Maine Lobster

Lobster Dinner

What would summer in Maine be without lobster? I’m not sure I can answer this question considering that the concept is entirely foreign to me.

A couple of weekends ago, I made the trip up to celebrate my parents 40th wedding anniversary. The night before the big festivities, and after two long days of preparation, we settled in for a classic Maine lobster dinner. Plain and simple – boiled and served with drawn butter for dipping. Add some corn on the cob on the side and it was a perfect meal.

Also, for future reference, eating a lobster dinner outdoors is pretty much mandatory. It’s always easier to clean up the inevitable mess and if it’s summer in Maine, so why not eat outside?

 

Maine Lobster Dinner

 
Maine Lobster 
1 – 1 1/2 pound live lobsters (as many as you want to serve)
Salt

 

Fill a large pot with enough salted water to cover the lobsters. Bring to a boil and add the lobsters one by one. Cook for 5 minutes for the first pound and then 2-3 minutes more for each additional pound (For example, if you have three pounds of lobster, cook for 9-11 minutes). The lobsters are done when they are bright red or, for the technically minded, reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees.

Serve with drawn butter for dipping.

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

When people think of blueberries, they usually think of Maine. Rightly so. During the summer months, you can pretty much gauge the passage of time based on what berries are in season. And you know what’s in season based on what the roadside stands are selling. Luckily for me, we had a few well-cared for blueberry bushes at our house that turned out dozens of pints of berries every summer (they still do). Thanks to my mother’s excellent baking skills, we always had a bounty of blueberry pies and cakes to feast on.

While I might be a little bit ahead of blueberry season here in the mid-Atlantic, I couldn’t pass up the organic blueberries that were on sale at Whole Foods last Friday. At $2 per pint, it was too good a deal to miss. Some friends were hosting a barbecue on Sunday too, so a blueberry pie was in order.

After a phone call with my mother and consulting a few recipe books and blogs (The Joy of Cooking, How to Cook Everything, Simply Recipes), I gained two bits of essential blueberry pie baking knowledge. First, a butter crust is the way to go – forget the Crisco (this goes for all pies). Second, use flour with the berry mixture in order to prevent a soupy pie. Follow this advice and you’ll be on your way to a delicious pie. This was my best effort yet.

Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie

2 1/2 cups flour
2 tspn sugar
1 tspn salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
6-8 TBSP cold water
5 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour, plus 1-2 TBSP
1 TBSP lemon juice
1 tspn lemon zest
Pinch salt
1-2 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs
2 TBSP water

Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse for 2-3 seconds to combine. Add the cubed butter and process until blended and the mixture is corse, about 10 seconds. Put the mixture in large bowl and add the water. Combine with your hands until you can form into a ball. Cut the dough into even halves. Shape each half into a 4-6 inch disk, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Be sure to rinse the blueberries ahead of time and remove any remaining stems. In a large bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt and set aside for 10-20 minutes.

On a floured surface, roll one of the pastry dough discs into a 12-13 inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Fit the dough into a 9 inch pie pan, trimming any extra around the edges and leaving a 1/2 inch overhanging. Fill the pie with the blueberry mixture and dot with the small pieces of butter.

Roll out the second pastry dough disc to the same size as the first.  Carefully cover the pie with the crust and trim the edges to a 1/2 inch. Tuck the top dough under the bottom dough and crimp the edges. Whisk the eggs together with the water to make an egg wash. Use a pastry brush to and fully coat the top of the pie. Cut a few 1-2 inch vents in the pie. Place the pie on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes.  You’ll also want to place a baking pan on the rack underneath to catch any spillover.

Let the pie cool completely before serving.

Blueberry Pie

Meatless Monday: Pearled Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Barley Risotto with Asparagus and MushroomsA Meatless Monday post has been long over due. And given that we’re pretty much at end of asparagus season, this post is a bit over due as well. And while we’re at, any post at all is much over due for this blog. But hey, that’s neither here nor there.

Pearled barley has become one of my new favorite ingredients and it’s great in risotto style dishes. The technique is essentially the same, but it requires a little less stirring than a traditional risotto. I found this recipe via Salon.com, but the original comes from the blog What Would Cathy Eat ?. As any and all bloggers and home cooks do, I improvised a little bit.

 

Pearled Barley Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms
Recipe adapted from What Would Cathy Eat ?
Serves 4-6

 

1 lb asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2-3 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
8 oz. shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
3/4 cup white wine (I recommend Sauvignon Blanc)
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1-2 TBSP butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped (I forgot this step, as you can see in my photo)
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

 

In a stock pot, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the asparagus into a colander and rinse under cold water for 1-2 minutes. Set aside.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sweat for 3-4 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 3-4 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Meanwhile, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer in a sauce pan.

Add the pearled barley to the skillet,stir until coated with oil and mixed in with the onions and mushrooms and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, stir to mix and cook until most of the wine has reduced and evaporated.

Add one or two ladles of stock to the skillet and cook until mostly evaporated, stirring occasionally. Continue adding the stock in this manner until the barley is tender but still a bit chewy. This should take about 30 minutes. If you run out of the stock, feel free to add water until you get the barley is done.

Once you’re finished adding the stock, bring the heat to low and stir in the butter and Parmesan cheese. Mix in the reserved asparagus, parsley and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As with the wine used in the recipe, I recommend serving with a nice Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Wines for Easter

Easter Eggs Photo by vanherdehaage via Flickr

Quick post today, but I wanted to throw out a few wine picks in advance of this weekend’s Easter festivities. As with most holidays, Easter dinner is front and center and a time for family and friends to come together (after attending church, of course…). Most meals traditionally feature a main course of lamb or ham, so I recommend using that as your guide. For lamb, pinot noir or a merlot-dominent Bordeaux are great picks. For ham, you can’t go wrong with a dry reisling or any white with bright acidity.

4 Wine Picks for Easter

2010 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Washington, $14 
Don’t let a riesling scare you away. This Washington state wine is dry, crisp, full of stone fruit flavors.
 
2008 Stift Klosterneuburg Wiener Nussberg Gemischter Satz, Austria, $15 
 The perfect Austrian white for the holiday – it’s made at a monastery that’s been turning grapes into wine for more than 900 years.
 
2009 Joseph Drouhin Laforet Pinot Noir, Bourgogne,$15
An excellent pinot noir from one of the biggest names in Burgundy. 
 
2009 Chateau Robin, Lussac-Saint-Emilion Rouge, Bordeaux, $15 
First growth 2009 Bordeaux futures are selling for over $2000 (per bottle!), but there are plenty of 2009 bargains on the shelves now. Merlot is dominant in this wine, but balanced out with cabarnet franc.
 
All of these wines can be found in the DC area. The most difficult to find is the Stift Klosterneuburg, which is sold at Bell Wine on M Street.