Monday, July 29, 2013

My Summer Soup (serves 6-8 as part of a meal)


I look forward to the summer in the Northeast for the abundance of fresh locally-grown produce.  The farmer's market is full of colorful vegetables for many cooking inspirations.  Yesterday my husband and I stopped at a local farm stand and we bought sweet corn and beautiful zucchini. My mother gave me some of her hand-picked Maine crab meat, fresh cilantro and chrysanthemum from the garden. Today I decided to make this soup and used a fresh duck egg from Cracked an Egg Farm. The result is delicious!

My Summer Soup (serves 6-8 as part of a meal)

Ingredients:

30 oz chicken stock, plus 14 oz water)
2 (7-8 oz each) zucchini, shredded (yield 3 1/2 C shredded)
1 C Maine crab meat (preferably fresh)
1 small carrot, shredded (yield 1/2 C shredded)
1/2 medium onion, shredded
1/2 C chopped scallions
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fish sauce (or according to your taste)
1 duck egg, whisk lightly

Method:

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
2) Once the pot is hot add carrot and onion, saute for about 1 minute.
3) Add zucchini and crab meat, saute for about 1 minute.
4) Add chicken stock and water.  Stir a few times and let the broth heat up to a simmer.  About 6-7 minutes.
5) Once the broth has heated up add scallions, cilantro and fish sauce.  Put the whisked duck egg in a bag and cut a small hole (about 2-3 mm) on one corner.  In one hand stir the contents in the pot with a spatula in a circle while on the other hand drizzle the egg from the bag into the pot.  This will make the egg look more like threads instead of clumps.  Once done turn off heat.

fresh local zucchini
shredded zucchini
*This soup takes about 10 minutes to make.  Prior to adding the egg make sure the broth is just simmering.  If you prefer not to use crab meat you can add shrimp, pork or chicken (add one or a combination of these) in the soup.  I normally mince the shrimp, pork or chicken with my cleaver before adding them to the soup.  Instead of chicken stock you can use beef or pork broth.  If you use store bought stock make sure to buy the low-sodium and low fat one.  Adjust the fish sauce according to your taste.
*I took a large handful of chrysanthemum leaves and added to half of the pot. I let the hot soup cook the leaves about a minute, just long enough to make the leaves wilt.  

with chrysanthemum added

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sautéed Goat Hearts (serves 2-3)



Recently I purchased a few young goat hearts from Sherrie, owner of Cracked an Egg Farm.  I had them in the freezer and today I decided to make this dish.  It was inspired by a beef tongue dish that I ate several times when I was in Panama years ago.   I have made a similar dish a few times in the past using beef tongue and they were as delicious as I had remembered.   If you do not have access to goat hearts you can use tongue instead.   The young goat hearts are very tender.   This dish is served with rice.  Thank you Sherrie for the tasty hearts!!

Sautéed Goat Hearts (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

3 young goat hearts (2-3 oz each, about 8-oz total), washed, trimmed off fat and sliced 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 C diced roasted red bell peppers
1/3 C diced roasted green bell peppers
1/4 C chopped onion
1/2 C Polish sauerkraut, washed and squeezed out the water
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
1 small package of Sazón (Goya) con culantro y achiote*
A few pinches of black pepper
2 Tbsp of  fresh chopped cilantro

Method:

1) Heat oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, add onion and garlic.  Saute for about 1 minute.
3) Add the goat hearts, saute for about 2 minutes.
4) Add peppers, sauerkraut and Sazón seasoning.  Saute for about 2-3 minutes.
5) Add black pepper and cilantro and turn off heat.

*Sazón (Goya) con culantro y achiote packages do contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) which can trigger headaches in some people.  You can substitute with a tablespoon of chicken powder instead. For color you can add annatto.  This is sold in the spice aisle or in ethnic food markets.

view from Swasey Park
(Exeter, NH, 2013)

Exeter, NH, 2013

Escargot in Lemongrass and Garlic Sauce (appetizers for 2 people)


When it comes to food do you prefer to eat escargot or snails?   I know some of my friends are scared of just looking at or touching a snail, let alone put one in their mouth!   I am sure some people in the past were fearful of lobsters in similar ways.  They were once eaten only by the poorest people (in the Northeast of United States).  Please do not let the words or the idea of trying new food scare you because you will be missing out on a lot of great tasting treats!

These snails came from my mother.  She got them from her fisherman friend in Maine.  She cooked them, removed the actual snails and kept them frozen in a bag for me.  Of course they are much better fresh if you can get a hold of them.  If you are interested in trying them out please check with your local fishermen for ocean snails. 

Escargot in Lemongrass and Garlic Sauce (appetizers for 2 people)

Ingredients:

18 cooked snails (about 2 C of snail meat), washed well and drained
2 Tbsp fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp of chopped cilantro (plus more for garnish, optional)
1/2 tsp fish sauce
A large pinch of sugar

Method:

1) Finely chop or use a coffee grinder to mince the lemongrass and garlic.
2) Heat oil and butter in a small pan over medium high heat.
3) Once the pan is hot add the minced lemongrass and garlic.  Saute for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
4) Add the snails, saute for about 5-7 minutes.
5) Add fish sauce, sugar and cilantro, saute for another minute and remove.  May serve with crusty bread or toasted baguette. 

*The fresh snails can be gently boiled for about 25-30 minutes.  Once cooked they are easily removed from their shells by a toothpick.  If they do not come out then your snails are not done.  Growing up in Vietnam I remember that some people put guava leaves in the pot for a nice fragrance.  I don't have guava leaves available but I do have lemongrass leaves or tough stalks and that can be used instead.
*I have a small coffee grinder that I use mainly for grinding up herbs and spices.
*My husband likes to soak up the tasty sauce with toasted bread or baguette--so the delicious sauce is never wasted!

view of Little White Head, Monhegan Island, Maine
view of Burnt Head, Monhegan Island
view from White Head, Monhegan Island
(thank you Paul for this photo!!)
*Maine is not only known for the famous and delicious lobsters.   But it is also a "vacationland" with many activities for nature lovers.  If you enjoy the outdoors then this state is for you and it deserves a visit.  I lived in Maine for 16 years and to this day every time I visit I always see something new or interesting.  Most tourists travel to Maine in the summer and fall.  However, the long winter can be cold but there are many activities such as ice fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, winter hiking, snowshoeing, winter camping to name a few.  Recently my husband and I were in Maine for a few days and we visited several quaint coastal towns and islands.  One of the islands we visited was Monhegan Island.  It was and still is an artist colony especially in the summer.  Artists continue to come here for inspiration and to paint the beautiful and breath taking landscapes and seascapes.  There are also many hiking trails for novice to expert hikers.  Once you have been to Monhegan you will understand why artists such as Robert Henri, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, and Doris Rice chose this place to paint.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Maine Lobster in Coconut Sauce (serves 2)


I was inspired to make this dish since I had lobster meat, coconut milk, lemongrass and ginger at home.  This sauce can be served over any type of pasta.

Maine Lobster in Coconut Sauce

Ingredients:

1 lb cooked Maine lobster meat, cut into bite size
165 mL coconut milk
165 mL quick lobster stock (recipe follows) or water
2 Tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
1/2 Tbsp minced ginger
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped Chinese chives
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp Better than Bouillon (lobster base)
1/2 tsp sugar
Cornstarch mixture:  1 tsp cornstarch in 2 tsp of lukewarm water (optional)

Method:

1) Heat oil and butter in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add lemongrass, ginger and garlic.  Saute for about 2 minutes.  Do not let the garlic burn.  Turn heat down slightly if the pan gets too hot.
3) Add the lobster meat.  Saute for about 3 minutes.
4) Add coconut milk, broth, chives, fish sauce, lobster base and sugar.  Stir occasionally and let the liquid comes to a gentle boil.  Add cornstarch mixture to thicken the sauce.  Stir for another minute and remove from heat.


Quick Lobster Stock

Save all the lobster shells and add water enough to cover the shells.  Simmer the liquid for about 40 minutes to 1 hour.  Strain and discard the shells.  Use the liquid as soon as possible or save it in a container and freeze what you do not use.

lobster traps and home
(Monhegan Island, Maine, 2013)

Sautéed Fiddlehead and Garlic (serves 3-4 as part of shared meal)


Fiddlehead is a young fern and it is harvested in the wild in Maine only in the Spring.  I see them growing in abundance in the Northeast.  They are tender and delicious.  I remember many years ago my friends' father, Mr. Armstrong introduced me to fiddleheading near their home.  I was surprised to see so many of them growing wild in the field.  I harvested a huge bag from that day's outing.  My parents' friends in Maine harvest fiddlehead every Spring would give them some.  My mother would freeze a small portion for me.  It is best when you can eat the fresh ones.  However, the frozen fiddleheads are still quite tasty.  I normally like to cook my fiddlehead as simply as possible and it usually involves adding a little fish sauce!  

Sautéed Fiddlehead and Garlic (serves 3-4 as part of shared meal)
 
Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb fiddlehead
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 Tbsp fish sauce (or to your taste)
A pinch of sugar

Method:

1) Heat oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot add garlic.  Saute for about 1 minute (avoid burning the garlic).
3) Add the fiddlehead.  Saute for about 5 minutes.
4) Add fish sauce and sugar.  Saute for about another minute.

fern plants growing along both sides of the path and in the woods
 (Isle au Haut, Maine, 2013)
sunset sailing
(off Isle au Haut, Maine, 2013)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Farmer's Market (Exeter, NH)

Exeter Farmer's Market is a great place to purchase fresh organic produce from the local farmers. The produce that I saw at the market is amazing.  The vegetables are colorful and vibrant--the way they should look!  Some farmers sell fresh eggs (quail, chicken, ducks, and goose), all sorts of organic meat (goat, lamb, rabbit, goose, turkey, duck, chicken, quail, pork and beef), flowers, potted plants and herbs, hand-made soaps, goat cheese, milk, yogurt, maple syrup, prepared food and much much more!  A little rain did scared some folks away but not my fearless neighbor/friend Inge and me. Never let a few rain drops deter you from visiting this wonderful place.  The farmers are friendly, young and full of energy.  They love what they do and it showed.  They will answer any questions you have.

I strongly believe the importance of knowing where my food comes from and also to establish some sort of a relationship with my local farmers.  About a month ago I visited the market and met Sherrie, owner of Cracked an Egg Farm.  At that time I bought some fabulous duck eggs from her.  We were talking and somehow our conversation lead her to inform me that she will be slaughtering a few goats in the next few weeks.  I asked if she could reserve some goat hearts for me.  I am glad I did not scared her off with my request!  I was not able to get to the market until this afternoon.  I contacted her yesterday via email and asked if she could bring the hearts to the market.  She remembered and today I picked up the hearts from her!  I don't know exactly what I will be doing with the hearts yet but hopefully something good.  I also picked up a few packages of goat meat from her.  I cannot wait to cook these items.  Thank you Sherrie!!

If you have ever had a garden before, have done some farm work or have raised farm animals then you will know the work these farmers are doing is just plain back breaking.  Please support your local farmers and buy locally raised and farmed food!  Exeter Farmer's Market is open Thursdays from 2:15 pm to 6:00 pm in Exeter, New Hampshire (May 2 to October 31) located at Swasey Parkway.  There is plenty of parking and they are kids friendly!

beets
purple beans
lettuce
carrots
rainbow chard
garlic
squash
carrots
onions
beans, zucchini & summer squash
soaps
indulge yourself to these special bubble bath soaps!
maple snacks
from Sugarmomma's Maple Farm
pure maple syrup
from Sugarmomma's Maple Farm
Meadow's Mirth farm
leafy greens from Meadow's Mirth farm
Sherrie from Cracked an Egg Farm
(where I purchased
duck eggs, goat hearts and goat meat!)
Live Free Farm

Phil & Becky
from Brandmoore Farm
(where Inge and I bought goat yogurt)
Timothy from Kellie Brook Farm
Anderson's Mini-Maples
Inge at Hickory Nut Farm
Inge at Etta's Soaps
Inge at figtreekitchen
figtreekitchen
Etta's Soaps
Bath and Body
New Roots Farm
pink
white

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Sautéed Squid and Chinese Chives (serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal)


Squid is quick to cook, the less time you spend cooking squid the better it will come out.  If you cook too long the squid will become rubbery and not so enjoyable.  Here is another way that I like to cook squid especially when I have lots of fresh home grown Chinese chives.  My parents' garden is full of these organic Chinese chives and when they stopped by recently they dropped off a cooler full of prepared food and home grown vegetables and herbs for my husband and me.

Sautéed Squid and Chinese Chives (serves 2-3 as part of a shared meal)


Ingredients:

1 lb cleaned squid, scored and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 C chopped Chinese chives
2-3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch mix with 2 tsp water (thickener for the sauce)

Method:

1) Heat oil in a medium size pan over medium high heat.
2) Once the pan is hot, add garlic and chives, saute for about 2 minutes.
3) Add squid and saute for about 3 minutes or until the squid turns opaque and curled up.
4) Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar and cornstarch mixture.  Saute for 1 more minute and remove from heat.

scoring the cleaned squid
(to help tenderize the squid and
to make it look pretty)
my 2 year old nephew learning
to use chopsticks by himself
*I massaged the squid with about a tablespoon of salt and washed it well with cold water.  I put the squid in a colander and let as much of the water drain off before cooking.
*Once you add the squid to the pan there will be a lot of liquid that comes out. If there is too much liquid to your liking then discard some after you have completed step 3. You may want to decrease the amount of oyster sauce, fish sauce and sugar.  
*Check out the link on How to Clean Squid.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Grilled Quails--Vietnamese Style (serves 2)


Some years ago my husband and I were traveling in Vietnam and we ate these bony "grilled pigeons". I think the restaurant owners meant grilled quails.  I remember they were very thin with little meat. I was hungrier after eating them!  Quails are called chim cúc in Vietnamese.

Grilled Quails--Vietnamese Style (serves 2)

Ingredients:


6 quails, washed and removed any feathers, drained
2 lemongrass stalks, peeled off outer leaves and cut off the hard ends, minced
4 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 Tbsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (plus a few more pinches to sprinkle on the quails once grilled)
Butter, optional

Method:

1) Mix the lemongrass, garlic, wine, oil, sugar, fish sauce, black pepper and salt in small bowl.
2) Pour this over the quails and let it marinade for 15-20 minutes.
3) Grill at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-25 minutes.  Turn the quails about every 2-3 minutes.
4) For the last 2 turns brush butter on the each side of the quails.
5) Remove and sprinkle a few pinches of salt on each side of the quails.

grill using either gas or charcoal
large plate of fresh home-grown vegetables and herbs
*I used a plastic bag to marinade the quails.  The bag makes it easy to move the quails around to soak up all the sauce.
*When grilling, turn the quails onto each side every 2-3 minutes for even grilling and to prevent burning.  You can use gas or charcoal to grill.  In Vietnam most grilled food are grilled over charcoal since that is accessible and cheaper for most people.
*You can eat the grilled quails as is or eat with steamed rice or cooked rice noodle accompanied with a large plate of fresh home-grown vegetables and herbs.  You can dip the grilled quails in a Vietnamese dipping sauce.
*I bought these quails in an Asian market.  These quails were raised here in the States.  The last time I was at Market Basket (in New Hampshire) I noticed that they have them available.  Also, check with your local farmers.  If you prefer not to use quails you can use the same marinade for chicken wings. The 6 quails came to about a pound and 10 ounces.