The Black Forest at Christmastime

Coming from Austrian Germanic roots, the Black Forest was always on my bucket list. When better to go that just before Christmas! At that time, one of my restaurant chefs who was German, still had family in Europe, so I went over to meet them near Berlin. From there Gudi and I travelled near and far…we saw every castle or “schloss” around, went to Heidelburg, as well as other towns with famous castles, and any number of charming mountain towns reminiscent of Hallmark Christmas cards with their well kept stores, jolly storekeepers, frosty firs and town squares…..and gourmet shops.

Can you say Wurst? The sausages were amazing and varied. Oh and the cheese…. stinky “hand cheese” for breakfast, Allgauer Berkkase, which is similar to the better known Emmentaler, Edelpilz, a bleu to remember, Hirtenkase, or Herder’s cheese, an aged Alpen cow’s milk cheese and the infamous Limburger. You’ve got to love a culture that enjoys cold cuts for breakfast with a good, smelly cheese! Chase that with schnitzel, chocolate and a beer and you have my diet while in Germany.

Back to that chocolate, we often received real European chocolates for Christmas along with other gifts from Austrian great Aunties. Gifts we couldn’t fathom at the age of seven…like Lederhosen and real artisan puppets, like Marionettes. How I wish we still had those beautiful Marionettes. We, as a family, had a formidable beer stein collection as well as Meersham pipes passed down from Grandpop Marad. And Grandmother that cooked sour cherry pies, Sauerbraten and pork with Sauerkraut, not to mention the best Christmas cookies around!



But I digress I wanted to get to the Schwarzwald, or Black Forest. I was after a cockoo clock as my souvenir of choice…something I couldn’t eat in a weak moment. Here’s an image of the one I picked out. It’s in my office now at Laura Cabot Catering. It will always remind my of the pristine mountain air, winding roads, and snow frosted forests, yes, deep and dark, that defined the Black Forest so beautifully.










And for those of you thinking about Holiday baking, consider these Pfeffernusse  (the name means pepper nuts) Cookies one of my Grandmom Marad’s seasonal specialties. These cookies are so beloved in Germany there is a national Pfeffernusse Day! My recommendation is to buy your spices fresh for these cookies, it makes all the difference!



PFEFFERNUSSE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, I use light brown
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon soda, salt, black pepper, cinnamon and crushed anise seed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg, allspice and cardamom
A dash of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Cream butter, sugar and molasses in bowl or mixer until fluffy. Add the egg, beat to combine.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until combined.

Cover and chill this dough in the fridge for at least one hour

‘Preheat oven to350 degrees. Scoop out a small amount and roll it into a ball. Place on parchment and bake until firm.

Let cool before rolling in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.

This recipe doubles and keeps well, good for gift giving for a real European experience!

The Thanksgiving side dish for your Vegetarians

BUTTERNUT KIMCHI MAC AND CHEESE

Sounds a little crazy, but this is one delicious dish! Sharp because of the Cheddar, creamy and umami packed, it’s a winner especially for the “hard to feed” at our Friendsgiving.

Easier than you’d think because butternut squash is easy to find peeled and cubed at the grocery….and…if you’re following along with me in preparing these seasonal recipes, you already have a big jar of homemade kimchi in your fridge! Ha ha , ok, not likely but you can find kimchi easily too.

Try a trial run for your family, then prepare with confidence for your Thanksgiving meal or Pot Luck!

INGREDIENTS

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2 in)

1 white onion, chopped finely

1 cup Napa cabbage kimchi, chopped with juice

2 tb extra virgin olive oil

1 lb elbow macaroni

1 quart Vegetable broth

1 tsp Salt, I like pink salt, freshly ground pepper

1 lb Sharp cheddar, grated

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oil and add onion, sauté until soft.

Add kimchi and sauce a couple of minutes

Add cubed squash to the pot, reducing heat. Cover tightly and cook until squash is soft, about 5 minutes.

Remove lid and add pasta, stock and seasonings. Cover again and simmer until pasta has absorbed most of the stock

A bit of liquid left in pan is desirable.

Add the grated sharp cheese, stirring over reduced heat.

Serve while hot! You could also put this mixture into an oven safe casserole dish and top with buttered crumbs, reheating later. This recipe doubles well.

Happy Thanksgiving, so much to be grateful for, even in a difficult year! 

Laura Cabot
 
 
 
 
 
 

Community Food Pantries

Since there’s nowhere to go and “nothing to do”, I decided to do some good at home. It’s a Safari inward…to our local food pantry.
 
I got to know the work of our local food pantry these last few months and was bowled over by not only the occult need for food in our community but the number of volunteers who’s mission it was to make things better for our neighbors. It’s a lot of work keeping those shelves filled with canned goods and we’re lucky to have some tireless folks who are committed to doing so. Fresh vegetables and frozen meats are also offered.
 
One thing I noticed immediately was although many boutique growers of organic vegetables were happy to contribute, the general population was unable to make good use of this surplus of vegetables. Families already pushed to the brink with homeschooling and remote learning, and additionally working one or two jobs and housekeeping, often didn’t have time to create home cooked meals or learn how to use something new.
 
That’s where Laura Cabot Catering came in. I said, “Bring us your beautiful vegetables, before they become weary. Let us cook them up for your family and make it as nutritious as possible!” So, that’s what we’re doing until the catered events are rolling again. Soups, stews, chowders, salads, fermented foods….My personal commitment is to true nutrition in these beleaguered times. A tummy full of good food really helps with learning and mental health.
 
Let me just give a shout out to Atlantic Sea Farms in Saco, ME. I’ve long been a fan of their fermented sea vegetable and cabbage products and was delighted to learn that they’re happy to partner with us through donations of both their products and blanched seaweed, which I love to chop up and pop into my soup pot. Seaweed really bumps up the nutritional component and rather disappears in the process, so it’s a no brainer way to make something really good to eat!


 
Thank you Altantic Sea Farms and Waldoboro Food pantry volunteers!

#atlanticseafarms. #waldoborofoodpantry  #lauracabotcatering
#foodinsecurity

Got Celariac? Celery and Stilton Soup

For our friends that know not what celeriac is, it is celery root. A bodaciously celery flavored ball of goodness at the base of fronds of celery leaves. Grown especially for this root ball, both the root and stems/leaves are all fair game if cream of celery soup IS the game. I pair these intense flavors with onion for mellowness, potato for body and Stilton cheese for fabulous umami.

This is a soup for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table, a fine pairing with rich roasts or poultry.

I need to give a shout out to the late, great Buddy….my ol’ friend at who’s table I first enjoyed this masterpiece.

CELERY STILTON SOUP, makes 3 quarts

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped, use greens too
1 large celery root (celeriac) a, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of celery, cleaned and chopped, use all the leaves too
2 large potatoes, peeled, chopped
6 cups rich chicken stock, degreased
1 pound Stilton cheese
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper, a bay leaf

PREPARATION

Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, leek and celery root, leaves et all, salt and stir. Add potato, bay leaf, then stock. Cover and let simmer. Use can immersion blender to puree, leaving some small chunks for texture. Season to taste and add cream and cheese. Correct seasonings and serve piping hot in a pretty tureen.

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.