Food, Tablescapes

Next Step

DSC01572With the house having little touches of fall, it was a no brainer to have the next step be continuing them on the table for the evening dinner.   Already what can serve as a centerpiece is there making it easy to add the rest.

DSC01603None of my dishes reflect fall better than these.  The rich color with its arty black leaf outline is perfect, and I like using them for another reason.  They were a gift from a very special and thoughtful friend who knows how crazy I am about all things for tables.

DSC01579Some time ago this flatware was on sale at Target, and it has been such a good find. Its coppery contrast with the table’s wood surface adds such warmth.

DSC01586Thinking about what food is going to be served, I don’t put more dishes on the table than can be used.  Tonight there will be an entree and a salad, so nothing more than dinner and salad plates are needed.  The black salad plate complements the leaf outline, and its shape will be perfect for the salad.

DSC01593On any table, the napkin presentation is one of those little touches that make a table special.  One of my favorites is this one folded accordion style and fanned to make it stand.

DSC01592With the addition of wine stems and water glasses, a table can’t be much simpler than this.  It started with what was already there and has warm color and texture which makes any table inviting.

DSC01588I can’t resist sharing with you one of my favorite salads made with delicata squash, one with which I was unfamiliar. The attraction was its green and pale yellow striping, reason enough to give it a try!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the salad, cut the squash into rings and remove the seeds.  Place them on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Roast at 400 until tender, roughly 15-20 minutes.  To prepare the salad, place mixed greens or any lettuce on a plate.  Top with the roasted delicata rings, sprinkle with craisins, toasted almonds and feta (optional).  My preference for dressing is a honey mustard vinegarette, but most any salad dressing would work.

I can assure you this salad will be a hit at your table not only because it is so tasty but because it’s a little different.

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Food, Maine, Random

Farm to Table

In Maine, farm to table is not a trend, it’s a reality.  Dine out or eat at home seafood is fresh from the sea, animal meats are from a nearby farm  and veggies are homegrown. A great place to experience a farm to table dinner is at Point Lookout in Northport, Maine. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat used to be a softball field has been converted to gardens and greenhouses where seasonal produce provides most of the ingredients for the meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne greenhouse serves as a dining hall where long tables and mismatched chairs are set up for forty guests.

IMG_1851The table decor, candles and simple arrangements of flowers in bottles, is just my style.

All around the greenhouse are arrangements of herbs and vegetables that enhance the ambience.

A temporary kitchen facility is set up outside the greenhouse, so all the food is cooked right there and served immediately.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe menu features what is in season and no two are the same which makes eating there a real treat.

What is a constant is the hot out of the oven focaccia with roasted garlic.  I could make a meal of just that!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith it comes a beautiful salad topped with an array of edible flowers.

The main course is a selection of meat and seafood.  I am always a happy camper when lobster is on the menu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinishing the main course is a perfectly roasted combination of seasonal vegetables.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy the time dessert comes, there’s scarcely any room for it, but there are 40 smiling faces around the table!

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Food, Friendship, Tablescapes

Eating With Friends

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him.  The people who give you their food give you their heart.

Cesar Chavez

How grateful I am to have friends who enjoy planning, preparing and gathering for a once a month dinner where a lot of heart is given. All of us contribute to the meal, which is always wonderful, and the hostesses do a bang up job of preparing the table.

DSC00331The most recent dinner was a visual treat. The delicately designed dishes are quite old, a memory of the hostess’s mother.

DSC00326Without question, they made a lovely setting when combined with silver and glass.

DSC00327Playing off the pale green in the pattern, the hostess found the perfect linen tablecloth and napkins.  All together the look was quite elegant at the same time warm and friendly.

DSC00334A few days before our gathering a storm blew through that flattened many of the small blooming things.  The hostess was clever enough to see that her damaged flowers perfectly matched the colors in the china, so, voila, a just right centerpiece made in a silver bowl.

DSC00332So there would not be question about where each person sat, there were name tags directing us to our place.  That is always a thoughtful gesture.

DSC00338The first course, a zucchini mold, happened to be my assignment.  It was something with which none of us were familiar, so we all experienced a new taste treat.  Not only was it tasty, it was easy to prepare which makes it worthy of making again as it gives a whole new way of presenting zucchini.

Zucchini Mold

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 lbs. zucchini, finely diced

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 eggs

1 c. grated Parmesan

1 T. chopped Italian parsley

1 T. unsalted butter  

1/4 c. fine dried bread crumbs

Preheat an oven to 350.  Grease a 9″ ring mold or individual molds with butter and coats the bottom and sides with the bread crumbs.  Warm the oil in a skillet.  Add zucchini, onion and garlic and cook until tender.Add a little water, if needed, to keep the mixture moist.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Transfer the zucchini mix to a bowl and add eggs, cheese and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper. Mix well and spoon into prepared mold(s).  Bake about 20 minutes or until firm.  Invert onto serving dishes and serve immediately.  (6 servings)

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Food

What to do With a Puffball

IMG_1830Overnight it seemed, this big blob sprung up in the yard.  Curious, I pulled it up, took it inside for a photo that was posted on Facebook with the question what is it.  Immediately came back a number of responses, mostly from Maine friends, identifying it as an edible puffball.

IMG_1833Edible?  I was a little doubtful but decided to give it a try.  First, I sliced it to find it  a little on the spongey side and solid all the way through.  So began a series of dishes ranging from omelets to risotto to pizza and adding chopped, diced orsliced pieces of puffball.  What was discovered was that a puffball is fairly tasteless until it is seasoned and has a very different texture from other mushrooms with which I am familiar.

IMG_1838Of all the ways it was prepared our favorite was mushroom soup.  I had no recipe  so I chopped a section of the puffball and sautéed it in butter with  some onion and garlic.  Chicken stock was added along with salt, pepper and herbs d’Provence.  The mixture simmered for about 10 minutes and then using a handheld blender(my favorite kitchen tool), I pureed it.  It tasted good, but thinking how it could be improved I added half and half and returned the soup to the stove and heated it through.  Talk about good, the hubby and I both had seconds.  Served with a green salad and some crusty bread, puffball mushroom soup is a simple and yummy dinner.

If you ever see one of these growing in your yard, pluck it right up.  If it’s white all the way through, don’t be afraid to use it, but if it’s yellowish and has a mushy texture, throw it in the trash.

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Food

Challenged!

“Growing up here, there was never more than a day or two of weather like this.”  

foggy daySo spoke my neighbor commenting on the run of less than perfect days experienced in the last month.  Like so many other places on the planet, midcoast Maine has had unusual heat that combined with fog and humidity have made for some pretty uncomfortable days.  Here we suffer through  because most homes have no air conditioning.  For me, that means spending more time than usual at the grocery or TJ Maxx where it is cooler.

The uncommon heat also means spending less time in the kitchen.  Not only does the heat take away appetite, using the cooktop or oven adds to the discomfort so whatever is easy to fix with minimal cooking is the answer.

Breakfast and lunch are easy. Cereal or a blueberry muffin heated quickly in the microwave suffices in the morning.  

A midday sandwich, especially one made with lobster, is more than satisfactory.  

healthy foodDinner is a bit more challenging, but I’ve gotten pretty creative with salads.  This time of year corn and tomatoes are at their best and layering them with cucumbers, red onion, olives, feta cheese and basil makes for a delightful and refreshing meal.

food photography

Sometimes it’s tomatoes stacked with mozzarella on top of lettuce flavored with diced pancetta and sprinkled with balsamic dressing that is dinner.

A favorite again takes advantage of the season’s bounty and adds grilled lobster.  There are never  complaints about anything made with lobster!

So, though we may not be enjoying the weather we can still celebrate food made with plenty from land and sea.

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Food, Recipes, Tablescapes

Foodie Adventure Revisited

Several of our Maine gourmet group joined us in Cortona for the April Foodie Adventure, so when we met for our first summer meal it seemed right to recreate some of what we made.

IMG_1487Setting the table to inspire memories of Italy was easy.  The centerpiece was a $3 find from the local Goodwill.

IMG_1488Clusters of red grapes repeated the look of the clusters on the candelabra.  Talk about an easy creation!

IMG_1394Dishes, each with a different Italian landscape and wine, bought some years ago at TJ Maxx completed the theme.

IMG_1393It’s hard to imagine a table coming together more quickly than this one.  With the plates having so much color and energy, there was no need for more than a simple background.

Now for the meal.  We prepared so many good dinners that it was hard to pick favorite dishes, but I finally decided on mozzarella with prosciutto and tomato confit for an appetizer and seafood pasta for the main course.  The appetizer was a big hit, and you might want to give it a try at your next Italian themed dinner gathering.

IMG_1400PROSCIUTTO BAKED BUFFALO MOZZARELLAWITH GARLIC & TOMATOES

2 T. olive oil

6 thin slices prosciutto

Tomato & Garlic Confit

6 6 oz. balls mozzarella

2 T. basil, coarsely chopped 

Brush the insides of small ovenproof ramekins with olive oil.  Line them with prosciutto, allowing some of it to extend to the top of the dish so it will crisp when baked.

Add 2 T. of the confit and top will a ball of the mozzarella.  Top with another tablespoon of the confit and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Tope with basil and serve with crisp crostini.

Tomato & Garlic Confit

10 plum tomatoes

5 T. olive oil

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1/2 c. finely chopped yellow onion

4 large garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. tomato sauce

1/2 t. sweet paprika

1/2 t. sugar.

Core and halve the tomatoes lengthwise.  Place them cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with 2 T. of olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350.

Heat 3 T. olive oil in a medium pan and sweat the onions for  2 minutes over medium high heat.  Add garlic and cook briefly.  Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, paprika and sugar.  Cook for 30-35 minutes or until the mixture becomes very thick.

Place the mixture in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.

Note:  I suggest using only 1/2 mozzarella ball or 3-4 little ones as this is quite filling.  Also, when you bake be sure to put the dishes on a cookie sheet to avoid trashing your oven with grease from the prosciutto.  I wouldn’t let the meat overlap  the sides of the dish.

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Tablescape Thursday

 

Food, Recipes

Odds & Ends

Trying to use up everything in the refrigerator before leaving for Maine requires some creativity.  The fruit we can snack on, milk can go on cereal or in a smoothie, but the chicken sausage, spinach, kale, onion and salad fixings are another story.

IMG_1094So what to do with a collection of odds and ends?  Soup  seemed to be the best answer, and here’s what I pulled together.

IMG_1093Add to these a teaspoon of Hungarian sweet paprika which I have enough of to last a lifetime.  I will have to do as what was done in Hungary and put some in everything.

IMG_1101The end result of this concoction was pretty darned good and the accompanying salad’s ingredients used up the rest of the odds and ends.  The only thing missing was a good piece of cornbread!

If you are a soup lover, you might like this one that is hearty but not too heavy and very easy to prepare.

3 c. chicken broth

2-4 chicken sausage links

2-3 c. spinach and kale, torn into small pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cans of cannellini beans

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 heaping t. of sweet paprika (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients except for the greens together and simmer for about 20 minutes to allow flavors to blend.  Add spinach and kale and continue cooking until  they are wilted.

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