Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake – In Honor of Maine Maple Syrup

This cake, like many delightful life events, came to me by accident.  You see, it’s maple syrup time here in Maine and many of our friends with maple trees are boiling their sap.  Their weekends are taken by all-day boils and then sometimes even staying up late to tend the wood fires.  They are surrounded by steam, wood smoke, and enveloped eventually with the ultimate reward of sweet maple syrup.

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake

We don’t have maple trees on our property, so this is not a family ritual for us, but to honor our friends and the heritage of Maine maple syrup, I wanted to create a cake without sugar and to replace it with maple syrup.  While I was at it, the idea of using coconut oil, a healthier oil than canola or vegetable oil nudged its way into my process.

This lovely number is delicious, if a tad less moist than the original cake.  I then conjured a glaze with a maple liqueur, given to me by a favorite Canadian guest, and the results were addictive.

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake

Zucchini Maple Pecan Cake
1 teaspoon salted butter and flour for the pan
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup coconut oil
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups grated zucchini; about 1 medium (or a portion of a huge one)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Glaze
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons Gélinotte or other maple liquor

Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour one 9- x 13-inch pan. In a large bowl thoroughly mix the oil, maple syrup, zucchini, and vanilla extract. Add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Transfer to prepared pan.

Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Glaze
Combine the butter, syrup, and liquor in a small bowl and while the cake is still warm, brush the top with the glaze mixture. It may seem like a lot at the beginning, but it will soak in (and be delicious). Cool in the pan and slice into 12 or 16 pieces.

Serves 12 to 16

 

 

Chicken Paprikash with Wide Hand-cut Noodles

Several weeks ago, a friend surprised me by bringing dinner to my family – unannounced and seemingly without cause. There hadn’t been a death or tragedy in our family. She just knew that I’d had a busy week, could see that I was a little ragged around the edges, and could use a little care. It’s rare when someone makes me dinner and it was such a gift to be given a night off from the planning all the way to the cleanup for one busy weeknight.  Thank you, Friend.

Holding that care in my heart long after the meal had disappeared from our plates, I was making this Chicken Paprikash several nights later and decided to make extra. To pay that care given to me forward to another friend, also a busy working mom.

Chicken Paprikash with Wide Cut Noodles Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Chicken Paprikash
This recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The dark meat on chicken is much more flavorful and in a stew type dish holds up a little longer, allowing for an extended cooking time to develop more flavor before it completely falls apart in shreds as chicken breasts are likely to do.

If you plan to freeze or refrigerate this dish to serve later, leave out the sour cream. When you reheat it, add the sour cream just before serving. It won’t curdle if you freeze it and it will keep longer if you refrigerate it.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 cups diced onions; about 1 large onion
1 1/2 cups diced green bell pepper, seeded and diced; about 1 large pepper
2 tablespoons minced garlic; about 2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
several dashes of Worcestershire
8 ounces button mushrooms, quartered; about 3 cups
1 cup sour cream
2 ounces finely shaved Romano cheese; about 1 cup lightly packed (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large, wide stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, salt, and pepper to the pot and cook until browned on all sides. Add the onions, peppers, garlic and paprika and sauté for another 10 to 15 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the tomato paste, stirring for about a minute. Add the wine, tomatoes, and Worcestershire. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes. Add water if needed. Add the mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes.

Stir in the sour cream. Serve with noodles, potatoes, rice, or polenta. Garnish with Romano cheese.

Serves 4 to 6

Wide Hand Cut Noodles Photo by Elizabeth Poisson

Wide Hand Cut Noodles

Wide Hand Cut Noodles

Wide Hand-cut Noodles
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
6 teaspoons or more water, if needed

On the counter, combine flour and salt and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and yolks into the well and stir with the tips of your fingers working the flour on the outside into the eggs. Add enough water to bring the mix together in a ball. The water will vary with the size of the eggs and the moisture in the flour. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for 10 to 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover to prevent a dry skin from forming and let rest for 45 minutes. Roll out the dough using a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine to create sheets of pasta, dusting with flour where needed.  You should be able to see through the sheets when you are finished. Lay the sheets of pasta out on the counter and roll them up loosely into a log.  Cut strips 3/4-inch wide and then toss to loosen the roll until you are ready to cook.

When ready to serve, drop the pasta loosely into a pot of salted, boiling water. Stir well but gently. The pasta is done when it floats or is al dente – just the tiniest bit firm when you bite into it, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6

Sailing in Maine – Life is Good!

Yup, well the photo says it all for me…

homemade chicken noodle soup, leftover ravioli, chicken soup recipe, sailing in maine, sailing on the bay, maine windjammer

Sailing.  In Maine.  On the Riggin.  Eating Chicken and Homemade Ravioli Soup.  Done.

homemade chicken noodle soup, leftover ravioli, chicken soup recipe, sailing in maine, sailing on the bay, maine windjammer

And as for the recipe…

homemade chicken noodle soup, leftover ravioli, chicken soup recipe, sailing in maine, sailing on the bay, maine windjammer

Chicken and Homemade Ravioli Soup
Make your own chicken stock
Saute diced onions, carrots, and celery in butter
Add some white wine, sea salt, and fresh black pepper
Add stock, then chicken picked from the bones
Add the fresh ravioli just before serving along with fresh herbs
Serve with grated Parmesan if you like

homemade chicken noodle soup, leftover ravioli, chicken soup recipe, sailing in maine, sailing on the bay, maine windjammer

Annie
Life IS good!

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime

The other day someone asked me, “What do I do to cover up the smell of fish?  I like it, but sometimes it just tastes and smells too strong.”

Pause.  Beat.  “Ahhh, okay, how ‘bout let’s talk about how to buy fresh fish first.”  Because it shouldn’t smell fishy at all.  The adjectives and phrases that should be coming to mind are something in the vicinity of briny, salty, like the sea, like an ocean breeze that travels across the water picking up moisture and the scent of it’s inhabitants.  NOT, whew!, dang, this stinks!, but maybe I’ll eat it any way.

This is as true for the taste of fish as well as the smell.  It should feel silky on your tongue and almost melt in your mouth.   It should suggest of the sea, not hit you over the head with a low-tide mouthful.

To buy fish well, you must ask to smell it before you buy it.  (See the above for what it should smell like.)  You must also look at it.  You want pieces that are full, firm, and shiny but not watery.  They shouldn’t be dry on the surface or be in anyway falling apart.  If you are buying whole fish, look at the eyes.  They should be clear, not opaque.  Don’t be afraid to offend the fish monger, the good ones understand.  Even the smell of the store is a hint.  It should be and smell clean and yes, with a hint of fish, because after all that’s what they are selling, but the scent of ocean is what you should come to mind when you walk in the door.

Be brave and ask questions.  Develop a relationship with your local fish monger.  Who knows, they might even grant you a fish story or two.

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime by Elizabeth Poisson

 

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime
2 pounds of salmon, skin removed and cut into 4 to 6 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans, stem ends removed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated ginger
6 ounces spinach; about 8 cups lightly packed
zest from 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; about 1 lime
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
pinch of salt, if needed
wedges of lime for garnish
lime zest for garnish

In a deep dish platter, marinate the salmon with the vinegar, tamari, and pepper for 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Reserve the marinade.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the salmon, top side down, cover with a lid, and pan-sear for 3 minutes. Carefully flip the salmon and sear for another 2 minutes or until the salmon is still slightly darker pink in the center. Remove the salmon from the pan to a platter and return the pan to the heat. Add the green beans, garlic, ginger, and reserved marinade and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until the beans are bright green and hot all the way through.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, zest, lime juice, pomegranate seeds and hot beans. Taste for salt. Transfer the greens mixture to individual plates or to a platter and serve the salmon on top. Garnish with lime wedges and lime zest.

Serves 4 to 6

 

How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times.  When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food.  There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.

Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry.  The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.

That’s it!  Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!

Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer.  My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP!  Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 12 biscuits

Cardamom Bread – Must Make

This recipe was given to me by a crew member who had fantastic memories of her mom making it growing up.  That mom is Betsy Maislen and has since come sailing with us for many years in the fall as my end of season lifesaver.  She’s funny, quick, and a wonderful cook.  She still make this recipe at home even though it’s just she and her husband.  I’ve adapted it a little to fit my recipe format, but left the rest of it the same as it needs no changing what so ever.  Your house is going to smell amazing!bread baking, homemade bread, baking bread, how to bake bread, cardamon bread

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, plus a little extra for the bread when it comes out of the oven
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
8 to 15 cardamom seeds, cut hulls, pulverize centers (or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
8 cups flour

In a small bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine butter, milk, eggs, second sugar amount, salt and cardamom. Add yeast mix and then flour. Knead well for 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 4 to 6 minutes by machine. Rub the bowl and dough with a little oil and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double, about 1 hour. Remove from bowl and shape into 2 loaves. Place into 2 greased bread pans. Let rise another 45 minutes or so to double again. Bake in a 325F° oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Rub with butter when hot. Let rest in pans for 5 minutes and then remove.

Annie
Heaven in a pan

The Great British Baking Show – I had to try a recipe

Who has not spent an afternoon snuggled on the couch with their daughter watching The Great British Baking Show?  If you haven’t, you need to.  Especially the earlier seasons.  I’m still a little unaccepting of the recent changes to the show, but that’s just me and eventually I will move on.  However, Mary Berry is still my favorite host and will be forever and ever.

Of course after spending an afternoon watching, any self respecting foodie has to try a recipe or two.  This one is a perfect winter time cake.  We made ours and had it with tea in honor of, well, Britain, but it would be just as good served after dinner as a special dessert.

The recipe for Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake is on the BBC website.

Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake
Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake