The big test.

On the menu: Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Do I like grapefruit? I do now.

Grapefruit grossed me out growing up. When I was a kid, the grapefruit spoons in my Grandma’s kitchen drawer were for Italian ice cups. But then I grew up and discovered Campari. And that shit is right, therefore I must like grapefruit. Wrong. I have tried grapefruit every winter since (so, like 3 times) to no avail.

The urge to try again came about through a couple of intriguing grapefruit recipes I’ve read recently. There’s this one, for the wild and crazy kids. Here’s one for the forever kids. Broiled grapefruit jumped out at me as a tolerable means of consumption. I picked up both a red and a white grapefruit at the grocery store–go big or go home, friends–and decided I would try heating up the more bitter and intimidating white grapefruit.

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I quickly found a broiled white grapefruit recipe. Did I need a recipe for this? No, but as someone who doesn’t try new things without major guidance (hello, being WAY behind on my dissertation…), I needed all the help I could get. We didn’t have raw sugar, but we did have a bag of coconut sugar and that sounded like a good idea. I cut the grapefruit in half and got a big whiff of it’s floral, piney aroma. Nothing smells like grapefruit. I’ve long liked it’s scent, though. The big test was yet to come. After blanketing one half with the coconut sugar, I put it under the broiler for 5 minutes.

You guys! This is freaking delicious! You get the caramely sweetness of the coconut sugar first and finish with a much tempered bitterness of the grapefruit. I devoured it. Grapefruit and I are bitter enemies no more.

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit
adapted from The view from Great Island

serves 2

1 white grapefruit
2 teaspoons coconut sugar

Preheat your broiler to high and place an oven rack as close to the heating element as you can. Slice the grapefruit in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cover the cut flesh of each half with a teaspoon of coconut sugar. Place under the broiler until the flesh is bubbly and the sugar has caramelized to a dark golden brown, about 5 minutes.

To serve, loosen each segment with a knife, then scoop that warm, juicy goodness up!

Coconut Sugar Broiled White Grapefruit ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Breakfast, Fruity, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Go, go, go.

On the menu: New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Do clams have a season? I live on the ocean and am married to a guy who studies clams. I should probably know this. But it’s winter, and winter is cold…especially this one…and cold means soups and stews of all sorts are in order. It’s soup season. So let’s have some clam chowder!

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Holy cow; spring semester starts next week. I got shit to do. I should be doing it right now, actually. But sometimes my brain needs a break from all the reading and thinking and writing all academically and things, even when I’ve only been back at it for a few days. The enormity of my task list has yet to set in. Winter break has been pretty rad. I was home for a week and a half, during which time I went all over Wisconsin and Minnesota with a quick visit to Michigan. I was everywhere. I ate a lot. I slept a little. I baked things and cooked things and threw my best friend a bridal shower. I drank way too much wine one night. I think this is what holidays as an adult are like. Just go, go, go, then go back to normal.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Normal was a week at home, recuperating and staying out of the umpteenth snowstorm of the season. We stayed in New Year’s Eve. We snuggled with the cat. We missed a massive ice storm while we were away. The whole state lost power. We came home to a non-functioning refrigerator and freezer and lost a lot of…really old condiments? Thank goodness we had cleaned out before we left! This winter in Maine has been like so many I grew up with, and I’m loving it. I actually had to buy real winter boots because of all this snow. There’s no fur on them, not anywhere. They’re actually men’s boots. I rock them. I’ve been eating all the blood oranges. We went snowshoeing. We started up a hill, which really sucked, but then it tapered off and was beautiful. Now all the snow is covered in ice because it was 50ºF! the other day and it rained and rained. And then that polar vortex froze everything.

I guess a rainy January day or a frozen January day could call for some clam chowder. Thick, loaded with vegetables, and briny with that signature funky bitterness of fresh clams, clam chowder from scratch is surprisingly simple and comes together quicker than you’d think. It’s kind of a cuddly concoction, really. We served it with my favorite biscuits, tender and loaded with thyme. And it’s way better the next day.

New England Clam Chowder ~ Documenting our Dinner.

New England Clam Chowder
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

serves 4

5 lbs littleneck clams
1 cup water
2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons butter
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 lbs waxy potatoes, cubed (peeled first, if you so desire)
1 cup heavy cream

First, we clean the clams: Wash the shells with a small brush, then soak clams in enough cold water to cover, add 1/4 cup salt, and let sit for 30 minutes. This causes the clams to expel and sand they have inside. Then we make clam stock: put clams and water in a saucepan, bring to a boil, and cook until the clams open, about 10-12 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and discard any closed clams. Let clams cool, then remove meat from the shells and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Saute bacon in a Dutch oven until fat begins to render, then add onion and celery and continue cooking until bacon crisps and vegetable soften. Add clam stock, bay leaf, thyme, and potatoes, bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Add chopped clams and cream and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Posted in Bacon, Biscuits, Christmas, Dinner, Seafood, Soups/Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Don’t need a bowlful.

On the menu: Small Batch Snowstorm Eggnog

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

We finally got our first big snow here on the coast. I watched as my friends and family back home got 2 feet of snow a couple of weeks ago, and I got so homesick. When I saw the forecast for the storm, I immediately set out to get some good eats inside while the snow spun around outside. I love a good snowstorm!

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~ Documenting our Dinner.   Old Fashioned Sour Cream Cookies ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Along with these Old Fashioned Sour Cream cookies and a batch of slow-cooked beef ragu, I made a small batch of eggnog. Eggnog reminds me of my brother. He LOVES eggnog. The gross kind in the carton. He drinks at least a gallon every Christmas, and I sit idly by and try not to toss my cookies (You know, because I eat tons of cookies while he drinks his nog). My brother has to slurp the nog like it’s the most delicious thing on the planet, singing it’s praises and making sure that I know how much he loves it. Obnoxious. Did I mention that he’s 24 years old and he still does this? Naturally, I swore off the nog at a very young age.

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

So I’m gearing myself up for this year’s annual eggnog taunt. With the real deal.

My objectives here were two-fold. I wanted to make a great eggnog and use up some perishables from our refrigerator before we go home for Christmas. As I wasn’t really in the mood to buy anymore food, I used what we had in our liquor cabinet–no rum, but some rye whiskey tempered with a little marsala sounded all right. But here’s the thing: the vast majority of eggnog recipes make a bowlful.  The two of us in a snowstorm don’t need a bowlful of eggnog. Can you imagine the outcome of that situation? Yikes. This recipe is small, easily scalable if need be, and makes an awesome nog. Creamy, full-bodied, smooth, and spicy. Who knew eggnog was any good?

Small Batch Eggnog ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Small Batch Snowstorm Eggnog
adapted from Jeffrey Morgenthaler
makes 2 servings

2 large eggs
3 oz by volume sugar (I used my jigger to measure this!)
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 oz brandy
3/4 oz marsala
1 1/4 oz rye whiskey
8 oz heavy cream
2 oz whole milk

Beat eggs in blender for one minute on medium speed. Slowly add sugar and blend for one additional minute. With blender still running, add remaining ingredients and blend until combined. Chill thoroughly to allow flavors to combine. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg on top.

Posted in Drinks, Eggs, Holidays, Sweet Treats | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A very short engagement.

On the menu: Fruitcake Pie

Three months and eight days after Kevin proposed, we were married.

We eloped four weeks ago. It was the most perfect day, an intimate, deeply personal celebration beyond anything we could have ever dreamed of. We planned the elopement in six weeks. We kept things simple, understated, and cheap. We were married downtown and then went home for pie. The whole thing was so US. And that is what weddings should be.

      

We incorporated a lot of Irish traditions into our wedding, inspired by a beautiful wooden goblet Kevin’s father had carved for him a few years ago. Irish tradition says you carve a goblet for your love; if it is made of strong wood, it remains whole and you are meant to be together forever. You drink mead from this wooden goblet every day for a month after you are married–supposedly this is where the word honeymoon comes from–and your bond is cemented. We drank mead with our wedding pie, and we didn’t drink it after that because it was not very tasty.

There was always going to be wedding pie on our wedding day. Wedding cake was never an option. Since the Irish tradition is to eat fruitcake on your wedding day, I decided to make a fruitcake pie. Kevin was more than slightly skeptical. He watched, aghast, as I candied cherries and I candied pineapple. He grimaced as I mixed the candied fruits with sliced dates and pecans and poured a spicy, syrupy filling on top. But as this thing baked, it filled the house with a warm, comforting aroma and his apprehension subsided. I was relieved, because I had no idea if this fruitcake-as-pie thing would turn out or not. He wanted a slice right away. But we were not slicing into it until we were man and wife.

After our wedding–a traditional Irish handfasting–we came home for mead and pie. I whipped some cream–the traditional Irish wedding cake is frosted with a whipped cream frosting–and after removing the pie topper, we ceremoniously sliced the pie. And then he stabbed me in the teeth with a fork as he fed it to me. Once I gently gave him his first bite, we enjoyed the rest of our slices, happy that tradition was not completely unpalatable (remember the mead? Blech).

This pie is like a glorified pecan pie. Put a few kinds of candied fruits in there and add a lot of clove, and you’re set. It tasted wonderful and had a smooth texture that is quite impossible with fruitcake. It didn’t get stuck in your teeth. You didn’t need to gulp a glass of water after each bite.

It would have been great if I hadn’t forgotten to put the whipped cream on each slice before it was consumed. But if that’s the hardest part about your wedding day, you did something right.

Fruitcake Pie
from Taste of Home

Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
1 cup pecan halves, divided
3/4 cup red candied cherries, divided
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup chopped candied pineapple
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves, ginger and nutmeg

Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; set aside. Chop 1/2 cup pecans;
set remaining pecan halves aside. Chop 1/2 cup cherries; halve
remaining cherries and set aside. Combine the dates, pineapple and
chopped pecans and cherries; sprinkle over crust.

In a small bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, corn syrup, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Pour over
fruit mixture. Top with the reserved pecan and cherry halves.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.
Refrigerate leftovers.

 All photos in this post © Cait Kimball Photography.

Posted in Dessert, Fruity, Pies, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

By it’s cover.

On the menu: Blueberry Macaroon Torte

Blueberry Macaroon Torte ~ Documenting our Dinner.

This year, my 30 pounds of wild blueberries didn’t come from the farm where I worked. This year they came from a research farm—you know, because I’m researching native bees around wild blueberry fields. They were still free. And I still had to clean them myself. Let’s not talk about the terribly inefficient winnower at the research farm. I spent 4.5 hours cleaning berries after winnowing this year. I didn’t have to do that with my farm berries. The farm had the Cadillac of winnowers, that’s for sure. The point is that my freezer is once again filled with Maine wild blueberries. The top dogs. The one and only. And I’ve got to put them to good use.

Blueberry Macaroon Torte ~ Documenting our Dinner.

You know who Maida Heatter is, right? I’ve seen her name all over the place, always in reference to some delicious dessert, whether a classic recipe or an extravagant one. On a self-imposed cookbook buying hiatus, I picked up a copy of her best known book, Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts, at a used bookstore. What a great investment. I pored over it’s pages for weeks this summer, dreaming about elaborate cakes and simple cookies. But I wasn’t far along when I read the most regal recipe name ever: Royal Norwegian Macaroon Torte. You aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but come on. How can you NOT make a recipe with a title like that?!

Blueberry Macaroon Torte ~ Documenting our Dinner.

But I *gulp* tweaked it a bit. I swapped out apricot preserves for blueberry preserves because I had to. I traded light rum for *BIG gulp* coconut tequila, because my liquor cabinet contains rye whiskey, Jameson, brandy, cheap gin, sweet and dry vermouth, and whatever we find on sale. And gin in an almond-based tart sounded gross. Naturally, I’ve dropped the royal status from this dessert. But my version is certainly of the same spirit; dense, rich, almost cloyingly sweet. Serve this in small slices.

So here it is. My embarkation on another blueberry voyage.

Blueberry Macaroon Torte ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Blueberry Macaroon Torte
adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts

For pastry:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup butter
1 egg
zest of one lemon, grated

For filling:
1/2 pound blanched almonds, finely ground
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1/4 cup coconut tequila
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 drops green food coloring
1/2 cup thick blueberry preserves

Preheat oven to 375°F.

For pastry: Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add egg and lemon zest and stir just to combine. Squeeze the dough into a large ball, then knead it briefly until it holds together. Divide in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Place the other half in a 13×4 inch (or 9×9) tart pan and press dough to cover the bottom and the sides of the pan. Refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

For filling: Add all ingredients except blueberry preserves to a bowl and mix with an electric mixer until smooth.

Assembly: Take out remaining half of pastry from the refrigerator. Spread preserves around bottom of pastry shell, leaving a small border around the edge. Drop filling in spoonfuls over the preserves; the spoonfuls should touch each other and the sides of the crust. Roll out remaining half of pastry and place on top of filled torte.

Bake–really–for 1 hour and 10 minutes until the top is well browned and the sides of the torte come away from the pan. Remove from tart pan and let cool. Chill torte in the refrigerator before cutting. It keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

Blueberry Macaroon Torte ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Dessert, Fruity, Pies, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

This crazy way.

On the menu: Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

It’s practically still warm enough to eat gazpacho, right? Honeydews have been gone from the grocery stores for months, but…oh, shit. Who am I fooling here? I haven’t shot any savory food in a long time. So here’s an old, out of season recipe to go along with stories of recent events.

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

This has been the most beautiful fall. The trees are brilliant; they’re practically on fire, but thank goodness they’re not. The weather has been extraordinary—sunny and in the 60s 9 out of 10 days. The big bees are still buzzing about, but with the decline of the New England Asters this last week, I suspect they won’t be around much longer. My weekly commute between school and home has been filled with color, and I’m content to just let my eyes drink it in. My commute is my time to turn off my brain and just be. It’s when I appreciate my surroundings the most. There are no distractions then; it’s just me and the road. Plus sometimes the guy is at the end. How can I not love it?

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.grass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

My father and my brother came to visit. It was wonderful. (How many superlatives can I use to describe my life lately? Geez.) My dad had never seen an ocean, so all he wanted to do was walk on the shore. And that’s all we did for four days. We never left the Midcoast region of Maine, and although we’ve lived there for nearly six months, I never really appreciated the diversity of coastal habitats in the area until their visit. We visited a rocky shore, a cliffside shore, a semi-sandy shore, and a super sandy shore. Each of them had unique aspects. We found crabs, an urchin, lots of sea glass, and sand dollars. Sand dollars! I had no idea they occurred this far north. I love where I live even more than I did before.

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

I’m craving winter, though. It’s getting dark super early already. I’m getting nesty. I want to wear my sweaters to school and bundle up in my Slanket at home. It’s chilly enough at night that I can rock my Wicked Good Slippers—clouds on your feet, those—but I’m eager for cold, blustery, crisp winter air. Kevin thinks I’m crazy. You might also.

Then I can make warm soups. Not silly cold soups like this. We did gazpacho in a couple of ways this summer: the traditional way with tomatoes from our garden, and this crazy way. I wanted to make cantaloupe gazpacho after reading about it in Bon Appétit. But of course the grocery store was out of cantaloupe that day, so we picked up a honeydew melon instead. I added lemongrass to give it more flavor. You know how cantaloupe is so much sweeter than honeydew? Something had to compensate for that, and we had lemongrass in the freezer. So in it went.

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Let me be real: we weren’t that into this soup. Even the traditional gazpacho wasn’t something we’d make again. But this was some weird shit. Those were my exact words after a few bites. It was refreshing, I guess. It was just strange to eat salty, chunky juice from a bowl with a spoon. Man, I’m really selling this stuff! At least it looks pretty?

Warm soups for the win! Hooray, fall! Bring on the chill.

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho
adapted from Bon Appétit (link above)

1 medium honeydew melon, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped lemongrass
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh mint, for serving

Purée melon, cucumber, lemongrass, red onion, salt, and water in a food processor until smooth. With motor running, drizzle in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve gazpacho chilled, topped with thinly sliced fresh mint.

Here’s a photo of a spoon, surrounded by soup and it’s ingredients. Photo composition 101: don’t do this.

Honeydew Lemongrass Gazpacho ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Posted in Dinner, Fruity, Soups/Stews, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

One big mess.

On the menu: Muffaletta

Friends, where do I even start?

Muffaletta ~ Documenting our Dinner.

My field season is over. I spent the last couple of months glued to weather forecasts and constantly observing roadsides during my weekly commute to see what was blooming. I was basically on a bee hunt. What’s terrifying is that I only sampled a few times, but it sucked so much out of me that I lost nearly all culinary inclination. Next summer I’m supposed to sample twice as often for twice as long. But let’s not think about that just yet.

In other news, Kevin and I are engaged! It’s been two months since he proposed, and we’re over the moon about it. I always imagined writing some big, beautiful blog post about our engagement filled with photos of us over the years and stories about our relationship…but now that it’s actually happened, my instincts are exactly the opposite of my imagination. I don’t want to say a lot about it. It’s impossible to put how I feel about him into words. I just wanna marry the guy. He’s it.

Muffaletta ~ Documenting our Dinner.

This mindset, much to the dismay of my family and some friends, has also been my approach to wedding planning. I’m the first of my generation in my large and traditionally-minded family to get married. They were expecting a lavish affair. We don’t want that. We’re simple folk who don’t want a lot of fuss. We’re in love, and we just want to be husband and wife! It’s been difficult to discuss the wedding, particularly with the two people I’ve been looking forward to discussing it with the most, because neither one approves of my wishes. How do I tell the two people I thought knew me best that what they think I want is not what I actually want? I’ve tried, and either I’m not communicating it clearly or they’re not listening. Or I’m not being forceful enough with my opinion. I’m too much of a pacifist to put up this much of a fight. The wedding has quickly, and sadly, become discussion non grata.

So we’ll probably just elope. At least that’s what we say every time we talk about the wedding.

Muffaletta ~ Documenting our Dinner.

And then perhaps we’ll eat a big slice of muffaletta on the beach after we’ve said our vows. The olive salad will spill all over my dress and he’ll pick it up off my lap and throw it to the gulls, who are watching our cute, coupley, coastal picnic with envy. Or maybe we would eat something a little less messy.

Muffaletta ~ Documenting our Dinner.

Muffaletta is one big mess. But it’s a flavorful mess, filled quite literally to the brim with meats, cheese, and the thing that makes this version special: a vibrant olive salad perked up with giardinera, capers, and red onion. I remember watching Rachael Ray make a muffaletta, years ago, by hollowing out a round loaf of bread, filling it up so that the top wouldn’t fit back on, and serving it in wedges. Turns out that’s how they are traditionally made.

This version bucks tradition. I thought the round loaf was beautiful, but I like the greater bread to filling ratio that a horizontally sliced loaf provides.  And the better control over its contents said ratio gives you. It’s a fantastic sandwich, pungent with pickled vegetables and briny fruits and thick with slick, rich cold cuts. It’s all brought together in a ciabatta loaf with a heavy hand of strongly seasoned olive oil. It oozes oil and olive salad with every bite. Even with the spills, it’s absurdly portable and it’s just a joy to eat. We ate ours at the top of the tallest mountain in town after a hike that was unexpectedly difficult. It was the best reward.

The irony of my muffaletta story is not lost on me.

NOLA Muffaletta
adapted from inpatskitchen at Food52

1 loaf ciabatta bread
1/2 pound deli ham
1/2 pound genoa salami
1/2 pound provolone cheese
olive salad, recipe follows
extra virgin olive oil
dried Italian seasoning

Cut the ciabatta loaf almost in half horizontally. Brush the cut sides of the ciabatta loaf with the olive oil and sprinkle on some Italian seasoning. Layer the salami, ham, and cheese on the bottom side of the bread, then top it off with a heap of the olive salad. Close the loaf as best you can and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place the loaf in the refrigerator with some weight on it for at least two hours. Slice and serve.

Olive Salad
makes much more than you need for the sandwich, but it is infinitely usable!

1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups pimiento stuffed green olives, finely chopped
1 cup giardiniera, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least an hour in order for the flavors to blend.

Posted in Breads, Lunch, Meat, Sandwiches, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments