Sesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp

Today I’m thinking about healthy choices – in what I eat, how I move, the interactions I have with my family – and the balance that is required to do these things well.

Greens AND brownies, running AND couch time, speaking my mind AND holding my tongue.  I want them all, just not in the same amount and at the same time.  The trick is to navigate when a brownie is just the thing (and these King Arthur Flour brownies are totally the thing) and when greens are a better choice.  Likewise with relationships, say, just hypothetically, when you are having a conversation with your daughter about future college and life plans when you are both hormonal.  Sometimes the healthiest choice is to say what you feel.  Other times, it’s best to not share exactly what is running through your mind in that specific moment.  When I’m navigating these moments successfully, which, let me tell you, is not always the case, I’m feeling my way to the best choice.  Calmly noticing.  Aware, but not hyper sensitive.

And, not to segue too abruptly to food, but actually, the same is true when I’m making a recipe.  I sort of feel my way to the right flavors.  In the same way that you might feel your way through a delicate conversation.  In this case, it’s a conversation with food and flavors.  This meal, the creamy AND limey, the greens AND rice, the chicken AND shrimp is one with balance.  One that walks the line of not too much sharing and not too much holding back.  I could have used a little more of that last night when in conversation with my daughter.  Ah well, at least I managed it in this meal.

SeasmeTahiniChickenSesame, Ginger and Tahini Chicken and Shrimp over Rice and a Bed of Spinach
This dish is just as easily made with chicken OR shrimp, but the combination of the two is my favorite.
Basmati Rice:
2 cups basmati rice
Salt

Sauce:
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced ginger
8 ounces boneless chicken breast; about 1 large breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces medium (41-50 count) raw shrimp, peeled
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water, as needed
8 ounces baby spinach leaves

Garnish:
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Wedges of lime
Cilantro leaves
Sriracha

Rice:
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. The water should be as salted as you want your rice and no more. Add the rice and stir well. When the water again comes to a boil, set the timer for 18 minutes. Pour into a strainer and let sit for 5 minutes or longer while you prepare the sauce.

Sauce:
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin seeds. Heat, stirring often, until the seeds begin to brown. Transfer to a blender and add the chicken stock, tahini and tamari. Blend until well mixed and smooth. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the salt, garlic, ginger and chicken and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the white wine and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and cook until you can just see a little bit of gray remaining. Add the pumpkin seed mixture and stir well adding water as needed to loosen the sauce. Serve immediately over rice and a bed of spinach. Garnish with sesame seeds, lime, cilantro, and Sriracha.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Finding the balance where I can.

Maine Seafood Chowder

Often times when I make chowder, I’m standing next to my hot cast iron wood stove (on our Maine windjammer) stirring at least a couple of pots, turning bread baking in the oven and prepping yet another baked good slatted for a future meal.  I think of how many pots of chowder have been made on wood stoves just like mine and the people these potages have nourished.

It’s a traditional meal that pulls musings of times past and almost demands the ritual of following in the footsteps of cooks that have gone before.

All sorts of chowder recipes abound in these parts, but most of them, while delicious, are not chowder in the book of old-time Mainers.  True chowder is milky, not thick, and is slightly thickened with either day old biscuits or oyster crackers (or saltines), not a roux (a flour and butter mixture).  In addition, true chowder contains salt pork, not bacon.  Always.  If either of these things are not in existence, then, I’ve been told, it’s not true Maine chowder, however yummy.

This recipe begins with the required salt pork, something fairly easy to come by in our local Maine butchers or even in the grocery store.  This salted, but not smoked, pig belly is the backbone of flavor for every traditional chowder one might concoct.  In addition, once the vegetables have sauteed and become soft, day-old biscuits are added – fairly early in the soup making process so they have ample time to soften and disintegrate, becoming indistinguishable and thickening the soup slightly.

Lastly, because I’m often making my chowder on the Riggin where I could be called away from the stove at any moment to drive the yawl boat, take the wheel, or tend to a guest, I use evaporated milk.  Evaporated milk doesn’t separate nearly as easily as straight milk when the heat is on for too long.  It’s a safety net for me and does add a bit of body and flavor to the soup as well.

Enjoy this nod to the food traditions of the past.  Who knows, maybe one of your ancestors made chowder for their people.

Maine Seafood Chowder Photo by Rocky Coast Photography

Maine Seafood Chowder
6 ounces salt pork
2 cups diced celery; about 3 stalks
2 cups diced onion; about 1 large onion
6 cups potatoes, peeled if need and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 day old biscuits or 6 saltines
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups clam juice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cans evaporated milk
1 pound haddock
1/4 pound 40-60 shrimp, shells removed and sliced in half
1 pound fresh clams, well-cleaned or 2 cups canned clams

Score the salt pork and place it scored side down in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. When the salt pork has rendered for 5 to 10 minutes, add the celery and the onions and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the potatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the biscuits, salt, pepper, clam juice and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the biscuits have disintegrated and the potatoes are cooked through. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a simmer again. Lastly add the seafood and just cook through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let the haddock finish cooking.

Serves 6 to 8

Annie
Headed off to make biscuits to go with AND into the chowder!

Greens with Toasted Cumin, Beans, Beets, and Goat Cheese

This time of year when excess has surpassed moderation to a degree that feels uncomfortable, I reach for greens, roasted vegetables, and grains. Protein comes in the form of beans, nuts, and avocados and I crave simple flavors, rich only in the essence of the ingredient, not slathered in sauce or gravy.

After the New Year dinner. Tons of greens, no meat. Whew!
After the New Year dinner. Tons of greens, no meat. Whew!

This dish is one that came from needing to use up a number of ingredients left from a farm share and the last harvest of miraculous greens from the garden. Vegetarian in design and satisfying in flavor and simplicity, this dish is among those we’ve been reaching for ever since the first of the year.

Greens with Toasted Cumin, Beans, Beets, and Goat Cheese
1, 29 ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1 teaspoon lime juice
Pinch of salt
Fresh black pepper
4 ounces goat cheese
Roasted Beets and Leeks (recipe below)
Greens with Toasted Cumin (recipe below)

To assemble, spread the greens on large platter or on individual plates. Heat the black beans in the skillet that cooked the greens and meanwhile gather the rest of your ingredients. When the beans are hot, transfer them on top of the greens. The beats go next. Garnish with slices of avocado, sprinkle with lime juice, salt and pepper and dot with goat cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Beets and Leeks
Remove the skin of the beets only if they are very large. Otherwise, the skin adds a textural element that is a complement to the softer flesh.
2 pounds beets, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups diced leeks, about 1 leek cleaned well
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the beets with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a baking sheets with sides. Transfer to the oven for 1 hour. Add the diced leeks and stir to coat with the oil and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or until the leeks are cooked through and beginning to brown.

Greens with Toasted Cumin
I used Brussels sprouts greens for this recipe, but it’s only because I’d just harvested them from the garden. I’ve never seen them in our grocery store, and kale or collard greens are a perfect substitute.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pound Brussels sprouts greens (or kale or collard greens)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the cumin into the bottom of the pan and make sure that the greens are ready to add. Toast the cumin for about 30 seconds or until it becomes fragrant. Add the greens immediately and then the olive oil. Turn with tongs and incorporate the salt and pepper as well. Brussels sprouts greens are sturdy and take about 10 minutes to soften. Kale will be cooked in just a few minutes.

Annie
I feel lighter just writing about it.

Ginger, Sesame Chicken Soup with Cilantro Sesame Pesto

A pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove.  The windows edged with moisture.  The wind howling outside while inside, all is well, warm, and welcoming.  That’s what this soup is about.

Today I’m feeling especially grateful for the people who grow our food and the animals that become our meals.  That our food is well-tended before it reaches our plates is a gift.  I appreciate what nourishes my body and the bodies of those I love.  Abundance comes to us in so many ways and I feel rich and full and blessed.

Chicken Soup Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Ginger, Sesame Chicken Soup with Cilantro Sesame Pesto
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
2 cups diced carrots; about 2 carrots
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and julienned (cut into match-stick sized pieces)
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
3 cups cooked chicken meat

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil, onions and carrots and sauté for 7 to 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil to heat through. Serve with a dollop of Cilantro Sesame Pesto.

Serves 4 to 6

Cilantro Sesame Pesto
1/3 cup sesame seeds
2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
1/4 cup scallions, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 small garlic clove, smashed
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine everything in the food processor and pulse until thoroughly combined.

Makes about 1/2 cup

Annie
Enjoy this light, after-the-holidays meal!

Sitting Down to the Dinner Table Together

A number of years ago, when the girls were small and bedtime was 8pm (for me and them), a friend of mine said something to me and I didn’t believe her.  As I was holding my tired, tear-stained four year old on my hip, she said that when your kids get older, it’s just as intense as when they are small.  She said that instead of clinging to your pant legs, they need you in a completely different way, but just as much.  She said that her teenagers were just as time consuming and just as needing of her nurturing as when they were small.

I thought she had motherhood amnesia.  You know, the syndrome that has a mother, who recently experienced labor, to be so awash in baby love that she wants another child.  She forgets that this will require another labor.

Now that I have teenagers, I still think my friend forgot how intense mothering small children can be.  So when I’m trying to figure out how and when all of us can have dinner together because one has play practice from 6 to 8pm and the other has a class that begins at 7pm and it turns out the only time we can all sit at the table together is at 5pm, I remember when they were small.

DinnerTable

When at the end of the day, everyone was a little (or a lot) frayed at the edges and no one could really handle entertaining themselves.  When having little people “help” with dinner meant starting at 4pm for a dinner at 6pm.  When holding one in the sling and the other on the hip meant that I couldn’t chop a vegetable or make a salad.  But if I set them down, the terror of the toddler would reign down on the household.  Back then I wished I were an octopus.

Now I wish I could clone myself.  I’d have one mom drive and the other make dinner.  Since neither of those is likely, I’ll just stick with having a lot more free time in the day, serving dinner at the oddest of hours so that we can all sit face to face, and driving my teenagers to and fro with “car talk” to sustain me.

Annie
Dinner time – it’s important

Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Red Onion, Goat Cheese and Bacon

Sweet potatoes have become one of my new favorite vegetables.  While they also can be considered a carbohydrate, they are so filled with goodness in the vitamin and mineral category, not to mention the fiber, that they don’t count as a strike against you in the same way white potatoes do.

As we move into the deepest days of the calendar, when the daylight hours are at their ebb, meals that require the oven to be on for an hour or so are a welcome balm.  Right now, it’s all about the cozy, the creamy, the toasty and the mellow.  The way the salty bacon meets the tangy goat cheese blanketed by caramelized onions topping the soft, natural sweetness of the sweet potato is just exactly what the drop in light and temperature of this time of year calls for.Sweet Potatoes Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyWhen I first made this recipe, we actually had it as the main course with some roasted kale and homemade bread.  But it’s swanky enough to stand up as a holiday side with no problem what-so-ever.
Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes Photo Rocky Coast PhotographySweet Potatoes Stuffed with Caramelized Red Onion, Goat Cheese and Bacon
To make fresh bread crumbs pulse the equivalent of three large rolls torn into pieces in the food processor until the pieces are the size of peas. Transfer to a baking pan and bake until the crumbs are crunchy, about 15 minutes.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (half for the onions and half for the sweet potatoes)
2 cups sliced red onions; about 2 large red onions
3 cups fresh bread crumbs, the equivalent of three rolls
4 large or 6 medium sweet potatoes, with skins on, cut in half
1/2 teaspoon salt (for the onions, sweet potatoes and stuffing to taste)
several grinds of fresh black pepper (for the onions, sweet potatoes and stuffing to taste)
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 ounces goat cheese
3 tablespoons chicken broth or water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a half sheet of parchment paper. Place the sweet potatoes flesh side up on the parchment paper and rub with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 1 hour in the oven.

Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red onion and sauté until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low when the bottom begins to stick. When the onions are finished, remove from the pan and add the bacon. Cook until the bacon is almost fully cooked. Drain the fat and then add the onion and the rest of the ingredients to the same pan. Combine well.

When the sweet potatoes are tender, remove from the oven and carefully top with the stuffing by pressing the stuffing into a shape similar to the potatoes. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6

 

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Take Three

Potatoes are the one leftover which needs to be used up before it is relegated to the compost pile.  They don’t freeze well, so think of ways to incorporate this Thanksgiving leftover into another meal sooner rather than later.

Potato Leek Soup Photo Rocky Coast Photography
Of course, mashed potatoes can easily become a side for another meal.  And I’ve already mentioned that roasted potatoes could become Turkey Hash.  But there are a myriad of other ways that these versatile spuds can take root in another dish (see what I did there?).

Potato Cakes – Combine the mashed potatoes with some bread crumbs and an egg or two.  Dredge them in more bread crumbs or in grated Parmesan cheese and pan fry them in a little oil or butter.  Serve along-side grilled hanger or skirt steak or for breakfast with eggs and toast.

Potato Bread – Add mashed potatoes to your favorite bread recipe, reducing the liquid by half.  For example, if the recipe calls for 1 cup of water, add 1 cup of mashed potatoes and 1/2 cup of water.  Add dill, fennel or caraway seeds as an optional flavor.

Potato Leek Soup – Sauté onions and leeks in butter, salt and pepper. Add white wine and stock.  Stir in mashed potatoes and adjust for salt and pepper.

Potato Leek Soup Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyAnnie
My refrigerator is still full.  What about yours?

Thanksgiving Leftovers – Take Two

So many leftovers, so little space in the belly.  This is day two of Thanksgiving leftover ideas and turkey hash is one of my favorites.  Especially so when combined with greens – a much needed addition after a bit of fat and carb overload.

I’ve pared this hash with Brussels sprouts greens after discovering that they are just as delicious as any kale or broccoli leaves.  I’m lucky enough to still have some in the garden and will need to cull the rest shortly before it succumbs to a really sustained frost.

Turkey Hash Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Turkey Hash
Cut turkey and roasted potatoes into 1/2-inch pieces.  Sauté onions and celery in a large skillet and add the turkey, potatoes and any vegetables or squash that you like.  Add salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and maybe some horseradish to the pan.  Sauté until the ingredients are warmed through and are beginning to brown on the bottom.  Serve with poached eggs and roasted Brussels sprout leaves (or kale or broccoli leaves).

Turkey Hash Photo Rocky Coast PhotographyAnnie
Using up what we’ve got… and what we’ve got it pretty great.

Thanksgiving Leftovers

It’s a toss up as to which is the better meal – the Thanksgiving meal we had yesterday or the amazing leftovers we will have today and this weekend.  My mouth is watering over the endless possibilities, not the least of which is the turkey club sandwich that will be on my plate in the near future.  In truth, I considered having it for breakfast.

First things first, however.  If you haven’t already done so, add all of the bones from your turkey to a stock pot, cover with water, add an onion, a carrot or two, and a stalk of celery.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it hang out on the stove top for an hour or so.  Strain and either freeze or use for a quick leftover soup.

Make your own turkey stock

The next thing to do is freeze anything that you won’t use within the next couple of days.  Divide everything into individual or family-sized portions and place into re-sealable freezer bags or freezer containers.  Label and date everything.  (Even if you are SURE you will remember.  Three months from now, you won’t have a clue.)  Most items from a Thanksgiving meal will freeze well except anything that has potatoes in it.  Even mashed potatoes tend to become mealy and watery after being frozen so use those up quickly.

Next is to utilize all of those yummy leftovers and make something equally yummy for a meal today.  Here are a few thoughts and I’ll post a few more over the course of the weekend.

Leftover Turkey Soup
Less a recipe and more a suggestion, this is my favorite kind of cooking – open the refrigerator door and start pulling things out to make a meal.

In a medium or large stock pot, melt butter.  Sauté diced onions and celery until translucent.  Spices like cumin, curry, and chili powder take this soup far away from the traditional meal it began as.  Add cut up or pulled pieces of turkey, pureed squash or sweet potatoes, any steamed or sautéed vegetable and the turkey stock you just made with the leftover bones.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve with a salad and some leftover rolls heated up.  Add noodles, rice, gnocchi, diced potatoes, lentils or barley for variations.

Leftover Turkey Sandwich Ideas
The sky is the limit here, but you might try these combinations:

Turkey with mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, havarti cheese and lettuce on a baguette.

Turkey with avocado, mango salsa, cilantro and mayonnaise in a wrap (or wrap with lettuce).

If you were lucky enough to have ham too, layer turkey and ham with cranberry sauce, caramelized red onion and cheddar cheese on rye bread.

Roasted zucchini slices with creamed onions, Dijon mustard, tomato slices and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts on focaccia bread with or without turkey.

Let me know what you made!
Annie

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!