A couple of days ago we crossed the border into Maine — yippee!! This photo is of a highway sign that captures pretty well, the whole premise of the easternmost of the U.S. States. By next week we’ll be at our final destination — Nicatous Lake in Downeast Maine. Once there, we’re planting ourselves for 8 days. The area around Nicatous is remote, with no electricity, running water or cell phone reception. What you will find there is a 40-mile long freshwater lake full of bass and wall-eye/pickerel, and surrounded with loons, osprey, coyote, deer, eagles, beaver, frogs and immense quiet. I can’t wait to get there...
But first, we’re hanging out in the more touristy coastal area where T grew up, visiting with family and letting T get back to his roots. Maine’s shores are unbelievably beautiful with thousands of miles of rocky coastline and clean sweet air. Little wonder it is invaded every summer with vacationers (like us) hungry to leave urbananity behind.
We’re also getting our fill of the incredible way Mainers have with seafood — creamy stews and chowders crowded with meat and still smelling of the sea, perfectly deep-fried popcorn-size Maine shrimp, clam strips, scallops and haddock with just a kiss of breading, and of course, steamy fresh-from-the-dock lobsters, mussels and clams.
Maine is renown for the incredibly sweet lobsters that abound in the cold waters of the Atlantic here, but what is less known is that Maine is home of the best fried seafood in the United States — Bar none. Truly, only in Italy and Greece have we had better fried seafood, but those were in a completely different style and variety of catch. And the best place to savor Maine’s deep-fried seafood done right is at the Sea Basket in Wiscasset (there’s a limerick in there somewhere, but I’m not that talented...). The way deep-fried is done at the Sea Basket, even the french fries aren’t greasy and taste of true potatoes. This is one place not to be missed if ever you’re between Boothbay and Bath, or on your way up to Acadia. It’s right on Route 1, just before you enter the town of Wiscasset if you’re coming from the south. We’ll be there one more time before we leave, because we didn’t have the oyster stew on this first visit.
And speaking of all things Maine, if you believe there are moose in this state, there’s still time to enter to win a copy of the “Moose Watcher’s Handbook” that GL is giving away on June 30th on her site, Maine Musing... check ‘em out!
Sunset from West Harpswell Island our first night back.
When I hear the term “pot pie” I first think of flaky pastry encasing a creamy filling of savory chicken and vegetables. But around here, so near to the Amish and Pennsylvania Dutch country just to the north, if you ask for “chicken pot pie” you are more likely to be served a casserole type dish with large chunks of chicken and large flat toothsome noodles as in the photo above. One of our finds at the Dutch Country Farmer’s Market in Burtonsville last week was dried pot pie noodles, so of course this meal had to follow...
This is my own take on the Dutch country style chicken pot pie — the broth is made with ginger, as well as the more usual onions, black peppercorns, and carrots (which are all removed when the broth is made) then finished simply with chervil and flour to thicken.
CHICKEN & POT PIE NOODLES
For 4 persons
For the Broth:
2 lbs/ 1kg chicken thighs
2 fingers of ginger, wahed well, and cut into thick slices
1 large onion, trimmed, peeled and cut in quarters
2-3 medium carrots, washed and cut in half crosswise
1 tsp. black peppercorns
3 qt/L water
Combine all ingredients in large 6qt/L slow cooker set on HIGH. After 3 - 3 1/2 hours, remove chicken to clean bowl and separate meat from skin and bones, reserving meat. Line colander with clean cheesecloth, and strain broth, discarding all solids. Return broth and meat to slow cooker and set again on HIGH.
Finish “Pot Pie”:
2 cups/ 500ml boiling water
1 tsp. dried chervil
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper
dried pot pie noodles
4 TBL. flour dissolved in 1/2 cup water
Add to slow cooker, cover and cook for 40 minutes — noodles should be softened but not falling apart. Add 1/2 cup hot broth to the dissolved flour mixture, and stir well. Make a well in the center of the noodles, and pour flour mixture into well and stir through completely. Cook another 20-30 minutes, or until broth thickens.
This is comfort food at its best. With the whole wheat loaf and fresh churned butter (also from the Market), and an ice cold Yuengling lager (in keeping with the Penn country theme), cool summer al fresco meals don’t get better than this.
When we first saw these green garlic stems in the Korean groceries, my first thought was to pickle them but actually I’ve done everything BUT pickle them so far! Once the stems are trimmed and cut to the desired length, they are sauteed in olive oil creating both a fragrant oil and a pre-cooked aromatic that you can quickly add to anything for a flavor boost — eggs and cheese for a hearty morning scramble or omelet; and pasta sauces, stews and soups to replace or supplement other aromatics such as onions and garlic. Garlic stems have a milder but distinctly garlic flavor, and soften to a pleasant bite once cooked.
One end of the stems has a bud which will eventually “blossom” with miniature cloves that make an interesting garnish, and which will be delicious once pickled. (I *will* pickle these soon.)
In this quick recipe for steamed periwinkles in white wine sauce, we used the same broth we would use for steamed clams and simply replaced regular minced garlic cloves with a half bunch of chopped garlic stems The stems are milder than garlic cloves so the copious amount was necessary to bring out the same garlic pungency.
We first tried periwinkles last year, and the ones we got in Hawaii came from Canada. These were more local, but at H-Mart were labelled as “Bai Top Shells.” They require considerably more cleaning than the ones we got in Hawaii if you plan to use them in this dish where the shells are added directly to the cooking broth, and the broth is consumed as part of the meal. It seems from a scan of recipes for bai top on the web, that in Korean dishes, the meat is extracted from the shell and the shells are discarded so they are sold more naturel, as it were.
The one thing I can say about the periwinkles we got this time is that they were VERY fresh. So fresh that after scrubbing them and draining them, I put the shells in the fridge to keep cool while I prepped the broth, and when I went to take them out, I was greeted with this:
I thought to myself: I can freak out, or I can grab my camera... As you can see, I went for the photo-op. (This photo is going out to Rowena, who first mentioned the possibility of snails in the fridge on her blog last month!)
STEAMED PERIWINKLES with GARLIC STEMS & WHITE WINE
For 4-5 persons
2 lbs. periwinkles (aka bai top)
2 TBL olive oil
Half bunch of garlic stems, washed, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
4 TBL unsalted butter
1/2 tsp sea salt (not necessary if using regular butter)
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 bottle dry white wine (we used a Vinho Verde)
½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Make a saline soaking liquid by mixing 1/4 cup sea salt with 2 quarts/liters cold water, and stir to dissolve salt. Clean the shells by first soaking in this saline solution for 30 minutes to loosen dirt on the shells. Using a hard bristled brush, such as a nail brush or firm toothbrush, scrub shells free of dirt and place in colander. Rinse all shells under running water. Keep in fridge until needed. (Note: If you don’t plan to cook the shells the same day you buy them, don’t clean them until just before you plan to cook.)
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and garlic stems over medium high heat until garlic aroma fills the kitchen. Add butter, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes if using, and heat until butter is melted through and bubbling. Add white wine, and bring to boil. Add periwinkles, stir through, and add enough water so that broth comes 3/4 of the way around shells, and cover. Return to boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 10 minutes.
Serve with a toothpick to extract meat from shell, and lots of fresh bread to sop up the buttery, garlicky broth!
If you’ve visited this site before (first, thanks for coming back), you may know that we LOVE farmers’ markets, orchards, produce stands, dairies, and even all kinds of groceries and markets. Now that local farmers’ markets are back in full swing, we’ve had fun checking out different ones all over the area. Many we can reach by Metrorail or bus. And while we always love fresh produce, it has been especially fun exploring local dairy, including these lovely farm fresh eggs from Maryland producer, Evensong Farms, and available at the Silver Spring Saturday market. The different colored eggs are from different breeds, and the yolks ranged in color from deep orange to deep yellow, depending on what the free ranging chickens were eating.
Another Maryland producer we found at the Saturday Takoma Park farmers’ market was Cherry Glen Goat Cheese Co. that makes this striking goat milk chevre with a layer of vegetable ash. The cheese has a mild barnyard essence which was pleasant, but not very ripe. We would like to try this again and try to ripen it ourselves to give it more character. (My question is, where are the sheep’s milk cheese producers?)
From slightly farther afield was Pennsylvania’s Keswick Creamery (TP Saturday market) from whom we bought a thick and mild full-fat yogurt, sweet ricotta and aged cheddar.
A new salad green for us were these lamb’s quarters (top left), which went into both a salad and one of our all-time favorites, the Greek cornmeal and greens casserole called Plasto (bottom left). The rainbow chard joined in on the medley for the Plasto, but was also the star of a spicy pasta dish with currants (bottom middle). The last veg there are salad turnips, which are eaten whole and added incredible sweetness to a salad which included the turnip greens, lamb’s quarters, and mixed baby greens (bottom right).
Another new find for us are these green garlic stems which we’ve bought at both the TP farmer’s market and Korean Korner supermarket. The green stems can be pickled, but we’ve been cooking with them in everything from sauces, plasto, soups, and pasta. Most recently it replaced garlic when we cooked up a batch of local periwinkles (recipe soon).
Market goers in Northern Virginia and Baltimore may recognize the name, Reid’s Orchard, for their fresh produce and potted and snipped herbs in farmers’ markets in their area, but they may not know that this southern Pennsylvania producer has introduced its first vintage of some truly lovely wines. Sadly, these wines will not be available at the farmers’ markets due to byzantine and archaic interstate alcohol regulations. We stopped by the orchard when we visited Gettysburg — there is a tasting room about 15 miles in the rolling hills west of the national park at Gettysburg. Reid’s Orchards joins several other wineries in the neighborhood that also have tasting rooms, so you can make a nice afternoon of tastings after a morning exploring battlefield history. We’ve tried several Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia wines and have found many of them too sweet for our taste — these 2 blends from Reid were a welcome surprise for their dryness and round fruit. More about them soon.
Just today I discovered the Dutch Country Farmer’s Market in Burtonsville, MD, which is an indoor marketplace for individual producers, including a dairy, several bakeries, beef and pork butchers, poultry butcher, bulk foods and jams, prepared salad deli, hot cooked and BBQ meats, fresh candies, and a small cafe. As its name implies, the foods invoke the Pennsylvania Dutch Country ambience. Brought home unsalted churned butter, a loaf of whole wheat bread, and pot pie noodles. The crockpot is prepping the chicken and broth for our pot pie dinner tonight!
This last photo is just a strange thing we found at one of the Korean markets nearby — it’s a mega loofah bath sponge sold as a whole piece. For less than $2. I couldn’t resist this one because it was just like the ones my mom used to send me from her garden when I was in college — it’s fully dried, but still has some residual seeds in the interior. Mom’s never grew quite this large, though! This will be cut up into about 5 sponges so this should last about a year, though T. suggested keeping it whole and using the small end as handle so you can scrub your own back. When this vegetable is still young and edible (it may be called bottlegourd, luffa or upo), it makes a soul-satisfying soup squash.
Maine Musing, or clicking on the photo of the book (at right).. The giveaway closes on June 30, 2009 so there’s still plenty of time to enter!
But back to the road trip... I don’t know why being locked in a car for long periods of time has always signalled that it’s OK to eat junk food, but let’s go with that! I’ve already started collecting some of our favorite munchies — plenty of salty crunchy things and some sweets thrown in for good measure. But it’s been a long time since we’ve done a long trip so we’re a little out of practice, and I feel like we’re probably missing out on some good stuff. We would love suggestions for snack and junk foods — what are your must-haves when you’re hauling yourself around on the road or long train trip???
If anyone has any recommendations for good eats along U.S. I-95 between DC and Boston, we would welcome those, too — truck stops, cafes, restos, we love them all!! We’re familiar with the drive between Boston and our destination and are already planning to stop at Dysart’s near Bangor, ME either going to or coming from the camp. But we don’t really know the corridor between Boston and DC so would love to hear from more seasoned travellers. Thank you!
Maybe Kiowea will see a real moose on this trip...
In honor of World Oceans Day today, I’d like to focus on some culinary wonders from our oceans that are greatly under-appreciated outside of Asia and a few ocean communities elsewhere. The unfortunate moniker “Seaweed” probably has a lot to do with it — after all, who wants to eat “weeds”? I’ve used the term “sea grass” in other posts, but perhaps “sea vegetable” would be even better…
At any rate, we’re talking about the kelp and other ocean algae and fauna that are known as Kombu, Nori, Wakame, Dulse, Hijiki and Ogo. There has been a lot of focus on choosing sustainable fish and seafoods for World Oceans Day, which is all good, but I also think that greater emphasis can be made of the nutritional and culinary value of sea vegetables.
For starters, sea vegetables are naturally low in calories, but pack a punch in their high mineral and fiber content. They are generally neutral in flavor, but loaded with Umami which enhances and takes on flavors from the medium in which they’re cooked. Most sea vegetables are sold completely dehydrated, which makes them extremely shelf stable and easy to keep on hand until you need them. This is a quick survey of some of the most common types of sea vegetables available, what they look like, how to prepare them for cooking, and some ideas for how to cook with them. For a more detailed survey of the science in sea vegetables, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization report on Sea Vegetables is a great primer.
KOMBU (Laminaria japonica): This website actually began (albeit as a private site) with a recipe for preparing Kombu in the Okinawan tradition. Kombu is actually a brown kelp, the giant form of sea algae that grow in massive forests from the ocean floor (see photo above from Monterey Bay). I’ve always wanted to scuba dive in one of these forests, although a close friend of mine who has done so says it’s one of the scariest dives she’s ever done because the kelp forests can be very disorienting (you can’t tell up from down sometimes). As a food, Kombu is reputed to have led to the discovery of umami, the elusive “Fifth Taste” that might be translated from Japanese as “deliciousness”. It is one of the main ingredients in the dashi broth that is essential to many Japanese foods. Kombu is available dried: in short strips for use in preparing homemade dashi; in long folded strips to be rehydrated (see photo above) and either knotted or used to wrap other vegetables or meats for use in simmered stews and soups; already knotted and ready to simmer; and (harder to find) in small shreds for simmered side dishes.
To use Kombu in Dashi, simply place a kombu square in a medium saucepan with 6-7 cups of water to make a vegetarian broth and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes(???). For the more traditional fish broth, add 2 cups (??) of dried bonito flakes after the water has come to a boil, then immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the kombu and strain out the fish flakes before using the light-colored liquid as a seasoning ingredient or base for soups and simmering sauces.
To use Kombu for knots or wraps: Place kombu in copious amount of cold water. Dried kombu strips can be very brittle, so be gentle when attempting to submerge the folded strips in water — if the dried kombu cracks, it is much more difficult to tie proper knots after it is re-hedrated. It will take 30-45 minutes to completely re-hydrate, but if left too long (more than 2 hours) the kombu can also over-soften and be difficult to work with. You might consider using the soaking water for your plants or compost if you’re not using it in a recipe — the high mineral content and iodine can help replenish overworked soils. Recipe: Okinawan-style Simmered Kombu (coming in future, Ashitibichi: Okinawan Pig’s Feet Soup, in photo above).
WAKAME (Undaria pinnatifida): If you’re a fan of Japanese style miso soup, then you’re already well-acquainted with the dark green algae known as Wakame. Perhaps less familiar is wakame as a salad vegetable — it is especially popular when paired with cucumber as a side dish for any fish meal. To prepare wakame, simply soak in water for 30-40 minutes, then gently rinse and drain. Recipe: Namasu (Pickled Daikon, Carrot and Wakame) (photo above)
NORI (Porphyra umbilicalis): The dark purple laver that makes up the crisp dark sheets covering sushi rolls and musubi (pictured) is probably the most popular of the sea veg. It doesn’t require much preparation before use except maybe a re-crisping over direct heat if the Nori has lost its crispness. In addition to wrapping sushi and musubi, nori can be cut into slivers or crumbled and used to top salads and stir-fried noodles, or cut into squares as a topping for ramen noodles. A more unusual nori preparation is nori tsukudani, a thick paste of nori simmered with dashi and sake (sold in bottles in the chilled section) — most often used as a condiment to season plain rice or to fill musubi, but you might also try it on fish or chicken before baking or grilling, or added to a seafood dip for extra flavor and nutrition.
OGO (Gracilaria spp.): Sold fresh as limu or ogo in the Pacific, especially Hawaii, it is eaten as a vegetable either mixed with fresh fish or seafoods as in Poke (octopus-limu poke in photo above), or with other vegetables in a dressed salad. Simply rinse and blanch before using. Recipe idea: Kajiki with Pomegranate Ogo.
I also came across a note that in the West Indies, ogo is called “sea moss” and is reputed to have aphrodisiac properties — it is used there to make a popular drink! But many people may not know that they have seen ogo in its powdered form without realizing it — powdered ogo is the base for Agar-Agar, a clear vegetarian substitute for gelatin.
DULSE (Palmaria palmata): I have to confess that we’ve never actually tried Dulse, although we have a package of it somewhere amongst the boxes we have still not unpacked since our move. Dulse is a red sea vegetable commercially produced in Maine(!) and Canada, and marketed in health food and other nutritional retail sources. It can be rehydrated and used as a vegetable, but is also being marketed as a dried snack food, too. (Where IS that package of dulse we have?…)
HIJIKI (Hizikia fusiforme): This black string-like vegetable is actually a brown seaweed similar to kelp, and rich in fiber and minerals, especially calcium, iron and magnesium. Once re-hydrated, hijiki is most often stir-fried then simmered with carrots and fried tofu to make a nutritious side dish, Hijiki no Nimono (recipe below) that would be part of a larger meal including rice, soup, fish or met, and other vegetable dishes. Of all the sea vegetables, hijiki is second only to kombu as my favorite.
But it comes with a warning — consume in modest quantities. Eating more than 4.7g of rehydrated hijiki in one day *might* result in the intake of an unhealthy level of inorganic arsenic, according to a published study in Canada. The Canadian government, as well as those of the U.K., Hong Kong, and New Zealand have issued advisories against consumption of hijiki for this reason (see reports by country). However, the results of this study are in dispute because other chemicals used in the study may have turned harmless organic arsenic into inorganic arsenic — in other words, inorganic arsenic would not be found in the actual vegetable. The Japanese government in particular disputes this study. The best summary of this whole controversy is available on the Eden Organic (brand) website.
When I first heard about these warnings, I was naturally concerned — I love hijiki! We don’t eat hijiki on a daily, or even monthly, basis but I still wondered if we could be eating too much when we did have it. So how much is 4.7g of hijiki?
My kitchen scale measures in 2g increments so when it was flashing between 4 and 6 grams, I took that to be about 5 grams. Measuring the dried hijiki, 5 grams is about what I normally cook at one time and this would be about 4-6 servings. Remember this is part of a mixture with carrots, tofu and/or edamame, and we rarely, if ever, eat hijiki as a main course, it is either a side dish or even a condiment (to top or mix in with rice). The 5g of dried hijiki came out to 58g after it was rehydrated. And 5g of rehydrated hijiki = one heaping Tablespoonful, which is about one serving size once added with all the other vegetables.
We’re not giving up hijiki — I do believe that hijiki is perfectly safe when eaten in sensible amounts. In fact, for World Oceans Day, we’re even going to resolve to include it and all the other edible sea vegetables in a larger percentage of our diet. So when you think of eating your veggies, don’t forget the ones that come from the Oceans!
Happy World Oceans Day, Everyone!
HIJIKI NO NIMONO
Serves 4-6 as a side dish (photo shows 6 side dish servings)
(See discussion above)
1 TBL extra light olive oil
2 TBL or 6 tsp. (5g) dried hijiki
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
3 pieces fried tofu pieces, abura age
(OR 6 oz./ 170g edamame, green soybeans, shelled)
1 tsp. raw sugar
1 tsp. dashi powder + 1/2 cup water
OR 1/2 cup dashi broth
2 TBL. mirin
1-2 TBL. soy sauce
sea salt, if needed
Soak hijiki in enough cold water to cover by 1 inch and set aside for 30 minutes. Discard soaking water and rinse in colander. Allow to drain.
If using abura age, slice into thin slivers, as in photo. (Available in the chilled or frozen sections of your Korean or Japanese market.) Keep aside until needed.
Heat wok or small skillet ovr medium high heat. Add oil and drained hijiki, stirring to coat hijiki lightly with oil. If using powdered dashi concentrate, sprinkle over hijiki and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over hijiki, and stir fry another minute. Add carrots and abura age or edamame, and dashi broth or water, mirin and soy sauce, and stir to combine. Taste cooking broth and correct for seasoning — if more salt is needed, add sea salt instead of more soy sauce. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove cover and simmer another 3-4 minutes, or until most of sauce is evaporated and thickened.
Serve at room temperature as part of a multi-course meal including rice, miso or other soup, salads, vegetables, and fish or meat. Possible accompaniments for your meal: Steamed Fish with Ginger & Scallions, Kochujang Chicken, Stuffed Shiitake Medaillons, Watercress Dumplings, Kabocha Salmon Patties, Lychee Sake Pork Stir-fry, Kasu-marinated Butterfish, Mahi-mahi Patties with Lemongrass & Lime Leaf, Pan-fried Opakapaka with Spiced Cabbage Salad, Kajiki with Pomegranate Ogo, Miso Butterfish, Namasu (Pickled Daikon, Carrot and Wakame), Miso-glazed Chicken, Cod with Mango-Sake Sauce, Flash-cooked Watercress, Choi Sum with Spicy Garlic Sauce
More recipes using Sea Vegetables: Crispy Nori-Wrapped Walu & Shrimp with Papaya Coulis, Curry-Glazed Cod with Wasabi-Sea Salad Soba, and Kajiki with Pomegranate Ogo, Namasu, Ashitibichi, Kombu. Many more to follow...