Wednesday, August 30, 2006

we're back!

Vinalhaven was as lovely as ever. I wish we could stay as long as our neighbors there do ("until it gets too cold to sit on the toilet seats"), but I haven't been at my job long enough to push for working from afar and grudgingly returned home on Monday. It's really difficult to get to the island — the Maine State Ferry will only let you make a reservation for your car exactly 30 days in advance, and then only reserves spots for 4 cars on each ferry, which means that unless you are mindful of dates and adept with speed-dial you need to put the car in line the day before you want to take the ferry. The process for returning is a bit more of a hassle (!); if you don't have a reservation someone needs to get the car in line the night before around 3 or 4 a.m. and wait for the woman to come out of the office at 5:30 with her clipboard and assign you a number. This process, along with the fact that there's no cell phone service on 99% of the island and there is an active land trust organization to keep a sharp eye on development, seems to do a good job of keeping away the sort of people one goes to Penobscot Bay to get away from.

We rented the same cabin that we did last year. It's down a dirt road and surrounded by water on three sides, with no other houses visible except for distant farmhouse. We hiked a lot, and we spent a lot of time sitting on the deck drinking wine and watching the birds (osprey, bald eagles, kingfishers, a few others). There's not much else to do there if you're not a lobsterman and that's fine with us.

looking West from the Lane's Island bridge

looking West from the bridge on the way to Lane's Island nature preserve

a view from the trail at Lane's Island nature preserve

a view from the trail at Lane's Island

Seal Bay

the hiking trail in the Huber Preserve brings you to Seal Bay

the Basin

and the trail in the Williams Preserve brings you to the Basin

The more we hiked, the more I got into photographing mushrooms:

red and white mushroom near the cabin

orange mushroom with yellow fuzz

a little orange mushroom growing near the cabin

There's a nice view from the deck at sunset . . .

the view from the deck at sunset

but at night, it's just DARK.

the view from the deck at night

Of course I ate a couple of lobsters -


and a few other tasty things -


and will be posting recipes this week and the next!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Is Wednesday too soon to name this week's bestest sandwich?

Brie, mint leaves, and sliced orange cherry tomatoes:

brie + tomatoes + mint sandwich

Of course it is still early in the week, and I have not yet returned to Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches, the bánh mì place in my neighborhood that I inexplicably did not try until recently.

bánh mì 2

This is the "Classic Vietnamese Sandwich": pâté, ham, ground pork, pickled carrot, cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeño, and mayo on a baguette.

I really think sandwiches are underrated. The limitations of the form — a couple pieces of bread + stuff that fits between them — can inspire creative combinations that maybe wouldn't make sense in another context, they're totally portable, and if you have to eat a meal somewhere slightly dodgy (ahem, a law firm cafeteria) the sandwiches are usually the least-screwed-up option. I suspect someone at Food & Wine agrees with me on this, because their recipe archive includes tons of delicious-sounding sandwiches. Here are a few I want to try:

Sunday, August 06, 2006

this Sunday's farmers' market

Or "greenmarket," if you are a fellow Manhattanite. (The Tompkins Square Park greenmarket, to be precise). I tried to not get too ambitious with my purchases this week because it appears that I'll be working a lot and won't have much time to cook. I'll have time for tomato sandwiches, though!

heirloom tomatoes

Organic heirloom tomatoes.

heirloom tomatoes 2

How sad these photos will make me in the middle of winter!

orange cherry tomatoes 2

Orange cherry tomatoes from the same farm.

I also picked up a few other things:

peaches close-up


yellow wax beans

yellow wax beans, which for some reason I had been craving all week

purple pepper

a purple bell pepper

yellow summer squash

some sort of small, yellow summer squash

hard-neck garlic

hard-neck garlic

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy salted sweet cream butter

Ronnybrook Farm Dairy salted butter

salted butter close up

I love their cultured butter too but they didn't have any this week

brown eggs

free-range eggs from Stannard Farm

bacon & eggs

as well as some of their bacon,
which was promptly turned into breakfast

yellow zinnia 2

Stannard Farm had flowers, too!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

a tiny, unexpected feast: part 2 — in which Tiny Banquet rassles with unfamiliar greens

With the plum tart and marinated summer squash complete, it was time to figure out what to do with the puntarelle.


I had been thinking I would simply chop it up and add it to a fritatta, but I tasted a leaf after I washed it and wow, it was really bitter. Was it supposed to be cooked?

I looked in The Silver Spoon but there was no mention of puntarelle under "greens" or "chicory." (I later noticed that it is briefly mentioned in the section on dandelion greens, but there is no recipe specifically for puntarelle and I'm still not clear on its relationship to dandelion greens). I then went to the Food Network, hoping that there would be a Mario Batali recipe explaining how to use it. There are three, and each one calls for soaking the puntarelle in ice water for ten to fifteen minutes. Grazie, Mario! After its immersion the puntarelle was still bitter but now quite edible.

While my greens were soaking I tried some Manouri cheese, a Greek sheep and goats' milk cheese. It's a bit salty, but less so than feta, and the texture is similar to chèvre. It's delicious and fresh-tasting and would be excellent for breakfast or dessert too, drizzled with honey.

Manouri cheese

Manouri cheese + bread

Now that the puntarelle was presentable I got started on the fritatta. (Frittata?) I am hoping that having a food blog will give me a bit more perspective on what works and what doesn't when it comes to fritattas, because at this point I make them often and each one is my new favorite, my new this-one's-the-best-one. They're a great way to use up small portions of vegetables, herbs, and cheeses that otherwise might go bad before they can be eaten, and they taste as good at room temperature as they do warm.

The particular combination of ingredients listed below worked really well together: The bitterness of the greens was well balanced by creamy ricotta cheese and spicy turkey sausage from DiPaola Turkey Farms (available at the Tompkins Square greenmarket on Sundays; I'm not sure of their Union Square schedule), and mint and summer savory are both superb with eggs.

this week's BFF (best fritatta forever)

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus an additional 2 tablespoons or so for cooking the egg mixture

6 to 8 ounces turkey sausage (not in casing)

6 to 8 eggs

salt, freshly ground pepper, freshly ground nutmeg

1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped puntarelle (arugula, watercress, baby spinach or just about any green that doesn't need cooking would be a fine substitute)

chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used about 1/2 cup of spearmint — loosely packed — and two teaspoons of summer savory)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese (crumbled fresh goat cheese would be a nice substitute)

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat in a 9- or 10-inch skillet with an oven-safe handle and cook the sausage, stirring to break up the meat, until it is lightly browned (2 to 3 minutes). Remove the cooked sausage from the pan and set aside.

While the sausage is cooking, beat the eggs in a medium-sized bowl and season with salt, pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg.

Remove the cooked sausage from the pan and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and return it to the stove. Add the eggs and cook over medium heat until they just begin to set on the bottom (less than a minute). Using a fork or silicon spatula, pull the edges toward the center of the pan, tilting the pan to distribute the runny parts evenly. Sprinkle the greens, the herbs, the sausage and the ricotta over the eggs and stir lightly. Continue stirring as needed until the mixture is nearly firm (3 to 4 minutes).

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the top is set and lightly browned (about 4 to 5 minutes). Serve immediately or at room temperature.

fresh savory

Fresh summer savory.

nutmeg and grater

If you store your nutmeg with a tiny grater
it is no less convenient than the pre-grated kind.

frittata with herbs, greens, sausage and ricotta

The finished fritatta.

With the marinated summer squash and startlingly good plum part for dessert, this unplanned meal turned out to be a memorable one.

I am not going to show a picture of the finished tart in its entirety because the grated almond paste became, um, less than photogenic while it cooked. Viewed by the slice, its not so bad. The taste, however, was extraordinarily good. The plums remained very tart because I'd used so little sugar; I haven't got much of a sweet tooth at all so feel free to double the quantity of sugar to 1/4 cup should any of you decide to try it, but for me the tartness was perfect. The plums melted into the consistency of preserves, and the almond paste and lavender enhanced their flavor without stealing the show.

a slice of plum tart