grilled Cheese
The Reubenesque and The O.D.B. Grilled Cheese
De-Wich-ious sandwiches from ‘Wich, Please

Located on the edges of Rockland Harbor with the tang of the sea greeting the outdoor park seating, there’s no doubt that these two have a formula for success.  Oh, and try the grilled cheese too – ours was with caramelized onions, pickled jalapenos, and chips.

The Spring menu at 'Wich, Please in Rockland's Buoy Park
The Spring menu at ‘Wich, Please in Rockland’s Buoy Park

Good luck to you both!  Today is taco Friday, friends, from 4-7pm.

Annie
P.S. My galley is still smaller.

Easter Celebration – Complete with Bunny Cake

Every celebration comes with traditions that we build around food.  In our extended family here in Maine, where very few of us are actually related, but most of us celebrate our holidays together, we have several traditions.  The first of which is that the Finger/Mahle house hosts the Easter meal.

Followed by… there are little girls running around collecting Easter eggs in the yard – usually hundreds of them – hundreds of what seems like little girls and, in fact, hundreds of eggs.  Before the actual hunt there is the boiling, dying, painting, and coloring of eggs in preparation for the hunt – an afternoon of spring color applied to eggs in all manner of ways.

But wait a minute.  This year, for the first time, we don’t have little ones running around at our knees (ours or anyone else’s) and our girls are old enough that dying eggs doesn’t hold the magic that it used to.  Neither does the hunting of them.  Our girls are firmly in teenager-land and while they weren’t quite ready to give up on the gift of candy, they were ready to let go of the traditional Easter Egg Hunt.  I, on the other hand, might have had to rally a bit to the new order of things and, in secret, wistfully respected the wishes and interests of the budding adults in our household.

Another tradition that we moms pensively released was the annual Easter Cake.  Long celebrated in our household with the usual argument of how the cake is actually constructed, neither the cake, nor the argument would be produced this year.  Until… Maggie, our newest crew member, walked in with a Bunny Cake – decorated in nearly the same way as the Easter Egg cake and a perfect serendipitous addition to our Easter table.

While our family traditions are changing, what matters the most – that we gather together to eat and laugh – will firmly and forever be a part of how we celebrate together – teenagers or not, Easter Egg Hunt or not, Easter Cake or not.

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Annie
Adjusting to change and grateful for the people around our table

Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”

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To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Annie
Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina

I’m sure that other parts of the country are beginning to thaw (if they ever were really frozen), but up here in Maine, the idea of having the oven on for a couple of hours to bake potatoes, bread, pie and a roast while we pull our chairs up around the stove to warm our toes, hands and cheeks is still quite in vogue.

This is one I made yesterday when the wind was howling – still.  The crew was happy to run from the barn to the house to find a blast of warm air hit their cheeks as they came in for tea or to check on the new baby chicks.

Potato Skins with Artichokes and Fontina
5 russet potatoes
10 marinated artichoke quarters, coarsely chopped
6 ounces sliced Fontina cheese
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pierce the skin of the potatoes with a fork and place on the middle rack bake for one hour or until the potatoes are tender in the middle and give a little when you squeeze them.  You can do this step ahead of time.  When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh on the inside.  Save the flesh for gnocchi or a soup and place the skins onto a baking sheet.

Reduce oven to 300 degrees.  Divide  the artichoke quarters evenly among the the potato skins and top with slices of  Fontina.  Grind the pepper on top and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer

Annie
Good to go in the garden as soon as the ground thaws

Homemade Doughnuts Care of Grandma

Glen, a long time Riggin Relic and friend, is often the first to greet me in the morning and I am often the first to greet him, with his cup of steaming coffee in hand.  His cup is poured before anyone else’s, one because he’s a guest and two because he’s down in the galley having early morning conversation amid the chopping and slicing of vegetables and fruit in prep for all of the meals of the day.

Food memories come up often as we move in and out of intense work and then a sip of coffee.   During one of these moments, Glen shared a memory he had of making doughnuts with his Grandmother who was the long-time cook at Bowdoin College in one of their fraternity houses.

We’ve been talking for two years about making his Grandmother’s doughnuts together.  He’d long since shared the recipe with me, from memory, but I didn’t want to make my first batch without Glen.  It just didn’t seem right.

Last trip, after another winter had gone by with out making doughnuts together, I put my foot down.  We were making doughnuts and we were making them together on the boat.  And so we did.  And they were fantastic.  And I felt full in so many ways!

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Glen in my spot pressing out doughnuts.
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Cassie and Ian having their first bites!

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Cinnamon and sugar on top. Delish.

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Note the very important meat fork as a turning tool. Another piece of history carried forward.

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An opened can and a biscuit cutter serve as our doughnut cutter.

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Our crew – Cassie, Justin (apprentice), Kaitlin and Ian.
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Sugar and cinnamon, powdered sugar or plain anyone?

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What can I say, would someone help me with my hair for goodness sake?

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Team work with a friend. The best.

You rock, Glen.
Annie

Spinach Smoothie – Green AND Tasty

A good friend of mine often shows up to our meetings together with her breakfast – a bright green drink so brilliant, it’s hard to know how she got it to be that green.  We are talking neon, nuclear green.   So one day, I asked her.  Spinach, she says, is the key, without the purple or red colored fruits which muddy the hue.  She then goes on to tell me that she adds kale, celery, cucumber and cilantro to her morning beverage.  I’m skeptical.  Until I try it.  It’s actually not that bad… and then I get used to it and it’s pretty good… and then I look forward to it.

There are mornings when I feel I’m drinking salad, but hey, I feel good, it tastes good and my pants like it too.  Win, win!  This one is one of my favorites and for more smoothies, click on over to the Maine Ingredient.

I’m not sure what I’ll do when we go sailing and the cord for the blender doesn’t reach the plug on shore.  Maybe Jon will rig up a human run generator where everyone can take a few spins around the deck while the blender is going and then we roll it up until the next morning.  Or maybe I’ll just have an apple for breakfast.

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Spinach, Celery, Kiwi Smoothie
2 cups lightly packed spinach
5 ounces partially peeled cucumber; about 1/3 of a cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 peeled kiwi
1/2 ripe banana
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon raw honey

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until completely combined and smooth.

Makes 3 cups

Annie
Salad, it’s what’s for breakfast

Thanksgiving Menu – Comfort Style

My dad has a saying, ‘Once you get a good thing, why change it?’  This saying applies to hats, jackets, coats, flashlights… and the list goes on.  Electronics, of course, are excepted from this adage.  Which means that when a hat wears out after 20 years of use, he looks for a new one just like it.

This also holds true for Thanksgiving dinner.  And while some might think that I would chafe against the sameness of our family menu year after year, the truth is that I love this meal just the way it is.  I wouldn’t change the gravy or my mom’s stuffing or the Aunt Annie Rolls (in the Maine Ingredient this week) that were adopted by the kids several years ago.

Those tastes that we grow up with are the measuring stick against which we judge all other versions.  I’m sure you’ll agree that MY mom’s spaghetti sauce with meatballs is the best in the world, right?  What, you mean YOUR mom’s is the best?

When I was small and would go to a friend’s house for dinner and found out that they were having spaghetti, I could barely contain my excitement.  Until I sat at the table and tasted the sauce.  Not.  My.  Mom’s.  I wanted my mom’s sauce, not a different, maybe really nice version of someone else’s mom’s sauce.

And I want my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.  Because it’s delicious, and tastes like home, and warms my soul and makes me feel close to everyone who sits at our burgeoning table.  I want the sameness of it because at some deep soul level, those tastes nourish me.

Annie
Can’t wait to see you all, family!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets – Latest Column

Recently Ella asked what a chicken nugget was and in one of those parenting moments when you realize so many things all at once, I thought about how sheltered she is, how lucky she is, how proud I am of the choices we are able to make and also, how sad that she doesn’t get that “fun” food.  Isn’t it interesting that I equated “chicken nuggets” with “fun” food.  But what I really meant was the the fun that comes from the very clever marketing of a Happy Meal.  And then I thought, “Wait a minute!  I can make my own nuggets.  We can still have ‘fun’ food!”  and that is how the recipes for this column were born.

We all pitched in and helped, the girls now FAR more adept at working with dough and rolling out the rolls than they used to be when much of their time was spent seeing if they could submerse their arms into the big bag of flour all the way up to their shoulder.  They’d start by just putting their hands into the flour, to which I didn’t usually object, because, hey, who can resist the silky feel of flour in your hands.  Usually in a moment when my back was turned, the temptation would become irresistible, and my next snap shot would be of the bag of flour swallowing my child.  Happy child, messy kitchen.  Bread is never a clean event on the best of days, although much more so now than it used to be.

Homemade Chicken Nuggets
Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce
Simple Romaine Salad
Buttermilk Dinner Rolls

Annie
Remembering the little people when their cheeks were big and rosy all the time…. sigh.

Mom making Mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

People say that the memory of smell is one of our strongest and when I smell my mom’s Spaghetti and Meatballs I am transported.  Suddenly, I’m looking up at my elders, hanging onto pant legs, bickering with my brothers and feeling unbelievably wrapped in home and love.

My mom and dad are here for a visit and now our girls are asking for Grandma’s Spaghetti and Meatballs.  For me, this interlinking and weaving of memories and recipes is utterly soul-satisfying.  I can remember as a child anticipating this meal at a friend’s house, mouth watering and barely able to contain my impatience, and then having the reality fall absolutely flat.  It’s a wonderful phenomena when nothing can compare to what your mom makes.

Now that I have a mom and AM a mom, there are times when I think that it’s just so unfair.  I’m the mama and no one can take my place.  Most of the time this fits me just perfectly.  But what makes parenthood so tough and simultaneously so rewarding is that you don’t get to choose your days, take a day or a night off or go on vacation.  At three in the morning, night after night of broken sleep,  I’m the one who has to nurse the babies, no one else can do it for me.  After a long day of work and irritation that I am unable to slough off, I’m the one who gets the best and the worst of my children’s days, no one else can do it for me.

The same is true of comfort food – no one else can do it for you.  It matters that you make it with your hands, that you chose to spend a portion of your day thinking about and creating nourishment for those who will come together around your table.

For tips on making meatballs, Mozzarella-Stuffed Meatballs and Meatball Subs here’s the column link.

Mom’s Spaghetti with Meat Balls
This is the meal that as kids we would ask for more than any other.  It was our favorite birthday dinner for many years.

Sauce:
1 28-ounce can of pureed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 12-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4  teaspoon dried oregano
1/4  teaspoon dried basil
1/4  teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
Meat Balls:
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 large egg

Sauce:
Add everything to a stockpot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  While the sauce is simmering make the meatballs.
Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Mix together the meatball ingredients.  Form them into 11/2-inch balls.  Place the meatballs in a single layer in a baking pan.  Bake until cooked through (around 1/2 hour).  Drain off the fat and place the meatballs into the sauce and simmer for another 30 minutes.  Serve with your favorite spaghetti or linguini.

Serves 6-8

Annie
Thanks, Mom.  For all of it.

Cook the Book: Zucchini and Genoa Salami Deep Dish Pizza

Zucchini and Genoa Salami Deep Dish Pizza

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 zucchini, roughly chopped
2 summer squash, roughly chopped
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Genoa salami, cut in medium-thick slices
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese

1 Crusty Peasant Bread dough recipe.  You can also use the pre-made bread dough you can find in most grocery stores – you’ll need 2 bags.

Olive oil to brush over the crust
Dried basil, Italian seasoning, oregano – whatever you like – to sprinkle on the crust

Oil a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini, summer squash, salt and pepper. Sauté until tender. Divide the dough roughly in half; make one part slightly larger than the other. Either roll or use your hands to stretch the larger piece until it’s big enough to overlap over the sides of the baking pan by about 1 inchSpread half of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dough. Add layers (in order) of half each of the salami, mozzarella, ricotta, zucchini and summer squash.  When you transfer the squash to the pizza, use a slotted spoon to drain the excess liquid.  Repeat. Stretch the remaining half of the dough out enough to overlap the top of the pan, then pinch the two layers of dough together neatly. Brush the crust with the olive oil and sprinkle with the herbs. Preheat oven to 350°. Let the pizza rest and rise for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown (about an hour).  Cool 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 8-12.