Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cruising the Farmer's Markets

As I mentioned in "About Cook's Cache" food shopping, especially for fresh ingredients, while cruising in Maine can be challenging. Good grocery stores within easy walking distance of harbors are few and far between; and stores which used to be at least marginal now dedicate most of their shelf space to beer, wine and snack food to be purchased at high prices by the passengers the windjammer crews bring ashore.

The emergence of farmer's markets have brought all sorts of wonderful food within easy walking distance of our anchored or moored boat, particularly in Hancock and Knox counties. This year, we first replenished our galley at the Northeast Farmer's Market.  A friend got there early and brought me a huge bag of field greens and another of arugula as well as beets, spring onions and scallions.  Ed grilled the spring onions and we shared them with our friends that evening. When we arrived in Northeast about eleven o'clock, I went to the market to see what was left.  I got some chicken, beef and goat cheese from Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy.  Though the Chicago Tribune article praising their Sea Smoke cheese was prominently displayed, none was left. I purchased some Gaurdian goat cheese which was excellent. I also purchased a box of raspberries from one of the few remaining vendors.

Our real "stock up day" came the following week at the Stonington Farmer's Market.  It opens at ten but lines for various vendors form well before then. We stood in line at the Hackmatack Farm stand where we purchased excellent field greens, very fresh and with some bite similar to the ones (same vendor?) from Northeast Harbor, tiny zucchini and wild Maine blueberries.  Since we came well stocked with maple syrup and Arrowhead Mills Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle Mix (just add water and oil) we not only had blueberries for dessert but on pancakes for several breakfasts. 

While standing in line we inquired about the various bread vendors and were directed to Tinder Hearth where we purchased some excellent sourdough white bread and some sourdough spelt bread. We ate the white bread first and, as the baker promised it would, the spelt bread lasted well for several days as we travelled down the coast.

For eggs, chicken and beef we returned to Sunset Acres Farm and Dairy.  When I inquired about the Sea Smoke goat cheese I had missed at Northeast, the farmer quickly grabbed the last piece of this cheese from a display and handed it to me.  It was indeed delicious. We remembered the great fish truck from last year and returned to get crabmeat (from The Lobster Shack, Stonington, Maine), and local swordfish and tuna.  The vendor told us the crab was very fresh would last for several days; she was correct. Since I had brought miso and wasabi from home we were able to use two of our favorite recipes for the fish:

Tuna Steaks with Wasabi Butter and Salmon with Red Miso Sauce

Our bags full, we walked the mile back to Billings Marine where we had left Condor for our hour and one half round trip excursion to the market.

Reviewed 9/20/2017

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cool Tools

I recently read a couple of articles about Modernist Cuisine and Nathan Myhrvold et all:"Better Cooking through Technology"  by Corby Kummer in the July/August Technology Review  and "Extreme Cuisine" in the June issue of Smithsonian.

I found Kummer's review particularly interesting and came away covetous of the first three volumes of Myhrvold's project: 1. History and Fundamentals, 2. Techniques and Equipment, and 3. Animals and Plants.  Given I'm not  interested in trying deconstructive cooking and the chemicals and additives it often entails as well as the expensive and space consuming equipment it requires, based on Kummer's review I would not spring for volumes 4. Ingredients and Preparations and 5. Plated-Dish Recipes.  Until the first three volumes are available separately or I can justify the $478 and counter space for the set now in its second printing, I am happy to refer to my copy of Harold McGee's  On Food and Cooking and would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in an extensive discussion of the science of food and the techniques of the preparation and cooking (for the bargain price of $22.72).

In discussing Techniques and Equipment, Kummer notes that while much of the equipment in terms of size and expense is currently beyond home use, "The authors do list cool tools that are within the reach of many home cooks, like digital scales and thermometers.... and my favorite all-purpose tool a pressure cooker, something I use almost every night." I second the digital scales and thermometer.

This spring Christopher convinced me that I should acquire some digital scales; a small investment with a great return. While my old scales got me more or less to the closest ounce, these are great for measuring dry ingredients for baking resulting in accurate measurements with much less work. (Note Julia Child's method How to Measure Flour: "All the recipes in this book [Mastering the Art of French Cooking] are based on the following system: Place a flour-measuring cup over a sheet of waxed paper on a flat surface. Sift the flour directly into the cup until it is overflowing. Do not tap the cup or press down on the flour.  Sweep off the excess flour even with the lip of the cup, using the flat part of a knife.  Measure fractional cups and spoonfuls in the same manner."*

It is interesting to note that when I just scoop and level a cup of the flour I usually use (Whole Foods 365 Organic Unbleached White Flour), the weight is ~4.85 oz.  When I sift the flour using the Julia Child method, the weight is 4.05 oz.  The difference, up to .8 oz is shown at left, up to almost 1/4 cup difference. Not only is measuring more accurate but it is also much simpler; place the mixing bowl on the scales and just reset to zero after adding each ingredient.

Also thanks to Christopher for my remote digital thermometer.  It was January 2009 and I had recently overcooked both a Christmas roast and his "birthday roast".  Looking at my instant read thermometer, Christopher asked me how much I had spent for the thermometer and how much for the roast (much less for the thermometer), admonishing, "If you're going to buy good roasts, you really should get a good thermometer." The 2008 elections fresh in his mind, he added, "If you don't mind having a Maverick in the kitchen you should get one of these."  Again another great investment.  I now cook not only beef but fish and chicken as well to temperature, never by time alone.  More on that in a future post.

Finally,  the pressure cooker.  I remember my Mom using one when I was growing up in the pre-microwave days.  I am very tempted to try one again especially since according to Kummer "They [Modernist Cuisine authors] give everyday tips for ways to use the device, including making risotto (a long time guilty secret of time-pressed Italian cooks, who will reveal it only after receiving compliments on how good their risotto is)...." Stay tuned for revised risotto recipes.

 *Mastering the Art of French Cooking,1963 edition, page 17

16 September 2001:  A good discussion of cooking using digital scales is found in in the September 13 edition of the New York Times: "Tipping the Balance for Kitchen Scales". The author notes that in addition to measuring flour (which depending on how it is scooped can weigh from 4 to 6 ounces) these scales are great for determining exact quantities of grated cheese (a "cup" of which can vary greatly depending on the type of grater used), and chopped veggies.

Reviewed 9/23/2017

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Orange Poppy Seed Olive Oil Cake

Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake is one of my favorites. Interestingly it has never achieved "Birthday Cake Status" in our household but everybody loves it.  I was recently thinking a slice of this cake would be a yummy accompaniment to the fresh peaches now in season.   Then I thought of the stick of butter the recipe calls for :-(  But then I though of my recent success with Chipotle Chocolate - Olive Oil Cake :-) The following recipe draws from these two recipes plus some technique commentary from On Food and Cooking.*

Line a 9 inch form pan with a piece of wax or parchment paper buttered on both sides. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine and mix well with an electric hand or stand mixer:

1/4 c + 1T olive oil **
5.5 oz sugar

When well mixed, gradually beat in:

1/2 c "egg product" (or 2 eggs)
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c - 1 T orange juice ***
Zest of one orange (optional)

Then add together and mix:

6.0 oz flour**
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda

Finally, mix in by hand:

1/3 c poppy seeds

Before adding the poppy seeds, I often transfer the batter from the blender into the bowl in which I weighed the dry ingredients.  This makes it much easier to capture the most poppy seeds.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes or until a small skewer or broom straw comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.  The resultant cake is quite dense with a crisp crust quite similar to the Orange Poppy Seed Bundt Cake. I am working to lighten it a bit*** but notice many olive oil cakes are described as "dense" and some recipes use the technique of adding stiffly beaten egg whites (which would defeat my zero cholesterol goal) to lighten the cake.  I like it with the Orange Glaze (top piece in photo to right), but it is also good and less sweet without the glaze.


(photo, left: glazed cake with vanilla frozen non-fat yogurt, orange olive oil and rosemary)

When the cake has cooled, using a long toothpick or small metal skewer prick holes in it 1/2 inches apart and brush the following glaze evenly over the top and around the sides. 

In a small sauce pan, combine:

2 T orange juice
2 T sugar

Simmer gently for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a light syrup forms.

* pages 555-559

** 21 August Revision:  The current recipe has less olive oil and more orange juice resulting in a lighter, less dense cake (photo at left) than the cake made with the previous recipe which called for 1/2 c olive oil and 1/2 c orange juice.

Reviewed 5/11/17


After four weeks of sailing in Maine we came home to find the farm stands full of not only almost everything in season when we left but also corn and all kinds and colors of peppers and tomatoes.

We also returned to a green yard with not much in bloom. I was about to pick more Andromeda for our table when I came across an herb boquet at a local farm stand. Billed as "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme (with Miniature Marigolds, Chive, Mint and Garlic Blossoms)", this makes a perfect August centerpiece.  For the past few years I have used potted herbs for centerpieces on our outdoor tables (bringing them indoors in the winter) and often take a bunch of basil, parsley and sage in a ceramic mustard jar to the boat, but this bouquet takes the concept to the next level.

We will enjoy the bouquet as we also enjoy eating a lot of corn, tomatoes and especially Tomato Paella and Linguine with Fresh Tomatoes during the next several weeks.

Reviewed 9/19/2017

JULY - Storing Basil

Just returned from a month of limited internet access and found this still not posted. The photos speak for themselves.  Summer is here. Time for Beet Salad, Pesto, and Fried Zucchini :-)  

August 21 addition: If you are buying, not picking your own basil, and not making pesto, you may find this advice from today's Wall Street Journal useful: "Basil is happiest when it's treated like a delicate hothouse flower. As soon as you get your bunch home, trim about ½ inch off the stems, put the basil in a glass of cold water and put a plastic bag over the setup. Leaving plenty of air around the basil leaves, tie the bag closed around the glass with twine or a rubber band and refrigerate; change the water daily. 

Encased in its greenhouse, really fresh basil will keep for five days or more. Alternatively, you can wrap the trimmed stems in a wet paper towel and store the basil in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Last time we went to the boat I trimmed the stems of the basil, put the leafy portion in a plastic bag and put the stems in container of water(didn't bother with twine or rubber band).  I left the basil in the galley while we were aboard (two days) then put the remaining basil, still in plastic and water, in the ice box while we were gone for a day. The basil was in perfect shape when we returned and for a couple more days out of the ice box until we finished eating it.

Reviewed 6/19/2017