farmers market, Travel

To Market, To Market

Most travel from Alaska goes through Seattle.  It’s been some years since we visited, so it seemed a good idea to spend a little time there.

One thing that has not changed is the Pike Place Market.  

Throngs of people crowd the area, many there out of curiosity and some actually trying to shop.

Now, I’ve been to farmers markets in many different places, but the Seattle market may be among the most interesting.  Fresh seafood is a specialty, and its fishy smell permeates the market.

There are foodstuffs of every kind from baked goods to pasta

and sweet smelling fruits and vegetables. 

There is a section for arts and crafts, and if all the wandering makes you hungry there are a number of restaurants and food vendors inside the market.

No where have I ever seen so many flowers.  It was hard to pick favorites with such an abundance of choices.

Selecting was made easier by the women behind the flowers who combined beautiful blooms into works of art.  From what I observed, many folks had a hard time resisting their creations.

Being surrounded by so much temptation, it was impossible not to indulge in a few things which made for a most enjoyable tini time on our hotel’s rooftop sitting area.  

From there we could take in all the action below us, watch the ferris wheel go round and round and take in the comings and going of cargo ships and huge cruise liners.  Somehow I enjoyed that as much as being surrounded by mass humanity.

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Food, Table Settings, Tablescapes

One More Time

With our time in Maine running out, we are trying to do the things we so enjoy one more time.  At the top of the list is a lobster dinner, one of the easiest we prepare at home.

lobster guyLuckily, my lobster guy is still bringing those tasty crustaceans in and when he knows I want a few of the day’s haul, he calls and in his wonderful Maine accent he says he’s on his way in and to meet him at the dock.  Minutes later I have lobster that have been out of the water no more than a couple of hours.  You just can’t beat seafood that fresh!

lobster potWe steam the lobster in about 2″ of water, salted and with a little seaweed, for approximately 18 minutes.  When it is ready, the hubby cracks the claws, slits the back and drains the water from the shell which eliminates most of the challenge of eating a lobster. (Check out the how to here.)

Lobster dinnerWith steamed lobster, the sides are always the same: fresh corn on the cob and roasted or steamed potatoes.  For something so good, there are no fancy fixins!

lobster tableTable settings for a lobster dinner are the simplest.  The same lobster plates are used time and again

lobster tableand I recently found lobster themed paper placemats that are perfect for a messy dinner because they can be thrown away.

lobster tableNecessary accessories include a cracker for the claws and a little fork to dig the last bite from those hard to get to places.

lobster tableThese cute little fishes hold a lemon slice that can either season melted butter or be used to clean hands when the lobster is all gone.

lobster tableLet me assure you that any table setting is secondary to the groans of satisfaction that accompany any lobster dinner!

lemon pieIf there is room for dessert, our favorite is something made with lemon and nothing beats my friend Pam’s lemon pie.  She generously shared the recipe which is posted here. Even if you can’t have the lobster dinner, do try the pie.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Food

From the Chef

Chef MichaelOne of the many perks of going on one of Chef Michael Salmon’s Foodie Adventures is you come home with many yummy recipes.  My favorite main course on the recent Spain adventure was cod served with white beans and chorizo.    It is definitely worth sharing the recipe.

Seared Cod with White Beans and Chorizo Broth

1 c. dried white beans, soaked in cold water overnight

2 bay leaves

2 t. Kosher salt

2 t. fresh thyme leaves

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 c. of cubed French bread

1/2 lb. diced Chorizo sausage

1 red onion

1 T. paprika

4 c. chicken broth

1 lb. shrimp

juice and zest from 1 lemon

2 T. chopped parsley

1 1/2 lbs. cod filets, divided into 4 portions

flour for dredging

Place drained beans in a medium sauce pot with 1 qt. of water.  Add bay leaves, salt, 1 t. of the thyme leaves and 3 cloves crushed garlic. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.  Remove from heat and strain.

Finely mince the remaining 2 garlic cloves.  Heat 2 T. of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the cubed bread and minced garlic.  Cook, stirring often, until golden brown on all sides.  Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Return the pan to the heat and add the diced chorizo.  Cook the sausage, crisping it on all sides.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add 2 T. of oil to the pan and return to medium heat.  Add the onion and cook about 5 minutes.  Stir in paprika and stir for 30 seconds.  Add chicken broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.  Add half of the chorizo and the shrimp and poach for 5 minutes.  Remove the shrimp from the pan and keep warm.  Stir in lemon juice and zest.  Stir the drained beans and 2 T. chopped parsley into the broth and season with salt and pepper.

Season the filets with salt and pepper and dredge with flour.  Saute in olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  

cod with white beansTo serve, spoon some of the white beans and broth into a bowl, top with the fish, shrimp, chorizo, bread cubes and fresh thyme leaves.

These days it is not always possible to get fresh cod, so another meaty white fish such as halibut, hake, haddock could be substituted.    This dish is what at our house we call a moaner, meaning conversation stops and everyone just moans over its goodness!  You will likely find the same to be true.

Oh, if you don’t see the shrimp on top of the fish, it’s because I took the photo before it was added and didn’t notice until all had been eaten.    Those things do happen!!

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Foodie Adventure 3: Spain

This is the third Foodie Adventure the hubby and I have done with Chef Michael Salmon and his wife Mary Jo.  The first was in Italy, the second in France’s Loire Valley and now Catalonia in Spain.   

Foodie Adventure SpainSo, what is a Foodie Adventure?  It is partly touring points of interest in whatever the area, but mostly it is about food and sharing the experience with a group (14-18) of fun and interesting people.   And, nobody is better at orchestrating than Chef Michael and Mary Jo! 

market/Foodie Adventure SpainWe tour wonderful markets filled with fresh fruits and vegetables,

Foodie Adventure Spainseafood and meats, all ingredients that will become part of what we eat.

Foodie Adventure SpainWe visit wineries, organic farms, cheese makers and see firsthand the processes involved in making and growing.  I’ve never before been to an organic pig farm, but I can no longer say that after this adventure.  These well fed piggies are not too far away from going to the slaughterhouse to become all natural sausages.

Foodie Adventure SpainThe days are full, and they don’t end when the touring is done.  We return to an incredible place that is home for a week and head straight to the kitchen to prepare the evening meal.

Foodie Adventure SpainFoodie Adventure SpainFoodie Adventure SpainChef Michael has done some of the prep work and laid out the ingredients in our absence, and we get busy chopping, peeling, grating and stirring.

Foodie Adventure SpainFoodie Adventure SpainFoodie Adventure SpainFoodie Adventure SpainUnder Chef Michael’s watchful eye, every hand is involved in the process.

Beets in Romesco Sauce
Beets in Romesco Sauce

We may not be as good as Chef Michael at plating, but with practice we get better!

Seared Cod with White Beans, Praws & Chorizo Broth
Seared Cod with White Beans & Chorizo Broth

When all is done we have a multi course meal that is a gourmet’s delight and far more than any of us should eat, 

Bunuelos de Crema
Bunuelos de Crema

but you can bet there’s always room for dessert!

Yes, I will be sharing some fabulous recipes later so stay tuned.

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Entertaining, Tablescapes

A Taste of France

Entertaining is not about perfection, it’s about connection.

It had to happen, a repeat of one of the dinners we prepared during the Foodie Adventure in France, and what better time than the first summer gathering of the Maine gourmet group.

French country tableWere I at my daughter’s house, it would be no problem coming up with a French themed table as she has all the right stuff.

tablescapeMe, I have to make it up starting with this linen table runner silkscreened with a bird.  Looks kinda French, don’t you think?

tablescapeAdded to it are terra cotta pots of orchids (shhh, they’re not real) and plaster pears, all of which I did buy at a shop specializing in French decor.  I think I’m on the right track.

tablescapeNow, for the dishes.  Here we will have to pretend that these from TJ Maxx are the real thing.

tablescapePaired with black bowls for the first course, the table is shaping up.  Now that I think about it, the napkin rings actually came from France so there is some authenticity.

tablescapeOnce again, these subtly tinted wine stems appear and for water, I just happen to have these glasses from Williams Sonoma.  Look closely and you will see they have the French word for the fruit that is on the glass.

Herbed SoleWith the table set, it’s now time to think about the menu.  There are so many good recipes from the Foodie Adventure that it’s hard to choose, but a real favorite was Chef Michael’s  Herb Breaded Sole Provencal.  I don’t think he will mind if I share the recipe.

The Ingredients
The Ingredients

Herb Breaded Sole Provencal

2 T. plus 1 t. olive oil

8 plum tomatoes

2 red bell peppers

Kosher salt, black and white pepper

4 4 oz. fish filets

flour

2 eggs

1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs

1/4 c. chopped flat leaf parsley

1/4 c. chopped chives

 2 t. Herbes de Provence

1/4 c. olive oil

1/2 c. sliced red onions

2 cloves minced garlic

4 plum tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced

1/4 c. coarsely chopped pitted olives (Nicoise, kalamata, etc.)

1 t. Herbes de Provence

1 T. chopped flat leaf parsley

1 T. chopped chives

1/2 lemon, juiced

 Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the paper with 1 t. olive oil.  Core tomatoes and cut in half lengthwise.  Place them cut side up on baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T. olive oil.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt, black pepper and Herbes de Provence.  Bake for 2 hours.

Burn skin of bell pepper over open flame and place in plastic bag to steam for 3 minutes.  Peel away the charred skin. Cut in half, removed seeds and stem.  Cut into 1” pieces.

Place filets on plate and sprinkle with salt and white pepper, gently coat with flour.  Whisk eggs in a small bowl.  In another bowl, combine Panko crumbs and herbs.  Dip floured filets into beaten egg, then into herb/crumb mixture.  Press mixture into the fish.

Heat large saute pan over medium high heat.  Cover bottom with thin layer of olive oil.  Gently lay fish in the oil and brown, cooking on one side for about a minute or until crumbs turn light brown.  Flip and repeat.  Remove fish to cookie sheet and keep warm in 250 oven or warming drawer.

Remove crumbs from pan with paper towels and return it to medium high heat.  Add 1/4 c. olive oil and stir in onions and garlic; cook for 30 seconds.  Add diced tomatoes, roasted peppers and olives and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in herbs, lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper.

To serve, arrange the fish on a plate and top with the sauce.  Surround with oven roasted tomatoes.

I have also tried this recipe with haddock and halibut, and it works great as would any flaky, mild flavored white fish.  Part of the secret to the success of the fish is pan frying it, according to Chef Michael.   I’m not questioning his advice!

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Food

Sicilian Inspired

Having been to cooking classes presented by Nancy Harmon Jenkins and loving her cookbooks (there are many more than these 2), how could I resist being high bidder on a dinner for six at her home in Camden, Maine?

What a treat it turned out to be with Nancy making us feel like we were old friends.  The evening began in the yard with prosecco and appetizers.  While everything was quite tasty, her cheese biscuits had the hubby begging for the recipe which she is kind enough to let me share with you.  If I remember correctly, it is one she inherited from an old friend.

Inside, the real work was taking place and surprise, the Sicilian inspired dinner was being prepared not by Nancy but by her daughter Sara who owns two Manhattan restaurants, Porchetta and Porsena.  Soon to open is Porsena Sinistra, a wine bar that will serve goodies like the ones we enjoyed in the garden.  

 Sara has also coauthored a beautiful cookbook, Olives and Oranges.  I would say this is quite a busy gal!

Now, back to the dinner which was served on a long table covered with a cheery blue flower patterned cloth and set with simple white dishes with a blue border.  The overall effect was warm and friendly just like the women responsible for the dinner.

First course was for me a new taste treat, cantalope gazpacho topped with crostini spread with cantalope butter.  It was absolutely delicious on a summer night.

The gazpacho was followed by pasta with a mushroom sauce….sensational!

The main course was swordfish cooked with onions, tomatoes and herbs in parchment paper.  It was so moist it practically melted in your mouth.  Accompanying the fish were a simple green salad, roasted potatoes and steamed wax and green beans.  There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation during dinner as we were all moaning our pleasure.

To finish the meal, we were served a blueberry tart made from those wonderful wild Maine blueberries that I have written about several times.  What was especially good about this one was the crust which Nancy said was made with oatmeal and patted into the pan rather than rolled.  That is a recipe I must remember to request from her.

 Oh, and let’s not forget the wine, a white and red from Sicily which we were happy to find at our favorite local wine shop and a perfect accompaniment for this Sicilian menu.

Totally satiated with good food and company, this was a night to remember.

Now for the cheese biscuits.

Peg Shea’s Cheese Biscuits
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sharp cheddar, shredded
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt if needed
Cream together butter and cheese with a wooden spoon or hands. Add flour and mix well with fingertips. Add cayenne. Form mixture into a log 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrape in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Can be frozen.) Cut into 1/4 inch slices and bake on cookie sheet 5 to 10 minutes at 350.

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Back to Maine

After several days of good ole southern cooking, it’s good to get back to Maine where just out of the water seafood and garden fresh vegetables are plentiful.  The tomatoes are especially good right now, a perfect time to make ceviche, which will be the appetizer for tonight’s dinner. 

Ceviche

3/4 lb. salmon fillet

1/2 lb. bay scallops or large scallops cut into smaller pieces

1/3 white onion, diced

1 c. fresh lime juice

1/2 c. orange juice

4 Roma tomatoes or 1 large tomato, diced

2 jalapeno chiles, minced

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

3 T. olive oil

sea salt

1 ripe avocado, cubed

 Remove skin from salmon fillet if necessary.  Cut it into 1/2” cubes and place in a large glass or stainless steel bowl.  Add scallops, onion, juices and toss.  Cover and refrigerate until the fish is opaque, about 4 hours.

Just before serving, drain and discard excess juice.  Add tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, olive oil and mix well.  Season with 1/2 t. sea salt.  Add avocado and toss gently.

This makes 6 generous servings, and I like to serve it with baked tortilla chips.

With ceviche  and other southwestern flavors on the menu, my thoughts turn to bright colors for the table starting with my favorite containers filled with flowers from the garden.  What would I do without my collection of bottles which make flower arranging so easy!

Bright colored napkins are tied in a loose knot and the ends are spread wide to create a playful effect.

They are placed on plates of different colors, some from Provence, some Tagg.  The plates  are on copper toned chargers from San Miguel, and all sit on placemats from TJ Maxx.

With very little effort, the table is done and has the elements of color, texture and playfulness that characterize many of my tables.

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