“Keep Maine Alive” Blueberry Muffins

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A good friend of mine sent me this picture as we were emailing each other about cooking wizardry and creativity.  It immediately locked into my heart, I’m not sure why.  Finally today I got around to looking onto the “explodingdog” site, and there’s something about Sam’s work that I find so poignant, ridiculous, funny, sad and also happy.  If that makes sense.  You should check it out.

In the meantime, my current magical endeavor has been “keeping Maine alive” in our house.  What that means is serving up culinary reminders of our summers in Maine while my husband, whose favorite place on Earth is Maine, slogs away at the last long and overbooked hours of his job before the summer break.  For more info on our Maine trips, see here.

Beautiful Bowdoin Track, Brunswick, Maine

Beautiful Bowdoin Track, Brunswick, Maine

For Maine blueberry muffins, see below!  These are based on Zoe Nathan Loeb’s (Huckleberry, Milo & Olive, Rustic Canyon) recipe for Blueberry Bran Muffins.  They are maple-ey, almost sticky and pudding-like, not cakey at all.  Be sure to buy good blueberries.
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Ingredients:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup brown sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup wheat germ, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
2 cups blueberries

Directions:
1) Preheat the oven to 350(F).
2) Place cupcake liners in a 12 cup muffin pan.
3) In a large bowl, whisk by hand the butter, brown sugar and salt. Add the egg and whisk to combine.
4) Add the maple syrup, honey and canola oil. Whisk until emulsified.
5) Add the flour, wheat germ, baking soda and yogurt. Whisk together just until combined.
6) Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Top with lots of fresh berries. Crumble a little brown sugar on top of the fruit.
7) Bake in the oven until the cake springs back and the tops are golden brown (About 25 – 30 minutes).

 

Coconut Meat with Yoghurt, Gastrique and Black Pepper

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Young Whole Coconut. Before you hammer away at the coconut, drink up the delicious water

I recently went to my favorite taqueria where they serve punk tacos, ceviche, shaved cauliflower/vinegar tostadas, and coconut water.  What are punk tacos?  They’re baja style tacos served up by some really cool dudes in Santa Monica.  As I was enjoying my coconut water, I wondered why we hardly ever see recipes utilizing coconut meat, other than ones that involve pureeing the meat or drying it.  I asked the punkers to crack open the coconut when I was finished and took it home to experiment.  When I tasted the meat on its own, it was so delicious that I had to come up with some recipes.

Here is a wonderfully different sweet and savory breakfast or dessert idea that uses the sweet, chewy raw meat of a young coconut.  Give it a try!

2 young coconuts, drained of water

1/2 cup green grapes

1/2 cup black cherries

1/2 cup sugar or honey

2 tablespoons water

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon dry red wine, such as cabernet

2/3 cup fresh cherries, pitted, chopped and blended with a bit of water

For the Gastrique:

Combine sugar or honey and water in small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until dissolved. Continue to cook without stirring until the liquid reaches a light blond caramel color, 5-8 minutes, swirling gently to help mixture cook evenly. Add red wine vinegar and continue to cook until mixture is re-dissolved, about 3 minutes.

Add wine to pan and reduce until syrupy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cherry and thyme and cook until mixture is dark red and again, syrupy. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Coconut Meat:

Cover coconuts with a paper bag or towel and hammer until broken into pieces.  Spoon meat out of coconut shell and place in bowl.

Halve grapes and cherries and place in bowl.  Top with yogurt and gastrique and enjoy!
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Monastery Jam (Armenian Rose Petal: Varnatush)

There is a tiny Armenian Benedictine Monastery off the coast of Venice, Italy where the monks tend roses and make small batch Rose petal Jam.

Originally a leper colony run in the 12th century by Italian monks, The Monastero di San Lazzaro deli Armeni has been an Armenian monastery since the 18th century and it is now a treasure trove of Armenian history. The name San Lazzaro comes from Saint Lazarus, the Patron Saint of lepers.

In 1717 an Armenian monk, Manug de Pietro, known as Mechitar (the Consoler) was forced to flee from the Turks and upon his request, the rulers of Venice gave him the island as a place for shelter and refuge. Mechitar founded an order of Armenian monks which was separate from both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The order he founded built the monastery, church, library, study, living and communal rooms and planted the gardens and orchard. It became a center to which young Armenians would come to study. Today the monastery lies amid gardens with flowers, cypress trees, and peacocks. Its residents include 10 monks, 10 seminarians, and 15 Armenian students who study Italian language and culture.

The Monastero di San Lazzaro degli Armeni has an extraordinary collection of treasures, including:

A 150,000-volume library.

More than 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, some nearly 1,300 years old.

A Koran created after the death of Mohammed.

An Indian papyrus from the 13th Century.

A Egyptian sarcophagus and mummy from the 15th Century B.C.

Thrones, tables, statues, paintings, tapestries, gold, silver, jewels, and other items that the monks either bought or received as gifts over the centuries.

I have long been a student of monasteries and California missions.  There is something enchanting to me about the history of ancient religious and other historical buildings, even abandoned and decrepit ones.  My imagination wanders with curiosity and longing into the past.

I am also drawn to all things Benedictine, since my husband and I are members of the Camaldolese Benedictine Lay Order (“oblates” — translates as “friends” of the monastery), connected to the New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California.  We took our vows 2 years ago of (1) Stability (the importance of community and commitment in life; stability of the heart and mind; the vow of stability also speaks to our current environmental crisis—being good stewards of the gift of life and nature); (2) Conversion (openness and dedication to change); and, (3) Obedience (commitment to a disciplined, intentional life) two years ago atop one of the most stunning pieces of land in the Country.  Oblates follow the Benedictine Rule which offers a plan for living a balanced, simple and prayerful life, and as laypersons we do our best to organize our lives around five practices: Prayer, Work, Study, Hospitality and Renewal.  For more on these practices, read here.

One of the marked traits of a Benedictine Monastery is Hospitality, which is why at Benedictine monasteries all over the world you can take a private retreat for the fraction of the price of a hotel room, and stay up to a month or longer, depending upon your needs.  Most often two very simple meals are provided, and they are taken in silence.  In order to earn a livelihood for their needs, many of the monasteries make foods like jams, preserves, fruitcakes, cheese, beer, syrup, breads and other goods and sell them to visitors or even online.  Our Big Sur monastery makes an exquisite date-based fruitcake, both a non-alcoholic one and one soaked in brandy.

The monks at San Lazzaro make a Rose Petal Jam which allegedly is almost always sold out.  I found a recipe for it from the lovely Emiko Davies who writes for Food52 and spent a brief time living at the monastery while she was student and restoring art.  I have adapted her recipe by substituting half of the sugar with honey and adding 3 black peppercorns.

Ingredients:

150 g sugar

150 g raw honey

100 g of rose petals, preferably red or dark pink with a strong perfume

300 ml water

The juice of one lemon

3 black peppercorns

Very gently rinse and drain the rose petals and place them in a large bowl with 50 g each of sugar and honey grams and the lemon juice. Lightly massage the rose petals with this mixture until you reduce the petals to a sort of “paste.” The petals should remain whole, not torn, but with the sugar and lemon they will release colour, perfume and wilt.

In the meantime, add the rest of the sugar and honey to the water and peppercorns and heat in a large saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add the rose petals and bring to the boil. Allow to boil until the syrup thickens and the petals no longer float (about 30 minutes).

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This jam is not thick, but more like a viscous syrup, and it is very sweet.  It is best stirred into yoghurt or atop cottage cheese, goat cheese or even some nice cheddar or parmesan shavings.

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Scrappy Kitchen: Using Ends, Peels, & Stems (Strawberry Top and Herb Stem Soda & Kombucha; Buttermilk Lemon Rind Scones)

Recently I was slicing off the tops of our precious (price and flavor wise!) Harry’s Barry’s Gaviota Strawberries, and lamented throwing away even the tops with .000005 oz. of fruit attached.   I thought to myself, “there must be a way to use even this tiny bit of flavor.”  So I tossed them in the blender with a bit of water and added the puree to my homemade soda (unstrained) and kombucha (strained).  I had some herbs in the crisper that were mostly stem, too, so I put them to use in a similar manner.  The resulting drinks were so unique, fresh and flavorful that I had to share!

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You may recall my post on carrot tops, another kitchen scrap that probably gets tossed in the majority of kitchens.  They make an earthy pesto that I discovered can be made with other veggie tops:  beet greens, celery leaf, fennel frond . . . you get the idea.  You can change up the nuts, oils, acid, and cheeses to your liking.  You’ll empower your creative cooking muscle and feel as resourceful as your pioneer/homesteading great grandmother.

With baking goods, you can use fruit scraps and herb stems to create a glaze for scones, donuts, or as a life-extender for your dreary marmalade.  It won’t be your mother’s marmalade, but it will be jazzy and fun.

If you want to make kombucha, roll your sleeves up and try this recipe, then at the flavoring stage add your strained strawberry tops and proceed as normal with the recipe.  For homemade soda, do the same.

For a nice change to your glazed scones, try this recipe below which I created with buttermilk (another thrifty creation . . . another recipe for another day), lemon rind, yuzu powder and herbs:

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sugar or honey

1 – 2 tablespoons zest (grapefruit, lemon, or orange)
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup cold butter
2 large eggs, plus an extra for the egg wash
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup citrus juice (grapefruit, lemon, or orange)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

small handful of rosemary or lavender

Glaze:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup water

1/2 cup yuzu powder, sifted (Note:  I substituted yuzu for 2 cups of powdered sugar)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lemon rind

Directions:

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and zest. Rub the zest and sugar together with your fingers to release the oils.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, zest, and poppy seeds. Cut the butter into the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, combine the 2 eggs, buttermilk, citrus juice, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in the egg mixture and stir until it comes together. Whisk the additional egg in a small bowl combined with 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.
Turn out on a lightly floured counter and knead a few times until it holds it’s shape. Divide into two equal portions (a kitchen scale helps with this) and roll into an 8 or 9 inch circle. Dust the bottom of the circles with flour.
Cut each circle into 6 or 8 triangles. Place the triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly brush with the egg wash, then bake for 15-25 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden and cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack and glaze.  Top with herbs.

Make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. First puree the lemon rind with the water and honey.  Mix in lemon juice with the yuzu until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.

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Baking Therapy: Focaccia with Pink Lemonade Blueberries, Fresh Ginger & Grey Salt

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It’s been a blue week, so I went into baking therapy. When I saw these blushing “pink lemonade” blueberries at my Wednesday Farmer’s Market, they immediately cheered me up.

A few weeks ago one of my favorite bloggers, the sweetly pensive Margherita at La Petit Casserole, made a focaccia with milk and ginger that sounded so homey, comforting and simple.   I used her recipe, adapted it to a loaf pan, added semolina and cornmeal to the dough recipe, and garnished with pink lemonade blueberries, white peach and wild green sour plums on top.  The adaptation yielded a denser, coarser, and drier loaf, not a true focaccia, but a delicious toasting bread that is made for buttering.

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After Rise; Ready to Go Into Oven

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Out of the Oven & Cooling

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I feel better already, don’t you?

Ingredients:

220 ml of milk

20 ml of warm milk for the yeast

200 gr. of all purpose flour

100 g semolina flour

100 g cornmeal

10 gr. fresh yeast

60 ml. walnut oil

1 teaspoon of honey

1 cup blueberries, or mixture of blueberries and other fruit of your choice

1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger plus 1 Tbps grated ginger for garnish

12 gr. of salt

coarse salt and olive oil to garnish

Instructions:

  • Mix flour, honey, oil, ginger and milk together;
  • Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and then mix with flour;
  • Knead for 5-7 minutes by hand or with a stand mixer, first with mix paddle, then with dough hook, then add the salt and mix again a few minutes;
  • Leave the dough in the bowl for 1 hour and a half, covered in a warm spot
  • Oil your hands (the dough will be really humid) and transfer the dough in an oiled loaf pan
  • Spread the dough with your fingers, drizzle blueberries and other fruit of choice over top, pour more oil on top and some salt;
  • Let it rest for 1 hour again in a warm spot
  • Preheat oven to 350 °, bake the focaccia for 35 minutes

This recipe is submitted for Fiesta Friday #18, a wonderful food blogging event I am grateful to be a part of.  Thank you also to all of the judges and co-participants, and congratulations to my co-winners Milk and Bun and Giraffes Can Bake in this month’s first Fiesta Friday Challenge utilizing herbs and yeast.  Have a wonderful weekend, all!

 

 

 

Tostones With Hibiscus Lemon Puree

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This is a very simple preparation that can act as breakfast, afternoon tea treat, or dessert.

As you may remember we have a hibiscus plant in our front yard and although we have lived in this house for 5 years, it was not until March of this year that I picked or cooked with any of its flowers.

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Already this year I have made tea and enchiladas using the dried flowers, yet each week I have a bigger bumper crop that begs for more use.  With plenty of tea for weeks, I decided to make a fruit puree this week with more of the dried leaves.

Ingredients:

1 large plantain (wait until the plantain is nearly uniformly black)

6 dried hibiscus flowers (simply dry your petals on a newspaper outside or, alternatively, in the oven or toaster at 300 degrees for 15 minutes)

1/2 preserved lemon (you may also use 1 Tsp lemon zest, the juice of 1 lemon, or chopped up sautéed lemon, rind and all)

1 Tbsp honey

1 tsp agar agar (you may also use cornstarch)

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 Tbps coconut oil

Instructions:

1.  To the dried hibiscus petals add 1/4 cup water and heat until boiling.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  (letting them sit longer will only yield a more tart and delicious flavor so do not worry about leaving to sit for up to 2 hours)

2.  Transfer petals and water to a blender.  Add lemon, vanilla and honey.  Puree.

3.  Pour puree into a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add agar agar and stir vigorously with a whisk for 30 seconds.  Turn heat to low and let simmer while you prepare the plantains.

4.  Heat coconut oil over high heat.  Slice plantain and sauté over high heat for 1 minute.  Lower to medium heat and flip plantain slices.  Saute over medium heat for 3 minutes.

5.  Plate plantain slices and drizzle hibiscus puree over the top.  Enjoy!

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