On a Boat, It’s Not Always Perfect, But It Is Just Right

I traded swanky, landscaped, plated meals for the pine-studded coast liberally sprinkled with lichen-covered granite and a sea that is ever changing from a smokey charcoal to deep forest green.  My kitchen (galley) is outside and instead of being enclosed by four greasy walls lined with pots, pans and stainless equipment, I have pine tables, a cast iron wood stove and the smell of wood smoke.  My skin has the kiss of the sun, rather than the pasty white of someone who works indoors, even in the summer.

However, as a chef, there are a few things that occasionally ding my pride.  I’m a big girl, also an enthusiastic, optimistic one, so the moment doesn’t last long.  But I cook  on a boat all summer long and there are a number of situations that take priority over the visual attractiveness of my culinary hard work.  Sometimes my food doesn’t look perfect and it bothers me.

For example, the reason this salad has so many apples on it is not that Cassie, my assistant cook, got crazy with the apples, although this is not out of the question.  No, the true reason is that salad greens unprotected, literally, blow away with the first step on deck.  We feed the fish, not our guests.IMG_7753-001a

I love the look of micro-greens.  Do I ever use these delicate beauties?  No.  I would be the only one to see them.  See the blowing away reference above.

Also, the nature of my galley and the space available on any boat dictates that I serve family style.  I don’t have space to plate up 30 dinners in my galley.  Which means that sometimes my food is served in the pan in which it was cooked.  Again, there is a rustic simplicity, and dare I say beauty, to this look.  But no, beauty is not the word.  Practical, useful, convenient, expedient, safe, frugal.  These are the words I would use to describe my pans, but I tell you, a girl who wants to look pretty does NOT want to use these words and neither does the girl, who is the chef, who wants her food to look pretty.

The menu for lunch on the day these photos were taken was:

Local Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese, Roasted Veggie and Local Italian Sausage Mac n Cheese, Garlic Knots, Apple, Walnut, Raisin Garden Greens Salad, Dijon and Champagne Vinaigrette and an Apricot Orange Pound Cake

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It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  And then I look at these photos and I’m sad that they don’t do it justice.  I remember this meal and I loved the Porcini and Broccoli Leaf Mac n Cheese… There was nothing left of this meal.  But the look of it?  The pans are …  Hmm.

Ah well, at heart I am both creative, practical, artistic, and frugal.  It turns out that my food on this beautiful boat we sail, meandering along the breathtaking Maine Coast, has the exact qualities of both me and of Maine.  I’d rather be right where I am – in my outdoor kitchen, creating honest food that fits it’s place perfectly.

Annie
Just accepting what is

Asparagus and Tomato Gratin

Asparagus – classy, healthy and easy.  Three of my favorite things!  One incredibly simple way I like to do asparagus at home is to roast them in a bag with lemon and thyme.  The tang of the lemon combined with the herbal flavor of the thyme is a perfect combo for a light, healthy side to almost any protein.

Other asparagus recipes detailed in the latest Maine Ingredient column are:

Asparagus and Tomato Gratina
Red Rice and Asparagus Salad
Hake with Pork and Potatoes and Asparagus

Lemon and Thyme Bag-Roasted Asparagus
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the bottoms off one or more bunches of asparagus.  Place asparagus onto a large paper bag, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 1 lemon cut into 8 wedges and a generous sprig of thyme. Roll the bag closed and then place into a baking sheets with sides. Place in the oven for 20 minutes or until the asparagus is just done.

Caveat:  There are some that suggest that oiling the bag before putting it into the oven is a way to keep it from burning, however, that has never made much sense to me. I’ve also never had an oven fire while making this recipe, so there.

Asparagus Tomato Gratin
Asparagus Tomato Gratin (see link above for recipe)

Annie
Sad that the asparagus will go away soon, but happy to start seeing peas and strawberries

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.

GreenSmoothie

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

Walk Awaaaay From the Computer

Sometimes, no matter how mountainous the piles, no matter how voluminous the dust bunnies, no matter how numerous the emails, when a person opens the door to personally receive the mail from the mailman and feels not a blast of icy air but gentle warmth and gets a whiff of not brisk or crisp, but soft and dirt, they need to walk awaaay from the computer and go outside to play in the garden.

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Then things like peas, swiss chard, spinach, mesclun, arugula and whatever else one grabs from the seed box will, like magic, begin to appear from the dark loam of the earth and become a meal or ten for a family or a boat.

GreenHouse6

I do believe that we will have fresh greens and vegetables even for our first sail this year.  In part this has to do with planning (and giving in to the impulse to get out in the garden all the while ignoring the piles that will still be there when I come back inside).  In part this is due to excellent husbands who help build cold frames.  Lastly, we must give a nod to Mother Nature who seems to not have any more snow in our future this spring.  I may have spoken too soon and you can blame me if snow arrives, but I with cautious optimism, think we just might be done.

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Here, you can see four different season extenders.  In the foreground are milk jugs with the bottoms removed and then plunked in the ground over pea seeds.  In the background, from left to right is the angled cold frame, a hooped bed which will receive plastic over the hoops and an a-frame cold frame.  All work equally well.

Annie
Counting the days until my first garden greens of the season

Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Brandy Cream Sauce

OR a Pineapple Salsa.  I couldn’t decide.   Should it be a round, full, rich Brandy Cream Sauce or a Pineapple Salsa bursting with fresh, bright and healthy?  I couldn’t decide so I made both.  The rub is a snap to make but oh, so elegant.  Then all you need to decide is do you go decadent or fun?  Either will work.  Both are in the column that ran today in the Portland Press Herald.  Coffee, Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin with a Blood Orange, Walnut and Manchengo Salad.

Coffee Cocoa and Chili-Rubbed Pork Loin

Annie
With friend or all to your self!

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.

Cook the Book: Garbanzo Bean & Roasted Eggplant Salad

Garbanzo Bean & Roasted Eggplant Salad

1 eggplant
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 bunch minced parsley
2 fresh tomatoes, diced
2 16-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained

Preheat oven to 400°. Pierce the skin of the eggplant several times with a fork.  Place the whole eggplant in a baking dish and roast it for 20 to 30 minutes (until you can squeeze it and it’s soft).  Cool the eggplant, scoop it out of the skin, and cut it into 1/2-inch cubes. Whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper and gently toss the mixture with the eggplant and remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

I love all kinds of food.  The art, craft, smell, taste…  My favorite meals are ones that look and taste good without taking a ton of time.  I like landscaped food too (by this I mean fussy food that takes a long time and has lots of garnish) – it’s just better when someone else is making it.  If the recipe looks too long and the ingredients require a dictionary or the computer for more information (yes, even chef’s don’t know every ingredient in a recipe), it’s not usually happening at our house.  And I’ve been cooking professionally for over 20 years.  So that’s what this column is about:  food that real people can make for their families.  Food that gets us trying new things, gets us buying local ingredients and food that gets us sitting at the table with our families.  I believe in food cooked with the freshest ingredients; using my hands to shape bread; taking time and care when I’m cooking; and sitting at the table with friends and family and sharing the soul-filled food we’ve created.  The smell, shape, feel and look of pure ingredients are all part of the process.  It’s important to teach my daughters by example that the most precious and sacred time of the day is dinnertime, when we come together at the close of our days with loved ones to share, discuss, argue and agree.  To me, this is true nourishment.  While “fast food” may be convenient, fully nourishing ourselves is more than simply removing the empty feeling in our bellies.  Food is a way that we can connect – to our families and to nature.

Tomato and Kalamata Olive Salad

4 medium tomatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons basil, julienned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Fan the tomato slices neatly onto a platter.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and scatter the olives and basil.  Sprinkle all with salt and pepper.

Serves 4-6

 

Cook the Book: Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad

This salad is best if you can grill the corn, though you can use steamed or boiled corn in a pinch.  I sometimes roast the corn when we are on a lobsterbake – just stick them on a roasting fork and turn them over the fire.  You can also use it as a summer salsa for grilled chicken or fish.

4 ears of husked corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup loosely packed, fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
Small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Brush the ears of corn with olive oil and place the ears directly on a hot grill.  Cook until brown and tender, turning often, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off the cob. Toss the corn with the remaining ingredients and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

Shrimp, Snap Pea and Couscous Salad

1/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and grilled
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons, minced
8 oz. snap peas or 2 cups
1 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons dill
6 oz. feta cheese
1 cup couscous, uncooked
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
baby greens such as mesclun mix

Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise.  In a medium bowl pour boiling water over the cous cous and salt.  Stir gently with a fork and cover for 5 minutes.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and garlic to the pan and sauté 30 seconds.  Add the snap peas, dill and salt and pepper and sauté 1 minute.  Add the white wine and lemon juice and sauté another 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the shrimp and tomatoes.  Separate the grains of cous cous with a fork and spoon over a bed of baby greens.  Crumble feta cheese on top and serve.

Serves 4