October, and boy do we have cabbage! Making Kimchi.

It’s the end of the growing season here in Maine. Along with the fields of pumpkins, there are fields of cabbages still awaiting harvest, often just made sweeter by a bit of frost. I’ve seen conical ones, the heavy “keeper” style, Napa and Chinese cabbages and their cute cousin, Bok Choy.

Waldoboro is Sauerkraut Country. Ask anyone who’s a fan of Morse’s Sauerkraut out on Rt. 220. Theirs is a 100 year old tradition of making Kraut the old fashioned way. But when someone gifts you an armload of Napa Cabbage it’s either endless stir fries or, cabbage preserved as….Kimchi, that fermented food of Korean fame, stinky, zesty and a powerhouse of probiotic goodness.

So, I found a couple of large vessels, glass is best, and gathered garlic, ginger,fish sauce, Korean red pepper flakes, which can be found in a health food market, sugar, salt and everything nice…and smelly.

Began to salt down the cabbages after quartering them. Once the salt softens the cabbages, you rinse off the salt, and spread the spice paste between the leaves, then cram it all artfully into the jars and let them stand at room temperature for a few days to ferment. There. You’ve made food, pickles and medicine…all at once. Congratulations, you now have a superfood, low in fat but high in vitamins A, B and C.

Here’s a simple recipe:

Trim and quarter your Napa or Chinese cabbages, I am using three large cabbages for this recipe. Thinly slice green onion, radish, turnip and or carrot. Add all to a large bowl and salt it taking care to get between the leaves. Let this stand two hours until limp, then rinse well to remove the salt and leave it to drain.

Using a food processor, make a paste of 2 TB sugar, a 1/2 cup of fish sauce (can be omitted for a Vegan take on this forgiving recipe), 1- 1/2 cups Korean chili flakes, 1 head of fresh garlic,  1 large fresh ginger root (peeled), and a small Turmeric root.

Slather each leaf with this spicy paste. Wearing gloves is a good idea. Roll each quartered, slathered cabbage up tightly and pack into glass jars. Plastic is ok in a pinch.

Leave your jars out at room temperature for a day or two to ferment, I like to invert the jars in the sink occasionally to distribute all the juices which will present during the fermentation process. I noticed that plastic jars do need to be opened and off gassed occasionally while they’re ferment.

There you have it! Pretty easy. In Korea, Kimchi is eaten as a digestive aid at every meal and is attributed to weight loss due to it’s umami filled, satisfying nature.

Weight loss, satisfaction and a boosted immune system? Anything is worth a try in these pandemic times!

Jewish Cooking, “Vintage Philadelphia” A Trip Down Memory Lane

When one thinks of Philly, you may think of a Philly cheesesteak, Bookbinder’s Restaurant or a waterfront meal on a ship docked off Old Philadelphia within walking distance to the Liberty Bell.

Having had a wonderful Jewish grandmother of Ukrainian descent, I, on the other hand, remember Horn and Hardarts, especially their very futuristic “Automat”, and the great dairy restaurants and delis we frequented near her home on Girard Avenue and enjoyed blintzes, borscht, whitefish, bagels, lox and more!

My Grandmother had a kitchen that ran like a finely tuned machine, and in the midst of her industriousness, there were always a couple of ice cold, green pony bottles of 7 up and a silver dollar apiece when we came to visit. And a home cooked meal for her Harold, my father, and the three kiddos. I remember her churning out great earthen jars of pickled green tomatoes and dill cucumber pickles, jams and preservers, duck dinners, a nod to my brother Glenn, immense pots of homemade soup and brisket like no other. Her cakes with seafoam icing were ethereal, as was her honey cake. There was a small garden outback, set into tires in this urban landscape.  The kitchen was the heart of the house, possibly because the neighborhood was too dangerous for us to play outside in.

She taught me how to shop for and cook her knishes, blintzes and her famous beet borscht, which was a meal in itself topped with an immodest dollop of rich sour cream. Grandma, who stood her soap up on end to save it from melting, always said, “you can’t skimp on food”. I have taken that well to heart. As a family we’ve always eaten well…and we feed people. It’s just what we do,

Here is her borscht, as best I can recall it. If Ukrainian cuisine has a signature dish, this may be this slightly sweet and sour soup.  The earthiness of the beet is counterpointed by the freshness of dill. And September is a wonderful time to find beets of all varieties in the famers markets:

RED BEET BORSCHT

A meaty beef shank, olive oil to sear

2 quarts rich beef broth

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

4 large beets, peeled, chopped

1 large potato, peeled and chopped

4 big carrots, peeled and chopped fine

2 cups finely sliced cabbage

3 tb vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

1 cup dill, chopped finely, save out until the end of cooking

1 cup sour cream, you may mix it in or use it as an optional garnish

PREPARATION

Choose a large, heavy bottomed pot.

Sear the beef shank in the olive oil, turning one. Add the onions and half the stock, cover and cook.

Remove the meat and add the vegetables, seasonings and remaining stock. Cover and cook until tender, correct seasonings.

I sometimes use an immersion blender to puree half the soup, so it still has texture and add back in the shredded beef, dill and sour cream per bowl as garnishes.

Goes well with a schnapps. Na Zdorovie!

Up Your Cheeseboard Game with Pickled Pears

Raw Green Organic Seckel Pears I am lucky for many reasons. Adding to my bountiful homestead is a prolific ancient Seckel pear tree in my backyard. This was a windfall year. So the question of how to preserve them was easy…pickled pears.
 
Nothing offsets a rich roast, creamy or Blue cheeses like the sweet/acid bite of a pickled pear. Pleasing in form and so pretty for presentation, this addition to your cheese or charcuterie board with have you entertaining like a pro! Start now and offer them as a holiday gift, perfect for this moment of curated shopping.
 
 Makes 2 pints and this recipe easily doubles, have your pint jars hot and sterile, ready to go:

INGREDIENTS
2 pounds Seckel pears, peeled, halved and seeded
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
12 cinnamon sticks, several cloves and a few Star Anise
 
PREPARATION
 
Combine vinegar, sugar and salt with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. In a stainless kettle or pan.
 
Pack the prepared pears into your clean jars and divide the spices equally.
 
Pour hot brine over the pears, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Tapping the jars releases any trapped air bubbles.
 
Cap tightly and you can choose to can them traditionally in a hot water bath, or let cool and store in the refrigerator.
 
Best when left to sit for a month in order to fully develop flavors.

Breakfast in Egypt / My Fava Bean Moment / Foul Mudammas

My fava bean moment came to me within view of the Pyramids.
 
Our little hotel was committed to offering up a hearty breakfast, befitting the American tourist who had a day spent in the Sahara, claustrophobic tomb touring and camel riding ahead… in searing heat. The breakfast buffet featured all the typical Middle Eastern breakfast trappings I’d come to expect on my travels in the Middle East: Chewy pita bread, the best dates and citrus ever,astonishing olives, hard boiled eggs, crisp, young cucumbers and juicy chopped tomato.
 
But wait, what is in this rich, bubbling cauldron? Beans of some sort…but for breakfast? I gave it a go, ladeling a big spoonful of creamy, cumin scented goodness onto my plate and scooping it up with the freshly baked pita bread.
 
WOW…and wow again, this was hearty and delicious with just enough heat to wake you up properly and a perfect compliment to the other offerings on my plate, cucs, olives, tomato. Then there was a sauce, super zippy and probably as simple as superior olive oil, lemon juice and lots of fresh garlic. “My way to breakfast!”, I thought, dreamily taking another bite and wondering how the heck  you get on top of a camel. As it turned out, my camel’s name was Samba and she was most agreeable!
 
Back home, I realized that I could get and grow fava beans in Maine, most of the organic growers, including Johnny’s and Fedco have multiple varieties. Fava’s have a duel purpose. Not only are they delicious, but famers us them to improve soils as a cover crop, fixing nitrogen and also breaking up heavy soils with their deep tap root.Such as my brand of Maine marine clay soil.
 
Fava beans are equally popular in Italian cooking, but here’s my recipe that most closely resembles my Egyptian experience:
 
FOUL MADAMMAS (serves six)
 
2 -15 oz cans of fava beans or you may cook your own
1/2 cup water
1 tsp toasted cumin seed
2 chopped jalapeños
 
Juice of one large lemon and a bit of the zest
1 cup chopped, stemmed parsley
1 diced tomato
 
To serve traditionally:

Warm pita bread
Chopped green onion
Sliced cucumber and red tomato
 
Good black olive, extra virgin olive oil, and kalamata olives
 
Combine the first set of ingredients in a heavy skillet and warm slowly, mashing a few of the beans for a creamy texture.
 
Combine the lemon juice, garlic, parsley and extra virgin olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and more hot peppers if you like a kick. Top the beans with this sauce.
 
Place in a bowl and offer the cucumbers, diced tomato, olives and olive oil to eat with the pita bread and fava beans.
 
This is Eqypt’s most traditional breakfast.


The green herb sauces of late summer / Morroco’s Charmoula


Summer is just about at it’s peak. There’s way too many zucchini and tomatoes. But, I’ve got a plan for your culinary herbs. Here’s what to do with that bounty of green herbs, like cilantro, chives, scapes or parsley…make a vibrant green sauce! 

Almost every culture has one! From a global perspective, think about pesto, which most everyone knows…(Italy), green curry (India), chimichurri ( Argentina), zhoug (Yemen), or Mexico’s salsa verde.

One of my all time faves is Charmoula from Morocco. If you have lots of parsley and cilantro, love the flavors of lemon garlic, chile and cumin this North African sauce is for you.  Great on grilled shrimp, grilled chops, or to bump up a vegetarian dish, try it…it doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of those great recipes that you can make ahead and it just improves, keeps for days, and freezes well.

The recipe is as follows:

Charmoula (Makes a pint, easy to double and freeze half)

1 cup stemmed, packed flat parsley

1 cup packed cilantro

2 scallions, trimmed and chopped

2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled

1/4 tsp. roasted cumin seed

1 tsp. salt, fresh pepper to taste

A pinch of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper

1 tsp. of fresh lemon zest

3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

 2 tsp. red wine vinegar, of use the juice of the grated lemon

Combine all in a Cuisinart and pulse to consistency, correct seasonings, and add more oil or vinegar as you see fit. It should be a stunning bright green, and loose enough to drop from a spoon.

Absolutely divine on grilled meats, fish or shrimp….even tofu! 

Enjoy the flavors of summer while we can still get out and grill!

Peruvian Food Favorites

There were so many high points to traveling in Peru…Machu Picchu and it’s many wonders, the neighborhoods and museums of Lima, the gorgeous beaches and interesting customs.

Another fond memory is of sitting in a bar in Peru. A Pisco Sour in one hand, crunchy corn nuts in the other…the bar snack of choice…while awaiting the house Seviche. In Peru, scallops are the norm for Seviche, however using shrimp, calamari or any mild, white fish fits in nicely especially when expertly seasoned and “cooked” in a spicy lime juice mixture. After a couple of Pisco Sours, it was hard to recall anything! They tell me I had fun.

Seviche, Peruvian  Style, with bay scallops, serves 6 to 8

1 lb bay scallops, quartered…or in Maine our sea scallops are perfect too!

1 cup rough chopped cherry tomato

1 red Serrano Chile, chopped finely

1 cup red onion, finely chopped

1 cup chopped cilantro

1 cup fresh orange juice

Salt to taste

2/3 cup fresh lime juice and a bit of lime zest

Combine all in a ceramic bowl, cover and plan to let it marinate for one day.

To serve, serve in small glasses, topped with more chopped cilantro, a wedge of lime and a side of tortilla chips

A little about Pisco….while the Pisco Sour is the national cocktail, or a mixed drink, real Pisco connoisseurs would never dream of mixing good Pisco with anything. Pisco comes in few variations including a floral variety or a more herbal flavor. While technically a brandy, it was developed to replace Spanish brandy in the 16th century and boasts an alcohol content of up to 100 proof. Nowadays it’s produced almost exclusively in Peru and Chile.
 

Beantime! What to do with your bounty of summer beans


Yellow wax beans, broad and meaty Romano beans, Haricot Verte, Rattlesnake or Kentucky Wonder Pole beans…..we love them all here at Laura Cabot Catering…..and we grow them all! 

We also grow summer and winter savory, which, if you’re not familiar with this herb, please get to know it. Savory is the perfect compliment to beans of all sorts.

We love the hearty pole bans cooked Southern style with “sidemeat” and onion.

When I tire of eating string beans simply cooked with savory and doused with good olive oil and salt, I often turn to the picnic-y side dish called three bean salad.

Here’s my favorite recipe:

Prep time: 15 minutes, serves eight or more…

2 cups fresh, blanched green beans, cut into  2 inch pieces

2 cups wax beans, blanched and cut into 2 inch pieces

1- 15 oz can of dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1-15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 c. Red onion, diced small

1 tb chopped, stemmed flat parsley

Place all these ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

Now combine:

2/3 cup cider vinegar

1/4 c. Sugar

1/2 c. Olive oil

Salt, pepper and summer savory to taste

Combine all and pour over mixed beans, tossing gently.

This salad will benefit by a couple of hours in the fridge, before sharing with your friends. 

What a great addition to a chicken barbecue!

Callaloo / An Island Delicacy Comes To Maine


What I know about Beth’s Farm Market is that they employ many Jamaican farm workers. Having spent ample time in Jamaica, I know that it’s a culture that eats well and their diet is very vegetable forward.

I was delighted to learn that the good people at Beth’s have begun to grow this delicious leafy green, a member of the Amaranth family. I look for it every July. The entire plant is good to eat, although the larger stems may need to be peeled and chopped smaller than the leaves. A high fiber vegetable, Callaloo helps to prevent obesity,control blood sugar and lower the risk of heart disease. Being high in vitamin C is another bonus and the reason it should be cooked lightly, until a jewel-like green.

Below is my favorite treatment for this nourishing vegetable, taught to me by an Ital chef, Dice:

Serves four, as a side dish. Prep time 30 minutes.

One large bunch callaloo, the larger stems peeled and chopped fine, leave chopped larger

Coconut oil

Fresh thyme springs

One peeled chopped carrot and 1 chopped white onion

Four chopped Roma tomato, half a Scotch bonnet pepper

1 TB chopped garlic. Salt and peter to taste

Begin by heating 3 TB oil in a heavy bottom pot, add the onion,carrot, garlic, thyme,tomato, S and P. Cook until the carrot is tender.

Add the Callaloo stems first, salt lightly and toss to coat, when half cooked add the leaves and toss again, cover the pot, stir once or twice as it finishes cooking.

Take the dish off the flame while the colors are still vibrant, remove hot pepper and serve immediately.

Using July’s Garlic Scapes / Green Goddess Dressing

If you’re a garlic lover, it’s nice to know how to use the super pungent shoot, or scape of the garlic. Typically they’re cut off before they form a flower, so as not to allow the garlic’s energy to move upward…but to focus the plants energy down to the head or bulb that’s trying to form.

Scapes are often made into pesto or a compound butter, but my favorite use for garlic scapes is a tasty Green Goddess dressing. Her’s my favorite recipe, terrific on the garden salad greens so prevalent right now in gardens everywhere:

3/4 cup either mayo or full fat Greek yoghurt

1 cup flat, leaf parsley, leaves only

1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves only

4 garlic scapes, tender parts only, rough chop

1/2 avocado, peeled and pitted

1 tbsp. White wine vinegar

Juice of one lemon

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine all and mix by hand until desired consistency

Toss with your favorite lineup of summer salad greens….Bibb lettuce for me!

Enjoy!

Ital Cooking / The Rastafarian Cuisine of Jamaica

My first trip abroad, at the tender age of 19 was to the magical island of Jamaica. The year was 1976, the times were heady.

Jamaica was a visual feast in every way. I recall my first night there, a full moon glimpse of the coast…trusting my native guide who excitedly led the way through a dense tropical forest with a narrow path breaking out onto the beach. The vision of moonlit, swaying palms and pristine seven mile beach, heaped with mounds of conch shells, water shimmering with moonbeams…this was my home for some months. I settled into the rhythm of the surf in a sleepy seaside town called Negril.

Going native meant getting my hair done up in braids with coral beads, taking too much sun, gathering herbs, reveling in tropical flowers, learning to snorkel and to use a spear gun. Also much time was spent over a camp cook stove with Dice, my Rasta buddy and Ital cooking mentor.

What exactly is Ital cuisine? I-tal, as it’s sometimes spelled is a derivitive of the word VITAL, it’s typical for the emphasis to be on the ‘I’ in much of Rasta lexicon. It’s not the traditional cooking of Jamaica, but the Rasta version who’s chief features are that it’s Vegetarian, no salt or sugar cooking, largely Vegan and juice forward. It’s aim is to conserve and elevate the energy of the ingredients. Ital food can be highly spiced, with influences drawn from many cultures, such as Spain, China, Africa, India and the Middle East. Allspice features largely in Ital cooking (think Jerk seasoning), as do Scotch Bonnet peppers and coconut….and the ubiquitous callalloo, which is a green, an amaranth, eaten almost everyday, as are rice and peas, sometimes called “coat of arms.”

Rastafarians are also fond of medicinal herb and root concoctions as tonics, use curtain weeds as a smokeable sacrament and never touch their hair with scissors. My impression was that many locals viewed the Rastas the way folks at home viewed the hippies in the early 60’s and 70’s.

But I loved their affinity for nature, the wholesome cooking, their commitment to their religious beliefs and their “live and let live” lifestyle. While on the island, I learned a lot about keeping the essential energy in foods by conscious cooking methods.That’s still a valuable tool, maybe now more than ever!

Here is my favorite Ital soup recipe, courtesy of Chef Dice:

Pumpkin Soup (Serves six)

Ingredients

2 tb coconut oil
1 cup, minced white onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup celery and leaves, chopped
1/4 cup Chopped parsley, I hot pepper (scotch bonnet if you like it hot)
1 large sprig fresh thyme, a grating of nutmeg, and dash allspice, salt and pepper to taste
4 cups chunked Calabaza squash or Buttercup squash
2 cups each, diced white potato and carrot
1 qt vegetable stock and full fat coconut milk to consistency

Instructions

Choose a large heavy bottomed pot and heat oil, sauté onion and garlic.

Add carrot, pumpkin potato and celery and seasonings, stock and some coconut milk.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until veggies are cooked through. Remove hot pepper and thyme.

Puree half of the soup, correct seasonings and add more coconut milk to consistency.

Garnish with slivers of green onion and put on some Reggae!