Eating Locally: Fresh Pea Soup and Fiddleheads from Maine

Less than a week before we sail!  Can’t believe we are there already.  This has been the best outfitting season of our career with the perfect mix of good crew and weather and a healthy dose of experience on our part about how to do this well.

The Portland Press ran the column last week about spring veggies – pea shoots, peas, fiddleheads and more.  I’m just now getting to posting.  Once we start sailing, I’m going to do my best to post as often as I can and we’ll see how well that goes!

Tastes of spring
Lemon Parmesan Fiddleheads
Fiddleheads with Tamari and Toasted Sesame Seeds
Fresh Pea Soup with Chives and Crème Fraiche with Pesto Crostini

Eat your green veggies!

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Hypocracy Reigns Supreme

The sun was bright and high in the sky as I turned the compost pile today.  I find few things more satisfying for releasing aggression (not that I have any, of course) than turning a pile of garden refuse, kitchen waste and office paper into food for the garden.  As I stuck my pitchfork into the pile, I heard a squeak… and froze.  Pulling a little dried grass away from the surface, I found a tiny, eyes-not-yet-opened… baby rat.  And after another shuffle of a little more grass, it’s brothers or sisters.  Four of them.  All blindly scrambling for warmth into each other and trying to avoid the sudden light into their little burrow.  Do I need to say out loud how cute they were?

So it’s official.  I’m a hypocrite.  I could.  Not.  Kill.  The Babies.  And yet, I will absolutely eat meat that is packaged in one way, shape or form.  Hey, even local meat has to come in a package.  Even my own chickens.  Can’t kill ’em.  Would if I HAD to, but don’t, so can’t bring myself to do it.

The worst part is that two days later I go out to check on the hens and the coop.  I putz around in the coop for awhile, cleaning, tucking up the hawk netting and checking their water.  There were seven eggs in the coop and I figured I’d wait an hour or two to make sure no one else wanted to lay.  Less than two hours later I head back to the coop only to discover no eggs, no trace of eggs.  None.  The hens didn’t get them because I can’t see one single trace of egg yolk or shell.  But rats could have rolled them through the big hole I discover in a corner of hay.  What do I do?  March straight up to the shed for the rat poison to kill the suckers dead for getting my eggs.

Okay, so I’m a Gemini and the twins are alive and well

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Shrimp with Roasted Red Onions and Lemons over Tomato Risotto with Roasted Asparagus

I don’t get it.  What is wrong with saying to your kids, “This is what we are having for dinner.”  If they say I don’t like it, you say this is what we are having.  If they don’t eat it, they will eventually get hungry and have what’s for dinner.  I know more parents than not who allow their children to have total control over what they will eat and I find myself often wondering who’s in charge here anyway?  These parents give their children guidance and boundaries in other areas, but seem to have abdicated any responsibility in when it comes to food. In other words the kids have a varied diet of three menu options – big shell pasta with cheese, little shell pasta with cheese and macaroni with cheese.  How is this even close to a balanced diet?

I understand kids have different palates and that spicy foods or strongly flavored foods are not as appealing.  There are two little ones who live in my house and even though I’m a chef, I hear more often than not, “No thank you to this, Mama.”  My two favorites are, “Mama, next time you make macaroni and cheese from scratch, can it be the orange kind?”  and “Mama, I’m sorry to say, but your pizza isn’t as good as Domino’s.”  This from the kid who picks off the cheese and sauce from her Domino’s pizza and eats the bread only.  No big or swelled heads growing in my household.

Eating sparsely at a meal or two or three is not the equivalent of starvation, although it sounds sometimes as if this is what parents are worried about.  One of my daughters has always been a steady, constant eater while the other would be in complete control of the kitchen if we allowed it.  When she was little she would go for two or three days and eat maybe two or three bites off of her plate.  Did we worry?  Sure, we are parents after all and that’s what we do.  But we didn’t change anything or make a deal out of it.  We just kept offering her healthy food and by the third day, she’d eat three helpings of whatever it was we were having.  She’s now nine and she still has the same pattern.  Not eat much for a few days, stock pile on the third or forth.

As a kid I can remember not liking onions, sauerkraut (which you could smell even outside and was to my nose the worst smell invented) or spicy food.  One the nights we had sauerkraut for dinner I’d make it a full-time hobby to be having dinner at a friend’s house.  On the other hand, most nights when I didn’t like what was for dinner, I ate it anyway because I knew that there weren’t other choices.  This business of cooking several different meals for you and each of your kids is insane.  Aren’t we all busy enough as it is, without making more than one meal per sitting?

Once, a day care provider told me that the kids in her care all had candy every day because “at least they ate something during the day.”  Are you joking?  What about putting nutritious snacks in front of them and not giving them unhealthy choices?  They will eat eventually.  Or not.  But then don’t give them the junky choice as a last resort and essentially a reward for being stubborn about their food.

It also seems that the less of a deal you make about this whole food drama the better.  Set a few boundaries, stick to them calmly and be done with the conversation.  Example: Rule 1, Mom or Dad are only making one meal for everyone.  Rule 2, We’ll all sit down at the table together to eat.  Rule 3, Everyone needs to have at least one bite of everything on the table.  Period.  When there’s grumbling, remind about rules one through three and be done with the conversation.  When no one eats the first few meals, make sure that they are getting healthy things for breakfast and lunch.  When someone doesn’t care for what’s being served, calmly remind about rule three and stop talking.  If you are really concerned about them having something allow them to get a piece of fruit.

This rant is really about the health of our kids.  We are the parents and it’s up to us to make sure that they eat well.  We can’t force them to eat, just like we can force potty training, sleep or good manners.  We can only provide guidance and good choices in a consistent and loving way.  This is a meal my kids liked – mostly.  They loved the shrimp and the risotto.  Picked around the onions and lemons and one had the tiniest fairy bite of asparagus.  Good enough for me.

Shrimp with Roasted Red Onions and Lemons

1 pound 16/20 shrimp or large shrimp, peeled
2 tablespoons lemon juice, or about 1/2 lemon
3/4 teaspoon salt (1/4 each for shrimp, onion and lemon mix and asparagus)
4 tablespoons olive oil (some for the shrimp and some for the roasted onions and lemons)
1/2 lemon sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
1 red onion sliced into 1/4 inch wedges
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
several grinds of fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°.  In a small bowl, combine the shrimp, lemon, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix.  Set aside.  On a baking sheet with sides, combine the lemon, red onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  On the same baking sheet, make room for the asparagus spears (about half the pan).  Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper over the asparagus.  Roast in the oven until the edges of the onions and lemons are just beginning to become dark brown.  Add the shrimp to the onions and lemons and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.  The asparagus, onions and lemons should be tender and the shrimp just turning opaque.  Reserve any liquid from the pan and serve the shrimp with sauce over the risotto.  The asparagus could be plated separately.

Serves 4

Tomato Risotto

4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 stick
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups Arborio rice
4 cups low-salt chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.  If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat.  When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for one minute.  Add the salt, pepper and 1 cup of the stock and stir.  Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated stirring frequently.  The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center.  Add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.  Reserve the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table.

Serves 4

Mean mom

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Yankee Magazine

Okay, today it’s fun to be us.  Really most days its fun to be us, but I LOVE the days where you see evidence of all you’ve been putting out there – the positive, the helpful, the mindful, the joyful.

Yankee ran a piece called “Dinner with a View” and the Riggin is the feature.  Check out the article in the May/June 2010 issue.  Annie Copps, the food editor at Yankee Magazine, then did a short video piece on the website.  It’s not that long and very descriptive of what we do.  Yankee’s take on meals on the Riggin.

Thank you Yankee!  I’m blushing a little bit, but not too much to share!

Food in Portland, Oregon

Even though I posted about Portland, Oregon when I first arrived back in Maine, I didn’t have space to mention the FOOD.  Clearly, more needs to be written.

For starters, we stayed at a hip hotel called The Ace Hotel, in a reclaimed building with all of the architectural details one might expect from an old property – high ceilings, elaborate moldings and refurbished tile and wood flooring.   The company has properties in Seattle, NYC, and Palm Springs and at each of their locations, upcycling and recycling are part of the package.  For example, the trash can in our bathroom was a recycled paint can and the fabric covering the bed bolster either reclaimed (or made to look reclaimed, I’m not sure).

There is a communal and democratic feel to the place that reminds me very much of our summers on the Riggin.  The community spaces aren’t forced, but available to everyone.  All of the spaces are comfortable without being luxurious, artificial or plush.  Everyone who books has a choice to share a bathroom and sleep in bunk beds or upgrade to increased levels of privacy.  Of course, on the boat we don’t have the space for those options, but the collective feel is similar.

And while we came and went from the Ace, we ventured to and fro and covered much culinary ground in three days.  All of the restaurants listed are ones I would recommend:  Vindalho, Pourque No?, Clyde Common, Stumptown Coffee, Bijou Café, Whiskey Soda Lounge/ Pok Pok Ping, Jakes for oysters, Abby’s food cart, Random Order Coffeehouse, Voodoo Doughnuts.

Breakfast from Bijou Cafe.  And then I ate what Sharon didn’t.

Tacos from Pourque No?  I’ll be craving these for a while.

Vat of vegan doughnuts at Voodoo for $5.

Filled with food ideas…

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Cook the Book – Golden Northern Cornbread

You can also add green chilies (canned or fresh), cheese or corn (canned or fresh).  You don’t need to adjust for the extra liquid, this recipe is forgiving enough to not make the adjustment.

Golden Northern Cornbread
1 cup yellow or white stone-ground corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat the oven to 425°. Grease a cast iron skillet or 9 x 9-inch baking pan.  Stir the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt in large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.Add the eggs into the well and stir lightly with wooden spoon; then add the buttermilk and milk.  Stir quickly until almost combined.  Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.  Pour the batter into the greased pan.  Bake until the top is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from side of the pan, about 25 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for around 5-10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Makes 4-6 servings


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Knit-a-Thon Nears Completion!

Last weekend over 40 of us gathered together with sewing needles and yarn to sew 141 knitted squares into blankets.  It was a short two and a half weeks from first knitted square to blankets (except for Iris, who began knitting squares when she heard the words “knit-a-thon”).  You go, girl!

Many, but not all, of the squares were knit on board the Riggin this summer, with donated Hope Spinnery yarn, with the express purpose of sewing them into blankets to be given away.  And then in the world of no coincidences, viola, enter the Knit-a-Thon in support of Ashwood Waldorf SchoolAnd it’s not too late to pledge and be entered for the J. & E. Riggin Knitting Cruise trip for two raffle.  Tomorrow’s the last day!

The blankets are beautiful and will go to New Hope for Women to hopeful embrace a woman or child who is in dear need of some tenderness and warmth.  I’m so grateful to live within this terrific community.

More pics on Facebook.

Trying to figure out how to get all of these gorgeous, but unusual-sized, square to fit together!  Good job ladies!

Modern day quilting bee…


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Artichokes – How to cut them, how to eat them

Artichokes are one of my favorite foods.  It’s a toss up between the flavor of them and how much fun the leaves are to eat.  This week’s column features these versatile veggie with:

Veal Shanks w/Artichokes, Mushrooms and Cream
Artichoke Leaves with Garlic and Lemon
Artichoke, Feta and Green Bean Salad

Don’t forget that the column links expire in 7 days!

Trimming artichokes may seem like a mystery, but like most everything, once you understand how to do it, it’s not that hard.  Jacques Pepin has a detailed slide show on how to trim artichokes.  One of the best I’ve seen.

Trimming an Artichoke
1.    Cut one lemon into slices and add to a bowl of water.  Slice another lemon in half to rub on the sliced areas of the artichokes.
2.    Cut 1/3 off the top.  Cut all but 1 1/2 – 2 inches off the stem.
3.    Remove the outer leave from the base – about two layers.
4.    With scissors, trim the pointy ends of the remaining leaves.
5.    Trim the base and stem with a paring knife so that they are smooth.
6.    For steaming:  leave whole.
7.    For braising:  Cut in quarters and remove the center purple leaves and the fuzzy choke with a grapefruit spoon.
8.    For a finer look:  remove all outer leaves with a chef’s knife until you have reached the light yellow leaves.  Separate them from the bottom and discard the purple, pointy center leaves, placing the yellow leaves in the lemon water.  Remove the choke (the fuzzy part) from the bottom and add the bottom to the lemon water.
9.    Rub finished artichokes with lemon and place in lemon water until you are ready to cook them to prevent them from browning.

Steamed Artichokes
4 artichokes
2 lemons (One for the water as indicated in the trimming instructions, 1/2 to rub on the exposed parts and 1/2 for the steaming water.)

In a saucepan or stockpot large enough to accommodate 4 artichokes, add 1 inch of water and 1/2 of a lemon.  Steam the artichokes, tops up, in a vegetables steamer for 30-40 minutes.   Drain upside down.  Serve warm or chilled with Parmesan Aioli.

Serves 4 as a large appetizer

Parmesan Aioli

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

In a food processor, pulse the first 6 ingredients.  With the food processor on, slowly add the vegetable oil going drop by drop at first and then increasing to a thin stream.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Store in the refrigerator.

Makes 1 1/4 cups


artichokes – Veal Shanks w/Artichokes, Mushrooms and Cream, Artichoke Leaves with Garlic and Lemon, Artichoke, Feta and Green Bean Salad,

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Apple Pruning Meditation

There are some years where it stays so cold and snowy all the way up to June that I can’t bring myself to bundle up and trudge outside to prune the apple trees.  This year, however, we’ve had such a warm spell that it was a treat to spend several hours outside without my head completely wrapped and barely able to move for all of the layers I’ve packed around myself.

At first, I always find I need to master a small amount of an emotion that is somewhere between fear and hesitation.  It’s a possibly debilitating uncertainty that requires a little rallying to overcome – otherwise I’ll simply stand there and stare at the trees, but never actually cut anything.  So I go back to the basics of cutting 1. the dead wood 2. the crossing branches and by the time I get to 3. the shaping, I’m fine.

I’m hoping that this year, I’ll actually be able to do more shaping.  In past years, as I bring these huge (for apple trees), ancient trees to the point where the apples are actually edible rather than just cider apples, I’ve only been able to cut the dead wood and crossing branches before so much of the tree is removed that I don’t dare trim any more.  It was a pleasant surprise to find less dead wood than usual and to begin to focus on more shaping than anything else.

We’ll need to do some spring and summer pruning too, to reduce the number of blossoms so that more of the energy goes into fewer fruits. The cider (frozen the previous fall) from these trees is a treat served ice cold on the boat all summer long, so cross your fingers they produce well this year.

I’ve got happy fruits (or fruit trees)!

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Maine Shrimp with Chipotle Chili and Pumpkin Seeds

A new column ran in PPH today on one of the cheapest and yummiest forms of protein in Maine, Maine shrimp.  One of the comments that came by email is below.  My response too.

Like the sound of  your Maine shrimp recipe on Portland Press Herald today,2/24/10. But do I leave the shells on having discarded the head? Seems a bit messy with all that nice sauce on them. Please advise.

I do tend to leave the shells on because I notice they don’t get so watery.  You could take the shells off and just go really carefully with the amount of time you cook them.  I personally don’t mind the rusticity of the dish with the shells on, but then I like to play with my food!

ME TOO- so I will leave them on!

Its been so warm here that I’m thinking of the garden often now

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