Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Goat Cheese at Seal Cove Farm

We took a little mini-trip to Maine and stayed with friends just outside Bar Harbor. Down the road from the house was the Seal Cove Farm, located on a road called Milky Way.

The farm has a small shop where you can drop in and sample from several of their fresh chevre and aged cheeses. The chevre is prepared both naked or herb encrusted - the dill being one of my favorites. They also sell ash-covered goat cheese pyramids, as well as two different varieties of blended milk cheeses.

Although Elizabeth was eyeing the colossal ash-coated pyramids, we ended up taking home two of the more unusual varieties. Pearl was a goat-cow blend that resembled brie or Bucheron, a rinded cheese with a creamy center. One of the cheese-makers explained that a high-end cheese shop in New York City would buy the cup-cake shaped cheeses and wrap them in sumac leaves to mature in their cellar before re-selling them.

The second purchase was one of the Tommes, a firm disc of aged goat & cow cheese that was steeped in olive oil laced with juniper and pink peppercorns. There were a few blooms on the Tommes that lent a soft blue-cheese tickle that quickly mellowed.

Located just off Route 3, it's an easy drive for anybody visiting Bar Harbor.

Maine Diner - Lobster Roll & Blueberry Pie

Located just north of the Maine-New Hampshire state line is the Maine Diner - just take Exit 19 to Wells and follow the signs down Route 1.

This is an old-school diner wrapped in a postcard-stand simply crawling with tourists...but hey Maine is known as Vacationland, so I won't hold it against them, even despite the fact that the adjacent gift shop bears the title (groan) Remember the Maine.

There was a 30 minute wait to be seated and several people were electing to take the counter seats to cut down on the wait. Once we were in and seated, service was awesomely fast yet I never felt rushed. Specials on the board announced things like Red Flannel Hash and Potluck, but were here for the seafood and began to zero in on the highlights of the menu.

The bowl of seafood chowder here was well stocked with a mix of Maine shrimp (read jumbo salad shrimp), scallops and potatoes; you can see the abundance I dredged up from the bottom of my cup. Elizabeth ordered the she-crab soup, which was a little too gelatinous, having the consistency somewhere between cottage cheese and Elmer's glue . I offered to cut the gooey mess with several spoonfuls of the delicious golden broth of my chowder and after which her cup of she-crab began to resemble a soup.

This is what we were really in search of...the lobster roll. The Maine Diner featured two kinds of lobster rolls, cold and hot. We opted for the classic cold lobster in a hot bun; I was worried that the lobster would be too mayonnaise-coated but it turned out to provide just enough of a binding agent to hold together the sweet lobster claw and knuckle pieces that nearly spilled out from the bun with every bite.

There was also a "Lobster Pie" advertised as a special, but the description seemed to conjure up visions of lobster and stuffing, scooped into a small casserole dish and thrown under the broil to heat through till crunchy.

I was skeptical about the awesome accolades of the blueberry pie on the menu until I saw one go by to a neighboring table. The diminutive Maine blueberry packs more berry flavor due to the smaller size lending more skins to the pie mix. Coupled with the fact that the pie filling itself was not overly sweetened and the crust was homemade, I'd have to say this was the best slice of pie I've had in recent memory.

When I went to pay the check, I mentioned to the cashier how excellent the blueberry pie was and he confessed to never having tried it. I guess being surrounded by lobster and blueberries, you don't really see what all the fuss is about...I know when I used to work in an ice-cream store as a kid the customers would ask how one of the 31 flavors tasted and were somewhat surprised to hear that I didn't know because I never touched the stuff.

Ricotta Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Earlier in the Fall, Headhouse Farmer's market had some bright little Pattypan squash showing - Elizabeth picked up a pint and proceeded later that evening to adapt a recipe from her childhood to reduce our ricotta stockpile.

Claudio's ricotta, at $4 per lb. is a steal - we're basically trying to work it into every dish imaginable. This was one of the better experiments...a gratin of sorts placed into the hollowed out squash.

A mix of sautéed squash & shallots, along with some seasoned ricotta, go back into the squash and into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes until warmed through.

We served the squash alongside roast leg of lamb and prosciutto-wrapped fingerling potatoes for a comforting Sunday Night meal; the fingerlings were a take on something I saw over on Studiokitchen earlier this year, fingerlings cooked in peanut oil, then wrapped in Iberico ham and deep fried. I didn't go as luxe as Shola's version, just boiling the potatoes, wrapping them in prosciutto and finishing them with a pan-fry...neglected to snap a photo of mine but they looked something like this...photogenically nowhere near as close to what Studiokitchen cranks out though.

Riffin on Tiffin - Homemade Keema Mattar

Now that the summer of the burger is over, it seems like pizza will be the new food proving grounds in Philly kitchens. Cruising by Starr's new Stella tonight and seeing the packed crowds of happy diners munching down on thin-crust pizza got me in the mood to recall one of our pizza experiments at home.

Recent favorites of ours are Tiffin's pizza offerings. The Indian twist on thin crust was right up our alley...and considering our near addiction to lamb, the Keema Mattar pizza, a minced lamb and pesto pizza pictured above, seemed like the perfect redux for home.

SuperFresh had a leg of lamb on sale last week for under $15, so I portioned it out into a shank, a roast and then minced the scraps up for the Keema Mattar topping.

The minced meat was simply seasoned and seared...I added a little dry mint to the meat as it finished, just to make sure that the flavor came through.

The pesto was a blend of mint and parsley, with a clove of garlic.

I didn't have time to pound out some pizza dough and then let it rise, so I used two pieces of lavash bread for the crust, brushed in olive oil and slathered in a greek yogurt and ricotta mix. These went into a 500 degree oven for a quick crisp.

Once the crust had firmed up, I just sprinkled on some peas and minced lamb to coat.

The end result wasn't even close to Tiffin's (the pesto was too minty and when it mixed with the ricotta it tasted "like toothpaste" quipped Elizabeth) . Next time, I'll probably not cheap out on the dough by going pre-made, use less topping and spread it around a bit more and most definitely go easier on the mint, maybe blending in some spinach with the pesto instead of parsley.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sopes - Crab & Tomatillo vs Chorizo

Having picked up a large amount of tomatillos from the market, we wanted to roast them slightly and combine them with crab to serve on a masa flour sope. The crab mixture was seasoned with a little bit of olive oil and small diced hot peppers fro a tickle of heat.

Here's a great post on creating sopes and then loading them up with all sorts of toppings; it's a good guide to making sopes the right way. We cheated a bit on ours and didn't crimp the rims because it really uses alot more oil to fry these little guys and we were trying to make them not heavily fried.

The chorizo was standard fare picked up from Whole Foods. Crumbled atop a smidge of greek yogurt to keep the heat in check and help hold it to the pan, the spicy sausage was a contract to the tangy & cool crab.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tortillita - Savory Spanish Seafood Chickpea Pancake

We recently bought a bag of chickpea flour, hoping to recreate a version of hummus that we hadn't enjoyed for years. Unfortunately, we were totally off the mark with the recipe and as a result we wound up with lots of the stuff to experiment with.

Watch Mark throw one together in a demonstration video - as always his low-key delivery underscores how straightforward this thing is to make, plus he talks a lot about his several attempts and the variations.

Tortillitas hit all of our favorite criteria; appetizer/tapas sized, involves some type of seafood, and is easy to create in a pinch using basic ingredients, except for the chickpea flour.

1/2 cup chickpea flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion or scallions
About 1/2 cup raw shrimp, chopped, or scallops or other shellfish or fish
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chives, parsley, thyme or cilantro
Olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, I like this recipe becasue it's easy to memorize the ratios - 1/2 regular flour to 1/2 chickpea flour, then an amount of water equal to the amount of flour...just remember to put in 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder for every cup of flour you use.

Slowly add in the water...the chickpea flour will cause the mix to clump up if you go too fast.

The recipe mentioned throwing the fish or shellfish into the batter, then ladling it into a hot pan for a shallow fry in the olive oil, but we found that it was best to keep the fish out, ladle the mix in and immediately throw the fish on top as you evened out the batter...you have more control with your placement of the fish and can spread it around, plus the portioning comes out equal and you're not left with one skimpy tortillita and one bulging with fish.

Flip it after about 3 minutes as the edges get crispy; you can use the traditional pancake toss if you want, but I didn't want the fish slopping all over the place, so I turned it in the pan.

After it's golden on the other side, about 3 more minutes, just remove and serve. Here we sliced it into wedges, garnished with a bit of the fish and served it on a bed of warmed rocket.

The flavor of the chickpea flour delivers the umame while the lack of gluten in creates a crispier texture around the edges of the tortillita. You can use pretty much any kind of seafood with this - cod, shrimp, calamari - it just has to be cut small enough to cook fast and not break the pancake as it's forming.

We've made them for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks and they never fail to please.