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.

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

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

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

Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli

These ravioli are ravioli for grownups.  They are huge and one, maybe two, per plate are all that are needed for a grownup-sized serving.  The wonton wrappers make it actually a pretty easy process and the end result is super elegant.  We had them for a weeknight meal and felt like royalty.  I’d serve these to guests any time.

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 5

 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 3

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 Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli 2
Super Big Roasted Portabella Mushroom Ravioli with Spinach Tomato and Brandy Cream Sauce
Ravioli:
4 portabella mushrooms
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch scallions, ends removed
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
4 ounces cheddar, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Zest from one lemon
2 eggs
1 to 2 tablespoons flour, just enough to dust the counter
1 package egg roll wrappers; at least 20 wrappers
Water
Extra virgin olive oil if needed

Sauce:
1 1/2 cups diced onion; about 1 medium onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brandy
2 dashes Worcestershire
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
4 cups lightly packed spinach, de-stemmed, washed and drained

Ravioli:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Rub the portabella mushrooms with the olive oil on a large baking sheet and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the mushrooms are dark and the edges are really brown.

Combine all ingredients except the flour, wrappers and water in a food processor and pulse until fully combined.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Meanwhile, very lightly dust a work surface with flour and lay out 4 wrappers.  With a large spoon or number 12 scoop, place mushroom mixture in the center of the wrapper.  With a pastry brush, wipe water all around the mushroom mound.  Lay a second wrapper over top of the first and line the top edges and corners up.  With your palm and the edge of your hand, press the two sheets together around the mushroom mix, pushing any air bubbles out passed the edges.  Dust a baking sheet with a little flour and transfer to the baking sheet.  Repeat.

When the water is boiling gently transfer all raviolis to the pot.  If the pot looks like it will become crowded, work in two batches.  Cook the ravioli for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are floating on the surface and the pasta is a uniform color.

Remove to a platter with a slotted spoon or basket strainer.  Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and repeat if needed.  Serve immediately with the sauce.

Makes 10, serves 5 to 10

Sauce:
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Melt the butter and add the onions.  Sauté until the onions begin to brown and caramelize, about 15 minutes.  Add the brandy and reduce by half.  Add the chicken stock and cream and reduce again.  Remove from heat and add the tomatoes and spinach.  Turn with tongs until the spinach is wilted, but still bright green.

Makes 3 cups

Annie
Lovin’ my pasta

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.

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

Grilled Aspragus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli – plus Radish and Red Onion Salsa

I used to seriously dislike radishes.  They are so sneaky – pretty, alluring red and then, BAM, hot-peppery-cabbage taste.  However, before you go nodding your head with the “uh, huh, sista,” consider a radish that’s not been sitting in a bag for two weeks waiting for some unsuspecting person who loves colorful food to put them in their shopping cart.  What if instead, you found them at a farmer’s market.  They’d been picked the day before, grown in cool weather, were small and not woody.  THEN you would feel how I currently feel about radishes.

Garden Radishes

I am in love with them.  I put them in my salads, roast them, make salsa with them and dip them in aioli.  They are still a tiny bit peppery and when they are paired with baguette and good butter, the nutty taste of them is enhanced and boy, is that good.  Of course, I will admit, that almost anything paired with baguette and butter is better than on it’s own, but hey, it’s all good.

So I took my radish show on the road to the Maine Ingredient and paired a Radish and Red Onion Salsa with Fish Tacos plus Homemade Tortillas, Refried Pinto Beans and a Pineapple and Red Pepper Salsa.

Grilled Asparagus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli
For this recipe you will need either a grill pan or a cast iron skillet which can be placed directly over the grill.

1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths; about half a bunch
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks the size of the asparagus or thinner; about 3 carrots
1 bunch radishes, ends and tips removed and cut into quarters
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Make a direct heat fire or heat the grill to medium-high heat.  In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables and coat with oil, salt and pepper.  When the fire is ready, place the grill pan or skillet onto the grill and allow to heat, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Place the veggies on the grill pan or skillet.  Keep a constant eye, moving the veggies around frequently.  Remove those that are seared on the exterior to the original bowl.  The asparagus will be done first, the carrots next and the radishes last.

Serve immediately with Lemon Aioli

Serves 4 to 6

Lemon Aioli
1 small clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest, zest from about one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
dash Worcestershire
1/8 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Ever so slowly, while the motor is running, add the oil.  After about a minute of dribbling the oil in, you can add it more quickly.

Makes a little over 1/2 cup