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.

Advertisements

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.

Sandwich Bread

Sandwich Bread in a Pan

There’s nothing better than returning home to the smell of freshly baked bread. You just don’t notice it as much if you stick around while the bread is baking. So after I popped this loaf in the oven, I went out for a quick run. It was a cold day too, so returning to an oven-warmed apartment that smelled of bread was a major bonus. It always reminds me of close family friends – their house is always filled with the smell of bread, pie or whatever delicious baked good they have whipped up. They also keep a very well-stocked cellar with shelves and shelves of canned goods and preserves, but that’s for another post.

In the French toast post from a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I had made the sandwich bread myself. Here’s the recipe. I recommend using the bread as soon as you can, ideally while still warm. Two days at most.

Sliced Sandwich Bread

 

Sandwich Bread
Recipe from How to Cook Everything
Makes 1 loaf

 

3 1/2 cups flour
2 tspn salt
1 1/2 tspn instant yeast
1 TBSP sugar or honey
2 TBSP neutral oil or softened butter, plus more for the bowl and pan
1 1/3 cups cool milk

 

Using a stand mixer with the dough hook, combine 1 3/4 cups flour, the salt, yeast and sugar in the bowl. Turn the machine on low and mix together for 5 seconds. With the machine running on low speed, add the oil or butter and milk. Increase to medium speed and mix until the ingredients form a smooth mixture. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the remaining flour. Return to medium speed and mix until a sticky ball forms and it pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface for one minute and shape into a ball. Grease a large bowl with a little oil, add the dough and turn until coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.

Punch down the dough to release any gas. Again, working on a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into a ball. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to prevent the dough from sticking, flatten the dough and shape it into a rectangle. Fold the long sides of the dough to the middle and pinch together with your fingers. Fold under the ends of the loaf as well.

Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with oil or butter. Put the loaf in the pan, seem side down, and flatten with the back of your hand. Cover and let rise until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the pan.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the top of the loaf with water and place in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the loaf on a wire rack.

Sandwich Bread

French Toast with Bananas and Walnuts

French Toast with Bananas and Walnuts

One of my New Year’s food resolutions for 2011 is to make more bread. While I mentioned keeping a sourdough starter going throughout the year in the resolution, the general idea is to focus more on yeast breads. And with a new KitchenAid stand mixer now firmly positioned on my countertop (partly because there’s no where else to put it and mostly because it’s so heavy), prepping bread dough is now a whole lot easier.

A couple of weekends ago I decided to try my hand at a loaf of sandwich bread. Plain old sandwiches weren’t my main objective, although I did make myself a mean grilled PB & banana sandwich at one point. No, I had bigger plans in store – namely French Toast. For most people, I think, French toast and waffles sit on a lofty perch reserved for the breakfast entrée elite. They’re the special breakfast dishes that your parents would make on lazy weekends or the every so often calorie loaded brunch binge. And while I’m sure there are firmly established camps on both sides of the French toast and waffle divide, I’ve always been in the middle. Deciding between the two usually comes down to whatever I’m craving at the moment. And once I decided to make sandwich bread, I knew I wanted to make French toast.

The recipe for this French toast is fairly traditional and comes from the Joy of Cooking. I added the walnuts and bananas, which are a perfect match with French toast and something of a standard option on the brunch circuit. On related of a side note, I highly recommend reading the chapter from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life that tells of her father’s version of French toast. It’s a great read and not just for those that love French toast.

French Toast Breakfast

 

French Toast with Bananas and Walnuts
Adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Serves 4

 

2/3 cups milk
4 eggs
2 TBSP sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 tspn rum
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn salt
8 slices sandwich bread
2-3 TBSP butter
2-3 TBSP vegetable
2 bananas, sliced
1 cup walnuts
Maple syrup for serving

 

In a bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, rum and salt. Fully soak the bread slices in the mixture one at a time and reserve on a cooling rack set over a baking pan.

Heat a large skillet to medium-high and add equal amounts butter and oil, about 1 tablespoon each. Once the butter foams, and working in batches as needed, add 3-4 slices of bread to the pan. Cook until nicely browned on each side. Repeat with the remaining slices, adding butter and oil to the pan as needed.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat, tossing frequently for about 5 minutes.

Serve two slices of French toast per plate and top with the banana slices, walnuts and maple syrup.