Wish you were here: chowdah, salmon, and vacation food

There’s only so much fried food you can consume in a week, but I did my best to fill a year’s quota in seven short days. Fried clams, fried Pemaquid oysters, fried calamari, and of course, French fries by the plateful. A little coleslaw for balance. That’s mostly what’s on offer on the peninsulas that jut out all along the Maine coast like slender fingers. Lobster marinas and their attached picnic tables dockside proffer platters of boiled lobsters with coleslaw, sometimes with steamed clams, and if you’re lucky, corn on the cob. What’s not to like?

Yet there comes a time for a break. I had brought the remnants in my refrigerator in a cooler, just in case we were feeling too lazy to leave the cottage after a day of doing a whole lot of nothing. Well that day did come.  I started with the intention of making corn chowder since it requires only a few ingredients. We had local corn and potatoes….but man of the house, not quite sated,  thought lobster would add a nice touch, so he went down to the marina about half a mile away, and asked for a cooked lobster. By the time he dropped the $5.50 (!) for the lobster, I was well along with the rest of the soup.

Corn and/or seafood chowder recipe by the seat of your pants
Serves 2 to 4
You only need a large saucepan or small soup pot to make this, and most cottages, though poorly equipped, manage to provide a pot and a microwave. We made this for two, but ended up with enough for two meals.

2 tablespoons butter
2 bunches of scallions, or 1 onion, chopped
2 handfuls of small potatoes, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 ears of corn
A 1 1/2 pound cooked lobster, or clams, or fish (all optional)

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the scallions or onions and sauté until soft. Add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper and enough water to barely cover the potatoes. Cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft. With a potato masher or spoon, break up some of the potatoes to add body to the soup.

2. Meanwhile, cook the unshucked corn in the microwave. Check out the how-to here on Simply Recipes (thanks, Elise.) Once the corn has cooled, slice off the kernels.

3. Set the cooked lobster in a colander over a bowl to catch the juices. Remove the meat and cut it into bite sized pieces. Add the juices that collect in the bowl to the soup pot.

4. Add the corn to the soup, and enough milk to your satisfaction. Bring it to a simmer and stir in the lobster.

Note: You can omit the seafood and enjoy plain ol’ corn chowder. If you want to use clams, steam them and add the steaming water to the pot. Shuck the clams and add them as you do the lobster above. Fish in chunks, shrimp, or scallops can all go into the pot when the milk heats up. Cook for a few minutes, or until seafood is done.

****** *******
Here’s another recipe (I’m deluging you dear friends) that should go on your vacation menu. You can do it with or without the potatoes and tomatoes.

Salmon with summer herbs, potatoes, and tomatoes
Serves 4
Roast potatoes and cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, and after about fifteen minutes, pop the fish in the oven for a no-stress quick supper.  Use whatever herbs you have on hand.
Oil for the baking sheet and baking dish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
3 scallions, finely sliced
1 pound small potatoes, halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillet
Juice of 1 lemon
1 lemon, quartered, for garnish

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and a large ceramic or glass baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, combine the dill, parsley, oregano, and scallions.

3. In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on half of the baking sheet in a single layer.

4. In the same bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread on the second half of the baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and the potatoes are browned.

5. Meanwhile, in the baking dish, place the salmon with the flesh side up. Sprinkle with the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque in the center.

6. Transfer the fish to a platter and serve surrounded by tomatoes and potatoes.

And now for the vacation pictures. Wildflowers, docks, cottages, water views, rocky shorelines—all very cliché. What is a cliché other than a truism that has too often been repeated? Luckily, you can skip this part without hurting my feelings—I’ll never know!

Good morning

Room with a view


Sunday supper and more: Eggplant gratin and a pasta dish (a two-fer!)

If Man of the House doesn’t complain too much about repetition, I am going to make this as often as I can get away with from now until the time of last tomato standing. It’s that good. I’ve been contributing regularly to the Sunday Supper and More column, a feature in the Boston Globe Wednesday food section, for quite some time now and I can tell you, this one’s a keeper. You have to give yourself a little time, but it’s not a lasagna-type effort. The time is in the oven—peeled eggplant slices go in it twice: first baked until tender on a baking sheet, and then baked in the gratin. But like I said, the time is in the oven, and the endgame is meltingly soft eggplant that dreamily blends into the tomato and ricotta. You could use goat cheese if you want something a bit more flavor forward, but consider cutting it with ricotta to tone it down.

The “and more” part of the dish are the leftovers, a mostly maligned concept. Here they morph into a sensational (and quick) pasta dish. More basil and fresh cherry tomatoes brighten it up, and dinner is done, presto!

This was the first dish I made in our “new” kitchen, which is not new at all, but a throwback to the seventies, in the style of the duct-tape approach to living of the elderly couple who preceded us. I’m happy to report, despite trepidations, it went well.


Kale and hearty (Apple and kale salad recipe)

It took some time for me to warm up to raw kale in a salad. It was always an eat-it-cuz-it’s-healthy winter staple, sautéed it in a little olive oil with garlic and some lemon or vinegar. In fact, kale’s rise in popularity mystifies me. Despite its healthful qualities, its bitterness is an acquired taste.  For some, kale’s rise in status has a downside. A mention of the vegetable elicits an eye-roll from my Brooklyn-living Ace Reporter son, always the contrarian.

Cliché or not, kale is here to stay, so I made a stab at coming up with a salad I would want to revisit time and again, especially now that it’s in all the farmers’ markets. One could argue that it is a beautiful leafy green that is hard to resist.

Cut into ribbons, sturdy kale can stand up to a strong, tangy dressing like this one, made with cream and lemon instead of oil and vinegar, and spiked with plenty of mustard. Toast some walnuts, throw in thirst-quenching apples, add spicy radishes to the mix, and you have an abundance of flavors that will awaken your taste buds. That long, cold winter is finally ancient history.

Chopped kale salad with apples and creamy mustard dressing
Serves 4

1/2 cup heavy cream
2 to 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (to taste)
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a bowl, stir the cream, Dijon mustard, grainy mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper together.

1/2 cup walnuts
1 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale
1/2 small head radicchio, cut into thin ribbons
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into bite-size matchsticks
4 radishes, thinly sliced

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread the walnuts on a pie pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until toasty and fragrant. Cool.

3. Fold the kale leaves in half lengthwise, and with a knife, strip out the stems. Stack the leaves and cut them into thin ribbons.

4. In a bowl, combine the kale, radicchio, apples, radishes, and walnuts. Toss with the dressing and serve.


Farewell my lovely.....house (and a recipe for bbq chicken wings)

Let’s see, where were we?

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been about six months since my last confession blog post. 

Did you miss me?

Well, I’ve been a little busy: Getting house ready to sell. Selling house in one day. Figuring out plan B. Implementing plan B (renting). Packing monster house. Moving all that crap. Could someone please call me when they invent virtual storage of a lifetime of ridiculous accumulation? I’m in.

Plan B is a bit loosey-goosey-temporary. We’re living betwixt and between. But guess what? It’s all betwixt and between. On a daily basis we forget that, and act as if the world is solid and unchanging until it isn’t. And then we notice it.


Hunter's chicken stew recipe

I hate to be all about the weather all the time, or as a friend once described her mother,  “weather dependent,” but baby, it’s cold outside. After a week of faux printemps in mid-January which was so very hopeful, our illusion crashed and we were smacked back to reality: the deep freeze of winter has parked outside.

That’s where this warming chicken stew comes in. Slurpy stews over rice, that’s the ticket when you can’t heat the house over sixty-six degrees no matter how high you set the thermostat. So bring on the soups, stews, hot chocolate, SmartWool socks, and long underwear. Winter is here for the duration, which means until at least mid-March.

This hunter’s chicken is an adaptation of a stew taught to me by my mentor chef Eugene Bernard. The name (chicken chasseur) presumably comes from the notion that after bagging a pheasant, or rabbit, or whatnot, hunters would gather mushrooms on their way home to add to the cooking pot. Bernard (a Frenchman) boned whole chicken legs with thighs attached, stuffed them with a sausage stuffing, and cooked them in a tomato mushroom sauce. I’m way too lazy to do that now, especially since this version is pretty straightforward and wiki-wiki in comparison. An Italian version of this same dish (chicken cacciatore) would include peppers and maybe some other vegetables, and the herbs would be oregano and basil, not tarragon. However you choose to prepare it, you can enjoy it in front of the fire, or sit, wrapped in a blanket, and watch your favorite thriller on television. Now you’re not just getting through winter, but reveling in its pleasures.

Hunter’s chicken
Serves 4

8 chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), with skin and bone
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
4 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 teaspoons flour
1 can (15-ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1. With paper towels, pat the chicken dry. Sprinkle on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin sides down. Cook for 5 minutes on a side, until browned. Transfer to a dinner plate. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet.

3. Add the mushrooms to the skillet, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until golden. Stir in the shallots, garlic, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes longer. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, and stock. Bring to a boil and taste. Add more salt and pepper, if you like.

4. Add the chicken pieces to the skillet. Decrease the heat so that the sauce simmers, and cover with a lid. Cook for 25 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear when pierced with a fork. Sprinkle with parsley and tarragon.

5. Arrange 2 thighs on each of 4 plates and surround with sauce. Serve with rice, if you like.


Roasted beets, pears, and blue cheese holiday salad recipe

Cuz I love you. Cuz Christmas is around the corner. Cuz not everyone reads The Boston Globe where this was published last week. Cuz now I have to go back to last minute baking, shopping, wrapping, and you probably do too. 

May your days be sunny and bright
May your hearts be happy and light
Merry Christmas everyone!
(from Gene Autrey's album Merry Texas Christmas)

Salad of roasted beets, pears, blue cheese and watercress
Serves 8

Crisp bosc pears in their russet skins hold their shape well when roasted, and pair beautifully with the sharp flavor of blue cheese.  Roast some beets while you are at it, add some dark green watercress, and you end with a colorful salad worthy of a holiday celebration.

4 tablespoons orange juice
5 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Salt and black pepper, to taste
9 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Oil for the baking sheet
4 bosc pears, halved, cored and cut into 3/8-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red beets, tops and bottoms trimmed, and cut in half
2 orange beets, tops and bottoms trimmed, and cut in half
1 cup pecans
3 bunches of watercress, thick stems removed
4 ounces blue cheese, cut into thin slices

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Have on hand a pie pan.

2. With a pastry brush, brush one baking sheet with oil. Spread the pear slices on it in one layer. Brush the tops of the slices with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the pear slices are lightly browned and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Let cool. 

3. On the second baking sheet, spread the beets. Pick up the edges of the foil to loosely enclose them in a package. Bake for 1 hour, or until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Open the foil and leave until cool enough to handle. Peel, and cut into wedges.

4. Decrease the oven heat to 350 degrees. On the pie pan, spread the pecans in one layer. Bake for 8 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted.

5. In a salad bowl or on a large platter, toss the watercress with half the dressing. Arrange the roasted beets and pears on top. Drizzle with the remaining dressing, and top with pecans and blue cheese.