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

All Hail Kale – Kale is King!

Maybe it’s because outside it’s white and windy.  The grey and brown skeletons of the trees rise up against clouds filled with coming snow.  The only green to be seen in our landscape is from the frost-tipped branches of evergreens.  Perhaps this is why this season brings such a strong craving for greens.  If it’s not in our landscape, we want it on our plates?

Potato, Cheddar & Kale Souffle

I don’t know.  What I do know is that I need to honor the instincts of my body and have created a number of recipes for cooking winter greens, this time for kale.  Potato, Cheddar and Kale Souffle; Thai Peanut Shrimp with Kale; and Tuscan Kale, Chickpeas and Olives are all in the Maine Ingredient column this week.

Annie
Kale is King

Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon with Greens

Extra greens this time of year seems to be what I crave over and over again.  More kale, more spinach, more Swiss chard.  I’ve even begun eating kale for breakfast with my eggs instead of having toast.  It’s delicious and gives me one more serving of what’s good for me anyway.

This column for the Maine Ingredient, created with holiday entertaining in mind, could easily become a weekend dinner with friends.  The recipes – Thyme and Lime Potato-Crusted Salmon, Brown Butter Kale with Toasted Almonds, and Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Seeds, Cranberries and Preserved Grapefruit – are all healthy, with a large dash of elegance.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate Cranberry Preserved Grapefruit

Annie
Eating my greens

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.

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

Eating Spring Dug Root Vegetables – Parsnip Latkes

How fun to have both harvested the last of the parsnips on the same day that I planted next spring’s crop.  In playing around with these ivory beauties, I created a couple of new recipes for a column:  Parsnip Latkes, Root Vegetable Soup, Roasted Parsnips and Collard Greens.

Parsnip Latkes

Annie
Gone Digging

Yellow Tomato, Ginger and Lemongrass Shrimp over Coconut Rice

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Today, on this snowy day in Maine when the kids are home from school, the column ran with this recipe for Yellow Tomato, Ginger and Lemongrass Shrimp over Coconut Rice.  There’s also a recipe for Butterscotch Mocha Cake with Butterscotch Buttercream that was inspired by Kate Schaffer’s Olive Oil Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream from her book “Desserted.”  Kate and Steve own Black Dinah Chocolatiers on Ilse au Haut and if we are lucky we get to visit them at least once a summer.

Annie
Enjoy this beautiful day!

Rosemary Chicken and Dumplings – The Perfect Comfort Food

I don’t know about your area, but it’s been DANG cold here.  Like this cold…

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When it’s this cold, what makes me happiest is pots of simmering goodness on the stove and steaming up windows.  Chicken and dumplings  fits the bill to a tee.

Also, if you’d like to see a demo, here’s me on 207 with Rob Caldwell.  (Next time I’ll get a hair cut!)

Rosemary Chicken And Dumplings
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces (remove the skin if desired; I usually take the skin off the breast and thighs)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 cups chopped onion; about 1 large onion
2 cups peeled and chopped carrots; about 2 large carrots
2 cups chopped celery; about 3 stalks of celery
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 3 cloves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
3 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock

Dumplings:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3/4 cup milk

Heat the oil in a large, wide stockpot over medium-high heat.  Toss the chicken, flour, salt, pepper and paprika together until the chicken is coated.  Place the chicken in the heated pot and cook until browned on all sides.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and herbs; cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add the white wine and stock; bring it to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Dumplings:
Cut the butter into the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add the milk.  Mix just until the milk is incorporated.  Drop 1-inch balls of dough on top of the simmering chicken.  Cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. NO PEEKING!

Serves 4 to 6

Spinach Soup – Eat Your Greens

After a spell of overindulgence, there’s nothing our bodies crave more than vegetables and especially green ones.   In all shapes and forms, greens are good for us and the greener, the better.

Today’s column runs with a recipe for Spinach Soup and it’s variations.  The soup is a brilliant emerald-green and scrumptious and warm all at the same time.  My favorite variation is the Spinach with Cannellini Beans and Chicken.  It’s one where you could use leftover chicken and add it at the very end or sauté a chicken breast or two along with making the rest of the soup.

Spinach Soup photo

Spinach, Cannelli Beans and Chicken Soup
This soup is a gorgeous, bright green, and should be served immediately. If you would like to make it ahead, prepare everything, up to adding the spinach. When you are ready to serve, heat the soup to a simmer and purée with spinach in the blender as per the directions.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions; about 1 medium onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery; about 2 stalks
1 cup peeled and diced parsnips; about 2 parsnips
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 ounces spinach leaves, de-stemmed and well washed; about 3 cups lightly packed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
14 ounces chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; about 2 chicken breast halves
1, 15-ounce can cannellini beans
Garnish with minced chives or a swirl of crème frâiche

In a medium stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft and translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil.  Add the stock and again bring to a boil.

Place the uncooked spinach leaves in the blender and pour the hot stock over the leaves.  Carefully purée in a blender.  Meanwhile, heat the second 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the stock pot over medium-high heat and add the chicken.  When the chicken is just cooked through, add the beans to heat and then the pureed stock back into the pot.  Mix well, turn off heat and serve immediately.

Serves 4 to 6

Annie
Eatin’ My Greens Too!

Thanksgiving Dinner Sides – A Supporting Role

This week’s column on Thanksgiving sides got me thinking of all the creative things you can do with vegetables (other than cream of mushroom soup and crispy onions).  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Here are a couple of ideas for you if your family will let you try them!

Roasted Mushrooms in Garlic and Beer
Broccoli with Roasted Red Onion and Lemon
Spicy Green Beans and Orange Bell Pepper
Roasted Parsnips and Kale
1-1/2 pounds parsnips peeled, cored and fibrous centers removed; about 3 pounds before the prep work
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; plus a little more for the kale
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little more for the kale
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
4 cups lightly packed kale leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the parsnips into 2-inch lengths as you would carrot sticks. On a roasting pan, toss with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until parsnips begin to brown on the edges and are cooked all the way through.

Meanwhile, toss the kale with a little more olive oil, salt and pepper. When the parsnips are cooked, place the kale on top of the parsnips and return the pan to the oven. Roast for another 5 minutes or until the kale begins to crisp slightly.

Serves 6 to 8