Chilean Black Hake with Pebre Sauce

I travelled in Chile in the winter, which is like Springtime there at the bottom of the world. Imagine fields full of lupine at Christmas!
 
Well, another harbinger of very early spring is the Black Hake that is well known and loved there. My experience of this delicious flaky white fish was at a street vendor.

I’d like to share a recipe similar to the one I tried and loved:

Pan Seared Black Hake with Pebre Sauce  /  Yield: 2 hearty servings

1 lb. hake filet
Salt & pepper to taste, avocado oil to fry in
Season with salt and fresh pepper, set aside.

Beforehand, prepare the pebre sauce (a chilean salsa), using a blender:
3 roma tomato
a bunch of stemmed, chopped cilantro
6 green onions
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, equal part olive oil
salt, pepper and hot red pepper flakes

Using a food processor, pulse all ingredients and season to taste.
Set aside in the refrigerator, covered, until use.
Meanwhile, get a heavy iron skillet hot and heat the oil.
Gently, add the seasoned fish to the hot oil and fry it uncovered, turning once.
Top with the freshly made pebre sauce and serve with fried potatoes and a green salad. 

Give thanks for wild things everywhere.

 

 

Chile’s Patagonia and Douglas Tompkin’s Eco Village

I had a rare opportunity to travel with a group of plant enthusiasts, botanists and herbalists about ten years ago. The destination was the Chilean Patagonia and our group was an active one. We trekked and foraged in the wilderness, sat in divine hot springs, forged fiords, fished and caught enormous brown trout, learning how to cook them in a pit fire the ground…and  hugged ancient Alerces.

Alerces, or Fitzroya cupressoides, are a member of the Cypress family, and are phenomenally long lived and splendorous conifer trees, native to Chile. They grow in the cool rainforests, just west of the Andes mountains. On this tour, we expected to experience the oldest trees on the planet, one over 2600 years old. We were not disappointed.

We visited scientific research stations and compared types of tropical flowers seen on hikes. I was surprised by some of the advanced and modern facilities we came upon in the relative wilderness.

After a particularly grueling spell of “roughing it” about mid-adventure, we closed in on our accommodations for the next few days, an Eco Village that we knew nothing about. The tiny houses we stayed in and, in fact, the entire village was self sustaining and off the grid. The first thing this weary traveller noticed was that the coffee there was phenomenal. It was beyond the real deal, rare in the countryside of Chile, as was all the food we were served, complete with high end and delightful garnishes.

I’d noticed a fine looking potager style garden on our way into the great room where we dined.Clearly all the vegetables we were served came right from this source. Furthermore, I came to learn that the owner of this place and hundreds of thousands of acres in conservation surrounding us were owned by a man named Douglas Tompkins, owner of Patagonia and Esprit clothing brands. AND one of his best friends was ( my hero) Alice Waters. It was she who was responsible for the direction required to create and maintain the garden and train staff on her cooking techniques. 

This was a place of hope, respite and renewal. And completely unexpected in the wilds of Chile.

Cavatelli with Sweet Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Blistered Cherry Tomato …and lots of Garlic

Recipe yields six servings

INGREDIENTS
 2 lbs broccoli rabe, washed and tough stems removed, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 cups red cherry tomato, halved
1 pkg. sweet Italian sausage, sliced medium thick
1 lb cavatelli pasta
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
12 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
Salt, pepper ground, to taste
1/2 cup good shaved or grated Parmesan

INSTRUCTIONS
Toss the tomatoes with oil and a bit of salt. On a sheet pan, in a hot oven, blister the tomatoes.  Reserve the tomatoes, retaining as much pan juice as possible.

In a saute pan, cook the sausage over medium heat until well browned. Remove from pan, but save the pan drippings.

In a large covered saucepan of boiling salted water, blanch the rabe and garlic. Lift it from the water with a strainer and drain, but save that water for the pasta.

Combine tomato, garlic, rabe and sausage with salt and pepper and a little more of the olive oil, keep warm but not hot (to retain colors)

Bring the pot of vegetable water, covered, back to a boil. Add a teaspoon more salt and the pasta.

Cook pasta until al dente, drain (I always save a 1/4 cup for the sauce and the remainder for soup stock.)

While the pasta is cooking, use your 1/4 cup of pasta water to deglaze the sausage pan and add that flavor layer and any tomato drippings to your cooked ingredients.

Finally add the hot, drained pasta and the rest of the cooked, seasoned ingredients to a large bowl. Toss well and top with the Parmesan cheese.

This dish is good warm but don’t over do it. The beauty is the bright green rabe and bright tomato, equally good at room temperature or the following day.

Bon Appetit!

Chef Laura Cabot

Ultimate Super Bowl Dip for Chips / FAGE Carmelized Onion Dip

When we hunker down to watch the big game, the snacks and commercials are as important as the players. At least for me, with my marginal understanding of the game.

Honestly, for me, it’s about being with friends, sharing some laughs and excitement and getting great snack food. One of the classics…always will be…a great onion dip.

There’s nothing hard or time consuming about this recipe and it’s a bit healthier because it uses high protein FAGE Greek yogurt rather than sour cream. Another flavor layer is that I like to caramelize and cool the onions before adding the other ingredients.

Make sure you select some chi chi artisanal potato chips, the hefty kind, to pair with this dip. It deserves the best! Double this recipe for a socially distanced crowd.

ONION DIP

2 cups FAGE sour cream
1 medium white onion, minced and carmelized in butter or olive oil, then cooled
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tb. green chives, minced
1 tsp. each salt, pepper, garlic powder.

Combine all, then let rest, covered, in the refrigerator overnight.

Enjoy the finest in dippin’ and the good feels of high protein!

Key West Dreamin’

I remember being enamored, at the age of 20, of the epic road trip…from the very top of Maine to the southernmost point of Key West. This is what I had in the crosshairs.
 
When you’re 20, you can find a carful of crazy friends eager to do the same. They were game, and so we decided to go. It was on!
 

Our adventure chariot It was one of those American land yachts, circa 1975, that seat five very comfortably. Six if need be. We took off from Central Maine, and wound our way down Atlantic Rt. 1, all the way to the Florida Keys, stopping to marvel at the warm weather in Georgia, then pressing on to Key Largo where a crash pad and a meal awaited.
 
Waking up to palm trees, Cuban coffee and warm Jasmine scented breezes possibly changed my life.
 
The warm, shallow aqua blue shoals, mangrove wilds and fish life charmed and amazed me. I was basically a suburban kid from New Jersey, newly established in Maine (the Appalachian Trail being the initial draw to Maine) and although I had tasted the Caribbean, this place was exotic. Sadly, when you’re young and footloose, there never seems to be any money to enjoy the finer things. Honestly, looking good in a bikini probably outweighed any drawbacks, we had the kind of fun that money can’t buy.
 
After a few days, onward we went to the promised land…Key West. Duval Street and its debauchery and tea parties, that’s where I learned to drink, a White Russian, a drink I could order with confidence. Kinda girly, but I am not even sure I was “of age” at that point, still much to learn.

But the shrimp, those perfect pink shrimp native to the Keys are what hooked me. Those and the Cafe Con Leche, making mornings right, the raucous bars, high rollers with cash to burn, the beautiful waters that washed it all away the following day. I decide to stay. Doug, Lorna and I were able to get an apartment, right on the edge of a huge open field bordering the Navy Base. We had a huge tree in that field that saw many gatherings. We were situated on the edge of the Cuban section. I made daily forays there for “bolos”, black eyed pea fritters, shaped into little balls. Those slightly greasy white bags held 20 minutes of bliss. I’ve never been able to replicate them, although I’ve tried. Unforgettable. Ditto the conch fritters and Key Lime pie.
 
Mind you, this was way before I became a chef. I guess I’ve always had a fascination with food and culture. This place was rich indeed.
 
I returned every winter for the longest time, enjoying the counterculture, the music, dancing and fantastic waters of the Florida Keys.
 
I agreed to meet some of the ol’ crowd 40 years after. The difference between 20 and 60 is, well, astounding. But we lodged, dined, drank and danced very well even after all those years!
 
Here’s a recipe for Cuban Style Bollos. I’m not sure if it was the initial novelty of “that first time” that made them so memorable, but DANG…I still think they’re delicious!

 
BOLLOS CUBANO,
or black eyed pea fritters, makes 40 fritters
 
2 cups of black eyed peas
4 large garlic cloves
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 tsp salt
Oil for frying
 
Soak the beans overnight, covered weight water.
 
Drain, reserve the water
 
Puree the beans until they are as fine as corn meal (food processor is fine).
 
Add, the seasonings and 1/2 cup of reserved liquid. Stir well.
 
Preheat oil  to 350 degrees in a high edged pan.
 
Drop in teaspoon full for the bean mixture, a few at a time. Don’t crowd for best results.
 
Deep fry the bollos for 2 minutes, then drain when golden brown.
 
Eat right away, I dust mine with a finishing salt. Enjoy!

Frank’s Lucky Pork and Beans

Cultures all over the world seem to favor some combination of pork and beans to bring luck and prosperity in the New Year. I usually make “Hopping’ John” from the American South, with ham or pork scraps and black eyed peas. 
 
In this Pandemic year, rather than a grocery run, I created a winner out of pantry items, garden remnants and some frozen pork loin chops. So this isn’t exactly a recipe, but rather an example of how to think on your feet. Necessity can truly be the “Mother of Invention.” So I’ll dedicate this non-recipe to one of my favorite modern composers, Frank Zappa,, clearly demonstrating how to think outside of the shake and bake box.
 

FRANK’S PORK AND BEANS FOR THE NEW YEAR, serves four
 
INGREDIENTS
 
4 pork loin chops, fat on
Spicy smoked paprika and flour dredge, salt and pepper
1 beaten egg, small crumble of dry sage 
2 cans cannellini beans, save the liquid
1 medium chopped onion
1/2 cup chicken stock
butter and avocado oil  
A bunch of trimmed, rinsed and chiffonade cut collard greens, I foraged mine, thrice frozen, from my garden….and they were delicious.
 
Pound out the pork chops but not too thin, coat with beaten egg, then dredge in flour mixture. Heat up a cast iron pan of size, add avocado oil, then when oil is hot, sauté chops over medium heat, turning once. Cooking slowly keeps pork tender. Remove from pan, set aside.
 
Add 3 tb butter to the saute pan, when hot, add the chopped onion and coat the onion season with salt and saute until translucent. Add the beans and their liquid, incorporating all the bottom bits from the pan. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and stir. Place the chops back in with the beans, turn down to a low simmer and cook covered for 30 minutes.
 
While the pork and bean flavors are “marrying,” steam up those greens in a small amount of salted water with a tight lid, drain and save the “pot liquor” for a soup. Toss the bright green greens with virgin olive oil and a finishing salt….or you can add them into your one pot meal for a more long cooked, traditional appearance. 
 
Either way you get a beautiful and economical dish…which automatically makes you feel lucky!
 
Remove mask to eat for best results.  
 
Hoping for safety, health, humor and sanity as we navigate into 2021.

At Home

My Silver Lining Playbook, or A Look Back at 2020

Many of us have had an unspeakably tragic year. The loss of friends or family, or a frightening brush with the Covid virus. Others of us have simply had to bear being homebound, or suffered domestic violence and still others suffered financial pain. Even the loss of a dream or career. It’s been a tough year, but not without it’s blessings.
 
To me, it’s been scary, because we’re just not sure if business will ever return to it’s former model, and cash flow is not what it was. This is inconvenient and uncomfortable because we have no choice but to take a hard look at ourselves and our addictions as well as to seek out new models, new solutions. Looking into the mirror isn’t easy.
 
Sitting at home in relative luxury, we rankle because we can’t dine out, go out for drinks, see our friends, go to the movies. I like to think of the world’s women, many who have the daily tasks of fetching water and firewood as well as childcare and the inevitable job of preparing food to nourish their families. We take for granted our potable water, fuel delivery, restaurant and grocery delivery and internet connections.
 
I realize that many of my problems, often born of excess, begin and end with me. It’s my job to turn around mental adversity and realize gratitude, choose happiness. My personal alchemy. Everyone has this super power. To stop daily, give thanks and to connect with the true source. This is where the recharge is born. Once we’re feeling our interconnectedness, perspective shifts. You can choose happiness, contentment, gratitude and have the energy to give back, whatever that means to you.
 
Granted, I don’t have a family to provide for, a dysfunctional home or kids learning at home, definitely stressors. One gift of this slowed down time, other than self-reflection, and the time to consider the future, has been the opportunity to help my community battle food insecurity, one meal at a time. It’s good to know that you’re not alone, even if you’re bearing the weight of any number of things.
 
Now is a time to take stock, say a prayer, help a neighbor …or ask for help, listen for guidance, take a breath, read a book, get outside, maybe learn something new…even about yourself and the world we live in.
 
Happy New Year and Bright Blessings for 2021…we’re ready for you!

A Christmas Eve Tradition from Sweden

Tradition comes to the forefront for many families at Christmas time. A learned, or borrowed tradition I hold dear is the Swedish Christmas Eve meal that we’ve made our own: Swedish Meatballs in a home made, nutmeg scented beefy béchamel sauce. Ladled over rich, mashed potato with a side of Lingonberry sauce and enjoyed around a Christmas tree or fireplace, this rates right up there with a hearthside fondue dinner for me! So much better than Ikea! I’m told that the Swedes prefer their meatballs unsauced. More calorie friendly, but where’s the fun in that?


SWEDISH MEATBALLS, SERVES 8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, I prefer fresh crumbled white bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt and fresh black and white pepper to taste, a grating of nutmeg
1/2 of a large white onion, diced small
1-1/2 pounds of good, ground beef, local if possible
1//4 cup finely chopped parsley, no stems
A mixture of butter and avocado oil to fry, save your pan drippings

GRAVY
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of flour
2 cup beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
A dash of soy sauce, Dijon mustard and season to taste

METHOD
In a large bowl, mix all meatball ingredients, combining well.
Roll the meat into 24 or so uniform balls.
Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat, searing well. Remove to a warm plate and cover.
Add more butter to the drippings in the pan and whisk in the flour until it is browned, then add stock, mustard, cream and seasonings to make a rich Bechemel, simmer for ten minutes.
Add the meatballs and let the flavors marry over a low flame, while you’re mashing your potatoes and getting out the lignonberries.

I like to top mine with a dusting of fresh parsley. Bon Appetit!

Perfect Potato Latkes in time for Hannaukkah

Holidays were always fun in our household. They brought out the best cooking and baking from our two diverse Grandmothers-one a Bible beating Methodist and the other, Jewish from the old country. They both brought their “A” game in December with their own versions of holiday specialties. 

Growing up, we  loved everything about Christmas, but lined up for Grandmom Marad’s Potato Latkes, perfectly seasoned and crunchy, hot out of the oil. She preferred to really squeeze the liquid out of the shredded onion and potato (saving the liquid, naturally). This makes for unsurpassed crunch in the finished product. She also used matzo meal rather than bread crumbs. The other thing to know is that Russet potatoes are the best to use, being the starchiest. The oil should also on medium high heat and it’s always best to do an exploratory with one cake until you know the temperature is right, because fairly hot oil is key. Lastly, the won’t hold successfully in a 200 degree oven longer than 20 minutes or so. In our family, they didn’t stand a chance!

Hanukkah is December 10th this year. Let’s pray for light and love the world over! Share some joy around the dinner table with these delicious latkes, and think about giving this year to a family less fortunate.

Fanny’s Potato Latkes, serves four

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 lb. Russet potato, hand shredded
1 lg white onion, shredded
3/4 cup matzo meal
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tb potato starch (or a little more meal)
Salt and pepper to taste, Maldon salt to finish
Sunflower or Avocado oil to fry, add in 1/4 c schmaltz for flavor, or goose fat, if you have it.

INSTRUCTIONS
Set up a wire rack near your frying station, with paper toweling.

Combine the shredded onion and potato in cheesecloth and squeeze as much liquid out as possible, save for soup.

In a bowl, combine the beaten eggs, potato, starch seasonings and matzo meal, mixing well. Let this rest ten minutes. Then form carefully into tight little cakes, using 3 tb per latke.

Heat your oil at a medium high temp and deploy your test “cake.” You don’t want smoking oil, nor can it be too slow. You’ll know by the “sound of applause,” as I call it. Don’t crowd the pan, fry perhaps four latkes at a time and drain immediately.

Sprinkle with a good, crunchy finishing salt like Maldon. Traditional garnishes are applesauce, sour cream, chives and smoked salmon.

Enjoy the Holidays and your families, stay safe and God Bless!

One-Pie, A Waldoboro Thanksgiving Story

One -Pie squash or pumpkin puree was always my choice for pumpkin pie filling….long before I moved to Maine and subsequently to the town where it was actually canned. This was at at the Medomak Canning Company in Winslow’s Mills area of Waldoboro.

There was always something about the vintage inspired label, unchanged for decades, that attracted me. Seems nothing could surpass One-Pie for the satiny custard I craved. It’s New England’s unofficial brand, where taste meets tradition. It’s the can we reach for when the spice scented holidays arrive, just like our mothers and grandmothers did.

Doing a bit of research, I’ve found that the Medomak Canning Company was an offshoot of a Rockland canning company called the John Bird Company. It was he who build the Waldoboro canning  facility that so many of us remember. Understanding the power of imagery and label recognition, it was also Mr. Bird who gave us that unforgettable label!

When I first moved to the coast of Maine in the 80’s, the canning factory was still intact, although  closed for years. I was in the restaurant business then, and when the factory did finally get pieced out, a customer gifted me their iconic sign, which I still treasure. It hangs in my home kitchen to this day.

I’ve always been a loyal customer but realized that I didn’t know much about the brand. I did find, with a wave of relief, that it is still distributed in West Paris, Maine, although it’s now canned in the state of Illinois. Gone are the glory days of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when One-Pie was one of hundreds of canning companies that processed the surplus of Maine farmers and fishermen. I recall one of my friends, Jane, a Morse of Waldoboro’s Sauerkraut farming fame, reminiscing about her childhood. She recalls picking pumpkins in her Grandmother Ethelyn’s field. These were earmarked for the One-Pie factory, which is where many farmers’ surplus crops landed. Local canning factories also processed beans, corn, peas, sardines and pumpkins or squash.

I for one, feel fortunate to have some of these One-Pie memories….and to live in Maine where it’s still on the shelf, like it always has been. I hear that one can on Amazon costs $10!

NEW ENGLAND PUMPKIN PIE

1 can ONE-PIE Pumpkin

1 tbsp Cornstarch

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ginger

1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground

1/2 tsp Salt (scant)

1-1/2 tbsp Butter (melted)

1-1/2 cups Milk or one 12 oz can of Evaporated Milk

1 cup Sugar

1/8 cup Molasses

2 Eggs (beaten)

– Lemon Juice

Sift sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together. Mix this with contents of one can ONE-PIE pumpkin. Add eggs, beaten, melted butter, molasses and milk. Add a dash of lemon juice (if desired). Line a 9 inch pie plate, pour in contents. Preheat over and bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 350° and continue to bake for 50 minutes.