Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rainbow roast

At this time of year here in Maine, the farmers' markets are overflowing with wonderful veggies ready for roasting. And with the cooler nights, it's the perfect time to crank up the oven. I love roasting vegetables. It's super easy and the results taste like I slaved over that hot oven all day. The only secret is making sure everything is cut to roughly the same size. Pretty much any vegetable can be roasted, but here's the run down of what I had on hand the other night.

Roasted vegetables

2 cups baby squash, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 cup rainbow carrots
1 red onion, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat over to 400. Place all the vegetables in a mixing bowl and toss with olive oil until everything is well coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a baking dish in a single layer and place in oven. Stir frequently. Roast until tender, about 25-45 minutes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blog days of summer

Yes, I know, I've been a bad blogger lately. I have tons of photos of yummy vegetable meals. But have I posted any of them? No. Instead, like everyone else, I've been caught up in the whirlwind that is summer.

However, I do have one other excuse for my lackluster posting skills: I've started another blog. It's called Portland in a snap and it lives on On it I'm chronicling things spotted around town, from new restaurants to pieces of public art to fun offerings at local shops. You won't find recipes there, but you will find a photo of a margarita mixing bike. Now, if I can just figure out how to get one of those in my kitchen, life will be perfect.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Citrus fresh

When the heat of summer is pressing into my kitchen, I always welcome a refreshing apéritif to sip as I make dinner. The last few nights I've been blessed with the double luxury of organic lemons and organic lemonade on hand. The result has been a sweet-tart lemon drop.

The drink can be taken in a number of directions. We've tossed in a little fresh squeezed lime juice and garnished with frozen raspberries. However it's mixed, it always helps me keep my cool.

Lemon Drop

6 oz. organic lemonade
2 oz. limoncello
1 lemon, juiced

Shake in cocktail shaker with ice. Strain and pour into martini or old fashioned glass. Garnish with lemon slice. Serves 2.

OPTIONAL: add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 a lime (instead of a whole lemon); garnish with 1/4 cup frozen raspberries or 1/4 cup fresh blueberries.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Breakfast for dinner

With such an abundance of vegetables filling the farmers' market these days, sometimes I can't help but want to eat them all at once. A tasty way to do this is with a crispy vegetable hash. Even though this is traditionally a breakfast dish, I serve it for dinner every once in awhile.

This recipe uses the vegetables I had on hand, but anything from squash to eggplant to tomato would work well in this dish. The quantities are flexible too, in case you don't have 10 carrots to spare.

Market Vegetable Hash

1 onion, diced
6 medium red potatoes, cubed
6 oz. smoky tempeh, diced
1 sweet red pepper
1 ear corn, cut from cob
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup green beans, snapped into 1-inch pieces
10 rainbow carrots, diced
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne powder
salt & pepper to taste

Place potatoes cubes in a vegetable steamer and cook until fork tender. Meanwhile, heat a large cast iron frying pan over medium high heat. Add the diced onions and cook until they begin to caramelize. Add the tempeh and fry until crispy. Add red pepper, corn and green beans. Cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Add carrots, stir for a minute, and finally add the garlic and cooked potatoes. Fry until potatoes get slightly crispy. Sprinkle on spices, salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Blondes have more fun

The Boothby Blonde is one of the fun heirloom vegetables you can find at the Portland Farmers' Market. The tiny cuke is grown from seeds saved by five generations of the Boothby family of Livermore, Maine. Each nugget is sweet and cold, with the crispness of approaching autumn.

For lunch today, I thinly sliced two cukes, laid them on a serving dish and drizzled them with red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. I finished with a sprinkle of salt and a few grinds of pepper. I left the skins on, but because they're so light they look like they've been peeled.

Eating cucumbers this way always reminds me of being in the spacious kitchen at my grandfather's dairy farm. I can see him sitting at the long table, skillfully slicing a garden-fresh cucumber into a white bowl. He liberally splashes vinegar over the coins, before shaking first the salt and then the pepper over the slices. The taste is absolutely delicious.

Today these vinegar blondes made the perfect accompaniment to the quick mujaddara salad I put together. As I've said before, I absolutely love mujaddara because it's so flexible. You can morph it into wraps, pitas, veggie burgers and tacos. Or you can serve it the traditional way, as the base for a salad. Here I paired it with market lettuce and a bruschetta made from juicy heirloom tomatoes, this season's garlic, Maine sea salt and fresh basil.

I love picking up basil at the market. Because most of the farmers sell it cut and tied together and sitting in fresh water, I take it home and let it do double-duty as a fragrant bouquet.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Beet me

I've made many a delicious pizza with sliced and fried potatoes. But this was the first time I used beets. I noticed the beets sitting in my crisper (sad and neglected) when I reached for a few potatoes. I couldn't help but slice one up, fry it and add it to the pizza.

I'd been eager to make a pizza ever since I bought some Maine-made Spelt Right frozen pizza dough. This was the first time I used it, and I was very happy with the results. The crust was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The flavor was pleasing and delicate.

Unlike the crust, nothing was subtle or delicate about these market peppers that I sliced up and piled on the pizza too. The red one was sweet, and the green one, of course, was a tongue-burning jalapeno. Ouch!

You can see I didn't shy away from topping off the pizza with those fiery green rings. But to be honest, I couldn't eat more than two of them. Thank god Adam can handle the heat better than I can, because I'd hate to see any of this delicious pizza of market veggies go to waste.

Farmers' market pizza with smoky tempeh

16 oz. Spelt Right dough, thawed
1/2 cup organic marinara sauce
1 medium red potato, sliced
1 medium beet, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 sweet onion, sliced
1 medium tomato, sliced
1 hot pepper, sliced
1 sweet pepper, sliced
6 oz. smoky tempeh

Preheat oven to 475. Heat two cast iron frying pans on medium high. Coat each pan in olive oil and add potatoes to one pan and beets to the other. Cook 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes and beets are easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, shape the dough into a pizza pan. Spread sauce across the center of the dough. Add a single layer of potatoes. Once you remove all the potatoes from the pan, throw in the garlic slices and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic to the pizza and then cover with a layer of beets. Then add a layer of sliced tomatoes.

Add olive oil to a frying pan and fry until crispy around the edges. Remove from pan and crumble. Add to pizza. Top with onion and pepper slices. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beans, bald benefits & beautiful brides

Summer in Maine is all consuming. Outdoor concerts, lawn parties, beach outings, alfresco dinners, sipping drinks on the back deck - the entertainment options are limitless. As a result, Adam and I seem to fill each precious day to its maximum capacity.

This often means we have a short window of time before, between or after the evening's festivities to cook up and enjoy the amazing bounty we're buying each week from the Portland Farmers' Market. Fortunately for us, these Maine grown veggies are so tasty, they need very little fussing with to bring out their exquisite flavor.

Fresh beans are a terrific example. The green ones dominate the market stands here in Portland, but I can often find exotic and heirloom varieties, such as these purple beauties. I frequently use my garlic-soy stir fry on whatever kinds I have on hand. It takes less than 15 minutes and tastes like a million bucks.

Notice how much of the purple fades out of the beans when they're stir fried. Still they remain delicious, even without their royal glow.

Two staples of Maine farmers' markets at this time of year are corn and potatoes. As a result, they tend to show up in many of our dinners.

The last couple weeks I've been on a mashed potato and corn-on-the-cob kick, as a way to take advantage of these yummy treats. I leave the skins on my mashed potatoes, giving them a twist on the white-washed classic. Just chop, boil, season and mash, and I've got a substantial dish on the table. We paired the two with a salad before heading off to the hysterical Comb Overs for Kids benefit this past Thursday.

Subjecting themselves to the frowns of Portland's fashionistas for the past six months, Allen Fritzler, left, and Marcus Payne grew serious comb overs. Why would they do such a thing? To raise money for the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital, of course. And they surpassed their $5,000 goal at the really fun finale at Margarita's this past Thursday.

Around 8 pm, Marcus and Allen were freed from hairstyle hell by the stylists at the Men's Room. Allen also got a full shave (after the crowd voted to get rid of his beard).

While the Comb Overs will live in infamy for years to come, this week's most memorable event was without a doubt my friend Denise's wedding. She had a beautiful ceremony and a rockin' reception at the Martindale Country Club in Auburn. Her new husband, Dave, made the gorgeous arbor that framed their ceremony.

After dinner (where Denise had the kitchen make me a delicious vegan stir fry), the girls (some of whom are pictured here) kept things moving on the dance floor.

So did Denise, even though her breathtaking dress had quite the train on it. Here Lisa T. is trying to tie it up and get it off the floor. After multiple attempts, it still kept slipping lower. But it didn't matter that a satin hazard was trailing behind her, Denise cut it up with the best of them.

It was an auspicious start to their journey together, and I'm so glad I was able to share in their happy celebration.