Happy National Pie Day America!

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Well, how did your National Pie Day celebration go? I’m sure all of you reading this post celebrated this important holiday on Wednesday, January 23rd. I know what you’re thinking. What will the American Pie Council think of next? To persuade unwitting Americans to eat more pie, they’re on the morning shows telling us that pie extends life expectancy and improves performance in the bedroom. They’re on Capitol Hill pushing for another pie tax rollback. Everywhere we look, there they are.

So I’ll apologize at the start for supporting their pie-centric (pie-ist?) agenda. But I’ve drunk the kool-aid my friends. So I decided to honor this day and display my red-blooded American bona fides.

I know you might be expecting me to write about the apple or cherry pie I baked, maybe even a huckleberry pie. (Editor’s note: Hello?! Blueberry Pie? We’re in Maine already.) But since I am a savory kind of guy (editor’s note: swarthy is more like it), I decided to go with a savory pie, a fish pie to be exact. I have limited to non-existent baking skills, so I didn’t think a sweet pie would be a good choice for me.

The fish pie was pretty simple and not fancy at all. I took my inspiration from the British chef Jamie Oliver and made a traditional English-style fish pie. I happened to have about a pound of local pollock in the fridge and thought it would serve well as the basis for a pie.

The ingredients list is fairly basic and can certainly be altered. I sauteed some onions, celery, carrots, and a hot pepper in olive oil along with a little garlic. Meanwhile, I boiled a couple of russet potatoes to mash for the topping. After the veg was tender, I placed it in the bottom of a 9″ cake pan along with chopped parsley and bite-sized pieces of the pollock.

When the potatoes were tender, I drained and mashed them using my ricer and added a little milk and butter. I spread the mash over the top and popped the pan into a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I shredded some cheddar cheese over the top of the potatoes and cooked the pie for another 10 minutes. At that point the topping had browned some and the cheese was bubbling.

Before we ate, we said the Pledge of Allegiance given that it was National Pie Day. We then switched into pie-eating mode and there was no holding us back. It was a great mix of fish, mashed taters, and veg.

I hope your National Pie Day went as well as ours did. I look forward to reading your comments describing your festivities. One last note, Maine shrimp season started yesterday. It is a very exciting time of year. I will post soon about that. I see a white pizza covered in Maine shrimp coming out of my oven in the very near future.

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Final fish of the fiesta

January 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

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(Editor’s note: please forgive formatting issues. I just upgraded my OS and it doesn’t seem to like wordpress.)
I know it sounds crazy, but walking the dogs on a sunny 23° morning, compared to a 1° morning, makes a significant difference (at least to me). It was enough to put a skip in this young man’s step. Unfortunately I threw my back out while skipping. I guess that’s why God gave us canes.
Well, we’ve reached the end of the run here my friends, our seventh fish of the feast. Stretching seven fishes over more than a week is much easier than preparing them all in one evening. It gave me plenty of time to think about the preparation and ingredients, not to mention writing about each one. But there is something very special about doing the Feast on Christmas Eve. So I hope we can do that with friends in the not-too-distant future. But until then, the Week of Seven Fishes will have to do.
Full disclosure, my seventh fish did not turn out as well as I had hoped. As in a traditional Feast, I wanted to end by serving a fish. I found some local halibut at one of our fish markets, and thought it would be the perfect way to cap off the Feast. It was a beautiful piece of fish, now what to do with it.
I wanted a fairly simple preparation, and I wanted to accompany the fish with a caponata. There are many variations on caponata, but the constant is the mixture of cooked vegetables with olives, tomatoes, capers, and herbs. It reminds me a bit of puttanesca, but perhaps not as saucy. I made my caponata with canned artichokes (in water, not oil). I also had a little tomato sauce left in the fridge so preparation was easy. Please note: the recipe for caponata below makes more than you need for two pieces of fish. If you like to snack on straight caponata (like I do) or want some extra for another dish, then make the amount below. If not, cut the amounts by half.
I was disappointed with my preparation of the halibut. At first I thought to roast it, but then I changed my mind and decide to pan fry it. I should have gone with my first thought. While I think the fish can be pan-fried, I should have finished it in a hot oven. Halibut is best cooked all the way through, unlike tuna which is at its best when it’s rare in the middle.
But it wasn’t a complete loss. (Editor’s note: it wasn’t a loss at all. It was delicious.) I cut the filet into smaller pieces and cooked a bit longer in the pan, and it turned out to be a nice dinner. I served it with pan-fried potatoes and roasted carrots with oil and balsamic.
I’ve enjoyed my run here. I think you’ll hear more from me on the blog. One of the local fishermen has promised to get me some scallops with roe intact, and Maine shrimp season starts at the end of the month. So I see more recipes and irreverent commentary coming from yours truly.
Until next time.
Pan-Fried Halibut with Artichoke Caponata
Inspired by: Grilled Fish with Artichoke Caponata, Food and Wine
Serves 2
3 T olive oil
½ celery rib, diced
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
½ cup prepared tomato sauce
¼ cup dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
2 T white wine vinegar
2-3 canned artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
6-8 pitted green or black olives, chopped
2 T toasted pine nuts
1 t sugar
1 T small capers, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
3 T parsley
1 12 oz. Halibut filet or other firm white fish
Toast pine nuts in a dry pan until they just start turning light brown. Set aside.
Heat about 1 T olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and artichoke hearts and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, wine, vinegar, olives, pine nuts, sugar, and capers. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Go easy on the salt due to the olives and capers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is reduced, about 8 minutes. Stir in half the parsley and let cool. (You can place caponata in a bowl and microwave before serving if you want it hot.)
Preheat oven to 375. Place the remaining parsley in small bowl with salt and pepper. Add about 2 T oil, combine, and rub over your fish. Heat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium heat. Add a small amount of oil and place fish in pan, flesh side down. Cook about five minutes. Turn fish over and place in the hot oven for about 5-7 minutes (if fish is thick, increase cooking time about 2 minutes). To test for doneness, remove fish from oven and slide knife into fish. If it goes through fish with no resistance at all, it is ready.
Place fish under broiler for a minute or two to brown the top if desired. Plate fish, top with caponata, and drizzle with olive oil.
Eat.

The Week of Seven Fishes Commences

December 26, 2012 § 2 Comments

Pepper bisque

Season’s greetings friends, and also, happy Boxing Day!

I’m guest blogging for Amy for the next week. Why you ask? Well, you are in for a treat. Starting today and for the next week, I will be posting entries highlighting the “Week of Seven Fishes.” Since we are far away from our closest and dearest friends, and were unable to host our annual “Feast of Seven Fishes” on Christmas Eve, Amy suggested I prepare a week of seven fishes here in our little Maine cottage for the two of us.

I thought this was a great idea. The bounty from the sea that surrounds us–which I am admiring from my couch as I write this entry–is amazing. So why not use this bounty for an extended version of the feast. In the past I’ve prepared shrimp, crab, mussels, and, of course, lobster from right here in the Sheepscot Bay. We’ve also had amazing clams (especially razor clams), oysters, whelks, sea urchin, and plenty of fish from very close by. We will soon add scallops to the list. The season has just begun, and we are waiting for a local fisherman to bring us some of those lovely mollusks, with the roe intact per my special request.

Last night began our journey into the week of seven fishes. The first fish I used was crab, Jonah crab to be exact. This appetizer combined flavors from two of my favorite places, Maine and Spain. I combined the crab with some wonderful piquillo peppers to make a hearty bisque. The recipe follows. It is pretty straightforward, and the dish was a winner. I am sure you can substitute roasted red peppers for the piquillos, and if you’re not a big crab fan, how about using shrimp? I bet lobster would work pretty well too! Anyway, I recommend it. This is a great dish to warm up on when the temperature drops below freezing. Which is every day up here lately. Hey, we’re embracing it–by staying indoors and eating.

OK, until tomorrow.

Maine Crab and Piquillo Pepper Bisque
(inspired by a recipe from the Plating Up blog at Maine Food & Lifestyle)

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
2 garlic cloves chopped (one for soup and one for crab garnish)
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
Chopped jalapeno pepper (optional, and use as much or little of the pepper as you like)
1 chopped shallot
2 medium-sized piquillo peppers, chopped
1 t pimenton (smoked paprika)
3 or so cups of lobster or fish stock
½ cup diced peeled golden potato
1/3 cup half-and-half or whole milk
Small amount of chopped parsley
½ pound crab meat (Jonah, Blue, any US variety will work well, but please try to get hand-picked and stay away from the cheap imports)
Salt and pepper to taste
6 oz. crab meat

Melt butter with oil in medium saucepan over low heat. Add onion, celery, jalapeno, salt, and pepper and sauté about 5-7 minutes. Add shallot, piquillo, and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add stock and potato, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer until potato is tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Add parsley and half-and-half or milk. Purée soup in blender or with immersion blender. Bring to a simmer for 5-10 minutes if desired to thicken.  Mix in 1/2 of crab. Season more to taste.

Take the remaining crab and sauté in small amount of butter or olive oil with second clove of chopped garlic to warm before using as the garnish. Ladle into bowls and garnish with crab meat.

Eat.

Serves 4

Vacation!

November 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

It was a good summer in that we had a lot of work. But that meant I had little time to document our adventures. We’re in between projects right now, so I’m going to write a few posts about our late summer and fall.

We hadn’t been on a proper vacation (you know, where you leave your house for a few days, spend lots of time doing nothing, and start happy hour shortly after lunch) in at least 2 years. What with all the packing up 20 years worth of life in Silver Spring, starting a business, renovating our new house in Five Islands, and settling into our new town and our new life . . . . So we decided to take a short trip to Acadia National Park with friends Tom and Sandy. They have been coming to Maine with us for a few years, and Tom has been begging us to take him to Acadia for just as long (partly because of the great rock climbing). We were happy to finally oblige him (accept the climbing part, too much exertion for us).

We rented a house in Southwest Harbor, on what is considered the “quiet side” of Acadia. It was a lovely house. The only disappointment was that nearby Mexican restaurant XYZ was closed. We’d actually chosen the house in part because it’s walking distance from XYZ. Doh! Ultimately, the best food we ate during the trip was at home. Sandy and Robert made some lovely meals, and Tom washed the dishes. I convinced them all that I had a back injury and couldn’t lift a finger. Suckas!

Anyway, here are some of the highlights from the trip. One day we hiked a very easy trail near Southwest Harbor. Tom and Robert skimmed some rocks on the river.

We had a lovely lunch at Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. You can’t beat the view from Thurston’s, and the food was tasty too.

After lunch it was time for the real hiking. We chose what we thought would be a moderately challenging hike, but we read the map wrong and ended up on one the park’s four “ladder trails.” Of course, we didn’t know this until we were already halfway up the side of the cliff. I thought that once I’d climbed one vertical ladder (and not knowing there were three more!) I should just get to the summit rather than back down that ladder and risk falling off of a mountain.

One day we went biking in the park after driving to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We had lunch at the Jordan Pond House. The famous popovers were delish.

Acadia is absolutely beautiful and it was a wonderful trip, just not long enough.

Garden reno: work in progress

August 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been meaning to do a post about the slow transformation of our garden. The following photos chronicle the work from early spring through June-ish. We started in the front bed and slowly worked our way over to the overgrown forsythia patch and then to the back side of the house. I’ve mixed in some shots of the same spots taken throughout the spring and into summer. Of course, the most “complete” part of the garden is the front bed because of the lovely Kate MacGillivary of Plant Manager Studio. Kate dug up most of the bed, rescued many old perennials, and then re-planted them in a new cottage-y design. We would be lost without Kate.

First, take a look at the house last summer. The garden was positively feral.

Fast forward to early spring 2012. Here you can see the sad little porch that has now been replaced by our new deck. In the foreground is a weed infested bed of mostly Jerusalem artichokes that eventually had to be dug out to make room for a new rock wall and perennial bed.

Jerusalem artichokes coming in. These grow to about 7 feet and make beautiful yellow flowers that bloom all summer. If you cut back the blooms, the plant will focus its energy on making a tuber that you can dig up in the fall and eat. My neighbors, Carol and Sue, took many of these and re-planted them in their gardens.

It’s late June. The deck is complete and Robert is building a rock wall to hold a new perennial bed around the base of the deck.

And here it is with the new plantings (thanks to Kate). They haven’t fared terribly well, in part because it’s been a dry late summer and I haven’t watered enough. Shame on me. But we’ll see what comes back in the spring and start over if need be.

Back to early spring. Here you can see the rock walkway up to what was once the side door or main entrance. It was almost completely grown over with grass and weeds. I had to dig it out by hand. Lots of elbow grease went into this project.

Here it is almost completely uncovered and with thyme planted between some of the rocks. Most of the thyme has taken root and started to spread. Up the step and to the right is a huge patch of oregano. While I love the oregano because it grows to about 16 inches and blooms all summer–attracting tons of bees–it was in the way of our new walkway off the deck. So it had to go.

A close up of the super happy oregano below.

Here the forsythia is in full bloom and we’re starting to hack away at it. This is probably about 40 years worth of growth. But it’s in the area where we want to put our raised vegetable beds.

The front raised bed was full of weeds and the rock wall was quite damaged along the road side. Robert salvaged a couple of very big rocks from the gully behind our house to shore it up. That’s him maneuvering the biggest one down the street, very slowly.

The front bed a couple of weeks later. You can see the dirt now and some of the old perennials blooming already. Kate put some rocks along the edge of the lower bed to protect the whole from snow plows in the winter. And she replanted irises, salvia, and ajuga along the edge. It all came in very nicely, until Robert “weeded” the ajuga one day while I was gone.

A few shots of the front bed as it started to come together.

Below is a shot of the side of the house that faces the road. This part of the “garden” is still wild, but it looked nice in the spring before it became a jungle. This is where our resident reptile likes to hang out.

The back of the house (the side with the “front” door) has the ugly foundation and lacks a proper porch or deck. We won’t be able to add a porch for a few years, so decided to put some shrubs and perennials in to try to hide the foundation. Here is it before planting.

I need to do a late summer photo shoot. So stay tuned for some follow up pics of the latest progress.

So soon?

August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

This evening we walked down to the dock with the dogs under bright blue skies with nary a cloud. It was a warm day that turned breezy in the afternoon and smelled like the ocean. It felt like summer. But when we turned the corner at Old Schoolhouse and 127, the parking lot in front of the Love Nest was almost empty for the first time in weeks. I guess that’s it. Summer’s over. Apparently the kids have gone back to school, and the height of vacation season has passed.

I know some of our neighbors are probably rejoicing. It’s been pretty lively around here, with tourists cruising Old Schoolhouse looking for parking, lots of curious daytrippers poking down our little road looking for views I guess, noisy motorcycles and fast cars roaring up and down 127, late night fireworks, and earth-shaking cannon fire at all hours (don’t ask). Still, I felt a little sad to see that near empty parking lot on such a perfectly summery day.

But the end of the season brings its own joys. If we’re lucky, the warm weather will continue for months, before giving way to a mild winter (like it did last year–thanks la niña). That way we can enjoy the silence of the off season, but with the warm air and ocean breezes. Boogie can go back to laying in the middle of the road.

I’m still way behind in the blogging department, so once again, I’m just going to pop in some of my favorite shots from recent weeks. We’ve had more wonderful visitors and a few fun adventures.

We had the pleasure of Belinda’s company again. And we took a drive down to Popham Beach for a short hike and a long lunch at North Creek Farm. This place is absolutely wonderful, truly. I don’t know why we don’t go more often. It’s a small house with a hodge podge of stuff for sale, including fresh produce, seeds, herbs and spices, beer, wine, bags, toys, and on and on. They serve a short list of sandwiches, soups, and salads for lunch. You place your order and then head out the back door to grab a table in the garden amongst the vegetable and flower beds. While you wait for your lunch, you are serenaded by a large flock of fancy chickens. We visited on a glorious, warm day and had delicious food and great fun.

Oh, and the butterflies were out in full force.

I like the shot below because I was trying to capture the butterfly bush, and ended up catching a butterfly in the upper right corner.

We also had our dear friends Glenn, Rebecca, and Liam visit in early August. We spent one day at an all-day music festival in Portland, where Liam proved he is the most easy-going lad in the land, not to mention a real rock-a-saurus.

We’ve also been tending our vegetable beds and were gratified to finally harvest tomatoes starting about a week ago.

This is going to be a short tomato season, so we’re enjoying them to their fullest. Oh, and there is more zucchini than we can possible eat.

There was a lovely boat ride to Newagon Harbor with Belinda and Jim, a delicious birthday dinner for Robert at Tao in Brunswick, a visit to the Bowdoin Museum of Art, and much more. Oh, and Robert built a rock wall around our new garden bed. It will all have to wait. For now, I’m all blogged out.

Summer miscellany

July 24, 2012 § 2 Comments

It has been a busy summer with lots of campaign work, projects around the house, and many visitors. I am way behind on my blogging. But yesterday we finally got DSL. We’ve crossed the digital divide (sort of). So uploading photos won’t take so much time or expensive data. I’m going to share various shots from the last month or so just to give you a flavor of our summer so far.

No matter what we’re doing, Robert is always planning the next meal. He couldn’t wait for his co-chef, Ms. Sandy Greene, to arrive in June. They are kindred spirits in the kitchen.

Tom just can’t get enough of the red menace.

We had a ball with the lovely Belinda, visiting the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden on a warm summer day.

 

 

And, renovation of our own little botanical garden continues. More pictures of the progress to follow very soon. But here’s a quick shot that includes the new deck.

 

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