Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year!

Last year was pretty grueling, so my only New Year's resolution is to get back to doing the things I love most - like blogging.  I still have a billion writing deadlines (well actually only 10 stories this upcoming week, which feels like a billion), so I'm just going to post a few photos from New Year's Eve as a way of dipping my toes back into the blogging waters. Real recipes will be coming next week.

The oysters above came from the East Dennis Oyster Farm, and they are simply exquisite. I can't include the recipe here because it's the recipe I'm running for my food column this week in The Cape Codder newspaper and editors don't like it when you scoop yourself.  So consider this a preview.  Here's a close up shot:

These Baked Oysters Casino were truly yummy.  Since it was New Year's Eve, the Kitchen Genius cooked not one, but two, racks of lamb.  It was a mountain of meat, oh my!  But we had the boys to eat it...

At midnight we got brave and sassy and actually lit one firework and then raced back inside before the police arrived.  The neighbors didn't call the police this year!  Looks like things are looking up already in 2011...

That video is for you, dear sweet Melissa!  We love you, miss you, wish you were here!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wild Mushrooms

Never say never...

The Kitchen Genius has been on a quest to forage for wild mushrooms for years, but they just plain scare me.  Nonetheless, we took a class with Lawrence Schuster, a member of the Boston Mycological Society,
last year thinking maybe if we learned more about it, it wouldn't be as dangerous - or scary.  I was wrong.  The class just convinced me that I would never eat a wild mushroom, never, ever, ever.

I publicly declared that sentiment in a story I wrote for the Cape Cod Times that ran yesterday.  The focus of the story was that wild mushrooms were to risky, so last Friday KG and I attended a workshop to learn how to cultivate shiitake mushrooms.  It was an awesome workshop taught by food writer Tamar Haspel who also has a fabulous blog called Starving off the Land that anyone who's into gardening and foraging for food will love.

After reading my Fun With Fungi story in the newspaper, local writer/fisherman Peter Budryk called me to tempt me to change my mind.  I met Peter a few years ago when I wrote a story about his excellent book, The Innermost Waters: Fishing Cape Cod's Ponds & Lakes.

Peter took the mushroom class with us last year and became obsessed with foraging for mushrooms.  He saw the story I wrote and wanted to know if I wanted a puffball mushroom he found yesterday.  He assured me that it was completely safe, so I headed over to his house to pick it up.  It was a big as a basketball!

While I was at Peter's house, he cut the Puffball in half to show me how to ensure it was safe. The flesh must be pure white inside and look like sliced white bread. If it looks like there is another mushroom growing inside, throw it away. That means that it is not a Puffball, but an immature Amanita and the Amanita genus includes some of the most poisonous species of mushrooms.

Peter also gave me a piece of the Chicken of the Woods he found.  Isn't it beautiful?

So last night was wild mushroom night at Casa Higgins.  We had already planned on cooking burgers on the fire pit, so mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment.  I sliced the Chicken of the Woods and sauteed it in butter for about five minutes and then added chicken stock and simmered it until it was tender.  The name comes from the fact that the mushroom is thought to taste like chicken.  I'm not so sure about that, but it was delicious. 

Not knowing what to do with the Puffball, I turned to the Internet, where I found a wonderful recipe from Hope Miller, co-author of Mushrooms in Color. Following her directions, I cut the Puffball into half inch slices, and dipped them in seasoned flour, egg and then coated them with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  I fried them in butter until they were golden brown.

They were absolutely delicious.  The flesh of the Puffball was soft and creamy and didn't have a strong flavor on its own.  Adding the cheese coating made it taste just like a cheese stick.  We ate some of them as snacks while the burgers cooked and then added a slice to the burgers when they were finished.  Total YUM!

Parmesan Puffballs
(recipe from Hope Miller, author of Hope's Mushroom Cookbook)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour
About 1 pound puffballs, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 egg, slightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons butter or more if needed
2 tablespoons oil or more if needed

Mix the salt with the flour. Dip the mushroom slices in the flour, then in the egg, and last, in the cheese. Melt the butter and oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the mushrooms slowly until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve at once.

* Other mushrooms you can use in this recipe: Boletes, oyster mushrooms

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Turf than Surf this Labor Day

It's hard to know where to start after such a long absence from blogging.  Do I just continue as if I never took a break, or do I explain the break?  The two are kind of tangled in this post, so bear with me.  First the food!  For years we have celebrated both the beginning and ending of summer on Cape Cod by eating lobster every Memorial Day and Labor Day. 

This summer has been so hot, I thought lobster rolls would be a better choice than our usual steamed lobster.  I even published the fact that we would be eating these lobster rolls along with this photo and recipe in the local newspaper.  That's how sure I was of our menu.

The Kitchen Genius had another idea.  He wanted to play with fire.

And he wanted meat!  Steaks to be exact.

Campfire steak
Of course corn on the cob was on the menu, and he threw the blanched ears right on the fire as well.

Add some freshly dug potatoes from our garden, roasted in the oven, and dinner was complete.

As for the break:  I am a writer by profession who blogs as a hobby.  I briefly flirted with the idea of trying to earn money from my blog in the early days, but quickly decided that since this is more personal than my other writing, I didn't want to clutter it up with ads, etc.

This summer my professional writing life has been busier than ever.  I was a regular contributor to four newspapers and three magazines and had anywhere from six to ten deadlines a week.  I was literally writing every single day and night and blogging fell by the wayside.

I wrote alot of fun stories this summer, but the ones that satisfied my blogging urges the best were the short weekly stories, complete with recipes and photos, that ran in Cape Cod Day about how to cook the local seafood.  (Sample here.) It was exactly like writing a blog post (only without the fun feedback!)

It was supposed to just be a summer job, but my editor liked the stories enough to offer me a weekly column year round at their mother ship newspaper, The Cape Codder.  She also told me she would include a link to my blog, so I'd better get blogging.  And so I's so good to be back.

KG is the master of the fire, so I'm including the lobster salad roll recipe I originally planned to make.  I like the flavor of lobster to shine through without gunking it up with too much mayo.

Lobster Salad Rolls

Serves 4

4 cooked lobsters (1 1/4 – 1 1/2 pounds each)
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
4 New England style (top sliced) hot dog buns
1 tablespoon butter

Take all the meat out of the lobsters and cut into chunks. Mix celery, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, mayo, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add lobster and toss lightly until lobster is coated with sauce.

Butter sides of hot dog rolls and grill until golden on both sides. Divide lobster meat evenly among the four buns and enjoy!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bananas Foster

A few weeks ago we ate at the fabulous Del Mar Bar and Bistro in Chatham. We went there to try their off-season $18 fixed price menu that included an appetizer, entree and dessert. Honestly, we were blown away by how good the food was. Local folks who want to read my review of the entire meal can do so here.

The whole dinner was wonderful, but the surprise of the night was the bananas foster. It's not something I would usually order (and sadly I didn't order it, the Kitchen Genius did). Of course he let me try a bite so I could write about it for the review. One side of the bowl was filled with sliced bananas in a warm sauce made with Myers's rum, brown sugar and butter and the other side had premium vanilla ice cream.

When the ice cream and sauce met on a spoon, the sauce hardened slightly to form a creamy caramel-like texture that was heavenly. My spoon kept sneaking over to his bowl for another bite...and another...and another. It was so good that KG made it again at home the following night.

This is a quick and easy dessert that can be made in about 15 minutes, so it would also be perfect for company. First he peeled and sliced the bananas. We like our bananas cut in bigger chunks so their flavor isn't overpowered by the sauce.

Next he melted butter, mixed in brown sugar and cooked it over medium heat until caramelized.

If that wasn't yummy enough, he added some dark rum and whisked vigorously. He cooked the mixture until alcohol burned off and the sauce thickened again, about 5 minutes.

Finally he added the bananas and cooked them for three or four more minutes, until warmed through, stirring gently and spooning the caramel sauce over them.

Total YUM!

Bananas Foster
Serves 4

4 bananas, peeled and sliced on the diagonal in 2 inch chunks
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark rum

Melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat until caramelized, about five minutes. Add rum and whisk until incorporated. Cook until alcohol burns off and the sauce thickens again, about 5 minutes. Add sliced bananas and cook until they are warmed through, stirring gently and spooning sauce over them to coat. Serve over premium vanilla ice cream.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Frittatas

We're in egg overload. Our chicken ladies are laying 5 to 7 eggs a day and at this point, they are taking over one whole shelf in the fridge. Dying two dozen for Easter didn't even dent the abundance. So tonight for dinner I made egg frittatas just to bring things a bit back under control. Notice I say "a bit," because this recipe used 18 eggs and I still have four dozen left...and there will be about six more tomorrow...

The beauty of a frittata is you can personalize it to your own favorite flavors. I actually made two different choices. The grown up version had diced ham, onions, mushrooms, asparagus and fresh thyme and parsley. For the kids, I kept it simple with just bacon and sautéed onions.

This not only tasted great, but the heavenly scent of butter and cheese filled the whole house. The kids weren't thrilled with the idea of eggs for dinner, but they loved the taste of this dish - light and fluffy, but also incredibly rich and cheesy.

The Recipe:

Spring Frittatas
Serves 8

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced onions
3/4 cup sliced asparagus
1 cup diced ham
18 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup flour
16 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 large pie plates. In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onions, mushrooms and asparagus until tender, about 5 - 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the ham, stir and turn off heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sour cream. Add the flour, salt, pepper, thyme and parsley and beat until smooth. Add the sauteed mixture and cheese. Stir until well blended. Divide the mixture between the two pie plates.

Bake 40 minutes or until set and browned.

Note: You can substitute your favorite combination of sautéed veggies and/or meat for this dish.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've been dying to make this delectable side dish ever since I saw it in the cookbook, "Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island." It looked so colorful and flavorful, and it as it turned out, it was.

But first I had to find some wheat berries and that wasn't as easy as I hoped. They don't carry them at my local grocery store and we even came up empty at Trader Joe's. Finally I located some at the Orleans Whole Food Store yesterday.

I wanted to make this dish to submit to Side Dish Showdown hosted each month by the delightful Reenie at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice.

The theme for March was: "Anything Goes with a Secondary Challenge to try something new, whether it be a vegetable, grain or herb." I've never cooked wheat berries, so that was my new ingredient.

The crunchiness of the wheat berries and wild rice was delightful and a nice counterpoint to the soft squash. The sweet/tart flavor combination of the pears, apple cider and dried cranberries was smashing.

We served the baked stuffed acorn squash with an herb roasted chicken and a spinach salad.

The Recipe

Baked Stuffed Winter Squash
(from "Morning Glory Farm" cookbook)
Serves 8

4 acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked wheat berries
1 cup roasted pears
1/4 cup canola oil (I used olive oil)
1 large shallot, diced
1/3 cup apple cider
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast seeded and halved squash cut side down 30 - 40 minutes.

While squash is roasting, cook wild rice and wheat berries according to package directions.

Once squash is soft, cut pears into large dice and toss with 1/8 cup canola oil. Roast on sheet tray about 20 minutes.

Saute shallot in rest of oil over medium heat. Pour apple cider in with shallots, cooking and stirring to deglaze pan.

Mix rice, berries, roasted pears, and cranberries into shallot mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff each squash with filling and serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Best Maple Glazed Carrots Ever

This one is going to be short and sweet (pun intended). I recently received a copy of "Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island," by Tom Dunlop, so I'm going to be testing some of the recipes in upcoming days.

Morning Glory Farm is the largest of nearly 30 farms on the tiny island of Martha's Vineyard. The Kitchen Genius and I visited the farm the summer before last and were incredibly impressed with what the Athearn family has managed to create in their 30 years at farming. Morning Glory is now a thriving multi-generational business that really does provide food for the entire island at their farm stand, in restaurants, and they even have a section at the local grocery store.

This is more than just a cookbook. In addition to 70 mouthwatering recipes, author Tom Dunlop tells the fascinating story of the history of the farm, and photographer Alison Shaw's stunning photography will make you want to place this book on your coffee table instead of hiding it on your cookbook shelf.

I chose an easy recipe to test first. This time of year fresh veggies are kind of scarce on Cape Cod, but there are always some organic carrots in my crisper for soups and stews. I don't usually think to cook them as a vegetable side dish, but this recipe has changed my mind.

These carrots are as good as candy. Not kidding. I've made glazed carrots before, but I always boiled the carrots in plain water first and then added the maple syrup and butter after draining them. Big mistake. Cooking the carrots with the maple syrup and butter truly infuses them with a sweet flavor that is amazing.

If this is what they do to the common carrot, I can't wait to try the other recipes in the Morning Glory cookbook...

Maple Glazed Carrots
Serves 4

2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup (only the real stuff please)
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Grated orange peel

Combine all ingredients (except orange peel) in a large saucepan or skillet and cook until the carrots are fork tender, about 15 - 20 minutes. Add more water if needed during cooking.

Garnish with grated orange peel.