A Visit to Beth’s Farm Market, Warren, Maine

Long a local hang of area chefs, Beth’s Farm Market is distinguished by it’s sparkling fresh produce, grown, and picked or foraged right on their farm. The most delicate of baby radishes, the greenest young garlic, earthy parsnips, fiddleheads by the pound, a rosy heritage rhubarb named Valentine and thick, heady asparagus all grace the shelves in the merry month of May. Did I mention dandelion greens, my personal favorite? Beth’s is an institution where you may see dyed-in-the-wool elderly Mainers shopping alongside of hipsters, foodies and chefs.

Fiddleheads, (shown left) these spring darlings, available in May, are supplemented by over wintered carrots, beets and potatoes and their compliment of pies, donuts and other freshly baked goods, making it a one stop shopping experience. You can also procure the stinkiest “store cheese”, Cheddar, of course, and pots of fresh kitchen herbs. Or perennials, of the dependable sort, for your flower border.

A bit later in the season expect Beth’s sweet corn, a local favorite, said to be the sweetest around! Several varieties of oysters and live lobster are also in the house, on vats of crushed ice.

One interesting aside is that Beth’s employs many Jamaican workers in high season. There are very talented Jamaican pastry chefs in the kitchen, consistently turning out the favorites like their fresh strawberry shortcake.

Shown above: spinach, Jamaican-style pickled peppers, dandelions

One of the farm foremen, John, has had a hand in growing and popularizing the most remarkable green, an amaranth, called callaloo, available in mid-season and a staple vegetable in Jamaica. Deeply nourishing, it’s a breeze to cook, the entire plant being edible. You simply wash it and shake it dry, then chop the entire thing, leaves, stems and all. It’s all very tender and toothsome. I blanch the chopped callaloo in boiling, salted water and drain it in a colander when it turns bright green. Season it with good salt and olive oil. You’ll be surprised how much you can eat and how good it makes you feel.

Beth’s brings together a few different worlds…Mainers, restauranteurs and Jamaican farmers. “So…for those about to cook, we salute you!”

Meyer Lemon Lobster Salad with Spring Greens

This recipe feeds four.

2 pounds of picked whole lobster body meat, tail, knuckle and claw

Homemade mayo …or Hellman’s with a touch of grated Meyer lemon zest mixed

Salt and pepper to taste

Two Meyer lemons, which are less tart than the usual lemon…still in the market in late spring

The freshest spicy blend of farmers market greens you can find, 1/2 pound

Cut the lobster meat into manageable chunks.

Dress very lightly with the lemony mayo and season to taste. Add a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice and mix lightly.

Arrange your seasonal greens on an attractive plates and add 1/2 pound dollop of lobster salad on top.

Garnish with a Meyer lemon wedge. Luxuriate.

Los Angeles – Nopales, grilling cactus paddles

Last winter I was fortunate to be invited to the home of very good friends in the Los Angeles area. Being the consumate hosts that they were, we were on the go 24-7…and believe me there’s a lot to see. We covered ground from their beautiful hillside home in Long Beach to the expansive beaches of Ventura and the Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods nearby. We saw every museum and road side attraction from LA to Palm Springs ( date shake anyone?), ate primo Ethiopian food, sampled street tacos and crushed the food trucks ( Hey, there’s Cousin’s Maine  Lobster Truck selling lobster rolls!)


But the sight that really piqued my interest was a street vendor selling cleaned nopales, or prickly pear cactus paddles. He was masterful in his cleaning technique as you’ll see in the video. You do not want to run into a stray cactus needle, trust me. It was easy as pie to follow his instructions for a grilled nopale and we ate them the same day. The nopales are distinctively tart, soft yet crunchy and make a perfect foil for fatty meats. Think about pairing with BBQ pork tacos, like a relish or vegetable side dish. I’ll bet they’d also make a good salsa verde.

 Here’s the method:

Bring home your cactus paddles cleaned (ideally).

Mix up some avocado oil with good salt, fresh pepper and baste both sides of each paddle.

Get your grill medium hot and place paddles on the fire. Do not move them until they’re nicely and deeply scored, or marked, then flip them and score them again.

Grill until soft. Pull the nopales off the fire and let them rest a moment before slicing them . Finish with a good salt like Maldon and serve with almost any meat.

You’re welcome!

Roasted Pheasant

I am new to the world of Hank Shaw and his James Beard award- winning blog, “Hunter Angler Gardener Cook”. But I’m resonating like a long lost lover with his take on simple roast pheasant. My recipe differed only in that I started the bird at a low temperature after a robust seasoning with good salt and freshly ground pepper. I trussed and oiled my 3-4 pound bird, tented it with foil over the breast and let it go, low and slow for 2 hours without opening the oven.
 
I then removed the bird’s foil tent, jacked up the oven to 450 degrees and oiled the bird once again. Into a hot oven it went for another 20 minutes. I was mindful of Hank’s warning not to dry it out, so pulled it just as soon as the skin crisped.
 
It important to let almost anything rest, to keep the meat juicy, so I cover my little bird up with parchment for 20 minutes while I prepared a pan gravy, enriched with a bit of red current jelly. Hank’s suggestion of a root vegetable melange seemed perfect for winter, but I used up my green beans instead. View Hank’s recipe here.

Spring Chive Goddess Dressing

chivesIt won’t be long now before we have lovely fresh chives in abundance, and baby lettuces too! Here’s the perfect dressing for these tender young treats.

3/4 cup full fat sour cream
3/4 cup olive oil mayo
2 large cloves, minced fresh garlic
1 cup minced fresh chives
1 tsp. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp. of lemon zest
1TB. fresh lemon juice
2 anchovy filets, white or regular

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine all but the chives in a blender until creamy. Transfer to a bowl. Add the chives by hand and fold in. Season to your taste, cover and refrigerate for an hour or so before serving.

You can use this as a dip or spread. Thin with a little cream to make a steelllar salad dressing. Top you salad with chive blossoms for the best effect.

St. Augustine

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Resized952017013095110034I was excited to visit our countries oldest city recently and I wasn’t disappointed. Not by the friendly people or the town itself, with it’s stunning Spanish influenced buildings.

The food, amply represented by many quality dining establishments, is something to crow about! From traditional, with their ubiquitous Minorcan chowder (reminiscent of a Manhattan style with a tomato-y broth), to freshly caught fish and shrimp, there really is something for everyone.

But wait, that is the difference in this food? There’s something really flavorful with a slow, sweet burn that you can’t ignore present in many dishes found here. I learned that it’s the Datil pepper, a integral part of the Minorcan influence.

Resized952017012995115106Always an active port, St. Augustine represents a culinary melting pot, with African, Creole and Spanish influences…and the Pirate trade helped too to create a lively ,unique cuisine that belongs to it alone.

Argentinian Beef Empanadas

Screen Shot 2017-02-09 at 4.31.26 PMThis recipe fits the bill for hearty winter dining!

Ingredients
1/2 pound ground beef
3 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
14 pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla, finely chopped
3 tablespoons raisins
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 (17.5 ounce) packages frozen puff pastry (each with 2 sheets), thawed
1 raw egg, lightly beaten

Directions
Set racks in upper and lower thirds of oven, and preheat to 450 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook beef in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer beef to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, and pour off grease from skillet. Melt butter in skillet and saute onions and green onion, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Return beef to skillet and stir in hard-boiled eggs, olives, raisins, cumin, salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to a shallow bowl and chill until cooled, 10 to 20 minutes.

Unfold 1 pastry sheet, keeping remaining chilled, onto a lightly floured surface, dust lightly with flour, and roll out into a 12-inch square. Cut 4 (5 1/2-inch) rounds from pastry. Brush a 1/2-inch border around edges of 1 round with water, using a small brush or fingertip. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of filling onto half of round. Fold other half over filling and press edges together firmly. Crimp edges with a fork and transfer to one of prepared baking sheets. Repeat with 3 remaining rounds. Form 12 more empanadas in same manner with remaining pastry and filling, arranging them about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheets.

Brush tops of empanadas with beaten egg. Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Lady Apples For The Holidays

photoGet to know the lady apple for the holiday season. She’s the friend to have in your corner for both the delights of the table and for decorating. It’s bright red and green coloring have earned it the title of the Christmas apple. Long used in wreath making in England, the lady apple tastes sweet/tart when eaten raw and is a lovely addition to holiday stuffings or as a chutney to accompany roasted meats or poultry. This distinctive lady is know in France as the Pomme d’ Api and happens to be the oldest recognized apple variety in the world.

For making a holiday chutney to go with my Lady Apple wreath, I favor Ina Garten’s recipe.
I hope you enjoy it as much as we do here at Laura Cabot Catering!

Ingredients
6 Lady Apples, peeled, cored and half-inch diced
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
3/4 cup good cider vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon whole dried mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup raisins

Directions
Combine the apples, onion, ginger, orange juice, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, pepper flakes and salt and in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Take off the heat and add the raisins.

Set aside to cool and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Tomato Cake

TOMATO CAKE – Born of the depression this cake is delicious and can be made with either red or green tomatoes. It’s vegetarian and Vegan, yummy and an excellent way to use up the late summer’s tomato bounty, serves four

WET
11/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 TSP each baking powder and soda
pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup light brown sugar
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

DRY
1 cup of fresh tomato pulp, blanched, skinned, seeded , chopped and drained well.
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
2 TB apple cider vinegar

Mix wet and dry ingredients, do not overmix.

Place in a baking pan, 91/2 inches works well. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Eat this yummy treat right out of the oven to enjoy a crisp top crust.

Chicago – Big City Dining

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If ever there was a city on the radar for exceptional dining, Chicago is it right now. It’s home to some of the most innovative and award winning restaurants around (think Alinea, NoMi Kitchen, Next, The Girl and the Goat…) as well as a wealth of traditional eats, such as pizza and hot dogs.

chicago1My birthday week featured dining galore in this fun city with expert steerage from long time friends Diane and Will. We chowed down on the quintessential loaded Chicago dog, shared a great deep dish pizza and shopped a uber liquor warehouse, returning home with a cache of interesting finds. Beyond that, yes, way beyond, were the cutting edge and rather retro cocktails at numerous hot spots after an evening at Steppenwolf Theatre.

I must note a fantastical evening spent at restaurant Elizabeth, on my official birthday. A hand full of very game diners, filled the place, seated family style at three tables. A full dining room seats 24 or so guests with an option of three menus, all with a foraging theme. Owner Iliana Regan, a self taught chef,calls her cuisine “New Gatherer” and offers three menus, the Owl, the Deer and the Diamond. Diane and I choose the middle option, the Deer menu. We strapped in for a four hour, fifteen course crazy ride. The meal was so unusual, so regional and locally sourced ( for instance,one course was named for the coordinates where the food was foraged) that my description will not do it justice. I recommend learning more about this unique dining experience from their site. www.elizabeth-restaurant.com